Page:Yule Logs.djvu/114

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98
"A FRENCHMAN's GRATITUDE"

The range of low sand-hills stretching from Lake Edko to the Nile—a distance of at least two miles—was everywhere accessible to infantry; but, owing to the steepness of the slope and inequality of the surface, cavalry could only operate against us at two points—namely, along a road passing through El Hamet, and by fording the lake a few hundred yards beyond the southern extremity of the ridge, where the water was extremely shallow. Now, as Macleod's rear was covered by the dry, steep-banked canal, and the road through El Hamet commanded by two six-pounders, his position might have been accounted an excellent one had it been properly manned (two thousand British troops, with a fair proportion of artillery and an ample supply of ammunition, could have held it till doomsday against ten times their number of Turks); but unfortunately Macleod's entire force did not muster eight hundred men, and he had only four six-pounder fieldpieces. This slender corps had to occupy and defend the entire line of sand-hills from one extremity to the other, and it was distributed along that line as follows:—

The force was divided into three bodies: one, numbering some three hundred men, being posted beside the river; a second, of about the same strength, in the centre of the position; while the third, of which we formed part, had to defend El Hamet, watch the road passing through the village, and support the two guns enfilading that road. Thus there was an interval of about three-quarters of a mile between the several divisions; and in order that communications might be kept up, each division had to throw out, right and left, small detachments, which took post, here and there, along the ridge.

It is plain that a position thus held was practically at the mercy of a greatly superior enemy; a couple of hundred resolute men would have been sufficient to break through the scattered line at any point, save at the principal defences, and a breach in the line at any point must