An Isolated regiment separated from the Grandee Armee in Russia fights for its survival
|Frigid winds whipped needles of snow into Lieutenant General Gulliemont's cheeks. Shivering he clutched his bearskin coat, fingers numbed by the Russian winter. Fogging the air, his breath left a trail of frost on his collar which he seemed not to notice Icy sweat deluged the once fine uniform he'd worn every day since the Grande Armee began its campaign in the spring of 1812. He rubbed his hands and trudged through the snow. With each step, the cold penetrated deeper into his flesh making him shiver.
He remembered the attack they grappled with the Russians. It had been brutal and savage and by god, did they manage to survive. Other regiments wouldn't have endured the weather conditions as Gulliemont's regiment had. His 108th had survived against all the odds. They had fought the beasts, known as the Cossacks. They had pounded off the Russian soldiers now slowly regaining their strength.
Corporal Jacque Renard slogged through the snow towards him with obvious haste, holding his frost-coated black shako in place. The snow particles pinched and stung around his face like a horde of angry bees. His shako had been a bright black back then but now, it was a cold hard white hat as if death had sucked the life out of it. Even the pom pom situated on it was frozen white. And then he snapped to attention. ‘A report, mon general’
Gulliemont nodded that he might proceed.
‘Our scouts have sighted a Russian cavalry unit approaching from the north east. They’ll cut us off before we reach the pass.’
‘Damn!’ muttered Gulliemont. How could Nature be so cruel as to allow them to march across half Russia only to be slaughtered within sight of Poland and salvation? ‘How many?’
‘Perhaps a hundred, maybe more.’
Renard shook his head. ‘Regulars, sir.’
Gulliemont nodded and thanked the signia of the eagle he carried. His men had learned to fear the merciless thugs on horses who harassed their pickets in the darkness and stole their food supplies with astonishing efficiency. ‘Muster the men, Sergeant. When they arrive, we’ll have to form square or die.’
Renard saluted and then spun away towards the large group of some hundred ragged beggars who had once formed the core of the 108th Regiment of Fusiliers. He respected his general, which was just as well since all the other officers in the regiment had perished over the past few weeks leaving him as effective second in command.
Before the general, the 108th legion, or what continued of it, filed through the snow. The weariness of twelve months marching etched every face while the wounds of its many battles marred, in at least two places, every survivors skin, yet glinting in their eyes remained a steely determination. Napoleon may have fled but retreat was not defeat. The Russians had not proved the equal of the French legions, their weather had. The anger of which fueled the soldiers steel. Their clothes, snagged, torn and frozen ridged by the bloodthirsty onslaught stood testament to their true adversary, against which the Russians stood pale.
They were walking through an abandoned town. The doors remained half broken hanging from the hinges. The windows broken and full of snow and dirt dripping onto the wet floors. It covered everywhere, on the pavements making them redundant and slippery. Snow had already become the blanket for this dusty town. The trees stood in silence, as they had, for thousands of years since the beginning of the earth.
Colonel Jacque grumbled as he trudged in the oppressive snow. His feet formed big gaps in it, his breath let out a small fog of air in the gust of the blizzard blowing it away. Gulliemont was the last surviving senior officer of the regiment that had led them through many plains and mountains to get out of Russia and none of them had proved beneficial. This was the last time he resolved to himself that he was going to attempt a journey to escape from Russia.
He couldn’t see much in front of him. Various shapes began in front of him. They were too far away to be seen. What he could hear was the sound of the howling wind. And the snow particles coming directly in his face, pinching him, he spitted out some snow from his mouth. From behind him shadows appeared of his regiment. He stopped and pulled his hands to his eyebrows trying to see anything that from where they could rest. All he could see was snow flying around with the wind's antagonized gust's blowing through them.
‘’ Choinburnt! ‘’ he called out with a harsh dry voice, with no reply of hope. If they were nowhere near the border among Russia and Poland, they would be dead. Choinburnt hurried to Gulliemont.
‘’ What news? Where are we? ‘’ he asked.
‘’ We’re somewhere near the border sir! ‘’ Choinburnt replied. He was one of the last surviving scout of the regiment and Gulliemont had no choice but to depend on him for directions. It had been well known that he was a good director and on many occasions had led regiments back to the army, only the Russian Campaign proved disastrous for him, so far not a single regiment had surivied because of him. This was his last regiment to lead back before he would be posted to Toulouse, where the English were attacking.
‘’ What did you say? ‘’ Gulliemont stopped as he heard his reply, a glimmer of hope, maybe they could once and for all escape from this damn blasted Russian winter.
'' Yes, Sir! We're near the border! I know it because we tracked here at the start of the invasion! Look over there! '' He pointed his finger at a small line thinly visible from the naked eye. It was indeed the very way they had first walked into Russia, and were now running back to it. Beyond it was Poland, and then the journey back to France. It would take months now. If they managed to make it through this winter.
'' I can't believe it!'' His eyebrows touched his forehead.
'' Ha! Don't worry boys! We've reached the border! We'll be soon back to Poland and then to France! '' He turned back to his men and a cheer was heard from his men, despite the bitterness of the cold attacking them.
'' Now, what about the food? '' Gulliemont asked.
'' We don't have much food left; it was stolen by the Cossacks at noon. '' Choinburnt replied with a hint of annoyance.
'' Damn those Cossacks! They always seem to have come at us and steal our food. Cowards.....'' His voice went to a mutter.
'' Any Cossacks you see men, I want you to shoot him in the head!'' That caused a great cheer from his men.
'' You sure you trust that scout? '' Jacque blocked Gulliemont's advance.
'' He's the only man that can scout for us, and the fact that he knows how to lead us away from here. '' Gulliemont hadn't placed any high hopes on Choinburnt, given his character, but he was valuable. The only last surviving scout here. He'd have to depend on him leading the way,
'' What? Him, a scout? General, how would you expect a scout to lead you when he's just lead so many battalions of infantry to their deaths! ''
'' He's the only one we have left, Colonel. '' His voice asserted a cold iron steel edge to it.
'' The only one we have left? There were so many good officers and they died out there sir! If you ask me I wouldn't put my faith in a scout, especially how many of them have caught by the Russians!''
'' We're not the ones that led you to death! You wouldn't be without me! '' Choinburnt protested, raging in anger.
'' Yes, what use does a scout have to lead us? '' Jacque turned on Choinburnt aggressively and shoved him into the snow.
'' Are you out of your mind? You know very well that only I know where we're going! I'm here to lead you out of Russia! '' Choinburnt replied angrily.
'' You? How do you know where we are going? We're in Russia, for goddamn's sake! And I can assure you that those Russians are very well intent on destroying our army. You just contribute too it! ''
'' And you think that I caused the destruction of the 108th? ''
'' Why yes! Because you caused the destruction of our legion! We don't even have a flag nor a regiment name. And that's all due to you '' Jacque replied back.
'' And how did I do that? I didn't lead the regiment to havoc; rather you fought with the Russians when I said not to! ''
'' A scout does not give orders! '' Jacque reminded him.
'' Of course I do, if it weren't for me, you would have died now. ''
'' Enough!! '' Gulliemont shouted, ending the fight.
'' I'll have you both quartered and hung naked here and leave your bodies to rot in the cold winter! '' Gulliemont interrupted them.
'' Right now we have one objective. To get out of this damn place once and for all and get back to France. We are the Emperor's men! '' He fumed silently.
'' He does not reward hesitation nor cowardice. Tell me do you think a later generation of French people will think we were cowards in Russia? No, they will look upon as heroes! We are Frenchmen, we control Europe and we are powerful! I know that very well and so should you. '' He turned to his men.
'' Our mission right now is to get back to Poland, where we will follow the remaining suriviors to Paris. '' He pointed to the thin line that was now vanishing from their eyes.
'' Advance! '' He ordered, sensing the fight was over. The regiment marched through the thick never-ending masses of white snow. Then Jacque's eyes turned on to see a small shape distinctly appearing in the snow.
'' General! ''
'' What is it? '' Gulliemont asked as he snapped his head.
Jacque forwarded his arm to a small shape, a person carrying a banner, it looked more like a flag. Gulliemont could not make out shape.
Then he peered deeper, he saw a Russian flag-bearer holding the flag.
Gulliemont eyes turned in alarm. The Russians had arrived now. He turned around to see his shattered regiment. They wouldn't be able to stand against the Russians unless he did something now. All hopes of retreating quickly vanished from his mind. His attempt to escape from Russia had ended.
There would be no chance as these Russians weren't going to give up on them now. He had two choices to make , either retreat as they were doing or confront the Russians and hold them off to surivie the odds.
'' General? Should we make a stand here or continue retreating? '' Jacque asked.
Gulliemont's eyes zoomed across, he could see more shapes appearing and forming up.
'' Stay here and prepare for the assault. '' Jacque nodded. Though he did not question the General, something lingered at the back of his mind, would they be able to face off this Russian threat? They had faced the cossacks, beaten small notes of Russian soldiers, would this be any more threatening to them? He nodded his and dismissed the thought. He was a Frenchmen, he said to himself. He would stand here with the General and fight with him to the death.
'' Halt! '' Jacque shouted. The men looked at Gulliemont threateningly. '' We don't want to stop General! We want to go back to France! '' One of the soldiers replied back. Jacque's eyes turned on Gulliemont, waiting for the General to act.
'' Quiet! Or I'll have you executed! '' He barked back. He raised his hand to stop anymore of his men moving. He blinked for a second, and then turned his head back and forth. Even if they were that close to the border, there was still the danger of the Russians. And they weren't giving up on this one. The gusts blew through the windows, a shattered piece of wood suddenly landed onto ice and broke into pieces in a second, producing a shattering sound.
Gulliemont jumped at the call of a trumpet. The Russians came in their full numbers, marching in regiments. It was these soldiers they previously had fought with. Now they were back and wouldn't miss an opportunity to finish them off. Gulliemont burst out in anger. They had fought the Russians off and they retreated, and now they it was they that were retreating.
He quickly gave orders. ‘’ Form Square! Don’t bother with your coats for now, leave them in the square. Now hurry before these damn Russians come in! ‘’ The soldiers quickly formed and hurried into a square formation.
'' Our coats? '' a reply came from the ranks of the fusiliers.
'' Yes, your coats damn it! '' Gulliemont shouted.
'' Why our coats? We'll freeze without them! ''
'' By the Gods! Are you all cowards? You are the finest soldiers in the world! I know the weather is freezing but we will die fighting like true soldiers for France! Just do as I say or you'll be sitting ducks in front of those Russians! Now take of your coats! Men of the 108th , prepare for your final countdown! If we survive, then tell these stories to your grandchildren! If not, then we die fighting for France. '' They took of their packs and coats. And then there was the true magnificent sight of the French soldiers, their blue uniforms and white trousers were presented in full colour.
The Line Fusilier lent in the first line was on the ground with their white trousers forming blended with the snow. The white surcoats were already placed into their uniforms. And dark blue coats were waiting to enter action. The red collars were straightened, along with the white lapels and cuffs as they prepared to get ready for the oncoming onslaught. The Second line of fusiliers were standing straight and waiting for new orders.
'' Colonel Jacque! ''
'' Yes sir, ''
'' Prepare the men for their final countdown. I want them to die a glorious death. Now that the Russians have arrived, we have no choice but to battle. Do you get me? ''
'' Of course, General. ''
A great cheer came from his men. Gulliemont turned to look at his soldiers. All were waving their muskets, cursing and shouting insults. He drew his sword from its lair and then shouted.
'' Vive Le France!!! ''
And the sound of the 108th regiment spread to all corners. The Russians looked at the tiny square in confusion.
‘’ Load your muskets, you dogs! ‘’ Gulliemont ordered. The Fusiliers grounded their muskets and started to load the muzzle into the barrel. Once done they fixed the bayonets and pulled back the flintlock.
‘’ On my order you will fire! ‘’ He barked.
‘’ What can I do? ‘’ asked Choinburnt.
‘’ Here, take this. ‘’ Gulliemont said in a hurry as he gave his sword to Choinburnt.
‘’A sword? What am I going to do with a sword!! ‘’ he shouted.
‘’ Shut up Choinburnt! We've had enough of you for one day! ‘’ replied one of the fusiliers in the back.
Then a loud and blasting sound was heard that stopped all conversation in the French side. They came in the mists. Hundreds of green uniformed Russian Soldiers armed with muskets wore green uniforms and white belts strapped to them advanced. Walking with bayonets pointing forward at the French. Their leaders shouting words of encouragement on their horses to their men. Many of the Russian Cavalry were seated on horses armed with swords and wearing breastplates with tiny helmets with white stallions decorated onto them.
The shakos were tightly placed on them. They shouted curses as they walked towards the advancing square. A sea of bayonets advanced to the French Square. These Russians held their muskets straight at the French. There were many of them, infantry and cavalry. What hope could a tiny square of one hundred men could do against such a large force?
However, the will of the Frenchman had always been to fight on and they weren't the ones going to go down without a fight. It had always been in their ancestor’s blood. Since the time of Caesar, they had been undoubtedly the best warriors in Europe.
‘’ I came here. I will stay here. ‘’ muttered Gulliemont as he eyed the horde of Russians.
‘’ On my order, you will fire at them! ‘’ he ordered. The Russian Cavalry advanced in hordes coming so close Gulliemont thought he would have fainted. The Russian infantry did not have any regimental banners or drummers. They had come in their hundreds. Gulliemont suddenly noticed that they were not walking in formation. They were coming separately, one at a time.
‘’ Right men! These Russians are not coming in any formation! Hold out and brace yourselves for the cavalry lads! This is going to be a real ride! ‘’ He shouted .The Russians got closer and closer. Hurling themselves up, The Russian’s mouths were agape as they shouted their war cries, their officers urging them on with their swords high in the sky.
‘’ Ready Muskets on the first line! ‘’ Gulliemont ordered. The order was repeated among the first line as they grounded their muskets into the heavy snow and began biting the ends of the fresh cartridges before spitting the balls and ramming it down onto the barrel of the musket. The second line had already loaded their guns previously. They waited, waiting to fire onto the enemy.
'' So freezing.... '' Jacque shivered as he bit of his second cartridge spitting the chewed paper into the snow. The salty taste was now replaced with the taste of ash. He preferred salty than ash.
'' Silence in the ranks! The 108th does not talk of cowardice! But by god we shall go out there and kill them all! '' Gulliemont bellowed.
When the foremost of the Russian infantry came at about thirty paces. Gulliemont bellowed.
'' Colonel! ''
'' Yes sir, '' Jacque pulled out from the square as he dodged Russian bullets zooming straight through him.
Gulliemont lowered down and then looked at the Colonel in his eyes.
'' This is a grenade I found when we saw the regiment of Grenadiers slaughtered. '' Gulliemont said as he produced the grenade from his own pocket.
'' What's your plan, General? ''
'' Do you love France? Colonel. ''
'' I do,''
'' You have a wife back home? '' Gulliemont asked.
Jacque smiled as the snow whizzed his moustache up.
'' Yes, She's waiting for me back home, I can't wait to see my newborn son when I come back. '' Jacque stood there, beaming in pride.
Gulliemont almost smiled.
'' Then listen and I'll see you get back to your wife. '' Gulliemont whispered the plan in his ears.
'' Men of the 108th! '' Jacque ordered as he went back onto the square. '' I will throw the grenade at the Russians in the middle. You will not give fire now. Load your guns and then duck. Like our Polish comrades do. When the grenade has been launched , then fire! Show them the might of the Grandee Armee! Is that understood? ''
A great defying roar came from the 108th regiment. The looks on the Russians were of outraged faces. They raised their muskets and shouted back. The answer was a firing volley for them.
The Colonel grinned. '' Yup, ''
When the foremost of the Russian infantry came at about thirty paces. Jacque leapt up from the square.
'' Now men! '' He threw the grenade right in front of the advancing Russians. A loud explosion could be heard. Smokes of colours erupted, fire and orange. Jacque eyed the damage. A good hit, he noted to himself. Most of the Russian infantry had been hit in the centre. A Russian Officer appeared out of the smoke, shouting curses in French, then encouraging his men to charge.
'' General Gulliemont! '' He shouted.
'' Thank you, Colonel! '' Gulliemont said as he advanced to where around ten paces , the Russians were very close to the square as of now.
‘’ Fire! '' He bellowed.
A loud thunderous volley was released from the Frenchmen’s muskets. The acrid smell of gunpowder and ash was mixed with blood pouring into the atmosphere. It shattered the oncoming Russians, throwing them into a cloud of smoke, of which neither could they see. But the French had more accuracy as indiviual soldiers and kept on firing. Cries and groans of pain and dying came from the Russian ranks in reply.
‘’ Second Line, ready! On my order, first line to the back! ‘’ Gulliemont ordered again. The First line went into where the second line had previously been adjusted. The Second lines of Infantry were now standing up readying for the oncoming impact that was about to engulf them.
‘’ Second Line, Load!!! First line will fire! ‘’
The Russians had advanced among their fallen comrades laying down on the snow and were now ten paces away, much closer and were about to bring the destruction of the tiny square. ‘’ Fire! ‘’ was repeated on both sides. A ragged volley was produced by both lines, causing casualties. Losses were immense.
But that did not shatter the morale of the already advancing Russians oncoming. They did not care now. The Grande Armee was no longer invincible to them.
‘’ All Lines will load and fire! ‘’ Gulliemont bellowed. He gained something he had never experienced before. The belief of victory. If he continued this battle, there was a small chance, just a small chance they could win against superior numbers. They were outnumbered by all sides. But even a mouse can scare an elephant. When he got back to France, he would personally tell the story to one of the officers and it would be widespread and then the Emperor would come and provoke an interest. Today was The General's chance to prove his might and make his fame. If he managed to win this battle by extraordinary measures. Otherwise the battle was strikingly in favour of the Russians.
"Fire," shouted the general. "Where is the man," he muttered under his breath, as the range of 5,000 muskets rang through the air. " Jacque, what's happened to Choinbrunt, have you seen him anywhere?"
Jacque nodded a no.
"I don't know, General, he was here at the start of the battle"
"Load!" Gulliemont ordered again. "Take aim! Fire! Go and find Choinbrunt, he's our last hope, if he dies, we're stuck here. ."
"Very well, Sir." He flinched as another round of fire blasted below him among the ranks, then eyed to see how many Russians had fallen.
A devastating volley released from the muskets and crushed the Russians in front of them, falling in piles. By now, the Russians were not in many numbers, but more came, replacing their fallen comrades.
One of the Russian Officers cursed out in French as he led a group of soldiers armed with muskets and grenades. He waved the flag he was holding and drew his sword to attack. They were much closer to the square by now.
‘’ Prepare for double impact! When they come, we fire! And then we will engage! Do not move out of your square. Keep the formation. Do not move at all! ‘’
'' Is that clear, Colonel Jacque? ''
'' Orders understood, sir! '' Jacque raised his head from the square and grinned.
The little square reeled suddenly under the heavy impact of the Russians, causing a collision.
’’ Fire!’’ Gulliemont ordered and a ragged volley was produced by his men. ‘’ Engage! ‘’ the order was repeated among the French lines, who went to grips to arms with the Russians. They fought like ferocious beasts despite the firm resistance of the French square; it was the usual bayonet-to-bayonet attacks as the French were gradually being separated away by the Russians. The Russians, swinging their muskets fiercely, used them like clubs.
A Russian soldier was hit in the shin as the French fusilier whacked him with his musket. French fusilier’s stabbed their bayonets into the Russian’s waistlines. This became the order of the melee fight.
A group of the Russian grenadiers along with the officer was about to charge at Gulliemont when Choinburnt shot the officer with his pistol. The Grenadiers suddenly stopped as they witnessed the downfall of their officer, groaning as his bicorn hat fell off and he fell down hard into the snow, letting it absorbing his dead body. Their officer lay flat into the snow, blood pouring out of his skull.
‘’ How the... ‘’ Gulliemont stammered.
‘’ Seems like I learnt something, finally. ‘’ Choinburnt could not suppress a smile as he held his pistol, the main weapon reserved for officers.
The Grenadiers suddenly retreated, having lost the will to fight at the sight of their fallen commander.
'' Where the heck did you abandon my sword?? '' Gulliemont shouted
'' I left it in the square, found this thing of beauty in the town! '' He replied eyeing the pistol.
'' The town? ''
'' Yes, the town! They had a small abandoned musket manufuactory! ''
'' A musket manufactory? Choinburnt!!! Get out of there!!! '' He shouted back in alarm as Choinburnt was suddenly shoved by a Russian cavalryman, He let out a cry and landed into the snow. The Russian Cavalryman drew his sword and launched attacks at Choinburnt. He constantly avoided the attacks made by the Russian Cavalryman.
'' Here, Take the sword! '' Choinburnt quickly shouted as he threw the sword from his back. Gulliemont quickly took it.
'' But what about you?? ''
'' Do not care about me, General! I will fight the damn Russian anyway! Get back to the square, the fate of all us lays upon you! '' Choinburnt said quickly.
Gulliemont drew his sword back. Choinburnt was left to his own conflict with the Russian. Everything moved slowly. He could hear the sounds of muskets, the salty and tasty aroma of the gunpowder being blown away by the harsh snow. Cries of dying , pain and suffering surrounded the General. His eyes saw soldiers’ killing each other, stabbing bayonets and swords into each’s other guts.
He made his move.
‘’ That's cheating, you Russian dogs! We killed you in Borodino! Why won't you Russians never give up? ‘’ shouted one of the French soldiers as he saw the Greaniders retreating.
Gulliemont drew his sword out and charged as another Russian was about to kill one of his soldiers. The Russian withdrew back suddenly and turned to face the rising threat. ‘’ Die, you Russian dog! ‘’ Gulliemont shouted as he attempted a charge of the sword.
This Russian however knew what he was doing. He blocked Gulliemont’s sword. Gulliemont was thrown off his balance and fell hard to the ground. The Russian was about to plunge his musket when Gulliemont moved his legs and tripped the Russian, the Russian could not resist the force of his balance as Gulliemont’s sword went straight through his stomach coming out of the green uniform. He shoved the dead Russian off his blood stained uniform.
One of their officers, dressed in a dark green uniform with golden medals glittering like diamonds and wearing a bicorn hat walked to Gulliemont. His face wasn't war torn, but it resembled those of the newly promoted officers, with the great ginger sideburns and a ginger moustache and beard placed on to their faces.
He took his hat off and bowed in front of Gulliemont, who stood there, one leg bent and his left arm holding a sword stained with the blood of which he had slain. His facial expressions only received to the Russian as outraged and angry, war torn and with no life left in him, spare for a few left in him to fight.
'' May I say, it is an honour to meet the enemy commander myself. I am General Vladsimov of the 210th Russian Moscow Regiment.'' He replied in fluent French.
'' I too, I am the last surviving officer of the 108th regiment of the Grande Armee. I am Lieut-ant General Gulliemont. So you tell me you are from Moscow? '' Gulliemont replied in fluent Russian.
'' Ah.. Yes.... Borodino. I was there. I saw you there. I did. Your Russian is perfect.'' He nodded.
'' Yes, I am from Moscow, and these are some of the finest soldiers of Russia, unlike the rags that compromise our army. ''
'' We French have beaten your rags before anyway; your rags are nothing compared to a French solider. ''
'' Really? And how come the great army of Napoleon is retreating? '' Vladsimov beamed in pride.
'' You Russians retreated from every battle.''
The expression on Vladsimov's face darkened. '' We are not cowards! You came into our country and ravaged it. We would have fought, had General Kutuzov not ordered the withdrawals. ''
'' For a country so orthodox, you Russians seem to be the real ravagers. A band of beggars and killers. ''
'' Is that what you think of us? '' He asked credulously.
'' Hah! Not one of your soldiers could fire a single shot at Borodino. ''
'' They kill, General. '' He replied with a stern stubbornness rising up in his voice.
'' Kill as in what? The Grandee Armee is the finest of France and all of Europe. You betrayed the alliance which was created in 1807. ''
'' This is 1812! You French cannot always be the masters of Europe, General Guillemont. ''
'' Oh we will be the Masters of Europe; after all, it was your country that declared war on us in the first place! Now is our moment of glory, Vladsimov, not yours. You either bow to us or die! Did we not beat your army? Not even's England tiny pathetic army can stand the might of the Grandee Armee.''
Vladsimov smiled sarcastically.
'' Really? You really believe all of that? Maybe it is true, maybe we can't beat you. '' He sighed.
Then his face turned to Guillemont.
'' But if it's one thing Russia won't stand is being invaded on its doorstep. Let us duel then and see who is the better opponent, Gulliemont. '' He bowed.
'' I thank you, shall we converse in French? '' Gulliemont bowed in reply.
'' I think so. '' He replied in fluent French
'' Then let us duel! ''
'' We shall have an honourable fight, I hope to see your destruction first. ''
'' Yes, and you shall see your doom. '' Guillemont replied ironically.
'' I hope to strike the very first blow. ''
At that instant Gulliemont struck the first blow, forcing Vladsimov to retreat back as he tried to prevent the aggressive attacks from his opponent. Vladsimov was thrown to the snow. He scratched his chin and leapt from the snow to grab Gulliemont's throat. He dodged to the right punched Vladsimov’s gut. He threw Vladsimov into the snow. He shook his head in anger and it became a fight of dances, both these two were masters of the sword. They fought everywhere. Gulliemont nearly succeeded in dashing Vladsimov's heart.
But the Russian pushed him back; he was tired of being beaten by this peasant Frenchman. He striked back and attacked, not giving a moment of advantage to Gulliemont. He blocked the attacks from the Russian and kept on doing it for hours. The fight was becoming inconclusive now. Gulliemont was even more exhausted than the Russian.
'' You destroyed my country! '' He shouted as again he struck Gulliemont's sword.
He again hacked at Gulliemont's leg '' You ravaged my country! ''
Gulliemont winced in pain.
'' You invaded it! Now die!!! '' Vladsimov let out a loud yell as his sword went slamming down on Gulliemont.
A grin leapt on to Gulliemont's face.
'' Gladly, '' He replied
Vladsimov charged into him and the next thing he knew he was in the snow, with Gulliemont standing on top of him.
'' Go on then,kill me! '' Vladismov replied bitterly, knowing he had lost the fight so easily.
'' But be warned, I'll never surrender to France. ''
'' Then face death. ''
'' I gladly do so. '' Vladismov replied defiantly.
Gulliemont stabbed him in the gut, Vladsimov groaned in pain and tried to resist the blackness enveloping him, finally he gave in and Gulliemont pulled the sword out of his stomach. He remebered by then, it had been twelve months by now, the Grande Amree was nothing now. A small scattered army running away from the wrath of the Russian Army, they had found the perfect opportunity to take back their homeland. For nature accumulated its toll on the Grandee Armee. Winter had caused the annihilation of Napoleon's army. Since occupying Moscow, he had discovered it burdensome to write the Russians out of the map as they kept on retreating after every battle he fought with them, Like Napoleon, Gulliemont felt the same just as he did with Vladsimov.
Too such an extent that rumours spread that Bonaparte had lost his cool. '' If these Russians are so brave why don't they face us? Why run away from us when we can beat them? And the Romanovs have escaped to Sweden! By all the Gods, I shall crush the Russians if I see any of them in battle! '' The Legions of his Grand Army weren't formidable to nature;such was an tragic fate for many of them ; few survived as they retreated to France. He smiled in regret, when he went to Warsaw, his story would be heard across all Europe and the Emperor would reward him with the rank of Marshall.
'' That's our revenge, not yours. '' He muttered, and suddenly his arms felt exhausted. He was gripped by an uncontrollable pain. He clutched his hand to his heart.
‘’ To me men! Too me!! ‘’ Gulliemont shouted as struggled to rise up. His men quickly collected around him and picked him up. The Russians were about to destroy them any minute by now. By now, there weren’t many of them left, but they were still large in numbers to destroy the square. The square had decreased; only ninety were left standing in the shivering cold. The blue uniformed soldiers loaded their guns and bought it up to level. The Russians suddenly realised that they had been tricked. The French had escaped from their clutches.
'' Where's Colonel Jacque? '' He gasped as his men struggled to maintain his balance.
'' Here General! '' The Colonel saluted.
'' Good, '' He gasped once more.
'' Now reorganise the square! We must maintain the square, is that understood? ''
'' Yes, General. '' Jacque saluted again and turned his back on Gulliemont
Jacque barked out the orders.
'' Maintain square formation at once!! ''
One of their officers like Vladsimov was dressed in a dark green uniform with golden medals glittering like diamonds and wearing a black bicorn hat hooked his sword high up and shouted in French.
'' Retreat! ‘’
And the Russian infantry ran like cowards escaping the battle before it had even started.
‘’ Ah!'' Gulliemont said as he regained his strength.
'' All right you dogs! On my word! Fire! ‘’ Gulliemont shouted and then sighed in relief. A bang came from the wooden muskets of the French, the bullet gliding through the enormous force of gravity pushing it and puffing out from the bayonet to hit the cowardly Russian to see him succumbing to his downfall.
It splattered of what was left of the retreating Russians. They lay there, in a heap, fallen bodies colliding into each other as the bullets struck their spines and did not move an inch. They had fallen into the jaws of death.
‘’ That’s over for now, get- ‘’ Gulliemont was cut off just as he heard the sound of the cavalry call. They had distracted them. He looked up and could see the Russian Cavalry with their swordsmen with bronze and silver armour waving their swords threateningly. Gulliemont suddenly realized the situation; his men weren't in the formation. They'd be killed by then.
‘’ FORM SQUARE!!! ‘’ He shouted in alarm. The 108th regiment got into action for what they were famed for in the army, resisting the cavalry charge.
'' Men of the 108th! Your finest moment is here! '' Jacque laughed as he drew the sword out from his lair.
‘’ Ready Muskets. ‘’ Gulliemont ordered. The order was repeated among everybody and they rammed their muskets to the ground and began ramming their stills into the barrel. The Russians had bought their best cavalry to finish of this insignificant French battalion.
‘’ Wait... wait.... ‘’ Gulliemont muttered waiting for the right moment.
He looked around for Choinburnt but he was nowhere to be seen. The Russian Cavalry were very close now to the tiny square their mouths agape, their arms flinging their swords in the air and curses advanced to the square. When they were in just in range of the French Muskets, Gulliemont bellowed. ‘’ Now, 108th Fire!! ‘’ A tremendous cloud of fire and smoke was shot from the tiny square. The Beasts fell in their mists. Their Russian Masters could not control them falling as they were stabbed by the French Infantry.
‘’ Engage! Keep formation intact! ‘’ Gulliemont quickly ordered. And the fight began. The Russian Cavalrymen were surrounded and taken off their horses. Despite their brave resistance, Unfortaunely they were not the best of fighters. Some fought bravely, while others were swamped and stabbed in the stomachs, splintering their armour in half. It went on for hours, until none of the enemy was left. The French square had fallen even smaller, only eighty remained now.
‘’ Where are the Russians?’’ asked Gulliemont looking around the square. He saw defiant brave faces of his men holding their muskets. All bloodied by the battle they waited for his orders. His blue uniform was blood stained with the horrors of war and his gold cockades frozen in the wilderness.
‘’ Don’t know, sir, they seem to have disappeared; at least we drove the Russians away. I had enough of them for one day at least. ‘’ replied one of the soldiers.
'' Jacque, any more Russians? '' He asked.
'' None left, General. '' He indicated pointing to the retreating Russians disappearing from the snow.
'' Find Choinburnt for me. I want a full briefing. ''
It took three hours for Jacque to find Choinburnt.
‘’ Choinburnt’s here! I found him! ‘’ Jacque called.
'' Jacque? Where were you the whole time??? '' Gulliemont shouted
'' Where the heck do you think I am? Under a horse! ''
Gulliemont leapt from the square and ran to the fellow that was waving his hand. He stopped in his tracks as he found Choinburnt lay under the horse lying down in the snow. Apparently he had killed the Russian Cavalrymen, but his horse had crushed his body too late for him to escape.
‘’ Choinburnt, you fool, you always were like this. ‘’ Gulliemont reflected sadly as his hands ran down the horse and touched his uniform. Choinburnt's face was frozen in white. His moustache blew in the gust. His eyes were closed and his shako was still strapped on to his head. He rose and turned to look at his shattered regiment, his men had died fighting for France, their uniforms were stained with blood and it ran deep into their coats. It was shown in their faces, war torn and strained.
‘’ What do we now sir? ‘’ asked one of them.
‘’ What do we now? I say we get out of this damn country once and for all! ‘’ Gulliemont said pointed to that still almost visible line.
'' We go there. '' He simply said.
And the regiment after cleaning up marched down into the blizzard. Gulliemont said nothing, except remembering a phrase he had once read.
'' War is delightful to those, who has never had experience of it. ‘’