By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: A Boy in the Peninsula War - The Services, Adventures and Experiences of Robert Blakeney
Author: Blakeney, Robert
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Boy in the Peninsula War - The Services, Adventures and Experiences of Robert Blakeney" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.













Othello, confessing that he cannot grace his cause with studied
eloquence, pleads that at the tender age of seven years he gave himself
to the grim labours of the tented field. Compared with this dark
heroic babe, young Blakeney, joining the 28th Regiment as a boy of
fifteen, must seem a hardy veteran. Yet he too pleads, as excuse for
lack of style in the Memoirs which he left behind him, that soldiering
and fighting began so early in his life as to leave scant time for
acquisition of the literary airs and graces. And in the same apologetic
vein he says that he wrote his Memoirs in an island where were no
libraries and no books of reference in which he might verify the dates
and facts of his plain unvarnished tale.

It may be that to some more literary penman the idea of writing memoirs
in the Island of Zante, one of those Grecian isles which toward sunset
show form so delicate and colour so exquisite that one would think
them rather the kingdom of Oberon than the haunt of a retired warrior
of the Peninsula--to sit at ease in that enchanted air and summon from
the past the gallant deeds of heroes and the kind looks of friends--may
seem no despicable recompense for the sad want of all the books of

With groaning shelves and ponderous catalogues in easy reach,
conscience makes cowards of us poor followers of literature; we are
chilled in mid career, and our happy freedom of statement is checked
by intrusive doubt of the date of this battle or of the name of that
general. Even the irresponsible purveyor of fiction must tramp the
street or fly on the handy bicycle, to make sure that he has not
plunged his hero into the midst of a revolution two years before it
took place, or shown his tender heroine in tears over the song of an
eminent composer ere yet the moving song-writer was breeched.

How deep was the regret which the author of these Memoirs felt for
the premature end of his lessons and for the want of invaluable books
of reference, I am unable to say; but I have ventured to suppress his
brief preface of apology because frankly I claim for him not pardon nor
tolerance, but gratitude and even affection.

As in that island of dreams he recalled his stirring boyhood, his
friendships formed and joyous under the shadow of death, his zeal and
admiration for the great leaders under whom he served, his personal
adventures and historic battles, his marches, bivouacs and careless
jests, his pen became again like the pen of a boy who describes
his house football match or the exploits of the favourite hero of
the school. Like a boy too, he had his more important moments--his
fine attempts at eloquence, grandiloquence; he became literary,
self-conscious, innocently pompous, like a boy. The pen in his hand
grew great as he proclaimed the valour of the brave, the pageant of
plumed troops, the pomp of glorious war. And indeed the pen, grown
mightier than the sword, executed at times cuts and flourishes so
intricate that the modest editor has had to bring it to the scabbard,
or, in his own language of the ink-pot, to contribute once or twice
the necessary fullstop. But these tempestuous passages, these patches
which aim at the purple, are few; and it should be said at once that
they are never concerned with the author’s own exploits. It is the
noble character of Sir John Moore that starts the rhapsody, or General
Graham, or Paget, or Hill, or the great Wellington himself; and, above
all, it is the indomitable valour of the British soldier--of the
British soldier who is so often Irish.

There may be some who think that Captain Blakeney should have
apologised for being Irish; and indeed, though I protest against any
shadow of apology, the Irish nature of our author, whose ancestors came
out of Norfolk, may be mentioned as an explanation of the frank and
flowing statement of his hopes and fears, his joys and sorrows, his
moving accidents and hairbreadth escapes. Our Anglo-Saxon ideal of the
young soldier becomes more and more the youth who is a hero and won’t
mention it. He is a most engaging person too. Ask him of the deed which
filled the daily papers and the mouths of men, and he blushes, mutters,
and escapes to his club. If you bring all your power of persuasion to
bear upon him in his most yielding hour, you may draw from him some
such statement as this: “Well, I cut the Johnny down and I brought
the Tommy off. It was all rot, and there was nothing in it; any chap
would have done it.” That is fine. Perhaps it is the fine flower of a
race more eminent in action than in art. But if we care for memoirs,
let us be thankful for the Frenchman or the Irishman who will do his
deeds of daring and not be ashamed to describe them for our profit and
our pleasure. Nor is it fair to infer that there is more vanity in
the one than in the other. In the case of Blakeney, at least, I shall
be disappointed indeed if any reader suspect him of braggadocio. When
he relates his own adventures, his own acts in battle, his language
is simple, direct, vivid; he states plain facts. When he recalls the
exploits of others--of veteran generals, of boys like himself, of
private soldiers and especially of his own beloved 28th Regiment, then
he cries out a little gloriously perhaps, but with a frankness, a
generosity, an honest ardour of admiration which surely may win pardon
from the most severe of critics.

In truth it is a gallant and charming young soldier who calls to us
from the beginning of the century which is now so near its close. He
has waited long for friendly recognition from any but the generals who
saw him fight and the young comrades who drank with him at mess and
marched with him to battle. The young comrades, like the old generals,
have marched the common road; and it is to a generation who knew not
the author that these Memoirs modestly, but with a certain confidence,
make their appeal.

The ardent boy joined his regiment in 1804, at the age of fifteen; and
in the next ten years he had had fighting enough to content most men
for a lifetime. It is the record of these years which has lain so long
in dust, and which I now offer to the reader; and I would ask him to
bear in mind, as he reads, the looks and nature of the young soldier
whose fortunes he will follow. He was of middle height and lightly
made, but active healthy and handsome. He was eager for friendship and
for fight, quick and confident in action, observing with keen accurate
eyes, and so clever at languages that he picked them up on the march
and conversed with the natives of Spain and Portugal and France with
equal audacity and success. Perhaps more than all one finds in him that
natural gaiety of heart which neither danger nor fatigue could dull,
neither the want of wealth and honours nor sight of the appalling
horrors of war. His young eyes beheld some deeds done at Badajoz of
which the mere description has seemed to me too horrible for print. It
will be held by the most bloodthirsty of readers that enough remains.

We are all most warlike now--even the peaceful guardians of the public
purse and gentle editors who would not hurt a fly; and perhaps it is
no bad thing to recall the horrors of a captured town, lest we take
all war to be but glory and gaiety and something to read about in
the papers. Modern governments offer to the people the alarums and
excursions of little wars, as the masters of ancient Rome amused their
citizens with the grim combats of the circus; and we read the daily
papers in the same spirit in which the Roman crowd followed the fights
of favourite gladiators or the young Britons of to-day make holiday in
looking on at football matches instead of playing on more modest fields
themselves. War is a bad thing at the best. Even our hero, for all
his gladness and prowess, was disappointed in the end; nor have many
men that abounding gift of gaiety which carried him, one may be sure,
through the peaceful years of later life, happy in spite of a recurring
sense of injury. If he was neither rich nor famous, he could sing, like
the traveller with the empty pockets, in the presence of the robber
or of the War Office. And he found pleasure too in the preparation of
these Memoirs; one feels it as one reads. He is in an amiable mood. He
expresses the hope that he will hurt the feelings of no man, and all
his pages are proof of his sincerity. Except for one or two Spanish
generals, whom he cannot endure for the empty pomp and pride which
marred the simple valour of their men, he has abundant admiration for
friend and foe. He would have you know too, that when he treats of
movements and of battles already described, he makes no claim to draw
them better. He puts down what he saw with his own eyes, what he heard
with his own ears,--that is the value of his work. To me at least he
seems to give the very air of the battlefield. He is in the midst of
the fight; he makes us see it from inside, breathe the smoke, and hear
the hoarse word of command answered by the groan of the wounded.

It may be of interest to some to know that this young soldier was of
the Blakeney family of Abbert in County Galway, where they were granted
lands in the time of Queen Elizabeth. They came thither out of Norfolk,
where, I am told, there is a Blakeney Harbour, which was called after

The Robert Blakeney of these Memoirs was born in Galway in 1789, joined
the army in 1804, and left it in 1828. Not long before his resignation
he married Maria Giulia Balbi, the last of her ancient family whose
name is in the Libro d’Oro of Venice; for between her birth and that of
her brother the Venetian Republic had come to an end. The little Maria
was brought by her parents to Corfu. In that most lovely island of the
world she grew to womanhood, and there she loved and married Robert
Blakeney, whose fighting days were done.

Successive Lords High Commissioners were Blakeney’s friends, and found
him work to do. Under Lord Nugent he was Inspector of Police in Corfu;
under Sir Howard Douglas he was Inspector of Health in the Island of
Zante; and later, under Lord Seaton, he became Resident of the Island
of Paxo. This office he held for twenty-one years, until he died in
1858 in his seventieth year.

So there came to him, when he was still young, a life of peace passed
in a land of dreams. But the thoughts of the old soldier turned often
to the more misty island of his birth, and to that famous peninsula
made sacred to his memory by the blood of gallant comrades. His heart
grew warm again as he summoned from the past the battles, sieges,
fortunes of his adventurous boyhood, the happy days of youth, of
friendship and of war.

            JULIAN STURGIS.






  WE LAND IN THE PENINSULA                                            14


  WITH THE ADVANCE OF SIR JOHN MOORE                                  22


  WE RETREAT WITH SIR JOHN MOORE                                      31


  WITH THE REARGUARD OF THE RETREATING ARMY                           40


  THE RETREAT CONTINUED                                               52


  THE RETREAT CONTINUED                                               66


  THE RETREAT CONTINUED                                               82


  THE RETREAT CONTINUED                                               94


  AT THE BATTLE OF CORUNNA                                           108


      GLORY IN HOLLAND                                               124


  WE RETURN TO THE PENINSULA                                         133


  A LITTLE CAMPAIGN FROM TARIFA                                      152


  WE ENTERTAIN RIGHT ROYALLY AT TARIFA                               167


  FROM TARIFA TO BAROSSA                                             177


  IN THE BATTLE OF BAROSSA                                           189


  WE RETURN TO TARIFA AND THENCE TO LISBON                           201


  WE AGAIN ADVANCE INTO SPAIN                                        213


  IN THE BATTLE OF ARROYO MOLINOS                                    224


  I AM MADE BEAR-LEADER                                              233


  I CONTINUE TO PLAY THE GAOLER                                      244


  I GET MY COMPANY AND PROCEED TO BADAJOZ                            255


  AT BADAJOZ                                                         266


      THE PYRENEES                                                   281


  FIGHTING IN THE PYRENEES                                           296


  IN THE BATTLE OF NIVELLE                                           308


      COUNTRY                                                        322


  AT THE GRAND REVIEW IN PARIS                                       333


  AT BRUSSELS WITH DUKE D’ARENBERG                                   345


  I MAKE MY BOW                                                      359

  INDEX                                                              371




In the _Gazette_ of July 1804 it appeared that Robert Blakeney,
gentleman, was appointed to an ensigncy in the 28th Regiment of
infantry. Relying on the delusive promise that zeal would meet certain
reward, I immediately joined my regiment near Cork, where they lay
encamped, forming part of a corps under command of Sir Eyre Coote. On
the second day after my joining, the whole of the troops marched to
Kinsale, and having taken up a position on some high ground looking
down on the bay, the men commenced firing ball with as much anxiety as
if the whole French flotilla, filled with ruthless invaders and headed
by Napoleon in person, were attempting a landing underneath. Some
seagulls were seen to fall, and it was confidently reported that many
others were wounded. As soon as the fight was over, the men sat down to
dine with all those proud feelings which soldiers are wont to entertain
after a victory. Never shall I forget the thrilling emotion which
agitated my whole frame at seeing the blood fall from the hand of one
of the soldiers, wounded through the clumsy manner in which he fixed
his flint. I eyed each precious drop that fell with glowing sensations
such as would blaze in the breast of a Napoleon on beholding an old
dynasty diadem, or inflame the heart of a Scot in contemplating a new
place in the Treasury.

I now became on the effective strength of the 1st Battalion, which I
joined the next year. Both battalions of the regiment were removed to
Parsonstown, and thence proceeded to the Curragh of Kildare, where
twenty thousand men were encamped under the command of Lord Cathcart.
Second lieutenants were now given to all first battalion companies,
so that immediately on our arrival here the three senior ensigns of
the regiment, Robert Johnson, Robert Blakeney and Charles Cadell, were
promoted; and thus I again joined the 2nd Battalion in camp. On the
breaking up of this encampment, the two battalions of the regiment were
separated. The 1st proceeded to Mallow and thence to Monkstown, where
they shortly after embarked for Germany in the expedition commanded by
the above-mentioned nobleman. The 2nd Battalion, to which I now again
belonged, were ordered to do garrison duty in Dublin.


In the December of this year, being ordered to proceed to Exeter
on the recruiting service, I embarked on board the mercantile brig
_Britannia_, Captain Burrows, bound from Dublin to Bristol; and a more
ignorant drunken lubber never commanded a vessel. The wind, which
might be considered a fresh breeze at leaving the port, blew hard as
we entered the Bristol Channel, when our ignorant master nearly ran us
foul of Lundy Island, which more through good luck than able seamanship
we fortunately weathered. As we proceeded the gale became tremendous;
the billows rolled in majestic, yet horrific, grandeur over our heads,
sweeping everything off deck; and then the master, far from encouraging
the crew and by good example inspiring them with a due sense of the
duty which they had to perform, added to their terror and dispirited
all by his degrading and worse than useless lamentation, calling
aloud on his wife and children, then in Bristol. An attempt was made
to run the vessel into the small port of Ilfracombe, but this failed
through the ignorance and terror of the master. Still impetuously
driven forward, we approached the small village of Combemartin, when
a loud crash was heard, caused, if I recollect right, by striking
against a sandbank; and then the captain, in his usual consolatory
language, cried out that all was lost and every soul on board must
perish. A gentleman passenger now came down to the cabin, and, vainly
endeavouring to restrain his unwilling yet manly tears, embraced his
wife and two young children, who lay helpless in one of the berths.
The innocent little babes clung round his neck, beseeching him to take
their mamma and them on shore. He endeavoured to soothe their grief;
but that which he considered it to be his painful duty to impart was
most heartrending. He recommended them and his wife to remain tranquil
in their berths, saying that it was totally useless to attempt going
on deck, for all hope was lost, and that they should turn all their
thoughts to Heaven alone. The scene was excessively affecting, and
acted, I confess, more powerfully on my feelings than all the dangers
with which we were surrounded; for although I had lain the whole time
in my berth so overpowered with sea-sickness as to be incapable of
any exertion, I now started up and hurried on deck just as the brutal
drunken skipper was knocked down by a blow from the tiller whilst
trying to direct it. Urged by the impulse of the moment, I seized
the abandoned tiller, and moved it in the direction which I saw the
late occupant attempt. At this critical moment we descried a person
on horseback making signals. This gentleman, having witnessed our
failure to enter Ilfracombe, and foreseeing our inevitable destruction
should we be driven past Combemartin, rode at full speed along the
shore, waving his hat sometimes in one direction, sometimes in
another. Assisted by one of the passengers--I think a Mr. Bunbury (all
the sailors were now drunk)--I moved the tiller in conformity with
the signals made by the gentleman on shore, and in a short time we
succeeded in guiding the vessel through a very intricate and narrow
passage between rocks and banks, and finally ran her aground on a shoal
of sand. The storm still continuing to blow furiously, the vessel beat
violently from side to side against the sandbanks; but some men having
contrived to come off from the village, to which we were now close, and
fastening ropes to the mast, bound her fast down on one side, when the
whole crew got safe to land. We subsequently learned that eight vessels
were that morning wrecked in the Bristol Channel.

It must be allowed that much credit was due to the fishermen of
Combemartin for the alacrity they showed in giving us their assistance;
but it must also be confessed that while we remained for a few hours
in the village they appeared to be the rudest and most uncouth people
I ever met with in Great Britain. Every man in the village claimed to
be the first who came to assist us, and as such demanded a suitable
reward. Much of our luggage disappeared in being removed from the
vessel to the shore, and was heard of no more. The greater part of my
own goods, through my own ignorance of voyaging and the carelessness
and inattention of the master being left exposed on deck, was washed
away during the storm; but what money I possessed was luckily hoarded
up in my trousers pocket; and in truth my trousers were the only part
of my dress I had on during the whole time I was on deck assuming
the functions of pilot and captain, the skipper being in a state of
torpidity from fright and drunkenness. As soon as we could procure
means of transport, which took some hours, we proceeded to Ilfracombe;
for Combemartin was incapable of affording accommodation for so large a

Credit was given to me for having saved the crew, but I took none to
myself. It was the first time I had ever been on board of any vessel
larger than an open fishing-boat, and I was consequently as ignorant of
steering a ship as of training an elephant. Any part I took, therefore,
was perfectly mechanical, and the inventive and true merit was solely
due to the gentleman on shore, by whose directions I was guided. Being
subservient to the will of another, I could have as little claim to
credit for judgment or plan, principle or reflection, as could a
wine-wagged billy-punch or a tail-voter in the House.


Next morning I proceeded to Exeter, but previous to my departure my
attention was called to two Dublin ladies, fellow passengers, who,
being bound direct for Bristol, were not prepared to meet the expenses
of a land journey thither. They appeared much distressed in mind, and
declared they would rather die than leave any part of their luggage in
pledge. I lent them a few guineas out of my own small stock, upon which
they took my address, promising to remit the money as soon as they
arrived at Bristol; but, gaining experience as I advanced, I found that
I should have taken their address, for I never after heard of or from

After having remained some months in Devonshire on the recruiting
service, I was ordered to join the 1st Battalion of the regiment,
then quartered at Colchester, after their return from the fruitless
expedition into Germany. We did not long remain here. On July 24th of
the next year the regiment marched from Colchester to Harwich, and
there embarked to join a second expedition, commanded by Lord Cathcart.
So profoundly was our destination kept secret, and so ignorant were we
all of the object in view, that we could not even conjecture whither we
were going, until on August 8th we arrived in the Sound, and anchored
late that night close under Elsinore Castle, during the loudest storm
of thunder, accompanied by the most brilliant lightning, I ever
witnessed. At intervals the immense fleet, consisting of men-of-war,
transports and merchantmen, the islands of Zealand, the extent of the
Sound, together with the opposite Swedish coast, as if suddenly emerged
from darkest chaos, instantly became more visible than if lighted by
the noonday sun in all his splendour. These astonishing elemental
crashes and dazzling shows were as suddenly succeeded by deathlike
silence and darkness so impenetrable that not an individual could be
distinguished even by those who stood nearest on deck. Yet, although
the ground of the night was perfectly dark, still, guided by the vivid
flashes with which it was relieved, every vessel of this apparently
unwieldy fleet fell into her proper berth, and, duly measuring the
appropriate length of cable, swung securely to her anchor; and, strange
to say, not a single casualty took place through the whole. The scene
altogether was excessively grand, and truly presented what in hackneyed
poetic phrase is termed sublime. The jarring elements seemed to portend
evil to the descendants of Odin, nor were there wanting some with evil
eye who foreboded something rotten in the state of Denmark.



For some days the most friendly intercourse was maintained between the
inhabitants and the British officers. Parties from the fleet landed
daily, were hospitably received, and both liberally and cheerfully
provided with all such articles as could contribute to their comfort;
no suspicion of our hostile intentions was even conjectured by the
deluded Danes. At length, the true object of our designs being
suspected, a Danish frigate which lay near us slipped her cable on the
night of the 13th and contrived to get away in the dark; but on her
escape being discovered at daybreak, the _Comus_ sloop of war was sent
in pursuit. Since it was a dead calm, she was towed out by the boats of
the fleet.

The scene is still fresh in my memory, and I fancy that I see the long
line of boats manfully urged forward, our brave jolly tars, after
every two or three strokes of the oars, crying out, “Hurrah! hurrah!
for the Danish black frigate!” At length the _Comus_ came up with
her in the Cattegat on her way to Norway, and after a short conflict
brought her back a prize into her own port, and this hostile act put an
end to all further intercourse on friendly terms. Some English boats
which approached the shore next morning were fired at, and none were
thenceforward allowed to land.

On the 15th we dropped down to Humlebek, a village about seven miles
distant from Copenhagen; and on the following day, covered by seventeen
ships of the line, a proportionate number of frigates, gunboats, etc.,
commanded by Admiral Gambier, the military commanded by Lord Cathcart
landed with fire and sword upon ground suddenly considered hostile. No
previous intimation of intended hostility was given, as is customary
amongst all civilised nations, when real injuries have been suffered,
or imaginary ones held forth as a pretext for political aggression.

At this village (Humlebek) it was that a hundred and seven years
previous to this our attack the Alexander of the north landed from the
_King Charles_, the largest ship then known to the waves and carrying
one hundred and twenty guns. Here it was that this extraordinary man
heard for the first time the whistling of bullets. Ignorant of the
cause, he asked General Stuart by whom he was accompanied; and the
general with characteristic frankness answered, “It is the whistling
of bullets fired at your Majesty.” “Good,” replied the warlike young
monarch; “henceforth it shall be my music.”

But how different were the motives which urged the hostile descent in
1700 from those which inspired our attack in 1807--as different as was
the beardless Charles, not yet eighteen, in the bloom of youth, with
the fiery martial genius which soon made him the terror of Europe,
and burning with anger at national aggression and personal insult,
from our leader, who was already descending into the vale of years,
and who could have felt no greater stimulus than military discipline
in strictly obeying orders which he probably disapproved! Military
excitement there was none. On our landing, no whistling bullets
greeted the veteran’s ear, nor inspired the young soldier to deeds of
deathless glory. Laurels there were none to reap, for the defence of
the capital depended principally on undisciplined militia and young
students at college. To add still further to the contrast, the Swedes
landed as open and declared foes, whereas we, coming with no less
hostile intent, professed ourselves bosom friends.

On the night of our landing (August 16th) we advanced through a
lofty forest. During our march an alarm was given that the foe were
approaching. Orders were instantly issued to load with ball and fix
bayonets, when many a sleek-chinned boy lost or gained the flush on
his cheek. I now forget in which class I ranked, as, with many others
present, it was the first time I expected to come in contact with a
national foe, for such the Danes were some few hours before declared.
The alarm proved false, and we felt grievously disappointed or happily
consoled, according to the feelings of the individual.


Next morning we continued our march towards the capital; but ere
we reached the immediate vicinity of Copenhagen our march was
interrupted by an occurrence not ordinary in warfare. A dense column
of dust proclaimed the advance of some large body, which we naturally
considered to be hostile. Horsemen were soon discovered, when we
immediately formed in battle array; but we soon learned that the
approaching foe were no other than a civic cavalcade, who escorted
the Royal Princesses of Denmark to a place of safety, having been by
special permission allowed to retire from the scene of premeditated
slaughter. The royal carriages slowly advanced, accompanied by many
of the principal nobility of Denmark, and attended by a small escort
of dragoons. The unfortunate Princesses wept bitterly, as did many
of the nobles who were with them. In witnessing their grief it was
impossible to remain unmoved. The whole appeared a sorrowful funeral
procession, although all were living bodies. As the royal mourners
passed between our hostile ranks, arms were presented, colours dropped
and bands played the National Anthem, “God save the King,” thus adding
to the poignancy of their woe by vain pageant and heartless courtesy.
This distressing ceremony being ended, we pushed forward, and, having
arrived before the destined town, each corps took up their proper

Our station was near the village of Frederiksborg, in a wheatfield
whose golden ears o’ertopped the tallest grenadier; the stems we
trampled down for bedding, giving the grain to our sumpter animals.

This being the first time I ever adventured from the shores of Great
Britain, everything was new to me and consequently enjoyed. I saw
the first Congreve rockets ever fired against an enemy. They seemed
reluctant to add to the conflagration, many of them in the midst of
their orbit turning back to whence they were sped. I witnessed the
fall of the lofty and majestic steeple, bearing the three crowns,
awfully tumbling down among the blazing ruins. The loud and tremendous
crash, heard for miles around, was terrific; and it must have been a
heartrending spectacle to the proud and patriotic Danes, who witnessed
the destruction of such a noble monument of national grandeur.
Immediately after the deafening crash, still growling in the distance,
suddenly there arose an immense body of fire, which, detaching itself
from the ruins, illumined the whole island, blazing in spiral form
towards the heavens, as if to demand retribution. I saw well the
splendour of the scene, being that night an outlying piquet with
Captain (now Sir Frederick) Stovin. In the meantime the inhabitants
were most liberally served with shells, shot and rockets.

While the siege was thus actively carried forward, a report was made
that some Danish troops, so called, had occupied in hostile array an
eminence in our immediate vicinity. A detachment were immediately sent
against them, of which one wing of the 28th Regiment formed a part,
and in this wing I was a feather. On our arrival at the base of this
eminence we did actually discover a confused multitude congregated on
the summit; but upon our preparing to charge they instantly took flight.


The affair, although of no consequence, was not unattended with
trophies. On the ground occupied by the discomfited Danes were found
many old rusty sword-blades, and very many pairs of wooden shoes, with
which the Danish troops were loosely shod, for, becoming nervous at the
threatened charge, they freed themselves from those encumbrances and
fled in light marching order, determined, if closely pursued, rather
to attempt swimming across the Belt than carry further their cumbrous
pontoons. The proud victors returned to the trenches.

For what took place in the interior of the island, since I was not
there, I will refer the curious to the despatches written home on the
occasion, wherein these skirmishes or manœuvres, if I recollect right,
are in glowing language fully detailed. All our batteries--constructed
generally in the most beautiful and highly cultivated gardens,
belonging to the nobility and wealthy citizens of Copenhagen--opened
their fire on September 1st, which with but little intermission
continued until the 6th. On the 7th, when about to be stormed, the
capital surrendered, after having four hundred houses, several
churches, and many other splendid buildings destroyed, and eleven
hundred inhabitants of all ages and sexes killed.

As soon as the first paroxysms of furious excitement, wild despair
and just indignation of the unfortunate inhabitants had somewhat
abated, a certain number of officers from each regiment, with written
passports, were permitted to visit the still smoking city. The
spectacle was lamentable and well calculated to rouse every feeling
of sympathy. Many houses were still smouldering, and in part crumbled
to the ground; mothers were bewailing the melancholy fate of their
slaughtered children, and there was not one but deplored the loss of
some fondly beloved relative or dearly valued friend. Yet they received
us with dignified, though cool courtesy, in part suppressing that
horror and antipathy which they must have felt at our presence, though
some indeed exclaimed that their sufferings were the more aggravated
as being inflicted contrary to the laws of all civilised nations. The
unfortunate sufferers seemed not to reflect that war was will, not law.

In less than six weeks after the fall of Copenhagen (which time was
occupied in rendering the Danish ships seaworthy, and spoiling its
well-stored arsenal to the last nail and minutest rope-yarn) we
departed, carrying away with us, as prizes, eighteen sail of the line,
fifteen frigates, five brigs, and twenty gunboats.


It would be useless to enter into further detail on this painful
subject. The partial conflagration of the Danish capital, and the rape
of her fleet by her friends the British, are already too well known
throughout Europe, as well as the reasons adduced in vindication,
namely “precaution”--surely a most unjustifiable policy. The great
Aristides, characteristically called the “just,” would have spurned
the proposal of such ignoble policy, as may be seen by his celebrated
reply to the treacherous proposition of Themistocles to burn the fleet
of their allies. Aristides, being deputed by the assembly to ascertain
the proposition of Themistocles, who would deliver it only in secret,
on his return declared that nothing could tend more to the advantage
of Athens than the proposition of Themistocles, nor could anything
be more unjust. The high-spirited people of Athens, indignant that a
proposition of such nature should be mooted, rejected it with contempt,
not deigning even to listen to its import.

The descent on Copenhagen was a flagrant outrage of that divine precept
which inculcates that “that which is morally wrong can never be
politically right.”



Everything being now in readiness which we could carry away, we
departed from the shores of Denmark in the latter end of October, and
after a most boisterous passage, in which all the gunboats perished
at sea, we arrived in England towards the latter end of November. The
28th Regiment landed at Portsmouth, and a few days later marched for
Colchester. Here we occupied our old barracks, in little more than four
months from the period of our departure thence for foreign service,
but within that short time how wonderfully did we add to the notoriety
of Great Britain! It was facetiously said that the British expeditions
sent forth at this time were like the drunken Irishman at Donnybrook
Fair, intent on fight but devoid of plan, who meets his friend and
knocks him down for love.


A few months after my return (it being confidently supposed that the
regiment would now remain for some time at home), I procured leave of
absence to visit my friends in Ireland; but shortly after my departure
the regiment received orders, in April, to embark at Harwich, and join
the expedition under Sir John Moore. I was immediately recalled; but
on my arrival in London I found that the army had sailed already for
Sweden. I procured a passage to follow the expedition on board the
_Fury Bomb_. Here I cannot say that I felt comfortable. It was the
first time I had the honour of sailing in a man-of-war. There were
many ceremonies to be observed of which I was ignorant, and the close
observance of these was attended with some annoyance to a novice. As
usual I suffered severely from sea-sickness, which at times induced
me to sit on a gun or relieve my aching head against the capstan; and
this I was given to understand was a Royal Naval innovation which
could not be tolerated. Although Captain Gibson, who commanded, was
very polite and frequently entertained me with anecdotes of himself
and of a namesake and relative of mine, whom he stated to be his most
intimate friend and brother officer, still the only place I could
procure to sleep on was a trunk immediately under the purser’s hammock.
Even this luxury I was denied in daytime, for everything being cleared
away at an early hour, I was compelled to quit my roost at cock-crow
in the morning. It not unfrequently happened, too, that, running up on
deck, urged by a sick stomach, I forgot the ceremony of saluting the
quarter-deck, and the omission was always followed by reproof. Although
a strict observance of these regulations was rather teasing to me in
my irritated state of mind and body, yet I feel perfectly aware of its
expediency on board a man-of-war.

Having at length anchored in Gottenborg harbour, I descended from
the noble punctilious man-of-war, and was lowered into the humble
transport, where I found _ad libitum_ sea-sickness a luxury compared to
the restraint which I had lately undergone.

I now doubly enjoyed the society of my old comrades. By these I was
informed that on the arrival of the expedition at Gottenborg, which
took place a few days previously, the troops were refused permission
to land. About this period, although the British troops were sent
to all parts as friends, yet unfortunately they were everywhere
viewed with distrust, and a strict watch kept on all their movements.
The prohibition to land his troops being totally contrary to the
expectations of Sir John Moore, he immediately proceeded to Stockholm
to demand explanation of this extraordinary conduct on the part of
Sweden and also to seek instructions, having, as it would appear,
received none at home.

In an interview with his Swedish Majesty the British general declined
to accept some extraordinary propositions matured in the quixotic brain
of that inconsistent monarch. The first was, that Sir John Moore, with
his ten thousand British troops, should conquer the kingdom of Denmark;
the second, that a similar attempt should be made with like means on
the Russian empire. Finally, as Sir John Moore peremptorily refused to
shut up the British army in the fortress of Stralsund (then about to be
invested by an overwhelming French army), he was placed under arrest by
the king.

In the meantime we were actively employed in practising landings from
the flat-bottomed boats, as if in the face of an enemy, and scampering
over the rocks to keep the men in exercise. This salubrious mode of
warfare continued without intermission until Sir John Moore contrived
to have secret information conveyed to the army, when we immediately
dropped down out of reach of the Swedish batteries; and shortly
afterwards, having eluded the vigilance of Gustavus, to the great joy
of all, on June 29th our gallant chief arrived safe on board the fleet.

Setting sail for England on July 2nd, we arrived off Yarmouth about
the middle of the month. Here taking in water and fresh provisions,
we continued our course for Spithead; and thence we took our second
departure from England, this time for Portugal, the more delighted
since we left our tails behind us. To the great joy of the whole army
an order arrived from the Horse Guards, while we lay at Spithead, to
cut off the men’s queues. These, from their shape, and being generally
soaped for effect, were called pigtails; thenceforth the custom of
plastering the men’s heads with soap was abolished in the British Army.

[Sidenote: TO PORTUGAL.]

Sailing from St. Helen’s on July 31st, 1808, August 19th brought us
close off the coast of Portugal. Next morning we commenced landing at
Figueira, close to the mouth of the Mondego. A large part of the army
were already on shore, and some of the troops had commenced moving
forward when Sir John Moore received a despatch informing him that
Sir Arthur Wellesley had fought and defeated the enemy at Rolica, and
hourly expected a second engagement. The disembarkation was instantly
countermanded; the troops on march were recalled, and put on board as
quickly as the high surf and rapidity of the current would permit.
Everything again in sailing order, and every heart elate, we continued
our course southward, now steering direct for the theatre of actual
war; and the true martial spirit glowed in the breast of every true

Imagine, then, what must have been our feelings on the following
morning (August 21st) when in almost a dead calm we moved slowly along,
apparently rendered more slow by our plainly hearing the heavy booming
of cannon, at that moment pouring forth their fury from the heights
of Vimieiro. But they alone who have been in battle and cordially
mingled in fight, can sympathise with the feelings which thrill through
every nerve and agitate the frame of those who, all but in reach of
the field, yet are withheld from participating in its glory. Intense
excitement painfully marked the veteran’s contracted brow, while fiery
impatience flashed in the eyes of the young soldiers.

Creeping along the scarcely ruffled surface of the waters like wounded
snakes or Alexandrine verse, we, seemingly in so many years, arrived in
three days in the unquiet bay or roadstead of Peniche. Here, although
the distant sea continued calm, still the surf so dashed against the
shore that we found much difficulty in landing. When this at last was
done, we immediately proceeded to unite with Sir Arthur Wellesley’s
troops, whom we found still upon the ground, so late the theatre of
their gallant exploits. This, our first march, although but of three
leagues, was severely felt, since with the exception of a scramble
over the rocks in the vicinity of Gottenborg harbour, we had been for
upward of four months cooped up in miserable little transports. The men
had scarcely the use of their limbs; and being so long unaccustomed
to carry their packs, to which were now added three days’ provisions
and sixty rounds of ball-cartridge, in this their first march, with
the thermometer between ninety and a hundred, many were left behind
and slowly followed after. The 4th or King’s Own Regiment, with whom
we were then brigaded, from its seniority of number, marched in front.
Although at the time perhaps the finest looking body of men in the
Army, the select of three battalions, yet, being generally rather
advanced in age as soldiers and heavy-bodied, they were on this day
continually falling out of the ranks and flanking the road. This
afforded an opportunity to one of our light hardy Irishmen (a class of
which the 28th Regiment was then chiefly composed) to remark: “Faith!
this is a very deceiving march; the royal milestones are so close to
each other.”


Nor did the officers suffer less than the men. Being mostly very
young, and with the exception of those who were at Copenhagen, where
little or no marching took place, never having seen a shot fired, they
were totally ignorant of the nature of a campaign. Means of transport
being always very difficult to procure in Portugal and Spain, we all
overloaded ourselves, carrying a boat-cloak, in itself heavy, in which
was rolled a partial change of dress. Our haversacks contained, as
did the men’s, three days’ provisions, to which was added an extra
pair of boots or shoes; and every gentleman carried a stout charge
of rum on service, when so fortunate as to be able to procure it.
Each young warrior too hampered himself with a case of pistols and a
liberal quantity of ball-cartridge, and generally a heavy spyglass.
Thus heavily equipped, many of us commenced our first day’s march in
the Peninsula, in the month of August, with thermometer at ninety-five.
However, before we proceeded much further in the campaign, a light cart
was allowed to each regiment for the convenience of the officers, which
by diminishing our loads wonderfully increased our comfort.

We now fully expected to move rapidly forward against the foe; but slow
and solemn marches were substituted. Nor could we account for this
extraordinary inaction, although rumour was abroad that this our first
campaign in Portugal was in honourable progress through the medium of
foolscap and sheepskin. Still we plodded forward, until we arrived at
the plains of Queluz, about five miles distant from Lisbon, where we
halted, and where our late sluggish movements were accounted for, when
we heard of the celebrated Convention of Cintra. By this the Muscovite
fleet, which by all the laws of war we considered securely our own,
were allowed triumphantly to depart from out the Tagus with their
national colours flying; and Junot also with his troops and all their
plunder, sacrilegiously carried off from holy temples or wrung from the
helpless orphan or widow,--and this ill-gotten freight was conveyed in
British ships to the shores of our most inveterate foes.

The three Commanders-in-chief, with whom the more than anxious
care of the ministry contemporaneously furnished the small army in
Portugal, were recalled to England to account for their conduct, or
misconduct--one for having offended some part of the ministry by
gaining a splendid victory, another for having offended his country
by blasting the fruits of that victory, and the third for having
done nothing but ratify a degrading convention, odious to all. It
is scarcely necessary here to state that these high personages were
(beginning with the junior) Sir Arthur Wellesley, Sir Harry Burrard,
and Sir Hugh Dalrymple.


A fourth commanding general was now appointed in the person of Sir
John Moore, destined to lead the greater part of the British forces
in Portugal against the enemy. Immediately upon this appointment the
greatest activity prevailed throughout every branch of the service. The
new Commander of the forces, although anxiously employed in forming
magazines and depôts and organising the whole material of the army, yet
appeared to be continually riding through our ranks or inspecting the
different regiments. I recollect that the 28th Regiment were inspected
the day following the one originally appointed, in consequence of
the general not being able to attend. We stood one thousand and
ninety-nine bayonets, officers and sergeants not included. Had we
been inspected the previous day, we should have stood exactly eleven
hundred bayonets, but one man was sent to hospital the night previous.
After the inspection was over, Sir John Moore called the captains
and officers commanding companies together, whom he thus addressed:
“Gentlemen, what I have to say to you is pleasant. I have never seen
a body of men in finer order than your regiment; they appear more
like the picture of a battalion than actual men bearing arms.” Then
addressing Captain (now Colonel Sir Frederick) Stovin, he said: “The
fame of your Grenadier company has gone through the army; but, much
as I expected from report, I am more pleased at its appearance than I
could have anticipated.”



All arrangements being now in a state of forwardness, the army broke up
the camp of Queluz about the middle of October and, following different
routes and moving by regiments in succession, marched for Spain; and an
army in better heart, finer condition, or more gallantly commanded were
never produced by any nation upon earth. We, the 28th Regiment, marched
on the 14th. I recollect the date well, being on that day appointed to
the light company.


To attempt to give a daily account of our march to Salamanca is beyond
the scope of my memory; and even though I should be capable of so
doing, it would be attended with little more interest than mentioning
the names of the different towns and villages through which we passed
or describing the houses in which we were lodged at night. We marched
with the headquarters. On the route through Guarda one battery
of artillery accompanied us, whom Captain Wilmot commanded. They
consisted of six light six-pounders; and even these we had the greatest
difficulty in getting through the pass of Villavelha. The first gun
conveyed across had two drag-ropes attached, and to resist its rapidity
while being trailed downhill these ropes were held by as many soldiers
as the short and frequent turning of this zigzag descent would permit;
yet their resistance was scarcely sufficient to preserve the guns from
rolling over the precipice. This in a great measure arose from Captain
Wilmot having opposed locking any of the wheels, alleging that by so
doing the carriages would suffer materially, and consequently become
unserviceable much sooner.

Trailing the guns down in this manner was excessively laborious to
the soldiers, and not unattended with danger. Several men who could
not get clear of the ropes on suddenly coming to the sharp turns were
absolutely dragged through the walls which flanked the road. The
resistance necessary to check the velocity of even these light guns
must have been very great, for I can attest that there was not one
soldier of the 28th Light Company who had heels to his shoes after the
drag. They were a good deal shaken and much dissatisfied, considering
it a great hardship to have a pair of shoes destroyed in one day
without being allowed any remuneration.

Captain Wilmot, having witnessed the danger in which the first gun
frequently was of being precipitated over the flanking wall and
consequently lost, as well as the great risk to which the men were
exposed, and being still unwilling to lock the wheels, determined to
try the bed of the Tagus. In pursuance of this project he had the
horses of two or three guns harnessed to one gun at a time, and in
this manner passed the remainder of the guns in succession across the
stream, cheered by the whole of the men during the entire operation,
which lasted a considerable time, and was of course attended with much
fatigue and exertion. The guns during their passage were accompanied
by a part of the soldiers to give what assistance lay in their power,
in case of meeting obstacles in the bed of the river. The horses were
immersed above their bellies and the men up to their middles; yet
Captain Wilmot never quitted the stream, crossing and re-crossing
until all the guns were safely landed. The principal difficulty arose
in drawing them up the opposite bank, but this being an affair of mere
physical force all obstacles were soon overcome. After this, our first
check, we moved on cheerily, as is usual with soldiers, who never dwell
upon hardships a moment longer than their continuance.

Our next great annoyance, and I may add suffering, was caused by the
inclemency of the weather. On the day upon which we marched into
Guarda the 5th Regiment lost five men and the 28th Regiment two men,
who actually perished on the road in consequence of heavy rain which
incessantly fell during the whole day. A person who has never been out
of England can scarcely imagine its violence. Let him fancy himself
placed under a shower-bath with the perforations unusually large, the
water not propelled divergingly with a light sprinkling, but large
globular drops pouring down vertically and descending in such rapid
succession as to give the appearance rather of a torrent than a shower;
he may then form an idea of the rainy season which drenches Portugal
during the autumnal months. Exposed to such rain, we marched many miles
to gain the top of the hill upon which stands Guarda. Having at length
performed this harassing march, the regiments (I think three in number)
were lodged in large convents situated in the immediate suburbs, which
had been prepared for our reception. Immense fires were soon lit,
and the men commenced first wringing and then drying their clothing.
Rations were delivered as soon as possible, and the glad tidings of a
double allowance of rum loudly rang throughout the holy aisles.

The soldiers now began to forget what they had suffered during the day.
The business of cooking went on cheerfully, but from the blazing fires
which illumined the convent much precaution was necessary to preserve
the building from being burned. The men being made as comfortable as
circumstances would permit, and there being no accommodation for the
officers in the convent, they were as usual billeted upon private
houses in the town, each regiment leaving an officer in the convent to
preserve good order, for after hardship, as after victory, soldiers are
prone to commit excesses.


In walking through the town next day but one (we halted there two
days), I met the Commander of the forces, accompanied by two of his
staff and one orderly dragoon. He rode to and fro in the street several
times, evidently in search of something. As I stood still, as if to
ask if I could be of any use, Sir John Moore rode up and asked me
if the men’s clothes and appointments were yet dry. I replied that
they were not perfectly so, but would be in the course of the day.
He expressed his satisfaction, adding: “You must march to-morrow
at all events. I shall not ask about your arms or ammunition; the
28th know their value too well to neglect them.” He then said that
his horse had just lost a shoe, for which he was in search. I also
searched for a moment, but to no purpose. The general then remarking
that no doubt he should find some place along the road to have his
horse shod, rode away. I mention this trifling circumstance, otherwise
uninteresting, because it illustrates Sir John Moore’s constant habit
of speaking to every officer of his army whom he met, whatever his
rank, asking such questions as tended to elicit useful information,
and in the most good-humoured and courteous manner making such remarks
as indirectly called forth the most strenuous endeavours of all to a
full discharge of their duties. But when he considered a more direct
interference requisite, he was prompt in showing it without partiality
and regardless of persons. An instance of this took place a few days
previous to our breaking up the camp at Queluz. On meeting an old
officer, with whom he was long acquainted and who was his countryman,
he asked him familiarly how he did. The officer answered, in the
manner which men in good health usually do, that he was perfectly
well, and he added: “I am totally at your Excellency’s service. I have
nothing to do.” He hinted perhaps that a staff employment would not
be unacceptable nor injurious to the service. Sir John Moore politely
bowed. Next day commanding officers were called upon to use every
exertion necessary to bring their regiments fully equipped into the
field with as little delay as possible, and to see that every officer
under their respective commands was employed with equal diligence as
themselves, which he feared was not the case, for no later than the
day before a major of a regiment told him that he had nothing to do.
He therefore held commanding officers responsible that the particular
duties of every officer should be clearly and distinctly pointed out;
and he added that this would forward the service and prevent discontent
from want of employment. I was acquainted with the individual alluded
to, a gallant officer who has since met the fate of a soldier in the
field of glory.

After two days’ halt at Guarda we continued our march without any other
interruption than the falling waters, and having traversed Portugal,
we on November 10th marched into Fuentes de Oñoro. This was the first
Spanish town we entered, and here we halted for the night.


Villa Formosa, distant about two miles from Fuentes de Oñoro, is the
nearest frontier town to Spain on that road. The two nations are here
divided by a rivulet so inconsiderable that upon its being pointed out,
many of us stood over it with one foot in Portugal and the other in
Spain. But even if this national boundary had not been pointed out, we
should have immediately discovered upon entering the town that we were
no longer in Portugal. The difference was very striking and perceptible
even in the first Spanish glance which we encountered. During our march
through Portugal we mixed with people who in a manner looked up to us
and showed rather a grovelling deference. We now encountered a nation
whose inhabitants never regarded others as in any way superior to
themselves. Their greatest condescension in meeting any other people
was to consider them as equals; superiority they denied to all. The
Portuguese showed us the greatest hospitality and in the civilest
manner; yet their hospitality appeared the result of some obligation or
constraint, not unmixed with gratitude. The Spaniards, though equally
generous, were proudly hospitable. There hospitality was sincere,
and not marked or rendered cold by ostentation; it appeared to be
spontaneously offered, as mere matter of course, unconnected with other
sentiments, disdaining any consideration beyond the act itself. The
Portuguese, in his conversation, studied more the smooth arrangement of
his specious words than the laudable sentiments by which they should
be dictated. He endeavoured by many a ludicrous gesture and grotesque
posture to add that force to his subject which was wanting in matter;
and whatever might be the result he always retired fawningly. The
Spaniard, invariably polite in his language and dignified in attitude,
solely depended on the soundness of his argument, and talking looked
you full in the face. His words clearly expressed his thoughts, and he
felt hurt if obliged to repeat; and he concluded his discourse with
a graceful inclination of his person. The Portuguese are not so fine
or so handsome a race as the Spaniards, and in figure they are far
inferior. The females have all black eyes (lampblack, if you please),
but dim and dusky when compared to the brilliant black eyes of the
Spanish fair.

We passed the night at Fuentes de Oñoro with mingled feelings of
annoyance and pleasure, annoyed at not being able to join the
inhabitants in conversation, which in some degree we could do in
Portugal. I felt quite in the background, for from what little of the
Portuguese language I was enabled to pick up during the march, I had
acted as a kind of regimental interpreter. Pleasure we experienced at
the wonderful contrast between the people whom we had just quitted and
our present hosts, entirely in favour of the latter; and although we
did not understand their language, yet it fell so melodiously on the
ear that I for one could never after suffer the Portuguese dialect.
I remembered how Charles V. said, or was reputed to have said, that
whenever he wished to address his God he always did so in the Spanish

Next day we marched to Ciudad Rodrigo, or the city of Don Roderick, the
last of the Visigoth monarchs who reigned in Spain. Here I was billeted
at the house of an hidalgo or nobleman, who treated me most hospitably,
and ordered my baggage-pony to be put into his private stable. But
the hatred which existed between the Spaniards and Portuguese seemed
to prevail even among their animals, for my unfortunate horse was so
kicked and maltreated that, after endeavouring to carry my baggage
to S. Martin del Rio, where we halted for the night, the poor animal
dropped down dead. Besides the inconvenience which his loss caused
me, I regretted his death very much. I purchased him at Queluz, near
Lisbon, and he always followed me through the camp, keeping up with my
pace like a dog.

On our next day’s march we again had some work with the artillery. The
bridge over the Huelva was too narrow for the guns; it was considered
that too much time would be occupied in marching over it; therefore
in courtesy it was left for the baggage animals. As we had become
partly amphibious by our aquatic march through Portugal, and being now
drenched by the incessant fall of rain, we forded the river, immersed
up to our hips and exposed at the same time to a heavy shower. This
operation performed, we pushed forward at a hasty pace to the town not
far distant from the bridge. Having here piled our arms, we returned
to the stream to aid the artillery, and hauled the guns safely across,
notwithstanding the depth and rapidity of the current, now literally a
torrent. Under the circumstances this duty was excessively fatiguing
and harassing; but the indefatigable zeal and anxiety which Captain
Wilmot showed during the whole of the march to bring his guns and
horses perfect into action, induced every individual willingly to come
forward and put his shoulder to the wheel.


The next day’s march brought us to the celebrated city of Salamanca.
Our entrance into this city was attended with great excitement. It
was the goal for which we started from Queluz camp, and whenever any
unpleasant circumstance occurred during the march, Salamanca was loudly
vociferated by every lip to cheer us on. Here it was that we expected
to join the main body of our cavalry and artillery, who, in consequence
of the impracticability of moving them by any other road, were, with
four regiments of infantry, the whole amounting to about six thousand
men, marched through Alemtejo and Spanish Estremadura under the command
of Sir John Hope.

In this place we were in the immediate neighbourhood of foes, with
whom we so ardently desired to measure swords. The ardour was equal
on either side. The French, flushed with recent victories obtained in
Italy Germany and Spain, felt anxious to display their vaunted prowess,
national flexibility in manœuvre, and tactical experience gained
by all, enabling each individual to act independently when deemed
necessary. The British, on the other hand, with full confidence in the
result whenever they came in contact with their old foes, were desirous
to prove that though partially broken they never would bend; and,
proud of their ignorance of trifling detail and spurning individual
self-sufficiency, were always determined to fight to the last on the
ground where they stood. They restrained even their natural tendency to
rush forward from a full confidence in the judgment of their general,
who would move them at the right moment.

At length Sir John Hope arrived at Alba de Tormes within a few leagues
of us, on December 5th.



We were now in active preparation for a march, but whether to be led
back to Portugal or forward to Valladolid not a soul in the army could
tell. All our movements depended on the information received from the
Spaniards, which to a tittle always proved to be false; and if we had
been guided by it, although it frequently passed through official
English authorities, the British forces in Spain must have been lost.

The army now underwent a partial remodelling. A corps of reserve were
formed, composed of select troops. They consisted of the 20th, 28th,
52nd, 91st, and 95th (Rifles) Regiments. The 20th and 52nd Regiments
formed the 1st Brigade, commanded by General Anstruther; the 2nd
Brigade consisted of the 28th, 91st, and 95th Regiments, commanded by
General Disney; the whole were under the orders of General Paget.

All being prepared for a move, the British army commenced their advance
from Salamanca on December 11th, with intention of marching direct to
Valladolid; but on the arrival at headquarters at Alaejos, on the 13th,
an intercepted despatch from the Prince of Neufchâtel to the Duke of
Dalmatia was brought to the general. These despatches were of such a
nature as to induce our general to deviate somewhat from the route
intended. Leaving Valladolid more to our right, our headquarters were
removed to Toro.

On the night of the 14th General Charles Stuart, with a detachment of
the 18th Dragoons, surprised a detachment of the enemy, consisting of
fifty infantry and thirty cavalry, cutting down or taking prisoners
almost all of them. One dragoon who escaped carried the report of the
destruction of the detachment, and was scarcely credited by General
Franceschi, who commanded about four hundred cavalry at Valladolid;
for previous to this surprise the French were fortunately in total
ignorance of our vicinity, reasonably concluding that by all the rules
of war we were in full retreat towards Portugal.

The reserve, in the meantime, arrived at Toro, where the advanced guard
of General Baird’s corps, consisting of the cavalry under the command
of Lord Paget, joined Sir John Moore’s army.

It now being evident that after the surprise of their outpost at Rueda
the enemy could no longer be ignorant of our advanced movements, Sir
John Moore pushed on his columns as fast as the severity of the weather
would permit. On the 16th the reserve were at Puebla, on the 17th at
Villapando. On the 18th headquarters were at Castro Nuevo. On the 19th
the reserve continued their march, and on the 20th reached Santarbas.
On this day the whole of the army were united, and so far concentrated
as shelter and deep snow would permit. The weather was excessively
severe, and the flat bleak country could furnish but little fuel.


Lord Paget, being informed that General Debelle, with from six to seven
hundred dragoons, was in the town of Sahagun, marched on the night of
the 20th, with the 10th and 15th Hussars, from the different small
villages where they were posted in front of the army at Mayorga. The
10th marched directly for the town, and the 15th led by Lord Paget
endeavoured to turn it by the right and thus cut off the enemy’s
retreat; but his advance was unfortunately discovered by a patrol, and
the French had time to form on the outside of the town before the 15th
could get round. When therefore his lordship arrived at the rear of
the town about daybreak, with four hundred of the 15th (the 10th not
being as yet come up), he discovered a line of six hundred cavalry in
a field close to the town and prepared to oppose him. They were drawn
up in rear of a ravine which protected their front from being charged.
But in those days the superior numbers or strength of position of the
French cavalry had very little influence over our dragoons. After
manœuvring a very short time, each party endeavouring to gain the flank
of their opponent, Lord Paget charged with his wonted vigour, broke
the enemy’s line, and chased them off the field. The result of this
gallant affair was a loss on the enemy’s side of twenty men killed, two
lieutenant-colonels, eleven other officers, and one hundred and fifty
troopers prisoners; while the loss on our side amounted only to six men
killed and from fifteen to twenty wounded.

Continuing our advance, headquarters were established at Sahagun on
the 21st, and on the same day the reserve marched to Grajal del Campo.
In our present cantonments the British army were within a day’s march
of the enemy posted at Saldaña and along the Carrion. Such close
neighbourhood braced every nerve for deeds of arms. Our thoughts,
which heretofore dwelt upon the sparkling eyes, beautiful faces and
splendid figures of the Spanish fair were now totally engrossed by the
veteran soldiers of Napoleon. Love yielded to war; yet the flame which
animated our breasts remained, its ardour ever increasing as the object
in view became more glorious.

On the 22nd the whole army halted to refresh the troops, to put the
guns in proper order, and, what was of still greater consequence, to
repair the men’s shoes, which were seriously damaged during our eleven
days’ march over rugged roads covered with frost and snow. Our reserve
supplies had not yet come up. These preparations were diligently
carried on during the day and early part of the ensuing night, it being
intended that on the next day we should march against the enemy. The
Commander of the forces, however, calculated that by commencing his
march in the morning we should approach the enemy early enough to be
discovered, but too late to attack; and that consequently we should be
compelled to halt in the snow until daybreak enabled us to see what we
had to do. A night attack may perhaps succeed; but the exact position
of the party to be assaulted must be thoroughly ascertained previous
to making the attack. We possessed no such information; no two reports
ever agreed as to the enemy’s position or strength. For these reasons
the march of the troops was deferred until the evening. Marching during
the night, however severe the weather, was far preferable to a freezing
halt in the snow, and the men would be in much better plight to attack
the enemy at daybreak on the morning of the 24th; and, in fact, no time
would be lost, for had we marched on the morning of the 23rd instead
of the evening, still the attack could not have taken place before the
morning of the 24th.

In pursuance of this plan, orders were received at Grajal del Campo
early on the morning of the 23rd directing that the reserve should
march that evening on the road towards the Carrion, indicating the
point of junction with the rest of the army, and there halt until the
headquarters should arrive. On receipt of these instructions, General
Paget used every endeavour to induce the men to lie down and take
repose, exhorting the officers to keep the soldiers as much as possible
in their billets, but, without issuing any orders on the subject, to
tell them that the general’s anxiety arose in consequence of a long
march which was to take place that night. We (the reserve) therefore
moved forward that evening about four o’clock from Grajal del Campo in
light marching order, on our way towards the Carrion.


After proceeding some hours, we halted not long after dark. The whole
country was deeply covered with snow, and the sprightly national carols
customary on the approach of Christmas were changed for a cold and
silent night march to meet our national foes; yet no hearts ever beat
lighter in the social enjoyment of the former than ours did at what we
confidently anticipated would be the result of the latter. But cruel
necessity required that we should be grievously disappointed. After our
halt, which took place at the point destined for our junction with the
other column, had continued for two hours, conjecture became various
as to the cause of their delay. We were first told that it was to
give the artillery, which rolled heavily over the snow, time to come
up; subsequently we were informed that the Marquis of Romana either
mistook or wilfully failed in his engagements to co-operate, and that
the attack must consequently be postponed. Thenceforward a hatred and
contempt of the Spaniards in arms filled the breast of every British
soldier. This feeling was renewed at Talavera and confirmed at Barossa,
and for similar causes was kept alive so long as a British soldier
remained in the Peninsula.

The report relative to Romana was not, however, in this instance
strictly a fact; for he actually did move forward from Leon to
Mancilla with six or seven thousand half-starved and half-naked,
wretched troops, having previously left his artillery in the rear.
The true cause of our halt and subsequent retreat was Sir John Moore
having received information from Romana, as well as from others in
whose accuracy he placed more reliance, that two hundred thousand
enemies were put in motion against him. The British general that night
commanded twenty-three thousand men; Soult, within a day’s march of his
front, commanded twenty thousand men; Napoleon, with fifty thousand
of the Imperial Guards marching or rather flying from Madrid, was
fast closing upon him and making rapid strides to cut off his only
line of retreat: thus he was placed in the immediate vicinity of
seventy thousand hardy veterans--more than triple his numbers. In this
statement Ney’s corps are not included, although within two marches of
Soult, with orders to press forward. Under such circumstances there
could be no hesitation how to act. A movement on Corunna was decided

The information just mentioned relative to the movements of the enemy
against the British army was received at headquarters (Sahagun)
about six o’clock in the evening of the 23rd, in time to enable the
Commander of the forces to countermand the forward march of the troops
stationed there; but as it was too late to prevent the forward march
of the reserve, orders were sent to the place intended as the point
of rendezvous directing their return to Grajal del Campo, where we
arrived on the morning of the 24th. There we halted the remainder of
that day to get ready our heavy baggage (for we had moved in light
marching order the previous night) and to give a day’s start to the
leading columns, Sir David Baird’s and General Hope’s divisions which
had marched that morning, the former for Valencia, the latter towards


On the 25th the reserve, accompanied by the light brigade, and
covered by the cavalry, marched under the immediate orders of Sir
John Moore, and, following the track of Hope’s division, crossed the
Esla by the bridge of Castro Gonzolo on the 27th. Thence we moved on
to Benevente, distant about four miles. After passing Mayorga on the
26th, Lord Paget, with two squadrons of the 10th Hussars, charged a
large detachment of the enemy’s dragoons, strongly posted on a rising
ground, and, notwithstanding the strength of their position and great
superiority of numbers, he killed twenty and took a hundred prisoners.

The destruction of the bridge having commenced, and to favour this
arduous undertaking, as well as to cover the passage of the cavalry,
who had not as yet come up, General Robert Craufurd, with the 2nd
Light Brigade and two guns, took up a position on the left bank, which
from its boldness commanded the bridge and both banks, being thus from
necessity left on the enemy’s side of the stream, the right bank flat
and low offering no vantage ground. The cavalry having crossed on the
afternoon of the 27th, the destruction of the bridge commenced, which
occupied half the light brigade until late on the night of the 28th,
the other half being in constant skirmish with the advancing enemy. The
bridge being constructed of such solid material, the greatest exertions
were required to penetrate the masonry; and from the hurried manner
and sudden necessity of the march from Sahagun, there had been no time
to send an engineer forward to prepare for the undertaking. These
circumstances much retarded the work, and an incessant fall of heavy
rain and sleet rendered the whole operation excessively laborious
and fatiguing. To add to this, Napoleon, having been informed of our
movement towards Valladolid, was determined to crush us for daring
to advance; while Soult, now aware of our retiring, was resolved to
punish us, elate at our not having previously punished him, which we
most certainly should have done on Christmas eve had it not been for
the astounding information received by Sir John Moore late on the
evening of the 23rd, to the effect that his little army were then the
focus upon which two hundred thousand French troops were directing
their hasty strides. Those two consummate generals, Napoleon and Soult,
pushed on their advanced guards with such celerity that Soult’s light
troops and the chasseurs of the Imperial Guard came in sight whilst our
rearguard were crossing the Esla.

During the evening of the 27th and the whole of the 28th continued
skirmishes took place in the vicinity of the bridge, and the enemy kept
up a desultory fire along the banks. The Imperial chasseurs, flushed
with the capture of a few women and stragglers, whom they picked up
in the plain, had the hardihood more than once to gallop up close to
the bridge, with the intention no doubt of disturbing the men employed
there; but they always retired with increased celerity, leaving not a
few behind to serve as a warning-off to others.


On the night of the 28th, the preparations at the bridge being
completed, the troops retired. Fortunately it was dark rainy and
tempestuous; and so the light brigade passed unobserved over the bridge
to the friendly side in profound silence, except for the roaring of
the waters and the tempest, and without the slightest opposition.
Immediately on our gaining the right bank the mine was sprung with
fullest effect, blowing up two arches, together with the buttress by
which they had been supported, and awakening the French to a sense of
their shameful want of vigilance and enterprise. Had they kept a strict
watch, and risked an assault during the passage, which they would have
been fully borne out in doing from the number of their troops already
in the plain, and which were hourly increasing, the light division
would have been perilously situated; for Craufurd had passed over the
guns some time previously, and had immediately after cut one of the
arches completely through, so that the men were obliged to cross over a
narrow strip formed of planks not very firmly laid, while the impetuous
torrent, now swollen above its banks from the constant heavy rain and
snow, roaring rather through than beneath the bridge, threatened to
carry away both men and planks. All being thus happily terminated, the
troops moved into Benevente; but Craufurd’s brigade were so excessively
fatigued, having worked incessantly and laboured severely for nearly
two days and two nights, their clothes drenched through the whole time,
that they could scarcely keep their eyes open.



There was now a large force suddenly collected in Benevente, which
under any circumstances causes much confusion, but more particularly at
that moment, when our chief employment was the destruction of stores.
Nevertheless the duty was performed with extraordinary forbearance
on the part of the men, particularly when it is considered that the
Spanish authorities, either from disinclination to serve the British
or from a dread of the enemy, who, as they knew, must occupy the town
in a very short time, took no care whatever to supply our troops
regularly with provisions, or indeed with anything which we required.
The same feelings pervaded all ranks of the inhabitants; and although
with payment in our hands we sought for bread, wine, and animals to
convey our baggage, yet nothing could be procured. The magistrates
either hid themselves or retired; the inhabitants denied everything
of which we stood most in need, and whilst all the shops were open in
Madrid and in all other towns through which the French army passed
or which they held, every door was shut against the British army. It
seldom fell to the lot of the reserve to sleep in a house during the
movement to Corunna, but in those which we passed whilst marching along
every article of food was hid with which the enemy were subsequently
supplied in abundance; and in no part of Spain was this want of good
feeling towards the British more apparent than in Benevente, a specimen
of which will be seen in the following anecdote:--

[Sidenote: LOVE AND WINE.]

After the destruction of Gonzolo bridge, when the 52nd Regiment marched
into Benevente, though benumbed with wet and cold, yet they could not
procure a single pint of wine for the men, either for love or money,
or for mere humanity which under such circumstances would have moved
the breast of most men to an act of charitable generosity. During the
anxious pleading to the feelings and the dogged denial, a sergeant of
his company came to Lieutenant Love, of the above-mentioned regiment,
informing him that in an outhouse belonging to the convent in which
they were billeted he discovered a wall recently built up, by which he
conjectured that some wine might have been concealed. Love instantly
waited on the friars, whom he entreated to let the men have some wine,
at the same time offering prompt payment. The holy fat father abbot
constantly declared, by a long catalogue of saints, that there was not
a drop in the convent. Love, although a very young man at the time, was
not easily imposed upon. Reconnoitring the premises, he had a rope tied
round his body, and in this manner got himself lowered through a sort
of skylight down into the outhouse, where the sergeant had discovered
the fresh masonry through a crevice in the strongly barricaded door.
After his landing, the rope was drawn up, and two men of the company
followed in the same manner. They fortunately found a log of wood,
which, aided by the ropes, they converted into a battering ram, and
four or five strong percussions well directed breached the newly built
wall. Now rushing through the breach, they found the inner chamber to
be the very sanctum sanctorum of Bacchus. Wine sufficient was found to
give every man in the company a generous allowance. The racy juice was
contained in a large vat, and while they were issuing it out in perfect
order to the drenched and shivering soldiers, the fat prior suddenly
made his appearance through a trap-door, and laughingly requested that
at least he might have one drink before all was consumed. Upon this one
of the men remarked, “By Jove! when the wine was _his_, he was damned
stingy about it; but now that it is _ours_, we will show him what
British hospitality is, and give him his fill.” So saying, he seized
the holy fat man, and chucked him head foremost into the vat; and had
it not been for Love and some other officers, who by this time had
found their way into the cellar, the Franciscan worshipper of Bacchus
would most probably have shared the fate of George Duke of Clarence,
except that the wine was not Malmsey.

This anecdote was told to me at the time by some officers of
the 52nd. Then it was I had the pleasure of first making the
acquaintance of Lieutenant Calvert of that regiment, long since
lieutenant-colonel. This acquaintance was afterwards renewed under
no ordinary circumstances at the battle of Barossa. The anecdote was
many years later confirmed by Love himself in the Island of Zante,
where in 1836 he was quartered with the 73rd Regiment, of which he was
lieutenant-colonel at the time when I was writing these Memoirs. I
read him the whole of these Memoirs, and found his recollection of the
campaign very interesting. The dates of his commissions and mine in the
respective ranks of ensign, lieutenant, and captain were within a few
months of each other; but he became lieutenant-colonel long before I
retired from the service still as captain. Yet he was an old soldier at
the time; and if gallant conduct on all occasions which offered during
a long career, devoted attachment to his profession and ardent zeal to
promote its honour and glory can give a claim to advancement, by none
was it better merited. The only extraordinary circumstance attending
his promotion was that he obtained it through personal merit.


On the 28th the divisions of Generals Hope and Fraser moved out of
Benevente for Astorga; the reserve and light brigade remained until
the 29th. On that morning the enemy’s cavalry, commanded by Napoleon’s
favourite General, Lefèbre Desnouettes, forded the Esla, and as they
were taken for the advance of a large force, the reserve and light
brigades were ordered instantly to retire on the road leading to
Astorga. Although General Stuart, who took command of our cavalry
piquets, gallantly resisted Lefèbre, and every step was met with a
blow, yet the French general sternly moved forward along the plain
which skirted Benevente. Lord Paget, who viewed from a distance what
passed at the extremity of the plain, in courtesy allowed the French
general to advance until it became too dangerous for his troops to
proceed farther; then, at the head of the 10th Hussars, whom he had
previously formed under cover of some houses, he rode furiously at the
enemy, who, wheeling round, were pursued into the very bed of the Esla,
where “many a deadly blow was dealt,” and it was shown once again that
British steel was not to be resisted when wielded by British soldiers
determined to vindicate the superiority of their national productions.

On gaining the opposite bank of the river the enemy immediately formed
on rising ground which overlooked the stream, and displayed symptoms
of returning to the fight; but our artillery having interfered with
some well-directed shrapnel shots, the foe retired in disgust and
pride, leaving their gallant and accomplished general behind to refine
our manners, if not our steel. On his arrival in England he was sent
to Bath, where he showed with what facility a Frenchman can insinuate
himself into society as a man of spirit and gallantry.

Whilst our guns continued to fire upon the retreating enemy, the
rearguard of the reserve were evacuating Benevente. During our march
we were passed on the road by seventy or eighty dragoons of the
Imperial Guard, together with their leader General Lefèbre, who were
made prisoners in the affair of the morning. The general looked fierce
and bloody, from a wound which he received across the forehead while
gallantly defending himself in the stream wherein he was taken. In
this affair our dragoons suffered a loss of fifty men killed and
wounded. The French left fifty-five killed and wounded on the field,
and seventy officers and men prisoners, together with their general. It
cannot be said that there was any disparity of force, for although in
the commencement of the affair the French were far more numerous, yet
towards the close the reverse was the case.

We arrived at Labaneza that night, and next day marched into Astorga.
Here we were crossed by the ragged, half-starved corps of Spaniards
under the partial control of the Marquis of Romana, which circumstance
not a little astonished us, as the marquis repeatedly promised Sir
John Moore that he would retire into the Asturias. This unexpected
interruption to our march was attended with the most serious
consequences to our army, and from it may be dated the straggling which
soon commenced. The Spaniards, shivering from partial nakedness and
voracious from continued hunger, committed the greatest disorders in
search of food and raiment. Their bad example was eagerly followed by
the British soldiers in their insatiable thirst for wine; and all the
exertions, even of the Commander of the forces personally, were not of
much avail. We could not destroy the stores, which had to be abandoned.
The civil authorities rather impeded than assisted us in procuring the
means of transport; nor could rations be regularly served out to the
men sufficient for a two days’ march. The troops of the two nations
seemed envious of each other, lest the depredations of one should give
it what they in their blind excesses considered an advantage over the
other. They prowled about the town the greater part of the night, and
when they attempted to take repose there arose a contention for choice
of quarters; so that our march was commenced next morning without the
men having taken useful nourishment or necessary repose.


It was on that night which we passed at Astorga that I discovered a
circumstance of which I had not been previously aware--namely, that
in the light company of the 28th Regiment there was a complete and
well-organised band of ventriloquists who could imitate any species of
bird or animal so perfectly that it was scarcely possible to discover
the difference between the imitation and the natural tone of the animal
imitated. Soon after we contrived to get into some kind of a quarter,
the men being in the same apartment with the officers owing to the
crowd and confusion, a soldier named Savage, immediately on entering
the room, began to crow like a cock, and then placed his ear close to
the keyhole of a door leading into another apartment, which was locked.
After remaining in this attentive position for some moments, he removed
to another part of the room and repeated his crowing. I began to think
that the man was drunk or insane, never before having perceived in
him the slightest want of proper respect for his superiors. Upon my
asking him what he meant by such extraordinary conduct in the presence
of his officers, he with a smile replied, “I believe we have them,
sir.” This seemingly unconnected reply confirmed me in the opinion I
had formed of his mental derangement, the more particularly as his
incoherent reply was instantly followed by another crow; this was
answered apparently in the same voice, but somewhat fainter. Savage
then jumped up, crying out, “Here they are!” and insisted upon having
the door opened; and when this was reluctantly done by the inhabitants
of the house, a fine cock followed by many hens came strutting into the
room with all the pomp of a sultan attended by his many queens. The
head of the polygamist, together with those of his superfluous wives,
was soon severed from his body, notwithstanding the loud remonstrances
of the former owners, who, failing in their entreaties that the harem
should be spared, demanded remuneration; but whether the men paid for
what they had taken like grovelling citizens, or offered political
reasons as an apology like great monarchs, I now cannot call to mind.
But however the affair may have been arranged, the act was venial,
for had the fowls been spared by our men they must have fallen into
the stomachs of our enemies next day; and it is not one of the least
important duties of a retreating army to carry away or destroy anything
which may be useful to their pursuers, however severely the inhabitants
may suffer.

During the night I was awakened by the ventriloquists, who, with
appropriate harmony, were loudly bleating, cackling, crowing, cooing,
lowing--in fact, imitating every species of animal; so that at the
moment I awoke I fancied myself in an extensive menagerie. Indeed, the
powerful effect of their music on many occasions during the retreat
came to my knowledge; and so judiciously did they exert their talents
that animals of all descriptions came frisking to their feet, offering
a practical elucidation of the powers attributed to Orpheus when round
him danced the brutes.


On the last day of 1808 we marched from Astorga with more headaches
than full stomachs; and the light brigade having moved on the route
to Vigo, the rearguard fell exclusively to the reserve during the
remainder of the retreat. The distance we had to move on that day
being short, we continued until late to destroy stores and such field
equipments as, for want of animals, could not be carried away; and
after eight or nine miles’ march we arrived in the evening at a small
village called Cambarros. At this place our evil genius, the Spaniards,
again crossed us, and the scenes at Astorga were partially renewed;
but as only the sick and stragglers of the Spanish army were there,
the contention was but little--in fact, their miserable and forlorn
condition called forth compassion rather than other sentiments. Two
or three cartloads of them being put down at an outhouse where I was
on piquet with the light company, we took them in. Such misery I
never beheld, half-naked, half-starved, and deprived of both medicine
and medical attendance. We administered a little of our general
cordial--rum; yet three or four of these wretches expired that night
close to a large fire which we lit in the middle of the floor.

Our stay at Cambarros was but short, for scarcely had the men laid
down to repose, which was much wanted in consequence of the manner in
which they had passed the previous night, when some of our cavalry came
galloping in, reporting that the enemy were advancing in force. We
were immediately ordered to get under arms, and hurried to form outside
the town on that part facing Bembibre. While we were forming a dragoon
rode up, and an officer who being ill was in one of the light carts
which attended the reserve, cried out, “Dragoon, what news?” “News,
sir? The only news I have for you is that unless you step out like
soldiers, and don’t wait to pick your steps like bucks in Bond Street
of a Sunday with shoes and silk stockings, damn it! you’ll be all taken
prisoners.” “Pray, who the devil are you?” came from the cart. “I am
Lord Paget,” said the dragoon; “and pray, sir, may I ask who you are?”
“I am Captain D----n, of the 28th Regiment, my lord.” “Come out of that
cart directly,” said his lordship; “march with your men, sir, and keep
up their spirits by showing them a good example.” The captain scrambled
out of the cart rear, face foremost, and from slipping along the side
of the cart and off the wheels, and from the sudden jerks which he
made to regain his equilibrium, displayed all the ridiculous motions
of a galvanised frog. Although he had previously suffered a good deal
from both fatigue and illness, yet the circumstance altogether caused
the effect desired by his lordship, for the whole regiment were highly
diverted by the scene until we arrived at Bembibre, and it caused many
a hearty laugh during the remainder of the retreat.

We arrived within a league of Bembibre at daybreak on the morning
of January 1st, 1809, and were there halted at a difficult pass in
the mountains to cut the road. It appeared that some of the leading
divisions had already commenced this work; spades, pickaxes, and
such tools were found on the spot. We had not continued long at this
employment when we were ordered to desist, since Bembibre was turned
by the Foncevadon road, which joined that on which we were, not far
from Calcabellos, and so the work was considered useless. This order
was received with the greatest joy; indeed, there was no duty which we
would not more willingly perform than that of handling the pickaxe,
and that too during a severe frost and after a long night march. We
therefore joyfully moved on to Bembibre.

On approaching this village, we discovered Sir David Baird’s division,
who had just left, and were proceeding on the road to Villa Franca.
We now fully anticipated some repose, to which we thought ourselves
entitled by our laborious occupation of destroying stores at Astorga
the whole time we were there, and the long and severe night march which
we had just terminated; but we were sadly disappointed. The leading
columns, well aware of the value and necessity of vigilance, although
it was shamefully neglected by themselves, left sufficient matter
behind to prevent the reserve from sleeping too much; and when we
entered the town of Bembibre and expected to stretch our wearied limbs,
we were ordered to pile arms and clear all the houses of the stragglers
left behind.


The scenes here presented can only be faintly imagined from the most
faithful description which even the ablest writer could pen; but little
therefore can be expected from any attempt of mine to paint the scandal
here presented by the British troops or the degrading scenes exhibited
through their debauchery. Bembibre exhibited all the appearance of a
place lately stormed and pillaged. Every door and window was broken,
every lock and fastening forced. Rivers of wine ran through the houses
and into the streets, where lay fantastic groups of soldiers (many of
them with their firelocks broken), women, children, runaway Spaniards
and muleteers, all apparently inanimate, except when here and there a
leg or arm was seen to move, while the wine oozing from their lips and
nostrils seemed the effect of gunshot wounds. Every floor contained
the worshippers of Bacchus in all their different stages of devotion;
some lay senseless, others staggered; there were those who prepared the
libation by boring holes with their bayonets into the large wine vats,
regardless of the quantity which flowed through the cellars and was
consequently destroyed. The music was perfectly in character: savage
roars announcing present hilarity were mingled with groans issuing from
fevered lips disgorging the wine of yesterday; obscenity was public
sport. But these scenes are too disgusting to be dwelt upon. We were
employed the greatest part of the day (January 1st, 1809,) in turning
or dragging the drunken stragglers out of the houses into the streets
and sending as many forward as could be moved. Our occupation next
morning was the same; yet little could be effected with men incapable
of standing, much less of marching forward. At length the cavalry
reporting the near approach of the enemy, and Sir John Moore dreading
lest Napoleon’s columns should intersect our line of march by pushing
along the Foncevadon road, which joined our road not many miles in
front of us, the reserve were ordered forward, preceded by the cavalry,
and the stragglers were left to their fate. Here I must say that our
division, imbibing a good deal of the bad example and of the wine left
behind by the preceding columns, did not march out of Bembibre so
strong as when they entered it.


We had proceeded but a short distance when the enemy’s horsemen nearly
approached the place; and then it was that the apparently lifeless
stragglers, whom no exertion of ours was sufficient to rouse from
their torpor, startled at the immediate approach of danger, found
the partial use of their limbs. The road instantly became thronged by
them; they reeled, staggered, and screaming threw down their arms.
Frantic women held forth their babies, suing for mercy by the cries
of defenceless innocence; but all to no purpose. The dragoons of
the polite and civilised nation advanced, and cut right and left,
regardless of intoxication, age or sex. Drunkards, women and children
were indiscriminately hewn down--a dastardly revenge for their defeat
at Benevente; but they dearly paid for their wanton cruelty when
encountered next day at Calcabellos. The foe, rendered presumptuous
by their easy victory gained over the defenceless stragglers, rode so
close to our columns that that distinguished officer, Colonel Ross with
his gallant 20th Regiment was halted and placed in an ambush, formed by
the winding of the road round the slope of a hill which concealed them
until nearly approached. The remainder of the reserve marched on and
halted at a considerable distance. But the French were over cautious,
and after a lapse of more than an hour, during which time many wounded
stragglers joined the main body of the division, Colonel Ross was
recalled, much disappointed by the enemy’s declining to advance. He
reluctantly joined the main body of the reserve, who immediately moved
forward. Thus every means was used compatible with prudence to cover
and protect the unworthy stragglers from Bembibre; and great risk was
run, for we did not feel ourselves secure until we passed the junction
of the roads mentioned, not knowing what force might be pushing forward
along the Foncevadon line.

Continuing our march at a rather accelerated pace until we passed the
junction, we arrived at Calcabellos about an hour before dark.



The Commander of the forces, with the main body of the cavalry, had
marched in the morning from Bembibre, and immediately on his arrival
at Villa Franca used every endeavour to remedy and quell the disorders
committed there. The disgraceful conduct which took place at Astorga
and Bembibre was here perpetrated by the preceding divisions. All
the doors and windows were broken open, the stores robbed, and the
commissaries so intimidated as to be prevented from making any careful
distribution of the provisions. One of the stragglers left behind had
the hardihood, although knowing that the Commander of the forces was
present, to break open and plunder a magazine in broad daylight; but
being taken in the act, he was ordered to be executed, and was shot in
the market-place.


After using every exertion to restore order and discipline, the
general returned to Calcabellos, and met us just as we halted. We
were immediately formed in contiguous close columns in a field by the
road, when the Commander of the forces rode up and addressed us in the
most forcible and pathetic manner. After dwelling on the outrageous
disorders and want of discipline in the army, he concluded by saying:
“And if the enemy are in possession of Bembibre, which I believe,
they have got a rare prize. They have taken or cut to pieces many
hundred drunken British cowards--for none but unprincipled cowards
would get drunk in presence, nay, in the very sight of the enemies of
their country; and sooner than survive the disgrace of such infamous
misconduct, I hope that the first cannon-ball fired by the enemy may
take me in the head.” Then turning to us, he added: “And you, 28th,
are not what you used to be. You are not the regiment who to a man
fought by my side in Egypt. If you were, no earthly temptation could
even for an instant seduce one of you away from your colours.” He then
rode off and returned to Villa Franca. This feeling and pungent address
made a deep impression on every individual present, as well officers
as men; but the feeling of remorse was but of short duration--future
temptations brought on future disorders.

Immediately on the departure of the General-in-chief General Paget
placed the reserve in position, giving us to understand that our not
being lodged in the village arose not from any necessity strictly
military, but that it was entirely owing to our own misconduct. After
the disgraceful scenes presented at Bembibre, it was not considered
safe to lodge the men in houses, more particularly as we could not tell
at what hour, day or night the enemy’s advancing columns might be upon
us. A detachment of from three hundred to four hundred cavalry (the
only ones left behind), together with about the same number of the 95th
Regiment, were pushed forward about two miles upon the road leading to
Bembibre, to watch any enemy coming thence or from Foncevadon. Late on
this evening General Paget issued an order strongly censuring our past
conduct, and stating that, although we committed fewer excesses and
were guilty of fewer disorders than any other division of the army,
and consequently had fewer stragglers, yet we were unworthy the proud
situation which we held, and had forfeited the high honour conferred
upon us when we were selected to lead into action and to cover the
army when required. He added that every instance of drunkenness in the
troops under present circumstances was compromising the honour of their
country; but that drunkenness in the reserve was wilfully betraying
the lives of their comrades in arms and endangering the safety of the
whole army. The reserve must be exemplary in their good conduct; every
soldier of which it is composed must consider himself at all times a
sentinel at the post of danger, consequently at the post of honour.
Orders were issued that no man was on any pretence whatever to enter
the town without being accompanied by a non-commissioned officer, who
was held strictly responsible for the due return of those committed to
his charge. Parties were ordered frequently to patrol the town during
the night, and make prisoners of any stragglers they should meet.

Notwithstanding these orders, the moving appeal of General Paget, and
the severe reproof so deservedly called forth from the Commander of the
forces against the whole army, scarcely had darkness prevailed when
stragglers from our position, with many who had escaped from Bembibre,
continued their disorders and depredations, principally against the
wine vats. Many were taken during the night breaking open doors and
plundering cellars; and two men were seized in the act of committing a
more serious crime, that of robbing the person of an inhabitant.


Early on the morning of the 3rd the reserve marched up towards the
crown of a low hill, in front of Calcabellos on the Bembibre side.
Here we halted, leaving so much of it above us as served to screen us
from the view of an approaching foe. No enemy having as yet advanced,
the general of division ordered a hollow square to be formed, facing
inwards. A drumhead court-martial sat in rear of every regiment, and
within the square were placed the triangles. The culprits seized in
the town, as soon as tried and sentenced, were tied up, and a general
punishment took place along the four faces of the square; and this
continued for several hours. During this time our vedettes came in
frequently to report to the general that the enemy were advancing. His
only reply was, “Very well.” The punishment went on. The two culprits
whom I have mentioned as having been seized in the act of committing a
robbery stood with ropes round their necks. Being conducted to an angle
of the square, the ropes were fastened to the branches of a tree which
stood there, and at the same time the delinquents were lifted up and
held on the shoulders of persons attached to the provost-marshal. In
this situation they remained awaiting the awful signal for execution,
which would instantly be carried into effect by a mere movement from
the tree of the men upon whose shoulders they were supported. At this
time (between twelve and one o’clock, as well as I can remember) a
cavalry officer of high regimental rank galloped into the square and
reported to General Paget that the piquets were engaged and retiring.
“I am sorry for it, sir,” said the general; “but this information is of
a nature which would induce me to expect a report rather by a private
dragoon than from you. You had better go back to your fighting piquets,
sir, and animate your men to a full discharge of their duty.” General
Paget was then silent for a few moments, and apparently suffering
under great excitement. He at length addressed the square by saying:
“My God! is it not lamentable to think that, instead of preparing the
troops confided to my command to receive the enemies of their country,
I am preparing to hang two robbers? But though _that_ angle of the
square should be attacked I shall execute these villains in _this_
angle.” The general again became silent for a moment, and our piquets
were heard retiring up the opposite side of the hill and along the road
which flanked it on our left. After a moment’s pause he addressed the
men a second time in these words: “If I spare the lives of these two
men, will you promise to reform?” Not the slightest sound, not even
breathing, was heard within the square. The question was repeated: “If
I spare the lives of these men, will you give me your word of honour
as soldiers that you will reform?” The same awful silence continued
until some of the officers whispered to the men to say “Yes,” when that
word loudly and rapidly flew through the square. The culprits were then
hastily taken away from the fatal tree, by a suspension from which they
but a moment before expected to have terminated their existence. The
triangles were now ordered to be taken down and carried away. Indeed,
the whole affair had all the appearance of stage management, for even
as the men gave the cheers customary when condemned criminals are
reprieved, our piquets appeared on the summit of the hill above us,
intermixed with the enemy’s advanced guard. The square was immediately
reduced, formed into columns at quarter distance and retired, preceded
by the 52nd Regiment, who started forward at double quick time, and,
crossing the River Guia, lined its opposite bank. The division coming
up passed over the bridge, with the exception of the 28th Light
Company, who were left behind with orders to remain there until the
whole of the reserve should have crossed, and then to follow.

General Paget now moved forward and took up a strong position on
the side of a sloping hill immediately in front of Calcabellos. His
extreme right somewhat outflanked the town, his left rested on the
road leading to Villa Franca. The whole line was protected by a chain
of hedges and stone walls which ran close in front. Our battery of six
guns was pushed some way down the road leading to the bridge, to take
advantage of a small bay by which they were protected and concealed
from the enemy. The light company of the 28th, as soon as they retired
from the bridge, were to be posted immediately under the guns, which
were to fire over our heads, the declivity of the road allowing that
arrangement. The left wing of the 28th Regiment were pushed forward
immediately in rear of the guns and for their protection. The right
wing of the 28th Regiment now formed the extreme left of the direct
line. Further in advance, and extended to the left along the bank of
the stream, their right close to the bridge, the 52nd were placed.

[Sidenote: FIGHT AT A BRIDGE.]

The Guia, an insignificant stream, but at this season rising in its
bed, runs along the base of the sloping hill upon which Calcabellos
is situated, at the distance of from four to five hundred yards, and
passing under the narrow stone bridge, winds round the vineyards in
which the 52nd Regiment were posted. At this bridge the light company,
as has been said, were posted until everything belonging to the reserve
should pass over; and, before this was entirely accomplished, our
cavalry (at first preceded by the 95th, whom they passed through) came
galloping down to the bridge, followed closely by the enemy’s dragoons.
The enemy’s advance being seen from the high ground in our rear, the
battalion bugles sounded our recall; but it was impossible to obey,
for at that moment our cavalry and the rifles completely choked up the

The situation of the light company was now very embarrassing--in danger
of being trampled by our own cavalry, who rode over everything which
came in their way, and crowded by the 95th and liable to be shot by
them, for in their confusion they were firing in every direction. Some
of them were a little the worse for liquor--a staggering complaint at
that time very prevalent in our army; and we were so mixed up with them
and our own cavalry that we could offer no formation to receive the
enemy, who threatened to cut us down. At length, the crowd dissipating,
we were plainly seen by the French, who, probably taking us for the
head of an infantry column, retired. We sent them a few shots.

As soon as the 95th, who had lost between thirty and forty prisoners
on the occasion, had crossed over and lined the hedges on the opposite
side, and our cavalry, taking retrograde precedence more through
horse-play than military etiquette, had cleared the bridge, the
light company followed. It was mortifying to reflect that after such
an uninterrupted series of brilliant achievements, their farewell
encounter with their opponents should thus terminate, even although
they may have been somewhat outnumbered; but neither of their two
gallant leaders were present.

The light company now occupied their destined post under the guns,
and accounted for not having obeyed the battalion bugles, which had
continued to sound the recall during the whole time of our absence. The
cavalry rode on without a halt to join the main body, then on march for


Shortly after we had gained our position, either supposing that the
bridge was abandoned by the retirement of the light company, or because
their courage was wound up to proper fighting pitch, the French cavalry
advanced at a quick trot down the hill. Our guns instantly wheeled out
upon the road, and played upon their column until they became screened
from their fire by the dip in the road as they approached the bridge.
Here they were warmly received by the 52nd Regiment, now freed from
our own dragoons, and the 95th; and upon this they made a most furious
charge at full speed over the bridge and up the road towards our
position. During this onset they were severely galled by the 95th, who
by this time had lined the hedges on either side of the road within
a few yards of their flanks, and by the light company immediately in
their front, whom it was evidently their intention to break through,
as they rode close to our bayonets. But their ranks being much thinned
by the destructive flanking fire of the rifles and of the standing
ranks of the light company, their charge was vain, and, their gallant
leader having fallen close under our bayonets, they wheeled about and
underwent the same ordeal in retiring, so that but few survived to tell
the tragic tale. The road was absolutely choked with their dead. One
alone among the slain was sincerely regretted, their gallant leader,
General Colbert; his martial appearance, noble figure, manly gesture,
and above all his daring bravery called forth the admiration of all.
I say that one only was regretted, for the wanton cruelties committed
against the women and children on the previous day were too recent to
be either forgotten or forgiven.

This attack of the French cavalry was most ill advised, ill judged,
and seemingly without any final object in view. It is true that their
bravery was too obvious to be doubted; but they rushed on reckless of
all opposition, whether apparent or probable, and had they succeeded
in cutting through the light company, which they would have found some
difficulty in doing, and although they would then have escaped much
of the cross-fire of the 95th, yet they would have been in a worse
position than before. When they had passed beyond the light company a
hundred yards they would have encountered the left wing of the 28th
Regiment, supported, if necessary, by the right wing directly on their
flank, although a little in the rear; and had their number, which was
but from four to five hundred men, been quadrupled, every man must
have been shot, bayoneted or taken prisoner. In fact, there is no
calculating what amount of cavalry would be sufficient to force an
infantry regiment formed in column on a road flanked with a high hedge
on either side. I speak of British infantry, among whom no swerving
takes place, each individual being well aware that his greatest safety
depends on his manfully facing and strenuously opposing the foe.

At this time the Commander of the forces arrived, having left Villa
Franca as soon as he heard the report of the first gun fired. He
immediately withdrew the 52nd Regiment, who, as I have stated, were
a good way in front of our left, and placed them on the high ground
towards the centre of our position. Sir John Moore did not at all
differ from General Paget as to the strength of the position, but their
intentions differed. Paget took up the best possible position which the
nature of the ground offered to maintain a battle, however prolonged;
Sir John Moore perceived that both flanks of the 52nd were liable to
be turned, especially after the light company had retired from the
bridge, which would more than probably bring on a general action of the
whole reserve. This he studiously avoided, and for the best possible
reasons. He was ignorant as to the amount of force with which the enemy
were advancing against our position, but from all accounts he was
led to believe that it was very great; and at that time our nearest
division, that of Sir David Baird, was at Nogales, distant nearly forty

Not long after the failure of the charge headed by General Colbert,
some French dragoons together with their light troops crossed the Guia
under the high ground occupied by our right and centre. They were
opposed by the 95th, who moved from the hedges which flanked the road
to meet them, and a severe skirmish ensued. The enemy’s cavalry, who on
this occasion mixed with their skirmishers, were fast gaining ground
on the right of the rifles; the bugles from the position sounded the
retreat, but were very imperfectly obeyed. Some of the 52nd Regiment,
who could no longer restrain their feelings at seeing the critical
situation in which their old friends were placed, darted forward from
their position above to their assistance; and the 28th Light Company,
making a partial extension along the hedge which flanked the road upon
which they were stationed, sent many an effectual shot in their aid.


The fight now became confused, and the enemy’s numbers increased every
instant. Cavalry, tirailleurs, voltigeurs, 95th, and those of the
52nd Regiment who flew to the aid of their friends, now formed one
indiscriminate mass; and the light company on the road could no longer
fire except at the dragoons’ heads, some few of whom were lowered. It
stung us to the heart to see our gallant comrades so maltreated with
aid so near; for had we of the light company crossed the hedge under
which we were drawn up, and advanced a short way in regular order so
as to form a _point d’appui_, all would have been put to rights. But
we durst not move an inch, being posted close to our guns for their
protection, and every moment expecting to encounter another charge of

At this time General Merle’s division appeared on the hills in front
of our position, and moved forward. The reserve now showed themselves,
probably with a view of inducing the enemy to delay their attack until
the morning. A heavy column of the enemy were pushed forward towards
the left of our position, in front of where the 52nd Regiment had been
posted. Their intention was evidently to cross the stream; but their
column soon becoming unveiled, our guns again wheeled out on to the
road, and opened such a destructive fire that, although close to the
Guia, they hastily retired, after having sustained considerable loss.
Had the 52nd remained as first posted, the carnage in the column must
have been immense; but it is probable that the enemy were aware of that
regiment having shifted ground, for they sent no skirmishers in front
of their column. The skirmish, hitherto sharply maintained by the 95th
and 52nd against their opponents, now slackened and shortly ceased.
The French tirailleurs and cavalry, perceiving the failure of their
infantry attack on our left, and that they were fast retiring, retired
also down to the banks of the Guia.

It being now quite dark, our guns were withdrawn up to the main body
of the reserve, and were followed by the light company. The 95th also
fell back on to the main body; and, leaving strong piquets along the
line, the whole force moved on towards Villa Franca. Everything was now
quiet, with the exception of a few shots fired from the bank of the
stream in answer to some few of the 95th, who still remained behind,
and, although without any cause, persisted in continuing to fire,
exposing themselves by the flashes. Indeed, it was more difficult to
withdraw our men from the fight than to loose the hold of a high-bred

I have told already how during the hottest part of the skirmish the
bugles from the position sounded the retreat, which was not at all,
or at most but imperfectly obeyed. At this period of the retreat the
reserve were always closely pursued and harassed by the enemy without
their having an opportunity of revenge; and this, from their being
unaccustomed to campaigning, wrought them up to a pitch of excitement
amounting to frenzy. They suffered privations, and were at the same
time exposed to temptations which to British soldiers not habituated
to the presence of an enemy were irresistible; wine lay in their way
and in abundance, forsaken too by its owners. Thus it was that, when
on this day the French infantry first came in close contact with ours,
when bayonets were crossed and blood was profusely drawn, our men were
so wild and hot for the fray that it was hard to drag them from the


That Britons will fight to the last--that is, while they can stand--is
well known; and it was this determination that caused Napoleon at the
battle of Waterloo to say that the English were beaten according to
every rule of war, but did not know it. Long may they remain in this
species of ignorance, and, whether feasted flushed or fasting, continue
to maintain their true national character, a specimen of which was
given at Calcabellos! Some there were who fought with stomachs full,
many more with stomachs empty, and some there were who, if true men,
gave proof of their veracity in wine.

Thus terminated the first encounter which took place between the
reserve and the foremost columns of the French infantry. It was
conjectured that upwards of five hundred men must have fallen, killed
and wounded, in both armies. The loss sustained by General Merle’s
division could not be ascertained. Calculating, however, from the depth
of the column, the fitness of the range for the practice of our guns,
and the celerity with which they retired, it must have been severe; but
the greatest loss was in their cavalry--a just retribution for their
wanton cruelty at Bembibre.

Gratified by this preface to our future work, our morals improved by
the justly merited punishment which we received that morning, refreshed
by the clean sheets of driven snow upon which we had reposed, and
our frames more braced than benumbed by the cold to which our own
irregularities had doomed us, we pressed forward like soldiers upon
whom the light of conviction had flashed and to whom physical powers
were not wanting, and so marched that night to Herrerias, a distance
of eighteen miles, and, if I mistake not, without leaving a single
straggler of our division behind. The reserve again became disciplined
soldiers, determined to prove themselves such. They gave their word of
honour as soldiers to their general that they would reform, and this
too while the enemy were pressing forward to bear testimony to this
pledge, by the fulfilment of which they were to become the principal


It was at this time currently reported that the cause of our sudden
night march from Cambarros to Bembibre was a false alarm given to
our cavalry, stating that Napoleon had entered Astorga that evening
(December 31st) and was pushing forward his columns; this of course
rendered it necessary for the reserve immediately to retire, Cambarros
being scarcely two leagues from Astorga. The groundlessness of this
alarm became apparent through more certain information and succeeding
events; it was fully ascertained that Napoleon did not enter Astorga
until the afternoon of next day (January 1st). False alarms must be
expected in all campaigns, but more particularly in such a campaign
as ours. In this instance the alarm proved very injurious to us. The
night march of the reserve pushed on unnecessarily, harassed them a
good deal, which, added to the manner in which they were employed next
day in rousing the stragglers, caused them to leave many men behind in
Bembibre; and had Sir David Baird’s division not been started up long
before daybreak to make way for the reserve, but allowed to take some
few hours more repose to give the men time to sleep away the fumes
of the wine swallowed during the previous evening, some hundreds of
stragglers would have been saved to the army.



On leaving Calcabellos three or four miles behind, we approached Villa
Franca. The whole town seemed on fire. This conflagration was caused
by the destruction of stores and provisions; and so tenacious were
the commissariat in preserving everything for the flames that they
had guards posted around even the biscuits and salt meat to prevent
the men as they passed from taking anything away. A commissary or
one of his satellites stood close to each sacrifice, who exhorted
the officers as they passed to use every exertion in preventing any
diminution of the sumptuous repast prepared for the hungry flames and
grudged to the hungry soldiers. But notwithstanding these precautions
and strict orders and the chastisement received in the morning, many of
the men had the hardihood as they passed to stick their bayonets, and
sergeants their pikes, into the salt pork which was actually being set
fire to. Several junks were thus taken away, and many of the officers
who cut and slashed at the men to prevent such sacrilege against the
commissariat _auto da fe_, were very thankful that night at Herrerias
to get a small portion of the salt meat thus carried off.

[Sidenote: ROUND A POOL OF RUM.]

At this place we arrived about a couple of hours before daybreak
on the morning of the 4th. Being a good deal fatigued, we halted to
take some rest; but as soon as the genial light of morning diffused
its renovating influence over wearied mortals, we pressed forward for
Nogales, distant from eighteen to twenty miles. During this day’s march
the misery and suffering attendant on wanton disorders and reckless
debauchery among the men were awfully manifested; some were lying
dead along the road, and many apparently fast approaching a similar
fate. Cavalry horses too were continually being shot. One circumstance
I shall mention which roused every feeling both of humanity and
indignation. About seven or eight miles from Herrerias, seeing a group
of soldiers lying in the snow, I immediately went forward to rouse
them up and send them on to join their regiments. The group lay close
to the roadside. On my coming up, a sad spectacle presented itself.
Through exhaustion, depravity, or a mixture of both, three men, a
woman and a child all lay dead, forming a kind of circle, their heads
inwards. In the centre were still the remains of a pool of rum, made
by the breaking of a cask of that spirit. The unfortunate people must
have sucked more of the liquor than their constitutions could support.
Intoxication was followed by sleep, from which they awoke no more; they
were frozen to death. This was one of the closing scenes, brought on by
the disgraceful drunkenness and debaucheries committed at Villa Franca
during the previous two or three days. Being marked with peculiar
circumstances, the scene is still fresh before me.

Whilst I was contemplating the miseries and depravities of human
nature, and paying no heed to the frequent discharge of pistols by
our dragoons, I was aroused by hearing my name, and recognised an
old acquaintance, Captain Bennet, of the 95th. He rode slowly and
was much bent over his saddle-bow, suffering severely from a wound
received the previous evening at Calcabellos. He bore up stoutly,
notwithstanding his sufferings, which were manifold. His mind was
afflicted with thoughts of his family; he dreaded falling into the
hands of the advancing foe, and the bodily pain which he was suffering
may be imagined, as he had ridden upwards of five-and-twenty miles with
a musket-ball in his groin, during a freezing night through a country
covered with snow. Poor Bennet! the only assistance which I could then
afford was to give him a silk pocket-handkerchief, which I placed
between his wounded side and the saddle; yet little as this assistance
was, it added to his ease, which he more gratefully acknowledged than
the trifling incident merited.

The slaughter of the horses continued throughout the day. They were
led to the last by the dragoons, who then, whilst unable to restrain
their manly tears, became the unwilling executioners of these noble
animals, which had so lately and so powerfully contributed to their
heroic deeds, and with a martial spirit equal to that of the gallant
riders whom they bore irresistibly against the foe. Upon my enquiring
of the men how it was that horses in apparently tolerable condition
were incapable of at least proceeding quietly along, the invariable
answer which I received was, that from the roughness of the road,
hardened by continued frost, they cast their shoes, and that they had
not a nail to fasten on those picked up, nor a shoe to replace those
lost; and they added that there was not a spare nail or shoe in any
of the forge carts, which retired with the cavalry. This appeared the
more strange as the cavalry were the previous day at Herrerias--the
“Forges,” so-called from the number of blacksmiths’ work-shops there
found; in fact, the greater part of the town consisted of forges. In
one of these some of us were quartered during the few hours we halted
on the preceding night, and there we partook of our sumptuous repast,
consisting of a little salt pork and biscuit served upon a massive
plate, a blacksmith’s anvil, and in place of a superfluous nut-cracker
there was a sledge-hammer to smash the flinty biscuit.


This day’s march was much retarded through our endeavours to rouse
the stragglers forward, who were very numerous, all left behind by
the leading divisions. Added to this, we were compelled to await the
95th Regiment, whom we had left when we retired from our position at
Calcabellos late on the previous evening. Piquets of the 95th were left
to occupy all the approaches leading to the position, and the regiment
halted some way in their rear for support. The piquets were repeatedly
attacked during the early part of the night by strong patrols; although
they lost some men, killed and wounded, they firmly maintained their
posts, always beating back the enemy, who invariably retired in total
ignorance as to whether the reserve had evacuated or still maintained
their position. Towards the end of the night the piquets, according
to orders previously received, fell back on their regiment, who now
followed the track of the division. As far as Herrerias all was safe
for them, as well from the darkness of the night as the start they had
of a few hours before the enemy discovered their retirement.

After Herrerias precautions became necessary. The 95th were a rifle
regiment. Rifles and swords were not so efficient as muskets and
bayonets to resist an attack of cavalry; and our last cavalry guard had
passed to the rear early on the preceding evening. We were therefore
obliged to make occasional halts to allow the rifles nearer approach to
efficient support.

During these halts the men lay down in martial wedlock, each folding to
his breast his better half--his musket--and thus enjoyed more repose
than they would have done in triple the time if regularly marched
into quarters; for when soldiers come into a town they become curious
travellers, and search very minutely for desirable objects--not that I
rank them as antiquarian virtuosi, since soldiers care rather for the
new and fresh than that rendered venerable by old age, and for quantity
more than quality. A bucketful of common black-strap even would by them
be preferred to a lesser portion, though it should be of the true old
Falernian; and a new polished dollar more highly estimated than a dusky
old medal or coin, although its antiquity should bear date even as far
back as the days of the first Darius.

In the evening, as dusk approached, and within two or three miles of
Nogales, we fell in with some Spanish clothing, shoes and arms. The
carts which contained these articles were totally abandoned; there were
neither mules, muleteers, nor guards. Our men immediately commenced an
inspection of necessaries; and the officers (I know not why) repeated
the same opposition as at Villa Franca. But in this instance the
soldiers, many of whom were severely suffering from want of shoes, were
not so easily deceived, and carried away many pairs of these absolutely
necessary articles, and also several pairs of trousers and other

At length we arrived at Nogales, long after dark. By this forced march
we made amends for the day we halted at Calcabellos to cover Villa
Franca during the destruction of such stores as could not be removed,
as well as to push forward the numerous stragglers. It also enabled us
to regain our proper echelon distance from the leading columns. In this
place we were very reluctantly received by the inhabitants; so much so
that in most instances we were compelled to break open the doors to get
under shelter, for the owners had either fled or concealed themselves
to the last moment. This latter was the case at the house upon which I,
with the light company of the 28th, was billeted.


To force a Spanish door is not easy. They have large nails driven
through the panels at small intervals; these nails, or rivets, have
heads on the outer side of the doors nearly the size of a halfcrown
piece. And the doors are very massive--made of hard wood, generally
oak; so that striking against them with the butt ends of the muskets
was totally useless. On this occasion, after knocking for some time to
no purpose, we took a large stone, and, putting it into a sergeant’s
sash, four men stood close to the door supporting the sash, which
formed a kind of sling; others pulled away the stone as far as the
length of the sash permitted, and then, adding all their force to its
return, sent it with a tremendous bump bang against the door. After
we (for I acted engineer on the occasion) had repeated this mode of
rapping five or six times, the door became uneasy on its hinges, and
the master of the house put his head out of a window, as if just
awakened, and began to remonstrate loudly against the outrage; upon
which some of the men, in their desperation, threatened to shoot him at
the window, and I believe that, had his remonstrances continued much
longer, I should have found it difficult to prevent their carrying the
threat into execution. However, it could not have been held malice
prepense, since the muskets were always loaded; and as to manslaughter
or justifiable homicide, they were practising it every hour. The door
being at length wheeled back on its tottering hinges, we hurried into
the house; and so uncouth were we under such circumstances--fatigued,
fasting and freezing--that before we enquired after the master’s
health, the welfare of his wife and family, or whether he had any such,
he was closely interrogated as to the state of his larder and cellar.
It is lucky that we were even so far courteous, as it was the last
house we entered during the retreat. By “we” I mean the reserve, always
considering ourselves distinct from the _clodhoppers_--a term given by
our men to the leading divisions, who were always from one to three
days’ march ahead, as we advanced to the rear.

Soon after we entered our billets we all became on the best terms with
the landlord, who treated us very liberally; but notwithstanding our
not getting under cover until a late hour, being excessively fatigued
and feeling certain that we should be engaged with the enemy as soon as
the morning dawned, yet the men, except for their uniforms, resembled
more a party of sportsmen after a long day’s pleasant hunt than
soldiers after a long and harassing march.

[Sidenote: TALK OF THE MEN.]

The officers being obliged to lie down in the same apartment with
the men, we were condemned to listen to their rough jokes and loud
repartees, which under the circumstances were excessively unseasonable
and annoying.

“Gentleman” Roach, a title given to him from his continually boasting
of a long line of ancestors, was on this night more than usually
facetious. He certainly had received an education far above his present
station; but he did not rank among the best soldiers of the light
company, not being a stout marcher, rather inclined to be a lawyer,
and fighting his battles more poignantly with his tongue than with his
bayonet. His incessant chatter annoyed the whole company, who, being
anxious to enjoy a little repose, upbraided him for his loquacity.

Being no longer able to bear with his noise and vanity, which always
bent towards pride of ancestry, one of the men interrupted him by
crying out: “Bad luck to you and all your ancisthors put together! I
wish you’d hould your jaw, and let us lie quiet a little bit before the
day comes, for we can hardly hould up our heads with the sleep.”

The “gentleman,” always put on his mettle at the mention of his
ancestors, with indignant voice exclaimed: “Wretch! you personify all
the disproportions of a vulgar cabbage-plant, the dense foliage of
whose plebeian head is too ponderous for its ignoble crouching stem to

“Faith, then,” replied the plebeian, “I wish we had a good hid o’
cabbage to ate now, and we’d give you the shrinking part,--that’s like
yourself, good-for-nothing and not able to stand when wanted; and, damn
your sowl, what are you like, always talking about your rotten ould
ancisthors? Sure, if you were any good yourself, you wouldn’t be always
calling thim to take your part. Be Jabers! you’re like a praty, for all
your worth in the world is what’s down in the ground.”

“Contemptible creature!” replied the “gentleman,” “if even the least
of my noble line of ancestors were to rise from the grave, he would
display such mighty feats of arms as would astound you and all the
vulgar herd of which you appear to be the appropriate leader.”

The conclusion of this contemptuous speech, being accompanied with a
revolving glance, and his right arm put into semicircular motion,
including all the men as it passed through its orbit, brought him many

One of his new antagonists bellowed out with a loud laugh: “Bury him,
bury him! Since all the bravery that belongs to him is with his ould
dads in the ground, maybe, if we buried him a little while to make an
ould ancisthor of him too and then dug him up again, he might be a good
soldier himself.”

“Arrah! sure it’s no use,” cried out another, “to be loosing your talk
with a dancing-masther like him. Wasn’t he squeezed up behind a tree,
like the back of an ould Cramona fiddle, while I was bothering three
Johnny Craps, when they were running down screaming like pelebeens to
charge the bridge? And, after all that, I’ll engage with his rotten
ould ancisthors that when we goes home he’ll have a bether pinshun than
me, or be made a sergeant by some fine curnil that always stays at home
and knows nothing at all about a good soldier.”

At this period of the noisy orgies, the night being far advanced, with
no chance of repose owing to the loud laughter, a man of the company,
who was always looked upon as a kind of mentor, at length interposed,
and by some admirable and personal arguments put an end to the noisy


How little the minds of soldiers on service are occupied with thoughts
of the enemy from the moment they are separated from them may plainly
be seen by the merriment which they enjoyed during the greater part
of this night; and how reckless they are of the manner in which they
will be employed next day, and how completely their hardships and
fatigues are forgotten as soon as terminated, was also made clear on
that same night: for although we had been for the previous four days
and nights either marching or fighting or outlying piquets in the
snow, yet some of the light company returned back nearly three miles
to where the carts containing the Spanish clothing were abandoned, in
the hope of procuring more shoes, thus voluntarily adding a night march
of six miles to the most fatiguing march which took place during the
whole campaign. The shoes thus procured, as well as those carried away
previous to our entering the town, were regularly distributed among
the company, which enabled the men to march stoutly next day. They who
carried off some three, four or five pairs of shoes supplied those who
were so unfortunate as not to have been enabled to carry away any. But
the shoes were not given as presents; they were sold at high prices
on promise of payment at Corunna or on arriving in England. Some of
those promissory notes became post-obits next evening along the road
to Constantino, and many more shared the same fate before and at the
battle of Corunna.

Having been somewhat refreshed by our short repose at Nogales,
we commenced our march on the morning of the 5th about daybreak;
but scarcely was darkness succeeded by light when the fight again
commenced, and continued until darkness again returned. For as soon as
the enemy discovered on the morning of the 4th that the reserve had
retired during the previous night from the position which they occupied
at Calcabellos, they had pushed forward, and by a forced march arrived
at Nogales before daybreak on the 5th. Our skirmish with their cavalry,
who all carried long carbines, was rather sharp during the morning; but
at a few miles’ distance from Nogales, as we approached a beautiful
bridge, the skirmish became much more lively. This bridge, the name of
which I do not recollect, presented a most romantic appearance. It was
situated close to the foot of a hill. The stream immediately after
passing through the bridge suddenly winding round the base of the high
ground on the opposite bank, was entirely screened from our view as we
approached the bridge, thus giving its numerous arches the appearance
of so many entrances to subterranean caverns beneath the mountains,
into which the current rushed. On the opposite bank and not far from
the bridge, the road assumed a zigzag course; and to have allowed the
enemy, who were fast increasing in numbers, to come too near would have
subjected our men to a destructive fire while ascending this meandering
road. To avoid this General Paget marched us quickly across, and having
surmounted the zigzag road, halted us just beyond range of musket-shot
from the opposite bank; he then ordered the guns to be unlimbered and
the horses removed to the rear; and the division then moved on, leaving
the guns apparently abandoned. At this bridge we found a party of
engineers endeavouring to destroy it, but as the stream was fordable
on either side, the party were sent to the rear to practise their art


We remained at our post beyond the bridge for about an hour, during
which, although the firing continued, it became more slack. The enemy
held back, evidently awaiting reinforcements; yet they were continually
pushing small parties across the fords. General Paget, who sat the
whole time on a slope where the light company were posted in sight
of the bridge, anxiously awaiting any attack which might be made to
capture the guns, and seeing the passage at the fords, addressed me,
saying, “You are a younger man than I am; run up that hill” (rather
on our flank, and round it the stream ran), “and see what force the
enemy have collected on the other side.” I instantly started off, and
returning as quickly as possible, reported that the enemy on this bank
were from two to three hundred men, infantry and cavalry, but that
they were collecting in greater force on the opposite side. The general
merely remarked, “It is no matter,” and ordered the guns to be horsed,
saying, “These fellows don’t seem inclined to add to their artillery.”
Had they indeed taken the guns, which I believe it was the intention of
the general to permit, they could never have been more warmly received,
and they would have paid most dearly for their momentarily held prize.
The light company were posted behind a low hedge immediately on the
flank of the guns; the grenadiers were drawn up about a hundred yards
in their rear; the remainder of the regiment (28th) were posted at
an appropriate distance in rear of their grenadiers, ready to push
forward, and our gallant general was present to animate and direct.

The guns being horsed were immediately sent forward to join the main
body of the reserve, who by this time had got a start of four or five
miles, to gain which advantage was the principal object of our halt.
But General Paget, perceiving the great number of the enemy coming upon
him, and his flank partly turned, judged it prudent to delay no longer,
the more especially as he had but one regiment with him in the rear. We
therefore lost no time in following the guns.

The general, observing our disappointment at the reluctance of the
enemy to come forward to attack us, took a pinch of snuff out of his
buff-leather waistcoat pocket, and said, “28th, if you don’t get
fighting enough, it is not my fault.”

Scarcely had we moved when a column of the enemy crossed the bridge in
perfect order. Their light troops, together with those who forded in
the morning, were soon close to our rear, when the skirmish resumed
its lively character, which was incessant during several miles’ march.
Hurrying our pace about noon and thus gaining a mile or two ahead of
our pursuers, we halted on the road (we of the light company only), at
a place where we could only be attacked in front, and that by a strong
force; we therefore threw out no flankers. The mountain on our left, as
we turned round to face the enemy, was stupendous, covered with snow,
and rose nearly perpendicularly from where we stood. On our right the
precipice was very deep, its steepness bearing proportion to the sudden
rise of the mountain above.

The enemy, seeing it impossible to force us in front until their heavy
columns should come up, sent their voltigeurs and some cavalry into the
valley low down on our right to turn that flank--an operation attended
with many difficulties. The country being deeply covered with snow,
the inequalities of the ground were undiscoverable to the eye; and it
afforded us much amusement to see men and horses tumbling head over
heels as they advanced through the valley.

It was during this short halt that an officer wearing a blue coat rode
up from our rear (we faced the enemy), and on his enquiring for General
Paget, some men of the company sent him forward to me for an answer.

Upon his coming up he addressed me by saying, “Pray, sir, where is
General Paget?”

As the general was not five yards distant, leaning against the wall of
the road, and heard the demand as plainly as I did, I considered it
would be indecorous in me to make any reply. The officer with the blue
coat repeated his question rather hastily, and for the reason already
mentioned I remained silent.

The general then stood up, and putting on his hat said, “I am General
Paget, sir; pray, what are your commands?”


By a partial closing of one of the general’s eyes I discovered a small
shadow under the inner corner of its lower lid, which, although it did
not prophesy a raging monsoon, yet clearly indicated severe weather not
far distant.

“Oh, beg pardon, sir,” said the blue-coat officer; “I am
paymaster-general, and----”

Here he was interrupted by the general, who, advancing one or two paces
towards him, said in a voice not to be mistaken, “Alight, sir!”

The gentleman complied, yet apparently as if he did not see the
absolute necessity of so doing. Then, repeating that he was a--or
_the_--paymaster-general, I forget which, continued by saying: “The
treasure of the army, sir, is close in the rear, and the bullocks being
jaded are unable to proceed; I therefore want fresh animals to draw it

“Pray, sir,” said the general, “do you take me for a bullock-driver or
a muleteer, or, knowing who I am, have you the presence of mind coolly
to tell me that through a total neglect or ignorance of your duty you
are about to lose the treasure of the army committed to your charge,
which, according to your account, must shortly fall into the hands of
that enemy?” (And he pointed to the French advanced guard, who were
closing upon us.) “Had you, sir, the slightest conception of your
duty, you would have known that you ought to be a day’s march ahead of
the whole army, instead of hanging back with your foundered bullocks
and carts upon the rearmost company of the rearguard, and making your
report too at the very moment when that company is absolutely engaged
with the advancing enemy. What, sir! to come to me and impede my march
with your carts, and ask me to look for bullocks when I should be
free from all encumbrances and my mind occupied by no other care than
that of disposing my troops to the best advantage in resisting the
approaching enemy! It is doubtful, sir, whether your conduct can be
attributed to ignorance and neglect alone.”

There were other expressions equally strong which are now in part
forgotten; yet the words, “ought to be hanged!” have been hanging on my
memory for many years.

While the sterling and the pound-sterling generals were thus giving
and getting, the enemy were creeping round our right flank. Soult’s
heavy columns were closely approaching in front, and their balls coming
amongst us obliged us to retire. I thought at the time that the general
prolonged his discourse to give the man of money an opportunity of
witnessing how the rearguard were generally occupied, and to show him
the different use of silver and lead during a campaign.


We now retired and soon came up to the treasure, contained in two
carts lugged by foundered bullocks, moving so slowly as to render
motion scarcely visible even in the wheels. The light company were now
ordered to the rear in double quick time, to a village called, I think,
Gallegos, about two miles distant, there to refresh and halt until
called for. This order, although we had been fighting since daybreak,
rather astonished and mortified us; but General Paget formed a pretty
correct idea as to how we were to be employed during the remainder of
the day. As the light company passed to the rear the regiment were
drawn up close to the carts, and preparation commenced for the fall
of the dollars. As they rolled down the precipice, their silvery notes
were accompanied by a noble bass, for two guns were thundering forth
their applause into Soult’s dark brown column as they gallantly pressed

After the money had been thus disposed of, and the enemy’s column for
a short time checked, the regiment and the guard of the treasure,
consisting of a subaltern’s party of the 4th or King’s Own, passed to
the rear. The light company by this time had had a halt of upwards of
an hour, during which time we had some little repose, and sparingly
partook of our frugal fare; but our moderation arose more from economy
than care of health, of which there was no necessity, for scarcely
had the regiment and guard of the 4th Regiment got clear through the
village when our old friends came up and liberally supplied us with
their pale blue digesting pills. We were instantly under arms; and the
fight proceeded, and was well maintained on either side during several
miles without the slightest intermission, until we came to a low hill
within little more than musket-shot of the village of Constantino.



On this hill the artillery attached to the reserve were embattled; the
95th Regiment were drawn up in line on either side, and one company
advanced in loose order to cover the front. The road itself was now
occupied by the 28th Light Company, close to the guns, being the only
bayonets present. From this position the road descended suddenly in
semicircular direction down to the bridge which separated us from
Constantino, a village built on the slope of another hill beyond the
stream. To arrive at this further hill the road from the bridge assumed
a winding, zigzag course. Against our position on this side of the
stream the enemy’s light troops continued to advance, and became warmly
engaged with the company of the 95th thrown forward. But on their heavy
column coming up and gaining a full view of our position, they came to
a halt, which continued for some time--a most fortunate circumstance,
for at this juncture the main body of the reserve were passing over the
bridge and wending their way up the zigzag road leading to the summit
of the hill on the opposite bank, on which, as soon as gained, they
were placed in position by Sir John Moore himself. Had the enemy’s
heavy column, who were close behind their skirmishers, pushed gallantly
forward, which they would have been fully borne out in doing from
their numbers, they must have forced our guns and the 95th down to the
bridge, and by occupying the near bank of the stream, which was very
high, they would have been enabled to fire within pistol-shot into the
retiring columns, and this must have caused the greatest confusion and

[Sidenote: FIGHT AT A BRIDGE.]

Having at length gained confidence from increasing numbers or feeling
ashamed to delay their attack, the column, doubling its skirmishers,
moved forward at the very moment when, the reserve having gained the
opposite bank, our guns were withdrawn and passed us in a sharp trot
down towards the bridge. The 95th and the light company now began
also to withdraw, but scarcely had we left the position which we held
when the French cavalry occupied it. Their numbers were every moment
increasing, but, knowing that our guns had not as yet gained the
opposite ridge, we retired with measured step. During our movement
towards the bridge the cavalry frequently evinced an inclination to
charge the light company on the road; but seeing the beautiful manner
in which the 95th retired, close on either flank of the road, through
thickly planted vineyards, amongst which a horse could scarcely move,
and knowing the murderous fire which that gallant corps would have
poured forth had the cavalry attacked the light company, who with stern
aspect were prepared to receive them, the horsemen declined to give us
the honour of a charge.

We now approached the bridge; and the 95th, closing from the flanks,
came on to the road, which here narrowed and wound so suddenly towards
the bridge and so close, that, the bank being much above its level, it
lay concealed until approached within a few yards. The light company
now halted, and forming across the road as deep as our strength
permitted, faced the cavalry. They also halted; and the 95th, favoured
by the sudden turn, wheeled round and quickly crossed the bridge
unperceived. We now fully expected that the affair would terminate
in a trial of bayonets and sabres; but although the cavalry seemed
preparing for a charge, yet, doubtful as to our true position and not
knowing what had become of our guns or of the 95th, and dreading an
ambuscade such as was prepared for them in the morning, they hesitated
and remained firm. The light company now wheeled round, and with a
quick but orderly pace crossed the bridge unmolested. By this time the
reserve had occupied their new position. The bank, which we had just
gained, was lined down to the water’s edge by the 95th and other light
troops, the end of the bridge strongly defended, and our guns admirably

All this preparation was closely seen by the enemy, and yet it was
only now that they came forward in force and resolute in attack; in
fact, the warfare at the bridge seemed a revival of that courteous
chivalry renowned in olden times, when the advancing army delayed their
attack until their opponents should be prepared to resist the assault.
As their dense column, preceded by the sharpshooters and cavalry,
pushed forward to assail the bridge, they suffered severely from our
guns, which being advantageously posted above them had open play and
beautiful practise at the column; and the sharpshooters and cavalry who
mounted the bridge were instantly shot, which caused all their attacks
to fail.


On this day the whole reserve presented a rather curious appearance, in
consequence of their being partially clad with the raiment which they
had snatched from the Spanish carts the previous night. I recollect
that Lieutenant Cadell, of the 28th Regiment (now lieutenant-colonel),
cut a hole in a blanket, through which he thrust his head, and thus
marched the whole day. Being a tall man, a grenadier, his appearance
was afterwards called to mind when we saw the shepherds clad in
sheepskins crossing the Pyrenean mountains on stilts. But the light
company of the 28th Regiment, being better supplied, in consequence
of their nocturnal visit to the carts from Nogales, appeared more
diversified in their dress than any others. Gray trousers, blue
trousers, and white breeches were promiscuously seen. Some wore black
shoes, some white; and many there were who wore shoes of both colours.
This being the company whom the enemy had in view almost the whole
day, they may have been led to imagine that we were all mixed up with
the stragglers from Romana’s army. But their variety of dress affected
neither the resolution nor discipline of the reserve; and after three
successive rushes which the enemy vainly made, cavalry and infantry
uniting to force their way over the bridge, they returned each time
under a thorough conviction that they had been received by British
troops alone--British to a nerve.

The fighting at the bridge continued. About dusk the main body of the
reserve retired, leaving piquets and a strong supporting party to
defend the passage. The piquets maintained an incessant fire with the
enemy on the opposite end of the bridge so long as either party could
distinguish the other; darkness intervening, the firing ceased. After
remaining quiet for some time and lighting our fires, and no movement
being perceived on the opposite bank, the piquets and supports were
silently withdrawn about half-past eleven o’clock and followed the
track of the main body, whom we joined about dawn on march to Lugo.

This morning’s march was heavy; for the enemy’s cavalry alone having
come up and keeping rather distant, the men complained of not having
an enlivening shot to break the dreary monotony. However, we were soon
gratified by seeing the whole British army in position about three
miles in front of Lugo.

We marched through the brigade of guards, who were for the most part
in their shirts and trousers, and in the act of cooking. All their
appointments swung airily from the branches of trees. As we passed,
some of the officers asked Major Browne if we had heard anything of the
French. “I’ll tell you what, my honest lads,” replied Browne, “you had
better take down your pipeclayed belts from those trees, put them on,
and eat your dinners, if you have any, as quick as you can; otherwise
you may not have an opportunity of finishing them.” The guards laughed
with an air of incredulity. We marched on, but had not proceeded half
a mile when we heard our guns, which were placed in the position
mentioned, open on the advancing enemy. We now laughed in our turn at
the guards, and continued our march to Lugo, where we arrived about two
o’clock in the afternoon.

[Sidenote: HALT AT LUGO.]

We were instantly ordered to commence pipeclaying our belts, and to
polish or clean every part of our appointments. This was considered
useless hardship; for grumbling at any orders, even supposed to come
from the Commander of the forces, was the order of the day, and few
considered that this very pipeclaying and polishing most powerfully
tended to restore that discipline throughout the army which was so
shamefully neglected during the march.

On the morning of the 7th we turned out at daybreak, although it rained
heavily, as clean as if we had just come out of our barrack-room in
Colchester, and marched as orderly into position in front of Lugo as
if crossing parade-ground in England. Here we remained the whole of the
7th and 8th to no purpose: for although Soult came up on the morning of
the former day, he merely made one or two demonstrations to feel our
strength and find out whether the whole British army were there or not;
and although he received a loudly affirmative answer wherever he moved,
yet from the morning until the night of the 8th the French army slept.
For, however active Soult was on the 7th in feeling his way along our
position, by which he sacrificed nearly four hundred men, on the 8th
not a shot was fired; and thus Sir John Moore evidently perceived that
it was not the French marshal’s intention to attack until he should be
joined by an overwhelming force, which he knew was fast approaching.

Nothing remained then for the British general but to retire. To attack
Soult commanding a stronger force than his own, and holding a stronger
position, would be preposterous; the most favourable result which could
occur would be to gain a victory, which, with a second stronger force
close by, would be worse than useless, as it would increase the delay
and consequently the peril. We had no hospitals, no transports for sick
or wounded, no magazines, no provisions, not even spare ammunition, and
not the shadow of an ally to support us.

Whatever Sir John Moore’s wishes as to fighting a battle at that period
of the campaign might have been, it is certain that he considered
a halt necessary to restore order and good conduct in the army. To
this effect the general issued a pungent order, censuring the want of
discipline among the men, and the neglect of those whose principal duty
it was to preserve it.

Having fully succeeded in restoring discipline, and in a great measure
remedying the immediate wants of the army, he determined without
further delay to continue his march to Corunna. The army therefore
retired from Lugo at half-past nine o’clock on the night of the 8th;
and had we had twelve hours of tolerably clement weather or even half
that time, our march would have been comparatively prosperous. But
fortune seldom favoured us; storms of sleet rain and wind immediately
assailed us on quitting our ground.

The reserve arrived without fail on the road leading to Corunna,
as was previously ordered, and was the only division, as well as I
recollect, who did arrive at the time appointed. The other divisions,
having missed their way, wandered about the greater part of the
night before they gained the road; therefore the reserve (the proper
rearguard) moved forward, but slowly, making frequent halts to await
the arrival of the misled divisions. Frequent halts and slow marching
between--always very detrimental to marching--was on this occasion
doubly harassing to the reserve. We felt all the fatigue and anxiety
of a rearguard, with most of our own troops behind us. On the approach
of any number of persons we were immediately on the alert, not knowing
whether to receive friends or resist foes. The night being pitch dark
and rainy, this continual halting and turning round was excessively
tormenting; and the men, from whom the true cause was kept concealed,
grumbled much at what they termed this cockney kind of marching, to
which they were not accustomed. Add to this that General Paget gave a
most positive order that no man should on any account whatever quit the
ranks or get off the road, not even during any of our halts. This may
appear harsh, but if the strictest discipline had not been maintained
in the reserve, the army would have been exposed to imminent danger.
Had the disgraceful scenes which occurred at Bembibre taken place now
in the reserve, with a veteran army close at our heels and commanded
by such an officer as Soult, the result must have been too evident to
require comment.

On the morning of the 9th the wandering divisions having come up, the
whole army halted for some hours in the rain, after which to our great
joy the main body, with the cavalry in their front, moved on, and the
reserve fell into its proper place, the rearguard. We allowed them
to get as far ahead as possible, and then again felt, as we had done
all through the retreat, a different corps and differently organised
from the other divisions; nor did we feel the same confidence in them,
except when drawn up before the enemy, when the general character of
British soldiers caused all distinctions to cease.


But one of our greatest plagues was still to come. Some of the
divisions in front, instead of keeping together on the road during a
halt, which took place on the approach of the night of the 9th, were
permitted to separate and go into buildings; and on their divisions
marching off, immense numbers were left behind, so that when the
reserve came up we were halted to rouse up the stragglers. In many
instances we succeeded, but generally failed; we kicked, thumped,
struck with the butt ends of the firelocks, pricked with swords and
bayonets, but to little purpose. There were three or four detached
buildings in which some wine was found, and which also contained a
large quantity of hay; and between the effects of the wine and the
inviting warmth of the hay it was totally impossible to move the men.
And here I must confess that some even of the reserve, absolutely
exhausted from the exertions they used in arousing the slothful of
other divisions to a sense of their duty, and not having seen anything
so luxurious as this hay since the night of December 22nd (the one
previous to our march from Grajal del Campo), could not resist the
temptation; and in the partial absence of the officers, who were
rousing up other stragglers, sat and from that sunk down probably
with the intention of taking only a few minutes’ repose; yet they too
remained behind.

The division at this time were excessively harassed and fatigued. We
had formed an outlying piquet for the whole army on the night of the
7th at Lugo, all the other troops being put under cover. Our occupation
on the night of the 8th and the following day and night was still more
harassing; and here I must say that all our losses (those fallen in
action excepted) arose from our contiguity to the main body.

After having used every exertion to stimulate the stragglers to move
forward, we continued our march for about a mile and a half, and then
took up a position, thus affording support to the stragglers and
covering the army, who had previously marched into Betanzos, about
three miles distant.

During this disastrous march from Lugo to Betanzos more men had
fallen away from the ranks than during the whole previous part of the
campaign. The destruction of several bridges was attempted, but a
failure was the invariable result.

On the 10th the whole army halted. The main body remained in the town
of Betanzos; the reserve maintained its position in bivouac.

Directing our attention towards the stragglers as soon as day dawned,
we discovered them formed in tolerably good order, resisting the
French cavalry and retiring up the road to where we were in position.
General Paget saw the whole affair, and perceiving that they were
capable of defending themselves, deemed it unnecessary to send them any
support; but he declared in presence of the men, who from a natural
impulse wished to move down against the cavalry, that his reason for
withholding support was that he would not sacrifice the life of one
good soldier who had stuck to his colours to save the whole horde
of those drunken marauders who by their disgraceful conduct placed
themselves at the mercy of their enemies.

The stragglers by this time became formidable; and the enemy’s cavalry
having lost some men, and seeing the reserve strongly posted, declined
to follow further this newly formed levy _en masse_, who, true to their
system, straggled up the hill to our bivouac.


This affair between the stragglers and the cavalry was termed by the
men the battle of the Panniers, from the following circumstance. A
soldier of the 28th Regiment, really a good man, who had the mule of
Doctor Dacres, to whom he was batman, having fallen in the rear because
the animal which carried the surgeon’s panniers was unable to keep up
with the regiment, stopped at the houses mentioned; and, getting up
before daybreak to follow the regiment he was the first to discover
the enemy as they advanced rather cautiously, no doubt taking the
stragglers for our proper rearguard. The doctor’s man shouted to the
stragglers to get up and defend themselves against the French cavalry;
but before they could unite into anything like a compact body, some
were sabred or taken. He then gallantly took command of all those who,
roused to a sense of danger, contrived a formation, until, to use his
own words, he was superseded by a senior officer, a sergeant, who then
assumed supreme command; upon which General Panniers, with his mule,
retired up the hill to where the reserve were posted. I understand
that the sergeant got a commission for his good conduct among the
stragglers; but the poor batman was neglected--a not unusual instance
of “Sic vos non vobis” in the British army.

[Sidenote: AMAZING LOOT.]

On the stragglers perceiving that they were no longer pursued by the
dragoons, they showed strong inclination to straggle anew and keep
aloof; but a strong piquet was now sent to meet them, not for their
assistance, but to prick them forward and compel them to close upon
the division. A guard was thrown across the road at the entrance to
our position, through which all the stragglers must pass. Each man as
he came up had his pack and haversack taken off and closely searched;
and all the money found upon them which it was fully ascertained
could have been acquired by robbery only was collected in a heap and
distributed among the men who never swerved from their colours, thus
rewarding the meritorious and well disciplined to the mortification of
those who disgraced their profession. The sum thus collected amounted
to a great deal; for many plunderers abandoned their ranks at an early
period of the retreat, contriving to keep between the reserve and
the other divisions, or keeping between the contending armies or on
their flanks. But it is totally impossible to enumerate the different
articles of plunder which they contrived to cram into their packs and
haversacks. Brass candlesticks bent double, bundles of common knives,
copper saucepans hammered into masses, every sort of domestic utensil
which could be forced into their packs, were found upon them without
any regard as to value or weight; and the greater number carried
double the weight imposed by military regulations or necessity. On this
day upwards of fifteen hundred robust marauders, heavily laden with
plunder, passed through the rearguard of the reserve. Those belonging
to the division were of course halted; but the great body were sent
under escort to Betanzos, there to be dealt with by their different



This night we passed in feasting, supplies of provision having been
sent out from Corunna; and the commissary gave our mess a canteen full
of rum, some biscuits, and an extra piece of salt pork in exchange for
a wax candle, which enabled him to serve out the rations and saved him
from error in securing his own slight portion. We were excessively
happy at the exchange, as it enabled us to entertain some friends
that night; and we felt proud at furnishing the candle, which was not
the less appreciated for being in the first instance sacrilegiously
plundered from a church by the stragglers, then violently wrested from
them by the light company, and finally returning to the purpose for
which it was originally intended, and religiously expiring in throwing
light on the works of the commissary.

After two nights’ uninterrupted repose in comfortable quarters,
the main body of the army, under the immediate command of the
General-in-chief, marched from Betanzos on the morning of the 11th,
followed by the reserve from their bivouac at due distance, and the
reserve, as usual, closely attended by Soult’s advanced guard, headed
by Franceschi’s light cavalry. On this day they were not very pressing
until after we had crossed the bridge of Betanzos. Close to this bridge
the 28th Regiment were halted to protect the engineer officer and
party employed to blow it up, all the necessary preparations having, it
was supposed, taken place the day previously. The desired explosion now
took place by which it was confidently expected that for a short time
at least we should be separated from our teasing pursuers, and thus be
enabled to arrive in good order before Corunna. Our expectations were,
however, blasted by the explosion itself; for as soon as the rubbish
had fallen down and the smoke cleared away, to our great surprise
and annoyance we perceived that one half of one arch only had been
destroyed, the other half and one of the battlements remaining firm.


On witnessing the abortive result of all this labour and fuss, General
Paget, who was close by, exclaimed in astonishment, “What, another
abortion! And pray, sir, how do you account for this failure?”

The engineer officer replied that he could account for it in no
other way than that the barrel of powder which effected the partial
destruction had in its explosion either choked or shaken from its
direction the train leading to the second barrel, which consequently
still remained whole in the undemolished part of the arch.

Upon this the general demanded to know within what period of time the
disaster could be remedied.

“In less than twenty minutes, sir,” was the engineer’s reply.

“Very well, sir,” said General Paget; and then, turning to me, he said,
“Go over the bridge.”

I considered this order to be addressed to me individually, for the
purpose of reconnoitring, a service in which the general had frequently
employed me during the march; and, taking a rapid view of the probable
consequences of passing over the smouldering embers of the half-choked
train, which might still revive and creep its way to the second barrel,
however flattered at being selected, yet I confess I did not relish the
affair. But whatever my sensations, they were my own private property;
my person, I felt fully aware, belonged to my king and country.

Immediately moving forward to the bridge, I found that the order to
cross it was intended not for me alone; the whole light company and
the grenadiers were ordered to cross over. The main road led directly
forward through the town of Betanzos; but close to the end of the
bridge which we now approached a branch road turned off at a right
angle, winding round the base of the hill upon which Betanzos stands.
At this angle and on the side of the road next the bridge was a large
house, which intercepted the view between the bridge and the turn of
the branch road; and so we got on to the wrong road by mistake.

Captain Gomm, General Disney’s major of brigade, was sent to recall us,
when we of course turned round, followed by the French cavalry at a
short distance, within which they could easily keep, in consequence of
the winding nature of the road.

As soon as the grenadiers, who now led, turned the angle of the road
above mentioned they were immediately on the bridge, and, never
forgetting the barrel of powder, they, followed by the light company,
moved in double quick time over the narrow part of the bridge--by the
men called the Devil’s Neck.


The enemy, perceiving us in such a hurry, no doubt attributed the haste
to timidity (and it may be remarked in all contending animals that as
courage oozes out of one it appears to be imbibed by its adversary);
for scarcely bad the light company passed twenty yards beyond the
Devil’s Neck when the cavalry gave a loud cheer--sure indication of a
charge. I instantly gave the word, “Right about turn, forward!” and,
being now in front of the men, in my anxiety to gain the narrowed part
of the bridge--the Devil’s Neck--I happened to shoot five or six yards
ahead, when, the dragoons advancing close, the front ranks of the
company behind me came down on the knee. I had not time to turn round,
for at that moment a French officer, darting in front rode full tilt
at me. I cut at him, but my sword approached no nearer perhaps than
his horse’s nose; in fact my little light infantry sabre was a useless
weapon opposed to an immense mounted dragoon, covered, horse and all,
with a large green cloak, which in itself formed a sufficient shield.
After the failure of my attack I held my sword horizontally over my
head, awaiting the dragoon’s blow, for it was far more dangerous to
turn round than to stand firm. At this very critical moment a man of
the company, named Oats, cried out, “Mr. Blakeney, we’ve spun him!”
and at the same instant the dragoon fell dead at my feet. I flew with
a bound to the rear, and regained the five or six paces incautiously
advanced. The cavalry were now up to our bayonets, covering the whole
pontine isthmus.

This affair, trifling in itself, yet to me very interesting, did not
occupy as much time as I have taken in its narration. Along the other
side of the bridge the dragoons charged forward, until they came to the
edge of the chasm formed by the explosion, when they were of course
arrested; and on the opposite side of the chasm the grenadiers were
drawn up, standing, being protected from a charge by the opening.
The dragoons in the rear, not knowing the cause of the check, rode
furiously forward, and, crowding their front ranks, who were pulling
up or wheeling round, and exposed to the fire of the grenadiers,
the greatest confusion ensued; while those at our side, finding all
attempts at breaking through the light company fruitless, and being
severely galled by the fire of the rear rank as well as a flanking fire
from some of the grenadiers, all wheeled round and galloped off at full
speed. Arriving at the house near the end of the bridge, their leading
squadrons wheeled short round; but the suddenness of the turn, made too
whilst in full speed, checked the whole column, and the light company,
now free to act on their feet, poured a wicked well-directed fire into
their ranks. So hot was the peppering, and so anxious were the rear
squadrons to get away, that they refused the turn, and, increasing
their speed, rode direct into the town of Betanzos. Here we had
beautiful practice, for the road was straight; and to enter the town
they must pass through an archway, which caused a second check, when
many were lowered from their horses.

All having at length retired, I stepped forward the nearly fatal
five paces and took possession of my late fierce antagonist’s green
cloak, which from the inclemency of the weather was extremely useful.
I long kept it as a boyish trophy, although to Oats alone belonged
any merit attending the fall of its late gallant owner. Oats, seeing
the dangerous predicament in which I was placed, was the only man in
the front rank of the company who did not come on his knee; he was
immediately behind me, and remained firm on his feet to enable him to
fire over my head, and, waiting the proper moment and taking steady
aim, sent his ball through the dragoon’s head just as his sabre was
about to descend upon mine.

It now appeared that during the time when the two flank companies of
the regiment moved forward to check the cavalry, by which they ran
such risk of being blown up or cut off, no progress had been made in
the destruction of the standing half of the injured arch; and now the
enemy, possessing themselves of the building at the end of the bridge,
fired upon us from the windows. From this house they could not be
driven, our guns having moved forward.


Although all expectation of destroying the bridge was now relinquished,
still it was absolutely necessary to prolong our halt. The whole
British army were on march from Betanzos to Corunna; and to have
allowed the enemy to approach before the main body had crossed the
bridge of El-Burgo, eight or ten miles farther on, must have caused
serious loss.

During our halt the French dark brown infantry columns were seen
pouring into Betanzos, which they soon occupied in considerable
force. They threw out some skirmishers, and showed frequent symptoms
of rushing forward _en masse_ to force the bridge; but to our great
disappointment they never attempted carrying their menacing threats
into execution, brought to their senses by the severe chastisement
which their cavalry had received shortly before in their vain attempt
to cross the bridge.

A retiring army has seldom an opportunity of ascertaining the losses
sustained by their pursuers; however, in this instance they must have
suffered severely, and had it not been for a drizzling rain, which
continued the whole morning and caused many of the musket locks to
refuse fire, few, if any, of the dragoons who charged at the bridge
would have returned. We had but a few men wounded either by pistol or
carbine shots, but not a man cut down.

Here I must express my astonishment that, notwithstanding the
impetuosity with which the dragoons rushed forward, neither man nor
horse was precipitated into the stream, although closely pressed by
their own ranks in the rear, and being suddenly compelled to rein up
whilst in full speed on the very edge of the chasm. They of course had
heard the explosion, but being at some distance were ignorant of the
effect which it produced; and, seeing us after it had taken place cross
and recross the bridge, they most probably considered the attempt to
destroy it a total failure, as all other similar attempts had been;
and the chasm, from the rubbish and the convexity of the bridge, lay
concealed till they were on the brink.

The enemy seemed to be philosophically calculating their strength,
whether of nerves or what, and of the resistance to be overcome
by advancing. It would indeed be difficult to decide on the force
necessary to win the bridge. The rifles with sure and steady aim
incessantly poured their fire from the rising ground and hedges which
our bank of the stream offered. The light company (28th) kept up a
deadly fire upon all who trod the bridge, immediately supported by
the grenadiers. The 28th Regiment formed a barrier of steel in rear
of its flank companies. The 20th, 52nd, and 91st Regiments, boiling
with eagerness to mingle in the fight, were scarcely restrained in
their position not far above us, ready, in the event of the enemy
forcing their way over the dead bodies of the 28th Regiment, to hurl
to destruction all those who dared to pass the fatal bridge. General
Paget was amongst us. Sir John Moore with anxious looks watched from
the position above each individual movement. This we knew, and, knowing
it, had the hero of Lodi and Arcola himself headed the opposite host,
he must have been content with his own end of the bridge or have surely
perished at ours.


General Paget, having considered that the main body of the army had by
this time got sufficiently ahead, followed with the reserve, leaving
the bridge without having destroyed even one arch; and scarcely had
we retired ten minutes when the enemy’s advanced guard passed over in
polite attendance, maintaining their courteous distance, which was
this day increased. Not having seen our guns at Betanzos, it is not
improbable that they suspected an ambush such as had been tried at the
romantic bridge.

This, our last day’s march, was the first time, since Sir John Moore
became Commander of the forces, that the whole British army marched
together; consequently it was the most regular. Sir John Moore directed
in person; every commanding officer headed his regiment, and every
captain and subaltern flanked his regularly formed section; not a man
was allowed to leave the ranks until a regular halt took place for
that purpose. But the evil attending irregular marching was past and
irreparable; unfortunately this soldier-like manner of marching was
resorted to too late to be of much effect.

We, the reserve, arrived that evening at El-Burgo, a small village
within four miles of Corunna. Extraordinary measures seemed to have
been taken for the destruction of the bridge which there crossed the
Mero. The preparations being terminated, the 28th Light Company, who
still formed the rearguard, crossing over the bridge were drawn up
close in its rear. Many remonstrated against our nearness, but were
sneeringly assured of being more than safe: thus high-bred scientific
theory scorned the vulgarity of common sense. The explosion at length
took place, and completely destroyed two arches; large blocks of
masonry whizzed awfully over our heads, and caused what the whole of
Soult’s cavalry could not effect during the retreat. The light company
of the 28th and Captain Cameron’s company of the 95th broke their
ranks and ran like turkeys, and regardless of their bodies crammed
their heads into any hole which promised security. The upshot masonic
masses continuing their parabolic courses passed far to our rear, and,
becoming independent of the impetus by which they had been disturbed,
descended and were deeply buried in the earth. One man of the 28th was
killed, and four others severely wounded were sent that night into
Corunna. This was the only bridge destroyed during the whole retreat,
except that of Castro Gonzolo, although many were attempted.

Headquarters were this night at Corunna, and the whole of the troops
under cover. Even the 28th Light Company, although on guard over that
wonder, the blown-up bridge, were sheltered. We occupied a house quite
close to the end of the bridge. Nearly opposite to us, on the other
side of the street, a company of the 95th were stationed, also in a
house; and each company threw out small detached parties and sentinels
along the bank of the river.

The French infantry did not come up that evening; but next morning, as
day broke, we discovered the opposite bank lined by their light troops;
and a small village not far distant was held in force. But a few shots
from our guns obliged the enemy to abandon the post; and a sentry from
the 95th was pushed forward to the verge of the broken arch, screened
by stones and rubbish. Our opponents took up a similar post on their
side during the night, so that, the British troops having now turned
round to face the enemy, the advanced posts of the contending armies
were only the breadth of two arches of a bridge asunder. In this
situation we continued for two days, keeping up an incessant fire, so
long as we could discover objects to fire at. This continued blaze
was to our advantage, as it obliged the enemy to answer us. We were
plentifully supplied with fresh ammunition from Corunna, whereas the
expenditure on the part of our foes was not so easily remedied; this
they afterwards felt at the battle of Corunna.

[Sidenote: ONE SAFE CORNER.]

The light company were very critically situated. On one side our
windows were exposed to a flanking fire; at the end of the house they
were directly open to the enemy; and both were exposed to fire from the
opposite bank, which was hotly maintained, so that it was impossible to
cross the room we occupied except by creeping on our hands and knees.
But in one angle we were as secure as in a coffee-house in London. We
could have been altogether out of danger in a magazine underneath,
but from there we could not see what the enemy were about; and every
moment it was expected they would attempt to repair the bridge, or in
some way endeavour to cross the river, which was found to be fordable
at low water. We therefore placed a large table--the only one found in
the house--in the safety corner. A magazine was discovered filled with
potatoes, the only ones we saw since leaving Salamanca; and some fowls,
detected in an outhouse, were cackled forth from their hiding-places by
the melodious, though perfidious, notes of the ventriloquists in their
search for game.

Having a sumptuous dinner on this day, we invited Captain Cameron,
commanding the Highland company of the 95th, who were on piquet in
the house opposite, to come over and dine with us. Cameron was an
excellent fellow and a gallant and determined soldier; he willingly
accepted the invitation, but hesitated as to crossing the street, not
thinking himself justified in risking his life for a dinner when
employed upon duty so important. But I told him that if he would
wait until three shots had been fired at the window from which I was
speaking (but standing at a respectful distance from it), he would be
safe in running across the street. I then put my cap upon the point
of my sword, pushing it gradually out of the window, at the same time
cautiously, as it were, moving forward a musket. The three shots were
soon fired at the cap. Cameron then bolted across the street; but just
as he was entering the door a fourth shot was fired, which I did not
expect, and, as well as I can remember, passed through the skirts of
his greatcoat without doing any other injury. The danger was not here
finished, for as soon as he arrived within three steps of the top of
the stairs he was obliged to crawl on all fours, and continue that
grovelling movement until he arrived within the sanctum sanctorum.
The servant who brought in dinner was obliged to conform to the same
quadruped movement, pushing the dishes on before him. On that day also,
Lieutenant Hill of our regiment came to visit us, passing along the
rear of the houses.

[Sidenote: PORK FOR WINE.]

We were now rather numerous in the safe corner, being four in
number--Cameron, Hill, Taylor, and myself. Hill, who came in late, was
warned to keep within due bounds; yet in a moment of forgetfulness
he placed his glass outside the safety line, and, as luck would have
it, just as he withdrew his hand the glass was shattered to pieces by
a musket-shot. A loud laugh arose at his expense; there was no other
glass to be found, and each being unwilling to lend his, he drank
sometimes out of one and sometimes out of another. The scene was truly
ridiculous; and the manner also in which we discovered wine is not
unworthy of being noticed. A man of the company, named Savage, came
running to say that he had discovered wine, and conducted me to a
house close by, in which General Disney, who commanded our brigade,
was quartered. Looking through a crevice pointed out by Savage, for
whose continued laughter I could not account, as soon as my eye became
familiar with the dim light within I discovered the general and his
aide-de-camp, Captain D’Oyly, of the guards, filling their canteens
with wine. Rather at a loss and not thinking it decorous to interrupt
the general whilst officially employed for the good of the service,
I went round to the door, which I discovered whilst peeping through
the microscopic fissure; here I waited until they came out, not badly
provisioned with not bad wine. Just as they were about to lock the door
I sprang forward, saying that I had discovered wine to be in the house,
and came to inform him. The general thanked me very politely, saying
that he intended acquainting me privately, but that great caution must
be observed to keep it a profound secret from the men. This was the
good of the service alluded to. The general then gave me the key. We
sent for our canteens, which for several days had hung uselessly over
the men’s shoulders; our mess was plentifully stocked, and we gave
every man a bottle of wine half at a time. Shortly afterwards D’Oyly
came with the general’s compliments, to ask if I could lend him a piece
of salt pork, which he promised to repay at Corunna. Our mess had none
to give, but I procured a four-pound piece from the company, which I
must say he has never recollected to repay, so that should he ever meet
the 28th Light Company he will have an opportunity of fulfilling his

On the evening of the 13th the reserve received an order to evacuate
El-Burgo immediately. It stated that no regular formation whatever
was to take place, neither regiments, companies, nor sections; every
man was to move out independently, and as soon as possible, in the
direction of Corunna. The light company of the 28th were directed to
retire in the same manner as soon as the place should be evacuated
by the whole of the reserve. Such an order coming from General Paget
astonished us all. But our speculations ceased when we reflected upon
the source whence the order emanated; for such was the high estimation
entertained of General Paget, and such the confidence reposed in him
by every officer and man in the reserve, that any orders coming from
him were always received as the result of cool determination and
mature judgment. When that officer gave an order there was something
so peculiar in his glance, so impressive in his tone of voice, and so
decisive in his manner, that no one held commune, even with himself, as
to its propriety or final object. The order was clear; the execution
must be prompt.

In obedience to this order the reserve commenced moving out of the
town, directing their steps towards Corunna in the manner indicated.
The light company perceiving the village evacuated by all except
themselves, prepared to follow the example by moving out of the
hothouse which they had occupied for two days, when all of a sudden
we were not a little startled by a tremendous crash; a cannon-shot,
followed by another and another, passed through the roof, shattering
tiles beams and every article that opposed. Our sanctum sanctorum, or
safety corner, now became no longer such; we hurried downstairs, not
delaying to assume our accustomed quadruped position.

[Sidenote: GO AS YOU PLEASE.]

This was the first time the enemy brought artillery to bear on
the rearguard, although their guns were in position at Lugo. The
previous unaccountable order was now fully explained. General Paget
had discovered a partially masked battery in forwardness on the
summit of a hill, and the whole village was entirely exposed to its
fire; into this battery the enemy were dragging their guns, while the
reserve were evacuating El-Burgo. The general, perceiving the place no
longer tenable, fortunately ordered it to be abandoned in the manner
mentioned. Had he waited to make regular formations, the loss of men on
our part must have been considerable; for as the light company passed
through, the whole village was under cannonade and the streets raked by
musketry from the bridge. Thus the reserve bade adieu to the advanced
guard of Marshal Soult’s army as an advanced guard. They insulted us
at parting by firing while we were withdrawing our advanced sentries,
pressing necessity preventing us from resenting the affront; but we
warned them to beware, should we meet again.



And now, before I join the army at Corunna, I beg to make a few remarks
about the light company, 28th Regiment, during the retreat which ended
at El-Burgo. It must, I imagine, appear evident from the narrative that
this company fully participated in all the fatigues, hardships and
privations which occurred throughout the campaign in question; that
they, in common with the reserve, traversed eighty miles of ground in
two marches, passed several nights under arms among the snow-covered
mountains, covered the army as a piquet at Lugo, Betanzos, and Corunna,
at which the reserve were for two days in continual fire; that scarcely
a shot was fired during the campaign at which the company were not
present, nor a skirmish in which they did not bear a part. And it must
be clear, from the nature of light troops’ duty and movements, that
they took as much exercise and passed over as much ground, as the
most actively employed part of the army. From their being exclusively
charged twice by the enemy’s cavalry at Calcabellos, once furiously
charged at the bridge of Betanzos, and as the rearmost company of the
rearguard, on January 5th, engaged from morning until night along the
road from Nogales to Constantino, it is but reasonable to suppose that
they must have suffered at least as many casualties as any company
of the army; and finally, they marched, the last company of the whole
army, through the village of El-Burgo under a heavy cannonade and
a sharp fire of musketry. Yet it now fell in as strong, if not the
strongest company present, and as efficient, willing, and ready for
fight as any which the army could produce; and were I to give my
testimony in presence of the most solemn tribunal, I could not say, so
far as my memory serves, that a single individual of that company fell
out of the ranks, or was left behind, in consequence of intolerable
fatigue. The captain of the company (Bradby) was left behind, sick, at
Lisbon; and the senior lieutenant (English) was sent in the sick-carts
from Benevente to Corunna on December 27th, 1808, suffering from
dysentery; but no man fell out on the march.


This short statement is not given with a motive of extolling the
service of the company or of proclaiming their strict discipline,
though that would only be performing an act of justice towards the
distinguished corps of which the company formed a part. I mention
it rather as forming in my humble opinion a strong feature in the
character of the whole retreat.

In bringing the 28th Light Company so frequently into contact with the
enemy, on which occasions the regiment were always at hand, I will not
assert that some little predilection may not have been entertained by
General Paget. I use the term predilection rather than confidence lest
such term might be considered unpleasing to the other gallant corps
who formed the reserve; but whatever be the term used, the inclination
was most natural. General Paget had commanded the 28th Regiment, and
had left it but a few years previous to the campaign now under notice;
consequently he knew many of the men, and was acquainted with all
the old officers. He commanded the regiment too in a situation which
put nerve and discipline to the severest trial which has ever been
recorded. He it was who, when in command of the 28th Regiment in Egypt,
and attacked front and rear at the same moment, ordered the rear rank
to face about, and in this situation, novel in warfare, received
the double charge, which the men firmly resisted and victoriously
repulsed; thus he put to flight that chosen body who, previous to this
extraordinary circumstance were termed the “French Invincibles.”

It cannot then be wondered at (nor can any other regiment feel jealous)
that General Paget wished in the hour of trial to have his old corps
near his person--not for his protection, but because wherever the enemy
made their boldest attacks in the vain hope of reviving their claim to
invincibility, there was he to be found triumphantly disputing such
claim, confident of success when at the head of the same corps with
whom he had destroyed their original title--a title which after many a
gallant effort made in its support expired on March 21st, 1801, on the
bayonets of the “Old Slashers.”

On the evening of the 13th the reserve fell into position with the army
at Corunna; but still there was no appearance of the transports. On
this night the enemy by indefatigable labour put the bridge of El-Burgo
in a passable state; and early on the morning of the 14th they crossed
over two divisions of infantry and one of cavalry. As it was impossible
to prevent this movement, it was feebly opposed, with the object
of economising our strength for a more serious event. However some
gunshots were exchanged.

On this morning a large quantity of powder sent for the use of the
Spaniards was destroyed, to prevent its falling into the hands of the
enemy. The casks were piled up in a large and lesser magazine, built
together upon a hill about three miles from the town. The smaller one
blew up with a terrible noise, which startled us all; but scarcely had
we attempted to account for the occurrence, when, the train igniting
the larger one, the crash was dreadful. A panic seized all; the
earth was agitated for miles, and almost every window in Corunna was
shattered. This was the largest explosion of powder which had ever
taken place in Europe--four thousand barrels.


On this evening the long-expected transports hove in sight, and
soon entered the harbour of Corunna. Preparations for embarkation
immediately commenced; and during the night the sick, the best horses
and upwards of fifty pieces of artillery were put on board ready for
a start--but eight or ten Spanish guns were kept on shore ready for a

On the 15th Laborde’s division arrived--a formidable reinforcement--and
immediately fell into position on the extreme right of the enemy’s line.

The despondency which seized the minds of many at the long delay of
the transports, and the accumulating strength of the enemy which
increased the danger of embarkation, induced several general officers
to recommend to the Commander of the forces that he should ask the
French marshal for terms under which he might retire to his transports
without molestation. Few men of sound reflection could imagine that,
even should the Commander of the forces crouch to this humiliating
proposition, it would be acceded to by the haughty French marshal.
Besides, there was no necessity for the degrading step: the enemy,
it is true, had upwards of twenty thousand men in a strong position,
and we had about fourteen thousand men in an inferior position--the
only one left us to occupy. But the inhabitants of Corunna were
determined to stand by us to the last, and in a great measure cover
our embarkation; and once embarked we were not in very great danger,
for all the batteries on the sea face had been dismantled. Another
great advantage was that every English soldier was furnished with a
new firelock and his pouch filled with fresh ammunition, ready to be
replenished from Corunna when required. These advantages compensated
for more than half the difference in our numerical strength. Above all
Sir John Moore was not a man who would recommend a British soldier
to petition on his knees to an enemy, or to lower his national high
bearing; the high-spirited Moore was the last general in His Majesty’s
service who would submissively lead a gallant British force, however
small, through the Caudine Forks. He rejected the ignoble proposition
with feelings such as it deserved.

The conduct of the inhabitants of Corunna was doubly honourable, as
they knew that in a very few days their town must fall into the hands
of the enemy, whom they were now so strenuously opposing.

On the evening of the 15th a smart skirmish took place between our
piquets on the left and a party sent forward on the French right, in
the neighbourhood of Palavia Abaxo. Laborde sent forward two guns to
strengthen his party. Lieutenant-Colonel M’Kenzie, of the 5th, with
some companies rushed forward, endeavouring to seize the battery; but
a strong line of infantry who lay concealed behind some walls started
up and poured in such a sharp fire that the piquets were driven back,
carrying their lieutenant-colonel mortally wounded.

During the night of the 15th Soult completed his arrangements. His
right rested close to the Mero; and prolonging his line over rocky and
woody ground, he placed his left close to a rocky eminence, upon which
he planted his principal battery, consisting of eleven guns, posting
several other guns as vantage-ground offered along his line. To the
left, and in advance of this big battery, their cavalry were drawn
up. Franceschi’s dragoons on their extreme left were nearly a mile in
rear of General Baird’s division, in a diagonal direction. The rocky
eminence which sustained the great French battery stood at the edge
of a valley which lay on Baird’s right, extending in a semicircular
direction by his rear and not far distant from the harbour of Corunna.


On our side, General Hope’s division formed the left of the line,
resting their left flank on the slimy banks of the Mero, extending
his right so as to join Baird’s division towards the centre of our
line. From this, Baird prolonged his division to the right, in front
of the enemy’s left, and was outflanked by the great battery, which
in an oblique direction was situated in his front. Our left wing and
the right of the enemy were much further asunder than the contending
wings on the other flank. This materially weakened our position; but
it could not be avoided, owing to the conformation of the slopes upon
which alone we could be drawn up. These slopes gradually retired from
our right to our left, and consequently the great French battery raked
the whole of our line. General Fraser’s division were drawn up close to
Corunna, to watch the coast road, and to be in readiness to proceed to
any part where needed most.

On the morning of the 16th all the incumbrances of the army which
had not been embarked the previous night were put on board, and then
everything prepared for a battle or retreat. It was intended to
embark the army that night as soon as darkness should screen their
retirement. The reserve, whose post was not so open to the observation
of the enemy, were to go on board in the afternoon. We were told that
in consequence of general good conduct during the retreat, and having
covered the army at Corunna for two whole days, we should be the first
division to embark, and thus have time to make ourselves comfortable.
All our baggage and such sea-stock as we could procure was shipped, and
after the men had dined we marched towards the transports. Our minds
were now occupied by thoughts of home; but we had not proceeded above
a hundred yards when we heard the firing of guns. The division halted
to a man, as if by word of command; each looked with anxious enquiry.
But we were not kept long in suspense. An aide-de-camp came galloping
at full speed to arrest our progress, telling us that an extraordinary
movement was taking place throughout the enemy’s line; the three guns
fired were a signal to give notice. We instantly countermarched, and
passed through the village of Los Ayres, where but twenty minutes
before we had bidden adieu to Spain, and considered ourselves on the
way to England. But many there were who in a few hours were prevented
from ever beholding their native shore; they paid the last tribute to
their country, surrendering their lives in maintaining the sacred cause
of liberty and national independence.

Immediately on passing through this village we halted. The enemy’s dark
columns were seen advancing from three different points, and with rapid
pace literally coming down upon us, cheered by their guns, which sent
their shot over their heads but plunged into our line, which at the
same time was raked from right to left by their great battery.

During these primary operations we became the reserve in reality, but
continued so only until the Commander of the forces should ascertain to
a certainty where the enemy intended making their fiercest attack; and
as to the point where this was to take place, Sir John Moore was not
mistaken. He knew that he was opposed to the ablest marshal of France,
and he therefore prepared to resist the attack at that point where he
himself would have made it had the order of battle been reversed. Firm
in his opinion, he shortly after our arrival at Los Ayres ordered the
95th Regiment to be detached from the reserve. Their duty was to keep
the heavy dragoons of Lorge and Franceschi’s light cavalry in play.
Between the rifles and the right of Baird’s division the 52nd formed a
loose chain across the valley. He then rode off, leaving orders with
General Paget that at the opportune moment he was to move into the
valley, turn the French left, and capture their heavy battery, sending
at the same time orders to General Fraser to support the reserve.


In the meantime the battle kindled along the whole line. Laborde’s
division on their right pressed hard upon Hope, and took possession of
Palavia Abaxo. This was retaken and maintained by Colonel Nichols, who
gallantly charged the enemy through the village at the head of a part
of the 14th Regiment. On our right two heavy columns descended against
Baird’s division. One passed through Elvina, a village about midway
between the two lines; this place was held by our piquets, who were
driven back in confusion, but was subsequently retaken. This column
made direct for Baird’s right, obliging the 4th Regiment to retire
their right wing, and then advanced into the valley. The other column
attacked the whole front of Baird’s division.

On Sir John Moore’s seeing the advance of the column through the
valley, he cast a glance to the rear, and, perceiving that Paget had
commenced his movement, he felt confident that all would go well in
that quarter. He then rode up to the right of Baird’s line, and told
Colonel Wench, of the 4th Regiment, that his throwing back the right
of his regiment was just what he wished. He then moved off towards the
village of Elvina, where, after remaining for some time directing the
active operations, he fell mortally wounded; but this, when known,
served rather to increase than damp the ardour of the men, now more
than ever excited to vengeance.

Before this melancholy event the enemy’s column, who passed by Baird’s
right, flushed with the idea of having turned the right of the British
army (since the 4th Regiment had retired their right wing), moved
sternly forward, certain, as they thought, to come in rear of our
troops. But as they advanced, they met the reserve coming on, with
aspect stern and determined as their own; they now discovered the
true right of the British army. The advanced troops of Soult’s army
during the march now formed his left; we recognised each other, and
the warning at El-Burgo was recollected. A thousand passions boiled in
every breast. Our opponents, madly jealous at having their military
fame tarnished by the many defeats which they sustained during the
march, determined to regain those laurels to them for ever lost. We,
on the other hand, of the reserve had many causes to rouse our hatred
and revenge. We painfully recollected the wanton carnage committed on
the defenceless stragglers of all ages and sexes at Bembibre, and the
many bitter cold nights we passed in the mountains of Galicia, when
frost and snow alone formed the couches on which we tried to snatch
a few hours of repose. The haughty and taunting insults too of our
gasconading pursuers were fresh in our memory. One sentiment alone
was opposed to our anger; the time was come when it gave us pleasure
to think of our past misfortunes, for they who caused them resolutely
stood before us, foaming with impatience to wipe away the stain of
former defeats. They were no longer inclined to keep aloof.


Thus urged forward by mutual hate, wrought up to the highest pitch by
twelve days’ previous fighting, and knowing the approaching conflict to
be our last farewell, we joined in fight

    “With all the fervour hate bestows
    Upon the last embrace of foes.”

Our foes stood firm. But the time occupied in firing was but short;
we soon came to the charge, and shortly the opposing column was
dissipated. Their cavalry now thought it prudent to retire to and
behind their great battery; the 95th, freed from their presence, joined
us; and the 52nd, who had slowly retired as the enemy’s column first
advanced through the valley, also united with their division; and now
the reserve were again all united.

We now pushed on all together, and turned the French left, and were
preparing to charge and carry the great French battery. Had Fraser’s
fresh division, who had not fired a shot, come up now and joined the
reserve according to the Commander of the forces’ orders, the whole
British line could have made an advance echelon movement to the left,
and Soult’s army had been lost. Their cavalry had retreated behind
their great battery, when they became useless from the rocky nature of
the ground; the battery itself was all but in our possession, and only
required the short time necessary to march into it. Elvina, on our
right, the great point of contention throughout the day, was in our
possession, as was the village of Palavia Abaxo on our left. Our whole
line had considerably advanced, and the enemy falling back in confusion
fired more slackly, not so much owing to the casualties they sustained
as to the scarcity and damaged state of their ammunition. Their
muskets were bent and battered, while our fire was strong and rapid,
our ammunition fresh and abundant, our muskets new and the nerves
which spanned them tense. The only retreat the enemy had was over the
patched-up bridge of El-Burgo, and this, after the 14th Regiment had
taken Palavia Abaxo, was nearly, if not quite, as close to our left as
to the French right. The Mero in full tide ran deep broad and rapid
in their rear; and if Napoleon the Great himself had been there, his
escape would have been impossible. But the excited troops were drawn
away from decisive and continued victory.

As darkness approached, our piquets as usual lit large fires; and the
British army retired to Corunna, and embarked that night without the
slightest confusion, so completely had everything been previously

On the morning of the 17th, the piquets being withdrawn, the wounded
were collected and with the exception of very few put on board, covered
by a brigade still left on shore for that purpose. About noon on this
day Soult managed to bring up some guns to the village of S. Lucia,
which played upon the shipping in the harbour, some of which were
struck. This causing some disorder amongst the transports, several
masters cut their cables, and four vessels ran ashore; but the soldiers
and crews being immediately rescued by the men-of-war’s boats, and
their vessels burned, the fleet got out of harbour. The Spaniards
nobly redeemed their pledge to keep the enemy at bay and cover the
embarkation to the very last. The few wounded who still remained
ashore, together with the rearguard, were put on board early on the
morning of the 18th without the loss of a single individual; and the
whole sailed for England.

[Sidenote: HAD MOORE LIVED.]

Without the remotest intention of depreciating the merits of his
gallant successor, Sir John Hope, whose valour and military talents
are renowned through the army, there is but little doubt that if Sir
John Moore had not fallen the battle, though glorious to his successor
and to the British army, would have terminated more decisively. Sir
John Moore felt the keenest in the whole army. He, like the lion long
baited and fretted by distant darts, had turned at last, and finding
his pursuers within his reach would have been content with nothing less
than their total destruction.

That the battle of Corunna, under the peculiar circumstances which
attended it, was one of the most glorious which has been fought in
modern times will not be denied; it was that which furnished the most
unequivocal proof of British firmness. The army could not have occupied
a worse position, as Sir John Moore declared; but it could not be
remedied. Our troops were not sufficiently numerous to occupy a more
advanced post, which was therefore left for the enemy. The British
soldiers had been harassed by a long and fatiguing retreat in the
severest season of the year and during peculiarly inclement weather.
Their route had been through mountains covered with snow; they had
been irregularly fed, and the clothing partly worn off their backs.
The enemy were far superior both in position and numbers; and the
English army fought without either cavalry or artillery. But however
glorious was the result of the battle to England, yet it was cause of
national rejoicing to the enemy, although conquered; for Sir John Moore
no longer guided a British force to rouse the jealousy and mar the
plans of two hundred and fifty thousand French veterans accustomed to
victory. He lay down on the land for whose freedom he bled, and slept
on Iberia’s breast for ever.


Sir John Moore’s first appearance produced sentiments in the beholder
not remote from reverence. His tall, manly and perfect form attracted
general admiration, while his brilliant and penetrating eye denoted
profound observation, and proclaimed the determined soldier and able
general. His words, voice and bearing realised all you had ever
imagined of a perfect and highly polished gentleman endowed with every
talent necessary to form the statesman or warrior. His features were
formed to command the attention of man and make the deepest impression
on the female heart. His memory, as I have been told by old officers
who knew him well, was extraordinary, yet amiably defective; and what
was once said of a great warrior might be justly applied to him--that
he recollected everything save the injuries done to himself. Few have
ever been gifted with more personal or mental charms than Sir John
Moore; yet the perfection with which he was sent forth was far outshone
by the glory that attended his progress and recall.

Having but slightly touched on the circumstances attending the fall
of this great man, I will repeat that after entirely approving the
movement of the 4th Regiment in retiring their right wing, and feeling
satisfied as to what would take place in the valley, Sir John Moore
made straight for the village of Elvina, where the fight continued to
be most bloody and most obstinately maintained. It had been repeatedly
taken and retaken at the point of the bayonet. Just as the Commander of
the forces arrived, the 50th Regiment, who were formed on the left of
the village, commanded by Major Napier, and seconded by Major Stanhope,
made a most desperate charge through the village; but Napier’s
impetuosity carrying him forward through some stone walls beyond the
village, he was desperately wounded, and fell into the hands of the
enemy; and Major Stanhope was killed. The general cheered the regiment
during this charge, crying out, “Bravo, 50th, and my two brave majors!”
Then perceiving the enemy coming forward to renew the struggle, he
ordered up a battalion of the guards, directing at the same time
that the two regiments already engaged should be supplied anew with
ammunition. The 50th continued firm; but the 42nd, mistaking this as
an order to go to the rear for ammunition, began to retire. Seeing
this, the general rode up to the regiment, exclaiming: “My brave 42nd,
if you have gallantly fired away all your ammunition, you have still
your bayonets--more efficient. Recollect Egypt! Think on Scotland! Come
on, my gallant countrymen!” Thus directing the willing 42nd to meet
the renewed attack on Elvina, he had the satisfaction to hear that the
guards were coming up; and, pleased with the progress of the 42nd, he
proudly sat erect on his war-steed, calmly casting a satisfied glance
at the raging war around. It was at this moment that he was struck to
the ground by a cannon-ball, which laid open the breast of as upright
and gallant a soldier as ever freely surrendered life in maintaining
the honour and glory of his king and country. He soon arose to a
sitting position, his eyes kindling with their usual brilliancy when
informed that the enemy were victoriously repulsed at all points.

At this period the battle raged in its utmost fury; and an active
general movement was taking place from right to left of both lines, the
enemy retiring, the British pressing forward; and now Sir David Baird
also was knocked down, receiving the wound for which he subsequently
suffered the amputation of his arm.

On placing Sir John Moore in the blanket in which he was borne to the
rear, the hilt of his sword got into the wound; and as they tried to
take it away, he declined having it moved, saying, “It may as well
remain where it is, for, like the Spartan with his shield, the Briton
should be taken out of the field with his sword.” The wound was of the
most dreadful nature; the shoulder was shattered, the arm scarcely
attached to the body, the ribs over his heart smashed and laid bare.

Thus was Sir John Moore carried to the rear. As he proceeded,
perceiving from the direction of the firing that our troops were
advancing, he exclaimed, “I hope the people of England will be
satisfied.” On being taken to his house in Corunna, he again enquired
about the battle, and being assured that the enemy were beaten at all
points, exclaimed: “It is great satisfaction to me to know that the
French are beaten. I hope my country will do me justice.” Whether
this well-founded hope was realised or not let the just and generous
determine. He now enquired about the safety of several officers, those
of his staff in particular; and he recommended several for promotion
whom he considered deserving. This exertion caused a failing in his
strength; but on regaining it in a slight degree, addressing his old
friend Colonel Anderson, he asked if Paget was in the room. Upon being
answered in the negative, he desired to be remembered to him, saying,
“He is a fine fellow; ’tis General Paget, I mean.” This was a noble
testimonial to that gallant officer’s high character, rendered sacred
by the peculiar circumstances in which it was called forth; and it
strongly marked the martial spirit and high mind of the dying hero,
who, with his body writhing in torture, the veil of eternity fast
clouding his vision and his lips quivering in the convulsive spasms of
death, sighed forth his last words in admiration of the brave.


The battle of Corunna terminated at the same moment that the British
commander expired. He was buried in the citadel. As the enemy’s last
guns were firing his remains were lowered into the grave by his staff,
simply wrapped in his military cloak. No external mark of mourning was
displayed; the grief could not be withdrawn from the heart.

Thus, like a staunch general of the empire, Sir John Moore terminated
his splendid career in maintaining its honour and crushing its foes.
Yet his last act was peculiarly devoted to his own Scotland: it was
cheering on the Royal Highlanders to a victorious charge. How Scotland
has shown her recognition of the gallant and patriotic deed, or her
admiration of the splendid career of the brightest ornament whom she
ever sent forth on the glorious theatre of war, I have never been told.



On January 18th, 1809, the British army sailed from Corunna, and having
encountered very boisterous weather, the fleet were dispersed, and
the regiments arrived in England at different ports and at different
periods during the latter end of the month and the beginning of
February. One wing of the 28th Regiment landed at Portsmouth; the
other, to which I belonged, disembarked at Plymouth. Our appearance on
landing was very unseemly, owing principally to the hurry attending
our embarkation at Corunna, which took place in the dark and in the
presence of an enemy. Scarcely a regiment got on board the vessel which
contained their baggage; and the consequence was, that on quitting
our ships we presented an appearance of much dirt and misery. The men
were ragged, displaying torn garments of all colours; and the people
of England, accustomed to witness the high order and unparalleled
cleanliness of their national troops, for which they are renowned
throughout Europe, and never having seen an army after the termination
of a hard campaign, were horror-struck, and persuaded themselves that
some dreadful calamity must have occurred. Their consternation was
artfully wrought up to the highest pitch by the wily old soldiers, who,
fully aware of the advantage to be gained by this state of general
excitement and further to work on the feelings, recited in pathetic
strain the most frightful accounts of their sufferings and hardships.
Interested persons at home profited by this state of universal ferment.
One political party, eagerly catching at any circumstances which
could tend to incriminate the other, highly exaggerated even those
already incredible accounts; while the other side, who felt that all
the disasters attending the campaign properly rested with themselves,
joined in the cry and with mean political subterfuge endeavoured
to throw the onus off their own shoulders on to the breast of the
silent, the unconscious dead. A general outcry was got up against Sir
John Moore. He was accused of being stupid, of being irresolute, of
running away, and of God knows what. His memory was assailed alike by
those politically opposed to his party and by those who once were his
supporters, and who, although aware of his masculine genius, maintained
their posts by basely resorting to calumny and deceit.


During this campaign it was the opinion of many that circumstances
occurred which, under more favourable auspices, would have induced some
individuals to expect promotion. But the jarring and disturbed state of
the Cabinet, each individual endeavouring to counteract the measures
of his colleague, threw out a foggy gloom damping all hopes; and when
the eminent services of Sir John Moore and those of General Paget were
passed over unnoticed, it would have been a military heresy to have
accepted, much more to solicit promotion.

After remaining a few days at Plymouth, we proceeded as far as Exeter,
and there halted for the space of a week to await further instructions
from London. During our stay at this place we lived at the Old London
Inn, and here a curious scene took place. Two Spanish gentlemen
stopped at the inn on their way to Falmouth; and when after dinner
their bill was presented, a misunderstanding took place. I should
premise that at this, as at many other inns in England, every edible
article produced on the table is charged separately. The Spaniards,
after carefully examining the bill, objected to pay it; the waiter
reported to his master, who interfered, but since he was as ignorant
of Spanish as his guests were of the English language, all was
confusion. The arguments and assertions of either party were totally
incomprehensible to the other. After fruitless clamour the landlord
came into the room where we, the officers of the regiment, dined,
requesting to know if any of us could assist him in his dilemma.
Although not very well acquainted with the Spanish language at that
time, I volunteered my services. The Spaniards were very wrathful
and boldly asserted that the innkeeper attempted to extort payment
for a dish which was never brought to them; this they were firm in
maintaining, having counted every article. One swore that he never
touched anything of the kind, and that, if brought into the room, it
must have been covered on the sideboard; the other accused the cook of
having used it himself in the kitchen, and of trying, that he might
conceal his gormandising, to make them pay, declaring at the same time
that the affair should be laid open to the public for the benefit of
future travellers who might otherwise be taken in. By their accounts
it was impossible that I could fathom the affair; and as soon as the
Spaniards allowed me to speak, I called the waiter to bring his written
bill, and on this one of the gentlemen pointed out what he considered
to be the cheat. I took the paper from the waiter, when, lo! upon
examination I discovered the viand in dispute to be the chambermaid,
who was charged in the bill at two shillings. I could not restrain a
loud fit of laughter, which roused the blood of the Castilians even
more than the cheat; but when I explained the cause, they were as ready
to enter into the joke as any others. Upon asking mine host how he
could think of making a charge for the chambermaid in his bill, thus
making a voluntary donation obligatory, he replied that, had he not
done so, foreigners would never pay her; that his servants had no other
wages than those which they got from customers. The Spaniards paid the
bill most willingly, and joined our table, and the whole party laughed
heartily during the remainder of the evening.

[Sidenote: GREAT CRY.]

The order for continuing our route having at length arrived, we
proceeded to occupy our old quarters (Colchester), where, after passing
through Dorset, to avoid falling in with other troops on the move, we
arrived after a march which including partial halts occupied one month
and five days, giving an addendum to our campaign of from between three
and four hundred miles without leaving a single straggler behind. This
march bore heavily by lightening us of all our cash, and dipped us
besides in the paymaster’s books.

In less than three months after the regiment was united at Colchester,
we again were ordered upon what we joyfully contemplated as active
service. A magnificent expedition was sent out to carry off (if
allowed) the Gallia Dutch fleet from the Schelde. The land forces,
commanded by the Earl of Chatham, were composed of forty thousand men,
the flower of the British Army. This force was accompanied by a not
less imposing naval force: thirty-nine sail of the line, three dozen
frigates and innumerable satellites, bombships, gunboats, brigs, etc.,
which, together with storeships, transports and other craft, amounted
in the whole to upwards of six hundred sail.

To join this splendid armament the 28th Regiment marched from
Colchester in the latter end of June, and reached Dover on July 4th.
Thence we in a few days proceeded to Deal, where we embarked on board
frigates--a squadron of that class of men-of-war under command of Sir
Richard Keats being destined to carry the reserve of the army. This
arrangement was adopted in consequence of the frigates drawing less
water than ships of the line, thus enabling them to lie closer in shore
and quicken the disembarkation of the reserve, who of course were the
first troops to land. We remained upwards of a week anchored at Deal,
awaiting final instructions and the junction of the whole. During
this delay some thousand families, many of the highest lineage in the
kingdom, visited Deal. All arrangements being finally terminated, this
truly magnificent naval and military armament sailed on July 28th,
1809. Thousands of superbly dressed women crowded the beach; splendid
equipages were numerous; all the musical bands in the fleet, as well
military as naval, joined in one general concert, playing the National
Anthem, which, with the loud and long-continued cheering on shore,
enlivened the neighbourhood for miles around and caused the most
enthusiastic excitement throughout the whole. Many beauteous fair,
whose smiles were rendered yet more brilliant by the intrusive tear,
waved their handkerchiefs in the breeze to the fond objects of their
fixed regard, who responded with silent but steadfast gaze, burning
with the two noblest passions which inspire the breast of man--love and
glory. The show was august, the pageant splendid, the music enchanting.

[Sidenote: AND LITTLE WOOL.]

Next morning we discovered the dykebound fens of Holland, little
anticipating that they were shortly to become British graveyards. About
noon we anchored; and the remainder of the day was passed in preparing
the three days’ cooked provisions always carried by British soldiers on
landing in an enemy’s country.

The next day proved boisterous, and to our great mortification
nothing general could be attempted. However about noon the weather
having somewhat abated, great commotion was observed throughout the
armament; signals from ship to ship throughout the fleet portended
great events. Sir Richard Keats lowered his flag, followed by Sir John
Hope on board the _Salsette_ frigate, which carried the left wing of
the 28th Regiment, with the exception of the light company. The light
company embarked with the headquarters on board the _Lavinia_ frigate,
commanded by Lord William Stuart.

After due consultation between the admiral and general, a signal was
made calling for all the carpenters of the squadron with their tools.
Some momentous affair was evidently at hand. Four companies of the 28th
Regiment were lowered into boats, which, being joined by the light
company from on board the _Lavinia_, were placed under the command of
Major Browne of the regiment. We now immediately pushed off, animated
by the cheers of the whole fleet. The shore was soon reached, the
light company leading the van, the first on hostile ground. Advancing
some way, we encountered a piquet, who, on our shooting the fever (the
ague only remained) out of a few trembling Dutchmen, thought proper to
retire. Upon this we proceeded to carry into execution the object of
the expedition, which, I forgot to mention before, was to destroy a

The carpenters now came in for a full share of the glory. Each axe
that fell upon the staff was answered by cheers loud as salvos; but
when the mast after repeated blows was seen to fall, so loud were the
greetings that some ships passing at a distance on their way to England
and reporting what they had heard, induced many there to think that
Antwerp had fallen into our hands. After the fall and destruction of
the telegraph, we returned triumphantly on board, carrying away all
the machinery books and signals; and thus, and thus alone, the 28th
Regiment signalised itself during this stupendous campaign!

Next morning (July 31st) a signal was made for all the troops to
descend into the boats and prepare for landing. The rapidity of the
current was such that the boats were carried away by the stream, and
clung alongside of any vessel that came in their way. I recollect that
Lieutenant-Colonel Woodford, with his light company of the Coldstream
Guards, held on by the _Lavinia_, and was taken on board. The officers
dined with Lord William Stuart, who, having been called away by Sir
Richard Keats, requested me to do the honours of his table during his
absence; and his guests, to relieve me from any embarrassment, freely
and cheerfully partook of his lordship’s fare. I more than once in
later days met Colonel Woodford in London, and remember not only his
polished address and courteous manner, but also his prompt recognition
and ready kindness.

August 1st being fine, the reserve under Sir John Hope landed on
the Island of South Beveland; while the other troops went ashore
principally on the Island of Walcheren, and soon proceeded to besiege
Flushing. On the 13th the bombardment of that fortress commenced.
It was only on the morning of the 14th that, after many previous
consultations, a squadron of frigates commanded by Lord William Stuart
forced the passage of the Schelde; and, notwithstanding the delay
caused by considering the enterprise too dangerous to be attempted,
only one vessel, the _Lavinia_ which led, was struck by only one shot.
On the morning of the 15th Flushing capitulated.

In the meantime the reserve in South Beveland stormed and took Fort
Batz, a strong post occupied by the enemy. On the 11th an attempt
was made by the enemy’s gunboats to retake it; but the guards, who
originally took the fort, now successfully defended it.


Flushing having fallen, our frigates in the Schelde, and all the
channels and passages round the islands scoured by our gunboats, the
reserve expected hourly to be ordered to attack Antwerp and the enemy’s
fleet, who lay in our view and within our grasp, not far from Antwerp.
However we were grievously disappointed. With the fall of Flushing
fell all our warlike operations. After we had remained inactive a
sufficient time to allow Fouché to collect and throw thirty thousand
men into Antwerp and its defences, and to erect batteries along all the
approaches which he armed with the guns taken from their now useless
ships, the Commander of the forces, with the courtesy of manner which
distinguished that nobleman very politely requested the French to
give up their fleet. But that surly son of a tubmaker, Bernadotte,
sent a flat refusal; and, finding too late that late Court hours and
measured movements were ineffectual against rapid and early rising
revolutionists, Lord Chatham with the greater part of the survivors
of his fevered army returned to England on September 14th. A portion
were left behind to favour the introduction of prohibited goods, but
the fatality and expense attending the maintenance of this contraband
establishment being found to more than counterbalance the advantages
proposed, the project was abandoned, and those who escaped pestilence
returned on December 23rd.

The splendid pageantry that attended, and the national joyous pride
that greeted the departure of this superb armament, were woefully
contrasted with its return. The unwieldy expedition, although it
furnished cause of merriment all over the Continent, deluged the
British empire with tears. There was scarcely a family in Great Britain
which did not mourn the fate of a gallant soldier, without one cheering
ray to brighten the gloom, one laurel leaf to be hallowed by their
affectionate tears. The mortality among the troops was so great that
bands of music were forbidden to attend the military funerals.



After having filled up some hundred vacancies caused by our Dutch
expedition, we again received orders to prepare for foreign service;
and in January 1810 the 28th Regiment for the fourth time in four
successive years marched from Colchester to go out and meet the foe
in foreign lands. On this occasion we proceeded to Portsmouth, and
with the 2nd Battalion of the 4th or King’s Own Regiment embarked for
Gibraltar, where we arrived towards the latter end of the ensuing
month. In the April following, Major Browne of the regiment, with the
light companies of the 9th, 30th, and 41st Regiments, a battalion
company of the 28th which I accompanied, two guns and thirty gunners,
the whole amounting to three hundred and sixty men and officers,
marched to Tarifa, a small town at the entrance of the gut of
Gibraltar, afterwards rendered celebrated by its noble defence under
Colonel Skerrett against Marshal Victor.


Soon after our arrival I was sent by Major Browne with despatches to
General Campbell, then Lieutenant-Governor of Gibraltar. Returning next
day with the general’s instructions, when I had got about half way,
my attention was suddenly called by the peasantry, who pastured their
flocks on the neighbouring hills, frequently crying out, “Beware of the
French!” Neither the dragoon who accompanied me nor I myself could
discover the slightest appearance of an enemy, and I knew that the
French occupied no part within twenty miles of the place. Under this
conviction I proceeded forwards, yet cautiously, for the shepherds, who
seemed much excited, were running in all directions collecting their
flocks. On our advancing a short way, we heard the shouts, “Beware of
the French!” repeated with redoubled vehemence. I now stopped short,
when suddenly a French cavalry piquet, consisting of about twenty men
and an officer, darted from out the thickets, which were so high and
the patrol so well concealed that, although within a hundred and fifty
yards of us, neither the dragoon nor I had discovered any appearance
of either man or horse. They were in their saddles in an instant, and
saluted us with their carbines and pistols literally before we had time
to turn our horses round. My dragoon darted like lightning off the
road towards the coast, calling upon me to follow, and in an instant
was lost to sight. I felt much disinclination to trust my safety to
concealment in a country with one yard of which off the road I was not
acquainted. I therefore resolved to rely on the abilities of my horse
to make good my retreat along the road; I could depend upon him for
speed. The patrol gave me chase for upwards of four miles. We always
preserved nearly the same distance, from a hundred to a hundred and
fifty yards apart, losing sight of each other only when a turn in the
road or some high brambles intervened. Our uniformly preserving nearly
the same distance did not depend on the equal speed of our animals, but
on the nature of the road which was perhaps the worst mountain road in
Europe; and so deep and so little apart were the ruts by which it was
completely traversed that to push a spirited horse would be to break
his neck to a certainty and most probably that of the rider also. On
approaching the cork wood not far from Algesiras, the ground being
comparatively level, I very soon left the dragoons far behind.

On my arrival at Algesiras, learning that two Spanish regiments
of cavalry had just arrived there, I immediately waited on the
senior officer, and informed him of what had occurred, using every
remonstrance which I could suggest to induce him to march to the aid
of Tarifa, which, even before I entered the town, he knew from the
peasantry to be attacked. But all my prayers that he would aid Tarifa,
or at least cut off the retreat of the enemy, were ineffectual, the
Spanish commandant alleging that without orders he could not move. Upon
this I wrote to Lieutenant Belcher, assistant military secretary to
General Campbell, stating all that had taken place, at the same time
remarking that from the fact, which I learned also from the peasantry
who from far and near drove their flocks into Algesiras, that no sortie
had been made by Major Browne, I felt convinced that he was attacked by
a force much superior to his own. This letter I immediately sent off by
a boat to Gibraltar.

As soon as it became dusk I again mounted my horse, if possible to
get to Tarifa, attended by the same dragoon who accompanied me in the
morning. This man, who was no coward, found his way into Algesiras
about the same time that I arrived there. He assured me that he could
conduct me by a coast road to within a hundred yards of Tarifa without
being discovered by any, as it was a road or rather goat-track but
little known. As a proof of the confidence which he felt, he insisted
on taking the lead, for two horses could not move abreast, and like a
true Spaniard drew his sabre even before he left the town. The only
thing I obtained from the Spanish commandant was his gratuitous adieu,
strongly recommending that I should not attempt to return to Tarifa
until it should be thoroughly ascertained that the enemy had retired,
to which advice, to avoid the enemy, I paid as much attention as he
did to my recommendation to seek the enemy. I felt much anxiety to be
at Tarifa, the more as I wished to tell Browne of what I had done, and
that consequently he might expect a reinforcement.

We arrived before daybreak near the town, where meeting a friar we
heard that we might advance with safety, for the French had retired.
It appears that as soon as Marshal Victor, whose corps were lying
before Cadiz, had learned that Tarifa was occupied by English troops,
he sent out a strong patrol of infantry and cavalry to ascertain our
strength. He felt very jealous of the post, as it threatened his
foraging parties, who frequently came to the neighbouring fertile
plains to procure nourishment for his army, and principally to collect
forage for his cavalry. For this reason it was that he sent the party
mentioned, who appeared before the walls of Tarifa on the morning of
April 20th before daybreak, seven days after the place had been in
our possession. The surmise stated in my letter to Lieutenant Belcher
proved true. Major Browne, in consequence of the strong force brought
against him, did not move out of the garrison until the evening, when
the enemy drew off a part of their troops; then, as they still occupied
a large convent and some uninhabited houses close to the town, a sortie
was made, headed by Captain Stovin, when they were soon dislodged
and pursued for a considerable distance. This demonstration against
Tarifa was attended with but few results or casualties, one man only,
a gunner, being killed and a few more wounded. Lieutenant Mitchell, a
gallant officer, commanded the artillery.


On my arrival at Tarifa I acquainted Major Browne with all that had
occurred to me during my absence, my useless endeavours to induce the
Spanish regiments or any part of the garrison of Algesiras to intercept
the enemy’s return from Tarifa, and finally with my having written to
Gibraltar. The major fully approved of all the steps I had taken; and,
my letter being laid before General Campbell, he ordered four companies
of the 47th Regiment, under the command of Captain O’Donoghue of that
corps, instantly to embark for Tarifa, but the wind becoming contrary,
they were obliged to disembark at Algesiras and proceed overland.
They arrived at Tarifa the night after my return there; and here they
continued until the month of September. Then the 28th Regiment, whose
colonel, Belson, had gone to England in consequence of ill-health, were
ordered to Tarifa; and Captain O’Donoghue’s detachment, together with
the light companies which originally had accompanied Major Browne, were
then recalled to Gibraltar.

Shortly after this attack on Tarifa, an English merchant vessel was
captured by a French privateer in the neighbourhood of Vejer, not far
from Tarifa. A midshipman, who commanded a gunboat detached from the
guardship at Gibraltar, reported the circumstance to Major Browne, and
applied to him for a detachment of soldiers to embark on board his
boat, stating that so strengthened he might retake the vessel. Browne,
in whose estimation the honour of His Majesty’s arms in whatever branch
of the service was paramount to any other sentiment, hesitated not a
moment, and ordered me, with as many men of the light company (28th) as
the gunboat could stow, to embark immediately.

[Sidenote: A NAVAL BATTLE.]

Leaving Tarifa in the evening and pulling all night, we found ourselves
next morning at dawn in the celebrated bay of Trafalgar; and as soon
as light enabled us to see we discovered the vessel alluded to about
two miles distant. We immediately swept towards her. Soon after a
boat put off from the shore, now in possession of the French, with
intention, as we afterwards discovered, to set the ship on fire.
While some of the sailors and soldiers in turn used every exertion to
row, or rather sweep, we kept up as quick a fire as possible with a
long twelve-pounder and a twenty-four-pounder at the boat coming from
shore. One shot having struck not far beyond her, whilst a shower of
grape fell but little short, she thought proper to retire. Being thus
freed from the enemy’s boat, we made a wide offing to keep the vessel
between us and shore, within musket-shot of which she was run aground.
On boarding her, we placed bales of wool or cotton, which formed the
principal part of her cargo, along her side next the shore to cover
us from the fire of musketry; for by this time a strong detachment of
French infantry came down close to the water’s edge, ranging themselves
in loose order, so as not to offer any dense body to the fire of the
gunboat, which, after putting the soldiers on board the merchantman,
retired beyond musket range of the shore and kept up a fire of round
shot and grape. The enemy on shore had a similar covering to our own,
having the night before disembarked several bales of the cotton.
Whenever any of these was struck by a round shot, its bounding from
the beach presented a most fantastic appearance and caused shouts of
laughter among the men, which tended to lighten their fatigue.

After working indefatigably for several hours, we at length succeeded
in getting the vessel afloat. Our labour was much heightened by our
being obliged to work her off by the windlass, since her capstan
was unshipped and carried away by the French, who had everything in
preparation on board to set fire to her as soon as unloaded, or if
there were an attempt at rescue.

Having succeeded in carrying her off, we returned next day to Tarifa,
where we landed in triumph from our prize, as she was termed. Next day
she was sent to Gibraltar, and condemned, I think, to salvage or some
such term; but never having on entering the army contemplated becoming
a prize-fighter, I may be mistaken as to terms. On a distribution
of this said salvage money being made, I was put down to receive a
portion such as is allotted to a sailor, probably an able-bodied one.
But on some person in Gibraltar suggesting that probably it would not
be correct to class me, who was the only commissioned officer present
at the recapture or within sight of it, with a common sailor, I was
on reflection ranked with the petty officers, cooks, etc., thereby
gaining promotion from the forecastle to the caboose, and obtaining
the rank if not the title of cook. I employed no agent, considering
my claim safe in the hands of the sister profession. Captain Vivian,
who commanded the guardship, the _San Juan_, at Gibraltar, I was told,
superintended the arrangement; and, together with the whole of his
officers and crew, shared in the spoil, each officer having a much
larger portion than that dealt out to me, although neither he nor they
aided or assisted, or were or could be in sight, when the capture
took place. The midshipman who commanded the gunboat was equally
unfortunate as to the share to which he was entitled as the only acting
naval officer present at the capture; but I heard at the time that
to quiet him he was otherwise rewarded. If true, I feel happy at it;
and we both should feel content, he at being promoted to the rank
of a commissioned officer, and I at receiving a diploma as a master
of gastronomic science, although to this day I am ignorant how to
compose even a basin of peasoup. Shortly afterwards I met Mr. William
Sweetland, who was employed as agent on the occasion. On questioning
him as to the extraordinary distribution, he with professional coolness
replied that he was employed on the other side, that no person appeared
on my behalf, and that if anybody had, of course there could be no
question as to the sentence which must have been passed. I was strongly
advised to appeal to the Admiralty, as I might thereby gain a sum of
money that would tend to my advancement; but I foolishly disregarded
the counsel. So I took my cook’s wages, and therewith drank to the
health of my Sovereign, the honour and glory of my old profession, and
success for ever to the Royal Navy. I was afterwards informed that
thanks were given to me in public orders by Sir Richard Keats. I never
saw the order, and therefore cannot answer for its existence; yet
the fact could easily be ascertained by any feeling interest in the
subject. For my own part, I felt so dissatisfied at the mercenary or
jobbing part of the transaction that I never took any step to ascertain
whether the thanks were or were not published. Colonel Browne having
visited Gibraltar shortly after the transaction had taken place, fully
explained his and my sentiments to Captain Vivian on the quarter-deck
of the _San Juan_, among other assertions upholding that he himself
and the whole garrison of Tarifa, from which Lieutenant Blakeney was
detached, had as strong a claim to participation in the salvage as
Captain Vivian and the crew of the guardship; and here he was perfectly
right, for the garrison of Tarifa was five-and-twenty miles nearer to
the scene of action than the _San Juan_ stationed at Gibraltar.


During our long stay at Tarifa few days passed on which I was not
employed either in opposing the French foraging parties or in carrying
despatches to and from Gibraltar. On one of these latter occasions,
when returning to Tarifa after an absence of three days, detained by
heavy rains, I was not a little surprised at finding a stream through
the cork wood of Algesiras much changed in its aspect. But three days
previously I crossed it when the horse’s hoofs were scarcely wetted;
now it had become a roaring and rapid torrent. The passage of this
torrent was very dangerous; its bed, with which I was well acquainted
having crossed it fifty times, was formed of large smooth flags much
inclined, making it somewhat perilous at any time to ride over it.
Within fifteen or twenty yards of this, the only part passable, the
water-course suddenly wound round the base of an abrupt mountain,
against which the torrent rushed with violence, and continuing its new
direction soon disgorged itself into the ocean. To make a false step in
crossing was certain destruction. The current passed rapidly downwards
between the mountains, its foaming surf interrupted in its course by
huge and prominent rocks, with which the mountain sides were studded
down to the very bed of the torrent, which, now passing underneath,
now boiling over the rugged and unseemly heads of those frightful
masses of stone, gave them apparent animation; like monstrous spirits
of the flood, they seemed to threaten destruction to all who came
within their reach. With such a picture before me and considering it
a stupid way of losing one’s life, I hesitated for some moments, when
the Spanish dragoon, who always accompanied me on such excursions,
boldly took the lead and entered the hissing foam. His horse made some
few slips, and more than once I expected to see both dashed to pieces,
which must have taken place had the animal made a really false step.
Fortunately they got safe across; but this did not induce me to follow.
Few perils I would not have encountered rather than ride through that
frightful torrent, knowing as I did the nature of its bed. Yet to
return to Algesiras I considered degrading, especially when the dragoon
had so boldly passed across. At length, and contrary to his advice,
I determined to wade on foot, and flogged forward my horse into the
water, which he unwillingly took, and like the other narrowly escaped.
The last trial was my own. I recollected that, close above where the
horses passed, a rock about two feet high stood in the centre of the
stream, and to lean against that in case of necessity, I entered the
water a little higher. Fortunately I thought of this precaution, for by
the time I had with the greatest exertion got to where this rock was
situated, I felt so spent and incapable of resisting the torrent that
I could neither proceed nor retire. Placing both legs firmly against
the rock, and feeling quite giddy from the glare and the rapidity with
which the waters passed, I felt compelled to close my eyes for some


My situation was now neither wholesome nor pleasant. Boughs and trunks
of trees rapidly passed at intervals down the stream, any one of which
coming upon me must have either smashed me on the spot or dashed me
headlong against the rocks below. But luckily I was preserved by
another rock, which stood in the centre of the channel not far above
me, rearing its ample head over the water; this dividing the torrent,
sent the floating batteries on either side. The poor Spaniard appeared
desperate, violently striking his head, but he did not attempt the
water a second time, nor could I blame him. I wore a very long sash
with its still longer cords, such as light infantry bucks then used.
Untying it and holding one end, I flung the other towards the Spaniard,
who anxiously prepared to catch it; but it proved too short. He now
took off his sash, which was also long as all Spanish sashes are, and
rolling up a stone within it flung it towards me with such precision
that I caught it with both hands. I now tied the two sashes together,
and fastened the stone within one end of the dragoon’s sash, which I
flung back to him. He caught it and gave a cheer. The only thing I now
dreaded was that the Spaniard in his anxiety would give a sudden pull,
which, with the heavy load of water I carried, might cause the silken
bridge to snap or pull me off my legs, either of which things must be
fatal. I therefore cautioned him to hold firm, but on no account to
pull unless I should fall. He fully obeyed the directions, and I warped
myself safely across. The faithful Spaniard hugged me to his breast,
and having raped my cheeks of a kiss each, burst into a flood of tears,
declaring that had anything happened to me he would instantly have
deserted to the French; he said that, had I been drowned and of course
carried into the ocean, no assertion of his could have prevented any
one from considering him the cause, and that consequently he would have
been torn to pieces by the English soldiers at Tarifa.

It was now about dusk, and the Spaniard having assisted me to mount,
we started forward as fast as the badness of the road would permit,
for we had several miles still to traverse. The expression of the
inexpressible part of my dress at every stride of the horse resembled
the sound made by steaks being fried in an adjoining room while the
door is continually shutting and opening. This simile will now no doubt
be considered excessively vulgar; but at the period alluded to most
officers were familiar with a frying-pan, and even a guardsman in those
days could rough it on a beefsteak and a bottle of old port.

We arrived at Tarifa long after the officers had dined. Colonel
Browne well recollects the circumstance, as it was on this occasion
that I brought him a letter written by Lord Bathurst appointing him
Lieutenant-Governor of Tarifa, with a pecuniary advantage attached
which was not the least acceptable part of the communication.

In this expedition I lost the use of a gold repeater, which was so
gorged by the mountain torrent that I never afterwards could keep it in

[Sidenote: A REVOLT OF WOMEN.]

Soon after this I was again sent to Gibraltar with despatches, relative
to which some notable occurrences took place. I should have previously
mentioned that shortly after our occupation of Tarifa a corps or civic
guard, composed of young men, inhabitants of the town, was formed.
The command of this body, called the Tarifa Volunteers, amounting to
from forty to fifty individuals, was confided to Captain Meacham, 28th
Regiment, not only because he was a gallant and experienced officer,
but also on account of his knowledge of the Spanish language, acquired
at an earlier period when the regiment was stationed in Minorca. This
corps in its infancy imperfectly drilled, without any established
uniform and not very imposing in appearance owing to their diversity
of dress, could not be relied on as an efficient force. For these
reasons perhaps it was that they got the name of “Meacham’s Blind
Nuts,” so baptised, if I mistake not, by Captain Allen of the 10th
Regiment. However, to ascertain what might be expected from them in
case of an emergency which was daily expected, Major Browne determined
to put their alertness at least to trial, confiding his plan to the
Spanish lieutenant-governor. After a jovial dinner-party he, about an
hour before daybreak, ordered the drums and bugles to sound to arms
and troops to line the walls immediately, stating that the French
were rapidly advancing against the town. The first to be seen, sabre
in hand, was the Spanish governor, previously warned; then came forth
the British garrison with firm and equal step; and last and not too
willingly appeared the rather tardy volunteers. They were to be seen
in small groups scattered through the town, no kind of formation
having taken place preparatory to their going to the walls; and so
they slowly moved along the streets. To hurry them up a gun was fired,
when an extraordinary scene was presented. Suddenly all the doors in
the town flew open, and out rushed a fiercer and more warlike body
by far. The streets were instantly crowded with women, one seizing
a husband, another a son, a third a brother; some clinging to their
dearly beloved, all endeavouring to snatch them by force from out their
warlike ranks, loudly and bitterly exclaiming against the British, who,
they cried or rather screamed, being fond of bloodshed themselves,
would force others into fight whether willing or otherwise. At length,
urged by some British officers and breaking away from their wives,
mothers, sisters and lovers, in whose hands remained many cloaks,
coats, hats and even torn locks of hair, the poor Nuts arrived half
shelled upon the ramparts. Dawn soon after breaking, all the guns were
fired off, but surpassed by the louder screaming inside the town. The
rough music of the artillery was immediately succeeded by the more
harmonious sounds of the band playing “God save the King.” All was soon
restored to tranquillity, save for a few contentious Blind Nuts, each
claiming to be the first who mounted the walls and offered himself to
be cracked in defence of his country.

Scarcely had this scene terminated when Colonel Browne received
important intelligence of the enemy, and I was immediately sent with
despatches to Gibraltar by water, the wind being rather favourable
though strong, but the weather rainy. On my arrival at Gibraltar, to my
utter astonishment I found the landing-place crowded with inhabitants,
officers and soldiers, all greedy to know the nature of my despatches,
especially as I had come away in such boisterous weather and in an open
boat. All were in the greatest anxiety; for an English man-of-war,
happening to pass by Tarifa at the moment the guns were firing from the
ramparts, reported the circumstance at Gibraltar, but as it was blowing
hard at the time and there was no port, she had not been able to stop
to ascertain the cause of the firing. This, since a second attack
on Tarifa by a larger force was threatened by the enemy, caused the
greatest excitement at Gibraltar.

The first person who addressed me on landing was Lieutenant Taylor,
9th Regiment (afterwards shot through the body at Barossa), demanding,
without any prelude whatever, if Captain Godwin of his regiment was
wounded. I dryly answered, “Yes.” “Where?” “In the shoulder.” “Are they
beaten off?” “They are not there now.” This was sufficient to extricate
me from the surrounding crowd, which otherwise would have impeded my
progress to the convent for at least an hour. As soon as Taylor got his
information, he, followed by the crowd, whom I refused to answer, ran
off to communicate his intelligence to his commanding officer, Colonel
Mole, and Mole instantly galloped off with the news to General Bowes.

[Sidenote: NEWS OF BATTLE.]

In the meantime I delivered my despatches to General Campbell at
the convent. Proceeding thence to Captain Power, who temporarily
commanded the 28th Regiment, I was there met by Captain Loftus,
aide-de-camp to General Bowes, with a message from the general that
I should immediately, and in writing, state my reasons for having
propagated unfounded reports of an attack and battle fought at Tarifa.
I instantly answered that I had propagated no reports; that the words
battle or Tarifa never escaped my lips; that to get rid of an idle
and troublesome multitude who surrounded me on landing, I muttered
something in a low tone of voice to Lieutenant Taylor, telling him loud
enough to be heard by many not to divulge anything until the contents
of the despatches which I carried should be made known through the
proper channel; that Taylor promised secrecy; and that my stratagem
succeeded, for on his departure at a quick pace the crowd followed. I
further added that, had I the slightest conception that anything thus
communicated could be believed by a general officer, I should certainly
have remained silent, however incommoded by the mob; and that to free
myself from them was my only object. This explanation seemed to have
been sufficient. I had no further communication from the general;
but the circumstance having been privately communicated to General
Campbell, he sent for Bowes and said, “So, general, I understand that
you have had a flying despatch relative to a great battle being fought
at Tarifa. I should think, general, that if such had been the case,
this would have been the proper place for you to seek information,
instead of sending in pursuit of the officer who carried despatches to
me to know his reasons for any heedless conversation that might have
taken place between him and any idlers by whom he was surrounded at the
Mole. I understand also, general, that so pressing were you for his
written explanation, that time was not allowed him to change his wet
clothes, for which purpose it was I allowed him to go away, since he
had been drenched with rain for several hours in an open boat.” I met
General Bowes the same day at the general’s table. With a smile upon
his countenance he very politely invited me to drink wine with him; and
the governor requested that, whenever I brought despatches, I should
make the best of my way through the idlers, but should communicate
with no one until I saw him. Thus the affair terminated as far as the
generals were concerned.

But all my troubles were not as yet ended; I had to encounter others
on my return. During my absence Godwin had been told that I reported
his having been wounded in the back of his shoulder; but although he
taxed me with the report in a laughing way, still he appeared not well
pleased. His usual good-humour returned when I assured him that I never
made use of such an expression; and certainly Godwin was one of the
last to whom I should attribute a wound in the back. The fact was that
he had been hurt in the shoulder a short time previously by his horse
running with him against a tree.

[Sidenote: A BOY OF NERVE.]

I frankly confess that while the affair was in agitation between the
generals at Gibraltar I felt somewhat nervous, owing to a circumstance
which took place five years previously. It may be recollected that in
1805 the regiment were encamped at the Curragh of Kildare. During the
early part of this encampment, when I was on duty on the quarter-guard,
it so happened that General Campbell was general officer of the lines;
and unfortunately it so fell out that the adjutant neglected to send
me the parole and countersign until a very late hour. In the meantime
came the grand rounds, who were rather hesitatingly challenged for the
password, of which we ourselves were in total ignorance. The general,
noticing the not very correct manner in which he was received and
disregarding the challenge, rode up at once to the quarter-guard, and,
reprimanding me for the slovenly manner in which the advanced files
were sent forward, demanded the countersign, adding that he believed I
did not know it. At the moment, as the general turned his head away,
the sergeant of the guard, having that instant received the parole and
countersign, stepped forward and whispering the words in my ear put
the paper containing them in my hand; but the general perceiving some
movement rowed the sergeant for being unsteady under arms, and called
me forward rather briskly, repeating his belief that I had not the
countersign. I told him I had.

“And what is the countersign?” quickly demanded the general.

I now coolly replied, “I am placed here to receive, not to give the

The general was evidently amazed at the reply, and saying, “Very well,
sir, we shall see about this in the morning,” turned his horse round to
ride off.

This was the first quarter-guard I had ever mounted, and from the
novelty of the scene and my not having the countersign when the grand
rounds arrived, I felt excessively nervous; but although my knees
at the first onset beat the devil’s tattoo against each other, yet,
having now gained full confidence, rather augmented by a titter
amongst the general’s staff one of whom was his son, afterwards Sir Guy
Campbell, I told the general that my orders were to allow no person
to pass without his first giving the countersign. Here the titter

“What,” said he--“not let me pass?”

I made no reply; but retiring the two paces which the general had
called me forward, I remained on the right of my guard, looking most
respectfully at the general. After a moment’s thought he gave me the
countersign, and having received the parole in exchange rode away. I
was in hopes that the unpleasant affair had ended here; but immediately
after I was relieved from guard I was sent for by Colonel Johnson,
who, although not my immediate commanding officer, commanded both
battalions as senior lieutenant-colonel. To him therefore the general
complained, and to him he seemed to attach most blame for allowing so
young an officer, and so totally ignorant of his duty, to take charge
of a quarter-guard. All the field officers of the two battalions were
summoned on the occasion to Colonel Johnson’s tent, and in their
presence the general recounted the whole transaction. I remained
perfectly silent. On his coming towards a conclusion, when he mentioned
my having refused to let him pass, which he repeated with emphasis, I
saw a suppressed smile on the faces of both Colonel Johnson and Colonel
Belson. But Major Browne, impatient of restraint, broke into a laugh
exclaiming, “Well, he is only one year in the Service; I am many,
yet I wish I knew my duty as well; and,” continued he with increased
laughter, “it is the first time I ever heard of a boy ensign taking his
own general prisoner.” Browne was wrong as to my rank, for I had been
five days a lieutenant.

[Sidenote: COALS OF FIRE.]

However, the general did not seem to enjoy the joke as much as Browne
did, and ordered Colonel Johnson to reprimand me. Johnson, who was
brother-in-law to the general and one of the most gentlemanlike persons
possible, bowed assent, but in some way gave the general to understand
that he was at a loss to understand what particular part of my conduct
it was for which I was to be censured. The general having retired,
Johnson’s rebuke to me was very slight indeed, particularly when I
mentioned, as I refrained from doing while the general was there, that
the countersign and parole, with which I should have been furnished
before sunset, were not sent to me until midnight, just as the grand
rounds advanced. But if the lieutenant-governor recollected this
anecdote when at Gibraltar, it certainly caused no difference in his
courtesy or hospitality towards me; for he insisted that whenever I
visited Gibralter I should always make the convent my headquarters.



To relate the many and divers occurrences which took place during our
stay at Tarifa, although all more or less interesting, would swell
these pages to an imprudent size. I shall therefore pass over many and
come down to the month of January 1811.


The Duke of Dalmatia, who directed the operations carried on against
Cadiz and commanded the French force in Andalusia, was ordered by the
Emperor to proceed into Estremadura, principally for the purpose of
reducing the fortresses of Olivenza and Badajoz. Pursuant to these
instructions he marched from Seville in the first days of the month
with an army of sixteen thousand men, having withdrawn a part of the
troops from before Cadiz. The British troops stationed in this fortress
were commanded by General Graham. This active officer, indignant at
seeing the gallant troops under his command ignobly and unnecessarily
caged up in a fortress by an inferior force, (counting each Spaniard
who wore military uniform a soldier), and anxious to shake off the dead
weight of his sluggish ally, General La Peña, who impeded the Spaniards
under his command both in working on the fortifications and fighting
against the enemy, eagerly seized the opportunity offered by Soult’s
departure of bursting the trammels which fettered British valour and
striking a decisive blow against the enemy. To carry into full effect
his well-digested plans, he proposed to the drowsy Spanish general, La
Peña, and to the active British admiral, Sir R. Keats, a sortie from
the Isla de Leon, purposing to attack the whole French line, beat back
the besiegers and bring the disgracefully pent-up Spanish and British
troops into open air and active movement in the field. This bold and
masterly project was eagerly embraced by Sir R. Keats, and apparently
so by La Peña. It was therefore agreed that whilst a bridge should be
thrown across the River Santi Petri, a general attack should take place
by the gunboats against the whole advanced French line from Ronda to
Santa Maria. One obstacle however opposed: the bank opposite the Isla,
upon which the proposed bridge was to rest, was with a strong force
held by the enemy. To obviate this it was determined that a diversion
should be made on the outposts in rear of the French lines, to call
off his attention, whilst the bridge was laid down. In furtherance of
this plan General Graham requested General Campbell to allow Colonel
Browne, who commanded at Tarifa, to move forward and attack Casa
Vieja. Orders at the same time were sent by La Peña to the Spanish
general, Beguines, who commanded at Alcala de los Gazules, to attack
Medina Sidonia, distant from his post about fifteen miles due west and
directly leading to Chiclana. A despatch dated January 25th was late
that night received at Tarifa by Colonel Browne, containing orders from
General Campbell to move forward, with all the troops he could take
with him, to attack Casa Vieja, and at the same time to favour as much
as possible the movement against Medina Sidonia by the Spanish troops.
Pursuant to his instructions, Browne, with four hundred and seventy
bayonets of the 28th Regiment and thirty artillerymen commanded by
Lieutenant Mitchell, left Tarifa at three o’clock on the afternoon of
the 26th and arrived at Fascinas--a distance of about twelve miles--at
eight o’clock. Here we halted for a few hours; and Captain Bowles of
the regiment was detached with his company to watch the Vejer road and
prevent our return to Tarifa being cut off by any troops coming from
that direction, since Vejer was in possession of the French.

About twelve o’clock at night we again moved forward and at seven in
the morning we came in sight of Casa Vieja, a large convent with some
outhouses strongly fortified and garrisoned by French troops, amounting
to upwards of a hundred men and having two twenty-four pounders on
top of the building. This building is situated twenty-five miles from
Tarifa, in the direction of Chiclana and Medina Sidonia, with which
places it forms a triangle. We now moved forward, crossing the River
Barbate immersed to our middle, when we were warmly saluted from the
“Blessed old House,” as the Spaniards called it, which at the same time
sent out from twenty to thirty sharpshooters. The regiment circled
round to get in rear of the convent, while the light company driving
in the sharpshooters took a more direct line and soon gained the crown
of the hill immediately over the building. We now lay down, after
descending to within pistol-shot of the place, and opened so hot a
fire that even a sparrow could not live on the walls. A parley was now
sounded and the garrison summoned to surrender, which the commandant
without any hesitation resolutely refused to do. Colonel Browne thought
of attacking the convent by storm, although he had no scaling ladders
and the walls were very high; but reflected that even though we should
succeed (which must be attended with severe loss from the great
strength of the works lately constructed), its possession to us would
be useless. He judged correctly that his instructions would be more
effectually carried out by allowing the post to remain in the hands of
the enemy, and by continuing to threaten it so as to induce the French
at Medina to detach a force to its aid. Since it was no part of our
object to come upon the place by stealth, the commandant there had time
in the morning, previous to the investment, to apprise the garrison at
Medina of our approach and of his own danger; and consequently both
infantry and cavalry were immediately sent to his succour.


Leaving the light company to look down on the convent and prevent all
communication, Colonel Browne, with the rest of the regiment, marched
towards Medina to favour any attack on that place. As he advanced he
encountered the detachment sent from Medina, whom he attacked and put
to the rout. He then halted giving his harassed men, who were soaked
through with mud and rain and with wading rivers, an opportunity of
refreshing and hoping also to induce the enemy at Medina to come
forward. In both he fully succeeded. We had already with us some
mounted guerillas, who were of more or less use; and during Colonel
Browne’s halt he was fortunately joined by from thirty to forty Spanish
cavalry commanded by an officer, who gallantly did their duty as long
as they remained with us; and it was a well-authenticated fact in
those days that a small body of Spaniards attached to or acting with a
British force, when there were no Spanish generals with false pride to
interfere, would proudly imitate the heroic conduct of their allies.

The French force who now advanced from Medina were at least equal
in infantry and far superior in cavalry to that commanded by Browne,
who, his men now refreshed by their halt, retired steadily on Casa
Vieja, followed by the enemy, whose numbers increased every moment,
particularly in cavalry. The light company were now imperceptibly
withdrawn from the high ground, which prevented those within the
convent from seeing either our troops or those who were advancing to
their aid. A few of the company, in very extended order and partly
covered by the brushwood, were left, and these fired at any showing
themselves on the walls, so that those in the fort were in total
ignorance of what was passing so near them; and thus we dreaded no
attack from our rear. The light company having joined the regiment and
the Spanish dragoons closed in, Colonel Browne formed line, placing
some cavalry on either flank. The main body of cavalry, together with
the few baggage horses and those which carried our provisions, were
judiciously posted on a gently rising ground immediately in rear of our
centre, which gave an imposing appearance. On coming closer the enemy
halted, no doubt awaiting still stronger reinforcements, or probably
imagining that we did not show our entire force.

As the dusk of evening advanced, Colonel Browne, covering his whole
front with the Spanish cavalry who commenced skirmishing with that of
the enemy, and considering that he had a French garrison in his rear,
a superior force in his front, and the ground favourable for cavalry
in which the enemy exceeded him by far, silently retired in the dark,
recrossed the Barbate, and entered the gorge of the mountain pass,
which being thickly planted with wood secured us against an attack
of horsemen. On this night the Spaniards were to attack Medina; but
reports coming in frequently during the night and down to a late hour
on the morning of the 28th, showed us that the enemy’s troops, whom we
had drawn on at such risk, had not retired, and therefore that Medina
had not been attacked.

[Sidenote: NUTS TO OUR AID.]

Among the many messengers we sent out to collect information as to
the movements of the Spaniards, one returned that forenoon, bringing
a letter from the Spanish general stating that his troops were still
in Alcalá, but that he intended moving forward immediately. Thus all
our hardships and risk counted for nothing. We felt much mortified,
and would willingly have returned to Tarifa from a scene where in
appearance at least deceit had been used. But Browne, faithful to
his instructions, moved out of his stronghold as soon as he learned
that the enemy, whom we had drawn forward, had commenced a retrograde
movement. Succeeding again in drawing them back, he again retired.
The opposing cavalry were by this time much increased. On this day we
were joined by forty men of the Tarifa Volunteers. Our situation was
comfortless, neither houses, tents nor huts to shelter us, and the
rain falling heavily. It was the first time that Meacham’s corps were
ever washed clean, and the Blind Nuts began to see what was the varied
life of a soldier. However we kept up a blazing fire. Frequent reports
during the night stated that the enemy were collecting in considerable
numbers in our front with intent to attack us; but, confiding in the
vigilance of the Spanish cavalry, we felt no alarm.

Between three and four o’clock on the morning of the 29th our attention
was suddenly called by the trampling of horses quickly approaching.
Springing up from our seats round the fire (lying down was out of the
question from the heavy rain), we were instantly under arms, when
an officer, two orderly dragoons, and a couple of armed guides rode
up, whom we immediately recognised as Spaniards. The officer was
aide-de-camp to General Beguines, by whom he was sent to Colonel Browne
to inform him that untoward circumstances prevented an earlier attack
on Medina Sidonia, but that it was his decided intention to storm it
next morning, and he requested the colonel to make every exertion in
his power to aid the assault. From what had already passed we felt
very dubious as to Beguines’ intentions. But there was something so
noble and ingenuous in the deportment of the aide-de-camp, who solemnly
pledged himself for the attack taking place, that for the first time
we strongly suspected a Spanish general of sincerity; in this instance
we were not deceived. Colonel Browne told him that his support might
be relied on, and instantly gave orders to prepare for march. The
aide-de-camp having sparingly partaken of our greatest luxuries--salt
pork and rum--mounted his steed with all that grace so peculiar to a
Spaniard (and he was as fine-looking and handsome a man as I ever met),
and bidding us a cordial farewell commended us with religious fervency
to God and Saint Anthony and so rode off over bad roads and through
French vedettes to inform his general that the English troops were
already under way.

Groping our way in the dark, we advanced, and, having crossed the
Barbate, were informed that the enemy were again retiring. Hurrying
on to the convent, where we arrived at daybreak, we instantly opened
a roaring fire of musketry against the building, more to make a noise
than with the expectation of producing any other effect. Leaving
the Tarifa Volunteers with a few red soldiers interspersed, Colonel
Browne with the regiment moved towards Medina. We had not proceeded
far before we encountered a party of about sixty men, infantry and
cavalry, who, upon hearing our fire at the convent, had turned round.
They were instantly put to flight. Pressing forward towards a mill
about a league and a half from Medina, our cavalry and guerillas, now
exceeding sixty in number, were detached to the mill, as we knew it
to be a post occupied by the enemy. On their approach the enemy fled,
when the mill, together with strong fieldworks and extensive stabling
recently finished, was set fire to, thus informing the enemy at Medina
of our advance. Upon this, a formidable detachment were sent against
us. Coming close, they halted for a short time, but soon displayed
their boldness by a menacing advance, while we showed our judgment
by steadily retiring, covered by our cavalry and the light company.
As we fell back on Casa Vieja, firing was heard in the direction of
Medina Sidonia. The enemy halted; we conformed. On both sides the
cavalry skirmished by long shots. This petty warfare continued nearly
two hours, when we retired gradually to our position over the convent.
Here Colonel Browne received a despatch from General Beguines informing
him that he had taken Medina, but that the enemy were in strong force
before him, and that he anxiously awaited the result of the sortie from
the Isla de Leon.


Soon after this despatch had been received, the garrison in the convent
were made acquainted with all that had happened in a very extraordinary
manner. A large body of the enemy’s cavalry bore directly for our
position. So menacing was their aspect that our attention was entirely
directed towards them, and Colonel Browne prepared to form square.
In the meantime a French officer, winding unperceived round the base
of the high ground which overlooked the convent, had the boldness to
approach it so near as to be enabled verbally to communicate with the
garrison. The verge of the hill, as I have already stated, was lined
by the Tarifa Volunteers, who, not being accustomed to active warfare
and being drenched by incessant rain, did not use that vigilance which
such hostile close neighbours required; and it was the loud voice of
the French officer which first called their attention. Many of them
now fired, and some of the light company running up followed the
example; but, the mischief being done, we all rejoiced to see that the
gallant officer escaped unhurt. It was subsequently ascertained that
the communication thus heroically conveyed directed the commandant on
no account to surrender, for although Medina had fallen that morning,
it would be attacked during the night and the commandant strongly
reinforced next morning. However we conjectured at the moment from the
fact of the enemy having lost Medina, that the communication directed
the commandant to seek an opportunity of escape with his garrison. The
light company therefore resumed their old position over the convent,
and the few guerillas now with us were ordered to be excessively alert.
The regular Spanish cavalry, with the greater part of the guerillas,
were skirmishing with the enemy in our front.


From the time we left Tarifa, about three o’clock on the 26th, up to
the same hour on the 29th, the weather was so rainy and boisterous
as to frustrate all the plans of the British general commanding at
Cadiz. In consequence of this, double despatches were sent to Colonel
Browne, one from Sir R. Keats (I could never learn why), the other
from General Graham, stating that from the boisterous state of the
weather the intended movements and the sortie from the Isla were
postponed, and therefore directing his return to Tarifa as soon as
possible. The gunboat which carried these despatches arrived at Tarifa
only on the morning of the 29th. The naval officer in charge was
strictly enjoined to give his despatches into no other hands than
those of Colonel Browne, or in his absence to a commissioned officer,
who should be held responsible personally for their delivery to the
colonel. There was no officer left in Tarifa except Lieutenant Light of
the Grenadiers (shortly afterwards shot through the body at Barossa),
and he but just recovering from a severe fit of illness. He, though
willing to undertake the duty, was incapable from weakness; and as the
naval officer insisted on the absolute necessity of delivering the
despatches immediately, Assistant-Surgeon Johnson, who had charge of
the sick, volunteered to be the bearer and unhesitatingly set forth.
Having arrived at a small hamlet about two miles short of Casa Vieja
and rather out of his direct road (he had no guide and was never
there before), he enquired where the British troops were, when he was
answered, “At Casa Vieja”; and they pointed to the convent. He rode
directly to the gate, and was instantly fired at from within. This took
place at the very moment when, as I have mentioned, the light company
were replaced immediately over the convent and the guerillas ordered
to maintain a vigilant look-out. As soon as the doctor was fired at
by the French from within, he, as was natural, wheeled round and
galloped away at full speed, but not knowing what direction to take,
he unfortunately took the road to Vejer, of which place in our present
situation we felt particularly jealous. As the convent intervened, the
doctor’s approach from the hamlet had not been seen by us; but when
we saw him gallop away from it at full speed, the light company would
certainly have fired at him had he not been instantly covered by the
mountain round which he rode. To protect himself from the inclemency of
the weather, which continued wet and stormy, he wore a blue greatcoat
buttoned up to the chin, over which he carried a loose camlet cloak.
His cocked hat was covered with oilskin, strapped also under his chin;
and in all he showed no appearance of a British officer. In his flight
he was unfortunately discovered by some of the guerillas, who like us
mistaking him for a French officer endeavouring to escape, rode at him
with their lances. On such occasions the lower end of the lance, which
is formed of an iron slide or wedge, is driven into a box of the same
metal fitted to receive it, and is always attached to the saddle. The
horse, when an attack is made, is put to his full speed thus adding his
velocity to his strength; and with this full force Johnson was struck
by a lance under the elbow, breaking one of the bones of the forearm,
and striking him to an incredible distance from his horse. So far the
act admitted of some shade of justification; but while the doctor lay
on the ground he received many wounds before it was found that he was a
British officer; and before any of the regiment came up the guerillas
had actually commenced sharing his garments; one took his hat, another
his cloak, and so on. Johnson declared that on the advance of the
guerillas, whom he knew to be such, he pulled open his outer vestments
to show his British uniform, while his assailants asserted that they
themselves opened his surtout to take it away, and only then discovered
the red coat by which his life was saved. However that might be, the
act was cowardly, as they were told at the time, for eight or nine of
these butchers attacked him at once with full intent to kill him. Their
duty as soldiers was to take the doctor prisoner, supposing him to be
a French officer which I firmly believe they did at the onset, and to
ascertain what information he possessed; but they then would have lost
the spoil, being well aware that in our presence they would not have
been permitted to rob a prisoner naked.


On perusing the despatches carried by the ill-fated doctor (who
received all the attention and assistance possible and was immediately
forwarded to Tarifa), Colonel Browne immediately saw the perilous
situation in which we were placed. He was open to attack in front by
an overwhelming force from Chiclana, where the failure of the sortie
from Cadiz must have been known long before the information could
have reached us, and the object of our advanced movement consequently
discovered. His return to Tarifa was liable to be anticipated by
pushing a force through Vejer, which, by moving along the coast road
would have a much shorter distance to get to Tarifa than we had; and
that town, being left without any troops for its defence, except a few
sick in hospital, must immediately surrender. Or again, should the
enemy force Captain Bowles’ company, detached to watch the Vejer road,
they could come immediately in our rear and cut off our retreat over
the mountain road which alone was left to us. Any one of these measures
could easily have been carried into effect had the enemy been a little
more lively. They had the intelligence of the failure of the sortie
from Cadiz long before we had; and when General Graham’s despatch was
received we were then upwards of eight miles from Bowles, and therefore
could give him no support were he attacked. Under these circumstances
Browne hesitated not a moment how to act, and instantly marched from
the convent, exposed to its fire, the Spanish cavalry still remaining
behind as a check on the garrison. During our march Browne wrote to
General Beguines, informing him of his communication from Cadiz and
demanding to know whether, notwithstanding the failure of the sortie,
he could maintain Medina Sidonia, at the same time candidly stating
that he felt compelled to retire to prevent being cut off from Tarifa
but that, although the risk was great, yet he would at all hazard await
the general’s answer on the skirts of the wood.

We remained during the night in the comfortless and slobbery gorge. The
despatch to Beguines was never answered; but next morning the colonel
received a report from the cavalry officer left behind to awe the
convent, that the French had again entered Medina the previous night
at twelve o’clock, that Beguines was retiring to Alcalá, and that he
himself with the whole of his detachment had been recalled to cover the
retrograde movement. This report was dated three o’clock on the morning
of the 30th, but reached us only at ten o’clock. An hour’s time would
have been sufficient to bring it from where it was dated. Whether this
delay of six hours was made designedly to keep us from retiring, which
would prevent the troops in the convent from coming out, we could not
say; however, it looked suspicious, and to us, critically situated as
we then were, might have proved fatal. Orders were immediately sent to
Captain Bowles to retire along the mountains and meet us at Fascinas,
while we retired direct to that place.


Soon after Bowles joined, which was some time after our arrival at
Fascinas, we all pushed forward for Tarifa and about dark arrived
at Torre la Peña. Here we came on to the plain of Tarifa, which in
consequence of the late continued rains now presented a sheet of water
extending to the town, a distance of from three to four miles. Our
way seemed a continuation of the ocean close on our right, the waters
frequently intermixing; however, wade it we must. This operation to
strangers would be attended with much danger from the numerous pits
and deep ruts throughout; but as scarcely a day had passed during nine
months upon which some of us had not ridden or walked from the town to
the tower, we trusted to our recollection and pushed forward to Tarifa,
where we safely arrived late at night without any serious accident.
While we were wading through the waters a lieutenant of the regiment
was soused over head and ears, and when drawn out ejaculated, ’twixt
joke and earnest, “Ah, if my poor mother saw me now!” This pathetic
speech caused a general laugh, and whenever any similar accident
befell, some mother sister or lover was called upon, which kept up the
merriment until we arrived. A laughable or humorous expression coming
from a fellow sufferer has more effect in rousing the energies and
diverting the men from bending under fatigue than the most studied and
eloquent harangue delivered by any who do not actually participate in
their hardships. Were I to undertake a long and fatiguing march with
a body of soldiers, I should prefer being accompanied by a man in the
ranks who could and would occasionally sing a humorous or exhilarating
song than by a Demosthenes or a Cicero travelling at his ease. Those
who have accompanied soldiers in long and forced marches must have
remarked how quickly and cheerfully the men fall into their proper
places, timing their step to the cadence of the song, and with what
renovated vigour they press forward.

In this expedition, as in all others which we made from Tarifa (too
numerous to be mentioned), we were accompanied by Lieutenant Mitchell,
Royal Artillery. In Tarifa he was an artilleryman, pointing the guns
from the bastion most exposed; in the field he was a light bob,
foremost in pricking for the foe; and on the occasion just mentioned
he acted in a third capacity, for he reconnoitred the fort of Casa
Vieja, guessed its capabilities from outward demonstration, ascertained
the strength of its defences by personal observation and formally
reported thereon with all the inherent pomp and acquired gravity of a
Royal Engineer.

Although our little campaign lasted no more than five days, yet it was
very severe from our having suffered much hardship and privation. We
were sparingly fed; during the whole time drenched through by continual
exposure to rain, without any sort of shelter whatever. Six times we
crossed the Barbate River up to our middle; we approached no habitation
save the “Blessed old House,” its fire not wholesome; we had enough of
marching over infamous roads; and we finally terminated our expedition
on the evening of the fifth day by wading for the last three miles
through a lake. Yet as soon as we changed our dress and sat down to a
smoking mess dinner, all our hardships were forgotten, and long before
we retired to repose our thoughts and conversation were occupied alone
in speculations on our next enterprise. So lives a soldier! Our men
were again ready for the field on the next day but one. Poor Meacham
was sadly annoyed at being recommended to expose his Nuts to the sun
for at least a fortnight to save them from perishing by mildew.



On the day following that upon which we returned to Tarifa I was sent
to Gibraltar with despatches giving an account of our late movements
to the lieutenant-governor, who was much pleased with the conduct of
the regiment in general, but particularly with that of Colonel Browne
for the determined and judicious manner in which he conducted the whole
of the operations, as was fully testified by General Beguines in a
despatch written to General Campbell on the subject.

Rather excited than depressed by the failure of the intended sortie
from Cadiz, General Graham, the resources of whose mind multiplied
in proportion as difficulties appeared, still insisted not only on
the local advantages to be gained by a sortie before Soult should
return with reinforcements, but also that to boldly march out from the
strongest hold in Spain and undauntedly maintain the war in the open
field would inspire the nation with confidence and stimulate the whole
population to the deeds of national glory which Spaniards were wont to
perform. He contended that with such sentiments properly directed the
Spaniards alone were an overmatch for any invading nation, and would
shortly succeed in freeing their country and driving every Frenchman
in Spain down the northern side of the Pyrenees. These arguments could
not be opposed even by General La Peña, who opposed everything except
the enemy. It was therefore arranged that seven thousand Spaniards and
three thousand British troops should embark at Cadiz and sailing to
Tarifa there descend, since that was the nearest place which the allies
possessed in rear of the enemy’s lines. To facilitate this enterprise
General Graham made a sacrifice not easily paralleled. He ceded the
chief command to his ally, thus patriotically giving up the certainty
of personal fame as a leader for the honour of his country’s arms and
the prosperity of the general cause; and such was the confidence he
felt in the valour of the British troops under his command and in the
happy results, if La Peña would only do his duty towards his country,
or do anything except what was glaringly wrong, that he condescended
to serve under the Spanish general, and that too against the opinion
of Lord Wellington, who recommended him never to move out of Cadiz to
execute any movement except in chief command. The duke well knew by
dearly bought experience of what leaven Spanish generals were moulded.
He knew that it required the utmost exertions of a British general to
persuade those of Spain to save their own corps, without calculating on
more. Of this Cuesta gave convincing proof by his movements before the
battle of Talavera, by his inertness and incapacity while the battle
raged and above all by his disgraceful conduct after the battle was
fought, on account of which his lordship felt compelled for the safety
of his own troops to separate from the Spanish army, bidding them
farewell with feelings of respect for the gallant soldiers, of contempt
for the vanity and ignorance of their commanders, and of distrust of
the government who would have devoted their allies and compromised the
honour and independence of their country for personal ambition and mean
self-interested motives. Spanish character in the different branches
was discovered rather too late for his advantage by Sir John Moore, who
portrayed it in its true colours for the information of His Majesty’s
counsellors and the guidance of his successors in Spain.

It was now agreed that Generals La Peña and Graham should march
immediately after disembarkation against the rear of the enemy’s lines,
force a passage to the continental bank of the Santi Petri River, and
by dislodging the French from the posts which they there occupied cover
the construction of the bridge and the sortie from the Isla de Leon.
The Spanish general, Zayas, who was appointed to the command at Cadiz
during La Peña’s absence, was directed to second the project if the
opportune moment should arrive.


All being now ready, General Graham with the British troops sailed
from Cadiz on February 21st for Tarifa. This place presenting
only a roadstead and the wind blowing fresh on the 22nd, when the
general came before it, a descent was found impracticable, and he
therefore proceeded to Algesiras, where he landed, and marching
over an excessively bad road arrived on the evening of the 23rd at
Tarifa. The weather continuing boisterous, the troops halted to await
the Spaniards; and Major Duncan’s brigade of guns, which had been
disembarked at Algesiras, had to be put on board again and brought
by water to Tarifa on account of the state of the road, over which a
wheelbarrow could not be rolled without disaster.

At Tarifa the 28th Regiment were garrisoned under the command of
Colonel Belson, who had rejoined a few days previously from England.
General Graham being well acquainted with the old corps, particularly
during the campaign of Sir John Moore, requested General Campbell’s
leave to lead it during the expedition, which was granted; but the
lieutenant-governor, not forgetting Colonel Browne’s eminent services
during his long command at Tarifa under many critical circumstances,
sent the flank companies of the 9th and 82nd Regiments from Gibraltar,
which, together with those of the 28th Regiment, were to be placed
under the command of Colonel Browne, thus giving him an independent
flank battalion, subject to no orders but those coming direct from
General Graham.

[Sidenote: GUESTS GALORE.]

During the few days which the British troops spent at Tarifa our time
was passed in that jovial conviviality always to be observed among
British soldiers on the opening of a campaign. This formed a remarkable
era in the history of the 28th Regiment, never equalled in any other
corps. They formed the proper garrison of Tarifa, and having been
quartered there for some time were the only regiment which had an
established mess. The town furnished but one posada, or inn if it may
be so called; and this afforded but little accommodation to so large
a concourse as that now assembled. Upwards of a hundred and fifty
officers dined at our mess daily; those of the regiment, together with
those of the flank companies sent from Gibraltar, who were of course
honorary members, amounted to nearly fifty, for the officers of the
28th Regiment, never being much addicted to depôt duty, always mustered
strong at headquarters.

Our mess-room was very spacious, and at either end was a room which
entered into it; not only these three, but in fact every room in the
house, had tables put down; and many there were who felt glad to
procure a dinner even in the kitchen. The draught on our cellar was
deep, and profiting by the experience of the first day of the jubilee,
on the second day, the 24th, we passed a restriction act limiting
each officer to a pint of port and half a bottle of claret; but
notwithstanding this precaution, we ran a pipe of port dry in less
than four days. Porter and brandy, being easily procured, were not
subject to restriction; a great part of these was disposed of in the
kitchen and the small rooms by the mess-man as his private speculation.
It was calculated that, including port claret brandy and porter, two
thousand bottles were emptied in our mess-house within the week. Our
wine accounts, as must be evident under such circumstances, were
much confused and difficult to keep, since it was no easy matter to
ascertain with whom each visitor had dined. The mess waiter was sent
round daily to ascertain this fact, so necessary for the guidance of
the wine committee. Discrepancies not unfrequently occurred between the
highly favoured host and the too obliging guest. I recollect the mess
waiter telling Colonel Belson one day that Lieutenant-Colonel A----n
said he dined with him, upon which Belson remarked to the guest, loud
enough to be heard by many, “A----n, you do not dine with me.” The
other very humorously replied, “Oh, I beg pardon--I made a mistake; now
I recollect, it was for to-morrow I was engaged to you.” “There you
are mistaken again,” said Belson; “it was for yesterday, when you did
not forget.” These circumstances I recollect well, as I happened to be
president of the mess for that week. Colonel Belson would not allow
me to cede the chair, and always sat on my left hand. Our mess-man, a
sergeant of the regiment named Farrel, although he piqued himself on an
acquaintance with algebra, yet with all the aid of the assumed numbers,
A B C, could never discover the unknown quantities consumed. He went
into the field at Barossa, but was never heard of afterwards. Among the
slain he was not; and, enquiries being made at the French headquarters,
he was not one of the few prisoners taken with a part of our baggage
which fell into the hands of the enemy previous to the commencement of
the action, “when the Spaniards in their way lived to fight another
day.” It is more than probable that in the annals of warfare no
regiment has ever had an opportunity of enjoying themselves to such
an extent as the 28th Regiment while General Graham’s army remained
at Tarifa. We were happy to see our friends, who, to do them justice,
waiving all ceremony showed us extraordinary attention.

Even the sergeants contrived to procure a room, where they enjoyed
themselves as much as the officers in the mess-room; and their jokes,
if not equally refined, were not the less entertaining. Being a member
of the mess committee, my avocations obliged me to keep a vigilant
look-out through all parts of the house, which gave me an opportunity
of hearing unobserved many of the jests and repartees which took place
in the sergeants’ room, or debating society, as it was termed. But
although these were at times rather sharp, still perfect good-humour
prevailed throughout. The principal spokesmen, if my memory fail not,
were a Sergeant Turnbull of the Guards, and a Sergeant O’Brien, of the
87th Regiment. They were most determined opponents, and each had a
bigoted attachment to his own country, in support of which he poured
forth witty and pungent repartees to the great entertainment of the

On one occasion, while I was on my way to our cellar, which was fast
falling into consumption, my steps were arrested by loud bursts of
laughter issuing from the debating-room. The first words which I
distinctly heard were, “O, O, O! You are all ‘O’s’ in Ireland!”


This remark evidently came from the Guardsman, when O’Brien drily
replied, “‘O’ means ‘from,’ or ‘the descendant of’; therefore I am not
surprised at its being ridiculed by persons of your country, where long
line of descent is so difficult to be traced.”

“And pray, Mr. O, from whom are you descended?”

“From Bryan Boro, the Great Boro.”

“And surely ‘Boro’ must be a corruption of the Spanish word ‘Burro,’
which signifies ‘an ass’?”

Then Pat grew eloquent on the deeds of his great ancestor, who at the
age of eighty gained a most glorious victory over the invading Danes on
the celebrated plains of Clontarf. Equally eloquent was he also on the
demerits of the Englishmen of that ancient time, until cried out the
British sergeant with a fine scorn:

“I like to hear a fellow of your kind, with your beggarly Irish pride,
talking of records and historical facts! Look to the history of your
own country to learn its disgrace. What have you ever done or achieved
except through murders, robbery, cruelty, bloodshed and treachery?
Have you not always been fighting amongst yourselves, or against your
masters, since we did you the honour of conquering you?”

“If we compare notes about murder and treachery, you need not fear
being left in the background,” retorted the Irishman; “and as to the
honour of being conquered, faith! I cannot cope with you in your
dignities there, for I cannot deny that you have been honoured in that
way by Romans, and by Danes, and by Saxons, and by Picts, and by Scots.”

“Your arguments,” at last said the Englishman, after some further
exchange of historical fragments, “might pass without contempt had they
not been delivered with such a disgusting brogue. I should recommend
you to go back again to some charity school--I mean, in England.”

“If I intended to go to a charity school, it should certainly be in
England. In my country it is only the destitute who go; but in yours
it is the rich men who send their sons on to the ‘foundations’ of the
public schools which were originally intended for the education of poor
clergymen’s sons. With respect to my brogue, which you civilly term
disgusting, it is our national accent and not disgusting to native
ears, although to us the language is foreign. But I should like to
know with what accent your countrymen spoke bastard French when it was
crammed down their throats with a rod of iron for upwards of three
hundred years?”

“A language does not go down the throat,” said the Englishman; “it
comes up, at least in every other country except Ireland. I make you a
present of the bull, although there is no necessity for the donation,
for all bulls are Irish.”

“How are all bulls Irish?”

“Because England, your mother-country, has ceded all bulls to you as
being legitimately Irish.”

“I don’t understand how you make out England to be our mother-country.
Step-mother is the proper term to give her; and, faith! a true
step-mother she has proved herself to be.”

Thus raged the fight amid the laughter and encouragement of the
hearers, until, being president of the mess, I was reluctantly obliged
to return to the mess-room.

During the stay of the British army at Tarifa strong working parties
were constantly employed in levelling the roads, which the French
engineers had frequently reported impassable for artillery; however,
profiting by our exertions in the present instance, they subsequently
brought guns against Tarifa.

The stormy weather having somewhat abated, the second division of the
fleet, laden with La Peña and seven thousand Spaniards, arrived off
Tarifa on the morning of the 27th. It still blew fresh; but owing
to the indefatigable exertions of the navy the astonished Spaniards
found themselves all disembarked before the evening. Again they were
startled at the activity of the British general, who would have marched
that night. The forward state in which the British were induced the
Spaniards to proclaim their army also in movable condition. La Peña and
his troops thus prepared and the roads made passable for artillery, the
march was announced for the morrow.


The night of the 27th being the last jovial one the army were to pass
at Tarifa, one hundred and ninety-one officers dined at the mess. The
exhilarating juice of the grape was freely quaffed from out the crystal
cup, and the inspiring songs of love and war went joyfully round, and
the conclusion of each animating strophe was loudly hailed with choral
cheers; for such is the composition of a soldier that the object of
his love and his country’s foe alike call forth the strongest and
most indomitable effusions of his heart, so closely allied is love to
battle. Hilarity and mirth reigned throughout. Lively sallies of wit
cheerfully received as guilelessly shot forth added brilliancy to the
festive board. Officers having entered their profession young, mutual
attachment was firmly cemented, genuine and disinterested. Each man
felt sure that he sat between two friends; worldly considerations,
beyond legitimate pleasures and professional ambition, were banished
from our thoughts. The field of glory was present to our view and
equally open to all; none meanly envied the proud distinctions which
chance of war fortunately threw in the way of others. Oh, what an
odious change I have lived to witness! But the days of our youth are
the days of our friendship, our love and our glory. A fig for the
friendship commenced after the age of sixteen or seventeen, when the
cool, calculating and sordid speculations of man suffocate the fervid
and generous feelings of youth!



Our revels continued until the morning; and in the morning, while many
a Spanish fair with waving hands and glistening eyes was seen in the
balcony, we marched out of Tarifa with aching heads but glowing hearts.

Towards evening we halted, and the army was modelled. The leading
division was placed under the command of General Lardizabal, an
officer in every way qualified for the post. The Prince of Anglona
was appointed to the centre or principal body of the Spaniards; but
with this body La Peña remained. Two regiments of Spanish guards, the
Walloons and that of the Royal City, were attached to the British
troops, commanded by General Graham; this corps were termed the
reserve. The artillery were attached fortunately to the troops of their
respective nations; but by some courteous mismanagement two squadrons
of German hussars were united to the Spanish cavalry under the command
of Colonel Whittingham, and thus attached to the Spanish army. This
officer held higher rank in the Spanish army, and, if I recollect
right, commanded a corps of Spanish cavalry, clad and paid by England;
but their movements were peculiarly Spanish.

On March 1st La Peña moved towards Casa Vieja, and marched the whole
army in column of companies nearly within gunshot of that post; and
while moving along the plain close to the “Blessed old House,” the
column was reduced to subdivisions, giving the enemy full opportunity
of counting every man in the army. Whether this extraordinary mode of
procedure arose from treachery or ignorance cannot be asserted, for at
that time it was difficult to distinguish one from the other in the
movements of Spanish generals. However that may be, the circumstance
was loudly censured by all. As soon as the army halted, General Graham
mentioned this oversight to La Peña; yet it was not until next morning
and after the whole allied army had passed the post mentioned on its
route to Medina Sidonia, that the British general obtained permission
to dislodge the enemy from the convent. The light company of the
28th Regiment, having made close acquaintance with the post not long
previously, were sent on this duty. On our approach the enemy evacuated
the convent. As we were not able to come up with them, a party of
the German hussars were sent in pursuit, by whom they were soon
overtaken. But although thus threatened by cavalry, they considered it
unadvisable to form square as the light company were fast approaching;
they therefore turned round and formed line. Here some untoward work
took place on both sides. The French, seeing no possibility of escape,
remained steady until the Germans were close upon them, when they
deliberately fired a volley at them and then threw down their arms; two
of the cavalry were killed and others wounded. The Germans, enraged
at their loss and justly considering it an act of wanton and useless
bloodshed, charged the unfortunate defenceless wretches, sparing not
a man; all were cut down. I never in my life witnessed in so small an
affair such mutilation of human beings. When they were carried into
the convent yard the doctor of the 82nd Regiment, attached to the flank
battalion, declined to dress their wounds, as it was totally impossible
that any one of them could survive. The light company were left on
piquet or rearguard in the convent during the day, with orders to join
the army after dusk at Medina Sidonia. Not long after this we were all
astonished at seeing the whole army retiring, but could descry no enemy
to account for the movement; however, it appeared that as La Peña moved
on Medina he was informed by some roving Spanish soldiers whom he met
that Medina had lately been reinforced. Upon this information alone he
made the retrograde movement, which cost the Spaniards many lives and
might have been fatal to the Spanish cause; but of this in its place.
Thenceforth La Peña was distrusted by every British soldier, and the
constancy of General Graham in accompanying him farther is to be much
admired. At nightfall the piquet joined its own battalion, not at
Medina, but on the very ground whence the army moved that morning.

[Sidenote: A MARCH IN FLOOD.]

On the morning of the 3rd, taking nearly an opposite direction to
that of Medina, the army moved towards Vejer. This day’s march was
excessively harassing. A causeway, along which we must pass, was
constructed over the edge of a lake; and the heavy rains had so swollen
the waters that not a vestige of the causeway was perceptible. Our
guides were guerillas, but imperfectly acquainted with the place; and
thus many of our men in attempting the passage fell into the deep.
Even along the causeway, when discovered, we were up to our middle
in water; the track was marked by placing men on the submerged road.
The British general with his staff stood in the water to guide and
animate the soldiers during their aquatic movement. Having passed
this obstacle, which occupied much time, we pushed on to Vejer, from
which we dislodged the enemy there posted. The town is built on a high
conical hill looking down on the celebrated Bay of Trafalgar, where
every breast was filled with thoughts of the immortal Nelson. From this
eminence the enemy had a full view of the surrounding country, and not
only could discover all our movements as we approached, but, as on
the preceding day when we were passing the convent, were enabled to
ascertain our exact strength.

On the afternoon of the 4th, about three o’clock, the army again moved
forward, before the men’s clothing and appointments were dry. General
Graham, previous to leaving Tarifa, requested La Peña to make short
marches, and thus bring the troops fresh into action. But the Spanish
general, as is common with the weak, imagining that genius was marked
by diversity of opinion and mistaking mulish obstinacy for unshaken
determination, disregarded this sound advice. He acted on the principle
of differing from the British general in everything; and accordingly he
marched the army for sixteen hours, the greater part of the time during
a cold night, making frequent momentary halts, which always tend to
harass rather than refresh troops.

On the dawn of the 5th our advanced guard of cavalry (Spanish) were
encountered and worsted by a few French dragoons; the affair was
trifling, yet its moral influence was sensibly felt throughout the day.
Cold, wearied, dejected but not disheartened, we still moved forward,
until the sun, rising with unusual splendour and genial warmth,
dissipated the drowsiness, which but a moment previously bowed down
every head, and roused us to wonted animation. On opening our eyes to
broad daylight, we found ourselves on the south-west skirts of Chiclana

[Sidenote: LETTER OF LA PEÑA.]

On the evening of February 27th La Peña had written from Tarifa to
General Zayas communicating his intention to move forward next day,
and stating that Medina Sidonia would be in his possession on the 2nd
of the ensuing month, and that he would be close to the Isla de Leon
on the evening of the 3rd. Zayas, acting on mailcoach time, regardless
of unforseen contingencies, badness of roads or any other obstacles
which might retard La Peña’s advance, and without ascertaining whether
that general was close at hand or not, trusting only to his watch for
regulating his measures, laid down the bridge on the night of the
3_rd._ The following day passed without any appearance of La Peña or
the British troops. The enemy, taking advantage of this delay, attacked
the bridge on the night of the 4th with their piquets and small
detachments, killed and wounded many Spaniards, took three hundred
prisoners and broke two links of the bridge. It was through mere good
fortune that the Isla did not fall into their hands. At the critical
moment Captain A. Hunt, R.A., with the ten-inch howitzers, arrived
and supported a charge made by a Spanish regiment over the bridge of
boats, and so the enemy were repulsed. But if Marshal Victor had been
more active, and had marched down six or eight thousand men during
the 4th and screened them behind Bermeja Castle until night, and then
made his attack with such a force, instead of with some six or seven
hundred, there is not the slightest doubt but that he would have taken
the Isla, and then either defended or destroyed the bridge. Under such
circumstances the allied army would have been compelled to retire to
Gibraltar to avoid Sebastiani, who, upon learning that Victor was in
possession of the Isla, would of course have come forward with an
overwhelming force.

It was in consequence of the losses sustained at the bridge on the
night of the 4th and morning of the 5th, together with the imminent
danger in which the Isla de Leon was of being taken, that I ventured
to say that La Peña’s dastardly retreat from Medina Sidonia cost the
Spaniards many lives, and might have been fatal to the Spanish cause.
La Peña’s proceedings on our arrival at the plain of Chiclana were
equally absurd and dangerous. Early on that morning (the 5th) he
ordered General Lardizabal down to the Santi Petri point without giving
or receiving any information whatever. Not even a gun was fired to give
notice to those in the Isla of our arrival, nor was it ascertained
whether the bridge was strongly defended or in whose possession it
actually was. The proceedings of Zayas and La Peña offer a correct
specimen of the manner in which combined movements were executed by
Spanish generals; all acted independently and generally in direct
opposition to each other. On this occasion Lardizabal acted gallantly.
Having beaten away a strong force of the enemy from the Santi Petri
point, he established communication with Zayas, thus enabling him with
three thousand Spanish troops and an immense park of artillery to pass
from the Isla over the bridge.

The army, as already mentioned, entered the plain of Chiclana early on
the morning of the 5th, close to a low mountain ridge called Cerro de
Puerco, or “the boar’s neck,” from its curving shape bristling with
pine trees, and from the number of those animals always to be found
there. This ridge, distant from the point of Santi Petri about four
miles, gradually descends for nearly a mile and a half to the Chiclana
plain. On its north side the plain is broken by ravines, pits and
rugged ground; a large pine forest hems it on all sides at unequal
distances. Situated midway between the hill and Santi Petri point,
close to the western point of Cerro de Puerco, stands La Torre, or the
Tower of Barossa. The eastern point of this ridge looks upon the space
between Chiclana and the Santi Petri; whilst its western boundary looks
down upon the boat road leading from Vejer to Bermeja and the Isla de
Leon, passing within less than half a mile of the tower above mentioned.

[Sidenote: FOLLY OF LA PEÑA.]

In preparing for the battle General Graham, like an experienced
soldier, pointed out to La Peña all the advantages which the ground
offered, insisting on the absolute necessity of occupying the ridge
of Barossa with their strongest force, it being the key of the whole
ground. But the Spanish general, indignant at having his proper line
pointed out by a _foreigner_, spurned his advice and being borne out
by his Adjutant-General Lacy, ordered the British general to proceed
to Bermeja to maintain the communication between the allied troops in
the field and those in the Isla. General Graham, although naturally
courteous and through policy yielding, yet on this occasion absolutely
refused obedience until the Spaniard pledged himself to post on the
heights of Barossa a Spanish force at least equal to that commanded
by the British general. Long before his movement down to Bermeja, he
detached Colonel Browne with his battalion to occupy the western point
of Barossa. There we were shortly afterwards joined by the Walloon and
the Ciudad Real regiments of guards. To this body were subsequently
added three other Spanish battalions, four guns, and all the allied
cavalry, commanded, as I have already said, by Colonel Whittingham. The
whole were under the orders of General Cruz-Murgeon, accompanied by
Brigadier-General Beguines, and all, as we thought, determined to do
their duty.

Soon after General Graham with the British division had moved from
the plain through the pine grove towards Bermeja, Marshal Victor, who
anxiously watched the movements of the allies, seeing their troops
at three different points, Barossa, Santi Petri and Bermeja, moved
forward from Chiclana towards the road which leads from Vejer. This
movement was not immediately perceived by us, the Spaniards being
placed between our battalion and the point mentioned; but a confused
and hasty movement on their part induced the colonel to send me to
ascertain the cause. I was told by General Cruz-Murgeon that they
merely wished to take ground to our left; but seeing the hurry of the
Spaniards increase, I instantly galloped beyond their extreme flank,
and now discovered the French cavalry moving towards the coast road and
rather inclining towards our position. Retiring quickly, I reported the
circumstance to Colonel Browne.


By this time the greater part of the Spanish troops had passed between
us and the coast road and were soon in rapid march towards the beach
leading to Bermeja. Colonel Browne strongly and rather indignantly
remonstrated against their conduct. At this period Colonel Whittingham
rode up, and addressing Colonel Browne said, “Colonel Browne, what
do you intend to do?” The reply was, “What do I intend to do, sir? I
intend to fight the French.” Whittingham then remarked, “You may do as
you please, Colonel Browne, but we are decided on a retreat.” “Very
well, sir,” replied Browne; “I shall stop where I am, for it shall
never be said that John Frederick Browne ran away from the post which
his general ordered him to defend.” Generals Murgeon and Beguines were
present during the conversation, and as they expressed a wish to know
its exact import, I informed them word for word in plain Spanish,
which I pledge myself was a correct and full interpretation, and could
not be misunderstood. Colonel Whittingham again addressed Colonel
Browne, saying, “If you will not come with us but wish to retire on
General Graham’s division, I shall give you a squadron of cavalry
to cover your retreat.” Browne wheeled round, making no answer; and
thus a formidable corps, composed of two regiments of Royal Spanish
Guards, three regiments of the line, a park of artillery and a strong
force of cavalry, all well armed clad and appointed, undaunted by the
scowling frowns of their allies and the reproachful taunts of their
own countrymen, were not afraid to run away. They retrograded with
firm tread; nor faltering step nor slow was seen, and not one longing
lingering look was cast behind. They left four hundred and seventy
British bayonets bristling on the neck of the boar.

The Spaniards being now out of the way and soon out of sight, Colonel
Browne directed Lieutenant Sparks, 30th Regiment, who acted as
engineer, to loophole a chapel which stood on the summit of the hill.
Some men were loosely thrown in, and the remainder of our little
battalion formed three sides of an oblong square, the low tower or
chapel supplying the fourth face.

By this time the French cavalry had gained the coast road, probably
either to cut off the retreat of the allies by that route or to prevent
any troops coming by way of Vejer. Be that as it may, they now turned
directly towards us. On approaching nearly within musket range, they
opened right and left, apparently to gain both our flanks; and now for
the first time their artillery were discovered not far behind, and at
the same moment their infantry were seen moving forward, darkening
the distant part of the plain which skirts the town of Chiclana.
Hesitation would now be madness. Our men were instantly withdrawn from
the chapel, and forming column of quarter distance we proceeded quickly
down the hill towards the pine forest which shut out Bermeja from our
view. The enemy’s horsemen were soon on every side of our little column
and kept gradually closing in; but dreading that, before we could get
away to a sufficient distance from the hill, the artillery, which we
had seen whipping over the plain, would open their fire upon us, we
durst not halt to form square; our situation was rather perplexing, but
we were determined. In this order we moved rapidly down the hill, which
being uneven and woody favoured our retreat; but on crossing a ravine
we became more exposed, having entered on comparatively level ground,
scarce of wood. Colonel Browne now threw out a few loose files, but not
far from each angle of the column, to warn the cavalry off, some few
of whom were hurt by their fire. To say the truth, the cavalry showed
rather a wavering inclination than a firm determination to charge us.
Having passed over the level ground, we touched the skirts of the
forest, and on our forming line the cavalry drew off.


During these operations General Graham, entangled in the pine forest,
was pressing forward towards Bermeja, when two peasants rode breathless
up to him, stating that the whole French army, headed by Marshal
Victor, were rapidly crossing the plain of Chiclana and coming down
on his rear. Upon this he immediately turned round and soon perceived
the Spaniards, who had fled from the hill, posting along towards the
coast; and since these were mistaken for French, the English troops
were on the point of firing into them. At this moment Captain Calvert,
having discovered something red through the thick foliage of the
wood, cried out, “That must be Colonel Browne’s flank battalion,” and
darting forward soon discovered his surmise to be fact. General Graham
came forth instantly to meet us, saying, “Browne, did I not give you
orders to defend Barossa Hill?” “Yes, sir,” said Browne; “but you would
not have me fight the whole French army with four hundred and seventy
men?” “Had you not,” replied the general, “five Spanish battalions,
together with artillery and cavalry?” “Oh!” said Browne; “they all ran
away long before the enemy came within cannon-shot.” The general coolly
replied, “It is a bad business, Browne; you must instantly turn round
and attack.” “Very well,” said the colonel; “am I to attack in extended
order as flankers, or as a close battalion?” “In open order,” was the
reply, and the general returned to the troops in the wood.

All this time we never saw our English comrades, though they were close
before us, so dense was the wood. The flank battalion were instantly
extended into skirmishing order, which had scarcely been done when
the general again rode back to Colonel Browne, saying, “I must show
something more serious than skirmishing; close the men into compact
battalion.” “That I will, with pleasure,” cried the colonel; “for it is
more in my way than light bobbing.” The order to close on the centre
was instantly bugled out, during which movement the colonel sent to
know from the general, who had again retired, if he was to advance as
soon as formed, and whether he was to attack immediately in his front
or more towards his right. The answer was, “Attack in your front, and

All being now ready, Colonel Browne rode to the front of the battalion
and taking off his hat said in a voice to be heard by all, “Gentlemen,
I am happy to be the bearer of good news: General Graham has done you
the honour of being the first to attack those fellows. Now follow me,
you rascals!” He pointed to the enemy, and giving the order to advance
broke into his favourite air:

    “Now, cheer up, my brave lads! To glory we steer,
    To add something new to this wonderful year.”

Thus we moved forward with four hundred and sixty-eight men
and twenty-one officers to attack the position, upon which but
three-quarters of an hour previously we had stood in proud defiance
of the advancing foe, but which was now defended by two thousand five
hundred infantry and eight pieces of artillery, together with some
cavalry. To this force were added two battalions of chosen grenadiers,
commanded by General Rousseau, the whole under the orders of the
General of Division, Rufin.



The result of the conflict between such a force and our lone
little battalion, whose strength I have already mentioned, must be
anticipated. The enemy, seeing so small a force, detached from any
apparent support, advancing against them, allowed us to approach close;
and the orders given by Colonel Browne were that not a shot should be
fired, but to proceed to work as soon as possible with the bayonet. As
soon as we crossed the ravine close to the base of the hill and formed
on the opposite side, a most tremendous roar of cannon and musketry was
all at once opened, Rufin’s whole division pointing at us with muskets,
and eight pieces of ordnance sending forth their grape, firing as one
salvo. Nearly two hundred of our men and more than half the officers
went down by this first volley, thus opening the battle propitiously
for them. We now literally stood in extended order; the battalion was
checked. In closing on the centre and endeavouring to form a second
efficient line, upwards of fifty more men and some officers were
levelled with the earth; and all the exertions of Colonel Browne could
not form a third line. We had by this time lost upwards of two hundred
and fifty men and fourteen officers, between killed and wounded; the
remainder of the battalion now scattered. The men commenced firing
from behind trees, mounds or any cover which presented, and could not
be got together.


When I say that out of twenty-one officers--the whole number who
originally went into action--fourteen were put _hors de combat_, this
latter number might be given as nineteen; for two officers only of the
battalion were now to be seen standing on the field, Colonel Browne and
the humble author of these Memoirs (wounded). The colonel now addressed
me, saying, “I shall go and join the Guards; will you come?” I declined
the proposition, remarking that not being just then firm on my legs,
it would take me some time to arrive at where the Guards were; that
he was unhurt and mounted and could confidently go. His character for
bravery had been established throughout the army for many years; but as
for me, although I had seen a good deal of service, particularly during
the campaign of Sir John Moore, still I was a very young man, and I
therefore told him that so long as three men of the battalion stood
together and I was able to stand with them, I should not separate from

The colonel galloped off and joined the Guards, who were at that moment
passing at some distance in rear of where our right flank originally
stood, now marked only by our dead. The Guards moved forwards with
astonishing celerity and steadiness, although not formed and exposed at
the time to a tremendous fire of grape and musketry. To this new scene
of slaughter it was that Colonel Browne directed his course.

When the flank battalion were first ordered to advance, we were not in
sight of the other British troops; but as we approached the ravine,
casting a glance behind we discovered the Guards emerging from the
forest. They presented neither line nor column, a confused mass
showing no order whatever, one order alone excepted, and that they
gallantly maintained throughout the day: it was the order to advance
against the foe. Every roundshot which struck their mass passed over
our heads, we then being close under the hill upon which the enemy were

The first advance of General Dikes’ brigade was directly in our rear.
This direction was continued until the wood, which stretched forward
immediately on his right flank, was cleared. His brigade then brought
up their left shoulders until our right flank was passed. Dikes now
brought forward his right, and extending his line gallantly pressed
on to attack the left of Rufin’s division, made heavy by General
Rousseau’s grenadiers.

Soon after Colonel Browne’s departure, Captain (long since
lieutenant-colonel) Calvert, General Graham’s aide-de-camp, rode up to
where I was carrying on a kind of fight with a very few men about me.
Perceiving the destruction around, and seeing some soldiers straggling
and firing some way in the rear, he requested me to go back and bring
them up. This I positively refused, stating that I was wounded in the
thigh, and were I to proceed to the rear I could never regain my place
with an army advancing; I added that as he was mounted he would be safe
in making the attempt. Calvert smiled and rode off, but not to the
rear. Again I was left comparatively alone.


By this time the near approach of the Guards claimed a large portion
of the enemy’s fire, which previously had been directed to the place
where the remains of the flank battalion still continued to fire
from behind defences. I now contrived to get eight or ten of the men
together, principally 9th Grenadiers and 28th Light Infantry; to
this little force I proposed charging a howitzer, which was pouring
forth destruction immediately in our front. The proposition being well
received, I seized a firelock (there were many spare ones), and on this
a drummer named Adams, of the 28th Grenadiers’ Company, said that were
he not afraid of being obliged to pay for his drum, he also would take
a musket. Upon my telling the boy that I would pay for his drum, he
flung it away and armed. I have always thought Adams the bravest man,
or rather boy, whom I ever met--not for seizing a musket and gallantly
charging, for in excitement that was natural enough; but that he should
stand calmly calculating the price of a drum when hundreds of balls
were passing close to his body is scarcely credible; but so it was.

We now darted forward and were so fortunate as to capture the gun at
the very moment when it was being reloaded. Two artillerymen were
bayoneted; the others rode off on their mules. This was not a gun
fallen into our hands--it was taken at the point of the bayonet; and
however I may be criticised for saying it, I was the first person who
placed a hand on the howitzer; and afterwards with some chalky earth I
marked it “28th Regiment.”

Scarcely had the gun been taken when we were joined, as if through
magic effect, by upwards of a hundred men of the flank battalion--a
proof that they were not far distant. They darted forth from behind
trees, briars, brakes and out of hollows; I could imagine myself
standing on “Benledi’s Side.” We now confidently advanced up the hill,
and unlike most advances against a heavy fire, our numbers increased as
we proceeded, soldiers of the flank battalion joining at every step.
On capturing the gun, I threw down the firelock and bayonet which I
carried; but Adams retained his and putting on a pouch did good service
during the remainder of the day.

Soon after the movement of General Dikes in rear of the flank
battalion, Lieutenant-Colonel Barnard, also commanding a flank
battalion, and Lieutenant-Colonel Bath, leading the two flank companies
of the 20th Portuguese Regiment, pushed forward to the left, and were
immediately in fight with the enemy’s tirailleurs. Colonel Wheatley,
who commanded those troops together with the 28th, 67th and 87th
Regiments, disentangling himself from the pine forest and at the same
time prolonging his left flank, soon found himself opposed to the
division of General Laval, who, debouching from the Chiclana wood,
advanced so far as to form an obtuse angle with Rufin’s division,
already in line and engaged on the hill. Laval bore heavily forward
in dense column, sending forth a continued peal of musketry, reckless
of the destructive fire of our artillery, which took him in front and
flank. Previous to these movements of Dikes and of Wheatley, Major
Duncan was sent forward with his brigade of artillery consisting of
ten guns. He came up rather close in rear of Browne’s flank battalion
soon after we were engaged, and next to our own battalion the artillery
were the first British troops in action. The guns were soon embattled
in rear of our left flank; their murderous fire was quick, and heavily
pitched into Laval’s advancing columns. Yet Laval still pressed
forward, until Wheatley’s brigade advancing, firing and deploying,
came in contact with them; then the 87th Regiment, commanded by Major
Gough, making a desperate charge, completely overthrew the 8th French
Regiment, capturing their Eagle. In the meantime Laval, moving forward
his right wing, whom he strengthened with a battalion of grenadiers,
attempted to turn Wheatley’s left flank; but Colonel Belson, with the
28th Regiment, who formed the left of Wheatley’s brigade, coming up,
forming and firing by companies, kept back his left wing in a diagonal
direction, and by making a vigorous charge of the whole regiment served
Laval in the manner in which the French general would have served him;
he completely turned his flank.

At this period the strife was fierce, but, the British cheer passing
through the entire brigade, the whole line now pushed forward. A
general charge took place, and Laval’s division were upset. Wheatley’s
brigade, now bringing forward their left, and whilst in full pursuit,
fell in with the enemy’s corps of reserve, who were instantly put
to flight at the point of the bayonet. In the meantime the Guards,
led on by General Dikes, pushed gallantly forward with lengthened
step and lofty bearing; and I make bold to say that never did the
household troops witness a day more honourable to their corps, nor
one upon which they more brilliantly maintained the glory of their
prince. Surmounting all difficulties presented by the roughness and
inequalities of the ground, heedless of the enemy’s menacing attitude,
reckless of the murderous fire which swept their still unformed ranks,
they bore steadily onward and having crossed a deep broad and rugged
ravine, wherein many a gallant soldier fell to rise no more, they
climbed the opposite bank. Here they were encountered by Rufin’s left
wing and Rousseau’s grenadiers, which latter gallantly descended from
their position to give that reception which to such a warlike visit in
martial country was due. But the Guards having gained firm footing on
the base of the hill, and no obstacle opposed save men in arms, British
blood and British prowess soon prevailed. The chosen grenadiers
recoiled from the shock. Rufin, or rather Victor who was present, tried
to retrieve the disaster by bringing forward his right; but these were
furiously attacked and driven backwards by the remnant of Browne’s
flank battalion, now amounting to nearly two hundred men and one
wounded officer. Both the enemy’s flanks were thus turned round in rear
of his centre.


And now the battle for a moment hovered in the zenith of its glory;
the contending foes were not above ten yards asunder, and scarcely
were the enemy seen to move. Tenaciously maintaining their hold of the
hill, they fought with desperation, defending every inch of ground;
for the precipice was near. Their hardiest veterans stood firm; their
bravest officers came forth displaying the banners of their nation; the
heroic example of Marshal Victor was imitated by all. Conspicuous in
the front the marshal was recognised by both armies waving his plume
in circling motion high above his head, to fasten his troops to the
hill; but his gallant deeds and surprising valour were vain against
his more than equal foe. General Graham at this critical moment darted
to the front, and by one short word, loud and inspiring, made nought
of all the marshal’s bravery and combinations. The word was, “Charge!”
Like electric fluid it shot from the centre of the British line to the
extremities of its flanks, instantaneously followed by the well-known
thundering British cheer, sure precursor of the rush of British
bayonets. The Guards and flankers now rushed forward, when with loud
and murmuring sounds Rufin’s whole division, together with Rousseau’s
chosen grenadiers, were instantly in whirling motion rolled down into
the valley below, leaving their two brave generals mortally wounded
on the hill, which was now in possession of their blood-stained
conquerors. The battle was won; and the gallant Graham triumphantly
stood on the bristling crest of Barossa’s blood-drenched hill.

Now, since both flanks of the enemy had been turned, they came back to
back on the plain; and this steadied them, so that they continued to
fire. I therefore requested Colonel McDonald, our Adjutant-General, to
allow me, with the survivors of the 28th Regiment’s flank companies,
to go out and skirmish with the enemy, whilst our line should be got
ready to advance. To this, with the concurrence of Colonel Browne who
had just rejoined the battalion, he consented. We then moved forward.
I saw no other troops go out. Colonel Browne was now the only officer
with the remaining part of the flank battalion. After skirmishing
for a short time, we were recalled. On our return, Colonel McDonald
remarked that Major Northcote, having come up with the Rifles, would
cover the line; that he therefore recalled us, especially as Colonel
Browne wished to have me with the battalion, at the same time saying
in the most flattering manner that he should never forget my services
throughout the day, and would always be ready to testify to them when
called upon.


The enemy’s divisions, now united, were soon formed, and seemed
determined to seize the boar by the tusks; but the boar was now
metamorphosed into a lion. On Major Duncan arriving with his guns and
sending some beautifully directed shots with mathematical precision to
dress their line, Marshal Victor retired his troops beyond the noxious
range. The hill being gained, and the enemy inclined, although ashamed,
to retreat, General Graham sent his aide-de-camp Captain Hope to
General Beguines, requesting him to bring up the two Spanish regiments
originally attached to the British division; even this turned out
unpropitious. When Duncan’s fire prevailed on the enemy’s column to
retire, Colonel Ponsonby, of the Quarter-Master-General’s Department,
by permission of General Graham sought out the allied cavalry and
brought away the German hussars. Having wound round the western point
of the disputed hill, they were seen sweeping along the plain in beauty
of battle; and it is my firm belief that had they not appeared at
that moment we should have been immediately in motion to the front.
We gave the Germans a cheer as they passed in front of our line, now
formed. The enemy’s cavalry turned round and faced them stoutly, their
commander placing himself some distance in their front. As the Germans
closed on the enemy our cheers were enthusiastic. The brave French
leader was instantly cut down; our cavalry charged right through their
opponents, then wheeling round charged them from rear to front, one red
coat always conspicuous, Colonel Ponsonby. The French dragoons thus
broken, Rousseau’s grenadiers came to their support, and forming square
covered the horsemen in their retreat. Again the British troops were
on the point of advancing, when a staff officer came galloping up to
say that a fresh column of the enemy were coming on the right flank of
the Guards. This information alarmed us. Looking through my glass and
observing them for an instant, I assured Colonel McDonald that they
were Spaniards and that I knew the regiments. However some hesitation
followed; thus the Spaniards who betrayed us in the morning deceived us
in the afternoon. It was General Beguines who, glad to get away from La
Peña, was hastily advancing with the two regiments before mentioned.


A second column were seen advancing from the opposite
direction--Chiclana. This was supposed to be Villatte’s division,
who had not been engaged during the action, having remained near the
Almanza creek, in front of General Zayas. But they turned out to be the
sick, marched out from the hospitals of Chiclana, who thus succeeded as
a ruse in covering the retreat of the vanquished Victor.

Although at this critical juncture every British soldier felt confident
that a strong body of six hundred Spanish cavalry, fired by the example
of the gallant Germans, would ride forward against the reeling columns
of the retiring enemy, yet they never appeared. Abandoning their
calling as soldiers they remained behind, mouthing the pebbles of the
beach and thus preparing with oratorical effect to extol as their own
those heroic deeds in which they bore no part and from which they
studiously kept aloof.

Notwithstanding the arrival of Beguines, General Graham evidently saw
the difficulty and danger of making an advanced movement. The enemy,
though beaten and having suffered severe loss, still retired with
a stronger force in the field than the British numbered before the
battle commenced. Villatte’s division were fresh, and could easily have
joined Victor. Our army was crippled, half its numbers being put _hors
de combat_; and the survivors had been for twenty-four hours under
arms, sixteen of which had been passed in marching, and chiefly during
the previous night. After having gained so brilliant a victory, and
defeated the enemy at all points, the British general fully expected
that La Peña, awaking from his torpor, would take advantage of Victor’s
overthrow and lay the drowsy Spaniards on the track of his discomfited
and retiring columns; but he was mistaken--such was never La Peña’s
intention. At the time when Colonel Browne took up his position on
the hill, the principal part of the Spanish artillery were moved along
the beach road and halted about midway between the two points whence
the enemy could move on to attack, the one by the western point of
Barossa, the other by the eastern side of Bermeja. On this position
they halted, but with their drivers mounted, ready to start at a
moment’s notice for that point, whence the enemy advanced _not_. Thus,
when Victor was perceived advancing against Colonel Browne, the great
guns flew along the beach road, nor stopped until Bermeja was left
far in their rear. Later, when the British troops were exposed to the
hottest fire, perilously situated, their rear left open to attack by
the early flight of the Spaniards from the hill, yet La Peña gave no
aid, although, had he moved forward by the eastern side of Bermeja and
come on the plain in that direction towards Chiclana, he would have got
in rear of Marshal Victor, when the whole French army must have been
destroyed or taken. But neither the roaring of cannon, his duty towards
his allies, the pride of his profession, nor the independence of his
country was sufficient stimulant to rouse him forward into action: La
Peña was determined not to move. Yet when subsequently cashiered for
his disgraceful conduct, he had the unparalleled impudence to declare
that it was a great hardship to be dismissed the Service after _he_
had gained so brilliant a victory with the allied army. And soon
after the battle General Cruz-Murgeon unblushingly asserted in the
public prints at Cadiz that he took both prisoners and guns during
the action. Colonel Ponsonby, who undertook to refute this unfounded
statement, asked me (all the other guns captured being accounted
for) whether any Spaniards even seemingly assisted or were in sight
when the gun, which he said he saw me in the act of charging, was
captured. I replied that there was not a Spaniard in the field at the
time, and that with the exception of himself and Colonel McDonald, the
Adjutant-General, who rode past at the time, no individual of any corps
was in sight of the flank battalion when the gun was taken, not even
the Guards, who, though immediately on our right, were shut out by the
intervening inequalities of the ground. But with respect to his taking
four guns, General Cruz-Murgeon was partly right, the term “taking”
only being erroneous. After the action was over, the Spanish general
found his own guns on the same spot where he had abandoned them in the
morning, silent and cold, though they should have been loudly pouring
forth their hottest fire against Rousseau’s division when they were
advancing against Colonel Browne’s position. This I said that I was
ready to prove, having seen the guns after the Spaniards had fled. This
statement being made public, the controversy ceased, and Cruz-Murgeon
shrank from the paper warfare as disreputably as he had fled from the

Until late in the evening the British general maintained his position
on the hill, when, seeing no prospect of a forward movement on the part
of the Spaniards, he, as soon as it was dark, to prevent his movement
being discovered by the enemy, retired down to Santi Petri point, and
passed over the bridge of boats into the Isla de Leon.



Thus terminated the celebrated battle of Barossa, by Spaniards
termed the bloody fight of the wild boar, fought under extraordinary
difficulties against a gallant foe more than double in number, by
harassed British troops, whose gallantry called forth the admiration
of all Europe and the malignant jealousy of their allies--a battle
which immortalised the genius and valour of the commanding general,
who coolly directed our movements until all was prepared for the
bayonet, when, laying aside the personal prudence of the experienced
old commander, he displayed the vigour and impetuosity of the young
soldier, leading us on to the final glorious charge. It was during this
charge, and when the Guards and flank battalion united on the top of
the hill, that Colonel Browne and I again met, he on the left of the
household troops and I on the right of the flank battalion, with whom,
from the departure of the colonel until his return, I was the only
officer and consequently in command. The time of my command, as well as
I can recollect, was about an hour, and that during the hottest part of
the action. After mutual congratulations, my gallant colonel shook me
cordially by the hand, declaring that he never could forget my services
on that day, and adding that, should we both survive the action, he
would in person present me to General Graham and bear full testimony
to my conduct throughout the whole day. The colonel was fully aware
that, had the author of these Memoirs lagged behind in consequence of
a wound received early in the action, he, on his arrival on the hill,
instead of finding nearly two hundred bayonets of the flank battalion
well into the charge which reeled the enemy off the hill, would not
have had a single man of that battalion present to command, and must
consequently have been still a volunteer with the Guards. I reported
to him my having charged and taken the howitzer. Here I feel called
upon to state that when Colonel Browne parted to join the Guards there
were not ten men of the flank battalion to be seen and not above four
or five standing near us; there was nothing for him to command, and I
feel thoroughly satisfied that it was by sheer bravery he was moved.
Although the battalion when they originally moved forward had not
the slightest prospect of success, still it was absolutely necessary
for the safety of the British army and the Spanish cause to push us
forward; and had we not undauntedly pressed on to attack Rufin in his
position, that general would have come down in perfect order on the
British troops, then in a confused mass and so entangled in the pine
forest as to render any attempt at formation totally impracticable. To
await an attack under such circumstances must have been attended with
the most fatal results.

The extremely critical situation in which the British troops were
placed cannot be more forcibly expressed than by General Graham’s own
words in his orders of the following day:

            “ISLA DE LEON, _March 6th, 1811_.

    “The enemy’s numbers and position were no longer objects of
    calculation, _for there was no retreat left_.”


Under these circumstances to hesitate in pushing forward the flank
battalion, not only as select troops, but also as the only British
troops regularly formed, since they had not yet been entangled in the
pine forest, would have shown culpable weakness and want of resolution,
although the movement was consigning us as a body to certain
destruction. At the commencement of the action our battalion formed a
little more than a tenth of the army; yet at the close of the action
our casualties both in officers and men amounted to nearly a fourth of
the entire loss sustained, although every regiment was well into the

The officers killed and wounded in the flank companies of the 9th and
28th Regiments alone exceeded a fifth of the total loss of officers;
they were sixty-two, and of the flank companies there were thirteen,
six of the 9th and seven of the 28th. But the carnage which the flank
battalion suffered was never brought before the public. The casualties
which took place in the different flank companies were in the official
despatches put under the heads of their different regiments; thus the
officers killed and wounded of the 9th Regiment flankers were returned
as a loss sustained by the 9th Regiment, although at the time the 9th
Regiment were doing garrison duty in Gibraltar; and the 28th Regiment,
who formed the extreme left of the line, returned eight officers killed
or wounded, whereas seven of those were of its flank companies with
Colonel Browne’s battalion, who were led into action on the extreme
right, though the Guards having moved by our rear and subsequently
forming on our right, we at the close of the battle stood between the
two brigades.

The battle, although it lasted little more than two hours, was
extremely fierce and bloody, and its results marked the gallantry
of the two nations by whom it was fought. Two thousand French,
with three general officers, were either killed or wounded; and
they lost six guns and an Eagle. The loss on our side consisted of
five lieutenant-colonels, one major, sixteen captains, twenty-six
lieutenants, thirteen ensigns, one staff, fifty-one sergeants, eleven
hundred and eighty rank and file, making a total of twelve hundred and
ninety-three put _hors de combat_. But of all the army the severest
loss sustained was by the grenadiers and light bobs of the 28th
Regiment; and it may truly be said that the young soldiers who filled
up the vacancies left in those companies by the veterans who fell in
the mountains of Galicia or at Corunna or who sunk through the swamps
in Walcheren, were this day introduced to a glorious scene of action.
Two-thirds of the men and all the officers lay on the battlefield: one
alone of the latter was enabled to resume his legs, for he had no bone
broken; he continued through the fight,--’twas the system of the old


The flank officers of the 28th Regiment who fell in the battle
were Captain Mullins, Lieutenant Wilkinson and Lieutenant Light
(Grenadiers); and Captain Bradley and Lieutenants Bennet, Blakeney and
Moore. Poor Bennet was shot through the head whilst gallantly cheering
on the men through an incessant shower of grape and musketry. On seeing
him fall I darted to the spot and too plainly discovered the cause. It
grieved me that I could not stop for an instant with my dearest friend
and first companion of my youth; but friendship, however fervid, must
yield to imperative duty. The men were fast falling and it required
the utmost exertion to keep the survivors together, exposed, as they
then were, to a murderous fire of round-shot, grape and musketry. My
exertions at the moment were rather limping, as I had just been struck
by a grape-shot under the hip, which for a moment laid me prostrate.
I could only cast a mournful look at Bennet, poor fellow. It may be
that our firm friendship conduced to his fate. A vacancy occurred in
the light company a few days before the action, and I saw that Bennet
would willingly fill it up; but it was an established rule, at least
in the regiment, that a senior lieutenant could never be put over the
head of a junior already serving in the light company. Perceiving that
his delicacy prevented his asking, I prevailed upon Colonel Belson to
appoint him, although my senior. With the battalion two officers only
were wounded, Captain Cadell and Lieutenant Anderson. In the flank
companies no officer escaped, and poor Bennet fell, to rise no more.
But after all man must have a final place of rest, and the appropriate
bed of a soldier is the battlefield; and it will be some consolation to
his friends to know that never did a soldier fall more gallantly or on
a day more glorious, and never was an officer more highly esteemed when
living, nor, when he fell, more sincerely regretted by the whole of
his brother officers. He was wounded about noon on the 5th; the brain
continually oozed through the wound; yet strange to say he continued
breathing until the morning of the 7th, when he calmly expired with
a gentle sigh. A marble slab was subsequently erected in the chapel
of the Government House at Gibraltar, to the memory of Bennet and of
Lieutenant Light of the Grenadiers, by their affectionate brother
officers who unfeignedly regretted the early fall of the two gallant

A few days after the battle the 28th Regiment returned to Gibraltar
and the flank battalion to Tarifa, where we joyfully reoccupied our
old quarters in the houses of the truly hospitable inhabitants. I was
billeted in the house of an old priest, Don Favian Durque. His sister,
an old maiden lady, lived with him, and it is impossible to express
the kindness and attention which I received from both. When the old
lady heard that the grape-shot which struck me had first passed through
an orange, a ration loaf and a roast fowl, with tears in her eyes she
knelt down and with religious fervency devoutly offered up her thanks
to the Blessed Virgin, who, she said, must have fed the fowl which so
miraculously saved my life.

A week had not elapsed after our return to Tarifa when Colonel
Browne received a letter from General Graham requesting that
he would recommend any officer of the flank battalion who had
distinguished himself in the late action. This was in consequence
of some circumstances having come to the general’s knowledge,
principally through his Adjutant-General, Colonel McDonald, and his
Quartermaster-General, Colonel Ponsonby, as well as through his
aide-de-camp, Captain Calvert. Colonel Browne then recommended me to
the general.

Having had occasion to go to Cadiz on private affairs, I carried the
colonel’s letter, upon presenting which the general delayed not a
moment in sending a report on the subject to the commander-in-chief,
with a strong recommendation; and during my stay in the Isla I had the
honour of dining every day at the general’s table. In Colonel Browne’s
letter, which he read to me, the capture of the howitzer is stated,
but is not mentioned in General Graham’s report. In fact he could not
well have mentioned it, having already reported the capture of all the
guns in his official despatch. I cannot help thinking that had Colonel
Browne not forgotten his promise to me, solemnly and spontaneously
pledged on our meeting on Barossa Hill, and had he mentioned my name to
General Graham before that gallant officer sent off his despatches, my
promotion to a company would not have been the result of a subsequent

We remained at Tarifa a few months longer, continually fighting for our
bread (the crops), when many a lively and serious skirmish took place.
It is a pleasant little town, and famous as the point where the Moors
made their first descent into Spain, invited by Count Julian to avenge
the insult offered to his daughter, the beautiful Florinda, by Roderick
the last of the Visigoth monarchs. When the Moors had been expelled
from Spain, a watch-tower was erected here, in which towards evening
a bell rings every hour until dark; it then sounds every half hour
until midnight,--from that hour until three o’clock in the morning it
rings every quarter, and after that every five minutes until daybreak.
This custom continued down to the period when we were quartered there
and probably does so to the present time; and this bell to our great
annoyance hung close to the officers’ guardroom.


Nothing offends a Spaniard, particularly in Andalusia, more than
to insinuate even that he is in any way connected with the Moors.
Should you through doubt ask a Spaniard to what country he belongs,
he answers that he is a pure and legitimate Castilian, not intending
to say that he is a native of either of the Castiles or that he was
born in wedlock, but giving you to understand that his veins are
not contaminated with any mixture of Moorish blood. Yet in Tarifa,
where they are most particular on this point, they still continue a
Moorish custom peculiar to that town and not practised, I believe, in
any other part of Spain. The ladies wear a narrow shawl or strip of
silk, called a mantilla, generally black; the centre of this strip is
placed on the crown of the head, the ends hanging down in front of
the shoulders, the deep fringe, with which they are trimmed, reaching
close to the ankle. So far this dress is common throughout Spain; but
in Tarifa the ladies cross the mantilla in front of their faces, by
which the whole countenance is concealed, with the exception of one
eye; this is done by dexterously lapping the mantilla across at the
waist, and so gracefully that the movement is scarcely perceptible. I
have seen many English and even Spanish ladies of the other provinces
endeavour to imitate this sudden and graceful movement, but never
without awkwardness; whereas every female in Tarifa accomplishes it in
a moment. This temporary disguise is resorted to when the ladies go out
to walk; and so perfect is the concealment and the dress of the ladies
so much alike, that the most intimate acquaintances pass each other
unknown. Thus accidents may happen and husbands fail to know their own

Spanish ladies in general are very fine figures, for which reason, as
I have been told, their under garments, far from flowing, are very
narrow, and tied down the front with many knots of fine silk ribbon.

The order for the flank companies to join headquarters having arrived,
after a long and happy sojourn we bade a final adieu to this pleasant
and hospitable little town, and proceeded to Gibraltar.

After remaining a few days in Gibraltar to exchange our tattered
Barossa clothing for a new outfit, which the flank companies had no
opportunity of doing previously, the regiment sailed for Lisbon on July
10th, on board two men-of-war; but a calm setting in, we were carried
by the current to Ceuta on the African coast. Dropping anchor, the
officers landed to dine with our old friends, the 2nd Battalion 4th or
King’s Own, who were quartered there; but the weather promising fair,
Blue Peter and a gun summoned us on board before the cloth was removed.


Next morning we found ourselves off Tarifa. The whole population
were on the beach kissing hands and waving kerchiefs in the breeze;
we recognised them all; and a recollection of the many happy days
we passed there, where so oft we played and sang and danced the gay
fandango, called forth from all a tear or sigh. The Tarifa ladies
were famed throughout Spain for their beauty. But the charmed city
soon receded from our view; and on we plodded listlessly, until we
came abreast of Barossa Hill, when we all hurried on deck and drank
a flowing bumper with three times three cheers to the health of the
gallant Graham. Continuing our course towards the land, where dwell the
brown maids with the lamp-black eyes, we arrived at Lisbon on the 20th
and next day disembarked.

Our field equipments were immediately put in preparation; our baggage
animals were procured as soon as the market supplied, and as cheap as
the Portuguese sharpers would sell, who next to Yorkshiremen are the
greatest rogues known in regard to horses. Our wooden canteens were
well soaked, securely to keep in what the commissaries cautiously
served out. A portable larder or haversack was given to each to carry
his provisions in, and a clasp knife which was both fork and spoon.
Our little stock of tea, sugar and brandy was carefully hoarded in a
small canteen, wherein dwelt a little tin kettle, which also acted
the part of teapot; _two_ cups and saucers (in case of company), two
spoons, two forks, two plates of the same metal, a small soup-tureen,
which on fortunate occasions acted as punch-bowl but never for soup.
This was termed a rough-and-ready canteen for officers of the line
only. Hussars, lancers and other cavalry captains would doubtless
sooner starve than contaminate their aristocratic stomachs with
viands, however exquisite, served on such plebeian utensils; however a
frying-pan was common to all ranks.


Our equipment being completed, the march was announced for August 1st.
Many conflicting sentiments jarred in our breasts the night before.
Thoughts of the bloody battles we had gained and the prospect of a
glorious campaign before us were gloomed by the recollection that not
long before we had taken the same route with Sir John Moore at our
head; that since that period the ranks of the regiment had been thinned
or swept away at Corunna, Oporto, Talavera, Albuera, Barossa. Many a
gallant soldier and sincere friend had been laid low since last we met
at Lisbon. With these recollections we sat down to table, and eating
seemed but a work of necessity, which passed in mute action. The cloth
being removed, a bumper was proposed to the memory of the immortal
Moore. It was drunk in perfect silence and, as it were, with religious
solemnity. The martial figure and noble mien of the calumniated hero
stood erect in the imagination, and was perfect in the memory of all;
but a painful recollection of the mournful state in which we last
beheld him saddened every countenance. We seemed to see him borne in a
blanket by the rear of the regiment, the moon acting as one big torch
to light the awful procession as it moved slowly along, our men falling
around him as if anxious, even in death, to follow their gallant
leader, and the enemy’s guns firing salvos as if to cheer the warrior’s
last moments. He knew that they were beaten. Thus Sir John Moore
bade his final adieu to the regiment, all shattered save his martial
spirit and lofty mind,--these were unbroken and remained inflexible.
He yielded his last breath with a sigh of love for his country and
of yearning for his profession. After this toast was drunk the band
with muffled drums played, “Peace to the Fallen Brave”; but either the
instruments were out of tune or our souls not tuned to harmony. The
music sounded mournful and low; a dark gloom like a Pyrenean cloud hung
cold, damp and clammy around; we tried to shake it off but in vain.

Our next bumper was to the memory of our late gallant comrades, who
gloriously fell since our last march from Lisbon, gallantly maintaining
the honour of their country and corps. This toast was also drunk in
solemn silence, while many an eye swam at the recollection of scenes
and friends gone for ever. I thought of my poor friend, Bennet. This
toast led to the mention of several anecdotes, wherein the deceased
bore the principal part. The gallant feats of our departed friends
insensibly revived sentiments of a less mournful nature; the foggy
vapour somewhat cleared away.

Our third and last bumper was “To our next happy meeting; and
whosoever’s lot it be to fall may the regiment soon and often be placed
in a situation to maintain the glory of their country, and may they
never forget the bravery and discipline which won the ‘back-plates.’”
This sentiment was received with wild enthusiasm, and so loudly cheered
by all that gloom and melancholy were frightened out of the room. The
festive board gradually resumed its wonted cheerful tone; the merry
song went round drowning the doleful funeral dirge; past misfortunes
and useless regrets were forgotten. We sat late and drank deep, and
thoughts of the fair and of future glory alone occupied our minds.
Heedless of the obstacles opposed to reward of personal merit by an
all-grasping aristocratical interference, our heated imaginations
presented nothing but blood, wounds and scars, ribbons and stars to
our dancing vision now becoming double and doubtful; and at last we
retired--but to prepare for advance. Such was the custom of gallant gay
soldiers the night previous to opening a campaign; in their breasts
the reign of _ennui_ is but short, and they spurn presentiments
and foreboding, harboured only by the feeble nerve, the disordered
brain, the shattered constitution, or by those whose vices conjure up
frightful phantoms to their troubled conscience.



Next morning at dawn we commenced our second campaign in Portugal.
Crossing the Tagus, we continued our route through the Alemtejo, and
arrived at Villaviciosa on the 10th. Here we joined our 2nd Battalion,
commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Abercrombie. It was the first meeting
of the battalions since our separation at the Curragh of Kildare in
1805, and was very interesting. The old veterans of the 1st Battalion
with measured phrase recounted their feats in Denmark, Sweden, Holland,
Portugal and Spain, cunningly leaving many a space to be filled up by
the warm imagination of their excited young auditors. On the other hand
the gallant striplings of the 2nd Battalion, with that fervent and
frank ingenuousness so inseparable from youth and so rare in advanced
manhood, came at once to the bloody fight. They long and often dwelt
upon the glorious battle of Albuera; they told of the Spaniards coming
late; that Blake would neither lead nor follow; of brigades being cut
up through the over-anxiety of their commanders; of colours being
taken; in fine, of the battle being all but lost, until their brigade,
commanded by their gallant Colonel Abercrombie, in conjunction with the
brave Fusiliers, came up and by a combined and overwhelming charge bore
down all opposition and tore away the palm of victory already twining
round the enemy’s standard.

The two battalions had been so severely cut up, particularly at Barossa
and Albuera, that one battalion alone remained efficient for service.
All the men of the 2nd were transferred to the 1st. Their officers and
sergeants returned to England; but since Colonel Belson was obliged
to go home for the benefit of his health, Colonel Abercrombie was
retained. And now, and contrary to my wishes, the colonel appointed
me to the command of a battalion company; but he pledged himself that
whenever the regiment should be about to come in contact with the
enemy, I should have it at my option to join the light company.

We shortly afterwards removed to Portalegre, General Hill’s
headquarters. Here we remained some time enjoying all the luxury
of campaigning, inviting even to the most refined cockney, keenest
sportsman, or most insatiable gourmand. Races were established,
partridge-shooting was good, and General Hill kept a pack of foxhounds,
and entertained liberally. He felt equally at home before a smoking
round of beef or a red-hot marshal of France, and was as keen at
unkennelling a Spanish fox as at starting a French general out of his
sleep, and in either amusement was the foremost to cry, “Tally ho!”
or, “There they go!” As his aide-de-camp, Captain Curry, was married,
the amiable Mrs. Curry always dined at the general’s table, so that we
neither forgot the deference due to beauty nor the polished manners of
the drawing-room.


But a union of so many sources of happiness is transient in the life
of a soldier. Towards the middle of October a division of the French
5th Corps, commanded by General Gerard, moved through Estremadura to
collect forage and provisions for the army at Portugal, crossing the
Guadiana at Merida, and approaching the Portuguese frontier near
Caceres and Aliseda. In consequence the British troops marched out of
Portalegre on the 22nd, and the head of our column reached Albuquerque
in Spain on the evening of the 23rd. General Hill was here informed
that the enemy had retired from Aliseda to Arroyo de Puerco, and that
Aliseda was again in possession of the Spaniards. However, to secure
that country, Aliseda was entered on the night of the 24th by a British
brigade, some Portuguese artillery, and a portion of cavalry; whilst
at Casa de Santillana, about four miles distant, a similar force was
stationed. The enemy’s advanced guard were driven out of Arroyo de
Puerco on the morning of the 25th by the Spanish cavalry, commanded
by Count Penne Villamur; the fugitives moved upon Malpartida, their
main body being still at Caceres. The British and Portuguese troops
following the route of Villamur’s cavalry, after a forced march which
continued throughout the night of the 25th, arrived on the morning of
the 26th at Malpartida; and here we learned that the enemy had during
the night moved upon Caceres. During this morning General Hill was
informed that Gerard, with the main body of his troops, had moved from
Caceres, but in what direction none could tell. In this uncertainty,
together with the inclemency of the weather and the fatigue caused by
our previous night’s forced march, the general judged it expedient to
halt for the day. The Spaniards however moved on to Caceres. Towards
night the general having received positive information that the French
had directed their course upon Torremocha, we were put in motion at
three o’clock on the morning of the 27th; but during our march we were
informed that the foe had evacuated Torremocha that very morning,
with the avowed intention of occupying the town of Arroyo Molinos for
that night. All our information seemed to be at variance; yet all was
perfectly correct. General Hill now bent his line of movement, and by a
forced march arrived late that evening at Alcuescar, unperceived by the
enemy. Both armies marched nearly in parallel lines during the greater
part of the day, and not very far asunder; but intervening mountains
and a thickly wooded country prevented each from seeing the other.

We now felt certain that the enemy, whom we had so ardently and
arduously sought, were at length within our reach. Our advanced post
was not above two miles from Arroyo Molinos, where Gerard rested in
fancied security, flattering himself that he had deceived us by his
movements, and that we were then at Caceres, toward which we had bent
our course in the morning.


On arriving at Alcuescar we were all excessively fatigued from our
forced marches; but while we were pitching our tents and anticipating
some repose, I received an order to proceed to San Antonio, between
six and seven miles distant, to carry despatches to General Hamilton,
who commanded a Portuguese brigade halted at that place. I strongly
remonstrated, pointing out that during a halt of some hours by which
the whole army gained some repose, I had been sent far into the country
to collect information from the peasantry; that carrying this despatch
did not fall to me as a regular tour of duty; and above all, that I
felt excessively unwilling to proceed to the rear at that late hour,
knowing that the army were to move during the night and would more
than probably be engaged before the dawn. However all my remonstrances
were vain. Lieutenant Bailey, then on the quarter-master-general’s
staff (now commandant in the Island of Gozzo), told me that I was
particularly selected by General Hill to carry the despatch; that
his orders were peremptory; and that not a moment should be lost in
communicating its important contents to General Hamilton. Bailey then
read the despatch, which imported that, from the position which the
British army occupied, the enemy could not possibly escape except
through San Antonio. General Hamilton was therefore directed to place
every car and cart in his possession, and everything which he could
collect in the place, as an obstacle across the road, and in every way
to impede the enemy’s progress, should they attempt to pass him during
the night, and thus to give time to the British troops to come up on
the first alarm. The despatch was read to me with the view that, should
I be pursued by any French cavalry patrols, I should tear it, and if I
fortunately escaped, deliver its contents verbally, or if I were driven
out of my road, communicate its import in Spanish to any peasant I
might meet, who could perhaps creep his way to San Antonio, although I
should not be able to get there. I had an order from General Hill to
the Spanish General, Giron, to furnish me with a party of dragoons. The
Spanish general offered me three men when like Phocion I remarked that
for the purpose of war they were too few and for any other purpose too
many. I therefore took only one man, strongly recommended as a guide,
and set off in very threatening weather for San Antonio.

Arriving there without any adventure and safely delivering my
despatches, I immediately wheeled round to regain the camp, when, in
addition to the lateness of the hour and the difficulty of finding
my way through a dense forest, the darkened clouds suddenly burst
and torrents of rain poured down, accompanied by a tempest of wind
so furious as nearly to blow me off my horse. All traces of our
route having disappeared, I called to the dragoon to go in front and
point out the way, upon which he very coolly but respectfully replied
that it was for the first time in his life he was there. My rage and
consternation at this astounding declaration was such that I could have
shot the fellow. I asked him how he could think of coming as a guide
through a thick forest, and over ground with not one foot of which he
was acquainted, beset too by the enemy’s patrols; and expressing my
conviction that he must be a countryman of mine, I asked him if he were
born in Ireland. The man replied that he was not selected as a guide;
that he and the other dragoons, whom I had declined taking, were simply
warned as an escort, but the word guide was never mentioned. As to his
place of birth, he, after appropriate adjustment in his saddle and
assuming true quixotic mien, announced himself a “Castillano puro”; but
judge my mortification at his asking me, with simplicity apparently
genuine, if Ireland was in Portugal! I indignantly darted my spurs into
the flanks of my unoffending high-spirited Andalusian steed, which,
although never attached to the commissariat, I had selected from the
breed of Bucephalus or bullock-headed, still common in Andalusia, and
remarkable for the bones which protrude above the eyes and resemble
stumps of horns.


We still moved forward and after wandering some time in the dark
perceived a fire. This was cautiously approached. The dragoon, being in
front, was challenged by a sentry, whom he declared to be French; and
instantly turning we both galloped off. We were wandering to and fro,
scarce knowing where we were; but the Sierra Montanchez, rearing its
head high above the trees and appearing black amidst the dark clouds,
prevented us at least from turning our backs to the place we sought,
and warned us not to approach too near lest we should come upon the
French army. Again we discovered a fire, which we conjectured to be
that of a piquet. It rained torrents; the wind blew furiously tearing
the trees from the roots. Troops of howling wolves stalked around;
and although they sometimes passed nearly between our horses’ legs,
we durst not fire even in our own defence, lest in so doing we should
awaken the attention of a more formidable foe.

Soaked through with rain, not knowing where I was, I struck my
repeater, which I never failed to carry, and found that the army
would be in motion in little more than an hour and a half. I became
desperate; I resolved at all hazard to ascertain our true position.
With this determination I alighted, leaving my cloak on the saddle,
since it was too heavy to support from the quantity of rain it had
imbibed; my pistols I carried in my breast, to keep the locks dry. The
Spaniard I prevailed upon to remain behind, between thirty and forty
paces distant from the fire which burned in our front, with orders not
to move unless he should hear a shot fired, when he should take it for
certain that I was attacked; then he was to ride forward at full speed,
taking care not to leave my horse behind. All thus arranged, with
doubtful step I approached the fire. My preceding the dragoon arose
neither from personal bravado nor from want of full confidence in the
Spaniard, who, I felt convinced, would do his duty gallantly: in fact,
I had some difficulty in prevailing upon him to remain behind; and he
anxiously pleaded to accompany me, although he still felt offended
at being taken for a Portuguese-Irishman. My taking the lead was in
consequence of the haughty Castilian having been too proud to learn
any language but his own; and I happened to have had a tolerably good
acquaintance with the languages of the four nations whose troops were
in the field, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. Silently and
cautiously I moved forward, until I arrived within a few yards of the
fire; then lying down flat on the ground, and forming a kind of funnel
with both hands close to the ground and laying my ear thereto, I now
plainly heard words which I joyfully discovered to be Portuguese.
Getting on my legs I approached the fire with confidence. A Portuguese
sentry, lowering his bayonet, demanded who I was; this being soon
explained, I holloaed out to Don Diego, the Spanish dragoon, who
instantly galloped forward with his sabre drawn, but not forgetting
my horse. Upon asking the Portuguese corporal, who commanded the
piquet, where the English were encamped, I was much astonished at his
replying, “Here.” I could discover no sign of an army or a camp, until
moving forward about forty yards in the direction which the corporal
indicated, I came upon the very spot upon which my own tent had been
pitched. Here I found Lieutenant Huddleston, of the company, lying
under the folds of the tent, which had been blown down. I asked the
cause of the darkness which reigned around and which was the chief
cause of my wandering for some hours close to the army without being
able to discover it. He told me that immediately after my departure
a general order was issued that not a light should be lit, except
one in the commissariat tent, and that only while they served out an
additional allowance of rum, granted in consequence of our long march
and the dreadful state of the weather; and that the furious tempest,
which I must have encountered in the forest, blew down almost every
tent, which added to the obscurity.

[Sidenote: A SILENT CAMP.]

I had still upwards of two miles to ride through incessant wind and
rain to reach the village of Alcuescar, where the generals took up
their quarters with the light companies of the division and some
Spanish cavalry. Immediately on arriving there I reported to General
Hill my having executed the duty with which I was entrusted. This
report I made through Captain Clement Hill, the general’s brother
and aide-de-camp. He told me that the general felt excessively well
pleased at my having succeeded, wondered at my having returned so soon,
or at all, in such dreadful weather, and directed that I should not
depart until I had dined (rather a fashionable hour, past one in the
morning), adding with his usual urbanity that he regretted not being
able to see me, as he was engaged with two Spaniards, who were making
communications of a very important nature.

Having swallowed some cold roast beef and a tumbler of port, I retired
to the next house, where fortunately the light company of the 28th
Regiment were stationed. Here I procured food for my wearied horse;
but, although steeped with rain, I could make no change in my dress, my
baggage being upwards of two miles in the rear, where the regiment were
encamped. Change of stockings I could procure, but my boots teeming
with water I durst not take off, knowing that I should not be able to
draw them on again.

Shortly afterwards the army from the camp came up and joined us.
Company states being collected, the adjutant told me that the colonel
remarked that No. 1--the company to which I had been attached--was not
signed by me. I had previously fallen in with the light company. I
immediately signed the state and fell in with the battalion company. I
perceived that the colonel rather avoided me.


All being prepared, the light companies of the brigade were ordered
to advance. I could restrain my feelings no longer, and went to
the colonel, reminding him of the promise which he made when I was
unwillingly appointed to the command of a battalion company in
Portugal; and repeated what I then said, that since October 14th,
1808 (the day we marched from Lisbon under Sir John Moore), to the
present time the light company, although they had been innumerable
times in fight, had never fired a shot nor seen a shot fired when I
was not present, and I trusted that I should not now be left behind.
“Oh! there it is, Mr. Blakeney--every one wishes to leave me. You are
more respectable commanding a company with the regiment than 2nd in
a company detached.” Being rather hurt at the (for the first time)
cool manner in which he addressed me, I merely bowed and said that
with whatever company I was ordered to serve I hoped to be able to do
my duty. The colonel rode away, but immediately returned and said:
“Blakeney, I very well recollect my promise, but thought you would
never mention it. I wished to have you near myself. However I now speak
to you as your friend: do as you please; either join the light company
or remain, but do not hereafter say that I marred your prospects,
which on the contrary I pledge you my honour I would most willingly
advance.” Encouraged by the colonel’s friendly and sincere manner, as
well as by the kind regards which he always showed towards me, I felt
emboldened to express my sentiments freely; and although I held Colonel
Abercrombie in the highest estimation, as indeed did every officer
in the regiment, I told him candidly that I wished to join the light
company. Shaking me cordially by the hand, “God bless you, my honest
fellow!” said he, “and may every success attend you.” Another officer
was appointed to command the battalion company; and mounting my horse
I soon overtook the light bobs, who greeted me with a cheer, saying
that they knew Mr. Blakeney would not remain behind. This anecdote, in
itself of no consequence, I introduce, as it gives me an opportunity
of doing justice to the noble feelings of the gallant generous Colonel
Abercrombie, of whose disinterested friendship I soon had a still
stronger proof.



About dawn, weather still dreadful and favoured by a dense fog, the
troops were formed under rising ground within half a mile of the enemy,
who, strange to be said, did not present even a single vedette. They
occupied Arroyo Molinos, a small town situated under the northern
extremity of Sierra Montanchez, a broad chain of mountains which
receded from Arroyo in a semicircular form, its extreme points being
upwards of two miles asunder. It is everywhere impassable, even by
goats, except within about a quarter of a mile of its eastern point,
where persons desperately situated might by climbing, scramble across.
The road leading from Arroyo Molinos to Merida lies at right angles
to that from Alcuescar, while the road to Medellin intersects the one
leading from Merida to Trujillo. To prevent the escape of the enemy
by any of these roads was the anxious care of the general. The rising
ground, under which our troops united, prevented our near approach
being discovered by the enemy and favoured the distribution of the army
for the attack.


Major-General Howard’s brigade, composed of the 1st Battalions
50th, 71st and 92nd Regiments, one company 60th Rifles, and three
six-pounders, supported by Morillo’s Spanish infantry, formed the left
column, and, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Stewart, were pushed
forward direct upon the town; the 50th and the guns remained a short
distance in reserve. Colonel Wilson’s brigade, consisting of the 1st
Battalion 28th, 2nd Battalions 34th and 39th Regiments, one company
60th Rifles, the 6th Portuguese regiment of the line, commanded by
Lieutenant-Colonel Ashurst, with two six-pounders and a howitzer,
formed the right column. The cavalry, commanded by Sir William Erskine,
formed a third column; these were placed in the centre, ready for any
emergency. All being prepared, all suddenly moved forward, favoured by
the elements, which, but a few moments ago furiously raging, now as
if by command became perfectly calm and the dense fog; clearing away,
our left column were absolutely entering the town before the enemy
were aware of our vicinity. Although one of their brigades had marched
an hour previously for Merida, their main body were only now getting
under arms to follow. The 71st and 92nd Regiments cheered and charged
through the town, making a few prisoners, but had some men cut down by
the opposing cavalry. The enemy, driven out of the place, formed in two
columns on the plain outside, under the base of Montanchez, protected
by their cavalry. Casting a glance to the north, they perceived the
50th Regiment with the guns advancing. The fire from the 71st Light
Infantry, issuing from the gardens, disturbed their close formation;
and in the meantime the 92nd Regiment filed through the streets and
formed line on the enemy’s flank, who, upon this double assault,
commenced a rapid retreat, as they thought, reducing the front of their
columns, who were headed by their cavalry. This, advance or retreat,
was performed with such celerity that they were soon lost sight of by
our left column.

At this juncture the Spanish cavalry commanded by that active officer,
Count Penne Villamur, rode into the plain and separated the enemy’s
horsemen from their infantry. The count steadily, though not furiously,
maintained his part until the British cavalry came up, who, in
consequence of the rude darkness of the night and roughness of the
roads and ground, had been delayed in their advance. There was also
an equestrian Spanish band, clothed like harlequins and commanded by
a person once rational, but now bent on charging with his motley crew
the hardy and steadily disciplined cavalry of France; and yet, however
personally brave their commander, Mr. Commissary Downy, little could be
expected from this fantastic and unruly squadron, who displayed neither
order nor discipline. Intractable as swine, obstinate as mules and
unmanageable as bullocks, they were cut up like rations or dispersed in
all directions like a flock of scared sheep.

The British cavalry having at length come up, accompanied by the
German hussars, the affair became more serious. A brisk charge by
two squadrons of the 2nd Germans and one squadron of the 9th English
Dragoons led by Captain Gore, the whole commanded by Major Busshe
of the Germans, put the French cavalry to flight. Their infantry
still pushed forward with uncommon rapidity, yet in perfect order,
fancying without doubt that all their danger was left behind. But as
they approached the eastern horn of the crescent range of the Sierra
Montanchez, by passing round which they expected to gain the Trujillo
road, they were met directly in front by our right column, headed by
the light companies of the 28th, 34th and 39th Regiments. Here a rather
unfortunate circumstance took place. About ten minutes before we saw
the head of the enemy’s approaching column, four of their guns whipping
at speed crossed in front of the light companies who formed the advance
guard of our column. We were immediately ordered to follow and try to
overtake them; and we consequently brought forward our left shoulders
and attempted a double quick movement through ploughed ground, soaked
by several days’ previous rain, every step bringing the men nearly up
to the knee in clammy mud. When we had made a mock run for eight or ten
minutes, General Hill, who saw the movement, ordered us to desist, as
the cavalry would take the guns; they were soon afterwards captured by
the 13th Light Dragoons.


We now brought up our right shoulders and faced the enemy’s column, the
head of which was by this time close at hand. A low ridge or rising
ground was between us, and, the 28th Light Company leading, I galloped
up the ascent, urged by the ambition natural to youth to be the first
to meet the foe. In this however I was disappointed; for on gaining
the summit I discovered immediately on my left General Hill with his
aide-de-camp, the late Colonel Curry, attended by one sole dragoon.
The light company came quickly up and commenced firing (the enemy not
above a hundred yards distant), upon which the general showed his
disapprobation in as marked a manner as a person could do who never,
under any excitement whatsoever, forgot that he was a gentleman; at
this moment he felt highly excited. The enemy perceived it impossible
to pass by us, and as our left column were moving up in their rear
every eye was casting a woeful look up the side of the dark and
stubborn Montanchez, which forbade access; they saw no mode of escape.
Becoming desperate, and arriving at where the mountain began to dip,
they made a rush at the broad and high stone wall which ran along its
base, and tearing open a breach, the head of their column, led by
General Gerard, entered the opening at the very moment that the light
company topped the rising ground and saw them. Thus did Gerard make his
escape, which he could not have effected had we not been sent trotting
after the guns, by which we lost upwards of twenty minutes’ time.

But there was still a remedy left, had it been taken advantage of, as
will afterwards be shown. I observed the displeasure which our men’s
firing gave the general, who at the moment used the remarkable words,
“Soldiers, I have done my duty in showing you the enemy; do you yours
by closing on them.” Upon this truly eloquent and inspiring appeal,
which must have fired the breast of the most phlegmatic, I instantly
placed my cap on the point of my sword, and waving it over my head I
rode between the contending troops to prevent the light company from
firing, exhorting them to come on with the bayonet, a weapon which they
well knew from experience the enemy could never resist. The men whom I
addressed, 28th Light Company, had fought at Barossa and Albuera, and
some still there were of the hardy old veterans of Galicia. I mention
the 28th Light Company, since they were the company who led and whom I
commanded; they instantly obeyed the call, and I need scarcely say that
the other light companies of the brigade were not less prompt. All knew
the efficiency of the weapon mentioned, and knowing it came forward
undauntedly, although at the moment the odds against them were fearful.
The three companies could not muster two hundred bayonets; the column
to be charged amounted to nearly fifteen hundred As the captain of the
company, not knowing the enemy to be so near, had remained behind to
behold a charge made by the harlequin equestrians, I had an opportunity
of leading the 28th Light Company into the body of General Gerard’s
column, the head having unfortunately previously escaped through the
breach in the wall.


Having brought the company in collision with the enemy, and being a
pretty fair fox-hunter and well mounted, I jumped the wall, my horse
carrying me stoutly over, although, with the exception of few and short
intervals, I had been on his back for six and thirty hours. The wall
being crossed, absurd as it may appear, alone I met the then head of
the enemy’s column. A scuffle ensued; I lost my horse and cap, but not
my sword.

My address to the light company, as well as what followed, was in the
presence of General Hill, who as I write commands the army in chief;
and I trust to escape a suspicion of exaggeration in my recital of
what took place, for however inclined I might feel to extol my own
services on the occasion, anything I could allege would fall short of
Lord Hill’s testimony, stated in his letter to Lord Fitzroy Somerset,
Military Secretary, dated Portalegre November 24th, 1811.

Soon after I crossed the wall, Lieutenants Potter, 28th, and Sullivan,
34th Regiments, at the head of some men of their respective light
companies, charged through the breach, now almost choked with French,
when all who had not previously escaped were made prisoners; and Lord
Hill may recollect that, whilst as yet only the light companies of
Colonel Wilson’s brigade were come up and engaged, his lordship made
upwards of a thousand prisoners, who threw down their arms, all or
most of whom would have escaped had not those companies undauntedly
and quickly rushed forward. Had we been so fortunate as to come up
twenty minutes sooner, General Gerard and every man in his army must
inevitably have been taken. No military enterprise throughout the
Peninsular War was more judiciously planned or more promptly executed.

The light companies now pushed forward in pursuit of Gerard and the
fugitives; every yard we advanced prisoners were made. Having continued
the chase to beyond the crest of the hill, I was amazingly surprised
at seeing Gerard descending down the road leading to Merida, about
two hundred yards beneath us; he was accompanied by very few men, for
the ground was broken and rocky and very difficult to pass over. Some
French officers, who rushed through the wall on horseback, had been
immediately obliged to dismount, and, formation of any kind being
impossible, groups of the enemy continually descended in small numbers,
who, on reaching the road, ran forward to join those who had already
arrived. But my astonishment was caused at seeing a squadron of British
cavalry drawn up on the road who moved not at all, although within a
hundred yards of where Gerard and the enemy descended in these small
bodies from the mountain. Some time afterwards I asked the officer who
commanded the squadron how it was he did not charge the fugitives,
remarking that he lost an opportunity which most probably would never
again present itself, that of taking prisoner the enemy’s commanding
general. He replied with perfect seriousness that his orders were to
halt on that road, and that therefore the escape of the enemy was
no affair of his; that had he been ordered to charge, he would have
done so willingly. This I firmly believe; and he was not very long
afterwards killed while gallantly charging with his regiment. What
increased my astonishment was that the enemy descended on to the road
exactly in his front, and moved away from him; for the squadron were
drawn up to face the direction which the French took, being the only
one by which they could escape.


The British loss in the action was trifling: seven rank and file
killed; seven officers and between fifty and sixty rank and file
wounded. On the part of the enemy, General Gerard’s corps were almost
totally destroyed or dispersed. General Le Brun, Colonel the Prince
D’Arenberg, both of the cavalry, Colonel Andrée, Adjutant-General,
Lieutenant-Colonel Voirol, and another lieutenant-colonel whose name
I forget, Gerard’s aide-de-camp, one commissary, thirty captains and
subalterns, and upwards of fifteen hundred rank and file were made
prisoners. The whole of their guns, waggons, baggage and magazines were
captured. Their loss in killed and wounded could not be ascertained
from the nature of the ground, but it must have been considerable. The
light companies were firing during four hours, while they chased the
fugitives up the hill of Montanchez and down the other side until we
nearly reached the road. When General Morillo returned next morning,
having continued the pursuit all night, he reported that, exclusive of
those who fell on the plain, upwards of six hundred dead or dying were
found in the woods and among the mountains.

In consequence of the severe fatigue which the army had suffered
immediately before the action, as well as the necessity of bringing the
prisoners together, the light companies were called in. On arriving
on the plain I was not a little surprised at the general greeting I
met from the whole regiment, who with the 34th had been some time in
the plain. When the regiment had approached the breach in the wall,
my horse was found in possession of a French soldier and my cap at
the foot of the hill where it had rolled down. I was consequently
put down as either among the slain or made prisoner; and upon this
Colonel Abercrombie had said that he was excessively sorry for the
circumstance, but that it was all my own seeking, because I declined
remaining with him.



The troops now entered the town of Arroyo Molinos, and I proceeded
directly to the Prince D’Arenberg’s quarters, to which I was called
by General Hill, who requested that I would accompany the prince to
Lisbon, and this too at the prince’s request. Upon my expressing an
unwillingness thus to go to the rear, the general paid me a very
flattering compliment, saying that had he not deemed it necessary to
retire in a day or two at the farthest, he would not request, nor even
consent to my leaving the army even for a day; but that Soult’s corps
were advancing, which rendered it necessary for him to retire. Colonel
Rook, the adjutant-general, being present, asked me with what escort I
would undertake the charge, and if I thought twenty men sufficient. I
offered to be responsible for the prince’s safe conveyance with four
men and two dragoons. Rook replied that he would double the number of
infantry which he proposed, but could not grant a single dragoon. I
then consented to go with a corporal and six men of my own regiment. He
agreed to the number but not to the regiment; the bulk of the prisoners
were to be escorted by a suitable detachment of the 34th, and he could
not break up a second regiment. And so with Corporal Hughes and six men
of the 34th I commenced my march for Lisbon.

I very soon repented of having taken so small an escort, not on account
of the prince, but of the French commissary, whom, at the particular
request of the prince, I allowed, though unwillingly, to accompany
him; had I foreseen the annoyance and danger which his presence caused
I certainly should have refused the request. In proceeding through
the Spanish frontier we passed through the same towns which Gerard
occupied during his foraging, or rather marauding excursion immediately
before; and it required all my exertions to protect the commissary
from being torn to pieces. The peasantry collected round the houses
where we halted for the night, loudly demanding the commissary; and
although I harangued them and pointed out the national disgrace that
would attend any outrage committed on the prisoners, and the insult it
would be to England whose prisoners they were and consequently under
her protection, still I felt it always prudent to make the guard load
in their presence, and to place double sentries over the house, with
orders, loudly delivered, to shoot any who should attempt a forcible


Although the escort consisted but of ten persons, the corporal and his
party of six, my servant, batman, and self, and the prisoners amounted
to the same number--viz., the prince, a captain of his regiment, his
secretary, two cooks, his Swiss coachman, three other servants and the
commissary--still I allowed them all to carry arms. I felt no dread of
their escaping, being fully convinced that they were much more inclined
to remain my prisoners than think of escape, for they were fully aware
that they would be torn to atoms by the enraged peasantry; moreover
the prince, in whose honour I confided, held himself responsible for
all. I remarked to the prince with a smile in the presence of the whole
party, that I felt certain his pledge was not endangered, stating the
reasons above mentioned; yet I told him plainly that if his authority
were not sufficient to oblige the commissary (who was present) to keep
more retired, and not with imprudent gasconade to present himself
at the doors and windows and thus irritate an enraged population, I
should reluctantly be compelled to make him a close prisoner and place
a sentry over him, not so much for his safety as for that of others,
whom I held in higher consideration. But although I gained my point,
yet until I got across the Spanish frontier I was in continual alarm,
all owing to our graminivorous companion. Albeit though this commissary
certainly was as impertinent and forward a fellow as I ever met with,
still he could not in justice be held personally responsible for the
outrages which drew upon him this general odium; for when he robbed
the peasantry of all their grain, cattle and provisions of every kind,
and as much specie as he could grasp, he acted under superior command;
he was therefore but a simple machine. But the lower orders, solely
interested in present good or evil, rarely investigate the remote cause
which produces the present effect.

The last Spanish town through which we passed was Valencia de
Alcantara; and here I had the honour of reporting our arrival to
the captain-general of the province, General Castanos, a fine fat
jolly-looking fellow. Being about to quit the Spanish territory next
day, the prince and I entered into a conversation about the general
character of the inhabitants.

In allusion to the late action and the movements which led to that
event, I warmly expatiated on the praiseworthy fidelity of the
Spaniards, particularly those of Arroyo Molinos and Alcuescar, in
never having communicated our near approach to the French army. The
prince replied that they did not use such fidelity as I imagined, for
the night previous to the action two Spaniards came to his quarters
in Arroyo Molinos and informed him that we were much nearer than the
French general seemed to be aware of; that upon this he immediately
imparted the information to Gerard, who replied: “Prince, you are a
good and active soldier, but you always see the English in your front,
rear and flank. I tell you they are eight leagues distant, for I know
to a certainty that they were seen in the morning marching hastily
towards Caceres, thinking to find us there; and so confident do I feel
as to the certainty of what I tell you that I shall delay the march
to-morrow an hour later to give the men more time for repose.” Much
hurt at the general’s remark, which had the appearance of insinuating
that he entertained a dread of encountering the English, the prince
returned to his quarters. About an hour before dawn next morning the
general sent for him, according to custom, to take a glass of old rum;
this he declined, the conversation of the previous evening being still
painfully in his recollection. In less than an hour afterwards he heard
a loud and confused cry in the streets, when instantly his adjutant
darted breathless into the room holloaing out, “Mon prince! mon prince!
nous sommes attrapés!” The English were driving through the town. At
the heels of the adjutant in rushed Gerard, aghast and foaming at the
mouth, and exhorted the prince to use every exertion to get the cavalry
out of the town. “Ha!” said the prince, “do I always see the English
where they are not?” “For the love of God,” replied Gerard, “do not add
to my distraction. This is not a time for badinage or reproof; exert
yourself to the utmost or we are undone. The English are forcing their
way through the town. Get the cavalry out and form on the plain as
quickly as possible.” The rest I knew.


Next morning we left Valencia before dawn and were soon in the
Portuguese territory. The prisoners now breathed freely, not having
felt very secure during our route through Spain. The mountains
we had now to cross were very steep and excessively difficult of
ascent, especially with a wheeled vehicle. The prince travelled very
comfortably in a handsome carriage taken at Arroyo Molinos, in which
fortunately he was always accompanied by his graminivorous friend,
whom the prince and I used facetiously to call Bucephalus. Four large
Spanish mules which drew the carriage being insufficient to haul it up
those hills, I directed that a couple of bullocks which were ploughing
alongside the road should be added to the team. The harnessing was
attempted in a violent manner by the Swiss coachman, an immensely
stout and large person; but one of the animals becoming very restive,
severely wounded him with one of his horns. The wound was excessively
severe and dangerous, but being ignorant of technical terms I must
decline attempting a description. The coachman, becoming furious from
pain, drew his sabre, and cutting and slashing right and left so
wounded the bullock that I ordered the guard to disarm him, and never
after allowed him to carry any other weapon than his whip, although
he frequently entreated the prince to intercede for the recovery of
his sabre. The owners having interposed, the animals were quietly
harnessed, and after a long pull we at last reached the summit. Owing
to its great height and the season being rather advanced (the middle
of November), the atmosphere was excessively cold. We halted on this
our first Portuguese mountain for some hours, and I cannot forget our
delicious repast upon roasted chestnuts and goats’ milk, plentifully
supplied by the Portuguese shepherds. Thunderstruck on hearing that one
of their guests was no less a personage than a prince, they crowded
round the blazing fire before which we were feasting to have the
illustrious stranger pointed out, no doubt expecting to see in a person
of such exalted rank something superhuman.

Continuing our route tranquilly and without any adventure, we arrived
at Portalegre, which again became General Hill’s headquarters. Here we
halted for a few days, during which we were visited by Prince Pierre
d’Arenberg, who had procured General Hill’s permission to come and see
his brother, in whose regiment he was a cornet. Prince Prosper felt
some delicacy in conversing with him except in my presence; but as I
received no decisive instructions on the subject, I declined intruding
on their conversation; and feeling in no way anxious to pry into their
family concerns, I remarked to Prince Prosper that he had nothing of
military consequence to communicate, and as to the treatment which
he met with from the British it was but just that he should have an
opportunity of declaring it to his brother, free of all restraint which
my presence might impose. The princes expressed their thanks in the
warmest manner; and Prince Prosper remarked that it was well that he
should have a private opportunity of telling his brother of the kind
and generous manner in which he had been treated, which was of such a
nature that, recounted in the presence of an Englishman, it must have
the appearance of exaggeration and flattery, and more particularly if
told in my presence, who stood first in courtesy and generous conduct.
I imbibed the potion and retired to the next room.

Before we continued our route towards Lisbon, Colonel Abercrombie sent
me a message from Albuquerque to say that, not being present at what
took place with the light company in the late action, it being detached
from the battalion, he could not _directly_ recommend me for my conduct
on the occasion; but he requested me to forward a memorial of my
general services through him, thus giving him an opportunity of giving
his testimony to my services throughout. This generous communication I
of course acted upon immediately; and I wrote to Lord Lynedoch on the
subject, from whom I shortly after received the following letter:--


            “LEGIORA, _November 19th, 1811_.

    “MY DEAR BLAKENEY,--I did you all justice, I assure you, before
    at the Horse Guards, and have just written again to Colonel
    Torrens to remind him of all I said after Barossa, and to
    request that he will state my testimony to the Duke of York in
    aid of your memorial. Excuse this hasty scrawl, And believe me
    truly yours

            “THOMAS GRAHAM.

    “LIEUTENANT BLAKENEY, _28th Foot_.”

However flattering such a letter was to me, or must be to any officer
however high his rank, when coming from such a person as Lord Lynedoch,
yet it is not from motives of vanity that I give it publicity, but
rather to reflect its true merit back to the pure fount whence it
sprung. Any attempt at eulogy from so humble an individual as myself
could add but little to the brilliancy which his splendid achievements
throw around Lord Lynedoch. I shall therefore confine myself to saying,
in the unsophisticated phrase of an old campaigner, that the zealous
officer who willingly and conscientiously discharges his duty, though
naked of other patronage or support, will always find in his lordship
his most willing supporter and unswerving friend. Here will be seen
an officer, high in rank and still higher in reputation, commanding
a corps of the most uniformly victorious army which ever graced the
military annals of any nation whatever, writing in familiar language to
a subaltern officer, showing anxiety for his interests and using every
exertion to forward his promotion from no other motive than the belief
that he had fully discharged his duties to his king and country to the
utmost of his abilities. I had no introduction from influential friends
to his lordship, nor had I the honour of his acquaintance previous to
the expedition from Tarifa and the occurrences which took place in the
battle of Barossa. No doubt generals in high or chief command willingly
forward the claims of officers whom they consider deserving while they
continue to serve under them; but I am ignorant of any other instance
where claims on patronage have been invited and called for, such as
in the letter written by Lord Lynedoch to Colonel Browne at Tarifa,
requesting the name of any officer of the flank battalion under his
command who had distinguished himself at the battle of Barossa. How
much more in unison with the genius of Britain and with the spirit
of her free and liberal institutions, and how much more nobly is the
general employed who, like Lord Lynedoch, diligently and openly seeks
through his ranks for objects worthy his protection, than he who
indefatigably searches for pretexts for a clandestine representation,
generally a misrepresentation! And it is not a little to be wondered
at that England, which ever was and ever will be inimical to the
introduction of the inquisition in any country, should harbour that
wicked and degrading institution throughout every branch of her Service
which is smoothly termed “_confidential_ reports,” thus turning the
Army in particular, whose constitution is based on the most scrupulous
adherence to the highest and nicest principles of honour, into a
graduated corps of spies from the ensign up to the general. Great
Britain does not reflect that by encouraging these confidential or
clandestine reports she is inflicting an insulting and severe censure
on the laws and morals of the nation, as not being sufficient to govern
by open and legitimate means.


To remove an officer from the Service upon a confidential report is
both unjust and impolitic, and answers no good end. It is but natural
to suppose that when a senior officer accuses a junior by means of
clandestine reports, with the hope of having him removed from the
Service without trial, that this dark mode of procedure arises from
inadequacy of matter to bear him out, or for reasons still darker than
the foul means adopted. But supposing even that it should be made
evident to His Majesty that the officer so reported is unworthy of
continuing in the Service, is it politic to remove him from it without
assigning a cause or making his delinquency public? When a robber or
even murderer is executed, it is not from a vindictive motive, it takes
place as a dreadful warning to deter others from committing a similar
crime; therefore due punishment cannot be made too public, or its
imperative necessity too strongly impressed on the minds of the people.
The injustice of these secret proceedings was clearly shown at Malta in
1821, at which time I was quartered there. A commanding officer in the
garrison so blackened the characters of a large portion of his officers
through confidential reports that it was determined to have the greater
number of them removed from the Service. This was discovered by means
of a lady of the regiment, who carelessly said to another that she
would soon see the junior captain become the senior; this being
repeated soon became known throughout the corps, when the officers
fortunately arrived at the true cause of the threatened removal.
Consequently, and very naturally, they spoke openly. To avert the evil
they asserted that tyranny, oppression and falsehood had been used
towards them. This coming to the knowledge of the commanding general,
Sir Thomas Maitland, he ordered a court of inquiry. He clearly stated
that from the reports which he had received from the commanding officer
he had intended to recommend that many officers of the regiment should
be removed from the Service; but in consequence of its coming to his
knowledge that the commanding officer was far from immaculate, and that
oppression or unfounded reports might have been resorted to, he thus
gave the officers an opportunity not only to exonerate themselves from
the charges alleged against them, but also to declare their grievances.
What was the consequence? One subaltern was brought to court-martial
by the commanding officer and was acquitted; but the commanding
officer was brought to trial upon two-and-twenty grave charges, on
one-and-twenty of which he was found guilty, and as a matter of course
publicly dismissed the Service.

So much for _confidential_ reports. Who can count the number of
high-spirited noble and gallant youths who have fallen victims, or
whose prospects have been blasted through this dastardly mode of
proceeding? It is the noble-minded and high-spirited alone who call for
protection against such an iniquitous system; the fawning and servile
are sure to escape, and not unfrequently with rewards. The duties of a
commanding officer are manifold; and he who does not execute them with
temperance, justice and impartiality is not for that responsible post.


I had the good fortune of being intimately acquainted with that
gallant and sterling soldier, General Ross, who should be held up as a
model for commanding officers of regiments. He at once was the father
and brother of every officer in his corps, and was on the most familiar
and intimate terms with every officer down to the junior ensign; yet
none ever dared or attempted to take the slightest liberty which
could be considered, even by the severest martinet, as derogatory in
the slightest degree to the respect due to the commanding officer or
injurious to the maintenance of the strictest discipline. The respect
entertained by all for Colonel Ross was entirely matter of sentiment
and good feeling. The lively, though sometimes imprudent sallies of
a glowing mind were by him rather laughed away than harshly or even
seriously chided; the feelings of a gentleman were never wounded in
cooling the fervid ebullitions of youth. He felt fully sensible that
the military laws, as sanctioned by his country, were sufficient
for the ends desired, and therefore never resorted to the cowardly
subterfuge of stabbing in the dark by means of clandestine reports,
which are never resorted to except by those who from meanness of
capacity or want of resolution shudder at a fearless and open discharge
of their duty, or whose vicious and vindictive natures induce them
to strike the deadly blow unseen. Such a liberal and just commanding
officer did exist, I know, in the person of the late General Ross when
commanding the 20th Regiment; and such a commanding officer does exist,
I have been told, in the person of Sir Edward Blakeney, commanding the
Royal Fusiliers.



After a short halt at Portalegre Prince Pierre returned to his
regiment, and we continued our route to Lisbon. On arriving at Abrantes
Prince Prosper was splendidly entertained by Colonel Buchan, who
commanded there. The roads being here impassable for a carriage, that
in which the prince travelled was left behind; and we proceeded in a
comfortable boat down the Tagus to Lisbon, where we safely arrived.

The orders which I received immediately on my arrival were that the
prince should never leave the Duke de Cadoval’s palace, in which we
were lodged, except in my company; and I was never to go out with
him in other than my scarlet uniform. These orders came direct from
the Duke of Wellington. The strictness with which I was directed to
attend so particularly upon the prince did not arise from any want of
confidence in his parole; it was the better to protect him, for such
was the state of public ferment at the time in Lisbon that nothing
but British protection could save him from public and most probably
serious insult and outrage. This state of general excitement was caused
by reports in the Spanish papers, as also by the assertions of many
Spaniards then in Lisbon, that when Ballesteros was defeated by the
French at Ayamonte, the prince, who served there with his regiment
of cavalry, cut many hundred Spaniards to pieces who were unarmed and
who never carried arms in their lives. At his own particular request I
showed him the Spanish gazettes in which his alleged cruelty was most
severely reprobated. On perusing the papers he remarked with a laugh,
“How stupid these Spaniards in thinking that by thus abusing me they
do me injury! The fools are not aware that the more they accuse me
of cruelty the stronger will be the conviction in the breast of the
emperor that I did my duty zealously.” I merely asked if the emperor
_required_ such mode of performing duty. A momentary reserve ensued;
it was but of short duration. In truth, from the commencement of our
acquaintance to our parting we lived on the most friendly and intimate
terms, and seemed more like two intimate young gentlemen of equal rank
than simple Mr. and a Serene Highness.


The prince was entertained by all the British authorities in Lisbon.
On one occasion he was invited to dine with Major-General Sir James
Leith, but I was not included in the invitation. The prince would
rather have declined, but I persuaded him to go, and accompanied him
to Sir James’s house. Asking for an aide-de-camp, I gave the prince to
his care, telling him that I expected that he would not return except
accompanied by an officer; I then immediately retired. I was very happy
at having this opportunity of going out to see some old friends; I
had many, having been twice previously in Lisbon. On my return, which
was rather late, I found the aide-de-camp asleep on the sofa, and the
prince sitting by his side laughing. On awakening he told me that he
received Sir James Leith’s positive injunctions not to quit the prince
until my return home; and he gave me a very polite message from the
general, stating his regret that he was unacquainted with the mutual
obligation that existed between the prince and me or he would certainly
have invited me to dine. Sir James called next day, and repeated what
the aide-de-camp had previously said. A nearly similar occurrence took
place the second time we dined with Marshal Beresford.


These invitations were highly honourable to me; but it was complete
servitude, and made me as much a prisoner as the prince, with the
additional weight of responsibility. The strict obligation of always
accompanying the prince in my uniform interfered with many amusements.
In going to the theatres he was instantly recognised and rudely
stared at; and even had we risked going in plain clothes, contrary to
our instructions, there still remained an obstacle. The prince wore
mustachios, by which he would be immediately known, and with these he
was very unwilling to part. I told him that if he shaved them off,
I should run all hazard and accompany him in plain clothes in some
of our nocturnal rambles. After urgent expostulations on my part and
profound sighs on his, he consented to have them removed. He sat down
before a mirror, determined, despite of cavalry pride, to cut down
the long, long cherished bristly curls of war. His hand trembled. He
shrank from the first touch of the razor, yet he bore the amputation
of the right wing with tolerable fortitude; then, turning to me with a
deep sigh, he held up the amputated member clotted with lethal soap.
He looked mournful and pale; but however I may have commiserated his
grief, for the life of me I could not refrain from laughing aloud at
the appearance of his face with one mustachio only, which, deprived
of its old companion, appeared double its former length. I requested
him to give the hanger-on no quarter, but instantly to cut him down;
the operation soon followed. The mustachios were washed, cleaned and
dried, then carefully wrapped up in silver paper and forwarded with a
pathetic letter to the duchess, his wife. The prince declared that he
never again would act the soldier either for Napoleon or any other.
This determination arose entirely from his being tired of the army, not
from cutting off the mustachios, which act bore no analogy to the story
of Delilah; and although I was instrumental in cutting off the hairs of
war if not of strength, he never found in me a Philistine. A tailor was
now sent for to make him a brown-coated gentleman.

We now felt no obstacle to our enjoyment of many amusements from which
we previously were debarred. For such was the metamorphosis from the
splendid cavalry uniform, highly decorated breast, blackened and curled
whiskers and mustachios and the fierce _tout-ensemble_ to the simple
brown coat and the plain civic face, that had I not been present at
the barbarous deed, I scarcely could have believed him to be the same
person; and such was my reliance on his word that I felt no hesitation
about his going out, even alone.

The prince entertained very liberally whilst in Lisbon; when he was not
dining out, there were twelve covers at his table for the officers,
his fellow prisoners, who were invited in rotation. One officer alone,
a lieutenant of artillery, was never invited. It was alleged that
when we attacked on the morning of the action, this unfortunate young
man, who commanded the artillery, had no matches lit, and that had he
been prepared we must have lost more men in killed and wounded while
filing through the town; in consequence, he was cut by every French
officer in Lisbon. I felt much for him, and mentioned to the prince
that where they were all alike unfortunate, it appeared invidious to
single out one for neglect; for whatever his fault might have been, it
could not have had the slightest effect in changing the result of the
action. The prince, although a stern soldier, somewhat relented; but
there was such a person as Napoleon to be taken into consideration.
However, he mentioned the circumstance to General Le Brun, expressing
an inclination to become reconciled to the artillery officer. Le Brun
would not listen to it, alleging that it would be setting a dangerous
example to look over or in any way countenance gross neglect of duty,
at the same time casting a scowling look at me, knowing that it was I
who spoke to the prince on the subject. Annoyed at his obduracy and a
little nettled by his indignant look, I asked him if he did not think
that, had there been mounted patrols on the look-out to give alarm in
proper time, the artillery officer, thus warned, would have had his
guns in battle array; instead of which, we came absolutely into the
town without encountering a single French dragoon. The general treated
my observation with haughty silence; but the French adjutant-general,
also a prisoner, being present, darted a fiery glance at Le Brun,
and would no doubt have applied his censure of the artillery officer
to himself, had he not been restrained out of consideration for the
prince, who was second in command of the cavalry. Le Brun was disliked
by all from his haughty and overbearing manner. When after the action
the officers made prisoners were required to sign their parole, Le
Brun refused, saying that the word of a general of the French was
sufficient. Our quartermaster-general, Colonel Offley, a gallant and
determined soldier, a German by birth, soon settled the affair in a
summary way by giving orders that if the general refused to sign his
parole, he was to be marched with the bulk of the prisoners. This
order cooled the general’s hauteur: he subscribed.


On one occasion, when a large party of French officers dined with us,
the prince asked me to what town in England I thought it likely he
would be sent as prisoner of war. This I could not possibly answer.
He then asked which I considered the second town in England. I said
that from a commercial point of view we generally ranked Liverpool
next to London; but as places of fashionable resort Brighton, Bath
and Cheltenham ranked much alike. I inadvertently asked him which he
considered the second town in France. “Rome,” said he, “ranks the
second and Amsterdam the third.” I remarked that then we had no longer
an Italy or a Holland. “Yes,” replied the prince, “we have both; but by
a late edict of the Emperor those two towns are annexed to France, but
it is not the policy of England to recognise it.” I made a low bow. In
compliment to me, I suppose, the prince changed the topic immediately,
saying that he dreaded a ship so much that he would sooner fight the
battles of Talavera and Albuera over again than undertake so long a
voyage as that to England. I told him to quiet himself on that head,
for he might get to England in two hours. The whole company stared, but
particularly Le Brun, who was always a standing dish at the prince’s
table. Speculation ran high. A balloon was generally suggested, but the
velocity even of this was doubted. I denied the agency of a balloon,
and maintained that it was to be accomplished by wind and water solely.
As I still withheld an explanation, the prince got off his chair, and
flinging away his little foraging cap said, “If you do not tell us I
shall give you a kiss, and I know that you would sooner get a slap on
the face than be kissed by a man.” On his advancing towards me, I
requested that he would sit down and I would give him an explanation
which I felt persuaded would convince all present that my assertion
was perfectly correct. At this a general laugh followed. The prince
being re-seated, I addressed him thus: “In less than two hours after
you leave the quay, you will have got rid of all the boats which impede
your passage down the Tagus, and immediately after you will steer clear
of Fort St. Julian at the influx of the river. You are then at sea
and arrived; for by an _old_ edict, recognised by every sovereign in
Europe, ‘All the seas are England.’” The whole company endeavoured,
although awkwardly, to force a laugh, except Le Brun, whose scowling
frown indicated his chagrin, and I fancied that I distinguished the
word _bêtise_ muttered between his teeth. I longed for an opportunity
of paying him off; it soon occurred.

[Sidenote: UN GROS CANARD.]

Le Brun called next morning, as usual big with nothing. Perceiving
that he wished to be alone with the prince, I retired to the next
room. Soon after the prince requested me to come back. He was much
excited, and flinging his cap on the floor, “Only think,” said he,
“what the general has been telling me as an undoubted fact. Some
rascally Portuguese has persuaded him to believe that above a hundred
sail of French line of battleships have appeared before Cadiz; that
the British squadron, stationed there, were compelled to fly; that
the fortress must immediately surrender, and consequently all Spain
must soon be in our possession. In the first place,” added the prince,
“all the navy of France do not amount to the number which the general
says are before Cadiz, without taking into consideration the utter
impossibility of their being enabled to form such a junction unmolested
in the face of the British navy. If a corporal of my regiment told me
such a story, believing it, I should turn him into the ranks.” At this
remark the general became highly indignant, and the prince’s excitement
much increased. To restore tranquillity I asked the general about the
appearance of the person who gave him the important information; and
nodding assent to his description, I exclaimed, “The very man who
spoke to me this morning.” “There,” said the general, happy to have
anything like corroboration; “and what did he tell you?” I looked
round with much apparent precaution, and after anxious pressing on his
part and affected hesitation on mine, I got quite close to the prince
and the general, who took a chair. I then in a low tone of voice, our
three heads nearly touching, said: “When I came to Lisbon this same
Portuguese was pointed out to me as a person who always possessed much
information, but sold it dearly.” All this time the prince was staring
at me, knowing that I bore no great affection for the general. “But,”
said the general, “what information did he give you?” “He told me that
he knew to a certainty, from a source which could not be doubted--I
think you said one hundred?” “Yes,” replied Le Brun, “one hundred sail
of the line.” “He told me,” I resumed, “that there were two hundred
thousand British troops absolutely on the boulevards of Paris, but not
a single soul could tell whence they came. I gave my informant six
gros sous: how much did you give, mon général?” At this the prince
absolutely became convulsed with laughter. The general darted from his
chair, snatched up his hat, and turning his head half round gave us
the most ungracious _bonjour_ that I ever heard escape the lips of a
Frenchman, and then strode out of the room. Scarcely had he left when
the prince ran forward and absolutely embraced me, saying that I had
done him the greatest favour which I could possibly confer, as he felt
sure the general would torment him no more. He was right; Le Brun never
again called.

[Sidenote: _CANARD AUX BOTTES._]

About this time a very laughable scene took place in Lisbon. An
announcement was published in the papers that an English officer
would walk across the Tagus with cork boots. At the hour specified
the concourse was immense; twenty thousand persons at least were
collected at Belem, the place indicated. Every boat on the Tagus and
every vehicle in the town, of whatever description, was hired for
several days previously. A Portuguese guard were posted to keep the
cork-boot platform clear, and a military band attended; it was in fact
a magnificent pageant. At length the hour of execution arrived, but no
cork boots; hour after hour passed, but still the principal actor was
wanting. The spectators, wearied by fruitless expectation, began to
retire; and here the ingenuity of the hoax was displayed--for when some
thousands had moved off, a sudden rush was made towards the platform.
Those who retired instantly returned, but only to be disappointed. This
ruse, strange to be said, repeatedly succeeded; back came the crowd,
but the great Earl of Cork never came forth. At length and after dark
all retired in the worst possible temper; many did not reach their
homes until after midnight, although Belem was not more than five
miles from Lisbon, such was the throng both on the Tagus and along
the roads. Next day all Lisbon was in uproar at being thus insulted
by the English, who denied all knowledge of the affair; and in reply
to a remonstrance made by the Portuguese Government on the subject to
the English authorities, it was asked rather acrimoniously how such an
absurd article had been permitted to appear in the public prints when
the censorship of the press was entirely in the hands of the Portuguese
Government. This was rather a poser, and the affair died away in
languid laughter.

The time having arrived for the prince’s departure for England, Captain
Percy, in whose ship he was to proceed, mentioned to me that he had
some hope of procuring an exchange between the prince and his father,
Lord Beverley, who was detained in France; requesting also that I
would ascertain from the prince what he wished put on board for his
little comforts. The prince in reply commissioned me to tell Captain
Percy that as to the exchange he felt fully persuaded that Napoleon,
although the uncle of his wife the duchess, would never consent to the
exchange; that as to his comforts on board he felt extremely obliged to
Captain Percy for his polite and kind attention, and the only thing he
requested was a little old rum. I delivered his message, but told him
that it was scarcely necessary, for there was always sufficient rum on
board a man-of-war. On parting, he told me that whenever I should come
to Brussels I should have no formal invitation to his father’s palace;
I should live there and invite whom I pleased, for I must consider
myself as a master in the house. How I treated him while we lived
together as prisoner and guard may be seen in a letter which I had the
honour of receiving some years afterwards from his late Royal Highness
the Duke of Kent.

It was at my option to accompany the prince to England; I was strongly
recommended to do so, and the prince warmly urged me to the same
effect. The bait was tempting; but although better success would
undoubtedly have attended a campaign in the luxurious Green Park,
surrounded by magnificent mansions, traversed by splendid equipages,
studded with groups of noble courtiers and glittering flatterers,
yet I preferred the uncompromising discharge of my duty and the wild
scenery and extensive plains of Spain, in company with my gallant
companions of the war, whose hearts were open as the boundless tracts
they traversed, their friendship fervid as the genial sun which glowed
over their heads, and their sincerity pure and unsullied as the
mountain breezes they inhaled. All this was good enough for me.



On the departure of the prince I immediately joined my regiment at
Albuquerque. On my arrival I had the honour of dining with General
Hill. He congratulated me on my good fortune in carrying the prince
safely to Lisbon, remarking that had I not been able to harangue the
peasantry in their native language, sixty soldiers instead of six
would scarcely have been a sufficient guard. The general had heard
from several Spanish officers of the difficulty and danger which I had
encountered. He then congratulated me on the certainty of my immediate
promotion; was pleased to say that I should soon reap the reward which
I so well merited, and then handed me the following letter, which he
requested me to keep by me:--

            “GALLEGOS: _January 16th, 1812_.

    “SIR,--I am directed to transmit to you the annexed extract
    of a letter from Lieutenant-Colonel Torrens, in reply to your
    recommendation in favour of Lieutenant Blakeney.

    “The Commander-in-Chief will take an early opportunity of
    recommending Lieutenant Blakeney for promotion.

            “I have the honour to be, etc.,
                “FITZROY SOMERSET,
                    “_Military Secretary_.


Towards the latter end of February my name appeared in the _Gazette_,
promoted to a company in the 36th Regiment, dated January 16th, 1812.
After endeavouring in vain to accomplish an exchange back into my
old corps, I forwarded a memorial to the Duke of Wellington applying
for permission to join the 1st Battalion 36th Regiment, then in the
Peninsula. His Grace answered that he could not interfere with the
appointment of an officer from one battalion to another; that being
promoted I must join the 2nd battalion, to which I properly belonged;
and that I must therefore proceed to England and report my arrival
to the adjutant-general. A copy of this answer was forwarded from
headquarters to the officer commanding the 1st Battalion 36th Regiment,
then at Almendralejo. It was matter of surprise to many that whilst
hundreds of officers were vainly applying for leave to go to England, I
could not procure leave to keep from it; but such, no doubt, were the
arrangements between the Horse Guards and the army in the Peninsula.


In the beginning of March General Hill moved upon Merida, endeavouring
to surprise a detachment of the enemy there stationed. He approached
within a short distance without being discovered; but an advanced guard
being at length perceived, the enemy hastily evacuated the town. As we
neared the place we saw their rearguard of cavalry crossing the bridge.
Our cavalry and light artillery had previously forded the Guadiana, and
it was confidently expected would soon come up with the retiring foe.
No longer doing duty with the 28th Regiment, I rode over the bridge as
the German dragoons were closely pressing on the enemy’s rear, passing
by their flank. I soon came in view of their main body. They proceeded
hesitatingly, having no doubt been informed by their patrols that our
cavalry had already forded the Guadiana. They halted on a conical hill,
or rather rising mound, which they occupied from its base to its
summit, apparently expecting to be charged. I immediately wheeled round
and returning at full speed informed General Hill of what I had seen.
The general, whose coolness was never more apparent than when the full
energy of the mind was called into action, replied in his usual placid
manner: “Very well; we shall soon be with them. Gallop over the bridge
again and tell General Long to keep closer to the wood.” Instantly
setting off I soon recrossed the bridge, at the far end of which I
met Lord Charles Fitzroy returning after having delivered a similar
message. The cavalry general’s reply was that he wished to keep clear
of the skirts of the wood, when one of us remarked that the wood must
have skirts more extensive than a dragoon’s cloak to keep them at such
a distance. The enemy, perceiving how far they kept away, descended
from the mound on which they had expected to be charged, and rapidly
pushed forward without any molestation; for as our dragoons moved they
still more deviated from the enemy’s line of march, and seemed to be
_en route_ for Badajoz. Had our cavalry closed upon the wood and even
menaced a charge, the progress of the enemy would have been impeded;
but had our cavalry and light guns, by which they were accompanied,
pushed forward rapidly, which they could have done since the plain was
flat and level, and headed the enemy, they would have kept them until
our infantry came up. But nothing of the kind was attempted, and so
every French soldier escaped, though every one ought to have been made
prisoner, and this affair of Merida would have been more complete than
even that of Arroyo Molinos; for when I reported the position of the
enemy to General Hill, they were not more than two miles distant from
our advanced guard. This affair caused an era in the life of General
Hill; for I heard many of his oldest acquaintances remark that before
the evening of this day they never saw a cloud upon his brow.

All hopes of being permitted to remain in the Peninsula having
vanished, I resolved to return to England. With heavy heart I parted
from the regiment in which I first drew my sword, in which my earliest
friendships were formed and my mind modelled as a soldier. In Colonel
Abercrombie’s quarters at Merida many of the officers were assembled.
Sorrowful, I bade adieu to my gallant old comrades, and quaffed a
goblet to their future success whilst I clasped the colours to my
breast--those colours which alone throughout the British army proudly
display the names of the two bloodiest fought battles in the Peninsula,
Barossa and Albuera; and in each of these battles the regiment claimed
a double share of the glory. At Barossa, while Colonel Belson at the
head of the 1st Battalion charged and turned the chosen grenadiers
forming the right of the enemy’s line, Colonel Browne of the regiment,
at the head of their flank companies, united with those of two other
corps, commanded the independent flank battalion; and this battalion,
the first in the battle and alone, suffered more casualties both in
officers and men (I allude particularly to the flankers of the 28th
Regiment) than triple that sustained by any other battalion present
in that memorable fight. At Albuera the 2nd Battalion of the regiment
were led by a gallant officer, Colonel Patterson; and the brigade in
which they served, that which with the brigade of the gallant Fusiliers
turned the wavering fortunes of the day, were commanded by the gallant
Abercrombie, the second lieutenant-colonel of the regiment.


Next morning at parting the light bobs gave me a cheer. I distinguished
among them some few of the old ventriloquists of Galicia; but on this
occasion their notes were, I believe, genuine. I bade a mournful
farewell to the old Slashers, and bent my steps towards Badajoz, then
about to be besieged. The next evening (March 15th) I came before the
place; and very opportunely Lieutenant Huddleston of the 28th Regiment,
my brother officer in the battalion company which I commanded for a
short time, arrived on the same day, being appointed to serve in the
Engineer department. He willingly shared his tent with me; and Sir
Frederick Slavin, also of the 28th Regiment, then adjutant-general
of the 3rd Division, introduced me to General Picton, who did me the
honour of saying that I should always find a cover at his table during
my stay before Badajoz. General Bowes, with whom I had the pleasure
of being acquainted at Gibraltar, gave me a similar invitation. Thus,
finding myself comparatively at home, I felt in no way inclined to
proceed too quickly to Lisbon.

During the siege I assisted generally in the trenches. On March 16th
everything was finally arranged, and on the following evening the
different divisions and regiments prepared to occupy their respective
posts. All the troops being assembled, generals and commanding officers
inspected their brigades and regiments in review order. The parade
was magnificent and imposing. The colours of each regiment proudly,
though scantily, floated in the breeze; they displayed but very little
embroidery. Scarcely could the well-earned badges of the regiments be
discerned; yet their lacerated condition, caused by the numberless
wounds which they received in battle, gave martial dignity to their
appearance and animated every British breast with national pride. The
review being terminated, a signal was given for each corps to proceed
to that spot of ground which they were destined to open. The whole
moved off. All the bands by one accord played the same tune, which
was cheered with shouts that bore ominous import and appeared to shake
Badajoz to its foundation. The music played was the animating national
Irish air, St. Patrick’s Day, when the shamrock was proudly clustered
with the laurel; and indeed, though these two shrubs are not reckoned
of the same family by proud collectors in the Cabinet, veterans hold
them to be closely allied in the field. Never was St. Patrick’s day
more loudly cheered or by stouter hearts, and never was the music more
nobly accompanied nor with more warlike bass; for all the troops echoed
the inspiring national air as proudly they marched to their ground.
Phillipon maintained an incessant fire of cannon, roared forth in proud
defiance from the destined fortress; and Badajoz being now invested on
both sides of the Guadiana, the operations of the siege were eagerly
pressed forward.

On the 19th, during the completion of the 1st parallel, a sortie was
made by the besieged soon after mid-day. Fifteen hundred of their
infantry, screened by the ravelin San Roque, formed between that
opening and the Picurina or small redoubt. They immediately pressed
forward and gained the works before our men could seize their arms,
while at the same time a party of cavalry, about fifty, the only
horsemen in the fortress, got in rear of the parallel. The confusion
was great at the first onset. Those on guard and the working men
were driven out of the trenches, and the cavalry sabred many in the
depôts at the rear; but the mischief being quickly discovered was soon
remedied. The Guards being reinforced immediately rallied and drove the
enemy out of the works at the point of the bayonet, when many lives
were lost. A part of the embankment was thrown into the trenches, and
the enemy carried away almost all the entrenching tools found in the
parallel. We lost one hundred and fifty men in killed and wounded
during this attack.


The siege was now carried on without interruption, notwithstanding the
severity of the weather, which frequently filled the trenches with
water; and so great was the fall of rain on the 22nd that the pontoon
bridge was carried away by the Guadiana overflowing its banks, and
the flying bridges over that river could scarcely be worked. This
threatened a failure of the siege, from the difficulty of supplying the
troops with provisions and the impossibility of bringing the guns and
ammunition across. Fortunately for the attack of the fortress however
the disaster was remedied by the river falling within its banks.

The morning of the 25th was ushered in by saluting the garrison with
twenty-eight pieces of cannon, opened from six different batteries;
and in the evening Fort Picurina was stormed, gallantly carried and
permanently retained. The enemy made a sortie on the night of the 29th,
on the right bank of the Guadiana against General Hamilton’s division,
who invested the fortress on that side; they were driven back with
loss, and on this occasion the besiegers had no casualties.

On the last day of March twenty-six pieces of ordnance from the 2nd
Parallel opened their fire against Fort Trinidad and the flank of the
protecting bastion, Santa Maria. This fire continued incessantly, aided
by an additional battery of six guns, which also opened from the 2nd
Parallel on the morning of April 4th against the ravelin of San Roque.
On the evening of the 6th Trinidad, Santa Maria and the ravelin of San
Roque were breached.

Preparations were made to storm the town that night; but reports
having been made by the engineers that strong works had been erected
for the defence of the two breaches, particularly in rear of the
large one made in the face of the bastion of Trinidad, where deep
retrenchments had been constructed and every means resorted to which
art and science could devise to prevent an entrance, the attack was
therefore put off. Many hundred lives were spared, but for twenty-four
hours only. All the guns in the 2nd Parallel were now directed against
the curtain of Trinidad; and towards the following evening a third
breach appeared; and the storming of Badajoz was arranged in the
following order for the night of the 6th. The 4th division under
command of Major-General the Honourable C. Colville, and the light
division under Lieutenant-Colonel Barnard, were destined to attack the
three breaches opened in the bastion of Trinidad, Santa Maria and the
connecting curtain. Lieutenant-General Picton, with the 3rd or fighting
division, was directed to attack the castle, which, from the great
height of its walls and no breach having been attempted there, the
enemy considered secure against assault. The ground left vacant by the
advance of the 4th and light divisions was to be occupied by the 5th
division, commanded by General Leith, with instructions to detach his
left brigade, under General Walker, to make a false attack against the
works of the fortress near the Guadiana, as also against the detached
work the Pardaleras. Brigadier-General Power, commanding a Portuguese
brigade on the opposite bank, was ordered to divert by making false
attacks upon a newly formed redoubt called Mon Cœur, upon Fort St.
Cristoval, upon the _tête du pont_ and upon I forget what else. With
these instructions the troops moved forward from the entrenchments
about ten o’clock at night to attack the destined town. The 3rd
Division, under Picton, preceded the general movement about a quarter
of an hour for the purpose of drawing away the enemy’s attention from
the openings in the wall, since these were considered the only really
vulnerable points of the fortress. The 4th and light divisions pushed
gallantly forward against these breaches, and were not discovered
until they had entered the ditch. During their advance the town was
liberally supplied with shells from our batteries, and the upper parts
of the breaches were continually fired upon by light troops placed
upon the glacis to disperse the enemy and prevent their repairing the
broken defences. This fire was but slightly answered, until the two
divisions mentioned were discovered entering the ditch, when they were
assailed by an awful cannonade, accompanied by the sharp and incessant
chattering of musketry. Fireballs were shot forth from the fortress,
which illumined the surrounding space and discovered every subsequent


The dreadful strife now commenced. The thundering cheer of the British
soldiers as they rushed forward through the outer ditch, together with
the appalling roar of all arms sent forth in defiance from within,
was tremendous. Whenever an instant pause occurred it was filled
by the heartrending shrieks of the trodden-down wounded and by the
lengthened groans of the dying. Three times were the breaches cleared
of Frenchmen, driven off at the point of the bayonet by gallant
British soldiers to the very summit, when they were by the no less
gallant foe each time driven back, leaving their bravest officers
and foremost soldiers behind, who, whether killed or wounded, were
tossed down headlong to the foot of the breaches. Throughout this
dreadful conflict our bugles were continually sounding the advance.
The cry of “Bravo! bravo!” resounded through the ditches and along
the foot of the breaches; but no British cry was heard from within
the walls of Badajoz save that of despair, uttered by the bravest,
who despite of all obstacles forced their way into the body of the
place, and there through dire necessity abandoned, groaned forth their
last stabbed by unnumbered wounds. Again and again were the breaches
attacked with redoubled fury and defended with equal pertinacity and
stern resolution, seconded by every resource which science could adopt
or ingenuity suggest. Bags and barrels of gunpowder with short fuses
were rolled down, which, bursting at the bottom or along the face of
the breaches, destroyed all who advanced. Thousands of live shells,
hand-grenades, fireballs and every species of destructive combustible
were thrown down the breaches and over the walls into the ditches,
which, lighting and exploding at the same instant, rivalled the
lightning and thunder of heaven. This at intervals was succeeded by an
impenetrable darkness as of the infernal regions. Gallant foes laughing
at death met, fought, bled and rolled upon earth; and from the very
earth destruction burst, for the exploding mines cast up friends and
foes together, who in burning torture clashed and shrieked in the air.
Partly burned they fell back into the inundating water, continually
lighted by the incessant bursting of shells. Thus assailed by opposing
elements, they made the horrid scene yet more horrid by shrieks uttered
in wild despair, vainly struggling against a watery grave with limbs
convulsed and quivering from the consuming fire. The roaring of cannon,
the bursting of shells, the rattle of musketry, the awful explosion of
mines and the flaring sickly blaze of fireballs seemed not of human
invention, but rather as if all the elements of nature had greedily
combined in the general havoc, and heaven, earth and hell had united
for the destruction alike of devoted Badajoz and of its furious

[Sidenote: HELL ON EARTH.]

In consequence of untoward disasters, which occurred at the very
onset by the troops being falsely led, their numbers were seriously
diminished and their compact formation disorganised. The third or last
opening in the curtain was never attempted, although this breach was
the most practicable, as it had been made only a few hours before, and
thus there had been no time to strengthen its defences. Owing to this
ruinous mistake, the harassed and depressed troops failed in their
repeated attacks.



At length the bugles of the 4th and light divisions sounded the recall.
At this moment General Bowes, whom I accompanied in the early part of
the fight, being severely wounded, and his aide-de-camp, my old comrade
and brother officer Captain Johnson, 28th Regiment, being killed, as
I had no duty to perform (my regiment not being present), I attended
the general as he was borne to his tent. He enquired anxiously about
poor Johnson, his relative, not being aware that this gallant officer
received his death-shot while he was being carried to the rear in
consequence of a wound which he had received when cheering on a column
to one of the breaches.

Having seen the general safely lodged, I galloped off to where Lord
Wellington had taken his station. This was easily discerned by means
of two fireballs shot out from the fortress at the commencement of the
attack, which continued to burn brilliantly along the water-cut which
divided the 3rd from the other divisions. Near the end of this channel,
behind a rising mound, were Lord Wellington and his personal staff,
screened from the enemy’s direct fire, but within range of shells. One
of his staff sat down by his side with a candle to enable the general
to read and write all his communications and orders relative to the
passing events. I stood not far from his lordship. But due respect
prevented any of us bystanders from approaching so near as to enable
us to ascertain the import of the reports which he was continually
receiving; yet it was very evident that the information which they
conveyed was far from flattering; and the recall on the bugles was
again and again repeated. But about half-past eleven o’clock an officer
rode up at full speed on a horse covered with foam, and announced the
joyful tidings that General Picton had made a lodgment within the
castle by escalade, and had withdrawn the troops from the trenches to
enable him to maintain his dearly purchased hold. Lord Wellington was
evidently delighted, but exclaimed, “What! abandon the trenches?” and
ordered two regiments of the 5th Division instantly to replace those
withdrawn. I waited to hear no more, but, admiring the prompt genius
which immediately provided for every contingency, I mounted my horse. I
was immediately surrounded by a host of Spaniards, thousands of whom,
of all ages and sexes, had been collecting at this point for some
time from the neighbouring towns and villages to witness the storming
and enjoy the brilliant spectacle, wherein thousands of men, women
and children, including those of their own country, were to be shot,
bayoneted or blown to atoms. Notwithstanding the hundreds of beautiful
females who closely pressed round and even clung to me for information,
I merely exclaimed in a loud voice that Badajoz was taken and then made
the best of my way to the walls of the castle; their height was rather
forbidding, and an enfilading fire still continued. The ladders were
warm and slippery with blood and brains of many a gallant soldier, who
but a few moments previously mounted them with undaunted pride, to be
dashed down from their top and lie broken in death at their foot.


As soon as General Picton had arrived at the walls he instantly
ordered them to be escaladed, frightful as was their height. Ladder
after ladder failed to be placed against the walls, their determined
bearers being killed. But Picton, who never did anything by halves
or hesitatingly, instead of parsimoniously sending small parties
forward and waiting to hear of their extinction before fresh support
was furnished, boldly marched his whole division to the foot of the
walls; and thus, without loss of time, by immediately supplying the
place of the fallen, he at length succeeded in rearing one ladder.
Then having his reserves close at hand, scarcely was a man shot
off when an equally brave successor filled his place; and in this
manner those who mounted that one ladder at length made a lodgment.
This being firmly established, the fire from within slackened; many
ladders were soon reared and the whole of the 3rd Division entered the
castle. The Connaught Rangers were said to be the first within the
wall. In consequence of some misconduct, General Picton had changed
the name “Rangers” to “Robbers.” After the storming of the castle a
private of the corps called out half-drunken to the general, “Are we
the ‘Connaught Robbers’ now?” “No,” answered Picton; “you are the
‘Connaught Heroes.’”


The confusion in the castle was awful all night long. All the gates had
been built up but one, and that narrowed to the width of two men. On
this straight gate a terrible fire was directed from outside and in.
The 3rd Division first fired on the French and, when they had gone,
continued to fire on their own comrades of the 5th Division, who had
entered the town on the opposite side by escalading the bastion of San
Vincente. This capture was opposed as fiercely and made as bravely as
that of the castle. The 3rd Division having taken the castle about
half-past eleven, Picton received orders to maintain it until break of
day, when he was to sally forth with two thousand men and fall on the
rear of the breaches, which it was intended should again be attacked
by the 4th and light Divisions. The party who carried the ladders
of the 5th Division lost their way and did not come up until after
eleven o’clock, which necessarily made General Leith an hour late in
his attack on the bastion of San Vincente, so that before he entered
the town the castle was in possession of the 3rd Division. The enemy
who defended the breaches being no longer attacked in front, turned
all their force against the 5th Division as they advanced from their
captured bastion along the ramparts. As soon as General Walker’s
brigade of this division gained the interior of the fortress, they
moved forward along the ramparts, driving everything before them until
they arrived not far from the breach in the Santa Maria bastion; here
the enemy had a gun placed, and as the British troops advanced a French
gunner lit a port fire. Startled at the sudden and unexpected light,
some of the foremost British soldiers cried out, “A mine, a mine!”
These words passing to the rear, the whole of the troops fell into
disorder, and such was the panic caused by this ridiculous mistake
that the brave example and utmost exertions of the officers could not
prevail upon the men to advance. The enemy, perceiving the hesitation,
pushed boldly forward to the charge, and drove the British back to
the bastion of San Vincente, where they had entered. Here a battalion
in reserve had been formed, who, in their turn rushing forward to the
charge, bayoneted or made prisoner every Frenchman they met, pursuing
those who turned as far as the breaches. The 3rd and 5th Divisions
interchanged many shots, each ignorant of the other’s success and
consequent position; and both divisions continued to fire at the
breaches, so that had the 4th and light divisions made another attack
many must have fallen by the fire of both divisions of their comrades.

From both within and without, as has been said, a constant fire was
kept up at the narrow and only entrance to the castle. This entrance
was defended by a massive door, nearly two feet thick, which was
riddled throughout; and had the 3rd Division sallied forth during the
confusion and darkness, they must have come in contact with the 5th
Division, when no doubt many more lives would have been lost before
they recognised each other. This was fortunately prevented by Picton
being ordered to remain in the castle until morning.

The scenes in the castle that night were of a most deplorable and
terrific nature: murders, robberies and every species of debauchery and
obscenity were seen, notwithstanding the exertions of the officers to
prevent them. Phillipon expecting that, even though he should lose the
town, he would be able to retain the castle at least for some days, had
had all the live cattle of the garrison driven in there. The howling
of dogs, the crowing of cocks, the penetrating cackle of thousands of
geese, the mournful bleating of sheep, the furious bellowing of wounded
oxen maddened by being continually goaded and shot at and ferociously
charging through the streets, were mixed with accompaniments loudly
trumpeted forth by mules and donkeys and always by the deep and hollow
baying of the large Spanish half-wolves, half-bloodhounds which guarded
the whole. Add to this the shrill screaming of affrighted children,
the piercing shrieks of frantic women, the groans of the wounded, the
savage and discordant yells of drunkards firing at everything and in
all directions, and the continued roll of musketry kept up in error on
the shattered gateway; and you may imagine an uproar such as one would
think could issue only from the regions of Pluto; and this din was
maintained throughout the night.


Towards morning the firing ceased; and the 4th and light divisions
passed through the breaches over the broken limbs and dead bodies
of their gallant comrades. A great part of the garrison were made
prisoners during the night by the 5th Division; but Phillipon, with
most of the officers and a portion of the men, retreated across the
Guadiana into Fort Cristoval. He demanded terms of capitulation next
morning; but Lord Wellington gave him ten minutes to consider and
straightway prepared the guns to batter the place. However, that was
prevented by Phillipon surrendering at discretion.

As soon as light served and communication between the castle and the
town opened, I bent my way along the ramparts towards the main opening
in the Trinidad bastion. The glorious dawn of day, contrasted with
the horrible scenes which I had witnessed, filled the mind with joy.
The sun rose in majesty and splendour, as usual in the blooming month
of April, which in that climate is as our May. The country around was
clothed in luxuriant verdure, refreshed by recent dew, which still
clinging to each green leaf and blade in diamond drops reflected the
verdant hue of the foliage upon which it hung till diamonds seemed
emeralds. A thousand nameless flowers, displaying as many lovely
colours, were on all the earth. Proudly and silently the Guadiana
flowed, exhibiting its white surface to the majestically rising orb
which gave to the ample and gently heaving breast of the noble stream
the appearance of an undulating plain of burnished silver. On its
fertile banks the forward harvest already promised abundance and
contentment even to the most avaricious husbandman. The fruit trees
opened their rich and perfumed blossoms; the burnished orange borrowing
colour of the sun glowed in contrast with the more delicate gold of
lemon; and everywhere grey olive trees spread ample boughs--but here,
alas! they were not the emblems of peace. Every creeping bramble and
humble shrub made a fair show that morning; birds sang in heaven; all
sensitive and animated nature appeared gay and seemed with grateful
acknowledgments to welcome the glorious father of light and heat. The
lord of creation alone, “sensible and refined man,” turned his back
on the celestial scene to gloat in the savage murders and degrading
obscenity that wantoned in devoted Badajoz.

When I arrived at the great breach the inundation presented an awful
contrast to the silvery Guadiana; it was fairly stained with gore,
which through the vivid reflection of the brilliant sun, whose glowing
heat already drew the watery vapours from its surface, gave it the
appearance of a fiery lake of smoking blood, in which were seen the
bodies of many a gallant British soldier. The ditches were strewn with
killed and wounded; but the approach to the bottom of the main breach
was fairly choked with dead. A row of _chevaux de frise_, armed with
sword-blades, barred the entrance at the top of the breach and so
firmly fixed that when the 4th and light Divisions marched through, the
greatest exertion was required to make a sufficient opening for their
admittance. Boards fastened with ropes to plugs driven into the ground
within the ramparts were let down, and covered nearly the whole surface
of the breach; these boards were so thickly studded with sharp pointed
spikes that one could not introduce a hand between them; they did not
stick out at right angles to the board, but were all slanting upwards.
In rear of the _chevaux de frise_ the ramparts had deep cuts in all
directions, like a tanyard, so that it required light to enable one to
move safely through them, even were there no opposing enemy. From the
number of muskets found close behind the breach, all the men who could
possibly be brought together in so small a place must have had at least
twenty firelocks each, no doubt kept continually loaded by persons in
the rear. Two British soldiers only entered the main breach during the
assault; I saw both their bodies. If any others entered they must have
been thrown back over the walls, for certain it is that at dawn of the
7th no more than two British bodies were within the walls near the main
breach. In the Santa Maria breach not one had entered. At the foot of
this breach the same sickening sight appeared as at that of Trinidad:
numberless dead strewed the place. On looking down these breaches I
recognised many old friends, whose society I had enjoyed a few hours
before, now lying stiff in death.


Oppressed by the sight which the dead and dying presented at the
breaches, I turned away and re-entered the town; but oh! what scenes
of horror did I witness there! They can never be effaced from my
memory. There was no safety for women even in the churches; and any who
interfered or offered resistance were sure to get shot. Every house
presented a scene of plunder, debauchery and bloodshed, committed with
wanton cruelty on the persons of the defenceless inhabitants by our
soldiery; and in many instances I beheld the savages tear the rings
from the ears of beautiful women who were their victims, and when the
rings could not be immediately removed from their fingers with the
hand, they tore them off with their teeth. Firing through the streets
and at the windows was incessant, which made it excessively dangerous
to move out. When the savages came to a door which had been locked
or barricaded, they applied what they called the patent key: this
consisted of the muzzles of a dozen firelocks placed close together
against that part of the door where the lock was fastened, and the
whole fired off together into the house and rooms, regardless of those
inside; these salvos were repeated until the doors were shattered,
and in this way too several inhabitants were killed. Men, women and
children were shot in the streets for no other apparent reason than
pastime; every species of outrage was publicly committed in the houses,
churches and streets, and in a manner so brutal that a faithful recital
would be too indecent and too shocking to humanity. Not the slightest
shadow of order or discipline was maintained; the officers durst
not interfere. The infuriated soldiery resembled rather a pack of
hell-hounds vomited up from the infernal regions for the extirpation
of mankind than what they were but twelve short hours previously--a
well-organised, brave, disciplined and obedient British army, and
burning only with impatience for what is called glory.

But whatever accounts may be given of the horrors which attended
and immediately followed the storming of Badajoz, they must fall
far short of the truth; and it is impossible for any who were not
present to imagine them. I have already mentioned that neither the
regiment to which I was just appointed nor that which I had just left
was at the siege. I therefore could have had but little influence in
controlling the frenzied military mob who were ferociously employed
in indiscriminate carnage, universal plunder and devastation of every
kind. Three times I narrowly escaped with life for endeavouring to
protect some women by conveying them to St. John’s Church, where a
guard was mounted. On one occasion, as Huddleston and I accompanied
two ladies and the brother of one of them to the church mentioned, we
were crossed by three drunken soldiers, one of whom, passing to our
rear, struck the Spanish gentleman with the butt-end of his firelock on
the back of his head, which nearly knocked him down. On my censuring
the fellow’s daring insolence in striking a person in company with two
English officers, another of the men was bringing his firelock to the
present, when I holloaed out loudly, “Come on quick with that guard.”
There was no guard near, but the ruse luckily succeeded, and so quickly
did the soldiers run away that I felt convinced that their apparent
intoxication was feigned. On another occasion a sergeant struck me
with his pike for refusing to join in plundering a family; I certainly
snapped my pistol in his face, but fortunately it missed fire or he
would have been killed. However the danger which he so narrowly escaped
brought him to his senses; he made an awkward apology and I considered
it prudent to retire. By such means as these, by the risk and humanity
of officers, many women were saved. We did not interfere with the
plundering; it would have been useless.


One circumstance, being of a very peculiar nature, I shall relate.
During the morning of the 7th, while the excesses, of which I have
given but a faint idea, were at their height, Huddleston came running
to me and requested that I would accompany him to a house whence he
had just fled. The owner was an old acquaintance of all the officers
of the 28th Regiment, when a few months previously we were quartered
at Albuquerque, where he lived at the time. Huddleston conducted me to
the bedroom of this man’s wife. When we entered, a woman who lay upon
a bed uttered a wild cry, which might be considered as caused either
by hope or despair. Here were two British soldiers stretched on the
floor, and so intoxicated that when Huddleston and I drew them out
of the room by the heels they appeared insensible of the motion. The
master of the house sat in a corner of the room in seeming apathy; upon
recognising me he exclaimed, with a vacant stare, “And why this, Don
Roberto?” Having somewhat recovered from his stupor, he told me that
the woman on the bed was his wife, who was in momentary expectation
of her _accouchement_. In my life I never saw horror and despair so
strongly depicted as upon the countenances of this unfortunate couple.
Several soldiers came in while we remained; and our only hope of saving
the unfortunate lady’s life was by apparently joining in the plunder of
the apartments, for any attempt at resistance would have been useless
and would perhaps have brought on fatal consequences. I stood as a kind
of warning sentry near the bedroom door, which was designedly left
open; and whenever any of the men approached it, I pointed out the
female, representing her as a person dying of a violent fever; and thus
we succeeded in preserving her life. Huddleston and I then set to work
most actively to break tables and chairs, which we strewed about the
rooms and down the stairs. I remained for some hours, when I considered
that all was safe; for although many marauding parties had entered,
yet on perceiving the ruinous appearance of the house, and considering
that it must have already been well visited, they went off immediately
in search of better prey. We even scattered a shopful of stationery
and books all over the apartments, and some of the articles we held in
our hands as if plunder, for the purpose of deceiving the visitors. I
recollect taking up some coloured prints of Paul and Virginia; these
I afterwards presented as a trophy of war to an old friend, Mrs.
Blakeney, of Abbert, Co. Galway, as the sole tangible remembrance of
the storming of Badajoz. I frequently called at the house during the
two following days and was happy to find that no further injuries
were suffered. Huddleston’s servant and mine slept in the house. We
ourselves retired to the camp as darkness approached, for to remain in
Badajoz during the night would have been attended with certain danger,
neither of our regiments being in the place. The sack continued for
three days without intermission; each day I witnessed its horrid and
abominable effects. But I shrink from further description.


On the morning of the fourth day (April 10th) the 9th Regiment were
marched regularly into town. A gallows was erected in the principal
square and others in different parts of the town. A general order
was proclaimed that the first man detected in plundering should be
executed; but no execution took place. The soldiers well knew how far
they might proceed, and no farther did they go. The butcheries and
horrible scenes of plunder and debauchery ceased in Badajoz; and it
became an orderly British garrison. During the sack the Portuguese
troops plundered but little, for as they had not been employed in
the storming the British soldiers would have killed them had they
interfered with the spoil. But during the three days’ transfer of
property they lay hid close outside the town, where they awaited the
British soldiers, who always came with a sheet or counterpane filled
with every species of plunder, carried on their heads and shoulders
like so many Atlases; and as these always left the town drunk and lay
down to sleep between it and the camp, the artful Portuguese crept
up and carried away everything, and thus they finally possessed all
the plunder. I witnessed this mean jackal theft a hundred times; and,
without feeling the slightest affection for those second-hand dastard
robbers, I enjoyed seeing the British soldiers deprived of their booty,
acquired under circumstances too disgusting to be dwelt on.

The storming of Badajoz caused a severe loss to the British army. The
3rd and 5th Divisions, who successfully escaladed the walls, lost
either in killed or wounded six hundred men each; and the casualties
suffered by the 4th and light Divisions amounted to upwards of five
hundred more than the loss of the successful escalading divisions.

The great loss caused in the ranks of those who attacked the breaches
was due to their having been erroneously led on to an unfinished
ravelin, constructed in front of the centre breach, that of Trinidad.
This work had been a good deal raised during the siege, and being
mistaken for a breach, which in its unfinished state it much resembled,
the 4th Division gallantly mounted and soon reached the top. Here
they were severely galled by a destructive fire from the whole front;
a deep precipice and wet ditch intervened between the ravelin and
the breaches. Astonished and dismayed the men began to return the
enemy’s fire. At this critical moment the light division, who had
been led as much too far to their right as the 4th Division had been
to their left, came up; and unfortunately they also mounted the fatal
deceptive ravelin. All was now confusion and dreadful carnage was
passively suffered by those devoted troops. The officers, having at
length discovered the mistake, hurried down the ravelin and gallantly
showed the example of mounting the Trinidad and Santa Maria breaches,
followed by the bravest of the men; but the formation as an organised
body being broken, only the excessively brave followed the officers. On
arriving at the top of the breaches, which were stoutly defended, so
weak a force were consequently hurled down to destruction. The utmost
disorder followed. Thus the attacks on the three breaches, where alone
Badajoz was considered vulnerable, all failed of success; while those
defences which both by the besiegers and besieged were deemed almost
impregnable, were gallantly forced. Such are the vicissitudes of war,
especially in night attacks. At dawn on the 7th there was no dead body
near the last made and most vulnerable breach--a proof that by error it
was never attacked.

Immediately after the fall of Badajoz the chief part of the army
moved towards the north of Portugal, where Marmont had collected his
corps. However, all his exploits consisted in a distant blockade of
Ciudad Rodrigo and some romantic attempts against the fortress of
Almeida. Failing in his attempts against those two places, he marched
upon Castello Branco, threatening to destroy the Bridge of Boats at
Villavelha; but on the advance of Lord Wellington to attack him he
retired out of Portugal and thus terminated his inglorious incursion.


Fortunately for the operations carried on against Badajoz, Marmont’s
jealousy of Soult was such that he ignored all his remonstrances and
did not unite with him; he continued obstinate and Badajoz fell.

Marshal Soult arrived with his army at Llerena on April 3rd, and on
the 4th Lord Wellington made arrangements to receive him. His plan was
to leave ten thousand men in the trenches and fight the marshal with
the remainder of his army; but Soult, either feeling diffident of
his strength or still in the hope that Marmont would bend his course
southerly, arrived at Villa Franca, but thirty miles from Llerena and
the same distance from Badajoz, only on the 7th, thus taking four days
to march thirty miles in haste to relieve a beleaguered fortress. On
his arrival at Villa Franca on the 7th, he was informed that Badajoz
had fallen that morning, or rather the night before, and that Phillipon
had surrendered at discretion. He then, like Marmont, retired and moved
into Andalusia.



All the troops, except those left to repair and garrison Badajoz,
having moved off, I proceeded immediately to Lisbon. Here I remained
as short a time as possible, not from over anxiety to see England,
but because, although I had the horrors of the sacking of Badajoz in
painful recollection, I felt greater horror at the idea that I might be
taken for a Belemite. During the splendid campaigns which took place in
the Peninsula from 1808 to 1813 many British officers were collected
at Belem, and with peculiar tact so contrived as always to remain in
the rear of the army. Some were unwillingly kept back from debility of
constitution or through wounds, but a large majority were inflicted
with a disease which, baffling the skill of learned doctors, loudly
called for a remedy far different from that of medical treatment.
This patrician band, amounting to the incredible number of upwards of
a thousand, were formed into an inefficient depôt at Belem, a suburb
of Lisbon, distant thence about five miles. That this over prudent
body was not exclusively composed of wounded will appear when it is
known that the greater number of its members had never seen nor heard
a shot fired during the whole of the eventful period mentioned, far
more cautions indeed than the smooth-faced Roman patricians who fled
from the slingers at Pharsalia. This careful band did not venture so
far even as the skirts of the fight; and it might truthfully be said
that the movement of the whole army was attended with less difficulty
than the movement of a single Belemite to the front. The complaint or
disease of which they complained they invariably attributed to the
liver; but medical men after careful analysis attributed it to an
affection of the heart, founding their conclusions on the fact that
whenever any of those backward patients came forward, the violent
palpitations of that organ clearly proved that it was much more
affected by the artificial fire in the field than was the liver by the
physical heat of the sun.

A ludicrous scene took place in Lisbon whilst I was there, in which
one of these gentlemen of the rearguard made a very conspicuous,
though not happy figure, and so caused much merriment. Prevailing upon
himself to fancy that he was deeply in love with a young and beautiful
Portugese lady of noble birth and ample fortune, he was unwearied in
his addresses. These, as it would appear, were not disagreeable to the
amiable fair; but her parents entertaining quite different sentiments,
used every endeavour to cut off all communication between the lovers.
Notwithstanding, our hero, active and persevering in the wars of Venus
as passive and quiescent in those of Mars, was not to be shaken; and
finding that his visits to the lady’s house were no longer desired,
he became incessant in his attendance at a post taken up opposite
to a particular window in the rear of the mansion wherein the lady
resided. Here a telegraphic correspondence was established between
the lovers. This being discovered by the vigilant parents, means were
adopted to prevent the appearance of their daughter at the propitious
window. Finding however that the hero was not to be diverted from his
purpose, and that he continued to attend every evening about dusk in
the vicinity of the window, they determined to bring about by stratagem
that which neither threat nor remonstrance could effect.


In the meantime the champion, more of love than of war, relaxed not
in his dusky visits, although uniformly disappointed. Fancy then his
ecstasy one evening, after such continued vexations and as he was
about to depart, at again beholding the cherished object of all his
solicitude present herself at the accommodating window. His heart
bounded at recognising the high bonnet with pink ribbons, so well
remembered. Half frantic with delight he rapturously pressed his hands
to his heart, then applying them to his lips shot them forward in the
direction of the lovely fair. Here his happiness was increased tenfold
at perceiving that his angel, who on former occasions but doubtingly
countenanced his love, now with fervour apparently equal to his own
repeated all his amorous gestures; this he naturally attributed to pure
affection, heightened by long separation. His amorous expressions also
were repeated, so far as the distance which separated them allowed him
to distinguish words, although as he afterwards related he fancied the
intonation of the voice an octave higher than usual and the sudden
interruptions rather hysterical; but this he attributed to the flurried
state of her mind at the moment. All tended in his excited imagination
to show the great interest she felt at the interview. Urged by these
sentiments, he hurried forward; his charmer hurried from the window.
Excited to the highest pitch and considering the retreat from the
window, which was left open, rather an invitation than a repulse, he
determined to enter; and fortunately discovering a short ladder in
the garden, left as he thought through accident or neglect, with its
aid he boldly entered the room. The obscurity here being greater, he
could barely see the loved object of his search quickly retire to a
large armchair; to this he promptly followed, and throwing himself
upon his knees held forth his clasped hands in a supplicating manner,
when lo and behold! the doors were suddenly thrown open and a numerous
concourse of ladies and gentlemen with lights hurried into the room
before the lover had time to resume his upright position. Fancy his
confusion and amazement at beholding in the first person who entered
the object of all his affections, and his horror and consternation
when turning round to the object before whom he knelt, he found his
closed hands firmly clasped by a large Brazilian monkey! This ape was
the particular favourite of the young lady, and on this occasion was
dressed by order of her parents in the precise apparel which they
had seen their daughter always wear during the balcony interviews.
Thunderstruck and abashed as he regarded all the objects round and as
the shrill voice and chirping hysterical sounds flashed on his memory
now dreadfully explained, he fully represented wild despair and abject
humility. Yet he still clung to the hope that the young lady would try
to extricate him from his degrading dilemma, when she thus addressed
him: “Ah, faithless wretch!--not content with endeavouring to betray
me alone, but also to attempt seducing the affections of my favourite,
my darling monkey! Begone, wretch, nor let me ever more behold thy
odious presence!” and darting at him a glance of the utmost disdain
she flounced out of the room. Now, becoming furious at his ludicrous
situation, and scarcely knowing how to vent his rage, he drew forth
his sword from under his cloak and in a menacing attitude prepared to
attack the innocent object at whose feet he had so lately knelt, and
to whom he had so ardently poured forth the fervency of his passion.
The imitative animal, instantly snatching up a large fan which lay
on the armchair and little knowing his danger, immediately assumed
a similar menacing attitude, when a loud cry burst forth from all,
“Shame, shame, to enter the lists against a poor defenceless monkey!”
This was too much to be borne, and the beau, the dupe of stratagem,
followed the example of the young lady by leaving the room, with this
difference--the young lady proudly and slowly went upstairs, but our
hero with an entirely opposite feeling rushed hurriedly down. There
was thought of remonstrances to the British authorities; but it being
ascertained that this tender man of war was not quartered in Lisbon,
but a Belemite who in amorous mood strayed away from his tribe, no
military investigation took place. However the affair becoming the
topic of general merriment, the gallant gay Lothario could not endure
the derision to which he was exposed. But what annoyed him most was the
report that he had fought a duel with a monkey. He therefore determined
to join the army and resigning the voluptuous court of Venus ranged
himself at last under the rigid standard of Mars; thus what the hero
of the Peninsula failed to accomplish was brought about by a Brazilian
baboon, the forcing of a Belemite from out his safehold to the field of


Having remained but a very few days in Lisbon, I proceeded to England
and reporting myself at the Horse Guards was ordered to join the 2nd
Battalion of my regiment, quartered at Lewes. Thence I was immediately
sent on recruiting service; but having shortly after procured my
recall, I applied to His Royal Highness the Duke of York for leave to
join the 1st Battalion of the Regiment then in the Peninsula, although
I belonged to the 2nd Battalion at home. His Royal Highness was pleased
to grant my request; this was facilitated by there being at the time
three captains of the 1st Battalion in England. I now proceeded to
Portsmouth to procure a passage to Lisbon. Here I found there was but
one transport ready to sail for the Peninsula; this being a horse
transport was filled with those animals and dragoon officers, to whom
alone the cabin was dedicated. However, Colonel Sir James Douglas,
Colonel Belnevis, Majors Leggatt and Arnot, infantry officers, having
arrived before me at Portsmouth had contrived to get berths, but there
was none left for me; even the floor was portioned off. My application
for a passage was therefore negatived; but after repeated entreaties
to Captain Patten, Agent of Transports, he permitted me to sail in
the vessel, with the proviso however that I should pledge my word of
honour not to take that precedence in choice of berths to which my rank
entitled me; in a word, not to interfere with the convenience of the
cavalry officers, who were all subalterns. From my anxiety to return to
Spain and impatience of delay, I hesitated not a moment in agreeing to
the proposal.


Our voyage proceeded prosperously until we approached the Bay of
Biscay, when entering on its skirts and in very rough weather we fell
in with a British man-of-war. Perceiving us alone, she very genteelly
undertook to protect us. In pursuance of this disinterested act she
made signals for us to follow her movements, in obeying which we
entered much deeper into the bay than the master of the transport or
any other person on board could account for. While we were steering
thus for a considerable time, certainly very wide of our true course,
an American privateer with a prize in tow hove in sight, when our
kind and voluntary protector immediately left us, making his course
for those vessels, which on his approach separated taking different
directions. But the British man-of-war turning his back on the
hostile privateer, allowed her to depart without any molestation; and
considering perhaps that he best served his country in doing so chose
the prize for chase, by the capture of which salvage would reward his
patriotism. The three vessels were soon out of sight. The man-of-war
and the prize we never saw more; but towards evening the privateer was
again discovered bearing down upon us. Approaching within gunshot she
lay to on our starboard bow. Having four guns aside which were shotted
and everything ready for action, we also played the bravo, and reefing
our mainsail also lay to. Colonel Douglas, as chief in command, took
no particular station; Colonel Belnevis, Major Leggatt and Major Arnot
commanded the starboard guns; the bow gun, same side, was allotted
to me. When we had silently broadsided each other for some time, the
privateer, seeing our vessel full of troops and moreover double her
size, dared not hazard an attempt at boarding, and perceiving our four
guns aside did not fire into us; while we, on the other side, had many
reasons for not wishing an action. Perceiving however the hesitation
of the enemy, we put the best face on the affair and resolved stoutly
to bear down direct upon her. On our approaching the privateer crowded
all sail and to our infinite satisfaction bore away, repeating the
same signals made by our faithful commodore in the morning--_i.e._, to
follow her movements; and this too with the English flag flying. To say
the truth we were in miserable fighting trim; for although we had four
guns aside, we dreaded their explosion more than the shot from our
enemy. The locks of these guns were but very imperfectly fastened on;
and through some extraordinary oversight no medical officer had been

The wind having much increased and we being in the centre of the bay,
the vessel rolled awfully. Water-casks, portmanteaus, hencoops breaking
from their lashings fearfully traversed the decks, and obeying only
the rolling of the vessel threatened broken limbs to all who came
in their way. These obstacles and many others of a minor kind gave
particular annoyance to the cavalry officers, who being dressed for
professional fight and mostly being but a short time in the Service,
wore their spurs unconscionably long and consequently detrimental; for
many things which otherwise would have crossed the deck, fastened on
the spurs, and their owners in the confusion of the moment could not
account for the closeness with which they were charged, forgetting
that their own weapons dragged the encumbrances after them. All things
considered, we were well pleased at not being obliged to fight; our
nerves could not have been doubted. The infantry, four field officers
and one captain were veterans often proved in action; and the gallantry
of the dragoons could not for a moment be called in question, for
they showed themselves gamecocks even to the heels. The name of one
of these officers I mention from his peculiar and melancholy fate,
Lieutenant Trotter, 4th Dragoon Guards. At the Battle of Waterloo he
gallantly took a French dragoon officer prisoner in single combat.
While conducting him to the rear (of course on his parole and therefore
permitted to ride), Trotter never thought of being on his guard; but
the assassin, watching an opportunity when Trotter turned round, drew
out a pistol which he had concealed in his breast and shot poor Trotter
through the head. He instantly fell dead but the murderer escaped.


When we had succeeded in lashing the water-casks, portmanteaus and
coops, and recooping the fugitive poultry, and having fortunately got
rid of both our foe and our protector, we, to make use of a military
phrase, brought up our left shoulders to resume our proper course, from
which we had been diverted, nay, ordered to deviate by the insidious
interference of a man-of-war. The master of the transport calculated
that by obeying his signals, our voyage was considerably prolonged.
Thus was the public Service retarded and British troops placed in a
perilous situation by a person whose bounden duty it was to protect
them, yet who first led us into danger and then left us to our fate in
a comparatively defenceless transport while he himself turned his back
on friend and foe and went in search of a prize. Few such instances
have occurred or are likely to occur, since such conduct is surely as
repugnant to the feelings of our brave sailors as to our own.

During the rest of our voyage we met with no further adventure. After
our encounter I told Colonel Douglas that having been now called upon
duty I was entitled to a choice of berths according to my rank, in
which Douglas fully agreed; but as I had pledged my word to Captain
Patten that I should not interfere with the dragoon officers, I
continued my usual dormitory, which was on the hay put on board for the

On our arrival at Lisbon, Colonel Douglas ascertained the name of our
convoy and that of the captain. He declared at the time that he would
report the whole transaction to the Commander-in-chief. Whether he did
so or not I cannot say, as I never after had the pleasure of meeting
him but once, and that on the Pyrenees and under circumstances which
precluded much conversation: he was bleeding profusely from a gunshot
wound which he had just received in the neck. I recollect being told on
our arrival at Lisbon by a gallant old naval officer, who was highly
indignant at the affair, that we were taken in convoy because our
voluntary protector did not belong to the station, and therefore took
the opportunity of offering his services as a pretext for trespassing
on Sir Richard Keats’ cruising ground.

Having remained in Lisbon barely long enough to prepare equipment
necessary to take the field, I now marched from that capital for the
fourth time; but although superior in rank I did not feel more happy.
On former occasions I proudly fell into the ranks of as fine and
gallant a corps as ever moved forth to battle; I laughed and joked with
old comrades whom I sincerely esteemed. Our march was enlivened with
martial music, and we enjoyed each other’s society when the daily march
was over. That was a walk of pleasure; but now the contrast was woeful.
Silent and alone I left Lisbon. I had a dreary march of some hundred
miles before me; heavily therefore I plodded along and always in dread
of being taken for a Belemite. At last however I fortunately fell in
with an artillery officer, a lieutenant who was proceeding to the army
with a relay of mules for the guns. My new acquaintance being also
proficient in more languages than one, we could, as occasion required,
and without dread of detection, pass as natives of different countries;
and through the general information acquired by the curious traveller
who has wandered far, we were enabled to act in many capacities. In
some measure therefore to brighten the gloom and break the monotony
of our long and dreary march, we exerted our ingenuity in frequent
varieties of calling.


In our playful frolics we acted many parts; but to recount all the
occurrences which took place during this extraordinarily long march
would be impossible; yet, lest it should be imagined that I wish to
insinuate that fortune smiled upon all our juvenile and thoughtless
freaks and to show that, as all who adventure much, we also shared
her frowns, I shall relate one anecdote. Approaching the Ebro, we
were billeted in the house of a hidalgo a short way from the town of
Reynosa. In the mansion of our noble host dwelt two beautiful young
ladies, nieces of a High Church dignitary, then absent at Madrid.
With one of these fair ladies the lieutenant of artillery became
desperately enamoured, and his love seemed to be returned. A mutual
attachment was confessed; a union was mutually agreed upon; and the
fair Iberian heroically determined to knit her fate with that of her
lover and confiding in his honour resolved on an elopement. That my
friend’s intentions were perfectly honourable I had no doubt; but to
induce a Spanish bishop to give the hand of his niece to a heretic was
not to be thought of. Under these circumstances I of course lent my
aid, seeing that my companion was determined at all hazard to carry
her off. The elopement was fixed for the morning dawn. The heroine,
the better to elude discovery, determined to travel for a stage or
two in male attire; to this I contributed a new hat. In this hat were
closely crammed a pair of doeskin inexpressibles belonging to the
great gun officer, which were privately consigned to the fair lady
and by her kept in her room until required. One of our servants was
to accompany the lady and gentleman, who were to start at daybreak,
each riding in a man’s saddle and as men do, to which the lady made
no objection. In truth Spanish ladies see nothing either morally or
physically wrong in this mode of travelling. The principal object to
be attained was to lull the suspicions of the family, particularly
that of the young lady’s aunt and of her elder sister, whose vigilance
was roused by certain telegraphic glances which passed between the
incautious lovers. To forward this we invited the whole family that
night and generously supplied them with mulled wine highly spiced and
sweetened and qualified with a liberal portion of brandy. This punch
royal was plentifully supplied; and to say the truth the beverage was
freely quaffed by all to a very late hour, when at length all retired
to rest. The anxiously looked-for dawn having appeared, we beheld the
little lady emerging from her room fully equipped for travelling. Her
costume certainly caused some mirth. My friend’s doeskins not being
sufficiently ample, were ripped down the rear; but for security, as
well as to prevent untoward accidents, the young lady had established a
communication between the separated parts of the dress by cross-lacing
or frogging, such as may be seen across the breast of a hussar’s
blue frock. My hat was tastefully perched on the crown of her head,
rather on one side and made fast to a net or caul in which her hair
was confined, an arrangement not unfrequently adopted by men in
Spain. Thus, with the addition of a pair of top or jockey-boots (also
mine) and a handsome whip, she had all the appearance of a smart and
fashionable little postilion. Her white jacket was also slit and
frogged, but in front and for a similar reason. Now as we lightly
tripped downstairs a confused noise was heard through the house, a
violent retching caused by the previous night’s dissipation; all were
indeed aroused; and as we were hurrying our little postilion towards
the stables we were overtaken by the ever vigilant aunt and a host of
servants. Protestations of honourable intentions were vain; the poor
little postilion was made prisoner and marched back to the house, while
we slunk off crestfallen and abashed.


Moving silently along we arrived that night at Reynosa and were
billeted in different houses. Next day we visited the interesting
little hamlet Fontebro, so called from its being close to two springs,
whence that noble stream the Ebro derives its waters; this was three
miles distant from Reynosa. On our return we dined with the gentleman
at whose house I was quartered, a most hospitable person; his wife was
equally hospitable; they cordially invited us to remain some days. We
met a large party of ladies and gentlemen at dinner and were highly
entertained, as is generally the case at all foreign tables where
people meet to eat, drink and be merry, rather than to watch what
others eat and drink and criticise their manner of doing so. I once
heard a fine gentleman ask the person next him at a dinner-party and in
hearing of the person who caused the remark, “Can you fancy anything
so vulgar and ill-bred as to be helped twice to soup?” The answer was
pungent and laconic, “Yes, remarking it.”

In the midst of our hilarity a servant entered with a parcel directed
to the two English officers who had arrived at Reynosa the previous
evening. For some reason or other I felt no inclination to open it;
but the good couple of the house insisted that we should stand upon no
ceremony, but examine its contents. When I loosened the string with a
faltering hand, the first object which presented itself was my hat,
with a pair of jockey-boots stuffed into it, the hat so soaked and
squeezed that it appeared more like a dirty wet sponge than a cover
for the head; next came the little white frogged jacket, which caused
a good deal of laughter. On my showing some reluctance to explore
further, the lady of the house, next to whom I sat, put her hand into
the little bag and to our confusion drew forth my friend’s mutilated
buckskins with the hussared rear face; these she held up to full view,
whirling them round and round for the benefit of all eyes. The roars
of laughter now became absolutely hysterical; we endeavoured to join
in the general mirth, but I fear our laughter partook somewhat of
Milton’s grin. Hundreds of questions were now asked in a breath--where
did they come from? to whom did they belong? why cut them up? with
many other curious enquiries, especially from the ladies. Seeing that
any attempt at plausible explanation would most likely be doubted,
we considered it better truly to relate the principal circumstances,
glossing them over as well as we could. Our account but increased the
mirth, especially among the fair, who wondered at our having been at
all abashed at what should only cause a hearty laugh. One asked which
of us helped to lace up the young lady, as she could not see to do it
herself; and other like questions they asked which I cannot now call
to mind. They all pathetically lamented the disappointment of the poor
young would-be fugitive who was all ready. The affair certainly created
much merriment; but we could not conceal even from ourselves that the
merriment was entirely at our expense. Thus ended our last adventure,
with a loss to my friend of a pair of doeskin tights cut up for a lady,
and to me of a pair of boots and a new hat, for the water with which it
was saturated had ruined it beyond repair.


Next morning before dawn we crossed the Ebro and continued our march
towards the army, perfectly cured of our frolics. Passing through
Vittoria a few days after the celebrated battle there fought, I halted
for a day to visit many old comrades, seventeen officers of the 28th,
who had been wounded in the action. After cordially condoling with
them all I went on again; and after a march of six hundred miles at
length joined the army in the beginning of July on the great barriers
placed by nature to separate France from Spain. The consequences of
the victory at Vittoria still continued to operate. The enemy were
thrust backwards at all points, and about the 7th or 8th of the month
the entire frontier of Spain, from the celebrated Roncesvalles to the
fortress of San Sebastian on the Bay of Biscay, was, with the exception
of Pampeluna and one or two minor places, occupied by the victorious
allies. In this position the triumphant army remained tranquil for a
short time, except for the operations carried on in the investment and
siege of San Sebastian and of Pampeluna.



Soon after the battle of Vittoria the titular king, Joseph, returned
to Paris and was replaced in the chief command of the French army of
Spain by the Duke of Dalmatia. On July 12th this marshal arrived at
Bayonne from Dresden, despatched thence by Napoleon. Soult, inferior
to no officer in France (except perhaps the emperor), either in
judgment or activity, immediately set about remodelling his army; and
to revive their confidence and rouse their drooping spirits, cast down
by repeated disasters, he determined to make an offensive movement
against the position maintained by the allies. After ten or twelve
days passed in continual preparations for carrying out his plans of
relieving Pampeluna and if possible raising the siege of San Sebastian,
he on July 25th simultaneously attacked the passes of Roncesvalles and
Maya; and such was the weight of his columns that he broke through
those passes, obliging the allies, after hard fighting and disputing
every inch of ground, to retire, which movement continued the whole
of that day and part of the night. On the 26th the enemy again came
on and a good deal of fighting took place. The allies still retreated
and directed their course towards Pampeluna. Soult was close at hand.
The 4th Division under General Cole had passed Villaba, within three
miles of Pampeluna, in full retreat, early on the morning of the
27th, closely followed by General Picton with the 3rd Division, and
both divisions closely followed by Soult. This induced the garrison of
Pampeluna to make a fierce sortie; and General O’Donnel, who commanded
the blockading troops, seeing Soult rapidly advancing and the two
British divisions as rapidly retreating, and becoming naturally much
alarmed, commenced spiking his guns and destroying his magazines,
when fortunately Don Carlos D’Espana with his division arrived at the
critical moment; he immediately drove back the garrison and reassured
O’Donnel. Soult now fully expected to relieve Pampeluna in a few hours
and appearances were much in favour of his doing so; in fact it was all
but accomplished.


Picton, now perhaps reflecting that his retreat in the morning,
together with that of Cole whom he commanded, was more precipitate
than need called for, and perceiving the crisis at hand and all that
depended on the affair, suddenly halted and placed his division across
the outlets from the valleys of Zubiri and Lanz, thus screening
Pampeluna. At the same time he ordered General Cole to occupy the
heights between Oricain and Arletta; but that general, observing a
hill which stood forward about a mile in advance and commanded the
road to Huarte, moved forward to possess it, with the concurrence of
Picton who now saw its importance. Soult, who was close at hand, also
saw the importance of possessing this hill, which as the armies were
then situated was the key of Pampeluna. He immediately pushed forward
a strong detachment with accelerated pace to gain the hill; and so
exactly simultaneous was the rush of the contending parties that while
the enemy were ascending one side Cole’s advanced guard were mounting
the other. Two Spanish regiments, part of O’Donnel’s blockading
troops, already posted on the hill and seeing the hostile troops
approaching the summit, made a furious charge on the enemy’s ascending
strong body and gallantly bore them down the hill. Soult lost the key.
His heavy columns soon came up, flushed with what they considered a
victory, as they had driven before them two British divisions; but
their career was suddenly checked on seeing the mountains in their
way crowned by ten thousand troops of Cole’s division; and not two
miles further back stood Picton with a still stronger force, the 3rd
Division, resting on Huarte.

Soult having now his troops in hand commenced a general attack. His
first and most vigorous effort was against the Spanish hill immediately
on the right of Cole’s division; but the gallantry of the Spaniards
was repeated and the enemy thrust down the hill. At this moment Lord
Wellington arrived from the valley of Bastan, where he had left General
Hill to deal with Count D’Erlon. Although he witnessed the victorious
gallantry of the Spaniards, yet perceiving the great loss they
sustained and the importance of maintaining the hill, he ordered the
4th English Regiment to their support. A general skirmish now commenced
along the whole front, which continued until one of the customary
Pyrenean visitors, a dense fog, put an end to the firing for the day.
Various movements took place on both sides and throughout almost all
the divisions during the night and next morning. About noon the enemy
gathered at the foot of the position; and a cloud of skirmishers pushed
forward and ascended the hill like the flames and smoke of a volcano
that could not be contained. At the same time Clauzel’s division burst
forth from the valley of Lanz, and pushing forward rapidly turned
Cole’s division, and were doubling in his rear when a Portugese
brigade of the 6th Division suddenly appearing checked them in good
time; and at the same instant the 6th Division, who came into line
that morning, formed in order of battle across the front of the enemy.
Thus the French column, who moved forward with intention to turn the
left of the allies, now found themselves in a sore predicament; two
brigades of the 4th Division attacked them on the left; the Portuguese
brigade galled their right; while the whole body of the 6th Division
overwhelmed them in front and with a loud cheer and deadly charge sent
them headlong off the field, which was strewed with their dead. This
part of the fight was thus terminated. But higher up the hills the
battle continued with increased fury; every hill was charged, taken
and retaken repeatedly; nor were the French less forward than the
British in repeating their charges. The 6th Division, in which I served
with the 36th Regiment, after having quitted those in the valley, now
climbed the rugged steep and lined with the troops above just becoming
victorious; and a few more charges decided the fate of the day. The
enemy withdrew at all points. They stated their loss to be no more than
two general officers and eighteen hundred killed and wounded; but it
was generally rated much higher. The allies had upwards of two thousand
men killed and wounded.


The 29th was respected as a military sabbath by both armies, neither
firing a shot throughout the day; but this calm was the immediate
precursor of a violent storm. On the morning of the 30th a furious
attack was commenced against General Hill’s corps, which led to a
battle at Buenza. D’Erlon had twenty thousand men, the allies scarcely
half that number. Hill maintained his ground for a long time; but, his
left being turned, he retired, losing five hundred men. Being joined
by Campbell and Morillo he offered battle; but Soult, who had come
up, declined the fight. On the same morning at daylight another combat
commenced at Sauroren; and this combat lasted much longer and was far
more severe than Hill’s. Here the 6th Division suffered severe loss in
charging the enemy, who retired reluctantly, but too far to return.
They were now driven from the whole of their position and beaten at all

In these battles of the 30th the allies suffered a loss between killed
and wounded, including some taken prisoners, of nearly two thousand
men. The loss on the enemy’s part was far greater; their killed and
wounded alone surpassed that of the allies, besides three thousand made
prisoners. Soult now turned his face towards France. At ten o’clock on
the morning of the 31st General Hill came up with his rearguard between
Lizasso and the Puerto. Turning round, they halted and made good
battle; but their position was forced. Fortunately for them a thick fog
prevented an effective pursuit. The allies lost about four hundred men
and the enemy about the same number. On August 1st and 2nd the enemy
were in full retreat for France; and although, wherever encountered
they suffered defeat, yet they were never in flight; and on these
two days we suffered a loss of at least one thousand men put _hors
de combat_; and we were on the point of suffering another and a more
severe loss.


On August 2nd, the last day of the fighting, the Duke of Wellington
hurried to Echallar to reconnoitre the enemy and consult his maps,
taking a party of the 43rd Light Infantry as a guard; but the enemy
unobserved, discovering the party sent a detachment to cut them off.
A Sergeant Blood of the 43rd with some of the men, being in front,
perceived the enemy coming on at speed; and seeing the danger in which
the duke was placed, dashed down from rock to rock roaring out the
alarm. The duke instantly mounted and galloped off; the French came up,
but only in time to fire a volley after him.

Both armies now reoccupied pretty nearly the same positions which they
held previous to the attack of July 25th; and thus terminated the
fighting commonly called the battles of the Pyrenees; and never were
battles more fierce or harassing. The principal encounters were at the
point of the bayonet. We and they charged alternately up and down the
sides of rugged and rocky mountains, exposed to the excessive summer
heat of July and at the same time to the cold of winter. Dripping with
perspiration from hard fighting and scorching sun in the valleys, we
had immediately to clamber up to the tops of high mountains and face
the extreme cold naturally to be found there and dense fogs, which
soaked through us and are more penetrating and oppressive than heavy
rain; and this change we suffered more than once in the day, our
constitutions thus undergoing a similar ordeal to that which I have
heard is resorted to in perfecting chronometers, which, to prove their
qualities of compensation, are moved in rapid succession from an oven
to an ice-house and _vice-versâ_.

During these combats we, with the Spaniards and Portuguese, lost
between killed, wounded, and taken seven thousand three hundred
officers and men. The enemy on their part lost upwards of thirteen
thousand and about four thousand prisoners. This short but bloody
campaign lasted but nine days, one of which, the 29th, was dedicated
to rest and peace; on the other eight days ten distinct battles
were fought and hotly contested. I cannot enter into or attempt a
full description of those combats, fought along positions always
intersected by lofty mountains which generally confined the view of
regimental officers to their respective corps. Even staff officers
scarcely knew what was passing beyond the limits of their brigades
or divisions; and consequently the information necessary to furnish
accurate detail must depend on the narratives of many, and thus would
far exceed the just limits of these modest Memoirs. Throughout those
combats the Spanish fought with the greatest bravery, as did the
Portuguese. It was remarked at the time that had Picton with the two
divisions under his command continued to retreat for two hours longer
on the morning of the 27th, Soult would inevitably have gained the
double object which he had in view, the relief of Pampeluna and the
animation of his drooping troops; for although he might have been
compelled to retreat immediately afterwards, he could have boasted
of beating back the allies and succouring the beleaguered fortress,
and averred that his subsequent retreat was preconcerted to guard the
French frontier. And this renewal of the spirit and confidence of his
troops might have been attended with double disadvantage; for it may be
remarked of opponents throughout animated nature that as one becomes
elated by success, the other in equal ratio becomes depressed; and
though physical strength remain intact, moral influence is shaken.

Some changes in posting the divisions now took place. General Hill’s
corps formed on the heights above Roncesvalles; and the 6th Division
lay down in front of the Maya Pass. The contending armies now again
remained tranquil, although our lines were not far asunder, but in
no part so close as at the Maya Pass, where the advanced sentries of
both lines in many places, particularly at night, were not ten yards
asunder. In this novel mode of campaigning we continued for upwards
of three months. At the commencement some fieldworks were thrown up
by us and soon abandoned; but during the whole time of our stay there
the enemy were incessant in fortifying their lines from the base of
the mountains to their very summit, upon which their strong forts and
redoubts were constructed.


While we were in this position no acts of hostility took place save
at Pampeluna and San Sebastian, although our mutual piquets after
nightfall were in some parts in the same field, occasionally separated
by a partial wall or small stream and frequently by nothing which
might show a line of demarcation. Slight or, as they were termed,
china walls were the most frequent barriers. In many instances the
advanced sentries were almost in contact; yet so well was civilised
warfare understood that they never interfered with each other and
scarcely ever spoke. The usual words, “All’s well,” were never cried
out. This monotonous roar was superseded by “stone chatters”--white
polished stones, about two pounds’ weight each, were placed on the
spot where each sentry was usually posted at night, and he struck them
against each other twice in slow time. This was repeated along the
chain of sentries. Should any sentry neglect this for more than five
minutes, the next sentry instantly struck the stones three times and
quickly; this rapidly passed along the line and a visit from the piquet
immediately followed. By these means we were sure that a sentry could
not sleep nor be negligent on his post for more than five minutes at
a time. It was rather remarkable that whatever signals our sentries
made were immediately repeated by those of the enemy. In visiting these
advanced sentries, I sometimes spoke to French officers performing a
similar duty, although this, strictly speaking, was not sanctioned. On
those occasions I often got a small flask of French wine; the manner
in which this was procured was rather curious. The French officer put
down his flask and retired a few paces, when I advanced and emptied it
into my wooden canteen; I then replaced the flask and my friendly foe
took it up after I had retired. This may appear strange to the civil
reader and upon reflection so it did to ourselves; nor could we well
explain how it was that two officers familiarly conversing within a few
yards should entertain such absolute horror of coming within touch, as
if it were equal to high treason; but such was the case. It would seem
that warfare bore close affinity to the plague; so long as you avoided
contact all was safe. It was prohibited under the heaviest penalty that
soldiers should ever exchange a word with the enemy. At this time the
army was very scantily provisioned; and many disgraceful desertions
took place to the French who were well supplied.

On one of my visits to the sentries, when I had got my flask of wine,
the French officer asked me, apparently as a commonplace question, when
we intended to attack them, adding, “You need have no hesitation in
telling us, for we know you intend it, and we are prepared night and
day to receive you.” I replied that as to his preparation to receive us
his present generosity gave earnest; but as to the time when the attack
should take place, I was totally ignorant. I added that Lord Wellington
was too well acquainted with natural consequences not to know that he
who betrays himself by divulging his secrets cannot reasonably depend
on another for fidelity; and that he who threatens openly will be
counteracted secretly; that in either case defeat is generally the
result. After this I never entered into conversation with any French


Whilst our right and centre were in this state of tranquillity, towards
our left, especially near San Sebastian, the war was carried on with
the greatest activity. This fortress, after one or two failures and
very severe losses on our part, was at length taken by storm on
August 31st. The small castle which crowned Monte Orgullo held out
until September 9th, when it capitulated, the gallant governor having
obtained honourable terms. Immediately after the storming the town was
set fire to in all quarters; and the most shocking barbarities, such as
are scarcely credible, were perpetrated by the British soldiers on the
unfortunate inhabitants of all ages and sexes.

Early in August Soult had meditated a strenuous attack to relieve
San Sebastian, but the scattered and disorganised state of his army
caused much delay. At last, when all was ready, he was about to assault
the allies on August 30th, but something prevented which induced him
to defer the attack until next morning. On August 31st therefore at
daylight, the enemy rushed forward with the usual impetuosity attending
their first attack, bearing down all before them. Their front column,
directed by General Reille, made great progress up the heights to San
Marcial, while Lamartiniere’s division assailed to the right; and when
their skirmishers had gained two-thirds of the hill and were checked,
their dense column were moved forward. Then the Spaniards, who were
posted there, undauntedly coming forward, vigorously charged the French
column and sent them headlong down the hill.


During this time the head of Villatte’s column, having crossed the
fords at the foot of the hill on rafts and boats, ascended the ridge
and more vigorously renewed the fight, and gained the left of the
Spanish line. The 82nd English Regiment moved forward a short distance
to maintain the post. At this moment Lord Wellington appeared, when the
Spaniards, scarcely kept steady by their own officers, now shouting
forth a cheer of recognition rushed forward to the charge with such
impetuosity that these opponents too were swept down the hill as if
by a torrent. Some pontoon boats which came to their rescue, becoming
overloaded by the fugitives in their hurry to get away, were sunk,
when many were drowned; and the breaking of the bridges to allow the
boats to come to the rescue decided the combat at that point, with
the loss of many hundreds of the enemy. Soult, who beheld this defeat
from the mountain called “Louis XIV.,” determined to try in another
quarter; but it was several hours before the scattered masses could
be collected and the bridges repaired. This effected, he sent the
remainder of Villatte’s reserve over the river, and uniting it with
Foy’s division urged on a more formidable attack at Vera. In this
combat he was not more successful; but although beaten at all points,
still he hesitated not. He determined to make a third attack, for he
had plenty of troops still left. He had forty thousand men collected
in the morning; he attacked with thirty thousand; and the allies in
action amounted to only ten thousand. But the heavy cannonade clearly
heard from San Sebastian during the morning now ceased, for during
the combats above mentioned, San Sebastian had been stormed and taken
without any interruption from without. The movements of Soult previous
to his attack were in appearance confused, but they were designedly so,
with a view of deceiving Wellington; but the latter was well informed
on the night of the 29th what Soult’s plan was; and he consequently
sent orders to the Maya Pass to move the troops there stationed
forward on the morning of the 31st to keep D’Erlon’s corps occupied,
and prevent his sending any reinforcement to aid Soult’s attack. Sir
Charles Colville therefore moved out with the 6th Division. We had a
sharp affair and lost some fifty or sixty men; no other part of the
right or centre of our line was disturbed. Wellington felt perfectly
secure in the strength of his position. A brigade of Guards had come up
from Oporto; and three fresh regiments had just arrived from England
and formed a brigade for Lord Aylmer. Soult, having received in the
course of the day (31st) a report of the storming and capture of San
Sebastian, no longer hesitated; he retired, determined to assemble
his forces and prepare for a more general action. In these latter
combats the enemy lost three thousand five hundred men, the English
and Portuguese one thousand, the Spaniards sixteen hundred, all in the
field; but the whole loss of the allies on this day, including the
storming of San Sebastian, exceeded five thousand. Both armies now
fell into their former positions, and for some time tranquillity was



Early in October the Duke of Wellington, having San Sebastian now
secure in his rear and foreseeing that a great battle must soon be
fought, determined to push forward his left wing, gain the lower
Bidassoa and the great Rhune mountain and thus establish a part of his
army within the French frontier. The better to conceal his design,
which was rather hazardous, continual manœuvring took place from right
to left of the allied lines, which completely succeeded in deceiving
the enemy. Everything was so well arranged that not the slightest
appearance of an attack was discovered. On the morning of October 7th
the 5th Division and Lord Aylmer’s brigade proceeded to the fords; and
still the enemy perceived no change, the tents in the allied camp being
left standing. The 5th Division soon crossed the stream, and had formed
on the opposite bank without firing a shot or a shot being fired at
them, so completely were the enemy taken by surprise. A signal rocket
was now fired from Fontarabia, when the batteries along the whole line
of our attack opened against the enemy, who were driven from their
different posts before they well knew what was passing; and so little
did Soult contemplate an attack in that quarter, always expecting it
from Roncesvalles, that on the 6th he reviewed D’Erlon’s division at
Ainhoa, and remained that night at Espelette. Next morning, although
a false attack was made against D’Erlon’s position, yet Soult having
heard the cannonade from San Marcial, instantly discovered the true
point of attack and hurried thither; but before he arrived at the scene
of action all his positions on the Bidassoa were carried; and although
his presence corrected many errors and gave surprising confidence to
his troops, yet he never could regain what was lost during his early
absence. He loudly complained of want of vigilance in his generals; and
not without just cause, for they were nowhere prepared.


Meanwhile the 6th Division continued the false attack on D’Erlon.
Colonel Douglas with a Portuguese brigade was sent further on to the
left, and the 36th Regiment were ordered to be in readiness for his
support. Colonel Leggatt, who commanded us, sent me to find Douglas
and inform him that the regiment were ready when required. Douglas had
attacked and gallantly carried a post strongly occupied on the crown of
a hill, at the foot of which I arrived just as he was led down, having
been severely wounded in the neck. After the usual congratulations of
old friends I delivered my message. He requested me to ride up the hill
and see what was going forward, adding that the position was gallantly
carried and it would be a pity to lose it. Topping the hill I found the
Portuguese warmly engaged; but the enemy were advancing in force on
two sides of the hill. I rode back to Douglas, who was slowly moving
to the rear, and he asked me to go as fast as possible and report;
there was no time to be lost. Taking the nearest direction towards the
regiment, I was compelled to pass in front of a line of the enemy’s
skirmishers, who had been winding round the hill. They displayed the
courtesy of their nation by discharging a general salute; its only
result was a shot through my great coat and one in my saddle-bow.
Having safely run the gauntlet and though in great haste, yet resolving
to show the polite nation that we yielded as little in courtesy as in
arms, I turned round and taking off my hat bowed low. The firing ceased
and they gave me a loud cheer. Hurrying forward, I soon joined the
regiment who were already in motion. Pushing on with the light company,
to whom I acted as guide, and arriving at the point where I had saluted
the skirmishers, we fully expected to be engaged; but to our surprise
the French were retreating, leaving the hill in possession of the
Portuguese. It appeared that as soon as our regiment began to descend
from the lofty hill upon which they were formed, they were perceived by
the enemy, who, taking them no doubt for the head of a strong column,
considered it prudent to retire. The regiment having come up, ascended
the hill, where we remained until towards dark, and then retired,
leaving the post to the Portuguese. The loss of the Portuguese was
rather severe, upwards of a hundred and fifty men _hors de combat_.
But the spirited attack made by Douglas, the British regiment moved up
to his aid, and the false attack of the whole 6th Division completely
succeeded in deterring D’Erlon from making any attempt to succour the
French right wing, where the true attack was raging and where his
support was most necessary.


During all these movements and combats, which lasted nearly three days,
the allies were invariably successful; and all the objects proposed
were fully attained. The fighting was desperate and well maintained on
either side. On fording the Bidassoa, Halket’s light Germans drove
up all the enemy’s advanced parties close to the summit of the Croix
des Bouquets; but this being the key of the position, the enemy were
strengthening it continually from the first onset both with guns and
troops: so that when the Germans approached, the position had become
so strong that Halket, having lost many men during his ascent, was
brought to a stand. At this critical moment Colonel Cameron with
the 9th Regiment, having arrived just as the Germans were checked,
put them aside and making a desperate charge gained the summit. The
enemy’s guns had just time to retire through their infantry, who also
quickly retreated to a second ridge. The approach to this was narrow;
but Cameron reducing his front quickly followed. However, the enemy
having the start were soon formed, and the approach being winding with
sharp turns, they poured a destructive fire both in front and flank
into the regiment. Yet this did not retard their quick advance for a
moment; while the enemy seemed no way moved by the vehement advance of
Cameron until the regiment approached within a few yards, when a loud
cheer and rapid charge so astonished them that they scarcely knew what
they were about until they found themselves borne off the hill. Thus
the 9th Regiment gallantly carried the key of the position, but with
a heavy loss both in officers and men, the usual result of unswerving
bravery. But were I to relate the gallant deeds of all throughout the
whole of these operations, it would be necessary to enumerate all the
British corps employed; nor was the bravery displayed by the Spaniards
less daring. Courage was never wanting to the Spanish soldiers; but
confidence in their chiefs was rare. Through the battles of the
Pyrenees their divisions were intermixed with those of the British,
not formed aloof in a separate corps, as at Talavera and Barossa, nor
depressed and held back by such paralysing commanders as Cuesta and La
Peña. They now, conjointly with their brave allies, fought forward; and
well did they maintain their line. On the 8th, after General Giron with
a body of Spaniards had driven off the French outposts on the road from
Vera to Sarre and was charging up a hill near Puerto and pressing on
abreast with the British troops, he was suddenly checked by a strong
line of abattis, defended by two French regiments sending forth a heavy
fire. The Spaniards became irresolute, but maintained their ranks. At
the moment Lieutenant Havelock, of the 43rd Regiment, who was on the
staff, witnessing the check and unable to curb his excitement, taking
off his hat and holloaing to the Spaniards, applied his spurs and
dashed over the defence in among the enemy. At this the whole line of
Spaniards broke into cries--“The little fair boy!--Forward with the
little fair boy!” and they tore through the abattis, and furiously
charging the two French regiments drove them up the hill and over and
hurried them into the embrace of General Kemp’s ascending brigade, who
sent them waltzing with graceful velocity round the base of the hill.
But although gallant example will almost always fix wavering resolve
and give impetus and immediate decision to calculating courage, yet it
but seldom succeeds in eliciting bravery out of cowardice. The surest
criterion by which to judge of the gallantry and steadiness of the
Spaniards during those operations is by reference to the casualties
they suffered. It is true that a body of men may suffer great loss even
in running away, but in the present instance there was no retreating;
all was fighting forward; and when men advancing or standing still
suffer severe loss, it is a certain proof of bravery and firmness.
The loss of the enemy during these last combats was fourteen hundred
men; and that of the allies, British, Portuguese and Spaniards, sixteen
hundred; and of this number eight hundred were Spaniards.


Most persons who have written on the campaigns in the Peninsula
represent the Spanish army as ragged, half-famished wretches; nor did I
refrain from such epithets on seeing the miserable troops commanded by
the Marquis Romana in the campaign of Sir John Moore; but on reflection
no blame could be attached either to their immediate commanders or to
the soldiers for their motley appearance. The scandal and disgrace were
the legitimate attributes of the Spanish Government. The members of
the Cortez and Juntas were entirely occupied in peculation, amassing
wealth for themselves and appointing their relatives and dependents to
all places of power and emolument, however unworthy and unqualified;
and although it was notorious that shiploads of arms, equipments,
clothing and millions of dollars were sent from England for the use
and maintenance of the Spanish troops, yet all was appropriated to
themselves by the members of the general or local governments or their
rapacious satellites, while their armies were left barefoot, ragged
and half-starved. In this deplorable state they were brought into the
field under leaders many of whom were scarcely competent to command a
sergeant’s outlying piquet; for in the Spanish army, as elsewhere, such
was the undue influence of a jealous and covetous aristocracy, that,
unsupported by their influence, personal gallantry and distinction,
however conspicuous, were but rarely rewarded. This is a pernicious
system, especially with an army in the field; for injustice and neglect
powerfully tend to damp and dispirit the ardour even of the most
zealous and devoted, and discourage that laudable ambition which is
the lifespring in the breast of a true soldier.

Again the armies became tranquil except at Pampeluna. Shortly before
its surrender it was ascertained that the Governor-General was in
the habit of sending despatches to Soult by a woman. A general order
was therefore issued to the covering divisions to have all women
coming from the rear and going to the front searched. Soon after this
order was received, a woman who passed into the camp of the regiment
came howling to the commanding officer, who, not comprehending a
word she said, sent for me to interpret. This was attended with some
difficulty, the Basque dialect being but imperfectly known and the
woman totally ignorant of any other. However it appeared that this
woman, suspected of carrying despatches clandestinely, came simply to
dispose of a pannier of bread and a small basket of eggs. In passing
the quarter-guard she was stopped and searched, during which search all
her bread and eggs were taken away by the men of the guard, commanded
by a lieutenant of the regiment. Payment was not forthcoming, for the
simple reason that the troops, being six months in arrear of pay, not
a sixpenny piece was to be found amongst the men. On my reporting the
affair as it occurred, the colonel ordered the officer to pay for the
bread and eggs out of his private finances, at the same time giving him
and the whole guard a severe but well-merited reprimand; for besides
the plundering of the woman, which might have been attended with
serious inconvenience by deterring others from bringing supplies to
the camp, the woman came from the front; and this must have been seen
by the whole guard. On my paying the woman for her bread and eggs as
directed, she loudly demanded remuneration on other accounts--loss
of time, torn garments, etc.; but strictly confining myself to the
colonel’s instructions I declined entering into her others affairs, at
which she appeared much disappointed. There were at that period many
females searched with scant ceremony, but whether or not any despatches
of the nature expected were ever seized I never heard.


Soult having failed in every attempt to throw succour into Pampeluna,
it surrendered on October 31st, after a gallant defence of a few
months, during which many successful sallies were made. The covering
divisions being now at liberty, a forward movement was decided upon;
but the first days of November were excessively boisterous and rainy.
On the 6th and 7th, the earliest period when a movement could take
place, the right wing under Sir Rowland Hill were pushed into the
valley of Bastan, preparatory to a general attack which was intended
for next day; but the heavy rain which fell on the evening of the 7th
and next day rendered the roads again impassable, and so the battle of
the Nivelle was delayed for two days.

On the evening of the 9th the 6th Division descended through the Pass
of Maya, which we had guarded with such anxious care for upwards of
three months; and marching the whole of that night we found ourselves
on the memorable morning of November 10th close in front of the enemy’s
position, which they had been incessantly strengthening during the
whole of that period. It was still dark; and here we halted in columns,
awaiting the progress of our left and left centre, who were pushed
forward before daybreak. At length the auspicious dawn appeared,
cheering and renovating after a harassing night march over deep and
slobbery roads. Although in our present position we appeared to be
well sheltered by forest trees, yet as soon as the misty haze of dawn
was dispelled by clearer light our columns were discovered by the
enemy’s redoubts, which frowningly looked down from the heights above.
After a short cannonade, which they immediately opened, their range
became so accurate that their shells were falling amongst us rather
quickly, causing many casualties. I saw one shell drop in the midst of
a Portuguese regiment in close column immediately in our rear; it blew
up twelve men, who became so scorched and blackened that on their fall
they resembled a group of mutilated chimney-sweeps. The 36th Regiment
lost several men by the bursting of shells. Sir H. Clinton, who
commanded the division, perceived that although the huge trunks of the
trees amid which we were formed might stop a solid round-shot propelled
horizontally, yet their open branches afforded no protection against
shells descending from a height above us. Considering therefore the
place no longer tenable, he marched us out of the wood and drew up in
line on its skirts in full view of the enemy’s redoubts, judging that
even this open exposure would not be attended with so severe a loss as
continuing to be shelled in column.

We now had a full view of the splendid scenery in front and the active
warfare on our left; and I had an opportunity of witnessing a good
deal of what was passing. A long narrow strip of ground, flanked with
a wall on either side, not far from us, separated the combatants on
our left. The British troops frequently advanced and were driven back;
so did the enemy, and so they fared. Often did French officers advance
into the field bearing their standards to animate their followers;
but they instantly fell and were as instantly replaced. At last the
British troops, disdaining the protection of the wall, rushed in a
body into the field and carried it. I can see plainly before me now
Colonel Lloyd, who commanded the 94th Regiment, mounted on a large jet
black charger, waving his hat to cheer on his men and riding up to the
bayonets of the enemy close behind their wall. I saw him fall. His men
were up at the instant and dearly avenged their commander’s death.
I felt double regret at his fate, having had the pleasure of being
intimately acquainted with him when he was in the 43rd Regiment.


The order at length arrived about ten o’clock for the 6th Division
to advance. Wrought up to the greatest excitement from being so many
hours without moving, exposed to a fire of shot and shell and musketry
from the breastworks of enemies partly concealed, and seeing the
battle advancing upwards on our left, we now eagerly rushed forward.
Proceeding rapidly we soon waded the Nivelle immersed above our middle,
the men carrying their pouches above their heads, and immediately
drove back all the enemy’s piquets and outposts on both banks of the
river without deigning to fire a shot. Some few we bayoneted who were
too obstinate to get out of our way in time. Thus far advanced, the
glorious scene became more developed. High up the mountains the blaze
from their forts and redoubts was broad and glaring, while the mountain
sides presented a brilliant surface of sparkling vivid fire, never
ceasing but always ascending as our gallant troops rushed forward; and
nearly two hundred pieces of artillery angrily roaring forth mutual
response, echoed from mountain to mountain, rendering the whole scene
truly magnificent.

[Sidenote: MY LEG SMASHED.]

Having crossed the Nivelle, we rapidly advanced towards the forts and
redoubts above Ainhoa, destined to be carried by the 6th Division.
The hill which we, the 36th Regiment, faced was the steepest I ever
climbed. The ground over which we had to pass had been intersected
for months with incessant labour and French resource; every five
yards exposed us to a new cross-fire and deep cuts, which furnished
graves for many a gallant British soldier. The brambles all through
were so high and thickly interwoven and the inequalities of the
ground so great as to prevent those who were not ten yards asunder
from seeing each other. We moved forward in line; there was no road.
Under such circumstances but little order could be preserved; and,
as must be expected where all were anxious to advance, the strongest
and most active gained the front. In this disordered order of battle
the regiment advanced against the heavy-armed battery and principal
redoubt. This was the goal which we kept in view, the prize, to obtain
which the regiment unswervingly and rapidly ascended the mountain,
from whose summit it thundered destruction all around. Between us and
the base of this battery, to which we at length drew near, a small
and rather clear space intervened. I shot forward alone with all
the velocity I could command after so rapid an ascent, and arriving
immediately under the fort I perceived the enemy regularly drawn up
behind trees cut down to the height of about five feet, the branches
pointing forward, forming an abattis. I immediately turned about, and
after receiving an appropriate salute retraced my steps with redoubled
speed. I seized the king’s colour carried by Ensign Montgomery, which
I immediately halted; and called for the regimental Colour Ensign,
McPherson, who answered, “Here am I.” Having halted both colours in
front of the foremost men, I prevented any from going forward. By these
means we shortly presented a tolerably good front, and gave the men a
few moments’ breathing time. The whole operation did not take above ten
minutes; but the men coming up every instant, each minute strengthened
the front. At this exciting moment my gallant comrades, Lieutenants
Vincent and L’Estrange, who stood by my side, remarked that if I did
not allow the regiment to advance, the 61st Regiment would arrive at
the redoubt as soon as we should. I immediately placed my cap on the
point of my sword and passing to the front of the colours gave the
word, “Quick march. Charge!” We all rushed forward, excited by the old
British cheer. But my personal advance was momentary; being struck by
a shot which shattered both bones of my left leg, I came down. Vincent
instantly asked what was the matter. I told him that my leg was broken,
and that was all. I asked him to put the limb into a straight position
and to place me against a tree which stood close by; in this position I
asked for my cap and sword, which had been struck from my hand in the
fall; and then I cheered on the regiment as they gallantly charged into
the redoubt.


The fort being carried, the regiment pursued the enemy down the
opposite side of the hill, whilst I remained behind idly to look
around me. The scene was beautifully romantic and heroically sublime.
Groups of cavalry were seen judiciously, although apparently without
regularity, dotted along the sides of every hill, watching an
opportunity of falling on the discomfited foe. Our troops gallantly
bore on over an unbroken series of intrenchments, thickly crowded with
bayonets and kept lively by incessant fire. The awful passing events
lay beneath my view; nor was there aught to interrupt my observation
save a few bodily twitches, the pangs of prostrated ambition, and the
shot and shells which burst close, or nearly cut the ground from under
me. Alone I lay reclined, being unable to maintain an upright position;
and thus I had a good opportunity for melancholy contemplation, not
unmixed with patriotic joy as I reviewed the battle which tended slowly
upwards. The deadly strife was surprisingly grand; yet the sublimity of
the scene defied all attempt at description. The wreck and destruction
of men and matter was strewn around; the piteous life-ending moans
of the wounded writhing in torture, and the loud yelling fury of the
maddened combatants, repeated by a thousand discordant echoes, were
truly appalling, especially to a person who being put out of the fight
could be only a spectator of the tumult. The fierce and continued
charge of the British was irresistible, nor could they be checked;
onward they bore, nor stopped to breathe, rushing forward through glen,
dale and forest, where vivid flashed the fire and bright gleamed the
steel. Yet they seemed to chase only the startled red deer, prowling
wolf or savage wild-boar, until they arrived at the steel-bristling
strongholds of the foe. Now they occupied the same level upon which I
lay. Here the battle raged in its utmost fury; and for a short time
it became stationary. The contending foes were the soldiers of the
two most warlike nations of Europe and the most steadfast in mutual
jealousy and aversion. The British legions impetuously rushed forward
on the native soil of France, resolved to uphold till death the honour
and glory of their country. Those of France with equal bravery and
resolution determined to resist to the last this insulting intrusion on
their soil. Thus mutually stimulated to madness, they met with a shock
tremendous. France nobly maintained her well-earned military fame;
but her surprisingly valiant deeds proved vain in this bloody border
strife, where noble emulation wrought up to the highest pitch the Percy
and Douglas and a third not nerveless arm, all now dealing forth
deadly blows under one and the same banner. What foe could resist their
united attack or penetrate the shield formed of the Rose, Shamrock and
Thistle when closely bound together in a union strong as lasting? What
foe could triumph over Wellington, who, born in Ireland, with the keen
policy of Scotland, adopting England and combining the genius of all
three, was the one appropriate chief to wield their united strength in
the field? A force constituted of such moral and physical strength,
and led by such a man could not long be withstood. The star of the
three united nations shone victorious on the summits of the lofty
Pyrenees, gilding the tall pines which capped their heads for miles and
foreboding downfall to Imperial France, since it was the star of true
liberty and national independence. The French on their side with broken
brand and fallen crest reluctantly gave way, sullenly retiring within
their national boundary, no longer invulnerable.



This memorable battle, which introduced the victorious British army
and their allies into France, commenced before daybreak and continued
until after dark. The enemy were beaten back from their strong frontier
position, losing fifty-one guns, two thousand prisoners, stores
incalculable and some thousands killed and wounded; the nature of
the ground prevented the number of these from being ascertained,--it
must have been immense. As to our regiment’s advance up the hill to
the attack, it may perhaps be alleged that I should not have urged
forward the colours so rapidly nor have been so far in front. Our
advance, considering the steepness of the hill, was certainly rather
rapid; but had we not thus rapidly advanced, as in a continued charge
through breastworks, we should have lost double the number of men; and
it certainly would not have fallen to the proud lot of our regiment
_alone_ to have stormed and carried the enemy’s great redoubt; and
this we did, as may be gathered from the remark made by Vincent and
L’Estrange about the 61st Regiment. But it is of little consequence
whether I kept up with the colours or the colours came on at my pace;
anyway it affords proud consolation to reflect that it was in front of
them I fell.


Immediately before entering the redoubt, Montgomery, who carried
the king’s colour, furled the sheet round the staff, which he used
as a lance, and thus armed gallantly charged in amongst the foremost
bayonets. Being a powerful and athletic person (afterwards lieutenant
of Grenadiers), he made good use of his silk-bound weapon, and never
did blood-stained royal banner bear more honourable testimony of
personal prowess in war. I know not what became of the staff; it should
ever be kept with the regiment and accompany it into action. Besides
common promotion arising from casualties, one captain of the regiment
got the brevet rank of major; he was _not_ in the action, but I, who
was serving voluntarily and had a leg shattered while charging at the
head of the regiment, was neglected. Being subsequently asked if I did
not get the brevet step for my voluntary services and wound, I answered
no, but that I got a permanent step and that was a lame one.

From the Duke of Wellington’s despatch relative to the battle of the
Nivelle the following extract is copied: “While these operations
were going on in the centre, I had the pleasure of seeing the 6th
Division, under Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton, after having
crossed the Nivelle and having driven in the enemy’s piquets on both
banks, and having covered the passage of the Portuguese division under
Lieutenant-General Sir John Hamilton on its right, make a most handsome
attack upon the right of the Nivelle, carrying all the intrenchments
and the redoubt on that flank.” In justice to the regiment I beg to
remark that if the attack of the division was most handsome, that
of the 36th Regiment must have been most beautiful, for it was this
regiment which managed to take the lead and single-handed carried the

Immediately after the redoubt was taken, under which I fell, another
fort on our right, not yet attacked, turned some of its guns against
the one just captured; and their shot and shell ploughing the ground
all around me nearly suffocated me with dust and rubbish. Those who
were not very severely wounded scrambled their way down the hill; but
I might as well have attempted to carry a millstone as to drag my
shattered leg after me. I therefore remained among the dead and dying,
who were not few. My situation was not enviable. After some hours
Assistant-Surgeon Simpson of the regiment appeared. I then got what is
termed a field dressing; but unfortunately there were no leg splints;
and so arm splints were substituted. Through this makeshift I suffered
most severely during my descent. Some of the band coming up, I was put
into a blanket and carried down the hill; but as we proceeded down this
almost perpendicular descent, the blanket contracted from my weight
in the middle, and then owing to the want of the proper long splints
the foot drooped beyond the blanket’s edge; it is almost impossible to
imagine the torture which I suffered. Having gained the base of the
hill towards dark, a cottage was fortunately discovered and into this I
was carried.

Up to the noon of this day I congratulated myself on my good fortune
in having served in the first and last battle fought in Spain, and
proudly contemplated marching victoriously through France. I recalled
too with pleasure and as if it were a propitious omen, that on this day
five years ago I first trod Spanish ground. On November 16th, 1808, we
marched into Fuentes de Oñoro, under the command of Sir John Moore.
Then I was strong hale and joyous, with the glorious prospects of war
favourably presented to view; but the afternoon of this, the fifth
anniversary, proved a sad reverse. On this day I was carried out of
Spain, borne in a blanket, broken in body and depressed in mind, with
all my brilliant prospects like myself fallen to the ground. Such is
glorious war.


After the field dressing Simpson departed in search of other wounded
persons; and on his report of my wound two or three other medical
officers sought me, fortunately in vain, that they might remove the
limb. On the 4th day I was conveyed to a place where a hospital was
established; but the inflammation of the leg was then so great (it was
as big as my body) that no amputation could be attempted. A dressing
took place which was long and painful, for I had bled so profusely
while in the cottage that a cement hard as iron was formed round the
limb, and before my removal it was absolutely necessary to cut me out
of the bed on which I lay. After a considerable time passed in steeping
with tepid water, the piece of mattress and sheet which I carried away
from the cottage were removed; and now began the more painful operation
of setting the leg. Staff-Surgeon Mathews and Assistant-Surgeon Graham,
31st Regiment, were the operators. Graham seized me by the knee and
Mathews by the foot. They proposed that four soldiers should hold me
during the operation; to this I objected, saying with a kind of boast
that I was always master of my nerves. They now twisted and turned and
extended my leg, aiming along it like a spirit level. The torture was
dreadful; but though I ground my teeth and the big drops of burning
perspiration rapidly chased each other, still I remained firm, and
stifled every rising groan. After all was concluded I politely thanked
Mathews, carelessly remarking that it was quite a pleasure to get
wounded to be so comfortably dressed. This was mock heroism, for at
the moment I trembled as if just taken from the rack; however, it had
a strange effect upon Mathews, who told Lavens that he feared I was
somewhat deranged from the great loss of blood and agonising pain which
I suffered. Lavens, Assistant-Surgeon of the 28th Regiment and an old
messmate, only laughed and offered to be responsible for the soundness
of my intellect if no other cause than bodily pain interfered. Some
time afterwards Mathews told him that the inflammation had much
subsided and he thought that amputation might safely be performed;
yet I appeared so strong, doing so well and in such good spirits, he
felt some little inclination to give the limb a chance, if he could
believe that my good spirits would continue. Lavens, whom I saw every
day, replied that he need not dread low spirits on my part under any
circumstance, and as to the difference between the loss of life and
that of a limb he felt convinced it would be no great matter to me. If
therefore he thought the preservation of the limb depended on corporeal
or mental constitution, he recommended the trial. Mathews told all this
to me, when I willingly concurred in the attempt to save the leg. It
had served me well during many a long and weary march, in many a lively
skirmish and some hard-fought battles, particularly whilst in the 28th
Light Company; I therefore felt extremely unwilling to part with it.
One feels regret at losing even a favourite walking-stick; what then
must the feeling be at losing a faithful leg? The trial was decided on;
but in justice to Dr. Mathews I feel called upon to declare that he
most fully pointed out the imminent danger attending the experiment.
Thus far I have entered into detail in consequence of a remark made to
the General Medical Board, Drs. Weir, Franklin and Car, who said, when
I appeared before them in London, that the medical officer who saved
my leg was in no way borne out in making the attempt, for there were
ninety-nine chances to one against my life. It is true that the wound
was as severe as could possibly be inflicted; the tibia and fibula were
both shattered, and the orifice made seemed the entrance to a quarry of
bones, five-and-thirty pieces of which exfoliated and kept the wound
open for several years.


When I was carried out of the field my whole fortune consisted of one
crusado novo, a Portuguese silver coin value three shillings. This I
had much difficulty in persuading the poor cottagers to accept, not
from a consideration that the sum was an inadequate remuneration for
the mutilation of their mattress and whatever food they supplied, but
solely from pure motives of generosity. They wept at my parting, and
prayed to every saint in heaven or elsewhere for my speedy and perfect
recovery. On my arrival therefore in hospital, I possessed not a single
farthing; and in my situation other nourishment was required than that
of a ration pound of bread and beef. My host, Don Martin D’Echiparre,
continually sat by my bedside. Looking upon him as a generous and
liberal person, I, after a few evenings, candidly confessed my
pecuniary embarrassments, requesting him to lend me a few dollars and
offering him my gold watch until I should receive a remittance from the
paymaster. He replied, “Do you take me for a Jew? I never lend less
than a hundred guineas; these you may have when you please.” This I
considered a bombastical evasion and declined his offer. Next morning
he made his usual visit and approaching close said in a low voice,
“You refused last night to take a hundred guineas; take at least these
fifty,” and he held them forth. I told him that so large a sum was both
superfluous and useless; however, after a good deal of controversy, he
consented to lend me so small a sum as ten guineas.

After a lapse of three months an order was received to remove the
hospital depôt to St. Jean de Luz. What was to be done? I had received
no remittance; consequently I had no means of repaying the ten guineas,
six of which were already spent--one more was absolutely necessary to
defray the cost of my removal to St. Jean de Luz, which would take four
days. I was to be carried in a litter borne by inhabitants, to pay whom
would require the greater part of the guinea. To pay back the remaining
three would be but a poor return; but my truly noble and generous host
having entered the room, relieved me from my unpleasant dilemma. After
expressing his deep regret at my departure, he thus addressed me:
“Being aware that you have had no remittance from the army; and knowing
from the hospitable and generous manner in which you have entertained
the many officers who continually came to see you, in which hospitality
I nightly participated with pleasure, that you must want money, I put
these four farthings in my pocket for you,” presenting four Spanish
doubloons. “I offer you,” continued he, “this small sum because of your
obstinacy in refusing the hundred guineas; but if you will accept that
sum and another hundred in addition, you would please me much more. Do
not pay me from St. Jean de Luz nor from England, but only when you get
home to your friends in Ireland; and if you never pay, it will be of
no consequence whatever.” However I declined to accept either hundreds
or doubloons: and after mutual protestations of sincere friendship and
regard, we bade each other a final farewell and parted with unfeigned
regret. This anecdote I relate as highly honourable to the country in
which it occurred. D’Echiparre was a Frenchman by birth, but a Spaniard
by adoption, and in the Spanish language we always conversed. He was
a Valladolid merchant and had realised upwards of ten thousand pounds,
which in that part of the country was considered a handsome fortune.


On my arrival at St. Jean de Luz I was so fortunate as to procure two
months’ pay (not in advance for we were seven months in arrear), when I
immediately sent the ten guineas to my generous host.

The time having arrived to get rid of the cumbrous sick and wounded
officers, we were removed to los Pasages and there embarked in a
transport bound for Portsmouth; but the wind proving contrary prevented
our entering the channel and we were compelled to put into Bantry Bay
in Ireland. Here we anchored close to a village, if I recollect right,
called Castletown, and put up at an inn kept by the widow Martin. The
wind continuing very boisterous and contrary, we resolved to travel
overland through Ireland. Enquiring for a postchaise, we were informed
that there was a postchaise, but that some miles of the road were
as yet unfinished, and consequently not carriageable. Upon this we
dropped down to the village bearing the name of the bay. Here having
learned that the road was perfectly good, we landed our baggage and
went ashore; but now to our great dismay we found that this village
had no postchaise. In this dilemma we decided to place our baggage on
pack-saddles and to travel as in Spain. The operation of packing had
commenced, when looking into the courtyard I discovered a hearse. Upon
enquiry the waiter said: “Please, your honour, it is an ould lady who
died here lately, and her friends thought they would bury her proudly;
so they sent to Cork for the hearse and it is going back to-day to
Bandon.” I sent for the driver and immediately concluded a bargain;
he engaged to carry us to Bandon in the hearse; and thence we were
to have two postchaises to take us to Cork for a sum agreed upon. The
pack-saddling was relinquished; and the whole party, consisting of
Captain Taylor, 28th, with a broken thigh, Captain Girlston, 31st, a
broken arm, Captains Bryan and Cone, 39th, sick leaves, and Captain
Blakeney, 36th, a broken leg, entered the hearse. Our first stage was
Dunmanway, where we made a tremendous meal; the innkeeper complimented
us by saying that he never saw travellers in a hearse make so hearty
a breakfast. Our appearance must have been extraordinary; for as we
moved along in the carriage of death, but not with its usual pace, the
country folk, abandoning their legitimate avocations, ran after us for

On our arrival at Bandon thousands of the inhabitants followed and
impeded our way. I recollect that a regiment of militia quartered
there ran like others to see the novel show, when hundreds of the
runabout crowd cried out to them: “Get ye out of the way! What have ye
to do with the honours of war? Look there!” and they pointed to our
crutches, which stuck out from the open hearse in all directions, like
escutcheons emblasoning the vehicle of death. At length we got safe to
our inn, attended as numerously as if the hero of the Peninsula himself
had been present. Here I called upon a lady who lived close to our
inn--a Mrs. Clarke. She had two sons in the army, with both of whom I
was intimately acquainted, particularly the eldest; he was a brother
officer of mine in the 28th Regiment and was afterwards removed to
the 5th Regiment, in which he lost a leg. To him we are indebted for
that valuable publication, _The United Service Journal_. The other I
knew in the 77th Regiment; he also had been severely wounded in the
leg, so that the lady had seen both her sons on crutches. When she saw
the rough crutches which I carried, or rather which carried me, she
offered me a pair more highly finished, belonging to one of her sons;
but since mine were made of the halberts of two sergeants who lost
their lives charging into the redoubt under which I fell, I declined
the lady’s very polite offer.


Next morning we set out for Cork; and being actually enclosed within
postchaises we contrived to screen our honours of war from public
notice and therefore were not cheered to our hotel. At Cork the party
separated, each making his way to England as best he could. On my
arrival in London, I waited on Sir Henry Torrens, military secretary
to His Royal Highness the Commander-in-chief. I mentioned to the
secretary my intention of memorialising the Duke of York for promotion
by brevet, in consideration of my voluntary services and severe wounds
received whilst so serving. Sir Henry after hearing my statement
said that I was perfectly right, but at the same time advised me to
procure testimonials of my services from my different commanding
officers in support of my memorial. With this advice I willingly
complied, conscious of my having on every occasion endeavoured to
perform my duties to the fullest extent of my abilities. After such
encouragement from so high an authority as the Commander-in-chief’s
secretary and firmly relying on the nature of the testimonials which
I should receive, I considered my promotion certain. I immediately
wrote to Colonel Cross, commanding 28th Regiment at Fermoy, and to
Colonel Browne (late 28th), commanding 56th Regiment at Sheerness.
With their replies and a memorial to His Royal Highness, I waited
on the secretary; but on presenting them, he, without even opening
them, said: “Recollect, Captain Blakeney, that I did not promise you
promotion. I cannot give away majorities.” I replied that I did not
apply for a majority; I only asked for the rank by brevet, which was
throughout the army considered as a reward for meritorious officers
when regimental promotion might be attended with difficulty. I received
no answer. Chagrined and disappointed because, when the secretary had
told me that I was right in making a memorial and had advised me to
get my commanding officer’s testimonials, he now opposed that memorial
before he even submitted it to the Commander-in-chief, I retired with
strong impressions, which I now decline to state. In a short time I
received an answer to my memorial stating that I could not at the
present moment be promoted by brevet, but that I should get a majority
when a favourable opportunity offered. Unbounded confidence was not
inspired by this promise from the Horse Guards, particularly after what
had passed on the subject. How far this diffidence was justified may be
seen in the sequel.

The above statement may appear extraordinary; but between the time of
my first interview with Sir Henry Torrens and the arrival of those
testimonials from my various commanding officers, which the secretary
had suggested, the star of Napoleon had begun to set. His abdication
soon followed; war was no longer contemplated; and the claims of
officers, of whatever nature, were abandoned to a heartless neglect.



After remaining in London at a heavy expense while I awaited the
answers of my commanding officers and the result of my memorial, I left
town and joined the 2nd Battalion of the regiment, then quartered at
Lewes. Here I remained for some time; and then being still on sick,
or rather wounded, leave, I visited my old acquaintance, the Prince
d’Arenberg, from whom I had received repeated and pressing invitations.
Arriving in Brussels, I found that unfortunately he was then in
Italy. When I was rather weary of Brussels but unwilling so soon to
go back to England, especially as the prince was shortly expected
to return, some particular friends, Sir John Burke of Glenesk, Sir
William Elliot and Lord Bury, aide-de-camp to the Prince of Orange,
determined on an excursion to Paris, and I was prevailed upon to
accompany them. We travelled in Burke’s private carriage. The early
part of our journey was excessively agreeable; but on drawing near the
capital we encountered an extraordinary number of vehicles of every
description and on approaching a small town within a post or two of
Paris towards dark, we met a train of from thirty to forty carriages.
Upon asking the cause of this great concourse, a Mrs. Atchison, whom
with her two amiable daughters we had known at Brussels, exclaimed
from one of the carriages, “What, are you not aware that Napoleon
will be in Paris to-morrow?” and she added that every British subject
there was hastening away as fast as post-horses could be procured,
which was attended with much difficulty and delay. Thunderstruck at
this information, for not a word even of Napoleon’s escape from Elba
was known two days before at Brussels, we immediately stopped; and as
soon as we could procure change of horses we proceeded to Cambray.
Here the party separated: Mrs. and the Misses Atchison escorted by the
two baronets leisurely proceeded to Brussels; Lord Bury and I shaped
our course with all speed for Ostend, on our way to England. We were
detained at Cambray until towards dark by the difficulty of procuring
post-horses; but just as we were about to set forward, a French officer
carrying, as he stated, despatches of utmost importance, galloped into
the yard, his steed covered with foam. He immediately demanded a horse,
and the authority which he carried left the postmaster no choice; he
immediately provided one. I asked the officer a few questions as to
the sentiments entertained in the capital and of the nature of his
despatches, but I could procure no direct reply. As I was getting into
Lord Bury’s cabriolet, with his lordship and his private servant, I
chanced to mention that our route lay through Lisle, when the man of
despatch at length opened his mouth, saying that he also was bound
for Lisle, and that if we would take him into our carriage and let
the servant ride his horse, he would engage to pass us through the
different enclosed towns which lay in our route, at which without
his intervention we should be detained if arriving after dark. This
proposal was made in consequence of the inclemency of the weather,
which was tremendous, incessant heavy rain, accompanied with high
winds, thunder and awful lightning. Though Bury felt reluctant to
expose his servant to the raging elements, yet our great anxiety to get
clear of the French territory overcame every other consideration.


During our progress I asked our new companion many questions, but he
would appear much fatigued and slept, or feigned to sleep, the greater
part of the time; however, he kept his word in passing us through the
towns. On presenting his credentials the drawbridges were dropped,
we entered, changed horses and passed on without our passports being
looked at until we arrived at Lisle. Here our companion left us with
scant ceremony. Being no longer under the protection of the man of
despatch and having arrived after dark, we were not permitted to leave
the fortress until morning. We afterwards learned that this officer,
who sat so very comfortably in Lord Bury’s carriage between two British
officers, was at the time the bearer of disaffected despatches to
induce the two Generals Lallemande to declare in favour of Napoleon.

Our night at Lisle was restless; but fortunately we got off next
morning without meeting any obstruction, and having soon entered
the Belgian territory felt a degree of security which previously
we considered very doubtful. Our feelings somewhat resembled those
experienced by the Prince d’Arenberg after crossing the Spanish
frontier into Portugal.

Although now freed from dread of detention, yet we relaxed not in
posting forward to Ostend. On arrival Lord Bury waited on General
Vandeleur, commanding the British troops there, and related the
circumstances attending our journey. The general was excessively
astonished and appeared somewhat startled, not having had the slightest
knowledge of Napoleon having left his island; indeed he seemed rather
incredulous. Bury requested that I should be sent for to the hotel,
where I was making hasty preparations for our departure to England.
On appearing, I confirmed Lord Bury’s statement, adding that from all
I could collect along our route, or rather flight, I felt perfectly
convinced that Napoleon was at that moment in Paris. Courtesy, and
I believe courtesy alone, induced the general no longer to appear
incredulous. At the same time he begged us to be very cautious as to
what we should say, for if what we had heard were true he would find
himself in rather an embarrassing position among the Belgians, who
seemed much inclined towards the government and person of Napoleon.

Being politely dismissed by the general we proceeded to England, and
landing at Ramsgate pushed forward to Canterbury. Here we halted for
breakfast, when hundreds collected round the hotel since a report was
spread that the Duc de Berri had just arrived from France, whom they
were anxious to behold; but upon learning that it was the English Lord
Bury, not His Royal Highness the French Duc de Berri who had arrived,
they retired rather disappointed. That night we arrived in London,
but not a soul would give credence to our account; and Napoleon was
victoriously sitting on the throne of France and in the heart of the
capital some days before even his departure from Elba was known in

Immediately on my return I applied to Sir Henry Torrens for a staff
appointment in the army of Belgium; and I asked that, should His Royal
Highness not have an opportunity of appointing me at present, he would
be pleased to permit my proceeding there, as from my acquaintance with
many general officers under whom I had had the honour of serving, I
felt emboldened to think that I should be employed. This letter was
written to Sir Henry Torrens at his own request; but as he was a few
days afterwards sent to Brussels to confer with the Duke of Wellington,
I repeated my request to Lieutenant-Colonel Shaw, Military Secretary
_ad interim_. To this application I received an answer to the effect
that the commander-in-chief was sensible of my zeal for active service,
but had no present opportunity of employing me on the staff, nor could
he comply with my request for leave of absence. It may be necessary
here to state that at that period a general order had been issued
strictly prohibiting all officers on leave of absence from leaving the
kingdom without the special permission of the commander-in-chief. My
leave of absence which terminated on the 24th of the month was renewed
as a matter of course, but not without the prohibition mentioned.


My regiment being in Ireland and not ordered to the Netherlands, I
still remained in London urging my request, but to no purpose. In the
meantime the battle of Waterloo was fought; and the 36th were ordered
to reinforce the duke’s army. I now procured permission to proceed
direct from London. Major-General Sir William O’Callaghan was ordered
out at the same time; and as we had been intimately acquainted in the
Peninsula, I now acted as his aide-de-camp. In this way I anticipated
the arrival of the regiment in Paris by at least a month, which gave me
full opportunity, uninterrupted by regimental duties, of examining the
discipline, dress and movements of the different armies then in Paris,
particularly as they passed in review order.

This review was a splendid spectacle. Each crowned head of the powers
engaged had nominally a regiment in the army of each brother sovereign;
and each in his turn marched past as colonel of his regiment, saluting
with due military discipline the crowned head to whose army the
regiment belonged. The Emperor Alexander wore his cocked hat square
to the front, kept firm on his head by a black ribbon tied under his
chin. When he saluted in marching past his chosen master, he shot his
right arm at full length horizontally from his right shoulder, and then
curving the arm with tolerable grace to the front he touched the upper
part of his forehead with his hand, the fingers closed together and the
palm turned downwards. His appearance was soldier-like; yet he seemed
not a hardy veteran, but rather a good-humoured, well-conditioned
English yeoman than the representative of Peter the Great. Contentment,
apparently uninterrupted by thought or reflection, seemed to sit on
his unruffled brow. The King of Prussia wore his hat fore and aft.
In saluting he sent his right hand perpendicularly upwards, the palm
turned towards his face, his fingers stiff and their tips brought
suddenly against the point of his hat. Sullenness was portrayed on his
countenance. His figure was tall; but I saw nothing lofty about him
save his station, which, had it not been hereditary, would never have
been his. He was what we call in a horse wall-eyed. Nothing indicated
the determined warrior, polished courtier or profound statesman; and
during the whole time in which I presumed to regard him I do not
recollect that a single thought of the Great Frederick flashed on my
mind. The Emperor Francis wore his hat neither square nor fore and aft;
the right cock was brought rather forward. In saluting, his right arm
was slowly brought up to meet the fore part of his hat, to touch which
his fingers were bent into a bunch. His stature was scarcely above the
middle size, his face melancholy and overcast; it did not appear to
be that sullen melancholy which indicates disappointed ambition--it
seemed rather to be produced by painful recollections of happy scenes
and feelings which, like blooming youth gone by, can never return. His
deportment was that of an over-thoughtful, but an affable gentleman;
dejection he combated, but could not shake off; he would appear happy,
but failed in the endeavour. His former deadly foe and conqueror (a
fortunate revolutionist emerged from obscurity) was now united to the
child of his affections, the descendant of the Cæsars. The overthrow
of the one must drag down the other. Unwillingly then he drew his
sword, for whatever he might have previously suffered he now made war
against his daughter and her husband. These conflicting feelings must
have harassed his very soul; his position was cruelly embarrassing; and
it was impossible to witness his distress and not participate in his
feelings. His appearance throughout proclaimed him an unwilling actor
in the gorgeous show. He alone seemed to reflect that players sometimes
act the part of kings, but that here the farce was reversed.


It struck me as rather singular and wanting in delicacy that every
band of music in the Austrian, Russian and Prussian armies, while they
marched past the group of kings, played the tune by us called _The
Downfall of Paris_; but I subsequently learned that among the nations
mentioned, as also in France, the music bore a quite different name and

During these reviews the troops of the foreign nations marched from
Paris through the Place Louis Quinze; and passing through the Champs
Elysées filed off into the suburbs. The last review, or rather march
past, was by the British troops. The line of route was now reversed.
Our troops, proudly following the tattered flags but upright standards
of Britain, debouched from the Champs Elysées, and after marching past
filed through Paris. The music played at the head of every regiment was
the inspiring tune “The British Grenadiers.” The duke took his station
close to the Place Louis Quinze, towards the entrance from the Champs
Elysées. He was dressed in the uniform of a British field-marshal; he
grasped a mamaluke sabre, the hand which held it resting on the pommel
of his saddle. In this position he remained for some hours during the
marching past of the troops; and although he evidently saw all, yet he
moved not at all; and during the whole time (for I was near) even his
sword moved not an inch from its original position. All the working was
in his mind; his body was absolutely still.

As the British troops moved forward they called forth general
admiration; and, candidly speaking, their appearance was splendid in
the extreme. This opinion is not prompted by either partiality or
prejudice; but having had the opportunity of previously beholding the
parade of the allied troops, all showing stage effect rather than
the free use of the limbs, I could not avoid noticing the contrast
between them and the British soldiers, whose movements were in strict
conformity with the intention of Providence in providing joints to be
freely used for the easy carriage of the body. It was this manly, free
and firm step which induced the Emperor Alexander after the reviews
were over to declare that he would introduce the British discipline and
system of drill into his army, since the English movements were more
in conformity with the natural structure of man. Even the dress of the
British soldier was calculated more for comfort and use than for mere
outward appearance, and yet was far from being unseemly.

[Sidenote: THE IRON DUKE.]

The Russian troops appeared like rampant bears; the Prussians like
stuffed turkeys; the slow-going Austrians were in figure, countenance
and appearance altogether characteristically Germanic; the French, from
their being well inured to fire and moving with such little up-and-down
steps making but little progress to the front, brought to mind that
species of animal called turnspit in the active performance of his
duty. But the object of general regard, and that which attracted the
attention of all, was the hero who led the British troops through an
unparalleled series of brilliant campaigns and victorious battles. The
all-seeing eagle eye which illumined his countenance, the aquiline
nose which stamps talent on the countenance of man, together with the
peculiar length of upper lip, marked him apart. In all he seemed the
Roman of old--save in pomp.

Shortly after the reviews the 36th Regiment arrived in Paris, and
on the same day Sir William O’Callaghan’s aide-de-camp, his nephew,
Captain Colthurst, made his appearance. The general being thus
provided, I joined my regiment. We were quartered at Montmartre, the
theatre of Marmont’s fidelity. Subsequently we encamped in the Bois
de Boulogne; thence we moved into cantonments not far distant from
Versailles. A part of the regiment were quartered in the Chateau of
the Postmaster-General of France. His history so far as it relates
to his attachment to Napoleon, his imprisonment and the mode of his
escape aided by a British general officer lately reinstated in rank, is
already well known.

Towards the close of December 1815 the regiment was ordered home. We
passed through Paris on the day that Marshal Ney was shot; whether
our presence there during that melancholy occasion was accidental
or designed I cannot say, but it was probably designed. His death
was worthy of his former undaunted character, which gained him the
title of “Le brave des braves.” Disdaining to have his eyes bandaged
he commanded the soldiers appointed for his execution to fire; and
shedding bitter tears they obeyed his order, by which France was
deprived of the bravest and brightest genius who ever led her armies
to victory. On the second restoration of Louis XVIII. a general pardon
was granted by proclamation in his name to all French subjects then
residing in Paris; but by a strange construction of words it was argued
that Ney was not included, although at the time he did reside in Paris,
if a soldier be considered as ever residing anywhere.


Soult, although he fought in the ranks of Napoleon at Waterloo, yet
made so noble a defence that the Duc de Richelieu durst not push the
prosecution; yet His Grace declared that it would be an abuse of mercy
to pardon Ney. He was found guilty of high treason, upon which verdict
he was executed. But against whom or what was the treason? Not against
France, in whose defence or for whose aggrandisement he fought five
hundred battles, and never drew his sword against her. His treason
then consisted in his unfortunate choice of allegiance between two
individuals: one, the Emperor selected by the French nation and under
whose standard all the armies of France were ranged; the other a king
indeed but a nominal one, a king who fled his country on the approach
of a foreign invader, as Napoleon actually was on coming from the
Island of Elba. This king too was opposed by the nation upon whom he
was foisted, as he himself gratefully but imprudently proclaimed by
declaring that next to God he owed his crown to the Prince Regent of
England. This insult to his countrymen was deeply felt all through
France, and cannot be more forcibly expressed than by the manner in
which the French at the time proclaimed him as “Louis XVIII., King of
France and Navarre, by the grace of three hundred thousand foreign
bayonets.” As traitor against this king, Ney was executed; but, had he
been spared, the monarch’s crown would have been the brighter, and the
bravest of the brave have been spared to his country.

In our route to Calais the detachment of the regiment to which I
belonged passed through the village of Creçy, where we halted for
a day. Natural curiosity, not unmixed with national pride, induced
some of us to visit the plains glorious to Edward III. and the Black
Prince. Our guide pointed out the little tower in which the victorious
Edward is stated to have taken post during the battle; it had all
the appearance of having been a windmill. The glorious days of the
Edwards and Henrys flashed on our imaginations: days when the warlike
monarchs led their gallant troops in person and by their heroic example
fired them to deeds of glory; days when personal merit was promptly
and impartially rewarded. Rewards for gallant deeds of arms did not
_then_ depend upon a county election. The chief who witnessed and who
consequently could best judge possessed the power to reward without
reference to the jarring interests of voters at home.

On surveying the extensive plain, our guide pointed out a mound,
distant from the windmill about two miles. Here it was, he said, that
the French army made their last desperate effort. A small chapel is
built on the site, called “La Chapelle des Trois Cents Corps Nobles,”
to commemorate the fact that where the chapel stands three hundred
nobles of the contending armies fighting fell. On returning to our
billets I signified to the man of the house my wish to visit the
hallowed spot next morning, as it was then too late in the day. Upon
this our good host entertained us with many legendary tales of the
chapel, and said amongst other things that the door could never be
kept shut. My evident incredulity rather displeasing him, he protested
most solemnly that bolts and locks had been repeatedly put on the
door to endeavour to keep it shut, but to no purpose: it was always
found wide open in the morning; and as to watching it, none could be
found sufficiently daring to make the attempt. Notwithstanding the
solemn assertions of our good host, I told him that I was determined
to proceed to the chapel next morning and shut myself within its
mysterious walls. When he had used many arguments to dissuade me from
my purpose but found me still determined, he remarked that there was
one difficulty in my shutting myself up there, since, in consequence
of the fact that the chapel could never be kept closed, it had been
without a door for more than a century. Much disappointed, but still
perceiving by the solemn manner of my host that his account of the
chapel was not intended as a jest, I told him that I should certainly
go there next morning and nail a blanket against the doorway, to
witness the consequence of closing the chapel; and this foolish act
I was determined to carry into execution, but as we received orders
that night to continue our march at daybreak next morning, my quixotic
enterprise was frustrated. The impossibility of closing the chapel was
religiously believed by every inhabitant of the place, not excluding
the parish priest.

We embarked at Calais and descended at Ramsgate and Dover, and thence
proceeded overland to Portsmouth, which we garrisoned until the year
1817, when we embarked for the Island of Malta.



In 1819 I procured leave of absence to proceed to England; and in this
year I repeated my visit to Brussels. I found Prince Prosper at home
and received the most marked attention from the old duke, his father.
Here it may not be irrelevant to mention that Napoleon, as contributing
to fortify his unwieldy empire, insisted on the Prince Prosper
marrying a Miss Tacher, a niece of Josephine, and transferred to him
his father’s title, Duke d’Arenberg, at the same time by a similar
arbitrary act compelling the old unduked duke to assume the title of a
baron of the French empire. This was one of Napoleon’s master strokes
of policy. Prince Prosper was now married to his second wife having
been previously divorced from his first duchess, Miss Tacher that was,
to whom the mustachios had been sent from Lisbon.

At the old duke’s table I had always a cover; and a groom and a pair
of horses were exclusively at my service. The duke was a remarkably
fine old man, but had been blind for many years when I had the
honour of making his acquaintance. The calamity occurred through the
following lamentable circumstance. At his father’s house, celebrated
for hospitality, a large party of friends were entertained, for whose
greater amusement rural sports were resorted to. The wild-boar hunt
was generally selected, in which the duke, then a young man, took great
delight; but as one of the guests, who was _chargé d’affaires_ of the
British Court, expressed an unwillingness to join in the boar hunt,
preferring partridge-shooting, the young duke in courtesy gave up his
favourite amusement and joined his friend, for whom he entertained
the greatest esteem. All being arranged, the parties set forth, and
on their arrival at Enghien, a considerable estate belonging to the
duke about five-and-twenty miles from Brussels, the sport began. The
duke took his station behind a hedge; and his English friend screened
himself behind a neighbouring fence. The cover being very close,
beaters were sent in to drive out the birds, as in woodcock-shooting
in England. A rustling sound being heard by the Englishman, who had
the boar hunt, which took place in the same parts, still in his mind,
he fired through the fence and lodged the contents of his gun in the
face of his friend. At a cry of distress from the duke, the Englishman
broke his way through the fence, when fancy his horror at perceiving
his dear friend prostrate on the ground, his figure recognised, but
all his features disguised by blood and his eyes incapable of seeing
his agonised friend. Nearly frantic at witnessing the dreadful result
of his incautious fire, he holloaed out for assistance; and on the
arrival of some domestics he instantly ran into the town of Enghien,
and ordering a postchaise drove off to Brussels, nor stopped he, except
to change horses, until he arrived at Ostend, where he instantly
embarked for England, never again to return to the Netherlands. The
two faithful friends never more beheld each other, one because he was
blind, the other on account of a horror which he could never overcome.
The duke was carried to Brussels and the first medical aid which the
Netherlands could produce immediately consulted. The most eminent
physicians and surgeons of France and England were sent for, but to no
purpose--the vision was for ever destroyed.


During my visit at Brussels, by the duke’s desire, I passed a few
days at Enghien. Being alone, I was entertained by an old family
steward, who always resided there. The family mansion having been
burnt, its place was supplied by two handsome pavilions. The old
domestic, who had been previously advised of my visit, was the most
respectable person for his station whom I ever met; in truth, he
appeared a perfect gentleman of the old school, as well in dress as
in address. Nearly seventy chill winters must have passed over his
head, but although those rigid seasons left many a rough stamp behind,
his sympathy and warm heart gave ample testimony that an equal number
of genial summers had done their part. His white hair was bound with
black ribbons and formed a massy queue, extending some way down his
shoulders; yet, silvered as were his venerable locks, he was highly
powdered too,--this always gives a peculiarly dressy appearance.
His coat was of the old-fashioned cut, sloping backwards from the
lower part of the breast to the extremity of the skirts and bearing
large steel buttons. His waistcoat was of a similar cut, having long
low-flapped pockets, below which were short velvet breeches, black
silk stockings and polished shoes with large silver buckles. To be
attended by such a personage during dinner distressed me very much.
I should have felt more easy if in place of serving he had sat down
and borne me company; this I proposed, but no remonstrance of mine
could prevail upon him to acquiesce. He remarked that he could never
so far forget his duty and respect as to sit at the same table with
his lord’s guest, and moreover that I should be without the attendance
which he had received orders to give. I then proposed that the young
lad who always rode after me should wait. To this he objected, unless
I ordered it, which I declined to do, perceiving by a half-muttered
expression that it would be indecorous to introduce a stable groom into
the dining-room. After dinner, which I hurried over, I insisted on his
placing a second wineglass and obliged him to sit down, stating that
there were many circumstances relative to his lord with which I wished
to become acquainted, and for which I had the duke’s authority. This
he considered as a mandate and sat down; yet such was the distance at
which he placed his chair from the table that he imposed upon himself
the obligation of standing up whenever I prevailed upon him to take his
glass of the good wine, which I had always to pour out for him.

During my stay at Enghien this respectable gentleman-butler related
many anecdotes of gallant deeds performed by the Dukes d’Arenberg, but
as was natural dwelt most upon those scenes which took place in his
own time. Next morning he conducted me to the spot where the fatal
accident deprived his lord of sight. The old man was of the shooting
party; and with tears in his eyes he described the whole scene most
minutely and pathetically. Having seen all the grounds, I returned to
the pavilion; but on that day too I could not prevail on the old man to
sit down to dinner, and finding him inflexible and being hurt at seeing
so old and so respectable a person on his legs whilst I sat at dinner,
I determined to depart next morning. On coming away I cordially shook
the good old man by the hand, and would most willingly have made some
donation, but I could not presume to offer him money, knowing how much
it would hurt him; I should as soon have offered such an affront to the


When I returned to Brussels the good old duke asked me with the
greatest coolness if I had seen the spot where he was deprived of
sight. He seemed to treat the circumstance with perfect indifference;
but he evidently felt great emotion whenever the name of his unhappy
friend was mentioned, and I repeatedly heard him say, “My poor friend!
he suffers more than I do.” Some years after the accident took place
the duke visited England, and calling upon his friend, who happened
to be out, left his name and address. When the other returned and saw
the duke’s card, he instantly ordered post-horses and departed for
Italy, not being able to summon fortitude sufficient to encounter
that friend whom he so highly prized. The duke suffered much by this
disappointment; for although deprived of the power of seeing him, still
it would have afforded him the greatest consolation to press to his
bosom the friend whom he now more than ever esteemed. Not long after
the duke travelled into Italy, where he was doomed to experience a
similar disappointment. Happening to visit the same town in which his
friend was living for a time, he paid him a visit, but not finding him
at home did not leave his card, as he hoped to meet him another time;
but when the friend returned and heard from his servant a description
of the caller, he instantly set out for England. They never met after
the sad accident; and they both departed this life nearly at the same

During the duke’s sojourn in England he ordered a machine to be made
entirely imagined by himself, which in his lamentable state enabled
him to play at whist, a game to which he was very partial and which
afterwards principally contributed to his amusement. It was a small
mahogany box about eighteen inches long, six inches deep, and the same
in breadth; it screwed under the leaf of the table in front of where
the duke sat to play; in its side were four rows or little channels,
and in each channel were thirteen holes corresponding with the number
of cards in each suit; in each of these holes was a movable peg, which
could be pushed in or pulled out. The pack being dealt out, a page,
who sat close to the duke, sorted his cards, placing them in suits and
in order of value from left to right, each suit being separated from
the others by the duke’s fingers, between which they were placed by
the page. Beginning from the left with spades, hearts, diamonds and
clubs in order, the peg corresponding with each card in the duke’s hand
was drawn out, so that the duke passing his fingers over the machine
learned each card in his hand by means of the corresponding peg. Each
of the other players named the card which he played. For instance,
the person sitting on the left of the duke said, “I play the seven of
hearts”; the next, “I play the ten”; the third, “I play the queen,”
when the duke exclaimed, “And I play the king,” and infallibly down
came the king. I never saw him make a mistake. When he had played a
card he pushed in the peg corresponding to that card. On one occasion
having had the honour of being his partner against the Marquis de
Grimelle and another, I won a napoleon, which I bored and kept in
memory of having won it with a partner totally deprived of sight. The
duke was much pleased at my doing so.

The duke entertained in princely style. His table displayed the
choicest viands, the rarest productions of the seasons and the most
exquisite wines. I remarked that on fast-days there was a particular
kind of white soup always placed before the abbé who was attached to
the family. Curiosity induced me to ask Prince Prosper, next to whom I
always sat, of what this select soup consisted. The prince replied in a
suppressed tone of voice that it was extracted from frogs; “For,” said
he, “the Church has decided that those animals are not to be considered
as flesh: but yet, since the soup thus produced is not sufficiently
rich, a couple of pounds of veal are added; and although he is fully
aware of the deception practised, the abbé is so good a person that he
pardons the cook and absolves him from all sin.”


My leave of absence allowing me to remain no longer at Brussels, I
returned to England. At parting, the good, the truly noble old duke
presented me with a letter of introduction recommending me to the
protection of H.R.H. the Duke of Kent; and although, as I have stated,
he had been blind for many years, yet I saw him write the concluding
one or two lines and subscribe his name to this letter.

On my arrival in London, finding that the Duke of Kent was then at
Sidmouth, I presumed to write to him, enclosing Duke d’Arenberg’s
letter. In my letter to His Royal Highness I gave a short summary of
my services, at the same time stating that an introductory letter from
so humble an individual as myself to a personage of such exalted rank
could have no other object than that of soliciting His Royal Highness’s
protection in forwarding my military promotion. By return of post I was
honoured with the following reply:

            “SIDMOUTH, _January 8th, 1820_.

    “The Duke of Kent was favoured last night with Captain
    Blakeney’s letter of the 6th instant, including one from his
    esteemed and illustrious friend the Duke d’Arenberg, and he
    feels anxious not to lose a moment in assuring Captain Blakeney
    that if he possessed the means or influence necessary to
    expedite his promotion they should _instantly_ be exerted to
    the _utmost_ in his behalf both from the friendship and esteem
    he bears the good duke through whom he has been introduced to
    him, and from conceiving Captain Blakeney’s statement of his
    services to warrant his friendly interference in his behalf;
    but the fact is that the duke cannot interfere with any point
    regarding army promotion beyond the limits of his own corps,
    the Royal Scots, in which, from the circumstance of its having
    been during the whole war double the strength of any other
    regiment, there are too many claimants upon him for long and
    faithful services for it to be in his power to hold out the
    slightest expectation to Captain Blakeney of being able to
    bring him into that corps. This he can assure the captain is
    a matter of real regret to him, and he trusts when he says so
    that Captain Blakeney will give him credit for his sincerity.
    In concluding this letter, the duke feels it an act of justice
    to the good Duke d’Arenberg to observe that it is impossible
    for any gentleman to plead more warmly the cause of another
    than His Serene Highness has that of Captain Blakeney, or to
    state more strongly the obligations he owes him for his liberal
    and friendly conduct towards the Prince Prosper whilst that
    nobleman was a prisoner of war under his charge. If Captain
    Blakeney should happen to be in town when the duke returns
    to Kensington, which will probably be the end of March or
    beginning of April, the duke will have great pleasure in
    receiving him and in explaining the matter more fully to him
    _viva voce_ than it is possible for him to do in a letter,
    however extended the length of it might be. Should Captain
    Blakeney have occasion to address the duke again previous to
    his arrival, he is requested to leave his letter at Messrs.
    Kirklands, No. 88, Bennet Street, St. James’s.

    “CAPTAIN BLAKENEY, _36th Regiment_.”

I scarcely need say that such a letter as this from the son of my
Sovereign was to me most highly flattering, and on it was founded the
delusive expectation of presenting myself before His Royal Highness
and verifying the statement of my services as advanced in my letter. I
applied at the Horse Guards for copies of the different recommendations
forwarded from time to time in my favour by general and other officers,
as well as of those which accompanied my memorial presented to H.R.H.
the Duke of York in 1814. These were very liberally given to me, and
are as follows:



            “ISLA DE LEON, _March 30th, 1811_.

    “SIR,--I have the honour to state to you that I have just
    received a report from Lieutenant-Colonel Browne of the 28th
    Regiment, who commanded the flank battalion which so greatly
    distinguished itself in the action of the 5th instant (_i.e._,
    at Barossa), of the eminent services of this officer. All
    the other officers of the regiment left wounded, and himself
    severely hurt by a contusion, he continued to animate and keep
    the men of those companies together during the hottest fire,
    giving the lieutenant-colonel the most essential assistance.
    As Lieutenant Blakeney is a lieutenant of July 1805, I trust
    this statement will be most favourably considered by the
    commander-in-chief, and that this officer will soon reap the
    reward of such distinguished conduct.

            “I have the honour, etc., etc., etc.,
                “THOMAS GRAHAM,

    “COLONEL TORRENS, _Military Secretary_.”


            “ALBUQUERQUE, _November 20th, 1811_.

    “SIR,--I have the honour to enclose to you herewith a memorial
    which has been transmitted to me by Lieutenant Blakeney
    belonging to the battalion under my command, and which I
    request you will be good enough to forward to Major-General

    “As far as I had an opportunity of judging of the merits of
    Lieutenant Blakeney, I have every reason to be well satisfied
    with him as an officer of great zeal and activity. His
    exertions at the battle of Barossa obtained him the approbation
    of Lieutenant-General Graham, by whom he was recommended to the
    commander-in-chief for promotion.

    “His conduct also in the late action with the enemy at Arroyo
    de Molinos was very conspicuous, and did not, I believe, pass
    unnoticed by Lieutenant-General Hill.

            “I have the honour to be, etc., etc., etc.,
                    “_Lieutenant-Colonel 28th Regiment_.

    “COLONEL WILSON, ETC., ETC., ETC., _commanding the Brigade_.”



            “PORTALEGRE, _November 24th, 1811_.

    “MY LORD,--I had an opportunity of witnessing Lieutenant
    Blakeney’s zeal and gallantry at the head of the light infantry
    which formed the advance guard of General Howard’s column at
    Arroyo de Molinos on the 28th ultimo. I have therefore much
    pleasure in forwarding and recommending his memorial herewith

            “I have the honour to be, etc., etc., etc.,
                “R. HILL,

    “LORD FITZROY SOMERSET, _Military Secretary_.”

FROM LIEUTENANT-COLONEL BROWNE, C.B., _late 28th Regiment, commanding
56th Regiment_.

            “SHEERNESS, _October 4th, 1814_.

    “MY DEAR BLAKENEY,--I have to acknowledge yours of the 28th
    ultimo, and am happy to bear testimony to your gallant conduct
    as an officer whenever an opportunity offered, which was
    conspicuous in the battle of Barossa, so much so that it was
    the cause of my recommending you to the protection of Sir
    Thomas Graham. And believe me, my dear Blakeney, your ever
    sincere friend,

            “T. F. BROWNE.

    “CAPTAIN BLAKENEY, _36th Regiment_.”


            “KILKENNY, _August 23rd, 1814_.

    “SIR,--Understanding that Captain Blakeney is about
    memorialising His Royal Highness the Commander-in-chief for the
    rank of major in the army, founding his claims on his services
    and wounds, I have great pleasure in bearing testimony to
    the fact of his having twice volunteered to serve with this
    battalion in the Peninsula before he was effective; and that
    upon every occasion after his joining that the regiment was
    in fire his conduct was highly meritorious, and his gallantry
    when it was the proud lot of the battalion to charge and carry
    the enemy’s redoubt on the heights of Andaya on November 10th
    was most conspicuous; and on this occasion it was his great
    misfortune to receive the severe wound under which he is still
    suffering, and I accordingly with great respect presume to
    recommend his case to the favourable consideration of His Royal
    Highness the Commander-in-chief.

            “I have the honour to be,
                “WILLIAM CROSS,
                    “_Lieutenant-Colonel 36th Regiment_.

    “MAJOR-GENERAL TORRENS, _Military Secretary_.”


            “FERMOY BARRACKS, _August 22nd, 1814_.

    “SIR,--Captain Blakeney of the 36th Regiment (late of the 28th
    Regiment) having written to me for testimonials of his services
    whilst under my command, to be submitted to you, I have the
    honour of stating that he entered into the 28th Regiment very
    young, and that he served with it until March 1812 in the
    campaign under the late Sir John Moore, on that retreat and
    at the battle of Corunna. He was in the light company, and
    distinguished himself particularly at the Bridge of Betanzos.
    His conduct was also conspicuous at Arroyo de Molinos, and was
    noticed by Lieutenant-General Lord Hill upon that occasion. I
    beg to add that he is an officer who will put himself forward
    and distinguish himself whenever he may be employed, and
    to recommend him for such reward or promotion as His Royal
    Highness the Commander-in-chief may be pleased to grant.

            “I have the honour to be, etc., etc., etc.,
                C. BELSON,
                    LIEUTENANT-COLONEL, _commanding 28th Regiment_

    MAJOR-GENERAL TORRENS, _Military Secretary_.”

The above letter, which was enclosed to me, was accompanied with a note
containing the following few words:

    “MY DEAR BLAKENEY,--I hope the enclosed will answer your
    purpose (and in justice I could say no less) to promote your
    wishes. I have not time to say more.

            “Your friend,
                “C. BELSON.

    “P.S.--The first troops that leave this country will be your
    old friends, the 28th.”

The above strong testimonials I never had an opportunity of presenting
to the illustrious personage for whose perusal they were intended.
The Duke of Kent did not survive to return to the capital. His Royal
Highness expired at Sidmouth, the place from which he did me the honour
of writing the letter quoted, the last perhaps which he ever either
penned or dictated. Thus in the general calamity which afflicted the
nation by the death of His Royal Highness, I was in common with the
whole of my fellow subjects doomed to mourn a great national loss; and
for myself deplored the untimely fate of a royal and generous prince,
who would have extended his protection to me, as his letter, I think,
clearly demonstrated.


In the early part of the year 1820 a partial brevet took place to
reward meritorious officers, whose names through oversight had been
passed over. I presented myself to H.R.H. the Duke of York, and asked
to be included. His Royal Highness replied that the partial promotion
contemplated was intended as a reward for services performed in the
field. I took the liberty of remarking that it was for services
performed in the field I applied for promotion, adding that I should
not value promotion otherwise obtained. The duke then said that in
mentioning services overlooked, allusion was made to those officers
whose names were mentioned in despatches. In reply I felt emboldened
to remark that, although my name was not mentioned in despatches, yet,
besides other strong testimonials, I was strongly recommended for
distinguished conduct in two different actions by the generals who
respectively commanded in each, than whom the British Army cannot boast
more brilliant military characters--Lords Hill and Lynedoch. His Royal
Highness was pleased to make a pencil note, and bowed. I retired; and
of the import of that note I remain to this day ignorant, as I never
had further communication on the subject.

During my interview with the Commander-in-chief I presented the Duke
of Kent’s letter, which was returned next day without comment. Against
the presentation of this letter I was strongly advised; but guided by
my own sentiments and feelings, I would not be dissuaded. I considered
that whatever difference of opinion might have subsisted between the
illustrious personages, all unfriendly feelings would cease in the
breast of the survivor. Yet, though I felt chagrin at the little
notice taken of His Royal Highness’s letter, I consoled myself a
little with the thought that the infant Princess Victoria, coming in
nature’s course to the throne, might perhaps be pleased to take into
consideration that which her royal sire had expressed so much anxiety
to promote. But the royal brothers now lie side by side in peace, and
so close that

    “The vet’ran’s sigh, to gallant York that’s sent,
    Glides trembling o’er the breast of virtuous Kent”;

and the time has gone by for vexing either with my claims.



Disappointed in all my well-founded hopes, for such I thought them,
I departed to rejoin my regiment at Malta. Landing at Calais, I
proceeded to Paris and thence continued my route to Marseilles. On
the day we arrived at Avignon, where a large garrison was stationed,
it happened that the commandant dined at the _table d’hôte_. I sat
opposite to him, conversing with a young Spanish nobleman attached to
the Spanish Embassy at the British Court, who took this route to return
to Spain. Having met him in the diligence, I had soon discovered him
to be a Spaniard, and in his language our discourse was maintained.
During dinner the Peninsular campaigns became the topic of general
conversation, in which I joined with the commandant, whom I soon
recognised as an old opponent. He did not recognise me. Nine years
had elapsed since our last meeting; he saw me walking lame into the
room; and I was in mailcoach trim. Having with apparent carelessness
asked him if he knew the Prince Prosper d’Arenberg, he answered in the
affirmative, and that they were particular friends. He added that they
were both taken prisoners in the same action. He then asked if I had
been in Spain during the period of the campaigns. I said yes, when he
remarked that perhaps I was in the Spanish Service. I told him that
then, as well as now, I served in the British army. He asked if I were
an Englishman; and when I said yes, he remarked in that complimentary
strain peculiar to well-bred Frenchmen, that one rarely meets an
individual speaking the languages of three different nations and with
such exactness as to pass for a native of each. The Spanish _attaché_,
not to be second in courtesy, attested the justice of the assertion
so far as it related to Spanish, declaring that until that moment he
took me for his countryman. The commandant then broke into the Spanish
language, which, to say the truth, he spoke far from well; nor did I
ever meet a Frenchman who could speak it without causing a smile from
his auditors. Continuing his broken and ill-pronounced Spanish, at
which the _attaché_ smiled and looked at me, the commandant said that
he spoke in that language because he had taken me for a Spaniard, on
which I replied that for a similar reason I spoke to him in French.
He instantly fixed his eye on my countenance; he was beginning to
recognise me. He then quickly asked me if I knew Lord Hill; and where
I first became acquainted with Prince Prosper. I told him that I had
the honour of knowing his lordship, and that my first acquaintance with
the prince was at Arroyo Molinos in Spain. His eyes now opened wide and
with apparent emotion he asked if he might take the liberty of asking
my name, which I had no sooner mentioned than, starting from his chair
and striding round to where I sat, to the no small astonishment of all
present, he embraced me warmly, saying that he would not kiss me, for
he had not forgotten Lisbon. He now presented me to the whole company,
which was numerous, as the British officer who made him prisoner, and
whom he had so often mentioned as a “grand petit diable.” He went on to
tell how he was made prisoner; but this I decline to repeat, as it was
rather too florid in description and too flattering to me. I will put
it briefly and in plainer words.


It may be remembered that in the action of Arroyo Molinos, on October
28th, 1811, I jumped over the wall, through a breach in which the head
of the French column had passed and the rest were following. Before
my leap I had noticed a martial figure nobly mounted, evidently the
chief of a corps, leading on the French 40th Regiment of the line.
He was not more than five or six paces from the breach, while I was
from ten to twelve yards from it. Perceiving that he must pass through
before I could come up, wild with excitement and conscious also that
the commanding general was looking on, I rode at the wall, and having
cleared it instantly turned round to the breach into which Colonel
Voirol had just entered and was passing through. We met face to face
and instantly commenced a martial duet. We were both superbly mounted,
but the rocky nature of the ground was such that our horses were
totally unmanageable. We soon fell, or rather dragged each other to the
ground, when, true to the immutable laws of nature, I as the lighter
and more trivial remained uppermost. On falling, I must instantly have
been forked to death by the many Frenchmen around me; but all were too
intent on flight to look to others, and immediately after Voirol and
I came to the ground the most advanced soldiers of the 28th and 34th
Light Companies charged through the opening in the wall, as I have
before described. General Howard (now Lord Howard of Effingham) coming
up, I said, “General, here is a colonel for you; take him in charge.
I cannot stop; I must go on with the light bobs.” In the encounter I
had received a blow on the head, which knocked off my cap and set
it rolling down the rocks. I pushed on bareheaded till I picked up a
French foraging cap. After we returned in the evening from the pursuit
of the fugitives, I found both my horse and cap. This was the scuffle
which I mentioned in describing the battle; and I now detail the
circumstances, because my captive now supported my story, which critics
might pronounce absurd, of an individual scuffling with a whole column.

The commandant, Colonel Voirol, was as fine, upright and soldierlike a
person as could be seen, measuring upwards of six feet in height and
proportionally well built in every respect. His antagonist of Arroyo
Molinos, besides being of slight figure, was beneath the colonel in
stature by some inches; therefore it was perhaps that during his
description of the manner in which he was made prisoner, he was
scanned with dubious glance by all. The natives of France look with a
very jealous eye upon any foreigner whose martial prowess is put in
competition with that of the “Grande Nation Militaire.” This feeling
was still more apparent among the ladies, of whom there were many
present; for the women of France feel if possible more enthusiastic
for military greatness than even the men; and comparing battles
with what they read of tournaments in romances, fancy that tall and
robust figures must be invulnerable against any of slighter mould.
But Voirol’s gallantry was too well established in the French Army to
suffer from the misconception of _table d’hôte_ critics.

My gallant old friend cordially pressed me to remain with him for at
least a few days; but as I was travelling by diligence and my leave
already expired, I felt compelled to decline his hospitality; and
I determined to depart after dinner, not having time even to visit
the hallowed shrine where Petrarch mourned in pathetic numbers his
incredible love for the wrinkled old wife of another. But poetry
must have some object, real or ideal, in view to keep excitement
continually on the stretch. The hour of departure being announced by
the _conducteur_, the commandant accompanied me to the door of the
diligence, and again cordially shaking hands I departed for Marseilles,
where I embarked for that military hotbed, Malta.

Some time after my arrival I was visited by a most severe attack of
ophthalmia. My right eye became more like a ball of fire than an
organ of vision; the dreadful pain in my head entirely banished sleep
for so long a period that I dread to mention it. I heard the clock
of St. John’s Church strike every hour and half hour, day and night,
for a period of two months. I was bled, blistered and physicked to
the last extremity, and bathed in warm baths until I often fainted
from weakness; in addition to this, I had one hundred and ninety-five
leeches applied inside and outside the eyelids. However, through a
strong natural constitution I recovered; and by the unremitting care of
Staff-surgeon Lindsay and Assistant Staff-surgeon Kennedy, who attended
me, the ball of the eye was preserved, but its vision was lost. In
consequence of this loss His Majesty was graciously pleased to grant me
a pension.


In 1822 the regiment was removed to the Ionian Islands; having remained
there until 1826 we were ordered home; and on arriving in England we
moved into Lancashire. Soon after this the regiment was ordered to
Ireland, and landed at Dublin, where we did garrison duty for some time.

At this time I was directed to appear before the General Medical Board,
to have, as I supposed, the pension granted me for the loss of vision
confirmed; but to my utter surprise it was discontinued, although the
Medical Board, as also the certificate of Doctor Guthrie, the medical
gentleman employed by Government in similar cases, attested the loss
of useful vision. Upon my waiting on the Secretary of War, I was
given to understand that the Government had decided that no pensions
should henceforth be granted for the loss of limb or other injury,
except for actual wounds in the field. It is true that I had received
neither a bayonet wound nor musket-ball in the eye; but as a proof of
the correctness of Doctor Guthrie’s testimony, to this day (fourteen
years since the injury took place) I am obliged, to enable me to see
clearly with the left or sound eye, to close the defective one. But
the Secretary of War may have fallen into error in giving his reasons
for depriving me of the pension; for persons were indicated to me who
continued to receive pensions for injuries, though they were never
wounded in their lives. However, I would not quote names, lest in so
doing, for the purpose of strengthening my own claims, I might endanger
the interests of others.

The withdrawal of the pension disconcerted me much; for fully relying
on the royal grant being as permanent as the injury for which it was
made, I had married a Venetian lady of the famous family of Balbi. The
pension I had looked upon as some remuneration for my long and arduous

Besides what I considered the injustice shown towards me throughout,
there were other considerations which powerfully wrought on my feelings
and rendered my position extremely irksome. I mounted the castle guard
in Dublin as lieutenant in 1805; and now in 1828, after three and
twenty years, I mounted the same guard as captain only. This was known
and remarked by many friends and acquaintances; it was known too that
in the brilliant campaigns which took place in the interim I had been
present and serving in two distinguished corps; and I discovered, or
fancied I discovered, something bordering on doubt as to my military
character in the countenances of all who regarded me. To account for
my non-advancement, or remove the doubts consequently entertained, was
out of my power. Decorum prevented my entering into detail of my own
services. To speak frankly, I was ashamed of my slender rank after such
a length of service; yet in conscience I could not accuse myself as the


But my severest ordeal was yet to come; and to support this all my
philosophy and long-tried patience were insufficient. After remaining
some time in Dublin the regiment was ordered to Mullingar; and here,
as it would appear, my second childhood commenced. I was compelled to
fall in with a squad composed of young officers, who for the most part
entered the Service many years after H.R.H. the Commander-in-chief had
noted my name for a majority, and with soldiers who knew not yet how to
shoulder their firelocks. In this respectable company I was condemned
to be taught how to march--a branch of military tuition from which I
had considered myself emancipated at least twenty years before. In this
ordeal I was chased through the barrack square by an ignorant disciple
of Euclid, commonly called a dress sergeant, armed with a colossal pair
of widely yawning compasses. This scrutiny of my steps after I had
carried a musket-ball in my leg for fourteen years; after I had marched
as a boy in one of the most distinguished regiments in the Service from
Lisbon to Corunna, under the best drill and strictest disciplinarian in
the army, Sir John Moore; after I had crossed and re-crossed Spain and
Portugal in different directions without the mathematical precision of
my paces having ever been found fault with;--after all this, and after
twenty-four years’ service, to be brought up by a pair of compasses
in the barrack square of Mullingar was an indignity which I imagine
that human nature in its most subservient state could not, nay, should
not willingly submit to. Disgusted by this Mullingar ordeal, which
might be repeated again and again _for the good of the Service_, I
formed the determination of immediately retiring from that Service.
Add to this contemptuous treatment of old officers the suppression
of the old-established institutions of the corps; the celebration of
such martial _fêtes_ as the anniversary of the battles of Salamanca,
Nivelle and Toulouse. Those were days upon which it was the custom
of the regiment that all the men should wear the laurel, all the
officers, whether married or single, should dine at the mess-table and
guests be invited, thus giving an opportunity for those tales of war
which transmit a noble martial feeling into the glowing breast of the
aspiring young warrior who burns to prove the temper of his steel.
Sentiments such as these glowed in the breasts of the young boys who
joined the 28th Regiment in 1803, 1804, and 1805, while with suppressed
breathing we rapturously listened to the old officers who lately
returned from Egypt told of the gallant feats of arms they witnessed
and shared, and so inspired us that our heated imaginations pictured
soldiers in fight as of more than mortal size, and we longed “to follow
to the field some warlike chief” to lead the way to glory.

[Sidenote: OLD DAYS OF GLORY.]

In the 28th Regiment the anniversaries of the battles in which the
corps had served were strictly observed as days of jubilee and proud
recollection. The month of March in particular was one of revelry in
commemorating the battles fought in Egypt on the 8th, 13th and 21st.
The 17th, the Feast of St. Patrick, was not forgotten; and to these was
subsequently added the 5th, the anniversary of the celebrated battle of
Barossa; so that in March we had five days of celebration, which filled
our hearts with joy and on the following day our head with aches. The
inspiring war-cry, “Remember Egypt!” was after the return from that
country always used when leading into action. The regiment may now use
the names of many other places wherein they fought and distinguished
themselves; but I doubt if the mention of any subsequent battle will
act so powerfully on the minds of the men as the soul-stirring words,
“Remember Egypt!” and “The backplates!”

Why this war against old officers and long-established institutions?
On the return of the victorious army from the Peninsula and later
from France, a crowd of Green Park martinets rushed into the Service,
who, looking upon any distinction gained by others as a reflection on
themselves, seemed to be stimulated by sentiments like those of the
Chinese emperor, who destroyed all existing records in the hope that he
might be considered as the first who had reigned.

On the return of the regiment to Dublin, I, in pursuance of my
determination to retire, procured twelve months’ leave of absence to
proceed to the Island of Corfu; but previous to leaving England I made
a last effort at the Horse Guards. In an interview with Lord Hill,
finding there was no prospect of promotion, I took the liberty of
telling his lordship that it was not my intention ever again to return
to perform the duties of captain. His lordship remarked that he did
not see how that could be, as officers on procuring leave of absence
were required to sign a declaration that they would neither exchange
nor resign before rejoining their regiments. I told his lordship that
I should find out a remedy; and on an explanation being demanded, I
said that I should forego my year’s leave and send in my resignation
immediately. Upon this, his lordship with that kindness and feeling
which endeared him to all, and which gained him the title of “Our
father” from every soldier in the 2nd Division of Lord Wellington’s
army, a title more honourable than all the well-earned brilliant stars
which decorated his breast, recommended me not to be too precipitate.
I could not avoid remarking that his lordship could hardly accuse me
of precipitancy when I had waited for promotion which had been put off
from time to time for fourteen years, and at the expiration even of
that extraordinary length of time His Royal Highness’s pledge still
remained unredeemed. Lord Hill declared that he could never pay the
Duke of York’s legacies. I told his lordship that I resigned all claim
to the legacy, and rested my claims on their own merits, upon which
the General-in-chief desired me to write to him, and he would see what
he could do for me. In consequence of this favourable omen I wrote to
his lordship, enclosing a copy of my memorial presented to the Duke
of York in 1814, together with the testimonials which accompanied
it. To this letter I received a renewal of the old statement, that I
was still noted for promotion on a favourable opportunity; and so I
became fully convinced of the truth that deep scars, fractured bones
and the strongest testimonials were of no avail unless bolstered by
other support. I hesitated no longer; and although senior captain of
my regiment I renounced my year’s leave of absence and immediately
forwarded my resignation.


Thus the author of these Memoirs left the Army. He served at the
siege and capture of Copenhagen; he was for twelve days in constant
fight during Sir John Moore’s retreat to Corunna, and at the end of
this campaign he fought at the battle of Corunna in that division of
the army who drove the whole of the enemy’s cavalry off the field and
turned his left wing; he was for more than twelve months at Tarifa
continually engaged with the enemy’s foraging detachments, and he was
in both attacks on the strong post of Casa Vieja; he served in the
ever memorable battle of Barossa in that flank battalion (to use the
words of Lord Lynedoch) “which so greatly distinguished itself in the
action”; he served in the action of Arroyo Molinos, and he was present
at the siege and storming of Badajoz, where valour’s self might stand
appalled; he served through the Pyrenees as a volunteer, where more
continued hard fighting occurred than elsewhere throughout the whole
Peninsula campaigns, and finally fought in the great battle of the
Nivelle, in which he had a leg shattered. Innumerable skirmishes in
which he was engaged and in which light companies are so frequently
employed need not be mentioned. Of his conduct in these many actions
the testimonials of commanding officers and colonels of regiments
are a sufficient witness. And yet after serving for a quarter of a
century, with feelings harassed by neglect and petty vexations, he felt
himself driven to retire, and that without the slightest badge or mark
of military service save those indelibly imprinted by the searching
weapons of the more considerate foe. Whether he has been dealt with as
might be expected from a liberal, just and great nation is a question
humbly submitted to his Sovereign and his country.


  Abbot, a stingy, 41

  Abercrombie, Lieut.-Col., 213, 214, 222, 223, 232, 239, 258

  Abrantes, 244

  Adams, Drummer, 192, 193

  Ainhoa, redoubts of, 317

  Alaejos, 31

  Alba de Tormes, 30

  Albuera, 258;
    losses of the 28th Regiment at, 214.

  Albuquerque, 215, 239, 255

  Alcalá de los Gazules, 153, 157, 164

  Alcuescar, 216, 221;
    fidelity of the Spaniards at, 235

  Alemtejo, 30, 213

  Alexander, the Emperor, 338

  Algesiras, 135, 137, 141, 169

  Aliseda, 215

  Allen, Capt., 145

  Almanza Creek, 198

  Almeida, 279

  Almendralejo, 256

  Andalusia, 152

  Anderson, Col., 122

  Anderson, Lieut., 205

  Andrée, Col., 231

  Anglona, the Prince of, 177

  Anstruther, Gen., 31

  Antwerp, Fouché throws an army into, 131

  Army, a partial remodelling of the 31

  Arnot, Major, 286, 287

  Arroyo de Puerco, 215

  Arroyo Molinos, 216, 233, 360, 361;
    battle of, 224-232;
    fidelity of the Spaniards at, 235, 236

  Ashurst, Lieut.-Col., 225

  Astorga, 43;
    march into, 44;
    departure from, 47;
    report that Napoleon had entered, 64, 65

  Atchison, Mrs., 333, 334

  Ayamonte, 245

  Aylmer, Lord, 307;
    his brigade, 308

  Badajoz, 259;
    the Duke of Dalmatia ordered to reduce, 152;
    siege of, 260-280;
    horrors of the storming, 272-276;
    a trophy from, 277;
    losses of the British at, 278

  Bailey, Lieut., 216, 217

  Baird, Gen. Sir David, wounded, 122;
    at Nogales, 61;
    at Corunna, 113, 115, 116; his corps, 32, 37, 49, 65

  Balbi, Signorina, 364

  Ballesteros, defeat of, 244

  Bandon, 330

  Bantry Bay, 329

  Barbate, the River, 154, 156, 158, 166

  Barnard, Lieut.-Col., 193, 262

  Barossa, 35;
    battle of, 42, 189-200;
    critical position of the British troops at, 202, 203

  Barossa Hill, 187, 209;
    tower and ridge of, 183

  Bastan, 315

  Bath, Lieut.-Col., 193

  Bathurst, Lord, 144

  Batz, Fort, captured by the British, 131

  Bayonne, arrival of the Duke of Dalmatia at, 296

  Beguines, Gen., 163, 167, 183, 184, 196, 197;
    ordered to attack Medina Sidonia, 153;
    captures Medina, 159;
    retires from it, 164

  Belcher, Lieut., 135, 136

  Belem, 252, 281

  Belnevis, Col., 286, 287

  Belson, Col., 150, 169, 171, 194, 205, 214, 258

  Bembibre, 48, 49

  Benevente, 37, 39; confusion in, 40;
    evacuated by the rearguard of the reserve, 44;
    degrading scenes at, 49, 50

  Bennet, Capt., 68

  Bennet, Lieut., 204, 205

  Berasin, the Heights of, 300

  Beresford, Marshal, 246

  Bermeja Castle, 181, 183, 184, 186

  Bernadotte declines to surrender the French fleet, 131

  Berri, the Duc de, 336

  Betanzos, 90, 93, 96, 98;
    crossing the bridge of, 94;
    occupied by the French, 99

  Beverley, Lord, 253

  Bidassoa, the Lower, 308, 311;
    Soult’s positions on, carried, 309

  Biscay, a privateer in the Bay of, 286, 287

  Blakeney of Abbert, Mrs., 277

  Blakeney, Robert, appointed to an ensigncy in the 28th Regiment, 1;
    promoted, 2;
    ordered to Exeter, 2;
    at Colchester and Harwich, 6;
    serves in the Danish campaign, 6-13;
    ordered to Sweden, 14;
    sails for the Peninsula, 17;
    has a narrow escape, 97;
    chased by a French patrol, 134;
    his share of salvage-money, 139;
    thanked in public orders, 140;
    employed in carrying despatches, 141, 144, 146, 167;
    Col. Browne promises to present him to Gen. Graham, 201;
    wounded, 204;
    recommended to Gen. Graham, 206;
    goes to Cadiz, 206;
    appointed to the command of a battalion company, 214;
    ordered to take Prince d’Arenberg to Lisbon, 233;
    joins his regiment at Albuquerque, 255;
    gazetted to a company in the 36th Regiment, 255;
    bids adieu to the 28th Regiment, 258;
    goes to Lisbon, 281;
    joins his regiment at Lewes, 285;
    transferred to the battalion in the Peninsula, 286;
    wounded at the battle of the Nivelle, 319;
    travels in a hearse, 329, 330;
    waits on Sir Henry Torrens, 331;
    sets out for Paris, 333;
    applies for a staff appointment in the army of Belgium, 336;
    visits Brussels, 345;
    copies of recommendations in his favour, 353-356;
    has ophthalmia at Malta, 363;
    married, 364;
    retires from the army, 367, 368;
    his services, 368, 369

  Blakeney, Sir Edward, 243

  Blood, Serg., 300

  Bowes, Gen., 147, 148, 259;
    wounded at Badajoz, 266

  Bowles, Capt., 154, 164;
    his company, 163

  Bradby, Capt., 109

  Bradley, Capt., 204

  Bristol Channel, wrecks in the, 4

  _Britannia_, the brig, 2

  Browne, Major (afterwards Col.), 86, 129, 133, 135-137, 140, 146,
          150, 151, 154-156, 158, 159, 167, 170, 206, 240, 258, 331;
    appointed Lieut.-Gov. of Tarifa, 144;
    employs the Tarifa Volunteers, 145;
    ordered to attack Casa Vieja, 153;
    ordered back to Tarifa, 160;
    to occupy the western point of Barossa, 183-188;
    at the battle of Barossa, 189-202

  Bryan, Capt., 330

  Buchan, Col., 244

  Bunbury, Mr., 4.

  Burke, Sir John, of Glenesk, 333

  Burrard, Sir Harry, 20

  Burrows, Capt., 2;
    his incapacity, 3

  Bury, Lord, 333-336

  Busshe, Major, 226

  Caceres, 215, 236

  Cadell, Ensign Charles (afterwards Lieut.-Col.), 2, 84, 205

  Cadiz, 152, 163, 167;
    sortie from, 168, 169

  Cadoval, Palace of the Duc de, 244

  Calcabellos, 49, 51, 52, 54, 57;
    encounter at, 58, 59

  Calvert, Capt. (afterwards Lieut.-Col.), 42, 186, 191, 206

  Cambarros, 47

  Cameron, Capt., 103, 104;
    his company, 102

  Cameron, Col., 311

  Campbell, Gen., 133, 137, 147, 149, 153, 169, 299

  Campbell, Sir Guy, 150

  Car, Dr., 326

  Carlos d’Espana, Don, 297

  Carrion, the, 33, 34, 35

  Casa di Santillana, 215

  Casa Vieja, Col. Browne to attack, 153, 154;
    La Peña’s move towards, 177

  Castanos, Gen., 235

  Castello Branco, 279

  Castletown, 329

  Castro Gonzolo, destruction of the bridge of, 37, 41

  Castro Nuevo, headquarters at, 32

  Cathcart, Lord, 2, 8

  Cattegat, capture of a Danish frigate in the, 7

  Cerro de Puerco Ridge, the, 182, 183

  Ceuta, 208

  Charles V. and the Spanish language, 28

  Charles XII. of Sweden, 8

  Chatham, the Earl of, 127;
    returns from Holland, 131

  Chiclana, 163, 180, 182, 198;
    Marshal Victor’s advance from, 184, 186

  Chiclana wood, the, 193

  Cintra, the Convention of, 20

  Ciudad Rodrigo, 28, 279

  Clarke, Mrs., 330

  Clauzel’s Division, 298

  Clinton, Sir H., 316, 323

  Colbert, Gen., 59;
    failure of his charge, 61

  Colchester, 6, 14, 127, 128, 133

  Coldstream Guards, the, 130;
    defend Fort Batz, 131

  Cole, Gen., 296, 297, 298

  Colthurst, Capt., 341

  Colville, Maj.-Gen., the Hon. C., 262, 307

  Combemartin, 3, 4, 5

  _Comus_, H.M.S., 7

  Cone, Capt., 330

  “Confidential Reports,” 240-242

  Congreve rockets, 10

  Connaught Rangers, the, 268

  Constantino, 81, 82

  Coote, Sir Eyre, 1

  Copenhagen, fall of, 11, 12, 13

  Cork, arrival at, 331

  Corunna, a movement to decided upon, 36;
    retreat to, 31-100;
    arrival at, 102;
    the reserve falls into position with the army at, 110;
    arrival of transports at, 111;
    conduct of the inhabitants of, 112;
    preparations for embarkation at, 114;
    battle of, 114-123;
    embarkation of the British army at, 118, 124

  Creçy, 343

  Craufurd, Gen. Robert, 37, 39

  Croix des Bouquets, the, 311

  Cross, Col., 331

  Cuesta, Gen., incapacity of, 168

  Curragh of Kildare, the, 2;
    an episode at, 148, 149

  Curry, Capt. and Mrs., 214

  Curry, Col., 227

  Dacres, Doctor, 91

  Dalmatia, the Duke of, 31;
    ordered to Estremadura, 152;
    in command of the French army in Spain, 296.
    (_See also_ Soult)

  Dalrymple, Sir Hugh, 20

  Danish Campaign, the, 7

  Danish frigate, capture of a, 7

  D’Arenberg, Col. Prince, 231, 333, 345;
    conducted to Lisbon, 233, 244-253

  D’Arenberg, Prince Pierre, 238, 244

  D’Arenberg, the Duke, 345-351

  Deal, 128

  Debelle, Gen., 32

  D’Echiparre, Don Martin, 327, 328

  Denmark, the Royal Princesses of, 9

  D’Erlon, Count, 298, 299, 310;
    his corps in the Pyrenees, 307;
    reviewed by Soult, 309

  Desnouettes, Gen. Lefèbre, 43, 44

  Diego, Don, 220

  Dikes’ Brigade, Gen., 191

  Dikes, Gen., 193, 194

  Disney, Gen., 31, 105

  Douglas, Col. Sir James, 286, 287, 289, 309, 310

  Dover, 128

  Downy, Mr. Commissary, 226

  D’Oyly, Capt., 105

  Drunkenness, prevalence of, 54

  Duncan, Major, 193, 196, 197

  Dunmanway, 330

  Durque, Don Favian, 205

  Ebro, the, 294

  Echallar, 300

  8th French Regiment, the, 193

  18th Dragoons, the, 32

  82nd Regiment, the, 170, 179, 305

  87th Regiment, the, 193

  El-Burgo, arrival of the reserve at, 101;
    ordered to evacuate, 105

  El-Burgo, bridge of, 99;
    destruction of, 101;
    repaired by the enemy, 110

  Elliot, Sir William, 333

  Elopement, a projected, 291

  Elsinore Castle, 6

  Elvina, 115, 118, 120, 121;
    death of Sir John Moore at, 116

  Enghien, 346, 347, 348

  English, Lieut., 109

  Erskine, Sir William, 225

  Esla, the River, 37, 38;
    forded by the enemy’s cavalry, 43

  Espeletta, 309

  Estremadura, 30, 214

  Exeter, two Spaniards at, 125, 126

  Farrel, Serg., 171

  Fascinas, 154, 164

  5th Regiment, the, 24

  15th Hussars, the, 32, 33

  50th Regiment, the, charge of at Elvina, 121;
    at Arroyo Molinos, 224, 225

  52nd Regiment, the, 31;
    at Benevente, 41;
    at Calcabellos, 56, 57, 59, 60, 61, 62;
    on the retreat to Corunna, 100;
    at Corunna, 115, 117

  Figueira, landing at, 17

  Fitzroy, Lord Charles, 257

  Florinda, 207

  Flushing, siege of, 130;
    capitulation of, 131

  Fontarabia, 308

  Fontebro, 293

  41st Regiment, the, 133

  42nd Regiment, the, at Elvina 121

  47th Regiment, the, 137

  Fouché throws an army into Antwerp, 131

  4th Regiment.
    (_See_ King’s Own)

  14th Regiment, the, 115, 118

  Foy’s division, 306

  Franceschi, Gen., 32;
    his light cavalry, 94;
    at Corunna, 113, 115

  Francis, the Emperor, 338

  Franklin, Dr., 326

  Fraser, Gen., advance of his division on Astorga, 43;
    position of at Corunna, 113, 115, 117

  Frederiksborg, 10

  French 5th Corps, the, 214

  Fuentes de Oñoro, march into, 26, 28

  _Fury Bomb_, the ship, 14

  Gallegos, 80

  Gambier, Admiral, 8

  General Medical Board, the, 326, 363

  Gerard, Gen., 214, 216, 228, 229, 230, 236;
    loss of his corps at Arroyo Molinos, 231

  German Hussars, the, 177, 178, 197, 226

  Gibraltar, 133,205;
    Lieut. Blakeney sent to, with despatches, 141, 144, 146, 167

  Gibson, Capt., 15

  Girlston, Capt., 330

  Giron, Gen., 217, 312

  Godwin, Capt., 146

  Gomm, Capt., 96

  Gonzolo Bridge, the, destruction of the, 37, 41

  Gore, Capt., 226

  Gottenborg harbour, 15

  Gough, Major, 193

  Gozzo, the Island of, 216

  Graham, Gen., 177, 178, 179;
    in command of the British troops at Cadiz, 152;
    directs operations from Tarifa, 153, 160;
    advocates a sortie from Cadiz, 167;
    gives up the command to his ally, 168;
    sails from Cadiz, 169;
    at Tarifa, 170-172;
    his advice disregarded by Gen. La Peña, 180;
    his preparations for the battle of Barossa, 183-188;
    at the battle, 189-200;
    his orders after the battle, 202

  Graham, Surg., 325

  Grajal del Campo, 33, 34, 35, 36

  Grenadiers, the, 77, 97, 98

  Grimelle, the Marquis de, 350

  Guadiana, the, 214, 256, 261, 271

  Guarda, 22, 24, 26

  Guards, the Brigade of, 86, 121, 190, 191, 194, 195, 197, 307

  Guia, the River, 56, 57, 61

  Gustavus of Sweden, 16

  Guthrie, Dr., 364

  Halket’s Light Germans, 311

  Hamilton, Gen., 216, 217, 323;
    his division at Badajoz, 261

  Harwich, 6, 14

  Havelock, Lieut., 312

  Herrerias, 64, 66, 68, 69

  Hill, Capt. Clement, 221

  Hill, Gen. Lord, 215, 216, 217, 221, 227, 229, 233, 255, 256, 257,
          298, 299, 300, 367, 368;
    his corps, 302

  Hill, Lieut., 104

  Hill, Sir Rowland, 315

  Holland, expedition to, 129;
    mortality of the British troops in, 132

  Hope, Capt., 196

  Hope, Gen. Sir John, 30, 37, 119, 214;
    advance of his division on Astorga, 43;
    position of his division at Corunna, 113, 115;
    commands the expedition to Holland, 129, 130

  Howard, Gen. (afterwards Lord Howard of Effingham), 361

  Howard’s Brigade, Maj.-Gen., 224

  Huarte, 297, 298

  Huddleston, Lieut., 220, 259, 275, 276

  Huelva, the River, 29

  Hughes, Corporal, 233

  Humlebek, 8

  Hunt, Capt. A., R.A., 181

  Ilfracombe, 3, 5

  Isla de Leon, 181;
    Gen. Graham proposes a sortie from, 153;
    Gen. Beginnes’ anxiety about, 159;
    the sortie postponed, 160;
    entrance of the British General into, after Barossa, 200

  Johnson, Assist.-Surg., 161, 162

  Johnson, Col., 150, 151

  Johnson, Robert, 2; killed, 266

  Joseph Bonaparte, 296

  Julian, Count, 207

  Keats, Sir Richard, 128, 129, 130, 140, 153, 160

  Kemp’s Brigade, Gen., 312

  Kennedy, Surg., 363

  Kent, H.R.H. the Duke of, 253, 351, 356

  _King Charles_, the, 8

  King’s Own Regiment, the, 18, 81, 115;
    Sir John Moore’s approval of their action at Corunna, 120;
    embark for Gibraltar, 133;
    at Ceuta, 208

  Kinsale, 1

  Labaneza, 44

  Laborde, Gen., 112;
    his division join main French army off Corunna, 111;
    at Corunna, 115

  Lacy, Adj.-Gen., 183

  Lallemande, the Generals, 335

  Lamartiniere’s division, Gen., 305

  Lanz, valley of, 297, 298

  La Peña, Gen., 169, 177, 181, 198, 199;
    sluggishness of, 152, 153;
    obstinacy of, 168;
    arrives off Tarifa, 175;
    distrusted by the British, 179;
    disregards Gen. Graham’s advice, 180, 183;
    his retreat from Medina, 182

  Lardizabal, Gen., 177, 182

  Laval, Gen., 193, 194

  Lavens, Surg., 326

  _Lavinia_ frigate, the, 129, 130, 131

  Le Brun, Gen., 231, 248-252

  Leggatt, Major (afterwards Col.), 286, 287, 309

  Leith, Maj.-Gen., Sir James, 245, 246, 262, 269

  Leon, 36

  L’Estrange, Lieut., 319, 322

  Lewes, 333

  Light, Lieut., 161, 204, 205

  Lindsay, Surg., 363

  Lisbon, 208, 209, 233, 244-253, 281;
    an amusing scene at, 282, 290

  Lizasso, 300

  Llerena, arrival of Soult at, 279

  Lloyd, Col., 317

  Loftus, Capt., 147

  Long, Gen., 257

  Lorge’s Dragoons, 115

  Los Ayres, 114, 115

  “Louis XIV.” Mountain, 306

  Louis XVIII., 342, 343

  Love, Lieut., 41, 42

  Lugo, march to, 85;
    the British army in position at, 86;
    retreat from, 88

  Lundy Island, 2

  Lynedoch, Lord, 239, 240.
    (_See also_ General Graham.)

  McDonald, Col., 196, 197, 200, 206

  M’Kenzie, Lieut.-Col., 112

  McPherson, Colour Ensign, 318

  Maitland, Sir Thomas, 242

  Mallow, 2

  Malpartida, 215

  Malta, 363;
    “Confidential Reports” at, 241

  Mancilla, 36

  Marmont, Gen., in the north of Portugal, 279;
    retires, _ib._;
    his jealousy of Soult, _ib._

  Matthews, Staff-Surg., 325, 326

  Maya Pass, the, 296, 302, 306, 315

  Mayorga, 33, 37

  Meacham, Capt., 144, 166

  “Meacham’s Blind Nuts,” 144, 145, 157

  Medina Sidonia, 153, 155, 158, 179, 181;
    captured by Gen. Beguines, 159;
    captured by the French, 164;
    La Peña’s retreat from, 182

  Merida, 215, 225, 256, 258;
    the affair of, 257

  Merle, Gen., 62;
    loss sustained by his division, 64

  Mero, the, 101, 113, 118

  Mitchell, Lieut., 137, 154, 165

  Mole, Col., 147

  Mon Cœur redoubt, the, 262

  Mondego, the, 17

  Monkstown, 2

  Monte Orgullo, 305

  Montgomery, Ensign, 318, 322

  Moore, Lieut., 204

  Moore, Sir John, 14, 115;
    placed under arrest by the King of Sweden, 16;
    reaches the British fleet, 16;
    receives news of Sir A. Wellesley’s victory at Rolica, 17;
    appointed commander of the forces, 20;
    his address to his officers and men, 21;
    relations with his officers, 25, 26;
    true cause of his retreat, 36;
    complains of the want of discipline, 52;
    his views on Gen. Paget’s position at Calcabellos, 60, 61;
    retires before Soult, 87;
    issues an order censuring the want of discipline, 87;
    directing operations in person, 101;
    at Corunna, 111, 112, 116;
    death of, 116;
    effect of his death, 119;
    character and bearing, 120;
    circumstances of his death, 121-123;
    outcry against in England, 125;
    his knowledge of the Spanish character, 169

  Moors, the, 207

  Morillo, Gen., 231, 300

  Morillo’s Spanish Infantry, 224

  Mullingar, 365, 366

  Mullins, Capt., 204

  Murgeon, Gen. Cruz, 183, 184;
    his part in the battle of Barossa, 199, 200

  Napier, Major, 121

  Napoleon, marching from Madrid, 36;
    celerity of his movements, 38;
    his dictum at Waterloo, 63;
    reported to have entered Astorga, 64, 65;
    his idea of zeal, 245;
    news of his escape and return to Paris, 334

  Neufchâtel, Prince of, an intercepted despatch from the, 31

  Ney, Marshal, execution of, 341, 342

  Nichols, Col., recaptures Palavia Abaxo, 115

  9th Dragoons, the, 226

  9th Regiment, the, 133, 170, 191, 203, 204, 311;
    marched into Badajoz, 277

  91st Regiment, the, 31, 100

  92nd Regiment, the, 224, 225

  95th (Rifles) Regiment, the, 31, 53, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 69,
           82, 83, 84, 100, 102, 103, 115, 117

  Nivelle, crossing the, 317;
    battle of, 318-321;
    French losses at, 322

  Nogales, 61, 67;
    arrival at, 70, 75

  Northcote, Major, 196

  Oats, Private, 97, 98

  O’Brien, Serg., 172

  O’Callaghan, Maj.-Gen. Sir William, 337

  O’Donnel, Gen., 297, 298

  O’Donoghue, Capt., 137

  Officers, claims of, 332

  Olivenza, the Duke of Dalmatia ordered to reduce, 152

  Oricain, 297

  Paget, Gen., 31, 35, 76, 77, 80, 91, 95, 100, 101;
    censures the conduct of the troops, 53, 54, 55, 56;
    his position at Calcabellos, 57, 60;
    his encounter with a paymaster, 78, 79;
    strict orders of, 88;
    orders the reserve to evacuate El-Burgo, 106, 107;
    his connection with the 28th Regiment, 109, 110;
    at Corunna, 115, 116;
    Sir John Moore’s testimonial to his character, 123;
    his services unnoticed in England, 125

  Paget, Lord, 32, 33, 37, 43, 48

  Palavia Abaxo, skirmish at, 112;
    taken by Gen. Laborde, 115;
    retaken by Col. Nichols, _ib._, 118

  Pampeluna, 295, 296, 303, 314;
    sortie from, 297;
    surrender of, 315

  Panniers, battle of the, 91

  Pardaleras, the, 262

  Paris, the Grand Review in, 337-341

  Parsonstown, 2

  Patten, Capt., 286

  Patterson, Col., 258

  Peniche, the roadstead of, 18

  Peninsula, the first day’s march in the, 19

  Percy, Capt., 253

  Phillipon at Badajoz, 260;
    surrenders, 271

  Picton, Gen., 259, 262, 263, 267, 268, 269, 297;
    his retreat at Pampeluna, 302

  Picurina redoubt, capture of the, 261

  Plunder, articles of, 92

  Plymouth, 124

  Ponsonby, Col., 197, 199, 206

  Portalegre, 214, 215, 238, 244

  Portsmouth, 14, 124, 133, 344

  Portugal, rainy season in, 24

  Portuguese and Spanish, contrast between, 27

  Portuguese sharpers, 209

  Potter, Lieut., 229

  Powder, a great explosion of, 111

  Power, Brig.-Gen., 262

  Power, Capt., 147

  Prussia, the King of, 338

  Puebla, arrival of the reserve at, 32

  Puerto, 300, 312

  Pyrenees, fighting in the, 296-307;
    losses in, 301

  Queluz, the plains of, 19;
    break up of the British camp at, 22, 26

  Queues, abolition of, 17

  Reille, Gen., 305

  Reserve, formation of a corps of, 31

  Reynosa, 293

  Rhine Mountain, the, 308

  Richelieu, the Duc de, 342

  Rifles, the, 196, 224, 225

  Roach, “Gentleman,” 72

  Roderick, the last of the Visigoth monarchs, 207

  Rolica, victory of Sir A. Wellesley at, 17

  Romana, the Marquis of, 35, 36, 44;
    his troops, 313

  Roncesvalles, 295, 296, 302, 309

  Ronda, 153

  Rook, Col., 233

  Ross, Col. (afterwards Gen.), 51, 243

  Rousseau, Gen., 188;
    his grenadiers, 188, 191, 194, 195, 197

  Royal City Regiment (of Spain) the, 177, 183

  Rueda, surprise of the enemy’s outpost at, 32

  Rufin, Gen., 188, 189, 202;
    his division, 191, 193, 194, 195

  Sahagun, 32;
    headquarters at, 33

  S. Antonio, 216, 217

  S. Cristoval, Fort, 262, 271

  S. Helens, 17

  S. Jean de Luz, 328, 329

  _S. Juan_, H.M.S., 139, 140, 141

  S. Lucia, 118

  S. Marcial, 305, 309

  S. Maria Bastion, the, 261, 262, 269, 273, 278

  S. Martin del Rio, 28

  S. Roque Ravelin, the, 260, 261

  S. Sebastian, 295, 296, 303, 308;
    stormed, 305, 306, 307

  S. Vincente, the bastion of, 268, 269

  Salamanca, march to, 22;
    entrance into, 29;
    advance of the British army from, 31

  Saldaña, 33

  _Salsette_ frigate, the, 129

  Santa Maria, 153

  Santarbas, arrival of the Reserve at, 32

  Santi Petri, the River, 153, 182, 183, 184

  Sarre, 312

  Sauroren, fight at, 300

  Savage, Private, 105

  Schelde, forcing the passage of the, 131

  Sebastiani, Gen., 181

  71st Regiment, the, 224, 225

  73rd Regiment, the, 42

  Seville, the Duke of Dalmatia marches from, 152

  Shaw, Lieut.-Col., 337

  Sierra Montanchez, the, 218, 224, 225, 226, 227, 231

  Simpson, Assist.-Surg., 324, 325

  6th Portuguese Regiment, the, 225

  67th Regiment, the, 193

  Skerrett, Col., 133

  Slavin, Sir Frederick, 259

  Somerset, Lord Fitzroy, 229

  Soult, Marshal, 36, 308;
    approach of his advance guard, 38;
    approach of his heavy columns, 80;
    his arrival before Lugo, 87;
    his advanced guard, 94, 107;
    at Corunna, 112;
    his position, 113;
    dangerous situation of his army, 117;
    his corps advancing, 233;
    arrives at Llerena, 279;
    retires into Andalusia, 280;
    remodels his army, 296;
    at Pampeluna, 297, 298;
    retreats, 300;
    disorganised state of his army, 305;
    his tactics, 306;
    prepares for a more general action, 307;
    his positions on the Bidassoa carried, 309;
    his defence when charged with treason, 342.
    (_See also_ Duke of Dalmatia)

  Sound, the, 6

  South Beveland, the Island of, 130, 131

  Spain, march of Sir John Moore’s army for, 22

  Spaniards and Portuguese, contrast between, 27

  Spaniards, dislike of by the British soldiers, 35;
    their want of good feeling towards the British, 40, 41;
    their character, 168, 169

  Spanish door, a, 71

  Spanish generals, tactics of, 182

  Spanish soldiers, courage of, 311, 312

  Sparks, Lieut., 185

  Spithead, 17

  Stanhope, Major, 121

  Stewart, Lieut.-Col., 224

  Stockholm, Sir John Moore at, 16

  Stovin, Sir Frederick, 10, 21, 136

  Stralsund, 16

  Stuart, Gen., 8

  Stuart, Gen. Charles, 32, 43

  Stuart, Lord William, 129, 130, 131

  Sullivan, Lieut., 229

  Sweetland, Mr. William, 140

  Tacher, Miss, 345

  Tagus, crossing the, 23, 213, 252

  Talavera, 35, 168

  Tarifa, 207, 208, 209;
    march to, 133;
    withdrawal of the French from, 136;
    regiments ordered to, 137;
    threatened by a second attack, 146;
    a campaign from, 152-166;
    British troops sail for, 169;
    conviviality at, 170;
    arrival of Gen. La Peña off, 175;
    departure from, 177;
    return to, 205

  Tarifa, the plain of, 164

  Tarifa Volunteers, the, 144, 157, 158, 160

  Taylor, Lieut., 28th Regiment (afterwards Capt.), 104, 330

  Taylor, Lieut., 9th Regiment, 146, 147

  10th Hussars, the, 32, 33, 37, 43

  13th Dragoons, the, 227

  30th Regiment, the, 133

  34th and 39th Regiments, the, 225, 226, 233

  36th Regiment, the, 256, 309, 316, 318;
    ordered to reinforce Wellington’s army, 337;
    arrives in Paris, 341;
    removed to the Ionian Islands, and subsequently to England and
          Ireland, 363

  Toro, 32

  Torre la Peña, 164

  Torremocha, 215

  Torrens, Col. Sir Henry, 239, 255, 331, 336, 337

  Trafalgar Bay, 138, 180

  Trinidad, Fort, 261, 262, 271, 278

  “Trois Cents Corps Nobles, La Chapelle des,” 343

  Trotter, Lieut., fate of, 288

  Turnbull, Serg., 172

  20th Portuguese Regiment, the, 193

  20th Regiment, the, 31, 51, 100

  28th Regiment, the, 82, 85, 100, 102;
    ordered to Kinsale, 1;
    removed to Parsonstown and the Curragh of Kildare, 2;
    on garrison duty in Dublin, 2;
    in Denmark, 6-13;
    ordered to Sweden, 14;
    go to the Peninsula, 17;
    with Sir A. Wellesley’s troops, 18;
    inspection of, 20;
    losses of, 24;
    form portion of a reserve corps, 31;
    a band of ventriloquists in, 45;
    reprimanded by Sir John Moore, 53;
    at Calcabellos, 57, 61;
    in charge of the bridge of Betanzos, 94, 95;
    ordered to retire from El-Burgo, 106;
    efficiency of during the retreat, 108, 109;
    return to England, 124;
    ordered to Holland, 127;
    arrival in, 129;
    return to the Peninsula, 133;
    ordered to Tarifa, 137;
    garrisoned at, 169;
    at Barossa, 188-200;
    their losses at Barossa, 203, 204;
    sail for Lisbon, 208;
    at Arroyo Molinos, 225-229;
    celebration of anniversaries in, 366

  _United Service Journal, The_, 330

  Valencia, 37

  Valencia de Alcantara, 235, 237

  Valladolid, 31, 32

  Vandeleur, Gen., 335

  Vejer, 154, 161, 163;
    capture of an English merchant vessel near, 137;
    retaken, 138;
    move of the British army towards, 179, 180

  Ventriloquists, a band of, 45, 46

  Vera, 306, 312

  Victor, Marshal, 133, 136;
    result of his inactivity, 181;
    advances from Chiclana, 184, 186;
    at Barossa, 195, 196, 198, 199

  Victoria, the Princess, 357

  Villaba, 296

  Villa Formosa, 26

  Villa Franca, arrival of the Commander-in-Chief at, 52;
    destruction of stores at, 66;
    arrival of Soult at, 280

  Villamur, Count Penne, 215, 226

  Villapando, arrival of the reserve at, 32

  Villatte’s Division, 198, 305, 306

  Villavelha, the pass of, 22;
    bridge of boats at, 279

  Villaviciosa, 213

  Vimieiro, 17

  Vincent, Lieut. 319, 322

  Vittoria, 294, 295

  Vivian, Capt., R.N., 139, 140

  Voirol, Lieut.-Col., 231, 361, 362

  Walcheren, the Island of, British troops land on, 130

  Walker, Gen., 262;
    his brigade, 269

  Walloon Regiment, the, 177, 183

  Weir, Dr., 326

  Wellesley, Sir Arthur (afterwards Lord Wellington), 17, 20, 168,
          244, 256, 279, 321, 340;
    at Badajoz, 266, 267;
    his arrangements to meet Soult, 279;
    arrival at Pampeluna, 298;
    nearly captured, 300;
    effect of his appearance on the battlefield, 306;
    his successful manœuvring, 308;
    extract from his despatch on the battle of the Nivelle, 323

  Wench, Col., 116

  Wheatley, Col., 193, 194

  Whittingham, Col., 177, 183 184, 185

  Wilkinson, Lieut., 204

  Wilmot, Capt., 22, 23, 24, 29

  Wilson’s Brigade, Col., at Arroyo Molinos, 225, 229

  Woodford, Lieut.-Col., 130

  Yarmouth, 16

  York, H.R.H. the Duke of, 239, 285, 357

  Zante, the Island of, 42

  Zayas, Gen., 181, 182, 198;
    in command at Cadiz, 169

  Zubiri, the valley of, 297, 298

Printed by Hazell, Watson, & Viney, Ld., London and Aylesbury.

[Illustration: SPAIN & PORTUGAL]

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks retained.

The author often omitted commas in simple in-line lists and between

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained; occurrences of
inconsistent hyphenation have not been changed.

Sidenotes in this eBook originally were odd-page running headers,
and have been placed between paragraphs near the pages on which they
appeared. They are not always at the beginning of the subjects they

Index not checked for proper alphabetization or correct page references.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Boy in the Peninsula War - The Services, Adventures and Experiences of Robert Blakeney" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.