The Rebel Surprise Near Tamai
'Twas on the 22nd of March, in the year 1885,
That the Arabs rushed like a mountain torrent in full drive,
And quickly attacked General M'Neill's transport-zereba,
But in a short time they were forced to withdraw.
And in the suddenness of surprise the men were carried away,
Also camels, mules, and horses were thrown into wild disarray,
By thousands of the Arabs that in ambush lay,
But our brave British heroes held the enemy at bay.
There was a multitude of camels heaped upon one another,
Kicking and screaming, while many of them did smother,
Owing to the heavy pressure of the entangled mass,
That were tramping o'er one another as they lay on the grass.
The scene was indescribable, and sickening to behold,
To see the mass of innocent brutes lying stiff and cold,
And the moaning cries of them were pitiful to hear,
Likewise the cries of the dying men that lay wounded in the rear.
Then General McNeill ordered his men to form in solid square,
Whilst deafening shouts and shrieks of animals did tend the air,
And the rush of stampeded camels made a fearful din,
While the Arabs they did yell, and fiendishly did grin.
Then the gallant Marines formed the east side of the square,
While clouds of dust and smoke did darken the air,
And on the west side the Berkshire were engaged in the fight,
Firing steadily and cooly with all their might.
Still camp followers were carried along by the huge animal mass,
And along the face of the zereba 'twas difficult to pass,
Because the mass of brutes swept on in wild dismay,
Which caused the troops to be thrown into disorderly array.
Then Indians and Bluejackets were all mixed together back to back,
And for half-an-hour the fire and din didn't slack;
And none but steady troops could have stood that fearful shock,
Because against overwhelming numbers they stood as firm as a rock.
The Arabs crept among the legs of the animals without any dread,
But by the British bullets many were killed dead,
And left dead on the field and weltering in their gore,
Whilst the dying moans of the camels made a hideous roar.
Then General McNeill to his men did say,
Forward! my lads, and keep them at bay!
Come, make ready, my men, and stand to your arms,
And don't be afraid of war's alarms
So forward! and charge them in front and rear,
And remember you are fighting for your Queen and country dear,
Therefore, charge them with your bayonets, left and right,
And we'll soon put this rebel horde to flight.
Then forward at the bayonet-charge they did rush,
And the rebel horde they soon did crush;
And by the charge of the bayonet they kept them at bay,
And in confusion and terror they all fled away.
The Marines held their own while engaged hand-to-hand,
And the courage they displayed was really very grand;
But it would be unfair to praise one corps more than another,
Because each man fought as if he'd been avenging the death of a brother.
The Berkshire men and the Naval Brigade fought with might and main,
And, thank God! the British have defeated the Arabs again,
And have added fresh laurels to their name,
Which will be enrolled in the book of fame.
'Tis lamentable to think of the horrors of war,
That men must leave their homes and go abroad afar,
To fight for their Queen and country in a foreign land,
Beneath the whirlwind's drifting scorching sand.
But whatsoever God wills must come to pass,
The fall of a sparrow, or a tiny blade of grass;
Also, man must fall at home by His command,
Just equally the same as in a foreign land.
The First Grenadier of France
'Twas in a certain regiment of French Grenadiers,
A touching and beautiful custom was observed many years;
Which was meant to commemorate the heroism of a departed comrade,
And when the companies assembled for parade,
There was one name at roll call to which no answer was made
It was that of the noble La Tour d'Auvergne,
The first Grenadier of France, heroic and stern;
And always at roll call the oldest sergeant stepped forward a pace,
And loudly cried, 'Died on the field of battle,' then fell back into his place.
He always refused offers of high promotion,
Because to be promoted from the ranks he had no notion;
But at last he was in command of eight thousand men,
Hence he was called the first Grenadier of France, La Tour d'Auvergne.
When forty years of age he went on a visit to a friend,
Never thinking he would have a French garrison to defend,
And while there he made himself acquainted with the country.
But the war had shifted to that quarter unfortunately.
But although the war was there he felt undaunted,
Because to fight on behalf of France was all he wanted;
And the thought thereof did his mind harass,
When he knew a regiment of Austrians was pushing on to occupy a narrow pass.
They were pushing on in hot haste and no delaying,
And only two hours distant from where the Grenadier was staying,
But when he knew he set off at once for the pass,
Determined if 'twere possible the enemy to harass.
He knew that the pass was defended by a stout tower,
And to destroy the garrison the enemy would exert all their power;
But he hoped to be able to warn the French of their danger,
But to the thirty men garrisoned there he was quite a stranger.
Still the brave hero hastened on, and when he came there,
He found the thirty men had fled in wild despair;
Leaving their thirty muskets behind,
But to defend the garrison to the last he made up his mind.
And in searching he found several boxes of ammunition not destroyed,
And for a moment he felt a little annoyed;
Then he fastened the main door, with the articles he did find,
And when he had done so he felt satisfied in mind.
Then he ate heartily of the provisions he had brought,
And waited patiently for the enemy, absorbed in thought;
And formed the heroic resolution to defend the tower,
Alone, against the enemy, while he had the power.
There the brave hero sat alone quite content,
Resolved to hold the garrison, or die in the attempt;
And about midnight his practised ear caught the tramp of feet,
But he had everything ready for the attack and complete.
There he sat and his mind absorbed in deep distress,
But he discharged a couple of muskets into the darkness;
To warn the enemy that he knew they were there,
Then he heard the Austrian officers telling their men to beware.
So until morning he was left unmolested,
And quietly till daylight the brave Grenadier rested;
But at sunrise the Austrian commander called on the garrison to surrender,
But the Grenadier replied, 'Never, I am its sole defender.'
Then a piece of artillery was brought to bear upon the tower,
But the Grenadier from his big gun rapid fire on it did shower;
He kept up a rapid fire, and most accurate,
And when the Austrian commander noticed it he felt irate.
And at sunset the last assault was made,
Still the noble Grenadier felt not the least afraid;
But the Austrian commander sent a second summons of surrender,
Hoping that the garrison would his injunctions remember.
Then the next day at sunrise the tower door was opened wide,
And a bronzed and scarred Grenadier forth did glide;
Literally laden with muskets, and passed along the line of troops,
While in utter astonishment the Austrian Colonel upon him looks.
Behold! Colonel, I am the garrison, said the soldier proudly,
What! exclaimed the Colonel, do you mean to tell me -
That you alone have held that tower against so many men,
Yes, Colonel, I have indeed, replied La Tour d'Auvergne.
Then the Colonel raised his cap and said, you are the bravest of the brave,
Grenadier, I salute you, and I hope you will find an honourable grave;
And you're at liberty to carry the muskets along with you,
So my brave Grenadier I must bid thee adieu.
At last in action the brave soldier fell in June 1800,
And the Emperor Napoleon felt sorry when he heard he was dead;
And he commanded his regiment to remember one thing above all,
To cry out always the brave Grenadier's name at the roll call.