(Coat of Arms of Baron Seaton by Ricky)

No Orders

Disclaimer 1: This is fanfic. That means I do not own any of it. I just borrow it to play with for a little while and let people see the pathetic results if they really want to.

Disclaimer 2: I'm not making any money from it. It's just for fun.

Disclaimer 3: What isn't borrowed is all made up. None of this is real or most likely at all realistic. Please don't trust any of the information in here. Most likely you know more about whatever I'm writing about than I do.

Disclaimer 4: Attitudes, views and opinions expressed by the characters or in the story are not necessarily those of the author. Even when writing Science Fiction or Fantasy I do not tend to attempt to create perfect/better worlds in which everybody gets a happy end ... or whatever is best for them. Please accept that some characters will have a bad ending or be unhappy.

Disclaimer 5: I intend no insult to anyone. If I offend anyone I'm very sorry. Please understand that it was an accident as I tend to be very clumsy in these things.

Disclaimer 6: If my characters' conversations seem odd or they appear to be talking past each other the latter might occasionally be intentional, but most likely it is an accident and I'm not aware that they are. It's just my bad communication skills.

AN: This one is set not long before the 'It's a Plan' scene. Once again while the dialogue is fictional the persons and events are historical.
Dramatis Personae (if anyone’s that interested):

"I take it General Skerret's orders aren't urgent?" Lieutenant-Colonel Colborne asked when Brigade Major Harry Smith jumped off his horse without immediately shouting out his missive.

Harry gave him an uncharacteristically glum look. "No orders," he admitted once he'd handed over his reigns to Colborne's servant. "He didn't send me."

Colborne glanced in the direction of the bridge near Vera, but he couldn't see it from here. "No orders? We are supposed to bivouac?"

"Yes," Harry confirmed miserably. "Everybody can see that the French on this side of the Bidassoa must re-cross the river during the night or be slaughtered in the morning. Our brigade is in control of the bridge that is the only place they can cross after today's rain and our brigadier wants you to go to bed."

"He means to defend the bridge with the 95th regiment alone?" Colborne didn't think that was wise, but the sharpshooters with their rifles were better suited for the task than the 52nd whose musket's had a much shorter range. Still, considering the number of cut off French it would be wise to keep the rest of the brigade on alert nearby in case the 95th were overrun.

Harry laughed bitterly. "He means to defend the bridge with a picket of one officer and thirty men."

"Nonsense," said Colborne. "That would make no sense. Where did you hear that rumour?"

"That rumour are the orders I carried to the 95th myself," Harry snapped. "I tried to talk Skerret out of it, but he wouldn't see reason. He almost laughed at me outright." A pause. "Well, before he started yelling."

Colborne didn't bother to ask who had started yelling first. He knew Harry too well. "You must have misunderstood," he said instead. "Why don't you go back to the General and ask him again calmly."

"Misunderstood?" Harry tore a rather bedraggled notebook out of his pocket and thrust it at Colborne. "Does this look at all unclear to you?"

Harry Smith of all people actually kept an order book? Colborne accepted it with mild surprise and opened it. The order was scrawled out on the very first page, just as Harry had repeated it. The rest of the pages were pristine except for the wrinkles, dog ears and water damage.

"I showed him this and he confirmed that these are his orders," Harry insisted. "It's Daniel Cadoux's turn for the picket. He chose to take all that's left of his company, but they suffered badly when Skerret held you back too long during the battle today. He says he's down to 50 men1. He cannot hold that many French off forever."

Colborne closed his eyes for a moment, collected himself and calmly handed the order book back to its owner - who would, most likely, never use it again.

"I can order my regiment to sleep fully clothed with their weapons at their sides," he said. "But I cannot move it or enter the fight without orders. You have to get me those."

Harry beamed at him. "I will," he exclaimed already jumping up to rush back to his horse once again happy and full of restless energy.

Colborne shook his head with a slight smile, then sent out the promised orders.

He spent the night dozing in his chair, Major Mein asleep beside him, until the battle cry of the French woke them just before dawn.

Mein jumped up and dashed off towards the sound before anyone could stop him and Colborne had to send someone after him to fetch him back. No orders came.

Harry's eyes were red from crying when Colborne saw him again hours later. "Cadoux's dead," he said softly. "And it's all Skerret's fault. They could have held the bridge on their own, if only they'd had more ammunition, but Skerret would send neither support nor ammunition. He ordered them to retreat. Ordered them out of cover just when it got light enough to make them good targets."

"You did all you could," Colborne told him, but of course that didn't fix anything. They would discuss the events of this night many many times in the years that followed.

1 Using Harry's numbers. Other sources say 70.

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