THE BATTLE OF HOOK'S FARM
AND now, having given all the exact science of our war game, having told something of the development of this warfare, let me here set out the particulars of an exemplary game. And suddenly your author changes. He changes into what perhaps he might have been--under different circumstances. His inky fingers become large, manly hands, his drooping scholastic back stiffens, his elbows go out, his etiolated complexion corrugates and darkens, his moustaches increase and grow and spread, and curl up horribly; a large, red scar, a sabre cut, grows lurid over one eye. He expands--all over he expands. He clears his throat startlingly, lugs at the still growing ends of his moustache, and says, with just a faint and fading doubt in his voice as to whether he can do it, "Yas, Sir!"
Now for a while you listen to General H. G. W., of the Blue Army. You hear tales of victory. The photographs of the battlefields are by a woman war-correspondent, A. C. W., a daring ornament of her sex. I vanish. I vanish, but I will return. Here, then, is the story of the battle of Hook's Farm.
"The affair of Hook's Farm was one of those brisk little things that did so much to build up my early reputation. I did remarkably well, though perhaps it is not my function to say so. The enemy was slightly stronger, both in cavalry and infantry, than myself [Footnote: A slight but pardonable error on the part of the gallant gentleman. The forces were exactly equal.]; he had the choice of position, and opened the ball. Nevertheless I routed him. I had with me a compact little force of 3 guns, 48 infantry, and 25 horse. My instructions were to clear up the country to the east of Firely Church.
"We came very speedily into touch. I discovered the enemy advancing upon Hook's Farm and Firely Church, evidently with the intention of holding those two positions and giving me a warm welcome. I have by me a photograph or so of the battlefield and also a little sketch I used upon the field. They will give the intelligent reader a far better idea of the encounter than any so-called 'fine writing' can do.
"The original advance of the enemy was through the open country behind Firely Church and Hook's Farm; I sighted him between the points marked A A and B B, and his force was divided into two columns, with very little cover or possibility of communication between them if once the intervening ground was under fire. I reckoned about 22 to his left and 50 or 60 to his right. [Footnote: Here again the gallant gentleman errs; this time he magnifies.] Evidently he meant to seize both Firely Church and Hook's Farm, get his guns into action, and pound my little force to pieces while it was still practically in the open. He could reach both these admirable positions before I could hope to get a man there. There was no effective cover whatever upon my right that would have permitted an advance up to the church, and so I decided to concentrate my whole force in a rush upon Hook's Farm, while I staved off his left with gun fire. I do not believe any strategist whatever could have bettered that scheme. My guns were at the points marked D C E, each with five horsemen, and I deployed my infantry in a line between D and E. The rest of my cavalry I ordered to advance on Hook's Farm from C. I have shown by arrows on the sketch the course I proposed for my guns. The gun E was to go straight for its assigned position, and get into action at once. C was not to risk capture or being put out of action; its exact position was to be determined by Red's rapidity in getting up to the farm, and it was to halt and get to work directly it saw any chance of effective fire.