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John Shackleton

"And what makes a good soldier?" "The ability to fire three rounds a minute in any weather, sir."

0 · 255 views · located in Galacia, and the Spanish Countryside

a character in “The exploits of the 50th Foot, Galacia, 1809”, as played by XavierDantius32

Description

People have called John may things in his brief existance; Thief, Pickpocket, Wastrel, Vagabond, Scum and... Redcoat.

Originally from the rolling green hills of Kent, John was born to a poor bookmaker and a half-addled seamstress. They had little money, and John was often neglected in his early years, until the point where his father was killed by a disgruntled customer, and his mother committed suicide out of loss.

In a borstal on the outskirts of Chatham, John spent his time learning both to pick locks and pockets , neglecting the small amount of formal education that was provided. He grew lean and hard, tough enough to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of the borstal, and the city outside it.

He left at sixteen, heading from the city to the coast, paying his way with picked pockets and con tricks. He joined a gang of smugglers, bringing in alcohol and tobacco from France, selling them to the locals at a massive mark-up.

This prosperity lasted for a few years, before the ring was uncovered, and the group were hauled before the magistrate. Three of the four man gang met the noose. John, because he was young, was offered a choice. Join the army, or swing.

As a member of third company, John is a line infantryman, and has served alongside the men of his company on the boats in America, and in the file against the French at Alexandria. His harsh upbringing made him strong, and this strength has been tempered by military discipline, creating a dependable, if roguish soldier.

John is of above average height, with a corded, narrow frame layered with wiry muscles. While deft of hand, he is not particularly fast, but when ensconced in the thin red line, this hardly matters. His face is comely, with high cheekbones and an untidy mop of dark hair, shadowing a pair of bright blue eyes, sharp enough to pick the shako off a Frenchman at two hundred paces.

So begins...

John Shackleton's Story

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Character Portrait: John Shackleton
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The square had broken, and John could see the colours, fluttering in the sun as the bold hussar darted away, his plumed shakoe hanging around his neck as he drove his horse away from the slaughter-yard that remained of the 50th Foot's second battalion.

In an act of almost pure impulse, brought about by pride in both his king, and his regiment, John pulled the stock of his musket into his broad shoulder, pulling back the swan-neck of the flint with a click.

By this point, the Hussar was well beyond the effective range of the Brown Bess, and a more sensible soldier would have put up his weapon, and searched for a better target amongst the melee behind him. John squeezed the brass-chased trigger.

A plume of foul-smelling, sulphurous smoke jetted from the fluted barrel, obscuring the target as the half-inch lead ball knifed through the air. John dropped the musket from his shoulder, reaching for a fresh cartridge. His fingers brushed against the empty paper sleeves of the box that hung over his white crossbelt, and he cursed, spitting the word out between blackened teeth.

He turned, looking over his shoulder at the carnage behind him. The square had broken, and the illustrious 50th, the Queen's Own were in full flight, running from the French horsemen like a deer before a huntsman. He made to start towards the hills, but a thunder of hooves behind him made him turn, instinct locking the musket against his hip, brandishing it like a spear.

By luck, the Chasseur had no time to evade, and the spike bayonet punched through his soft belly, severing his spine, and ending his life in a gout of blood, sprayed from his mouth. Using the musket like a lever, John tipped the man from the saddle, pinning him to the ground while he snatched at the horses bridle with a free hand.

With a dexterity practised on Chatham's shit-covered streets, John rifled the cavalryman's pockets, snatching a pair of steel-chased pistols with long, heavy barrels. Ripping open his jacket slightly, he stuffed the pistols into his waistband, the combination of cross-belt and jacket forming an impromptu holster for the weapon. Head ducked low, John filled his cartridge box with pistol shot, slipping a long knife from the man's waist.

With a precious few coins rattling in the bottom of his empty cartridge box, John turned his attention to the horse, yanking the sun-bleached frame of a third pistol from the saddle holster. The musket was hastily yanked from the corpse, slung over his shoulder, and the pistol joined the other two inside his jacket.

A far-flung glance showed him that most of the survivors had made it to the hillside, negating the cavalry's advantage on the rough terrain. With his looted weaponry banging against his torso, John began to run for the steep hillside, shying away from a badly aimed lance, diving for cover as a round of canister was blasted ineffectually at the hillside.

He felt the ground starting to climb under his feet, and the crack of sporadic musket fire from the scattered infantrymen started to wicker over his head. He heard a horse whinny in pain as a musket ball struck it's chest, and he was there, on the crest of the steep ridge, looking down on a sea of wheeling horses and brightly coloured uniforms, with scattered bodies, many cut open by sabre, and staked by lance.

He scrambled over the roots of a wind-swept tree, its branches stretched out like skeletal hands and he was on the ridge that crested the steep hillside, safe from the pursuing cavalry that milled impotently on the road below. Without a rifle, there was little he could contribute to the battle, and he set about replacing the equipment he had abandoned when the square fell.

Keeping the musket slung over his shoulder, and the pistols stuffed into his coat, John darted further up the hill, dropping to one knee by the body of a sergeant, who had been struck by a lucky carbine shot, with blood and brains oozing out of his shattered skull. Thankfully, the man was still wearing his pack, with his greatcoat stuffed inside, and a blanket rolled on top. With little consideration for the dead, John tipped him over with his booted foot, undoing the buckles that secured the loaded pack, pausing only to stuff the larger of his three pistols down beside the greatcoat.

With the pack strapped across his broad back, John started up towards the impromtu skirmish line broken by spits and eddies of musket fire, accompanied by the occasional cheer from one of the men.

As he approached, John managed to count at least thirty redcoats, and a couple of stragglers from the 95th, their green coats providing better camouflage against the brush. He recognized a couple of powder-stained faces from third company, but many of them were reinforcements from second battalion, who had only recently arrived in Portugal.

“Did any officers make it out?” He called as he approached the group, dropping the musket from his shoulder, weighing it in his slight hands. He'd seen most of the senior officers around the colours when they fell, but there was always the chance a lieutenant or two had managed to salvage some of their men.

A stocky man in the livery of the sixth company stepped forward, the long barrel of a pilfered rifle in his scarred hands. “I ain't seen any. Most were wit' the colours. The silly buggers probably died standin'.” He muttered, eyeing the valley below. “We're the lucky ones, lads.”

Before he could continue, most of his face was removed by a carbine ball, ricocheting off his jawbone to bury itself in the gut of a nearby rifleman. Turning, John saw an assortment of green and blue coats, the pale sun glinting off the barrels of carbines and pistols as the French cavalry advanced up the slope.

“Back up the hill! Quick as you like!” John shouted, gesturing with his arm at the scant cover of the wooded hillside. Several more men were felled by carbine fire, and the redcoats scattered like leaves in the wind, abandoning the ragged skirmish order and fleeing into the trees.

John scampered back, a carbine ball snagging in the fabric of his moth-eaten red coat. He paused, drawing the musket into his shoulder as he blasted off a shot, to be rewarded by a scream, and a falling body in a blue coat.

With the breath rasping in his lungs, he sprinted to the tree-line, disappearing into the tangle of limbs and roots, the empty musket still clutched in his hands. He walked alone for several minutes, aware of several people moving in a similar direction, but the tangle of constricting foliage prevented him from seeing them.

Eventually, he broke out into a clearing, and came upon a group of survivors, both slumped and standing against stumps and trunks. Some were smoking, others busy with powder-clogged weapons and shattered flintlocks.

“Private Shackleton, third company.” John grunted, setting his musket and pack down against a tree stump. “Anyone from third make it out?”