Ernest Hemingway’s Game Recap: The Battle of Columbus
Columbus was all hell. OTF’s Nick Fox has the latest dispatch from our correspondent in the field, Ernest Hemingway…
That night we lay under the green fly of the medical tent and listened to the cannons outside, for the Argentine mercenary Higuain was attacking again and the column was close to breaking. There were many wounded in the tent and many of them were asleep. I myself did not want to sleep. Inside the tent was Magee, who wished to be on the field, leading his men, but whose leg was bound up. He walked carefully and I sat on the edge of a cot and we smoked.
“They are sweeping the left flank,” said Magee. He spoke to me because we were from the same town and had seen the same war and were similarly changed by it.
“That is where Cochrane’s men are,” I said.
Magee nodded and said nothing, for he knew that Higuain’s tactic was to push forward and keep the defending column moving backward and when they swept down at last and rushed past Cochrane there would only be Johnson, who had courage but not always the foresight to direct the action ahead of him.
Magee looked over his shoulder at the other wounded. Soumare and Palmer, who still eyed each other with suspicion. Nyarko, who had fought many times against the Columbans in their yellow uniforms. And the Brazillian, Alex, who carried genius and his hesitation in equal measure like a bullfighter who has been gored too many times and will enter the arena but no longer lean in over the horns.
Outside, we could hear the roar of battle. We had taken the fight to the Columbans many times before being swept back and I knew that if they gained the initiative and scored an early victory then the battle would fall to them, no matter how brave the men were.
“Perhaps young Harry will break through their lines,” I said.
Magee looked at me and shook his head. “I have the report. They have him all bottled up.”
“Then perhaps Ward?”
“He is too young. Young men like him are wasted in a campaign like this.”
Magee stood and walked to the edge of the tent. He started to speak but then Soumare was shouting and laughing. The orderlies rushed over to sedate him. I had seen it with other men who stood on the last line of defense, who could only hope to delay an attack until reinforcements arrived. The tension sometimes drove them mad.
“It’s a hell of a nuisance to be certified,” said Magee.
I looked back at him and he was looking out over the open plain. Higuain was advancing again.
“We will need to move tonight,” he said.
“Are you going back to Chicago after it is all over?”
“To do what?”
“Hell. I don’t know.”
“You ought to get married, Magee. Everything is better if you are married.”
“You should wait until after the battle to walk out.”
“All right,” said Magee, and he walked out of the tent. No more needed to be said, for we all knew that the battle was lost. The valley would belong to the Columbans now, and when the season changed it would fall to our side, and then back to theirs again. Such was the cycle in the early days of the campaign. I stood at the edge of the tent and watched Magee hobble out into the darkness. I was still watching that darkness when the order came to retreat.
OTF’s Nick Fox is currently being punched in the mouth by Hemingway in a bar in New Orleans. Follow him @OlympicMule