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Title: Recollections of Rifleman Harris, (old 95th) - with anecdotes of his officers and his comrades
Author: Harris, Benjamin
Language: English
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  (OLD 95TH.)
  Anecdotes of his Officers and his Comrades.


                            "This story
  The world may read in me: my body's mark'd
  With Roman swords;
  And when a soldier was the theme, my name
  Was not far off."






Since the printing of this volume was commenced, "Rifleman Harris" has
removed from Richmond Street, Soho, to 4, Upper James Street, Golden

  G.C.B. AND G.C.H.,
  This Volume,


  _London, March, 1848._


The following pages, describing the chequered life of a private
soldier, who served during the most glorious period of our military
history, speak so plainly for themselves, as scarcely to need any
introductory remarks from the editor, further than the assurance of his
own sincere conviction of their truth. Such works as the narratives
of Rifleman Harris, from the very nature of their details, afford
occasionally more graphic sketches of the actual scenes of war, in its
stern realities and concomitant circumstances, than the more stately
and largely-grouped pictures of the Historian.

Nor are these humble records without their moral.

Many abuses and grievances are incidentally brought to light, that can
be but rarely heeded in the excitement and bustle of active service,
but which, nevertheless, for the good of the soldier, may be of
sufficient importance to require correction.

The main source of our military superiority over foreign nations has
been almost universally ascribed to the incomparable discipline of
the British army. That the well-being and judicious treatment of the
private soldier is the basis of this system can (we think) scarcely
be doubted. To maintain this discipline it is surely incumbent on
the officers to become acquainted with the nature and peculiar
characteristics of the men they have to conduct and control, both in
the elation of victory and the more difficult emergencies consequent
upon retreat. How this is best effected--by what potent influence this
mastery is exercised--and by what sort of standard the "rough and
ready" private soldier estimates, and accordingly respects and obeys
his officer, will be duly shewn in the autobiography of. Rifleman

  Henry Curling.

  _March, 1848._





 Recruiting for the Army of Reserve--The penalty for desertion--General
 Craufurd's cure for cowardice and treachery--Trial of General
 Whitelock--Irish recruits and the shillelagh--Protestant and
 Catholic--Danish expedition--Riflemen at home.

My father was a shepherd, and I was a sheep-boy from my earliest youth.
Indeed, as soon almost as I could run, I began helping my father to
look after the sheep on the downs of Blandford, in Dorsetshire, where
I was born. Whilst I continued to tend the flocks and herds under my
charge, and occasionally (in the long winter nights) to learn the
art of making shoes, I grew a hardy little chap, and was one fine day
in the year 1802, drawn as a soldier for the Army of Reserve. Thus,
without troubling myself much about the change which was to take place
in the hitherto quiet routine of my days, I was drafted into the 66th
Regiment of Foot, bid good-bye to my shepherd companions, and was
obliged to leave my father without an assistant to collect his flocks,
just as he was beginning more than ever to require one; nay, indeed,
I may say to want tending and looking after himself, for old age and
infirmity were coming on him; his hair was growing as white as the
sleet of our downs, and his countenance becoming as furrowed as the
ploughed fields around. However, as I had no choice in the matter, it
was quite as well that I did not grieve over my fate.

My father tried hard to buy me off, and would have persuaded the
Serjeant of the 66th that I was of no use as a soldier, from having
maimed my right hand (by breaking the fore-finger when a child). The
Serjeant, however, said I was just the sort of little chap he wanted,
and off he went, carrying me (amongst a batch of recruits he had
collected) away with him.

Almost the first soldiers I ever saw were those belonging to the corps
in which I was now enrolled a member, and, on arriving at Winchester,
we found the whole regiment there in quarters. Whilst lying at
Winchester (where we remained three months), young as I was in the
profession, I was picked out, amongst others, to perform a piece of
duty that, for many years afterwards, remained deeply impressed upon
my mind, and gave me the first impression of the stern duties of a
soldier's life. A private of the 70th Regiment had deserted from that
corps, and afterwards enlisted into several other regiments; indeed,
I was told at the time (though I cannot answer for so great a number)
that sixteen different times he had received the bounty and then
stolen off. Being, however, caught at last, he was brought to trial at
Portsmouth, and sentenced by general court-martial to be shot.

The 66th received a route to Portsmouth, to be present on the occasion,
and, as the execution would be a good hint to us young 'uns, there were
four lads picked out of our corps to assist in this piece of duty,
myself being one of the number chosen.

Besides these men, four soldiers from three other regiments were
ordered on the firing-party, making sixteen in all. The place of
execution was Portsdown Hill, near Hilsea Barracks, and the different
regiments assembled must have composed a force of about fifteen
thousand men, having been assembled from the Isle of Wight, from
Chichester, Gosport, and other places. The sight was very imposing,
and appeared to make a deep impression on all there. As for myself, I
felt that I would have given a good round sum (had I possessed it) to
have been in any situation rather than the one in which I now found
myself; and when I looked into the faces of my companions, I saw, by
the pallor and anxiety depicted in each countenance, the reflection
of my own feelings. When all was ready, we were moved to the front,
and the culprit was brought out. He made a short speech to the parade,
acknowledging the justice of his sentence, and that drinking and evil
company had brought the punishment upon him.

He behaved himself firmly and well, and did not seem at all to flinch.
After being blindfolded, he was desired to kneel down behind a coffin,
which was placed on the ground, and the Drum-Major of the Hilsea depôt,
giving us an expressive glance, we immediately commenced loading.

This was done in the deepest silence, and, the next moment, we were
primed and ready. There was then a dreadful pause for a few moments,
and the Drum-Major, again looking towards us, gave the signal before
agreed upon (a flourish of his cane), and we levelled and fired. We
had been previously strictly enjoined to be steady, and take good aim,
and the poor fellow, pierced by several balls, fell heavily upon his
back; and as he lay, with his arms pinioned to his sides, I observed
that his hands waved for a few moments, like the fins of a fish when
in the agonies of death. The Drum-Major also observed the movement,
and, making another signal, four of our party immediately stepped up
to the prostrate body, and placing the muzzles of their pieces to the
head, fired, and put him out of his misery. The different regiments
then fell back by companies, and the word being given to march past
in slow time, when each company came in line with the body, the word
was given to "mark time," and then "eyes left," in order that we might
all observe the terrible example. We then moved onwards, and marched
from the ground to our different quarters. The 66th stopped that night
about three miles from Portsdown Hill, and in the morning we returned
to Winchester. The officer in command that day, I remember, was General
Whitelock, who was afterwards brought to court-martial himself. This
was the first time of our seeing that officer. The next meeting was at
Buenos Ayres, and during the confusion of that day one of us received
an order from the fiery Craufurd to shoot the traitor dead if he could
see him in the battle, many others of the Rifles receiving the same
order from that fine and chivalrous officer.

The unfortunate issue of the Buenos Ayres affair is matter of history,
and I have nothing to say about it; but I well remember the impression
it made upon us all at the time, and that Sir John Moore was present
at Whitelock's court-martial; General Craufurd, and I think General
Auchmuty, Captain Eleder of the Rifles, Captain Dickson, and one of
our privates, being witnesses. We were at Hythe at the time, and I
recollect our officers going off to appear against Whitelock.

So enraged was Craufurd against him, that I heard say he strove hard to
have him shot. Whitelock's father I also heard was at his son's trial,
and cried like an infant during the proceedings. Whitelock's sword was
broken over his head I was told; and for months afterwards, when our
men took their glass, they used to give as a toast "Success to _grey
hairs_, but bad luck to _White-locks_." Indeed that toast was drunk in
all the public-houses around for many a-day.

Everything was new to me, I remember, and I was filled with
astonishment at the bustling contrast I was so suddenly called into
from the tranquil and quiet of my former life.

Whilst in Winchester, we got a route for Ireland, and embarking
at Portsmouth, crossed over and landed at Cork. There we remained
nine weeks; and being a smart figure and very active, I was put
into the light company of the 66th, and, together with the light
corps of other regiments, we were formed into light battalions, and
sent off to Dublin. Whilst in Dublin, I one day saw a corps of the
95th Rifles, and fell so in love with their smart, dashing, and
devil-may-care appearance, that nothing would serve me till I was a
Rifleman myself; so, on arriving at Cashel one day, and falling in
with a recruiting-party of that regiment, I volunteered into the 2nd
battalion. This recruiting-party were all Irishmen, and had been sent
over from England to collect (amongst others) men from the Irish
Militia, and were just about to return to England. I think they were
as reckless and devil-may-care a set of men as ever I beheld, either
before or since.

Being joined by a Serjeant of the 92nd Highlanders, and a Highland
Piper of the same regiment (also a pair of real rollicking blades),
I thought we should all have gone mad together. We started on our
journey, one beautiful morning, in tip-top spirits, from the Royal
Oak, at Cashel; the whole lot of us (early as it was) being three
sheets in the wind. When we paraded before the door of the Royal Oak,
the landlord and landlady of the inn, who were quite as lively, came
reeling forth, with two decanters of whiskey, which they thrust into
the fists of the Sergeants, making them a present of decanters and all,
to carry along with them, and refresh themselves on the march. The
Piper then struck up, the Sergeants flourished their decanters, and
the whole route commenced a terrific yell. We then all began to dance,
and danced through the town, every now and then stopping for another
pull at the whiskey decanters. Thus we kept it up till we had danced,
drank, shouted, and piped thirteen Irish miles, from Cashel to Clonmel.
Such a day, I think, I never spent, as I enjoyed with these fellows;
and on arriving at Clonmel, we were as glorious as any soldiers in
all Christendom need wish to be. In about ten days after this, our
Sergeants had collected together a good batch of recruits, and we
started for England. Some few days before we embarked (as if we had not
been bothered enough already with the unruly Paddies), we were nearly
pestered to death with a detachment of old Irish women, who came from
different parts (on hearing of their sons having enlisted), in order to
endeavour to get them away from us. Following us down to the water's
edge, they hung to their offspring, and, dragging them away, sent forth
such dismal howls and moans that it was quite distracting to hear
them. The Lieutenant commanding the party, ordered me (being the only
Englishman present) to endeavour to keep them back. It was, however,
as much as I could do to preserve myself from being torn to pieces by
them, and I was glad to escape out of their hands.

At length we got our lads safe on board, and set sail for England.

No sooner were we out at sea, however, than our troubles began afresh
with these hot-headed Paddies; for, having now nothing else to do,
they got up a dreadful quarrel amongst themselves, and a religious row
immediately took place, the Catholics reviling the Protestants to such
a degree that a general fight ensued. The poor Protestants (being few
in number) soon got the worst of it, and as fast as we made matters up
among them, they broke out afresh and began the riot again.

From Pill, where we landed, we marched to Bristol, and thence to Bath.
Whilst in Bath, our Irish recruits roamed about the town, staring at
and admiring everything they saw, as if they had just been taken wild
in the woods. They all carried immense shillelaghs in their fists,
which they would not quit for a moment. Indeed they seemed to think
their very lives depended on possession of these bludgeons, being ready
enough to make use of them on the slightest occasion.

From Bath we marched to Andover, and when we came upon Salisbury Plain,
our Irish friends got up a fresh row. At first they appeared uncommonly
pleased with the scene, and, dispersing over the soft carpet of the
Downs, commenced a series of Irish jigs, till at length as one of
the Catholics was setting to his partner (a Protestant), he gave a
whoop and a leap into the air, and at the same time (as if he couldn't
bear the partnership of a heretic any longer), dealt him a tremendous
blow with his shillelagh, and stretched him upon the sod. This was
quite enough, and the bludgeons immediately began playing away at a
tremendous rate.

The poor Protestants were again quickly disposed of, and then arose a
cry of Huzza for the Wicklow boys, Huzza for the Connaught boys, Huzza
for Munster, and Huzza for Ulster! They then recommenced the fight as
if they were determined to make an end of their soldiering altogether
upon Salisbury Plains. We had, I remember, four officers with us, and
they did their best to pacify their pugnacious recruits. One thrust
himself amongst them, but was instantly knocked down for his pains,
so that he was glad enough to escape. After they had completely tired
themselves, they began to slacken in their endeavours, and apparently
to feel the effect of the blows they dealt each other, and at length
suffering themselves to be pacified, the officers got them into Andover.

Scarcely had we been a couple of hours there, and obtained some
refreshment, ere these incorrigible blackguards again commenced
quarrelling, and, collecting together in the streets, created so
serious a disturbance that the officers, getting together a body of
constables, seized some of the most violent and succeeded in thrusting
them into the town jail; upon this their companions again collected,
and endeavoured to break open the prison gates.

Baffled in this attempt, they rushed through the streets knocking down
every body they met. The drums now commenced beating up for a volunteer
corps of the town, which, quickly mustering, drew up in the street
before the jail, and immediately were ordered to load with ball.

This somewhat pacified the rioters, and our officers persuading them
to listen to a promise of pardon for the past, peace was at length
restored amongst them.

The next day we marched for Ashford, in Kent, where I joined the 95th
Rifles, and about six months after my joining, four companies of the
second battalion were ordered on the expedition to Denmark. We embarked
at Deal, and sailing for the hostile shores, landed on a little place
called, I think, Scarlet Island, somewhere between Elsineur and

The expedition consisted of about 30,000 men, and at the moment of
our getting on shore, the whole force set up one simultaneous and
tremendous cheer, a sound I cannot describe, it seemed so inspiring.
This, indeed, was the first time of my hearing the style in which our
men give tongue when they get near the enemy, though afterwards my
ears became pretty well accustomed to such sounds.

As soon as we got on shore, the Rifles were pushed forward as the
advance, in chain order, through some thick woods of fir, and when
we had cleared these woods and approached Copenhagen, sentries were
posted on the roads and openings leading towards the town, in order to
intercept all comers, and prevent all supplies. Such posts we occupied
for about three days and nights, whilst the town was being fired on
by our shipping. I rather think this was the first time of Congreve
rockets being brought into play, and as they rushed through the air in
the dark, they appeared like so many fiery serpents, creating, I should
think, terrible dismay among the besieged.

As the main army came up, we advanced and got as near under the walls
of the place as we could without being endangered by the fire from our
own shipping. We now received orders ourselves to commence firing, and
the rattling of the guns I shall not easily forget.

I felt so much exhilarated that I could hardly keep back, and was
checked by the Commander of the company (Capt. Leech), who called to me
by name to keep my place. About this time, my front-rank man, a tall
fellow named Jack Johnson, shewed a disposition as though the firing
had on him an effect the reverse of what it had on many others of the
company, for he seemed inclined to hang back, and once or twice turned
round in my face. I was a rear-rank man, and porting my piece, in the
excitement of the moment I swore that if he did not keep his ground, I
would shoot him dead on the spot; so that he found it would be quite as
dangerous for him to return as to go on.

I feel sorry to record the want of courage of this man, but I do so
with the less pain as it gives me the opportunity of saying that during
many years' arduous service, it is the only instance I remember of a
British soldier endeavouring to hold back when his comrades were going

Indeed, Johnson was never again held in estimation amongst the Rifle
corps; for the story got wind that I had threatened to shoot him for
cowardice in the field, and Lieut. Cox mentioned to the Colonel, that
he had overheard my doing so; and such was the contempt the man was
held in by the Rifles, that he was soon afterwards removed from amongst
us to a veteran battalion.

Whilst in Denmark we led a tolerably active life, the Rifles being
continually on the alert--ordered hither to-day, and countermanded the
next. Occasionally, too, when wanted in a hurry, we were placed in
carts, and rattled over the face of the country, in company with the
dragoons of the German Legion; so that, if we had not so much fighting
as afterwards in the Peninsular, we had plenty of work to keep us from

Occasionally, also, we had some pleasant adventures among the blue-eyed
Danish lasses, for the Rifles were always terrible fellows in that way.

One night, I remember, a party of us had possession of a gentleman's
house, in which his family were residing. The family consisted of the
owner of the mansion, his wife, and five very handsome daughters,
besides their servants.

The first night of our occupation of the premises the party was treated
with the utmost civility, and everything was set before us as if we
had been their equals; for although it was not very pleasant to have a
company of foreign soldiers in the house, it was doubtless thought best
to do everything possible to conciliate such guests. Accordingly, on
this night, a large party of the green-jackets unceremoniously sat down
to tea with the family.

Five beautiful girls in a drawing-room were rather awkward companions
for a set of rough and ready Riflemen, unscrupulous and bold, and I
cannot say I felt easy. All went on very comfortably for some time; our
fellows drank their tea very genteelly, whilst one young lady presided
at the urn to serve it out, and the others sat on each side of their
father and mother, chatting to us, and endeavouring to make themselves
as agreeable as they could.

By and bye, however, some of our men expressed themselves dissatisfied
with tea and toast, and demanded something stronger; and liquors were
accordingly served to them. This was followed by more familiarity, and,
the ice once broken, all respect for the host and hostess was quickly
lost. I had feared this would prove the case, and on seeing several
of the men commence pulling the young ladies about, kissing them, and
proceeding to other acts of rudeness, I saw that matters would quickly
get worse, unless I interfered. Jumping up, therefore, I endeavoured
to restore order, and upbraided them with the blackguardism of their
behaviour after the kindness with which we had been used.

This remonstrance had some effect; and when I added that I would
immediately go in quest of an officer, and report the first man I saw
ill use the ladies, I at length succeeded in extricating them from
their persecutors.

The father and mother were extremely grateful to me for my
interference, and I kept careful guard over the family whilst we
remained in that house, which luckily was not long.

Soon after this the expedition returned to England, and I came, with
others of the Rifles, in a Danish man-of-war (the Princess Caroline),
and landed at Deal, from whence we had started.

From Deal we marched to Hythe, and there we lay until the year 1808,
and in that year four companies of the second battalion, to which I
belonged, were ordered to Portugal.

In that year I first saw the French.


 Embarkation for Portugal--Aldermanic fare--Lord Hill over his wine,
 and in the field--Use of a dead Rifleman--Wounded wine-butts.

I wish I could picture the splendid sight of the shipping in the Downs,
at the time we embarked with about 20,000 men. Those were times which
the soldiers of our own more peaceable days have little conception of.

At Cork, where our ships cast anchor, we lay for something like six
weeks, during which time the expedition was not disembarked, with the
exception of our four companies of Rifles, who were every day landed
for the purpose of drill. On such occasions our merry bugles sounded
over the country, and we were skirmished about in very lively fashion,
always being embarked again at night.

At the expiration of the time I have mentioned, our sails were given to
the wind, and amidst the cheers of our comrades, we sailed majestically
out of the Cove of Cork for the hostile shore, where we arrived safely,
and disembarked at Mondego Bay.

The Rifles were the first out of the vessels, for we were, indeed,
always in the front in advance, and in rear in the retreat. Like the
Kentish men of old, we claimed the post of honour in the field.

Being immediately pushed forwards up the country in advance of the main
body, many of us, in this hot climate, very soon began to find out the
misery of the frightful load we were condemned to march and fight
under, with a burning sun above our heads, and our feet sinking every
step into the hot sand.

The weight I myself toiled under was tremendous, and I often wonder at
the strength I possessed at this period, which enabled me to endure
it; for, indeed, I am convinced that many of our infantry sank and
died under the weight of their knapsacks alone. For my own part, being
a handicraft, I marched under a weight sufficient to impede the free
motions of a donkey; for besides my well-filled kit, there was the
great-coat rolled on its top, my blanket and camp kettle, my haversack,
stuffed full of leather for repairing the men's shoes, together with
a hammer and other tools (the lapstone I took the liberty of flinging
to the devil), ship-biscuit and beef for three days. I also carried my
canteen filled with water, my hatchet and rifle, and eighty rounds of
ball cartridge in my pouch; this last, except the beef and biscuit,
being the best thing I owned, and which I always gave the enemy the
benefit of, when opportunity offered.

Altogether the quantity of things I had on my shoulders was enough and
more than enough for my wants, sufficient, indeed, to sink a little
fellow of five feet seven inches into the earth. Nay, so awkwardly was
the load our men bore in those days, placed upon their backs, that the
free motion of the body was impeded, the head held down from the pile
at the back of the neck, and the soldier half beaten before he came to
the scratch.

We marched till it was nearly dark, and then halted for the night. I
myself was immediately posted sentinel between two hedges, and in a
short time General Fane came up, and himself cautioned me to be alert.

"Remember, sentinel," he said, "that we are now near an active enemy;
therefore be careful here, and mind what you are about."

Next day the peasantry sent into our camp a great quantity of the
good things of their country, so that our men regaled themselves
upon oranges, grapes, melons, and figs, and we had an abundance of
delicacies which many of us had never before tasted. Amongst other
presents, a live calf was presented to the Rifles, so that altogether
we feasted in our first entrance into Portugal like a company of

The next day we again advanced, and being in a state of the utmost
anxiety to come up with the French, neither the heat of the burning
sun, long miles, or heavy knapsacks were able to diminish our ardour.
Indeed, I often look back with wonder at the light-hearted style, the
jollity, and reckless indifference with which men who were destined
in so short a time to fall, hurried onwards to the field of strife;
seemingly without a thought of anything but the sheer love of meeting
the foe and the excitement of the battle.

It was five or six days before the battle of Roliça, the army was on
the march, and we were pushing on pretty fast. The whole force had
slept the night before in the open fields; indeed, as far as I know,
(for the Rifles were always in the front at this time,) they had
been for many days without any covering but the sky. We were pelting
along through the streets of a village, the name of which I do not
think I ever knew, so I cannot name it; I was in the front, and had
just cleared the village, when I recollect observing General Hill
(afterwards Lord Hill) and another officer ride up to a house, and give
their horses to some of the soldiery to hold. Our bugles at that moment
sounded the halt, and I stood leaning upon my rifle near the door of
the mansion which General Hill had entered: there was a little garden
before the house, and I stood by the gate. Whilst I remained there,
the officer who had entered with General Hill came to the door, and
called to me. "Rifleman," said he, "come here." I entered the gate,
and approached him. "Go," he continued, handing me a dollar, "and try
if you can get some wine; for we are devilish thirsty here." Taking
the dollar, I made my way back to the village. At a wine-house, where
the men were crowding around the door, and clamouring for drink, (for
the day was intensely hot,) I succeeded, after some little difficulty,
in getting a small pipkin full of wine; but the crowd was so great,
that I found as much trouble in paying for it as in getting it; so I
returned back as fast as I was able, fearing that the general would
be impatient, and move off before I reached him. I remember Lord Hill
was loosening his sword-belt as I handed him the wine. "Drink first,
Rifleman," said he; and I took a good pull at the pipkin, and held it
to him again. He looked at it as I did so, and told me I might drink
it all up, for it appeared greasy; so I swallowed the remainder, and
handed him back the dollar which I had received from the officer. "Keep
the money," he said, "my man. Go back to the village once more, and
try if you cannot get me another draught." Saying this, he handed me
a second dollar, and told me to be quick. I made my way back to the
village, got another pipkin full, and returned as fast as I could.
The general was pleased with my promptness, and drank with great
satisfaction, handing the remainder to the officer who attended him;
and I dare say, if he ever recollected the circumstance afterwards,
that was as sweet a draught, after the toil of the morning march, as he
has drank at many a nobleman's board in old England since.

I remember remarking Lord Hill, for the second time in my life, under
circumstances which (from their not being of every-day occurrence)
fixed it upon my mind. The 29th regiment received so terrible a fire,
that I saw the right wing almost annihilated, and the colonel (I think
his name was Lennox) lay sprawling amongst the rest. We had ourselves
caught it pretty handsomely; for there was no cover for us, and we
were rather too near. The living skirmishers were lying beside heaps
of their own dead; but still we had held our own till the battalion
regiments came up. "Fire and retire"[1] is a very good sound; but
the Rifles were not over fond of such notes. We never performed that
manoeuvre, except when it was made pretty plain to us that it was quite
necessary; the 29th, however, had got their fairing here at this time;
and the shock of that fire seemed to stagger the whole line, and make
them recoil. At the moment, a little confusion appeared in the ranks,
I thought. Lord Hill was near at hand, and saw it, and I observed him
come galloping up. He put himself at the head of the regiment, and
restored them to order in a moment. Pouring a regular and sharp fire
upon the enemy, he galled them in return; and, remaining with the 29th
till he brought them to the charge, quickly sent the foe to the right
about. It seemed to me that few men could have conducted the business
with more coolness and quietude of manner, under such a storm of balls
as he was exposed to. Indeed, I have never forgotten him from that day.

At the time I was remarking these matters (loading and firing as I
lay), another circumstance divided my attention for a while, and made
me forget even the gallant conduct of General Hill. A man near me
uttered a scream of agony; and, looking from the 29th, who were on
my right, to the left, whence the screech had come, I saw one of our
sergeants, named Frazer, sitting in a doubled-up position, and swaying
backwards and forwards, as though he had got a terrible pain in his
bowels. He continued to make so much complaint, that I arose and went
to him, for he was rather a crony of mine.

"Oh! Harris!" said he, as I took him in my arms, "I shall die! I shall
die! The agony is so great that I cannot bear it."

It was, indeed, dreadful to look upon him; the froth came from his
mouth, and the perspiration poured from his face. Thank Heaven! he was
soon out of pain; and, laying him down, I returned to my place. Poor
fellow! he suffered more for the short time that he was dying, than any
man I think I ever saw in the same circumstances. I had the curiosity
to return and look at him after the battle. A musket-ball, I found, had
taken him sideways, and gone through both groins.

Within about half-an-hour after this I left Sergeant Frazer, and,
indeed, for the time, had as completely forgotten him, as if he had
died a hundred years back. The sight of so much bloodshed around, will
not suffer the mind to dwell long on any particular casuality, even
though it happen to one's dearest friend. There was no time either
to think, for all was action with us Rifles just at this moment; and
the barrel of my piece was so hot from continual firing, that I could
hardly bear to touch it, and was obliged to grasp the stock beneath
the iron, as I continued to blaze away. James Ponton was another crony
of mine (a gallant fellow!); he had pushed himself in front of me, and
was checked by one of our officers for his rashness. "Keep back, you
Ponton!" the lieutenant said to him, more than once. But Ponton was not
to be restrained by anything but a bullet when in action. This time he
got one; which, striking him in the thigh, I suppose hit an artery,
for he died quickly. The Frenchmen's balls were flying very wickedly
at that moment; and I crept up to Ponton, and took shelter by lying
behind, and making a rest for my rifle of his dead body. It strikes
me that I revenged his death by the assistance of his carcase. At any
rate, I tried my best to hit his enemies hard. There were two small
buildings in our front; and the French, having managed to get into
them, annoyed us much from that quarter. A small rise in the ground
close before these houses, also favoured them; and our men were being
handled very severely in consequence. They became angry, and wouldn't
stand it any longer. One of the skirmishers, jumping up, rushed
forward, crying, "Over, boys!--over! over!" when instantly the whole
line responded to the cry, "Over! over! over!" They ran along the grass
like wildfire, and dashed at the rise, fixing their sword-bayonets as
they ran. The French light bobs could not stand the sight, but turned
about, and fled; and, getting possession of their ground, we were soon
inside the buildings. After the battle was over, I stepped across to
the other house I have mentioned, in order to see what was going on
there; for the one I remained in was now pretty well filled with the
wounded (both French and English,) who had managed to get there for a
little shelter. Two or three surgeons, also, had arrived at this house,
and were busily engaged in giving their assistance to the wounded, now
also here lying as thickly as in the building which I had left; but
what struck me most forcibly was, that from the circumstance of some
wine-butts having been left in the apartment, and their having in the
engagement been perforated by bullets, and otherwise broken, the red
wine had escaped most plentifully, and ran down upon the earthen floor,
where the wounded were lying, so that many of them were soaked in the
wine with which their blood was mingled.


[Footnote 1: "Fire and retire,"--one of the bugle sounds to the
skirmishers, when hard pressed.]


 Coming up with the enemy--Manoeuvres of the advance--Battle of
 Roliça--Conjugal devotion.

It was on the 15th of August, when we first came up with the French,
and their skirmishers immediately commenced operations by raining a
shower of balls upon us as we advanced, which we returned without delay.

The first man that was hit was Lieutenant Bunbury; he fell pierced
through the head with a musket-ball, and died almost immediately. I
thought I never heard such a tremendous noise as the firing made on
this occasion, and the men on both sides of me, I could occasionally
observe, were falling fast. Being overmatched, we retired to a rising
ground, or hillock, in our rear, and formed there all round its summit,
standing three deep, the front rank kneeling. In this position we
remained all night, expecting the whole host upon us every moment. At
day-break, however, we received instructions to fall back as quickly as
possible upon the main body. Having done so, we now lay down for a few
hours' rest, and then again advanced to feel for the enemy.

On the 17th, being still in front, we again came up with the French,
and I remember observing the pleasing effect afforded by the sun's rays
glancing upon their arms, as they formed in order of battle to receive
us. Moving on in extended order, under whatever cover the nature of the
ground afforded, together with some companies of the 60th, we began a
sharp fire upon them; and thus commenced the battle of Roliça.

I do not pretend to give a description of this or any other battle
I have been present at. All I can do is, to tell the things which
happened immediately around me, and that, I think, is as much as a
private soldier can be expected to do.

Soon afterwards the firing commenced, and we had advanced pretty close
upon the enemy. Taking advantage of whatever cover I could find, I
threw myself down behind a small bank, where I lay so secure, that,
although the Frenchmen's bullets fell pretty thickly around, I was
enabled to knock several over without being dislodged; in fact, I fired
away every round I had in my pouch whilst lying on this spot.

At length, after a sharp contest, we forced them to give ground, and,
following them up, drove them from their position in the heights, and
hung upon their skirts till they made another stand, and then the game
began again.

The Rifles, indeed, fought well this day, and we lost many men. They
seemed in high spirits, and delighted at having driven the enemy
before them. Joseph Cochan was by my side loading and firing very
industriously about this period of the day. Thirsting with heat and
action, he lifted his canteen to his mouth; "Here's to you, old boy,"
he said, as he took a pull at its contents. As he did so a bullet went
through the canteen, and perforating his brain, killed him in a moment.
Another man fell close to him almost immediately, struck by a ball in
the thigh.

Indeed we caught it severely just here, and the old iron was also
playing its part amongst our poor fellows very merrily. I saw a man
named Symmonds struck full in the face by a round shot, and he came to
the ground a headless trunk. Meanwhile, many large balls bounded along
the ground amongst us so deliberately that we could occasionally evade
them without difficulty. I could relate many more of the casualties I
witnessed on this day, but the above will suffice. When the roll was
called after the battle, the females who missed their husbands came
along the front of the line to inquire of the survivors whether they
knew anything about them. Amongst other names I heard that of Cochan
called in a female voice, without being replied to.

The name struck me, and I observed the poor woman who had called it,
as she stood sobbing before us, and apparently afraid to make further
inquiries about her husband. No man had answered to his name, or had
any account to give of his fate. I myself had observed him fall, as
related before, whilst drinking from his canteen; but as I looked at
the poor sobbing creature before me, I felt unable to tell her of his
death. At length Captain Leech observed her, and called out to the

"Does any man here know what has happened to Cochan? If so, let him
speak out at once."

Upon this order I immediately related what I had seen, and told the
manner of his death. After awhile Mrs. Cochan appeared anxious to seek
the spot where her husband fell, and in the hope of still finding
him alive, asked me to accompany her over the field. She trusted,
notwithstanding what I had told her, to find him yet alive.

"Do you think you could find it?" said Captain Leech, upon being
referred to.

I told him I was sure I could, as I had remarked many objects whilst
looking for cover during the skirmishing.

"Go then," said the captain, "and shew the poor woman the spot, as she
seems so desirous of finding the body."

I accordingly took my way over the ground we had fought upon, she
following and sobbing after me, and, quickly reaching the spot where
her husband's body lay, pointed it out to her.

She now soon discovered all her hopes were in vain; she embraced a
stiffened corpse, and after rising and contemplating his disfigured
face for some minutes, with hands clasped, and tears streaming down
her cheeks she took a prayer-book from her pocket, and kneeling down,
repeated the service for the dead over the body. When she had finished
she appeared a good deal comforted, and I took the opportunity of
beckoning to a pioneer I saw near with some other men, and together
we dug a hole, and quickly buried the body. Mrs. Cochan then returned
with me to the company to which her husband had been attached, and
laid herself down upon the heath near us. She lay amongst some other
females, who were in the same distressing circumstances with herself,
with the sky for her canopy, and a turf for her pillow, for we had
no tents with us. Poor woman! I pitied her much; but there was no
remedy. If she had been a duchess she must have fared the same. She
was a handsome woman, I remember, and the circumstance of my having
seen her husband fall, and accompanied her to find his body, begot a
sort of intimacy between us. The company to which Cochan had belonged,
bereaved as she was, was now her home, and she marched and took equal
fortune with us to Vimiero. She hovered about us during that battle,
and then went with us to Lisbon, where she succeeded in procuring a
passage to England. Such was my first acquaintance with Mrs. Cochan.
The circumstances of our intimacy were singular, and an attachment grew
between us during the short time we remained together. What little
attention I could pay her during the hardships of the march I did,
and I also offered on the first opportunity to marry her. "She had,
however, received too great a shock on the occasion of her husband's
death ever to think of another soldier," she said; she therefore
thanked me for my good feeling towards her, but declined my offer, and
left us soon afterwards for England.


 Battle of Vimiero--Presentiments--The cobbler and the cannon
 ball--Value of a handicraft--A lubberly artilleryman--A bad shot and a
 good one--Conversation during the heat of action.

It was on the 21st of August, that we commenced fighting the battle of

The French came down upon us in a column, and the Riflemen immediately
commenced a sharp fire upon them from whatever cover they could get
a shelter behind, whilst our cannon played upon them from our rear.
I saw regular lanes torn through their ranks as they advanced, which
were immediately closed up again as they marched steadily on. Whenever
we saw a round shot thus go through the mass, we raised a shout of

One of our corporals, named Murphy, was the first man in the Rifles
who was hit that morning, and I remember more particularly remarking
the circumstance from his apparently having a presentiment of his
fate before the battle began. He was usually an active fellow, and up
to this time had shewn himself a good and brave soldier, but on this
morning he seemed unequal to his duty. General Fane and Major Travers
were standing together on an early part of this day. The general had
a spy-glass in his hand, and for some time looked anxiously at the
enemy. Suddenly he gave the word to fall in, and immediately all was
bustle amongst us. The Honourable Captain Packenham spoke very sharply
to Murphy, who appeared quite dejected and out of spirits, I observed.
He had a presentiment of death, which is by no means an uncommon
circumstance, and I have observed it once or twice since this battle.

Others besides myself noticed Murphy on this morning, and, as we
had reason to know he was not ordinarily deficient in courage, the
circumstance was talked of after the battle was over. He was the first
man shot that day.

Early on the morning of the battle, I remember being relieved from
picket, and throwing myself down to gain a few hour's repose before the
expected engagement. So wearied was I with watching that I was hardly
prostrate before I was in a sound sleep,--a sleep, which those only
who have toiled in the field can know. I was not, however, destined
to enjoy a very long repose before one of our serjeants, poking me
with the muzzle of his rifle, desired me to get up, as many of the
men wanted their shoes repaired immediately. This was by no means an
uncommon occurrence, and I would fain have declined the job, but as
several of the Riflemen who had followed the serjeant, soon afterwards
came round me and threw their shoes and boots at my head, I was fain to
scramble on my legs, and make up my mind to go to work.

On looking around, in order to observe if there was any hut or shed in
which I could more conveniently exercise my craft, I espied a house
near at hand, on the rise of a small hill. So I gathered up several
pairs of the dilapidated boots and shoes, and immediately made for it.
Seating myself down in a small room as soon as I entered, I took the
tools from my haversack and prepared to work; and as the boots of the
Captain of my Company, were amongst the bad lot, and he was barefooted
for want of them, I commenced with _them_.

Hardly had I worked a quarter of an hour, when a cannon-ball (the
first announcement of the coming battle) came crashing through the
walls of the house, just above my head, and completely covered the
Captain's boot (as it lay between my knees) with dust and fragments
of the building. There were only two persons in the room at the time,
an old and a young woman, and they were so dreadfully scared at this
sudden visitation, that they ran about the room, making the house echo
with their shrieks, till at length they rushed out into the open air,
leaving me alone with the boots around me on the floor.

For my own part, although I was more used to such sounds, I thought it
was no time and place to mend boots and shoes in, so, being thus left
alone in my glory, I shook the dust from my apron, gathered up the
whole stock-in-trade from the floor, and hastily replacing my tools in
my haversack, followed the example of the mistress of the mansion and
her daughter, and bolted out of the house. When I got into the open
air, I found all in a state of bustle and activity, the men falling
in, and the officers busily engaged, whilst twenty or thirty mouths
opened at me the moment I appeared, calling out for their boots and
shoes.--"Where's my boots, Harris, you humbug?" cried one. "Give me
my shoes, you old sinner," said another. "The Captain's boots here,
Harris, instantly," cried the Serjeant. "Make haste, and fall into the
ranks as fast as you can."

There was, indeed, no time for ceremony, so, letting go the corners of
my apron, I threw down the whole lot of boots and shoes for the men
to choose for themselves; the Captain's being amongst the lot, with
the wax-ends hanging to them (as I had left them when the cannon-ball
so unceremoniously put a stop to my work), and quickly shouldering my
piece, I fell into the ranks as I was ordered.

Just before the battle commenced in earnest, and whilst the officers
were busily engaged with their companies, shouting the word of command,
and arranging matters of moment, Captain Leech ordered a section of our
men to move off, at double quick, and take possession of a windmill,
which was on our left. I was amongst this section, and set off full cry
towards the mill, when Captain Leech espied and roared out to me by
name to return.--"Hallo! there, you Harris!" he called, "fall out of
that section directly. We want you here, my man." I, therefore, wheeled
out of the rank, and returned to him. "You fall in amongst the men
here, Harris," he said. "I shall not send you to that post. The cannon
will play upon the mill in a few moments like hail; and what shall we
do," he continued, laughing, "without our head shoemaker to repair our

It is long since these transactions took place. But I remember the
words of the Captain as if they had been uttered but yesterday;
for that which was spoken in former years in the field, has made a
singular impression on my mind. As I looked about me, whilst standing
enranked, and just before the commencement of the battle, I thought it
the most imposing sight the world could produce. Our lines glittering
with bright arms; the stern features of the men, as they stood with
their eyes fixed unalterably upon the enemy, the proud colours of
England floating over the heads of the different battalions, and the
dark cannon on the rising ground, and all in readiness to commence
the awful work of death, with a noise that would deafen the whole
multitude. Altogether, the sight had a singular and terrible effect
upon the feelings of a youth, who, a few short months before, had
been a solitary shepherd upon the Downs of Dorsetshire, and had never
contemplated any other sort of life than the peaceful occupation of
watching the innocent sheep as they fed upon the grassy turf.

The first cannon-shot I saw fired, I remember was a miss. The
artilleryman made a sad bungle, and the ball went wide of the mark. We
were all looking anxiously to see the effect of this shot; and another
of the gunners (a red-haired man) rushed at the fellow who had fired,
and in the excitement of the moment, knocked him head over heels with
his fist. "D---- you, for a fool," he said; "what sort of a shot do you
call that? Let me take the gun." He accordingly fired the next shot
himself, as soon as the gun was loaded, and so truly did he point it at
the French column on the hill side, that we saw the fatal effect of the
destructive missile, by the lane it made and the confusion it caused.

Our Riflemen (who at the moment were amongst the guns), upon seeing
this, set up a tremendous shout of delight, and the battle commencing
immediately, we were all soon hard at work.

I myself was very soon so hotly engaged, loading and firing away,
enveloped in the smoke I created, and the cloud which hung about me
from the continued fire of my comrades, that I could see nothing for
a few minutes but the red flash of my own piece amongst the white
vapour clinging to my very clothes. This has often seemed to me the
greatest drawback upon our present system of fighting; for whilst in
such state, on a calm day, until some friendly breeze of wind clears
the space around, a soldier knows no more of his position and what is
about to happen in his front, or what _has_ happened (even amongst his
own companions) than the very dead lying around. The Rifles, as usual,
were pretty busy in this battle. The French, in great numbers, came
steadily down upon us, and we pelted away upon them like a shower of
leaden hail. Under any cover we could find, we lay; firing one moment,
jumping up and running for it the next; and, when we could see before
us, we observed the cannonballs making a lane through the enemy's
columns as they advanced, huzzaing and shouting like madmen.

Such is my remembrance of the commencement of the battle of Vimiero.
The battle began on a fine bright day, and the sun played on the arms
of the enemy's battalions, as they came on, as if they had been tipped
with gold. The battle soon became general; the smoke thickened around,
and often I was obliged to stop firing, and dash it aside from my face,
and try in vain to get a sight of what was going on, whilst groans and
shouts and a noise of cannon and musketry appeared almost to shake the
very ground. It seemed hell upon earth I thought.

A man named John Low stood before me at this moment, and he turned
round during a pause in our exertions, and addressed me: "Harris, you
humbug," he said, "you have got plenty of money about you, I know; for
you are always staying about and picking up what you can find on the
field. But I think this will be your last field-day, old boy. A good
many of us will catch it, I suspect, to-day." "You are right, Low," I
said. "I have got nine guineas in my pack, and if I am shot to-day,
and you yourself escape, it's quite at your service. In the meantime,
however, if you see any symptoms of my wishing to flinch in this
business I hope you will shoot me with your own hand." Low, as well as
myself, survived this battle, and after it was over, whilst we sat down
with our comrades and rested, amongst other matters talked over, Low
told them of our conversation during the heat of the day, and the money
I had collected, and the Rifles from that time had a great respect for
me. It is, indeed, singular, how a man loses or gains caste with his
comrades from his behaviour, and how closely he is observed in the
field. The officers, too, are commented upon and closely observed.
The men are very proud of those who are brave in the field, and kind
and considerate to the soldiers under them. An act of kindness done
by an officer has often during the battle been the cause of his life
being saved. Nay, whatever folks may say upon the matter, I know from
experience, that in _our_ army the men like best to be officered by
gentlemen, men whose education has rendered them more kind in manners
than your coarse officer, sprung from obscure origin, and whose style
is brutal and overbearing.

My observation has often led me to remark amongst men, that those
whose birth and station might reasonably have made them fastidious
under hardship and toil, have generally borne their miseries without
a murmur;--whilst those whose previous life, one would have thought,
might have better prepared them for the toils of war, have been the
first to cry out and complain of their hard fate.

And here let me bear testimony to the courage and endurance of that
army under trials and hardships such as few armies, in any age, I
should think, endured. I have seen officers and men hobbling forward,
with tears in their eyes from the misery of long miles, empty stomachs,
and ragged backs, without even shoes or stockings on their bleeding
feet, and it was not a little that would bring a tear into the eyes of
a Rifleman of the Peninsular. Youths, who had not long been removed
from their parents' home and care, officers and men, have borne
hardships and privations such as (in our own more peaceful days) we
have little conception of; and yet these men, faint and weary with
toil, would brighten up in a moment when the word ran amongst us that
the enemy were at hand.

I remember on the march from Salamanca seeing many men fail. Our
marches were long, and the weakly ones were found out. It was then
pretty much "every one for himself;" those whose strength began to fail
looked neither to the right nor the left, but, with glassy eyes, they
kept onward, staggering on as well as they could. When once down, it
was sometimes not easy to get up again, and few were inclined to help
their comrades when their own strength was but small. On this march,
I myself (strong as I was) felt completely done up, and fell in the
streets of a town called, I think, Zamora, where I lay, like one dead,
for some time.


 The battle-field of Vimiero--Major Travers and his wig--A military
 family--A scapegrace--Unpleasant surprise--Playing fast and loose with
 fortune--General Napier--Boney's invincibles--Firing cold steel at the
 enemy--Church plunder--A haphazard shot.

It was just at the close of the battle of Vimiero: the dreadful turmoil
and noise of the engagement had hardly subsided, and I began to look
into the faces of the men close around me, to see who had escaped the
dangers of the hour. Four or five days back I had done the same thing
at Roliça. One feels, indeed, a sort of curiosity to know, after such
a scene, who is remaining alive amongst the companions endeared by good
conduct, or disliked from bad character, during the hardships of the
campaign. I saw that the ranks of the Riflemen looked very thin; it
seemed to me one half had gone down. We had four companies of the 95th,
and were commanded that day by Major Travers. He was a man much liked
by the men of the Rifles, and, indeed, deservedly beloved by all who
knew him. He was a tight hand; but a soldier likes that better than a
slovenly officer.

I had observed him more than once during this day, spurring here and
there, keeping the men well up, and apparently in the highest spirits.
He could not have enjoyed himself more, I am sure, if he had been at
a horse-race, or following a good pack of hounds. The battle was just
over; a flag of truce had come over from the French; General Kellerman,
I think, brought it. We threw ourselves down where we were standing
when the fire ceased. A Frenchman lay close beside me; he was dying,
and called to me for water; which I understood him to require more
from his manner than his words (he pointed to his mouth). I need not
say that I got up, and gave it him. Whilst I did so, down galloped the
major in front, just in the same good spirits he had been all day;
plunging along, avoiding, with some little difficulty, the dead and
dying, which were strewed about. He was never a very good-looking man,
being hard-featured and thin; a hatchet-faced man, as we used to say.
But he was a regular good 'un,--a real English soldier; and that's
better than if he had been the handsomest ladies'-man in the army.
The major just now disclosed what none of us, I believe, knew before;
namely, that his head was bald as a coot's, and that he had covered
the nakedness of his nob, up to the present time, by a flowing Caxon,
which, during the heat of the action, had somehow been dislodged, and
was lost; yet was the major riding hither and thither, digging the
spurs into his horse's flanks, and just as busy as before the firing
had ceased. "A guinea," he kept crying as he rode, "to any man who will
find my wig!" The men, I remember, notwithstanding the sight of the
wounded and dead around them, burst into shouts of laughter at him as
he went; and "a guinea to any man who will find my wig," was the saying
amongst us long after that affair.

Many a man has died in crossing a brook, it is said, who has escaped
the broad waves of the Atlantic half-a-dozen times; the major had
escaped the shot and shell of the enemy in many a hard-fought field,
and came off with credit and renown; but it is somewhat singular that
Punch and Judy were the individuals who were destined by the Fates to
cut his thread of life, for his horse was startled one day, as he rode
through the streets of Dublin city, by the clatter those worthies made
with their sticks in one of their domestic quarrels, and, swerving to
one side, that noble soldier was killed.


In the band of the first battalion of the Rifles, we had a father
and seven sons, of the name of Comyns. The elder son, who was called
Fluellyn, was the best musician of them all, and on the regiment
going on service to Portugal, he was made band-master. Whilst
fighting against Massena, Fluellyn Comyns, one night, took offence at
a man named Cadogan, also belonging to our band, and, catching him
at advantage, beat him so severely that he left him for dead. The
transaction having been seen by some of the soldiery, Fluellyn Comyn
was fearful of the consequences, and, supposing he had committed
murder, fled to Marshal Massena's army, where he was received kindly,
and, in consequence of his musical knowledge, promoted to a good
situation in the band of one of the French regiments. After a while,
however, he made some mistake or other _there_, and, the French army
being no safe place for him any longer, he once more changed service,
and returned amongst his old companions, the Rifles, where he found, to
his surprise, Cadogan in the ranks, sound and well again. This species
of inconstancy not being approved of by our leaders, he was tried by
court-martial, and sentenced to be shot. Two or three other men, who
had also committed heavy crimes, were under orders at the same time, I
recollect, to undergo the same punishment. Colonel Beckwith was at that
time our lieutenant-colonel, and, having a great respect for Comyn's
father, made application to the Duke of Wellington for a pardon for his
son Fluellyn. Accordingly, when he was brought forth amongst the other
criminals, it was notified to him that, taking into consideration the
interest made by his lieutenant-colonel, he should be forgiven: but the
Duke, I understand, desired it to be expressly stated to him, that if
he ever detected him in that country again, in the garb of a soldier in
the British service, nothing should save him from punishment. Comyn,
therefore, left Spain, without the good wish of a single man in our
corps, for he was pretty well known to be altogether a bad subject.
Meanwhile, the news had reached his friends in England that he had been
shot, and his wife, having quickly found a substitute, was married
again, when he thought proper, somewhat tardily, to seek his home. At
first the meeting was rather a stormy one, and the neighbours thought
that murder would ensue, for Comyn found himself provided, not only
with a _locum tenens_, but also with a little baby, neither of whom he
could possibly have any great liking for.

However, matters were eventually amicably arranged, and Fluellyn Comyn
having made out his claim, and satisfied the second husband that he had
never had a musket-ball in his body, broke up the establishment, and
took his wife off to Hythe, in Kent, where he again enlisted in the
_third_ battalion of the Rifles, and joined them at Shoreham Cliff.
In the third battalion he once more displayed his art, and, from his
excellence as a musician, was made master of the band. Not satisfied
with his good fortune, he again misconducted himself, and was once more
reduced to the ranks. After a while he succeeded in getting exchanged
to the eighty-fifth regiment, where he likewise managed to insinuate
himself into the good graces of the commanding officer, and by his
musical talents, also, once more, into the situation of master of
the band. Here he might even yet have retrieved himself, and lived
happily, but he began to cut fresh capers, and his ill-disposition and
drunken conduct were so apparent the moment he got into an easy way
of life, that it was found impossible to keep him in the situation,
and he was again reduced, and eventually entirely dismissed, as _too
bad for anything_. One of his brothers had, meanwhile, obtained the
situation he held in the first battalion of the Rifles, and was greatly
respected for his good conduct. He was killed, I remember, at Vittoria,
by a cannon-ball striking his head from his shoulders. The other five
Comyns, as far as I ever knew, lived and prospered in the service. The
old father was eventually discharged, and received a pension. What was,
however, the ultimate fate of the bad sheep of this flock (Fluellyn
Comyn), and whether he ever succeeded in becoming a band-master in the
service of any other country, or whether he ultimately reached a still
more elevated situation, I never heard, but should think from all I
knew and have related, that it was not likely he ever came to good.


I remember meeting with General Napier before the battle of Vimiero. He
was then, I think, a major; and the meeting made so great an impression
on me, that I have never forgotten him. I was posted in a wood the
night before the battle, in the front of our army, where two roads
crossed each other. The night was gloomy, and I was the very out-sentry
of the British army. As I stood on my post, peering into the thick wood
around me, I was aware of footsteps approaching, and challenged in a
low voice. Receiving no answer, I brought my rifle to the port, and
bade the strangers come forward. They were Major Napier, (then of the
50th foot, I think,) and an officer of the Rifles. The major advanced
close up to me, and looked hard in my face.

"Be alert here, sentry," said he, "for I expect the enemy upon us
to-night, and I know not how soon."

I was a young soldier then, and the lonely situation I was in, together
with the impressive manner in which Major Napier delivered his caution,
made a great impression on me, and from that hour I have never
forgotten him. Indeed, I kept careful watch all night, listening to
the slightest breeze amongst the foliage, in expectation of the sudden
approach of the French. They ventured not, however, to molest us. Henry
Jessop, one of my companions in the Rifles, sank and died of fatigue on
this night, and I recollect some of our men burying him in the wood at
day-break, close to my post.

During the battle, next day, I remarked the gallant style in which
the 50th, Major Napier's regiment, came to the charge. They dashed
upon the enemy like a torrent breaking bounds, and the French, unable
even to bear the sight of them, turned and fled. Methinks at this
moment I can hear the cheer of the British soldiers in the charge, and
the clatter of the Frenchmen's accoutrements, as they turned in an
instant, and went off, hard as they could run for it. I remember, too,
our feeling towards the enemy on that occasion was the north side of
friendly; for they had been firing upon us Rifles very sharply, greatly
outnumbering our skirmishers, and appearing inclined to drive us off
the face of the earth. Their lights, and grenadiers, I, for the first
time, particularly remarked on that day. The grenadiers (the 70th, I
think) our men seemed to know well. They were all fine-looking young
men, wearing red shoulder-knots and tremendous-looking moustaches.
As they came swarming upon us, they rained a perfect shower of balls,
which we returned quite as sharply. Whenever one of them was knocked
over, our men called out "There goes another of Boney's Invincibles."
In the main body, immediately in our rear, were the second battalion
52nd, the 50th, the second battalion 43rd, and a German corps, whose
number I do not remember, besides several other regiments. The whole
line seemed annoyed and angered at seeing the Rifles outnumbered by the
Invincibles, and as we fell back, "firing and retiring," galling them
handsomely as we did so, the men cried out (as it were with one voice)
to charge. "D--n them!" they roared, "charge! charge!" General Fane,
however, restrained their impetuosity. He desired them to stand fast,
and keep their ground.

"Don't be too eager, men," he said, as coolly as if we were on a
drill-parade in old England; "I don't want you to advance just yet.
Well done, 95th!" he called out, as he galloped up and down the line;
"well done 43rd, 52nd, and well done all. I'll not forget, if I live,
to report your conduct to-day. They shall hear of it in England, my

A man named Brotherwood, of the 95th, at this moment rushed up to the
general, and presented him with a green feather, which he had torn out
of the cap of a French light-infantry soldier he had killed.--"God
bless you general!" he said; "wear this for the sake of the 95th." I
saw the general take the feather, and stick it in his cocked hat. The
next minute he gave the word to charge, and down came the whole line,
through a tremendous fire of cannon and musketry,--and dreadful was the
slaughter as they rushed onwards. As they came up with us, we sprang to
our feet, gave one hearty cheer, and charged along with them, treading
over our own dead and wounded, who lay in the front. The 50th were
next us as we went, and I recollect, as I said, the firmness of that
regiment in the charge. They appeared like a wall of iron. The enemy
turned and fled, the cavalry dashing upon them as they went off.

After the day's work was over, whilst strolling about the field, just
upon the spot where this charge had taken place, I remarked a soldier
of the 43rd, and a French grenadier, both dead, and lying close
together. They had apparently killed each other at the same moment, for
both weapons remained in the bodies of the slain. Brotherwood was lying
next me during a part of this day; he was a Leicestershire man, and was
killed afterwards by a cannon-ball at Vittoria. I remember his death
more particularly from the circumstance of that very ball killing three
of the company at the same moment, viz. Lieutenant Hopwood, Patrick
Mahone, and himself. Brotherwood was amongst the skirmishers with me
on this day. He was always a lively fellow, but rather irritable in
disposition. Just as the French went to the right-about, I remember
he d--d them furiously; and, all his bullets being gone, he grabbed a
razor from his haversack, rammed it down, and fired it after them.

During this day I myself narrowly escaped being killed by our own
dragoons, for, somehow or other, in the confusion, I fell whilst they
were charging, and, the whole squadron thundering past, just missed me,
as I lay amongst the dead and wounded. Tired and overweighted with my
knapsack and all my shoe-making implements, I lay where I had fallen,
for a short time, and watched the cavalry as they gained the enemy.
I observed a fine, gallant-looking officer leading them on in that
charge. He was a brave fellow, and bore himself like a hero; with his
sword waving in the air, he cheered the men on, as he went dashing
upon the enemy, and hewing and slashing at them in tremendous style. I
watched for him as the dragoons came off after that charge, _but saw
him no more_; he had fallen. Fine fellow! his conduct indeed made an
impression upon me that I shall never forget, and I was told afterwards
that he was a brother of Sir John Eustace.

A French soldier was lying beside me at this time; he was badly
wounded, and hearing him moan as he lay, after I had done looking at
the cavalry, I turned my attention to him, and, getting up, lifted his
head, and poured some water into his mouth. He was dying fast; but he
thanked me in a foreign language, which, although I did not exactly
understand, I could easily make out by the look he gave me. Mullins, of
the Rifles, who stepped up whilst I supported his head, d--d me for a
fool for my pains. "Better knock out his brains, Harris," said he; "he
has done _us_ mischief enough, I'll be bound for it, to-day."

After the battle, I strolled about the field, in order to see if
there was anything to be found worth picking up amongst the dead.
The first thing I saw was a three-pronged silver fork, which, as it
lay by itself, had most likely been dropped by some person who had
been on the look out before me. A little further on I saw a French
soldier sitting against a small rise in the ground or bank. He was
wounded in the throat, and appeared very faint, the bosom of his coat
being saturated with the blood which had flowed down. By his side
lay his cap, and close to that was a bundle containing a quantity of
gold and silver crosses, which I concluded he had plundered from some
convent or church. He looked the picture of a sacrilegious thief,
dying hopelessly, and overtaken by Divine wrath. I kicked over his
cap, which was also full of plunder, but I declined taking anything
from him. I felt fearful of incurring the wrath of Heaven for the
like offence, so I left him, and passed on. A little further off lay
an officer of the 50th regiment. I knew him by sight, and recognised
him as he lay. He was quite dead, and lying on his back. He had been
plundered, and his clothes were torn open. Three bullet-holes were
close together in the pit of his stomach: beside him lay an empty
pocket-book, and his epaulette had been pulled from his shoulder.

I had moved on but a few paces, when I recollected that perhaps the
officer's shoes might serve me, my own being considerably the worse
for wear, so I returned again, went back, pulled one of his shoes off,
and knelt down on one knee to try it on. It was not much better than
my own; however, I determined on the exchange, and proceeded to take
off its fellow. As I did so I was startled by the sharp report of a
firelock, and, at the same moment, a bullet whistled close by my head.
Instantly starting up, I turned, and looked in the direction whence the
shot had come. There was no person near me in this part of the field.
The dead and the dying lay thickly all around; but nothing else could I
see. I looked to the priming of my rifle, and again turned to the dead
officer of the 50th. It was evident that some plundering scoundrel had
taken a shot at me, and the fact of his doing so proclaimed him one
of the enemy. To distinguish him amongst the bodies strewn about was
impossible; perhaps he might himself be one of the wounded. Hardly had
I effected the exchange, put on the dead officer's shoes, and resumed
my rifle, when another shot took place, and a second ball whistled past
me. This time I was ready, and turning quickly, I saw my man: he was
just about to squat down behind a small mound, about twenty paces from
me. I took a haphazard shot at him, and instantly knocked him over. I
immediately ran up to him; he had fallen on his face, and I heaved him
over on his back, bestrode his body, and drew my sword-bayonet. There
was, however, no occasion for the precaution, as he was even then in
the agonies of death.

It was a relief to me to find I had not been mistaken. He was a
French light-infantry man, and I therefore took it quite in the way
of business--he had attempted my life, and lost his own. It was the
fortune of war; so, stooping down, with my sword I cut the green string
that sustained his calibash, and took a hearty pull to quench my


 Booty--Portuguese chivalry--General Kellerman--Day after a battle.

After I had shot the French light-infantry man, and quenched my thirst
from his calibash, finding he was quite dead, I proceeded to search
him. Whilst I turned him about in the endeavour at finding the booty I
felt pretty certain he had gathered from the slain, an officer of the
sixtieth approached, and accosted me.

"What! looking for money, my lad," said he, "eh?"

"I am sir," I answered; "but I cannot discover where this fellow has
hid his hoard."

"You knocked him over, my man," he said, "in good style, and deserve
something for the shot. Here," he continued, stooping down, and feeling
in the lining of the Frenchman's coat, "this is the place where these
rascals generally carry their coin. Rip up the lining of his coat, and
then search in his stock. I know them better than you seem to do."

Thanking the officer for his courtesy, I proceeded to cut open the
lining of his jacket with my sword-bayonet, and was quickly rewarded
for my labour by finding a yellow silk purse, wrapped up in an old
black silk handkerchief. The purse contained several doubloons, three
or four napoleons, and a few dollars. Whilst I was counting the money,
the value of which, except the dollars, I did not then know, I heard
the bugle of the Rifles sound out the assembly, so I touched my cap to
the officer, and returned towards them.

The men were standing at ease, with the officers in front. As I
approached them, Major Travers, who was in command of the four
companies, called me to him.

"What have you got there, sir?" he said. "Shew me."

I handed him the purse, expecting a reprimand for my pains. He,
however, only laughed as he examined it, and, turning, shewed it to his

"You did that well, Harris," he said, "and I am sorry the purse is not
better filled. Fall in." In saying this, he handed me back the purse,
and I joined my company. Soon afterwards, the roll being called, we
were all ordered to lie down and gain a little rest after our day's

We lay as we had stood enranked upon the field, and in a few minutes,
I dare say, one half of that green line, overwearied with their
exertions, were asleep upon the ground they had so short a time before
been fighting on. After we had lain for some little time, I saw several
men strolling about the fields, so I again quietly rose, with one or
two others of the Rifles, and once more looked about me, to see what I
could pick up amongst the slain.

I had rambled some distance, when I saw a French officer running
towards me with all his might, pursued by at least half a dozen
horsemen. The Frenchman was a tall, handsome-looking man, dressed in a
blue uniform; he ran as swiftly as a wild Indian, turning and doubling
like a hare. I held up my hand, and called to his pursuers not to hurt
him. One of the horsemen, however, cut him down with a desperate blow,
when close beside me, and the next wheeling round, as he leaned from
his saddle, passed his sword through the body.

I am sorry to say there was an English dragoon amongst these
scoundrels; the rest, by their dress, I judged to be Portuguese
cavalry. Whether the Frenchman thus slaughtered was a prisoner trying
to escape, or what was the cause of this cold-blooded piece of cruelty,
I know not, as the horsemen immediately galloped off without a word
of explanation; and feeling quite disgusted with the scene I had
witnessed, I returned to my comrades, and again throwing myself down,
was soon as fast asleep as any there.

I might have slept perhaps half an hour, when, the bugles again
sounding, we all started to our feet, and were soon afterwards marched
off to form the picquets. Towards evening I was posted upon a rising
ground, amongst a clump of tall trees. There seemed to have been a
sharp skirmish here, as three Frenchmen were lying dead amongst the
long grass upon the spot were I was standing. As I threw my rifle to
my shoulder, and walked past them on my beat, I observed they had
been plundered, and their haversacks having been torn off, some of the
contents were scattered about. Among other things, a small quantity of
biscuit lay at my feet.

War is a sad blunter of the feelings, I have often thought since those
days. The contemplation of three ghastly bodies in this lonely spot
failed then in making the slightest impression upon me. The sight had
become, even in the short time I had been engaged in the trade, but
too familiar. The biscuits, however, which lay in my path, I thought a
blessed windfall, and, stooping, I gathered them up, scraped off the
blood with which they were sprinkled with my bayonet, and ate them

As I stood at the edge of the little plantation, and looked over to the
enemy's side, I observed a large body of their cavalry drawn up. I love
to call to mind the most trivial circumstances which I observed whilst
in the Peninsular, and I remember many things, of small importance in
themselves, and, indeed, hardly remarked at the time, as forcibly as if
they had been branded into my memory. I recollect keeping a very sharp
look-out at the French cavalry on that evening, for I thought them
rather too near my post; and whilst I stood beneath one of the tall
trees and watched them, it commenced raining, and they were ordered to
cloak up.

General Kellerman and his trumpets at this moment returned to the
French side; and soon afterwards, the picquets being withdrawn, I was
relieved from my post, and marched off to join my company. A truce, I
now found, had been concluded, and we lay down to rest for the night.
Next day was devoted to the duty of burying the dead and assisting
the wounded, carrying the latter off the field into a churchyard near

The scene in this churchyard was somewhat singular. Two long tables had
been procured from some houses near, and were placed end to end amongst
the graves, and upon them were laid the men whose limbs it was found
necessary to amputate. Both French and English were constantly lifted
on and off these tables. As soon as the operation was performed upon
one lot, they were carried off, and those in waiting hoisted up: the
surgeons with their sleeves turned up, and their hands and arms covered
with blood, looking like butchers in the shambles. I saw as I passed
at least twenty legs lying on the ground, many of them being clothed
in the long black gaiters then worn by the infantry of the line. The
surgeons had plenty of work on hand that day, and not having time to
take off the clothes of the wounded, they merely ripped the seams and
turned the cloth back, proceeding with the operation as fast as they

Many of the wounded came straggling into this churchyard in search of
assistance, by themselves. I saw one man, faint with loss of blood,
staggering along, and turned to assist him. He was severely wounded in
the head, his face being completely incrusted with the blood which had
flowed during the night, and had now dried. One eyeball was knocked out
of the socket, and hung down upon his cheek.

Another man I observed who had been brought in, and propped against
a grave-mound. He seemed very badly hurt. The men who had carried
him into the churchyard, had placed his cap filled with fragments of
biscuit close beside his head, and as he lay he occasionally turned his
mouth towards it, got hold of a piece of biscuit, and munched it.

As I was about to leave the churchyard, Dr. Ridgeway, one of the
surgeons, called me back, to assist in holding a man, he was
endeavouring to operate upon.

"Come and help me with this man," he said, "or I shall be all day
cutting a ball out of his shoulder."

The patient's name was Doubter, an Irishman. He disliked the doctor's
efforts, and writhed and twisted so much during the operation that
it was with difficulty Dr. Ridgeway could perform it. He found it
necessary to cut very deep, and Doubter made a terrible outcry at every
fresh incision.

"Oh, doctor dear!" he said, "it's murdering me you are! Blood an'
'ounds! I shall die!--I shall die! For the love of the Lord don't cut
me all to pieces!"

Doubter was not altogether wrong; for, although he survived the
operation, he died shortly afterwards from the effects of his wounds.
After I was dismissed by the doctor, I gladly left the churchyard,
and returning to the hill where the Rifles were bivouacked, was soon
afterwards ordered by Captain Leech to get my shoe-making implements
from my pack, and commence work upon the men's waist-belts, many of
which had been much torn during the action, and I continued to be so
employed as long as there was light enough to see by, after which I lay
down amongst them to rest.

We lay that night upon the hill-side, many of the men breaking boughs
from the trees at hand, in order to make a slight cover for their
heads; the tents not being then with us.

I remember it was intensely cold during that night. So much so that I
could not sleep, but lay with my feet drawn up, as if I had a fit of
the cramp. I was indeed compelled more than once during the night to
get up and run about, in order to put warmth into my benumbed limbs.


 The march to Spain--A hornet's nest--Beating up for quarters--A
 momentous question--The reply--Salamanca--Heavy marches.

Three days' march brought us without the walls of Lisbon, where we
halted, and, the tents soon after coming up, were encamped. The second
day after our arrival, as I was lying in my tent, Captain Leech and
Lieutenant Cox entering it, desired me to rise and follow them. We took
the way towards the town, and wandered about the streets for some time.
Both these officers were good-looking men, and, in their Rifle uniform,
with the pelisse hanging from one shoulder, and hessian-boots then
worn, cut a dash, I thought, in the streets of Lisbon. There were no
other English that I could observe in the town this day; and, what with
the glances of the black-eyed lasses from the windows, and the sulky
scowl of the French sentinels as we passed, I thought we caused quite
a sensation in the place. Indeed I believe we were the first men that
entered Lisbon after the arrival of the army without its walls.

After some little time had been spent in looking about us, the officers
spied an hotel, and entering it, walked up-stairs. I myself entered
a sort of taproom below, and found myself in the midst of a large
assemblage of French soldiers, many of whom were wounded, some with
their arms hanging in scarfs, and others bandaged about the head and
face. In short, one half of them appeared to carry tokens of our
bullets of a few days before.

At first they appeared inclined to be civil to me, although my
appearance amongst them caused rather a sensation, I observed, and
three or four rose from their seats, and with all the swagger of
Frenchmen strutted up, and offered to drink with me. I was young then,
and full of the natural animosity against the enemy so prevalent with
John Bull. I hated the French with a deadly hatred, and refused to
drink with them, shewing by my discourteous manner the feelings I
entertained; so they turned off, with a "_Sacré!_" and a "_Bah!_" and,
reseating themselves, commenced talking at an amazing rate all at once,
and no man listening to his fellow.

Although I could not comprehend a word of the language they uttered,
I could pretty well make out that I myself was the subject of the
noise around me. My discourteous manners had offended them, and they
seemed to be working themselves up into a violent rage. One fellow, in
particular, wearing an immense pair of mustachios, and his coat loosely
thrown over his shoulders, his arm being wounded, and in a sling, rose
up, and attempted to harangue the company. He pointed to the pouch at
my waist, which contained my bullets, then to my rifle, and then to
his own wounded arm, and I began to suspect that I should probably get
more than I had bargained for on entering the house, unless I speedily
managed to remove myself out of it, when, luckily, Lieutenant Cox and
Captain Leech entered the room in search of me. They saw at a glance
the state of affairs, and instantly ordered me to quit the room,
themselves covering my retreat.

"Better take care, Harris," said the captain, "how you get amongst such
a party as that again. You do not understand their language; I do: they
meant mischief."

After progressing through various streets, buying leather and
implements for mending our shoes, the two officers desired me again to
await them in the street, and entered a shop close at hand. The day
was hot, and a wine-house being directly opposite me, after waiting
some time, I crossed over, and, going in, called for a cup of wine.
Here I again found myself in the midst of a large assemblage of
French soldiers, and once more an object of curiosity and dislike.
Nevertheless, I paid for my wine, and drank it, regardless of the
clamour my intrusion had again called forth. The host, however,
seemed to understand his guests better than I did, and evidently
anticipated mischief. After in vain trying to make me understand him,
he suddenly jumped from behind his bar, and seizing me by the shoulder
without ceremony, thrust me into the street. I found the two officers
looking anxiously for me when I got out, and not quite easy at my
disappearance. I however excused myself by pleading the heat of the
day, and my anxiety to taste the good wines of Lisbon, and together we
left the town, with our purchases, and reached the camp.

Next morning Captain Leech again entered my tent, and desired me to
pick out three good workmen from the company, take them into the town,
and seek out a shoemaker's shop as near the camp as possible.

"You must get leave to work in the first shop you can find," he said,
"as we have a long march before us, and many of the men without shoes
to their feet."

Accordingly, we carried with us three small sacks filled with old
boots and shoes, and entering Lisbon, went into the first, shoemaker's
shop we saw. Here I endeavoured in vain to make myself understood for
some time. There was a master shoemaker at work and three men. They
did not seem to like our intrusion, and looked very sulky, asking us
various questions, which I could not understand; the only words I could
at all comprehend being "Bonos Irelandos, Brutu Englisa." I thought,
considering we had come so far to fight their battles for them, that
this was the north side of civil; so I signed to the men, and, by way
of explanation of our wishes, and in order to cut the matter short,
they emptied the three sacksful of boots and shoes upon the floor.
We now explained what we would be at; the boots and shoes of the
Rifles spoke for themselves, and, seating ourselves, we commenced work

In this way we continued employed whilst the army lay near Lisbon,
every morning coming in to work, and returning to the camp every night
to sleep.

After we had been there several days, our landlord's family had the
curiosity to come occasionally and take a peep at us. My companions
were noisy, good-tempered, jolly fellows, and usually sang all the time
they hammered and strapped. The mistress of the house, seeing I was
the head man, occasionally came and sat down beside me as I worked,
bringing her daughter, a very handsome dark-eyed Spanish girl, and as a
matter of course I fell in love.

We soon became better acquainted, and the mother, one evening, after
having sat and chattered to me, serving me with wine, and other good
things, on my rising to leave the shop, made a signal for me to follow
her. She had managed to pick up a little English, and I knew a few
words of the Spanish language, so that we could pretty well comprehend
each other's meaning; and after leading me into their sitting-room, she
brought her handsome daughter, and, without more circumstance, offered
her to me for a wife. The offer was a tempting one; but the conditions
of the marriage made it impossible for me to comply, since I was to
change my religion, and desert my colours. The old dame proposed to
conceal me effectually when the army marched; after which I was to live
like a gentleman, with the handsome Maria for a wife.

It was hard to refuse so tempting an offer, with the pretty Maria
endeavouring to back her mother's proposal. I, however, made them
understand that nothing would tempt me to desert; and, promising to try
and get my discharge when I returned to England, protested I would then
return and marry Maria.

Soon after this the army marched for Spain; the Rifles paraded in the
very street where the shop I had so long worked at was situated, and
I saw Maria at the window. As our bugles struck up, she waved her
handkerchief; I returned the salute, and in half an hour had forgotten
all about her. So much for a soldier's love. Our marches were now long
and fatiguing. I do not know how many miles we traversed ere we reached
Almeida, which I was told was the last town in Portugal: some of my
companions said we had come five hundred miles since we left Lisbon.

We now passed to the left, and bade adieu to Portugal for ever. We had
fought and conquered, and felt elated accordingly. Spain was before us,
and every man in the Rifles seemed only anxious to get a rap at the
French again. On and on we toiled, till we reached Salamanca. I love to
remember the appearance of that army, as we moved along at this time.
It was a glorious sight to see our colours spread in these fields. The
men seemed invincible; nothing, I thought, could have beaten them. We
had some of as desperate fellows in the Rifles alone as had ever toiled
under the burning sun of an enemy's country in any age; but I lived to
see hardship and toil lay hundreds of them low, before a few weeks
were over our heads. At Salamanca we stayed seven or eight days, and
during this time the shoemakers were again wanted, and I worked with my
men incessantly during their short halt.

Our marches were now still more arduous; fourteen leagues a-day, I
have heard the men say, we accomplished before we halted; and many
of us were found out, and floored in the road. It became every one
for himself. The load we carried was too great, and we staggered on,
looking neither to the right nor the left. If a man dropped, he found
it no easy matter to get up again, unless his companion assisted him,
and many died of fatigue. As for myself, I was nearly floored by this
march; and on reaching a town one night, which I think was called
Zamora, I fell at the entrance of the first street we came to; the
sight left my eyes, my brain reeled, and I came down like a dead man.
When I recovered my senses, I remember that I crawled into a door
I found open, and, being too ill to rise, lay for some time in the
passage unregarded by the inhabitants.

After I had left the house I have alluded to in the account of the
battle of Roliça, I walked a few paces onwards, when I saw some of
the Rifles lying about and resting. I laid myself down amongst them,
for I felt fatigued. A great many of the French skirmishers were
lying dead just about this spot. I recollect that they had long white
frock-coats on, with the eagle in front of their caps. This was one of
the places from which they had greatly annoyed us; and, to judge from
the appearance of the dead and wounded strewed around, we had returned
the compliment pretty handsomely. I lay upon my back, and, resting
upon my knapsack, examined the enemy in the distance. Their lines were
about a couple of miles off: here they remained stationary, I should
think, until near sunset, when they began to vanish, beating towards
Vimiero, where we had at them again. Whilst I lay watching them, I
observed a dead man directly opposite to me whose singular appearance
had not at first caught my eye. He was lying on his side amongst some
burnt-up bushes; and whether the heat of the firing here had set
these bushes on fire, or from whatever cause they had been ignited,
I cannot take upon me to say; but certain it is (for several of my
companions saw it as well as myself, and cracked many a joke upon the
poor fellow's appearance,) that this man, whom we guessed to have been
French, was as completely roasted as if he had been spitted before a
good kitchen-fire. He was burnt quite brown, every stitch of clothes
was singed off, and he was drawn all up like a dried frog. I called the
attention of one or two men near me, and we examined him, turning him
about with our rifles with no little curiosity. I remember now, with
some surprise, that the miserable fate of this poor fellow called forth
from us very little sympathy, but seemed only to be a subject of mirth.


 A gallant fop--An ill-humoured recruit--The military agriculturist and
 the gentleman farmer--Death or glory--The Duke at Vimiero--Picking off
 the enemy--The brothers Hart.

I remember there was an officer, named, I think, Cardo, with the
Rifles. He was a great beau; but although rather effeminate and
ladylike in manners, so much so as to be remarked by the whole regiment
at that time, yet he was found to be a most gallant officer when we
were engaged with the enemy in the field.

He was killed whilst fighting bravely in the Pyrenees; and amongst
other jewellery he wore, he had a ring on his finger worth one hundred
and fifty guineas.

As he lay dead on the field, one of our Riflemen, named Orr, observed
the sparkling gem, and immediately resolved to make prize of it. The
ring, however, was so firmly fixed that Orr could not draw it from the
finger, and whipping out his knife cut the finger off by the joint.
After the battle, Orr offered the ring for sale amongst the officers,
and, on inquiry, the manner in which he had obtained it transpired. Orr
was in consequence tried by court-martial, and sentenced to receive
five hundred lashes, which sentence was carried into execution.

A youth joined the Rifles soon after I myself put on the green jacket,
whose name was Medley. He was but a small chap, being under the
standard one inch;[2] but our officers thought he promised fair to
become a tall fellow, and he was, accordingly, not rejected. Medley
did not deceive them; for, on the day he first joined the Rifles, he
was five feet one inch in height, and on the day he was killed, at
Barrossa, he was exactly six feet one. He was celebrated for being the
greatest grumbler, the greatest eater, and the most quarrelsome fellow
in the whole corps. I remember he cut a most desperate figure in the
retreat to Corunna; for there he had enough to bear both of fatigue and
hunger; and a very little of either of these disagreeables would make
him extremely bad company at any time. It was dangerous, too, to bid
him hold his tongue sometimes; for he had picked up so amongst us since
he was only five feet one, and grown so bony as well as tall, that he
would challenge and thrash any man in the corps. Corunna, however,
though it could not stop his growling, took the desire of boxing quite
out of him; and he sprawled, scrambled, and swore, till he somehow got
through that business. If General Craufurd could have heard but the
twentieth part of what I heard him utter about him on that retreat, I
think he would have cut Medley in half. He was, as I said, a capital
feeder; and his own allowance was not half enough to satisfy his
cravings, so that he often got some of his comrades to help him out
with a portion of theirs. He was my comrade for about two years; and,
as I was a shoemaker, I often had food to give him; indeed it was
highly necessary either to give him what I had for my own allowance,
or find some provision elsewhere, for he was the most cross-grained
fellow, if his belly was not filled, that we ever had amongst us. He
was killed at Barrossa, as I said, and he carried his ill-humour with
him to the very last hour of his life; for, being knocked over by a
musket-ball in the thigh, he was spoken to as he lay by some of his
comrades, who, asking if they should assist him, and carry him to the
rear, he told them to "_Go and be d--d!_" and, bidding them mind their
own business, abused them till they passed on and left him. I was told
this last anecdote of him by the very men who had spoken to him, and
got this blessing as he lay.

We had another tall fellow in the four companies of Rifles who were in
that retreat. His name was Thomas Higgins; he was six feet one and a
half, and quite as lank and bony as Medley. He also was an ill-tempered
fellow, but nothing to compare with him either in eating or grumbling.
The tall men, I have often observed, bore fatigue much worse than the
short ones; and Higgins, amongst others of the big 'uns, was dreadfully
put to it to keep on. We lost him entirely when about half through this
business, I remember; for, during a short halt of about ten minutes he
was reprimanded by one of our officers for the slovenly state of his
clothing and accoutrements; his dress almost dropping from his lower
limbs, and his knapsack hanging by a strap or two down about his waist.
Higgins did not take it at all kind being quarrelled with at such a
time, and, uttering sundry impertinences, desired to know if they
were ever to be allowed to halt any more, adding that he did not see
very well how he was to be very smart after what he had already gone
through. The officer spoke to one of the sergeants upon this, and bid
him remember, if they got to their journey's end, to give Higgins an
extra guard for his behaviour. "Oh! then, d--n me," says Higgins, "if
ever I take it!" and, turning about, as we all moved on at the word to
march, he marched off in the contrary direction, and we never either
saw or heard of him from that hour; and it was supposed afterwards,
amongst us, that he had either perished alone in the night, or joined
the French, who were at our heels. These were the two tallest men in
the four companies of Rifles; and both were in the company I belonged
to. Higgins was the right hand, and Medley the left hand man.


It was about the year 1807 or 8, that a man volunteered from the
Nottingham Militia into the Rifles. After receiving the half of
his bounty, he thought that was quite as much as would serve him
of the Rifle regiment, and so he declined to serve them in return,
and accordingly made off, without joining them at all at that time.
Four years afterwards he was discovered by the very sergeant of the
Nottingham Militia who belonged to his own company when he volunteered
from them into our corps. This same sergeant was then himself
recruiting, and fell in with his former comrade in some town, of which
I forget the name; but it was in Yorkshire. The man (whose name, also,
I have forgotten now,) was then grown very fat, and was, likewise, as
much altered in dress as in condition, being clad in the habiliments
of a respectable and comfortable farmer of that delightful county. The
sergeant, however, had a sharp eye, and penetrated both through the
disguise of his then calling, and also even his portly look failed in
throwing him off the scent. In fact, he went warily to work, made his
inquiries, compared his notes, allowed for the time and circumstances,
and, notwithstanding the respectability and reputed worth of our
farmer, arrested him forthwith as a deserter from the Ninety-fifth.
From Yorkshire he was marched a prisoner to Hythe, in Kent; and I
remember seeing him brought in, dressed as he was apprehended, and
handcuffed, and guarded by a corporal and three or four men. He was,
as I said, clad in his farmer's dress, and that it was which made
myself and others (who happened to be out) more especially regard him;
for, although it was no great sight at that time to see a deserter
brought along, yet it was not often we beheld one so apparently well
off and respectable looking in such a situation. In fact, the Yorkshire
farmer made a great talk amongst us; and we pitied him much. No man in
his present circumstances could, I should think, feel more acutely,
and he dwindled perceptibly in bulk every day, till he was brought to
trial. During his confinement he had written to the colonel of the
regiment, offering him sixty pounds to let him off; but I believe he
never at that time got any reply to his offer, and, being tried, was
sentenced to receive seven hundred lashes. When he was brought into
the hollow square to receive his punishment, I remember the anxiety
amongst us was twice as great as on an ordinary occasion of the sort.
He did not seem a man who was afraid of the lash, as regarded the pain
of its infliction, but the shame of it (considering the situation he
had attained to) was apparently the thing that hurt him most. Even now,
although fallen away, he was a jolly and portly-looking man, though
his flesh seemed to hang about him from the quickness he had been
reduced in bulk by long marches, and anxiety of mind. He addressed a
few words to the colonel in a firm and manly tone, and begged him to
consider his situation and circumstances, and that he was the husband
of a respectable woman, and father of several children; but, however,
it was not possible for the colonel to forgive him at that time, and
he was ordered to be quick and prepare. The farmer, accordingly,
stripped, and was tied up. The colonel addressed him, and referred to
the offer he had made him when in confinement, which, he told him,
had much aggravated his crime, as supposing him (the colonel) capable
of selling his honour for sixty pounds. So the farmer received his
seven hundred lashes that day, and never uttered a word of complaint
during the infliction, except that, as he sometimes turned his head,
and looked after the can of water, he would say, "Oh! poor Tom! poor
Tom! I little thought ever to come to this!" I remember, after four
hundred, the colonel asked him if he would sign his banishment, telling
him it was to send him to another regiment, which was in foreign
parts; but the farmer refused to do so, and the punishment went on. I
recollect, too, that the doctor desired the drummer to lay the lash
on the other shoulder, and the farmer received the whole sentence, as
he well deserved. In a week or more he was to be seen walking in the
barrack-square; but he avoided the society of the men, and in about
two or three days afterwards, he was missing altogether, having taken
an opportunity to escape; and we never again either heard of, or saw,
the Yorkshire farmer.

There was another agriculturist who, I remember, was in the Rifles
with me. He was the eldest son of a gentleman-farmer, who resided in
Yorkshire, and as handsome a youth as I think I ever beheld; but he was
one of the wildest chaps, perhaps, in the whole county, and, although
he was not above four or five-and-twenty, his parents had found it
out to their cost. In one of his sprees, happening to fall in with
Sergeant Sugden of our corps, nothing would content him but he must
enlist. Sugden, you may easily conceive, was not averse to indulge
such a "_perspiring_" hero, and very soon had him for a recruit.
Although there must have been considerable difference in the style of
life amongst us to what he had been used to, yet he appeared nowise
displeased with, the change. To be sure, he was rather too lively a
bird at times, and, having plenty of money, occasionally got himself
into trouble, but nothing particularly disagreeable happened, and
altogether he was very much liked in the corps, in which he went by
the name of "The Gentleman Farmer." Just before a detachment of the
Rifles started for Portugal, a gentleman rode into the barrack-square,
and inquired of some of the men for this young spark, whose name I
cannot now remember. The meeting was not a very amicable one, for
the new-comer was the gentleman-farmer's brother, who upbraided him
with his conduct in enlisting, and told of the anxiety and sorrow
this new freak had caused at home. After they had somewhat mollified
their quarrel, they sought an interview with our commanding-officer;
and the brother immediately, in the name of the parents, offered any
reasonable sum the colonel chose to name, so he would but grant the
gentleman-farmer a discharge. The colonel, however, was not willing to
lose him, and refused at that time to grant the request.

"He is a wild and untamed spirit," he said; "and as he is just now
under orders for foreign service, he had better go; let him have a year
of that fun; it will do his complaint good; and, if he lives, we shall
see him, I hope, return an improved man."

The new-comer, therefore, was fain to put up with this answer, and
next morning returned home to his parents, apparently much cut up and
disappointed at his ill success. Accordingly the gentleman-farmer
embarked for Portugal, and was soon after witness of a wilder scene of
discord and horror than, I dare say, even his hair-brained ideas quite
contemplated when he enlisted for a soldier; in short, he took his
first lesson of actual warfare at the siege of Badajoz, and, entering
with heart and soul into the breach, his head was dashed into a
hundred pieces by a cannon ball.

Thomas Mayberry was a man well known at that time in the Rifles. He was
a sergeant in my day, and was much thought of by our officers as a very
active and useful non-commissioned officer, being considered, up to the
time of his committing the slight mistake I shall have to tell of, one
of the most honest men in the army. With the men he was not altogether
so well liked, as he was considered rather too blusterous and
tyrannical. Whilst in the town of Hythe, he got the fingering of about
two hundred pounds, for the purpose of paying for necessaries purchased
for the men of his company, and which two hundred pounds he had, in a
very short space of time, managed to make away with, and lose in the
society of a party of gamblers, who at that time infested the town of
Hythe. Captain Hart, who then commanded the company Mayberry belonged
to, was not a little thunderstruck, some little time after, at finding
that the several tradesmen who furnished the articles for the men had
never been settled with, and, sending for Mayberry, discovered the
delinquency. Mayberry was a prisoner in a moment; and Captain Hart was
as much astonished as if his own father had committed a fraud, so well
and so much was Mayberry thought of. He was brought to court-martial,
together with two other men, whom he had seduced to become partners
in his gambling transactions; and, on the inquiry, it was further
discovered that he had been in the habit of cheating the men of his
company out of a farthing a-week each for the last ten months. That
was, perhaps, the worst thing against him. He was sentenced to receive
seven hundred lashes. Corporal Morrisson and Patrick Divine, his two
participators in this roguery, got, I remember, the former three, and
the latter one hundred, awarded to them.

When the square was formed for punishment, and the three were brought
out, it was necessary to check the men of the regiment, or they
would have hooted and hissed them on the parade. I recollect, also,
that there was a civilian, of the name of Gilbert, whom Mayberry had
defrauded, and he had inquired the time of his punishment, and was
present in the rear during the infliction, having expressed to some of
Mayberry's companions that he was content to lose the money, so that
he saw the fellow well flogged:--a pretty good proof that, when their
own interests are nearly concerned, your civilian has no objection
to even be an eye-witness of the infliction of the lash, about which
there has lately been such an outcry. It is, indeed, no uncommon thing,
now-a-days, to see a man who has committed crimes, which have caused
him to receive the execrations of his sometime companions in arms,
as he is being drummed out of the corps, received by a host of folks
without the barrack-gates, and taken to their bosoms as an object of

When Mayberry was tied up, he was offered, as was then customary, the
option of banishment; but he refused it, notwithstanding considerable
entreaty was made to him by his two comrades to accept it, as, by so
doing, they thought they all would escape the lash. However, Mayberry
decided to take the seven hundred, and bore the sentence without a
murmur. Not so the two others: Morrisson screamed and struggled so
much, that he capsized the triangle, and all came sprawling together,
so that he was obliged to be held by a man at each side. Divine came
last. He was rather an effeminate-looking man; and the colonel rode
round, and told him he lamented being obliged to break so fair a skin;
but he must do his duty. However, as he had borne a good character,
and was not so much to blame as the other two, he let him down after

Mayberry after this was much scouted by his fellow-soldiers, and also
ill-thought of by the officers; and, on a detachment being sent to
Portugal, he volunteered for the expedition. Captain Hart, however,
would fain have declined taking him, as he had so bad an opinion of him
after this affair; but Mayberry shewed himself so desirous of going,
that at last he consented, and took him. At the siege of Badajoz,
Mayberry wiped off, in a measure, all his former ill conduct. He was
seen by Captain Hart to behave so bravely in the breach, that he
commended him on the spot.

"Well done, Mayberry!" said he; "you have this day done enough to
obliterate your disgrace; and, if we live, I will endeavour to restore
you to your former rank. Go now to the rear; you have done enough for
one day." Mayberry, however, refused to retire, although covered with
wounds; for he was known to have killed seven with his own hand, with
his rifle-sword-bayonet.

"No going to the rear for me," he said. "I'll restore myself to my
comrades' opinion, or make a finish of myself altogether."

He accordingly continued in the front of all, till at last he was seen
to be cut down, in the clear light of the fire-balls, by a tremendous
sword-cut, which cleft his skull almost in twain. Morrisson, I heard,
also died at that siege. Divine returned safe home, and died of fatigue
at Fermoy.

It has been said, I have heard, by officers of high rank in the army
of the Peninsula, that there never were such a set of devil-may-care
fellows, and so completely up to their business, as the 95th. It would
be invidious to make a distinction, or talk of any one regiment
being better, or more serviceable, than another; but the Rifles were
generally in the mess before the others began, and also the last to
leave off. It was their business to be so; and if they did their work
well, so did every other British corps engaged in that country, at
least I never either heard or saw to the contrary. There was, perhaps,
as intelligent and talented a set of men amongst us, as ever carried a
weapon in any country. They seemed at times, to need but a glance at
what was going on to know all about its "why and wherefore." I remember
seeing the Duke of Wellington during the battle of Vimiero; and in
these days, when so much anxiety is displayed to catch even a glance of
that great man's figure as he gallops along the streets of London, it
seems gratifying to me to recollect seeing him in his proper element,
"the raging and bloody field," and I have frequently taxed my mind to
remember each action and look I caught of him at that time.

I remember seeing the great Duke take his hat off in the field of
Vimiero, and methinks it is something to have seen that wonderful man
even do so common-place a thing as lift his hat to another officer in
the battle-field. We were generally enveloped in smoke and fire, and
sometimes unable to distinguish or make remarks upon what was going
on around, whilst we blazed away at our opponents; but occasionally
we found time to make our comments upon the game we were playing.
Two or three fellows near me were observing what was going on just
in the rear, and I heard one man remark, "Here comes Sir Arthur
and his staff;" upon which I also looked back, and caught sight of
him just meeting with two other officers of high rank. They all
uncovered as they met, and I saw the Duke, as I said, (then Sir Arthur
Wellesley) take off his hat and bow to the other two. The names of
the new-comers, however they were learnt, whether from some of the men
who had before seen them, or picked up on the instant from an officer,
seemed to be well known, as well as the business they were engaged in
talking of; for it ran along the line from one to the other that Sir
Hugh Dalrymple and Sir Harry Burrard were about to take the command,
instead of Sir Arthur Wellesley, a circumstance which, of course, could
only be a random guess amongst these fellows at the moment.

The intelligence of these men was indeed very great, and I could relate
instances of their recklessness and management which would amuse the
reader much. I remember a fellow, named Jackman, getting close up to
the walls at Flushing, and working a hole in the earth with his sword,
into which he laid himself, and remained there alone, spite of all
the efforts of the enemy and their various missiles to dislodge him.
He was known, thus earthed, to have killed, with the utmost coolness
and deliberation, eleven of the French artillerymen, as they worked at
their guns. As fast as they relieved each fallen comrade did Jackman
pick them off; after which he took to his heels, and got safe back to
his comrades.

There were three brothers in the Rifles, named Hart,--John, Mike, and
Peter,--and three more perfectly reckless fellows, perhaps, never
existed. Nothing ever escaped their notice; and they would create
the greatest fun and laughter, even when advancing under the hottest
fire of the enemy, and their comrades being shot down beside them. I
remember Lieutenant Molloy, who was himself as fine a "soldier as ever
stepped, and as full of life in the midst of death" as these Harts,
being obliged to check them at Vimiero. "D--n you!" he said to them,
"keep back, and get under cover. Do you think you are fighting here
with your fists, that you are running into the teeth of the French?"

I never saw those three men, to appearance, the least worse for
hard work during the time we remained in Portugal. They could run
like deer, and were indeed formed by Nature and disposition for the
hardships, difficulties, and privations of the sort of life we then
led. They were, however, all three pretty well done up during the
retreat to Corunna; though, even in that dreadful business, their
light-heartedness and attempts at fun served to keep up the spirits of
many a man, who would else have been broken-hearted before the English
shipping appeared in sight. They even carried their pleasantry on that
occasion so far as to make a jest of their own appearance, and the
miserable plight of the whole turn-out, as we disembarked upon the
beach at Portsmouth. One of them even went so far as to observe, "that
we looked more like the rakings of h-- than the fragments of an army!"

Nothing, indeed, but that grave of battalions, that unwholesome fen,
Flushing, could have broken the spirits of three such soldiers as John,
Mike, and Peter Hart. A few weeks, however, of that country sufficed
to quiet them for evermore. One, I remember, died; and the other two,
although they lived to return, were never worth a rush afterwards, but,
like myself, remained living examples of what climate can bring even a
constitution and body framed as if of iron to.

Nothing, I suppose, could exceed the dreadful appearance we cut on
the occasion of the disembarkation from Corunna; and the inhabitants
of Portsmouth, who had assembled in some numbers to see us land,
were horror-stricken with the sight of their countrymen and relatives
returning to England in such a ghastly state; whilst the three Harts,
with feet swathed in bloody rags, clothing that hardly covered their
nakedness, accoutrements in shreds, beards covering their faces, eyes
dimmed with toil, (for some were even blind,) arms nearly useless to
those who had them left, the rifles being encrusted with rust, and the
swords glued to the scabbard;--these three brothers, I say (for I heard
them myself,) as they hobbled up the beach, were making all sorts of
remarks, and cracking their jokes upon the misery of our situation, and
the appearance they themselves cut.

I recollect seeing at this time an affecting instance of female
affection displayed. One of our officers, whose name I will not
mention, and who was much beloved by us all, observed his wife waiting
for him on the beach, as he disembarked from the boat. He met her as
she rushed into the sea to embrace him, and they were locked in each
others' arms before they touched the dry land.


[Footnote 2: The standard at that time, when men were quickly used up,
was five feet two with us.]


 The North Mayo militiaman--Chances of warfare--Marshal
 Beresford--Eight hundred for nothing--Moneymaking.

Whilst we lay near Cork we were joined by one Richard Pullen, amongst
others; he had exchanged from the English militia into the Irish, and
volunteered to us Rifles from the North Mayo. He brought with him
little else to boast of but his wife and his two children, Charles
and Susan. Charles was a mischievous boy of about twelve, and Susan
was a pretty little lass, of about fourteen years of age. I remember
they all went with us to Copenhagen, and got through that expedition
pretty well. That affair suited a man of Pullen's description, for he
didn't like too much service; and we soon found he was rather a shy
cock. "None of your North May_ho_, here, Master Pullen!" used to be
constantly flung in his teeth, when he was lagging behind on the march.
In 1808 he was again wanted, when our four companies went to Portugal;
but Pullen begged off, on account of the wife and the two children,
Charles and Susan. Often had he to endure the taunt again, "_None of
your North Mayho here, Master Pullen!_" till we were fairly away from

After we had knocked the frogs out of Portugal, marching on Sahagun,
we fell in with the army under Sir John Moore, and, amongst the Rifles
that came with them fresh from England, we found Pullen and his wife,
with their two children, Charles and Susan. I remember that the
meeting with Pullen caused no small fun amongst us; and North May_ho_
was again the bye-word for a few days. Nothing, I thought at that time,
could tame down the high spirits and thoughtlessness of the British
soldier. Alas! I lived to see that I was mistaken; and, indeed, saw
them pretty well tamed before many days more were over our heads! I
remember remarking that Pullen (even on the first day of the retreat
to Corunna) looked very chap-fallen and seedy; and he was beginning
even then to complain that he could not stand much more. The wife and
children, too, were dropping behind. _They_ all thought, poor souls!
that when night came on they were, of course, to be billeted; but the
open world was now their only refuge; and no allowance to stop or lie
down, even on the bare heath, at that time. I saw Pullen again on the
third or fourth day; neither the wife nor children were then with
him, nor could he tell _where_ they were; he could only answer for
himself, and expected to drop dead, he said, every step. That's all
I saw of Pullen, and his wife and children, on the retreat, or even
thought of them; for I had enough to do to keep my own strength up.
When we landed at Portsmouth, both myself and others (to our no small
surprise), saw Pullen once more; and much we wondered at the sight of
him, when so many better and stronger soldiers had died before half of
that retreat was accomplished. We had not even then spirits enough left
to jeer him about North May_ho_; and, to add to the dejection of poor
Pullen, we found that he had left behind him, and knew nothing of the
fate of either his wife or his children, Charles and Susan. As the men
continued to disembark, however, there was Pullen inquiring anxiously
of every one for some tidings of them. None, however, could he get. At
last he saw his wife coming up the beach, and hobbled off to meet her,
each at the same moment inquiring for the children, Charles and Susan.
_He_ trusted they were with the wife; and _she_ hoped they were with
the husband; and both sat down upon the beach, and cried in concert.
All our men thought it useless of them to continue their inquiries;
but they never failed to ask after their offspring of every fresh face
they fell in with, who had been in that retreat. In about a fortnight's
time, not satisfied, they advertised Charles and Susan in the public
newspapers; and we all laughed at the very idea of their ever finding
them again, and told them they might have spared the money. To our
no small surprise, however, the artillery at Plymouth answered their
advertisement, stating that a little girl had been heard screaming upon
the mountains in Spain by them in the night, and that they had taken
care of her as well as they could, and had her then with them. The
description answering, the girl was forwarded to Hythe; and Pullen and
his wife once more embraced their daughter Susan.

Meanwhile, no tidings came of the boy; and Pullen died at Walcheren,
with many a gallant soldier for his fellow-victim in that dreadful
country. The wife had confessed long before that the child she had
given birth to after the retreat, she had every reason to believe,
was a Frenchman by the father's side; for she related her adventures
to many of us at that time, and told, amongst other things, that she
and other women, having taken refuge in a barn, were there overtaken
by the French in the night, and treated by those gentlemen in a very
unceremonious manner.

It is easy to suppose that Mrs. Pullen had no great wish to go on
service again, and much did she endeavour to persuade Pullen to evade
it too; but, the whole regiment being under orders for Walcheren,
Pullen could not escape the chance. At last, however, he tried to
excuse himself by tampering with his eyes, which he made sore by
putting snuff in them. He was, however, detected, disgraced, and,
sailing with the expedition, died, as I before said, at Walcheren.

After his death, Mrs. Pullen and her daughter were sent to their
parish, which was in Warwickshire; and, after she had left us some
time, a letter arrived from her son, Charles, who was a prisoner in
France. There was, I think, not a man in the regiment who recollected
the North May_ho_ recruit but myself. War, and pestilence, and
discharge, had taken all away. The bugle-major opened the letter; and,
on inquiry, found that I alone knew the parents of the writer; but no
answer, that I ever heard of, was sent to poor Charles. The captain
of Pullen's company (Crampton) was dead, and the company was almost
entirely new. I myself was then almost in a dying state, and the matter
was soon altogether forgotten. So that, whether Mrs. Pullen ever again
saw her son, I cannot take upon me to say.

It was during the heat of the day of Vimiero. We were rather hotly
pressed by the enemy, after having advanced somewhat too near their
force. Give and take is all fair enough; but we were getting more
kicks than halfpence, as the saying is; and their balls stung us so
sharply that the officers gave the word to "_fire and retire_".[3]
Doubtless, many got a leaden messenger as they did so, which saved
them the unpleasant necessity of retracing their ground altogether.
Jock Gillespie and myself wheeled about, and obeyed the order. Just
as we had done so, I saw Gillespie limp along as though some one had
bestowed a violent kick upon his person. However, he didn't give up at
first, but continued to load, and fire, and make off with the other
skirmishers, till we halted, and made another stand; for we never went
further from them when once engaged, than we could possibly help.

Gillespie loaded, and fired very sharply, I recollect; seemingly quite
affronted at the treatment he had received; but he got weaker and more
lame as he did so, and at last was quite unable to continue the game
any longer; and, when we advanced again, he was floored from loss of
blood. I had asked him once or twice where he was hit, but he seemed
unwilling to say, till at last he confessed; and the confession gave
him apparently as much pain as the wound.

After the battle was over, I observed him endeavouring to get about,
and limping as badly as if one leg was a foot shorter than the other,
whilst our men, who had got hold of the story, kept calling after, and
making all sorts of fun about his wound; till poor Gillespie (who was
a very sensitive man) sat down and cried like a child with vexation.
I never saw him after that night; and I rather think his wound had
completely disabled him, and that eventually he got a discharge.

I remember a great many of the leaders and heroes of the wars of my own
time. Alas! they have been cleared off of late pretty handsomely! A few
years more, and the world will be without another living remembrancer
of either them or their deeds. The ranks are getting thin, too, amongst
those who, like myself, were the tools with which the great men of
former days won their renown. I don't know a single living man now
who was a comrade during the time I served. Very nearly fifteen years
back, I remember, however, meeting with Robert Liston; and that meeting
brings Marshal Beresford to my mind. Robert Liston was a corporal
in the second battalion of the Rifles, when we lay for a few days in
the passages of a convent in Portugal. We were then making for the
frontiers of Spain, when we were swept into that disastrous retreat to
Corunna. There was a punishment parade in the square of this convent.
A soldier of the Ninety-second or Seventy-ninth was the culprit, and
the kilts were formed to witness the performance. Some of the Rifles
were looking from the windows of the convent at the punishment of the
Highlander, when a brickbat was hurled from one of the casements, and
fell at the very toe of the lieutenant-colonel, who was standing in the
midst, and in command of the regiment. The lieutenant-colonel (whose
name I never knew,) was of course indignant at such an act; he gazed
up at the window from which the brick had been thrown, and caused an
inquiry instantly to be made. It was between the lights when this
happened, and it was impossible to discover who had done it; however,
two or three men of the Rifles were confined on suspicion. A man named
Baker flatly accused Corporal Liston of the act; upon which Liston was
marched a prisoner to Salamanca (a distance, I should think, of some
hundred miles); and often did he complain of his hard fate in being a
prisoner so long. When we got to Salamanca we halted there for eight
days; and Liston, being tried by general court-martial, was sentenced
to receive eight hundred lashes. The whole brigade turned out on the
occasion; and I remember that the drummers of the Ninth regiment were
the inflictors of the lash. Liston received the whole sentence without
a murmur. He had, indeed, been a good soldier, and we were all truly
sorry for him; in fact, he always declared solemnly that he had no
more to do with the brickbat than Marshal Beresford who commanded the
brigade. Whoever committed the act, in my opinion, well deserved what
_Liston got_. Marshal Beresford was in command of the brigade at this
time; and I well remember what a fine-looking soldier he was. He was
equal to his business, too, I should say; and he, amongst others of our
generals, often made me think that the French army had nothing to shew
in the shape of officers who could at all compare with ours. There was
a noble bearing in our leaders, which they, on the French side (as far
as I was capable of observing) had not; and I am convinced that the
English soldier is even better pleased to be commanded by some man of
rank in his own country, than by one who has risen from his own station.

They are a strange set, the English! and so determined and
unconquerable, that they will have their way if they can. Indeed,
it requires one who has authority in his face, as well as at his
back, to make them respect and obey him. They see too often, in the
instance of serjeant-majors, that command does not suit ignorant and
coarse-minded men; and that tyranny is too much used even in the
brief authority which they have. A soldier, I am convinced, is driven
often to insubordination by being worried by these little-minded men
for the veriest trifles, about which the gentleman never thinks of
tormenting him. The moment the severity of the discipline of our army
is relaxed, in my opinion, farewell to its efficiency; but for our men
to be tormented about trifles (as I have seen at times) is often very
injurious to a whole corps.

I never saw Liston after that punishment whilst in Spain; and I suppose
he remained behind, and got on in the best manner he was able in the
rear; but, about ten years afterwards, as I was passing down Sloane
Street, Chelsea, I observed a watchman calling the hour. It struck me
that I knew his face, and, turning back, I stopped him, asking if he
was not Robert Liston, formerly a corporal in the Ninty-fifth Rifles?
After answering in the affirmative, the first words he spoke were, "Oh!
Harris! do you remember what happened to me at Salamanca?"

"I do _well_," I said.

"I was never guilty," he continued. "There is no occasion for me to
deny it now; but I tell you that I was never guilty of the crime for
which I suffered. Baker was a villain, and I believe that he was
himself the culprit."

I recollect Marshal Beresford making a speech on the subject of the
buttons of our great-coats; and, however such a subject may appear
trifling for a general officer to speak on, I can tell you, it was a
discourse which our men (some of them) much needed; for they had been
in the habit of tearing off the buttons from their coats, and after
hammering them flat, passing them as English coin, in exchange for the
good wines of Spain. So that, at last, the Spaniards, finding they got
nothing by the exchange but trumpery bits of battered lead, and the
children in that country not being in the habit of playing at dumps as
ours are, they made complaints to the Marshal. Halting the brigade,
therefore, one day, he gave them a speech upon this fraud, and ended
by promising a handsome flogging to the first man he found thereafter,
whose great-coat would not keep buttoned in windy weather.


[Footnote 3: One of the light-infantry movements, when pressed by the
advance of the enemy.]



 Hiding the gunpowder--False alarm--A halt--The Advance countermanded,
 and the Retreat commenced.

At Sahagun we fell in with the army under command of Sir John Moore.
I forget how many thousand men there were; but they were lying in and
around the town when we arrived. The Rifles marched to an old convent,
some two miles from Sahagun, where we were quartered, together with a
part of the 15th Hussars, some of the Welsh fusileers and straggling
bodies of men belonging to various other regiments; all seeming on the
_qui vive_, and expecting the French to fall in with them every hour.
As our small and way-worn party came to a halt before the walls of the
convent, the men from these different regiments came swarming out to
greet us, loudly cheering us as they rushed up and seized our hands.
The difference in appearance between ourselves and these new comers was
indeed (just then) very great. _They_ looked fresh, from good quarters,
and good rations. Their clothes and accoutrements were comparatively
new and clean, and their cheeks ruddy with the glow of health and
strength; whilst our men, on the contrary, were gaunt-looking,
way-worn, and ragged; our faces burnt almost to the hue of an Asiatic's
by the sun; our accoutrements rent and torn; and many without even
shoes to their feet. However, we had some work in us yet; and perhaps
were in better condition for it than our more fresh-looking comrades.
And now our butchers tucked up their sleeves, and quickly set to work,
slaughtering oxen and sheep, which we found within the convent walls;
whilst others of our men, lighting fires in the open air upon the snow,
commenced cooking the fragments, which were cut up, and distributing
to them; so that very soon after our arrival, we were more sumptuously
regaled than we had been for many days.

After this meal we were ordered into the convent, and, with knapsacks
on our backs, and arms in our hands, threw ourselves down to rest upon
the floor of a long passage. Overcome with hard toil, and long miles,
our wearied men were soon buried in a deep and heavy sleep. In the
middle of the night I remember, as well as if the sounds were at this
moment in my ear, that my name was called out many times without my
being completely awakened by the summons. The repeated call seemed
mixed up with some circumstance in my dreams; and it was not until
the noise awoke some of the men lying nearer to the entrance of the
passage, and they took up the cry, that I was effectually aroused.
From weariness, and the weight of my knapsack, and the quantity of
implements I carried, I was at first quite unable to gain my legs; but
when I did so, I found that Quarter-master Surtees was the person who
was thus disturbing my rest.

"Come, be quick there, Harris!" said he, as I picked my way by the
light of the candle he held in his hand; "look amongst the men, and
rouse up all the shoemakers you have in the four companies. I have a
job for them, which must be done instantly."

With some little trouble, and not a few curses from them, as I stirred
them up with the butt of my rifle, I succeeded in waking several of
our snoring handicrafts; and the quarter-master bidding us instantly
follow him, led the way to the very top of the convent stairs.
Passing then into a ruinous-looking apartment, along which we walked
upon the rafters, there being no flooring, he stopped when he arrived
at its further extremity. Here he proceeded to call our attention to
a quantity of barrels of gunpowder lying beside a large heap of raw
bullock's hides.

"Now, Harris," said he, "keep your eyes open, and mind what you are
about here. General Craufurd orders you instantly to set to work, and
sew up every one of these barrels in the hides lying before you. You
are to sew the skins with the hair outwards, and be quick about it, for
the General swears that if the job is not finished in half-an-hour he
will hang you."

The latter part of this order was anything but pleasant; and whether
the General ever really gave it, I never had an opportunity of
ascertaining. I only know that I give the words as they were given
me; and, well knowing the stuff Craufurd was made of, I received the
candle from the hands of Surtees, and bidding the men get needles and
waxed thread from their knapsacks, as the quarter-master withdrew, I
instantly prepared to set about the job.

I often think of that night's work as I sit strapping away in my
little shop in Richmond Street, Soho. It was a curious scene to
look at, and the task neither very easy nor safe. The Riflemen were
wearied, unwilling, and out of temper; and it was as much as I could
do to get them to assist me. Moreover, they were so reckless, that
they seemed rather to wish to blow the convent into the air than to
get on with their work. One moment the candle was dropped, and nearly
extinguished; the next they lost their implements between the rafters
of the floor, flaring the light about amongst the barrels; and wishing,
as I remonstrated with them, that the powder might ignite, and blow
me, themselves, and the General to ----. Such were the Riflemen of
the Peninsular War,--daring, gallant, reckless fellows. I had a hard
task to get the work safely finished; but, at length, between coaxing
and bullying these dare-devils, I managed to do so, and together we
returned down the convent stairs; and, finding Surtees awaiting us in
the passage below, he reported to General Craufurd that his order had
been obeyed. After which we were permitted again to lie down, and sleep
till the bugle awoke us next morning.

We remained in the convent part of the next day, and towards evening
received orders to leave all our women and baggage behind, and advance
towards the enemy. Our four companies accordingly were quickly upon
the move, and before long we came up with the remainder of the Rifle
corps, which had recently arrived from England with Sir John Moore. As
these men saw us coming up they halted for the moment, and gave us one
hearty cheer, allowing our four companies to pass to the front, as the
post of honour, calling us "The heroes of Portugal." As we passed to
the front, we returned their cheer with pride. Our worn appearance and
sun-burnt look gave us the advantage over our comrades, we thought, and
we marched in the van of the vanguard.

War is a sad blunter of the feelings of men. We felt eager to be at
it again. Nay, I am afraid we longed for blood as the cheer of our
comrades sounded in our ears; and yet, amidst all this, softer feelings
occasionally filled the breasts of those gallant fellows, even whilst
they were thirsting for a sight of the enemy. Some of the men near me
suddenly recollected, as they saw the snow lying thickly in our path,
that this was Christmas eve. The recollection soon spread amongst the
men; and many talked of home, and scenes upon that night in other
days, in Old England, shedding tears as they spoke of the relatives and
friends never to be seen by them again.

As the night approached we became less talkative. The increasing
weariness of our limbs kept our tongues quieter, and we were many of
us half asleep as we walked, when suddenly a shout arose in front that
the French were upon us. In an instant every man was on the alert,
and we were rushing forward, in extended order, to oppose them. It
proved a false alarm; but it nearly cost me a broken bone or two. The
honourable Captain Pakenham (now Sir Hercules Pakenham), on the first
sound of the enemy being in sight, made a dash to get to the front, at
the same moment I myself was scrambling up a bank on the road side. In
the darkness and hurry, the mule the captain was mounted on bore me to
the ground, and, getting his fore-feet fast fixed somehow between my
neck and my pack, we were fairly hampered for some moments. The captain
swore, the mule floundered, and I bellowed with alarm lest the animal
should dig his feet into my back, and quite disable me. At length,
however, the captain succeeded in getting clear, and spurred over the
bank, as I rolled back into the road. It might be somewhere about two
o'clock in the morning that our advance into Spain was, for that time,
checked, and the retreat to Corunna might be said to commence. General
Craufurd was in command of the brigade, and riding in front, when I
observed a dragoon come spurring furiously along the road to meet us.
He delivered a letter to the General, who turned round in his saddle
the moment he had read a few lines, and thundered out the word "to
halt!" A few minutes more, and we were all turned to the right-about,
and retracing our steps of the night before;--the contents of that
epistle serving to furnish our men with many a surmise during the
retrograde movement. When we again neared Sahagun, I remember seeing
the wives and children of the men come rushing into the ranks, and
embracing the husbands and fathers they expected never to see again.

The entire Rifle corps entered the same convent we had before been
quartered in; but this time we remained enranked in its apartments
and passages, no man being allowed to quit his arms or lie down. We
stood leaning upon the muzzles of our Rifles, and dozed as we stood.
After remaining thus for about an hour, we were then ordered out of
the convent, and the word was again given to march. There was a sort
of thaw on this day, and the rain fell fast. As we passed the walls
of the convent, I observed our General (Craufurd) as he sat upon his
horse, looking at us on the march, and remarked the peculiar sternness
of his features: he did not like to see us going rearwards at all; and
many of us judged there must be something wrong, by his severe look and
scowling eye.

"Keep your ranks there, men!" he said, spurring his horse towards some
Riflemen who were avoiding a small rivulet. "Keep your ranks and move
on,--_no straggling_ from the main body."

We pushed on all that day without halting; and I recollect the first
thing that struck us as somewhat odd, was our passing one of the
commissariat waggons, overturned and stuck fast in the mud, and which
was abandoned without an effort to save any of its contents. A serjeant
of the 92nd Highlanders, just about this time, fell dead with fatigue,
and no one stopped, as we passed, to offer him any assistance. Night
came down upon us, without our having tasted food, or halted--I speak
for myself, and those around me--and all night long we continued this
dreadful march. Men began to look into each other's faces, and ask the
question "Are we ever to be halted again?" and many of the weaker sort
were now seen to stagger, make a few desperate efforts, and then fall,
perhaps to rise no more. Most of us had devoured all we carried in our
haversacks, and endeavoured to catch up anything we could snatch from
hut or cottage in our route. Many, even at this period, would have
straggled from the ranks, and perished, had not Craufurd held them
together with a firm rein. One such bold and stern commander in the
East, during a memorable disaster, and that devoted army had reached
its refuge unbroken! Thus we staggered on, night and day, for about
four days, before we discovered the reason of this continued forced
march. The discovery was made to our company by a good tempered, jolly
fellow, named Patrick Mc Lauchlan. He inquired of an officer, marching
directly in his front, the destination intended.

"By J----s! Musther Hills," I heard him say, "where the d---l is this
you're taking us to?"

"To England, Mc Lauchlan," returned the officer, with a melancholy
smile upon his face, as he gave the answer,--"_if we can get there_."

"More luck and grace to you," said Mc Lauchlan; "and it's that you're
maning, is it?"

This Mc Lauchlan was a good specimen of a thorough Irish soldier.
Nothing could disturb his good-humour and high spirits; and even during
a part of this dreadful march, he had ever some piece of Irish humour
upon his tongue's end, whilst he staggered under the weight of his
pack. He would in all probability have been amongst the few who did
reach England; but, during the march, he was attacked with the racking
pains of acute rheumatism, and frequently fell to the ground screaming
with agony. On such occasions, his companions would do that for him
which they omitted to perform towards others. They many times halted,
heaved him up, and assisted him forwards. Sir Dudley Hill, too, was
greatly interested for Mc Lauchlan, trying to cheer him on, whilst the
men could scarcely refrain from laughter at the extraordinary things he
gave utterance to whilst racked with pain, and staggering with fatigue.
At length, however, Mc Lauchlan fell one dark night, as we hurried
through the streets of a village, and we could not again raise him.

"It's no use, Harris," I heard him say, in a faint voice, "I can do no

Next morning, when day broke, he was no longer seen in the ranks, and
as I never saw him again, I conclude he quickly perished.



 Sufferings of the troops--Skirmishes with the pursuers--Two narrow
 escapes--The general on his rounds--The enemy--Capture of a French
 general--New year's day.

The information Mc Lauchlan obtained from Lieutenant Hill quickly
spread amongst us, and we now began to see more clearly the horrors of
our situation, and the men to murmur at not being permitted to turn and
stand at bay,--cursing the French, and swearing they would rather die
ten thousand deaths, with their rifles in their hands in opposition,
than endure the present toil. We were in the rear at this time, and
following that part of the army which made for Vigo, whilst the other
portion of the British, being on the main road to Corunna, were at
this moment closely pursued and harassed by the enemy, as I should
judge from the continued thunder of their cannon and rattle of their
musketry. Craufurd seemed to sniff the sound of battle from afar with
peculiar feelings. He halted us for a few minutes occasionally, when
the distant clamour became more distinct, and his face turned towards
the sound, and seemed to light up, and become less stern. It was then
indeed that every poor fellow clutched his weapon more firmly, and
wished for a sight of the enemy.

Before long, they had their wish: the enemy's cavalry were on our
skirts that night; and as we rushed out of a small village, the name
of which I cannot now recollect, we turned to bay. Behind broken-down
carts and tumbrils, huge trunks of trees, and everything we could
scrape together, the Rifles lay and blazed away at the advancing
cavalry, whilst the inhabitants, suddenly aroused from their beds to
behold their village almost on fire with our continued discharges, and
nearly distracted with the sound, ran from their houses, crying "_Viva
l'Englisa!_" and "_Viva la Franca!_" in a breath;--men, women, and
children flying to the open country, in their alarm.

We passed the night thus engaged, holding our own as well as we could,
together with the 43rd Light Infantry, the 52nd, a portion of the
German Legion, part of the 10th Hussars, and the 15th Dragoons. Towards
morning we moved down towards a small bridge, still followed by the
enemy, whom, however, we had sharply galled, and obliged to be more
wary in their efforts. The rain was pouring down in torrents on this
morning I recollect, and we remained many hours with our arms ported,
standing in this manner, and staring the French cavalry in the face,
the water actually running out of the muzzles of our rifles. I do not
recollect seeing a single regiment of infantry amongst the French force
on this day; it seemed to me a tremendous body of cavalry--some said
nine or ten thousand strong--commanded, as I heard, by General Lefebvre.

Whilst we stood thus, face to face, I remember the horsemen of the
enemy sat watching us very intently, as if waiting for a favourable
moment to dash upon us like beasts of prey; and every now and then
their trumpets would ring out a lively strain of music, as if to
encourage them. As the night drew on, our cavalry moved a little to the
front, together with several field-pieces, and succeeded in crossing
the bridge; after which we also advanced, and threw ourselves into some
hilly ground on either side the road; whilst the 43rd and 52nd lay
behind some carts, trunks of trees, and other materials with which
they had formed a barrier.

General Craufurd was standing behind this barricade, when he ordered
the Rifles to push still further in front, and conceal themselves
amongst the hills on either side. A man named Higgins was my front-rank
man at this moment. "Harris," said he, "let you and I gain the very top
of the mountain, and look out what those French thieves are at on the
other side."

My feet were sore and bleeding, and the sinews of my legs ached as
if they would burst, but I resolved to accompany him. In our wearied
state, the task was not easy, but, by the aid of Higgins, a tall and
powerful fellow, I managed to reach the top of the mountain, where we
placed ourselves in a sort of gully, or ditch, and looked over to the
enemy's side, concealing ourselves by lying flat in the ditch, as we
did so. Thus, in favourable situations, like cats watching for their
prey, were the rest of the Rifles lying perdu upon the hills that
night. The mountain, we found, was neither so steep nor so precipitous
on the enemy's side. The ascent, on the contrary, was so easy, that
one or two of the videttes of the French cavalry were prowling about
very near where we lay. As we had received orders not to make more
noise than we could help, not even to speak to each other, except in
whispers, although one of these horsemen approached close to where
I lay, I forebore to fire upon him. At length he stopped so near
me, that I saw it was almost impossible he could avoid discovering
that the Rifles were in such close proximity to his person. He gazed
cautiously along the ridge, took off his helmet, and wiped his face,
as he appeared to meditate upon the propriety of crossing the ditch in
which we lay; when suddenly our eyes met, and in an instant he plucked
a pistol from his holster, fired it in my face, and, wheeling his
horse, plunged down the hill side. For the moment I thought I was hit,
as the ball grazed my neck,[4] and stuck fast in my knapsack, where I
found it, when, many days afterwards, I unpacked my kit on ship-board.
About a quarter of an hour after this, as we still lay in the gully, I
heard some person clambering up behind us, and, upon turning quickly
round, I found it was General Craufurd. The General was wrapped in
his great-coat, and, like ourselves, had been for many hours drenched
to the skin, for the rain was coming down furiously. He carried in
his hand a canteen full of rum, and a small cup, with which he was
occasionally endeavouring to refresh some of the men. He offered me a
drink, as he passed, and then proceeded onwards along the ridge. After
he had emptied his canteen, he came past us again, and himself gave us
instructions as to our future proceedings.

"When all is ready, Riflemen," said he, "you will immediately get the
word, and pass over the bridge. Be careful, and mind what you are

Accordingly, a short time after he had left us, we were ordered to
descend the mountain-side in single file, and having gained the road,
were quickly upon the bridge. Meanwhile the Staff Corps had been hard
at work mining the very centre of the structure, which was filled with
gunpowder, a narrow plank being all the aid we had by which to pass
over. For my own part, I was now so utterly helpless, that I felt as
if all was nearly up with me, and that, if I could steady myself so
as to reach the further end of the plank, it would be all I should be
able to accomplish. However, we managed all of us to reach the other
side in safety, when, almost immediately afterwards, the bridge blew
up with a tremendous report, and a house at its extremity burst into
flames. What, with the concussion of the explosion, and the tremulous
state of my limbs, I was thrown to the ground, and lay flat upon my
face for some time, almost in a state of insensibility. After awhile I
somewhat recovered; but it was not without extreme difficulty, and many
times falling again, that I succeeded in regaining the column. Soon
after I had done so, we reached Benevento, and immediately took refuge
in a convent. Already three parts of it were filled with other troops,
among which were mingled the 10th Hussars, the German Legion, and the
15th Dragoons; the horses of these regiments standing as close as they
could stand, with the men dismounted between each horse, the animals'
heads to the walls of the building, and all in readiness to turn out on
the instant. Liquor was handed to us by the Dragoons, but having had
nothing for some time to eat, many of our men became sick, instead of
receiving any benefit from it.

Before we had been in the convent as long a time as I have been
describing our arrival, every man of us was down on the floor, and
well nigh asleep; and before we had slept half an hour, we were again
aroused from our slumbers by the clatter of the horses, the clash of
the men's sabres, and their shouts for us to clear the way.

"The enemy! The enemy!" I heard shouted out.

"Clear the way, Rifles! Up boys, and clear the way!"

In short, the Dragoons hardly gave us time to rise, before they were
leading their horses amongst us, and getting out of the convent as
fast as they could scamper, whilst we ourselves were not long in
following their example. As we did so, we discovered that the French
cavalry, having found the bridge blown-up, had dashed into the stream,
and succeeded in crossing. Our cavalry, however, quickly formed, and
charged them in gallant style.

The shock of that encounter was tremendous to look upon, and we stood
for some time enranked, watching the combatants. The horsemen had it
all to themselves; our Dragoons fought like tigers,[5] and, although
greatly overmatched, drove the enemy back like a torrent, and forced
them again into the river. A private of the 10th Hussars--his name,
I think, was Franklin--dashed into the stream after their General
(Lefebvre), assailed him, sword in hand, in the water, captured, and
brought him a prisoner on shore again. If I remember rightly, Franklin,
or whatever else was his name, was made a Serjeant on the spot. The
French General was delivered into our custody on that occasion, and we
cheered the 10th men heartily as we received him.

After the enemy had received this check from our cavalry, and which
considerably damped their ardour, making them a trifle more shy of us
for awhile, we pushed onwards on our painful march. I remember marching
close beside the French general during some part of this day, and
observing his chap-fallen and dejected look as he rode along in the
midst of the green jackets.

Being constantly in rear of the main body, the scenes of distress and
misery I witnessed were dreadful to contemplate, particularly amongst
the women and children, who were lagging and falling behind, their
husbands and fathers being in the main body in our front. We now came
to the edge of a deep ravine, the descent so steep and precipitous,
that it was impossible to keep our feet in getting down, and we were
sometimes obliged to sit, and slide along on our backs; whilst before
us rose a ridge of mountains quite as steep and difficult of ascent.
There was, however, no pause in our exertion, but, slinging our rifles
round our necks, down the hill we went; whilst mules with the baggage
on their backs, wearied and urged beyond their strength, were seen
rolling from top to bottom; many of them breaking their necks with the
fall, and the baggage crushed, smashed, and abandoned.

I remember, as I descended this hill, remarking the extraordinary sight
afforded by the thousands of our red-coats, who were creeping like
snails, and toiling up the ascent before us, their muskets slung round
their necks, and clambering with both hands as they hauled themselves
up. As soon as we ourselves had gained the ascent we were halted for a
few minutes, in order to give us breath for another effort, and then
onwards we moved again.

It is impossible for me to keep any account of time in this
description, as I never exactly knew how many days and nights we
marched; but I well know we kept on for many successive days and
nights, without rest, or much in the way of food. The long day found us
still pushing on, and the night caused us no halt.

After leaving the hills I have mentioned, and which I heard at the time
were called the Mountains of Galicia, as we passed through a village,
our Major resolved to try and get us something in the shape of a
better meal than we had been able hitherto to procure. He accordingly
despatched a small party, who were somewhat more fresh than their
comrades, to try and procure something from the houses around; and
they accordingly purchased, shot, and bayoneted, somewhere about a
score of pigs, which we lugged along with us to a convent just without
the town; and, halting for a short time, proceeded to cook them. The
men, however, were too hungry to wait whilst they were being properly
dressed and served out.

After this hasty meal, we again pushed on, still cursing the enemy for
not again shewing themselves, that we might revenge some of our present
miseries upon their heads.

"Why don't they come on like men," they cried, "whilst we've strength
left in us to fight them?"

We were now upon the mountains; the night was bitter cold, and the snow
falling fast. As day broke, I remember hearing Lieutenant Hill say to
another officer (who, by the way, afterwards sank down, and died),

"This is New Year's Day; and, I think if we live to see another, we
shall not easily forget it."

The mountains were now becoming more wild-looking and steep, as we
proceeded; whilst those few huts we occasionally passed seemed so
utterly forlorn and wretched-looking, it appeared quite a wonder
how human beings could live in so desolate a home. After the snow
commenced, the hills became so slippery (being in many parts covered
with ice), that several of our men frequently slipped and fell, and
being unable to rise, gave themselves up to despair, and died. There
was now no endeavour to assist one another after a fall; it was every
one for himself, and God for us all!

The enemy, I should think, were at this time frequently close upon our
trail; and I thought at times I heard their trumpets come down the wind
as we marched. Towards the dusk of the evening of this day I remember
passing a man and woman lying clasped in each other's arms, and dying
in the snow. I knew them both; but it was impossible to help them.
They belonged to the Rifles, and were man and wife. The man's name was
Joseph Sitdown. During this retreat, as he had not been in good health
previously, himself and wife had been allowed to get on in the best
way they could in the front. They had, however, now given in, and the
last we ever saw of poor Sitdown and his wife was on that night, lying
perishing in each other's arms in the snow.


[Footnote 4: This ball I found in one of my shirts, and kept it long

[Footnote 5: It was said that Napoleon observed this encounter from the



 The wind and the shorn lamb--General Craufurd, and his treatment of
 the mutineers--An officer unmanned--Craufurd's inflexibility and

Many trivial things which happened during the retreat to Corunna, and
which on any other occasion might have entirely passed from my memory,
have been, as it were, branded into my remembrance, and I recollect
the most trifling incidents which occurred from day to day during that
march. I remember, amongst other matters, that we were joined, if I may
so term it, by a young recruit, when such an addition was anything
but wished for during the disasters of the hour. One of the men's
wives (who was struggling forward in the ranks with us, presenting a
ghastly picture of illness, misery, and fatigue,) being very large in
the family-way, towards evening stepped from amongst the crowd, and
lay herself down amidst the snow, a little out of the main road. Her
husband remained with her; and I heard one or two hasty observations
amongst our men, that they had taken possession of their last
resting-place. The enemy were, indeed, not far behind at this time, the
night was coming down, and their chance seemed in truth but a bad one.
To remain behind the column of march in such weather was to perish, and
we accordingly soon forgot all about them. To my surprise, however,
I, some little time afterwards (being myself then in the rear of our
party), again saw the woman. She was hurrying, with her husband, after
us, and in her arms she carried the babe she had just given birth to.
Her husband and herself, between them, managed to carry that infant to
the end of the retreat, where we embarked. God tempers the wind, it
is said, to the shorn lamb; and many years afterwards I saw that boy,
a strong and healthy lad. The woman's name was M'Guire, a sturdy and
hardy Irishwoman; and lucky was it for herself and babe that she was
so, as that night of cold and sleet was in itself sufficient to try
the constitution of most females. I lost sight of her, I recollect, on
this night, when the darkness came upon us; but with the dawn, to my
surprise, she was still amongst us.

The shoes and boots of our party were now mostly either destroyed or
useless to us, from foul roads and long miles, and many of the men were
entirely barefooted, with knapsacks and accoutrements altogether in a
dilapidated state. The officers were also, for the most part, in as
miserable a plight. They were pallid, way-worn, their feet bleeding,
and their faces overgrown with beards of many days' growth. What a
contrast did our corps display, even at this period of the retreat,
to my remembrance of them on the morning their dashing appearance
captivated my fancy in Ireland! Many of the poor fellows, now near
sinking with fatigue, reeled as if in a state of drunkenness, and
altogether I thought we looked the ghosts of our former selves; still
we held on resolutely: our officers behaved nobly; and Craufurd was
not to be daunted by long miles, fatigue, or fine weather. Many a man
in that retreat caught courage from his stern eye and gallant bearing.
Indeed, I do not think the world ever saw a more perfect soldier than
General Craufurd. It might be on the night following the disaster
I have just narrated, that we came to a halt for about a couple of
hours in a small village, and together with several others, I sought
shelter in the stable of a sort of farm-house, the first roof I saw
near. Here, however, we found nothing to refresh ourselves with, by
way of food, but some raw potatoes lying in a heap in one of the empty
stalls, and which, for want of better rations, we made a meal of,
before we threw ourselves down upon the stones with which the place
was paved. Meanwhile, others of the men, together with two or three
of our officers, more fortunate than ourselves, had possession of the
rooms of the adjoining building, where they found at least a fire to
warm themselves. Lieutenant Hill had a black servant with him in this
retreat, a youth he had brought with him from Monte Video, where,
I heard, the Rifles had found him tied to a gun they had captured
there. This lad came and aroused me as I lay in the mule-stable, and
desired me to speak with his master in the adjoining room. I found the
lieutenant seated in a chair by the fire when I entered. He was one
of the few amongst us who rejoiced in the possession of a tolerably
decent pair of boots, and he had sent for me to put a few stitches in
them; in order to keep them from flying to pieces. I was so utterly
wearied, that I at first refused to have anything to do with them; but
the officer, taking off his boots, insisted upon my getting out my
wax threads and mending them; and himself and servant, thrusting me
into the chair he arose from, put the boots into my hands, got out my
shoe-making implements, and held me up as I attempted to cobble up the
boots. It was, however, in vain that I tried to do my best towards the
lieutenant's boots. After a few stitches, I fell asleep as I worked,
the awl and wax-ends falling to the ground. I remember there were two
other officers present at the time, Lieutenants Molloy and Keppel,
the latter of whom soon afterwards fell dead from fatigue during this
retreat. At the present time, however, they all saw it was in vain to
urge me to mend Lieutenant Hill's boots. He therefore put them on again
with a woeful face and a curse, and dismissed me to my repose. Our rest
was not, however, of long duration. The French were upon our trail, and
before long we were up and hurrying onwards again.

As the day began to dawn, we passed through another village--a long,
straggling place. The houses were all closed at this early hour, and
the inhabitants mostly buried in sleep, and, I dare say, unconscious of
the armed thousands who were pouring through their silent streets. When
about a couple of miles from this village, Craufurd again halted us
for about a quarter of an hour. It appeared to me that, with returning
daylight, he wished to have a good look at us this morning, for he
mingled amongst the men as we stood leaning upon our rifles, gazing
earnestly in our faces as he passed, in order to judge of our plight
by our countenances. He himself appeared anxious, but full of fire and
spirit, occasionally giving directions to the different officers, and
then speaking words of encouragement to the men. It is my pride now
to remember that General Craufurd seldom omitted a word in passing to
myself. On this occasion, he stopped in the midst, and addressed a few
words to me, and glancing down at my feet, observed:

"What! no shoes, Harris, I see, eh?"

"None, sir," I replied; "they have been gone many days back." He
smiled, and passing on, spoke to another man, and so on through the
whole body.

Craufurd was, I remember, terribly severe, during this retreat, if he
caught anything like pilfering amongst the men. As we stood, however,
during this short halt, a very tempting turnip-field was close on the
side of us, and several of the men were so ravenous, that although
he was in our very ranks, they stepped into the field and helped
themselves to the turnips, devouring them like famishing wolves. He
either did not or would not observe the delinquency this time, and soon
afterwards gave the word, and we moved on once more.

About this period I remember another sight, which I shall not to
my dying day forget; and it causes me a sore heart, even now, as I
remember it. Soon after our halt beside the turnip-field the screams
of a child near me caught my ear, and drew my attention to one of
our women, who was endeavouring to drag along a little boy of about
seven or eight years of age. The poor child was apparently completely
exhausted, and his legs failing under him. The mother had occasionally,
up to this time, been assisted by some of the men, taking it in turn
to help the little fellow on; but now all further appeal was vain. No
man had more strength than was necessary for the support of his own
carcass, and the mother could no longer raise the child in her arms, as
her reeling pace too plainly shewed. Still, however, she continued to
drag the child along with her. It was a pitiable sight, and wonderful
to behold the efforts the poor woman made to keep the boy amongst us.
At last the little fellow had not even strength to cry, but, with mouth
wide open, stumbled onwards, until both sank down to rise no more. The
poor woman herself had, for some time, looked a moving corpse; and
when the shades of evening came down, they were far behind amongst the
dead or dying in the road. This was not the only scene of the sort I
witnessed amongst the women and children during that retreat. Poor
creatures! they must have bitterly regretted not having accepted the
offer which was made to them to embark at Lisbon for England, instead
of accompanying their husbands into Spain. The women, however, I have
often observed, are most persevering in such cases, and are not to be
persuaded that their presence is often a source of anxiety to the corps
they belong to.

I do not think I ever admired any man who wore the British uniform more
than I did General Craufurd.

I could fill a book with descriptions of him; for I frequently had my
eye upon him in the hurry of action. It was gratifying to me, too,
to think he did not altogether think ill of me, since he has often
addressed me kindly when, from adverse circumstances, you might have
thought that he had scarcely spirits to cheer up the men under him. The
Rifles liked him, but they also feared him; for he could be terrible
when insubordination shewed itself in the ranks. "You think, because
you are Riflemen, you may do whatever you think proper," said he, one
day, to the miserable and savage-looking crew around him, in the
retreat to Corunna; "but I'll teach you the difference before I have
done with you." I remember one evening, during the retreat, he detected
two men straying away from the main body: it was in the early stage
of that disastrous flight, and Craufurd knew well that he must do his
utmost to keep the division together. He halted the brigade with a
voice of thunder, ordered a drum-head court-martial on the instant,
and they were sentenced to a hundred a-piece. Whilst this hasty trial
was taking place, Craufurd dismounting from his horse, stood in the
midst, looking stern and angry as a worried bull-dog. He did not like
retreating at all, that man.

The three men nearest him, as he stood, were Jagger, Dan Howans, and
myself. All were worn, dejected, and savage, though nothing to what we
were after a few days more of the retreat. The whole brigade were in
a grumbling and discontented mood; and Craufurd, doubtless, felt ill
pleased with the aspect of affairs altogether.

"D--n his eyes!" muttered Howans, "he had much better try to get us
something to eat and drink, than harass us in this way."

No sooner had Howans disburdened his conscience of this growl, than
Craufurd, who had overheard it, turning sharply round, seized the rifle
out of Jagger's hand, and felled him to the earth with the butt-end.

"It was not I who spoke," said Jagger, getting up, and shaking his
head. "You shouldn't knock me about."

"I heard you, sir," said Craufurd; "and I will bring you also to a

"I am the man who spoke," said Howans. "Ben Jagger never said a word."

"Very well," returned Craufurd, "then I'll try you, sir."

And, accordingly, when the other affair was disposed of, Howans' case
came on. By the time the three men were tried, it was too dark to
inflict the punishment. Howans, however, had got the complement of
three hundred promised to him; so Craufurd gave the word to the brigade
to move on. He marched all that night on foot; and when the morning
dawned, I remember that, like the rest of us, his hair, beard, and
eye-brows, were covered with the frost, as if he had grown white with
age. We were, indeed, all of us in the same condition. Scarcely had
I time to notice the appearance of morning before the general once
more called a halt--we were then on the hills. Ordering a square to be
formed, he spoke to the brigade, as well as I can remember, in these
words, after having ordered the three before-named men of the 95th to
be brought into the square:--

"Although," said he, "I should obtain the good-will neither of the
officers nor the men of the brigade here by so doing, I am resolved to
punish these three men, according to the sentence awarded, even though
the French are at our heels. Begin with Daniel Howans."

This was indeed no time to be lax in discipline, and the general knew
it. The men, as I said, were, some of them, becoming careless and
ruffianly in their demeanour; whilst others, again, I saw with the
tears falling down their cheeks from the agony of their bleeding feet,
and many were ill with dysentery from the effects of the bad food they
had got hold of and devoured on the road. Our knapsacks, too, were a
bitter enemy on this prolonged march. Many a man died, I am convinced,
who would have borne up well to the end of the retreat, but for the
infernal load we carried on our backs. My own knapsack was my bitterest
enemy; I felt it press me to the earth almost at times, and more than
once felt as if I should die under its deadly embrace. The knapsacks,
in my opinion, should have been abandoned at the very commencement of
the retrograde movement, as it would have been better to have lost them
altogether, if, by such loss, we could have saved the poor fellows who,
as it was, died strapped to them on the road.

There was some difficulty in finding a place to tie Howans up, as the
light brigade carried no halberts. However, they led him to a slender
ash tree which grew near at hand.

"Don't trouble yourselves about tying _me_ up," said Howans, folding
his arms; "I'll take my punishment like a man!"

He did so without a murmur, receiving the whole three hundred. His
wife, who was present with us, I remember, was a strong, hardy
Irishwoman. When it was over, she stepped up and covered Howans with
his grey great-coat. The general then gave the word to move on. I
rather think he knew the enemy was too near to punish the other two
delinquents just then; so we proceeded out of the corn-field in which
we had been halted, and toiled away upon the hills once more, Howans'
wife carrying the jacket, knapsack, and pouch, which the lacerated
state of the man's back would not permit him to bear.

It could not have been, I should think, more than an hour after the
punishment had been inflicted upon Howans, when the general again
gave the word for the brigade to halt, and once more formed them into
square. We had begun to suppose that he intended to allow the other two
delinquents to escape, under the present difficulties and hardships of
the retreat. He was not, however, one of the forgetful sort, when the
discipline of the army under him made severity necessary.

"Bring out the two other men of the 95th," said he, "who were tried
last night."

The men were brought forth accordingly, and their lieutenant-colonel,
Hamilton Wade, at the same time stepped forth. He walked up to the
general, and lowering his sword, requested that he would forgive these
men, as they were both of them good soldiers, and had fought in all the
battles of Portugal.

"I order _you_, sir," said the general, "to do your duty. These men
shall be punished."

The lieutenant-colonel, therefore, recovering his sword, turned about,
and fell back to the front of the Rifles. One of the men, upon this (I
think it was Armstrong), immediately began to unstrap his knapsack,
and prepare for the lash. Craufurd had turned about meanwhile, and
walked up to one side of the square. Apparently he suddenly relented
a little, and, again turning sharp round, returned towards the two
prisoners. "Stop," said he. "In consequence of the intercession of your
lieutenant-colonel, I will allow you thus much: you shall draw lots,
and the winner shall escape; but one of the two I am determined to make
an example of."

The square was formed in a stubble-field, and the sergeant-major of
the Rifles, immediately stooping down, plucked up two straws, and the
men, coming forward, drew. I cannot be quite certain, but I think it
was Armstrong who drew the longest straw, and won the safety of his
hide; and his fellow gamester was in quick time tied to a tree; and the
punishment commenced. A hundred was the sentence; but when the bugler
had counted seventy-five, the general granted him a further indulgence,
and ordered him to be taken down, and to join his company. The general
calling for his horse, now mounted for the first time for many hours;
for he had not ridden all night, not, indeed, since the drum-head
court-martial had taken place. Before he put the brigade in motion
again, he gave us another short specimen of his eloquence, pretty
much, I remember, after this style:--

"I give you all notice," said he, "that I will halt the brigade again
the very first moment I perceive any man disobeying my orders, and try
him by court-martial on the spot." He then gave us the word, and we
resumed our march.

Many who read this, especially in these peaceful times, may suppose
this was a cruel and unnecessary severity under the dreadful and
harassing circumstances of that retreat; but I, who was there, and
was, besides, a common soldier of the very regiment to which these
men belonged, say _it was quite necessary_. No man but one formed of
stuff like General Craufurd could have saved the brigade from perishing
altogether; and, if he flogged two, he saved hundreds from death by
his management. I detest the sight of the lash; but I am convinced the
British army can never go on without it. Late events have taught us
the necessity of such measures.

It was perhaps a couple of days after this had taken place that we came
to a river. It was tolerably wide, but not very deep, which was just as
well for us; for, had it been deep as the dark regions, we must have
somehow or other got through. The avenger was behind us, and Craufurd
was along with us, and the two together kept us moving, whatever was
in the road. Accordingly, into the stream went the light brigade, and
Craufurd, as busy as a shepherd with his flock, riding in and out of
the water, to keep his wearied band from being drowned as they crossed
over. Presently he spied an officer who, to save himself from being
wet through, I suppose, and wearing a damp pair of breeches for the
remainder of the day, had mounted on the back of one of his men. The
sight of such a piece of effeminacy was enough to raise the choler of
the general, and in a very short time he was plunging and splashing
through the water after them both.

"Put him down, sir! put him down! I desire you to put that officer down
instantly!" And the soldier in an instant, I dare say nothing loth,
dropping his burden, like a hot potatoe, into the stream, continued his
progress through. "Return back, sir," said Craufurd to the officer,
"and go through the water like the others. I will not allow my officers
to ride upon the men's backs through the rivers: all must take their
share alike here."

Wearied as we were, this affair caused all who saw it to shout almost
with laughter, and was never forgotten by those who survived the

General Craufurd was, indeed, one of the few men who was apparently
created for command during such dreadful scenes as we were familiar
with in this retreat. He seemed an iron man; nothing daunted
him--nothing turned him from his purpose. War was his very element, and
toil and danger seemed to call forth only an increasing determination
to surmount them. I was sometimes amused with his appearance, and that
of the men around us; for, the Rifles being always at his heels, he
seemed to think them his familiars. If he stopped his horse, and halted
to deliver one of his stern reprimands, you would see half-a-dozen
lean, unshaven, shoeless, and savage Riflemen, standing for the moment
leaning upon their weapons, and scowling up in his face as he scolded;
and when he dashed the spurs into his reeking horse, they would throw
up their rifles upon their shoulders, and hobble after him again. He
was sometimes to be seen in the front, then in the rear, and then you
would fall in with him again in the midst, dismounted, and marching
on foot, that the men might see he took an equal share in the toils
which they were enduring. He had a mortal dislike, I remember, to a
commissary. Many a time have I heard him storming at the neglect of
those gentry, when the men were starving for rations, and nothing but
excuses forthcoming.

"Send the commissary to me!" he would roar. "D--n him! I will hang him
if the provisions are not up this night!"

Twice I remember he was in command of the light brigade. The second
time he joined them he made, I heard, something like these remarks,
after they had been some little time in Spain:--

"When I commanded you before," he said, "I know full well that you
disliked me, for you thought me severe. _This time I am glad to find
there is a change in yourselves._"



 Nightfall in the wilderness--Dangerous ground--Men lost--Craufurd's
 magic lantern--A friend in need--Sir Dudley Hill.

Towards evening, of the same day Howans was punished, we came to a
part of the country of a yet wilder and more desolate appearance even
than that we had already traversed; a dreary wilderness it appeared
at this inclement season: and our men, spite of the vigilance of the
General, seemed many of them resolved to stray into the open country,
rather than traverse the road before them. The coming night favoured
their designs, and many were, before morning, lost to us through their
own wilfulness. Amongst others, I found myself completely bewildered
and lost upon the heath, and should doubtless have perished had I not
fallen in with another of our corps in the same situation. As soon
as we recognised each other, I found my companion in adversity was a
strapping resolute fellow named James Brooks, a north of Ireland man.
He was afterwards killed at Toulouse, by a musket ball which struck him
in the thigh. He was delighted at having met with me, and we resolved
not to desert each other during the night. Brooks, as I have said,
was a strong, active, and resolute fellow, as indeed I had, on more
occasions than one, witnessed in Portugal. At the present time, his
strength was useful to both of us.

"Catch hold of my jacket, Harris," said he: "the ground here is soft,
and we must help each other to-night, or we shall be lost in the bogs."

Before long, that which Brooks feared, happened; and he found himself
stuck so fast in the morass, that although I used my best efforts to
draw him out, I only shared in the same disaster; so that, leaving him,
I turned and endeavoured to save my own life if possible, calling to
him to follow before he sank over head and ears. This was an unlucky
chance in our wearied state, as the more we floundered in the dark,
not knowing which way to gain a firmer foundation, the faster we fixed
ourselves. Poor Brooks was so disheartened, that he actually blubbered
like a child. At length, during a pause in our exertions, I thought
I heard something like the bark of a dog come down the wind. I bade
Brooks listen, and we both distinctly heard it--the sound gave us new
hope, just as we were about to abandon ourselves to our fate. I advised
Brooks to lay himself as flat as he could, and drag himself out of
the slough, as I had found some hard tufts of grass in the direction I
tried; and so, by degrees, we gained a firmer footing, and eventually
succeeded in extricating ourselves, though in such an exhausted state,
that for some time we lay helplessly upon the ground, unable to proceed.

At length with great caution, we ventured to move forwards in the
direction of the sounds we had just heard. We found, however, that our
situation was still very perilous; for in the darkness we hardly dared
to move a step in any direction, without probing the ground with our
rifles, lest we should again sink, and be eventually smothered in the
morasses we had strayed amongst. On a sudden, however (as we carefully
felt our way), we heard voices shouting in the distance, and calling
out "_Men_ lost! _men_ lost!" which we immediately concluded were the
cries of some of our own people, who were situated like ourselves.

After awhile, I thought I saw, far away, something like a dancing
light, which seemed to flicker about, vanish, and reappear, similar
to a Jack-o'-lantern. I pointed it out to Brooks, and we agreed to
alter our course, and move towards it. As we did so, the light seemed
to approach us, and grow larger, and presently another and another
appeared, like small twinkling stars, till they looked something like
the lamps upon one of our London bridges, as seen from afar. The sight
revived our spirits, more especially as we could now distinctly hear
the shouts of people, who appeared in search of the stragglers, and as
they approached us, we perceived that such was indeed the case. The
lights, we now discovered, were furnished by bundles of straw and dried
twigs, tied on the ends of long poles, and dipped in tar. They were
borne in the hands of several Spanish peasants, from a village near at
hand, whom Craufurd had thus sent to our rescue.

He had discovered, on reaching and halting in this village, the number
of men that had strayed from the main body, and immediately ordering
the torches I have mentioned to be prepared, he collected together a
party of Spanish peasants, and obliged them to go out into the open
country, and seek for his men, as I have said; by which means he saved
(on that night) many from death.

To return to my own adventures on this night. When Brooks and myself
reached the village I have mentioned, we found it filled with soldiers,
standing and lying, huddled together like cattle in a fair. A most
extraordinary sight it appeared, as the torches of the peasants flashed
upon the way-worn and gaunt figures of our army. The rain was coming
down, too, on this night, I remember; and soon after I reached our
corps, I fell helplessly to the ground in a miserable plight. Brooks
was himself greatly exhausted, but he behaved nobly, and remained
beside me, trying to persuade some of our men to assist him in lifting
me up, and gaining shelter in one of the houses at hand. "May I be --!"
I heard him say, "if I leave Harris to be butchered in the streets by
the cowardly Spaniards the moment our division leaves the town." At
length Brooks succeeded in getting a man to help him, and together they
supported me into the passage of a house, where I lay upon the floor
for some time. After awhile, by the help of some wine they procured, I
rallied and sat up, till eventually I got once more upon my legs, and,
arm in arm, we proceeded again into the streets, and joined our corps.
Poor Brooks certainly saved my life that night. He was one of the many
good fellows whom I have seen out, and I often think of him with
feelings of gratitude as I sit at my work in Richmond Street, Soho.

When the division got the order to proceed again, we were still linked
arm in arm, and thus we proceeded; sometimes, when the day appeared,
stopping for a short time and resting ourselves, and then hurrying on

I remember Sir Dudley Hill passing me on a mule this day. He wore a
Spanish straw-hat, and had his cloak on. He looked back when he had
passed, and addressed me. "Harris," said he, "I see you cannot keep
up." He appeared sorry for me, for he knew me well. "You must do your
best," he said, "my man, and keep with us, or you will fall into the
hands of the enemy." As the day wore on, I grew weaker and weaker;
and at last, spite of all my efforts, I saw the main body leave me
hopelessly in the lurch. Brooks himself was getting weaker too; he
saw it was of little use to urge me on, and at length, assenting to my
repeated request to be left behind, he hurried on as well as he was
able without a word of farewell. I now soon sank down in the road and
lay beside another man who had also fallen, and was apparently dead,
and whom I recognised as one of our sergeants, named Taylor, belonging
to the Honourable Captain Pakenham's (now General Sir Hercules
Pakenham) company.



 Fate of the stragglers--A Spanish welcome--Scenes upon the line of
 march--The English ships in sight--The embarkation and arrival of the
 troops in England.

Whilst we lay exhausted in the road, the rear guard, which was now
endeavouring to drive on the stragglers, approached, and a sergeant of
the Rifles came up, and stopped to look at us. He addressed himself
to me, and ordered me to rise; but I told him it was useless for him
to trouble himself about me, as I was unable to move a step further.
Whilst he was urging me to endeavour to rise up, the officer in
command of the rear guard also stepped up. The name of this officer was
Lieutenant Cox; he was a brave and good man, and observing that the
sergeant was rough in his language and manner towards me, he silenced
him, and bade the guard proceed, and leave me. "Let him die quietly,
Hicks," he said to the sergeant. "I know him well; he's not the man to
lie here if he could get on.--I am sorry, Harris," he said, "to see you
reduced to this, for I fear there is no help to be had now." He then
moved on after his men, and left me to my fate.

After lying still for awhile, I felt somewhat restored, and sat up to
look about me. The sight was by no means cheering. On the road behind
me I saw men, women, mules, and horses, lying at intervals, both dead
and dying; whilst far away in front I could just discern the enfeebled
army crawling out of sight, the women[6] huddled together in its rear,
trying their best to get forward amongst those of the sick soldiery,
who were now unable to keep up with the main body. After awhile, I
found that my companion, the sergeant, who lay beside me, had also
recovered a little, and I tried to cheer him up. I told him that
opposite to where we were lying there was a lane, down which we might
possibly find some place of shelter, if we could muster strength to
explore it. The sergeant consented to make the effort, but after two
or three attempts to rise, gave it up. I myself was more fortunate:
with the aid of my rifle I got upon my legs, and seeing death in my
companion's face, I resolved to try and save myself, since it was quite
evident to me that I could render him no assistance.

After hobbling some distance down the lane, to my great joy I espied
a small hut or cabin, with a little garden in its front; I therefore
opened the small door of the hovel, and was about to enter, when I
considered that most likely I should be immediately knocked on the head
by the inmates if I did so. The rain, I remember, was coming down in
torrents at this time, and, reflecting that to remain outside was but
to die, I resolved at all events to try my luck within. I had not much
strength left; but I resolved to sell myself as dearly as I could. I
therefore brought up my rifle, and stepped across the threshold. As
soon as I had done so, I observed an old woman seated beside a small
fire upon the hearth. She turned her head as I entered, and immediately
upon seeing a strange soldier, she arose, and filled the hovel with her
screams. As I drew back within the doorway, an elderly man, followed by
two, who were apparently his sons, rushed from a room in the interior.
They immediately approached me; but I brought up my rifle again, and
cocked it, bidding them keep their distance.

After I had thus brought them to a parley, I got together what little
Spanish I was master of, and begged for shelter for the night and a
morsel of food, at the same time lifting my feet and displaying them
a mass of bleeding sores. It was not, however, till they had held a
tolerably long conversation among themselves that they consented to
afford me shelter; and then only upon the condition that I left by
daylight on the following morning. I accepted the conditions with joy.
Had they refused me, I should indeed not have been here to tell the
tale. Knowing the treachery of the Spanish character, I however refused
to relinquish possession of my rifle, and my right hand was ready in an
instant to unsheath my bayonet, as they sat and stared at me whilst I
devoured the food they offered.

All they gave me was some coarse black bread, and a pitcher of sour
wine. It was, however, acceptable to a half-famished man; and I felt
greatly revived by it. Whilst I supped, the old hag, who sat close
beside the hearth, stirred up the embers, that they might have a
better view of their guest, and the party meanwhile overwhelmed me
with questions, which I could neither comprehend nor had strength to
answer. I soon made signs to them that I was unable to maintain the
conversation, and begged of them, as well as I could, to shew me some
place where I might lay my wearied limbs till dawn.

Notwithstanding the weariness which pervaded my whole body, I was
unable for some time to sleep except by fitful snatches, such was the
fear I entertained of having my throat cut by the savage-looking
wretches still seated before the fire. Besides which, the place they
had permitted me to crawl into was more like an oven than anything
else, and being merely a sort of berth scooped out of the wall, was so
filled with fleas and other vermin, that I was stung and tormented most
miserably all night long.

Bad as they had been, however, I felt somewhat restored by my lodging
and supper, and with the dawn I crawled out of my lair, left the hut,
retraced my steps along the lane, and once more emerged upon the
high-road, where I found my companion, the sergeant, dead, and lying
where I had left him the night before.

I now made the best of my way along the road in the direction in which
I had last seen our army retreating the night before. A solitary
individual, I seemed left behind amongst those who had perished. It
was still raining, I remember, on this morning, and the very dead
looked comfortless in their last sleep, as I passed them occasionally
lying on the line of march.

It had pleased Heaven to give me an iron constitution, or I must
have failed, I think, on this day, for the solitary journey, and the
miserable spectacles I beheld, rather damped my spirits.

After progressing some miles, I came up with a cluster of poor devils
who were still alive, but apparently, both men and women, unable to
proceed. They were sitting huddled together in the road, their heads
drooping forward, and apparently patiently awaiting their end.

Soon after passing these unfortunates, I overtook a party who were
being urged forward under charge of an officer of the 42nd Highlanders.
He was pushing them along pretty much as a drover would keep together a
tired flock of sheep. They presented a curious example of a retreating
force. Many of them had thrown away their weapons, and were linked
together arm-in-arm, in order to support each other, like a party of
drunkards. They were, I saw, composed of various regiments; many were
bare-headed, and without shoes; and some with their heads tied up in
old rags and fragments of handkerchiefs.

I marched in company with this party for some time, but as I felt after
my night's lodging and refreshment in better condition I ventured to
push forwards, in the hope of rejoining the main body, and which I once
more came up with in the street of a village.

On falling in with the Rifles, I again found Brooks, who was surprised
at seeing me still alive; and we both entered a house, and begged for
something to drink. I remember that I had a shirt upon my back at this
time, which I had purchased of a drummer of the Ninth regiment before
the commencement of the retreat. It was the only good one I had; I
stripped, with the assistance of Brooks, and took it off, and exchanged
it with a Spanish woman for a loaf of bread, which Brooks, myself, and
two other men, shared amongst us.

I remember to have again remarked Craufurd at this period of the
retreat. He was no whit altered in his desire to keep the force
together, I thought; but still active and vigilant as ever, he seemed
to keep his eye upon those who were now most likely to hold out. I
myself marched during many hours close beside him this day. He looked
stern and pale; but the very picture of a warrior. I shall never forget
Craufurd if I live to a hundred years, I think. He was in everything a

Slowly and dejectedly crawled our army along. Their spirit of endurance
was now considerably worn out, and judging from my own sensations, I
felt confident that if the sea was much further from us, we must be
content to come to a halt at last without gaining it. I felt something
like the approach of death as I proceeded--a sort of horror, mixed up
with my sense of illness--a reeling I have never experienced before or
since. Still I held on; but with all my efforts, the main body again
left me behind. Had the enemy's cavalry come up at this time I think
they would have had little else to do but ride us down without striking
a blow.

It is, however, indeed astonishing how man clings to life. I am certain
that had I lain down at this period, I should have found my last billet
on the spot I sank upon. Suddenly I heard a shout in front, which was
prolonged in a sort of hubbub. Even the stragglers whom I saw dotting
the road in front of me seemed to have caught at something like
hope; and as the poor fellows now reached the top of a hill we were
ascending, I heard an occasional exclamation of joy--the first note of
the sort I had heard for many days. When I reached the top of the hill
the thing spoke for itself. There, far away in our front, the English
shipping lay in sight.[7]

Its view had indeed acted like a restorative to our force, and the
men, at the prospect of a termination to the march, had plucked up
spirit for a last effort. Fellows who, like myself, seemed to have
hardly strength in their legs to creep up the ascent, seemed now to
have picked up a fresh pair to get down with. Such is hope to us poor

There was, I recollect, a man of the name of Bell, of the Rifles, who
had been during this day holding a sort of creeping race with me,--we
had passed and repassed each other, as our strength served. Bell was
rather a discontented fellow at the best of times; but during this
retreat he had given full scope to his ill-temper, cursing the hour he
was born, and wishing his mother had strangled him when he came into
the world, in order to have saved him from his present toil. He had not
now spoken for some time, and the sight of the English shipping had
apparently a very beneficial effect upon him. He burst into tears as he
stood and looked at it.

"Harris," he said, "if it pleases God to let me reach those ships, I
swear never to utter a bad or discontented word again."

As we proceeded down the hill we now met with the first symptoms of
good feeling from the inhabitants, it was our fortune to experience
during our retreat. A number of old women stood on either side the
road, and occasionally handed us fragments of bread as we passed
them. It was on this day, and whilst I looked anxiously upon the
English shipping in the distance, that I first began to find my
eyesight failing, and it appeared to me that I was fast growing blind.
The thought was alarming; and I made desperate efforts to get on.
Bell, however, won the race this time. He was a very athletic and
strong-built fellow, and left me far behind, so that I believe at that
time I was the very last of the retreating force that reached the
beach, though doubtless many stragglers came dropping up after the
ships had sailed, and were left behind.

As it was, when I did manage to gain the sea-shore, it was only by the
aid of my rifle that I could stand, and my eyes were now so dim and
heavy that with difficulty I made out a boat which seemed the last that
had put off.

Fearful of being left half blind in the lurch, I took off my cap, and
placed it on the muzzle of my rifle as a signal, for I was totally
unable to call out. Luckily, Lieutenant Cox, who was aboard the boat,
saw me, and ordered the men to return, and, making one more effort,
I walked into the water, and a sailor stretching his body over the
gunwale, seized me as if I had been an infant, and hauled me on board.
His words were characteristic of the English sailor, I thought.

"Hollo there, you lazy lubber!" he said, as he grasped hold of me, "who
the h-ll do you think is to stay humbugging all day for such a fellow
as you?"

The boat, I found, was crowded with our exhausted men, who lay
helplessly at the bottom, the heavy sea every moment drenching them
to the skin. As soon as we reached the vessel's side, the sailors
immediately aided us to get on board, which in our exhausted state
was not a very easy matter, as they were obliged to place ropes in
our hands, and heave us up by setting their shoulders under us, and
hoisting away as if they had been pushing bales of goods on board.

"Heave away!" cried one of the boat's crew, as I clung to a rope, quite
unable to pull myself up, "heave away, you lubber!"

The tar placed his shoulder beneath me as he spoke, and hoisted me up
against the ship's side; I lost my grasp of the rope and should have
fallen into the sea, had it not been for two of the crew. These men
grasped me as I was falling, and drew me into the port-hole like a
bundle of foul clothes, tearing away my belt and bayonet in the effort,
which fell into the sea.

It was not very many minutes after I was on board, for I lay where the
sailors had first placed me after dragging me through the port-hole,
ere I was sound asleep. I slept long and heavily, and it was only
the terrible noise and bustle on board consequent upon a gale having
sprung up, that at length awoke me. The wind increased as the night
came on, and soon we had to experience all the horrors of a storm at
sea. The pumps were set to work; the sails were torn to shreds; the
coppers were overset; and we appeared in a fair way, I thought, of
going to the bottom. Meanwhile, the pumps were kept at work night and
day incessantly till they were choked; and the gale growing worse and
worse, all the soldiery were ordered below, and the hatches closed;
soon after which the vessel turned over on one side, and lay a helpless
log upon the water. In this situation an officer was placed over us,
with his sword drawn in one hand, and a lantern in the other, in order
to keep us on the side which was upper-most, so as to give the vessel
a chance of righting herself in the roaring tide. The officer's task
was not an easy one, as the heaving waves frequently sent us sprawling
from the part we clung to, over to the lower-most part of the hold,
where he stood, and he was obliged every minute to drive us back.

We remained in this painful situation for, I should think, five or
six hours, expecting every instant to be our last, when, to our great
joy, the sea suddenly grew calm, the wind abated, the vessel righted
herself, and we were once more released from our prison, having tasted
nothing in the shape of food for at least forty-eight hours. Soon after
this we arrived in sight of Spithead, where we saw nine of our convoy,
laden with troops, which had been driven on shore in the gale. After
remaining off Spithead for about five or six days, one fine morning
we received orders to disembark, and our poor bare feet once more
touched English ground. The inhabitants flocked down to the beach to
see us as we did so, and they must have been a good deal surprised at
the spectacle we presented. Our beards were long and ragged; almost
all were without shoes and stockings; many had their clothes and
accoutrements in fragments, with their heads swathed in old rags, and
our weapons were covered with rust; whilst not a few had now, from toil
and fatigue, become quite blind.

Let not the reader, however, think, that even now we were to be
despised as soldiers. Long marches, inclement weather, and want of
food, had done their work upon us; but we were perhaps better than we
appeared, as the sequel shewed. Under the gallant Craufurd we had made
some tremendous marches, and even galled our enemies severely, making
good our retreat by the way of Vigo. But our comrades in adversity, and
who had retired by the other road to Corunna, under General Moore,
turned to bay there, and shewed the enemy that the English soldier is
not to be beaten even under the most adverse circumstances.

The field of death and slaughter, the march, the bivouac, and the
retreat, are no bad places in which to judge of men. I have had some
opportunities of judging them in all these situations, and I should
say, that the British are amongst the most splendid soldiers in the
world. Give them fair play, and they are unconquerable. For my own
part, I can only say, that I enjoyed life more whilst on active
service, than I have ever done since; and as I sit at work in my
shop in Richmond Street, Soho, I look back upon that portion of my
time spent in the fields of the Peninsula as the only part worthy of
remembrance. It is at such times that scenes long passed come back upon
my mind as if they had taken place but yesterday. I remember even the
very appearance of some of the regiments engaged; and comrades, long
mouldered to dust, I see again performing the acts of heroes.


[Footnote 6: Some of these poor wretches cut a ludicrous figure,
having the men's great-coats buttoned over their heads, whilst their
clothing being extremely ragged and scanty, their naked legs were very
conspicuous. They looked a tribe of travelling beggars.]

[Footnote 7: Our division, under Craufurd, in this retreat, as I have
before mentioned, made for Vigo.]



 Filling up the ranks--Going out recruiting--Bagging a
 blackbird--Coaxing the militia, and hoaxing them--A demon
 runner--Winning a commission.

After the disastrous retreat to Corunna, the Rifles were reduced to a
sickly skeleton, if I may so term it. Out of perhaps nine hundred of
as active and fine fellows as ever held a weapon in the field of an
enemy's country, we paraded some three hundred weak and crest-fallen

I myself stood the third man in my own company, which was reduced from
near a hundred men, to _but three_. Indeed, I think we had scarce a
company on parade stronger than ten or twelve men, at the first parade.
After a few parades, however, our companies gradually were augmented
(by those of the sick who recovered), but many of those who did not
sink in hospital, were never more of much service as soldiers.

The captain of my company was sick, and Lieutenant Hill commanded the
three men who answered for No. 4 on this occasion.

I remember he smiled when he looked at me. "Harris," he said, "you
look the best man here, this morning. You seem to have got over this
business well."

"Yes, Sir," I said, "thank God I feel pretty stout again now, which is
more than many can say."

Both battalions of the Rifles had been in that retreat. The first
battalion lay at Colchester at this time. Ours (the second) was
quartered at Hythe. Colonel Beckwith commanded the first, and Colonel
Wade the second. I remember the 43rd and 52nd Regiments paraded with
our battalion on this occasion at Hythe, and both having been with us
on the Corunna retreat, cut as poor a figure as we ourselves did.

After awhile, some of the strongest and smartest of our men were picked
out to go on the recruiting service, and gather men from the militia
regiments to fill up our ranks. I myself started off with Lieutenant
Pratt, Sergeant-Major Adams, and William Brotherwood, the latter of
whom was afterwards killed at Vittoria by a cannon-ball, which at the
same moment ended Patrick Mahon and Lieutenant Hopwood.[8]

I was a shoemaker in the corps, and had twenty pounds in my pocket
which I had saved up. With this money I hired a gig, and the
Sergeant-Major and myself cut a very smart figure. The only difficulty
was, that neither of us knew how to drive very well, consequently we
overturned the gig on the first day, before we got half way on our
journey, and the shafts being broken we were obliged to leave it behind
us in a small village, midway between Hythe and Rye, and take to our
legs, as was more soldier-like and seemly. We reached Rye the same
night, and I recollect that I succeeded in getting the first recruit
there, a strong, able-bodied chimney-sweep, named John Lee. This fellow
(whose appearance I was struck with as he sat in the taproom of the
"Red Lion" on that night, together with a little boy as black and sooty
as himself) offered to enlist the moment I entered the room, and I took
him at his word, and immediately called for the Sergeant-Major for

"There's nothing against my being a soldier," said the sweep, "but my
black face; I'm strong, active, and healthy, and able to lick the best
man in this room."

"Hang your black face," said the Sergeant-Major; "the Rifles can't be
too dark: you're a strong rascal, and if you mean it, we'll take you to
the doctor to-morrow and make a Giniril of you the next day." So we had
the sweep that night into a large tub of water, scoured him outside,
and filled him with punch inside, and made a Rifleman of him.

The Sergeant-Major, however, on this night, suspected from his
countenance, what afterwards turned out to be the case, that Lee was
rather a slippery fellow, and might repent. So, after filling him
drunk, he said to me--"Harris, _you_ have caught this bird, and _you_
must keep him fast. You must both sleep to-night handcuffed together
in the same bed, or he will escape us;" which I actually did, and the
next morning retraced my steps with him to Hythe, to be passed by the
doctor of our regiment.

After rejoining Sergeant-Major Adams at Rye, we started off for
Hastings in Sussex, and on our way we heard of the East Kent Militia
at Lydd; so we stopped there about an hour to display ourselves
before them, and try if we could coax a few of them into the Rifles.
We strutted up and down before their ranks arm-in-arm, and made no
small sensation amongst them. When on the recruiting service in those
days, men were accustomed to make as gallant a show as they could,
and accordingly we had both smartened ourselves up a trifle. The
Sergeant-Major was quite a beau, in his way; he had a sling belt to
his sword like a field-officer, a tremendous green feather in his cap,
a flaring sash, his whistle and powder-flask displayed, an officer's
pelisse over one shoulder, and a double allowance of ribbons in his
cap; whilst I myself was also as smart as I dared appear, with my rifle
slung at my shoulder.

In this guise we made as much of ourselves as if we had both been
Generals, and, as I said, created quite a sensation, the militia-men
cheering us as we passed up and down, till they were called to order by
the officers.

The permission to volunteer was not then given to the East Kent,
although it came out a few days afterwards, and we persuaded many men,
during the hour we figured before them, that the Rifles were the only
boys fit for _them_ to join.

After looking up the East Kent, we reached Hastings that same night,
where we found that the volunteering of the Leicester Militia (who were
quartered there) had commenced, and that one hundred and twenty-five
men and two officers had given their names to the 7th Fusileers, and
these, Adams and I determined to make change their minds in our favour
if we could.

The appearance of our Rifle uniform, and a little of Sergeant
Adams's[9] blarney, so took the fancies of the volunteers, that we
got every one of them for the Rifle corps, and both officers[10] into
the bargain. We worked hard in this business. I may say that for
three days and nights we kept up the dance and the drunken riot. Every
volunteer got ten guineas bounty, which, except the two kept back for
necessaries, they spent in every sort of excess, till all was gone.
Then came the reaction. The drooping spirits, the grief at parting with
old comrades, sweethearts, and wives, for the uncertain fate of war.
And then came on the jeers of the old soldier; the laughter of Adams
and myself, and comrades, and our attempts to give a fillip to their
spirits as we marched them off from the friends they were never to look
upon again; and as we termed it, "_shove them on to glory_"--a glory
they were not long in achieving, as out of the hundred and fifty of the
Leicestershire, which we enlisted in Hastings, scarce one man, I should
say, who served, but could have shewn at the year's end some token
of the fields he had fought in; very many found a grave, and some
returned to Hythe with the loss of their limbs.

I remember the story of many of these men's lives; that of one in
particular, named Demon, whom I myself enlisted from the Leicester
Militia, is not a little curious. Demon was a smart and very active
man, and serving as corporal in the light company of the Leicestershire
when I persuaded him to join our corps, where he was immediately made
a sergeant in the 3rd battalion, then just forming; and from which
he eventually rose to be a commissioned officer in one of our line
regiments, but whose number I cannot now remember. The cause which led
to Demon's merits being first noticed was not a little curious, being
neither more nor less than a race.

It happened that at Shoreham Cliff, (soon after he joined) a race was
got up amongst some Kentish men, who were noted for their swiftness,
and one of them, who had beaten his companions, challenged any soldier
in the Rifles to run against him for two hundred pounds. The sum was
large, and the runner was of so much celebrity, that although we had
some active young fellows amongst us, no one seemed inclined to take
the chance, either officers or men, till at length Demon stepped forth
and said he would run against this Kentish boaster, or any man on
the face of the earth, and fight him afterwards into the bargain, if
any one could be found to make up the money. Upon this, an officer
subscribed the money, and the race was arranged.

The affair made quite a sensation, and the inhabitants of the different
villages for miles around flocked to see the sport; besides which the
men from different regiments in the neighbourhood, infantry, cavalry,
and artillery, also were much interested, and managed to be present,
which caused the scene to be a very gay one. In short, the race
commenced, and the odds were much against the soldier at starting, as
he was a much less man than the other, and did not at all look like the
winner. He however kept well up with his antagonist, and the affair
seemed likely to end in a dead heat, which would undoubtedly have
been the case, but Demon, when close upon the winning-post, gave one
tremendous spring forward, and won it by his body's length.

This race, in short, led on to notice and promotion. General Mackenzie
was in command of the garrison at Hythe. He was present, and was highly
delighted at the Rifleman beating the bumpkin, and saw that the winner
was the very cut of a soldier, and in short that Demon was a very smart
fellow, so that, eventually, the news of the race reached the first
battalion then fighting in Spain. Sir Andrew Barnard, as far as I
recollect from hearsay, at the time, was then in command of the Rifles
in Spain; and, as I now remember the story, either he or some other
officer of rank, upon being told of the circumstance, remarked that, as
Demon was such a smart runner in England, there was very good ground
for a Rifleman to use his legs in Spain. He was accordingly ordered out
with the next draft to that country, where he so much distinguished
himself that he obtained his commission, as already mentioned.

I could give many more anecdotes connected with the recruiting at this
time for the three battalions of Rifles, but the above will suffice;
and soon after the incident I have just narrated (our companies being
full of young and active men), we started off with the expedition,
then just formed, for Walcheren. I could not help feeling, when we
paraded, that I stood enranked for this first expedition comparatively
amongst strangers, since in the company I belonged to, not a single
man, except James Brooks, whom I have before named, then paraded with
me who had been a fellow comrade in the fields of Portugal and Spain.
I felt also the loss of my old Captain (Leech), whom I much loved
and respected, and who left the second battalion at that time to be
promoted in the first. When I heard of this change, I stepped from the
ranks and offered to exchange into the first, but Lieutenant Hill, who
was present, hinted to Captain Hart (my new commanding officer) not to
let me go, as, if he did, he would perhaps repent it. I will not say
here what the Lieutenant then said of me, but he persuaded Captain Hart
to keep me, as my character had been so good in the former campaign;
and accordingly I remained in the second battalion, and started on the
Walcheren expedition.

From Hythe to Deal was one day's march; and I remember looking along
the road at the good appearance the different regiments made as we
marched along. It was as fine an expedition as ever I looked at, and
the army seemed to stretch, as I regarded them, the whole distance
before us to Dover.


[Footnote 8: The manner in which these three soldiers met with their
death is extraordinary. As they were creeping from their cover to try
and shoot one of the French generals, who was much exposed, the enemy
pointed a gun at them, and succeeded in sweeping down all three, as
they crawled along.]

[Footnote 9: The history of Sergeant-Major Adams is somewhat singular.
I was his great friend at this time, and he confided some part of
it to me. He had been a croppy, (a rebel) and had fought at Vinegar
Hill. When the rebels were defeated he escaped, and lived some time
in the wilds of Connemara. He afterwards thought it best to enlist in
the Donegal Militia, and then volunteered to the Rifles. Here he soon
rose (whilst in Spain) to the rank of Sergeant. During the retreat to
Corunna, Sergeant-Major Crosby failed, and Craufurd promoted Adams
in his place. At St. Sebastian he was noticed by General Graham, for
his bravery with the forlorn hope, a commission was given him, and he
afterwards joined a regiment in Gibraltar, where he was made Adjutant.
He then went to America, where he served with credit till he died. I
believe I was the only man in the regiment who knew of his having been
a rebel, and I kept the secret faithfully till his death.]

[Footnote 10: The names of these two officers were Chapman and Freere,
and I believe they are living now.]



 The embarkation--Flushing--The Walcheren fever--The doctors at
 fault--The Riflemen attacked--The one survivor out of thirty-nine--The
 veteran battalion--The independent companies.

At Deal, the Rifles embarked in the Superb, a seventy-four, and a
terrible outcry there was amongst the women upon the beach on the
embarkation; for the ill consequences of having too many women amongst
us had been so apparent in our former campaign and retreat, that the
allowance of wives was considerably curtailed on this occasion, and the
distraction of the poor creatures at parting with their husbands was
quite heart-rending; some of them clinging to the men so resolutely,
that the officers were obliged to give orders to have them separated by
force. In fact, even after we were in the boats and fairly pushed off,
the screaming and howling of their farewells rang in our ears far out
at sea.

The weather being fair, and the fleet having a grand and imposing
appearance, many spectators (even from London) came to look at us as we
lay in the Downs, and we set sail (I think on the third day from our
embarkation) in three divisions.

A fair wind soon carried us off Flushing, where one part of the
expedition disembarked; the other made for South Beveland, among which
latter I myself was. The five companies of Rifles immediately occupied
a very pretty village, with rows of trees on either side its principal
streets, where we had plenty of leisure to listen to the cannonading
going on amongst the companies we had left at Flushing.

The appearance of the country (such as it was) was extremely pleasant,
and for a few days the men enjoyed themselves much. But at the
expiration of (I think) less time than a week, an awful visitation came
suddenly upon us. The first I observed of it was one day as I sat in
my billet, when I beheld whole parties of our Riflemen in the street
shaking with a sort of ague, to such a degree that they could hardly
walk; strong and fine young men who had been but a short time in the
service seemed suddenly reduced in strength to infants, unable to stand
upright--so great a shaking had seized upon their whole bodies from
head to heel. The company I belonged to was quartered in a barn, and
I quickly perceived that hardly a man there had stomach for the bread
that was served out to him, or even to taste his grog, although each
man had an allowance of half-a-pint of gin per day. In fact I should
say that, about three weeks from the day we landed, I and two others
were the only individuals who could stand upon our legs. They lay
groaning in rows in the barn, amongst the heaps of lumpy black bread
they were unable to eat.

This awful spectacle considerably alarmed the officers,[11] who were
also many of them attacked. The naval doctors came on shore to assist
the regimental surgeons, who, indeed, had more upon their hands than
they could manage; Dr. Ridgeway of the Rifles, and his assistant,
having nearly five hundred patients prostrate at the same moment. In
short, except myself and three or four others, the whole concern was
completely floored.

Under these circumstances, which considerably confounded the doctors,
orders were issued (since all hopes of getting the men upon their legs
seemed gone) to embark them as fast as possible, which was accordingly
done with some little difficulty. The poor fellows made every effort
to get on board; those who were a trifle better than others crawled to
the boats; many supported each other; and many were carried helpless as

At Flushing matters were not much better, except that there the
soldiers had a smart skirmish with their enemies before the fever and
ague attacked them. On ship-board the aspect of affairs did not mend;
the men beginning to die so fast that they committed ten or twelve to
the deep in one day.

It was rather extraordinary that myself, and Brooks, and a man named
Bowley, who had all three been at Corunna, were at this moment
unattacked by the disease, and, notwithstanding the awful appearance
of the pest-ship we were in, I myself had little fear of it, I thought
myself so hardened that it could not touch me. It happened, however,
that I stood sentinel (men being scarce) over the hatchway, and Brooks,
who was always a jolly and jeering companion (even in the very jaws
of death) came past me, and offered me a lump of pudding, it being
pudding-day on board. At that moment I felt struck with a deadly
faintness, shaking all over like an aspen, and my teeth chattering in
my head so that I could hardly hold my rifle.

Brooks looked at me for a moment, with the pudding in his hand, which
he saw I could not take. "Hallo," he said, "why Harris, old boy, _you_
are not going to begin, are you?"

I felt unable to answer him, but only muttered out as I trembled, "For
God's sake get me relieved, Brooks!"

"Hallo?" said Brooks, "it's all up with Harris! You're catched hold of
at last, old chap."

In fact I was soon sprawling upon the forecastle, amongst many others,
in a miserable state, our knapsacks and our great-coats over us. In
this state the doctors, during our short voyage, were fully employed;
pails of infusion of bark were carried amongst us and given to the men
in horn tumblers, and thus we arrived at Dover.

As I lay on the deck, I looked up at that splendid castle in the
distance. It was identified with old England, and many a languid eye
was cheered by its sight. Men naturally love to die upon their native
land, and I felt I could now do so contentedly! Nay, I have that
frowning English fortress in my eye, at this moment, as I then beheld
it. The Warwickshire Militia were at this time quartered at Dover. They
came to assist in disembarking us, and were obliged to lift many of
us out of the boats like sacks of flour. If any of those militia-men
remain alive, they will not easily forget that piece of duty; for I
never beheld men more moved than they were at our helpless state.
Many died at Dover and numbers in Deal; whilst those who had somewhat
rallied, on getting from the land of pestilence, were paraded, in order
to get them on to their old quarters at Hythe.

I remember that the 43rd and 52nd Regiments (all that were able)
marched with us this day to Hythe; but I'm afraid we did not (any of
us) cut much of a figure on the road. In fact, such was the shaking
fever we felt, we were left pretty much to our own discretion to get
to our journey's end in the best manner we could. Many, indeed, would
never have got into barracks without assistance. In short, when I sat
down exhausted by the road-side several times during the march, and
looked at the men, I thought it bore in some degree a similitude to the
Corunna retreat; so awfully had disease enfeebled them.

The hospital at Hythe being filled with the sick, the barracks became
a hospital, and as deaths ensued, and thinned the wards, the men were
continually removed, making a progress from barrack to hospital, and
from hospital to the grave. The ward of the hospital in which I myself
was, accomodated eleven men, and I saw, from my bed in the corner where
I lay, this ward refilled ten times, the former patients being all
carried out to the grave. I had been gradually removed as the men died,
until I was driven up into a corner of the ward, where I lay, and had
plenty of leisure to observe my comrades in misfortune, and witness
their end. Some I beheld die quietly, and others were seized in various
ways. Many got out of bed in a shivering delirium, and died upon the
floor in the night-time.

Having been a shoemaker in the Rifles, I had saved during my service
near two hundred pounds, which I had in the bank at Hythe at this time,
so that I was enabled to procure extra wine and other nourishing
things, and often gave my companions in misfortune a treat also; and
this I think enabled my iron constitution to keep death so long at bay.

I saw one or two of my old Peninsular comrades, whom I had often seen
fighting bravely in the field, die in this hospital in a miserable
condition, their bodies being swollen up like barrels.

Everything was done for us that skill could devise, and nothing could
exceed the kindness and attention of Dr. Ridgeway towards us. Hot baths
were brought into the hospital--and many a man died whilst in the bath.

I remember hearing, as I lay sick, that the firing over the graves of
our comrades was dispensed with, the men died so fast; and when I got
out, and went to the churchyard to look upon their graves I saw them
lying in two lines there. As they in life had been enranked, so they
lay also in similar order in death.

The medical men made every effort to trace the immediate cause of this
mortality amongst us; and almost all the men were examined after death;
but it was of no avail, as nothing could arrest the progress of the
malady after it had reached a certain height. The doctor, I heard,
generally attributed the deaths, in most cases, to enlargement of the
spleen, as almost all were swollen and diseased in that part. I myself
was dreadfully enlarged in the side, and for many years afterwards
carried "an extra paunch."

As soon as the prospect began to brighten, and the men to recover a
little, we managed to muster outside the hospital, some three hundred
of us parading there morning and evening, for the benefit of fresh air;
and medicine was served out to us as we stood enranked, the hospital
orderlies passing along the files, and giving each man his dose from
large jugs which they carried.

As we got better, an order arrived to furnish two companies of the
second battalion, and two companies of the third battalion, of Rifles,
for Spain, as they were much wanted there. Accordingly an inspection
took place, and two hundred men were picked out, all of whom were most
anxious to go. I myself was rejected at that time, as unfit, which I
much regretted. However, on making application, after a few days, I was
accepted, principally on the recommendation of Lieutenant Cochrane,
who much wished for me; and I, in consequence, once more started for
foreign service.

From Hythe to Portsmouth, where we were to embark, was eight days'
march; but the very first day found out some of the Walcheren lads.
I myself was assisted that night to my billet, the ague having again
seized me, and on the third day waggons were put in requisition to get
us along the road. As we proceeded, some of those men who had relapsed
died by the way, and were buried in different places we passed through.
At Chichester, I recollect, a man was taken out of the waggon in which
I myself lay, who had died beside me; and at that place he was buried.

At Portsmouth I remained one night, billeted with my fellow-travellers
at the Dolphin. Here I was visited by an uncle who resided in the town;
and who was much shocked at seeing me so much reduced, concluding it
was impossible I could survive many days. Such was the sad state we
were again reduced to. The next morning spring-waggons were procured
for us, and we were sent back to Hilsea barracks for the benefit of
medical advice; and I took a farewell of my uncle, expecting never to
see him again. Such, however, was not to be the case, as, out of the
thirty-nine Riflemen who went into Hilsea hospital, I alone survived.

It may seem to my readers extraordinary that I should twice be the
survivor of so many of my comrades. I can only, therefore, refer them
to the medical men who attended us, if they yet live, Dr. Ridgeway, of
the Rifles, and Dr. Frazer, who at that time was the surgeon at Hilsea.

I must not forget to mention an act of great kindness and humanity
which was performed towards the soldiery whilst we lay sick at Hilsea
Hospital. Lady Grey, who, I believe, was the wife of the Commissioner
of Portsmouth Dockyard at this time, was so much struck with the state
of the sufferers, that she sent, one morning, two carts loaded with
warm clothing for them; giving to each man, of whatsoever regiment, who
had been at Walcheren, two pairs of flannel drawers and two flannel
waistcoats. This circumstance was greatly appreciated by the men, and
many, like myself, have never forgotten it.

After this, being the only Rifleman left at Hilsea, Lieutenant Bardell
made application to the General for leave for me to go into Dorsetshire
to see my friends, which was granted; but the doctor shook his head,
doubting I should ever be able to endure the journey. In about a week,
however, I considered myself fit to undertake it; and, accordingly, a
non-commissioned officer of one of the line regiments put me into a
Salisbury coach. A lady and gentleman were my fellow passengers inside,
and we started about four o'clock. They seemed not much to relish
the look of a sick soldier in such close quarters; and, indeed, we
had hardly cleared the town of Gosport before I gave them a dreadful
fright. In short, I was attacked all at once with one of my periodical
ague-fits, and shook to so desperate a degree that they were both
horror-struck, and almost inclined to keep me company in my trembling.
The lady thought that both herself and husband were lost, and would
certainly catch the complaint; expressing herself as most unhappy in
having begun her journey on that day. These fits generally lasted an
hour and a quarter, and then came on a burning fever, during which
I called for water at every place where the coach stopped. In fact,
coachman, guard, and passengers, outside and in, by no means liked it,
and expected every minute that I should die in the coach.

"Here's a nice go," said the coachman, as he stopped at a place called
Whitchurch, "catch me ever taking up a sick soldier again if I can help
it. This here poor devil's going to make a die of it in my coach."

It seemed, indeed, as if I had personally offended the burly coachman,
for he made an oration at every place he stopped at, and sent all the
helpers and idlers to look at me, as I sat in his coach, till at last I
was obliged to beg of him not to do so.

I had two attacks of this sort during the night, and was so bad that I
myself thought with the coachman, that I should never get out of the
vehicle alive. Never, I should think, had passengers so unpleasant a
journey as the lady and gentleman I travelled with.

At length, early in the morning, the coach stopped at a village one
mile from my father's residence, which was on the estate of the present
Marquis of Anglesey. I had left my father's cottage quite a boy, and
although I knew the landlord of the little inn where the coached
stopped, and several other persons I saw there, none recognised me; so
I made myself known as well as I could, for I was terribly exhausted,
and the landlord immediately got four men to carry me home.

My father was much moved at beholding me return in so miserable a
plight, as were also my stepmother and my brother. I remained with
them eight months, six of which I lay in a hopeless state in bed,
certificates being sent every month to Hythe, stating my inability
to move; and during which time Captain Hart sent four letters to the
commanding officer, desiring I might be drafted out, if possible, to
Spain, as, being a handicraft, I was much wanted there.

The medical men round the neighbourhood hearing of my state, many of
them came to see me, in order to observe the nature of a complaint that
had proved so fatal to our soldiers.

At the end of the eighth month (being once more somewhat recovered,
and able to crawl about, with the aid of a stick, a few yards from our
cottage door), as my mother-in-law had once or twice expressed herself
burthened by this long illness, I resolved to attempt to return to my
regiment. I was therefore transported in a cart to the King's Arms Inn,
at Dorchester, my body being swollen up hard as a barrel, and my limbs
covered with ulcers. Here the surgeons of the 9th and 11th Dragoons
made an examination of me, and ordered me into Dorchester hospital,
where I remained seven weeks; and here my case completely puzzled the

At length Dr. Burroughs, on making his rounds, caught sight of me as I
sat on my bed, dressed in my green uniform.

"Hallo! Rifleman," he said, "how came you here?"

Being told, he looked very sharply at me, and seemed to consider.

"Walcheren," he inquired, "eh?"

"Yes, sir," I said, "and it has not done with me yet."

"Strip, my man," he said, "and lie on your back. What have you done
for him?" he asked sharply of the doctor.

The doctor told him.

"Then try with him mercury, sir," he said, "_both externally_ and

After saying which in a rapid manner, he turned as quickly, and
proceeded in his rounds amongst the rest of the patients.

I was now salivated most desperately, after which I got a little
better, and resolved, at all hazards, to try and rejoin my regiment,
for I was utterly tired of the hospital life I had altogether so long
led. "For Heaven's sake," I said, "let me go and die with my own

With some little difficulty I got leave to go, and once again started,
at my own expense, for Hythe, in Kent, by the coach. Before doing so,
however, to my surprise, the medical man who had attended me under
my father's roof, brought me in his bill, which was a pretty good
one, amounting to sixty pounds! I thought this was pretty well for a
poor soldier to be charged. Having still, however, enough left of my
savings, I paid it; but I kept the bill, and afterwards shewed it to
Dr. Scott, of the Rifles, who remarked--"It could not have been higher,
Harris, if you had been a man possessing a thousand a year."

When I made my appearance in the barrack-square at Hythe, I was like
one risen from the dead; for I had been so long missing from amongst
the few I knew there, that I was almost forgotten. A hardy Scot, named
Mc Pherson, was one of the first who recognised me.

"Eh, my certie," he said, "here's Harris come back. Why I thought, man,
ye was gane amangst the lave o' them, but the deil will na kill ye, I

The day after my arrival I was once more in hospital, and here I
remained under Dr. Scott for twenty-eight weeks. Such was the
Walcheren fever, and to this day I sometimes feel the remains of it in
damp weather. From Hythe I was sent, amongst some other invalids, to
Chelsea. Sixty of us marched together on this occasion. Many had lost
their limbs, which, from wounds as well as disease, had been amputated;
and altogether we did not make a very formidable appearance, being
frequently obliged to be halted in the road to repair our strength,
when the whole turn-out would be seen sitting or sprawling at full
length by the way side.

This march took us ten days to accomplish, and when we halted at
Pimlico, we were pretty well done up. We were billeted in the different
public-houses in Chelsea. With others, I lodged at the Three Crowns,
close beside the Bun House.

I remember we paraded in the Five Fields, then an open space, but now
covered with elegant mansions, and become a part of London. Three
thousand invalids mustered here every morning--a motley group,
presenting a true picture of the toils of war. There were the lame, the
halt, and the blind, the sick, and the sorry, all in a lump. With those
who had lost their limbs, there was not much trouble, as they became
pensioners; but others were, some of them, closely examined from day to
day as to their eligibility for service. Amongst others I was examined
by Dr. Lephan.

"What age are you, Rifleman?" he said.

"Thirty-two, sir," I replied.

"What trade have you been of?" he inquired.

"A shoemaker," I replied.

"Where have you been?" he said.

"In Denmark, Spain, Portugal, and Walcheren," I said, "in which latter
place I met the worst enemy of all."

"Never mind that," he said, "you'll do yet; and we will send you to a
Veteran Battalion."

Accordingly I was appointed to the 8th Veteran Battalion, with
others, and sent to Fort Cumberland. Here I joined Captain Creswell's
company--an officer who had lost one eye, whilst in the 36th Regiment,
in Spain.

I was again the only green jacket of the lot, and the officers
assembled round me during the first muster, and asked me numerous
questions about my service amongst the Rifles, for we had a great
reputation in the army at this time. Major Caldwell commanded the
battalion; he had been in the fifth, and received a grievous wound in
the head. He was a kind and soldier-like man, but if you put him out of
temper, you would soon find out that he felt his wound. Captain Picard
was there, too, and Captain Flaherty, and Lieutenant Moorhead; all of
them were more or less shattered, whilst their men, although most of
them were young, were very good specimens of war's stern service. One,
perhaps, had a tale to tell of Salamanca, where he lost an eye, another
spoke of the breach at Badajoz, where he got six balls at once in his
body. Many paraded with sticks in their hands, and altogether it was
something of a different sort of force to the active chaps I had been
in the habit of serving amongst. In fact, I much regretted my green
jacket, and grieved at being obliged to part with it for the red coat
of the Veterans.

I remained in the Veterans only four months, as, at the expiration of
that time, Napoleon was sent to Elba. We were then marched to Chelsea,
to be disbanded, where we met thousands of soldiers lining, the
streets, and lounging about before the different public-houses, with
every description of wound and casualty incident to modern warfare.
There hobbled the maimed light-infantry man, the heavy dragoon, the
hussar, the artilleryman, the fusileer, and specimens from every
regiment in the service. The Irishman, shouting and brandishing his
crutch; the English soldier, reeling with drink; and the Scot, with
grave and melancholy visage, sitting on the steps of the public-house
amongst the crowd, listening to the skirl of his comrades' pipes, and
thinking of the blue hills of his native land. Such were Chelsea and
Pimlico in 1814.

In about a week's time I was discharged, and received a pension of
sixpence per day; and, for the first time since I had been a shepherd
lad on Blandford Downs, I saw myself in plain clothes, and with liberty
to go and come where I liked. Before, however, my pension became due, I
was again called upon to attend, together with others, in consequence
of the escape of Bonaparte from Elba; but I was then in so miserable a
plight with the remains of the fever and ague, which still attacked
me every other day, that I did not answer the call, whereby I lost my
pension. And here I may perhaps as well mention a slight anecdote of
the Great Duke.

The Duke, I was told, observed in Spain that several men who had come
out from England after Walcheren were unable to keep up on the march,
and afterwards completely failed. He inquired the reason of this, and
was told they were men who had been on the Walcheren expedition.

"Then never," said the Duke, "let another man be sent here who has been
at Walcheren."

At Fort Cumberland I remember another curious circumstance, which may,
perhaps, in these times, be thought worthy of narration.

Many of the French prisoners had volunteered into the English
service, and were formed into four companies, called the Independent
Companies. These men were smart-looking fellows, and wore a green
uniform, something like the Rifles. Whilst I was with the Veterans,
one of these men deserted and was re-taken at Portsmouth, and tried
by court-martial at Fort Cumberland. Besides his crime of desertion
he had aggravated it by gross insubordination, and he was accordingly
sentenced to be flogged. We all, French and English, paraded to see the
sentence carried into effect, and, in case of anything happening, and
our opposite neighbours, the green jackets, shewing fight, the Veterans
were all ordered to load with ball.

When the culprit heard the sentence read out to him, he was a good deal
annoyed, and begged that he might be shot, as would have happened to
him in his own country. Such, however, it was explained to him, could
not be allowed, and he was accordingly punished. The Duke of York, who
was then Commander-in-Chief, had thought it necessary to make this
example, although all of us would have been glad to see him forgiven.

Shortly after this, on Napoleon's being sent to Elba, these men were
all liberated and sent home to their own country, with four pounds
given to each man; and gloriously drunk they all were at Portsmouth the
night they embarked.

The Veterans were very intimate and friendly with these Frenchmen, as
they were quartered together; and we were all sorry to hear (whether
true or false I cannot say) that on their return, their uniforms
betraying their having served us, they were grossly maltreated by their
fellow countrymen.


[Footnote 11: Lord Chatham (as is well known) commanded this
expedition, and Marshal Beresford had command of that part of it which
occupied the island of South Beveland at this time.]


Clayton and Co., Printers, 16, Hart-street, Covent Garden.

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