Monday, June 23, 2014

the last book I ever read (Marie Arana's Bolívar: American Liberator, excerpt eight)

from Bolívar: American Liberator by Marie Arana:

“And how do you propose to do that?” Bolívar asked.

“With my cavalry.”

Bolívar was irritated. “With a sea cavalry, you mean? Because one that operates on land can’t possibly perform such a miracle.”

Páez called down a company of fifty men, who rode nimbly to the riverbank, their saddles uncinched. When he yelled, “Bring me those boats!” the men slid their saddles to the ground, clenched their lances between their teeth, then, with loud whoops, charged bareback into the river. The Spanish sentinels, brought to life, responded with a volley or two. But they were so panicked at the sight of that fierce horde plowing the water, startling the crocodiles, clambering onto their boats willy-nilly, that they dove into the river and made for the other shore. To Bolívar’s amazement—for he had thought his men would be blown to bits—Páez’s riders succeeded in taking all four craft. After that, their armies had no trouble sweeping into the encampment. By the time they were through, they had captured fourteen boats and a store of munitions. “It may appear inconceivable,” a witness later reported, “that a body of cavalry with no other arms than their lances, and no other mode of conveyance across a rapid river than their horses, should attack and take a fleet of gun-boats amidst shoals of alligators; but there are many officers now in England who can testify to the truth of it.”

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