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8. The Fall Offensive
One of the events most eagerly awaited by the cadets each year was the fall military offensive. It was designed to give the cadets, especially the newer ones, some taste of actual military work. Rhodes explained it to the friends.

“The idea is to teach unity of action between the different branches of the service,” the senior said. “First of all, the infantry takes up its position with the artillery under cover just back of it and waits there until the actual shelling begins. The cavalry, dismounted, is stationed somewhere near to support the infantry. After the shelling of a hill—we generally shell an old hill which we call Hill 31—the infantry advances close behind the fire of the artillery, meanwhile getting a message through somehow to the cavalry to dismount and fall in on the wings. I don’t know how the message will be sent this year. Sometimes they send it through by telephones that the engineers put up and sometimes they send a runner through the hill just before the bombardment or after it. When we take up the active campaign we don’t use these uniforms, of course. We get into the regular khaki and go at it right. I guess we’ll get to it soon.”

It was a week later when Major Tireson issued orders that the fall offensive was to take place. The cadets were overjoyed at the prospect, for it meant three days of vacation. It was the custom then to camp out one day, drill on the second, and attack the imaginary enemy on the morning of the third day, returning home in the evening. To Jim, who was an officer of the cavalry, instructions were given.

The captain and lieutenants of the infantry, artillery and cavalry were present at the time instructions were given. There was no captain of the cavalry, for the last captain had graduated, and Major Tireson was undecided as to whether to make Jim or a cadet named Thompson captain. Consequently, both of them were lieutenants and equals. The major explained that the infantry would wait until the shelling was over and then advance on the hill. The artillery officers were instructed in the method and time, and then Major Tireson turned to the cavalry lieutenants.

“You understand, boys, how you are to advance dismounted when the word comes to you?” he asked, and the lieutenants nodded. “Very well,” continued Major Tireson. “Mercer, you are to have charge of the left wing of the cavalry and are to take up a position on the east side of Hill 31. Thompson, you will take your place on the west side of the hill, on the flank of the infantry, and you will send a man over Hill 31 as soon as the firing has been stopped. The artillery fire will be ended all in one burst, there will be no scattering shots, and it will be perfectly safe to send your man over the hill to inform Lieutenant Mercer to join the left wing of the infantry. We are going to act as though our telephone lines were down at the time, and the message is to be delivered by word of mouth. You both understand plainly?”

Both cavalry lieutenants replied that they did understand and after looking over maps they went back to rooms to prepare. Official word was passed around the school and campaign uniforms were issued, together with “tin hats,” trench tools and all the necessary implements. The artillery was brought out, horses prepared, and one brilliant morning late in October the three divisions marched away to the practice warfare.

Hill 31 was twelve miles from Woodcrest and in wild country, where the danger of running across anyone was slight. The infantry marched first, the artillery rumbling back of them, and in the rear, the cavalry unit followed leisurely. The spirits of the cadets were raised by the clear and sparkling air and the bright sunshine, and they marched with a swing. Terry, who was riding a gun carriage, laughed at Don when they all halted for a brief rest.

“Seems like Jim and I have the cream of the outfit,” he grinned. “I ride a gun carriage and Jim rides a fine horse. Little old Donny walks along on his feet.”

“I don’t mind,” retorted Don. “You and Jim will grow old and fat, while I will still be in my prime, due to the fact that I used my feet. When you two are in your wheelchairs, I’ll come around and see you.”

Terry laughed. “That’s how you talk, but wouldn’t you just jump at the chance to ride!”

In the afternoon they reached a long, dusty plain, with Hill 31 before them. Here the cadets made camp. A small city of tents shot up like magic, all hands helping. Four rows of orderly tents stood erected before nightfall, and then there was a drill and review. After that the cadets were free to do as they wished, although no one was permitted to go far afield.

In the evening there were races and wrestling and soon after supper taps sounded. The night was cold and clear, guards patrolled the camp, and the boys were glad to get a good night’s sleep. At six in the morning, they were roused from bed by the blare of the bugle and a busy day began.

There was inspection and roll call, breakfast, drill, and a long march for a............
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