Bland’s Company of the Virginia Regiment, newly arrived in the Devil’s Kitchen, have been ordered to escort Meneer Sterkgange, a representative of the Dutch West Indies Company, to Fort Perdition. At least Lieutenant Launderville presumed that his colonel’s utterance, ‘God be pleased but that damn’d Frog and his foul pipe be taken swiftly to Perdition!’ constituted orders to take the gentleman to the fort of that name (the reader will recollect that until the late 1700s it was Dutchmen who were known to the English as ‘frogs’) .
Launderville intends to skirt the right bank of Sulphur Creek with the bulk of his force, half under his own command and half under Ensign Bumgardner, who is entrusted with the care of ‘Frog’ Sterkgange. Meanwhile Lieutenant Nutter and Sergeant Fear are skirmishing across the stream to flush out any potential ambush and Sergeant Forcam leads more skirmishers into the small wood atop Horny Hill to cover the open right flank.
Sergeant Fear’s bold foray towards the woods has upset the cunning plans of the unspeakable Khionontatehronons whose fiendish aim is to seize the strong tobacco of Sterkgange for his own, letting his warriors content themselves with scalps, clothing, weapons, etc. With a cry of fury, he opens the fight. A dozen of his braves fire from the woods upon the hapless Forcam and his men, who, finding Horney Hill clear of foes, have descended to Sulphur Creek. Private Branch will live no more to carry on his family’s tree and Forcam himself is hit in the left buttock, a fact made known to all in the vicinity in no uncertain terms by the man himself, with an ample selection from his extraordinary repertoire of oaths.
Forcam, hopping switly and cursing all the while, leads his men smartly back into the wood atop Horney Hill.
The twin colums of Virginian line advance and Khionontatehronons decides to risk advancing some of his men from the woods to fire on Bumgardner’s men while Khionontatehronons himself leads more warriors against Sergeant Fear. The natives must have been swindled in their latest trade for powder as all their shots result in nothing but noise and smoke. Fear falls back to align himself with the advancing Nutter who has gained the woods atop the little ridge that overlooks Neck Woods.
Garennajenhaga, Khionontatehronons’ right-hand man strikes out across Sulphur Creek to try to take the provincials in the flank. Nutter and Fear get their men fighting in Indian style, dropping back through the trees to reload after firing.
The main body of provincials press on. Launderville takes his column down to ford the creek, which they begin in splendid, splashing style, while Bumgardner presses on.
Khionontatehronons is becoming annoyed by Nutter’s skirmishers and when two of his warriors are killed by the hitherto ineffectual sniping from the ridge, he launches a charge with a whoop. Half the men he has ordered forward are too preoccupied with shooting at Bumgardner to react quickly enough and so Khionontatehronons is outnumbered by Nutter’s little band. The fight is short but furious. Both Nutter and the unspeakable Khionontatehronons are wounded and the unquenchable vigour of the natives sends Nutter and the two of his men who retain their scalps reeling for the shelter of the far bank of Sulphur Creek. They have given a good account of themselves though as three more braves lie stark amongst the trees.
Sergeant Fear’s men take their first casualty and begin to shrink from the fire of the warriors facing them. Fear shepherd’s them back across the creek, the mocking calls of the natives ringing in their ears.
Bumgardner has advanced quite rapidly, despite harassing fire and now shakes his men out into line. The young ensign has widely separated groups of warriors to his front, and another over the creek to his left flank but he is counting on Lieutenant Launderville to deal with the latter.
Some rapid if none too accurate firing from Khionontatehronons and the young warrior accompanying him is too much for the already shattered nerves of Lieutenant Nutter’s men. Despite the officer’s exhortations the pair take to their heels, Nutter chasing after them damning them for vile dogs (because as every British officer knows, vilifying an already frightened man is the best way to restore his self-esteem and get him back in the fight).
Sergeant Fear isn’t doing much better but he’s falling back slowly with his men just about in hand and getting off some shots in the general direction of the enemy.
It is a sad fact that while Ensign Bumgardner brought his men into line beautifully, their now have no targets, the pesky foes having slipped off to the flanks. The injured Sergeant Forcam can do little more than curse his sore buttock, though his men have at least managed to account for one of Garennajenhaga’s warriors.
Where is Launderville? His men have encountered muddy ground on the far side of the creek and are slithering about in their sodden shoes. Progress is slow and Launderville has dithered too long dressing his ranks. Young Bumgardner is perilously exposed and the men’s morale begins to crack. They give ground nervously, eyeing the warriors to flanks and front.
The fire is becoming deadly accurate and feeling themselves isolated and with ever-thinning ranks, the retreat seems inexorable.
Lieutenant Launderville realises that if he can drive the Huron from the woods in front of him, and kill the unspeakable Khionontatehronons into the bargain, the day may yet be saved. He leads his men forward, but their charge is rendered farcical by the men’s continued slithering and Launderville’s attempts to keep them in ranks.
Meanwhile, Garennajenhaga sees his opportunity to prove himself as mighty, perhaps mightier than the unspeakable Khionontatehronons. He leads his small band of brave hearts against the flank of Bumgardner’s line.
It is a massacre. A third of Bumgardner’s men are cut down before they can react or are tomahawked while begging for mercy. Only the ensign himself and Menheer Sterkgange are taken captive. A handful of men have stuck with Sergeant O’Rear, who helps himself to a stiff nip of gin from his water bottle and ushers his little group back to what might be safety.
But can Launderville still salvage some honour from the wreck?
Alas, Launderville proves too slow. With provincial morale shattered, who can save the day?
But wait! From the woods atop Horney Hill comes a foul oath! Down hops sergeant Forcam, cursing vilely, trailing blood from his injured buttock. Down with him come his small band of stout hearts to fall upon Garennajenhaga’s savages while they are at their gruesome scalpings.
Alas again. A man may hop of his left foot only so fast, and Forcam’s oaths alerted Garennajenhaga whose warriors fire and charge. It is a bitter end. Brave Forcam joins the list of captives and only one of his men manages to escape the scalping knives and run.
A bad day for Virginia.