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Title: Deeds that Won the Empire - Historic Battle Scenes
Author: Fitchett, W. H. (William Henry), 1845-1928
Language: English
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DEEDS THAT WON THE EMPIRE


HISTORIC BATTLE SCENES



BY W. H. FITCHETT, LL. D.



LONDON: JOHN MURRAY



  FIRST EDITION (Smith, Elder & Co.) . . .  November 1897
  Twenty-ninth Impression  . . . . . . . .  October 1914
  Reprinted (John Murray)  . . . . . . . .  September 1917
  Reprinted  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  February 1921



PREFACE

The tales here told are written, not to glorify war, but to nourish
patriotism.  They represent an effort to renew in popular memory the
great traditions of the Imperial race to which we belong.

The history of the Empire of which we are subjects--the story of the
struggles and sufferings by which it has been built up--is the best
legacy which the past has bequeathed to us.  But it is a treasure
strangely neglected.  The State makes primary education its anxious
care, yet it does not make its own history a vital part of that
education.  There is real danger that for the average youth the great
names of British story may become meaningless sounds, that his
imagination will take no colour from the rich and deep tints of
history. And what a pallid, cold-blooded citizenship this must produce!

War belongs, no doubt, to an imperfect stage of society; it has a side
of pure brutality. But it is not all brutal.  Wordsworth's daring line
about "God's most perfect instrument" has a great truth behind it.
What examples are to be found in the tales here retold, not merely of
heroic daring, but of even finer qualities--of heroic fortitude; of
loyalty to duty stronger than the love of life; of the temper which
dreads dishonour more than it fears death; of the patriotism which
makes love of the Fatherland a passion. These are the elements of
robust citizenship.  They represent some, at least, of the qualities by
which the Empire, in a sterner time than ours, was won, and by which,
in even these ease-loving days, it must be maintained.

These sketches appeared originally in the _Melbourne Argus_, and are
republished by the kind consent of its proprietors.  Each sketch is
complete in itself; and though no formal quotation of authorities is
given, yet all the available literature on each event described has
been laid under contribution.  The sketches will be found to be
historically accurate.



CONTENTS


  THE FIGHT OFF CAPE ST. VINCENT
  THE HEIGHTS OF ABRAHAM
  THE GREAT LORD HAWKE
  THE NIGHT ATTACK ON BADAJOS
  THE FIRE-SHIPS IN THE BASQUE ROADS
  THE MAN WHO SPOILED NAPOLEON'S "DESTINY"
  GREAT SEA-DUELS
  THE BLOOD-STAINED HILL OF BUSACO
  OF NELSON AND THE NILE
  THE FUSILEERS AT ALBUERA
  THE "SHANNON" AND THE "CHESAPEAKE"
  THE GREAT BREACH OF CIUDAD RODRIGO
  HOW THE "HERMIONE" WAS RECAPTURED
  FRENCH AND ENGLISH IN THE PASSES
  FAMOUS CUTTING-OUT EXPEDITIONS
  MOUNTAIN COMBATS
  THE BLOODIEST FIGHT IN THE PENINSULA
  THE BATTLE OF THE BALTIC
  KING-MAKING WATERLOO--
       I. The Rival Hosts
      II. Hougoumont
     III. Picton and D'Erlon
      IV. "Scotland for Ever!"
       V. Horsemen and Squares
      VI. The Fight of the Gunners
     VII. The Old Guard
    VIII. The Great Defeat

  THE NIGHT ATTACK OFF CADIZ

  TRAFALGAR--
       I. The Strategy
      II. How the Fleets Met
     III. How the Victory was Won



LIST OF PLANS

  THE BATTLE OFF CAPE ST. VINCENT
  THE SIEGE OF QUEBEC
  THE SIEGE OF BADAJOS
  THE BATTLE OF THE NILE
  THE BATTLE OF ALBUERA
  THE SIEGE OF CIUDAD RODRIGO
  THE COMBAT OF RONCESVALLES
  THE BATTLE OF ST. PIERRE
  THE BATTLE OF THE BALTIC
  THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO
  THE ATTACK OF TRAFALGAR



THE FIGHT OFF CAPE ST. VINCENT


  THE SCEPTRE OF THE SEA.

  "Old England's sons are English yet,
    Old England's hearts are strong;
  And still she wears her coronet
    Aflame with sword and song.
  As in their pride our fathers died,
    If need be, so die we;
  So wield we still, gainsay who will,
    The sceptre of the sea.

  We've Raleighs still for Raleigh's part,
    We've Nelsons yet unknown;
  The pulses of the Lion-Heart
    Beat on through Wellington.
  Hold, Britain, hold thy creed of old,
    Strong foe and steadfast friend,
  And still unto thy motto true,
    'Defy not, but defend.'

  Men whisper that our arm is weak,
    Men say our blood is cold,
  And that our hearts no longer speak
    That clarion note of old;
  But let the spear and sword draw near
    The sleeping lion's den,
  Our island shore shall start once more
    To life, with armèd men."
          --HERMAN CHARLES MERIVALE.


On the night of February 13, 1797, an English fleet of fifteen ships of
the line, in close order and in readiness for instant battle, was under
easy sail off Cape St. Vincent.  It was a moonless night, black with
haze, and the great ships moved in silence like gigantic spectres over
the sea.  Every now and again there came floating from the south-east
the dull sound of a far-off gun.  It was the grand fleet of Spain,
consisting of twenty-seven ships of line, under Admiral Don Josef de
Cordova; one great ship calling to another through the night, little
dreaming that the sound of their guns was so keenly noted by the eager
but silent fleet of their enemies to leeward.  The morning of the
14th--a day famous in the naval history of the empire--broke dim and
hazy; grey sea, grey fog, grey dawn, making all things strangely
obscure.  At half-past six, however, the keen-sighted British outlooks
caught a glimpse of the huge straggling line of Spaniards, stretching
apparently through miles of sea haze.  "They are thumpers!" as the
signal lieutenant of the _Barfleur_ reported with emphasis to his
captain; "they loom like Beachy Head in a fog!"  The Spanish fleet was,
indeed, the mightiest ever sent from Spanish ports since "that great
fleet invincible" of 1588 carried into the English waters--but not out
of them!--

  "The richest spoils of Mexico, the stoutest hearts of Spain."

The Admiral's flag was borne by the _Santissima Trinidad_, a floating
mountain, the largest ship at that time on the sea, and carrying on her
four decks 130 guns.  Next came six three-deckers carrying 112 guns
each, two ships of the line of 80 guns each, and seventeen carrying 74
guns, with no less than twelve 34-gun frigates to act as a flying
cordon of skirmishers.  Spain had joined France against England on
September 12, 1796, and Don Cordova, at the head of this immense fleet,
had sailed from Cadiz to execute a daring and splendid strategy.  He
was to pick up the Toulon fleet, brush away the English squadron
blockading Brest, add the great French fleet lying imprisoned there to
his forces, and enter the British Channel with above a hundred sail of
the line under his flag, and sweep in triumph to the mouth of the
Thames!  If the plan succeeded, Portugal would fall, a descent was to
be made on Ireland; the British flag, it was reckoned, would be swept
from the seas.

Sir John Jervis was lying in the track of the Spaniards to defeat this
ingenious plan.  Five ships of the line had been withdrawn from the
squadron blockading Brest to strengthen him; still he had only fifteen
ships against the twenty-seven huge Spaniards in front of him; whilst,
if the French Toulon fleet behind him broke out, he ran the risk of
being crushed, so to speak, betwixt the upper and the nether millstone.
Never, perhaps, was the naval supremacy of England challenged so boldly
and with such a prospect of success as at this moment.  The northern
powers had coalesced under Russia, and only a few weeks later the
English guns were thundering over the roofs of Copenhagen, while the
united flags of France and Spain were preparing to sweep through the
narrow seas.  The "splendid isolation" of to-day is no novelty.  In
1796, as it threatened to be in 1896, Great Britain stood singly
against a world in arms, and it is scarcely too much to say that her
fate hung on the fortunes of the fleet that, in the grey dawn of St.
Valentine's Day, a hundred years ago, was searching the skyline for the
topmasts of Don Cordova's huge three-deckers.

Fifteen to twenty-seven is enormous odds, but, on the testimony of
Nelson himself, a better fleet never carried the fortunes of a great
country than that under Sir John Jervis.  The mere names of the ships
or of their commanders awaken more sonorous echoes than the famous
catalogue of the ships in the "Iliad."  Trowbridge, in the _Culloden_,
led the van; the line was formed of such ships as the _Victory_, the
flagship, the _Barfleur_, the _Blenheim_, the _Captain_, with Nelson as
commodore, the _Excellent_, under Collingwood, the _Colossus_, under
Murray, the _Orion_, under Sir James Saumarez, &c.  Finer sailors and
more daring leaders never bore down upon an enemy's fleet.  The picture
offered by the two fleets in the cold haze of that fateful morning, as
a matter of fact, reflected the difference in their fighting and
sea-going qualities.  The Spanish fleet, a line of monsters, straggled,
formless and shapeless, over miles of sea space, distracted with
signals, fluttering with many-coloured flags.   The English fleet, grim
and silent, bore down upon the enemy in two compact and firm-drawn
columns, ship following ship so closely and so exactly that bowsprit
and stern almost touched, while an air-line drawn from the foremast of
the leading ship to the mizzenmast of the last ship in each column
would have touched almost every mast betwixt.  Stately, measured,
threatening, in perfect fighting order, the compact line of the British
bore down on the Spaniards.

[Illustration: THE BATTLE OFF CAPE ST. VINCENT.  Cutting the Spanish
Line.  From Allen's "Battles of the British Navy."]

Nothing is more striking in the battle of St. Vincent than the swift
and resolute fashion in which Sir John Jervis leaped, so to speak, at
his enemy's throat, with the silent but deadly leap of a bulldog.  As
the fog lifted, about nine o'clock, with the suddenness and dramatic
effect of the lifting of a curtain in a great theatre, it revealed to
the British admiral a great opportunity.  The weather division of the
Spanish fleet, twenty-one gigantic ships, resembled nothing so much as
a confused and swaying forest of masts; the leeward division--six ships
in a cluster, almost as confused--was parted by an interval of nearly
three miles from the main body of the fleet, and into that fatal gap,
as with the swift and deadly thrust of a rapier, Jervis drove his fleet
in one unswerving line, the two columns melting into one, ship
following hard on ship.  The Spaniards strove furiously to close their
line, the twenty-one huge ships bearing down from the windward, the
smaller squadron clawing desperately up from the leeward.  But the
British fleet--a long line of gliding pyramids of sails, leaning over
to the pressure of the wind, with "the meteor flag" flying from the
peak of each vessel, and the curving lines of guns awaiting grim and
silent beneath--was too swift.  As it swept through the gap, the
Spanish vice-admiral, in the _Principe de Asturias_, a great
three-decker of 112 guns, tried the daring feat of breaking through the
British line to join the severed squadron.  He struck the English fleet
almost exactly at the flagship, the _Victory_.  The _Victory_ was
thrown into stays to meet her, the Spaniard swung round in response,
and, exactly as her quarter was exposed to the broadside of the
_Victory_, the thunder of a tremendous broadside rolled from that ship.
The unfortunate Spaniard was smitten as with a tempest of iron, and the
next moment, with sails torn, topmasts hanging to leeward, ropes
hanging loose in every direction, and her decks splashed red with the
blood of her slaughtered crew, she broke off to windward.  The iron
line of the British was unpierceable!  The leading three-decker of the
Spanish lee division in like manner bore up, as though to break through
the British line to join her admiral; but the grim succession of
three-deckers, following swift on each other like the links of a moving
iron chain, was too disquieting a prospect to be faced.  It was not in
Spanish seamanship, or, for the matter of that, in Spanish flesh and
blood, to beat up in the teeth of such threatening lines of iron lips.
The Spanish ships swung sullenly back to leeward, and the fleet of Don
Cordova was cloven in twain, as though by the stroke of some gigantic
sword-blade.

As soon as Sir John Jervis saw the steady line of his fleet drawn fair
across the gap in the Spanish line, he flung his leading ships up to
windward on the mass of the Spanish fleet, by this time beating up to
windward.  The _Culloden_ led, thrust itself betwixt the hindmost
Spanish three-deckers, and broke into flame and thunder on either side.
Six minutes after her came the _Blenheim_; then, in quick succession,
the _Prince George_, the _Orion_, the _Colossus_.  It was a crash of
swaying masts and bellying sails, while below rose the shouting of the
crews, and, like the thrusts of fiery swords, the flames shot out from
the sides of the great three-deckers against each other, and over all
rolled the thunder and the smoke of a Titanic sea-fight.  Nothing more
murderous than close fighting betwixt the huge wooden ships of those
days can well be imagined.  The _Victory_, the largest British ship
present in the action, was only 186 feet long and 52 feet broad; yet in
that little area 1000 men fought, 100 great guns thundered.  A Spanish
ship like the _San Josef_ was 194 feet in length and 54 feet in
breadth; but in that area 112 guns were mounted, while the three decks
were thronged with some 1300 men.  When floating batteries like these
swept each other with the flame of swiftly repeated broadsides at a
distance of a few score yards, the destruction may be better imagined
than described.  The Spanish had an advantage in the number of guns and
men, but the British established an instant mastery by their silent
discipline, their perfect seamanship, and the speed with which their
guns were worked.  They fired at least three broadsides to every two
the Spaniards discharged, and their fire had a deadly precision
compared with which that of the Spaniards was mere distracted
spluttering.

Meanwhile the dramatic crisis of the battle came swiftly on.  The
Spanish admiral was resolute to join the severed fragments of his
fleet.  The _Culloden_, the _Blenheim_, the _Prince George_, and the
_Orion_ were thundering amongst his rearmost ships, and as the British
line swept up, each ship tacked as it crossed the gap in the Spanish
line, bore up to windward and added the thunder of its guns to the
storm of battle raging amongst the hindmost Spaniards.  But naturally
the section of the British line that had not yet passed the gap
shortened with every minute, and the leading Spanish ships at last saw
the sea to their leeward clear of the enemy, and the track open to
their own lee squadron.  Instantly they swung round to leeward, the
great four-decker, the flagship, with a company of sister giants, the
_San Josef_ and the _Salvador del Mundo_, of 112 guns each, the _San
Nicolas_, and three other great ships of 80 guns.  It was a bold and
clever stroke.  This great squadron, with the breeze behind it, had but
to sweep past the rear of the British line, join the lee squadron, and
bear up, and the Spanish fleet in one unbroken mass would confront the
enemy.  The rear of the British line was held by Collingwood in the
_Excellent_; next to him came the _Diadem_; the third ship was the
_Captain_, under Nelson.  We may imagine how Nelson's solitary eye was
fixed on the great Spanish three-deckers that formed the Spanish van as
they suddenly swung round and came sweeping down to cross his stern.
Not Napoleon himself had a vision more swift and keen for the changing
physiognomy of a great battle than Nelson, and he met the Spanish
admiral with a counter-stroke as brilliant and daring as can be found
in the whole history of naval warfare.  The British fleet saw the
_Captain_ suddenly swing out of line to leeward--in the direction from
the Spanish line, that is--but with swift curve the _Captain_ doubled
back, shot between the two English ships that formed the rear of the
line, and bore up straight in the path of the Spanish flagship, with
its four decks, and the huge battleships on either side of it.

The _Captain_, it should be remembered, was the smallest 74 in the
British fleet, and as the great Spanish ships closed round her and
broke into flame it seemed as if each one of them was big enough to
hoist the _Captain_ on board like a jolly-boat.  Nelson's act was like
that of a single stockman who undertakes to "head off" a drove of angry
bulls as they break away from the herd; but the "bulls" in this case
were a group of the mightiest battleships then afloat.  Nelson's sudden
movement was a breach of orders; it left a gap in the British line; to
dash unsupported into the Spanish van seemed mere madness, and the
spectacle, as the Captain opened fire on the huge _Santissima
Trinidad_, was simply amazing.  Nelson was in action at once with the
flagship of 130 guns, two ships of 112 guns, one of 80 guns, and two of
74 guns!  To the spectators who watched the sight the sides of the
_Captain_ seemed to throb with quick-following pulses of flame as its
crew poured their shot into the huge hulks on every side of them.  The
Spaniards formed a mass so tangled that they could scarcely fire at the
little _Captain_ without injuring each other; yet the English ship
seemed to shrivel beneath even the imperfect fire that did reach her.
Her foremast was shot away, her wheel-post shattered, her rigging torn,
some of her guns dismantled, and the ship was practically incapable of
further service either in the line or in chase.  But Nelson had
accomplished his purpose: he had stopped the rush of the Spanish van.

At this moment the _Excellent_, under Collingwood, swept into the storm
of battle that raged round the _Captain_, and poured three tremendous
broadsides into the Spanish three-decker the _Salvador del Mundo_ that
practically disabled her.  "We were not further from her," the domestic
but hard-fighting Collingwood wrote to his wife, "than the length of
our garden."  Then, with a fine feat of seamanship, the _Excellent_
passed between the _Captain_ and the _San Nicolas_, scourging that
unfortunate ship with flame at a distance of ten yards, and then passed
on to bestow its favours on the _Santissima Trinidad_--"such a ship,"
Collingwood afterwards confided to his wife, "as I never saw before!"
Collingwood tormented that monster with his fire so vehemently that she
actually struck, though possession of her was not taken before the
other Spanish ships, coming up, rescued her, and she survived to carry
the Spanish flag in the great fight of Trafalgar.

Meanwhile the crippled _Captain_, though actually disabled, had
performed one of the most dramatic and brilliant feats in the history
of naval warfare.  Nelson put his helm to starboard, and ran, or rather
drifted, on the quarter-gallery of the _San Nicolas_, and at once
boarded that leviathan.  Nelson himself crept through the
quarter-gallery window in the stern of the Spaniard, and found himself
in the officers' cabins.  The officers tried to show fight, but there
was no denying the boarders who followed Nelson, and with shout and
oath, with flash of pistol and ring of steel, the party swept through
on to the main deck.  But the _San Nicolas_ had been boarded also at
other points.  "The first man who jumped into the enemy's
mizzen-chains," says Nelson, "was the first lieutenant of the ship,
afterwards Captain Berry."  The English sailors dropped from their
spritsail yard on to the Spaniard's deck, and by the time Nelson
reached the poop of the _San Nicolas_ he found his lieutenant in the
act of hauling down the Spanish flag.  Nelson proceeded to collect the
swords of the Spanish officers, when a fire was opened upon them from
the stern gallery of the admiral's ship, the _San Josef_, of 112 guns,
whose sides were grinding against those of the _San Nicolas_.  What
could Nelson do?  To keep his prize he must assault a still bigger
ship.  Of course he never hesitated!  He flung his boarders up the side
of the huge _San Josef_, but he himself had to be assisted to climb the
main chains of that vessel, his lieutenant this time dutifully
assisting his commodore up instead of indecorously going ahead of him.
"At this moment," as Nelson records the incident, "a Spanish officer
looked over the quarterdeck rail and said they surrendered.  It was not
long before I was on the quarter-deck, where the Spanish captain, with
a bow, presented me his sword, and said the admiral was dying of his
wounds.  I asked him, on his honour, if the ship was surrendered.  He
declared she was; on which I gave him my hand, and desired him to call
on his officers and ship's company and tell them of it, which he did;
and on the quarterdeck of a Spanish first-rate--extravagant as the
story may seem--did I receive the swords of vanquished Spaniards,
which, as I received, I gave to William Fearney, one of my bargemen,
who put them with the greatest _sang-froid_ under his arm," a circle of
"old Agamemnons," with smoke-blackened faces, looking on in grim
approval.

This is the story of how a British fleet of fifteen vessels defeated a
Spanish fleet of twenty-seven, and captured four of their finest ships.
It is the story, too, of how a single English ship, the smallest 74 in
the fleet--but made unconquerable by the presence of Nelson--stayed the
advance of a whole squadron of Spanish three-deckers, and took two
ships, each bigger than itself, by boarding.  Was there ever a finer
deed wrought under "the meteor flag"!  Nelson disobeyed orders by
leaving the English line and flinging himself on the van of the
Spaniards, but he saved the battle.  Calder, Jervis's captain,
complained to the admiral that Nelson had "disobeyed orders."  "He
certainly did," answered Jervis; "and if ever you commit such a breach
of your orders I will forgive you also."



THE HEIGHTS OF ABRAHAM


  "Sound, sound the clarion, fill the fife!
    To all the sensual world proclaim,
  One crowded hour of glorious life
    Is worth an age without a name."
          --SIR WALTER SCOTT.


The year 1759 is a golden one in British history.  A great French army
that threatened Hanover was overthrown at Minden, chiefly by the heroic
stupidity of six British regiments, who, mistaking their orders, charged
the entire French cavalry in line, and destroyed them.  "I have seen,"
said the astonished French general, "what I never thought to be
possible--a single line of infantry break through three lines of cavalry
ranked in order of battle, and tumble them into ruin!"  Contades omitted
to add that this astonishing infantry, charging cavalry in open
formation, was scourged during their entire advance by powerful batteries
on their flank.  At Quiberon, in the same year, Hawke, amid a tempest,
destroyed a mighty fleet that threatened England with invasion; and on
the heights of Abraham, Wolfe broke the French power in America.  "We are
forced," said Horace Walpole, the wit of his day, "to ask every morning
what new victory there is, for fear of missing one."  Yet, of all the
great deeds of that _annus mirabilis_, the victory which overthrew
Montcalm and gave Quebec to England--a victory achieved by the genius of
Pitt and the daring of Wolfe--was, if not the most shining in quality,
the most far-reaching in its results.  "With the triumph of Wolfe on the
heights of Abraham," says Green, "began the history of the United States."

The hero of that historic fight wore a singularly unheroic aspect.
Wolfe's face, in the famous picture by West, resembles that of a nervous
and sentimental boy--he was an adjutant at sixteen, and only thirty-three
when he fell, mortally wounded, under the walls of Quebec.  His forehead
and chin receded; his nose, tip-tilted heavenwards, formed with his other
features the point of an obtuse triangle.  His hair was fiery red, his
shoulders narrow, his legs a pair of attenuated spindle-shanks; he was a
chronic invalid.  But between his fiery poll and his plebeian and
upturned nose flashed a pair of eyes--keen, piercing, and steady--worthy
of Caesar or of Napoleon.  In warlike genius he was on land as Nelson was
on sea, chivalrous, fiery, intense.  A "magnetic" man, with a strange
gift of impressing himself on the imagination of his soldiers, and of so
penetrating the whole force he commanded with his own spirit that in his
hands it became a terrible and almost resistless instrument of war.  The
gift for choosing fit agents is one of the highest qualities of genius;
and it is a sign of Pitt's piercing insight into character that, for the
great task of overthrowing the French power in Canada, he chose what
seemed to commonplace vision a rickety, hypochondriacal, and very
youthful colonel like Wolfe.

Pitt's strategy for the American campaign was spacious, not to say
grandiose.  A line of strong French posts, ranging from Duquesne, on the
Ohio, to Ticonderoga, on Lake Champlain, held the English settlements on
the coast girdled, as in an iron band, from all extension westward; while
Quebec, perched in almost impregnable strength on the frowning cliffs
which look down on the St. Lawrence, was the centre of the French power
in Canada.  Pitt's plan was that Amherst, with 12,000 men, should capture
Ticonderoga; Prideaux, with another powerful force, should carry
Montreal; and Wolfe, with 7000 men, should invest Quebec, where Amherst
and Prideaux were to join him.  Two-thirds of this great plan broke down.
Amherst and Prideaux, indeed, succeeded in their local operations, but
neither was able to join Wolfe, who had to carry out with one army the
task for which three were designed.

On June 21, 1759, the advanced squadron of the fleet conveying Wolfe came
working up the St. Lawrence.  To deceive the enemy they flew the white
flag, and, as the eight great ships came abreast of the Island of
Orleans, the good people of Quebec persuaded themselves it was a French
fleet bringing supplies and reinforcements.  The bells rang a welcome;
flags waved.  Boats put eagerly off to greet the approaching ships.  But
as these swung round at their anchorage the white flag of France
disappeared, and the red ensign of Great Britain flew in its place.  The
crowds, struck suddenly dumb, watched the gleam of the hostile flag with
chap-fallen faces.  A priest, who was staring at the ships through a
telescope, actually dropped dead with the excitement and passion created
by the sight of the British fleet.  On June 26 the main body of the fleet
bringing Wolfe himself with 7000 troops, was in sight of the lofty cliffs
on which Quebec stands; Cook, afterwards the famous navigator, master of
the _Mercury_, sounding ahead of the fleet.  Wolfe at once seized the
Isle of Orleans, which shelters the basin of Quebec to the east, and
divides the St. Lawrence into two branches, and, with a few officers,
quickly stood on the western point of the isle.  At a glance the
desperate nature of the task committed to him was apparent.

[Illustration: Siege of Quebec, 1759.  From Parkman's "Montcalm & Wolfe."]

Quebec stands on the rocky nose of a promontory, shaped roughly like a
bull's-head, looking eastward.  The St. Lawrence flows eastward under the
chin of the head; the St. Charles runs, so to speak, down its nose from
the north to meet the St. Lawrence.  The city itself stands on lofty
cliffs, and as Wolfe looked upon it on that June evening far away, it was
girt and crowned with batteries.  The banks of the St. Lawrence, that
define what we have called the throat of the bull, are precipitous and
lofty, and seem by mere natural strength to defy attack, though it was
just here, by an ant-like track up 250 feet of almost perpendicular
cliff, Wolfe actually climbed to the plains of Abraham.  To the east of
Quebec is a curve of lofty shore, seven miles long, between the St.
Charles and the Montmorenci.  When Wolfe's eye followed those seven miles
of curving shore, he saw the tents of a French army double his own in
strength, and commanded by the most brilliant French soldier of his
generation, Montcalm.  Quebec, in a word, was a great natural fortress,
attacked by 9000 troops and defended by 16,000; and if a daring military
genius urged the English attack, a soldier as daring and well-nigh as
able as Wolfe directed the French defence.

Montcalm gave a proof of his fine quality as a soldier within twenty-four
hours of the appearance of the British fleet.  The very afternoon the
British ships dropped anchor a terrific tempest swept over the harbour,
drove the transports from their moorings, dashed the great ships of war
against each other, and wrought immense mischief.  The tempest dropped as
quickly as it had arisen.  The night fell black and moonless.  Towards
midnight the British sentinels on the point of the Isle of Orleans saw
drifting silently through the gloom the outlines of a cluster of ships.
They were eight huge fire-ships, floating mines packed with explosives.
The nerve of the French sailors, fortunately for the British, failed
them, and they fired the ships too soon.  But the spectacle of these
flaming monsters as they drifted towards the British fleet was appalling.
The river showed ebony-black under the white flames.  The glare lit up
the river cliffs, the roofs of the city, the tents of Montcalm, the
slopes of the distant hills, the black hulls of the British ships.  It
was one of the most stupendous exhibitions of fireworks ever witnessed!
But it was almost as harmless as a display of fireworks.  The boats from
the British fleet were by this time in the water, and pulling with steady
daring to meet these drifting volcanoes.  They were grappled, towed to
the banks, and stranded, and there they spluttered and smoked and flamed
till the white light of the dawn broke over them.  The only mischief
achieved by these fire-ships was to burn alive one of their own captains
and five or six of his men, who failed to escape in their boats.

Wolfe, in addition to the Isle of Orleans, seized Point Levi, opposite
the city, and this gave him complete command of the basin of Quebec; from
his batteries on Point Levi, too, he could fire directly on the city, and
destroy it if he could not capture it.  He himself landed the main body
of his troops on the east bank of the Montmorenci, Montcalm's position,
strongly entrenched, being between him and the city.  Between the two
armies, however, ran the deep gorge through which the swift current of
the Montmorenci rushes down to join the St. Lawrence.  The gorge is
barely a gunshot in width, but of stupendous depth.  The Montmorenci
tumbles over its rocky bed with a speed that turns the flashing waters
almost to the whiteness of snow.  Was there ever a more curious military
position adopted by a great general in the face of superior forces!
Wolfe's tiny army was distributed into three camps: his right wing on the
Montmorenci was six miles distant from his left wing at Point Levi, and
between the centre, on the Isle of Orleans, and the two wings, ran the
two branches of the St. Lawrence.  That Wolfe deliberately made such a
distribution of his forces under the very eyes of Montcalm showed his
amazing daring.  And yet beyond firing across the Montmorenci on
Montcalm's left wing, and bombarding the city from Point Levi, the
British general could accomplish nothing.  Montcalm knew that winter must
compel Wolfe to retreat, and he remained stubbornly but warily on the
defensive.

On July 18 the British performed a daring feat.  In the darkness of the
night two of the men-of-war and several sloops ran past the Quebec
batteries and reached the river above the town; they destroyed some
fireships they found there, and cut off Montcalm's communication by water
with Montreal.  This rendered it necessary for the French to establish
guards on the line of precipices between Quebec and Cap-Rouge.  On July
28 the French repeated the experiment of fire-ships on a still more
gigantic scale.  A vast fire-raft was constructed, composed of some
seventy schooners, boats, and rafts, chained together, and loaded with
combustibles and explosives.  The fire-raft is described as being 100
fathoms in length, and its appearance, as it came drifting on the
current, a mass of roaring fire, discharging every instant a shower of
missiles, was terrifying.  But the British sailors dashed down upon it,
broke the huge raft into fragments, and towed them easily ashore.  "Hang
it, Jack," one sailor was heard to say to his mate as he tugged at the
oar, "didst thee ever take hell in tow before?"

Time was on Montcalm's side, and unless Wolfe could draw him from his
impregnable entrenchments and compel him to fight, the game was lost.
When the tide fell, a stretch of shoal a few score yards wide was left
bare on the French side of the Montmorenci.  The slope that covered this
was steep, slippery with grass, crowned by a great battery, and swept by
the cross-fire of entrenchments on either flank.  Montcalm, too, holding
the interior lines, could bring to the defence of this point twice the
force with which Wolfe could attack it.  Yet to Wolfe's keen eyes this
seemed the one vulnerable point in Montcalm's front, and on July 31 he
made a desperate leap upon it.

The attack was planned with great art.  The British batteries thundered
across the Montmorenci, and a feint was made of fording that river higher
up, so as to distract the attention of the French, whilst the boats of
the fleet threatened a landing near Quebec itself.  At half-past five the
tide was at its lowest, and the boat-flotilla, swinging round at a
signal, pulled at speed for the patch of muddy foreshore already
selected.  The Grenadiers and Royal Americans leaped ashore in the mud,
and--waiting neither for orders, nor leaders, nor supports--dashed up the
hill to storm the redoubt.  They reached the first redoubt, tumbled over
it and through it, only to find themselves breathless in a semi-circle of
fire.  The men fell fast, but yet struggled fiercely upwards.  A furious
storm of rain broke over the combatants at that moment, and made the
steep grass-covered slope as slippery as mere glass.  "We could not see
half-way down the hill," writes the French officer in command of the
battery on the summit.  But through the smoke and the driving rain they
could still see the Grenadiers and Royal Americans in ragged clusters,
scarce able to stand, yet striving desperately to climb upwards.  The
reckless ardour of the Grenadiers had spoiled Wolfe's attack, the sudden
storm helped to save the French, and Wolfe withdrew his broken but
furious battalions, having lost some 500 of his best men and officers.

The exultant French regarded the siege as practically over; but Wolfe was
a man of heroic and quenchless tenacity, and never so dangerous as when
he seemed to be in the last straits.  He held doggedly on, in spite of
cold and tempest and disease.  His own frail body broke down, and for the
first time the shadow of depression fell on the British camps when they
no longer saw the red head and lean and scraggy body of their general
moving amongst them.  For a week, between August 22 and August 29, he lay
apparently a dying man, his face, with its curious angles, white with
pain and haggard with disease.  But he struggled out again, and framed
yet new plans of attack.  On September 10 the captains of the men-of-war
held a council on board the flagship, and resolved that the approach of
winter required the fleet to leave Quebec without delay.  By this time,
too, Wolfe's scanty force was diminished one-seventh by disease or losses
in battle.  Wolfe, however had now formed the plan which ultimately gave
him success, though at the cost of his own life.

From a tiny little cove, now known as Wolfe's Cove, five miles to the
west of Quebec, a path, scarcely accessible to a goat, climbs up the face
of the great cliff, nearly 250 feet high.  The place was so inaccessible
that only a post of 100 men kept guard over it.  Up that track, in the
blackness of the night, Wolfe resolved to lead his army to the attack on
Quebec!  It needed the most exquisite combinations to bring the attacking
force to that point from three separate quarters, in the gloom of night,
at a given moment, and without a sound that could alarm the enemy.  Wolfe
withdrew his force from the Montmorenci, embarked them on board his
ships, and made every sign of departure.  Montcalm mistrusted these
signs, and suspected Wolfe would make at least one more leap on Quebec
before withdrawing.  Yet he did not in the least suspect Wolfe's real
designs.  He discussed, in fact, the very plan Wolfe adopted, but
dismissed it by saying, "We need not suppose that the enemy have wings."
The British ships were kept moving up and down the river front for
several days, so as to distract and perplex the enemy.  On September 12
Wolfe's plans were complete, and he issued his final orders.  One
sentence in them curiously anticipates Nelson's famous signal at
Trafalgar.  "Officers and men," wrote Wolfe, "_will remember what their
country expects of them_."  A feint on Beauport, five miles to the east
of Quebec, as evening fell, made Montcalm mass his troops there; but it
was at a point five miles west of Quebec the real attack was directed.

At two o'clock at night two lanterns appeared for a minute in the maintop
shrouds of the _Sunderland_.  It was the signal, and from the fleet, from
the Isle of Orleans, and from Point Levi, the English boats stole
silently out, freighted with some 1700 troops, and converged towards the
point in the black wall of cliffs agreed upon.  Wolfe himself was in the
leading boat of the flotilla.  As the boats drifted silently through the
darkness on that desperate adventure, Wolfe, to the officers about him,
commenced to recite Gray's "Elegy":--

  "The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
    And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
  Await alike the inevitable hour.
    The paths of glory lead but to the grave."

"Now, gentlemen," he added, "I would rather have written that poem than
take Quebec."  Wolfe, in fact, was half poet, half soldier.  Suddenly
from the great wall of rock and forest to their left broke the challenge
of a French sentinel--"_Qui vive_?"  A Highland officer of Fraser's
regiment, who spoke French fluently, answered the challenge.  "_France_."
"_A quel regiment_?"  "_De la Reine_," answered the Highlander.  As it
happened the French expected a flotilla of provision boats, and after a
little further dialogue, in which the cool Highlander completely deceived
the French sentries, the British were allowed to slip past in the
darkness.  The tiny cove was safely reached, the boats stole silently up
without a blunder, twenty-four volunteers from the Light Infantry leaped
from their boat and led the way in single file up the path, that ran like
a thread along the face of the cliff.  Wolfe sat eagerly listening in his
boat below.  Suddenly from the summit he saw the flash of the muskets and
heard the stern shout which told him his men were up.  A clear, firm
order, and the troops sitting silent in the boats leaped ashore, and the
long file of soldiers, like a chain of ants, went up the face of the
cliff, Wolfe amongst the foremost, and formed in order on the plateau,
the boats meanwhile rowing back at speed to bring up the remainder of the
troops.  Wolfe was at last within Montcalm's guard!

When the morning of the 13th dawned, the British army, in line of battle,
stood looking down on Quebec.  Montcalm quickly heard the news, and came
riding furiously across the St. Charles and past the city to the scene of
danger.  He rode, as those who saw him tell, with a fixed look, and
uttering not a word.  The vigilance of months was rendered worthless by
that amazing night escalade.  When he reached the slopes Montcalm saw
before him the silent red wall of British infantry, the Highlanders with
waving tartans and wind-blown plumes--all in battle array.  It was not a
detachment, but an army!

The fight lasted fifteen minutes, and might be told in almost as many
words.  Montcalm brought on his men in three powerful columns, in number
double that of Wolfe's force.  The British troops stood grimly silent,
though they were tormented by the fire of Indians and Canadians lying in
the grass.  The French advanced eagerly, with a tumult of shouts and a
confused fire; the British moved forward a few rods, halted, dressed
their lines, and when the French were within forty paces threw in one
fierce volley, so sharply timed that the explosion of 4000 muskets
sounded like the sudden blast of a cannon.  Again, again, and yet again,
the flame ran from end to end of the steadfast hue.  When the smoke
lifted, the French column were wrecked.  The British instantly charged.
The spirit of the clan awoke in Fraser's Highlanders: they flung aside
their muskets, drew their broadswords, and with a fierce Celtic slogan
rushed on the enemy.  Never was a charge pressed more ruthlessly home.
After the fight one of the British officers wrote: "There was not a
bayonet in the three leading British regiments, nor a broadsword amongst
the Highlanders, that was not crimson with the blood of a foeman."  Wolfe
himself charged at the head of the Grenadiers, his bright uniform making
him conspicuous.  He was shot in the wrist, wrapped a handkerchief round
the wound, and still ran forward.  Two other bullets struck him--one, it
is said, fired by a British deserter, a sergeant broken by Wolfe for
brutality to a private.  "Don't let the soldiers see me drop," said
Wolfe, as he fell, to an officer running beside him.  An officer of the
Grenadiers, a gentleman volunteer, and a private carried Wolfe to a
redoubt near.  He refused to allow a surgeon to be called.  "There is no
need," he said, "it is all over with me."  Then one of the little group,
casting a look at the smoke-covered battlefield, cried, "They run!  See
how they run!"  "Who run?" said the dying Wolfe, like a man roused from
sleep.  "The enemy, sir," was the answer.  A flash of life came back to
Wolfe; the eager spirit thrust from it the swoon of death; he gave a
clear, emphatic order for cutting off the enemy's retreat; then, turning
on his side, he added, "Now God be praised; I die in peace."

That fight determined that the North American continent should be the
heritage of the Anglo-Saxon race.  And, somehow, the popular instinct,
when the news reached England, realised the historic significance of the
event.  "When we first heard of Wolfe's glorious deed," writes Thackeray
in "The Virginians"--"of that army marshalled in darkness and carried
silently up the midnight river--of those rocks scaled by the intrepid
leader and his troops--of the defeat of Montcalm on the open plain by the
sheer valour of his conqueror--we were all intoxicated in England by the
news."  Not merely all London but half England flamed into illuminations.
One spot alone was dark--Blackheath, where, solitary amidst a rejoicing
nation, Wolfe's mother mourned for her heroic son--like Milton's
Lycidas--"dead ere his prime."



THE GREAT LORD HAWKE


THE ENGLISH FLAG

  "What is the flag of England?  Winds of the world, declare!
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
  The lean white bear hath seen it in the long, long
        Arctic night,
  The musk-ox knows the standard that flouts the Northern light.
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
  Never was isle so little, never was sea so lone,
  But over the scud and the palm-trees an English flag
        has flown.
  I have wrenched it free from the halliard to hang
        for a wisp on the Horn;
  I have chased it north to the Lizard--ribboned and rolled
        and torn;
  I have spread its folds o'er the dying, adrift
        in a hopeless sea;
  I have hurled it swift on the slaver, and seen the slave
        set free.
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
  Never the lotos closes, never the wild-fowl wake,
  But a soul goes out on the East Wind, that died
        for England's sake--
  Man or woman or suckling, mother or bride or maid--
  Because on the bones of the English, the English flag
        is stayed.
      *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
  The dead dumb fog hath wrapped it--the frozen dews have kissed--
  The naked stars have seen it, a fellow-star in the mist.
  What is the flag of England?  Ye have but my breath to dare;
  Ye have but my waves to conquer.  Go forth, for it is there!"
            --KIPLING.


"The great Lord Hawke" is Burke's phrase, and is one of the best-earned
epithets in literature.  Yet what does the average Englishman to-day
remember of the great sailor who, through the bitter November gales of
1759, kept dogged and tireless watch over the French fleet in Brest,
destroyed that fleet with heroic daring amongst the sands of Quiberon,
while the fury of a Bay of Biscay tempest almost drowned the roar of
his guns, and so crushed a threatened invasion of England?

Hawke has been thrown by all-devouring Time into his wallet as mere
"alms for oblivion"; yet amongst all the sea-dogs who ever sailed
beneath "the blood-red flag" no one ever less deserved that fate.
Campbell, in "Ye Mariners of England," groups "Blake and mighty Nelson"
together as the two great typical English sailors.  Hawke stands midway
betwixt them, in point both of time and of achievements, though he had
more in him of Blake than of Nelson.  He lacked, no doubt, the dazzling
electric strain that ran through the war-like genius of Nelson.
Hawke's fighting quality was of the grim, dour home-spun character; but
it was a true genius for battle, and as long as Great Britain is a
sea-power the memory of the great sailor who crushed Gentians off
Quiberon deserves to live.

Hawke, too, was a great man in the age of little men.  The fame of the
English navy had sunk to the lowest point.  Its ships were rotten; its
captains had lost the fighting tradition; its fleets were paralysed by
a childish system of tactics which made a decisive battle almost
impossible.  Hawke describes the _Portland_, a ship of which he was in
command, as "iron-sick"; the wood was too rotten, that is, to hold the
iron bolts, so that "not a man in the ship had a dry place to sleep
in."  His men were "tumbling down with scurvy"; his mainmast was so
pulverised by dry rot that a walking-stick could be thrust into it.  Of
another ship, the _Ramilies_--his favourite ship, too--he says, "It
became water-logged whenever it blowed hard."  The ships' bottoms grew
a rank crop of grass, slime, shells, barnacles, &c., till the sluggish
vessels needed almost a gale to move them.  Marines were not yet
invented; the navy had no uniform.  The French ships of that day were
better built, better armed, and sometimes better fought than British
ships.  A British 70-gun ship in armament and weight of fire was only
equal to a French ship of 52 guns.  Every considerable fight was
promptly followed by a crop of court-martials, in which captains were
tried for misconduct before the enemy, such as to-day is unthinkable.
Admiral Matthews was broken by court-martial for having, with an excess
of daring, pierced the French line off Toulon, and thus sacrificed
pedantic tactics to victory.  But the list of court-martials held
during the second quarter of the eighteenth century on British captains
for beginning to fight too late, or for leaving off too soon, would, if
published, astonish this generation.  After the fight off Toulon in
1744, two admirals and six post-captains were court-martialled.
Admiral Byng was shot on his own deck, not exactly as Voltaire's _mot_
describes it, _pour encourager les autres_, and not quite for
cowardice, for Byng was no coward.  But he had no gleam of unselfish
patriotic fire, and nothing of the gallant fighting impulse we have
learned to believe is characteristic of the British sailor.  He lost
Minorca, and disgraced the British flag because he was too dainty to
face the stern discomforts of a fight.  The corrupt and ignoble temper
of English politics--the legacy of Walpole's evil régime--poisoned the
blood of the navy.  No one can have forgotten Macaulay's picture of
Newcastle, at that moment Prime Minister of England; the sly, greedy,
fawning politician, as corrupt as Walpole, without his genius; without
honour, without truth, who loved office only less than he loved his own
neck.  A Prime Minister like Newcastle made possible an admiral like
Byng.  Horace Walpole tells the story of how, when the much-enduring
British public broke into one of its rare but terrible fits of passion
after the disgrace of Minorca, and Newcastle was trembling for his own
head, a deputation from the city of London waited upon him, demanding
that Byng should be put upon his trial.  "Oh, indeed," replied
Newcastle, with fawning gestures, "he shall be tried immediately.  He
shall be hanged directly!"  It was an age of base men, and the
navy--neglected, starved, dishonoured--had lost the great traditions of
the past, and did not yet feel the thrill of the nobler spirit soon to
sweep over it.

But in 1759 the dazzling intellect and masterful will of the first Pitt
controlled the fortunes of England, and the spirit of the nation was
beginning to awake.  Burns and Wilberforce and the younger Pitt were
born that year; Minden was fought; Wolfe saw with dying eyes the French
battalions broken on the plains of Abraham and Canada won.  But the
great event of the year is Hawke's defeat of Conflans off Quiberon.
Hawke was the son of a barrister; he entered the navy at fourteen years
of age as a volunteer, obtained the rating of an able seaman at
nineteen years of age, was a third lieutenant at twenty-four, and
became captain at thirty.  He knew the details of his profession as
well as any sea-dog of the forecastle, was quite modern in the keen and
humane interest he took in his men, had something of Wellington's
high-minded allegiance to duty, while his fighting had a stern but
sober thoroughness worthy of Cromwell's Ironsides.  The British people
came to realise that he was a sailor with the strain of a bulldog in
him; an indomitable fighter, who, ordered to blockade a hostile port,
would hang on, in spite of storms and scurvy, while he had a man left
who could pull a rope or fire a gun; a fighter, too, of the type dear
to the British imagination, who took the shortest course to the enemy's
line, and would exchange broadsides at pistol-shot distance while his
ship floated.

In 1759 a great French army threatened the shores of England.  At Havre
and Dunkirk huge flotillas of flat-bottomed boats lay at their
moorings; 18,000 French veterans were ready to embark.  A great fleet
under the command of Conflans--one of the ablest seamen France has ever
produced--was gathered at Brest.  A French squadron was to break out of
Toulon, join Conflans, sweep the narrow seas, and convoy the French
expedition to English shores.  The strategy, if it had succeeded, might
have changed the fate of the world.

To Hawke was entrusted the task of blockading Conflans in Brest, and a
greater feat of seamanship is not to be found in British records.  The
French fleet consisted of 25 ships, manned by 15,200 men, and carrying
1598 guns.  The British fleet numbered 23 ships, with 13,295 men, and
carrying 1596 guns.  The two fleets, that is, were nearly equal, the
advantage, on the whole, being on the side of the French.  Hawke
therefore had to blockade a fleet equal to his own, the French ships
lying snugly in harbour, the English ships scourged by November gales
and rolling in the huge seas of the Bay of Biscay.  Sir Cloudesley
Shovel, himself a seaman of the highest quality, said that "an admiral
would deserve to be broke who kept great ships out after the end of
September, and to be shot if after October."  Hawke maintained his
blockade of Brest for six months.  His captains broke down in health,
his men were dying from scurvy, the bottoms of his ships grew foul; it
was a stormy season in the stormiest of seas.  Again and again the wild
north-west gales blew the British admiral off his cruising ground.  But
he fought his way back, sent his ships, singly or in couples, to Torbay
or Plymouth for a moment's breathing space, but himself held on, with a
grim courage and an unslumbering vigilance which have never been
surpassed.  On November 6, a tremendous westerly gale swept over the
English cruising-ground.  Hawke battled with it for three days, and
then ran, storm-driven and half-dismantled, to Torbay for shelter on
the 10th.  He put to sea again on the 12th.  The gale had veered round
to the south-west, but blew as furiously as ever, and Hawke was once
more driven back on the 13th to Torbay.  He struggled out again on the
14th, to find that the French had escaped!  The gale that blew Hawke
from his post brought a French squadron down the Channel, which ran
into Brest and joined Conflans there; and on the 14th, when Hawke was
desperately fighting his way back to his post, Conflans put to sea,
and, with the gale behind him, ran on his course to Quiberon.  There he
hoped to brush aside the squadron keeping guard over the French
transports, embark the powerful French force assembled there, and swoop
down on the English coast.  The wild weather, Conflans reckoned, would
keep Hawke storm-bound in Torbay till this scheme was carried out.

But Hawke with his whole fleet, fighting his way in the teeth of the
gale, reached Ushant on the very day Conflans broke out of Brest, and,
fast as the French fleet ran before the gale, the white sails of
Hawke's ships, showing over the stormy rim of the horizon, came on the
Frenchman's track.  Hawke's frigates, outrunning those heavy
sea-waggons, his line-of-battle ships, hung on Conflans' rear.  The
main body of the British fleet followed, staggering under their
pyramids of sails, with wet decks and the wild north-west gale on their
quarter.  Hawke's best sailers gained steadily on the laggards of
Conflans' fleet.  Had Hawke obeyed the puerile tactics of his day he
would have dressed his line and refused to attack at all unless he
could bring his entire fleet into action.  But, as Hawke himself said
afterwards, he "had determined to attack them in the old way and make
downright work of them," and he signalled his leading ships to attack
the moment they brought an enemy's ship within fire.  Conflans could
not abandon his slower ships, and he reluctantly swung round his van
and formed line to meet the attack.

As the main body of the English came up, the French admiral suddenly
adopted a strategy which might well have baffled a less daring
adversary than Hawke.  He ran boldly in shore towards the mouth of the
Vilaine.  It was a wild stretch of most dangerous coast; the granite
Breton hills above; splinters of rocky islets, on which the huge sea
rollers tore themselves into white foam, below; and more dangerous
still, and stretching far out to sea, wide reaches of shoal and
quicksand.  From the north-west the gale blew more wildly than ever;
the sky was black with flying clouds; on the Breton hills the
spectators clustered in thousands.  The roar of the furious breakers
and the shrill note of the gale filled the very air with tumult.
Conflans had pilots familiar with the coast, yet it was bold seamanship
on his part to run down to a lee shore on such a day of tempest.  Hawke
had no pilots and no charts; but he saw before him, half hidden in mist
and spray, the great hulls of the ships over which he had kept watch so
long in Brest harbour, and he anticipated Nelson's strategy forty years
afterwards.  "Where there is room for the enemy to swing," said Nelson,
"there is room for me to anchor."  "Where there's a passage for the
enemy," argued Hawke, "there is a passage for me!  Where a Frenchman
can sail, an Englishman can follow!  Their pilots shall be ours.  If
they go to pieces in the shoals, they will serve as beacons for us."

And so, on the wild November afternoon, with the great billows that the
Bay of Biscay hurls on that stretch of iron-bound coast riding
shoreward in league-long rollers, Hawke flung himself into the boiling
caldron of rocks and shoals and quicksands.  No more daring deed was
ever done at sea.  Measured by mere fighting courage, there were
thousands of men in the British fleet as brave as Hawke.  But the iron
nerve that, without an instant's pause, in a scene so wild, on a shore
so perilous, and a sea sown so thick with unknown dangers, flung a
whole fleet into battle, was probably possessed by no other man than
Hawke amongst the 30,000 gallant sailors who fought at Quiberon.

The fight, taking all its incidents into account, is perhaps as
dramatic as anything known in the history of war.  The British ships
came rolling on, grim and silent, throwing huge sheets of spray from
their bluff bows.  An 80-gun French ship, _Le Formidable_, lay in their
track, and each huge British liner, as it swept past to attack the main
body of the French, vomited on the unfortunate _Le Formidable_ a
dreadful broadside.  And upon each British ship, in turn, as it rolled
past in spray and flame, the gallant Frenchman flung an answering
broadside.  Soon the thunder of the guns deepened as ship after ship
found its antagonist.  The short November day was already darkening;
the thunder of surf and of tempest answered in yet wilder notes the
deep-throated guns; the wildly rolling fleets offered one of the
strangest sights the sea has ever witnessed.

Soon Hawke himself, in the _Royal George_, of 100 guns, came on, stern
and majestic, seeking some fitting antagonist.  This was the great ship
that afterwards sank ignobly at its anchorage at Spithead, with "twice
four hundred men," a tale which, for every English boy, is made famous
in Cowper's immortal ballad.  But what an image of terror and of battle
the _Royal George_ seemed as in the bitter November storm she bore down
on the French fleet!  Hawke disdained meaner foes, and bade his pilot
lay him alongside Conflans' flagship, _Le Soleil Royal_.  Shoals were
foaming on every side, and the pilot warned Hawke he could not carry
the _Royal George_ farther in without risking the ship.  "You have done
your duty," said Hawke, "in pointing out the risk; and now lay me
alongside of _Le Soleil Royal_."

A French 70-gun ship, _La Superbe_, threw itself betwixt Hawke and
Conflans.  Slowly the huge mass of the _Royal George_ bore up, so as to
bring its broadside to bear on _La Superbe_, and then the English guns
broke into a tempest of flame.  Through spray and mist the masts of the
unfortunate Frenchman seemed to tumble; a tempest of cries was heard;
the British sailors ran back their guns to reload.  A sudden gust
cleared the atmosphere, and _La Superbe_ had vanished.  Her top-masts
gleamed wet, for a moment, through the green seas, but with her crew of
650 men she had sunk, as though crushed by a thunderbolt, beneath a
single broadside from the _Royal George_.  Then from the nearer hills
the crowds of French spectators saw Hawke's blue flag and Conflans'
white pennon approach each other, and the two great ships, with
slanting decks and fluttering canvas, and rigging blown to leeward,
began their fierce duel.  Other French ships crowded to their admiral's
aid, and at one time no less than seven French line-of-battle ships
were pouring their fire into the mighty and shot-torn bulk of the
_Royal George_.

Howe, in the _Magnanime_, was engaged in fierce conflict, meanwhile,
with the _Thesée_, when a sister English ship, the _Montague_, was
flung by a huge sea on the quarter of Howe's ship, and practically
disabled it.  The _Torbay_, under Captain Keppel, took Howe's place
with the _Thesée_, and both ships had their lower-deck ports open, so
as to fight with their heaviest guns.  The unfortunate Frenchman rolled
to a great sea; the wide-open ports dipped, the green water rushed
through, quenched the fire of the guns, and swept the sailors from
their quarters.  The great ship shivered, rolled over still more
wildly, and then, with 700 men, went down like a stone.  The British
ship, with better luck and better seamanship, got its ports closed and
was saved.  Several French ships by this time had struck, but the sea
was too wild to allow them to be taken possession of.  Night was
falling fast, the roar of the tempest still deepened, and no less than
seven huge French liners, throwing their guns overboard, ran for
shelter across the bar of the Vilaine, the pursuing English following
them almost within reach of the spray flung from the rocks.  Hawke
then, by signals, brought his fleet to anchor for the night under the
lee of the island of Dumet.

It was a wild night, filled with the thunder of the surf and the shriek
of the gale, and all through it, as the English ships rode, madly
straining at their anchors, they could hear the sounds of distress
guns.  One of the ships that perished that night was a fine English
seventy-four, the _Resolution_.  The morning broke as wild as the
night.  To leeward two great line-of-battle ships could be seen on the
rocks; but in the very middle of the English fleet, its masts gone, its
hull battered with shot, was the flagship of Conflans, _Le Soleil
Royal_.  In the darkness and tempest of the night the unfortunate
Frenchman, all unwitting, had anchored in the very midst of his foes.
As soon as, through the grey and misty light of the November dawn, the
English ships were discovered, Conflans cut his cables and drifted
ashore.  The _Essex_, 64 guns, was ordered to pursue her, and her
captain, an impetuous Irishman, obeyed his orders so literally that he
too ran ashore, and the _Essex_ became a total wreck.

"When I consider," Hawke wrote to the Admiralty, "the season of the
year, the hard gales on the day of action, a flying enemy, the
shortness of the day, and the coast they were on, I can boldly affirm
that all that could possibly be done has been done."  History confirms
that judgment.  There is no other record of a great sea-fight fought
under conditions so wild, and scarcely any other sea-battle has
achieved results more decisive.  Trafalgar itself scarcely exceeds it
in the quality of effectiveness.  Quiberon saved England from invasion.
It destroyed for the moment the naval power of France.  Its political
results in France cannot be described here, but they were of the first
importance.  The victory gave a new complexion to English naval
warfare.  Rodney and Howe were Hawke's pupils, Nelson himself, who was
a post-captain when Hawke died, learned his tactics in Hawke's school.
No sailor ever served England better than Hawke.  And yet, such is the
irony of human affairs, that on the very day when Hawke was adding the
thunder of his guns to the diapason of surf and tempest off Quiberon,
and crushing the fleet that threatened England with invasion, a London
mob was burning his effigy for having allowed the French to escape his
blockade.



THE NIGHT ATTACK ON BADAJOS


  "Hand to hand, and foot to foot;
  Nothing there, save death, was mute:
  Stroke, and thrust, and flash, and cry
  For quarter or for victory,
  Mingle there with the volleying thunder,
  Which makes the distant cities wonder
  How the sounding battle goes,
  If with them, or for their foes;
  If they must mourn, or must rejoice
  In that annihilating voice,
  Which pierces the deep hills through and through
  With an echo dread and new.
  *    *    *    *    *    *    *
  From the point of encountering blades to the hilt,
  Sabres and swords with blood were gilt;
  But the rampart is won, and the spoil begun,
  And all but the after carnage done."
            --BYRON.


It would be difficult to find in the whole history of war a more
thrilling and heroic chapter than that which tells the story of the six
great campaigns of the Peninsular war.  This was, perhaps, the least
selfish war of which history tells.  It was not a war of aggrandisement
or of conquest: it was waged to deliver not merely Spain, but the whole
of Europe, from that military despotism with which the genius and
ambition of Napoleon threatened to overwhelm the civilised world.  And
on what a scale Great Britain, when aroused, can fight, let the
Peninsular war tell.  At its close the fleets of Great Britain rode
triumphant on every sea; and in the Peninsula between 1808-14 her land
forces fought and won nineteen pitched battles, made or sustained ten
fierce and bloody sieges, took four great fortresses, twice expelled
the French from Portugal and once from Spain.  Great Britain expended
in these campaigns more than 100,000,000 pounds sterling on her own
troops, besides subsidising the forces of Spain and Portugal.  This
"nation of shopkeepers" proved that when kindled to action it could
wage war on a scale and in a fashion that might have moved the wonder
of Alexander or of Caesar, and from motives, it may be added, too lofty
for either Caesar or Alexander so much as to comprehend.  It is worth
while to tell afresh the story of some of the more picturesque
incidents in that great strife.

[Illustration: Siege of Badajos, 1812.  From Napier's "Peninsular War."]

On April 6, 1812, Badajos was stormed by Wellington; and the story
forms one of the most tragical and splendid incidents in the military
history of the world.  Of "the night of horrors at Badajos," Napier
says, "posterity can scarcely be expected to credit the tale."  No
tale, however, is better authenticated, or, as an example of what
disciplined human valour is capable of achieving, better deserves to be
told.  Wellington was preparing for his great forward movement into
Spain, the campaign which led to Salamanca, the battle in which "40,000
Frenchmen were beaten in forty minutes."  As a preliminary he had to
capture, under the vigilant eyes of Soult and Marmont, the two great
border fortresses, Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajos.  He had, to use Napier's
phrase, "jumped with both feet" on the first-named fortress, and
captured it in twelve days with a loss of 1200 men and 90 officers.

But Badajos was a still harder task.  The city stands on a rocky ridge
which forms the last spur of the Toledo range, and is of extraordinary
strength.  The river Rivillas falls almost at right angles into the
Guadiana, and in the angle formed by their junction stands Badajos,
oval in shape, girdled with elaborate defences, with the Guadiana 500
yards wide as its defence to the north, the Rivillas serving as a wet
ditch to the east, and no less than five great fortified
outposts--Saint Roque, Christoval, Picurina, Pardaleras, and a
fortified bridge-head across the Guadiana--as the outer zone of its
defences.  Twice the English had already assailed Badajos, but assailed
it in vain.  It was now held by a garrison 5000 strong, under a
soldier, General Phillipson, with a real genius for defence, and the
utmost art had been employed in adding to its defences.  On the other
hand Wellington had no means of transport and no battery train, and had
to make all his preparations under the keen-eyed vigilance of the
French.  Perhaps the strangest collection of artillery ever employed in
a great siege was that which Wellington collected from every available
quarter and used at Badajos.  Of the fifty-two pieces, some dated from
the days of Philip II. and the Spanish Armada, some were cast in the
reign of Philip III., others in that of John IV. of Portugal, who
reigned in 1640; there were 24-pounders of George II.'s day, and
Russian naval guns; the bulk of the extraordinary medley being obsolete
brass engines which required from seven to ten minutes to cool between
each discharge.

Wellington, however, was strong in his own warlike genius and in the
quality of the troops he commanded.  He employed 18,000 men in the
siege, and it may well be doubted whether--if we put the question of
equipment aside--a more perfect fighting instrument than the force
under his orders ever existed.  The men were veterans, but the officers
on the whole were young, so there was steadiness in the ranks and fire
in the leading.  Hill and Graham covered the siege, Picton and Barnard,
Kempt and Colville led the assaults.  The trenches were held by the
third, fourth, and fifth divisions, and by the famous light division.
Of the latter it has been said that the Macedonian phalanx of Alexander
the Great, the Tenth Legion of Caesar, the famous Spanish infantry of
Alva, or the iron soldiers who followed Cortes to Mexico, did not
exceed it in warlike quality.  Wellington's troops, too, had a personal
grudge against Badajos, and had two defeats to avenge.  Perhaps no
siege in history, as a matter of fact, ever witnessed either more
furious valour in the assault, or more of cool and skilled courage in
the defence.  The siege lasted exactly twenty days, and cost the
besiegers 5000 men, or an average loss of 250 per day.  It was waged
throughout in stormy weather, with the rivers steadily rising, and the
tempests perpetually blowing; yet the thunder of the attack never
paused for an instant.

Wellington's engineers attacked the city at the eastern end of the
oval, where the Rivillas served it as a gigantic wet ditch; and the
Picurina, a fortified hill, ringed by a ditch fourteen feet deep, a
rampart sixteen feet high, and a zone of mines, acted as an outwork.
Wellington, curiously enough, believed in night attacks, a sure proof
of his faith in the quality of the men he commanded; and on the eighth
night of the siege, at nine o'clock, 500 men of the third division were
suddenly flung on the Picurina.  The fort broke into a ring of flame,
by the light of which the dark figures of the stormers were seen
leaping with fierce hardihood into the ditch and struggling madly up
the ramparts, or tearing furiously at the palisades.  But the defences
were strong, and the assailants fell literally in scores.  Napier tells
how "the axemen of the light division, compassing the fort like
prowling wolves," discovered the gate at the rear, and so broke into
the fort.  The engineer officer who led the attack declares that "the
place would never have been taken had it not been for the coolness of
these men" in absolutely walking round the fort to its rear,
discovering the gate, and hewing it down under a tempest of bullets.
The assault lasted an hour, and in that period, out of the 500 men who
attacked, no less than 300, with 19 officers, were killed or wounded!
Three men out of every five in the attacking force, that is, were
disabled, and yet they won!

There followed twelve days of furious industry, of trenches pushed
tirelessly forward through mud and wet, and of cannonading that only
ceased when the guns grew too hot to be used.  Captain MacCarthy, of
the 50th Regiment, has left a curious little monograph on the siege,
full of incidents, half tragic and half amusing, but which show the
temper of Wellington's troops.  Thus he tells how an engineer officer,
when marking out the ground for a breaching-battery very near the wall,
which was always lined with French soldiers in eager search of human
targets, "used to challenge them to prove the perfection of their
shooting by lifting up the skirts of his coat in defiance several times
in the course of his survey; driving in his stakes and measuring his
distances with great deliberation, and concluding by an extra shake of
his coat-tails and an ironical bow before he stepped under shelter!"

On the night of April 6, Wellington determined to assault.  No less
than seven attacks were to be delivered.  Two of them--on the
bridge-head across the Guadiana and on the Pardaleras--were mere
feints.  But on the extreme right Picton with the third division was to
cross the Rivillas and escalade the castle, whose walls rose
time-stained and grim, from eighteen to twenty-four feet high.  Leith
with the fifth division was to attack the opposite or western extremity
of the town, the bastion of St. Vincente, where the glacis was mined,
the ditch deep, and the scarp thirty feet high.  Against the actual
breaches Colville and Andrew Barnard were to lead the light division
and the fourth division, the former attacking the bastion of Santa
Maria and the latter the Trinidad.  The hour was fixed for ten o'clock,
and the story of that night attack, as told in Napier's immortal prose,
is one of the great battle-pictures of literature; and any one who
tries to tell the tale will find himself slipping insensibly into
Napier's cadences.

The night was black; a strange silence lay on rampart and trench,
broken from time to time by the deep voices of the sentinels that
proclaimed all was well in Badajos.  "_Sentinelle garde à vous_," the
cry of the sentinels, was translated by the British private as "All's
well in Badahoo!"  A lighted carcass thrown from the castle discovered
Picton's men standing in ordered array, and compelled them to attack at
once.  MacCarthy, who acted as guide across the tangle of wet trenches
and the narrow bridge that spanned the Rivillas, has left an amusing
account of the scene.  At one time Picton declared MacCarthy was
leading them wrong, and, drawing his sword, swore he would cut him
down.  The column reached the trench, however, at the foot of the
castle walls, and was instantly overwhelmed with the fire of the
besieged.  MacCarthy says we can only picture the scene by "supposing
that all the stars, planets, and meteors of the firmament, with
innumerable moons emitting smaller ones in their course, were
descending on the heads of the besiegers."  MacCarthy himself, a
typical and gallant Irishman, addressed his general with the exultant
remark, "Tis a glorious night, sir--a glorious night!" and, rushing
forward to the head of the stormers, shouted, "Up with the ladders!"
The five ladders were raised, the troops swarmed up, an officer
leading, but the first files were at once crushed by cannon fire, and
the ladders slipped into the angle of the abutments.  "Dreadful their
fall," records MacCarthy of the slaughtered stormers, "and appalling
their appearance at daylight."  One ladder remained, and, a private
soldier leading, the eager red-coated crowd swarmed up it.  The brave
fellow leading was shot as soon as his head appeared above the parapet;
but the next man to him--again a private--leaped over the parapet, and
was followed quickly by others, and this thin stream of desperate men
climbed singly, and in the teeth of the flashing musketry, up that
solitary ladder, and carried the castle.

In the meanwhile the fourth and light divisions had flung themselves
with cool and silent speed on the breaches.  The storming party of each
division leaped into the ditch.  It was mined, the fuse was kindled,
and the ditch, crowded with eager soldiery, became in a moment a sort
of flaming crater, and the storming parties, 500 strong, were in one
fierce explosion dashed to pieces.  In the light of that dreadful flame
the whole scene became visible--the black ramparts, crowded with dark
figures and glittering arms, on the one side; on the other the red
columns of the British, broad and deep, moving steadily forward like a
stream of human lava.  The light division stood at the brink of the
smoking ditch for an instant, amazed at the sight.  "Then," says
Napier, "with a shout that matched even the sound of the explosion,"
they leaped into it and swarmed up to the breach.  The fourth division
came running up and descended with equal fury, but the ditch opposite
the Trinidad was filled with water; the head of the division leaped
into it, and, as Napier puts it, "about 100 of the fusiliers, the men
of Albuera, perished there."  The breaches were impassable.  Across the
top of the great slope of broken wall glittered a fringe of
sword-blades, sharp-pointed, keen-edged on both sides, fixed in
ponderous beams chained together and set deep in the ruins.  For ten
feet in front the ascent was covered with loose planks, studded with
sharp iron points.  Behind the glittering edge of sword-blades stood
the solid ranks of the French, each man supplied with three muskets,
and their fire scourged the British ranks like a tempest.

Hundreds had fallen, hundreds were still falling; but the British clung
doggedly to the lower slopes, and every few minutes an officer would
leap forward with a shout, a swarm of men would instantly follow him,
and, like leaves blown by a whirlwind, they swept up the ascent.  But
under the incessant fire of the French the assailants melted away.  One
private reached the sword-blades, and actually thrust his head beneath
them till his brains were beaten out, so desperate was his resolve to
get into Badajos.  The breach, as Napier describes it, "yawning and
glittering with steel, resembled the mouth of a huge dragon belching
forth smoke and flame."  But for two hours, and until 2000 men had
fallen, the stubborn British persisted in their attacks.  Currie, of
the 52nd, a cool and most daring soldier, found a narrow ramp beyond
the Santa Maria breach only half-ruined; he forced his way back through
the tumult and carnage to where Wellington stood watching the scene,
obtained an unbroken battalion from the reserve, and led it towards the
broken ramp.  But his men were caught in the whirling madness of the
ditch and swallowed up in the tumult.  Nicholas, of the engineers, and
Shaw, of the 43rd, with some fifty soldiers, actually climbed into the
Santa Maria bastion, and from thence tried to force their way into the
breach.  Every man was shot down except Shaw, who stood alone on the
bastion.  "With inexpressible coolness he looked at his watch, said it
was too late to carry the breaches," and then leaped down!  The British
could not penetrate the breach; but they would not retreat.  They could
only die where they stood.  The buglers of the reserve were sent to the
crest of the glacis to sound the retreat; the troops in the ditch would
not believe the signal to be genuine, and struck their own buglers who
attempted to repeat it.  "Gathering in dark groups, and leaning on
their muskets," says Napier, "they looked up in sullen desperation at
Trinidad, while the enemy, stepping out on the ramparts, and aiming
their shots by the light of fireballs, which they threw over, asked as
their victims fell, 'Why they did not come into Badajos.'"

All this while, curiously enough, Picton was actually in Badajos, and
held the castle securely, but made no attempt to clear the breach.  On
the extreme west of the town, however, at the bastion of San Vincente,
the fifth division made an attack as desperate as that which was
failing at the breaches.  When the stormers actually reached the
bastion, the Portuguese battalions, who formed part of the attack,
dismayed by the tremendous fire which broke out on them, flung down
their ladders and fled.  The British, however, snatched the ladders up,
forced the barrier, jumped into the ditch, and tried to climb the
walls.  These were thirty feet high, and the ladders were too short.  A
mine was sprung in the ditch under the soldiers' feet; beams of wood,
stones, broken waggons, and live shells were poured upon their heads
from above.  Showers of grape from the flank swept the ditch.

The stubborn soldiers, however, discovered a low spot in the rampart,
placed three ladders against it, and climbed with reckless valour.  The
first man was pushed up by his comrades; he, in turn, dragged others
up, and the unconquerable British at length broke through and swept the
bastion.  The tumult still stormed and raged at the eastern breaches,
where the men of the light and fourth division were dying sullenly, and
the men of the fifth division marched at speed across the town to take
the great eastern breach in the rear.  The streets were empty, but the
silent houses were bright with lamps.  The men of the fifth pressed on;
they captured mules carrying ammunition to the breaches, and the
French, startled by the tramp of the fast-approaching column, and
finding themselves taken in the rear, fled.  The light and fourth
divisions broke through the gap hitherto barred by flame and steel, and
Badajos was won!

In that dreadful night assault the English lost 3500 men.  "Let it be
considered," says Napier, "that this frightful carnage took place in
the space of less than a hundred yards square--that the slain died not
all suddenly, nor by one manner of death--that some perished by steel,
some by shot, some by water; that some were crushed and mangled by
heavy weights, some trampled upon, some dashed to atoms by the fiery
explosions--that for hours this destruction was endured without
shrinking, and the town was won at last.  Let these things be
considered, and it must be admitted a British army bears with it an
awful power.  And false would it be to say the French were feeble men.
The garrison stood and fought manfully and with good discipline,
behaving worthily.  Shame there was none on any side.  Yet who shall do
justice to the bravery of the British soldiers or the noble emulation
of the officers? . . .  No age, no nation, ever sent forth braver
troops to battle than those who stormed Badajos."



THE FIRE-SHIPS IN THE BASQUE ROADS


  "Ship after ship, the whole night long,
        their high-built galleons came;
  Ship after ship, the whole night long,
        with her battle-thunder and flame;
  Ship after ship, the whole night long,
        drew back with her dead and her shame.
  For some were sunk and many were shattered,
        and so could fight us no more--
  God of battles, was ever a battle like this
        in the world before?"
            --TENNYSON.


On the night of April 11, 1809, Lord Cochrane steered his floating mine
against the gigantic boom that covered the French fleet lying in Aix
Roads.  The story is one of the most picturesque and exciting in the
naval annals of Great Britain.  Marryat has embalmed the great
adventure and its chief actor in the pages of "Frank Mildmay," and Lord
Cochrane himself--like the Earl of Peterborough in the seventeenth
century, who captured Barcelona with a handful of men, and Gordon in
the nineteenth century, who won great battles in China walking-stick in
hand--was a man who stamped himself, as with characters of fire, upon
the popular imagination.

To the courage of a knight-errant Cochrane added the shrewd and
humorous sagacity of a Scotchman.  If he had commanded fleets he would
have rivalled the victories of Nelson, and perhaps even have outshone
the Nile and Trafalgar.  And to warlike genius of the first order
Cochrane added a certain weird and impish ingenuity which his enemies
found simply resistless.  Was there ever a cruise in naval history like
that of Cochrane in his brig misnamed the _Speedy_, a mere coasting tub
that would neither steer nor tack, and whose entire broadside Cochrane
himself could carry in his pockets!  But in this wretched little brig,
with its four-pounders, Cochrane captured in one brief year more than
50 vessels carrying an aggregate of 122 guns, took 500 prisoners, kept
the whole Spanish coast, off which he cruised, in perpetual alarm, and
finished by attacking and capturing a Spanish frigate, the _Gamo_, of
32 heavy guns and 319 men.  What we have called the impish daring and
resource of Cochrane is shown in this strange fight.  He ran the little
_Speedy_ close under the guns of the huge _Gamo_, and the Spanish ship
was actually unable to depress its guns sufficiently to harm its tiny
antagonist.  When the Spaniards tried to board, Cochrane simply shoved
his pigmy craft a few yards away from the side of his foe, and this
curious fight went on for an hour.  Then, in his turn, Cochrane
boarded, leaving nobody but the doctor on board the Speedy.  But he
played the Spaniards a characteristic trick.  One half his men boarded
the Gamo by the head, with their faces elaborately blackened; and when,
out of the white smoke forward, some forty demons with black faces
broke upon the astonished Spaniards, they naturally regarded the whole
business as partaking of the black art, and incontinently fled below!
The number of Spaniards killed and wounded in this fight by the little
_Speedy_ exceeded the number of its own entire crew; and when the fight
was over, 45 British sailors had to keep guard over 263 Spanish
prisoners.

Afterwards, in command of the _Impérieuse_, a fine frigate, Cochrane
played a still more dashing part on the Spanish coast, destroying
batteries, cutting off supplies from the French ports, blowing up coast
roads, and keeping perspiring battalions of the enemy marching to and
fro to meet his descents.  On the French coast, again, Cochrane held
large bodies of French troops paralysed by his single frigate.  He
proposed to the English Government to take possession of the French
islands in the Bay of Biscay, and to allow him, with a small squadron
of frigates, to operate against the French seaboard.  Had this request
been granted, he says, "neither the Peninsular war nor its enormous
cost to the nation from 1809 onwards would ever have been heard of!"
"It would have been easy," he adds, "as it always will be easy in case
of future wars, so to harass the French coasts as to find full
employment for their troops at home, and so to render operations in
foreign countries impossible."  If England and France were once more
engaged in war--_absit omen_!--the story of Cochrane's exploits on the
Spanish and French coasts might prove a very valuable inspiration and
object-lesson.  Cochrane's professional reward for his great services
in the _Impérieuse_ was an official rebuke for expending more sails,
stores, gunpowder and shot than any other captain afloat in the same
time!

The fight in the Basque Roads, however--or rather in the Aix Roads--has
great historical importance.  It crowned the work of Trafalgar.  It
finally destroyed French power on the sea, and gave England an absolute
supremacy.  No fleet actions took place after its date between "the
meteor flag" and the tricolour, for the simple reason that no French
fleet remained in existence.  Cochrane's fire-ships completed the work
of the Nile and Trafalgar.

Early in 1809 the French fleet in Brest, long blockaded by Lord
Gambier, caught the British napping, slipped out unobserved, raised the
blockades at L'Orient and Rochefort, added the squadrons lying in these
two places to its own strength, and, anchoring in the Aix Roads,
prepared for a dash on the West Indies.  The success with which the
blockade at Brest had been evaded, and the menace offered to the West
Indian trade, alarmed the British Admiralty.  Lord Gambier, with a
powerful fleet, kept guard outside the Aix Roads; but if the blockade
failed once, it might fail again.  Eager to destroy the last fleet
France possessed, the Admiralty strongly urged Lord Gambier to attack
the enemy with fire-ships; but Gambier, grown old, had visibly lost
nerve, and he pronounced the use of fire-ships a "horrible and
unchristian mode of warfare."  Lord Mulgrave, the first Lord of the
Admiralty, knowing Cochrane's ingenuity and daring, sent for him, and
proposed to send him to the Basque Roads to invent and execute some
plan for destroying the French fleet.  The Scotchman was uppermost in
Cochrane in this interview, and he declined the adventure on the ground
that to send a young post-captain to execute such an enterprise would
be regarded as an insult by the whole fleet, and he would have every
man's hand against him.  Lord Mulgrave, however, was peremptory, and
Cochrane yielded, but on reaching the blockading fleet was met by a
tempest of wrath from all his seniors.  "Why," they asked, "was
Cochrane sent out?  We could have done the business as well as he.  Why
did not Lord Gambier let us do it?"  Lord Gambier, who had fallen into
a sort of gentle and pious melancholy, was really more occupied in
distributing tracts among his crews than in trying to reach his
enemies; and Harvey, his second in command, an old Trafalgar sea-dog,
when Cochrane arrived with his commission, interviewed his admiral,
denounced him in a white-heat on his own quarter-deck, and ended by
telling him that "if Nelson had been there he would not have anchored
in the Basque Roads at all, but would have dashed at the enemy at
once."  This outburst, no doubt, relieved Admiral Harvey's feelings,
but it cost him his flag, and he was court-martialled, and dismissed
from the service for the performance.

Cochrane, however, set himself with characteristic daring and coolness
to carry out his task.  The French fleet consisted of one huge ship of
120 guns, two of 80 guns, eight seventy-fours, a 50-gun ship, and two
40-gun frigates--fourteen ships in all.  It was drawn up in two lines
under the shelter of powerful shore batteries, with the frigates as
out-guards.  As a protection against fire-ships, a gigantic boom had
been constructed half a mile in length, forming two sides of a
triangle, with the apex towards the British fleet.  Over this huge
floating barrier powerful boat squadrons kept watch every night.
Cochrane's plan of attack was marked by real genius.  He constructed
three explosion vessels, floating mines on the largest scale.  Each of
these terrific vessels contained no less than _fifteen hundred_ barrels
of gunpowder, bound together with cables, with wedges and moistened
sand rammed down betwixt them; forming, in brief, one gigantic bomb,
with 1500 barrels of gunpowder for its charge.  On the top of this huge
powder magazine was piled, as a sort of agreeable condiment, hundreds
of live shells and thousands of hand grenades; the whole, by every form
of marine ingenuity, compacted into a solid mass which, at the touch of
a fuse, could be turned into a sort of floating Vesuvius.  These were
to be followed by a squadron of fire-ships.  Cochrane who, better,
perhaps, than any soldier or sailor that ever lived, knew how to strike
at his foes through their own imagination, calculated that when these
three huge explosion vessels, with twenty fire-ships behind them, went
off in a sort of saltpetre earthquake, the astonished Frenchmen would
imagine _every_ fire-ship to be a floating mine, and, instead of trying
to board them and divert them from their fleet, would be simply anxious
to get out of their way with the utmost possible despatch.  The French,
meanwhile, having watched their enemy lying inert for weeks, and
confident in the gigantic boom which acted as their shield to the
front, and the show of batteries which kept guard over them on either
flank and to the rear, awaited the coming attack in a spirit of
half-contemptuous gaiety.  They had struck their topmasts and unbent
their sails, and by way of challenge dressed their fleet with flags.
One ship, the _Calcutta_, had been captured from the English, and by
way of special insult they hung out the British ensign under that
ship's quarter-gallery, an affront whose deadly quality only a sailor
can understand.

The night of the 9th set in stormily.  The tide ran fast, and the skies
were black and the sea heavy--so heavy, indeed, that the boats of the
English fleet which were intended to follow and cover the fire-ships
never left the side of the flagship.  Cochrane, however, had called the
officers commanding the fire-ships on board his frigate, given them
their last instructions, and at half-past eight P.M. he himself,
accompanied only by a lieutenant and four sailors, cut the moorings of
the chief explosion vessel, and drifted off towards the French fleet.
Seated, that is, on top of 1500 barrels of gunpowder and a sort of
haystack of grenades, he calmly floated off, with a squadron of
fire-ships behind him, towards the French fleet, backed by great shore
batteries, with seventy-three armed boats as a line of skirmishers.
"It seemed to me," says Marryat, who was an actor in the scene, "like
entering the gates of hell!"

The great floating mine drifted on through blackness and storm till,
just as it struck the boom, Cochrane, who previously made his five
assistants get into the boat, with his own hand lit the fuse and in
turn jumped into the boat.  How frantically the little crew pulled to
get clear of the ignited mine may be imagined; but wind and sea were
against them.  The fuse, which was calculated to burn for twelve
minutes, lasted for only five.  Then the 1500 barrels of gunpowder went
simultaneously off, peopling the black sky with a flaming torrent of
shells, grenades, and rockets, and raising a mountainous wave that
nearly swamped the unfortunate boat and its crew.  The fault of the
fuse, however, saved the lives of the daring six, as the missiles from
the exploding vessel fell far _outside_ them.  "The effect," says
Cochrane, who, like Caesar, could write history as well as make it,
"constituted one of the grandest artificial spectacles imaginable.  For
a moment the sky was red with the lurid glare arising from the
simultaneous ignition of 1500 barrels of powder.  On this gigantic
flash subsiding the air seemed alive with shells, grenades, rockets,
and masses of timber, the wreck of the shattered vessel."  Then came
blackness, punctuated in flame by the explosion of the next floating
mine.  Then, through sea-wrack and night, came the squadron of
fire-ships, each one a pyramid of kindling flame.  But the first
explosion had achieved all that Cochrane expected.  It dismissed the
huge boom into chips, and the French fleet lay open to attack.  The
captain of the second explosion vessel was so determined to do his work
effectually that the entire crew was actually blown out of the vessel
and one member of the party killed, while the toil of the boats in
which, after the fire-ships had been abandoned, they and their crews
had to fight their way back in the teeth of the gale, was so severe
that several men died of mere fatigue.  The physical effects of the
floating mines and the drifting fire-ships, as a matter of fact, were
not very great.  The boom, indeed, was destroyed, but out of twenty
fire-ships only four actually reached the enemy's position, and not one
did any damage.  Cochrane's explosion vessels, however, were addressed
not so much to the French ships as to the alarmed imagination of French
sailors, and the effect achieved was overwhelming.  All the French
ships save one cut or slipped their cables, and ran ashore in wild
confusion.  Cochrane cut the moorings of his explosion vessel at
half-past eight o'clock; by midnight, or in less than four hours, the
boom had been destroyed, and thirteen French ships--the solitary fleet
that remained to France--were lying helplessly ashore.  Never, perhaps,
was a result so great achieved in a time so brief, in a fashion so
dramatic, or with a loss so trifling.

When the grey morning broke, with the exception of two vessels, the
whole French fleet was lying helplessly aground on the Palles shoal.
Some were lying on their bilge with the keel exposed, others were
frantically casting their guns overboard and trying to get afloat
again.  Meanwhile Gambier and the British fleet were lying fourteen
miles distant in the Basque Roads, and Cochrane in the _Impérieuse_ was
watching, with powder-blackened face, the curious spectacle of the
entire fleet he had driven ashore, and the yet more amazing spectacle
of a British fleet declining to come in and finally destroy its enemy.
For here comes a chapter in the story on which Englishmen do not love
to dwell.  Cochrane tried to whip the muddy-spirited Gambier into
enterprise by emphatic and quick-following signal.  At six A.M.  he
signalled, "_All the enemy's ships except two are on shore_," but this
extracted from drowsy Gambier no other response than the answering
pennant.  Cochrane repeated his impatient signals at half-hour
intervals, and with emphasis ever more shrill--"_The enemy's ships can
be destroyed_"; "_Half the fleet can destroy the enemy_"; "_The
frigates alone can destroy the enemy_"; but still no response save the
indifferent pennant.  As the tide flowed in, the French ships showed
signs of getting afloat, and Cochrane signalled, "_The enemy is
preparing to heave off_", even this brought no response from the
pensive Gambier.  At eleven o'clock the British fleet weighed and stood
in, but then, to Cochrane's speechless wrath, re-anchored at a distance
of three and a half miles, and by this time two of the French
three-deckers were afloat.

Gambier finally despatched a single mortar-vessel in to bombard the
stranded ships, but by this time Cochrane had become desperate.  He
adopted a device which recalls Nelson's use of his blind eye at
Copenhagen.  At one o'clock he hove his anchor atrip and drifted, stern
foremost, towards the enemy.  He dare not make sail lest his trick
should be detected and a signal of recall hoisted on the flagship.
Cochrane coolly determined, in a word, to force the hand of his
sluggish admiral.  He drifted with his solitary frigate down to the
hostile fleet and batteries, which Gambier thought it scarcely safe to
attack with eleven ships of the line.  When near the enemy's position
he suddenly made sail and ran up the signal, "_In want of assistance_";
next followed a yet more peremptory message, "_In distress_."  Even
Gambier could not see an English frigate destroyed under the very guns
of an English fleet without moving to its help, and he sent some of his
ships in.  But meanwhile, Cochrane, though technically "in distress,"
was enjoying what he must have felt to be a singularly good time.  He
calmly took up a position which enabled him to engage an 80-gun ship,
one of 74 guns, and, in particular, that French ship which, on the
previous day, had hung the British flag under her quarter-gallery.  For
half-an-hour he fought these three ships single-handed, and the
Calcutta actually struck to him, its captain afterwards being
court-martialled and shot by the French themselves for surrendering to
a frigate.  Then the other British ships came up, and ship after ship
of the French fleet struck or was destroyed.  Night fell before the
work was completed, and during the night Gambier, for some mysterious
reason, recalled his ships; but Cochrane, in the _Impérieuse_, clung to
his post.  He persuaded Captain Seymour, in the _Pallas_, to remain
with him, with four brigs, and with this tiny force he proposed to
attack _L'Ocean_, the French flagship of 120 guns, which had just got
afloat; but Gambier peremptorily recalled him at dawn, before the fight
was renewed.  Never before or since was a victory so complete and so
nearly bloodless.  Five seamen were killed in the fire-ships, and five
in the attack on the French fleet and about twenty wounded; and with
this microscopic "butcher's bill" a great fleet, the last naval hope of
France, was practically destroyed.  For so much does the genius and
daring of a single man count!

That the French fleet was not utterly destroyed was due solely to
Gambier's want of resolution.  And yet, such is the irony of history,
that of the two chief actors in this drama, Gambier, who marred it, was
rewarded with the thanks of Parliament; Cochrane, who gave to it all
its unique splendour, had his professional career abruptly terminated!

That wild night in the Aix Roads, and the solitary and daring attack on
the French fleet which followed next day, were practically Cochrane's
last acts as a British sailor.  He achieved dazzling exploits under the
flag of Chili [Transcriber's note: Chile?] and Brazil; but the most
original warlike genius the English navy has ever known, fought no more
battles for England.



THE MAN WHO SPOILED NAPOLEON'S "DESTINY"!


  "Oh, who shall lightly say that Fame
  Is nothing but an empty name!
  Whilst in that sound there is a charm
  The nerves to brace, the heart to warm.
  As, thinking of the mighty dead,
    The young from slothful couch will start,
  And vow, with lifted hands outspread,
    Like them to act a noble part?"
            --JOANNA BAILLIE.


From March 18 to May 20, 1799--for more than sixty days and nights,
that is--a little, half-forgotten, and more than half-ruined Syrian
town was the scene of one of the fiercest and most dramatic sieges
recorded in military history.  And rarely has there been a struggle so
apparently one-sided.  A handful of British sailors and Turkish
irregulars were holding Acre, a town without regular defences, against
Napoleon, the most brilliant military genius of his generation, with an
army of 10,000 war-hardened veterans, the "Army of Italy"--soldiers who
had dared the snows of the Alps and conquered Italy, and to whom
victory was a familiar experience.  In their ranks military daring had
reached, perhaps, its very highest point.  And yet the sailors inside
that ring of crumbling wall won!  At the blood-stained trenches of Acre
Napoleon experienced his first defeat; and, years after, at St. Helena,
he said of Sir Sidney Smith, the gallant sailor who baffled him, "That
man made me miss my destiny."  It is a curious fact that one Englishman
thwarted Napoleon's career in the East, and another ended his career in
the West, and it may be doubted which of the two Napoleon hated
most--Wellington, who finally overthrew him at Waterloo, or Sidney
Smith, who, to use Napoleon's own words, made him "miss his destiny,"
and exchange the empire of the East for a lonely pinnacle of rock in
the Atlantic.

Sidney Smith was a sailor of the school of Nelson and of Dundonald--a
man, that is, with a spark of that warlike genius which begins where
mechanical rules end.  He was a man of singular physical beauty, with a
certain magnetism and fire about him which made men willing to die for
him, and women who had never spoken to him fall headlong in love with
him.  His whole career is curiously picturesque.  He became a middy at
the tender age of eleven years; went through fierce sea-fights, and was
actually mate of the watch when fourteen years old.  He was a
fellow-middy with William IV. in the fight off Cape St. Vincent, became
commander when he was eighteen years of age, and captain before he was
quite nineteen.  But the British marine, even in those tumultuous days,
scarcely yielded enough of the rapture of fighting to this post-captain
in his teens.  He took service under the Swedish flag, saw hard
fighting against the Russians, became the close personal friend of the
King, and was knighted by him.  One of the feats at this period of his
life with which tradition, with more or less of plausibility, credits
Sidney Smith, is that of swimming by night through the Russian fleet, a
distance of two miles, carrying a letter enclosed in a bladder to the
Swedish admiral.

Sidney Smith afterwards entered the Turkish service.  When war broke
out betwixt France and England in 1790, he purchased a tiny craft at
Smyrna, picked up in that port a hybrid crew, and hurried to join Lord
Hood, who was then holding Toulon.  When the British abandoned the
port--and it is curious to recollect that the duel between Sidney Smith
and Napoleon, which reached its climax at Acre, began here--Sidney
Smith volunteered to burn the French fleet, a task which he performed
with an audacity and skill worthy of Dundonald or Nelson, and for which
the French never forgave him.

Sidney Smith was given the command of an English frigate, and fought a
dozen brilliant fights in the Channel.  He carried with his boats a
famous French privateer off Havre de Grace; but during the fight on the
deck of the captured ship it drifted into the mouth of the Seine above
the forts.  The wind dropped, the tide was too strong to be stemmed,
and Sidney Smith himself was captured.  He had so harried the French
coast that the French refused to treat him as an ordinary prisoner of
war, and threw him into that ill-omened prison, the Temple, from whose
iron-barred windows the unfortunate sailor watched for two years the
horrors of the Reign of Terror in its last stages, the tossing crowds,
the tumbrils rolling past, crowded with victims for the guillotine.
Sidney Smith escaped at last by a singularly audacious trick.  Two
confederates, dressed in dashing uniform, one wearing the dress of an
adjutant, and the other that of an officer of still higher rank,
presented themselves at the Temple with forged orders for the transfer
of Sidney Smith.

The governor surrendered his prisoner, but insisted on sending a guard
of six men with him.  The sham adjutant cheerfully acquiesced, but,
after a moment's pause, turned to Sidney Smith, and said, if he would
give his parole as an officer not to attempt to escape, they would
dispense with the escort.  Sidney Smith, with due gravity, replied to
his confederate, "Sir, I swear on the faith of an officer to accompany
you wherever you choose to conduct me."  The governor was satisfied,
and the two sham officers proceeded to "conduct" their friend with the
utmost possible despatch to the French coast.  Another English officer
who had escaped--Captain Wright--joined Sidney Smith outside Rouen, and
the problem was how to get through the barriers without a passport.
Smith sent Wright on first, and he was duly challenged for his passport
by the sentinel; whereupon Sidney Smith, with a majestic air of
official authority, marched up and said in faultless Parisian French,
"I answer for this citizen, I know him;" whereupon the deluded sentinel
saluted and allowed them both to pass!

Sidney Smith's escape from the Temple made him a popular hero in
England.  He was known to have great influence with the Turkish
authorities, and he was sent to the East in the double office of
envoy-extraordinary to the Porte, and commander of the squadron at
Alexandria.  By one of the curious coincidences which marked Sidney
Smith's career, he became acquainted while in the Temple with a French
Royalist officer named Philippeaux, an engineer of signal ability, and
who had been a schoolfellow and a close chum of Napoleon himself at
Brienne.  Smith took his French friend with him to the East, and he
played a great part in the defence of Acre.  Napoleon had swept north
through the desert to Syria, had captured Gaza and Jaffa, and was about
to attack Acre, which lay between him and his ultimate goal,
Constantinople.  Here Sidney Smith resolved to bar his way, and in his
flagship the _Tigre_, with the _Theseus_, under Captain Miller, and two
gunboats, he sailed to Acre to assist in its defence.  Philippeaux took
charge of the fortifications, and thus, in the breaches of a remote
Syrian town, the quondam prisoner of the Temple and the ancient school
friend of Napoleon joined hands to wreck that dream of a great Eastern
empire which lurked in the cells of Napoleon's masterful intellect.

Acre represents a blunted arrow-head jutting out from a point in the
Syrian coast.  Napoleon could only attack, so to speak, the neck of the
arrow, which was protected by a ditch and a weak wall, and flanked by
towers; but Sidney Smith, having command of the sea, could sweep the
four faces of the town with the fire of his guns, as well as command
all the sea-roads in its vicinity.  He guessed, from the delay of the
French in opening fire, that they were waiting for their siege-train to
arrive by sea.  He kept vigilant watch, pounced on the French flotilla
as it rounded the promontory of Mount Carmel, captured nine of the
vessels, carried them with their guns and warlike material to Acre, and
mounted his thirty-four captured pieces on the batteries of the town.
Thus the disgusted French saw the very guns which were intended to
batter down the defences of Acre--and which were glorious with the
memories of a dozen victories in Italy--frowning at them, loaded with
English powder and shot, and manned by English sailors.

It is needless to say that a siege directed by Napoleon--the siege of
what he looked upon as a contemptible and almost defenceless town, the
single barrier betwixt his ambition and its goal--was urged with
amazing fire and vehemence.  The wall was battered day and night, a
breach fifty feet wide made, and more than twelve assaults delivered,
with all the fire and daring of which French soldiers, gallantly led,
are capable.  So sustained was the fighting, that on one occasion the
combat raged in the ditch and on the breach for _twenty-five_
successive hours.  So close and fierce was it that one half-ruined
tower was held by _both_ besiegers and besieged for twelve hours in
succession, and neither would yield.  At the breach, again, the two
lines of desperately fighting men on repeated occasions clashed
bayonets together, and wrestled and stabbed and died, till the
survivors were parted by the barrier of the dead which grew beneath
their feet.

Sidney Smith, however, fought like a sailor, and with all the cool
ingenuity and resourcefulness of a sailor.  His ships, drawn up on two
faces of the town, smote the French stormers on either flank till they
learned to build up a dreadful screen, made up partly of stones plucked
from the breach, and partly of the dead bodies of their comrades.
Smith, too, perched guns in all sorts of unexpected positions--a
24-pounder in the lighthouse, under the command of an exultant middy;
two 68-pounders under the charge of "old Bray," the carpenter of the
_Tigre_, and, as Sidney Smith himself reports, "one of the bravest and
most intelligent men I ever served with"; and yet a third gun, a French
brass 18-pounder, in one of the ravelins, under a master's mate.  Bray
dropped his shells with the nicest accuracy in the centre of the French
columns as they swept up the breach, and the middy perched aloft, and
the master's mate from the ravelin, smote them on either flank with
case-shot, while the _Theseus_ and the _Tigre_ added to the tumult the
thunder of their broadsides, and the captured French gunboats
contributed the yelp of their lighter pieces.

The great feature of the siege, however, was the fierceness and the
number of the sorties.  Sidney Smith's sorties actually exceeded in
number and vehemence Napoleon's assaults.  He broke the strength of
Napoleon's attacks, that is, by anticipating them.  A crowd of Turkish
irregulars, with a few naval officers leading them, and a solid mass of
Jack-tars in the centre, would break from a sally-port, or rush
vehemently down through the gap in the wall, and scour the French
trenches, overturn the gabions, spike the guns, and slay the guards.
The French reserves hurried fiercely up, always scourged, however, by
the flank fire of the ships, and drove back the sortie.  But the
process was renewed the same night or the next day with unlessened fire
and daring.  The French engineers, despairing of success on the
surface, betook themselves to mining; whereupon the besieged made a
desperate sortie and reached the mouth of the mine.  Lieutenant Wright,
who led them, and who had already received two shots in his sword-arm,
leaped down the mine followed by his sailors, slew the miners,
destroyed their work, and safely regained the town.

The British sustained one startling disaster.  Captain Miller of the
_Theseus_, whose ammunition ran short, carefully collected such French
shells as fell into the town without exploding, and duly returned them
alight, and supplied with better fuses, to their original senders.  He
had collected some seventy shells on the _Theseus_, and was preparing
them for use against the French.  The carpenter of the ship was
endeavouring to get the fuses out of the loaded shells with an auger,
and a middy undertook to assist him, in characteristic middy fashion,
with a mallet and a spike-nail.  A huge shell under his treatment
suddenly exploded on the quarter-deck of the _Theseus_, and the other
sixty-nine shells followed suit.  The too ingenious middy disappeared
into space; forty seamen, with Captain Miller himself, were killed; and
forty-seven, including the two lieutenants of the ship, the chaplain,
and the surgeon, were seriously wounded.  The whole of the poop was
blown to pieces, and the ship was left a wreck with fire breaking out
at half-a-dozen points.  The fire was subdued, and the _Theseus_
survived in a half-gutted condition, but the disaster was a severe blow
to Sir Sidney's resources.

As evening fell on May 7, the white sails of a fleet, became visible
over the sea rim, and all firing ceased while besiegers and besieged
watched the approaching ships.  Was it a French fleet or a Turkish?
Did it bring succour to the besieged or a triumph to the besiegers?
The approaching ships flew the crescent.  It was the Turkish fleet from
Rhodes bringing reinforcements.  But the wind was sinking, and
Napoleon, who had watched the approach of the hostile ships with
feelings which may be guessed, calculated that there remained six hours
before they could cast anchor in the bay.  Eleven assaults had been
already made, in which eight French generals and the best officers in
every branch of the service had perished.  There remained time for a
twelfth assault.  He might yet pluck victory from the very edge of
defeat.  At ten o'clock that night the French artillery was brought up
close to the counterscarp to batter down the curtain, and a new breach
was made.  Lannes led his division against the shot-wrecked tower, and
General Rimbaud took his grenadiers with a resistless rush through the
new breach.  All night the combat raged, the men fighting desperately
hand to hand.  When the rays of the level morning sun broke through the
pall of smoke which hung sullenly over the combatants, the tricolour
flew on the outer angle of the tower, and still the ships bringing
reinforcements had not reached the harbour!  Sidney Smith, at this
crisis, landed every man from the English ships, and led them, pike in
hand, to the breach, and the shouting and madness of the conflict awoke
once more.  To use Sidney Smith's own words, "the muzzles of the
muskets touched each other--the spear-heads were locked together."  But
Sidney Smith's sailors, with the brave Turks who rallied to their help,
were not to be denied.

Lannes' grenadiers were tumbled headlong from the tower, Lannes himself
being wounded, while Rimbaud's brave men, who were actually past the
breach, were swept into ruin, their general killed, and the French
soldiers within the breach all captured or slain.

One of the dramatic incidents of the siege was the assault made by
Kleber's troops.  They had not taken part in the siege hitherto, but
had won a brilliant victory over the Arabs at Mount Tabor.  On reaching
the camp, flushed with their triumph, and seeing how slight were the
apparent defences of the town, they demanded clamorously to be led to
the assault.  Napoleon consented.  Kleber, who was of gigantic stature,
with a head of hair worthy of a German music-master or of a Soudan
dervish, led his grenadiers to the edge of the breach and stood there,
while with gesture and voice--a voice audible even above the fierce and
sustained crackle of the musketry--he urged his men on.  Napoleon,
standing on a gun in the nearest French battery, watched the sight with
eager eyes--the French grenadiers running furiously up the breach, the
grim line of levelled muskets that barred it, the sudden roar of the
English guns as from every side they smote the staggering French
column.  Vainly single officers struggled out of the torn mass, ran
gesticulating up the breach, and died at the muzzles of the British
muskets.  The men could not follow, or only died as they leaped
forward.  The French grenadiers, still fighting, swearing, and
screaming, were swept back past the point where Kleber stood, hoarse
with shouting, black with gunpowder, furious with rage.  The last
assault on Acre had failed.  The French sick, field artillery, and
baggage silently defiled that night to the rear.  The heavy guns were
buried in the sand, and after sixty days of open trenches Napoleon, for
the first time in his life, though not for the last, ordered a retreat.

Napoleon buried in the breaches of Acre not merely 3000 of his bravest
troops, but the golden dream of his life.  "In that miserable fort," as
he said, "lay the fate of the East."  Napoleon expected to find in it
the pasha's treasures, and arms for 300,000 men.  "When I have captured
it," he said to Bourrienne, "I shall march upon Damascus and Aleppo.  I
shall arm the tribes; I shall reach Constantinople; I shall overturn
the Turkish Empire; I shall found in the East a new and grand empire.
Perhaps I shall return to Paris by Adrianople and Vienna!"  Napoleon
was cheerfully willing to pay the price of what religion he had to
accomplish this dream.  He was willing, that is, to turn Turk.  Henri
IV. said "Paris was worth a mass," and was not the East, said Napoleon,
"worth a turban and a pair of trousers?"  In his conversation at St.
Helena with Las Cases he seriously defended this policy.  His army, he
added, would have shared his "conversion," and have taken their new
creed with a Parisian laugh.  "Had I but captured Acre," Napoleon
added, "I would have reached Constantinople and the Indies; I would
have changed the face of the world.  But that man made me miss my
destiny."

Las Cases dwells upon the curious correspondence which existed between
Philippeaux, who engineered the defences of Acre, and Napoleon, who
attacked it.  "They were," he says, "of the same nation, of the same
age, of the same rank, of the same corps, and of the same school."  But
if Philippeaux was in a sense the brains of the defence, Sidney Smith
was the sword.  There was, perhaps, it may be regretfully confessed, a
streak of the charlatan in him.  He shocked the judgment of more sober
men.  Wellington's stern, sober sense was affronted by him, and he
described him as "a mere vaporiser."  "Of all the men whom I ever knew
who have any reputation," Wellington told Croker "the man who least
deserved it is Sir Sidney Smith."  Wellington's temperament made it
impossible for him to understand Sidney Smith's erratic and dazzling
genius.  Napoleon's phrase is the best epitaph of the man who defended
Acre.  It is true Napoleon himself describes Sidney Smith afterwards as
"a young fool," who was "capable of invading France with 800 men."  But
such "young fools" are often the makers of history.



GREAT SEA-DUELS


  "The captain stood on the carronade: 'First Lieutenant,' says he,
  'Send all my merry men after here, for they must list to me.
  I haven't the gift of the gab, my sons, because I'm bred to the sea.
  That ship there is a Frenchman, who means to fight with we.
  And odds, bobs, hammer and tongs, long as I've been to sea,
  I've fought 'gainst every odds--but I've gained the victory!
    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *
  That ship there is a Frenchman, and if we don't take she,
  'Tis a thousand bullets to one, that she will capture we.
  I haven't the gift of the gab, my boys; so each man to his gun;
  If she's not mine in half-an-hour, I'll flog each mother's son.
  For odds, bobs, hammer and tongs, long as I've been to sea,
  I've fought 'gainst every odds--and I've gained the victory!'"
            --MARRYAT.


British naval history is rich in the records of what may be called
great sea-duels--combats, that is, of single ship against single ship,
waged often with extraordinary fierceness and daring.  They resemble
the combat of knight against knight, with flash of cannon instead of
thrust of lance, and the floor of the lonely sea for the trampled lists.

He must have a very slow-beating imagination who cannot realise the
picturesqueness of these ancient sea-duels.  Two frigates cruising for
prey catch the far-off gleam of each other's topsails over the rim of
the horizon.  They approach each other warily, two high-sniffing
sea-mastiffs.  A glimpse of fluttering colour--the red flag and the
_drapeau blanc_, or the Union Jack and the tricolour--reveals to each
ship its foe.  The men stand grimly at quarters; the captain, with
perhaps a solitary lieutenant, and a middy as aide-de-camp, is on his
quarter-deck.  There is the manoeuvring for the weather-gage, the
thunder of the sudden broadside, the hurtle and crash of the shot, the
stern, quick word of command as the clumsy guns are run in to be
reloaded and fired again and again with furious haste.  The ships drift
into closer wrestle.  Masts and yards come tumbling on to the
blood-splashed decks.  There is the grinding shock of the great wooden
hulls as they meet, the wild leap of the boarders, the clash of cutlass
on cutlass, the shout of victory, the sight of the fluttering flag as
it sinks reluctantly from the mizzen of the beaten ship.  Then the
smoke drifts away, and on the tossing sea-floor lie, little better than
dismantled wrecks, victor and vanquished.

No great issue, perhaps, ever hung upon these lonely sea-combats; but
as object-lessons in the qualities by which the empire has been won,
and by which it must be maintained, these ancient sea-fights have real
and permanent value.  What better examples of cool hardihood, of
chivalrous loyalty to the flag, of self-reliant energy, need be
imagined or desired?  The generation that carries the heavy burden of
the empire to-day cannot afford to forget the tale of such exploits.

One of the most famous frigate fights in British history is that
between the _Arethusa_ and _La Belle Poule_, fought off Brest on June
17, 1778.  Who is not familiar with the name and fame of "the saucy
_Arethusa_"?  Yet there is a curious absence of detail as to the fight.
The combat, indeed, owes its enduring fame to two somewhat irrelevant
circumstances--first, that it was fought when France and England were
not actually at war, but were trembling on the verge of it.  The sound
of the _Arethusa's_ guns, indeed, was the signal of war between the two
nations.  The other fact is that an ingenious rhymester--scarcely a
poet--crystallised the fight into a set of verses in which there is
something of the true smack of the sea, and an echo, if not of the
cannon's roar, yet of the rough-voiced mirth of the forecastle; and the
sea-fight lies embalmed, so to speak, and made immortal in the sea-song.

The _Arethusa_ was a stumpy little frigate, scanty in crew, light in
guns, attached to the fleet of Admiral Keppel, then cruising off Brest.
Keppel had as perplexed and delicate a charge as was ever entrusted to
a British admiral.  Great Britain was at war with her American
colonies, and there was every sign that France intended to add herself
to the fight.  No fewer than thirty-two sail of the line and twelve
frigates were gathered in Brest roads, and another fleet of almost
equal strength in Toulon.  Spain, too, was slowly collecting a mighty
armament.  What would happen to England if the Toulon and Brest fleets
united, were joined by a third fleet from Spain, and the mighty array
of ships thus collected swept up the British Channel?  On June 13,
1778, Keppel, with twenty-one ships of the line and three frigates, was
despatched to keep watch over the Brest fleet.  War had not been
proclaimed, but Keppel was to prevent a junction of the Brest and
Toulon fleets, by persuasion if he could, but by gunpowder in the last
resort.

Keppel's force was much inferior to that of the Brest fleet, and as
soon as the topsails of the British ships were visible from the French
coast, two French frigates, the _Licorne_ and _La Belle Poule_, with
two lighter craft, bore down upon them to reconnoitre.  But Keppel
could not afford to let the French admiral know his exact force, and
signalled to his own outlying ships to bring the French frigates under
his lee.

At nine o'clock at night the _Licorne_ was overtaken by the _Milford_,
and with some rough sailorly persuasion, and a hint of broadsides, her
head was turned towards the British fleet.  The next morning, in the
grey dawn, the Frenchman, having meditated on affairs during the night,
made a wild dash for freedom.  The _America_, an English 64--double,
that is, the _Licorne's_ size--overtook her, and fired a shot across
her bow to bring her to.  Longford, the captain of the _America_, stood
on the gunwale of his own ship politely urging the captain of the
_Licorne_ to return with him.  With a burst of Celtic passion the
French captain fired his whole broadside into the big Englishman, and
then instantly hauled down his flag so as to escape any answering
broadside!

Meanwhile the _Arethusa_ was in eager pursuit of the _Belle Poule_; a
fox-terrier chasing a mastiff!  The _Belle Poule_ was a splendid ship,
with heavy metal, and a crew more than twice as numerous as that of the
tiny _Arethusa_.  But Marshall, its captain, was a singularly gallant
sailor, and not the man to count odds.  The song tells the story of the
fight in an amusing fashion:--

  "Come all ye jolly sailors bold,
  Whose hearts are cast in honour's mould,
  While England's glory I unfold.
      Huzza to the _Arethusa_!
  She is a frigate tight and brave
  As ever stemmed the dashing wave;
      Her men are staunch
      To their fav'rite launch,
  And when the foe shall meet our fire,
  Sooner than strike we'll all expire
      On board the _Arethusa_.

  On deck five hundred men did dance,
  The stoutest they could find in France;
  We, with two hundred, did advance
      On board the _Arethusa_.
  Our captain hailed the Frenchman, 'Ho!'
  The Frenchman then cried out, 'Hallo!'
      'Bear down, d'ye see,
      To our Admiral's lee.'
  'No, no,' says the Frenchman, 'that can't be.
  'Then I must lug you along with me,'
      Says the saucy _Arethusa_!"

As a matter of fact Marshall hung doggedly on the Frenchman's quarter
for two long hours, fighting a ship twice as big as his own.  The
_Belle Poule_ was eager to escape; Marshall was resolute that it should
not escape; and, try as he might, the Frenchman, during that fierce two
hours' wrestle, failed to shake off his tiny but dogged antagonist.
The _Arethusa's_ masts were shot away, its jib-boom hung a tangled
wreck over its bows, its bulwarks were shattered, its decks were
splashed red with blood, half its guns were dismounted, and nearly
every third man in its crew struck down.  But still it hung, with
quenchless and obstinate courage, on the _Belle Poule's_ quarter, and
by its perfect seamanship and the quickness and the deadly precision
with which its lighter guns worked, reduced its towering foe to a
condition of wreck almost as complete as its own.  The terrier, in
fact, was proving too much for the mastiff.

Suddenly the wind fell.  With topmasts hanging over the side, and
canvas torn to ribbons, the _Arethusa_ lay shattered and moveless on
the sea.  The shot-torn but loftier sails of the _Belle Poule_,
however, yet held wind enough to drift her out of the reach of the
_Arethusa's_ fire.  Both ships were close under the French cliffs; but
the _Belle Poule_, like a broken-winged bird, struggled into a tiny
cove in the rocks, and nothing remained for the _Arethusa_ but to cut
away her wreckage, hoist what sail she could, and drag herself sullenly
back under jury-masts to the British fleet.  But the story of that two
hours' heroic fight maintained against such odds sent a thrill of grim
exultation through Great Britain.  Menaced by the combination of so
many mighty states, while her sea-dogs were of this fighting temper,
what had Great Britain to fear?  In the streets of many a British
seaport, and in many a British forecastle, the story of how the
Arethusa fought was sung in deep-throated chorus:--

  "The fight was off the Frenchman's land;
  We forced them back upon their strand;
  For we fought till not a stick would stand
      Of the gallant _Arethusa_!"


A fight even more dramatic in its character is that fought on August
10, 1805, between the _Phoenix_ and the _Didon_.  The _Didon_ was one
of the finest and fastest French frigates afloat, armed with guns of
special calibre and manned by a crew which formed, perhaps, the very
élite of the French navy.  The men had been specially picked to form
the crew of the only French ship which was commanded by a Bonaparte,
the _Pomone_, selected for the command of Captain Jerome Bonaparte.
Captain Jerome Bonaparte, however, was not just now afloat, and the
_Didon_ had been selected, on account of its great speed and heavy
armament, for a service of great importance.  She was manned by the
crew chosen for the _Pomone_, placed under an officer of special skill
and daring--Captain Milias--and despatched with orders for carrying out
one more of those naval "combinations" which Napoleon often attempted,
but never quite accomplished.  The _Didon_, in a word, was to bring up
the Rochefort squadron to join the Franco-Spanish fleet under
Villeneuve.

On that fatal August 10, however, it seemed to Captain Milias that
fortune had thrust into his hands a golden opportunity of snapping up a
British sloop of war, and carrying her as a trophy into Rochefort.  An
American merchantman fell in with him, and its master reported that he
had been brought-to on the previous day by a British man-of-war, and
compelled to produce his papers.  The American told the French captain
that he had been allowed to go round the Englishman's decks and count
his guns--omitting, no doubt, to add that he was half-drunk while doing
it.  Contemplated through an American's prejudices, inflamed with grog,
the British ship seemed a very poor thing indeed.  She carried, the
American told the captain of the _Didon_, only twenty guns of light
calibre, and her captain and officers were "so cocky" that if they had
a chance they would probably lay themselves alongside even the _Didon_
and become an easy prey.  The American pointed out to the eagerly
listening Frenchmen the topgallant sails of the ship he was describing
showing above the sky-line to windward.  Captain Milias thought he saw
glory and cheap victory beckoning him, and he put his helm down, and
stood under easy sail towards the fast-rising topsails of the
Englishman.

Now, the _Phoenix_ was, perhaps, the smallest frigate in the British
navy; a stocky little craft, scarcely above the rating of a sloop; and
its captain, Baker, a man with something of Dundonald's gift for ruse,
had disguised his ship so as to look as much as possible like a sloop.
Baker, too, who believed that light guns quickly handled were capable
of more effective mischief than the slow fire of heavier guns, had
changed his heavier metal for 18-pounders.  The two ships, therefore,
were very unequal in fighting force.  The broadside of the _Didon_ was
nearly fifty per cent. heavier than that of the _Phoenix_; her crew was
nearly fifty per cent. more numerous, and she was splendidly equipped
at every point.

The yellow sides and royal yards rigged aloft told the "cocky"
_Phoenix_ that the big ship to leeward was a Frenchman, and, with all
sails spread, she bore down in the chase.  Baker was eager to engage
his enemy to leeward, that she might not escape, and he held his fire
till he could reach the desired position.  The _Didon_, however, a
quick and weatherly ship, was able to keep ahead of the _Phoenix_, and
thrice poured in a heavy broadside upon the grimly silent British ship
without receiving a shot in reply.  Baker's men were falling fast at
their quarters, and, impatient at being both foiled and raked, he at
last ran fiercely at his enemy to windward.  The heads of both ships
swung parallel, and at pistol-distance broadside furiously answered
broadside.  In order to come up with her opponent, however, the
_Phoenix_ had all sail spread, and she gradually forged ahead.  As soon
as the two ships were clear, the _Didon_, by a fine stroke of
seamanship, hauled up, crossed the stern of the _Phoenix_, and raked
her, and then repeated the pleasant operation.  The rigging of the
_Phoenix_ was so shattered that for a few minutes she was out of hand.
Baker, however, was a fine seaman, and his crew were in a high state of
discipline; and when the _Didon_ once more bore up to rake her
antagonist, the British ship, with her sails thrown aback, evaded the
Frenchman's fire.  But the stern of the _Didon_ smote with a crash on
the starboard quarter of the Phoenix; the ships were lying parallel;
the broadside of neither could be brought to bear.  The Frenchmen,
immensely superior in numbers, made an impetuous rush across their
forecastle, and leaped on the quarter-deck of the Phoenix.  The marines
of that ship, however, drawn up in a steady line across the deck,
resisted the whole rush of the French boarders; and the British
sailors, tumbling up from their guns, cutlass and boarding-pike in
hand, and wroth with the audacity of the "French lubbers" daring to
board the "cocky little _Phoenix_," with one rush, pushed fiercely
home, swept the Frenchmen back on to their own vessel.

On the French forecastle stood a brass 36-pounder carronade; this
commanded the whole of the British ship, and with it the French opened
a most destructive fire.  The British ship, as it happened, could not
bring a single gun to bear in return.  Baker, however, had fitted the
cabin window on either quarter of his ship to serve as a port, in
preparation for exactly such a contingency as this; and the aftermost
main-deck gun was dragged into the cabin, the improvised port thrown
open, and Baker himself, with a cluster of officers and men, was
eagerly employed in fitting tackles to enable the gun to be worked.  As
the sides of the two ships were actually grinding together the
Frenchmen saw the preparations being made; a double squad of marines
was brought up at a run to the larboard gangway, and opened a swift and
deadly fire into the cabin, crowded with English sailors busy rigging
their gun.  The men dropped in clusters; the floor of the cabin was
covered with the slain, its walls were splashed with blood.  But Baker
and the few men not yet struck down kept coolly to their task.  The gun
was loaded under the actual flash of the French muskets, its muzzle was
thrust through the port, and it was fired!  Its charge of langrage
swept the French ship from her larboard bow to her starboard quarter,
and struck down in an instant twenty-four men.  The deadly fire was
renewed again and again, the British marines on the quarter-deck
meanwhile keeping down with their musketry the fire of the great French
carronade.

That fierce and bloody wrestle lasted for nearly thirty minutes, then
the _Didon_ began to fore-reach.  Her great bowsprit ground slowly
along the side of the _Phoenix_.  It crossed the line of the second
aftermost gun on the British main-deck.  Its flames on the instant
smote the Frenchman's head-rails to splinters, and destroyed the
gammoning of her bowsprit.  Gun after gun of the two ships was brought
in succession to bear; but in this close and deadly contest the
_Phoenix_ had the advantage.  Her guns were lighter, her men better
drilled, and their fierce energy overbore the Frenchmen.  Presently the
_Didon_, with her foremast tottering, her maintopmast gone, her decks a
blood-stained wreck, passed out of gunshot ahead.

In the tangle between the two ships the fly of the British white ensign
at the gaff end dropped on the _Didon's_ forecastle.  The Frenchmen
tore it off, and, as the ships moved apart, they waved it triumphantly
from the _Didon's_ stern.  All the colours of the _Phoenix_, indeed, in
one way or another had vanished, and the only response the exasperated
British tars could make to the insult of the _Didon_ was to immediately
lash a boat's ensign to the larboard, and the Union Jack to the
starboard end of their cross jack yard-arm.

The wind had dropped; both ships were now lying a in a semi-wrecked
condition out of gunshot of each other, and it became a question of
which could soonest repair damages and get into fighting condition
again.  Both ships, as it happened, had begun the fight with nearly all
canvas spread, and from their splintered masts the sails now hung one
wild network of rags.  In each ship a desperate race to effect repairs
began.  On the Frenchman's decks arose a babel of sounds, the shouts of
officers, the tumult of the men's voices.  The British, on the other
hand, worked in grim and orderly silence, with no sound but the cool,
stern orders of the officers.  In such a race the British were sure to
win, and fortune aided them.  The two ships were rolling heavily in the
windless swell, and a little before noon the British saw the wounded
foremast of their enemy suddenly snap and tumble, with all its canvas,
upon the unfortunate _Didon's_ decks.  This gave new and exultant
vigour to the British.  Shot-holes were plugged, dismounted guns
refitted, fresh braces rove, the torn rigging spliced, new canvas
spread.  The wind blew softly again, and a little after noon the
_Phoenix_, sorely battered indeed, but in fighting trim, with guns
loaded, and the survivors of her crew at quarters, bore down on the
_Didon_, and took her position on that ship's weather bow.  Just when
the word "Fire!" was about to be given, the _Didon's_ flag fluttered
reluctantly down; she had struck!

The toils of the _Phoenix_, however, were not even yet ended.  The ship
she had captured was practically a wreck, its mainmast tottering to its
fall, while the prisoners greatly exceeded in numbers their captors.
The little _Phoenix_ courageously took her big prize in tow, and laid
her course for Plymouth.  Once the pair of crippled frigates were
chased by the whole of Villeneuve's fleet; once, by a few chance words
overheard, a plot amongst the French prisoners for seizing the
_Phoenix_ and then retaking the _Didon_ was detected--almost too
late--and thwarted.  The _Phoenix_, and her prize too, reached
Gibraltar when a thick fog lay on the straits, a fog which, as the
sorely damaged ships crept through it, was full of the sound of signal
guns and the ringing of bells.  The Franco-Spanish fleet, in a word, a
procession of giants, went slowly past the crippled ships in the fog,
and never saw them!

On September 3, however, the _Phoenix_ safely brought her hard-won and
stubborn-guarded prize safely into Plymouth Sound.

The fight between the two ships was marked by many heroic incidents.
During the action the very invalids in the sick-bay of the _Phoenix_
crept from their cots and tried to take some feeble part in the fight.
The purser is not usually part of the fighting staff of a ship, but the
acting purser of the _Phoenix_, while her captain was in the
smoke-filled cabin below, trying to rig up a gun to bear on the
_Didon_, took charge of the quarter-deck, kept his post right opposite
the brazen mouth of the great carronade we have described, and, with a
few marines, kept down the fire.  A little middy had the distinction of
saving his captain's life.  The _Didon's_ bowsprit was thrust, like the
shaft of a gigantic lance, over the quarter of the _Phoenix_, and a
Frenchman, lying along it, levelled his musket at Captain Baker, not
six paces distant, and took deliberate aim.  A middy named Phillips,
armed with a musket as big as himself, saw the levelled piece of the
Frenchman; he gave his captain an unceremonious jostle aside just as
the Frenchman's musket flashed, and with almost the same movement
discharged his own piece at the enemy.  The French bullet tore off the
rim of Captain Baker's hat, but the body of the man who fired it fell
with a splash betwixt the two ships into the water.  Here was a story,
indeed, for a middy to tell, to the admiration of all the gun-rooms in
the fleet.

The middy of the period, however, was half imp, half hero.  Another
youthful Nelson, aetat. sixteen, at the hottest stage of the
fight--probably at the moment the acting-purser was in command on the
quarter-deck--found an opportunity of getting at the purser's stores.
With jaws widely distended, he was in the act of sucking--in the
fashion so delightful to boys--a huge orange, when a musket ball, after
passing through the head of a seaman, went clean through both the
youth's distended cheeks, and this without touching a single tooth.
Whether this affected the flavour of the orange is not told, but the
historian gravely records that "when the wound in each cheek healed, a
pair of not unseemly dimples remained."  Happy middy!  He would
scarcely envy Nelson his peerage.



[Transcriber's note: The word "aetat." in the above paragraph is an
abbreviation of the Latin "aetatis", meaning "aged".]



THE BLOOD-STAINED HILL OF BUSACO


  "Who would not fight for England?
    Who would not fling a life
  I' the ring, to meet a tyrant's gage,
    And glory in the strife?
    *    *    *    *    *
  Now, fair befall our England,
    On her proud and perilous road;
  And woe and wail to those who make
    Her footprints red with blood!
  Up with our red-cross banner--roll
    A thunder-peal of drums!
  Fight on there, every valiant soul,
    And, courage!  England comes!
  Now, fair befall our England,
    On her proud and perilous road;
  And woe and wail to those who make
    Her footprints red with blood!

  Now, victory to our England!
    And where'er she lifts her hand
  In Freedom's fight, to rescue Right,
    God bless the dear old land!
  And when the storm has passed away,
    In glory and in calm
  May she sit down i' the green o' the day,
    And sing her peaceful psalm!
  Now, victory to our England!
    And where'er she lifts her hand
  In Freedom's fight, to rescue Right,
    God bless the dear old land!"
            --GERALD MASSEY.


Busaco is, perhaps, the most picturesque of Peninsular battles.  In the
wild nature of the ground over which it raged, the dramatic incidents
which marked its progress, the furious daring of the assault, and the
stern valour of the defence, it is almost without a rival.  The French
had every advantage in the fight, save one.  They were 65,000 strong,
an army of veterans, many of them the men of Austerlitz and Marengo.
Massena led; Ney was second in command; both facts being pledges of
daring generalship.  The English were falling sullenly back in the long
retreat which ended at Torres Vedras, and the French were in exultant
pursuit.  Massena had announced that he was going to "drive the leopard
into the sea"; and French soldiers, it may be added, are never so
dangerous as when on fire with the _élan_ of success.

Wellington's army was inferior to its foe in numbers, and of mixed
nationality, and it is probable that retreat had loosened the fibre of
even British discipline, if not of British courage.  Two days before
Busaco, for example, the light division, the very flower of the English
army, was encamped in a pine-wood about which a peasant had warned them
that it was "haunted."  During the night, without signal or visible
cause, officers and men, as though suddenly smitten with frenzy,
started from their sleep and dispersed in all directions.  Nor could
the mysterious panic be stayed until some officer, shrewder than the
rest, shouted the order, "Prepare to receive cavalry," when the
instinct of discipline asserted itself, the men rushed into rallying
squares, and, with huge shouts of laughter, recovered themselves from
their panic.

But battle is to the British soldier a tonic, and when Wellington drew
up his lines in challenge of battle to his pursuer, on the great hill
of Busaco, his red-coated soldiery were at least full of a grim
satisfaction.  One of the combatants has described the diverse aspects
of the two hosts on the night before the fight.  "The French were all
bustle and gaiety; but along the whole English line the soldiers, in
stern silence, examined their flints, cleaned their locks and barrels,
and then stretched themselves on the ground to rest, each with his
firelock within his grasp."  The single advantage of the British lay in
their position.  Busaco is a great hill, one of the loftiest and most
rugged in Portugal, eight miles in breadth, and barring the road by
which Massena was moving on Lisbon.  "There are certainly," said
Wellington, "many bad roads in Portugal, but the enemy has taken
decidedly the worst in the whole kingdom."

The great ridge, with its gloomy tree-clad heights and cloven crest,
round which the mists hung in sullen vapour, was an ideal position for
defence.  In its front was a valley forming a natural ditch so deep
that the eye could scarcely pierce its depths.  The ravine at one point
was so narrow that the English and French guns waged duel across it,
but on the British side the chasm was almost perpendicular.

From their eyrie perch on September 27, 1810, the English watched
Massena's great host coming on.  Every eminence sparkled with their
bayonets, every road was crowded with their waggons; it seemed not so
much the march of an army as the movement of a nation.  The vision of
"grim Busaco's iron ridge," glittering with bayonets, arrested the
march of the French.  But Ney, whose military glance was keen and sure,
saw that the English arrangements were not yet complete; an unfilled
gap, three miles wide, parted the right wing from the left, and he was
eager for an immediate attack.  Massena, however, was ten miles in the
rear.  According to Marbot, who has left a spirited account of Busaco,
Massena put off the attack till the next day, and thus threw away a
great opportunity.  In the gloomy depths of the ravines, however, a war
of skirmishers broke out, and the muskets rang loudly through the
echoing valleys, while the puffs of eddying white smoke rose through
the black pines.  But night fell, and the mountain heights above were
crowned with the bivouac fires of 100,000 warriors, over whom the
serene sky glittered.  Presently a bitter wind broke on the mountain
summits, and all through the night the soldiers shivered under its keen
blast.

Massena's plan of attack was simple and daring.  Ney was to climb the
steep front on the English left, and assail the light division under
Craufurd; Regnier, with a _corps d'élite_, was to attack the English
left, held by Picton's division.  Regnier formed his attack into five
columns while the stars were yet glittering coldly in the morning sky.
They had first to plunge into the savage depths of the ravine, and then
climb the steep slope leading to the English position.  The vigour of
the attack was magnificent.  General Merle, who had won fame at
Austerlitz, personally led the charge.  At a run the columns went down
the ravine; at a run, scarcely less swift, they swept up the hostile
slope.  The guns smote the columns from end to end, and the attack left
behind it a broad crimson trail of the dead and dying.  But it never
paused.  A wave of steel and fire and martial tumult, it swept up the
hill, broke over the crest in a spray of flame, brushed aside a
Portuguese regiment in its path like a wisp of straw, and broke on the
lines of the third division.

The pressure was too great for even the solid English line to sustain;
it, too, yielded to the impetuous French, part of whom seized the rocks
at the highest point of the hill, while another part wheeled to the
right, intending to sweep the summit of the sierra.  It was an
astonishing feat.  Only French soldiers, magnificently led and in a
mood of victory, could have done it; and only British soldiers, it may
be added, whom defeat hardens, could have restored such a reverse.

Picton was in command, and he sent at the French a wing of the 88th,
the famous Connaught Rangers, led by Colonel Wallace, an officer in
whom Wellington reposed great confidence.  Wallace's address was brief
and pertinent.  "Press them to the muzzle, Connaught Rangers; press on
to the rascals."  There is no better fighting material in the world
than an Irish regiment well led and in a high state of discipline, and
this matchless regiment, with levelled bayonets, ran in on the French
with a grim and silent fury there was no denying.  Vain was resistance.
Marbot says of the Rangers that "their first volley, delivered at
fifteen paces, stretched more than 500 men on the ground"; and the
threatening gleam of the bayonet followed fiercely on the flame of the
musket.

The French were borne, shouting, struggling, and fighting desperately,
over the crest and down the deep slope to the ravine below.  In a
whirlwind of dust and fire and clamour went the whole body of furious
soldiery into the valley, leaving a broad track of broken arms and
dying men.  According to the regimental records of the 88th, "Twenty
minutes sufficed to teach the heroes of Marengo and Austerlitz that
they must yield to the Rangers of Connaught!"  As the breathless
Rangers re-formed triumphantly on the ridge, Wellington galloped up and
declared he had never witnessed a more gallant charge.

But a wing of Regnier's attack had formed at right angles across the
ridge.  It was pressing forward with stern resolution; it swept before
it the light companies of the 74th and 88th regiments, and unless this
attack could be arrested the position and the battle were lost.  Picton
rallied his broken lines within _sixty yards_ of the French muskets, a
feat not the least marvellous in a marvellous fight, and then sent them
furiously at the exulting French, who held a strong position amongst
the rocks.  It is always difficult to disentangle the confusion which
marks a great fight.  Napier says that it was Cameron who formed line
with the 38th under a violent fire, and, without returning a shot, ran
in upon the French grenadiers with the bayonet and hurled them
triumphantly over the crest.  Picton, on the other hand, declares that
it was the light companies of the 74th and the 88th, under Major Smith,
an officer of great daring--who fell in the moment of victory--that
flung the last French down over the cliff.  Who can decide when such
experts, and actors in the actual scene, differ?

The result, however, as seen from the French side, is clear.  The
French, Marbot records, "found themselves driven in a heap down the
deep descent up which they had climbed, and the English lines followed
them half-way down firing murderous volleys.  At this point we lost a
general, 2 colonels, 80 officers, and 700 or 800 men."  "The English,"
he adds in explanation of this dreadful loss of life, "were the best
marksmen in Europe, the only troops who were perfectly practised in the
use of small arms, whence their firing was far more accurate than that
of any other infantry."

A gleam of humour at this point crosses the grim visage of battle.
Picton, on lying down in his bivouac the night before the battle, had
adorned his head with a picturesque and highly coloured nightcap.  The
sudden attack of the French woke him; he clapped on cloak and cocked
hat, and rode to the fighting line, when he personally led the attack
which flung the last of Regnier's troops down the slope.  At the moment
of the charge he took off his cocked hat to wave the troops onward;
this revealed the domestic head-dress he unconsciously wore, and the
astonished soldiers beheld their general on flame with warlike fury
gesticulating martially in a nightcap!  A great shout of laughter went
up from the men as they stopped for a moment to realise the spectacle;
then with a tempest of mingled laughter and cheers they flung
themselves on the enemy.

Meanwhile Ney had formed his attack on the English left, held by
Craufurd and the famous light division.  Marbot praises the
characteristic tactics of the British in such fights.  "After having,
as we do," he says, "garnished their front with skirmishers, they post
their principal forces out of sight, holding them all the time
sufficiently near to the key of the position to be able to attack the
enemy the instant they reach it; and this attack, made unexpectedly on
assailants who have lost heavily, and think the victory already theirs,
succeeds almost invariably."  "We had," he adds, "a melancholy
experience of this art at Busaco."  Craufurd, a soldier of fine skill,
made exactly such a disposition of his men.  Some rocks at the edge of
the ravine formed natural embrasures for the English guns under Ross;
below them the Rifles were flung out as skirmishers; behind them the
German infantry were the only visible troops; but in a fold of the
hill, unseen, Craufurd held the 43rd and 52nd regiments drawn up in
line.

Ney's attack, as might be expected, was sudden and furious.  The
English, in the grey dawn, looking down the ravine, saw three huge
masses start from the French lines and swarm up the slope.  To climb an
ascent so steep, vexed by skirmishers on either flank, and scourged by
the guns which flashed from the summit, was a great and most daring
feat--yet the French did it.  Busaco, indeed, is memorable as showing
the French fighting quality at its highest point.  General Simon led
Loison's attack right up to the lips of the English guns, and in the
dreadful charge its order was never disturbed nor its speed arrested.
"Ross's guns," says Napier, "were worked with incredible quickness, yet
their range was palpably contracted every round; the enemy's shot came
singing up in a sharper key; the English skirmishers, breathless and
begrimed with powder, rushed over the edge of the ascent; the artillery
drew back"--and over the edge of the hill came the bearskins and the
gleaming bayonets of the French!  General Simon led the attack so
fiercely home that he was the first to leap across the English
entrenchments, when an infantry soldier, lingering stubbornly after his
comrades had fallen back, shot him point-blank through the face.  The
unfortunate general, when the fight was over, was found lying in the
redoubt amongst the dying and the dead, with scarcely a human feature
left.  He recovered, was sent as a prisoner to England, and was
afterwards exchanged, but his horrible wound made it impossible for him
to serve again.

Craufurd had been watching meanwhile with grim coolness the onward rush
of the French.  They came storming and exultant, a wave of martial
figures, edged with a spray of fire and a tossing fringe of bayonets,
over the summit of the hill; when suddenly Craufurd, in a shrill tone,
called on his reserves to attack.  In an instant there rose, as if out
of the ground, before the eyes of the astonished French, the serried
lines of the 43rd and 52nd, and what a moment before was empty space
was now filled with the frowning visage of battle.  The British lines
broke into one stern and deep-toned shout, and 1800 bayonets, in one
long line of gleaming points, came swiftly down upon the French.  To
stand against that moving hedge of deadly and level steel was
impossible; yet each man in the leading section of the French raised
his musket and fired, and two officers and ten soldiers fell before
them.  Not a Frenchman had missed his mark!  They could do no more.
"The head of their column," to quote Napier, "was violently thrown back
upon the rear, both flanks were overlapped at the same moment by the
English wings, and three terrible discharges at five yards' distance
shattered the wavering mass."  Before those darting points of flame the
pride of the French shrivelled.  Shining victory was converted, in
almost the passage of an instant, into bloody defeat; and a shattered
mass, with ranks broken, and colours abandoned, and discipline
forgotten, the French were swept into the depths of the ravine out of
which they had climbed.

One of the dramatic episodes of the fight at this juncture is that of
Captain Jones--known in his regiment as "Jack Jones" of the 52nd.
Jones was a fiery Welshman, and led his company in the rush on General
Simon's column.  The French were desperately trying to deploy, a
_chef-de-bataillon_ giving the necessary orders with great vehemence.
Jones ran ahead of his charging men, outstripping them by speed of
foot, challenged the French officer with a warlike gesture to single
combat, and slew him with one fierce thrust before his own troops, and
the 52nd, as they came on at the run, saw the duel and its result, were
lifted by it to a mood of victory, and raised a sudden shout of
exultation, which broke the French as by a blast of musketry fire.

For hours the battle spluttered and smouldered amongst the skirmishers
in the ravines, and some gallant episodes followed.  Towards evening,
for example, a French company, with signal audacity, and apparently on
its own private impulse, seized a cluster of houses only half a musket
shot from the light division, and held it while Craufurd scourged them
with the fire of twelve guns.  They were only turned out at the point
of the bayonet by the 43rd.  But the battle was practically over, and
the English had beaten, by sheer hard fighting, the best troops and the
best marshals of France.

In the fierceness of actual fighting, Busaco has never been surpassed,
and seldom did the wounded and dying lie thicker on a battlefield than
where the hostile lines struggled together on that fatal September 27.
The _melée_ at some points was too close for even the bayonet to be
used, and the men fought with fists or with the butt-end of their
muskets.  From the rush which swept Regnier's men down the slope the
Connaught Rangers came back with faces and hands and weapons literally
splashed red with blood.  The firing was so fierce that Wellington,
with his whole staff, dismounted.  Napier, however--one of the famous
fighting trio of that name, who afterwards conquered Scinde--fiercely
refused to dismount, or even cover his red uniform with a cloak.  "This
is the uniform of my regiment," he said, "and in it I will show, or
fall this day."  He had scarcely uttered the words when a bullet
smashed through his face and shattered his jaw to pieces.  As he was
carried past Lord Wellington he waved his hand and whispered through
his torn mouth, "I could not die at a better moment!"  Of such stuff
were the men who fought under Wellington in the Peninsula.



OF NELSON AND THE NILE


  "Britannia needs no bulwarks,
    No towers along the steep;
  Her march is o'er the mountain waves,
    Her home is on the deep.
  With thunders from her native oak,
    She quells the floods below,
  As they roar on the shore
    When the stormy winds do blow;
  When the battle rages loud and long,
    And the stormy winds do blow.

  The meteor flag of England
    Shall yet terrific burn,
  Till danger's troubled night depart,
    And the star of peace return.
  Then, then, ye ocean warriors,
    Our song and feast shall flow
  To the fame of your name,
    When the storm has ceased to blow;
  When the fiery fight is heard no more,
    And the storm has ceased to blow."
            --CAMPBELL.


Aboukir Bay resembles nothing so much as a piece bitten out of the
Egyptian pancake.  A crescent-shaped bay, patchy with shoals,
stretching from the Rosetta mouth of the Nile to Aboukir, or, as it is
now called, Nelson Island, that island being simply the outer point of
a sandbank that projects from the western horn of the bay.  Flat
shores, grey-blue Mediterranean waters, two horns of land six miles
apart, that to the north projecting farthest and forming a low
island--this, ninety-eight years ago, was the scene of what might
almost be described as the greatest sea-fight in history.

On the evening of August 1, 1798, thirteen great battleships lay drawn
up in a single line parallel with the shore, and as close to it as the
sandbanks permitted.  The head ship was almost stern on to the shoal
which, running out at right angles to the shore, forms Aboukir Island.
The nose of each succeeding ship was exactly 160 yards from the stern
of the ship before it, and, allowing for one or two gaps, each ship was
bound by a great cable to its neighbour.  It was a thread of beads,
only each "bead" was a battleship, whose decks swarmed with brave men,
and from whose sides gaped the iron lips of more than a thousand heavy
guns.  The line was not exactly straight; it formed a very obtuse
angle, the projecting point at the centre being formed by the _Orient_,
the biggest warship at that moment afloat, a giant of 120 guns.

Next to her came the _Franklin_, of 80 guns, a vessel which, if not the
biggest, was perhaps the finest sample of naval architecture in
existence.  The line of ships was more than one mile and a half long,
and consisted of the gigantic flagship, three ships of the line of 80
guns, and nine of 74 guns.  In addition, it had a fringe of gunboats
and frigates, while a battery of mortars on the island guarded, as with
a sword of fire, the gap betwixt the headmost ship and the island.
This great fleet had convoyed Napoleon, with 36,000 troops crowded into
400 transports, from France, had captured Malta on the voyage, and
three weeks before had safely landed Napoleon and his soldiers in
Egypt.  The French admiral, Bruéys, knew that Nelson was coming
furiously in his track, and after a consultation with all his captains
he had drawn up his ships in the order which we have described, a
position he believed to be unassailable.  And at three o'clock on the
afternoon of August 1, 1798, his look-outs were eagerly watching the
white topsails showing above the lee line, the van of Nelson's fleet.

Napoleon had kept the secret of his Egyptian expedition well, and the
great Toulon fleet, with its swarm of transports, had vanished round
the coast of Corsica and gone off into mere space, as far as a
bewildered British Admiralty knew.  A fleet of thirteen 74-gun ships
and one of 50 guns was placed under Nelson's flag.  He was ordered to
pursue and destroy the vanished French fleet, and with characteristic
energy he set out on one of the most dramatic sea-chases known to
history.  With the instinct of genius he guessed that Napoleon's
destination was Egypt; but while the French fleet coasted Sardinia and
went to the west of Sicily, Nelson ran down the Italian coast to
Naples, called there for information, found none, and, carrying all
sail, swept through the straits of Messina.

On the night of June 22 the two fleets actually crossed each other's
tracks.  The French fleet, including the transports, numbered 572
vessels, and their lights, it might be imagined, would have lit up many
leagues of sea.  Yet, through this forest of hostile masts the English
fleet, with keen eyes watching at every masthead, swept and saw
nothing.  Nelson, for one thing, had no frigates to serve as eyes and
ears for him; his fleet in sailor-like fashion formed a compact body,
three parallel lines of phantom-like pyramids of canvas sweeping in the
darkness across the floor of the sea.  Above all a haze filled the
night; and it is not too much to say that the drifting grey vapour
which hid the French ships from Nelson's lookout men changed the face
of history.

Nelson used to explain that his ideal of perfect enjoyment would be to
have the chance of "trying Bonaparte on a wind"; and if he had caught
sound of bell or gleam of lantern from the great French fleet, and
brought it to action in the darkness of that foggy night, can any one
doubt what the result would have been?  Nelson would have done off the
coast of Sicily on June 22, 1798, what Wellington did on June 18, 1815;
and in that case there would have been no Marengo or Austerlitz, no
retreat from Moscow, no Peninsular war, and no Waterloo.  For so much,
in distracted human affairs, may a patch of drifting vapour count!

Nelson, in a word, overran his prey.  He reached Alexandria to find the
coast empty; doubled back to Sicily, zigzagging on his way by Cyprus
and Candia; and twelve hours after he had left Alexandria the topsails
of the French fleet hove in sight from that port.  Napoleon's troops
were safely landed, and the French admiral had some four weeks in which
to prepare for Nelson's return, and at 3 P.M. on August 1 the gliding
topsails of the _Swiftsure_ above Aboukir Island showed that the
tireless Englishman had, after nearly three months of pursuit,
overtaken his enemy.

The French, if frigates be included, counted seventeen ships to
fourteen, and ship for ship they had the advantage over the British
alike in crew, tonnage, and weight of fire.  In size the English ships
scarcely averaged 1500 tons; the French ships exceeded 2000 tons.
Nelson had only seventy-fours, his heaviest gun being a 32-pounder.
The average French 80-gun ship in every detail of fighting strength
exceeded an English ninety-eight, and Bruéys had three such ships in
his fleet; while his own flagship, the _Orient_, was fully equal to two
English seventy-fours.  Its weight of ball on the lower deck alone
exceeded that from the whole broadside of the _Bellerophon_, the ship
that engaged it.  The French, in brief, had an advantage in guns of
about twenty per cent., and in men of over thirty per cent.  Bruéys,
moreover, was lying in a carefully chosen position in a dangerous bay,
of which his enemies possessed no chart, and the head of his line was
protected by a powerful shore battery.

Nothing in this great fight is more dramatic than the swiftness and
vehemence of Nelson's attack.  He simply leaped upon his enemy at
sight.  Four of his ships were miles off in the offing, but Nelson did
not wait for them.  In the long pursuit he had assembled his captains
repeatedly in his cabin, and discussed every possible manner of
attacking the French fleet.  If he found the fleet as he guessed, drawn
up in battle-line close in-shore and anchored, his plan was to place
one of his ships on the bows, another on the quarter, of each French
ship in succession.

It has been debated who actually evolved the idea of rounding the head
of the French line and attacking on both faces.  One version is that
Foley, in the _Goliath_, who led the British line, owed the suggestion
to a keen-eyed middy who pointed out that the anchor buoy of the
headmost French ship was at such a distance from the ship itself as to
prove there was room to pass.  But the weight of evidence seems to
prove that Nelson himself, as he rounded Aboukir Island, and scanned
with fierce and questioning vision Bruéys' formation, with that
swiftness of glance in which he almost rivalled Napoleon, saw his
chance in the gap between the leading French ship and the shore.
"Where a French ship can swing," he held, "an English ship can either
sail or anchor."  And he determined to double on the French line and
attack on both faces at once.  He explained his plan to Berry, his
captain, who in his delight exclaimed, "If we succeed, what will the
world say?"  "There is no 'if' in the case," said Nelson; "that we
shall succeed is certain; who will live to tell the story is a very
different question."

[Illustration: THE BATTLE OF THE NILE.  Doubling on the French Line.
From Allen's "Battles of the British Navy."]

Bruéys had calculated that the English fleet must come down
perpendicularly to his centre, and each ship in the process be raked by
a line of fire a mile and a half long; but the moment the English ships
rounded the island they tacked, hugged the shore, and swept through the
gap between the leading vessel and the land.  The British ships were so
close to each other that Nelson, speaking from his own quarter-deck,
was able to ask Hood in the _Zealous_, if he thought they had water
enough to round the French line.  Hood replied that he had no chart,
but would lead and take soundings as he went.

So the British line came on, the men on the yards taking in canvas, the
leadsmen in the chains coolly calling the soundings.  The battery
roared from the island, the leading French ships broke into smoke and
flame, but the steady British line glided on.  The _Goliath_ by this
time led; and at half-past five the shadow of its tall masts cast by
the westering sun fell over the decks of the _Guerrier_, and as Foley,
its captain, swept past the Frenchman's bows, he poured in a furious
broadside, bore swiftly up, and dropped--as Nelson, with that minute
attention to detail which marks a great commander, had ordered all his
captains--an anchor from the stern, so that, without having to "swing,"
he was instantly in a fighting position on his enemy's quarter.  Foley,
however, dropped his anchor a moment too late, and drifted on to the
second ship in the line; but Hood, in the _Zealous_, coming swiftly
after, also raked the _Guerrier_, and, anchoring from the stern at the
exact moment, took the place on its quarter Foley should have taken.

The _Orion_ came into battle next, blasted the unfortunate _Guerrier_,
whose foremast had already gone, with a third broadside, and swept
outside the _Zealous_ and _Goliath_ down to the third ship on the
French line.  A French frigate, the _Sérieuse_, of thirty-six guns,
anchored inside the French line, ventured to fire on the _Orion_ as it
swept past, whereupon Saumarez, its commander, discharged his starboard
broadside into that frigate.  The _Sérieuse_ reeled under the shock of
the British guns, its masts disappeared like chips, and the unfortunate
Frenchman went down like a stone; while Saumarez, laying himself on the
larboard bow of the _Franklin_ and the quarter of the _Peuple Sovrain_,
broke upon them in thunder.  The _Theseus_ followed hard in the track
of the _Orion_, raked the unhappy _Guerrier_ in the familiar fashion
while crossing its bows, then swept through the narrow water-lane
betwixt the _Goliath_ and _Zealous_ and their French antagonists,
poured a smashing broadside into each French ship as it passed, then
shot outside the _Orion_, and anchored with mathematical nicety off the
quarter of the _Spartiate_.  The water-lane was not a pistol-shot wide,
and this feat of seamanship was marvellous.

Miller, who commanded the _Theseus_, in a letter to his wife described
the fight.  "In running along the enemy's line in the wake of the
_Zealous_ and _Goliath_, I observed," he says, "their shot sweep just
over us, and knowing well that at such a moment Frenchmen would not
have coolness enough to change their elevation, I closed them suddenly,
and, running under the arch of their shot, reserved my fire, every gun
being loaded with two, and some with three round shot, until I had the
_Guerrier's_ masts in a line, and her jib-boom about six feet clear of
our rigging.  We then opened with such effect that a second breath
could not be drawn before her main and mizzen-mast were also gone.
This was precisely at sunset, or forty-four minutes past six."

The _Audacious_, meanwhile, was too impatient to tack round the head of
the French line; it broke through the gap betwixt the first and second
ships of the enemy, delivered itself, in a comfortable manner, of a
raking broadside into both as it passed, took its position on the
larboard bow of the _Conquerant_, and gave itself up to the joy of
battle.  Within thirty minutes from the beginning of the fight, that
is, five British line-of-battle ships were inside the French line,
comfortably established on the bows or quarters of the leading ships.
Nelson himself, in the _Vanguard_, anchored on the outside of the
French line, within eighty yards of the _Spartiate's_ starboard beam;
the _Minotaur_, the _Bellerophon_, and the _Majestic_, coming up in
swift succession, and at less than five minutes' interval from each
other, flung themselves on the next ships.

How the thunder of the battle deepened, and how the quick flashes of
the guns grew brighter as the night gathered rapidly over sea, must be
imagined.  But Nelson's swift and brilliant strategy was triumphant.
Each ship in the French van resembled nothing so much as a walnut in
the jaws of a nut-cracker.  They were being "cracked" in succession,
and the rear of the line could only look on with agitated feelings and
watch the operation.

The fire of the British ships for fury and precision was overwhelming.
The head of the _Guerrier_ was simply shot away; the anchors hanging
from her bows were cut in two; her main-deck ports, from the bowsprit
to the gangway, were driven into one; her masts, fallen inboard, lay
with their tangle of rigging on the unhappy crew; while some of her
main-deck beams--all supports being torn away--fell on the guns.  Hood,
in the _Zealous_, who was pounding the unfortunate _Guerrier_, says,
"At last, being tired of killing men in that way, I sent a lieutenant
on board, who was allowed, as I had instructed him, to hoist a light,
and haul it down as a sign of submission."  But all the damage was not
on the side of the French.  The great French flagship, the _Orient_, by
this time had added her mighty voice to the tumult, and the
_Bellerophon_, who was engaged with her, had a bad time of it.  It was
the story of Tom Sayers and Heenan over again--a dwarf fighting a
giant.  Her mizzen-mast and mainmast were shot away, and after
maintaining the dreadful duel for more than an hour, and having 200 of
her crew struck down, at 8.20 P.M. the _Bellerophon_ cut her cable and
drifted, a disabled wreck, out of the fire.

Meanwhile the four ships Nelson had left in the offing were beating
furiously up to add themselves to the fight.  Night had fallen, by the
time Troubridge, in the _Culloden_, came round the island; and then, in
full sight of the great battle, the _Culloden_ ran hopelessly ashore!
She was, perhaps, the finest ship of the British fleet, and the
emotions of its crew and commander as they listened to the tumult, and
watched through the darkness the darting fires of the Titanic combat
they could not share, may be imagined.  "Our army," according to
well-known authorities, "swore terribly in Flanders."  The expletives
discharged that night along the decks and in the forecastle of the
Culloden would probably have made even a Flanders veteran open his eyes
in astonishment.

The _Swiftsure_ and the _Alexander_, taking warning by the _Culloden's_
fate, swept round her and bore safely up to the fight.  The
_Swiftsure_, bearing down through the darkness to the combat, came
across a vessel drifting, dismasted and lightless, a mere wreck.
Holliwell, the captain of the _Swiftsure_, was about to fire, thinking
it was an enemy, but on second thoughts hailed instead, and got for an
answer the words, "_Bellerophon_; going out of action, disabled."  The
_Swiftsure_ passed on, and five minutes after the _Bellerophon_ had
drifted from the bows of the _Orient_ the _Swiftsure_, coming
mysteriously up out of the darkness, took her place, and broke into a
tempest of fire.

At nine o'clock the great French flagship burst into flame.  The
painters had been at work upon her on the morning of that day, and had
left oil and combustibles about.  The nearest English ships
concentrated their fire, both of musketry and of cannon, on the burning
patch, and made the task of extinguishing it hopeless.  Bruéys, the
French admiral, had already been cut in two by a cannon shot, and
Casablanca, his commodore, was wounded.  The fire spread, the flames
leaped up the masts and crept athwart the decks of the great ship.  The
moon had just risen, and the whole scene was perhaps the strangest ever
witnessed--the great burning ship, the white light of the moon above,
the darting points of red flame from the iron lips of hundreds of guns
below, the drifting battle-smoke, the cries of ten thousand
combatants--all crowded into an area of a few hundred square yards!

The British ships, hanging like hounds on the flanks of the Orient,
knew that the explosion might come at any moment, and they made every
preparation for it, closing their hatchways, and gathering their
firemen at quarters.  But they would not withdraw their ships a single
yard!  At ten o'clock the great French ship blew up with a flame that
for a moment lit shore and sea, and a sound that hushed into stillness
the whole tumult of the battle.  Out of a crew of over a thousand men
only seventy were saved!  For ten minutes after that dreadful sight the
warring fleets seemed stupefied.  Not a shout was heard, not a shot
fired.  Then the French ship next the missing flagship broke into
wrathful fire, and the battle awoke in full passion once more.

The fighting raged with partial intermissions all through the night,
and when morning broke Bruéys' curved line of mighty battleships, a
mile and a half long, had vanished.  Of the French ships, one had been
blown up, one was sunk, one was ashore, four had fled, the rest were
prizes.  It was the most complete and dramatic victory in naval
history.  The French fought on the whole with magnificent courage; but,
though stronger in the mass, Nelson's strategy and the seamanship of
his captains made the British stronger at every point of actual battle.
The rear of the French line did not fire a shot or lose a man.  The
wonder is that when Nelson's strategy was developed, and its fatal
character understood, Villeneuve, who commanded the French rear, and
was a man of undoubted courage, did not cut his cables, make sail, and
come to the help of his comrades.  A few hundred yards would have
carried him to the heart of the fight.  Can any one doubt whether, if
the positions had been reversed, Nelson would have watched the
destruction of half his fleet as a mere spectator?  If nothing better
had offered, he would have pulled in a wash-tub into the fight!

Villeneuve afterwards offered three explanations of his own
inertness--(1) he "could not spare any of his anchors"; (2) "he had no
instructions"! (3) "on board the ships in the rear the idea of weighing
and going to the help of the ships engaged occurred to no one"!  In
justice to the French, however, it may be admitted that nothing could
surpass the fierceness and valour with which, say, the _Tonnant_ was
fought.  Its captain, Du Petit-Thouars, fought his ship magnificently,
had first both his arms and then one of his legs shot away, and died
entreating his officers not to strike.  Of the ten French ships
engaged, the captains of eight were killed or wounded.  Nelson took the
seven wounded captains on board the _Vanguard_, and, as they recovered,
they dined regularly with him.  One of the captains had lost his nose,
another an eye, another most of his teeth, with musket-shots, &c.
Nelson, who himself had been wounded, and was still half-blind as a
result, at one of his dinners offered by mischance a case of toothpicks
to the captain on his left, who had lost all his teeth.  He discovered
his error, and in his confusion handed his snuff-box to the captain on
his right, who had lost his nose!

What was the secret of the British victory?  Nelson's brilliant
strategy was only possible by virtue of the magnificent seamanship of
his captains, and the new fashion of close and desperate fighting,
which Hood and Jarvis and Nelson himself had created.  It is a French
writer, Captain Gravière, who says that the French naval habit of
evading battle where they could, and of accepting action from an enemy
rather than forcing it upon him, had ruined the _morale_ of the French
navy.  The long blockades had made Nelson's captains perfect seamen,
and he taught them that close fighting at pistol-shot distance was the
secret of victory.  "No English captain," he said, "can do wrong who,
in fight, lays a ship alongside an enemy."  It was a captain of
Nelson's school--a Scotchman--who at Camperdown, unable, just as the
action began, to read some complicated signal from his chief, flung his
signal-book on the deck, and in broad Scotch exclaimed, "D---- me! up
with the hellem an' gang in the middle o't."  That trick of "ganging
into the middle o't" was irresistible.

The battle of the Nile destroyed the naval prestige of France, made
England supreme in the Mediterranean, saved India, left Napoleon and
his army practically prisoners in Egypt, and united Austria, Russia,
and Turkey in league against France.  The night battle in Aboukir Bay,
in a word, changed the face of history.



THE FUSILEERS AT ALBUERA


  "And nearer, fast and nearer,
    Doth the red whirlwind come;
  And louder still, and still more loud,
  From underneath that rolling cloud,
  Is heard the trumpet's war-note proud,
    The trampling and the hum.
  And plainly, and more plainly,
    Now through the gloom appears,
  Far to left and far to right,
  In broken gleams of dark-blue light,
  The long array of helmets bright,
    The long array of spears."
            --MACAULAY.


Albuera is the fiercest, bloodiest, and most amazing fight in the mighty
drama of the Peninsular war.  On May 11, 1811, the English guns were
thundering sullenly over Badajos.  Wellington was beyond the Guadiana,
pressing Marmont; and Beresford, with much pluck but little skill, was
besieging the great frontier fortress.  Soult, however, a master of war,
was swooping down from Seville to raise the siege.  On the 14th he
reached Villafranca, only thirty miles distant, and fired salvos from his
heaviest guns all through the night to warn the garrison of approaching
succour.  Beresford could not both maintain the siege and fight Soult;
and on the night of the 13th he abandoned his trenches, burnt his gabions
and fascines, and marched to meet Soult at Albuera, a low ridge, with a
shallow river in front, which barred the road to Badajos.  As the morning
of May 16, 1811, broke, heavy with clouds, and wild with gusty
rain-storms, the two armies grimly gazed at each other in stern pause,
ere they joined in the wrestle of actual battle.

All the advantages, save one, were on the side of the French.  Soult was
the ablest of the French marshals.  If he had not Ney's _élan_ in attack,
or Massena's stubborn resource in retreat, yet he had a military genius,
since Lannes was dead, second only to that of Napoleon himself.  He had
under his command 20,000 war-hardened infantry, 40 guns, and 4000
magnificent cavalry, commanded by Latour Maubourg, one of the most
brilliant of French cavalry generals.  Beresford, the British commander,
had the dogged fighting courage, half Dutch and half English, of his name
and blood; but as a commander he was scarcely third-rate.  Of his army of
30,000, 15,000 were Spanish, half drilled, and more than half
starved--they had lived for days on horse-flesh--under Blake, a general
who had lost all the good qualities of Irish character, and acquired all
the bad ones peculiar to Spanish temper.  Of Beresford's remaining troop
8000 were Portuguese; he had only 7000 British soldiers.

Beresford ought not to have fought.  He had abandoned the siege at
Badajos, and no reason for giving battle remained.  The condition of
Blake's men, no doubt, made retreat difficult.  They had reached the
point at which they must either halt or lie down and die.  The real force
driving Beresford to battle, however, was the fighting effervescence in
his own blood and the warlike impatience of his English troops.  They had
taken no part in the late great battles under Wellington; Busaco had been
fought and Fuentes de Onoro gained without them; and they were in the
mood, both officers and men, of fierce determination to fight _somebody_!
This was intimated somewhat roughly to Beresford, and he had not that
iron ascendency over his troops Wellington possessed.  As a matter of
fact, he was himself as stubbornly eager to fight as any private in the
ranks.

The superiority of Soult's warlike genius was shown before a shot was
fired.  Beresford regarded the bridge that crossed the Albuera and the
village that clustered at the bridge-head as the key of his position.  He
occupied the village with Alten's German brigade, covered the bridge with
the fire of powerful batteries, and held in reserve above it his best
British brigade, the fusileers, under Cole, the very regiments who, four
hours later, on the extreme right of Beresford's position, were actually
to win the battle.  Soult's sure vision, however, as he surveyed his
enemies on the evening of the 15th, saw that Beresford's right was his
weak point.  It was a rough, broken table-land, curving till it looked
into the rear of Beresford's line.  It was weakly held by Blake and his
Spaniards.  Immediately in its front was a low wooded hill, behind which,
as a screen, an attacking force could be gathered.

In the night Soult placed behind this hill the fifth corps, under Gerard,
the whole of his cavalry, under Latour Maubourg, and the strength of his
artillery.  When the morning broke, Soult had 15,000 men and 30 guns
within ten minutes' march of Beresford's right wing, and nobody suspected
it.  No gleam of colour, no murmur of packed battalions, no ring of
steel, no sound of marching feet warned the deluded English general of
the battle-storm about to break on his right wing.  A commander with such
an unexpected tempest ready to burst on the weakest point of his line was
by all the rules of war pre-doomed.

At nine o'clock Soult launched an attack at the bridge, the point where
Beresford expected him, but it was only a feint.  Beresford, however,
with all his faults, had the soldierly brain to which the actual thunder
of the cannon gave clearness.  He noticed that the French battalions
supporting the attack on the bridge did not press on closely.  As a
matter of fact, as soon as the smoke of artillery from the battle raging
at the bridge swept over the field, they swung smartly to the left, and
at the double hastened to add themselves to the thunderbolt which Soult
was launching at Beresford's right.  But Beresford, meanwhile, had
guessed Soult's secret, and he sent officer after officer ordering and
entreating Blake to change front so as to meet Soult's attack on his
flank, and he finally rode thither himself to enforce his commands.
Blake, however, was immovable through pride, and his men through sheer
physical weakness.  They could die, but they could not march or deploy.
Blake at last tried to change front, but as he did so the French attack
smote him.  Pressing up the gentle rise, Gerard's men scourged poor
Blake's flank with their fire; the French artillery, coming swiftly on,
halted every fifty yards to thunder on the unhappy Spaniards; while
Latour Maubourg's lancers and hussars, galloping in a wider sweep,
gathered momentum for a wild ride on Blake's actual rear.

[Illustration: Battle of Albuera, 16th May, 1811.  From Napier's
"Peninsular War."]

Beresford tried to persuade the Spaniards to charge as the French were
thus circling round them.  Shouts and gesticulations were in vain.  He
was a man of giant height and strength, and he actually seized a Spanish
ensign in his iron grip, and carried him bodily, flag and all, at a run
for fifty yards towards the moving French lines, and planted him there.
When released, however, the bewildered Spaniard simply took to his heels
and ran back to his friends, as a terrified sheep might run back to the
flock.  In half-an-hour Beresford's battle had grown desperate.
Two-thirds of the French, in compact order of battle, were perpendicular
to his right; the Spaniards were falling into disorder.  Soult saw the
victory in his grasp, and eagerly pushed forward his reserves.  Over the
whole hill, mingled with furious blasts of rain, rolled the tumult of a
disorderly and broken fight.  Ten minutes more would have enabled Soult
to fling Beresford's right, a shattered and routed mass, on the only
possible line of retreat, and with the French superiority in cavalry his
army would have been blotted out.

The share of the British in the fight consisted of three great attacks
delivered by way of counter-stroke to Soult's overwhelming rush on the
hill held by Blake.  The first attack was delivered by the second
division, under Colborne, led by General Stewart in person.  Stewart was
a sort of British version of Ney, a man of vehement spirit, with a daring
that grew even more flame-like in the eddying tumult and tempest of
actual battle.  He saw Soult's attack crumpling up Blake's helpless
battalions, while the flash of the French artillery every moment grew
closer.  It was the crisis of the fight, and Stewart brought on
Colborne's men at a run.  Colborne himself, a fine soldier with cool
judgment, wished to halt and form his men in order of battle before
plunging into the confused vortex of the fight above; but Stewart, full
of breathless ardour, hurried the brigade up the hill in column of
companies, reached the Spanish right, and began to form line by
succession of battalions as they arrived.

At this moment a wild tempest of rain was sweeping over the British as,
at the double, they came up the hill; the eddying fog, thick and slab
with the smoke of powder, hid everything twenty yards from the panting
soldiers.  Suddenly the wall of changing fog to their right sparkled into
swiftly moving spots of red; it shone the next instant with the gleam of
a thousand steel points; above the thunder of the cannon, the shouts of
contending men, rose the awful sound of a tempest of galloping hoofs.
The French lancers and hussars caught the English in open order, and in
five fierce and bloody minutes almost trampled them out of existence!
Two-thirds of the brigade went down.  The 31st Regiment flung itself
promptly into square, and stood fast--a tiny island, edged with steel and
flame, amid the mad tumult; but the French lancers, drunk with
excitement, mad with battle fury, swept over the whole slope of the hill.
They captured six guns, and might have done yet more fatal mischief but
that they occupied themselves in galloping to and fro across the line of
their original charge, spearing the wounded.

One lancer charged Beresford as he sat, solitary and huge, on his horse
amid the broken English regiments.  But Beresford was at least a
magnificent trooper; he put the lance aside with one hand, and caught the
Frenchman by the throat, lifted him clean from his saddle, and dashed him
senseless on the ground!  The ensign who carried the colours of the 3rd
Buffs covered them with his body till he was slain by a dozen
lance-thrusts; the ensign who carried the other colours of the same
regiment tore the flag from its staff and thrust it into his breast, and
it was found there, stiff with his blood, after the fight.  The
Spaniards, meanwhile, were firing incessantly but on general principles
merely, and into space or into the ranks of their own allies as might
happen; and the 29th, advancing to the help of Colborne's broken men,
finding the Spaniards in their path and firing into their lines, broke
sternly into volleys on them in turn.  Seldom has a battlefield witnessed
a tumult so distracted and wild.

The first English counter-stroke had failed, but the second followed
swiftly.  The furious rain and fog which had proved so fatal to
Colborne's men for a moment, was in favour of Beresford.  Soult, though
eagerly watching the conflict, could not see the ruin into which the
British had fallen, and hesitated to launch his reserves into the fight.
The 31st still sternly held its own against the French cavalry, and this
gave time for Stewart to bring up Houghton's brigade.  But this time
Stewart, though he brought up his men with as much vehemence as before,
brought them up in order of battle.  The 29th, the 48th, and the 57th
swept up the hill in line, led by Houghton, hat in hand.  He fell,
pierced by three bullets; but over his dead body, eager to close, the
British line still swept.  They reached the crest.  A deep and narrow
ravine arrested their bayonet charge; but with stubborn valour they held
the ground they had gained, scourged with musketry fire at pistol-shot
distance, and by artillery at fifty yards' range, while a French column
smote them with its musketry on their flask.  The men fell fast, but
fought as they fell.  Stewart was twice wounded; Colonel Dutworth, of the
48th, slain; of the 57th, out of 570 men, 430, with their colonel,
Inglis, fell.  The men, after the battle, were found lying dead in ranks
exactly as they fought.  "Die hard! my men, die hard!" said Inglis when
the bullet struck him; and the 57th have borne the name of "Die hards"
ever since.  At Inkerman, indeed, more than fifty years afterwards, the
"Die hard!" of Inglis served to harden the valour of the 57th in a fight
as stern as Albuera itself.

But ammunition began to fail.  Houghton's men would not yield, but it was
plain that in a few more minutes there would be none of them left, save
the dead and the wounded.  And at this dreadful moment Beresford,
distracted with the tumult and horror of the fight, wavered!  He called
up Alten's men from the bridge to cover his retreat, and prepared to
yield the fatal hill.  At this juncture, however, a mind more masterful
and daring than his own launched a third British attack against the
victorious French and won the dreadful day.

Colonel Hardinge, afterwards famous in Indian battles, acted as
quartermaster-general of the Portuguese army; on his own responsibility
he organised the third English attack.  Cole had just come up the road
from Badajos with two brigades, and Hardinge urged him to lead his men
straight up the hill; then riding to Abercrombie's brigade, he ordered
him to sweep round the flank of the hill.  Beresford, on learning of this
movement, accepted it, and sent back Alten's men to retake the bridge
which they had abandoned.

Abercrombie's men swept to the left of the hill, and Cole, a gallant and
able soldier, using the Portuguese regiments in his brigade as a guard
against a flank attack of the French cavalry, led his two fusileer
regiments, the 7th and 23rd, straight to the crest.

At this moment the French reserves were coming on, the fragments of
Houghton's brigade were falling back, the field was heaped with carcases,
the lancers were riding furiously about the captured artillery, and with
a storm of exultant shouts the French were sweeping on to assured
victory.  It was the dramatic moment of the fight.  Suddenly through the
fog, coming rapidly on with stern faces and flashing volleys, appeared
the long line of Cole's fusileers on the right of Houghton's staggering
groups, while at the same exact moment Abercrombie's line broke through
the mist on their left.  As these grim and threatening lines became
visible, the French shouts suddenly died down.  It was the old contest of
the British line--the "thin red line"--against the favourite French
attack in column, and the story can only be told in Napier's resonant
prose.  The passage which describes the attack of the fusileers is one of
the classic passages of English battle literature, and in its syllables
can still almost be heard the tread of marching feet, the shrill clangour
of smitten steel, and the thunder of the musketry volleys:--

"Such a gallant line," says Napier, "arising from amid the smoke, and
rapidly separating itself from the confused and broken multitude,
startled the enemy's masses, which were increasing and pressing forward
as to assured victory; they wavered, hesitated, and then, vomiting forth
a storm of fire, hastily endeavoured to enlarge their front, while the
fearful discharge of grape from all their artillery whistled through the
British ranks.  Myers was killed.  Cole and the three colonels--Ellis,
Blakeney, and Hawkshawe--fell wounded, and the fusileer battalions,
struck by the iron tempest, reeled and staggered like sinking ships.
Suddenly and sternly recovering, they closed on their terrible enemies,
and then was seen with what a strength and majesty the British soldier
fights.  In vain did Soult, by voice and gesture, animate his Frenchmen;
in vain did the hardiest veterans break from the crowded columns and
sacrifice their lives to gain time for the mass to open on such a fair
field; in vain did the mass itself bear up, and, fiercely striving, fire
indiscriminately on friends and foes, while the horsemen, hovering on the
flanks, threatened to charge the advancing line.

"Nothing could stop that astonishing infantry.  No sudden burst of
undisciplined valour, no nervous enthusiasm weakened the stability of
their order; their flashing eyes were bent on the dark columns in front,
their measured tread shook the ground, their dreadful volleys swept away
the head of every formation, their deafening shouts overpowered the
dissonant cries that broke from all parts of the tumultuous crowd as
slowly and with a horrid carnage it was driven by the incessant vigour of
the attack to the farthest edge of the hill.  In vain did the French
reserves mix with the struggling multitude to sustain the fight; their
efforts only increased the irremediable confusion, and the mighty mass,
breaking off like a loosened cliff, went headlong down the ascent.  The
rain flowed after in streams discoloured with blood, and 1800 unwounded
men, the remnant of 6000 unconquerable British soldiers, stood triumphant
on the fatal hill."

The battle of Albuera lasted four hours; its slaughter was dreadful.
Within the space of a few hundred feet square were strewn some 7000
bodies, and over this Aceldama the artillery had galloped, the cavalry
had charged!  The 3rd Buffs went into the fight with 24 officers and 750
rank and file; at the roll-call next morning there were only 5 officers
and 35 men.  One company of the Royal Fusileers came out of the fight
commanded by a corporal; every officer and sergeant had been killed.
Albuera is essentially a soldier's fight.  The bayonet of the private,
not the brain of the general, won it; and never was the fighting quality
of our race more brilliantly shown.  Soult summed up the battle in words
that deserve to be memorable.  "There is no beating those troops," he
wrote, "_in spite of their generals_!"  "I always thought them bad
soldiers," he added, with a Frenchman's love of paradox; "now I am sure
of it.  For I turned their right, pierced their centre, they were
everywhere broken, the day was mine, and yet _they did not know it_, and
would not run!"



THE "SHANNON" AND THE "CHESAPEAKE"


  "The signal to engage shall be
    A whistle and a hollo;
  Be one and all but firm, like me,
    And conquest soon will follow!
  You, Gunnel, keep the helm in hand--
    Thus, thus, boys! steady, steady,
  Till right ahead you see the land--
    Then soon as you are ready,
  The signal to engage shall be
    A whistle and a hollo;
  Be one and all but firm, like me,
    And conquest soon will follow!"
            --C. DIBDIN.


On the early morning of June 1, 1813, a solitary British frigate,
H.M.S. _Shannon_, was cruising within sight of Boston lighthouse.  She
was a ship of about 1000 tons, and bore every mark of long and hard
service.  No gleam of colour sparkled about her.  Her sides were rusty,
her sails weather-stained; a solitary flag flew from her mizzen-peak,
and even its blue had been bleached by sun and rain and wind to a dingy
grey.  A less romantic and more severely practical ship did not float,
and her captain was of the same type as the ship.

Captain Philip Bowes Vere Broke was an Englishman _pur sang_, and of a
type happily not uncommon.  His fame will live as long as the British
flag flies, yet a more sober and prosaic figure can hardly be imagined.
He was not, like Nelson, a quarter-deck Napoleon; he had no gleam of
Dundonald's matchless _ruse de guerre_.  He was as deeply religious as
Havelock or one of Cromwell's major-generals; he had the frugality of a
Scotchman, and the heavy-footed common-sense of a Hollander.  He was as
nautical as a web-footed bird, and had no more "nerves" than a fish.  A
domestic Englishman, whose heart was always with the little girls at
Brokehall, in Suffolk, but for whom the service of his country was a
piety, and who might have competed with Lawrence for his self-chosen
epitaph, "Here lies one who tried to do his duty."

A sober-suited, half-melancholy common-sense was Broke's
characteristic, and he had applied it to the working of his ship, till
he had made the vessel, perhaps, the most formidable fighting machine
of her size afloat.  He drilled his gunners until, from the swaying
platform of their decks, they shot with a deadly coolness and accuracy
nothing floating could resist.  Broke, as a matter of fact, owed his
famous victory over the _Chesapeake_ to one of his matter-of-fact
precautions.  The first broadside fired by the _Chesapeake_ sent a
32-pound shot through one of the gun-room cabins into the magazine
passage of the _Shannon_, where it might easily have ignited some
grains of loose powder and blown the ship up, if Broke had not taken
the precaution of elaborately _damping_ that passage before the action
began.  The prosaic side of Broke's character is very amusing.  In his
diary he records his world-famous victory thus:--

"June 1st.--Off Boston.  Moderate."

"N.W.--W(rote) Laurence."

"P.M.--Took _Chesapeake_."

Was ever a shining victory packed into fewer or duller words?  Broke's
scorn of the histrionic is shown by his reply to one of his own men
who, when the _Chesapeake_, one blaze of fluttering colours, was
bearing down upon her drab-coloured opponent, said to his commander,
eyeing the bleached and solitary flag at the _Shannon's_ peak, "Mayn't
we have three ensigns, sir, like she has?"  "No," said Broke, "we have
always been an _unassuming_ ship!"

And yet, this unromantic English sailor had a gleam of Don Quixote in
him.  On this pleasant summer morning he was waiting alone, under easy
sail, outside a hostile port, strongly fortified and full of armed
vessels, waiting for an enemy's ship bigger than himself to come out
and fight him.  He had sent in the previous day, by way of challenge, a
letter that recalls the days of chivalry.  "As the _Chesapeake_," he
wrote to Laurence, its captain, "appears now ready for sea, I request
that you will do me the favour to meet the _Shannon_ with her, ship to
ship."  He proceeds to explain the exact armament of the _Shannon_, the
number of her crew, the interesting circumstance that he is short of
provisions and water, and that he has sent away his consort so that the
terms of the duel may be fair.  "If you will favour me," he says, "with
any plan of signals or telegraph, I will warn you should any of my
friends be too nigh, while you are in sight, until I can detach them
out of the way.  Or," he suggests coaxingly, "I would sail under a flag
of truce to any place you think safest from our cruisers, hauling it
down when fair, to begin hostilities. . . .  Choose your terms," he
concludes, "but let us meet."  Having sent in this amazing letter, this
middle-aged, unromantic, but hard-fighting captain climbs at daybreak
to his own maintop, and sits there till half-past eleven, watching the
challenged ship, to see if her foretopsail is unloosed and she is
coming out to fight.

It is easy to understand the causes which kindled a British sailor of
even Broke's unimaginative temperament into flame.  On June 18, 1812,
the United States, with magnificent audacity, declared war against
Great Britain.  England at that moment had 621 efficient cruisers at
sea, 102 being line-of-battle ships.  The American navy consisted of 8
frigates and 12 corvettes.  It is true that England was at war at the
same moment with half the civilised world; but what reasonable chance
had the tiny naval power of the United States against the mighty fleets
of England, commanded by men trained in the school of Nelson, and rich
with the traditions of the Nile and Trafalgar?  As a matter of fact, in
the war which followed, the commerce of the United States was swept out
of existence.  But the Americans were of the same fighting stock as the
English; to the Viking blood, indeed, they added Yankee ingenuity and
resource, making a very formidable combination; and up to the June
morning when the _Shannon_ was waiting outside Boston Harbour for the
_Chesapeake_, the naval honours of the war belonged to the Americans.
The Americans had no fleet, and the campaign was one of single ship
against single ship, but in these combats the Americans had scored more
successes in twelve months than French seamen had gained in twelve
years.  The _Guerrière_, the _Java_, and the _Macedonian_ had each been
captured in single combat, and every British post-captain betwixt
Portsmouth and Halifax was swearing with mere fury.

The Americans were shrewd enough to invent a new type of frigate which,
in strength of frame, weight of metal, and general fighting power, was
to a British frigate of the same class almost what an ironclad would be
to a wooden ship.  The _Constitution_, for example, was in size to the
average British frigate as 15.3 to 10.9; in weight of metal as 76 to
51; and in crew as 46 to 25.  Broke, however, had a well-founded belief
in his ship and his men, and he proposed, in his sober fashion, to
restore the tarnished honour of his flag by capturing single-handed the
best American frigate afloat.

The _Chesapeake_ was a fine ship, perfectly equipped, under a daring
and popular commander.  Laurence was a man of brilliant ingenuity and
courage, and had won fame four months before by capturing in the
_Hornet_, after a hard fight, the British brig-of-war _Peacock_.  For
this feat he had been promoted to the _Chesapeake_, and in his brief
speech from the quarterdeck just before the fight with the _Shannon_
began, he called up the memory of the fight which made him a popular
hero by exhorting his crew to "_Peacock_ her, my lads!  _Peacock_ her!"
The _Chesapeake_ was larger than the _Shannon_, its crew was nearly a
hundred men stronger, its weight of fire 598 lbs. as against the
_Shannon's_ 538 lbs.  Her guns fired double-headed shot, and bars of
wrought iron connected by links and loosely tied by a few rope yarns,
which, when discharged from the gun, spread out and formed a flying
iron chain six feet long.  Its canister shot contained jagged pieces of
iron, broken bolts, and nails.  As the British had a reputation for
boarding, a large barrel of unslacked lime was provided to fling in the
faces of the boarders.  An early shot from the _Shannon_, by the way,
struck this cask of lime and scattered its contents in the faces of the
Americans themselves.  Part of the equipment of the _Chesapeake_
consisted of several hundred pairs of handcuffs, intended for the
wrists of English prisoners.  Boston citizens prepared a banquet in
honour of the victors for the same evening, and a small fleet of
pleasure-boats followed the _Chesapeake_ as she came gallantly out to
the fight.

Never was a braver, shorter, or more murderous fight.  Laurence, the
most gallant of men, bore steadily down, without firing a shot, to the
starboard quarter of the _Shannon_.  When within fifty yards he luffed;
his men sprang into the shrouds and gave three cheers.  Broke fought
with characteristic silence and composure.  He forbade his men to
cheer, enforced the sternest silence along his deck, and ordered the
captain of each gun to fire as his piece bore on the enemy.  "Fire into
her quarters," he said, "main-deck into main-deck, quarter-deck into
quarter-deck.  Kill the men, and the ship is yours."

The sails of the _Chesapeake_ swept betwixt the slanting rays of the
evening sun and the _Shannon_, the drifting shadow darkened the English
main-deck ports, the rush of the enemy's cut-water could be heard
through the grim silence of the _Shannon's_ decks.  Suddenly there
broke out the first gun from the _Shannon_; then her whole side leaped
into flame.  Never was a more fatal broadside discharged.  A tempest of
shot, splinters, torn hammocks, cut rigging, and wreck of every kind
was hurled like a cloud across the deck of the _Chesapeake_, and of one
hundred and fifty men at stations there, more than a hundred were
killed or wounded.  A more fatal loss to the Americans instantly
followed, as Captain Laurence, the fiery soul of his ship, was shot
through the abdomen by an English marine, and fell mortally wounded.

The answering thunder of the _Chesapeake's_ guns, of course, rolled
out, and then, following quick, the overwhelming blast of the
_Shannon's_ broadside once more.  Each ship, indeed, fired two full
broadsides, and, as the guns fell quickly out of range, part of another
broadside.  The firing of the _Chesapeake_ was furious and deadly
enough to have disabled an ordinary ship.  It is computed that forty
effective shots would be enough to disable a frigate; the _Shannon_
during the six minutes of the firing was struck by no less than 158
shot, a fact which proves the steadiness and power of the American
fire.  But the fire of the _Shannon_ was overwhelming.  In those same
six fatal minutes she smote the _Chesapeake_ with no less than 362
shots, an average of 60 shots of all sizes every minute, as against the
_Chesapeake's_ 28 shots.  The _Chesapeake_ was fir-built, and the
British shot riddled her.  One _Shannon_ broadside partly raked the
_Chesapeake_ and literally smashed the stern cabins and battery to mere
splinters, as completely as though a procession of aerolites had torn
through it.

The swift, deadly, concentrated fire of the British in two
quick-following broadsides practically decided the combat.  The
partially disabled vessels drifted together, and the _Chesapeake_ fell
on board the _Shannon_, her quarter striking the starboard main-chains.
Broke, as the ships ground together, looked over the blood-splashed
decks of the American and saw the men deserting the quarter-deck guns,
under the terror of another broadside at so short a distance.  "Follow
me who can," he shouted, and with characteristic coolness "stepped"--in
his own phrase--across the _Chesapeake's_ bulwark.  He was followed by
some 32 seamen and 18 marines--50 British boarders leaping upon a ship
with a crew of 400 men, a force which, even after the dreadful
broadsides of the _Shannon_, still numbered 270 unwounded men in its
ranks.

It is absurd to deny to the Americans courage of the very finest
quality, but the amazing and unexpected severity of the _Shannon's_
fire had destroyed for the moment their _morale_, and the British were
in a mood of victory.  The boatswain of the _Shannon_, an old _Rodney_
man, lashed the two ships together, and in the act had his left arm
literally hacked off by repeated strokes of a cutlass and was killed.
One British midshipman, followed by five topmen, crept along the
_Shannon's_ foreyard and stormed the _Chesapeake's_ foretop, killing
the men stationed there, and then swarmed down by a back-stay to join
the fighting on the deck.  Another middy tried to attack the
_Chesapeake's_ mizzentop from the starboard mainyard arm, but being
hindered by the foot of the topsail, stretched himself out on the
mainyard arm, and from that post shot three of the enemy in succession.

Meanwhile the fight on the deck had been short and sharp; some of the
Americans leaped overboard and others rushed below; and Laurence, lying
wounded in his steerage, saw the wild reflux of his own men down the
after ladders.  On asking what it meant, he was told, "The ship is
boarded, and those are the _Chesapeake's_ men driven from the upper
decks by the English."  This so exasperated the dying man that he
called out repeatedly, "Then blow her up; blow her up."

The fight lasted exactly thirteen minutes--the broadsides occupied six
minutes, the boarding seven--and in thirteen minutes after the first
shot the British flag was flying over the American ship.  The _Shannon_
and _Chesapeake_ were bearing up, side by side, for Halifax.  The
spectators in the pleasure-boats were left ruefully staring at the
spectacle; those American handcuffs, so thoughtfully provided, were on
American wrists; and the Boston citizens had to consume, with what
appetite they might, their own banquet.  The carnage on the two ships
was dreadful.  In thirteen minutes 252 men were either killed or
wounded, an average of nearly twenty men for every minute the fight
lasted.  In the combat betwixt these two frigates, in fact, nearly as
many men were struck down as in the whole battle of Navarino!  The
_Shannon_ itself lost as many men as any 74-gun ship ever lost in
battle.

Judge Haliburton, famous as "Sam Slick," when a youth of seventeen,
boarded the Chesapeake as the two battered ships sailed into Halifax.
"The deck," he wrote, "had not been cleaned, and the coils and folds of
rope were steeped in gore as if in a slaughter-house.  Pieces of skin
with pendent hair were adhering to the sides of the ship; and in one
place I noticed portions of fingers protruding, as if thrust through
the outer walls of the frigate."

Watts, the first lieutenant of the _Shannon_, was killed by the fire of
his own ship in a very remarkable manner.  He boarded with his captain,
with his own hands pulled down the _Chesapeake's_ flag, and hastily
bent on the halliards the English ensign, as he thought, above the
Stars and Stripes, and then rehoisted it.  In the hurry he had bent the
English flag under the Stars and Stripes instead of above it, and the
gunners of the _Shannon_, seeing the American stripes going up first,
opened fire instantly on the group at the foot of the mizzen-mast, blew
the top of their own unfortunate lieutenant's head off with a grape
shot, and killed three or four of their own men.

Captain Broke was desperately wounded in a curious fashion.  A group of
Americans, who had laid down their arms, saw the British captain
standing for a moment alone on the break of the forecastle.  It seemed
a golden chance.  They snatched up weapons lying on the deck, and
leaped upon him.  Warned by the shout of the sentry.  Broke turned
round to find three of the enemy with uplifted weapons rushing on him.
He parried the middle fellow's pike and wounded him in the face, but
was instantly struck down with a blow from the butt-end of a musket,
which laid bare his skull.  He also received a slash from the cutlass
of the third man, which clove a portion of skull completely away and
left the brain bare.  He fell, and was grappled on the deck by the man
he had first wounded, a powerful fellow, who got uppermost and raised a
bayonet to thrust through Broke.  At this moment a British marine came
running up, and concluding that the man underneath _must_ be an
American, also raised his bayonet to give the _coup de grace_.  "Pooh,
pooh, you fool," said Broke in the most matter-of-fact fashion, "don't
you know your captain?" whereupon the marine changed the direction of
his thrust and slew the American.

The news reached London on July 7, and was carried straight to the
House of Commons, where Lord Cochrane was just concluding a fierce
denunciation of the Admiralty on the ground of the disasters suffered
from the Americans, and Croker, the Secretary to the Admiralty, was
able to tell the story of the fight off Boston to the wildly cheering
House, as a complete defence of his department.  Broke was at once
created a Baronet and a Knight of the Bath.  In America, on the other
hand, the story of the fight was received with mingled wrath and
incredulity.  "I remember," says Rush, afterwards U.S. Minister at the
Court of St. James, "at the first rumour of it, the universal
incredulity.  I remember how the post-offices were thronged for
successive days with anxious thousands; how collections of citizens
rode out for miles on the highway to get the earliest news the mail
brought.  At last, when the certainty was known, I remember the public
gloom, the universal badges of mourning.  'Don't give up the ship,' the
dying words of Laurence, were on every tongue."

It was a great fight, the most memorable and dramatic sea-duel in naval
history.  The combatants were men of the same stock, and fought with
equal bravery.  Both nations, in fact, may be proud of a fight so
frank, so fair, so gallant.  The world, we may hope, will never witness
another _Shannon_ engaged in the fierce wrestle of battle with another
_Chesapeake_, for the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes are knitted
together by a bond woven of common blood and speech and political
ideals that grows stronger every year.

For years the _Shannon_ and the _Chesapeake_ lay peacefully side by
side in the Medway, and the two famous ships might well have been
preserved as trophies.  The _Chesapeake_ was bought by the Admiralty
after the fight for exactly L21,314, 11s. 11 1/4d., and six years
afterwards she was sold as mere old timber for 500 pounds, was broken
up, and to-day stands as a Hampshire flour-mill, peacefully grinding
English corn; but still on the mill-timbers can be seen the marks of
the grape and round shot of the _Shannon_.



THE GREAT BREACH OF CIUDAD RODRIGO


  "Attend, all ye who list to hear our noble England's praise,
  I tell of the thrice famous deeds she wrought in ancient days."
            --MACAULAY.


The three great and memorable sieges of the Peninsular war are those of
Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajos, and San Sebastian.  The annals of battle
record nowhere a more furious daring in assault or a more gallant
courage in defence than that which raged in turn round each of these
three great fortresses.  Of the three sieges that of Badajos was the
most picturesque and bloody; that of San Sebastian the most sullen and
exasperated; that of Ciudad Rodrigo the swiftest and most brilliant.  A
great siege tests the fighting quality of any army as nothing else can
test it.  In the night watches in the trenches, in the dogged toil of
the batteries, and the crowded perils of the breach, all the frippery
and much of the real discipline of an army dissolves.  The soldiers
fall back upon what may be called the primitive fighting qualities--the
hardihood of the individual soldier, the daring with which the officers
will lead, the dogged loyalty with which the men will follow.  As an
illustration of the warlike qualities in our race by which empire has
been achieved, nothing better can be desired than the story of how the
breaches were won at Ciudad Rodrigo.

At the end of 1811 the English and the French were watching each other
jealously across the Spanish border.  The armies of Marmont and of
Soult, 67,000 strong, lay within touch of each other, barring
Wellington's entrance into Spain.  Wellington, with 35,000 men, of whom
not more than 10,000 men were British, lay within sight of the Spanish
frontier.  It was the winter time.  Wellington's army was wasted by
sickness, his horses were dying of mere starvation, his men had
received no pay for three months, and his muleteers none for eight
months.  He had no siege-train, his regiments were ragged and hungry,
and the French generals confidently reckoned the British army as, for
the moment at least, _une quantité négligeable_.

And yet at that precise moment, Wellington, subtle and daring, was
meditating a leap upon the great frontier fortress of Ciudad Rodrigo,
in the Spanish province of Salamanca.  Its capture would give him a
safe base of operations against Spain; it was the great frontier _place
d'armes_ for the French; the whole siege-equipage, and stores of the
army of Portugal were contained in it.  The problem of how, in the
depth of winter, without materials for a siege, to snatch a place so
strong from under the very eyes of two armies, each stronger than his
own, was a problem which might have taxed the warlike genius of a
Caesar.  But Wellington accomplished it with a combination of subtlety
and audacity simply marvellous.

He kept the secret of his design so perfectly that his own engineers
never suspected it, and his adjutant-general, Murray, went home on
leave without dreaming anything was going to happen.  Wellington
collected artillery ostensibly for the purpose of arming Almeida, but
the guns were trans-shipped at sea and brought secretly to the mouth of
the Douro.  No less than 800 mule-carts were constructed without
anybody guessing their purpose.  Wellington, while these preparations
were on foot, was keenly watching Marmont and Soult, till he saw that
they were lulled into a state of mere yawning security, and then, in
Napier's expressive phrase, he "instantly jumped with both feet upon
Ciudad Rodrigo."

This famous fortress, in shape, roughly resembles a triangle with the
angles truncated.  The base, looking to the south, is covered by the
Agueda, a river given to sudden inundations; the fortifications were
strong and formidably armed; as outworks it had to the east the great
fortified Convent of San Francisco, to the west a similar building
called Santa Cruz; whilst almost parallel with the northern face rose
two rocky ridges called the Great and Small Teson, the nearest within
600 yards of the city ramparts, and crowned by a formidable redoubt
called Francisco.  The siege began on January 8.  The soil was rocky
and covered with snow, the nights were black, the weather bitter.  The
men lacked entrenching tools.  They had to encamp on the side of the
Agueda farthest from the city, and ford that river every time the
trenches were relieved.  The 1st, 3rd, and light divisions formed the
attacking force; each division held the trenches in turn for
twenty-four hours.  Let the reader imagine what degree of hardihood it
took to wade in the grey and bitter winter dawn through a half-frozen
river, and without fire or warm food, and under a ceaseless rain of
shells from the enemy's guns, to toil in the frozen trenches, or to
keep watch, while the icicles hung from eyebrow and beard, over the
edge of the battery for twenty-four hours in succession.

Nothing in this great siege is more wonderful than the fierce speed
with which Wellington urged his operations.  Massena, who had besieged
and captured the city the year before in the height of summer, spent a
month in bombarding it before he ventured to assault.  Wellington broke
ground on January 8, under a tempest of mingled hail and rain; he
stormed it on the night of the 19th.

He began operations by leaping on the strong work that crowned the
Great Teson the very night the siege began.  Two companies from each
regiment of the light division were detailed by the officer of the day,
Colonel Colborne, for the assault.  Colborne (afterwards Lord Seaton),
a cool and gallant soldier, called his officers together in a group and
explained with great minuteness how they were to attack.  He then
launched his men against the redoubt with a vehemence so swift that, to
those who watched the scene under the light of a wintry moon, the
column of redcoats, like the thrust of a crimson sword-blade, spanned
the ditch, shot up the glacis, and broke through the parapet with a
single movement.  The accidental explosion of a French shell burst the
gate open, and the remainder of the attacking party instantly swept
through it.  There was fierce musketry fire and a tumult of shouting
for a moment or two, but in twenty minutes from Colborne's launching
his attack every Frenchman in the redoubt was killed, wounded, or a
prisoner.

The fashion in which the gate was blown open was very curious.  A
French sergeant was in the act of throwing a live shell upon the
storming party in the ditch, when he was struck by an English bullet.
The lighted shell fell from his hands within the parapet, was kicked
away by the nearest French in mere self-preservation; it rolled towards
the gate, exploded, burst it open, and instantly the British broke in.

For ten days a desperate artillery duel raged between the besiegers and
the besieged.  The parallels were resolutely pushed on in spite of
rocky soil, broken tools, bitter weather, and the incessant pelting of
the French guns.  The temper of the British troops is illustrated by an
incident which George Napier--the youngest of the three
Napiers--relates.   The three others were gallant and remarkable
soldiers.  Charles Napier in India and elsewhere made history; William,
in his wonderful tale of the Peninsular war, wrote history; and George,
if he had not the literary genius of the one nor the strategic skill of
the other, was a most gallant soldier.  "I was a field-officer of the
trenches," he says, "when a 13-inch shell from the town fell in the
midst of us.  I called to the men to lie down flat, and they instantly
obeyed orders, except one of them, an Irishman and an old marine, but a
most worthless drunken dog, who trotted up to the shell, the fuse of
which was still burning, and striking it with his spade, knocked the
fuse out; then taking the immense shell in his hands, brought it to me,
saying, 'There she is for you now, yer 'anner.  I've knocked the life
out of the crater.'"

The besieged brought fifty heavy guns to reply to the thirty light
pieces by which they were assailed, and day and night the bellow of
eighty pieces boomed sullenly over the doomed city and echoed faintly
back from the nearer hills, while the walls crashed to the stroke of
the bullet.  The English fire made up by fierceness and accuracy for
what it lacked in weight; but the sap made no progress, the guns showed
signs of being worn out, and although two apparent breaches had been
made,  the counterscarp was not destroyed.  Yet Wellington determined
to attack, and, in his characteristic fashion, to attack by night.  The
siege had lasted ten days, and Marmont, with an army stronger than his
own, was lying within four marches.  That he had not appeared already
on the scene was wonderful.

In a general order issued on the evening of the 19th Wellington wrote,
"Ciudad Rodrigo must be stormed this evening."  The great breach was a
sloping gap in the wall at its northern angle, about a hundred feet
wide.  The French had crowned it with two guns loaded with grape; the
slope was strewn with bombs, hand-grenades, and bags of powder; a great
mine pierced it beneath; a deep ditch had been cut betwixt the breach
and the adjoining ramparts, and these were crowded with riflemen.  The
third division, under General Mackinnon, was to attack the breach, its
forlorn hope being led by Ensign Mackie, its storming party by General
Mackinnon himself.  The lesser breach was a tiny gap, scarcely twenty
feet wide, to the left of the great breach; this was to be attacked by
the light division, under Craufurd, its forlorn hope of twenty-five men
being led by Gurwood, and its storming party by George Napier.  General
Pack, with a Portuguese brigade, was to make a sham attack on the
eastern face, while a fourth attack was to be made on the southern
front by a company of the 83rd and some Portuguese troops.  In the
storming party of the 83rd were the Earl of March, afterwards Duke of
Richmond; Lord Fitzroy Somerset, afterwards Lord Raglan; and the Prince
of Orange--all volunteers without Wellington's knowledge!

At 7 o'clock a curious silence fell suddenly on the battered city and
the engirdling trenches.  Not a light gleamed from the frowning
parapets, not a murmur arose from the blackened trenches.  Suddenly a
shout broke out on the right of the English attack; it ran, a wave of
stormy sound, along the line of the trenches.  The men who were to
attack the great breach leaped into the open.  In a moment the space
betwixt the hostile lines was covered with the stormers, and the gloomy
half-seen face of the great fortress broke into a tempest of fire.

Nothing could be finer than the vehement courage of the assault, unless
it were the cool and steady fortitude of the defence.  Swift as was the
upward rush of the stormers, the race of the 5th, 77th, and 94th
regiments was almost swifter.  Scorning to wait for the ladders, they
leaped into the great ditch, outpaced even the forlorn hope, and pushed
vehemently up the great breach, whilst their red ranks were torn by
shell and shot.  The fire, too, ran through the tangle of broken stones
over which they climbed; the hand-grenades and powder-bags by which it
was strewn exploded.  The men were walking on fire!  Yet the attack
could not be denied.  The Frenchmen--shooting, stabbing, yelling--were
driven behind their entrenchments.  There the fire of the houses
commanding the breach came to their help, and they made a gallant
stand.  "None would go back on either side, and yet the British could
not get forward, and men and officers falling in heaps choked up the
passage, which from minute to minute was raked with grape from two guns
flanking the top of the breach at the distance of a few yards.  Thus
striving, and trampling alike upon the dead and the wounded, these
brave men maintained the combat."

It was the attack on the smaller breach which really carried Ciudad
Rodrigo; and George Napier, who led it, has left a graphic narrative of
the exciting experiences of that dreadful night.  The light division
was to attack, and Craufurd, with whom Napier was a favourite, gave him
command of the storming party.  He was to ask for 100 volunteers from
each of the three British regiments--the 43rd, 52nd, and the Rifle
Corps--in the division.  Napier halted these regiments just as they had
forded the bitterly cold river on their way to the trenches.
"Soldiers," he said, "I want 100 men from each regiment to form the
storming party which is to lead the light division to-night.  Those who
will go with me come forward!"  Instantly there was a rush forward of
the whole division, and Napier had to take his 300 men out of a tumult
of nearly 1500 candidates.  He formed them into three companies, under
Captains Ferguson, Jones, and Mitchell.  Gurwood, of the 52nd, led the
forlorn hope, consisting of twenty-five men and two sergeants.
Wellington himself came to the trench and showed Napier and Colborne,
through the gloom of the early night, the exact position of the breach.
A staff-officer looking on, said, "Your men are not loaded.  Why don't
you make them load?"  Napier replied, "If we don't do the business with
the bayonet we shall not do it all.  I shall not load."  "Let him
alone," said Wellington; "let him go his own way."  Picton had adopted
the same grim policy with the third division.  As each regiment passed
him, filing into the trenches, his injunction was, "No powder!  We'll
do the thing with the _could_ iron."

A party of Portuguese carrying bags filled with grass were to run with
the storming party and throw the bags into the ditch, as the leap was
too deep for the men.  But the Portuguese hesitated, the tumult of the
attack on the great breach suddenly broke on the night, and the forlorn
hope went running up, leaped into the ditch a depth of eleven feet, and
clambered up the steep slope beyond,  while Napier with his stormers
came with a run behind them.  In the dark for a moment the breach was
lost, but found again, and up the steep quarry of broken stone the
attack swept.  About two-thirds of the way up Napier's arm was smashed
by a grape-shot, and he fell.  His men, checked for a moment, lifted
their muskets to the gap above them, whence the French were firing
vehemently, and forgetting their pieces were unloaded, snapped them.
"Push on with the bayonet, men!" shouted Napier, as he lay bleeding.
The officers leaped to the front, the men with a stern shout followed;
they were crushed to a front of not more than three or four.  They had
to climb without firing a shot in reply up to the muzzles of the French
muskets.

But nothing could stop the men of the light division.  A 24-pounder was
placed across the narrow gap in the ramparts; the stormers leaped over
it, and the 43rd and 52nd, coming up in sections abreast, followed.
The 43rd wheeled to the right towards the great breach, the 52nd to the
left, sweeping the ramparts as they went.

Meanwhile the other two attacks had broken into the town; but at the
great breach the dreadful fight still raged, until the 43rd, coming
swiftly along the ramparts, and brushing all opposition aside, took the
defence in the rear.  The British there had, as a matter of fact, at
that exact moment pierced the French defence.  The two guns that
scourged the breach had wrought deadly havoc amongst the stormers, and
a sergeant and two privates of the 88th--Irishmen all, and whose names
deserve to be preserved--Brazel, Kelly, and Swan--laid down their
firelocks that they might climb more lightly, and, armed only with
their bayonets, forced themselves through the embrasure amongst the
French gunners.  They were furiously attacked, and Swan's arm was hewed
off by a sabre stroke; but they stopped the service of the gun, slew
five or six of the French gunners, and held the post until the men of
the 5th, climbing behind them, broke into the battery.

So Ciudad Rodrigo was won, and its governor surrendered his sword to
the youthful lieutenant leading the forlorn hope of the light division,
who, with smoke-blackened face, torn uniform, and staggering from a
dreadful wound, still kept at the head of his men.

[Illustration: Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo, 1812.  From Napier's
"Peninsular War."]

In the eleven days of the siege Wellington lost 1300 men and officers,
out of whom 650 men and 60 officers were struck down on the slopes of
the breaches.  Two notable soldiers died in the attack--Craufurd, the
famous leader of the light division, as he brought his men up to the
lesser breach; and Mackinnon, who commanded a brigade of the third
division, at the great breach.  Mackinnon was a gallant Highlander, a
soldier of great promise, beloved by his men.  His "Children," as he
called them, followed him up the great breach till the bursting of a
French mine destroyed all the leading files, including their general.
Craufurd was buried in the lesser breach itself, and Mackinnon in the
great breach--fitting graves for soldiers so gallant.

Alison says that with the rush of the English stormers up the breaches
of Ciudad Rodrigo "began the fall of the French Empire."  That siege,
so fierce and brilliant, was, as a matter of fact, the first of that
swift-following succession of strokes which drove the French in ruin
out of Spain, and it coincided in point of time with the turn of the
tide against Napoleon in Russia.  Apart from all political results,
however, it was a splendid feat of arms.  The French found themselves
almost unable to believe the evidence of their senses.  "On the 16th,"
Marmont wrote to the Emperor, "the English batteries opened their fire
at a great distance.  On the 19th the place was taken by storm.  There
is something so _incomprehensible_ in this that I allow myself no
observations."  Napoleon, however, relieved his feelings with some very
emphatic observations.  "The fall of Ciudad Rodrigo," he wrote to
Marmont, "is an affront to you.  Why had you not advices from it twice
a week?  What were you doing with the five divisions of Souham?  It is
a strange mode of carrying on war," &c.  Unhappy Marmont!



HOW THE "HERMIONE" WAS RECAPTURED


  "They cleared the cruiser from end to end,
      From conning-tower to hold;
  They fought as they fought in Nelson's fleet--
  They were stripped to the waist, they were bare to the feet,
      As it was in the days of old."
            --KIPLING.


The story of how the _Hermione_ was lost is one of the scandals and the
tragedies of British naval history; the tale of how it was re-won is
one of its glories.  The _Hermione_ was a 32-gun frigate, cruising off
Porto Rico, in the West Indies.  On the evening of September 21, 1797,
the men were on drill, reefing topsails.  The captain, Pigot, was a
rough and daring sailor, a type of the brutal school of naval officer
long extinct.  The traditions of the navy were harsh; the despotic
power over the lives and fortunes of his crew which the captain of a
man-of-war carried in the palm of his hand, when made the servant of a
ferocious temper, easily turned a ship into a floating hell.  The
terrible mutinies which broke out in British fleets a hundred years ago
had some justification, at least, in the cruelties, as well as the
hardships, to which the sailors of that period were exposed.

Pigot was rough in speech, vehement in temper, cursed with a
semi-lunatic delight in cruelty, and he tormented his men to the verge
of desperation.  On this fatal night, Pigot, standing at the break of
his quarter-deck, stormed at the men aloft, and swore with many oaths
he would flog the last man off the mizzentop yard; and the men knew how
well he would keep his word.  The most active sailor, as the men lay
out on the yard, naturally takes the earing, and is, of course, the
last man off, as well as on, the yard.  Pigot's method, that is, would
punish not the worst sailors, but the best!  The two outermost men on
the mizzen-top yard of the _Hermione_ that night, determined to escape
the threatened flogging.  They made a desperate spring to get over
their comrades crowding into the ratlines, missed their foothold, fell
on the quarter-deck beside their furious captain, and were instantly
killed.  The captain's epitaph on the unfortunate sailors was, "Throw
the lubbers overboard!"

All the next day a sullen gloom lay on the ship.  Mutiny was breeding.
It began, as night fell, in a childish fashion, by the men throwing
double-headed shot about the deck.  The noise brought down the first
lieutenant to restore order.  He was knocked down.  In the jostle of
fierce tempers, murder awoke; knives gleamed.  A sailor, as he bent
over the fallen officer, saw the naked undefended throat, and thrust
his knife into it.  The sight kindled the men's passions to flame.  The
unfortunate lieutenant was killed with a dozen stabs, and his body
thrown overboard.  The men had now tasted blood.  In the flame of
murderous temper suddenly let loose, all the bonds of discipline were
in a moment consumed.  A wild rush was made for the officers' cabins.
The captain tried to break his way out, was wounded, and driven back;
the men swept in, and, to quote the realistic official account, "seated
in his cabin the captain was stabbed by his own coxswain and three
other mutineers, and, forced out of the cabin windows, was heard to
speak as he went astern."  With mutiny comes anarchy.  The men made no
distinction between their officers, cruel or gentle; not only the
captain, but the three lieutenants, the purser, the surgeon, the
lieutenant of marines, the boatswain, the captain's clerk were
murdered, and even one of the two midshipmen on board was hunted like a
rat through the ship, killed, and thrown overboard.  The only officers
spared were the master, the gunner, and one midshipman.

Having captured the ship, the mutineers were puzzled how to proceed.
Every man-of-war on the station, they knew, would be swiftly on their
track.  Every British port was sealed to them.  They would be pursued
by a retribution which would neither loiter nor slumber.  On the open
sea there was no safety for mutineers.  They turned the head of the
_Hermione_ towards the nearest Spanish port, La Guayra, and, reaching
it, surrendered the ship to the Spanish authorities, saying they had
turned their officers adrift in the jolly-boat.  The Spaniards were not
disposed to scrutinise too closely the story.  A transaction which put
into their hands a fine British frigate was welcomed with rapture.  The
British admiral in command of the station sent in a flag of truce with
the true account of the mutiny, and called upon the Spanish
authorities, as a matter of honour, to surrender the _Hermione_, and
hand over for punishment the murderers who had carried it off.  The
appeal, however, was wasted.

The _Hermione_, a handsome ship of 715 tons, when under the British
flag, was armed with thirty-two 12-pounders, and had a complement of
220 men.  The Spaniards cut new ports in her, increased her broadsides
to forty-four guns, and gave her a complement, including a detachment
of soldiers and artillerymen, of nearly 400 men.  She thus became the
most formidable ship carrying the Spanish flag in West Indian waters.

But the _Hermione_, under its new flag, had a very anxious existence.
It became a point of honour with every British vessel on the station to
look out for the ship which had become the symbol of mutiny, and make a
dash at her, no matter what the odds.  The brutal murders which
attended the mutiny shocked even the forecastle imagination, while the
British officers were naturally eager to destroy the ship which
represented revolt against discipline.  Both fore and aft, too, the
fact that what had been a British frigate was now carrying the flag of
Spain was resented with a degree of exasperation which assured to the
_Hermione_, under its new name and flag, a very warm time if it came
under the fire of a British ship.  The Spaniards kept the _Hermione_
for just two years, but kept her principally in port, as the moment she
showed her nose in the open sea some British ship or other, sleeplessly
on the watch for her, bore down with disconcerting eagerness.

In September 1799 the _Hermione_ was lying in Puerto Cabello, while the
_Surprise_, a 28-gun frigate, under Captain Edward Hamilton, was
waiting outside, specially detailed by the admiral, Sir Hyde Parker, to
attack her the instant she put to sea.  The _Surprise_ had less than
half the complement of the _Hermione_, and not much more than half her
weight of metal.  But Hamilton was not only willing to fight the
Hermione in the open sea against such odds; he told the admiral that if
he would give him a barge and twenty men he would undertake to carry
the Hermione with his boats while lying in harbour.  Parker pronounced
the scheme too desperate to be entertained, and refused Hamilton the
additional boat's crew for which he asked.  Yet this was the very plan
which Hamilton actually carried out without the reinforcement for which
he had asked!

Hamilton, to tempt the _Hermione_ out, kept carefully out of sight of
Puerto Cabello to leeward, yet in such a position that if the Hermione
left the harbour her topsails must become visible to the look-outs on
the mastheads of the _Surprise_; and he kept that post until his
provisions failed.  Then, as the _Hermione_ would not come out to him,
he determined to go into the _Hermione_.  Hamilton was a silent,
much-meditating man, not apt to share his counsels with anybody.  In
the cells of his brooding and solitary brain he prepared, down to the
minutest details, his plan for a dash at the _Hermione_--a ship, it
must be remembered, not only more than double his own in strength, but
lying moored head and stern in a strongly fortified port, under the
fire of batteries mounting nearly 200 guns, and protected, in addition,
by several gunboats.  In a boat attack, too, Hamilton could carry only
part of his crew with him; he must leave enough hands on board his own
ship to work her.  As a matter of fact, he put in his boats less than
100 men, and with them, in the blackness of night, rowed off to attack
a ship that carried 400 men, and was protected by the fire, including
her own broadsides, of nearly 300 guns!  The odds were indeed so great
that the imagination of even British sailors, if allowed to meditate
long upon them, might become chilled.  Hamilton therefore breathed not
a whisper of his plans, even to his officers, till he was ready to put
them into execution, and, when he did announce them, carried them out
with cool but unfaltering speed.

On the evening of October 24, Hamilton invited all the officers not on
actual duty to dine in his cabin.  The scene may be easily pictured.
The captain at the head of his table, the merry officers on either
side, the jest, the laughter, the toasts; nobody there but the silent,
meditative captain dreaming of the daring deed to be that night
attempted.  When dinner was over, and the officers alone, with a
gesture Hamilton arrested the attention of the party, and explained in
a few grim sentences his purpose.  The little party of brave men about
him listened eagerly and with kindling eyes.  "We'll stand by you,
captain," said one.  "We'll all follow you," said another.  Hamilton
bade his officers follow him at once to the quarter-deck.  A roll of
the drum called the men instantly to quarters, and, when the officers
reported every man at his station, they were all sent aft to where, on
the break of the quarter-deck, the captain waited.

It was night, starless and black, but a couple of lanterns shed a few
broken rays on the massed seamen with their wondering, upturned faces,
and the tall figure of the silent captain.  Hamilton explained in a
dozen curt sentences that they must run into port for supplies; that if
they left their station some more fortunate ship would have the glory
of taking the _Hermione_.  "Our only chance, lads," he added, "is to
cut her out to-night!"  As that sentence, with a keen ring on its last
word, swept over the attentive sailors, they made the natural response,
a sudden growling cheer.  "I lead you myself," added Hamilton,
whereupon came another cheer; "and here are the orders for the six
boats to be employed, with the names of the officers and men."
Instantly the crews were mustered, while the officers, standing in a
cluster round the captain, heard the details of the expedition.  Every
seaman was to be dressed in blue, without a patch of white visible; the
password was "Britannia," the answer "Ireland"--Hamilton himself being
an Irishman.

By half-past seven the boats were actually hoisted out and lowered, the
men armed and in their places, and each little crew instructed as to
the exact part it was to play in the exciting drama.  The orders given
were curiously minute.  The launch, for example, was to board on the
starboard bow, but three of its men, before boarding, were first to cut
the bower cable, for which purpose a little platform was rigged up on
the launch's quarter, and sharp axes provided.  The jolly-boat was to
board on the starboard quarter, cut the stern cable, and send two men
aloft to loose the mizzen topsail.  The gig, under the command of the
doctor, was to board on the larboard bow, and instantly send four men
aloft to loose the fore topsail.  If the _Hermione_ was reached without
any alarm being given, only the boarders were to leap on board; the
ordinary crews of the boats were to take the frigate in tow.  Thus, if
Hamilton's plans were carried out, the Spaniards would find themselves
suddenly boarded at six different points, their cables cut, their
topsails dropped, and their ship being towed out--and all this at the
same instant of time.  "The rendezvous," said Hamilton to his officers,
as the little cluster of boats drew away from the _Surprise_, "is the
_Hermione's_ quarter-deck!"

Hamilton himself led, standing up in his pinnace, with his night-glass
fixed on the doomed ship, and the boats followed with stern almost
touching stern, and a rope passed from each boat to the one behind.
Can a more impressive picture of human daring be imagined than these
six boats pulling silently ever the black waters and through the black
night to fling themselves, under the fire of two hundred guns, on a foe
four times more numerous than themselves!  The boats had stolen to
within less than a mile of the _Hermione_, when a Spanish challenge
rang out of the darkness before them.  Two Spanish gunboats were on
guard within the harbour, and they at once opened fire on the chain of
boats gliding mysteriously through the gloom.  There was no longer any
possibility of surprise, and Hamilton instantly threw off the rope that
connected him with the next boat and shouted to his men to pull.  The
men, with a loud "Hurrah!" dashed their oars into the water, and the
boats leaped forward towards the _Hermione_.  But Hamilton's boats--two
of them commanded by midshipmen--could not find themselves so close to
a couple of Spanish gunboats without "going" for them.  Two of the six
boats swung aside and dashed at the gunboats; only three followed
Hamilton at the utmost speed towards the _Hermione_.

That ship, meanwhile, was awake.  Lights flashed from every port; a
clamour of voices broke on the quiet of the night; the sound of the
drum rolled along the decks, the men ran to quarters.  Hamilton, in the
pinnace, dashed past the bows of the _Hermione_ to reach his station,
but a rope, stretched from the _Hermione_ to her anchor-buoy, caught
the rudder of the pinnace and stopped her in full course, the coxswain
reporting the boat "aground."  The pinnace had swung round till her
starboard oars touched the bend of the _Hermione_, and Hamilton gave
the word to "board."  Hamilton himself led, and swung himself up till
his feet rested on the anchor hanging from the _Hermione's_ cat-head.
It was covered with mud, having been weighed that day, and his feet
slipping off it, Hamilton hung by the lanyard of the _Hermione's_
foreshroud.  The crew of the pinnace meanwhile climbing with the
agility of cats and the eagerness of boys, had tumbled over their own
captain's shoulders as well as the bulwarks of the _Hermione_, and were
on that vessel's forecastle, where Hamilton in another moment joined
them.  Here were sixteen men on board a vessel with a hostile crew four
hundred strong.

Hamilton ran to the break of the forecastle and looked down, and to his
amazement found the whole crew of the _Hermione_ at quarters on the
main-deck, with battle-lanterns lit, and firing with the utmost energy
at the darkness, in which their excited fancy saw the tall masts of at
least a squadron of frigates bearing down to attack them.  Hamilton,
followed by his fifteen men, ran aft to the agreed rendezvous on the
_Hermione's_ quarter-deck.  The doctor, with his crew, had meantime
boarded, and forgetting all about the rendezvous, and obeying only the
natural fighting impulse in their own blood, charged upon the Spaniards
in the gangway.

Hamilton sent his men down to assist in the fight, waiting alone on the
quarter-deck till his other boat boarded.  Here four Spaniards rushed
suddenly upon him; one struck him over the head with a musket with a
force that broke the weapon itself, and knocked him semi-senseless upon
the combings of the hatchway.  Two British sailors, who saw their
commander's peril, rescued him, and, with blood streaming down from his
battered head upon his uniform, Hamilton flung himself into the fight
at the gangway.  At this juncture the black cutter, in command of the
first lieutenant, with the _Surprise's_ marines on board, dashed up to
the side of the _Hermione_, and the men came tumbling over the larboard
gangway.  They had made previously two unsuccessful attempts to board.
They came up first by the steps of the larboard gangway, the lieutenant
leading.  He was incontinently knocked down, and tumbled all his men
with him as he fell back into the boat.  They then tried the starboard
of the _Hermione_, and were again beaten back, and only succeeded on a
third attempt.

Three boats' crews of the British were now together on the deck of the
Hermione.  They did not number fifty men in all, but the marines were
instantly formed up and a volley was fired down the after hatchway.
Then, following the flash of their muskets, with the captain leading,
the whole party leaped down upon the maindeck, driving the Spaniards
before them.  Some sixty Spaniards took refuge in the cabin, and
shouted they surrendered, whereupon they were ordered to throw down
their arms, and the doors were locked upon them, turning them into
prisoners.  On the main-deck and under the forecastle, however, the
fighting was fierce and deadly; but by this time the other boats had
come up, and the cables fore and aft were cut, as had been arranged.
The men detailed for that task had raced up the Spaniard's rigging, and
while the desperate fight raged below, had cast loose the topsails of
the _Hermione_.  Three of the boats, too, had taken her in tow.  She
began to move seaward, and that movement, with the sound of the
rippling water along the ship's sides, appalled the Spaniards, and
persuaded them the ship was lost.

On the quarter-deck the gunner and two men--all three wounded--stood at
the wheel, and flung the head of the _Hermione_ seaward.  They were
fiercely attacked, but while one man clung to the wheel and kept
control of the ship, the gunner and his mate kept off the Spaniards.
Presently the foretopsail filled with the land breeze, the water
rippled louder along the sides of the moving vessel, the ship swayed to
the wind.  The batteries by this time were thundering from the shore,
but though they shot away many ropes, they fired with signal
ill-success.  Only fifty British sailors and marines, it must be
remembered, were actually on the deck of the _Hermione_, and amongst
the crowd of sullen and exasperated Spaniards below, who had
surrendered, but were still furious with the astonishment of the attack
and the passion of the fight, there arose a shout to "blow up the
ship."  The British had to fire down through the hatchway upon the
swaying crowd to enforce order.  By two o'clock the struggle was over,
the _Hermione_ was beyond the fire of the batteries, and the crews of
the boats towing her came on board.

There is no more surprising fight in British history.  The mere
swiftness with which the adventure was carried out is marvellous.  It
was past six P.M. when Hamilton disclosed his plan to his officers, the
_Hermione_ at that moment lying some eight miles distant; by two
o'clock the captured ship, with the British flag flying from her peak,
was clear of the harbour.  Only half a hundred men actually got on
board the _Hermione_, but what a resolute, hard-smiting, strong-fisted
band they were may be judged by the results.  Of the Spaniards, 119
were killed, and 97 wounded, most of them dangerously.  Hamilton's 50
men, that is, in those few minutes of fierce fighting, cut down four
times their own number!  Not one of the British, as it happened, was
killed, and only 12 wounded, Captain Hamilton himself receiving no less
than five serious wounds.  The _Hermione_ was restored to her place in
the British Navy List, but under a new name--the _Retribution_--and the
story of that heroic night attack will be for all time one of the most
stirring incidents in the long record of brave deeds performed by
British seamen.



FRENCH AND ENGLISH IN THE PASSES


  "Beating from the wasted vines
  Back to France her banded swarms,
  Back to France with countless blows,
  Till o'er the hills her eagles flew
  Beyond the Pyrenean pines;
  Follow'd up in valley and glen
  With blare of bugle, clamour of men,
  Roll of cannon and clash of arms,
  And England pouring on her foes.
  Such a war had such a close."
            --TENNYSON.


"In both the passes, and on the heights above them, there was desperate
fighting.  They fought on the mountain-tops, which could scarcely have
witnessed any other combat than that of the Pyrenean eagles; they
fought among jagged rocks and over profound abysses; they fought amidst
clouds and mists, for those mountain-tops were 5000 feet above the
level of the plain of France, and the rains, which had fallen in
torrents, were evaporating in the morning and noon-day sun, were
steaming heavenward and clothing the loftiest peaks with fantastic
wreaths."  These words describe, with picturesque force, the most
brilliant and desperate, and yet, perhaps, the least known chapter in
the great drama of the Peninsular war: the furious combats waged
between British and French in the gloomy valleys and on the
mist-shrouded summits of the Western Pyrenees.  The great campaign,
which found its climax at Vittoria, lasted six weeks.  In that brief
period Wellington marched with 100,000 men 600 miles, passed six great
rivers, gained one historic and decisive battle, invested two
fortresses, and drove 120,000 veteran troops from Spain.  There is no
more brilliant chapter in military history; and, at its close, to quote
Napier's clarion-like sentences, "the English general, emerging from
the chaos of the Peninsular struggle, stood on the summit of the
Pyrenees a recognised conqueror.  From those lofty pinnacles the
clangour of his trumpets pealed clear and loud, and the splendour of
his genius appeared as a flaming beacon to warring nations."

But the great barrier of the Pyrenees stretched across Wellington's
path, a tangle of mountains sixty miles in length; a wild table-land
rough with crags, fierce with mountain torrents, shaggy with forests, a
labyrinth of savage and snow-clad hills.  On either flank a great
fortress--San Sebastian and Pampeluna--was held by the French, and
Wellington was besieging both at once, and besieging them without
battering trains.  The echoes of Vittoria had aroused Napoleon, then
fighting desperately on the Elbe, and ten days after Vittoria the
French Emperor, acting with the lightning-like decision characteristic
of his genius, had despatched Soult, the ablest of all his generals, to
bar the passes of the Pyrenees against Wellington.  Soult travelled day
and night to the scene of his new command, gathering reinforcements on
every side as he went, and in an incredibly short period he had
assembled on the French side of the Pyrenees a great and perfectly
equipped force of 75,000 men.

Wellington could not advance and leave San Sebastian and Pampeluna on
either flank held by the enemy.  Some eight separate passes pierce the
giant chain of the Pyrenees.  Soult was free to choose any one of them
for his advance to the relief of either of the besieged fortresses, but
Wellington had to keep guard over the whole eight, and the force
holding each pass was almost completely isolated from its comrades.
Thus all the advantages of position were with Soult.  He could pour his
whole force through one or two selected passes, brush aside the
relatively scanty force which held it, relieve San Sebastian or
Pampeluna, and, with the relieved fortress as his base, fling himself
on Wellington's flank while the allied armies were scattered over the
slopes of the Pyrenees for sixty miles.  And Soult was exactly the
general to avail himself of these advantages.  He had the swift vision,
the resolute will, and the daring of a great commander.  "It is on
Spanish soil," he said in a proclamation to his troops, "your tents
must next be pitched.  Let the account of our successes be dated from
Vittoria, and let the fête-day of his Imperial Majesty be celebrated in
that city."  These were brave words, and having uttered them, Soult led
his gallant troops, with gallant purpose, into the gloomy passes of the
Pyrenees, and for days following the roar of battle sank and swelled
over the snow-clad peaks.  But when the Imperial fête-day
arrived--August 15--Soult's great army was pouring back from those same
passes a shattered host, and the allied troops, sternly following them,
were threatening French soil!

Soult judged Pampeluna to be in greater peril than San Sebastian, and
moved by his left to force the passes of Roncesvalles and Maya.  The
rain fell furiously, the mountain streams were in flood, gloomy mists
shrouded the hill-tops; but by July 24, with more than 60,000 fighting
men, and nearly seventy guns, Soult was pouring along the passes he had
chosen.  It is impossible to do more than pick out a few of the purple
patches in the swift succession of heroic combats that followed: fights
waged on mountain summits 5000 feet above the sea-level, in shaggy
forests, under tempests of rain and snow.  D'Erlon, with a force of
20,000 men, took the British by surprise in the pass of Maya.  Ross, an
eager and hardy soldier, unexpectedly encountering the French advance
guard, instantly shouted the order to "Charge!" and with a handful of
the 20th flung himself upon the enemy, and actually checked their
advance until Cole, who had only 10,000 bayonets to oppose to 30,000,
had got into fighting form.  A thick fog fell like a pall on the
combatants, and checked the fight, and Cole, in the night, fell back.
The French columns were in movement at daybreak, but still the fog hid
the whole landscape, and the guides of the French feared to lead them
up the slippery crags.  At Maya, however, the French in force broke
upon Stewart's division, holding that pass.  The British regiments, as
they came running up, not in mass, but by companies, and breathless
with the run, were flung with furious haste upon the French.  The 34th,
the 39th, the 28th in succession crashed into the fight, but were flung
back by overpowering numbers.  It was a battle of 4000 men against
13,000.

The famous 50th, fiercely advancing, checked the French rush at one
point; but Soult's men were full of the _élan_ of victory, and swept
past the British flanks.  The 71st and 92nd were brought into the
fight, and the latter especially clung sternly to their position till
two men out of every three were shot down, the mound of dead and dying
forming a solid barrier between the wasted survivors of the regiment
and the shouting edge of the French advance.  "The stern valour of the
92nd," says Napier, "principally composed of Irishmen, would have
graced Thermopylae."  No one need question the fighting quality of the
Irish soldier, but, as a matter of fact, there were 825 Highlanders in
the regiment, and 61 Irishmen.  The British, however, were steadily
pushed back, ammunition failed, and the soldiers were actually
defending the highest crag with stones, when Barnes, with a brigade of
the seventh division, coming breathlessly up the pass, plunged into the
fight, and checked the French.  Soult had gained ten of the thirty
miles of road toward Pampeluna, but at an ominous cost, and, meanwhile,
the plan of his attack was developed, and Wellington was in swift
movement to bar his path.

Soult had now swung into the pass of Roncesvalles, and was on the point
of attacking Cole, who held the pass with a very inadequate force,
when, at that exact moment, Wellington, having despatched his aides in
various directions to bring up the troops, galloped alone along the
mountain flank to the British line.  He was recognised; the nearest
troops raised a shout; it ran, gathering volume as it travelled down
all the slope, where the British stood waiting for the French attack.
That sudden shout, stern and exultant, reached the French lines, and
they halted.  At the same moment, round the shoulder of the hill on the
opposite side of the pass, Soult appeared, and the two generals, near
enough to see each other's features, eagerly scrutinised one another.
"Yonder is a great commander," said Wellington, as if speaking to
himself, "but he is cautious, and will delay his attack to ascertain
the cause of these cheers.  That will give time for the sixth division
to arrive, and I shall beat him."  Wellington's forecast of Soult's
action was curiously accurate.  He made no attack that day.  The sixth
division came up, and Soult was beaten!

[Illustration: Combat of Roncesvalles, July 25, 1813.  From Napier's
"Peninsular War."]

There were two combats of Sauroren, and each was, in Wellington's own
phrase, "bludgeon work"--a battle of soldiers rather than of generals,
a tangle of fierce charges and counter-charges, of volleys delivered so
close that they scorched the very clothes of the opposing lines, and
sustained so fiercely that they died down only because the lines of
desperately firing men crumbled into ruin and silence.  Nothing could
be finer than the way in which a French column, swiftly, sternly, and
without firing a shot, swept up a craggy steep crowned by rocks like
castles, held by some Portuguese battalions, and won the position.
Ross's brigade, in return, with equal vehemence recharged the position
from its side, and dashed the French out of it; the French in still
greater force came back, a shouting mass, and crushed Ross's men.  Then
Wellington sent forward Byng's brigade at running pace, and hurled the
French down the mountain side.  At another point in the pass the French
renewed their assault four times; in their second assault they gained
the summit.  The 40th were in reserve at that point; they waited in
steady silence till the edge of the French line, a confused mass of
tossing bayonets and perspiring faces, came clear over the crest; then,
running forward with extraordinary fury, they flung them, a broken,
tumultuous mass, down the slope.  In the later charges, so fierce and
resolute were the French officers that they were seen dragging their
tired soldiers up the hill by their belts!

It is idle to attempt the tale of this wild mountain fighting.  Soult
at last fell back, and Wellington followed, swift and vehement, on his
track, and moved Alten's column to intercept the French retreat.  The
story of Alten's march is a marvellous record of soldierly endurance.
His men pressed on with speed for nineteen consecutive hours, and
covered forty miles of mountain tracks, wilder than the Otway Ranges,
or the paths of the Australian Alps between Bright and Omeo.  The
weather was close; many men fell and died, convulsed and frothing at
the mouth.  Still, their officers leading, the regiment kept up its
quick step, till, as evening fell, the head of the column reached the
edge of the precipice overlooking the bridge across which, in all the
confusion of a hurried retreat, the French troops were crowding.  "We
overlooked the enemy," says Cook in his "Memoirs," "at stone's-throw.
The river separated us; but the French were wedged in a narrow road,
with inaccessible rocks on one side, and the river on the other."  Who
can describe the scene that followed!  Some of the French fired
vertically up at the British; others ran; others shouted for quarter;
some pointed with eager gestures to the wounded, whom they carried on
branches of trees, as if entreating the British not to fire.

In nine days of continual marching, ten desperate actions had been
fought, at what cost of life can hardly be reckoned.  Napier, after
roughly calculating the losses, says: "Let this suffice.  It is not
needful to sound the stream of blood in all its horrid depths."  But
the fighting sowed the wild passes of the Pyrenees thick with the
graves of brave men.

Soult actually fought his way to within sight of the walls of
Pampeluna, and its beleaguered garrison waved frantic welcomes to his
columns as, from the flanks of the overshadowing hills, they looked
down on the city.  Then broken as by the stroke of a thunderbolt, and
driven like wild birds caught in a tempest, the French poured back
through the passes to French soil again.  "I never saw such fighting,"
was Wellington's comment on the struggle.

For the weeks that followed, Soult could only look on while San
Sebastian and Pampeluna fell.  Then the allied outposts were advanced
to the slopes looking down on France and the distant sea.  It is
recorded that the Highlanders of Hill's division, like Xenophon's
Greeks 2000 years before them, broke into cheers when they caught their
first glimpse of the sea, the great, wrinkled, azure-tinted floor,
flecked with white sails.  It was "the way home!"  Bearn and Gascony
and Languedoc lay stretched like a map under their feet.  But the
weather was bitter, the snow lay thick in the passes, sentinels were
frozen at the outposts, and a curious stream of desertions began.  The
warm plains of sunny France tempted the half-frozen troops, and Southey
computes, with an arithmetical precision which is half-humorous, that
the average weekly proportion of desertions was 25 Spaniards, 15 Irish,
12 English, 6 Scotch, and half a Portuguese!  One indignant English
colonel drew up his regiment on parade, and told the men that "if any
of them wanted to join the French they had better do so at once.  He
gave them free leave.  He wouldn't have men in the regiment who wished
to join the enemy!"

Meanwhile Soult was trying to construct on French soil lines of defence
as mighty as those of Wellington at Torres Vedras; and on October 7,
Wellington pushed his left across the Bidassoa, the stream that marks
the boundaries of Spain and France.  On the French side the hills rise
to a great height.  One huge shoulder, called La Rhune, commands the
whole stream; another lofty ridge, called the "Boar's Back," offered
almost equal facilities for defence.  The only road that crossed the
hills rose steeply, with sharp zigzags, and for weeks the French had
toiled to make the whole position impregnable.  The British soldiers
had watched while the mountain sides were scarred with trenches, and
the road was blocked with abattis, and redoubt rose above redoubt like
a gigantic staircase climbing the sky.  The Bidassoa at its mouth is
wide, and the tides rose sixteen feet.

But on the night of October 7--a night wild with rain and
sleet--Wellington's troops marched silently to their assigned posts on
the banks of the river.  When day broke, at a signal-gun seven columns
could be seen moving at once in a line of five miles, and before Soult
could detect Wellington's plan the river was crossed, the French
entrenched camps on the Bidassoa won!  The next morning the heights
were attacked.  The Rifles carried the Boar's Back with a single
effort.  The Bayonette Crest, a huge spur guarded by battery above
battery, and crowned by a great redoubt, was attacked by Colborne's
brigade and some Portuguese.  The tale of how the hill was climbed, and
the batteries carried in swift succession, cannot be told here.  It was
a warlike feat of the most splendid quality.  Other columns moving
along the flanks of the great hill alarmed the French lest they should
be cut off, and they abandoned the redoubt on the summit.  Colborne,
accompanied by only one of his staff and half-a-dozen files of
riflemen, came suddenly round a shoulder of the hill on the whole
garrison of the redoubt, 300 strong, in retreat.  With great presence
of mind, he ordered them, in the sharpest tones of authority, to "lay
down their arms," and, believing themselves cut off, they obeyed!

A column of Spanish troops moving up the flanks of the great Rhune
found their way barred by a strong line of abattis and the fire of two
French regiments.  The column halted, and their officers vainly strove
to get the Spaniards to attack.  An officer of the 43rd named
Havelock--a name yet more famous in later wars--attached to Alten's
staff, was sent to see what caused the stoppage of the column.  He
found the Spaniards checked by the great abattis, through which
flashed, fierce and fast, the fire of the French.  Waving his hat, he
shouted to the Spaniards to "follow him," and, putting his horse at the
abattis, at one leap went headlong amongst the French.  There is a
swift contagion in valour.  He was only a light-haired lad, and the
Spaniards with one vehement shout for "el chico blanco"--"the fair
lad"--swept over abattis and French together!



FAMOUS CUTTING-OUT EXPEDITIONS


  "We have fed our sea for a thousand years,
    And she calls us, still unfed,
  Though there's never a wave of all her waves
    But marks our English dead;
  We have strawed our best to the weed's unrest,
    To the shark and the sheering gull.
  If blood be the price of admiralty,
    Lord God, we ha' paid in full!
    *    *    *    *    *
  There's never a flood goes shoreward now
    But lifts a keel we manned;
  There's never an ebb goes seaward now
    But drops our dead on the sand.

  We must feed our sea for a thousand years,
    For that is our doom and pride,
  As it was when they sailed with the Golden Hind,
    Or the wreck that struck last tide--
  Or the wreck that lies on the spouting reef
    Where the ghastly blue lights flare.
  If blood be the price of admiralty,
  If blood be the price of admiralty,
  If blood be the price of admiralty,
    Lord God, we ha' bought it fair!"
            --KIPLING.


As illustrations of cool daring, of the courage that does not count
numbers or depend on noise, nor flinch from flame or steel, few things
are more wonderful than the many cutting-out stories to be found in the
history of the British navy.  The soldier in the forlorn hope,
scrambling up the breach swept by grape and barred by a triple line of
steadfast bayonets, must be a brave man.  But it may be doubted whether
he shows a courage so cool and high as that of a boat's crew of sailors
in a cutting-out expedition.

The ship to be attacked lies, perhaps, floating in a tropic haze five
miles off, and the attacking party must pull slowly, in a sweltering
heat, up to the iron lips of her guns.  The greedy, restless sea is
under them, and a single shot may turn the eager boat's crew at any
instant into a cluster of drowning wretches.  When the ship is reached,
officers and men must clamber over bulwarks and boarding-netting,
exposed, almost helplessly, as they climb, to thrust of pike and shot
of musket, and then leap down, singly and without order, on to the deck
crowded with foes.  Or, perhaps, the ship to be cut out lies in a
hostile port under the guard of powerful batteries, and the boats must
dash in through the darkness, and their crews tumble, at three or four
separate points, on to the deck of the foe, cut her cables, let fall
her sails, and--while the mad fight still rages on her deck and the
great battery booms from the cliff overhead--carry the ship out of the
harbour.  These, surely, are deeds of which only a sailor's courage is
capable!  Let a few such stories be taken from faded naval records and
told afresh to a new generation.

In July 1800 the 14-gun cutter _Viper_, commanded by acting-Lieutenant
Jeremiah Coghlan, was attached to Sir Edward Pellew's squadron off Port
Louis.  Coghlan, as his name tells, was of Irish blood.  He had just
emerged from the chrysalis stage of a midshipman, and, flushed with the
joy of an independent command, was eager for adventure.  The entrance
to Port Louis was watched by a number of gunboats constantly on
sentry-go, and Coghlan conceived the idea of jumping suddenly on one of
these, and carrying her off from under the guns of the enemy's fleet.
He persuaded Sir Edward Pellew to lend him the flagship's ten-oared
cutter, with twelve volunteers.  Having got this reinforcement, and
having persuaded the _Amethyst_ frigate to lend him a boat and crew,
Mr. Jeremiah Coghlan proceeded to carry out another and very different
plan from that he had ventured to suggest to his admiral.  A French
gun-brig, named the _Cerbère_, was lying in the harbour of St. Louis.
She mounted three long 24 and four 6-pounders, and was moored, with
springs in her cables, within pistol-shot of three batteries.  A French
seventy-four and two frigates were within gunshot of her.  She had a
crew of eighty-six men, sixteen of whom were soldiers.  It was upon
this brig, lying under three powerful batteries, within a hostile and
difficult port, that Mr. Jeremiah Coghlan proposed, in the darkness of
night, to make a dash.  He added the _Viper's_ solitary midshipman,
with himself and six of his crew, to the twelve volunteers on board the
flagship's cutter, raising its crew to twenty men, and, with the
_Amethyst's_ boat and a small boat from the _Viper_, pulled off in the
blackness of the night on this daring adventure.

The ten-oared cutter ran away from the other two boats, reached the
_Cerbère_, found her with battle lanterns alight and men at quarters,
and its crew at once jumped on board the Frenchman.  Coghlan, as was
proper, jumped first, landed on a trawl-net hung up to dry, and, while
sprawling helpless in its meshes, was thrust through the thigh with a
pike, and with his men--several also severely hurt--tumbled back into
the boat.  The British picked themselves up, hauled their boat a little
farther ahead, clambered up the sides of the _Cerbère_ once more, and
were a second time beaten back with new wounds.  They clung to the
Frenchman, however, fought their way up to a new point, broke through
the French defences, and after killing or wounding twenty-six of the
enemy--or more than every fourth man of the _Cerbère's_ crew--actually
captured her, the other two boats coming up in time to help in towing
out the prize under a wrathful fire from the batteries.  Coghlan had
only one killed and eight wounded, himself being wounded in two places,
and his middy in six.  Sir Edward Pellew, in his official despatch,
grows eloquent over "the courage which, hand to hand, gave victory to a
handful of brave fellows over four times their number, and the skill
which planned, conducted, and effected so daring an enterprise."  Earl
St. Vincent, himself the driest and grimmest of admirals, was so
delighted with the youthful Irishman's exploit that he presented him
with a handsome sword.

In 1811, again, Great Britain was at war with the Dutch--a tiny little
episode of the great revolutionary war.  A small squadron of British
ships was cruising off Batavia.  A French squadron, with troops to
strengthen the garrison, was expected daily.  The only fortified port
into which they could run was Marrack, and the commander of the British
squadron cruising to intercept the French ships determined to make a
dash by night on Marrack, and so secure the only possible landing-place
for the French.  Marrack was defended by batteries mounting fifty-four
heavy guns.  The attacking force was to consist of 200 seamen and 250
troops, under the command of Lieutenant Lyons of the _Minden_.  Just
before the boats pushed off, however, the British commander learned
that the Dutch garrison had been heavily reinforced, and deeming an
assault too hazardous, the plan was abandoned.  A few days afterwards
Lyons, with the _Minden's_ launch and cutter, was despatched to land
nineteen prisoners at Batavia, and pick up intelligence.  Lyons, a very
daring and gallant officer, learned that the Marrack garrison was in a
state of sleepy security, and, with his two boats' crews, counting
thirty-five officers and men, he determined to make a midnight dash on
the fort, an exploit which 430 men were reckoned too weak a force to
attempt.

Lyons crept in at sunset to the shore, and hid his two boats behind a
point from which the fort was visible.  A little after midnight, just
as the moon dipped below the horizon, Lyons stole with muffled oars
round the point, and instantly the Dutch sentries gave the alarm.
Lyons, however, pushed fiercely on, grounded his boats in a heavy surf
under the very embrasures of the lower battery, and, in an instant,
thirty-five British sailors were tumbling over the Dutch guns and upon
the heavy-breeched and astonished Dutch gunners.  The battery was
carried.  Lyons gathered his thirty-five sailors into a cluster, and,
with a rush, captured the upper battery.  Still climbing up, they
reached the top of the hill, and found the whole Dutch garrison forming
in line to receive them.  The sailors instantly ran in upon the
half-formed line, cutlass in hand; Lyons roared that he "had 400 men,
and would give no quarter;" and the Dutch, finding the pace of events
too rapid for their nerves, broke and fled.  But the victorious British
were only thirty-five in number, and were surrounded by powerful
forces.  They began at once to dismantle the guns and destroy the fort,
but two Dutch gunboats in the bay opened fire on them, as did a heavy
battery in the rear.

At daybreak a strong Dutch column was formed, and came on at a resolute
and laborious trot towards the shattered gate of the fort.  Lyons had
trained two 24-pounders, loaded to the muzzle with musket balls, on the
gate, left invitingly open.  He himself stood, with lighted match, by
one gun; his second in command, with another lighted match, by the
other.  They waited coolly by the guns till the Dutch, their officers
leading, reached the gate, raising a tumult of angry guttural shouts as
they came on.  Then, from a distance of little over ten yards, the
British fired.  The head of the column was instantly smashed, its tail
broken up into flying fragments.  Lyons finished the destruction of the
fort at leisure, sank one of the two gunboats with the last shot fired
from the last gun before he spiked it, and marched off, leaving the
British flag flying on the staff above the fort, where, in the fury of
the attack, it had been hoisted in a most gallant fashion by the
solitary middy of the party, a lad named Franks, only fifteen years
old.  One of the two boats belonging to the British had been bilged by
the surf, and the thirty-five seamen--only four of them wounded--packed
themselves into the remaining boat and pulled off, carrying with them
the captured Dutch colours.  Let the reader's imagination illuminate,
as the writer's pen cannot, that midnight dash by thirty-five men on a
heavily armed fort with a garrison twelve times the strength of the
attacking force.  Where in stories of warfare, ancient or modern, is
such another tale of valour to be found?  Lyons, however, was not
promoted, as he had "acted without orders."

A tale, with much the same flavour in it, but not so dramatically
successful, has for its scene the coast of Spain.  In August 1812, the
British sloop _Minstrel_, of 24 guns, and the 18-gun brig _Philomel_,
were blockading three small French privateers in the port of Biendom,
near Alicante.  The privateers were protected by a strong fort mounting
24 guns.  By way of precaution, two of the ships were hauled on shore,
six of their guns being landed, and formed into a battery manned by
eighty of their crews.  The _Minstrel_ and her consort could not
pretend to attack a position so strong, but they kept vigilant watch
outside, and a boat from one ship or the other rowed guard every night
near the shore.  On the night of the 12th the _Minstrel's_ boat, with
seven seamen, was in command of an Irish midshipman named Michael
Dwyer.  Dwyer had all the fighting courage of his race, with almost
more of the gay disregard of odds than is natural to even an Irish
midshipman.  It occurred to Mr. Michael Dwyer that if he could carry by
surprise the 6-gun battery, there would be a chance of destroying the
privateers.  A little before ten P.M. he pulled silently to the beach,
at a point three miles distant from the battery, and, with his seven
followers, landed, and was instantly challenged by a French sentry.
Dwyer by some accident knew Spanish, and, with ready-witted audacity,
replied in that language that "they were peasants."  They were allowed
to pass, and these seven tars, headed by a youth, set off on the three
miles' trudge to attack a fort!

There were eighty men in the battery when Michael and his amazing seven
rushed upon it.  There was a wild struggle for five minutes, and then
the eighty fled before the eight, and the delighted middy found himself
in possession of the battery.  But the alarm was given, and two
companies of French infantry, each one hundred strong, came resolutely
up to retake the battery.  Eight against eighty seemed desperate odds,
but eight against two hundred is a quite hopeless proportion.  Yet Mr.
Dwyer and his seven held the fort till one of their number was killed,
two (including the midshipman) badly wounded, and, worst of all, their
ammunition exhausted.  When the British had fired their last shot, the
French, with levelled bayonets, broke in; but the inextinguishable
Dwyer was not subdued till he had been stabbed in seventeen places, and
of the whole eight British only one was left unwounded.  The French
amazement when they discovered that the force which attacked them
consisted of seven men and a boy, was too deep for words.

Perhaps the most brilliant cutting-out in British records is the
carrying of the _Chevrette_ by the boats of three British frigates in
Cameret Bay in 1801.  A previous and mismanaged attempt had put the
_Chevrette_ on its guard; it ran a mile and a half farther up the bay,
moored itself under some heavy batteries, took on board a powerful
detachment of infantry, bringing its number of men up to 339, and then
hoisted in defiance a large French ensign over the British flag.  Some
temporary redoubts were thrown up on the points of land commanding the
_Chevrette_, and a heavily armed gunboat was moored at the entrance of
the bay as a guard-boat.  After all these preparations the
_Chevrette's_ men felt both safe and jubilant; but the sight of that
French flag flying over the British ensign was a challenge not to be
refused, and at half-past nine that night the boats of the three
frigates--the _Doris_, the _Uranie_, and the _Beaulieu_--fifteen in
all, carrying 280 officers and men, were in the water and pulling off
to attack the _Chevrette_.

Lieutenant Losack, in command, with his own and five other boats,
suddenly swung off in the gloom in chase of what he supposed to be the
look-out boat of the enemy, ordering the other nine boats to lie on
their oars till he returned.  But time stole on; he failed to return;
and Lieutenant Maxwell, the next in command, reflecting that the night
was going, and the boats had six miles to pull, determined to carry out
the expedition, though he had only nine boats and less than 180 men,
instead of fifteen boats and 280 men.  He summoned his little squadron
in the darkness about him, and gave exact instructions.  As the boats
dashed up, one was to cut the _Chevrette's_ cables; when they boarded,
the smartest topmen, named man by man, were to fight their way aloft
and cut loose the _Chevrette's_ sails; one of the finest sailors in the
boats, Wallis, the quartermaster of the _Beaulieu_, was to take charge
of the _Chevrette's_ helm.  Thus at one and the same instant the
_Chevrette_ was to be boarded, cut loose, its sails dropped, and its
head swung round towards the harbour mouth.

At half-past twelve the moon sank.  The night was windless and black;
but the bearing of the _Chevrette_ had been taken by compass, and the
boats pulled gently on, till, ghost-like in the gloom, the doomed ship
was discernible.  A soft air from the land began to blow at that
moment.  Suddenly the _Chevrette_ and the batteries overhead broke into
flame.  The boats were discovered!  The officers leaped to their feet
in the stern of each boat, and urged the men on.  The leading boats
crashed against the _Chevrette's_ side.  The ship was boarded
simultaneously on both bows and quarters.  The force on board the
_Chevrette_, however, was numerous enough to make a triple line of
armed men round the whole sweep of its bulwarks; they were armed with
pikes, tomahawks, cutlasses, and muskets, and they met the attack most
gallantly, even venturing in their turn to board the boats.  By this
time, however, the nine boats Maxwell was leading had all come up, and
although the defence outnumbered the attack by more than two to one,
yet the British were not to be denied.  They clambered fiercely on
board; the topmen raced aloft, found the foot-ropes on the yards all
strapped up, but running out, cutlass in hand, they cut loose the
_Chevrette's_ sails.  Wallis, meanwhile, had fought his way to the
wheel, slew two of the enemy in the process, was desperately wounded
himself, yet stood steadily at the wheel, and kept the _Chevrette_
under command, the batteries by this time opening upon the ship a fire
of grape and heavy shot.

In less than three minutes after the boats came alongside, although
nearly every second man of their crews had been killed or wounded, the
three topsails and courses of the _Chevrette_ had fallen, the cables
had been cut, and the ship was moving out in the darkness.  She leaned
over to the light breeze, the ripple sounded louder at her stern, and
when the French felt the ship under movement, it for the moment
paralysed their defence.  Some jumped overboard; others threw down
their arms and ran below.  The fight, though short, had been so fierce
that the deck was simply strewn with bodies.  Many of the French who
had retreated below renewed the fight there; they tried to blow up the
quarter-deck with gunpowder in their desperation, and the British had
to fight a new battle between decks with half their force while the
ship was slowly getting under weigh.  The fire of the batteries was
furious, but, curiously enough, no important spar was struck, though
some of the boats towing alongside were sunk.  And while the batteries
thundered overhead, and the battle still raged on the decks below, the
British seamen managed to set every sail on the ship, and even got
topgallant yards across.  Slowly the _Chevrette_ drew out of the
harbour.  Just then some boats were discovered pulling furiously up
through the darkness; they were taken to be French boats bent on
recapture, and Maxwell's almost exhausted seamen were summoned to a new
conflict.  The approaching boats, however, turned out to be the
detachment under Lieutenant Losack, who came up to find the work done
and the _Chevrette_ captured.

The fight on the deck of the _Chevrette_ had been of a singularly
deadly character.  The British had a total of 11 killed and 57 wounded;
the Chevrette lost 92 killed and 62 wounded, amongst the slain being
the _Chevrette's_ captain, her two lieutenants, and three midshipmen.
Many stories are told of the daring displayed by British seamen in this
attack.  The boatswain of the _Beaulieu_, for example, boarded the
_Chevrette's_ taffrail; he took one glance along the crowded decks,
waved his cutlass, shouted "Make a lane there!" and literally carved
his way through to the forecastle, which he cleared of the French, and
kept clear, in spite of repeated attacks, while he assisted to cast the
ship about and make sail with as much coolness as though he had been on
board the _Beaulieu_.  Wallis, who fought his way to the helm of the
_Chevrette_, and, though wounded, kept his post with iron coolness
while the fight raged, was accosted by his officer when the fight was
over with an expression of sympathy for his wounds.  "It is only a
prick or two, sir," said Wallis, and he added he "was ready to go out
on a similar expedition the next night."  A boatswain's mate named Ware
had his left arm cut clean off by a furious slash of a French sabre,
and fell back into the boat.  With the help of a comrade's tarry
fingers Ware bound up the bleeding stump with rough but energetic
surgery, climbed with his solitary hand on board the Chevrette, and
played a most gallant part in the fight.

The fight that captured the _Chevrette_ is almost without parallel.
Here was a ship carried off from an enemy's port, with the combined
fleets of France and Spain looking on.  The enemy were not taken by
surprise; they did not merely defy attack, they invited it.  The
British had to assail a force three times their number, with every
advantage of situation and arms.  The British boats were exposed to a
heavy fire from the _Chevrette_ itself and from the shore batteries
before they came alongside.  The crews fought their way up the sides of
the ship in the face of overwhelming odds; they got the vessel under
weigh while the fight still raged, and brought her out of a narrow and
difficult roadstead, before they had actually captured her.  "All this
was done," to quote the "Naval Chronicle" for 1802, "in the presence of
the grand fleet of the enemy; it was done by nine boats out of fifteen,
which originally set out upon the expedition; it was done under the
conduct of an officer who, in the absence of the person appointed to
command, undertook it upon his own responsibility, and whose
intrepidity, judgment, and presence of mind, seconded by the wonderful
exertions of the officers and men under his command, succeeded in
effecting an enterprise which, by those who reflect upon its peculiar
circumstances, will ever be regarded with astonishment."



MOUNTAIN COMBATS


  "At length the freshening western blast
  Aside the shroud of battle cast;
  And first the ridge of mingled spears
  Above the brightening cloud appears;
  And in the smoke the pennons flew,
  As in the storm the white sea-mew.
  Then marked they, dashing broad and far,
  The broken billows of the war,
  And plumèd crests of chieftains brave
  Floating like foam upon the wave,
    But nought distinct they see."
            --SCOTT.


The brilliant and heroic combats on the Nive belong to the later stages
of the Pyrenean campaign; and here, as on the Bidassoa, Soult had all
the advantages of position.  He had a fortified camp and a great
fortress as his base; excellent roads linked the whole of his positions
together; he held the interior lines, and could reach any point in the
zone of operations in less time than his great opponent.  Wellington,
on the other hand, had almost every possible disadvantage.  The weather
was bitter; incessant rains fell; he had to operate on both sides of a
dangerous river; the roads were mere ribbons of tenacious clay, in
which the infantry sank to mid-leg, the guns to their axles, the
cavalry sometimes to their saddle-girths.  Moreover, Wellington's
Spanish troops had the sufferings and outrages of a dozen campaigns to
avenge, and when they found themselves on French soil the temptations
to plunder and murder were irresistible.  Wellington would not maintain
war by plunder, and, as he found he could not restrain his Spaniards,
he despatched the whole body, 25,000 strong, back to Spain.  It was a
great deed.  It violated all military canons, for by it Wellington
divided his army in the presence of the enemy.  It involved, too, a
rare sacrifice of personal ambition.  "If I had 20,000 Spaniards, paid
and fed," he wrote to Lord Bathurst, "I should have Bayonne.  If I had
40,000 I do not know where I should stop.  Now I have both the 20,000
and the 40,000, . . . but if they plunder they will ruin all."
Wellington was great enough to sacrifice both military rules and
personal ambition to humanity.  He was wise enough, too, to know that a
policy which outrages humanity in the long-run means disaster.

Wellington's supreme advantage lay in the fighting quality of his
troops.  The campaigns of six years had made them an army of veterans.
"Danger," says Napier, "was their sport," and victory, it might also be
added, was their habit.  They fought with a confidence and fierceness
which, added to the cool and stubborn courage native to the British
character, made the battalions which broke over the French frontier
under Wellington perhaps the most formidable fighting force known in
the history of war.  To quote Napier once more: "What Alexander's
Macedonians were at Arbela, Hannibal's Africans at Cannae, Caesar's
Romans at Pharsalia, Napoleon's Guards at Austerlitz, such were
Wellington's British soldiers at this period."

On November 10, 1813, was fought what is called the battle of Nivelle,
in which Wellington thrust Soult roughly and fiercely from the strong
positions he held on the flanks of the great hills under which the
Nivelle flows.  The morning broke in great splendour; three signal-guns
flashed from the heights of one of the British hills, and at once the
43rd leaped out and ran swiftly forward from the flank of the great
Rhune to storm the "Hog's Back" ridge of the Petite Rhune, a ridge
walled with rocks 200 feet high, except at one point, where it was
protected by a marsh.  William Napier, who commanded the 43rd, has told
the story of the assault.  He placed four companies in reserve, and led
the other four in person to the attack on the rocks; and he was chiefly
anxious not to rush his men--to "keep down the pace," so that they
would not arrive spent and breathless at the French works.  The men
were eager to rush, however; the fighting impulse in them was on flame,
and they were held back with difficulty.  When they were still nearly
200 yards from the enemy, a youthful aide-de-camp, his blood on fire,
came galloping up with a shout, and waving his hat.  The 43rd broke out
of hand at once with the impulse of the lad's enthusiasm and the stroke
of his horse's flying hoofs, and with a sudden rush they launched
themselves on the French works still high above them.

Napier had nothing for it but to join the charging mass.  "I was the
first man but one," he says, "who reached and jumped into the rocks,
and I was only second because my strength and speed were unequal to
contend with the giant who got before me.  He was the tallest and most
active man in the regiment, and the day before, being sentenced to
corporal punishment, I had pardoned him on the occasion of an
approaching action.  He now repaid me by striving always to place
himself between me and the fire of the enemy.  His name was Eccles, an
Irishman."  The men won the first redoubt, but simply had not breath
and strength enough left to reach the one above it, and fell gasping
and exhausted in the rocks before it, the French firing fiercely upon
them.  In a few minutes, however, they had recovered breath; they
leaped up with a shout, and tumbled over the wall of the castle; and
so, from barrier to barrier, as up some Titanic stairway, the 43rd
swept with glittering bayonets.  The summit was held by a powerful work
called the Donjon; it was so strong that attack upon it seemed madness.
But a keen-eyed British officer detected signs of wavering in the
French within the fort, and with a shout the 43rd leaped at it, and
carried it.  It took the 43rd twenty minutes to carry the whole chain
of positions; and of the eleven officers of the regiment, six were
killed or desperately wounded.  The French showed bravery; they fought,
in fact, muzzle to muzzle up the whole chain of positions.  But the
43rd charged with a daring and fury absolutely resistless.

Another amazing feature in the day's fight was the manner in which
Colborne, with the 52nd, carried what was called the Signal Redoubt, a
strong work, crowning a steep needle-pointed hill, and overlooking the
whole French position.  Colborne led his men up an ascent so sharp that
his horse with difficulty could climb it.  The summit was reached, and
the men went in, with a run, at the work, only to find the redoubt
girdled by a wide ditch thirty feet deep.  The men halted on the edge
of the deep cutting, and under the fire of the French they fell fast.
Colborne led back his men under the brow of the hill for shelter, and
at three separate points brought them over the crest again.  In each
case, after the men had rested under shelter long enough to recover
breath, the word was passed, "Stand up and advance."  The men instantly
obeyed, and charged up to the edge of the ditch again, many of the
leading files jumping into it.  But it was impossible to cross, and
each time the mass of British infantry stepped coolly back into cover
again.

One sergeant named Mayne, who had leaped into the ditch, found he could
neither climb the ramparts nor get back to his comrades, and he flung
himself on his face.  A Frenchman leaned over the rampart, took
leisurely aim, and fired at him as he lay.  Mayne had stuck the
billhook of his section at the back of his knapsack, and the bullet
struck it and flattened upon it.  Colborne was a man of infinite
resource in war, and at this crisis he made a bugler sound a parley,
hoisted his white pocket-handkerchief, and coolly walked round to the
gate of the redoubt and invited the garrison to surrender.  The veteran
who commanded it answered indignantly, "What!  I with my battalion
surrender to you with yours?"  "Very well," answered Colborne in
French, "the artillery will be up immediately; you cannot hold out, and
you will be surrendered to the Spaniards."  That threat was sufficient.
The French officers remonstrated stormily with their commander, and the
work was surrendered.  But only one French soldier in the redoubt had
fallen, whereas amongst the 52nd "there fell," says Napier, "200
soldiers of a regiment never surpassed in arms since arms were first
borne by men."  In this fight Soult was driven in a little more than
three hours from a mountain position he had been fortifying for more
than three months.

Amongst the brave men who died that day on the side of the British were
two whose portraits Napier has drawn with something of Plutarch's
minuteness:--

"The first, low in rank, for he was but a lieutenant; rich in honour,
for he bore many scars; was young of days--he was only nineteen--and
had seen more combats and sieges than he could count years.  So slight
in person and of such surpassing and delicate beauty that the Spaniards
often thought him a girl disguised in man's clothing; he was yet so
vigorous, so active, so brave, that the most daring and experienced
veterans watched his looks on the field of battle, and, implicitly
following where he led, would, like children, obey his slightest sign
in the most difficult situations.  His education was incomplete, yet
were his natural powers so happy that the keenest and best-furnished
shrank from an encounter of wit; and every thought and aspiration was
proud and noble, indicating future greatness if destiny had so willed
it.  Such was Edward Freer of the 43rd.  The night before the battle he
had that strange anticipation of coming death so often felt by military
men.  He was struck by three balls at the first storming of the Rhune
rocks, and the sternest soldiers wept, even in the middle of the fight,
when they saw him fall."

"On the same day, and at the same hour, was killed Colonel Thomas
Lloyd.  He likewise had been a long time in the 43rd.  Under him Freer
had learned the rudiments of his profession; but in the course of the
war, promotion placed Lloyd at the head of the 94th, and it was leading
that regiment he fell.  In him also were combined mental and bodily
powers of no ordinary kind.  Graceful symmetry, herculean strength, and
a countenance frank and majestic, gave the true index of his nature;
for his capacity was great and commanding, and his military knowledge
extensive, both from experience and study.  Of his mirth and wit, well
known in the army, it only need be said that he used the latter without
offence, yet so as to increase the ascendency over those with whom he
held intercourse; for, though gentle, he was ambitious, valiant, and
conscious of his fitness for great exploits.  And he, like Freer, was
prescient of and predicted his own fall, but with no abatement of
courage, for when he received the mortal wound, a most painful one, he
would not suffer himself to be moved, and remained to watch the battle,
making observations upon its changes until death came.  It was thus, at
the age of thirty, that the good, the brave, the generous Lloyd died.
Tributes to his memory have been published by Wellington, and by one of
his own poor soldiers, by the highest and by the lowest.  To their
testimony I add mine.  Let those who served on equal terms with him say
whether in aught it has exaggerated his deserts."

A pathetic incident may be added, found in Napier's biography, but
which he does not give in his History.  The night before the battle
Napier was stretched on the ground under his cloak, when young Freer
came to him and crept under the cover of his cloak, sobbing as if his
heart would break.  Napier tried to soothe and comfort the boy, and
learnt from him that he was fully persuaded he should lose his life in
the approaching battle, and his distress was caused by thinking of his
mother and sister in England.

On December 9, Wellington, by a daring movement and with some fierce
fighting, crossed the Nive.  It was a movement which had many
advantages, but one drawback--his wings were now separated by the Nive;
and Soult at this stage, like the great and daring commander he was,
took advantage of his position to attempt a great counter-stroke.  It
was within his power to fling his whole force on either wing of
Wellington, and so confident was he of success that he wrote to the
Minister of War telling him to "expect good news" the next day.
Wellington himself was on the right bank of the Nive, little dreaming
that Soult was about to leap on the extremity of his scattered forces.
The country was so broken that Soult's movements were entirely hidden,
and the roads so bad that even the cavalry outposts could scarcely
move.  On the night of the 9th Soult had gathered every available
bayonet, and was ready to burst on the position held by Sir John Hope
at Arcanques.

In the grey dawn of the 10th the out-pickets of the 43rd noticed that
the French infantry were pushing each other about as if in sport; but
the crowd seemed to thicken and to eddy nearer and nearer the British
line.  It was a trick to deceive the vigilance of the British outposts.
Presently the apparently sportive crowd made a rush forwards and
resolved itself into a spray of swiftly moving skirmishers.  The French
columns broke from behind a screen of houses, and, at a running pace,
and with a tumult of shouts, charged the British position.  In a moment
the crowd of French soldiers had penetrated betwixt the 43rd and 52nd,
and charging eagerly forward, tried to turn the flanks of both.  But
these were veteran regiments; they fell coolly and swiftly back, firing
fiercely as they went.  It was at once a race and a combat.  The roads
were so narrow and so bad that the British could keep no order, and if
the French outpaced them and reached the open position at the rear
first, the British line would be pierced.  The 43rd came through the
pass first, apparently a crowd of running fugitives, officers and men
jumbled together.  The moment they had reached the open ground,
however, the men fell, as if by a single impulse, into military form,
and became a steadfast red line, from end to end of which ran, and ran
again, and yet again, the volleying flame of a sustained musketry fire.
The pass was barred!

The troops to the right of the French were not quite so quick or so
fortunate, and about 100 of the British--riflemen and men of the
43rd--were intercepted.  The French never doubted that they would
surrender, for they were but a handful of men cut off by a whole
column.  An ensign of the 43rd named Campbell, a lad not eighteen years
of age, was in the front files of the British when the call to
surrender was heard.  With a shout the boy-ensign leaped at the French
column.  Where an officer leads, British soldiers will always follow,
and the men followed him with a courage as high as his own.  With a
rush the column was rent, and though fifty of the British were killed
or taken, fifty, including the gallant boy who led them, escaped.

The fighting at other points was of the sharpest, and was strangely
entangled and confused.  It was a fight of infantry against infantry,
and the whole field of the combat was interlaced by almost impassable
hedges.  At one point, so strangely broken was the ground, and so
obscured the fight with smoke and mist, that a French regiment passed
unseen betwixt the British and Portuguese, and was rapidly filing into
line on the rear of the 9th, fiercely occupied at that moment against a
strong force in front.  Cameron, its colonel, left fifty men of his
regiment to answer the fire in his front, faced about, and went at a
run against the French regiment, which by this time had commenced
volley-firing.  Cameron's men fell fast--eighty men and officers, in
fact, dropped in little more than five minutes--but the rush of the 9th
was irresistible.  The Frenchmen wavered, broke, and swept, a
disorganised mass, past the flank of the Royals, actually carrying off
one of its officers in the rush, and disappeared.

The sternest and most bewildering fighting took place round a building
known as the "mayor's house," surrounded by a coppice-wood.  Coppice
and outbuildings were filled with men of all regiments and all nations,
swearing, shooting, and charging with the bayonet.  The 84th was caught
in a hollow road by the French, who lined the banks above, and lost its
colonel and a great proportion of its rank and file.  Gronow tells an
amusing incident of the fight at this stage.  An isolated British
battalion stationed near the mayor's house was suddenly surrounded by a
flood of French.  The French general galloped up to the British officer
in command and demanded his sword.  "Upon this," says Gronow, "without
the least hesitation the British officer shouted out, 'This fellow
wants us to surrender!  Charge! my boys, and show them what stuff we
are made of.'"  The men answered with a shout, sudden, scornful, and
stern, and went with a run at the French.  "In a few minutes," adds
Gronow, "they had taken prisoners or killed the whole of the infantry
regiment opposed to them!"

On the 11th desperate fighting took place on the same ground, but the
British were by this time reinforced--the Guards, in particular, coming
up after a rapid and exhausting march--and Soult's attack had failed.
But on the night of the 12th the rain fell fast and steadily, the Nive
was flooded, the bridge of boats which spanned it swept away, and Hill
was left at St. Pierre isolated, with less than 14,000 men.  Soult saw
his opportunity.  The interior lines he held made concentration easy,
and on the morning of the 13th he was able to pour an attacking force
of 35,000 bayonets on Hill's front, while another infantry division,
together with the whole of the French cavalry under Pierre Soult,
attacked his rear.  Then there followed what has been described as the
most desperate battle of the whole Peninsular war.



THE BLOODIEST FIGHT IN THE PENINSULA


  "Then out spoke brave Horatius,
    The captain of the gate:
  'To every man upon this earth
    Death cometh soon or late;
  And how can man die better
    Than facing fearful odds,
  For the ashes of his fathers
    And the temples of his gods?'"
            --MACAULAY.


Hill's front stretched through two miles; his left; a wooded craggy
ridge, was held by Pringle's brigade, but was parted from the centre by
a marshy valley and a chain of ponds; his centre occupied a
crescent-shaped broken ridge; his right, under General Byng, held a
ridge parallel with the Adour.  The French gathered in great masses on
a range of counter-heights, an open plain being between them and Hill's
centre.  The day was heavy with whirling mist; and as the wind tore it
occasionally asunder, the British could see on the parallel roads
before them the huge, steadily flowing columns of the French.

Abbé led the attack on the British centre.  He was "the fighting
general" of Soult's army, famous for the rough energy of his character
and the fierceness of his onfall.  He pushed his attack with such
ardour that he forced his way to the crest of the British ridge.  The
famous 92nd, held in reserve, was brought forward by way of
counter-stroke, and pushed its attack keenly home.  The head of Abbé's
column was crushed; but the French general replaced the broken
battalions by fresh troops, and still forced his way onward, the 92nd
falling back.

[Illustration: Battle of St. Pierre, December 9th & 13th, 1813.  From
Napier's "Peninsular War."]

In the meanwhile on both the right and the left of the British position
an almost unique disaster had befallen Hill's troops.  Peacock, the
colonel of the 71st, through some bewitched failure of nerve or of
judgment, withdrew that regiment from the fight.  It was a Highland
regiment, great in fighting reputation, and full of daring.  How black
were the looks of the officers, and what loud swearing in Gaelic took
place in the ranks, as the gallant regiment--discipline overcoming
human nature--obeyed the mysterious order to retire, may be imagined.
Almost at the same moment on the right, Bunbury, who commanded the 3rd
or Buffs, in the same mysterious fashion abandoned to the French the
strong position he held.  Both colonels were brave men, and their
sudden lapse into unsoldierly conduct has never been explained.  Both,
it may be added, were compelled to resign their commissions after the
fight.

Hill, surveying the spectacle from the post he had taken, commanding
the whole field of battle, hastened down, met and halted the Buffs,
sent them back to the fight, drew his whole reserves into the fray, and
himself turned the 71st and led them to the attack.  With what joy the
indignant Highlanders of the 71st obeyed the order to "Right about
face" may be imagined, and so vehement was their charge that the French
column upon which it was flung, though coming on at the double, in all
the _élan_ of victory, was instantly shattered.

Meanwhile the 92nd was launched again at Abbé's column.  Cameron, its
colonel, was a soldier of a very gallant type, and, himself a
Highlander, he understood the Highland temperament perfectly.  He
dressed his regiment as if on parade, the colours were uncased, the
pipes shrilled fiercely, and in all the pomp of military array, with
green tartans and black plumes all wind-blown, and with the wild
strains of their native hills and lochs thrilling in their ears, the
Highlanders bore down on the French, their officers fiercely leading.
On all sides at that moment the British skirmishers were falling back.
The 50th was clinging desperately to a small wood that crowned the
ridge, but everywhere the French were forcing their way onward.
Ashworth's Portuguese were practically destroyed; Barnes, who commanded
the centre, was shot through the body.  But the fierce charge of the
92nd along the high-road, and of the 71st on the left centre, sent an
electric thrill along the whole British front.  The skirmishers,
instead of falling back, ran forward; the Portuguese rallied.  The 92nd
found in its immediate front two strong French regiments, and their
leading files brought their bayonets to the charge, and seemed eager to
meet the 92nd with the actual push of steel.  It was the crisis of the
fight.

At that moment the French commander's nerve failed him.  That
steel-edged line of kilted, plume-crested Highlanders, charging with a
step so fierce, was too much for him.  He suddenly turned his horse,
waved his sword; his men promptly faced about, and marched back to
their original position.  The French on both the right and the left
drew back, and the battle for the moment seemed to die down.  Hill's
right was safe, and he drew the 57th from it to strengthen his sorely
battered centre; and just at that moment the sixth division, which had
been marching since daybreak, crossed the bridge over the Nive, which
the British engineers with rare energy had restored, and appeared on
the ridge overlooking the field of battle.  Wellington, too, appeared
on the scene, with the third and fourth divisions.  At two o'clock the
allies commenced a forward movement, and Soult fell back; his second
counter-stroke had failed.

St. Pierre was, perhaps, the most desperately contested fight in the
Peninsular war, a field almost as bloody as Albuera.  Hill's ranks were
wasted as by fire; three British generals were carried from the field;
nearly the whole of the staff was struck down.  On a space scarcely one
mile square, 5000 men were killed and wounded within three hours.
Wellington, as he rode over the field by the side of Hill after the
fight was over, declared he had never seen the dead lie so thickly
before.  It was a great feat for less than 14,000 men with 14 guns to
withstand the assault of 35,000 men with 22 guns; and, at least where
Abbé led, the fighting of the French was of the most resolute
character.  The victory was due, in part, to Hill's generalship and the
lion-like energy with which he restored his broken centre and flung
back the Buffs and the 71st into the fight.  But in a quite equal
degree the victory was due to the obstinate fighting quality of the
British private.  The 92nd, for example, broke the French front no less
than four times by bayonet charges pushed home with the sternest
resolution, and it lost in these charges 13 officers and 171 rank and
file.

The French, it might almost be said, lost the field by the momentary
failure in nerve of the officer commanding the column upon which the
92nd was rushing in its last and most dramatic charge.  His column was
massive and unbroken; the men, with bent heads and levelled bayonets,
were ready to meet the 92nd with a courage as lofty as that of the
Highlanders themselves, and the 92nd, for all its parade of fluttering
colours and wind-blown tartans and feathers, was but a single weak
battalion.  An electrical gesture, a single peremptory call on the part
of the leader, even a single daring act by a soldier in the ranks, and
the French column would have been hurled on the 92nd, and by its mere
weight must have broken it.  But the oncoming of the Highlanders proved
too great a strain for the nerve of the French general.  He wheeled the
head of his horse backward, and the fight was lost.

Weeks of the bitterest winter weather suspended all military operations
after St. Pierre.  The rivers were flooded; the clayey lowlands were
one far-stretching quagmire; fogs brooded in the ravines; perpetual
tempests shrieked over the frozen summits of the Pyrenees; the
iron-bound coast was furious with breakers.  But Wellington's hardy
veterans--ill-clad, ill-sheltered, and ill-fed--yet kept their watch on
the slopes of the Pyrenees.  The outposts of the two armies, indeed,
fell into almost friendly relations with each other.  Barter sprang up
between them, a regular code of signals was established, friendly
offices were exchanged.  Wellington on one occasion desired to
reconnoitre Soult's camp from the top of a hill occupied by a French
picket, and ordered some English rifles to drive them off.  No firing
was necessary.  An English soldier held up the butt of his rifle and
tapped it in a peculiar way.  The signal meant, "We must have the hill
for a short time," and the French at once retired.  A steady traffic in
brandy and tobacco sprang up between the pickets of the two armies.  A
rivulet at one point flowed between the outposts, and an Irish soldier
named Patten, on sentry there, placed a canteen with a silver coin in
it on a stone by the bank of the rivulet, to be filled with brandy by
the French in the usual way.  Canteen and coin vanished, but no brandy
arrived.  Patten, a daring fellow, regarded himself as cheated, and the
next day seeing, as he supposed, the same French sentry on duty, he
crossed the rivulet, seized the Frenchman's musket, shook the amazed
sentry out of his accoutrements as a pea is shaken out of its pod, and
carried them off.  The French outposts sent in a flag of truce,
complained of this treatment, and said the unfortunate sentry's life
would be forfeited unless his uniform and gun were restored.  Patten,
however, insisted that he held these "in pawn for a canteen of brandy,"
and he got his canteen before the uniform was restored.

On February 12 a white hard frost suddenly fell on the whole field of
operations, and turned the viscid mud everywhere to the hardness of
stone.  The men could march, the artillery move; and Wellington, whose
strategy was ripe, was at once in action.

Soult barred his path by a great entrenched camp at Bayonne, to which
the Adour served as a Titanic wet ditch.  The Adour is a great river,
swift and broad--swiftest and broadest through the six miles of its
course below the town to its mouth.  Its bed is of shifting sand; the
spring-tide rises in it fourteen feet, the ebb-tide runs seven miles an
hour.  Where the swift river and the great rollers of the Bay of Biscay
meet is a treacherous bar--in heavy weather a mere tumult of leaping
foam.  Soult assumed that Wellington would cross the river above the
town; the attempt to cross it near the mouth, where it was barred with
sand, and beaten with surges, and guarded, too, by a tiny squadron of
French gunboats, was never suspected.  Yet exactly this was
Wellington's plan; and his bridge across the Adour is declared by
Napier to be a stupendous undertaking, which must always rank amongst
"the prodigies of war."  Forty large sailing-boats, of about twenty
tons burden each, carrying the materials for the bridge, were to enter
the mouth of the Adour at the moment when Hope, with part of Hill's
division, made his appearance on the left bank of the river, with
materials for rafts, by means of which sufficient troops could be
thrown across the Adour to capture a battery which commanded its
entrance.

On the night of February 22, Hope, with the first division, was in the
assigned position on the banks of the Adour, hidden behind some
sandhills.  But a furious gale made the bar impassable, and not a boat
was in sight.  Hope, the most daring of men, never hesitated; he would
cross the river without the aid of the fleet.  His guns were suddenly
uncovered, the tiny French flotilla was sunk or scattered, and a
pontoon or raft, carrying sixty men of the Guards, pushed out from the
British bank.  A strong French picket held the other shore; but,
bewildered and ill led, they made no opposition.  A hawser was dragged
across the stream, and pontoons, each carrying fifteen men, were in
quick succession pulled across.  When about a thousand men had in this
way reached the French bank, some French battalions made their
appearance.  Colonel Stopford, who was in command, allowed the French
to come on--their drums beating the _pas de charge_, and their officers
waving their swords--to within a distance of twenty yards, and then
opened upon them with his rocket brigade.  The fiery flight and
terrifying sound of these missiles put the French to instant rout.  All
night the British continued to cross, and on the morning of the 24th
the flotilla was off the bar, the boats of the men-of-war leading.

The first boat that plunged into the tumult of breakers, leaping and
roaring over the bar, sank instantly.  The second shot through and was
safe; but the tide was running out furiously, and no boat could follow
till it was high water again.  When high water came, the troops
crowding the sandbanks watched with breathless interest the fight of
the boats to enter.  They hung and swayed like a flock of gigantic
sea-birds on the rough and tumbling sea.  Lieutenant Bloye of the
_Lyra_, who led the way in his barge, dashed into the broad zone of
foam, and was instantly swallowed up with all his crew.  The rest of
the flotilla bore up to right and left, and hovered on the edge of the
tormented waters.  Suddenly Lieutenant Cheyne of the _Woodlark_ caught
a glimpse of the true course and dashed through, and boat after boat
came following with reeling decks and dripping crews; but in the whole
passage no fewer than eight of the flotilla were destroyed.  The bridge
was quickly constructed.  Thirty-six two-masted vessels were moored
head to stern, with an interval between each vessel, across the 800
yards of the Adour; a double line of cables, about ten feet apart,
linked the boats together; strong planks were lashed athwart the
cables, making a roadway; a double line of masts, forming a series of
floating squares, served as a floating boom; and across this swaying,
flexible, yet mighty bridge, Wellington was able to pour his left wing,
with all its artillery and material, and so draw round Bayonne an iron
line of investment.

This movement thrust back Soult's right, but he clung obstinately to
the Gave.  He held by Napoleon's maxim that the best way to defend is
to attack, and Wellington's very success gave him what seemed a golden
opportunity.  Wellington's left had crossed the Adour, but that very
movement separated it from the right.

Soult took up his position on a ridge of hills above Orthez.  He
commanded the fords by which Picton must cross, and his plan was to
crush him while in the act of crossing.  The opportunity was clear, but
somehow Soult missed it.  There failed him at the critical moment the
swift-attacking impulse which both Napoleon and Wellington possessed in
so high a degree.  Picton's two divisions crossed the Gave, and climbed
the bank through mere fissures in the rocks, which broke up all
military order, and the nearest point which allowed them to fall into
line was within cannon-shot of the enemy.  Even Picton's iron nerve
shook at such a crisis; but Wellington, to use Napier's phrase, "calm
as deepest sea," watched the scene.  Soult ought to have attacked; he
waited to be attacked, and so missed victory.

By nine o'clock Wellington had formed his plan, and Ross's brigade was
thrust through a gorge on Soult's left.  The French were admirably
posted: they had a narrow front, abundant artillery, and a great
battery placed so as to smite on the flank any column forcing its way
through the gorge which pierced Soult's left.  Ross's men fought
magnificently.  Five times they broke through the gorge, and five times
the fire of the French infantry on the slopes above them, and the grape
of the great battery at the head of the gorge, drove the shattered
regiments back.  On Soult's right, again, Foy flung back with loss an
attack by part of Picton's forces.  On both the right and left, that
is, Soult was victorious, and, as he saw the wasted British lines roll
sullenly back, it is said that the French general smote his thigh in
exultation, and cried, "At last I have him!"

Almost at that moment, however, the warlike genius of Wellington
changed the aspect of the scene.  He fed the attacks on Soult's right
and left, and the deepening roar of the battle at these two points
absorbed the senses of the French general.  Soult's front was barred by
what was supposed to be an impassable marsh, above which a great hill
frowned; and across the marsh, and upon this hill, the centre of
Soult's position, Wellington launched the famous 52nd.

Colborne plunged with his men into the marsh; they sank at every step
above the knee, sometimes to the middle.  The skirmishers shot fiercely
at them.  But with stern composure the veterans of the light
division--soldiers, as Napier never tires in declaring, who "had never
yet met their match in the field"--pressed on.  The marsh was crossed,
the hill climbed, and with a sudden and deafening shout--the cheer
which has a more full and terrible note than any other voice of
fighting men, the shout of the British regiment as it charges--the 52nd
dashed between Foy and Taupin.  A French battalion in their path was
scattered as by the stroke of a thunderbolt.  The French centre was
pierced; both victorious wings halted, and began to ebb back.  Hill,
meanwhile, had crossed the Gave, and taking a wider circle, threatened
Soult's line of retreat.  The French fell back, and fell back with
ever-quickening steps, but yet fighting sternly; the British, with
deafening musketry and cannonade, pressed on them.  Hill quickened his
pace on the ridge along which he was pressing.  It became a race who
should reach first the single bridge on the Luy-de-Béarn over which the
French must pass.  The pace became a run.  Many of the French broke
from their ranks and raced forward.  The British cavalry broke through
some covering battalions and sabred the fugitives.  A great disaster
was imminent; and yet it was avoided, partly by Soult's cool and
obstinate defence, and partly by the accident that at that moment
Wellington was struck by a spent ball and was disabled, so that his
swift and imperious will no longer directed the pursuit.

Orthez may be described as the last and not the least glorious fight in
the Peninsular war.  Toulouse was fought ten day afterwards, but it
scarcely belongs to the Peninsular campaigns, and was actually fought
after a general armistice had been signed.



THE BATTLE OF THE BALTIC


  "Let us think of them that sleep
  Full many a fathom deep
  By thy wild and stormy deep,
      Elsinore!"
            --CAMPBELL.


"I have been in a hundred and five engagements, but that of to-day is
the most terrible of them all."  This was how Nelson himself summed up
the great fight off Copenhagen, or the battle of the Baltic as it is
sometimes called, fought on April 2, 1801.  It was a battle betwixt
Britons and Danes.  The men who fought under the blood-red flag of
Great Britain, and under the split flag of Denmark with its white
cross, were alike the descendants of the Vikings.  The blood of the old
sea-rovers ran hot and fierce in their veins.  Nelson, with the glories
of the Nile still ringing about his name, commanded the British fleet,
and the fire of his eager and gallant spirit ran from ship to ship like
so many volts of electricity.  But the Danes fought in sight of their
capital, under the eyes of their wives and children.  It is not strange
that through the four hours during which the thunder of the great
battle rolled over the roofs of Copenhagen and up the narrow waters of
the Sound, human valour and endurance in both fleets were at their very
highest.

Less than sixty years afterwards "thunders of fort and fleet" along all
the shores of England were welcoming a daughter of the Danish throne as

  "Bride of the heir of the kings of the sea."

And Tennyson, speaking for every Briton, assured the Danish girl who
was to be their future Queen--

  "We are each all Dane in our welcome of thee."


What was it in 1801 which sent a British fleet on an errand of battle
to Copenhagen?

It was a tiny episode of the long and stern drama of the Napoleonic
wars.  Great Britain was supreme on the sea, Napoleon on the land, and,
in his own words, Napoleon conceived the idea of "conquering the sea by
the land."  Paul I. of Russia, a semi-lunatic, became Napoleon's ally
and tool.  Paul was able to put overwhelming pressure on Sweden,
Denmark, and Prussia, and these Powers were federated as the "League of
Armed Neutrality," with the avowed purpose of challenging the marine
supremacy of Great Britain.  Paul seized all British ships in Russian
ports; Prussia marched troops into Hanover; every port from the North
Cape to Gibraltar was shut against the British flag.  Britain, stood
alone, practically threatened with a naval combination of all the
Northern Powers, while behind the combination stood Napoleon, the
subtlest brain and most imperious will ever devoted to the service of
war.  Napoleon's master passion, it should be remembered, was the
desire to overthrow Great Britain, and he held in the palm of his hand
the whole military strength of the Continent.  The fleets of France and
Spain were crushed or blockaded: but the three Northern Powers could
have put into battle-line a fleet of fifty great ships and twenty-five
frigates.  With this force they could raise the blockade of the French
ports, sweep triumphant through the narrow seas, and land a French army
in Kent or in Ulster.

Pitt was Prime Minister, and his masterful intellect controlled British
policy.  He determined that the fleets of Denmark and of Russia should
not become a weapon in the hand of Napoleon against England; and a
fleet of eighteen ships of the line, with frigates and bomb-vessels,
was despatched to reason, from the iron lips of their guns, with the
misguided Danish Government.  Sir Hyde Parker, a decent, unenterprising
veteran, was commander-in-chief by virtue of seniority; but Nelson,
with the nominal rank of second in command, was the brain and soul of
the expedition.  "Almost all the safety and certainly all the honour of
England," he said to his chief, "is more entrusted to you than ever yet
fell to the lot of a British officer."  And all through the story of
the expedition it is amusing to notice the fashion in which Nelson's
fiery nature strove to kindle poor Sir Hyde Barker's sluggish temper to
its own flame.

The fleet sailed from Yarmouth on March 12, and fought its way through
fierce spring gales to the entrance of the Kattegat.  The wind was
fair; Nelson was eager to sweep down on Copenhagen with the whole
fleet, and negotiate with the whole skyline of Copenhagen crowded with
British topsails.  "While the negotiation is going on," he said, "the
Dane should see our flag waving every time he lifts up his head."  Time
was worth more than gold; it was worth brave men's lives.  The Danes
were toiling day and night to prepare the defence of their capital.
But prim Sir Hyde anchored, and sent up a single frigate with his
ultimatum, and it was not until March 30 that the British fleet, a long
line of stately vessels, came sailing up the Sound, passed Elsinore,
and cast anchor fifteen miles from Copenhagen.  Nothing could surpass
the gallant energy shown by the Danes in their preparation for defence,
and Nature had done much to make the city impregnable from the sea.

[Illustration: The Battle of the Baltic, April 2nd, 1801.  From
Brenton's Naval History.]

The Sound is narrow and shallow, a mere tangle of shoals wrinkled with
twisted channels and scoured by the swift tides.  King's Channel runs
straight up towards the city, but a huge sandbank, like the point of a
toe, splits the channel into two just as it reaches the harbour.  The
western edge runs up, pocket-shaped, into the city, and forms the
actual port; the main channel contracts, swings round to the
south-east, and forms a narrow passage between the shallows in front of
the city and a huge shoal called the Middle Ground.  A cluster of grim
and heavily armed fortifications called the Three-Crown Batteries
guarded the entrance to the harbour, and looked right up King's
Channel; a stretch of floating batteries and line-of-battle ships, a
mile and a half in extent, ran from the Three-Crown Batteries along the
edge of the shoals in front of the city, with some heavy pile batteries
at its termination.  The direct approach up King's Channel, together
with the narrow passage between the city and the Middle Ground, were
thus commanded by the fire of over 600 heavy guns.  The Danes had
removed the buoys that marked all the channels, the British had no
charts, and only the most daring and skilful seamanship could bring the
great ships of the British fleet through that treacherous tangle of
shoals to the Danish front.  As a matter of fact, the heavier ships in
the British fleet never attempted to join in the desperate fight which
was waged, but hung as mere spectators in the offing.

Meanwhile popular enthusiasm in the Danish capital was at fever-point.
Ten thousand disciplined troops manned the batteries; but peasants from
the farms, workmen from the factories, merchants from the city,
hastened to volunteer, and worked day and night at gun-drill.  A
thousand students from the university enrolled themselves, and drilled
from morning till night.  These student-soldiers had probably the best
military band ever known; it consisted of the entire orchestra of the
Theatre Royal, all volunteers.  A Danish officer, sent on some message
under a flag of truce to the British fleet, was required to put his
message in writing, and was offered a somewhat damaged pen for that
purpose.  He threw it down with a laugh, saying that "if the British
guns were not better pointed than their pens they wouldn't make much
impression on Copenhagen."  That flash of gallant wit marked the temper
of the Danes.  They were on flame with confident daring.

Nelson, always keen for a daring policy, had undertaken to attack the
Danish defences with a squadron of twelve seventy-fours, and the
frigates and bomb-vessels of the fleet.  He determined to shun the open
way of King's Channel, grope through the uncertain passage called the
Dutch Deep, at the back of the Middle Ground, and forcing his way up
the narrow channel in front of the shallows, repeat on the anchored
batteries and battleships of the Danes the exploit of the Nile.  He
spent the nights of March 30 and 31 sounding the channel, being
himself, in spite of fog and ice, in the boat nearly the whole of these
two bitter nights.  On April 1 the fleet came slowly up the Dutch Deep,
and dropped anchor at night about two miles from the southern extremity
of the Danish line.  At eleven o'clock that night, Hardy--in whose arms
Nelson afterwards died on board the _Victory_--pushed off from the
flagship in a small boat and sounded the channel in front of the Danish
floating batteries.  So daring was he that he actually sounded round
the leading ship of the Danish line, using a pole to avoid being
detected.

In the morning the wind blew fair for the channel.  Nelson's plans had
been elaborated to their minutest details, and the pilots of the fleet
were summoned at nine o'clock to the flagship to receive their last
instructions.  But their nerve failed them.  They were simply the mates
or masters of Baltic traders turned for the moment into naval pilots.
They had no charts.  They were accustomed to handle ships of 200 or 300
tons burden, and the task of steering the great British seventy-fours
through the labyrinths of shallows, with the tide running like a
mill-race, appalled them.  At last Murray, in the _Edgar_, undertook to
lead.  The signal was made to weigh in succession, and one great ship
after another, with its topsails on the caps, rounded the shoulder of
the Middle Ground, and in stately procession, the _Edgar_ leading, came
up the channel.  Campbell in his fine ballad has pictured the scene:--

  "Like leviathans afloat
    Lay their bulwarks on the brine,
  While the sign of battle flew
    On the lofty British line.
      It was ten of April morn by the chime;
  As they drifted on their path
    There was silence deep as death,
    And the boldest held his breath
      For a time.
  But the might of England flushed
    To anticipate the scene,
  And her van the fleeter rushed
    O'er the deadly space between."

The leading Danish ships broke into a tempest of fire as the British
ships came within range.  The _Agamemnon_ failed to weather the
shoulder of the Middle Ground, and went ignobly ashore, and the scour
of the tide kept her fast there, in spite of the most desperate
exertions of her crew.  The _Bellona_, a pile of white canvas above, a
double line of curving batteries below, hugged the Middle Ground too
closely, and grounded too; and the _Russell_, following close after
her, went ashore in the same manner, with its jib-boom almost touching
the _Bellona's_ taffrail.  One-fourth of Nelson's force was thus
practically out of the fight before a British gun was fired.  These
were the ships, too, intended to sail past the whole Danish line and
engage the Three-Crown Batteries.  As they were _hors de combat_, the
frigates of the squadron, under Riou--"the gallant, good Riou" of
Campbell's noble lines--had to take the place of the seventy-fours.

Meanwhile, Nelson, in the _Elephant_, came following hard on the
ill-fated _Russell_.  Nelson's orders were that each ship should pass
her leader on the starboard side, and had he acted on his own orders,
Nelson too would have grounded, with every ship that followed him.  The
interval betwixt each ship was so narrow that decision had to be
instant; and Nelson, judging the water to the larboard of the _Russell_
to be deeper, put his helm a-starboard, and so shot past the _Russell_
on its larboard beam into the true channel, the whole line following
his example.  That sudden whirl to starboard of the flagship's helm--a
flash of brilliant seamanship--saved the battle.

Ship after ship shot past, and anchored, by a cable astern, in its
assigned position.  The sullen thunder of the guns rolled from end to
end of the long line, the flash of the artillery ran in a dance of
flame along the mile and a half of batteries, and some 2000 pieces of
artillery, most of them of the heaviest calibre, filled the long Sound
with the roar of battle.  Nelson loved close fighting, and he anchored
within a cable's length of the Danish flagship, the pilots refusing to
carry the ship nearer on account of the shallow depth, and the average
distance of the hostile lines was less than a hundred fathoms.  The
cannonade raged, deep-voiced, unbroken, and terrible, for three hours.
"Warm work," said Nelson, as it seemed to deepen in fury and volume,
"but, mark you, I would not be elsewhere for thousands."  The carnage
was terrific.  Twice the Danish flagship took fire, and out of a crew
of 336 no fewer than 270 were dead or wounded.  Two of the Danish prams
drifted from the line, mere wrecks, with cordage in rags, bulwarks
riddled, guns dismounted, and decks veritable shambles.

The battle, it must be remembered, raged within easy sight of the city,
and roofs and church towers were crowded with spectators.  They could
see nothing but a low-lying continent of whirling smoke, shaken with
the tumult of battle, and scored perpetually, in crimson bars, with the
flame of the guns.  Above the drifting smoke towered the tops of the
British seventy-fours, stately and threatening.  The south-east wind
presently drove the smoke over the city, and beneath that inky roof, as
under the gloom of an eclipse, the crowds of Copenhagen, white-faced
with excitement, watched the Homeric fight, in which their sons, and
brothers, and husbands were perishing.

Nothing could surpass the courage of the Danes.  Fresh crews marched
fiercely to the floating batteries as these threatened to grow silent
by mere slaughter, and, on decks crimson and slippery with the blood of
their predecessors, took up the fight.  Again and again, after a Danish
ship had struck from mere exhaustion, it was manned afresh from the
shore, and the fight renewed.  The very youngest officer in the Danish
navy was a lad of seventeen named Villemoes.  He commanded a tiny
floating battery of six guns, manned by twenty-four men, and he managed
to bring it under the very counter of Nelson's flagship, and fired his
guns point-blank into its huge wooden sides.  He stuck to his work
until the British marines shot down every man of his tiny crew except
four.  After the battle Nelson begged that young Villemoes might be
introduced to him, and told the Danish Crown Prince that a boy so
gallant ought to be made an admiral.  "If I were to make all my brave
officers admirals," was the reply, "I should have no captains or
lieutenants left."

The terrific nature of the British fire, as well as the stubbornness of
Danish courage, may be judged from the fact that most of the prizes
taken in the fight were so absolutely riddled with shot as to have to
be destroyed.  Foley, who led the van at the battle of the Nile, was
Nelson's flag-captain in the _Elephant_, and he declared he burned
fifty more barrels of powder in the four hours' furious cannonade at
Copenhagen than he did during the long night struggle at the Nile!  The
fire of the Danes, it may be added, was almost as obstinate and deadly.
The _Monarch_, for example, had no fewer than 210 of its crew lying
dead or wounded on its decks.  At one o'clock Sir Hyde Parker, who was
watching the struggle with a squadron of eight of his heaviest ships
from the offing, hoisted a signal to discontinue the engagement.  Then
came the incident which every boy remembers.

The signal-lieutenant of the _Elephant_ reported that the admiral had
thrown out No. 39, the signal to discontinue the fight.  Nelson was
pacing his quarterdeck fiercely, and took no notice of the report.  The
signal-officer met him at the next turn, and asked if he should repeat
the signal.  Nelson's reply was to ask if his own signal for close
action was still hoisted.  "Yes," said the officer.  "Mind you keep it
so," said Nelson.  Nelson continued to tramp his quarter-deck, the
thunder of the battle all about him, his ship reeling to the recoil of
its own guns.  The stump of his lost arm jerked angrily to and fro, a
sure sign of excitement with him.  "Leave off action!" he said to his
lieutenant; "I'm hanged if I do."  "You know, Foley," he said, turning
to his captain, "I've only one eye; I've a right to be blind
sometimes."  And then putting the glass to his blind eye, he exclaimed,
"I really do not see the signal!"  He dismissed the incident by saying,
"D---- the signal!  Keep mine for closer action flying!"

As a matter of fact, Parker had hoisted the signal only to give Nelson
the opportunity for withdrawing from the fight if he wished.  The
signal had one disastrous result--the little cluster of frigates and
sloops engaged with the Three-Crown Batteries obeyed it and hauled off.
As the Amazon, Riou's ship, ceased to fire, the smoke lifted, and the
Danish battery got her in full sight, and smote her with deadly effect.
Riou himself, heartbroken with having to abandon the fight, had just
exclaimed, "What will Nelson think of us!" when a chain-shot cut him in
two, and with him a sailor with something of Nelson's own genius for
battle perished.

By two o'clock the Danish fire began to slack.  One-half the line was a
mere chain of wrecks; some of the floating batteries had sunk; the
flagship was a mass of flames.  Nelson at this point sent his boat
ashore with a flag of truce, and a letter to the Prince Regent.  The
letter was addressed, "To the Danes, the brothers of Englishmen."  If
the fire continued from the Danish side, Nelson said he would be
compelled to set on fire all the floating batteries he had taken,
"without being able to save the brave Danes who had defended them."
Somebody offered Nelson, when he had written the letter, a wafer with
which to close it.  "This," said Nelson, "is no time to appear hurried
or informal," and he insisted on the letter being carefully sealed with
wax.  The Crown Prince proposed an armistice.  Nelson, with great
shrewdness, referred the proposal to his admiral lying four miles off
in the _London_, foreseeing that the long pull out and back would give
him time to get his own crippled ships clear of the shoals, and past
the Three-Crown Batteries into the open channel beyond--the only course
the wind made possible; and this was exactly what happened.  Nelson, it
is clear, was a shrewd diplomatist as well as a great sailor.

The night was coming on black with the threat of tempest; the Danish
flagship had just blown up; but the white flag of truce was flying, and
the British toiled, as fiercely as they had fought, to float their
stranded ships and take possession of their shattered prizes.  Of
these, only one was found capable of being sufficiently repaired to be
taken to Portsmouth.  On the 4th Nelson himself landed and visited the
Crown Prince, and a four months' truce was agreed upon.  News came at
that moment of the assassination of Paul I., and the League of Armed
Neutrality--the device by which Napoleon hoped to overthrow the naval
power of Great Britain--vanished into mere space.  The fire of Nelson's
guns at Copenhagen wrecked Napoleon's whole naval policy.

It is curious that, familiar as Nelson was with the grim visage of
battle, the carnage of that four hours' cannonade was too much for even
his steady nerves.  He could find no words too generous to declare his
admiration of the obstinate courage shown by the Danes.  "The French
and Spanish fight well," he said, "but they could not have stood for an
hour such a fire as the Danes sustained for four hours."



KING-MAKING WATERLOO


  "Last noon beheld them full of lusty life,
  Last eve in Beauty's circle proudly gay,
  The midnight brought the signal-sound of strife;
  The morn the marshalling in arms--the day
  Battle's magnificently stern array!
  The thunder-clouds close o'er it, which when rent
  The earth is cover'd thick with other clay,
  Which her own clay shall cover, heap'd and pent,
  Rider and horse--friend, foe--in one red burial blent!"
            --BYRON.

"I look upon Salamanca, Vittoria, and Waterloo as my three best
battles--those which had great and permanent consequences.  Salamanca
relieved the whole south of Spain, changed all the prospects of the
war, and was felt even in Prussia.  Vittoria freed the Peninsula
altogether, broke off the armistice at Dresden, and thus led to Leipsic
and the deliverance of Europe; and Waterloo did more than any other
battle I know of towards the true object of all battles--the peace of
the world."--WELLINGTON, _Conversation with Croker_.


On June 18, 1815, the grey light of a Sunday morning was breaking over
a shallow valley lying between parallel ridges of low hills some twelve
miles to the south of Brussels.  All night the rain had fallen
furiously, and still the fog hung low, and driving showers swept over
plain and hill as from the church spires of half-a-dozen tiny villages
the matin bells began to ring.  For centuries those bells had called
the villagers to prayers; to-day, as the wave of sound stole through
the misty air it was the signal for the awakening of two mighty armies
to the greatest battle of modern times.

More ink has, perhaps, been shed about Waterloo than about any other
battle known to history, and still the story bristles with conundrums,
questions of fact, and problems in strategy, about which the experts
still wage, with pen and diagram, strife almost as furious as that
which was waged with lance and sword, with bayonet and musket, more
than eighty years ago on the actual slopes of Mont St. Jean.  It is
still, for example, a matter of debate whether, when Wellington first
resolved to fight at Waterloo, he had any express promise from Blücher
to join him on that field.  Did Wellington, for example, ride over
alone to Blücher's headquarters on the night before Waterloo, and
obtain a pledge of aid, on the strength of which he fought next day?
It is not merely possible to quote experts on each side of this
question; it is possible to quote the same expert on both sides.
Ropes, for example, the latest Waterloo critic, devotes several pages
to proving that the interview never took place, and then adds a note to
his third edition declaring that he has seen evidence which convinces
him it did take place!  It is possible even to quote Wellington himself
both for the alleged visit and against it.  In 1833 he told a circle of
guests at Strathfieldsaye, in minute detail, how he got rid of his only
aide-de-camp, Lord Fitzroy Somerset, and rode over on "Copenhagen" in
the rain and darkness to Wavre, and got from Blücher's own lips the
assurance that he would join him next day at Waterloo.  In 1838, when
directly asked by Baron Gurney whether the story was true, he replied,
"No, I did not see Blücher the day before Waterloo."  If Homer nodded,
it is plain that sometimes the Duke of Wellington forgot!

[Illustration: Battle of Waterloo, June 18th, 1815.]

Clearness on some points, it is true, is slowly emerging.  It is
admitted, for example, that Napoleon took the allies by surprise when
he crossed the Sambre, and, in the very first stage of the campaign,
scored a brilliant strategic success over them.  Wellington himself, on
the night of the famous ball, took the Duke of Richmond into his
dressing-room, shut the door, and said, "Napoleon has humbugged me, by
----; he has gained twenty-four hours' march on me."  The Duke went on
to explain that he had ordered his troops to concentrate at Quatre
Bras; "but," he added, "we shall not stop him there, and I must fight
him here," at the same time passing his thumb-nail over the position of
Waterloo.  That map, with the scratch of the Duke's thumb-nail over the
very line where Waterloo was afterwards fought, was long preserved as a
relic.  Part of the surprise, the Duke complained, was due to Blücher.
But, as he himself explained to Napier, "I cannot tell the world that
Blücher picked the fattest man in his army (Muffling) to ride with an
express to me, and that he took thirty hours to go thirty miles."

The hour at which Waterloo began, though there were 150,000 actors in
the great tragedy, was long a matter of dispute.  The Duke of
Wellington puts it at ten o'clock.  General Alava says half-past
eleven, Napoleon and Drouet say twelve o'clock, and Ney one o'clock.
Lord Hill may be credited with having settled this minute question of
fact.  He took two watches with him into the fight, one a stop-watch,
and he marked with it the sound of the first shot fired, and this
evidence is now accepted as proving that the first flash of red flame
which marked the opening of the world-shaking tragedy of Waterloo took
place at exactly ten minutes to twelve.

As these sketches are not written for military experts, but only
pretend to tell, in plain prose, and for younger Britons, the story of
the great deeds which are part of their historical inheritance, all the
disputed questions about Waterloo may be at the outset laid aside.  It
is a great tale, and it seems all the greater when it is simply told.
The campaign of Waterloo, in a sense, lasted exactly four days, yet
into that brief space of time there is compressed so much of human
daring and suffering, of genius and of folly, of shining triumph and of
blackest ruin, that the story must always be one of the most exciting
records in human history.


I. THE RIVAL HOSTS


  "Hark! I hear the tramp of thousands,
    And of armèd men the hum;
  Lo! a nation's hosts have gathered
    Round the quick alarming drum,--
        Saying, 'Come,
        Freeman, come,
  Ere your heritage be wasted,' said the quick alarming drum.

      *     *     *     *     *     *

  'Let me of my heart take counsel:
    War is not of life the sum;
  Who shall stay and reap the harvest
    When the autumn days shall come?'
        But the drum
        Echoed, 'Come!
  Death shall reap the braver harvest,' said the solemn-sounding drum.

  What if, 'mid the cannons' thunder,
    Whistling shot and bursting bomb,
  When my brothers fall around me,
    Should my heart grow cold and numb?'
        But the drum
        Answered, 'Come!
  Better there in death united, than in life a recreant,--Come!'"
            --BRET HARTE.


For weeks the British and Prussian armies, scattered over a district
100 miles by 40, had been keeping guard over the French frontier.
Mighty hosts of Russians and Austrians were creeping slowly across
Europe to join them.  Napoleon, skilfully shrouding his movements in
impenetrable secrecy, was about to leap across the Sambre, and both
Blücher and Wellington had to guess what would be his point of attack;
and they, as it happened, guessed wrongly.  Napoleon's strategy was
determined partly by his knowledge of the personal characters of the
two generals, and partly by the fact that the bases of the allied
armies lay at widely separate points--the English base at Antwerp, the
Prussian on the Rhine.  Blücher was essentially "a hussar general"; the
fighting impulse ran riot in his blood.  If attacked, he would
certainly fight where he stood; if defeated, and driven back on his
base, he must move in diverging lines from Wellington.  That Blücher
would abandon his base to keep touch with Wellington--as actually
happened--Napoleon never guessed.  Wellington, cooler and more
methodical than his Prussian fellow-commander, would not fight, it was
certain, till his troops were called in on every side and he was ready.
Blücher was nearer the French frontier.  Napoleon calculated that he
could leap upon him, bar Wellington from coming to his help by planting
Ney at Quatre Bras, win a great battle before Wellington could join
hands with his ally, and then in turn crush Wellington.  It was
splendid strategy, splendidly begun, but left fatally incomplete.

Napoleon fought and defeated Blücher at Ligny on June 16, attacking
Quatre Bras at the same time, so as to occupy the English.  Wellington
visited Blücher's lines before the fight began, and said to him, "Every
general knows his own men, but if my lines were drawn up in this
fashion I should expect to get beaten;" and as he cantered back to his
own army he said to those about him, "If Bonaparte be what I suppose he
is, the Prussians will get a ---- good licking to-day."  Captain Bowles
was standing beside the Duke at Quatre Bras on the morning of the 17th,
when a Prussian staff-officer, his horse covered with sweat, galloped
up and whispered an agitated message in the Duke's ear.  The Duke,
without a change of countenance, dismissed him, and, turning to Bowles,
said, "Old Blücher has had a ---- good licking, and gone back to Wavre,
eighteen miles.  As he has gone back, we must go too.  I suppose in
England they will say we have been licked.  I can't help it!  As they
have gone back, we must go too."  And in five minutes, without stirring
from the spot, he had given complete orders for a retreat to Waterloo.

The low ridge on which the Duke took up his position runs east and
west.  The road from Brussels to the south, just before it crosses the
crest of the ridge, divides like the upper part of the letter Y into
two roads, that on the right, or westward, running to Nivelles, that on
the left, or eastward, to Charleroi.  A country road, in parts only a
couple of feet deep, in parts sunk from twelve to fifteen feet,
traverses the crest of the ridge, and intersects the two roads just
named before they unite to form the main Brussels road.  Two
farmhouses--La Haye Sainte, on the Charleroi road, and Hougoumont, on
that to Nivelles--stand out some 250 yards in advance of the ridge.
Thus the cross-road served as a ditch to Wellington's front; the two
farmhouses were, so to speak, horn-works guarding his right centre and
left centre; while in the little valley on the reverse side of the
crest Wellington was able to act on his favourite tactics of keeping
his men out of sight till the moment for action arrived.  The ridge, in
fact, to the French generals who surveyed it from La Belle Alliance
seemed almost bare, showing nothing but batteries at intervals along
the crest, and a spray of skirmishers on the slopes below.

Looked at from the British ridge, the plain over which the great fight
raged is a picture of pastoral simplicity and peace.  The crops that
Sunday morning were high upon it, the dark green of wheat and clover
chequered with the lighter green of rye and oats.  No fences intersect
the plain; a few farmhouses, each with a leafy girdle of trees, and the
brown roofs of one or two distant villages, alone break the level floor
of green.  The present writer has twice visited Waterloo, and the image
of verdurous and leafy peace conveyed by the landscape is still most
vivid.  Only Hougoumont, where the orchard walls are still pierced by
the loop-holes through which the Guards fired that long June Sunday,
helps one to realise the fierce strife which once raged and echoed over
this rich valley with its grassy carpet of vivid green.  Waterloo is a
battlefield of singularly small dimensions.  The British front did not
extend for more than two miles; the gap betwixt Hougoumont and La Haye
Sainte, through which Ney poured his living tide of cavalry, 15,000
strong, is only 900 yards wide, a distance equal, say, to a couple of
city blocks.  The ridge on which Napoleon drew up his army is less than
2000 yards distant from that on which the British stood.  It sloped
steadily upward, and, as a consequence.  Napoleon's whole force was
disclosed at a glance, and every combination of troops made in
preparation for an attack on the British line was clearly visible, a
fact which greatly assisted Wellington in his arrangements for meeting
it.

The opposing armies differed rather in quality than in numbers.
Wellington had, roughly, 50,000 infantry, 12,000 cavalry, a little less
than 6000 artillerymen; a total of 67,000 men and 156 guns.  Napoleon
had 49,000 infantry, nearly 16,000 cavalry, over 7000 artillery; a
total of, say, 72,000 men, with 246 guns.  In infantry the two armies
were about equal, in cavalry the French were superior, and in guns
their superiority was enormous.  But the French were war-hardened
veterans, the men of Austerlitz and of Wagram, of one blood and speech
and military type, a homogeneous mass, on flame with warlike
enthusiasm.  Of Wellington's troops, only 30,000 were British and
German; many even of these had never seen a shot fired in battle, and
were raw drafts from the militia, still wearing the militia uniform.
Only 12,000 were old Peninsula troops.  Less than 7000 of Wellington's
cavalry were British, and took any part in the actual battle.
Wellington himself somewhat ungratefully described his force as an
"infamous army"; "the worst army ever brought together!"  Nearly 18,000
were Dutch-Belgians, whose courage was doubtful, and whose loyalty was
still more vehemently suspected.  Wellington had placed some battalions
of these as part of the force holding Hougoumont; but when, an hour
before the battle actually began, Napoleon rode through his troops, and
their tumultuous shouts echoed in a tempest of sound across to the
British lines, the effect on the Dutch-Belgians in Hougoumont was so
instant and visible that Wellington at once withdrew them.  "The mere
name of Napoleon," he said, "had beaten them before they fired a shot!"
The French themselves did justice to the native fighting quality of the
British.  "The English infantry," as Foy told the Emperor on the
morning of Waterloo, "are the very d---- to fight;" and Napoleon, five
years after, at St. Helena, said, "One might as well try to charge
through a wall."  Soult, again, told Napoleon, "Sire, I know these
English.  They will die on the ground on which they stand before they
lose it."  That this was true, even of the raw lads from the militia,
Waterloo proved.  But it is idle to deny that of the two armies the
French, tried by abstract military tests, was far the stronger.

The very aspect of the two armies reflected their different
characteristics.  A grim silence brooded over the British position.
Nothing was visible except the scattered clusters of guns and the
outposts.  The French army, on the other side, was a magnificent
spectacle, gay with flags, and as many-coloured as a rainbow.  Eleven
columns deployed simultaneously, and formed three huge lines of serried
infantry.  They were flanked by mail-clad cuirassiers, with glittering
helmets and breast-plates; lines of scarlet-clad lancers; and hussars,
with bearskin caps and jackets glittering with gold lace.  The black
and menacing masses of the Old Guard and of the Young Guard, with their
huge bearskin caps, formed the reserve.  As Napoleon, with a glittering
staff, swept through his army, the bands of 114 battalions and 112
squadrons poured upon the peaceful air of that June Sunday the martial
cadences of the Marseillaise, and the "Vive l'Empereur!" which broke
from the crowded host was heard distinctly by the grimly listening
ranks of the British.  "As far as the eye could reach," says one who
describes the fight from the French ranks, "nothing was to be seen but
cuirasses, helmets, busbies, sabres and lances, and glittering lines of
bayonets."

As for the British, there was no tumult of enthusiasm visible among
them.  Flat on the ground, in double files, on the reverse side of the
hill, the men lay, and jested in rough fashion with each other, while
the officers in little groups stood on the ridge and watched the French
movements.  Let it be remembered that many of the troops had fought
desperately on the 16th, and retreated on the 17th from Quatre Bras to
Waterloo under furious rain, and the whole army was soddened and
chilled with sleeping unsheltered on the soaked ground.  Many of the
men, as they rose hungry and shivering from their sleeping-place in the
mud, were so stiff and cramped that they could not stand upright.


II.  HOUGOUMONT


  "The trumpets sound, the banners fly,
    The glittering spears are rankèd ready,
  The shouts o' war are heard afar,
    The battle closes thick and bloody."
            --BURNS.


The ground was heavy with the rains of the night, and Napoleon lingered
till nearly noon before he launched his attack on the British lines.
At ten minutes to twelve the first heavy gun rang sullenly from the
French ridge, and from the French left Reille's corps, 6000 strong,
flung itself on Hougoumont.  The French are magnificent skirmishers,
and as the great mass moved down the slope, a dense spray of
tirailleurs ran swiftly before it, reached the hedge, and broke into
the wood, which, in a moment, was full of white smoke and the red
flashes of musketry.  In a solid mass the main body followed; but the
moment it came within range, the British guns keeping guard over
Hougoumont smote it with a heavy fire.  The French batteries answered
fiercely, while in the garden and orchard below the Guards and the
French fought almost literally muzzle to muzzle.

Hougoumont was a strong post.  The fire from the windows in the main
building commanded the orchard, that from the orchard commanded the
wood, that from the wood swept the ridge.  The French had crossed the
ridge, cleared the wood, and were driving the Guards, fighting
vehemently, out of the orchard into the hollow road between the house
and the British ridge.  But they could do no more.  The light companies
of the Foot Guards, under Lieut.-Colonel Macdonnell, held the buildings
and orchard, Lord Saltoun being in command of the latter.  Muffling,
the Prussian commissioner on Wellington's staff, doubted whether
Hougoumont could be held against the enemy; but Wellington had great
confidence in Macdonnell, a Highlander of gigantic strength and coolest
daring, and nobly did this brave Scotsman fulfil his trust.  All day
long the attack thundered round Hougoumont.  The French masses moved
again and again to the assault upon it; it was scourged with musketry
and set on fire with shells.  But steadfastly under the roar of the
guns and the fierce crackle of small-arms, and even while the roofs
were in flames above their heads, the gallant Guardsmen held their
post.  Once the main gateway was burst open, and the French broke in.
They were instantly bayoneted, and Macdonnell, with a cluster of
officers and a sergeant named Graham, by sheer force shut the gate
again in the face of the desperate French.  In the fire which partially
consumed the building, some of the British wounded were burned to
death, and Mercer, who visited the spot the morning after the fight,
declared that in the orchard and around the walls of the farmhouse the
dead lay as thick as on the breach of Badajos.

More than 2000 killed and wounded fell in the long seven hours' fight
which raged round this Belgian farmhouse.  More than 12,000 infantry
were flung into the attack; the defence, including the Dutch and
Belgians in the wood, never exceeded 2000 men.  But when, in the tumult
of the victorious advance of the British at nightfall, Wellington found
himself for a moment beside Muffling, with a flash of exultation rare
in a man so self-controlled, he shouted, "Well, you see Macdonnell held
Hougoumont after all!"  Towards evening, at the close of the fight,
Lord Saltoun, with the wreck of the light companies of the Guards,
joined the main body of their division on the ridge.  As they came up
to the lines, a scanty group with torn uniforms and smoke-blackened
faces, the sole survivors of the gallant hundreds who had fought
continuously for seven hours, General Maitland rode out to meet them
and cried, "Your defence has saved the army!  Every man of you deserves
promotion."  Long afterwards a patriotic Briton bequeathed 500 pounds
to the bravest soldier at Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington to be the
judge.  The Duke named Macdonnell, who handed the money to the sergeant
who was his comrade in the struggle at the gate of Hougoumont.


III.  PICTON AND D'ERLON


  "But on the British heart were lost
  The terrors of the charging host;
  For not an eye the storm that view'd
  Changed its proud glance of fortitude.
  Nor was one forward footstep staid,
  As dropp'd the dying and the dead."
            --SCOTT.


Meantime a furious artillery duel raged between the opposing ridges.
Wellington had ordered his gunners not to fire at the French batteries,
but only at the French columns, while the French, in the main,
concentrated their fire on the British guns.  French practice under
these conditions was naturally very beautiful, for no hostile bullets
disturbed their aim, and the British gunners fell fast; yet their fire
on the French masses was most deadly.  At two o'clock Napoleon launched
his great infantry attack, led by D'Erlon, against La Haye Sainte and
the British left.  It was an attack of terrific strength.  Four
divisions, numbering 16,000 men, moved forward in echelon, with
intervals between them of 400 paces; seventy-two guns swept as with a
besom of fire the path along which these huge masses advanced with
shouts to the attack, while thirty light guns moved in the intervals
between them; and a cavalry division, consisting of lancers and
cuirassiers, rode on their flank ready to charge the broken masses of
the British infantry.  The British line at this point consisted of
Picton's division, formed of the shattered remains of Kempt's and
Pack's brigades, who had suffered heavily at Quatre Bras.  They formed
a mere thread of scarlet, a slender two-deep line of about 3000 men.
As the great mass of the enemy came slowly on, the British line was
"dressed," the men ceased to talk, except in monosyllables, the
skirmishers lying flat on the trampled corn prepared to fire.  The
grape of the French guns smote Picton's red lines with fury, and the
men fell fast, yet they closed up at the word of command with the most
perfect coolness.  The French skirmishers, too, running forward with
great speed and daring, drove in the British skirmishers, who came
running back to the main line smoke-begrimed and breathless.

As the French masses began to ascend the British slope, the French guns
had to cease their fire for fear of striking their own forces.  The
British infantry, too, being drawn slightly back from the crest, were
out of sight, and the leading French files saw nothing before them but
a cluster of British batteries and a this line of quickly retreating
skirmishers.  A Dutch-Belgian brigade had, somehow, been placed on the
exterior slope of the hill, and when D'Erlon's huge battalions came on,
almost shaking the earth with their steady tread, the Dutch-Belgians
simply took to their heels and ran.  They swept, a crowd of fugitives,
through the intervals of the British lines, and were received with
groans and hootings, the men with difficulty being restrained from
firing upon them.

A sand-pit lay in the track of the French columns on the left.  This
was held by some companies of the 95th Rifles, and these opened a fire
so sudden and close and deadly that the huge mass of the French swung
almost involuntarily to the right, off its true track; then with fierce
roll of drums and shouts of "En avant!" the Frenchmen reached the
crest.  Suddenly there rose before them Picton's steady lines, along
which there ran, in one red flame from end to end, a dreadful volley.
Again the fierce musketry crackled, and yet again.  The Frenchmen tried
to deploy, and Picton, seizing the moment, ordered his lines to charge.
"Charge! charge!" he cried.  "Hurrah!"

It is yet a matter keenly disputed as to whether or not D'Erlon's men
actually pierced the British line.  It is alleged that the Highlanders
were thrown into confusion, and it is certain that Picton's last words
to his aide-de-camp, Captain Seymour, were, "Rally the Highlanders!"
Pack, too, appealed to the 92nd.  "You must charge," he said; "all in
front have given way."  However this may be, the British regiments
charged, and the swift and resolute advance of Picton's lines--though
it was a charge of 3000 men on a body four times their number--was
irresistible.  The leading ranks of the French opened a hurried fire,
under which Picton himself fell shot through the head; then as the
British line came on at the double--the men with bent heads, the level
bayonets one steady edge of steel, the fierce light which gleams along
the fighting line playing on them--the leading battalions of the French
halted irresolute, shrunk back, swayed to and fro, and fell into a
shapeless receding mass.

There were, of course, many individual instances of great gallantry
amongst them.  Thus a French mounted officer had his horse shot, and
when he struggled from beneath his fallen charger he found himself
almost under the bayonets of the 32nd.  But just in front of the
British line was an officer carrying the colours of the regiment, and
the brave Frenchman instantly leaped upon him.  He would capture the
flag!  There was a momentary struggle, and the British officer at the
head of the wing shouted, "Save the brave fellow!" but almost at the
same moment the gallant Frenchman was bayoneted by the colour-sergeant,
and shot by a British infantryman.

The head of the French column was falling to pieces, but the main body
was yet steady, and the cuirassiers covering its flank were coming
swiftly on.  But at this moment there broke upon them the terrific
counterstroke, not of Wellington, but of Lord Uxbridge, into whose
hands Wellington, with a degree of confidence quite unusual for him,
had given the absolute control of his cavalry, fettering him by no
specific orders.


IV. "SCOTLAND FOR EVER!"


  "Beneath their fire, in full career,
  Rush'd on the ponderous cuirassier,
  The lancer couch'd his ruthless spear,
  And hurrying as to havoc near,
      The cohorts' eagles flew.
  In one dark torrent, broad and strong,
  The advancing onset roll'd along,
  Forth harbinger'd by fierce acclaim
  That, from the shroud of smoke and flame,
  Peal'd wildly the imperial name!"
            --SCOTT.


The attack of the Household and Union Brigades at Waterloo is one of
the most dazzling and dramatic incidents of the great fight.  For
suddenness, fire, and far-reaching results, it would be difficult to
parallel that famous charge in the history of war.  The Household
Brigade, consisting of the 1st and 2nd Life Guards, and the Dragoon
Guards, with the Blues in support, moved first.  Lord Uxbridge,
temporarily exchanging the functions of general for those of a
squadron-leader, heading the attack.  They leaped the hedge, or burst
through it, crossed the road--at that point of shallow depth--and met
the French cuirassiers in full charge.  The British were bigger men on
bigger horses, and they had gained the full momentum of their charge
when the two lines met.  The French, to do them justice, did not
shrink.  The charging lines crashed together, like living and swiftly
moving walls, and the sound of their impact rang sharp, sudden, deep,
and long drawn out, above the din of the conflict.  The French wore
armour, and carried longer swords than the British, but they were swept
away in an instant, and went, a broken and shattered mass of men and
horses, down the slope.  Some of them were tumbled into the sand-pit,
amongst the astonished Rifles there, who instantly bayoneted them.
Others were swept upon the masses of their own infantry, fiercely
followed by the Life Guards.

The 2nd Life Guards and the Dragoons, coming on a little in the rear,
struck the right regiment of the cuirassiers and hurled them across the
junction of the roads.  Shaw, the famous Life Guardsman, was killed
here.  He was a perfect swordsman, a man of colossal strength, and is
said to have cut down, through helmet and skull, no fewer than nine men
in the _mêlée_.  How Shaw actually died is a matter of dispute.
Colonel Marten says he was shot by a cuirassier who stood clear of the
_mêlée_, coolly taking pot-shots at the English Guardsmen.  Captain
Kelly, a brilliant soldier, who rode in the charge beside Shaw, says
that Shaw was killed by a thrust through the body from a French colonel
of the cuirassiers, whom Kelly himself, in return, clove through helmet
and skull.

Meanwhile the Union Brigade on the left, consisting of the Royals and
the Inniskillings, with the Scots Greys in support, had broken into the
fight.  The Royals, coming on at full speed over the crest of the
ridge, broke upon the astonished vision of the French infantry at a
distance of less than a hundred yards.  It was an alarming vision of
waving swords, crested helmets, fierce red nostrils, and galloping
hoofs.  The leading files tried to turn, but in an instant the Royals
were upon them, cutting them down furiously.  De Lacy Evans, who rode
in the charge, says, "They fled like a flock of sheep."  Colonel Clark
Kennedy adds that the "jamb" in the French was so thick that the men
could not bring down their arms or level a musket, and the Dragoons
rode in the intervals between their formation, reaching forward with
the stroke of their long swords, and slaying at will.  More than 2000
Frenchmen flung down their arms and surrendered; and on the next
morning the abandoned muskets were still lying in long straight lines
and regular order, showing that the men had surrendered before their
lines were broken.  The charge of the Inniskillings to the left of the
Royals was just as furious and just as successful.  They broke on the
front of Donzdot's divisions and simply ground them to powder.

The Scots Greys were supposed to be "in support"; but coming swiftly
up, they suddenly saw on their left shoulder Marcognet's divisions, the
extreme right of the French.  At that sight the Greys swung a little
off to their left, swept through the intervals of the 92nd, and smote
the French battalions full in front.  As the Greys rode through the
intervals of the footmen--Scotch horsemen through Scotch infantry--the
Scotch blood in both regiments naturally took fire.  Greetings in
broadest Doric flew from man to man.  The pipes skirled fiercely.
"Scotland for ever!" went up in a stormy shout from the kilted lines.
The Greys, riding fast, sometimes jostled, or even struck down, some of
the 92nd; and Armour, the rough-rider of the Greys, has told how the
Highlanders shouted, "I didna think ye wad hae saired me sae!"  Many of
the Highlanders caught hold of the stirrups of the Greys and raced
forward with them--Scotsmen calling to Scotsmen--into the ranks of the
French.  The 92nd, in fact, according to the testimony of their own
officers, "went half mad."  What could resist such a charge?

The two British cavalry brigades were by this time riding roughly
abreast, the men drunk with warlike excitement and completely out of
hand, and most of their officers were little better.  They simply rode
over D'Erlon's broken ranks.  So brave were some of the French,
however, that again and again a solitary soldier or officer would leap
out of the ranks as the English cavalry came on, and charge them
single-handed!  One French private deliberately ran out as the
Inniskillings came on at full gallop, knelt before the swiftly
galloping line of men and horses, coolly shot the adjutant of the
Inniskillings through the head, and was himself instantly trodden into
a bloody pulp!  The British squadrons, wildly disordered, but drunk
with battle fury, and each man fighting for his "ain hand," swept
across the valley, rode up to the crest of the French position, stormed
through the great battery there, slew drivers and horses, and so
completely wrecked the battery that forty guns out of its seventy never
came into action again.  Some of the men, in the rapture of the fight,
broke through to the second line of the French, and told tales, after
the mad adventure was over, of how they had come upon French artillery
drivers, mere boys, sitting crying on their horses while the tragedy
and tumult of the _mêlée_ swept past them.  Some of the older officers
tried to rally and re-form their men; and Lord Uxbridge, by this time
beginning to remember that he was a general and not a dragoon, looked
round for his "supports," who, as it happened, oblivious of the duty of
"supporting" anybody, were busy fighting on their own account, and were
riding furiously in the very front ranks.

Then there came the French counter-stroke.  The French batteries opened
on the triumphant, but disordered British squadrons; a brigade of
lancers smote them on the flank and rolled them up.  Lord Edward
Somerset, who commanded the Household Brigade, was unhorsed, and saved
his life by scrambling dexterously, but ignobly, through a hedge.  Sir
William Ponsonby, who commanded the Union Brigade, had ridden his horse
to a dead standstill; the lancers caught him standing helpless in the
middle of a ploughed field, and slew him with a dozen lance-thrusts.
Vandeleur's Light Cavalry Brigade was by this time moving down from the
British front, and behind its steady squadrons the broken remains of
the two brigades found shelter.

Though the British cavalry suffered terribly in retiring, nevertheless
they had accomplished what Sir Evelyn Wood describes as "one of the
most brilliant successes ever achieved by horsemen over infantry."
These two brigades--which did not number more than 2000 swords--wrecked
an entire infantry corps, disabled forty guns, overthrew a division of
cuirassiers, took 3000 prisoners, and captured two eagles.  The moral
effect of the charge was, perhaps, greater than even its material
results.  The French infantry never afterwards throughout the battle,
until the Old Guard appeared upon the scene, moved forward with real
confidence against the British position.  Those "terrible horsemen" had
stamped themselves upon their imagination.

The story of how the eagles were captured is worth telling.  Captain
Clark Kennedy of the Dragoons took one.  He was riding vehemently in
the early stage of the charge, when he caught sight of the cuirassier
officer carrying the eagle, with his covering men, trying to break
through the _mêlée_ and escape.  "I gave the order to my men," he says,
"'Right shoulders forward; attack the colours.'"  He himself overtook
the officer, ran him through the body, and seized the eagle.  He tried
to break the eagle from the pole and push it inside his coat for
security, but, failing, gave it to his corporal to carry to the rear.
The other colour was taken by Ewart, a sergeant of the Greys, a very
fine swordsman.  He overtook the officer carrying the colour, and, to
quote his own story, "he and I had a hard contest for it.  He made a
thrust at my groin; I parried it off, and cut him down through the
head.  After this a lancer came at me.  I threw the lance off by my
right side, and cut him through the chin and upwards through the teeth.
Next, a foot-soldier fired at me, and then charged me with his bayonet,
which I also had the good luck to parry, and then I cut him down
through the head.  Thus ended the contest.  As I was about to follow
the regiment, the general said, 'My brave fellow, take that to the
rear; you have done enough till you get quit of it.'"


V. HORSEMEN AND SQUARES


  "But yet, though thick the shafts as snow,
  Though charging knights like whirlwinds go,
  Though bill-men ply the ghastly blow,
    Unbroken was the ring;
  The stubborn spearmen still made good
  Their dark impenetrable wood,
  Each stepping where his comrade stood,
    The instant that he fell.
  No thought was there of dastard flight;
  Linked in the serried phalanx tight,
  Groom fought like noble, squire like knight,
    As fearlessly and well."
            --SCOTT.


Napoleon's infantry had failed to capture either Hougoumont or La Haye
Sainte, which was stoutly held by Baring and his Hanoverians.  The
great infantry attack on the British left had failed, and though the
stubborn fight round the two farmhouses never paused, the main battle
along the ridge for a time resolved itself into an artillery duel.
Battery answered battery across the narrow valley, nearly four hundred
guns in action at once, the gunners toiling fiercely to load and fire
with the utmost speed.  Wellington ordered his men to lie down on the
reverse of the ridge; but the French had the range perfectly, and
shells fell thickly on the ranks of recumbent men, and solid shot tore
through them.  The thunder of the artillery quickened; the French
tirailleurs, showing great daring, crept in swarms up the British slope
and shot down the British gunners at their pieces.  Both Hougoumont and
La Haye Sainte were on fire at this stage of the battle.  The smoke of
the conflict, in an atmosphere heavy with moisture, hung like a low
pall of blackest crape over the whole field; and every now and again,
on either ridge, columns of white smoke shot suddenly up and fell back
like gigantic and vaporous mushrooms--the effect of exploding
ammunition waggons.  "Hard pounding this, gentlemen," said Wellington,
as he rode past his much-enduring battalions.  "Let us see who will
pound longest."

At four o'clock came the great cavalry attack of the French.  Through
the gap between, not merely the two farmhouses, but the two farmhouses
plus their zone of fire--through a gap, that is, of probably not more
than 1000 yards, the French, for two long hours, poured on the British
line the whole strength of their magnificent cavalry, led by Ney in
person.  To meet the assault, Wellington drew up his first line in a
long chequer of squares, five in the first line, four, covering their
intervals, in the second.  In advance of them were the British guns,
with their sadly reduced complement of gunners.  Immediately behind the
squares were the British cavalry brigades; the Household Brigade,
reduced by this time to a couple of squadrons; and behind them, in
turn, the Dutch-Belgian infantry, who had fortitude enough not to run
away, but lacked daring sufficient to fill a place on the fire-scourged
edge of actual battle.  When the British front was supposed to be
sufficiently macadamised by the dreadful fire of the French batteries,
Ney brought on his huge mass of cavalry, twenty-one squadrons of
cuirassiers, and nineteen squadrons of the Light Cavalry of the Guard.

At a slow trot they came down the French slope, crossed the valley,
and, closing their ranks and quickening their stride, swept up to the
British line, and broke, a swirling torrent of men and horses, over the
crest.  Nothing could be more majestic, and apparently resistless, than
their onset--the gleam of so many thousand helmets and breastplates,
the acres of wind-blown horse-hair crests and many-coloured uniforms,
the thunder of so many galloping hoofs.  Wellington had ordered his
gunners, when the French cavalry reached their guns, to abandon them
and run for shelter beneath the bayonets of the nearest square, and the
brave fellows stood by their pieces pouring grape and solid shot into
the glittering, swift-coming human target before them till the leading
horses were almost within touch of the guns, when they ran and flung
themselves under the steady British bayonets for safety.

The French horsemen, as they mounted the British slope, saw nothing
before them but the ridge, empty of everything except a few abandoned
guns.  They were drunk with the rapture of victory, and squadron after
squadron, as it reached the crest, broke into tempests of shouts and a
mad gallop.  All the batteries were in their possession; they looked to
see an army in rout.  Suddenly they beheld the double line of British
squares--or, rather, "oblongs"--with their fringe of steady steel
points; and from end to end of the line ran the zigzag of fire--a fire
that never slackened, still less intermitted.  The torrent and tumult
of the horsemen never checked; but as they rode at the squares, the
leading squadron--men and horses--smitten by the spray of lead, tumbled
dead or dying to the ground.  The following squadrons parted, swept
past the flanks of the squares, scourged with deadly volleys, struggled
through the intervals of the second line, emerged breathless and broken
into the space beyond, to be instantly charged by the British cavalry,
and driven back in wreck over the British slope.  As the struggling
mass left the crest clear, the French guns broke in a tempest of shot
on the squares, while the scattered French re-formed in the valley, and
prepared for a second and yet more desperate assault.

Foiled in his first attack, Ney drew the whole of Kellerman's
division--thirty-seven squadrons, eleven of cuirassiers, six of
carabineers, and the Bed Lancers of the Guard--into the whirlpool of
his renewed assault, and this time the mass, though it came forward
more slowly, was almost double in area.  Gleaming with lance and sword
and cuirass, it undulated as it crossed the broken slopes, till it
seemed a sea, shining with 10,000 points of glancing steel, in motion.
The British squares, on the reverse slope, as they obeyed the order,
"Prepare to receive cavalry!" and fell grimly into formation, could
hear the thunder of the coming storm--the shrill cries of the officers,
the deeper shouts of the men, the clash of scabbard on stirrup, the
fierce tramp of the iron-shod hoofs.  Squadron after squadron came over
the ridge, like successive human waves; then, like a sea broken loose,
the flood of furious horsemen inundated the whole slope on which the
squares were drawn up.  But each square, a tiny, immovable island of
red, with its fringe of smoke and steel and darting flame, stood
doggedly resolute.  No French leader, however daring, ventured to ride
home on the very bayonets.  The flood of maddened men and horses swung
sullenly back across the ridge, while the British gunners ran out and
scourged them with grape as they rode down the slope.

From four o'clock to six o'clock this amazing scene was repeated.  No
less than thirteen times, it was reckoned, the French horsemen rode
over the ridge, and round the squares, and swept back wrecked and
baffled.  In the later charges they came on at a trot, or even a walk,
and they rode through the British batteries and round the squares, in
the words of the Duke of Wellington, "as if they owned them."  So dense
was the smoke that sometimes the British could not see their foes
until, through the whirling blackness, a line of lances and crested
helmets, or of tossing horse-heads, suddenly broke.  Sometimes a single
horseman would ride up to the very points of the British bayonets and
strike at them with his sword, or fire a pistol at an officer, in the
hope of drawing the fire of the square prematurely, and thus giving his
comrades a chance of breaking it.  With such cool courage did the
British squares endure the fiery rush of the French cavalry, that at
last the temper of the men grew almost scornful.  They would growl out,
"Here come these fools again," as a fresh sweep of horsemen came on.
Sometimes the French squadrons came on at a trot; sometimes their
"charge" slackened down to a walk.  Warlike enthusiasm had exhausted
itself.  "The English squares and the French squadrons," says Lord
Anglesey, "seemed almost, for a short time, hardly taking notice of
each other."

In their later charges the French brought up some light batteries to
the crest of the British ridge, and opened fire at point-blank distance
on the solid squares.  The front of the 1st Life Guards was broken by a
fire of this sort, and Gronow relates how the cuirassiers made a dash
at the opening.  Captain Adair leaped into the gap, and killed with one
blow of his sword a French officer who had actually entered the square!
The British gunners always ran swiftly out when the French cavalry
recoiled down the slope, remanned their guns, and opened a murderous
fire on the broken French.  Noting this, an officer of cuirassiers drew
up his horse by a British battery, and while his men drew off, stood on
guard with his single sword, and kept the gunners from remanning it
till he was shot by a British infantryman.  Directly the broken cavalry
was clear of the ridge, the French guns opened furiously on the British
lines, and men dropped thick and fast.  The cavalry charges, as a
matter of fact, were welcomed as affording relief from the intolerable
artillery fire.

For two hours 15,000 French horsemen rode round the British squares,
and again and again the ridge and rear slope of the British position
was covered with lancers, cuirassiers, light and heavy dragoons, and
hussars, with the British guns in their actual possession; and yet not
a square was broken!  A gaily dressed regiment of the Duke of
Cumberland's (Hanoverian) Hussars watched the Homeric contest from the
British rear, and Lord Uxbridge, as the British cavalry were completely
exhausted by their dashes at the French horsemen as they broke through
the chequer of the squares, rode up to them and called on them to
follow him in a charge.  The colonel declined, explaining that his men
owned their own horses, and could not expose them to any risk of
damage!  These remarkable warriors, in fact, moved in a body, and with
much expedition, off the field, Seymour (Lord Uxbridge's aide) taking
their colonel by the collar and shaking him as a dog shakes a rat, by
way of expressing his view of the performance.


VI. THE FIGHT OF THE GUNNERS


  "Three hundred cannon-mouths roar'd loud;
  And from their throats with flash and cloud
  Their showers of iron threw."
            --SCOTT.


One of the most realistic pictures of the fight at this stage is given
by Captain Mercer, in command of a battery of horse artillery.  Mercer
was on the extreme British right during the first stage of the battle,
and only got occasional glimpses of the ridge where the fight was
raging--intermittent visions of French cavalry riding in furious
charges, and abandoned British batteries with guns, muzzle in air,
against the background of grey and whirling smoke.  About three
o'clock, in the height of the cavalry struggle, Fraser, who was in
chief command of the horse artillery, galloped down the reverse slope
to Mercer's battery, his face black with powder, his uniform torn, and
brought the troop at full gallop to the central ridge, explaining as
they rode the Duke's orders, that, when the French cavalry charged
home, Mercer and his men should take refuge under the bayonets of the
nearest square.

As they neared the crest at a gallop, Mercer describes the humming as
of innumerable and gigantic gnats that filled the bullet-torn air.  He
found his position betwixt two squares of Brunswickers, in whose ranks
the French guns were making huge gaps, while the officers and sergeants
were busy literally pushing the men together.  "The men," says Mercer,
"were like wooden figures, semi-paralysed with the horrors of the fight
about them;" and to have attempted to run to them for shelter would
certainly have been the signal for the whole mass to dissolve.  Through
the smoke ahead, not a hundred yards distant, were the French squadrons
coming on at a trot.  The British guns were swung round, unlimbered,
loaded with case-shot, and fire opened with breathless speed.  Still
the French came on; but as gun after gun came into action, their pace
slowed down to a walk, till the front files could endure the terrific
fire no longer.  They turned round and tried to ride back.  "I actually
saw them," says Mercer, "using the pommels of their swords to fight
their way out of the _mêlée_."  Some, made desperate by finding
themselves penned up at the very muzzles of the British guns, dashed
through their intervals, but without thinking of using their swords.
Presently the mass broke and ebbed, a flood of shattered squadrons,
down the slope.  They rallied quickly, however, and their helmets could
be seen over the curve of the slope as the officers dressed the lines.

The French tirailleurs, meanwhile, crept up within forty yards of the
battery, and were busy shooting down Mercer's gunners.  Mercer, to keep
his men steady, rode slowly to and fro in front of the muzzles of his
guns, the men standing with lighted port-fires.  The tirailleurs,
almost within pistol-shot, seized the opportunity to take pot-shots at
him.  He shook his glove, with the word "Scélérat," at one of them; the
fellow grinned, and took a leisurely aim at Mercer, the muzzle of his
gun following him as he turned to and fro in his promenade before his
own pieces.  The Frenchman fired, and the ball passed at the back of
Mercer's neck into the forehead of the leading driver of one of his
guns.

But the cavalry was coming on again in solid squadrons, a column so
deep that when the leading files were within sixty yards of Mercer's
guns the rear of the great mass was still out of sight.  The pace was a
deliberate trot.  "They moved in profound silence," says Mercer, and
the only sound that could be heard from them, amidst the incessant roar
of battle, was the low, thunder-like reverberation of the ground
beneath the simultaneous tread of so many horses, through which ran a
jangling ripple of sharp metallic sound, the ring of steel on steel.
The British gunners, on their part, showed a stern coolness fully equal
to the occasion.  Every man stood steadily at his post, "the guns ready
loaded with round-shot first, and a case over it; the tubes were in the
vents, the port-fires glared and sputtered behind the wheels."  The
column was led on this time by an officer in a rich uniform, his breast
covered with decorations, whose earnest gesticulations were strangely
contrasted with the solemn demeanour of those to whom they were
addressed.  Mercer allowed the leading squadron to come within sixty
yards, then lifted his glove as the signal to fire.  Nearly the whole
leading rank fell in an instant, while the round shot pierced the
column.  The front, covered with struggling horses and men, was
impassable.  Some of the braver spirits did break their way through,
only to fall, man and horse, at the very muzzles, of the guns.  "Our
guns," says Mercer, "were served with astonishing activity, and men and
horses tumbled before them like nine-pins."  Where the horse alone was
killed, the cuirassier could be seen stripping himself of his armour
with desperate haste to escape.  The mass of the French for a moment
stood still, then broke to pieces and fled.  Again they came on, with
exactly the same result.  So dreadful was the carnage, that on the next
day, Mercer, looking back from the French ridge, could identify the
position held by his battery by the huge mound of slaughtered men and
horses lying in front of it.  The French at last brought up a battery,
which opened a flanking fire on Mercer's guns; he swung round two of
his pieces to meet the attack, and the combat raged till, out of 200
fine horses in Mercer's troop, 140 lay dead or dying, and two men out
of every three were disabled.

Ney's thirteen cavalry charges on the British position were
magnificent, but they were a failure.  They did not break a single
square, nor permanently disable a single gun.  Both Wellington and
Napoleon are accused of having flung away their cavalry; but
Wellington--or, rather, Uxbridge--by expending only 2000 sabres,
wrecked, as we have seen, a French infantry corps, destroyed a battery
of 40 guns, and took 3000 prisoners.  Ney practically used up 15,000
magnificent horsemen without a single appreciable result.  Napoleon, at
St. Helena, put the blame of his wasted cavalry on Ney's hot-headed
impetuosity.  The cavalry attack, he said, was made without his orders;
Kellerman's division joined in the attack without even Ney's orders.
But that Napoleon should watch for two hours his whole cavalry force
wrecking itself in thirteen successive and baffled assaults on the
British squares, without his orders, is an utterly incredible
supposition.

If two hours of cavalry assault, punctuated as with flame by the fire
of 200 guns, did not destroy the stubborn British line, it cannot be
denied that it shook it terribly.  The British ridge was strewn with
the dead and dying.  Regiments had shrunk to companies, companies to
mere files.  "Our square," says Gronow, "presented a shocking sight.
We were nearly suffocated by the smoke and smell from burnt cartridges.
It was impossible to move a step without treading on a wounded or slain
comrade."  "Where is your brigade?" Vivian asked of Lord Edward
Somerset, who commanded the Life Guards.  "Here," said Lord Edward,
pointing to two scanty squadrons, and a long line of wounded or
mutilated horses.  Before nightfall the two gallant brigades that made
the great cavalry charge of the morning had contracted to a single
squadron of fifty files.  Wellington sent an aide-de-camp to ask
General Hackett, "What square of his that was which was so far in
advance?"  It was a mass of killed and wounded men belonging to the
30th and 73rd regiments that lay slain, yet in ranks, on the spot the
square had occupied at one period of the fight, and from which it had
been withdrawn.  Seen through the whirling smoke, this quadrangle of
corpses looked like a square of living men.  The destruction wrought by
the French guns on the British squares was, in brief, terrific.  By a
single discharge of grape upon a German square, one of its sides was
completely blown away, and the "square" transfigured into a triangle,
with its base a line of slaughtered men.  The effect produced by
cannon-shot at short range on solid masses of men was sometimes very
extraordinary.  Thus Croker tells how an officer received a severe
wound in the shoulder, apparently from a jagged ball.  When the missile
was extracted, however, it turned out to be a huge human double-tooth.
Its owner's head had been shattered by a cannon-ball, and the very
teeth transformed into a radiating spray of swift and deadly missiles.
There were other cases of soldiers being wounded by coins driven
suddenly by the impact of shot from their original owners' pockets.
The sustained fire of the French tirailleurs, too, wrought fatal
mischief.

La Haye Sainte by this time had been captured.  The brave men who held
it for so many hours carried rifles that needed a special cartridge,
and supplies of it failed.  When the French captured the farmhouse,
they were able to push some guns and a strong infantry attack close up
to the British left.  This was held by the 27th, who had marched from
Ghent at speed, reached Waterloo, exhausted, at nine A.M., on the very
day of the battle, slept amid the roar of the great fight till three
o'clock, and were then brought forward to strengthen the line above La
Haye Sainte.  The 27th was drawn up in square, and the French
skirmishers opened a fire so close and fatal, that, literally, in the
space of a few minutes every second man was shot down!


VII. THE OLD GUARD


  "On came the whirlwind--like the last,
  But fiercest sweep of tempest blast--
  On came the whirlwind--steel-gleams broke
  Like lightning through the rolling smoke;
        The war was waked anew."
            --SCOTT.


Napoleon had expended in vain upon the stubborn British lines his
infantry, his cavalry, and his artillery.  There remained only the
Guard!  The long summer evening was drawing to a close, when, at
half-past seven, he marshalled these famous soldiers for the final
attack.  It is a curious fact that the intelligence of the coming
attack was brought to Wellington by a French cuirassier officer, who
deserted his colours just before it took place.  The eight battalions
of the immortal Guard formed a body of magnificent soldiers, the tall
stature of the men being heightened by their imposing bearskin caps.
The prestige of a hundred victories played round their bayonets.  Their
assault had never yet been resisted.  Ney and Friant led them on.
Napoleon himself, as the men marched past him to the assault, spoke
some fiery words of exhortation to each company--the last words he ever
spoke to his Guard.

It is a matter of keen dispute whether the Guard attacked in two
columns or in one.  The truth seems to be that the eight battalions
were arranged in echelon, and really formed one mass, though in two
parallel columns of companies, with batteries of horse artillery on
either flank advancing with them.  Nothing could well be more majestic,
nothing more menacing, than the advance of this gallant force, and it
seemed as if nothing on the British ridge, with its disabled guns and
shot-torn battalions, could check such an assault.  Wellington,
however, quickly strengthened his centre by calling in Hill's division
from the extreme right, while Vivian's Light Cavalry, surrendering the
extreme left to the advancing Prussians, moved, in anticipation of
orders, to the same point.  Adams's brigade, too, was brought up to the
threatened point, with all available artillery.  The exact point in the
line which would be struck by the head of the Guard was barred by a
battery of nine-pounders.  The attack of the Guard was aided by a
general infantry advance---usually in the form of a dense mass of
skirmishers--against the whole British front, and so fierce was this
that some Hanoverian and Nassau battalions were shaken by it into
almost fatal rout.  A thread of British cavalry, made up of the scanty
remains of the Scots Greys and some of Vandeleur's Light Cavalry, alone
kept the line from being pierced.

All interest, however, centred in the attack of the Guard.  Steadily,
on a slightly diagonal line, it moved up the British slope.  The guns
smote it fiercely; but never shrinking or pausing, the great double
column moved forward.  It crossed the ridge.  Nothing met the eyes of
the astonished French except a wall of smoke, and the battery of horse
artillery, at which the gunners were toiling madly, pouring case-shot
into the approaching column.  One or two horsemen, one of whom was
Wellington himself, were dimly seen through the smoke behind the guns.
The Duke denied that he used the famous phrase, "Up Guards, and at
'em!"  "What I may have said, and possibly did say," he told Croker,
"was, 'Stand up, Guards!' and then gave the commanding officers the
order to attack."

An officer who took part in the fight has described the scene at the
critical moment when the French Old Guard appeared at the summit of the
British ridge: "As the smoke cleared away, a most superb sight opened
on us.  A close column of the Guard, about seventies in front, and not
less than six thousand strong, their drums sounding the _pas de
charge_, the men shouting 'Vive l'Empereur!' were within sixty yards of
us."  The sudden appearance of the long red line of the British Foot
Guards rising from the ground seems to have brought the French Guard to
a momentary pause, and, as they hesitated, along the whole line of the
British ran--and ran again, and yet again--the vivid flash of a
tremendous volley.  The Guard tried to deploy; their officers leaped to
the front, and, with shouts and waving swords, tried to bring them on,
the British line, meanwhile, keeping up "independent" firing.  Maitland
and Lord Saltoun simultaneously shouted the order to "Charge!"  The
bayonets of the British Guards fell to level, the men came forward at a
run, the tramp of the charging line sounded louder and louder, the line
of shining points gleamed nearer and yet nearer--the bent and
threatening faces of the British came swiftly on.  The nerve of the
French seemed to fail; the huge battalion faltered, shrank in upon
itself, and tumbled in ruin down the hill!

But this was only the leading battalion of the right segment of the
great column, and the left was still moving steadily up.  The British
Guards, too, who had followed the broken battalion of the French down
the hill, were arrested by a cry of "Cavalry!" and fell back on the
ridge in confusion, though the men obeyed instantly the commands of the
officers.  "Halt!  Front!  Re-form!"  Meanwhile the left section of the
huge column was moving up, the men as steady as on parade, the lofty
bearskins of the Grenadiers, as they mounted the ridge, giving them a
gigantic aspect.  The black, elongated shadows, as the last rays of the
setting sun smote the lines, ran threateningly before them.  But the
devoted column was practically forcing itself up into a sort of
triangle of fire.  Bolton's guns crossed its head, the Guards, thrown
slightly forward, poured their swift volleys in waves of flame on its
right shoulder, the 52nd and 71st on its left scourged it with fire,
beneath which the huge mass of the French Guard seemed sometimes to
pause and thrill as if in convulsion.

Then came the movement which assured victory to the British.  Colborne,
a soldier with a singular genius for war, not waiting for orders, made
his regiment, the 52nd, bring its right shoulder forward, the outer
company swinging round at the double, until his whole front was
parallel with the flank of the French Guard.  Adams, the general in
command of the brigade, rode up and asked him what he was going to do.
Colborne replied, "To make that column feel our fire," and, giving the
word, his men poured into the unprotected flank of the unfortunate
Guard a terrific volley.  The 52nd, it should be noted, went into
action with upwards of one thousand bayonets, being probably the
strongest battalion in the field.  Colborne had "nursed" his regiment
during the fight.  He formed them into smaller squares than usual, and
kept them in shelter where possible, so that at this crisis the
regiment was still a body of great fighting force, and its firing was
of deadly volume and power.  Adams swiftly brought the 71st to sustain
Colborne's attack, the Guards on the other flank also moved forward,
practically making a long obtuse angle of musketry fire, the two sides
of which were rapidly closing in on the head of the great French column.

The left company of the 52nd was almost muzzle to muzzle with the
French column, and had to press back, while the right companies were
swinging round to bring the whole line parallel with the flank of the
Guard; yet, though the answering fire of the Frenchmen was broken and
irregular, so deadly was it--the lines almost touching each
other--that, in three minutes, from the left front of the 52nd one
hundred and fifty men fell!  When the right companies, however, had
come up into line with the left, Colborne cried, "Charge! charge!"  The
men answered with a deep-throated, menacing shout, and dashed at the
enemy.  Napoleon's far-famed Guard, the victors in a hundred fights,
shrank, the mass swayed to and fro, the men in the centre commenced to
fire in the air, and the whole great mass seemed to tumble, break into
units, and roll down the hill!

The 52nd and 71st came fiercely on, their officers leading.  Some
squadrons of the 23rd Dragoons came at a gallop down the slope, and
literally smashed in upon the wrecked column.  So wild was the
confusion, so dense the whirling smoke that shrouded the whole scene,
that some companies of the 52nd fired into the Dragoons, mistaking them
for the enemy; and while Colborne was trying to halt his line to remedy
the confusion, Wellington, who saw in this charge the sure pledge of
victory, rode up and shouted, "Never mind! go on! go on!"

Gambier, then an officer of the 52nd, gives a graphic description of
how that famous regiment fought at this stage:--

"A short time before, I had seen our colonel (Colborne), twenty yards
in front of the centre, suddenly disappear, while his horse, mortally
wounded, sank under him.  After one or two rounds from the guns, he
came striding down the front with, 'These guns will destroy the
regiment.'--'Shall I drive them in, sir?'--'Do.'--'Right section, left
shoulders forward!' was the word at once.  So close were we that the
guns only fired their loaded charges, and limbering up, went hastily to
the rear.  Reaching the spot on which they had stood, I was clear of
the Imperial Guard's smoke, and saw three squares of the Old Guard
within four hundred yards farther on.  They were standing in a line of
contiguous squares with very short intervals, a small body of
cuirassiers on their right, while the guns took post on their left.
Convinced that the regiment, when it saw them, would come towards them,
I continued my course, stopped with my section about two hundred yards
in front of the centre square, and sat down.  They were standing in
perfect order and steadiness, and I knew they would not disturb that
steadiness to pick a quarrel with an insignificant section.  I
alternately looked at them, at the regiment, and up the hill to my
right (rear), to see who was coming to help us.

"A red regiment was coming along steadily from the British position,
with its left directly upon me.  It reached me some minutes before the
52nd, of which the right came within twenty paces of me.  Colonel
Colborne then called the covering sergeants to the front, and dressed
the line upon them.  Up to this moment neither the guns, the squares of
the Imperial Guard, nor the 52nd had fired a shot.  I then saw one or
two of the guns slewed round to the direction of my company and fired,
but their grape went over our heads.  We opened our fire and advanced;
the squares replied to it, and then steadily facing about, retired.
The cuirassiers advanced a few paces; our men ceased firing, and, bold
in their four-deep formation, came down to a sort of elevated bayonet
charge; but the cuirassiers declined the contest, and turned.  The
French proper right square brought up its right shoulders and crossed
the _chaussée_, and we crossed it after them.  Twilight had manifestly
commenced, and objects were now bewildering.  The first event of
interest was, that getting among some French tumbrils, with the horses
attached, our colonel was seen upon one, shouting 'Cut me out!'  Then
we came upon the hollow road beyond La Belle Alliance, filled with
artillery and broken infantry.  Here was instantly a wild _mêlée_: the
infantry tried to escape as best they could, and at the same time turn
and defend themselves; the artillery drivers turned their horses to the
left and tried to scramble up the bank of the road, but the horses were
immediately shot down; a young subaltern of the battery threw his sword
and himself on the ground in the act of surrender; his commander, who
wore the cross of the Legion of Honour, stood in defiance among his
guns, and was bayoneted, and the subaltern, unwisely making a run for
his liberty, was shot in the attempt.  The _mêlée_ at this spot placed
us amid such questionable companions, that no one at that moment could
be sure whether a bayonet would be the next moment in his ribs or not."

It puts a sudden gleam of humour into the wild scene to read how
Colonel Sir Felton Harvey, who led a squadron of the 18th, when he saw
the Old Guard tumbling into ruins, evoked a burst of laughter from his
entire squadron by saying in a solemn voice, "Lord Wellington has won
the battle," and then suddenly adding in a changed tone, "If we could
but get the d----d fool to advance!"  Wellington, as a matter of fact,
had given the signal that launched his wasted and sorely tried
battalions in one final and victorious advance.  Vivian's cavalry still
remained to the Duke--the 10th and 18th Hussars--and they, at this
stage, made a charge almost as decisive as that of the Household and
Union Brigades in the morning.  The 10th crashed into some cuirassiers
who were coming up to try and relieve the flank of the Guard, overthrew
them in a moment, and then plunged into the broken French Guard itself.
These veterans were retreating, so to speak, individually, all
formation wrecked, but each soldier was stalking fiercely along with
frowning brow and musket grasped, ready to charge any too audacious
horsemen.  Vivian himself relates how his orderly alone cut down five
or six in swift succession who were trying to bayonet the British
cavalry general.  When Vivian had launched the 10th, he galloped back
to the 18th, who had lost almost every officer.  "My lads," he said,
"you'll follow me"; to which the sergeant-major, a man named Jeffs,
replied, "To h----, general, if you will lead us!"  The wreck of
Vandeleur's brigade, too, charged down the slope more to the left;
batteries were carried, cavalry squadrons smashed, and infantry
battalions tumbled into ruin.  Napoleon had an entire light cavalry
brigade still untouched; but this, too, was caught in the reflux of the
broken masses, and swept away.  The wreck of the Old Guard and the
spectacle of the general advance of the British--cavalry, artillery,
and infantry--seemed to be the signal for the dissolution of the whole
French army.

Two squares of the French Guard yet kept their formation.  Some
squadrons of the 10th Hussars, under Major Howard, rode fiercely at
one.  Howard himself rode home, and died literally on the French
bayonets; and his men rivalled his daring, and fought and died on two
faces of the square.  But the Frenchmen kept their ranks, and the
attack failed.  The other square was broken.  The popular tradition
that Cambronne, commanding a square of the Old Guard, on being summoned
to surrender, answered, "La Garde meurt, et ne se rend pas," is pure
fable.  As a matter of fact, Halkett, who commanded a brigade of
Hanoverians, personally captured Cambronne.  Halkett was heading some
squadrons of the 10th, and noted Cambronne trying to rally the Guard.
In his own words, "I made a gallop for the general.  When about cutting
him down, he called out he would surrender, upon which he preceded me
to the rear.  But I had not gone many paces before my horse got shot
through his body and fell to the ground.  In a few seconds I got him on
his legs again, and found my friend Cambronne had taken French leave in
the direction from which he came.  I instantly overtook him, laid hold
of him by the aiguillette, and brought him back in safety, and gave him
in charge of a sergeant of the Osnabruckers to deliver to the Duke."

Napoleon himself, from a spot of rising ground not far from La Haye
Sainte, had watched the advance of his Guard.  His empire hung on its
success.  It was the last fling of the dice for him.  His cavalry was
wrecked, his infantry demoralised, half his artillery dismounted; the
Prussian guns were thundering with ever louder roar upon his right.  If
the Guard succeeded, the electrifying thrill of victory would run
through the army, and knit it into energy once more.  But if the Guard
failed----!


VIII. THE GREAT DEFEAT.


  "And while amid their scattered band
  Raged the fierce riders' bloody brand,
  Recoil'd in common rout and fear,
  Lancer and Guard and Cuirassier,
  Horsemen and foot--a mingled host,
  Their leaders fall'n, their standards lost."
            --SCOTT.


Napoleon watched the huge black echelon of battalions mount the slope,
their right section crumbled under the rush of the British Guards.
Colborne and the 52nd tumbled the left flank into ruin; the British
cavalry swept down upon them.  Those who stood near Napoleon watched
his face.  It became pale as death.  "Ils sont mêlés ensemble" ("they
are mingled together"), he muttered to himself.  He cast one hurried
glance over the field, to right and left, and saw nothing but broken
squadrons, abandoned batteries, wrecked infantry battalions.  "Tout est
perdu," he said, "sauve qui peut," and, wheeling his horse, he turned
his back upon his last battlefield.  His star had set!

Napoleon's strategy throughout the brief campaign was magnificent; his
tactics--the detailed handling of his troops on the actual
battlefield--were wretched.  "We were manoeuvred," says the disgusted
Marbot, "like so many pumpkins."  Napoleon was only forty-seven years
old, but, as Wolseley says, "he was no longer the thin, sleek, active
little man he had been at Rivoli.  His now bloated face, large stomach,
and fat and rounded legs bespoke a man unfitted for hard work on
horseback."  His fatal delay in pursuing Blücher on the 17th, and his
equally fatal waste of time in attacking Wellington on the 18th, proved
how his quality as a general had decayed.  It is a curious fact that,
during the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon remained for hours motionless
at a table placed for him in the open air, often asleep, with his head
resting on his arms.  One reads with an odd sense of humour the answer
which a dandy officer of the British Life Guards gave to the inquiry,
"How he felt during the battle of Waterloo?"  He replied that he had
felt "awfully bored"!  That anybody should feel "bored" in the vortex
of such a drama is wonderful; but scarcely so wonderful as the fact
that the general of one of the two contending hosts found it possible
to go to sleep during the crisis of the gigantic battle, on which hung
his crown and fate.  Napoleon had lived too long for the world's
happiness or for his own fame.

The story here told is that of Waterloo on its British side.  No
attempt is made to describe Blücher's magnificent loyalty in pushing,
fresh from the defeat of Ligny, through the muddy cross-roads from
Wavre, to join Wellington on the blood-stained field of Waterloo.  No
account, again, is attempted of Grouchy's wanderings into space, with
33,000 men and 96 guns, lazily attacking Thielmann's single corps at
Wavre, while Blücher, with three divisions, was marching at speed to
fling himself on Napoleon's right flank at Waterloo.  It is idle to
speculate on what would have happened to the British if the Prussians
had not made their movement on Napoleon's right flank.  The assured
help of Blücher was the condition upon which Wellington made his stand
at Waterloo; it was as much part of his calculations as the fighting
quality of his own infantry.  A plain tale of British endurance and
valour is all that is offered here; and what a head of wood and heart
of stone any man of Anglo-Saxon race must have who can read such a tale
without a thrill of generous emotion!

Waterloo was for the French not so much a defeat as a rout.  Napoleon's
army simply ceased to exist.  The number of its slain is unknown, for
its records were destroyed.  The killed and wounded in the British army
reached the tragical number of nearly 15,000.  Probably not less than
between 30,000 and 40,000 slain or wounded human beings were scattered,
the night following the battle, over the two or three square miles
where the great fight had raged; and some of the wounded were lying
there still, uncared for, four days afterwards.  It is said that for
years afterwards, as one looked over the waving wheat-fields in the
valley betwixt Mont St. Jean and La Belle Alliance, huge irregular
patches, where the corn grew rankest and was of deepest tint, marked
the gigantic graves where, in the silence and reconciliation of death,
slept Wellington's ruddy-faced infantry lads and the grizzled veterans
of the Old Guard.  The deep cross-country road which covered
Wellington's front has practically disappeared; the Belgians have cut
away the banks to build up a huge pyramid, on the summit of which is
perched a Belgian lion, with tail erect, grinning defiance towards the
French frontier.  A lion is not exactly the animal which best
represents the contribution the Belgian troops made to Waterloo.

But still the field keeps its main outlines.  To the left lies
Planchenoit, where Wellington watched to see the white smoke of the
Prussian guns; opposite is the gentle slope down which D'Erlon's troops
marched to fling themselves on La Haye Sainte; and under the
spectator's feet, a little to his left as he stands on the summit of
the monument, is the ground over which Life Guards and Inniskillings
and Scots Greys galloped in the fury of their great charge.  Right in
front is the path along which came Milhaud's Cuirassiers and
Kellerman's Lancers, and Friant's Old Guard, in turn, to fling
themselves in vain on the obstinate squares and thin red line of the
British.  To the right is Hougoumont, the orchard walls still pierced
with loopholes made by the Guards.  A fragment of brick, blackened with
the smoke of the great fight, is one of the treasures of the present
writer.  Victors and vanquished alike have passed away, and, since the
Old Guard broke on the slopes of Mont St. Jean, British and French have
never met in the wrestle of battle.  May they never meet again in that
fashion!  But as long as nations preserve the memory of the great deeds
of their history, as long as human courage and endurance can send a
thrill of admiration through generous hearts, as long as British blood
beats in British veins, the story of the brave men who fought and died
at their country's bidding at Waterloo will be one of the great
traditions of the English-speaking race.

Of Wellington's part in the great fight it is difficult to speak in
terms which do not sound exaggerated.  He showed all the highest
qualities of generalship, swift vision, cool judgment, the sure insight
that forecasts each move on the part of his mighty antagonist, the
unfailing resource that instantly devises the plan for meeting it.
There is no need to dwell on Wellington's courage; the rawest British
militia lad on the field shared that quality with him.  But in the
temper of Wellington's courage there was a sort of ice-clear quality
that was simply marvellous.  He visited every square and battery in
turn, and was at every point where the fight was most bloody.  Every
member of his staff, without exception, was killed or wounded, while it
is curious to reflect that not a member of Napoleon's staff was so much
as touched.  But the roar of the battle, with its swift chances of life
and death, left Wellington's intellect as cool, and his nerve as
steady, as though he were watching a scene in a theatre.  One of his
generals said to him when the fight seemed most desperate, "If you
should be struck, tell us what is your plan?"  "My plan," said the
Duke, "consists in dying here to the last man."  He told at a
dinner-table, long after the battle, how, as he stood under the
historic tree in the centre of his line, a Scotch sergeant came up,
told him he had observed the tree was a mark for the French gunners,
and begged him to move from it.  Somebody at the table said, "I hope
you did, sir?"  "I really forget," said the Duke, "but I know I thought
it very good advice at the time."

Only twice during the day did Wellington show any trace of remembering
what may be called his personal interest in the fight.  Napoleon had
called him "a Sepoy general."  "I will show him to-day," he said, just
before the battle began, "how a Sepoy general can defend himself."  At
night, again, as he sat with a few of his surviving officers about him
at supper, his face yet black with the smoke of the fight, he
repeatedly leaned back in his chair, rubbing his hands convulsively,
and exclaiming aloud, "Thank God!  I have met him.  Thank God!  I have
met him."  But Wellington's mood throughout the whole of the battle was
that which befitted one of the greatest soldiers war has ever produced
in the supreme hour of his country's fate.  The Duke was amongst the
leading files of the British line as they pushed the broken French
Guard down the slope, and some one begged him to remember what his life
was worth, and go back.  "The battle is won," said Wellington; "my life
doesn't matter now."  Dr. Hulme, too, has told how he woke the Duke
early in the morning after the fight, his face grim, unwashed, and
smoke-blackened, and read the list of his principal officers--name
after name--dead or dying, until the hot tears ran, like those of a
woman, down the iron visage of the great soldier.

As Napoleon in the gathering darkness galloped off the field, with the
wreck and tumult of his shattered army about him, there remained to his
life only those six ignoble years at St. Helena.  But Wellington was
still in his very prime.  He was only forty-six years old, and there
awaited him thirty-seven years of honoured life, till, "to the noise of
the mourning of a mighty nation," he was laid beside Nelson in the
crypt of St. Paul's, and Tennyson sang his requiem:--

  "O good grey head, which all men knew,
  O voice from which their omens all men drew,
  O iron nerve, to true occasion true;
  O fall'n at length that tower of strength
  Which stood four-square to all the winds that blew."



THE NIGHT ATTACK OFF CADIZ


  "'Captain,' they cry, 'the fight is done,
    They bid you send your sword!'
  And he answered, 'Grapple her stern and bow.
  They have asked for the steel.  They shall have it now;
    Out cutlasses, and board!'"
            --KIPLING.


On the morning of July 3, 1801, a curious scene, which might almost be
described as a sea comedy, was being transacted off the coast of
Alicante.  Three huge French line-of-battle ships were manoeuvring and
firing round a tiny little British brig-of-war.  It was like three
mastiffs worrying a mouse.  The brig was Lord Cochrane's famous little
_Speedy_, a craft so tiny that its commander could carry its entire
broadside in his own pockets, and when he shaved himself in his cabin,
had to put his head through the skylight and his shaving-box on the
quarter-deck, in order to stand upright.

Cochrane was caught by Admiral Linois' squadron, consisting of two
ships of eighty guns and one of seventy-four, on a lee shore, where
escape was impossible; but from four o'clock till nine o'clock Cochrane
evaded all the efforts of his big pursuers to capture him.  The French
ships separated on different tacks, so as to keep the little _Speedy_
constantly under the fire of one or the other; and as the British brig
turned and dashed at one opening of the moving triangle or the other,
the great ships thundered their broadsides at her.  Cochrane threw his
guns and stores overboard, and by the most ingenious seamanship evaded
capture for hours, surviving some scores of broadsides.  He could tack
far more quickly than the gigantic ships that pursued him, and again
and again the _Speedy_ spun round on its heel and shot off on a new
course, leaving its particular pursuer with sheet shivering, and
nothing but space to fire into.  Once, by a quick turn, he shot past
one of the 80-gun ships occupied in trying to tack, and got clear.  The
_Desaix_, however, a seventy-four, was swiftly on the track of the
_Speedy_; its tall canvas under the growing breeze gave it an
advantage, and it ran down to within musket-shot of the _Speedy_, then
yawed, bringing its whole broadside to bear, intending to sink its tiny
foe with a single discharge.  In yawing, however, the _Desaix_ shot a
little too far, and the weight of her broadside only smote the water,
but the scattered grape cut up the _Speedy's_ rigging and canvas so
terribly that nothing was left but surrender.

When Cochrane went on board his captor, its gallant captain refused to
take his sword, saying he "could not accept the sword of an officer who
had struggled for so many hours against impossibility."  Cochrane and
his gallant crew were summarily packed into the Frenchman's hold, and
when the French in their turn were pursued by the British
line-of-battle ships, as every broadside crashed on the hull of the
ship that held them captive, Cochrane and his men gave a round of
exultant cheers, until the exasperated Frenchmen threatened to shoot
them unless they would hold their tongues--an announcement which only
made the British sailors cheer a little louder.  The fight between
Saumarez and Linois ended with a tragedy; but it may be said to have
begun with a farce.

The presence of a French squadron in the Straits of Gibraltar at this
particular moment may be explained in a few sentences.  Napoleon had
woven afresh the web of those naval "combinations" so often torn to
fragments by British seamanship and daring.  He had persuaded or
bullied Spain into placing under the French flag a squadron of six
line-of-battle ships, including two leviathans of 112 guns each, lying
in the harbour of Cadiz.  With haughty, it might almost be said with
insolent daring, a couple of British seventy-fours--sometimes, indeed,
only one--patrolled the entrance to Cadiz, and blockaded a squadron of
ten times their own force.  Napoleon's plan was to draw a strong French
squadron, under Admiral Linois, from Toulon, a second Spanish squadron
from Ferrol, unite these with the ships lying in Cadiz, and thus form a
powerful fleet of at least fifteen ships of the line, with a garnishing
of frigates.

Once having got his fleet, Napoleon's imagination--which had a strong
predatory bias--hesitated betwixt two uses to which it could be turned.
One was to make a dash on Lisbon, and require, under threat of an
instant bombardment, the delivery of all British ships and goods lying
there.  This ingenious plan, it was reckoned, would fill French pockets
with cash and adorn French brows with glory at one stroke.  The amount
of British booty at Lisbon was computed--somewhat airily--at
200,000,000 pounds; its disappearance would send half the mercantile
houses of Great Britain into the insolvency court, and, to quote a
French state paper on the subject, "our fleet, without being buffeted
about the sea, would return to Brest loaded with riches and covered
with glory, and France would once more astonish Europe."  The
alternative scheme was to transport some 32,000 new troops to Egypt and
restore French fortunes in that country.

Meanwhile Great Britain took energetic measures to wreck this new
combination.  Sir James Saumarez, in the _Caesar_, of eighty guns, with
six seventy-fours, was despatched to keep guard over Cadiz; and he had
scarcely reached his station there when a boat, pulling furiously over
from Gibraltar, reported that Admiral Linois' squadron had made its
appearance off the Rock, beating up westward.  The sails of the
_Caesar_ were instantly swung round, a many-coloured flutter of bunting
summoned the rest of the squadron to follow, and Saumarez began his
eager chase of the French, bearing away for the Gut under a light
north-west wind.  But the breeze died down, and the current swept the
straggling ships westward.  All day they drifted helplessly, and the
night only brought a breath of air sufficient to fan them through the
Straits.

Meanwhile Linois had taken refuge in the tiny curve of the Spanish
coast known as the roadstead of Algeciras.  Linois was, perhaps, the
best French seaman of his day, having, it is true, very little French
dash, but endowed with a wealth of cool resolution, and a genius for
defensive warfare altogether admirable.  Algeciras gave Linois exactly
what he wanted, an almost unassailable position.  The roadstead is
open, shallow, and plentifully besprinkled with rocks, while powerful
shore batteries covered the whole anchorage with their zone of fire.
The French admiral anchored his ships at intervals of 500 yards from
each other, and so that the lines of fire from the batteries north and
south crossed in front of his ships.  The French squadron carried some
3000 troops, and these were at once landed, and, manning the batteries,
raised them to a high degree of effectiveness.  Some fourteen heavy
Spanish gunboats added enormously to the strength of the French
position.

The French never doubted that Saumarez would instantly attack; the
precedents of the Nile and of Copenhagen were too recent to make any
doubt possible.  And Saumarez did exactly what his enemies expected.
Algeciras, in fact, is the battle of the Nile in miniature.  But
Saumarez, though he had the swift daring of Nelson, lacked his warlike
genius.  Nelson, in Aboukir Bay, leaped without an instant's pause on
the line of his enemy, but then he had his own ships perfectly in hand,
and so made the leap effective.  Saumarez sent his ships into the fight
headlong, and without the least regard to mutual support.  At 7.50 on
the morning of July 6, an uncertain gust of air carried the leading
British ship, the _Pompée_, round Cabrita; Hood, in the _Venerable_,
lay becalmed in the offing; the flagship, with the rest of the
squadron, were mere pyramids of idle canvas on the rim of the horizon.

The _Pompée_ drifted down the whole French line, scorched with the fire
of batteries and of gunboats, as well as by the broadsides of the great
French ships, and at 8.45 dropped her anchor so close to the
_Formidable_--a ship much bigger than itself--that the Frenchman's buoy
lay outside her.  Then, deliberately clewing up her sails and tautening
her springs, the _Pompée_ opened a fire on her big antagonist so
fierce, sustained, and deadly, that the latter found it intolerable,
and began to warp closer to the shore.  The _Audacious_ and _Venerable_
came slowly up into their assigned positions, and here was a spectacle
of three British ships fighting four French ships and fourteen Spanish
gunboats, with heavy shore batteries manned by 3000 troops thrown into
the scale!  At this stage, too, the _Pompée's_ springs gave way, or
were shot away, the current swung her round till she lay head on to the
broadside of her huge antagonist, while the batteries smote her with a
deadly cross-fire.  A little after ten o'clock the _Caesar_ dropped
anchor three cables' lengths from the _Indomptable_, and opened a fire
which the French themselves described as "tremendous" upon her
antagonist.

Linois found the British fire too destructive, and signalled his ships
to cut or slip their cables, calculating that a faint air from the sea,
which was beginning to blow, would drift them closer under the shelter
of the batteries.  Saumarez, too, noticed that his topsails were
beginning to swell, and he instantly slipped his cable and endeavoured
to close with the _Indomptable_, signalling his ships to do the same.
The British cables rattled hoarsely through their hawse-holes along the
whole line, and the ships were adrift; but the breeze almost instantly
died away, and on the strong coast current the British ships floated
helplessly, while the fire from the great shore batteries, and from the
steady French decks, now anchored afresh, smote them heavily in turn.
The _Pompée_ lay for an hour under a concentrated fire without being
able to bring a gun to bear in return, and then summoned by signal the
boats of the squadron to tow her off.

Saumarez, meanwhile, had ordered the _Hannibal_, under Captain Ferris,
to round the head of the French line and "rake the admiral's ship."
Ferris, by fine seamanship, partly sailed and partly drifted into the
post assigned to him, and then grounded hopelessly, under a plunging
fire from the shore batteries, within hail of the Frenchman, itself
also aground.  A fire so dreadful soon reduced the unfortunate
_Hannibal_ to a state of wreck.  Boats from the _Caesar_ and the
_Venerable_ came to her help, but Ferris sent them back again.  They
could not help him, and should not share his fate.  Saumarez, as a last
resource, prepared for a boat attack on the batteries, but in the whole
squadron there were not enough uninjured boats to carry the marines.
The British flagship itself was by this time well-nigh a wreck, and was
drifting on the reefs.  A flaw of wind from the shore gave the ships
steerage-way, and Saumarez drew off, leaving the _Hannibal_ to its fate.

Ferris fought till his masts were gone, his guns dismounted, his
bulwarks riddled, his decks pierced, and one-third of his crew killed
or wounded.  Then he ordered the survivors to the lower decks, and
still kept his flag flying for half-an-hour after the shot-torn sails
of the shattered British ships had disappeared round Cabrita.  Then he
struck.  Here was a French triumph, indeed!  A British squadron beaten
off, a British seventy-four captured!  It is said that when the news
reached Paris the city went half-mad with exultation.  Napoleon read
the despatch to his ministers with eyes that danced, and almost wept,
with mere gladness!

The British squadron--officers and men in such a mood as may be
imagined--put into Gibraltar to refit; the _Caesar_, with her mainmast
shot through in five places, her boats destroyed, her hull pierced;
while of the sorely battered _Pompée_ it is recorded that she had "not
a mast, yard-spar, shroud, rope, or sail" which was not damaged by
hostile shot.  Linois, meanwhile, got his grounded ships and his
solitary prize afloat, and summoned the Cadiz squadron to join him.  On
the 9th these ships--six sail of the line, two of them giants of 112
guns each, with three frigates--went triumphantly, with widespread
canvas and many-coloured bunting, past Gibraltar, where the shattered
British squadron was lying, and cast anchor beside Admiral Linois in
Algeciras Bay.

The British were labouring, meanwhile, with fierce energy, to refit
their damaged ships under shelter of the guns of Gibraltar.  The
_Pompée_ was practically destroyed, and her crew were distributed
amongst the other ships.  Saumarez himself regarded the condition of
his flagship as hopeless, but his captain, Brenton, begged permission
to at least attempt to refit her.  He summoned his crew aft, and told
the men the admiral proposed to leave the ship behind, and asked them
"what they thought about it."  The men gave a wrathful roar,
punctuated, it is to be feared, with many sea-going expletives, and
shouted, "All hands to work day and night till she's ready!"  The whole
crew, down to the very powder-boys, actually worked while daylight
lasted, kept it up, watch and watch, through the night, and did this
from the evening of the 6th to the noon of the 12th!  Probably no ship
that ever floated was refitted in shorter time.  In that brief period,
to quote the "Naval Register," she "shifted her mainmast; fished and
secured her foremast, shot through in several places; knotted and
spliced the rigging, which had been cut to pieces, and bent new sails;
plugged the shot-holes between wind and water; completed with stores of
all kinds, anchors and cables, powder and shot, and provisions for four
months."

On Sunday, July 12, 1801, the French and Spanish ships in Algeciras Bay
weighed anchor, formed their line of battle as they came out, off
Cabrita Point, and, stately and slow, with the two 112-gun Spaniards as
a rearguard, bore up for Cadiz.  An hour later the British ships warped
out of the mole in pursuit.  It was an amazing sight: a squadron of
five sail of the line, which had been completely disabled in an action
only five days before, was starting, fresh and refitted, in pursuit of
a fleet double its own number, and more than double its strength!  All
Gibraltar crowded to watch the ships as, one by one, they cleared the
pier-head.  The garrison band blew itself hoarse playing "Britons,
strike home," while the _Caesar's_ band answered in strains as shrill
with "Come, cheer up, my lads, 'tis for glory we steer."  Both tunes,
it may be added, were simply submerged beneath the cheers which rang up
from mole-head and batteries and dock-walls.  Just as the _Caesar_
drifted, huge and stately, past the pier-head, a boat came eagerly
pulling up to her.  It was crowded with jack-tars, with bandaged heads
and swathed arms.  A cluster of the _Pompée's_ wounded, who escaped
from the hospital, bribed a boatman to pull them out to the flagship,
and clamoured to be taken on board!

Saumarez had strengthened his squadron by the addition of the _Superb_,
with the _Thames_ frigate, and at twenty minutes to nine P.M., vainly
searching the black horizon for the lights of the enemy, he hailed the
_Superb_, and ordered its captain, Keats, to clap on all sail and
attack the enemy directly he overtook them.  Saumarez, in a word,
launched a single seventy-four against a fleet!  Keats was a daring
sailor; his ship was, perhaps, the fastest British seventy-four afloat,
and his men were instantly aloft spreading every inch of canvas.  Then,
like a huge ghost, the _Superb_ glided ahead and vanished in the
darkness.   The wind freshened; the blackness deepened; the lights of
the British squadron died out astern.  But a wide sprinkle of lights
ahead became visible; it was the Spanish fleet!  Eagerly the daring
_Superb_ pressed on, with slanting decks and men at quarters, but with
lights hidden.  At midnight the rear ships of the Spanish squadron were
under the larboard bow of the _Superb_--two stupendous three-deckers,
with lights gleaming through a hundred port-holes--while a French
two-decker to larboard of both the Spanish giants completed the line.

Keats, unseen and unsuspected, edged down with his solitary
seventy-four, her heaviest guns only 18-pounders, on the quarter of the
nearest three-decker.  He was about to fling himself, in the gloom of
the night, on three great ships, with an average of 100 guns each!  Was
ever a more daring feat attempted?  Silently through the darkness the
_Superb_ crept, her canvas glimmering ghostly white, till she was
within some 300 yards of the nearest Spaniard.  Then out of the
darkness to windward there broke on the astonished and drowsy Spaniards
a tempest of flame, a whirlwind of shot.  Thrice the _Superb_ poured
her broadside into the huge and staggering bulk of her antagonist.
With the second broadside the Spaniard's topmast came tumbling down;
with the third, so close was the flame of the _Superb's_ guns, the
Spanish sails--dry as touch-wood with lying for so many months in the
sunshine of Cadiz--took fire.

Meanwhile a dramatic incident occurred.  The two great Spaniards
commenced to thunder their heavy broadsides into each other!  Many of
the Superb's shots had struck the second and more distant three-decker.
Cochrane, indeed, says that the _Superb_ passed actually betwixt the
two gigantic Spaniards, fired a broadside, larboard and starboard, into
both, and then glided on and vanished in the darkness.  It is certain
that the _San Hermenegildo_, finding her decks torn by a hurricane of
shot, commenced to fire furiously through the smoke and the night at
the nearest lights.  They were the lights of her own consort!  She, in
turn, fired at the flash of the guns tormenting her.  So, under the
black midnight skies, the two great Spanish ships thundered at each
other, flame answering flame.  They drifted ever closer.  The fire of
the _Real Carlos_ kindled the sails of the sister ship; the flames
leaped and danced to the very mast-heads; and, still engaged in a fiery
wrestle, they blew up in succession, and out of their united crews of
2000 men only a little over 200 were picked up!

The _Superb_, meanwhile, had glided ahead, leaving the three-deckers to
destroy each other, and opened fire at pistol-shot distance on the
French two-decker, and in thirty minutes compelled her to strike.  In
less than two hours of a night action, that is, this single English
seventy-four had destroyed two Spanish three-deckers of 112 guns each,
and captured a fine French battle-ship of 74 guns!

The British ships by this time were coming up in the rear, with every
inch of canvas spread.  They swept past the amazing spectacle of the
two great Spaniards destroying each other, and pressed on in chase of
the enemy.  The wind rose to a gale.  In the grey dawn the _Caesar_
found herself, with all her sister ships, far astern, except the
_Venerable_, under Hood, which was hanging on the quarter of the
rearmost French ship, the _Formidable_, a magnificent ship of 80 guns,
with a gallant commander, and carrying quite too heavy metal for Hood.
Hood, however, the most daring of men, exchanged broadsides at
pistol-shot distance with his big antagonist, till his ship was
dismasted, and was drifted by the current on the rocky shoals off San
Pedro.  The _Caesar_ came up in time to enable its disgusted crew to
see ship after ship of the flying enemy disappear safely within the
sheltering batteries of Cadiz.



TRAFALGAR

I.  THE STRATEGY


  "Uprose the soul of him a star
    On that brave day of Ocean days;
  It rolled the smoke from Trafalgar
    To darken Austerlitz ablaze.
  Are we the men of old, its light
    Will point us under every sky
  The path he took; and must we fight,
    Our Nelson be our battle-cry!

  He leads: we hear our Seaman's call
    In the roll of battles won;
  For he is Britain's Admiral
    Till setting of her sun."
            --GEORGE MEREDITH.


That Trafalgar was a great British victory, won by splendid seamanship
and by magnificent courage, everybody knows.  On October 21, 1805,
Nelson, with twenty-seven line-of-battle ships, attacked Villeneuve, in
command of a combined fleet of thirty-three line-of-battle ships.  The
first British gun was fired at 12.10 o'clock; at 5 o'clock the battle
was over; and within those five hours the combined fleets of France and
Spain were simply destroyed.  No fewer than eighteen ships of the line
were captured, burnt, or sunk; the rest were in flight, and had
practically ceased to exist as a fighting force.  But what very few
people realise is that Trafalgar is only the last incident in a great
strategic conflict--a warfare of brains rather than of bullets--which
for nearly three years raged round a single point.  For that long
period the warlike genius of Napoleon was pitted in strategy against
the skill and foresight of a cluster of British sailors; and the
sailors won.  They beat Napoleon at his own weapons.  The French were
not merely out-fought in the shock of battling fleets, they were
out-generalled in the conflict of plotting and warlike brains which
preceded the actual fight off Cape Trafalgar.

The strategy which preceded Trafalgar represents Napoleon's solitary
attempt to plan a great campaign on the tossing floor of the sea.  "It
has an interest wholly unique," says Mahan, "as the only great naval
campaign ever planned by this foremost captain of modern times."  And
it is a very marvellous fact that a cluster of British sailors--Jervis
and Barham (a salt eighty years old) at the Admiralty, Cornwallis at
Brest, Collingwood at Cadiz, and Nelson at Toulon--guessed all
Napoleon's profound and carefully hidden strategy, and met it by even
subtler plans and swifter resolves than those of Napoleon himself.  The
five hours of gallant fighting off Cape Trafalgar fill us with exultant
pride.  But the intellectual duel which preceded the shock of actual
battle, and which lasted for nearly three years, is, in a sense, a yet
more splendid story.  Great Britain may well honour her naval leaders
of that day for their cool and profound strategy, as much as for the
unyielding courage with which such a blockade as, say, that of Brest by
Cornwallis was maintained for years, or such splendid daring as that
which Collingwood showed when, in the _Royal Sovereign_, he broke
Villeneuve's line at Trafalgar.

When in 1803 the war which brought to an end the brief peace of Amiens
broke out, Napoleon framed a great and daring plan for the invasion of
England.  French plans for the invasion of England were somewhat
numerous a century or so ago.  The Committee of Public Safety in 1794,
while keeping the guillotine busy in the Place de la Révolution, had
its own little plan for extending the Reign of Terror, by means of an
invasion, to England; and on May 27 of that year solemnly appointed one
of their number to represent the Committee in England "when it was
conquered."  The member chosen was citizen Bon Saint André, the same
hero who, in the battle of the 1st of June, fled in terror to the
refuge of the French flagship's cock-pit when the _Queen Charlotte_,
with her triple lines of guns, came too alarmingly near.  But
Napoleon's plans for the same object in 1803 were definite, formidable,
profound.  Great Britain was the one barrier in the path of his
ambition.  "Buonaparte," says Green, in his "Short History of the
English People," "was resolute to be master of the western world, and
no notions of popular freedom or sense of popular right ever interfered
with his resolve. . . .  England was now the one country where freedom
in any sense remained alive. . . .  With the fall of England, despotism
would have been universal throughout Europe; and it was at England that
Buonaparte resolved to strike the first blow in his career of conquest.
Fifteen millions of people, he argued, must give way to forty millions."

So he formed the vast camp at Boulogne, in which were gathered 130,000
veterans.  A great flotilla of boats was built, each boat being armed
with one or two guns, and capable of carrying 100 soldiers.  More than
1000 of such boats were built, and concentrated along twenty miles of
the Channel coast, and at four different ports.  A new port was dug at
Boulogne, to give shelter to the main division of this flotilla, and
great and powerful batteries erected for its protection.  The French
soldiers were exercised in embarking and disembarking till the whole
process could be counted by minutes.  "Let us," said Napoleon, "be
masters of the Straits for six hours, and we shall be masters of the
world."

When since the days of William the Conqueror were the shores of Great
Britain menaced by such a peril?  "There is no difficulty," said
Moltke, "in getting an army into England; the trouble would be to get
it out again."  And, no doubt, Englishmen, fighting on their own soil
and for their own hearths, would have given an invader a very rough
time of it.  But let it be remembered that Napoleon was a military
genius of the first order, and that the 130,000 soldiers waiting on the
heights above Boulogne to leap on British soil were, to quote Mahan,
"the most brilliant soldiery of all time."  They were the men who
afterwards won Austerlitz, who struck down Prussia with a single blow
at Jena, who marched as victors through the streets of Vienna and of
Berlin, and fought their way to Moscow.  Imagine such an army, with
such a leader, landed on the green fields of Kent!  In that case there
might have been an English Austerlitz or Friedland.  London might have
shared the fate of Moscow.  If Napoleon had succeeded, the fate of the
world would have been changed, and Toronto and Cape Town, Melbourne and
Sydney and Auckland might have been ruled by French prefects.

Napoleon himself was confident of success.  He would reach London, he
calculated, within four days of landing, and then he would have issued
decrees abolishing the House of Lords, proclaiming a redistribution of
property, and declaring England a republic.  "You would never have
burned your capital," he said to O'Meara at St. Helena; "you are too
rich and fond of money."  The London mob, he believed, would have
joined him, for, as he cynically argued, "the _canaille_ of all nations
are nearly alike."

Even Napoleon would probably have failed, however, in subduing Great
Britain, and would have remained a prisoner where he came intending to
be a conqueror.  As he himself said when a prisoner on his way to St.
Helena, "I entered into no calculation as to the manner in which I was
to return"!  But in the battles which must have been fought, how many
English cities would have perished in flames, how many English rivers
would have run red with the blood of slain men!  "At Waterloo," says
Alison, "England fought for victory; at Trafalgar for existence."

But "the streak of silver sea" guarded England, and for more than two
years Napoleon framed subtle plans and organised vast combinations
which might give him that brief six hours' command of the Strait which
was all he needed, as he thought, to make himself the master of the
world.  The flotilla could not so much as get out of the ports, in
which the acres of boats lay, in a single tide, and one half of the
army of invasion must lie tossing--and, it may be suspected, dreadfully
sea-sick--for hours outside these ports, waiting for the other half to
get afloat.  Then there remained forty miles of sea to cross.  And what
would happen if, say, Nelson and Collingwood, with a dozen 74-gun
ships, got at work amongst the flotilla?  It would be a combat between
wolves and sheep.  It was Nelson's chief aspiration to have the
opportunity of "trying Napoleon on a wind," and the attempt to cross
the Straits might have given him that chance.  All Napoleon's resources
and genius were therefore strained to give him for the briefest
possible time the command of the Channel; and the skill and energy of
the British navy were taxed to the utmost to prevent that consummation.

Now, France, as a matter of fact, had a great fleet, but it was
scattered, and lying imprisoned, in fragments, in widely separated
ports.  There were twelve ships of the line in Toulon, twenty in Brest,
five in Rochefort, yet other five in Ferrol; and the problem for
Napoleon was, somehow, to set these imprisoned squadrons free, and
assemble them for twenty-four hours off Boulogne.  The British policy,
on the other hand, was to maintain a sleepless blockade of these ports,
and keep the French fleet sealed up in scattered and helpless
fragments.  The battle for the Straits of Dover, the British naval
chiefs held, must be fought off Brest and Ferrol and Toulon; and never
in the history of the world were blockades so vigilant, and stern, and
sleepless maintained.

Nelson spent two years battling with the fierce north-westers of the
Gulf of Lyons, keeping watch over a great French squadron in Toulon,
and from May 1803 to August 1805 left his ship only three times, and
for less than an hour on each occasion.  The watch kept by Cornwallis
off Brest, through summer and winter, for nearly three years, Mahan
declares, has never, for constancy and vigilance, been excelled,
perhaps never equalled, in the history of blockades.  The hardship of
these long sea-watches was terrible.  It was waging an fight with
weariness and brain-paralysing monotony, with cold and scurvy and
tempest, as well as with human foes.  Collingwood was once twenty-two
months at sea without dropping anchor.  In seventeen years of sea
service--between 1793 and 1810--he was only twelve months in England.

The wonder is that the seamen of that day did not grow web-footed, or
forget what solid ground felt like!  Collingwood tells his wife in one
letter that he had "not seen a green leaf on a tree" for fourteen
months!  By way of compensation, these long and stern blockades
developed such a race of seamen as perhaps the world has never seen
before or since; exhaustless of resource, hardy, tireless, familiar
with every turn of sea life, of iron frame and an iron courage which
neither tempest nor battle could shake.  Great Britain, as a matter of
fact, won her naval battles, not because she had better ships or
heavier guns than her enemies, but only because she trained a finer
race of seamen.  Says Brenton, himself a gallant sailor of the period,
"I have seen Spanish line-of-battle ships twenty-four hours unmooring;
as many minutes are sufficient for a well-manned British ship to
perform the same operation.  When, on any grand ceremony, they found it
necessary to cross their top-gallant yards in harbour, they began the
day before; we cross ours in one minute from the deck."

But it was these iron blockades that in the long-run thwarted the plans
of Napoleon and changed the fate of the world.  Cornwallis off Brest,
Collingwood off Rochefort, Pellew off Ferrol, Nelson before Toulon,
fighting the wild gales of the Bay of Biscay and the fierce
north-westers of the Gulf of Lyons, in what Mahan calls "that
tremendous and sustained vigilance which reached its utmost tension in
the years preceding Trafalgar," really saved England.  "Those
far-distant, storm-beaten ships, upon which the Grand Army never
looked," says Mahan, "stood between it and the dominion of the world."

An intellect so subtle and combative as Napoleon's was, of course,
strained to the utmost to break or cheat the British blockades, and the
story of the one crafty ruse after another which he employed to beguile
the British leaders is very remarkable.  Even more remarkable, perhaps,
is the manner in which these plain-minded, business-like British
seamen, for whose mental powers Napoleon cherished the deepest
contempt, fathomed his plans and shattered his combinations.

Napoleon's first plot was decidedly clever.  He gathered in Brest
20,000 troops, ostensibly for a descent upon Ireland.  This, he
calculated, would preoccupy Cornwallis, and prevent him moving.  The
Toulon fleet was to run out with the first north-west wind, and, as
long as a British look-out ship was in sight, would steer east, as
though making for Egypt; but when beyond sight of British eyes the
fleet was to swing round, run through the Straits, be joined off Cadiz
by the Rochefort squadron, and sweep, a great fleet of at least sixteen
sail of the line, past the Scilly Islands to Boulogne.  Napoleon
calculated that Nelson would be racing in the direction of Egypt,
Cornwallis would be redoubling his vigilance before Brest, at the exact
moment the great Boulogne flotilla was carrying its 130,000 invading
Frenchmen to Dover!  Napoleon put the one French admiral as to whose
resolve and daring he was sure--Latouche Treville--in command of the
Toulon fleet; but before the moment for action came Treville died, and
Napoleon had to fall back upon a weaker man, Villeneuve.

He changed his plans to suit the qualities of his new admiral--the
Toulon and Rochefort squadrons were to break out, sail separately to a
rendezvous in the West Indies, and, once joined, spread havoc through
the British possessions there.  "I think," wrote Napoleon, "that the
sailing of these twenty ships of the line will oblige the English to
despatch over thirty in pursuit."  So the blockades everywhere would be
weakened, and the Toulon and Rochefort squadrons, doubling back to
Europe, were to raise the blockade off Ferrol and Brest, and the Brest
squadron was to land 18,000 troops, under Augereau, in Ireland, while
the Grand Army of Boulogne was to cross the Straits, with Napoleon at
its head.  Thus Great Britain and Ireland would be invaded
simultaneously.

The trouble was to set the scheme going by the release of the Toulon
and Rochefort squadrons.  Nelson's correspondence shows that he guessed
Napoleon's strategy.  If the Toulon fleet broke loose, he wrote, he was
sure its course would be held for the Atlantic, and thither he would
follow it.  In the meanwhile he kept guard so steadfastly that the
great French strategy could not get itself started.  In December 1804
war broke out betwixt Britain and Spain, and this gave Napoleon a new
ally and a new fleet.  Napoleon found he had nearly sixty
line-of-battle ships, French or Spanish, to weave into his
combinations, and he framed--to use Mahan's words--"upon lines equal,
both in boldness and scope, to those of the Marengo and Austerlitz
campaigns, the immense strategy which resulted in Trafalgar."  The
Toulon and Rochefort squadrons, as before, were to break out
separately, rendezvous in the West Indies, return by a different route
to European waters, pick up the French and Spanish ships in Ferrol, and
then sweep through the narrow seas.

The Rochefort squadron duly escaped; Villeneuve, too, in command of the
Toulon squadron, aided by the weather, evaded Nelson's watchfulness and
disappeared towards the east.  Nelson, however, suspected the real
plan, and with fine insight took up a position which must have
intercepted Villeneuve; but that admiral found the weather too rough
for his ships, and ran back into Toulon.  "These gentlemen," said
Nelson, "are not accustomed to a Gulf of Lyons gale.  We have faced
them for twenty-one months, and not lost a spar!"  The Rochefort
squadron was, of course, left by its own success wandering in space, a
mere cluster of sea-vagrants.

By March 1805, Napoleon had a new combination prepared.  In the ports
between Brest and Toulon were scattered no less than sixty-seven French
or Spanish ships of the line.  Ganteaume, with his squadron, was to
break out from Brest; Villeneuve, with his, from Toulon; both fleets
were to rendezvous at Martinique, return by an unusual route, and
appear off Boulogne, a great fleet of thirty-five French ships of the
line.

About the end of June the Toulon fleet got safely out--Nelson being,
for once, badly served by his frigates--picked up additional ships off
Cadiz, and disappeared on its route to the West Indies.  Nelson, misled
by false intelligence, first went eastward, then had to claw back
through the Straits of Gibraltar in the teeth of strong westerly gales,
and plunged over the horizon in fierce pursuit of Villeneuve.  But the
watch kept by Cornwallis over Ganteaume in Brest was so close and stern
that escape was impossible, and one-half of Napoleon's combination
broke down.  Napoleon despatched swift ships on Villeneuve's track,
summoning him back to Ferrol, where he would find a squadron of fifteen
French and Spanish ships ready to join him.  Villeneuve, Napoleon
believed, had thoroughly deceived Nelson.  "Those boasted English," he
wrote, "who claim to know of everything, know nothing of it," _i.e._ of
Villeneuve's escape and course.  But the "boasted English," as a matter
of fact, did know all about it, and in place of weakening their forces
in the Bay of Biscay, strengthened them.  Meanwhile Nelson, with ten
ships of the line, was hard on the track of Villeneuve with eighteen.
At Barbadoes, Nelson was sent a hundred miles out of his course by
false intelligence, and that hundred miles just enabled Villeneuve to
double back towards Europe.

Nelson divined this plan, and followed him with the fiercest energy,
sending off, meanwhile, his fastest brig to warn the Admiralty.
Villeneuve, if he picked up the Ferrol and Rochefort squadrons, would
arrive off Brest with forty line-of-battle ships; if he raised the
blockade, and added Ganteaume's squadron to his own, he might appear
off Boulogne with sixty great ships!  Napoleon calculated on British
blunders to aid him.  "We have not to do with a far-sighted, but with a
very proud Government," he wrote.  The blunder Napoleon hoped the
British Admiralty would make was that of weakening the blockading
squadrons in order to pursue Villeneuve's fleet, and thus release the
imprisoned French squadrons, making a great concentration possible.

But this was exactly the blunder into which the Admiralty refused to be
tempted.  When the news that Villeneuve was on his way back to Europe
reached the Admiralty, the First Lord, Barham, an old sailor, eighty
years of age, without waiting to dress himself, dictated orders which,
without weakening the blockades at any vital point, planted a fleet,
under Sir Robert Calder, west of Finisterre, and right in Villeneuve's
track; and if Calder had been Nelson, Trafalgar might have been fought
on July 22, instead of October 21.  Calder fought, and captured two of
Villeneuve's ships, but failed to prevent the junction of Villeneuve's
fleet with the squadron in Ferrol, and was court-martialled for his
failure--victory though he called it.  But this partial failure does
not make less splendid the promptitude shown by the British Admiralty.
"The English Admiralty," Napoleon reasoned, "could not decide the
movements of its squadron in twenty-four hours."  As a matter of fact,
Barham decided the British strategy in almost as many minutes!

Meanwhile Nelson had reached the scene; and, like his ship, worn out
with labours, sailed for Portsmouth, for what proved his last visit to
England.  On August 13, Villeneuve sailed from Ferrol with twenty-nine
ships.  He had his choice between Brest, where Cornwallis was keeping
guard, with Boulogne beyond, and where Napoleon was watching eagerly
for the white topsails of his fleet; or Cadiz, where Collingwood with a
tiny squadron held the Spanish fleet strictly bottled up.

Villeneuve's true course was Boulogne, but Cornwallis lay in his path
with over thirty sail of the line, and Villeneuve's nerve failed him.
On August 21 he swung round and bore up for Cadiz; and with the turn of
the helm which swung Villeneuve's ship away from Boulogne, Napoleon's
last chance of invading England vanished.  Villeneuve pushed
Collingwood's tiny squadron aside and entered Cadiz, where the combined
fleet now numbered nearly forty ships of the line, and Collingwood,
with delightful coolness, solemnly resumed his blockade--four ships,
that is, blockading forty!  Napoleon gave way to a tempest of rage when
his fleet failed to appear off Boulogne, and he realised that the
British sailors he despised had finally thwarted his strategy.  A
French writer has told how Daru, his secretary, found him walking up
and down his cabinet with agitated steps.  With a voice that shook, and
in half-strangled exclamations, he cried, "What a navy!  What
sacrifices for nothing!  What an admiral!  All hope is gone!  That
Villeneuve, instead of entering the Channel, has taken refuge in
Ferrol.  It is all over.  He will be blockaded there."  Then with that
swift and terrible power of decision in which he has never been
surpassed, he flung the long-cherished plan of invading England out of
his brain, and dictated the orders which launched his troops on the
road which led to Austerlitz and Jena, and, beyond, to the flames of
Moscow and the snows of the great retreat, and which finally led
Napoleon himself to St. Helena.  Villeneuve's great fleet meanwhile lay
idle in Cadiz, till, on October 20, the ill-fated French admiral led
his ships out to meet Nelson in his last great sea-fight.


II. HOW THE FLEETS MET


  "Wherever the gleams of an English fire
    On an English roof-tree shine,
  Wherever the fire of a youth's desire
    Is laid upon Honour's shrine,
  Wherever brave deeds are treasured and told,
    In the tale of the deeds of yore,
  Like jewels of price in a chain of gold
    Are the name and the fame he bore.

  Wherever the track of our English ships
    Lies white on the ocean foam,
  His name is sweet to our English lips
    As the names of the flowers at home;
  Wherever the heart of an English boy
    Grows big with a deed of worth,
  Such names as his name have begot the same,
    Such hearts will bring it to birth."
            --E. NESBIT.


It was the night of October 20, 1805, a night moonless and black.  In the
narrow waters at the western throat of the Straits of Gibraltar, at
regular intervals of three minutes through the whole night, the deep
voice of a gun broke out and swept, a pulse of dying sound, almost to
either coast, while at every half-hour a rocket soared aloft and broke in
a curve of stars in the black sky.  It was one of Nelson's repeating
frigates signalling to the British fleet, far off to the south-west,
Villeneuve's movements.  Nelson for more than a week had been trying to
daintily coax Villeneuve out of Cadiz, as an angler might try to coax a
much-experienced trout from the cool depths of some deep pool.  He kept
the main body of his fleet sixty leagues distant--west of Cape St.
Mary--but kept a chain of frigates within signalling distance of each
other betwixt Cadiz and himself.  He allowed the news that he had
detached five of his line-of-battle ships on convoy duty to the eastward
to leak through to the French admiral, but succeeded in keeping him in
ignorance of the fact that he had called in under his flag five ships of
equal force from the westward.

On October 19, Villeneuve, partly driven by hunger, and by the news that
a successor was on the road from Paris to displace him, and partly
tempted by the belief that he had before him a British fleet of only
twenty-one ships of the line, crept out of Cadiz with thirty-three ships
of the line--of which three were three-deckers--and seven frigates.
Nelson had twenty-seven sail of the line with four frigates.  The wind
was light, and all through the 20th, Villeneuve's fleet, formed in seven
columns--the _Santissima Trinidad_ towering like a giant amongst
them--moved slowly eastward.  Nelson would not alarm his foe by making
too early an appearance over the sky-line.  His frigates signalled to him
every few minutes, through sixty miles of sea-air, the enemy's movements;
but Nelson himself held aloof till Villeneuve was too far from Cadiz to
make a dash back to it and safety.  All through the night of the 20th,
Villeneuve's great fleet--a procession of mighty phantoms--was dimly
visible against the Spanish coast, and the British frigates sent the news
in alternate pulses of sound and flame to Nelson, by this time eagerly
bearing up from Cape St. Mary.

The morning of the 21st broke misty, yet bright.  The sea was almost like
a floor of glass.  The faintest of sea-airs blew.  A lazy Atlantic swell
rolled at long intervals towards the Straits, and the two fleets at last
were visible to each other.  Villeneuve's ships stretched a waving and
slightly curved line, running north and south, with no regularity of
order.  The British fleet, in two compact and parallel columns, half a
mile apart, came majestically on from the west.  The ships in each column
followed each other so closely that sometimes the bow of one was thrust
past the quarter of the ship in advance of it.  Nelson, in the _Victory_,
headed one column, Collingwood, in the _Royal Sovereign_, led the other,
and each flagship, it was to be noted, led with a clear interval between
itself and its supports.

Villeneuve had a tactician's brain, and his battle-plan was admirable.
In a general order, issued just before leading out his fleet, he told his
captains, "There is nothing to alarm us in the sight of an English fleet.
Their 64-gun ships have not 500 men on board; they are not more brave
than we are; they are harassed by a two-years' cruise; they have fewer
motives to fight well!"  Villeneuve explained that the enemy would attack
in column, the French would meet the attack in close line of battle; and,
with a touch of Nelson's spirit, he urged his captains to take every
opportunity of boarding, and warned them that every ship not under fire
would be counted a defaulter.

Nelson's plan was simple and daring.  The order of sailing was to be the
order of battle.  Collingwood leading one column, and he the other, would
pierce the enemy's lines at points which would leave some twelve of the
enemy's ships to be crushed betwixt the two British lines.  Nelson, whose
brooding genius forecast every changing eddy of battle, gave minute
instructions on a score of details.  To prevent mistakes amid the smoke
and the fight, for example, he had the hoops on the masts of every
British ship painted yellow; every ship was directed to fly a St.
George's ensign, with the Union Jack at the fore-topmast, and another
flying from the top-gallant stays.   That he would beat the enemy's fleet
he calmly took for granted, but he directed that every effort should be
made to capture its commander-in-chief.  Nelson crowned his instructions
with the characteristic remark, that "in case signals were obscure, no
captain can do wrong if he places his ship alongside of an enemy."

[Illustration: The Attack at Trafalgar, October 21st, 1805.  Five minutes
past noon.  From Mahan's "Life of Nelson."]

By twelve o'clock the two huge fleets were slowly approaching each other:
the British columns compact, grim, orderly; the Franco-Spanish line
loose, but magnificently picturesque, a far-stretching line of lofty
hulls, a swaying forest of sky-piercing masts.  They still preserve the
remark of one prosaic British sailor, who, surveying the enemy through an
open port, offered the comment, "What a fine sight, Bill, yon ships would
make at Spithead!"

It is curious to reflect how exactly both British and French invert on
sea their land tactics.  French infantry attack in column, and are met by
British infantry in line; and the line, with its steadfast courage and
wide front of fire, crushes the column.  On sea, on the other hand, the
British attack in column, and the French meet the attack in line; but the
column wins.  But it must be admitted that the peril of this method of
attack is enormous.  The leading ship approaches, stern on, to a line of
fire which, if steady enough, may well crush her by its concentration of
flame.  Attack in column, in fact, means that the leading ships are
sacrificed to secure victory for the ships in the rear.  The risks of
this method of attack at Trafalgar were enormously increased by the light
and uncertain quality of the wind.  Collingwood, in the _Royal
Sovereign_, and Nelson, in the _Victory_, as a matter of fact, drifted
slowly rather than sailed, stern on to the broadsides of their enemy.
The leading British ships, with their stately heights of swelling canvas,
moved into the raking fire of the far-stretching Franco-Spanish line at a
speed of about two knots an hour.  His officers knew that Nelson's ship,
carrying the flag of the commander-in-chief, as it came slowly on, would
be the mark for every French gunner, and must pass through a tempest of
flame before it could fire a shot in reply; and Blackwood begged Nelson
to let the _Téméraire_--"the fighting _Téméraire_"--take the _Victory's_
place at the head of the column.  "Oh yes, let her go ahead," answered
Nelson, with a queer smile; and the _Téméraire_ was hailed, and ordered
to take the lead.  But Nelson meant that the _Téméraire_ should take the
_Victory's_ place only if she could, and he watched grimly to see that
not a sheet was let fly or a sail shortened to give the _Téméraire_ a
chance of passing; and so the _Victory_ kept its proud and perilous lead.

Collingwood led the lee division, and had the honour of beginning the
mighty drama of Trafalgar.  The _Royal Sovereign_ was newly coppered,
and, with every inch of canvas outspread, got so far ahead of her
followers, that after Collingwood had broken into the French line, he
sustained its fire, unhelped, for nearly twenty minutes before the
_Belleisle_, the ship next following, could fire a gun for his help.

Of Collingwood, Thackeray says, "I think, since Heaven made gentlemen, it
never made a better one than Cuthbert Collingwood," and there was, no
doubt, a knightly and chivalrous side to Collingwood worthy of King
Arthur's round table.  But there was also a side of heavy-footed
common-sense, of Dutch-like frugality, in Collingwood, a sort of
wooden-headed unimaginativeness which looks humorous when set against the
background of such a planet-shaking fight as Trafalgar.  Thus on the
morning of the fight he advised one of his lieutenants, who wore a pair
of boots, to follow his example and put on stockings and shoes, as, in
the event of being shot in the leg, it would, he explained, "be so much
more manageable for the surgeon."  And as he walked the break of his poop
in tights, silk stockings, and buckled shoes, leading, in his single
ship, an attack on a fleet, he calmly munched an apple.  To be able to
munch an apple when beginning Trafalgar is an illustration of what may be
called the quality of wooden-headed unimaginativeness in Collingwood.
And yet Collingwood had a sense of the scale of the drama in which he was
taking part.  "Now, gentlemen," he said to his officers, "let us do
something to-day which the world may talk of hereafter."  Collingwood, in
reality, was a great man and a great seaman, and in the battle which
followed he "fought like an angel," to quote the amusingly inappropriate
metaphor of Blackwood.

The two majestic British columns moved slowly on, the great ships, with
ports hauled up and guns run out, following each other like a procession
of giants.  "I suppose," says Codrington, who commanded the _Orion_, "no
man ever before saw such a sight."  And the element of humour was added
to the scene by the spectacle of the tiny _Pickle_, a duodecimo schooner,
gravely hanging on to the quarter of an 80-gun ship--as an actor in the
fight describes it--"with the boarding-nettings up, and her tompions out
of her four guns--about as large and as formidable as two pairs of
Wellington boots."

Collingwood bore down to the fight a clear quarter of a mile ahead of the
next ship.  The fire of the enemy, like so many spokes of flame
converging to a centre, broke upon him.  But in silence the great ship
moved ahead to a gap in the line between the _Santa Anna_, a huge black
hulk of 112 guns, and the _Neptune_, of 74.  As the bowsprit of the
_Royal Sovereign_ slowly glided past the stern of the _Santa Anna_,
Collingwood, as Nelson had ordered all his captains, cut his
studding-sails loose, and they fell, a cloud of white canvas, into the
water.  Then as the broadside of the _Royal Sovereign_ fairly covered the
stern of the _Santa Anna_, Collingwood spoke.  He poured with deadly aim
and suddenness, and at pistol-shot distance, his whole broadside into the
Spaniard's stern.  The tempest of shot swept the unhappy _Santa Anna_
from end to end, and practically destroyed that vessel.  Some 400 of its
crew are said to have been killed or wounded by that single discharge!
At the same moment Collingwood discharged his other broadside at the
_Neptune_, though with less effect; then swinging round broadside to
broadside on the Spanish ship, he swept its decks again and again with
his guns.  The first broadside had practically done the Spaniard's
business; but its captain, a gallant man, still returned what fire he
could.  All the enemy's ships within reach of Collingwood had meanwhile
opened on him a dreadful fire; no fewer than five line-of-battle ships
were emptying their guns upon the _Royal Sovereign_ at one time, and it
seemed marvellous that the British ship was not shattered to mere
splinters by the fire poured from so many quarters upon her.  It was like
being in the heart of a volcano.  Frequently, it is said, the British saw
the flying cannon-balls meet in mid-air.  The seamen fell fast, the sails
were torn, the bulwarks shattered, the decks ran red with blood.  It was
at that precise moment, however, that Collingwood said to his captain,
"What would not Nelson give to be here!"  While at the same instant
Nelson was saying to Hardy, "See how that noble fellow Collingwood takes
his ship into action!"

The other ships of Collingwood's column were by this time slowly drifting
into the fight.  At a quarter past twelve the _Belleisle_, the next ship,
ranged under the stern of the unfortunate _Santa Anna_, and fired her
larboard guns, double shotted, into that ship, with the result that her
three masts fell over the side.  She then steered for the _Indomptable_,
an 80-gun ship, and sustained at the same moment the fire of two Spanish
seventy-fours.  Ship after ship of Collingwood's column came steadily up,
and the roar of the battle deepened as in quick-following crashes each
new line-of-battle ship broke into the thunder of broadsides.

Nelson, leading the weather column, steered a trifle to the northward, as
the slowly moving line of the enemy pointed towards Cadiz.  Nelson had
given his last orders.  At his mainmast head was flying, fast belayed,
the signal, "Engage the enemy more closely."  Nelson himself walked
quietly to and fro on the little patch of clear plank, scarcely seven
yards long, on the quarter-deck of the _Victory_, whence he could command
the whole ship, and he wore the familiar threadbare frock uniform coat,
bearing on the left breast four tarnished and lack-lustre stars.  Then
came the incident of the immortal signal.  "We must give the fleet," said
Nelson to Blackwood, "something by way of a fillip."  After musing a
while, he said, "Suppose we signal, 'Nelson confides that every man will
do his duty'?"  Some one suggested "England" instead of "Nelson," and
Nelson at once caught at the improvement.  The signal-officer explained
that the word "confide" would have to be spelt, and suggested instead the
word "expects," as that was in the vocabulary.  So the flags on the
masthead of the _Victory_ spelt out the historic sentence to the slowly
moving fleet.  That the signal was "received with cheers" is scarcely
accurate.  The message was duly acknowledged, and recorded in the log of
every ship, but perhaps not one man in every hundred of the actors at
Trafalgar knew at the moment that it had been sent.  But the message
rings in British ears yet, across ninety years, and will ring in the ears
of generations yet unborn.

Nelson led his column on a somewhat slanting course into the fight.  He
was bent on laying himself alongside the flagship of the enemy, and he
knew that this must be one of the three great line-of-battle ships near
the huge _Santissima Trinidad_.  But there was no sign to show which of
the three carried Villeneuve.  At half-past twelve the ships upon which
the _Victory_ was moving began to fire single shots at her slowly
drifting hulk to discover whether she was within range.  The seventh of
these shots, fired at intervals of a minute or so, tore a rent through
the upper canvas of the _Victory_--a rent still to be seen in the
carefully preserved sail.  A couple of minutes of awful silence followed.
Slowly the _Victory_ drifted on its path, and then no fewer than eight of
the great ships upon which the _Victory_ was moving broke into such a
tempest of shot as perhaps never before was poured on a single ship.  One
of the first shots killed Scott, Nelson's secretary; another cut down
eight marines standing in line on the _Victory's_ quarter-deck; a third
passed between Nelson and Hardy as they stood side by side.  "Too warm
work to last long, Hardy," said Nelson, with a smile.  Still the
_Victory_ drifted majestically on its fiery path without an answering gun.

The French line was irregular at this point, the ships lying, in some
instances, two or three deep, and this made the business of "cutting" the
line difficult.  As Nelson could not pick out the French flagship, he
said to Hardy, "Take your choice, go on board which you please;" and
Hardy pointed the stern of the Victory towards a gap between the
_Redoutable_, a 74-gun ship, and the _Bucentaure_.  But the ship moved
slowly.  The fire upon it was tremendous.  One shot drove a shower of
splinters upon both Nelson and Hardy; nearly fifty men and officers had
been killed or wounded; the Victory's sails were riddled, her
studding-sail booms shot off close to the yard-arm, her mizzen-topmast,
shot away.  At one o'clock, however, the _Victory_ slowly moved past the
stern of the _Bucentaure_, and a 68-pounder carronade on its forecastle,
charged with a round shot and a keg of 500 musket balls, was fired into
the cabin windows of the French ship.  Then, as the great ship moved on,
every gun of the remaining fifty that formed its broadside--some of them
double and treble loaded--was fired through the Frenchman's cabin windows.

The dust from the crumpled woodwork of the _Bucentaure's_ stern covered
the persons of Nelson and the group of officers standing on the
_Victory's_ quarter-deck, while the British sailors welcomed with a
fierce shout the crash their flying shot made within the Frenchman's
hull.  The _Bucentaure_, as it happened--though Nelson was ignorant of
the fact--was the French flagship; and after the battle its officers
declared that by this single broadside, out of its crew of nearly 1000
men, nearly 400 were struck down, and no less than twenty guns dismounted!

But the _Neptune_, a fine French 80-gun ship, lay right across the
water-lane up which the _Victory_ was moving, and it poured upon the
British ship two raking broadsides of the most deadly quality.  The
_Victory_, however, moved on unflinchingly, and the _Neptune_, fearing to
be run aboard by the British ship, set her jib and moved ahead; then the
_Victory_ swung to starboard on to the _Redoutable_.  The French ship
fired one hurried broadside, and promptly shut her lower-deck ports,
fearing the British sailors would board through them.  No fewer, indeed,
than five French line-of-battle ships during the fight, finding
themselves grinding sides with British ships, adopted the same course--an
expressive testimony to the enterprising quality of British sailors.  The
_Victory_, however, with her lower-deck guns actually touching the side
of the _Redoutable_, still kept them in full and quick action; but at
each of the lower-deck ports stood a sailor with a bucket of water, and
when the gun was fired--its muzzle touching the wooden sides of the
_Redoutable_--the water was dashed upon the ragged hole made by the shot,
to prevent the Frenchman taking fire and both ships being consumed.

The guns on the upper deck of the _Victory_ speedily swept and silenced
the upper deck of the _Redoutable_, and as far as its broadsides were
concerned, that ship was helpless.  Its tops, however, were crowded with
marksmen, and armed with brass coehorns, firing langrage shot, and these
scourged with a pitiless and most deadly fire the decks of the _Victory_,
while the _Bucentaure_ and the gigantic _Santissima Trinidad_ also
thundered on the British flagship.


III. HOW THE VICTORY WAS WON


  "All is over and done.
  Render thanks to the Giver;
  England, for thy son
  Let the bell be toll'd.
  Render thanks to the Giver,
  And render him to the mould.
  Under the cross of gold
  That shines over city and river,
  There he shall rest for ever
  Among the wise and the bold."
            --TENNYSON.


Nelson's strategy at Trafalgar is described quaintly, but with real
insight, in a sentence which a Spanish novelist, Don Perez Galdos, puts
into the mouth of one of his characters: "Nelson, who, as everybody
knows, was no fool, saw our long line and said, 'Ah, if I break through
that in two places, and put the part of it between the two places
between two fires, I shall grab every stick of it.'  That was exactly
what the confounded fellow did.  And as our line was so long that the
head couldn't help the tail, he worried us from end to end, while he
drove his two wedges into our body."  It followed that the flaming
vortex of the fight was in that brief mile of sea-space, between the
two points where the parallel British lines broke through Villeneuve's
swaying forest of masts.  And the tempest of sound and flame was
fiercest, of course, round the two ships that carried the flags of
Nelson and Collingwood.  As each stately British liner, however,
drifted--rather than sailed--into the black pall of smoke, the roar of
the fight deepened and widened until the whole space between the _Royal
Sovereign_ and the _Victory_ was shaken with mighty pulse-beats of
sound that marked the furious and quick-following broadsides.

The scene immediately about the _Victory_ was very remarkable.  The
_Victory_ had run foul of the _Redoutable_, the anchors of the two
ships hooking into each other.  The concussion of the broadsides would,
no doubt, have driven the two hulls apart, but that the _Victory's_
studding-sail boom iron had fastened, like a claw, into the leech of
the Frenchman's fore-topsail.  The _Téméraire_, coming majestically up
through the smoke, raked the _Bucentaure_, and closed with a crash on
the starboard side of the _Redoutable_, and the four great ships lay in
a solid tier, while between their huge grinding sides came, with a
sound and a glare almost resembling the blast of an exploding mine, the
flash, the smoke, the roar of broadside after broadside.

In the whole heroic fight there is no finer bit of heroism than that
shown by the _Redoutable_.  She was only a 74-gun ship, and she had the
_Victory_, of 100 guns, and the _Téméraire_, of 98, on either side.  It
is true these ships had to fight at the same time with a whole ring of
antagonists; nevertheless, the fire poured on the _Redoutable_ was so
fierce that only courage of a steel-like edge and temper could have
sustained it.  The gallant French ship was semi-dismasted, her hull
shot through in every direction, one-fourth of her guns were
dismounted.  Out of a crew of 643, no fewer than 523 were killed or
wounded.  Only 35, indeed, lived to reach England as prisoners.  And
yet she fought on.  The fire from her great guns, indeed, soon ceased,
but the deadly splutter of musketry from such of her tops as were yet
standing was maintained; and, as Brenton put it, "there was witnessed
for nearly an hour and a half the singular spectacle of a French 74-gun
ship engaging a British first and second rate, with small-arms only."

As a matter of fact, the _Victory_ repeatedly ceased firing, believing
that the _Redoutable_ had struck, but still the venomous and deadly
fire from the tops of that vessel continued; and it was to this
circumstance, indeed, that Nelson owed his death.  He would never put
small-arms men in his own tops, as he believed their fire interfered
with the working of the sails, and, indeed, ran the risk of igniting
them.  Thus the French marksmen that crowded the tops of the
_Redoutable_ had it all their own way; and as the distance was short,
and their aim deadly, nearly every man on the poop, quarter-deck, and
forecastle of the _Victory_ was shot down.

Nelson, with Hardy by his side, was walking backwards and forwards on a
little clear space of the _Victory's_ quarter-deck, when he suddenly
swung round and fell face downwards on the deck.  Hardy picked him up.
"They have done for me at last, Hardy," said Nelson; "my backbone is
shot through."  A musket bullet from the _Redoutable's_
mizzen-top--only fifteen yards distant--had passed through the forepart
of the epaulette, smashed a path through the left shoulder, and lodged
in the spine.  The evidence seems to make it clear that it was a chance
shot that wrought the fatal mischief.  Hardy had twice the bulk of
Nelson's insignificant figure, and wore a more striking uniform, and
would certainly have attracted the aim of a marksman in preference to
Nelson.

Few stories are more pathetic or more familiar than that of Nelson's
last moments.  As they carried the dying hero across the blood-splashed
decks, and down the ladders into the cock-pit, he drew a handkerchief
over his own face and over the stars on his breast, lest the knowledge
that he was struck down should discourage his crew.  He was stripped,
his wound probed, and it was at once known to be mortal.  Nelson
suffered greatly; he was consumed with thirst, had to be fanned with
sheets of paper; and he kept constantly pushing away the sheet, the
sole covering over him, saying, "Fan, fan," or "Drink, drink," and one
attendant was constantly employed in drawing the sheet over his thin
limbs and emaciated body.  Presently Hardy, snatching a moment from the
fight raging on the deck, came to his side, and the two comrades
clasped hands.  "Well, Hardy, how goes the battle?" Nelson asked.  He
was told that twelve or fourteen of the enemy's ships had struck.
"That is well," said Nelson, "but I had bargained for twenty."  Then
his seaman's brain forecasting the change of weather, and picturing the
battered ships with their prizes on a lee shore, he exclaimed
emphatically, "Anchor!  Hardy, anchor!"  Hardy hinted that Collingwood
would take charge of affairs.  "Not while I live, I hope, Hardy," said
the dying chief, trying to raise himself on his bed.  "No! do you
anchor, Hardy."

Many of Nelson's expressions, recorded by his doctor, Beatty, are
strangely touching.  "I am a dead man, Hardy," he said, "I am going
fast.  It will all be over with me soon."  "O _Victory_, _Victory_," he
said, as the great ship shook to the roar of her own guns, "how you
distract my poor brain!"  "How dear is life to all men!" he said, after
a pause.  He begged that "his carcass might be sent to England, and not
thrown overboard."  So in the dim cock-pit, with the roar of the great
battle--bellow of gun, and shout of cheering crews--filling all the
space about him, and his last thoughts yet busy for his country, the
soul of the greatest British seaman passed away.  "Kiss me, Hardy," was
one of his last sentences.  His last intelligible sentence was, "I have
done my duty; I praise God for it."

It may interest many to read the prayer which Nelson wrote--the last
record, but one, he made in his diary--and written as the final act of
preparation for Trafalgar: "May the great God, whom I worship, grant to
my country, and for the benefit of Europe in general, a great and
glorious victory; and may no misconduct in any one tarnish it; and may
humanity after victory be the predominant feature in the British fleet.
For myself individually, I commit my life to Him that made me, and may
His blessing alight on my endeavours for serving my country faithfully.
To Him I resign myself, and the just cause which is entrusted to me to
defend.  Amen, Amen, Amen."

Nelson's plan allowed his captains a large discretion in the choice of
their antagonists.  Each British ship had to follow the wake of her
leader till she reached the enemy's line, then her captain was free to
choose his own foe--which, naturally, was the biggest Frenchman or
Spaniard in sight.  And the huge _Santissima Trinidad_, of course,
attracted the eager attention of the ships that immediately followed
the _Victory_.  The Spaniard carried 140 guns, and in that swaying
continent of fighting ships, towered like a giant amongst dwarfs.  The
_Neptune_, the _Leviathan_, and the _Conqueror_, in turn, hung on the
quarter or broadside of the gigantic Spaniard, scourged it with fire,
and then drifted off to engage in a fiery wrestle with some other
antagonist.  By half-past two the Spanish four-decker was a mastless
wreck.  The _Neptune_ at that moment was hanging on her bow, the
_Conqueror_ on her quarter.  "This tremendous fabric," says an account
written by an officer on board the Conqueror, "gave a deep roll, with a
swell to leeward, then back to windward, and on her return every mast
went by the board, leaving her an unmanageable hulk on the water.  Her
immense topsails had every reef out, her royals were sheeted home but
lowered, and the falling of this majestic mass of spars, sails, and
rigging plunging into the water at the muzzles of our guns, was one of
the most magnificent sights I ever beheld."  Directly after this a
Spaniard waved an English union over the lee gangway of the _Santissima
Trinidad_ in token of surrender; whereupon the _Conqueror_, scorning to
waste time in taking possession of even a four-decker that had no
longer any fight in it, pushed off in search of a new foe; while the
_Neptune's_ crew proceeded to shift the tattered topsails of their ship
for new ones, with as much coolness as though in a friendly port.

The _Africa_, sixty-four, less than half the size of the Spaniard,
presently came slowly up through the smoke, and fired into the Spanish
ship; then seeing no flag flying, sent a lieutenant on board the
mastless hulk to take possession.  The Englishman climbed to the
quarterdeck, all black with smoke and bloody with slaughter, and asked
the solitary officer he found there whether or not the _Santissima
Trinidad_ had surrendered.  The ship, as a matter of fact, was drifting
into the centre of a cluster of French and Spanish ships; so the
Spaniard replied, "Non, non," at the same time pointing to the friendly
ships upon which they were drifting.  The Englishman had only
half-a-dozen men with him, so he coolly returned to his boat, and the
_Santissima Trinidad_ drifted like a log upon the water till half-past
five P.M., when the _Prince_ put a prize crew on board.

Perez Galdos has given a realistic picture--quoted in the _Cornhill
Magazine_--of the scenes within the gloomy recesses of the great
Spanish four-decker as the British ships hung on her flanks and wasted
her with their fire: "The English shot had torn our sails to tatters.
It was as if huge invisible talons had been dragging at them.
Fragments of spars, splinters of wood, thick hempen cables cut up as
corn is cut by the sickle, fallen blocks, shreds of canvas, bits of
iron, and hundreds of other things that had been wrenched away by the
enemy's fire, were piled along the deck, where it was scarcely possible
to move about.  From moment to moment men fell--some into the sea; and
the curses of the combatants mingled with groans of the wounded, so
that it was often difficult to decide whether the dying were
blaspheming God or the fighters were calling upon Him for aid.  I
helped in the very dismal task of carrying the wounded into the hold,
where the surgeons worked.  Some died ere we could convey them thither;
others had to undergo frightful operations ere their worn-out bodies
could get an instant's rest.  It was much more satisfactory to be able
to assist the carpenter's crew in temporarily stopping some of the
holes torn by shot in the ship's hull. . . .  Blood ran in streams
about the deck; and, in spite of the sand, the rolling of the ship
carried it hither and thither until it made strange patterns on the
planks.  The enemy's shot, fired, as they were, from very short range,
caused horrible mutilations. . . .  The ship creaked and groaned as she
rolled, and through a thousand holes and crevices in her strained hull
the sea spurted in and began to flood the hold.  The _Trinidad's_
people saw the commander-in-chief haul down his flag; heard the
_Achille_ blow up and hurl her six hundred men into eternity; learnt
that their own hold was so crowded with wounded that no more could be
received there.  Then, when all three masts had in succession been
brought crashing down, the defence collapsed, and the _Santissima
Trinidad_ struck her flag."

The dreadful scenes on the decks of the _Santissima Trinidad_ might
almost have been paralleled on some of the British ships.  Thus the
_Belleisle_, Collingwood's immediate supporter, sustained the fire of
two French and one Spanish line-of-battle ships until she was
dismasted.  The wreck of her mizzen-mast covered her larboard guns, her
mainmast fell upon the break of the poop; her larboard broadside was
thus rendered useless; and just then another French line-of-battle
ship, the _Achille_, took her position on the _Belleisle's_ larboard
quarter, and opened on her a deadly fire, to which the British ship
could not return a shot.  This scene lasted for nearly an hour and a
half, but at half-past three the _Swiftsure_ came majestically up,
passed under the _Belleisle's_ stern--the two crews cheering each
other, the _Belleisle's_ men waving a Union Jack at the end of a pike
to show they were still fighting, while an ensign still flew from the
stump of the mainmast--and the fury with which the _Swiftsure_ fell
upon the _Achille_ may be imagined.  The _Defiance_ about the same time
took off the _Aigle_, and the _Polyphemus_ the _Neptune_, and the
much-battered _Belleisle_ floated free.  Masts, bowsprit, boats,
figure-head--all were shot away; her hull was pierced in every
direction; she was a mere splintered wreck.

The _Téméraire_ fought a battle almost as dreadful.  The _Africa_, a
light ship carrying only sixty-four guns, chose as her antagonist the
_Intrépide_, a French seventy-four, in weight of broadside and number
of crew almost double her force.  How dreadful were the damages
sustained by the British ship in a fight so unequal and so stubborn may
be imagined; but she clung to her big antagonist until, the _Orion_
coming up, the _Intrépide_ struck.

At three P.M. the firing had begun to slacken, and ship after ship of
the enemy was striking.  At a quarter past two the _Algeziras_ struck
to the _Tonnant_, and fifteen minutes afterwards the _San Juan_--the
_Tonnant_ was fighting both ships--also hailed that she surrendered.
Lieutenant Clement was sent in the jolly-boat, with two hands, to take
possession of the Spanish seventy-four, and the boat carrying the
gallant three was struck by a shot and swamped.  The sailors could
swim, but not the lieutenant; the pair of tars succeeded in struggling
back with their officer to the _Tonnant_; and as that ship had not
another boat that would float, she had to see her prize drift off.  The
_Colossus_, in like manner, fought with the French _Swiftsure_ and the
_Bahama_--each her own size--and captured them both!  The _Redoutable_
had surrendered by this time, and a couple of midshipmen, with a dozen
hands, had climbed from the _Victory's_ one remaining boat through the
stern ports of the French ship.  The _Bucentaure_, Villeneuve's
flagship, had her fate practically sealed by the first tremendous
broadside poured into her by the _Victory_.  With fine courage,
however, the French ship maintained a straggling fire until both the
_Leviathan_ and the _Conqueror_, at a distance of less than thirty
yards, were pouring a tempest of shot into her.  The French flagship
then struck, and was taken possession of by a tiny boat's crew from the
_Conqueror_ consisting of three marines and two sailors.  The marine
officer coolly locked the powder magazine of the Frenchman, put the key
in his pocket, left two of his men in charge of the surrendered
_Bucentaure_, put Villeneuve and his two captains in his boat with his
two marines and himself, and went off in search of the _Conqueror_.  In
the smoke and confusion, however, he could not find that ship, and so
carried the captured French admiral to the _Mars_.  Hercules Robinson
has drawn a pen picture of the unfortunate French admiral as he came on
board the British ship: "Villeneuve was a tallish, thin man, a very
tranquil, placid, English-looking Frenchman; he wore a long-tailed
uniform coat, high and flat collar, corduroy pantaloons of a greenish
colour with stripes two inches wide, half-boots with sharp toes, and a
watch-chain with long gold links.  Majendie was a short, fat, jocund
sailor, who found a cure for all ills in the Frenchman's philosophy,
"Fortune de la guerre" (though this was the third time the goddess had
brought him to England as a prisoner); and he used to tell our officers
very tough stories of the 'Mysteries of Paris.'"

By five o'clock the roar of guns had died almost into silence.  Of
thirty-three stately battle-ships that formed the Franco-Spanish fleet
four hours earlier, one had vanished in flames, seventeen were captured
as mere blood-stained hulks, and fifteen were in flight; while
Villeneuve himself was a prisoner.  But Nelson was dead.  Night was
falling.  A fierce south-east gale was blowing.  A sea--such a sea as
only arises in shallow waters--ugly, broken, hollow, was rising fast.
In all directions ships dismantled, with scuppers crimson with blood,
and sides jagged with shot-holes, were rolling their tall, huge hulks
in the heavy sea; and the shoals of Trafalgar were only thirteen miles
to leeward!  The fight with tempest and sea during that terrific night
was almost more dreadful than the battle with human foes during the
day.  Codrington says, the gale was so furious that "it blew away the
top main-topsail, though it was close-reefed, and the fore-topsail
after it was clewed up ready for furling."  They dare not set a storm
staysail, although now within six miles of the reef.  The _Redoutable_
sank at the stern of the ship towing it; the _Bucentaure_ had to be cut
adrift, and went to pieces on the shoals.  The wind shifted in the
night and enabled the shot-wrecked and storm-battered ships to claw off
the shore; but the fierce weather still raged, and on the 24th the huge
_Santissima Trinidad_ had to be cut adrift.  It was night; wind and sea
were furious; but the boats of the _Ajax_ and the _Neptune_ succeeded
in rescuing every wounded man on board the huge Spaniard.  The boats,
indeed, had all put off when a cat ran out on the muzzle of one of the
lower-deck guns and mewed plaintively, and one of the boats pulled
back, in the teeth of wind and sea, and rescued poor puss!

Of the eighteen British prizes, fourteen sank, were wrecked, burnt by
the captors, or recaptured; only four reached Portsmouth.  Yet never
was the destruction of a fleet more absolutely complete.  Of the
fifteen ships that escaped Trafalgar, four were met in the open sea on
November 4 by an equal number of British ships, under Sir Richard
Strahan, and were captured.  The other eleven lay disabled hulks in
Cadiz till--when France and Spain broke into war with each other--they
were all destroyed.  Villeneuve's great fleet, in brief, simply
vanished from existence!  But Napoleon, with that courageous economy of
truth characteristic of him, summed up Trafalgar in the sentence: "The
storms occasioned to us the loss of a few ships after a battle
imprudently fought"!  Trafalgar, as a matter of fact, was the most
amazing victory won by land or sea through the whole Revolutionary war.
It permanently changed the course of history; and it goes far to
justify Nelson's magnificently audacious boast, "The fleets of England
are equal to meet the world in arms!"



THE END





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