Black seamen – or “Black Jacks” as African sailors were known – enjoyed a refreshing world of liberty and equality. Even if they were generally regulated to jobs such as cooks, servants, and muscians and endured thier fellow seamen’s racism, they were still freemen in the Royal Navy. One famous black sailor wrote, “I liked this little ship very much. I now became the captian’s steward, in which I was very happy; for I was extremely well treated by all on board, and I had the leisure to improve myself in reading and writing.
The defenders retreated, but in good order. A musket flamed and a ball shattered a marine’s collar bone, spinning him around. The soldiers screamed terrible battle-cries as they began their grim job of clearing the defenders off the parapet with quick professional close-quarter work. Gamble trod on a fallen ramrod and his boots crunched on burnt wadding. The French reached steps and began descending into the bastion.'Bayonets!' Powell bellowed. 'I want bayonets!''Charge the bastards!' Gamble screamed, blinking another man's blood from his eyes. There was no drum to beat the order, but the marines and seamen surged forward.'Tirez!' The French had been waiting, and their muskets jerked a handful of attackers backwards. Their officer, dressed in a patched brown coat, was horrified to see the savage looking men advance unperturbed by the musketry. His men were mostly conscripts and they had fired too high. Now they had only steel bayonets with which to defend themselves.'Get in close, boys!' Powell ordered. 'A Shawnee Indian named Blue Jacket once told me that a naked woman stirs a man's blood, but a naked blade stirs his soul. So go in with the steel. Lunge! Recover! Stance!''Charge!' Gamble turned the order into a long, guttural yell of defiance.Those redcoats and seamen, with loaded weapons discharged them at the press of the defenders, and a man in the front rank went down with a dark hole in his forehead. Gamble saw the officer aim a pistol at him. A wounded Frenchman, half-crawling, tried to stab with his sabre-briquet, but Gamble kicked him in the head. He dashed forward, sword held low. The officer pulled the trigger, the weapon tugged the man's arm to his right, and the ball buzzed past Gamble's mangled ear as he jumped down into the gap made by the marines charge. A French corporal wearing a straw hat drove his bayonet at Gamble's belly, but he dodged to one side and rammed his bar-hilt into the man's dark eyes. 'Lunge! Recover! Stance!