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Title: Memoirs of the Late War, Vol 2 (of 2) - Comprising the Personal Narrative of Captain Cooke, of the - 43rd Regiment Light Infantry; the History of the Campaign - of 1809 in Portugal, by the Earl of Munster; and a Narrative - of the Campaign of 1814 in Holland, by Lieut. T. W. D. - Moodie, H. P. 21st Fusileers
Author: Cooke, John Esten, Moodie, John, Fitzclarence, George
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Memoirs of the Late War, Vol 2 (of 2) - Comprising the Personal Narrative of Captain Cooke, of the - 43rd Regiment Light Infantry; the History of the Campaign - of 1809 in Portugal, by the Earl of Munster; and a Narrative - of the Campaign of 1814 in Holland, by Lieut. T. W. D. - Moodie, H. P. 21st Fusileers" ***

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  VOL. II.

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                             THE LATE WAR:
                       THE PERSONAL NARRATIVE OF
                            CAPTAIN COOKE,
                 OF THE 43rd REGIMENT LIGHT INFANTRY;
                  THE HISTORY OF THE CAMPAIGN OF 1809
                             IN PORTUGAL,
                        BY THE EARL OF MUNSTER;
                          AND A NARRATIVE OF
                   THE CAMPAIGN OF 1814 IN HOLLAND,
           BY LIEUT. T. W. D. MOODIE, H. P. 21ST FUSILEERS.

                            IN TWO VOLUMES.

                               VOL. II.

                        NEW BURLINGTON STREET.





  Dwellings and habits of the farming classes in Navarre—Military
  quarters—The Author obtains leave to proceed to St. Sebastian
  as a spectator of the assault—Situation of that city,
  and appearance of the breaches—Groups collected from the
  neighbouring parts to witness the storming—Advance of the
  "forlorn hope," and death of Lieut. Mac Guire—Critical situation
  of the attacking troops—Seasonable measure adopted by General
  Graham—Effect produced by the heavy artillery—Destructive
  explosion among the French—Capture of the city after continued
  difficulties.                                                        1


  The Duke of Dalmatia crosses the Bidassoa—Sharp contest at
  the heights of St. Marzial and the Bridge of Bera—Touching
  scene witnessed by the Author on his way to rejoin his division
  at Santa Barbara—A present from England—Passage of the
  Bidassoa by the English troops on the 6th of October—Active
  fighting—The French driven over the mountains into their
  own territory—Delights of good quarters after hard
  work—Reconnoitring—Habits and condition of the Spanish
  soldiery—A mock fight—Military pastimes—Preparations for the
  invasion of France.                                                 16


  Advance of the light division—Singular nocturnal
  orgies—Skirmishing preliminary to the battle of the
  Nivelle—Details of that battle—British head-quarters
  established at St. Jean de Luz—More skirmishing, and a slight
  reverse—Combative anecdotes—Advance of the British line of
  picquets.                                                           40


  Tolerable quarters—Beguiling of time on picquet duty—The
  army again in motion—A critical position—French cunning,
  and occasional politeness—Skirmishing affairs preceding the
  battle of the Nive—Details of that engagement—Its advantageous
  consequences to our army—Acts of complaisance between the
  vanguards of the opposed forces—Christmas festivities.             56


  An unproductive alarm—The Duke d'Angoulême visits the British
  army—Orders received by the Duke of Dalmatia—General position
  of Napoleon's affairs—The author visits Bera on leave of
  absence—Remarks on the mischiefs committed by camp followers—A
  scene for contemplation—The author's friends at Bera—Love
  inimical to harmony—Return to quarters—Movement for penetrating
  into the interior of France—The author's regiment enters St.
  Palais, crosses the Gave, and passes through Sauveterre to
  Orthes.                                                             75


  A wrong direction—An affair with the enemy's cavalry—Bivouac
  in a wood—A ludicrous mistake in the dark—Arrival at St.
  Sever—Welcome supply of bread—The Duke of Dalmatia leaves
  Bordeaux unprotected, to preserve the communication with
  Toulouse—Reception of the English at Mont de Marsan—A dancing
  scene and other amusements at the village of Brinquet—The
  disappointed purveyors—The author regains his corps—Adventure
  gained over the enemy by General Hill—Gascon peasantry—Various
  movements of the opposed armies—The French driven through the
  town of Vic Bigorre—An agreeable march.                            91


  Advance towards Tarbes—Sharp and successful encounter of
  the riflemen with the French, who are forced to retire from
  Tarbes—A beautiful coup-d'œil—Retreating movement of the enemy
  towards Toulouse—The little French cobbler and his daughter—A
  burdensome benefactor—Inconveniences of a miry march—The
  author's adventure at a farm-house—The conscious hosts—A true
  French château—Approach of the troops towards Toulouse—Critical
  situation of the author and another officer.                       106


  Flank movement to the right—Method of feeding cattle in
  Gascony—Catching a goose—Halt at St. Simon—Cross the Garonne
  and advance on Toulouse—The French take up a position to the
  east of that town—The Spaniards attack the heights of La
  Pugade—Their terrible slaughter and precipitate retreat—The
  enemy advance against the fourth and sixth divisions—The sixth
  division carry the front of the enemy's position—Retreat of the
  French from Toulouse towards Carcassonne.                          120

  Wellesley, in Portugal and Spain. By the EARL OF MUNSTER.          137

  NARRATIVE OF THE CAMPAIGN IN HOLLAND IN 1814, with details of the
  attack on Bergen-op-Zoom.                                          257



    Dwellings and habits of the farming classes in Navarre—Military
    quarters—The Author obtains leave to proceed to St. Sebastian as
    a spectator of the assault—Situation of that city, and appearance
    of the breaches—Groups collected from the neighbouring parts
    to witness the storming—Advance of the "forlorn hope," and
    death of Lieut. Mac Guire—Critical situation of the attacking
    troops—Seasonable measure adopted by General Graham—Effect
    produced by the heavy artillery—Destructive explosion among the
    French—Capture of the city after continued difficulties.

In Navarre the _quintas_ are constructed with projecting roofs, and are
two stories high: the second floors are encircled by wooden galleries,
adorned with creeping vines, hanging over in festoons, which give
these dwellings a most picturesque appearance. The numerous fertile
valleys produce wheat, rye, barley, maize, pulse, and apples which make
very tolerable cider.

When on picquet, we passed whole days in the houses of the small
farmers, (who speak the Basque language;) and although these dwellings
lay between the hostile armies, they were not damaged, nor the corn or
orchards cut down; yet, for leagues in every other direction, all the
small fields of Indian corn had been torn up by the very roots, and
carried off.

Owing to this latter circumstance, many of the peasantry became
impoverished, and were obliged to content themselves with very scanty
fare; their bread was made of Indian corn, which they mixed up into
a cake, an inch thick, and then put it into a frying pan, which was
repeatedly turned, until its contents were about half baked; this
operation being completed, the whole family formed a circle; the cake
was then broken into pieces, and handed to each individual, so hot
that they would shift it from hand to hand, making all sorts of wry
faces; this frugal supper being concluded, a large brass cauldron was
filled with tepid water, in which the elder of the family first bathed
his feet, and then the others, according to seniority, until all, in
rotation, performed the same cleanly ablution, which was never omitted
before retiring to rest.

While on the position of Santa Barbara, or whenever in the vicinity
of the enemy, it was customary to turn out an hour before daybreak,
and for the troops to stand to their arms until objects at a short
distance became visible. On these mountains we were terribly annoyed by
the toads. Many officers possessed mattresses or covers, (the latter
being usually stuffed with dried fern,) but if they happened to be left
in the tent two or three days without removing, or taken out to dry,
which was often the case, owing to heavy rains or dense fogs, we were
sure to find one or two bloated speckled toads under them, as large in
circumference as a small dessert plate.

Towards the end of the month, we could distinctly hear the heavy
thundering of the battery cannon at St. Sebastian, and an order was
issued for the first, fourth, and light divisions to send a certain
number of volunteers, to assist the fifth division in storming
the breaches at that place, as soon as they should be considered

By some mistake, we were informed that two officers were to proceed from
our regiment with the volunteers; accordingly Lieut. John O'Connell and
myself offered our services, and marched off and formed with the rest of
the volunteers of the division, in front of General Alten's quarters,
which was about a league in rear of our encampment; but as more officers
had proffered their services than the proper quota, I, amongst the rest,
made a surplus, and Lieut. O'Connell, being my senior, remained. This
officer had formed one of the storming party at Ciudad Rodrigo, and at
Badajoz, where he was badly wounded, a ball having passed in at the top
of his shoulder and came out at the elbow joint: he was ultimately
killed on the sanguinary breach of St. Sebastian. Lieut.-Col. Hunt, of
the 52nd, took the command of the volunteers of the division. Major W.
Napier had also volunteered, but not being required on this occasion,
both he and myself returned to camp.

On the following day, myself and three other officers obtained
permission to proceed across the mountain to be _spectators_ of the
assault. The weather was extremely fine, and we enjoyed a tranquil ride
over the mountains, many of which were entirely covered with oak trees,
aromatic plants, fern, and evergreens. For more than two leagues there
was scarcely a house to be seen. The day being far advanced before we
left our camp, darkness overtook us, and, on making enquiries at a
cottage, we were informed, by a peasant, that there was an encampment
at a short distance, which we soon discovered to the right of the
road, and found it to be the 85th light infantry, just arrived from
England. We received a hearty welcome, besides _aguardiénte y vino
tinto_, and then wrapping our cloaks around about us, we enjoyed a few
hours repose in Major Ferguson's tent.

At daybreak we went on our way through an open, hilly, and sandy
country, towards St. Sebastian, and in a few hours took post in the
trenches cut through the sand banks, on the right bank of the river
Urumea, and within six hundred yards of the town, which stands near the
river, or rather on a small peninsula, between two arms of the sea.
The place consisted of twenty streets, besides churches, convents, and
monasteries; and is enclosed on three sides by ramparts, bastions,
and half-moons. The castle is built on the top of a bare rock, and
overlooking the sea; the entrance of the harbour, on the west side, is
between two moles, and is capable of containing a few small vessels.

During our stay in the trenches, just below a mortar battery, the
enemy hardly fired a shot from the fortress, in the walls of which
were two breaches eighty yards asunder. The principal and wide-mouthed
breach had crumbled into a vast mound of sand, rubbish, and broken
masonry. A breach is indeed an awful mound of dilapidation to
look on, or rather a heap of disagreeable rubbish, particles of
which sparkle brightly in the sun beams, while the whole seems to
the amateur easy of ascent, but the wary veteran knows it to be a
deceitful slope, re-entrenched from behind, and most probably cut off
from all communication with the interior of the town. Well may it be
called "the deadly breach:" all fighting is bad enough, but when the
valiant soldier sees insurmountable obstacles before him, and finds
all his efforts unavailing, and death jostling him on every side,
his foot, perhaps, planted on the body of an expiring comrade, whose
bleeding mouth is filled with dust, and whose trampled uniform at last
becomes identified with the rubbish, and the human form no longer
distinguishable; and every instant the heap of the slain accumulating,
without any possibility of carrying the place,—then, indeed, comes the
"tug of war;" for, as a distinguished officer very justly observed, "A
breach may be made the strongest part of a fortification, since every
combustible, and power of defence, are brought to a known focus."

Having remained in the trenches a considerable time, we made for the
small town of Renteria, where we put up, with two convalescent officers
of our own corps, until the next day.

On the 31st the morning broke hazy. Meanwhile before starting for St.
Sebastian, we were introduced to Lieutenant Folliet, a young officer
of our regiment, who had just come from England for the first time;
he expressed much regret at not being able to witness the assault,
as he very properly considered it incorrect to leave his detachment,
which was ordered to march that morning for Bera. This circumstance I
mention, owing to the premature death of this officer.

At half-past ten o'clock, A. M., we took post within cannon range
of the ramparts of St. Sebastian, immediately overlooking the river
Urumea. The troops of the fifth division were already formed in the
trenches cut across the isthmus, within a short distance of the body
of the place, ready to move forward as soon as the tide should be
sufficiently low to admit of a passage. It was so well known that the
assault was to take place, that numerous inhabitants had flocked from
the adjacent towns and villages, dressed in their holiday attire, and
were already seated on the hill which commanded a panoramic view of the
town. Many of the women were clothed in dresses of English calico, and
in fact composed a motley group and mixture in dress and appearance,
such as I had never before seen in Spain. Two pretty Spanish girls
were seated on the slope of the hill, and offered us some of their
sugar drops, whereupon we thought we might as well place ourselves
beside them as elsewhere. A few minutes before the troops moved to the
assault, all within the town seemed tranquil; no noise issued from its
walls, nor was a single French soldier visible on the ramparts.

Soon after eleven o'clock, the "forlorn hope," headed by Lieut. Mac
Guire of the 4th regiment, sprang out of the trenches, followed by
the storming party, and a brigade of the fifth division;[1] but,
owing to the difficulty of extricating themselves from the trenches,
and to their _extreme_ ardour, they ran towards the _great breach_,
discharging their fire arms to the left, to keep down the musketry of
the enemy, who galled them by a terrible flanking fire from a bastion
which projected nearly parallel, and enfiladed their left flank while
moving towards the breach.

Lieut. Mac Guire wore a cocked-hat, with a _long white feather_, to
make himself conspicuous. He was a remarkably handsome young man,
active of limb, well-made, and possessing a robust frame. He ran
forward, amid projectiles and a shower of bullets, with such speed that
only _two_ soldiers could manage to keep within five or six yards
behind him; and he actually jumped over the broken masonry, at the
foot of the breach, before he fell. In a moment afterwards he was hid
from our view by the column bounding over his body,[2] to climb the
breach. They had no sooner gained the crest of the breach, than they
found the enemy strongly entrenched at each flank of the TERRE-PLEIN of
the rampart and the interior slope, composed of a scarped wall, nearly
thirty feet deep, so that the brave soldiers who mounted the breach
fell a sacrifice to their valour, by an overwhelming cross-fire.

The enemy had cleared away the rubbish some feet from a _round tower_,
nearly in the centre, and on the crest of the great breach, which they
maintained, and it was from this apparently trifling and _unbreached
spot_ that the troops sustained their principal loss—standing up to
their knees in rubbish, and losing their lives without any probability
of success. As the French, however, could not well fire on their left
flank without hanging over the parapet, our soldiers were enabled to
keep their station on the slope of the breach, at the expense of a
great number of officers and men. Had the enemy been able to flank
the slope of the breach, all the troops must have been annihilated.
The slaughter, however, was so great, as to cause the most serious
apprehension, and the wounded and dying were suffering dreadfully, and
languishing in the most horrible torments, for want of water, without
being again able to regain the trenches, owing to the cross-fire of
musketry through which they had to run the gauntlet while advancing
to the assault. With the exception of the guns in the castle, the
enemy hardly fired any artillery from the walls, either from their
being principally dismounted, or that they were unable to depress them
sufficiently to do much execution. At this time hardly a word escaped
the lips of the astonished spectators; and many of the women were
drowned in tears at so doleful a spectacle.

At twelve o'clock General Graham, seeing affairs in this desperate
state, ordered the guns from the batteries to open, to oblige the
enemy to keep down, and to shield the troops for a short time, from
their fatal bullets, and to give them a little breathing time, so as
to enable the wounded who could yet walk to regain the trenches. The
fire from the batteries was terrific, and the troops retired four or
five yards down the slope of the breach, while the heavy shot passed
over their heads, skimming the round tower, the ramparts and the crest
of the breach with a precision truly astonishing, so that the enemy
could not show their heads, or discharge a single firelock. Never
was artillery better served, or opened at a more seasonable moment;
and without doubt this was one of the principal causes of carrying
the day; for indeed, had it not been for this seasonable relief, the
troops must have been inevitably sacrificed by piecemeal. The volumes
of smoke arose in dense clouds, and the reverberation was amazing.
The iron balls rattled into the devoted town, unroofing the houses,
knocking up the dust and rubbish, and thundering against the walls with
a tremendous crash, as if the ramparts were cracking and every stone
broken, and the whole tumbling into a mass of ruins. All the edifices
seemed tottering to the very foundations, and it was as though every
living creature within were about to be swallowed up in the vortex and
buried amid the utter desolation.

When first the assault took place, the sun shone forth brilliantly; it
was now twelve o'clock, and the clouds blackened and gathered together,
foreboding the coming storm.

The blazing of the heavy artillery lasted more than half an hour,
during which time General Graham let loose the volunteers and the
reserve of the fifth division against the large breach and _adamantine
round tower_. The Spanish girls near us ejaculated (while shedding a
few pearly tears, and unfolding the little papers containing their
sugar-drops,) "_pobre Sebastiano! pobre Sebastiano!_" We asked them
why they did not say, _poor soldiers_,—"_Oh si, si_," answered they,
"_pobres soldados tambien!_"

As soon as the fire of the heavy calibre had ceased, fresh efforts were
made against the breach, and the sharp fire of the deadly small arms
was resumed. At half past twelve o'clock a Portuguese regiment led on
by Lieutenant Colonel Snodgrass[3] moved along the sands and began to
ford the river Urumea, the water at low tide being at this spot about
two hundred yards in width. As soon as they reached the middle of the
stream, a gun from an embrasure exactly opposite to them discharged
a round of grape shot, which fell into the middle of the column, and
knocked the men down in every direction: some of them sank to rise no
more, others floundered in the water, and called out for help in the
most pitiable manner. The enemy fired a second discharge before the
Portuguese could extricate themselves from the stream, (which reached
up to the hips), and again inflicted dreadful havoc in their ranks.
The smoke of the last round created considerable surprise among us,
as it was of a reddish colour, as if red ochre had been mixed up with
the powder. The excellent and steady conduct of the 13th regiment of
Portuguese was beyond all praise. Having cleared the river they closed
up, moved forward and ascended the small breach, eighty yards from the
larger one.

At this time we also observed part of the 85th regiment a short
distance out at sea (in large boats) apparently threatening the back
of the rock, on which stands the Castle of La Motta, but this threat
of escalading the rocks was relinquished owing to the impracticability
of such an enterprise; the troops in the breaches became fixtures as
before, and no further progress towards the capturing of the fortress
appeared to be made. At last I saw several soldiers quitting the large
breach and running to the right to assist the Portuguese at the small
one; and a brave bugler sounded the advance several times. Confused
cries of assembled voices echoed from the ramparts at that point, and
we could hear sounds like the battering of firelocks against doors or
barricades, intermingled with occasional firing of musketry. Still, no
very serious impression was visible to us.

At one o'clock a violent explosion took place on the rampart behind
the French traverse to the right of the large breach, and, before the
fragments blown into the air had fallen, or the smoke cleared away,
the troops nobly pushed forward, and, at the same time, the crowd of
spectators on the hill rose simultaneously with joy beaming on every
countenance; and when the hollow sounds of the firing were heard
within the interior of the town, we became satisfied that the place
was taken.—The explosion was supposed to be caused by accidental
sparks, or loose cartridge paper falling on the train. Probably no one
living knows the real cause. However, all the French soldiers near the
spot were blown into the air, and fell singed and blackened in all
directions; and the dead soldiers lay so thick on the slope of the
breach that it looked, to the naked eye, as if the mass of troops were
still stationary.

Soon after, we saw the French issuing from the town, and firing down
upon the British troops from behind some old walls running in zig
zags up the castle hill. There cannot be a shadow of doubt that the
place would not have been carried, had it not been for the decision
of General Graham, who, persisting in a constant attack to the last,
kept the troops in that honorable post to take advantage of any
contingencies that might chance to throw open the door to victory.

The enemy lost seven hundred men, prisoners taken in the town, who were
unable to reach the castle. The fifth division and the volunteers from
the British army lost two thousand men and officers killed and wounded;
amongst the latter Generals Leith, Oswald and Robinson were wounded,
and Colonel Fletcher commanding the engineers was killed by a musket
ball, just before the assault took place.

At half past one P.M. a heavy mist began to fall, which caused us to
bend our course towards Renteria, and, before we reached half a league,
the rain descended in torrents; but none had fallen during the storming
of the breaches.

[Footnote 1: The fifth division led the attack, _not the volunteers
from the army_.]

[Footnote 2: He was killed. I knew him intimately; he possessed
naturally gentle manners, with a soldier-like deportment.]

[Footnote 3: The Portuguese troops forded the river Urumea directly
after the firing of the cannon ceased from the English batteries; and
the great explosion to the right of the large breach, (to the left of
the breach as we looked towards it,) did not happen until half an hour
after this event. It cannot, therefore, be said that our artillery
caused that explosion.]


    The Duke of Dalmatia crosses the Bidassoa—Sharp contest at the
    heights of St. Marzial and the Bridge of Bera—Touching scene
    witnessed by the Author on his way to rejoin his division at Santa
    Barbara—A present from England—Passage of the Bidassoa by the
    English troops on the 6th of October—Active fighting—The French
    driven over the mountains into their own territory—Delights
    of good quarters after hard work—Reconnoitring—Habits and
    condition of the Spanish soldiery—A mock fight—Military
    pastimes—Preparations for the invasion of France.

On the same day that the assault of St. Sebastian took place, the Duke
of Dalmatia, with the right wing of his army, crossed the Bidassoa,
opposite to the heights of St. Marzial, and another division forded the
river two hundred yards below Bera (under cover of the high rock, which
rises abruptly over the west end of the town) and immediately moved
forward to attack the heights above the village of Salines, occupied
by part of the seventh division, with whom and the Portuguese the
enemy were engaged the greater part of the day. The French repeatedly
endeavoured to climb the heights of St. Marzial without effect. The
ascent was so difficult, that the Spaniards had little more to do
than to deliver their fire, by which they managed, in the presence of
Field-marshal the Marquis of Wellington, to beat the enemy.

The French marshal, when he saw his soldiers giving way and plunging
into the Bidassoa, became perfectly furious, for, owing to this
unsuccessful attack, the French above Salines were obliged to grope
their way down the uneven and slippery mountain, in search of the ford
which they had previously crossed (in the morning) in good order, and
in the highest spirits. When, however, they now reached the river after
exceeding toil and in total darkness, they found it so swollen, owing
to the floods from the mountains, that they could not attempt to cross
it. The wind howled fiercely; the roaring torrents, and vast bodies of
water, poured down the sides of the mountains, rocks and water courses,
swelling the river into an overwelming flood, which rushed through the
narrow arches of the bridge of Bera, with irresistible fury. In short,
a perfect hurricane raged over the mountains, and swept throughout the
valleys, in boisterous whirlwinds, that carried away in their fearful
blasts branches of trees, and bellowed furiously over the tops of the

During this awful convulsion of the elements, a few stragglers of the
French division succeeded in overpowering a corporal's picquet, and
rushed over the bridge of Bera; but a company of the second battalion
of rifle corps, which occupied the shell of a house, immediately forced
them to recross the bridge. Again the enemy several times attempted to
cross the bridge at the _pas de charge_, but were as often beaten back
by the well-plied bullets of the rifles; and, strange to relate, this
picquet and the French division continued engaged within five hundred
yards of the French post above Bera, and not more than twice the
distance from the second brigade of the light division which occupied
the rising ground in front of the _debouché_ of San Estevan,—the first
brigade having crossed to the left bank of Bidassoa on the previous
day, in support of the seventh division. When too late, another company
arrived to their assistance; but morning dawned and the odds were too
great; the captain commanding, when in the act of mounting his horse,
was shot through the body, and the French rushed across the bridge.
This was a most extraordinary fight, while the storm was so tremendous
that the musketry could hardly be heard; and neither the French nor
the English army gave an effectual helping hand to their comrades
during this wild contest.

On the morning of the 1st of September we started from Renteria, to
return to our division, and had only travelled a short distance when
we met and questioned some wounded Spaniards, who gave a very vague
account of the fighting on the preceding day, and all that we could
extract from them was "_Oh! señores mucho combate ayer._" We pursued
the rugged road, and met an English soldier, who told us that there
had been some sharp fighting all along the ridge of the mountains on
the left of the Bidassoa; but he could not inform us whether the enemy
had advanced or retired. This piece of intelligence made it advisable
to keep a sharp look-out. We soon, however, met Lieutenant-Colonel
Gordon, one of the General-in-Chiefs aides-de-camp, who gave us every
information, and told us that the road of communication was now quite
open to Bera.

Having travelled another league, we arrived, by a wild and crooked
road, at the summit of a mountain covered with oak trees, where we saw
a soldier of our regiment standing by the side of a goatherd's roofless
hut, who told us that his master, Lieut. Folliet, had been mortally
wounded four hours after we had taken leave of him on the previous
day. A body of the enemy had pushed through the forest beyond the left
flank of a brigade of the seventh division, and, rushing furiously
through the wood towards the little detachment with loud shouts, and a
rattling fusillade, had succeeded in scattering these young soldiers.
On entering the hut, we saw the youthful sufferer, deadly pale, lying
on his back, with his uniform, sash, sword and cap, died in blood and
strewed about on the loose stones or rock, which formed the floor of
the miserable hut. On seeing us, he extended his hand, and a momentary
gleam of joy passed across his pallid features, as he mildly informed
us that he was dying from a wound in the abdomen, which had caused
him excruciating torture until mortification had ensued. He was
quite resigned to his fate, and begged that we would not give way to
melancholy, for that he was quite happy, and only hoped we thought he
had done his duty; that the only grief he felt was from not having seen
the regiment, the summit of all his ambition—before he expired. In a
few hours he was no more; and having been enveloped in a blanket, he
was interred under the wide-spreading branches of an oak tree, by the
side of the ruined hut.

Little at that time did my _three companions_ anticipate that,
before the expiration of three months, two of them would be _buried_
in regions equally inhospitable. Lieut. Baillie was shot through the
head, Captain Murchison in the groin, and Lieut. James Considine was
dangerously wounded.

In the evening we rejoined our brigade, which had returned to Santa
Barbara, when we felt considerable pleasure in hearing they had not
been engaged during our five days' absence.

During the month of September, the enemy worked hard in sawing and
felling timber to form abattis, and in constructing entrenchments. The
right and left of our own army were employed in a similar manner.

Towards the end of the month, I observed one of my messmates winding
along the crest of the mountain, on his way from England, having
recovered from a terrible wound. Our joy at meeting was very great; his
at finding me still in the land of the living, and mine at seeing an
old friend, whom, when last we parted, I never cherished the hope of
meeting again.

The baggage being unpacked, his soldier servant, who had accompanied
him, came up with a good-tempered smile; and, while unfolding a dingy
pocket handkerchief, intimated that he had brought me a present from
England. "Well! what is it?" said I, my curiosity being somewhat
excited; but he continued to unfold his offering, wrapped in layers of
paper, without making any express reply, and at length brought forth a
piece of bread, which he had taken from a dinner table in England. This
he handed to me, certainly in a very mouldy state, owing to the length
of the voyage, but the compliment was equally appreciated. I thanked
him for his kind recollection of me, and ate it on the spot.

On the 6th of October, it was intimated that the enemy were to be
attacked on the following morning; such information, however, made no
difference either in our conversation or reflexions.

This day Lieut. Fry,[4] of the rifle corps, dined with us. The soup
was made with bullocks' tails; the spiced minced-meat was of bullocks'
heads, and the third course consisted of a bullock's heart.

Soon after dark an orderly entered the tent, and informed me that
I was ordered to descend into the valley before daylight, with a
reinforcement to the picquet, destined to begin the attack on the
morrow. "Ah, now that is very strange," ejaculated one of the party;
"for last night I dreamed that you (meaning myself) were killed
skirmishing up the opposite mountain." I returned thanks to him for
this pleasant piece of intelligence.

On reaching the valley, at the appointed hour, before daybreak, I found
the officers of the company in a profound slumber, stretched on the
floor, and the commander lying on a table in a small farm-house; but,
as I had no inclination to sleep, I stirred up the dying embers of the
wood fire, and purposely made so much noise, that I thoroughly aroused
the sleepers into a conversational mood; and one of them announced the
pleasing information, that he could supply us with coffee,—which was
carefully boiled in a pipkin, and which we partook of with considerable
zest, to fortify our stomachs for the morning combat.

The passage of the river Bidassoa began at daylight, by the extreme
left of the army, personally directed by Field-marshal Wellington.
The fifth division crossed near the mouth of the river, and the first
division began the attack early in the morning. Lord Aylmer's brigade,
and a corps of Spaniards, also forded the river at various places,
covered by some pieces of cannon stationed on the heights of St.
Marzial. Here a sharp contest took place, particularly against the
fifth division, while ascending the steeps, and difficult mountains.
The enemy, being attacked at so many points at once, by the various
fords, were outflanked right and left, and were finally beaten off
this tremendous range of mountains: the fourth division were in reserve
behind Bera, and also deployed on the heights of Santa Barbara, to
support the light division.

An hour after daylight, the whole of the picquets of the light division
in front of Bera, first began the attack of a detached ridge, called
the Boar's Back, from its jagged summit. It was necessary to carry
this before the division could debouch through the town of Bera, for
the attack of the main position, covered by forts and abattis. The 3rd
rifles began to skirmish up one end of the Boar's Back, and we on the
other; it was only defended by a small body of French troops, and was
speedily carried.

The second brigade, under Sir John Colborne, began a sharp attack on a
great tongue of the mountain, which sloped down towards Bera; but the
first effort proved unsuccessful against a square fort, which the enemy
held with great resolution, and not only beat off the attack, but in
their turn sallied from the works, and drove, with the bayonet, numbers
of the assailants over the rugged precipices.

At this critical moment, the 52d regiment, being in reserve, advanced
in column, and bore against the stragglers in such good order, that
they not only pushed them back, but drove them pell-mell into the fort
on one side, and out at the other; in fact, they appeared literally to
walk over the entrenchment. I had an admirable view of this affair from
the top of the rock already carried, and from which it was necessary to
descend before we could ascend the principal ridge.

The second brigade continued to advance; but the ground was so
difficult, that at every step they met with a severe loss, in killed
and wounded. At the end of three hours, when they had nearly gained the
summit of the mountain, the enemy rolled (from a strong entrenchment)
large stones down upon them, and by this mode of warfare, with a
sprinkling of balls, kept them at bay for a considerable time.

In the meantime the first brigade, under General Sir James Kempt, had
pushed through Bera to support the skirmishers, who moved parallel,
with the second brigade, or rather branched off by degrees a little to
the right, and engaged the enemy up the mountain leading into France.
The obstacles on each side of the way rendered the mountain fearfully
difficult of ascent; and it was, indeed, so intersected with rocks,
trees, brushwood, and prickly briars, that our hands and limbs were
pierced with thorns, and the trousers were literally torn in shreds
from off our legs. When half way up the mountain, we emerged from the
entangling thicket, fatigued and deluged with perspiration, and found
the enemy plying bullets from a small fort. As soon as a sufficient
number of men could be scraped together, we gained possession of that
post by a charge of the bayonet: from thence we overlooked a very small
field, enclosed by rocks, wherefrom the enemy, consisting of three or
four hundred men, could no longer extricate themselves, and fell into
our hands, or, more properly speaking, were left in a trap, in a valley
between the first and second brigades. These captives may be fairly
ascribed as prisoners to the first brigade, since they were within
point blank of us, and not within a mile of the second brigade, who
did not discharge a single shot at them, but on the contrary had quite
enough to do, independently of that affair, in clearing the ground of
the enemy opposed to them, from whom they took three pieces of cannon,
which were abandoned in the entrenchments.

After three hours' toil and clambering from rock to rock, we arrived
within two hundred yards of the summit of the _puerta de Bera_, which
was defended by a few hundred of the enemy; the remainder of their
face was extended in order to oppose the second brigade, and to the
right, along the wooded ridge, as far as the rock of la Rhune, distant
about two miles from the extreme right of our division, to oppose the
Spaniards. The rolling of musketry was now incessant on all sides.

It was here I saw the remarkable death of one of the rifle corps, who
had killed a French soldier, and who, before he had taken his rifle
from the level, received a ball through his body, which caused him
such excruciating agony, that his face was all at once distorted, his
eyes rolled, and his lips, blackened with the biting of cartridges,
convulsively opened. His teeth were tightly clenched; his arms and
legs were thrown into an extended position, and he held out his rifle,
grasped at arm's length, and remained stationary in this extraordinary
attitude for a few moments, until he dropped down dead, as suddenly as
if struck by a flash of lightning.

As soon as the skirmishers had gained the top of the mountain, Sir
James Kempt rode up amongst the flying bullets, and expressed his
approbation of all that had been done; for the skirmishers alone had
grouped into a compact body, and forced the pass at the point of the
bayonet, and the French were now running in all directions. To attempt
to express our boundless delight at the grandeur and extreme beauty
of the surrounding scenery would be impossible. Behind us lay the
prodigious mountains and gloomy fastnesses of the Pyrenees, whose
rocks, cast in nature's roughest mould, towered one above another as
far as the eye could reach. To the north, the dark blue waters of the
tranquil ocean glittered in the sun beams; and various distant white
sails skirted the remote horizon. Beneath us lay the supposed sacred
fields of France, the towns of Bayonne and St. Jean de Luz, the rivers
Nivelle, Nive, Adour, and innumerable tributary streams, which laced
and meandered near vine-clad hills, through verdant valleys, whose
banks were decorated with a luxuriant foliage; whilst the country was
studded with countless spires of churches and red-topped villages,
chateaux, farm-houses, and rural white cottages, enclosed by gardens,
and shrouded by fruit trees and plantations.

The Spaniards made several attempts to climb the mountain of la Rhune,
crowned by a tremendous bare rock, which rose in frowning majesty above
their heads. They endeavoured to hide beneath the various shelving
rocks, or behind the forest trees, from the dreadful effects of the
fragments of rock, or loose stones, hurled down upon them by the enemy,
and which bounded with a terrific crash into the deep valleys.

The General quitted the skirmishers at the top of the _puerta de
Bera_, to bring up the reserves; but our enthusiasm was so great at
the idea of taking possession of French ground, which seemed more than
a compensation for all our Spanish toils, that three hundred of us
descended the pass of the mountain, and pursued the enemy for a league
and a half into France, where, to the left, we could distinguish the
French columns retreating from Hendaye, and various other points,
whence they were driven by the left of our army in the greatest
confusion, and were countermarching round the unfinished batteries
in front of St. Jean de Luz, and, in a hurried manner, pointing
their cannon towards the various roads, and other debouchés leading
respectively to them.

The various farm-houses were deserted by the inhabitants, who left
their doors wide open, as if to invite the ravenous invaders to help
themselves. Here we spent the day in rural delight, on the top of a
pretty green hill, encircled by orchards, on which we built a hut,
and tied a pocket-handkerchief to a twig by way of a flag, within a
mile of the enemy. A thousand gratifying reflections here arose in our
minds, and enlivened our occupations; while the contented soldiers of
Spain, with arms in their hands, brought us wines, fruits, and other
delicacies, without having committed one outrageous act, or despoiling
the property of the peaceable inhabitants, further than helping
themselves to the excellent rations of goose, turkey and hams, already
cooked, and preserved in hogs' lard; added to which, there was a
plentiful supply of nice soft bread, which afforded us a most excellent

The day having closed on this _fête champêtre_, we kindled a few extra
fires, re-formed, and re-trod our way to the top of the pass in time
for supper. The first brigade had taken possession of the boarded
and well-roofed huts, constructed by the French with the utmost
regularity, as if they had anticipated the occupation of them during
the approaching winter. My messmates had already made themselves quite
at home in one of them, and the cook was busily employed in roasting a
nice piece of beef, which had been extracted out of a little cavity,
dug by the late occupier, to keep it fresh and cool, no doubt for some
contemplated feast. While partaking of this delicious _morceau_, we
failed not to remember the original provider, the French officer; while
he, less fortunate, most probably spent the night in a cold bivouac, or
under a gun, in the entrenchments near St. Jean de Luz.

During the whole night the fatigue parties continued to arrive from
Santa Barbara, with their knapsacks, which had been left there;[5]
and also carrying, in blankets or in bearers, the wretched wounded
soldiers, whom they had discovered, by their groans, amongst chasms,
cavities, or beneath the prickly briars on the broken sides of the
mountains. Many unfortunate soldiers had fallen into deep ravines or
hollows; and their dead bodies were subsequently discovered by those
who accidentally wandered off the beaten tracts amongst these difficult

The right wing of the army in their turn demonstrated during the combat
of the 7th, guarding the mountains from Echalar to Roncesvalles; while
the left wing, after the combat, held the ridge from the rock of la
Rhune (which the enemy evacuated on the 8th), to the Bay of Biscay;
which totally dispossessed the right of the French army from the
mountains of Commissari, Mandale, and the height of Hendaye. As soon as
the French had evacuated the mountain of la Rhune, the first brigade of
our division moved to its right, and encamped in a forest within half
a mile of its base. The second brigade took our post at the _puerta de

In the middle of October the weather became cold and dismal, and the
rains poured down in torrents. The Spaniards having seized a fort, in
the French territory, in the valley below the pass of Echalar, the
enemy one night retook it, by a _coup de main_, putting many of the
Spaniards to death before they could recover from their surprise,
or even put on their accoutrements. A desultory skirmish however
continued the whole of the following day by the Spaniards, who seemed
particularly attached to this mode of warfare, although the French
evidently gained ground; which circumstance forced five companies
of our regiment to take post on the rock to prevent the French from
following the Spaniards to the top, and driving them from it. Night put
an end to these _long shots_, and this waste of ammunition.

Every other day it fell to my lot to ascend this rock on duty, with a
huge telescope slung on my back, to report to the General, in writing,
any movements of the enemy. From this pinnacle their bivouacs might
be seen from right to left. This duty was extremely disagreeable: the
custom was to start at daylight from the saturated camp, attended by
an orderly, and a mule loaded on one side with fire wood, and on the
other with a tea kettle, provisions, and a blanket. La Rhune was bare
and comfortless, and often wrapped for whole days in a chilly mist. On
the east and west it was inaccessible, having only one narrow path
way winding up the south; on the north side it sloped down gradually
towards la Petite la Rhune being composed of tremendous overlapping
slabs of rock, presenting the most desolate aspect.

One day, while on this duty, I observed a numerous retinue of French
staff-officers emerge from behind la Petite la Rhune, and from their
motions and gestures it was evident that they were examining the most
commanding eminences for the purpose of constructing works for its
defence. The whole of them were in uniform, with large cocked hats,[6]
blue pantaloons, and boots with brown tops.

Some hundreds of Spaniards[7] were bivouacked round the old ruins of
the hermitage at the top of this mountain, where, for want of good
clothing, and owing to the cold nights, they were in the most miserable
and forlorn state, and had barely a sufficiency of provisions to keep
life and soul together; these necessary comforts were irregularly
served out, and in such small quantities, that the cravings of hunger
were seldom or ever satisfied. When they were fortunate enough to get
a meal, the ceremony of eating it was very curious: the rations for
twenty or thirty men were mixed in a large kettle or cauldron, round
which they formed a circle and approached it, one at a time, from the
right, each dipping in his spoon, and then resuming his original place,
to make the most of it, until it came again to his turn. In this manner
they continued to advance and retire, with the utmost circumspection,
until the whole of it was consumed. Their clothing was ragged and
miserable as their fare: uniforms of all countries and all the colours
of the rainbow, _French chakos_ without peaks, leather and brass
helmets, rusty muskets, and belts which had never been cleaned since in
their possession. Some had old brown cloaks, with empty knapsacks and
hempen sandals, and others were with torn shoes and almost bare-footed.

At the solitary roll of the drum, they sometimes issued from their
burrows, or cavities of the rocks like so many rabbits. One day while
standing on a large slab of rock like a tomb stone, all at once, to my
surprise, I felt it in motion, and on looking down perceived a slight
smoke issuing from the crevices on each side, and, while stepping
aside, the stone nearly gave way with me; several voices then cried out
from below: "_Demónio, demónio, que quiere usted!_" when, springing
off the ricketty foundation, to my astonishment, the slab was slowly
lifted up on the heads of a dozen Spaniards, who were crouching in the
cave, envelopped in the fumes of _cigarras_ which they smoked to keep
themselves warm, to drive away hunger, and to beguile the tedious hours!

Before the troops quitted this chilly region, many of the sentinels
were so benumbed with cold, that they fell down with stiffened limbs,
and were obliged to be carried from their posts.

One day, being as usual on the look out, I saw the French hard at work
in constructing three forts on la Petite la Rhune, which were built
with pieces of rock and loose stones, with incredible labour; and a
long string of the enemy, by single files, reached into the valley
behind the small mountain, and were traversing backwards and forwards
like a swarm of ants, being employed in handing up the stones from one
to the other.

In the evening another officer and myself were winding beneath the
base of the rock of the great la Rhune, on our return to camp, when a
large stone bounded over our heads, and on looking above, we observed
an officer of our regiment, (who was on picquet,) pushing down the
wall of the old ruin from the summit of the mountain, and calling out
to us, in derision, to keep out of the way. Fortunately we found a
projecting rock, underneath which we screened ourselves from the broken
fragments that came tumbling down with nearly the velocity of cannon
balls, making terrific bounds of two or three hundred yards at a time,
and rolling into the distant valley with a terrible crash. We saw one
piece of rock strike a tree in the forest below, and shiver the trunk
asunder; and in this way our antagonist kept us prisoners until it
was nearly dark, for whenever we made an effort to move, down tumbled
more stones, which obliged us to run back to our hiding place. Having,
at last, effected our escape, we vowed vengeance, and on meeting him
(when relieved from picquet), we got our spears in readiness to put our
threats into execution. These poles or spears we carried in imitation
of the Basque mountaineers, to assist us up the jagged rocks; and,
after long practise, we could throw them twenty or thirty yards with
great velocity, and almost with unerring aim and precision. He reminded
us however, of a circumstance which induced us to let him off, namely,
that a party of us had nearly drowned him in the river Agueda, two
years before. He was a very expert swimmer, but he annoyed those who
went to bathe to such a degree, by splashing them, that one day, when
he was in the middle of the river, we sallied from behind the rocks, on
both banks of the river, encircled him, and gave him such a ducking,
that it was with the utmost difficulty he could reach the shore, after
a lesson which had induced him to behave with more gentleness for the

During the month of October,[8] our days passed tediously, and we
resorted to the most simple pastimes, whenever the weather would admit
of a ramble. Sometimes we fired with ball at the eagles and vultures;
and at others, chased the herds of wild ponies, which browsed in the
sequestered valleys of the Pyrenees. They were hardly beyond the size
of wolf-dogs, and had wiry coats, and long shaggy manes and tails. It
was astonishing to see these sure-footed little animals, with small
heads and wild eyes, capering, prancing, and darting through the
underwood, and up and down the steep acclivities.

One day a Spanish soldier brought to our camp a pretty little fat
pony for sale; and after a good deal of bargaining, he sold it to
our mess for twelve dollars. The following morning a Spanish officer
deliberately walked up to the tree, to which our animals were tied, and
to our surprise demanded _his_ pony. We assured him we had purchased
it; but as he declared it had been stolen from him, and had witnesses
at hand to identify the animal, we were obliged to give it up, with the
loss of our twelve dollars, for we knew not where to search for the
_picaro_, or _dispensero mayór_, who had so completely jockied us. It
behoved us to put up with the loss as philosophically as might be.

While the heavy rains continued, in the beginning of November, we were
obliged to construct wicker-work huts, to save the horses, mules, and
milch goats from perishing during the inclemency of the weather; for
days together our tents were pierced by the heavy rains, and often,
being without candles and other little comforts, in self-defence, we
had to lie down in our damp blankets, to endeavour to pass the tedious
hours of the night.

Two or three evenings before we broke up our camp for the grand
invasion of France, we were much diverted by the doleful cries of an
_owl_, which had perched itself in the deep recess of an adjacent
valley, and, whenever imitated by us, failed not to return our mockery
in her very best and most plaintive screeches!

At this time the weather cleared up, and the three-pounders, mountain
guns, passed through our wooded camp. The carriages, guns, ammunition
boxes, and iron balls, were strapped separately on the backs of a
string of powerful mules; and these guns could be, therefore, conveyed
so as to bear on the enemy from cliffs, or craggy elevations. The
sure-footed mules would ascend or descend steeps, dried water-courses,
or crooked goat-tracks; and would pick their steps from rock to rock,
planting their feet cautiously for a good foundation, or a firm hold.

[Footnote 4: Our friend of the rifle corps was shot through the leg the
next morning.]

[Footnote 5: The troops always fought with their knapsacks on; and this
is the only time I ever knew them left behind, except when storming
breaches of fortresses, or escalading forts.]

[Footnote 6: The French army wore very high cocked hats; the English
quite the reverse; the latter was called the Wellington hat.]

[Footnote 7: General Longa's corps were by far the most miserable of
any I had ever seen in the Spanish service; but, considering they were
doomed to inhabit a cheerless mass of rocks in such attire, I thought
them worthy of description; some of the other Spanish corps were well
dressed; but the whole of the army suffered more or less, owing to an
indifferent supply of rations;—privations which they seemed to bear
with unexampled patience.]

[Footnote 8: On the 31st of October, the French garrison at Pampeluna
surrendered themselves prisoners of war for want of provisions, which
circumstance now cleared the rear of our army, and enabled it to make
offensive movements.]


    Advance of the light division—Singular nocturnal orgies—Skirmishing
    preliminary to the battle of the Nivelle—Details of that
    battle—British head-quarters established at St. Jean de Luz—More
    skirmishing, and a slight reverse—Combative anecdotes—Advance of
    the British line of picquets.

On the evening of the 9th of November, the division received orders
to move during the night, for the purpose of taking up its ground
previously to the attack on the enemy's position in France, on the
following morning. The whole of the ample store of ready-cut wood, (a
portion of which had been split up by the officers to keep themselves
in exercise,) was piled up, and a monstrous fire kindled, which soon
burst into a tremendous blaze, throwing a bright glare on the distant
objects moving between the trees of the forest. At the usual hour, the
owl began to utter her notes, and continued her cries longer than
heretofore; all which was construed into something ominous by Lieut.
Baillie, a sinewy young Highlander, who, with an eagle's wings held on
each shoulder, which he had shot with a single ball a few days before,
recited those tragic lines sung by the witches in _Macbeth_, as we
all joined hands and danced around the crackling faggots, and sang in
chorus, which at intervals was intermingled with the screeches of the
aforesaid owl. The flickering and livid glare of the flames, glancing
on the scarlet uniforms, the red sparks flying over the forest, and the
soldiers packing and beating their knapsacks, gave an unusual wildness
to our midnight orgies.

Before striking our tent, we partook of a comfortable breakfast, after
which we each secured a biscuit, of American manufacture: they were
of a peculiar hardness (nearly an inch thick), so much so, that it
required the stamp of an iron heel, or some hard substance, to break
them. An officer jocularly remarked, while placing one of them under
the breast of his jacket, that it might turn a ball,—which actually

During the darkness we got under arms, and moved silently under the
north-west side of la Rhune, by a narrow pathway, which had been cut
at that point to facilitate the passage of the troops to the destined
point of attack, within a few hundred yards of the enemy's outposts.
We had scarcely taken up our ground, when we perceived the flash of a
cannon, fired by the enemy on the high road to Saint Jean de Luz, and
immediately followed by five others from the same spot. The conclusion
was, that these discharges were fired as a signal; for, soon after, we
heard the martial sounds of the French drums beating to arms, over a
great extent of country, _au petit point du jour_: our eyes anxiously
glanced towards the spot, where we expected to see the second brigade
of the division already formed. But nothing seemed to be under the
rough side of the mountain of Siboure, except slabs of rock, when,
all of a sudden, as if by magic, the whole of the fancied rocks were
in motion; and as the haze gradually cleared away, we could see the
soldiers packing the blankets with which they had covered themselves,
having taken up their ground long before us, as they had had a greater
distance to march.

The rising of the sun above the horizon was to be the signal for the
battle of the Nivelle to begin; or, if the weather proved cloudy, the
heavy artillery (which had been dragged with great difficulty through
the pass of Echalar,) were to open on the French occupying a fort,
which had been constructed to block up the break of the ridge of the
Pyrenees leading towards the village of Sare, in France. The sky was
free from clouds, and a sharp cold wind whistled through the barren
and cheerless rocks, whilst all eyes were directed towards the east,
watching the inflamed orb of the sun as he rose to view. Our regiment,
under Major W. Napier, then fixed bayonets, and rapidly moved forward
in column to the assault of the three stone forts on the top of la
Petite la Rhune; two companies rushed forward to skirmish, four formed
into line, and four supported in column. The heavy guns opened at the
puerta de Echalar; part of our brigade moved further to the right; the
second brigade scrambled over the rocks, precipices, and ravines, to
take the enemy in reverse; and the mountain guns fired into the forts
from a ledge of ragged grey rocks.

In a few minutes we reached the summit of the small mountain by a green
slope (not unlike a large breach) within twenty yards of the walls
of the first fort. The soldiers and officers gasped for breath: many
of the former, from the weight of their knapsacks and accoutrements,
staggered and fell, and, before they could recover their limbs, were
pierced with bullets to rise no more; the officers led on in a group
and carried the first fort. The second was then attacked hand to hand,
the French using their bayonets and the butt ends of their pieces; one
of our officers gallantly jumped into the second fort, and a French
soldier thrust a bayonet through his neckhandkerchief, transfixed him
to the wall, and then fired his piece which blew away the officer's
collar, who jumped up unhurt. Another officer, while clambering up the
wall, received a most tremendous blow on the fingers with the butt-end
of a firelock, which made him glad to drop his hold; and we were so
hard pressed, that one or two of the officers seized the dead soldiers'
firelocks and fought with them. Among others, Sir Andrew Barnard of the
rifle corps joined in this hard fight.

As the enemy rushed out of the second fort, a little athletic man with
red hair eagerly followed a French officer; the Frenchman parried two
of his thrusts, but finding his men giving way, he turned suddenly
round and made off, and the soldier, fearing his prey might escape,
hurled his firelock at him; the bayonet flew through the back of his
body, and he fell heavily on his face with the weight of the musket and
the bayonet still sticking in him. Another French officer, who had
shewn a noble example of heroism, stood on the top of the wall with
both his eyes hanging on his cheeks, with his short cloak flapping in
the wind, and not daring to move from his perilous position, lest he
should tumble headlong down the steep precipice of many hundred feet in

The forts being now carried, I seized the hand of an officer to
congratulate him on his escape; the next instant he was down with a
horrible wound, and a ball grazed my left cheek.

Thus, in ten minutes, six companies assaulted a tremendous post, and
carried three forts at the point of the bayonet. It was one of the best
contested fights I ever saw; but ten officers were killed and wounded,
and nearly a hundred men. General Sir James Kempt, and his gallant
aide-de-camp, the Honourable C. Gore, had urged their horses up the
rocks with hats off, and were cheering us on while carrying the third
fort, when the General was wounded in the wrist of the right arm.

The four companies in support had moved forward at a moderate pace and
in good order, to succour us in case of need; but finding there was
nothing more to be done at this point, and seeing a line of the enemy
in front of a star fort, a few hundred yards distant, they became wild
with impatience to share in the combat, and simultaneously burst into
a run; and it was only by Sir James Kempt's galloping a-head of them
that he could restrain their ardour. He was well aware the movement of
the second brigade would entirely dispossess the enemy of La Petite la
Rhune without further bloodshed.

From this post we had an admirable view of the fourth and seventh
divisions, who had succeeded in capturing the fort opposite St. Barbe,
and were now debouching on the rugged ground, and bringing up their
right shoulders in succession to form a line of battle in front of the
ridge of Sare. The second, third, and sixth divisions formed the right,
coming down the pass of Maya.

The enemy's main position convexed in the centre, and extended about
twelve miles, as the bird flew; but a greater distance to march, owing
to the windings of roads, rivulets, and the steep and barren country
lying towards their centre and left. Their right was posted in front
of Saint Jean de Luz, amid fortified chateaux, farm-houses, villages,
woods, and orchards, converted into formidable abattis, and partly
defended by an inundation, and fifty pieces of heavy artillery. Their
centre rested on the rocky heights of La Petite la Rhune, the ridge of
Sare, and adjacent eminences which were crowned with redoubts. Their
left was stationed on the heights of Ainhoue on the right bank of the
Nivelle, which was also strongly entrenched.

The extreme left of our army consisted of the first and fifth
divisions, Lord Alymer's brigade, a corps of Spaniards, with artillery
and two brigades of cavalry under General Hope[10] to demonstrate and
to guard the high road to Spain, while the centre and left of the army
were employed in more active operations.

The firing and rolling of musketry were now vehement to our right
towards the village of Sare. On the first retreat of the enemy, they
had set fire to some hundreds of huts built of fern and wicker work,
near the rocks of St. Antoine, but soon returned with drums beating the
_pas de charge_, to endeavour to retake them from the Spaniards. The
smoke, however, was so dense, owing to the wind blowing direct in their
faces, that they were forced from the contest, more from the heat of
the flames and downright suffocation than the good management of their
antagonists, who, as usual, plied them with long shots.

As soon as the fourth and seventh divisions were well engaged with the
enemy under General Beresford, aided by the third division moving to
its left, who were combating and driving the enemy up the heights east
of Sare, our division descended from La Petite la Rhune, left in front
for the purpose of attacking the great redoubt in the centre, on the
bare mountain of Esnau, near Ascain. It was defended on all sides by
clouds of skirmishers, engaged with the Caçadores and rifles of our
division. Here Sir Andrew Barnard fell pierced through the body with a
musket-ball amongst the light troops. The rattling of small arms was
incessant and very destructive on the 52nd regiment, under Sir John
Colborne, which suffered a most severe loss while moving round, and to
the rear of the large square redoubt. After some parleying, nearly six
hundred of the 88th French, finding themselves forsaken by their main
body, surrendered prisoners of war; but their commander gave way to the
most bitter invectives.

After nightfall, the flashes of the fire-arms of General Hill's corps
still brightly sparkled, while driving onwards and making their last
efforts and discharges to decide the victory, and turn the left flank
of the enemy,—which obliged them during the night to evacuate St.
Jean de Luz, and retire to Bayonne, leaving fifty pieces of cannon in
their formidable lines in front of the former place. Field-marshal
Wellington directed the attack of the right of our army against the
left of the French.

At night some companies of our division were pushed into a valley on
picquet; and at nine we observed the heather of the camp had caught
fire, illuminating the country for miles around, while the men and
animals were seen gliding about, representing a sort of phantasmagoria.
By degrees the fire reached the base of the hill and ignited a small
forest; and two hours after midnight we were encompassed with a sheet
of flames, crackling and whizzing with terrific violence; and the heat
was so overpowering that we were glad to cross a rivulet, to save
ourselves from being consumed by this conflagration. To add to our
night's misery, my companion was groaning from excessive pain caused by
the rap over the knuckles given him while we were storming the forts.

At ten o'clock on the following day our division edged off to the right
and crossed the Nivelle by a small stone bridge near St. Pé. The whole
army moved forward in three columns, the right marching upon Souraide
and Espelette and taking post on the left bank of the Nive, at Cambo,
Ustaritz, and the vicinity, to watch the enemy on the right bank of
that river; the centre on Arrauntz and Arbonne, and the left crossing
the Nivelle at the town and vicinity of Saint Jean de Luz, and
advancing through Guethary on Bidart, eight miles from Bayonne. In the
afternoon it came on to rain, while we were marching through _le bois
de St. Pé_. The roads were very deep, and we passed the night shivering
and wallowing in the grass and mud of a saturated plantation.

The head quarters of the general-in-chief were now established at
Saint Jean de Luz, an old town situated on the right bank of the river
Nivelle, and within a few hundred yards of the sea coast. Through
this town the high road runs from Spain to Bayonne, the latter place
being strongly fortified and situated at the junction of the Nive with
the Adour. The enemy occupied the farm-houses and villas three miles
in front of the fortress. A morass, which was only passable at two
places covered an entrenched camp which was within cannon shot of the
ramparts of Bayonne. The left of our army fronted the enemy, forming a
line amidst chateaux, farm-houses, woods, heaths, plantations, hedges,
swamps and ditches, as far as the sea-coast, the right being thrown
back towards Ustaritz and Cambo, facing the French who lined the
right bank of the Nive, as far as St. Jean Pied de Port. With the sea
therefore on our left, the river Adour and Bayonne in our front, the
river Nive on our right, and the lofty mountains of the Pyrenees at
our backs—it may fairly be said that the army were in a _cul de sac_.
The great strength of this frontier seems, particularly during the
winter, hardly to be understood; for beyond the river Nive many rapid
rivers cut across, and intersect the muddy country and clayey roads, so
as to make offensive operations very difficult.

The advanced posts of our first brigade were in a church behind the
village of Arcangues, at a château two hundred yards east of it, and
at a cottage half a mile further to the right, situated close to a
lake, on the other side of which was the château of Chenie, on a rising
ground, and enclosed by the small plantation of Berriots, through which
a road runs towards Ustaritz. The second brigade prolonged their line
towards a deep valley which separated them from the fifth division,
holding the plateau, in the neighbourhood of a château on the high road
to Bayonne, six or seven miles in front of St. Jean de Luz.

On the 23rd of November, it was deemed advisable to make some
alteration in our line of posts; accordingly our first brigade formed
at the château behind the village of Arcangues, and four companies
of our regiment advanced to execute the mission entrusted to them;
but, being led on by too great ardor, we came in front of a large
farm-house, strongly entrenched near Bassussarry. Here the musketry
was plied on both sides with unusual vivacity. Having pushed through a
small plantation to our left of the fortified house, we found ourselves
within twenty yards of it. A brave soldier sprang forward before he
could be restrained, and, levelling his piece, cried out, "I have been
at the storming of Rodrigo, Badajoz, and Saint Sebastian; there is no
ball made for me[11]." As soon as he had fired, he fell dead, pierced
with numerous bullets through his head and body.

This was _indeed_ a skirmish; for in a very short time we lost ninety
men killed, wounded, or taken prisoners. A brave young officer[12]
seeing things going hard (and hearing the advance sounded) rushed
across a field to our left, sword in hand, and, outstripping the
company, when close to the enemy, who were formed behind a ditch, was
shot through the head, and tumbled into it a lifeless corpse. The
officer commanding the company jumped into it, and caught him in his
arms; twenty soldiers had also followed and tried to clamber the wet
clayey bank, but could neither do that nor extricate themselves from
this awkward position. Overwhelmed by numbers, they were obliged to
surrender themselves prisoners, as well as the commander[13] of the
company, whose uniform was streaming with blood, while he was still
supporting the dead lieutenant in his arms. We also were so near the
enemy that I was obliged to give orders, in an under tone, for the men
to cease firing, as the French threw twenty bullets to one. Fortunately
the small trees were so thickly set, they could not distinguish us,
and ceased firing, but we could distinctly see them leaning carelessly
over a wall. While they were chattering away, I passed the word to
our soldiers who were lying concealed amongst the small trees, and
underwood, that when I should hold up my pocket handkerchief as a
signal, a volley was to be fired. This took full effect.

A sergeant of ours was lying on his breast, and had scarcely taken
his fusee from the level, when a ball passed in at the centre of his
forehead. He instantly rolled on his back, groaned heavily, and kicked
out his legs, covering the spot with a liquid stream of blood. Sir
James Kempt, ever first in the fight and last out of it, having taken
his station at a house within musket-range, had now ordered a bugler to
sound the "retire," after two hours' fighting; and it was quite time,
for all the companies engaged had sustained a sad loss in killed and
_hors de combat_.

Now came the difficulty—and how to get away without being seen.
Fortunately we found a pathway shrouded by small trees, which we
passed by single files, without uttering a word. On clearing it,
to say that we did not feel glad would be a piece of unnecessary
affectation. The men were covered with mud and sweat, and their faces
and hands blackened by the biting of cartridges; and scarcely a round
of ammunition remained in the pouches. The sergeant, who had been
rather dragged than carried out of the wood, was lying on his back and
still alive, with his eyes closed, perfectly black, and swelled up as
large as a couple of cricket balls; he was frothing at the mouth, and
presenting a horrible sight. The balls were again whizzing past our
ears, and while spreading the blanket out of his knapsack over his
trembling and agitated body, one of the soldiers said "He cannot live
long," when, strange to relate, he raised his arm and waved a pocket
handkerchief crimsoned with gore which he held in his hand!

An officer full of ardor came forward from the regiment to cover some
of the skirmishers on the left; but he was soon shot through the leg,
and the sergeant major into the bargain. The latter was a fine comely
handsome man of about fourteen stone weight, who was now mounted on a
soldier's back with his sword drawn, swearing all the oaths he could
muster; and the sight was so ludicrous, that we were all convulsed with
laughter, to see the two heroes, who had come quite fresh to cover our
retreat, carried off the field in so droll a manner,—while now and
then a stray bullet whistled through the air, by way of a hint that it
was no joke.

Our line of picquets was now advanced; which, I am quite confident,
might have been accomplished without a shot being fired. In the evening
we returned to the village of Arbonne with keen appetites, and heartily
glad to wash the dirt and mire from off our hands and faces.

[Footnote 9: A musket-ball perforated the biscuit, which caused the
bullet, after passing under the fleshy part of the breast, and round
the ribs, to glance off and pierce quite through the thick part of the
left arm.]

[Footnote 10: General Graham having gone to Holland, to take the
command of a separate British force in that country.]

[Footnote 11: This man, made use of similar expressions, while storming
the forts on the 10th of November.]

[Footnote 12: This is the officer who repeated the tragic lines in
Macbeth, while dancing round the fire the night before the battle of
the Nivelle, thirteen days before.]

[Footnote 13: He was made prisoner while travelling through France on
his way to Verdun, his carriage was surrounded by a party of Cossacks,
who were going to pike him, when he luckily made himself understood;
then being conducted to the allied army, he was most kindly treated and
instantly liberated.]


    Tolerable quarters—Beguiling of time on picquet duty—The
    army again in motion—A critical position—French cunning, and
    occasional politeness—Skirmishing affairs preceding the battle of
    the Nive—Details of that engagement—Its advantageous consequences
    to our army—Acts of complaisance between the vanguards of the
    opposed forces—Christmas festivities.

The weather continued variable, intermixed with cold winds, sleet, and
heavy rains. However, as we were pretty well housed, the hardships of
other campaigns ceased, for we had no longer fatiguing marches, the
rations were regularly served out, and, as long as our money lasted,
the hordes of congregated suttlers at Saint Jean de Luz supplied us
in abundance with every article of domestic comfort. When on picquet,
our time was occupied chattering with the peasantry, a sort of
_demi-basque_ tribe. They had no decided costume: the females twisted
striped handkerchiefs of various patterns round their heads according
to the French custom, and wore wooden shoes or _sabots_,—an article
well adapted to keep out the mud in the execrable roads of this country.

On the 9th of December the army was put in motion, and the second
division forded the river near Cambo, with little opposition from the
enemy. Our division advanced against the French in front of Bassussary,
and drove in some of their picquets; while the left under General
Hope advanced on the road leading from St. Jean de Luz, nearly up
to the entrenched camp in front of Bayonne. During the whole day a
good deal of desultory skirmishing took place, and our army formed a
sort of half-circle, the river Nive cutting through the right centre,
which made the distance from right to left at least twenty miles, by
roads scarcely passable. Towards evening the left of the army retired
to their former line of picquets, and the main body to Saint Jean
de Luz and its environs; but our division kept its ground more than
half a mile in front of the village of Arcangues. The enemy seemed
determined not to quit the fortified house near the little bridge,
or Pont d'Urdains, and as we passed north of it, we had overlooked
its enclosure, occupied by a French brigade, congregated in a noisy
assemblage, while their rations were served out. Apprehensive that
the sight of the loaves and wine casks might excite us to desperate
expedients, one or two hundred of the enemy's tirailleurs extended
themselves, and advanced, without much firing, to clear the ground.

After dark our sentinels were withdrawn, for the purpose of taking post
on our original picquet ground. The company I commanded held a small
promontory, or tongue of land, which jutted out considerably beyond all
the other line of picquets; and, without doubt, was a most precarious
post, as neither flank was secure: and the sentinels were planted on a
half-circle, to shield the main body of the picquet. Notwithstanding
the ground was so disadvantageous, it was necessary to hold it, as it
commanded the debouché of the road from Bayonne by Bassussary. During
the night we heard confused sounds, like the rumbling of artillery,
intermixed with a good deal of hallooing and barking of dogs; but two
hours before daybreak all the sounds died away, and every thing was
hushed and tranquil. The suspicion, however, of the field officer of
the picquets was awakened, and he ordered me to feel my way towards
the house of Oyhenart usually held by the French, to ascertain whether
they had taken up the ground from which they had been driven on the
previous day. Four soldiers accompanied me, but, as good luck would
have it, I could not pass the abattis, composed of trees, which had
been cut down to stop up the broad road, and to cover our picquet-house.

We then crossed into a field, and, stealing along close to the right
of the road, as cautiously as possible, waited the French sentinels'
well-known _qui vive_. Suddenly I felt the serjeant pulling at the
skirts of my jacket, (for I had thrown off my cloak as an incumbrance,)
and he whispered me to cast my eyes to the left, where I saw about
a dozen Frenchmen, within six yards of us, gliding along the road
towards our _abattis_, I think, without shoes, for they did not make
the least noise. A small hedge screened us; the serjeant was about to
fire, but I put his fusee down with my hand, and we all squatted in
the mud, anxiously awaiting the result. Time hung on leaden wings,
and they were almost entangled in the branches of the felled trees
before our sentry discovered and challenged them; but not being
quite certain of the cause of the slight noise, he did not fire, and
presently these grey-coated phantom-looking figures came running past
us, with noiseless footsteps: we then made good haste back, having
been, according to our calculation, within ten or twelve yards of their
sentry, who was usually planted behind a hedge which flanked their
picquet-house, distant from ours two hundred yards.

At daybreak, on the 10th December, we perceived the advance of the
enemy within one hundred yards of our picquet, loitering about as
usual, without any outward display of any thing extraordinary going
on, or any signs indicating that they were about to assume offensive
movements. At eight o'clock, Sir James Kempt came to my picquet-house,
and, having seated himself by the fire, the assembled party consisted
of Lieut. Col. Beckwith (a staff officer) of the Rifle Corps, Lieut.
Col. William Napier, Major Sir John Tylden, Lieut. Maclean[14], and
the Honorable C. Monck, of our regiment, who all entered into an
indifferent conversation, without contemplating that an attack was
meditated by the enemy. Lieut. Col. Napier remarked, that he thought
the French loiterers seemed very busy, which induced us to approach the
window, which commanded a full view of the enemy's picquet-house, and
having looked at them some time, without seeing the cause of alarm,
some of the party burst into a loud laugh, and declared that it was
only Napier's fancy; but he still persisted, and would not give up
his point, saying, that he had seen them very often before, in a like
manner, walking off by ones and twos, to assemble at given points,
before making some rapid and simultaneous assault; and, sure enough,
before the expiration of half an hour, these ones and twos increased
considerably all along the hedges.

Although Sir James Kempt was always on the alert, (no general could
be more so,) still he persisted that nothing would take place, and
ordered the first brigade to return to its quarters at Arbonne, a
distance of more than two miles, and over a very bad road. Lieut.-Col.
Beckwith remarked, that he now agreed that the French seemed to be
eyeing the post, and advised Sir James to rescind the order, as it
would be better to conceal the troops, and to wait until the enemy
should develope their intentions. The field-officer rode off to warn
the other companies in advance to be in readiness. These were formed
disadvantageously, on a gentle concave acclivity, which could not be
helped, from the nature and shape of the country.

Lieut.-Col. Beckwith alone remained, and, before he rode off, walked
round the sentinels with me, as I was ordered to defend the post,
should the enemy come on, to oblige them fully to develope their
intentions. Shortly after this, one of the sentinels stationed on the
most rising ground, turned his back to the French and beckoned me. On
my reaching his post, he informed me that he had seen a mountain-gun
brought on a mule's back, and placed behind a bush. In a few minutes
the Duke of Dalmatia, with about forty staff officers, came within
point-blank range of my picquet to reconnoitre the ground. During this
interval, I fancied that I could hear the buzz of voices behind a
small hillock, and, on clambering a fruit-tree near my picquet-house,
I could just descry a column of the enemy lying down, in readiness to
pounce on us. There being no longer any doubt that they were about to
attack, I instantly mounted my horse, (leaving the company in charge
of the next senior officer,) and rode at full speed in search of the
general, whom I met within a quarter of a mile, and told him there
would be a general action fought that day, and there was no time to be
lost. Sir James Kempt ordered me to send a mounted officer from the
picquet to Gen. Baron C. Alten, and to be sure not to begin the firing
until the very last moment. He sent also the greater part of another
company to my assistance. In two or three minutes after I had returned
to the picquet, some French soldiers, headed by an officer, issued from
behind the hedges, and moved round our left flank, within one hundred
yards. The officer naturally thought we should fire at him; therefore,
to feign indifference, he placed his telescope to his eye, looked
carelessly about in all directions, and made a bow to us. Further to
the left, we could also see a body of French cavalry debouching from
the small thicket of la Bourdique, three miles distant, near the great
Bayonne road.

The French soldiers, witnessing our civility to their small party, were
determined not to be outdone in _politesse_, and called out to our
sentinels to retire, in French and Spanish. At half-past nine o'clock,
A. M., the enemy's skirmishers, in groups, came forward in a careless
manner, talking to each other, and good-naturedly allowed our sentinels
to retire without firing on them. They imagined, from their superiority
of numbers, to gain this post by a _coup de main_; and the more
effectually by this means to surprise, if possible, the whole line of
outposts. However, when they were within twenty yards of our abattis,
I said, "Now fire away."[15] The first discharge did great execution.
These were the first shots fired, and the beginning of the battle of
the _Nive_. The enemy then debouched from behind the thickets in
crowds; our flanks were turned right and left, and the brisk French
voltigeurs rushed impetuously forward, (covered by two mountain-guns,)
blowing their trumpets, and shouting "_En avant, en avant Français;
vive l'Empereur!_"

The atmosphere was clouded, and the bright flashing and pelting of
musketry sprang up with amazing rapidity. One of our companies, having
held its ground too long in front of the village of Arcangues, was
surrounded. The officer commanding it, asked the soldiers if they would
charge to the rear, and they rushed into the village with such a loud
huzza, that an officer commanding a French regiment was so surprised at
their sudden appearance, as to halt the column for a few moments; and
the fugitives sprang across the single street and escaped.

Two battalions of the rifle corps being formed in columns of grand
divisions, or single companies, behind the various houses, developed
their skirmishers in admirable order, and fought in and round the
scattered houses of Chau with great skill. So close was the combat,
that Lieut. Hopwood and a serjeant of the rifle corps, were both shot
through the head by a single Frenchman putting the muzzle of his piece
quite close to them, while they were engaged with others in front.

In the meantime the whole of our picquets now ceased firing and
retired leisurely, unengaged, took their station with the rest of the
regiment, and formed in a churchyard, on our main position, more than
half a mile behind the village of Arcangues,[16] a sort of neutral
post for reserve picquets; but the village was not entrenched, was not
intended to be defended, and formed no part of our main position, owing
to the ground on both flanks of it being badly adapted for defence. The
isolated church and the château called Arcangues, have been the cause
of those numerous mistakes made relatively to the distant village of
that name being the supposed scene of a severe conflict. The rest of
the brigade already lined the breastwork of a château, two hundred
yards to the right.

After a protracted struggle the rifle corps retired, and formed on
the position marked out for defence, but left a number of skirmishers
behind some stone walls, at the bottom of the slope, from which the
enemy could never dislodge them, owing to our overpowering fire from
the high ground.

The second brigade was now sharply engaged, having been in echelon to
our left and obliquely to the rear, following the undulating nature of
the ground. The plateau of Arcangues and Bassussarry being gained by
the enemy, now became the pivot of the French marshal's operations,
which enabled his right wing to attack the fifth division, on the high
road to St. Jean de Luz, where there was some very hard fighting, in
front of the batteries; and it was some hours before the first division
and Lord Aylmer's brigade could come to their assistance, these troops
having been peaceably in their quarters, and far to the rear, when this
sudden irruption took place. The enemy's attack ceased opposite to us,
with the exception of a firing of artillery within about a thousand
yards, which continued to play into the churchyard, and knocked about
the tombstones during the greater part of the day. In one spot a small
green mound was carried away, and also the lid of an infant's coffin,
leaving the putrid remains of the child exposed to view. However, we
kept up an incessant discharge of small-arms, which so annoyed the
French gunners, that, during the latter part of the day, they ceased to
molest us. The walls of the stone church were cannon-proof; I saw many
balls break large pieces out of the edifice, and fall harmlessly on
the sod.

The assembled enemy on the neighbouring heights seemed now to meditate
an assault. Two companies lined the interior of the building, the
windows of which were surrounded with wooden galleries; water was
taken into the church, and a strong traverse was erected opposite the
door, so that, if by any accident the enemy had attacked and gained
possession of it, the fire from the galleries would have driven them
out again.

The rest of the battalion were stationed behind a stone-wall, which
encircled the churchyard, and in reserve behind the edifice, ready to
make a charge of bayonets should the enemy succeed in breaking through
this enclosure. Their advance were stationed behind a house, within two
hundred yards of us, covered by their cannon at the brow of the hill,
while we only possessed two mountain three-pounders, which were placed
to the left of the church, to fire down a narrow lane which threatened
our left flank. For some days previously, trifling working parties
had been employed, of twenty or thirty men, in cutting down a small
plantation in front of the church, which was so intersected by the
trees entangled together, that the enemy never could have penetrated
them; but the other entrenchments consisted of a few shovels of earth,
negligently thrown up, which the French voltigeurs might have hopped
over; and as for flank defences, they seemed not to have been thought of.

At about one o'clock, P. M., the fourth division came to our support,
and crowned a hill six hundred yards behind the château occupied by the
rifle corps.

During the night the whole of our regiment were hard at work, in
throwing up a formidable battery in front of the churchyard, and
before morning it was finished, with embrasures, regular _épaulements_,
(filled up with small bushes, to make the enemy believe that it was a
masked battery,) and traverses. Both our flanks were secured by felled
trees, strewed about, and even at the back of the burial-ground, which
was now impregnable against any sudden assault; nor do I believe six
thousand men could have taken it. So much for the ingenuity of infantry
soldiers, with their spades, shovels, pickaxes, bill-hooks, and

On the 11th, it was supposed that the Duke of Dalmatia intended
to break the centre, by advancing against the church and château,
(commonly called Arcangues); accordingly General Hope detached the
right part of his force nearer to the left of our division; but the
enemy again attacked, and obliged him to resume his original ground,
where there was a good deal of firing, and many brave men fell on
both sides, without any decided result. During this day, although the
French advance was quite close to us, there was no firing; and we
industriously profited by every moment of tranquillity to strengthen
our position. At this juncture, two battalions of Nassau troops
deserted into the British lines.

On the 12th, a fusillade on the left continued the greater part of
the day; every now and then there was a cessation of small-arms;
then a sudden rush and burst of firing, and so on. On calling the
roll in the afternoon, a dozen men of our regiment were missing, and
an officer being sent with a patrole to a small house enclosed in
an apple-orchard, he found the enemy's soldiers and our men mixed
together, in a room full of apples. The French soldiers, considering
themselves prisoners, brought forth the whole of their apples as a
peace offering to the officer, who merely pointed to the door, from
whence they effected their escape; while, on the other hand, the
culprits belonging to us were brought back, with downcast heads, and
their haversacks crammed with apples.

In the evening the enemy formed a strong mass of troops, within
cannon range, and in front of our second brigade, but made no further
movement; while those opposite to us were employed in throwing up
the earth, as if to construct batteries. During the night, some of
the rifle corps on picquet, being close to the French, observed, by
the reflection of a bright fire, about thirty stand of the enemy's
firelocks piled in front of their picquet-house, which the rifles
determined to possess themselves of, and darted forward with such
rapidity that the French sentinel had only time to discharge his piece
and run away. The rest of the picquet bolted the front, and escaped,
without arms, by the back door.

On the 13th, in the morning, it was found that the French Marshal had
disappeared from our front, and during the night had again marched in
a half-circle through Bayonne, for the purpose of attacking the second
division before sufficient support or assistance could be given them,
finding the three previous days' fighting and demonstrations had failed
to force the lines, or oblige Field Marshal Wellington to withdraw his
right flank from the right bank of the Nive.

The sixth and third divisions supported the right of the army; the
fourth division the centre; and the seventh the left centre: these
four divisions being in reserve, and occasionally in motion towards
those points threatened.

The company I commanded was again for outpost duty, at the identical
spot which we had been driven from. We relieved a company of the
rifle corps which had felt its way, _au point du jour_, to our old
picquet-house. The officer whom I relieved, in a merry mood, bade
us good morning, and pointed, at the same time, towards the French
infantry, with knapsacks on, bayonets fixed, and aided by a squadron
of hussars. The old _abattis_ had been entirely removed, and as it was
quite uncertain at what moment the enemy might make a forward movement,
I ordered another abattis to be constructed at the turn of the road;
and I never saw the men work with better humour. In a few minutes a
sufficient number of trees were cut down, and collected, to stop any
sudden ebullition of the cavalry; it would have been any thing but
agreeable to be attacked on both flanks, while the dragoons charged up
the road.

This little defence was barely finished, when some straggling shots
took place in front of General Hill's corps, occupying a concave
position of about four miles in extent, between the rivers Adour
and Nive; the right centre occupying the village of St. Jean vieux
Monguerre. The day was fine, and in a short time the white smoke
ascended in clouds, amidst peals of musketry, and the rapid and
well-served artillery. The battle was well contested on both sides,
and there was no break in the musketry. Both bodies fought as if this
struggle was to wind up, in brilliant style, the battle of the Nive.
As fast as the grape-shot mowed down, and split the enemy's columns,
they again closed up, and strenuously endeavoured to break through the
brave lines of the second division, who repulsed all their attacks, and
crowned the day by forcing the enemy into their entrenchments with such
decision, that they no more resumed the offensive, nor was the army
further disturbed by petty affairs.

The right of the French army now confined itself to the usual outposts
in front of Bayonne; its right centre extended on the right of the
Adour to Port de Lanne, and its left flank on the right bank of the
river Bidouze, and their cavalry filled up the intermediate country as
far as the small fortress of Saint Jean Pied de Port, which position
embraced our army, and formed two sides of a square,—our right face
being on the river Joyeuse, and supported by the light cavalry.

Various acts of complaisance now passed between the vanguards of the
hostile armies. A lady from Bayonne, with a skipping poodle dog, one
day came to see _les habits rouges of les Anglais_; and while she was
going through those little elegancies, so peculiarly characteristic
of the French, the poodle dog came towards us, and from an over
officiousness, some of the French soldiers whistled to keep it within
bounds, which so frightened the little creature, that at full speed it
entered our lines, and crouched at our feet. Without a moment's delay
we sent it back by a soldier to its anxious mistress, who was highly
delighted, and with her own delicate hand presented a goblet of wine to
the man, who, with an unceremonious nod, quaffed the delicious beverage
to the dregs, touched his cap, and rejoined us, with a pipe in his
mouth and a store of tobacco,—the latter having been presented to him
by the French soldiers.

With the exception of a trifling change of quarters, and a few other
occurrences, the year closed without any thing to interrupt our
little Christmas festivities, which were always kept in due form. On
Christmas-day I was on picquet, but we partook of the usual fare, and
some mulled wine, with as much tranquillity as if afar removed from
hostile alarms. Just before dark, while passing a corporal's picquet,
an officer and myself stood for a few minutes, to contemplate a poor
woman, who had brought her little pudding, and her child, from her
distant quarters, to partake of it with her husband, by the side of a
small fire kindled under a tree.

[Footnote 14: Now Captain Maclean.]

[Footnote 15: Probably such a word of command may astonish _some
adjutant-major_, but I give it as it occurred: in rough ground, in
rough times, and in a rough country, such expedients are resorted to in

[Footnote 16: On assembling in the churchyard behind Arcangues, an
athletic soldier of this company being without his knapsack, told
us, that while passing through the village three French soldiers had
surrounded him, and one had hold of his collar; but he throwing his
knapsack on the ground, knocked one man down, and the others seized his
knapsack, and by this means he effected his escape.]


    An unproductive alarm—The Duke d'Angoulême visits the British
    army—Orders received by the Duke of Dalmatia—General position
    of Napoleon's affairs—The author visits Bera on leave of
    absence—Remarks on the mischiefs committed by camp followers—A
    scene for contemplation—The author's friends at Bera—Love
    inimical to harmony—Return to quarters—Movements for penetrating
    into the interior of France—The author's regiment enters St.
    Palais, crosses the Gave, and passes through Sauveterre to Orthes.

On the 3rd of January, 1814, a slight affair took place on the river
Joyeuse, which caused the army to be put in motion. Our division
crossed the Nive by the bridge of Ustaritz, made a day's march
and encamped; but nothing further of consequence taking place, we
repassed the left of the river, and resumed our old cantonments, in
the scattered villas, farm-houses, and cottages about the village of
Arrauntz. During this month the Duke d'Angoulême took up his abode
with the British army at St. Jean de Luz.

The Duke of Dalmatia received an order to detach from Bayonne a
large portion of his force of cavalry, artillery and infantry to the
succour of Napoleon, who, since his disastrous campaign in Russia, had
slowly retrograded through Germany, and after fighting many mighty
battles, had been forced to recross the Rhine into France, and was now
endeavouring with skeleton numbers, by a series of skilful manœuvres,
combats and diplomacy, to preserve the throne against a host of
invaders directed personally by the three crowned heads of Europe,
whose banners were at last nailed together and threatening _la ville
de Paris_. There Maria-Louisa, with her infant son by her side, was
issuing bulletins announcing the partial successes gained by Napoleon
her husband, over the troops of her father, the Emperor Francis of
Austria, the Czar of Russia, and the King of Prussia. Such was the
state of events at this momentous epoch—Great Britain still continuing
the focus of resistance, and straining every nerve to keep the Holy
Alliance unanimous.

The weather now became very severe, and as some reports were circulated
that there was a probability of the British army advancing into the
interior of France, I obtained a few days' leave for the purpose of
visiting my wounded friends at Bera; and accordingly I set off in the
direction of Saint Jean de Luz. A severe frost had hardened the roads,
and the ground was covered with snow, but I had scarcely travelled
a league, when I heard an independent firing towards Bayonne, which
almost induced me to return, under the apprehension, that some portion
of the army were engaged; but, on reaching a more elevated hill, I
found that none of the troops were in motion, and it afterwards turned
out to be the young French conscripts practising at targets. On this
open heath, signal posts were erected, to communicate with the right
of the army, on the right bank of the Nive. Batteries were thrown up a
few miles in front of Saint Jean de Luz, to cover that town on the high
road from Bayonne. They appeared strong and well finished.

The narrow and dirty streets of Saint Jean de Luz presented a gloomy
aspect, being filled with muleteers, cars loaded with biscuit-bags,
bullocks, rum-casks, ammunition, idlers, and all the disagreeable
incumbrances attached to the rear of an army. As I passed along the
high road, I felt exceedingly surprised at the numerous delapidated
houses, and empty chateaux, with the orchards and all the fruit
trees cut down and converted into _abattis_, which had been done
by the French army; but every article that had been left by them in
good order, the followers of our army had ransacked. How often do
the soldiers of armies bear the odium of enormities and plunderings,
committed most frequently by the non-combatant wolves in the shape of
men, whose crimes are of such long standing, and so frequently executed
(under the cloak of night, or under the mask of hypocrisy), that at
last no atrocity is too heinous for so cowardly a banditti to commit.
They devour the rations on their way to the hungry army: they steal the
officers' horses: they extort exorbitant prices for small articles,
which they have stolen from the peaceful inhabitants: they strip
the deserted and expiring wounded on the field of battle, and would
willingly sell their bodies, could they find purchasers.

Having jogged along some miles, amongst this horde of scattered
ruffians, I came to the narrow road turning off to the left, which
leads across the mountains to the town of Bera; and towards evening
I reached, with difficulty, the summit of the contracted pass,
narrowed by the drifted, and frozen snow. Here I stopped for a few
minutes, (notwithstanding the piercing coldness of the frosty air) to
contemplate the town of Bera, and the scattered _quintas_ embosomed
in the valley, now wrapped in a _death-like stillness_, and covered,
as well as the surrounding mountains, with snow. The brittle branches
of the trees were stiffened, fringed, and sparkling with icicles. A
few short months had produced a great change! When last I had been
at this spot, the foliage was tinted with an autumnal hue, and red
lines of soldiers, were formed there, their silken and embroidered
ensigns waving, and their bright arms gleaming in the rays of the
sun, the craggy heights bristled with bayonets, the drums beating,
the merry bugle horns echoing throughout the winding vallies: every
eminence was crowned with curling smoke, the vivid firing of small
arms, or the occasional flash of the cannon, reverberating amid the
forests in hollow caves, broken chasms, and fissures of the granite
rock,—producing sounds afar off, like the rumbling of distant
thunder,—and altogether giving an inconceivable life, and animation to
the scenery.

On my descending from this pinnacle, to make my way down the side of
the mountain, the road was so blocked up with snow, the narrow pathway
in, the middle so slippery, and the foot-hold so uncertain, that I
could hardly keep myself on my legs, or the animal on its own; and,
resting every now and then, I did not reach the solitary and deserted
street of the town, until an hour and a half after nightfall.

When opposite to the porch of the well known Casa, (that of the
before-mentioned Spanish family), although shivering and benumbed with
cold, I hesitated to knock for admittance. All was dark and silent;
no lights issued from the casement, nor was the sound of any voice to
be heard from within. In this short interval, many conjectures rushed
across my mind; my friends might be gone to some distant town; the
former hospitable inmates might no longer inhabit its gloomy walls,
it might be occupied with strangers, or be the sanctuary of the dead.
With such dismal forebodings, I gave a thundering rap; the massive
door was opened by a soldier, holding a little iron lamp in his hand,
(filled with _aceyte_, and having a small wick burning at the spout)
which cast a faint glimmering light across the out lines of my cloak,
and wiry-haired steed, covered with slakes of snow. Without waiting
for any explanation, the man was hastily closing the door, while
lustily calling out, "There is no room here, this house is full of
wounded officers;" but on making myself known, the portal was thrown
back on its hinges; lights appeared at the top of the stairs, and the
voices of my friends joyfully greeted my arrival. In the midst of our
embracings, "Take care of my side," said one of them, (still hugging
me), "for it has sloughed away, and you shall see my bare ribs anon."
Another was stretched on his pallet, from which he had not risen for
upwards of two months, but was slowly recovering under the soothing
attention, and gentle hand of la Señorita Ventura. The former had made
too free with the roseate wine at Christmas, which had caused his wound
to break out anew, leaving his ribs quite bare of flesh for the space
of six inches in diameter; but they were both in excellent spirits—the
_braceiro_ was replenished with ruddy embers, and placed at my feet,
and a hot dinner speedily served up, with a bottle of sparkling wine
to solace and comfort my inside, after my freezing journey. Over this
we recounted all that had passed since our separation at the battle of
the Nivelle. I described fresh battles, and combats, and they all the
torments they had endured while slowly carried two leagues in blankets
up and down the rocks and mountains, or on the verge of terrific
precipices, in momentary dread that those supporting them might slip,
and let them fall on the jagged and naked rocks. Before I retired to
rest, I paid a visit to a young officer of the 52nd regiment, who
occupied a room at the upper part of the house; he was suffering
dreadfully, and dying from a wound which he had received in the groin.

The following day, Captain Smith of the 20th regiment dined with us,
who came from the neighbourhood of Roncesvalles, bringing in his train
a coffin, and having performed a pilgrimage, through the intricacies
of the mountains at this inclement season of the year, in search of a
friend, who had been killed in that neighbourhood five months before.
Three or four days passed in this manner, when a trifling circumstance
broke up our sociable conviviality. The last evening, as we were
seated round the _braceiro_, I was engaged in an agreeable tête-à-tête
with _la Señorita Ventura_ which seriously affected one of my wounded
friends, who was deeply enamoured of her; he continued, however, to
smother his anguish for a short time, and the strangeness of his
manner, left little doubt on my mind that an excuse would only make bad
worse, on so delicate a subject. I therefore announced the intention of
taking my departure on the following morning. One of them held me by
the collar, and declared I should not go, as I had introduced them to
the family, and that any jealous feeling was the height of ingratitude;
however, the blow was so injurious to my friend's vanity or love, that
he could not endure my presence for another evening; twice, by such
introductions, I had almost saved his life, yet he could not forgive,
although an excellent fellow. Such is all-powerful love!

Having bidden adieu, myself and a friend of the rifles (who had been
to Bera to see his wounded brother) repassed Saint-Jean de Luz, and
soon after alighted at the quarters of a commissary, who had formerly
belonged to the light division. While we were partaking of some
refreshment, he asked us whether the division had not been surprised
on the 10th of the last December; when told to the contrary, he
assured us that it was generally supposed to be the case, and he was
exceedingly glad to hear it contradicted, feeling an interest in all
that concerned the welfare of the division, for he had made his _débút_
with it. Before leaving the main road, the same questions were put to
us in another quarter, by an officer who had been previously in our
own corps; which will give a faint idea how rapidly evil and malicious
reports fly; and so evil a one as this I had seldom known hatched.
However, looking to the front, we only fancied ourselves on the high
road of blunders; but the most curious and laughable part of the
business was, that these very reports were in circulation by those who
were so far to the rear when the battle of the Nive first began, that,
had it not been for the determined resistance of the van guards of the
light[17] and fifth divisions, the enemy would have passed all the
defences, and most probably seized Saint Jean de Luz, and the bridge at
Ustaritz;—and strange it is, but not less true, that the most doleful
accounts float about behind an army: victory is construed into defeat;
and if a slight retrograde is made, off go the non-combatants as hard
as they can tear, carrying away every one in the torrent whom they can
persuade to take their friendly advice.

A thaw had now set in; the cross roads, in many places, were perfect
bogs and quagmires, so that we did not reach our cantonments until late
at night, and were covered with mud, having been frequently obliged to
dismount, to wade through the slough, before we dared trust our horses
to pass through, as many animals were still sticking or lying in the
liquid mud, after having floundered about until they were smothered in
the mire.

Preparations being made, early in February, for pushing into the
interior of France, General Hill broke up from Bayonne in the middle
of that month, and at first moved in a southerly direction as far as
Hellete, driving the enemy across the rivers Joyeuse, Bidouze, and
through the town of St. Palais.[18] These movements cut the French off
from the small fortress of St. Jean Pied-de-Port, which General Mina
blockaded, and obliged the right of their army to leave Bayonne to its
own defence. Thence, marching along the right bank of the Adour, they
crossed the river at the Port de Lanne, for the purpose of supporting
their centre and left, which were retiring before General Hill, and
taking post behind the river or Gave d'Oleron, with their right resting
on the left bank of the Adour, and occupying the towns of Peyrehorade,
Sauveterre, and the small fortress of Navarriens.

The six divisions of the army, besides cavalry and artillery, destined
to penetrate into the interior, consisted of the _second_, _third_,
_fourth_, _sixth_, _seventh_, and _light divisions_, which were now
extending in echelon from Vieux Mouguerre to Navarriens and drawing
off by degrees in succession towards the right: the _first_ and _fifth
division_, Lord Alymer's brigade, and a corps of Spaniards being left
behind to blockade the fortress of Bayonne under General Hope.

Our division, having passed the Nive, occupied the small town of
Bastide; but, as the clothing of our regiment had reached as far as the
town of Ustaritz, we once more crossed the river for it, and having
halted there one day, retraced our steps to rejoin the army, the right
of which had crossed the Gave d'Oleron, while General Beresford with
two divisions showed front, ready to cross that river at Peyrehorade.

The right of General Hope's corps, consisting of the fifth division,
having crossed to the right of the river Nive, invested Bayonne on that
side. On the 23rd, part of the first division passed the Adour, (two
hundred and seventy yards in width) on a raft four miles below Bayonne,
from whence the enemy advanced to endeavour to force this small
van-guard to recross the river, but without effect. The two following
days, the whole of the first division were ferried over to the right
bank of the river: Lord Alymer's brigade, and the Spaniards in reserve
hemmed in the enemy on the side of St. Jean de Luz, which completed
the lines of circumvallation, drawn round the entrenched camp of this
fortress and its citadel: but, owing to the intersection of the rivers,
this corps was split into _three_ different bodies, communicating with
each other by the grand bridge of Chasse-Marées,[19] thrown over the
Adour, and one across the Nive. Subsequently some changes of the troops
took place.

On the 25th our regiment reached a village within a mile of St.
Palais, and on the following morning entered that town, when, to our
mortification, we were ordered to halt until relieved by some other
regiment, while the 57th, whom we had replaced, marched forward to join
the army. It was therefore evident that the troops were left to keep
open the line of communication in rear of the army, as well as to fetch

On the morning of the 27th we heard that the 79th Highlanders were
to enter the town; we therefore got under arms, and as soon as they
entered at one end, we marched out at the other and towards the middle
of the day passed the Gave d'Oleron,[20] at Sauveterre. A fine stone
bridge crossed the river; but its centre arches had been blown up and
entirely destroyed: it was therefore necessary to ford the river, which
was more than a hundred yards in breadth; and, although hardly three
feet deep below the bridge, the current was so extremely rapid, and the
bottom so intersected with loose stones, that it was thought advisable
for the strongest men to throw off their knapsacks, and to join hands
and form a strong chain with their faces to the current, to pick up
any of the soldiers, who might chance to turn giddy or loose their
foot-hold—for if an individual wavered to either side, the probability
was, that he was whirled round by the force of the stream, and lifted
off his legs, sinking to the bottom like a lump of lead, loaded as he
was, with knapsack, accoutrements and sixty pounds of ball cartridge!

We breakfasted at a hotel in the town of Sauveterre, and, as the band
played through it, the inhabitants stood at their windows smiling with
as much indifference, as if the column had been composed of the native
troops of their own country.

At this time we could distinctly hear, at some distance to our front,
a heavy firing, and the rolling of musketry and cannon. Owing to its
continuation we marched forward the whole of the day. The country
was extremely fertile, with large farm houses and chateaux on each
side of the road. All the doors were closed, nor did we meet a single
individual, from whom we could gain the least information. Towards
dusk the howling of the great watch-dogs might be heard all over the
country; and although we bivouacked in the night in a wood, within
three miles of Orthes, we were utterly ignorant of the cause of the
heavy firing during the day.

At dawn on the 28th we had hardly traversed a mile when we observed
the tents of the 57th regiment pitched on the top of a hill, to the
right of the road, without any signs of a move. This corps had been
two days from St. Palais, and in one march we were passing them. I was
sent forward to gain information, and absolutely reached the old narrow
bridge on the river Pau at Orthes, before I heard from an officer
of engineers, who was superintending its repairs, that a battle had
taken place on the previous day. The centre arch being destroyed,
this officer had strict orders not to let any one pass it, until it
should be fully repaired: however, as an especial favour, he had the
complaisance to cause a few planks to be laid down, and, at a great
risk, I succeeded in getting my horse over and entered the town—where
I met a soldier of the 52nd, who could not tell me the road the light
division had taken after the victory, and, when asked what they had
been doing the day before: "Why sir," replied he, "I never saw Johnny
fight better." Directly after this I saw Lord George Lennox, in a light
dragoon uniform, who told me, that he feared his brother the Duke of
Richmond,[21] a Captain of the 52nd, was mortally wounded, having been
shot through the body by a musket ball, while ascending a hill with his
regiment, at the close of the battle.

[Footnote 17: The reserves of the light division were not brought into
action, but manned the main position, in case of its being attacked,
which did not take place—while the main body of the army awoke from
its slumbers and came to the battle-ground.]

[Footnote 18: All the above towns, including Bayonne, in September
1807, had been occupied by the French troops under General Junot
(afterwards Duke of Abrantes) previously to their entrance into Spain
under the plea of uniting with the Spaniards for the invasion of

[Footnote 19: The sailors of Admiral Penrose's squadron assisted in
boldly running these boats over the bar at the mouth of the Adour
(where some of them and crews were unfortunately lost) for the purpose
of forming the famous bridge of boats across that river. Admiral
Collier also co-operated with the crews of his squadron in landing
cannon, and working them in battery at St. Sebastian.]

[Footnote 20: Near this spot, a few days before, some light companies
of the third division had forded; but they had no sooner crossed than
they were violently attacked by the enemy, and forced to repass it
under a heavy fire, losing many brave soldiers killed and drowned,
before a sufficient force could cross to their support.]

[Footnote 21: Then Earl of March; he had been on Field-Marshal
Wellington's staff for some time previously, and only joined his
regiment a short time before this action.]


    A wrong direction—An affair with the enemy's cavalry—Bivouac
    in a wood—A ludicrous mistake in the dark—Arrival at St.
    Sever—Welcome supply of bread—The Duke of Dalmatia leaves
    Bordeaux unprotected, to preserve the communication with
    Toulouse—Reception of the English at Mont de Marsan—A dancing
    scene and other amusements at the village of Brinquet—The
    disappointed purveyors—The author regains his corps—Adventure
    gained over the enemy by General Hill—Gascon peasantry—Various
    movements of the opposed armies—The French driven through the town
    of Vic Bigorre—An agreeable march.

It was now eight o'clock in the morning, and finding little probability
of gaining the requisite intelligence of the route of the light
division, without seeing the adjutant-general, I made direct to his
_maison_, and, being ushered up stairs, I found him in bed, comfortably
reposing with the curtains drawn tightly round him. Whether he was half
asleep from over-fatigue, or from some other cause, he gave me the
route of the _fourth_ division, by the road leading towards the town of
Sault de Navailles.

On overtaking the tail of that division, we fell into a slow pace, owing
to some obstacles and the broken bridges over the various tributary
streams, which were very much swollen at this time of the year.

On this day, our hussars had an affair beyond Sault de Navailles with
the enemy's cavalry; and, in the afternoon, I saw one of their officers
on horseback, deadly pale from a wound in the abdomen.

After nightfall, we bivouacked in a wood to the right of the high
road on the river Louts, within a short way of the town of Hagetman.
Our baggage did not come up; the night was miserably cold, and the
whole of the officers of our regiment took possession of a tumble-down
shed, or forsaken cow-house, where, having spread out some stalks of
Indian corn, some of us began to roast potatoes, when an aid-de-camp,
appertaining to a General, came up to the door-way (for _door_ there
was none), and said, halloo! halloo! who's here? who's here? when one
of our majors coolly replied, "Officers and pigs," which created a
general laugh; and the General sent elsewhere to put up his horses.—In
the middle of the night, one of the officers, having suddenly awoke
out of his sleep, called out with all his might, "come up, come up,"
fancying that a French cart-horse had got amongst us. A ludicrous scene
took place—every one for himself! till at last a heap of living heroes
were piled together, each scrambling on the top of the other, and all
bawling out "lights! lights!" At last, by main strength, I managed to
extricate myself from a pressure nearly as bad as that in the black
hole of Calcutta. The soldiers and servants, hearing such a hullabaloo,
flocked into the hut, which added to, rather than diminished the
disorder of the scene. At length a lighted wisp of straw being brought
in, every one stared about, with the greatest astonishment; for the
object of terror had vanished, or rather had not appeared. Some crawled
out from their hiding places, demanding who had taken away the horse,
while the respectful and confounded servants protested, one after the
other, that they had not seen a horse, nor taken any away. The alarm
took place from some one kicking against the shed, which was mistaken,
by the officer who created the alarm, for the hoofs of a horse shod by
a French farrier, within an ace of his head! Sleep was banished, and
roars of laughter continued throughout the rest of the night.

On the 29th, we got under arms very early, to give the two divisions
the "go by;" but our movements had been anticipated, and we received
strict injunctions not to stir from our ground, but to follow in the
rear, as on the preceding day. We, therefore, again found ourselves
creeping along the road as before. When we were within four miles of
the river Adour, Field-Marshal Wellington rode up (he had received
a blow on the hip from a spent ball at the battle of Orthes, while
directing the last attack on the heights,) and said, "Forty-third, what
do you do here?" upon which the senior officer told the Field-Marshal
that the officer commanding the column would not let us pass. In the
short space of ten minutes, the whole of the troops in our front were
halted, and we marched forward, and soon after ascended a hill, and
formed column in the grand place of the town of St. Sever, immediately
overlooking the left bank of the river Adour. Here we found a baker's
oven full of hot bread, which a commissary (with a _val_ in his hand,)
had laid an embargo on; and it was with the utmost favour that we were
permitted to purchase a few loaves, or rather, having taken forcible
possession, we were permitted to retain the bread, paying for the same;
as they might have found an attempt at a re-capture rather a difficult
matter from men suffering from hunger, and out of humour, on a cold
hazy spring morning. To whom the bread was afterwards served out I
cannot pretend to say.

The rear divisions, with drums beating, were passing near the town,
and at last increased into a dense column, while forming up opposite
the _wooden bridge_, which the enemy had set fire to. As soon as the
flames were got under, and ladders placed close together to facilitate
the passage of the infantry, General Sir Thomas Picton, with his usual
ardour, pushed forward his division, the head of which crowded the
ladders with all haste.

Our regiment now debouched from the town, with orders to cross, and
Lieut.-Col. Ross's brigade of horse-artillery forded the river below
the bridge, to accompany us, for the purpose of taking possession of
the stores in the populous town of Mont de Marsan, distant twelve
miles, situated on the high road to Bordeaux.

When we reached the foot of the bridge, General Sir Thomas Picton
declined halting the third division; and it was not until he had
received the most _positive instructions_ to halt, that he did so. His
troops were standing up and down the ladders as we passed them, when
a variety of curses and imprecations took place; all the battles of
Spain and Portugal were fought over again, with a mixture of rage and
good humour: some vociferated that they could always lead the light
division, whilst the older soldiers were satisfied, voluntarily, to
follow them: "Let us follow the _Lights_, it is our right; no division
is entitled to bring up our rear except the fourth; we are the takers
of fortified towns, and the General-in-chief's _three lucky divisions_!"

The Duke of Dalmatia now left the high road and the fine town of
Bordeaux to its fate, and retired, with his principal force, up the
right bank of the Adour, to support his left flank at the town of
Barcelone, and to meet General Hill's corps, which had branched off
to the right, and was moving in the direction of Air, to threaten the
French Marshal's communication with Toulouse; a point he could not give
up, it being the pivot of his defence on the formidable river Garonne.

All the way to Mont de Marsan the road is straight and sandy. Instead
of being received with hostility at that place, as we anticipated, we
were agreeably surprised to see the people flocking without the town
in vast crowds, to see _les étrangers_. Our clothing was old, and
almost the whole of the men wore blanket trousers. The French expressed
much wonder at seeing the troops of the richest nation in the world
so threadbare[22] and poorly clad. The band struck up, and the women
exclaimed, "_Ma foi! les Anglais ont de la musique! et voilà de beaux
jeunes gens aussi!_" The shops were open, and the inhabitants proffered
their merchandize with an easy assurance of manner, as if we had been a
century amongst them: so much for a divided nation; so much for honour
and glory, and the extreme _bon ton_ of civilization!

The seventh and our own division entered the town, where we halted two
days, and then our division shifted its quarters into villages two
leagues distant from it. Our regiment took possession of the large
village of Brinquet. The senior officer was quartered in a château,
and invited us all to a dance; the _salle à manger_ was lighted up,
and the reflection shone on the highly polished floor.[23] The band
was in attendance, but unfortunately there was only one _demoiselle_;
therefore, making a virtue of necessity, we waltzed with her turn and
turn about, until she was quite exhausted; and we finished by partaking
of an excellent supper, consisting of the choicest viands, sweetmeats,
champaign, and other delicious wines. An officer was indiscreet enough,
in the warmth of the moment, to propose to the young lady to send for
a few _grisettes_ from the village, assuring her that in Spain the
village maids failed not to attend on such occasions. She started with
horror at such a monstrous proposal, saying, "_Dans la campagne, à la
bonheur: mais des grisettes dans un salon, c'est affreux!_"

We halted some days at this village, and for a while the war
was forgotten; and convivial dinner parties were given in this
plentifully-supplied country, where provisions might be purchased for
a trifle: fine capons a franc each, while turkeys, geese, ducks, eggs,
bacon, milk, butter, excellent wine, and all articles of consumption,
were to be had at proportionably low prices.

One fine morning myself and messmate mounted our capering, snorting
steeds, their ears cocked, and their carcases swelled out with
good provender, to pursue our way towards Mont de Marsan, with the
laudable intention of making a few purchases for an intended dinner
party. Having made our selection of pastry, sweetmeats and desert,
we directed the whole to be carefully packed and forwarded to a
certain wine merchant, who was busily packing up, in a large hamper,
several dozens of his choicest wines and liqueurs; and it was agreed
that the whole was to be paid for at our quarters, to insure their
punctual delivery by a certain hour—to which the wily merchant and
confectioner complacently and readily assented, not having failed by
the bye to charge English prices on all the commodities, that is to
say about a hundred per cent above the market price. We escorted the
cart the greater part of the way to show the driver the right road,
but when within a short distance of the village, we pointed it out,
exhorting him to use all speed, and rode on to superintend other
little preliminaries. Upon reaching the _maison de logement_, the
people told us that the regiment had marched off three hours before
towards Grenade, and not a vestige of any thing belonging to us was
left behind. The people begged and entreated that we would take some
refreshment, which we would have assented to, (for our appetites were
as keen as the wind), but the cart and hamper were momentarily expected
at the door. What was to be done? To pay for that which we could not
consume, or carry away, would be the height of folly; therefore,
confiding our predicament to the good-natured host, he embraced us,
and, setting spurs to our steeds, at a hand canter, we quitted the long
village at one end, as the cart drew up at the other; nor did we relax
our pace, until the shades of evening brought us to a town crammed
with cavalry, artillery, tumbrils, baggage and commissariat.

Here we gained some tidings from one of the heavy German dragoons of
the route of our division, and alighting at a hotel, we got our horses
well fed, and rubbed down, and, having partaken of an excellent bottle
of wine, and a dish of stewed veal, we resumed our journey.

At eleven o'clock at night, we entered another town, filled with
infantry soldiers, who were standing round the fires they had kindled
in the streets, whilst others were fast asleep, sitting on the stone
steps, or lying under the threshold of doorways. We would fain have
passed the night here, but admittance was nowhere to be gained,
although we dismounted and kicked, and thumped with all our might at
the several doors. These noises had so repeatedly occurred during the
night through the troops outside striving to gain an entrance, that
such salutations were unattended to. Thence wandering onwards amidst
darkness and uncertainty we issued from the town by a broad road,
enveloped in a thick fog, for not a soul could now give us the least
clue to the division; and it is impossible to convey an idea of the
uncertain information in rear of an army. I have often been within half
a mile of the division, without meeting a person who knew any thing
of its march, and, without the least hesitation, people would give a
totally opposite direction to that followed by the troops.

In half an hour, we heard a buzz of voices to the right of the road,
and through the dense mist could see the glimmer of fires, and in a
few minutes more found our corps, encamped in a fallow field, where we
passed a shivering night. Often is the cup of happiness dashed from the
lip; but certainly the conclusion of our intended _fête_ was quite the
reverse of what we had anticipated, when briskly and gaily starting for
Mont de Marsan on the preceding day!

During this short suspension of hostilities with us, General Hill had
been engaged with the enemy, on the 2nd of March near the town of Air,
and, after a sharp affair, succeeded in driving them to the right bank
of the Adour, and also in a southerly direction towards the large town
of Pau.

From this place, we moved into wretched villages, situated on muddy
cross roads in the neighbourhood of Cazeres. The weather continued
frigid; the atmosphere was overcast with either miserable fogs, or
heavy rains.

The peasantry in Gascony speak a sort of _patois_, or broken French.
The women tilled the fields, harnessed the horses, drove and loaded
carts, and handled the implements of husbandry—such as the plough, the
long spade, and dung-forks—just like the men: their appearance is ugly
and coarse; many of their statures are of Herculean proportions. They
wear wooden shoes, and a bundle of short coarse woollen petticoats,
with a piece of coarse cloth, or sack wrapped about their heads, the
flaps of which hang on their shoulders, or down their backs, to keep
off the inclemency of the weather, altogether giving them a most
uncouth appearance. The wives and daughters of the _gros fermiers_
possess a little more life and animation, and were pretty well attired;
but they are a plain, innocent, plodding people, over whose morals
the _Curé du Village_ exercises a gentle sway, apparently more by the
superiority of his education, than by spiritual exhortations.

These pastors reside in comfortable houses, decorated with the vine,
the rose tree, odoriferous plants, &c. Their garden is generally well
stocked with vegetables, or otherwise prettily arranged by some fair
hand under the designation of _ma nièce_. An entrance was never gained
to these abodes, unless all the other houses were crammed to excess by
the soldiery.

While in this neighbourhood we frequently moved towards the high road,
and stood to our arms the whole day. On the 12th General Beresford
with the seventh division entered Bordeaux, where he was received with
acclamations by the populace, who hoisted the white flag, and the
_cocarde blanche_, crying, "_vivent les Bourbons! vivent les Anglais!_"

The Duke of Dalmatia, finding our left flank extended as far as
Bordeaux, moved forward, and on the 13th made a feint by the roads of
Conche, and Castleneau, (on the left of the Adour), to turn General
Hill's right flank. The general-in-chief, to counteract this movement,
threatened the town of Plaisance on the right bank of the river, by
this means countermanœuvring, and threatening the enemy's right flank,
and also their communication with Tarbes.—General Beresford now
quitted Bordeaux, leaving the seventh division at that place under Lord
Dalhousie, and the army closed up in three columns, for the purpose of
ascending both banks of the Adour, towards Tarbes:—our division moved
in the direction of the town of Plaisance with the hussar brigade.

One day we were with the 15th hussars on picquet at a mill to the
right of the great _Chaussée_. The soldiers laid themselves down under
the sheds with the horses, and the officers reposed on some sacks of
flour, just over the wheel of the water mill, which kept up an eternal
clattering noise throughout the night. In the morning we came out as
white as millers!

On the 17th the weather cleared, the roads dried up, the atmosphere was
warm and genial, the hedges and young trees were clothed with a spring
verdure, and the country looked most inviting, presenting a similar
face to that of England.

On the 19th having finished our march, we encamped on a ridge of hills,
about five miles East of Vic-Bigorre which lay in a valley. About two
o'clock P. M. we were ordered to stand to our arms, and on reaching the
summit of the hill, we saw the third division attack that town. The
sun shone forth in full lustre, and a vehement fire of small arms and
cannon almost enveloped with volumes of smoke, the scene of contest. We
moved on the verge of the hills in a parallel line to turn the right
flank of the enemy;—a heavy brigade of cavalry during the middle of
the combat, turned the right of the French through the meadows close to
Vic-Bigorre, and they were finally driven through the place.

I hardly ever recollect a more delightful march than that we enjoyed
towards the evening. The sun was sinking behind the western hills,
the surrounding country was wrapped in tranquillity, the din of war,
had died away. The soldiers were tired, conversation ceased, and no
sounds broke on the ear except the tread of the men's footsteps, or the
planting of the horses' feet of the hussars, who were riding along in
single files, or going off to the side of the road, so as not to retard
our march.

[Footnote 22: The soldiers carried their new clothing, which they had
lately received, and which was not yet altered and made up, on the top
of their knapsacks.]

[Footnote 23: The floor and stairs are polished in France, as in old
fashioned gentlemen's houses in the interior of England.]


    Advance towards Tarbes—Sharp and successful encounter of
    the riflemen with the French, who are forced to retire from
    Tarbes—A beautiful coup-d'œil—Retreating movement of the enemy
    towards Toulouse—The little French cobbler and his daughter—A
    burdensome benefactor—Inconveniences of a miry march—The
    author's adventure at a farm-house—The conscious hosts—A true
    French château—Approach of the troops towards Toulouse—Critical
    situation of the author and another officer.

We did not halt and encamp until an hour after dark. On the 20th in the
morning we passed the road leading towards Rabastens on our left hand,
where a picquet of the hussars had planted their vedettes. When within
a short distance of Tarbes the hussars rode forward, and pushed their
line of vedettes half way up the hills to the left of the road, with
their carbines resting on their thighs, and within one hundred yards of
the French infantry, who did not fire, although stationed on the verge
of the wood.

Two battalions of rifle corps immediately filed off the road, mounted
the hill, and began a most severe skirmish with the enemy, who made
such a desperate opposition, that the rifles were obliged to close; the
French charged, but the rifles were immoveable, and, for two or three
minutes, the combatants were firing in each other's faces. At last the
rifles beat them back, and carried the wood.

We could also see the right of the enemy formed on some heights round
a windmill two miles to our left, where the sixth division attacked
them; and the cannon continued to play at this point. While the right
of our army made a demonstration of crossing to the right bank of the
Adour, opposite the town of Tarbes, two hundred _chasseurs à cheval_
blocked up the wide road opposite to us. It had hedges on each side;
our regiment formed column to the left of it, on a piece of waste
ground; and a troop of the tenth hussars rode up and formed across
it from hedge to hedge, opposed to the French horse. Two vedettes of
the Chasseurs instantly walked their horses within one hundred yards
of the tenth, and invited them to charge; several of us stood on the
flank of our dragoons, and told them to stop a minute or two, until a
company crept along the hedge to take the chasseurs in flank when their
main body seeing this instantly wheeled threes about and unmasked two
pieces of cannon, which they fired at half range, and both balls flew
close over the heads of the hussars. Owing to the attack of the sixth
division taking the right of the enemy in reverse, they were thrown
on two sides of a square, and obliged to retire from Tarbes, refusing
their right face, while covering the retreat of their left wing!

The horse artillery now came forward at full trot, protected by the
tenth hussars, who by half-squadrons, filled up the intervals between
the guns, which presented a most picturesque and martial effect.
Without further delay, the rest of our division followed up the hill to
the left, in support of the rifles; and on reaching the summit a most
interesting spectacle presented itself. The town of Tarbes lay in the
valley to the right close to the Adour; the dense red columns of our
right wing were in the act of passing it with cavalry and artillery;
while the glitter of the enemy's bayonets formed a brilliant spectacle,
and the tail of their winding columns covered the country, as they
rapidly threaded the by-roads through small woods, villages, and over
hill and dale. They were also running in a dense crowd on the high road
towards Tournay, (threatened by the hussars, and the horse-artillery)
where a rapid interchange of cannon balls took place, and we were in
momentary expectation of overtaking them, when broken ground and hedges
suddenly intervened, and they eluded our grasp.

A French captain stood by the road side imploring his life, and calling
out for the English, in evident fear of the Portuguese and Spaniards;
he held a commission in his hand, and both his eyes were shot out of
their sockets, and hanging on his cheeks!—On our descending from the
rough country into a valley, the enemy were ascending a steep ridge
rising out of it, covered at its base by a rivulet. Our army were
forming up in order of battle ready for the assault, but the day was
too far advanced: the French then opened their cannon all along the
ridge, and particularly against our right wing, opposite the high road
leading to the town of Tournay. During the twilight, the bright flashes
of the cannon had a very pretty effect—the sixth division had followed
them up, and we could hear their firing an hour after nightfall,
while still attacking and taking in reverse the extreme right of
the enemy—which obliged them to retreat during the night from this
formidable range of heights.

On the following morning we crossed the heights in our front, the enemy
being in full retreat towards Toulouse—by a flank march to the right.
We cut in upon the high road towards St. Gaudens, on which the second
division were marching. The weather was cold, with sharp cutting winds,
and a succession of rains set in.

The second day we entered a small town crowded with troops; the rain
descended in such torrents, that the cavalry horses were put into the
lower rooms of the houses, and we were quartered in the house of a
cobbler, which was divided into three compartments: the soldiers filled
the loft; the horses the kitchen; and we put up in the shop, in which
there were two beds in dark recesses. The little cobbler, seeing our
boots soaked through, very good humouredly proposed making us some
_bonne soupe_, and, without further preamble, set about the _cuisine_.
His figure was unique—he wore a cocked-hat square to the front, and
as old as the hills. His hair was greased to excess, and grimed with
the remains of powder, ending in a _queue_ of nine inches long, and
about four in circumference, tightly bound with a leathern thong. His
height was hardly more than five feet: he possessed a swarthy broad
bony visage, small penetrating grey eyes, thick, bushy, black eye
brows, a short neck, long sinewy arms, covered with hair, (the shirt
sleeves being tucked up), large hands and feet, narrow shoulders,
short body, broad hips, and bow-legs—and was the reputed father of
a delicate daughter of about fifteen years of age, with light hair,
skin as fair as alabaster, and cheeks vying with roses;—she meekly
lent a willing hand in making us welcome to their abode, strewed with
old shoes, _sabot_-lasts, leather, soles, heels, waxed ends, and live
poultry,—the latter being tolerated as guests, owing to the urgent
entreaties of the little _grisette_, who was in great dread that they
might be plucked, if left to roost in the loft amongst the soldiery.
A large iron kettle was slung over the wood fire, and filled with
water, into which a few cabbage leaves were first immersed, and, when
it simmered, half a pound of hog's lard was added (from an earthen
jar hanging by a cord from a large beam), with a little pepper and
salt; half a dozen brown pans were then laid out, into which our
host cut with a clasp knife some slices of coarse bread, and with a
wooden ladle, the contents of the cauldron were poured over it, the
grease floating on the surface of the boiling liquid. _La voilà!_
said our host. _La voilà, messieurs, la bonne soupe!_ To refrain from
appreciating the kind intentions of the cobbler, and his fair daughter,
was impossible; but we could not partake of such a mess.

The times of scarcity were gone by, and as our canteens arrived at
this juncture, stored with every thing good, and a keg of excellent
wine, we invited the civil little cobbler to partake, and he spent a
glorious evening, shedding tears over his cups, and declaring that _les
Anglais_ were _de très bons garçons_; while the daughter sitting in
the chimney corner, sang some pretty French songs. At the usual hour
of rest, by common consent we laid down on one bed, and the cobbler
and his daughter turned into the other; but, for the sake of decorum,
the father lay with his head on the bolster, and the daughter placed
a pillow at the foot of the bed, and thus turning _dos-à-dos_, they
avoided each others feet, and by the glimmer of the fire, we could see
the little girl's bright eyes under the coverlet.

Making our adieu on the following morning, and the weather clearing
up, we continued our march, at the end of which the troops entered the
various chateaux and farm-houses on each side of the way. The country
being very much intersected with hedges, green fields, plantations,
and gardens, we suddenly encountered an old man near some scattered
cottages, who was so terrified at our unexpected appearance, that he
ran up, seized the bridles of our horses, and led us to a large oven,
filled with ready-baked bread, all of which he insisted upon giving to
the soldiers: thence he took us to an out-house, where there was a
quantity of wine casks: "All, messieurs," exclaimed the peasant, "is
yours." We assured him that every thing consumed would be duly paid
for, which he would not hear of, in his over eagerness and civility,
and, breaking from us, he rushed into the ranks of the soldiers, (who
were quietly at ordered arms, waiting until the different houses should
be marked off for their reception, according to usage), and bawled out,
"_camarades!_" although your officers will not sanction your having
bread and wine, I insist upon supplying you. At length, to put an end
to such rhapsodies, we agreed that, at the utmost, he might give to
each soldier a pint of wine, of which they cheerfully and thankfully

On the following morning, when the soldiers had fallen in, and the
over-generous peasant found what an orderly set of people he had
to do with, he boldly came forward and demanded payment, and, when
expostulated with, bawled out with the greatest indecency, before the
rest of the assembled villagers, that we were _des voleurs_, and with
the greatest effrontery put himself at the head of the company, as if
to stop its march. Such vile behaviour so disgusted us, that we ordered
one of the soldiers to put him out of the way.

The rain began to pour down in torrents, and the road was of such a
clayey substance, and so sticky, that it tore the gaiter-straps and the
shoes from off the soldiers' feet, and they were obliged to put them
on the tops of their knapsacks, while trudging along bare-footed, and
hardly able to drag one leg after the other. This so much impeded our
march, that it was nearly dark before we halted on the road, and the
mounted officers were ordered to seek shelter for the men, right and
left, but not further than a mile from the post of alarm.

Several officers started across the country, each fixing on some
particular house. As I perceived a hill a short way off, I galloped up
it, from whence, half a mile further, I saw a spacious farm and barns,
the whole being enclosed by a high wall. Knowing the general civility
and peaceable demeanour of the inhabitants, without further precaution,
I rapped loudly at the large gates; but no person came forward, and
all the windows were closed; however, quite satisfied of getting an
entrance upon the arrival of the company, I rode round, to convince
myself of the place being inhabited, when all at once a powerful and
ferocious wolf dog bounded over the wall, and tore at the hind quarters
of my horse with such ferocity, that the animal trembled, and although
I used my spurs, was almost immoveable. I then drew my sabre, but,
whichever way I turned my horse, the dog kept behind, and to add to
my danger, a man opened a shutter with a gun in his hand. As I could
not get my animal to stir, the only resource left was to dismount and
engage the savage brute in foot, (my sabre had a sharp rough edge),
trusting that the peasant might miss me the first shot. At this
critical moment, the company mounted the hill, and the man called off
his dog.

My horse was bleeding, and the heel was nearly torn off my boot:—the
women came forth from the house, and threw wide the gates for our
admittance, and almost prostrated themselves at our feet, expressing
the greatest solicitude, and protesting, that the dog had broken
loose; and, when questioned about the gun, they vehemently assured us
that the man, knowing I was in danger, as a last resource intended
to shoot his own dog; this excuse was ridiculous, for the moment the
animal heard the voice of its master it ceased to attack. Although we
were aware that these were false assertions, both from the actions and
professions of the people, yet we could not do otherwise than feign
to believe them. Without doubt, on my first appearance, they thought
me a straggling marauder, and they were only about to act as we might
have done against foreigners in our own country, who might perchance
come for the purpose of eating our provisions, levying contributions,
and trampling down our fields; for although such outrages were
strictly forbidden in the British army, yet people living in secluded
farm-houses could not be supposed to credit such peaceable reports,
until they had received ocular demonstration of the fact.

Notwithstanding the gaiety of our manner for the rest of the day, the
women seemed to dread the coming night, feeling conscious of an act
having been committed which they apprehended would not pass unpunished.
The men did not show themselves after dark, and it was droll to witness
the many little kind acts of the females, to strive to banish from
our minds the occurrence.—Even on the following morning, they loaded
our animals with poultry, and filled our keg with fourteen pints of
inestimable wine. As they seemed in affluent circumstances, we did not
refuse these peace-offerings.

At the close of this day, we were quartered in a chateau, not unlike an
old-fashioned gentleman's house in England. The out-houses were in a
delapidated condition, the grounds were indifferently laid out, with
the trees and avenues cut into various shapes, in representation of
birds, &c. An old carriage stood in an out-house, and the horses had
long tails, and were as fat as butter, and not unlike a Flanders cart

The French gentleman, while showing his premises, held a rake in his
hand, and was dressed in a green velvet forage cap, a frieze coat made
like a dressing gown, coarse trowsers, and wooden shoes; but in the
evening he was well attired; in fact quite metamorphosed. The linen,
napkins and plate were in plenty, but we were much surprised at the
common clasp knives at table; otherwise, every thing (such as massive
plate and old fashioned china) was good, and well laid out. The stairs
were carpeted and polished, and the rooms were without grates, the
wood being burnt on hobs. The _filles de chambre_ left their wooden
clogs at the bottom of the stairs, walking about the rooms in their
stocking'd feet, and, although coarsely dressed, and of rough exterior,
they executed all the necessary offices with a respectful attention and
extreme good nature, and, when offered some silver in the morning, they
refused it, as if to say, "_Ciel!_ how can we take the money of _les
étrangers, et les jeunes officiers_?"

On the sixth day we entered a town within a short distance of Toulouse.
The enemy lined the opposite bank of a small rapid river, about four
hundred yards from the town; a howitzer was planted over the bridge,
and a group of French officers were assembled in conversation.

Another officer and myself by degrees sauntered past our sentinels, who
were not pushed beyond the houses of the town. When within a hundred
yards of them, we made the usual salute, but, to our astonishment, it
was not returned, and the whole of the group left the spot, with the
exception of one officer, who leaned on the breech of the gun, as much
as to intimate that we were too far in their country to expect confabs
and that the time was come to stand to their cannon.

We regretted having placed ourselves so completely in their power: to
go back was impossible with any security, if their intentions were
of a hostile nature. Trusting however to the well-known courtesy of
_les militaires Français_, we left the road, and walked up to the bank
of the river, within fifteen yards of a French sentinel, who, with
his musket carelessly thrown across his body, eyed us steadily, as
if to examine whether our approach should be received in a hostile,
or amicable manner. Appearances certainly looked as if we had come
expressly to reconnoitre the nature of the ground, and as we slowly
retired, we momentarily expected a round of grape shot, and were not
a little relieved to find ourselves once more behind the houses; for
there was not a bush or any thing to screen us from their observation
the whole of the way.


    Flank movement to the right—Method of feeding cattle in
    Gascony—Catching a goose—Halt at St. Simon—Cross the Garonne
    and advance on Toulouse—The French take up a position to the east
    of that town—The Spaniards attack the heights of La Pugade—Their
    terrible slaughter and precipitate retreat—The enemy advance
    against the fourth and sixth divisions—The sixth division carry
    the front of the enemy's position—Retreat of the French from
    Toulouse towards Carcassonne.

In the middle of the night we were aroused and ordered to pack up
and accoutre, and make a flank march to the right, over execrable
roads, in order to support the second division, who were to cross the
river Garonne above Toulouse, at the village of Portet. The number of
pontoons, however, proving inadequate to cover the width of the river,
it was tried elsewhere—On the 31st of March the pontoons were laid
down within a short distance of Roques, General Hill crossed: but the
ground was found so swampy, that he was obliged to repass the river.

In this part of the country, wine abounded to such an extent, that
serious alarm was experienced for the morals and sobriety of the
troops. Almost every shed, and even the stables, were half filled with
wine casks, (owing to the long war, and to the want of exportation),
and, during the rainy weather, it was necessary to beg of the soldiers
to be moderate. Publicly they were not permitted to partake of the
wine; but how could they be effectually hindered from broaching casks
under which they slept, after being covered with the mud of the miry
roads, or soaked through and through from incessant rains? and such was
the abundance of the juice of the grape, that a peasant was glad to
sell a hogshead of the best wine for twenty _francs_, which was divided
among our several small messes.

The people of Gascony have a particular method of feeding their cattle:
the trap doors or sliding partitions communicate with the interior of
the kitchens, and when thrown aside, the oxen or cows thrust in their
heads, and are fed by the hand with the stalks of maize, or Indian corn.

One evening, while in the kitchen of a small house, round the cheerful
blaze of a crackling wood-fire, partaking of our dinner, and the
servant girls standing behind us feeding the cattle, we were suddenly
aroused by the cackling of the poultry in a large out-house—where the
soldiers were quartered; and, on ascending the ladder, we observed some
feathers scattered about the floor. The soldiers stood up and saluted,
as if no depredations had been committed. One soldier alone remained
sitting, and feigning to be in great pain from the effects of a sore
foot. The officer with me having shrewd suspicions of this individual,
said, "Get up,—surely you can stand upon one leg."—"Oh no!" answered
this piece of innocence, (possessing a muscular frame, and a face as
brown as a berry), "no indeed Sir, I cannot; for, besides the pain
in my foot, I am otherwise much indisposed." Finding however that we
were determined, he slowly and reluctantly arose from his crouching
posture, by which he had concealed a half-plucked goose. This was death
by martial law, and we put on a most ferocious aspect, and threatened
I know not what. However, as soon as the lecture was over, and we were
out of the soldier's sight, we could no longer refrain from giving way
to our hilarity, at the old marauder being so fully detected. Who could
kill an old soldier for plucking a goose? The bird being duly paid for,
the kind-hearted woman not only gave it back to the soldiers, but, we
understood, cooked it for their supper.

We now halted at St. Simon and pushed our advanced posts within two
miles of Toulouse, situated on the right bank of the Garonne; but the
enemy still held the Faubourg of St. Ciprien, facing us on the left of
the river.

One day we passed in a handsome chateau, with all the rooms on the
_parterre_; it was well furnished, and the doors and windows opened on
a spacious lawn, from which descended a flight of stone steps of about
thirty feet in breadth, to an extensive garden laid out _à l'Anglaise_,
in broad and serpentine walks, labyrinths, fish ponds, fruit trees,
exotics, rose trees and flower beds, which in the summer must
altogether have formed a lovely retreat. The inhabitants had fled from
the chateau, and all its windows, and doors, were flapping, and jarring
in the wind; the knapsacks were suspended in the gilded ornaments of
its mirrors, and the soldiers reposed on the silken covering of the
chairs and couches.

On the night of the 3rd of April, our division broke up from before
Toulouse, (the second division taking our station), crossed the
river Touch and marched northerly down the Garonne, as a corps of
communication between the right and left wings of the army—in
readiness to move to either flank.

On the morning of the 4th the left wing under Lord Beresford crossed
the Garonne, just above the town of Grenade, by a pontoon-bridge.

In the afternoon the rain came down in torrents, and the river was
so swollen and the current so strong, that the pontoon-bridge was
obliged to be taken up, and Lord Beresford was cut off with his corps
for four days on the right bank of the river, while the enemy had the
opportunity of attacking him, or debouching by the Faubourg de St.
Ciprien against him—of which they did not take advantage.

During these few days we obtained good shelter in the fine large
farm-houses with which the country abounded, every one of them having a
large round pigeon-house at the corner, (which was entered by a regular
door from the interior of the house); the swarms of pigeons were so
great, that they literally covered the whole face of the country. Here
we ate pigeon-pie, omelets, and eggs in profusion. "_Diable_," said the
French, "_comme les Anglais mangent des œufs!_"

On the 8th the bridge of boats being restored, we mounted our horses
to see a Spanish army cross; and a more bombastical display I never
beheld! The Spaniards crossed by companies: at the head of each
marched an officer with a drawn sword, (accompanied by a drummer),
and strutting in time to the tapping or roll of the drum; exclaiming,
while looking pompously over his shoulder, "_Vamos, guerréros!_" The
very bridge seemed to respond to such glorious appeals, for it rose and
fell with a gentle undulating motion, to the _rub dub, rub a dub_, of
Spain's martial drum.

As soon as these _Guerréros_ had formed column on the sod of
_Languedoc_, a heavy brigade of artillery passed the bridge, and one of
the cannon becoming stationary in the middle of it, one of the pontoons
nearly went under water; and, had not the drivers whipped and spurred
with all their might, in another instant, the boat would have been
swamped, and the gun would have dragged the horses and drivers into the
rapid and furious torrent.

The bridge was again taken up during the night, and, on the following
day, our division formed on a rising ground near Aussonne to be in
readiness to pass it; but, having waited nearly the whole day, the
Duke of Wellington quitted the spot extremely angry, leaving Sir Colin
Campbell to superintend the finishing of it.

At two o'clock on the morning of the 10th, our division crossed the
pontoon-bridge, and, bringing up our left shoulder near Fenoulhiet, six
miles from Toulouse the army marched in parallel columns on that place.

The country north of the town is flat, and on every side intersected
with rural cottages, enclosed by gardens, fruit trees, and small
plains, or fields of corn.

When within two miles of Toulouse, we could distinguish the black
columns of the enemy filing out of the town to the eastward, and
forming in order of battle on the _Terre de Cabade_, which was crowned
with redoubts, and constituted the _apex_ of their grand position
nearly three miles long, and extending in a southerly direction by
Calvinet, towards the road of Montauban. They also occupied with a
small body of troops and two pieces of light artillery, the detached
eminence of _la Borde de La Pugade_, for the purpose of watching the
movements on the left and centre of our army. This small hill was of
fallow ground, without hedges, trees, or entrenchments.

At the first view, the French army seemed to be formed from the right
bank of the Garonne, and resting their right flank on the detached
hill of _la Borde de la Pugade_, which, in reality, only formed a
dislocated elbow of their position. The ancient wall of the town was
lined by the enemy, being covered at a short distance by the royal
canal (which communicates with the Garonne), and runs in a half circle
round the north and west sides of Toulouse. Over it there were six
bridges, within five miles, occupied as _têtes-du-pont_; the three to
the southward being marked by the before-mentioned heights, which gave
the enemy an exceedingly strong position, and to embrace which it was
necessary to split our army into three distinct bodies, to be ready to
fight independently of each other—as follows:—

Lord Hill's corps was stationed on the left bank of the Garonne (to
coop up the enemy in the entrenched faubourg of St. Ciprien), but was
so completely cut off from the army destined to fight the battle,
owing to the river intervening, that the nearest communication with it
was, at least, sixteen miles by the pontoon bridge we had crossed in
the morning—although, as the bird flew, little more than two miles
from the right flank of the army, composed of four divisions, and a
corps of Spaniards which were destined to fight the battle. The right
wing consisted of the third and light divisions, the centre of the
Spaniards, and the left wing of the fourth and sixth divisions with the
great bulk of the cavalry, ready to shoot forward from the village of
Montblanc, to throw the enemy on two sides of a square.

At nine o'clock in the morning the forcing began on the Paris road near
a large building in front of the _tête-du-pont_, in the vicinity of
Graniague, by the third division with its right on the river Garonne.
The left brigade of the light division branched off to the right, to
make a sham attack opposite the _tête-de-pont_, near les Minimes, and
to keep up the link with the third division; while the first brigade
edged off to the left to support the Spaniards now moving forwards in
échelon on our left. While they were crossing a small rivulet, two of
the enemy's cannon fired on them from the detached eminence of _la
Borde de la Pugade_. As soon as the Spaniards had crossed the stream or
ditch, they rapidly advanced and drove the French from their advanced
post, behind which they formed in columns for the grand attack. At
this time a sprinkling musketry was kept up to our right by the third
division and our second brigade, while driving the enemy behind their

At eleven o'clock the Spaniards moved forward single-handed, to attack
the heights of la Pugade, under a heavy fire of musketry and grape
shot, which thinned their ranks and galled them sadly. The ground was
fallow, of a gentle ascent, without hedges or trees, so that every shot
told with a fatal precision. Notwithstanding this, they closed, and
kept onwards. The French position was a blaze of flashing cannon, and
sparkling musketry, and the iron balls were cutting through the fallow
ground, tearing up the earth and bounding wantonly through the country.
The fatal moment had arrived: the Spaniards could do no more: the
shouting of the French army was daggers to their hearts, and thunder to
their ears, and when within fifty yards of crowning all their hopes,
down went the head of their column, as if the earth had opened and
swallowed them up. A deep hollow road ran parallel with the enemy's
works, into which the affrighted column crowded. Terrible shelter!
for at this time the enemy sprang over their entrenchments, and stood
over their victims, pouring down the bullets on their devoted heads
with fatal precision, so that two thousand of them fell a prey to the
adversary, without destroying hardly any of their opponents; and, as if
in anticipation of such a result, the enemy had constructed a battery
of heavy calibre at the bridge of Montauban, which raked the road, and
ploughed up the heaps of the living and the dead—the former crawling
under the latter to screen themselves for a few short moments from the
merciless effects of the enemy's projectiles.

The rear of the Spaniards now closed up, and, stretching their necks
over the brink of the fatal gulf, they turned about and fled like
chaff before the wind, amid the volume and dense clouds of rolling
smoke majestically floating in the air, as if to veil from the enemy
the great extent of their triumph.

As soon as the fugitives could be scraped together in a lump, they
once again moved forward to make a second attack, led on by a group
of Spanish officers, on foot, and on horseback. The shot levelled
them to the earth, without any chance of success: the disorganized
column once more stood in a mass on the bank of the fatal hollow
road, by this means bringing all the enemy's fire to a focus; but
at the sight of the mangled bodies of their dying comrades, their
last sparks of courage forsook them, and they fled from the field,
heedless of the exhortations of many of their officers, who showed an
example worthy of their ancient renown. The French again bounded over
their entrenchments, and at full run came round the left flank of the
disconcerted Spaniards (at a point where the road was not so deep), and
plied them with more bullets, nor ceased to follow them, until they
were stopped by the fire of a brigade of guns, (supported by a regiment
of English heavy dragoons), and attacked on their left flank by the
rifle corps, supported by our brigade. This movement prevented them
from cutting asunder and separating the two wings of our army.

The enemy, finding that they had totally defeated the Spaniards,
immediately moved a body of troops to make head against the _fourth_
and _sixth divisions_, and cavalry, which were now moving along the
river Ers, parallel with the heights of Calvanet, before bringing up
their left shoulders to attack that position; but, owing to the marshy
state of the ground, the troops were much impeded on their march.

After the repulse of the Spaniards, the battle almost ceased, with the
exception of an irregular musketry-fire amongst the detached houses
bordering the canal. During this pause in the grand event, several of
us fell asleep (under the gentle rays of an April sun), from want of
rest, having been under arms all the previous day, and marching nearly
the whole of the night.

How long I enjoyed this slumber I cannot say, for a round shot
whizzing, close over my head, caused me hastily to start on my feet.
For a few seconds, I almost fancied I was at a review, or dreaming of
it, for the right wing of the British army were within less than cannon
range opposite the left wing of the enemy, whose bright arms and brazen
eagles glistened on the venerable towers of Toulouse.

Soon after this, we descried an officer of our regiment, (who was an
extra aide-de-camp to Gen. Baron Alten) riding at the base of the
enemy's position, and turning and twisting his horse at full speed,
which induced us to imagine that he was wounded, and no longer able to
manage the animal, which appeared to be running away with him. Suddenly
he fell from his saddle to the ground, and the horse made a dead stop.
Of course we thought he was killed, when, to our great surprise, he
remounted, and came towards us at a canter with a hare in his arms,
that he had ridden down.

In the middle of the day, the sixth division crossed the valley
opposite the heights of Calvanet; and the interchanged cannon shots,
and the forked musketry, rattled without intermission. At length, amid
charges of cavalry and sanguinary fighting (for the enemy marched down
the hill to meet them,) this division gained the French position, and
took a redoubt, which, however, they could hardly maintain, owing to
the great loss they had sustained in moving up the hill; for, while
struggling with the enemy's infantry in front, their second line had
been charged by the French horse[24].

During this part of the combat the fourth division was edging off by
an oblique march to its left, to turn the enemy's right flank near the
road of Montauban, which manœuvre greatly enhanced the victory on this
hard-fought day.

The French several times returned to the charge on the _plateau_, and
made a most desperate attempt at four o'clock in the afternoon to
retake the great redoubt in the centre, but without effect.

Owing to this failure the French quietly evacuated the redoubts on the
left of their position on the canal, on the heights of _Terre Cabade_,
and their whole army retired behind the _têtes-du-pont_, and the
faubourg of St. Etienne.

On the following day the Duke of Dalmatia held the town hemmed in
almost on every side; but, as there was not any firing, an officer and
myself rode towards the road where the Spaniards had been repulsed.
Its steep banks were at least twenty-five feet in depth, with two or
three narrow pathways by which the Spaniards had descended in hopes of
obtaining a little shelter. This spot was strewed with heaps of the
slain, piled on the top of each other in strange confusion, many having
tumbled over the precipitous banks, and remaining stuck on the twisted
bayonets on whose points they had fallen. Death here appeared in every
possible shape; some were jammed in the crowd, and propped up in an
erect posture against the bank; others were standing on their heads,
or sprawling with legs and arms spread out to their fullest extent.
Almost the whole of the cadaverous dead were without caps, which in
the _mêlée_ had been knocked off, and were intermixed with knapsacks,
breast-plates, broken arms, bayonets, and swords. A mournful silence
reigned around. No voice broke on the stillness that reigned over the
lacerated remains of the swarthy Spaniards!

While looking down on these inanimate objects swept off by the scythe
of war, I noticed a naked man lying on his back at my feet: as there
was no appearance of any wound about his person, we were lost in
conjectures as to the probable cause of his death. A Spaniard who
stood by was so overcome with curiosity, that he laid hold of the dead
man's hair; but, to his inexpressible wonder the head was as light
as a feather, for it now appeared, that a cannon ball had struck him
sideways, leaving nothing of the head remaining but the scalp and face.
The sight was too horrible to look upon, and we hastily remounted our
horses, and returned from this melancholy spectacle. While riding
over the field of battle, the motion of a horse is the most gentle and
easy to be fancied: the animals cock their ears, snort, look down, and
plant their feet with a light and springing motion, as if fearful of
trampling on the dead soldiers.

The heights of the Terre Cabade and Calvanet are free from trees or
hedges, and have two hollow roads cutting through the middle of them,
which protected the French from our cavalry. The banks of these roads
are so steep, and at the same time so imperceptible, that a whole
brigade of dragoons at a canter might be swallowed up without any
previous warning. Many dead horses lay in this hollow way, with their
lifeless riders thrown to a distance, maimed, bruised, or with broken

The ascent in front of this position is very steep, but southerly;
where the fourth division attacked, it is of a gentle acclivity.

The bodies of the soldiers of the sixth division lay very thick,
in front of the heights of Calvanet, and also round a fort of the
_maison des Augustins_. Here the Highlanders and English soldiers
were intermixed with the French. The town of Toulouse lay nearly
within point blank range on the west of these heights, from whence we
could see the enemy's columns under arms at the _têtes-du-pont_ which
protected the various bridges across the canal. They were in a manner
besieged in the town, as the only road left open to them was by a
narrow strip of land south of Toulouse, between the canal and the river

On the night of the 11th the enemy retreated towards Carcassone, taking
the road by St. Aigne, Montgiscard, Baziege, and Ville-franche, to

[Footnote 24: It will always be a matter of surprise to me, how the
sixth division managed to carry the front of so formidable a position
almost single-handed. The following day, while passing over the range
of heights, the firelocks of one of its brigades were piled, and I
counted only five hundred, out of eighteen hundred stand effective on
the morning of the battle. Both brigades suffered enormously in killed
and wounded.]


                              AN ACCOUNT
                                OF THE
                       BRITISH CAMPAIGN OF 1809,
                      UNDER SIR ARTHUR WELLESLEY,
                        IN PORTUGAL AND SPAIN:

                         THE EARL OF MUNSTER.


The following Narrative of one of the most brilliant and important
Campaigns of the British Army on the Peninsula, was originally
published, in parts, (commencing in May 1829) in the United Service
Journal, under the head of "A revised Journal of an Officer on the
Staff of the Army." Though anonymous, it was soon discovered by
internal evidence to be the production of Colonel Fitzclarence—now
Earl of Munster,—who served throughout the whole of the Peninsular
Campaigns, with the exception of that of 1812, when he returned to
England on promotion.

Yielding, in point of fidelity and spirit, to no existing Record of the
Events of which it treats, this soldier-like Sketch is reprinted in a
complete form, as a valuable addition to the Military Memoirs of The
British Army.—EDITOR.


On the 18th of January, 1809, when the last transport, containing the
rear guard of Sir. J. Moore's army, sailed from the harbour of Corunna,
the British little foresaw that the Peninsula was still to be the arena
for their conquests and renown. None were so sanguine as to hope that
their splendid successes and example should yet cause Europe to regain
the moral feelings she had lost under the long victorious career of
France, or that the latter country was finally to sink under their

Neither did Buonaparte suspect, when halting on the confines of the
Galician mountains, and leaving to Soult the easy task of "driving the
leopard into the sea," that his legions were soon to be checked and
defeated; or that his vaunted representation of the broken-hearted
and dismayed state of the British army, should, by the repulse of
his troops within a few days after in a set battle, become a severe
reflection on the conduct of his own soldiery. Neither Soult nor the
Frenchmen under his command could have supposed, at the same period,
how early the fate of war would create a total reverse in their
hitherto prosperous campaigns; or that their corps, which had led the
advance to Corunna, should soon become the _pursued_, and in a retreat
not less disastrous than that they had just witnessed. But Buonaparte
ever miscalculated, and at this time was wholly unacquainted with, the
perseverance of our national character, or the power of England; and
when he compared her apparent means with those of France, by showing
she had not a million of infantry or one hundred thousand cavalry to
oppose her rival, he had to learn the extent of her vast and boundless
resources, and the determined character of her people.[25]

When this boastful and triumphant comparison was made, the ruler of
France little feared that the refutation of England's inadequacy
to cope with his power would be proved within seven years, by her
hurling him from the throne, and leading him a captive at her chariot
wheels, or that he should end his days in one of her distant colonies,
in confinement and obscurity! Buonaparte thus considering the army
expelled from Spain as the utmost extent of the means and exertion of
the English as a military people, hastily concluded that they could not
again appear on the continent. He naturally deduced from this, that the
subjection of both Spain and Portugal was the inevitable consequence of
his success in Galicia, and that it only required the time necessary
for their occupation to secure them under Gallic sway.[26]

But how uncertain are the results of human calculation! At the moment
when Buonaparte thought the Peninsula at his feet, the seeds of
discontent sown by that restless ambition, which was urging him on
to his ruin, began to develope themselves in a distant nation. Their
growth to maturity was as rapid as opportune, and created a powerful
diversion in favour of those countries to the southward suffering under
his yoke.

The perhaps necessary employment of the French nation, and of the
military feeling and spirit grown up since the revolution, which
Napoleon fostered, had twice, previously to his invasion of Spain,
caused him to direct his conquests against his most powerful military

The last campaign of 1806 left the family of Hapsburg indignant at
their reverses, and on their vanquisher becoming entangled by his
unjust aggression of Spain, they hoped a fit opportunity was offered
for redeeming their character and importance in Europe. If the bold
advance of Sir J. Moore into the heart of Spain, and his demonstration
on Carrion, had made Buonaparte direct the most considerable portion
of his armies on the front or flanks of the English, thus interrupting
for a time, in other quarters, the rapidity of conquest, not less did
the Austrian declaration of war, drawing off a portion of the resources
of France, tend materially to the ultimate advantage of the rightful
cause. Buonaparte was not only personally arrested from overrunning
Spain by his return to France, but from directing a just combination
among his dispersed marshals, which circumstance fortunately allowed
England to regain a firm footing in the Peninsula, and, by the events
of the succeeding campaign, an opportunity of renewing a good feeling
and confidence in the people. Considering the reorganized Austrian as
a more dangerous enemy than the broken Spaniards or expelled English,
Buonaparte, on withdrawing from Astorga, only passed through Madrid,
and returned to Paris. He, however, left (with the exception of the
Imperial Guard, about 15,000 of whom had accompanied him across
the Pyrenees,) his armies entire, under the command of his various
marshals, to complete the subjugation of Spain.

Of these eight _corps d'armée_, (each equal to the whole British army
in Spain in 1809,) which had crossed the frontier, five had co-operated
directly or otherwise against Sir J. Moore. The sixth, commanded
by the gallant Ney, was ordered to remain in and reduce to control
Galicia and the Asturias. The fourth, under Mortier, with a vast body
of cavalry commanded by Kellerman, was to overawe Leon and Castille;
while Victor, with the first corps, was at once to complete the ruin
of the beaten Spanish armies, and to threaten the line of the Tagus,
the south of Portugal, and eventually its capital. The eighth corps,
which had, under Junot, served in 1807-8 in Portugal, and according to
the convention of Cintra been carried to Rochelle, and subsequently
recrossed Spain, and met their old antagonists before Corunna, was
broken up, and its _débris_ added to the second corps under Soult.[27]

This force was intended to take the active part of the campaign against
Portugal, which country was to be immediately attacked, the orders to
that effect being received within ten days after the embarkation of the
British. So certain was Buonaparte of Soult's conquest, that he fixed
the 5th of February for the arrival of his troops at Oporto—and the
16th of the same month for his triumphant entrance into Lisbon!

The army under Soult consisted of 23,500 men, of which 4,000 were
cavalry, divided into ten regiments. It was accompanied by fifty-six
pieces of cannon. Besides these troops, a division under Gen. Lapisse
was to be pushed south from Salamanca to invade Portugal, by the way of
Almeida, at the same time becoming a point of communication between the
corps of Victor and Soult.

The army of the latter General advanced to the southward, through
Galicia, by several routes, but the principal part, with the artillery,
marched through St. Jago. His directions were to invade Portugal along
the sea-coast, and, with that view, he attempted to cross the Minho at
Tuy, but failing, was forced to proceed up the right bank of the river
as far as Orense, where he crossed that barrier. Besides the great loss
of time from this disappointment and change of route, the army was much
detained by the opposition of the peasantry and the remains of Romana's
dispersed army, and it was only on the 10th of March it was able to
enter Portugal, by the valley of the Tamega.

Though Soult met considerable opposition from Gen. Silveira,[28] the
French army reached and captured Chaves on the 12th, and Braga on
the 20th, after defeating a corps of Portuguese troops under Baron
Eben; and nine days subsequently, forced the entrenched lines covering
Oporto, having been more than seven times longer on their march than
had been calculated by Buonaparte. The next day Gen. Franceschi, with
several regiments of cavalry, was pushed on to the banks of the Vouga,
where he established his posts opposite those of Col. Trant, who had
collected a few troops and ordenança, and a corps of volunteers,
formed of the students of the University of Coimbra, who gave up their
literary pursuits for the defence of their country. The division of
Gen. Mermet was cantoned in Villa Nova, with the 31st regiment in its
front in support of the cavalry. Soult's corps had been diminished
upwards of 3,000 men within the two months occupied in its march,
having left great numbers of sick at Chaves and Braga. Although it
had overcome all opposition, its chief found himself in an isolated
position, shut out from all intercourse with the other French corps,
and his difficulties increasing every day, as he was obliged to
separate and detach a considerable portion of his force to subdue the
country, and attempt to open his communication with Lapisse.

But, however insecure and critical his post, it was likely to become
more immediately endangered by the activity of the British, whose
Government, far from being discouraged at the result of the preceding
year, was employed in preparation for a hearty prosecution of the
contest. At the moment the British army withdrew from Corunna, the
troops left in the Peninsula, including a brigade under Brigadier-Gen.
Cameron, (which had advanced to the north-east frontier of Portugal,)
the 14th Light Dragoons, and the sick, convalescents, and stragglers
of Sir J. Moore's army, did not consist of above 7,000 men, under the
command of Sir J. Craddock, at Lisbon. The want of information was
great, and the state of alarm so exaggerated, that the advance of the
French on that capital was daily expected. The artillery and cavalry
were embarked, and the forts of St. Julien and Bugio dismantled, to
prevent their guns being turned upon the ships while withdrawing from
the Tagus.

The Portuguese felt the danger in which their country was placed,
and the Regency called upon the people to rise _en masse_. They had
little else than the populace to oppose the invader, as the same
principle which had instigated the march of the Spanish corps under
Romana to Denmark, had been acted upon with the only respectable part
of the Portuguese army. These had been sent into France under the
Marquis de Lorna, and suffered a harder fate than the Spanish troops,
the greater part of whom, by aid of the English fleet, returned to
fight their country's battles, while the miserable remnant of the
Portuguese perished at Moscow, under the appellation of the "_Légion
Portugaise_." The remaining regular troops were scarcely to be
considered as organized, and those under Silveira, though actuated by
the best spirit, were little better than the rest. One regiment of two
battalions, called the Lusitanian legion, raised by Sir R. Wilson at
Oporto, was an exception to the general inefficiency, it having made
considerable progress in discipline and order. Sir Robert had proceeded
with the first battalion to the frontier opposite Ciudad Rodrigo, while
the other, under Baron Eben, had been engaged in the defence of the
Tras os Montes, and in the entrenchments around Oporto.

But this inefficient army had a probability of being regenerated.
Scarce had the fleet returned from Corunna, when the British Government
evinced its conviction that the Spanish and Portuguese cause was not
hopeless, and, with a view to make the latter aid in their own defence,
sent General Beresford with twelve or fourteen officers from England to
re-organize and form their army. This determination being made so soon
afterwards, and before the despondency of the failure at Corunna had
worn off, was much ridiculed at the time as being too late, and doubts
were expressed if Lisbon would not be in the possession of the enemy
before they could reach the Tagus. This anticipation was not confirmed
by events, and, with the rank of a Portuguese Marshal, General
Beresford, on the 13th of March, issued a spirited address to that
nation, in which he assured them, that they only required organization
and discipline to make them equal to face the invader. How just were
the Marshal's ideas of their latent martial character, is to be learned
from their brilliant conduct in the ensuing war. Much, however, was to
be done to raise from degradation the military profession in Portugal.
Perhaps in no age or country had it fallen so low. Even among the
Chinese, where civil and literary celebrity is ever sought before that
of arms, it was never so despised, as it had been among our faithful
allies since the war of succession.

In 1762-3, La Lippe had been called in by the Marquis de Pombal, who
formed the army into twenty-four regiments of infantry, twelve of
cavalry, and four of artillery, and which had continued, at least
nominally, till the arrival of Junot. Few of his regulations were
permanent or long respected. During the whole of the latter half of
the eighteenth century, in all the short successive wars, though
occasionally invigorated by fresh disciplinarians from foreign
countries, the Portuguese army never rose above mediocrity. It is
true, but few opportunities were offered of trial, but in 1801, at
Arronches, the scandalous panic that seized the corps commanded by the
Duke d'Alafoes, made them to be considered worse than contemptible. Not
that the people required either physical or moral qualities, as might
be easily proved from their conflicts with the Spaniards: having ever
placed themselves at least upon an equality, in courage and conduct,
with their neighbours. The French, in their progress through the Tras
os Montes, drew a favourable comparison of their bravery with that of
the Spaniards, while it was impossible to see the peasantry and not be
convinced of their bodily strength and capability of bearing fatigue.

The difficulty of creating a Portuguese army lay not with the men
but with the officers, who had sunk so low in the estimation of the
country, of themselves, and of their men, as to be little superior to
the degrading and menial offices, (as when La Lippe arrived in 1792,)
they once filled, of servants in the houses of the nobility. No cause
of improvement had offered itself since those disgraceful times, which
had naturally placed them on terms of the greatest familiarity and
equality with their men. It was no uncommon spectacle to find them in
a common _cabaret_ gambling, if not cheating the soldiers out of the
pay they had just made over to them. It was not less to counteract
this deteriorating cause, than to organize the soldiers, that Gen.
Beresford had taken officers with him from England, whose numbers were
subsequently greatly increased. Those who accompanied him in the first
instance, and some who afterwards joined him, were, with the view to
place British Captains in command of battalions, first raised a step
of rank in their own service, and received another in that of the
Portuguese, when appointed to regiments.

The Marshal established his head-quarters at Thomar, and fairly
grappled with all the prominent difficulties, and, aided by the
example and conduct of the officers placed under his orders, at once
did away the causes of the want of respect and confidence of the men.
The interior economy was strictly investigated, and the regiments
made efficient, not only by British arms and equipments, but by being
subsidized to fight their own battles by the money of England.

Without going farther into detail, it will be sufficient to remark,
that the arrangement and system of the Marshal were so good, and
improvement so rapid in the Portuguese army, that within two months
from the date of his first order, a battalion of the 16th regiment was
brought into collision with the enemy; and if it did not distinguish
itself as much as it did on so many subsequent occasions, it evinced
neither confusion nor dismay. Eighteen months after, the general
conduct of the whole Portuguese army was marked by traits of discipline
and bravery, and even of individual gallantry, which continued on the
increase to the end of the war, and which were most unquestionably
shown on many subsequent occasions, by overthrowing the veterans of
France with the bayonet.

The twenty-four regiments of the line formed by La Lippe had been
broken into two battalions each in 1797, and were continued at that
establishment; as were the twelve regiments of cavalry, of which
not above one-third had been ever mounted. The artillery was placed
under British officers, as well as the other arms. To this the whole
population was to be added, though as irregulars or _ordenanza_, rather
than militia. This force was increased in the course of the next
year, by six regiments of Caçadores, which were, at a later period
during the war, doubled, on their value being duly appreciated. But
England was not less active in sending reinforcements of her own troops
to the Peninsula. Doubts had been once entertained, whether future
operations should be carried on from the south of Spain, rather than
from Portugal; and the first convoy of troops was directed to Cadiz.
On its reaching that port, the besotted Spaniards hesitated, as they
had the year before when Sir D. Baird arrived at Corunna, respecting
the disembarkation of the troops. After some futile negotiations, and
(in consequence of the slow advance of the French,) in the revived hope
of saving Lisbon, the British troops fortunately passed to the latter
place, as the frontier statistics of Portugal are better calculated for
military operations than those of Andalusia.

The first reinforcement that reached the Tagus early in March was
commanded by Lieut.-Gen. Sherbrooke, which was followed in the
beginning of April by another, under Major-Gen. Hill, together
increasing the army to 13,000 men. The arrival allayed much the fears,
and not only allowed Sir J. Craddock to take up a position out of
Lisbon, and cover the great roads that led upon it, with the right on
Santarem, and the left on the Sea, but even to contemplate offensive
operations, and in the middle of April to push the army in advance
towards the North.

In the mean time, the administration at home had determined to give the
command of the army for the defence of Portugal to the same general
officer who had so successfully attacked it the year before, and,
in order to make room for him, Sir J. Craddock was appointed to be
Governor of Gibraltar.

Sir A. Wellesley sailed on the 16th of April on board the Surveillant,
Sir George Collier, from Portsmouth, to which place or to England he
did not again return, until 1814, as Duke of Wellington, when, on his
first arrival from the south of France, his Grace proceeded direct to
the same town—where the Prince Regent was showing to the Emperor of
Russia and the King of Prussia the arsenal and fleet.

The same night the frigate was nearly lost off St. Catherine's Head in
the Isle of Wight: so imminent was the danger, and so close the ship
to the breakers, that Sir G. Collier desired Sir Arthur to dress, and,
thinking the loss of the vessel certain, advised him to stay by the
wreck as long as possible, this being considered a more probable means
of escape than a premature attempt to reach the shore. The frigate
missed stays more than once: but a fortunate start of wind off the
land prevented her wreck.[29] Even had all escaped with life, but for
this shift of wind, (or rather the never failing happy destiny of Sir
Arthur, who might have desired Sir G. Collier not to despair, while he
had not Cæsar, but Wellesley and his fortunes on board) much valuable
time would have been lost, not only as to striking the blow at Soult,
but by allowing fresh combinations between the distant French Marshals,
and perhaps not giving the opportunity of opposing them in detail.

The entrance of the Surveillant into the Tagus was an interesting
event, when, at a distance of twenty years, it was considered, that
she bore in her bosom the regeneration of England's military fame,
and that Europe was to date from it the positive commencement of that
formidable and permanent position taken up by our armies, which allowed
its nations to breathe, and subsequently, by our victories over the
common enemy, to break the spell of gloomy conviction, becoming daily
universal, that the French armies were invincible.

Sir Arthur's landing at Lisbon on the 22nd of April was strongly marked
by the gratifying expression of the people's feeling; they hailed him
as their former deliverer, and evinced their gratitude by illuminating
the city during his stay. On the 25th Sir J. Craddock, in a farewell
address, bade adieu to the army, and two days subsequently Sir Arthur
took the command, and in his first order changed its staff, placing
Brig.-Gen. Stewart at the head of the Adj.-General's, and Col. Murray,
3d Guards, at that of the Quarter-master General's department. The
same day his Excellency went in procession with the royal carriages,
escorted by a squadron of the 16th dragoons, to be introduced to
the Regency, at the palace of the Inquisition in the Roçio, on his
receiving from them the rank of Marshal General.

The state of affairs in the Peninsula at this time was neither
satisfactory nor encouraging. Although Buonaparte had withdrawn from
Spain, his legions, which had passed through Madrid, and witnessed
the replacing Joseph on the throne, had subsequently overthrown all
the Spanish armies. The advanced guard of the Duke del Infantado's
army under Vanegas had been beaten at Ucles in January, and the army
of Cartojal had met a defeat at Ciudad Real. Cuesta, with the main
Spanish army, after retiring across the Tagus, and taking position at
Almaraz, had allowed his flank to be turned by the bridge of Arzobispo,
and was forced, in consequence, to retreat across the Guadiana, when,
at Medellin on its banks, he was on the 28th of March completely
routed, through the bad conduct of his cavalry. His infantry, who
from their behaviour on this occasion deserved a better fate, were
so completely,—not at the mercy, for none was shown, but—in the
power of the enemy's cavalry, that their horsemen were worn out with
slaughtering their easily routed victims; and it was reported, many
wore their arms for several days in slings, from having had such
opportunity of using their sabres. The remnant of the Spanish army
took refuge in the Sierra Morena, where attempts were made to recruit
the infantry—the dastardly cavalry, not less disgraced in the action
by their conduct, than after by the General's notice of it, scarcely
requiring a man. While so little aid was to be expected for the
British from these broken armies, Victor was left with 22,000 men,
in a position threatening the weakest part of Portugal, and, by the
existence of the bridge of Alcantara, both banks of the Tagus.

But in the mean time, Soult's position at Oporto had become more
critical every day. Vigo had surrendered to the Spaniards, aided by
some English ships, while Silveira had retaken Chaves, with 1,300
sick, and had continued his advance by Amarante to Penafiel. Lapisse
had advanced as far as Ciudad Rodrigo, but, on finding himself opposed
by Sir R. Wilson and the Spanish troops, he made no attempt to
communicate with or join Soult, and, after a little skirmishing, passed
on to join Victor on the Tagus. Soult's communications were thus wholly
destroyed, and his force had been much dispersed in trying to make them
good; not less than between six and 7000 men having been sent into the
valley of the Tamega and other points. But, although Marshal Soult had
not above half the number of men collected at Oporto that Victor's army
consisted of, still the British army was not strong enough to oppose
both at once. It became necessary, therefore, to act with vigour on one
point, and the former army being the weakest, and in the Portuguese
territory, while its retreat was endangered, drew the more immediate
attention of the British General. Lest Victor should be enabled to
advance to the south of the Tagus, Sir Arthur lost no time at Lisbon,
and, after a stay of but six days, set out on the 23d for the army,
part of which had arrived at Coimbra. All the towns were illuminated
on the road, and on his Excellency's arrival at Coimbra on the 2d, in
addition to other demonstrations of joy, the ladies from the balconies
covered him with roses and sugar-plums!

The army was brigaded anew on the 4th of May.



  14th Light Dragoons.
  20th  —      —
  16th  —      —
   3rd  —      —  King's G. L^n.



   2 Battalions of Guards.
   1 Comp. 5 Batt. 60th Regt.

  _First Brigade._


   3rd or Buffs
  66th Regiment.
  48th    —
   1 Comp. 5 Batt. 60th Regt.

  _Third Brigade._


   5 Comp. 5 Batt. 60 Regt.
  88th Regiment.
   1 Batt. Port^{se}. Grenadiers.
  87th Regiment.

  _Fifth Brigade._


   7th Fusileers.
   1 Batt. 10th Port^{se}. Regt.
  53rd Regiment.
   1 Comp. 5 Batt. 60th Regt.

  _Seventh Brigade._


   9th Regiment
   2nd Batt. 10th Port^{se}. Regt.
  83rd Regiment
   1 Comp. 5 Batt. 60th Regt.

  _Sixth Brigade._


   1st Batt. Detachments.
   1st Batt. 16th Port^{se}. Regt.
  29th Regiment.

  _Fourth Brigade._


   2nd Batt. Detachments.
   1st. Batt. 16th Port^{se}. Regt.
  79th Regiment.
   1 Comp. 5 Batt. 60th Regt.

  _Second Brigade._


  27th Regiment
  45th    —
  31st    —

  _King's German Legion._


   1 Brigade (2 Regiments)
   2 Brigade (2 Regiments)

It was subsequently divided into wings under Lieut.-Gens. Sherbrooke
and Paget, and the cavalry placed under Lieut.-Gen. Payne. The same
reasons that pressed the departure of the Commander of the Forces from
Lisbon, accelerated the preparations of the campaign, and advance upon
Oporto. A few days' delay were, however, necessary to complete the
arrangements, according to the following plan of operations. While
Sir A. advanced with the main force of the army on the enemy's front,
a corps that quitted Coimbra on the 5th, was intended to move on
the enemy's left flank and rear. This was to be under the orders of
Marshal Beresford, and consisted of Maj.-Gen. Tilson's brigade, and
some cavalry. It was ordered to direct its march on Viseu, and across
the Douro, to co-operate with Silveira. This officer was unfortunately
driven from Amarante on the 2d of May, the enemy thus opening to
themselves a practicable route for carriage to the eastern frontier.
Lisbon was to be covered during these northern operations by a corps of
observation, under Maj.-Gen. M'Kenzie, to watch Victor. It was posted
at Santarem, consisting of the General's own brigade, a brigade of
British heavy cavalry, and 7,000 Portuguese. In his front at Alcantara,
was Col. Mayne, with a battallion of the Lusitanian legion.

On the 6th, opportunity was taken of inspecting that portion of the
army around Coimbra, on some sands two miles from the town. The British
troops appeared in excellent order, and the Portuguese regiments,
though not so soldier-like as their allies, looked better than was
expected, as it was the fashion of the day to hold them in utter
contempt. Their dark olive complexions, and blue single-breasted coats,
gave them a _sombre_ appearance when in contrast with our countrymen,
and it could not be denied that the comparison was to the advantage
of the latter. It was a fine sight, although of the 21,000 British in
Portugal, only 17,000 were present, on account of the two detachment

On the 7th, part of these troops advanced in two columns on the main
roads towards Oporto, by Adiha on the Vouga, and by the bay of Aveiro
to Ovar. On the 9th, the remainder of the army and head quarters
quitted Coimbra in the same direction. The advance of the French under
Gen. Franceschi had remained on the Vouga, and arrangements were
made for surprising it on the 10th.[31] If the success of this _coup
d'essai_ was to be taken as a sample of our future proceedings, it
would have been unfortunate, as, between the neighing of the horses of
the Portuguese cavalry, and the stupidity of the guides, the enemy were
prepared, and the whole was a complete failure. But for the withdrawing
of the French, and the capture of two four-pounders, we had little to
boast in the scrambling skirmish it produced. We advanced to the spot
where they had been encamped, which was as much chosen for beauty of
situation as strength. We had here the first instance of the trouble
the French took in embellishing their camps; in the centre of the front
they were erecting a pretty wooden obelisk.

On the following day the army advanced on the great northern road, and,
about twelve o'clock, a squadron of the enemy was seen on the skirts
of a wood, in front of a little village. On some three-pounders and
our cavalry advancing against them, they fell back, but showed some
infantry, and our light troops were directed to attack them. This
produced some skirmishing as we continued to advance. The country
was much inclosed; the enemy clung longer to their ground than was
expected, as we only supposed it an affair of posts; but a column of
infantry on a height over the village of Grijon soon convinced us that
it was at least a strong advanced guard. The road here crossed a ridge
of hills, at right angles, covered with olives and fir woods, which
offered a strong position. The ground was not ill chosen, though the
left was without any _appui_. Brigadier Gen. Stewart's brigade formed
in line to the support of the 16th Portuguese regiment, acting as
skirmishers on the left of the road, while the German light infantry
were engaged on the right. The four battalions of the German legion
brought their left shoulders up, and marched diagonally across to turn
the left, the enemy's weak point. The skirmishing was very sharp in the
woods, and the 29th regiment was forced to support the Portuguese, who
were once obliged to fall back. At this moment they pushed a column
of infantry down the road through the village of Grijon, which being
reported to Sir Arthur, he replied in the most quiet manner, "If they
come any farther, order the battalion of detachments to charge them
with the bayonet."

The officers of the staff, many of them at that time young soldiers,
could not help evincing strong feeling on hearing the simple and
distinct manner in which this order was given; but before some months
had passed over their heads, they had opportunities of not only
hearing, but seeing them carried into execution. On this occasion the
alternative mentioned by Sir Arthur did not occur, as, on their flank
being turned, and finding our whole force on their front, about two
o'clock they retired from their position. Our guns were brought up to
bear upon them in their retreat, Brig.-Gen. Stewart put himself at
the head of two squadrons, and trotted after the enemy, who withdrew
their troops with astonishing rapidity. The country was much inclosed
and intersected, and, on nearing the enemy's rear guard, the cavalry
entered a deep ravine, closely wooded. The French lined the sides
with their light infantry, who opened a close and sharp fire, which,
for a moment, created some confusion, and checked the advance; but on
coming in sight of five companies, drawn up in line in a wider space,
by the exertion and example of the General, the latter led them to the
charge, broke through the enemy, and made above one hundred prisoners.
This rapid movement threw the 31st French regiment off the road of
retreat, and they fell back on Ovar, where finding Maj.-Gen. Hill,
they withdrew, after some skirmishing, to Oporto, during the night.
Thus ended the operations of this day, which were beautiful in their
prosecution and satisfactory in the result.

The enemy's corps (besides the cavalry engaged the day before on the
Vouga,) consisted of 4 or 5,000 infantry of the division of Mermet,
which had been pushed on to this ground from Villa Nova on the 8th, on
Soult's hearing of our probable advance. It was the 47^e _de ligne_
that was charged on the retreat, and however valiantly they may have
acted, they cannot be praised for prudence or judgment in forming a
line to receive cavalry.[32] Instead of this, had they vaulted over the
enclosures, or scrambled up the banks, they might have killed every man
of the cavalry without endangering a soldier. One of the privates was
very loud in his attempts to draw notice, and by his vociferation, that
he was the son of a marquis, proved the aristocratic feeling not quite
deadened by the revolution, though the conscription had reached and
levelled all ranks of society. Our loss was under one hundred men: one
officer of the 16th Dragoons received no less than three balls, though
happily none proved mortal.

Our first progress to the front, on the morning of the 12th, showed us
the horrors produced by a war of invasion. Beyond Grijon nine bodies
of unfortunate Portuguese peasants were seen hanging on trees by the
side of the road, blackened in the sun. The common people, naturally
considering the enemy as _hors de la loi_, sought every means, open or
otherwise, for their destruction. This brought on them that retaliation
produced by the military ideas of a regular army, who conceived they
had only a right to be opposed by _soldiers_, and not by the unclothed
and unorganized population. These they considered as insurgents and
brigands, and shot and hung, with as little compassion as we should a
burglar. The exasperation of the French was not wholly uncalled-for,
as the atrocities committed on the stragglers and sick were horrible,
amounting often, besides shocking lingering deaths, to frightful

A hair-dresser who escaped from Oporto in the night, had brought in,
soon after daybreak, the intelligence that the enemy had destroyed
the bridge of boats over the Douro at one o'clock; and the still more
disagreeable information, that all the boats were secured on the other
side the Douro. On the fugitive barber being taken to Sir Arthur by
Colonel Waters of the Adjutant General's Department, that officer was
instructed to proceed immediately to the banks of the river, and
directed to procure boats, _coute qui coute_.

As we advanced on the high road to Oporto, this report of the
destruction of the bridge was confirmed, and doubts came fast and
thick upon us, respecting the passage of the Douro in the face of an
enemy. On our arrival at Villa Nova, we found General Hill's brigade
arrived from Ovar, and with the troops of the centre column choking the
streets; through these Sir Arthur threaded his way, and took post on
the right of the town in the garden of the convent of Sierra. From this
elevated spot the whole city was visible, like a panorama, and nothing
that passed within it could be hidden from the view of the British
general. The French guards and sentries were seen in the various parts
of the town, but no bustle was evinced, or even apparent curiosity. No
groups were noticed looking at us, which was afterwards accounted for,
by learning that the French were ordered to remain in their quarters
ready to turn out, and the Portuguese not allowed to appear beyond the
walls of their houses. There were a few sentries in the quays, but none
without the limits or above the town. A line of baggage discovered
retiring beyond the town across the distant hills, was the sole
indication of our threatening neighbourhood.

The passage of a river in the front of an enemy is allowed to be the
most difficult of military operations; and when it became obvious, from
the collection of boats on the other bank, that precautions had been
taken to secure them from us, the barrier appeared insurmountable.
General Murray had been directed to march in the morning to try and
cross the river, about five miles up at Aventas, but having only four
battalions and two squadrons, unless we could aid his successful
passage, he would lie open to defeat; and in consequence our anxiety
was very great to establish ourselves on the opposite bank. In the
meanwhile Colonel Waters (who has since become so distinguished for
his intelligence and activity) had passed up the left bank of the
river, searching for means to cross it, and about two miles above the
city, found a small boat lying in the mud. The peasantry demurred at
going over to the other side to procure some larger boats seen on
the opposite bank; but the Colonel, (from speaking Portuguese like a
native,) learned that the Prior of Amarante was not distant from the
spot, and hoped by his influence to attain his object. This patriotic
priest, on learning the desire of the British, joined with Colonel
Waters in inducing the peasants, after some persuasion, to accompany
the Colonel across, who brought back four boats.

When our doubts and fears were at the highest, this agreeable
information arrived, and was received by all with the greatest
satisfaction, while three companies of the Buffs, accompanied by
General Paget, were immediately conveyed to the other side.

The spot at which they passed over and landed was about half a mile
above the city, at the foot of a steep cliff, up which a zigzag road,
or winding path, led to a vast unfinished brick-building, standing on
the brink. This was intended as a new residence for the bishop, and
placed in the Prado, being surrounded by a wall with a large iron-gate,
opening on the road to Vallongo. It was a strong post, and the three
companies, on gaining the summit, threw themselves into it, as it at
once covered the place of disembarkation, and was for themselves a good
means of defence. Our artillery was posted on the high bank, on the
other side, completely commanding the Prado and the Vallongo road.

Soult had his quarters on the side of the city near the sea, and,
having collected all the boats, as he supposed, on the right bank,
considered himself in perfect security. He thought if we made any
attempt to cross, it would be in conjunction with our ships lying off
the bar, and all his attention was directed to that quarter. He even
turned into ridicule the first report of our having crossed, and
discredited the fact to the last, until it was incontestably proved by
our firing. The boats had made more than one trip before any one in the
town appeared to notice it. Foy has the credit of being the first to
discover our having passed, and he instantly ordered the drums of the
nearest battalion to beat the _general_. We heard the drums beat when
nearly the whole of the Buffs had crossed, and soon saw symptoms of
bustle and confusion in the town, and the French regiments forming on
their parades. This was an anxious moment, and just as the whole of the
Buffs had landed, a battalion was observed moving down a road towards
them. This was the 17th, brought down by Foy, and which was quickly
supported by the 70th. The first made an attack on the Buffs, who stood
their ground, giving a tremendous fire, while our artillery from the
opposite side killed and wounded a great number of the enemy.

More boats, in the mean time, were brought across and more troops; the
48th, 66th, and a Portuguese battalion landed, and not only defended
themselves successfully, but even drove the enemy from the walls,
between the town and the bishop's palace. This petty success was seen
by Sir Arthur and his staff, who cheered our soldiery as they chased
the enemy from the various posts. The enemy's troops now came through
the town in great numbers, and obliged our troops to confine themselves
to the enclosure. They continued running along the road towards and
beyond the iron-gate, while our shells and shot were whizzing through
the trees and between the houses into the road as they passed. They
brought up a gun through the gate to batter the house; but this proved
an unfortunate experiment, as our troops increasing in number by fresh
embarkations, (though General Paget was wounded), charged and captured
it. They also brought some guns to bear from the open spaces in the
town, but they were tamely if not badly served. But General Murray had
made good his position on the north bank of the river, and we soon
descried him making as much show as possible, marching with his ranks
open towards the Vallongo road, thus threatening the communication of
the enemy with Loison. He was not, however, strong enough to interrupt
the retreat of 10,000 desperate men; for the French now began to think
of nothing else, and directed their march toward Amarante. On their
deserting the quays, the Portuguese jumped into the boats, which soon
transported across, (amidst the cheers of the people and the waving
of pocket-handkerchiefs by the women from the windows,) the guards
and General Stewart's brigade, who proceeded through the town with the
greatest speed.

The Buffs, in the mean time, had dashed into the city and cut off
a battery of Light Artillery in retreat, which, becoming jammed
between that regiment, and the 29th received the fire of both, and
was captured. The flight of the enemy was continued, but they were
overtaken by the two squadrons which had passed with General Murray,
led by Brig.-Gen. Charles Stewart, who charged the rear and made 200
prisoners. Major Hervey, who commanded the Dragoons, lost his arm. The
enemy collected their scattered troops at some distance, but continued
their retreat towards Amarante in the night. Our loss did not exceed
120 men, while the enemy, besides killed and wounded, left in our hands
500 prisoners and 1000 sick in the hospitals, and several pieces of
cannon. The city was illuminated at night, and Sir Arthur, without
allowing himself any rest, the same evening gave out an order of thanks
to the army. The operations of the three preceding days had been most
gratifying, and the quickness with which the enemy had been forced
from his various positions and pursued, seldom equalled. The army
had advanced 80 miles in four days, three of which were in constant
presence of the enemy.

Sir Arthur had completely surprised in his quarters one of the most
distinguished French Marshals, and consummated in his face the most
difficult operation in war, that of crossing a deep and rapid river
before an enemy. Nothing can relieve Soult from the disgrace of
this day; and all that has been or whatever may be written in his
defence, can but palliate his want of precaution and fatal security.
The rapidity of Sir Arthur's own movements had been wonderful; for
within twenty-six days since leaving Portsmouth, Oporto was captured
and the enemy in full retreat. Captain Fitzroy Stanhope, one of the
Commander-of-the-Forces' aide-de-camps, was sent to England with the
dispatches of this success by one of the ships cruising off the port,
whose crews from the sea had seen the smoke of the firing during the
actions of the 11th and 12th.

The retreat of the enemy was directed upon Amarante, the seizure of
that place from Silveira by Loison, ten days before, having opened them
a loop-hole for escape. But Marshal Beresford, after crossing the Douro
at Pedro de Regoa, had joined Silveira, and on the 11th drove Loison
out of Amarante, and thus closed the road and the enemy's hopes in that
direction. Loison fell back on Guimaraens by the good carriage-road
that led to Chaves, sending information of his movement to Soult at
Oporto. Soult on his arrival at Penafiel, on the night of the 12th,
received this disagreeable news, and finding himself pressed in so
many directions, and no road open for carriages, determined at once to
destroy the heavy material of his corps and to join Loison across the
Sierra de Santa Catherina, at Guimaraens. Capt. Mellish, who was sent
on the morning of the 13th to Penafiel, confirmed the report which had
reached Oporto, of the destruction of their ammunition-waggons, guns,
and carriages. The cannon had been placed mouth to mouth and discharged
into each other, by trains laid communicating through the mass of
baggage and ammunition waggons.

Want of provisions and uncertainty of the enemy's route prevented the
advance of the army on the 13th, but the Germans were pushed on with
some six-pounders on the road of the enemy's retreat. On ascertaining
that the enemy had given up the idea of retreating by Amarante, orders
were sent to Marshal Beresford, to direct his march on Chaves, at which
place he arrived on the 16th, detaching Silveira in the direction of
the enemy's rear on Ruivaens. On the 14th, the army advanced half-way
on the road towards Braga. Soult collected his army, (the garrison
of Braga retiring on our advance) on the morning of the 15th at
Guimaraens, but finding our troops at Villa Nova de Famillacao, and no
road open for cannon, he destroyed the baggage and the military chest
of Loison's corps, and in despair took to the Goat-herds' paths across
the mountain, trusting to the interest, aid, and information procured
by the Bishop of Braga. Their army was in great confusion during the
13th, but the two following days it became totally disorganized. The
paths were so narrow, that but one man could pass at a time, and the
cavalry were obliged to lead their horses, while their column, thus
distressingly lengthened, had the additional misery of incessant
rain that fell in torrents during the whole of this trying period.
The peasantry, happy in revenging the horrors and atrocities of
their enemy's advance, watched them like vultures, and failed not
to dart upon all who sunk under fatigue; the stones they rolled on
them swept whole files into the abysses, while single shots from the
mountain-tops slew soldiers in the column of march. Their sufferings
met commiseration from the British alone, who had not suffered from the
guilty acts for which they were now receiving retribution.

Their _déroute_ was so complete, that Sir A. Wellesley thought it
unnecessary to follow them with the whole army beyond Braga, which
city he reached on the 16th. The probability of Victor's threatening
the south was also to be taken into consideration, and he therefore
contented himself in pursuing with some cavalry, the Guards, and
Brig.-Gen. Cameron's brigade, while the Germans, following the enemy,
even with three-pounders, across the Sierra de Santa Catherina, reached
Guimaraens the same day. The French continued their retreat, and on
the night of the 15th reached Salamonde, where their position was most
alarming. They found one of the bridges on the Cavado, on the road
to Ruivaens, destroyed and occupied, while that called Pontè Nova
only offered a single beam. They, however, surprised and killed the
Portuguese who guarded the last, and this proved the safety of their
army. They restored the troops into some order on the night between
the 15th and 16th, while the bridge was being repaired, which was made
passable by the morning, and allowed them to continue their march
towards Montalegre, leaving a rear-guard at Salamonde. Our cavalry
discovered them about half-past one o'clock, but the Guards did not
arrive until late. The position of the enemy was behind a deep and wide
ravine, accessible only by the road, with their right on the torrent,
and the left upon a ridge of broken mountains. The light troops were
directed to turn this point, and when sufficiently on their flank,
about half past six, the column and two-three-pounder guns, which
had joined from Gen. Murray's column, were pushed along the road to
attack in front. The enemy, who had placed their pickets, thinking the
cavalry were the only troops up, and hoping to continue all night,
instantly retired from the position, and, as it was almost dark, little
advantage could be taken of the confusion in which they fled, farther
than that of the guns firing on their columns, and the light infantry
pressing them _en tirailleur_. A few prisoners were made, among whom
was an officer. The rain continued incessant, and the miserable village
scarcely allowed cover for a quarter of the troops.

The next morning the disasters of the enemy in their flight of the
night before were fully revealed by the wreck left at and near the
bridge over the Cavado. The bridge had been only partially repaired,
and the infantry were obliged to file, and the cavalry to lead their
horses across. The passage must have been ever dangerous, but the
confusion occasioned by our pursuit and cannonade, and the darkness
of the night, rendered it to a degree hazardous. The rocky torrent of
the Cavado, in consequence, presented next morning an extraordinary
spectacle. Men and horses, sumpter animals and baggage, had been
precipitated into the river, and literally choked the course of the
stream. Here, with these fatal accompaniments of death and dismay, was
disgorged the last of the plunder of Oporto, and the other cities north
of the Douro. All kinds of valuable goods were left on the road, while
above 300 horses, sunk in the water, and mules laden with property,
fell into the hands of the grenadier and light companies of the guards.
These active-fingered gentry soon found that fishing for boxes and
bodies out of the stream produced pieces of plate, and purses and belts
full of gold and silver; and, amidst scenes of death and destruction,
arose shouts of the most noisy merriment.

Soult reached the pass of Ruivaens before Silveira, or his capture
would have been certain; but at that place learning that Marshal
Beresford had arrived at Chaves, he turned the head of his columns
towards Montalegre. The British army being greatly distressed from
fatigue, want of provisions, and bad weather, only advanced a league on
the 17th; but a squadron of cavalry and a battalion of Germans, were
pushed to the bridge of Miserele and Villa da Ponte. On the 18th, the
Guards, Germans, and Brig.-Gen. Cameron's brigade, pushed on in pursuit
of the enemy, whose track might have been found from the _débris_
of baggage, dead and dying men, (worn down by fatigue and misery to
skeletons,) houghed mules, and immense quantities of cartridges, which
the wearied soldiery threw away to lighten themselves from even the
weight of the balls.

Marshal Beresford had directed Silveira to march on Montalegre, but
he arrived about two hours too late, the enemy having dragged their
weary march along by that town and across the frontier, at twelve
o'clock. This was witnessed by some of our officers, who had pushed
on, and observed their distressed and miserable state. On our arrival
at Montalegre, we saw their retiring columns in march fairly over the
Spanish frontier, and a village on their route in flames. However, Col.
Talbot, of the 14th light dragoons, followed the enemy's route for
some way, and made prisoners an officer and 50 men. Marshal Beresford
crossed the frontier, but proceeded no farther than Ginso, on hearing
that Sir Arthur had given up the pursuit. The Commander-of-the-Forces,
from the advices received from Gen. M'Kenzie, had become anxious
respecting the line of the Tagus, and, being content with seeing the
enemy across the frontier, desisted from a more northern advance, and
ordered the troops to be cantoned in the nearest villages, wherever
the order might reach them.

Thus ended this short but active operation of twelve days, in which
the disasters of the Corunna campaign were repaid on the corps of
Soult with interest, as the distress and misery of the enemy were more
considerable than we had suffered in the preceding January. Instead
of the fine Gallician road of retreat, they were obliged to file
through mule and even goat-herd paths, while the incessant rain was
more distressing than the snow. The French had not stores and supplies
to fall back upon, but, on the contrary, passed through the most
unproductive wilds in the valleys and mountains. But the difference of
the circumstances of the two retreats marks their degrees of misery.
The peasantry, while friendly to us in Gallicia, evinced, in the Tras
os Montes, every mark of hatred to the enemy, whose cruelties had well
deserved severe retributive justice. This was carried to a distressing
extent, and though it kept the French together, added greatly to the
extent of their loss. Our army was never so disorganized in Gallicia as
that of the French, who could not have attempted to fight a battle at
Montalegre, as we did at Corunna. The loss of men (including Soult's
invasion and retreat) seems to have been nearly equal; but the enemy,
besides the military chest and baggage, (of which we only sacrificed a
part,) left the whole of their artillery, while we embarked ours safely
at Corunna. But Soult saw that his escape could be alone confined to
his men, and barely avoided capture, if not destruction, by sacrificing
the whole of his _matériel_. The fortunate chance of finding a traitor
in the Bishop of Braga tended to the safety of their retreat, which had
been constantly endangered, and would have been intercepted, had he
continued his march from Salamonde, on Chaves, instead of Montalegre.

Intelligence from the south of Victor's intention to invade Portugal
had induced Sir A. Wellesley to avoid pushing more troops beyond Braga
than was absolutely necessary, in order that they should be as near
and as ready as practicable, to proceed against Victor. This Marshal,
having been joined by Lapisse, hoping to create a diversion in favour
of Soult, seized, with a corps of 12 to 14,000 men, the bridge of
Alcantara, and pushed his patrols to Castello Branco. This movement
required strict attention, and rendered necessary a more speedy
retrograde movement from the northern frontier than would have been
desired after the fatigues of the troops; but, only allowing two days'
rest at Oporto, they were withdrawn to Coimbra, by the same routes by
which they had advanced. Head-quarters were on the 23rd at Coimbra.
Here the Portuguese regiments, which had acted with us in the Tras os
Montes, were ordered to form the garrison of Oporto. These regiments
had given some hopes of good promise, yet none were so sanguine at this
time as to expect from them their subsequent bravery and efficiency.

Sir Arthur continued his route on the 5th to Thomar, where we found the
heavy brigade, consisting of the 3rd dragoon guards and 4th dragoons,
which had disembarked while we were in the north, and appeared in
excellent condition. Head-quarters were established at Abrantes on the
8th of June, from whence Major-Gen. M'Kenzie, on our advance, had been
pushed forward to Castello Branco; as Victor, finding that Soult's
retreat had left Portugal free from danger in the north, considered
his own position less tenable, and had withdrawn from the north of the
Tagus. The French army soon afterwards fell back from Caseres upon
Merida and Medellin.

Although it was understood that Sir Arthur's orders only extended
to the defence of Portugal, yet he felt that these stirring times
required active exertions from all Europe, and that tranquillity was
incompatible with the strides France was making to universal dominion.
The cause of our allies on the spot, and of those more distant,
struggling in Germany, pointed out the propriety of some attempt to
create at least a diversion in their favour. It was evident that, could
arrangements be made with the Spaniards, the disorganization of Soult's
army offered an opportunity for striking a blow at Victor, and perhaps
at the Spanish capital, particularly as Sebastiani was supposed to be
fully employed in La Mancha. Sir Arthur, in consequence, offered to aid
the Spaniards in a forward offensive movement into Spanish Estramadura.
Such a step appeared the only means of re-establishing the war in the
Peninsula, as the cause of Spain was fast sinking under the superior
troops and management of the French, who, however they might dread the
population, had learned that the armies were incapable of opposing
their progress[33]. Much precious time was wasted in the arrangements
for the necessary co-operation of the two armies, which, but for the
pride and obstinacy of Cuesta, might have been more usefully employed.
It was only after considerable _negotiation_, (an expression perfectly
applicable to the intercourse between ourselves and our allies, though
we had only in view the saving their country,) that it was determined
to make a simultaneous advance into Spanish Estramadura.

In the meanwhile, Victor, who had retreated from the Guadiana, and
withdrawn his army across the Tagus, was evidently falling back to
receive aid from Madrid and La Mancha. The plan for this forward
movement, was the advance of both armies along each bank of the Tagus,
and a junction of the allies in front of the enemy in the plains of
Estramadura. The British were to march to the north of the river by
Coria and Placentia, turning Almaraz and the enemy's posts facing
Cuesta, while the others were to cross at Almaraz, and to co-operate
with our advancing columns. It was necessary to secure the frontier of
Portugal to the north and north-east, and the passes along the frontier
of that country leading from Castille and Leon, as two _corps d'armée_,
besides that of Soult, were in the north of Spain.

Marshal Beresford, posted near Almeida, was to undertake the first with
the Portuguese army, while Cuesta promised to occupy the Banos pass,
leading direct from Salamanca upon Placentia. The Spaniards engaged
to find means of collecting and furnishing us with provisions. On
the 27th June, head-quarters left Abrantes for Villa del Rey; on the
28th, they reached Cortesada; the 29th, Sarzedas, and Castello Branco
on the following day; and halted the 1st of July. They continued their
march on the 2nd to Zobreira; and the 3rd, passed the frontier to
Zarza Mayor, where they crossed upon the route of the captured Gen.
Franceschi, who, after reaching Spain with Soult's army, had been taken
in Leon, and was being carried to Seville, fated to die incarcerated
within the walls of Grenada. He was a distinguished officer of light
cavalry, and had been opposed to us not only six weeks before on the
Vouga, but the like number of months antecedently on the plain of
Leon. He was dressed in a hussar's uniform, and decorated with a star,
bearing an emblem similar to the arms of the Isle of Man, three legs
diverging from a common centre.

The army was here joined by the Lusitanian legion under Sir R. Wilson,
and after halting on the 4th, reached Coria on the 5th, Galestad on the
7th, and Placentia on the 8th. The approach to this city drew forth
the admiration of all. The bishop's palace and cathedral tower above
the houses, which rise from a bed of verdure, bordered by the river,
while the whole is backed with the most splendid mountains, with silver
tops of perpetual snow. The river above this city is divided into two
branches, which form an island, covered with the finest trees.

The several reinforcements received antecedently to, and during our
short stay at Placentia, rendered necessary a new distribution of the
regiments and brigades. The cavalry were divided into three brigades;
the first, of the 14th and 16th light dragoons, under Sir Stapleton
Cotton; the second, commanded by Gen. Fane, consisted of the 3d dragoon
guards and 4th dragoons; and the third, of the first German hussars,
and 23d light dragoons, led by Gen. Anson.

The infantry was divided into four divisions:—

  BRIG.-GEN. H. CAMPBELL, Guards and 1 Comp. 5 Batt. 60th.
  BRIG.-GEN. CAMERON, 61st, 83d. Regiments, 1 Comp. 5 Batt.
        60th. Regiment.
  BRIG.-GEN. LANGWORTH, 2 Batt. King's German Legion.
  BRIG.-GEN. LOWE, 2 Batt. King's German Legion.

  BRIG-GEN. STEWART, 29th, 48th Regiments, 1 Batt. Detachment.
  MAJ.-GEN. TILSON, Buffs. 48th, 66th. Regiments.

  1st. Brigade, 24th, 31st, 45th. Regiments.
  COL. DONKIN'S Brigade, 5 Comps. 5 Batt. 60th Regt. and 87th
        88th Regts.

  1st Brigade, 7th, 53d, Regiments, 1 Comp. 5 Batt. 60th Regiment.
  2nd Brigade, 2 Batt. Detachment, 97th Regt. 1 Comp. 5 Batt.
        60th Regiment.

To these was to be added the Lusitanian legion under Sir R. Wilson,
being the only Portuguese troops employed in this operation.

This distribution into divisions was the first step to the gradual
growth of these corps into little armies, complete in themselves like
the Roman legions, being, (with the sole exception of cavalry,) about
their strength. The light companies of the regiments composing them
were formed into a battalion, which under some intelligent officer,
ever marched at the head, and to which was added a company or more
of the deadly riflemen of the foreign corps, the 60th. These were
the Velites, while the battalions were all worthy to be considered
as Triarii or Principes. They had subsequently artillery, spare
ammunition, and engineer, medical, and commissariat staff attached to
them; and when each was increased in 1810, by a Portuguese brigade,
consisting of a battalion of light infantry, and two line battalions,
they became in themselves superior in numbers to some of the petty
expeditions in which England has often placed her hope, while they
have only wasted her strength. Our whole force of British did not
consist of 18,000 men, principally of men raised by the voluntary
enrolment of the militia.

We learned at Placentia, that the French occupied Talavera de la Reyna,
and were supposed to be waiting for reinforcements from Madrid and La
Mancha. During the concentration of the army at Placentia, Sir Arthur
had his first personal communication with Cuesta at Casa del Puertos.
His Excellency passed in review the Spanish army, and definitively
settled the plan of the campaign.

The British army was to cross the Teitar, and direct its march upon
Oropesa, where it was to form a junction with the Spanish army from
Almaraz, and to advance on Talavera de la Reyna. The cavalry of the
Spaniards under the Duke of Albuquerque, and the division of infantry
commanded by Ballasteros, were to continue and move on the left bank of
the Tagus, and cross that river at the Puente del Arzobispo.

To diminish and separate the enemy's force, and distract their
attention, General Vanegas from La Mancha was to threaten Aranjuez,
while Sir R. Wilson, who was already on the Teitar, was to have,
besides his own corps, some few Spanish troops, and to act upon their
other flank, and by pushing to and beyond Escalona, make them uneasy
respecting the capital.

Sir Arthur, after having halted eight days at Placentia, moved on
the 17th to Talaquela; on the 18th to Majedas, and on the following
day to Casa de Centinela, across vast plains, occasionally covered
with forests of cork trees. These quarters of the 19th, as the name
indicates, consisted of a single house, which offered such miserable
accommodation, that Sir Arthur, as well as the rest of the staff,
preferred sleeping in wigwams, made with boughs of trees. On the 20th,
while the army pushed on to Oropesa, the heat and the want of water
were so great, that the troops suffered exceedingly, and several
men sank under exhaustion. Here we became an allied army, forming a
junction with the Spaniards, from whom we hoped, however we might
doubt, to receive support and assistance. But the first view of the
infantry considerably damped our expectations, though we were assured
their cavalry, moving across at Arzobispo, were to appearance (for we
had not forgotten their conduct at Medellin) the best of the army. On
further acquaintance, however, our conclusions respecting even this
part of the army were not more favourable than that we had formed of
their sister arm the first day we joined them; as they wanted in
spirit and conduct, what the foot soldiers required in appointments and

The army of Spain, before the breaking out of the Revolution, though
not so degraded as that of Portugal, had been long declining. Although
the army intended for the coast of Barbary, assembled under Gen. Count
O'Reilley, as late as 1788, was in an efficient state, it had greatly
altered for the worse within the last twenty years. Instead of keeping
pace with the rest of Europe in improvements in the art of war, Spain
had considerably retrograded; and while the two last years had shaken
to pieces the old establishment, the officers educated under it were
incapable of forming a new army.

Although the men were the same as those who, three centuries before,
had raised the Spanish name to the height of celebrity it so well
deserved and so long maintained, they were no longer led by a
chivalrous nobility and gentry. The officers taken from these classes
in the beginning of the 19th century, evinced in their character the
debasing state of the Court and Government.

In July, 1809, it was but the remnant of an organized army, and even
this was only evinced (except in a few regiments) in the appellation
of the corps known to be of long standing. A portion of the
garde-du-corps accompanied this army; the sole remains of the court
establishment of the past Bourbons, whether of France or Spain. It
had been created by Philip V. on taking possession of the throne of
Spain at the beginning of the last century, and consisted entirely of
officers. Those with Cuesta bore cartouch belts of green leather and
silver. Some of the heavy cavalry looked respectable, particularly
the regimento del Rey, the first of dragoons, which, commanded by a
relation of Cuesta, would have passed muster in any army.

The carabineers, a part of the royal guard, and who bore a better
character for conduct in the field than the other regiments of cavalry,
were efficient both in men and horse, as well as in appointments.

A brigade of two regiments of heavy dragoons, one of which was the
regiment of Saguntum, attracted the attention of the British officers,
from being dressed in yellow with cocked-hats, and they looked better
than would be supposed from so singular a costume.

Their light cavalry consisted of Hussars (_Usares_) and Chasseurs,
dressed in all the colours of the rainbow. Little judgment seemed to
have been employed in proportioning the size of the horse to the light
or heavy cavalry, though it must be allowed the Spanish horses offer
little choice, being universally slight, and not so well adapted for
the shock of a charge as for an Eastern irregular kind of warfare.

The Spanish cavalry had a means of turning their jackets and sleeved
waistcoats into a stable dress, by the sleeves, taking off at the
shoulders, being only laced on with a differently coloured cord from
that of the coat; thus, besides being useful, having a good appearance.
Their mode of riding was new to the English; the stirrup leathers
were so long, that they could only touch them with their toe; while
the carabine, hanging perpendicularly along the valise, was equally
novel. Boots were far from universal, and many had in their stead a
kind of leather legging, stiff-fitting, buttoned tight to the limbs,
and formed like a gaiter, coming over the shoe. Many horsemen, however,
were devoid of covering for the legs or feet, and the naked toe was
seen peeping through a sandal, touching the stirrup. Of the infantry,
the Walloon Guards, (consisting principally of foreigners,) and the
Irish brigade, were in the best order. The first, in two or more
battalions, were dressed in dark blue, and broad white lace; while
the uniforms of the latter were light blue. These consisted of the
regiments of Yrlanda, Ultonia, and Hibernia, being the remains of the
Irish Catholic regiments. At this time, although they had no privates,
there were still among them some few officers of that nation. The white
Bourbon uniform had entirely disappeared, and circumstances and economy
had changed the colour of the principal part of the infantry into a
deep chocolate.

But several battalions were, with the exception of the British arms,
little better in appearance than peasantry; and though the major part
of them had chaccos, many could only boast a kind of sandal instead of
shoes, and in lieu of cross, waist-belts, from which hung tubes like
the ancient Bandeleer, lined with tin, each containing a cartridge. Few
had great coats; the generality having blankets, (with a hole in the
middle for the head to pass through,) hanging loose about their person.

Their artillery was good, from attention having been given to it before
the breaking out of the war, but the train was unlike any other in
modern armies, the guns and ammunition-waggons being drawn by mules,
not two abreast, but in teams like cart-horses, without reins, and
under no farther command than the voice of their conductors, who ran
on foot on the side of the road. Their guns were heavy, and among the
field batteries were several of twelve-pounders.

Their _matériel_ for provisions, stores, and baggage was perfectly
inadequate to their army, and ill adapted for their country. Instead of
a large proportion of sumpter mules, they were accompanied by a vast
train of tilted two wheeled carts, carrying little, and with long teams
of mules, lengthening to inconvenience the line of march.

The whole army was said to consist of 7000 cavalry and 31,000 infantry.

But we should not have been dissatisfied with our allies, _malgré_
their appearance, or even their rags, had we felt any reason to confide
in them. The men were evidently capable of "all that man dare," but the
appearance of their officers at once bespoke their not being fit to
lead them to the attempt. These not only did not look like soldiers,
but not even like gentlemen; and it was difficult, from their mean
and abject appearance, particularly among the infantry, to guess from
what class of society they could have been taken. Few troops will
behave well if those to whom they ought to look up are undeserving
respect; and on this principle we might, at Oropesa, have predicted
coming events, as far as the conduct of the Spanish soldiers was
concerned. But besides their general inefficiency, we found their moral
feeling different from what we expected. The preceding two years had
made a great alteration in the feeling of the nation; the burst of
enthusiasm was but momentary, and being only fed by accidental victory,
soon subsided on a reverse of fortune. Far from their army evincing
devotion, or even the most common courage in their country's cause,
they were more often guilty, individually and collectively, of the most
disgraceful cowardice.

The inefficiency of the officers spread to the staff, and we hourly
regretted that the revolution had not occasioned a more complete
_bouleversement_, so as to bring forward fresh and vigorous talents
from all classes. The proof that this opinion was just, was evinced
by none of the regular military showing themselves worthy of command.
Indeed, with the exception of a few self-made soldiers among the
Guerillas, who had risen from among the farmers and peasantry, it would
be difficult to point out during the whole war any officer, whose
opinion, even in his own department, or on the most trivial military
subject, was worthy of being asked.

The Cortes ruling for Ferdinand, and continuing the old system, formed
one of the causes of the want of success of the Spaniards. They had
to meet youthful Generals and the fresh energies of France with all
the improvements of modern warfare, by old besotted and prejudiced
Generals, whose armies were formed of obsolete principles, while
the system of an _ancien régime_ of a decrepit Government continued
to cramp every step to improvement. To these were added that blind
pride and self-vanity, which made them still consider themselves what
history and tradition had represented their forefathers and nation. No
proofs of inferiority would open their eyes, and without reflection or
consideration they rushed from one error and misfortune into others,
benefiting by no experience, and disdaining to seek aid or improvement
from those capable of restoring them to efficiency.

Had they placed their armies at our disposal, and allowed the
introduction of the active and intelligent British officers into
command, their regular army might have become as celebrated in
after-ages for the defence of the Peninsula, as the Portuguese or
their own Guerillas; while at present, with the exception of their
irregular warfare and defence of cities, their military character,
during a period so brilliant for their allies, both Portuguese and
British, appears absolutely contemptible. The army which we joined at
Oropesa, in addition to its other drawbacks, was headed by a general as
decrepit in mind as body. To abilities not superior to the most common
intellect he united the greatest fault in a commander of an army, that
of indecision, while every act bespoke his suspicion and jealousy of
his allies and their commander.

Attached to this army was an example, in the person of Lord Macduff,
of one of those gallant spirits, who occasionally shaking off the
indolence of wealth, volunteer to aid some soul-stirring cause. His
Lordship had the rank of a Spanish Colonel.

On the 21st, the two Commanders-in-Chief dined together, and in return
for the military spectacle Cuesta had given to Sir Arthur at Casa
de Puertos, when he visited him from Placentia, the British troops,
with the exception of Gen. M'Kenzie's division on the advance, were
drawn out in the evening for his inspection. The mounting on horseback
to proceed to the review, showed how ill-fitted was Cuesta for the
activity of war. He was lifted on his horse by two grenadiers, while
one of his aide-de-camps was ready on the other side to conduct his
right leg over the horse's croup, and place it in the stirrup! Remarks
were whispered at this moment, that if his mental energy and activity
did not compensate for his bodily infirmity, Sir Arthur would find
him but an incapable coadjutor. The Spanish General passed along the
line from left to right, just as the night fell, and we saw him put
comfortably into an antiquated square-cornered coach, drawn by nine
mules, to proceed to his quarters.

On the morning of the 22d, we came in sight of the town of Talavera
de la Reyna, which has since become so celebrated in English history.
The town, seen about three miles distant, was embosomed in trees and
inclosures, while the scarped hills on the right marked the course
of the Tagus. The inclosures ended about a mile to the left of the
town, joining some low, open, undulating hills, which stretched to
some valleys and higher ridges. This open country communicated with
an extensive plain in front of the town, across which passed the road
from Oropesa, being gradually lost as it approached Talavera in the
vineyards and woods. In the midst of this plain were posted about
800 or 1000 French cavalry, who, with the utmost indifference, were
dismounted, feeling assured that a few skirmishers would check the
advance of the Spanish cavalry in their front. These, under the Duke
d'Albuquerque, had crossed the Tagus at the Puente del Arzobispo,
and had arrived early opposite the French advance. Instead of being
anxious to show their Allies their activity when at so little cost,
being five or six times more numerous than the enemy, they made no
attempt to drive them in, but contented themselves with deploying
into several long lines, making a very formidable appearance. With
feelings of astonishment we rode on to the skirmishers, who consisted
of mounted Guerillas, dressed like the farmers of the country. We
expected to see them closely and successfully engaged, having heard
they were peculiarly adapted for petty warfare; but we found them
utterly incapable of coping with the enemy's _tirailleurs_, who were
driving them almost into a circle. They were so careless and inexpert
in the use of their arms, that one of them nearly shot, by accident, an
English officer near him.

The Spaniards (from the commencement) thus continued skirmishing
for four hours,[34] until Gen. Anson's brigade arrived, which they
allowed at once, and as a matter of course, without any reference or
notice, to pass through the intervals of their squadrons; at the same
time these heroes notified their own want of efficiency and spirit,
by acknowledging and paying tribute to both in their allies, by a
profusion of _vivas!_

On our advancing, the French drew off to the left of the town along the
open ground, skirting the inclosures, and exchanging shots with our
skirmishers. The Spaniards kept to the right along the great road, and
could scarcely be brought by the intercession of British officers to
enter the town, from whence they learned a body of 4 or 500 infantry
had just retired. Brig. General Charles Stewart, who happened to be
on the spot, persuaded their officers to follow their retreat along
the fine Madrid road, which was one hundred and fifty yards wide. The
enemy were overtaken retiring in two small columns, and to the attack
of one General Stewart led the Spanish cavalry. The result, as indeed
all we saw on this day of our allies, was a proof of their total want,
not only of discipline, but of courage. On this and two succeeding
attempts, (to which the English general headed them), on receiving the
enemy's fire, when the principal danger was past, they pulled up and
fled in every direction; yet in Cuesta's account of this affair, he
called it an "_intrepid charge_."

Cruelty and cowardice are ever combined, and these same Spaniards who
had thus avoided closing with the unmaimed enemy, murdered in cold
blood a few wounded and dying men their column left in the road when
they retired, who were struck down by the artillery which was brought
up after the cavalry's repulse. Their barbarity was even heightened by
accompanying each stab with invectives and comments on their victims'
never again seeing their homes or Paris. On the left the enemy retired
before our cavalry, about four miles beyond the town. Anson's brigade
made an attempt to charge about 1,500 of their cavalry, but they were
found unassailable, having taken post beyond the bed of the Alberche,
which, running for about two miles at right angles with the Tagus,
empties itself into that river. The enemy allowed them to come close,
and then opened a fire of four guns and two howitzers, which occasioned
some small loss before they could withdraw out of fire. One of the
horses of this brigade, the hip and leg of which was carried off, and
its entrails trailing on the ground, recovered itself on three legs,
and tried to take its place again in squadron.

The enemy had tirailleurs in the underwood near the river, and were
very jealous of its banks, opening a fire of artillery on all who
showed themselves. Sir Arthur and head-quarter staff came unexpectedly
in the afternoon under a fire of some light guns on the right in front
of the Spaniards, and one of several four-pound shots whizzed close
over the General's head. The troops were ordered to bivouack in the
neighbourhood of Talavera, and General M'Kenzie's division was pushed
on to the front in the neighbourhood of an old ruined building, at the
angle of the Alberche, where it turned east. It was evident that the
enemy were in force on the opposite side of the river; and a ridge
of hills, above 800 yards from the bank, sloping towards it, offered
them a very suitable defensive position. Its left rested on the Tagus,
and its right was secured by the turning of the Alberche, and some
difficult wooded ridges beyond. Their strength could not exceed 23,000
men, being the troops which had fallen back from the south of the
Tagus, not having been joined by any troops from Madrid or Aranjuez.

We fully expected a battle on the following day, and about twelve
o'clock on the 23rd, the first and third division got under arms, and
advanced in the direction of the enemy's right, while the rest of the
army were ready to move at a moment's notice; but, unfortunately,
Sir Arthur had to overcome the wavering conduct of his confederate
General, who appeared quite unaware of the use of time or opportunity
in military operations. He could not be brought so to decide on
attack, that Sir Arthur could feel secure of the Spaniards making a
simultaneous attack with his army, or that the British might not be
left to gain the day alone. The bivouack of Cuesta was on the road to
Madrid, about three-quarters of a mile from the Alberche, where, on the
cushions taken out of his carriage, he sat, the picture of mental and
physical inability.

Two soldiers stood near to aid or support him in any little necessary
operation, and the scene would have been ridiculous had it not been
painful, as we saw the tide, which, "when taken at its flood," might,
nay, would "lead us on to fortune" and victory, fast ebbing, without
our taking advantage of it. After considerable suspense, it was
universally reported throughout the army, that on being pressed and
driven to his last excuse, Cuesta pleaded that it was Sunday, at the
same time promising to attack at daylight the next morning; and our
troops were in consequence ordered back to their bivouacks. It may be
fairly considered that pride had considerable weight on this occasion.
Cuesta was a true Spaniard, and disliked the suggestion of an English
general in his own country, and, with recollections of two hundred and
fifty years before, could not bring his ideas down to present changes
and circumstances. These feelings were national, and ever evinced, and
it was only very late in the war, after the Spaniards found they had
not an officer to lead their armies, and they despaired of finding
one, that they consented to place Sir Arthur at their head. Sir Arthur
deserves as much credit for keeping his temper during his six years'
intercourse with the Spanish Government and officers, as for the
general conduct of the war. When we reflect on promises broken and
engagements violated, involving the safety of his army, the honour of
his character, and his credit as an officer, and yet know of no quarrel
that extended (if any existed) beyond correspondence or negotiation,
future ages are bound to give our Commander credit for unbounded
placidity of temperament.

Though sorely annoyed by this determination, the officers could not
let pass without ridicule the incongruity we had observed within the
last three days in the old gentleman's proceedings. It was impossible
not to notice the Spanish General going out to battle, to within half
a mile of the advanced-posts, in a carriage drawn by nine mules, and
the precautions to preserve him from the rheumatism, like those taken
by delicate ladies, in our humid climate, at a _fête champêtre_, in
placing the carriage cushions on the grass. To these the Spanish
Commander-in-Chief was supported by two grenadiers, who let him drop
on them, as his knees were too feeble to attempt reclining without
the chance, nay certainty, of a fall. Yet this was the man to whom the
Cortes had entrusted their armies, but who ought (if he did not himself
feel his own inability), to have been removed without a moment's delay
after the first trial. They had only one excuse; the year before had
made common honesty a virtue, and they forgot every other requisite, in
a desire to avoid treachery.

We began, however, to have some hope on the evening of the 23rd, when
orders were delivered out for attack the next morning at daylight.
General Sherbrooke was to move at two in the morning, while the
remainder of the army was to rendez-vous in rear of the third division,
at the angle of the Alberche. The British column of attack, with the
third division at its head, supported by General Anson's brigade, and
followed by the first, second, and fourth divisions, was to attack the
enemy's right, the Spaniards were to force the troops on the heights
crossed by the road to Madrid, while the remainder of the British and
the whole of the Spanish cavalry were to cross the river on the open
ground in the enemy's front. No drums or trumpets were to sound. The
columns for attack were formed before daybreak on the 24th, and the
left column, which was to cross the river and ascend the heights round
the enemy's right and opposite the village of Casaleguas, was already
on its march, when it was discovered the enemy had retired during the

While this event proved the effect of procrastination in warfare, it
was to be deeply lamented on every account. The enemy, the day before,
not consisting of above 22,000 men, had most imprudently offered us
battle before the reinforcements from Madrid or la Mancha had reached
him, and, if he had been attacked, must have been annihilated. We had
near 18,000 British and 36,000 Spaniards, of whom 10,000 were horse,
and, the position once forced, they would have had to retire across
an open plain of many leagues, pursued by a victorious enemy and a
superior cavalry.

Colonel Delancey had gained and continued in the rear of the enemy all
night, and joined us at daylight with a French officer he had taken. We
entered their variously-hutted camps across the river, which we found
arranged with comfort and taste. Their army, on arriving from the line
of the Tagus, had found the ripe wheat standing, and, regardless of its
value, had not only thatched, but made whole huts, with the corn in the
ear, which, hanging down, shed the grain on the ground as we passed
along and between them. They had built with boughs of trees an immense
_Salle de Spectacle_, and formed, by cutting down and removing the
largest olive trees, and sticking their pointed ends into the ground,
an avenue, leading up to it, of some length—an act more wanton and
reprehensible than that of taking the unthrashed corn, as the fruit of
the olive is not produced under several years' growth.

Shy as Cuesta was of coming to blows with the enemy when in his
front, he became most anxious for his pursuit when at a distance and
in retreat. Without considering that Victor was only falling back on
reinforcements, he ordered his army to advance, (as if the French were
in full retreat for the Ebro,) and established his posts on the 25th at
Torrijos. Had not the English General taken quite a different view of
the subject, it would have been most imprudent, if not impossible to
advance, as provisions began to fail us. The Spaniards, far from aiding
our commissariat, took no precautions whatever to prepare food for
18,000 additional mouths, and our position threatened to be untenable
for want of food.

Sir Arthur, in consequence, declined making any forward movement, and
contented himself with pushing two divisions of infantry across the
Alberche, and posting them at Casaleguas. In the meanwhile the enemy
were concentrating their various corps. The reserve, and the Guards
from Madrid left that capital with King Joseph on the 22d at night,
and joined the 4th _corps d'armée_, under Sebastiani, at Toledo. These
united on the 25th, between Torrijos and Toledo, with the corps under
Victor, and formed an army of 45 to 48,000 men, after a garrison of
2,000 had been left in Toledo. This small force was sufficient to cover
any advance of the Spaniards from La Mancha, as Vanegas frittered away
the time to no purpose, while Madrid was overawed by General Belliard,
entrenched in the Retiro.

On the junction of these armies, Cuesta saw too late his mistake in
so inconsiderately advancing from the neighbourhood of the British,
and before he could withdraw his most advanced corps, became engaged
with the enemy. The cavalry Regiment of Villa Viciosa, drawn up in an
enclosure surrounded by a deep ditch, with but one means of egress,
was hemmed in by the enemy and cut to pieces, without a possibility of
escape. A British officer of Engineers saved himself by his English
horse taking at a leap the barrier which surrounded the Spaniards, and
which their horses were incapable of clearing. The Spaniards, on the
26th, fell back towards the Alberche and Talavera, in such confusion
that it can only be compared to a flight, while the enemy followed with
the evident intention of bringing the Allies to battle.

Every one now felt its approach, and some little preparations were
made to strengthen a position which Sir Arthur had selected, resting
on Talavera. These consisted in placing some of the Spanish heavy
guns in battery on the main road, in front of the Madrid gate, and
throwing up some barricades on the different approaches to the town. A
breastwork was commenced on a small rising ground in a little plain,
at the spot where the flanks of the British and Spanish would unite,
about the centre of the Allied army. These were the only attempts at
entrenchment, and the last was not completed. All the troops were
ordered to hold themselves in readiness to move at a moment's notice.

On the 27th the British cavalry were ordered to the front, to cover the
retreat of the Spaniards and of our own divisions across the Alberche.
About mid-day the enemy's army began to show itself, and while our
cavalry withdrew to the right bank of the river, in the open ground,
the 5th division fell back from Casaleguas, through a woody country,
to the same spot, near an old ruined house, the Casa de Salinas,
which they had occupied before the enemy retreated. Before re-crossing
the Alberche, they set fire to the old hutted camps of the enemy, the
smoke from which rose so thickly as completely to hide from view the
country beyond and to the west of the village of Casaleguas. The two
brigades of the 5th division lay upon their arms in front of this ruin,
the highest part of which overlooked the surrounding trees, offering
a view of the country. Sir Arthur dismounted, and, leaving his horse
standing below, scrambled with some difficulty up the broken building,
to reconnoitre the advancing enemy. Though ever as gallant, we were by
no means such good soldiers in those days as succeeding campaigns made
us, and sufficient precautions had not been taken to ascertain what
was passing within the wood (on the skirt of which the division was
posted,) and between it and the ford below Casaleguas.

But the enemy had crossed, under cover of the smoke from the burning
huts, a very large force of infantry, and, gradually advancing, opened
a fire so suddenly on our troops lying on the ground, that several men
were killed without rising from it. This unexpected attack threatened
the greatest confusion, little short of dismay, but the steadiness
of the troops, particularly the 45th, prevented disorder, and gave
time for Sir Arthur and his staff to withdraw from the house and mount
their horses. Sir Arthur's escape, may, however, be considered most
providential. The troops were withdrawn from the wood into the plain,
but after we had lost many officers and men. As this was the enemy's
first attack, and might, by our withdrawing, be considered successful,
it was peculiarly unfortunate, from adding to the enemy's confidence
in attacking our army. These two brigades, being supported by General
Anson's cavalry, gradually fell back towards our army.

The enemy now crowded the heights, extending from Casaleguas to the
Tagus, with vast bodies of troops, accompanied with quantities of
artillery. These crossed at the various fords on the Alberche, to the
plain west of it; while some of their cavalry, in the loosest order,
came in crowds through the woods, following our advanced corps as they
gradually withdrew to our position, of which, as we approached the
chosen ground, the principal features began to show themselves. Their
horse artillery soon overtook us in our retreat, and opened a heavy and
constant fire, particularly of shells, under which the troops formed
on their ground. As the enemy closed on our position, our different
divisions were seen hurrying to the post assigned them, which formed
the left wing of the Allies; and some anxiety was felt for the arrival
of the troops who were to defend a towering height, which, it was
evident, would be the key of the position.

The men, as they formed and faced the enemy, looked pale, but the
officers, riding along their line, only of two deep, on which all our
hopes depended, observed they appeared not less cool and tranquil than
determined. In the mean while the departing sun showed by his rays the
immense masses moving towards us, while the last glimmering of twilight
proved their direction to be across our front towards the left, leaving
a sensation of anxiety and doubt if they would not be able to attack
that point even before our troops, which had not yet arrived, were up.
The darkness, only broken in upon by the bursting shells and flashes
of the guns, closed quickly upon us, and it was the opinion of many
that the enemy would rest till morning. But this was soon placed beyond
doubt, by the summit of the height on our left being suddenly covered
with fire, and for an instant it was evident the enemy had nearly, if
not completely, made a lodgment in our line. This attack was made by
three regiments of the division of Ruffin, the 24th, 96th, and 9th, but
of which, the enemy say, the last only reached the summit, the very
citadel of our position.

They had marched, without halting, up the rise of the hill, and came
upon the German Legion, who had, having been informed they were to the
rear of General Hill's division, and believing they were in a second
line, lain down on their arms, and when the enemy topped the hill, _en
masse_, many were asleep. But General Hill's corps had not arrived, and
the Germans were first roused by the enemy seizing them as prisoners,
or firing into them at _brûle-pourpoint_. The flashes of the retiring
fire of the broken and surprised Germans marked the enemy's success,
and the imminent danger of our army. General Sherbrooke, posted in the
centre, with the promptitude required in such an emergency, ordered
the regiments of the brigade next to the Germans to wheel into open
column, and then, facing them about, was preparing to storm the hill,
with the rear-rank in front, when the brigade of Gen. Donkin by a
brilliant charge restored the height to its proper owner, also driving
the French from the top of the hill into the valley, with immense
loss, and the colonel of the 9th regiment terribly wounded. A second
attack was afterwards repelled by the timely arrival of the division
of Gen. Hill, Colonel Donkin's brigade having taken ground to its
right. There was some fear that the enemy, when the Germans had been
driven back, had carried off the only heavy guns we had with our army,
but fortunately they had been withdrawn at dusk from the brow of the
hill. Major Fordice, of the Adj.-Gen. department, an officer of great
promise, fell in retaking these heights, with many valuable officers
and men.

After this attack was repulsed, the enemy remained quiet, awaiting
the morn which was to decide the fate of the battle. The British
light infantry was thrown out to the front, with sentries still more
advanced towards the enemy. This necessary precaution, coupled with
the inexperience of our troops, principally militia-men, produced a
heavy loss, from the jealousy they felt of all in their front, after
this night attack. This was increased by the constant word "_stand up_"
being passed along the line, and on more than one occasion it led to an
individual soldier firing at some object in his front, which was taken
up by the next, and so passed, like, and to appearance being a running
wildfire, down the front of one or more regiments, till stopped by the
officers. In this, the troops unfortunately forgot their light infantry
in front, and many brave officers and men fell a sacrifice to the fire
of their comrades; amongst them was Colonel Ross of the Guards.

The Spaniards were not less on the alert than ourselves, but their
anxiety not only extended to firing musquetry, but to salvos of the
cannon placed in front of Talavera. On one occasion this was said to
have originated from a cow having got loose and cantered up to their
line. Our troops, however, stood firm to their ground, while regiments
of the Spaniards, after giving a volley, quitted their position and
fled through the gardens and enclosure, bearing down all before them,
and were only brought into line again by degrees. One of these alarms
about midnight, in front of Talavera, was so great, that a large
portion of the troops posted in the front, left their ground, and
rushed through the town, and in the midst of the crowd of fugitives was
seen a certain square-cornered coach, the nine mules attached to it
being urged to the utmost; implying that its inmate was as anxious to
escape as the meanest in the army.

Sir Arthur, surrounded by his staff, slept, wrapped in his cloak, on
the open ground, in rear of the second line, about the centre of the
British army. A hasty doze was occasionally taken, as more continued
rest was disturbed by alarm of different kinds,—while the reflections
of others kept them waking. The bustle of the day had prevented a
review of our situation, but, on being left to our own thoughts, it
was impossible not to reflect on the awfully approaching crisis. We
could not but feel that here was to be another trial of the ancient
military rivalry of England and France; that the cool, constitutional,
persevering courage of the former was again to be pitted against the
more artificial, however chivalrous, though not less praiseworthy,
bravery of the latter. This view of the relative valour of the two
nations cannot be questioned, if we consider that the reminding the
British of this moral quality is wholly unnecessary, and instead of
language of excitement being constantly applied to our soldiery, that
of control, obedience, and composure is solely recommended; while our
ancient opponents are obliged incessantly to drive into the ears of
their men, that they are nationally and individually the bravest of
the human race. Hearing nothing else so flattering to their unbounded
vanity, they become so puffed up by this eternal stimulant, as to be
fully convinced of its truth, which, in consequence, makes their first
attack tremendous.

Buonaparte, being aware of this weak point in their character, fed
it in every way, and the object of wearing a paltry piece of enamel
gained him many battles. But this sort of created courage is not
capable of standing a severe test, and the French have always been in
their military character more Gauls than Franks; and what Cæsar said
of the former eighteen centuries ago, is still applicable to the races
now occupying their fine country. If stoutly opposed at first, this
kind of courage not only diminishes but evaporates, and has, does, and
will, ever fail before that of the British. As soldiers, taking the
expression in its widest sense, they are equal, if not superior, to us
in many points; but on one, that of individual constitutional courage,
we rise far superior to them. It is remarkable how often they evince a
knowledge of this, and in nothing more than their subterfuges of all
kinds to keep it from resting on their minds. All France, aware of this
inferiority, by all species of casuistry attempts to conceal it; and in
order not to shock their national vanity, they blame every unsuccessful
officer opposed to us, even should his dispositions be ever so good,
and such as might, but for the courage of our men, have succeeded.

Buonaparte's conduct, after Vittoria, was directed to work on this
feeling, and, by sacrificing the officers to the self-vanity of the
troops, established for a time the _moral_ of the army, by making
those who had fled like sheep at Vittoria, fight us again, though
unsuccessfully, with renewed spirit. Besides the bravery of the two
nations, no less was the plain of Talavera to try the merit of two
systems, and prove the value of different means and education in
forming a powerful and efficient military. It was not only to be shown
if a chivalrous enthusiasm, and a confidence founded on vanity was
to overcome natural and patriotic courage, but if a sense of duty,
inculcated by a real discipline, was to sink under feelings created by
an absence of control and a long train of excess and military license.
It was whether an organized army, worthy of a civilized period, and
state of warfare, should not overcome a military cast grown up in the
heart of Europe, (from the peculiarity of the times and circumstances,)
little better than the Bandits led by Bourbon to the walls of Rome
in the sixteenth century. The system on which the French armies were
formed was so demoralizing and pernicious in its effects, that the
army of Buonaparte ought not to be considered as the national force of
France, but that of a conqueror, like Ghenghis Khan, or Tamerlane, of
a more civilized age and quarter of the world. Like those scourges,
the ruler of the French existed by upholding that soldiery the times
had first created, and which his ambition subsequently fostered, and,
in perpetuating their attachment to his person by leading them to
victory and plunder; in consequence, robbery was not only overlooked
but permitted, and an economist of the French army has since dared in
print to excuse its atrocities. This, it is true, is written by one
of the revolutionary school, but it will be, (as long as the work is
read,) a perpetual disgrace to the army whose acts he records.[35]
All discipline sank under this state of things. Coercion was neither
necessary nor prudent, where the views of all were directed to the same
lawless objects; and the military code was rather a bond of union and
companionship, fostering a spurious glory, or ambition, and a thirst
and hope of reward in unshackled military license and execution, than a
collection of laws respecting the rights and claims of human nature.

The quickness and intelligence of the French soldiery pointed out the
necessity of an obedience to their officers, whom they considered as
leading them to objects equally desirable to all; and thus actuated,
far from having to receive orders, they readily anticipated them. A
Bedouin robber does not require the positive commands of his chief to
do his utmost to destroy the guards, or to plunder the camels of a
caravan; and no more did the French, with gain or impure military fame
in view, require farther stimulus or direction.

But these various causes so suited the French, that they had the
effect, since the Revolution, of raising their armies to the summit
of fame, while their successes over the continental troops had made
them universally dreaded. They felt this, which increased their
confidence; and the army before us, sleeping on the opposite side of
the ravine, was strongly imbued with this impression, being formed of
the fine regiments of the Italian army, who had so often conquered
under Buonaparte, and subsequently marched from one victory to another.
Neither the corps of Victor nor Sebastiani, nor the guard or reserve
under Desolles, from Madrid, had formed parts of the armies defeated by
us at Vimiera or Corunna, nor had any recollections of our prowess to
shake that good opinion of themselves, in which the principal strength
of the French armies consists.

Though no fears could be entertained for the result, dependent on the
brave fellows lying around us, we could not but regret that they were
not composed of troops as fine as those who accompanied Sir John Moore.

We could not hide from ourselves that our ranks were filled with young
soldiers, being principally the second battalions of those English
regiments which had embarked at Corunna, and consisting of draughts
from the militia that had never seen an enemy. With the exception of
the Guards and a few others, there were more knapsacks with the names
of militia regiments upon them, than of numbered regular regiments.
Indeed we felt, no contrast could be stronger than that of the two
armies. The ideas of England have never run wild on military glory.
We more soberly consider our army rather as a necessary evil than an
ornament and boast; and as an appeal to brute force and arms is a proof
of barbarism, so ought the general diffusion of the former sentiment
in a community to be viewed as conclusive evidence of advance to
civilization and intelligence; and instead of directing the talents,
or drawing forth the best blood of a people to be wasted in the field,
a well-wisher to his country ought to desire them to be retained at
home for the general advantage. But, however secure in ourselves, we
recollected that we formed but one-third of the Allied army, and
that 36,000 men lay in the same line, every action of whom had led
us to consider them as more likely to occasion some common reverse
than a happy termination to our operations. We were convinced that if
attacked, even in their strong and almost impregnable position, it was
most likely to be attended by their immediate flight, which would leave
the whole of the enemy to direct his efforts upon us single-handed. In
addition, a certain degree of coolness had grown up between the two
commanders; and Sir Arthur must have felt that the weakness of his ally
by his side was not less to be dreaded than the strength of his enemy
in his front. The prospect on the eve of the 28th July, 1809, was thus,
though far from hopeless, by no means one of encouragement or sanguine

The rest of all the officers lying around Sir Arthur was hasty and
broken, and interrupted by the uneasiness of the horses held at a
distance, and the arrival of deserters, a few of whom came over during
the night. They generally informed us, that we were to be attacked at
daylight, and that the corps that stormed the hill had consisted of
6000 men. Our glances were constantly directed towards the point from
whence the sun was to rise for the last time on many hundreds who were
here assembled within a mile around, while Sir Arthur, occasionally
asking the hour, showed he looked for daylight with as much anxiety
as any of us. Just before day, we quietly mounted our horses and rode
slowly towards the height, where we arrived just as the light allowed
us to see the opposite side of the ravine beneath us covered with
black indistinct masses. Every instant rendered them more visible, and
the first rays of the sun showed us Sebastiani's division opposite
our centre, Victor's three divisions at our feet, with the reserve,
guard, and cavalry extending backward to the wood near the Alberche.
Our eyes were, however, principally attracted by an immense solid
column opposite but rather to the left of the hill, evidently intended
for attack. Its front was already covered with tirailleurs, ready to
advance at the word, and who saw before them the dead bodies of their
comrades, who had fallen the night before, strewing the ground. The
gray of the morning was not broken in upon by a single shot from either
side, and we had time to observe our position, (which had not been
completely occupied before dark on the preceding eve,) and how the
troops were posted.

The distance from the Tagus to the height on our left, which
overlooked a deep valley, bounded beyond by some sharp and rugged
hills, was little less than two miles. The right of the Allied army
rested on the town of Talavera and the river. About half the ground
from our right to a little beyond the centre was flat, and covered
with woods and vineyards, but where these ceased, the remainder of
the country was open, and gradually rose to the foot of our important
conical hill on the left.

A rill ran along the whole front of our line, and in that part of the
ground which was open and undulating, it passed through a ravine,
the brow of which was taken advantage of in posting our troops. The
Spaniards, from being incapable of moving, were posted in heavy columns
in the most difficult country, till they joined our right, which was
in an open space, though in its front and rear were inclosures. At
this point had been commenced a little redoubt, which however remained
imperfect, and was the only "_intrenchment_" of those with which the
French, in their accounts, as an excuse for their defeat, have so
liberally strengthened our line. But as every thing is sacrificed by
them to vanity, truth cannot be expected alone to escape.

On the right of the British was posted the fourth division, under
Sir A. Campbell, supported by Sir S. Cotton's brigade of cavalry; on
their left commenced the first division, of which the Guards were on
the right. The remainder of this division, consisting of Brig.-Gen.
Cameron's brigade and the Germans, extended across the most open
ground, and joined on the left to the brigade of Colonel Donkin and
the second division, clustered round the height for its defence. The
other brigade of Gen. M'Kenzie was placed in the second line. The
remainder of the cavalry had bivouacked at some distance to the rear,
and were not come up. The enemy were employed from daylight in placing
opposite our centre thirty pieces of cannon on the opposite side of
the ravine, but not a shot was fired on either side, and the whole
looked as if the armies had met for a review. But the calm augured the
coming storm, and the quiet evinced that all were aware of the great
approaching struggle, and that it was useless to throw away a casual
fire, or destroy individuals, where salvos alone and the death of
thousands could decide the day. When the vast column we had seen in
the dusk was considered ready, a single cannon shot from the centre
of the enemy's batteries was the signal for its advance, and for
the opening of all their guns. A shower of balls instantly fell on
all parts of our position, and the smoke, (the wind being east, and
the damp of the morning preventing its rising,) was blown across the
ravine, and completely enveloped us in a dense fog. But we had seen the
forward movement intended for our dislodgment, and knew, under cover
of this cannonade and smoke, it was advancing up the face of the hill.
It consisted of a close column of battalions, of the same division of
Ruffin which had attacked the night before.

Gen. Hill, with the brigades of Tilson and Stewart, which had already
successfully tried their strength with these same troops, was ready to
receive them. The Buffs, 48th, and 66th, advanced to the brow of the
hill, wheeling round to meet them with their arms ported, ready to rush
on the ascending foe as soon as perceived through the intense smoke.
They were not long in suspense, and without a moment's hesitation, by a
desperate charge and volley, they overthrew, as they topped the hill,
the enemy, who fled in the utmost confusion and consternation, followed
by our troops, even across the ravine. Here they rallied, and, after an
exchange of sharp firing, our regiments were withdrawn again to their
vantage ground. Had the cavalry been present, the victory might have
been completed at this early hour, but they had not come in from their
bivouack. As the smoke and tumult cleared off, and the troops were
seated behind the summit of the hill, we found our loss considerable,
and that Gen. Hill had been forced to quit the field from a shot in
the head. The dead of the enemy lay in vast numbers on the face of the
hill, and had been tall, healthy, fine young men, well-limbed, with
good countenances; and as proof of their courage, (the head of their
column having reached within a few yards of the top of the hill before
being arrested,) the bodies lay close to our ranks. The face of the
height was furrowed out into deep ravines by the water rushing down its
steep sides during the rains, and the dead and wounded of both nations
lay heaped in them.[36] Musquetry almost ceased after this defeat, but
the cannonade continued; our centre and right suffering considerably,
though in the other parts of the line, as our shots were plunging,
while theirs were directed upwards, it was not so deadly. It continued
for above an hour after the repulse, and showed us the inferiority of
our calibre. All our guns, with the exception of one brigade of heavy,
were miserably _light_ six pounders, while the French returned our fire
with eights and twelves.

As the weather was dreadfully hot, and it was impossible to know how
long we should occupy this ground, orders were given to bury the men
who had fallen the night before and in the morning attack, lying around
the hill interspersed with the living.

The entrenching tools were thus employed, and it was curious to see
the soldiers burying their fallen comrades, with the cannon shot
falling around, and in the midst of them, leaving it probable that an
individual might thus be employed digging his own grave! Gradually,
however, the fire slakened, and at last wholly ceased, and war appeared
as much suspended as before daylight and previously to the attack of
the morning. The troops on the advance talked together, and the thirsty
of both armies met at the bottom of the ravine, and drank from the same
stream. There was also a well at the foot of the hill to the left,
where the same water was divided among the collected of both nations
around its brink.

About nine it was evident that the enemy had no intention of disturbing
us for some time, as their numerous fires proved they were not
inclined to fight again on empty stomachs. This was a painful sight to
us, who felt acutely for our starving soldiery, who began to experience
the most pinching want. All the promises of the Spaniards had ended
in nought. They had made no arrangements to act up to their word, and
starvation began to stare us in the face. Generally, however, it was
borne by our men with philosophy, but one hungry soldier became almost
troublesome, and, close to Sir Arthur and his staff, said, "It was very
hard that they had nothing to eat," and wished that they might be let
to go down and fight, "for when engaged, they forgot their hunger."
The poor fellow was, however, at last persuaded to retire. Till about
eleven o'clock all remained quiet, but about that hour immense clouds
of dust were seen rising above the woods towards the Alberche opposite
the centre of the Allied army, implying movements of large bodies of
troops. This indicated the preparing for a general assault, and was
occasioned by Sebastiani's corps forming a column of attack.[37] As
the enemy's troops approached, the cannonade was renewed, and our
inferiority of metal was so evident, that a brigade of Spanish 12
pounders was borrowed from Cuesta. The fellows attached to these guns
showed good spirit, and, posting their guns on the side of the hill,
were found most effective. The French, at times, had the most exact
range of the height, and threw shot and shells upon it with terrible
precision. One shell killed four horses, held by a man, who escaped
uninjured. Their fuses, however, often burned too quick, exploding
the shells high in the air and forming little clouds of smoke. It
was curious that the enemy changed their fire from the troops to our
artillery, or from our batteries to our line, whenever we gave them the

But the dust drew near in the woods, and a vast column was seen
preparing to advance against Sir A. Cameron's brigade in the open
ground. General Sherbrooke had cautioned his division to use the
bayonet, and when the enemy came within about fifty yards of the
Guards, they advanced to meet them, but on their attempting to close
the enemy by a charge, they broke and fled. The regiment on their left,
the 83rd, made a simultaneous movement, driving the enemy with immense
loss before them; but the impetuosity of the Guards led to endangering
the day. The flying enemy led them on till they opened a battery on
their flank, which occasioned so heavy a loss, that the ranks could
not be formed after the disorder of pursuit, and, on being ordered to
resume their ground, produced confusion.

The enemy instantly rallied and followed them, and were so confident
of victory, that their officers were heard to exclaim, "_Allons, mes
enfans; ils sont tous nos prisonniers_." But Sir Arthur had foreseen
the difficulty in which the Guards were likely to become entangled, and
had ordered the 48th from the height to their support. This gallant
regiment arrived in the rear of the Guards at the moment when they were
retiring in confusion, pressed by the enemy, on the line of position.
They allowed the Guards to pass through them, and then, breaking in
upon the enemy, gave them a second repulse. The Guards quickly formed
in the rear, and moved up into the position; and their spirit and
appearance of good humour and determination after having lost in twenty
minutes five hundred men, was shown by their giving a hurrah, as they
took up their ground; and a report soon after that the enemy's cavalry
was coming down upon them, was answered by a contemptuous laugh along
their ranks.

The remainder of Sherbrooke's division, after repulsing the enemy,
had retired to their former ground in excellent order. The enemy
had made an attack at the same time on the fourth division; they
accompanied this by a _ruse_, which nothing but the determination of
our troops could have overcome. Trusting to the similarity of uniform,
they advanced towards the 7th, 97th, and 53d, crying out they were
Spaniards, and repeating the Spanish cry of _Vivan los Ingleses!_
Though this did not deceive our officers, it did the men, who, under
this false impression, could not be brought to fire on them; this
allowed their approaching quite close, when they gave their fire so
unexpectedly, that it staggered our line, and even caused them to fall
back. This was, however, only to exemplify the French proverb, _reculer
pour mieux sauter_, as indignation and anger took place of surprise,
and a spontaneous rush with the bayonet instantly threw the enemy into
utter rout. A Spanish regiment of infantry, on the right flank of the
fusileers, broke and fled on this attack; but the King's regiment of
horse, with great gallantry, dashed into the wood in co-operation with
our troops in pursuit. Several pieces of cannon fell into the hands
of Gen. A. Campbell, and three were captured by the Spanish cavalry,
while the flight of the enemy was so rapid, that several others were
left in their retreat.

Besides these attacks, the enemy's endeavours and intentions were
extended along the whole British line, with the exception of the hill,
which they did not again attack after the morning. We had not posted
any troops in the valley, or on the hills on our left, the former being
commanded, and the latter considered too distant; but it soon became
evident that the enemy had turned their views to these points.

The Spanish division of Gen. Bassecourt was in consequence borrowed
from Cuesta, and sent across the valley to oppose the enemy's light
troops on the distant ridge. The French soon after advanced two heavy
columns into the valley, consisting of the divisions of Vilelle and
Ruffin, and two-thirds of our cavalry were ordered to occupy the
valley opposite them. Gen. Anson's brigade arrived first, while the
heavy brigade was moving from the rear of the centre to its support.
The enemy's two columns advanced, supported by cavalry, threatened
to turn our left, and orders, either positive or discretionary,
were given to charge them if opportunity offered; these were either
interpreted into direct orders, or considered as definitive, under
particular circumstances, and the 23d regiment soon after advanced
in line against one of the columns, the brigade of Laval, which had
taken post with its flank against a house. This gallant regiment moved
forward with great steadiness, and the squadron, (for the width of
only one could embrace the front of the column,) on arriving within
firing distance, received a well-directed volley. It seemed to stop
them in their career—the whole country was instantly covered with
horses galloping back without riders, and men straggling to the rear
without horses, while a dense spot seen from the hill marked where the
slaughtered lay.

Though this squadron was annihilated, the others dashed on, passed
between and round the columns, and fell upon a brigade of cavalry in
the rear, broke through them, and rushed on a second brigade beyond.
Of these, some cut their way back, while many were slain or taken.
Though this desperate charge cost the 23d two-thirds of its men and
horses, it had the effect of astounding the enemy, who, seeing not only
the 1st German, and the 3d and 4th dragoons prepared for a similar
act, but the Spanish cavalry moving into the valley in support, and
their efforts unsuccessful elsewhere, not only gave up all farther
idea of penetrating in that quarter, but seemed satisfied that it
was imprudent and hopeless any longer to continue the contest. But
for being on the defensive, the gaps in our lines, which now forcibly
showed themselves, by the regiments not covering one-third of their
former ground, would have made us come to the like conclusion; and it
was no unpleasing sight to see them begin gradually to draw off their
infantry, and bring forward, to cover their retreat, their cavalry,
which had been all day in numerous _échelons_, extending back to the
woods. They formed several lines, and must have numbered not less than
9 or 10,000 cavalry, dressed in all the colours of the rainbow.

But the views of the British were attracted to a new enemy which had
threatened occasionally during the day, and had gained great head soon
after the defeat on the right and centre. The ripe corn and dry grass
took fire from the cartridges and wadding, and hundreds of acres were
rapidly consumed, involving in their conflagrations the more severely
wounded and helpless; adding a new and horrid character to the misery
of war.

It was so general, that it was a consolation to the friends of officers
slain, to learn that their bodies, when found, did not bear the marks
of being scorched or burned in their last moments!

But the attention of all was directed till dusk to the enemy's evident
preparations for retreat, and during the night they drew off behind the
Alberche, which river they had all crossed by the daylight of the 29th;
on which morning, Brig.-Gen. R. Craufurd joined the army with 3000 men,
and a troop of horse-artillery, and was pushed on to the old ruin, from
which Sir Arthur had so narrowly escaped two days before. But these
reinforcements, consisting of the 43d, 52d, and 95th, (the beginning of
the celebrated light division,) did not make up for the heavy loss we
had sustained during the 27th and 28th.

Out of 17,500 men we had lost 5,335, including Generals M'Kenzie and
Langworth killed, and Gen. Hill, Sir H. Campbell, and Brig.-Gen. A.
Campbell, wounded. This was two-sevenths of our force, and is, with
the exception of Albuera, the heaviest list of casualties offered, for
the men engaged, of any victorious army in modern war. The loss of the
23d Dragoons was remarkable from its extent; that fine regiment, which
had only joined three weeks, being only able to assemble, after the
action, one hundred men. Two officers and forty-six men and ninety-five
horses were killed on the spot, and besides the numerous wounded, three
officers, and about one hundred men were taken, in consequence of
penetrating into the enemy's supporting cavalry. The whole regiment
was so reduced, as to be sent home to England, on our return to the
Portuguese frontier.

The Spanish returns gave between 1300 and 1400 men, but this included
their loss on the 25th in front of St. Ollala[38].

The French army fell back across the Alberche, diminished not less
than one-fifth, if not one-fourth of their effectives, their loss
being indifferently rated from 10 to 14,000 men. Some of the little
enclosures in front of the right of the British were choked with their
dead, and in one little field more than 400 bodies were counted.

Besides the innumerable dead, vast numbers of wounded were left in our
front; and many more stand of arms than the most sanguine rated their
loss, were abandoned on the field of battle[39]. Nineteen pieces of
cannon remained in our possession as trophies of our victory[40].
Besides these, they left in our possession several silk standards,
but whether they had borne eagles or not it was difficult to say; as,
besides being much broken and torn when brought into head-quarters, the
staff of one had been used as a poker to a bivouac fire. It was the
custom of the French to unscrew their eagles, and for the eagle-bearers
to conceal them about their person when in danger. Having only one to
a regiment, and there being five battalions to each, every eagle taken
by us during the war, may be considered as equivalent to five stand of
colours, and the trophies at Whitehall as ten times more numerous than
they appear.

It is a remarkable and curious instance of the instability of human
institutions, that these idols of the French armies for so many years,
and around which so much blood was spilt, only now exist as trophies to
their conquerors.

This hard-fought battle was remarkable from the circumstance of almost
the entire efforts of an army being directed on the troops of one
nation of their allied opponents. It is, perhaps, fortunate, that
the rancour and vanity of the enemy led them to this conduct, as, had
they forced the Spaniards from the difficult country on our right, our
army would have been thrown off the Tagus, and had to combat the whole
French army, with its communications threatened, if not cut off.

With the exception of occupying the ground, the dash of the regiment of
King's cavalry, and the employment of a few battalions in skirmishing
on the hills on our left, the Spaniards did nothing whatever[41]. But
their previous behaviour had tended to make us uneasy during the whole
battle, and so disgusted was Cuesta with some of his troops, that he
ordered several officers and men to be shot for cowardice the next day.
This battle gave the character to all the subsequent actions in the
Peninsula. They were ever almost entirely of infantry and artillery,
while the cavalry, which acted with such effect on the continent, did
not assert its power. However brilliant Vimiera and Corunna, still
Talavera must be considered as the place where the military character
of the two nations was fairly brought to trial and proved. This battle
proved the total want of firmness of the enemy in meeting our troops
with the bayonet, and offered an example, followed by others on every
occasion, of their best troops flying like chaff before the wind, on
the hostile troops arriving within charging distance.

The French would ever expose themselves to fire at the smallest
distance as long as ourselves, but a hurra and a rush with the bayonet,
within reach, caused their instant flight.

With the exception of a few desperate men at the rear of a flying
column, or from accidental circumstances, scarce any bayonet wounds
were exchanged during the whole war; and their dread of closing was so
strongly evinced in foggy weather, that a shout was sufficient, as at
the pass of Maida in the Pyrenees, to disperse a forming column.

Indeed, our bayonets might as well have been of pasteboard, from
their temper being so seldom tried, for the dread of them alone was
sufficient to scatter the best troops of France. In fact it is a bad,
if not useless weapon in their hands, and the Portuguese beat them with
it on more than one occasion.

Brig.-Gen. Alexander Campbell had two horses shot under him, and though
wounded through the thigh, continued on his horse till the close of the
battle. Sir H. Campbell, who headed the brigade of Guards, was wounded
in the face, the ball entering the cheek and coming out behind the
ear. Col. Gordon, of the 83d, was badly wounded in the neck, and when
in the act of being removed to the rear, a shell fell into the blanket
in which he was carried, and bursting, slew alike the wounded and
his bearers. A man of the 87th, while lying down, was shot, the ball
entering the head, and was alive five days after.

The incessant and terrible cannonade had created the most shocking
wounds, and an unusual portion of wounded were not expected again to
join the ranks. The standard of one of the regiments of Guards had
three balls in its staff. The prisoners and deserters stated that,
during the action, a Westphalian regiment, in the enemy's service,
mutinied, but that they were reduced to obedience and marched to the

The morning after the battle was employed in removing our numerous and
suffering wounded into the convents and churches, now converted into
hospitals. By requisitions of beds and blankets, within three days,
principally through the exertion of the head of the medical staff,
Dr. Frank, no patient was without a mattrass. Nurses and orderlies
were selected to attend, and Sir Arthur visited the hospitals himself.
The number of deaths from wounds that proved mortal, obliged immense
burial parties to be employed during the first three or four days
in removing the bodies from the hospitals. Even in the case of the
officers, it was only through the attention of their brother officers,
who read the service themselves, that the usual funeral forms were
used, while the men were interred without prayers, being generally
placed in ditches and the bank dug in upon them.

The heat of the weather rendered as necessary a proper attention to
the dead of the enemy, and the Spaniards burned a vast number of the
slain; but the weather was too rapid for all exertion, and the tainted
air was fraught with every horror, so that the quarters of some of the
troops were forced to be changed. Though distressing to relate, it must
not be overlooked, that the 29th was disgraced by the atrocious conduct
of the Spaniards, in putting to death most of the enemy's wounded left
in our front. The amount has been rated as high as one thousand, but
it is certain several hundred were thus inhumanly butchered. One of
our officers found a French officer badly wounded, and, on offering to
seek aid, the poor fellow remarked, that he had no right to expect it,
until our own numerous wounded were housed and dressed. But during the
search for assistance, the Spaniards had passed the spot, and he was
found stabbed to death!

Sir Arthur felt he could not too soon thank the army which had so nobly
aided his efforts, and on the 29th his Excellency issued a long order
to that effect, naming distinguished officers and regiments. The enemy
continued a rear guard on the Alberche till the night of the 31st
July, when they retired through St. Ollala, and our patrols passed
through that town: here our officers learned some curious details of
the enemies' bearing, under the different feelings of confidence of
success and the discouragement of subsequent defeat. In the house
where the King had lodged, an instance was given highly creditable to
Joseph. A caricature was discovered of El Rey Pepé, which created great
indignation in those around Joseph's person, accompanied by threats and
ill-treatment. The King, the next morning, on his departure, tendered
his host a snuff-box, remarking, that he should be more careful of its
contents than of the caricature; on its being opened, it was found to
contain the King's miniature.

We were prevented from moving after the enemy, not only on account of
our numerous wounded, but from want of provisions. Our difficulties
on this head greatly increased after the battle, and were felt to so
great an extent, that the army in part became disorganized, from the
ravenous callings for food overpowering all other considerations.
While, it was said, comparative plenty reigned in the Spanish camp, our
troops were driven to seek and take provisions by force, wherever they
could find them; this led to such straggling from the camp, that on
the 2d of August the rolls were ordered to be called every two hours.
While our position was thus unsatisfactory and even doubtful, news
reached head-quarters that our rear was threatened by troops moving
down from Castile and Leon. On the 30th a rumour (proved however to be
anticipated) spread that the French had arrived in Placentia, and the
anxiety became universal.

Our information at this time was less perfect than it afterwards
became, and the various reports left the impression that it was
Soult's corps alone of 12 to 15,000 men that was thus menacing our
communication with Portugal. This however did not make our position
untenable, as our army of between 15 and 16,000, was capable of
defeating his force, if Cuesta could be persuaded to hold his ground,
and keep in check the lately defeated army, and thus cover our
hospitals. To this Cuesta agreed, and, ordering Gen. Bassecourt's
division to act as our advance, caused it to march to Oropesa on the
2d. Arrangements were made respecting the hospitals, and Col. M'Kinnon
was left in their charge, with but thirty-four medical officers (all we
could spare) to attend 5,000 sick and wounded.

We left Talavera on the 3d, under the full expectation of fighting
the forces coming from the north, concentrating about Naval Moral.
On our arrival at Oropesa on the evening of that day, Bassecourt was
pushed on towards that place, and orders were given out implying active
and immediate operations, by directing the troops to hold themselves
in readiness to march by such orders as they might receive from the

But the course of the night changed all our prospects. Sir Arthur
received a despatch from Cuesta stating, that he had received
information on which he could depend, that not only had Soult's corps
moved from the north, but that it was accompanied by the two other
corps, the 5th and 6th, and that he had, in consequence, determined to
retire from Talavera. This implied the sacrifice to the enemy of all in
our hospitals who had not the power of walking, as the Spaniards, on
Col. M'Kinnon applying to them for means of transport, furnished only
ten or a dozen carts, while very many quitted the town empty. Col.
M'Kinnon, thus under the painful necessity of leaving nearly 2,300 sick
and wounded, gave directions for the rest to withdraw by a nearer road
to the bridge of Arzobispo, than through Oropesa.[42]

This unexpected news added to Sir Arthur's difficulties; and while
these were under consideration, they were greatly increased by the
whole Spanish army coming in upon us, at daylight on the 4th, with
their carts and baggage.

On this occasion the old General had not wanted decision, as was proved
by the arrival of himself and army within a few hours after forming his

The intelligence of Cuesta proved most true; a junction of the three
corps had taken place, and the King, before he left Madrid, had sent
them orders on the 22d to advance on Placentia. The head-quarters of
the 2d, 5th, and 6th corps were at Salamanca on the 27th of July, and
directing their march on three succeeding days to the south, forced
all the weak passes and posts, and arrived on the 1st of August, at
Placentia, making prisoners 300 sick in the hospitals.

The Spanish troops, retiring before Soult, crossed the Tagus, and
fortunately destroyed the bridge of boats at Almarez. But the enemy
only thought of intercepting and surrounding the British, and their
advance reached Naval Moral on the 3d, but five leagues from Oropesa,
thus cutting off the direct road by Almarez to Portugal.

No time was now to be lost, as we were not only likely to be attacked
from the west, but, in consequence of the retreat of the Spaniards,
threatened with the advance of King Joseph, and his defeated army at
Talavera, within three or four days: in which case we should have had,
besides 36 to 38,000 from Madrid, 30 to 34,000 from Placentia.

But Sir Arthur soon decided, and gave directions, at four o'clock on
the 4th, for all the baggage to proceed across the bridge of Arzobispo.
This was preparatory to a similar movement of the army; and having
recalled Bassecourt's division, the whole British force filed over to
the left bank of the Tagus, where the wounded from Talavera arrived a
short time before.

The Spaniards followed to the side of the river, but did not cross that
evening. So nearly had the enemy intercepted our retreat, that at
dusk his cavalry interchanged some shots with our advance-posts, close
to Arzobispo, and carried off one of our videttes. The Spaniards did
not cross the next day; but the British army proceeded down the river,
by the same road where the enemy had turned Cuesta's flank before the
battle of Medellin, in the preceding spring. This was rendered most
necessary, as the occupation of Almarez could alone secure a retreat
upon Portugal; and the pontoons, though removed, had been left but in
the charge of some militia. Head-quarters on the 5th were near the
village of Peretada de Gabern, and the 3rd division, which had been
placed under the orders of General Craufurd, with the addition of his
light brigade, was pushed by narrow paths across the mountain, and
reached a point within two leagues of the passage over the Tagus.

On the 6th it reached Roman Gourdo, which secured this important
position, and head-quarters moved on to Meza de Ibor, (the spot of
Cuesta's unsuccessful affair on the 17th of March), and the following
day to Deleytoza. It was now possible to halt with security; from the
pass at Almarez being secured; and in a large convent, about a mile
from the town, a hospital was formed, and it was found above 2,000
wounded had accompanied the army.

General A. Campbell had found his way in a huckster's tilted-cart, with
a bed made in it, across the most difficult passes in the mountain.

The roads during three days' march were scarcely capable of transport,
and the greatest difficulty was experienced in conveying the artillery,
while the troops were often halted to cover their retreat.

As we moved over the high ridges, we had a most extensive view across
the place we had traversed a fortnight before from Placentia, and saw
the glittering of the arms, and the rising dust of the French columns
moving on Oropesa.

Colonel Waters and Captain Mellish crossed the river, and reconnoitered
the last of these columns, and learned from the peasants, that it was
the third of the same size that had passed along that road within the
preceding few days; thus fully confirming the information of the three
corps having been directed on our rear.

Thus, as in the preceding year, the British had again drawn five _corps
d'armée_ of the eight in Spain upon them. Some of the troops from the
north were not re-equipped after their losses in the north of Portugal,
but the three corps had little short of 35,000 effectives. However
precipitate the retreat of Cuesta, it would have been eventually
necessary, for, although we could have checked on the 5th, 6th, and
7th, the successive arriving columns of the enemy from Naval Moral,
(allowing time for the very desirable transport of many more of our
wounded beyond Arzobispo), still our position would sooner or later
have become untenable.

It may be conjectured that few armies have witnessed such vicissitudes
as the French and English armies within the short period of eleven
months. The two armies had more than once advanced and retired in the
face of each other. Many of those we saw marching across the plain with
the sanguine hope of intercepting our retreat, had been driven from
Portugal and carried to France, had witnessed our embarkation from
Corunna, and had since been expelled from the Tras os Montes, and now
again were compelling us, by an immense superiority of numbers, again
to retrograde.

After leaving the Spaniards at Arzobispo, the two armies were totally
disunited, and little or no subsequent communication took place between
them. We had seen enough of both officers and men to despise and
distrust them, from their chief to the drummer, and to hope that we
might never again be in the same camp. They not only were incapable of
acting as a military auxiliary, but were wholly remiss in fulfilling
their promises, and instead of attempting to find us in provisions,
while plenty reigned in their camp, even our officers were destitute
of bread. While our troops were on one occasion four days without this
indispensable necessary, they had the shameless impudence to sell
loaves to our starving soldiers at an immoderate price. So pressing
were our wants, that one of our commissaries took from them by force
one hundred bullocks and one hundred mule loads of bread. But if
their conduct before us had been despicable, it no less at a distance
deserved reprehension. Vanegas, who was to have made a powerful
diversion from La Mancha on Toledo, completely failed, even to the
extent of alarming the enemy, who felt satisfied that 2,000 men in that
city were sufficient to keep in check his whole force, while the passes
along the Portuguese and Spanish frontier were gained almost without a

But disasters quickly followed the Spaniards after our separation.
On the 6th they crossed to the left bank of the Tagus, and on the
following day Cuesta retired with his main force, leaving two divisions
of infantry, and the cavalry with the artillery in battery to defend
the bridge. The enemy showed themselves on the 6th on the opposite
bank, and increased in number on the 7th, but the interposition of the
river between them made the Spaniards consider themselves in perfect
safety. On the 8th, the French brought up the artillery, and opened a
fire on some redoubts constructed by the Spaniards, while they made
preparations for crossing the river. The Spanish cavalry, devoid of all
caution, were out in watering order, when 2,000 cavalry dashed into the
river, above the bridge, at a good ford, and attacked the redoubts in
the rear, at once enveloping the Spanish camp in confusion, dismay, and
rout. They fled, some in the direction of Messa de Ibor, others to the
southward, leaving their baggage and guns in the hands of the enemy.
Those who fled on the former road abandoned guns and ammunition-waggons
several leagues beyond the point of pursuit; and Colonel Waters, sent
from our head-quarters with a flag of truce, finding them thus safe,
persuaded the Spaniards, with difficulty, to return and bring back
their deserted guns.

This disgraceful affair was the climax of disasters to this army. It
could not assemble in a few days subsequently 18,000 men, and the Duke
of Albuquerque (against whose advice the Spanish cavalry had been left
unprepared), quitted it in disgust, sending in charges to the Cortes
against his commander. This was anticipated by Cuesta, who, on the
plea of his health, resigned on the 13th the command of the army. To
complete the sad picture presented by the Spaniards, Vanegas, without
answering any purpose, just so committed himself on the Toledo side,
that Sebastiani fell upon him at Almonacaio on the 10th, and routed him
with considerable loss.

Want of forage and provisions continued to an alarming degree in the
mountainous tract around Deleytosa and Almarez, and, still keeping the
advance at the latter place, rendered necessary the armies' moving
more to the westward. Head-quarters were on the 11th at Jarecejo, in
order to be nearer Truxillo, where a large depôt was forming. Sir
Arthur ordered, with justice, that the stoppage for the troops usually
of sixpence a-day for their provisions, should be only three-pence
from the 27th of July till further orders, in reference to their want
of regular supplies.[43] While the head-quarters were at this place,
the effects of want of food began to show themselves on the troops, by
sickness breaking out, though not at first to the alarming extent it
did a month after on the Guadiana.

But the road by Castel Branco to Lisbon was only covered by a small
force of four British regiments, which had been moving up under
General C. Craufurd, and it became necessary to place the army nearer
to Portugal, in a position to cover both banks of the Tagus, should
the enemy direct his march from Placentia. Although Craufurd was soon
joined by Marshal Beresford from the north, the army moved on the 20th
from Jarecejo to Truxillo, and gradually withdrew towards the frontier,
head-quarters passing through Majadas, Medellin, Merida, to Badajoz,
where Sir Arthur established himself on the 3rd of September with the
troops cantoned as follows:—

  First Division at      { Badajos, Arroyo, Lobone, Almendralejo,
                         {   Talavera la Real, and Santa Marta.

  Second Division        { Modtejo, La Mata, La Puebla de la
                         {   Calsada, Gorravilla, and Torre Major.

                         { Campo Mayor.
  Third Division         {
                         { Villa de Rey.

                         { Olivenza.
  Fourth Division        {
                         { Badajos.

In the mean time the enemy had not followed the defeated Spaniards,
but, fearful of leaving the north of Spain without troops, as early as
they had separated the two armies, and felt secure of the capital, the
three corps set out on their return, on the 9th, towards Salamanca.
Sir R. Wilson, whose advance to Escalona had not produced the supposed
effect on the French army, or at Madrid, in retiring from his exposed
situation, took post in the pass of Baños. This was the direct road for
the enemies returning columns, who, after a sharp affair on the 12th,
forced the position, and continued their route, leaving Sir Robert to
fall back on the frontier of Portugal.

Thus ended the campaign of 1809, which was not less brilliant than
interesting, and tended greatly to the ultimate deliverance of Spain
and Europe. Though no immediate results were produced from it, there
can be no doubt it saved Andalusia for a time, which province would
never have fallen into the enemy's power, had not the besotted
Spaniards sought opportunities for defeat, and committed themselves, as
at Ocana. In drawing the three corps from the north, it showed all that
part of Spain that the struggle was continued with firmness in other
quarters; and the very fact of relieving the country from the pressure
of the enemy, allowed breathing time, and proved their stay might not
be permanent.

The battle of the 27th and 28th July broke much the enemy's confidence
when opposed to us; and their repulse not only gave spirits to the
Spaniards, but opened the eyes of Europe to the possibility of
defeating the French; for it may be fearlessly advanced, that the
_morale_ of the European armies was restored by this and our succeeding
campaigns in Spain.

[Footnote 25: This was not greatly exaggerated, if the artillery,
the regular Foreign Regiments in the French service, and those of
the various countries of Europe, at Buonaparte's disposal, are
included.—'Sous le titre modeste de protecteur, Napoléon envahit
l'argent et les soldats d'une moitié de l'Allemagne,' says Foy,
speaking of the Confederation of the Rhine; and besides, he had the
armies of Italy, Naples, Holland, and the Grand Duchy of Varsovie at
his command.]

[Footnote 26: Cependant, parce que les Anglais s'étaient embarqués à
la Corogne, Napoléon se complut dans l'idée qu'ils ne reparaitraient
point sur le continent, et que les Portugais, perdant tout espoir
d'en être secourus, recevraient les Français en amis.—Telle était
son aveugle confiance, que les mouvemens de l'armée étaient tracés
par dates.—_Mémoires sur les Opérations Militaires des Français en
Gallice, en Portugal, et dans la Vallée du Tage, en 1809._]

[Footnote 27: At Corunna a soldier's wife, taken in the retreat, was
sent in by Junot. She brought his compliments to the general officers
he had known the preceding year, and a message that he and his corps
were opposite them, ready to "_pay off old scores_."]

[Footnote 28: This is the present Marquis de Chaves, who headed the
insurrection in 1827, against the Constitution.]

[Footnote 29: The author was himself on board.—Ed.]

[Footnote 30: The French called the British force with which we
advanced against Oporto, 30,000 men.]

[Footnote 31: Franceschi was an old opponent of Gen. Stewart, the
Adjutant-General having commanded the brigade, of which a portion
had been surprised at Rueda in Leon, a few months before, during the
Corunna campaign.]

[Footnote 32: In the French account of this campaign, published at
Paris 1821, the Author represents _le 47^e de ligne_, when covering
this retreat, as "se conduisant valeureusement."]

[Footnote 33: The Author of the "Voyage en Espagne et Lettres
Philosophiques," says at this time, "Les Espagnols ne pouvaient plus
rien par eux-mêmes: ils n'avaient à opposer que des partis mal armés,
mal équipés, mal aguerris, et plus mal commandés encore."]

[Footnote 34: In the Author's original copy of his Journal, written a
few days after, he finds the conduct of the Spaniards on this occasion
thus noticed:—"and it is my belief they would have continued till
_now_, if we had not aided them."]

[Footnote 35: It is needless to say, this alludes to Foy's Introduction
to the War of the Peninsula.]

[Footnote 36: We were occupied after this attack in carrying away our
wounded in blankets, by four or five soldiers, and within a short time
the number of unfortunate men assembled round our field hospital, a
small house and enclosure behind our centre, barely out of cannon shot,
proved our heavy loss.]

[Footnote 37: It is remarkable how the accounts differ respecting the
hour of attack. Sir Arthur says about twelve, another relater mentions
two, and Jourdan, in his interesting letter, places it as late as four

[Footnote 38: Nous pûmes remarquer à l'occasion de ces deux
affaires, le peu de cas que les Espagnols faisaient des Anglais;
ils ne les surent aucun gré des efforts qu'ils firent à Talavera,
et croyaient faire éloge de leur armée en disant qu'elle n'avait
essuyé presqu'aucune perte. Les Anglais de leur côté les méprisent
souverainement, et sont honteux de les avoir pour Alliés.—_M.S.
Journal of a French Officer taken at Badajoz._]

[Footnote 39: It was said 17,000 were found.]

[Footnote 40: A noble Peer, on the vote of thanks to the army,
afterwards remarked, that the capture of these guns was no proof of a
victory, as, he sagaciously observed, it might have been _convenient_
for the enemy to leave them on the field of battle.]

[Footnote 41: "Les Espagnols seuls restaient paisibles spectateurs du
combat," says a French author.]

[Footnote 42: We had the satisfaction of hearing after, that Victor, on
entering Talavera, behaved with the greatest attention and kindness to
those who, by the chance of war, had thus been left to his mercy and

[Footnote 43: It was not till the 12th of August that rations of
spirits were delivered to the troops, and only on the 2nd September,
that the regular delivery of provision, allowed the stoppage of
sixpence per day.]

                                OF THE
                          CAMPAIGN IN HOLLAND
                               IN 1814,
                          WITH DETAILS OF THE
                       ATTACK ON BERGEN-OP-ZOOM:

                 BY LIEUT. J. W. DUNBAR MOODIE, H. P.
                            21ST FUSILEERS.



There are certain events in the life of every man on which the memory
dwells with peculiar pleasure; and the impressions they leave, from
being interwoven with his earliest and most agreeable associations,
are not easily effaced from his mind. Sixteen years have now elapsed
since the short campaign in Holland, and the ill-fated attack on
Bergen-op-Zoom; but almost every circumstance that passed under my
notice at that period, still remains as vividly pictured in my mind as
if it had occurred but yesterday.

Our regiment, the 21st, or Royal North British Fusileers, was stationed
at Fort-George when the order came for our embarkation for Holland.
Whoever has experienced the dull monotony of garrison duty, may easily
conceive the joy with which the intelligence was hailed. The eve of our
embarkation was spent in all the hilarity inspired by the occasion,
and, as may be supposed, the bottle circulated with more than ordinary
rapidity. Our convoy, Captain Nixon, R.N. in return for some kindness
he had met with from my family, while on the Orkney station, insisted
on my taking my passage to Helvoet Sluys, along with our commanding
officer and acting-adjutant, on board his own vessel, the Nightingale.
The scene that was exhibited next day, as we were embarking, must be
familiar to most military men. The beach presented a spectacle I shall
never forget. While the boats, crowded with soldiers, with their arms
glittering in the sun, were pushing off, women were to be seen up
to their middles in the water, bidding, perhaps, a last farewell to
their husbands; while others were sitting disconsolate on the rocks,
stupified with grief, and almost insensible of what was going forward.
Many of the poor creatures were pouring out blessings on the officers,
and begging us to be kind to their husbands. At last, when we had got
the soldiers fairly seated in their places, which was no easy task, we
pulled off, while the shouts of our men were echoed back in wailings
and lamentations, mixed with benedictions, from the unhappy women left
behind us. As for the officers, most of us being young fellows, and
single, we had little to damp our joy at going on foreign service.
For my own part, I confess I felt some tender regrets in parting with
a fair damsel in the neighbourhood, with whom I was not a little
smitten; but I was not of an age to take these matters long to heart,
being scarcely sixteen at the time. Poor A—— R—— has since been
consigned, by a calculating mother, to an old officer, who had nearly
lost his sight, but accumulated a few thousand pounds in the West Indies.

We soon got under way, with a fair wind, for Holland. Instead of being
crammed into a transport, with every circumstance which could render
a sea-voyage disagreeable, we felt ourselves lucky in being in most
comfortable quarters, with a most excellent gentlemanly fellow for
our entertainer in Captain Nixon. To add to our comforts, we had the
regimental band with us, who were generally playing through the day,
when the weather or sea-sickness would allow them. On arriving off
Goeree, we were overtaken by one of the most tremendous gales I have
ever experienced, and I have had some experience of the element since.
We had come to anchor, expecting a pilot from the shore, between two
sandbanks, one on each side of us, while another extended between us
and the land. The gale commenced towards night, blowing right on shore.
Our awful situation may well be conceived when the wind increased
almost to a hurricane, with no hope of procuring a pilot. The sea,
which had begun to rise before the commencement of the gale, was now
running mountains high, and we could see the white foam, and hear the
tremendous roar of the breakers on the sandbank astern of us. Of the
two transports which accompanied us with the troops on board, one
had anchored outside of us, and the other had been so fortunate as
to get out to sea before the gale had reached its greatest violence.
We had two anchors a-head, but the sea was so high, that we had but
little expectation of holding-on during the night. About midnight, the
transport which had come to anchor to windward, drifted past us, having
carried away her cables.

The sea every now and then broke over us from stem to stern, and
we continued through a great part of the night to fire signals of
distress. It is curious to observe on these occasions the different
effects of danger on the minds of men: the nervous, alarmed too soon,
and preparing themselves for the worst that may happen; the stupid and
insensible, without forethought of danger, until they are in the very
jaws of destruction, when they are taken quite unprepared, and resign
themselves up to despair; and the thoughtless, whose levity inclines
them to catch the external expression of the confidence or fear in the
countenances of those around them. About one o'clock in the morning,
the captain got into bed, and we followed his example, but had hardly
lain down, when the alarm was given that one of the cables was gone. We
immediately ran on deck, but it was soon discovered that the wind had
shifted a few points, and that the cable had only slackened a little.
As the day dawned, the wind gradually abated, and at length fell off
to a dead calm. A light haze hid the low land from our view, and hung
over the sea, which still rolled in huge billows, as if to conceal the
horrors of our situation during the preceding night. In an hour or two,
the fog cleared away sufficiently to enable us to see a few miles in
all directions. Every eye was strained in search of the two transports,
with our regiment on board, but seeing nothing, we all gave them up for
lost; for we could hardly conceive the possibility of the transport,
which drifted past us in the night, escaping shipwreck on this low and
dangerous coast, or of the other being able to get out to sea. By the
help of our sweeps and a light breeze, we were getting more in with
the land, when at last we observed a pilot-boat coming out to us. Our
little Dutch pilot, when he got alongside of us, soon relieved our
minds from anxiety as to the fate of one of the transports, which had
fortunately escaped the sandbanks, and was safe in Helvoet Sluys.

A Dutchman being an animal quite new to many of us, we were not a
little diverted with his dress and demeanour. Diederick was a little,
thick-set, round-built fellow, about five feet three inches in
height, bearing a considerable resemblance in shape to his boat: he
was so cased up in clothes, that no particular form was to be traced
about him, excepting an extraordinary roundness and projection "_a
posteriori_," which he owed as much, I believe, to nature as to his
habiliments. He wore a tight, coarse, blue jerkin, or pea-jacket, on
his body, and reaching half-way down his legs, gathered up in folds
tight round his waist, and bunching out amply below. His jacket had
no collar, but he had a handkerchief tied round his neck like a rope,
which, with his protruding glassy eyes, gave him the appearance of
strangulation. On his legs he wore so many pairs of breeches and
trowsers, that I verily believe we might have pulled off three or four
pairs without being a whit the wiser as to his natural conformation.
On his feet he wore a pair of shoes with huge buckles, and his head
was crowned with a high-topped red nightcap. Thus equipped, with the
addition of a short pipe stuck in his mouth, "_ecce_" Diederick, our
worthy pilot, who stumping manfully up to the Captain, with his hand
thrust out like a bowsprit, and a familiar nod of his head, wished him
"_goeden dag_," and welcomed him cordially to Holland. I observed that
our Captain seemed a little "taken aback" with the pilot's republican
manners; however, he did not refuse honest Diederick a shake of his
hand, for the latter had evidently no conception of a difference in
rank requiring any difference in the mode of salutation. After paying
his respects to the captain, he proceeded to shake us all by the hand
in turn, with many expressions of goodwill to the English, whom he was
pleased to say had _always_ been the Dutchmen's best friends. Having
completed the ceremonial of our reception, he returned to the binnacle,
and, hearing the leadsman sing out "by the mark three," clapping his
fat fists to his sides, and looking up to see if the sails were "clean
full," exclaimed with great energy, "Bout Skipp!" The captain was
anxious to procure some information regarding the channels between
the sandbanks, and depth of the water, but all the satisfaction our
friend Diederick would vouchsafe him was, "_Ja, Mynheer, wanneer wij
niet beter kan maaken dan moeten wij naar de anker komen_[44]." We soon
reached Helvoet Sluys, and came to anchor for the night.

On landing next day, we found the half of the regiment which had so
fortunately escaped shipwreck, with the transport which had drifted
past us in the night of the gale. Here we took leave of our kind
friends the captain and officers of the Nightingale, and next day
marched to Buitensluys, a little town nearly opposite to Willemstadt.
Here we were detained for several days, it not being possible to cross
the intervening branch of the sea, in consequence of the quantities of
ice which were floating down from the rivers. We soon got ourselves
billeted out in the town and neighbouring country, and established a
temporary mess at the principal inn of the place, where we began to
practise the Dutch accomplishments of drinking gin and smoking, for
which we had a convenient excuse in the humidity and coldness of the
climate. Our hard drinkers, of course, did not fail to inculcate the
doctrine, that wine and spirits were the "sovereignest remedy" in the
world for the ague, of which disease they seemed to live in constant
dread, particularly after dinner. During our sojourn at Buitensluys,
our great amusement through the day was skaiting on the ice with the
country girls, who were nothing shy, and played all manners of tricks
with us, by upsetting us, &c. &c. thus affording rather a dangerous
precedent, which was sometimes returned on themselves with interest.

We are accustomed to hear of the Dutch phlegm, which certainly forms
a distinguishing feature in their "physical character;" they are dull
and slow in being excited to the strong emotions, but it is a great
mistake to suppose that this constitutional sluggishness implies any
deficiency in the milder moral virtues. The Dutch, I generally found
to possess, in a high degree, the kindly, charitable feelings of human
nature, which show themselves to the greater advantage, from the
native simplicity of their manners. I had got a comfortable billet at
a miller's house, a little out of the village. The good folks finding
that I was a Scotchman, for which people they have a particular
liking from some similarity in their manners, began to treat me with
great cordiality, and threw off that reserve, which is so natural with
people who have soldiers forced into their houses whether they will
or not. The miller and his cheerful "frow" never tired of showing me
every kindness in their power while I remained with them, and to such
a degree did they carry this, that it quite distressed me. On leaving
Buitensluys, neither my landlord nor his wife would accept of any
remuneration, though I urgently pressed it on them. When the avarice of
the Dutch character is taken into account, they certainly deserve no
small praise for this disinterested kind-heartedness.

The ice having broken up a little, we were enabled to get ferried over
to Willemstadt, and proceed on our march to Tholen, where we arrived in
two or three days. The cold in Holland this winter was excessive, and
Tholen being within four miles of Bergen op-Zoom, a great part of the
inhabitants, as well as garrison, were every day employed in breaking
the ice in the ditches of the fortifications. The frost, however, was
so intense, that before the circuit was completed, which was towards
evening, we were often skaiting on the places which had been broken
in the morning; we could not, with all our exertions, break more
than nine feet in width, which was but an ineffectual protection
against the enemy, had they felt any inclination to attack us in this
half-dilapidated fortress, with our small garrison.

After we had been here some days, the remainder of our regiment, who
had been saved by the transport getting out to sea, joined us. They
had sprung a leak, and were near perishing, when it was fortunately
stopped, and the gale abated. The first thing we all thought of on
coming to Tholen was procuring snug billets, as we might remain some
time in garrison. With this view, I employed a German corporal, who
acted as our interpreter. He volunteered from the Veteran Battalion
at Fort George to accompany us. After looking about for some time, he
found out a quarter which he guessed would suit my taste. The house
was inhabited by a respectable burgher, who had been at sea, and still
retained the title of Skipper. His son, as I afterwards learned, had
died a few months before, leaving a very pretty young widow, who still
resided with her father-in-law. I had not seen her long before I
became interested in her. Johanna M—— was innocence and simplicity
itself; tender, soft, and affectionate; her eyes did not possess that
brightness which bespeaks lively passions, and too often inconstancy;
but they were soft, dark, and liquid, beaming with affection and
goodness of heart. On coming home one day, I found her with her head
resting on her hands and in tears; her father and mother-in-law, with
their glistening eyes resting on her, with an expression of sympathy
and sorrow, apparently more for her loss than their own; as if they
would have said, "Poor girl! we have lost a son, but you have lost
a husband." Johanna, however, was young, and her spirits naturally
buoyant: of course it cannot be supposed that this intensity of
feeling could exist but at intervals. As usual, I soon made myself
quite at home with the Skipper and his family, and became, moreover,
a considerable favourite, from the interest I took in Johanna, and
a talent at making punch, which was always put in requisition when
they had a visit from the "_Predikaant_," or priest of the parish;
on these occasions I was always one of the party at supper, which is
their principal meal. It usually consisted of a large tureen, with bits
of meat floating in fat or butter, for which we had to dive with our
forks; we had also forcemeat-balls and sour-crout. The priest who was
the very picture of good-nature and good-living, wore a three-cornered
cocked-hat, which, according to the fashion of the middle classes,
never quitted his head, excepting when he said grace. When supper was
over and the punch made, which always drew forth the most unqualified
praises of the "_Predikaant_," he would lug out a heap of papers from
his breeches-pocket, inscribed with favourite Dutch ditties, which, so
far as I could understand the language, contained political allusions
to the state of matters in Europe at the time. The burden of one of
the songs I still remember, from the constant recurrence of the words,
"_Well mag het Ue bekoomen_," at the end of each stanza. The jolly
priest being no singer, always read these overflowings of the Dutch
muse with the most energetic gestures and accent. At the end of each
verse, which seemed by its rhyme to have something of the titillating
effect of a feather on the sober features of the "Skipper," the reader
would break out into a Stentorian laugh, enough to have shaken down the
walls of Jericho, or the Stadt-huis itself. The good "_vrow_," whose
attention was almost entirely occupied with her household concerns, and
who had still more prose in her composition than her mate, would now
and then, like a good wife, exhibit some feeble tokens of pleasure,
when she observed his features to relax in a more than ordinary degree.

Soon after I had taken up my abode in the house, I observed that
Johanna had got a Dutch and English grammar, which she had begun to
study with great assiduity, and as I was anxious to acquire Dutch,
this naturally enough brought us often together. She would frequently
come into my room to ask the pronunciation of some word, for she was
particularly scrupulous on this head. On these occasions, I would make
her sit down beside me, and endeavour to make her perfect in each word
in succession; but she found so much difficulty in bringing her pretty
lips into the proper form, that I was under the necessity of enforcing
my instructions, by punishing her with a kiss for every failure. But so
far was this from quickening her apprehension, that the difficulties
seemed to increase at every step. Poor Johanna, notwithstanding this
little innocent occupation, could not, however, be entirely weaned from
her affection for the memory of her departed husband, for her grief
would often break out in torrents of tears; when this was the case, we
had no lesson for that day.

Garrison duty is always dull and irksome, and soldiers are always
glad of any thing to break the monotony of a life where there is no
activity or excitement. One day, while we lay at Tholen, a letter was
brought from head-quarters, which was to be forwarded from town to
town to Admiral Young, who was lying in the Scheldt at the time. A
couple of horses and a guide were procured, and I was sent with the
letter, much to my own satisfaction, as I was glad of an opportunity
to see more of the country. I was ordered to proceed to a certain
town, the name of which I forget, where another officer should relieve
me. It was late when I got to the town, and not being aware that it
was occupied by a Russian regiment, I was not a little surprised in
being challenged by a sentry in a foreign language. I could not make
out from the soldier what they were, until the officer of the guard
came up, who understood a little English. He informed me that they
were on their march to Tholen, where they were to do garrison duty.
On desiring to be conducted to his commanding officer, he brought me
to the principal house in the town, at the door of which two sentries
were posted. The scene in the interior was singular enough. The first
object that met my eyes on entering the Colonel's apartment, was a
knot of soldiers in their green jackets and trowsers, lying in a heap,
one above another, in the corner of the room, (with their bonnets
pulled over their eyes,) like a litter of puppies, and snoring like
bull-frogs. These were the Colonel's body-guard. The room with its
furniture exhibited a scene of the most outrageous debauchery. Chairs
overturned, broken decanters and bottles, fragments of tumblers and
wine-glasses lay scattered over the floor and table. Two or three
candles were still burning on the table, and others had been broken in
the conflict of bottles and other missiles. Taking a rapid glance at
the state of matters in passing, we approached the Colonel's bed, which
stood in one corner of the room. My conductor drew the curtains, when
I saw two people lying in their flannel-shirts; the elder was a huge,
broad-faced man, with a ferocious expression of countenance, who I was
informed was the Colonel; the other was a young man about seventeen
years of age, exceedingly handsome, and with so delicate a complexion,
that I actually thought at the time he must be the Colonel's wife. With
this impression I drew back for a moment, when he spoke to me in good
English, and told me he was the Adjutant, and begged I would state what
I had to communicate to the Colonel, which he would interpret to him,
as the latter did not understand English. The Colonel said he should
forward the letter by one of his officers, and as I could then return
to Tholen, we should proceed to that place next morning. We proceeded
accordingly next morning on our march to Tholen. The Colonel had sent
on his light company as an advanced-guard, some time before us, with
orders to halt at a village on the road, until the regiment came up.
Whether they had mistaken his orders I know not, but on coming to the
village, no light company was to be found; and on inquiry, we learned
that they had marched on. The rage of the Colonel knew no bounds, and
produced a most ridiculous and childish scene betwixt himself and the
officers. With the tears running down his cheeks, and stamping with
rage, he went among them; first accusing one, and then the other, as
if they were to blame for the mistake of the advanced-guard. Each of
them, however, answered him in a petulant snappish manner, like enraged
pug-dogs, at the same time clapping their hands to their swords, and
some of them drawing them half out of the scabbards, when he would
turn away from them, weeping bitterly like a great blubbering boy all
the while. The officers, however, began to pity the poor Colonel, and
at last succeeded in appeasing his wrath and drying his tears. He
proceeded forthwith to order an enormous breakfast to be prepared for
us immediately. It was of no use for the innkeeper to say that he had
not any of the articles they desired, he was compelled by threats and
curses to procure them, come whence they would. As our landlord knew
well whom he had to deal with, our table soon groaned under a load
of dishes, enough apparently to have dined four times our number. In
a trice we had every thing that could be procured for love or money,
and it was wonderful to observe with what alacrity the landlord waited
on us, and obeyed the orders he received. He appeared, in fact, to
have thrown off his native sluggishness, and two or three pairs of
breeches for the occasion. Before proceeding on the march, I wished to
pay my share of the entertainment, but my proposal was treated with
perfect ridicule. At first, I imagined that the Russians considered me
as their guest, but I could not discover that the innkeeper received
any remuneration for the entertainment prepared for us. The Russians
had many odd customs during their meals, such as drinking out of each
other's glasses, and eating from each other's plates; a compliment,
which in England, we could willingly dispense with. They seemed to have
a great liking to the English, and every day our men and theirs were
seen walking arm-in-arm about the streets together. The gin, which
was rather too cheap in this country, seemed to be a great bond of
union between them; and strange to say, I do not recollect a single
instance of their quarrelling. Notwithstanding the snapping between
the commanding officer and the other officers, they seemed on the
whole to be in excellent discipline in other respects. The manner in
which they went through their exercise was admirable, particularly
when we consider that they were only sailors acting on shore. There
was one custom, however, which never failed to excite our disgust and
indignation; hardly a day passed but we saw some of their officers
boxing the ears of their men in the ranks, who seemed to bear this
treatment with the greatest patience, and without turning their eyes
to the right or left during the operation; but such is the effect of
early habits and custom, that the very men who bore this degrading
treatment, seemed to feel the same disgust for our military punishment
of flogging; which, however degrading in its effects on the character
of the sufferer, could not at least be inflicted at the caprice of the
individual. We may here observe the different effects produced on the
character of men by a free and a despotic system of Government: it was
evidently not the _nature_, but the _degree_, of punishment in our
service which shocked the Russian prejudices.

We had all become thoroughly sick of the monotony and sameness of our
duties and occupations at Tholen, when we received orders to march the
next day, (8th March, 1814). As the attack on Bergen-op-Zoom, which
took place on that evening, was of course kept a profound secret, the
common opinion was, that we were destined for Antwerp, where the other
division of the army had already had some fighting. Though elated,
in common with my brother officers, with the prospect of coming to
closer quarters with the enemy, it was not without tears on both sides
that I parted with poor Johanna, who had somehow taken a hold of my
affections that I was hardly aware of till this moment. The time left
us to prepare for our march I devoted to her, and she did not even seek
the pretext of her English grammar to remain in my room for the few
hours we could yet enjoy together. We had marched some miles before I
could think of any thing but her, for the recollection of her tears
still thrilled to my very heart, and occasioned a stifling sensation
that almost deprived me of utterance. But we were soon thrown into a
situation where the excitement was too powerful and engrossing to leave
room for other thoughts than of what we were immediately engaged in.

It was nearly dark when we arrived at the village of Halteren, which
is only three or four miles from Bergen-op-Zoom, where we took up
our quarters for the night. On the distribution of the billets to
the officers for the night, I received one upon a farm-house about
a mile in the country. I had not been long at my new lodging, when
I was joined by four or five officers of the 4th Battalion Royal
Scots, who had just arrived by long marches from Stralsund, and were
billetted about the country. They had heard that an attempt to surprise
Bergen-op-Zoom would be made that same night. It is not easy to
describe the sensations occasioned in my mind by this intelligence; it
certainly partook but little of fear, but the novelty (to me at least)
of the situation in which we were about to be placed, excited a feeling
of anxiety as to the result of an attempt, in which, from the known
strength of the place, we dared hardly expect to be successful. There
is also a degree of melancholy which takes hold of the mind at these
moments of serious reflection which precede the conflict. My comrades
evidently shared this feeling with me. One of them remarked, as we
were preparing to march, "My boys, we'el see something like service
to-night," and added, "we'el not all meet again in this world." Poor
Mac Nicol, who made the remark, fell that night, which was the first
and the last of my acquaintance with him. I believe every one of us
were wounded. Learning from my new acquaintances that the grenadier
company of their regiment, (Royal Scots), which was commanded by an
old friend of mine, (Lieutenant Allan Robertson,) and whom I had not
seen for some years, was only about a mile farther off, I thought I
should have time to see him and join my regiment before they marched,
should they be sent to the attack. However, the party of the Royals
whom I accompanied lost their way, from their ignorance of the road,
and we in consequence made a long circuit, during which I heard from
an aid-de-camp who passed us, that the 21st were on their march to
attack the place on another quarter from us. In these circumstances I
was exceedingly puzzled what course to take; if I went in search of
my regiment, I had every chance of missing them in the night, being
quite ignorant of the roads. Knowing that the Royals would be likely to
head one of the columns from the number of the regiment, I took what I
thought the surest plan, by attaching myself to the grenadier company
under my gallant friend. There is something awfully impressive in the
mustering of soldiers before going into action; many of those names,
which the serjeants were now calling in an under tone of voice, would
never be repeated, but in the tales of their comrades who saw them

After mustering the men, we proceeded to the general "rendez-vous" of
the regiments forming the column; the Royals led the column followed by
the other regiments according to their number. As every thing depended
on our taking the enemy by surprise, the strictest orders were given to
observe a profound silence on the march.

While we are proceeding to the attack, it will not be amiss to give the
reader a slight sketch of the situation of Bergen-op-Zoom, and the plan
of the operations of the different columns, to render my relation of
the proceedings of the column I served with the more intelligible.

Bergen-op-Zoom is situated on the right bank of the Scheldt, and
takes its name from the little river Zoom, which, after supplying
the defences with water, discharges itself into the Scheldt. The old
channel of the Zoom, into which the tide flows towards the centre of
the town, forms the harbour, which is nearly dry at low-water. The
mouth of the harbour was the point fixed upon for the attack of the
right column, under Major-General Skerret, and Brig.-Gen. Gore. This
column consisted of 1100 men of the 1st regiment, or Royal Scots, the
37th, 44th, and 91st, (as far as I can recollect). Lieut.-Col. Henry,
with 650 men of the 21st, or Royal Scot's Fusileers, was sent on a
false attack near the Steenbergen-gate, to the left of the harbour, (I
suppose the reader to be standing at the entrance of the harbour facing
the town). Another column, consisting of 1200 men of the 33d, 55th, and
69th regiments, under Lieut.-Col. Morrice, were to attack the place
near the Bredagate, and endeavour to enter by escalade. A third column,
under Col. Lord Proby, consisting of 1000 men of the 1st and Coldstream
Guards, was to make nearly a complete circuit of the place, and enter
the enemy's works by crossing the ice, some distance to the right of
the entrance of the harbour and the Waterport-gate. This slight account
of the plan of attack I have borrowed in some degree from Col. Jones'
Narrative, who must have procured his information on these points from
the best sources. However, as I only pretend to speak with certainty
of what fell under my own immediate observation, I shall return to the
right column, with which I served on this occasion.

When we had proceeded some way we fell in with a picket, commanded by
Capt. Darrah, of the 21st. Fusileers, who was mustering his men to
proceed to the attack. Thinking that our regiment (the 21st), must
pass his post on their way to the false attack, he told me to remain
with him until they came up. I, in consequence, waited some time,
but hearing nothing of the regiment, and losing patience, I gave him
the slip in the dark, and ran on until I regained my place with the
grenadier company of the Royals. On approaching the place of attack, we
crossed the Tholen-dike, and immediately entered the bed of the Zoom,
through which we had to push our way before we entered the wet ditch.
It is not easy to convey an idea of the toil we experienced in getting
through the deep mud of the river; we immediately sank nearly to our
middles, and when, with great difficulty, we succeeded in freeing one
leg from the mire, we sank nearly to the shoulder on the other side
before we could get one pace forward. As might be expected, we got
into some confusion in labouring through this horrible slough, which
was like bird-lime about our legs; regiments got intermixed in the
darkness, while some stuck fast, and some unlucky wretches got trodden
down and smothered in the mud. Notwithstanding this obstruction,
a considerable portion of the column had got through, when those
behind us, discouraged by this unexpected difficulty, raised a shout
to encourage themselves. Gen. Skerret, who was at the head of the
column, was furious with rage, but the mischief was already done. The
sluices were opened, and a torrent of water poured down on us through
the channel of the river, by which the progress of those behind was
effectually stopped for some time. Immediately after the sluices were
opened, a brilliant firework was displayed on the ramparts, which
showed every object as clearly as daylight. Several cannon and some
musketry opened on us, but did us little harm, as they seemed to be
discharged at random. At the moment the water came down, I had just
cleared the deepest part of the channel, and making a great effort,
I gained a flat piece of ice which was sticking edgeways in the mud;
to this I clung till the strength of the torrent had passed, after
which I soon gained the firm land, and pushed on with the others to
the ditch. The point at which we entered was a bastion to the right of
the harbour, from one of the angles of which a row of high palisades
was carried through the ditch. To enable us to pass the water, some
scaling-ladders had been sunk to support us in proceeding along
the palisade, over which we had first to climb with each other's
assistance, our soldiers performing the office of ladders to those who
preceded them. So great were the obstacles we met with, that had not
the attention of the enemy fortunately (or rather most judiciously),
been distracted by the false attack under Col. Henry, it appeared quite
impossible for us to have affected an entrance at this point. While we
were proceeding forward in this manner, Col. Muller[45] of the Royals
was clambering along the tops of the palisade, calling to those who had
got the start of him, to endeavour to open the Waterport-gate, and let
down the drawbridge to our right; but no one in the hurry of the moment
seemed to hear him. On getting near enough, I told him I should effect
it if it was possible.

We met with but trifling resistance on gaining the rampart; the enemy
being panic struck, fled to the streets and houses in the town, from
which they kept up a pretty sharp fire on us for some time. I got
about twenty soldiers of different regiments to follow me to the
Waterport-gate, which we found closed. It was constructed of thin
paling, with an iron bar across it about three inches in breadth. Being
without tools of any kind, we made several ineffectual attempts to open
it. At last, retiring a few paces, we made a rush at it in a body, when
the iron bar snapped in the middle like a bit of glass. Some of my
people got killed and wounded during this part of the work, but when we
got to the drawbridge, we were a little more sheltered from the firing.
The bridge was up, and secured by a lock in the right hand post of the
two which supported it. I was simple enough to attempt to pick the lock
with a soldier's bayonet, but after breaking two or three, we at last
had an axe brought us from the bastion where the troops were entering.
With the assistance of this instrument we soon succeeded in cutting
the lock out of the post, and taking hold of the chain, I had the
satisfaction to pull down the drawbridge with my own hands.

While I was engaged in this business, Col. Muller was forming the
Royals on the rampart where we entered; but a party of about 150 men
of different regiments, under General Skerret, who must have entered
to the left of the harbour, were clearing the ramparts towards the
Steinbergen-gate, where the false attack had been made under Col.
Henry; and a party, also, under Col. Carleton, of the 44th regiment,
was proceeding in the opposite direction along the ramparts to the
right, without meeting with much resistance. Hearing the firing on the
opposite side of the town from Gen. Skerret's party, and supposing
that they had marched through the town, I ran on through the streets
to overtake them, accompanied by only one or two soldiers, for the
rest had left me and returned to the bastion after we had opened the
gate. In proceeding along the canal or harbour, which divided this part
of the town, I came to a loop-holed wall, which was continued from
the houses down to the water's edge. I observed a party of soldiers
within a gate in this wall, and was going up to them, taking them for
our own people, when I was challenged in French, and had two or three
shots fired at me. Seeing no other way of crossing the harbour but by
a little bridge, which was nearly in a line with the wall, I returned
to the Waterport-gate, which I found Col. Muller had taken possession
of with two or three companies of his regiment. I went up to him, and
told him that I had opened the gate according to his desire, and of the
interruption I had met with in the town. Not knowing me, he asked my
name, which he said he would remember, and sent one of the companies
up with me to the wall, already mentioned, and ordered the officer who
commanded the company, after he should have driven the enemy away, to
keep possession of it until farther orders. On coming to the gate,
we met with a sharp resistance, but after firing a few rounds, and
preparing to charge they gave way, leaving us in possession of the gate
and bridge.

Leaving the company here, and crossing the little bridge, I again set
forward alone to overtake Gen. Skerret's party, guided by the firing on
the ramparts. Avoiding any little parties of the enemy, I had reached
the inside of the ramparts where the firing was, without its occuring
to me that I might get into the wrong box and be taken prisoner.
Fortunately I observed a woman looking over a shop door, on one side of
the street; the poor creature, who must have been under the influence
of some strong passion to remain in her present exposed situation, was
pale and trembling. She was a Frenchwoman, young, and not bad-looking.
I asked her where the British soldiers were, which she told me without
hesitation, pointing at the same time in the direction. I shook hands
with her, and bade her good night, not entertaining the smallest
suspicion of her deceiving me; following her directions, I clambered up
the inside of the rampart, and rejoined Gen. Skerret's party.

The moon had now risen, and though the sky was cloudy, we could see
pretty well what was doing. I found my friend Robertson here, with the
grenadier company of the Royals; I learned from him that the party,
which was now commanded by Capt. Guthrie of the 33d regiment, had
been compelled by numbers to retire from the bastion which the enemy
now occupied, and should endeavour to maintain the one which they now
possessed, until they could procure a reinforcement. He also told me
of Gen. Skerret's being dangerously wounded and taken prisoner, an
irreparable loss to our party, as Capt. Guthrie was ignorant of the
General's intentions. In the mean time the enemy continued a sharp
firing on us, which we returned as fast as our men could load their
firelocks. Several of the enemy who had fallen, as well as of our own
men, were lying on the ramparts; one of our officers, who had been
wounded in the arm, was walking about, saying occasionally, in rather
a discontented manner, "This is what is called honour;" though I could
readily sympathise with him in the pain he suffered, I could not
exactly understand how, if there is any honour in getting wounded, any
bodily suffering can detract from it.

We found a large pile of logs of wood on the rampart; these we
immediately disposed across the gorge of the bastion, so as to form a
kind of parapet, over which our people could fire, leaving, however,
about half the distance open towards the parapet of the rampart. On
the opposite side of the bastion were two twenty-four-pounders of the
enemy's, which being raised on high platforms, we turned upon them,
firing along the ramparts over the heads of our own party. However
valuable this resource might be to us, we were still far from being
on equal terms with the French, who besides greatly exceeding us in
numbers, had also brought up two or three fieldpieces, which annoyed
us much during the night. There was also a windmill on the bastion they
occupied, from the top of which their musketry did great execution
among us. In the course of the night, they made several ineffectual
attempts to drive us from our position: on these occasions, which we
always were aware of from the shouts they raised to encourage each
other, as soon as they made their appearance on the rampart, we gave
them a good dose of grape from our twenty-four-pounders, and had a
party ready to charge them back. I observed our soldiers were always
disposed to meet the enemy half-way, and the latter were soon so well
aware of our humour, that they invariably turned tail before we could
get within forty or fifty paces of them. The firing was kept up almost
continually on both sides until about two o'clock in the morning, when
it would sometimes cease for more than half-an-hour together. During
one of these intervals of stillness, exhausted with our exertions,
and the cold we felt in our drenched clothes, some of the officers
and I lay down along the parapet together, in hopes of borrowing a
little heat from each other. I fell insensibly into a troubled dozing
state, in which my imagination still revelled in the scenes of night.
While I yet lay the firing had recommenced, which, with the shouts
of the enemy, and the words of those about me, seemed to form but the
ground work of my fitful dream, which continued to link imaginary
circumstances to reality. How long I might have lain in this stupor,
between sleeping and waking, I know not, when suddenly I felt the
ground shake under me, and heard at the same time a crash as if the
whole town had been overwhelmed by an earthquake; a bright glare of
light burst on my eyes at the same instant and almost blinded me. A
shot from the enemy had blown up our small magazine on the ramparts,
on which we depended for the supply of the two twenty-four-pounders
which had been of such material use to us during the night. This broke
our slumbers most effectually; and we had now nothing for it but
to maintain our ground in the best way we were able until we could
receive a reinforcement from some of the other parties. Immediately
after this disaster, raising a tremendous shout or rather yell, the
enemy again attempted to come to close quarters with us, in hopes of
our being utterly disheartened; but our charging party, which we had
always in readiness, made them wheel round as usual. In the course of
the night, we had sent several small parties of men to represent the
state of our detachment, and endeavour to procure assistance, but none
of them returned, having, we supposed, been intercepted by the enemy.
Discouraged as we were by this circumstance, we still continued to hold
our ground until break of day.

By this time the firing had entirely ceased in the other part of the
town, naturally leading us, in the absence of all communication, to
conclude that the other parties had been driven from the place. However
this may have been, the first dawn of day showed us in but too plain
colours the hopelessness of our situation. The enemy now brought
an overwhelming force against us; but still we expected, from the
narrowness of the rampart, that they would not be able to derive the
full advantage of their superiority; but in this we were deceived. The
bastion we occupied was extensive, but only that portion of it near the
gorge was furnished with a parapet. At this spot, and behind the logs
which we had thrown up, our now diminished force was collected. Keeping
up an incessant fire to divert our attention, the French (who now
outnumbered us, at least three to one,) detached a part of their force,
which skirting the outside of the ramparts, and ascending the face of
the bastion we occupied, suddenly opened a most destructive fire on our
flank and rear. From this latter party we were totally unprotected,
while they were sheltered by the top of the rampart: we were thus left
to defend ourselves from both at once as we best could. But still they
would not venture to charge us, and it would have been of little use
for us to charge them, for the moment we quitted the parapet, we would
have been exposed to a cross fire from the other bastion.

The slaughter was now dreadful, and our poor fellows, who had done all
that soldiers could in our trying situation, now fell thick and fast.
Just at this moment, my friend Robertson, under whose command I had
put myself at the beginning of the attack, fell. I had just time to
run up to him, and found him stunned from a wound in the head; when
our gallant commander, seeing the inutility of continuing the unequal
contest, gave the order to retreat. We had retired in good order about
three hundred yards, when poor Guthrie received a wound in the head,
which I have since been informed deprived him of his sight. The enemy,
when they saw us retreating, hung upon our rear, keeping up a sharp
fire all the time, but they still seemed to have some respect for us
from the trouble we had already given them. We had indulged the hope,
that by continuing our course along the ramparts, we should be able to
effect our retreat by the Waterport-gate,[46] not being aware that
we should be intercepted by the mouth of the harbour. We were already
at the very margin before we discovered our mistake and completely
hemmed in by the French. We had therefore no alternative left to us
but to surrender ourselves prisoners of war, or to attempt to effect
our escape across the harbour, by means of the floating pieces of ice
with which the water was covered. Not one of us seemed to entertain
the idea of surrender, however, and in the despair which had now taken
possession of every heart, we threw ourselves into the water, or leaped
for the broken pieces of ice which were floating about. The scene
that ensued was shocking beyond description—the canal or harbour was
faced on both sides by high brick walls; in the middle of the channel
lay a small Dutch decked vessel, which was secured by a rope to the
opposite side of the harbour. Our only hope of preserving our lives or
effecting our escape, depended on our being able to gain this little
vessel. Already, many had, by leaping first on one piece of ice and
then on another, succeeded in getting on board the vessel, which they
drew to the opposite side of the canal by the rope, and thus freed one
obstruction: but immediately afterwards, being intercepted by the
Waterport redoubt, they were compelled to surrender. The soldiers in
particular, when they found themselves inclosed by the enemy, seemed
to lose the power of reflection, and leaped madly into the water, with
their arms in their hands, without even waiting until a piece of ice
should float within their reach. The air was rent with vain cries for
help from the drowning soldiers, mixed with the exulting shouts of the
enemy, who seemed determined to make us drain the bitter cup of defeat
to the very dregs. Among the rest I had scrambled down the face of the
canal to a beam running horizontally along the brick-work, from which
other beams descended perpendicularly into the water, to prevent the
sides from being injured by shipping. After sticking my sword into my
belt, (for I had thrown the scabbard away the previous night,) I leaped
from this beam, which was nine or ten feet above the water, for a piece
of ice, but not judging my distance very well, it tilted up with me,
and I sunk to the bottom of the water. However, I soon came up again,
and after swimming to the other side of the canal and to the vessel, I
found nothing to catch hold of. I had therefore nothing for it but to
hold on by the piece of ice I had at first leaped on, and swinging my
body under it, I managed to keep my face out of the water. I had just
caught hold of the ice in time, for encumbered as I was with a heavy
great coat, now thoroughly soaked, I was in a fair way to share the
fate of many a poor fellow now lying at the bottom of the water. I did
not, however, retain my slippery hold undisturbed. I was several times
dragged under water by the convulsive grasp of the drowning soldiers,
but by desperate efforts I managed to free myself and regain my hold.
Even at this moment, I cannot think without horror of the means which
the instinct of self-preservation suggested to save my own life, while
some poor fellow clung to my clothes: I think I still see his agonized
look, and hear his imploring cry, as he sank for ever.

After a little time I remained undisturbed tenant of the piece of ice.
I was not, however, the only survivor of those who had got into the
water; several of them were still hanging on to other pieces of ice,
but they one by one let go their hold, and sank as their strength
failed. At length only three or four besides myself remained. All this
time some of the enemy continued firing at us, and I saw one or two
shot in the water near me. So intent was every one on effecting his
escape, that though they sometimes cast a look of commiseration at
their drowning comrades, no one thought for a moment of giving us any
assistance. The very hope of it had at length so completely faded in
our minds, that we had ceased to ask the aid of those that passed us on
the fragments of ice. But Providence had reserved one individual who
possessed a heart to feel for the distress of his fellow-creatures more
than for his own personal safety. The very last person that reached the
vessel in the manner I have already described, was Lieut. M'Dougal, of
the 91st Regiment. I had attracted his attention in passing me, and he
had promised his assistance when he should reach the vessel. He soon
threw me a rope, but I was now so weak, and benumbed with the intense
cold, that it slipped through my fingers alongside of the vessel; he
then gave me another, doubled, which I got under my arms, and he thus
succeeded, with the assistance of a wounded man, in getting me on
board. I feel that it is quite out of my power to do justice to the
humanity and contempt of danger displayed by our generous deliverer on
this occasion. While I was assisting him in saving the two or three
soldiers who still clung to pieces of ice, I got a musket-ball through
my wrist; for all this time several of the enemy continued deliberately
firing at us from the opposite rampart, which was not above sixty yards
from the vessel. Not content with what he had already done for me, my
kind-hearted friend insisted on helping me out of the vessel; but I
could not consent to his remaining longer exposed to the fire of the
enemy, who had already covered the deck with killed and wounded, and
M'Dougal fortunately still remained unhurt. Finding that I would not
encumber him, he left the vessel, and I went down to the cabin, where
I found Lieut. Briggs, of the 91st, sitting on one side, with a severe
wound through his shoulder-blade. The floor of the cabin was covered
with water, for the vessel had become leaky from the firing. I took my
station on the opposite side, and taking off my neckcloth, with the
assistance of my teeth, I managed to bind up my wound, so as to stop
the bleeding in some measure. My companion suffered so much from his
wound that little conversation passed betwixt us.

I fell naturally into gloomy reflections on the events of the night.
I need hardly say how bitter and mortifying they were: after all our
toils and sanguine anticipations of ultimate success, to be thus robbed
of the prize which we already grasped, as we thought, with a firm hand.
Absorbed in these melancholy ruminations, accompanied from time to
time by a groan from my companion, several hours passed away, during
which the water continued rising higher and higher in the cabin, until
it reached my middle, and I was obliged to hold my arm above it, for
the salt-water made it smart. Fortunately the vessel grounded from the
receding of the tide. Escape in our state being now quite out of the
question, my companion and I were glad on the whole to be relieved from
our present disagreeable situation by surrendering ourselves prisoners.

The firing had now entirely ceased, and the French seemed satiated with
the ample vengeance they had taken on us. As there was no gate near us,
we were hoisted with ropes over the ramparts, which were here faced
with brick to the top. A French soldier was ordered to show me the way
to the hospital in the town. As we proceeded, however, my guide took
a fancy to my canteen which still hung by my side, and laying hold of
it without ceremony, was proceeding to empty its contents into his own
throat. Though suffering with a burning thirst from loss of blood, I
did not recollect till this moment that there was about two-thirds of
a bottle of gin remaining in it. I immediately snatched it from the
fellow's hand and clapping it to my mouth, finished every drop of it at
a draught, while he vented his rage in oaths. I found it exceedingly
refreshing, but it had no more effect on my nerves than small beer in
my present state of exhaustion.

The scene as we passed through the streets, strewed here and there with
the bodies of our fallen soldiers, intermixed with those of the enemy,
was, indeed, melancholy; even could I have forgotten for a moment how
the account stood between the enemy and us, I was continually reminded
of our failure, by the bodies of many of our people being already
stripped of their upper garments. When we arrived at the hospital, I
found one of the officers of my regiment, who had been taken prisoner,
standing at the door. My face was so plastered with blood from a prick
of a bayonet I had got in the temple from one of our soldiers, that
it was some time before he knew me. In passing along the beds in the
hospital, the first face I recognised was that of my friend Robertson,
whom I had left for dead when our party retreated. Besides the wound he
received in the head, he had received one in the wrist, after he fell.

On lying down on the bed prepared for me, I was guilty of a piece of
simplicity, which I had ample occasion to repent before I left the
place. I took all my clothes off, and sent them to be dried by the
people of the hospital, but they were never returned to me. I was
in consequence forced to keep my bed for the three days I remained
prisoner in Bergen-op-Zoom.

The hospital was crowded with the wounded on both sides. On my right
hand lay Ensign Martial of the 55th regiment, with a grape-shot wound
in his shoulder, of which, and ague together, he afterwards died at
Klundert. On my left, in an adjoining room, lay poor General Skerret,
with a desperate wound through the body, of which he died next night.
It was said that he might have recovered, had it not been for the
bruises he had received from the muskets of the enemy after he fell.
This story I can hardly credit. However that may be, there is no doubt
we lost in him a most gallant, zealous, and active officer, and at
a most unfortunate time for the success of the enterprise. On the
opposite side of the hospital lay Capt. Campbell, of the 55th regiment.
He had a dreadful wound from a grape which entered at his shoulder and
went out near the back-bone. He was gifted with the most extraordinary
flow of spirits of any man I have ever met with. He never ceased
talking from sun-rise till night, and afforded all of us who were in
a condition to relish any thing, an infinite deal of amusement. I had
told Campbell of the trick they had played me with my clothes, and it
immediately became with him a constant theme for rating every Frenchman
that passed him.

In the course of the next day a French serjeant came swaggering into
the hospital, with an officer's sash tied round him, and stretched
out to its utmost breadth. He boasted that he had killed the officer
by whom it had been worn. Twice a-day two of the attendants of the
hospital went about with buckets in their hands, one containing small
pieces of boiled meat, which was discovered to be horseflesh by the
medical people, while another contained a miserable kind of stuff,
which they called soup, and a third contained bits of bread. One of
the pieces of meat was tossed on each bed with a fork in passing; but
the patient had always to make his choice between flesh and bread, and
soup and bread, it being thought too much to allow them soup and meat
at the same time. I was never so much puzzled in my life as by this
alternative. Constantly tormented with thirst, I usually asked for
soup, but my hunger, with which I was no less tormented, made me as
often repent my choice. While we lay here we were attended by our own
surgeons, and had every attention paid to us in this respect that we
could desire.

In the mean time arrangements were entered into with Gen. Bizanet, the
French commander, for an exchange of prisoners, and in consequence the
last of the wounded prisoners were removed in waggons to Rozendaal, on
the third day after we had been taken. On this occasion I was obliged
to borrow a pair of trowsers from one of the soldiers, and a coat from
my neighbour Martial, of the 55th, who being a tall man and I rather
little, it reached half-way down my legs. Altogether I cut rather an
odd figure as I started from the hospital. My regimental cap and shoes
had, however, escaped the fate of my other habiliments, so, considering
circumstances, matters might have been worse. But, one trial to my
temper still remained which I did not expect: the old rascal, to whom I
delivered my clothes when I sent them to be dried, had the unparalleled
impudence to make a demand on me for the hospital shirt, with which, in
place of my own wet one, I had been supplied on entering the hospital.
I was so provoked at this unconscionable request, that I believe I
should have answered him with a box on the ear, but my only available
hand was too well employed at the time in supporting my trowsers. There
was still another reason for my objecting to his demand: before I was
taken prisoner, while lying in the vessel, I had managed to conceal
some money which happened to be in my pockets on going to the attack;
this I had carefully transferred, with due secrecy, to the inferior
margin of the hospital shirt in which it was tied with a garter,
when we were preparing to leave the place. This treasure, though not
large, was of some importance to me, and I determined that nothing
short of brute force should deprive me of it. My gentleman, however,
pertinaciously urged his claim to the aforesaid garment, and a violent
altercation ensued between us, in which I had an opportunity of showing
a proficiency in Dutch swearing, that I was not aware of myself till
this moment. My friend Campbell came up at last to my assistance, and
discharged such a volley of oaths at the old vampire, that he was
fairly beaten out of the field, and I carried away the shirt in triumph.

We were marched out of the town by the Bredagate to Rozendaal, a
distance of about fifteen miles, where we arrived the same night. The
French soldiers who had fallen in the conflict had all been removed
by this time, but, as we proceeded, escorted by the victors, many a
ghastly corpse of our countrymen met our half-averted eyes. They had
all been more or less stripped of their clothing, and some had only
their shirts left for a covering, and were turned on their faces. My
heart rose at this humiliating spectacle, nor could I breathe freely
until we reached the open fields beyond the fortifications. All who
were unable to march were crowded into the waggons which had been
prepared for them, while those who were less disabled straggled along
the road the best way they could. As may be supposed, there were no
needless competitors for the waggon conveyance, for the roads were
rough, and every jolt of the vehicles produced groans of agony from the
wretched passengers.

On arriving at Wouw, which I took in my way, I explained my absence
from the regiment to the satisfaction of the commanding officer. I soon
heard of the fate of poor Bulteel, (2nd Lieutenant 21st Regiment,)
who fell during this ill-starred enterprise, by a cannon-ball, which
carried off the top of his head. Never was a comrade more sincerely
lamented by his messmates than this most amiable young man. His
brother, an officer in the Guards, whom he had met only a few days
before, fell the same night. The captain of my company, and kind
friend, M'Kenzie, had his leg shattered by a shot on the same occasion,
and I was informed that he bore the amputation without suffering a
groan to escape from him. Four others were more slightly wounded. The
dead had all been collected in the church, and a long trench being dug
by the soldiers, they were all next day deposited in the earth without
parade, and in silence. In a few days I proceeded to Rozendaal, where,
for the present, the prisoners were to remain.

At this place I had more cause than ever to feel grateful for the
kindness of my Dutch landladies and landlords; the surgeon who attended
me finding it necessary to put me on low diet, and to keep my bed, the
sympathy of the good people of the house knew no bounds; not an hour
passed but they came to inquire how I was. So disinterested was their
unwearied attention, that on leaving them I could not induce them to
accept the smallest remuneration. After some time we went to Klundert,
where we were to remain until our exchange should be effected.

Before concluding my narrative of the unfortunate attack on
Bergen-op-Zoom, the reader may expect some observations relative to
the plan of attack, and the causes of its ultimate failure; but it
should be remembered, before venturing to give my opinions on the
subject, that nothing is more difficult for an individual attached to
any one of the different columns which composed the attacking force,
than to assign causes for such an unexpected result, particularly
when the communication between them has been interrupted. In a battle
in the open field, where every occurrence either takes place under
the immediate observation of the General, or is speedily communicated
to him, faults can be soon remedied, or at least it may be afterwards
determined with some degree of accuracy where they existed. But in
a night-attack on a fortified place, the case is very different. As
the General of the army cannot be personally present in the attack,
any blame which may attach to the undertaking, can only affect him in
so far as the original plan is concerned; and if this plan succeeds
so far that the place is actually surprised, and the attacking force
has effected a lodgment within it, and even been in possession of the
greater part of the place, with a force equal to that of the enemy,
no candid observer can attribute the failure to any defect in the
arrangements of the General. Nothing certainly can be easier than,
after the event, to point out certain omissions which, had the General
been gifted with the spirit of prophecy, _might possibly_, in the
existing state of matters, have led to a happier result; but nothing,
in my humble opinion, can be more unfair, or more uncandid, than to
blame the unsuccessful commander, when every possible turn which
things might take was not provided against, and while it still remains
a doubt how far _the remedies proposed_ by such critics would have
succeeded in the execution.

According to the plan of operations, as stated in Sir Thomas Graham's
dispatch, it was directed that the right column, under Major-General
Skerret, and Brig.-General Gore, which entered at the mouth of the
harbour, and the left column under Lord Proby, which Major-General
Cooke accompanied in person, and which attacked between the Waterport
and Antwerp gates, should move along the ramparts and form a junction.
This junction, however, did not take place, as General Cooke had been
obliged to change the point of attack, which prevented his gaining the
ramparts until half-past eleven o'clock, an hour after General Skerret
entered with the right column; a large detachment of which, under
Colonel the Hon. George Carleton, and General Gore, had, unknown to
him, (General Cooke), as it would appear, penetrated along the ramparts
far beyond the point where he entered. The centre column, under
Lieut.-Colonel Morrice, which had attacked near the Steenbergen lines,
being repulsed with great loss, and a still longer delay occuring
before they entered by the scaling-ladders of General Cooke's column,
the enemy had ample opportunities to concentrate their force, near
the points in most danger. However, notwithstanding all these delays
and obstructions, we succeeded (as already stated) in establishing a
force equal to that of the enemy along the ramparts. But still, without
taking into account the advantage which the attacking force always
possesses in the alarm and distraction of the enemy, (which, however,
was more than counterbalanced by our entire ignorance of the place,) we
could not, in fact, be said to have gained any decided superiority over
our adversaries; on the contrary, the chances were evidently against
our being able to maintain our position through the night, or until
reinforcements could come up. "But why," I have heard it often urged,
"were we not made better acquainted with the place?" In answer to this
question, it may be observed, that though there can be no doubt that
the leaders of the different columns, at least, had seen plans of the
place, yet there is a great difference between a personal knowledge of
a place, and that derived from the best plans, even by daylight; but
in the _night_ the enemy must possess a most decided advantage over
their assailants, in their intimate knowledge of all the communications
through the town, as well as in their acquaintance with the bearings
of the different works which surround it.

Another circumstance which must have tended most materially to the
unfortunate result of the attack was, that the two parties, which had
been detached from the right column, were deprived of their commanders
in the very beginning of the night, by the fall of Generals Skerret
and Gore, and Colonel Carleton. The reader, were I inclined to account
for our failure, by these early calamities alone, need not go far to
find instances in history where the fate of an army has been decided
by the fall of its leader. There are some statements, however, in the
excellent account published by Colonel Jones, (who must have had the
best means of information on these points), which irresistibly lead
the mind to certain conclusions, which, while they tend most directly
to exonerate Sir Thomas Graham, as well as the General entrusted with
the command of the enterprise, from the blame which has so unfairly
been heaped on them, at the same time seem to imply some degree of
misconduct on the part of the battalion detached by General Cooke to
support the reserve of 600 men under Lt. Col. Muller at the Waterport
gate. This battallion, he (Colonel Jones), states, perceiving the
enemy preparing to attack them after having got possession of the
Waterport-gate, left the place, by crossing the ice. No reason is given
why this battalion did not fall back on General Cooke's force at the
Orange bastion.

The surrender of the reserve at the Waterport-gate seems to have arisen
either from some mistake, or from ignorance of the practicability of
effecting their escape in another direction, for it does not appear
that they were aware of General Cooke's situation. The loss of these
two parties seems, therefore, to have been the more immediate cause of
the failure of the enterprise; for had both these parties been enabled
to form a junction with General Cooke, we should still, notwithstanding
former losses, have been nearly on an equality, in point of numbers at
least with the enemy. As matters now stood, after these two losses,
which reduced our force in the place to less than half that of the
French, General Cooke appears to have done all that could be expected
of a prudent and humane commander, in surrendering to prevent a useless
expenditure of life, after withdrawing all he could from the place. It
would appear, in consequence of the delay that occurred before General
Cooke entered the place, and the repulse of Colonel Morrice's column,
that the plan of the attack had been altered; otherwise it is difficult
to account for the proceedings of General Skerret in his attempting to
penetrate so far along the ramparts to the left of the entrance of the
harbour, with so small a force.

In Sir Thomas Graham's dispatch, (as I have already noticed), it is
stated that the right column, under General Skerret, and the left
under General Cooke, "were directed to form a junction as soon as
possible," and "clear the rampart of opponents." From the latter words
it is evident that he meant by the nearest way along the ramparts;
consequently, according to this arrangement, General Skerret's column,
after entering at the mouth of the harbour, should have proceeded
along the ramparts to its right. In this direction, Colonel Carleton
had proceeded with 150 men, while General Skerret pushed along the
ramparts in the opposite direction; from these circumstances, it is
fair to conclude that General Skerret despaired of being able to form
a junction with the left column, and therefore wished to force the
Steenbergen-gate, and admit the 21st Fusileers, under Colonel Henry,
while Colonel Carleton should form a junction with Colonel Jones. It
is stated in Col. Jones's account that General Skerret attempted to
fall back on the reserve at the Waterport-gate, but was prevented
by the rising of the tide at the entrance of the harbour. Though it
would be rash at this distance of time to venture to contradict this
statement, I cannot help thinking that he has been misinformed on this
point; for, on my joining the party, after opening the Waterport-gate,
I heard nothing of such an attempt having been made; and if they
had still entertained the idea of retiring from their position, I
could have easily shown them the way by the foot-bridge across the
harbour, where Colonel Muller had sent a company of the Royals from
the Waterport-gate. The party were, when I came to them, at bastion
14,[47] to which they had just retired from bastion 13, where General
Skerret had been wounded and taken prisoner, and they were now
commanded by Captain Guthrie of the 33rd Regiment: it was under the
orders of the last mentioned officer that we threw up the log parapet,
which was of such use to us during the night. The admirable judgment
and coolness displayed by this gallant officer, upon whom the command
so unexpectedly devolved, cannot be mentioned in too high terms of

In concluding my narrative, it will, I trust, be admitted, that however
much we may deplore the unfortunate issue of the enterprise, and the
unforeseen difficulties which tended to frustrate the best concerted
plan of operations, there have been few occasions during the war in
which the courage and energies of British soldiers have been put to
such a severe test, or have been met by a more gallant and successful
resistance on the part of the enemy.

[Footnote 44: "When we can't do better we must come to anchor,"—a
common Dutch saying.]

[Footnote 45: Now of the Ceylon regiment.]

[Footnote 46: This was the only gate which was opened during the night.]

[Footnote 47: See the plan at the end of the 2nd vol. of Colonel
Jones's Journals of Sieges, &c.]



Transcriber's Note

  Pg. 56: "CHAPTER VI" changed to "CHAPTER IV"

  Footnotes placed at end of respective chapter.

  Obvious typographical errors have been silently corrected. Variations
  in hyphenation have been standardised but all other spelling and
  punctuation remains unchanged.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Memoirs of the Late War, Vol 2 (of 2) - Comprising the Personal Narrative of Captain Cooke, of the - 43rd Regiment Light Infantry; the History of the Campaign - of 1809 in Portugal, by the Earl of Munster; and a Narrative - of the Campaign of 1814 in Holland, by Lieut. T. W. D. - Moodie, H. P. 21st Fusileers" ***

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