Monday, March 31, 2014

Benedict Arnold: He Had His Moments...

From Kenneth Roberts' Rabble in Arms...

Up and down behind our guns went Arnold, a demon of energy. His face was smeared with powder smudges; from his hat hung a strip of gold lace, ripped loose by a passing grape shot; his shoulder was crusted with a smear of brown, the blood of a gunner shot through the throat as Arnold crouched beneath him to sight a gun.

His biting voice, shrill and harsh, drove the gun-crews as though he lashed them with a whip. "Double-shot!" he told them. "Double-shot! Give her another! We've got her now! Hurry it up! One more, boys! Double-shot! Don't waste time! She can't get away! Hurry, boys, hurry! Double-shot! Double-shot!

Whenever one of the three sternmost guns was loaded, the gunner shouted, the crew fell back beside the gun and Arnold ran to the carriage, sighting and wrenching; giving the word to fire. As the linstock slammed down and the gun jerked backward, Arnold was off again: up and down, making jabbing motions with his fist: urging the gun-crews on: urging them on.

There was something about his violent determination that was catching. It was like a sort of flame, searing all those exposed to it. No longer were my nerves and muscles rigid with the expectation of death: I burned with an eagerness to see our shots go home against the black schooner. So hot was this desire that it parched my lips and tongue: singed my cheeks until they seemed half charred.

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