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Title: The Battles of the British Army - Being a Popular Account of All the Principal Engagements - During the Last Hundred Years
Author: Blackwood, Robert Melvin
Language: English
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  THE BATTLES

  OF THE

  BRITISH ARMY



  THE BATTLES
  OF THE
  BRITISH ARMY

  BEING
  _A POPULAR ACCOUNT OF ALL THE PRINCIPAL
  ENGAGEMENTS DURING THE LAST
  HUNDRED YEARS_

  BY
  ROBERT MELVIN BLACKWOOD, M.A.

  AUTHOR OF

  “_The British Army at Home and Abroad_,”
  “_Some Great Commanders_,”
  _&c._, _&c._


  _THIRD EDITION_


  LONDON: SIMPKIN, MARSHALL,
  HAMILTON, KENT AND CO. LTD.



PREFACE.


All phases of life and incident relating to the building up and
consolidation of our Empire, ought to be of supreme interest to those
who regard themselves as Britain’s sons. Fortunately the arts of peace,
and the respect for justice and individual right, have had much to do
with the growth of the greatest empire in the world’s history.

At the same time, unfortunate though the case may be, the ordinance
of battle has had no small share in the extension of the country’s
interests. In acknowledging this unfortunate fact, it is so far
consoling to realise that many of these conflicts have been thrust
upon us, and were not sought on our part, in the interests of
self-aggrandisement. It likewise is a matter for congratulation, that
this battle feature in the future history of our country, is likely
to prove much less than in the past. All wise and good men will
strive towards this end. Even those who look on the appeal to arms as
unavoidable in international controversies, concur in thinking it a
deplorable necessity, only to be resorted to when all peaceful modes
of arrangement have been vainly tried. And also, when the law of
self-defence or of the defence of national interest justifies a state,
like an individual, in using force to protect itself from imminent and
serious injury.

The battles, however, form a large and integral part of our past
national history. And, so far as they are in the cause of right, we
may well be proud of them. Our soldiers and generals may compare
favourably with those of any other nationality. For bravery,
indomitable pluck, and perseverance they never have been surpassed
in the whole annals of history. A fearful and wonderful interest is
attached to these scenes of bloodshed. The intense love of country
and honour, and the undeniable greatness of disciplined courage,
which make soldiers confront death and destruction, excite our
profound admiration. The powers also of the human intellect are rarely
more strongly displayed than they are in the capable commander who
regulates, arrays, and wields at his will the armed masses under him,
and who, cool in the midst of fearful peril, is ready with fresh
resources as the varying vicissitudes of battle require. Seeing
that these splendid feats of arms and acts of patriotism, are the
performances of our own fathers and brothers, intense interest in, and
knowledge of their details, ought to be universal throughout the land.

In the present volume will be found separate and popularly written
narratives of all the principal engagements that have been fought
by our soldiers during the last hundred years. They are arranged in
chronological order, so that, in a sense, the volume comprises a
popular military history for that lengthened period. Giving the battles
by themselves, apart from the intervening transactions of lesser
interest, and also the omission of political affairs, will no doubt
prove a convenience to many.



CONTENTS.


  CHAPTER I.                                                    PAGE

  _THE BATTLE OF ALEXANDRIA_--1801                                13

  CHAPTER II.

  _THE BATTLE OF ASSAYE_--1803                                    24

  CHAPTER III.

  _CAPTURE OF THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE_--1806                        30

  CHAPTER IV.

  _THE BATTLE OF MAIDA_--1806                                     35

  CHAPTER V.

  _THE BATTLE OF ROLICA_--1808                                    39

  CHAPTER VI.

  _THE BATTLE OF VIMIERO_--1808                                   43

  CHAPTER VII.

  _THE BATTLE OF CORUNNA_--1809                                   47

  CHAPTER VIII.

  _THE BATTLE OF TALAVERA_--1809                                  60

  CHAPTER IX.

  _THE BATTLE OF BUSACO_--1810                                    73

  CHAPTER X.

  _THE BATTLE OF BAROSA_--1811                                    81

  CHAPTER XI.

  _THE BATTLE OF FUENTES D’ONORO_--1811                           88

  CHAPTER XII.

  _THE BATTLE OF ALBUERA_--1811                                   92

  CHAPTER XIII.

  _THE SIEGE OF RODRIGO_--1812                                    98

  CHAPTER XIV.

  _THE SIEGE OF BADAJOZ_--1812                                   103

  CHAPTER XV.

  _THE BATTLE OF SALAMANCA_--1812                                112

  CHAPTER XVI.

  _THE SIEGE OF BURGOS_--1812                                    123

  CHAPTER XVII.

  _THE BATTLE OF VITORIA_--1813                                  128

  CHAPTER XVIII.

  _THE BATTLES OF THE PYRENEES (Part First)_--1813               138

  CHAPTER XIX.

  _THE SIEGE OF SAN SEBASTIAN_--1813                             145

  CHAPTER XX.

  _THE BATTLES OF THE PYRENEES (Part Second)_--1813              149

  CHAPTER XXI.

  _THE BATTLES OF THE PYRENEES (Part Third)_--1813               153

  CHAPTER XXII.

  _THE BATTLES OF THE PYRENEES (Part Fourth)_--1814              159

  CHAPTER XXIII.

  _THE BATTLE OF TOULOUSE_--1814                                 163

  CHAPTER XXIV.

  _THE BATTLE OF QUATRE BRAS_--1815                              167

  CHAPTER XXV.

  _THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO_--1815                                 177

  CHAPTER XXVI.

  _THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO (Continued)_--1815                     180

  CHAPTER XXVII.

  _THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO (Continued)_--1815                     187

  CHAPTER XXVIII.

  _THE BATTLE OF KEMMENDINE_--1824                               193

  CHAPTER XXIX.

  _THE BATTLE OF MELLOONE_--1825                                 201

  CHAPTER XXX.

  _THE BATTLE OF PAGAHM-MEW_--1825                               206

  CHAPTER XXXI.

  _THE AFGHANISTAN DISASTERS_--1838-39                           208

  CHAPTER XXXII.

  _THE DEFEAT OF THE BILUCHIS_--1842                             211

  CHAPTER XXXIII.

  _THE BATTLE OF MOODKEE_--1845                                  215

  CHAPTER XXXIV.

  _THE BATTLE OF FEROZEPORE_--1845                               223

  CHAPTER XXXV.

  _THE BATTLES OF ALIWAL AND SOBRAON_--1846                      226

  CHAPTER XXXVI.

  _THE BATTLE OF MARTABAN_--1852                                 231

  CHAPTER XXXVII.

  _THE BATTLE OF PEGU_--1852                                     236

  CHAPTER XXXVIII.

  _THE BATTLE OF THE ALMA_--1854                                 241

  CHAPTER XXXIX.

  _THE BATTLE OF BALACLAVA_--1854                                252

  CHAPTER XL.

  _THE BATTLE OF INKERMAN_--1854                                 261

  CHAPTER XLI.

  _THE SIEGE OF SEBASTOPOL_--1854-55                             269

  CHAPTER XLII.

  _THE BATTLES OF BUSHIRE, KOOSHAB, AND MOHAMMERAH_--1856-57     280

  CHAPTER XLIII.

  _THE BATTLES AT DELHI_--1857                                   291

  CHAPTER XLIV.

  _THE BATTLES AT DELHI (Continued)_--1857                       299

  CHAPTER XLV.

  _THE BATTLES AT DELHI (Continued)_--1857                       308

  CHAPTER XLVI.

  _THE BATTLES AT CAWNPORE_--1857                                316

  CHAPTER XLVII.

  _THE RELIEF OF LUCKNOW_--1857                                  326

  CHAPTER XLVIII.

  _THE RELIEF OF LUCKNOW (Continued)_--1857                      335

  CHAPTER XLIX.

  _THE FIGHTING AT ALLAHABAD_--1857                              344

  CHAPTER L.

  _THE FIGHTING AT FUTTEHGHUR_--1857                             349

  CHAPTER LI.

  _THE SIEGE OF KOTAH_--1858                                     352

  CHAPTER LII.

  _THE FIGHTING AT JHANSI, ROOHEA, AND BAREILLY_--1857-58        356

  CHAPTER LIII.

  _THE CAPTURE OF CANTON_--1857                                  364

  CHAPTER LIV.

  _THE BATTLES AT THE TAKU FORTS_--1860                          373

  CHAPTER LV.

  _THE BATTLE OF AROGEE_--1863                                   382

  CHAPTER LVI.

  _THE STORMING OF MAGDALA_--1868                                388

  CHAPTER LVII.

  _THE BATTLES OF AMOAFUL AND ORDASHU_--1874                     393

  CHAPTER LVIII.

  _THE BATTLES WITH THE ZULUS_--1879                             401

  CHAPTER LIX.

  _THE BATTLE OF MAZRA_--1880                                    413

  CHAPTER LX.

  _THE BATTLE OF TEL-EL-KEBIR_--1882                             420

  CHAPTER LXI.

  _THE BATTLE OF MINHLA_--1885                                   430

  CHAPTER LXII.

  _THE BATTLE OF THE ATBARA_--1898                               435

  CHAPTER LXIII.

  _THE BATTLE OF OMDURMAN_--1898                                 444

  CHAPTER LXIV.

  _THE ADVANCE OF ROBERTS_--1900                                 454

  CHAPTER LXV.

  _THE BATTLE OF JIDBALLI_--1904                                 465

  CHAPTER LXVI.

  _THE BATTLE AT HOT SPRINGS_--1904                              469



THE BATTLES

OF THE

BRITISH ARMY



CHAPTER I.

THE BATTLE OF ALEXANDRIA.

1801.


In 1800, an attempt on Cadiz was planned and abandoned; and an army,
the _corps élite_ of Britain, was kept idly afloat in transports at an
enormous expense, suffering from tempestuous weather, and losing their
energies and discipline, while one scheme was proposed after another,
only to be considered and rejected. By turns Italy and South America
were named as countries where they might be successfully employed--but
to both designs, on mature deliberation, strong objections were found;
and on the 25th of October final orders were received from England,
directing the fleet and army forthwith to rendezvous at Malta, and
thence proceed to Egypt.

The troops on reaching the island were partially disembarked while the
ships were refitting; and the fresh provisions and salubrious air of
Valetta soon restored many who had suffered from long confinement and
salt rations. Five hundred Maltese were enlisted to serve as pioneers.
Water-casks were replenished, stores laid in, the troops re-embarked;
and on the 20th of December, the first division got under weigh,
followed by the second on the succeeding day.

Instead of sailing direct for their destination, the fleet proceeded
to the Bay of Macri. Finding that roadstead too open, the admiral
shaped his course for the coast of Caramania. There he was overtaken
by a gale of wind--and though close to the magnificent harbour of
Marmorrice, its existence appears to have been known, out of a fleet
of two hundred vessels, only to the captain of a brig of war. As the
fleet were caught in a heavy gale on a lee shore, the result might have
been most disastrous to the transports, who could not carry sufficient
canvas to work off the land. Fortunately, Marmorrice proved a haven of
refuge; and the surprise and pleasure of the soldiers can scarcely be
described, when they found themselves in smooth water, and surrounded
by the grandest scenery imaginable, “though, the instant before, the
fleet was labouring in a heavy gale, and rolling in a tremendous sea.”

Another landing of the troops took place, and no advantages resulted
from it to compensate the loss of time which allowed the French to
obtain strong reinforcements. Goat’s flesh was abundant, and poultry
plentiful; but the Turks had probably been apprised beforehand of
the munificence of the British, as every article was advanced on the
arrival of the fleet four hundred per cent. in price.

The remount of the cavalry formed an ostensible, almost an only reason,
for the expedition visiting Asia Minor, and consuming time that might
have been so successfully employed. The horses arrived, but from their
wretched quality and condition they proved a sorry equivalent for the
expense and trouble their acquisition cost.

While the expedition was in the harbour of Marmorrice, an awful tempest
came suddenly on, and raged with unintermitting fury for two days.
It thundered violently--hailstones fell as large as walnuts--deluges
of water rushed from the mountains, sweeping everything away. The
horses broke loose--the ships drove from their anchors--the Swiftsure,
a seventy-four, was struck with lightning--and many others lost
masts, spars, and were otherwise disabled. Amid this elemental war,
signal-guns fired from vessels in distress, and the howling of wolves
and other wild animals in the woods, added to the uproar.

After a protracted delay in waiting for the Turkish armament, which was
expected to have been in perfect readiness, the expedition left the
harbour without it on the 23rd of February. The sight, when the fleet
got under weigh, was most imposing; the men-of-war, transports, and
store-ships amounting to one hundred and seventy-five sail.

The British army was composed of the whole or portions of twenty-seven
regiments, exclusive of artillery and pioneers.[1] Its total strength
in rank and file, including one thousand sick and five hundred
Maltese, was fifteen thousand three hundred and thirty men. In this
number all the _attachés_ of the army were reckoned--and consequently
the entire force that could have been combatant in the field would
not exceed twelve thousand bayonets and sabres. This was certainly a
small army with which to attack an enemy in possession of the country,
holding fortified posts, with a powerful artillery, a numerous cavalry,
and having a perfect acquaintance with the only places on the coast
where it was practicable to disembark in safety.

[1] EFFECTIVE STRENGTH OF THE EGYPTIAN ARMY.

Guards--Major-General Ludlow.

1st, or Royals, 2nd battalions 54th and 92nd--Major-General Coote.

8th, 13th, 90th--Major-General Craddock.

2nd, or Queen’s, 50th, 79th--Major-General Lord Craven.

18th, 30th, 44th, 89th--Brigadier-General Doyle.

Minorca, De Rolde’s, Dillon’s--Major-General Stuart.


RESERVE.

40th, Flank Company, 23rd, 28th, 42nd, 58th, Corsican
Rangers--Major-General Moore.

Detachment 11th Dragoons, 12th Dragoons, 26th
Dragoons--Brigadier-General Finch.

Artillery and Prince’s--Brigadier-General Lawson.

On the 1st of March the Arab’s tower was in sight, and next morning the
whole fleet entered Aboukir Bay.[2] On the following morning a French
frigate was seen running into Alexandria, having entered the bay in
company with the British fleet.

[2] The men-of-war brought up exactly in the place where the Battle of
the Nile was fought, the Foudroyant chafing her cables on the wreck of
the French Admiral’s ship. The anchor of the L’Orient was crept for and
recovered.

The weather was unfavourable for attempting a landing of the troops.
This was a serious disappointment, and an accidental occurrence added
to the inconvenience it would have otherwise caused. Two engineer
officers, engaged in reconnoitring the coast, advanced too far into
the bay through an over-zealous anxiety to mark out a landing-place.
They were seen and overtaken by a French gunboat, who fired into the
cutter, killing one of the engineers and making the other prisoner.
The survivor was brought ashore, and forwarded to Cairo to General
Menou; and thus, had the British descent been before doubtful, this
unfortunate discovery would have confirmed the certainty of an intended
landing, and allowed ample time for preparations being made to oppose
it.

The weather moderated in the morning of the 7th, and the signal was
made by the flag-ship “to prepare for landing.” But the sea was still
so much up that the attempt was postponed, and with the exception of an
affair between the boats of the Foudroyant and a party of the enemy,
whom they drove from a block-house, that day passed quietly over.

The 8th was more moderate--the swell had abated--and preparations for
the landing commenced. At two o’clock the first division were in the
boats, amounting to five thousand five hundred men, under General
Coote; while the ships, on board of which the remainder of the army
still remained, were anchored as near the shore as possible, to allow
the landing brigades their immediate support. The right and left flanks
of the boats were protected by launches and gun-brigs; three sloops of
war, with springs from their cables, had laid their broadsides towards
the beach; and the Fury and Tartarus had taken a position to cover the
troops with the fire of their mortars.

The French were drawn up on a ridge of sandhills, with an elevated
hillock in their centre, and twelve pieces of artillery in position
along their line. The moment was one of absorbing interest--and many a
heart beat fast as, in half-companies, the soldiers stood under arms in
the launches, impatiently waiting for the signal to advance.

A gun was fired; off sprang the boats, while the men-of-war opened
their batteries, and the bomb-vessels commenced throwing shells. The
cannonade from the shipping was promptly returned by the French lines
and Castle of Aboukir; while on swept the regiments towards the beach,
under a furious discharge of shot and shells, and a torrent of grape
and musketry, that ploughed the surface of the water, or carried death
into the dense masses of men crowded in the launches. But nothing could
exceed the glorious rivalry displayed by both services in advancing;
while shot was hailing on the water, the sailors as the spray flashed
from their oar-blades, nobly emulated each other in trying who should
first beach his boat. Each cheered the other forward, while the
soldiers caught the enthusiastic spirit and answered them with loud
huzzas. The beach was gained, the 23rd and 40th jumped into the surf,
reached the shore, formed as they cleared the water, and rushed boldly
up the sandhills, never attempting to draw a trigger, but leaving all
to be decided by the bayonet. The French regiments that confronted them
were driven from the heights; while pressing on, the Nole hills in the
rear, with three pieces of artillery, were captured.

The 42nd were equally successful; they formed with beautiful regularity
in the face of a French battalion protected by two guns, and after
defeating a charge of two hundred cavalry, stormed and occupied the
heights.

While these brilliant attacks had been in progress, the Guards were
charged by the French dragoons in the very act of landing, and a
temporary disorder ensued. The 58th had formed on the right, and,
by a well-directed fire, repulsed the cavalry with loss. The Guards
corrected their line, and instantly showed front, while the French,
unable to shake the formation of the British, retired behind the
sandhills.

The transport boats had been outstripped by those of the
men-of-war--and consequently, the Royals and 54th only touched the
shore as the dragoons rode off. Their landing was, however, admirably
timed; for a French column, under cover of the sandhills, was advancing
with fixed bayonets on the left flank of the Guards. On perceiving
these newly-landed regiments, its courage failed; it halted, delivered
a volley, and then hastily retreated.

The British had now possession of the heights; the brigade of Guards
was formed and advancing, and the boats returning to the ships for
the remainder of the army. Observing this, the enemy abandoned their
position on the ridge, and, retiring behind the sandhills in the rear,
for some time kept up a scattered fire. But on the British moving
forward they deserted the ground entirely, leaving three hundred killed
and wounded, eight pieces of cannon, and a number of horses to the
victors. The remainder of the brigades were safely disembarked, Sir
Ralph Abercrombie landed, and a position taken up, the right upon the
sea, and the left on Lake Maadie.

A landing in the face of an enemy, prepared and in position like the
French, under a heavy cannonade, and effected on a dangerous beach,
would naturally occasion a severe loss of life; and several promising
officers, and nearly five hundred men, were killed, wounded, and
missing. The only surprise is, that the casualties were not greater.
The mode in which an army is debarked exposes it unavoidably to fire,
and troops, packed by fifties in a launch, afford a striking mark for
an artillerist. Guns, already in position on the shore, enable those
who work them to obtain the range of an approaching object with great
precision; and the effect of a well-directed shot upon a boat crowded
with troops is necessarily most destructive.

After the army had been united, it advanced by slow marches, some
trifling skirmishing daily occurring between the advanced posts. The
British bivouac was at the town of Mandora, and Sir Ralph moved forward
to attack the enemy, who were posted on a ridge of heights.

The French, reinforced by two half brigades of infantry, a regiment
of cavalry from Cairo, and a corps from Rosetta, mustered about five
thousand five hundred of that arm, with five hundred horse, and
five-and-twenty pieces of artillery. Their position was well chosen,
as it stood on a bold eminence having an extensive glacis in its
front, which would allow full sweep for the fire of its numerous and
well-appointed artillery. The British attack was directed against
the right wing, and in two lines the brigades advanced in columns of
regiments, the reserve covering the movements, and marching parallel
with the first.

Immediately on debouching from a date-wood, the enemy descended from
the heights, and the 92nd--the leading regiment on the left--was
attacked by a furious discharge of grape and musketry; while the
French cavalry charged down the hill, and threw themselves upon the
90th, which led the right column. Though the charge was most gallantly
made, Latour Maubourg leading the dragoons at a gallop, a close and
shattering volley from the 90th obliged them to turn along the front
of the regiment, and retreat with a heavy loss. A few of the leading
files, however, had actually reached the line, and were bayoneted in a
desperate effort to break it. The attempt failed, and in executing his
duty gloriously, their gallant leader was desperately wounded. The
British pushed the reserve into action on the right; the Guards, in the
rear, to support the centre, and Doyle’s brigade, in column, behind the
left. The French were on every point forced from their position--but,
covered by the fire of their numerous guns and the fusilade of their
voltigeurs, they retreated across the plain, and occupied their own
lines on the heights of Alexandria.

Dillon’s regiment during this movement made a brilliant bayonet charge,
captured two guns, and turned them instantly on the enemy. Wishing
to follow up this success, Sir Ralph attempted to carry the position
by a _coup de main_; and advancing across the plain, he directed the
brigades of Moore and Hutchinson to assault the flanks of the French
position simultaneously. To attempt dislodging a force posted as
the enemy were, could only end in certain discomfiture. The troops
could make no way--a murderous fire of artillery mowed them down;
“the French, no longer in danger, had only to load and fire: aim was
unnecessary, the bullets could not but do their office and plunge into
the lines.” For several hours the British remained, suffering this
exterminating fire patiently; and at sunset, the order being given to
fall back, the army retired and took up a position for the night.

The British loss, its strength considered, was immense. Eleven hundred
men were killed and wounded; while that of the enemy amounted barely to
a third, with four field-pieces, which they were obliged to abandon.

A strong position was now taken by Sir Ralph; the right reached the
sea, resting on the ruins of a Roman palace, and projecting a quarter
of a mile over heights in front. This promontory of sandhills and ruins
was some three hundred yards across, sloping gradually to a valley,
which divided it from the hills which formed the rest of the lines.
The extreme left appuied on two batteries, and Lake Maadie protected
the rear--and the whole, from sea to lake, extended about a mile. In
front of the right, the ground was uneven; but that before the centre
would admit cavalry to act. The whole space had once been a Roman
colony--and, on its ruined site, a hard-fought day was now about to be
decided.

The French position was still stronger than the British lines, as it
stretched along a ridge of lofty hills, extending from the sea on one
side to the canal of Alexandria on the other. A tongue of land in the
advance of their right, ran nearly for a mile parallel with the canal,
and had obliged the British posts to be thrown considerably back, and
thus obliqued their line. In a classic and military view, nothing could
be more imposing than the ground on which Menou’s army were encamped.
In the centre stood Fort Cretin; on the left, Fort Caffarelli;
Pompey’s Pillar showed boldly on the right; Cleopatra’s Needle on
the left; while Alexandria appeared in the background, with its walls
extending to the sea; and at the extremity of a long low neck of land,
the ancient Pharos was visible. Wherever the eye ranged, objects of
no common interest met it; some of the “wonders of the world” were
contiguous; and “the very ruins under foot were sacred from their
antiquity.”

The British army had little leisure, and probably as little
inclination, to indulge in classic recollections. The men were busily
engaged in fortifying the position, bringing up guns for the batteries,
and collecting ammunition and stores. The magazines were inconveniently
situated; and to roll weighty spirit-casks through the deep sands was
a most laborious task, and it principally devolved upon the seamen.
The fuel was particularly bad, the billets being obtained from the
date-tree, which it is almost impossible to ignite, and whose smoke,
when kindling, pains, by its pungency, the eyes of all within its
influence. Water was abundant, but of indifferent quality; and as
Menou, with a most unjustifiable severity, inflicted death upon the
Arabs who should be found bringing sheep to the camp, the price of
fresh provisions was high, and the supply precarious.

On the 10th, an affair took place between an enemy’s patrol and a
detachment of British cavalry, under Colonel Archdale. It was a very
gallant, but very imprudent, encounter--a third of the men, and half
the officers, being killed or taken. Another casualty occurred also,
to the great regret of all. Colonel Brice, of the Guards, in going his
rounds, was deceived by a mirage; and coming unexpectedly on an enemy’s
post, received a wound of which he died the third day, a prisoner.

Menou was reported to be advancing; and an Arab chief apprised Sir
Sydney Smith, that the French intended an attack upon the British camp
next morning. The information was discredited; but the result proved
that it was authentic.

On the 21st of March, the army, at three o’clock, as usual, stood to
their arms, and for half an hour all was undisturbed. Suddenly, a
solitary musket was fired, a cannon-shot succeeded it, and a spattering
fusilade, broken momentarily with the heavier booming of a gun,
announced that an attack was being made. The feebleness of the fire
rendered it doubtful against what point the real effort of the French
would be directed. All looked impatiently for daybreak, which, though
faintly visible in the east, seemed to break more tardily the more its
assistance was desired.

On the right, a noise was heard; all listened in breathless
expectation; shouts and a discharge of musketry succeeded; the roar
increased; momentarily it became louder--there indeed the enemy were in
force--and there the British line was seriously assailed.

Favoured by broken ground, and covered by the haze of morning, the
French had partially surprised the videts, attacked the pickets, and
following them quickly, drove them back upon the line. One column
advanced upon the ruin held by the 58th, their drums beating the
_pas de charge_, and the officers cheering the men forward. Colonel
Houston, who commanded the regiment, fearing lest his own pickets
might have been retiring in front of the enemy’s column, reserved his
fire until the glazed hats of the French were distinguishable in the
doubtful light. The 58th lined a wall partly dilapidated, but which in
some places afforded them an excellent breastwork; and the twilight
allowed the French column to be only distinctly seen when within thirty
yards of the post. As the regiment occupied detached portions of the
wall, where its greater ruin exposed it to attack, an irregular but
well-sustained fusilade was kept up, until the enemy’s column, unable
to bear the quick and well-directed musketry of the British, retired
into a hollow for shelter. There they reformed, and wheeling to the
right endeavoured to turn the left of the redoubt, while another column
marched against the battery occupied by the 28th. On the front attack
the regiment opened a heavy fire, but part of the enemy had gained
the rear, and another body penetrated through the ruined wall. Thus
assailed on every side, the 58th wheeled back two companies, who, after
delivering three effective volleys, rushed forward with the bayonet.
The 23rd now came to support the 58th, while the 42nd moved round the
exterior of the ruins, cutting off the French retreat; and of the
enemy, all who entered the redoubt were killed or taken.

The situation of the 28th and 58th was, for a time, as extraordinary as
it was dangerous, for at the same moment they were actually repelling
three separate attacks, and were assailed simultaneously on their
front, flanks, and rear.

The 42nd, in relieving the 28th, was exposed to a serious charge of
French cavalry. Nearly unperceived, the dragoons wheeled suddenly round
the left of the redoubt, and though the ground was full of holes, rode
furiously over tents and baggage, and, charging _en masse_, completely
overthrew the Highlanders. In this desperate emergency, the 42nd, with
broken ranks, and in that unavoidable confusion which, when it occurs,
renders cavalry so irresistible, fought furiously hand to hand, and
opposed their bayonets fearlessly to the sabres of the French. The
flank companies of the 40th, immediately beside them, dared not, for a
time, deliver their fire, the combatants were so intermingled in the
_mêlée_. At this moment General Stuart brought up the foreign brigade
in beautiful order, and their heavy and well-sustained fusilade decided
the fate of the day. “Nothing could withstand it, and the enemy fled or
perished.”

During this charge of cavalry, Sir Ralph Abercrombie, who had ridden to
the right on finding it seriously engaged, advanced to the ruins where
the contest was raging, after having despatched his aide-de-camp[3]
with orders to the more distant brigades. He was quite alone, and some
French dragoons having penetrated to the spot, one, remarking that he
was a superior officer, charged and overthrew the veteran commander.
In an attempt to cut him down, the old man, nerved with a momentary
strength, seized the uplifted sword, and wrested it from his assailant,
while a Highland soldier transfixed the Frenchman with his bayonet.
Unconscious that he was wounded in the thigh, Sir Ralph complained only
of a pain in his breast, occasioned, as he supposed, by a blow from the
pommel of the sword during his recent struggle with the dragoon. The
first officer that came up was Sir Sydney Smith, who, having broken the
blade of his sabre, received from Sir Ralph the weapon of which he had
despoiled the French hussar.

[3] A curious incident occurred immediately afterwards. An aide-de-camp
of General Craddock, in carrying orders, had his horse killed, and
begged permission of Sir Sydney Smith to mount a horse belonging to
his orderly dragoon. As Sir Sydney was turning round to give the order
to dismount, a cannon-shot took off the poor fellow’s head. “This,”
said the Admiral, “settles the question; Major, the horse is at your
service.”

The cavalry being completely repulsed, Sir Ralph walked firmly to the
redoubt on the right of the Guards, from which a commanding view of
the entire battlefield could be obtained. The French, though driven
from the camp, still maintained the battle on the right, and charging
with their reserve cavalry, attacked the foreign brigade. Here, too,
they were resolutely repulsed; and their infantry finding their
efforts everywhere unsuccessful, changed their formation and acted _en
tirailleur_ with the exception of one battalion, which still held a
flèche in front of the redoubt, on either flank of which the Republican
colours were planted.

At this time the ammunition of the British was totally exhausted; some
regiments, particularly the reserve, had not a single cartridge; and in
the battery the supply for the guns was reduced to a single round. In
consequence, the British fire on the right had nearly ceased, but in
the centre the engagement still continued.

There the attack had commenced at daybreak; a column of grenadiers,
supported by a heavy line of infantry, furiously assailing the Guards,
and driving in the flankers which had been thrown out to check their
advance. Observing the echelon formation of the British, the French
general instantly attempted to turn their left; but the officer
commanding on that flank as promptly prevented it, by throwing some
companies sharply back, while Coote’s brigade having come up, and
opening its musketry, obliged the enemy to give way and retire.
Finding the attack in column fail, the French broke into extended
order and opened a scattered fusilade, while every gun that could be
brought to bear by their artillery was turned on the British position.
But all was vain; though suffering heavily from this murderous fire,
the formation of the Guards was coolly corrected when disturbed by the
cannonade, while the fine and imposing attitude of these regiments
removed all hope that they could be shaken, and prevented any renewal
of attack.

The British left had never been seriously attempted, consequently its
casualties were very few, and occasioned by a distant fire from the
French guns, and a trifling interchange of musketry.

While the British right was, from want of ammunition, nearly _hors
de combat_, the French approached the redoubt once more. They, too,
had expended their cartridges, and both the assailants and assailed
actually pelted the other with stones, of which missiles there was a
very abundant supply upon the ground. A sergeant of the 28th had his
skull beaten in by a blow, and died upon the spot. The grenadiers
of the 40th, however, not relishing this novel mode of attack and
defence, moved out to end the business with the bayonet. Instantly
the assailants ran, the sharpshooters abandoned the hollows, and the
battalion, following their example, evacuated the flèche, leaving the
battle ground in front unoccupied by any save the dead and dying.

Menou’s attempts had all been signally defeated. He perceived that
the British lines had sustained no impression that would justify a
continuation of the attack, and he determined to retreat. His brigades
accordingly moved off under the heights of their position in excellent
order; and though, for a considerable distance, they were forced
to retire within an easy range of cannon shot, the total want of
ammunition obliged the British batteries to remain silent, and permit
the French march to be effected with trifling molestation. The cannon
on the British left, and the guns of some men-of-war cutters, which had
anchored close in with the land upon the right, kept up a galling fire,
their shots plunging frequently into the French ranks, and particularly
into those of a corps of cavalry posted on a bridge over the canal of
Alexandria to observe any movement the British left might threaten.

At ten o’clock the action had ended. Sir Ralph Abercrombie previously
refused to quit the field, and remained exposed to the heavy cannonade
directed on the battery where he stood, until perfectly assured that
the French defeat had been decisive. From what proved a fatal wound
he appeared at first to feel but little inconvenience, complaining
only of the contusion on his breast. When, however, the day was won,
and exertion no longer necessary, nature yielded, and in an exhausted
state he was carried in a hammock off the field, accompanied by the
tears and blessings of the soldiery. In the evening he was removed, for
better care, on board the flag-ship, where he continued until his death.

Immediate attention was bestowed upon the wounded, who, from the
confined nature of the ground on which the grand struggles of the day
had occurred, were lying in fearful numbers all around. Many of the
sufferers had been wounded by grapeshot, others mangled by the sabres,
or trodden down by the horses of the cavalry. Death had been busily
employed. Of the British, two hundred and forty were dead, including
six officers; eleven hundred and ninety men and sixty officers wounded;
and thirty privates and three officers missing. Other casualties had
occurred. The tents had been shred to pieces by the French guns, and
many of the wounded and sick, who were lying there, were killed. No
wonder could be expressed that the loss of life had been so terrible,
for thousands of brass cannon-balls were lying loosely about, and
glistening on the sands.

The French loss had been most severe. One thousand and fifty bodies
were buried on the field of battle, and nearly seven hundred wounded
were found mingled with the dead. The total loss sustained by Menou’s
army could not have been much under four thousand; and in this the
greater portion of his principal officers must be included. General
Roiz was found dead in the rear of the redoubt, and the French order of
battle discovered in his pocket. Near the same place two guns had been
abandoned, and these, with a stand of colours, fell, as trophies of
their victory, to the conquerors.

No army could have behaved more gallantly than the British. Surrounded,
partially broken, and even without a cartridge left, the contest was
continued and a victory won. That the French fought bravely, that
their attacks were vigorously made, and, after discomfiture, as boldly
repeated, must be admitted; and that, in becoming the assailant, Menou
conferred an immense advantage on the British, is equally true. There
Menou betrayed want of judgment; for had he but waited forty-eight
hours the British must have attacked him. Indeed, the assault was
already planned; and, as it was to have been made in the night,
considering the strength of their position, and the fine _matériel_ of
the Republican troops, a more precarious trial could never have been
hazarded. But the case was desperate; the successes of the 8th and
13th--and dearly bought, though gloriously achieved, they were--must
have been rendered nugatory, unless forward operations could have been
continued. In short, Menou fought Abercrombie’s battle, and he who must
have been assailed, became himself the assailant.

Military criticism, like political disquisitions, comes not within
the design of a work merely intended to describe the action of the
battle, or the immediate events that preceded or resulted; but, if the
truth were told, during these brief operations, from the landing to the
evening of the 21st, mistakes were made on both sides. The military
character of Britain had been sadly lowered by mismanagement at home,
and still more ridiculously undervalued abroad, and it remained for
future fields and a future conqueror to re-establish for Britain a
reputation in arms, and prove that the island-spirit wanted only a
field for its display.

After lingering a few days, the French Generals Lannuse and Bodet died
of their wounds; and on the evening of the 28th March the British army
had to lament the decease of their gallant and beloved commander.
An attempt to extract the ball, attended with great pain, was
unsuccessful. Mortification ensued, Sir Ralph sank rapidly, and while
his country and his army engrossed his every thought, he expired, full
of years and honour, universally and most justly lamented.

The eulogy of his successor in command thus concludes:--“Were it
permitted for a soldier to regret any one who has fallen in the service
of his country, I might be excused for lamenting him more than any
other person; but it is some consolation to those who tenderly loved
him, that as his life was honourable so was his death glorious. His
memory will be recorded in the annals of his country, will be sacred to
every British soldier, and embalmed in the recollection of a grateful
posterity.”



CHAPTER II.

THE BATTLE OF ASSAYE.

1803.


The death of Tippoo Saib, and the fall of Seringapatam, were astounding
tidings for the native chiefs. Their delusory notions regarding their
individual importance were ended, and a striking proof had been given
of what little reliance could be placed on Indian mercenaries and
places of strength, when Britain went forth in wrath and sent her
armies to the field.

As the fear of Britain became confirmed, so did the hatred of the
native princes to everything connected with her name. A power that had
proved herself so formidable was to be dreaded, fixed as she was in
the very heart of India; and, as the difficulty increased, so did the
desire of freeing themselves from that thrall, which daily appeared to
press upon them more heavily.

Affairs again began to assume a threatening look. The Mahratta chiefs
exhibited an unfriendly attitude; and to cement an alliance with the
Peishwah, and thus tranquilize the country, a portion of Tippoo’s
territory was offered and rejected. Scindia, with his army, was at
Poona, and his influence directed every act of that dependent court.

A misunderstanding between Scindia and Holkar brought on a war between
those chiefs. Holkar advanced on Poona, compelling Scindia to accept
battle, in which he was defeated, the Peishwah deserting his ally
in the hour of need, and concluding a treaty with the British. To
effectuate this, Wellesley, now a major-general, took the field, with
orders to drive Holkar from Poona, and secure the Peishwah’s return to
his capital; and learning that the Mahrattas intended to plunder Poona,
the general saved it by an extraordinary forced march, accomplishing
sixty miles in thirty hours--a marvellous exertion indeed to be made
under an Indian sun.

All for a short time was quiet; but those restless chiefs again assumed
a hostile position. Scindia and the Rajah of Berar moved towards the
Nizam’s frontier; while the former was negotiating with Holkar, his
late enemy, to arrange their differences, and make common cause against
the British.

To prepare for the threatened attack, the Marquis Wellesley invested
the officers commanding the armies of Hindoostan and the Deccan with
full powers; and to General Wellesley a special authority was given
to make peace, or commence hostilities, as his own judgment should
determine. In accordance with this power, a demand was made on Scindia
that he should separate from the Rajah of Berar, and re-cross the
Nerbuddah. To this demand an evasive reply was returned, and Eastern
cunning was employed to obtain such delay as should permit the
chieftains’ plans to be matured, and enable them to take the field in
force. This shuffling policy was, however, quite apparent; and on the
first information that his political agent had quitted Scindia’s camp,
Wellesley suddenly broke up his cantonments, and marched directly on
Ahmednuggur.

This ancient town was defended in the Eastern fashion with a high wall,
flanked at its bends and angles by a tower, and garrisoned by some of
Scindia’s infantry and an auxiliary force of Arabs, while a body of
the chieftain’s cavalry occupied the space between the pettah and the
fort. Wellesley, without delay, assaulted the town, and carried it
by escalade. On the 10th September, the British cannon opened on the
fort, the keeladar in command proposed terms, and the British general
expressed a readiness to listen to his propositions, but the guns
continued working. Indian diplomacy has no chance when batteries are
open; and, on the 12th, a garrison of fourteen hundred marched out,
and the place was delivered up. This fortress, from its locality, was
valuable; it secured the communications with Poona, made a safe depot
for military stores, and was centrically placed in a district whose
revenue was above 600,000 rupees.

With a short delay, Wellesley moved on Aurangabad, and entered that
splendid city on the 29th. The enemy moved in a south-easterly
direction, threatening Hyderabad, while the British, marching by the
left bank of the Godaverey, secured their convoys from Moodgul, and
obliged Scindia to retire northwards. As yet the Mahratta chiefs were
moving a cavalry force north, with but a few matchlock men; but they
were joined now by their whole artillery and sixteen battalions of
infantry, officered chiefly by Frenchmen.

On the 21st September, at a conference at Budnapoor, General Wellesley
and Colonel Stevenson arranged a combined attack for the 24th. They
were to move east and west, pass the defiles on the same day, and thus
prevent any movement of the enemy southward. A mistake, in distance,
brought General Wellesley much sooner to his halting-place than had
been calculated; and learning that the Mahratta army were already
breaking up to retire, he sent orders to Colonel Stevenson to advance;
and announcing his immediate march on Scindia, begged his colleague to
hurry forward to his assistance.

The cavalry consisted of the 19th Light Dragoons, and three native
regiments, under the command of Colonel Maxwell, a bold and skilful
officer. General Wellesley accompanied the horse, the infantry
following in light marching order. After passing a league and half of
ground, the advance reached an eminence; and on the right, and covering
an immense extent of country, the Mahratta army appeared.

In brilliant sunshine, nothing could be more picturesque than
Scindia’s encampment. The varied colours of the tents, each disposed
around its own chieftain’s banner without order or regularity, with
“streets crossing and winding in every direction, displayed a variety
of merchandise, as in a great fair. Jewellers, smiths, and mechanics
were all attending as minutely to their occupations, and all as busily
employed, as if they were at Poona and in peace.”

In this enormous camp, fifty thousand men were collected--the river
Kaitna running in their front, the Suah in their rear. These rivers
united their waters at some distance beyond the left of the camp,
forming a flat peninsula of considerable extent. The native infantry
and all the guns were in position on the left, retired upon the Suah,
and appuied on the village of Assaye--the cavalry were entirely on the
right. The position was naturally strong; for the banks of the Kaitna
are steep and broken, and the front very difficult to attack.

As the British cavalry formed line on the heights, it presented a
strange but glorious contrast to the countless multitude of Mahratta
horsemen, who were seen in endless array below. The British brigade,
scarcely numbering three thousand sabres, took its position with
all the boldness of a body having an equal force opposed. In number
Scindia’s cavalry were fully ten to one; as it was ascertained that,
with his allies, the horsemen actually on the field exceeded thirty
thousand. Having made a careful reconnaissance, General Wellesley
determined to attack, and when the infantry came up it was instantly
executed.

While examining the position, immense masses of Scindia’s cavalry moved
forward, and threw out skirmishers, which were directly driven in.
Wellesley having discovered a neglected ford, decided on crossing over,
and, by attacking the infantry and guns, embarrass the immense cavalry
force of Scindia, and oblige it to manœuvre to disadvantage, and act on
the confined space the ill-selected ground afforded.

The infantry had now come up, and, in column, they were directed on
the river. A fire from the Mahratta guns immediately opened, but the
range was far too distant to permit the cannonade to be effective, or
check the forward movement of the columns. The whole were now across
the river; the infantry formed into two brigades, and the cavalry in
reserve behind them, ready to rush on any part of the battle-ground
where advantage could be gained, or support should be required. The
Mysore horse and the contingent of the Peishwah were merely left in
observation of the enemy’s right.

This flank attack obliged Scindia to change his front. He did so with
less confusion than was expected; and by his new disposition rested
his right upon the Kaitna, and his left upon the Suah and Assaye. His
whole front bristled with cannon, and the ground immediately around the
village seemed, from the number of guns, like one great battery.

The fire from this powerful artillery was of course destructive, and
the British guns were completely overpowered, and in a very few minutes
silenced entirely. This was the crisis; and on the determination of
a moment hung the fortune of a very doubtful day. Without hesitation
Wellesley abandoned his guns, and advanced with the bayonet. The
charge was gallantly made, the enemy’s right forced back, and his guns
captured.

While this movement was being executed, the 74th and light infantry
pickets in front of Assaye, were severely cut up by the fire from
that place. Perceiving the murderous effect of the fusilade, a strong
body of the Mahratta horse moved swiftly round the village, and made
a furious onset on the 74th. Maxwell had watched the progress of the
battle, and now was his moment of action. The word was given, the
British cavalry charged home, down went the Mahrattas in hundreds
beneath the fiery assault of the brave 19th, and their gallant
supporters the sepoys, while, unchecked by a tremendous storm of grape
and musketry, Maxwell pressed his advantage, and cut through Scindia’s
left. The 74th and the light infantry reformed, and, pushing boldly on,
completed the disorder of the enemy, preventing any effective attempt
to renew a battle, the doubtful result of which was thus in a few
minutes decided by the promptitude of the general.

Some of Scindia’s troops fought bravely, and the desperate obstinacy
with which his gunners stood to the cannon, was almost incredible. They
remained to the last--and were bayoneted around the guns, which they
refused, even in certain defeat, to abandon.

The British charge was, indeed, resistless; but in the enthusiasm
of success, at times there is a lack of prudence. The sepoys rushed
wildly on--their elated ardour was uncontrollable; while a mass of the
Mahratta horse arrayed upon the hill were ready to rush upon ranks
disordered by their own success.

But Wellesley foresaw, and guarded against the evil consequences that
a too excited courage might produce. The 78th were kept in hand; and
cool, steady, and with a perfect formation, they offered an imposing
front, that the Mahratta cavalry perceived was unassailable.

A strong column of the enemy, however, that had been only partially
engaged, now rallied and renewed the battle, joined by a number of
Scindia’s gunners and infantry, who had flung themselves as dead
upon the ground, and thus escaped the sabres of the British cavalry.
Maxwell’s brigade, who had re-formed their ranks and breathed their
horses, dashed into the still disordered ranks of these half-rallied
troops--a desperate slaughter ensued, and the Mahrattas were totally
routed; but the British lost their chivalrous leader, and in the
moment of victory, Maxwell died in front of the battle, “and, fighting
foremost, fell.”

The last effort of the day was made by a part of the artillery who
were in position near the village of Assaye--and in person Wellesley
led on the 78th Highlanders and the 7th native cavalry. In the attack
the general’s horse was killed under him; but the enemy declined the
charge, broke, fled, and left a field cumbered with their dead, and
crowded with cannon, bullocks, caissons, and all the _matériel_ of an
Eastern army, to the conquerors.

The evening had fallen before the last struggle at Assaye was over, but
the British victory was complete. Twelve hundred of Scindia’s dead were
found upon the field; while, of his wounded, scarcely an estimate could
be hazarded, for all the villages and adjacent country were crowded
with his disabled soldiery. The British loss was of necessity severe,
and it might be estimated that one-third of the entire army was _hors
de combat_.

In comparison with Assaye, all fighting that had hitherto taken place
in India was child’s play. To call it a brilliant victory is only
using a term simply descriptive of what it was. It was a magnificent
display of skill, moral courage, and perfect discipline, against native
bravery and an immense numerical superiority. But it was not a mass
of men, rudely collected, ignorant of military tactics, and unused to
combinations, that Wellesley overthrew. Scindia’s army was respectable
in every arm, his cavalry excellent of their kind, and his artillery
well served. His infantry were for a long time under the training of
French officers; and the ease and precision with which he changed his
front when the British crossed the Kaitna to assail his flank, showed
that the lessons of the French disciplinarians had not been given in
vain.

The total _déroute_ of Assaye was followed by a tide of conquest.
Fortress after fortress was reduced, and Scindia sought and obtained
a truce. The British arms were next turned against the Rajah of
Berar--General Wellesley marched against him--for the truce was ended
suddenly, and Scindia joined his colleague with all his disposable
force.

On the plains of Argaum, Wellesley found the confederated chiefs drawn
up in order of battle. Scindia’s immense cavalry formed the right,
on the left were the Berar infantry and guns, flanked by the Rajah’s
cavalry, while a cloud of Pindaries were observed on the extreme right
of the whole array.

The British moved down and formed line, the infantry in front, and the
cavalry in reserve. The battle was short and decisive. The Berar’s
Persian infantry attacked the 74th and 78th regiments, and were
literally annihilated; while Scindia’s cavalry charge failed totally,
the 26th native regiment repulsing it most gloriously. The British now
rushed forward, and the Mahrattas broke and fled in every direction,
abandoning their entire park of over one hundred pieces of artillery,
and thirty-eight were captured at Argaum; while the cavalry pursued
by moonlight the scattered host, and captured an immense number of
elephants and beasts of burden, the entire baggage, and stores and arms
of every description.

The fall of some places of strength, and the total defeat of their
armies in the field, humbled Scindia and his ally, the Rajah, and
obliged them to sue and obtain a peace. The brilliant career of General
Wellesley had gained him a name in arms which future victories were
to immortalise. To commemorate the battle of Assaye, a monument was
erected in Calcutta, a sword presented to the victor by the citizens,
and a gold vase by the officers he commanded. He was also made a Knight
Companion of the Bath, and honoured by the thanks of Parliament.
Even from the inhabitants of Seringapatam he received an address,
remarkable for its simplicity and affection, committing him to the care
of “the God of all castes,” and invoking for him “health, glory, and
happiness.” In 1805 he returned to his native land, “with war’s red
honours on his crest,” bearing with him from the scene of glory the
high estimation and affectionate wishes of every caste and colour.



CHAPTER III.

CAPTURE OF THE CAPE OF GOOD HOPE.

1806


In 1805, the British Government, having ascertained that the Cape of
Good Hope had only a force under two thousand regular troops for its
protection, and that the militia and inhabitants were well inclined to
assist a British army, in case a landing should be made, determined
to attempt the reduction of that colony, by the employment of a body
of troops cantoned in the neighbourhood of Cork, assisted by some
regiments already on board the India ships at Falmouth.

The expedition was to be a secret one, and the troops embarked at
Cork were ostensibly intended for service in the Mediterranean. It
was supposed that this report would prevent suspicion, particularly
as the Company’s fleet sailed alone, as if its destination was really
Madras direct. Sealed orders were, however, given to the commanders
to be opened in a certain latitude, and in these they were ordered to
rendezvous at Madeira.

The troops composing the expedition were placed under the command of
General Baird. They comprised the 24th, 38th, 59th, 71st, 72nd, 83rd,
and 98th, part of the 20th light dragoons, with artillery, artificers,
and recruits, making a total force of six thousand six hundred and
fifty rank and file.

It was at first suspected that some troops which had left Rochfort in
two line-of-battle ships and escaped the vigilance of our cruisers,
might have been intended to reinforce the garrison at the Cape, and
General Baird conceived the corps intrusted to him not sufficiently
strong to achieve the objects of the expedition. He asked, under this
impression, for an additional force, and stated the grounds on which
the request was made; but, in the meantime, it was ascertained that the
French troops had proceeded to the West Indies: and that, therefore,
the Cape of Good Hope had received no increase to its military
establishment.

After another application to obtain an increase to the corps already
under his orders, by having the 8th regiment added to the force, the
expedition sailed, stopping at Madeira and St. Salvador to obtain
water and provisions. Nothing of moment occurred in the voyage to
South America; the passage was tedious, and an Indiaman and transport
ran on a low sandy island, called the Roccas, and were totally lost.
Fortunately, the men on board and twelve chests of dollars were saved
from the wreck. Only three individuals perished; of these, General
Yorke, in command of the artillery, was one, and Major Spicer, the
next in seniority, succeeded him. While staying at St. Salvador, the
regiments were landed and inspected, a remount of fifty horses obtained
for the cavalry, and, all arrangements being completed, the expedition
sailed for its final destination on the 28th of November, and made the
African coast, a little to the northward of the Cape, on the 4th of
January, 1806.

Table Bay, on the shore, and almost in the centre of which Cape Town
stands, receives its name from that extraordinary eminence called Table
Mountain, which rises about three thousand six hundred and eighty-seven
feet above the level of the sea, and which terminates in a perfectly
flat surface at that height, where the face of the rock on the side
of Cape Town descends almost perpendicularly. To the eastward of the
mountain, separated from it by a chasm, is Charles’s Mount, more
generally called the Devil’s Tower; and on the westward, a round hill
rises on the right hand of the bay, called the Lion’s Head, from which
a ridge of high land, terminating in another smaller hill, called the
Lion’s Rump, stretches towards the sea.

The town itself is handsome and extensive; and the streets,
intersecting each other at right angles, are broad and airy, generally
built with stone, and with terraces in front. The Company’s gardens,
walks, parade, and castle, all add to the beauty of the place, and
render it superior to any colonial city in the possession of Great
Britain.

The coast is everywhere dangerous--landing, excepting in the bays, and
that, too, in favourable weather, almost impracticable--and hence,
a very inferior force on shore, if the surf were at all up, might
successfully resist any attempt at the disembarkation of an army.

The troops in garrison consisted of a detachment of Batavian artillery,
the 22nd Dutch regiment of the line, a German regiment of Waldecks, and
a native corps, which acted as light infantry. To these, an auxiliary
battalion, formed from the seamen and marines of a frigate and corvette
which had been wrecked upon the coast, were added; while a number of
irregulars, mounted and dismounted, comprised of the boors, and armed
with guns of enormous length of barrel, completed the force of General
Janssens, who was then commandant at the Cape.

The governor had a high reputation, both as a soldier and a civilian,
and from the excellence of his measures since his arrival at the Cape,
was held most deservedly in great estimation by the colonists. On the
appearance of the British fleet, although his numerical superiority
was greater than that of his enemy, he wisely considered that the
_matériel_ of the invaders was far more efficient than his own; and
leaving a garrison in Cape Town, he determined to fall back on the
interior with the remainder of his troops, and carry on a desultory
war, until the arrival of a French or Dutch fleet from Europe should
enable him to resort to active measures and save the colony. This plan,
though ruinous to the inhabitants, if carried out, would have rendered
the subjugation of the Cape a very difficult and tedious undertaking
for the British, and in this posture of affairs the expedition made the
coast, and came to anchor just out of range of the batteries in Table
Bay.

The weather was fortunately calm, but the day was too far advanced
to admit a landing of the troops, but all was prepared for effecting
it on the morrow. The coast was sounded, the approaches to the town
reconnoitred, and a small inlet, sixteen miles north-east of the town,
called Leopard’s Bay, was selected as the point on which the troops
should be disembarked. The transports accordingly weighed and took
their stations, while the men-of-war got into a position to cover the
landing, in case of opposition, with their guns.

During the night the surf had risen so prodigiously, that at daylight
it was declared unsafe for boats to attempt the beach, and a landing
at Saldana Bay was proposed. There it could be easily effected, but it
would carry the army a distance from the town, separate it on its march
from the fleet, oblige it to depend for its supplies on what provisions
it could carry, or any which by accidental circumstances it could
obtain on its route; it would also entail a harassing march of seventy
miles on soldiers so long cooped up on shipboard; and that, too, in
the hot season of the year, over a heavy sand, where water was not
procurable. Still, the uncertainty of the weather, and the necessity
of an immediate attack, overcame all other objections; and on the
evening of the 5th, General Beresford, with the 38th regiment and the
20th light dragoons, sailed for Saldana, with an understanding that the
remainder of the army should proceed thither on the following morning.

But daylight on the 6th January broke with happier promise; the surf
had gone down considerably; and it was at once decided that the troops
should be landed without farther loss of time. The Highland brigade was
instantly transferred from the transports to the boats, and the 71st,
72nd, and 93rd, effected a landing with but a single casualty, and
that arising from the swamping of a launch, by which five-and-thirty
Highlanders were drowned.

No other loss attended the operation--the light company of the 93rd
cleared the brushwood of a few skirmishers that had been thrown out
by the enemy, and the remainder of the troops debarked without any
opposition.

The artillery, consisting of four six-pounders and a couple of
howitzers, were landed on the 7th; and the whole of the force being
now safely on shore, the British general commenced his march direct on
Cape Town, the guns being dragged through the sands by fatigue parties
furnished from the fleet.

The advance was unopposed until the British army had approached a
line of heights, some four miles distant from the landing place. The
Blawberg, as one of these eminences is called, was occupied by burgher
cavalry, and the videts announced that General Janssens was in position
on the other side of the high grounds, and his whole disposable force
drawn up in order of battle. The march was steadily continued, and
when the Blawberg was crowned by the advance guard, the Batavian army,
formed in two lines, with twenty-five pieces of artillery and a large
corps of irregular cavalry, was discovered.

General Baird formed his corps into two columns of brigades; the
right, comprising the 24th, 59th, and 83rd, under Lieutenant-Colonel
Baird, commanding in the absence of General Beresford; and the left,
consisting of the Highland regiments, under General Ferguson. While
deploying into line, the Batavian guns opened, and their cavalry, by a
left extension, threatened the right of the British. Baird’s brigade
refused its right, checking the burgher horse with its musketry; and
the Highland regiments on the left made a rapid movement under a heavy
cannonade, and advanced to the charge. The right wing of the Batavian
army broke without waiting an assault, the left followed the example,
and the field was totally abandoned by the enemy, with a considerable
loss in killed and wounded.

Without cavalry it was impossible to complete the déroute. The guns
were, therefore, carried off; and quitting the road to Cape Town,
Janssens, in pursuance of his previous plan, marched eastward, and
moved towards Hottentot Holland, with a hope of protracting a war in
the interior. Of course the capital was the object of the conqueror.
The fleet was in an exposed anchorage, and to equip his army for
ulterior operations, and secure his communication with the sea, it was
necessary to possess Cape Town.

The advance was very distressing, and the troops suffered much. The
badness of the roads, the heat of the weather, and worse still, the
scarcity of water, was severely felt before the brigades, at a late
hour, reached their bivouacs in Reit Valley, a farming establishment
belonging to the Dutch Government. Here some salt provisions, which
had been floated through the surf, were brought up by the marines
and partitioned among the soldiers; while the few and scanty springs
attached to the farm afforded them an indifferent supply of water. An
immediate movement on the capital was imperative; and the next day the
British reached a position beside the Salt River--an inlet some short
distance from the strong lines which cover Cape Town.

These defences are formed of a chain of redoubts, with a connecting
parapet, furnished with banquettes and a dry ditch. They extend about
eight hundred yards, and unite the Devil’s Berg with the sea. These
lines were very formidable, as they had been considerably strengthened
by the British during their possession of the colony. One hundred
and fifty guns and howitzers were mounted on the works; and several
batteries had been erected on the escarp of the mountain, that would
have exposed assailing troops to a flanking fire, and, in storming the
lines, occasioned a severe loss of life. One battery and blockhouse
were placed on a shoulder of the hill, thirteen hundred feet above the
level of the plain. But this was probably the least effective of the
defences; as, in modern warfare, a plunging fire is not regarded much.
A mile behind the lines the castle of Good Hope is situated at the
entrance of the town. It is a pentagon, with outworks strong enough to
require a regular approach; and that side of the city which overlooks
the bay is secured alike by the fire of the castle, and a number of
batteries mounted with guns of heavy calibre.

To carry works so extensive, and so formidable in their defences,
with a small corps like Baird’s, unprovided with any artillery but
the light field-pieces they had brought through the sands, was not to
be attempted; and it was determined to obtain some heavy guns, and a
reinforcement of seamen and marines from the fleet. But these were not
required; the enemy sent out a flag of truce, and an armistice was
agreed upon, which terminated ultimately in a capitulation. The town
and its defences were given up to the British army, and without a shot,
works were surrendered to a force of not four thousand men, on which
were mounted four hundred and fifty-six guns and mortars, most of them
of the heaviest calibre.

Janssens, after his defeat, retired towards the interior; and having
disbanded the militia and burgher cavalry, which had accompanied him,
he took a position at Kloof, with twelve hundred regular troops,
and some five-and-twenty guns. General Baird, anxious to effect
the tranquillity of the colony and terminate hostilities at once,
despatched General Beresford to make overtures to the Dutch governor,
and induce him to capitulate. A long and doubtful negotiation took
place between the British and Batavian commanders, which eventually
ended in the whole of the colony of the Cape of Good Hope and its
dependencies, with all the rights and privileges held and exercised
by the Dutch Government, being formally transferred to his Britannic
Majesty.

Although the capture of the Cape was effected with trifling loss, and
the opposition given to the British troops was far less formidable
than might have been anticipated, still the operations which were
so deservedly crowned with success, were boldly planned and bravely
executed. Janssens exhibited no military talent, and in a country
abounding in strong positions, to offer battle in an open plain, and
oppose an irregular force to a well-disciplined army, was a strange
decision of the Batavian commander, and could only terminate in defeat.
In an engagement in which the Dutch army was so easily routed, and
the ulterior operations which followed, there was nothing of that
brilliancy which marked other victories achieved by British bravery,
but no conquest was attended with more advantages and permanent
results. A noble colony was obtained for Great Britain with little
loss of life, and the only portion of Africa worth her occupation was
secured to the “Mistress of the Seas.”



CHAPTER IV.

THE BATTLE OF MAIDA.

1806.


It has been remarked with great justice, that until the Peninsular war
had been for some time in progress, the military enterprises of Great
Britain invariably failed from the blind policy of those who planned
them. Instead of condensing the power of the empire into one grand
and sustained effort, its strength was frittered away in paltry and
unprofitable expeditions. An army, imposing in its full integrity,
if subdivided into corps, and employed on detached services, and in
different countries, can achieve nothing beyond a partial success, for
soon after its divided brigades are landed on their scenes of action,
their weakness produces their discomfiture, and they retire necessarily
before a superior force. In the first moment of disembarkation it may
create a temporary alarm; but beyond this no object can be gained, and
the result ends in an idle demonstration.

Political details are generally unconnected with the actual occurrences
on the battle-field; and it will be enough to remark, that Sicily
should have at this period commanded more attention from Britain than
she did. Naturally defensible, with a well-affected population of
nearly a million and a half, she had been taught to place but little
reliance on her allies. One British corps held Messina, but a French
force was moving to the extremity of Calabria, avowedly to drive it
from the island. Though well-affected, the Sicilians were distrustful;
they feared that they should be abandoned to the vengeance of those
troops who had already overrun Naples, and they believed that the
British regiment waited only until the French army should make its
descent, when they would embark for Malta, and leave the Sicilians to
their fate.

At this time, Sir John Stuart succeeded Sir James Craig, a man best
described by terming him an “old-school commander.” Under him the
army had been totally inactive; and eight thousand excellent troops
were permitted to occupy their quarters idly, when so much depended
upon a bold, even though not a very fortunate, display of energy in
the British. Stuart at once perceived the mischievous consequences
this indolence of his predecessor had occasioned; and he determined
by active operations to redeem the British army from the apathetic
character it had too justly obtained among the Sicilian people.

The British corps, amounting to eight thousand men, was concentrated
at Messina. In Calabria the French were considerably detached; and
though numerically stronger, with three thousand in the South, four
thousand in Upper Calabria, and the remainder occupying numerous posts,
it was quite practicable to take them in detail, effect a landing
between the two corps, engage them separately, and clear the country
from St. Euphemia to the Castle of Scylla. To insure success, despatch
and secrecy were required. The first rested with Stuart, and every
arrangement necessary on his part was effected; the latter depended on
the Sicilian court, and by it the secrecy of the intended expedition
was undoubtedly betrayed.

On the 28th of June, at Melazzo, the embarkation of five thousand men
was quietly accomplished, and on the third morning they landed on the
beach of St. Euphemia. During the 2nd and 3rd stores and supplies were
disembarked; and moving forward, on that evening the pickets of the
rival armies confronted each other. The enemy’s force was at first
supposed to be merely the division of Upper Calabria; but that of
the South had formed a junction; and Reynier had now seven thousand
infantry, and a few troops of cavalry amounting to three hundred and
fifty sabres.

The British in numbers were greatly inferior. Five thousand infantry,
six six-pounders and eight mountain guns formed their whole strength.
Reynier was also in position--his army being posted on some heights
which overlooked the march of the British as they moved through a low
country, at first partially wooded, but opening into a spacious plain,
and of course permitting their numbers and dispositions to be correctly
ascertained by their enemy during the advance.

This, as the result proved, was an unfortunate advantage for the French
General. Whether reckoning too much on his opponent’s inferiority
of force, or undervaluing the character of his soldiers, Reynier,
supposing that Stuart, having advanced in error, would retire on
discovering his mistake, abandoned the heights, passed a river in his
front, and offered battle on the plain. As his columns approached,
General Stuart at once perceived, from the ground they covered, that
Reynier’s force was much larger than he had expected, and that he
had united his detached brigades; but, with the just confidence of a
British leader he trusted to the bravery of his troops; and in that
safe reliance boldly stood “the hazard of the die.”

The battle commenced (6th July) about nine o’clock, and there was no
manœuvring on either side. The ground was level, and both armies,
under cover of their light troops, advanced steadily and deployed into
line. The enemy’s left was composed of voltigeurs, and the right of
the British that opposed them (Kempt’s brigade) was formed of a light
infantry battalion and the Corsican Rangers. After an interchange of
three volleys, the French were ordered to advance; at the same time
the British lowered their bayonets, and both pressed boldly forward.
The front ranks were now within six paces of each other--the French
advancing, cheered by the “_En avant, mes enfans!_” of their officers.
The British needed no encouragement; on they came, with that imposing
steadiness which told what the result must be, when bayonets crossed,
and “steel met steel.” The voltigeurs had not firmness to abide the
shock; they broke and turned, but too late for flight to save them.
Their front rank was bayonetted and trodden down, while the rear
endeavoured to escape by a disorderly rush from the field, exposed to
severe loss from the British artillery.

Kempt’s gallant and successful charge was ably seconded by Ackland’s
brigade, which held the right centre. They advanced against the
demi-brigade opposed to them, forced it back across the Amato, and
never allowed the routed wing one moment to rally. The pursuit was so
ardently continued that for a mile the French were followed by the
victors, suffering heavily in killed and wounded, and losing a number
of prisoners.

This success, though brilliant, was far from being decisive. The
ardour of the right wing had carried it away, leaving the left
totally unsupported, and open to Reynier’s undivided efforts. From
the superiority of his force, he showed a larger front, and availing
himself of this advantage, endeavoured to turn the British left, and
in this attempt his cavalry had nearly succeeded. After a feint upon
the centre, they wheeled sharply to the right, making a flank movement,
while their infantry threatened the British line with a charge. This
was the crisis of the action. The French advanced, Stuart refusing his
flank, and obliquing his line from the centre. Reynier’s cavalry were
about to charge, when, fortunately, the 20th regiment, under Colonel
Ross, which had landed after the march of the army, came up.

The attack was already made, the cavalry advancing, when Ross, under
cover of some underwood, deployed in double-quick. Within a short
distance, a close and murderous volley was thrown in, and the cavalry
completely broken. The British line cheered and moved forward, the
French gave way, and a complete _déroute_ succeeded. No victory,
considering the numbers opposed, could have been more decisive. Seven
hundred killed, a thousand prisoners, and a large proportion of
wounded, were the estimated loss of the enemy, while this was achieved
by an amount of casualties greatly disproportioned, the victors having
but one officer and forty-four men killed, and eleven officers and two
hundred and seventy-one men wounded.

For that night the British army bivouacked on the battleground, and
having received supplies from the shipping, advanced on the 6th to
overtake the enemy’s rear; while a brigade under Colonel Oswald marched
on the French depot at Montelione, of which it took possession, making
six hundred prisoners. The whole of the commissariat stores, with the
entire baggage, and the military chest, were captured; and the remnant
of the French army was saved only by abandoning arms and accoutrements,
and retiring with all the confusion attendant upon a signal defeat.

Nothing could exceed the enthusiasm with which the victors were
received. The defended places along the coast, turned on the land side
by the army, of course surrendered unconditionally. The whole of the
Peninsula was rapidly crossed, and on the 11th of July, the leading
British brigade invested the Castle of Scylla.

This place, so deeply associated with ancient recollections, stands
on a sheer rock, commanding the eastern point of the entrance of
the Straits of Messina. The difficulties experienced by navigators
occasionally in this confined channel, almost realise the old-world
legends of its dangers. Once caught in the currents, when passing
Cape Pelorus with light or contrary winds, a vessel must run for the
anchorage, which lies directly beneath the batteries of the castle; and
hence the possession of the place, especially to a maritime nation, was
an object of paramount importance.

For some days the efforts of the English were confined to firing on the
castle with the field guns. Of course, artillery of a light calibre
could effect nothing but annoyance; until, on the 19th, when some
heavy cannon were obtained from Messina. On the 21st they were placed
in battery and opened with great effect; and on the same evening, as
the guns were breaching rapidly, the commandant accepted terms, and
surrendered the castle to the besiegers.

Although military achievements, on a minor scale, have been eclipsed
by the more brilliant conquests obtained by British armies in
subsequent campaigns, still Maida was not only a glorious, but, in
its results, a most important victory. Independently of humbling a
presumptuous enemy, raising the depressed reputation of the British
army, and converting the distrusting population of Sicily into grateful
admirers, the positive results of Sir John Stuart’s expedition were
the destruction of all the military and naval resources of Calabria,
and the occupation of a post which for eighteen months secured
the navigation of the Straits of Messina, and, in a great degree,
occasioned the meditated descent on Sicily to fail.



CHAPTER V.

THE BATTLE OF ROLICA.

1808.


Spain and Portugal having been overrun by the French armies, Britain
determined to make an effort in the cause of freedom, and come to the
assistance of the oppressed.

The force destined for the relief of Portugal was sent partly from
Ireland, and partly from Gibraltar. Nine thousand men from Cork, under
Sir Arthur Wellesley, landed in Mondego bay on the 6th of August, and
these were joined, two days afterwards, by Spencer’s division of five
thousand, making thus a total force of about fourteen thousand, in
which two hundred of the 20th light dragoons and eighteen pieces of
artillery were included.

A combined movement with a Portuguese corps under Bernardine Friere
having been arranged, it was determined to move at once upon the
capital; and on the morning of the 9th the British advanced guard,
consisting of a part of the 60th and 95th rifles, commenced the march,
supported by the brigades of Generals Hill and Ferguson. On the next
day the remainder of the army followed--the men provided with sixty
rounds of cartridges, provisions for three days, and attended by a
number of mules, loaded with stores of various descriptions. “No troops
ever took the field in higher spirits, or in a state of more perfect
discipline. Confident in their leader likewise, and no less confident
in themselves, they desired nothing more ardently than to behold their
enemy.”

On the 12th, Friere’s corps joined at Leiria, but, under different
pretexts, the Portuguese commander declined co-operating as he had
promised, and limited his assistance to one weak brigade of infantry
and two hundred and fifty horse. Undaunted by this early disclosure
of imbecility and bad faith, Sir Arthur determined to push on, and
endeavour to engage the Duke of Abrantes before he could unite himself
with Loison.

On receiving intelligence of the descent of the British, Junot, adding
the brigade of Thomieres to that of Delaborde, despatched the latter
towards Mondego, to observe the enemy closely, and use every means to
retard their advance. Delaborde, accordingly moving to the coast, found
himself on the eve of an affair with the British, and he fell back
leisurely as they advanced. His rear-guard quitted Caldas the evening
before Sir Arthur entered it; and on the following morning, and for the
first time on the Peninsula, the rival armies of France and Britain
found themselves in each other’s presence.

On the 15th, a trifling affair of outposts produced a few casualties,
and on the 16th, Delaborde’s position was reconnoitred and dispositions
made to attack it.

This, in a European command, was to be Wellington’s maiden field.
In the numbers engaged, Rolica bore no proportion to the masses
combatant in future battles, but it was a well-contested and sanguinary
encounter, and worthy to be the name first engraven on the long scroll
of victories of which it gave such glorious promise.

The French position, in natural strength and romantic beauty, was
unequalled; and when Delaborde had made up his mind to risk a battle,
he displayed consummate judgment in selecting the ground on which the
trial of strength should be decided.

The villages of Rolica and Caldas stand at either extremity of an
extensive valley, opening to the west. In the centre, Obidos, with
its ruined castle and splendid aqueduct, recalls the days of Moorish
glory. The village of Rolica stands on a bold height, surrounded by
vineyards and olive groves, and a sandy plain extends in front, thickly
studded with shrubs and dwarf wood. The eminence on which the village
is placed, and where the French general formed his line of battle,
had one flank resting on a rugged height, and the other on a mountain
impassable to any but a goatherd. Behind, lay a number of passes
through the ridges in his rear, affording Delaborde a means of retreat;
or, if he chose to contest them, a formidable succession of mountain
posts.

All the arrangements for attack having been completed on the preceding
evening, at dawn the British got under arms. A sweeter morning never
broke--the mountain mists dispersed, the sun shone gloriously out, a
thousand birds were singing, and myriads of wild flowers shed their
fragrance around. Nature seemed everywhere in quiet and repose,
presenting a strange contrast to the roar of battle which immediately
succeeded, and the booming of artillery, as, repeated by a thousand
echoes, it reverberated among the lately peaceful hills.

In three columns, the allied brigades left their bivouacs. The right
(Portuguese), consisting of twelve hundred infantry and fifty dragoons,
were directed to make a considerable detour, turn the enemy’s left
flank, and bear down upon his rear. The left, two brigades of infantry,
three companies of rifles, a brigade of light artillery, and forty
horse, were to ascend the hills of Obidos, drive in Delaborde’s posts,
and turn his right at Rolica. Ferguson, who commanded, was also to
watch lest Loison should move from Rio Mayor, and, if he came up,
engage him, and prevent a junction with Delaborde. The centre, composed
of four brigades--those of Hill, Crawford, Nightingale, and Fane--two
brigades of guns, the remainder of the cavalry, and four hundred
Portuguese light infantry, were directed to advance up the heights and
attack the enemy in front.

To traverse the distance between the British bivouac and French
outposts (three leagues), consumed a good portion of the morning; and
the march to the battle-ground, whether viewed with relevance to the
beauty of its scenery, or the order of its execution, was most imposing.

When sudden irregularities of the surface disturbed the order of a
column, it halted until the distances were corrected, and then marched
silently on with the coolness of a review. Presently the light troops
became engaged, the centre broke into columns of regiments, while
the left pressed forward rapidly, and the rifles, on the right, bore
down on the tirailleurs. Delaborde’s position was now critical, for
Ferguson, topping the heights, threatened his rear. But the French
general acted promptly--he abandoned the plain, and falling back upon
the passes of the Sierra, took up a new position less assailable than
the former one; and, from the difficult nature of the mountain surface,
requiring, on Sir Arthur’s part, a new disposition of attack.

Five separate columns were now formed, and to each a different pass was
allotted. The openings in the heights were so narrow and difficult,
that only a portion of the columns could come into fire. The pass on
the extreme right was attacked by the Portuguese; the light troops of
Hill’s brigade and the 5th regiment advanced against the second; the
centre was to be carried by the 9th and 29th, the fourth by the 45th,
and the fifth by the 82nd.

Unfortunately the front attack was made either too soon, or
difficulties had delayed the flanking corps--and, in consequence, the
passes were all stormed, before Delaborde had been even aware that he
was endangered on his flank and rear. Regardless of the ground, than
which nothing could be more formidable, the assailants mounted the
ravines. Serious obstacles met them at every step--rocks and groves
overhung the gorges in the hills--and where the ground was tolerably
open for a space from rocks, it was covered thickly with brushwood
and wild myrtle. Thus the order of the column was deranged; while a
broken surface concealed the enemy, and suffered the French to keep up
a withering fusilade on troops who had not leisure to return it.

The centre pass, on which the 29th and 9th were directed to advance,
was particularly difficult. The 29th led, and the 9th supported it.
Entering the gorge undauntedly, the leading companies were permitted
to approach a ravine, with precipitous rocks on one side and a thick
myrtle wood on the other. From both a tremendous fire was unexpectedly
opened. In front and on the flanks, the men fell by dozens; and, as the
leading company was annihilated, the column, cumbered by its own dead
and wounded, was completely arrested in its movement. But the check was
only momentary. Colonel Lake, who led the regiment on horseback, waved
his hat and called on the men to follow. A wild cheer was returned,
and a rush made up the pass. Notwithstanding the sustained fusilade on
every side, the forward movement was successful--and after overcoming
every attempt to repel their daring charge, with diminished numbers the
29th crowned the plateau.

But the enemy were not to be easily beaten. Before the 9th could clear
the pass, or the 29th form their line, a French battalion advanced and
charged. They were most gallantly received; a severe contest ensued;
and, after a mutual slaughter, the enemy were repulsed. With increased
numbers, again and again the charges were repeated and repelled. At
last the 9th got into action; and the head of the 5th regiment began to
show itself as it topped the summit of the second pass. On every point
the attacks had been successful, and to save himself from being cut
off, Delaborde retired in perfect order; and from the difficulty of the
ground and his superiority in cavalry, although pressed by the light
troops, effected his retreat with little molestation.

This brilliant affair, from the strength of their position, and the
obstinacy with which the French contested every inch of ground, cost
the British a heavy loss. Even, when forced from the heights, Delaborde
attempted to take a new position, and hold the village of Zambugeira.
But he was driven back with the loss of three guns--and retreating
through the pass of Runa, by a long night march, he gained Montecheque
next day.

The French casualties in killed, wounded, and prisoners amounted to a
thousand men, and the British to about half that number. Delaborde was
among the wounded, and Colonel Lake in the return of the killed.

Delaborde’s defeat having left the road to Torres Vedras open, Sir
Arthur pursued the French to Villa Verde, where the British halted for
the night, and, cheered by his opening success, the British leader
seemed determined to improve it. Orders were accordingly issued to
prepare for a rapid march next day, and “it seemed as if no check
would be given to the ardour of the troops till they should have won a
second victory.” But despatches were received that night, announcing
the arrival of General Anstruther with a reinforcement of troops and
stores. The fleet were reported to be at anchor off Peniche; and, to
cover the disembarkation, and unite himself with the corps on board
the transports, Sir Arthur’s march was directed on Lourinho. There the
British bivouacked that night, and on the next morning took a position
beside the village of Vimiero.



CHAPTER VI.

THE BATTLE OF VIMIERO.

1808.


Vimiero stands at the bottom of a valley, and at the eastern extremity
of a ridge of hills extending westward towards the sea. The river
Maceira flows through it, and on the opposite side, heights rise
eastward, over which winds the mountain road of Lourinho. In front
of the village a plateau of some extent is slightly elevated above
the surrounding surface; but it, in turn, is completely overlooked
by the heights on either side. The British, never anticipating an
attack, had merely taken up ground for the night, and with more
attention to convenience than security. Six brigades occupied the
high ground westward of Vimiero--one battalion, the 50th, with some
rifle companies, were bivouacked on the plateau, having a half brigade
of nines, and a half brigade of six pounders. The eastern heights
were occupied by pickets only, as water could not be procured in the
vicinity--and in the valley, the cavalry and reserve artillery had
taken their ground for the night.

The communication immediately made by Sir Arthur Wellesley to his
senior officer, Sir Harry Burrard, both of the past and the intended
operations, had been unfavourably received--and Sir Harry declined the
daring but judicious step of an immediate advance on Mafra, by which
the position taken by the French on the heights of Torres Vedras must
have been necessarily turned. In fact, to every suggestion of Sir
Arthur he raised continuous objections, and seemed totally opposed
to any forward movement. He pleaded, in apology for inaction, that
the cavalry was weak, the artillery badly horsed; that a march, which
should remove the British from their shipping, would interrupt their
supplies and endanger the army; and the best of the bad reasons which
he gave was the expected arrival of Sir John Moore with a strong
reinforcement. It was useless in Sir Arthur Wellesley to point out,
as he did, the advantages of an advance, with an assurance, which
proved true, that if they did not, the French would become assailants.
Sir Harry appeared to have formed a stubborn resolution of remaining
quiet that no argument or remonstrance could disturb, and Sir Arthur
Wellesley returned to his camp, convinced that the military incapacity
of his superior officer would, when it paralysed early success as
it did that of Rolica, entail upon the expedition ulterior disaster
and disgrace. It was otherwise decreed, and the decision of an enemy
wreathed the laurel on Wellesley’s brow, of which the timidity of a
feeble-minded colleague would have robbed him.

Delaborde had executed his orders to check the advance of the British
with a zeal and ability that added greatly to his military reputation.
Junot, in the interim, was actively engaged in concentrating his
brigades, and drawing every disposable man from his garrisons, to
enable him to bring a force to bear against the British, that, from its
superior formation, must ensure success. His whole corps was formed
into two divisions; Delaborde commanding one, and Loison the other,
while the reserve, composed entirely of grenadiers, was entrusted to
Kellerman. All his dispositions having been completed, the Duke of
Abrantes advanced to Vimiero, where he had ascertained that his enemy
was halted.

Sir Arthur was awakened at midnight by a German officer in charge of
the outlying picket, with the intelligence of Junot’s movements, and
an assurance that an attack was certain, as the French advance was not
above a league distant. Patrols were immediately sent out; and while
every care was taken against surprise, the line was not alarmed, nor
the men permitted to be disturbed.

Junot quitted his position on the evening of the 20th, and marched all
night by roads bad in themselves, and interrupted by numerous defiles;
consequently great delay occurred, and it was seven o’clock next
morning, when he arrived within four miles of the British outposts.
The formation of his columns was effected unseen, as the broken
ground behind which he made his dispositions, entirely concealed his
movements. The first intimation of a serious attack was only given when
a mass of Junot’s cavalry deployed in front of the picket that was
observing the Lourinho road. Perceiving instantly the point on which
the French were about to direct their column, Sir Arthur crossed the
ravine with the brigades of Ferguson, Nightingale, Aucland, and Bowes,
thus securing his weakest point--the left--before Junot had made a
demonstration against it.

Presently the enemy’s columns came on; the right by the Lourinho road,
and left marching on the plateau, occupied by the 50th and rifles.
The onset of both divisions was made with the usual impetuosity of
Frenchmen, and in both the British skirmishers were driven in.

The British right was furiously attacked. Unchecked by the light troops
covering the line, the French came boldly forward, until it found
itself directly in front of the 36th, 40th, and 71st. It deployed
instantly, and several volleys of musketry were mutually returned,
and at a distance so close as to render the effect murderous. But
the fusilade was ended quickly; the 82nd and 29th pushed forward,
and joined their comrades when pressed by an enormous superiority.
“Charge!” was the order; and a cheer, “loud, regular, and appalling,”
announced that Britain was coming on.

The French stood manfully; but though they waited the onset, they could
not withstand it. They were driven from the field--a vain attempt to
rally, when the 71st and 82nd had flung themselves on the ground to
recover breath, failed--and six guns were taken. The front rank of the
French division was literally annihilated; it lay as it had fallen, and
told with what determination it had stood, and the desperation with
which it had been assaulted.

On the left, the French column having pushed the rifles before it,
advanced upon the 50th formed in line. The regiment was strong,
numbering about nine hundred bayonets, and supported by a half brigade
of guns; and though the French had seven pieces with their column, it
suffered heavily from the British cannonade. The enemy’s advance was
made in close order of half battalions. Sheltered from the fire of the
artillery, the French halted behind a broken hillock, closed up their
ranks, and advanced to the attack. The 50th remained until this moment
with “ordered arms.” With excellent judgment, the colonel, leaving the
left wing of his regiment in line, threw his right into echelons of
companies, and ordered it to form line upon the left. But there was
not time to complete the formation, as the enemy came on, opening a
hot but inefficient fire from its flanks. Part of the right wing of
the 50th bore directly on the angle of the advancing column--and when
within twenty paces, the order was given to fire, and that to “Charge!”
succeeded. Broken totally by the close discharge, the angle of the
column forced itself on the centre; all was instantly disorganised, and
the artillery cutting their traces, added to the confusion. The British
pressed on, the French got mobbed, and assisted by part of the 20th
light dragoons, a column five times numerically superior were for two
miles fairly driven from their ground by one regiment, until they were
relieved by the French cavalry reserve, which came up in a force not to
be resisted.

While these more important operations were repulsed, the town of
Vimiero was attacked by a lesser column (Kellerman’s reserve), that
had flanked the larger, and the 43rd regiment was furiously assailed.
One company occupied the churchyard, another held some houses that
covered the road by which the French attack was made; and the fire of
both was so destructive, that the column was repelled with immense
slaughter. On the extreme left, the 97th and 52nd repulsed Delaborde
with considerable loss; on every point the attack failed, and the field
was won.

No troops fought better than the French, and no battle could have been
more determinately contested. The enemy’s reserve “performed prodigies
of valour, advancing under a cross fire of musketry and cannon, and
never giving way until the bayonets of the British troops drove them
down the descent.” But they were routed on every side; and, with
relation to the numbers engaged, the slaughter was terrific. Upwards
of three thousand Frenchmen were killed and wounded, and a number
of prisoners made, while the British loss was computed, in killed,
wounded, and missing, at seven hundred and eighty-three.

One casualty was sincerely deplored. In leading a squadron of the
20th, Lieutenant-Colonel Taylor was killed. He had charged the broken
infantry of Kellerman, and committed sad havoc among the _élite_ of the
reserve, when, surrounded by a whole brigade of French cavalry, he fell
in the _mêlée_, shot through the heart.

Sir Harry Burrard landed after the battle commenced, but very prudently
left the termination of the contest in his hands by whom the first
disposition had been made. Sir Harry was not in time to assist in the
victory--but he had ample leisure to mar its results. Wellesley urged
that this was the moment to advance, push on to Torres Vedras, place
Junot between two fires, and oblige him to begin a retreat of immense
difficulty by Alenquer and Villa Franca. All was admirably prepared for
the movement. The supply of ammunition was sufficient, provisions were
abundant, and the troops in high courage and superb discipline. The
French, on the contrary, were depressed by an unexpected defeat; and,
greatly disorganised and wearied by long marches, were certain of being
materially inconvenienced by an immediate advance of the British.

But Sir Harry was immovable. He had made his mind up to await the
arrival of Sir John Moore before he should advance a step from Vimiero.
A victory had been gained--a complete and brilliant victory. But
what was that to him? “The cavalry,” he said, “were certainly not
strengthened, nor the artillery horses improved, by the exertions
they had undergone.” Stop he would--and Junot was permitted to return
without annoyance; and the British, who should have never halted until
they had reached Lisbon, rested on the ground they won.

Is it not inconceivable, that Britain should have consigned her armies
to the leading of antiquated tacticians, bigoted in old-world notions,
and who would scarcely venture beyond a second bridge without spending
half the day in reconnoitring? But such things were--and the energies
of the first military people in the world were paralysed for half a
century, by commands being entrusted to men, who, in cases of ordinary
embarrassment, would have been found incompetent to extricate a
regiment from a difficulty. But such things were!



CHAPTER VII.

THE BATTLE OF CORUNNA.

1809.


A period of inaction succeeded the victory at Vimiero. Burrard was
superseded in his command by Sir Hew Dalrymple, and the convention
of Cintra perfected, by which an army was restored to France, that,
had Sir Arthur Wellesley’s advice been attended to, must have been
eventually destroyed or driven into such extremity as should have
produced an unconditional surrender. Other articles in this disgraceful
treaty recognised a full exercise of rights of conquest to the French,
secured to them the enormous plunder their rapacity had accumulated,
and granted an amnesty to every traitor who had abandoned his country,
and aided the invaders in effecting its subjugation. No wonder that
this precious convention occasioned in Britain a universal feeling of
disgust. No wonder that blood spilled in vain, and treasure uselessly
wasted, roused popular indignation to a pitch of excitement which no
occurrence in modern history can parallel.

Within twelve months from the commencement of the war Britain had sent
over to the Spanish armies (besides £2,000,000) 150 pieces of field
artillery, 42 thousand rounds of ammunition, 200 thousand muskets,
61 thousand swords, 79 thousand pikes, 23 million ball cartridges, 6
million leaden balls, 15 thousand barrels of gunpowder, 92 thousand
suits of clothing, 356 thousand sets of accoutrements and pouches,
310 thousand pairs of shoes, 37 thousand pairs of boots, 40 thousand
tents, 250 thousand yards of cloth, 10 thousand sets of camp equipage,
118 thousand yards of linen, 50 thousand great coats, 50 thousand
canteens, 54 thousand haversacks, with a variety of other stores, far
too numerous to be recapitulated.

The particulars of the treaty of Cintra, immediately on being known
in Britain, occasioned the recall of Sir Hew Dalrymple; while under
the plea of ill health, his colleague, Sir Harry Burrard, resigned and
returned home. What a different result the Portuguese campaign would
have exhibited had these two old gentlemen been left in a district
command, and not been allowed to check a career of victory which opened
with such glorious promise!

Sir Arthur Wellesley had already returned to Britain, and many officers
of all ranks followed his example. The command of the army devolved on
Sir John Moore, a man most deservedly respected by the country, and
popular with his soldiers.

Meanwhile, the general indication of national resistance to French
oppression on the part of the Spaniards, encouraged hopes that if
assisted by Britain, the independence of the Peninsula might be
restored. This was a consideration worthy of a statesman’s serious
regard in both France and Britain--for the thraldom or independence
of Spain was an object of vital importance. As to what might be
expected from the Spaniards themselves in any attempt made for their
own liberation, their invaders and their allies seemed to have
formed an erroneous estimate--the British over-rating the importance
of their exertions in the field, as much as the French undervalued
that patriotic impulse, which had wakened up the slumbering spirit
of the people. The British cabinet, however, determined to foster
this national feeling, and by munificent supplies and the presence
of a British army, stimulate the Spanish people to assert their lost
liberty, and fling off a yoke no longer tolerable. For this purpose,
a force of twenty thousand men was directed to be assembled at
Valladolid, and a reinforcement of thirteen thousand, under Sir David
Baird, was despatched from Britain to join them; the whole were to be
placed under the orders of Sir John Moore.

Although Sir David’s corps was landed by the middle of October,
the army of Lisbon was not in a condition to move until the end of
the month; and then, under a false belief that the direct route to
Salamanca was impracticable for the passage of artillery, the batteries
and cavalry, with a protecting brigade of three thousand infantry, were
moved by Badajoz and the Escurial, entailing on them an additional
march of upwards of one hundred and fifty miles. Worse still, a delay
in commencing operations was unavoidable, and that was attended with
the worst results.

The whole of Sir John Hope’s corps having been at last collected, and
the cavalry assembled at Villa Vicosa, the order to move forward was
given.

On the 5th of November, Sir John Moore was at Atalia, on the 8th he
reached Almeida, and on the 11th his advanced guard crossed the rivulet
that divides Spain from Portugal, and entered Cuidad Rodrigo. At San
Martin he slept in the house of the curé, and occupied the same bed
that had the former year been assigned to Junot and Loison on their
respective marches, and on the 13th he entered Salamanca.

There, disastrous news awaited him--for one of his supporting armies
was already _hors de combat_. Count Belvidere, having made an absurd
movement on Burgos, was attacked by a superior force, and his raw
levies completely routed; while previously, Blake’s army had been
utterly dispersed, and the magazines at Reynosa taken. To add to this
mass of evil tidings, intelligence arrived that the fall of Madrid
might be confidently expected, while, instead of his advance into
Spain being covered with an army of seventy thousand men, Moore found
himself in an open town without a gun, without a Spanish picket, with
only three infantry brigades, and the French outposts but three marches
distant.

Madrid fell--the news could not be credited--and it was asserted
that, though the Retiro was taken, the town held obstinately out.
The inaction of the British was generally censured; the envoy had
remonstrated on the subject; and the army did not conceal their
impatience. Influenced by these considerations, Moore determined to
make a diversion on the capital, and attack Soult, who was at Saldanha,
on the Carion. A forward movement followed--Baird was directed to march
from Astorga, and Romana was informed of the intended operation, and
requested to assist.

The decision of attacking Soult was known to the army and gave general
satisfaction. On the 16th, headquarters were at Toro, and passing
Villapondo and Valderosa, on the 20th Sir John reached Majorga, and
was joined by Baird’s division, making an united force of twenty-three
thousand five hundred infantry, two thousand four hundred cavalry,
and, including a brigade of three-pounders--from its small calibre
perfectly useless--an artillery of nearly fifty guns. Soult’s corps
amounted to sixteen thousand infantry and twelve hundred dragoons. The
great portion of the former were at Saldanha, and Debelle’s cavalry at
Sahagun.

While thus advancing, the brilliant affair between Lord Paget and the
French cavalry shed a passing glory on a series of operations, whose
results were generally so calamitous. We shall give the affair in the
words of the noble colonel of the 10th Hussars, than whom, on that
occasion, no one “by daring deed” more effectually contributed to
victory.

The Monastero Melgar Abaxo is distant about three leagues from Sahagun,
in which place a corps of seven hundred French cavalry were reported
to be lodged. As they were at some distance from the main body of
the French army, it was deemed practicable to cut them off, and Lord
Paget determined, at all events, to make the attempt. He accordingly
put himself at the head of the 10th and 15th Hussars, and in the
middle of a cold wintry night, when the direct route to Salamanca was
impracticable, for the ground was covered with snow, set off for that
purpose.

When they had ridden about two-thirds of the way, Lord Paget divided
his force, and desiring General Slade, with the 10th, to pursue the
course of the Cea, and to enter the town by that side, he himself,
followed by the 15th, wheeled off to approach it by a different route.
It was not long before his lordship’s party fell in with a picket
of the enemy; and all, except one man, were either cut down or made
prisoners. But the escape of one was as injurious, under existing
circumstances, as the escape of the whole; for the alarm was given,
and before the 15th could reach the place the enemy were ready to
receive them. It was now broad daylight, and as our troops drew near,
the French were soon formed in what appeared to be an open plain, at
no great distance from the town. The 15th were wheeled into line in a
moment, and as there was no time to be lost, they followed their leader
at a brisk trot, with the intention of charging; but when they were yet
fifty yards from the enemy, they found that a wide ditch divided them,
and that the French had availed themselves of other inequalities in the
ground, of which, when some way off, they had not been aware.

A pause was now necessarily made, but one instant served to put the
whole again in motion. The regiment, wheeling to its left, soon found a
convenient place for crossing; and though the enemy manœuvred actively
to hinder the formation, they were again in line, and advancing to
the charge, within five minutes from the commencement of the check.
A few changes of ground now took place, as each corps strove to
gain the flank of the other, but they were only a few. The British
cavalry effected its object, and then coming down at full speed upon
their opponents, who stood to receive the shock, they overthrew them
in an instant. Many were killed upon the spot, many more unhorsed,
and one hundred and fifty-seven were made prisoners, including two
lieutenant-colonels. On this occasion the British cavalry amounted only
to four hundred men, whilst that of the French fell not short of seven
hundred.

The weather continued bad; the troops were a good deal knocked up by
forced marching, and Sir John halted on the 22nd and 23rd for supplies,
intending by a night march to reach the Carion, and attack Soult on the
morrow. Every account made the British numerically greater than the
enemy, and though the French had been reinforced, still Moore’s army
was stronger by fully five thousand men.

All dispositions were made for the intended attack. At eight at night,
the army were to move in two columns, and the right, which was to force
the bridge and penetrate to Saldanha, was actually getting under
arms, when couriers arrived “loaded with heavy tidings.” The French
were moving in all directions to cut the British off; the corps which
had been marching south, was suddenly halted at Talavera; two strong
divisions were moving from Placentia; the Badajoz army was in full
march on Salamanca--and Napoleon himself in the field, determined, as
it was reported, to “sweep the British before him to the ocean.”

This was, in truth, disastrous intelligence. The orders to advance
were countermanded instantly, the troops, who had already been
mustering, were retired to their quarters, and the object of the
expedition seemed virtually ended. The campaign was indeed a tissue of
mistakes--operating with feeble allies, acting on false information,
advancing to-day, retiring to-morrow, with everything to harass and
nothing to excite the soldier, until at last, the ill-fated and
ill-planned expedition terminated in a ruinous retreat.

In making preparations for a rapid march before an enemy, that from
report was overwhelming if not avoided, the 23rd of December was
consumed, and the general plan for regressive operations was arranged
by instantly retreating on Galicia.

All arrangements being completed, Moore commenced retreating on the
24th. Hope’s division fell back on Castro Gonzalo, and Baird’s on
Valencia; while cavalry patrols were pushed forward on the Carion,
with orders to retire at nightfall of the 25th, giving the reserve and
light infantry, which formed the rear-guard, a start of some three or
four hours in advance. All was admirably executed--and the columns,
unmolested, reached their respective destinations.

The retreat continued, marked by some occasional affairs between the
cavalry of the advanced and rear guard, which terminated invariably
in favour of the latter. The hussar regiments behaved most nobly, and
on every occasion, regardless of numbers, or the more discouraging
movements of a retreat, they sought the combat, and always came off the
conquerors.

The infantry already began to experience the annoyance of long marches,
severe weather, and a very indifferent commissariate. To march over
cut-up roads, and through an exhausted country, where no friendly
place of strength protects, no well-supplied magazine refreshes, soon
harasses the overloaded soldier. But that, when accomplished in the
dead of winter--in cold and darkness, sleet and rain--was enough to
have subdued the spirit of any army but a British one, retiring under
every privation, and with seventy thousand veteran troops marching on
their flanks and rear.

The army reached Benevente on the 27th--and the crossing of the Esla,
though exceedingly troublesome, was effected with inconsiderable
loss. The roads were wretched, the weather bad, and the French
pursuit marked by the fiery character of their emperor. He crossed the
Carpenteras, regardless of obstacles that would have discouraged the
boldest--and, in a hurricane of sleet and hail, passed his army over
the Guadarama, by a route declared impracticable even to a mountain
peasant.

This bold operation, worthy of the conqueror of Italy, was followed
up by an immediate advance. On the 26th the main body of the British
continued retreating on Astorga--the bridge across the Esla was
destroyed--and the night of the 27th passed over in tolerable quiet.
In the morning, however, the French were seen actively employed. Five
hundred cavalry of the guard tried for the ford above the ruined
bridge, found it, and passed over. The pickets forming the rear-guard
at once confronted them, and, led on by Colonel Otway, charged
repeatedly, and checked the leading squadron. General Stuart put
himself at the head of the pickets, while Lord Anglesea rode back to
bring up the 10th. Charges were made on both sides; the pickets gave
ground, the French advanced, but the 10th were speedily at hand, and
came forward. The pickets rallied, they cheered and cut boldly in at
speed, the French were overthrown and driven across the river, with the
loss of their Colonel (Le Fevre), and seventy officers and men.

This brilliant encounter had the results that boldness wins. The French
kept a respectful distance, and thus, the column was enabled to gain
Astorga without further molestation.

But the danger was momentarily increasing. From prisoners taken in the
cavalry affair on the Esla, it was ascertained that, on the preceding
evening, the headquarters of Napoleon’s own corps were but sixteen
miles from the bivouacs of the British, and to reach Villa Franca
before the French was imperatively necessary. On that event how much
depended--for on the possession of that road, in a great degree, would
rest the safety or destruction of the British, as it opens through
a defile into a country that for miles renders cavalry movements
impracticable, and entirely protects the flanks of a retiring army.

It is astonishing how quickly a retreat in bad weather destroys the
_morale_ of the best army. The British divisions had marched from
Sabugal on the 24th in the highest order; on the 30th, on reaching
Astorga, their disorganisation had commenced; they seemed a mob
flying from a victorious enemy, and General Moore himself exhibited a
despondency that was apparent to all around him.

That he was an officer of great distinction everyone acknowledged
during his life, and posterity will never deny it; but it was too
manifest that a fear of responsibility, a dread of doing that which
was wrong, of running himself and his troops into difficulties from
which they might not be able to extricate themselves, were a great
deal too active to permit either his talents or his judgment properly
to exert their influence. Sir John Moore had earned the highest
reputation as a general of division; he was aware of this, and perhaps
felt no inclination to risk it; at all events he was clearly incapable
of despising partial obstacles in the pursuit of some great ultimate
advantage; in one word, he was not a Wellington. Of this no more
convincing proof need be given than the fact that, even at the moment
when the preparations for the brief advance were going on, his whole
heart and soul seemed turned towards the Portuguese frontier.

Romana had unfortunately given up the Leon route, and marching on
Astorga, encumbering the roads with the ruins of his baggage, and worse
still, filling the villages he passed through with crowds of ragged
followers unable to get on--some from absolute decrepitude and want,
and more from being attacked by fever of the worst type.

The retreat was renewed next morning, and the marching continued with
such constancy that, by abandoning the sick and wounded, wasting the
ammunition, and destroying the stores, the British outstripped pursuit,
and on the 3rd of January found themselves in comparative safety. The
cavalry, as usual, distinguished themselves; and at Cacabelos, where
the rear-guard was overtaken, behaving with their customary _esprit_,
they repelled the advance of the French hussars, and prevented the
light troops from being surrounded and cut off. Indeed the escape of
the rifles was wonderful. They were retreating through the town, and
part of the rear-guard had already crossed the bridge, when the French
cavalry came suddenly on in overwhelming force, and galloping into the
rear companies of the 95th, succeeded in making some prisoners.

The rifles instantly broke into skirmishing order, and commenced
retiring up the hill, when a body of voltigeurs rushed to the support
of the cavalry, and the affair became serious. The 95th, however, had
now thrown themselves into the vineyards behind the town, and kept up
a rapid and well-directed fire. The French attempted to get in their
rear, and charged boldly up the road, led on by General Colbert. But
the fusilade from the vineyard was maintained with such precision that
the French were driven back, leaving a number of dead on the field,
among whom their brave and daring leader was included.

Sir John was also threatened with attack at Villa Franca. A strong
column of infantry appeared on the heights, in full march on that
division which was in position on the opposite hill. The artillery
opened, and an engagement appeared inevitable. But checked by the
cannonade, the forward movement of the French was arrested; and Sir
John, anxious to reach the better position of Lugo, continued his
retreat, and prudently avoided coming to a general action, where the
ground had no military advantage to induce him to risk a combat. The
main body marched to Herrieras, the reserve to Villa Franca, and the
rear-guard moved at ten o’clock, and reached its bivouac at midnight.

The cavalry, no longer serviceable in a country rough, hilly, and
wooded, with numerous enclosures around vineyards and plantations
of mulberry trees, were sent on to Lugo; the infantry and artillery
marching for the same place. During the whole day and night that
distressing movement was executed, and forty miles were passed over
roads on every side broken up, and in places, knee-deep. The men
dropped down by whole sections on the wayside and died--some with
curses, some with the voice of prayer in their mouths--while women and
children, of whom an immense number had injudiciously been allowed to
accompany the army, shared a similar fate.

Horrible scenes momentarily occurred--children frozen in their mothers’
arms, women taken in labour, and, of course, perishing with their
ill-fated progeny. Some were trying by the madness of intoxication to
stimulate their worn-out frames to fresh exertion--or, when totally
exhausted, to stupefy the agonies of the slow but certain death that
cold and hunger must inevitably produce before another sun dawned.
It was awful to observe the different modes, when abandoned to die,
in which the miserable wretches met their fate. Some lay down in
sullen composure--others vented their despair in oaths, and groans,
and curses--and not a few in heart-rending prayers to heaven that the
duration of their sufferings might be abridged.

From an early period of the retreat, the discipline of the troops
was shaken by rapid movements and an absence of regular supplies.
Hence, the men were obliged to shift as they best could, and this
laxity in discipline gradually increasing, ended in frequent scenes of
drunkenness, rioting, and robbery. Every town and village was sacked
in search of food, the wine stores plundered, and the casks, in mere
wantonness, broken and spilled. Nothing could check the licentious
spirit of the troops; and when a man was hanged at Benivedre, even that
sad example had not the least effect, for many of the marauders were
detected in the act of plundering within sight of the fatal tree.

During this distressing movement, the French had pressed the British
rear-guard closely, and a constant scene of skirmishing ensued. Though
invariably checked by the light troops, still the army was hourly
becoming less effective, every league reducing it both in numbers
and resources. Quantities of arms and necessaries were abandoned or
destroyed, and two bullock carts loaded with dollars were thrown over
a precipice into the bed of a mountain torrent. All these things
proved how desperately reduced that once fine and well-appointed army
had become. Indeed its appearance was rather that of a procession of
maimed invalids with a caravan of sick soldiers, than an army operating
in front of a determined enemy, and expecting momentarily to come to
action.

It was a matter of surprise to all, that the French leader did not
force on an engagement; but, on the contrary, Soult followed this
half-ruined army with a caution that appeared unaccountable and
unnecessary. Still the moment of attack could not be distant; and it
was certain that the Marshal only waited for some embarrassment in the
march, to throw his leading divisions on the retreating brigades of
Britain, and force on a decisive battle.

This event was particularly to be dreaded while passing the bridge and
village of Constantino. A long and difficult mountain road leads to the
summit of a bold height, down which it winds again by a gradual descent
till it meets the bridge. The occupation of this height, before the
columns had passed the river, would expose them to a heavy fire. Sir
John Moore determined to check the French pursuit, and hold the hill,
until the rear of the main division had cleared the bridge and village.
His dispositions were quickly made; the 28th regiment with the rifle
corps were drawn up beside the river, and the 20th, 52nd, and 91st on a
hill immediately in their rear, flanked by the horse artillery.

The French attacked with their usual spirit. The cavalry and
tirailleurs advanced against the bridge; but the fire from the British
riflemen, assisted by the guns on the height, drove them back with
loss. A second and a third attack, made with equal boldness, ended in
a similar result, and darkness put a stop to the fighting. The French
withdrew their light troops, the British continued their retreat, and
before morning broke the rear-guard joined the army, now bivouacked in
position, or cantoned in and around the town of Lugo.

The concentration of so many troops at this wretched place produced a
scene of hurry and confusion with which the distant cannonade at the
bridge of Constantino seemed in perfect keeping.

On one side was to be seen the soldier of every rank who had secured a
habitation to shelter him, but whom duty or inclination occasioned to
wander through the crowds of people, and deeply mudded streets of the
town; on the other, the disconsolate person that made his appearance
after the Alcalde’s ingenuity had been stretched to the uttermost in
procuring quarters for the troops already arrived, and whose _personal
friends_ had been subjected to the unusual order for admitting
strangers. The pitiableness of his case was either to be discovered
by a resigned and woeful visage, or by certain ebullitions of temper,
destined to waste themselves in the desert air. Next were to be seen
the conductors of baggage, toiling through the streets, their laden
mules almost sinking under the weight of ill-arranged burdens swinging
from side to side, while the persons in whose charge they had followed
the divisions appeared undecided which to execrate most, the roads, the
mules, the Spaniards, or the weather. These were succeeded by the dull,
heavy sound of the passing artillery; then came the Spanish fugitives
from the desolating line of the armies. Detachments with sick or lamed
horses scrambled through the mud, while, at intervals, the report of
a horse-pistol knelled the termination to the sufferings of an animal
that a few days previously, full of life and high in blood, had borne
its rider not against, but over, the ranks of Gallic chivalry. The
effect of this scene was rendered more striking by the distant report
of cannon and musketry, and more gloomy by torrents of rain, and a
degree of cold worthy of a Polish winter.

Preparations were made for a battle, and Sir John Moore seemed
determined to retreat no further. Notwithstanding the British were
suffering from cold, and wet, and hunger, they fell into their position
with alacrity. The Minho protected their right, and a ravine separated
them from the French, who, already in force, occupied the heights, and
were evidently preparing for an immediate effort.

On the 6th January the French deployed upon the heights, and the
British stood to their arms. Some hours passed; each line looked at
the other, as if waiting for its opening movement. The day passed, and
at night the hostile armies occupied the same bivouacs on which their
brigades had rested the preceding evening.

The 7th came; with the first dawn, as if to make up for its previous
inactivity, the French guns opened. Their battery was but weak, and the
fire of the British artillery silenced it. A pause ensued, the day wore
on, the evening was closing, when a column of considerable strength,
covered by a cloud of tirailleurs, steadily mounted the hill, driving
in the pickets and a wing of the 76th. The 51st was instantly moved to
its assistance, musketry was interchanged, a bayonet rush succeeded,
the French were driven down the hill, and operations terminated.

Darkness came on, a wild and stormy night, a lonely hill, no fire, no
food--such was the bivouac of Lugo; such the wretched and cheerless
situation of the harassed but unconquerable islanders.

As the morning of the 8th dawned, the British formed line, and prepared
coolly for the expected encounter; but it passed over, and the enemy
made no hostile movement. The troops had been ordered to bivouac as
they best could, and in a short time a number of rude huts were erected
to defend them from the inclemency of the coming night. But it was not
intended to remain longer before Lugo. When darkness hid their retreat,
the British filed off silently by the rear. Through a frightful storm
of hail and wind, their march was bravely executed; and leaving Lugo
and Valmela behind them, they halted at Betanzos on the 10th.

Here the exhausted soldiery were halted from sheer necessity. They were
literally marched to a stand still, and, although the rain fell in
torrents, they lay down upon the soaked earth, and in that comfortless
situation remained until at evening the ranks were again formed, and
the retreat continued on Corunna, where Sir John had now decided on
embarking the ruins of his army.

Fortunately for the wearied troops, the French, deceived by the fires
left burning when the British commenced their night march from Lugo,
did not discover the movement until daylight, and thus twelve hours
were gained on the pursuers. This lost time could not be recovered; and
although the whole of the 10th January was passed in Betanzos, to allow
stragglers to rejoin their regiments, no serious attempt was made to
embarrass the remainder of the march, and the leading division reached
Corunna at noon of the 11th, while the reserve occupied the adjoining
villages, and the remaining brigades took up their quarters in the
suburbs.

Corunna afforded a very indifferent position to offer battle on. There
was one, but its extent made it untenable by an army so weak in number
as the British. After a close examination, the rising ground above the
village of Elvina, a mile in front of the town, was the place selected
by the general; the position was accordingly marked out, and the
brigades moved to their allotted posts.

A ridge commanded the Betanzos road and formed the left of the line,
and on this General Hope’s division was placed. Sir David Baird’s
was next in station, and occupied a succession of knolls that swept
inwards, and inclined to a valley beyond the Vigo road. Over the low
grounds the rifle corps were extended, appuied upon Frazer’s division,
which, placed in echelon, covered the principal approach to Corunna.
Paget’s division was in reserve behind Hope’s, and occupied a village
half a mile in the rear.

The enemy appeared beyond the Mero while these dispositions were being
made; but, with the exception of a partial cannonade, no hostile
demonstration occurred. On the 14th, the artillery had ceased on both
sides, an unusual quiet ensued, and nothing seemed likely to produce
any immediate excitement, when the explosion of four thousand barrels
of gunpowder burst upon the astonished ear. It is impossible to
describe the effect. The unexpected and tremendous crash seemed for
the moment to have deprived every person of reason and recollection;
“the soldiers flew to their arms, nor was it until a tremendous column
of smoke, ascending from the heights in front, marked from whence
the astounding shock proceeded, that reason resumed its sway. It is
impossible ever to forget the sublime appearance of the dark dense
cloud of smoke that ascended, shooting up gradually like a gigantic
tower into the clear blue sky. It appeared fettered in one enormous
mass; nor did a particle of dust or vapour, obscuring its form, seem to
escape as it rolled upwards in majestic circles.”

On the 15th the fleet hove in sight, and immediate preparations were
made to effect an embarkation of the army. The women and children, with
the sick and wounded, were directly carried on board; a large portion
of the artillery and stores was sent afterwards; and the cavalry, after
destroying the few horses that still remained, were embarked. None but
the infantry, and of these such only as were effective, were now left;
and the belief was general, that they too, would be permitted to retire
from their position unmolested.

Everything on the 16th continued quiet. The boats pulled from the
shipping to the beach, and orders were issued for the divisions to move
down, and prepare for immediate embarkation; Sir John Moore was on
horseback to visit the outposts, for the last time, before they should
be withdrawn, when an officer came up hastily, and announced that the
French were under arms. The intelligence was correct; for an instant
fusilade commenced between their tirailleurs and the British pickets,
as their light troops pushed forward, covering the advance of four
compact columns. Two directed their march upon the right, one moved
upon the centre, while the fourth threatened the left of the British
line.

The right, consisting of the 4th, 42nd, and 50th, supported by the
guards, were fiercely attacked, and the reserve ordered to sustain
it. The French threw out a cloud of skirmishers, supported by the
fire of eleven pieces of artillery, and, driving the advanced posts
before them, came forward with their customary boldness. On deploying
partially, their line extended considerably beyond the extreme right
of the British, but this was disregarded, and instead of waiting the
attack, the regiments gallantly advanced to meet it. The 4th suddenly
refusing its right wing, showed a double front, and unawed by a
superior enemy, undaunted by a heavy and well-directed cannonade, the
manœuvre of this splendid regiment was executed with all the coolness
and precision of a parade.

For a time the irregularity of ground intersected by numerous
enclosures, kept the combatants apart; but these were speedily
surmounted, and the French assault was made and repelled, and the
village of Elvina, which had for a few minutes been in possession of
the enemy, was recovered by the 50th with the bayonet.

The action was now general along the line. The 42nd, and a battalion of
the Guards, by a brilliant charge, drove back the French; and, failing
to force, Soult endeavoured to turn the British right, and accordingly
marched a column in its rear. That the reserve attacked, and repulsed
it with heavy loss. In every point Soult’s attacks failed--and,
altering his dispositions, he took ground considerably to the right.

While the 42nd were lowering their bayonets, and Sir John Moore was
encouraging the charge, a round shot knocked him from his horse,
shattering his left arm at the shoulder--while immediately before,
Sir David Baird had been wounded and removed. But the fall of their
generals produced no serious results. Corunna was not a battle
of manœuvre, but a field of determined resistance. The officers
commanding the different battalions fought their regiments gallantly;
the dispositions for the engagement were simple and understood; the
attempts upon the left and centre were repulsed; and the French, beaten
on every point, fell back as night came on.

Thus ended the conflict of Corunna; and when every disadvantage is
taken into consideration under which the British fought, its results
were glorious, and the courage and coolness displayed throughout most
honourable to the troops employed. The numbers engaged were certainly
in favour of the French. Without its light brigade, which had retreated
and embarked at Vigo, the British divisions scarcely reached to fifteen
thousand; while Soult was reinforced in the morning, and mustered from
eighteen to twenty thousand men. The loss on both sides was severe;
that of the British amounting to eight hundred killed and wounded,
while the French admitted theirs to be at least double that number.

Yet it was but a melancholy triumph. The sad reverses of the retreat,
the abandonment of the country, and the death of a brave and beloved
commander, clouded the hour of conquest, and threw a depressing gloom
around, that seemed fitter to mark a defeat than attend a well-won
victory. No further attempt was made by the enemy; the brigades were
removed after dark, the embarkation continued, and on the afternoon of
the 17th, the whole fleet was under weigh, steering for Britain with a
leading wind.

The severity of a wound like Sir John Moore’s precluded, from the first
moment it was received, all hope of his surviving beyond an hour or
two. The arm was torn nearly from the shoulder, and the collar-bone
partially carried away; but notwithstanding the desperate hemorrhage
that ensued, the sufferer preserved his recollection, and remained in
mental possession to the last.

He was carried from the field in a blanket by six soldiers, who evinced
their sympathy by tears; and when a spring waggon came up, and it was
proposed that Sir John should be transferred to it, the poor fellows
respectfully objected, “as they would keep step, and carry him more
easily.” Their wishes were attended to, and the dying general was
conveyed slowly to his quarters in the town, occasionally stopping
the bearers to look back upon the field, whenever an increasing fire
arrested his attention. All hope was over; he lingered for a little,
talking feebly, but collectedly, to those around, and dividing his
last thoughts apparently, between his country and his kindred. The
kindliness of his disposition was in death remarkable. Turning to an
aide-de-camp, he desired to be remembered to his sister, and, feebly
pressing Colonel Anderson’s hand, his head dropped back, and he died
without a struggle.

As a wish had been expressed by the departed, that he should be laid
in the field on which he fell, the rampart of the citadel was happily
chosen for his “resting place.” A working party of the 9th turned
up the earth--and at midnight, wrapped in a cloak and blanket, his
uncoffined remains were interred by the officers of his staff; the
burial-service was read by torch-light, earth fell on kindred clay, the
grave was filled, and, in the poet’s words, “They left him alone with
his glory.”

In every private relation, Sir John Moore’s character was perfect, and
his professional career had always been distinguished. Of no man had
higher hopes been formed, and hence, probably, more was expected by
his country than either his means or his talents could effect. By one
party he was unjustly censured, by another injudiciously praised; and
in this ferment of opinion it is difficult to say whether his military
reputation was most endangered by the obloquy of his enemies or the
over-praise of his friends.



CHAPTER VIII.

THE BATTLE OF TALAVERA.

1809.


The immediate consequence of the embarkation, was the surrender of
Corunna on the second day from that on which the once proud army of
Britain quitted the coast of Spain. Ferrol soon followed the example,
and in both these places an immense supply of stores and ammunition was
obtained. All effective resistance was apparently at an end, and French
dominion seemed established in Gallicia more strongly than it had ever
been before.

In every part of Spain the cause of freedom appeared hopeless. One
campaign was closed, and never did one end more hopelessly; an
unvarying sense of misfortune from the commencement, it seemed to have
withered every national feeling that might have existed in Spanish
breasts. Fortresses that should have held out, provisioned, garrisoned,
and open to receive supplies from Britain, surrendered to a weak
army, who could not command “a battering gun or siege store within
four hundred miles.” In fact, Spanish resistance seemed a mockery.
Their military force was now the ruins of Romana’s army, and some
half-starved fugitives who occasionally appeared in Estremadura and La
Mancha, while the French had nearly two hundred thousand veteran troops
covering the whole country, and these too in masses, that set any
hostile demonstration at defiance.

Portugal, in its military footing, was nearly on a par with Spain.
A British corps, under Sir John Craddock, garrisoned Lisbon, and,
that place excepted, there were no troops in the kingdom on which
the slightest dependence could be placed. The appointment of Marshal
Beresford to a chief command produced in time a wonderful reformation.
The British system of drill was successfully introduced, and, before
the war ended, the Portuguese, when brigaded with the British, were
always respectable in the field, and sometimes absolutely brilliant.
At this period, there was but one national force in the least degree
formidable to the invaders, and that was the Spanish Guerillas.

The Spanish armies in the course of the Peninsular campaign had met
so many and discouraging defeats, that their military reputation sunk
below the standard of mediocrity. They were despised by their enemies,
and distrusted by their allies, and whether from the imbecility of
the government, the ignorance of their leaders, or some national
peculiarity, their inefficiency became so notorious, that no important
operation could be entrusted to them with any certainty of its being
successful. As an organised force, the Spanish army was contemptible;
while, in desultory warfare, the peasantry were invaluable. With few
exceptions, the history of Spanish service would be a mere detail
of presumption and defeat; while their neighbours, the Portuguese,
merited the perfect approbation of their officers, and proved worthy of
standing in the battlefield by the side of British soldiers.

Under such unpromising circumstances as we have described, intelligence
was received that three French armies were about to move on Portugal;
Soult from Gallicia, Lapisse from Salamanca, and Victor from the Tagus.
In fact, Portugal would have been soon at the mercy of the enemy, and
Spain could have offered but a feeble resistance, when Sir Arthur
Wellesley arrived to take the chief command.

He instantly proceeded to adopt measures that should enable him to
take the field, and the army was concentrated, with the exception of
Mackenzie’s brigade, at Coimbra, and reviewed. The entire numbered
twenty-six thousand men, of which six thousand formed the separate
corps under Marshal Beresford. With the Germans, the British brigades
mustered about seventeen thousand; the detached corps under Mackenzie,
amounting to nearly three thousand, of which one-half was cavalry; and
a farther augmentation was effected by brigading one Portuguese, with
every two of the British battalions.

In the meantime Soult’s position became extremely dangerous. A British
army in his front, bands of guerillas in his rear; one flank hemmed
in by Silviera at Amarante; and the ocean on the other. But that able
marshal perceived the difficulties of his situation, and deciding
at once to secure an open road in his rear, he despatched Delaborde
and Loison to recover Amarante. The task was a tedious and doubtful
operation; and for twelve days the place was assaulted and maintained.
At last, Soult in person came forward in strength, and Silviera was
driven from the bridge over the Tamaga, with the loss of his cannon,
and the French retreat was for the present secured.

From the moment Sir Arthur Wellesley landed in Portugal, the
character of the war had changed; and, notwithstanding the numerous
and discouraging drawbacks upon a bold career which the obstinacy of
the Spaniards and the deficiency of his own means were continually
presenting, before the masterly decision of the British general,
all obstacles ultimately gave way; and victory, which had hovered
doubtfully over many a hard-contested field, at last rested on his
banners, and wreathed her laurels round his brows.

The crossing of the Douro was, in military estimation, as bold and
well-arranged an operation as any that marked Wellesley’s Peninsular
career. The passage of a river in the face of an enemy with every
assistance from pontoons and ferryage, is considered a hazardous
undertaking; but, circumstanced as the British commander was, the thing
was generally set down as impracticable, and Soult was unprepared for
the attempt. When the news was brought that the enemy was crossing
at Villa Nova, the marshal ridiculed the notion, and remained in his
quarters until two in the afternoon. He was then obliged precipitately
to quit the city; and so suddenly were Wellesley’s measures executed,
that the dinner prepared for the duke of Dalmatia, was served up to the
British general and his staff. War is, certes, a game of chances; and
little did the French marshal suppose, when at noon he regulated the
_carte_ presented by his _maître d’hôtel_, that he was then civilly
arranging an excellent repast for his opponent. Yet such was the case.
Wellesley succeeded Soult--and within a few hours the same roof
covered the victor and the vanquished.

Nothing could exceed the irregularity of the French retreat. Before
they could be persuaded that the passage of the Douro was seriously
designed, the British were charging through the suburbs; and instead
of retiring with an orderly formation on the advance of the enemy,
the French rear-guard got mobbed together on the road, and allowed an
opportunity to the cavalry of their pursuers to act with an audacity
and success that the weakness of their squadrons could never have
warranted, had not a considerable panic been previously occasioned,
by the precipitation with which Soult’s divisions were hurried from
the city. Night came most opportunely, and ended the pursuit, enabling
the French marshal to unite himself with Loison, from whom he received
the unwelcome intelligence that the bridge of Amarante was destroyed.
Soult’s situation was almost desperate; his only line of retreat was
by a mountain track; and, by taking it, he was obliged to cross the
pass of Ruivans, a long narrow bridge, without a parapet on either
side, spanning a frightful precipice. Should this be occupied, and no
doubt Beresford was marching thither, nothing could save his army. With
excellent judgment, he abandoned his artillery and baggage, pushed
rapidly forward, and, having forced the Portuguese pickets which here
and there occupied the mountain passes, he out-marched Silviera by
several hours, and halted his rear-guard at Salamonde, to cover the
bridges of Saltador and Porto Nova, while his columns were defiling.

Here, however, he was overtaken and brought to action, on the 16th
June, by Sir Arthur. Although the position was strong, and the
brigade of Guards were the only infantry come up, the British general
instantly made his dispositions for attack. The left was turned by the
rifle corps, the Guards advancing boldly in front. After delivering
a volley at the head of the column when it showed itself, the French
precipitately fled--and, hurrying through the village in their rear,
succeeded, under cover of darkness, in escaping. Some delay in clearing
a defile allowed the horse artillery to come up, and their rapid fire
did considerable execution before the crowd of fugitives could get
beyond its range.

The next morning’s dawn renewed the pursuit; and every turn of the
road, cumbered with broken vehicles and deserted baggage, showed how
severely the French army had been pressed. The bridge was nearly
impassable from dead men and slain horses laid there in heaps by the
grape and canister of the British guns. Arms, accoutrements, ham-strung
mules, guns, tumbrils, knapsacks filled with silver plate, tapestry,
and other valuable plunder were strewn indiscriminately along the line.
To add to this scene of waste and suffering, the villages the advancing
army entered were either in a blaze, or already reduced to ashes; for
between the French troops and peasantry a deadly war of extermination
was being carried on, and on both sides deeds of cruelty were every
day perpetrated that can hardly be credited or described. Indeed, the
French retreat through the Gallician mountains was only paralleled by
the British on Corunna; with this exception, that many a straggler from
the British columns was saved by the humanity of the Spaniards, while
the unhappy Frenchman who lagged but a few hundred yards behind the
rearguard, was butchered by the infuriated peasantry, bent on the work
of slaughter and burning for vengeance on an enemy, who, in his day of
conquest, and dominion, had taught the lesson of cruelty now practised
so unrelentingly on himself.

Soult turning from Montalegre towards Orense, and a French corps from
Estremadura having moved on Alcantara, induced Sir Arthur Wellesley to
discontinue the pursuit. The French marshal crossed the frontier on the
18th with barely nineteen thousand men, his guns, stores, and baggage
abandoned to the conquerors. Ten weeks, perfect in every arm, that army
had passed through Orense on its march to Oporto, mustering twenty-six
thousand veteran soldiers. A short period had wrought a fearful change,
and even the debris of that once splendid corps was only extricated
from total destruction by the admirable tact and unbending _hardiesse_
of their brave and gifted leader.

On reaching Abrantes on the 7th July, it was correctly ascertained
that, instead of retiring on Madrid, Victor was concentrating at
Merida, intending, probably, to cross the Guadiana, and attack Cuesta
before the British could come to his assistance. Propositions therefore
for a combined movement were made by Sir Arthur Wellesley to the
“Spanish general,” and willingly acceded to, and the British moved
forward to the Teitar, to unite, as it was believed, in an operation
upon Madrid.

A most able plan for marching at once for the recovery of the capital
was arranged at a conference between the allied commanders. The British
and Spanish armies, taking the right bank of the Tagus, were to advance
directly forward. Venegas, with fourteen thousand Spaniards, was
to threaten Aranjuez, and, if possible, take possession of Toledo;
while two other Spanish divisions should hold the passes of Banos and
Perales; and five thousand Portuguese, under Sir Robert Wilson, were to
act independently, and annoy the French flanks and rear as they best
could.

The British consequently moved by Salvatiera and Placentia, effecting a
junction with Cuesta at Oropesa on the 20th of July. On the 22nd Victor
had retired and taken a position on the Alberche. The opportunity was
at once given for attacking him, but Cuesta obstinately declined; and
Victor, hearing that Wilson was already in his rear at Escalona, made
a night march on Torrijos.

Cuesta was a singular medley of opposite qualities. He was exceedingly
brave, had some daring, overweening pride, and a most asinine
obstinacy. Finding it desirable for the prosperity of the common
cause to submit to the old man’s folly, Sir Arthur Wellesley acted
with singular forbearance. It had been arranged that Victor should
be attacked on the 23rd, and when the British general reached his
confederate’s quarters to arrange the necessary details on the evening
of the 22nd, Cuesta was asleep, and no one dared to waken him. At
dawn, the British divisions were under arms, but Cuesta could not be
disturbed till seven! At last an interview did take place, and then
the weak old man positively declined to fight, because the day was
_Sunday_. Victor had but twenty thousand men with him at the moment.
The Alberche was fordable--the right and centre assailable; Cuesta’s
army numbered forty-seven thousand, and Wellesley’s about twenty-one.
Was ever such an opportunity lost? and all, too, through the stupid
bigotry of a sleepy-headed Spaniard.

While Sir Arthur halted at Talavera, having two divisions across the
river at Casa Leguas, Cuesta followed the French, who as he persuaded
himself were retreating, but Sebastiani had marched from Toledo and
joined Victor, while Joseph Buonaparte, having united his corps to
Jourdan’s, was hastening to a common centre. The whole united at
Torrijos, forming a corps _d’armée_ of nearly fifty thousand men.

Cuesta, with all his Spanish obstinacy, would still insist that the
French were not concentrating, but retreating, but the delusion was
short. Victor suddenly attacked him, and as his retreat was most
disorderly, nothing but prompt assistance from Sherbrooke’s division
could have saved the stupid old man from destruction. When this was
effected, the Guards crossed the river, leaving Mackenzie’s division in
possession of the wood and convent on the right bank of the Alberche.

A recent deliverance seemed to have had no effect upon Spanish
obstinacy. Though certain of being attacked, Cuesta lay loosely on the
Alberche, into which, had his army been defeated, it must have been
driven pell-mell. Happily, Sir Arthur, in reconnoitring the ground in
the neighbourhood, discovered an extensive line on which both armies
might be placed to their mutual disadvantage. He took his measures
with such promptitude, and issued his orders with such coolness and
perspicuity, that every battalion, Spanish as well as British, stepped
into the very spot which his admirable foresight had marked out for it.

The position was about two miles in length, extending perpendicularly
from the Tagus, on which the right rested in the town of Talavera.
It was partially retrenched, having an intersected and most difficult
country in its front. The centre was more open; but the left terminated
favourably on a bold and commanding height, overlooking a considerable
valley, which separated the left of the position from a range of rocky
mountains. To the Spaniards the right was allotted, it being considered
nearly unattackable, while the British defended the more accessible
ground upon the left.

Talavera stands on the northern bank of the Tagus, the houses reaching
down to the water’s edge. The two armies were drawn up in line; the
British on the left, extending from the town nearly to the Sierra
de Gata, its extreme flank occupying a bold height near Alatuza de
Segusella, and having in its front a difficult ravine, and on its
flank a deep valley. To the Spaniards the right was assigned. Their
battalions were stationed among olive groves, with walls and fences
interspersed, and an embankment running along the road, that formed an
excellent breastwork, and rendered their position nearly unassailable.
It was necessary to secure the point of junction where the British
right touched Cuesta’s left, and to effect this, ten guns were placed
in battery on the summit of a bold knoll, with a British division to
protect them, and a strong cavalry corps in reserve. In the general
disposition of the troops Campbell’s division was on the right of the
British, Sherbrooke’s division adjoining; Mackenzie occupied the next
portion of the battle-ground, while the height upon the left, the key
of the position, was intrusted to General Hill.

During the morning of the 27th July, the troops had been marching on
the different points marked for their occupation, and had taken ground
hitherto unmolested by the enemy; but at noon Mackenzie’s division was
suddenly and furiously assailed by two heavy columns, which attacked
the wood and convent. Partially surprised, the 87th and 88th regiments
were thrown into a momentary confusion; and the French penetrated
between the two brigades which formed the division. Immediately, by
the exertions of their officers, the 31st, 45th, and 60th rifles were
brought forward, and these regiments covered their companions, while
they retired from the wood into the plain, retreating in beautiful
order along the heights on the left of the position which they were
directed to occupy.

The enemy continued their attack, and it had now extended partially
along the whole line, growing more animated as the evening began to
fall. The left, where the British stood, at once appeared the grand
object of the marshals. They directed a strong force against it,
forming their infantry into columns of battalions, which advanced in
double quick, supported by a furious cannonade.

Mackenzie’s division having retired a little, and, at the moment,
forming a second line, the brunt of the assault fell upon a smaller
brigade under General Donkin, then in possession of the height. The
French, though they came on with imposing bravery, were checked in
front; but from the weakness of his brigade, Donkin’s flank was turned
on the left, and the hill behind crowned by the enemy.

But that success was momentary. Hill instantly led up the 48th, 29th,
and 1st battalion of detachments. A close and murderous volley from
the British was followed by a charge. The French were forced from the
position with great loss; and the ridge was again carried by a wing of
the 29th with the bayonet.

There was a brief space of quiet; but determined to win the key of the
position, though darkness had now set in, the French in great force
once more rushed forward to wrest the height from its defenders, and in
the gloom the assailants and the assailed nearly touched each other.
The red flash of a well-delivered volley disclosed to the British the
dark array that threatened them. The order was given to advance, and
again the British bayonet drove the columns down the hill.

No fighting could have been more desperate than that which marked this
night attack. A feint had been made by Lapisse upon the Germans in the
centre, while, with the _élite_ of their infantry, Ruffin and Vilatte
ascended the heights, which, at every loss, they seemed more resolute
in winning. A terrific slaughter ensued. Could it be otherwise? So
desperately was this night fighting maintained, and the regiments were
so closely engaged, that in the _mêlée_, some of the men fought with
clubbed muskets.

These signal repulses of a powerful and gallant enemy could not but
cost a heavy expenditure of blood. Many brave officers had fallen,
and at this period of the conflict the killed and wounded amounted to
upwards of eight hundred men.

The troops rested upon their arms, and each battalion on the ground it
had occupied the preceding day. The cavalry were stretched beside their
horses; all were ready for an attack; but the night passed with some
slight alarms, and no serious disturbance.

The morning was ushered in by a tremendous cannonade, while the
grenadiers of Lapisse’s division, in two columns, advanced again to
attack the height upon the left. They were bravely led forward by
their officers, and made many desperate but unavailing efforts to win
the summit of the hill, but nothing could shake the firmness of the
British. They allowed the columns to mount the rugged ascent, until
they had nearly touched the ridge, then a close volley, a loud huzza,
followed by rapid charge, broke the formation of the French, and sent
them precipitously down the hill. Again and again the attempt was
made with equal ill fortune; until, totally disheartened by repeated
repulses and leaving the ground heaped with dead, the enemy abandoned
all hope of carrying this well-defended position, and retreated out of
fire.

It was now half-past eight, and the fighting had never intermitted from
five that morning. The loss on both sides was frightful; the French
infinitely greater than the British. Their repeated attacks on the
height occasioned immense loss; and their troops, dispirited by want of
success, and wearied by constant but unavailing exertion, showed little
inclination to renew the battle.

The heat of the sun had become intolerable, and the movements, on the
French part, were stayed. Indeed, the firing had ceased over the field,
and the work of slaughter, by a sort of mutual consent, was for a time
suspended. The French commenced cooking their dinners, and the British
and their allies produced their scantier rations. During this temporary
cessation of hostilities, it was a matter of some deliberation with the
British commander, whether in turn he should become the assailant, or
remain quietly and await the result of the enemy’s decision; and it was
a fortunate circumstance that the latter was his determination.

At this time a curious incident occurred, that for a brief space
changed the character of the war, and, even on a battlefield covered
with the dead and dying, produced a display of kindly feeling between
two brave and noble-minded enemies.

A small stream, tributary to the Tagus, flowed through a part of the
battle-ground, and separated the combatants. During the pause that
the heat of the weather and the weariness of the troops had produced,
both armies went to the banks of the rivulet for water. The men
approached each other fearlessly, threw down their caps and muskets,
chatted to each other like old acquaintances, and exchanged their
brandy-flasks and wineskins. All asperity of feeling seemed forgotten.
To a stranger they would have appeared more like an allied force, than
men hot from a ferocious conflict, and only gathering strength and
energy to recommence it anew. But a still nobler rivalry for the time
existed; the interval was employed in carrying off the wounded, who lay
intermixed upon the hard-contested field; and, to the honour of both
be it told, that each endeavoured to extricate the common sufferers,
and remove their unfortunate friends and enemies without distinction.
Suddenly, the bugles sounded, the drums beat to arms, many of the rival
soldiery shook hands, and parted with expressions of mutual esteem, and
in ten minutes after they were again at the bayonet’s point.

Having ascertained the part of the position, and the extent of it
that was occupied by the British brigades, the marshals determined to
direct their undivided energies against that portion of the line, and,
if possible, crush the British divisions by bearing on them with an
overwhelming force. They formed in four columns of attack; the first
was destined against that part of the ground where the British and
Spaniards united; the second against Sherbrooke and Cameron’s brigades;
the third was directed against Mackenzie’s and the Germans; and the
fourth, in great strength, and accompanied by a mass of cavalry, moved
up the valley to the left.

A fire from eighty pieces of artillery announced the forward movement
of the columns, which soon presented themselves, covered by a cloud
of light infantry. A destructive cannonade was borne by the British
brigades patiently; in vain the tirailleurs kept up a biting fire, but
not a shot was returned by the British. Their orders to reserve their
fire were strictly obeyed, and the files steadily and quietly closed
up, for the men were falling by dozens. Their assailants approached,
their officers called “_En avant!_” and the drums beat the _pas de
charge_. Nothing could be more imposing than the advance, nothing more
complete than their discomfiture. Within twenty paces a shattering
volley was delivered from the British line, the word “_Charge!_” was
given, and the bayonet did the rest.

Campbell’s division, on the right, totally defeated the attack, and
charging boldly in return, drove the French back, and captured a
battery of ten guns. The enemy endeavoured to retake them, but the
Spanish cavalry charged home, the cannon remained with the captors, and
the right of the British was victorious everywhere.

The left attack failed totally. The British cavalry were posted in
the valley where the hostile movement was being made; and Anson’s
brigade, consisting of the 23rd light dragoons, and the 1st King’s
German hussars, were ordered to charge and check the advance. It was
gallantly attempted, and though in point of fact the charge failed,
and the 23rd were nearly cut to pieces, the daring courage exhibited
under circumstances perfectly desperate, so completely astounded the
enemy, that their attack on the height was abandoned. If there was an
error in the mode that charge was made, it arose from its fearless
gallantry; and under common circumstances, its result would have been
most glorious. Colonel Napier thus describes the affair:--

The ground upon which this brigade was in line is perfectly level, nor
did any visible obstruction appear between it and the columns opposed.
The grass was long, dry, and waving, concealing the fatal chasm that
intervened. One of General Villatte’s columns stood at some distance
to the right of the building occupied by the light troops. These were
directly in front of the 23rd dragoons. Another was formed rather to
the rear, and more in front of the German hussars, on the left of the
line. Such were the immediate objects of the charge.

For some time the brigade advanced at a rapid pace, without receiving
any obstruction from the enemy’s fire. The line cheered. It was
answered from the hill with the greatest enthusiasm; never was anything
more exhilarating or beautiful than the commencement of this advance.
Several lengths in front, mounted on a grey horse, consequently very
conspicuous, rode Colonel Elley. Thus placed he, of course, first
arrived at the brink of a ravine, which, varying in width, extended
along the whole front of the line. Going half-speed at the time, no
alternative was left him. To have checked his horse, and given timely
warning, would have been impossible. With some difficulty he cleared
it at a bound, and on gaining the opposite bank, endeavoured by
gesture to warn the 23rd of the dangerous ground they had to pass; but
advancing with such velocity, the line was on the verge of the stream
before his signs could be either understood or attended to. Under any
circumstances this must have been a serious occurrence in a cavalry
charge; but when it is considered that four or five hundred dragoons
were assailing two divisions of infantry, unbroken, and fully prepared
for the onset, to have persevered at all was highly honourable to the
regiment.

At this moment the enemy, formed in squares, opened his tremendous
fire. A change immediately took place. Horses rolled on the earth;
others were seen flying back dragging their unhorsed riders with them;
the German hussars coolly reined up; the line of the 23rd was broken.
Still the regiment galloped forward. The confusion was increased; but
no hesitation took place in the individuals of this gallant corps. The
survivors rushed forward with, if possible, accelerated pace, passing
between the flank of the square, now one general blaze of fire, and the
building on its left.

Still the remainder of the 23rd, led on by Major Ponsonby, passing
under this withering fire, assailed and overthrew a regiment of
chasseurs; and, though attacked in turn by a squadron of Westphalian
horse and some Polish lancers, it cut its way through these, and riding
past the intervals of the infantry, reached the base of the mountain,
where the Spanish corps of observation secured it. Its loss was awful.
In an affair that lasted but a few minutes, nine officers, twelve
sergeants, two hundred rank and file, and two hundred and twenty-four
horses, were rendered _hors de combat_.

On the centre, the attack was made with great steadiness and
determination. The French columns deployed before they attempted to
ascend the heights, and, regardless of broken ground, advanced to
the charge with imposing gallantry. General Sherbrooke, having fully
prepared his men, received them with a volley of musketry, which
staggered their resolution, and the whole division rushing forward with
the bayonet, the French were driven back with prodigious loss. But the
Guards came loosely on. The French observed it; perceived an opening in
the line, and threw in a tremendous fire on the Germans, that caused a
momentary confusion. The affair is thus narrated by an officer of the
48th. The celerity with which a mistake, that to other troops might
have proved fatal, was remedied by the coolness of the commander and
the heroism of his army, could never be better exemplified.

At this period of the battle, and in nearly their last attempt, the
enemy had been repulsed and followed. The Guards, carried onwards by
victorious excitement, advanced too far, and found themselves assailed
by the French reserve, and mowed down by an overwhelming fire. They
fell back, but as whole sections were swept away their ranks became
disordered, and nothing but their stubborn gallantry prevented a total
_déroute_. Their situation was most critical; had the French cavalry
charged home nothing could have saved them. Lord Wellington saw the
danger, and speedily despatched support. A brigade of horse was ordered
up, and our regiment moved from the heights we occupied to assist our
hard-pressed comrades. We came on at double-quick, and formed in the
rear by companies, and through the intervals in our line the broken
ranks of the Guards retreated. A close and well-directed volley from
us arrested the progress of the victorious French, while with amazing
celerity and coolness the Guards rallied and reformed, and in a few
minutes advanced in turn to support us. As they came on, the men gave a
loud huzza. An Irish regiment to the right answered it with a thrilling
cheer. It was taken up from regiment to regiment, and passed along the
British line, and that wild shout told the advancing enemy that British
valour was indomitable. The leading files of the French halted, turned,
fell back, and never made another effort.

In every place the British were victorious, and had one forward
movement of the Spaniards been made, Talavera would have proved the
most decisive defeat that ever the French armies on the Peninsula had
sustained, for a rapid flanking march from Cuesta’s right upon the
Alberche must have compromised half the French army. But with troops
so wretchedly disciplined, it was impossible to change any previous
formation in face of an enemy; and thus the French marshals were
enabled to retreat in perfect order, with the greater portion of their
baggage, the whole of their wounded, and all their artillery, with the
exception of ten guns taken by Campbell’s brigade, and seven abandoned
in the woods, and afterwards secured.

As victory is ever damped by individual suffering, an event well
calculated to increase the horrors of a battle-field occurred, that
cannot be recollected without the liveliest sorrow for those who
suffered.

From the heat of the weather, the fallen leaves were parched like
tinder, and the grass was rank and dry. Near the end of the engagement
both were ignited by the blaze of some cartridge-papers, and the whole
surface of the ground was presently covered with a sheet of fire. Those
of the disabled who lay on the outskirts of the field managed to crawl
away, or were carried off by their more fortunate companions who had
escaped unhurt; but, unhappily, many gallant sufferers, with “medicable
wounds,” perished in the flames before it was possible to extricate
them.

The battle was ended at about six o’clock, and after that hour scarcely
a shot was heard. Both armies occupied the positions of the morning,
and the British bivouacked on the field, with little food and no
shelter; while the dead lay silently around, and the moans of the
wounded broke sadly on the ear, as they were conveyed all through the
night to the hospitals in Salamanca.

The French were evidently about to retire, but, from a great
inferiority in cavalry, pursuit was impossible. On the next morning,
two of their divisions only were seen beyond the river, and these
retreated on the night of the 31st, and followed the remainder of the
beaten _corps d’armée_.

The British loss was extremely severe, and from the heavy cannonade
regiments not otherwise exposed, suffered much. The whole force,
exclusive of the Spaniards, did not exceed nineteen thousand, and of
these fully four thousand men were killed and wounded. The Spanish loss
was inconsiderable, as they were never seriously engaged, not reaching
altogether to a thousand _hors de combat_.

The casualties of Joseph Buonaparte’s army it would be difficult to
ascertain with anything like correctness. It has been stated at six,
eight, and even ten thousand. The intermediate estimate would probably
be the truest, and certainly the French loss exceeded the allied by a
third if not a half.

On the morning after the battle, the light brigade were reinforced
by three splendid regiments, the 43rd, 52nd, and 95th, under General
Craufurd, who reached the army accompanied by a troop of horse
artillery. Its march was remarkable--sixty-three English miles were
accomplished in twenty-seven hours. Advancing under a burning sun,
over a sandy country, badly supplied with water, with bad rations and
scarcely any bread, the movement was extraordinary. When the weight a
soldier in heavy marching order carries is considered, the distance
these splendid regiments achieved was certainly a surprising effort.

Aware that the armies were in presence of each other, and apprised
that a battle was inevitable, an ardent wish to share the glory of the
field stimulated these soldiers to exertions that hunger, fatigue, and
thirst could not abate; and though efforts almost beyond belief failed
to bring them to the battleground before the struggle terminated, the
rapidity of their march, and the fine condition in which they joined
the army, justly obtained for them the admiration of the victors of
Talavera.



CHAPTER IX.

THE BATTLE OF BUSACO.

1810.


Soult, who had collected thirty-five thousand men, on learning the
defeat of Talavera, made a flank movement to assist Joseph Buonaparte,
and reached Placentia by the pass of Banos. Lord Wellington, on being
apprised of the French marshal’s advance, instantly determined to march
forward and engage him; while Cuesta observed the line of the Tagus,
and protected the stores and hospitals at Talavera. Accordingly, on
the 3rd of August, the British moved to Orapesa; but on that evening
information was received that Soult had cut off Lord Wellington’s
communication with the bridge of Almarez, and that Cuesta was about to
evacuate Talavera. This intelligence made an immediate change in Lord
Wellington’s plans indispensable, and it became necessary to cross the
Tagus instantly. A passage was effected by the bridge of Arzabispo, and
the whole artillery and stores were safely brought off, over horrible
roads, which hitherto had been deemed impracticable for anything but
mules and the rude carriages of the country. After a short stay, the
British fell back on Badajoz, early in September.

Cuesta’s sudden retreat from Talavera had not only endangered Lord
Wellington, but nearly caused the total destruction of the Portuguese
corps commanded by Sir Robert Wilson. In obedience to orders, Sir
Robert had advanced within twelve miles of the capital before he
was recalled, and after narrowly escaping the French armies, by
the ill-judged retirement of the Spanish general from Talavera, he
found himself completely cut off from the Tagus. With considerable
difficulty, the Portuguese general crossed the Sierra de Llana, and
seized the pass of Banos, whither Soult, on falling back from Placentia
to Leon, was rapidly advancing, nothing remaining for him but to defend
the pass, and risk a battle with numbers immensely superior to his
own. This determination was gallantly carried into effect. After a
desperate resistance of nine hours, Wilson was at last forced from the
position, with a loss of eight hundred men; while the remainder of his
corps dispersed, and succeeded in reaching Castello Branco.

Following up this success, Soult, with fifty thousand men, was
despatched by Joseph against the southern provinces, and succeeded in
crossing the Sierra Morena, though the whole range had been strongly
fortified, and thirty thousand men under Ariezaga, intrusted with its
defence. So quickly, and with such trifling loss was this dangerous
operation achieved, that it was a question whether the marshal was more
indebted for his success to treachery or cowardice. Cadiz was preserved
by the prompt decision of the duke of Albuquerque, the gates closed
against the French, and the city secured against bombardment, except
from one point occupied by Fort Matagorda.

All else had gone favourably for the French. Sebastiani defeated
Ariezaga on his retreat to Grenada, and that city and Malaga, after
a faint effort at defence, fell. Gerona surrendered after a brave
and protracted resistance. Hostalrich was also taken; and Astorga
capitulated in the middle of April. In fact, the French were everywhere
victorious, and Spain once more lay nearly at their feet. This, as
Colonel Jones observes, was “the second crisis in the affairs of the
Peninsula, as, by a succession of desultory and ill-planned enterprises
on the part of the Spaniards, all their armies had been annihilated,
their fortresses reduced, and three-fourths of the kingdom subdued.”
Affairs certainly wore a gloomy aspect. Napoleon had openly announced
his determination to drive the British into the sea; and his means,
relieved as he was by an alliance with Austria, seemed amply sufficient
to realise the threat. Circumstances had increased his resources, and
left him a large disposable force to direct on Portugal.

But still, notwithstanding the gloomy prospects of the British, it was
surprising what a number of desertions took place from the enemy’s
corps. Between the commencement of 1810 and the month of May, nearly
five hundred men, chiefly Germans and Italians, arrived, time after
time, at the British outposts; while desertions from the British
regiments were extremely rare.

Early in May, Massena prepared for active operations, and invested
the fortress of Rodrigo, the inferiority of Lord Wellington’s force
rendering any attempt on his part to prevent it impossible. All that
could be done was to observe the enemy closely; and for this purpose,
headquarters were transferred to Almeida, which, after a few days, were
farther retired to Alverca, six leagues in the rear.

The investment of Rodrigo, which occasional advances of the British had
partially relaxed, became now more serious, for Ney determined that
the place should fall, and taking post on a range of high grounds with
thirty thousand men, he covered effectually the operations carried on
by Junot, whose separate force amounted to forty thousand more.

It was now ascertained that Matagorda had fallen, that Cadiz, of
course, must yield, that divisions of the guards had entered Madrid,
and that Napoleon was absolutely across the Pyrenees.

The siege of Rodrigo continued; a gallant resistance was made, for
the garrison disputed every inch of ground, rallying frequently,
and maintaining a well-directed fire that occasioned the besiegers
considerable loss. The old governor, Hervasti, did wonders, and with
a garrison of four thousand men, and fortifications in bad condition,
many parts of the wall having its breaches only stopped loosely with
rubbish, he kept seventy thousand men at bay, provided with siege
stores in abundance, and a numerous corps of active and scientific
engineers to direct the labours of the thousands who composed their
working parties. On the 30th of June the breach was practicable, and
stormed, but the French were repulsed, after suffering an enormous loss
in killed and wounded.

Though the British army looked on, they could not save the fortress.
The siege was pressed, and the outposts of the two armies came
occasionally in contact with each other.

On the 4th of July the French made a strong reconnaissance with five
regiments of cavalry, a corps of infantry, and some guns. A spirited
affair ensued, and Gallegos and Almeida were given up, and a position
taken by the British in rear of Fort Conception.

Time passed without any affair of moment occurring, until Ciudad
Rodrigo capitulated, after a noble defence of a full month with open
trenches. Julian Sanchez, finding the place must fall, quitted the city
at midnight with his lancers, and cut his way through the enemy’s posts.

Ney, it is said, annoyed at the obstinacy with which the fortress held
out, until the breach was found by Hervasti indefensible, and the
troops for the assault were actually formed in the trenches, declined
all terms but unconditional surrender. Massena, however, with more
generosity, conceded the honours of war to the brave and resolute
commandant.

Consequent on the fall of Rodrigo, numerous movements took place.
It was impossible to guess in what way Massena would follow up his
success, and the last arrangements were made by Lord Wellington to meet
every probable contingency.

When the fall of Almeida was known, Lord Wellington, who had advanced
when Massena broke ground, fell back to the position on which he had
previously retired; and anxious to get into closer communication with
General Hill, he retreated leisurely on Gouvea. By this movement he
checked any attempt that might have been intended from Sabugal by
Covilhos, and effectually secured the fortified position of Zezere from
being turned.

Yet the situation of the allies was truly critical. The fall of Almeida
permitted Massena to advance with confidence, while in numbers, the
French marshal was immensely superior; and of the allied force, a
great portion of the Portuguese had never been under fire. The news of
Romana’s defeat by Mortier, made matters still more alarming; as the
latter might come up in sufficient time to threaten the right of the
allies by Alcantara or Abrantes.

But Massena’s movements ended this suspense, and Wellington was about
to achieve one of his most splendid victories.

It was impossible to avoid a battle. Wellington crossed the Mondego,
while the French were concentrated at Viseu. The first division had
been placed in observation of the Oporto road, the light on the road of
Viseu; but the French having passed the Criz, Lord Wellington changed
his position, and fell back upon the heights of Busaco.

The mountain range, upon which the British retired, was about eight
miles long; its right touching the Mondego, and the left stretching
over very difficult ground to the Sierra de Caramula. There was a road
cresting the Busaco ridge, and a ford at Pena Cova, communicating with
the Murcella ridge, and the face of the position was steep, rugged, and
well defended by the allied artillery. Along the front a sweeping fire
could be maintained, and on a part of the summit cavalry might act if
necessary.

To an assailing enemy, a position like that of Busaco must present
most serious difficulties; and, therefore, it was generally believed
that Massena would not risk a battle. But Lord Wellington thought
differently, and coolly added, “If he does, I shall beat him.”

Pack’s division had fallen back on the 22nd September, and on the
23rd Massena drove in the British cavalry. The third division took a
position at Antonio de Contara, and the fourth at the convent; while
the light division bivouacked in a pine wood. On the 24th it fell back
four miles, and some skirmishing of no particular importance took place.

The 25th had nearly brought on a second affair between Craufurd and
the enemy. Immense masses of the French were moving rapidly forward,
and the cavalry had interchanged a pistol fire, when Lord Wellington
arrived, and instantly retired the division. Not a moment could
be lost; the enemy came on with amazing rapidity, but the British
rearguard behaved with its usual determination; and after a series of
quick and beautifully-executed manœuvres, secured their retreat on
the position. Both armies that evening bivouacked in each other’s
presence, and sixty-five thousand French infantry, covered by a mass of
voltigeurs, formed in the British front, while scarcely fifty thousand
of the allies were in line on the Sierra de Busaco, and these, of
necessity, were extended over a surface which their numbers were quite
incompetent to defend.

Ney and Reynier agreed that the moment of their arrival afforded the
best chance for attacking Wellington successfully, and Massena was
informed that the allied troops were only getting into their ground,
and that their dispositions were accordingly imperfect. But the marshal
came up too late; for all the arrangements of Wellington had been
coolly and admirably effectuated.

The British brigades were continuously posted. On the right, General
Hill’s division was stationed. Leith, on his left, prolonged the line,
with the Lusitanian legion in reserve. Picton joined Leith, and was
supported by a brigade of Portuguese. The brigades of Spencer crested
the ridge, and held the ground between the third division and the
convent; and the fourth division closed the extreme left, covering
the mountain path of Milheada, with part of the cavalry on a flat,
and a regiment of dragoons in reserve on the summit of the Sierra.
Pack’s division formed the advanced guard to the right, and extended
half-way down the hill; while in a hollow below the convent, the light
brigade and Germans were thrown out. The whole front was covered
with skirmishers, and on every point from which the artillery could
effectively range, the guns were placed in battery.

While these dispositions were being completed, evening had come on,
both armies establishing themselves for the night, and the French
lighting fires. Some attempts of the enemy to introduce their
tirailleurs, in broken numbers, among the wooded hollows in front of
the light division, indicated an intention of a night attack, and
the rifles and caçadores drove them back. But no attempt was made,
and a mild and warm atmosphere allowed the troops to bivouac without
inconvenience on the battleground. A few hours of comparative stillness
passed, one hundred thousand men slept under the canopy of heaven; and
before the first faint glimmering of light, all stood quietly to arms,
and prepared for a bloody day.

Shrouded by the grey mist that still was lingering on the Sierra, the
enemy advanced. Ney, with three columns, moved forward in front of the
convent, where Craufurd’s division was posted; while Reynier, with
two divisions, approached by less difficult ground the pickets of the
third division, before the feeble light permitted his movements to be
discovered. With their usual impetuosity the French pushed forward,
and the British as determinately opposed them. Under a heavy fire of
grape and musketry, the enemy topped the heights; and on the left of
the third division, gained the summit of the mountain, their leading
battalions securing themselves among the rocks, and threatening the
ridge of the Sierra. The disorder of a Portuguese regiment, the 8th,
afforded them also a partial advantage. But the fire of two guns
with grape opened on their flank; in front, a heavy fusilade was
maintained; while, advancing over the crown of the height, the 88th
and four companies of the 45th charged furiously with the bayonet, and
with an ardour that could not be resisted. Both French and British
were intermixed in a desperate _mêlée_, both fought hand to hand,
both went struggling down the mountain, the head of the French column
annihilated, and covering the descent, from the crown to the valley,
with heaps of its dead and dying.

At this time the 45th were engaged with numbers out of proportion, but
they gallantly maintained their ground. The 5th, 74th, and 83rd, were
likewise attacked; but the 88th, from the nature of their situation,
came in contact with the full body of the enemy, and, while opposed
to three times their own number in front, were assailed on their
left by a couple of hundred riflemen stationed in the rocks. Colonel
Wallace changed his front, but had scarcely reached the rocks, when a
fire, destructive as it was animated, assailed him. The moment was a
critical one, but he never lost his presence of mind. He ordered his
two first companies to attack the rocks, while he pressed forward with
the remainder of his regiment against the main body. The 8th Portuguese
were close on the enemy, and opened a well-directed fire, while the
45th were performing prodigies of valour. At this moment the 88th came
up to the assistance of their comrades, and the three regiments pressed
on; a terrific contest took place; the French fought well, but they had
no chance with our men when we grappled close with them; and they were
overthrown, leaving half of their column on the heath with which the
hill was covered.

The French, ranged amphitheatrically one above another, took a
murderous aim at our soldiers in their advance to dislodge; officers as
well as privates became personally engaged in a hand-to-hand fight.

Although they combated with a desperation suited to the situation in
which they were placed, the heroes of Austerlitz, Ealing, and Wagram,
were hurled from the rocks by the Rangers of Connaught.

The 88th arriving to the assistance of their comrades, instantly
charged, and the enemy were borne over the cliffs and crags with
fearful rapidity, many of them being literally picked out of the holes
in the rocks by the bayonets of our soldiers.

Referring to their conduct on this occasion, the Duke of Wellington
observes in his despatch that he never witnessed a more gallant attack
than that made by these two regiments on the division of the enemy
which had then reached the ridge of the Sierra. In addition to this
flattering testimony of his Grace, and in further evidence of the
gallantry they displayed, it will be sufficient to state that the
loss sustained by these two corps on the occasion amounted to sixteen
officers, seven sergeants, and two hundred and sixty-one men, being
nearly one-half of the whole British loss in the battle.

When a part of the Sierra had been gained, Leith perceiving that the
French had occupied it, moved the 38th on their right flank, with the
Royals in reserve. The 9th formed line under a heavy fire, and, without
returning a shot, fairly deforced the French grenadiers from the rocks
with the bayonet. The mountain crest was now secure, Reynier completely
repulsed, and Hill, closing up to support, prevented any attempt being
made to recover it.

The greater difficulty of the ground rendered Ney’s attacks still less
successful, even for a time, than Reynier’s had proved. Craufurd’s
disposition of the light division was masterly. Under a dipping of
the ground between the convent and plateau, the 43rd and 52nd were
formed in line; while higher up the hill, and closer to the convent,
the Germans were drawn up. The rocks in front formed a natural battery
for the guns; and the whole face of the Sierra was crowded with
riflemen and caçadores. Morning had scarcely dawned, when a sharp and
scattered musketry was heard among the broken hollows of the valley
that separated the rival armies, and presently the French appeared in
three divisions, Loisson’s mounting the face of the Sierra, Marchand’s
inclining leftwards, as if it intended to turn the right flank of the
light division, and the third held in reserve.

The brigade of General Simon led the attack, and reckless of the
constant fusilade of the British light troops, and the sweeping fire
of the artillery, which literally ploughed through the advancing
column, from its leading to its last section, the enemy came steadily
and quickly on. The horse artillery worked their guns with amazing
rapidity, delivering round after round with such beautiful precision
that the wonder was how any body of men could advance under such a
withering and incessant cannonade. But nothing could surpass the
gallantry of the assailants. On they came, and in a few moments, their
skirmishers, “breathless, and begrimed with powder,” topped the ridge
of the Sierra. The British guns were instantly retired, the French
cheers arose, and, in another second, their column topped the height.

General Craufurd, who had coolly watched the progress of the advance,
called on the 43rd and 52nd to “Charge!” A cheer that pealed for miles
over the Sierra answered the order, and eighteen hundred British
bayonets went sparkling over the brow of the hill. The head of the
French column was overwhelmed in an instant; both its flanks were
lapped over by the British wings, while volley after volley, at a few
yards’ distance, completed its destruction, and marked with hundreds
of its dead and dying, prostrate on the face of the Sierra, the course
of its murderous discomfiture. Some of the light troops continued
slaughtering the broken columns nearly to the bottom of the hill, until
Ney’s guns opened from the opposite side, and covered the escape of
relics of Simon’s division.

And yet the bravery of the French merited a better result. No troops
advanced more gallantly; and when the British steel was glittering in
their faces, as with resistless force the fatal rush was made over
the crest of the Sierra, every man of the first section of the French
raised and discharged his musket, although before his finger parted
from the trigger he knew that a British bayonet would be quivering in
his heart. Simon was wounded and left upon the field, and his division
so totally shattered as to be unable to make any second attempt.

On the right, Marchand’s brigades having gained the cover of a pine
wood, threw out their skirmishers and endeavoured to surmount the
broken surface that the hill everywhere presented. Pack held them in
check, while the Guards, formed on the brow of the Sierra, were seen in
such imposing force as to render any attempt on the position useless.
Craufurd’s artillery flanked the pine wood, and maintained a rapid
fire; when, finding his troops sinking under an unprofitable slaughter,
Ney, after the effort of an hour, retired behind the rocks.

The roar of battle was stilled. Each side removed their wounded men;
and the moment the firing ceased both parties amicably intermingled,
and sought and brought off their disabled comrades. When this labour
of humanity was over, a French company having taken possession of a
village within pistol-shot of General Craufurd, stoutly refused to
retire when directed. The commander of the light division turned his
artillery on the post, overwhelmed it in an instant with his cannonade,
and when the guns ceased firing, sent down a few companies of the 43rd
to clear the ruins of any whom his grape might have left alive, the
obstinacy of the French officer having drawn upon him most justly the
anger of the fiery leader of the light division.

The loss sustained by Massena in his attempt upon the British position
at Busaco was immense. A general of brigade, Graind’orge, and above a
thousand men, were killed; Foy, Merle, and Simon, with four thousand
five hundred, were wounded; and nearly three hundred taken prisoners.
The allied casualties did not exceed twelve hundred and fifty men, of
which nearly one-half were Portuguese.

No battle witnessed more gallant efforts on the part of the enemy than
Busaco; and that the British loss should be so disproportionate to that
suffered by the French, can readily be conceived from the superior
fire, particularly of cannon, which the position of Busaco enabled Lord
Wellington to employ. The Portuguese troops behaved admirably, their
steadiness and bravery were as creditable to the British officers who
disciplined and led them on, as it was satisfactory to the Commander of
the Allies.



CHAPTER X.

THE BATTLE OF BAROSA.

1811.


Massena had suffered too heavily in his attempt on the British
position, to think of attacking the Sierra de Busaco a second time.
Early on the 28th September he commenced quietly retiring his advanced
brigades, and in the evening, was reported to be marching with all his
divisions on the Malhada road, after having set fire to the woods to
conceal his movements, which was evidently intended to turn the British
left. Orders were instantly given by Lord Wellington to abandon the
Sierra; and at nightfall Hill’s division was again thrown across the
river, the remainder of the brigades, defiling to their left, moved by
the shorter road on Coimbra, and resumed the line of the Mondego on the
30th.

The celebrated proclamation to the Portuguese nation was issued by Lord
Wellington previous to the commencement of his retreat. Determined to
destroy any hope the French might have entertained of subsisting their
armies on the resources of the country, the people were emphatically
desired, on the approach of the enemy, to abandon their dwellings,
drive off their cattle, destroy provisions and forage, and leave the
villages and towns deserted of inhabitants and devastated of everything
which could be serviceable to the invaders. Generally, these orders
were obeyed with a devotion that seems remarkable. Property was wasted
or concealed, and the shrine and cottage alike abandoned by their
occupants, the peasant deserting the hearth where he had been nursed,
and the monk the altar where he had worshipped from his boyhood. The
fugitives accompanied the army on its march, and when it halted in
the lines, one portion of the wanderers proceeded to Lisbon, while
the greater number crossed the Tagus to seek on its southern shores a
temporary retreat from those who had obliged them to sacrifice their
possessions, and fly from the dwellings of their fathers.

Nothing could surpass the fine attitude maintained by the British
in their retreat on Torres Vedras, and every march was leisurely
executed, as if no enemy were in the rear. By the great roads of
Leiria and Espinal the receding movement was effected; and, with the
exception of some affairs of cavalry, and a temporary embarrassment
in passing through Condeixa, occasioned by a false alarm and narrow
streets, a retreat of nearly two hundred miles was effected with as
little confusion as attends an ordinary march. No portion of the field
equipage, no baggage whatever was captured, and still more strange, a
greater number of prisoners were taken from the pursuers than lost by
the pursued--a fact in the history of retreats without a parallel.

Massena, after a three days’ reconnaissance, and under the advice
of his chief engineers, abandoned all hope of forcing this singular
position. Nothing could surpass the chagrin and surprise that the
French commander exhibited to his staff, when, by personal observation,
he had ascertained the full extent of the defences with which British
skill had perfected what nature had already done so much for. To
attempt forcing Torres Vedras must have ensured destruction; and
nothing remained, but to take a position in its front, and observe that
immense chain of posts, which it was found impossible to carry.

Though by cavalry patrols on the right bank of the Tagus and the
detachment of a division to Thomar, the French commander had enlarged
the scope of country over which his foragers could operate, supplies
failed fast; and even French ingenuity failed in discovering concealed
magazines. Nothing remained but to retire from cantonments where
provisions were no longer procurable; on the morning of the 15th the
French army broke up, and, favoured by thick weather, retired in
beautiful order on Santarem and Torres Novas.

Both armies went into cantonments; the allies with headquarters at
Cartaxo, the French having chosen Torres Novas for theirs.

Little of military interest occurred for some time, excepting that the
Portuguese militias, under their British officers, were incessant in
harassing the French.

Time passed on, nothing of moment occurred, the British remaining
quiet, in expectation of a reinforcement of troops from home.

The first movements that took place were an advance on Punhete by the
allies, and the sudden retirement from Santarem by the French. Massena
chose the left bank of the Mondego as his line of retreat, falling back
on Guarda and Almeida. Wellington followed promptly; and on the 9th,
Massena having halted in front of Pombal, the allies hastened forward
to attack him. But the French marshal declined an action, and fell
back pressed closely by the British light troops, and covered by a
splendid rear-guard which he had formed from his choicest battalions,
and intrusted to the command of Marshal Ney.

On the 5th of April Massena crossed the frontier. Portugal was now
without the presence of a Frenchman, except the garrison of Almeida,
and those who had been taken prisoners in the numerous affairs between
the British light troops and the enemy’s rear-guard. Nothing could
be bolder or more scientific than the whole course of Wellington’s
operations, from the time he left the lines until Massena “changed his
position from the Zezere to the Agueda.” Yet it must be admitted that
the French retreat all through was conducted with consummate ability.
Ney commanded the rear-guard with excellent judgment; his positions
were admirably selected; and when assailed, they were defended as
might have been expected from one who had already obtained the highest
professional reputation.

In a military view, Massena’s retreat was admirable, and reflected
infinite credit on the generals who directed it; but, in a moral
one, nothing could be more disgraceful. The country over which the
retreating columns of the French army passed, was marked by bloodshed
and devastation. Villages were everywhere destroyed, property wasted or
carried off, the men shot in sheer wantonness, the women villainously
abused, while thousands were driven for shelter to the mountains, where
many perished from actual want. With gothic barbarity the fine old city
of Leria, and the church and convent of Alcabaca, with its library
and relics, were ordered by Massena to be burned. The order was too
faithfully executed; and places, for centuries objects of Portuguese
veneration, were given to the flames; and those hallowed roofs, beneath
which “the sage had studied and the saint had prayed,” were reduced to
ashes, to gratify a ruthless and vindictive spirit of revenge.

The French soldiers had been so long accustomed to plunder, that they
proceeded in their researches for booty of every kind upon a regular
system. They were provided with tools for the work of pillage, and
every piece of furniture in which places of concealment could be
constructed they broke open from behind, so that no valuables could
be hidden from them by any contrivance of that kind. Having satisfied
themselves that nothing was secreted above ground, they proceeded to
examine whether there was any new masonry, or if any part of the cellar
or ground floor had been disturbed; if it appeared uneven, they dug
there; where there was no such indication they poured water, and if it
were absorbed in one place faster than another, there they broke the
earth. There were men who at the first glance could pronounce whether
anything had been buried beneath the soil, and when they probed with an
iron rod, or, in default of it, with sword or bayonet, it was found
that they were seldom mistaken in their judgment. The habit of living
by prey called forth, as in beasts, a faculty of discovering it; there
was one soldier whose scent became so acute that if he approached the
place where wine had been concealed, he would go unerringly to the spot.

Wherever the French bivouacked the scene was such as might rather
have been looked for in a camp of predatory Tartars than in that of a
civilised people. Food and forage, and skins of wine, and clothes and
church vestments, books and guitars, and all the bulkier articles of
wasteful spoil were heaped together in their huts with the planks and
doors of the habitations which they had demolished. Some of the men,
retaining amid this brutal service the characteristic activity and
cleverness of their nation, fitted up their huts with hangings from
their last scene of pillage, with a regard to comfort hardly to have
been expected in their situation, and a love of gaiety only to be found
in Frenchmen.

Such was the condition of things with the main army when the famous
battle of Barosa was fought by a different section of the British army
at some distance.

An Anglo-Spanish army was attempting to raise the siege of Cadiz. All
bade fair for success, as the French had scarcely ten thousand men in
their lines, while in the city the Spanish force was more than twenty
thousand. On this occasion, Graham acted under the command of La Pena,
and eleven thousand allied troops were despatched from Cadiz to Tarifa,
to operate against the enemy’s rear at Chiclana; while it was arranged
that Zayas, who commanded in the Isle de Leon, should pass his troops
over San Petri near the sea, and unite in a combined attack.

After much delay, occasioned by tempestuous weather, the troops and
artillery were safely assembled at Tarifa on the 27th; and when joined
by the 28th regiment and the flank companies of the 9th and 82nd, they
numbered about four thousand five hundred effective men.

General La Pena arrived the same day with seven thousand Spaniards;
and on the next, the united force moved through the passes of the
Ronda hills, and halted within four leagues of the French outposts.
The commands of the allies were thus distributed--the vanguard to
Lardizable, the centre to the Prince of Anglona, the reserve to General
Graham, and the cavalry to Colonel Whittingham.

Victor, the French commander, though apprised of the activity of
the Spaniards, and the march of General Graham, could not correctly
ascertain the point upon which their intended operations would be
directed; and therefore, with eleven thousand choice troops, he took
post in observation between the roads of Conil and Medina.

On the 2nd April, the capture of Casa Viejas, increased La Pena’s force
by sixteen hundred infantry, and a number of guerilla horse. Until the
5th, he continued his movements, and, after his advanced guard had been
roughly handled by a squadron of French dragoons, he halted on the
Cerro de Puerco, more generally and gloriously known as the heights of
Barosa.

Barosa, though not a high hill, rises considerably above the rugged
plain it overlooks, and stands four miles inland from the debouchement
of the Santi Petri. The plain is bounded on the right by the forest of
Chiclana, on the left by cliffs on the sea-beach, and on the centre by
a pine wood, beyond which the hill of Bermeja rises.

The irregularity and tardiness of the Spanish movements gave a
portentous warning of what might be expected from them in the field.
They occupied fifteen hours in executing a moderate march, passing
over the ground in a rambling and disorderly manner, that seemed
rather like peasants wandering from a fair, than troops moving in the
presence of an enemy. La Pena, without waiting to correct his broken
ranks, sent on a vanguard to Zayas; while his rear, entirely separated
from the centre, was still straggling over the country, and contrary
to the expressed wishes of Graham, who implored him to hold Barosa, he
declined his advice, and ordered the British to march through the pine
wood on Bermeja.

Graham, supposing that Anglona’s division and the cavalry would
continue to occupy the hill, leaving the flank companies of the 9th
and 82nd to protect his baggage, obeyed the order, and commenced his
march. But the astonishment of the British general was unbounded, when,
on entering the wood, he saw La Pena moving his entire corps from the
heights of Barosa, with the exception of three or four battalions and
as many pieces of artillery.

Unfortunately, the British general was not the only person who had
observed that Barosa was abandoned. Victor, concealed in the forest
of Chiclana, anxiously watched the movements of the allies. He saw
the fatal error committed by the Spanish leader, and instantly made
dispositions to profit from the ignorance and obstinacy of his
antagonist.

The French marshal, having selected three grenadier battalions as
reserves, strengthened his left wing with two, and three squadrons of
cavalry, while the other was attached to his centre. Ruffin commanded
the left, Laval the centre; while Villatte, with two thousand five
hundred infantry, covered the camp, and watched the Spaniards at Santa
Petri and Bermeja. The cavalry stationed at Medina and Arcos were
ordered by Victor to move on Vejer and cut off the allies, for on
their certain defeat the French general entertained no doubt.

The time was admirably chosen for a decisive movement. The British
corps were defiling through the wood, the strength of the Spaniards
posted on the Bermeja, another division pursued a straggling march on
Vejer, and a fourth, in great confusion, was at Barosa, as a protection
to the baggage. Making Villatte’s division a pivot, Victor pushed Laval
at once against the British, and ascending the back of the hill with
Ruffin’s brigade, he threw himself between the Spaniards and Medina,
dispersed the camp followers in an instant, and captured the guns and
baggage.

Graham, when apprised of this sudden and unexpected movement,
countermarched directly on the plain, to co-operate, as he believed,
with La Pena, whom he calculated on finding on the heights, but never
was reliance placed by a brave soldier on a more worthless ally. The
Spaniard had deceived him; himself was gone, his mob-soldiery were
fugitives, Ruffin on the heights, the French cavalry between him and
the sea, and Laval close on the left flank of the British.

It was indeed a most perilous situation, and in that extremity the
brave old man to whom the British had been fortunately confided, proved
himself worthy of the trust. He saw the ruin of retreat; safety lay in
daring, and though the enemy held the key of the position with fresh
troops, Graham boldly determined to attack them with his wearied ones.

The battle was instantly commenced. Duncan’s artillery opened a furious
cannonade on the column of Laval; and Colonel Barnard, with the rifles
and Portuguese caçadores extended to the left and began firing. The
rest of the British troops formed two masses, without regard to
regiments or brigades; one, under General Dilkes, marched direct
against Ruffin, and the other under Colonel Whately, boldly attacked
Laval. On both sides the guns poured a torrent of grape and canister
over the field; the infantry kept up a withering fire; and both sides
advanced, for both seemed anxious to bring the contest to an issue.
Whately, when the lines approached, came forward to the charge; he
drove the first line on the second, and routed both with slaughter.

Brown had marched at once on Ruffin, and though half his small number
had been annihilated by an overwhelming fire, he held his ground
till Dilkes came to his assistance. Never pausing to correct their
formation, which the ragged hill had considerably disorganised, on
came the British desperately; they were still struggling to attain
the summit, and approaching the ridge, breathless and disordered,
their opponents advanced to meet them. A furious combat, hand to
hand, ensued; for a moment victory seemed doubtful, but the British
fought with a ferocity that nothing could oppose. Whole sections went
down, but still the others pressed forward. Ruffin and Rousseau, who
commanded the _élite_ of the grenadiers, fell mortally wounded. The
British never paused, on they went, delivering volley after volley,
forcing the French over the heights, and defeating them with the loss
of their guns.

The divisions of the French commander, though dreadfully cut up, fell
back on each other for mutual support, and endeavoured to rally; but
Duncan’s guns were moved forward, and opened a close and murderous
fire that prevented a possibility of reforming. Nothing could save
the shattered battalions from that exterminating cannonade but an
instant retreat, and Victor retired, leaving the British in undisputed
possession of the field, from which want of food and continued fatigue,
while under arms for four-and-twenty hours, of course prevented them
from moving in pursuit.

Never was there a shorter, and never a bloodier conflict. Though
it lasted scarcely an hour and a quarter, out of the handful of
British troops engaged, a loss was sustained of fifty officers, sixty
sergeants, and eleven hundred rank and file. The French, besides two
thousand killed and wounded, lost six guns, an eagle, and two generals,
with nearly five hundred prisoners.

Nothing could exceed the dastardly duplicity with which the Spanish
general abandoned his gallant ally. La Pena never made a movement
towards the succour of the British, and although the French cavalry
scarcely exceeded two hundred men, and the Spanish, under Whittingham,
amounted to more than six, the latter never drew a sabre. Never was
there a finer field for cavalry to act upon with effect; Ruffin’s left
was perfectly open, and even a demonstration of attack must have turned
defeat to ruin. Three troops of German hussars, under Ponsonby, reached
the field at the close of the battle, just as the beaten divisions
were attempting to unite. They charged through the French squadrons,
overthrew them, captured two guns, and sabred many of Ruffin’s
grenadiers, while endeavouring to regain their ranks.

To paint the character of Barosa in a few words, Napier’s will best
describe it. “The contemptible feebleness of La Pena furnished a
surprising contrast to the heroic vigour of Graham, whose attack was
an inspiration rather than a resolution--so wise, so sudden was the
decision, so swift, so conclusive was the execution.”



CHAPTER XI.

THE BATTLE OF FUENTES D’ONORO.

1811.


Massena having taken the field again, with the object of raising the
blockade of Almeida, then closely invested by Lord Wellington, the
British commander, determined that this important fortress should not
be relieved, resolved, even on unfavourable ground and with an inferior
force, to risk a battle.

The river Côa flows past Almeida, its banks are dangerous and steep,
and its points of passage few. Beside the bridge of the city, there
is a second, seven miles up the stream, at Castello Bom; and a third,
twenty miles farther still, at Sabugal. To fight with the river in his
rear was hazardous; but Wellington had decided on his course of action,
and accordingly he selected the best position which a district of no
great military strength would afford.

The Duas Casas runs in a northerly course and nearly parallel with the
Côa, having on its left bank the village of Fuentes d’Onoro. It is a
sweet hamlet, and prettily situated in front of a sloping hill of easy
access, here and there intersprinkled with woods of cork and ilex. The
village was a feature of considerable military importance, the channel
of the Duas Casas being rocky and broken, and its banks generally
steep. Fuentes was occupied by the light troops, the third division
were posted on a ridge crossing the road to Villa Formosa, the brigades
of Craufurd and Campbell had formed behind the village of Alameda,
to observe the bridge over the Duas Casas; Pack’s division observed
Almeida closely, and shut in the garrison; Erskine held the great road
that crosses the Duas Casas by a ford, while the guerilla cavalry
were placed in observation, two miles on the right, at the village of
Nava-de-Aver. The position was very extensive, covering, from flank to
flank, a surface of nearly six miles.

The military attitude which the allied commander held, compared with
that of the preceding year, was singularly changed. Then, his being
able to maintain himself in the country was more than questionable;
now, and in the face of those corps who had driven him on Torres
Vedras, he stood with a most effective force.

On the 1st and 2nd of May, Massena, with an immense convoy, passed the
rivers Agueda and Azava, with the intention of relieving Almeida, and
providing it with every means for insuring a protracted defence. On the
3rd, in the evening, the French sixth corps appeared on the heights
above Fuentes d’Onoro, and commenced a lively cannonade, followed up
by a furious assault upon the village. The light companies, who held
Fuentes, sustained the attack bravely, until they were supported by
the 71st, and, as the affair grew warmer, by the 79th and 24th also.
Colonel Williams was wounded, and the command devolving on Colonel
Cameron, he remedied a temporary disorder that had been occasioned
by the fall of several officers, and again restored the battle. The
ground for a time gained by the French was inch by inch recovered;
and, probably, during the Peninsular conflicts, a closer combat was
never maintained, as, in the main street particularly, the rival troops
fought fairly hand to hand.

The French were finally expelled from the village. Night was closing;
undismayed by a heavy loss, and unwearied by a hardly-contested action,
a cannon--as it appeared to be--being seen on the adjacent heights,
the 71st dashed across the rivulet, and bearing down all resistance,
reached and won the object of their enterprise. On reaching it,
however, the Highlanders discovered that in the haze of evening they
had mistaken a tumbrel for a gun; but they bore it off, a trophy of
their gallantry.

The British regiments held the village. The next day passed quietly
over, while Massena carefully reconnoitred the position of his
opponent. It was suspected that he intended to change his plan of
attack, and manœuvre on the right; and to secure that flank, Houston’s
division was moved to Posa Velha, the ground there being weak, and the
river fordable. As had been anticipated, favoured by the darkness,
Massena marched his troops bodily to the left, placing his whole
cavalry, with Junot’s corps, right in front of Houston’s division. A
correspondent movement was consequently made; Spencer’s and Picton’s
divisions moved to the right, and Craufurd, with the cavalry, marched
to support Houston.

At daybreak the attack was made. Junot carried the village of Posa
Velha, and the French cavalry drove in that of the allies. But the
infantry, supported by the horse artillery, repulsed the enemy and
drove them back with loss.

A difficult and a daring change of position was now required; and Lord
Wellington, abandoning his communication with the bridge at Sabugal,
retired his right, and formed line at right angles with his first
formation, extending from the Duas Casas, towards Frenada on the Côa.

This necessary operation obliged the seventh and light divisions, in
the face of a bold and powerful cavalry, to retire nearly two miles;
and it required all the steadiness and rapidity of British light
infantry to effect the movement safely. Few as the British cavalry
were, they charged the enemy frequently, and always with success; while
the horse artillery sustained their well-earned reputation, acting with
a boldness that at times almost exposed them to certain capture.

At one place, however, the fury of the fight seemed for a time to
centre. A great commotion was observed among the French squadrons;
men and officers closed in confusion towards one point where a thick
dust was rising, and where loud cries and the sparkling of blades and
flashing of pistols indicated some extraordinary occurrence. Suddenly
the multitude was violently agitated, a British shout arose, the mass
was rent asunder, and Norman Ramsay burst forth at the head of his
battery, his horses breathing fire, and stretching like greyhounds
along the plain, his guns bounding like things of no weight, and the
mounted gunners in close and compact order protecting the rear.

The infantry, in squares of battalions, repelled every charge; while
the Chasseurs Brittanique kept up a flanking fire, that, while
the retrogression of the British was being effected, entailed a
considerable loss on the assailants who were pressing them closely.

The new position of the British was most formidable. The right appuied
upon a hill, topped by an ancient tower, and the alignment was so
judiciously taken up that Massena did not venture to assail it.

While these operations were going on, a furious attack was repeated on
Fuentes d’Onoro. Infantry, cavalry, and artillery, all were brought
to bear, a tremendous cannonade opened on the devoted village, and
the assault was made at the same moment on flanks and front together.
Desperate fighting in the streets and churchyard took place. The
French feeding the attacking troops with fresh numbers, pressed the
three regiments that held the upper village severely, but after
one of the closest and most desperate combats that has ever been
maintained, a bayonet charge of the 88th decided the contest; and the
assailants, notwithstanding their vastly superior force, were driven
with prodigious slaughter from Fuentes, the upper village remaining
in possession of its gallant defenders, and the lower in the silent
occupation of the dead.

Evening closed the combat. Massena’s columns on the right were halted,
and his sixth division, with which he had endeavoured to storm Fuentes
d’Onoro, withdrawn, the whole French army bivouacking in the order in
which they had stood when the engagement closed. The British lighted
their fires, posted their pickets, and occupied the field they had
so bravely held; and both parties lay down to rest, with a confident
assurance on their minds, that the battle was only intermitted till the
return of daylight.

A brigade of the light division relieved the brave defenders of
Fuentes, and preparatory to the expected renewal of attack, they threw
up some works to defend the upper village and the ground behind it. But
these precautions were unnecessary; Massena remained for the next day
in front of his antagonist, exhibiting no anxiety to renew the combat.
The 7th found the British, as usual, under arms at dawn, but the day
passed as quietly as the preceding one had done. On the 8th, however,
the French columns were observed in full retreat, marching on the road
to Ciudad Rodrigo. Massena, with an army reinforced by every battalion
and squadron he could collect from Gallicia and Castile, had been
completely beaten by a wing of the British army, consisting of three
divisions only.

With that unblushing assurance, for which the French marshals have been
remarkable, of changing defeat into conquest, Massena did not hesitate
to call Fuentes d’Onoro a victory. But the object for which the battle
was fought was unattained--he failed in succouring the beleaguered
city, and Almeida was left to its fate.

In a close and sanguinary contest, like that of Fuentes d’Onoro, the
loss on both sides must necessarily be immense. The British had two
hundred killed, one thousand and twenty-eight wounded, and two hundred
and ninety-four missing. The French suffered much more heavily; and it
was computed that nearly five thousand of Massena’s army were rendered
_hors de combat_. In the lower village of Fuentes alone, two hundred
dead bodies were reckoned.

In the conduct of an affair which terminated so gloriously for the
divisions engaged, the system of defence adopted by Lord Wellington was
very masterly. Every arm of his force was happily employed, and all
were well combined for mutual protection. Massena had every advantage
for arranging his attack, for thick woods in front enabled him to
form his columns unseen, and until the moment of their debouchement,
none could tell their strength, or even guess the place on which they
were about to be directed. Hence, the French marshal had the means of
pouring a mass of infantry on any point he pleased, and of making a
serious impression before troops could be moved forward to meet and
repel the assault.

His superiority in cavalry and artillery was great. He might, under a
cannonade that the British guns could not have answered, have brought
forward his cavalry _en masse_, supported by columns of infantry, and
the allied line, under a masked movement of this kind, would in all
probability have been penetrated. Or, by bringing his cavalry round the
right of the British flank, and crossing the Côa, he might have obliged
Lord Wellington to pass the river under the greatest disadvantages.
Indeed, this was apprehended on the 5th, and there was but one
alternative, either to raise the blockade of Almeida, or relinquish the
Sabugal road. The latter was done. It was a bold measure, but it was
not adopted without due consideration; and it received an ample reward
in the successful termination of this hard-fought battle.



CHAPTER XII.

THE BATTLE OF ALBUERA.

1811.


While Marshal Beresford was endeavouring to reduce Badajoz,
intelligence reached him that Soult was marching from Larena.
Beresford, of course, at once abandoned the siege, removed the
artillery and stores, and having united himself with Blake, Castanos,
and Ballasteros, the combined armies took position behind the Albuera,
where the Seville and Olivenca roads separate.

On the westward of the ground where the allies determined to abide a
battle, the surface undulated gently, and on the summit, and parallel
with the river, their divisions were drawn up. The village of Albuera
was in front of the left, and the right was formed on a succession
of knolls, none of them of any strength, and having no particular
appui. On the eastern side of the river, an open country extends for a
considerable distance, terminating in thick woods; and in these Soult
bivouacked on the night of the 15th, and there made his dispositions
for attack.

The French army, though numerically weaker, was composed of veteran
troops, and amounted to twenty thousand infantry, three thousand
cavalry, and forty pieces of cannon. The allies numbered twenty-seven
thousand infantry, two thousand cavalry, and thirty-two guns; but of
this force, fourteen thousand were Spanish.

These last were formed in a double line upon the right, Stewart’s
division was in the centre, a Portuguese division on the left. The
light infantry, under Alten, held the village, and the dragoons,
under Lumley, were placed on the right flank of the Spaniards. Cole’s
division (the fusileers) and a Portuguese brigade, which came up after
the action had commenced, were formed in rear of the centre.

Beresford’s was a medley of three nations. He had thirty thousand
men in position, but not a fourth was British; while nearly one-half
was composed of that worst of military mobs--the Spaniards; nor were
these even brought up in time to admit of their being properly posted.
Blake had promised that his corps should be on the hill of Albuera
before noon on the 15th May, and, with but a few miles to march, with
excellent roads to traverse, the head of his columns reached the ground
near midnight, and the rear at three on the morning of the 16th. Bad as
Beresford’s army was, had it been in hand, more might have been done
with it. It was three o’clock on the 16th before Blake was fairly up,
and six before the fourth division reached the ground; while three fine
British regiments under Kemmis, and Madden’s Portuguese cavalry, never
appeared. As the event showed, a few British soldiers would have proved
invaluable, and these troops, though immediately contiguous during the
long and doubtful struggle that ensued, remained _non-combattant_.

Beresford’s position had been carefully reconnoitred by Soult on the
evening of the 15th, and aware that the fourth British division was
still before Badajoz, and Blake not yet come up, he determined to
attack the marshal without delay. A height, commanding the Valverde
road, if a front attack were made, appeared on his examination of the
ground to be the key of the position; and as Beresford had overlooked
its occupation, Soult ably selected it as the point by which his
principal effort should be made.

A wooded hill behind the Albuera, and within cannon-shot of the allied
right, afforded the French marshal the means of forming a strong column
for attack, without his design being noticed by his opponent. Covered
by the darkness, he brought forward the artillery of Ruty, the fifth
corps under Girard, with the cavalry of Latour Maubourg, and formed
them for his intended assault; thus concentrating fifteen thousand men
and forty guns within ten minutes’ march of Beresford’s right wing, and
yet that general could neither see a man, nor draw a sound conclusion
as to the real plan of attack. The remainder of his corps was placed in
the wood on the banks of the Feria, to bear against Beresford’s left,
and by carrying the bridge and village sever the wings of the allied
army.

The engagement commenced by Godinot debouching from the wood, and
making a feint on the left, while the main body of the French ascended
the heights on the right of the Spaniards. On perceiving the true
object of Soult’s attack, Beresford, who had vainly endeavoured,
through an aide-de-camp, to persuade Blake to change his front, rode to
the Spanish post, pointed out the heads of the advancing columns, and
induced his ally to take up a new alignment. It was scarcely done until
the French bore down upon the Spanish infantry; and though at first
they were stoutly opposed, the battalions gradually began to yield
ground; and, being farther forced back, Soult commenced deploying on
the most commanding point of the position. A serious attack was to be
dreaded; the French cavalry sweeping round the allies, threatened their
rear, and Godinot’s column made fresh demonstrations of vigorously
assailing the left.

All this was most alarming; the Spanish line confusedly endeavouring to
effect the difficult manœuvre of changing its front, while two-thirds
of the French, in compact order of battle, were preparing to burst
upon the disordered ranks, and insure their total destruction. The
French guns had opened a furious cannonade, the infantry were firing
volley after volley, the cavalry charging where the Spanish battalions
seemed most disordered. Already their ranks were wavering, and Soult
determined to complete the ruin he had begun, ordered up the reserve,
and advanced all his batteries.

At this perilous moment, when the day seemed lost, General Stewart
pushed the leading brigade of the fourth division up the hill under
Colonel Colborne, and it mounted by columns of companies. To form line
on gaining the top, under a withering fire, was difficult; and while
in the act of its being effected, a mist, accompanied by a heavy fall
of rain, shut every object out from view, and enabled the whole of the
light cavalry of Godinot’s division to sweep round the right flank,
and gallop on the rear of the companies at the time they were in loose
deployment. Half the brigade was cut to pieces--the 31st, who were
still fortunately in column, alone escaping the lancers, who, with
little resistance, were spearing right and left a body of men surprised
on an open flat, and wanting the necessary formation which can alone
enable infantry to resist a charge of horse.

This scene of slaughter, by a partial dispersion of the smoke and fog
that had hitherto concealed the battleground, was fortunately observed
by General Lumley, and he ordered the British cavalry to gallop to the
relief of the remnant of Colborne’s brigade. They charged boldly; and,
in turn, the lancers were taken in rear, and many fell beneath the
sabres of the British.

The weather, that had caused the destruction of the British regiments,
obscured the field of battle, and prevented Soult from taking an
immediate advantage by exterminating that half-ruined brigade. Stewart
brought up Houghton’s corps; the artillery had come forward, and opened
a furious cannonade on the dense masses of the French; and the 31st
resolutely maintained its position on the height. Two Spanish brigades
were advanced, and the action became hotter than ever. For a moment the
French battalions recoiled, but it was only to rally instantly, and
come on with greater fury. A raging fire of artillery on both sides,
sustained at little more than pistol range, with reiterated volleys
of musketry, heaped the field with dead, while the French were vainly
endeavouring to gain ground, and the British would not yield an inch.

But the ranks of the island soldiery were thinning fast, their
ammunition was nearly exhausted, their fire slackened, and
notwithstanding the cannonade checked the French movement for a time,
Soult formed a column on the right flank of the British, and the
French lancers charging furiously again, drove off the artillerymen
and captured six guns. All now seemed lost, and a retreat appeared
inevitable. The Portuguese were preparing to cover it, and the marshal
was about to give the order, when Colonel Hardinge suggested that
another effort should be made, and boldly ordered General Cole to
advance, and then riding to Colonel Abercrombie, who commanded the
remaining brigade of the second division, directed him also to push
forward into the fight.

The order was instantly obeyed; General Harvey, with the Portuguese
regiments of the fourth division, moved on between the British cavalry
and the hill; and though charged home by the French dragoons, he
checked them by a heavy fire and pushed forward steadily; while General
Cole led on the 7th and 23rd fusileers in person.

In a few minutes more the remnant of the British must have abandoned
the hill or perished. The French reserve was on its march to assist the
front column of the enemy, while, with the allies all was in confusion;
and as if the slaughter required an increase, a Spanish and a British
regiment were firing in mutual mistake upon each other. Six guns were
in possession of the French, and their lancers, riding furiously over
the field, threatened the feeble remnant of the British still in line,
and speared the wounded without mercy.

At this fearful moment the boundless gallantry of British officers
displayed itself; Colonel Arbuthnot, under the double musketry, rushed
between the mistaken regiments, and stopped the firing; Cole pushed up
the hill, scattered the lancers, recovered the guns, and passed the
right of the skeleton of Houghton’s brigade, at the same instant that
Abercrombie appeared upon its left. Leaving the broken regiments in its
rear, the fusileer brigade came forward with imposing gallantry, and
boldly confronted the French, now reinforced by a part of its reserve,
and who were, as they believed, coming forward to annihilate the
“feeble few” that had still survived the murderous contest.

From the daring attitude of the fresh regiments, Soult perceived,
too late, that the battle was not yet won; and, under a tremendous
fire of artillery, he endeavoured to break up his close formation
and extend his front. For a moment the storm of grape poured from
Ruty’s well-served artillery, staggered the fusileers; but it was
only for a moment. Though Soult rushed into the thickest of the fire,
and encouraged and animated his men, though the cavalry gathered on
their flank and threatened it with destruction, on went these noble
regiments; volley after volley falling into the crowded ranks of
their enemy, and cheer after cheer pealing to Heaven in answer to the
clamorous outcry of the French, as the boldest urged the others forward.

Nothing could check the fusileers; they kept gradually advancing,
while the incessant rolling of their musketry slaughtered the crowded
sections of the French, and each moment embarrassed more and more
Soult’s efforts to open out his encumbered line. The reserve,
coming to support their comrades--now forced to the very edge of
the plateau--increased the crowd without remedying the disorder.
The British volleys rolled on faster and more deadly than ever; a
horrid carnage made all attempts to hold the hill vain, and uselessly
increased an unavailing slaughter. Unable to bear the withering fire,
the shattered columns of the French were no longer able to sustain
themselves, the mass were driven over the ridge, and trampling each
other down, the shattered column sought refuge at the bottom of the
hill.

On that bloody height stood the conquerors. From fifteen hundred
muskets a parting volley fell upon the routed column as it hurried down
the Sierra. Where was the remainder of the proud army of Britain, that
on the morning had exceeded six thousand combatants? Stretched coldly
in the sleep of death, or bleeding on the battleground!

During the time this desperate effort of the fusileer brigade had
been in progress, Beresford, to assist Hardinge, moved Blake’s first
line on Albuera, and with the German light troops, and two Portuguese
divisions, advanced to support the 7th and 23rd, while Latour
Maubourg’s flank attack was repelled by the fire of Lefebre’s guns, and
a threatened charge by Lumley. But the fusileers had driven the French
over the heights before any assistance reached them, and Beresford was
enabled to form a fresh line upon the hill, parallel to that by which
Soult had made his attack in the morning. For a short time the battle
continued at Albuera, but the French finally withdrew from the village,
and at three o’clock in the evening the firing had totally ceased.

There is not on record a bloodier struggle. In four hours’ fighting
fifteen thousand men were _hors de combat_. The allied loss was
frightful; it amounted to nearly seven thousand in killed, wounded,
and missing. Almost all its general officers were included in the
melancholy list; Houghton, Myers, and Duckworth in the killed; and
Cole, Stewart, Ellis, Blakeney, and Hawkshaw among the wounded. The
loss of some regiments was terrible; the 57th came into action with
five hundred and seventy bayonets, and at the close it had lost its
colonel (Inglis), twenty-two officers, and four hundred rank and file.
The proportion of the allied casualties told how fatal Albuera had
proved to the British; two thousand Spaniards, and six hundred German
and Portuguese, were returned as their killed and wounded, leaving
the remainder to be completed from the British regiments. Hence, the
unexampled loss of more than four thousand men, out of a corps little
exceeding six, was sustained in this sanguinary battle by the British.

Never was more heroism displayed than by the British regiments engaged
in the murderous conflict of Albuera. The soldiers dropped by whole
ranks, but never thought of turning. When a too ardent wish to succour
those pressed upon the hill induced Stewart to hurry Colborne’s brigade
into action, without allowing it a momentary pause to halt and form,
and in the mist that unluckily favoured the lancer charge the companies
were unexpectedly assailed, though fighting at dreadful disadvantage,
the men resisted to the last. Numbers perished by the lance-blade;
but still the dead Poles that were found intermingled with the fallen
British, showed that the gallant islanders had not died without
exacting blood for blood.

The French exceeded the British by at least a thousand. Of their worst
wounded, eight hundred were left upon the field. Their loss in superior
officers, like that of the British, had been most severe--two generals
having been killed, and three severely wounded.

To a victory both sides laid claim--the French resting theirs on the
capture of some colours, the taking of a howitzer, with some five
hundred prisoners whom they had secured unwounded. But the British kept
the battleground, and though neither cannon nor eagle remained with
them, a field covered with carcases, and heaped with bleeding enemies,
was the best trophy of their valour, and clearly established to whom
conquest in reality belonged.

Much military controversy has arisen from the fight of Albuera,
and Marshal Beresford has received some praise and more censure.
Probably the battle should not have been fought at all; or, if it
were unavoidable, greater care might have been bestowed in taking the
position.

If Beresford’s judgment be open to censure, his personal intrepidity
must be admitted and admired. No man could make greater exertions to
retrieve the day when defeat appeared all but certain. When Stewart’s
imprudence, in loosely bringing Colborne’s brigade into action, had
occasioned it a loss only short of annihilation, and the Spaniards,
though they could not be induced to advance, fired without ceasing,
with a British regiment in their front, Beresford actually seized an
ensign and dragged him forward with the colours, hoping that these
worthless troops would be inspirited to follow. Not a man stirred,
and the standard-bearer, when the marshal’s grasp relaxed, instantly
flew back to herd with his cold-blooded associates. In every charge
of the fight, and on every part of the field, Beresford was seen
conspicuously; and whatever might have been his failing as a general,
his bravery as a man should have commanded the respect of many who
treated his arrangements with unsparing severity.

A painful night succeeded that sanguinary day. The moaning of the
wounded and the groans of the dying were heard on every side; and it
was to be dreaded that Soult, who had still fifteen thousand troops
fit for action, would renew the battle. On the next day, however, three
fresh British regiments joined the marshal by a forced march; and on
the 18th, Soult retreated on the road of Solano, covered by the heavy
cavalry of Latour Maubourg. He had previously despatched such of his
wounded as could bear removal towards Seville, leaving the remainder to
the generous protection of the British commander.

Soult continued retreating, and Beresford followed him, by order of the
allied commander.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE SIEGE OF RODRIGO.

1812.


A campaign highly honourable to the British arms had ended, and the
rival armies had taken up cantonments for the winter months, each
covering an extensive range of country, for the better obtaining of
forage and supplies. Active operations for a season were suspended,
and officers whose private concerns or bad health required a temporary
leave of absence, had asked and received permission to revisit Britain.
The restoration of the works of Almeida, which the French had half
destroyed, occupied the leisure time of the British and Portuguese
artificers, while, for the ostensible purpose of arming that fortress,
siege stores and a battering train were conveyed thither by water
carriage--the Douro having been rendered navigable by the British
engineers for an extended distance of forty miles.

But the arming of Almeida was but a feint--the reduction of Ciudad
Rodrigo was the real object of Lord Wellington, and with indefatigable
zeal he applied himself to obtain the means. A waggon train was
organised--six hundred carts, on an improved construction, were
built; and while the French marshal, supposing that the weakness of
Lord Wellington was a security against any act of aggression upon his
part, detached Montbrun to Valencia, and Dorsenne to the Asturias and
Montana, the British general was quietly preparing to strike a sudden
and unexpected blow, and completed his necessary arrangements for
investing Rodrigo the 6th of January.

Considering the season of the year, and the nakedness of the country
for many miles around the threatened fortress, the intended operation
was bold to a degree. The horses had scarcely any forage, and the
men were literally destitute of bread or shelter. The new year came
in inclemently, rain fell in torrents, and though the investment was
delayed two days, the brigade (Mackinnon’s) that marched from Aldea
de Ponte, left nearly four hundred men behind, in a route of only
four-and-twenty miles, numbers of whom perished on the line of march,
or died subsequently from the fatigue they had endured.

Ciudad Rodrigo stands on high ground, in the centre of an extensive
plain it domineers. The city is erected on the right bank of the
Agueda, which there branches into numerous channels, and forms a number
of small islands. The citadel commands the town, and standing on an
elevated mound is difficult of access on every side. Since their late
occupation, the French had added considerably to the strength of the
place. The suburbs were secured against a _coup de main_, by fortifying
two convents on their flanks, and another nearly in the centre. On the
north side the ground rises in two places; that furthest from the works
is thirteen feet above the level of the ramparts, from which it is
distant six hundred yards. The other, of lesser altitude, is scarcely
two hundred paces. On the former the enemy had erected a redoubt; it
was protected by a fortified convent called San Francisco, as well as
the artillery of the place, which commanded the approaches from the
hill.

The Agueda is fordable in several places, the best passage being
within pistol-shot of the walls. In winter, from the sudden floodings
of the river, these fords cannot be relied upon, and a bridge of
eighteen trestles, with a platform four hundred feet long, was secretly
constructed in the citadel of Almeida and conveyed to Salices.

Four divisions were entrusted with the duties of the siege. They took
their turns in course, each for twenty-four hours furnishing the
requisite guards and working parties.

On the night of the 8th of January, the investment was regularly
commenced, and the redoubt on the upper Teson stormed by three
companies of the 52nd with trifling loss. Ground was broken on its
flank, and by the morning the trench was four feet wide and three in
depth. On the following night the first parallel was opened; and the
outlines of three batteries for eleven guns each were traced.

The weather continued dreadfully inclement, and as it was believed that
Marmont would endeavour to raise the siege, Wellington decided on rapid
operations, and resolved to attempt a storm even with the counterscarps
entire. Both the besiegers and the besieged were active in their
operations. On the night of the 13th, the convent of Santa Cruz was
taken; and on the 14th, while the division was coming to relieve the
working parties, the garrison made a sortie, overturned the gabions in
advance of the parallel, and would have succeeded in spiking the guns,
but for the spirited opposition of a few workmen and engineers, who
checked the attempt, until the head of the division closing up obliged
the French to retire.

On the morning of the 14th, the batteries were nearly ready for
breaching, mounted with twenty-three 24-pounders and two eighteens. At
four o’clock in the afternoon their fire commenced, and a spectacle
more strikingly magnificent, it has rarely been the good fortune even
of a British soldier to witness.

The evening chanced to be remarkably beautiful and still; there was
not a cloud in the sky, nor a breath of wind astir, when suddenly the
roar of artillery broke in upon its calmness, and volumes of smoke rose
slowly from the batteries. These floating gently towards the town,
soon enveloped the lower part of the hill, and even the ramparts and
bastions in a dense veil, while the towers and summits lifting their
heads over the haze, showed like fairy buildings, or those substantial
castles which are sometimes seen in the clouds on a summer’s day. The
flashes from the British guns, answered as they were from the artillery
in the front, and the roar of their thunder reverberating among the
remote mountains of the Sierra de Francisca; these, with the rattle of
the balls against the walls, proved altogether a scene which, to be
rightly understood, must be experienced.

That night the convent of San Francisco was escaladed by a wing of the
40th, and the French having abandoned the suburbs, they were occupied
by the besiegers.

At daybreak on the 15th the batteries resumed their fire, and at sunset
the walls of the main scarp and fausse braye were visibly shaken. Under
cover of a fog on the 16th, the second parallel was prolonged; but
the front of the works was so limited, and the fire of the enemy so
concentrated and correct, that it required immense time to throw up a
battery. The difficulty may be readily imagined, from the fact of the
French having discharged at the approaches, upwards of twenty thousand
shot and shells. Another battery of seven guns was opened on the 18th.
On the 19th, two breaches were distinctly visible from the trenches,
and on being carefully reconnoitred, they were declared practicable.
Lord Wellington examined them in person, decided on storming them that
evening, and from behind the reverse of one of the approaches, issued
written orders for the assault.

The French were not inactive. The larger breach, exposing a shattered
front of more than one hundred feet, had been carefully mined--the
base of the wall strewn with shells and grenades, and the top, where
troops might escalade, similarly defended. Behind, a deep retrenchment
was cut, to insulate the broken rampart, in the event of its being
carried by storm. The lesser breach was narrow at the top, exceedingly
steep, with a four-and-twenty pounder turned sideways, that blocked the
passage up, except an opening between the muzzle and the wall, by which
two files might enter.

Early in the evening, the third and light divisions were moved from
their cantonments. At six, the third moved to the rear of the first
parallel, two gun-shots from the main breach, while the light formed
behind a convent, three hundred yards in front of the smaller one.
Darkness came on, and with it came the order to “Stand to arms.” With
calm determination, the soldiers of the third division heard their
commanding officer announce the main breach as the object of attack;
and every man prepared himself promptly for the desperate struggle. Off
went the packs, the stocks were unbuckled, the cartouch box arranged to
meet the hand more readily, flints were screwed home, every one after
his individual fancy fitting himself for action. The companies were
carefully told off, the sergeants called the rolls, and not a man was
missing.

The town clock struck seven, and its sonorous bell knelled the fate of
hundreds. Presently the forlorn hope formed under the leading of the
senior subaltern of the 88th, William Mackie; and Picton and Mackinnon
rode up and joined the division. The former’s address to the Connaught
Rangers was brief, it was to “Spare powder, and trust entirely to cold
iron.” The word was given, “Forward!” was repeated in under tones, the
forlorn hope led the way, the storming party, carrying bags filled with
dry grass, followed the division in column succeeded, all moved on in
desperate silence, and of the third division not a file hung back.

The fifth regiment joined from the right, and all pressed forward to
the breach. The bags, thrown into the ditch by the sappers, reduced
the depth one half; ladders were instantly raised, the storming party
mounted, and after a short but severe struggle, the breach was won.

Before the storming party had entered the ditch, the shells and
combustibles had been prematurely exploded, occasioning but trifling
loss to the assailants. The French instantly abandoned the breach,
sprang the mines, and fell back behind the retrenchment, from which,
and from the neighbouring houses, they maintained a murderous fire.

In the meantime the light division had stormed the lesser breach. It
was most gallantly carried; and the loss would not have been severe,
but for the accidental explosion of a service magazine behind the
traverse, by which several officers and a number of men were destroyed.
Directed by the heavy fire at the main breach, part of the 43rd and
95th rushed along the ramparts to assist their comrades of the third
division; and Pack’s brigade, having converted their feint upon the
southern face of the works into a real attack, entered the “fausse
braye,” and drove the French before them with the bayonet. Thus
threatened in their rear, the enemy abandoned the retrenchment; and,
still resisting, were driven from street to street, until they flung
down their arms and asked and received that quarter which the laws of
war denied and the fury of an excited soldiery left them but little
hope of obtaining.

The first men that surmounted the difficulties the breach presented
were a sergeant and two privates of the 88th. The French, who still
remained beside the gun, whose sweeping fire had hitherto been so
fatal to those who led the storm, attacked these brave men furiously;
a desperate hand-to-hand encounter succeeded. The Irishmen, undaunted
by the superior number of their assailants, laid five or six of the
gunners at their feet. The struggle was observed, and some soldiers
of the 5th regiment scrambled up to the assistance of their gallant
comrades, and the remnant of the French gunners perished by their
bayonets.

Lieutenant Mackie, who led the forlorn hope, had miraculously escaped
without a wound, and pressing “over the dying and the dead,” he reached
the further bank of the retrenchment, and found himself in solitary
possession of the street beyond the breach, while the battle still
raged behind him.

The town was won; but alas! many of the best and bravest had fallen.
General Craufurd was mortally wounded in leading the light division to
the lesser breach, and General Mackinnon was killed after having gained
the ramparts of the greater breach.

During the siege, the allies lost three officers and seventy-seven
killed; twenty-four officers and five hundred men wounded; while in
the storm six officers and one hundred and forty men fell, and sixty
officers and nearly five hundred men were wounded. The French loss was
severe; and the commandant, General Barrie, with eighty officers and
seventeen hundred men, were taken prisoners. There were found upon the
works one hundred and nine pieces of artillery, a battering train of
forty-four guns, and an armoury and arsenal filled with military stores.

Thus fell Rodrigo. On the evening of the 8th the first ground was
broken--on that of the 19th the British colours were flying on the
ramparts. Massena, after a tedious bombardment, took a full month to
reduce it; Wellington carried it by assault in eleven days. No wonder
that Marmont, in his despatch to Berthier, was puzzled to account for
the rapid reduction of a place, respecting whose present safety and
ultimate relief, he had previously forwarded the most encouraging
assurances.

After all resistance had ceased, the usual scene of riot, plunder, and
confusion, which by prescriptive right the stormers of a town enjoy,
occurred. Every house was entered and despoiled; the spirit stores
were forced open; the soldiery got desperately excited, and in the
madness of their intoxication committed many acts of silly and wanton
violence. All plundered what they could, and in turn they were robbed
by their own companions. Brawls and bloodshed resulted, and the same
men who, shoulder to shoulder, had won their way over the “imminent
deadly breach,” fought with demoniac ferocity for some disputed article
of plunder. At last, worn out by fatigue, and stupefied with brandy,
they sank into brutal insensibility; and on the second day, with few
exceptions, rejoined their regiments; the assault and sacking of
Rodrigo appearing in their confused imaginations, rather like some
troubled dream than a desperate and bloodstained reality.

On the second day, order was tolerably restored; stragglers had
returned to their regiments; the breaches were repaired, the trenches
filled in, and the place being once more perfectly defensible, was
given up by Lord Wellington to Castanos, the captain-general of the
province, who had been present at the siege. Additional honours were
deservedly conferred upon the conqueror of Rodrigo. Wellington was
created a British earl and a Spanish duke, and a farther annuity of
£2000 a year was voted by a grateful country, to support the dignities
she had so deservedly conferred.

But another and a bolder blow was yet to be struck. Again the troops
were put in motion, and the order was obeyed with pleasure, all being
too happy to quit a place where every supply had been exhausted, and
every object recalled the loss of relatives and friends. Leaving a
division of infantry on the Agueda, the remainder of the army moved
rapidly back upon the Tagus, and, crossing the river, headquarters
were established at Elvas, on the 11th. There every preparation was
completed for one of the boldest of Lord Wellington’s attempts, for on
the 16th, a pontoon bridge across the Guadiana was traversed by the
light, third, and fourth divisions, and Badajoz regularly invested.



CHAPTER XIV.

THE SIEGE OF BADAJOZ.

1812.


The town of Badajoz contained a population of about 16,000, and, within
the space of thirteen months, experienced the miseries attendant upon
a state of siege three several times. The first was undertaken by Lord
Beresford, towards the end of April, 1811, who was obliged to abandon
operations by Soult advancing to its relief, and which led to the
battle of Albuera on the 16th of May.

The second siege was by Lord Wellington in person, who, after the
battle of Fuentes d’Onoro, directed his steps towards the south with
a portion of the allied army. Operations commenced on the 30th of
May, and continued till the 10th of June, when the siege was again
abandoned, Soult having a second time advanced in combined operation
with the army of Marmont from the north. The allies continued the
blockade of the town till the 17th, when they recrossed the Guadiana,
and took up a position on the Caya.

The secrecy and despatch with which Lord Wellington had formed or
collected all necessary _matériel_ for besieging this formidable place
on whose reduction he had determined, was astonishing. The heavy guns
had been brought by sea from Lisbon, transhipped into craft of easy
draught of water, and thus conveyed up the river until they reached
the banks of the Guadiana. Gabions and fascines[4] were prepared
in the surrounding woods, intrenching tools provided, the pontoon
bridge brought up from Abrantez, and the battering train, comprising
sixteen 24 and twenty 18-pounders, with sixteen 24-pound howitzers,
were forwarded from Almeida, and parked upon the glacis of Elvas, in
readiness for the opening of the siege.

[4] _Fascines_ are small branches of trees bound together. They are
used for filling ditches, masking batteries, &c., &c.

Though not entirely aware of the extent of these hostile preparations,
Philippon, the governor of Badajoz, had apprised Marshal Soult that the
fortress was threatened, and demanded a supply of shells and gunpowder.
This requisition, though immediately complied with, was not obtained,
for Sir Rowland Hill, with his characteristic activity, prevented the
convoy from reaching its destination.

Indeed, nothing which could secure the place had been forgotten or
neglected by its governor. The forts of San Christoval and Pardelaras
had been considerably strengthened and enlarged, the former by a
lunette,[5] magazine and bomb-proof, and the latter by a general
repair. Badajoz was provisioned for five weeks, the garrison was
numerous and well appointed, and, confident in his own resources and
skill, Philippon, after two successful defences, resolutely prepared
himself for a third, and with a perfect conviction that, like the
others, it, too, would prove successful.

[5] A work on either side of a ravelin, with one perpendicular face.
They are also sometimes thrown up beyond the second ditch, opposite the
places of arms.

Badajoz is easily described. Round one portion of the town, the
rivulets Calamon and Rivellas sweep, and unite with the Guadiana,
which flows in the face of the works, and in front of the heights of
San Christoval. The castle stands above the union of these rivers.
The fortifications are exceedingly strong, the bastions and curtains
regular, while formidable outworks, the forts of Pardelaras, Picarina,
and San Christoval, complete the exterior defences.

A close reconnaissance at once convinced Lord Wellington that the
defences had been amazingly improved--and, as time pressed, and the
means of regular investment were but indifferent, he determined that
the bastion of La Trinidad, from its unfinished counterguard,[6] should
be battered. To effect this, the Picarina redoubt, forming nearly an
angle with the bastion, and the lunette of San Rocque, must necessarily
be carried.

[6] _Counterguards_ are small ramparts, with parapets and ditches,
erected in front of a bastion or ravelin, to secure the opposite flanks
from being open to the covert-way.

The night of the 16th March was bad enough to mask any daring essay,
and rain, darkness, and storm favoured the bold attempt. Ground was
accordingly broken, and though but one hundred and seventy yards from
the covered way, the working parties were neither heard nor molested.
The 17th and 18th were similarly employed, but under a heavy fire from
the Picarina fort, and such of the guns upon the works as could be
turned by the garrison on the approaches.

The evening of the 18th, however, produced a very different scene,
for the enemy became assailant, and a sortie was made with fifteen
hundred men, accompanied by some forty cavalry. To the works, this
sudden assault occasioned but little mischief. The gabions[7] were
overturned, some intrenching tools captured, and great confusion
caused among the working parties; but the French were speedily driven
back, after causing much alarm, and a loss of one hundred and fifty in
killed and wounded. Colonel Fletcher, the chief of the engineers, was
unfortunately among the latter.

[7] _Gabions_ are large circular baskets, filled with earth or sand,
and used for forming parapets, covering working parties, &c., &c.

The weather was in every way unfavourable for prosecuting the siege,
and elemental influences seemed to have united with Philippon against
the allied commander. The rain fell in torrents, the river rose far
beyond its customary height, the pontoons swamped at their moorings,
and all were swept away. From the violence of the current, the flying
bridges worked but slowly, and serious apprehensions were entertained
lest the communications should be interrupted with the other side,
and, of necessity, that the siege must be raised. To forward the works
required incredible fatigue; the ground was soaked with moisture, the
trenches more than knee-deep with mud and rain, the revêtements[8]
of the batteries crumbled away under any pressure, and it was almost
impossible to lay platforms for the guns. Indeed, had the works been
ready for their reception, the task of transporting heavy artillery
across a surface, rendered a perfect swamp by the incessant torrents
which had fallen for days without any intermission, would have been a
most laborious duty.

[8] _Revêtement_ of a battery is the exterior front, formed of masonry
or fascines, which keeps the bank of the work from falling.

Fortunately, the weather changed, the ground dried partially, and
the works were carried on with additional spirit. By employing teams
of oxen, assisted by numerous fatigue parties, the guns were brought
forward, and the batteries armed, and on the 25th they opened on the
Picarina and the place itself, with excellent effect, while Philippon
returned the fire from every gun upon the ramparts that could be
brought to bear.

Perceiving the true object of the besiegers, and certain that the
Picarina would be assailed, ample measures were taken for its defence.
The ditch was deepened, the gorge secured by an additional palisade;
under the angles of the glacis fougasses[9] were placed, and shells and
grenades laid along the parapet, to roll down upon the storming party
at the moment of attack. The ditch was exposed to a flanking fire, and
two hundred spare muskets were ranged along the banquet. Every means,
in short, were adopted that could insure a vigorous and successful
resistance.

[9] _The glacis_ is the part beyond the covert-way to which it forms
the parapet.

_Fougasse_ is a small mine, six or seven feet under ground, generally
formed in the glacis or dry ditch.

That night, at ten o’clock, the fort was attacked and carried by five
hundred men of the third division, under Major-general Kempt. One
party was directed to attempt the gorge, another prevented the place
from being succoured from the city, and at the same time cut off the
garrison from retreat; and a third were to distract the attention of
the French, and assist their comrades by making a front attack.

The first detachment reached the gorge undiscovered, but failed in
forcing the palisades, from the heavy fire of musketry poured on them
by the garrison. Retiring from a place where success was hopeless, the
storming party moved round the left flank, and escaladed and won the
parapet; while another forced the salient angle simultaneously. The
French retreated to a guardhouse, which they barricaded and defended
most obstinately.

Alarmed by a false report that a large body of the besieged had sallied
from the town to relieve the fort, the troops were about to abandon
these advantages, and quit a place their bravery had already won; but
General Kempt dispelled the panic, led them forward, and attacked the
garrison again, who fought to the very last; and, with the exception
of some seventy, perished while desperately resisting. The taking of
Picarina was gallantly effected, but it cost the British dear, the
casualties in killed and wounded, being nineteen officers and upwards
of three hundred men.

The capture of the fort enabled the second parallel to be pushed on,
and breaching batteries to be completed. The guns maintained a heavy
fire on the bastion of La Trinidad; and the sappers directed their
efforts against the lunette of San Rocque. The progress of the siege
was slow; and though two breaches were made, the certainty that both
were retrenched[10] and secured by interior defences, rendered an
assault too hazardous an experiment to be ventured.

[10] _Retrench_, in fortification, means the isolating of a breach by
forming inner defences.

Lord Wellington was critically circumstanced, as Marmont had made
some forward movements in front of Beira, and Soult was advancing,
determined to relieve the place. His light troops were already at
Larena; the covering army under Hill had been obliged to retreat; and
after blowing up two arches of the bridge of Merida, had taken post in
front of Talavera.

In consequence, the fifth division was ordered to advance, leaving the
observation of San Christoval to the Portuguese cavalry; the British
general having decided on leaving a corps of ten thousand men to
protect the trenches, and with the remainder of his force bring Soult
to action.

At noon, on the 5th April, the breaches were reconnoitred and declared
practicable; but the assault was deferred for another day to allow the
artillery time to batter down the curtain, connecting the bastion with
an unfinished ravelin. The concentrated fire of the British batteries
fell upon the old wall with irresistible force; it was breached in
a single day, and thus three points for assault were thrown open.
The report of the engineers was encouraging; the main breach was
sufficiently wide, and the ascent to all three easy enough for troops
to mount.

Ten o’clock on the night of the 6th was appointed for the assault to be
attempted, and the necessary orders were issued accordingly. The castle
was to be attacked by the third division, the bastion of La Trinidad
by the fourth, that of Santa Maria by the light division, the lunette
of San Rocque by a party from the trenches; while the fifth should
distract the garrison by a false attack on the Pardelaras, and the
works contiguous to San Vicente.

Philippon, well aware that an assault might be expected, had employed
every resource that skill and ingenuity could devise to render the
attempt a failure. As Lord Wellington had neither time nor means to
destroy the counterscarps, the French were enabled to raise the most
formidable obstructions at their foot, and insulate the breaches
effectually. At night, the rubbish was removed, retrenchments formed,
and the battered parapets repaired by sand-bags, casks, and woolpacks.
Powder-barrels and grenades were laid along the trenches, and at
the foot of the breach sixty fourteen-inch shells, communicating
with hoses and bedded in earth, were placed ready for explosion. A
chevaux-de-frieze[11] was stretched across the rampart, and planks
studded with spikes covered the slopes of the breaches. Every species
of combustible was employed, and a cartridge specially prepared for the
musketry, formed of buck-shot and slugs; and when the distance was so
close, nothing would prove more mischievous.

[11] _Chevaux-de-frieze_ are wooden spars, spiked at one end, and set
into a piece of timber. They were originally used as a defence against
cavalry, but are now commonly employed in strengthening outworks and
stopping breaches.

The day was remarkably fine, and the troops, in high spirits, heard
the orders for the assault, and proceeded to clean their appointments,
as if a dress parade only was intended. Evening came, darkness shut
distant objects out, the regiments formed, the roll was called in an
under voice, the forlorn hope stepped out, the storming party was told
off, all were in readiness and eager for the fray.

Shortly before ten, a beautiful firework rose from the town, and showed
the outline of Badajoz and every object that lay within several hundred
yards of the works. The flame of the carcase died gradually away, and
darkness, apparently more dense, succeeded this short and brilliant
illumination.

The word was given, the forlorn hope moved forward, the storming
parties succeeded, and the divisions, in columns, closed the whole. Of
these splendid troops, now all life and daring, how many were living in
an hour?

At that moment the deep bell of the cathedral of St. John struck ten;
the most perfect silence reigned around, and except the softened
footsteps of the storming parties, as they fell upon the turf with
military precision, not a movement was audible. A terrible suspense, a
horrible stillness, darkness, a compression of the breathing, the dull
and ill-defined outline of the town, the knowledge that similar and
simultaneous movements were making on other points, the certainty that
two or three minutes would probably involve the forlorn hope in ruin,
or make it the beacon-light to conquest--all these made the heart throb
quicker and long for the bursting of the storm, when victory should
crown daring with success, or hope and life should end together.

On went the storming parties; one solitary musket was discharged beside
the breach, but none answered it. The light division moved forward,
rapidly closing up in columns at quarter distance. The ditch was
gained, the ladders were lowered, on rushed the forlorn hope, with the
storming party close behind them. The divisions were now on the brink
of the sheer descent, when a gun boomed from the parapet. The earth
trembled, a mine was fired, an explosion, and an infernal hissing
from lighted fusees succeeded, and, like the rising of a curtain on
the stage, in the hellish glare that suddenly burst out around the
breaches, the French lining the ramparts in crowds, and the British
descending the ditch, were placed as distinctly visible to each other
as if the hour were noontide!

A tremendous fire from the guns, a number of which had been laid
upon the approaches to the breach, followed the explosion; but, all
undaunted, the storming party cheered, and undauntedly the French
answered it. A murderous scene ensued, for the breach was utterly
impassable. Notwithstanding the withering fire of musketry from the
parapets, with light artillery directed immediately on the breach, and
grape from every gun upon the works that could play upon the assailants
and the supporting columns, the British mounted. Hundreds were thrown
back, and hundreds as promptly succeeded them.

Almost unharmed themselves, the French dealt death around; and secure
within defences, that even in daylight and to a force unopposed, proved
afterwards nearly insurmountable, they ridiculed the mad attempt; and
while they viewed from the parapets a thousand victims writhing in the
ditch, they called in derision to the broken columns, and invited them
to come on.

While the assaults upon the breaches were thus fatally unsuccessful,
the third and fifth divisions had moved to their respective points of
attack. Picton’s, to whom the citadel was assigned, found difficulties
nearly equal to those encountered at the breaches. Thither Philippon
had determined to retire, if the assault upon the other defences should
succeed, and, in that event, hold the castle and San Christoval to the
last. To render the place more secure, he had caused the gates to be
built up, and the ramparts were lined with shells, cart-wheels, stones,
and every destructive missile.

Fireballs betrayed the movements of the assailants; and, for a time,
every attempt at escalade failed with prodigious loss. At last one
ladder was planted, a few daring spirits gained the ramparts, crowds
followed them, and in an incredibly short time the castle was won.
Philippon heard of the disaster too late to redeem its loss. The troops
despatched from the breaches and elsewhere were unable to recover it,
a British jacket waved from the flag-staff, and in the first dawn of
morning announced the downfall of Badajoz.

The fifth division were equally successful; though General Leith had to
delay his attack till eleven o’clock, from the party who had charge of
the ladders losing their way.

The attempt on San Vicente succeeded, notwithstanding every preparation
had been made for its defence; Major-general Walker overcame all
opposition, and established himself securely in the place.

And yet it is astonishing, even in the spring-tide of success, how the
most trivial circumstances will damp the courage of the bravest, and
check the most desperate in their career. The storming party of the
fifth had escaladed a wall of thirty feet with wretched ladders, forced
an uninjured palisade, descended a deep counterscarp, crossed the
lunette behind it, and this was effected under a converging fire from
the bastions, and a well-sustained fusilade, while but a few of the
assailants could force their way together, and form on the rampart when
they got up. But the leading sections persevered until the brigade was
completely lodged within the parapet; and now united, and supported by
the division who followed fast, what could withstand their advance?

They were sweeping forward with the bayonet, the French were broken and
dispersed, when at this moment of brilliant success, a port-fire, which
a retreating gunner had flung upon the rampart was casually discovered.
A vague alarm seized the leading files, they fancied some mischief was
intended, and imagined the success, which their own desperate gallantry
had achieved, was but a ruse of the enemy to lure them to destruction.

“It is a mine, and they are springing it!” shouted a soldier.

Instantly the leaders of the storming party turned, and it was
impossible for their officers to undeceive them. The French perceived
the panic, rallied and pursued, and friends and foes came rushing back
tumultuously upon a supporting regiment (the 38th) that was fortunately
formed in reserve upon the ramparts. This momentary success of the
besieged was dearly purchased; a volley was thrown closely in, a
bayonet rush succeeded, and the French were scattered before the fresh
assailants, never to form again.

The fifth division rushed on; everything gave way that opposed it,
the cheering rose above the firing, the bugles sounded an advance,
the enemy became distracted and disheartened, and again the light and
fourth divisions, or, alas! their skeletons, assisted by Hay’s brigade,
advanced to the breaches. No opposition was made; they entered, and
Badajoz was their own! Philippon, finding that all was lost, retired
across the river to San Christoval; and early next day, surrendered
unconditionally.

The loss sustained by the allies in the reduction of this well-defended
fortress was awful. In the assault alone, the British casualties were
fifty-nine officers and seven hundred and forty-four men killed. Two
hundred and fifty-eight officers, and two thousand six hundred men
wounded!

Lord Wellington had stationed himself on the high ground behind San
Christoval, to view the progress of the assault. During a contest so
doubtful and protracted, his anxiety was painfully acute. What a period
of dreadful suspense must have ensued, from the time the striking of
the town clock announced the marching of the divisions, until the
thunder of artillery told the British leader that the conflict had
begun! For a minute the fireworks thrown from the place showed the
columns at the breaches. Darkness followed, stillness more horrible
yet, and then the sudden burst of light, as shells and mines exploded.
The main breach was literally in a blaze--sheets of fire mounted to
the sky, accompanied by a continued roaring of hellish noises, as
every villainous combustible was ignited to discover or destroy the
assailants.

The wounded came fast to the rear, but they could tell little how
matters were progressing. At last a mounted officer rode up. He was
the bearer of evil tidings; the attack upon the breaches had failed,
the majority of the officers had fallen, the men, left without
leaders to direct them, were straggling about the ditch, and unless
instant assistance was sent, the assault must fail entirely. Pale but
collected, the British general heard the disastrous communication, and
issued orders to send forward a fresh brigade (Hay’s) to the breaches.
Half an hour passed, and another officer appeared. He came from Picton
to say the castle had been escaladed, and that the third division was
actually in the town.

Instantly staff officers were despatched to the castle with orders that
it should be retained, and that the divisions, or rather their relics,
should be withdrawn from the breaches.

Though the regular assaults had been sanguinary failures, the detached
attacks upon the castle and San Vicente were brilliantly successful,
and either of them must have next day produced the fall of Badajoz. In
fact, the city was doubly won; and had Leith’s division obtained their
ladders in proper order, the place would have fallen in half the time,
and a frightful loss of life have been consequently avoided.

It may be readily imagined that such a fierce resistance as that made
by the French would provoke a desperate retaliation from the victors.
For a day and two nights the city presented a fearful scene of rapine
and riot. The streets were heaped with the drunken and the dead, and
very many of the conquerors, who had escaped uninjured in the storm,
fell by the bayonets of their comrades.

No language can depict the horrors which succeed a storm. A few hours
made a frightful change in the condition and temper of the soldiery.
In the morning they were obedient to their officers, and preserved
the semblance of subordination; now they were in a state of furious
intoxication--discipline was forgotten, and the splendid troops of
yesterday had become a fierce and sanguinary rabble, dead to every
touch of human feeling, and filled with every demoniac passion that can
brutalise the man. The town was in terrible confusion, and on every
side frightful tokens of military license met the eye.

Streets were almost choked up with broken furniture, for the houses had
been gutted from the cellar to the garret, the partitions torn down,
and even the beds ripped and scattered to the winds, in the hope that
gold might be found concealed. Brandy and wine casks were rolled out
before the stores; some were full, some half drunk, but more staved in
mere wantonness, and the liquors running through the kennel. All within
that devoted city was at the disposal of an infuriated army, over whom
for the time control was lost, aided by an infamous collection of camp
followers, who were, if possible, more sanguinary and pitiless even
than those who had survived the storm! It is useless to dwell upon a
scene from which the heart revolts.

Strict measures were taken on the second day by Lord Wellington to
repress these desperate excesses and save the infuriated soldiery from
the fatal consequences their own debauchery produced. A Portuguese
brigade was brought from the rear, and sent into the town, accompanied
by the provost marshal and the gallows. This demonstration had its due
effect, and one rope carried terror to rioters whom the bayonets of a
whole regiment could not appal.



CHAPTER XV.

THE BATTLE OF SALAMANCA.

1812.


Early in June, the British divisions began to concentrate; and on the
13th the cantonments on the Agueda were broken up, and Lord Wellington
crossed the frontier.

The condition of the army was excellent, and the most exact discipline
was preserved, while all unnecessary parades were dispensed with. The
march ended, the soldier enjoyed all the comforts he could command;
if foot-sore, he had rest to recruit; if untired, he had permission
to amuse himself. His arms and appointments were rigidly inspected,
his supper cooked, his bivouac formed, and at sunrise he rose at the
_reveille_, to resume, with light heart and “gallant hope,” the march
that was to lead to victory.

The weather was fine, and as the route lay principally through forest
lands, nothing could be more picturesque and beautiful than the country
which the line of march presented. The wooded landscape displayed its
verdure under the sunny influence of a cloudless sky, and singularly
contrasted its summer green with the snow-topped pinnacles of the
Sierra de Gata. No enemy appeared; for days the march was leisurely
continued, until, on clearing the forest at Valmasa, the German Hussars
in advance, had a slight skirmish with a French picket in front of
Salamanca.

This city, celebrated for its antiquity, and noted in the middle
ages as foremost among the most celebrated schools of learning, was
destined to witness a fresh triumph of British bravery. The situation
of Salamanca is bold and imposing, standing on high ground on the
right bank of the Tormes, and surrounded by a fine champaign country,
divested of wood, but interspersed with numerous clay-built villages.
A Roman road can still be traced without the town, while a portion of
the bridge across the Tormes, consisting of twenty-seven arches, is
supposed to have been constructed when the Eternal City was mistress of
the world.

Ultimately it was generally believed that a battle on the plains of
Valesa was inevitable; and the troops bivouacked in two lines, and
before daybreak were under arms. But with the first light, Marmont
was seen extending by his left, and the allies moved consequently in
a parallel direction. Either commander might provoke an action, but
neither seemed inclined to risk one. The French marshal’s design was
very apparent. He kept the high ground, manœuvred to out-flank his
opponent, and, should opportunity permit, attack him at advantage.

His able antagonist, however, never gave the chance. Some time passed
in manœuvring, and the French held Babila, Fuente, and Villamesa; the
allies, Cabesa and Aldea Lingua.

The 21st July was also spent in flank marching, during which both
commanders crossed the Tormes; the French by the fords of Alba and
Huerta, and the allies by Santa Martha and the bridge of Salamanca.
The hostile armies bivouacked again that night, and such a night can
scarcely be imagined.

The evening was calm and sultry, but the extreme verge of the horizon
became heavily overcast, and persons conversant with “skyey influences”
might have easily foretold a coming storm. Suddenly a torrent fell, the
wind rose and swept across the open hills with amazing violence, the
thunder-clouds burst, and, by the glare of lightning, the sparkling
arms of infantry masses were visible over the whole extent of the
position, as the last brigades pressed through the tempest to occupy
their ground. No shelter the allied army could obtain could have
averted a summer shower, and all in a few minutes were drenched to the
skin; while the cavalry horses, scared by the lightning, broke from
their picketings, and trampling upon their riders rushed madly to and
fro, occasioning indescribable confusion.

Nothing could be more imposing than the parallel movements of the
rival armies during the last three days. Far as the eye could range,
masses, apparently interminable, pursued their march with beautiful
regularity, now displayed in brilliant sunshine as they swept over a
contiguous height, now lost where an accidental dipping of the ground
for a time concealed the column. Generally both armies abstained from
hostile collision, by a sort of mutual consent; and excepting where
the line of march brought the light troops into immediate proximity,
or the occupation of a village produced a trifling fusilade, the grand
movements of the rival hosts exhibited a “ceaseless march,” the leading
columns pressing forward toward the Tormes, and the rear hidden from
view “by dust and distance.”

The whole system of manœuvres which marked the operations of the
French marshal since Bonnet’s division had joined him on the Douro,
showed clearly that he only waited for a fitting moment to attack.
The French army were in high spirits; while in numerical force they
were formidable indeed, numbering forty-five thousand men, of whom
four thousand were cavalry. Other circumstances were favourable to the
commencement of active aggression by the French. The communications
with the capital were open, reinforcements constantly arriving,
while a powerful accession of strength had approached the immediate
neighbourhood of the scene of operations from the army of the North; a
part of its cavalry and horse-artillery having already reached Pollos.

If Marmont was anxious to offer battle, the British general, for
obvious reasons, was as willing to accept it. Aware of his opponent’s
abilities in tactics, and apprised of the fine _matériel_ of the army
he commanded, Lord Wellington was as confident in his own resources as
in the indomitable courage of that soldiery which, under his leading,
had been frequently assailed and never beaten. His own position was
daily becoming more unsafe. For security, the stores deposited at
Salamanca had been removed to the rear, consequently the maintenance
of his army was endangered, as supplies from the depots were tardily
obtained.

No difficulty, however, was experienced by the French in provisioning
their army; every procurable necessary was exacted from the wretched
inhabitants, who might curse, while they durst not oppose those who
despoiled them of their property.

Both commanders were anxious to try the issue of a contest. Vanity,
in the one, urged Marmont to offer battle upon ground favourable for
the movements of a force superior in number and perfect in every arm.
Prudence, in Lord Wellington, aimed at results only to be effected by
a victory. No wonder, then, that with such dispositions a conflict
was inevitable. The decree had gone forth; a fiery trial of skill and
valour must ensue, and well did a fearful night harbinger “a bloody
morrow.”

The morning was cloudy and threatening, and the dawn was ushered in
by a sharp fusilade, in the direction of Calvarasa de Arriba. The
enemy’s tirailleurs had occupied the heights of Senora de la Pena in
considerable force, and part of the seventh division, with the light
cavalry of Victor Alten, were opposing their farther advance.

The British right was appuied upon the nearest of the Arapiles, and
united itself with the extremity of a ridge, on which the divisions had
taken their position on the preceding evening. Another hill, similarly
named, rose from the plain at a distance of five hundred yards, and as
it commanded the right of the alignment, it was deemed advisable to
possess it.

The French marshal, however, had entertained a similar design; and a
wood favouring the unobserved advance of part of Bonnet’s division,
the summit was occupied by the French with their 122nd regiment, and a
brigade of guns.

Meanwhile the enemy commenced extending to the left, in the rear of
the Arapiles, and formed on the skirts of a wood. As the movement of
the columns brought them within cannon range, General Leith advanced
a battery to a height in front of his position, and it opened with
considerable effect. The French, obliged to retire, brought up a
brigade of artillery to check the British guns. Their diagonal fire
silenced the British battery, and it was necessary, without delay,
to retire the guns, and withdraw a troop of the 16th light dragoons,
which, for their protection, had been drawn up under shelter of the
hill. This perilous evolution was executed with complete success, the
ravine was passed at speed, and with little loss, the artillery and
light cavalry regained the position.

The day wore on; the late tempest apparently had cleared the
atmosphere, all was bright and unclouded sunshine, and over a wide
expanse of undulating landscape, nothing obscured the range of sight
but dust from the arid roads, or wreathing smoke occasioned by the
spattering fire of the light troops. Marmont was busily manœuvring,
and Lord Wellington coolly noticing from a height the dispositions of
his opponent, which as he correctly calculated would lead to a general
engagement.

At noon, a combination of at least eight thousand men moved from the
rear of the Arapiles, and formed in front of the fifth division. Lord
Wellington rode to the ground, and there found the division in perfect
readiness for the anticipated attack. Perceiving at once that this
movement was only a demonstration of the French marshal to mask his
real designs, his lordship returned to the right, which was now the
interesting point of the position.

Finding his feint upon the fifth division unsuccessful, Marmont put
his columns into motion, and marching rapidly by his left, endeavoured
to turn the right of the allies, and thus interpose between them and
Ciudad Rodrigo. Under a heavy cannonade, his front and flank, covered
by a cloud of skirmishers, and supported by a cavalry force that drove
in the British dragoons and light troops, pressed forward to gain the
Rodrigo road. But that hurried movement was badly executed by Marmont’s
generals of division. Their extension was made with careless haste,
the line consequently weakened, and this false manœuvre brought on the
crisis of the day. The moment for action had come, and Lord Wellington
seized the opportunity and struck the blow.

At two o’clock, when the French commenced extending by their left,
the allied army was thus disposed. On the right, the fifth division
(Leith’s) had moved behind the village of Arapiles, and had taken
ground on the right of the fourth (Cole’s); the sixth and seventh,
under Generals Clinton and Hope, formed a reserve; the third division
(Pakenham’s), D’Urban’s cavalry, two squadrons of the 14th light
dragoons, and a corps of Spanish infantry, were in position near
Aldea Tejada. Bradford’s brigade, with Le Marchant’s heavy cavalry,
were formed on the right, and in the rear of the fifth. The light
division (Barnard’s) and the first (the Guards and Germans) were drawn
up between the Arapiles and the Tormes, in reserve. Cotton’s cavalry
were formed in the rear of the third and fifth divisions; an artillery
reserve, posted behind the dragoons, and in the rear of all the
Spaniards, under Don Carlos D’Espana, appeared in the extreme distance,
but entirely out of fire.

Marmont had remarked, and rode forward to correct the irregularity of
his flank movement, and personally direct the debouchement of his third
and fourth divisions from the wood that had partially concealed them.
At that moment, Lord Wellington was seated on the hill-side, eating his
hurried meal, while an aide-de-camp in attendance watched the enemy’s
movements with a glass. The bustle then perceptible in the French line
attracted his lordship’s notice, and he quickly inquired the cause.

“They are evidently in motion,” was the reply.

“Indeed! what are they doing?”

“Extending rapidly to the left,” was answered.

Lord Wellington sprang upon his feet, and seized the telescope; then
muttering that Marmont’s good genius had deserted him, he mounted his
horse, and issued the orders to attack.

All was instantly on the alert. The staff went off at speed to bring
up the fifth and sixth divisions. The infantry stood to arms, primed
and loaded, fixed bayonets, uncased the colours, and abandoning the
defensive system, hitherto so admirably employed, prepared for an
immediate attack.

Pakenham commended the action by advancing in four columns along the
valley, assailing the left flank of the enemy, and driving it before
him in great confusion. D’Urban’s Portuguese dragoons, and Harvey’s
light cavalry (the 14th), protected the flank during the movement,
and, when the French became disordered, charged boldly in and sabred
the broken infantry. Nothing could be more brilliant than Pakenham’s
advance. A level plateau of nearly eight hundred yards was to be
crossed before the assailants could reach the heights, whither Fox’s
division were marching hastily to occupy the ground.

A heavy fire from the French guns was showered on the advancing
columns, while the British batteries, under Captain Douglass, replied
by a furious cannonade. Wallace’s brigade--the 45th, 74th, and
88th--formed the first line, and moved forward in open column. The face
of the height was covered with tirailleurs, who kept up an incessant
fusilade, while grape and canister ploughed the ground, occasioning a
heavy loss, and more particularly to the centre. They suffered, but
they could not be checked; not waiting to deploy, the companies brought
forward their right shoulders in a run, forming line from open column
without halting, while the wings of the brigade, having moved up the
hill with less impediments than the centre, were more advanced, and
the line thus assumed rather the figure of a crescent. All the mounted
officers, regardless of a withering fusilade, were riding in front of
the battalions, and the men following with their muskets at the rest.

At last they reached the brow. Foy’s division, beating the _pas de
charge_, advanced, and threw in a murderous volley. Half the British
front rank went down. Staggered by that deadly fire, the brigade
recoiled a step or two, but, instantly recovering, the rear rank
filled the places of the fallen. On it went with imposing steadiness,
regardless of the irregular fusilade, for the French continued to pour
in their fire with more rapidity than effect.

Foy’s division, alarmed by this movement, became unsteady. The daring
advance of an enemy, whom the concentrated fire of five thousand
muskets could not arrest, was indeed astounding. All that brave men
could do was done by the French officers. They strove to confirm the
courage of their troops, and persuade them to withstand an assault that
threatened their wavering ranks. The colonel of the 22nd _légère_,
seizing a musket from a grenadier, rushed forward, and mortally wounded
Major Murphy of the 88th. Speedily his death was avenged; a Ranger shot
the Frenchman through the head, who tossing his arms wildly up, fell
forward and expired. The brigade betrayed impatience; the 88th, excited
to madness by the fall of a favourite officer, who passed dead along
the front, as his charger galloped off with his rider’s foot sticking
in the stirrup, could scarcely be kept back.

Pakenham marked the feeling, and ordered Wallace “to let them loose.”
The word was given, down came the bayonets to the charge, the pace
quickened, a wild cheer, mingled with the Irish slogan, rent the skies,
and unable to stand the shock, the French gave ground. The Rangers, and
the supporting regiments, broke the dense mass of infantry, bayoneting
all whom they could overtake, until, run to a regular standstill, they
halted to recover breath and stayed the slaughter.

Nor were the operations of the fifth division less marked and
brilliant. For an hour they had been exposed to a heavy cannonade,
sheltering occasionally on the ground from the shot and shells, which
fell in showers upon the height they occupied, and ricochetted through
their ranks. At last the order to advance was given. They moved in
two lines, the first entirely British, the second composed of the
Portuguese infantry of General Spry. Bradford’s brigade, having united
itself for the attack, formed on the right of the fifth.

In mounting the height where the French division was posted, the
assailing columns were annoyed by a sharp discharge of artillery, and
the fire of a swarm of sharpshooters, who in extended order occupied
the face of the hill. The British light infantry pushed on to clear
the line of march, and, if practicable, make a dash at the enemy’s
artillery. The tirailleurs were speedily driven back, the cannon
removed from the crest of the height to the rear, and unimpeded, the
division moved up the hill with a perfect regularity in its formation,
and the imposing steadiness of men who marched to victory. In the front
of the centre of that beautiful line rode General Leith, directing its
movements, and regulating its advance.

The enemy were preparing for the struggle. He retired his columns from
the ridge, and formed continuous squares, fifty paces from the crest
of the heights, which the assailants must crown previous to attacking.
The artillery from the French rear cannonaded the advancing columns,
but nothing could check the progressive movement of the British. The
men marched with the same orderly steadiness as at first; no advance
in line at a review was ever more correctly executed; the dressing
was admirable; and spaces were no sooner formed by casualties than
closed up with the most perfect regularity, and without the slightest
deviation from the order of march.

When General Leith reached the summit of the hill, the enemy were
observed formed in supporting squares, with their front rank kneeling.
Their formation was complete, their fire reserved, and till the drum
rolled, not a musket was discharged. Nearly at the same moment, the
French squares and the British delivered their volleys. A dense smoke
hid all for a time from view. A loud and sustained cheer pealed from
the British ranks; no shout of defiance answered it; while, rushing
forward, the British broke the squares, and pressing on with dauntless
impetuosity, every attempt at opposition ceased, and what just now had
appeared a disciplined body, almost too formidable to be assailed,
became a disorganised mass, flying at headlong speed from the fury of
its conquerors. To increase the confusion, a portion of Foy’s division
crossed the _déroute_, and mingled with it, while the rush of advancing
cavalry was heard, and that sound, so ominous to broken infantry,
confirmed the panic.

Presently the heavy brigade--the 3rd and 4th dragoons, and 5th dragoon
guards--galloped across the interval of ground, between the heights
where the third division had made its flank attack, and the fifth
its more direct one. Sweeping through a mob of half-armed fugitives,
the brigade rode boldly at the three battalions of the French 66th,
which had formed in six supporting lines to check the advance of the
conquerors, and afford time for the broken divisions to have their
organisation restored.

Heedless of its searching fire, the British dragoons penetrated and
broke the columns; numbers of the French were sabred; while the
remainder were driven back upon the third division and made prisoners.
Still pressing on, another regiment, in close order, presented itself;
this, too, was charged, broken, and cut down. Nothing arrested the
victorious career until the ground became gradually obstructed with
trees, embarrassing the movements of the cavalry, while it afforded a
broken infantry ample time to rally, and engage horsemen at evident
advantage.

Although the regiments of the heavy brigade in the course of these
brilliant charges had of necessity become intermixed, and their line
crowded, without intervals between the squadrons, they still pushed
forward without confusion to charge a brigade that had formed under
cover of the trees. The French steadily awaited the attack, within
twenty yards their reserved fire was thrown in, and on a concentrated
body of horse and at this short distance, its effect was fatal. General
Marchant was killed, Colonel Elley badly wounded, while one-third of
the brigade were brought to the ground by that close and murderous
volley. Still, those of the heavy dragoons who could keep their saddles
sustained nobly the reputation they had earned that day, and charging
the French column home, penetrated and dispersed it. A furious _mêlée_
succeeded, the scattered infantry fighting desperately to the last,
while the long straight sword of the trooper proved in British hands
irresistible.

While the remnant of the cavalry brigade continued their pursuit, a
small battery of five guns was seen upon the left. Lord Edward Somerset
instantly galloped down, charged, and brought them off. The brigade was
then retired, after a continued succession of brilliant charges that
had lasted nearly an hour.

Of course the loss sustained was great. From three splendid regiments
that had ridden into action, at least one thousand strong, with
difficulty three squadrons were formed in the evening, such being the
number of men and horses rendered _hors de combat_ during its late
scene of brilliant but dear-bought success.

With such decided advantages, the battle might have been considered
gained, and the French defeat inevitable. But the splendid successes
attendant on the third and fifth divisions, with Bradford’s Portuguese
brigade, and the light and heavy cavalry, were nearly counterbalanced
by the total failure of Pack’s attack on the Arapiles, and the repulse
of Cole’s division by that of Bonnet.

The 1st and 16th Portuguese advanced to carry the height; it was
occupied by a French battalion, and protected by a battery of guns.
A force of nearly two thousand men, led on in person by a “fighting
general,” should have wrested the hill from such inferior force,
no matter how strong the ground might naturally have been. On this
occasion, however, the attack proved totally unsuccessful; the
Portuguese regiments recoiled from the fire, and their officers
endeavoured to rally them in vain. The attack on the Arapiles was
consequently abandoned, the French left in undisturbed possession,
and, unassailed themselves, they turned their musketry and cannon upon
the flank and rear of Cole’s division, who, under the impression that
Pack’s assault must have succeeded, had fearlessly advanced across
the plain, driving Bonnet’s corps before it, with the promise of as
glorious results as had attended the gallant operations of the third
and fifth.

At that moment, even when the fourth division believed itself
victorious, its position was most dangerous--its very existence more
than doubtful. Bonnet perceiving Pack’s failure, reformed his division,
still numerically superior to his opponent’s, advanced boldly against
the fourth, and furiously attacked it, while from the crest of the
Arapiles, the French troops poured upon the now retreating columns a
withering fire of grape and musketry. General Cole was carried off the
field; Beresford, who had come to his relief, with a Portuguese brigade
of the fifth, was also badly wounded. The British were falling fast;
while the French heavy cavalry, under Boyer, moved rapidly to support
Bonnet, who was momentarily gathering strength from the junction of
the scattered soldiers who had escaped the slaughter of the fourth and
seventh French divisions already _dérouted_ on the left.

Wellington marked the emergency, and ordered Clinton’s division to
advance. This fine and unbroken corps, numbering six thousand bayonets,
pushed rapidly forward, confronted the victorious enemy, who, with
loud cheers, were gaining ground on every point, as the hard-pressed
fourth division was driven back by overwhelming numbers. Bonnet,
determined to follow up his temporary success, met Clinton’s division
manfully, and for a time neither would give ground, and a close and
furious conflict resulted. The ceaseless roll of musketry, and the
thunder of fifty guns told how furiously the battleground was disputed.
Both fought desperately, and though night was closing, the withered
grass, blazing on the surface of the hill, threw an unearthly glare
upon the combatants, and displayed the alternations that attended the
“heady fight.”

But the British bayonet at last opened the path to victory. Such a
desperate encounter could not endure. The French began to waver, the
sixth division cheered, pushed forward, gained ground, while, no longer
able to withstand an enemy who seemed determined to sweep everything
before it, the French retired in confusion, leaving the hard-contested
field in undisputed possession of the island conquerors.

Darkness fell. The remains of Bonnet’s division found shelter in
the woods, or crossed the Tormes at the ford of Alba, which, from
its natural strength, the Spaniards could have easily defended. The
conflict, at different points, had raged six hours with unabated fury;
and those of the divisions which had been engaged, exhausted with
fatigue and suffering dreadfully from heat and thirst, rested on the
battleground.

The guards, Germans, and light brigade, who had been in reserve during
the day, however, pushed forward in pursuit. Distant musketry was heard
occasionally, gradually this spattering fire ceased, and the groans of
dying men and wounded horses succeeded the headlong rush of cavalry,
the thunder of a hundred guns, the shout of proud defiance, and, wilder
still, the maddening cry of victory!

Salamanca, whether considered with regard to its merits as a battle, or
its results as a victory, probably stands foremost among the Peninsular
contests, and many and peculiar traits distinguish it from every
previous encounter. It was coolly and advisedly fought, by commanders
confident in themselves, satisfied with the strength and _matériel_ of
their armies, jealous of each other’s reputation, and stimulated by
every longing after military glory, to exhaust the resources of their
genius and experience to secure a successful issue. Nothing could
surpass Marmont’s beautiful manœuvring for consecutive days while
moving round the British flank, except the countervailing rapidity with
which his talented opponent defeated every effort to outflank him, and
held the marshal constantly in check.

At two on the 22nd, the French marshal threatened an attack; at four,
he was himself the assailed, and the same mistake that lost Marengo,
involved ruin and defeat at Salamanca. One false movement that might
have been easily corrected before a slower leader could see and seize
the momentary advantage, brought on a crisis that clouded the French
destinies in Spain by removing the delusory belief that their arms
should eventually prove invincible.

A conflict, close and desperate, like that of Salamanca, conferred
a sanguinary victory, while it involved a still bloodier defeat.
The allied loss, in killed and wounded, exceeded five thousand men,
and this, of course, fell chiefly on the British. The Portuguese,
comparatively suffered little, and the Spaniards, being entirely
non-combatant, had very few casualties to record. The only post
intrusted--and that most unhappily--to their charge, was the castle of
Alba; and this was abandoned without a shot, leaving Clausel a safe
retreat, while its vigorous occupation must have involved its total
ruin.

The French loss was never correctly ascertained. Two eagles,
eleven pieces of cannon, seven thousand prisoners, and as many
dead soldiers left upon the field, were the admitted trophies of
British victory. Among the commanding officers of both armies the
casualties were immense; of the British, Le Marchant was killed;
Beresford, Cole, Leith, Cotton, and Alten wounded. The French were
equally unfortunate--the generals of brigade, Thomières, Ferrey, and
Desgraviers were killed; Marmont, early in the day, mutilated by a
howitzer shell; Bonnet severely, and Clausel slightly wounded.

Clausel, who commanded _en chef_ after Marmont was disabled, retreated
with great rapidity. Viewed from the summit of La Serna, the French
exhibited a countless mass of all arms, confusedly intermingled.
While the range permitted it, the horse-artillery annoyed them with
round shot, but by rapid marching they gradually disappeared, while,
opportunely, a strong corps of cavalry and a brigade of guns joined
from the army of the North, and covered the retreat until they fell
back upon their reserves.

Although Salamanca was in every respect a decisive battle, how
much more fatal must it not have proved, had darkness not shut in,
and robbed the conquerors of half the fruits of victory? The total
demolition of the French left was effected by six o’clock, and why
should the right attack have not been equally successful? Had such been
the case, in what a hopeless situation the broken army must have found
itself!

Salamanca was a great and influential victory. Accidental circumstances
permitted Clausel to withdraw a beaten army from the field, and a
fortunate junction of those arms which alone could cover his retreat
enabled him, with little loss, to out-march his pursuers, preserve his
communications, and fall back upon his reserves. But at Salamanca
the delusory notion of French superiority was destroyed. The enemy
discovered that they must measure strength with opponents in every
point their equals. The confidence of wavering allies was confirmed;
while the evacuation of Madrid, the abandonment of the siege of Cadiz,
the deliverance of Andalusia and Castile from military occupation, and
the impossibility of reinforcing Napoleon during his northern campaign,
by sparing any troops from the corps in the Peninsula--all these great
results were among the important consequences that arose from Marmont’s
defeat upon the Tormes.



CHAPTER XVI.

THE SIEGE OF BURGOS.

1812.


The occupation of Madrid was among the most brilliant epochs of
Peninsular history, and, from circumstances, it was also among the
briefest. The conquest of the capital was certainly a splendid exploit.
It told that Wellington held a position and possessed a power that in
Britain many doubted and more denied; and those, whose evil auguries
had predicted a retreat upon the shipping, and finally an abandonment
of the country, were astounded to find the allied leader victorious in
the centre of Seville, and dating his general orders from the palace
of the Spanish kings. The desertion of his capital by the usurper,
proclaimed the extent of Wellington’s success; and proved that his
victories were not, as had been falsely asserted at home, “conquests
only in name.”

Without entering into military history too extensively, it will be
necessary to observe, that on many expected events which should
have strengthened his means, and weakened those of his opponents,
Lord Wellington was miserably disappointed. Maitland’s diversion on
Catalonia had proved a failure. Ballasteros exhibited the impotent
assumption of free action, and refused obedience to the orders of the
British general, and Hill was therefore obliged to leave Estremadura,
to cover the three roads to Madrid. The Cortes, instead of straining
their energies to meet the exigencies of the moment, wasted time in
framing new constitutions, and in desultory and idle debates.

While Wellington, removed from his supplies, his military chest
totally exhausted, and his communications menaced, was imperatively
obliged to open others, and secure assistance from the only place on
which reliance could be reposed--the mother country. To quote Lord
Wellington’s own words aptly illustrates the real case:--“I likewise
request your lordship not to forget horses for the cavalry and
artillery, and money. _We are absolutely bankrupt._ The troops are now
five months in arrears, instead of being one month in advance. The
staff have not been paid since February; the muleteers not since June,
1811; and we are in debt in all parts of the country. I am obliged to
take the money sent to me by my brother for the Spaniards, in order to
give my own troops a fortnight’s pay, who are really suffering for want
of money.”

It was, indeed, full time to move. The Spanish army were driven from
Gallicia, and Clausel threatened to interrupt the communications of the
allies with Portugal. Lord Wellington, therefore, decided on marching
against the army he had beaten at Salamanca; and leaving Hill’s
division to cover the capital, he left Madrid on the 1st of September,
and crossing the Douro on the 6th, moved on Burgos by Valencia.

That night Clausel abandoned Valladolid, and after crossing the
Pisuerga, destroyed the bridge of Berecal. Anxious to unite with
Castanos, Wellington waited for the Gallician army to come up, while
Clausel leisurely retreated through the valleys of Arlanzan and
Pisuerga, as remarkable for beauty and fertility as for the endless
succession of strong posts which they afforded to a retiring army.

Clausel, after an able retreat, took a position at Cellada del Camino,
and to cover Burgos, offered battle to the allied commander. The
challenge was promptly accepted; but the French general, discovering
that a junction of twelve thousand Spaniards had strongly reinforced
his antagonist, prudently declined a combat, retired, and united his
own to Souham’s corps, which numbered above eight thousand men. This
reserve had been organised by Napoleon’s special orders--and was
intended to remedy any discomfiture which might befall Marmont in the
event of his being defeated by the allies.

The British entered the city of Burgos, from which the French had
previously retired, after garrisoning the castle with two thousand five
hundred men, under the command of General Dubreton. Twelve thousand
allied troops, comprising the first and sixth British divisions, with
two Portuguese brigades, sat down before the place; while the remainder
of Lord Wellington’s army, amounting to twenty-five thousand effective
troops, formed the covering army of the siege.

The castle of Burgos was a weak fortress, on which French ingenuity had
done wonders in rendering it defensible at all. It stood on a bold and
rocky height, and was surrounded by three distinct lines, each placed
within the other, and variously defended.

The lower and exterior line consisted of the ancient wall that embraced
the bottom of the hill, and which Caffarelli had strengthened by
the addition of a modern parapet, with salient[12] and re-entering
flanks. The second was a field retrenchment, strongly palisaded. The
third, a work of like construction, having two elevated points, on one
of which the ancient keep of the castle stood, and on the other, a
well-intrenched building called the White Church; and that being the
most commanding point, it was provided with a casemated work, and named
in honour of Napoleon. This battery domineered all around, excepting
on its northern face, where the hill of St. Michael rising nearly to
a level with the fortress, was defended by an extensive hornwork,[13]
having a sloping scarp and counterscarp, the former twenty-five feet in
height, the latter, ten.

[12] In fortification, the salient angle is that which turns from the
centre of a place; while the _re-entering_ points directly towards it.

[13] A _hornwork_ is a work having a front and two branches. The
front comprises a curtain and two half-bastions. It is smaller than a
_crown-work_, and generally employed for effecting similar purposes.

Although in an unfinished state, and merely palisaded, it was under the
fire of the castle and the Napoleon battery. The guns, already mounted,
comprised nine heavy cannon, eleven fieldpieces, and six mortars and
howitzers; and, as the reserve artillery and stores of the army of
Portugal were deposited in the castle of Burgos, General Dubreton had
the power of increasing his armament to any extent he thought fit.

Two days passed before the allies could cross the river. On the 19th
August the passage was effected, and the French outposts on St. Michael
were driven in. That night, the hornwork itself was carried after a
sanguinary assault, the British losing in this short and murderous
affair upwards of four hundred men.

From the hill, now in possession of the allies, it was decided that the
future operations should be carried on, and the engineers arranged that
each line in succession should be taken by assault. The place, on a
close examination, was ascertained to be in no respect formidable; but
the means to effect its reduction, by comparison, were feebler still.
Nothing, indeed, could be less efficient; three long 18-pounders, and
five 24-pound howitzers, formed the entire siege artillery that Lord
Wellington could obtain.

The headquarters were fixed at Villa Toro. The engineering department
intrusted to Colonel Burgoyne, and the charge of the artillery to
Colonels Robe and Dickson.

The second assault, that upon the exterior wall, was made on the night
of the 22nd by escalade. Major Laurie of the 79th, with detachments
from the different regiments before the place, formed the storming
party. The Portuguese, who led the attack, were quickly repulsed,
and though the British entered the ditch, they never could mount a
ladder. Those who attempted it were bayoneted from above, while shells,
combustibles, and cold shot were hurled on the assailants, who, after
a most determined effort for a quarter of an hour, were driven from
the ditch, leaving their leader, and half the number who composed the
storming party, killed and wounded.

After this disastrous failure, an unsuccessful attempt to breach the
wall was tried, in effecting which, of the few guns in battery, two
were totally disabled by the commanding fire of the castle, and the
engineers resorted, from sheer necessity, to sap and mine. The former,
from the plunging fire kept up from the enemy’s defences, and which
occasioned a fearful loss, was speedily abandoned; but the latter was
carried vigorously on, and the outward wall mined, charged, and, on the
29th, exploded.

At twelve o’clock at night the hose was fired, the storming party
having previously formed in a hollow way some fifty paces from the
gallery. When the mine was sprung, a portion of the wall came down,
and a sergeant and four privates, who formed the forlorn hope, rushed
through the smoke, mounted the ruins, and bravely crowned the breach.
But in the darkness, which was intense, the storming party and their
supporting companies missed their way, and the French recovering from
their surprise, rushed to the breach, and drove the few brave men who
held it back to the trenches. The attack consequently failed, and from
a scarcity of shot no fire could be turned on the ruins. Dubreton
availed himself of this accidental advantage, and by daylight the
breach was rendered impracticable again.

Still determined to gain the place, Lord Wellington continued
operations, although twelve days had elapsed since he had sat down
before it. A singular despondency, particularly among the Portuguese,
had arisen from those two failures; while insubordination was creeping
into the British regiments, which produced a relaxed discipline that
could not be overlooked, and which, in general orders, was consequently
strongly censured.

The siege continued; and, on the 4th of October, a battery opened from
Saint Michael’s against the old breach, while the engineers announced
that a powerful mine was prepared for springing. At five o’clock that
evening the fusee was fired. The effect was grand and destructive; one
hundred feet of the wall was entirely demolished, and a number of the
French, who happened to be near it, were annihilated by the explosion.
The 24th regiment, already in readiness to storm, instantly rushed
forward, and both breaches were carried, but, unfortunately, with heavy
loss.

A lodgment was immediately effected, and preparations made for
breaching the second line of defence where it joined the first.

On the 5th October, early in the evening, the French sallied with
three hundred men. The attack was too successful; one hundred and fifty
of the guard and working party were killed or wounded, the gabions
overturned, the works at the lodgment injured, and the intrenching
tools carried off.

That night, however, the damage was repaired; the sap was rapidly
carried forward, and at last the British had got so close to the wall
that their own howitzers ceased firing lest the workmen should be
endangered by their shot. The guns on Saint Michael’s battery had also
breached with good effect, and fifty feet of the parapet of the second
line was completely laid in ruins. But, in effecting these successes,
a heavy loss was inflicted on the besiegers, and of their originally
small means for carrying on a siege, the few pieces of artillery they
possessed at first, were now reduced to one serviceable gun.

The weather had also changed, and rain fell in quantities and filled
the trenches. A spirit of discontent and indifference pervaded the
army. The labour was unwillingly performed, the guards loosely kept,
and Dubreton again sallied furiously, drove off the working party,
destroyed the new parallel, carried away the tools, and occasioned a
loss of more than two hundred men. Among the killed, none was lamented
more than Colonel Cocks, who having obtained promotion most deservedly
for previous gallantry, died at the head of his men, while rallying the
fugitives and repelling the sally.

Three assaults had failed; but still the allied commander did not
quit the place in despair. Preparations for another attempt were
continued, and the exertions of the engineers, of whom one-half had
fallen, were redoubled. Heated shot was tried against the White
Church unsuccessfully; while that of San Roman was marked as the more
vulnerable point, and a gallery commenced against it.

On the 17th, the great breach was again exposed by the fire of the
British guns, and the ramparts on either side extensively damaged.
A mine beneath the lower parallel was successfully exploded, and a
lodgment effected in a cavalier,[14] from whence the French had kept up
a destructive fire on the trenches. It was held but for a short time,
as the enemy came down in force, and drove the besiegers from it. On
the 18th, the breach was reported practicable, and an assault decided
on, the signal arranged being the springing of the mine beneath the
church of San Roman. That building was also to be assailed, while the
old breach was to be attempted by escalade, and thus, and at the same
moment, three distinct attacks would occupy the enemy’s attention.

[14] A _Cavalier_ is a work in the body of a place, domineering the
others by ten or twelve feet.

At half-past four the explosion of the mine gave the signal. A
countermine was immediately sprung by the French, and between both,
the church was partially destroyed, and Colonel Browne, with some
Portuguese and Spanish troops, seized upon the ruined building.
The Guards, who had volunteered a detachment, rushed through the
old breach, escaladed the second line, and, in front of the third,
encountered the French in considerable force, while two hundred of
the German Legion, under Major Wurmb, carried the new breach, pushing
up the hill, and fairly gaining the third line of the defences.
Unfortunately, however, these daring and successful efforts were not
supported with the promptness that was needed. The French reserves were
instantly advanced; they came on in overwhelming force, cleared the
breaches of the assailants, and drove them beyond the outer line, with
the loss of two hundred officers and men.

San Roman was taken the following night by the French, and recovered
again by the British. But with this affair the siege virtually
terminated, and Lord Wellington, by an imperious necessity, was obliged
to retire from a place of scarcely third-rate character, after four
attacks by assault, and a loss of two thousand men.

In war, the bravest and the most prudent measures are frequently marred
or made by fortune. Lord Wellington, with very insufficient means,
attempted the reduction of Burgos; and although skill and gallantry
were displayed in every essay, obstacles arose which checked the most
daring efforts; and all that science and determination could effect
were vainly tried to overcome difficulties physically insurmountable.
Had Wellington possessed the requisite _matériel_ for the conduct of a
siege, Burgos must have been taken in a week.

But let justice be done to its defenders. Much was expected from them,
and assuredly, the governor and garrison of the castle of Burgos
realised the high reliance placed upon their skill and heroism by their
countrymen.

On the 18th, the British corps united. On the 20th some trifling
affairs occurred between the outposts, and on the 21st the siege of
Burgos was regularly raised, and Lord Wellington issued orders for
retiring from before the place.



CHAPTER XVII.

THE BATTLE OF VITORIA.

1813.


Winter passed away, the army recovered from its hardships, and Lord
Wellington was indefatigable in perfecting the equipment of every
department, to enable him to take the field efficiently when the
season should come round, and active operations could be again renewed.
In its minuter details, the interior economy of the regiments underwent
a useful reformation. The large and cumbrous camp-kettles hitherto in
use were discarded, and small ones substituted in their place; while
three tents were served to each company, affording, particularly to the
sick and disabled, a means of shelter in the field which hitherto had
been wanting.

Nothing could surpass the splendid state of discipline that this period
of inactivity had produced, while the allied army was reposing in
winter quarters. Its _matériel_ was now truly magnificent; powerful
reinforcements having arrived from the mother country. The Life and
Horse Guards had joined the cavalry; and that arm, hitherto the
weakest, was increased to nineteen efficient regiments. The infantry
had been recruited from the militias at home, the artillery was
complete in every requisite for the field, while a well-arranged
commissariate, with ample means of transport, facilitated the
operations of the most serviceable force which had ever taken the field
under the leading of a British general.

Previous to the opening of the campaign in May, 1813, the
Anglo-Portuguese army numbered close upon seventy thousand men of all
arms, and were cantoned in the neighbourhood of the Douro. Morillo’s
corps occupied Estremadura; Giron held the frontier of Gallicia;
O’Donel was stationed in Andalusia; Elio on the frontiers of Murcia and
Valencia; and the Duc del Parque, with a strong corps, held possession
of La Mancha.

The French, at that time, might have probably mustered one hundred and
fifty thousand men in Spain. Madrid and Toledo were in the occupation
of the armies of the centre and the south, whose corps were spread over
the central provinces. Valladolid had the headquarters of the army of
Portugal; the line of the Douro was carefully observed, while Suchet
occupied Valencia and Catalonia; and a part of the army of the north
was quartered in Aragon and Biscay.

Never did a leader take the field under more promising auspices than
those with which the allied commander opened the campaign of 1813. The
Spanish troops were strong in numbers, and considerably improved in
discipline; while the guerilla leaders were in great force, and ready
for daring enterprise. Summer was coming fast, a rich and luxurious
country was before him, every requisite prepared for his march, his
troops flushed with victory, and his opponents dispirited by constant
discomfiture. Even the opening movements tended to increase these
feelings, for the British were preparing to advance, and the French
already retrograding. No wonder, then, that the brilliant hopes of
a country were fully realised; that the career of British conquest
continued almost without a check; and the fields of France saw her
banners float in victory until the last struggles at Orthes and
Toulouse, attested the invincibility of Wellington and his island
soldiery!

While the allies were preparing to march, Joseph Buonaparte put the
army of the centre into motion, and, followed by those of the south and
Portugal, retired slowly on the Ebro. As they were not pressed by the
British light troops, the enemy’s corps moved leisurely towards the
frontier, accompanied by enormous trains of equipage and baggage.

The appearance of the French army was more picturesque than military.
It was crowded in its march, and too fanciful both in the character
of its equipment and the variety of its costume. The line and light
infantry excepted, few of the regiments were similarly dressed. The
horse artillery wore uniforms of light blue, braided with black lace.
The heavy cavalry were arrayed in green coats with brass helmets.
The chasseurs and hussars, mounted on slight and active horses,
were showily and variously equipped. The “gendarmerie à cheval,” a
picked body chosen from the cavalry at large, had long blue frocks,
with cocked hats and buff belts; while the _élite_ of the dragoons,
selected for superior size and general appearance, were distinguished
by bearskin caps, and wore a look of martial determination, that
their past and future bearing in the battlefield did not belie. Each
regiment of the line had its company of grenadiers and voltigeurs, even
the light regiments having a company of the former. The appearance
of the whole force was soldiery and imposing; the cavalry was indeed
superb, and the artillery, as to guns, caissons, and appointments, most
complete; and, better still, their horses were in excellent condition.

Both armies were in the highest state of efficiency, for to both the
undivided attention of their commanding officers had been directed,
and yet in their respective equipments a practised eye would detect a
marked dissimilarity. With the British everything was simple, compact,
and limited, as far as its being serviceable would admit, while the
French were sadly incumbered with useless equipages and accumulated
plunder. Those of the Spanish noblesse who had acknowledged the
usurper, now accompanied his retreat; state functionaries, in court
dresses and rich embroidery were mingled with the troops; calashes,
carrying wives or mistresses, moved between brigades of guns; while
nuns from Castile and ladies from Andalusia, attired _en militaire_
and mounted on horseback, deserted castle and convent, to follow the
fortunes of some soldier or employé. Excepting that of his great
brother while retreating from Moscow, no army since the days of Xerxes,
was so overloaded with spoil and baggage as that of Joseph Buonaparte.

Although this abuse had not escaped the observation of many of the best
officers in the army of the usurper, the facility with which these
enormous ambulances were transported encouraged rather than repressed
the evil. Looking on Spain as a conquered country, the means necessary
to forward their convoys were unscrupulously seized, and every horse
and mule was considered the property of the finder. The roads were
good, the retreat unmolested; on the 10th no enemy had appeared, and
the allies were remaining quietly in their quarters. The fancied apathy
of the British general was extraordinary, and prisoners were asked by
their French escort, “Was Lord Wellington asleep?”

But nothing could exceed the astonishment of Joseph, when, on
the evening of the 18th May, he was informed that the allies in
considerable force, were actually on the left bank of the Ebro! The
French dispositions were rendered useless, and an immediate night march
became unavoidable. The drums beat to arms, the baggage was put in
motion, and the entire of the French corps which had occupied Pancorbo
or bivouacked in its vicinity, were hastily collected, and moved
rapidly towards Vitoria.

That city on the evening of 19th May, displayed a singular spectacle of
hurry and alarm, confusion and magnificence. Joseph Buonaparte, with
his staff and guards, the entire of his court, and the headquarters
of the army of the centre, accompanied by an endless collection of
equipages, intermingled with cavalry, artillery, and their numerous
ambulances, occupied the buildings and crowded the streets, while an
unmanageable mass of soldiers and civilians were every moment increased
by fresh arrivals, all vainly seeking for accommodation in a town
unequal to afford shelter to half their number.

While the city was brilliantly illuminated in honour of the
pseudo-king--and a gayer sight could not be fancied than its sparkling
interior presented--beyond the walls, an army was taking a position,
and a multitude of the peasants, forced by the French engineers, were
employed in throwing up field defences, and assisting those who had
ruled them with an iron hand to place their guns in battery, and make
other military dispositions to repel the army of the allies, who were
advancing to effect their deliverance.

Vitoria is a city of great antiquity, and the capital of the province
of Alava. It stands in a valley surrounded on every side by high
grounds, while in the distance a lesser range of the Pyrenees is
visible. Its name is derived from some forgotten victory, or, as some
assert, from one achieved by its founder, Sancho VII. In front of this
city Joseph Buonaparte concentrated his _corps d’armée_ on the night
of the 19th, to cover the town and hold the three great roads leading
from Lagrona, Madrid, and Bilboa, to Bayonne.

The day of the 20th May was occupied by Lord Wellington in bringing
forward his detached brigades, and making a careful reconnaissance
of the enemy. Although, generally, the position selected by Marshal
Jourdan was strong, and certainly well chosen to effect the objects
for which he risked a battle, still it had one material defect. Its
great extent would permit many simultaneous efforts to be made by
an attacking army; and accordingly on the following day, the allied
leader, with admirable skill, availed himself of this advantage, and a
most decisive victory was the result.

In point of strength, the contending armies were nearly equal, each
numbering from seventy to seventy-five thousand men, the allies
exceeding the French, probably by five thousand. Perfect in every arm,
more splendid troops were never ranged upon a battlefield. Both armies
were ably commanded; nominally, Joseph was général-en-chef, but Jourdan
chose the ground, and directed every disposition.

The morning of the 21st broke in glorious sunshine. The atmosphere was
cloudless, and from the adjacent heights the progress of the battle
could be distinctly viewed, except when smoke-wreaths for a time hid
the combatants from many an anxious looker-on.

The French corps occupied a line of nearly eight miles--the extreme
left placed upon the heights of La Puebla, and the right resting on
an eminence above the villages of Abechuco and Gamarra Mayor. The
centre was posted along a range of hills on the left bank of the river;
while a strong corps, resting its right flank upon the left centre,
was formed on the bold high grounds which rise behind the village of
Sabijana. The reserve was placed at the village of Gomecha; and the
banks of the Zadorra, and a small wood between the centre and the
right, were thickly lined with tirailleurs. The first line consisted of
the armies of the south; and the army of the centre, with the greater
portion of the cavalry, formed the reserve. That part of the position
near the village of Gomecha, having been considered by Jourdan his most
vulnerable point, was defended by a numerous artillery. The bridges
were fortified, the communications from one part of the position to
the other were direct, a deep river ran in front, the great roads to
Bayonne and Pamplona in the rear, while, to arrest Wellington’s career
and preserve the immense convoys within the city or on the road to
France, loaded with the plunder of a despoiled capital and a denuded
country, the pseudo-king determined to accept the battle, which the
British leader was now prepared to deliver.

During the Peninsular campaigns, there was no battle fought that
required nicer combinations, and a more correct calculation in time and
movement, than that of Vitoria. It was impossible for Lord Wellington
to bring up, to an immediate proximity for attack, every portion of
his numerous army, and hence many of his brigades had bivouacked on
the preceding night a considerable distance from the Zadorra. Part
of the country before Vitoria was difficult and rocky; and hamlets,
enclosures, and ravines, separated the columns from each other; hence
some of them were obliged to move by narrow and broken roads, and
arrangements, perfect in themselves, were liable to embarrassment from
numerous contingencies. But the genius that directed these extended
operations, could remedy fortuitous events, should such occur.

At daybreak, on the 21st, Wellington’s dispositions were complete, and
the allied army in motion. Sir Rowland Hill, with the second British,
Amarante’s Portuguese, and Morillo’s Spanish divisions, was ordered
to storm the heights of La Puebla, occupied by the enemy’s left. The
first and fifth divisions, with Pack’s and Bradford’s brigades, Bock’s
and Anson’s cavalry, and Longa’s Spanish corps, were directed to turn
the French right, cross the Zadorra, and seize on the Bayonne road.
The third, fourth, seventh, and light divisions were to advance in
two columns and attack Vitoria in front and flank, and thus oblige
Jourdan either to come to a general engagement, or abandon the city and
sacrifice his valuable convoys.

At dawn of day, Joseph placed himself upon a height that overlooked his
right and centre. He was attended by a numerous staff, and protected by
his own bodyguard. Wellington chose an eminence in front of the village
of Arinez, commanding the right bank of the Zadorra, and continued
there, observing through a glass the progress of the fight, and
directing the movements of his divisions, as calmly as he would have
inspected their movements at a review.

The attack commenced by Hill’s division moving soon after daylight by
the Miranda road, and the detaching of Morillo’s Spanish corps to carry
the heights of La Puebla, and drive in the left flank of the enemy.
The latter task was a difficult one, as the ground rose abruptly from
the valley, and towering to a considerable height, presented a sheer
ascent, that at first sight appeared almost impracticable.

The Spaniards, with great difficulty, although unopposed, reached
the summit; and there, among rocks and broken ground, became sharply
engaged with the French left. Perceiving that they were unable to
force the enemy from the heights, Sir Rowland Hill advanced a British
brigade to Morillo’s assistance, while, alarmed for the safety of his
flank, Jourdan detached troops from his centre to support the division
that held La Puebla. A fierce and protracted combat ensued; the loss
on both sides was severe, and Colonel Cadogan fell at the head of his
brigade. But gradually and steadily the British gained ground; and
while the eyes of both armies were turned upon the combatants and the
possession of the heights seemed doubtful still, the eagle glance of
Wellington discovered the forward movement of the Highland tartans, and
he announced to his staff that La Puebla was carried.

The village of Sabijana was the next object of attack, and a brigade of
the second division stormed it after a short but determined resistance.
As that village covered the left of their line, the French made many
efforts to recover its possession; but it was most gallantly retained
until the left and centre of the allies moved up, and the attack on the
enemy’s line became general.

While Sabijana was repeatedly assaulted, the light division was formed
in close columns under cover of some broken ground, and at a short
distance from the river. The hussar brigade, dismounted, were on
the left; and the fourth division in position on the right, waiting
the signal for advancing. The heavy cavalry formed a reserve to the
centre, in event of its requiring support before the third and seventh
divisions had come up; and the first and fifth, with a Spanish and
Portuguese corps, were detached to occupy the road to San Sebastian,
and thus intercept the enemy’s retreat.

Presently, an opening cannonade upon the left announced that Sir Thomas
Graham was engaged, and Lord Dalhousie notified his arrival with
the third and seventh divisions at Mendonza. The moment for a grand
movement had come; Lord Wellington saw and seized the crisis of the
day, and ordered a general attack on the whole extent of the French
position.

The light division moved forward under cover of a thicket, and placed
itself opposite the enemy’s right centre, about two hundred paces from
the bridge of Villoses, and on the arrival of Lord Dalhousie, the
signal was given to advance. At this critical moment an intelligent
Spaniard opportunely came up, and announced that one of the bridges was
undefended. The mistake was quickly seized upon. A brigade, led by the
first rifles, crossed it at a run, and, without any loss, established
itself in a deep ravine, where it was completely protected from the
enemy’s cannonade.

Nothing could be more beautiful than the operations which followed.
The light division carried the bridge of Nanclaus, and the fourth
that of Tres Puentes; the divisions of Picton and Dalhousie followed,
and the battle became general. The passage of the river, the movement
of glittering masses from right to left, far as the eye could range,
the deafening roar of cannon, the sustained fusilade of infantry,
all was grand and imposing; while the English cavalry, displayed in
glorious sunshine and formed in line to support the columns, completed
a spectacle, grand and magnificent beyond description.

Immediately after crossing the Zadorra, Colville’s brigade became
seriously engaged with a strong French corps, and gallantly defeated
it. Pressing on with characteristic impetuosity, and without halting
to correct the irregularity a recent and successful struggle had
occasioned, the brigade encountered on the brow of the hill, two lines
of French infantry regularly drawn up, and prepared to receive their
assailants. For a moment the result was regarded with considerable
apprehension, and means actually adopted for sustaining the brigade
when--as that event seemed inevitable--it should be repulsed by
the enemy. But valour overcame every disadvantage, and the perfect
formation of the French could not withstand the dashing onset of the
assailants. Their rush was irresistible; on went these daring soldiers,
“sweeping before them the formidable array that, circumstanced, as they
were, appeared calculated to produce annihilation.”

While the combined movements of the different divisions were thus in
every place successful, the attack on the village of Arinez failed,
and the 88th were repulsed in an attempt to storm it. Here, the French
fought desperately, and here alone the fortune of the day wavered for a
moment. Nothing could exceed the obstinacy with which the village was
defended; but, under a severe fire, Lord Wellington in person directed
a fresh assault. The 45th and 74th ascended the height; the French were
fairly forced out at the point of the bayonet, and Arinez, after a
sanguinary struggle, was won.

Meanwhile the flank movements on Gamarra Mayor and Abechuco were
effected with splendid success. Both villages, having bridges across
the river, were filled with troops and vigorously defended. Gamarra
Mayor was stormed with the bayonet by Oswald’s division without
firing a shot; and, under cover of the artillery, Halket’s German
light infantry, and Bradford’s Portuguese caçadores, advanced against
Abechuco. Nothing could be more gallant than their assault; the French
were dislodged from the village with heavy loss, and the bridges left
in the undisputed possession of the victors.

The whole of the enemy’s first line were now driven back, but they
retired in perfect order, and reforming close to Vitoria, presented an
imposing front, protected by nearly one hundred pieces of artillery.
A tremendous fire checked the advance of the left centre; and the
storm of the guns on both sides raged with unabated fury for an hour.
Vitoria, although so near the combatants, was hidden from view by
the dense smoke, while volley after volley from the French infantry
thinned, though it could not shake, Picton’s “fighting third.”

It was a desperate and final effort. The allies were advancing in
beautiful order; while confusion was already visible in the enemy’s
ranks, as their left attempted to retire by echelons of divisions--a
dangerous movement when badly executed. Presently the cannon were
abandoned, and the whole mass of French troops commenced a most
disorderly retreat by the road to Pamplona.

The sun was setting, and his last rays fell upon a magnificent
spectacle. Red masses of infantry were seen advancing steadily across
the plain--the horse artillery at a gallop to the front, to open its
fire on the fugitives--the hussar brigade charging by the Camino
Real--while the second division, having overcome every obstacle, and
driven the enemy from its front, was extending over the heights upon
the right in line, its arms and appointments flashing gloriously, in
the fading sunshine of “departing day.”

Never had an action been more general, nor the attacks on every part of
an extended position more simultaneous and successful. In the line of
operations six bridges over the Zadorra were crossed or stormed--that
on the road to Burgos enabled Lord Hill to pass; the fourth division
crossed that of Nanclares; the light, at Tres Puentes; Picton and
Dalhousie passed the river lower down; while Lord Lynedoch carried
Abechuco and Gamarra Mayor, though both were strongly fortified, and
both obstinately defended.

Driven completely through Vitoria, the French never made an attempt
to rally. The formation of their army was totally destroyed, and its
disorganisation completed. Indeed, no defeat could have been more
decisive--the _déroute_ was general; and an army, at sunrise perfect
in every arm, had become at evening a mixed and helpless mob. Even at
Ocana and Medellin, the raw, undisciplined, and ill-commanded Spaniards
had never been more completely routed. Very few of the infantry
retained their muskets, and many threw away their whole accoutrements
in order to expedite their flight. All were abandoned to the
conquerors, and the travelling carriage of the pseudo-king, with his
wardrobe, plate, wines, and private correspondence, were found among
the spoils. Indeed, Joseph himself narrowly escaped from being added to
the list; for Captain Wyndham made a bold dash at “The Intruder,” with
a squadron of the 10th hussars, and firing into the coach, obliged him
to leave it, and ride off at speed under the protection of a strong
escort of cavalry.

Night closed upon the victors and the vanquished, and darkness and
broken ground favoured the escape of battalions flying from the field
in mob-like disorder, and incapable of any resistance, had they been
overtaken and attacked. Two leagues from Vitoria, however, the pursuit
was reluctantly given up, but the horse artillery, while a shot could
reach the fugitives, continued to harass the retreat.

The whole baggage and field equipage of three distinct armies fell on
this occasion into the hands of the conquerors. One hundred and fifty
pieces of cannon, four hundred caissons, twelve thousand rounds of
ammunition, and two millions of musket-cartridges, with a thousand
prisoners, were taken. The casualties on both sides were heavy. The
British lost five hundred killed, two thousand eight hundred wounded;
the Portuguese one hundred and fifty killed, nine hundred wounded; and
the Spaniards eighty-nine of the former, and four hundred and sixty of
the latter. The French loss, of course, was infinitely greater, and
even by their own returns it was admitted to amount to eight thousand;
but, prisoners included, it must have exceeded that number considerably.

On the morning of the 22nd, the field of battle, and the roads for
some miles in the rear, exhibited an appearance it seldom falls within
human fortune to witness. There lay the wreck of a mighty army; while
plunder, accumulated during the French successes, and wrung from every
part of Spain with unsparing rapacity, was recklessly abandoned to any
who chose to seize it. Cannon and caissons, carriages and tumbrels,
waggons of every description, were overturned or deserted--and a
stranger _mélange_ could not be imagined, than that which these
enormous convoys presented to the eye. Here, was the personal baggage
of a king; there, the scenery and decorations of a theatre. Munitions
of war were mixed with articles of _virtù_, and scattered arms and
packs, silks, embroidery, plate, and jewels, mingled together in wild
disorder.

One waggon would be loaded with money, another with cartridges, while
wounded soldiers, deserted women, and children of every age, everywhere
implored assistance, or threw themselves for protection on the humanity
of the victors. Here, a lady was overtaken in her carriage--in the next
calash was an actress or fille-de-chambre--while droves of oxen were
roaming over the plain, intermingled with an endless quantity of sheep
and goats, mules and horses, asses and cows.

That much valuable plunder came into the hands of the soldiery
is certain; but the better portion fell to the peasantry and
camp-followers. Two valuable captures were secured--a full military
chest, and the baton of Marshal Jourdan.

Were not the indiscriminating system of spoliation pursued by the
French armies recollected, the enormous collection of plunder
abandoned at Vitoria would appear incredible. From the highest to
the lowest, all were bearing off some valuables from the country they
had overrun; and even the king himself had not proved an exception,
for, rolled in the imperials of his own coach, some of the finest
pictures from the royal galleries were discovered. To secure or
facilitate their transport, they had been removed from their frames,
and deposited in the royal carriage, no doubt, destined to add to
the unrivalled collection, that by similar means had been abstracted
from the Continent, and presented to the Louvre. Wellington, however,
interrupted the Spanish paintings in their transit, and thus saved the
trouble and formality of a restoration.



CHAPTER XVIII.

THE BATTLES OF THE PYRENEES.

PART FIRST.

1813.


Wellington was now in possession of the passes of the Pyrenees; and
in the short space of two months had moved his victorious army across
the kingdom of Spain, and changed his cantonments from the frontier of
Portugal to a position in the Pyrenees, from which he looked down upon
the southern provinces of France.

Napoleon received intelligence of Lord Wellington’s success with
feelings of undissembled anger and surprise. To recover the line of the
Ebro was his instant determination, for he knew the dangerous effect
the presence of a British army on the frontier of “beautiful France”
must of necessity produce.

Like the tidings of Marmont’s disaster at Salamanca, the news of
Joseph’s defeat reached Napoleon at a crisis, when a lost battle was
a calamity indeed. With him, every previous armistice had obtained
concessions; and, had Vitoria terminated differently, battles, in no
way decisive, might from a fortunate success in Spain, have produced
results similar to those of Marengo, Austerlitz, and Jena. With
ominous rapidity, the intelligence reached every European court that
Joseph had been driven from his throne, and Wellington overlooked the
fields of France--and none could gainsay it--a conqueror. With what
astonishment these tidings were received, those immediately round
the person of Napoleon have since narrated. Nothing could be more
humiliating--nothing, the time considered, more ruinous. His brother
no longer prosecuted the war in Spain, but, defeated and shaken in
confidence, had sought shelter in the plains of Gascony.

Accustomed as he had been to receive reports from the Peninsula little
calculated to give satisfaction, or to confirm his impression of the
invincible qualities of those troops which he had personally ever led
to certain victory, so extensive and alarming a reverse as that now
made must have been as unexpected as it was disastrous; but with all
the promptitude of a person born to command, instead of yielding to
gloomy circumstances, he issued orders for a bold effort to counteract
the tide of war, to recover the ground lost by Vitoria, and to awaken
to energy, as he conceived, the dormant spirit of his soldiers.

Marshal Soult was, therefore, specially despatched from Germany to
assume the chief command of the beaten army, and, if possible, restore
its fallen fortunes.

Wellington foresaw the coming storm, and turned his immediate attention
to the reduction of Pamplona and San Sebastian. From the strength of
the former, and the excellent condition of its defences, the allied
commander decided on a blockade; and it was accordingly closely
invested by General Hill. Redoubts were thrown up within fifteen
hundred yards of the place, armed with the cannon taken at Vitoria,
and to the Spanish army under O’Donel the conduct of the blockade was
entrusted.

Graham, with his corps augmented to ten thousand men, was directed to
besiege San Sebastian; and on the 11th of July he sat down before the
place.

San Sebastian is built on a peninsula, its western defences washed
by the sea, and its eastern by the river Urumea, which at high water
rises several feet above the base of the escarp wall. A bold and rocky
height, called Monte Orgullo, rises at the extreme point of a narrow
neck of land, and on its summit stands the citadel of La Mota.

Eight hundred yards distant from the land-front, the convent of San
Bartolemeo, with a redoubt and circular fieldwork, were garrisoned.
These advanced posts were strongly fortified, and, as it was determined
to breach the eastern wall and storm it afterwards at low water, when
the receding tide should permit an advance by the left of the Urumea,
it became necessary, as a preliminary step, to dislodge the enemy from
the convent.

On the 14th of July, the guns in battery opened a heavy fire on San
Bartolemeo; and by the next day the walls of the building were injured
considerably. Another battery, erected beyond the Urumea, fired with
equal success upon the bastion; and on the 17th both works were carried
by assault. Batteries, armed with thirty-two siege guns and howitzers,
opened on the town wall from the sandhills; and on the 25th two
breaches were effected, one of thirty yards extent, and the other of
ten. A mine was also driven under the glacis, and at its explosion was
the appointed signal for an assault upon the breaches.

At first the astounding noise distracted the garrison, and enabled
the advance of both storming parties to gain the breaches; but the
French recovered from their panic, and poured such a fire of grape and
musketry on the assailants, that the breach was heaped with dead and
dying, and the allies were driven back to the trenches with a loss of
above six hundred men. The loss of the British, from the 7th to the
27th of July, amounted to two hundred and four killed, seven hundred
and seventy-four wounded, and three hundred missing.

This severe repulse, added to the certain intelligence that Soult was
preparing to strike a grand blow, induced Lord Wellington to issue
immediate orders to raise the siege.

Circumstances, indeed, rendered that step unavoidable. The French were
already in motion; Soult had forced the passes on the right, penetrated
the valleys of the Pyrenees, and was marching to relieve Pamplona.

Lord Wellington had a most extensive, and, consequently, a very
difficult position to defend, his _corps d’armée_ covering an extent of
country extending, from flank to flank, over sixty miles of mountains,
without lateral communications, or the means of holding a disposable
reserve in the rear of the passes, all of which must be defended, as
the loss of one would render the defence of the others unavailing.

After issuing a spirited proclamation to his army, Soult lost no time
in commencing operations. His corps had been organised anew, strongly
reinforced, and strengthened in every arm, and more particularly in
artillery. To relieve Pamplona, it would be necessary to carry the
passes of Maya and Roncesvalles; and accordingly, the French marshal
suddenly assembled the wings of his army and a division of the centre,
at St. Jean Pied de Port; while D’Erlon, with the remainder of the
corps, concentrated at Espaletta.

By feints upon the smaller passes of Espagne and Lereta, D’Erlon masked
his real attempt, which was to be made upon that of Maya, by a mountain
path from Espaletta. From several suspicious appearances an attack was
dreaded by the allies, and some light companies had been ordered up,
and, with the pickets, they were assailed at noon in such force that,
though supported by the 34th, 50th, and 92nd, they were driven back
on a height communicating with Echalar when, reinforced by Barnes’s
brigade of the seventh division, they succeeded in repulsing the attack
and holding their ground again.

The affair was very sanguinary. One wing of the 92nd was nearly cut to
pieces. All the regiments engaged highly distinguished themselves, and
the 82nd in particular. The allies lost nearly two thousand men, and
four pieces of artillery.

Soult’s advance on Roncesvalles was made in imposing force, but his
movements were foreseen, and necessary dispositions had been made for
defeating them. General Byng, who commanded, sent Morillo’s Spanish
division to observe the road of Arbaicete, by which the pass of Maya
might have been turned on the right; and descending the heights, placed
his own brigade in a position by which that important road might be
covered more effectually. Soult, however, directed his true attack
upon the left. Cole was overpowered and driven back; but the fusilier
brigade sustained him, and the attack throughout being met with steady
gallantry, was eventually defeated.

On Byng’s division the French marshal directed his next effort; and
with a force so superior, that, though obstinately resisted, it proved
successful, so far as it obliged the weak brigades of the British
general to fall back upon the mountains, and abandon the Arbaicete
road, while Morillo’s Spaniards were driven on the fourth division.
Necessarily the whole fell back at nightfall, and took a position in
front of Zubiri.

Picton’s division united with the fourth next morning, and both fell
leisurely back as the Duke of Dalmatia advanced. Picton continued
retiring on the 27th July, and that evening took a position in front of
Pamplona to cover the blockade, General Hill having already fallen back
on Irurita.

Nearly at this time Lord Wellington had come up; putting in motion
the several corps which lay in his route to the scene of action, and
at one end of a mountain village he pencilled a despatch, as a French
detachment had entered by the other.

Riding at full speed, he reached the village of Sorauren, and his eagle
glance detected Clausel’s column in march along the ridge of Zabaldica.
Convinced that the troops in the valley of the Lanz must be intercepted
by this movement, he sprang from his saddle, and pencilled a note on
the parapet of the bridge, directing the troops to take the road to
Oricain, and gain the rear of Cole’s position. The scene that followed
was highly interesting. Lord Fitzroy Somerset, the only staff-officer
who had kept up with him, galloped with these orders out of Sorauren
by one road, the French light cavalry dashed in by another, and the
British general rode alone up the mountain to reach his troops. One
of Campbell’s Portuguese battalions first descried him, and raised a
cry of joy, and the shrill clamour caught up by the next regiments
swelled as it run along the line into that stern and appalling shout
which the British soldier is wont to give upon the edge of battle, and
which no enemy ever heard unmoved. Lord Wellington suddenly stopped in
a conspicuous place; he desired that both armies should know he was
there; and a double spy who was present pointed out Soult, then so near
that his features could be plainly distinguished.

The British general, it is said, fixed his eyes attentively upon this
formidable man, and speaking as if to himself, said, “Yonder is a great
commander, but he is a cautious one, and will delay his attack to
ascertain the cause of these cheers; that will give time for the 6th
division to arrive, and I shall beat him.” And certain it is that the
French general made no serious attack that day.

Twelve British regiments were embattled on the Pyrenees who had fought
at Talavera; and there were present not a few who might recall an
incident to memory, that would present a striking but amusing contrast.
Cuesta, examining his battleground four years before in lumbering
state, seated in an unwieldy coach, and drawn by eight pampered mules;
Wellington, on an English hunter, dashing from post to post at headlong
speed, and at a pace that distanced the best mounted of his staff.

Having despatched the order, he galloped to the place where Picton’s
divisions were drawn up--the third, on the right, in front of Huarte,
and extending to the heights of Olaz, and the fourth, with Byng’s and
Campbell’s brigades, formed on the left; their right on the road from
Roncesvalles to Zubiri, and the left commanding that from Ostiz to
Pamplona. The reserve was formed of the corps of Morillo and O’Donel,
while, on the only ground on which cavalry could act, the British
dragoons were formed under Sir Stapleton Cotton.

Soult had occupied the high grounds in the front of those held by
the allies, and in the evening he made an effort to possess a hill
occupied by a Portuguese and Spanish brigade on the right of the fourth
division. These troops steadily resisted the attack, and, supported by
a British and Spanish regiment, repulsed the French, until darkness
ended the firing on both sides.

Pack’s division came up on the 28th, and took a position in the rear
of the fourth division, covering the valley of the Lanz. The village
of Sorauren in their front was held by the French; from which, in
considerable force, they moved forward, and attacked the sixth
division. But this movement was exposed to a flanking fire, that
obliged the enemy to retire after suffering a serious loss. On the left
of the division, a regiment of Portuguese caçadores was driven back
by a simultaneous attack, but Ross’s brigade came rapidly forward,
and completely repulsed the French. On the right, a renewed effort
partially succeeded, as the Spanish regiments were deforced; but the
40th came to the charge, and cleared the hill of the enemy.

The French marshal’s efforts had been directed against the whole of the
height held by the fourth division. In almost all he was repelled; but
on the right of the brigade of Ross, Soult was for a time successful,
and Campbell’s Portuguese regiments, unable to bear the furious and
sustained attack, lost ground, and allowed the enemy to establish a
strong body of troops within the allied position. Of necessity, General
Ross, having his flank turned, immediately fell back. Wellington saw
the crisis, and the 27th and 48th were directed to recover the ground
with the bayonet. Ross moved forward in support, a brilliant and bloody
struggle terminated in the total repulse of the French division,
which with severe loss, was precipitately driven from the height it
had with such difficulty gained. At this period of the fight, Pack’s
brigade advanced up the hill. The French gave up further efforts on the
position, and a long, sanguinary, and determined contest terminated.

The fourth division in this affair had been most gloriously
distinguished. The bayonet, in every trying exigency, was resorted
to; the charges were frequent, and some regiments, the fusiliers (7th
and 23rd), with the 20th and 40th, repeatedly checked an advance, or
recovered lost ground, by “steel alone.”

Hill’s division had marched by Lanz, and Lord Dalhousie from San
Estevan on Lizasso, and reached it on the 28th, while the seventh
division moved to Marcelain, and covered the Pamplona road. Soult,
failing in his efforts on the front of the position, determined to
attack Hill’s corps, turn the left of the allies, and thus relieve
Pamplona.

D’Erlon had reached Ostiz on the 29th, and Soult detached a division
from his own position to strengthen him. During the night of the 29th,
he crossed the Lanz, and occupied the heights in front of the sixth and
seventh divisions, and withdrawing the corps hitherto posted opposite
the third British division, his left wing closed in on the main
position of the mountain, directly in front of the fourth division.
D’Erlon’s corps, now considerably strengthened, communicated by the
right of the Lanz with the heights occupied by their left.

These dispositions of the French marshal were at once penetrated by
Lord Wellington, and he decided on driving the enemy from the main
position, which, from its importance, was very strongly occupied.

Picton, crossing the heights from which the French corps had been
recently withdrawn, turned the left of their position on the road to
Roncesvalles, while Lord Dalhousie advanced against the heights in
front of the seventh division, and gained their right flank. Packenham,
with the sixth division, turned the village of Sorauren, and, assisted
by Byng’s brigade, carried that of Ostiz. These flank movements were
executed with admirable rapidity, and enabled Cole, with part of the
fourth division, to assault the front of the enemy’s position. His
attack succeeded. The French gave way, a noble chain of posts was
forced on every side, as well by the dashing gallantry of the troops as
the excellent dispositions of their leader.

The French had endeavoured to outflank General Hill; but Pringle’s
brigade manœuvred on the heights above the La Zarza road, and as the
enemy extended by the right, they observed a parallel direction, During
these movements front attacks were frequently and furiously made, and
always repulsed by the bayonet. Sir Rowland steadily maintained his
position behind Lizasso, until a strong corps, detached by D’Erlon,
succeeded in filing round the left flank of the British brigades.
No result of any importance ensued, for Hill leisurely retired on a
mountain position at Eguarras, a mile in the rear, and every attempt
made by D’Erlon to dislodge him proved a failure.

That night, Soult, discomfited in his numerous and well-sustained
attacks on every position of the allied lines, fell back, and was
vigorously pursued by his opponent. Two divisions were overtaken at the
pass of Donna Maria, and brought to action. Although most formidably
posted, they were driven from their ground by the second and seventh
divisions, while at another point, Barnes’s brigade made a daring and
successful attack on a corps of much superior strength, formed in a
difficult position.

Wellington continued the pursuit to Irurita, the French retiring
rapidly towards the frontier, from whence they had so confidently
advanced, and on which they were as promptly obliged to recede. In
their retreat through the valley of the Bidassao, the enemy’s loss in
prisoners and baggage was considerable. A large convoy was taken at
Elizondo, and on the night of the 1st of August, the entire of the
French corps were driven from the Spanish territory, and the British
bivouacs once more established on the same ground which they had
occupied previous to the advance of the Duke of Dalmatia.

During the continued series of bold operations, and constant and
sustained attacks, the loss on both sides could not but be immense.
Soult’s amounted to at least eight thousand, and Wellington’s to eight
hundred and eighty-one killed, five thousand five hundred and ten
wounded, and seven hundred and five missing. That the French marshal
was perfectly confident of succeeding, could be inferred from the tone
of his address to the army, and the mass of cavalry and immense parc
of guns, with which he had provided himself, and which, as they could
not be employed in mountain combats, were evidently designed to assist
in future operations that should succeed his deforcement of the allies
from the Pyrenees, and the raising of the blockade of Pamplona.

Nothing could have been more annoying to the French marshal, than that
he should have actually reached within one league of the blockaded
fortress, and never be permitted afterwards to open the slightest
communication with its garrison.



CHAPTER XIX.

THE SIEGE OF SAN SEBASTIAN.

1813.


After the retreat of Soult, the British and their allies resumed the
positions from which they had been dislodged by the advance of the
French marshal, and re-established headquarters at Lezeca. A short
period of comparative inactivity succeeded; immediate operations could
not be commenced on either side--the enemy had been too severely
repulsed to permit their becoming assailants again; while, on the other
hand, Wellington would not be justified in crossing the frontier and
entering a hostile country, with Pamplona, and San Sebastian in his
rear, and garrisoned by the French.

Nothing could be more magnificent than the position of the British
brigades. For many a mile along the extended line of occupation, huts
crowning the heights or studding the deep valleys below them, showed
the rude dwellings of the mighty mass of human beings collected in that
Alpine country. At night the scene was still more picturesque. The
irregular surface of the sierras sparkled with a thousand watch-fires,
and the bivouacs of the allies exhibited all the varieties of light
and shadow which an artist loves to copy. To the occupants themselves
the views obtained from their elevated abodes were grand and imposing.
One while obscured in fog, the hum of voices alone announced that
their comrades were beside them, while at another, the sun bursting
forth in cloudless beauty, displayed a varied scene, glorious beyond
imagination. At their feet the fertile plains of France presented
themselves; above, ranges of magnificent heights towered in majestic
grandeur to the skies, and stretched into distance beyond the range of
sight.

Although no military movements were made, this inactive interval of a
vigorous campaign was usefully employed by the allied commander, in
organising anew the regiments that had suffered most, concentrating
the divisions, replacing exhausted stores, and perfecting the whole
_matériel_ of the army. Those of the British near the coast, compared
with the corps that were blockading Pamplona, lived comfortably in
their mountain bivouacs; indeed, the task of covering a blockade is the
most disagreeable that, falls to the soldier’s lot. Exposed to cold and
rain, continually on the alert, and yet engaged in a duty devoid of
enterprise and interest, nothing could be more wearying to the troops
employed; and desertions, which during active service were infrequent,
now became numerous, and especially among the Spaniards and Irish.

The siege of San Sebastian was renewed. Guns, formerly employed, were
re-landed, the trenches occupied again, and a large supply of heavy
ordnance and mortars, received opportunely from the home country, were
placed in battery. Lord Wellington was reinforced by a company of
sappers and miners, and the navy, under Sir George Collier, assisted
him with both men and guns. The batteries were consequently enlarged,
and a furious sortie by the garrison on the night of the 24th August
producing little effect, on the 26th a crushing fire opened from
fifty-seven pieces of siege artillery.

On the same night the island of Santa Clara, situated at the entrance
of the harbour, and partially enfilading the defences of the castle,
was surprised and stormed by a mixed party of sailors and soldiers, and
its garrison made prisoners. On the 27th, a second sortie on the whole
front of the isthmus failed entirely, and the assailants were instantly
driven back. The siege and working artillery had been now augmented
to eighty pieces, and on the 30th the breaches were so extensively
battered down, that Lord Wellington issued orders that they should be
assaulted, and the next morning was named for the attempt.

In the annals of modern warfare, perhaps there is no conflict recorded
which was so sanguinary and so desperate as the storming of that
well-defended breach. During the blockade, every resource of military
ingenuity was tried by the French governor, and the failure of the
first assault, with the subsequent raising of the siege, emboldened the
garrison, and rendered them the more confident of holding out until
Soult could advance and succour them. The time from which the battering
guns had been withdrawn, until they had been again placed in battery,
was assiduously employed in constructing new defences and strengthening
the old ones. But though the place when reinvested was more formidable
than before, the besiegers appeared only the more determined to reduce
it.

Morning broke gloomily, an intense mist obscured every object, and
the work of slaughter was for a time delayed. At nine the sea-breeze
cleared away the fog; the sun shone gloriously out, and in two hours
the forlorn hope issued from the trenches. The columns succeeded,
and every gun from the fortress that could bear, opened on them with
shot and shells. The appearance of the breach was perfectly delusive;
nothing living could reach the summit; no courage, however desperate,
could overcome the difficulties, for they were alike unexpected and
insurmountable. In vain the officers rushed forward, and devotedly
were they followed by their men. From intrenched houses behind the
breach, the traverses, and the ramparts of the curtain, a withering
discharge of musketry was poured on the assailants, while the Mirador
and Prince batteries swept the approaches with their guns. To survive
this concentrated fire was impossible; the forlorn hope were cut off to
a man, and the heads of the columns annihilated. At last the debouches
were choked with the dead and wounded, and a further passage to the
breach rendered impracticable from the heap of corpses that were piled
upon each other.

Then, in that desperate moment, when hope might have been supposed to
be over, an expedient unparalleled in the records of war was resorted
to. The British batteries opened on the curtain, and the storming
parties heard with, surprise the roar of cannon in the rear, while, but
a few feet above their heads, their iron shower hissed horribly, and
swept away the enemy and their defences.

This was the moment for a fresh effort. Another brigade was moved
forward, and, favoured by an accidental explosion upon the curtain,
which confused the enemy while it encouraged the assailants, the
_terre-plain_ was mounted, and the French driven from the works. A
long and obstinate resistance was continued in the streets, which
were in many places barricaded, but by five in the evening opposition
had ceased, and the town was in the possession of the British. Seven
hundred of the garrison were prisoners, and the remainder were either
disabled in the assault or shut up in the castle.

The town presented a dreadful spectacle, both of the work of war and of
the wickedness which in war is let loose.

It had caught fire during the assault, owing to the quantity of
combustibles of all kinds which were scattered about. The French
rolled their shells into it from the castle, and while it was in
flames the troops were plundering, and the people of the surrounding
country flocking to profit by the spoils of their countrymen. The few
inhabitants who were to be seen seemed stupefied with horror; they had
suffered so much that they looked with apathy at all around them, and
when the crash of a falling house made the captors run, they scarcely
moved. Heaps of dead were lying everywhere--British, Portuguese, and
French, one upon another; with such determination had the one side
attacked and the other maintained its ground.

Very many of the assailants lay dead on the roofs of the houses which
adjoined the breach. The bodies were thrown into the mines and other
excavations, and there covered over so as to be out of sight, but so
hastily and so slightly, that the air far and near was tainted, and
fires were kindled in the breaches to consume those which could not be
otherwise disposed of.

The hospital presented a more dreadful scene, for it was a scene of
human suffering; friend and enemy had been indiscriminately carried
thither, and were there alike neglected. On the third day after the
assault, many of them had received neither surgical assistance nor
food of any kind, and it became necessary to remove them on the fifth,
as the flames approached the building. Much of this neglect would have
been unavoidable, even if that humane and conscientious diligence
which can be hoped for from so few, had been found in every individual
belonging to the medical department, the number of the wounded being
so great; and little help could be received from the other part of the
army, because it had been engaged in action on the same day.

The unfortunate town seemed alike devoted by friends and enemies to
destruction. The conquerors were roaming through the streets, the
castle firing on the houses beneath its guns, in many places fire had
broken out, and a storm of thunder, rain, and lightning added to the
confusion of a scene which even in warfare finds no parallel.

The assault of San Sebastian cost a large expense of life, there being
seven hundred and sixty-one killed, one thousand six hundred and
ninety-seven wounded, and forty-five missing, and in that number many
valuable officers were included. The head of the engineer department,
Sir Richard Fletcher, was killed, and Generals Leith, Oswald, and
Robinson were returned in the list of wounded.

Vigorous measures were in preparation for the reduction of the castle
of San Sebastian. From the height of its escarp, and the solidity of
the masonry, La Mota could not be assaulted with any certainty of
success, and a regular investment was requisite to obtain the place.

On the 1st of September, the mortar-batteries commenced throwing
shells; and as the castle was indifferently provided with bomb-proof
casemates, a considerable loss induced the governor to offer a
capitulation, but the terms were not such as could be granted.
Batteries with heavy ordnance were erected on the works of the town,
and on the 8th opened with such terrible effect, that in two hours
the place was unconditionally surrendered. The garrison amounted to
eighteen hundred men, of whom nearly a third were disabled.

At noon, the French garrison marched out of the castle gate with the
customary honours of war. At its head, with sword drawn, and firm step,
appeared General Rey, accompanied by Colonel Songeon, and the officers
of his staff; as a token of respect he was saluted as he passed. The
old general dropped his sword in return to the civilities of the
British officers, and leading the remains of his brave battalions to
the glacis, there deposited their arms, with a well-founded confidence
of having nobly done his duty, and persevered to the utmost in an
energetic and brilliant defence.

On the 10th, the Portuguese were formed in the streets of the ruined
city, the British on the ramparts. The day was fine, after a night of
heavy rain. About noon the garrison marched out at the Mirador gate.
The bands of two or three Portuguese regiments played occasionally, but
altogether it was a dismal scene, amid ruins and vestiges of fire and
slaughter; a few inhabitants were present, and only a few.

San Sebastian was held to the last with excellent judgment and
dauntless gallantry. Indeed, the loss of the besiegers bore melancholy
confirmation of the fact, for the reduction of that fortress cost the
allies nearly four thousand men.



CHAPTER XX.

THE BATTLES OF THE PYRENEES.

PART SECOND.

1813.


Winter had now set in, and a season of unusual severity commenced. The
allies were sadly exposed to the weather, and an increasing difficulty
was felt every day in procuring necessary supplies. Forage became so
scarce, that part of the cavalry had nothing for their horses but
grass; while the cattle for the soldiers’ rations, driven sometimes
from the interior of Spain, perished in immense numbers by the way, or
reached the camp so wretchedly reduced in condition as to be little
better than carrion. Resources from the sea could not be trusted to;
for in blowing weather the coast was scarcely approachable, and even in
the sheltered harbour of Passages, the transports could with difficulty
ride to their moorings, in consequence of the heavy swell that tumbled
in from the Atlantic. The cold became intense, sentries were frozen at
their posts, and a picket at Roncesvalles, regularly snowed up, was
saved with great difficulty. All this plainly showed that the present
position of the allies was not tenable much longer, and that a forward
movement into France was unavoidable.

But great difficulties in advancing presented themselves; and, all
things considered, success was a matter of uncertainty. Soult’s army
had been powerfully reinforced by the last conscription; and for three
months the French marshal had been indefatigable in fortifying the
whole line of his position, and strengthening his defences, wherever
the ground would admit an enemy to approach. The field-works extended
from the sea to the river, as the right rested on St. Jean-de-Luz,
and the left on the Nivelle. The centre was at Mont La Rhune and the
heights of Sarré. The whole position passed in a half-circle through
Irogne, Ascain, Sarré, Ainhoue, and Espelette. Though the centre was
commanded by a higher ridge, a narrow valley interposed between them.
The entire front was covered with works, and the sierras defended by a
chain of redoubts. The centre was particularly strong--in fact, it was
a work regularly ditched and palisaded.

To turn the position, by advancing Hill’s corps through St. Jean
Pied-de-Port, was first determined on; but, on consideration, this plan
of operations was abandoned, and, strong as the centre was, the allied
leader resolved that on it his attack should be directed, while the
heights of Ainhoue, which formed its support, should, if possible, be
simultaneously carried.

A commander less nerved than Lord Wellington, would have lacked
resolution for this bold and masterly operation. Everything was against
him, and every chance favoured the enemy. The weather was dreadful, the
rain fell in torrents, and while no army could move, the French had the
advantage of the delay to complete the defences of a position which was
already deemed perfect as art and nature could render it. Nor did their
powerful works produce in the enemy a false security. Aware of the
man and the troops which threatened them, they were always ready for
an attack, and their outpost duty was rigidly attended to. Before day
their corps were under arms, and the whole line of defence continued
fully garrisoned until night permitted the troops to be withdrawn.

At last the weather moderated. Ainhoue was reconnoitred by Wellington
in person, and the plan of the attack arranged. No operation could be
more plain or straightforward. The centre was to be carried by columns
of divisions, and the right centre turned. To all the corps their
respective points of attack were assigned, while to the light division
and Longa’s Spaniards the storming of La Petite Rhune was confided.
The latter were to be supported by Alten’s cavalry, three brigades of
British artillery, and three mountain guns.

The successful result of the battle was owing in no inconsiderable
degree to the able direction of the artillery under Colonel Dickson.
Guns were brought to bear on the French fortifications from situations
which they considered totally inaccessible to that arm. Mountain
guns on swivel carriages, harnessed on the backs of mules purposely
trained for that service, ascended the rugged ridges of the mountains,
and showered destruction on the intrenchments below. The foot and
horse-artillery displayed a facility of movement which must have
astonished the French, the artillerymen dragging the guns with ropes up
steep precipices, or lowering them down to positions from whence they
could with more certain aim pour forth their fatal volleys against the
enemy.

The 8th December had been named for the attack, but the roads were
so dreadfully cut up, that neither the artillery nor Hill’s brigade
could get into position, and it was postponed for two days longer,
when the 10th dawned, a clear and moonlight morning. Long before day,
Lord Wellington, and several of the generals of division and brigade
with their respective staffs, had assembled in a small wood, five
hundred yards from the redoubt above the village of Sarré, waiting for
sufficient light to commence the arranged attack.

Nothing could exceed the courage and rapidity with which the troops
rushed on, and overcame every artificial and natural obstacle. The 3rd
and 7th advanced in front of the village, Downie’s Spanish brigade
attacked the right, while the left was turned by Cole’s, and the whole
of the first line of defences remained in possession of the allies.

On this glorious occasion, the light division was pre-eminently
distinguished. By moonlight it moved from the greater La Rhune, and
formed in a ravine which separates the bolder from the lesser height.
This latter was occupied in force by the enemy, and covered on every
assailable point with intrenchments. As morning broke, the British
light troops rushed from the hollow which had concealed them. To
withstand their assault was impossible; work after work was stormed;
forward they went with irresistible bravery, and on the summit of
the hill united themselves with Cole’s division, and then pushed on
against the intrenched heights behind, which formed the strongest part
of the position. Here, a momentary check arrested their progress; the
supporting force (Spanish) were too slow, and the ground too rugged for
the horse artillery to get over it at speed. The rifles were attacked
in turn, and for a moment driven back by a mass of the enemy. But the
reserve came up; and again the light troops rushed forward, the French
gave way, and the whole of the lower ridge was left in possession of
the assailants.

For four hours the combat had raged, and on every point the British
were victorious. A more formidable position still remained behind, and
Wellington combined his efforts for a vigorous and general attack.

This mountain position extended from Mondarin to Ascain, and a long
valley, through which the Nivelle flows, traversed it; where the
surface was unequal, the higher points were crowned with redoubts,
and the spaces of leveller surface occupied by the French in line or
column, as the nature of the ground best admitted. Men inclined to
fight never had a field that offered so many advantages; and there were
none, save the British leader and the splendid army he commanded, who
would have ventured to assault equal numbers posted as the enemy were.

The dispositions were soon complete, the word was given, and in six
columns, with a chain of skirmishers in front, the allies advanced to
the attack.

To carry a strong work, or assail a body of infantry in close column,
placed on the crest of an acclivity that requires the attacking force
to halt frequently for breathing-time, requires a desperate and
enduring valour which few armies can boast--but such bravery on that
occasion characterised the allied divisions. Masses posted on a steep
height were forced from it by the bayonet, though hand and foot were
often required to enable the assaulting party to reach them. Redoubts
were carried at a run, or so rapidly turned by the different brigades
that the defenders had scarcely time to escape by the rear. Nothing
could resist the dash and intrepidity of the British; and over the
whole extent of that formidable position, on no point did the attack
fail.

The French were driven from their works, and forced in great confusion
on the bridge of the Nivelle. One redoubt, from its superior strength,
had been obstinately maintained, but the regiment that occupied it was
completely cut off from retreating, and the whole were made prisoners.

In every other point the British attack succeeded. Hill’s division
carried the heights of Ainhoue, the whole of the redoubts falling to
the British and Portuguese under Hamilton; while Stewart drove the
enemy from a parallel ridge in the rear, and the divisions, by an
united attack, forcing the enemy from their works at Espelette, obliged
them to retire towards Cambo, thus gaining the rear of the position
originally occupied, and forcing Soult’s centre on his right.

The French marshal formed in great force on the high grounds over
Ascain and St. Pe, and Lord Wellington made instant dispositions to
attack him. Three divisions, the third, sixth, and seventh, advanced
against the heights--two by the left of the Nivelle, and one, the
sixth, by the right bank. As the position was exceedingly strong, the
enemy determined to hold it to the last, and maintained a furious
cannonade, supported by a heavy fire of musketry. But the steady and
imposing advance of the allies could not be repelled, and the French
retired hastily. The right of the position was thus entirely cut
through, and though for months the Duke of Dalmatia had been arming
every vulnerable point, and his engineers had used their utmost skill
in perfecting its defences, the British commander’s dispositions were
so admirably made and so gallantly carried out, that his numerous and
most difficult attacks were crowned with brilliant success, unalloyed
by a single failure.

Night ended the battle, the firing ceased, Soult retreated, and,
covered by the darkness, withdrew a beaten army, that had numbered
fully seventy thousand men. His killed and wounded exceeded three
thousand, besides a loss of fifty guns, and twelve hundred prisoners.
The allies reckoned their casualties at two thousand four hundred
killed and wounded; which, the nature of the ground, the strength of
its defences, and the _corps d’armée_ that held it, considered, was
indeed a loss comparatively light.



CHAPTER XXI.

THE BATTLES OF THE PYRENEES.

PART THIRD.

1813.


Soult halted his different corps in the intrenched camp of Bayonne,
and Wellington cantoned his troops two miles in front of his opponent,
in lines extending from the sea to the Nivelle, his right stretching
to Cambo and his left resting on the coast. This change in his
cantonments was productive of serious advantages. His wearied soldiery
obtained rest and many comforts which in their mountain bivouacs were
unattainable; and though the enemy possessed unlimited command of a
well-supplied district for their foraging parties, and the surface
over which Lord Wellington might obtain supplies was necessarily
circumscribed, his direct communication with the sea, and a month’s
rest in tolerable quarters, recruited his exhausted army and produced
the best results.

But Wellington merely waited to mature his preparations; and, to extend
his line of supply, he determined to seize the strong ground between
the Nive and the Adour, and confine Soult to the immediate vicinity
of his own camp. Accordingly, on the 9th of December, the left wing
of the allies, advancing by the road of St. Jean de Luz, gained the
heights domineering the intrenchments of the French. The right forded
the Nive above Cambo, while, by a bridge of boats, Clinton crossed at
Nostariz, and obliged the enemy, to avoid being cut off, to fall back
on Bayonne. At night, the French having retired to their posts within
the fortified position they had occupied, Hope, with the left of the
allies, recrossed the river to his former cantonments, having a direct
communication open with Sir Rowland Hill, who had taken a position
with his division, his right on the Adour, his centre in the village
of St. Pierre, and his left appuied on the heights of Ville Franque.
Morillo’s division was in observation at Urcuray, and a cavalry corps
at Hasparren.

The relative positions of the rival armies were greatly different.
Soult possessed immense advantages; his _corps d’armée_ were completely
bivouacked, with easy communications, every facility for rapid
concentration, and the citadel of Bayonne to protect him if he found
it necessary to fall back. The allies extended over an irregular line
intersected by the Nive, with bad roads, that rendered any rapid
reinforcement of a threatened point altogether impracticable. Hence,
Wellington was everywhere open to attack, and Soult could fall on him
with overwhelming numbers and force an unequal combat, while but a part
of the allies should be opposed to the combined efforts of the enemy.
The French marshal was aware of this, and it was not long before he
endeavoured to profit by his advantage.

The left of the allies, under Sir John Hope, had the fifth division
(Hay’s) posted on the heights of Barouillet, with Campbell’s Portuguese
brigade on a narrow ridge immediately in their front. At Arrangues,
the light division was formed on a strong height, at a distance of two
miles from the fifth.

The positions were separated by the low grounds between the hills, and
the corps were consequently unconnected. Although both were strongly
posted, still, in case of an attack, each must trust entirely to his
own resources, and repulse the enemy without counting on support from
the other.

Early on the 10th of December, Soult appeared on the road of St.
Jean de Luz, and in great force marched directly against the allied
left. The light and fifth divisions were simultaneously assailed, the
former driven back into its intrenchments, and Campbell’s brigade
forced back upon Hay’s at Barouillet. The intermediate ground between
the allied positions was now in the possession of the enemy, and
thus Soult was enabled to attack the right of the fifth with vigour.
Although assailed in front and flank, the allied division gallantly
withstood the assault; and when the position was completely penetrated,
and the orchard on the right forced and occupied by the French with
overwhelming numbers, still the British and Portuguese held the
heights, and, while whole sections fell, not an inch of ground was
yielded.

Another and a more determined effort was now made by the French
marshal, and made in vain, for by a bold and well-timed movement of
the 9th British and a Portuguese battalion, wheeling round suddenly
and charging the French rear, the enemy were driven back with the loss
of a number of prisoners. Fresh troops were fast arriving, the guards
came into action, and Lord Wellington reached the battleground from
the right. But the French had been repulsed in their last attempt so
decisively that they did not venture to repeat it; evening closed, the
firing gradually died away, and the allied divisions held the same
positions from which Soult, with an immense numerical superiority in
men and guns, had vainly striven to force them.

The slaughter was great on both sides; and, wearied by long sustained
exertion, and weakened by its heavy loss, the fifth division was
relieved by the first, who occupied the post their comrades had
maintained so gloriously. The fourth and seventh were placed in
reserve, and enabled, in case of attack, to assist on either point,
should Soult, on the following morning, as was expected, again attempt
to make himself master of Barouillet.

Nothing could surpass the reckless gallantry displayed by the British
officers throughout this long and sanguinary struggle. Sir John Hope,
with his staff, was always seen where the contest was most furious;
and the only wonder was that in a combat so close and murderous, one
remarkable alike in personal appearance and “daring deed,” should
have outlived that desperate day. His escapes indeed were many. He
was wounded in the leg, contused in the shoulder, four musket-bullets
passed through his hat, and he lost two horses. General Robinson,
in command of the second brigade, was badly wounded, and Wellington
himself was constantly exposed to fire. Unable to determine where the
grand effort of his adversary would be directed, he passed repeatedly
from one point of the position to the other, and that life, so valuable
to all beside, seemed “of light estimation” to himself alone.

The next sun rose to witness a renewal of the contest. In their attack
upon the light divisions at Arrangues, the French, driven from the
defended posts the chateau and churchyard afforded, retired to the
plateau of Bassusarry, and there established themselves for the night.
During the forenoon some slight affairs between the pickets occurred;
but at noon, the fusilade having ceased, the allies collected wood,
lighted fires, and cooked their dinners. At two, a considerable
stir was visible in the enemy’s line, and their pioneers were seen
cutting down the fence for the passage of artillery. Soult’s first
demonstration of attack was made against Arrangues; but that was only
to mask his real object. Presently his tirailleurs swarmed out in front
of Barouillet, attacked the British outposts, drove the pickets back,
and moving in strong columns by the Bayonne road, furiously assailed
the heights of the position. The wood-cutters, surprised by the sudden
onset of the French, hurried back to resume their arms and join their
regiments; while the enemy, mistaking the cause of this rush to their
alarm posts, supposed a panic had seized the troops, and pressed
forward with increased impetuosity. But the same results attended their
attempt upon the first as on the fifth division; and the French were
driven back with heavy loss. In the contests of two days not an inch of
ground was yielded, and the left wing of the allies remained firm in
its position, when night brought the combat to a close.

During the 12th, Soult still continued in front of the heights of
Barouillet, and preserved throughout the day a threatening attitude.
No serious attack, however, was made; some sharp skirmishing occurred
between the pickets, and darkness ended these occasional affairs.

The grand object of the French marshal in his sustained attacks upon
the allied left, was to force the position and penetrate to St. Jean
de Luz. Although so severely handled in his attempts upon the 10th
and 11th, the bustle visible along his line, and the activity of the
officers of his staff during the morning of the 12th, showed that
he still meditated a fresh effort. The imposing appearance of the
allied troops on the heights of Barouillet induced him to change his
intention; and he made arrangements to throw his whole disposable force
suddenly upon the right wing of the British, and attack Sir Rowland
Hill with overwhelming numbers.

This probable attack had been foreseen by Lord Wellington, and,
with his accustomed caution, means had been adopted to render it
unsuccessful. In the event of assistance being required, the sixth
division was placed at Hill’s disposal; and early on the morning of
the 13th, the third and fourth divisions moved towards the right of
the allied lines, and were held in readiness to pass the river should
circumstances demand it. As Lord Wellington had anticipated, Soult
marched his main body through Bayonne during the night of the 12th, and
at daylight, pushing forward thirty thousand men in columns of great
strength, attacked furiously the right wing of the allies.

Hill had only fourteen thousand British and Portuguese to repel the
French marshal’s assault, but the ground he occupied was capable of
being vigorously defended. On the right, General Byng’s brigade was
formed in front of the Vieux Monguerre, occupying a ridge, with the
Adour upon the right, and the left flanked by several mill dams.
The brigades of Generals Barnes and Ashworth were posted on a range
of heights opposite the village of St. Pierre, while two Portuguese
brigades were formed in reserve immediately behind Ville Franque. The
general form of the line nearly described a crescent, and against
its concave side the efforts of the French marshal were principally
directed. The position extended from the Adour to the Nive, occupying a
space, from right to left, of four miles.

The outposts stationed on the road from Bayonne to St. Jean Pied de
Port were driven back by the enemy’s tirailleurs, followed by the main
body of the French, who mounted the sloping ground in front of the
British position, and supported by another division, which moved by a
hollow way between the left centre and Pringle’s brigade, they came
forward in massive columns. Sir Rowland Hill at once perceived that
Soult’s design was to force his centre, and carry the heights of St.
Pierre. To strengthen that part of the position, the brigade of General
Byng was promptly moved to the right of the centre, leaving the third
(Buffs) regiment and some light companies at Vieux Monguerre, while a
Portuguese brigade was marched from behind Ville Franque to support the
left. The sixth division was apprised of the threatened attack, and
an aide-de-camp was despatched to order its immediate march upon the
centre.

The French came on with all the confidence of superior strength, and
a full determination to break through the British position, and thus
achieve upon the right that object which they had essayed upon the
left, and twice in vain. Exposed to a tremendous fire of grape from the
British guns, and a withering fusilade from the light infantry, they
pressed steadily on, and, by strength of numbers, succeeded in gaining
ground in front of the heights. But further they never could attain,
as the supporting brigades joined on either flank, and every continued
essay to force the centre was repulsed. A long and bloody combat, when
renewed, produced no happier result, for the allies obstinately held
their position. The Buffs and light companies, who had been forced by
an overwhelming superiority to retire for a time from Vieux Monguerre,
re-formed, charged into the village, and won it back at the point of
the bayonet, when, after exhausting his whole strength in hopeless
efforts to break the British line, Soult abandoned the attack, and
reluctantly gave the order to fall back.

Not satisfied with repelling the enemy’s attack, Hill in turn became
the assailant, and boldly pursued the broken columns as they retired
from the front of the position. On a high ground in advance of his
intrenched lines, Soult drew up in force, and determined to fall back
no further. The hill was instantly assaulted by Byng’s brigade, led on
by the general in person. Unchecked by a storm of grape and a heavy
fire of musketry, the British, reinforced by a Portuguese brigade,
carried the height, and the French were beaten from a strong position
with a serious loss in men, and the capture of two pieces of cannon.

The third and sixth divisions came up as quickly as distance and
difficult roads would permit, but the contest was ended; and Hill,
unassisted by any supporting troops, had, with his own corps, achieved
a complete and glorious victory.

This glorious battle was fought and won by Sir Rowland Hill with his
own corps, alone and unassisted. Lord Wellington could not reach
the field till the victory was achieved, and as he rode up to his
successful general, he shook him heartily by the hand, with the frank
remark, “Hill, the day’s your own.” He was exceedingly delighted with
Sir Rowland’s calm and beautiful conduct of this action, and with the
intrepid and resolute behaviour of the troops.

Every effort, continued with unabated vigour for five hours, and with
decided advantages on his side, had signally failed, and the French
commander was forced again to retire within his fortified lines between
the Nive and the Adour, while the allies pushed their advanced posts to
the verge of the valley immediately in front of St. Pierre.

In these continued actions the loss on both sides was immense. In the
casualties of the 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th of December, the
total, including four generals, amounted to five thousand and sixty-one
_hors de combat_.

The French loss was infinitely greater; it is but a moderate estimate
to place it at six thousand men. Indeed, no contests, sanguinary as
most of them had been during the Peninsular campaigns, were attended
with greater loss of life, and those well accustomed to view a
battlefield expressed astonishment at the slaughter the limited spaces
on which the repeated struggles had occurred exhibited at the close of
every succeeding engagement.

Soult, defeated in the presence of thousands of his countrymen, and
with every advantage locality could confer, had no apology to offer
for the failure of his attacks, and if any additional mortification
were necessary, the defection of the regiments of Nassau-Usingen and
Frankfort would have completed it.

A Frankfort officer now made his way to the outposts of our fourth
division in the centre of the allies, and announced the intended
defection, requiring a general officer’s word of honour that they
should be well received and sent to Germany. No general being on the
spot, Colonel Bradford gave his word; means were immediately taken to
apprise the battalions, and they came over in a body, thirteen hundred
men, the French not discovering their intention till just when it was
too late to frustrate it.

The winter had now set in with severity, and ended all military
movements for a season.

“During this period of mutual repose,” says Batty, “the French officers
and ours soon became intimate; we used to meet at a narrow part of
the river, and talk over the campaign. They would never believe, or
pretended not to believe, the reverse of Napoleon in Germany; and when
we received the news of the Orange Boven affair in Holland, they said
that it was impossible to convince them. One of our officers took ‘The
Star’ newspaper, rolled a stone up in it, and attempted to throw it
across the river; unfortunately the stone went through it, and it fell
into the water; the French officer very quietly said, in tolerably good
English, ‘Your good news is very soon damped.’

“During the campaign we had often experienced the most gentlemanly
conduct from the French officers. A day or two before the battle, when
we were upon our alarm-post, at break of day, a fine hare was seen
playing in a cornfield between the outposts; a brace of greyhounds were
very soon unslipped, when, after an exciting course, poor puss was
killed within the French lines. The officer to which the dogs belonged,
bowing to the French officer, called off the dogs, but the Frenchman
politely sent the hare, with a message and his compliments, saying that
we required it more than they did.”

The roads were impassable from constant rain, and the low grounds
heavily flooded. The French took up cantonments on the right bank of
the Adour; while the allies occupied the country between the left of
that river and the sea. Every means were employed to render the troops
comfortable in their winter quarters, and, to guard against surprises,
telegraphs were erected in communication with every post, which, by a
simple combination of flags, transmitted intelligence along the line
of the cantonments, and apprised the detached officers of the earliest
movement of the enemy. Abundant supplies, and the advantage of an open
communication with Britain, enabled the army to recruit its strength;
and, with occasional interruptions of its quiet, the year 1813 passed
away, and another, “big with the fate of empires,” was ushered in.



CHAPTER XXII.

THE BATTLES OF THE PYRENEES.

PART FOURTH.

1814.


The intrenchments into which Soult, on the failure of his attempts upon
the allied positions had withdrawn his troops, covered the approach to
Bayonne on the side opposite to Anglet.

Six weeks passed on. The weather was too inclement to allow movements
to be made on either side, and the French marshal was occupied in
defending his extensive lines, and the allied general in preparing
secretly for passing the Adour.

In February the weather changed, the cross roads became practicable,
and Lord Wellington with his characteristic promptness, commenced
preparatory movements for the execution of his grand conception.

To distract the attention of Soult from the defence of the Adour,
Wellington threatened the French left on the Bidouse.

The road, however, communicating with the bridge of St. Palais was
uncovered, and though evening had come on, and the second division,
with a Spanish corps under Morillo, were alone in hand, Lord Wellington
determined to force the position. The Spaniards were desired to march
rapidly on St. Palais, while, with Stewart’s division, the heights
should be carried. The attack was gallantly made, the enemy offered
a brave resistance, but the position was stormed in fine style, and
held against every effort the French could make for its recovery. The
contest continued until darkness had shrouded distant objects, while
the battalions still fought with such furious obstinacy, that volleys
were interchanged within pistol range, and the bayonet frequently
resorted to. Finding it impossible to force those enduring troops from
the ground they seemed determined upon keeping, Harispe, before Morillo
could seize the bridge, succeeded in retiring his beaten corps. Falling
back upon the Gave de Mauleon, he destroyed the bridge of Navarette,
but the river was forded by the British, Harispe’s position forced, and
his division driven behind Gave d’Oleron.

Soult instantly destroyed the communications, and rendered the bridges
over the Adour impassable. The centre of the allies being now in force
on the Bidouse, and concentrating on Sauveterre, the French marshal
retired from Bayonne, leaving a powerful garrison behind him for the
protection of that important city.

The citadel of Bayonne is a truly formidable work, standing on a
commanding hill upon the right bank of the Adour, and greatly elevated
above all the other defences of the city, nearly fronting the mouth of
the Nive. It is almost a perfect square, with strongly-built oreillon
bastions at the four angles. A double range of barracks and magazines
inclose a quadrangular space in the centre called the _place d’armes_,
the sides of which are parallel with the curtains of the citadel.
The north-east, north-west, and south-west bastions are surmounted
by cavaliers which appear to be well armed with cannon mounted _en
barbette_.

All necessary preparations for the passage of the Adour had been
completed, and from the co-operation of the British navy much
assistance was expected. That hope was fully realised; and the noble
exertions of the British sailors on the eastern coast of Spain, at
St. Sebastian, and at Passages, were crowned by the intrepidity with
which the bar of the Adour was crossed. Undaunted by the failure of the
leading vessels, which perished in the surf, with death before their
eyes, and their comrades swamping in the waters, on came the succeeding
_chasse-marées_. At last the true channel was discovered. Vessel
succeeded vessel, and before night a perfect bridge was established
over the Adour, able from its solidity to resist a river current, and
protected from any effort of the enemy by a line of booms and spars,
which stretched across the river as a security against fire ships, or
any other means which the French might employ for its destruction.

Before the flotilla had entered the Adour, or the pontoons had arrived
from Bedart, the guards attempted a passage of the river by means of
the small boats and a temporary raft formed of a few pontoons, and
worked as a flying bridge, by means of a hawser extended from the
opposite bank. As the strength of the tide interrupted this precarious
mode of passage, when only six companies, with two of the 60th rifles,
and a party of the rocket corps, had crossed, the position of this
small body, isolated as it was, and open to the attack of overwhelming
numbers, was dangerous in the extreme. Colonel Stopford, however, made
the best dispositions in his power for defence, and formed with one
flank upon the river, and the other appuied upon a morass, while the
heavy guns that had been placed in battery on the other shore, swept
the ground in front of the position with their fire.

As had been truly apprehended, an attack was made. The French advanced
with fifteen hundred men, and the guards and rifles received them
steadily, the rocket corps, on either flank, opening with this novel
and destructive projectile. A few discharges completely arrested the
enemy’s advance, and they hastily retired from the attack; while at
the turning of the tide, reinforcements were ferried over, and the
position secured until the following evening, when the whole of the
first division, with two guns and a few troops of dragoons, succeeded
in effecting a passage.

Bayonne, in the meantime, was closely invested, and the garrison
forced back from the villages in front of their lines, by Sir John
Hope. Lord Wellington, having secured the attention of Soult by a
formidable demonstration on his front, enabled Sir Rowland Hill to
pass the Gave d’Oleron unopposed, and thus turn the left flank of the
French marshal. Soult instantly retired and took a position behind the
Pau, establishing his headquarters at Orthez. Picton, with the third
and light divisions, had followed Hill; Clinton, with the sixth, had
crossed between Laas and Montford; and Beresford observed the enemy at
Peyrehorade closely, and kept them within their intrenchments.

Lord Wellington had decided on an immediate attack. The French were
very strongly posted; their left wing, commanded by Clausel, rested on
the Gave, and occupied the town of Orthez; the centre, under d’Erlon,
was formed on the heights in the rear; while the right wing extended
behind St. Boès, and held that village. Harispe’s division was placed
as a reserve in the rear, and crossed the great roads leading to
Bordeaux and Toulouse.

On the 27th February, Wellington commenced his operations. The allied
left wing, composed of the fourth and seventh divisions and Vivian’s
brigade, under Marshal Beresford, attacked the enemy’s right at St.
Boès; while the third and sixth divisions, under Sir Rowland Hill, with
Lord Edward Somerset’s light cavalry, were directed against Soult’s
left and centre. The British movements were ably executed. Hill crossed
the river in front of the French left, and turned their flank--the
enemy holding their ground with great obstinacy, while the allied
attack was as remarkable for its impetuosity. A final and protracted
struggle ensued, but the French unable to sustain the combined assault
of the allies, commenced retreating by divisions, and contesting every
inch of ground as they abandoned it. Hill’s parallel march was speedily
discovered, and as that movement threatened their rear, the order of
the retreat was accelerated, and gradually assumed the character of a
flight. The British pressed rapidly forward, the French as quickly fell
back; both strove to gain Sault de Navailles, and though charged by the
British cavalry, the enemy crossed the Luy de Bearne before Hill could
succeed in coming up.

The defeat of the 27th was decisive. The French loss in killed and
wounded was immense. Six guns and a number of prisoners were taken; the
troops threw away their arms, many deserted altogether, and few defeats
were marked by more injurious results to the vanquished, than those
attendant upon that of Orthez.

The allied loss amounted to two hundred and seventy-seven killed, one
thousand nine hundred and twenty-three wounded, and seventy missing.

One circumstance occurred during this obstinate contest that displayed
the readiness of Lord Wellington’s decisions, and the rapidity with
which he adopted measures to meet any incidental exigency.

A Portuguese battalion in advancing had been so roughly received that
it broke and fell back upon a brigade of the light division, who
succeeded in covering its retreat. The nature of the ground on which
the right of the enemy was posted, from its narrow front, confining the
attack to a line of but two battalions; while a heavy battery of guns
and a converging fire of musketry swept its approach and rendered the
boldest efforts of the assailants unavailing in carrying the height.
Wellington perceived the difficulty, and in a moment changed his method
of attack. Walker, with the seventh division, and Barnard, with a light
brigade, were pushed up the left of the height to attack the right of
the French at its point of junction with the centre; and Picton and
Clinton were directed to advance at once, and not as they had been
originally ordered, await the result of Beresford’s attempt upon the
hill. The whole face of the battle was thus suddenly changed, the
heights were speedily won, and the enemy, after a fierce resistance,
driven fairly from their ground, and forced from a most formidable
position.

That night the French retired to Hagetman, and, joined by the garrison
of Dax, fell back on St. Sever, and afterwards on Agen--Beresford
advancing by Mont de Marsan, and Hill in the direction of Aire. Heavy
rains favoured the French retreat, by impeding the advance of the
allies, and it was the 2nd of March before Hill overtook them in front
of Aire.

Although posted on formidable ground, Sir Rowland instantly and
successfully brought them to action. The second division, with De
Costa’s Portuguese, advanced to the attack; the former by the road
to Aire, and the latter by the heights upon the left of the enemy.
The movement of Stewart’s division was most brilliant; and though the
Portuguese behaved gallantly and won the ridge, they were attacked
furiously, and unable to hold the ground, deforced, and driven in great
confusion from the height. The French followed with a strong column,
and the consequences threatened to be disastrous, but the success of
the second division permitted Sir Rowland to detach Byng’s brigade to
the assistance of De Costa; and in place of assailing a broken corps,
the enemy’s columns were confronted by one in equal order, and already
buoyant with success. The result was what might have been expected;
the French were charged and beaten from the field, the town and the
position abandoned, the Adour hastily crossed, a number of prisoners
made, and a regiment cut off and obliged to retire to Pau.

Soult pursued the line of the right bank of the Adour, and concentrated
at Plaisance and Maubourget, to await Lord Wellington’s attack; but
finding the road to Bordeaux uncovered, the allied general marched his
left wing directly on that city. On Beresford’s approach, the garrison
evacuated the place, crossing over to the right bank of the Garonne;
and the authorities and inhabitants generally assumed the white
cockade, and declared themselves in favour of the Bourbons.



CHAPTER XXIII.

THE BATTLE OF TOULOUSE.

1814.


The celebrated conference at Chatillon terminated on the 19th of March,
and the allied Sovereigns determined to march direct upon the capital,
of which they obtained possession on the 31st. The intelligence of
this momentous event had not reached the south of France, and Lord
Wellington was busy making immense preparations to enable him to invest
and reduce Bayonne. Fascines and gabions were obtained in abundance; a
large supply of siege artillery, with shot and shells, was landed at
Passages from the home country; scaling-ladders were constructed in the
woods, the site of the batteries marked out, and all was ready for an
investment.

Meanwhile, to guard against a menaced attack on his rear, the French
marshal retired under cover of night, and fell back upon Toulouse,
destroying the bridges as he passed them, where the British followed
him.

The unavoidable difficulty in crossing flooded rivers, and moving
pontoons over roads nearly impassable from heavy rains, however greatly
delayed the allied march. Soult reached Toulouse in four days, while
Wellington, by great exertion, was only enabled to arrive before it in
seven.

Toulouse stands on the right bank of the Garonne, which separates it
from a large suburb called Saint Cyprien. The eastern and northern
sides of the city are inclosed by the canal of Languedoc, which joins
the Garonne a mile below the town. On the east of the city is the
suburb of Saint Etienne; on the south that of Saint Michael, and on
that side the great road from Carcassone and Montpellier enters the
town. The population was estimated at fifty thousand souls, and it was
generally understood that the inhabitants of Toulouse were secretly
attached to the Bourbons.

The city is walled and connected by ancient towers--but these
antiquated defences would avail little against the means employed in
modern warfare. Soult, therefore, intrenched the fauxbourg of Saint
Cyprien, constructed _têtes du pont_ at all the bridges of the canal,
threw up redoubts and breastworks, and destroyed the bridges across
the Ers. The southern side he considered so secure as to require no
additional defences, trusting for its protection to the width and
rapidity of the Garonne.

The first attempt of the allied leader to throw a pontoon bridge
across the river, was rendered impracticable by the sudden rising of
its waters. Higher up, however, the passage was effected, but the
roads were quite impassable, and Lord Wellington determined to lay the
pontoons below the city, which was accordingly done, and Beresford with
the fourth and sixth divisions, was safely placed upon the right bank.

This temporary success might have been followed by disastrous
consequences. The Garonne suddenly increased; a flood came pouring
down; the swollen river momentarily rose higher, and to save the
pontoons from being swept away, the bridge was removed, and the
divisions left unsupported, with an overpowering force in front,
and an angry river in their rear. Soult neglected this admirable
opportunity of attacking them; and on the second day the flood had
sufficiently abated to allow the pontoons to be laid down again,
when Frere’s Spanish corps passed over, and reinforced the isolated
divisions. The bridge was now removed above the city, to facilitate
Hill’s communications, who, with the second division, was posted in
front of the fauxbourg of Saint Cyprien. The passage of the third and
light divisions was effected safely, and Picton and Baron Alten took up
ground with their respective corps in front of the canal, and invested
the northern face of Toulouse.

Early on the morning of the 10th March, the fortified heights on the
eastern front of the city were attacked. Soult had placed all his
disposable troops in this position, and thus defended, nothing but
determined gallantry on the part of the assailants could expect success.

The bridge of Croix d’Orade, previously secured by a bold attack of
the 18th hussars, enabled Beresford and Frere to move up the left bank
of the Garonne, and occupy ground in front of the heights preparatory
to the grand attack. The sixth division was in the centre, with the
Spaniards on the right, and the fourth British on the left. The cavalry
of Sir Stapleton Cotton and Lord Edward Somerset were formed in support
of the left and centre; and Arentchild, now in command of Vivian’s
brigade, was attached to the left flank, while Ponsonby protected
the right. The light division occupied the vacant ground between the
river Garonne and the road to Croix d’Orade; its left abutting on the
division under Frere; and the third, its right resting on the river,
communicated with Hill’s corps upon the left by means of the pontoon
bridge. These divisions--those of Hill, Picton, and Alten--were ordered
to attack the enemy’s intrenchments in front of their respective corps,
simultaneously with the grand assault upon the heights.

The fourth and sixth divisions moved obliquely against the enemy’s
right, carried the heights, and seized a redoubt on the flank of
the position; while the fourth Spanish corps, directed against the
ridge above the road to Croix d’Orade, advanced with confidence, and
succeeded in mounting the brow of the hill. But the heavy fire of the
French batteries arrested their onward movement. They recoiled, became
confused, and sought shelter from the fury of the cannonade in a hollow
way in front of the enemy’s position. The French, perceiving their
disorder, advanced and vigorously charged. Frere vainly endeavoured to
rally his broken troops and lead them on again; they were driven back
confusedly on the Ers, and their déroute appeared inevitable.

Lord Wellington saw and remedied this reverse. Personally, he rallied
a Spanish regiment, and bringing up a part of the light division,
arrested the French pursuit, and allowed the broken regiments time to
be re-organised. The bridge across the Ers was saved; Frere reformed
his battalions, and the fugitives rejoined their colours.

Beresford immediately resumed the attack, two redoubts were carried,
and the sixth division dislodged the enemy, and occupied the centre
of their position. The contest here was exceedingly severe; Pack, in
leading the attack, was wounded, and in an attempt to recover the
heights by the French, Taupin, who commanded the division, was killed.
Every succeeding effort failed, and the British held the ground their
gallantry had won.

Picton had most imprudently changed a false into a real attack upon
the bridge over the canal of Languedoc nearest its entrance into the
Garonne, but the _tête du pont_ was too strong to be forced, and he
fell back with considerable loss. On the left, Sir Rowland Hill menaced
the fauxbourg of Saint Cyprien, and succeeded in fully occupying the
attention of its garrison, thus preventing them from rendering any
assistance when Soult was most severely pressed.

In the meantime, Beresford, having obtained his artillery, resumed
offensive movements, and advanced along the ridge with the divisions of
Cole and Clinton. Soult anticipated the attack, and threw himself in
front and flank in great force upon the sixth division; but the effort
failed. The French marshal was driven from the hill, the redoubts
abandoned, the canal passed, and, beaten on every point, he sought
refuge within the walls of Toulouse.

Few victories cost more blood than this long and hard-contested battle.
The allied casualties, including two thousand Spaniards, nearly
extended to seven thousand men. Several regiments lost half their
number, and two, the 45th and 61st, their colonels. It was impossible
to ascertain the extent to which the French suffered. Their loss was no
doubt commensurate with that of the victors. Of their superior officers
alone, two generals were killed, and three wounded and made prisoners.

On the night of the succeeding day, Soult, alarmed by Wellington’s
movements on the road to Carcassone, retired from the city, which next
morning was taken possession of by the allies, although the French
unblushingly assert that they gained a victory.

There was seldom a bloodier, and never a more useless, battle fought
than that of the 10th of March, for on the evening of the 12th a
British and French field officer, Colonels Cooke and St. Simon,
arrived at the allied headquarters, with intelligence that, on the
3rd, hostilities had ceased, and the war was virtually terminated. A
courier, despatched from the capital with this important communication,
had been unfortunately interrupted in his journey; and in ignorance of
passing events, the contending armies wasted their best energies, and
lost many of their bravest on both sides, in a bootless and unnecessary
encounter.

Soult, on having the abdication of Napoleon formally notified to him
on the night of the 13th, refused to send in his adherence to the
Bourbons, merely offering a suspension of hostilities, to which Lord
Wellington most properly objecting, instantly recommenced his pursuit
of the French marshal’s beaten divisions.

The bold and decisive measures of the allied leader doubtless hastened
the Duke of Dalmatia in making his decision, and, on the arrival of
a second official communication, Soult notified his adherence, and
hostilities ceased. Suchet had already shewn him the example, and
Toulouse displayed the white flag. A line of demarcation was made by
commissioners between the rival armies, and a regular convention signed
by the respective commanders.

On the 27th, Thouvenot was instructed by Soult to surcease hostilities,
and acknowledged the Bourbons--the lilies floated over the citadel--and
saluted by three hundred rounds of artillery, Napoleon’s abdication,
and the restoration of the Bourbons, were formally announced.

With political events we have no business, and it is sufficient to
cursorily observe, that arrangements were effected for Napoleon’s
retirement from public life to the “lonely isle,” where he might still,
in fancy, “call himself a king.” To this secluded spot, many of his old
and devoted followers accompanied him. Peace was generally proclaimed
over Europe; tranquillity restored in France; the “Grand Nation,” to
all appearance, contented itself with the change of government; the
allied sovereigns retired with their respective corps, each to his own
dominions; and the victorious army of Wellington quitted the French
soil, on which it had consummated its glory; and received, on landing
on the shores of Britain, that enthusiastic welcome which its “high
deeds” and boundless gallantry deserved from a grateful country.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE BATTLE OF QUATRE BRAS.

1815.


A few months passed away; Europe was apparently at rest; its military
attitude was gradually softening down, and all the belligerent Powers,
weary of a state of warfare that, with slight intermission, had lasted
for a quarter of a century, enjoyed the repose which the overthrow
of Napoleon’s power had produced. But this state of quietude was
delusory; it was the treacherous calm that precedes a tempest. Untamed
by adversity, that ambitious spirit was gathering strength for another
effort; France was ready to receive him; past victories would thus be
rendered useless, Europe convulsed again, and none could foresee what
strange events the descent of Napoleon might produce.

No recorded career parallels that of Napoleon Buonaparte; and in
the history of kings and conquerors, the strangest story was his
own. He seemed the shuttlecock of Fortune--and she placed him “on a
pinnacle of pride merely to mark her own mutability.” Hurled from
the sovereignty of half the world, his star had lost its ascendancy,
apparently to rise no more, when, by the happiest accident, his voyage
from Elba was uninterrupted, his landing unopposed, an enthusiastic
welcome everywhere was given to the intruder, legions congregated
at his bidding, the empire was offered and accepted, and the first
intelligence of his descent was closely followed by a formal
acknowledgment of his restoration to the sovereignty of France.

Napoleon landed in the Var on the 1st of March, and on the 19th he
slept in the palace of Fontainbleau. Louis had abandoned the capital,
and in a few hours the dynasty of the Bourbons seemed forgotten. None
opposed the return of the exile; his decrees were absolute, his wishes
were anticipated. The splendour of military parade delighted the
soldiery, while the theatric glitter of a _champ de Mai_ was admirably
adapted to catch the fancies, and win the momentary attachment of a gay
and thoughtless people. The whole pageant, in scenic effect, was suited
for those whom it was designed to lure, and on the 17th of April,
Napoleon was formally restored to that empire, from which the same
“sweet voices” had, but a few months before, so formally deposed him.

Parisian adulation, and the military devotion he received from the
moment his foot touched the shore at Cannes, did not blind him to
“coming events.” A vain effort to make terms with the allied Powers
was scornfully rejected. At Vienna, his overtures were treated with
disdain, and his letter to the British regent was returned with the
seal unbroken. He saw from all these premonitory occurrences, that
a storm was about to burst, and lost no time in preparing for a
determined resistance. A powerful army alone could avert the danger;
and, with his customary tact, Napoleon made prodigious efforts to
restore the military strength of the empire, which the Russian, German,
and Peninsular campaigns had during the last years so miserably
weakened.

French vanity was successfully appealed to, the memory of past
victories recalled, and martial glory, that powerful touchstone of
national feeling, successfully employed to win the people to his
standard. The younger of the male population were called out by
_ordonnances_, and the retired veterans collected once more around
those eagles, which, in prouder days, had entered half the European
capitals in triumph.

The military power of France was organised anew. Commissioners,
specially employed, enforced the operations of Napoleon’s decrees in
every department of the kingdom. The Imperial Guard was re-established,
the cavalry increased and remounted, that powerful arm, the artillery,
by which half the victories of the French army had been achieved, was
enlarged and improved, and, in a time inconceivably short, a most
splendid _corps d’armée_ perfect in every department, was ready for the
field.

While Napoleon was thus engaged, Wellington arrived at Brussels on the
5th of April, to take command of the British army. There, the troops of
the Prince of the Netherlands, with those of Nassau and Brunswick, were
placed under his orders, the whole forming the Anglo-Belgic army.

The Prussian _corps d’armée_ were cantoned in and about Namur and
Charleroi--while Ostend, Antwerp, Tournay, Ypres, Mons, and Ghent,
were occupied by the allies. The position of the Anglo-Belgic army was
extended and detached, for the preceding harvest in the Low Countries
had been unusually deficient, and, of course, the British and Belgic
cantonments covered an additional surface to obtain the requisite
supplies.

The allied corps in June were thus disposed. Lord Hill, with the
right wing, occupied Ath. The left, under the Prince of Orange, was
posted at Braine-le-Comte and Nivelles. The cavalry under the Marquis
of Anglesea, were established round Grammont; and the reserve and
headquarters, under the duke, were quartered in Brussels.

Belgium, for centuries, had been the seat of war, and every plain,
every fortress, had its tale of martial achievement to narrate. Within
its iron frontier there were few places which had not witnessed some
affair of arms; the whole country was rife with military reminiscences,
and it was destined to prove the scene where the greatest event
in modern warfare should be transacted. As a country, Belgium was
admirably adapted for martial operations--the plains, in many places
extensive, terminated in undulated ridges or bolder heights; while the
surface generally admitted the movements of masses of infantry. Canals,
rivers, morasses, and villages, presented favourable positions to abide
a battle, and difficult ones for an advancing army to force, while
the fortresses everywhere afforded facilities for retiring upon, and
presented serious obstacles to those who must mask or carry them when
advancing.

To a commander circumstanced like Wellington, great perplexity as to
the distribution of his army must arise, for the mode and point of
Napoleon’s attack were alike involved in mystery. He might decide
on adopting a defensive war, and permit the allies to become the
assailants. This course, however, was not a probable one; but where he
would precipitate himself was the difficulty.

The dangerous proximity of Brussels to the point where Napoleon’s
_corps d’armée_ were concentrating, naturally produced an anxious
inquietude among the inhabitants and visitants. The city was filled
every hour with idle rumours, but time alone could develope Napoleon’s
plans.

The first intelligence of a threatening movement on the part of the
French emperor was forwarded to the Duke of Wellington, when Blucher
learned that Zeithen’s corps was attacked. The despatch reached
Brussels at half-past four, but, as it merely intimated that the
Prussian outposts had been driven back, the information was not of
sufficient importance to induce the British commander to make any
change in the cantonments of the allied army.

A second despatch reached the duke at midnight, and its intelligence
was more decisive than the former. Napoleon was across the Sambro,
and in full march on Charleroi and Fleurus. Orders were instantly
issued for the more detached corps to break up from their cantonments
and advance upon Nivelles, while the troops in Brussels should march
direct by the forest of Soignies, on Charleroi. Thus there would be a
simultaneous reunion of the brigades as they approached the scene of
action, while their communication with the Prussian right should be
carefully secured.

Blucher’s second despatch was delivered to the British general in the
ballroom of the Duchess of Richmond. That circumstance most probably
gave rise to the groundless report that Wellington and the Prussian
marshal were surprised; but nothing could be more absurd than this
supposition. Both commanders were in close and constant communication,
and their plans for mutual co-operation were amply matured.

Where the intended attack--if Napoleon would indeed venture to become
aggressor--should be made, was an uncertainty, and it had been
arranged that if Blucher were assailed, Wellington should move to his
assistance, or, in the event of the British being the first object
with Napoleon, then the Prussian marshal should sustain the duke with
a corps, or with his whole army, were that found necessary. Nothing
could be more perfect than the cordial understanding between the allied
commanders, and the result proved how faithfully these mutual promises
of support were realised.

Two hours after midnight the gaiety of “fair Brussels” closed, the
drums beat to arms, and all was hurry and preparation. Momentarily
the din increased, “and louder yet the clamour grew” as the Highland
pibroch answered the bugle-call of the light infantry. The soldiery,
startled from their sleep, poured out from the now deserted dwellings;
and the once peaceful city exhibited a general alarm.

The sun rose on a scene of confusion and excitement. The military
assembled in the Place Royale; and the difference of individual
character might be traced in the respective bearings of the various
soldiery. Some were taking a tender, many a last, leave of wives and
children; others, stretched upon the pavement, were listlessly waiting
for their comrades to come up, while not a few strove to snatch a few
moments of repose, and appeared half insensible to the din of war
around them. Waggons were loading and artillery harnessing; orderlies
and aides-de-camp rode rapidly through the streets; and in the gloom
of early morning the pavement sparkled beneath the iron feet of the
cavalry, as they hurried along the causeway to join their respective
squadrons, which were now collecting in the Park.

The appearance of the British brigades as they filed from the Park
and took the road to Soignies, was most imposing. The martial air of
the Highland regiments, the bagpipes playing at their head, their
tartans fluttering in the breeze, and the early sunbeams flashing from
their glittering arms, excited the admiration of the burghers who had
assembled to see them march. During the winter and spring, while they
had garrisoned Brussels, their excellent conduct and gentle demeanour
had endeared them to the inhabitants; and “they were so domesticated in
the houses where they were quartered, that it was no uncommon thing to
see the Highland soldier taking care of the children, or keeping the
shop of his host.”

Regiment after regiment marched--the organisation of all most perfect;
the Rifles, Royals, 28th, each exhibiting some martial peculiarity,
on which the eye of Picton appeared to dwell with pride and pleasure
as they filed off before him. To an intelligent spectator a national
distinction was clearly marked. The bearing of the Scotch bespoke a
grave and firm determination, while the light step and merry glance of
the Irish militiaman told that war was the game he loved, and a first
field had no terrors for him.

Eight o’clock pealed from the steeple clocks; all was quiet--the
brigades, with their artillery and equipages, were gone--the crash of
music was heard no longer--the bustle of preparation had ceased--and an
ominous and heart-sinking silence succeeded the noise and hurry that
ever attends a departure for the field of battle.

Napoleon’s plan of penetrating into Belgium was now so clearly
ascertained, that Wellington determined to concentrate on the extreme
point of his line of occupation. His march was accordingly directed on
Quatre Bras, a small hamlet situated at the intersection of the road to
Charleroi, by that leading from Namur to Nivelles.

This village, which was fated to obtain a glorious but sanguinary
celebrity, consists of a few mean houses, having a thick and extensive
wood immediately on the right called Le Bois de Bossu. All around the
wood and hamlet, rye-fields of enormous growth, and quite ready for the
sickle, were extended.

After a distressing march of twenty miles in sultry weather, and over a
country destitute of water, the British brigades reached the scene of
action at two o’clock. They found the Prince of Orange with a division
of his army endeavouring to hold the French in check, and maintain a
position of whose great importance he was so well aware. The prince,
unable to withstand the physical superiority of Ney’s corps, had
gradually lost ground, the Hanoverians had been driven back, and the
Bois de Bossu was won and occupied by the enemy.

To recover this most important wood, from which the French could
debouche upon the road to Brussels, was the duke’s first object. The
95th were ordered to attack the tirailleurs who held it; the order was
gallantly executed, and after a bloody and sustained resistance, the
French were forced to retire.

On the left, the Royals and 28th were hotly engaged, and on the
right the 44th and Highland regiments were simultaneously assailed.
The battle now became general. Before the British could deploy, the
French cavalry charged furiously, the tall rye masking their advance
and favouring the attack. Generally these charges were unsuccessful,
and the perfect discipline and steady courage of the British enabled
them to repel the enemy. Lancers and cuirassiers were driven back with
desperate slaughter--while whole squadrons, shattered in their retreat,
and leaving the ground covered with their dead and dying, proved with
what fatal precision the British squares sustained their fusilade.

The efforts of the French to break the squares, however, were fierce
and frequent. Their batteries poured upon these unflinching soldiers
a storm of grape, and when an opening was made by the cannon, the
lancers were ready to rush upon the devoted infantry. But nothing could
daunt the lion-hearted British--nothing could shake their steadiness.
The dead were coolly removed, and the living occupied their places.
Though numbers fell, and the square momentarily diminished, it still
presented a serried line of glittering bayonets, through which lancer
and cuirassier endeavoured to penetrate, but in vain.

One regiment, after sustaining a furious cannonade, was suddenly, and
on three different sides, assailed by cavalry. Two faces of the square
were charged by the lancers, while the cuirassiers galloped down upon
another. It was a trying moment. There was a death-like silence; and
one voice alone, clear and calm, was heard. It was their colonel’s,
who called upon them to be “Steady!” On came the enemy; the earth
shook beneath the horsemen’s feet, while on every side of the devoted
band, the corn bending beneath the rush of cavalry disclosed their
numerous assailants. The lance blades nearly met the bayonets of the
kneeling front rank, the cuirassiers were within a few paces, yet not
a trigger was drawn. But, when the word “Fire!” thundered from the
colonel’s lips, each side poured out its deadly volley, and in a moment
the leading files of the French lay before the square, as if hurled
by a thunderbolt to the earth. The assailants, broken and dispersed,
galloped off for shelter to the tall rye, while a constant stream of
musketry from the British square, carried death into their retreating
squadrons.

But, unhappily, these furious and continued charges were not always
inefficient. On the right, and in the act of forming square, the 42nd
were attacked by the lancers. The sudden rush, and the difficulty of
forming in corn reaching to the shoulder, gave a temporary success to
the assailants. Two companies, excluded from the square, were ridden
over and cut down. The colonel was killed, half the regiment disabled,
but the remainder formed and repulsed the charge, while those detached
in the _mêlée_ fought back to back with desperate coolness, until the
withering fusilade of their companions dispersed the cavalry, and
enabled them to rejoin their ranks.

The remaining regiments of the Highland brigade were hotly pressed by
the enemy; they had not a moment’s respite; for no sooner were the
lancers and cuirassiers driven back, than the French batteries opened
with a torrent of grape upon the harassed squares, which threatened
to overwhelm them. Numbers of officers and men were already stretched
upon the field, while the French, reinforced by fresh columns,
redoubled their exertions, while the brave and devoted handful of
British troops seemed destined to cover with their bodies that ground
their gallantry scorned to surrender. Wellington, as he witnessed the
slaughter of his best troops, is said to have been deeply affected; and
repeated references to his watch, showed how anxiously he waited for
reinforcements.

The Bois de Bossu had continued to be the scene of a severe and
fluctuating combat. The 95th had driven the French out, but under a
heavy cannonade, and supported by a cavalry movement, the rifles were
overpowered by numbers and forced to retire, fighting inch by inch,
and contesting every tree. Ney established himself at last within the
wood, and ordered up a considerable addition to the light troops, who
had already occupied this important point of the position.

The contest was at its height. The incessant assaults of the enemy
were wasting the British regiments, but, with the exception of the
Bois de Bossu, not an inch of ground was lost. The men were falling
in hundreds, death was busy everywhere, but not a cheek blanched, and
not a foot receded! The courage of these undaunted soldiers needed no
incitement, but, on the contrary, the efforts of their officers were
constantly required to restrain the burning ardour that would, if
unrepressed, have led to ruinous results. Maddened to see their ranks
thinned by renewed assaults which they were merely suffered to repel,
they panted for the hour of action. The hot blood of Erin was boiling
for revenge, and even the cool endurance of the Scotch began to yield,
and a murmur was sometimes heard of, “Why are we not led forward?”

And yet, though forward movements were denied them, the assailants
paid dearly for this waste of British blood. For a long hour the 92nd
had been exposed to a destructive fire from the French artillery
that occasioned a fearful loss. A regiment of Brunswick cavalry had
attempted to repel a charge of cuirassiers, and repulsed with loss,
were driven back upon the Highlanders in great disorder. The hussars
galloped down a road on which part of the regiment was obliqued--the
remainder lining the ditch in front. The rear of the Brunswickers
intermingled with the headmost of the French horsemen, and for a
while the 92nd could not relieve them with their musketry. At last
the pursuers and pursued rode rapidly past the right flank of the
Highlanders, and permitted them to deliver their volley. The word
“Fire!” was scarcely given, when the close and converged discharge
of both wings fell with terrible effect upon the advanced squadron.
The cuirassiers were literally cut down by that withering discharge,
and the road choked up with men and horses rolling in dying agony,
while the shattered remnant of what but a few moments before had been
a splendid regiment, retreated in desperate confusion to avoid a
repetition of that murderous fusilade.

At this period of the battle, the guards, after a march of
seven-and-twenty miles, arrived from Enghein, from whence they had
moved at three in the morning. Exhausted by heat and fatigue, they
halted at Nivelles, lighted fires, and prepared to cook their dinners.
But the increasing roar of cannon announced that the duke was seriously
engaged, and a staff officer brought orders to hurry on. The bivouac
was instantly broken up, the kettles packed, the rations abandoned, and
the wearied troops cheerfully resumed their march.

The path to the field of battle could not be mistaken; the roar of
cannon was succeeded by the roll of musketry, which at every step
became more clearly audible; and waggons, heaped with wounded British
and Brunswickers interspersed, told that the work of death was going on.

The Guards, indeed, came up at a fortunate crisis. The Bois de Bossu
was won, and the tirailleurs of the enemy, debouching from its cover,
were about to deploy upon the roads that it commanded, and would thus
intercept the duke’s communication with the Prussians. The fifth
division, sadly reduced, could hardly hold their ground, any offensive
movement was impracticable, and the French tirailleurs were actually
issuing from the wood, but on perceiving the advancing columns, they
halted. The first brigade of Guards, having loaded and fixed bayonets,
were ordered to advance, and, wearied as they were with a fifteen
hours’ march, they cheered, and pushed forward. In vain the thick trees
impeded them, and although every bush and coppice was held and disputed
by the enemy, the tirailleurs were driven in on every side. Taking
advantage of a rivulet which crossed the wood, the enemy attempted to
form and arrest the progress of the Guards. That stand was momentary;
they were forced from their position, and the wood once more was
carried by the British.

Their success was, however, limited to its occupation; the broken
ground and close timber prevented the battalion from forming; and when
it emerged, and of course in considerable disorder, from its cover,
the masses of cavalry drawn up in the open ground charged and forced
it back. At last, after many daring attempts to debouch and form, the
first brigade fell back upon the third battalion, which, by flanking
the wood, had been enabled to form square, and repulse the cavalry,
and there the brigade halted. Evening was now closing in, the attacks
of the enemy became fewer and feebler, a brigade of heavy cavalry with
horse artillery came up, and, worn out by the sanguinary struggle of
six long hours, the assailants ceased their attack, and the fifth and
third divisions took a position for the night upon the ground their
unbounded heroism had held through this long and bloody day.

Thus terminated the fight of Quatre Bras, and a more glorious victory
was never won by British bravery. Night closed the battle, and when the
limited number of the allied troops actually engaged is considered,
this sanguinary conflict will stand almost without a parallel. At the
opening of the action at half-past two, the Duke’s force could not have
exceeded sixteen thousand, his whole army consisting of some Brunswick
hussars, supported by a few Belgian and Hanoverian guns, and the great
distance of their cantonments from the field of battle prevented
the British cavalry and horse artillery arriving until late in the
evening. Vivian’s brigade (1st Hanoverian, and 10th and 18th hussars)
came up at seven o’clock, but the rest only reached Quatre Bras at the
close of the action, having made a forced march from behind the Dender,
over bad roads for more than forty miles. Ney, by his own account,
commenced the battle with the second corps and Excelman’s cavalry, the
former numbering thirty thousand strong in artillery, and its cavalry,
that of the second corps included, amounting to three thousand six
hundred.

The French marshal complains that the first corps, originally assigned
to him, and which he had left at Frasnes in reserve, had been withdrawn
by Napoleon without any intimation, and never employed during the
entire day, and thus, as Ney writes to Fouche, “twenty-five or thirty
thousand men were, I may say, paralysed, and idly paraded during
the battle, from the right to the left, and the left to the right,
without firing a shot.” All this admitted, surely his means were amply
sufficient to have warranted a certain victory. In numbers his cavalry
were infinitely superior, his artillery was equally powerful, while in
those important arms, Wellington was miserably weak, and all he had
to oppose to his stronger antagonist were the splendid discipline and
indomitable courage of British infantry.

The loss sustained by the British and their allies in this glorious
and hard-contested battle amounted to three thousand seven hundred
and fifty, _hors de combat_. Of course, the British suffered most
severely, having three hundred and twenty men killed, and two thousand
one hundred and fifty-five wounded. The Duke of Brunswick fell in the
act of rallying his troops, and an immense number of British officers
were found among the slain and wounded. During an advanced movement,
the 92nd, while repulsing an attack of both cavalry and infantry,
met a French column, retreating to the wood, which halted and turned
its fire on the Highlanders, already assailed by a superior force.
Notwithstanding, the regiment bravely held its ground until relieved by
a regiment of the Guards, when it retired to its original position. In
this brief and sanguinary conflict, its loss amounted to twenty-eight
officers, and nearly three hundred men.

The casualties, when compared with the number of the combatants, will
appear enormous. Most of the battalions lost their commanding officers,
and the rapid succession of subordinate officers on whom the command
devolved, told how fast the work of death went on. Trifling wounds
were disregarded, and men severely hurt refused to retire to the rear,
or rejoined their colours after a temporary dressing. Picton’s was a
remarkable instance of this disregard of suffering; he was severely
wounded at Quatre Bras, and the fact was only ascertained after his
glorious fall at Waterloo.

The French loss, according to their own returns, was “very
considerable, amounting to four thousand two hundred killed or
wounded”; and Ney in his report says, “I was obliged to renounce my
hopes of victory; and in spite of all my efforts, in spite of the
intrepidity and devotion of my troops, my utmost efforts could only
maintain me in my position till the close of the day.”

Ney fell back upon the road to Frasnes. The moon rose angrily, still a
few cannon-shot were heard after the day had departed; but gradually
they ceased. The fires were lighted, and such miserable provisions as
could be procured were furnished to the harassed soldiery; and while
strong pickets were posted in the front and flanks, the remnant of
the British, with their brave allies, piled their arms and stretched
themselves on the field.

While the British held their battleground, the Prussians had been
obliged to retire in the night from Ligny. This, however, was not
ascertained until morning, as the aide-de-camp despatched with the
intelligence to Quatre Bras had unfortunately been killed on the
road. Corps after corps arrived during the night, placing the Duke of
Wellington in a position to have become assailant next morning had
Blucher succeeded in maintaining his position, and repulsed Napoleon’s
attack.

The night passed, the wounded were removed, the dead partially buried;
disabled guns were repaired, ammunition served out, and all was ready
for “a contest on the morrow.”

The intelligence of the Prussian retreat, of course, produced a
correspondent movement, and the Duke of Wellington, to maintain his
communications with Marshal Blucher, decided on falling back upon a
position in front of the village of Waterloo, which had been already
surveyed, and selected by the allied leader as the spot on which he
should make a stand.



CHAPTER XXV.

THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO.

1815.


Napoleon had reached Frasnes at nine o’clock on the morning of the
17th, and determined on attacking the allied commander. Still uncertain
as to the route by which Blucher was retiring, he detached Grouchy in
pursuit with the third and fourth corps, and the cavalry of Excelmans
and Pajol, with directions to overtake the Prussian marshal, if
possible, and in that case bring him to action.

While Buonaparte delayed his attack until his reserve and the sixth
corps came up, his abler antagonist was preparing to retire. This
operation in open day was difficult, as the Dyle was in the rear of
the allies, and the long and narrow bridge at the village of Genappe
the only means by which the _corps d’armée_ could effect its passage.
Wellington disposed some horse-artillery and dismounted dragoons upon
the heights, and leaving a strong rearguard in front of Quatre Bras,
he succeeded in making his retreat, until, when discovered, it was too
late to offer any serious interruption to the regressive movement of
the allies.

While the rear of the columns were still defiling through the narrow
streets of Genappe, Napoleon’s advanced cavalry overtook and attacked
the rearguard, and a sharp affair ensued. The 7th Hussars, assisted
by some squadrons of the 11th and 23rd Light Dragoons, charged the
French horsemen boldly, but they were repulsed; and a second effort was
bravely but ineffectually attempted. The Life Guards were instantly
ordered up, and led in person to the charge by Lord Anglesea, who
was in command of the British rearguard. Their attack was decisive;
the enemy were severely checked, and driven in great disorder back
upon their supports. No other attempt was made by the French cavalry
to embarrass the retreat of the allied columns, and except by an
occasional cannonade, too distant to produce any serious effect, the
remainder of the march on Waterloo was undisturbed by the French
advance.

The allies reached the position early in the evening, and orders were
issued for the divisions to halt and prepare their bivouacs. The
ground for each brigade had been already marked out; the troops piled
their arms, the cavalry picketed their horses, the guns were parked,
fires were lighted along the lines, and all prepared the best mode of
sheltering themselves from the inclemency of the weather, which scanty
means could afford them in an exposed position like that of Waterloo.

All through the day rain had occasionally fallen, but as night came on
the weather became more tempestuous. The wind rose, and torrents of
rain, with peals of thunder and frequent lightning, rendered the dreary
night before the battle anything but a season of repose.

While the troops bivouacked on the field, the Duke of Wellington with
the general officers and their respective staffs occupied the village
of Waterloo. On the doors of the several cottages the names of the
principal officers were chalked--“and frail and perishing as was the
record, it was found there long after many of those whom it designated
had ceased to exist!”

The ground on which the allied commander had decided to accept battle
was chosen with excellent judgment. In front of the position, the
surface declined for nearly a quarter of a mile, and rose again for
an equal distance, until it terminated in a ridge of easy access,
along which the French had posted a number of their brigades, the
intermediate space between the armies being covered by a rich crop of
rye nearly ready for the sickle. In the rear, the forest of Soignies,
intersected by the great roads from Charleroi to Brussels, extended;
and nearly at the entrance to the wood, the little village of Waterloo
was situated. The right of the British was stretched over to Merke
Braine, and the left appuied upon a height above Ter le Haye. The whole
line was formed on a gentle acclivity, the flanks partially defended
by a small ravine with broken ground. The farmhouse of La Haye Sainte,
in front of the left centre, was defended by a Hanoverian battalion,
and the chateau of Hougomont, in advance of the right centre, held by a
part of the Guards and a few companies of Nassau riflemen. This was the
strongest point of the whole position; and the Duke had strengthened
it considerably, by erecting barricades and perforating the walls with
loopholes, to permit the musketry of its defenders to be effectively
employed.

Wellington’s first line, comprising some of his best regiments, was
drawn up behind these posts; the second was still further in the rear,
and, from occupying a hollow, was sheltered from the fire of the
French artillery. The third was formed of the cavalry; and they were
more retired still, extending to Ter le Haye. The extreme right of the
British obliqued to Merke Braine, and covered the road to Nivelles,
while the left kept the communication with the Prussians open by the
Ohain road, which runs through the passes of Saint Lambert. As it was
not improbable that Napoleon might endeavour to reach Brussels by
marching circuitously round the British right, a corps of observation,
composed of the greater portion of the fourth division, under Sir
Charles Colville, was detached to Halle; and consequently those troops,
during the long and bloody contest of the 18th, were at a distance from
the field, and remained _non combattant_.

The allied dispositions were completed soon after daylight, although it
was nearly noon before the engagement seriously commenced. The division
of Guards, under General Cooke, was posted on a rise immediately
adjoining the chateau of Hougomont, its right leaning on the road to
Nivelles; the division of Baron Alten had its left flank on the road
of Charleroi, and was drawn up behind the house of La Haye Sainte.
The Brunswick troops were partly in line with the Guards and partly
held in reserve; and the Nassau troops were generally attached to
Alten’s division. Some of the corps in line, and a battalion acting _en
tirailleur_, occupied the wood of Hougomont. This _corps d’armée_ was
commanded by the Prince of Orange.

The British divisions of Clinton and Colville, two Hanoverian brigades,
and a Dutch corps under the command of Lord Hill, were placed _en
potence_, in front of the right.

On the left, the division of Picton, a British brigade under Sir John
Lambert, a Hanoverian corps, and some troops of the Netherlands,
extended along the hedge and lane which traverses the rising ground
between the road to Charleroi and Ter le Haye. This village, with the
farm of Papilotte, contiguous to the wood of Frichemont, was garrisoned
by a post of the Nassau contingent, commanded by the hereditary
Prince of Weimar. The cavalry were under the direction of the Earl of
Uxbridge, and the artillery were commanded by Sir George Wood.

No part of the allied position was remarkable for natural strength;
but where the ground displayed any advantages, they had been carefully
made available for defence. The whole surface of the field of Waterloo
was perfectly open, and the acclivities of easy ascent. Infantry
movements could be easily effected, artillery might advance and retire,
and cavalry could charge. On every point the British position was
assailable; and the island soldier had no reliance but in “God and his
Grace”--for all else depended on his own stout heart and vigorous arm.



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO

(_continued_).

1815.


Napoleon passed the night of the 17th in a farmhouse which was
abandoned by the owner, named Bouquean, an old man of eighty, who had
retired to Planchenoit. It is situated on the high road from Charleroi
to Brussels. It is half a league from the chateau of Hougomont and
La Haye Sainte, and a quarter of a league from La Belle Alliance and
Planchenoit. Supper was hastily served up in part of the utensils of
the farmer that remained. Buonaparte slept in the first chamber of this
house; a bed with blue silk hangings and gold fringe was put up for him
in the middle of this room. His brother Jerome, the Duke of Bassano,
and several generals, lodged in the other chambers. All the adjacent
buildings, gardens, meadows, and enclosures, were crowded with military
and horses.

Morning broke; the rain still continued, but with less severity than
during the preceding night; the wind fell, but the day lowered, and
the dawn of the 18th was gloomy and foreboding. The British soldiers
recovered from the chill cast over them by the inclemency of the
weather, and, from the ridge of their position, calmly observed the
enemy’s masses coming up in long succession, and forming their numerous
columns on the heights in front of La Belle Alliance.

The bearing of the French was very opposite to the steady and cool
determination of the British soldiery. With the former, all was
exultation and arrogant display; while, with characteristic vanity,
they boasted of an imaginary success at Quatre Bras, and claimed a
decisive victory at Ligny!

Although in point of fact beaten by the British on the 16th, Napoleon
tortured the retrograde movement of the Duke on Waterloo into a defeat,
and the winning a field from Blucher, attended with no advantage beyond
the capture of a few disabled guns, afforded a pretext to declare in
his dispatches that the Prussian army was routed and disorganised,
without a prospect of being rallied.

The morning passed in mutual dispositions for battle, and the French
attack commenced soon after eleven o’clock. The first corps, under
Count D’Erlon, was in position opposite La Haye Sainte, its right
extending towards Frichemont, and its left leaning on the road to
Brussels. The second corps, uniting its right with D’Erlon’s left,
extended to Hougomont, with the wood in its front.

The cavalry reserve (the cuirassiers) were immediately in the rear of
these corps; and the Imperial Guard, forming the grand reserve, were
posted on the heights of La Belle Alliance. Count Lobau, with the sixth
corps, and D’Aumont’s cavalry, were placed in the rear of the extreme
right, to check the Prussians, should they advance from Wavre, and
approach by the defiles of Saint Lambert. Napoleon’s arrangements were
completed about half-past eleven, and immediately the order to attack
was given.

The place from which Buonaparte viewed the field, was a gentle rising
ground beside the farmhouse of La Belle Alliance. There he remained for
a considerable part of the day, dismounted, pacing to and fro with his
hands behind him, receiving communications from his aides-de-camp, and
issuing orders to his officers. As the battle became more doubtful,
he approached nearer the scene of action, and betrayed increased
impatience to his staff by violent gesticulation, and using immense
quantities of snuff. At three o’clock he was on horseback in front of
La Belle Alliance; and in the evening, just before he made his last
attempt with the Guard, he had reached a hollow close to La Haye Sainte.

Wellington, at the opening of the engagement, stood upon a ridge
immediately behind La Haye, but as the conflict thickened, where
difficulties arose and danger threatened, there the duke was found. He
traversed the field exposed to a storm of balls, and passed from point
to point uninjured; and on more than one occasion, when the French
cavalry charged the British squares, the duke was there for shelter.

A slight skirmishing between the French tirailleurs and British light
troops had continued throughout the morning, but the advance of a
division of the second corps, under Jerome Buonaparte, against the post
of Hougomont, was the signal for the British artillery to open, and
was, in fact, the commencement of the battle of Waterloo. The first
gun fired on the 18th was directed by Sir George Wood upon Jerome’s
advancing column; the last was a French howitzer, at eight o’clock in
the evening, turned by a British officer against the routed remains of
that splendid army with which Napoleon had begun the battle.

Hougomont was the key of the duke’s position, a post naturally of
considerable strength, and care had been taken to increase it. It was
garrisoned by the light companies of the Coldstream and 1st and 3rd
Guards; while a detachment from General Byng’s brigade was formed on an
eminence behind, to support the troops defending the house and the wood
on its left. Three hundred Nassau riflemen were stationed in the wood
and garden; but the first attack of the enemy dispersed them.

To carry Hougomont, the efforts of the second corps were principally
directed throughout the day. This fine corps, thirty thousand strong,
comprised three divisions, and each of these, in quick succession,
attacked the well-defended farmhouse. The advance of the assailants
was covered by a tremendous cross-fire of nearly one hundred pieces,
while the British guns in battery on the heights above, returned the
cannonade, and made fearful havoc in the dense columns of the enemy
as they advanced or retired from the attack. Although the French
frequently occupied the wood, it afforded them indifferent shelter from
the musketry of the troops defending the house and garden; for the
trees were but slight, and planted far asunder. Foy’s division passed
entirely through and gained the heights in the rear; but it was driven
back with immense loss by part of the Coldstream and 3rd Guards.

At last, despairing of success, the French artillery opened with shells
upon the house; the old tower of Hougomont was quickly in a blaze; the
fire reached the chapel, and many of the wounded, both assailants and
defenders, perished miserably there. But still, though the flames raged
above, shells burst around, and shot ploughed through the shattered
walls and windows, the Guards nobly held the place, and Hougomont
remained untaken.

The attack against the position of Hougomont lasted, on the whole,
from twenty-five minutes before twelve until a little past seven at
night. Within half an hour one thousand five hundred men were killed in
the small orchard at Hougomont, not exceeding four acres. The loss of
the enemy was enormous. The division of General Foy alone lost about
three thousand; and the total loss of the enemy in the attack of this
position is estimated at ten thousand in killed and wounded. Above six
thousand men of both armies perished in the farm of Hougomont; six
hundred British were killed in the wood; twenty-five in the garden;
one thousand one hundred in the orchard and meadow; four hundred men
near the farmer’s garden; two thousand of both parties behind the great
orchard. The bodies of three hundred British were buried opposite the
gate of the chateau; and those of six hundred French were buried at the
same place.

The advance of Jerome on the right was followed by a general onset
upon the British line, three hundred pieces of artillery opening their
cannonade, and the French columns in different points advancing to
the attack. Charges of cavalry and infantry, sometimes separately and
sometimes with united force, were made in vain. The British regiments
were disposed individually in squares, with triple files, each placed
sufficiently apart to allow it to deploy when requisite. The squares
were mostly parallel, but a few were judiciously thrown back; and this
disposition, when the French cavalry had passed the advanced regiments,
exposed them to a flanking fire from the squares behind. The British
cavalry were in the rear of the infantry, and the artillery in battery
over the line. The fight of Waterloo may be easily comprehended by
simply stating, that for ten hours it was a continued succession of
attacks of the French columns on the squares; the British artillery
playing upon them as they advanced, and the cavalry charging when they
receded.

But no situation could be more trying to the unyielding courage of the
British army than this disposition in squares at Waterloo. There is
an excited feeling in an attacking body that stimulates the coldest
and blunts the thoughts of danger. The tumultuous enthusiasm of the
assault spreads from man to man, and duller spirits catch a gallant
frenzy from the brave around them. But the enduring and devoted courage
which pervaded the British squares when, hour after hour, mowed down by
a murderous artillery, and wearied by furious and frequent onsets of
lancers and cuirassiers; when the constant order, “Close up! close up!”
marked the quick succession of slaughter that thinned their diminished
ranks; and when the day wore later, when the remnants of two and even
three regiments were necessary to complete the square which one of
them had formed in the morning--to support this with firmness, and
“feed death,” inactive and unmoved, exhibited that calm and desperate
bravery which elicited the admiration of Napoleon himself.

At times the temper of the troops had nearly failed; and, particularly
among the Irish regiments, the reiterated question of--“When shall
we get at them?” showed how ardent the wish was to avoid inactive
slaughter, and, plunging into the columns of the assailants, to avenge
the death of their companions. But the “Be cool, my boys!” from their
officers was sufficient to restrain their impatience, and, cumbering
the ground with their dead, they waited with desperate intrepidity for
the hour to arrive when victory and vengeance should be their own!

While the second corps was engaged at Hougomont, the first was directed
by Napoleon to penetrate the left centre. Had this attempt succeeded,
the British must have been defeated, as it would have been severed and
surrounded. Picton’s division was now severely engaged. Its position
stretched from La Haye Sainte to Ter le Haye; in front there was an
irregular hedge; but being broken and pervious to cavalry, it afforded
but partial protection. The Belgian infantry, who were extended in
front of the fifth division, gave way as the leading columns of
D’Erlon’s corps approached, the French came boldly to the fence, and
Picton, with Kempt’s brigade, as gallantly advanced to meet them.

A tremendous combat ensued. The French and British closed; for the
cuirassiers had been already received in square, and repulsed with
immense loss. Instantly Picton deployed the division into line; and
pressing forward to the hedge, received and returned the volley of
D’Erlon’s infantry, and then crossing the fence, drove back the enemy
at the point of the bayonet. The French retreated in close column,
while the fifth mowed them down with musketry, and slaughtered them
in heaps with their bayonets. Lord Anglesea seized on the moment,
and charging with the Royals, Greys, and Enniskilleners, burst
through everything that opposed him. Vainly the mailed cuirassier and
formidable lancer attempted to withstand this splendid body of heavy
cavalry; they were overwhelmed, and the French infantry, already
broken and disorganised by the gallant fifth, fell in hundreds beneath
the swords of the British dragoons. The eagles of the 45th and 105th
regiments, and upwards of two thousand prisoners, were the trophies of
this brilliant charge.

But, alas! like most military triumphs, this had its misfortune to
alloy it. Picton fell! But where could the famed commander of the old
“Fighting Third” meet with death so gloriously? He was at the head of
the division as it pressed forward with the bayonet; he saw the best
troops of Napoleon repulsed; the ball struck him, and he fell from his
horse; he heard the Highland lament answered by the deep execration of
Erin; and while the Scotch slogan was returned by the Irish hurrah, his
fading sight saw his excited division rush on with irresistible fury.
The French column was annihilated, and two thousand dead enemies told
how desperately he had been avenged. This was, probably, the bloodiest
struggle of the day. When the attack commenced--and it lasted not an
hour--the fifth division exceeded five thousand men; and when it ended
it scarcely reckoned eighteen hundred bayonets!

While Picton’s division and the heavy cavalry had repulsed D’Erlon’s
effort against the left, the battle was raging at La Haye Sainte, a
post in front of the left centre. This was a rude farmhouse and farm,
defended by five hundred German riflemen; and here the attack was
fierce and constant, and the defence gallant and protracted. While a
number of guns played on it with shot and shells, it was assailed by
a strong column of infantry. Thrice they were repulsed; but the barn
caught fire, and the number of the garrison decreasing, it was found
impossible, from its exposed situation, to supply the loss and throw in
reinforcements. Still worse, the ammunition of the rifle corps failed,
and, reduced to a few cartridges, their fire had almost ceased.

Encouraged by this casualty, the French, at the fourth attempt, turned
the position. Though the doors were burst in, still the gallant Germans
held the house with their bayonets; but, having ascended the walls
and roof, the French fired on them from above, and, now reduced to a
handful, the post was carried. No quarter was given, and the remnant of
the brave riflemen were bayoneted on the spot.

This was, however, the only point where, during this long and
sanguinary conflict, Buonaparte succeeded. He became master of a
dilapidated dwelling, its roof destroyed by shells, and its walls
perforated by a thousand shot-holes; and when obtained, an incessant
torrent of grape and shrapnels from the British artillery on the
heights above, rendered its acquisition useless for future operations,
and made his persistence in maintaining it, a wanton and unnecessary
sacrifice of human life.

There was a terrible sameness in the battle of the 18th of June,
which distinguished it in the history of modern slaughter. Although
designated by Napoleon “a day of false manœuvres,” in reality there
was less display of military tactics at Waterloo than in any general
action we have on record. Buonaparte’s favourite plan, to turn a wing,
or separate a corps, was the constant effort of the French leader.
Both were tried at Hougomont to turn the right, and at La Haye Sainte
to break through the left centre. Hence, the French operations were
confined to fierce and incessant onsets with masses of cavalry and
infantry, generally supported by a numerous and destructive artillery.
Knowing that to repel these desperate and sustained attacks a
tremendous sacrifice of human life must occur, Napoleon, in defiance
of their acknowledged bravery, calculated on wearying the British into
defeat. But when he saw his columns driven back in confusion, when
his cavalry receded from the squares they could not penetrate, when
battalions were reduced to companies by the fire of his cannon, and
still that “feeble few” shewed a perfect front, and held the ground
they had originally taken--no wonder his admiration was expressed to
Soult:

“How beautifully these British fight! but they must give way!”

And well did British bravery merit that proud encomium which their
enduring courage elicited from Napoleon. For hours, with uniform and
unflinching gallantry, they repulsed the attacks of troops who had
already proved their superiority over the soldiers of every other
nation in Europe. When the artillery united its fire, and poured
exterminating volleys on some devoted regiment, the square, prostrate
on the earth, allowed the storm to pass over them. When the battery
ceased--to permit their cavalry to charge and complete the work of
destruction--the square was again upon their feet, no face unformed, no
chasm to allow the horsemen entrance, but a serried line of impassable
bayonets was before them, while the rear ranks threw in a reserved fire
with murderous precision. The cuirass was too near the musket then to
avert death from the wearer; men and horses went down in heaps; each
attempt ended in defeat, and the cavalry at last retired, leaving
their best and boldest before a square which, to them, had proved
impenetrable.

When the close column of infantry came on, the square had deployed
into line. The French were received with a destructive volley, and
next moment the wild cheer which accompanies the bayonet charge,
announced that Britain advanced with the weapon she had always found
irresistible. The French never crossed bayonets fairly with the
British, for when an attempt was made to stand, a terrible slaughter
attested Britain’s superiority.



CHAPTER XXVII.

THE BATTLE OF WATERLOO

(_continued_).

1815.


But the situation of Wellington momentarily became more critical.
Masses of the enemy had fallen, but thousands came on anew. With
desperate attachment, the French army passed forward at Napoleon’s
command, and although each advance terminated in defeat and slaughter,
fresh battalions crossed the valley and mounting the ridge with cries
of “Vive l’Empereur!” exhibited a devotion which never had been
surpassed.

Wellington’s reserves had been gradually brought into action--and the
left, though but partially engaged, could not be weakened to send
assistance to the right and centre. Many battalions were miserably
reduced; and the fifth division, already cut up at Quatre Bras on the
evening of the 16th, presented but a skeleton of what these beautiful
brigades had been when they left Brussels two days before. The loss
of individual regiments was prodigious. The 27th had four hundred
men mowed down in square without drawing a trigger; it lost all its
superior officers; and a solitary subaltern who remained, commanded it
for half the day. Another, the 92nd regiment, when not two hundred were
left, rushed at a French column and routed it with the bayonet; and a
third, the 33rd, when nearly annihilated, sent to require support--none
could be given; and the commanding officer was told that he must “stand
or fall where he was!”

Any other save Wellington would have despaired; but he calculated, and
justly, that he had an army which would perish where it stood. But when
he saw the devastation caused by the incessant attacks of an enemy who
appeared determined to succeed, is it surprising that his watch was
frequently consulted, and that he prayed for night or Blucher?

When evening came on, no doubt Buonaparte began to question the
accuracy of his “military arithmetic”--a phrase happily applied to
this meting out death by the hour. Half the day had been consumed in a
sanguinary and indecisive conflict; all his disposable troops but the
Guard had been employed, and still his efforts were foiled; and the
British, with diminished numbers, shewed the same bold front they had
presented at the commencement of the battle. He determined, therefore,
on another desperate attempt upon the whole British line; and while
issuing orders to effect it, a distant cannonade announced that a fresh
force was approaching to share the action. Napoleon, concluding that
Grouchy was coming up, conveyed the glad tidings to his disheartened
columns. But an aide-de-camp quickly removed the mistake, and the
Emperor received the unwelcome intelligence that the strange force now
distinctly observed debouching from the woods of Saint Lambert, was the
advanced guard of a Prussian corps.

Buonaparte appeared, or affected to appear, incredulous; but the fatal
truth was ascertained too soon.

While the delusive hope of immediate relief was industriously
circulated among his troops, Napoleon despatched Count Lobau, with the
sixth corps, to employ the Prussians, while in person he should direct
a general attack upon the British line.

Meanwhile the Prussian advance had debouched from the wood of
Frichermont, and the operations of the old marshal, in the rear of
Napoleon’s right flank became alarming. If Blucher established himself
there in force, unless success against the British in his front was
rapid and decisive, or that Grouchy came promptly to his relief,
Buonaparte knew well that his situation must be hopeless. Accordingly,
he directed the first and second corps and all his cavalry reserves
against the duke; the French mounted the heights once more, and the
British were attacked from right to left.

A dreadful and protracted encounter followed; for an hour the contest
was sustained, and, like the preceding ones, it was a sanguinary
succession of determined attack and obstinate resistance. The
impetuosity of the French onset at first obtained a temporary success.
The British light cavalry were driven back, and for a time a number
of the guns were in the enemy’s possession; but the British rallied
again--the French, forced across the ridge, retired to their original
ground, without effecting any permanent impression.

It was now five o’clock; the Prussian reserve cavalry under Prince
William was warmly engaged with Count Lobau; Bulow’s corps, with the
second, under Pirch, were approaching rapidly through the passes of
Saint Lambert; and the first Prussian corps, advancing by Ohain, had
already begun to operate on Napoleon’s right. Bulow pushed forward
towards Aywire, and, opening his fire on the French, succeeded in
driving them from the opposite heights.

The Prussian left, acting separately, advanced upon the village of
Planchenoit, and attacked Napoleon’s rear. The French maintaining
their position with great gallantry, and the Prussians, being equally
obstinate in their attempts to force the village, produced a bloody and
prolonged combat. Napoleon’s right had begun to recede before the first
Prussian corps, and his officers, generally, anticipated a disastrous
issue, that nothing but immediate success against the British, or
instant relief from Grouchy, could remedy.

The Imperial Guard, his last and best resource, were consequently
ordered up. Formed in close column, Buonaparte in person advanced to
lead them on; but dissuaded by his staff, he paused near the bottom of
the hill, and to Ney, that “spoiled child of victory,” the conduct of
this redoubted body was intrusted.

In the interim, as the French right fell back, the British moved
gradually forward; and converging from the extreme points of Merke
Braine and Braine la Leud, compressed their extent of line, and nearly
assumed the form of a crescent. The British Guards were considerably
advanced, and having deployed behind the crest of the hill, lay down to
avoid the cannonade with which Napoleon covered the onset of his best
troops. Ney, with his proverbial gallantry, led on the Middle Guard;
and Wellington, putting himself at the head of some wavering regiments,
in person brought them forward, and restored their confidence.

As the Imperial Guard approached the crest where the household troops
were couching, the British artillery, which had gradually converged
upon the _chaussée_, opened with canister shot. The distance was so
short, and the range so accurate, that each discharge fell with deadly
precision into the column as it breasted the hill. Ney, with his
customary heroism, directed the attack; and when his horse was killed,
on foot, and sword in hand, he headed the veterans whom he had so often
led to victory. Although the leading files of the Guard were swept
off by the exterminating fire of the British batteries, still their
undaunted intrepidity carried them forward, and they gallantly crossed
the ridge.

Then came the hour of British triumph. The magic word was spoken--“Up,
Guards, and at them!” In a moment the household brigade were on their
feet; then waiting till the French closed, they delivered a murderous
volley, cheered, and rushed forward with the bayonet, Wellington in
person directing the attack.

With the 42nd and 95th, the British leader threw himself on Ney’s
flank, and rout and destruction succeeded. In vain their gallant chief
attempted to rally the recoiling Guard; but driven down the hill, the
Middle were intermingled with the Old Guard, who had formed at the
bottom in reserve.

In this unfortunate _mêlée_, the British cavalry seized on the moment
of confusion, and plunging into the mass, cut down and disorganised
the regiments which had hitherto been unbroken. The British artillery
ceased firing, and those who had escaped the iron shower of the guns,
fell beneath sabre and bayonet.

The unremediable disorder consequent on this decisive repulse, and the
confusion in the French rear, where Bulow had fiercely attacked them,
did not escape the eagle glance of Wellington.

“The hour is come!” he is said to have exclaimed, as, closing his
telescope, he commanded the whole line to advance. The order was
exultingly obeyed; and, forming four deep, on came the British. Wounds,
and fatigue, and hunger, were all forgotten as with their customary
steadiness they crossed the ridge; but when they saw the French, and
began to move down the hill, a cheer that seemed to rend the heavens
pealed from their proud array, as with levelled bayonets they pressed
on to meet the enemy.

But, panic-struck and disorganised, the French resistance was short
and feeble. The Prussian cannon thundered in their rear, the British
bayonet was flashing in their front, and unable to stand the terror of
the charge, they broke and fled. A dreadful and indiscriminate carnage
ensued. The great road was choked with equipages, and cumbered with the
dead and dying; while the fields, as far as the eye could reach, were
covered with a host of helpless fugitives. Courage and discipline were
forgotten; and Napoleon’s army of yesterday was now a splendid wreck--a
terror-stricken multitude! His own words best describe it--“It was a
total rout!”

On a surface of two square miles, it was ascertained that fifty
thousand men and horses were lying! The luxurious crop of ripe grain
which had covered the field of battle was reduced to litter, and beaten
into the earth; and the surface, trodden down by the cavalry, and
furrowed deeply by the cannon wheels, strewn with many a relict of the
fight. Helmets and cuirasses, shattered firearms and broken swords; all
the variety of military ornaments; lancer caps and Highland bonnets;
uniforms of every colour, plume and pennon; musical instruments, the
apparatus of artillery, drums, bugles;--but good God! why dwell on
the harrowing picture of “a foughten field”?--each and every ruinous
display bore mute testimony to the misery of such a battle.

Could the melancholy appearance of this scene of death be heightened,
it would be by witnessing the researches of the living, amid its
desolation, for the objects of their love. Mothers and wives and
children for days were occupied in that mournful duty; and the
confusion of the corpses, friend and foe intermingled as they were,
often rendered the attempt at recognising individuals difficult, and,
in some cases, impossible.

In many places the dead lay four deep upon each other, marking the
spot some British square had occupied, when exposed for hours to the
murderous fire of a French battery. Outside, lancer and cuirassier
were scattered thickly on the earth. Madly attempting to force the
serried bayonets of the British, they had fallen in the bootless essay,
by the musketry of the inner files. Farther on, you traced the spot
where the cavalry of France and Britain had encountered. Chasseur and
hussar were intermingled; and the heavy Norman horse of the Imperial
Guard were interspersed with the grey chargers which had carried
Albion’s chivalry. Here the Highlander and tirailleur lay, side by side
together; and the heavy dragoon, with “green Erin’s” badge upon his
helmet, was grappling in death with the Polish lancer.

Never had France sent a finer army to the field--and never had any
been so signally defeated. Complete as the _déroute_ at Vittoria had
appeared, it fell infinitely short of that sustained at Waterloo.
Tired of slaughtering unresisting foes, the British, early in the
night, abandoned the pursuit of the broken battalions and halted.
But the Prussians, untamed by previous exertion, continued to follow
the fugitives with increased activity, and nothing could surpass the
unrelenting animosity of their pursuit. Plunder was sacrificed to
revenge, and the memory of former defeat and past oppression produced a
dreadful retaliation, and deadened every impulse of humanity. The _vœ
victis_ was pronounced, and thousands besides those who perished in the
field fell that night by Prussian lance and sabre.

What Napoleon’s feelings were when he witnessed the overthrow of his
guard, the failure of his last hope, the death-blow to his political
existence, cannot be described, but may be easily imagined. Turning to
an aide-de-camp, with a face livid with rage and despair, he muttered
in a tremulous voice--“A present c’est fini! sauvons nous”; and turning
his horse, he rode hastily off towards Charleroi, attended by his guide
and staff.

In whatever point of view Waterloo is considered, whether as a battle,
a victory, or an event, in all these, every occurrence of the last
century yields, and more particularly in the magnitude of results. No
doubt the successes of Wellington in Spain were, in a great degree,
primary causes of Napoleon’s downfall; but still, the victory of
Waterloo consummated efforts made for years before in vain to achieve
the freedom of the Continent, and wrought the final ruin of him,
through whose unhallowed ambition a world had been so long convulsed.

As a battle, the merits of the field of Waterloo have been freely
examined, and very indifferently adjudicated. Those who were best
competent to decide, have pronounced this battle as that upon which
Wellington might securely rest his fame, while others, admitting the
extent of the victory, ascribe the result rather to fortunate accident
than military skill.

Never was a falser statement hazarded. The success attendant on the day
of Waterloo can be referred only to the admirable system of resistance
in the general, and an enduring valour, rarely equalled and never
surpassed, in the soldiers whom he commanded. Chance, at Waterloo,
had no effect upon results; Wellington’s surest game was to act only
on the defensive; his arrangements with Blucher for mutual support
being thoroughly matured, he knew that before night the Prussians must
be upon the field. Bad weather and bad roads, with the conflagration
of a town in the line of march, which, to save the Prussian tumbrils
from explosion, required a circuitous movement--all these, while they
protracted the struggle for several hours beyond what might have been
reasonably computed, only go to prove that Wellington, in accepting
battle, under a well-founded belief that he should be supported
in _four hours_, when single-handed he maintained the combat and
resolutely held his ground during a space of _eight_, had left nothing
dependent upon accident, but, providing for the worst contingencies,
had formed his calculations with admirable skill.

The allied loss[15] was enormous, but it fell infinitely short of that
sustained by Napoleon’s army. Of the latter nothing like an accurate
return was ever made; but from the most correct estimates by French
and British officers, upwards of five-and-twenty thousand men were
rendered _hors de combat_; while multitudes were sabred in the flight,
or perished on the roads from sheer fatigue, and in deserted villages
for want of sustenance and surgical relief.

[15] Return of killed and wounded from the War-office, July, 1815.

  Killed on the spot, non-commissioned and privates,  1715
  Died of wounds,                                      856
  Missing, supposed killed,                            353
                                                      ----
  Total,                                              2924
  Wounded,                                            6831
                                                      ----
  Total killed and wounded,                           9755
                                                      ====

French Artillery captured at Waterloo:--

  12-pounder guns,          35
  6-pounder guns,           57
  6-inch howitzers,         13
  24-pounder howitzers,     17
                          ----
  Total cannons,           122
                          ====

  12-pounder waggons,       74
  6-pounder waggons,        71
  Howitzer waggons,         50
                          ----
  Total,                   195
                          ====


On the evening of the 29th, Napoleon quitted the capital, never to
enter it again. Hostilities ceased immediately, the Bourbons were
recalled, and placed upon the throne, and Europe, after years of
anarchy and bloodshed, at last obtained repose, while he, “alike its
wonder and its scourge,” was removed to a scene far distant from that
which had witnessed his triumphs and his reverses, and within the
narrow limits of a paltry island that haughty spirit, for whom half
Europe was too small, dragged out a gloomy existence, until death
loosened the chain and the grave closed upon the Captive of Saint
Helena.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

THE BATTLE OF KEMMENDINE.

1824.


In 1824 the British were forced into a war with the kingdom of Burmah.
The war, however, was not of our seeking; we were forced into it. The
Burmese a few years previously had taken forcible possession of the
province of Assam, which was soon followed by parties of these people
committing serious devastations within British territory, burning
a number of villages, plundering and murdering the inhabitants,
or carrying them off as slaves. At the same time an island in the
Brahmaputra, on which the British flag had been erected, was invaded,
the flag was thrown down, and an armed force collected to maintain the
insult.

To meet these difficulties, and to strengthen their eastern frontier,
the British Government resolved upon occupying Kachar, with the more
important province of Manipur, which had long ago requested the
protection of the British against the tyranny of the Burmahs. Active
hostilities had by this time broken out at the boundaries.

The British asked for a commission of inquiry and settlement to be
appointed. This request was answered by an attack upon, and the capture
of, the British post of Shahpuri, an affair that was attended with
considerable loss of life; and which was followed by a menacing letter
from the Rajah of Arracan, to the effect that unless the British
Government submitted quietly it would be followed by the like forcible
seizure of the cities of Dacca and Moorshedabad. The British now called
upon the court of Ava to disavow the proceedings of its officers in
Arracan. This last act of mistaken and temporising policy had no other
effect than that of confirming the court of Ava in their confident
expectation of annexing the eastern provinces of Bengal--if not of
expelling the British from India altogether.

There followed several minor engagements, and in May of 1824 the
British forces got possession of Rangoon after a trifling resistance.
The troops were posted in the immense pagoda of the town, where many
unfortunate prisoners were discovered, forgotten by the Burmahs in the
confusion of their retreat.

Rumours of the arrival of Bandoola with the main body of his grand
army, reached Rangoon early in November, 1824, and towards the end of
the month an intercepted dispatch from Bandoola to the ex-governor of
Martaban, announced his having left Prome, at the head of an invincible
army, with horses and elephants, and every kind of stores, to capture
or expel the British from Rangoon. Every arrangement was then made to
give him a warm reception.

The post at Kemmendine was strongly occupied and supported on the
river, by His Majesty’s sloop Sophie, commanded by Captain Ryves, and
a strong division of gunboats; this post was of great importance in
preventing the enemy from attacking Rangoon by water, or launching from
a convenient distance the many fire rafts he had prepared for effecting
the destruction of our shipping.

On the 30th of November the Burmese army was assembled in the extensive
forest in front of the pagoda, and his line extending from the river
above Kemmendine in a semi-circular direction towards Puzendown,
might be distinguished by a curved line of smoke rising above the
trees from the bivouacs of the different corps. During the following
night, the low continued murmur and hum of voices proceeding from the
Burmese encampment, suddenly ceased, and was succeeded by the distant,
but gradually approaching sounds of a multitude in slow and silent
movement through the woods. The enemy’s masses had approached to the
very edge of the jungle, within musket shot of the pagoda, apparently
in readiness to rush from their cover to the assault at break of day.
Towards morning, however, the woods resounded with the blows of the
felling axe and hammer, and with the crash of falling trees, leaving
the British for some time in doubt whether or not the noise was
intended as a ruse to draw attention from the front, or whether the
Burmese commanders had resolved to proceed with their usual slow and
systematic measures of attack.

Day had scarcely dawned on the 1st of December, when hostilities
commenced with a heavy fire of musketry and cannon at Kemmendine, the
reduction of that place being a preliminary to any general attack on
our line. The fire continued long and animated, and from the commanding
situation of the great pagoda, though nearly two miles distant from the
scene of action, we could distinctly hear the yells and shouts of the
infuriated assailants, occasionally answered by the hearty cheers of
the British seamen as they poured in their heavy broadsides upon the
resolute and persevering masses.

In the course of the forenoon Burmese columns were perceived on the
west side of the river, marching across the plain of Dalla, towards
Rangoon. They were formed in five or six different divisions, and moved
with great regularity, led by numerous chiefs on horseback, their gilt
umbrellas glittering in the rays of the sun, with a sufficiently
formidable and imposing effect, at a distance that prevented our
perceiving anything motley or mobbish, which might have been found in a
closer inspection of these warlike legions.

On reaching the bank of the river opposite to Rangoon, the men of
the leading Burmese division, laying aside their arms, commenced
entrenching and throwing up batteries for the destruction of the
shipping, while the main body disappeared in a jungle in the rear,
where they began stockading and establishing their camp, gradually
reinforcing the front line as the increasing extent of the batteries
and intrenchments permitted. Later in the day, several heavy columns
were observed issuing from the forest, about a mile in front of the
east face of the great pagoda, with flags and banners flying in
profusion. Their march was directed along a gently sloping woody ridge
towards Rangoon; the different corps successively taking up their
ground along the ridge, soon assumed the appearance of a complete line,
extending from the forest in front of the pagoda to within long gunshot
distance of the town, and resting on the river at Puzendown, which was
strongly occupied by cavalry and infantry; these formed the left wing
of the Burmese army. The centre, or the continuation of the line from
the great pagoda up to Kemmendine, where it again rested on the river,
was posted in so thick a forest as to defy all conjecture as to its
strength or situation; but we were well aware that the principal force
occupied the jungle in the immediate vicinity of the pagoda, which was
naturally considered as the key to our position, and upon which the
great effort would accordingly be made.

When this singular and presumptuous formation was completed, the
soldiers of the left columns also laying aside their spears and
muskets, commenced operations with their intrenching tools, with such
goodwill and activity that in the course of a couple of hours their
line had wholly disappeared, and could only be traced by a parapet of
new earth gradually increasing in height, and assuming such forms as
the skill and science of the engineer suggested.

The moving masses which had so lately attracted our anxious attention,
had sunk into the ground; and to anyone who had not witnessed the whole
scene, the existence of these subterraneous legions would not have been
credited; the occasional movement of a chief with his gilt chattah
(umbrella) from place to place superintending the progress of their
labour, was the only thing that now attracted notice. By a distant
observer, the hills, covered with mounds of earth would have been taken
for anything rather than the approaches of an attacking army.

In the afternoon, His Majesty’s thirteenth regiment, and the eighteenth
Madras native infantry, under Major Sale, were ordered to move rapidly
forward upon the busily employed and too confident enemy.

As was expected, they were quite unprepared for a sudden visit, not
expecting that we would venture to act on the offensive against so
numerous a body.

They had scarcely noticed the advance of our troops when they were upon
them, nor could the fire which they opened upon their assailants check
their advance. Having forced a passage through the intrenchments and
taken the enemy in flank, the British detachment drove the whole line
from their cover with considerable loss; and having destroyed as many
of their arms and tools as they could find, retired unmolested before
the numerous bodies which were now forming on every side around them.

The trenches were found to be a succession of holes, capable of
containing two men each, and excavated so as to afford shelter both
from the fire of their opponents and from the weather; even a shell
falling into the trench could only prove fatal to two men. As it is not
the Burmese custom to relieve their troops in making these approaches,
each hole had in it a sufficient supply of rice, water, and even fuel
for its inmates; under the excavated bank a bed of straw or brushwood
was placed in which one man could sleep whilst his comrade watched.

The Burmese in the course of the evening, re-occupied their trenches,
recommencing their labours as if nothing untoward had occurred. Their
commander, however, took the precaution of bringing forward a strong
corps of reserve to the verge of the forest, from which his left
wing had issued, to protect it from any future interruptions in its
operations.

During the day repeated attacks on Kemmendine had been made and
repulsed; but it was not until darkness set in that the last desperate
effort of the day was made, to obtain possession of that post. Already
had the fatigued soldiers laid down to rest, when all of a sudden the
heavens and country round became brilliantly illuminated, caused by the
flames of several immense fire-rafts, floating down the river towards
Rangoon. Scarcely had the blaze of light appeared when incessant rolls
of musketry and peals of cannon were heard from Kemmendine. The Burmese
had launched the fire-rafts into the stream with the first of the ebb
tide, in the hope of forcing the vessels from their stations off the
place, and they were followed by war-boats ready to take advantage of
the confusion likely to ensue, should any of the vessels have caught
fire. The skill and intrepidity, however, of British seamen proved more
than a match for the numbers and arts of the enemy; they grappled the
blazing rafts, and conducted them past the shipping or ran them ashore
upon the bank.

On the land side the enemy was equally unsuccessful, being again
repulsed with great loss in the most resolute attempt they had yet made
to reach the interior of the fort.

These fire-rafts, upon examination, were found to be of ingenious
construction, as well as formidable; they were made of bamboos firmly
wrought together, between every two or three rows of which a line of
earthen jars of considerable size, filled with petroleum, or earth-oil
and cotton, were securely fixed.

With the possession of Kemmendine, the enemy would have launched
these destructive rafts into the stream from a point which would have
caused them to reach our shipping in the crowded harbour; but so long
as we retained possession of that post, they were obliged to launch
them higher up, and the setting of the current carried them, after
passing the shipping on the station, upon a projecting point of land
where they almost invariably grounded; this circumstance doubtless
greatly increased Bandoola’s anxiety to drive the British from such an
important position.

On the morning of the second, at daylight, the enemy were seen still
actively at work on every part of their line, and to have completely
entrenched themselves upon some high and open ground, within musket
shot distance of the north face of the great pagoda, from which it was
also separated by a considerable tank, named by the Rangoon settlers,
the Scotch tank, probably on account of the sulphureous qualities of
its water.

In the spirited encounters which the enemy’s near approach gave rise
to, it was highly gratifying to observe the undaunted bearing of the
British soldier, in the midst of countless numbers of the enemy who
were not to be driven from their ground by the united fire of musketry
and cannon. In the imagined security of their cover they firmly
maintained themselves, and returned our fire; and it was only at the
intrepid and decisive charge that they quailed to the courage of the
European, and declined meeting him hand to hand. During the third and
fourth, the enemy continued their approaches upon every part of our
position with indefatigable assiduity. At the great pagoda they had now
reached the margin of the tank, and kept up a constant fire upon our
barracks, saluting with a dozen muskets everyone who showed his head
above the ramparts, and when nothing better could be done, expending
both round and grape shot in vain attempts to strike the British ensign
which proudly waved high upon their sacred temple.

On the side of Rangoon they had approached near enough to fire an
occasional gun upon the town, while they maintained incessant warfare
with two small posts in its front to which they were now so near as to
keep their garrisons constantly on the alert, in the expectation of
being attacked.

From the intrenchments on the opposite side of the river an incessant
fire was kept up day and night upon our shipping, which were all
anchored as near as possible to the Rangoon side, with the exception of
one or two armed vessels which still kept the middle of the stream, and
returned the fire of the enemy.

At Kemmendine peace was seldom maintained above two hours at any time;
but the little garrison (composed of the 26th Madras native infantry,
and an European detachment), though worn out with fatigue and want of
rest, undauntedly received, and successfully repulsed, every successive
attack of the fresh troops brought to bear upon them.

The Sepoys, with unwearied constancy and the noblest feeling, even
declined leaving their post, or laying aside their muskets for the
purpose of cooking, lest the enemy should obtain any advantage, and for
several days felt contented with little else than dry rice for food.

The material and warlike stores of the enemy’s left wing being now
brought forward from the jungle to the intrenchments, and completely
within our reach, and their threatening vicinity to the town creating
some uneasiness for the safety of our military stores, which were all
lodged in that ill-protected and highly-combustible assemblage of
huts and wooden houses, the British general, Sir Archibald Campbell,
determined upon attacking decisively that portion of the opposing army.

On the morning of the 5th, two columns of attack, consisting of
detachments from different regiments, were formed for the purpose.
One column consisting of eight hundred men, under Major Sale of the
13th regiment, and the other of five hundred men under Major Walker of
the Madras army. Major Sale was directed to attack the centre of the
enemy’s line, and Major Walker to advance from the post in front of the
town, and to attack vigorously on that side; and a troop of dragoons,
which had only been landed on the previous day was added to the first
column, ready to take advantage of the retreat of the enemy across the
open ground to the jungle.

According to the arrangement, early on that morning, Captain Chads,
the naval commander, proceeded up to Puzendown Creek, within gun-shot
of the rear of the enemy’s line, with the man-of-war boats and part
of the flotilla, and commenced a heavy cannonade upon the nearest
intrenchments, attracting the enemy’s chief attention to that point,
until the preconcerted signal for attack was made, when both columns
moved off together; but from some obstacle in the ground Major Walker’s
party first reached its destined point, and made a spirited assault on
the lines.

The enemy made a stout resistance, and Major Walker and many of
his brave and gallant comrades fell in the advance to the first
intrenchment, which was finally carried at the point of the bayonet,
and the enemy driven from trench to trench, till this part of the field
presented the appearance of a total rout.

The other column now commencing its attack in front, quickly forced
the centre, and the whole Burmese left wing, intrenched upon the plain
was broken and dispersed, flying in hundreds, or assembled in confused
and detached parties, or else maintaining a useless and disjointed
resistance at different parts of the works, to which our troops had not
yet penetrated.

The two British columns now forming a junction, pursued, and drove the
defendants from every part of their works into the jungle, leaving the
ground behind them covered with the dead and wounded, with all their
guns and intrenching tools, and a great number of small arms; while
the judgment, celerity, and spirit with which the attack was made had
taken the enemy so completely by surprise, that our troops suffered
comparatively but little loss.

The 6th was spent by Bandoola in rallying his defeated left; but it
appeared to be still far from his intention to give up the contest on
account of the failures and defeats he had already sustained. In front
of the great pagoda his troops still laboured with the greatest zeal in
their approaches upon our position, and this part of his line had been
strongly reinforced by the troops which had been driven from the plain
on the preceding day.

The morning of the 7th was fixed upon for bringing matters to a crisis
at this point, and four columns of attack, composed of detachments,
were early formed under the superintendence of the commander of
the forces, in readiness to move from the pagoda and assail the
intrenchments on both flanks and in the centre. Before the troops
advanced, a severe cannonade was opened from many pieces of heavy
ordnance, brought up from the river, and placed in battery for
defending this important post. This the enemy stood with much firmness,
and returned it with a constant, though unequal, fire of musketry,
jingals, and light artillery.

While the firing continued, the columns of attack were already in
motion towards their several points; and when it ceased, the left
corps, under Colonel Mallet, was seen debouching from the jungle upon
the enemy’s right; the right column, under Colonel Brodie, Madras army,
in like manner advancing on the left; and the two central columns,
one under Colonel Parlby of the Madras army, and the other commanded
by Captain Wilson, of the 38th regiment, descending the stairs from
the north gate of the pagoda, and filing up towards the centre of
the position, by either side of the tank before alluded to, as partly
covering the intrenchments on this side.

The appearance of our troops at the same moment upon so many different
points seemed to paralyse the Burmese army, but they were not long in
recovering from their momentary panic, when they opened a heavy and
well-sustained fire upon our troops; and it was not until a decided
charge was made, and our troops actually in the trenches, that the
enemy finally gave way, and they were precipitately driven from their
numerous works, curiously shaped, and strengthened by many strange
contrivances, into the thick forest in their rear.

There, all pursuit was necessarily given up; our limited numbers,
exhausted by seven days of watching and hard service, were unequal
to the fatigue; though even when our men were fresh, the enemy could
always baffle their pursuit in a country which afforded them so many
facilities for escaping. Upon the ground the enemy left a great number
of dead, who seemed generally from their stout and athletic forms, to
have been their best troops. Their bodies had each a charm of some
description, in which the brave deceased had no doubt trusted for
protection, but in this case, they seemed to have lost any virtue ever
possessed by them. In the intrenchments were found scaling-ladders, and
every preparation for carrying the pagoda by storm.

No time was lost in completing the rout of the Burmese army, and on the
evening of the 7th, a body of troops from His Majesty’s eighty-ninth
regiment, and the forty-third Madras native infantry, under Colonel
Parlby, were in readiness to embark from Rangoon as soon as the tide
served, for the purpose of crossing the river and driving the enemy
from their intrenchments at Dalla. The night, fortunately, was dark,
and the troops were got over unperceived by the enemy. No shot was
fired, nor alarm given, until the British troops had actually entered
the Burmese intrenchments, and commenced firing at random among the
noisy groups which they now heard all around them, but the risk of
injuring each other in the dark made it advisable to desist. Parties
were sent to occupy various parts of the works, which a previous
acquaintance with the ground enabled them to accomplish with but little
opposition or loss. On the approach of daylight next morning they found
themselves in full and undisturbed possession of the whole position,
with all the guns and stores of this portion of the Burmese army, the
remains of which were perceived during the whole day, retracing their
steps across the plain of Dalla, with more expedition and less pomp
than they had exhibited but seven days before, when they traversed the
same plain “in all the pomp and circumstance of glorious war.”

Every gun they had, and the whole _matériel_ of the army, fell into
the hands of the conquerors. Desertions and the dispersion of entire
corps, followed the defeat, so that in the course of a few days the
haughty Bandoola, who so boasted of driving the rebel strangers into
the sea, found himself completely foiled in all his plans, humbled,
and surrounded by a beaten army, which he proudly called “invincible,”
alike afraid of the consequences of a final retreat, and of another
meeting with an adversary who had taught him such a severe lesson!



CHAPTER XXIX.

THE BATTLE OF MELLOONE.

1825.


After various successes, Sir Archibald Campbell was enabled to make his
arrangements for an advance upon the Burmese capital. The distance from
Prome to Ava may be estimated at three hundred miles, and although the
roads and country upwards are generally more advantageous for military
operations than those in the lower provinces, we had still much toil
and labour to anticipate before the army could arrive in the open
plains of Upper Ava.

The commissariat was conducted by natives, who even volunteered their
services as drivers to the foot artillery, and on various occasions did
not flinch from exposing themselves to the fire of their countrymen,
expressing much pleasure at the precision with which the guns to which
they were attached were directed by their new allies.

The officers, instead of walking, had now the luxury of being mounted
on Pegu ponies, and they commenced the second campaign in good health,
and in comparative comfort.

On the 9th of December, the first division began its march through very
bad roads for guns and carriages. On the 10th, marched to Wattygoon,
and found the ten stockades which had formerly been attacked,
unoccupied by the enemy. The position had been chosen with wonted
judgment of the Burmhan engineers, having two sides protected by a
deep morass; a jungle covered the approach on the third side, the rear
alone was open ground, and the only point from which the works could be
successfully assailed.

Next day the army marched five miles over a thickly-enclosed country,
without any appearance of houses or population. The following day
another five miles were done over almost impassable roads through
recent rains, and with very bad camping ground, where cholera made its
appearance. After two weeks of most trying and difficult marching,
the army, on the 25th, reached Longhee, and on the 26th moved onward
ten miles, when a flag of truce arrived from Melloone, announcing the
appearance of a commissioner, named Kolein Mengie, with full powers
from the king to conclude a treaty of peace.

On the 27th an answer was returned, stating the concurrence of the
British commissioners, and the division continued its advance,
encamping on the banks of the Irrawaddy, about four miles below
Melloone, where we were joined by the flotilla, and from whence could
be seen the intrenched camp of the enemy.

The army had now marched one hundred and forty miles from Prome, and
had not met with one inhabitant; and so completely had the enemy laid
the line of our advance waste, that we were not able to obtain a single
day’s supply in a country but lately abounding in cattle. A fruitless
negotiation was entered into at Melloone; our two officers then
declared that on their departure from the place the British commander
would commence offensive operations.

On the 29th the division again moved forward, and in two hours reached
Patanagoh, a town upon the river, directly opposite to Melloone.
The river Irrawaddy at this place is 600 yards broad, and the
fortifications of Melloone, built upon the face of a sloping hill, lay
fully exposed to view, within good practice distance of our artillery.
The principal stockade appeared to be a square of about a mile, filled
with men, and mounting a considerable number of guns, especially on
the water-face; and the whole position, consisting of a succession of
stockades, might extend nearly two miles along the beach.

In the centre of the great stockade, a handsome new gilt pagoda was
observed, which had been raised to the memory of Maha Bandoola, to
stimulate the present leaders to imitate his example at Donoobew, when
he preferred death to quitting his post. On our arrival before the
place, the Burmese discontinued their labours at their defences, and
stood in groups gazing at us as we formed on the opposite bank. Under
the stockade, a large fleet of war-boats, commissariat boats, and other
craft, lay at anchor.

The army had not long reached our ground, when the loud clash of gongs,
drums, and other warlike instruments drew our attention to the works
of the enemy; crowds of boatmen were seen with their short oars across
their shoulders, running to the beach, and every boat was speedily
manned, and in motion up the river. The steam vessel and flotilla had
been detained below the enemy’s position, by the intricacy of the
channel, and until protecting batteries could be formed to keep down
the fire of the works along the beach, it became necessary to adopt
other measures to prevent the escape of the boats; accordingly, the
artillery was ordered to fire upon them, which soon checked their
progress, the boatmen either jumping into the river, or returning in
the utmost haste to their former situation.

In the meantime the flotilla, led by the Diana steam vessel, had got
under way, when the firing commenced, and was now seen passing close
under the enemy’s works, without a shot being fired on either side.
On reaching the principal stockade, two gilt war-boats pushing off
from the shore, received the Diana with every honour, and escorted the
squadron at some distance above the place, cutting off all retreat
from it by water. Such unequivocal marks of a desire to prevent
further hostility were immediately favourably accepted, and during the
forenoon a truce was concluded and arrangements made for entering upon
negotiations on the following day.

The Burmese chiefs, at their own request, were allowed to moor a large
accommodation boat in the middle of the river, between the two armies,
as the place of conference; and two o’clock on the 1st of January was
fixed for the first meeting with the new delegate from Ava. Accordingly
the commissioners of both nations entered the conference nearly at
the same time, the Kee Wongee, as joint Commissioner, and most of the
chiefs we had met at Neoun-benzeik, with several others, accompanied
His Majesty’s deputy, Kolein Menghi. The countenance of this personage,
apparently withered and shrivelled up by age, was strongly expressive
of low cunning and dissimulation; at a first glance he might have
passed for a man of seventy, but the vivacity and keenness of a pair of
sharp grey eyes reduced it some dozen years. Though splendidly dressed,
he presented a vulgar contrast to the easy and dignified demeanour of
Kee Wongee, who had a frank and open countenance.

When seated in the boat, the business was opened with much solemnity.
In answer to the demand of one crore of rupees (which, valuing the
rupee at two shillings, the then rate of exchange, amounted to one
million sterling), Kolein Menghi pleaded the expense they had been
put to, by raising so many armies, which had drained their treasury,
saying it was cruel to exact such a sum, which they could not pay,
offering to allow the British to cut down their fine trees, adding, “we
could, perhaps, in one year, by economy, give you a million baskets
of rice, but we do not grow rupees, and have no way of procuring such
a sum as you require.” The cession of Arracan, and the restoration of
Cassay to its legitimate owner, Gumbheer Sing, was disputed by Kolein
Menghi. After four meetings, and prolonged discussions, in which the
Burmese commissioners displayed great meanness, having had recourse
to downright begging, after cunning and art had failed, the treaty
was at last signed, fifteen days (to the 18th) being allowed for
obtaining the ratification of the King of Ava and the performance of
all preliminaries, viz., the delivery of all prisoners, and the payment
of the first money instalment.

During this interval the two camps carried on a friendly intercourse,
and which was occasionally interrupted by the enemy working at, and
strengthening his defences, especially during the night. Remonstrances
were of course made, but the Burmese chiefs, with a dexterous cunning,
parried the accusation of insincerity, at the same time expatiating on
the blessings of peace between the “two great nations.” At length, on
the 17th, a deputation of three officers of state (two Attawoons and
a Woondock) visited the British commissioners, pretending to account
for the non-arrival of the ratified treaty, prisoners, etc., by some
unforeseen accident, declaring that they had not heard from Ava since
the treaty was sent there.

The commissioners, however, well knew that boats were in daily
communication with Ava, and this glaring falsehood put them on their
guard against suspected treachery. Having in the meantime made other
offers to the British commissioners, which were all refused most
decidedly, they at last entreated a delay of five or six days. This
was also refused, and at the same time they were told to communicate
to the prince and the two Wongees, the final resolution of the British
commissioners; that if they evacuated Melloone in thirty-six hours,
and continued retiring with their forces before the British army upon
Ava, hostilities would not be re-commenced, and the march would be
suspended, as soon as the ratified treaty should be received from Ava.

This proposition being peremptorily rejected, and the armistice being
ended on the 18th, three officers were sent over to Melloone, who gave
formal information that no farther forbearance or concession could
be made, that having acted such a deceitful part, ample satisfaction
should be demanded and enforced. The hour of twelve at night was named
as the last hour of peace, and no satisfaction having been offered by
these treacherous chiefs, the British at the specified hour began with
alacrity to prepare for the attack by throwing up batteries opposite
to the chosen points of attack in the stockade, which was within
gunshot range of our bank of the river; the heavy ordnance was landed
from the flotilla during the night, and by ten o’clock next morning,
twenty-eight pieces of artillery were in battery, and prepared to open
upon the defences of the enemy.

Shortly after eleven o’clock, the fire from our batteries began, and
continued incessant and with much effect for nearly two hours, by
which time the troops intended for the assault were embarked in the
boats, under the superintendence of Captain Chads, as senior naval
officer, at some distance above the place, in order to ensure their
not being carried past it by the force of the stream. The first Bengal
brigade, consisting of His Majesty’s 13th and 38th regiments, under
Lieutenant-Colonel Slade, was directed to land below the stockade, and
attack it by the south-west angle, while three brigades were ordered to
land above the place, and after carrying some outworks, to attack it by
the northern face.

Notwithstanding every previous arrangement, and the utmost exertion
of every one employed, the current, together with a strong northerly
wind, carried the first brigade under all the fire of the place, to
its destined point of attack, before the other brigades could reach
the opposite shore, and being soon formed under the partial cover of
a shelving bank, without waiting for the co-operation of the other
troops, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Frith (Lieutenant-Colonel Slade
having been wounded in the boats), moved forward to the assault with
a steadiness and regularity that must have struck awe into the minds
of their opponents, and in a very short time entered the place by
escalade, and established themselves in the interior of the works.

A prouder or more gratifying sight has seldom, perhaps, been witnessed,
than this mere handful of gallant fellows driving a dense multitude of
from ten to fifteen thousand armed men before them, from works of such
strength that even Memiaboo, contrary to all custom, did not think it
necessary to leave them until the troops were in the act of carrying
them. The other brigades cutting in upon the enemy’s retreat, completed
their defeat, and they were driven with severe loss from all their
stockades, leaving the whole of their artillery and military stores in
possession of the British.

In the house of Prince Memiaboo, was found cash to the amount of from
thirty to forty thousand rupees; the whole of his stud was also made a
prize of. The perfidy of the prince, the Wongees, and the government
was now clearly demonstrated, as both the Burmese and British copies
of the treaty were found in the house, in the same condition as
when signed and sealed on the 3rd instant, along with all the other
documents that were executed at Neoun-benzeik; besides several other
papers written by a priest styled the Raja Goroo, a spiritual friend
and the counsellor of the King of Ava, who had been for some time in
the British lines, and had been employed to convey a pacific message to
his Burmhan Majesty.

Memiaboo and his discomfited army retired with all possible haste from
the scene of his disaster; while the British commander made instant
preparation to follow him. Before, however, commencing his march, he
despatched a messenger with the unratified treaty to the Kee Wongee,
as well to show the Burmese chiefs that their perfidy was exposed, as
to give them the opportunity of still ratifying their engagements,
merely stating in a note to the Wongee that in the hurry of his
departure from Melloone, he had forgotten a document which he might
now find more useful and acceptable to his government than they had
considered it a few days previously.

The Wongee and his colleague politely returned their best thanks for
the paper, but observed that the same hurry, which caused the loss
of the treaty, had compelled them to leave behind also a large sum
of money, which they likewise much regretted, and which they felt
confident the British general only waited the opportunity of returning!



CHAPTER XXX.

THE BATTLE OF PAGAHM-MEW.

1825.


On the 25th of January, the British army again moved forward, the roads
still worse; and on the 31st, the headquarters were at Zaynan-gheoun,
or Earth-oil-Creek.

The capture of Melloone, as was expected, alarmed the King of Ava,
who in order to avert greater calamity, sent Dr. Price, an American
missionary, and Assistant-Surgeon Sandford, of the royal regiment, who
had been taken prisoner some months before, on his parole of honour to
return to Ava, accompanied by four prisoners returned by the king as a
compliment. The poor fellows made a miserable appearance, never having
been shaved, or had their hair cut since taken. They were sent to state
the king’s wish for peace, and to learn the most favourable terms. The
answer varied but little from those formerly offered at Melloone; but
the British General acceded to the request not to pass Pagahm-mew for
twelve days, to allow time for transmitting the money from Ava.

On the next morning, the two delegates set off for Ava, Surgeon Price
full of hope that he would return in a few days to conclude the peace.
From the returned prisoners information was obtained which very clearly
showed the hostile intentions of the King of Ava twelve months before
hostilities commenced, when he was making arrangements for the conquest
of Bengal.

Maha Bandoola was the grand projector, who told His Majesty that with
100,000 men he would pledge himself to succeed. So confident was this
boaster, that when he marched into Arracan, he was provided with
golden fetters, in which the Governor-General of India was to be led
into Ava as a captive.

On coming near to Pagahm-mew, rumours were afloat that the Court of Ava
were levying fresh troops; forty thousand had been induced by large
promises to come forward, under the patriotic title of Gong-to-doo,
or Retrievers of the King’s Glory! This army was placed under the
command of a savage warrior, styled Nee-Woon-Breen, which has been
variously translated as Prince of Darkness, King of Hell, and Prince of
the Setting Sun. On the 8th, when within a day’s march of Pagahm-mew,
certain intelligence was obtained that the Nee-Woon-Breen was prepared
to meet the British force under the walls of that city.

On the 9th of February, the British column moved forward in order of
attack, reduced considerably under two thousand men by the absence of
two brigades. The advance guard was met in the jungle by strong bodies
of skirmishers, and after maintaining a running fight for several
miles, the column debouching into the open country, discovered the
Burmese army nearly 20,000 strong, drawn up in an inverted crescent,
the wings of which threatened the little body of assailants on either
flank. Undismayed, however, by the strong position of this formidable
body, the British commander boldly pushed forward for their centre.
The attack was so vigorous that the enemy gave way, being completely
divided into two; the divided wings had much to do to reach a second
line of redoubts under the walls of Pagahm-mew, which had been prepared
in anticipation of such an untoward event.

The British column lost no time, but followed the retreating enemy so
rapidly that they had not time for rallying in their works, into which
they were closely followed and again routed with great loss; hundreds
jumped into the river, and there perished. The whole of this remaining
force, with the exception of two or three thousand men, dispersed,
leaving the conquerors in quiet possession of their well-merited
conquest.

The unfortunate commander, Nee-Woon-Breen, on reaching Ava, was very
cruelly put to death, by the king’s command.

On the evening of the 13th, Mr. Price and Mr. Sandford, now liberated,
arrived in camp, when Mr. Price announced that the king and court had
consented to yield to the formerly proposed terms, as they now saw
that further opposition was of no avail. Yet the prisoners were not
returned, nor was the first instalment, being twenty-five lacs of
rupees, forthcoming. However, they said that everything was ready to
be delivered, only the king hesitated letting the cash go out of his
possession, apprehending that we should, notwithstanding, still hold
his country, which he would assuredly do in like circumstances. He was
anxious, therefore, to learn if we could be persuaded to accept of six
lacs of rupees now, and the remaining nineteen lacs on the arrival of
the army at Prome. To all this was added an earnest request that in any
case the army might not come nearer to the capital.

A positive refusal to all this was returned, and on the following
morning Mr. Price returned to Ava, assuring us of his return in a few
days with some of the Burmhan ministers, in order to make a final
settlement.

The army continuing to advance, was met at Yandaboo, only forty-five
miles from Ava, by Mr. Price, and two ministers of state; accompanied
by the prisoners, and the stipulated sum of twenty-five lacs of rupees.
These ambassadors were empowered to state the unreserved acquiescence
of their master, who had authorised them by his royal sign manuel, to
accept of and sign such terms as we might propose.

On the 24th of February the treaty was, for the second time, settled,
and finally signed; the Burmese government, at the same time, engaging
to furnish boats for the conveyance of a great part of the force to
Rangoon.

Here this war may be considered as ended; a war into which the
government of India had been compelled to enter; and it was of
a more protracted and serious character than any in which our
eastern government had been engaged for many years. It was further
distinguished from all others by the persevering obstinacy of the
enemy, and the many difficulties, obstacles, and privations with which
the British force had to contend for such a length of time.

Men and officers felt proud in having at last compelled our stubborn
foe to sign a peace, honourable and advantageous to the British, as
it was humiliating and inglorious to the Court of Ava; proud that the
utmost wishes of our government had been realised, and the service they
had been employed on, completed to the fullest extent.



CHAPTER XXXI.

THE AFGHANISTAN DISASTERS.

1838-39.


In 1836, the aggressive acts of Persia, influenced by Russian gold,
were sufficiently alarming, but all doubt was removed when the Shah
invaded Afghanistan, and laid siege to Herat.

At this moment the united influence of Persia and Russia would seem
to have been established in all the Afghan dominions with the single
exception of Herat, and the existence of that influence in those
countries, viewed in conjunction with the course which those powers
had recently been pursuing, and the measures that had resulted from
their joint diplomatic exertions, was so obviously incompatible with
the tranquillity of India, and even with its security, that no measures
could be more unequivocally measures of self-defence than those which
the British Government were called upon to adopt for the purpose of
counteracting the evils with which India was threatened; Persia had
no provocation to complain of. The course pursued by the British
Government towards this Government had been one of uniform friendship
and forbearance; and it appeared a hazardous and costly line of policy
to adopt were the British Government any longer to permit Persia,
under shelter of her treaty with Britain, to open the way to India for
another and far more formidable power.

Although that city of Herat held strongly out, and finally repulsed the
Persians, the country generally was anxious for their alliance, and
to check an influence that might prove truly dangerous hereafter, the
Indian government decided on an armed intervention, and the restoration
of Shah Shoojah was made the apology for a hostile demonstration.

The entrance of an invading army into Afghanistan was heralded by the
Simla declaration, and a strong force, termed “the army of the Indus,”
in due time penetrated this mountain country by the route of the
terrible Bolan Pass, a huge chasm, running between precipitous rocks to
the length of seventy miles, and rising in that distance to the height
of 5,637 feet above the plains below, which are here about 750 feet in
height above the level of the sea. The dangerous defiles which abound
in these mountains are infested by the poorest and wildest tribes
of the country, who live entirely by plunder; but they fortunately
refrained from molesting the troops to the extent which they might have
done.

The occupation of Afghanistan was disastrous from the first. The
troops were severely harassed and half-starved, and the blunders of
the political agents, want of cordiality in the commanders, dissension
between the contingents of Bengal and Bombay, all gave little promise
of ultimate success. Early in April, Sir John Keane joined, and took
the chief command, and on the 7th he advanced on Candahar. The march
was extremely oppressive. Intense heat, want of water, desultory
attacks, all made the movement a distressing one, but Candahar was at
last reached, and Shah Shoojah restored to the Musnad.

Sir John’s next operation was the reduction of Ghuznee, and it would
appear rather unaccountable that with this strong fortress before him,
he should have left his siege-train at Candahar.

Ghuznee, instead of being, as had been represented, almost
defenceless, was a place of remarkable strength, and was found by the
engineers to possess a high rampart in good repair, built on a scarped
mound, about thirty-five feet high, flanked by numerous towers, and
surrounded by a fausse-braye and wet ditch. The irregular figure of the
“enceinte” gave a good flanking fire, whilst the height of the citadel
covered the interior from the commanding fire of the hills to the
north, rendering it nugatory. In addition to this, the towers at the
angles had been enlarged, screen-walls had been built before the gates,
the ditch cleared out and filled with water, stated to be unfordable,
and an outwork built upon the right bank, so as to command its bed.

Sir John, however, seemed to hold Peninsular practice in fortunate
recollection, for he repeated at Ghuznee what Brochard, a French
engineer, had tried so successfully at Amarante, blew down a barricade,
and carried the place by storm. Khelat was subsequently taken by
assault, and the army of the Indus soon after broken up--the Bombay
contingent retiring to cantonments, and the Bengal retaining military
occupation of Cabul.

The next epoch in Indian history is painfully unfortunate, and the
military occupation of Afghanistan forms a fearful experience in
Monson’s retreat. Monson was as brave as any officer in the British
army; second to none in undaunted valour at storming a breach, but
he wanted the rarer quality of moral intrepidity, and the power of
adopting great designs on his own responsibility. On the 6th of July,
Holkar was engaged in crossing the Chumbul; the fortunate moment of
attack, never to be recalled was allowed to escape; and two days
afterwards the British general commenced his retreat. He did what
ordinary officers would have done at Assaye, when it was ascertained
Stevenson’s division could not come up; and what was the result? In a
few hours the subsidiary horse, now four thousand strong, which was
left to observe the enemy, was enveloped by clouds of the Mahratta
cavalry, and after a bloody struggle, cut to pieces with their gallant
commander.

Painful as the sequel proved, it may yet be briefly told. Colonel
Monson gained the Makundra pass, and afterwards retreated to Kotah and
Rampoora, after abandoning his artillery. Reinforced by two battalions
and three thousand irregular horse, he quitted the fort and marched
directly for the British frontier. Heavy rains fell; and on reaching
the banks of the Bannas, he found the stream impassable. The position
of this ill-fated corps was truly desperate. In their front was a
raging torrent, in their rear twenty thousand horsemen, continually
receiving fresh accessions of strength in infantry and guns, as they
successively came up. The river having at length become fordable,
four battalions crossed over; and the enemy, seeing his advantage,
immediately commenced a furious attack on the single battalion and
pickets, which now remained alone on the other side. With such heroic
constancy, however, was this unequal contest maintained by these brave
men, that they not only repulsed the whole attacks made upon them,
but, pursuing their success, captured several of the enemy’s guns--an
event which clearly demonstrated what results might have followed the
adoption of a vigorous offensive in the outset, when the troops were
undiminished in strength and unbroken in spirit.

Disasters followed fast upon each other. The sepoy guard who
accompanied the military chests was attacked by the cavalry of
Scindiah, their own ally; and when the Mahrattas were defeated, they
treacherously deserted to Holkar. The whole of the irregular horse,
which had reinforced Monson at Rampoora, followed the example; and
a few companies of Sepoys--a rare occurrence among those faithful
people--quitted their ranks, and joined this enemy. Formed in oblong
square, the greater portion of the latter part of the retreat was
executed--fifteen thousand horse incessantly harassing in front, flank,
and rear, the retiring column, and only kept at bay by the indomitable
courage and unbroken formation of the remnant of this glorious
division. At last, worn down by fatigue, and reduced by casualties and
desertion of twelve thousand men, scarcely a thousand entered Agra,
without cannon, baggage, or ammunition, and only fit for the hospitals,
and afterwards to be invalided.



CHAPTER XXXII.

THE DEFEAT OF THE BILUCHIS.

1842.


For a time, affairs in Scinde, after the Afghanistan disasters, looked
peaceable; but the conditions proposed by new treaties to the Amirs,
in the infringements upon their game preserves, and the abolition of
transit duties, occasioned some discontent. Gradually this jealousy of
the Scinde chieftains ripened into hatred; and while evasive policy was
resorted to by the Amirs, a corps, under Sir Charles Napier, advanced
to support the British representative, Major Outram.

The agency had been attacked, gallantly defended, and Outram effected
an honourable retreat; while the Amirs, collecting in great force at
Fulali, Sir Charles, with his small force, determined to attack them.
An extract from his own despatch will best describe this daring and
most brilliant affair:

“On the 16th I marched to Muttaree, having there ascertained that the
Amirs were in position at Miani (ten miles’ distance), to the number
of 22,000 men, and well knowing that a delay for reinforcements would
both strengthen their confidence and add to their numbers, already
seven times that which I commanded, I resolved to attack them, and we
marched at 4 a.m. on the morning of the 17th; at eight o’clock the
advanced guard discovered their camp; at nine o’clock we formed in
order of battle, about 2,800 men of all arms, and twelve pieces of
artillery.

We were now within range of the enemy’s guns, and fifteen pieces of
artillery opened upon us, and were answered by our cannon. The enemy
were very strongly posted, woods were on their flanks, which I did
not think could be turned. These two woods were joined by the dry bed
of the river Fallali, which had a high bank. The bed of the river was
nearly straight, and about 1,200 yards in length. Behind this and in
both woods were the enemy posted. In front of their extreme right,
and on the edge of the wood, was a village. Having made the best
examination of their position which so short a time permitted, the
artillery was posted on the right of the line, and some skirmishers of
infantry, with the Scinde irregular horse, were sent in front to try
and make the enemy show his force more distinctly; we then advanced
from the right in echellon of battalions, refusing the left to save it
from the fire of the village.

The 9th Bengal light cavalry formed the reserve in rear of the left
wing; and the Poona horse, together with four companies of infantry,
guarded the baggage. In this order of battle we advanced as at a review
across a fine plain swept by the cannon of the enemy. The artillery and
H. M.’s 22nd regiment in line, formed the leading echellon, the 25th
N.I. the second, the 12th N.I. the third, and the 1st grenadier N.I.
the fourth.

The enemy was 1100 yards from our line, which soon traversed the
intervening space. Our fire of musketry opened at about 100 yards
from the bank in reply to that of the enemy; and in a few minutes the
engagement became general along the bank of the river, on which the
combatants fought for about three hours or more with great fury, man to
man. Then was seen the superiority of the musket and bayonet over the
sword and shield and matchlock. The brave Biluchis first discharging
their matchlocks and pistols, dashed over the bank with desperate
resolution; but down went these bold and skilful swordsmen under the
superior power of the musket and bayonet. At one time the courage and
numbers of the enemy against the 22nd, the 25th, and the 12th regiments
bore heavily in that part of the battle. There was no time to be lost,
and I sent orders to the cavalry to force the right of the enemy’s
line. This order was very gallantly executed by the 9th Bengal cavalry
and the Scinde horse; the struggle on our right and centre was at that
moment so fierce that I could not go to the left.

In this charge the 9th light cavalry took a standard and several
pieces of artillery, and the Scinde horse took the enemy’s camp, from
which a vast body of their cavalry slowly retired fighting. Lieutenant
Fitzgerald gallantly pursued them for two miles, and, I understand,
slew three of the enemy in single combat. The brilliant conduct of
these two cavalry regiments decided in my opinion the crisis of the
action, for from the moment the cavalry were seen in rear of their
right flank, the resistance of our opponents slackened; the 22nd
regiment forced the bank, the 25th and 12th did the same, the latter
regiment capturing several guns, and the victory was decided. The
artillery made great havoc among the dense masses of the enemy, and
dismounted several of their guns. The whole of the enemy’s artillery,
ammunition, standards, and camp, with considerable stores and some
treasure, were taken.”

War was now regularly proclaimed, and on the 22nd of March the Sikhs
recommenced hostilities at Mattari, Sir Charles Napier, in the
meanwhile, having effected a junction with his reinforcements. Halting
at the village of Duppa, on the 23rd, he decided on attacking the
Biluchis on the 24th. The enemy were in a strong position, numbering
20,000 men. The Anglo-Indian army might amount in round numbers to
5000, all arms included. Thus runs the despatch:--

“The forces under my command marched from Hyderabad this morning at
daybreak. About half-past 8 o’clock we discovered and attacked the army
under the personal command of the Meer Shere Mahomed, consisting of
twenty thousand men of all arms, strongly posted behind one of those
large nullahs by which this country is intersected in all directions.
After a combat of about three hours, the enemy was wholly defeated with
considerable slaughter, and the loss of all his standards and cannon.

His position was nearly a straight line; the nullah was formed by two
deep parallel ditches, one 20 feet wide and 8 feet deep, the other
42 feet wide and 17 deep, which had been for a long distance freshly
scarped, and a banquet made behind the bank expressly for the occasion.

To ascertain the strength of his line was extremely difficult, as his
left did not appear to be satisfactorily defined; but he began by
moving to his right when he perceived that the British force outflanked
him in that direction. Believing that this movement had drawn him
from that part of the nullah which had been prepared for defence, I
hoped to attack his right with less difficulty, and Major Leslie’s
troop of horse artillery was ordered to move forward and endeavour to
rake the nullah. The 9th light cavalry and Poona horse advancing in
line, on the left of the artillery, which was supported on the right
by Her Majesty’s 22nd regiment, the latter being, however, at first
considerably retired to admit of the oblique fire of Leslie’s troop.
The whole of the artillery now opened upon the enemy’s position, and
the British line advanced in echellons from the left, H.M.’s 22nd
regiment leading the attack.

The enemy was now perceived to move from his centre in considerable
bodies to his left, apparently retreating, unable to sustain the
cross-fire of the British artillery; on seeing which Major Stack, at
the head of the 3rd cavalry, under command of Captain Delamain, and the
Sindh horse, under command of Captain Jacob, made a brilliant charge
upon the enemy’s left flank, crossing the nullah and cutting down the
retreating enemy for several miles.

While this was passing on the right, H.M.’s 22nd regiment, gallantly
led by Major Poole, who commanded the brigade, and Captain George,
who commanded the corps, attacked the nullah on the left with great
gallantry, and I regret to add, with considerable loss. This brave
battalion marched up to the nullah under a heavy fire of matchlocks,
without returning a shot till within forty paces of the intrenchment,
and then stormed it like British soldiers. The intrepid Lieutenant
Coote first mounted the rampart, seized one of the enemy’s standards,
and was severely wounded while waving it and cheering on his men.

Meanwhile the Poona horse, under Captain Tait, and the 9th cavalry,
under Major Story, turned the enemy’s right flank pursuing and cutting
down the fugitives for several miles. H.M.’s 22nd regiment was well
supported by the batteries commanded by Captains Willoughby and
Hutt, which crossed their fire with that of Major Leslie. Then came
the 2nd brigade under command of Major Woodburn, bearing down into
action with excellent coolness. It consisted of the 25th, 21st, and
12th regiments, under the command of Captains Jackson, Stevens, and
Fisher, respectively; these regiments were strongly sustained by the
fire of Captain Whitley’s battery, on the right of which were the 8th
and 1st regiments, under Majors Browne and Clibborne; these two corps
advanced with the regularity of a review up to the intrenchments, their
commanders, with considerable exertion, stopping their fire, on seeing
that a portion of the Sindh horse and 3rd cavalry in charging the enemy
had got in front of the brigade.

The battle was decided by the troop of horse artillery and H.M.’s 22nd
regiment.”



CHAPTER XXXIII.

THE BATTLE OF MOODKEE.

1845.


The fatal _dénouement_ of the retreat from Cabul was still in vivid
colouring before the British public, when tidings from the East
announced that it might be considered only as the fore-runner of
still more alarming demonstrations, and these from a power fully as
unfriendly, and far more formidable to British interests than the
Ghiljies and fanatic tribes of Afghanistan. The Punjaub for years had
been internally convulsed. The musnud in turn was occupied by women
whose debaucheries were disgusting, and men who had reached it by the
foulest murders. The country was frightfully disorganised; one bond
of union alone existed among the Sikhs, and that was the most deadly
hostility to the British.

The region of North-Western India, known in modern times under the name
of the Punjaub, is remarkably well defined by geographical limits. On
the north, it is bounded by one of the Himalaya ranges. On the west
by the Khybur and Soliman mountains and the Indus. On the south and
east the Sutlej divides it from British India. Its area is computed
to inclose 85,000 square miles. The arteries of the Indus, namely the
Jelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej, traverse the whole country, and
form its local divisions into what are termed doabs. The Punjaub, being
translated, hence means “the country of five rivers.”

The state of things beyond the Sutlej alarmed the Indian government,
and Lord Ellenborough acted with energy and good judgment; Scinde and
Gwalior must be deprived of the power of being mischievous, and while
the former was annexed in form to the possessions of the Company,
Gwalior was being prepared for undergoing a similar change. To give
effect to these important measures, an army of observation marched
upon the Sutlej, but long before any results from his policy could
be developed, Lord Ellenborough was recalled, and Sir Henry Hardinge
appointed to succeed him. In the spring of 1844 the new governor
reached Calcutta.

The Cabul disasters had rendered the very thought of Eastern war most
unpopular at home, and Sir Henry assumed the chief command, with a
full determination to avoid a rupture with the Sikhs--could such be
avoidable; but that, as events proved, was impossible, and pacific
policy was tried and found wanting.

The summer of 1845 was marked by frightful excesses in Lahore. Murder
and debauchery went hand-in-hand together; and the Ranee herself,
as well as her chief adviser, Jowar Singh, no longer disguised their
purpose of coming to blows with the British. On the part of Jowar
Singh, this was but the prosecution of a policy which had long been in
favour with him; and as he was heartily detested by the rest of the
sirdars, they made it a pretext for conspiring against him and putting
him to death. But the Ranee was swayed by different motives. From day
to day her army became more unmanageable; and she desired, above all
things, to get rid of the nuisance, even if her deliverance should come
with a victorious British force to Lahore. Accordingly, after having
long withstood the clamours of her officers, she gave a hearty, yet a
reluctant, consent to the proposed invasion of the protected states;
and a plan of operations was drawn up, which indicated no slight
knowledge of the art of war on the part of those from whom it emanated.

As yet, Sir Henry had avoided every appearance of angry demonstration.
Loodiana and Ferozepore were well garrisoned. The former place was
weak--the latter better calculated for resistance. A magazine to supply
both places had been judiciously established where the Umballa road
touches that of Kurnaul--for Busseean was equally accessible to the
garrisons which were threatened.

Coming events had not been disregarded by the chief in command, and
in June, Sir Henry in person proceeded to the western provinces.
Approaching hostilities had in the autumn become too evident; the
Sikhs were advancing to the Sutlej, and instead of having, as formerly
reported, 15,000 men in and about Lahore, they had actually seven
divisions, which might fairly average, each with the other, 8000 men.
One of these was to remain to garrison the capital, the remainder were
disposable, and, as it was believed, destined to attack Loodiana,
Kurrachee, Ferozepore, Scinde, and Attock.

Before the subsequent transactions are described, a detail of the
strength, organisation, and _matériel_ of the Sikh army, as given at
the time by Lieutenant-Colonel Steinbach, formerly in the service of
the Maharajah, will be interesting.

“This force, consisting of about 110,000 men, is divided into regulars
and irregulars; the former of whom, about 70,000 strong, are drilled
and appointed according to the European system. The cavalry branch of
the disciplined force amounts to nearly 13,000, and the infantry and
artillery to 60,000 more. The irregulars, variously armed and equipped,
are nearly 40,000 strong, of which number upwards of 20,000 are
cavalry, the remainder consisting of infantry and matchlock-men, while
the contingents, which the sirdars or chiefs are obliged to parade on
the requisition of the sovereign, amount to considerably above 30,000
men. The artillery consisted in Runject’s time of 376 guns, and 370
swivels mounted on camels or on light carriages adapted to their size.
There is no distinct corps of artillery as in other services, but there
are 4000 or 5000 men, under a daroga, trained to the duty of gunners,
and these are distributed with the ordnance throughout the regular army.

The costume of the regular infantry is scarlet, with different coloured
facings, to distinguish regiments, as in the British service. The
trousers are of blue linen; the head-dress is a blue turban, with one
end loose, and spread so as to entirely cover the head, back of the
neck, and shoulders; the belts are of black leather; the arms a musket
and bayonet, the manufacture of Lahore. The cavalry wear helmets or
steel caps, round which shawls or scarfs are folded. The _irregulars_,
in their dress and appointments, fully justify the appellation which
their habits and mode of making war obtained for them. Cotton, silk,
or broad cloth tunics of various colours, with the addition of shawls,
cloaks, breastplates, or coats of mail, with turban or helmets, _ad
libitum_, impart to them a motley but picturesque appearance. They are
all badly mounted, and, indeed, little can be said even of the regular
cavalry in this respect. The Punjaub breed of horses is far from good,
and they do not import stock from other countries to improve their own
cattle.

The pay of the sepoys of the regular army of the Punjaub is higher
than that of the same class in the army of the East India Company,
each common soldier receiving ten rupees per mensem. The troops of the
irregulars receive twenty-five rupees each, out of which they provide
their arms and clothing, and feed their horse, putting the government
to no other expense whatever for their services.

Enlistment in the regular army of the Punjaub is quite voluntary, and
the service is so popular that the army could upon an emergency be
increased to almost any amount. The soldiery are exceedingly apt in
acquiring a knowledge of their military duties; but they are so averse
to control that instances of insubordination are common; latterly,
indeed, open mutiny has frequently characterised the relations of
officer and soldier. Insubordination is punished--when punishment is
practicable--with confinement, loss of pay, or extra duty. But in
the present state of military disorganisation no means of chastising
rebellion are available.

No pensions were, or are, assigned to the soldiery for long service,
nor is there any provision for the widows and families of those who
die, or are killed in the service of the state. Promotions, instead
of being the right of the good soldier in order of seniority, or the
reward of merit in the various grades, is frequently effected by
bribery. In the higher ranks, advancement is obtained by the judicious
application of _douceurs_ to the palm of the favourites at court, or
the military chieftains about the person of the sovereign.

In the event of the government of the Punjaub falling into the hands
of the British, some time would probably elapse before the dissolute
rabble which now composes the army could be brought under a state of as
perfect discipline as that which exists in the Anglo-Indian army; but
there is no doubt that ultimately the result of a system, strict and
severe from the commencement, when supported by a stern and absolute
monarchy, would display itself, and render the Sikh troops as devoted a
body as the regular native army of Hindostan.

Only twenty-three years have elapsed since the military force in the
Punjaub consisted of a large and undisciplined horde. In 1822, the
first European officers presented themselves (according to Prinsep) at
Runjeet Singh’s durbar, seeking military service and entertainment.
These were Messrs. Allard and Ventura, who had served in the French
army until the annihilation of Napoleon Buonaparte deprived them of
employment. At first, Runjeet Singh, with the suspicion common to a
native Indian prince, received them coldly; and his distrust of their
purposes was heightened by the Punjaubee chieftains, who were naturally
jealous of the introduction of Europeans into the military service;
but a submissive and judicious letter from these officers removed the
apprehensions of the Maharajah, and he, with the spirit and originality
of a man of genius, admitted them into his service; appointing them
instructors of his troops in the European system of drill and warfare.
The good conduct and wise management of these gentlemen speedily
removed Runjeet Singh’s prejudices against Europeans; and the door to
employment being thrown open, several military men entered the service
of the Maharajah, and at the close of his reign there were not less
than a dozen receiving his pay, and, to use an Indian expression,
‘eating his salt.’

The successors of Runjeet Singh, however, did not look with an eye
of favour upon men who were not to be bought, and whose sense of
personal dignity revolted at the treatment to which the unbridled Sikh
chieftains were inclined to subject them. The greater part accordingly
resigned their commissions; some of them retiring with ample fortunes,
and others seeking honourable employment elsewhere.

The Sikh army, until lately, was considered by many British officers,
who had the opportunity of seeing it, to have been in a fair state
of discipline. They form very correct lines, but in manœuvring their
movements are too slow, and they would, in consequence, be in danger,
from a body of British cavalry, of being successfully charged during
a change of position. They would also run the risk of having their
flanks turned by their inability to follow the motion of an European
enemy with equal rapidity.

The arms, that is to say, the muskets, are of very inferior stamp,
incapable of throwing a ball to any distance, and on quick and repeated
discharges liable to burst. Their firing is bad, owing to the very
small quantity of practice ammunition allowed by the government; not
more than ten balls out of a hundred, at the distance of as many paces,
would probably tell upon an enemy’s ranks. They still preserve the old
system of three ranks, the front one kneeling when firing and then
rising to load--a method in action liable to create confusion.

In person, the infantry soldiers are tall and thin, with good features
and full beards; their superior height is owing to the extraordinary
length of their lower limbs. They are capable of enduring the fatigue
of long marches for several days in succession (the author having on
one occasion marched with his regiment a distance of 300 miles within
twelve days), and are, generally speaking, so hardy that exposure to
oppressive heats or heavy rains has little effect upon them. In a great
measure this is the result of custom. Excepting in the vicinity of
Lahore and Peshawur, there are few regular quarters or cantonments; the
men occupy small tents or caravanserais.

The drum and fife and bugle are in general use in the Sikh infantry
regiments, and in some of the favourite royal corps of Runjeet Singh an
attempt was made to introduce a band of music, but a graft of European
melody upon Punjaubee discord did not produce, as may be imagined, a
very harmonious result.

The cavalry of the Sikh army is very inferior in every respect to the
infantry. While the latter are carefully picked from large bodies of
candidates for service, the former are composed of men of all sorts and
sizes and ages, who get appointed solely through the interests of the
different sirdars. They are mean-looking, ill-dressed, and, as already
stated, wretchedly mounted. Their horse trappings are of leather of the
worst quality, and their saddles are of the same miserable material,
and badly constructed. When the horse is in motion, the legs and arms
of the rider wave backwards and forwards, right and left, by way, as
it were, of keeping time with the pace of the animal bestridden. The
horses are small, meagre, and ill-shaped, with the aquiline nose which
so peculiarly proclaims inferiority of breed. In the field, the conduct
of the Sikh cavalry has generally corresponded with their appearance
and efficiency. They are totally deficient of firmness in the hour of
struggle, and only charge the foe when a vast superiority of numerical
force gives them a sort of warranty of success.”

Undeceived touching the supposed weakness of the Sikh army, Sir Henry
Hardinge, in conjunction with his gallant superior in command, Sir
Hugh Gough, concentrated his troops, called for reinforcements from
the interior, added largely to his commissariate--and what in Eastern
warfare is altogether indispensable, largely increased his beasts of
burden and means of transport. Then taking a central position, he
waited calmly and prudently until the Sikh designs should be more
clearly developed.

November came; the storm had been gathering; remonstrances from the
Governor-General had failed; and on the 4th, the Sikh vakeel was
formally dismissed. Still immediate hostilities were not anticipated,
when suddenly news arrived on the 13th, that the enemy had crossed the
Sutlej, and Ferozepore was invested. The British commander hurried by
forced marches to its relief, and on the 18th, after a seven leagues’
march, at noon the Anglo-Indian army reached the village of Moodkee.
A movement of twenty miles under an eastern sun is most distressing,
and the wearied troops having bivouacked, ignorant of the proximity of
an enemy, cut wood, lighted fires, and commenced cooking. Strange as
it may appear, although in the immediate presence of the Sikh army, no
vidette had seen it, and the booming of the enemy’s guns first gave
note of preparation.

The army was in a state of great exhaustion, principally from the want
of water, which was not procurable on the road, when about 3 p.m.,
information was received that the Sikh army was advancing; and the
troops had scarcely time to get under arms and move to their positions,
when that fact was ascertained.

“I immediately,” says Lord Gough, “pushed forward the horse artillery
and cavalry, directing the infantry, accompanied by the field
batteries, to move forward in support. We had not proceeded beyond two
miles, when we found the enemy in position. They were said to consist
of from 15,000 to 20,000 infantry, about the same force of cavalry, and
forty guns. They evidently had either just taken up this position, or
were advancing in order of battle against us.

To resist their attack and to cover the formation of the infantry,
I advanced the cavalry under Brigadiers White, Gough, and Mactier,
rapidly to the front, in columns of squadrons, and occupied the plain.
They were speedily followed by the five troops of horse artillery,
under Brigadier Brooke, who took up a forward position, having the
cavalry then on his flanks.

The country is a dead flat, covered at short intervals with a low,
but in some places, thick jhow jungle and dotted with sandy hillocks.
The enemy screened their infantry and artillery behind this jungle,
and such undulations as the ground afforded; and, whilst our twelve
battalions formed from echellon of brigade into line, opened a very
serious cannonade upon our advancing troops, which was vigorously
replied to by the battery of horse artillery under Brigadier Brooke,
which was soon joined by the two light field batteries. The rapid
and well-directed fire of our artillery appeared soon to paralyse
that of the enemy, and, as it was necessary to complete our infantry
dispositions without advancing the artillery too near to the jungle,
I directed the cavalry under Brigadiers White and Gough to make a
flank movement on the enemy’s left, with a view of threatening and
turning that flank, if possible. With praiseworthy gallantry, the 3rd
light dragoons, with the 2nd brigade of cavalry, consisting of the
bodyguard and fifth light cavalry, with a portion of the 4th lancers,
turned the left of the Sikh army, and, sweeping along the whole rear of
its infantry and guns, silenced for a time the latter, and put their
numerous cavalry to flight.

Whilst this movement was taking place on the enemy’s left, I directed
the remainder of the 4th lancers, the 9th irregular cavalry, under
Brigadier Mactier, with a light field battery, to threaten their right.
This manœuvre was also successful. Had not the infantry and guns of
the enemy been screened by the jungle, these brilliant charges of the
cavalry would have been productive of greater effect.

When the infantry advanced to the attack, Brigadier Brooke rapidly
pushed on his horse artillery close to the jungle, and the cannonade
was resumed on both sides. The infantry, under Major-Generals Sir
Harry Smith, Gilbert, and Sir John M‘Caskill, attacked in echellon of
lines the enemy’s infantry, almost invisible amongst the wood and the
approaching darkness of night. The opposition of the enemy was such as
might have been expected from troops who had everything at stake, and
who had long vaunted of being irresistible. Their ample and extended
line, from their great superiority of numbers, far outflanked ours;
but this was counteracted by the flank movements of our cavalry. The
attack of the infantry now commenced; and the roll of fire from this
powerful arm soon convinced the Sikh army that they had met with a foe
they little expected; and their whole force was driven from position
after position, with great slaughter, and the loss of seventeen pieces
of artillery, some of them of heavy calibre; our infantry using that
never-failing weapon, the bayonet, whenever the enemy stood. Night only
saved them from worse disaster, for this stout conflict was maintained
during an hour and a half of the dim starlight, amidst a cloud of dust
from the sandy plain, which yet more obscured every object.

I regret to say this gallant and successful attack was attended with
considerable loss; the force bivouacked upon the field for some hours,
and only returned to its encampment after ascertaining that it had
no enemy before it, and night prevented the possibility of a regular
advance in pursuit.”

In this brilliant and sanguinary battle, the British loss was
necessarily heavy. Sir Robert Sale, and Sir John McCaskill were killed,
and Brigadiers Bolton and Mactier, with Colonels Byrne and Bunbury
wounded. The total casualties amounted to 872 of all arms.

Nothing could have been more fortunate than the prestige which Moodkee
gave to the campaign. One damning fault of the Spanish generals on
the Peninsula was that they literally overmarched their troops until
they came to a dead standstill--and this the British commanders most
judiciously avoided.

There was great suffering everywhere for want of water. Hunger men may
endure for days together; but a burning thirst in a tropical climate is
terrible; and when the fever in the blood becomes aggravated by such
exertions as the British army had that day made, the whole world seems
valueless in comparison with a cup of cold water. None came, however,
for several hours; yet the gallant fellows bore the privation without
a murmur; and when the following day brought them a reinforcement of
two European regiments of infantry, with a small battery of heavy guns,
they felt that they were irresistible. Nevertheless, the general, with
great good sense, gave them two entire days to refresh; he had nothing
to gain by precipitating matters. Ferozepore had been saved by the
battle of the 18th, and his communications with the place being in some
sort restored, he had time to warn Sir John Littler of his purposes,
and to prepare him for co-operating in their accomplishment. These were
the chief advantages of delay; besides that, others probably occurred
to him, namely, the opportunity which was afforded for the coming up
of the corps which had been directed to march from Delhi, Meerut,
and other stations. And on the part of the Sikhs, it was doubtless
considered that their very numbers would render a long halt on one spot
impossible for them; for no country, however fertile, can sustain the
pressure of sixty thousand men many days.

A little delay in active operations was, under circumstances,
particularly politic, for while the Sikhs were shaken in confidence
and marvelling at their discomfiture, the British lion was gathering
strength to make another and a deadlier spring.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

THE BATTLE OF FEROZEPORE.

1845.


On the morning of the 21st, the Anglo-Indian army again took the
offensive, and marched against the intrenched position of the enemy,
and the details of the succeeding events of that bloody and glorious
day are thus lucidly and modestly given still by Lord Gough.

“Instead of advancing to the direct attack of their formidable works,
our force manœuvred to their right; the second and fourth divisions
of infantry, in front, supported by the first division and cavalry
in second line, continued to defile for some time out of cannon-shot
between the Sikhs and Ferozepore. The desired effect was not long
delayed, a cloud of dust was seen on our left, and according to the
instructions sent him on the preceding evening, Major-General Sir
John Littler, with his division, availing himself of the offered
opportunity, was discovered in full march to unite his force with
mine. The junction was soon effected, and thus was accomplished one of
the great objects of all our harassing marches and privations, in the
relief of this division of our army from the blockade of the numerous
forces by which it was surrounded.

Dispositions were now made for a united attack on the enemy’s
intrenched camp. We found it to be a parallelogram of about a mile in
length and half a mile in breadth, including within its area the strong
village of Ferozeshah; the shorter sides looking towards the Sutlej and
Moodkee, and the longer towards Ferozepore and the open country. We
moved against the last named face, the ground in front of which was,
like the Sikh position in Moodkee, covered with low jungle.

The divisions of Major-General Sir John Littler, Brigadier Wallace (who
had succeeded Major-General Sir John McCaskill), and Major-General
Gilbert, deployed into line, having in the centre our whole force of
artillery, with the exception of three troops of horse artillery, one
on either flank, and one in support, to be moved as occasion required.
Major-General Sir Harry Smith’s division, and our small cavalry force,
moved in second line, having a brigade in reserve to cover each wing.

I should here observe that I committed the charge and direction of the
left wing to Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Hardinge, while I personally
conducted the right.

A very heavy cannonade was opened by the enemy, who had dispersed
over their position upwards of 100 guns, more than 40 of which were
of battering calibre; these kept up a heavy and well-directed fire,
which the practice of our far less numerous artillery, of much lighter
metal, checked in some degree, but could not silence; finally, in the
face of a storm of shot and shell, our infantry advanced and carried
these formidable intrenchments; they threw themselves upon the guns,
and with matchless gallantry wrested them from the enemy; but, when the
batteries were partially within our grasp, our soldiery had to face
such a fire of musketry from the Sikh infantry, arrayed behind their
guns, that, in spite of the most heroic efforts, a portion only of
the intrenchment could be carried. Night fell while the conflict was
everywhere raging.

Although I now brought up Major-General Sir Harry Smith’s division,
and he captured and long retained another point of the position,
and Her Majesty’s 3rd light dragoons charged and took some of the
most formidable batteries, yet the enemy remained in possession of
a considerable portion of the great quadrangle, whilst our troops,
intermingled with theirs, kept possession of the remainder, and finally
bivouacked upon it, exhausted by their gallant efforts, greatly reduced
in numbers, and suffering extremely from thirst, yet animated by an
indomitable spirit. In this state of things the long night wore away.

Near the middle of it one of their heavy guns was advanced, and
played with deadly effect upon our troops. Lieutenant-General
Sir Henry Hardinge immediately formed Her Majesty’s 80th foot
and the 1st European light infantry. They were led to the attack
by their commanding officers, and animated in their exertions by
Lieutenant-Colonel Wood (aide-de-camp to the lieutenant-general), who
was wounded in the onset. The 80th captured the gun, and the enemy,
dismayed by this counter-check, did not venture to press on further.
During the whole night, however, they continued to harass our troops by
fire of artillery, wherever moonlight discovered our position.

But with daylight of the 22nd came retribution. Our infantry formed
line, supported on both flanks by horse artillery, whilst a fire was
opened from our centre by such of our heavy guns as remained effective,
aided by a flight of rockets. A masked battery played with great effect
upon this point, dismounting our pieces, and blowing up our tumbrils.
At this moment, Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Hardinge placed himself at
the head of the left, whilst I rode at the head of the right wing.

Our line advanced, and, unchecked by the enemy’s fire, drove them
rapidly out of the village of Ferozeshah and their encampment; then,
changing front to its left, on its centre, our force continued to
sweep the camp, bearing down all opposition, and dislodged the enemy
from their whole position. The line then halted, as if on a day of
manœuvre, receiving its two leaders as they rode along its front with a
gratifying cheer, and displaying the captured standards of the Khalsa
army. We had taken upwards of seventy-three pieces of cannon, and were
masters of the whole field.

The force assumed a position on the ground which it had won, but even
here its labours were not to cease. In the course of two hours, Sirdar
Tej Singh, who had commanded in the last great battle, brought up
from the vicinity of Ferozepore fresh battalions and a large field of
artillery, supported by 30,000 Ghorepurras, hitherto encamped near the
river.

He drove in our cavalry parties, and made strenuous efforts to regain
the position of Ferozeshah; this attempt was defeated, but its failure
had scarcely become manifest when the sirdar renewed the contest with
more troops and a large artillery. He commenced by a combination
against our left flank; and when this was frustrated, made such a
demonstration against the captured villages as compelled us to change
our whole front to the right. His guns during this manœuvre maintained
an incessant fire, whilst our artillery ammunition being completely
expended in these protracted combats, we were unable to answer him with
a single shot.

I now directed our almost exhausted cavalry to threaten both flanks at
once, preparing the infantry to advance in support, which apparently
caused him suddenly to cease his fire and abandon the field.

For twenty-four hours not a Sikh has appeared in our front. The remains
of the Khalsa army are said to be in full retreat across the Sutlej,
at Nuggurputhur and Tella, or marching up its left bank towards
Hurreekeeputhur, in the greatest confusion and dismay. Of their chiefs,
Bahadur Singh is killed, Lal Singh said to be wounded, Mehtab Singh,
Adjoodhia Pershad, and Tej Singh, the late governor of Peshawur, have
fled with precipitation. Their camp is the scene of the most awful
carnage, and they have abandoned large stores of grain, camp equipage,
and ammunition.

Thus has apparently terminated this unprovoked and criminal invasion of
the peaceful provinces under British protection.

On the conclusion of such a narrative as I have given, it is surely
superfluous in me to say that I am, and shall be to the last moment
of my existence, proud of the army which I had to command on the 21st
and 22nd instant. To their gallant exertions I owe the satisfaction of
seeing such a victory achieved, and the glory of having my own name
associated with it.

The loss of this army has been heavy;[16] how could a hope be
formed that it should be otherwise? Within thirty hours this force
stormed an intrenched camp, fought a general action, and sustained
two considerable combats with the enemy. Within four days it has
dislodged from their positions, on the left bank of the Sutlej, 60,000
Sikh soldiers, supported by upwards of 150 pieces of cannon, 108 of
which the enemy acknowledge to have lost, and 91 of which are in our
possession.

[16] Killed.--European officers, 37; native officers, 17;
non-commissioned, drummers, rank and file, 630; syces, drivers, &c.,
10. Total, 694.

Wounded.--European officers, 78; native officers, 18; non-commissioned,
drummers, rank and file, 1,610; syces, drivers, &c., 12: warrant
officers, 3. Total, 1,721.

Grand total of all ranks killed and wounded, 2,415.

In addition to our losses in the battle, the captured camp was found to
be everywhere protected by charged mines, by the successive springing
of which many brave officers and men have been destroyed.”

These glorious battles were within a month followed up by that of
Aliwal--as sanguinary an affair as either of its predecessors, and,
in a military point of view, decidedly more scientific in arrangement
and execution. In one operation, it seemed a pendant to the beautiful
movement on the retreat from Burgos, when Wellington carried his army
bodily round Souham’s and placed the French general in the afternoon
in the same unfavourable position in which he (Wellington) had found
himself that morning. The action had not been expected, for the service
required had been effected without resistance.



CHAPTER XXXV.

THE BATTLES OF ALIWAL AND SOBRAON.

1846.


Though the treaty which held the British and Sikh governments in
amity provided that the Sikhs should send no troops across the
Sutlej, they were permitted to retain certain jaghires, or feudal
possessions, on the left bank, one of which comprised the town and fort
of Dheerrumcote. Here the enemy had established a magazine of grain;
and a small garrison, consisting of mercenaries, chiefly Rohillas and
Afghans, were thrown into the place for its protection. But besides
that the grain was needed in the British lines, the presence of a
hostile garrison on his own side of the stream was an eyesore and an
annoyance to the British general; and Major-General Sir Harry Smith
was directed with a brigade of infantry and a few guns, to reduce it.
He accomplished the service on the 18th of January without loss, or,
indeed, sustaining a serious resistance; and was on his way back to
camp, when tidings reached the commander-in-chief of a nature not to be
dealt lightly with, far less neglected.

It was ascertained that the enemy had detached 20,000 men from their
camp at Sobraon against Loodiana. Their objects were represented to
be, not only the seizure of that place, but the interruption of the
British communications with the rear, and, perhaps, the capture of the
battering-train, which was advancing by Busseean; and Sir Harry Smith,
being reinforced to the amount of 8000 men, received instructions to
counterwork the project. His business was to form a junction with
Colonel Godby, who, with one regiment of cavalry, and four of infantry,
occupied Loodiana; and then, and not till then, to push the Sikhs, and
drive them, if possible, back upon their own country.

Here again, the school in which he had been taught his trade was
evidence in the conduct of the commander, who proved in his hour of
trial that Peninsular instruction had not been thrown away. The Sikhs
had already shut the garrison of Loodiana in; burned a new barrack,
and ravaged the surrounding country. A creeping commander now would
have been found wanting; but Smith was a man of different mettle,
and, pushing rapidly on, a clean march brought him within twenty-five
miles of Loodiana, and with the _réveil_, he resumed his movement next
morning.

At Buddewal the enemy showed himself, occupying a connected line
of villages in front, and covered by a powerful artillery. To gain
his object and reach Loodiana, it was necessary for Sir Harry Smith
to change his order of march, and while the Sikhs, who had already
outflanked him, opened a fire of forty guns on the advancing columns,
Smith massed his weak artillery, and under its concentrated and
well-directed cannonade, broke into _échelons_, and threatened the
Sikh front, the while making a flank movement by his right, protected
en _échelon_ by the cavalry. Nothing could be more beautifully and
successfully executed than this delicate manœuvre. Sir Harry carried
his guns and baggage round the enemy--a small portion only of the
latter passing into the temporary possession of the Sikhs.

Colonel Godby, who commanded the invested garrison, having seen the
cloud of dust, moved from Loodiana; and marching parallel to the
direction which it seemed to take, found himself in due time connected
by his patrols with Smith’s advanced guard. Both corps upon this placed
themselves with Loodiana in their rear, and the enemy before them; the
latter being so circumstanced that the British army lay, as it were,
upon one of its flanks. But Smith, though he had thus relieved the
town, was unwilling to strike a blow till he could make it decisive.
He, therefore, encamped in an attitude of watchfulness, waiting till
another brigade should arrive, which, under the command of Colonel
Wheeler, was marching from headquarters to reinforce him.

Colonel Wheeler’s march seems to have been conducted with equal
diligence and care. He heard of the encounter of the 21st, and of
its results; whereupon he abandoned the direct road to Loodiana, and
following a circuitous route, went round the enemy’s position, without
once coming under fire. He reached Sir Harry Smith’s camp in safety;
and, on the 26th, Smith made his preparations to fight a great battle.
But it was found, ere the columns were put in motion, that the enemy
had abandoned their position at Buddewal, and were withdrawn to an
intrenched camp nearer to the river, of which the village of Aliwal was
the key, covering the ford by which they had crossed, and on which they
depended, in the event of a reverse, as a line of retreat. Operations
were accordingly suspended, and such further arrangements set going as
the altered state of affairs seemed to require.

On the 27th, Runjoor Singh having been reinforced by Avitabile’s
brigade, 4000 Sikh regulars, some cavalry, and twelve guns, found
himself, as he had reason to believe, in a condition to deliver
battle; and to intercept the Anglo-Indian communications, he advanced
towards Ingraon, where, early on the 28th, Sir Harry Smith found
himself in position. His right rested on a height, his left on a field
intrenchment, while his centre held ground in the immediate front of
the village of Aliwal (or Ulleéwal). The Anglo-Indian army amounted
to some 12,000 men of all arms; the Sikhs doubled them in numerical
strength, and that too was composed of the flower of their army.

The subsequent details of this glorious action may be rapidly
described. Smith boldly advanced against the Sikh position, under a
heavy cannonade, while the right brigades were getting into line. The
advance was splendid--the British cavalry driving the Sikh horsemen on
their infantry, forced the left back, capturing several guns, while
on the left of the British line the Ayeen brigade (Avitabile’s) were
deforced, and the village of Bhoondi, where the right of the Sikhs
endeavoured to make a stand, was carried with the bayonet. A general
rout ensued, the enemy pressing in confused masses towards the ford,
while every attempt they made to rally was anticipated by a charge, and
the destruction of the flower of the Sikh army was completed.

The firing began about ten in the morning; by one o’clock in the day
the Sikh army was broken and routed, the ground covered with its wreck,
and the Sutlej choked with the dead and the dying. The whole of the
artillery, fifty-seven guns, fell into the hands of the victors, and
the booty was immense; but the victors had neither time nor inclination
to dwell upon their triumphs. There was no further danger to be
apprehended here. Of the 24,000 men who, in the morning, threatened
Loodiana, scarcely as many hundreds held together; and these, after a
brief show of rally on the opposite bank, melted away and disappeared
entirely. Having bivouacked that night, therefore, on the field which
he had won, and sent in the wounded, with the captured guns, under
sufficient escort, to Loodiana, Sir Harry Smith, with the bulk of his
division, took the road to headquarters; and, in the afternoon of the
8th of February, came into position on the right of the main army,
which was his established post.

In this most glorious battle, the Anglo-Indian army had 151 men killed,
413 wounded, and 25 missing--a loss comparatively small.

The immediate consequences of the victory of Aliwal, was the evacuation
of the left bank of the Sutlej by the enemy. The Sikhs had sustained
three terrible defeats; they had lost an enormous quantity of military
_matériel_, 150 guns, and none could presume to estimate the number of
their best and bravest troops who had been placed _hors de combat_.
In hundreds the slaughtered and drowned victims at Aliwal floated to
Sobraon with the stream; but still with a _tête de pont_ to secure
their bridge communications with the right bank and the reserve there,
formidable intrenchments, armed with seventy heavy guns, and 30,000 of
their best troops (the Khalsa), they determined to defend them, boldly
held their ground, and dared another battle.

On being rejoined by Sir Harry Smith’s division, and having
received his siege-train and a supply of ammunition from Delhi, the
commander-in-chief and the governor-general determined to force the
Sikh position. Unopposed they gained possession of Little Sobraon and
Kodeewalla, and both the field batteries and heavy guns were planted to
throw a concentrated fire upon the intrenchments occupied by the enemy.
Close to the river bank, Dick’s division was stationed to assault
the Sikh right, while another brigade was held in reserve behind the
village of Kodeewalla. In the centre, Gilbert’s division was formed,
either for attack or support, its right flank appuied on the village
of Little Sobraon. Smith’s division took ground near the village of
Guttah, with its right inclining towards the Sutlej; Cureton’s brigade
observed the ford at Hurree, and held Lal Singh’s horsemen in check;
the remainder of the cavalry, under Major-General Thackwell, acting in
reserve.

The British batteries opened a lively cannonade soon after sunrise,
but guns in field position have little chance of silencing artillery
covered by strong redoubts. At nine, the attack commenced by
Stacy’s brigade of Dick’s division, advancing against the enemy’s
intrenchments. The crushing fire of the Sikh guns would have arrested
the advance of any but most daring regiments, but the brigadier
pressed gallantly on, and while the British bayonet met the Mussulman
sabre the camp was carried. The sappers broke openings in the
intrenching mounds, through which, although in single files, the
cavalry pushed, reformed, and charged. The Sikh gunners were sabred in
their batteries, while the entire of the infantry and every disposable
gun were promptly brought into action by Sir Hugh Gough.

The Sikh fire became more feeble, their best battalions unsteady,
and the British pressed boldly on. Wavering troops rarely withstand
a struggle when the bayonet comes into play, and the Khalsas broke
entirely, and hurried from the field to the river and bridge. But the
hour of retributive vengeance had arrived, and the waters of the Sutlej
offered small protection to the fugitives. The stream had risen, the
fords were unsafe, and flying from the fire of the horse-artillery,
which had opened on the mobbed fugitives with grape shot, hundreds fell
under this murderous cannonade, while thousands found a grave in the no
longer friendly waters of their native rivers, until it almost excited
the compassion of an irritated enemy.

At every point the intrenchments were carried. The horse artillery
galloped through, and both they and the batteries opened such a fire
upon the broken enemy as swept them away by ranks. “The fire of the
Sikhs,” says the commander-in-chief, “first slackened, and then nearly
ceased; and the victors then pressing them on every side, precipitated
them over the bridge into the Sutlej, which a sudden rise of seven
inches had rendered hardly fordable. The awful slaughter, confusion,
and dismay were such as would have excited compassion in the hearts of
their conquerors, if the Khalsa troops had not, in the early part of
the action, sullied their gallantry by slaughtering and barbarously
mangling every wounded soldier whom, in the vicissitudes of attack, the
fortune of war left at their mercy.

At Sobraon, the final blow which extinguished the military power of
the Sikhs, was delivered. Sixty-seven pieces of artillery, two hundred
camel-guns, standards, tumbrils, ammunition, camp equipage--in a word,
all that forms the _matériel_ of an army in the field, fell into the
hands of the victors. In native armies, no regular returns of the
killed and wounded are made out, but the Sikh losses were computed at
8000 men, and the amount was not exaggerated.

On the bloody height of Sobraon the Sikh war virtually terminated,
for, on that evening, the Anglo-Indian army commenced their march
upon Lahore. Frightfully defeated, and humbled to the dust, the once
haughty chiefs sent vakeels to implore mercy from the conqueror. The
ambassadors, however, were refused an audience, and it was intimated
that the British generals would condescend to treat with none except
the Maharajah in person.

Trembling for his capital, which nothing but abject submission now
could save, the youthful monarch, attended by Rajah Goolab Singh,
repaired to the British camp. Stringent terms were most justly exacted,
and while the rich district between the Sutlej and the Beeas, and what
were termed “the Protected States,” were ceded for ever to Britain,
a million and a half sterling was agreed to by the Sikh durbar,
as compensation for the expenditure of the war, while the Punjaub
should remain in military occupation until the full amount should be
discharged.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE BATTLE OF MARTABAN.

1852.


The treaty of Yandaboo concluded the Burmese war of 1824. By its terms,
the safety of British commerce and British merchants in Burmah was
assured, and for a long period following the termination of the war
the terms of the treaty were rigidly adhered to. By degrees, however,
a spirit of resentment against the British began to spring up in the
only half-civilised country, and in 1851 such resentment found open
expression.

In the course of that year, a Mr. Sheppard, the master and owner of
a trading vessel of Madras, complained to the Indian Government that
he had been seized, ill treated, and imprisoned by the Governor of
Rangoon, upon a false charge of throwing a man overboard, that his
vessel had been detained, and over a thousand rupees extorted from
him; adding that this was one of many acts of injustice, oppression,
and tyranny suffered by British subjects in that port. Shortly after,
another master of a British ship made a similar complaint, alleging
that he had been subjected to extortions, as well as insult and
indignity, by the Governor, on an equally false charge of murdering one
of his crew. At the same time a memorial was sent from the merchants of
Rangoon to the Governor-General of India, in which they alleged that
they had, for a long time, suffered from the tyranny of the Burmese
authorities, that trade was seriously obstructed, and that neither
life nor property was safe, as the Governor had publicly stated to his
dependants that he had no more money to give them, and had granted
them his permission to get money as they could; that he had frequently
demanded money without any pretext, and tortured the parties asked
until his demands were complied with; and that, in short, affairs had
arrived at such a crisis that, unless protected, the British merchants
in Rangoon would be obliged to leave the country.

After careful consideration, the Governor-General came to the
conclusion that the treaty of Yandaboo had been unquestionably set
at nought, that gross injustice and oppression had been perpetrated,
and that the court of Ava should make due reparation. Accordingly,
Commodore Lambert, with H.M.S. Fox and two other steamers, was at
once despatched to Rangoon to enforce this demand of the Indian
Government, and to present a letter to the King of Ava setting forth
the Government’s grounds for the taking of such a step.

Arrived at Rangoon, Captain Tarleton, with other officers, landed
to present this letter for the king to the Governor of the port.
His reception was insulting in the extreme, and an account of the
proceedings having been forwarded to the Indian Government, a further
and more emphatic “note” was sent. On receipt of this second letter,
amendment was promised to the Indian authorities. “The Great English
War-Chiefs” were informed that strict inquiry would be made into
affairs, just treatment should be accorded the merchants, and that a
fresh Governor would be appointed.

This step was taken, but the incoming Governor “chastised with
scorpions,” instead of with the “whips” of his predecessor, and things
rapidly went from bad to worse. A climax was reached when Commodore
Lambert sent Captain Fishbourne of H.M.S. Hermes with a letter stating
the precise claims of the Indian Government. Captain Fishbourne was
informed that the Governor was asleep, which was not true, and that
they must wait in an open shed until he awoke and could receive them.
After remaining for some little time, they returned to the ship without
having been admitted to the Governor’s presence.

Commodore Lambert’s reply to this latest insult was short and sharp. He
seized a vessel belonging to the King of Ava, declared the river mouth
to be in a state of blockade, and invited all persons in Rangoon who
claimed British protection to come aboard his ship. Four days later, on
the 10th January, 1852, a brisk cannonade was opened on the Fox from
a stockade on the adjacent river bank. A few rounds from the British
vessel sufficed to silence the battery, and immediately afterwards the
Fox returned to Calcutta to report the state of affairs.

The next move in the Burmese situation took the form of a lengthy and
formal remonstrance to the King of Ava, once more demanding reparation.
Regret was to be expressed for former discourtesies; ten lacs of rupees
were demanded in compensation; a respectful reception was solicited for
the incoming representative of the British Government; and finally,
the removal of the obnoxious were demanded as terms by which alone
peace could be maintained.

“If without further delay, negotiation, or correspondence, these
conditions shall be consented to, and shall be fulfilled by the 1st
April next, hostile operations shall be stayed.” Failing this, war
would be declared. “The guilt and consequences of such war will rest
upon the head of the ruler of Ava.”

In answer to this ultimatum, no concession was made by the Burmese, and
a hostile expedition was at once prepared.

The armament was to consist of troops from the Presidencies of Bengal
and Madras, with the 18th Royal Irish, 35th Royal Sussex, the 51st
Light Infantry, and the Staffordshire regiment. The whole force, some
4400 of all ranks, was placed under the command of Major-General
Godwin, a veteran officer who was engaged in the first Burmese war.
The conditions of peace were specified at the outset. Fifteen lacs of
rupees were demanded for expenses, with an additional three lacs for
every month after the 1st May. Until these payments were made, the
British troops were to remain in possession of such places as they
might capture.

General Godwin set sail with his forces on the 28th March, and reached
Rangoon on the 2nd April, where he found Rear-Admiral Austin, C.B., the
naval commander-in-chief, who had come from Penang in H.M.S. Rattler.
Martaban, which had a river line of defences about 800 yards in length,
was at once selected as the first objective of attack.

Arrangements were made for the attack on daybreak of the 5th April. The
Admiral made every disposition possible, “in waters full of shoals and
violent currents,” for bombarding the position with his five steamers,
and to cover the landing of the troops. “It was the admiration of
everyone,” runs General Godwin’s official narrative, “to witness the
noble manner in which the Rattler worked her way within 200 yards
of the wall and close to the pagoda, doing tremendous execution. I
changed from the Rattler at six o’clock, to superintend the landing of
the troops, and went on board a smaller vessel, the Proserpine, with
my staff. At half-past six the steamer opened fire, and at seven the
troops were in the boats, and landed, by the indefatigable exertions of
Commander Brooking, under a smart fire of musketry and guns. Soon was
the storming party under the walls and over them, with less loss than
I thought possible. Lieutenant-Colonel Reignolds immediately ascended
to the pagodas on the height, and took possession of them after some
skirmishing with the enemy. At eight a.m. Martaban was won, and,
considering the enemy’s position and numbers, which report gives at
5000 men, we have got it very cheaply.”

Thus tersely is the account of the first engagement of the war
rendered. By the 9th, the expedition lay off Rangoon, the principal
port on the eastern branch of the Irrawaddy. Occasional patches of
forest and rice flats surround the Burmese capital from the midst of
whose wooden houses rose in those days the Great Pagoda, a religious
edifice of both literal and figurative high-standing. Three hundred
and fifty feet has been given as the height of this edifice, and not
only was it surrounded by stockades and cannon, but, if reports were
true, its interior was loaded with vast treasure, which would make its
capture a profitable as well as honourable enterprise.

Not until Wednesday, the 14th April, were preparations fully completed
for the assault on the Great Pagoda, but the two preceding days were
spent in several severe skirmishes with the enemy. On the 12th, a
party landed from the 51st Light Infantry, Royal Irish, and Bengal
Infantry met with stout opposition from the Burmese, who had entrenched
themselves behind a stockade. After a heavy artillery fire, the place
was carried by assault, but with heavy loss to our forces. The heat was
terrific. By 11 a.m. the sun assumed such power that Major Oakes was
killed by sunstroke while working his battery, Major Griffith died from
the same cause in the act of carrying an order, and Colonel Foord was
compelled to leave the field of action.

The next day was spent in further landing operations, and on the
morning of the 14th the troops moved forward to the grand assault.

About three-quarters of a mile separated the Great Pagoda from the
south entrance of Rangoon, whence our troops were advancing. The old
road from the river to the Pagoda came up from the south gate, and
it was apparently by this road the Burmese decided that the British
assault would come. Here they had placed the enormous number of 100
pieces of cannon and a garrison of at least 10,000 men; but, perceiving
their extensive dispositions, the British commander decided on another
plan of attack.

The troops were under arms at 5 a.m., “all in as fine a temper as ever
men were.” The route lay to the north-west through thick jungle. Four
light guns, 9-pounders, their flanks protected by two companies of the
80th regiment, the rest of the wing of that corps following with two
more guns; the 18th Royal Irish, and the 40th Bengal Native Infantry
formed the advance. The 51st Light Infantry and the Madras troops
formed the reserve.

After a mile’s march, the troops came in full view of the Pagoda,
which immediately opened fire. Very soon, however, under a galling
fire from two guns served by Major Montgomery of the Madras Artillery,
the enemy’s flank was turned, and a strong position taken up by our
artillery on the east side of the Pagoda. Some time was however spent
in bringing up the guns, an operation in which the naval brigade from
the Fox rendered invaluable assistance, and meantime the enemy’s fire
wrought terrible havoc in our ranks. Sunstroke, as formerly, was also
severely depleting the British forces.

So hot, indeed, became the Burmese fire, that the General now
determined on an immediate assault. Captain Laller, the interpreter,
assured the British commander that he could effectively lead a storming
party through the eastern gate, and this bold and enterprising plan was
at once adopted.

The storming party was formed of the wing of the 80th regiment, under
Major Lockhart; two companies of the Royal Irish, under Lieutenant
Hewitt; and two companies of the 40th Bengal Native Infantry, under
Lieutenant White--Lieutenant-Colonel Coote being in charge of the
entire party.

Under a heavy fire from cannon and musket, and led forward by Captain
Laller, sword in hand, the storming party swept forward. The eight
hundred yards which separated our position from the walls of the Pagoda
was crossed in a twinkling, and, with a loud cheer, the eastern gate of
the temple was burst in, and, with ball and bayonet, the Burmese were
driven from their entrenched position.

The British loss was heavy. Lieutenant Doran, of the Royal Irish, fell
mortally wounded, four bullets being found in his body; Colonel Coote
himself was struck, and many were the dead and dying who strewed the
steep steps of the Pagoda.

“When the storming party reached the steps,” says General Godwin, “a
tremendous rush was made to the upper terrace, and deafening cheers
told that the Pagoda no longer belonged to the Burmese.”

The enemy ran in confusion from the southern and western gates, where
they were met by the fire from the steamers. Among the first to flee
was the Governor, who, with his bodyguard in tall gilt hats, beat a
hasty and ignominious retreat.

Of seventeen killed on the British side, three were officers, two
others dying of sunstroke. The wounded numbered 132. Casualties in the
fleet were 17 in all. The number of Burmese dead was never accurately
ascertained, but it was considerable. Ninety cannon and nearly as many
wall pieces were captured.

“All the country round has fallen with the Pagoda,” ran the General’s
report.

On the 19th May the town of Bassan, on the river of that name, was
captured by the British troops after a sharp struggle. After leaving a
small garrison in the place, General Godwin returned to Rangoon there
to organise arrangements for his main advance.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

THE BATTLE OF PEGU.

1852.


The next event of importance in this campaign was the desperate attack
made by the Burmese on Martaban, to recover the town which they had
lost. On the 26th May, upwards of a thousand Burmese made a violent
onslaught upon the British troops in occupation. Major Hall of the 49th
Madras Light Infantry was in command, and, after some pretty severe
fighting, during which three men of a reconnoitring party were killed,
the artillery were brought into action with deadly effect, and the foe
driven back.

Says one account:--“The British cannon-balls made literal lanes in the
seething masses of Burmese, crushing many to atoms, and dismembering
others who were unlucky enough to be in their track.” The discomfiture
of the enemy was subsequently largely augmented by shot and shell from
the British war vessels, and a total rout of the attacking party was
the result. Martaban was thus securely retained in British hands; but
the war was far from being over.

Early in July, Captain Tarleton, R.N., was ordered to ascend the
Irrawaddy with five steamers and reconnoitre the position and defences
of the Burmese in the vicinity of Prome. This town of wooden houses is
about a mile and a half in circumference, and lies on the left bank
of the river. It is surrounded by low-lying swamps which at times
are inundated by the overflow of the Irrawaddy. At a short distance
from the city the river divides itself into two streams--the left, or
western, being the deeper, and the only one navigable, except in the
heart of the rainy season. On the left bank of the navigable branch
of the stream Captain Tarleton soon decried a force of nearly 10,000
Burmese, who from a strongly-fortified bastion were preparing to oppose
his advance up the left branch of the river. Eagerly the Burmese
watched the approach of the British gunboat, which they believed would
shortly be at their mercy, as it steamed steadily forward towards the
left branch of the river, where their cannon and musketry were already
trained to receive it. Captain Tarleton, however, had no intention of
being caught in the trap. Realising the enemy’s strength, he resolved
to risk his vessel, which was of light draught, in the waters of the
eastern branch of the stream, aware that at the rainy season it would
be navigable for at least some distance. Such, indeed, proved to be
the case, and, to the astonishment of the crowds of baffled Burmese
onlookers, the little craft plunged boldly up the eastern water, and
was very soon out of range of their cannon. A few shot indeed reached
the British vessel, but no damage was done, and Prome was reached on
the 9th without further opposition. Here it was found that no garrison
had been left in charge, and after carrying off some guns, and spiking
others, and destroying all the enemy’s stores they could lay hands on,
the expedition returned to Rangoon.

On the return journey the main Burmese army was encountered crossing
the parent stream of the Irrawaddy, and a heavy cannonade was opened by
the British on the confused mass as it performed its clumsy evolutions.
Not only the state barge of the Burmese general fell into our hands,
but between 40 and 50 boats containing stores and munitions of war,
which were destroyed. After nine days’ absence, Captain Tarleton
returned to Rangoon in triumph, well satisfied with the result of his
reconnoitring operations.

On the 27th July, Lord Dalhousie, the Governor-General of India,
arrived at Rangoon on a brief visit, and expressed his great
satisfaction with the work of the troops.

Not until the 16th September were any more extensive operations
conducted by General Godwin, the interval being spent in collecting
munitions of war and transport material, and, by the gunboats, in
patrolling the river between Rangoon and Prome. On the date mentioned,
however, the embarkation began, with Prome as the objective. On the
morning of the 9th October the expedition came in sight of Prome, and
the war vessels anchored in the small bay which lies opposite the town.
Towards evening the troops were landed. A suburb to the north of Prome,
and outside the town, was chosen as the point of debarkation, as it was
known that the enemy were in force further to the south.

The landing was opposed by the Burmese with musket and gingale. From
some of the wooden houses of the suburb, from the adjacent jungle, and
from a small pagoda which faced the immediate path of the troops, a
fierce musket fire was poured upon the attacking force, and so hot did
this become that it became necessary to dislodge the unseen assailants.
Brigadier Reignolds, with Captains Christie and Welsh, with several
companies of the 80th regiment, were quickly sent forward to rush the
foe from their position--an operation which they performed with great
gallantry and with every success, one man only being killed in the
attack. The captured pagoda was retained by our men for the night,
the enemy not returning to the attack. In the morning the landing was
completed, and, on a general advance being made, it was found that the
enemy had been so severely handled in the engagement of the previous
evening that they had evacuated the place, “leaving in our possession
a town overrun with thick and rank vegetation and abounding in swamps.”

Says General Godwin of the position of our troops at this stage of the
war:--“I have been for a long time aware of the assemblage of a large
force of troops about ten miles east of Prome--nearly 18,000 men, well
posted in two or more stockades. It is not my intention to disturb them
in any way at present, as, by their concentration at that point, the
fine force now assembling here will have an opportunity of striking a
blow which may put an end to much future opposition.”

Accordingly, a different scene of operations was next chosen. The
Burmese, as early as the month of June, had occupied the town of Pegu,
capital of the old kingdom of that name, to the great distress of the
native inhabitants, who were, however, powerless to offer resistance on
their own behalf.

Pegu forms the southern portion of the Burmese empire, and by it had
been annexed in 1757. The town itself is situated some seventy miles
north of Rangoon. These marauding Burmese it was now determined to
dislodge, and to occupy the city by British arms. Brigadier McNeill of
the Madras army was selected by General Godwin to command the venture,
but the General himself accompanied the expedition. The flotilla was
commanded by Commander Shadwell.

The vessels forming the expedition dropped anchor about two miles below
Pegu, which is connected by the Pegu river with the Irrawaddy, on the
evening of the 20th November. The next morning the debarkation was
carried out without any opposition, the troops landing in high grass
jungle, and the whole country being enveloped in a thick fog.

The position of the enemy was known to the British commander, as a
previous expedition in June had enabled Captain Laller to roughly
map the country. The site of the old city, which formed the enemy’s
position, was formed by a square surrounded by a high bund, each side
of which was estimated to be two miles in length. The west side faced
the river, and a moat, between 70 and 80 paces wide, ran entirely round
the position. It was determined to force a way along the moat and
endeavour to turn the enemy’s left.

Accordingly, the advance was commenced, Captain Laller and a Burmese
leading the direction of march. The Bengal Fusiliers were in front, the
5th Madras Native Infantry followed, and the Madras Fusiliers brought
up the rear. The troops marched in file. Slowly and laboriously the
invaders crept forward, struggling for two hours through the almost
impenetrable grass and jungle along the edge of the moat, and exposed
to a warm fire from the enemy. At length a part of the moat was reached
which admitted a passage for the troops, but unhappily it was covered
by a strong post of marksmen and two guns. From this point of vantage
the enemy kept up a galling fire, and it soon became evident the
battery would have to be stormed.

Colonel Tudor, with 250 men, was ordered to drive the Burmese out, and
with a cheer the gallant little band plunged into the muddy waters of
the moat and, scaling the bank in front of them, drove the foe from
their position with cold steel. Having mastered this point, the key
of the position, Pegu did not long remain in the possession of the
Burmese. With enormous difficulty, over the almost impassable ground,
Captain Mallock brought forward his artillery, and kept down the
enemy’s fire. A short halt followed to rest the troops and collect the
not inconsiderable number of wounded. A large pagoda now lay in the
path of advance, and from this the Burmese kept up a heavy musketry
fire. Here again history repeated itself. Gallantly springing forward
with some 200 of the Madras and Bengal Fusiliers, the steps of the
pagoda were soon ascended, the foe driven out, and Pegu was ours.

The amount of the Burmese force in Pegu which we drove out on capturing
the town, was estimated at 4000 or 5000; our own troops barely amounted
to 1000 men. A garrison of 400 was left in charge, and the success of
the enterprise duly reported to the Governor-General at Calcutta. The
immediate result was a proclamation annexing the entire province of
Pegu.

Fighting, however, in the vicinity was not at an end. Day by day
unceasing, but abortive, attacks were made by the Burmese to recover
their lost position. Major Hill gallantly defended his post, but at
length it became necessary to relieve him, and an attempt was made
to bring the Burmese to a general action. Early in December, General
Godwin once more left Rangoon for Pegu, and with an army of only 1200
men proceeded to seek the enemy in his lair. After a march of a few
miles through dense jungle, their position was discovered. “They were
admirably posted behind an entrenchment; large spars formed their
breastwork, and it appeared to be about a mile long, filled with masses
of men, a few hundreds of the Cassay horse, some elephants, and a few
guns.”

On the advance of the British the enemy for a time made no move beyond
firing an occasional shot, and all ranks believed that at length the
foe was to stand at bay. On coming, however, to close quarters, the
Burmese rapidly retreated, bitterly disappointing our men, and a two
days’ further march in pursuit failed to bring them to a standstill,
and General Godwin and his forces were compelled reluctantly to return.

No further event of importance occurred in ’52, but early in the year
following, taking advantage of the unsettled state of the country, and
the quarrels between British and Burmese, numerous dacoity chiefs made
inroads here and there upon the peaceful inhabitants of the country,
raiding and killing and striking terror into the hearts of the country
folk.

Against several of these General Godwin found it necessary to direct
his forces--one in particular, a chief named Mea Toon, giving immense
trouble ere he was finally subjugated. Three times was a British
force led against--on two occasions on the 10th January, and again
later, with disastrous results to our arms. On the second occasion
he succeeded in killing as many as 50 of our men. Finally, in March,
Sir John Cleape brought the dacoity chief to bay, and after a severe
struggle, lasting four hours, in the course of which two British
officers were killed, he succeeded in overpowering the foe. The wily
Mea Toon himself, however, effected his escape, and fleeing from the
neighbourhood of Donnabew, where the engagement took place, escaped
with his immediate following. No trouble was, however, given by him
later.

The main scheme of operations now took the form of a series of attempts
to bring the main Burmese army to bay, but besides an occasional
skirmish, little hard fighting resulted, the Burmese avoiding coming to
grips.

Commenting on the state of the Burmese campaign at this period the
“Annual Register” tersely sums up the enormous difficulties which
General Godwin and the devoted troops under his command had to contend
with:-

“An army can do little,” says the official narrative, “where there are
no roads, nor adequate means of transport for artillery, and when the
enemy retires into jungles, and we have to contend against the heat of
a tropical sun varied by long periods of incessant rain.”

The end, however, was not far off. By this time the greater portion
of the Burmese was under our jurisdiction, and the ultimate and final
success of the British arms seemed to be but a matter of time. Such,
at least, was the view taken by the King of Ava, and without the
drawing up of any formal treaty he at length decided to treat for peace
by granting the concessions demanded of him. Protection to British
trade and life was definitely assured, and the British forces shortly
thereafter withdrawn.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

THE BATTLE OF THE ALMA.

1854.


Following upon their declarations of war with Russia, upon the 27th and
28th March, 1854, respectively, arrangements were at once made by the
Governments of France and Britain for forwarding a sufficient number of
troops to the East. Gallipoli, on the south side of the Sea of Marmora,
was chosen as the rendezvous, and here in due course arrived the armies
of the allies. The armies were under the respective commands of Lord
Raglan and Marshal St. Arnaud. The Turkish army, then actively engaged
with the Russians upon the Ottoman frontier at Silistria, was commanded
by Omar Pasha.

It was resolved by the three generals, after some preliminary
disagreement by St. Arnaud, to advance the armies to Varna, in
Bulgaria, and from that base to operate for the relief of Silistria,
where a Turkish force was being besieged by the Russians. Our only
present concern with the successful defence of Silistria (so that on
June 23rd, 1854, the siege was abandoned by Russia), and with the
Turkish successes upon the Lower Danube at Rustchuk, is the moral
effect which they produced in Britain. At both these places the Turkish
troops were practically led by young British officers who had flung
themselves into the enterprise without orders, and practically for
the pure love of fighting. At both these places their efforts, backed
by the unflinching Turkish soldiery, had met with signal success. The
names of Butler, Nasmyth, Ballard, Bent, and others were household
words in Britain. Men’s eyes kindled with enthusiasm as they heard of
the defeat of the dreaded armies of the Czar by a handful of mere boys,
and now that they had, so to say, tasted blood, the people of Britain
clamoured for an offensive, rather than a defensive, campaign. True,
the Turkish frontier had been successfully freed from the enemy, and
that without the co-operation of the allied armies; true, an honourable
peace might be concluded with Russia at this juncture, but both these
things, good enough in their way, were not satisfying. Through the
medium of the “Times” newspaper, then in its infancy, and in a hundred
other ways, backed by the Minister of War, the Duke of Newcastle, and
egged on by the Emperor of the French, they clamoured for the overthrow
of Sebastopol. Once let that great fortress, the stronghold of the
power of southern Russia, be razed to the ground, and a lasting peace
might be proclaimed. But no half measures would suffice. Accordingly,
the British and French Governments sent specific instructions to Lord
Raglan and Marshal St. Arnaud to proceed with their armies to the
Crimea, and to lay siege to the fortress of Sebastopol. This resolution
and these instructions saw the commencement of the Crimean campaign.

After one or two preliminary delays, the combined fleets, with the
transports containing the allied armies, arrived off the port of
Eupatoria on the north-west coast of the Crimean peninsula. Cholera
and other forms of sickness, which had been rife amongst the armies
during their stay at Varna, showed little abatement on the voyage,
as had been hoped, and many men fell victims to the dread disease.
It was found that the port of Eupatoria was undefended, but its
formal surrender was demanded, in connection with which formality an
amusing incident arose. The governor of the place, having an unfailing
respect for his own official position, and regarding the formalities
of the health regulations of Eupatoria as of paramount importance,
calmly, in the face of the allied armies and fleets, insisted upon
fumigating and disinfecting the “summons to surrender” in accordance
with the Government health regulations! Moreover, he informed the
representatives of the Powers that persons landing would have to
consider themselves in quarantine for the prescribed period!

From the few Tartar inhabitants of Eupatoria the allies were able to
buy cattle and forage, a matter of vital importance to the armies,
and after its formal surrender on the 13th September, 1854, the fleet
proceeded southward along the coast, anchoring off the Old Fort in
Kalamita Bay. The British force landed at the south of the Lake of
Kamishlee, and the French slightly to the south of them. By the 18th
all were landed, the British numbering 27,000, including 1000 cavalry
and 60 guns; Turks about 7000 infantry; and the French 30,000 infantry,
with 68 guns.

Partially overcoming the difficulties of land transport by the capture,
by Sir Richard Airey, the Quartermaster-General, of a stray Cossack
convoy (some 350 waggons were obtained), the allied armies were to
move south upon Sebastopol. It was decided they should march parallel
with the coast, escorted by their fleets on their right flank. On the
morning of the 19th September the march began. The British army took
the left, the French and Turks the centre, and the fleets formed the
right of the advance.

Between the allies and Sebastopol flow several rivers, from the high
levels of the Crimea to the sea, at right angles to the line of march.
The first of these is the Bulganak, the second the Alma.

On the march the troops suffered severely from thirst and cholera; many
men fell out from weakness also, but by evening the river Bulganak was
reached, and a force sent back to bring in the stragglers.

At the Bulganak the first sight of the enemy, in any force, was
obtained, in the shape of a body of cavalry some 2000 strong, backed by
6000 infantry with two batteries. The enemy were observing the advance
of the allies from the opposite hill on the far side of the river. For
our advance guard of four squadrons of cavalry, in marching order, to
engage so large a force in position would have been folly. Accordingly
Lord Raglan gave orders for our cavalry to withdraw--a movement
which was promptly followed by the Russian artillery fire. Several
horses were killed and two men wounded, but the manœuvre was effected
successfully, and by the time it was accomplished our main supports
were in sight. The enemy accordingly disappeared, with the loss of 35
cavalrymen killed or wounded by our artillery, now by this time brought
into action.

This was the first combat of any importance in the Crimean campaign,
and at its conclusion our troops received orders to bivouac on the
banks of the river. Owing to the proximity of the enemy, and fearing
an attack at dawn, Lord Raglan gave the command to bivouac in order of
battle. He himself passed the night in a posthouse by the riverside.

In the morning, however, the enemy was nowhere to be seen, and it was
subsequently ascertained that he had fallen back to his entrenched
position on the far side of the Alma. Early in the morning of the 20th
September, 1854, the allied armies left their position by the Bulganak
and marched forward towards the Alma. The order maintained was, in
the main, similar to that of the previous day. The fleet defended the
right, the French and Turks marched in the centre, and the British took
the left.

Now the Russian position on the far side of the Alma was a strong one.
Though the ground to the north of the river slopes down gently to the
riverside, and is covered by gardens and vineyards, on the south of the
river hills rise to a considerable height almost from the water’s edge.
This range of hills formed the Russian position.

Nearest to the sea is a hill with steep sides, so steep that the
Russian commander-in-chief, Prince Mentschikoff, the former ambassador
to Constantinople, deemed it impossible for any troops to scale them.
This hill is called the West Cliff. Joined on to it, and forming as it
were an eastern shoulder, is the Telegraph Height, so called from the
fact that at the time of the battle a telegraph line was in course of
construction upon its summit. East of this again is a valley through
which runs the main road to Sebastopol, flanked on the other side by
the Kourgané Hill. East of this again the ground slopes away more
gently.

Deeming the Western Cliff inaccessible, the Russian commander had not
thought fit to defend it, but upon the ledge which intervened between
the river and the Telegraph Height he posted four militia battalions,
with four battalions of regular infantry as supports, and four
battalions of the Moscow corps, a few companies of the 6th Rifles, and
a ten-gun battery--the whole under the command of General Kiviakoff.
These troops faced the French army. In the pass between the Telegraph
Height and the Kourgané Hill, and opposite the British second division,
were posted four battalions of light infantry, the Borodino corps,
some 6th Rifles, and a battalion of sappers near the bridge crossing
the Alma. Across the main road were 16 guns (later called the Causeway
battery), with eight other guns to the east of them. These forces,
constituting the Russian centre, were commanded by Prince Gortschakoff.
The Russian right, on the Kourgané Hill, which at the commencement
of the battle faced our Light Division (and later, the Guards and
Highlanders) consisted of 16 battalions of infantry, 2 battalions of
sailors, 12 heavy guns in the fortified embrasure of the Great Redoubt,
and 4 batteries of field artillery, one of which formed the Lesser
Redoubt; General Koetzinski commanded. In addition to these troops, the
Russian cavalry consisted of 16 squadrons, with 11 sotnias of Cossacks.
Altogether 39,000 troops, including 3600 horsemen and 96 guns.

The allied troops were disposed as follows. On the extreme right, next
to the sea-coast, were the brigades of Generals Bouat and Autemarre,
under the chief command of General Bosquet, and supported by the
majority of the Turks. On the left of these, but far in their rear,
marched the 7th Division under Camobert, and the 3rd under Prince
Napoleon, moving abreast and supported by the 4th Division under Forey,
with the remaining Turks. On the left of these again came the British
2nd Division, under Sir de Lacy Evans, supported by the 3rd (Sir
Richard England). On the left of Evans again, the Light Division, under
Sir George Brown, preceded by the 2nd Rifle Battalion of skirmishers,
and supported by the 1st Division under the Duke of Cambridge, parallel
with whom moved the 4th Division under Sir George Cathcart. The Earl
of Lucan commanded the cavalry. The constitution of the British
Divisions was as follows:--1st Division--Grenadiers, Coldstreams,
Scots Fusiliers, with the Black Watch, Camerons, and Sutherland
Highlanders; 2nd Division--30th, 55th, 41st, 47th and 49th regiments;
3rd Division--38th, 50th, 1st Royal Scots, 4th, 44th, 28th and 63rd
regiments; 4th Division--20th, 21st, 63rd, 57th, with 1st Battalion
Rifles and cavalry.

Briefly, the plan of attack was this--the French and Turks were first
to turn the enemy’s left, then the British were to attack him in front.
Advancing in the warm sunshine in the order above indicated, the allies
made a final halt before the battle at about a mile and a half from the
river, on the ground which slopes gently down to the north bank. From
this point the enemy’s position could be more or less clearly seen, a
deep scar upon the slopes of the Kourgané Hill showing the position of
the Great Redoubt.

It was at this time that there occurred, as Kinglake tells us, that
“singular pause of sound,” when a sudden stillness fell upon the allied
armies, so intense that the slightest noise could be heard over the
field for a long distance. It seemed, indeed, that fighting was the
occurrence least of all to be expected--an idea quickly dispelled by
the veteran Sir Colin Campbell, who remarked that the opportunity would
be a good one “for the men to get loose half their cartridges.”

During the carrying out of this order, the two commanders, Lord Raglan
and St. Arnaud, rode forward entirely alone to reconnoitre the enemy’s
position with their field glasses. As the Marshal neared our lines, he
was cheered by the British soldiers, and, raising his hat, he replied
in excellent English, “Hurrah for old England!”

By this time one o’clock arrived, and the general advance was sounded.
At twenty-five minutes past one, the allied fleets opened fire upon the
Telegraph Height, and the infantry massed upon the ledge at its base.
The result of this fire was that the Russian troops at this place,
under General Kiviakoff, withdrew further up the hill towards the
Telegraph.

At 1.30 the Russians opened fire. Accounts vary as to the first man
hit. Some say he was a drummer carrying a letter, and that he was
positively broken in two by a round shot. Others have it that it was
an artilleryman riding in front of his gun; but, be this as it may,
at length battle was engaged between the land forces. From this point
onward the enemy’s artillery fire was brisk, and soon afterwards the
1st Division came into range, and was accordingly thrown into line, and
the men lay down.

Lord Raglan and his staff were at this point objects of attention to
the enemy’s artillery, a heavy fire being directed at the brilliant
uniforms of the headquarters staff as they moved about the field from
place to place.

Now, as before stated, Bosquet faced the West Cliff, Camobert the
west side of the Telegraph Height, Prince Napoleon was opposite the
Telegraph Height, and Evans, the village of Bourliouk. On his left was
Sir George Brown. Suddenly the village of Bourliouk was set on fire,
no one knows how, and the immediate result was a contraction of the
British front in order to avoid the stifling smoke and heat, such a
contraction threatening to be of considerable advantage to the enemy.

Meanwhile, Bosquet’s operations for turning the Russian left had been
pushed forward, and were taking effect. His troops, in two divisions,
crossed the river respectively at its bar and at the village of
Almatamack shortly after two o’clock, and began to ascend the steep
West Cliff, encountering no enemy. On gaining the summit, however,
they were received by a tremendous fire from the Russian battery No.
4, and for a few seconds thrown into confusion. Almost identically,
however, the French artillery arrived and supported Bosquet’s force
effectively, with the result that their twelve pieces silenced no fewer
than forty of the enemy’s guns. Meantime the Russian commander, Prince
Mentschikoff, hearing of the attack on his left, moved four batteries,
seven battalions of foot, and four squadrons of Hussars towards the
threatened point, but ere they reached it he seems to have changed his
mind, and ordered a countermarch, thereby rendering this large body of
troops entirely useless at a critical period of the fight. Bosquet was
accordingly allowed to retain the West Cliff, which he had won, but was
almost entirely unsupported, and in considerable danger.

Accordingly, St. Arnaud ordered Generals Camobert and Prince Napoleon
to advance, in words which the great historian of the war has
recorded:--“With men such as you I have no orders to give; I have but
to point to the enemy,” said St. Arnaud. The advance commenced, and
was not wanting in incident. At one time Prince Napoleon was in great
danger. General Thomas, perceiving a ball coming in the direction of
the Prince, cried to him, “Take care!” and the Prince, putting spurs to
his horse, avoided it with the utmost coolness. It, however, struck M.
Leblanc, the military intendant, with the result that his leg had to be
amputated.

Now, had the advance of these two divisions been successfully carried
out, there seems little doubt that the subsequent scheme of battle
would have been considerably altered. For two reasons, however, the
French divisions halted when they had crossed the river and were about
to scale the opposite steeps. The first was that the ground on the far
side was found to be too steep for artillery, and the maxims of the
French army forbade infantry from advancing unsupported under such
circumstances. Accordingly the guns had to be sent round by the ford at
the village of Almatamack, causing inevitable delay. The second cause
was the unfortunate panic which set in, not unnaturally, amongst the
rear ranks of the divisions owing to the galling fire to which they
were exposed. The front ranks, being under shelter of the steep river
banks, were, more or less, halted in safety, but the rear ranks were
directly exposed to the Russian batteries posted on the Great Road.
The measures taken to rectify this state of affairs unfortunately
only served to aggravate it. Part of the 4th Division was sent to
support Camobert, and this, by increasing the mass of men exposed to
fire, naturally increased the slaughter which at this stage has been
described as almost a massacre.

At this time the Russians might have materially altered the aspect of
affairs by taking advantage of Bosquet’s isolated position, and by a
free use of the cavalry at their disposal. But neither of these steps
were taken.

To Lord Raglan was communicated the state of affairs on the French
side of the battle. Immediate action must be taken if Bosquet’s
successful advance was not to be nullified. For an hour and a half
our troops had been under the enemy’s fire, and had suffered heavily.
This circumstance, together with the repeated requests of the French
aides-de-camp, determined Lord Raglan, at the risk of spoiling the
symmetry of his front and of the original plan of advance, to move
forward at once.

Those present have recorded the joy of all ranks when the order flew
down the lines like magic. Nolan it was, of the 15th Hussars, who
afterwards carried the fatal order that was to decimate the Light
Brigade at Balaclava, who now bore the command down the cheering ranks,
and in a few moments the whole of the foremost British line advanced
in order towards the river. A few moments later still and Nolan had a
horse shot under him as he rode forward with the advance brigade.

Owing to the burning village of Bourliouk, Sir de Lacy Evans,
commanding the 2nd Division, had to cut his force into two parts, one
passing on the right and the other on the left of the conflagration.
The Russian fire from the Causeway batteries was heavy. Evans himself
was struck, and nearly all his staff wounded, and some indeed killed.
On the left moved forward the Light Division under Sir George Brown,
opposed to whom were the Great Redoubt and no fewer than eighteen
battalions of infantry, including the famous Kayan battalion.

Straight down through the vineyards and across the river, somehow or
other, moved the Light Division. The orders were not to halt until the
river had been crossed. It has been reported that some few men, fearing
the hail of bullets, which, by reason of their sound among the foliage,
seemed in the vineyards to be nearly doubled, took refuge in the
farmhouses which stood here and there. But such men were very few, and
soon the whole division, under Generals Buller and Codrington, stood on
the Russian side of the Alma, sheltered for a moment by the steep river
bank. Here Buller, on the extreme left, halted and reformed his men,
holding back the 88th and 77th regiments to protect the allied army
from a flank attack.

The remaining five battalions of the Light Brigade pressed forward
up the bank, and Sir George Brown himself it was, on horseback,
flushed and breathless, who first gained the summit, a mark for the
entire Russian artillery. That he remained unshot was a miracle.
Simultaneously, Codrington and the Royal Fusiliers, under Lacy Yea,
gained the summit of the river bank, and the five battalions pressed on
up the hill.

Facing them, on their right and left, were the Kayan infantry columns;
in the centre was the Great Redoubt. The Kayan columns on the British
left were soon put to flight by the Riflemen, the 19th, and the Royal
Welsh, who had joined the centre for the attack upon the Great Redoubt,
but the Kayan column on the right engaged the Royal Fusiliers in a
stubborn fight.

Terrible was the death roll as our Light Division pressed up the hill
towards the Great Redoubt. Men fell on every side. The Welsh and Royal
Fusiliers suffered heavily, and for a moment had to pause and reform.
The gallant Colonel of the Welsh Fusiliers was killed in the front of
his men, and with the words “On, lads, on!” upon his lips. Old Sir
George Brown was knocked from his horse, but rose immediately, and
remounted with the assistance of a rifleman named Hannan, who coolly
asked, “Are your stirrups the right length, sir?” Up swept the scarlet
coats, only pausing for a second now and again to reform. During one of
these pauses the Eddingtons were killed. The two brothers were in the
95th, the Derbyshires. Captain Eddington was deliberately murdered by
a Russian rifleman when lying wounded on the field, when his brother,
perceiving the act, rushed forward, in a frenzy, in advance of the
regiment to avenge him, and fell, literally torn to pieces by a storm
of grape shot. But the men pressed on in spite of all the carnage
around them, and then suddenly, as they neared the Redoubt, the smoke
lifted for a moment, and disclosed the Russian gunners limbering up
and making off. Quick as lightning, young Ensign Anstruther of the
Royal Welsh rushed forward with the colours of the regiment, and,
outstripping all, succeeded in planting them upon the parapet of the
Redoubt. A second later and he fell back riddled with shot, dragging
the colours involuntarily with him. A sergeant of the same regiment,
Luke O’Connor, seized the colours again, and planted them firmly upon
the wall of the Redoubt, when General Codrington, uncovering, saluted
the colours, and leapt his horse into the embrasure just as the last of
the enemy’s guns galloped off. In the fight no fewer than thirty-one
officers and non-commissioned officers had been killed. One Russian
gun was captured in the act of withdrawing.

By this time the 1st Division under the Duke of Cambridge, consisting
of the Guards and Highlanders, was moving to the support of the Light
Division, who thus occupied the Great Redoubt. But as yet they were
only at the river, so the Light Division found themselves isolated,
while before them were the Vladimir regiment, supported by the Ouglity
corps and others, sixteen battalions in all with horse and artillery.

In the meantime the position of affairs on the allied right, where
Camobert and Prince Napoleon’s divisions were advancing to the support
of Bosquet, was distinctly unpromising for the allies. The heavy column
under Kiviakoff had checked Camobert’s advance, and Prince Napoleon was
not yet in touch with the enemy.

At this juncture there happened that which is perhaps unique in the
history of battles. On the one side a large proportion of the Russian
army was engaged with the French attack, on the other their troops were
about to push the British down from the ground which they had so hardly
won in the storming of the Great Redoubt. In the centre, however, to
the Russian left of the Causeway batteries, there were in the meantime
no troops, and here Lord Raglan found himself in his eager pushing
forward to obtain a clear view of all that was happening.

The effect of the appearance of Lord Raglan and his staff upon the
rising ground in the centre was tremendous. The Russian right, on the
Kourgané Hill, seeing a group of staff officers in the centre of the
Russian lines, supposed that the French had been entirely successful in
their part of the field, and accordingly halted to take counsel as they
were in the act of advancing upon our unsupported troops who had won,
and were now occupying, the Great Redoubt.

Not content, however, with the moral effect of his presence, the
significance of which he fully appreciated, Lord Raglan ordered a
couple of nine-pounder guns to be brought up to him, and with these
(Colonel Dickson working one of the guns with his own hands, says
Kinglake), he opened fire upon the flank of the Causeway batteries,
and upon the enemy’s reserves. The Causeway batteries retreated higher
up the road, leaving it open for Evans’ advance; the enemy’s reserves
were disorganised, and the Russian right advance was for the moment
paralysed.

General Evans was quick to seize the opportunity. Advancing up the
road with his troops, and with the batteries of Sir Richard England,
directed by that General in person, he drove back the Russian artillery
and took up a firm stand in line with Lacy Yea and his Royal
Fusiliers, who, it will be remembered, were still engaged with the
(Russian) left Kayan battalion. The fight here was a stubborn one, and
much depended upon it, for as long as the Fusiliers could hold their
own, and keep the Kayan battalion fully occupied, our troops to their
right could take up an effective position with comparative ease. But
the Fusiliers did more. Assisted by the 55th Regiment, who had been
gradually advancing up the hill, and who now poured a flanking fire
into the Russians, they routed the Kayan battalion. This advantage
was followed up by the Guards, who passing the severely battered but
victorious Fusiliers, led the van of that second severe fight on the
Kourgané Hill, which ultimately terminated in victory for the allied
armies.

Seen at this point of the battle, the British line was more or less
continuous, and was formed as follows, from its right--the Grenadiers,
covering the Fusiliers reforming; the Coldstreams, the Black Watch,
Camerons and Sutherland Highlanders in the order named. Opposed to
them were the Vladimir columns, supported as before on either hand by
the Kayan columns, that on the British right sadly disorganised by its
sanguinary encounter with the Royal Fusiliers.

It was a battle of column against line, the Russians being commanded
by Prince Gortshakoff in person, under whom was the brave General
Koetzinski.

The fight did not last long. Deceived by the apparent numbers of
the red-coated troops advancing in line; assailed with ferocity by
the redoubtable Black Watch under Sir Colin Campbell, whose command
of “Forward, 42nd!” has become world-renowned; now stormed by the
impetuous 93rd, in the main composed of men whose eagerness to fight
had led them to exchange into it rather than be left at home; at
length roughly handled by the 75th, and unsettled by the successful
operations of the allies on their left, where the Causeway batteries
were in retreat--the powerful columns broke up after a short but
stubborn fight, in which many fell on both sides, and beat an angry and
reluctant retreat from the field of battle. Deep-throated sobs of rage
were heard as the great grey-coated columns drew off, and to the last,
General Koetzinski, borne wounded in a litter, directed the operations
of the retreat from the very rear of his defeated army.

So one after another, Vladimir, Kayan, Sousdal, and lastly the reserve
columns were driven from the field with slaughter and harried by our
horse artillery so that, in places, the killed and wounded “formed
small heaps and banks.” Of the four Russian generals in this part of
the field, three were wounded. The loss of the Kayan battalion alone is
estimated at 1700. The loss of the Guards and Highlanders together was
no more than 500 men.

Meantime in the French part of the field, General Camobert’s artillery
had crossed the Alma at Almatamack, and now, returning eastwards along
the Russian bank of the river, were engaged in shelling Kiviakoff’s
battalions on the Telegraph Height. Bosquet’s artillery fire was also
directed upon these troops, and General Kiviakoff supposed the fire
to be coming from the ships of the allied fleets. Seeing, in addition
to these calamities (for the execution done by the French guns was
considerable), the turn of the tide on the Russian right of the field,
General Kiviakoff ordered a retreat, and shortly the Telegraph Heights
were occupied by the warlike Zouaves. A few Russian riflemen, who had
for some reason failed to move, were overwhelmed by the bayonet, and,
in spite of a heavy fire from Kiviakoff’s retreating battalions, the
standard of the 39th French regiment was planted on the Telegraph
Height. Lieutenant Portevin was killed by a cannon ball in the act
of hoisting it, and later, Marshal St. Arnaud in person thanked the
Zouaves on the summit of the hill.

After traversing a couple of miles, Kiviakoff succeeded in halting his
men and in once more facing the French fire, but panic soon set in,
and a confused rabble of men, guns, and horses trailed off towards the
river Katcha.

In no part of the field was the retreat followed up to any extent; our
men were for the most part wearied, and our cavalry arm was weak, while
Marshal St. Arnaud found it “impossible” for the French army to advance
further that day. Had these things been otherwise, there is every
probability that much of the later campaign might have been curtailed,
if not indeed rendered unnecessary.

As Lord Raglan rode along the field after the fight, loud British
cheers arose from regiment to regiment, now slowly reforming, till,
says Kinglake:--“From the spurs of the Telegraph Height to the
easternmost bounds of the crest which had been won by the Highland
Brigade, those desolate hills in Crimean Tartary were made to sound
like England.”

But in spite of this, Lord Raglan was sad and thoughtful, and spent
many hours among the sheds and farmhouses where lay the wounded. In the
evening he dined with only two others in a small marquee beside the
Alma.

The allies camped where they found themselves at the termination of the
fight. The total of French losses, killed and wounded, was between 500
and 600, though a much higher figure was supplied in the preliminary
official returns. The British lost a total of 2002 of all ranks, and
the Russians no fewer than 5709, including 5 generals and 193 other
officers.

On the morning of the 21st September, the dead were buried, and a huge
mound some five hundred yards from the river marks their last resting
place. Many lives might have been saved had not the number of surgeons
and appliances been wholly inadequate. On the 22nd, the allied armies
resumed their march.



CHAPTER XXXIX.

The Battle of Balaclava.

1854.


Early on the morning of the 23rd September, 1854, the allied armies
left their camp on the battlefield of Alma, and marched northwards
towards Sebastopol. Traces of the haste in which the Russian army had
retreated were at hand on every side. Here a sword, there a pistol, a
belt, or even a tunic; the broad track, strewn with such relics, showed
clearly the path of the retreat.

At length the valley of the Katcha was reached, and the camp pitched
for the night. The advance was resumed early next morning, and about
mid-day, from the ridge of hills separating the valley of the Katcha
from that of the Baltic, the armies looked down upon their goal,
Sebastopol.

During a brief halt, Marshal St. Arnaud, whose bodily weakness was
increasing day by day, dismounted and lay upon the ground. Men noticed
that he looked sad and worn. He was, in fact, within a few days of his
death.

Here a council of war was held, and it was determined that the northern
side of Sebastopol was too strong to admit of an immediate assault, and
finally the decision was arrived at of executing a flank march inland
and attacking Sebastopol from the south. By the 26th September this
somewhat perilous movement was carried out with success, and the little
seaport of Balaclava surrendered to Lord Raglan without bloodshed. On
the same night, Marshal St. Arnaud resigned his command to General
Camobert, and three days later he died on board ship, whither he had
been carried for passage to France.

Balaclava was of vast importance to the allies, as its tiny harbour
gave them a means of communication with their fleets whilst these
were still out of the range of the guns of Sebastopol. Accordingly
the place was garrisoned by troops under Sir Colin Campbell, whilst
the main army moved northward a few miles to within a convenient
distance of Sebastopol, where they spent many days, some twenty in
all, disposing their forces, erecting batteries, and making all the
necessary preparations for a prolonged and persistent siege. Meanwhile,
the Russians busily fortified the place, glad of the unexpected delay,
since they had anticipated an immediate assault. Several of the finest
ships were sunk at the mouth of the harbour to keep the allied fleets
at bay, and works of counter-fortification went busily forward. Admiral
Korniloff and Colonel Todleben were the two chief officers in command,
Prince Mentschikoff having withdrawn the main portion of his army to
the Baltic, where he remained for a considerable period in a state of
extraordinary inactivity. By the 6th October, however, he was prevailed
upon to increase the garrison of Sebastopol to some 53,000 men.

On the 17th October, 1854, the allied armies opened fire upon
Sebastopol, and the deafening cannonade was maintained daily till
the evening of the 25th October. An account of the siege and final
surrender of Sebastopol is given in a later chapter.

In the meantime, on the 18th October, a Russian field army was observed
to be manœuvring on the allied flank and rear, and threatening the
somewhat isolated garrison of Balaclava. The defensive measures taken
for the defence of Balaclava consisted of inner and outer lines of
defence. The town and harbour themselves were protected by steep hills,
except at the gorge of Kadikoi, towards the north. Accordingly, these
hills were fortified by the marine artillery, and held by marines and
two companies of the 93rd regiment, while the gorge of Kadikoi itself
was defended by six companies of the 93rd Highlanders and a battalion
of Turks, with artillery, the whole constituting the inner line of
defence.

Now the gorge of Kadikoi opens out into a more or less level plain
known as the plain of Balaclava, a mile north of the town. It was here
that there was destined to be fought the great cavalry battle which
holds so glorious a place in annals of the British army. Right across
the centre of this plain, which is three miles long by two broad, and
hemmed in on all sides by hills from 300 to 400 feet high, is a low
continuous chain of hills or ridge dividing the plain of Balaclava
into two portions, called respectively the north and south valleys,
and carrying the main Woronzoff Road or Causeway. This ridge of hills
was known to our men as the Causeway heights, and constituted the
outer line of defence, by which the enemy might be hindered from even
penetrating to the south valley. A chain of redoubts were thrown up
along the Causeway heights by our engineers and manned by Turks. The
only supporting force available in the event of an attack was the
cavalry, under Lord Lucan, some 1500 strong, which was encamped in the
south valley within the outer line of defence.

The cavalry force consisted of two brigades--the Heavy Brigade,
composed of the Scots Greys, Enniskillens, 1st Royal Dragoons, and 4th
and 5th Dragoon Guards, under General Hon. James Scarlett, and the
Light Brigade, under Lord Cardigan, consisting of the 4th and 13th
Light Dragoons, the 8th and 11th Hussars, and the 17th Lancers. The
whole garrison of Balaclava was, as before mentioned, under the chief
command of Sir Colin Campbell.

On the evening of the 24th October, the troops of all divisions turned
in for the night as usual, little conscious of the fact that a force
of 25,000 Russians was advancing stealthily towards them from three
different directions, their object being to seize the outer line of
defence. Arising an hour before daybreak, Lord Lucan and his staff,
mounted and moving slowly along in an easterly direction, perceived,
in the dim light, two ensigns flying from the easternmost redoubt!
Instantly all was activity, for the flying of two ensigns from the
fort was the signal prearranged with the Turks to announce the Russian
advance in force. The Light Cavalry Brigade was sent forward to support
the Turks, and an aide-de-camp was despatched at full speed to Lord
Raglan informing him at once of the turn of affairs.

Says a private soldier of the Black Watch:--“It so happened that all
our regiment was in camp, and we were expecting to get that day’s
rest, but the rations were scarcely served out when the words came,
‘Fall in! fall in at once!’ I need not say that the order was obeyed
in all haste by the whole division, and His Royal Highness (The Duke
of Cambridge) and Colonel Cameron marched us off in the direction of
Balaclava.” Thus the 1st and 4th Divisions with Bosquet’s forces were
promptly despatched to the scene of action, but meantime, in the plain
of Balaclava things were happening.

The Turkish defence had not lasted long. Contrary to popular opinion,
the historian of the war extols the bravery of the Turkish troops at
this juncture, who, if they were compelled to beat an ignominious
retreat, did so at least in the presence of overwhelming numbers of
the enemy, and practically without support from our troops. In a very
little while the outer line of defence was captured, the Russian
cavalry in the meantime proceeding down the north valley towards the
gorge of Kadikoi. Here, it will be remembered, Sir Colin Campbell stood
awaiting them in person with the 93rd Highlanders.

As the foremost Russian horsemen appeared heading towards the gorge,
the eager Highlanders began to spring forward, but the angry voice of
their veteran commander held them in check, and saved them from being
cut to pieces by the cavalry in the open plain. Meanwhile the Turkish
fugitives streaming down the south valley towards Kadikoi, had been
formed up into some sort of order by Sir Colin, and together with
the 93rd they stood awaiting the Russian cavalry charge. That charge
never came. But while the steady line of Highlanders poured a heavy
fire into the advancing force, without waiting for its effect, the
Osmanlis turned and fled, falling over each other in their haste. The
Highlanders alone confronted the foe. “Remember, there is no retreat,
men!” said Sir Colin, as he rode along the line; “you must die where
you stand!” “Ay, ay, Sir Colin,” came the quick reply, and a second
later the order rang out clear and sharp, and a second heavy volley met
the advancing enemy.

It proved too much for the dreaded horsemen of the Czar, and in a few
moments they turned and retreated in confusion, another volley helping
them on their way. The strain relaxed, the victorious Highlanders
turned their faces to watch the retreating soldiers of the Sultan, and
in a moment, where had been set, stern faces and lips drawn tight, were
seen countenances convulsed with laughter and powder-stained cheeks
furrowed by tears of uncontrollable merriment.

For in their retreat past the camp of the Highlanders some of the
Turkish soldiers had paused for a second with intent, it is supposed,
to pillage. Judge then of their amazement when from out of one of the
nearest tents emerged a stalwart and furious Scottish “wife,” who
seized the nearest of the Faithful by the ear and with stout stick and
sturdy arm belaboured his back and his red trousers till the blows
resounded far and wide. Not once, but again and again did this angry
lady (“she was a very powerful woman,” said an eye-witness) belabour
the soldiers of the Sultan, and long and loud was the laughter of the
93rd as Turk after Turk fled screaming from her fury, bawling, “Ship!
ship!” as he sought a safer refuge at the harbour of Balaclava. “Then,
if ever in history,” says Kinglake, “did the fortunes of Islam wane low
before the manifest ascendant of the Cross!”

In the meantime in the other part of the field events moved quickly.
The defeated squadron of Russian horse rejoined the main body in the
north valley, and under General Ryjoff moved up to the crest of the
Causeway heights, between the captured redoubts, with the intention of
falling upon our troops in the south valley. By this time Lord Raglan
had arrived upon the scene, and from a position where he could view the
whole field observed the Turkish flight at Kadikoi. Quick as thought he
directed the Heavy Brigade under General Scarlett to proceed to their
support. As the brigade rode along the south valley in execution of
this order, they were suddenly aware of a squadron of Russian cavalry
gazing down upon them from the Causeway heights upon their left, and
about to hurl itself upon their flank. To face about was the work of an
instant, though the odds were about ten to one, and for a few seconds
our cavalry awaited the Russian charge. At a well-governed speed and in
splendid order the Russians rode down the slopes of the hill, gradually
gathering impetus to press the charge, when, from some unexplained
cause, their trumpets sounded, the pace gradually slackened, and the
whole squadron came to a standstill within some four hundred yards of
our troops, and slowly opened out their front as if to envelope our
forces.

Scarlett was quick to seize this advantage accorded to him as if by a
miracle. Turning to his trumpeter, he called out, “Sound the charge!”
and in an instant, with their gallant General several paces in advance,
the Heavy Brigade hurled themselves up the hill straight at the halted
Russian line.

The front of our “three hundred” was composed of the Scots Greys and
Enniskillens, regiments long associated with each other in battle, and
old comrades in arms. Side by side they dashed up the gently-sloping
ground, and “the Greys with a low eager moan of outbursting desire, the
Enniskillens with a cheer,” met the enemy with a terrific shock.

Well was it for the gallant General Scarlett that he had ridden
several paces in advance of his men, and, hacking and hewing his way
single-handed, had cut deeply into the mass of Russian horsemen. For
their very numbers became a source of safety instead of danger to him,
so that he was enabled completely to escape the shock of the charge of
his own devoted troops, which completely crushed the first few ranks
of the Russians. After the first fierce shock, the fighting became
individual. Here a single scarlet horseman engaged with three or
four of the enemy, preserving his life solely by the strength of his
sword-arm. There a little knot of three or four cut a pathway through
overwhelming odds. “I never felt less fear in my life,” wrote one of
the Scots Greys after the fight; “I felt more like a devil than a man.
I escaped without a scratch, though I was covered with blood.”

General Scarlett himself received five wounds, none of which was he
conscious of at the time, while Lieutenant Elliot, his aide-de-camp,
had no fewer than fourteen sabre cuts, through which he not only lived,
but lived to be returned as “slightly wounded”!

The Russians suffered heavily, as our frenzied men cut their way
through and through their overwhelming mass. Spectators have described
the awe with which they watched this devoted body of scarlet-clad
men merge themselves into the sea of Russian grey, and many thought
they must be lost indeed. But the keen and practised eye of the
commander-in-chief saw that, far from being overwhelmed, our men,
though scattered, were more than holding their own. It was indeed the
first step to victory if it could be pushed home without delay. The joy
with which the order to support “the three hundred” was received may
be well judged from the spirit of Lord Cardigan, who, with the soon to
be famous Light Brigade, was halted watching the combat, and eagerly
awaiting the order to “go in.”

“Damn those Heavies!” cried the Earl many times, as in sheer rage at
the enforced inaction, he cantered furiously up and down the lines of
his squadron; “Damn those Heavies; they’ll have the laugh of us this
day!” A spirit shared, it may be stated, by every British trooper on
the scene. But it was not to the Light Brigade that Lord Raglan sent
the order “to support,” but to the comrades of the three hundred--the
Heavy Dragoons and Royals.

With wild cheers, and a charge which developed in many places into
a neck-and-neck race, these drove in upon the flanks of the Russian
horse, and beset the sorely-pressed Cossacks at many different points.
Till at length attacked both from within, where the acting-adjutant of
the Greys, Alexander Miller, towering on his enormous horse and holding
aloft his reeking sword, was collecting his regiment with a stentorian,
“Rally, the Greys!”--attacked from without by the Royals and Dragoons,
and again charged from within by the Enniskillens--the Russian horsemen
began to back, their ranks loosened, and soon they galloped up the hill
for dear life in full retreat.

Then, as our Heavy Brigade, slowly and laboriously reformed, there
went up such a cheer from the 93rd and all who had witnessed the fight
as could be heard afar and all across the plain. A French General
exclaimed generously, “The victory of the Heavy Brigade was the finest
thing I ever saw.” Sir Colin Campbell, galloping up to where the Greys
were reforming, uncovered and spoke to the regiment. “Greys! gallant
Greys!” he said, according to one version, “I am sixty-one years old,
and if I were young again I should be proud to be in your ranks.” Nor
was this all. As General Scarlett, blood-stained from head to foot,
having cut his way from one end of the Russian cavalry to the other,
emerged upon the scene, an aide-de-camp tore up to him from Lord
Raglan, and nearly throwing his horse upon its haunches, with hand at
the salute, delivered in the ears of the regiment the chief’s gracious
message of “Well done!” which caused the hearts of all to swell with
pride and eyes to gleam with joy.

But Lord Raglan was not the man to waste precious time, and instantly
comprehending that now at once was the occasion to push home the
cavalry victory, sent two successive orders to Sir George Cathcart,
whose 4th Division was by this time approaching the scene, to at once
press on and recapture the redoubts. These orders for some reason
were somewhat sluggishly obeyed, and so great was the delay that Lord
Raglan, growing impatient, determined to use his swifter cavalry arm.

An aide-de-camp with written instructions was despatched post haste
to Lord Lucan, to order that the cavalry should advance and recover
the heights. Here again the order was misunderstood, Lord Lucan being
indisposed to move too far forward without supports, and a delay of
half an hour occurred.

Minute after minute passed by as Lord Raglan and his staff from the
higher ground swept the field with their glasses, and still no cavalry
appeared. Then all at once it was perceived that the enemy with ropes
and horses, was preparing to drag off the captured British guns.

Instantly Lord Raglan despatched the world-renowned “fourth order,” the
text of which was clear and unmistakable. It ran as follows:--“Lord
Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front, and try to
prevent the enemy carrying away the guns. Troops of horse artillery may
accompany. French cavalry is on your left. Immediate.”

To Captain Nolan--“the impetuous Nolan”--was entrusted the carrying
of this message, and many have recorded the dangerous and breakneck
speed at which he set off upon his errand, riding straight down the
steep face of the hill, turning his horse’s head neither to right nor
left, on his urgent journey to Lord Lucan. As one who had been with
Lord Raglan watching and waiting for the appearance of the cavalry who
never came, it may be readily imagined that Nolan was in a temper, and
briefly and uncompromisingly he thrust the order into the hands of his
superior officer.

Once again Lord Lucan conceived the enterprise a dangerous one, and
ventured unwisely to say so. Nolan, by this time thoroughly roused,
blurted out, “Lord Raglan’s orders are that the cavalry should advance
immediately,” and, says Lord Lucan in his narrative, pointed to the
north valley, where the Russian guns were dimly seen in battery. It is
probable, nay, almost certain, that Nolan merely waved his hand in a
general forward direction, but Lord Lucan conceived him to indicate the
north valley.

Stung by the implied reproach of his inferior, Lord Lucan resolved
to carry out the order at once, as he conceived it, and straightway
commanded Lord Cardigan that the cavalry were to advance, not, as Lord
Raglan had intended, up the Causeway heights, to recapture our own lost
guns, but up the deadly north valley, where the enemy’s guns were in
position on every side.

Well did the Earl of Cardigan know the awful danger of the task thus
erroneously allotted to him, but to Lord Lucan’s order he returned a
cheerful “Certainly sir!” and, placing himself at the head of his men,
quietly gave the order, “The Brigade will advance!”

Again and again poets and historians have placed on record the fearless
devotion to duty thus called into play, and if the advance of the Light
Brigade was one of the gravest military errors ever made, yet its
achievement forms one of the noblest pages of the national military
history.

“Gallop!” came the order, short and sharp, and as one man the 673 of
all ranks bent to the saddle, and, with Lord Cardigan at their head,
swept over the grassy sward straight to where the Russian guns stood,
backed by five and twenty thousand horse and foot.

For a moment the foe were paralysed at the awe-inspiring folly of the
British. They gasped to see the small body of cavalry, with faces set,
their chargers with manes and tails streaming in the wind, galloping
down the deadly valley to their death. Then their wonder gave place to
rage. From right and left and straight in front burst forth a sheet of
flame, and with a deafening crash the hail of lead tore through the
devoted ranks.

One of the first to fall was Nolan, who had joined the charge, a
volunteer, and right in front of the division rode with uplifted sword,
to the intense fury of Lord Cardigan, who claimed that proud position
for himself. There is little doubt that Nolan intended to change the
direction of the charge, seeing at last the full extent of the error
which had been made, but this was not to be. A fragment of a Russian
shell tore Nolan’s gallant breast, and, says Kinglake, “from what had
been Nolan there burst forth a cry so strange and so appalling that
the hussar who rode nearest him has always called it unearthly. And in
truth I imagine that the sound resulted from no human will, but rather
from those spasmodic forces which may act upon the form when life has
ceased.... The shriek men heard rending the air was the shriek of a
corpse.”

On into the pen of fire rode the Light Brigade. Saddles emptied fast,
and riderless horses, as is the manner of the poor brutes, ranged
themselves on either side of the gallant leader, Lord Cardigan, and
their hoofs thundered with the rest. Shrieks, curses, groans, and
cheers were mingled as onward, ever onward, at racing speed, rode the
brave band. Never once did Lord Cardigan turn in his saddle, but,
erect and straight, flew over the grass, and, with eyes riveted on the
crimson tunic of their leader, the gallant men followed him to death.
Down went man and horse, with shriek, with prayer, and some without a
sound, but never a pause in the devoted ranks.

“Now, my brave lads, for old England!” roared Sir George Paget, as they
dashed towards the guns; onward, ever onward, till at length the guns
were reached, and those who were left rode in behind them cutting and
thrusting at the gunners with a maniacal fury.

Lord Cardigan has described the dull wonder with which he found
himself unhit by the discharge of a twelve-pounder almost in his face,
and the next instant cutting and slashing at the men who fired it.
Eye-witnesses have described the awful sights seen after the charge; of
the charge itself few can speak with accuracy.

Says a private soldier of the Black Watch, who by this time had arrived
upon the scene:--“A Russian gunner was holding his head together. It
had been struck with a cavalry sword. He was alive, and was walking to
the front, when my comrade called out, ‘Don’t take him to the front,
take him to the rear; our doctors may make something of him.’ He was
sent to the rear holding his head together. It was often spoken of
years afterwards in our regiment.”

“I saw one of the Greys,” says the same man, Alexander Robb of Dundee,
“holding his arm that was nearly cut through. He also was able to walk.
As he was passing us he said, ‘They say the Russians are not good at
the sword, but I never gave a point but I got a parry,’ and he made his
way, laughing, to the surgeons.”

Thus were the guns taken at Balaclava. “It was magnificent, but it was
not war,” said General Bosquet. The position was untenable, and after a
few brief instants the order came “Threes about, retire!” and back rode
the shattered force--195 mounted men in all. Once more the Russian fire
broke out, and that the carnage on the return journey down the north
valley was not heavier was due entirely to the French cavalry, the
gallant Chasseurs d’Afrique. Realising the urgent danger of the Light
Brigade, they diverted the attention of the right-hand Russian battery
upon themselves, and thus doubtless preserved many lives in the ranks
of the sadly thinned six hundred.

That the whole charge of the Light Brigade was a grievous error none
could deny, least of all Lord Raglan, who angrily demanded of Lord
Cardigan, as the scattered remnant of the cavalry reformed--“What did
you mean, sir, by attacking a battery in front, contrary to all the
usages of war?” It is, however, not unpleasing to learn that, writing
privately of the charge, Lord Raglan has described it as “perhaps the
finest thing ever attempted!”

With the charge of the Light Brigade, which lasted some twenty minutes,
the battle practically ended, and about four o’clock the firing ceased.
The Russians still held the captured redoubts, and had indeed succeeded
in severing Balaclava from the main allied camps before Sebastopol, but
no strategical advantage could dim the lustre and the glorious prestige
of the hare-brained charge of Lord Cardigan and the Light Cavalry.

Lord Lucan was removed from the command of the cavalry of the “army of
the East,” and his request to be tried by court-martial was refused.

The allied and Russian losses at Balaclava were nearly equal in
number--between 600 and 700 on either side.



CHAPTER XL.

The Battle of Inkerman.

1854.


By the first week of November enormous numbers of reinforcements
reached the Russian army in the Crimea, so that not only were some
120,000 troops under Prince Mentschikoff’s command, but a corresponding
enthusiasm was awakened amongst all Russian ranks by this large
addition to their numbers. Such warlike enthusiasm received a great
impetus at this time by the arrival in camp of two young Grand Dukes,
Michael and Nicholas, sons of the Czar.

The allied troops, on the other hand, had by this time an effective
strength of some 65,000 men, and with an extended line of nearly 20
miles to guard it was apparent to all that a severe struggle for
supremacy would shortly take place.

As is so often the case in war, those upon the spot, Lord Raglan and
General Camobert, though fully aware of a large accession to the
enemy’s strength, were not so well posted as to its precise extent as
were their fellow-countrymen in France and England. In both countries
intense anxiety prevailed as to the outcome of the next engagement of
the war.

They were not long kept in suspense. The Russian plan of attack
comprised a general advance, partly a feint, upon the allied right,
simultaneous with a sortie from the city of Sebastopol. Sunday, the 5th
November, was the day fixed upon.

On the eve of the battle--the night of the 4th November--and again
as early as four o’clock on the morning of the 5th, the bells of
Sebastopol were heard ringing, and it was afterwards ascertained that
the Russian Church was bestowing her blessing upon the soldiers of the
Czar. Moreover, the clangour of the great bells to some extent covered
the sound of the footsteps of the advancing hordes as they crept
forward to the attack some hours before sunrise.

The attack was admirably planned. The extreme southernmost portion of
the Russian army, under Prince Gortschakoff, was to feint an attack
against the Guards and the French under Bosquet, thereby hindering
them from marching to the assistance of our 2nd Division under General
Pennefather, in whose charge lay the district of Mount Inkerman. Mount
Inkerman itself, the real objective of the enemy, was to be assailed by
40,000 men under General Dannenburg. To the north again, the Sebastopol
garrison was to effect a further diversion, engaging the allied left.

Upon the 2nd Division then was to fall the brunt of the fight, for
the possession of the high ground of Mount Inkerman would enable the
Russians to overlook their besieging enemy, hamper their operations,
and, in all probability, compel them to abandon the siege.

On the afternoon of the 4th, General Pennefather, who commanded the
2nd Division, in the absence through illness of Sir de Lacy Evans,
going his rounds as usual, observed a somewhat increased activity on
the part of the enemy, but not of such a nature as to warrant other
than ordinary vigilance. Towards evening a thick mist and heavy
drizzle set in, and the outlying pickets on Mount Inkerman strained
their eyes through the mist and darkness for a possible glimpse of the
enemy. Captain Sargent, indeed, of the 95th, regarded the night as
being specially favourable to an attack by the enemy, and increased
the vigilance of the picket under his command, reloading some of the
wetted rifles with his own hands. Towards four o’clock there rang
out the pealing of the Sebastopol bells aforementioned, and several
men reported that they distinctly heard the rumbling of waggon or
gun-carriage wheels during the early hours of the morning.

With all these premonitions, however, the attack came suddenly, so
favoured were the enemy by mist and darkness.

Shortly after the changing of the pickets, and just as day was
breaking, a sentry of the outermost picket on Mount Inkerman stood
straining his eyes to pierce the mist that lay around him dim and
silent. Suddenly it seemed to him a part of it towards the Shell Hill
became darker than the rest, and then slowly began to move towards him.
The sentry rubbed his eyes, thinking he must be dreaming, but sure
enough the dark patch moved slowly up towards him out of the ravine,
making never a sound, so thick and deadening lay the mist. Instantly he
dashed off to his officer in command, Captain Rowlands, and reported
his suspicions, and together in the now rapidly-clearing mist they
beheld the approach of not one, but two Russian battalions in array
of battle. Bang! rang out the picket’s fire, and firing obstinately,
disputing every inch of the ground, it fell back before the now
rapidly-advancing foe. The Inkerman engagement had begun.

Quickly the sound of firing roused the camp, and a battery was at once
established on a shoulder known as Home Ridge, to check the enemy’s
advance by firing more or less at random into the mist. Shortly
afterwards, Lord Raglan and General Camobert appeared on the scene and
placed an increased battery at General Pennefather’s disposal.

By intermittent firing, stubborn resistance, and occasionally a bayonet
charge, the advancing Russian columns were thrown back behind their
guns, which were by this time posted on Shell Hill.

The respite was not for long. A force of more than 10,000 Russians
under General Sornionoff in person next swarmed up in front of
Pennefather’s devoted troops now slightly augmented by General Adams
and the 41st regiment. Again and again did overwhelming masses of
Russians pit themselves, with hoarse cries, against numerically
insignificant bodies of our troops. Reports have it that the Russian
soldiers had been sent into battle inflamed by large quantities of raw
spirit, and certainly the extraordinary violence and pertinacity of
their attack tends to support this belief. Be this as it may, their
most determined onslaughts proved unavailing. With sword, bayonet, and,
where the brushwood was too thick to admit of hand-to-hand fighting,
with rifle ball, did our brave fellows drive them back, and many a
Victoria Cross was won in the detached, but none the less effective
fighting of this the first stage of the long Inkerman fight.

Here was Townsend’s battery lost and recaptured. Here Lieutenant Hugh
Clifford won his cross “for valour,” leading some seventy men right
into the heart of a column which threatened to turn his flank. Here
Nicholson and many another gallant officer was killed; whilst, in this
part of the field, Colonel Egerton, with some 260 men, totally routed
and relentlessly pursued 1500 of the famous Tomsk regiment.

Kinglake tells the story briefly:--“‘There are the Russians, General,’
said Egerton to General Buller, as the great grey mass loomed before
them in the mist; ‘what shall we do?’ ‘Charge them!’ retorted Buller
tersely. And charge them he did with a will, hurling them down the
hillside with loud hurrahs, and following their confused and broken
ranks with sword and bayonet.”

Thus again were the Russians beaten back from the slopes of Inkerman,
and in the melee General Sornionoff himself was killed.

The next attack came from another quarter, but still the brunt of the
fighting fell on Pennefather’s troops.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the field, the Russians had carried out
their admirable and well-laid plan of attack. Gortschakoff’s forces had
threatened Bosquet and the Guards who were opposing him. The Duke of
Cambridge, however, who commanded in that part of the field, was not
long deceived by the feints of the enemy. Leaving only the Coldstreams
to face Gortschakoff (and withdrawing even these before long), he
hurried the Grenadiers and Scots Fusiliers to Pennefather’s assistance.
Bosquet also perceived Inkerman to be the real point of attack, and
while still facing Gortschakoff with his troops, held them in readiness
to march thither should the need arise, as it very soon did.

Sir Colin Campbell’s forces, however, were detained near Balaclava in
a state of inaction, to protect that important port; as it happened an
unnecessary, but very wise, provision.

Says one of the garrison under Sir Colin:--“We remained in the trenches
under arms for three or four hours. The whole Balaclava force was
under arms in the same manner, while Sir Colin was riding along the
line of trenches and keeping an eye on the enemy in front, which (sic)
appeared to be threatening an attack on us. We heard a heavy musketry
fire from the front, and it was well on in the day before it slackened,
and the enemy were seen to move backwards, out of sight--all but their
sentries. We remained the same, however, not knowing what was up.”

On the Sebastopol front, on the other hand, nothing of importance
happened till, between nine and ten o’clock, a resolute sortie under
General Timovieff took place, and the attention of Prince Napoleon was
so occupied with this attack, which at one time met with some measure
of success, that his troops were unable to reach Mount Inkerman in time
to take part in the main fight.

Thus it will be seen that in this part of the field the enemy attained
his object and made a successful division. All other troops available
were despatched with speed to the scene of the main action on Inkerman.

Of Mount Inkerman itself it may be said that it is in the shape of
a long narrow triangle, with base towards the Russians and joined
towards the Chersonese by its apex to the high ground of the British
camps--this narrow neck being known as the Isthmus. Shell Hill forms
its highest point, whilst on either hand, but nearer the allied camp,
are lesser heights or shoulders called respectively Home Ridge and
English Heights, and lying north and south of the central peak of Shell
Hill, and separated from it by a ravine. A lower ridge between these
two was called the Fore Ridge, upon which at either end were the slight
defences of the Barrier and Sandbag Battery, both destined ere long to
become famous--“the scene of one of the bloodiest combats in history.”

For now once more the Russians swarmed up in front of our already
hard-pressed outposts, the clearer atmosphere revealing their true and
overwhelming numbers.

By this time the Grenadiers and Scots Fusiliers, under the Duke of
Cambridge, were rapidly approaching. And now began that terrific
struggle over the Sandbag Battery which resulted in that comparatively
worthless entrenchment, situated as it was some yards in advance of
the British position, being taken and retaken many times with awful
slaughter on both sides.

Pennefather’s brave fellows, General Adams and his brigade, the Guards,
and some of the French infantry waged in turn a fierce war round the
comparatively worthless position, and soon its shallow trench was
heaped with dead and dying. Time and again the Russians would sweep
into the battery, with murder in their eyes and brain, and bayonet any
hapless wounded left behind perforce by our outnumbered men. A few
brief moments would elapse, our gallant fellows would re-form, and,
tooth and nail, with cold steel and even fist to face they would drive
out the invader and hunt the Russians down the slope, thence only to
return with dogged pertinacity again and again to the assault.

The 56th Westmoreland, the 41st Welsh, the 49th Herefordshire, the 20th
and 95th, the Grenadiers, Scots Fusiliers and Grenadiers again--each
in turn occupied for varying intervals of time the worthless battery,
and then were either forced by weight of numbers to retire or else
abandoned the battery themselves, having discovered its incapacity for
shelter. Seven times in all was the battery captured by the Russians,
and seven times retaken by our men.

Says the great historian of the war:--“The parapet of the Sandbag
Battery--it stands to this day--(1869) is a monument of heroic devotion
and soldierly prowess, yet showing, as preachers might say, the vanity
of human desires. Supposed, although wrongly, to be a part of the
British defences, and fought for, accordingly, with infinite passion
and at a great cost of life by numbers and numbers of valiant infantry,
the work was no sooner taken than its worthlessness became evident,
not indeed to the bulk of the soldiery, but to those particular troops
which chanced to be posted within it.”

And so the mistaken fight raged on, and heavy indeed were the losses
around the fateful battery. The dead lay around in heaps.

Here General Adams died, his ankle shattered by a Russian bullet, and
General Torrens was here so grievously wounded that he died later. As
he lay upon the ground, General Sir George Cathcart rode down to him,
crying, “Well and gallantly done, Torrens!” only to fall himself within
the hour, a bullet through his heart.

Many are the gallant deeds and hairbreadth escapes recounted from this
quarter of the field. The Duke of Cambridge only escaped being cut off
by the Russians through dint of hard riding, a horse being killed under
him and a bullet grazing his arm. Here Burnaby and his brave little
party were some moments surrounded on every side, and only rescued
by the French 7th battalion of the line; and here and there “General
Pennefather’s favourite oaths could be heard roaring cheerily down
through the smoke” as he galloped from point to point, encouraging
his men wherever the stress was greatest. It was at this time a horse
was killed under him, throwing him to the ground in its fall, and men
smiled amid the slaughter as they heard the old General “damning” the
Russian gunners with all the fervour of his years!

On both sides reinforcements were hurried up continually, and regiment
after regiment distinguished itself. “Men! remember Albuera!” rang out
the voice of young Captain Stanley of the 57th, as a bullet tore its
way into his heart, and his devoted company sprang forward over his
body, upholding to the last the splendid tradition of the “Die Hards.”

At length, about 8.30, the vast hordes of General Dannenburg were
pressed back, and something of a lull occurred. The British still held
their ground, but with a frightful loss of nearly 1500 men.

From this time forward the Russian attack was mainly directed at the
Home Ridge, and for a while it prospered. In this part of the field the
allied forces consisted of some 2000 British, with a regiment of French
and a small body of Zouaves, who had joined the Inkerman fight without
orders, and for pure love of fighting. Most opportune was the moment of
the arrival of this little body of troops, for without hesitation they
hurled themselves at a Russian force which in the first brief moments
of the onslaught had captured three British guns in advance of the
position, and triumphantly restored them to their owners. Kinglake has
declared his belief that they were led by Sir George Brown in person,
who had discovered them wandering leaderless in a remote portion of the
field.

Meanwhile the main body of the Russians advanced, covered by the heavy
fire of their artillery on Shell Hill. So heavy indeed was this fire
that Lord Raglan and the headquarters staff were in serious danger by
reason of it. As Lord Raglan was directing the movements of the troops
from the rear of the British lines, a round shot tore the leg off
General Strangeways, with whom he was conversing. Without a cry the old
man begged to be assisted from his horse, for he did not lose his grip
of the saddle, and was led tenderly to the back of the fight, where he
died--a veteran soldier of Wellington’s. At the same instant a shell
burst, blowing the horses of two more staff officers to pieces, and
splashing the headquarters staff with blood.

Lord Raglan had been too often under fire to be in any way perturbed
by these events, and never for an instant did he relax his grip upon
the battle. It was well indeed that he did not, for the Russians were
making headway, and at this critical juncture, the 7th Léger, a young
French battalion, showed signs of weakening. The French officers,
however, never lacking in bravery, beat their men back into line, and,
mingled with the remnant of the 56th, literally shoulder to shoulder,
the French and British faced, and ere long worsted, the foe.

Back and forwards raged the fight at the Barrier. Now the Russians were
in retreat; now for want of fresh troops to press the victory home the
pursuit weakened, and they rallied and returned; now they were driving
our men back, and all the while their artillery from Shell Hill poured
down a pitiless rain of lead upon our wearied troops, and sometimes
even on their own front ranks, so close and intermingled was the
fighting at this point.

Lord Raglan, ever upon the alert, beheld the weakening of our tired-out
forces, and sent a staff officer post haste to Bosquet, bidding him at
once bring up supports in force. Meanwhile, as at the Alma, here Raglan
changed the whole aspect of the fight by the sudden bringing into
action of two guns.

“Bring up two 18-pounders!” came the order, and with crack of whip
and mingled oaths and cheers, two of these, our most powerful pieces
of ordnance, under the command of Colonel Collingwood Dickson, were
placed in position on the ridge, and soon the thunderous fire of nearly
a hundred of the enemy’s cannon became intermittently punctuated with
the deep roar of the 18-pounders. Shot after shot from these massive
guns tore whistling across the intervening valley and ploughed their
deadly way through flesh and blood, here wiping out a group of Russian
gunners, here dismounting a gun, there blowing up an ammunition waggon,
till in a brief half-hour the formidable artillery on Shell Hill began
to slacken fire.

Many a British gunner was killed in this artillery duel, for the
Russian fire was of course drawn against their new assailants, but
eager volunteers pressed forward, and the guns were well and nobly
served. So good in fact was their practice, and so great the havoc
they wrought amongst the Russians, that Colonel Dickson’s battery was
specially mentioned in the official records of the battle “for its
distinguished and splendid service.”

After the distress put upon the Russians by the “18-pounder”
battery--one shot of which narrowly missed Prince Mentschikoff and
the two young Grand Dukes, who were watching the fight from the rear
of the Russian position--the end was not long in coming. Led by their
“vivandière, gaily moving in her pretty costume, fit alike for dance or
battle,” the Zouaves made a dash forward, and hurled themselves upon
the enemy with the bayonet. At this moment a number of the Coldstreams
joined the Zouaves, and together rushed into the fray. The luckless
Russians turned to flee, but soon found themselves hemmed in by the
dead-strewn parapet of the Sandbag Battery. The victorious French and
British drove them back as sheep are driven to a pen, and slaughtered
all they could lay hands on. The Zouave standard was planted above the
embrasure, heaped about with bodies.

From now onwards the war was carried into the enemy’s lines. Finding
the Russian artillery fire dwindling, our troops at the Barrier pressed
forward. Step by step, in little knots and companies, our men pressed
up the hill, and many a gallant deed was done in this the final stage.

Lieutenant Acton of the 77th rushed forward for some few moments with
only one private soldier of his company, to the capture of a Russian
battery. An instant later, the whole body followed their brave and
impetuous leader, and pressing up the hill reached the battery only in
time to see the last gun limbered up.

Here a knot of British would fling themselves upon a company of
Russians with the bayonet, and heavy slaughter on both sides would
result, but ever upward and forward pressed the victorious advance,
the men faint with hunger but vigorous in pursuit, while the French
engaged the Russian forces in the flank. Suddenly it was observed
that the Russian batteries were being withdrawn in haste, and General
Codrington, watching the fight from the far side of Careenage Ravine,
glanced at his watch and found the time to be a quarter to one.

By one o’clock, in fact, the battle was practically over, for there was
no pursuit worth mentioning, General Camobert, himself wounded in the
arm, declining to throw French troops too far forward unsupported--an
omission which he afterwards deeply regretted. Prince Mentschikoff was
furious when he beheld the soldiers of the Czar in full retreat, and
angrily asked General Dannenburg by whose orders the retreat was taking
place. The General’s answer was short and sharp--retreat was necessary
to avert disaster! Long and bravely had the Russian soldiers fought,
but more than that they could not do.

By three o’clock Mount Inkerman was freed from Russian troops, and Lord
Raglan and General Camobert rode side by side over the bloodstained
field, strewn with the dead and dying of three nations; and Kinglake
tells how the British commander-in-chief himself held up, with his one
hand, the head of a wounded Russian soldier, parched with thirst, and
begged water from his staff for the unhappy foeman. But there was no
water on Mount Inkerman, and the poor wretch had to endure for many
hours ere succour came.

Nearly 11,000 Russians lay dead upon the slopes of Inkerman--256
officers being amongst the killed; 2357 British were put out of
action--597 being killed, 39 of the number being officers. Indeed, the
ten British Generals on the field were either killed, wounded, or had
their horses shot under them in action--Lord Raglan alone escaping
unscathed. Days were spent in burying the dead.



CHAPTER XLI.

THE SIEGE OF SEBASTOPOL.

1854-55.


Experts have declared that had Sebastopol been assaulted within two
days of the battle of the Alma, it would have fallen an easy prey to
the allied armies of France and Britain. History has shown, however,
that this was not done, and that instead, Sebastopol was attacked from
the south--the side remote from the Alma; and even at this point not
until many days had elapsed.

The time thus granted to Russia was not wasted by those of her subjects
who garrisoned the beleaguered town. Under that prince of engineers,
Colonel de Todleben, defence works were constructed with an almost
superhuman activity, whilst the harbour mouth was blocked to the
allied fleet by the simple expedient of sinking Russian ships of war
across the bar. This desperate measure was long opposed by many in the
councils of Sebastopol, but once decided upon it was promptly carried
out. It has been reported that many Russian sailors wept as they
watched their finest ships of war settling down in the green waters of
the Sebastopol roadstead, and it may be well believed that this was
so, for the love of the sailor for his ship is proverbial. The Russian
sailors showed no ignoble grief.

The roadstead of Sebastopol may be likened to a letter T, the top part
of which constituted the roadstead proper, and the vertical portion
the “man-of-war” harbour. The Sevemaya, or north part of the town, was
built along the top of the roadstead, and consisted almost entirely
of fortifications. To the west of the man-of-war harbour lay the town
proper, while to the east of it was the Karabel Faubourg, or suburb. At
the extreme eastern end of the roadstead flows in the Tchemaya River.

This, then, was the town to be defended by Russia against an assault
from the south. Accordingly a semi-circle of forts was erected from
a point half-way between the man-of-war harbour and the mouth of
the Tchemaya; touching at its centre the southernmost point of the
harbour mentioned; and having its other extremity on the sea coast at
the entrance to the main roadstead, where the sunken ships defended
the waterway against the approach of the allied fleets. The main
forts on this semi-circle were eight in number, from east to west in
order comprising the Little Redan, the Malakoff, the Redan, Flagstaff
Bastion, the Central Bastion, the Land Quarantine Bastion, the Sea
Quarantine Fort, and Artillery Fort--the last named being within the
semi-circle of defence, to the east of the Sea Quarantine Fort.

These works of defence the Russians now toiled at day and night
unceasingly.

Meanwhile the allies, having decided upon an extensive siege, in
preference to an instant assault, actively pressed forward their siege
works. Great difficulty was encountered by the engineers in their task
of bringing their stores and battering trains some six or seven miles
from the coast to their required position, the means of transport being
poor. The heavy Lancaster guns had to be dragged overland by many
sailors “tallyed on” to drag ropes, and progress was slow. Work in the
trenches was heavy.

Eventually, on the morning of the 17th October, the first bombardment
of Sebastopol commenced, the heavy Lancaster battery opening fire about
6 a.m. The noise was terrific, for very soon both allies and Russians
were engaged in a tremendous artillery duel. The earth shook, dense
volumes of smoke hung over Sebastopol and about the allies’ batteries,
and shot and shell flew screeching through the air. About midday, when
the fleets joined in, the din was redoubled.

On both sides losses, both in men and armament, were severe. Some would
serve the guns; others, with pick and spade, would, under heavy fire,
repair breaches in the earthworks; others would rush hither and thither
with pails of water to extinguish fires which now and again broke out
in the timber of the batteries; others again bore off the wounded on
litters to a place of safety--but each and all worked with a will, and
never for an instant did the terrific fire slacken.

Now and again the smoke would lift for a moment, and some measure of
the damage done on either side would be hastily gauged. Great bravery
was displayed by besiegers and besieged, and humour as usual found its
way into such an incongruous place. “I say, lads,” said a young Scot,
one of the redoubtable Black Watch; “I dinna think there’ll be many
kail-pots boiling in Sebastopol the day!” Nor were there!

The Russian admiral, Korniloff, over and over again exposed himself to
shot and shell as he rode round from point to point of the defences,
and at length so often was he bespattered with sand and stones thrown
up on all sides from the earthworks, that he handed his watch over to a
courier, telling him to give it to his wife. “I am afraid that here it
will get broken,” he added, humourously.

Before eleven o’clock the brave man had breathed his last. As he was
descending the Malakoff after taking fresh instructions to the gunners
of that fort, a shell tore his left thigh, and sadly his aide-de-camp
and others bore him to the hospital. There, stretched upon a mattress
of agony, the somewhat inaccurate news was brought him that the British
guns were at length silenced, and with his last breath he cried
“Hurrah!” dying, as he had lived, a brave man and noble foe.

Meantime in the French part of the field of action disasters had fallen
thick and heavy. A well-directed Russian shell about nine o’clock
burst in a French magazine on Mount Rodolph, the French main battery
of attack, and with a terrific noise, heard even above the thunder
of the arms, the men surrounding it were lifted sky high, the bodies
falling round in dozens. A second explosion in the French lines just
afterwards, silenced their land artillery for the day, the attack being
maintained by the British artillery and by the allied fleets.

About half-past one the French fleet opened fire from no less than six
hundred guns--the Quarantine Sea Fort being the chief object of attack.
Soon the other forts towards the sea were engaged by both navies, and
awful havoc resulted on both sides.

All through the long October afternoon the battle raged, the cannonade
from the sea being in the estimation of Admiral Dundas, the British
commander, “the heaviest that had ever taken place on the ocean.” Here
again both sides suffered heavily, but the forts in the main suffered
less than the vessels, many of which were greatly disabled, the Albion
and Arethusa being completely crippled. The Rodney ran aground under
the eye and well within the reach of Fort Constantine, and from her
position right under the Russian guns maintained an obstinate fight
till between six and seven, when the fleet hauled off and the naval
bombardment was abandoned in the rapidly-fading light.

Little execution had been done by the fleets, but the disaster
sustained by them was heavy, the British and French losing no fewer
than 500 men killed and wounded, and moreover, failing in their attack.

Meantime, though the French batteries were out of action, the British
land forces were making progress, and soon it became impossible for
the Russians to repair the breaches in the embrasures of the Redan,
though officers and men bent their backs alike to the work. Then, too,
by reason of the heavy fire, the infantry supporting this important
work fell back, and for a while the Redan was left defenceless, but the
advantage was not pushed home before night fell and firing ceased. The
turn of the Redan came later.

More than 1000 Russians had been killed in this first day’s
bombardment, with but trifling advantage to the allies, so for the
next few days the French proceeded to strengthen their attack, while
the British batteries kept down to some extent the Russian fire.
Thus matters stood till the morning of the 25th October, when the
allied rear attacked at Balaclava, and again, some ten days later, at
Inkerman, on the 5th November.

In both these contests the Russians lost heavily, but still the assault
of Sebastopol was postponed, and it soon appeared that a Russian winter
would have to be faced.

Life in the besieging trenches now became monotonous. Duties, as
before, consisted of employment in working and covering parties,
sharpshooting and picket work, and the long and dreary days were spent
when off duty in one form of diversion and another, and many amusing
incidents have been recounted, and many tales of suffering nobly borne
been told.

A glimpse of the life of a private soldier at this time is very
graphically recounted by one of the 42nd. Says this man in his
published record:--“The dismal time now commenced, for with digging
and picking in the day time, and strong pickets at night, on poor
rations, our clothing worn out and verminous, and the nearly worn-out
bell tents to sleep in, on the cold bare ground, we were getting
less in number every day. As the trenches were formed we had to lie
in them at night for the purpose of reinforcing the picket till the
remainder turned out. We always had our rifles loaded, even the men in
the tents, and false alarms were frequent. Even the poor rations were
not half eaten. The pork and salt beef could be seen piled up at the
tents untouched.... But the commander-in-chief allowed us two rations
of rum a day, and one extra on night duty.” “In the tent to which I
belonged,” says the same man later, “to keep us from lying on the cold,
wet mud, we got stones and lay upon them; they were better to lie on
than the wet ground!”

Day by day the sound of the big guns reverberated through the camp,
and day by day the victims of fever, dysentry, and shot and shell
were borne to the hospitals at Kadikoi and Balaclava by the bandsmen
and pipers, who were told off to this melancholy duty. An occasional
reconnoitre in the intense frost of the Russian winter laid many a poor
fellow low with frostbite, and with these and the aforementioned causes
the hospitals soon grew full. The medical staff worked nobly, but were
wholly inadequate, both in numbers and equipment, to cope with the
enormous multitude of sick and wounded.

The worst cases were sent by ship to Scutari, where overcrowding also
prevailed, in spite of the utmost efforts and the noble devotion of
Miss Nightingale, at this time not long arrived from England.

“As I was going along the passages” (of the Scutari hospital), says
a private soldier, “which were full of patients, the rooms also
being full, I was beginning to think no one cared for me, when a
pleasant-looking lady approached and asked what was the matter with me,
calling an orderly to get me into a bed. I was frequently visited by
the lady, who was no less a person than Miss Nightingale.”

So in the camp and in the hospital the winter wore away with but two
outstanding incidents; the great hurricane of the 14th November, and
the engagement on the night of the 20th November at the “Ovens.”

The hurricane of the 14th November did incalculable harm to all
combatants. An hour before sunrise on that day the air was calm, and
the wind had fallen after heavy rain the previous night. Suddenly a
violent hurricane arose, accompanied by thunder, lightning, and sleet,
and instantly all was pandemonium. Large trees were torn from their
roots, practically every tent in the allied armies was blown flat,
while roofs were carried away from houses in Sebastopol. Vast stores
of forage were destroyed, and accounts state that at least one man was
swept off his feet, and carried some twenty yards by the sheer force of
the wind! All day the elements held sway until evening, when the storm
abated as quickly as it had arisen, and an intense calm prevailed, the
stars shining out upon the miry, stricken camp.

Among the horses and the shipping the casualties were heavy, and the
loss sustained by the cyclone of the 14th was not repaired for many a
long day.

The story of the capture of the “Ovens” is inseparably connected with
the name of Lieutenant Tryon of the Rifle Brigade, who lost his life
in the engagement. The “Ovens” comprised a series of old Tartar caves
and stone huts long since untenanted, but now used with deadly effect
by Russian riflemen as “cover,” whence they could annoy the French
working parties. Becoming in course of time unbearable by reason of the
accuracy of their fire, it was determined to dislodge them, the task
being entrusted to Lieutenant Tryon and some men of the Rifle Brigade.
Feinting an open attack with half his men, Tryon, on the night of the
20th November, crept with the other half, stealthily upon the Russians,
surprised them into a retreat, and established himself in the very
caves which the Russians had vacated. Their retreat was not for long,
and very soon they returned in overwhelming numbers to the attack,
and three times were they repelled by Tryon and his gallant band.
Eventually “supports” arrived to the Rifles, and the “Ovens” were held
by our men, to the great admiration of the French. Tryon, however, was
mortally wounded by a Russian bullet.

After the affair at the “Ovens” the dull routine went on as before, and
sickness did its deadly work amongst the armies of the three combatant
nations.

The British Government seemed wholly unable to cope with the
requirements of its army in the Crimea, and the tale of the winter’s
misery has been told by many. The improper food, wretched shelter,
inadequate clothing, and deficient medical supplies have been
emphasised by hundreds, and small wonder that privation and disease
wrought as terrible havoc as did the shot and shell of the enemy.

Towards the end of December, an improvement began to be effected. The
women of Britain, from the Sovereign downwards, toiled unceasingly to
remedy the defective clothing and increase the comfort of the soldiers,
and moreover, wooden huts were erected in place of the now worn-out
tents, so that by the arrival of spring the troops were in a better
position to carry on their arduous work. Moreover, fresh troops were
constantly arriving, and Sardinia furnished a powerful contingent to
her new made allies of France and Britain.

Still, with all these advantages, the awful monotony of the siege
weighed upon the stoutest of our men, and any diversion was eagerly
welcomed.

On the 2nd March, 1855, the Emperor Nicholas died, worn out, it has
been said, in body and soul by the protracted struggle in the south
of his dominions, and, in particular, by the reverses sustained by
his troops in Eupatoria at the hands of the Turks. But the death of
the Czar had little effect upon the war in the Crimea. His successor,
Alexander, prosecuted the defence with unabated energy. In May an
expedition to Kertch harassed the Russians considerably, while the
newly-arrived Sardinians, in conjunction with the French, obtained a
signal success on the Tchemaya.

These were, however, but side issues, and the main armies maintained
their dreary watch upon Sebastopol, where work and counterwork, mine
and countermine, employed the ingenuities of the engineers of both
nations.

The appearance of Sebastopol at this time has been ably shown by Mr.
Conolly in his history of the Royal Engineers:--

“Parallels and approaches now covered the hills, and saps daringly
progressed in front; dingy pits filled with groups of prying and fatal
marksmen, studded the advances and flanks; caves were augmented in size
and number in the sides of the ravines to give safety to the gunpowder,
... while new works were thrown up in front to grapple with the sturdy
formations of the Russians.”

Sorties by the enemy were frequent, and, on the night of the 22nd
March, a most determined attack was made upon the working parties
of the allies from four different points. It failed, however, to
accomplish much, and matters continued as before.

On Monday, the 9th April, another terrific bombardment occurred, the
British gunners directing their special attention to the Flagstaff
Bastion. For several days, until the 18th April, the battery was plied
mercilessly with shot and shell, and reduced to a state of distress
bordering on annihilation; it still, however, remained unassaulted,
and during a temporary truce was patched up once more. On the 21st,
however, its fire was reduced to complete silence.

Count Tolstoy in his stirring pictures of “Sevastopol,” so admirably
translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude, has given us a vivid glimpse of
affairs in this awful battery, “the Fourth Bastion,” as the Russians
called it. “You want to get quickly to the Bastions,” says Tolstoy,
showing an imaginary visitor through the beleagured town, “especially
to that Fourth Bastion of which you have been told so many tales. When
anyone says, ‘I am going to the Fourth Bastion,’ a slight agitation
or a too marked indifference is always noticeable in him! When you
meet someone carried on a stretcher, and ask, ‘Where from?’ the answer
usually is, ‘From the Fourth Bastion.’

Passing a barricade, you go up a broad street. Beyond this the houses
on both sides of the street are unoccupied, the doors are boarded up,
the windows smashed, ... on the road you stumble over cannon-balls
that lie about, and into holes full of water, made in the stony ground
by bombs. Before you, up a steep hill, you see a black, untidy space
cut up by ditches. This space is the Fourth Bastion. The whiz of
cannon-ball or bomb near by impresses you unpleasantly as you ascend
the hill, bullets begin to whiz past you right and left, and you will
perhaps consider whether you had better not walk inside the trench
which runs parallel to the road, full of yellow stinking mud more than
knee-deep!”

To reach the bastion proper, “you turn to the right, along that narrow
trench where a foot soldier, stooping down, has just passed, and where
you will see Cossacks changing their boots, eating, smoking their pipes
and, in fact, living! Soon you come to a flat space with many holes
and cannons on platforms and walled in with earthworks. This is the
bastion. Here you see perhaps four or five soldiers playing cards under
shelter of the breastwork, and a naval officer sitting on a cannon
rolling a cigarette composedly. Suddenly a sentinel shouts ‘Mortar!’
There is a whistle, a fall, and an explosion, mingled with the groans
of a man. You approach him as the stretchers are brought; part of his
breast has been torn away; in a trembling voice he says, ‘Farewell,
brothers.’

‘That’s the way with seven or eight every day,’ says the officer, and
he yawns as he lights another cigarette.”

In the British trenches similar scenes were being enacted, the same
coolness under fire, and resolute contempt of danger being displayed by
all ranks and nationalities.

“One day there was a cluster of us together,” wrote a Highland soldier
to his parents, “when a shell fell close by. The fuse was not exhausted
when John Bruce up with it in his arms and threw it over the trench.”

Such incidents were by no means rare, and in this wise the summer wore
on with varying fortune. In May the command of the French army was
taken up by General Pélissier, and on the 28th June the master-mind of
the British army was removed--Lord Raglan, beloved and mourned by all
ranks, dying of cholera after a brief two days’ illness. Kinglake has
recorded how on the morning on the 29th, the commander-in-chief of the
four allied armies visited the chamber of death, and how the iron frame
of the staunch General Pélissier shook with grief as he “stood by the
bedside for upwards of an hour crying like a child.”

On board the Caradoc the body of the Field-Marshal was conveyed to
England, and all ranks mourned for one whom they had learnt to trust,
admire, and almost love--“so noble, so pure, so replete with service
rendered to his country.” For seven miles the route of the procession
to the Caradoc was lined at either side by double ranks of infantry,
and, says the historian of the war, during the melancholy march “French
and British refrained from inviting by fire the fire of Sebastopol,
and whether owing to chance, or to a signal and grateful act of
courtesy on the part of General Ostin-Sacken (now in command), the
garrison also kept silence.”

So died Lord Raglan, and the command of the British troops now vested
on General Sir James Simpson, a veteran of the Peninsular.

On the morning of the 5th September, the final bombardment of
Sebastopol commenced, and the terrific cannonade continued till the
8th. The French were the first to open fire, and they did so with a
will. Once more the deafening thunder of the heavy guns and shrieks
of shell and mortar were heard about Sebastopol, and ere long the
cannonade wrought fearful havoc with the “churches, stately mansions,
and public buildings of the still imposing-looking city.”

From nearly three miles of batteries poured forth the devastating fire,
and a storm of iron swept across the doomed town. Buildings could be
seen crashing down, large spouts of earth rose high into the air, and,
with the glasses, stretcher-bearers could be seen busy at every point.

British and French alike were soon engaged, the Russian return fire
being for a long time paralysed by the fury of the onslaught. The Redan
and the Malakoff were the particular objectives of the British fire,
and soon the faces of these mighty works were seen pitted “as if with
the smallpox.”

At night a musketry fire was kept up to hinder the Russians from
repairing their shattered walls and bastions, till, by the 8th, all was
ready for a final and vigorous assault.

The assault was to be in two portions; the French were to capture the
Malakoff, and, on attaining this their object, were to signal by rocket
fire the fact of its accomplishment. The British were then to assault
the Redan, which was connected to the Malakoff by a series of trenches.

Noon was the hour fixed for the Malakoff assault. By half-past eleven
the supports were all in readiness. The Guards were posted on the
Woronzoff Road, part of the 4th Division was in the trenches, the 3rd
Division was held in readiness, while the Highland Brigade, under Sir
Colin Campbell, was marched in from Kamara.

Says one of them:--“We had marched nine miles in line of march order,
but when we came to our old camp ground we took off our knapsacks, and
put ourselves in trench order, only we were in the kilt.... We went
into the trenches assigned for us to form the support. As I looked
towards the Malakoff the French were going in, column after column....
They appeared to be keen to be in action.”

Dr. Russell tells the story more graphically:--

“At five minutes before twelve o’clock, the French, like a swarm
of bees, issued from their trenches close to the doomed Malakoff,
scrambled up its face, and were through the embrasures in the twinkling
of an eye. They took the Russians by surprise, and their musketry was
very feeble at first, but they soon recovered themselves, and from
twelve o’clock till past seven in the evening the French had to meet
and repulse the repeated attempts of the enemy to regain the work....
At length, despairing of success, the Muscovite general withdrew his
exhausted legions.”

The retreat was by way of the Redan, which our men now prepared to
assault.

“As soon as the tricolour was observed waving through the smoke and
dust, over the parapet of the Malakoff, four rockets were sent up as a
signal for our assault upon the Redan. They were almost borne back by
the violence of the wind, and the silvery jet of sparks they threw out
on exploding were scarcely visible against the raw grey sky.”

The force selected for the attack was composed as follows:--160 men of
the 3rd Buffs under Captain F. F. Maude, with 160 of the 77th under
Major Welshford. These constituted the scaling-ladder party. Covering
them were 100 more of the Buffs led by Captain John Lewes, with 100 of
the 2nd battalion of the Rifles led by Captain Hammond. The remainder
of the force comprised 260 of the Buffs, 300 of the 41st, 200 of
the 62nd, with a working party of a hundred more. The 47th and 49th
regiments were in reserve, together with Warren’s brigade.

To Colonel Unett of the 19th fell the honour of leading the gallant
party into the fray, and at the outset he fell, badly wounded.

Sharp came the order: “Forward! ladders to the front; eight men per
ladder!” and instantly our devoted men crept from the shelter of their
trenches to the assault. At a furious pace they dashed up the slope
leading to the Redan, and planted several ladders in the ditch against
the wall.

But the slaughter was terrific. In less than a minute the slope of the
Redan was thickly covered with red coats. In the ditch itself matters
were worse. Wounded and dead, bleeding and shapeless, screaming or
silent, our men lay heaped in scores, and still the murderous fire
poured down from every window and embrasure in the work.

To add to the terrors of their position, our men were now met by
overwhelming numbers, who streamed down the trenches from the abandoned
Malakoff to the assistance of their comrades in the Redan, the scaling
ladders were found to be too short, and after an hour and a half of
a disastrous fight our men fell back upon their trenches, firing
steadily, but, for the time being, worsted.

The slaughter had been awful. Colonel Handcock of the Perthshire
regiment, Captains Hammond, Preston, Corry and Lockhart, Colonel James
Ewan of the 41st, and others too numerous to mention lay dead upon the
slope or within the fatal Redan, where many of our men had penetrated
in the first fierce rush, and scarcely a man was unwounded.

After this set back, it was decided to attack again at five a.m.--this
time with the Guards and Highlanders.

“As the night wore on,” says one of them, “the Highland Brigade
advanced and took up position in the advanced trench, and we kept up a
sharp fire with our rifles. Sir Colin came along the trenches later,
and came down to where we were (by this time) making a new trench.
I heard him say: ‘That is your job in the morning,’ pointing to the
Redan.”

But the attack was not to be. While searching for wounded comrades,
Corporal John Ross of the Sappers wandered far from our foremost lines,
and suddenly becoming aware of the absence of the Russian outpost, he
crept forward up the slope and entered the Redan!

The place was empty! The Russians had deserted it earlier in the
evening, and the retreat from Sebastopol was even then begun.

Graphically Tolstoy has described it:--

“Along the whole line of the bastions no one was to be seen. All was
dead, ghastly, terrible, but not silent; the destruction still went
on. Everywhere on the ground, blasted and strewn around by fresh
explosions, lay shattered gun-carriages, crushing the corpses of foes
and Russians alike. Bombs and cannon-balls and more dead bodies, then
holes and splintered beams, and again silent corpses in grey and blue
and red uniforms.... The Sebastopol army, surging and spreading like
the sea on a rough night, moved through the dense darkness, slowly
swaying by the bridge (of boats) over the roadstead away from the place
which it had held for eleven months, but which it was now commanded to
abandon without a struggle.... On reaching the north side, almost every
man took off his cap and crossed himself.”

In the grey dawn of a Sunday morning, the allied armies entered the
abandoned city. The Russians blew up magazine after magazine as they
left the city, and it was sheeted in flame as the allies entered into
possession of it. The fleet was even then settling down in the lurid
waters of the harbour, scuttled by the retreating foe.

In the Redan many a British soldier was found stark and stiff with
outstretched hand upon a Russian’s throat; some were even found
clinging to the parapet as if alive! One of the most heroic episodes
recalled with the assault of the Redan is that of Lieutenant Massy of
the 19th, who, to hearten his men, stood long exposed in the open to
the heaviest Russian fire. Though badly wounded he survived, being long
known among his countrymen as “Redan Massy.”

Though Sebastopol had fallen, it was not till the last day of February,
1856, that an armistice was concluded with Russia. Shortly before
eight o’clock on that day a telegram reached the Russian army, then
camped upon the north side of the Sebastopol roadstead, whither it had
retreated, and announced the temporary peace. On Wednesday, the 2nd
April, a salute of 101 guns announced the conclusion of the war.

By the 11th April preparations for the return home were commenced, and
went briskly forward, but alas! how many stayed behind. No fewer than
130 cemeteries in the Crimea mark the last resting place of British
dead; in the French great Campo Santo are 28,000 sons of France!



CHAPTER XLII.

THE BATTLES OF BUSHIRE, KOOSHAB, AND MOHAMMERAH.

1856-57.


It is a platitude to say that the kingdom of Afghanistan is, on its
Asiatic side, the bulwark of British India. Yet upon this important,
if well-known, fact depended the Persian campaign of 1856. A brief
recapitulation of history will show clearly the causes which led to the
British invasion.

On the fall of the Mogul dynasty in India, the plains of Afghanistan
were divided between Persia and Hindoostan, but as the power of their
conquerors gradually declined the Afghans rose, under Ahmed Shah, a
native officer, and after a successful invasion of Hindoostan, in 1773,
founded the modern Afghan kingdom. After varying fortunes, however, the
only portion of the once famous kingdom that remained under the sway
of Ahmed Shah’s descendants was the principality and town of Herat.
At this time Mohammed Shah ruled over Persia, and on Prince Kanwan
of Herat refusing to pay his accustomed tribute to Persia, the Shah
prepared to make war upon him.

Such a quarrel, while looked upon with great favour by Russia, could
only end in the weakening of the British outposts of India, and,
accordingly, Britain did all in her power to hinder the Persian
expedition to Herat, while Russia fomented the quarrel. Through
British influence, Herat proposed to submit to an arbitration by our
Government, but, egged on by Russia, the Shah declined to favour any
half measures, and accordingly, in December, 1837, Herat was besieged
by the forces of the Shah.

Well knowing the importance of Herat, and fearing for the consequences
should it fall into the hands of Persia, our representatives strongly
urged the interference of the British Government at this juncture.

Two other causes now combined to make critical the situation in Persia.
One was the seizing by Persian high officials of a British envoy,
returning from Herat; the other the personal insult offered by an
intoxicated Indian dervish in the town of Bushire to Mr. Gerald of the
British residency. The man in question, without provocation, openly
insulted Mr. Gerald in the street, ultimately knocking off his cap.
Mr. Gerald very promptly retorted by severely handling his assailant,
with the result that the latter appealed to the Governor of Bushire
for redress. The British Government, on the other hand, demanded
compensation for the insult to one of its representatives.

The tendency of these incidents was to put a severe strain upon
Anglo-Persian relations, and at this time the activity of Russia was so
marked that Mr. McNeill urged upon the Government the advisability of
some show of force to restore our prestige in the affected districts.

At length, therefore, a force from India was despatched to the island
of Karrack, in the Persian Gulf, and a corresponding consternation was
perceptible throughout Persia, while, at the same time, the Shah was
given clearly to understand that the continued siege of Herat would
lead to an open rupture with Great Britain.

For a time then, the siege of Herat was raised, and some form of
apology tendered to the British Minister, but once more Russia (always,
however, unofficially) stirred up the embers of war, which threatened
at this period to cool.

Petty annoyances and minor outrages upon British subjects were at this
time of constant occurrence, and at length Sir Frederick Maitland,
commander-in-chief of our naval forces in India, on the 25th March,
1839, landed some men from the Wellesley at Bushire. These men were
fired upon by the Persians, but, as the result of prompt action on the
part of our troops, a serious affray was averted. On the 29th, however,
Captain Hennell, the British resident, was conveyed to Karrack with his
staff, it being deemed unsafe for any British officials to remain in
the country unprotected.

Eventually, as a result of pressure and the refusal of the British
Government to receive the Persian envoy to the Queen’s coronation, and
other similar uncompromising measures, peace was more or less fully
restored in 1841. But history proverbially repeats itself.

Russian influences were at work, and by 1856 the Persian army, upon
pretext of settling local quarrels, was once more in front of Herat,
and subsequently captured it. This, with other petty annoyances too
numerous to mention, led, in November of that year, to a definite
declaration of war against the Shah.

As early as July or August, 1856, instructions had been sent to the
Governor-General of India to collect at Bombay an adequate force, with
transport, to occupy, in the event of negotiations breaking down, the
island of Karrack and the city and district of Bushire, the commercial
capital of Persia.

Says Captain Hunt, in his capital narrative of the Persian
campaign which he himself went through with his regiment, the 78th
Highlanders:--“Bushire is itself a place of much importance, and covers
considerable ground. It is defended by a wall, and has no ditch. As a
fortress it is inconsiderable--position and trade giving it all its
value; and yet as a commercial town, none in the world has perhaps been
oftener attacked.”

Bushire, then, was the first objective of the British expedition,
which, starting from Bunda Abbas in India, arrived in the Persian Gulf
on the 29th November, 1856. Once in the roadstead, the British war
vessels with their transports made so great a display of force that
the Persian Governor of the town despatched a messenger to Commander
Jones, the then British Resident, “begging to be apprised of the object
of their visit.” Commander Jones’s reply, which was addressed from
the Admiral’s flagship, conveyed to the unlucky Governor the scarcely
welcome intelligence of the proclamation of war, and intimated that
diplomatic relations were at an end.

The next move on the part of the British force was the occupation of
Karrack Island, to the north of the town, an operation which met with
no opposition, and then on the morning of 7th December preparations
were made to disembark the troops in Kallila Bay, some ten miles to the
south of Bushire.

Now at length the enemy began to show fight, and appeared in some force
in a grove of date palms, near the spot chosen for disembarkation,
but they were speedily driven from their positions. As our officers
and men sat down to breakfast on the morning of the 7th, previous to
disembarking, they were startled by a furious cannonade from the ships’
guns, and, on going on deck to find the cause, discovered the grove of
date palms in question to be the object of a heavy fire, which soon
dislodged the Persians. From that time on the landing was effected
without a casualty, the total firing occupying only a few minutes. A
day was spent in resting the men, getting stores and so on, and by
the morning of the 9th, General Stalker, who was in command, ordered
a general advance towards the town of Bushire, the fleet meanwhile
proceeding to approach the city from the sea, and holding itself in
readiness to join in the attack.

Early in the morning an advance party proceeded to reconnoitre, and
soon returned with the intelligence that a band of the enemy, some 400
strong, had entrenched themselves in the old Dutch fort of Reshire,
which lay between our army and the town of Bushire. The enemy had
opened fire with matchlocks upon our men.

The fort consisted largely of old houses and garden walls, and afforded
good enough cover, so a general assault was ordered, the fort being
encircled by our men except towards the sea, where cavalry were posted
to cut down any of the enemy attempting to escape.

The columns of the 64th and 20th regiments under General Stopford
advanced to the attack, and the enemy’s fire at once became heavy.
The affair was over in a few moments, and the Persians ran out at the
rear of the work and up the beach, anywhere away from our rifles and
bayonets, taking no heed of, or probably not understanding, the summons
to surrender, and many were shot down while endeavouring to escape.
General Stopford himself was killed by a bullet from a matchlock while
leading the assault.

Colonel Malet, in command of the slender cavalry force, met his death
by treachery. Seeing one of his troopers about to cut down a Persian
who, kneeling on the beach, implored mercy with outstretched arms,
Colonel Malet bade the trooper spare the wretch, and passed on. No
sooner was his back towards the two when the Persian he had spared
seized his matchlock from a bush where he had concealed it, and shot
the Colonel in the back.

Inside the fort many Persians were found hiding, and some of these
were killed, while others made good their escape. Here also were
found a large store of dates, of which our troops partook heartily,
till a rumour was set on foot that they were poisoned. For some time
considerable panic ensued, but the report was, to everyone’s relief,
proved to be unfounded.

Our troops then bivouacked near the captured fort, while the fleet,
with our wounded on board, moved slowly and cautiously down towards
Bushire to commence a bombardment the following morning. In the
meantime, Commander Jones had proceeded, in a small steamer carrying
a flag of truce, to approach the town from the sea, with a view to
summoning the Persian Governor to an honourable surrender, but on
entering the narrow channel leading to the roadstead he had been fired
upon by the town batteries. Accordingly the orders were given to
reverse engines, and Bushire lost its final opportunity of effecting
an amicable settlement. Early on the following morning the sound of
heavy firing from the town apprised the British camp at Reshire that
the fleet had commenced their share of the day’s operations. By nine
o’clock the land force was under arms, and marched to within a mile of
the land force of Bushire, where they were halted to await the issue of
the bombardment.

This was not long in coming. Terrified by the heavy ordnance from the
British warships, and paralysed by a sight of the land force, now drawn
up in line and giving an extended front, the Persian Governor held a
hurried council on the rampart.

A writer in “Blackwood’s Magazine” of that period has given amusing
extracts from that momentous conclave:--

“‘They stretch from sea to sea,’ said one councillor. ‘Their guns are
innumerable,’ said another; while a third observed, ‘They will kill us
all if we resist!’”

Small wonder that the sadly perplexed and harassed Governor decided,
most humanely, that discretion was the better part of valour, and
“pulled down his flag, or rather ordered the flagstaff to be cut down,
agreeably to the inconvenient fashion of his country, which gives the
victors the trouble of putting it up again.”

The cannonade had lasted four hours and a half, but the damage done was
slight, owing to the long range of firing necessitated by the shallow
waters which surround the town, and it is worthy of note that the
British Residency, which had been specially marked out to be avoided by
our gunners, was in point of fact the most damaged building in the town!

So soon as the firing ceased, with the lowering of the Persian flag,
General Stalker marched the land force into Bushire, and received
the formal surrender of the town. As our men approached, many of the
terrified Persians succeeded in making good their escape, while others
were drowned in so doing. The remainder laid down their arms before
the British lines, and to the number of nearly 2000 regular troops
were seated on the ground in rows. Thus, under a guard, they passed
the night, and it is somewhat ludicrous to learn that every time the
sharp words of command rang out for changing guard during the night,
the valiant soldiers of the Shah bawled loudly for mercy, under the
impression that their last hour had come!

In point of fact, in the morning they were set free, General Stalker
deciding that it was useless to retain them prisoners.

The British casualties at the taking of Bushire were nil, the whole
operation being effected by the guns of the fleet, though considerable
gallantry was displayed by both soldiers and sailors.

As the low-lying marshy district of Bushire itself is far from healthy,
the camp of the British army of occupation was pitched some mile and
a half from the city walls, and here, entrenched, our men awaited
both the arrival of reinforcements and a possible Persian attack from
Shiraz, where large numbers of troops were known to be collecting.

On the 30th January, 1857, the welcome reinforcements, the 2nd Division
of the British army in Persia, arrived in camp from Bombay, and with
them appeared General Sir James Outram, in supreme command of the
forces.

The accession of numbers due to the arrival of the 2nd Division brought
up the strength of our army in Persia to some 3500 men, with 18 guns.
The new arrivals consisted of the 14th King’s Light Dragoons, one troop
of horse artillery, a thousand Scinde horse, the 78th Highlanders,
and two regiments of native infantry. Captain Hunt of the 78th, whose
admirable record of the campaign is indeed the standard work upon the
subject, was one of the incoming men, and he describes the state of the
camp at Bushire at this time, and the uncertainty which prevailed as to
the objective of future operations:--

“Supplies of all descriptions,” he says, “were plentiful in camp, and
the inhabitants both of the town and neighbourhood were evidently
pleased at the British occupancy; indeed they could scarcely be
otherwise; for, irrespective of the pecuniary advantages of the
presence of a large force which paid heavily, and on the spot, for
everything, the orderly look and appearance of soldiers who visited
the town, without even sidearms as a protection, contrasted most
advantageously with the previous garrison, which had notoriously lived
upon what could be stolen or extracted from the citizens.”

Sir James Outram was not a man to let the grass grow under his feet,
and it was by this time ascertained that a considerable Persian force
was assembled at Shiraz, a town situated above the passes, some 150
miles from Bushire. Moreover, the Persian Government was known to have
collected supplies of flour and ammunition at the villages of Borasjoon
and Chakota, in the low country--the former forty, the latter twenty
miles from Bushire.

Accordingly, on the afternoon of the 3rd February, towards evening, the
entire force, with the exception of a camp guard, moved out of Bushire
towards Chakota.

Here in the end of December General Stalker had already blown up a
magazine of the enemy’s ammunition, but had not deemed it necessary to
occupy the town, preferring to direct his operations from Bushire.

At Chakota, then, arrived our now largely increased force by nine
o’clock on the morning of the 4th February, and a halt of some hours
was indulged in, the troops loading arms and making preparations for an
immediate engagement. By four o’clock the march was resumed, and the
enemy’s videttes in the neighbourhood of Borasjoon were sighted by noon
on the following day.

The enemy had been steadily falling back, and up to the present our
men had encountered nothing more formidable than heavy rain and
thunderstorms. Now, however, the army was halted, positions for attack
assigned, and final orders given, when, “to the disgust of all, the
entire army in our front was descried in full retreat, and going off
at such a pace as to render it hopeless to overtake them.” Some of our
cavalry, however, managed to get into touch with their rearguard, and a
few wounds were received by our troopers.

The majority of the enemy, however, were quickly out of sight, having
taken to the hills, where it was impossible to follow them, the hills
hereabouts being “formidable and of great height, and, except at two or
three pathways, utterly impassable.”

The 6th and 7th were spent by our men in the enemy’s vacated camp,
during which time stores were destroyed and some treasure was
discovered, together with many horses and carriage cattle.

An amusing incident was reported at this time. On the night of the 6th,
an alarm was raised that the enemy was at hand, and in point of fact
a half-hearted attack was commenced but came to nothing. During the
“turn-out,” however, the picket of one regiment, observing a suspicious
appearance in the darkness ahead of them, surrounded the spot with
extreme caution, and gallantly captured--an old house-door which had
been accidentally left propped up against a bush! There was much
laughter in the morning over this “daring exploit.” On the night of the
7th, the return march to Bushire was commenced.

Up to midnight all went well, but shortly after, a sharp rattle of
musketry was heard in the direction of the rearguard, and a halt was
at once called. In about half an hour, however, all was pandemonium.
Little could be seen, the night being intensely dark, but the enemy
were heard screaming like fiends on every side. Horsemen galloped
almost up to our lines, bugles were blown, and everything done to cause
confusion. From the first moment of attack our troops behaved with
admirable steadiness. The necessary movements were perfectly executed,
in spite of the darkness, and the formation of a hollow square, in
which to await the break of day, was rapidly performed.

Sir James Outram himself was, in the confusion, thrown from his horse,
and somewhat severely hurt, but Colonel Lugard, his chief of staff,
assumed the command promptly and effectively. Shortly before daybreak
the desultory firing ceased, and many have placed on record the almost
tearful anxiety with which our men prayed that the enemy might not
have withdrawn before they should have a chance of “getting their own
back.” At last the morning broke, and to the glee of all ranks the
Persian army, under the Shooja-ool-moolk, its commander, was descried
“in position,” drawn up in line, “its right upon the walled village of
Khooshab, its left resting on a hamlet with a round fortalice tower.”

As early as possible our artillery were moved up to the front, and
murderous volleys were loosed upon the enemy’s right, while our
infantry were getting into line.

“All night long,” says one account, “our cavalry had lain down beside
their horses, watching the glare of the Persian guns, and wondering
whether they would have an opportunity to seize them as trophies.” The
opportunity came soon enough. Whether from impatience or some mistaken
order, before the infantry could get within musket-shot, our horsemen
hurled themselves upon the right wing, and cut their way clean through
the Persian force with awful slaughter, and without the assistance of a
shot from our infantry, soon had it in full retreat.

The left wing of the enemy was thunderstruck. Without pausing for
an instant, they fell back, the two wings thus gradually converging
until they became a disordered stream of fugitive infantry, without
sufficient discipline to rally, yet without sufficient sense to
separate from one another, and so avoid, to some extent, the fearful
fire with which our artillery now plied them.

The eighteen guns opened with a roar, and the carnage began. For three
long miles dozens of the wretched Persians dropped in their tracks,
plied alternately by horse artillery and cavalry, and their retreat
became almost a massacre. Indeed, in once instance, since it was found
that many of the wounded fired upon our men after their lives had been
spared, a group of forty fugitives were cut down to a man, though
making signs of wishing to surrender. Again and again throughout the
Persian campaign did the enemy behave in this treacherous manner, and
the giving of quarter became a precarious leniency.

By eleven o’clock the fight and pursuit alike were at an end, and the
battle of Khooshab was won.

The British loss was nearly a hundred killed and wounded; the Persians
left seven hundred dead upon the far-extending field. Immense
quantities of arms and ammunition fell into our hands, and high
praise was bestowed by Sir James Outram on all ranks at the highly
satisfactory conclusion of the fight.

After a tedious march, during which they were much hampered by rain,
darkness, almost impassable country, and, in one instance, by the
mistaken leading of a native guide, our army returned to Bushire, and
for several days a well-earned rest was indulged in. Heavy rains fell
during these days of waiting, but, when the weather was fine, cricket
and occasional race meetings kept up the spirits of our men in camp,
and another brush with the enemy was the dearest wish of every one of
our gallant soldiers, white and coloured alike.

At this time General Havelock, destined to win fame in India, arrived
and took command of the 2nd Division.

Meanwhile, rumours that the enemy was gathering in force at Mohammerah
began to come to hand, and as this fort stands at the head of the
Persian Gulf, some thirty hours north of Bushire, and commands the
entrance to the Tigris and Euphrates, it was felt to be of great
importance, and so preparations were soon on foot for its reduction.

In miserable weather, and hampered by sand-storms, our men erected
five strong redoubts for the defence of Bushire, and here General
Stalker was left in command, with two field batteries, the entire first
division cavalry, some of the 64th and Highlanders, together with some
native troops.

The remainder, to the number of 3000, were embarked upon the transports
and war vessels, and, under Sir James Outram himself, set sail for
Mohammerah.

The 6th March saw the sailing of the sloop Falkland for the Euphrates,
and the ships engaged in the expedition composed the sloop Circe, with
the frigate steamers Ajdaha, Feroze, Semiramis, Victoria, and Assaye.
Transports were numerous, and included the Kingston and Bridge of the
Sea. These, together with the steamers Pottinger and Pioneer, newly
arrived from India, with a fresh troop of horse artillery and the
Scinde Horse, made up the fleet.

Mohammerah lies on the north side of the river Kanin, close to its
junction with the Shat-ul-Arab, a branch of the Euphrates, and is
about thirty miles from the sea. For a quarter of a mile from the
river’s mouth strong earthworks lined with artillery and musketry
guarded its approach. Now, while the left bank of the Shat-ul-Arab
belongs to Persia, the right, for sixty miles, is Turkish territory,
and accordingly the attitude of Turkey was somewhat apprehensively
regarded, since a hostile demonstration in the river might be
regarded by that Power as an infringement of the laws of neutrality.
Accordingly, no time was lost so that Mohammerah might be taken before
Turkey could have time to interfere. In point of fact, several Turks
were killed in the engagement, the inhabitants of the Turkish territory
crowding to the river’s banks to watch the issue of the fight.

By the 8th, most of the vessels had arrived in the mouth of the
Euphrates, and the remainder were expected in the course of the next
few days. A tedious wait followed, but by the 17th, Sir James Outram,
with the remainder of the force, arrived in the river, and an advance
was hourly expected.

Sir James brought bad news. In a fit of mental derangement, both
General Stalker and Captain Ethersay, the commodore of the Indian
squadron serving in the Persian Gulf, had died by their own hands at
Bushire, and considerable gloom was cast over the fleet by these sad
events.

“No cause,” says Captain Hunt, “save over-anxiety and an oppressive
sense of their respective responsibilities could be assigned as a
reason for their rash acts.”

On the 24th, all vessels were assembled at the rendezvous, some three
miles below the enemy’s fortifications; a day was spent in transhipping
troops into rafts and light-draught vessels, and at daybreak on the
26th the bombardment of Mohammerah began.

The first shot proved highly successful, killing eleven of the enemy,
who, it was afterwards ascertained, were at their prayers; and soon
after this the action became general.

It is impossible to resist once more quoting Captain Hunt:--

“The morning being very clear, with just sufficient breeze to prevent
the smoke from collecting, a more beautiful scene than was then
presented can scarcely be imagined. The ships, with ensigns flying
from every masthead, seemed decked for a holiday; the river glittering
in the early sunlight, its dark date-fringed banks contrasting most
effectively with the white canvas of the Falkland, which had loosened
sails to get into closer action; the sulky-looking batteries just
visible through the grey fleecy cloud which enveloped them; and groups
of brightly-dressed horsemen flitting at intervals between the trees,
formed altogether a picture from which even the excitement of a heavy
cannonade could not divert the attention.”

At the end of three hours the Persian fire slackened, and the order
for the disembarkation of the troops, at a point selected above the
batteries, went forth. A few musket shots alone opposed the landing,
and by two o’clock the entire force was ashore and an advance made.

By this time the fire of the Persian forts was silenced, one of the
final shells of our ships blowing up the enemy’s grand magazine.

Forward now moved the compact scarlet lines to where the enemy’s force
under the Shah Zadeh in person were drawn up to defend their camp on
the left rear of the town of Mohammerah, and a desperate fight appeared
about to open. Suddenly, almost as if by magic, the force disappeared.
Paralysed by our fire, particularly by the size of the 68-pounder
shots, and fearing awful consequences, the Shah’s terrible army turned
and ran, and though the pursuit was engaged in for three or four miles,
only a straggler or two was cut off. At night our cavalry returned, and
reported that the enemy, at a distance of eleven miles, was still in
full retreat.

Our troops bivouacked in line of battle, but such caution proved to
be superfluous, and on the morning of the 27th the British army took
possession of Mohammerah.

Stores of grain and ammunition, 18 handsome brass guns in good working
order, arms of all kinds, and tents fell into our hands, for a total
loss of 10 killed, with one officer, Lieutenant Harris of the Indian
navy, and 30 wounded. The Persians had at least 300 killed, while many
prisoners were taken.

These latter received every kindness, but for a long time were
suspicious of their captors, expecting a fate which would probably have
overtaken any of our brave fellows who might have fallen into Persian
hands. Fortunately, such a contingency had not to be faced.

The town of Mohammerah, once a place of importance, was found to be
a filthy collection of mud huts, and apart from its fortifications
(where the guns had been admirably served, some of our ships suffering
severely as a result), was found to be of little practical use. The
moral effect of such a victory was enormous.

A small expedition under Captain Rennie was despatched up the Kanin
river to reconnoitre, while the General fortified Mohammerah to the
best of his ability before deciding upon a further plan of campaign.

By the 4th April, Captain Rennie’s expedition returned, and
reported having seen the Persian army at Ahway. After a few shots,
he had captured the town, together with immense stores of grain
and powder, the Persian army again retreating with little show of
fight. These operations were about to be turned to advantage by the
commander-in-chief when a despatch was received announcing that peace
with Persia had been concluded at Paris.

Accordingly, operations were at once commenced for evacuating
Mohammerah, though the disappointment to all ranks was keen. By the
end of May the evacuation was complete, though Bushire was held till
October, when it was handed back to the Persians.

Apart from prestige, an important factor in Eastern politics, the
Persian campaign of ’56 and ’57 may be said to have been of little
practical use, but one good result accruing must not be overlooked. It
prepared some, at any rate, of our troops for the tremendous struggle
which was even then brewing in India.



CHAPTER XLIII.

THE BATTLES AT DELHI.

1857.


The Indian Mutiny had really its outbreak at Delhi, to which place the
mutineers fled when they had taken the fatal step which was to bring
death to so many, and which was to weld the Indian Empire closer to
Britain.

The imperial city of Delhi was destined to play an important part
in the mutiny, and early in May, 1857, the mutineers, inflamed with
preliminary successes and inspired by a religious frenzy, entered
Delhi. Mr. Simon Frazer, the Commissioner, tried to stem the tide
by closing the seven gates of the city, but his orders were tardily
obeyed, and the mutineers poured into the city, carrying havoc wherever
they went. The bungalows in the Durya Gunge were soon in flames, and
every European was slaughtered. No white man or woman could venture
forth and hope to return alive, for the rebel soldiers, having tasted
blood, were determined to have their appetites whetted. Mr. Frazer
ventured out in his buggy to the residence of the Delhi princes, but
was seized, and after a desperate struggle was hacked to pieces. His
head was struck off, and, horrible to relate, was carried through the
streets in barbarous triumph.

Terrible were the tragedies enacted within the walls, and the hapless
Europeans calmly waited death, for they knew that they would receive no
mercy. At the palace fort the rebels asked to see Captain Douglas, who
commanded the guard, and on that brave officer appearing, he was shot
down ere he could utter a word. In their hunt for victims they ascended
to the murdered officer’s quarters, and found there the chaplain of the
station, Rev. Mr. Jennings, and his daughter, who had lately arrived
from England to be married. They were deaf to her agonising cries and
prayers for mercy, and butchered her father before her eyes. After
subjecting the poor girl to awful indignities, they hacked her to
pieces.

The Delhi arsenal, was at the time of the outbreak the largest in
India, and it was well that Britain had brave and capable officers at
this quarter. The powder magazine was included in the arsenal, although
there was another at the cantonments about two miles from the walls
of the city, where three battalions of Bengal infantry were posted.
The mutineers intended to attack this point (the arsenal), and Sir
T. Metcalfe on the morning that the insurgents initiated the attack
closed up the gate at the bridge. He did not suspect that the princes
and members of the royal family were hand-in-glove with the mutineers,
but his eyes were opened when he saw the rebels march through the
palace, which could only have been done through the complicity of the
princes. There were only six Britons to defend the arsenal, in charge
of sullen and stubborn men whom they dreaded to trust. Guns were posted
at every point where attack was possible, and right nobly did the
gallant half-dozen prepare to sell their lives dearly in defence of
the position. The mutineers were now having the full support of the
natives of Delhi, and armed guards came boldly to the arsenal, and
demanded its surrender in the name of the King of Delhi. This request
was treated with the silent contempt which it deserved, and then the
King of Delhi showed his hand by declaring that he would send men with
scaling ladders to scale the walls. When these ladders did arrive, the
native portion of the garrison availed themselves of this opportunity
to desert their posts, and, swarming down the ladders, left the gallant
six alone. Outside the howling mass of insurgents, waving their tulwars
on high and calling upon the defenders to come out and be killed.
Inside, every man of the six--Lieutenants Forrest and Willoughby,
Sergeant Stewart, and Conductors Crow, Buckley, and Scully--were cool
and calm at their respective posts.

The enemy now began to appear on the top of the walls, and the garrison
poured a deadly grape fire upon these customers until the ammunition
became almost exhausted. The natives who had deserted the garrison had
given valuable information to the rebels as to the position of the
guns. Forrest and Buckley were firing and loading the guns as fast as
they could, and while the unequal struggle lasted they mowed down the
closely-packed rebels. And this they did under a heavy musketry fire
at forty yards’ range. It was not until the last round that Buckley
had his arm shot and Forrest received two balls in one of his hands.
Willoughby had determined that the rebels would never secure the
magazine and all its valuable store. A train of powder had been laid by
Conductor Scully, and when all seemed lost, the Lieutenant gave orders
to blow up the magazine.

The fire rushed along the trains of powder, and then an awful crash
and roar which seemed to split the earth and rend the vault of heaven
told the rebels that they had been thwarted by the Feringhee. The whole
magazine with its deadly contents was hurled into the air, and fell,
burying hundreds of the rebels in the ruins.

Meanwhile the brave defenders had made a dash for liberty and reached
the Cashmere gate. The brave Willoughby was captured while hiding in
the jungle, and, after terrible torture, was mercifully put to death.
Simultaneous with the attack upon the magazines things were going hard
with the surviving Christian population. The infuriated cowards who
glutted their appetite for blood by the massacre of helpless women and
children, had gone too far to turn back, for they knew that if the
Feringhees became victorious they would all perish. They broke into the
bank, and Mr. Beresford, the manager, with his wife and five children,
perished. They devised the torturing death of cutting their victims’
throats slowly with broken glass, and it was in this cruel manner that
the bank manager and his family were murdered.

All the public buildings and churches were plundered, and robbery and
murder was rampant in the streets of the city. A sepoy when he takes
service, makes a vow to remain true to his salt, _i.e._, true to their
employers. This vow was even more binding in the case of those who had
sworn to serve the Queen of Britain, even with their lives, but we
shall see how the crafty natives who wore the Queen’s uniform and her
medals evaded their vow and yet, in their own opinion, remained true to
their salt.

Colonel Ripley was despatched from the cantonments with the 54th Bengal
native infantry, which had remained loyal, and the line of march lay
towards the Cashmere gate. They obeyed their officers with alacrity,
and marched boldly forward. Suddenly fifteen troopers of the rebel 3rd
cavalry came dashing out to meet them, brandishing their blood-smeared
swords. The treachery of the 54th was soon made apparent, for, on the
approach of the Sowars they wheeled to the side of the road and left
their officers unguarded in the troopers’ path. The maniac mutineers
dashed upon the bewildered officers and shot or cut them down. Colonel
Ripley had his pistols with him, and shot two troopers before being
killed. When the slaughter was complete, the bloodstained troopers
dismounted, and, walking amongst the treacherous 54th, shook hands and
complimented their fellow-villains on their action.

The Brigadier at the cantonments had now only the 38th and 74th to fall
back upon, both native regiments, in whose fidelity he could put little
trust. At all events he formed them into line, posting the 38th on the
road that led to the Cashmere gate. As long as possible news of the
mutiny of the 54th was kept from the other regiments, but when at last
they heard it, they showed evident symptoms of mutiny. When the awful
crash of the exploded magazine fell upon their ears, the outburst came.
“Deen! Deen!” they shouted, signifying “Faith!” and rushed to their
arms, which had been piled. They seized the guns, shot the commandant’s
horse, and were soon in a state of complete insubordination.

The first regard of British officers and men in time of danger,
whether it be on sea or land, is for the women and children, and now
that the sepoys had shown themselves in their true colours, it was
absolutely imperative, if the women and children were to be saved from
terrible torture, that they should be removed to either Meerut or
Kurnool, cities which were meanwhile loyal and unaffected. Brigadier
Metcalfe sounded the retire, and those who could find conveyances were
fortunate, as in most cases the native drivers had bolted with the
horses and vehicles.

In the guard-house at the Cashmere gate a number of women and children,
along with several officers, were huddled. Major Abbott, who was in
charge, made the attempt to get the helpless females to the shelter of
the cantonments, and ordered them to be placed on the gun carriages.
The rebel sepoys opened a murderous fire on the carriages, and the
ground was soon strewn with the dead and wounded. Several reached the
shelter of Brigadier Metcalfe’s house, from whence they were conducted
to the river Jumna, where they were allowed to make their escape as
best they could.

We need not dwell upon the harrowing details of the adventures of those
who escaped. They wandered about the jungle, starving and bruised.
Delicately-nurtured women clinging to their babes went raving mad, and
many perished. The villagers were every whit as brutal and cruel as
the rebel soldiery, and men boasted publicly of outraging white women
and then cutting off their breasts. It makes one’s blood boil to think
of the awful indignities, the almost incredible tortures, and the slow
lingering death which was the fate of our innocent and helpless women
and children.

Certain nations accused us of wanton cruelty in the slaying of the
rebels at the time when the hand of retribution, guided by Sir Colin
Campbell, fell upon the inhuman monsters who had weltered and gloried
in the shedding of Christian blood. Could the stab of the bayonet,
blowing from the cannon’s mouth or death by hanging ever atone for the
fearful sufferings of the pure and innocent? In our humanity we scorned
to devise new tortures or have recourse to those of the Inquisition
to avenge the massacre of the Christian women who had been outraged
and done to death. If those who escaped to the jungle suffered untold
agony, it was nothing to that which the women who remained in Delhi had
to undergo. An officer who had to be an unwilling witness of many of
the scenes tells the following blood-curdling story:--

“The sepoys took forty-eight females, most of them girls from ten to
fourteen, many delicately nurtured ladies, and kept them for the base
purposes of the heads of the insurrection for a whole week. At the
end of that time they made them strip themselves, and gave them up to
the lowest of the people to abuse in broad daylight in the streets of
Delhi. They then commenced the work of torturing them to death, cutting
off their breasts, fingers, and noses. One lady was three days in
dying. They flayed the face of another lady, and made her walk naked
through the streets.”

A number of officers, women, and children sought refuge in a mosque,
where they were without food and water for several days. The men could
have endured the hunger and thirst, but the suffering of the women and
little children was intense. On the fourth day they treated with the
sepoys, who on their oath swore to spare their lives and take them
before the king. The men laid down their arms that they might get water
for the suffering ones, and the whole party quitted the shelter of
the mosque. They were instantly seized, and every one killed, eight
officers, eight ladies, and eleven children perishing. The children
were swung by the heels, and their brains dashed out in the presence of
the parents.

On every side were traces of murder and pillage, and it is said that
even greater ferocity, if that were possible, was used at Delhi than
by the great assassin Nana Sahib at Cawnpore. Certainly the atrocities
practised are unequalled in barbarity and cruelty, and coming from men
who had broken our bread and eaten our salt, they demanded the most
condign punishment. Delhi was now in full possession of the mutineers,
and this ancient city, with its hundred mosques and minarets, seemed
lost to the British Empire, for the 200,000 inhabitants were in no way
reluctant to accept the change in government.

The king, seeing that Fortune had so far smiled on the insurgents,
put himself at the head of the new movement. This crafty monarch,
whose kingdom lay within the walls of the city, had a love of pomp and
panoply, and no doubt delighted his followers by a State procession
through the city to the palace of the Moguls. This is an immense
edifice of more than a mile in circumference. The wall which surrounds
it is over thirty feet in height, and besides serving as a kingly
residence, it thus stands as a gigantic fortress.

The princes of the royal house were also concerned in the spread of
the mutiny, Prince Mirza Mogul being commander-in-chief of the army,
and his brother Mirza Abubeker, general of the cavalry. Although
they had foully murdered many of their officers, the sepoys, to give
them credit, did not run amok altogether, but put themselves under
the command of native officers of inferior rank, who were now given
high commands. They also knew that Britain would not let them hold
undisturbed possession of the town, so they set about preparing
defences in order to withstand a siege. Heavy guns were mounted on the
bastions, and the guards were strengthened at the seven gates.

The mutiny was not long in spreading throughout the provinces, and
regiment after regiment rose in insurrection, and either murdered their
officers or fled to Delhi. From every part tidings came to Agra of a
general rising, and it was not safe for any British officer to place
himself at the head of any native regiment. The sepoys would swear
undying fidelity at one moment, and the next might be either butchering
their officers or on the road to join the main band of rebels at Delhi.
Will our men be faithful? was the question many an officer had to put
to himself, for they were not to be trusted, despite all their vows.

The British regiments, manned and officered by Europeans, had to
pass through many perils, and undoubtedly they did good service in
punishing the flying rebels. They shot and bayonetted the sepoys who
had mutinied, and only took prisoner those of higher caste, and those
who had set themselves up in the leadership of the work of mutiny.
These rascals were reserved for another fate, either at the hands
of the hangman, or, greater punishment still in the eyes of a true
believer--blown from the cannon’s mouth.

This form of punishment may have been brutal, but it was thoroughly
deserved, and the swift death cannot be likened to the lingering
tortures to which the women and children of our own flesh and blood
had to submit. As this method of punishment became common as the
mutiny proceeded, a description of the scene at an execution may be of
interest:--

“Three sides of a hollow square facing inwards was formed. On the
fourth side of the square were drawn up the guns, ten 9-pounders,
which were to be used for the execution. The prisoners, under a strong
European guard, were then marched into the square, their crimes and
sentences read aloud to them and at the head of each regiment; they
were then marched round the square and up to the guns. The first ten
were picked out, their eyes bandaged, and they were bound to the guns,
with their backs against the muzzles and their arms fastened backwards
to the wheels. The port fires were lighted, and at a signal from the
artillery major the guns were fired.

It was a horrid sight that then met the eye. A regular shower of human
fragments--of heads, arms, and legs--appeared in the air, whirling
through the smoke; and when that cleared away, these fragments
lying on the ground--fragments of Hindoos and of Mussulmans mixed
together--were all that remained of those ten mutineers. Three times
more this was repeated; but so great is the disgust we all feel for the
atrocities committed by the rebels, that we had no room in our hearts
for any feeling of pity. Perfect callousness was depicted on every
European face; a look of grim satisfaction could even be seen in the
countenances of the gunners serving the guns. But far different was the
effect on the native portion of the spectators. Their black faces grew
ghastly pale as they gazed breathlessly at the awful spectacle.

You must know that this is really the only form in which death has
any terror for a native. If he is hanged or shot, he knows that his
friends or relatives will be allowed to claim his body and will give
him the funeral rites required by his religion; if a Hindoo, that his
body will be burned with all due ceremonies, and if a Mussulman, that
his remains will be secretly interred, as directed in the Koran. But if
sentenced to death in this form, he knows that his body will be blown
into a thousand pieces, and that it will be altogether impossible for
his relatives, however devoted to him, to be sure of picking up all the
fragments of his own particular body; and the thought that perhaps a
limb of someone of a different religion to himself might possibly be
burned or buried with the remainder of his own body, is agony to him.

But notwithstanding this, it was impossible for the mutineers’ direst
hater not to feel some degree of admiration for the way in which they
met their deaths. Nothing in their lives became them like the leaving
of them. Of the whole party, only two showed any signs of fear, and
they were bitterly reproached by the others for so disgracing their
race. They certainly died like men. After the first ten had been
disposed of, the next batch, who had been looking on all the time,
walked up to the guns quite calmly and unfalteringly, and allowed
themselves to be blindfolded and tied up without moving a muscle or
showing the slightest sign of fear or even concern.”

The army of vengeance which was to stamp out the mutiny and punish
the mutineers, was pushing on from Umballa. The great vortex of the
mutiny was at Delhi, and the rebels had such excellent fortifications
and were so well armed and provisioned, that a prolonged siege was
anticipated. There were many princes with large bands of followers who
as yet had taken no part on either side. They were wise as Solomon in
their judgment, for they deferred taking the great step until they saw
how the game was to go. These princes and chiefs of the Delhi provinces
were loyal enough, but, like the rebel sepoys, they would turn round
and cut our throats if it was to profit them in any way. Holkar and
Scindia had already sent their contingents to Agra for service under
the British flag, and now the Rajahs of Jheend and Puttiala, two
powerful chiefs, sent well-drilled horsemen, and the Rajah of Bhurtpur
gave his specially-trained bodyguard. These men were good fighters,
and would remain loyal and true to their salt as long as their Rajah
willed. General Barnard, who was in command of the troops, pushed on as
fast as he could to Delhi, and sent Brigadier Wilson with an advance
guard to clear a path.

The gallant Brigadier came up with the enemy at a place known as
Ghazee-ood-deen-nugger on the 30th of May, and distant about 15 miles
from Delhi. The rebels were present in large numbers, and had some
heavy guns to which they trusted in keeping their position. Wilson
at once saw that the small iron suspension bridge over the river
Hindon would form a key to his own attack, and two companies of the
60th Rifles were told off to keep the bridge at all hazards, while
a detachment of the 6th Dragoon Guards, with four guns, went along
the riverside to turn the enemy’s flank. The 60th at the bridge were
exposed to a heavy fire from the insurgents’ guns, and had to be
reinforced. It was plainly evident that the rebels were aware that if
they lost this position an important point in the capture of the city
would be gained. They handled their guns with great skill, but when the
60th dashed among them with the bayonet they blanched, wavered, and
turned tail, leaving the guns in the hands of the Rifles.

“Remember the ladies! remember the babies!” was the battle-cry of the
60th, as they flashed on with gleaming bayonets, and many a mother and
many a child were amply avenged in the terrible slaughter they wrought.

Fleeing from the infuriated and victorious troops, the sepoys fled
helter-skelter towards Delhi, leaving their guns and hundreds of dead
and dying on the field. The Carbineers, who added to the death-roll in
the course of the pursuit, chased the fleeing horde to within a few
miles of the city. Yet they were not cowed, for, despite the lesson
they had received, they were back in greater numbers to the banks of
the Hindon the following day. They opened fire with their muskets and
big guns, and for two hours there was nothing heard but the boom of
the guns and the rattle of musketry. The rebel fire began to slacken,
and it was now the time for close combat. Once again the 60th defiled
across the bridge, with the 6th Dragoon Guards as support. Alternately
firing and charging, the British rushed the rising ground, on which
the rebels were posted, and once again the mutineers had to fly to the
sheltering walls of Delhi. Our men were too fagged out to pursue, but
there was not an inch of fight in the fleeing mass, and many of them
cast their swords and guns away in their panic.

The British burned a village which afforded shelter for the enemy,
and were content to take a well-won rest. General Barnard was daily
expected, and the Brigadier calmly waited, undisturbed by the
faint-hearted mutineers, until such time as the General would order a
grand advance upon the Imperial City.



CHAPTER XLIV.

THE BATTLES AT DELHI

(_continued_).

1857.


The army of vengeance was steadily closing upon Delhi, and the plans of
Sir Henry Barnard as to the junctions of his force were attended with
success. Major-General Reed, who had fought at Waterloo, arrived at
Alleepore, situated about one day’s march from Delhi, while Brigadier
Wilson’s troops from the Meerut provinces had joined Sir Henry Barnard,
so that the investing force was as complete as could be expected.

As its composition is important, the different details of the force may
be interesting, and are as follows:--

Four horse artillery guns of the 1st Brigade, the 2nd and 3rd troops of
the 3rd Brigade, three companies of foot artillery, No. 14 horse field
battery, a detachment of artillery recruits, a detachment of sappers
and miners, H.M. 9th Lancers and 6th Dragoon Guards, six companies of
the 60th Rifles, nine companies of H.M. 75th regiment, 1st and 2nd
Bengal Fusiliers, and the Sirmoor battalion of Ghoorkas.

The city round which the conflict now centred deserves some little
description, not only for its historic associations, but its immense
importance as a British stronghold. It is a huge conglomeration
of houses, mosques, fortresses, and temples surrounded by
strongly-fortified walls. It lies in the midst of a sandy plain on a
plateau close to the river Jumna. Its streets are wide and handsome,
especially the “street of silver,” through which runs an aqueduct
shaded by overhanging palms. The mosques are all of magnificent
appearance, but the most stately and ornate is the huge snow-white
marble edifice built by Shah Jahan, with its towering minarets and
beautiful sculpture. Again, if we go outside the city walls through any
of the seven gates, we come upon the remains of the great buildings
of other days. The present-day Delhi is modern to a degree, and when
we gaze upon the ruins of gigantic buildings, of mosques and temples,
we have an idea of the Delhi of centuries ago. We have the mausoleums
of the Emperors Homaion Mahomed Shah and Jehanara, but the commanding
feature is the towering Kootub Minar, which was built in 1206, and
is covered over with extracts from the Koran, the walls rising to a
height of about 240 feet, terminating in a majestic cupola. Such was
the general appearance of the city which had passed into the hands of
mutineers, and naturally the British leaders were anxious to regain it.

Inside the city, the mutineers, after their first excess of brutality,
and no doubt through a scarcity of victims, must have thought of the
retribution that would surely follow. To give them credit, they were
not lawless or idle, but obeyed the mandates of their chosen leaders.
Military discipline and order were maintained, and men who had occupied
very subordinate positions in the employ of Britain, found promotion
easy and rapid in the service of the King of Delhi. Yet the townspeople
were downtrodden by the savage soldiery, and the town was daily the
scene of great disorder. The sepoys looted in every direction, and
stuffed their pockets full to overflowing, in fact in many cases they
could not walk, so laden were they with coin and treasure. Had Sir
Henry Barnard made a dash upon the city when he first gathered together
his forces, it is quite possible that Delhi would have fallen into our
hands, because the townspeople were so discontented that they would
have turned against the rebels. However, the British leader was not
apparently aware of this situation, and preferred to rest his troops
and mature his plans for the taking of the city.

Now the defences of Delhi were of a formidable character, having been
strengthened by officers and men of the Bengal Fusiliers several years
previous, and the rebels kept a double watch upon the bastions and
martello towers.

After resting his troops sufficiently, Sir Henry gave orders to the
effect that an advance was premeditated, and at midnight on the 8th
of June the combined Umballa and Meerut force started to march upon
the city. After marching for about three miles without meeting any
opposition, the British troops were suddenly confronted by a strong
rebel force with a dozen heavy guns, which had been placed in a strong
position. In the glimmering light of the morning, the rebels opened a
deadly fire upon the British lines, and did much execution, our lighter
guns being unable to cope with the heavier ordnance of the enemy. Men
were falling, and every life was precious, so something had to be done.

“Charge and carry the guns!” cried Sir Henry, and like hounds released
from the leash the men of the 75th--that gallant Stirlingshire
regiment--bounded forward to death or glory. Through a storm of
musketry they dashed, and sprang at the gunners with glittering
bayonets. The sepoys turned tail and fled, the guns were ours, and
the brave Scotsmen paused to regain breath. The rebels had retired to
a second position, where they had a line of defence at the Flagstaff
Tower. They fought like men who fight when they feel the halter round
their necks, but they reeled before the bayonet, and were soon in full
stampede towards the city, to tell their comrades that the Feringhees
had come to put them to death.

Our men had gained the old Delhi cantonments, but when they marched in,
what a different place it was to that which had been so well garrisoned
but a few months previous! Only the blackened walls remained, and all
was desolation. Fragments of furniture, scraps of books, clothing,
and shreds of women’s dresses lay about. The soldiers took one look
upon the desolate scene, and looking, understood, for they turned
their eyes to Delhi and ground their teeth. They knew what the torn
and bloodstained garments signified, and although they said no word
there was a gleam in their eyes which betokened no good for the
rebels when they had them at the point of the bayonet. They were not
hurried in their vengeance, but pitched their camps to await further
reinforcements.

The enemy, seeing that the British did not follow up their early
success, grew bolder, and made frequent sallies, but their skirmishing
amongst the ruins and tombs of the Delhi of a day that was dead was
ineffective, and did little harm to the troops at the cantonment. But
the British were not idle, for three batteries played on the city day
and night. The guns must have done considerable damage to the city,
for the mutineers turned a number of guns upon this position. It was
a stoutly-built brick house, and withstood the rebel fire, while the
daily attacks of the mutineers upon the battery were easily repulsed
by the defending force, which consisted of the Guides, the Sirmoor
battalion, and three companies of the 60th Rifles.

In one of these sorties brave young Lieutenant Battye of the Guides
received a terrible wound in the stomach from a cannon shot. He
survived for a day, and ere he died he smiled to a comrade who came to
see him, and quoted the old tag--“Well, old fellow, ‘_dulce et decorum
est pro patria mori_’; you see it’s my case,” and then he passed away.

The Guides, who were led by their commander, Captain Daly, came in
contact with the mutineers, who sniped at them from behind rocks. They
took careful cover, and the Guides could not get a shot at them. The
rebels were good marksmen, and several of the Guides fell. Daly and
another officer drew their swords and rushed up the rocks. They were
followed by their men, and although the sepoys made strenuous efforts
to keep their position the sword and bayonet soon demoralised them.

It was on the 12th of June that the mutineers became most dangerous,
and suffered the severest chastisement yet administered. They came out
of the city in great numbers, and commenced to fire upon the Ghoorkas,
until the 2nd Bengal Fusiliers came up to the posts and drove them
back from the place. The force pushed home the blow, but as they were
unsupported they had to retire, leaving their leader, Major Jackson,
dead behind them. The rebels returned, and the 60th regiment, who
had taken up a position in Hindoo Rao’s house, which commanded a
fine situation, had a very hard day’s fighting. The Scotsmen and the
fierce little Ghoorkas fought with hordes of rebels, who, despite
severe losses, returned to the attack persistently, and displayed much
courage. The Welsh Fusiliers’ left wing, now under the command of
Welshman, had again taken possession of the Subzee Mundee, or vegetable
market, and cleared the streets. Four times did the enemy return to the
attack, and as often were they repulsed. The heat was terrible, and our
men were fairly exhausted with the heavy fighting. The right wing of
the Fusiliers, under Dennis, were also busily engaged with the enemy,
and after driving them back citywards and killing a large number in a
serai, they were done up, and returned to the shelter of the Hindoo Rao.

To give some idea of the terrible heat, it may be mentioned that
the musket barrels and bayonet blades grew warm in the hands of the
soldiers. Yet the fight never slackened, and the enemy, no doubt aware
that our troops must become tired, kept up an attack all along the
line. A large company of the 2nd Bengal Fusiliers, who had marched
twenty-three miles that morning and had gone into battle with nothing
to eat, were completely done up, having to take shelter behind some
rocks, while the Ghoorkas kept the mutineers at a respectful distance.
The rebels had two pieces of cannon playing on the British line, but
the Fusiliers and Sikhs charged and gained complete possession of the
Subzee Mundee, driving the rebels away.

The greatest slaughter of the enemy took place at a serai, which is
really a halting-place for travellers. About a hundred rebels took
shelter in this place, and no doubt felt secure behind the lofty walls.
The 60th Rifles heard of their hiding-place, and rushing at the gates
burst them open and entered. Then ensued a scene of carnage, for not
a rebel was spared, the Scotsmen driving home the bayonet so fiercely
that in many cases their weapons were twisted and bent.

The British troops were now masters of the field, and preparations
were made for the mortars to be put into position to shell Delhi. A
discovery was then made that caused consternation in the camp--the
fuses had been left behind at Umballa. This was most regretable, as
no doubt Sir Henry would have followed up the shelling with a general
attack. The commanding officers did not show much energy, and those in
a position to judge declare that chance after chance was thrown away of
at least strengthening the British hold upon Delhi. The troops on the
other hand, however, deserved rest, and Sir Henry may have acted on the
more careful plan of harbouring the strength of his troops and keeping
them fresh for a future attack.

There can be no doubt, however, that the rebels gained courage by
this apathy, and as they were strengthened by a number of rebellious
regiments, notably the 4th Lancers and the 60th Bengal Infantry, they
became even bolder, and harried the British to an extraordinary extent.
They were fighting for their lives, and so desperately did they attack
our weakened soldiers that if it had not been for a piece of splendid
strategy by the officer in charge of the outposts, they might have
defeated our troops or at least captured the guns.

The enemy had made this daring and desperate attack on the 15th of
June, and had met with much success. The officer of the outposts knew
that the rebels recognised our bugle-calls and understood them as well
as our own men, so he determined to draw them into a trap. Dusk had now
settled over the scene, and presently the bugles rang out the “Retire.”
The mutineers heard the blast, and in a confused mob, numbering
thousands, they advanced tumultuously to pursue the retreating British.
Their rush was suddenly checked, however, for when the mutineers were
about thirty yards from the waiting British outposts the gallant leader
gave the order to charge, and soon the dreaded bayonet was working
havoc in the serried hordes, who lost heart and retired in confusion to
their position.

The enemy now occupied their attention by forming a battery of heavy
guns which rendered the British position at the house of Hindoo Rao
quite untenable. The whole force was now concentrated to checkmate this
rebel move, and, marching upon the battery in two columns, our men
drove the enemy back, won the guns and killed a large number of rebels,
hemming about fifty into a corner, where they were shot down.

The town batteries, however, were still arrayed against us, five in
number; a large one on the left of the Cashmere gate, a second at the
gate itself, a third at the Moree gate, a fourth at the Ajmere gate,
and the fifth on the city walls. These batteries were sweeping the
British positions to the extent of over two miles, and they did great
damage to our camp. We had three batteries, one at Hindoo Rao, another
at the Observatory, and a third at the Jumna Musjid. On the 19th the
rebels made another determined attack, and attempted to get to the rear
of the British position.

Brigadier Hope Grant, with the 9th Lancers and six pieces of cannon,
advanced to circumvent the enemy, but were assailed by a heavy fire of
grape when they had reached the Ochterliny gardens, which lie near the
cantonments. Grant’s guns vigorously replied, and his force was at once
reinforced, the attack becoming general. The rebels were fighting with
determination, and the British flank was nearly turned, two of our guns
being in danger of capture. With brave charges, however, the tide of
battle turned, and the rebels fell back, enabling us to take the guns
to a place of safety. The 9th Lancers, Carbineers, and the Guides were
hotly engaged on the right flank, supporting the batteries of Majors
Turner and Tombs.

The ground was not at all suitable for a pitched battle, being of
a very broken character, and the fight developed into a series of
skirmishes. Our leadership was muddled, and at one time the cavalry,
artillery, and infantry were all mixed up, and had it not been for the
individual energy of the commanding officers of the various regiments,
the confusion might have been attended with serious consequences. Sir
Henry Barnard seemed incapable of proceeding upon a preconcerted plan,
and the different officers were left to adopt whatever tactics they
thought fit.

The enemy was strongly posted, and their fire was well directed, our
loss being every whit as heavy as that which we inflicted. Darkness
came on, and, instead of retiring to the camp, the troops were ordered
to fight on. Needless to say, the confusion became worse, and if the
enemy had come to know of the terrible position of our troops and
charged, the total rout of our men must have been inevitable. When at
last the order came to retire, many of our cannon had to be left on
the field until morning, along with the killed and wounded. Among the
former was the gallant Colonel Yule of the 9th Lancers, who lay upon
the field with four of his men around him. Both thighs had been broken,
a ball had passed through his brain, and his throat had been cut. It
was a miserable fate for such a gallant officer, who had passed with
glory through many a bloody field. The rebels also lost a great number
in killed and wounded, but they were so strong that the sacrifice of a
few hundred lives made little difference of their numerical strength.
Our brave soldiers never lost heart, although they felt that they were
badly led, not by their own officers, but by the general in command.

The anniversary of the battle of Plassey (23rd June) came round, and
as it was a festival for both Mohammedans and Hindoos alike, being the
first day of the new moon, they became even more fanatical, making a
furious attack upon our outposts. It is said that every man in Delhi
capable of bearing arms came out to exterminate the Feringhees, but as
the British had taken the precaution of blowing up two bridges, they
could not get their artillery forward. The army opposed to our battered
but determined troops was an immense one, and if the confusion of the
previous attack had prevailed, our force would have been swamped.

From sunset to sunrise the battle raged, and fierce were the rebel
attacks, only to be met with dogged resistance by our men. Repulsed
again and again, the rebels grew less determined, and slackened
perceptibly, while the British, advancing, drove the enemy back to the
city, leaving the field littered with the dead and dying. Our loss was
also severe, and thus was the anniversary of Clive’s victory celebrated
before the walls of Delhi.

It would have been almost impossible now for Barnard to take Delhi with
the attenuated force at his disposal, and valuable time was thus lost.
He was reinforced by about 500 Europeans, which made up the entire
force to 3000 British troops, with three native corps of 600 bayonets
each, consisting of the Ghoorkas, Guides, and a Sikh battalion.
Continually harassed by the enemy, who were fighting desperately to
retain their advantage, our troops lay before Delhi having achieved but
scant success, and having little idea of any regular plan. Sir Henry’s
apathy cannot be accounted for, unless it was due to the fact that he
was content to wait until fortune made an opening for him; but he might
have waited long enough for that.

The mutiny had by this time spread with alarming rapidity, and all
over India, the sepoys, inflamed with the reports of rebel successes,
murdered their officers and joined the mutineers. There can be no doubt
that the resistance of the rebels at Delhi encouraged the mutineers
at other points, and while Barnard’s force was lying under the very
walls of the ancient capital, the rebels were being daily reinforced
by numerous bands of mutineers who made Delhi their Mecca. Rain fell
heavily in July, but still our troops were inactive, beyond repulsing
occasional sallies by the enemy. Sir Henry was engaged in forming a
plan whereby he could gain the city with the least loss of life, but
his officers were quite convinced that the city would only be won by a
vigorous attack at different gates.

The enemy kept well within the walls, apparently not desirous of
engaging the Feringhees in the open. On the 9th of July they made
a daring sally, and a body of their cavalry got to the rear of our
position through the treachery of a picket of the 9th Irregular
Horse. They gained no advantage, being driven off with severe loss.
An incident of this skirmish is worthy of mention. Lieutenant Hills
of the Horse Artillery, escorted by 80 of the 6th Carbineers, came
suddenly upon a troop of about 120 Sowars. A panic ensued amongst his
escort, who retired, leaving the guns limbered and useless to Hills. He
confronted the enemy, shot two, and unhorsed a third by throwing his
pistol at the rebel’s head. He was charged by another two of the enemy,
and, although thrown to the ground, he felled one of his adversaries
before he was cut down from behind. Major Tombs, who was hurrying to
his comrade’s assistance only arrived in time to shoot the assailant,
and running another through the body, he bore off his bleeding
comrade. The mutineers lost heavily in this skirmish, but the British
also sustained considerable loss. For a few days the enemy remained
singularly quiet, and as yet there was no appearance of an aggressive
movement on our part.

The rebels had not done with us, however, as on the 14th they poured
out of the city about 10,000 strong, and made a furious onslaught upon
our right flank. They poured in a murderous fire, which was instantly
replied to. The attack and repulse lasted in skirmishing affrays for
about three hours, when the enemy seemed to realise that they had had
enough of it, and, leaving their dead and wounded behind, they made off
as fast as they could to their place of refuge behind the city walls.
Our soldiers, eager for the fray, and no doubt throwing their usual
caution to the winds, kept up the pursuit until they came up close to
the walls. They rushed into a perfect hail of musket balls and grape
shot, and before they came to their senses and obeyed the bugles, which
were sounding the recall, 16 officers and 230 men were placed on the
wounded list, a number succumbing to their wounds.

This was a foolhardy action, involving a needless loss of life, but,
done as it was in the heat of battle, it showed the fearlessness of the
British troops, and no doubt had its effect upon the miscreants in the
city.

Further attacks were made on the 18th and 23rd, but both were firmly
met, and considerable chastisement meted out to the bold rebels.
Although Sir Henry Barnard was in supreme charge, the active command
rested with General Reed, whose health now broke down, necessitating
his retiral to the hills. The operations before Delhi were now
entrusted to, and ably conducted by, Brigadier Wilson of the Bengal
Artillery, a zealous and active officer.

On the last day of July the enemy made another attempt to break our
lines, and appeared in force at the Cashmere and Ajmere gates. One
column got a couple of guns into position, and played on the Mosque and
our central battery, while the other endeavoured to get to the rear
of the camp, but being unable to cross the canal they returned to the
city. It was evidently a well-planned attack, for the guns on the walls
gave them a lot of assistance through a constant fire on our position,
which was rather out of range. All through the night the rebels kept
up an incessant fire upon our outposts, while their bugles were heard
continually sounding the advance, yet no advance came. Frantically the
leaders rushed about, shouting “Chulo chai! chulo!” (“Come on, brother!
come on!”) but no one seemed willing to answer the call.

The incessant boom of the guns continued until the 2nd August, but
not much damage was done to our earthworks and batteries. The rebels
seemed to be rendered desperate, as it was thought that they believed
that the British could close upon them at any time and kill them. They
drank chang (a native intoxicant), which made them frantic, and they
rushed up to our breastworks, only to be shot down in scores. On the
2nd August they lost over 200 killed and 400 wounded, while 9 men on
our side were killed and 36 wounded.

An officer graphically describes the British camp during this anxious
time in the following manner:--

“What a sight our camp would be, even to those who visited Sebastopol!
The long lines of tents, the thatched hovels of the native servants,
the rows of horses, the parks of artillery, the British soldier in
his grey linen coat and trousers, the dark Sikhs with their red and
blue turbans, the Afghans with the same, their wild air and coloured
saddlecloths, and the little Ghoorkas dressed up like demons of
ugliness in black worsted Kilmarnock bonnets and woollen coats. The
soldiers are loitering through the lines or in the bazaars. Suddenly an
alarm is sounded, and everyone rushes to his tent. The infantry soldier
seizes his musket and slings on his pouch; the artilleryman gets his
guns horsed; the Afghan rides out to explore, and in a few minutes
everyone is in his place.”

The enemy were very desperate on the first day of August--the festival
of the Eed, or the anniversary of the sacrifice which Abraham meant to
make of Isaac, and they made an attempt to get their guns across the
canal, but the temporary bridge which they had erected was carried away
by a flood, and they had to retire. It was an awful night, that of the
2nd of August, with the roar of the guns, the rattle of musketry, the
yells of the savage rebels, and the cheers of our men. When the morning
broke, 22 of our men were found to be killed, while over 200 rebels
lay dead in front of our breastworks. The religious frenzy passed off,
and the rebels settled down more quietly in the city, while Brigadier
Wilson waited for reinforcements, which were by this time hurrying up
for the all important capture of Delhi.



CHAPTER XLV.

THE BATTLES AT DELHI

(_continued_).

1857.


Brigadier Wilson was badly in want of help, and there was joy in the
camp when Brigadier Nicholson marched in one day towards the middle of
August at the head of 1000 Europeans and 1400 Sikhs, while he was also
able to report the advance of a siege train from Ferozepore.

There was now a more formidable force concentrated before Delhi, which
might be set down at about 10,000 fighting men, of whom nearly 5000
were Europeans.

Not long after Nicholson’s arrival, information was received in the
British camp that the enemy contemplated a move whereby they might cut
off the supplies. The exact nature of the tidings was that about 7000
rebels had marched out of Delhi, with a view to crossing the Nujuffghur
Jheel Drain, and that the army was supported by 18 guns. Brigadier
Nicholson organised a movable column, and marched on the morning of
the 25th August to turn the enemy. His force consisted of a squadron
of Lancers, the Guide cavalry, H.M. 61st foot, 1st European Fusiliers,
Cokes Rifles, 2nd Punjaub Infantry, Major Tombs’ Horse Artillery, and
Remington’s troops, with the Mooltan Horse.

A party of sappers were also included in the column, to blow up the
bridge at Nujuffghur, making in all a force of 1000 European and
2000 native troops. The column marched for about ten miles, when the
Brigadier learned that the enemy had crossed the bridge and were
preparing to encamp at Nujuffghur. He pushed on with all speed, and,
after another long march, came up to the village, from which he was
assailed by a vigorous fire of cannon and musketry, which was directed
against the head of the column.

The General ordered his men forward, and told them to reserve their
fire until the last possible minute. The flank of the attacking line
were supported by the artillery, and these went forward at a gallop,
concentrating their fire upon a serai which the enemy were defending
with four guns. Sharply and clearly came the order from the gallant
Nicholson--“The line will advance,” and as if on parade the soldiers,
with bayonets on the slant, rushed forward, and with a rousing cheer
they rushed upon the enemy, who flinched at the appearance of the
bayonet. The four captured guns were turned upon the flying rebels, who
took up a position at the bridge. Here they attempted to make a show of
resistance, but the stand was a brief one. Their lines were soon broken
by our relentless artillery fire, and four more guns fell into our
hands.

The rebels managed to carry off three guns, and when our troops went
forward to hold it while the sappers prepared a mine underneath for
its destruction, they opened a heavy fire upon our lines. In the midst
of the fire the advanced company held the bridge until the sappers
had done their work. The mine was sprung, the arch disappeared, and
the troops retired to take a well-earned rest. Brigadier Nicholson
had completely baffled the enemy and captured thirteen guns, besides
killing and wounding hundreds of the rebels. The British loss amounted
to about 120 slain, yet it was a cheerful company that returned to
camp, for the soldiers knew that they had done their duty.

A few days later there was a murmur in the air, for through the British
lines flew the intelligence that General Wilson had at last determined
upon a grand assault on the city. A general order was promulgated by
the General, from which we make the following quotation, to show the
spirit in which our soldiers went forward in the work of vengeance:--

“The artillery will have even harder work than they have had, and which
they have so well and cheerfully performed hitherto; this, however,
will be for a short period only; and, when ordered to the assault, the
Major-General feels assured that British pluck and determination will
carry everything before them, and that the bloodthirsty and murderous
mutineers against whom they are fighting will be driven headlong out of
their stronghold and exterminated. But to enable them to do this, he
warns the troops of the absolute necessity of their keeping together
and not straggling from their columns. By this only can success be
assured. Major-General Wilson need hardly remind the troops of the
cruel murders committed on their officers and comrades, their wives and
children, to move them in the deadly struggle. No quarter should be
given to the mutineers! At the same time, for the sake of humanity, and
the honour of the country they belong to, he calls upon them to spare
all women and children that may come in their way.”

There was an unusual stir in the camp, for the soldiers moved about
with a business-like air which showed their pleasure at being at last
permitted to rush like an avalanche upon the city. The cautious Wilson
did nothing rash, but saw that every part of his fighting machine was
in thorough order. The soldiers were now fresh and ready, while the
promised siege train put in an appearance. It came in on the morning of
4th September, consisting of forty heavy guns, mortars and howitzers,
with vast supplies of ammunition. It was well supported by a wing of
the 8th or King’s Regiment, two companies of the 61st, and a wing of
the Belooch battalion. Two days later arrived a squadron of the 9th
Lancers, artillery recruits from Meerut, and 200 of the 60th Rifles,
while the 4th Punjaub infantry, the Jheend Rajah’s levies, and the
Cashmere Dograhs arrived two days later.

The force was especially strong in artillery, for the reason that
the walls and gates had to be battered down before breaches for the
assault by the infantry could be attempted. The rebels in the town were
singularly quiet, but they could not miss seeing the great preparations
that were going on in the British camp. They were not now the smart
troops that had been drilled by British officers in the days before
they had been incited to rebellion. They were fanatical, and therefore
unreliable, and although they could be trusted to make a good fight
for their lives, they were an undisciplined and riotous crew. If that
could be said of the sepoys, words fail to describe the character of
the mercenaries who clung to the fringe of the rebel army. They were
the scum of the country, arrant cowards who gloried in the butchery
of defenceless women and children. The batteries were well mounted,
and everything was prepared in a manner for the warm reception of the
Feringhees. Every sepoy and rebel knew that it meant certain death
to fall into the hands of the British, so, making the best of their
position, they resolved to fight for their lives.

The bombardment of Delhi proper opened on the 11th of September, when
nine 24-pounders opened on the towers and walls at the Cashmere gate.
Other guns directed their fire upon the same position, and a ceaseless
fire was kept up, so that two days later it was seen that two breaches
had been made practicable for escalade near the Cashmere and Water
Bastions. On the 14th September, the whole force moved out of camp in
three columns to the assault. Major Reid, in charge of the column which
consisted of Ghoorkas and Cashmere levies, attacked the Kishengunze and
Pahareepore suburbs, but were driven back with heavy loss. The rebels
defended desperately, and made big gaps in the British lines.

Brigadier Nicholson was at the head of another column, and he stormed
the Cashmere bastion, driving the rebels like chaff before him. His
men could not stop, and reached the Lahore gate, where Nicholson,
their brave leader, fell mortally wounded. Brigadier Jones had meantime
scaled the breach at the Water bastion, and aided Colonel Campbell in
bursting open the gate. The assault had thus practically been attended
with complete success at all parts, and although the loss was severe,
yet the hardest part of the work had been performed.

It was necessary that the Cashmere gate should be blown up, and this
was one of the most daring exploits of the attack. The party in charge
of the explosives was commanded by Lieutenants Horne and Salkeld, and
consisted of Sergeants Smith, Carmichael, and Corporal Burgess of
the Royal Sappers and Miners, Bugler Hawthorne of the 52nd Foot, and
24 native sappers, who were covered by the fire of the 60th Rifles.
The whole force rushed towards the gate, bearing the powder, under
a heavy fire from the enemy. The drawbridge over the ditch had been
destroyed, but the brave men crossed over on planks, and soon had the
powder-bags against the gate, with the enemy firing at them through a
wicket. Sergeant Carmichael was killed while laying the powder, and
while Lieutenant Salkeld was preparing to light the charge, he was shot
through an arm and leg. He was in time to hand the match to Corporal
Burgess who had no sooner fired the train than he fell, mortally
wounded. The survivors of the gallant little party took shelter,
and in a few moments the huge Cashmere gate was blown to atoms.
Lieutenant Horne at once ordered the bugler to sound the advance to
his regiment--the 52nd--and so great was the din that he had to sound
three times before the order was understood. Bravely the Oxford Light
Infantry, with fixed bayonets, under Colonel Campbell, advanced and
secured the barrier, driving the rebels before them in wild confusion.

The city had now been entered, and the British troops, still keeping in
formation of columns, marched through the stately streets, which had
been the scenes of such terrible brutalities. The British soldiers shot
and bayonetted every rebel that came in their path, and drove the cowed
sepoys before them like dumb driven cattle.

As evening came on, the British attack was allowed to slacken, but it
had been a brave day’s work. The whole line of works from the Water
bastion to the Cabul gate, including the Cashmere and Moree gates and
bastions, were in our hands, and also the church, college, and a number
of private houses. Altogether we held the northern part of Delhi, and,
considering the impregnable nature of the defences, and the sheer
desperation which the natives threw into their fighting, this immense
advantage had been gained at a comparatively slight cost.

The enemy, who had suffered severely, fled from the vicinity of the
captured position, but they had not yet evacuated the city, and the
next day was employed by the British in strengthening their position
and directing a heavy fire upon the magazine. The sepoys never came
into actual hand to hand conflict with our men, for their marked
repugnance to the bayonet deterred them, but they continued to skirmish
and snipe at the British troops. The well-directed fire upon the
magazine had good effect, for before evening a breach had been made.

This was all that was required, and although the mutineers flocked to
this point to defend the gap, the 61st gallantly rushed to storm it.
There were a few straggling volleys from the enemy, but only one or
two guns on the bastions belched forth. Calmly, as if on parade, the
61st went on--a line of scarlet tipped with steel. They had the dreaded
bayonet fixed, and as they neared the gap which had been made in the
wall, they broke into the double, and literally hurled themselves at
the breach. The craven-hearted rebels were awed by such a charge, they
recklessly fired a volley which did no damage, and, with a last look at
the oncoming avengers, turned and fled.

The gunners on the walls were seized with a similar terror, and they
dropped their lighted port-fires and fled without discharging any of
the six guns, heavily charged with grape, which commanded the breach.
Through the night of the 16th, when the assault by the 61st was made,
the British troops wrought great havoc amongst the mutineers. The
bayonets were busy, and our sharpshooters had excellent practice in
bringing down any rebel who had the courage to show his swarthy face
above cover. Next day the bank, which had been the scene of bloodshed
when the mutineers invested the city, fell into our hands, along with
the extensive grounds in the midst of which it is situated. General
Wilson became cognisant of its importance as a position, and when he
moved his guns into the grounds, the Royal Palace, from which the king
and the princes had made their escape, was as good as doomed.

The palace, as already indicated, is more of a fortress than a place of
residence, and with capable defenders, might have defied an investing
army for some time. It was imperative that it should be taken, so our
guns battered the stoutly-built walls, while shells were directed over
the complete line of buildings.

The resistance was feeble, and when once an entrance had been obtained,
the rebels and royal bodyguard fled in all directions, seemingly not
desirous of encountering the British troops. The Palace was soon
completely in our hands, and large numbers of rebels who sought to
defend their abdicated master were at once cut down, while those who
were fortunate enough to escape through the grounds, either fell into
the hands of our men posted at various quarters, or were killed by
the avenging troops which dashed along the streets of Delhi. The order
of the General to have no mercy upon the rebels was carried up to the
letter, and although many of the wretches begged and prayed for their
lives, it is to their credit as a brave race that it must be said that
they met their death bravely in the majority of cases. The women and
children were respected, and sent to places of safety.

A story is related of a veteran of the 60th Regiment, who, along with a
small detachment, was engaged ferreting out the rebels. They had come
across a band of sepoys, women, and children mixed into a heterogeneous
mass, and, covering the group with their rifles, called on the men
to step aside. This they sullenly did, while the women, who were
apparently their wives, stood at a distance, quite well aware of what
was to happen. Although ordered to depart, they preferred to stay and
see their mutinous partners perish. One of the women clung to the knees
of the veteran soldier, who was about to administer the _coup de grace_
to a sinister looking rebel. “Oh, Sahib, he is my husband!” “Weel, ma
guid wumman,” grimly responded the son of Mars, “ye’re going to be a
weedy sune!” and with that he drove his bayonet through the rebel’s
heart. “Noo, mistress,” he continued, as he surveyed his reeking blade,
“if ye ha’e ony mair freends like yer departed husband, jist tak’ me
tae them, an’ I’ll be pleased to gie them the same medicine!”

This aptly illustrates the callousness of our soldiers’ hearts. They
could forgive foes who had killed in fair battle, but they could not
bring themselves to spare fiends who had killed and outraged their fair
countrywomen.

With the falling of the palace into our hands, the greatest stronghold
of the rebels had gone from their grasp. The Jumna Musjid, a palatial
building which the mutineers had converted into a fortress, also fell
after a heavy attack, in which a number of lives were lost.

In these operations no fewer than 205 pieces of cannon were captured,
while a vast quantity of munitions of war fell into our hands. It must
not be supposed that all these advantages were gained without heavy
loss to our troops. The storming of the gates and breaches was the most
dangerous work, and it was at these attacks that the greatest number of
lives were lost. There were 8 European officers and 162 rank and file
killed, with 103 natives, while 52 officers, 510 rank and file, and 310
natives were wounded. It is impossible to gauge the rebel loss, but it
is computed that at the grand assault on the city over 5000 perished,
and this death-roll was added to day after day by our pursuing
soldiers.

The king, along with his two sons, had fled from Delhi by a secret
exit, when the British gained admission to the city. He fled to the
tomb of Hoomayon, situated just outside the city. This fine building,
which is surmounted by a gigantic dome, served as their hiding-place
for a short period, but eventually Captain Hodson of the Guides
discovered their retreat, and as it was necessary that they should be
captured, he proceeded with his force to the place where they were
concealed. He called upon the occupants to surrender, and although
they were inclined to treat for terms, the Captain was inflexible,
and demanded unconditional surrender. The king, who had attained the
patriarchal age of ninety years, had really played an unimportant part
in the insurrection, and had merely been set up as a royal figurehead
by the mutineers. The Captain, having respect for his grey hairs,
spared his life, and also that of the Begum Zeenat Mahal.

The sons of the king had, no doubt much against their will,
been actively engaged in the mutiny, and although they were but
milk-and-water soldiers, they had chosen to act as leaders, and
deserved death. A native of Delhi, writing regarding these persons
says:--

“The princes are made officers in the royal army; thousands of pities
for the poor luxurious princes! They are sometimes compelled to go out
of the gates of the city in the heat of the sun; their hearts palpitate
from the firing of muskets and guns. Unfortunately they do not know how
to command an army, and their forces laugh at their imperfections and
bad arrangements.”

Captain Hodson gave orders that the two princes and a grandson of the
king should be shot, and this was done in the city, their naked bodies
being hung by the neck in the Kotwallee, or Mayor’s Court, in presence
of the people, who were awed at the fate of those who had ruled them.
Executions were common in the city, which was now wholly in possession
of the Queen’s troops.

General Wilson had carried through his trying part with honour, and
completed his task when, in the Palace of the Great Mogul he drained a
goblet with his other officers to the health of Her Majesty, as Empress
of India, while the soldiers cheered, and sang “God Save the Queen.”

With the capture of Delhi and all its attendant excitement there
ensued a time of peace for the troops at Delhi, but they were fated
to lose the services of the dauntless Wilson. The General’s health,
which had never been of a robust nature, completely broke down, and
he had reluctantly to resign his command, being succeeded at Delhi by
Brigadier-General Penny, C.B.

Delhi had been the great focus of the rebellion, the gathering place of
the rebels, and now that they had met with ignominious defeat, those
who escaped from the avenging army made their way to the surrounding
towns, inciting those whom they met to rise against the British.

The rebels had tasted defeat, but they trusted to their overwhelming
numbers to bring them victory. While they held Delhi they had inspired
the mutineers in other districts by their success, and now that they
had lost this important point they as rapidly as possible transferred
their operations to the surrounding provinces, where weaker forces met
their attack.

Agra and Lucknow became their headquarters, and they fully anticipated
wiping out the small garrisons quartered there. In Delhi, the citizens
who had been driven to serve the mutineers during their tenure, were
only too glad to throw in their lot with the British, and the work of
repair and reclamation went steadily on. The troops were seldom idle in
pursuing the enemy, and Colonel Greathed of the 84th went after them at
the head of a large force. At the military cantonment at Secunderabad
there was found a vast quantity of plundered property which had been
stolen from the poor unfortunates who perished in Delhi, and the sight
of the women’s dresses, hats, and bonnets so exasperated the 84th, that
they set fire to the whole place.

At Bolundshuhur the enemy made a show of resistance with light guns
at the junction of two cross roads. Our heavy cannon soon silenced
the rebels’ pieces, and the cavalry dashing into the town drove the
cringing and affrighted rebels before them. Still keeping up the work
of clearing the district, the Fort of Malaghur, which consisted of
eight bastions, was blown up. It was while executing this work that
brave Lieutenant Horne, who, it will be remembered, led the sappers
at the explosion of the Cashmere gate, was accidentally killed by the
premature explosion of one of his own mines.

It was now evident that the mutineers were endeavouring to concentrate
their scattered forces at Agra, an important and well-fortified British
position. Brigadier Greathed judiciously sent his wounded to Meerut,
and started on the heels of the mutineers, coming up with them at
Alighur, in the doab of the Ganges, and a little over 50 miles from
Agra. The rebels made every show of giving our troops trouble, but when
once their guns had been silenced, they lost heart, for they could not
stand to meet the shock of a bayonet charge; and few can blame them
when it is remembered that the finest troops in the world had reeled
and broken against the onslaught of the glittering steel propelled by
the brawny arms of a rough Highlander. The mutineers were continually
losing men since their flight from Delhi, and in this engagement they
must have lost fully 400 in killed alone.

On the 10th of October, 1857, without seeing any other bands of fleeing
rebels, the Brigadier entered Agra, the key to Western India. They
imagined themselves safe from molestation, and proceeded to pitch
camp. While they were doing so a battery of guns belched out a heavy
fire upon the troops, and a body of cavalry galloped amongst the men,
inflicting heavy loss. Never was surprise more complete, but our
soldiers soon recovered, and before the enemy could fire a sixth round,
our guns were replying, while our troops were drawn up in position. The
ambushed and cunning foe was soon unearthed, and, afraid to give open
battle, they fled. The troops dashed after them, and over a thousand
rebels were killed, 14 guns taken, along with a vast quantity of stores
and plunder.

The rebels were now split and scattered, and this force of Mhow rebels
who had been unaware of the arrival of Greathed’s large force, were
practically disbanded for the time being. Sir James Hope Grant in
another direction caught up with the Delhi fugitives at the ancient
city of Canonj, and killed hundreds without mercy.

It will thus be evident that the murders of Delhi were well avenged,
and Delhi and its surrounding country swept perfectly clear of rebels.
Delhi had been dearly won, but it was the turning point in the mutiny,
and the mutineers had received a check and a lesson which told upon
their subsequent fighting.



CHAPTER XLVI.

THE BATTLES AT CAWNPORE.

1857.


Cawnpore stands out written in letters of blood in the annals of
British history, and ranks as one of the bloodiest episodes of the
terrible mutiny in our Indian Empire in 1857. It is chiefly conspicuous
for the inhuman massacre of innocent men and women and the butchery of
little children by the orders of Nana Sahib, that fiend in human form,
who was destined to become the central figure of the mutiny.

He first came into prominence at the investment of Cawnpore, and his
bloodthirstiness chilled the hearts of the brave defenders, yet roused
deep feelings of revenge in those who came to the relief. General
Wheeler was in command at Cawnpore--a brave and tried officer, who
would fight to the last; and, being distrustful of a regiment of Oude
Irregulars, disbanded them and sent for a single company of the 32nd
from Lucknow.

All was quietness at this time--the 3rd of June--at Cawnpore, when news
reached Wheeler that the garrison at Lucknow were in sore straits. He
immediately sent back the company of the 32nd, and, as an additional
reinforcement, ordered a detachment of the 84th to accompany them. This
had the effect of thinning the Cawnpore garrison, which now consisted
of 60 men of the 84th regiment, 70 of the 32nd, and 15 of the Madras
Fusiliers, with a few artillerymen and six guns. Two native regiments
were still within the lines--the 1st and 56th native infantry; but as
a precaution, the General ordered that they should sleep outside the
lines.

The dreaded outbreak came at last, and the first shot was fired on
the morning of the 6th of June. Immediately the defenders rushed to
the entrenchments to repel an expected attack of the rebel cavalry
and infantry, but the first day’s fighting was mostly confined to an
artillery duel.

The enemy were vastly superior as regards big guns, and their shots
proved very destructive to the walls of the barracks. Wheeler’s only
hope was to last out until relief came, but gradually the enemy closed
in, capturing the compounds, bungalows, and other buildings, from which
they poured in a perfect hail of bullets upon the brave defenders.
Captain John Moore, of the 32nd, did yeoman service in checking these
encroachments, and, although wounded in the arm, he sallied out on two
occasions at the head of 25 men and spiked the nearest guns.

The deadly fire of the rebels was not the only danger, for the heat
was so intense that the death-rate among the women and children became
alarming. As soon as they died, their bodies were laid out on the
verandah to await the coming of night, when they were cast into a well.

The rebels, desperate to achieve their end, commenced to fire hot
shells and red-hot shot, which caused a part of the barracks to ignite.
Unfortunately this was the very part where the sick and wounded were
lying. Before anything could be done, about forty poor creatures had
perished in the flames, while the defenders could not quit their posts
in the trenches lest the savage horde would burst in and annihilate the
garrison. The barracks soon became so riddled that they afforded but
little protection, and the women had to burrow in the earth to find
safety for themselves and their children.

Theirs was a terrible plight, with shells screaming over them, and
the foul stench of decaying horses and cattle for ever in their
nostrils. It should be mentioned that the survivors of the garrison at
Futtehghur, which had been abandoned, to the number of 126, men, women
and children, had taken refuge in Cawnpore, where they were lodged in
the assembly rooms. They had escaped in boats down the Ganges, and many
lives had been lost through the rebels firing upon them from the banks.
Little did they dream that a more terrible fate awaited them.

On the eighteenth day of the siege, Nana Sahib sent an old English
lady, named Mrs. Greenway, whom he had captured, to the barracks, to
offer honourable terms of surrender to General Wheeler. These were to
the effect that all Government money should be given up, that the force
should march out under arms with 60 rounds of ammunition to every man,
and that boats, properly victualled, should be in readiness at the
landing-stage on the Ganges, about a mile from the British entrenchment.

These terms were signed, sealed, and ratified on the solemn oath of the
Nana. Hostilities at once ceased, and General Wheeler made preparations
to evacuate the place which he had so gallantly defended against
fearful odds. On the 27th of June, the force, to the number of about
700, marched down to the boats, little thinking of the treachery that
was working in the heart of the Nana. There were nearly 300 women and
children there, and they took their places in the boats.

The moment all were embarked, Nana gave the signal, and a fierce
musketry fire rained upon the trusting and hapless band in the frail
boats. Then ensued a terrible massacre, hundreds being killed without
a chance of defending themselves, while those who sought safety in the
water were shot as soon as they showed themselves. Those in the boat
which contained the gallant Wheeler and his daughter made a gallant
resistance, and actually succeeded in getting down stream, only to be
captured by three of the Nana’s boats and brought back to Cawnpore.

The men were separated from the women, and the Nana ordered them to be
shot by men of the 1st Bengal Infantry.

“No! no!” answered several of the rebels. “We will not shoot Wheeler
Sahib, for he made the name of our regiment great.”

There were others who were ready enough to perpetrate the foul deed.
The women threw themselves upon the breasts of those whom they loved,
and begged to share their fate. They were rudely dragged apart, and
just as the rebels were about to fire, the chaplain asked to be allowed
to read prayers before they died. This was granted, and after he had
read a few prayers, the doomed men clasped hands in a last lingering
good-bye. Crack went the rifles, and in a minute they were all shot
down, while those who were wounded were soon despatched. So ended the
first chapter of the Nana’s treachery.

The women and children, to the number of 122, were taken to the Nana’s
house, and a few days later, along with the fugitives from Futtehghur,
were removed to the assembly rooms.

Such fiendish brutality could not go unpunished, and when tidings of
the massacre reached Britain, Brigadier-General Havelock was ordered to
place himself at the head of a force to march on Cawnpore and Lucknow.

It was not a very pretentious army that left Allahabad on the 7th of
July--some 1300 Europeans; but the presence of 600 men of the 78th
Highlanders in the ranks gave it additional strength. Major Renaud had
been sent on with a small force as advance guard, and Havelock coming
up with him, the united forces encamped at Khaga, about five miles from
Futtehghur. While the camp was being pitched, the enemy, numbering 3500
with 12 guns, was observed, and orders were given for an immediate
action. Captain Maude pushed on his guns to point blank range, and
terrorised the enemy with his fire. Against a combined British advance
the rebels retreated, leaving their guns behind them.

It was almost a bloodless victory, for the British loss was trifling,
while the advantage gained was of immense importance. Worn out with a
long march, Havelock decided to rest, and this gave the rebels time to
take up another defensive position to block the road to Cawnpore.

Havelock resumed his march on the 14th, and came up with the enemy at
Aong. The resistance made was but feeble, and under a galling fire of
round and grape shot they once more retreated to the bridge over the
Pandoo Nuddee, which was the last obstacle on the road to Cawnpore.
What the withering artillery fire failed to do, the bayonets of the
Highlanders accomplished, and, leaving a number of guns and ammunition
behind, the rebels were soon in full retreat to join the Nana’s main
force at Cawnpore.

When the Nana learned of the defeat of his troops, he determined upon
the slaughter of every European in Cawnpore. About four o’clock on
the afternoon of the 15th, the bloody butchery began. The males were
ordered out and immediately shot, but the women refused to move, and
neither threats or persuasions would induce them.

They clung to each other until at last the enraged sepoys discharged
muskets from the windows amongst the poor unfortunates. They then
rushed in with sword and bayonet, and soon the place was a reeking
shambles. Fiercely the maddened brutes slashed and stabbed amongst
the quivering mass. They heeded not the pitiful prayers for mercy,
but killed women and children alike. There were about 150 women and
children in the room, and soon the floor was piled high with bleeding
bodies. The massacre continued for several hours, and at last, thinking
that their work was complete, the murderers of the pure and innocent
desisted.

Next morning it was found that a number had escaped death by hiding
under heaps of bodies, and orders were given to recommence the
butchery. Terrified and mad with suffering, the poor creatures,
drenched with the blood of their countrywomen, seized their children,
and, rushing over the compound, cast themselves into a well, preferring
such a death to excruciating torture at the hands of the Nana’s
myrmidons. That same evening the other mangled bodies were cast into
the well, and the Nana’s bloody work was completed.

Since that dreadful day a mausoleum has been erected over the
well--“Sacred to the perpetual memory of a great company of Christian
people, chiefly women and children. xvi. day of July, MDCCCLVII,” and
guarded by the sublime figure of an angel standing at the cross, to
keep watch and ward for aye o’er Britain’s noble dead.

Meanwhile, Havelock’s troops, unaware of the foul deed which had been
enacted within the walls of the city, moved rapidly on, and on the
16th halted at the village of Maharajpoor, before engaging the Nana,
who was posted in a strong position about two miles off at the village
of Aherwa. He had cut up and rendered impassable both roads, and his
heavy guns, seven in number, were disposed along his position, which
consisted of a series of villages. Behind were the infantry, composed
of the mutineers and his own armed followers, numbering in all about
5000.

General Havelock quickly grasped the situation, and decided upon
a flanking movement. The column, therefore, after a short frontal
advance, veered off to the right, and circled round the enemy’s
left. The Nana, observing this move, sent a large body of horse to
the left, and at once opened fire upon the British column with all
his guns. Still Havelock achieved his object, and turned the enemy’s
left. Forming into line, the British guns were soon playing upon
the batteries, while the infantry, covered by a wing of the Madras
Fusiliers as skirmishers, advanced in direct _échelon_ of regiments
from the right.

Then came the moment for the Highlanders, as three guns of the enemy
were strongly posted behind a lofty eminence, and these had to be
taken. Under Colonel Hamilton, the 78th moved forward under a steady
fire. They reached the guns and charged with fixed bayonets, but the
enemy broke and fled. Meanwhile the 64th and 84th regiments had not
been idle, engaging the enemy hotly on the left, and capturing two
guns. General Havelock now re-formed his force on account of the
retreat of Nana Sahib to a new position to the rear of his first and
nearer Cawnpore. The British infantry changed line to the front and
rear while the guns were brought up.

While this was being done, the Nana, despatching his cavalry to the
rear of the British force, attacked from this point. They charged
fiercely, but the British volleys were too much for them, and they
withdrew. In the van the fighting was stubborn, and the rebel infantry
seemed to be in disorderly retreat when a reserve 24-pounder came to
the rescue, and played considerable havoc amongst the British lines.
The infantry once more rallied, and the cavalry rejoined the Nana’s
forces. It was imperative that the 24-pounder should be silenced, as
the Madras Fusiliers, the 64th, 78th, and 84th, formed in line, were
losing heavily. The rebel skirmishers were becoming bolder and, getting
within range, poured a heavy musketry fire upon the stolid British
ranks. To make matters worse, the tired oxen could not bring up the
guns over the rough road.

The General gave orders for another steady advance. It seemed madness
to go forward amid such a storm of shot and shell, but Havelock knew
his men.

“No firing, 64th and 78th. Trust to the bayonet, and remember that I am
with you.”

These words inspired the men with a fresh courage, so, with a ringing
cheer, they dashed forward. Steadily they advanced, the enemy sending
round shot into the ranks up to 300 yards’ range, and then poured a
perfect fusilade of grape. The 64th were directly in line of the gun,
and suffered severely, but when the order to “Charge!” came, each man
bounded forward.

The rebels did not wait for the bayonet, but broke and fled, with the
British in pursuit, showing no mercy to the fugitives. The Nana’s
forces were now in total confusion, and retired upon Cawnpore. The
British guns were now up, and a heavy fire was opened upon the
retreating host. The battle was over, and the tired troops halted for
the night, while the wounded were attended and the dead interred. The
British loss was found to be about 100 killed and wounded, which does
not say much for the rebel fire, seeing that they had practically
target shooting for a considerable time. The enemy’s loss was severe,
as the dead and dying strewed the road to Cawnpore.

Hardly had the troops settled down to rest when a tremendous explosion
shook the earth. Nana Sahib, recognising his defeat, had blown up the
Cawnpore magazine, and abandoned the place, with which his name will be
for ever darkly associated.

Next day Havelock’s force entered Cawnpore, to find that they were too
late; a glance at the blood-bespattered room and the ghastly sight of
the mangled bodies in the well spoke all too plainly of the fearful
carnage. It was to find this that the brave force had marched 126
miles, defeated the enemy four times, and captured 24 guns. Little
wonder that the brave soldiers were maddened by such a spectacle;
little wonder that they swore terrible oaths of vengeance.

“I wept,” wrote one of the officers of the 78th, “when I looked into
the room where the massacre had taken place, and saw the blood on the
floor and walls, portions of clothing, and shreds of hair which had
been torn from the innocent heads of our women and children. And I was
not the only one to weep, for I saw old and hardened soldiers, who had
endured the carnage of many a battlefield without a tremor, with tears
running down their tanned cheeks.”

No mercy was shown to the rebels who were caught. First of all they
were compelled to clean up a portion of the blood-stained floor, and as
to touch blood is abhorrent to the high-caste natives (they thinking
that by doing so they are doomed to perdition), this was a terrible
punishment. They were then hanged, and Brigadier Neill, who had now
command at Cawnpore, was successful in sending many to their just doom.

Large numbers of the enemy still hung about in the vicinity of
Cawnpore, and the troops made several successful sorties. The Nana
had wisely quitted the field, and had taken refuge in his palace at
Bithoor, where he was strongly supported. The skirmishing bands of
mutineers which molested the Cawnpore garrison were gradually driven
back, and must have suffered severely. An incident, gruesome it may be,
is related of a stalwart Highlander, who had taken part in one of the
skirmishes. He was discovered standing musing and gazing intently upon
two headless corpses which lay upon the ground.

“What’s troubling you, my man?” said an officer who chanced to be near.

“Lo’d, sir, I sliced aff baith their heads, and noo I dinna ken the ane
fae the ither, so I doot I’ll need tae lat them lie as they are”; and,
as if playing football, he kicked the heads aside.

There were others who put notches on their guns--a notch for every
rebel they killed.

Knowing what their fate would be if they were taken prisoner, the
mutineers gradually fell back to join the Nana’s main force. It was
Havelock’s intention to march immediately to the relief of Lucknow, but
his force was sadly in need of rest. At last, all was in readiness, and
on the 25th of July he set out at the head of his small band of 1500
men to give battle to countless thousands. Henceforward the stirring
scenes of the mutiny were transferred to other fields than Cawnpore.

But Cawnpore was destined to undergo another siege, as the Gwalior
contingent of rebels, an inactive plundering and blood-thirsty band,
had determined to strike a blow at the city which had been the scene
of such terrible massacres. Havelock had relieved Lucknow at this
time, and Sir Colin Campbell had gone to the rescue of the force that
had to remain shut up there. Fortunately they delayed their projected
attack until Campbell had forced an entrance to Lucknow, but when they
appeared in large numbers before Cawnpore, on the 26th of November, the
position of the weakened garrison in the city was a perilous one.

The rebels drew up at the Pandoo Nuddee, a few miles from Cawnpore. The
forts which had previously been used in repelling the Nana’s attacks
were strengthened, and General Wyndham, who had won glory at the Redan
in the Crimea, felt confident of holding the mutineers at bay until Sir
Colin Campbell returned with Havelock from Lucknow. When the enemy were
sighted at the Pandoo Nuddee, he determined to show them that he did
not require to act upon the defensive, but that, if occasion presented
itself, he could also attack.

He determined to have the first blow, but it is feared that the bold
and intrepid General vastly underestimated the enemy’s strength. He
marched out to check the rebels at the head of about 2000 men, composed
of the 64th, 82nd, and 88th regiments, along with a section of the
34th. He came up with the enemy, and at once opened fire, which was
smartly returned by the insurgents from guns which were judiciously
posted, and which commanded the British position.

Wyndham saw that he had a superior force arrayed against him, but,
trusting to the valour of his men, he renewed the attack. Against the
odds the sterling prowess of the British soldier had good effect, and
the enemy, menaced with the bayonet, fell back in the direction of
their guns, leaving a number of killed and wounded on the field. The
pursuit was kept up for a short distance, and resistance was offered by
the rebel cavalry, who repeatedly charged to protect their retreating
infantry. These half-hearted charges were easily repulsed by steady
volleying from our ranks, which emptied several saddles. The cavalry,
however, undoubtedly saved the infantry, which stood in danger of being
cut up by Wyndham’s infuriated troops.

The gallantry of the little band of the 34th deserves high
commendation. They threw themselves into squares to deal with the
cavalry, and did terrible execution in the ranks. It was during the
fight with the cavalry that Captain Day of the 88th, who had fought in
all the battles of the Crimea, was struck by a musket ball and fell
into a well, from which his body was never recovered.

While the shades of evening were falling over the blood-stained field,
General Wyndham ordered the troops to fall back. This they were nothing
loth to do, as they had had a hard day’s fighting, and were glad to
encamp for the night on the Jewee plain. The camp was well situated,
having a thick covering of trees and brushwood in the direction of the
enemy, a brick kiln on one side, with the city in the rear to fall back
upon if occasion should arise. Meanwhile the rebels had not been idle,
and having made sure that the British had given up the pursuit, they
also halted and commenced to beat up reinforcements.

In the early morning they advanced upon the British position to the
number of 14,000 infantry and cavalry, with no fewer than 40 guns.
General Wyndham, no doubt imagining that if the worst came to the worst
he had the city to fall back upon, stuck to his guns when the enemy’s
fire began. There was a perfect hail of shot amongst the brushwood,
and the rebel gunners had so accurate a range as to throw the British
troops into confusion at certain parts. Officers gave orders and then
contradicted them, the result being that Wyndham had no plan of attack
or defence. Men were falling rapidly, and the rebel infantry, under the
cover of their big guns, prepared to advance. There was nothing for
it but to retire, and so hurried was the retreat that the tents and
baggage had to be left behind while the troops took refuge behind the
entrenchments.

This success made the rebels bolder, so that on the 28th, after
forming a junction with Nana Sahib’s troops, they prepared to attack
the entrenchments. They quickly captured the bungalows, and partially
demolished houses in the vicinity, and practically succeeded in
surrounding the British position on every side save that which fronted
the river. This advantage was not gained without severe loss, for
the fire of the British was most effective. Still, it was an immense
advantage, and for a time it appeared as if the whole force would be
annihilated. The mutineers opened fire from their left and centre
with light and heavy guns, driving in our outposts to within a short
distance of our own guns. Inch by inch the ground was stubbornly
contested, and certainly there was no lack of courage displayed by the
defenders. The assembly rooms, with all their contents, consisting
of 11,000 rounds of ball cartridge, the mess plate of four Queen’s
regiments, along with the trophies of the 34th, and an immense quantity
of private property, fell into the hands of the rebels. Elated with
success, and gloating over the prospect of a second massacre, they
attacked with greater vigour than had ever been displayed in previous
engagements. There were many brave deeds that day, and one deserves
special notice.

A party of the 64th regiment, only thirty strong, under Captain Wright,
held the Baptist Chapel and old burial ground. Finding he was being
surrounded, he opened out, and, skirmishing, kept the sepoys at bay.
The gallant captain noticed a wing of the 64th marching out, 250
strong, to capture four guns which had done great damage to the British
left. Captain Wright dashed forward to act as advance guard to his
comrades, and the 64th, without pausing to count the cost, plunged in
and spiked three before the gunners had recovered from their surprise.
Although vastly outnumbered, the 64th did great execution with the
bayonet, and this was the first real check the enemy had received
that day. Unfortunately, Captain Mackinnon and Lieutenant Gordon were
captured by the rebels, and, although wounded, were murdered in cold
blood.

The sailors and rifles came up and captured three 18-pounders and two
mortars. This check on the enemy proved the salvation of Cawnpore, for
it compelled the enemy to slacken fire. The defenders settled down to
a night’s fighting, but ere the daylight died, resounding cheers rang
through Cawnpore, for deliverance had come, in the shape of Sir Colin
Campbell, who had heard the roar of the guns and had pushed on with
all speed. The old campaigner took in the situation at a glance, and,
assuming command, he at once saw to the safety of his own troops, who
rested during the night.

Next morning the rebels opened a cross fire from flanks and centre,
which was replied to from our guns in the entrenchments. The sick and
wounded from Lucknow, along with the women and children, were safely
sheltered, but next day the rebel cannon playing upon the hospital did
some damage. Sir Colin was plainly biding his time, and meanwhile,
he had sent the invalids and women and children to Allahabad. The
93rd Highlanders did noble service in spiking the guns and repelling
assaults. On the morning of 6th December every battery and gun was
trained upon the enemy’s positions in the town, and all day long a
storm of shot and shell raged over the town.

Next day saw the rebels evacuate the town, but if they bargained to
escape, they were wrong, for Sir Colin drove home the blow, and such
regiments as the Black Watch and the 93rd did fearful execution amongst
the flying cowards along the Calpee road. Sir James Hope Grant pursued
them further, and administered the _coup de grace_, for the Gwalior
contingent was nevermore heard of, and, thanks to Sir Colin Campbell,
Cawnpore was once more saved.



CHAPTER XLVII.

THE RELIEF OF LUCKNOW.

1857.


Quickly the Indian revolt spread from garrison to garrison, and the
native mind was inflamed with hatred of the British. At Lucknow the
native troops waited a considerable time before taking any definite
step, but, trusting to the success which had attended the mutineers
at Delhi, they at last took the fatal plunge. On 31st July, 1857,
large numbers of the 13th, 48th, and 71st infantry regiments left the
cantonments without orders, along with two troops of the 7th light
cavalry. They fled in hot haste to Seetapore, but were hotly engaged by
a party of Europeans under Brigadier Handscomb, who was killed in the
encounter.

All sorts of stories were now in circulation to inflame the native
mind. According to the chiefs and fakirs, a vast army was marching
on India to enforce the greased cartridges and compel the natives to
become Christians. That as the Crimean war had made a great many widows
in Britain, the Queen intended to marry them to the chiefs of Oude,
so that their children might be brought up Christians and inherit
the land. To a Briton these tales seem ridiculous, but it must be
remembered that the native Indian mind is easily turned when caste and
religion is concerned.

It was a trying time for the British officers, for well they knew that
their men might revolt at any moment. One officer sums up the situation
in the following words:--“In the battlefield men stand alone to face
the danger, but there are our wives and families involved in the
same risk with ourselves, requiring our protection and our care, and
necessarily withdrawing our thoughts from the actual work before us,
while their helpless state fills us with the deepest anxiety.”

Lucknow at the time of the mutiny was regarded as one of the most
important cities. The gilt domes of the mosques and the mausoleum of
Asoph-ud-Dowlah gave it a gay appearance when viewed from a distance,
but the situation is bad, the soil being white sand, which is driven
about by the wind, often completely enveloping the city. It is situated
on the south bank of the Goomtee river, where it is navigable at all
seasons of the year. A great force of rebels now commenced to gather
before the city, and proceeded to invest the Residency.

Sir Henry Lawrence, who was in command, was prepared for the attack,
and had placed the buildings formerly occupied by the Resident and
his suite in a complete state of defence. A large stock of provisions
had been laid in, and the walls were as well fortified and mounted
with guns as they could be. A number of the native troops had remained
“true to their salt,” and they apparently took as much interest in
the preparations for defence as their white comrades. The rebels made
many determined attacks, and kept up a steady fire, which fortunately
did little damage. When they came to close quarters, they suffered
severely, Sir Henry inflicting a number of heavy defeats upon them.

Day by day the siege dragged on, the enemy, strongly reinforced,
becoming bolder, despite their losses. Sir Henry had a large number of
helpless women and children in his keeping, and at last the provisions,
which they trusted would last until relief came, began to run out.
Something had to be done, and the brave Lawrence resolved that at all
events the women and children should not starve while he had men to
fight for them. A sortie upon the rebel camp was agreed upon, so Sir
Henry, at the head of only 200 men of the 32nd Cornish Light Infantry,
and supported by the loyal native infantry and a few guns, sallied
forth to the attack.

The affair was short and sharp, but to the point. The advance guard of
the rebels was engaged, and, unable to stand the fierce onslaught of
the Cornish bayonets, they fled in total rout, leaving many dead and
wounded upon the field. A great quantity of live stock was captured,
and, well pleased with the success of his foray, Sir Henry prepared to
return.

Just as the troops were re-entering the city, they were thunderstruck
to have a murderous fire of grape shot poured in upon their ranks. What
had happened? What was wrong? The questions were soon answered. For
the fire proceeded from the guns which were in the hands of the native
artillery, formerly supposed to be loyal. With the treachery which is
so characteristic in the Oriental, the gunners turned the muzzles of
their guns upon the returning band, and discharged volley after volley
into the ranks, the fire being particularly directed against the 32nd.
It was all over in a few minutes, the treacherous rebels who had posed
as loyal soldiers of the Queen, fleeing to augment the ranks of the
mutineers.

They had done their cowardly work well, for upwards of sixty rank and
file were killed and wounded, together with a dozen officers. Sir Henry
Lawrence was wounded on the leg, and, unfortunately for the garrison,
the wound proved mortal. Hopes were at first entertained for his
recovery, but lock-jaw set in, and this brave and dauntless officer
died three days after receiving his wound.

The Europeans now realised that they had only their own good arms to
trust to, so they determined to avenge the treachery, and defend the
women and the children to the last. The lines commanding the town were
abandoned, and the Muchee Bhaun fort, which had been strengthened,
became the headquarters of the Lucknow defenders. There were 350 women
and children to protect from the murderous rebels, and still there was
no appearance of relief, yet the gallant 32nd, or all that was left of
them, stuck to their posts.

Meanwhile how fares it with the relieving force under Havelock? This
General, when he had sufficiently rested his troops at Cawnpore,
resumed operations against Nana Sahib, whose palace and stronghold
at Bithoor he destroyed by fire after capturing 16 guns, several
elephants, and a few camels. He had but a slender force, and by
sickness and wounds it was daily growing more feeble. Still he
gallantly pushed on in the direction of Lucknow, and reached Oonas,
a little town whose only approach was guarded by fifteen rebel guns.
Lucknow lay before, and there must be no turning back. The little
force sprang at the guns with the bayonet, drove the enemy back in an
irresistible charge, and the town was in Havelock’s hands. Resting but
a few hours, he hurriedly pushed on to Busserut Gunge, where he found
fresh opposition. The gateway was barricaded, and the road, which had
been carefully trenched by the mutineers, was guarded by four guns. A
stubborn resistance was made to his onslaughts, but the fire from the
British guns terrorised the rebels, who, at the next charge, broke and
fled, leaving Havelock master of the situation.

Yet dearly was the victory bought, for out of his small force he had
eighty-eight officers and men killed or wounded. Sunstroke was playing
havoc amongst the men, but the courage of the Highlanders was amazing
under all conditions.

An officer of the 78th (the Ross-shire Buffs) writing home, says:--“I
can see the Highlanders are too much thought of here, for we get the
brunt of everything. If there is anything to be done, the old General
calls out, ‘Highlanders to the front! Charge that battery! You only
require the word from me. Soldiers, up and at them!’ The word is no
sooner said than done, for in the next moment the bagpipes are heard
skirling, and our wild ‘Hurrah!’ resounding from the mountains; and
look a little to the front and you will see the Scots charging up to
the cannon’s mouth. But many of these brave men never come back. Poor
fellows! We have laid a great many of them in the dust since we came
here; and peace be with them.... The 78th did for the rebels, and sent
them spinning in the air and on the road in all directions, and in
three hours there was nothing of them to be seen but legs, arms, and
heads.”

With his enfeebled force, it would have been madness on Havelock’s
part to have gone further forward into the rebel-infested territory,
so, on 5th August, he sorrowfully commenced his return journey to
Cawnpore. Toiling on, they reached the Ganges, where they were again
attacked by the rebels, who opened a terrible fire upon the 78th. The
Highlanders did not stand idle as targets for the mutineers, but with
a yell of rage and hatred they dashed at the guns, and once again the
rebels tasted the terrible bayonet.

“Well done, my own brave Highlanders!” cried Havelock. “You have this
day saved yourselves and your comrades.”

The shattered force was allowed to proceed to Cawnpore without further
molestation, and the expedition had not been in vain, for the rebel
army which was besieging the Residency at Lucknow was drawn off to meet
Havelock, thus allowing the garrison freedom to lay in provisions and
strengthen the fortifications.

Havelock did not put off much time in resting, for, four days after his
arrival, he set out a second time, at the head of 1300 troops. Once
again the enemy were met at Bithoor, which Havelock described as “one
of the strongest positions in India.” The plain in front of the enemy’s
position was covered with thick sugarcane, which reached high above
the heads of the men, while their batteries were defended by thick
ramparts, flanked by entrenched quadrangles. The British guns made
little impression, but once again the bayonet made them flee, and the
British pursued them for some distance, killing many in the wild rush.

The force returned to Cawnpore next morning, and took up a position on
the plain of Subada, where Havelock issued a flattering note to the
force to the effect that it “would be acknowledged to have been the
prop and stay of British India in the time of her severest trial.”

The force had nothing to do now but wait for reinforcements, and the
soldiers chafed at the delay, especially as cholera broke out in the
camp. The 78th, which had lost a large number of men, was strengthened
by the addition of five companies from Allahabad, and were also
supplied with Enfield rifles.

The 5th and 90th regiments arrived at Cawnpore in the beginning
of September, while Sir James Outram, the “Bayard of India,” also
arrived to take command of the Cawnpore and Dinapore divisions. At
once preparations were made for the third march on Lucknow, where the
garrison was pluckily holding the rebels at bay. A bridge of boats
was thrown over the Ganges, and on 16th September, Sir James Outram
issued a division order in which he resigned to Havelock the honour of
leading on the force to the relief of Lucknow, “in gratitude for and
admiration of the brilliant deeds of arms achieved by General Havelock
and his gallant troops.”

Sir James accompanied the force as a volunteer, and the army of relief
was divided into two brigades of infantry and one of artillery as
follows:--1st Brigade of Infantry under Brigadier-General Neill--5th
Fusiliers, 84th Regiment, 1st Madras Fusiliers and 100 men of the
64th Regiment. 2nd Brigade of Infantry, under Colonel Walter Hamilton
of the 78th, consisted of the 78th Highlanders, 90th (Perthshire)
Light Infantry, and the Sikh regiment of Ferozepore. There were three
battalions of artillery, the volunteer cavalry, a few irregulars, and a
small body of engineers.

At Lucknow, meanwhile, the Residency had been converted into a
fortress, but the never-ceasing fire of the rebels told severely
upon it. The walls were perfectly riddled with shot, and a number
of the women and children who had taken refuge there were killed.
The master mind of Sir Henry Lawrence was sadly missed, and with the
heavy fire and a spreading pestilence, the lot of the defenders was
most desperate. There was need of relief, so, leaving the imprisoned
garrison, we will follow the fortunes of Havelock. Leaving Cawnpore in
the keeping of the 64th regiment, the force crossed the Ganges, and
were exposed to a galling fire from the enemy who, however, retreated
to Mungulwar.

The real advance commenced on the morning of the 21st September, and
the rebels were soon discovered in their old position at Mungulwar,
which they had strongly fortified. The position, however, was soon
carried, the rebels offering but slight resistance. The cavalry pursued
the fleeing mutineers, and cut down scores, while four guns and a
colour were captured, the British loss being very slight. Through a
monsoon of rain which lasted for three days, the force pushed on over
the scenes of their former struggles, passing Buseerutgunge and the
village of Bunnee.

On the afternoon of the 23rd the enemy were descried in a strong
position in the neighbourhood of Lucknow, at a place known as the Alum
Bagh. It consisted of a large brick mansion, a mosque, a well, and a
beautiful garden. Havelock’s troops were now in sight of the glittering
domes of Lucknow, and with light heart they prepared to give battle to
the rebels in their path. The head of the column at first suffered from
the fire of the enemy’s guns, as it was compelled to pass along the
trunk road between morasses.

The force quickly deployed into line, and our guns coming up, a heavy
fire drove the enemy back. The 2nd Brigade advanced through a sheet
of water, and drove back the enemy’s right, while the 1st Brigade
successfully attacked the front. Five guns were taken, and ultimately
the enemy retired towards Lucknow, pursued by Sir James Outram at the
head of the cavalry. The British force was rested prior to an attack
upon the city, but the force was subjected to a constant cannonading
from the enemy’s guns, which did so much damage that Havelock had to
retire his left wing out of range. The sick and wounded, along with the
camp-followers and baggage, were left at the Alum Bagh, guarded by a
strong detachment of Europeans and Sikhs.

Joyfully did the poor unfortunates in the Residency hail the looming of
Havelock’s guns, and they redoubled their efforts to defeat the rushes
of the rebels, who were now rendered desperate.

On the morning of the 25th of September, Havelock advanced on Lucknow,
and found that the enemy had taken up a very strong position at the
village of Char Bagh. It should be mentioned that the city of Lucknow
is surrounded by a canal, and had the enemy broken the bridges,
Havelock’s task would have been more difficult, but as it was, they
left them intact, contenting themselves by posting heavy guns to defend
the Char Bagh bridge. The rebels were in great force, and occupied
gardens and walled enclosures, from which they poured an incessant and
destructive musketry fire upon our advancing troops.

The 1st Brigade led the attack under Neill, supported by Captain
Maude’s battery prepared for the attack, and dauntlessly rushed the
bridge. Every obstacle was surmounted by Outram and Neill with their
gallant Fusiliers. The palisade was stormed, the gunners bayoneted,
and the guns taken. Havelock followed up his advantage by bringing up
the 78th and 90th, who rushed in impetuously to complete the work.
Fighting every inch of the way, and subjected to a heavy musketry fire
from walls and gardens, the Highlanders advanced, and after spiking
the guns, hurled them into the canal. The houses on both sides of
the street were occupied, the rebels slain by the bayonet, and their
remains cast in heaps on the roadside.

From this point to the Residency was about two miles by the direct
road, which lay through the city. Havelock knew that he had yet to
encounter stern resistance, and very soon found out that the crafty
mutineers had trenched parts of the road, barricaded others, while
every house was loopholed. One of their batteries had a deep pit
immediately in front covered with bamboo, and sprinkled with earth, in
the hope that the Highlanders, in charging the guns, would fall into
the trap and become an easy prey.

Havelock, however, to avoid any danger, took another route, which lay
along a narrow road on the left bank of the canal. The 78th was left
to guard the bridge until the entire force, with ammunition, stores,
etc., had passed.

The united column pushed on, detouring to the right, but did not meet
with much serious opposition until the Kaiser Bagh, or king’s palace,
was reached. Here two guns and a strong body of the enemy opened fire
with grape shot and musketry. Our artillery with the column had to pass
a bridge exposed to this fire, but fortunately they were protected by
the buildings adjacent to the palace of the Furrah Buksh. The fire from
the battery was terrible, and our men were falling by scores. To make
matters worse, a section lost their way through someone calling out,
“Cavalry to the front!” Every house was a fortress, so the magnitude
of Havelock’s task may be imagined. Our men were desperate at seeing
so many comrades fall, and many times they charged up to the walls and
fired into the loopholes.

A party stormed and kept possession of the palaces of Furrah Buksh and
Lehree Kothee, both of which proved useful. The night was now coming
on, and the red gleams of fire lit up the scene.

In the meantime the 78th found themselves hotly assailed. As soon as
the enemy saw the movement of the main body, and perceived that only
a small body was left at the bridge of the Char Bagh, they returned
in large numbers to annoy the Highlanders. The 78th threw out two
companies to occupy the more advanced buildings of the village; four
companies were sent out as skirmishers, and the remainder held in
reserve in the buildings near the bridge. It was hard work to get the
carts and cattle over the narrow rough road. The enemy brought two
guns to bear upon the regiment at 500 yards’ range, and the advanced
companies were soon engaged in a tornado of shot and shell.

There was nothing for it but to capture the guns, so the two advanced
companies, under Captains Hay and Hastings, pluckily charged up
the street and at the point of the bayonet captured the first gun,
while the skirmishing party coming to their assistance, silenced the
remaining gun, which was spiked, the other being hurled into the canal.
The 78th now retired to the bridge, with the wounded, leaving many dead
upon the field. The entire line of carts having now passed, the 78th
evacuated the bridge, and formed the rearguard of the force. This gave
the rebels the opportunity of crossing the bridge, and, protected by a
wall on the right bank, they enfiladed the road along which the force
had to pass. They were now almost surrounded, but, under a galling
fire, they pushed on, yet losing severely.

Havelock by this time had heard of the plight of his favourite
regiment, and ordered the volunteer cavalry and a company of the
90th to their assistance. The lane, however, was too narrow for the
operations of the cavalry, and they, too, began to lose men. At length
a point was reached where four roads met, but as the British had no
guides the officers had to trust to luck, and chose a road to the
left, which appeared to be the most direct route to the Residency.
They pushed on through a street composed of fine houses, which were
loopholed and garrisoned, until they reached the Kaiser Bagh, where
they came in reverse upon the battery which was firing upon the main
body. After spiking the guns, the force crept under the walls of the
Kaiser Bagh, being exposed to a belching fire from the palace, and was
at last successful in rejoining the main body.

After a short rest Havelock decided that they must make an attempt
to reach the Residency that same night. The 78th and the Sikhs were
ordered to advance, and, led by Havelock and Outram, along with Neill
and his Fusiliers, they charged with desperate gallantry through
streets of flat-roofed loopholed houses, from which a perpetual
fire was kept up. Another battery was captured, and every obstacle
surmounted. With a ringing cheer the relieving force entered the
Residency, being joyfully welcomed by the garrison. Relief had come
just in time, for the enemy had driven two mines under the chief works,
and if these had been loaded and sprung, it would have been all over
with the defenders.

Our loss was very severe, as upwards of 400 had fallen, including the
gallant Brigadier Neill, who fell in the final charge on the Residency.

It was not until the next day that the remainder of the troops, sick
and wounded, guns and baggage, could be brought into a place of safety.
The enemy kept up a heavy fire, and rendered the march difficult and
dangerous. After many desperate deeds, all were safe in the Residency,
and the rebels, smarting under the treatment they had received,
withdrew to positions on the outskirts of the city. The British flag
had been kept flying, and the women and children saved from the
bloodthirsty ruffians who anticipated a second Cawnpore.

Lucknow had been certainly relieved, but Havelock could not march
back to Cawnpore, through a rebel-infested country, with such a large
number of women and children, his sick and wounded, and with only a
small force to guard them. There was nothing to do but wait at Lucknow
for help in his mission. The troops were not idle, as the enemy were
particularly daring at times. They were driven from the rear of the
position, and the Palace, extending along the line of the river from
the Residency, was cleared and taken possession of, making excellent
barracks for the troops.

On another occasion three columns of Sir Henry’s force gave the enemy a
surprise by attacking their works at three different points, destroying
the guns, and blowing up the houses which afforded the rebels
protection. The garrison had to be maintained on reduced rations,
but there was not much fear of the defenders starving. The enemy had
still one battery which remained in position close to the Residency,
which annoyed the garrison by its fire. Its capture therefore became
imperative, and a force of over 500 men under Colonel Napier of the
Bengal Engineers, set out to capture it.

The column formed on the road leading to the Pyne Bagh, and, advancing
to some houses near the jail, drove the enemy away from them and from
a barricade under a sharp musketry fire. The column, having to work
its way through strongly-barricaded houses, it was late before a point
was reached from which the battery could be commanded. This position
having been obtained, and it being discovered that the battery was in
a high position, scarped and quite inaccessible without ladders, it
was decided to postpone the assault. The position which had been won,
having been secured and loopholed, the troops occupied the buildings
for the night, and were subjected to a heavy fire from the battery,
which somewhat disturbed the slumbers of the men.

They were fresh enough next morning, however, and prepared to advance
upon the battery, covered by a heavy artillery fire from the Residency.
A severe fire was opened from a barricade which flanked the battery on
the right, but this being turned, the troops advanced and drove the
enemy from the battery, capturing the guns, which had been withdrawn
to some distance, and, driving off the enemy, who defended them to
the last with musketry and grape. The guns having been destroyed and
the house blown up, the force retired to their resting-place of the
previous night.

Everything was now done by the garrison to strengthen its position.
Barricades were erected at all available points, the defences of
the Residency were improved, and every building put into a state of
defence. One of the greatest dangers the British had to guard against
was the enemy’s mines, which threatened the position from every
possible quarter. The garrison had always to be on the alert, and
were constantly employed in counter-mining. In this they were very
successful, and managed to thwart the rebels at almost every point.

In regard to the mining operations, Sir James Outram, who was now in
chief command, wrote:--“I am aware of no parallel to our series of
mines in modern war; 21 shafts, aggregating 200 feet in depth, and 3291
feet of gallery, have been erected. The enemy advanced 20 mines against
the palace and outpost.”

The 78th regiment, as it always did, played a prominent part in the
defence, and were posted in a range of houses which were constantly
under the heavy rebel musketry fire. The walls of the houses were
riddled, but the Highlanders never flinched, and kept thousands of the
fierce mutineers at bay. Day by day the siege dragged on, and scarcely
a day passed but there was some assault or sortie. The rebels were
being strongly reinforced by flying squads of mutineers from all parts,
who were content to serve where they were safest in point of numbers.
As yet they had made no impression on the garrison, but their numbers
were becoming so numerous that Outram and Havelock became extremely
anxious.

It is always when the cloud is at its blackest that the silver lining
appears, and a message, whether it was false or true, reached the
Residency that relief was near at hand. The soldiers cheered, and vowed
to keep the flag flying.



CHAPTER XLVIII.

THE RELIEF OF LUCKNOW

(_continued_).

1857.


Cooped up in the beleagured city of Lucknow, the brave Havelock
received but scanty news of what was transpiring in other parts of
India. He certainly felt assured that the British Government would
never leave him in that hopeless position, so he settled down to make
the best of his situation and keep the rebels in check. It was a trying
time for Outram and Havelock, for almost daily the death-roll was
increased through wounds or disease.

Meanwhile Brigadier Greathed had been marching through the country,
inflicting severe punishment on the mutineers who had fled from
Delhi, where the British had won a great victory. The Mhow and Indore
rebels were crushed at Agra, and the column which latterly moved from
Mynpooree under command of Sir James Hope Grant, arrived at Cawnpore
to hear of the precarious position of the British garrison at Lucknow.
After one or two minor engagements, in which he inflicted some loss
upon the rebels, Sir James determined to proceed to Lucknow, and
attempt with his small force to relieve the city.

On 8th November, 1857, he arrived at the famous Alum Bagh, where
Havelock had left his sick and wounded under the protection of the
64th regiment. Between this strong position and Lucknow there lay a
large undulating plain, intersected by the canal which encircles the
city. Yet that plain could not be traversed, for it was given over
to the camping ground of a huge company of rebels. The mutinous force
before Lucknow must have numbered almost 50,000, so that the task of
relief was rendered impossible to the small British force. It seemed
galling that relief could not be given, with the Residency such a short
distance away, but it would only have been courting annihilation to
attempt to pierce the serried rebel ranks. Therefore Hope Grant took
up his position at the Alum Bagh to wait for reinforcements, and to
be at hand should Havelock require aid. The two British forces were
vastly outnumbered by the enemy, and it has never been satisfactorily
explained why the rebels did not attack the Alum Bagh. The position
was certainly a strong one, but the mutineers could with ease have
invested it from all quarters, and at the same time maintained their
pressure upon Lucknow. Possibly they had grown tired of fruitless
besieging, and, confident in their numerical superiority, preferred to
lie passively on the plain and wait for the attack.

Hope Grant knew that he would not have long to wait, for before leaving
Cawnpore he was informed that the dashing and fiery Sir Colin Campbell
was on the warpath, and was hastening as fast as he possibly could to
form a junction with the troops in Oude, which now comprised Outram
and Havelock’s pent-up force in Lucknow and Sir Hope Grant’s column
at the Alum Bagh. Sir Colin, while travelling post haste to Cawnpore,
ran a very narrow escape. He was impatient to get at the rebels, and,
disregarding an escort, hurried on. He came across a detachment of
the rebellious 32nd regiment, and was all but captured, having to
take refuge in a post bungalow, where luckily he found some of our
soldiers, who were resting after a heavy march. Ultimately he reached
Cawnpore, and without further delay marched to Lucknow, where he now
knew he should join Hope Grant. This desired junction was effected on
11th November, and Sir Colin immediately assumed command of the Lucknow
relief force.

This relieving army was now considerably strengthened, and Sir
Colin, trusting to active conjunction by Outram and Havelock from
the Residency, determined to make the attack. His force consisted
of the 9th Lancers, Captain Peel’s naval brigade, Sikh cavalry,
Hodson’s Horse, 8th, 53rd, 75th, and 93rd regiments of infantry, two
battalions of Punjaub foot, native sappers and miners, 10 guns of
the horse artillery, 6 light field guns, and the heavy field battery
of the Royal Artillery. Sir Colin left his baggage at the Alum Bagh
in charge of the 75th, and was further reinforced by 700 men drawn
from the Welsh Fusiliers and the 82nd Foot, two guns of the Madras
artillery, along with a body of the Royal Artillery and Engineers.
The commander-in-chief advanced from the Alum Bagh in the direction
of Dilkhoosha Park (“Heart’s Delight”), a former hunting seat of the
kings of Oude, with a castle situated on a beautiful eminence in the
park. The advanced guard, which had been further strengthened by
some companies of the 5th, 64th, and 78th Highlanders under Colonel
Hamilton of the 78th, was soon brought into contact with the enemy,
and, steadily advancing, was subjected to a heavy musketry fire from
the rebels. The vanguard, however, cleared away this opposition, and
drove the mutineers over the canal which runs through the park. The
rebels fell back upon the Martinière College, but were unable to
withstand the fire from our guns. This building was splendidly adapted
for defence, standing secure and firm in the centre of a large thicket
of mango trees. The enemy seemed to be terrorised by the steadiness of
our advance, and abandoned the College after a short conflict, in which
they lost heavily. The mutineers seemed to have a wholesome dread of
the Highlanders with their kilts and terrible bayonets. Many of them
had never seen such men before, and were terrified by their appearance.
They called them “petticoated devils,” and many firmly believed that
they were women sent over to avenge Cawnpore. At all events, the
Highlanders were there, and they did much to strike terror into the
hearts of the cowardly rebels.

The College having been so easily won, Sir Colin made the park his
headquarters. Sir James Outram and Sir Henry Havelock were not idle
inside the city, the force being busily employed in digging trenches
and erecting batteries in a large garden held by the 90th regiment.
These were concealed by a lofty wall, under which several mines were
driven for the purpose of blowing it down when the moment for action
should arise. It was determined by the Generals that as soon as Sir
Colin and his force should reach the Secunder Bagh, this wall should be
blown down, and that the batteries should open fire upon the insurgent
defences in front, when the troops would storm the Hera Khanah, the
steam-engine house, and the king’s stables.

Sir Colin had meanwhile arranged his force in the gardens to the best
possible advantage as far as safeguarding against any attack, and being
in readiness to make a dash for Lucknow at any time. On the 12th an
attack was made upon his advance guard by a determined band of rebels.
The field battery and Captain Peel’s heavy guns came into action, and
did great execution amongst the enemy. After the artillery had done its
work, the 53rd and 93rd Highlanders, along with the 4th Sikhs, charged
the enemy in daring style, causing them to break rank and fly. The 9th
Lancers kept up the pursuit, and almost for the first time the rebels
received a taste of the deadly lance. The rear guard now moved up,
and a junction was formed nearer and ever nearer the city. At last Sir
Colin determined to advance, and, as per arrangement his route was by
way of the Secunder Bagh.

This is a strongly-fortified building, surrounded by a wall which was
loopholed in every direction, fairly bristling with rifle muzzles.
Brigadier Adrian Hope led the troops forward in skirmishing order,
and this was the signal for a heavy fire from the enemy’s guns. The
British guns were quickly brought up by Captains Blunt and Travers,
and replied vigorously to the enemy’s fire. While this artillery duel
was in progress, Hope made a dash at the head of his infantry, and
drove the enemy from the boundary walls of the Secunder Bagh into
the main fortified building. It was here that the last stand was to
be made, and the rebels knew that if they had to surrender there
was no hope of mercy, for they were caught like rats in a trap. To
the left of the Secunder Bagh the enemy held a line of barracks,
which, in the possession of a trained force, might have offered great
resistance. The Sutherland Highlanders, supported by a company of the
53rd, rushed the building, and at the point of the bayonet drove the
enemy helter-skelter from the position to the plain beyond, where the
majority of them were killed. All had been success to Sir Colin’s brave
army up to now, and it was with a cheer that the men rushed to storm
the Secunder Bagh, which was teeming with well-armed and desperate
rebels.

Havelock had in the meantime exploded his mine, and through the
breach his battery opened a withering fire upon the enemy’s defences.
Volley after volley was poured in, and this gave Sir Colin’s troops
the opportunity to make a great attack from his point of vantage. The
4th Sikhs, led by Lieutenant Paul, who fell while gallantly rushing
forward, had the honour of opening the assault, while the 93rd and
53rd acted as supports. The Highlanders and Sikhs are staunch friends,
and might be seen during this campaign going about camp arm-in-arm,
the Sikh with the Scotchman’s feather bonnet, and the Scot with his
dusky comrade’s turban. It is even related that they petitioned their
captains to procure the Highland dress for them. It was but fitting
then that the Sikhs and Highlanders should share the honours of this
glorious attack.

Forward the Sikhs rushed, amid a hail of bullets, with the Highlanders
close behind. The rebel fire was terrible, for they knew this was
their last chance, and they could not expect mercy from our revengeful
troops. A small breach had been made in the wall, but it was so narrow
that only a handful of men could enter at a time. This did not deter
our men, and the Highlanders, just a little bit jealous of the Sikhs
that they should be the first to enter, ran a neck-and-neck race to
the breach through the hail of bullets. They dashed up to the very
loopholes, and from the gaining of this position the fate of the rebels
may be said to have been sealed. The Sikhs, 93rd, 53rd, and the 90th
Highlanders clustered round the doomed building.

The well-known author, Rees, gives a graphic account of the situation.

“Our men,” he writes, “dashed in as quickly as the narrow breach
permitted. They went under the very loopholes of the enemy, and,
cunningly lying down while the enemy let fly a volley at the caps
placed on their bayonets, and which our men put up as a target for
the time being, they as soon as the enemy’s fire was exhausted, and
before they could load again, tore down the iron bars, broke up the
barricades, and jumped down from the windows in the walls.”

Then followed a terrible slaughter, for the rebels were so thoroughly
cowed that they offered but little resistance. Here and there one more
brave than his fellows would fire his rifle or attack with his tulwar.
A bullet in his brain, or the terrible bayonet through his breast soon
silenced him. The Highlanders were reeking in blood. Their faces were
bespattered by drawing their gory hands over their perspiring foreheads
as they momentarily paused in the conflict.

“This is awful!” exclaimed one soldier of the 93rd to his neighbour.

“G’wa, man! this is grand!” and he plunged his bayonet into a cringing
wretch who begged for mercy. “Cawnpore, ye deevil!” he hissed, and
turned to renew his work of slaughter.

It was the memory of Cawnpore that roused the Highlanders, and the
Sikhs were every bit as bloodthirsty. The gateway, the large principal
room, and a side room were deluged in blood, and littered with reeking
corpses. The green tartan of the 93rd was of scarlet hue ere many hours
had passed. The full extent of the silent slaughter with the bayonet
may be judged when it is stated that nearly 3000 bodies were dragged
from the building on the following day. Cawnpore was avenged with
interest.

The troops of the garrison had also been doing brave deeds. Fully 800
of the garrison had attacked other parts of the defences. Men like the
78th Highlanders were spoiling for a charge, and how they rushed upon
their foes! The rebels reeled before the shock, and fled, leaving the
buildings in our hands. Guns were mounted on the position thus gained,
and on the following day opened fire on the observatory (Tara Kotee)
and the mess house. Captain Peel’s naval siege train went to the front,
and drew up within a few yards of the loopholed wall of the Shah
Nujuf, where a heavy and merciless fire was kept up upon the rebel
defenders. After the mess house had been battered by our heavy guns,
recourse was once more had to the bayonet, which was never known to
fail. Nor did it on this occasion, for the position was soon gained and
the enemy put to flight.

The task of relief was nearly completed, and madly our men rushed into
the enclosure round the Motee Mahal (Pearl Palace), where the rebels
made their last despairing stand. It was futile on their part to
attempt to stem the rushes of the victorious British troops. They went
down like grain before the sickle, and those who steered clear of the
bayonet gave vent to yells of terror and fled to the plains, which were
already dotted with bands of fugitives. The slaughter of the rebels had
been enormous, but yet the killing of a few thousands did not diminish
to any great extent the rebel horde which had ignominiously retreated
to a place of shelter. The killed and wounded were but as a drop in the
bucket, and although Lucknow was for the moment relieved, trouble was
yet to be expected from the mutineers who clustered round the city.

Proudly Sir Colin met and grasped the hands of the fearless Outram and
the gallant Havelock. With flashing eyes Havelock praised and thanked
the relieving and defending troops. It was pointed out to him that
his son was lying wounded, but the old warrior continued his address,
although his heart must have been rent with anxiety about his son.
Fortunately it was only a slight wound, and the lad soon recovered, but
the incident shows Havelock as the soldier, who thought it his duty
to thank his soldiers before attending to his wounded son. Our great
success had not been attended without loss, for we had 122 officers
and men killed, and 345 wounded. Sir Colin’s first care was for his
wounded, and after consultation with Havelock and Outram, he decided
to remove the toil-worn garrison to a place of safety. It was evident
that it was not worth while to hold the position against such a large
investing army.

The tactics which he employed in carrying out a safe retreat show the
wily old Sir Colin in his best colours. He was not afraid to meet the
enemy again at the head of his brave troops, but, burdened with women,
children, wounded and stores, he sought to avoid a conflict, and this
is how he managed it.

On the 20th and 21st, he ordered Captain Peel’s battery to open a heavy
fire upon the Kaiser Bagh, and at the same time Havelock’s battery in
the palaces opened a tremendous fire upon the same position. Naturally
the enemy expected an attack upon this point, and consequently
concentrated there. The strategic old General bargained for this,
and he silently withdrew the whole garrison. The retreat was managed
without a hitch, and the force marched on with Sir Colin in the
rear to direct any attack upon the force. The enemy at last learned
of the move, and tried to turn the rear at the Alum Bagh but failed.
On arriving at that place, Sir Colin pushed on with his charges to
Cawnpore, where he fought a decisive battle, which is described in the
chapter dealing with Cawnpore. He left Sir James Outram behind with a
strong force to check any movement on the part of the rebels.

The British camp was unexpectedly thrown into mourning through the
death of Sir Henry Havelock. This brave and Christian General was worn
out with the hardships and anxiety of the campaign and siege, and
was stricken down with dysentry, to which he succumbed on the 24th
November. Safe to say, there was no British officer so genuinely loved
and respected by the rank and file. They adored him, and gladly would
have died for him, and now that he was gone, they mourned him as only
true friends can mourn.

Lucknow had now become the focus of the rebels, who were flying
aimlessly about the country, avoiding actual conflict with British
troops. Sir James Outram’s division numbered almost 4000 men of all
arms, and he took up a strong position, being fortified at all points,
the circuit of his entire position being nearly ten miles. Here
the force remained for nearly three months, while Sir Colin, after
retaking Cawnpore, was engaged recovering the Doab and making his final
preparations for a final assault upon Lucknow.

These months were full of anxiety for Outram and his men, for they
had to be continually on the alert against a mammoth army, which must
have numbered close upon 100,000. Against less skilfully prepared
fortifications they might have, by sheer force of numbers, overwhelmed
the British, but, like whipped curs, they preferred to keep at a safe
distance, and harry the British when opportunity came their way. They
made one feint bolder than their usual, which had for its object the
surrounding of the force and the cutting off of supplies. Outram got to
know of the scheme, and checkmated them at every point. Although vastly
outnumbered, our force repelled every attack, and inflicted heavy loss
upon the mutineers, besides capturing four guns and twelve ammunition
waggons.

News came that Sir Colin was once again upon the march, and although
the troops under Outram were confident that they could hold back the
rebels for ever, they were glad at the prospect of being reinforced
and led into the field by the great Sir Colin. He matured his plans
carefully, and adopted a line of action which he thought would entail
as little loss upon his army as was possible. With this end in view,
he sent out strong detachments to all parts, with instructions to meet
him at all costs at Lucknow on a certain date. Thus Sir Hugh Rose,
General Hope Grant, and Colonel McCausland scoured the country and
achieved several notable victories.

But perhaps the most glorious and decisive victory was gained by
Brigadier Franks at the head of a force of 4000 troops. He contrived
to prevent a junction with two noted rebel leaders, Bund Hossein and
Mhendee Hossein, by attacking the former at Chanda, in the Nagpore
territory. The enemy, consisting of 8500 sepoys and a large number of
mercenaries, occupied the fort and villages in front of the place. They
were driven from this place, leaving behind 300 killed, along with six
pieces of cannon. Franks prepared to encamp in this position, when he
was surprised to hear the discharge of artillery, and a volley of grape
shot crashed into his lines.

The other Hossein, unaware of his relative’s defeat, had come up with
10,000 men and eight guns. Franks gave him battle, and in a very short
time the rebel had to seek safety in flight. Later, he fought another
battle with 25,000 desperadoes, including 5000 trained sepoys, his
force being 2500 Europeans supported by 3000 Nepaulese. He totally
defeated them, and the enemy fled, leaving a rajah and 1800 dead on the
field. Twenty guns, the standing camp, baggage, ammunition, and all
material of war were captured. It was almost a bloodless battle as far
as Franks was concerned, for, incredible as it may appear, he only lost
two men killed and three wounded.

Sir Colin marched from Cawnpore on the 28th February, 1858, at the
head of almost 30,000 troops, including about 20,000 Europeans. He
had 60 heavy guns and 40 field pieces, while his cavalry consisted of
1500 Europeans and 3000 native troopers. This imposing force was still
further augmented by the infusion of 4500 men under the redoubtable
Franks, and fully 10,000 fierce and wiry Ghoorka warriors under the
loyal Jung Bahadoor. The savage rebels knew that a big force was to
be set against them, and they realised that every man would die if he
fell into the hands of the British. Rumours spread in their ranks that
great, red-haired men who were giants, with bare knees, were coming to
kill them, and the chiefs had great difficulty in preventing them from
fleeing.

Campbell appeared with the 2nd Division of infantry, cavalry, and a
section of artillery at a position east of the Alum Bagh on 2nd March,
and on the following day the attack on Lucknow commenced, the enemy
abandoning Dilkhoosha, and falling back on the Martinière College.
The Dilkhoosha was instantly occupied by the 42nd Highlanders (Black
Watch), and a battery was soon at work from this position on the
Secunder Bagh. Sir Colin, gratified at the arrival of Franks and the
Ghoorkas, resolved to make attacks from the river Goomtee, which flows
past the city. A pontoon bridge was thrown across, and 6000 men and 30
pieces of cannon, under Sir James Outram, passed over. The enemy, as
was expected, came out of the city in large numbers to check this force.

A heavy artillery fire and a dashing charge of the Queen’s Bays sent
the rebels back, and Outram was able to strengthen his position. It was
an artillery duel during the next two days, the enemy’s stronghold, the
Martinière College, suffering severely from our shells. Outram had made
good his position, however, for he advanced along the Fyzabad road,
and, although meeting with stout and desperate resistance, he gained
his end, which was the Badshah Bagh, or King’s Great Garden, from which
his guns had free play upon the whole line of entrenchments formed by
the rebels at the canal, rendering them practically useless, besides
turning the rebels’ entire position.

Sir Colin now had up the naval brigade to deal with the buildings
within the enclosure, from the windows of which the rebels kept up a
harassing and deadly rifle fire. The mortars, howitzers, and battery
guns had little effect, as the rebels, now fighting for dear life,
remained wonderfully steady in the trenches.

“A taste of the steel, my men!” grimly exclaimed Sir Colin, as he
turned to the Highlanders and Sikhs.

They steadied, and then, at the word, went forward in one silent,
death-dealing line of steel. This was too much for the rebels, who
fired a few random shots and fled, with the swift-footed Sikhs stabbing
them as they ran. The Martinière was won by the bayonet, and with the
chief rebel position there also fell the Residency, the Secunder Bagh
and Bank House. The Highlanders were once again conspicuous at the
Secunder Bagh, which had withstood the thunders of the naval brigade
guns. Two companies of Highlanders reached a platform, and were brought
to a stop by the dead wall.

“Tear off the tiles! in at the roof, Highlanders!” cried Sir Colin.

This was enough for the brave fellows, and in a minute they had
vanished through the tiles and bamboo, and thus the Secunder Bagh was
taken.

The enemy by this time were in almost total rout, and Hope Grant
swept the surrounding country, cutting up the fleeing bands, while
the artillery continued to blaze away at the buildings still infested
by the desperate robbers and rebels. The Sutherland Highlanders, with
dauntless courage, stormed the Begum’s Palace, and swept aside the
defenders with their trusty bayonets, which reeked with blood. The
gallant Outram held the Goomtee Bridge, and cut up the flying enemy
unmercifully, while the Kaiser Bagh, which was almost an impregnable
position in capable hands, fell easily, the rebels fleeing out of the
city on the opposite side, only to be ruthlessly cut down by Sir Hope
Grant’s thousand sabres. The gallant little Ghoorkas won their spurs by
the capture of the whole line of trenches which menaced the Alum Bagh,
where our sick and wounded had been left.

“It was terrible,” writes an eye-witness, “to see the ferocity of the
Ghoorkas as they sprang at their foes. They inflicted horrible wounds,
but so strong are their arms, it was death every blow.”

On the 19th of March, the Moosa Bagh, the last stronghold of the
rebels, fell, and Lucknow was completely in our hands. Fighting still
took place with large bands of rebels on the outskirts, but they were
generally so demoralised that they fell an easy prey.

We cannot close this eventful chapter without detailing a gallant stand
made by a slender detachment of that grand old regiment, the 42nd Black
Watch. Forty-eight men of the regiment were watching a ford on the
river Sardaar, which separates Oude from Rohileund. The notorious rebel
Kirput Sing of Rooyat crossed at the head of 2000 men, with two guns,
and at once opened fire on the little band. They did not flinch, but
stood at their post from sunrise to sunset, when two more companies
came to their rescue and made their victory complete. The enemy left
400 dead on the field, including Kirput Sing, his son and brother,
along with two guns. Of the 48, five were killed and eleven wounded,
including the gallant Captain Lawson.

By deeds such as these Lucknow was won, and the rebels dispersed and
driven from Oude. By deeds such as these has the Empire been made, and
such deeds of valour are never forgotten, but written in letters of
gold on Britain’s scroll of fame.



CHAPTER XLIX.

THE FIGHTING AT ALLAHABAD.

1857.


When the spirit of revolt in our Indian Empire first spread abroad,
there can be little doubt but that the minds of the mutineers were
inflamed by headmen or chiefs who had a natural antipathy to Britain
and everything British. We have seen how the rebels at Delhi behaved
basely and treacherously, but it was the same all over the Empire. The
natives in general had one common bond of union--a growing sense of
distrust, and a fixed and firm apprehension that some danger menaced
the religion of the Hindoo and Mohammedan alike. They were also imbued
with the gross idea that either the British must be killed off root and
branch throughout India, or that the followers of the Prophet or Menou
must inevitably be swallowed up in Christianity. Anglo-Indian society
remained oblivious to the threatening danger, despising the natives,
and never dreaming of the power they would possess in the event of a
combined mutiny.

Writing of this apathy, a writer in the “Delhi Gazette” of the time
writes as follows:--“Dazzled by the brilliant facility of their past
triumphs, they brought themselves to believe in a peculiar mission like
the ancient Hebrews; and blindly trusting in their special Providence,
neglected all ordinary human precautions for securing the safety and
permanence of their position. They knew that there was an evil spirit
abroad, but they took no steps to disabuse men’s minds until the
mischief was done. They made no preparation against the coming tempest
though the sea-birds on the shore were shrilly screaming, though a
black murky spot was already visible on the horizon, though the hoarse
murmur of the storm was breathing heavily on the darkening waters; so
no one armed himself against the day of battle. Suddenly a spark was
applied to the train laid by many hands, and in a moment of time all
was death, desolation and despair.”

Such undoubtedly was the case, but the native mind must have been
inflamed to an extraordinary degree before the men who wore the British
uniform, and who had sworn fealty to the Crown, could have descended
to such vile acts of treachery as at Cawnpore and Delhi. It was at
Meerut that this slumbering antipathy and racial hatred, which caused
so much bloodshed and suffering first broke out. Colonel Finnis, of the
11th Native Infantry, was there shot through the back by a treacherous
sepoy, and a hundred bayonets were plunged into his body.

This was the inauguration of the work of mutiny and blood, and all
through India the spirit of antipathy animated the mutinous soldiers
to deeds of Oriental barbarity. At Ferozepore, the 45th and 57th
Native Infantry set the buildings on fire and committed several acts
of bloodshed. At Murdaun, where the 55th Regiment (Ochterlony’s men)
mutinied, Colonel Spottiswoode, who loved and trusted them, was so
affected that he shot himself in despair. At Allyghar, brave Captain
Hayes was betrayed and hacked to pieces. At Bareilly the infuriated
fanatics turned upon their officers and killed and wounded in every
direction.

While at Shahjehanpore the 28th Bengal Infantry mutinied while their
officers were at church. The Rev. Mr. M‘Callum was shot as he ascended
the pulpit, Lieutenant Spens was sabred while he knelt at prayer, Dr.
Bowling was shot as he was driving his wife and child to the church,
while Mr. Ricketts, the magistrate of the station, was killed in cold
blood. The women and children were promised every protection, and
were actually allowed to leave the station. They were compelled to
walk, and, on alighting, the fiends disregarded all their promises
by bayonetting the helpless women and dashing out the brains of the
children upon the ground, besides killing all the officers who had
accompanied their women under the promise of protection. At Seetapore,
Neemuch, Hansi, Benares and Sultanpore the same things occurred, the
officers being slain without being given an opportunity to defend
themselves, while the women and children and private citizens were
ruthlessly massacred.

But of all the gross crimes committed during this trying time, when the
flame of mutiny was spreading like wildfire through the country, there
were none of such a treacherous character as that of the mutiny of the
6th Regiment of the Bengal army at Allahabad. That regiment had fought
gallantly in many a field, as its colours signified, for they bore the
names “Mysore,” “Bhurtpore,” and “Cabul.” Allahabad is a fortified
city at the junction of the Ganges with the Jumna, and the fort is
constructed in a strong position on a tongue of land at the confluence
of the two streams.

The 6th were lying at this fort or at the cantonments as might be
required, and when they heard of the mutinies at Meerut and Delhi, at
once volunteered to march against the latter city. They were thanked
for their offer, and the officers commanding the regiment never
imagined that their men would become disaffected. A rumour became
general throughout the town, however, that the regiment was about
to mutiny, and what did the treacherous sepoys do but approach the
officers, and, says a writer of the day, “with tears in their eyes
entreated them to have implicit trust in their fidelity.” The scene
that ensued would not have disgraced the early days of the first French
Revolution.

The officers and men fraternised in the most loving manner. Perfect
confidence appeared to be established on both sides; but, before
nightfall stragglers from other stations arrived, who worked up the
credulous fools to frenzy. They were told that the Christian Queen’s
troops were marching all over the country, destroying all who refused
to become Christians. The soldiers had been wavering, and very little
required to turn them into perfect demons, inflamed with the one
desire, namely massacre and safety in flight. That same evening, about
half-past nine, while the officers were in the mess bungalow, calm in
a sense of security, they were suddenly startled to hear the bugles
sounding the alarm.

With blanching faces they turned out of the bungalow, but the foremost
fell with a bullet in his brain, and the work of mutiny had commenced.
The mutineers rushed about like veritable demons, slaying and killing
whoever dared to impede them. The officers made a gallant attempt to
reach the shelter of the fort at the riverside, and a few actually
managed to elude the maddened mutineers, but fourteen officers,
including nine young ensigns of the 6th, were brutally massacred, and
their bodies subjected to terrible maltreatment.

A detachment of the 6th, with two guns, was posted at the pontoon
bridge to stop the progress of the mutineers from Benares, who were
expected to come to Allahabad. A garden midway between that point
and the fort was occupied by about 150 men of the Oude Irregular
Cavalry, under Lieutenant Alexander, who was posted there for the same
purpose. When the men of the 6th at the bridge heard the sound of the
bugles, they at once divined the cause, and turned the two guns in the
direction of the city, also firing upon the artillery officer, who
bravely dashed off amidst the shower of bullets to warn Alexander of
his danger.

Meanwhile the officers of the detachment managed to effect their
escape in the dark, although they were repeatedly shot at. Lieutenant
Alexander, getting together as many men as could saddle, came dashing
up, sword in hand, but was shot through the heart by one of the rebels.
The artillery officer, being unsupported, saw that his life was in
jeopardy, turned his horse, and galloped to the fort. The garrison of
the fort consisted of about 70 European invalids, the Sikh Ferozepore
regiment to the number of about 400, about 80 sepoys of the mutinous
6th regiment, along with a number of European volunteers from the city.
It was out of the question to trust the men of the 6th, so the officers
at once disarmed them, and found that, contrary to orders, they had
loaded their rifles, which no doubt they intended to use upon the
officers. They were turned out in an unarmed state, and joined their
infuriated comrades in the streets of the town.

The mutineers, after looting and wrecking the cantonments, proceeded in
a body to the great prison, where they easily overpowered the guards
and forced an entrance. Indian prisons at the time were generally
crammed full of thieves and vagabonds who could well and fitly be
classed “the greatest scum on earth,” and the great prison of Allahabad
was no exception to the rule. The mutineers released them speedily, and
the prisoners were nothing loth to join the sepoys in the work of havoc
and death. There were about 3000 prisoners released, and, along with
the soldiers, they marched through the streets, and carried death and
destruction on their march. Captain Birch, the adjutant of the fort,
and Lieutenant Innes of the Engineers, chanced to be outside when the
mutiny happened, and they were caught by the rebels and shot.

A worse fate befel an officer of the 6th, who chanced to fall alive
into the hands of the savages--for such undoubtedly the soldiers had
become. He was pinned to the earth by bayonets and a fire kindled round
his body, and thus he was slowly roasted to death as his own men danced
around him and mocked his agony. The European residents who chanced
to fall into the hands of the mutineers were horribly outraged before
death mercifully released them from their tortures. At least fifty
white men and women perished in their houses or on the streets. Some
were cut to pieces by slow degrees, the nose, ears, lips, and fingers
being first cut off, and then the limbs hacked off by the tulwars of
the rebels. An entire family was burned alive, and little children were
destroyed before the eyes of agonised parents. Houses were wrecked, and
choice articles either carried off or destroyed in the maddest spirit
of destruction and hate.

Five officers had reached the shelter of the fort by swimming the
Ganges, and three of them were in a state of nudity. The little
garrison lay under arms in the fort for five days and nights, watching
the infuriated sepoys rushing hither and thither, maddened and
desperate, many of them being under the influence of the native spirit
called “Chang,” which seems to steal away any little sense the ordinary
sepoy may have.

The big guns in the fort were brought to bear upon bands of rebels
who ventured too near, and many were killed in this way, while the
sharpshooters on the walls picked off a number who came within range.
The city volunteers, composed for the most part of railroad men, were
formed into three small companies and officered. This added to the
numerical strength of the garrison, and Colonel Neill at Benares,
hearing of the outbreak at Allahabad, sent on about 50 men of the
Madras Fusiliers, while he himself hurried to the scene of the mutiny
at the head of 40 more, covering the seventy miles of country which
lay between the two cities in two nights in light carriages. He found
on arrival at Allahabad that the mutineers had grown tired of looting
and killing, in fact, the 6th had marched out of the town with drums
beating.

Neill, at the head of his Fusiliers, speedily cleared the suburbs, and
had for his opponent a Mohammedan Mollah, who had unfurled the green
flag of the Prophet and proclaimed himself Vice-Regent of the King
of Delhi. He had collected a large band of ruffians, and occupied an
entrenched position in the town. At the head of only 200 men, with
a few guns, Neill marched out of the fort and attacked the Mollah’s
forces so suddenly, and with such vigour, that the rebels broke and
fled in all directions, pursued by the energetic Fusiliers, who put
many to death.

Meanwhile, the scene inside the fort was a sad one, cholera breaking
out, and many also perished from sunstroke. Over seventy fighting
men lost their lives through disease, and twenty were buried at one
funeral. The shrieks of the insane and the dying rang through the fort,
and the 200 fugitive European women were in a sad plight. However, when
once Neill with his small force got thoroughly to work in the streets,
he rapidly cleared the rebels out of the city, and the fugitives were
able to return to their wrecked homes. The mortality was very high for
a time, but gradually the disease got stamped out, and Allahabad became
free and latterly welcomed Sir Henry Havelock and his Highlanders on
their march to Lucknow.



CHAPTER L.

THE FIGHTING AT FUTTEHGHUR.

1857.


The 10th Native Infantry, while the foregoing events were occurring,
were stationed at Futtehghur, a town on the west bank of the Ganges.
This regiment was every whit as famous in Indian warfare as the 6th,
who had run amok at Allahabad, bearing on their colours the battles of
Buxar and Korah.

In June, 1857, the whole regiment broke out into open mutiny, forced
the gaol and released all the prisoners. This was surprising in the
extreme, as only a few days previous the men of the 10th had informed
their officers of a plan which the 41st regiment at Seetapore had
proposed to them in the event of the mutiny. They had even gone the
length of destroying the pontoon bridge, so as to prevent any rebels
from crossing to Futtehghur. No sooner did the 41st arrive after
their mutiny at Seetapore, than the 10th regiment, with a company of
artillery and two guns, marched to the Nawab, whom they placed on the
throne, laying the British colours at his feet, and firing a salute
of 21 guns. The battalion of the 10th were split into two sections,
those who were Purbees crossing at once to Oude, with the obvious
intention of returning to their homes. They were accompanied by a
Captain Bignell, who was killed on the way. Others went off on foraging
expeditions in small bands, and many who remained were murdered by the
men of the 41st, because the men of that regiment were refused a share
of the public treasure.

The garrison at Futtehghur was but a small one, in fact there were
only about thirty men capable of bearing arms, and these brave fellows
prepared to defend the seventy odd women and children against the
attacks of the mutineers. The forces exchanged shots with big guns, and
latterly the sepoys crept behind the sheltering bushes, and peppered
the defenders with a heavy musketry fire, which did no harm. On the
following day the persistent rebels, under cover of their artillery
fire, were seen approaching with ladders, which they attempted to set
up against the walls. Fortunately the men inside the fort were good
marksmen, and were successful in shooting down the bearers of the
ladders as they approached.

For four consecutive days the enemy’s guns and rifles continued to play
upon the fort, and there were several ineffectual attempts to scale the
walls. The rebels adopted a new plan on the fifth day, as the riflemen
took up positions on the roofs of houses within range. This fire was
most deadly, and four of the little garrison were wounded. They next
loopholed the walls, and kept up a steady fire at any of the garrison
who showed his head above the wall to fire the cannon. Mr. Jones and
Colonel Tucker were killed in this manner. On the following day,
Conductor Aherne, with one single discharge of grape, was successful in
blowing a dozen of the rebels away from the wall of a woodyard.

The rebels then fell into a trap, for after they had cut a hole into
this place, the defenders allowed them to enter one by one. When a
sufficient number were in, a well-directed shot was thrown amongst
them, doing great damage. The place was then set on fire about their
ears, and many perished. Frustrated in this attempt, the rebels now
commenced a mine, at which they worked in secret for two nights and
then sprung it. The report was awful, and the fort was shaken to its
very foundations, but no lives were lost.

A breach was, however, made in the walls, and the sepoys were preparing
to escalade it, when they were forced to retire under a heavy musketry
fire, through which they lost several men. Later in the day they made a
second attempt, with no better result, although the garrison lost one
of its best gunners in the person of Conductor Aherne, who was shot
through the head in laying a gun.

Maddened by such frequent failure, and eager to get at the garrison for
the purpose of massacre, the mutineers got a gun into position, and
started to fire upon the bungalow which they knew contained the women
and children. A number of shots passed through the door, but extra
precautions had been hurriedly taken, and the balls were stopped by a
heavy timber barricade. Two of the enemy’s guns were dismounted, but
still the rebels kept up the attack upon the wearied garrison, and,
finding all their attempts useless, started to sink a second mine close
to the position of the first. This was a serious outlook, for if a
second breach was made, the rebels would make two different attacks,
and the defenders were too few to repel the rebels in large numbers at
two different places.

They looked for a means of escape, and the only possible way that
presented itself was the river, which flowed past the fort. They could
not stay in the fort, for it simply meant that sooner or later they
would be all savagely butchered, so the brave men who had guarded
the women and children so faithfully and well, determined that under
cover of night they would make the attempt. The ladies and children
were divided into three parties, and at midnight they silently quitted
the fort in which they had spent so many anxious and perilous nights.
Quickly they took their places in the respective boats, and then an
officer went round to call in the pickets, who had previously spiked
the guns and destroyed the ammunition.

At two o’clock on the morning of the 4th July, the fugitives shoved
off, and congratulated themselves in making their escape unobserved.
They could not foresee the end, nor could they rend the veil and know
the dreadful fate that was in store for them. The sepoys had not their
eyes shut, for no sooner had the boats passed the walls of the fort
than the cry rang out, “The Feringhees are escaping.” They ran along
the bank, firing at the boats, which fortunately were out of range, and
the fugitives had gone down the river about a mile without mishap when
it was found that the boat which contained Colonel Goldie, his wounded
daughter, and other delicate sufferers was too heavy to be managed, so
all the occupants had to be transferred to the boat under the command
of Colonel Smith. This was safely accomplished, although the sepoys
brought a cannon into play. The boats proceeded down midstream, with
the sepoys in attendance, shouting and firing from the bank.

At the village of Singheerampore they had to lie-to to repair a broken
rudder, and two men were killed by a shot from the bank. Further
misfortune was in store for the fugitives, as the other boat grounded
on a sandbank, and all the efforts of the men to move her failed. A
panic seized the occupants of the craft, and when two boatloads of
sepoys were seen approaching, the women and children became frantic,
and when the sepoys opened fire they threw themselves into the water
rather than fall into the murderous hands of the sepoys. All the
ladies were soon struggling in the water, with the exception of a Mrs.
Fitzgerald, who remained in the boat with her child, while her husband
stood over her with musket loaded and bayonet fixed. A few of the
occupants of the boat escaped by swimming to the other boats.

Those who were in the other boats were scarcely less unfortunate, for
the sepoys poured in a merciless fire of grape shot among the women
and children. Mr. Jones, who swam to another boat, found most of the
occupants dead--a Mr. Rohan, the younger Miss Goldie, a child and
another lady lying in the bottom of the boat. All through the night the
survivors of the Futtehghur garrison continued their perilous voyage,
ever and anon hearing the shouts of their pursuers and the constant
drip of the bullets in the turgid waters.

They passed Bithour, where they were fired upon by the sepoys under
that infamous scoundrel Nana Sahib. The fire was deadly, and many were
wounded. The boats still proceeded down the river, and at last reached
Cawnpore, where General Wheeler received them. They had been but spared
from one death to another equally as horrible, for they received no
mercy from the Nana, and, as described in the chapter dealing with
Cawnpore, were brutally massacred. The bravery of the defenders at
Allahabad and Futtehghur are bright incidents in a campaign which was
distinguished for bravery.



CHAPTER LI.

THE SIEGE OF KOTAH.

1858.


We have now to deal with perhaps the most sanguinary conflict which
marked the closing days of the campaign, when British arms were
employed in stamping out the mutiny in all directions. Sir Hugh Rose
was entirely successful in Central India, General Whitlock cleared the
whole district of Jubbulpore, while General Roberts, sweeping through
Rajpootana, bore down upon Kotah, the inhabitants of which had cruelly
massacred the Resident, Major Burton, and his two sons.

Kotah is in the province of Ajmere, and was held by the noted rebel,
Hossein Ali, who had gathered around him a large force to make a stand
against the all-conquering Feringhees. It was in March, 1858, that
Roberts commenced his movement upon Hossein Ali, and a trying tramp it
proved for his brave troops. Under a sweltering sun, over baked earth,
finding the wells dried up, with men and horses dropping by the way, he
wearily dragged his way toward Kotah. To add to the sufferings of his
troops, most of the water-carriers deserted to the ranks of the rebel
chief, and left the British soldiers parched and thirsty.

The column consisted of the 8th Royal Irish Hussars, the 72nd, or Duke
of Albany’s Highlanders, the 83rd and 95th regiments, along with the
13th Bengal Infantry--a corps which was greatly mistrusted. The enemy
consisted almost entirely of mutineers, chiefly of the 72nd Bengal
Infantry, whose scarlet coats were faced with yellow, like those of the
72nd Highlanders who were marching against them, while they also bore
the same number on all their appointments as the British regiment.

Bravely the force marched on, passing on the route Sawoor, which was
strongly fortified; Jhajpoor, a straggling ill-defended town; and
Bhoondee. This latter place is a national citadel, and it was here that
the two brigades met, being only two days’ march from Kotah.

On the 22nd of March, the division, after great hardships, reached
Kotah, and encamped on the left bank of the river Chumbul, opposite
the city, but this position had ultimately to be altered to avoid
the enemy’s artillery. The whole army lay exactly opposite the city,
and parallel with the river. The immediate cause of these operations
against Kotah was the treachery of the Rajah, who had always protested
himself a staunch ally of the British. When the mutiny at Neemuch broke
out among the Bengal troops, Major Burton had left Kotah for some
purpose. During his absence, the Rajah warned him against returning,
as the inhabitants had joined the rebellion, and considerable numbers
of mutineers had taken up their residence in the city. Nevertheless,
Major Burton, with his two sons, returned to Kotah, and all three were
barbarously murdered. The Rajah refused to join his subjects, and shut
himself up in his palace, where he was regularly besieged by his own
subjects.

Kotah is a large town, girt by massive walls, and is situated on the
eastern bank of the Chumbul, well defended by bastions and deep ditches
cut in the solid rock, while the entrances are all defended by double
gates. In the foreground lies a vast lake, with the temple of Jugmandal
built of snow-white marble, rising in the centre.

On the 24th of March two batteries were erected on the banks of the
river, one on the right and the other on the left of the British
position. Hossein Ali, who was in reality an ex-Pay Sergeant of the
revolted 72nd, had about 70 pieces of cannon at his disposal, and he
directed a well-trained fire upon the batteries. The siege began with
vigour, and the guns of both forces did much execution. Night and day
our soldiers and officers toiled in a trench on the scheme of a mine,
which was afterwards relinquished, amid slaughter, wounds, sunstroke,
and cholera, but they never flinched.

On the 26th, Major-General Roberts placed a body of troops in the
entrenched quarter of the city, which was still in the possession of
the Rajah, while 200 men of the 83rd regiment, and the rifle company
of the 13th Native Infantry, crossed over the river. The next day or
two, during which the artillery fire on both sides never slackened, was
given over to preparations for bringing over some of the heavy ordnance
and mortars to be used in a grand assault.

On the 30th the final preparations were made, and early that morning
three columns of 500 men each passed over in large square flat-bottomed
boats to the city, the reserve being under Colonel Macan. The leading
column in the assault, under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Raimes of
the 95th, was composed of 260 men of the 72nd, and 250 of the 13th
Native Infantry; the second column, under Lieut.-Colonel Holmes of the
12th Native Infantry, of 260 men of the 95th regiment, with the 10th
regiment of Native Infantry; and the third column of 200 of the 83rd,
with the 12th Native Infantry. The Highlanders crept up to the wall
in the early morning while it was yet dark, the design being to blow
a hole in the wall sufficiently large to admit a storming party. The
engineers found the wall too solid to admit of its being blown up. The
engineers toiled away, but the day broke and the sun shone forth making
conspicuous the Highlanders in their plumed bonnets and tartan trews
as they stood in line under the wall of the city. They became exposed
to a galling fire from the enemy, and their position for a time was a
most dangerous one. The plan of attack was altered, and the 72nd, with
the engineers and supports, were ordered to the Kittenpole gate, which,
although it had been strongly built up, presented more favourable
opportunities for capture. The engineers set to work, and in a few
minutes they had the ponderous gate blown to atoms.

Under a heavy fire the 72nd, under Major Thelluson, dashed in at the
breach, and won an entrance to the city by turning to the right under
the protecting fire of a party which had been placed on the walls of
the Rajah’s fortifications. The advance was rapid, as nothing could
stay the impetuous rush of the Highlanders, who were smarting under
the heavy fire they had been subjected to in the morning. It was a
fearful moment for them while they stood under the walls, waiting for
an entrance, and one of the regiment wrote home as follows:--

“We were in an awful position for more than seven hours. I think it
would be about eleven o’clock when the gate was blown up. But it was
too bad to keep us in suspense so long, for you may believe me the
torture of the mind was awful. Any who had the opportunity of studying
the men’s countenances could easily read their minds. You would have
seen many a shade of sorrow and sadness. Our plan of attack was simple.
Our Brigade--the second--was to attack and storm the right bastions,
mounting in all 17 guns, the 72nd forcing through the breach first,
supported by the 13th, the 83rd bringing up the rear. The first brigade
was to follow on the left attack, both having the town in the centre.”

To the sound of the pipes, and shouting the old war-cry of the
Greys which had resounded over the field of Waterloo--“Scotland for
ever!”--the Albany Highlanders (72nd) dashed on. But little resistance
was offered, and rapidly the column moved on to the chief point of
attack--the bastion called the Zooraidoor, on the outer walls of the
city. The rebels, with their matchlock rifles, tried in vain to stop
the onslaught, but fell against the deadly Enfield rifle. On the column
reaching the bastion, it was found that most of the enemy had fled,
and those who remained were quickly put to flight by the bayonet.
Several of the mutineers, in their haste to escape, threw themselves
from the ramparts, and were dashed to pieces at the bottom. The column
next proceeded along the wall as far as the Soorjpole gate, one of the
principal entrances to the town, through which a body of the enemy were
flying to a place of safety.

Then commenced the real fighting of the day, for when the column had
seized the gate and rushed into the city, the rebels opened a heavy
fire upon the British when they had quitted the shelter of the walls.
They were entrenched in a strongly-fortified house facing the gateway,
which was stormed by Lieutenant Cameron of the 72nd with a handful of
men. Cheering and shouting, they rushed in amongst the hail of bullets,
and dashed up a narrow passage and staircase leading into the upper
part of the building, where they met with a determined resistance from
the rebels. The band was headed by “the Lalla,” the commander-in-chief
of the mutineers, who fought desperately. Lieutenant Cameron was cut
down, and several men were killed, so Lieut.-Colonel Parke deemed it
expedient to risk no more lives in a fight in the narrow, dark, and
intricate passages of the building. The Royal Engineers were told off
to destroy the building, and they soon exploded their powder bags at
the corner of the building, bringing it down like a house of cards.
A large number of the rebels were destroyed by the collapse of the
building, while those who sought safety in the open were cut down.
There were a few instances of desperate resistance but the rout was
complete.

The other two columns operating at different points met with scarce
a check, for the rebels made every haste to save their skins. By
evening the whole strongly-fortified city of Kotah was in our hands,
and the slaughter of the rebels must have been severe. The 8th Hussars
gallantly charged after the flying mutineers, and cut down hundreds of
them, capturing the treasure which had been taken from the town, while
the 72nd Highlanders captured one stand of sepoy colours, and the 95th
two stands. The victory was really gained by a clever flank movement,
coupled with the fact that the rebels deserted their guns, which, had
they been as well handled as in the early morning, would have repelled
any attack. Upwards of 70 guns of different calibre, some very heavy,
and a vast quantity of ammunition, fell into our hands. General
Roberts, in thanking the Brigade, said that he had been in field
fights, he had been in storming parties, but he had never seen men go
steadier. It was more like men upon a parade, or on a field day, than
men who were facing death. Thus ended the siege of Kotah, which will be
for ever memorable for British bravery against terrible odds.



CHAPTER LII.

THE FIGHTING AT JHANSI, ROOHEA, AND BAREILLY.

1857-58.


One of the many black deeds of the mutiny was the inhuman atrocities
at Jhansi, in the province of Allahabad, and about a hundred miles
eastward of Serinje. In June, 1857, the 12th Native Infantry, which had
served with distinction at Ferozeshah, and the 14th Irregular Cavalry
had their headquarters at Nowgong, but the left wing of each regiment
was quartered at Jhansi, which had therefore a considerable force
to repel any attack, besides having the advantage of two forts for
defensive purposes.

The spirit of mutiny was in the air, and although the regiments named
had remained true to their salt, their officers could not put implicit
trust in them in face of the stories which were being circulated
regarding the success of the mutineers in various parts of India.
The officers and women and children took possession of the fort in
the city, it being preferred to the Star Fort, which was in the
cantonments. For a time the sepoys remained true, but on the 4th of
June a company of the 12th Native Infantry entered the Star Fort, and
took possession of the cannon and treasure which it contained. The fat
was now in the fire, and although the remainder of the men assured the
poor isolated officers that they would remain faithful, no trust could
be reposed in them.

In all the phases of the mutiny the crafty and cunning traits in
the Indians’ character were brought to the surface. They behaved
treacherously on every occasion, and broke vows which to them ought
to have been sacred. It was thus at Jhansi, and the officers found
that they were indeed in perilous straits. On the 5th of June, while
on parade, the men, who were still allowed to retain their rifles,
deliberately shot down Captain Dunlop and Ensign Taylor, and Lieutenant
Campbell was seriously wounded, but succeeded in escaping to the fort.
Lieutenant Turnbull took refuge in the branches of a tree, but was
brought down by a musket ball, and shared the same fate as Dunlop and
Taylor. The other officers who were in the fort at the time of the
outbreak, saw what was happening by the aid of field glasses. They at
once put themselves on the defensive, and after admitting Campbell to
the shelter of the fort, secured the gates and shot down a few of the
mutineers who had pursued the wounded officer. They barricaded the
gates with stones, and prepared to fight desperately for their lives.
There were only 55 Europeans in the place, including the women and
children, along with a number of native servants. The women as usual
showed admirable bravery and fortitude, cooking for the garrison,
carrying refreshments to them at great risk, and, when ammunition
became scarce, they cast bullets for the rifles.

The native servants were even not to be trusted, and two of them were
discovered attempting to open the gates of the fort. Captain Burgess
shot one of the rascals, but the other managed to cut down Lieutenant
Powys before he was shot by the captain. The mutineers gathered in
force around the little fort, and kept up a heavy fire upon the walls
with cannon and musket. Twice the brave defenders attempted to send
word of their peril to Gwalior or Nagode, but both failed. Captain
Gordon was shot in the head while looking over the parapet of the fort,
and as ammunition and provisions were almost exhausted, the little
garrison began to lose heart.

The rebels were most persistent in their attacks, and a further
disaster befel the brave defenders when two gates were battered in. The
rebels offered them their lives if they laid down their arms, and as
the days passed and no sign of relief came, the wearied officers were
compelled at last to throw themselves upon the mercy of the mutineers.
They accordingly came out of the fort and laid down their arms. The
mutinous troops at once threw themselves upon the now defenceless
men, and tied them in two rows. The men were the first victims of the
massacre, Captain Burgess taking the lead, his elbows tied behind
his back, and a prayer book in his hands. The women and children,
terrified at the murder of those near and dear to them, stood by and
calmly waited until the time came when they too would be despatched.
Not one escaped, but fortunately all were destroyed without the inhuman
indignities to which they were subjected elsewhere.

It was left to Sir Hugh Rose, latterly Lord Strathnairn, to avenge this
black deed. On the 21st March, 1858, he arrived before the walls of
the city with a large force, to find that it was held by a large rebel
army. He commenced the bombardment of the town, but was immediately
brought face to face with a new danger. The Gwalior contingent, which
had been shattered, and was thought to be dispersed, advanced from
Kalpee, a town on the right bank of the Jumna, and, becoming largely
augmented as it marched, the force when it drew up to give battle to
Sir Hugh Rose’s troops, must have numbered 25,000, while it was also
supported by eighteen large pieces of artillery. Still it was not a
disciplined force, and Sir Hugh was quick to avail himself of this
fact. Without giving the rebels time to form any preconcerted plan, he
dashed out to the attack.

So sudden was the onslaught and so daring in its conception, the huge
mass of rebels reeled and broke into a confused rout. The British,
with a ringing cheer, charged in amongst the now terrified rebels, and
the slaughter was great. The contingent was again dispersed, and fully
2000 were killed. All the guns, elephants, and ammunition fell into our
hands, and Sir Hugh was now able to resume his siege operations on the
town. The rebels in Jhansi must have been affected by the defeat of
the large force outside, for on the following day the town fell into
the hands of the British column, the garrison fleeing in the course
of the night. The pursuit was at once taken up, and before it ended
1500 of the rebels who had been concerned in the Jhansi revolt were
destroyed. This was one of the last acts in the mutiny, but the revolt
was not to be quelled without the spilling of more British blood in the
ill-planned attack on Roohea.

The Highland Brigade, after the final relief and capture of Lucknow,
had been engaged in pursuing the rebels in the district and stamping
out the rebellion in the province. The Highlanders were encamped at
the Dalkoosha, having been ordered to form part of the Rohilcund field
force under Brigadier Walpole. On the morning of the 8th of April,
the 42nd, 79th, and 93rd Highlanders marched from the camp to the
Moosha Bagh, a short distance from which the brigade encamped. Here
they remained until the 15th, when orders were issued to recommence
the march, as it had been learned that the enemy were active in the
vicinity. The advance guard consisted of three companies of the Black
Watch with cavalry and guns, under the command of Major Wilkinson,
while the main body followed with the remainder of the 42nd leading.
The Highland Brigade was under the command of Brigadier the Hon. Adrian
Hope, the whole being under Walpole.

Long before daylight on the 16th the force was under arms, and moved
cautiously a few miles across country, when a halt was called, the
baggage collected, and a strong guard set over it, consisting of two
guns and detachments of men from every regiment. About ten o’clock in
the morning the whole force advanced cautiously through some thick
wood, and came suddenly upon a native mud fort, the garrison of which
immediately opened fire with their heavy guns and musketry. The 42nd
was in advance, supported by the 93rd, the 79th being held in reserve.
The guns were quickly placed in position, and opened a heavy fire
upon the fort, while a movement was also made by the infantry, the
Highlanders advancing under a merciless shower of bullets close to
the walls of the fort. This mud erection, which did duty as a fort,
was called Roohea, and was hardly worth the attention of the British
troops. Walpole, however, was determined to clear out this nest of
rebels, and gave orders that the infantry were to approach as near the
enemy as they could, and skirmish without support.

The British plans were decidedly bad, for the rebels could easily
have been driven out by the fixed bayonet without the sacrifice of
life which a skirmishing attack entailed. Walpole evidently meant to
prevent the escape of the rebels by the main gate, for Major Wilkinson
made an attack on the weak side to drive the rebels out and into
contact with the main force. Captain Ross Grove, with No. 8 Company
of the Black Watch, advanced with fixed bayonets, and without having
the slightest protection or cover bravely marched on till they came
close to the counterscarp of the ditch, with only the breadth of the
ditch between the gallant Highlanders and the enemy. There they lay,
waiting patiently for orders to charge, losing men rapidly; in fact,
so precarious was their position that a company of the Punjaub Rifles
was sent to their assistance. The Punjaubees and Highlanders quickly
forming into line, rushed for the ditch, and attempted to get over the
parapet, but had to admit defeat, having to retire with heavy loss, two
officers and fifty men being killed and wounded. The impetuous assault
had failed, and the enemy had sustained but a trifling loss, while the
fort was as stoutly defended as ever. Captain Cope, of the Punjaub
Rifles, along with four men of the Black Watch, performed a daring deed
in going almost under the walls of the fort to bring in the dead body
of Lieutenant Willoughby. Creeping to where the lieutenant’s body lay,
the five men raised it and carried it back to the British lines under
a perfect storm of shot. Captain Cope had his left arm broken by a
bullet, and Private Spence, of the 42nd, was mortally wounded.

Brigadier Adrian Hope, angry at the heavy loss inflicted on his men,
went near the fort to reconnoitre and endeavour, if possible, to find a
better way by which it could be won. The fort was hexagonal in shape,
with two redoubts, two sides of the hexagon having no fortifications.
The bastions were circular, and the ditch deep and narrow, the escarp
and rampart being completely inaccessible at most parts without the
use of scaling ladders. The gallant leader of the Highlanders, in his
eagerness to learn the internal arrangements, ventured too near, and he
had barely been a minute in the zone of fire when he was seen to sway
and fall. The bullet had penetrated above the left collar-bone, and he
knew that it was mortal, for he exclaimed, “I am a dead man, lads. They
have done for me at last.” He then asked for a drink of water, which he
drank hurriedly, and then expired in the arms of one of his officers.

An officer, writing of the scene, says--“I cannot describe to you the
gloom--thick and palpable--which the sudden and untimely death of our
amiable and gallant Brigadier has cast over the minds of all. He was
the foremost and most promising of all the young Brigadiers; he was the
man in whom the commander-in-chief placed the most implicit confidence,
and whom all trusted and delighted to honour.”

He was the ninth son of the Earl of Hopetoun, and served with the 60th
Scottish Rifles in the Kaffir war, where he saw much service. No. 8
Company of the Black Watch were maddened by this loss, and retired
clamouring for orders to storm the fort, but appealed in vain, for
apparently Walpole had different plans in view. The same writer above
quoted states:--“Everybody asks what did the Brigadier intend to do?
Why did he send men to occupy the position which they did when nothing
was to be gained by their being there? Why, if he intended to take the
place, was it not stormed at once, and at the point of the bayonet?
Or rather--and this is the main query--why was it not shelled by the
mortars and smashed by the breaching cannon?”

For an hour or two the guns played on the fort, but after the death of
Hope nothing was done, and the force outside continued to get the worst
of it. All the regiments were losing heavily, but it was the Black
Watch and the Punjaubees who suffered most severely, the Black Watch
having alone forty-two casualties, including Lieutenants Douglas and
Bromley.

At sunset the force was withdrawn, and, to the amazement of all,
the camp was formed within a mile of the fort, the rebels firing
upon the force as it retired. Next morning, when the men moved up to
recommence the attack, it was found that the enemy had retired during
the night, leaving nothing behind but the ashes of their dead, and a
broken gun carriage. Quietly, thinking no doubt of their dead comrades
who had perished in making the assault upon such a paltry place, the
Highlanders took possession of the fort, and it was soon given over to
the flames. It was found that it was so open and unprotected behind
that a regiment of cavalry could have ridden in; and yet the brave
Highlanders, who were eager and willing to rush in with their trusty
bayonets, were held back, and became targets for a foe concealed behind
the brown walls. The garrison was only 400 strong, and the rebels could
not have lost many men. “A sad, sad scene it was,” says a writer, “the
burial of our dead on the evening of the following day.”

A short distance from the camp, in a cluster of mango trees, the graves
were dug, and the slain consigned to them. The Church of England
service was read by a chaplain of that church, and afterwards there was
a short service, consisting of the reading of a portion of Scripture, a
short address, and lastly prayers. Thus Adrian Hope was left to sleep
with the brave men who had fallen in such a miserable engagement as the
taking of the mud fort of Roohea.

The rebels had to be pursued, however, and throwing sentiment to the
winds, the force moved away on the 17th, and three days afterwards
came up to the enemy at the village of Allahgunge. They were in large
numbers, and, after the success at Roohea, they were prepared to
fight desperately. The British were just as eager to come to grips,
and although the rebels were strongly posted, the attack was too much
for them. Burning with a desire for revenge, the Highlanders threw
themselves upon the enemy, who stoutly met the onslaught. There was a
wavering in the ranks when the bayonets flashed, and almost without
having the opportunity of firing a shot, the enemy broke and dispersed
in all directions, leaving a large number of killed and wounded upon
the field.

The force stayed at Allahgunge for three days, occupied in
rebel-hunting, while reinforcements also arrived. The next point was an
extensive drive in the direction of Bareilly and Shahjehanpoor, and, on
5th May, after a fortnight’s marching, by which the district was almost
cleared, the force once more came into contact with an extensive band
of rebels on the plains to the east of Bareilly.

The engagement was a most trying one, the day being tremendously hot,
but the soldiers kept up wonderfully well, and after fighting for about
four hours, forced the enemy to retire with some loss. The city of
Bareilly was then taken possession of, the victorious troops meeting
with but slight opposition, although the 93rd lost several men in a
skirmish with a band of rebels who had taken refuge in one of the
buildings in the town. The mutineers were now thoroughly cowed, and the
Highlanders kept them continually on the move, dispersing several bands
who had attempted to rally. The 93rd marched to Shahjehanpoor, to form
a brigade with the 60th Rifles and 66th Ghorkas. Along with this force
were some guns, baggage, cavalry, and a few irregulars.

The rebels were first of all encountered at a village named Poosgawah,
in which they were strongly entrenched. From this position they were
quickly expelled, and the force breaking up into small parties started
in pursuit of the retreating mutineers. No sooner had the bulk of the
force passed through the village than a body of rebel cavalry appeared
in the rear and attacked the baggage as it was straggling through the
narrow entrance to the village. The main body of the baggage guard was
far in the rear, and the enemy was at first mistaken for the irregulars
of the force until they began to cut up the camp followers. At this
moment the sick of the 93rd, twelve in number, who, at Surgeon Munro’s
request, had been armed the night before, turned out of their dhoolies
and kept up a sharp fire, which held the enemy in check until the
arrival of the Mooltanee cavalry, which had been sent from the front,
and which dispersed the rebels at the second charge, the men wielding
their heavy cavalry swords with great dexterity, and doing considerable
execution amongst the mutineers.

The British force did not suffer much loss, chiefly camp followers, but
the bravery of the wounded Highlanders undoubtedly saved the situation.
The force remained in the vicinity of the village for a few days,
and then once more got into grips with the rebels, who were found in
position at a village called Russelpoor, on the opposite side of a deep
nullah, flanked on one side by a large village, and on the other by
some rising ground.

The guns and the 6th Rifles attacked, the main body of the 93rd being
held in reserve, one company, under Captain M‘Bean, supporting the
heavy guns. The rebels fought with grim determination, and doggedly
stuck to their posts, although they were losing heavily under the
accurate British fire, the big guns doing great damage to the houses
of the village. The attack was entirely successful, and the enemy
were eventually driven from their position and put to flight with
considerable loss to themselves. The battle of Bareilly, in which
the 42nd played so important a part, opened with a short cannonade
for about half an hour, the enemy who had gathered in large numbers,
latterly falling back from the bridge and nullah, and occupied the
clumps of trees and ruined houses in the cantonments.

In this position it was necessary to shell every clump and house
before advancing, which caused considerable delay. All the time the sun
was beating down fiercely upon the troops. About ten in the morning
the enemy made a bold attempt to turn the British left flank, and the
42nd were ordered forward in support of the 4th Punjaub Rifles, who had
been sent to occupy the old cavalry lines, but were there surprised
by the enemy in great numbers. Just as the 42nd reached the old lines
they were met by the Punjaubees in full flight, followed by a band of
Ghazees brandishing their tulwars and shields. These rushed furiously
on, and the men of the Black Watch were for a moment undecided whether
they should fire upon them or not, their friends the Punjaubees being
mixed up with them, when, as if by magic, the commander-in-chief
appeared behind the line, and his familiar voice, loud and clear, was
heard calling out, “Fire away, men! shoot them down, every man Jack of
them!”

Then the line opened fire, but so desperate were the Ghazees that
several of them had actually reached the line, and were about to engage
the Highlanders when they were swept aside by the volley which spurted
in one flame from the ranks. Four of the Ghazees seized Colonel Cameron
in the rear of the line, and would have dragged him off his horse, when
Colour-Sergeant Gardiner rushed from the ranks and bayoneted them, the
Colonel escaping with only a slight wound on the wrist. For this act
of bravery Gardiner was deservedly decorated with the Victoria Cross.
The enemy now fell back under the fire of the Highlanders, who were
at last given the order to advance with fixed bayonets. The rebels
had had enough, and broke and fled, leaving the 42nd and 79th to take
possession of the fort and post a line of pickets from the fort to the
extreme right of the commander-in-chief’s camp.

The rebels’ power was now completely broken, and they were harried
from place to place, receiving no quarter unless they voluntarily
surrendered. The famous Highland Brigade, comprising the Black Watch,
78th, and 93rd regiments, were ordered to stay at Bareilly, and during
a particularly hot month so far as weather was concerned, took part in
many expeditions against the rebels who made any show of resistance. A
private writing home at this time says:--“What a change has come over
the enemy. At Lucknow and Cawnpore they were as brave as lions, but
now I question if they have as much of that quality as the mouse. We
are engaged in ‘rebel-hunting,’ and find the constant knocking about
very trying. We have not had a really good brush with the enemy for
weeks. Whenever they see us they give a long-drawn howl, and flee in
all directions. We then start to ferret them out of the brush, and
poor specimens of humanity we find them. They are nothing like the
fierce sepoys we met at the commencement of this great campaign; but no
wonder, for any nation in the world would have had the spirits knocked
out of them had they received half the defeats that the rebels here
have had served to them. The most of them are glad to come into our
lines and get a decent meal, so you can have an idea of the present
state of affairs.”

It was ever so, and although it took time to completely stamp out the
insurrection, Bareilly was really the last engagement of any note
in the mutiny, and slowly but surely the British soldier, willing
and stern of purpose, traversed the land and subdued the rebellious
spirits. A few chiefs showed signs of resistance for a time, and the
troops were mostly engaged in expeditions against the foolish people
who were now espousing a forlorn cause. Thus, in little over a year,
the rebellion which boded so ill for British rule was practically
stamped out, and the massacres of the innocent avenged. Brave Sir Colin
Campbell was raised to the peerage, assuming the title of Lord Clyde,
and no man could grudge him the honour.



CHAPTER LIII.

THE CAPTURE OF CANTON.

1857.


On the 8th October, 1856, a party of Chinese, in charge of an officer,
boarded the lorcha or junk Arrow, in the Canton river, tore down the
flag, and carried away the Chinese crew.

Now, the Arrow had not long before been registered as a British vessel,
and, moreover, the outrage was carried out in defiance, not only of the
master of the ship, but also of the British consul, to whom appeal was
first made. In either case, the reply was the same--that the vessel was
not British, but Chinese.

The fact is that for a long time past British influence in China had
been on the decline. The incident of the Arrow constituted its first
outward expression. Now, the Chinese Imperial Commissioner in Canton
at this time was a man called Yeh. To this man a complaint was at once
made, and, at the same time, Mr. Parkes, the British consul, thought
fit to inform Sir John Browning and Commodore Elliot, the political and
naval authorities respectively, of the occurrence.

Several days passed in futile negotiations, so that by the 23rd of the
month the matter passed out of the hands of the civil authorities,
owing to the repeated refusals of the Chinese Commissioner to order
any redress. Admiral Seymour took action on that day (the 23rd), and
seized the principal forts of Canton, holding them without any attempt
at opposition, Still the Chinese preserved silence, but on the 25th an
attack was made upon the British Consulate. This was repelled without
much trouble, but other more serious conflicts were to follow.

In the opinion of the British administrative authorities in China,
it was at this juncture deemed expedient to make the occasion one in
which to require the fulfilment of long-evaded treaty obligations, and
accordingly further demands were made upon Yeh, though the preliminary
cause of dispute was still far from being settled.

The method of retort was as might have been expected--a silent
celestial contempt of the barbarian demands, so the next move of the
British entailed the bombardment of Yeh’s official residence. Yeh now
offered a reward of thirty dollars for the head of every Englishman,
and matters at length grew serious.

A course of reprisals now ensued on both sides, and individual murders
were not infrequent, but early in January an attempt was made to poison
the whole British community in Hong-Kong, where, as in Canton, and
indeed the whole of China, the name of Britisher was one to be spoken
with contempt and loathing.

With such a state of affairs, and no decisive action on the part of
our authorities, small wonder that British prestige suffered severely
throughout China. Our influence at the Court of Pekin became nil, and
it was feared that further inaction would have a prejudicial effect
upon our influence in India, where rumours of the approaching mutiny
were beginning to make themselves heard. Accordingly, in the spring of
1857, our Government despatched to China, not only an expeditionary
force of some 5000 men, but also a Special High Commissioner and
Ambassador to the Court of Pekin, in the person of the able Earl
of Elgin. Though due to arrive in Hong-Kong in May, Lord Elgin did
not finally take up his duties there until the 20th September, for,
on reaching Singapore in May, it was found that the mutiny in the
north-west provinces in India was turning out to be far more serious
than was at first anticipated. How serious indeed that mutiny finally
became, is well known to every Britisher to-day, but Lord Elgin was one
of the few men to foresee its extent even then. With a promptitude and
energy meriting the highest praise, he diverted the whole of his China
force to the seat of war, and he himself, only calling for a day or two
at Hong-Kong, accompanied the naval brigade to Calcutta.

But it is with China, and not India, that we are at present concerned,
and, as before intimated, the 20th September found Lord Elgin back
again at Hong-Kong, awaiting reinforcements from Britain in place of
those troops which he had taken on to India. The reduction of the
city of Canton was the first object at which he aimed. With that city
as a hostage, he deemed it possible to make terms at Pekin and restore
British prestige.

Till the 28th October inaction prevailed, owing to lack of troops, but
on that date the Imperador arrived, bringing the first batch of marines
for the expedition. Early in November the American minister, the
Russian, German, and French envoys were all at Hong-Kong in view of the
general anti-foreign agitations of the Chinese. By the 10th December
preparations were complete, and French and British allied presented
their ultimatum to Yeh. Meantime the island of Hainan was occupied by
the allied troops without resistance.

Yeh’s reply to the message of Britain and France was of a truly
celestial wittiness. He totally denied the existence of the main
grievance, that of the hostility of the Cantonese to foreigners,
slurred over the affairs of Canton itself, and finally recommended Lord
Elgin to “adopt the policy pursued by Sir George Bonham, which might,
as in his case, procure him the Order of the Bath”! The occupation of
the island of Hainan, however, he strongly resented.

On the 17th December, Lord Elgin embarked upon the Furious, the
Audacieuse being the flagship of the French admiral, and the allied
fleets assembled at Blenheim beach, below Canton. Germany and the
United States resolved to join the allied Powers.

Writing from before Canton at this stage, Mr. George Wingrove Cook,
the “Times” correspondent, says:--“We must hope, in the interests of
humanity, that when the allotted interval has expired, Yeh will yield.
He has at his gates the representatives of the four great nations of
the earth, ... and they are all equally determined to tolerate no more
this foolish Chinese pageant.”

In the interests of humanity also, time was granted to as many
inhabitants of Canton to escape as might care to avail themselves of
the advantage. The floating population--a literal and not a figurative
phrase, availed themselves largely of the interval, and house after
house detached itself from what a moment before appeared to be solid
ground, and slipped off down the river out of the way of the allied
guns. Half a million are said to have fled at this time. Twenty-three
British ships of war, sloops, gunboats and the like were at this time
before Canton, whilst the French fleet numbered nine. The combined
armament was over 500 guns. Our total attacking land force numbered
some 7000 men.

Christmas Day passed uneventfully, the interval being occupied by the
various naval and military preparations, and up to the last moment it
was expected that Yeh would yield; but dawn on the 28th saw the last
hope gone.

Just as the day was breaking, the hoisting of a white ensign to the
main of the Actæon gave the signal to open fire, and, with no crashing
broadside, but steadily, one by one, the iron mouths belched forth
their rain of shot and shell upon the doomed city. For twenty-seven
hours without intermission the guns of the allies poured their iron
hail upon Canton, and the bombardment disclosed many strange traits of
Chinese character, particularly the celestial impassivity.

“These strange Chinese actually seem to be getting used to it,” wrote
Mr. Cook in one of his letters to the “Times.” “Sampans and even cargo
boats are moving down the river like London lightermen in the ordinary
exercise of their calling; people are coming down to the bank to
watch the shot and shell fly over their heads. Many curious instances
occurred, and strange sights were to be seen. A 12-pounder rocket fell
short, and was burning on the ground, when a Chinaman attacked it with
a flail as though it had been a living thing. Of course it burst at
last, and blew the poor fellow to pieces. In a room opening upon the
river a family were taking their evening meal within 200 yards of the
Phlegethon, which was keeping up a constant discharge of shells, which
passed within a few yards of their heads. The light was so strong that
the interior of the room was visible in all its details--the inmates
were all eating their rice as though nothing particular was happening
outside.... All day long the sampans were proceeding from ship to ship,
and selling fruit and vegetables to the sailors who were bombarding
their city. Who can pretend to understand such a people as this?”

Who, indeed? But the Chinese nature has a darker side, as we shall see
later.

At times during the bombardment troops were disembarked for
reconnaissance, and the general plan of the assault arranged, and after
a brief exchange of musketry the East Fort was captured in this way,
and shortly afterwards blown up.

As antagonists the Chinese were not found to be particularly
formidable. They were in overwhelming number, it is true, and imbued
with treachery, but while from a distance they would fire their
gingals, so soon as our men approached to close quarters, they would
throw down their arms and run.

During the first hours of bombardment, the movements of our troops
on land took the form principally of reconnaissance, and the grand
assault was reserved for the morning of Tuesday, 29th. The city by
night, as seen from the ships, presented a wild and dazzling sight. The
inflammable houses caught here and there, and at times the whole place
seemed enveloped by a ring of flame, while the native brigades could
be seen rushing hither and thither in wild effort to quell the flames
which everywhere opposed them.

At daybreak the general bombardment ceased, and from three divisions
of the allied troops the attack commenced, British troops forming the
right and centre, the French taking the left. The extreme right was
composed of our naval brigade. Some stiff fighting was anticipated
before the city wall could be gained, and then, by the aid of scaling
ladders, our men were to pour themselves into the city and carry by
assault its main fortifications of Magazine Hill and Gough’s Fort and a
barn-like building called the Five-Storied Pagoda.

Now the attack commences. Sharp comes the order to advance at the
double, and into the dense brushwood and tree-covered space that lies
between them and the wall of Canton plunge fearlessly the troops of
France and Britain.

Stubborn was the resistance of the Chinese. Dropping back from tree to
tree, and firing from dense cover, practised troops might have delayed
their enemy’s advance indefinitely, but, strange to say, few men were
killed at this point of the attack. Indeed, the loss of the allies at
the storming of Canton was extraordinarily insignificant, considering
the huge number of their armed assailants.

On and on pressed our men, firing incessantly at the top of the high
wall now appearing in front of them, and thronged with Chinese and
Tartar soldiers, and all the while on the watch for any Chinese face
which might show itself for an instant in the brushwood, or amongst the
stunted hillocks. Here a man would throw up his shoulders with a short
cough, struck through the lungs by a bullet from a Chinese gingal,
aimed from who knew where; there a man would drop with a groan with
shattered ankle or with wounded thigh. Instantly the bearers of the
medical corps would fearlessly dash to his side, stretcher in hand,
tenderly raise their wounded comrade, and, with swinging steps, remove
him to the ships, where was the floating hospital.

Many gallant deeds were done by British and by French alike, but the
coolie corps came in for the special commendation of Mr. Cook.

“They carried the ammunition on the day of the assault, close up to the
rear of our columns, and when a cannon-shot took off the head of one of
them, the others only cried, ’Ey yaw!’ and laughed, and worked away as
merrily as ever.”

At length, however, the wall is gained, and to the last the Chinese
man the top and pour down a fire upon the party advancing with the
scaling ladders. When at length it seems that we are not to be driven
back by any force opposed, the hordes of Chinese and Tartar soldiers,
leaping down inside the city, fled to conceal themselves behind the
neighbouring houses to keep up a musket fire from there.

Major Luard is the first to gain the wall. Snatching the foremost
ladder from its bearers, the gallant Major scrambles up, closely
followed by a Frenchman. A moment passes, and our men are swarming up
in dozens, firing down upon the Chinese in the city, and rushing along
the wall towards the right, where the Five-Storied Pagoda awaits them
with sullen fire.

The fighting at the Pagoda is short and sharp. Quick as thought the
bayonets are out, and ere a few moments pass the Chinese and Tartar
defenders are fleeing for their lives, with all the Chinaman’s
abhorrence of “barbarian” cold steel. The next to fall is Gough’s Fort,
where similar scenes are enacted, and, shortly after midday, the main
defences of the city of Canton are in the hands of the allies.

The total casualties had been slight--some 15 British and 2 Frenchmen
killed; while the Chinese dead have been estimated at 200. But the
capture of Canton may be said to be quite unlike the capture of any
other city. The main defences, it is true, had fallen, but no formal
surrender had occurred, and so for many days conflicts between victors
and vanquished were of frequent occurrence.

“People ask,” says the “Times” report, “not what we are going to do
next, but what the Chinese are going to do. These curious, stolid,
imperturbable people seem determined simply to ignore our presence, and
wait till we are pleased to go away. Yeh lives much as usual. He cut
off 400 Chinese heads the other morning, and stuck them up in the south
of the city.”

A strange picture this, of a conquered city. The Governor, whom one
would naturally expect to be busied with making formal submission and
arranging terms of surrender, going about his business as usual, and
carrying on administration in his old barbaric way.

Very slowly and laboriously did the allies effect some semblance of
order in Canton, and in a few days the precise casualty list came to
hand. The number of killed was as we previously stated, while the
wounded totalled some 81 British and 32 French. Among the killed was
gallant Captain Bate. At one stage of the attack upon the city wall it
was found necessary to send someone forward to reconnoitre the ditch
and ascertain the best position for the placing of a scaling ladder.
This duty involved the crossing of a small vegetable patch which lay
in front of our fellows, and which was exposed to a perfect hail of
hostile bullets. At once Captain Bate of the Actæon volunteered for
the dangerous mission, Captain Mann of the Engineers accompanying him.
Quick as thought they dashed across the deadly patch of garden and
reached the other side in safety, where they stood for a moment looking
down into the ditch. A sigh of relief went up from our officers and
men as they beheld the mission half accomplished, when suddenly Bate
was seen to throw up his hands and fall headlong. A Chinese bullet had
found a billet in his brave heart. He never spoke nor stirred when, a
few moments later, his body was recovered.

This and many another tale of deeds bravely done was told during the
succeeding days, when the allies sought to restore some show of law and
order in the city of Canton.

Mr. Cook’s tale of a scene round the camp-fire of some of our naval
brigade is too good to be missed, bearing in mind the strictness of law
against looting. Says Mr. Cook:--

“Never was an army kept under stricter discipline. The eccentricities
of the British sailor are kept under strict repression by the
provost-marshal, and if a man is found ten yards in front of the
outposts he is incontinently flogged, unless he happens to be a
Frenchman. Yet somehow pig is very abundant.

‘Where did you loot that pig, Jack?’

‘Loot, sir? We never loots; there’s an order against looting, and it’s
pretty strict, as we knows.’

‘But how do you get all these pigs?’

‘Why, d’ye see, we lights our fires o’ nights, and I think the pigs
must all come to the light, and the sentries must take ’em for Chinamen
and fire at ’em, for we generally finds two or three with their throats
cut in the morning.’

This was all the explanation I could get,” adds Mr. Cook, with an
undoubted chuckle.

New Year’s Day, 1858, now arrived, was held as a gala day by the
victorious army. A formal procession of the Ambassadors was held to
Magazine Hill, to officially “take possession of the city,” while the
ships in the harbour were decked from stem to stern with bunting. A
royal salute at intervals frightened many Cantonese into the belief
that the bombardment was recommencing.

Thus the days passed, interspersed with military duties and the
erection of huts upon the city walls for the occupation of the
soldiers. Probably in spite of the strictness of the anti-looting
orders some “curio collecting” was indulged in by our men, and that not
always with the willing consent of the Chinese. Any way, many strange
silks and furs and even jewelled ornaments found their way into the
baggage of this man and the haversack of that.

At length, on the 5th January, the capture of the great Yeh himself
was determined upon, and, once mooted, the project was carried out
with secrecy, alacrity, and success. For not only did Yeh himself
become a prisoner of the allies on that day, but with him the
lieutenant-governor of Canton and the Tartar general. The Treasury,
52 boxes of dollars, and many other rich spoils fell into our hands
upon the same auspicious occasion. Early on the morning of the 5th,
several bodies of British troops shouldered their way through the city,
each upon its separate mission. That under Colonel Holloway proceeded
straight to the palace of Peh-kwei, the acting governor of Canton,
and little resistance was met with as they burst open the doors and
searched room after room for the person of the acting-governor himself.
Eventually the old gentleman was discovered at breakfast, and promptly,
and without bloodshed, he was placed under arrest.

A truly Chinese interview passed between the old man and his captors.
Asked for his keys and seals of office, he regretted exceedingly that
that particular morning, of all others in the year, he should have
mislaid them! He promised to make search for them, and once more
expressed his regrets. Such shilly-shallying was too much for Colonel
Holloway, and a whispered consultation followed. A few moments passed,
and presently in marched a stout sergeant-major with an axe, which he
brandished about in an ominous and terrifying manner! Like magic the
missing keys were found, and the governor was removed to the British
headquarters!

The scene at the capture of the Treasury was similarly typical of the
peculiarities of the Chinese. Almost without resistance the place was
taken possession of, the bayonet proving invaluable as a persuasive
power, and the search for the city’s treasury commenced.

Taking into account the fact that for six days no guard had been
mounted to hinder the Chinese from removing their treasures, it was
anticipated that little money would be found. Quite the reverse,
however, proved to be the case. Fifty-two boxes of silver dollars,
sixty-eight packets of solid ingots, and a whole room full of copper
cash were recovered, while furs and silks and other loot was left
untouched. The officer in command of the company, Captain Parke,
pressed the Chinese coolies who had assembled outside in their hundreds
into the work of removing the treasures of their own city to the
British camp, and soon all was safely stored and under guard.

Meanwhile, in another part of the city, the French had succeeded in
laying hands upon the Tartar general, who was found almost alone in a
deserted palace, and elsewhere the hunt for Yeh was being vigorously
pushed forward.

Mr. Parkes and Captain Key, receiving information that the Imperial
Commissioner was in hiding in a library not far from the Tartar
general’s palace, proceeded thither with all haste, only to find one
old man in possession of the place. After much interrogation and a
mild threat or two, this individual was induced to lead the searchers
to the house of the Tartar lieutenant-general. Here the doors were
burst in by a party of a hundred bluejackets, and a room-to-room search
commenced.

After a few moments an old man in a mandarin’s cap and coat threw
himself before the party of British officers, and protested wildly
that he was Yeh, of whom they were in search, but so vigorous was
his self-identification that it was promptly suspected that he
was an impostor. He was therefore retained in custody while the
search continued. He turned out subsequently to be the Tartar
lieutenant-general himself, and was placed under arrest. A few moments
later, Captain Key, hearing a sound as of persons escaping by the
back of the house, hurried in that direction, and was just in time to
perceive a mandarin of huge stature hastening along a narrow passage.
Suspecting this person to be the Imperial Commissioner himself, Captain
Key, without further ceremony, threw his arms round the neck of the
fugitive, and proclaimed him prisoner.

It was indeed Yeh himself, very eager to escape, but without the
slightest idea of defending himself or otherwise securing his desired
purpose. Many papers were captured in the house, amongst them both
incriminating and amusing documents.

Says Mr. Oliphant, Lord Elgin’s secretary:--“I reached Magazine
Hill (where the headquarters were established) shortly after the
prisoners arrived there. Yeh, seated in a large room, and surrounded
by some of his immediate attendants, was answering in a loud, harsh
voice questions put to him by Sir Michael Seymour with reference to
Englishmen who had been prisoners in his hands. Though he endeavoured,
by the assumption of a careless and insolent manner to conceal
his alarm, his glance was troubled, and his fingers trembled with
suppressed agitation!”

He had heavy sensual features, this mighty mandarin, whose power was
such that he had caused to be beheaded no fewer than 70,000 of his
countrymen during his two years of office in Canton. But though Yeh
may have been in some state of perturbation while interrogated by our
high officials, he yet retained sufficient self-possession to display
great insolence. In the matter of the British prisoners he was unable,
he said, to recall exactly what had become of them, but, after all, it
was an unimportant matter! Mr. Parkes, one of only two really competent
Chinese linguists, acted as interpreter.

It was soon decided that little information could be got from Yeh, and
it was determined to keep him prisoner on board the Inflexible, whither
he was at once conveyed, under a strong guard. A few days later the
Governor Peh-kwei was formally restored to his office as administrator
of Pekin, with the assistance of an allied council of three, composed
of Colonel Holloway, Captain Martineau, and Mr. Parkes.

Lord Elgin, Baron Gros, and other plenipotentiaries were present at his
installation, which was conducted with much pomp and ceremony. In the
course of an address, Lord Elgin pointed out the firm resolve of the
allied Governments to retain military occupation of the city until such
time as all questions pending between these Governments and the Emperor
of China should be satisfactorily settled. In the meantime it was
intended that the Governor, with the newly-appointed Council, should be
responsible for the preservation of order in Canton.

Thus for some days matters remained, while negotiations with Pekin
proceeded. The time was spent in perfecting, so far as possible,
the affairs of the city of Canton, meting out a rough justice, and
in visiting the prisoners, where indescribable horrors and past
brutalities upon the unhappy prisoners were brought to light by
our Commissioners. Most of the poor wretches found surviving were
liberated, and a more liberal and humane policy urged upon the Chinese
Government.

About this time America and Russia joined with France and Britain in
the agreement to insist upon the proper recognition and treatment of
foreigners throughout the Chinese empire. The main terms insisted
upon by the allies at Pekin were the appointment of a high Chinese
official to confer with Europeans upon matters concerning them, such as
a free transit throughout China under proper protection from Chinese
authority; permanent diplomatic relations at Pekin; unrestricted
commerce, and indemnity for losses and expenses incurred.

On the satisfactory adjustment of these matters the international
blockade of the port of Canton was raised on the 10th February, and
in about three weeks time Lord Elgin and Baron Gros proceeded north.
The treaty of Tientsin was signed on June 26, 1858, and for a time
comparative quiet prevailed in China. The British colony at Canton was
re-established, and Yeh, the late Imperial Commissioner, degraded from
his office, was deported by the British to India.



CHAPTER LIV.

THE BATTLES AT THE TAKU FORTS.

1860.


It is one thing to make a treaty with the wily Celestial, but quite
another to see that that treaty is enforced.

The causes which led to the Chinese war of 1860 are soon told. Together
with France, her old ally of 1858, Britain had determined to strictly
enforce the stipulations of the treaty of Tientsin, which followed on
the fall of Canton, but when a British envoy was entering the Peiho
river for the purpose of obtaining the formal ratification of the
treaty, fire was opened upon the squadron from the forts at the mouth
of the river.

Thus it was that a British army of about 10,000 men, and a French force
of 7000 men were despatched to China. Our army, the bulk of which came
from India, was collected at Hong-Kong during March and the beginning
of April. It comprised two infantry divisions, a cavalry brigade, and a
small siege train. The 1st Division, consisting of the 1st Royal Scots,
the 2nd (Queen’s), the 31st, and the 60th (Rifles) regiments of British
soldiers, the 15th Punjaub Infantry, and the Loodianah regiments
of native Indian troops, with batteries of the Royal Artillery and
a company of Engineers, was under the command of Major-General Sir
John Michel, K.C.B. The 2nd Division, composed of the 3rd (Buffs),
the 44th, the 67th, and the 99th (Lanarkshire) regiments, the 8th
and 19th Punjaub infantry, with similar equipment of artillery and
engineers, was under the command of Major-General Sir Robert Napier,
K.C.B. The cavalry brigade was made up of the 1st Dragoon Guards, one
of our crack regiments, and Probyn’s and Fane’s regiments of irregular
native cavalry, which, under their dashing leaders, had gained a great
reputation during the mutiny.

The French force, sent direct from France, assembled at Shanghai. It
was under the command of General de Montaubon, a typical “beau sabreur”
of the army of the Emperor.

Lieutenant-General Sir Hope Grant, of Indian fame, was in command of
the whole expeditionary force.

The British and French commanders were at Shanghai when the reply
to the joint ultimatum of the allies was received by Mr. Bruce, the
British representative there. It was, as Sir Hope himself expressed
it, “cheeky in the extreme.” The following extract shows this
clearly:--“For the future,” ran the official communication, “the
British minister must not be so wanting in decorum. It will behove him
not to adhere obstinately to his own opinion, for by so doing he will
give cause for much trouble hereafter.”

It was decided on receipt of this extraordinary document, early in
April, to commence operations at once. Towards the end of May all
preparations for the campaign in the north were completed, and by the
end of July the combined French and British fleets of warships and
transports stood off the mouth of the Peiho river, and the troops were
able to discern in the distance the boasted Taku Forts, at which a
British admiral had been previously repulsed, and which it was their
immediate objective to take by assault.

The forts were situated two on each bank of the Peiho, several miles
distant from the mouth, the strongest being the larger one. They were
built on the extremity of the firm ground, in front of them being a
great expanse of deep and sticky mud, to land on which and to storm the
forts would have been an impossibility. It was therefore decided to
land at Pehtang, a town and forts standing on the river of that name to
the north of the Peiho, and advance from this direction to the assault
of the Taku forts.

It was rumoured throughout the fleet that the Emperor of China had
sent a message to General Grant, informing him that a picket of
40,000 Tartars was lying in wait at Pehtang forts, “with a force of
200,000 under the commander-in-chief, Sang-ko-lin-sin, between that
and Tientsin.” He therefore recommended the General to go away, if he
valued the lives of himself and his people.

The disembarkation of the troops at about 2000 yards from the Pehtang
forts, on the afternoon of the 1st August, was accomplished.

During the night an officer penetrated into the town, and discovered it
had been abandoned by the Chinese soldiers, and that most of the guns
in the town were only wooden dummies.

At length, on the 12th August, the general advance commenced, ten
thousand British and five thousand French participating. The first
British division, with the French, moved along the causeway, to attack
the Chinese entrenched position at Sinho, while the 2nd Division and
the cavalry diverged to the right, to cut off the retreat of the enemy.
The march of these latter troops was laborious in the extreme, the mud
being knee-deep, but, after four miles, harder ground was reached, and
the troops found themselves faced by an extended line of Tartar cavalry.

Our new Armstrong guns, then for the first time tested in actual
warfare, began to create great havoc among the enemy, whose wretched
gingals and small field guns were absolutely ineffective at the long
range. For a time, however, the Tartars bore this destructive fire
well, and finally succeeded in effecting a well-directed charge in
spite of it. Our cavalry, however, speedily put them to the rout, and
the exhausted state of our horses alone prevented a lengthy pursuit and
a heavier loss to the enemy.

Meanwhile, on the causeway, the 1st Division was engaged in bombarding
the enemy’s entrenched position, and after twenty-five minutes the
latter found their position untenable. Here, as elsewhere, our cavalry
were too exhausted to pursue, and the field guns were hurried forward
to pour their deadly volleys into the masses of retreating Tartars.

By the afternoon the battle of Sinho was virtually over, though
individual skirmishes still took place. Our loss was only two killed
and some dozen wounded, and the French casualty list was equally light.
The loss of the enemy, however, was very heavy, the plain being dotted
with Tartar corpses for a long distance, while dead bodies in heaps lay
within the enemy’s entrenchments. Considering, however, that the allied
troops outnumbered the enemy by two to one, it must be admitted, with
General Napier, that the enemy “had behaved with courageous endurance.”

At the conclusion of the engagement at Sinho, it was discovered by the
allied commanders that the force there encountered was but a strong
outpost, the main body of the enemy being located behind entrenchments
at Tang-ku, some three miles further along the causeway.

Accordingly, Sir Hope Grant decided to postpone the forthcoming action
until the morrow, the remainder of the day and night being spent in
pushing forward our heavy guns up to the Chinese position and in
digging pits for our riflemen. At half-past five in the morning the 1st
Division pushed forward to storm the Chinese position, the 2nd Division
being held in reserve. The contest was sharp and short, the Chinese
replying with spirit to our fire, which from our 42 heavy guns was
destructive in the extreme.

Some explanation of the tenacity with which they stood to their guns
was afterwards forthcoming, when it was found that many of the wretched
gunners had been tied to the pieces of ordnance which they served!

After the enemy’s fire had been silenced, our infantry dashed forward,
and the foremost of our men, the Rifles, found themselves just in time
to bayonet some of the last of the Tartar defenders. The fugitives
could be seen streaming out of the village towards a bridge of boats
spanning the Peiho, by which they reached the village of Taku upon the
further bank of the river. Though no precise estimate of the enemy’s
dead could be obtained, dozens of them lay amongst the guns, dozens
more in the ditches, scores had been swept down the river in junks or
borne off by comrades, and numbers had crawled down to the village
to die. The full opposing force was estimated at 6000. The allies’
casualties amounted to 15 wounded, not a man having been killed.

The way was now clear for an attack upon the Taku forts. Some
disagreement arose as to which of the four should be the first object
of the allied attack. The French were in favour of first assaulting
the larger southern fort, the strongest of the four, but Sir Hope
Grant, observing that the nearer of the northern forts, though small,
commanded all the others, decided, in spite of the French protest, to
make this the object of attack. Several days were spent in preparation,
road-making, and the like, and during the night of the 20th August,
after a hard night’s labour, everything was found to be in order
for the attack. Bridges had been thrown over the principal canals,
intersecting the country, batteries had been erected near the forts,
and twenty heavy guns and three mortars were mounted, four British and
four French gunboats moved up the river to join in the attack, and a
storming party of 2500 British, consisting of a wing of the 44th, a
wing of the 67th, and two detachments of marines, together with 1000
French, mustered under Brigadier Reeves for what was to prove the
hardest fight of the campaign.

At daybreak our batteries and gunboats opened fire, the fort replying
briskly, and the engagement was begun. Hotter and hotter grew the
cannonade, and after an hour had passed and our storming party was in
momentary expectation of receiving orders to advance, suddenly a tall
black pillar of smoke was seen to shoot up from the fort in front, and
immediately afterwards to burst at a great height like a rocket. The
earth shook for many miles. A magazine had blown up. The enemy’s fire
ceased for a moment, but the garrison seemed to be determined to serve
their guns so long as one of them remained, and manfully reopened fire.
Half an hour later a similar explosion occurred in the second northern
fort, having apparently been caused by a stray shell from the gunboats.
By seven o’clock, the large guns of the enemy having been silenced, and
a small breach made in the wall, the storming party received orders to
advance.

As the men went forward into the open, they were assailed by a hail of
bullets by the Chinese, and many wounded began to drop in the line of
advance. The British portion of the force was sadly hampered by the
necessity of carrying sections of the pontoon bridge by which it was
intended to span the two ditches which ran round the front of the fort.
After all their exertions, however, the bridge proved useless, a round
shot in one instant completely smashing one section, and knocking over
the fifteen men who carried it. The French, on the other hand, carried
light bamboo ladders, which proved sufficiently effective to enable
them to cross the ditch, whilst our men had to swim or struggle over as
best they could.

The first ditch crossed, a formidable obstacle presented itself. The
intervening twenty feet of ground between the ditches had been thickly
planted with sharp-pointed bamboo stakes, over which it was almost
impossible to walk. It was here that our greatest loss occurred.
Missiles of all descriptions rained down upon our troops halted before
this formidable obstruction. Arrows, handfuls of slugs, pots of lime,
and round shot thrown by hand constituted the enemy’s ammunition, and
now and again the defenders leapt upon the walls to take more careful
aim at the attacking force.

At length, a few men succeeded in reaching the walls, and while the
French were fruitlessly endeavouring to plant their scaling ladders,
Colonel Mann and Major Anson, perceiving the drawbridge tied up with
rope, cut it free with their swords. The bridge fell with a crash, and
was totally wrecked by its fall. Eventually, however, a long beam was
thrown across, and one by one our men advanced across it to the walls.
The progress was slow, a considerable number of the men being unable to
perform this feat with success, and numbers of them fell into the muddy
ditch below, among the hilarious laughter of their comrades, which even
the near presence of death failed to damp.

By this time ladders had been dragged over by the French in
considerable numbers, and planted here and there against the walls,
only to be thrown back by the active defenders. The British meanwhile
running round the walls, eagerly sought a scaleable place.

At last a French soldier holding aloft the tricolour, with a wild cheer
on his lips, succeeded in placing his foot upon the parapet for a
moment before falling back dead. His comrades were immediately in his
place.

Almost simultaneously young Chaplin, an ensign of the 67th, holding
high the Queen’s colours of his regiment, half scrambled and was half
pushed up the wall, and, amid the wild hurrahs of his men, planted
his flag upon the parapet, where it fluttered in the breeze. A sharp
conflict took place the instant after at the nearest battery upon the
wall, and before the enemy were driven off young Chaplin received
several severe wounds.

Already a number of British had penetrated through a small breach in
the wall, and, entering the streets below, had come to a hand-to-hand
encounter with the garrison. Headed by their stalwart commander, the
Chinese with unwonted courage presented a bold front to our advancing
troops, and for a moment a desperate struggle ensued. Then, as their
leader, who proved to be the commander of the forces, fighting in
the front rank, and refusing to submit, fell dead, they turned and
fled pell-mell through the streets. Unhappily for them, the same
obstructions which had so hampered the advance of our troops, now lay
in their line of retreat, and as they endeavoured to struggle through
the ditch and over the staked ground, a great slaughter took place.

“Never,” said Colonel Wolseley, “did the interior of any place testify
more plainly to the noble manner in which it had been defended. The
garrison had evidently determined to fall beneath its ruins, or to the
last had been so confident that they had never contemplated retreat.
Probably the stoutness of the resistance was due to the example of the
Chinese commander, an exceedingly rare one, it being proverbial among
the Chinese that the officers are almost always the first to bolt when
defeat seems probable.”

Preparations were immediately made for an advance on the second
northern fort, when suddenly a white flag was hoisted on the principal
fort on the southern bank, and a mandarin was rowed over in a boat to
treat for terms. He could not, however, give any definite assurance
of capitulation, and he was told that if the second fort was not
surrendered in two hours it would be taken by storm.

The allotted time passed, and our men advanced to the attack. Not a
shot was fired on them, nor any sign of resistance made, and suddenly,
to the astonishment of all, down went the flags of the fort. The troops
entered and found the garrison of 2000 all huddled together in one
place like so many sheep. It was a sudden transformation, since they
had thrown away their arms and evidently expected nothing less than
massacre, being much astonished when they were sent over to the other
side in boats, and allowed to go where they pleased.

The Chinese were evidently completely cowed, and, after some of the
usual shilly-shallying, the mandarin in command of the southern forts
delivered them into our hands, “together with the unconditional
surrender of the whole country on the banks of the Peiho, as far as
Tientsin.”

This struggle cost the British 67 men killed and 22 officers and 161
men wounded. The casualties of the French numbered 130. The Chinese
dead lay everywhere, within and without the forts, and their loss must
have exceeded 2000 killed.

Thus, with the capture of the Taku forts, boasted as impregnable
throughout the Chinese Empire, ended the first stage of the war. The
gunboats cleared the way of the rows of iron stakes and ponderous booms
which obstructed the passage of the river, and by the first week of
September the allied troops, with the exception of the Buffs, left to
garrison Taku, and a wing of the 44th regiment sent to Shanghai, which
was at that time threatened by the Taiping rebels, were in quarters at
Tientsin.

For a time it appeared that the war was ended. The Chinese Government
professed great anxiety for peace, and Lord Elgin, our ambassador, who
accompanied the troops, was in daily communication with its emissaries.
Treachery, however, was feared, and the Chinese duplicity being well
known, the advance on Pekin was decided on.

On the 8th September the 1st British Division and half the French force
moved out of Tientsin, the remainder being left in the town owing to
inadequate means of transport. When, on the 13th inst., the allies
reached the village of Hu-see-wu, it was arranged in response to the
urgent entreaties of the Chinese that the army should halt within a
mile and a half of the old walled city of Chang-dia-wan, and that Lord
Elgin, with 1000 of an escort, should proceed to Tung-chow, to sign a
convention with the Imperial Commissioners there, and then to proceed
with the same escort to Pekin for its ratification.

Mr. Parkes, Lord Elgin’s secretary, with some officers and an escort,
set out in advance to arrange preliminaries, and while the main body
were on their march upon the 18th, they were horrified to hear the
sounds of distant firing, and shortly afterwards a few of Mr. Parkes’s
party galloped up. They had had to fight their way through the Chinese,
who had set upon them suddenly, and the remainder of the party had been
captured.

Sir Hope Grant immediately prepared for battle. In front were at least
30,000 men, while the allies numbered 3500 in all, but there was no
question of retreat. Seeing the allies coming, the Chinese opened
fire from skilfully-concealed batteries, which defended their five
entrenched camps. For two hours the contest raged hotly, and, at the
end of that time, the French troops on the left had carried the works
in front of them, while Fane’s Horse, dashing through the village
street on their flanks, completed the enemy’s rout. In the centre our
artillery speedily silenced the enemy’s guns, and the Tartar cavalry on
the right were put to flight by the Dragoons and Probyn’s horse.

Our casualties did not amount to 40 in this engagement, while hundreds
of the enemy were cut down by the cavalry in the long pursuit.
Seventy-four pieces of cannon fell into our hands.

After halting for some days until the 2nd Division and the siege guns
had come up, Sir Hope Grant on the 2nd October commenced the final
march to Pekin. All overtures of peace were in the meantime rejected,
until the captives should be delivered up to Lord Elgin. Progress
through the dense country was slow, and numerous isolated skirmishes
took place. On the 7th October the French wing reached Yenn-ming-yenn,
the famous summer palaces of the Emperors of China, and here a halt
took place for several days, while the French gave themselves over to
indiscriminate plunder and wanton destruction.

The army ran riot in the sacred precincts of the Imperial residences.
Every French soldier had in his possession stores of gold watches,
strings of pearls, and other treasures, while many of the officers
amassed fortunes. The British, however, were prohibited from
individual plundering, although a large number of the officers seized
the opportunity of the halt to pay a visit to the palaces, and returned
laden with booty.

So great was the amount of treasure brought back by these that when, on
the instructions of Sir Hope Grant, the whole of the loot thus obtained
was disposed of at a public auction which lasted over two days, and was
certainly one of the most singular scenes ever witnessed, the share of
each private soldier was not less than £4 sterling. Sir Hope Grant and
his two generals of division renounced their own large shares of the
booty, thereby sensibly increasing the gains of the private soldiery.

By the 12th of October the allied armies assembled before the Au-ting
gate of Pekin, and demanded its surrender. On the 8th, Mr. Parkes and
some of his party had been released, the Chinese alleging that these
were all the prisoners they had in their possession; but we had reason
to suppose that others remained in their hands. Accordingly, a battery
was erected in front of the gate, and the enemy were given till noon to
surrender the gate.

At five minutes to twelve General Napier stood watch in hand, and was
about to give the order to fire when it was intimated that the gate
had been surrendered. It was immediately taken possession of by our
infantry, while the French marched with tricolours flying and drums
beating. But though the gate was in our hands, the remaining prisoners
had not yet been delivered up, and our guns were still pointing
threateningly from the city gate, when in the afternoon eight Sikhs and
some Frenchmen in an emaciated condition came into our camp.

On the 18th, the fate of the remaining prisoners was discovered,
Colonel Wolseley coming on a cart containing coffins. These were
opened, and from the clothing they were proved undoubtedly to be
the missing men. It was found that they had been most cruelly done
to death, and the rage of the troops at this discovery was near
exceeding all bounds. Sir Hope, however, had given his word that the
city should be spared, but as the Summer Palace had been the scene of
these atrocities it was by Lord Elgin’s orders razed to the ground. An
indemnity of £100,000 was paid as compensation to the relatives of the
murdered men.

Further preparations were made for a complete bombardment of Pekin,
when, on the 24th October, peace was declared.



CHAPTER LV.

THE BATTLE OF AROGEE.

1868.


The man who stands out most prominently in Abyssinian history is
Theodore, the king of kings of Ethiopia. He was a remarkable personage,
perhaps the most remarkable who has appeared in Africa for some
centuries. Having led the life of a lawless soldier, accustomed from
childhood to witness the perpetration of the most barbarous acts of
cruelty and oppression, there is only one standard by which to measure
his career, and that an Abyssinian one.

The British Consul, Mr. Plowden, heard of his accession at Massowa, in
March, 1855, and at once proceeded to join his camp, with the approval
of the Foreign Office.

The news of Plowden’s death having reached London, Captain Cameron
was appointed to succeed him, it being the resolve of the Government
to persevere in the policy of cultivating friendly relations with
Abyssinia. The new consul was instructed to make Massowa his
headquarters, and he was further directed to avoid becoming a partisan
of any of the contending parties in the country. Cameron was well
received by the king. He received a letter from Theodore, to be
forwarded to the Queen of Britain. This strange epistle, which was
received at the Foreign Office on February 12, 1863, contained a
proposal to send an embassy to England, and a request that an answer
might be forwarded through Consul Cameron.

On its arrival, the letter was put aside, and no answer was sent.

The letter, which was afterwards to become so famous, contained the
following sentences:--

“I hope Your Majesty is in good health. By the power of God, I am well.
My fathers, the emperors, had forgotten our Creator. He handed over our
kingdom to the Gallas and Turks. But God created me, lifted me out of
the dust, and restored this empire to my rule.”

Early in 1864, a young Irishman named Kerans, whom the Consul had
appointed as his secretary, arrived with despatches from Britain,
which were seen by the king. Imagine the latter’s wrath when there
was no reply to his letter! Theodore felt insulted. Only one mode of
retaliation could soothe his wounded feelings, and forthwith he adopted
it. The British Consul and all his suite were put in prison. Cameron
was afterwards tortured with ropes, and the whole party were sent to
the fortress of Magdala and there put in irons.

Colonel Merryweather, our representative at Aden, after trying
everything, despaired of securing the release of the prisoners by
peaceful means. A warlike demonstration, he saw was inevitable, and in
March, 1867, he reported to the home authorities that the last chance
of effecting the liberation of the prisoners by conciliatory means had
failed.

In July, 1867, the British Cabinet finally resolved to send an
expedition to Abyssinia, to enforce the release of the captives.

Bombay having been fixed upon as the base of operations, the Government
of that Presidency was asked to make all the necessary arrangements. In
August, Sir Robert Napier, the commander-in-chief of the Bombay army,
was appointed to command the expedition.

The task which the force had to accomplish was to march over 400 miles
of a mountainous and little known region to the camp occupied by
Theodore, and to use armed force to release the British officers whom
he detained as prisoners.

The king had now broken up his camp at Debrataber. His power was
entirely gone. His once great empire was wholly in the hands of rebels.
Slowly towards his last stronghold he was marching, encumbered by his
guns and mortars and by much heavy baggage. According to the campaign
arranged, the British force and the king would advance on two lines
which would meet at Magdala.

The army, under King Theodore, consisted of about 3000 men, armed with
percussion loaders, about 1000 matchlock men, a mob of spearmen, and
about 30 pieces of ordnance which his people could not properly handle.
This rabble was to oppose the enormous disciplined army of the British.
Doubtless it was this fact which led Theodore to be described as being
like “an exhausted, hunted lion, wearily seeking his lair, to die there
unconquered and at bay.”

When Sir Robert Napier arrived upon the scene of operations, upwards
of 7500 of his men were ready to give battle. Two courses were then
open to him. He could have chosen to intercept Theodore in his flank
march before he reached Magdala, and so prevent the prisoners falling
completely into his power, or, by the alternative plan, which was
adopted, allow Theodore to reach Magdala at his leisure, with all his
guns, and thus place the British prisoners at his mercy.

The beginning of February saw the pioneer force under the General
marching on the road from Adyerat to Antalo. The difficulties of the
road were great, but the indomitable zeal and energy of the force
overcame them. Along the route the force was well received by the
people. The commander took care to leave a good impression behind him,
and this he did in several ways, but especially by the prompt payment
he ordered for everything that was brought for sale.

Theodore was also marching to Magdala, and he had surmounted
difficulties in a manner that was afterwards to astonish his foes.
He had odds against him, but he knew every inch of the country, and
won the race. Still, the king had already sealed his own doom. He had
devastated his one faithful province of Bagemder. He burned Gondar,
destroyed all the villages round Debrataber, and put to death in the
cruellest manner possible three thousand persons in the course of
eighteen months. There could only be one result of such barbarism. The
inhabitants of Bagemder, hitherto devoted to the king’s person, rose
against the tyrant and his diminishing army. Such a state of affairs
could not last long. The king had reduced a rich province to a desert,
and in order to keep his troops alive it was necessary that he should
move.

Back fell the king upon his fortress, his last hope in this his time
of bitter experience. He began his wonderful march in October, 1867.
It was forlorn, but magnificent, and at once stamps Theodore as a man
of brilliant resource. With no base of operations, surrounded on every
side by enemies, and with the ever-present necessity of constructing
roads over which to take his heavy artillery, he achieved what his
own countrymen had described as an impossibility. By the 1st March,
1868, the king saw the end of his wonderful undertaking approach. All
that remained was to drag the heavy ordnance up the Wark-waha valley
to Arogee, and thence up the steep declivity of the Fala saddle to
Islamgye, at the foot of Magdala.

The king now spoke frequently of the advance of the British. One day he
remarked, “With love and friendship the English will conquer me, but if
they come otherwise I know that they will not spare, and I shall make a
blood-bath and die.”

On the day Theodore’s army arrived at Arogee, he sent orders up to
Magdala that the irons were to be removed from Mr. Rassam. This might
be taken as a sign that the king was about to relent, but it was too
late--a fact which he seems to have realised himself very shortly
after. His conduct now became eccentric in the extreme. He invited the
British prisoners to come down to Islamgye and see the great mortar
brought up. When the operation was completed, the king conversed with
the prisoners, and said that if only his power had been as strong as it
was a few years ago, he would have gone to meet the British on landing.
Now, however, he had lost all Abyssinia, and had only that rock upon
which he must needs wait for them.

Stranger than ever, this once mighty ruler of men admitted to Mr.
Rassam that when he was excited he was not responsible for his actions.
This was soon proved. On one occasion when the king had drank to
excess, he was aroused by the clamouring of the native prisoners he
had released. Enraged at this, he ordered them all to be put to death,
commencing the work of execution himself. Many were hurled alive over
the precipice, and those who showed signs of life were shot down by the
soldiers. The massacre lasted for three hours, and was responsible for
two hundred deaths. According to one of his body-servants, Theodore
spent most of the night, after this massacre, in prayer, and was heard
to confess that he had been drunk when he committed it.

Meantime, on the 28th March, the British commander-in-chief had
encamped at Santava. Two days later the 2nd Brigade arrived,
accompanied by the naval brigade from the Rocket, under Captain
Fellowes of the Dryad. As usual, the blue-jackets were the very life of
the force. They chummed with the native troops. They joked and laughed
and danced, and kept everybody in good humour. The close friendship
between the sailors and the Sikhs was most amusing. The latter
could not speak a word of English, and yet the jolly tars seemed to
understand their every wish.

The two hostile forces, which for months had been converging from Debra
Tabor and the sea to the same point at Magdala, were now nearly face to
face.

“On that dark basaltic rock,” says Markham, “was the hunted fallen
king, with only 3000 soldiers, armed with percussion guns and
matchlocks, a rabble of spearmen, and a number of pieces of ordnance
which his strong will had created, but which his people knew not how to
use. Only a faithful few of his followers could be depended on to stand
by their brave master to the bitter end. His mighty prestige alone kept
the shattered remains of his army together.”

So much for the predicament in which Theodore found himself. Now for
the British position. In numbers they were nearly equal to the enemy.
They were armed and provided with all that science could suggest for
such an undertaking, besides, they were in a friendly country, and had
abundant supplies.

Bitter must have been the fallen Theodore’s reflections now. How he
must have sighed for some of his lost power and might as he realised
the magnitude of the task awaiting him! Yet he had some power left. The
prisoners were still in his hands. It was quite possible for him to
make the one object of his enemies turn out badly.

Early on 10th April the 1st Brigade, under Sir Charles Staveley,
began the descent of the Beshilo Ravine. The brigade was led up
the steep Gumbaji Spur towards Aficho. The 2nd Brigade, under the
commander-in-chief, followed. The cavalry was ordered to remain at
Beshilo, with instructions to be in readiness to advance when, called
upon. It was not intended that the fight should begin before dark.

Colonel Phayre had ascertained that Wark-waha valley was unoccupied by
the enemy. A message to this effect was accordingly sent to Sir Robert
Napier. Staveley, through whose hands the communication had passed,
advanced along the heights, and Napier ordered the naval brigade, A
battery, and the baggage to follow the king’s road up the Wark-waha
ravine. Napier and his staff rode up to the front in the course of the
afternoon, and were present at the action. Meanwhile Colonel Phayre
reconnoitred the country so far as Arogee plain, and the 1st Brigade
advanced along the Aficho plateau.

Right in front loomed Theodore’s stronghold, a thousand feet above. All
was silence, and nothing stirred to break or mar the stillness. Time
passed, and the British force waited anxiously. At last the silence was
broken! Between four and five in the afternoon a gun was fired from
the crest of Talla, 1200 feet above Arogee. It was followed by another
and still another, until the air seemed full of the sound of musketry.
Then the British soldiery were amazed and startled. The very pick of
Theodore’s army poured down upon them, yelling defiance as they came.

It was a trying moment, but the British blue-jackets were not long in
realising what it meant. In an instant they got their rocket tubes
into position, and opened fire upon the enemy coming from the heights.
Staveley also acted without loss of time. All the infantry of his
brigade were moved down the steep descent to Arogee. Then the snider
rifles opened a fire which no troops on earth could have withstood.

The Abyssinians were simply mowed down. Unable to get within range with
their antiquated rifles, they became merely a target for the British
fire. Hope must have left them then. Led on by the gallant old warrior,
the Fitaurari-Gabriyi, they returned again and again to the charge
with great bravery. But men could not struggle against machines. The
most heroic courage that ever filled the hearts of heroes was without
avail in face of such unequal odds. While the battle of Arogee was
in progress, a thunderstorm broke over Magdala, and the roar of the
thunder seemed to struggle for mastery against the roar of artillery.

Night came on and stopped the action. It was then found that Gabriyi
and most of his chief officers were dead. Slowly the broken Abyssinian
force made its way back to Magdala. There was no disorder, and now and
then a cheer could be heard from the throats of the defeated warriors.
A detachment of the enemy was still left, however, and it advanced to
attack the British baggage train. Some stiff fighting followed, in
which the gallantry of Theodore’s followers was again, manifest. Driven
back again and again with great slaughter, the Abyssinians continued to
advance, heedless of all danger, until they were checked by the baggage
guard. Those of the enemy who had got into the ravine were hemmed in,
and their loss was terrible. The Dam-wanz that night is said to have
been choked up with dead and dying men, and the little rill at the
bottom of the ravine ran red with blood.

The main body of the enemy, too, had not yet reached safety. The
blue-jackets had taken up a position more to the front, and into the
retreating force they sent rockets, with terrible effect. Shots were
also fired at the crest of Talla, whence the guns of Theodore had
played, but just when they had got the exact range the naval brig