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The Boy At Ticonderoga

Duncan was a young British soldier,
new recruit at fifteen years of age,
a good lad who followed his orders,
he was a fifer who liked to play,
his tunes directed men in the field,
the Blackwatch soldiers who didn't yield,
deployed in 1758
to America, to wilds great.
Sent to take the fight there to the French,
in New York's rugged northern mountains,
from long Lake George the march would begin,
a desire for vengeance to quench,
after what happened the year before
at William Henry, the blood and gore…

Abercrombie was put in command,
but left many duties to George Howe,
a young officer, and steadfast man,
lots of leeway to chap was allowed.
So out would row 18,000 men,
excited Duncan plunked amongst them,
largest force seen on Yankee shores,
compared to the French, near five times more.
All of the men's spirits running high,
highlanders, militia, native scouts,
the outcome didn't seem much in doubt
when the lake's northern end they espied,
the French had all fled that patch of earth,
Howe's forward columns got to their work.

Duncan was not part of this advance,
his unit was unloading behind,
ahead Howe encountered men from France
trying to retreat behind their lines.
Loud gunshots echoed back through the woods,
young Duncan, then, did not feel so good,
went about unloading with frayed nerves,
after some hours, then men returned.
They spoke of a skirmish amongst trees,
how the noble Lord Howe was shot dead
in the fighting, before the French fled,
after suffering casualties.
Now Abercrombie alone took charge,
which didn't help to lift people's hearts.

The next day Colonel John Bradstreet went
with men to reconnoiter the scene,
up Rattlesnake hill his troop was sent,
saw the fort, information was gleaned;
Fort Carillon looked in bad repair,
and they could see no forward lines there,
with a charge they thought the French would break,
but they didn't see their great mistake:
Trees and shrubs shielded breastworks from view,
and branches formed into abatis,
through which no marching line could persist,
none of these things Abercrombie knew,
and fearing reinforcements in time,
he chose to strike, left big guns behind.

Duncan's unit, the 42nd,
was placed in the center of the mass,
the French would crumble quick, he reckoned,
when the lines started marching at last,
not knowing that no orders had come,
yet on the left came the sounds of guns…
units began to advance with haste,
before all the men were in their place!
Duncan played his fife and the pipes wailed,
and the Blackwatch men began to march,
they'd be damned if they didn't take part,
if their brave Scottish hearts were to fail.
So young Duncan found himself moving,
in his chest came a frantic pounding.

Ahead the light infantry attacked,
approaching a long, branch-studded wall,
when a wave of fire force them back,
so much smoke…Duncan saw not at all,
he kept playing, though he trembled now,
amidst the terror of muskets loud,
the 42nd, men of the kilt,
pressed to the earthworks the French had built,
when came a volley of vicious force,
clumps of highlanders fell to the earth,
Duncan dropped his fife, seeing the hurt,
his young mind from its duties divorced,
as dozens of men went to their end,
the piper on his left amongst them.

The Blackwatch was not easily swayed,
through hellish fire they did not break,
kept marching right through the smoky haze
as their proud ranks were constantly raked.
Duncan pushed on just behind the line,
his feet ignoring his fear-gripped mind,
the volleys came, the highlanders died,
until many just ran for their lives.
A precious few reach the wall to fight,
when came the bright glint of bayonet,
stabbing down quick at those not dead yet,
poor Duncan wet himself at the sight;
a highland blasted from his feet
fell back on Duncan, trapped him beneath…

He struggled madly to free his leg,
but he was trapped beneath a large bloke,
and only mere feet above his head
was a Frenchman in a pale great coat,
he grew panicked, and screamed out in fear,
the Frenchman noticed a foe was near,
on the breastwork he had a clear shot,
but on seeing the boy, the man stopped,
struck dumb by seeing this scared child,
'twas young enough to be his own son,
then he slowly lowered his gun,
struck by an impulse cool and mild,
and as he moved his musket away
he looed at Duncan, shouted, "Aller! "

Duncan pulled free and sprinted, half-mad,
tears streaming as he made his retreat,
he'd never imagined hell this bad,
and didn't much care if they were beat.
All he desired was to get clear,
to run himself far away from here,
but as the boy ran his panicked sprint,
lines of provincials marched up to him,
a commander grabbed him, smacked him hard,
said, "Come on, lad, we'll yet win the day! "
Forced him to march back into the fray,
but as before, they didn't get far.
How Duncan survived this next attack,
he didn't know, nor how he got back…

'Twas a beaten army marching south
along the wooded shores of Lake George,
there great advance turned into a rout,
without getting in sight of the fort,
the French would still control Lake Champlain,
and Duncan asked if he was still sane…
One thousand British casualties,
due to that half-wit Abercrombie,
Duncan wintered down at Fort Edward,
and troubling thoughts came to his mind,
he tried, but no reason could he find
for putting all those lives to the sword,
so that a king he'd never chosen
could claim more land, and taxes from men.

Was that what his life would amount to?
Was this the reason he'd come to be?
He did not see how it could be true
that he lived to fluff some king's glory.
Was that the same reason the French fought?
For the power that their Louis sought?
How could it be so many were damned
to feed the vanity of one man?
The pride he'd felt for his soldiering,
blew away like thin clouds in a breeze,
in not much could poor Duncan believe,
all certainties of old now fading.
He wanted to run away from this hurt,
but knew he would hang if he dared desert.

The next year Abercrombie was gone,
and Lord Amherst had taken control,
his leadership promised a new down,
he'd seized Louisburg, was much extolled.
In July his army did sail north,
the French had only a meager force,
so small that they left their forward lines,
and fled to the fort to buy some time.
Amherst did not make the same mistake,
he took his time, and set up a siege,
the French knew they would not be relieved,
so they fled north by Champlain's great lake,
but not before a great flash was seen,
they blew up their powder magazine!

Duncan laughed bitterly at the sight,
was this why so many men had died?
Half-ruined stones, piled gray and white,
the goal that brought such slaughter, denied…
Ticonderoga, it was renamed,
the title by which it gained great fame,
nut Duncan cared little for that now,
his time was up, he mustered out.
He bought land in the New Hampshire grants,
had a family, and settled to farm,
hoping never more to do souls harm,
but after sixteen years had advanced,
he found, with the fort, he wasn't finished,
when he helped seize it from the British…

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4/11/2021 8:05:48 PM #