Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Mellichampe: A Legend of the Santee >> Chapter XX: Sharp Passages at Arms >> Page 183

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Page 183

Novel (Romance) | Redfield | 1854
Transcription SHARP PASSAGES AT ARMS. 183
shal his men on the side of a little copse and bay that lay be-
tween himself and the foe, when the heavy tramp of the cavalry
and the creaking wheels of the baggage-wagons were heard at
a little distance. A timely resolution, even then, though com-
paratively unprepared, might yet have retrieved the error
which the commander of the troop had committed ; but his
looks were now indecisive, his movements uncertain, and he
gave his orders for a change of position, imagining that a bet-
ter stand presented itself a little distance back.
This must not be, Captain Melton !" cried Mellichampe,
indignantly. It is quite too late, sir, to think of any such
change. A retrograde movement full in the face of an advan-
cing enemy, will have the effect of a retreat upon our troop,
and give the enemy all the advantage of our panic and con-
fusion, together with the courage and confidence which our
seeming flight must inspire in them. We can not change now,
and we must make the best of our position. Had my advice
been minded�"
He was interrupted as the close sounds of the advancing
tories met his ears. Melton saw the impossibility of any change
now, and the discovery, on his part, produced in his mind all
the feelings of surprise and discomfiture which he had planned
for the reception of his foe. He gave his orders, it is true ;
but he did not look the officer to his men, and they did not
feel with him. Not so with Mellichampe : the few words
which had passed in the hearing of the troop between him and
his commander�the air of fierce decision which his features
wore the conscious superiority which they indicated were
all so many powerful spells of valor, which made the brave
fellows turn their eyes upon him as upon their true leader.
And so he was. The imbecility of Melton became more
conspicuous as the moment of trial approached. He halted,
hung back, as the enemy entered upon the little defile in
which only it could be attacked ; and thus exposed his men,
when the attack was made, to all the disadvantages arising
from a suffered surprise. It was then that the impatient blood
of Mellichampe, disdaining all the restraints of discipline,
urged him forward in the assault with a fierce shout to his