Following the failure of the Virginia Regiment on the edge of Perdition, Major Flower, commanding the forces of the Crown in Saindoux has rushed reinforcements into the area known as The Devil’s Kitchen. Captain Queen of the 62nd (Royal American) Foot has been ordered to find and escort to safety a certain Mrs Ferris, the wife of an Irish officer in French service whose devotion to her king is greater than to her husband. She has knowledge of French plans but will reveal herself only to a British officer. Her young son, Lucien, knows where his mother is hid and accompanies the 62nd as a guide. The Mohawk known to the British as Captain Cutlass and his scouts are auxiliary to the main force.
Lieutenant Jacques Clouzeau of the Compagnie Franches de la Marine is hot on the trail of Mrs Ferris and intends to restore that lady to her husband and by that act restore himself somewhat in the good graces of his superior, Captaine Vindail, after earlier unfortunate setbacks. Clouzeau has brought along some of his Huron friends and what he hopes will be an unwelcome surprise for any British he might encounter.
Clouzeau makes good time, despite the encumbrance of his ‘petite surprise pour l’Anglais’. Ensigne Maudit’s men have scoured the woods north of the Widow Black’s farm, and his Huron allies are searching the wooded hills to the east. Clouzeau himself is approaching the Widow Black’s cabin, where he in sure that Mrs Ferris must be hiding and not a sign of les Anglais perfide.
The first British to arrive are the skirmishers under Lieutenant Neiswanger and Sergeant Koch. They advance up the south slope of the narrow ridge causing Old Tobacco’s Huron to quit the trees.
Captain Queen is swift to follow with his small platoon. He hopes to catch Clouzeau’s exposed command in the flank but unfortunately has blundered forward towards some very swampy ground. Clouzeau, nonetheless orders his men back over the fence tout suite because Captain Cutlass’ scouts appear fleetingly in the woods ahead of him.
It turns out that young Lucien only knows his mother’s location in general terms. Mrs Ferris may be in the cabin, or hiding in the woods between Old Tobacco and Neiswanger. At worst she may be across Serpent Creek to the north of the cabin, from where it will be the devil’s own job for Queen’s men to extract her.
The first shots are exchanged between Old Tobacco’s Huron and Neiswanger’s skirmishers. Sergeant Longrod, as popular with his men as with the ladies, cops a nasty one but with the added firepower of the men Neiswanger brings up, the 62nd avenge their sergeant, wounding Old Tobacco himself. To cries of ‘Put that in your pipe and smoke it!’, Old Tobacco limps hurriedly away, followed by his warriors, regrouping behind the thin white line that Clouzeau has formed facing Neiswanger’s men.
Maudit is bravely leading his force across Serpent Creek and into the Widow Black’s fields, more whooping Huron are running down to join their friends and the somewhat sluggish Eidelburger has caught up with his commander and is wondering how to negotiate the bog without dirtying his new boots. Queen has cleared the swamp, cleaned his shoes and is ready to support Neiswanger. Meanwhile Captain Cutlass still lurks in the woods by the cabin.
The battle is about to start for real, and to Queen’s horror, with a maniacal laugh, Hugo de Nigot pulls aside a cunningly laid branch to reveal la petite surprise . . .
Top centre, Ensigne Maudit. Top right, De Nigot and his gun.
Upper right (partially obscured), Old Tobacco and the unspeakable Ouaouackecinatouek.
Middle extreme left, Captain Cutlass. Middle right (partially obscured), Lieutenant Clozeau.
Lower centre, Capt. Queen. Lower right (partially obscured), Lieut. Neiswanger.
Bottom left, Ensign Eidelburger.
Clouzeau orders his men to present and unleashes a volley to clear Neiswanger’s skirmishers from his front. Neiswanger himself is wounded and one of his men falls; the rest are much shaken by the sheer volume and noise of the close range fire so Neiswanger draws them back to try and restore order behind the trees.
De Nigot can restrain himself no longer and fires the gun, the ball neatly decapitating one of Queen’s men.
Maudit is bringing his men up at a great pace through the fields and the unspeakable Ouaouackecinatouek is urging his warriors to cross the Eden Brook and get into the flanks of the British. Meanwhile Queen is struggling to get out of the bog and properly organised.
The wounded Koch’s skirmishers fall back through Queen’s men as Clouzeau wheels his line and advances it to the edge of the woods. Eidelburger makes good progress through the swamp, despite or because of the ruin wrought upon his new boots but his men come under fire from Maudit’s skirmish line, now arrayed along the fenceline. De Nigot, cackling like a lunatic urges his artillerymen to reload, and soon poor Eidleburger has more to worry about than his footwear. The canon does no real damage but the second volley from Maudit’s men kills three redcoats.
Queen advances boldly to within a few yards of Clouzeau’s line. Numbers are about even, but who will fire first?
Archie Queen commands, and his men obey! His volley sees half a dozen Frenchmen put out of the fight! But the gallant Queen’s attempt to follow up with another volley and a charge see a far less effective outpouring of fire and only a hesitant movement towards the Canadians.
Maudit pours fire on Eidelburgers swamp-bound men and the ensign’s small line loses its cohesion. The Frenchman then turns his attention to Queen’s line and accurate fire from the Compagnie Franches skirmish line sees three redcoats fall. Neiswanger, having rallied his men, moves up and fires on Clouzeau, who sensibly begins a slow but steady withdrawal. Again, Queen’s men prove reluctant to close and merely shuffle forward a few steps through the trees.
The Huron are over Eden Brook and threatening the British right, though Neiswanger is well placed to meet that threat. Elsewhere, Captain Cutlass has quietly moved his warriors round the back of Widow Black’s cabin.
Neiswanger trades fire with the Huron across the stream, getting slightly the better of the exchange. Queen gives up trying to get his men to charge and instead gets them volleying again, doing severe damage to Clouzeau’s already fraying line.
But Maudit’s skirmishers again take a toll on Queen’s boys and a devastating burst of canister from de Nigot’s gun forces the British line back. Eidelburger is reorganising in the swamp but is a long way from the fight.
Cutlass and his scouts disappear into the cabin.
Neiswanger looks to be winning his duel with the Huron, half of whom are dropping back but accurate fire from Maudit’s men see half of the shattered remnant of Queen’s men turn and flee.
It dawns on Maudit that the cabin might well be the hiding place of Madame Ferris, so he takes his men to go and see. Inside, Cutlass’ men are ransacking the place, little bothered by the furious tirade of fire that Maudit peppers the cabin with.
Another round from de Nigot’s new toy sees the routing British disappear from view, but Neiswanger has sent half the Huron running with their tails between their legs and the rest falling back badly shaken, so has evened the score in that respect.
The morale of both sides is becoming quite low. Mohawk howls of frustration from the cabin reveal that Mrs Ferris is not hiding up the chimney, nor anywhere else. Between them, the two forces have searched almost every potential hiding place.
Captain Cutlass realises it is up to him to save his British fathers from failure. He leads his warriors in a desperate charge from the cabin. Outnumbered two to one, can they prevail?
The sheer audacity of the attack, the whirling tomahawks and the wild whooping of the Mohawks do much to unsettle Maudit’s men, who barely have time to draw their own weapons before Cutlass is upon them. Two of the Mohawks fall and Cutlass receives a dreadful head wound. But five French are slain and another runs screaming homewards. Cutlass is victorious, although a rather shaken Maudit has still got half of his men in hand just beyond the Widow Black’s fence. Ensign Eidelburger’s men, who are now back in good order and out of the swamp cheer the Mohawks to the echo! A brave advance by the wounded Sergeant Longrod supported by shots from Neiswanger sees the remaining Huron flee the field. In despair, Clouzeau orders the retreat, his men refusing to continue the fight.
The butcher’s bill:
62nd Foot, 22 ranks and file dead and wounded, Lieut. Neiswanger wounded. 2 Mohawk scouts killed.
French: 15 rank and file wounded. 9 Huron killed or wounded, including Old Tobacco and Ouaouackecinatouek.
A savage day indeed but with victory going to the British thanks to the unflinching bravery of their native allies. Mrs Ferris was indeed hiding in the woods to the north of her farm and is now safely with the British commander, to whom she will doubtless reveal much.