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Title: The Campaigns and History of the Royal Irish Regiment from 1684 to 1902
Author: Gretton, G. le M. (George le Mesurier)
Language: English
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      Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).

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      book.



[Illustration: THE NORTH TRANSEPT OF ST PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, DUBLIN.

CONTAINING THE COLOURS AND MEMORIALS OF THE ROYAL IRISH REGIMENT.]


THE CAMPAIGNS AND HISTORY
OF THE ROYAL IRISH REGIMENT
FROM 1684 TO 1902

by

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL G. LE M. GRETTON

Late 3rd Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment


   NAMUR, 1695
   OUDENARDE
   CHINA
   NEW ZEALAND
   TEL-EL-KEBIR
   BLENHEIM
   MALPLAQUET
   PEGU
   AFGHANISTAN, 1879-80
   NILE, 1884-5
   RAMILLIES
   EGYPT
   SEVASTOPOL
   EGYPT, 1882
   SOUTH AFRICA, 1900-02



William Blackwood and Sons
Edinburgh and London
1911



PREFACE.


This history of the war services of the Royal Irish regiment has been
written at the request of the officers of that very distinguished
corps. When I accepted the task, I knew that I had undertaken a
delightful but difficult piece of work, for it is no easy matter to
do justice to the achievements of a regiment which has fought in
Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in America, and in Australasia. After
serving with credit in William III.’s war in Ireland, the Royal
Irish won undying laurels in the Siege of Namur in 1695. They formed
part of the British contingent in the army commanded by Marlborough
in the Low Countries and in Germany, and fought, not only at the
great battles of Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde, and Malplaquet, but
in the long series of desperate but now forgotten sieges by which
fortress after fortress was wrested from the French. A detachment
took part in the defence of Gibraltar in 1727: the whole regiment
was involved in the disasters of the campaign of 1745: the flank
companies encountered foemen worthy of their steel at Lexington and
Bunker’s Hill. In the first phase of the great war with France the
Royal Irish were in the Mediterranean: they served in the defence
of Toulon; they helped Nelson and Moore to expel the French from
Corsica, and they were sent to the mainland of Italy where for some
months they established themselves firmly at Piombino, a port on
the Tuscan coast. A few years later they fought under Abercromby in
Egypt, but then their good luck changed, for they were ordered to the
West Indies, where they remained till the end of the Napoleonic war.

In 1840, the outbreak of the first war with China re-opened the gates
of the Temple of Janus to the XVIIIth; and during the last sixty
years almost every decade has seen the regiment employed on active
service, for after the Chinese war came the second war in Burma; the
Crimea; the Indian Mutiny; the New Zealand war; the second Afghan
war; the campaign of Tel-el-Kebir; the Nile expedition; campaigns
on the north-west frontier of India; and the war with the Dutch
republics in South Africa.

The Historical Committee had hoped that Field-Marshal Lord Wolseley
would have written a preface to the history of the regiment, with
which throughout his military career he has been associated closely.
In Burma he won his spurs leading a charge of infantry among whom
were many of the Royal Irish; as an acting Engineer at the siege of
Sebastopol he frequently supervised the operations of the regiment in
the trenches; in the Tel-el-Kebir campaign and the Nile expedition
the Royal Irish formed part of the troops under his command; and
for the last thirteen years he has been their Colonel-in-Chief. Ill
health unfortunately has prevented Lord Wolseley from writing at
any length, but in a letter to the Chairman of the Committee, he
expressed his admiration for the regiment in the following words:--

  “HAMPTON COURT PALACE, MIDDLESEX,
  _19th June 1910_.

MY DEAR GREGORIE,--I am indeed very glad to hear that the History of
the Royal Irish Regiment is soon to be published. Its story cannot
fail to be a fine one. Every soldier who like myself, had the honour
of fighting, I may say shoulder to shoulder with it, will read this
new work with the deepest interest.

Were it to be my good fortune to lead a Storming party this afternoon
I should indeed wish it were to be largely composed of your
celebrated corps.

  Believe me to be,
  Very sincerely yours,
  WOLSELEY.”

  “_To_ General C. F. GREGORIE, C.B.,
  Royal Irish Regiment.”

A lithographic reproduction of this letter will be found facing page
viii.

This history has been prepared, not for the officers alone but for
all ranks of the Royal Irish, and the Committee are supplying it to
non-commissioned officers and private soldiers at a price so low that
even the last joined recruit can buy it, and read of the gallant
deeds of his predecessors in the regiment.

As I am fully impressed with the importance of recording the names,
not of the officers only, but of all members of the regiment who on
active service laid down their lives for their country, I have tried
to mention in the Casualty appendix all ranks who were killed, or
died from the effects of wounds or sickness in the many wars in which
the Royal Irish have taken part. In the campaigns of the seventeenth
and the greater part of the eighteenth centuries but few names are
to be found, and it is not until the middle of the nineteenth
century that those of wounded non-commissioned officers and men can
be traced. In other appendices are lists of those who won medals for
distinguished conduct in the field, and also those to whom medals for
long service and good conduct have been awarded.

It has been my object to write this book as far as possible on the
lines of a biography, and by quotations from regimental sources
of information to let the Royal Irish describe their doings in
their own words. In the wars of William III. and of Anne this was
comparatively easy, for though the regiment has preserved no official
records for the 17th and 18th centuries, during the first thirty
years of its existence it produced four military historians, three
of them officers, one a sergeant. Brigadier-General Kane, Captain
Robert Parker, and Sergeant John Millner have left books, and
Brigadier-General Robert Stearne a manuscript journal describing the
events they witnessed. Unfortunately they all wrote for a public far
more concerned in the general results of a battle or a siege than in
the doings of an individual regiment; and though they gave excellent
accounts of an engagement, they failed as a rule to describe the
part played in it by the men under their command. Whether their
laconic style was due to modesty--for the three officers were all
distinguished soldiers--or to want of descriptive power, it is
impossible to say, but the fact remains that they have bequeathed to
their successors in the Royal Irish accounts singularly deficient
in regimental detail. In some cases they failed to record the
casualties among the XVIIIth in a battle or a siege, and when they
remembered to do so, often forgot to give the names of killed or
wounded officers. Their indifference to the losses of the lower ranks
is characteristic of all armies in the 17th and 18th centuries; and
they tell us nothing of the deaths by disease, or of the drafts of
recruits by which the waste of war was made good. Sergeant Millner
is equally unenlightening. If, instead of devoting his undoubted
talents to the production of a sort of Quartermaster-General’s diary
of Marlborough’s movements, he had written an account of the life of
the regiment on active service, he would have left behind him a very
interesting book, instead of a comparatively dull one.

The adventures of the XVIIIth in the campaign of 1745 in the Low
Countries were described in the journal of one of the officers,
whose name has not been preserved. For a hundred years the regiment
produced no more authors, until, after the end of the first Chinese
war, Lieutenant A. Murray wrote an interesting account of the Royal
Irish in that campaign.

For the wars in the beginning and middle of Queen Victoria’s reign
much valuable material was obtained from private sources by the
honorary secretary of the Historical Committee, Lieutenant-Colonel
A. R. Savile, who for many years devoted himself to the collection
of information from officers who had served with the regiment in
these campaigns. Probably no one but the man who has profited by
Colonel Savile’s exertions can appreciate adequately the energy and
perseverance he displayed in this labour of love for his regiment.
He has also prepared two appendices; one giving an epitome of the
services of the Colonels of the regiment, the other describing the
memorials which have been raised by the officers and men of the
Royal Irish to the memory of those of their comrades who died on
active service. Nor is this all for which I have to thank him: his
collection of historical matter relating to the regiment at all
periods of its existence has proved of great help to me:--indeed in
all honesty I may say that if this book meets with success a great
part of that success will be due to the “spade work,” the results of
which Colonel Savile has generously placed at my disposal.

Many of the past and present officers of the Royal Irish regiment
have given me great assistance in the later campaigns by preparing
for me statements recording their personal recollections, and by
lending me their diaries and letters, written at the seat of war; and
several non-commissioned officers have supplied me with interesting
details about episodes in South Africa.

With the officers who form the Historical Committee I have worked
in perfect harmony and identity of views, and I have to thank them
warmly for the unfailing support they have given to me during the two
years which it has taken me to prepare this book.

I have to express my sense of obligation to the Librarians of the War
Office, the India Office, the United Service Institution, and the
Royal Colonial Institute, and the officials at the Record Office for
their friendly help.

To Mr Rudyard Kipling the warm thanks of the regiment are due for his
kindness in allowing the reproduction of his ballad on the second
battalion of the Royal Irish in the Black Mountain campaign.

In the compilation of this record very many books have been
consulted. Among them stands out pre-eminently the ‘History of the
British Army,’ by the Hon. John Fortescue, who, by his masterly
descriptions of the campaigns he has dealt with up to the present,
has made the path of a regimental historian comparatively smooth.

  SHERBORNE, DORSET.

[Illustration: (Handwritten letter from Lord Wolseley.)]
[Illustration: (Text of the letter is in the Preface.)]



  CONTENTS.


                                                                  PAGE

  PREFACE                                                            v


  CHAPTER I.

  1684-1697.

  THE RAISING OF THE REGIMENT: AND THE WARS OF WILLIAM III.          1


  CHAPTER II.

  1701-1717.

  MARLBOROUGH’S CAMPAIGNS IN THE WAR OF THE SPANISH SUCCESSION      25


  CHAPTER III.

  1718-1793.

  THE SECOND SIEGE OF GIBRALTAR--THE SIEGE OF OSTEND--LEXINGTON--
  BUNKER’S HILL                                                     65


  CHAPTER IV.

  1793-1817.

  THE WAR WITH THE FRENCH REPUBLIC: TOULON--CORSICA--EGYPT. THE
  NAPOLEONIC WAR: THE WEST INDIES                                   89


  CHAPTER V.

  1817-1848.

  THE FIRST WAR WITH CHINA                                         120


  CHAPTER VI.

  1848-1854.

  THE SECOND WAR WITH BURMA                                        145


  CHAPTER VII.

  1854-1856.

  THE WAR IN THE CRIMEA                                            162


  CHAPTER VIII.

  1856-1859.

  OPERATIONS DURING THE MUTINY IN INDIA                            189


  CHAPTER IX.

  1858-1882.

  RAISING OF THE SECOND BATTALION: THE WAR IN NEW ZEALAND          193


  CHAPTER X.

  THE FIRST BATTALION.

  1865-1884.

  CHANGE IN ARMY ORGANISATION: THE SECOND AFGHAN WAR               225


  CHAPTER XI.

  THE SECOND BATTALION.

  1882-1883.

  THE WAR IN EGYPT                                                 232


  CHAPTER XII.

  THE FIRST BATTALION.

  1884-1885.

  THE NILE EXPEDITION                                              253


  CHAPTER XIII.

  THE SECOND BATTALION.

  1883-1902.

  THE BLACK MOUNTAIN EXPEDITION: THE TIRAH CAMPAIGN                288


  CHAPTER XIV.

  THE FIRST BATTALION.

  1885-1900.

  MOUNTED INFANTRY IN MASHONALAND: THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA:
  COLESBERG AND BETHLEHEM                                          305


  CHAPTER XV.

  THE FIRST BATTALION.

  1900-1902.

  SOUTH AFRICA (CONTINUED): SLABBERT’S NEK: THE BRANDWATER BASIN:
  BERGENDAL: MONUMENT HILL: LYDENBURG: THE MOUNTED INFANTRY OF
  THE ROYAL IRISH REGIMENT                                         332


  APPENDICES.

  1. THE MOVEMENTS OF THE XVIIIth ROYAL IRISH REGIMENT FROM THE
  TIME OF ITS FORMATION IN 1684 TO THE END OF THE WAR IN SOUTH
  AFRICA IN 1902, AND THE PLACES WHERE IT HAS BEEN QUARTERED IN
  TIME OF PEACE                                                    375

  2. CASUALTY ROLL      385

  3. OFFICERS OF THE 1ST AND 2ND BATTALIONS WHO DIED IN THE
  WEST INDIES BETWEEN 1805 AND 1816                                403

  4. ROLL OF OFFICERS, WARRANT OFFICERS, NON-COMMISSIONED
  OFFICERS, AND MEN OF THE ROYAL IRISH REGIMENT TO WHOM HAVE
  BEEN AWARDED THE VICTORIA CROSS, MEDALS FOR DISTINGUISHED
  CONDUCT IN THE FIELD, FOR MERITORIOUS SERVICE, AND FOR LONG
  SERVICE AND GOOD CONDUCT                                         404

  5. THE TIRAH CAMPAIGN: COLONEL LAWRENCE’S ORDER OF JUNE 8, 1898  414

  6. THE SOLDIER’S KIT IN SOUTH AFRICA                             416

  7. INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE DEFENCE OF TRAINS                        417

  8. DIARY SHOWING MOVEMENT OF THE FIRST BATTALION IN THE NORTH
  OF THE TRANSVAAL BETWEEN APRIL 12, 1901, AND SEPTEMBER 30, 1901  418

  9. SUCCESSION OF COLONELS OF THE REGIMENT                        422

  10. MEMORIALS OF THE ROYAL IRISH REGIMENT                        431

  11. TABLE SHOWING THE FORMER NUMBERS AND PRESENT NAMES OF THE
  INFANTRY REGIMENTS OF THE REGULAR ARMY                           440


  INDEX                                                            443



  LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                                                  PAGE

  THE NORTH TRANSEPT OF ST PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL,
      DUBLIN                                       _Frontispiece_

  LITHOGRAPHIC REPRODUCTION OF LORD WOLSELEY’S LETTER    _facing_ viii

  MEMORIAL TO THOSE WHO DIED IN THE AFGHAN, EGYPTIAN,
      AND NILE CAMPAIGNS                                           231

  MEMORIALS TO THOSE WHO FELL IN SOUTH AFRICA                 305, 374


  LIST OF MAPS.

  NO. 1. BLENHEIM, RAMILLIES, OUDENARDE, AND MALPLAQUET   _facing_  60

  NO. 2. THE LOW COUNTRIES                                    ”     78

  NO. 3. BASIN OF THE MEDITERRANEAN                           ”    116

  NO. 4-5. CHINA AND BURMA                                    ”    160

  NO. 6. THE CRIMEA                                           ”    188

  NO. 7. NEW ZEALAND                                          ”    220

  NO. 8-9. THE WAR IN EGYPT, 1882--THE NILE EXPEDITION        ”    286

  NO. 10. SOUTH AFRICA                                        ”    442



CORRIGENDA.


  page line
   40   24           _for_ Lieut. G. Roberts     _read_ S. Roberts.
   69   10             ”   Colonel Crosby           ”   Cosby.
   70    1 of footnote ”      ”      ”              ”     ”
  121   10       ”     ”   Lieut. D. Edwards        ”   Edwardes.
  128    4       ”     ”   Lieut. C. W. Davis       ”   G. W. Davis.
       { 3       ”     ”   Lieut. H. J. Stephenson  ”   H. F. Stephenson.
  147  {15       ”     ”   Lieut. G. W. Stackpoole  ”   G. W. Stacpoole.
       {17       ”     ”   Ens. T. E. Esmond        ”   T. E. Esmonde.
  160   28             ”   Lieut. W. F. Cockburn    ”   W. P. Cockburn.
  165    4 of footnote ”   Capt. G. W. Stackpole    ”   G. W. Stacpoole.



The Campaigns and History of

The Royal Irish Regiment.



CHAPTER I.

1684-1697.

THE RAISING OF THE REGIMENT: AND THE WARS OF WILLIAM III.


The Royal Irish regiment was raised on April 1, 1684, by Charles
II., when he reorganised the military forces of Ireland, which had
hitherto consisted of a regiment of foot guards and a number of
“independent” troops of cavalry and companies of infantry maintained
to garrison various important points in the island. Charles formed
these independent troops and companies into regiments of horse and
foot; and as many of the officers had seen service on the Continent
in foreign armies, and a large number of the rank and file were
descendants of Cromwell’s veterans, Arthur, Earl of Granard,[1]
when granted the commission of colonel in one of the newly raised
infantry regiments, took command not of a mob of recruits with
everything to learn, but of a body of soldiers of whom any officer
might be proud. Of the corps thus raised all but one had an ephemeral
existence. During the struggle between James II. and William III.
for the possession of Ireland some followed the example of the foot
guards, joined the Stuart king in a body, and then took service in
France, while others broke up, officers and men ranging themselves
as individuals on the side of the monarch with whose religious or
political views they were in sympathy. The one bright exception was
the regiment formed by Lord Granard, which under the successive
names of Forbes’, Meath’s, Hamilton’s, the Royal regiment of Foot
of Ireland, the XVIIIth, and the Royal Irish regiment, has earned
undying laurels in every part of the world.

Though brought over to England to help in the suppression of
Monmouth’s rebellion against James II., Granard’s took no part in the
operations by which the rising was crushed at Sedgemoor, and in the
autumn of 1685 returned to Ireland,[2] where evil days awaited it.
With James’s attempt against the liberties of his English subjects
it is not the province of a regimental historian to deal; but it
is necessary to explain that the King, desiring ardently to own an
army upon which he could count to obey him blindly in the political
campaign he was planning, proposed to drive from the Colours all
officers and men upon whom he could not rely implicitly to carry out
his schemes. He decided to begin operations in Ireland, where he gave
the Earl of Tyrconnel unlimited power to remodel the _personnel_
of the troops. In 1686, Tyrconnel summarily dismissed from many
regiments all the Protestants in the ranks, whom he stripped of
their uniforms and turned penniless and starving upon the world.
The officers fared little better: two of Granard’s captains, John
St Leger and Frederick Hamilton, were “disbanded” solely on account
of their religious beliefs. As a protest against these proceedings
Lord Granard resigned his commission, to which his son Arthur, Lord
Forbes, was appointed on March 1, 1686. Next year the regiment
“underwent a further purge,” thus described by Brigadier-General
Stearne,[3] who was then one of Forbes’s officers. “Tyrconnel made
a strict review of each troop and company, wherein he found a great
many descendants of the ‘Cromelians,’ as he termed them, who must
turn out also, and took the name of every man who was to be of the
next disbandment, so that every soldier of an English name was marked
down. As soon as the camp broke up and the army returned into winter
quarters, most of the officers as well as soldiers were disbanded,
and only a few kept in for a while to discipline those that supplied
their places.” Tyrconnel rid himself of about four thousand of all
ranks, or considerably more than half the Irish army; the men he
replaced with peasants, good in physique but without discipline or
training, while the officers he appointed were of a very inferior
class, who in the war of 1690-91 failed in many cases to turn to good
account the splendid fighting qualities of their soldiers. It is,
however, only fair to Tyrconnel’s memory to mention that while he
thus reduced the efficiency of the Irish army, he increased its power
of expansion by devising a short service and reserve system by which
many thousand men could be recalled to the Colours in case of need.

Thanks to the political influence and strong personality of Forbes,
a “bold and daring man,” who had learned the trade of war first in
the army of France under the great Turenne, and later in a campaign
against the Turks in Hungary, the regiment in the general ruin
suffered less than any other corps. In defiance of Tyrconnel, Forbes
succeeded in retaining more of his old officers and soldiers than
any other colonel, and in 1688, when the regiment, 770 strong, was
ordered to England to meet the invasion threatened by the Prince of
Orange, it still contained a number of good officers, sergeants, and
old soldiers, whose united efforts had welded into shape the mass
of recruits recently poured into its ranks. For the next few months
the strain upon these veterans must have been great, as they had to
keep the young soldiers in order in a country where Irish troops
at that time were looked upon with deep suspicion and hostility by
the people, and not as now heartily welcomed by all classes. After
being stationed for some time in London the regiment marched to
Salisbury, where James had concentrated his troops to meet the Prince
of Orange; and when the King, deserted by his generals, statesmen,
and courtiers, abandoned his army and fled to France, Forbes kept
his men together and returned to the neighbourhood of London, where
he was quartered at the village of Colnbrook, near Hounslow. From
the Prince of Orange, who by this time was actually, though not yet
legally, King of England, Forbes received orders to disband the Roman
Catholics of his regiment, and after five hundred officers and men
had been disarmed and sent to Portsmouth _en route_ for the Isle of
Wight, several officers, many sergeants, corporals, and drummers,
and about a hundred and thirty private soldiers, remained with the
Colours.

Soon after this turning of the tables the regiment had an experience,
probably unique in military history--an examination in theology,
in which all ranks passed with high honours. The adventure is thus
described in Stearne’s journal:--

  “A report spread through the whole kingdom that the Irish were
  murdering, burning and destroying the whole country, insomuch
  that there was not one town in the whole nation that had not an
  account they were committing all these cruelties in the very next
  town or village to them. Sir John Edgworth, who was our major,
  commanded the regiment at this time (Lord Forbes being with the
  Prince of Orange in London); he was quartered at Lord Oslington’s
  house near Colnbrook, and upon the first of this flying report,
  sent for all the regiment to repair immediately to his quarters
  where there was a large walled court before the door, in which he
  drew them up with the design to keep them there until this rumour
  was over, but the country people, hearing that an Irish regiment
  was there, came flocking from all parts to knock us on the head:
  but Sir John bid them at their peril, not to approach, and told
  them we were not Irish Papists but true Church of England men;
  and seeing among the crowd a gentleman, called to him and desired
  he would send to the minister of the parish to read prayers
  to us, and if the minister did not convince them we were all
  of the Church of England, we would submit to their mercy. The
  minister was soon sent for, and to prayers we went, repeating the
  responses of the Liturgy so well and so exactly that the minister
  declared to the mob he never before heard the responses of the
  Church of England prayers repeated so distinctly and with so much
  devotion, upon which the mob gave a huzza, and cried ‘Long live
  the Prince of Orange,’ and so returned home.”

In February 1689, the regiment was re-equipped,[4] and in
anticipation of the recruits who in a few months began to refill its
depleted ranks, weapons were issued for its full establishment. Five
hundred and seventy-nine men were to be armed with flint-lock muskets
and bayonets, while two hundred and forty were still to carry long
pikes for the protection of the musketeers against cavalry on the
battlefield and on the march. The pike, however, was a dying weapon,
and was soon superseded completely by the bayonet. No mention is made
of hand-grenades, though these missiles were already carried by the
grenadier company, composed of men chosen from their comrades in the
regiment for height, strength, and courage.

During the winter of 1688-89 Lord Forbes resigned his commission, on
the ground that having sworn allegiance to James II. he could bear
arms for no other king during his old master’s lifetime.[5] For a few
weeks Major Sir John Edgworth replaced him, but owing to financial
scandals compromising to himself and several of his subordinates he
was obliged to retire,[6] and Edward, Earl of Meath, was appointed
to the vacancy on May 1, 1689, when William III. completed his
arrangements for re-officering the regiment, which was numbered the
Eighteenth of the infantry of the line. He issued forty-one new
commissions, some to the seniors who had escaped disbandment at
Tyrconnel’s hands, others to officers who had been expelled from the
army during James’s reign, others again to young men with no previous
military experience. The names of the officers are given in the
footnote.[7]

One of the results of the revolution by which James II. was deposed
and William and Mary placed upon the throne was to plunge England
into the vortex of Continental politics. As Prince of Orange, William
had been the moving spirit in the coalition of States formed to curb
the ambition of the French king, Louis XIV., who throughout his life
strove to aggrandise himself at the expense of his neighbours; and
when James II. took refuge in France, Louis saw his opportunity to
strike a heavy blow at William. By long and careful attention to his
navy he had made it superior to the combined fleets of the English
and the Dutch--the great naval powers of the time--and, thanks to
his command of the sea, was able to land James at Kinsale with five
thousand excellent French soldiers to give backbone to the forty
thousand men collected by Tyrconnel in anticipation of his Royal
master’s arrival. So slow was communication in those days that,
though James disembarked at Kinsale in March 1689, the news of the
invasion did not reach England for several weeks, when William had
already despatched most of his best troops to swell the forces of
the Allies facing the French in the Low Countries. William hurriedly
raised more regiments, but it was not until August that Marshal
Schomberg, the veteran selected for the command of the expedition,
landed near Belfast, where in a few days he was joined by Meath’s[8]
regiment, which for some months had been quartered in Wales. The
army was sent to Ireland utterly unprepared to take the field. There
was no transport, the commissariat was wretched, the artillery was
short of horses; guns, muskets, and powder, food, clothing, and shoes
alike were bad. No wonder, therefore, that after taking the town of
Carrickfergus, Schomberg refused to give battle to James, and fell
back upon an entrenched camp at Dundalk to await reinforcements
of every kind. Before the autumnal rains set in the General
ordered his troops to build themselves huts, and the foreigners in
William’s pay--old warriors, who had bought their experience in many
campaigns--worked with a will; but the English regiments, composed
of lazy, careless, and ignorant recruits, whose officers were no
better soldiers than their men, would not take the trouble to run up
shelters or dig trenches to drain their camping-grounds. Fever soon
broke out with appalling results. Out of the 14,000 troops assembled
at Dundalk, 1700 died on the spot, 800 perished on the waggons in
which the sick were carried to the coast, 3800 died in the hospitals
of Belfast. The losses in the XVIIIth regiment are not known, but
from Schomberg’s confidential report on the troops under his command
it seems to have suffered less than other corps. Writing on October
23, 1689, the Marshal says: “Meath’s (18th Foot), best regiment
of all the army, both as regards clothing and good order, and the
officers generally good. The soldiers being all of this province, the
campaign is not so hard on them as on others.”

Early in November James gave up the attempt to entice Schomberg out
of his entrenchments and went into winter quarters. The Marshal
promptly followed his example, holding the country between Lough
Erne and Belfast with a chain of fortified posts, and establishing
his headquarters at Lisburn, where the XVIIIth was placed in charge
of his personal safety. The staff of the regiment must have been
hard-worked in the spring of 1690, for recruits streamed in so fast
that in June it was nearly the strongest corps in the British army,
standing on parade six hundred and seventy-eight officers and men.
For several months there was constant skirmishing along the line
of outposts; but no movements of importance took place until June,
when William III. arrived at Carrickfergus with two hundred and
eighty-four transports and many vessels laden with stores. Though
this great mass of shipping was escorted by a ludicrously small
squadron of only six men-of-war, it was not attacked on the voyage,
for the French had neglected to send a fleet to cruise in the Irish
seas, thus leaving the line of communication across St George’s
Channel uninterrupted. When the reinforcements brought by the King
had landed, the army in Ireland reached the respectable total of
about 37,000 men, of whom 21,000 were British, and the remainder
Huguenots, Dutch, and Danes--continental mercenaries whom William had
imported to lend solidity to his recently raised English regiments.

The French officers in James’s army had repeatedly urged him to
retire into Connaught and defend the line of the Shannon, but on
political grounds he declined to accept this excellent advice, and
after some manœuvring took up a position on the river Boyne, near
Oldbridge and Duleek. Here he entrenched himself, but on the 1st of
July William attacked and routed him with considerable loss. As the
XVIIIth regiment played no important part in the engagement, if,
indeed, it came under fire at all, it is only necessary to say that
though some of James’s troops fought with distinguished gallantry in
this battle, others did not show the fine qualities they exhibited
later at Limerick and Aughrim. Covered by a rear-guard of Frenchmen,
the defeated army fell back upon the Shannon. James, for the second
time, deserted his soldiers and fled to France, while William
occupied Dublin, and matured his plans for the next phase of the
campaign. By a great victory over the Anglo-Dutch fleet at Beachy
Head the King of France won for the moment the absolute command of
the British Channel, and thus could throw reinforcements at will
into the south and west of Ireland by the ports of Waterford, Cork,
Kinsale, Limerick, and Galway. These towns were, therefore, essential
to William; and hardly less important was Athlone, the entrance to
the wild districts of Connaught, to which he hoped to confine the
future operations of the war. A strong detachment under General
Douglas was therefore sent against Athlone, while William himself led
the greater part of his army towards Limerick, where a large number
of James’s troops had been concentrated. Though these regiments had
worked hard to improve the fortifications of the city, its defences
were still so imperfect that when the French heard that William was
approaching they pronounced the place to be untenable and moved off
to Galway, leaving the Irish, about 20,000 strong, to defend it,
under the command of General Boisleau, an officer who had learned to
appreciate the good qualities of his allies, and Sarsfield, an Irish
soldier of great brilliancy and courage. Reinforced by Douglas, whose
detachment had failed to make any impression on Athlone, William
appeared before Limerick on August 9, and after brushing away the
enemy’s skirmishers pitched camp within a quarter of a mile of the
city wall, expecting little resistance from a place so weak that the
French had declared it “could be taken by throwing apples at it.” In
eight days William opened his batteries, though with very inferior
ordnance, for by a daring raid Sarsfield had swooped on the convoy
bringing up his siege-train and destroyed nearly all his heavy guns.
On the 20th the grenadiers of the XVIIIth and Cutts’s regiments
greatly distinguished themselves by the capture of a strong redoubt
near John’s Gate. A sudden rush from the trenches brought them to the
foot of the work, into which they hurled a shower of hand-grenades,
and then scrambling over the parapet under heavy fire, dislodged
the defenders with the bayonet. As it was known that the redoubt
had an open gorge, a quantity of fascines had been collected in the
trenches, with which the grenadiers filled up the gap, and then held
the redoubt against a determined sally until they were relieved by
other troops. The affair cost the victors two hundred and seventy-one
killed and wounded; but though it is known that the grenadiers
suffered heavily, the only casualty recorded in the XVIIIth is the
death of Captain Needham, who was killed by a random shot at the end
of the engagement.

This success was followed by the capture of another outlying work;
the trenches were pushed close to the walls, and six batteries played
upon the defences, which, near John’s Gate, began to crumble under
the bombardment. This breach William determined to assault, though
he was warned by some of his officers that Limerick was not yet
sufficiently shaken to be stormed. According to many historians,
his reasons for hurrying on the attack were that his supply of
ammunition was running low, and that with the example of Dundalk
before him, he could not venture to expose his troops to the terrible
rains which had set in. “At times the downpour was such that the men
could not work the guns, and to mount fresh batteries soon became
an impossibility: the trenches were knee-deep in mud: the soldiers
were never dry from morning till night and from night till morning:
sickness, which had been prevalent in the camp before, increased to a
plague: the tenting ground became a mere swamp, and those who could
afford it kept down the overwhelming damp only by burning bowls of
spirits under the canvas.”[9] On the 27th the breach appeared to be
practicable, and William ordered Douglas to deliver the assault.
Half the grenadiers of each regiment, five hundred men in all, were
to lead, supported by the XVIIIth and five other infantry corps:
on the left of the main attack was another column of infantry: and
drawn up in rear stood a strong force of cavalry. At half-past three
in the afternoon the grenadiers dashed out of the trenches, hurled
themselves against the palisade of the counterscarp, and carried it
after fierce fighting; then, gaining the covered way, they dropped
into the ditch, scrambled up the breach, and pursued its defenders
headlong into the town. So far all had gone well: the impetuous
valour of the grenadiers had carried all before it, and victory was
within William’s grasp, when a mistaken interpretation of orders
ruined the day’s work. The supporting infantry should have followed
the grenadiers up the breach, but, allowing themselves to be drawn
into pursuit of some of the enemy along the covered way, they left
the grenadiers without reinforcements. When the defenders saw that
no more troops were pressing up the breach, they rallied, and,
excited by witnessing the destruction of one of William’s foreign
battalions by an accidental explosion, they drove the remnants of the
grenadiers back into the covered way. If the failure to carry the
breach was to be redeemed even partially, it was essential that the
covered way should remain in the attackers’ hands, and round this
part of the fortifications raged a fierce fight, in which both sides
showed splendid courage; but, after three hours’ indecisive combat,
Douglas found that his men had used nearly all their ammunition,
and drew off to camp with a loss of at least five hundred dead
and a thousand wounded. In this unsuccessful assault the XVIIIth
suffered severely;[10] more than a hundred sergeants, corporals, and
“sentinels” (as private soldiers were then termed) were killed or
wounded, and, though the officers of the regiment who left accounts
of this war are not agreed as to the exact casualties among the
commissioned ranks, it appears certain that six were killed and
eight wounded.[11] Though all their names have not been recorded,
it is known that Captain Charles Brabazon, Lieutenant P. Latham,
and Ensign ---- Smith were killed; Lieutenant-Colonel G. Newcomb
(or Newcomen) died of his wounds, and Colonel the Earl of Meath,
Lieutenants R. Blakeney and C. Hubblethorne, were wounded.

Dispirited by his reverse, William raised the siege, ordered his army
into winter quarters, and after handing over the command to Ginkell,
a Dutch general, returned to England after a campaign in which he
had scored only one marked success--the victory at the Boyne. He had
failed to capture Athlone and Limerick, and, with the exception of
Waterford, all the ports in the south and west were still open to the
French navy. In September, however, the arrival of Marlborough with
an expedition from England improved the situation: Cork and Kinsale
surrendered, and thus the harbours of Limerick and Galway alone
remained available for the enemy’s operations. Ginkell’s first step
was to establish himself on a line which, starting at Ballyshannon
in the north-west, ran through Enniskillen, Longford, Mullingar,
Cashel, and Fermoy to Castletown-Berehaven in the south-west. The
regiment was ordered to Mullingar, where it passed the winter--very
unpleasantly, according to Stearne, who states that, “in the month of
December our garrison being reinforced by several regiments of Horse
and Foot, marched towards the enemy’s frontier, where after having
fatigued the troops for upwards of three months in this bad season
of the year in ravaging and burning the country we returned to our
quarters.”

Ginkell opened the campaign of 1691 by an attack on Athlone, a town
built on both sides of the Shannon, and enclosed by walls, not in
good condition but still by no means to be despised. On the right or
Connaught bank a grim old castle frowned down upon a stone bridge,
the only permanent means of communication across the river, for
though there was a ford it was practicable only in very dry weather.
After a short cannonade, Ginkell breached and stormed the defences
on the Leinster side of the river, and, driving the enemy before
him across the bridge, made himself master of the eastern half of
Athlone. But now his real difficulties began. Batteries bristled on
the bank above the ford; the guns of the castle commanded the bridge,
which was so narrow that a few men could hold it against a regiment;
and General St Ruth, a French officer of great experience, from his
camp hard by could reinforce the garrison without hindrance from the
besiegers. Ginkell rapidly threw up batteries, and opened so vigorous
a fire with fifty guns and mortars that one side of the castle
crumbled away and the houses on the Connaught bank were knocked to
pieces. But until he had crossed the river he could not close with
his enemy; his pontoons were far behind him, and he had no transport
to bring them to the front; and the defence of the bridge was so
stubborn that he gained ground there only a few inches at a time.
St Ruth scoffed at the idea of the place being in serious danger,
decrying Ginkell as an old soldier who ought to know better than to
waste time and men on a hopeless enterprise. “His master,” he said,
“ought to hang him for trying to take Athlone, as my master ought to
hang me if I lose it.” But the Dutch general determined to ascertain
if the river was fordable, and, in the words of Stearne, instead of
calling for volunteers,

  “promised three Danish soldiers who lay under sentence of death,
  their lives and a reward if they would attempt fording the river,
  which they gladly accepted, and at noonday put on armour, and
  entered the river a little below the bridge, and went at some
  distance from each other; the enemy took them for deserters, and
  we from our trenches fired seemingly at them, but over their
  heads at the enemy; when they had passed the depth of the water,
  and almost on the other side, they turned back, which when the
  enemy perceived they fired at them as hard as they could, but our
  cannon which was reserved for that purpose, as also our small
  shot, fired so briskly upon them that they could not hold up
  their heads to take aim at the men, by which they were saved,
  two being only slightly wounded. The General finding the river
  fordable (which it had not been for many years) resolved to try
  and pass it, upon which he gave orders for 40 Grenadiers from
  each company and 80 choice men out of each Battalion of the whole
  army to march as privately as possible into the trenches, and the
  whole army to be under arms to sustain the attack should there be
  occasion.

  “On the 20th June[12] the detachments marched into the trenches
  (I being one of the Captains who commanded ours) with all the
  privacy we could, but notwithstanding all our caution, St Ruth
  had notice of our motion and design by the appearance of crowds
  of people on the hills to see the action, upon which he marched
  down his whole army to the bank of his part of the town, and
  filled the Castle and trenches with as many men as it could
  well hold; our General perceiving this, put off the attack till
  another time, ordering our detachments back to Camp, but at the
  same time gave private orders that not a man should stir from his
  Regiment, or be put on any other duty, but to be all ready at a
  minute’s warning. St Ruth seeing us draw off, was persuaded that
  our General dare not pass the River at this time, and in this
  security marched his Army back to Camp, leaving only a slight
  body of men to guard their works and the Castle. The next day
  a soldier of our Army (whether sent by the General, or he went
  of himself, I can’t say) went over to the enemy and was carry’d
  before St Ruth, and told him that the common report in our Camp
  was that the General finding it was not practicable to pass the
  River at this time resolved to try what he could do at Banagher
  which lay ten miles down the River, and that everything was
  getting ready for the march. St Ruth, easily persuaded with
  this notion, and finding all things very quiet in our Camp, made
  a splendid entertainment for all the Ladies and Gentlemen, the
  Officers of the Town, and the Camp. The same day, being 22nd
  June, our General sent private orders along the Line for all
  the detachments to march directly into the trenches, and to
  keep under all the cover they could, at the same time he posted
  several sentries on the hills to prevent anybody appearing to the
  enemy. About 3 o’clock, when St Ruth was at the height of his
  merryment, we began the attack by jumping into the River, and
  whilst we were wading over, our Cannon and small shot played with
  great fury over our heads on the enemy, insomuch that they did us
  but little hurt in passing, and when we got over they made but
  little or no resistance but fled immediately.

  “At the same time we jumped into the River, part of our
  detachments attacked the Bridge, and laid planks over the arch
  that had been broken down upon our taking the first town, so
  that before St Ruth had any account of our design we were in
  possession of the town; however he marched his army down to try
  if he could force us back again, but he committed a grand error
  which he found out too late, and that was leaving the works at
  the back of the town stand, which became a fortification against
  himself, for had it not been for this, we should never have been
  able to maintain the town against his army, as we were not in
  possession of the Castle. When St Ruth found there was no forcing
  us back without a formal siege he returned to his camp, and those
  in the Castle seeing him march off immediately surrendered at
  discretion, and next day very early St Ruth decamped and marched
  off with great precipitation. In this action we had only 27 men
  killed, and about as many wounded, and not one Officer of note
  hurt.”

Ginkell now proposed to take the town of Galway and then turn
southwards against Limerick, but before this plan could be put into
execution it was necessary to dislodge St Ruth from the strong
defensive position he had taken up near Ballinasloe, where he was
determined to fight a pitched battle in the hope of retrieving the
reputation he had lost on the banks of the Shannon. His left rested
on the castle of Aughrim, a few miles south of Ballinasloe; his right
was marked by the village of Urachree; his centre ran along the
slopes of a green and fertile hill, well suited for counter-attacks
by horse and foot. Much of the ground he occupied was surrounded
by bogs, crossed by a few tracks, of which only two were fit for
cavalry, while all were under the fire of his guns. Between the foot
of the hill and the bogs were many little patches of cultivation
enclosed by hedges and ditches, some of which St Ruth levelled to
allow his cavalry free movement, while he left others intact in order
to give cover to his marksmen, to break the enemy’s formations, and
to conceal the movement of his troops upon the field of battle. The
infantry held the centre; the cavalry were on the flanks with a
strong reserve in rear of the left under Sarsfield, who had specific
instructions not to move without a distinct order from St Ruth
himself. On July 11, the armies, each about 20,000 strong, were
within touch, but owing to a heavy fog it was not until the afternoon
of the 12th that the battle began with a sharp skirmish, which
revealed to Ginkell the strength of St Ruth’s position, and convinced
him that his only hope of success lay in turning the enemy’s left.
He accordingly made a feigned attack upon the Frenchman’s right,
launched the remainder of his infantry against the centre and left,
and sent his cavalry to force their way past the Castle of Aughrim.
The troops directed against the centre were to halt when they had
crossed the bog, and on no account to push on until the column on
their right was safely over the quagmire and the cavalry had turned
the enemy at Aughrim. But when the soldiers, after floundering
thigh-deep in mud and slime, reached firm ground they got out of
hand, and forgetting their orders rushed forward, carrying everything
before them until a sudden charge of cavalry swept them backwards
in confusion, while the column for which they should have waited
was still struggling in the bog. When this supporting column, of
which the XVIIIth regiment formed part, had scrambled through the
quagmire and re-formed its ranks, it moved towards the hill over
a part of the field apparently deserted by the enemy, but really
filled with sharpshooters, who, hidden in hedges and ditches, with
admirable coolness held their fire until the leading companies were
within twenty yards of them. Then a storm of bullets smote the head
of the column; men dropped in scores, and for a moment the advance
was checked, but the troops quickly rallied, and hurling themselves
against the first hedge carried it against a resolute defence.
Hedge after hedge, ditch after ditch, were charged and won, but by
the time the last obstacle was surmounted the infantry had fallen
into great confusion: the regiments “were so intermingled together
that the officers were at a loss what to do,” and at that moment St
Ruth’s cavalry came thundering down upon them. Under this charge the
disorganised infantry gave way, and were being driven backwards into
the bog, when St Ruth’s horsemen were themselves assailed in rear by
some of Ginkell’s cavalry, who, after a daring march and still more
daring passage of a stream under the walls of Aughrim Castle, reached
the battlefield in time to save the foot soldiers from annihilation.
During this cavalry combat occurred an interesting instance of the
value of steady barrack-square drill. Throughout the winter of
1690-91 the infantry had been practised in regaining its formation
rapidly after a charge, and now, when relieved from the pressure of
the enemy, the battalions re-formed with comparative ease, and then
attacked along the whole line. At this moment victory trembled in
the balance, for though the losses on both sides had been heavy,
the defenders, on the whole, had had the best of the day, and in
Sarsfield’s strong body of cavalry they possessed a reserve which had
not yet been called into action. Had Sarsfield then struck into the
battle his troopers might have turned the scale, but he was fettered
by his instructions not to move except on St Ruth’s own order, and St
Ruth, struck down by a stray cannon-ball, was lying a headless corpse
upon the ground. The absence of the French general’s directing hand
was soon felt, though his death was concealed as long as possible;
and when the attacking infantry began to gain ground steadily, and
the cavalry turning movement was fully developed, the men who for
hours had so valiantly defended their position lost heart and began
to fall back in disorder. Then their discipline failed them, and they
broke, rushing in panic towards Limerick and Galway, with Ginkell’s
cavalry and dragoons spurring fiercely after them.

The losses in this battle were very heavy. In William’s army 73
officers were killed and 109 wounded; of the other ranks 600 were
killed and 908 wounded. The XVIIIth escaped lightly: only one
officer, Captain ---- Butler was killed; a major, a captain, and two
subalterns were wounded; among the non-commissioned officers and
men seven were killed and eight wounded.[13] On the subject of the
casualties in the army commanded by St Ruth historians differ widely;
but 7000 appears to be the number fixed upon by those least given to
exaggeration. Whatever the actual figures were, however, there can
be no doubt that James’s soldiers were so completely routed that in
their retreat they strewed the roads with their discarded weapons.
A reward of sixpence was offered for every musket brought into
Ginkell’s camp; in a short time so many waggon-loads were collected
that the price was reduced to twopence, and great numbers of firearms
still came in.[14] The dispersal of St Ruth’s army was the death-blow
to the Stuart cause: Galway made little resistance, and though the
garrison of Limerick fought stoutly for a month it was obliged to
surrender on October 3, 1691. The French officers were allowed to
return to their own country, accompanied by those of James’s soldiers
who wished to enter the French army, and with their departure ceased
all organised opposition in Ireland to the rule of William III., who
was thus free to transfer his troops to the Low Countries.

The regiment, however, did not go abroad at once. After wintering
at Waterford it was ordered in the spring of 1692 to Portsmouth, to
reinforce the garrison of England against an invasion threatened
by Louis XIV., and after the French fleet had been beaten at the
battle of Cape La Hogue the XVIIIth was one of the regiments
selected for a raid against the seaport towns of France; but the
coast proved so well guarded that it was impossible to land, and the
transports sailed to the Downs and thence to Ostend, where the troops
disembarked and marched towards the towns of Furnes and Dixmude,
which the French evacuated without waiting to be attacked. While
employed in strengthening the walls of Dixmude the XVIIIth had a
curious experience: there was an earthquake, so violent that the
soldiers thought the French were blowing up the place with hidden
mines, while the Flemish peasants, who were working as navvies,
became paralysed with terror and declared that the end of the world
was come. In a few weeks the greater part of the troops re-embarked
for England, but not all reached land in safety, for a great storm
scattered the transports, several of which went to the bottom. The
XVIIIth regiment, however, was fortunate enough to escape all loss.

In the course of the winter Lord Meath retired,[15] and was succeeded
in the colonelcy by Lieutenant-Colonel Frederick Hamilton; Major
Ormsby became Lieutenant-Colonel, and Captain Richard Stearne was
promoted to the Majority. In 1693, the regiment, which now was known
as Frederick Hamilton’s, was turned for a few months into a sea-going
corps.

  “In May, 1693, we marched to Portsmouth, and embarked on board
  the Grand Fleet, commanded by three joynt Admirals (viz., Sir
  Ralph Delaval, Sir Cloudesley Shovel, and Admiral Killigrew) when
  we served this summer as Marines. Our rendezvous was Spithead;
  in June we sailed to Torbay, where we waited for the Fleet which
  was to go under the command of Sir George Rooke who had twenty
  Men of War to convoy them up the Mediterranean. About the latter
  end of June Sir George joyned us, and the whole Fleet set sail
  together, and was looked upon to be the greatest that had been
  in one sea for many years; there being in all with Men of War
  and Merchantmen, English and Dutch, near 800 sail: the Men of
  War with their tenders stretching in one line between the Coast
  of France and the Merchantmen. The Grand Fleet kept Sir George
  company till they passed the Bay of Biscay, being the utmost
  limits of our Admirals’ orders, notwithstanding they very well
  knew that the French Fleet had sailed out of Brest, and was lying
  before them to intercept Sir George. Yet their orders were such
  that they dare not sail any farther, but then parted and returned
  to Torbay.

  “The French, who never wanted intelligence from our Courtiers,
  had an exact account to what degree our Grand Fleet had orders
  to convoy Sir George, therefore lay by with their Grand Fleet
  about eighteen hours sail beyond the limit of our Grand Fleet;
  they upon first sight believed that our Grand Fleet had still
  kept Sir George company, which put them into such a consternation
  that for some time they stood away, which gave Sir George an
  opportunity of making signals to his Merchant ships to shift for
  themselves and make the best of their way back, whilst he with
  his Men of War sailed after them in very good order. As soon as
  the Enemy discovered their mistake they made all sail they could
  after him, but Sir George, keeping astern of his Merchant ships,
  made a running fight of it, by which means he saved his whole
  fleet except a few heavy sailers which were picked up by their
  Privateers.

  “After this the French Fleet made the best of their way to
  Brest, and the account coming to our Court, orders were sent to
  the Grand Fleet to sail immediately in quest of them, upon which
  our Admirals sailed immediately to Brest to try if they could get
  there before the enemy, but in vain, for they had got in several
  days before we left Torbay. This affair being over we returned to
  our port, and in September the Land Forces were put on shore. Our
  Regiment was landed part at Chatham and part at Southampton, and
  joyned at Norwich in October. In December we marched to London,
  and were reviewed in Hide Park by the King; two days after we
  embarked at Red House, and sailed for Flanders and landed at
  Ostend in December 1693.”[16]

The regiment was now to play a distinguished part in the war with
France, which with a breathing space of five short years lasted
until 1712. With the exception of the campaign of 1704 in Germany,
the fighting in which the XVIIIth was concerned took place chiefly
in the country now called Belgium, but then known as Flanders.[17]
Its soil was fertile, and cultivated by a large and industrious
population. Its numerous cities were celebrated throughout Europe for
the wealth of their traders, whose merchandise was carried to the
sea over a network of canals and navigable rivers. Every town was
walled, and the whole country was studded with fortresses, with many
of which the regiment was to become well acquainted in the course of
the next twenty years. On the French side of the frontier a chain
of forts stretched from Dunkirk to the Meuse, and Louis had further
strengthened his border by a great line of field-works, in the hope
of making an invasion of France impossible. In a country so highly
fortified the war necessarily became one of sieges. Each side tried
to breach the other’s line of defences by capturing fortresses. There
were ceaseless marches and counter-marches, and gigantic attempts to
relieve the besieged strongholds, met by equally strenuous efforts to
prevent the relieving forces from fulfilling their mission. Flanders,
however, was by no means the only part of Europe affected by the
war, for sooner or later the French armies invaded nearly every
country unfortunate enough to be within their reach. To describe the
whole of Louis’s struggle for supremacy, and to explain the means
by which he induced some of the Allies to abandon the coalition and
range themselves on his side, would be far outside the scope of a
regimental history. It is enough to say that though the conflict
raged from the shores of the North Sea to the south of Spain, where
a few thousand British soldiers served for several years, it was in
Flanders that Marlborough won most of his splendid victories over the
French.

The XVIIIth’s first campaign on the Continent--for the few weeks
spent at Dixmude in 1692 cannot be dignified by this name--was
uneventful. There were no great battles, and the only operation of
importance was the siege of Huy, where the regiment was employed
with the covering force. In the spring of 1694 the order of
precedence among the regiments of the British army was settled in
a way very displeasing to Hamilton’s officers and men, who ever
since the camp at Dundalk had claimed for their corps the numerical
position due to its having been raised in April 1684.[18] Kane
chronicles the decision in a few words.

  “A Dispute arose about the Rank of our Regiment in particular,
  which were (_sic_) regimented 1 April 1684 from the old
  Independent Companies in Ireland, and had hitherto taken Rank of
  all the Regiments raised by King James the Second, but now those
  Regiments disputed Rank with us: the King referred the Affair to
  a Board of General Officers; and most of them being Colonels of
  those Regiments, would not allow us any other Rank than our first
  coming into England, which was some time before the King landed,
  when he came over Prince of Orange on the Revolution, by which we
  lost Rank of eleven Regiments, taking Rank after those raised by
  King James, and before all those raised by King William. The King
  thought the General Officers had acted with great Partiality, but
  as he had referred the Affair to them, he confirmed it.”

The whole question of precedence was re-opened in 1713, and the
colonel of the XVIIIth made a strong effort to obtain rank for the
regiment from the date of its formation in 1684, but without success.

When William III. took the field in 1695, he commanded an army of
124,000 men, composed of contingents from England, Holland, Denmark,
and many of the German States. The British numbered about 29,000, and
as the King employed them on every occasion when desperate courage
and bull-dog tenacity were needed, it is clear that, however much he
despised the English politicians who intrigued against him with Louis
XIV., he appreciated his British soldiers at their true worth. As
his object was the recapture of the fortress of Namur, taken by the
French three years before, he began a series of manœuvres designed
to decoy Marshal de Villeroi, the French Commander-in-Chief, so far
into the western half of the theatre of war that the Allies would
be able to dash upon Namur and invest it before their intention
was discovered. William was so far successful that he was able
to surround the fortress on June 23, but not before the French
had thrown in strong reinforcements under Marshal de Boufflers,
who took command of the garrison of thirteen or fourteen thousand
excellent troops. The citadel stands on a rocky height at the end
of the tongue of land formed by the junction of the rivers Sambre
and Meuse. The town is built on the left bank of the Sambre; and in
the fortification of both citadel and town the highest military art
had been displayed--first, by the Dutch engineer Cohorn, who planned
and built the works; and later, by his French rival Vauban, who had
extended and improved them so greatly that Namur was now considered
to be impregnable. A hundred and twenty-eight guns and mortars were
mounted on its walls, and its arsenals and storehouses were well
supplied in every way. On June 28th, William began his trenches, and
five days later opened fire upon the town, which after desperate
fighting surrendered on July 24, one of the conditions being that the
garrison should be allowed to retire into the citadel with full power
to take part in its defence.

During this, the first phase of the siege, the XVIIIth was part
of the covering detachment of 20,000 men with which the Prince de
Vaudemont, one of William’s trusted lieutenants, protected the
operations of the besiegers so successfully that during several
weeks he engrossed the attention of the French Commander-in-Chief’s
vastly superior force of 90,000 troops. Before quoting Kane’s
interesting account of the way de Vaudemont “sparred for time,” it
must be explained that the French were in no hurry to relieve Namur,
where they thought de Boufflers could hold his own indefinitely. De
Villeroi accordingly marched against de Vaudemont, who had entrenched
himself on the river Lys, nine or ten miles south of Ghent; but

  “finding him stand his Ground, he proceeded with the more
  Caution, and halted about two Leagues short of him, till he
  had sent to Lille for some Battering-Cannon. This took up some
  Time which was what Vaudemont wanted to keep him in Play till
  the King could fix himself before Namur. At length Villeroy
  advanced within less than half a League of us, and finding the
  Prince still keep his Ground, ordered a great many Fascines to
  be cut in order to attack us early next Morning. He also sent
  Lieutenant-General Montal with a strong Body of Horse round by
  our Right, to fall in our Rear, and cut off our Retreat from
  Ghent, which was three Leagues in the Rear of us. Now the Prince
  had three trusty Capuchin Fryars for his Spies, one of whom
  kept constantly about Villeroy’s Quarters, who found Means to
  inform himself of all his Designs; the other two plied constantly
  between both Camps without ever being suspected, who gave
  Vaudemont an Account of everything. Now the Prince having drawn
  Villeroy so near him, thought it high Time to make his Retreat;
  he therefore, as soon as Villeroy appeared, sent off all the
  heavy Baggage and Lumber of the Camp to Ghent, and about Eight
  in the Evening he ordered part of the Cavalry to dismount and
  take the Intrenchments, and the Infantry to march privately off
  with their Pikes and Colours under-hand, lest the Enemy should
  discover us drawing off; and as soon as it grew duskish the
  Cavalry mounted and marched after the Foot. Soon after Villeroy’s
  Advance-Guard finding our Works very quiet, ventured up to them;
  who finding the Birds fled, sent to acquaint the General; on
  which they marched after us as fast as they could. Montal, who by
  this time had got into our Rear, finding us marching off, thought
  to have fallen on our Flank; but Sir David Collier, with two
  Brigades of Foot, gave them so warm a Reception, that they were
  obliged to retire with considerable Loss. Next Morning all our
  Army got safe under the Works of Ghent, at which Time the Enemy’s
  Horse began to appear within a Mile of us; whereupon we past the
  Canal that runs from thence to Bruges, along which a Breast-Work
  had been thrown up.... Vaudemont had now a very difficult Part
  to act in Defence of this Canal against so powerful an Army.
  Villeroy marched immediately down to the Canal, where, for
  upwards of three Weeks, by Marches and Countermarches he harassed
  our small Army off their Legs; however, he could not make the
  least Movement, or form any Design, but the Prince had timely
  Notice of it; which was very surprising if we consider the Canal
  that was between us, so that the French said he dealt with the
  Devil.[19] Villeroy finding he could not pass the Canal on the
  Prince, at length turned towards Dixmude, where the Prince could
  give no manner of Assistance; here he succeeded beyond his most
  sanguine Expectations.”

After an easy victory at Dixmude, which the Governor surrendered
without firing a shot, de Villeroi turned towards Brussels, where
the wealth of the citizens promised much loot to his soldiers; but
here he was again foiled by de Vaudemont, who out-marched him and
took up a position which saved the city from capture, though not
from a savage and unnecessary bombardment. After his artillery
had devastated a large part of Brussels, de Villeroi drew off to
await orders from Paris, thus giving the covering detachment the
opportunity of joining hands with the main army before Namur, where
William was assiduously battering the citadel with a hundred and
thirty-six heavy guns and fifty-eight mortars, whose fire towards
the end of the siege cost de Boufflers three hundred men a day. On
the 10th of August, the XVIIIth and three other British regiments
were transferred to the besieging force, to replace corps shattered
in the earlier operations, and at once began duty in the trenches.
A few days later de Villeroi advanced, hoping to defeat William in
a pitched battle, and thus to relieve the garrison which he had so
long neglected, but he found the King so well posted and the covering
army so heavily reinforced by the besieging troops that he did not
venture to attack. While the French Commander-in-Chief was beginning
to realise that in leaving de Boufflers so long unrescued he had made
an irreparable mistake, William gave orders for a general assault
upon the citadel, where the works had been breached in several
places. During the night of the 19th, six thousand men from the
covering detachment filed into the trenches, where before daybreak
they were joined by the greater part of the besiegers. Seven hundred
British grenadiers and four regiments--the 17th,[20] the XVIIIth, and
Buchan’s and Mackay’s, two corps which have long since disappeared
from the Army List,--under the command of General Lord Cutts, were
to assault the work called the Terra Nova; while the Bavarians,
Hessians, Brandenburgers,[21] and Dutch were to make simultaneous
attacks on the other breaches. As the trenches could not hold all
the troops poured into them, the XVIIIth and Buchan’s were sent to
conceal themselves in the abbey of Salsine, about half a mile from
the foot of the Terra Nova breach.

At 10 A.M. on August 20, the explosion of a barrel of gunpowder gave
the signal for the attack, and from Cutts’s trenches began to emerge
the red coats, to whom the most dangerous duty had, as usual, been
entrusted; four sergeants, each followed by fifteen picked men,
led the column; the grenadiers were close behind them; the 17th
and Mackay’s followed in support, with the XVIIIth and Buchan’s in
reserve. It was a desperate enterprise. Between the trenches and the
Terra Nova was a stretch of several hundred yards of ground--smooth,
coverless, and swept by frontal and cross fire, and before the
grenadiers had crossed it they had left behind them a long trail of
killed and wounded. Owing to a mistake in the organisation of the
attack, the grenadiers and the 17th assailed the breach before the
other regiments were at hand to support them, and by the time the
XVIIIth came up the assault had been repulsed with heavy loss; many
of the officers had been hit, and Cutts, the idol of the troops, was
wounded and for the moment incapable of giving orders. Undismayed by
the confusion and depression around them, the Irishmen with a yell
rushed at the breach. At first they had to scramble over the bodies
of those who fell in the first attempt, but half-way up they reached
the grenadiers’ high-water mark, and thence struggled upwards over
ground covered by no corpses but those of the XVIIIth. From the
neighbouring works they were tormented by cross fire, but yet pushed
on, to the admiration of their foes who through the clouds of smoke
watched them gradually winning their way up the breach, the Colours
high in air, despite the carnage among the officers who carried them.
Mad with excitement, determined to win at all cost, the regiment by a
splendid effort reached the top of the breach, where the Colours were
planted to show the King, who from a hill behind the abbey eagerly
watched the progress of his British troops, that the Terra Nova was
his. But as the men surged forward they found themselves faced by
a retrenchment undamaged by the bombardment. The officers, holding
their lives as nothing for the honour of their country and their
corps, led rush after rush against this retrenchment, but in vain.
They could not reach it; guns posted on the flank of the breach mowed
down whole ranks; infantry fired into them at close range. All that
men could do the XVIIIth had done, but nothing could withstand such
a torrent of lead; the second attack failed, and the remnants of the
regiment were driven backwards down the breach, and then charged by a
counter-attack of horse and foot which the French let loose upon them.

Shaking themselves clear of the enemy, the survivors fell back
towards the spot where Cutts, on resuming the command after his wound
was dressed, had ordered his broken regiments to reassemble. While
the British were retreating they learned that the Bavarians had not
fared much better than themselves; badly led, they had missed their
proper objective, the breach in a work called the Coehorne, and had
attacked the covered way at a spot where the garrison was in great
force; and after two hours’ hard fighting they reported that unless
help came at once they could not hold their ground. Cutts, who
from his love of a “hot fire” had earned for himself the nickname
of the Salamander, instantly determined to go to the rescue of the
Bavarians, and halting, turned towards the Coehorne and re-formed
his column. To the onlookers it seemed impossible that troops fresh
from the costly failure at the Terra Nova would face another breach,
but Cutts knew what British soldiers could do, and his call for
volunteers for a forlorn hope was answered by two hundred men, who
headed this fresh attack, followed by Mackay’s, with the XVIIIth
and the other regiments behind them in support. The assault was
successful; the covered way was seized and held by the British,
and all along the line victory smiled upon the Allies, who by five
o’clock in the afternoon were lodged solidly within the enemy’s works.

To reward the XVIIIth for the magnificent courage it showed at the
Terra Nova the King formally conferred upon it the title of the
Royal Regiment of Foot of Ireland, with the badge of the Lion of
Nassau and the motto “Virtutis Namurcensis Præmium.”[22] In the
year 1832, the Royal Irish received the somewhat belated official
permission to emblazon this motto on their Colours; and it was not
until 1910, two hundred and fifteen years after the capture of
the fortress, that the regiments who took part in the siege were
allowed to add Namur to their battle honours. In these matters our
Government does not move with undue haste; it was only in 1882, that
the Royal Irish were granted leave to commemorate on their Colours
the fact that they had shared in the glories of Blenheim, Ramillies,
Oudenarde, and Malplaquet, the last of which was won in 1709!

The distinctions given by William were dearly earned, for though the
authorities differ as to the actual numbers of the casualties in the
XVIIIth, all agree that they were enormous. According to the army
chaplain D’Auvergne, who wrote one of the best accounts of William
III.’s wars in Flanders, the regiment lost twenty-five officers
and two hundred and seventy-one non-commissioned officers and men.
Parker and Kane give the same figures, but as both these officers
were severely wounded it is probable that the returns had been sent
in long before they came back to duty, and that in their books they
adopted D’Auvergne’s numbers without investigation. In Stearne’s
unpublished journal he states that twenty-six officers (whose names
he does not mention) and three hundred and eighty of the other ranks
were killed or wounded; and as Stearne was one of the few senior
officers left with the regiment on the evening of the 20th of August,
he must have had every opportunity of knowing the exact numbers. Two
theories have been advanced to explain this discrepancy: the first,
that Stearne included in his total all who were wounded, while the
other historians took count only of the men who were gravely injured
and admitted into the base hospital at Liege; the other is that among
his four hundred and six casualties were the officers and men hit in
the trenches after the XVIIIth joined the besieging army and before
the day of the assault, or in other words that his figures show the
regiment’s losses during the whole of the siege. But even taken on
the lower, and therefore safer estimate, the percentage of loss is
astonishingly high. At the beginning of a campaign a regiment was
seldom more than 600 strong; indeed, many historians consider that
500 was the average strength. Since the XVIIIth had taken the field
in June it had done much marching and some work in the trenches,
so that Hamilton’s ranks cannot have been quite full when he gave
the order to storm the breach; but assuming that Hamilton had with
him about 600 men, more than 49 per cent, or very nearly half the
regiment, were killed or wounded on August 20, 1695. If the strength
be taken at 500, the percentage shows that about six men out of
every ten were hit; while if Stearne’s casualties are adopted the
percentage is 81, more than eight men killed or wounded out of every
ten who went into action. As it is impossible to ascertain definitely
the strength of the XVIIIth, or to pronounce on the accuracy of the
rival chroniclers, it is enough to say that the regiment suffered
more heavily than any of the other British corps in Cutts’s column,
whose losses, including those of the grenadiers, amounted at the
least to thirteen hundred and forty-nine officers and men.[23]

In the XVIIIth Lieutenant-Colonel A. Ormsby; Captains B. Purefoy, H.
Pinsent, and N. Carteret; Lieutenants C. Fitzmorris and S. Ramme;
Ensigns A. Fettyplace, ---- Blunt, H. Baker, and S. Hayter were
killed. Captain John Southwell, Ensign B. Lister (or Leycester), and
an officer whose name cannot be traced, died of their wounds. Colonel
Frederick Hamilton; Captains R. Kane, F. Duroure, H. Seymour, and
W. Southwell; Lieutenants L. La Planche, T. Brereton, C. Hybert (or
Hibbert), and A. Rolleston; Ensigns T. Gifford, J. Ormsby, and W.
Blakeney were wounded.[24]

The result of the assault convinced de Boufflers that he could not
resist a renewed attack, and early on the 22nd he made signals of
distress to de Villeroi, who finding it impossible to relieve him,
retired to Mons, leaving the garrison of Namur to make the best
terms it could. De Boufflers accordingly ordered his drummers to
beat the _Chamade_, the recognised signal that a fortress desired
to parley with the enemy, and after two or three days’ negotiations
surrendered: the troops were to be allowed to return to France, the
citadel, artillery, and stores remaining in the hands of the victors.
On the 26th, the French, reduced by the two months’ siege to less
than five thousand effectives, marched out with all the honours of
war--drums beating, Colours flying, and arms in their hands--and
after filing through a double line of the allied troops were escorted
to Givet, the fortress to which they had safe conduct. With the fall
of Namur the campaign of 1695 virtually came to an end, for though
there was some marching and counter-marching nothing came of these
manœuvres, and the Allies went into winter quarters early in the
autumn.

The campaigns of 1696 and 1697 were spent in operations unproductive
of any affairs of importance, and the finances of all the combatants
were so much exhausted by the strain of this long war that peace
was signed at Ryswick in September of the latter year. The British
contingent was sent to Ostend to await ships from England to take
them home, and on December 10, the XVIIIth sailed on an adventurous
voyage, thus described by Stearne.

  “The ship I was in, with one more, having got near the Coast of
  Ireland, there came up with us a Sallee Man of War of about 18
  guns, carrying Zealand colours.[25] When the master of our ship
  saw her bearing down upon us, he called up all the Officers and
  told us what danger we were in of being made slaves for ever. We
  thought it a very hard case after getting over so many dangers
  as we had gone through, upon which we all resolved to die rather
  than be taken, and having got all our men to arms, we made them
  lye close under the gunnel, that they might not discover what
  we were, and called to the other ship, and told them that in
  case she boarded us, that then they should lay her on board the
  other side, and that we would do the like in case they boarded
  them; and our Seamen were to be all ready with ropes to lash us
  together as soon as they laid us on board. At the same time we
  were to jump into her, and so take our fate. By the time she
  came up with us we had got everything ready to put our design
  in execution, but she fell in the wake of us, we being much
  the larger ship, and hailed our Master to go on board her, who
  answered that he would not leave his ship, and so kept on his
  course. The Sallee Man of War kept us company about an hour, and
  was once, as we thought, coming up to board us; however, she
  thought better of it, fell astern, and stood off without firing a
  shot, being prevented by the wind which blew very fresh, so that
  they could not put a gun out of their ports.

  “This affair had not been long over when we made the Land, but
  it put our Master in such a fright, that he went quite out of
  his course, so that the Old Head of Kinsale which was the first
  land we made, he took to be the Highlands of Dungarvon, which
  made him stand away to the Southward, instead of directly in to
  the Shore, untill our Master was quite got out of his knowledge,
  and night coming on we were obliged to stand out to sea, the
  wind rising till it blew a storm, insomuch that we were in great
  danger of foundering at sea in an old rotten ship. Next morning
  we stood in towards the shore, the wind still continuing very
  high, and not a soul on board knew where we were, and though we
  made signals of Distress, yet the wind was so high that no boat
  dare venture out to our relief, and had it not been for one of
  our Lieutenants who had been formerly in the West Indies, and
  who remembered something of the Coast, we should certainly have
  perished the night following; by his directions we made shift
  to get into Bantry Bay before night, and very fortunate it was,
  for that night the wind blew so violent that it was with much
  difficulty our Ship could ride it out, with all the anchors and
  cables we had. Next day, being the 24th December, we landed at
  Bantry, and from there marched to Cork, where the other part of
  the Regiment landed some days before.”



CHAPTER II

1701-1717.

MARLBOROUGH’S CAMPAIGNS IN THE WAR OF THE SPANISH SUCCESSION.


Almost before the troops from Flanders had shaken down into their
winter quarters, the anti-military party in England raised the cry
of “No standing army” with such vigour that Parliament insisted on
the disbandment of many regiments; in each of the remainder three
companies were entirely suppressed, and the others cut down to a
strength of two sergeants, two corporals, a drummer, and thirty-four
private soldiers, while officers at the rate of one for every ten men
were allowed to remain with the Colours. In 1701 war again broke out
on the Continent. This war, known as that of the Spanish Succession,
was but a sequel to the conflict ended at Ryswick, and was again
caused by Louis XIV.’s determination to conquer the best part of
Europe. Without waiting for a formal declaration of hostilities,
Louis struck hard and quick; and occupied the fortresses of Ostend,
Nieuport, Oudenarde, Ath, Mons, Charleroi, Namur, and Luxemburg, and
nearly all the strongholds on the Meuse from Namur to Venloo, thus
threatening at once the southern border of Holland and the keys to
its south-eastern frontier, the fortresses of Grave, Nimeguen, and
Fort Schenk. The Allies again took up arms; in June the XVIIIth and
eleven other regiments were sent off to Holland under Marlborough’s
command; and Parliament decided that England should furnish a
contingent of forty thousand men, of whom eighteen thousand were to
be British and the remainder foreigners, taken temporarily into our
pay.

Before the English troops settled down into their winter quarters,
William III. reviewed the infantry, whose uniform was at that time
both comfortable and picturesque. They wore loosely-fitting red
coats, cut long enough to protect the thighs from wet and cold;
waistcoats, visible when the skirts of the coat were buttoned back
to allow the legs free play in marching; breeches with gaiters,
buttoning high above the knee, and shoes. Their head-dress was a
cocked-hat, like that of a Chelsea pensioner, and their hair was
plaited in a pig-tail, which was plastered with powder and tied up
with bows.

At the beginning of 1702, the Allies discovered that though Louis
had echeloned considerable numbers of troops along the Rhine and
the lower Scheldt, his immediate object was to gain possession of
the fortresses of Grave, Nimeguen, and Fort Schenk: and a force of
25,000 men, among whom were the XVIIIth and most of the other British
regiments, was assembled at Cranenburg, a few miles from Nimeguen,
to watch a French army, 60,000 strong, encamped some twenty miles to
the southwards. In the absence of Marlborough, who was detained at
the Hague by diplomatic business, the army on the Meuse was under the
Earl of Athlone, as Ginkell was now called: the French were commanded
nominally by the Duke of Burgundy, but really by de Boufflers, who
accompanied this royal prince as military adviser. The old Marshal
had not forgotten his humiliation at Namur in 1695; and finding out
that Athlone’s intelligence department and system of patrolling were
equally bad, by a sudden swoop so nearly surprised his camp that his
troops had to abandon their camp and baggage and hasten for shelter
to Nimeguen, where their reception was the reverse of cordial. The
Governor was indignant with the Dutch Government for having promoted
Athlone over his head; he was suspected of having sold himself to
the enemy, and either from treachery or from the wish to see his
rival cut to pieces, shut the gates upon him as he approached the
fortress,[26] and refused to take any measures for its defence. The
civilian population, however, had no intention of surrendering; they
broke open the stores, dragged guns to the ramparts, carried up
powder and shot upon their backs, and opened so furious a fire that
the French drew off in disgust.

Marlborough, whose recent appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the
allied forces had created much ill-will among the Dutch generals,
now joined the army, and concentrated 60,000 men, of whom 12,000
were British, in the neighbourhood of Nimeguen. Never was a general
more sorely tried by incompetent and jealous subordinates than
Marlborough in this campaign. He was comparatively an unknown man;
he had never commanded a large army in the field; many of his
colleagues distrusted him, and took every opportunity of thwarting
his plans; and, above all, his footsteps were dogged by two Dutch
civilian officials, styled Field Deputies, who had power to refuse
him leave to employ the troops of Holland in operations of which
they did not approve. Four times, by rapid marches and skilful
strategy, he forced the French into positions where they could only
fight at great disadvantage; and four times was victory snatched
from him by the obstinacy of the Dutch leaders or the timidity of
the Field Deputies. The campaign of 1702, however, was by no means
barren of results, for Marlborough was allowed to recapture various
fortresses on the Meuse. The first place to be invested was Venloo:
the Germans sat down before the south and east of the town; to the
Dutch and the British was allotted the attack on the north and west,
and, after three weeks’ hard work, the British brigade, of which the
XVIIIth formed part, sapped up to the foot of the glacis of Fort
St Michael, a strong outwork of the main fortress. Prince Nassau,
whom Marlborough had deputed to carry on the siege in his absence,
then ordered a lodgment to be made on the top of the glacis as a
preliminary to a future attack on the covered way. The whole of the
XVIIIth moved into the trenches early in the morning: about midday
they were joined by three companies of grenadiers and several hundred
men from the other regiments in the brigade; and in the course of the
afternoon Lord Cutts called the officers together, and, apparently on
his own responsibility, enlarged the orders originally issued. The
British were not to be satisfied with making a lodgment, but if they
found the French “give way with precipitation, they were to jump into
their works and follow them, let the consequence be what it would!
‘These were fine orders from a general,’ remarks Kane grimly, ‘but as
inconsiderate as they were, we as inconsiderately and rashly followed
them.’”

At four o’clock the explosion of a barrel of powder gave the signal
for the assault; the artillery opened a heavy fire, and the British
advanced. After a short resistance, the French ran back to the
covered way, followed by the Royal Irish, who pursued them into a
ravelin, where a captain and sixty men fought gallantly till nearly
all were disabled. The survivors rushed towards a small wooden
bridge, spanning a wet ditch eight or ten feet deep and a hundred
feet in width. The end of this bridge was made of loose planks; and
had the French done their duty when they crossed it, they would have
tossed these planks into the ditch, and thus made a death-trap, into
which the leading British soldiers as they followed them would have
been thrust by their comrades in rear. But in their panic the French
forgot to take this precaution; the XVIIIth got safely across, and
chased the enemy to the foot of the wall of the main fortification.
The men were wild with delight at their success, but the senior
officers realised that the situation was a desperate one: a few
hundred British troops were entangled among the unbreached works of a
fort, whose garrison, though undoubtedly surprised, had suffered but
little in the attack. To retire was out of the question, but to scale
the wall looming high and grim above them appeared impossible, until
the fugitives, whom the soldiers were chasing with their bayonets,
solved the problem by darting to a part of the wall where much grass
grew, and hauling themselves up from tuft to tuft. Where a Frenchman
could climb an Irishman could follow, and after a desperate scramble,
the red-coats began to mount the ramparts, when the enemy, utterly
confounded by the unconventionality of the assault, hastily retired
into the body of the fort, threw down their arms, and begged for
quarter. Their lives were spared, and the booty given to the troops.
This capture cost the British two hundred and ninety-seven killed and
wounded.[27] The casualties among the XVIIIth are not recorded.

Two days later the siege came to an end in a very curious way. To
celebrate a recent victory in another part of Europe, the Allies
paraded all their troops and marched close up to the town to fire a
_feu-de-joie_ into it with shotted guns and muskets. The inhabitants
had suffered much from the bombardment, especially since the cannon
of Fort St Michael had been turned against them, and when they
saw the movement, feared that the walls were going to be stormed
forthwith; some rushed to the Governor to urge him to surrender,
while others flocked to the ramparts with white cloths in their
hands, crying “Mercy, Mercy, Quarter, Quarter.” The Governor asked to
be allowed to capitulate, and, says Parker, “as we had other sieges
to carry on this season, the Prince allowed them honourable terms.”

Nassau next took the fortress of Ruremonde after a nine days’ siege,
and then joined Marlborough’s main army near Liege, an open town
commanded by a citadel and a smaller fort. When the French garrison
heard that the Allies were advancing, they sorrowfully exchanged
their comfortable billets in the houses of the burghers for the
casemates of the forts; and as soon as the enemy had left the town,
the inhabitants sent a deputation to Marlborough to offer him the
city keys in token of submission, and to entreat him to preserve
Liege as far as possible from the horrors of war. Cutts, with ten
British regiments, was ordered to occupy the town, while the rest of
the army began operations against the forts. The siege, which lasted
eighteen days, ran its ordinary course: batteries were thrown up,
trenches were dug, outworks were captured, and when the gunners had
made a practicable breach the assault was delivered. Millner, in his
quaint language, tells us that though the French fought very well,

  “the Allies after one Hour’s very hot and sharp Dispute beat the
  Enemy from off the Breach, and entered the Fort amongst them
  with Sword in Hand, killing all before them; and had killed all
  therein, had not the French instantly thrown down their arms, and
  earnestly beg’d for Quarter, which our People soon after granted,
  being always prone to give Mercy, when Need most requires....
  Much of the Honour of this Action may be attributed to Lord
  Cutts’ good Conduct, in sending up speedily an assistance of
  Twelve Hundred Men from the ten Battalions in the Town, which
  suddenly rushed in on the side of the Citadel next to the City,
  in the very greatest heat of the action, before the Enemy was
  aware thereof, contrary to their Expectation; the which did very
  much surprize and daunt the Enemy, and made them quit the Breach
  much sooner than could otherwise have been expected.”

Next day the smaller fort surrendered, and thus, on October 23,
1702, Liege was recovered from the French at a cost of about twelve
hundred killed and wounded, of whom nearly half were British.
Though none of the regimental historians mention any casualties in
the XVIIIth, it by no means follows that there were none among the
regiment, for Stearne and Kane, Parker and Millner were all such
confirmed fire-eaters that, as a rule, they appeared to consider it
beneath their dignity to mention any but very heavy losses. The fall
of Liege marked the end of the campaign, and the British contingent
marched back to Holland, where the XVIIIth again went into quarters
at Huesdon, the town where they had spent the winter of 1701-2.

The year 1703 brought no laurels to the British in Flanders. Dutch
incapacity and obstinacy again hampered Marlborough’s movements; he
failed to bring the French to battle, and accomplished little beyond
the retaking of a few small fortresses. At the sieges of two of these
places, Huy and Limberg, the XVIIIth was present. The regiment spent
the first part of the winter at Breda, then reinforced the garrison
of Bergen-op-Zoom, and afterwards returned to Breda, whence it sent
a strong detachment to Maestricht.

But if little of importance happened on the shores of the North
Sea during this campaign, great events took place in the south of
Germany, where the Elector of Bavaria had deserted the coalition and
attached himself to the fortunes of Louis XIV. The Gallo-Bavarians,
as the troops of the new alliance were called, captured several
fortified towns belonging to the Emperor of Austria, and defeated
the Imperialists at the battle of Hochstädt.[28] Encouraged by these
successes, Louis evolved a plan of campaign almost Napoleonic in its
grandeur. Its main object was the capture of Vienna. One army was
to force its way from Italy through the Tyrol to Austria; another
was to march from Strasburg on the Upper Rhine into South Germany,
reinforce the 45,000 Gallo-Bavarians, and join hands with the troops
from Italy; while to harass Austria from the rear a strong detachment
was to be sent to Hungary to help the inhabitants in their chronic
rebellion against the Emperor. In Flanders de Villeroi was to remain
on the defensive, while on the Moselle 10,000 troops stood ready to
reinforce either flank.

On his side Marlborough had also conceived a daring scheme. As a
soldier, he saw clearly that a mere war of sieges would produce no
decisive results; as a politician, he saw equally clearly that the
coalition would go to pieces unless Austria was delivered from
the Gallo-Bavarian peril,--and he decided that the best way of
helping the Emperor was to leave to the Dutch the defence of the Low
Countries, and to carry the war into the heart of Germany. As he
knew that the Dutch would oppose his project to the uttermost, he
took only two or three of his officers into his confidence; he wrung
a reluctant consent from the Dutch Government to the withdrawal of
troops from Holland by pretending that he was about to attack the
French on the Moselle, and for several weeks after he had set his
army in motion the troops had no idea to which part of the Continent
they were heading.

On May 19, 1704, Marlborough began his celebrated march; his force
included 16,000 British troops, among whom were the headquarter
companies of the XVIIIth, joined a few days later by the detachment
from Maestricht. Disregarding the protests of the Dutch and of the
petty princelings whose territories were being threatened by the
French, he pushed resolutely forward, and covering from twelve to
fifteen miles a-day worked up the right bank of the Rhine from
Coblentz.[29] As each of the French generals formed different
theories to account for Marlborough’s unexpected movement, they
failed to combine against him; on the 3rd of June he crossed the
Necker, and then turned south-east towards Donauwörth, a town on
the Danube, which he had decided to make his advanced base for the
invasion of Bavaria.

On the 1st of July the Allies encamped at Amerdingen, and at three
o’clock next morning Marlborough marched upon his objective, fifteen
miles off. He rode with the advance-guard--thirty-five squadrons,
three regiments of Austrian grenadiers, and six thousand Continental
and British infantry, among the latter being a detachment of the
XVIIIth, about a hundred and thirty of all ranks.[30] The main body
of the army followed two hours later. Pushing on with an escort of
cavalry the Duke began his personal reconnaissance about 9 A.M., and
found that the town of Donauwörth lay in a valley on the north, or
left bank of the Danube, and was commanded by a steep and flat-topped
hill. This hill, the Schellenberg, was the key of the position: the
Gallo-Bavarians had connected it with the town by field-works, and
twenty-five hundred horse and ten thousand foot were encamped upon
its summit. During the day Marlborough learned that Louis XIV. had
ordered strong columns from Flanders and the Upper Rhine to move upon
South Germany; and his keen eyes detected on the farther bank of
the river preparations for the immediate reception of a large body
of men. He accordingly decided to attack the hill at once, without
waiting for the whole of his main body to come up: but owing to vile
roads and broken bridges it was not until six o’clock that the troops
were formed for battle at the foot of the slope, about five hundred
yards in length, which led up to the works on the north-west side
of the Schellenberg. The infantry of the advance-guard were drawn
up in four lines, with the cavalry behind them in two lines; eight
battalions were in support, and an equal number were in reserve.
During the day the cavalry had made fascines, with which the enemy’s
ditches were to be filled up, and as soon as these great bundles of
faggots had been distributed among the infantry the advance began.
Under a cross fire of artillery, the columns breasted the hill
without stopping to fire a shot until they were within eighty yards
of the entrenchments, when a sudden outburst of grape and musketry
made havoc among the crowded ranks. For a moment the men recoiled
before this hail of missiles; then recovering themselves, they pushed
on until their leaders reached a hollow road, which in the excitement
of the moment was mistaken for the ditch in front of the works
they were to storm. Before the blunder was discovered the fascines
had been thrown in, and consequently when the heads of the columns
reached the real ditch they had no means of crossing it, and were
exposed to such a hurricane of bullets and hand-grenades that when
the enemy made a furious counter-attack with the bayonet some of the
troops gave way. Three British regiments saved the situation;[31]
they stood like rocks; the partially broken corps rallied on them,
and then after a hard struggle drove back their gallant foes into
their entrenchments.

A French officer who commanded one of the battalions that fought so
stoutly on the 1st of July, 1704, has left a lurid picture of the
combat.

  “The English infantry led this attack with the greatest
  intrepidity, right up to our parapet, but they were opposed with
  a courage at least equal to their own. Rage, fury and desperation
  were manifested by both sides, with the more obstinacy as the
  assailants and the assailed were perhaps the bravest soldiers
  in the world. The little parapet which separated the two forces
  became the scene of the bloodiest struggle that could be
  conceived.... It would be impossible to describe in words strong
  enough the carnage that took place during the first attack,
  which lasted a good hour or more. We were all fighting hand to
  hand, hurling them back as they clutched at the parapet; men
  were slaying, or tearing at the muzzles of guns and the bayonets
  which pierced their entrails; crushing under their feet their
  own wounded comrades, and even gouging out their opponents’ eyes
  with their nails, when the grip was so close that neither could
  make use of their weapons. I verily believe that it would have
  been quite impossible to find a more terrible representation of
  Hell itself than was shown in the savagery of both sides on this
  occasion.”[32]

By dint of drawing men from the parts of the defences unthreatened
by the Allies, the Gallo-Bavarians were able to keep the troops on
the north-west of the hill at their full strength: and they repulsed
the next assault so heavily that it was found necessary to bring a
large number of British cavalry into the thick of the fire to support
the shaken, though by no means beaten, infantry. Our enemies were
beginning to congratulate themselves on their success, when the
remainder of Marlborough’s main body came into action against the
west of the hill, where the works had been almost denuded of their
garrisons; they took these works with little loss, repulsed a charge
of cavalry, and then struck the Gallo-Bavarians in flank. About this
time the Allies made another attempt to carry the entrenchment, and
were once more beaten back. So serious did things look that the Scots
Greys were ordered to dismount and attack the works on foot; but
maddened at the thought that cavalrymen were called in to do the work
which foot soldiers had failed to accomplish, the infantry then made
one final, desperate effort, and surged triumphantly over the parapet
from which they had been repulsed so often. Now at length the French
and the Bavarians, exhausted by their magnificent defence, driven
from their works in front and hard pressed in flank, gave way; and
their retreat soon degenerated into a rout, as they rushed towards
the river with all the allied cavalry thundering after them. The
victory was very complete: of the twelve thousand men who had watched
the Allies form for the assault not more than three thousand rejoined
their regiments; the remainder were killed, wounded, captured, or
drowned in the waters of the Danube; and thirteen standards, fifteen
guns, and all the stores at Donauwörth fell into the victors’ hands.
But the success was dearly won, for though the engagement lasted less
than two hours, it cost the Allies more than five thousand officers
and men. The British, as usual, lost very heavily; 33 officers,
among whom was a major-general, were killed, and 83 wounded; 420
“sergeants and sentinels” were killed, and 1001 wounded; in all 1537,
or “probably more than 33 per cent of the number engaged.”[33] To
this total the XVIIIth, out of its detachment of 130 officers and
men, contributed 51, or nearly 40 per cent of its numbers. Captain
M. Leathes, Ensigns J. Pinsent (or Pensant), S. Gilman, and E. Walsh
were wounded; 1 sergeant and 11 men were killed; 3 sergeants and 32
men were wounded.[34]

After the loss of Donauwörth the Gallo-Bavarians fell back upon
Augsburg, where they encamped under the guns of the fortress.
Marlborough was not strong enough to attack them, and had to content
himself with blockading the town while he opened communications with
the Elector of Bavaria, to whom he offered tempting terms to abandon
Louis and place his excellent troops once more at the disposal of
the Allies. The Elector spun out the negotiations until he knew
definitely that Marshal de Tallard was coming from the Rhine to his
help; then he broke them off suddenly, sending word that he would
sooner serve as a private soldier under the King of France than
as a general in the Emperor of Austria’s army. As Marlborough now
learned from Prince Eugene of Savoy, who commanded a detached force
on the Danube, that the French were manœuvring to cut off the allied
army from its base of supplies, he at once turned northward, and
recrossing the Danube joined hands with Eugene near Donauwörth. The
situation had become very serious, for though the immediate pressure
on the Emperor of Austria was removed, and the French had made no
attempt to invade his territories from Italy, it was essential to
bring the Gallo-Bavarians to battle and defeat them before further
reinforcements had increased their strength, already greater than
that of the Allies. It was with much relief, therefore, that on
the morning of the 12th of August Marlborough discovered that the
French and Bavarians had moved down the left, or northern bank of
the Danube, and were then encamped near the village of Hochstädt,
a few miles up stream from his own camping-ground.[35] Their right
flank was protected by the Danube, here an unfordable river, and by
the village of Blenheim, standing two hundred yards from the water’s
edge. The left rested on Lutzingen, a hamlet at the foot of a chain
of broken and thickly wooded hills, which guaranteed it against
a turning movement. Between these villages stretched a plateau,
white with long lines of tents; and along the whole of its eastern
front ran the shallow valley of a tributary of the Danube--the
Nebel, a formidable obstacle, for though the stream in itself was
insignificant the bogs and marshes through which it flowed were
very difficult to cross, and the side of the valley rose so gently
towards the camp that it formed a natural glacis, well suited to
the movements of all arms. Between Blenheim and Lutzingen were two
other villages--Unterglau, on the eastern or far side of the Nebel,
was occupied as an advanced post; Oberglau, on the western or near
side, was part of the main line of defence. To hold this very strong
position, about four miles in length, de Tallard who commanded the
Gallo-Bavarians could dispose of an army from 56,000 to 60,000
strong, and sixty guns.

Though de Tallard had risen to be a Marshal of France, he was by no
means a clever man, and by his mistakes at Blenheim he played into
Marlborough’s hands. He failed completely to fathom his adversary’s
mind: because it was the object of the French to starve the allies
out of South Germany rather than to expel them by force of arms, de
Tallard did not want to fight a battle, and it did not occur to him
that Marlborough, with his inferior force of 52,000 men and 52 guns,
might take the offensive. Again, in the disposition of his troops he
misinterpreted the military axiom of his period, which warned the
chief of an army encamped on ground where it might possibly become
engaged, to place his troops in the order in which they would be
called upon to fight. In drawing up an army the infantry was usually
posted in the centre of the line, with the cavalry on its flanks. To
this normal or “sealed-pattern” formation Tallard blindly adhered;
but by treating his wings as distinct units and not as part of a
great army he produced much confusion; in the centre of the whole
line the cavalry of both wings met, but without unity of command: and
on each side of this mass of 10,000 horsemen were infantry, with more
cavalry on their outer flanks.

As soon as Marlborough had reconnoitred the enemy’s position he
returned to camp, and settled the outline of the plan of the battle
which he intended to force upon the French and Bavarians next day.
As their flanks were unassailable he decided to deliver a frontal
attack along their whole line: Eugene, with the right wing, was to
assail the Elector and Marshal de Marsin, who had made the villages
of Lutzingen and Oberglau their respective headquarters; the Duke
was to carry Blenheim, where de Tallard had established himself, and
break through the enemy’s centre between that village and Oberglau.
The night was spent in marshalling the troops into their places
in the nine columns in which they were to move against the enemy,
and at two o’clock on the morning of August 13, 1704, Marlborough
began to advance. A thick white mist overhung the valley of the
Danube, and though it delayed his march, concealed his movements
so effectually that it was six o’clock before the French vedettes
discovered that the Allies were upon them; and when an hour later
the mist lifted, de Tallard to his astonishment saw a great army
preparing to deploy on the far side of the Nebel, the cavalry in
the centre, the infantry on the flanks. While Eugene was marching
to the ground allotted to him, Marlborough’s troops took up their
appointed places. Opposite Blenheim, on the extreme left, stood a
column under General Cutts, consisting of fourteen British regiments
and several German corps: and on Cutts’s right was the remainder
of the left wing, drawn up in four lines, the first and fourth of
cavalry, the second and third of infantry. The Gallo-Bavarians, as
soon as they had recovered from their surprise, snatched up their
arms and fell in before their tents; and when de Tallard saw a mass
of dull red uniforms at the head of the column threatening Blenheim
he realised that hard fighting was to be expected near the village,
and crowded into it twenty-six regiments of his best infantry, who
were so tightly packed that large numbers of the soldiers did not
fire a shot throughout the battle. The French rapidly put Blenheim
into a state of defence--the walls were loopholed, the garden fences
(or palisades as they were called by the historians of the time)
were strengthened; the entrances were barricaded with carts, gates,
furniture from the houses; while twelve squadrons of cavalry, sent
to hold the two hundred yards of ground between the village and the
Danube, entrenched themselves behind a “laager” of waggons. Between
Blenheim and Oberglau de Tallard drew up his cavalry in two lines,
with a third line in support, composed partly of horsemen, partly
of nine battalions of infantry whose steadiness was doubtful. Some
French writers say that these shaky troops were Piedmontese, taken
prisoners in Italy and forced to join Louis XIV.’s service.[36] In
the centre de Marsin occupied Oberglau with a strong detachment;
behind the hamlet were posted his infantry and that of the Elector,
and in front of Lutzingen stood a strong body of cavalry.

While his troops were marching into their places the French
Commander-in-Chief added to his many mistakes that of abandoning to
the Allies the natural glacis already mentioned, and thus giving them
a foothold on which to re-form after they had crossed the Nebel.
Parker shall tell the story in his own words. While the Allies were
preparing to deploy,

  “the Elector, Tallard and Marsin went to the top of the steeple
  of Blenheim, from whence they had a fair view of their army: the
  Elector and Marsin were for drawing the Army, as close to the
  marshy Ground they had in their Front as possible, and not suffer
  a man over but on the Points of their Bayonets; but Tallard (a
  haughty proud Frenchman) was on a different Opinion, and said,
  that would be no more than making a drawn Battle of it: that the
  only way to get a compleat Victory would be to draw up their army
  at some small Distance from the Morass, and suffer us to come
  over, and the more there came over the more they were sure to
  kill. Neither the Elector nor Marsin could persuade him out of
  this Notion; they both were very much dissatisfied, and dreading
  the consequence, left him, and went to their Posts.”[37]

Marlborough had formed for battle long before Eugene was able to do
so, for bad roads, broken ground, and many unexpected difficulties
greatly retarded the march of the right wing towards the left of
the French line. Until Eugene was prepared to attack, Marlborough
could not advance without running the risk of being crushed by
vastly superior forces; and for several hours his horse and foot
were condemned to inactivity while his guns hotly engaged those of
the French, which were brought forward towards the Nebel, and fired
at every target within their range. The XVIIIth, as usual, must
have been well to the front, for Parker mentions that the first
cannon-ball “was aimed at our regiment, but it fell short; the
second killed one man, which was the first blood drawn that day.”
After the Duke had carefully inspected his batteries, he ordered the
chaplains to read prayers at the head of every regiment, and as soon
as the Service was over, to satisfy himself that all was well with
his troops and to steady them under the enemy’s bombardment, he rode
slowly along the whole length of his line, exposing himself with
perfect calmness to the projectiles of the French. His extraordinary
talents, his charm of manner, his unfailing courtesy, his absolute
indifference to danger had already endeared him to the strangely
mixed body of soldiery under his command; and when by a miracle he
escaped all injury from a cannon-ball which struck the ground between
his horse’s legs, a great sigh of relief went up from the hearts of
Britons and Danes, Germans and Dutch.

It was not until twelve o’clock, four hours after the artillery duel
had begun, that an aide-de-camp galloped up to tell Marlborough
that Eugene was ready. Then the signal was given, and Cutts, on the
extreme left of the line, moved forward to the attack of Blenheim.
Under a sharp artillery fire, two of his brigades--one of British,
under Row, the other of Hessians--succeeded in crossing the Nebel
near the village, and halted under cover to re-form their ranks;
then leaving the Hessians in support behind the bank of the stream,
Row’s five regiments advanced to the assault of a position held
by the cream of the French infantry. Until our leading ranks were
within thirty paces of the enemy not a shot was fired on either side.
The British had been ordered to carry Blenheim with the bayonet if
possible, and in no case to burn a cartridge until their General
could actually touch the palisades. The French waited till their
assailants were so close to them that the worst shot could not
fail to bring down his man. Then so tremendous a burst of musketry
fell upon the head of the column that the French expected to see
the red-coats break and flee; but our men rushed forward through
the smoke, cheered on by Row, who succeeded in striking a palisade
with his sword before he fell mortally wounded. The British gave
one volley, and then attempted to storm--some tried to scale the
palisades, others to pull them down, while others again lunged
fiercely through the loopholes at the French marksmen, who fired so
fast and straight that in a few minutes a third of the brigade was
killed or wounded, and the remainder were in retreat, hotly pursued
by a body of cavalry. Now followed some wild fighting. The Hessians
struck in with great gallantry, and recaptured Colours which had
been lost in the _mêlée_; five British squadrons floundered over
the Nebel to the rescue of the infantry, and beat back the French
horsemen; but pursuing with more ardour than judgment, they were
decoyed under the fire of the infantry in Blenheim and suffered
severely. The French followed up their success by bringing up more
batteries to sweep the crossing of the Nebel by which the British
had advanced; but Cutts soon drove away this audacious artillery
and, returning to the charge, delivered a series of desperate but
ineffectual assaults upon the village until Marlborough ordered him
to make no further efforts to storm it, but to fire volleys into it
so continuously that the French would be pinned to their defences,
and therefore unable to reinforce their right centre, which he was
himself attacking. Parker gives a quaint account of this phase of the
battle. After describing a gallant but fruitless assault, he says--

  “The rest of the Foot coming up, they renewed the charge; and
  those that had been repulsed, having soon rallied, returned
  to the charge, and drove the enemy from the skirts of the
  village, into the very heart of it. Here they had thrown up
  an intrenchment, within which they were pent up in so narrow
  a compass, that they had not room to draw up in any manner of
  order, or even to make use of their arms. Thereupon we drew up in
  great order about 80 paces from them, from which we made several
  vain attempts to break in upon them, in which many brave men were
  lost to no purpose; and after all, we were obliged to remain
  where we first drew up. The enemy also made several attempts
  to come out upon us: but as they were necessarily thrown into
  confusion in getting over their trenches, so before they could
  form into any order for attacking us, we mowed them down with
  our platoons in such numbers, that they were always obliged to
  retire with great loss; and it was not possible for them to rush
  out upon us in a disorderly manner, without running upon the very
  points of our Bayonets.”

While this fierce combat was raging at Blenheim, Marlborough had
succeeded, though slowly and with great difficulty, in throwing a
considerable number of troops over the Nebel near Oberglau. In the
morning the French generals had sneered at the Duke for placing
great bodies of infantry between his first and second lines of
horse; in the afternoon they discovered that there was method in the
Englishman’s madness. Foreseeing that the cavalry would arrive on
the far side of the stream with their horses blown and their ranks
broken, he sent a large number of battalions to lead the way, with
orders to push far enough up the enemy’s side of the valley to leave
room for the allied cavalry to re-form behind their fire. The French
horsemen charged down upon the disordered squadrons, but even where
momentarily successful they were forced ultimately to retire by the
musketry of the infantry, and failed to prevent Marlborough’s second
line of cavalry from crossing the Nebel. During this stage of the
battle, eleven battalions of Hanoverians attempted to capture the
village of Oberglau, but were met by a magnificent counter-attack
of the Irish Brigade--the men who after the surrender at Limerick
had joined the army of the King of France. The Irishmen annihilated
two battalions, and smashed through the remainder of the column; but
then dashing on too far, were thrown into confusion by a charge of
cavalry, and finally driven back with great loss by the fire of three
fresh battalions which Marlborough threw against their flank.

On the right, meanwhile, things were not going well for the Allies.
The Elector, disregarding de Tallard’s order to keep the troops
high up on the slope, had moved his infantry right down to the edge
of the broken ground near the Nebel, and thus met Eugene’s men
while they were scattered and exhausted by the difficulties of the
crossing; thrice did the Prince of Savoy make a formidable attack
upon the Bavarians, and thrice was he beaten back. On the left,
however, Cutts was fulfilling his mission admirably, for his rolling
musketry detained within the entrenchments of Blenheim the enormous
mass of infantry, whose presence on other parts of the field might
have turned the scale in favour of the French. But the fate of the
battle was to be decided in the centre, where Marlborough had now
succeeded in placing eight thousand cavalry in two long lines on the
lower slope of the natural glacis which de Tallard had abandoned
so unaccountably to his enemy. To meet this danger, the French
Commander-in-Chief called up the nine battalions which in the morning
he had considered unfit to use in the forefront of the battle, and
posted them level with the first line of his cavalry. The Duke met
this move by bringing to his front a battery and three battalions of
Hanoverians, who engaged the French infantry at short range, and so
greatly shook them that they were unable to withstand a charge of
cavalry which swept them away, leaving a huge gap in de Tallard’s
line. That general now had to pay for the vicious dispositions by
which the cavalry in his centre had been posted without proper
arrangements for combined action. The horsemen of de Marsin’s right
wing played, not for the safety of the whole French army, but for
that of their own commander, and instead of flinging themselves into
the breach and presenting an unbroken front to Marlborough, wheeled
backwards in order to protect the flank of the column to which they
belonged. De Marsin had his hands too full to be able to spare a man
to help de Tallard, and before any of the infantry from Blenheim
could come to the rescue the Duke’s eight thousand troopers were
charging up the slope; for a moment the French cavalry stood, then
seized with a mad panic they wheeled about and galloped furiously for
the river, riding down everything they met in their haste to escape
from the German horsemen, who sabred hundreds of them and drove
hundreds more into the Danube.

De Marsin and the Elector were in no condition to continue the battle
after the rout of Tallard’s wing; they retired in fair order, pursued
by Eugene’s troops. To turn their retreat into a rout Marlborough
called off his Germans from the congenial task of cutting their
enemies to pieces, and sent them to fall upon de Marsin’s flank:
but it was now late in the evening; the Germans overtook not de
Marsin’s column but Eugene’s; in the growing darkness each side
thought the other was the enemy and halted to prepare to fight, and
by the time that the mistake had been discovered and mutual apologies
presented and accepted the Gallo-Bavarians’ right wing had gained so
long a start that further pursuit was hopeless. The battalions in
Blenheim were less fortunate, for the Allies blocked every egress
with cavalry, and called up infantry to storm the village, when the
luckless Frenchmen reluctantly agreed to surrender, and twenty-four
battalions of infantry and four regiments of dragoons laid down
their arms, and filing through a double line of troops were guarded
throughout the night by the British regiments.

History records few defeats more crushing than that of the French
and Bavarians at Blenheim. On the morning of the 13th of August
Tallard commanded about 60,000 troops, of whom not more than 20,000
ever found their way back to the armies of France or of Bavaria. The
carnage in the battle itself was very great, and in the flight large
numbers of the French were drowned in the Danube or murdered by the
peasants, who, with many old scores to settle, showed no mercy to
small parties of disbanded soldiers unable to protect themselves.
Among the 11,000 prisoners was Marshal de Tallard; and many guns and
mortars, 171 standards, 129 pairs of colours, much bullion, hundreds
of pack animals, and the whole of the camp equipage fell into the
hands of the conquerors. The victory, however, cost the Allies about
12,500 officers and men, or roughly twenty-four per cent of the force
with which Marlborough began the battle. The British casualties,
according to Millner’s return,[38] amounted to two thousand three
hundred and twenty-four of all ranks.

As a bounty was granted to those who took part in the battle the
names of the officers present have been preserved. The Colonel,
Frederick Hamilton, was in charge of a brigade, and drew £72. The
regiment was commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel R. Stearne, and the
Major was Richard Kane: the former received £51, and the latter
£90. To each of the Captains--John Moyle, Peter d’Offranville, Jos.
Stroud, F. de la Penotière, N. Hussey, Henry Browne, A. Rolleston,
and W. Vaughan (or Vauclin), £30 was paid. The Captain-Lieutenant,
Thos. Laughlin, and the Lieutenants--George Hall, James Lilly,
Robert Parker, Wm. Leathes, Ben. Smith, Wm. Blakeney, W. Weddall (or
Weddell), Saml. Roberts, and John Harvey, drew £14 a head; while £11
was the sum awarded to each of the Ensigns--John Blakeney, Henry
Walsh, John Cherry, W. Rolleston, Samuel Smith, R. Tripp, Edward
Walsh, and W. Moyle. The Quartermaster, Edm. Arwater, was rated as a
lieutenant, and the Adjutant, W. Blakeney, at £2 less; the Surgeon,
R. Weldon, received £12; his mate, R. Taylor, was considered only
worth £7, 10s.; and as the Chaplain, the Reverend Henry Reynolds,
drew £20, or rather more than the combined bounties of both doctors,
it would seem that in Marlborough’s army the care of the soul was
better paid than that of the body. There were a hundred and sixty-six
casualties in the XVIIIth, or about thirty per cent of those present.
Among the officers Captains H. Browne and A. Rolleston and Ensign
W. Moyle were killed: Captain W. Vaughan (or Vauclin) was mortally
wounded: Major R. Kane, Captains F. de la Penotière and N. Hussey,
Lieutenants W. Weddall (or Weddell), S. Roberts, J. Harvey, B.
Smith, W. Blakeney, and Ensign R. Tripp were wounded. In the other
ranks five sergeants were killed and nine wounded; fifty-two private
soldiers were killed and eighty-seven wounded.[39]

The morning after the battle Marlborough marched a few miles up the
river, and then encamped for four days to rest his weary troops, to
set his hospitals in order, and to dispose of his prisoners, of whom
Millner speaks as “a luggage that retarded our progress.” During
this respite from organised pursuit the French hurried back to the
Rhine, whither they were followed by the Allies, who laid siege to
the fortress of Landau. The XVIIIth was employed in the covering
army, and in the middle of October, a few weeks before the place was
taken, all the British infantry were embarked on river boats and
floated down the Rhine to Nimeguen, where after a ten days’ voyage
they disembarked, so greatly reduced by their losses in the campaign
that for administrative purposes the fourteen regiments were treated
as seven provisional battalions. The troops marched to their winter
quarters to enjoy a well-earned rest and to discipline the recruits
who joined them from home. While the XVIIIth was at Ruremonde, where
it spent several months, Brigadier Frederick Hamilton retired from
the service,[40] and was succeeded as Colonel by Lieutenant-General
R. Ingoldsby, from the 23rd regiment of Foot.

The year 1705 afforded the XVIIIth no opportunities of adding to its
laurels, for as far as the regiment was concerned the campaign was
one of hard marching, great fatigue, and no fighting. Marlborough
had planned an invasion of France, and again entrusting to the
Dutch the defence of the Low Countries led his British contingent
and a large number of their Continental Allies towards the Moselle,
whence he hoped to overrun Lorraine and then carry the war into
the enemy’s country. He expected to be joined by a strong body of
Germans under the Prince of Baden, a general from whose jealousy
and stupidity he had suffered acutely in the operations of 1704;
but after waiting many weeks for reinforcements which never came,
Marlborough determined to return to Flanders, where the enemy had
begun to show alarming signs of activity. Though Marshal de Villars,
one of the best soldiers of France, was watching his movements
closely, Marlborough broke up his camp and slipped away unmolested by
the French, who were nearly double his strength. With the elaborate
politeness of the time, he wrote to de Villars to apologise for
retreating without giving battle. “Do me the justice,” said he,
“to believe that my defeat is entirely owing to the failure of the
Prince of Baden, but that my esteem for you is still greater than my
resentment for his conduct.”[41]

When de Villeroi, who commanded the French in Flanders, heard that
Marlborough was coming back from the Moselle, he hastily retired to
a series of fortified lines stretching from Namur to Antwerp. These
lines the Duke determined to force, and by a series of brilliant
manœuvres and rapid marches succeeded in driving de Villeroi from
them, with much loss to the French and little to the Allies. But to
inflict a decisive blow upon the enemy a great battle was necessary.
Marlborough twice placed the French in situations where they would
have to fight at a disadvantage, and twice the Dutch generals, in
their insane jealousy of the British Commander-in-Chief, forbade the
action by refusing to allow their soldiers to engage. The XVIIIth
appears to have spent much of the campaign in levelling the captured
lines, and when the work was finished, wintered at Worcom, where in
January, 1706, Lieutenant-Colonel Stearne received his brevet of
Colonel.

The opening of the campaign of 1706 found Marlborough more determined
than ever to defeat de Villeroi in a pitched battle; and in order
to draw the French general from his fortified lines on the river
Dyle, he gave him to understand through a secret agent that, as the
Allies realised the Marshal was afraid of them, they were about to
besiege Namur, one of the fortresses of which Louis had repossessed
himself by his vigorous action in 1701. The bait took. Stung by this
insult, de Villeroi quitted the shelter of his fortifications and
marched to Tirlemont, apparently heading for Namur. When Marlborough
heard the welcome news, he pushed south-west from Maestricht, with
an army little inferior in numbers to de Villeroi’s 60,000 troops,
and on the 22nd of May encamped at Coswaren, where he learned that
de Villeroi was moving upon Judoigne. The Duke decided to attack the
French there, and at 1 A.M. on Whitsunday, May 23, 1706, he sent an
advance party under his Quartermaster-General, Cadogan, to select
a camping-ground near the village of Ramillies, which lies on the
eastern edge of the highest table-land in this part of Belgium.[42]
Owing to a heavy mist, it was not until eight o’clock that Cadogan
discovered that there were hostile troops upon the plateau. Two hours
later the sun came out, and revealed to each army the presence of
the other, the French moving eastward across the plateau, the Allies
advancing from the opposite direction.

The main body of Marlborough’s troops had marched two hours after
the Quartermaster-General’s detachment, but the Duke had overtaken
Cadogan early in the day, and began to array his eight columns for
battle. De Villeroi, who had the advantage of a thorough knowledge of
the ground, took up a defensive position, marked on the right by the
village of Taviers, in the centre by Ramillies and Offuz, and on the
left by a hamlet known as Autre-Eglise or Anderkirche. A few hundred
yards to the south of Taviers the river Mehaigne ran from west to
east through bogs and marshes; from Taviers northwards to Ramillies,
a distance of about a mile and a half, the soil was firm and well
suited for cavalry, but along the remainder of the French line,
about a mile and a quarter in length, the Little Geete meandered in
a shallow valley through morasses which opposite Autre-Eglise were
almost impassable. These villages were strongly held by infantry and
artillery, twenty battalions and twenty-four guns being allotted
to the defence of Ramillies alone. On the extreme left, between
Autre-Eglise and Offuz, were infantry supported by cavalry; from
Offuz to Ramillies the line was composed of infantry, while a hundred
and twenty squadrons, “interlaced” with a few battalions, were massed
between that village and Taviers.

Marlborough decided to attack the French right, between Ramillies and
the Mehaigne; and as his reconnaissance showed him that de Villeroi
had concentrated the greater part of his force upon this part of his
line, he determined, by demonstrating against the Marshal’s left,
to induce him to send reinforcements to that flank, and thus weaken
the remainder of his position. An imposing number of battalions
accordingly marched towards the Little Geete, descended into the
valley opposite Autre-Eglise and Offuz, and made ostentatious
preparations for throwing pontoon bridges over the stream. On the
extreme right of the allied infantry were several British regiments,
which the French staff easily identified by their uniforms and their
Colours; and when the Marshal heard that the soldiers whom he so
greatly feared were facing the left of his line, he drew largely
from his right and centre to strengthen the threatened spot. The
Duke had successfully “bluffed” de Villeroi; it now remained for
him to transfer the greater part of the infantry employed in this
demonstration to the points where they were really wanted. On the
eastern side of the valley of the Little Geete are hillocks, high
enough to conceal the ground beyond them from observers on the
plateau; and over these hillocks the leading battalions retired
gradually; disappeared, and once out of the enemy’s sight, hastened
to the centre of the line. The British brought up the rear, but
were ordered to halt at the top, turn about and face the enemy: and
there throughout the battle several regiments remained, not firing a
shot, but by their mere presence immobilising the French left wing,
and effectually preventing it from giving the help urgently needed
elsewhere.

By one o’clock the Duke’s preparations were finished, and after a
preliminary cannonade four Dutch battalions were launched against
Taviers; twelve battalions of the same nationality attacked
Ramillies; while a great body of Dutch cavalry stood waiting to
advance when one or other of these villages had fallen into the
hands of the infantry. The garrison of Taviers fought well, but
owing to the blundering of a French staff officer the reinforcements
sent to its support did not arrive in time to prevent its capture,
and as soon as the Dutch cavalry saw that their left flank could
not be enfiladed from the village they charged the French horse,
crashed through the first line, and then were so roughly handled
by the second that Marlborough had to bring up many squadrons to
their help. But these fresh squadrons did not turn the scale, and
before the Dutchmen could be induced to rally, Marlborough--the
Commander-in-Chief of the allied army, on whose life depended not
only the issue of the battle, but of the whole war--had to plunge
into the thick of the _mêlée_ and exert his personal influence with
the troopers, to all of whom he was well known by sight. But his face
and figure were familiar also to the enemy. Some French dragoons
broke from their ranks to surround him. He was unhorsed, and would
have been killed or captured had not his aide-de-camp mounted him
on his own charger. The Dutch then recovered themselves, and the
timely arrival of twenty more squadrons turned the tide against the
French. While this cavalry fight was in progress, the Danish Horse
and the Dutch Guards forced their way through the marshes on the bank
of the Mehaigne, turned the French right flank, and fell furiously
upon their rear. Encouraged by this good news the main body of Dutch
cavalry returned to the charge, and with a final effort shattered
the enemy in front of them. Thus assailed on three sides, the cavalry
of de Villeroi’s right wing lost heart, left the infantry to shift
for themselves, and galloped madly off the field.

The battalions who defended the village of Ramillies, mindful of
the fate of their comrades at Blenheim, determined to retire before
they were completely hemmed in, but as they “could not get out but
in great disorder our Horse fell in with them and cut most of them
to pieces.”[43] The Duke then ordered the brigades of infantry which
were massed round Ramillies to bring up their left shoulders and
advance against the still unbroken troops at Offuz; but the French
did not await their attack; and a couple of British regiments from
the extreme right worked through the swamps near Autre-Eglise, and
drove the enemy from that hamlet. Though a few of the best French
cavalry regiments fought hard to cover the retreat, the greater part
of de Villeroi’s army was routed and fled in panic, hotly pursued by
Marlborough’s horsemen, among whom the British squadrons were well to
the front.

The French lost in killed, wounded, and prisoners about 11,000 men,
80 standards and colours, 50 guns, and much of the baggage of their
army. The Allies on their side lost between 4000 and 5000 men,
chiefly among the Dutch and the Danes, to whom the honour of this
great victory is mainly due.

There is a curious conflict of evidence as to the part played by
the Royal Irish in this battle. According to Kane and Parker, the
XVIIIth was among the British regiments which, on the extreme right
of the allied line, stood all day on a hill without firing a shot.
Stearne, on the other hand, records in his journal that the regiment
was “greatly mauled” at the attack on the village of Ramillies; and
Millner, at the end of his casualty return (in which the losses of
the different nationalities are not given), mentions that “upwards of
three hundred of our Horse and Dragoon horses were killed or disabled
at the head of the Royal Regiment of Foot of Ireland.” If Stearne and
Millner are correct, it would appear that the XVIIIth was not only
employed in the attack on Ramillies, but was also in close support of
the mounted troops during some part of the pursuit.[44]

Marlborough’s enemies had blamed him for slackness in not profiting
by his victory at Blenheim; but not even his most virulent political
opponents could impute want of vigour to him after Ramillies.
Although his infantry had paraded before 3 A.M., had marched many
miles and had won a great victory, he gave them no rest till 1 A.M.
on the 24th, when they were allowed to halt for two hours; then they
trudged on “with all the expedition they could without observing any
other order than this, that every regiment kept their men as close
together as they possibly could, and none of them halted above an
hour at a time.”[45] Marlborough drove the French back into their own
country, and within a fortnight of the battle all the great trading
towns had opened their gates to the Allies, while very few fortresses
in Flanders remained in the hands of Louis XIV.’s troops. Over the
walls of Ostend, Dendermonde, and Menin the French flag still flew,
but these towns were attacked and taken in the course of a few weeks.

At the capture of Menin, one of Vauban’s masterpieces of
fortification, the XVIIIth won much glory. In July the Duke detached
20,000 troops to besiege it; and though the garrison of 5000 men
fought admirably and disputed every inch of ground, by the end of
the month most of the guns were dismounted, and the approaches of
the British brigade had reached the foot of the glacis. The next
step was to capture the covered way and counterscarp; and about
eight o’clock on the evening of the 7th of August, nine complete
battalions, of which the XVIIIth was one, delivered the assault. As
Stearne remarks, “this proved warm service,” for, as the Allies were
swarming up the glacis, two mines were sprung upon them; and when the
inevitable confusion was over and the attack was resumed, the French
fired venomously at the crest of the glacis, where the British were
covering the advance of the working parties bringing wool-packs and
fascines with which to throw up entrenchments. The Royal Irish and
Lauder’s, an unnumbered corps since disbanded, appear to have been
at the head of the column, and were so much annoyed by this musketry
that without orders they began to reply to it. The flashes of their
firelocks gave the French a target, and before the officers could
stop the firing the losses in these two regiments had been great.
Stearne, who was in command of the XVIIIth, says that the action
cost him six officers and more than eighty of the other ranks killed
and wounded. Parker, the adjutant of the regiment, mentions that two
captains and five subalterns were killed and eight other officers
wounded, but is silent about the casualties among the sergeants
and private soldiers. Millner agrees with the adjutant about the
officers and with the colonel about the men.[46] Notwithstanding
their losses, the Allies held the crest of the glacis until eight
o’clock next morning, when the working parties had finished the
entrenchments; then fresh batteries began to play upon the walls,
and in a short time the resistance was fairly beaten down and the
garrison surrendered on honourable terms. The siege lasted thirty-one
days, and cost the French eleven hundred officers and men, while
the Allies’ strength was diminished by two thousand six hundred
combatants.

In the spring of 1707, the Allies assembled at Bethlehem, where the
British contingent was joined by the Royal Irish from their winter
quarters at Ghent. Owing to the underhand conduct of the Emperor
of Austria, who for his private ends made a secret treaty with
Louis XIV. for the neutralisation of Italy, the French were able
to withdraw their troops from that country and largely reinforce
the Marshal de Vendôme, who had succeeded de Villeroi in command
of their “army of Flanders.” But de Vendôme had no wish to fight
Marlborough, and a long spell of very bad weather helped him to evade
all the Duke’s efforts to bring him to battle. Stearne in his journal
mentions that “there fell such rain that our men were not able to
draw their legs after them, neither could they keep their arms or
ammunition dry.” On one occasion the Allies were struggling over nine
miles of country, along which the French had just retreated, “but
what with the enemy marching before us, and our Horse which followed
them, and the rain continuing the roads were so deep and miry that
the most part of our infantry were not able to reach the camp that
night, and it was three or four days before the rear came up, and
several of them perished by the way.”[47]

In the hope of raising a rebellion in North Britain, Louis XIV.
attempted early in 1708 to land the Pretender in Scotland, with a
handful of French soldiers to train the partisans who were expected
to flock to the standard of the Stuart Prince. The expedition
sailed long before the campaign opened on the Continent; to meet
it the XVIIIth and nine other regiments were hurriedly shipped off
to Shields, where the transports anchored while their escort of
men-of-war joined in the chase of the enemy’s vessels, which were
driven back to France. As soon as the danger was over the troops
were sent off to Ostend, where they arrived in full time to rejoin
Marlborough’s army.

Early in the year it became evident that Louis intended to make a
great effort to regain the ground he had lost in Flanders, for he
assembled a hundred thousand men behind his frontier fortresses, and
placed them under the command of his grandson the Duke of Burgundy,
with de Vendôme as his military tutor and adviser. As Marlborough had
but eighty thousand troops at his immediate disposal, he arranged
that Eugene, the Prince of Savoy, who was in charge of the allied
forces on the Rhine, should support him whenever he wanted help. This
help was soon required, for the French took the initiative, and at
the end of May advanced to the forest of Soignies. While Marlborough
concentrated at Hal, de Vendôme rapidly despatched detachments to
Bruges and Ghent, where the civil authorities were in his pay; and
when Louis’ soldiers appeared outside the walls, the gates stood
open before them. Having thus secured two very important points in
the system of waterways connected with the Lys and the Scheldt, de
Vendôme next threatened Brussels; and by forcing Marlborough to
move to Asche for its protection, gained time to prepare for the
attack on Oudenarde, the capture of which would make him master of
the greater part of the Scheldt. He proposed to cover the siege
operations from Lessines, a place about thirteen miles south-east
of Oudenarde, and hoped to establish his main body there before
Marlborough had grasped his plan; but the Duke’s secret service
agents did not fail him, and when he learned that de Vendôme was to
move southwards from his camp at Alost on July 9, he determined to
outstrip him by starting from Asche long before dawn on the same
day. As the reinforcements from the Rhine had not yet arrived, in
point of actual numbers the Allies were considerably weaker than
the French; but Eugene, leaving his own troops many marches behind
him, had recently joined the English general--and the mere presence
of Eugene was in itself worth many thousand men. In a straight line
the Allies and the French had about the same distance, twenty miles,
to march, but by the roads followed by the Allies the mileage was
nearly fifty per cent greater. Almost without a pause, Marlborough’s
troops tramped steadily from 2 A.M. till noon, when, with fifteen
miles to their credit, they halted till the evening, though Cadogan’s
detachment of eight squadrons and as many battalions was allowed
only four hours’ rest before starting for Lessines, thirteen miles
farther on. Throughout the night the main body pressed forward and
reached their destination to find that their exertions had not been
thrown away--they had outmarched the French: no enemy was in sight,
and Cadogan, who had struggled into Lessines at midnight, had already
thrown several pontoon bridges across the river Dender. Not until
the Allies had reached their camping ground did the heads of the
French columns begin to show on the horizon; and when de Vendôme and
the Duke of Burgundy realised that Marlborough lay between them and
France, they abandoned all hope of besieging Oudenarde, and fell back
on the Scheldt to secure the safety of Bruges.

Marlborough decided to follow them, and Cadogan with eleven thousand
troops of all arms, including Sabine’s brigade of the 8th, XVIIIth,
23rd, and 37th regiments, quietly left the camp in the small hours of
July 11. The duty of this advance-guard was to make all preparations
for the crossing from the right bank of the Scheldt to the left by
the main body, which was due to arrive at Oudenarde a few hours
after Cadogan. Between 10 and 11 A.M. its cavalry scouts had crossed
the river a few hundred yards below the town, and were riding up
to the thickly enclosed table-land between the principal stream
and its northern affluent, the Norken,[48] when they saw to their
front a number of French troopers scouring the country for forage.
Vendôme had marched down the right bank to Gavre, a few miles below
Oudenarde, and was then in process of crossing the Scheldt. These
foraging parties were part of the French advance-guard, for de
Vendôme, who apparently had taken no steps to watch the movements
of the Allies, was so unconscious of danger that many of his men
had been allowed to disperse. The French Horse, however, quickly
recovered from their surprise at finding Marlborough on their heels,
and drove back our scouts, discovering in the course of the pursuit
that a body of his cavalry was on the plateau near the village of
Eyne, and that some of the bridges over the river near Oudenarde were
in his hands.

As soon as de Vendôme realised the situation he decided to form
along the slopes overlooking the Scheldt; the line was to stretch
from Heurne on his left to Mooregem on his right, and after ordering
a detachment of cavalry and seven battalions to occupy Heurne, he
rode back to report his dispositions to the Duke of Burgundy, whom
he found at breakfast. French writers say that the Prince greatly
disliked any interruption at his meals, and the news that the Allies
were on the same bank of the river as himself was very unwelcome.
There was already great friction between the Prince and his military
“bearleader”; and to vent his spleen upon the Marshal the Duke of
Burgundy peremptorily rejected the veteran’s plan, and insisted on
preparing to give battle, not close to the bank of the Scheldt, where
there was a good chance of crushing Marlborough’s columns as they
came piece-meal into action, but two miles farther back, on the far
side of the Norken, with his left at Asper and his right at Wannegem.
From that moment things began to go wrong with the French. In the
confusion caused by the rejection of the Marshal’s scheme no one
thought of recalling the cavalry and infantry ordered to Heurne: and
these luckless troops marched steadily towards a village which they
believed to be Heurne, though it proved to be the hamlet of Eyne,
well within the reach of Cadogan’s infantry.

While the French generals were laboriously forming their army behind
the Norken, Cadogan was throwing pontoon bridges over the Scheldt,
and anxiously scanning the horizon for the clouds of dust which would
herald the march of the main body of the Allies. But the day was
stifling, the roads narrow and bad; it was not until two o’clock in
the afternoon that the heads of the columns began to reach the river,
and thus set Cadogan free to secure for his chief a good foothold on
the left bank. The first thing to be done was to drive the French
out of Eyne; and a body of Hanoverian cavalry and three brigades of
infantry from the advance-guard were ordered to attack the village.
Sabine’s brigade of British was in front, and as it was led by the
Royal Irish, the XVIIIth was the first regiment under fire at the
battle of Oudenarde. Though the garrison of Eyne were conscious that
they had been stranded in an impossible position, so far in advance
of their main line that they could not hope to be reinforced, they
fought well at first; but when they realised that they were heavily
outnumbered they lost heart: three battalions surrendered: the others
were hustled out of the village at the point of the bayonet, and then
fell into the hands of the Hanoverians, who after cutting them to
pieces charged the detachment of French cavalry posted near Eyne and
chased it into the marshes of the Norken.[49] Cadogan followed up his
success by pushing two Prussian regiments towards Groenewald, thus to
some extent protecting the right flank of the main body as it crossed
the Scheldt.

The French troops who had been powerless to help their comrades
at Eyne became clamorous to avenge them, and the Duke of
Burgundy, seeing how slowly the Allies defiled over the bridges,
determined to take the offensive, and ordered his right and centre
to advance. About five o’clock a formidable mass of infantry
threatened Groenewald, where the Prussians would have fared badly
had they not been reinforced at once by twelve battalions of the
advance-guard, who, as they came into action, prolonged the line to
the left--_i.e._, southwards, towards the hamlet of Schaerken. But
as the French continued to gain ground on this part of the field
twenty battalions from the main body were flung into the fray, and by
continuing to extend to the left as they joined the fighting line,
repulsed a dangerous attempt by the enemy to turn the left of the
Allies at this point.

In the enclosures round Groenewald every hedge and ditch became a
miniature fortress, taken and retaken as the tide of battle ebbed
and flowed; and near the village of Schaerken the Allies could
hardly keep the enemy in check until the Duke reinforced this part
of the line. Then slowly, and with great difficulty, the Dutch and
Hanoverians forced the French back a few hundred yards to Diepenbeck;
but there they met with so stubborn a resistance that they could gain
no further ground. Some writers say that the French infantry had
fallen back to a belt of abattis prepared earlier in the day; be that
as it may, the fact remains that at this point de Vendôme’s infantry
fought magnificently, and brought Marlborough’s foot soldiers to
a standstill. Fortunately the Duke had in hand a reserve of some
twenty battalions and many squadrons, all of whom had so recently
crossed the river that they had not yet come into action; and with
these troops he turned the right of the enemy’s line, drove in the
outer flank of their infantry, and after dispersing a body of de
Vendôme’s cavalry fell upon the right rear of the French army. About
this time, but far too late to influence the issue of the battle,
the Duke of Burgundy ordered his left to move forward; but his foot
soldiers did nothing, and his horsemen were paralysed by the sight
of the British regiments of cavalry, drawn up on the far side of the
swamp across which they were called upon to advance. Thus the combat
resolved itself into a struggle round the villages of Groenewald and
Diepenbeck, and as night fell the flashes of the muskets showed that
the French line, ever growing thinner and narrower, was hour by hour
more closely hemmed in on front and flank and rear by Marlborough’s
infantry. Soon it became too dark to distinguish friend from foe,
and after parties from the right and left wings of the Allies had met
in rear of the French position and fired into each other, Marlborough
ordered his weary troops to break off the battle, to halt where
they stood, and be ready to resume the combat at dawn next day.
But at daybreak there was no enemy to fight. When the French right
flank was turned the Duke of Burgundy again quarrelled fiercely
with de Vendôme. The General tried to keep the army together; the
Prince insisted on an immediate retreat; the troops lost their
discipline, and following the example of Louis XIV.’s grandson, a
mass of runaways--generals and private soldiers, horse, foot and
artillery--streamed off the field. Not all the French broke, however:
by dint of de Vendôme’s personal exertions he rallied enough officers
and men to form the rear-guard, with which he covered the “stampede”
to Ghent.

The French lost about 6000 killed and wounded, and 9000
prisoners;[50] and (according to Millner) we took from them 10 guns,
56 pairs of colours, 52 standards, and 4500 horses. The casualties
among the Allies were about 3000 killed or wounded, more than half
of which were among the Dutch. The British suffered very little,
53 officers and men being killed and 177 wounded. The Royal Irish,
though the first regiment to come in action, were extremely lucky
in losing only a lieutenant and 8 private soldiers killed and 12
wounded.[51]

While Marlborough’s troops were enjoying forty-eight hours’
well-earned rest, an audacious project was forming itself in their
great leader’s brain. He knew that an expedition was being prepared
in England for a descent on the coast of Normandy, and that to meet
it many battalions would be drawn off from the centre of France. The
Duke of Burgundy’s army was reeling under the stroke of Oudenarde,
and would take weeks to recover itself. Why should not the Allies
profit by this favourable combination of circumstances, and leaving
a detachment to watch the garrison of Lille, neglect that great
frontier fortress and carry the war into the very heart of France?
But the scheme was too daring, even for Eugene, who insisted that
Lille must be captured as a preliminary to a serious invasion. So the
Duke made up his mind to reduce Lille, and marching across the French
frontier formed a camp near Commines, levying large contributions
from the neighbouring towns, while he began his preparations for the
siege. A single detail will be enough to show how enormous these
preparations were--the staff had to collect 16,000 horses to drag the
big guns and ammunition over the seventy-five miles of villanous road
between Lille and Brussels, where the heavy ordnance was stored.

The arrival of the Duke of Berwick[52] with large reinforcements from
the Rhine raised the Duke of Burgundy’s strength to at least 100,000
combatants. To meet them Marlborough had only 84,000 troops; but
when after many weeks’ delay his huge convoy started from Brussels,
he manœuvred so brilliantly that the enemy was never able to come
within striking distance of its cumbrous length. It was not until
the 22nd of August that the Allies broke ground before Lille, which
every Frenchman regarded as impregnable, for on its fortification
Vauban had lavished all his skill, 150 guns and mortars frowned
from its works, and Marshal de Boufflers commanded its garrison of
15,000 picked men. The siege was to be carried on by Eugene, while
from Helchin on the Scheldt Marlborough covered the operations with
the field army. Among Eugene’s troops the British were not strongly
represented: “only five regiments were detailed for regular work in
the trenches”[53]--the 16th, 21st, 23rd, 24th, and as hard knocks
were to be expected, it is scarcely necessary to add, the XVIIIth
also. The Duke had hardly finished his lines of circumvallation, or,
in modern language, the works protecting his own front and Eugene’s
rear, when he learned that the Duke of Burgundy was advancing to
the relief of Lille. For a week the armies lay opposite each other.
Marlborough and Eugene were anxious to attack the French, whose
position was so bad that Berwick saw nothing but defeat in store for
them if they gave battle; but once again the Dutch deputies threw
away splendid chances by refusing to allow their troops to fight. The
French generals, though under positive orders from Louis to wipe out
their disgrace at Oudenarde by winning a great battle near Lille,
declined the combat, and withdrew to devote themselves to the safer
task of harassing the Allies’ line of communication. By taking up
and holding strongly positions running along the Scheldt and the
Scarpe from Ghent to Douai, they hoped to intercept all convoys from
Brussels, at that time the Duke’s chief source of supply, but they
forgot that in Ostend, which Marlborough had recaptured two years
before, he possessed on the open sea a port within easy distance of
England. The troops which had just returned from the expedition to
Normandy--an expedition as futile as most of our similar enterprises
seemed fated to be--were landed at Ostend, where they were employed
most usefully in forming a new base.

The chief interest in this part of the campaign is centred in
Marlborough’s success in keeping the besiegers supplied with food and
ammunition, for the French could range at will over the greater part
of the country between Ostend and Lille, and they had possession
of the sluices that could inundate the districts through which the
convoys had to pass. After the brilliant little fight at Wynendal,
where a valuable convoy fought its way through a very superior force,
de Vendôme laid the neighbourhood of Ostend under water; but the Duke
organised a service of punts in which, despite the attentions of
French gunboats, stores were transported over the deepest part of the
flood, and then transferred to vehicles fitted with very high wheels
to keep their loads above the level of the water.[54]

The strain upon the Commander-in-Chief at this time must have been
indescribable, for in addition to the constant anxiety about his
commissariat, things did not always go well at Lille, where de
Boufflers defended himself in a masterly manner: Eugene was so badly
wounded that for some weeks he could not direct the operations: the
engineers made mistakes, and the supply of ammunition was always
scanty. When to these troubles was added the arrival from the Rhine
of a large body of the enemy under the Elector of Bavaria, who
laid vigorous siege to Brussels, the nerves of most men would have
suffered; but with unbroken serenity Marlborough prepared to rescue
Brussels from the danger threatening it. After misleading the French
by false reports about his movements, he burst through their line of
defences on the Scheldt, and so alarmed the Elector that he hurriedly
decamped, leaving behind him his sick, his wounded, and his guns.

The details of the doings of the XVIIIth in the siege of Lille
are very scanty; but it is known that in a great, though not very
successful assault on September 7, when Eugene lost about 3000 men,
his five British regiments between them had 350 casualties, or from
a fifth to a sixth of their whole strength.[55] In a desperate
attack on the counterscarp a fortnight later, Eugene was followed
by a number of British troops, among whom were some regiments lent
for the occasion by the covering army. In his memoirs he relates
that after two assaults had been repulsed with great slaughter, he
spoke a few words in English to the brave fellows who rallied round
him, and then led them back to the fire, where a musket-ball knocked
him senseless. The men thought he was dead; but an intelligent
soldier remembered that he was a great friend of the Duke’s, and
after looking for some conveyance on which to transport him to his
quarters, carried him back on a dung cart! On the 9th of December de
Boufflers surrendered on excellent terms, granted him as a proof of
Marlborough’s admiration for his splendid defence, which had cost
France 8000 men, and the Allies about 14,000 in killed and wounded
alone. The returns of the British losses are incomplete: Millner
states that from the beginning of the siege to October 22, when the
French abandoned the town and retreated in the citadel, the five
British regiments in Eugene’s force lost 1600 officers and men; the
casualties for the remainder of the siege he was unable to obtain.
Stearne briefly dismisses the services of the XVIIIth at Lille in
the following words: “Our regiment suffered very much, having two
captains and three subalterns killed: our major, with several other
officers wounded, and upwards of 200 men killed and wounded.”[56]

It would be deeply interesting to know how many of the Royal Irish
who watched the garrison of Lille march out with all the honours
of war had seen the ceremonial at Namur thirteen years before.
Unfortunately it occurred to none of the literary officers of
the XVIIIth to record the numbers. The mental attitude of these
old warriors is very curious: they seem to have grown tired of
writing about battles and sieges, and as the war went on cut their
descriptions shorter and shorter, though they were ready to dilate on
any departure from the usual routine of warfare. Thus, for example,
they all give accounts of a daring attempt to throw reinforcements
of powder into Lille. Two thousand cavalrymen started from Douai,
carrying large bags of powder behind them, and wearing in their hats
“boughs of trees,” in imitation of the Germans who always decorated
themselves in this way when on an expedition--or as the British
soldier would now express it, “when on the job.” In the dusk they
rode up to the outer barrier of the line of circumvallation, gave
over the pass-word, and stating they were a detachment of German
Horse with prisoners, were allowed to enter. Then they rode on
undetected, until one of the party, to use modern slang, “gave the
show away,” by remarking in French to a comrade that they had got
through the barrier very easily. A watchful sentry overheard him,
drew his own conclusions, and by promptly firing at the speaker gave
the alarm. The troops, says Millner,

  “instantly turned out of their Tents in only their Shirts and
  Cartridge Boxes with their Ammunition, and seiz’d their Arms from
  their Belts, and in a Trice form’d themselves into as good Order
  as could be expected, and with undaunted Courage, though in the
  Dark, fired amongst the thickest of the Enemy putting them in
  great Disorder and Confusion, so that in the Hurly-Burly thereof,
  several of the Bags of Powder fell off on a Causeway, and was
  broke; the which by the prancing of the Horses’ Feet, took Fire,
  and thereby blowed up and tore to pieces upwards of one Hundred
  Men of them, and likewise destroyed a good many of their Horses;
  but in the interim thereof, a few of them slipt into the City
  with some Ammunition also; but the major Part was obliged to
  retire, and that in very great Haste, Disorder and Confusion
  back again to Tournai.... The Besieged made a great Huzzaing
  that Night because they had got those few in with some Relief of
  Powder.”

While de Boufflers was discussing with Marlborough the terms of
capitulation, the other French Generals, thinking that the Duke was
as much worn out by the campaign as they were themselves, sent their
men into winter quarters and went off to Paris. But they reckoned
without their host. Marlborough sprang at Ghent, and invested it,
repulsed a great sortie on Christmas Day, and accepted the surrender
of the garrison on January 2, 1709. The French troops in Bruges did
not wait to be attacked, but abandoned the town and citadel: and
then, but not till then, the Allies were allowed to disperse to their
winter quarters.

During the greater part of the year 1708 the regiment was deprived
of the services of the adjutant, Captain Robert Parker, who was
specially selected to act as instructor in discipline and drill to
the regiments at that time quartered in Ireland. To any officer
the compliment would have been great; but in Parker’s case it was
especially flattering, because he was a self-made man who had risen
from the ranks. His story is an interesting one. His father was
a farmer near Kilkenny, where the boy was sent to a school which
boasted of a company of cadets (as we should now call them), who
were “armed with wooden guns and took great delight in marching and
exercising.” These cadets must have been a remarkable set of lads, as
more than thirty of them obtained commissions, and some indeed became
General officers. Parker soon discovered that soldiering was the
trade for him, and running away from home, enlisted in an independent
company commanded by Captain Frederick Hamilton, the future Colonel
of the XVIIIth Regiment. During the Tyrconnel troubles both
Hamilton and Parker were disbanded, but April, 1689, found them in
Meath’s regiment, the one a major, the other a full private. Parker
joined with a strong determination to get on in his profession. “I
determined to be very circumspect in my behaviour, by which I gained
the esteem of my Major and most of the officers of the regiment. I
applied myself diligently to the use of arms, and soon became expert
in it.” Whether he had risen to be a sergeant in the Irish wars is
not known: all he tells us about himself at that time is that at
Athlone in throwing up an entrenchment he “received a favourable shot
on the crown of the head; the ball only grazed on a good thick skull
and went off”; and that at the end of the siege he was much injured
by a stone dropped on him by the defenders of the castle. He must
have been a non-commissioned officer in 1695; desperately wounded
at Namur, he found when he returned to duty after seven months in
hospital, that he had been gazetted to a commission, with seven
ensigns junior to him. Eleven years later he was Captain-Lieutenant
and Adjutant, and after receiving at Menin “a contusion on the side
of the head which was likely to be fatal,” was promoted to be captain
of the grenadier company. Parker was so successful in disciplining
the infantry in Ireland that, when after two years he returned to
duty with the regiment in Flanders, Government made him a present of
two hundred pounds.

Though Louis had suffered heavily in 1708, the enormous resources of
his kingdom enabled him to send large numbers of fresh troops to
the Marshal de Villars, whom early in 1709 he placed in command of
the army of Flanders. De Villars’ first care had been to secure the
safety of Arras, the key to the north-east of France, by throwing up
to the east of the town a great line of works which stretched from
the Lys to Douai; and from behind these works, known as the lines
of La Bassée, he watched the Allies, who owing to the lateness of
the season did not take the field till June. Marlborough’s first
move was to make open, even ostentatious preparations to force
the lines; de Villars concentrated to resist them, calling up as
reinforcements a large portion of the garrison of Tournai, a fortress
some sixteen miles east of Lille. As Tournai was Marlborough’s
immediate objective, he marched swiftly upon it, and invested it
before de Villars discovered how completely he had been outwitted. At
the beginning of the siege the XVIIIth took part in an expedition to
reduce various small forts in the neighbourhood, and after marching
night and day returned “greatly fatigued,”[57] but in time to help to
storm the breaches of the ravelin, and to repulse a determined sortie
by the garrison, who strove to make up for the weakness of their
numbers by the vigour of their defence. Up to the time that the town
surrendered and the troops retired into the citadel, the siege had
run on normal lines; but when the attack on the citadel began things
became very different, for this stronghold was celebrated throughout
Europe for its subterranean defences, and the ground outside its
walls was honeycombed with casemates, mines, and secret passages. To
reach these hidden works the besiegers had to sink deep shafts, and
then to drive tunnels fathoms deep under the earth, at any moment
liable to be blown sky-high by the explosion of a mine. The desperate
work done by the XVIIIth in this phase of the siege is well described
by Stearne.

  “The enemy and we met several times underground and fought it out
  with bayonet and pistol, and in twelve days the French sprang
  sixteen mines, which blew up a great many of our men; and one
  mine did so much execution that it blew up part of the town wall,
  two branches of our trenches with a parallel between them, and
  ruined two of our mines, with a Captain and Lieutenant of our
  regiment and another officer and forty men, all of which happened
  on our attack.... Our miners discovered the branches of another
  mine, and as they were busy in finding out the mine itself, they
  heard the enemy at work in one of their galleries, whereupon
  a Lieutenant and twenty Grenadiers were ordered to dislodge
  them, but the Lieutenant being killed at the first onset the
  Grenadiers retired immediately; after that another officer with
  a fresh detachment was ordered for that service, but the enemy
  throwing a great many grenades and making a great smoke with
  combustible stuff, forced them to retire being suffocated. The
  next day, the miners being supported by a Lieutenant and sixteen
  Grenadiers, were at work, to pierce through a gallery they had
  discovered, but upon their breaking into it, the enemy threw
  in upon them a great quantity of straw, hemp, powder and other
  combustible matter, and being set on fire the Lieutenant and
  ten of the Grenadiers were stifled. After this manner was this
  terrible siege carried on, till by degrees we wrought ourselves
  almost into the ditch. The enemy sprang a mine which was their
  last effort, with which we had near four hundred men killed, but
  notwithstanding we lodged ourselves that night on our attack near
  their palisades, where we raised a prodigious quantity of cannon.”

The citadel capitulated on the 3rd of September, after more than
3000 French officers and men had fallen. The besiegers’ casualties
are given in Millner’s return as 1233 killed, 4055 wounded, or a
grand total of 5288. Millner is not as clear as usual about the loss
of the British, but it seems probable that 178 were killed and 521
wounded, or 699 of all ranks. To what extent the Royal Irish suffered
it is impossible to say, but it is probable that in such continuous
fighting more officers and men were placed _hors de combat_ than are
mentioned in Stearne’s narrative.[58]

As soon as Marlborough saw that the defence of Tournai was weakening,
he marched a large force towards the lines of La Bassée; again
demonstrated against de Villars, whom he puzzled completely, and
then, after a march of forty-nine miles in fifty-six hours, in
pouring rain over roads knee-deep in mud, swooped upon Mons, a town
important to the French, though at that time only weakly held. When
de Villars slowly realised that the Duke had no intention of wasting
his strength in storming highly fortified lines, he advanced with
95,000 men, and entrenched himself at the Trouée d’Aulnoit, one of
the few gaps in a belt of woodland which lay a few miles to the south
of Mons. He outnumbered the Allies so greatly that they decided
not to attack him until the troops left to level the siege-works
at Tournai had rejoined headquarters, and thus made Marlborough’s
numerical strength equal to that of his opponent. These troops, among
which were the XVIIIth and several other British regiments, were
ordered up at once, but while they were on the march de Villars,
by working night and day, rendered his position very formidable.
His right rested on the forest of Laignières, half a mile from the
village of Malplaquet,[59] which has given its name to the battle
of the 11th of September, 1709: his centre ran across the southern
end of the gap, which was open, fairly level, and about 2000 yards
in width: his left was thrown forward into the continuous series of
woods known respectively as those of Taignières, Blangies, and Sart.
Across his centre he built long lines of trenches, gun emplacements,
chains of abattis, and many strong redans; the woods on his flanks
were similarly protected, and when the attackers had forced their way
through the abattis which fringed the edges they came under the fire
of field-works hidden in the depths of the forest. The weak point
of the position was that cavalry could only act offensively on the
plain--_i.e._, the gap between the woods; and as this open ground was
covered with defences Villars had to draw up his Horse in rear of the
rest of his troops, where they would be unable to come into action
unless the Allies broke through some part of the front line.

For the attack of this position, which from the nature of its
fortifications had virtually become a fortress, the Duke issued the
following orders: The Prince of Orange with thirty-one battalions,
most of which were Dutch, was to make a demonstration against the
right of the French line; sixty-eight battalions were to assail the
northern and eastern faces of the woods of Taignières and Sart; while
General Withers, with five British and fourteen foreign battalions,
was to strike and turn the extreme left of the enemy’s line at the
village of La Folie. As the pressure on the French left became
intense, the Duke expected (as did actually happen) that de Villars
would draw largely from his centre to reinforce the point of danger;
then fifteen British battalions and other infantry, till then held
back in the centre, were to be launched at the works in the gap,
capture them, and thus win a passage for the allied cavalry, which
was then to crash through Villars’ centre and cut his army in twain.
The heavier guns were massed into two great batteries--one playing on
the enemy’s right, the other on his left.

Though the advanced parties of the hostile armies watched each other
throughout the night at little more than a musket’s shot distance,
nothing happened to disturb the few hours’ rest which the Duke
allowed his men.[60] Long before daylight the troops were under arms,
and when morning service had been read at the head of every regiment,
the Duke rode through his army, correcting faulty dispositions and
sending to their places in the line of battle the horse and dragoons
who during the night had arrived from Tournai. They had left behind
them on the road the infantry, who came on as best they could, the
last to reach the battlefield being the Royal Irish, whose march
was retarded by the slow-moving guns they had to escort.[61] After
an hour’s artillery duel Marlborough began to carry his plan into
effect, and launched his infantry columns against Villars’ flanks. At
first things went well. His right made some progress, though in the
woods of Taignières and Sart the French fought superbly, disputing
every inch of ground, and by vigorous counter-attacks often sending
their assailants reeling back upon their supports; and on his
left the Prince of Orange kept the enemy occupied in the forest of
Laignières by his feigned attack. Suddenly, in direct defiance of
his orders from the Duke, this General took upon himself to attack
in real earnest; but the French fell upon his column with such
resistless energy that the Dutch, stubborn fighters as they were,
were driven back with hideous slaughter. Marlborough received this
startling news with composure; he directed the Prince of Orange to
content himself with holding the French without again attacking them;
and confident of ultimate success, in no way altered his original
dispositions.

While the Prince of Orange was being buffeted on the left, Eugene,
who commanded on the right flank, was forcing the French backwards
through the woods. The process, though slow and very costly, was
sure; and when de Villars, who had taken charge of the French left,
heard that the red-coats of Withers’ column were appearing on his
flank at La Folie, he did exactly what Marlborough expected him to
do, and weakened his centre to reinforce his left. Three brigades,
one of them composed of the Irishmen who had done so well at
Blenheim, hurried up to de Villars’ help, plunged into the wood, and
drove the Allies back on their supports. In this charge the Irish
Brigade with reckless valour pursued so far that they lost their
formation, and the whole or part of one of its battalions found
itself alone in a glade, where it was attacked by the Royal Irish.
The XVIIIth had come so late into action that it had been sent off to
the extreme right of the whole army, where, in modern phraseology, it
seems to have acted “on its own,” and according to Parker marched on
till it came

  “to an open in the wood. It was a small plain, on the opposite
  side of which we perceived a battalion of the enemy drawn up.
  Upon this Colonel Kane who was then at the head of the regiment,
  having drawn us up and formed our Platoons, advanced gently
  towards them, and the six Platoons of our first fire made ready.
  When we had advanced within a hundred yards of them, they gave us
  a fire of one of their ranks, whereupon we halted, and returned
  them the fire of our six Platoons at once; and immediately made
  ready the six Platoons of our second fire, and advanced upon
  them again. They then gave us the fire of another rank, and we
  returned them a second fire, which made them shrink; however they
  gave us the fire of a third rank after a scattering manner, and
  then retired into the wood in great disorder, on which we sent
  our third fire after them, and saw them no more. We advanced
  cautiously up to the ground which they had quitted and found
  several of them, killed and wounded; among the latter was one
  Lieutenant O’Sullivan, who told us the battalion we had engaged
  was the Royal Regiment of Ireland in the French service.”

In this skirmish the XVIIIth, or Royal regiment of Foot of Ireland,
had but few casualties; while the Iro-Gallic regiment, as “their
opposite number” in Louis’ army was termed, is said to have lost
several officers and about forty men.[62]

While the Irishmen were settling their quarrel, the climax of the
battle was approaching. Eugene had rallied his infantry in the wood
of Taignières, and was struggling to hold his own against the fresh
troops which de Villars in person led against him. Both generals
were wounded--Eugene was struck on the head by a musket-ball, but
refused to leave the fighting line to have his injury attended
to by a surgeon; de Villars, hard hit in the leg, made a gallant
effort to direct the battle from a chair, but swooning from pain
was carried away insensible to the nearest village. Though deprived
of their leader, the French fought obstinately, and on the right
of the allied line the combat raged without any decisive result,
neither side knowing that when the three brigades were moved from
the centre to the left of de Villars’ line, Marlborough had ordered
the Dutch forward on his left, and had hurled himself against the
heart of the French position. Orkney’s fifteen battalions of British
infantry, who for many hours had been waiting for their chance,
were let loose against the redans across their front, and carrying
them after a sharp fight, promptly lined with marksmen the reverse
parapets--_i.e._, those looking backwards into the enemy’s second
line. On the left, the Dutch infantry atoned for their mistake in
the morning by capturing not only the wood of Laignières, but the
abattis and trenches connecting it with the works now in the hands
of the red-coated battalions, and the Dutch cavalry poured through
the openings won by their infantry comrades. But in the scramble
over shelter trenches and abattis their ranks became disordered,
and before they had time to re-form they were attacked by the
Gendarmerie, and forced to take shelter under the muskets of Orkney’s
battalions, whose steady shooting beat off the French and gained
time for Marlborough to come up with the British and Prussian horse.
These were driving the Gendarmerie backwards, when a splendid
counter-attack of the French Household troops crashed through
their first line, penetrated the second, and threw the third into
confusion. At that moment Eugene, dashing up bloodstained from his
wound, threw his last squadrons against the enemy’s flank; Louis’
Bodyguard wavered and gave way, and de Boufflers, on whom the command
had devolved after de Villars was wounded, seeing that his centre was
pierced, his right dislodged, and his left beaten though not routed,
ordered a retreat.

His retirement was quite unmolested by the Allies, who were too much
exhausted to pursue an enemy who after such a desperate struggle
was still able to retire in good order. Marlborough had begun
the engagement with about 95,000 troops, but by three o’clock in
the afternoon twenty thousand of his men were killed or wounded.
Millner’s analysis of the casualties shows that the Germans lost 5321
officers and men; the Prussians, 1694; the Hanoverians, 2219; the
Dutch (thanks to the Prince of Orange’s untimely movement), 8680; and
the British, 1783. In the British contingent 32 officers were killed
and 111 wounded; among the other ranks, 492 were killed and 1073
wounded. Of the XVIIIth, two officers were wounded, four men killed
and six wounded.[63] Though the French lost the day, only twelve
thousand of their men fell; and the only trophies of the victory left
in the hands of the Allies were sixteen guns, five hundred prisoners,
and many standards.

Three days after the battle the Duke resumed the siege of Mons, where
the Royal Irish were among the regiments of the covering force, and
when the fall of the fortress brought the campaign to an end, the
XVIIIth returned to its usual winter quarters in the town of Ghent.

[Illustration: MAP N^o. 1.

  OUDENARDE
  July 11, 1708

  BLENHEIM
  August 13, 1704

  RAMILLES
  May 23, 1706

  MALPLAQUET
  Sept. 11, 1709

  W. & A.K. Johnston Limited, Edinburgh & London.]

Though no great battle occurred in 1710, the army in Flanders was
by no means idle. As Marlborough failed to induce Villars to try
conclusions with him in the field, he began to prepare for a future
invasion of France by the successive capture of the fortresses of
Douai, St Venant, Bethune, and Aire. The XVIIIth was in the besieging
force at Aire, where the small garrison defended itself gallantly for
nearly ten weeks, not surrendering until it had lost about 1400 men
and inflicted nearly five times as many casualties on the attackers.
Nothing is known of the work done in this siege by the XVIIIth;
Stearne and Parker contented themselves with recording that owing to
the capture of a convoy food was very scarce in camp,[64] and that
the regiment had three officers killed and five wounded, with
about eighty casualties among the other ranks.[65]

During the winter of 1710-11 the French made gigantic efforts to
protect their country against the threatened invasion, and threw up
fresh lines, which ran from Namur to a point on the English Channel
a few miles south of Boulogne, using rivers and canals, swamps, and
artificial inundations as barriers against the general whom they
feared so greatly. Before Marlborough was ready to open the campaign
of 1711, his trusted friend and invaluable colleague, Prince Eugene,
was recalled to Austria with a large body of troops, but though left
with forces greatly inferior in numbers to those of de Villars, he
resolved to carry out the first task he had already set himself,
the capture of Bouchain. As this fortress was protected by the new
lines, which were far too strong to be carried by force, the Duke
determined to decoy Marshal de Villars from the opening in the works
at Arleux, where he intended to cross. He advanced and retired;
threatened first one part of the lines and then another; issued
contradictory orders; pretended to be cast down at the loss of a weak
detachment intentionally thrown away as a bait to his adversary;
simulated alternately rage, dejection, rashness; and deceived not
only the French spies in his camp, but also his own army, who began
to fear that their beloved “Corporal John” had lost his judgment. By
acting apparently like a madman, but really with the profound skill
of a great master of war, he lured de Villars forty miles to the
westward of Arleux, and on the morning of August 4, ostentatiously
reconnoitred the Marshal’s position, explaining in unusual detail to
the generals who accompanied him the part each was to play in the
assault which was to be delivered on the morrow: then he returned to
camp and issued orders for the coming battle. At tattoo the word was
passed to strike tents and fall in at once, and in an hour the troops
were in motion. At first they thought they were merely taking up
ground for the attack next day, but when hour after hour they plodded
steadily eastward, they were fairly puzzled until, just before dawn,
the message ran down the column: “The cavalry have reached Arleux
and have passed the lines, and the Duke desires that the infantry
will step out.” And step out they did! They forgot the fatigue of the
fifteen miles they had marched already with heavy muskets on their
shoulders and fifty pounds’ weight upon their backs, and without a
halt for rest or food trudged manfully over an apparently endless
plain. When the sun grew hot the work began to tell, and it became
a question of the survival of the fittest. The weaker men dropped
exhausted on the ground, first by scores, then by hundreds, and later
in the day literally by thousands; but without stopping to help their
comrades, those soldiers who still had the strength to keep their
places in the ranks set their teeth and staggered on, determined not
to be beaten in the race by the French, whose horsemen they could
see on the other side of the lines hurrying in the same direction as
themselves. Early in the afternoon the leading battalions reached
Arleux and reinforced the cavalry, who were already in possession
of the entrance to the works. The XVIIIth came up about 4 P.M.;
apparently the discipline and the marching powers of the regiment
had brought it there fairly intact, but when the men realised that
the prize was won and Arleux safe in the Duke’s hands, the reaction,
inevitable after so prolonged a strain, set in, and half of the Royal
Irish collapsed, dead beat and unable to walk another yard. Barely
fifty per cent of the infantry had kept up with the army in this
forced march, when nearly forty miles was covered in eighteen hours.
Numbers of men were found dead from exhaustion, and it was fully
three days before all the stragglers had rejoined the Colours.

Marlborough now laid siege to Bouchain, and handled the covering
force so well against de Villars’ superior numbers that the French
failed to interfere with his operations, and on the 13th of September
had the mortification of seeing the garrison surrender. The investing
force was desperately hard worked during the siege. For thirteen days
consecutively the Royal Irish marched and dug trenches all day, and
at night stood to their arms, ready to fight at any moment. “This,”
says Parker, “was the greatest fatigue I ever underwent at any one
time of my life.” Though the French surrendered before the breach
was stormed, they inflicted heavy losses on the besiegers, whose
casualties amounted to 4018, of which 1154 were among the fifteen
British battalions employed in the siege. The Royal Irish were
fortunate: only four officers were wounded, and about forty of the
other ranks killed or wounded.[66] It is said that an officer of the
XVIIIth, whose courage was as high as his stature was low, was nearly
drowned in wading across a deep inundation, so he had himself hoisted
on the shoulders of the biggest of the grenadiers of his party, and
when safely landed at the foot of the parapet led an assault upon the
enemy’s works.

The capture of Bouchain was the last service the Duke of Marlborough
was allowed to render to his country. Political intrigues had long
been directed against him, and when he returned to England in the
autumn he was coldly received by Queen Anne, insulted in the House
of Lords, prosecuted for peculation by the House of Commons, and
deprived of all his offices. Nay, more, to such a height did party
pamphleteers rouse popular indignation against him, that the General
“who never fought a battle that he did not gain nor sat down before
a fortress he did not take” was forced to go to the Continent to
escape from the jeers of the London mob. Even before his fall, the
Ministers in power had begun secret negotiations with Louis, by which
England was to desert her Allies and make a separate peace with
France; and when the Duke of Ormond, his successor in command of the
British forces in Flanders, joined the army in the spring of 1712, he
understood that he was on no account to cross swords with de Villars.
During several months the British troops were in a very miserable
position; for being still, at least in name, part of the allied
army, to the supreme command of which Eugene had now succeeded, they
followed its operations, but in a novel and humiliating capacity:
they were no longer chief actors, but spectators--soldiers whom their
Government would not allow to fight; and when Ormond announced to
them that the suspension of hostilities between England and France
was signed, the news filled them with profound grief. In July they
turned their backs upon their former comrades and returned to Ghent
and Bruges, after a gloomy march past Douai, Tournai, Bouchain,
Lille, and Oudenarde, places which they had helped to take, but to
which the Dutch garrisons now contemptuously refused them admittance.

After twenty years of almost uninterrupted fighting, every army
requires careful handling at the beginning of peace, but more
especially one sore at the ill-treatment of its beloved Chief, sorer
still at the loss of its honour by its desertion of its comrades in
the time of need. Ormond did not manage his men well, and neglected
their commissariat; the garrison of Ghent lost their discipline,
listened to the words of agitators, and formed a mad scheme to rise;
loot and burn the town, and then disperse over the Netherlands. The
plot was discovered, but two or three thousand men seized part of the
town, where they barricaded themselves, holding out until field-guns
were brought against them. Soon after this mutiny was put down the
troops were withdrawn to England, but the Royal Irish and another
regiment were left to garrison the town until political questions
regarding it had been settled. Their detention at Ghent gave them the
opportunity to see Marlborough once more, for when he passed through
the town at the end of 1712 the whole garrison was on foot to do him
honour.

To many of the officers and men of the XVIIIth Ghent must have been
more familiar than their own homes in Ireland, for they had wintered
there for many years during the war, and did not finally leave it
until the autumn of 1715, when the regiment returned to England. A
few months later it was quartered at Oxford, where “the scholars
and the soldiers did not agree,” until the officers ordered their
men to leave their weapons behind them when they went out at night,
taking instead stout cudgels with which to teach the undergraduates
good manners. This stopped the trouble, and all was quiet until, on
the Prince of Wales’ birthday, the officers lit a bonfire outside
the Post Office, and then went to supper. While they were at table
stones began to come in through the window; a number of soldiers
rushed to the defence of their officers, and broke the windows of
the house from which the supper party had been pelted. Then arose
a furious row: the townsmen turned out; so did the soldiers from
their quarters, and headed by a Lieutenant of grenadiers, who “was
a little elevated,” a mass of Royal Irishmen went through the town
breaking every window they could reach that was not illuminated in
honour of the Royal birthday. Patrols were sent out to stop the
window-breaking, but it is possible they were not very zealous--at
any rate, much damage was done before the rioting was stopped. The
Dons announced that they would have every officer in the regiment
cashiered for this insult to the University, and solemnly complained
to the Privy Council, who at once asked for “reasons in writing,”
or their equivalent at the beginning of the eighteenth century.
Then the House of Lords debated the matter at great length, and
finally decided in favour of the officers, charging the University
with disloyalty for not celebrating properly the Prince of Wales’
birthday. Thus the affair ended without detriment to the regiment,
and to the great benefit of the Oxford glaziers who had to replace
£500 worth of broken glass.

In January, 1712, Lieutenant-General Ingoldsby died.
Brigadier-General Richard Stearne, his successor, made over the
regiment in 1717 to Colonel William Cosby.[67]



CHAPTER III.

1718-1793.

THE SECOND SIEGE OF GIBRALTAR--THE SIEGE OF
OSTEND--LEXINGTON--BUNKER’S HILL.


Less than three years after the Royal Irish returned from the Low
Countries they found themselves again on foreign service, this time
in the south of Europe. During the war of the Spanish Succession
there had been much fighting in the Mediterranean, where Gibraltar,
and Port Mahon in Minorca, one of the Balearic Islands, had been
captured by England, whose possession of these two fortresses was
confirmed by the Peace of Utrecht. When this peace was signed every
nation hoped that for many years there would be no more wars on the
Continent; but very soon relations between Spain and Austria became
so strained that the British Government decided to send a squadron to
the Mediterranean, to support Austria if Spain attacked her Italian
possessions, and to reinforce the garrison of Minorca. Among these
reinforcements were the Royal Irish, who, less fortunate than some of
the regiments in Minorca, were not selected to serve as marines in
our short but successful campaign off the coast of Sicily.

In 1727, the little world of Port Mahon was startled by grave news
from the mainland. Spain still smarted under the loss of Gibraltar:
every Spaniard looked upon the presence of the red-coats on the Rock
as an affront not only to his nation but to himself, and was prepared
to risk much to recover the fortress. For the second time since the
XVIIIth had been quartered in Minorca, Spain, regardless of the fact
that she was not at war with England, was making preparations to
recapture Gibraltar. On the first occasion, in 1720, though peace
had been restored between the Courts of Madrid and of St James, the
Spaniards, under the pretext of reinforcing their garrison at Ceuta,
assembled a large number of troops near the fortress, laid violent
hands upon a hundred British merchant ships then lying in the ports
of southern Spain, and forced their crews to carry warlike stores to
the bay of Algeçiras. Gibraltar at that moment was in a deplorable
condition--the regiments were weak; there were only two officers
of field rank in the garrison, as the seniors were at home, many of
them without leave; the guns were few in number and bad in quality,
and there was only fourteen days’ supply of food in store. The place
was in such imminent danger that Colonel Kane, then Governor of
Minorca, was ordered to come to the rescue with every man who could
be spared from his command. When he and his reinforcement of five
hundred men[68] arrived off the Rock, he found it threatened by three
hundred Spanish transports, escorted by six galleys, each manned
by 500 slaves, and three 60-gun Maltese war vessels, hired to take
part in the attack. The appearance of the four or five men-of-war
with the Minorca contingent frightened away the Maltese, and the
Spaniards returned to Ceuta without firing a shot. Now, seven years
later, great preparations for war were again on foot--a fleet of
trading vessels was employed in transporting guns, ammunition, and
stores from Cadiz to Algeçiras, where as many as forty ships arrived
in a day; large numbers of troops were assembled, and the peasants
of Southern Andalusia were swept together to serve as labourers in
the siege. Our Government, however, was under the impression that
the Spaniards meditated not a siege but a _coup de main_, and in
December, 1726, warned the authorities at Gibraltar to be prepared
for “a sudden push on the sea line by scaling ladders, encouraged by
the weakness of the garrison.” The bearer of this important message
was not sent from England by a swift frigate, but was left to make
his way to Spain as best he could; landing at Malaga, he chartered a
ship to take him to Gibraltar, but was captured on the voyage by a
Spanish man-of-war and thrown into prison. The despatches, however,
were saved and duly reached their destination; Kane was once more
summoned from Minorca, and with a regiment on the point of returning
to England reached Gibraltar in February, 1727. Doubtless the XVIIIth
was deeply disgusted at being left behind, but in a few weeks came
the turn, not indeed of the whole regiment, but of a portion of it,
to share in the honours of the defence.

According to the memoirs of Marshal Keith, a Scottish soldier of
fortune, who before he rose to eminence in the service of Russia
held a commission in the Spanish army, Kane did not arrive a moment
too soon, for there was but a slender guard at the landward gate,
and the Spanish soldiers were allowed to come into the town without
being searched for arms. A surprise would have been easy, but the
fortress was saved by a strange exhibition of pride. Count de las
Torres, who commanded the Spaniards, haughtily said that “would
the English give him the town, he would not enter it but by the
breach.” In the middle of February his troops, 20,000 strong, took up
positions at San Roque, and in order to provoke hostilities began to
throw up a battery on the western beach. General Clayton, who was
acting Governor at the time, thereupon wrote to de las Torres in the
following terms:--

  “Having observed this morning that your Excellency has opened
  a trench in order to attack this fortress, which act I hold to
  be contrary to the treaties existing between our sovereigns, no
  declaration of war yet having reached my knowledge, I therefore
  inform your Excellency, that if you do not forthwith order the
  works to cease I shall be obliged to take necessary measures in
  consequence. I transmit this to your Excellency by my secretary,
  to whom I beg a reply may be delivered.

  “JASPER CLAYTON.
  “GIBRALTAR, _February 22nd 1727_.”

To this letter the Spaniard replied--

  “SIR,--I received your Excellency’s letter of to-day’s date, and
  regarding the trench which has been opened as you say to attack
  the city of Gibraltar, I hereby answer, that what has been done
  has been on our own ground, to fortify those places where our
  batteries might be of good service, and as there belongs nothing
  to that fortress beyond its fortifications, as appears by the
  very treaties your Excellency alludes to; and your Excellency
  having taken possession of the towers within our jurisdiction,
  your Excellency may be fully assured that unless they are
  immediately abandoned I will act in the manner your Excellency
  insinuates to _me_, acquainting you at the same time that for
  besieging the fortress works less distant will be constructed, as
  you will learn in due time.

  “COUNT DAS TORRES.
  “CAMPO DE GIBRALTAR, _February 22nd 1727_.”

This truculent answer clearly meant war, and so Clayton understood
it; but anxious to do nothing to precipitate hostilities, he
contented himself for the moment with firing one shot over the
battery as an intimation that work must cease. For an hour he held
his hand: then, as the Spaniards wholly disregarded the warning, his
guns opened upon them. Thus commenced the second of the series of
sieges in which British troops have successfully defended Gibraltar
against heavy, sometimes well-nigh overwhelming odds. The first,
begun a few months after our capture of the Rock, lasted from
October, 1704, to April, 1705; the second continued from the 22nd
of February till the 23rd of June, 1727; the third, or Great Siege,
lasted nearly four years, from the 16th of July, 1779, to the 5th of
February, 1783.

In 1727, the Spaniards attacked from the land side only; their navy
took no part in the operations, which were exclusively directed
against the North Front and the defences of the Rock from the
extremity of the old Mole to Willis’s Battery. At the beginning of
the siege the garrison had only sixty guns in position, the heaviest
being 32-prs., and as “most of the ordnance was old and worn out,
more casualties occurred from the bursting of guns than from the
enemy’s fire.”[69] The Spaniards, on the other hand, brought into
action ninety-two guns and seventy-two mortars, many of them the best
and most modern of their day. De las Torres lost no time in opening
his trenches. During the night of February 22nd-23rd five battalions
of infantry, a brigade of engineers, and a thousand peasants started
work on the first parallel, which ran from the Devil’s Tower on the
eastern beach along the base of the Rock to the inundation. Next
night two thousand of the enemy were moved northwards into ground
dead to the guns of the batteries, but not to those of two British
men-of-war which, under cover of the darkness, had anchored off the
east of the isthmus connecting the fortress with the mainland, or, in
other words, the neutral ground. As soon as it was light the sailors
brought their guns to bear upon these troops, raking their ranks
from end to end, while from the top of the Rock the soldiers hurled
down upon the Spaniards live shell, hand-grenades, and stones. The
enemy retreated in confusion and with great loss, but de las Torres,
after driving away the men-of-war by an overwhelming artillery fire,
threw up batteries so completely commanding the anchorage on the east
of the isthmus that further flanking attacks of this nature became
impossible. Under a heavy cannonade from the garrison, the Spaniards
worked without intermission, and in spite of heavy and continuous
rain which flooded their trenches and produced much sickness
among their men, gradually completed and unmasked many formidable
batteries, some of which were within a hundred yards of the Rock.

Throughout the month of March, before further reinforcements began to
arrive from England and Minorca, the British troops suffered greatly
from fatigue. The guards and piquets were very heavy, absorbing
a daily average of 1200 rank and file, and a thousand men were
constantly occupied in mounting guns and strengthening the defences.
These working parties were commanded by officers of the line, who
were struck off all other duty and received half a crown a-day extra
pay. The men also drew sixpence a-day extra, and “were assisted by
the Jews, who were employed in taking ammunition to the batteries and
clearing the ditch of the rubbish beaten down from the upper works
by the enemy’s shot; these unfortunate Israelites received no pay,
and for some time were utterly useless, being paralysed with terror
when under fire.”[70] Some of them, perhaps to revenge themselves for
this forced labour, joined in a conspiracy among the “undesirable”
element in the civil population to open the gates to the enemy. The
plot was discovered, and punished in the rigorous fashion of the
day--two Moors, the chief agents of the Spaniards, were put to death,
and after their bodies had been flayed the skins were nailed to
the gates of the fortress as an object lesson on the penalties of
unsuccessful treachery.

The elements during the siege were strongly in favour of the British,
for such deluges of rain fell in April that the Spaniards’ trenches
again became untenable and their cover was destroyed. Until the
damage could be made good the opening of the great bombardment was
necessarily postponed, and during the respite two battalions arrived
from home on the 7th of April, and a fortnight later four transports,
escorted by the _Sole Bay_, brought five hundred troops, detachments
from the corps stationed in Minorca. How many men the Royal Irish
contributed is not known; but as Cosby, their colonel, was in command
of the whole contingent, it is natural to suppose that the regiment
was largely represented. England’s command of the sea enabled her to
reinforce at will, and in the beginning of May two more battalions
reached Gibraltar from home, raising the strength of the garrison to
about 5500 non-commissioned officers and men. With them came Lord
Portmore, the Governor, who was on leave when the siege began: though
quite an old man he had refused to plead his age and infirmities as
an excuse for evading his duty, and now returned to take his share in
the defence. As soon as the Spaniards had finished their batteries
and mounted their guns, they opened a tremendous artillery fire,
which was kept up for fourteen days without intermission. During
every hour of this time seven hundred projectiles were hurled against
our works, and to use the words of an eyewitness, “we seemed to
live in flames.... Attempts feeble in comparison to the resistless
storm of shot and shell that tore over the walls of the fortress,
were made to check this murderous fire in vain, guns were everywhere
dismounted, and as quickly as they were replaced were again
destroyed. In vain the men with dauntless courage threw themselves
upon the ramparts and worked to repair the shattered parapets, the
heavy shot tore away whole tons of earth and buried the guns beneath
the ruins. Butts filled with sand and bound with fascines were heaped
together as some covering from the artillery, but they were no sooner
in position than they were swept away.”[71]

The strain of this bombardment, said to have been greater than any
recorded in the previous history of artillery, proved more than the
Spanish ordnance could stand. By the 20th of May the brass guns began
to droop at the muzzle, the iron guns to burst, and ammunition to
run short. Gradually the enemy’s fire died down, and when there were
but nineteen pieces left in action against them the British restored
their shattered works, and mounting thirteen new guns and more than
a hundred mortars poured upon the Spaniards a storm of projectiles
almost equalling that which had scourged the defenders of the Rock.
By dint of tremendous exertions a hundred guns were placed in
position at the beginning of June, and then the tables were turned,
for this mass of ordnance opened upon the Spaniards with such a crash
that not a single gun was able to reply; the trenches became a heap
of ruins; the parapets of the batteries took fire, and the magazines
blew up. The first day’s cannonade drove the enemy from their
forts, and gradually the whole line of works was completely knocked
to pieces. On the 23rd of June the news reached Gibraltar that a
suspension of hostilities had been arranged between the Governments
of England and Spain: all fighting then ceased; the soldiers had
played their part, and it was now for the diplomatists to settle the
differences between their respective countries. The British losses
were remarkably small. Five officers were killed or wounded; in the
other ranks 69 were killed; 49 died from wounds or disease, and 207
were wounded. It is not known how many of the XVIIIth were injured,
as the casualties of the Minorca contingent are given as a whole. To
the Spanish army, on the other hand, the siege proved very costly.
Fifteen officers were killed, 42 wounded: of the other ranks 346
were killed, 1119 were wounded, and more than 5000 died of sickness
or were permanently invalided by the hardships they had undergone.
No less than 875 Spaniards deserted during the siege, some of whom
surrendered to our piquets and brought much useful information to the
Intelligence officers of the garrison.

When the siege was over, the detachment of the XVIIIth rejoined
headquarters at Minorca, where the regiment remained until 1742.
Nothing would have been known of the life of the Royal Irish during
this period had not copies been preserved of a curious correspondence
between Major Gillman, who was in command, and Major-General
Armstrong, the Colonel of the regiment.[72] The officers were greatly
disturbed at the quality of the recruits received from home, and
Gillman in 1729 thus reports on a recently joined draft of sixteen
men. “They are the worst I ever saw; two of them the officers would
not draw for: one of them wanting above half of his right foot, the
other having his backbone and ribs of both sides distorted in a
prodigious manner, by which means he is an object of compassion, both
of which are to be sent back to England at the expense of the person
that recruited them.”

Two years later Gillman again entreats that recruiting should be
properly conducted.

  “I beg leave to assure you that you have a corps of captains
  that has the credit of the Regiment entirely at heart and will
  begrudge no expense in supporting it on all occasions therefore
  I am thoroughly convinced you will give such necessary orders
  to the person or persons that are to recruit the regt, that
  they receive no bad or old men upon any account whatever. The
  standard of the regt, is 5′ 7″ without shoes.... I entreat your
  further assistance by getting a few fine fellows at home proper
  for the Grenadier Company let the expense be ever so great which
  I’ll pay with pleasure, and if two or three beautiful men fit
  for sergeants _to_ said Company could be sent over I’ll pay them
  sergeants’ pay until they are provided for because two of the
  sergeants and the three Corporals are the bane of the Company and
  not in the least fit to appear under arms but with disgrace.”

The next letter (November 20, 1736) recommends that a commission
should be granted to Sergeant John Millner, the author of the history
of the war in the Low Countries to which frequent reference has been
made in Chapter II.

  “I beg leave to recommend to your favour on this occasion Sergt.
  Millner and if it meets with your condescension I am ready to
  pay down the money for him. I am thoroughly convinced that when
  so good a man has the honour of being known to you you’ll not in
  the least begrudge any favours that you may be pleased to lay
  upon him which he will always own in the most grateful manner
  imaginable.

  “As I have mentioned to you in mine of 30th August of the
  absolute necessity the regiment lies under that it is high time
  that a Proper Person should be thought of to discharge the duty
  of Adjutant for the reasons therein mentioned. I assure you I
  know of no person so proper in the regiment to discharge that
  duty as Sergeant Millner, who is very willing to do it _gratis_,
  provided it is for your advantage or any other commands you
  should be pleased to lay upon him, as you may judge by his
  journal he wrote of the late war in Flanders to which I find you
  were pleased to be one of the generous subscribers.

  “I should not take the liberty of recommending this poor man to
  you if I had not sufficient reasons to be thoroughly sensible
  he is capable of discharging any duty that his superiors are
  willing to employ him on, and has on all occasions in a very
  particular manner merited the esteem of all the officers he
  has had the honour of serving under, as you may see by the
  generous subscription in his favour, a copy of which I send you
  enclosed, by which you will plainly see good generous Kane has
  not forgotten the (illegible? regiment) always desiring to be a
  subscriber on the like occasion.”

Inclosure--

  “We whose names are hereunder written officers of the Royal
  regiment of Ireland in consideration of the long and faithful
  service of Sergeant John Millner do hereby desire and empower
  the agent or paymaster of the said regiment for the time being
  to stop or cause to be stopped out of respective subsistence or
  arrears the sum set against our names whenever the colonel of the
  regiment shall be pleased to recommend the said Millner to his
  Majesty for a commission in the said regiment.”

  Anthony Pujola,       £10   0  0
  Stephen Gilman,        10   0  0
  Charles Hutchinson,     5   0  0
  W^m. Sharman,           5   0  0
  Anthony (illegible),    5   0  0
  Thomas Borrett,         5   0  0
  Thomas Dunbar,          5   0  0
  Rob Pearson,            5   0  0
  James La Tour,          2  10  0
  Henry Barrett,          2  10  0
  John Coningham,         2  10  0
  ---- Cotter,            2  10  0
  Jonathan Elder,         2  10  0
  George Martin,          5   0  0
  E. du Conseille,        2  10  0
                         ---------
                        £70   0  0
  Governor Kane,         10   0  0
                         ---------

In January, 1737, Gillman reports the loss of a subaltern, who can
hardly be said to have been cut off in the flower of his youth.

  “ ... This is to acquaint you with the death of Lieut. John
  Dalbos of Colonel Pujola’s Company who died last night of a
  tedious and lingering disorder attended with the gout, but in my
  opinion rather by old age being 75 years....”

The gem of the collection, however, is contained in a letter of
introduction given by Major-General Armstrong to Major Gillman, in
favour of a young officer just posted to the regiment.

  “LONDON, _13th June 1737_.

  “SIR,--The bearer hereof Ensign Stanhope, son of the Right Hon.
  the Lord Harrington, Principal Secretary of State, a younger
  brother and very hopeful gentleman, and ambitious to push his
  fortune in the Military Way, and moreover being desirous of
  qualifying himself for that purpose, has tendered to do his
  duty with the regiment. Therefore I earnestly desire you will
  encourage him in everything that may conduce to his improvement
  in this way of life.

  “As the first thing a youth should learn at his launching out
  into the World is to know how to live in it, a spirit of economy
  should be cultivated in him, for which purpose he should be
  induced to keep a pocket memorandum book wherein he may with
  other occurrences set down his daily expenses, by perusing of
  which in his leisure hours he may see how the money goes out and
  be thereby enabled to proportion his disbursement to his cash,
  keep out of debt, and thereby avoid the many inconveniences the
  want of due care draws young men into such in the whole course
  of their lives they may not without great difficulty be able to
  extricate themselves.

  “And in order thereto as youth is oftentimes moved by the company
  they keep I must earnestly desire you will introduce him to that
  of the most discreet and sober gentlemen, and particularly that
  you will have a watchful eye he keeps company with no sharpers
  at play, nor with any persons that may induce him to vices
  destructive of his health. Your due regard to what is above
  written will very much oblige

  “Your most obed^t.
  “most humble servant,
  “J. ARMSTRONG.”

  “_P.S._--Care must be taken on his arrival to board him with some
  officer who has a family which I earnestly request you to see
  done, for much depends on a right beginning.”

Armstrong died in 1742, and was succeeded as colonel of the regiment
by Colonel Sir John Mordaunt, K.B. On its return home in 1742 the
regiment was quartered in the West of England until the spring of
1744, when it was sent to Fareham to guard prisoners taken in the
wars we were then waging with the Spanish and the French. In 1739 a
trade dispute with Spain had produced a conflict memorable only for
our miserable and costly failure to take Cartagena, a flourishing
settlement on the Caribbean Sea, in the part of South America then
belonging to Spain, and now the Republic of Columbia. Soon afterwards
a great war broke out on the Continent of Europe between France and
Spain on the one side and Austria on the other. Various German States
joined the Franco-Spanish alliance, while England, Hanover, and
Holland sent contingents to the help of Austria. At Dettingen George
II. gained a victory over the French in 1743, but two years later his
son, the Duke of Cumberland, was defeated at Fontenoy,[73] where the
magnificent courage and brilliant local success of the British and
Hanoverians were nullified by the apathy, cowardice, or jealousy of
the Austrians and the Dutch, who after Cumberland had actually forced
his way into the French camp sullenly refused to advance and support
his column at the moment when victory was within his grasp. Before
the news of this glorious, though disastrous day reached England, the
Royal Irish had been warned for service abroad, and formed part of a
small column which reached Cumberland in the middle of May. Welcome
as this reinforcement was, it did not nearly fill the gaps caused by
the slaughter at Fontenoy, where the casualties among the British and
Hanoverian infantry amounted to 32 per cent, the former losing 3662,
the latter 1410 officers and men. With his weakened force Cumberland
could not stand up against the French, and as far as most of the
English regiments were concerned, the rest of the campaign of 1745
was spent in entrenching defensive positions, and then, under the
pressure of the enemy’s manœuvres, abandoning them, only to repeat
the experience farther to the rear, while the French, in greatly
superior numbers, gradually reduced the fortified towns of Flanders.
Some of these places Marshal Saxe, the French Commander-in-Chief,
took by force of arms; others capitulated without resistance, and
in August he was able to detach a considerable body of troops to
attack Ostend, a vital point in Cumberland’s lines of communication
with England. The garrison was hastily reinforced, the last corps to
arrive being the Royal Irish, who on the 9th of August embarked at
Antwerp on “billanders,” as the boats used for inland navigation were
called, and dropping down the Scheldt to Flushing transhipped into
sea-going vessels for Ostend. The town was in a wretched condition
and quite unfit to stand a siege; the Austrians, to whom it then
belonged, had allowed the fortifications to fall into disrepair; the
artillery was deficient in guns and stores of every kind, and the
three thousand infantry, insufficient for the perimeter they had to
guard, were not soldiers of the same nation commanded by generals
of their own army, but detachments of British, of Austrians, and of
Dutch--men with no common language and dissimilar in discipline,
habits, and sentiment. These differences, sufficiently serious in
themselves, were accentuated by the undisguised contempt of the
English for the Allies who had left them in the lurch at Fontenoy.
Nor were these the only difficulties. An essential part in the scheme
of defence was the flooding of a large tract of country round the
town, but this measure had not been carried into effect, for the
Austrians, unwilling to ruin the peasants by inundating the villages
and farms, were so slow in issuing the necessary orders that when
at length labourers were sent to open the sluices, the French were
close at hand and prevented the working parties from accomplishing
their task. To have defended Ostend successfully would have taxed the
powers of a great leader of men, and none arose to snatch the reins
of office from the hands of the governor, a veteran grown old and
decrepit in the Austrian service. The General appointed to command
the British arrived after the town was invested, and was unable to
make his way into Ostend; an Austrian officer of the same rank, de
Chanclos, was more fortunate, but though he acted as confidential
adviser to the Governor he had not the time, even if he possessed the
capacity, to weld the heterogeneous garrison into a good fighting
force.

On the same day that the Royal Irish left Antwerp a French General,
Löwendahl, appeared before Ostend with 21,000 good troops, a numerous
artillery, and 5000 pack horses, laden with fascines for the siege;
he finished his first parallel on the 14th of August, and next day
threw up batteries on the shore to enfilade the harbour and to keep
at a distance the British frigates which hovered about the port.
After thus cutting off Ostend from communication with England he
pushed on his works with vigour, and on the 18th twenty pieces of
artillery and ten or twelve mortars opened a violent cannonade which
lasted for four days almost without intermission. The defending
troops were greatly overworked; half of them were constantly at
the batteries or in the covered way; the remainder had to be ready
to turn out at a moment’s notice, and as there were no casemates
or bomb-proofs, the only shelter for the men when off duty was
in barracks and private houses, which rapidly crumbled under the
French projectiles. The officers were rather better off, for they
shared with the sick and wounded the cellars of the town-hall, made
shell-proof with walls of sandbags. All ranks were vilely fed; the
officer of the XVIIIth who wrote the anonymous ‘Continuation of
Stearne’s Journal’ says “the beef stank, the biscuits were full of
maggots.” There were not enough artillerymen to man the guns; when
the gun carriages were knocked to pieces by round shot there were
none in reserve to replace them, and by the end of the siege only
seven pieces of ordnance remained fit for use. Three days after the
bombardment began de Chanclos wrote gloomily to Cumberland--

  “This town is a heap of ruins ... the great fatigue, and entire
  absence of quiet, night or day, owing to bomb-shells and
  cannon-balls, put the garrison into very bad humour, and it is
  really not saying too much to call it bad. I might even add that
  one must be an Englishman to put up with what we are suffering
  here! The enemy is sapping up to the covered way and is attacking
  on our weakest side. Nearly all our cannon have been dismounted,
  many artillerymen have been killed and the survivors decline to
  work the guns.”

He thus reported the loss of the town:

  “_August 24._

  “On the night of the 22nd a general assault was made on our
  covered way by fifteen companies of Grenadiers, supported by two
  battalions. The point chosen was the sea front at low water. We
  repulsed the enemy more than once, killing and wounding 500 men,
  and making prisoners of 2 captains, a lieutenant, and 30 odd
  grenadiers. At day break I assembled my commanding officers to
  obtain their opinion as to our situation. Everyone agreed that we
  could not hope to hold out for more than a few days.”

As soon as this informal Council of War was over de Chanclos ordered
his drummers to beat the _Chamade_; and after obtaining a truce for
the burial of his dead he offered to capitulate on condition that
the garrison should be allowed to march out of Ostend with all the
honours of war, and be escorted safely to Austrian territory.[74] In
proposing these terms he forgot to specify the Austrian fortress to
which his troops were to be conveyed, the route by which they were
to travel, and the date on which they were to arrive. The French
General, however, noticed these omissions, and with suspicious
alacrity agreed to Chanclos’s terms: the garrison marched out with
all due pomp, fully expecting to be escorted at once to the nearest
Austrian town; but soon the troops learned to their deep disgust that
the French had discovered the flaws in the articles of capitulation,
and were about to send them by a devious route to Mons. This was
considered very sharp practice, not at all worthy of an honourable
enemy; but the King of France had every reason for wishing to
deprive England as long as possible of the services of the defenders
of Ostend, for the young Pretender, Charles Edward, had landed in
Scotland; the rebellion, known in history as “the ’45,” was rapidly
gaining strength; and Government was clamouring for the return from
Belgium of the British troops. After a short halt at Ghent, they were
crowded into canal boats for an involuntary “personally conducted”
tour through Belgium, and from the description left by an officer of
the regiment it is clear that the most ardent sight-seers could have
extracted no pleasure from this journey.

  “We were escorted by a party of Horse, and constantly attended by
  agents of theirs (the French) whose business it was to inveigle
  away our men, and by large promises (of which these rascals
  were not sparing) induce them to desert; as our progress was
  rendered designedly slow we were only drawn by the boors of the
  country a very few miles a day. A French trooper with his carbine
  was placed at the head of each billander, who did not fail to
  threaten the poor wretches with firing at them whenever they did
  not pull to please them. We continued on board this incommodious
  embarcation seventeen days, when we arrived in Tournai, where we
  disembarked.”

As Tournai is about thirty-two miles from Mons, the column should
have begun its march very early in the morning to have covered the
distance in one day, but the escort refused to move till 8 A.M.,
and consequently it was 7 o’clock in the evening before the British
arrived at St Gillain, a fortified village held by the Austrians
as an outpost to Mons, a few miles farther on. Alleging that in
bringing the garrison of Ostend to this outpost they had fulfilled
their undertaking, the French halted, ceremoniously saluted the
Colours of each regiment, and then retired. The British officers
were at a loss to understand why the French had left the column at
St Gillain instead of escorting it to Mons, but in a few minutes
they learned the reason from an Austrian general whom Cumberland
had sent to meet them. A large body of the enemy’s troops were
lurking in the neighbourhood, with orders to attack St Gillain if
the regiments from Ostend remained there, and if they attempted to
reach Mons to capture or exterminate them on the march; the only
hope of escape, therefore, was to start at once on the chance that
the intercepting force had not already taken up its position. Without
a moment’s delay the ranks were re-formed, the pans of the muskets
re-primed and the bayonets fixed; then in profound silence the weary
troops plodded along the causeway leading towards Mons. “As it was
a moonlight night we could command a view of the country about us,
and as we every moment expected the enemy we continued our march in
the greatest order; not a whisper was to be heard; the officers who
were present will always remember with pleasure the discipline and
good disposition every regiment showed on that occasion. At eleven
we arrived at Mons, where owing to some mismanagement we waited
two hours before we got admittance.”[75] This delay was obviously
caused by bad staff work, but the arrangements of the French were
no better. The enemy, confident that the Ostend troops would be too
tired to push on that night, left no patrols to watch the exits
from the village, with the result that 20,000 Frenchmen took up a
position astride the causeway an hour after the refugees had found
safety within the walls of Mons. For three weeks the Royal Irish
were blockaded in this fortress; then thanks to the manœuvres of a
relieving force they “slipped out” at dead of night, and in a few
days reached the neighbourhood of Brussels.

Affairs in Scotland were now going so badly that nearly every English
soldier was recalled from the Continent to defend England against the
Jacobite invasion. The XVIIIth landed at Gravesend early in November,
and after various changes of quarters embarked for the seat of war in
Scotland in the spring of 1746. On the voyage a vexatious incident
occurred by which the regiment was prevented from taking any active
part in the Scotch campaign. While off the coast of Yorkshire the
transports, containing the 12th, 16th, XVIIIth, and 24th regiments,
were warned that three French men-of-war were cruising in the
neighbourhood; the ships ran for safety into the Humber, where they
remained until the report was proved to have no foundation; and owing
to this delay the Royal Irish did not reach Leith until the day
after the rebels had been finally crushed at the battle of Culloden.
For two years the regiment was stationed in Scotland, in the summer
making military roads in the Highlands, in the winter quartered at
various towns, and when the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle put an end to
the war the XVIIIth was ordered to Ireland, after it had been placed
on a peace footing by reductions so sweeping that the establishment
of each company was fixed at two sergeants, two corporals, one
drummer, and twenty-nine private soldiers.

In 1755, our relations with France were again strained to breaking
point: in America the French garrison of Canada and the British
garrison of the colonies on the Atlantic coast were waging fierce,
though unofficial war in the forests south of the river St Lawrence;
and as the conflict seemed likely to spread to Europe, troops
were withdrawn from Ireland to Great Britain. Among the regiments
hurriedly brought across St George’s Channel was the XVIIIth, rapidly
recruited up to a strength of seventy-eight men per company. But
the “Seven Years’ War” brought no laurels to the Royal Irish, who
were condemned to inactivity in the United Kingdom, while other
corps were winning fame on the Continent and in the West Indies, in
Canada and the Philippine Islands. In 1767, four years after peace
was declared, the regiment was ordered to Philadelphia, the capital
of Pennsylvania, one of the oldest of our American colonies. The
beginning of the lamentable quarrel between the mother-country and
her English-speaking over-sea provinces found the Royal Irish still
quartered at Philadelphia, but in 1774, Boston, the chief town of
the colony of Massachusetts, became such a hotbed of disaffection
that General Gage, who commanded the troops in British North America,
reinforced its garrison with troops drawn from less disloyal centres
of population. Among the regiments ordered to Boston was the
XVIIIth, at that time very weak in numbers, for hardly any recruits
had arrived from home, and those enlisted at Philadelphia were
“bounty-jumpers,” who deserted at every opportunity.

The causes of the breach between England and the provincials, as
the colonists were then called, have been discussed in innumerable
histories, and are far too complex to be dealt with in the chronicles
of a regiment. It is enough to say here that the dispute began about
questions of taxation and trade; the home Government was stupid,
slow, and overbearing in its dealings with the provincials, who on
their side were petulant, aggressive, and impatient of control. Many
of the young Americans believed that as all danger of an attack by
France had been removed by the British conquest of Canada, they would
be better off as citizens of a republic than as subjects of King
George. Both sides were unable to regard the matters at issue from
a point of view other than their own: the English Government failed
to appreciate the restlessness and desire for expansion natural to
young and growing communities of British stock; the provincials were
equally unable to realise how slowly new ideas penetrated into the
brains of the governing classes at home.

[Illustration: MAP N^o. 2.

  SKETCH MAP
  OF
  THE LOW COUNTRIES
  1692. 1694-7. 1701-14. 1745

  W. & A.K. Johnston Limited, Edinburgh & London.]

At the beginning of 1775 the whole of Massachusetts was seething
with scarcely veiled rebellion, and though the inhabitants of Boston
itself were overawed by the presence of Gage’s troops, the rural
population was so hostile that it was unsafe for officers to go any
distance into the country without a strong and well-armed escort. The
excitement was increased by the action of the provincial Parliament,
which, issuing a proclamation urging all able-bodied men to arm
themselves and join the militia, began to collect warlike stores at
various places in the colony. One of these depôts was at Concord,
a village twenty miles from Boston; Gage determined to burn its
contents, and on the night of the 18th of April sent a raiding party
of eighteen hundred men upon this errand of destruction. Under
command of Lieutenant-Colonel Smith the flank companies--_i.e._
the grenadiers and light infantry[76]--of the 5th, 10th, XVIIIth,
23rd, 38th, 43rd, 52nd, and 59th regiments started from Boston
before midnight, followed a few hours later by Lord Percy with a
supporting body composed of the whole of the 4th and 47th regiments,
the battalion companies of the 23rd, and ten companies of marines.
As it was known that the provincials’ intelligence department was
well organised, every precaution was taken to keep the expedition
secret; but though the gates of the town had been closed early in the
evening and the troops assembled silently at dead of night, their
movements were reported by the anti-British faction in Boston, and
as they marched through the darkness the ringing of bells and firing
of guns warned them that the alarm had been given throughout the
countryside. At daybreak the advance-guard ran into a small body of
militia at Lexington: there was a parley, followed by a skirmish in
which several provincials were hit and the remainder retreated in
disorder. Smith lost no time in pushing on to Concord, and while his
grenadiers began to demolish the stores some of the light companies
guarded the approaches to the village.

So far the raid had been successful, but before describing how
rapidly the tables were turned against the troops, the reader must
realise with what manner of men Smith’s detachment was about to
try conclusions. The original settlers in Massachusetts were of
picked British stock; the large majority had left the old country
to escape from the restraints imposed by the Stuarts upon liberty
of conscience, while others had sought in the New World a freer
and more adventurous life than England could afford. The mere fact
that these men and women had the courage to leave their homes and
friends to face the horrors of the unknown, proved them to be above
the average in courage and steadfastness of purpose; and the hard
life of pioneers; the incessant struggle with nature in a rude
climate; fierce fights with the Red Indian savages, who tortured
their captives before killing them; long hunting expeditions in
vast and trackless forests; life on lonely farms where every man
was thrown on his own resources--all had contributed to develop a
race of over-sea Britons as formidable to their enemies as they
would have been valuable to the Empire if they had been treated with
tact, consideration, and justice. It was not in pioneering alone
that the New Englanders had found vent for their restless energy;
they had taken part in many of our expeditions during the first half
of the eighteenth century. In the disastrous failure at Cartagena
a considerable number of New Englanders shared in our defeat, and
carried home with them a sorry report of the conduct of the army;
a contingent of colonists with justice claimed a large share in
the glory of the capture of Louisburg, the French Gibraltar at the
mouth of the St Lawrence; and in all the interesting, though now
forgotten fights between the English and the French in the country
round Lake Champlain American volunteers fought side by side with
the regular troops. Thus when the provincials determined to take up
arms against England, many of the men who later became generals of
note in the republican army had served their apprenticeship to war
under the Colours of the mother-country. They had studied our drill;
they understood our tactics; they knew the merits and demerits of
our soldiers, and very soon learned how best to meet our slow and
cumbrous movements with their imperfectly trained volunteers, who at
the beginning of the War of Independence had many points in common
with the Boers of 1899. Both were ardently patriotic; self-reliant
to a fault; wholly undisciplined and obeying no order that did not
appeal to them as individuals; both fought in bands of friends and
neighbours, not infrequently commanded by the local preacher. In
one respect, however, the Boers and the American colonists differed
widely. In none of their encounters with the British did the burghers
ever hold their ground with determination when things had begun to
go badly with them, while at Bunker’s Hill, the first real battle
of the revolutionary war, the provincials “fought to a finish” with
such grim tenacity that, had our army been engaged, not with a raw
militia, but with European regular troops, its dearly bought success
would have been extolled as a feat of arms equal to any in the annals
of England.

While Smith’s grenadiers were looking for the warlike stores, the
light infantry outposts were attacked and driven back into Concord
by a very superior force of provincials, who from far and wide had
collected to do battle with the red-coats. Boys, full-grown men,
greybeards almost tottering to the grave, turned out with splendid
enthusiasm from the hamlets of Lincoln, Bedford, Carlisle, and
Chelmsford, and surrounding the village like a swarm of bees, set
themselves to sting the intruders to death with musketry. Smith
determined to retire, and as his column filed out of Concord it
became the target of sharpshooters lurking behind houses and log
fences and in the woods bordering the rough track that led to
Boston. In vain were flanking parties thrown out to keep the enemy
at a distance from the main body; the provincials disappeared among
the trees and then reappeared farther down the road, using their
firearms with deadly effect. The soldiers replied so vigorously that
ammunition began to fail them, and as it was impossible to charge a
foe who had no formation and whose position was only indicated by
isolated puffs of smoke on every side of the column, Smith retreated
as fast as possible towards Lexington, losing men at every step. His
troops straggled into the village so worn out by hunger and thirst,
so demoralised by the biting fire of an almost invisible enemy, that
when they saw Lord Percy’s detachment drawn up to protect them they
flung themselves on the ground, so badly shaken that the supporting
troops had to form square round them. For a time there was a lull in
the firing; but when more contingents joined the provincials they
re-opened such a vigorous fusilade that Percy decided to lose no time
in retiring to Boston, fifteen miles away. He handled with much skill
the regiments which had accompanied him, falling back from position
to position so steadily as to keep his pursuers in some check;
and notwithstanding the ever-increasing volume of fire with which
reinforcements from Cambridge and Dorchester enabled the colonists
to torment him, by nightfall he succeeded in bringing the shattered
column safely into Boston. When the casualty returns were prepared,
it was found that this disastrous little expedition had cost us in
killed, wounded, and prisoners, nineteen officers and two hundred
and fifty of the other ranks--a total to which the flank companies
of the XVIIIth contributed two private soldiers killed and four
wounded,[77] while the losses of the provincials were rather less
than a hundred fighting men. The news of the American success spread
like wildfire throughout New England; colony after colony threw in
its lot with Massachusetts, and in a few days between sixteen and
twenty thousand provincials had assembled for the blockade of Boston,
then garrisoned by eleven battalions, all under strength, the weakest
of all being the Royal Irish, who on the 25th of June could only
muster two hundred and fifty-seven of all ranks. Although there was
a British fleet at anchor in the bay, Gage could do nothing until
more soldiers arrived from England, and by the time the long-expected
reinforcements reached him Boston was closely invested by the
Americans.

When the first emigrants to Massachusetts decided on the site of
their principal town they selected an almost land-locked bay of
the Atlantic, where there was good anchorage and shelter from the
winter gales. This bay was almost bridged by two peninsulas, which
from opposite shores jutted so far towards each other that at the
nearest point they were only five hundred yards apart. Boston was
built on the southern of these headlands; on the northern, the
village of Charlestown nestled at the foot of an underfeature of the
semicircle of low hills enveloping the bay. From Bunker’s Hill, as
the southern end of this underfeature was called, Boston lay within
cannon-shot; but neither side attempted to occupy this important
position until Gage’s reinforcements arrived. Then the British
General determined to seize it, but the Americans, acting either by
intuition or on information from their spies in Boston, forestalled
him. On the evening of the 16th of June twelve hundred men paraded
on the common at Cambridge, attended a prayer-meeting, and then
started on an enterprise the object of which was known only to the
most senior of their officers. The column was commanded by Colonel
Prescott, who had so greatly distinguished himself at the capture of
Louisburg from the French during the Seven Years’ war that the home
Government had offered him a commission in the regular army. Many of
the men in his ranks had seen powder burned in earnest, and though
their muskets were heavy and unwieldy, they had learned to use them
in the pursuit of big game, where an ill-aimed bullet may cost the
hunter his life. By the glimmer of dark lanterns Prescott led his
men across the isthmus connecting the Charlestown peninsula with the
mainland, then crossed Bunker’s Hill and halted on a lower ridge,
Breed’s Hill, where he quickly traced the lines of a redoubt. To the
provincials digging was no novelty, and they plied pick and shovel so
silently and so assiduously that when the day broke the sailors on
board the nearest man-of-war saw to their amazement an entrenchment,
six feet high, standing where overnight there had been nothing
but smooth pasture land. The ships lost no time in opening fire,
and the colonists, unable to reply to our big guns, were growing
unsteady when Prescott hoisted himself on to the parapet where,
under a heavy but ill-directed cannonade he sauntered up and down,
giving directions to his working parties and encouraging those men
whose courage was not as steadfast as his own. With such an example
before them none of the militia flinched; the redoubt grew apace,
and was practically finished before the troops in Boston were ready
to attack it. But though Prescott had every reason to be satisfied
with the temper and industry of his detachment, his situation was a
desperate one, and had Gage availed himself of all the resources at
his command, not one of the twelve hundred adventurers would have
made his way back to the provincial camps. The British had command
of the bay; vessels of light draught could sail close to any part of
the peninsula; the isthmus, the only possible line of retreat for the
Americans, was low, sandy, and less than two hundred yards in width.
Gage could have landed behind the entrenchments, and have attacked
the Americans simultaneously in front and rear; he could have cut off
their retreat and starved them into surrender by fortifying himself
upon the isthmus, or by stationing gunboats on either side of it, he
could have made it absolutely impassable by cross fire. These schemes
were suggested to him, but neither he nor any of the British army
were in the mood for scientific fighting, and he decided to regain
the prestige lost at Concord and Lexington by a direct frontal attack
upon Breed’s Hill.[78] Four complete battalions and twenty flank
companies, including the grenadiers and light infantry of the Royal
Irish, were rowed across to the Charlestown peninsula--the right wing
under General Pigot was composed of the provisional battalion of
light infantry, the 38th and 43rd regiments; in the left wing were
the provisional battalion of grenadiers, the 5th and 52nd regiments,
commanded by General Howe. While the troops were landing on ground
well out of range of the Americans the officers had time to study the
position they were to carry. It was a strong one: a gentle slope,
covered with long grass and cut up by a series of fences calculated
to throw advancing troops into disorder, led up to the redoubt and to
a breastwork, which ran for a hundred yards towards the enemy’s left.
Between the end of this breastwork and the sea was a gap, held by a
detachment posted at the foot of Bunker’s Hill, where the only cover
was a low stone wall, on which hay was piled to give it additional
height. The total frontage occupied was about six hundred yards,
defended when the fight began by fifteen hundred men and six pieces
of artillery.[79] The British brought between two thousand and two
thousand five hundred troops into the field, for in addition to the
units already mentioned the 47th regiment and a battalion of Marines
came into action during the fight.

At three o’clock in the afternoon Howe, who was the senior officer
on the Charlestown peninsula, gave the order to advance. At first
the movement was covered by the fire of eight pieces--field-guns
and howitzers, which had been ferried across from Boston, but soon
the supply of cannon-balls ran out, and as the officer in charge
of the artillery reported that a marsh prevented his pushing on to
within grape-shot range of the enemy, the infantry for a long time
were unsupported by the guns. After the regiments had deployed, the
light infantry was directed against the enemy’s left, while the
grenadiers, 5th and 52nd, with the 38th and 43rd in second line,
were to storm the breastwork and the redoubt. The day was intensely
hot, and the soldiers, burdened with heavy knapsacks, three days’
rations, cartouche-boxes, ammunition, bayonets, and muskets weighing
fifteen pounds, mounted the hill slowly though in good order. They
were allowed to open fire too soon, and their volleys, delivered with
perfect precision, were almost ineffective. The provincials wished
to reply while their enemies were a long way off, but their leaders
knew better than to allow such a waste of ammunition, and while some
threatened to cut down the first man who discharged his firelock
without orders, others ran along the top of the parapet kicking the
muzzles into the air. It was not until the red-coats were within
fifty or sixty yards that the Americans were allowed to shoot, and
then their well-aimed musketry was so terrible that the whole British
line recoiled before it to the bottom of the hill. Howe re-formed his
troops, and again led them up the slope, only to be hurled backwards
once more with a loss so heavy that the glacis of Breed’s Hill looked
more like the breach of a fortress after an assault than an ordinary
battlefield. But though they had twice failed to reach the works of
the Americans neither Howe nor his men were beaten, and the General
had the moral courage to order a third attack, while the soldiers

  “had that in them which raised them to the level of a feat of
  arms to which it is not easy, and perhaps not even possible, to
  recall a parallel. Awful as was the slaughter of Albuera, the
  contest was eventually decided by a body, however scanty, of
  fresh troops. The cavalry which pierced the French centre at
  Blenheim had been hotly engaged but, for the most part, had not
  been worsted. But at Bunker’s Hill every corps had been broken;
  every corps had been decimated several times over; and yet the
  same battalions, or what was left of them, a third time mounted
  that fatal slope with the intention of staying on the summit.
  Howe had learned his lesson, and perceived that he was dealing
  with adversaries whom it required something besides the manœuvres
  of the parade ground to conquer. And to conquer, then and there,
  he was steadfastly resolved, in spite of the opposition which
  respectfully indeed, but quite openly, made itself heard around
  him. He ordered the men to unbuckle and lay down their knapsacks,
  to press forward without shooting, and to rely on the bayonet
  alone until they were on the inner side of the wall.... The
  officers who had remonstrated with him for proposing to send the
  troops to what they described as downright butchery, when they
  were informed of his decision, returned quietly to their posts,
  and showed by their behaviour that in protesting against any
  further bloodshed they had been speaking for the sake of their
  soldiers and not of themselves.”[80]

Prescott had begun to ask for reinforcements of men and ammunition
early in the day, but, as was to be expected in a volunteer army
chiefly officered by amateurs, the staff arrangements were so bad
that very few troops and no ammunition reached him during the action.
Thus when Howe for the third time hurled himself at the redoubt, none
of its defenders had more than two rounds left. These last shots were
not wasted, for as the troops rushed with fixed bayonets towards
the work a venomous fire brought nearly every man in the front rank
headlong to the ground; but without a check the ranks in rear surged
over the parapet, and falling-to with the cold steel drove the
provincials in confusion out of the redoubt. With empty muskets and
with few bayonets the Americans could do little at close quarters,
but many fought stubbornly as they retreated, admirably covered by
the men on Bunker’s Hill, who, though heavily cannonaded by the
fleet, held their ground until their comrades from Breed’s Hill had
shaken off pursuit. This engagement cost our provincial kinsmen 115
killed and 300 wounded, while of the old-country men 19 officers were
killed and 70 wounded; in the other ranks 207 were killed and 758
wounded--a total of 1054 casualties.[81] The enormous proportion of
losses among the commissioned ranks was due to the good shooting of
picked marksmen, who were kept supplied with loaded weapons by their
neighbours. These sharpshooters devoted themselves to picking off
the officers, whose glittering gorgets not only revealed their rank,
but gave an excellent target at which to aim. Of the part played in
the action by the grenadier and light companies of the Royal Irish
no particulars have been preserved; nothing is known beyond the
fact that three privates were killed and an officer, Lieutenant W.
Richardson, and seven privates wounded.[82] Compared to the carnage
in some of the flank companies, the losses of the XVIIIth were
insignificant, yet the actual percentage was high, for in June,
1775,[83] the companies of the regiment only averaged twenty-six of
all ranks, and though the grenadiers and light infantry were usually
a little stronger than the battalion companies, it is doubtful
whether between them they brought more than sixty-five or seventy men
into the field.

Although Gage’s dearly-won victory secured to the British the
possession of the Charlestown peninsula, and thus guaranteed them
against bombardment from Bunker’s Hill, it did not improve the
situation in other respects. Soon after the battle Washington was
elected to the command of the provincial army, and so closely
invested Boston that the garrison began to suffer from the want of
fresh food. At first the daily ration of salt pork and peas was
occasionally varied by fish, but this source of supply was cut
off by the American general, who dragged a number of whale-boats
overland from the neighbourhood of Cape Cod to the head-waters of
one of the rivers flowing into the bay, and manned the flotilla with
sailors, of whom there were many in his ranks. With this mosquito
fleet he effectually stopped all fishing operations, and under the
very guns of our warships captured small craft, and seized the
sheep and cattle grazing on the islands in the bay. That such things
were possible shows the depths of inefficiency to which our fleet
on the American station had sunk in 1775; supine and stupid as were
the generals, they seemed models of talent and energy when compared
with the admirals with whom they were expected to co-operate. The
want of proper food produced much illness, especially among the
wounded, whose diet in hospital was the same as that of the men at
duty; and the mortality was great. Coal ran so short that wooden
houses and churches were pulled down for firewood. Small-pox broke
out and claimed many victims. The duties, heavy everywhere, proved
particularly trying at the outposts, for the provincials, ignoring
the rule of war that piquets are not to be fired upon wantonly,
used to amuse themselves by forming parties to stalk and shoot down
the sentries as they paced their beats. Beyond these occasional
skirmishes there was no fighting; at first the gunners cannonaded
the enemy’s position, but with so little success that the general
decided to waste no more powder in teaching the Americans how to
stand fire. As month after month passed in misery and inaction, the
soldiers, badly fed, thoroughly dispirited and profoundly bored, grew
moody, dirty, careless about their dress, while discipline was only
maintained by the stern sentences of the courts-martial which awarded
punishments of four hundred, six hundred, and even a thousand lashes.

When the Cabinet realised that Boston was in great want of food
they sent out many ships filled with stores of every kind. But
the ill-luck which dogged the British throughout the American war
prevented the arrival of these vessels. Some were lost at sea; others
were blown by a tempest to the West Indies; while others again,
laden with cannon and mortars, muskets, flints, and much powder and
shot fell into the hands of the Americans, who under Washington’s
fostering care were rapidly forming a national fleet. These munitions
of war were not the only provincial spoils: a daring raid against
isolated forts on the Canadian frontier secured a large number of
guns, and early in March, 1776, Washington began to bombard Boston
with British ordnance, and took possession of high ground to the
south of the town, which from want of men neither Gage nor his
successor Howe had been able to include within their lines. This
position commanded the harbour, and the Admiral warned the General
plainly that unless the soldiers could recapture it the men-of-war
and transports would be obliged to put to sea. Thereupon Howe, who
had long realised that it was impossible to maintain himself in
Boston, ordered its evacuation, and on the 17th of March, with the
nine thousand troops remaining to him and eleven hundred loyalists
who refused to remain behind, he set sail for Halifax in Nova
Scotia, in ships so overcrowded that many valuable stores had to be
left to fall into Washington’s hands, while much of the officers’
heavy baggage shared the same fate. The Americans did not hinder
the embarkation, for Howe had given out that if the bombardment was
resumed he would set fire to the town, and Washington, to whom the
threat was reported by his spies, allowed him to depart in peace. The
men-of-war, after seeing the troopships safely out to sea, hung about
the coast of Massachusetts for a time, but effected nothing, and then
were ordered to other parts of the theatre of war.

The XVIIIth had been so worn down by privations and misery at Boston,
that it was ordered home to recruit. The men still fit for active
service were drafted into other regiments, while the officers,
non-commissioned officers, and invalids of the Royal Irish returned
to England in the course of the summer of 1776. The XVIIIth was not
actively employed during the remainder of this war, which, beginning
with our attempt to suppress the rebellion in North America,
developed into a struggle for existence against the combined forces
of France, Holland, and Spain; for these countries, seeing that our
resources were heavily taxed by the struggle in America, and desirous
to pay off old scores, took up arms against us. For a time we lost
the command of the sea, and could not reinforce Cornwallis when
he was besieged at Yorktown by Washington’s provincial troops and
a large body of French regular soldiers. After a gallant defence,
Yorktown fell, and with the lowering of Cornwallis’s flag passed away
Britain’s last hope of reconquering her rebellious provinces. By the
peace of 1783, England was compelled to recognise the independence of
the United States, as her revolted colonies now styled themselves; to
restore Florida and Minorca to Spain, and to cede to France the West
Indian islands of St Lucia and Tobago.

From 1776 to 1783, the Royal Irish were stationed in England and in
the Channel Islands, where their officers drilled and disciplined
the recruits to such purpose that when the young soldiers were
suddenly called upon to perform a most unpleasant duty they were
thoroughly equal to the occasion. Early in 1783 the XVIIIth was in
Guernsey, where one of the regiments of the garrison had acquired
an evil reputation for insubordination. This corps (long since
disbanded) suddenly broke out into open mutiny, and after coercing
its colonel into promising them privileges entirely subversive of
all discipline, apparently settled down; the officers, thinking the
trouble was over for the moment, went to their mess-room and sat
down to dinner, when a shower of bullets came rattling about their
ears. They took cover under the table, but the would-be murderers
mounted to windows from which they could pour plunging fire into the
mess-room, and were shooting vigorously when a sergeant advised the
officers to make a dash for the gate of the fort. They did so, and by
great luck escaping unhurt by the volley with which their appearance
in the barrack-square was greeted, hurried into the town to give
the alarm. Two of their number, however, could not run, and found
shelter in a coal cellar! As soon as this outbreak was reported,
the local militia was turned out, and the XVIIIth ordered to parade
forthwith; the fort was surrounded; the drums sounded a “parley”;
but the mutineers at first declined to treat, and then demanded
that they should be disbanded and sent back to their homes at once.
When the Lieutenant-Governor attempted to reason with them, these
madmen fired at him and next turned their muskets on the troops.
Then more infantry came up, followed by some guns; and there seemed
every prospect of a sharp fight, when the mutineers suddenly lost
heart, piled arms, and marching quietly out of the fort, surrendered.
Happily none of the bullets found its billet among the Royal Irish,
who were greatly praised by the military authorities for their
good behaviour, and the States (the local parliament) of Guernsey
presented a hundred guineas to the non-commissioned officers and
privates of the XVIIIth as a tangible proof of gratitude for their
services on this occasion.

In the summer of 1783 the regiment sailed for Gibraltar, where it was
stationed for the next ten years.



CHAPTER IV.

1793-1817.

THE WAR WITH THE FRENCH REPUBLIC: TOULON--CORSICA--EGYPT. THE
NAPOLEONIC WAR: THE WEST INDIES.


During the early phases of the French Revolution the British
Government assumed an attitude of strict neutrality in the internal
affairs of France, and to this policy it adhered until January,
1793, when the excesses of the Jacobins, culminating in the judicial
murder of Louis XVI., compelled England to join the coalition of
Continental Powers which had taken up arms to restore order in
France, and to safeguard their own dominions, threatened, and in
some cases actually invaded by the troops of the Republic. The
outbreak of war found the British army in a deplorable condition;
it had in no way recovered from its disasters in America, and was
“lax in its discipline, entirely without system and very weak in
numbers. Each colonel of a regiment managed it according to his
notions or neglected it altogether. There was no uniformity of drill
or movement; professional pride was rare, professional knowledge
still more so.... Every department was more or less inefficient.
The regimental officers, as well as their men, were hard drinkers,
the latter, under a loose discipline were addicted to marauding and
to acts of licentious violence.”[84] The _physique_ was often as
defective as the _morale_; some regiments were composed of lads too
young to march, while in others the majority of the rank and file
were old and worn-out men. A few thousand troops were hurried off
to join the forces of the Allies who faced the French in Holland,
and a fleet was sent to the Mediterranean under Lord Hood, with
orders to co-operate with the adherents of the Monarchy, who were
still numerous in the south of France. After Hood passed Gibraltar
he bore up for Toulon, then as now one of the principal French naval
ports.[85] In its harbour and dockyard lay many warships, commanded
by Royalists who hated the Revolution and all its works, and manned
by sailors many of whom agreed with the political opinions of their
officers. As large numbers of the civilian population in the town
shared his views, the Royalist admiral, in the hope of rescuing his
country from the anarchy into which it was plunged, took the extreme
step of entering into negotiations with Hood for the occupation
of the port by the British. The horror inspired by the Revolution
must have been deep indeed to induce an officer of high rank and
unblemished reputation to think of such an arrangement with a nation
regarded by every Frenchman as the hereditary enemy of his race.
Since the Normans after conquering France had overrun and subdued
England, hostilities between the two countries had been frequent,
almost incessant; we had often raided the French coasts, and for a
long time our kings held as their own the western half of France.
In the hundred years immediately preceding the outbreak of the
Revolution the divergent policy of their rulers had plunged the two
countries into a series of five wars: their armies had encountered
each other on innumerable battlefields in Germany and the Low
Countries, in Spain, Canada and the West Indies: their fleets had met
not only in the Mediterranean, the Bay of Biscay, and the Channel,
but in parts of the ocean as remote as the Gulf of Bengal and the
Caribbean Sea; and bands of French adventurers in the service of the
native princes of India had fought with the troops of the East India
Company on the plains of Hindustan. Very bitter must have been the
feelings of the Royalist officers when they agreed to make over to
Hood the forts, the arsenal, the shipping, the docks, and the town of
Toulon itself, on the understanding that this national property was
to be held in trust for the son of Louis XVI., to whom it was duly to
be restored when he ascended the throne. The French men-of-war were
to be dismantled, but as a concession to sentiment, and to show that
Toulon was not a conquered town but still formed part of the Kingdom
of France, the white flag of the Bourbons was to float over its walls.

On August 27, 1793, Hood, who had been joined by a Spanish squadron,
took possession of the forts. The landing party consisted of from
twelve to fifteen hundred marines and soldiers who were serving on
board the ships. There was no officer among them of rank higher than
a captain; they had no tents, or stores, or field-guns, and even had
they possessed the latter, there were no engineers or artillerymen
to plan a battery or to lay a gun. Though the troops met with no
active opposition, the attitude of many of the French sailors was so
threatening that Hood decided to get rid of as many of them as he
could, and selecting four of the least serviceable French vessels,
he unshipped their guns and ammunition, and packed into them five
thousand of the most troublesome republican seamen, with “safe
conducts” for the French ports on the Atlantic seaboard. Having
thus disposed of these “undesirables,” Hood applied to those of the
Allied Powers whose territories lay in the basin of the Mediterranean
for help to hold Toulon against the Republicans who were gathering
against him, and by the beginning of November he had collected a very
heterogeneous force of about 16,000 men. When our Ministers learned
that Toulon was in the hands of the Allies they promised to send
Hood large reinforcements; but neither the importance of the place
as a base of operations against the Republicans, nor the difficulty
of holding its land-locked harbour were adequately appreciated at
home; and when more troops were required for our contingent in the
Low Countries, for an expedition against the coast of Brittany,
and for a raid upon the French islands in the West Indies, the
expected reinforcements dwindled to seven hundred and fifty men
from Gibraltar, who reached Toulon on the 27th of October. At the
beginning of the war the regiments were so weak that this handful of
troops included the XVIIIth Royal Irish,[86] the second battalion of
the Royals, and detachments of Royal Engineers and Royal Artillery.
The exact strength of the XVIIIth is not known, but as on the 25th
of June, 1793, there were only two hundred and eighty-three officers
and men at the Rock, and as a certain number of sick were left in
hospital when the Royal Irish went on active service, the captains
must have commanded companies no larger than the sections of the
present day. The reinforcements from Gibraltar raised the strength
of the British to about 2000 of all ranks; their allies consisted of
6500 Spaniards, 4700 Neapolitans, 1500 Piedmontese, and about the
same number of French Royalists.

An army made up of contingents from several nations is necessarily
less effective than one formed of soldiers of the same race.
Hereditary ill-feeling, professional jealousy, and the want of a
common language combine to lessen its value as a fighting machine,
unless the General-in-Chief possesses a personality as commanding
as that of Marlborough or Wellington. At Toulon none of the senior
officers of the Allies were men of genius, and it is doubtful whether
even a great soldier, with so curiously composed a force, could have
withstood the savage energy that Napoleon, then a young officer of
artillery on his first campaign, infused into the Generals commanding
the besieging troops. The contingents of the Allies were of very
uneven value. The British were excellent, though their courage was
not yet thoroughly disciplined; the Piedmontese were very good; the
French Royalists, though brave, naturally disliked to fight their
republican fellow-countrymen, much as they loathed their political
principles; the Spaniards frequently deserted their posts when
threatened by a vigorous attack, and the Neapolitans were cowards of
the deepest dye. Sir Gilbert Elliot, the diplomatic representative
of Britain in the Mediterranean expedition, describes how a party of
Neapolitans behaved on outpost. After four of them had been killed
in a skirmish, the remainder sent to the officer in charge of the
section “to beg to be relieved as they were all _sick_!” With such
allies it is not surprising to learn that “no post was considered
safe without a proportion of British troops, and they were obliged
to be divided and thin-sowed accordingly.”[87] Whether from genuine
illness, from unfitness for the hardships of active service, or
from overwork, the sick list was enormous, and the Generals could
never count on more than 11,000 or 12,000 effectives--far too few
for the heavy duty they had to perform. To prevent the enemy from
planting batteries on the hills commanding the harbour, the Allies
were forced to hold a perimeter of fifteen miles, guarded by eight
main works with a number of subsidiary connecting posts; and nine
thousand men were constantly employed at the outposts, with a reserve
of three thousand in the town, to overawe the disaffected part of the
population and to reinforce any threatened point.

Up to the time of the arrival of the XVIIIth there had not been much
fighting, for the French were engaged in mounting guns, and were not
yet in strength to attempt a _coup-de-main_. When the Royal Irish
landed they were marched up to the front, but were engaged in no
affair of importance until the 30th of November, when they took part
in a sortie against a large battery placed by Napoleon himself on the
Aresnes heights, from which one of our principal works was commanded.
The assaulting column, formed of 400 British, 300 Piedmontese, 600
Neapolitans, 600 Spaniards, and 400 French Royalists, was commanded
by General O’Hara, one of the staff at Gibraltar, who had landed at
Toulon with the XVIIIth. The instructions he issued were explicit.
When the troops reached the plain at the foot of the heights, the
column was to break into four detachments, the British on the left,
and on reaching the summit they were to capture the battery, occupy
the heights, and then stand fast; on no account whatever were they to
follow the enemy in pursuit. After making their way, first through a
belt of olive-trees intersected by stone walls, and then up a steep
mountain cut into terraces of vineyards, the Allies gained the crest,
surprised the French, and drove them headlong out of the battery. Had
they remembered their orders the success would have been complete,
for the guns could have been rolled down the height and carried back
to Toulon; but unfortunately the men got out of hand, and dashed
madly after the retreating French down a valley and up a hill on
the other side, scattering in all directions as they pursued their
flying foes. They had lost all vestige of cohesion when they were
charged by formed bodies of the enemy, whose counter-stroke changed
our victory into a defeat. General O’Hara was wounded and captured;
and of the four hundred British engaged, twelve officers and about
two hundred other ranks were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.
The survivors fell back to the battery and attempted to hold it,
but being unsupported by their Continental comrades had finally to
retreat into Toulon, though not before they had spiked six guns.

During the next fortnight the volume of the enemy’s fire increased
daily; fresh batteries were unmasked in various directions, and
everything tended to confirm the reports of spies and deserters that
the French, now about 40,000 strong, were preparing for an attack
in force. The preliminary bombardment began at 2 A.M. on the 16th
of December, when Napoleon concentrated the fire of five batteries
upon Fort Mulgrave, one of the most important of the western series
of redoubts. It was held by a mixed force: a body of Spaniards
occupied the northern half of the work; the southern was in charge
of a detachment of British, under Captain W. Conolly, Royal Irish
Regiment. By the end of the day the redoubt was in ruins, with half
its garrison of seven hundred men disabled; at two o’clock in the
morning of the 17th the French advanced against it, but though in
overpowering force, for half an hour they made no progress till
the Spaniards were seized with panic and left the British in the
lurch. The enemy had begun to occupy the northern end of the work,
when Conolly, though himself hard pressed, sent a subaltern and
thirty-six men to retake it. With splendid courage this handful of
soldiers drove back the Republicans, and for a time kept them at bay;
but soon the weight of numbers began to tell, the survivors of the
detachment were forced backwards, and at four o’clock the “remnants
of the XVIIIth” were ousted from Fort Mulgrave. An hour or two later
the French, breaking through the line of fortifications at a second
point, carried Mont Faron, a hill 1800 feet high, which from the
north partly commands the harbour and the town. On the enemy’s side
of this mountain the slopes are steep and rocky; and as much labour
had been expended in increasing their natural difficulties, Faron
was considered so impregnable that only four hundred and fifty men
were employed to guard its two miles of frontage. At daylight every
work upon this hill was attacked and, though none of the British
posts were driven in, the French poured through the gaps left by
the Spaniards and Neapolitans, and established themselves upon the
shoulder of Mont Faron from which Toulon is overlooked.

A disaster such as this had long been foreseen by the senior officers
of the British land forces. General O’Hara, and his successor
General David Dundas, had frequently represented to Lord Hood the
impossibility of making a prolonged defence with so inadequate and
so inefficient a garrison as that at his disposal; they had pointed
out that if one of the main works should be lost there were no
fresh troops with which to recapture it, and that once any part of
the line was pierced the harbour and the fleet would be exposed to
the enemy’s artillery; and they therefore urged that arrangements
should be made beforehand for the orderly and systematic evacuation
of the place when it became untenable. But Lord Hood was strongly
prejudiced against soldiers: throughout his career he had slighted
their advice, and he took no steps to prepare for the retreat which
the Generals warned him was inevitable, with the result that when all
hope of holding the place was gone nothing was in readiness for the
retirement, and nearly the whole of the 17th was spent in settling
details with the naval and military officers of the different
nations. To organise the evacuation was no easy task; not only
were there four thousand sick and wounded to be embarked, but room
had to be found on the transports or the men-of-war for thousands
of Royalists whom it was impossible to abandon to the vengeance
of their republican fellow-countrymen; the French ships had to be
burned or towed out of harbour, and the arsenal and dockyard to be
destroyed. After many hours of weary discussion it was agreed that
the embarkation of the troops should begin at 11 P.M. on the 18th;
the least important posts were to be withdrawn early, others were
to be held to the last moment. The scheme, which required absolute
obedience to orders, was nearly wrecked by the Neapolitans, whose
misconduct Elliot thus described in a despatch to Government--

  “ ... These arrangements were made on the 17th before dinner.
  Without notice to any person concerned the Neapolitan officers
  packed up their baggage, and crowded the streets and quays with
  their preparations for departing on the evening of the 17th.
  Their baggage was actually sent on board, their general actually
  embarked that evening, and the troops, quitting every post where
  they were stationed, continued their embarcation publicly from
  the quays of the town, from the evening of the 17th to the middle
  of the next day. Their eagerness, impatience and panic were so
  great on the 18th, in the forenoon, that the embarcation of the
  inhabitants was rendered not only difficult but dangerous, the
  Neapolitan soldiers firing on those boats which they could not
  get admission to. Many of themselves were drowned in attempting
  to crowd into the boats, and there was a temporary appearance of
  confusion and insurrection in the town. The Neapolitan Admiral
  seems to have been in as great haste as the military. He sailed
  long before either the British or Spanish squadrons and, without
  waiting to make any arrangement about either troops or refugees,
  pushed off for Naples, leaving a good number of Neapolitan
  troops on board our fleet to find their way home as well as they
  can.”[88]

Until nearly all the allied troops were embarked the British and
Piedmontese remained resolutely at their posts, which they did
not quit until recalled into the town to cover the operations of
the sailors, who were burning the arsenal and setting fire to the
French ships. When the outposts were withdrawn the French crowded
into Toulon, and by the light of the flames shot heavily at the
blue-jackets, busy at the work of devastation, in which they were
helped by a party of the XVIIIth, commanded by Ensign W. Iremonger,
one of the two land officers employed on this dangerous duty. For a
time a musketry fight raged; then at the appointed hour the soldiers
gradually withdrew to their boats, gained their ships, and in two
or three hours the whole of the allied fleet was safely out to sea.
Though Hood’s operations on land utterly failed to advance the
cause of the Royalists, and though he did not succeed in destroying
the arsenal completely, or in burning all the enemy’s ships, he
undoubtedly inflicted a serious, though not a crushing blow to the
naval power of France in the Mediterranean by his operations at
Toulon. When he took possession of the town he found floating in
its harbour or building in its dockyard fifty-eight men-of-war of
various sizes: thirty-three he annexed or burned to the water’s
edge, the remaining twenty-five he was obliged to leave behind him,
to become the nucleus of a new fleet. The price paid in human flesh
and blood for this success cannot be stated, for the losses of the
Allies are not to be traced, and the British returns, as far as
they were published in despatches, are incomplete, and in the case
of the Royal Irish do not agree with the muster-roll made a week
after the evacuation. In it appear the names of three sergeants, one
corporal, and thirty-four privates who were killed or died during the
siege; and one officer, Lieutenant George Minchin, two sergeants,
two drummers, one corporal, and thirty-two privates missing.[89] In
the unsuccessful sortie of the 30th of November twenty-four rank and
file of the regiment were wounded; how many were injured in the daily
fighting at the outposts and in the defence of Fort Mulgrave and Mont
Faron cannot be ascertained, but it is clear that the Royal Irish
played a distinguished part in the operations, and in proportion to
their numbers lost very heavily.

As soon as the allied fleet was clear of the harbour of Toulon it
dispersed: the Spaniards and the Neapolitans made sail respectively
for the Balearic Isles and Naples, while Hood put into the bay of
Hyères, a few miles east of Toulon, where he tried to evolve order
out of the chaos produced by the hurried embarkation of the troops,
and to obtain fresh provisions of which he was in great need.
Unwilling to weaken himself by sending British vessels to buy food in
the ports of Italy and Spain, he employed upon this service several
of the French ships, which, in theory at least, were still under the
orders of the Royalist admiral. British infantry were sent on board
them as marines, the XVIIIth furnishing a strong detachment under
Lieutenant Mawby, who on going on board the _Pompée_ found that she
was still flying the Royalist flag, and was commanded by French
naval officers. The duty was heavy, and the cruise must have been
a very unpleasant one, for guards had to be mounted in every part
of the vessel to keep her crew from breaking into open mutiny. In
one respect, however, Mawby and his companions were better off than
their comrades at headquarters, for they escaped the overcrowding
caused by the presence of thousands of Royalists in the ships at
Hyères. Sir Gilbert Elliot mentions that in the cabin he shared
with several naval officers, twenty luckless French refugees, men,
women, and children slept huddled together on the floor; and if no
better quarters could be provided for the diplomatic representative
of England, it is easy to imagine that regimental officers must have
been hideously uncomfortable.

At this time England had no possessions in the Mediterranean east
of Gibraltar, for Minorca, lost to her in 1782, was not recovered
till some years later. Yet to watch Toulon and the southern coast
of France, and to encourage the various Italian States to fight for
their independence which was already threatened by the armies of the
Republic, it was essential that England should possess an advanced
naval and military base in the Mediterranean. Such a post awaited us
in Corsica, where the inhabitants had profited by the turmoil of the
Revolution to rise against their French masters, whom they had driven
into the north of the island. The garrison had flung themselves into
the fortified coast towns of Bastia and Calvi, and the works fringing
the bay of S. Fiorenzo, and the Corsicans soon realised that without
professional soldiers, cannon, and munitions of war, they could not
hope to take these places, while without a fleet it was impossible to
prevent reinforcements from the mainland reaching their enemy. When
both parties to a bargain are eager to come to terms negotiations
are easy, and the islanders willingly agreed to become subjects of
George III., provided that a constitution framed on that of England
was granted to them. As soon as the arrangements for the annexation
of the island were completed Hood left his anchorage at Hyères, where
for five weeks the French had allowed him to remain unmolested, and
made for the bay of S. Fiorenzo, at the western base of the great
northern promontory of Corsica.[90] Driving the French from their
defences, he forced them to fall back on Bastia, their foothold on
the eastern coast; then leaving some of the troops at S. Fiorenzo,
he sailed for Bastia, already closely blockaded by Nelson’s frigates
and cut off from communication with the interior by the Corsicans,
who excelled in all kinds of partisan warfare. Neither Hood’s ships
nor the troops accompanying them were at this time in a satisfactory
condition: his crews were so weak that he had tried to borrow sailors
from the Neapolitan fleet, but without success; and the soldiers
numbered little more than two thousand men, who were very ill
provided for a campaign, as most of their camp equipage, baggage, and
knapsacks had been left behind at Toulon. A board sat in Corsica to
investigate the circumstances in which this loss--a very heavy one to
the men--had been incurred, and recommended that £2 should be paid
to each sergeant and £1 to each private soldier, adding that though
this would not compensate the men for their kit, it was as much as
Government could be reasonably expected to give.

Though Hood, as a sailor, was unversed in the military branches of
the art of war, he decided after a reconnaissance of Bastia that it
would be possible for the troops to carry the defences by a sudden
assault from the land side of the town. Dundas, who though cautious
by temperament was an educated soldier of much experience, condemned
the project as beyond the powers of his small and ill-equipped force,
and this difference of opinion at once intensified the friction
already existing between the Admiral and the General. Unable to
agree on a plan of operations, Hood and Dundas summoned conferences
and councils of war, at which no decision was reached; and their
relations became so strained that they ceased to meet, transacting
business by means of formal and acrimonious correspondence.
Throughout the army the question was hotly debated, and Bastia was
reconnoitred by many officers, the large majority of whom became
converts to Dundas’s opinions. Lieutenant-Colonel Wemyss, who
commanded the XVIIIth, was one of the few in favour of an attack,
but his views do not appear to have been supported by convincing
arguments, for Sir John Moore (then Lieutenant-Colonel Moore, 51st
regiment) recorded in his diary that “Wemyss conceives it would be
mighty easy to take them” (_i.e._, the heights commanding the land
fortifications), “but cannot explain how, and talks so like a boy
that little weight can be given to his opinion.”[91] Hood’s conduct
towards the General and the troops became so intolerable that Dundas
took the unjustifiable step of resigning his command and returning
to England. Not long after his departure reinforcements reached the
officer in temporary command of the army, whose offer to co-operate
in the operations was contemptuously rejected by Lord Hood; and
thus, when on May 24th the garrison of 4500 men surrendered, the
success was due to the Navy, whose blockading vessels had fairly
starved the French into submission, while, with the exception of some
artillerymen and the troops serving on the warships as marines, the
land forces were hardly employed in the reduction of Bastia.

The only place in Corsica now remaining in the occupation of the
French was Calvi, a well-fortified town on the western coast.
Lieutenant-General the Hon. Charles Stuart, who on the day of the
surrender of Bastia had arrived from England to replace Dundas, lost
no time in reorganising his command, and then reconnoitred Calvi,
where he was followed by Moore, who had been placed in command of a
corps termed “the reserve,” and formed of the flank companies of the
Royal Irish, the 50th, 51st, and the remains of the 2nd battalion
of the Royals. Calvi was by no means an easy place to besiege, for
it was surrounded on three sides by the sea and had good interior
fortifications, with outer works of considerable strength. About
eight hundred yards west of the town stood the Mozello, a bomb-proof,
star-shaped fort, built of solid masonry and mounting ten guns; north
of this fort was a smaller battery, flanked by an entrenchment,
and to the east rose another battery of three guns. Two thousand
yards south-west of the town the fort of Monteciesco commanded the
approaches from the southward, which were also swept by the guns of
two French frigates anchored in the bay. But though these works were
formidable, Stuart considered that the “real strength of the defence
lay in the height of the mountains and the rugged, rocky country over
which it was necessary to penetrate. It was necessary to abandon
regular approaches and to adopt rapid and forward movements.” He
accordingly decided to bombard Fort Monteciesco with three 26-prs.,
and under cover of their fire to throw up a heavier battery at night
within seven hundred and fifty yards of the Mozello. The labour of
moving the guns, ammunition, and stores was immense, for roads had to
be cut up the sides of steep hills nine hundred feet in height, and
the cannon to be dragged by hand over the cliffs that overhang the
landing-place. At the end of June more troops were brought round from
Bastia; among them were the Royal Irish, recently reinforced by the
return of the _Pompée_ detachment, which rejoined in time to share in
the fatigues and dangers of the siege.

On the evening of the 6th of July,[92] the Royal Irish were ordered
to make a feigned attack on Monteciesco to draw the attention of
the enemy from Moore’s column, which was preparing to throw up the
battery against the Mozello. The ruse was successful; the XVIIIth
showed themselves so ostentatiously that the French not only turned
all their fire upon them, but reinforced Monteciesco with a body
of men who had been posted on the very spot where Moore proposed
to place his guns. By dint of great efforts the last of Moore’s
26-prs. was dragged into position just before daybreak, thus raising
the number of ordnance playing upon Calvi to eleven guns and three
mortars, whose fire forced the French to evacuate Monteciesco and
move their warships out of range. Stuart then bombarded Mozello
assiduously; the French replied with equal vigour; for some days our
shot appeared to make little impression on the fort, but on the 18th
of July the breach was reported to be practicable, and orders were
issued for its assault that night. To conceal the real object of
his movements, he arranged that an advance battery should be built
in the night in order that the French might think the concentration
of troops was merely for the protection of the working party. The
task was entrusted to the 50th, who, undiscovered by the enemy,
threw up the battery, and then, to quote the words of the despatch,
“the Grenadiers, Light Infantry and 2nd Battalion Royals under
Lieutenant-Colonel Moore of the 51st Regiment and Major Brereton
of the 30th Regiment proceeded with a cool steady confidence and
unloaded arms towards the enemy, forced their way through a smart
fire of musketry, and regardless of live shells flung from the
breach or the additional defence of pikes, stormed the Mozello” ...
while “Lieutenant-Colonel Wemyss, equally regardless of opposition
carried the enemy’s battery on the left without firing a shot.” In
Sir John Moore’s diary fuller details of this spirited affair are
to be found. The various corps assembled at their rendezvous at
1 A.M. on the 19th: the Royal Irish were to attack the half moon
(or Fountain) battery on the left, while “the reserve” stormed the
Mozello. In ground dead to the fort, though only two or three hundred
yards distant from it, Moore formed the grenadiers and light infantry
(among whom, it will be remembered, were the flank companies of the
XVIIIth) into a column of companies.

  “Each grenadier carried a sandbag, and we had a sufficient number
  of ladders (about fourteen in all). Here we waited for the signal
  which was to be a gun from the new battery. The General came to
  me about half-past three. About this time some of the enemy’s
  sentries or piquets fired upon the XVIIIth upon our left, and
  soon after the signal to advance was given. The General kept for
  some time at the head of the Grenadiers. A party of artificers a
  little in our front began to cut the palisades, but we were upon
  them before they could effect it. Captain McDonald, who commanded
  the Royal Grenadiers,[93] and I got through the palisades first
  at an opening made by our shot. The men instantly followed, and
  giving a cheer, ran up to the bottom of the breach. We were
  annoyed both by shot, hand-grenades, and live shells, which the
  enemy had placed on the parapet and rolled over upon us. Luckily
  neither sand-bags nor ladders were necessary. The Grenadiers
  advanced with their bayonets with such intrepidity that the
  French gave way and ran out of the fort--and in a moment the
  place was filled with the five companies of Grenadiers. Two
  companies of Light Infantry had been ordered to move quickly
  round the foot of the fort and get between the enemy and the
  town, but the Grenadiers stormed so briskly that the Light
  Infantry could not arrive in time: by this means most of them
  escaped.”

The Royal Irish lost no time in entrenching themselves in the
Fountain battery, and worked so well that when at daybreak the enemy
opened with grape and round shot the cannonade did them little harm.

Stuart had every reason for wishing to bring the operations to a
close, for though his casualties were small, bad food, excessive
fatigue, and a pestilential climate had so devastated the camp that
by the middle of July two-thirds of his men were in hospital, and the
remainder were breaking down at an alarming rate. The large number
of sailors who were serving on shore under Nelson were in equally
bad case, and the necessity of watching the French at Toulon made
it impossible to replace them from the fleet. In the hope that the
loss of their principal outworks had shaken the spirit of the French,
General Stuart sent word to the garrison that he was prepared to
offer them favourable terms; but when Casabianca, their commander,
refused to negotiate, he pressed forward his siege-works so fast that
on July 31, thirteen heavy guns, four mortars, and three howitzers
were in position within six hundred yards of the walls of the town.
So effective was their fire that on the 1st of August Casabianca
asked for a suspension of hostilities, undertaking to yield in nine
days if during that time he was not relieved from France, and as no
help arrived the nine hundred men of the garrison surrendered on
the 10th. In recognition of their spirited defence of Calvi, which
had lasted for fifty-one days, they were granted excellent terms;
they marched out with all the honours of war; they retained their
side-arms; and they were sent back to France, free to serve against
us again as soon as they pleased. The capture of Calvi only cost the
British ninety killed and wounded, and the losses of the XVIIIth were
proportionately small. Lieutenant W. Byron, whose death assured to
his young relative, the future poet, the succession to the peerage,
was killed; Lieutenant-Colonel D. D. Wemyss and Lieutenant W.
Johnston were wounded; five rank and file were killed, one sergeant
and seven rank and file wounded.[94] Yet so greatly had the regiment
suffered during the siege from exposure and malarial fever, that when
it marched into Calvi its effectives consisted of two officers, four
sergeants, and seventy-one rank and file, and though the capitulation
brought active operations to an end the losses by disease did not
cease. Malaria had taken so firm a hold of the Royal Irish that
including those who were killed or died of wounds or sickness during
the siege, four officers, nine sergeants, six corporals, and a
hundred and fifty-five private soldiers perished during the first
nine months the regiment was in Corsica.[95] The mortality was at
its height during the month of August, when seventy non-commissioned
officers and men died.

Nothing is known of the doings of the XVIIIth during the remainder
of our short occupation of Corsica, except that several of the
officers were employed on the staff: one of them, Major (afterwards
Lieutenant-General Sir H. T.) Montresor, after acting as Governor
of Calvi, was placed in command of a battalion of islanders, one
of the corps raised for local defence by Sir Gilbert Elliot, who
had been appointed Viceroy of Corsica by the Government at home.
The lives of the officers left at regimental duty must have been
singularly dull, as there was so little communication with England
that letters or papers rarely reached the island, and even the
Ministry, apparently forgetful of the existence of their new
possession, often allowed months to pass without communicating with
Elliot. Some amount of cynical amusement, however, was to be derived
from studying the mental attitude of the population, who, at first
delighted to find themselves British subjects, soon grew weary of the
restraints of law and order enforced upon them by their new rulers.
The Corsicans watched with ever increasing pride the victories in
Italy of their young compatriot, Napoleon Bonaparte; they realised
that the English and their Allies made no headway against France
on land, and they appreciated the importance of Spain’s change of
policy, when after deserting the coalition against the Republic she
placed her Mediterranean fleet at the disposal of our enemy. They
gradually came to the conclusion that in annexing themselves to the
British they had joined the losing side, and when the French troops
overran Tuscany and seized upon Leghorn, the Corsicans began to give
Elliot broad hints that they wished to see the last of him and his
garrison of red-coats. The presence of the French in Leghorn, the
principal port of Tuscany, was a direct menace to us in Corsica;
and as a counterstroke Elliot threw troops into Porto Ferraio, the
capital of the little island of Elba, half way between Bastia and
Leghorn. To the Duke of Tuscany, part of whose dominions Elliot had
thus occupied, the Viceroy justified himself by pointing out that as
Tuscany had been unable to defend her territory on the mainland she
would have been equally impotent to keep the French out of Elba.

In the autumn of 1796, the British Government, alarmed at the
combination of the French and Spanish fleets, determined to
recall their forces from the Mediterranean, and the order for the
evacuation of Corsica was conveyed to Elliot by a despatch, wherein
the abandonment of the island was described in the stilted language
of the period as “the withdrawal of the blessing of the British
Constitution from the people of Corsica.” As a preliminary to the
general retirement the troops had to be concentrated at Elba; and the
embarkation of the garrison of Bastia, which included some, if not
all, of the Royal Irish, was effected in very dramatic circumstances.
When Nelson arrived off the port on October 14, he found the town
in wild confusion: a committee of virulent Anglophobists had seized
the reins of power, and their adherents were virtually masters of
the place; British property had been confiscated; British merchant
ships were forcibly detained in harbour; a plot was on foot to make
the Viceroy a prisoner, and the General, de Burgh, had withdrawn the
garrison into the citadel, where they had been followed by large
numbers of armed men who insisted on falling in with the guards and
sentries at every post. By threatening to blow the town to pieces,
Nelson succeeded in releasing the captured shipping and in saving
public and private property valued at two hundred thousand pounds;
but though the soldiers and sailors slaved night and day their
work was by no means finished when, on the night of the 18th, news
arrived that French troops had landed and were marching rapidly on
Bastia, while the Spanish fleet was reported to be only sixty miles
distant. Even Nelson realised that nothing more could be done: the
troops began to move down to the boats, while the guns were spiked
by Mawby, an officer of the XVIIIth, who with the grenadier company
of the regiment had just been brought back from detachment on the
neighbouring islet of Capreja. Though a heavy gale of wind was
blowing and the sea was very high every soldier was safely embarked;
and not too soon, for as the last boat pushed off from the shore the
French advance-guard began to enter the citadel.

The resources of Elba were insufficient to meet the requirements of
her suddenly increased population, and at first she drew largely
from Piombino, the port of the district known as the Maremma of
Tuscany. By garrisoning the town of Piombino and the villages in
its neighbourhood, the French so effectually cut off this source
of supply that at the beginning of November Elliot and de Burgh
determined to make an effort to reopen communication with the
mainland of Italy, and sent a column, chiefly composed of the
Royal Irish, to drive the enemy from Piombino and the surrounding
country.[96] The expedition is briefly mentioned by the Viceroy in
a letter of November 6, 1796, where he says, “We take Piombino this
evening. This will be the last act of my reign, and in truth the
measure of Porto Ferraio was not complete without it. I shall then
feel very happy about our supplies.”[97] No account of the operations
is to be found in the printed bulletins or among the documents at the
Record Office; but fortunately some details have been preserved in
the Royal Military Calendar, in a précis of the services of General
Montresor. Brevet-Colonel D. D. Wemyss, XVIIIth, was in command
of the column which was composed of the Royal Irish,[98] under
Montresor, then a lieutenant-colonel; two companies of de Roll’s
Swiss regiment, one of the many corps of continental mercenaries
raised at that time by Great Britain, and a detachment of artillery.
These troops were embarked on three frigates, which anchored off
Piombino early on November 7; Montresor was at once sent on shore to
summon the Governor, who after some hesitation agreed to surrender,
and without loss of time the soldiers landed. While Wemyss was
taking measures to secure Piombino and to improvise transport for
his men his heart must have sunk within him. Outside the walls of
the town there were hardly any signs of life; autumnal rains had
flooded the country in every direction; a few stone buildings, half
farm, half fortress, rose like islands out of the water; thick
woods concealed the villages on the neighbouring hills, whither for
centuries the inhabitants of the Maremma have betaken themselves at
night to avoid sleeping on the fever-stricken plain. After a few
hours’ hard work Montresor, with a detachment of five hundred men
and three field-guns, marched to attack the garrison of Campiglia, a
village ten miles off. The country was inundated for three miles, but

  “the hedges and trees on either side of the road being their
  guide the British waded through, though the buffalos attached
  to their guns had twice knocked up. On approaching the town the
  Lieutenant-Colonel sent his light company under Captain Dunlop
  by another road to cut off the enemy’s picquets from the town,
  and to enter it by the Leghorn road, both of which were executed;
  after exchanging a few shots with the enemy’s outposts, finding
  the British in their rear, they were compelled to disperse
  in the woods, which left the town open to complete surprise,
  inasmuch, that in front of his advance guard, at one o’clock
  after midnight, Lieut.-Colonel Montresor got into the town with
  a confidential servant unperceived, and personally seized an
  orderly French dragoon going with despatches to the garrison of
  Castiglione from the Commandant of Campiglia to announce the
  British having landed at Piombino: the entrance to the town was
  conducted with so much silence and arrangement that the Royal
  Irish Grenadiers reached the French main guard just as the enemy
  were turning out under arms, and rushing on them compelled them
  to lay down their arms, while the Commandant, (whose quarters
  were over the main guard), escaped by dropping out of his window
  over the town walls, leaving his supper, (which he had deferred
  to this late hour) on the table, and which was finished by the
  British officers when the prisoners were secured and the British
  patrols and picquets had been placed.

  “Colonel Wemyss having proceeded to attack Castiglione,
  Lieut.-Colonel Montresor secured his post so effectually that
  during three months the strong garrison of Leghorn never molested
  them. This little expedition being effectually accomplished, and
  the troops of Elba having formed their depôts, the British force
  was ordered back to Elba.”

Much had happened while the Royal Irish were on the mainland of
Italy. In November the fleet had been obliged to go to Gibraltar for
stores, and at the end of the year Nelson had reappeared at Elba
with orders from the Admiral, Sir John Jervis (afterwards Lord St
Vincent), to embark the naval establishment and rejoin him in the
Straits of Gibraltar. Nelson, however, brought no instructions for
de Burgh, and when he suggested that as the Navy had abandoned the
Mediterranean it was useless for the troops to remain in Elba, the
brave old general, though much perplexed at the situation, decided
not to quit his post without orders from his military superiors.
Nelson therefore had no option but to abandon de Burgh and his
three thousand troops to their fate, and leaving transports enough
for the whole of the garrison, and a few vessels with which to
keep up communication with the mainland, he rejoined Jervis early
in February, 1797. But neither Jervis nor Nelson forgot that a
detachment of the British army was marooned in a little island off
the coast of Tuscany in imminent danger of capture by the French, and
soon after the great naval victory of Cape St Vincent, Nelson dashed
back into the Mediterranean, ascertained that de Burgh and his troops
were safe, and convoyed them safely to Gibraltar. The Royal Irish
landed at the end of April or the beginning of May,[99] and formed
part of the garrison of the Rock until, two years later, they again
were embarked for active service.

Though the failure of the expedition to Holland in the winter of
1799 had added one more to the list of our unsuccessful enterprises
against the French on the continent of Europe, the spring of 1800
found preparations on foot in England for another effort on land
against the Republic. Lieutenant-General Sir Ralph Abercromby,
with twenty thousand men, was to disembark on the coast of Italy
near Genoa, occupy the maritime Alps, and by cutting the lines of
communication between Italy and France relieve the pressure on the
Austrians, who faced the French on the plains of Lombardy. Owing,
however, to the fear of a Franco-Spanish invasion of Portugal
and the consequent loss of the Tagus as a friendly port, a large
proportion of Abercromby’s force was kept back to defend Lisbon in
case of need, and when Sir Ralph reached Port Mahon, the capital of
Minorca, which since its recapture in 1798 had become our advanced
post in the Mediterranean, he had only six thousand men available
for active operations. He found despatches awaiting him from General
Melas, the Austrian Commander-in-Chief in Italy, begging that British
troops might be sent to Genoa, which, after a heroic defence by the
French under Massena, had recently surrendered to the Austrians.
Melas himself was unable to garrison it adequately: would Abercromby
therefore do so? Ordering four thousand men, among whom were the
XVIIIth Royal Irish, 571 strong, to follow him, Abercromby sailed
at once, but on the voyage learned that at Marengo Napoleon had
defeated the Austrians, who were retreating all along their line, and
had evacuated Genoa. After definitely ascertaining that co-operation
with Melas had become impossible, he returned to Minorca, where for
many weeks the expedition awaited fresh orders from home. During
the halt Abercromby, with the help of Moore who commanded one of
his brigades, devoted himself to the improvement of the troops. He
strengthened their discipline, made their equipment suitable for
active service, and cut down the personal baggage of officers and
men to the articles absolutely necessary for a campaign. While he
was at Minorca reinforcements gradually reached him, including a
body of three thousand eight hundred men who had been on the point
of attacking Belle Isle, off the western coast of France, when they
were hurriedly diverted to the Mediterranean. Thus, when at the end
of August instructions reached him to make a raid against the Spanish
port of Cadiz, Abercromby, after providing an adequate garrison for
Minorca, was able to embark between ten and eleven thousand men.

A fortnight was spent on the voyage to Gibraltar, where on
September 19, he was joined by a large number of troops under
Lieutenant-General Sir James Pulteney, the Colonel of the Royal
Irish regiment.[100] Pulteney had been sent from England to destroy
Ferrol, a naval station on the north-west coast of Spain. He had
landed, driven the Spaniards back to the shelter of their works, and
then discovered that the Government had sent him on a fool’s errand.
Ferrol was well armed and fortified, and as he was not nearly strong
enough to attack it, he wisely abandoned the enterprise, re-embarked
his men, and made sail for the Rock of Gibraltar.[101] Thanks to
Pulteney’s arrival, Abercromby’s command now consisted of about
twenty thousand infantry and a thousand cavalry and artillerymen,
and in a few days a fleet of a hundred and thirty British men-of-war
and troop-ships appeared before Cadiz, the most important naval
harbour in the south of Spain. In the conduct of this expedition
the General had by no means a free hand, for the Ministry, while
ordering him to attack Cadiz, seize the arsenal, and destroy its
docks and shipping, emphatically enjoined upon him not to run much
risk, and not to land his troops unless he was confident that he
could re-embark them safely. Operations conducted on such lines were
doomed to failure. After much discussion with the naval authorities,
a few thousand troops, including the XVIIIth, were crowded into boats
and started for the shore, only to be recalled in a few minutes
to their respective vessels, for the Admiral finally declined to
guarantee their safe return to the ships if once they landed. After
a fruitless paper war between Abercromby and his naval colleague
the whole fleet made sail, successful only in having covered itself
with ridicule. In a few hours a great storm arose: the ships were
driven in every direction along the coast of Morocco, where for many
days they tossed and rolled in a tempestuous sea until the weather
moderated and they reached Gibraltar.

During this storm, and indeed during the whole of the many months
that Abercromby’s command spent on board ship, the sufferings of the
troops were great. The transports were so leaky that when it rained
the men were constantly wet; so crowded that there was often not room
on the decks for all to lie down at the same time; so ill-provided
that the soldiers had no bedding, no covering other than their
regimental blankets if, indeed, they were lucky enough to possess
such articles. The food was not only indifferent, but inadequate, for
an idea prevailed that the ration issued on shore was enough for a
man who was taking hard exercise, and therefore on board ship, where
the soldier theoretically was a passenger with nothing to do, he
required less to eat than on land. In practice the soldier on board
a transport had to work as hard as a sailor, and consequently was
underfed. His diet of salt pork and biscuit, his ration of water,
often scanty and generally tasting strongly of the barrels in which
it was stored, and the absence of vegetables all combined to reduce
his strength, and he often fell a prey to the scurvy which in those
days devastated the fleet.

While the soldiers were still in the Straits of Gibraltar, where,
as a sea-sick officer wrote, “the tossing of the ship rendered
our situation as landsmen at once inconvenient and ridiculous,”
Abercromby received despatches of great importance. Dundas, the
War Minister of England, had become inspired with a great idea--to
abandon the “policy of pin-pricks” by which the conduct of our
campaigns in Europe had been hitherto regulated, and strike a
blow in defence of the Empire as a whole. The year after we had
abandoned Elba Napoleon had embarked in the south of France with
forty thousand men, and after seizing Malta made himself master of
Egypt and sent emissaries to India, whose intrigues among the native
princes complicated our situation in the East.[102] When he returned
to France in 1799 he left behind him an army of occupation, whose
presence was a continual danger to our power in Hindustan. This army
Dundas determined to drive out, and with the reluctant assent of the
other members of the Cabinet he now ordered Abercromby to prepare for
a campaign in Lower Egypt, while a column, formed of a regiment from
Cape Colony[103] and of British and native troops from India, was to
land at Kosseir on the Red Sea, strike across the desert to Upper
Egypt, descend the Nile, and fall upon the enemy from the rear.[104]

The surrender of the French garrison in Malta on September 5, 1800,
placed the island at our disposal, and this, our latest conquest,
was fixed as the rendezvous of the fleet, which arrived there in
detachments from Gibraltar throughout November. While his troops
rested the General strove, though with poor results, to supplement
the scanty information about the topography and resources of Egypt
vouchsafed to him by Dundas, who had provided him with nothing but
an indifferent map of the country and copies of correspondence of
doubtful value, intercepted between the French generals at Cairo
and their official superiors in Paris. Abercromby, however, learned
enough to convince him that without plenty of small craft of light
draught he could not land anywhere in Egypt, and on the 20th of
December he weighed anchor for the Bay of Marmorice--a deep inlet on
the coast of Caramania, one of the provinces of Asia Minor belonging
to the Sultan, who was co-operating with England in the Egyptian
expedition. Here the General expected to obtain shipping, and the
horses with which his cavalry and artillery were still unprovided,
but when after a tempestuous voyage he reached his destination on
January 2, 1801, he found the Turkish officials so dilatory that
he was forced to spend six weeks at Marmorice. Never was time more
usefully employed, however, than during this long halt. The troops
landed, drilled, collected a great store of firewood for use in
Egypt, and prepared gabions and fascines for siege operations.
The ships’ carpenters were occupied in making small water-kegs
and canteens, and light wooden sleighs to be drawn by hand across
the desert. Both services were constantly practised in the art of
disembarkation, and before the fleet again put to sea the soldiers
could swarm down the sides of the transports and take their places in
the boats without confusion; while the sailors who rowed the flotilla
had learned to keep station and to reach the shore in the prescribed
order.

In conceiving the idea of the expedition to Egypt Dundas apparently
thought he had done all that could be expected from him, and took
no trouble about details. He failed to comply with Abercromby’s
requisitions for stores and _matériel_. He did not even send him the
bullion for which Sir Ralph frequently petitioned, and left him so
short of actual cash that for three months the army was unpaid, and
the only way by which cavalry horses could be bought at Marmorice was
with specie produced by well-to-do officers. It is not surprising,
therefore, that Abercromby wrote, “We are now on the point of sailing
for the coast of Egypt with very slender means for executing the
orders we have received. I never went on any service entertaining
greater doubt of success, at the same time with more determination
to encounter difficulties.... The Dutch expedition was walking on
velvet compared to this.”[105] On February 22, he put to sea, and
after a stormy passage of eight days reached Aboukir Bay--a wide
indentation on the western coast of the delta of the Nile, where
in August, 1798, Nelson had destroyed the fleet which had convoyed
Napoleon’s army to Egypt. Though for several days the waves were too
high to admit of disembarkation, small ships were able to reconnoitre
the coast closely, and their reports determined Abercromby to land
on a narrow promontory which, running north-east from Alexandria for
eight or nine miles, separates the waters of the Mediterranean from
those of Lake Aboukir, or Lake Madie as it is sometimes called.[106]

Sir Ralph’s effective strength consisted of about 16,000 men,[107]
including the live hundred cavalry for whom horses had been obtained,
and the gunners with sixteen field-pieces. The infantry were formed
into six brigades and a reserve; the latter, a unit double the
strength of any of the other brigades, was commanded by Major-General
(afterwards Sir John) Moore. The XVIIIth doubtless wished to serve
under the orders of Moore, whose worth they had learned at Calvi,
but, with the 8th, 13th, and 90th regiments, found themselves under
Major-General Cradock, whose brigade (the second) was composed of
battalions of very unequal strength; the 90th had 850 officers and
men; the 13th were weaker by a hundred; the 8th had 538 of all
ranks, while the roll of the XVIIIth only bore 523 names.[108] Not
all the men in Abercromby’s little army were British born. About
2700 were foreigners: Stuart’s Minorca regiment was a collection of
ne’er-do-weels from every country in Europe; De Roll’s was composed
of Swiss; Dillon’s of French Royalists; Hompesch’s dragoons were
Germans, while the Corsican Rangers probably contained some of the
men first raised and disciplined by Montresor of the XVIIIth. To meet
this expedition Menou, the French Commander-in-Chief, had under his
orders about 21,500 combatants; his cavalry was superb; he possessed
sixty-six field-guns; many of his infantry were veterans whom
Napoleon had led from victory to victory in the plains of Lombardy.
Eleven thousand troops were concentrated at Cairo, 6000 were allotted
to the defence of Alexandria and of the coast from that city to
Rosetta; 1800 held the country round Damietta; 1000 were absorbed
by the garrisons of Suez, Balbeis, and Salalieh; the remainder were
stationed in Upper Egypt. The news of Abercromby’s appearance off the
Delta reached Cairo about the same time as a report that a Turkish
force was advancing slowly through Syria upon Egypt. Menou, puzzled
by the situation, frittered away his strength by sending detachments
to unimportant points; he did not at once reinforce Alexandria, and
thus when Abercromby disembarked he was met by only two thousand men
with fifteen pieces of field artillery.

Until March 7, no landing was possible, but then the weather
moderated, and at 2 A.M. on the 8th, a rocket from the Admiral’s
ship gave the signal to put into execution the scheme which had been
repeatedly explained to the officers of both services. The boats
were to form up in three lines at a place of assembly, marked by
three small craft anchored out of gun-shot from the shore. The first
line consisted of large flat-bottom row-boats, each containing fifty
soldiers, and of launches carrying field-guns ready for instant use:
these boats and launches were to be fifty feet apart, and to keep
“interval” and “dressing” accurately. In second line were ships’
boats, to help the first line in case of need. Behind them followed
the third line--cutters towing launches, full of men of the same
regiment as that directly in front of them. These supporting troops
were to land in the fifty-feet interval between the boats of the
first line. The Reserve, the brigade of Guards, and part of the first
brigade were the units named in orders to lead the way, and by 3.30
A.M. they were in the boats; but owing to the extreme shallowness
of the water many of the transports were anchored so far from the
shore that it was not until 9 o’clock that the last of the troops
had reached the rendezvous. Then on the signal of the naval captain
in charge the sailors gave way, and in silence, only broken by the
regular dip of hundreds of oars into the water, rowed steadily
towards the yellow sandhills where the soldiers were to land. Until
the first line was well within their range, the French gave no sign
of life; then they poured a perfect hurricane of round-shot, grape,
and musketry upon the leading boats, several of which were sunk. As
soon as the first shot came whistling round their ears, the sailors
rowed harder than ever; the soldiers, packed like herrings in a tub,
could do nothing but cheer until the bluejackets ran into shallow
water, when their turn came; springing overboard, they waded to the
shore and fought hand to hand with the French, who lunged fiercely
at them with their bayonets as they struggled up the slippery beach.
After a short but sharp engagement the French fell back, but not
until they had inflicted upon us a loss heavy in comparison to
the number of men actually engaged. Among the sailors there were
ninety-seven casualties; of the soldiers a hundred and two were
killed, five hundred and fifteen wounded, and thirty-five missing,
or a total in the two services of seven hundred and forty-nine.
The Royal Irish and the remainder of the second brigade had been
transferred to small Greek ships of light draft, which moved close
inshore to support the advance-guard, but before Cradock could land
his troops, the French were in retreat, and thus on this memorable
day the XVIIIth did not come into action.[109]

Thanks to the success of this thoughtfully planned, carefully
rehearsed, and brilliantly executed stroke, the remainder of the
troops disembarked without difficulty, and began to move towards
Alexandria. Their progress, however, was very slow, for Abercromby
was crippled by want of land transport, and until, by a second
victory, he could win the Egyptians to his side and obtain from
them camels and oxen, he was forced to rely for his supplies on the
service of small craft by which the Navy landed food and stores on
the shores of Lake Aboukir, where his left flank rested. The army
halted on the 12th in front of a line of sandhills strongly held
by the enemy, against whose possible night attack were taken the
precautions thus described in Moore’s diary: “The 90th and 92nd were
put under my command. I divided these two regiments each into three
bodies, separated at such distances as to cover the front of the
army, and I ordered each body to throw forward one-third of their
numbers, with the officers belonging to it, as sentries in front.
This formed a strong chain, which was relieved every hour by one
of the thirds in reserve. The enemy was so close to us that it was
evident that neither army could move without bringing on an action.”
From this position Abercromby determined to drive the French by a
frontal attack combined with a turning movement on their right; and
early on the 13th he moved from his bivouac in three huge columns,
with the 90th regiment covering the front as advance-guard. The
undulations of the ground hid the centre column from the French
General, who, thinking that our right and left columns were too far
apart to be able to support each other, determined to crush them
in detail, and covering his advance by a vigorous and well-aimed
artillery fire descended into the plain. Cradock’s brigade deployed
into line “with great quickness and precision,” and pressed on to
meet the foe, whose cavalry, after a fruitless attack upon the
advance-guard, charged the main body with great determination, but
were so hotly received with well-aimed musketry that they were
driven back in confusion. Of the part played by the XVIIIth in this
episode the regimental record of service contains a spirited, though
somewhat breathless description.

  “A strong body of cavalry having meanwhile charged the two
  regiments supporting the left of the front line, but being
  repulsed, rode in towards the 2nd brigade under cover of some
  sand hills; and observing an interval between our regiment and
  that on its left, immediately advanced to charge through it,
  in which they must have succeeded had they not been checked
  by a prompt and well-directed fire from our Light company,
  for, unfortunately, the left battalion of the brigade having
  mistaken them, from their green uniforms for Hompesch’s Hussars
  (attached to our army) not only suffered them to ride quietly
  along their front, but kept calling out to us not to fire upon
  them; this error having, however, been fortunately discovered
  when the cavalry were within a hundred paces of us, and in the
  act of wheeling up to charge, the regiment halted, and opening a
  steady and rapid platoon fire immediately after that of the Light
  company, brought down a great number of men and horses, threw
  them into complete disorder and compelled them to a precipitate
  retreat, though many of them had even arrived within a few paces
  of the interval on our left. Had not the Royal Irish so timely
  opened its fire, the brigade must have been broken through, and
  the enemy penetrated to the second line, which in firing on them
  must at the same time have fired upon us. This cavalry, by a
  strange coincidence, happened to be the 18th regiment of heavy
  dragoons, and afterwards (when a troop of this corps was taken in
  the desert) they said, pointing to us, ‘had it not been for that
  regiment it was all over with your expedition.’”

The action raged along nearly the whole line till the French,
staggered by the warmth of their reception and overborne by superior
numbers, gave way, and retired to the works of Nicopolis, where a
series of redoubts stretching across the peninsula barred the way
to Alexandria. The enemy covered his retreat with sharpshooters,
supported by artillery so mobile and so well-handled that the British
were filled with admiration, contrasting its quick movements to those
of our field-guns which, from want of horses, had to be dragged
laboriously by hand. Abercromby hoped to carry the lines of Nicopolis
with a rush, and followed the French across the plain between their
first and second positions until he had to halt to make dispositions
for the assault. For several hours the troops remained stationary
under a murderous fire from the enemy’s batteries, waiting to be
let loose upon the French; but when a careful reconnaissance had
convinced Abercromby that the second position was too strong to be
carried until its defenders had been shaken by a heavy bombardment,
he reluctantly ordered his little army to retire, and in perfect
order it marched back to the ground from which the enemy had been
driven in the morning, and settled down into bivouac. The General
was not unmindful of the good work done by Cradock’s command; in
a general order thanking the troops for “their soldier-like and
intrepid conduct, he felt it incumbent on him particularly to express
his most perfect satisfaction with the steady and gallant conduct
of Major-General Cradock’s brigade;” and in his despatch to the
Secretary of State for War, when describing the events of the early
part of the battle, he stated: “Major-General Cradock immediately
formed his brigade to meet the attack made by the enemy; and the
troops[110] changed their position with a quickness and precision
which did them the greatest honour. The remainder of the army
followed so good an example, and immediately were in a situation not
only to face but to repel the enemy.”

This action cost the lives of six officers and a hundred and fifty
of the other ranks; sixty-seven officers and a thousand and two
non-commissioned officers and men were wounded; the sailors and
marines together lost eighty-four of all ranks; thus the casualties
in both services amounted to thirteen hundred and nine killed and
wounded. Though the regiments under Cradock’s command suffered more
than those in the other brigades, losing upwards of five hundred
officers and men, the XVIIIth escaped comparatively lightly. Captain
George Jones was killed, and three officers, whose names are not
mentioned in the despatch, were wounded; among the other ranks a
sergeant and forty-five rank and file were wounded.[111] The French
did not lose as heavily as we did--not more than five hundred of
their troops were put out of action; but they left in our hands four
guns and a large quantity of ammunition.

The position that Abercromby now held was about a mile and a half
long, stretching from the Mediterranean on the right to Lake
Aboukir on the left. In front of the right and centre rose a chain
of sandhills; on the left the ground was level. While the heavy
artillery and ordnance stores were being slowly moved over the nine
miles of sandy track between Aboukir Bay and the bivouac, the General
entrenched himself, posting Cradock’s brigade on the extreme left of
the front line. On the 19th the big guns began to arrive, accompanied
by a recently landed detachment of Turks, of such doubtful military
value that they were ordered to halt three miles in rear of the
British troops. Next day a friendly Arab chief sent word that
Alexandria had been largely reinforced, thus confirming the reports
from the men on outpost who, through the mists of early morning, had
seen long strings of camels moving towards the town. The Arab added
that the French proposed to attack us at dawn on the 21st. Though not
fully convinced of the truth of this intelligence, Abercromby pressed
on his field-works and ordered his troops to stand to arms before
dawn--a wise precaution, for the Arab’s information proved correct.
Menou had accompanied the reinforcements, and after providing an
adequate garrison for Alexandria, could dispose of 10,000 men with
whom he proposed to surprise the English before daybreak. A feint was
to be made against our left, our centre was to be vigorously engaged,
while the full force of the attack was to fall upon the right. As
soon as it was crumpled up a general movement along the line was
to drive us into the waters of the lake, where we should have to
surrender or to drown.

While it was still black night on the 21st, the French began the
action by demonstrating against our left, and though the false attack
was not pressed home, it was successful in so far that troops,
urgently required on other parts of the field, were diverted to the
help of Cradock’s brigade. In the centre the enemy made no headway
against the steady volleys of the regiments facing him; the danger
was in his onslaught on our right, where for a long time there raged
a series of fierce and confused fights. The piquets were driven in,
and the supports surprised by columns suddenly looming out of the
murky darkness; reinforcements on either side hurried up, guided by
the flash of the muskets and the shouts of the combatants--prisoners
and Colours were taken and recaptured, posts lost and regained. At
one moment the French slipped unperceived between two corps, which in
the very nick of time discovered and routed them with the bayonet: a
little later a regiment, while hotly engaged in front, was surrounded
by a body of the enemy whose presence was revealed by the sound of
a French word of command. The rear rank turned about, and fighting
back to back, drove off their foes. Episodes such as these marked
the progress of the action until the morning light showed Menou that
all his efforts had been unavailing, and that the British line,
shattered but unconquered, still held its ground. Mad with rage at
his want of success the French General, against the advice of his
subordinates, hurled his cavalry, 1200 strong, into the fray. They
crashed through a regiment whose formation they broke, though not
its spirit, and swept like a torrent over the battlefield until they
reached the camp, where the horses stumbled over the tent-ropes and
fell into the burrows, scratched in the sand as sleeping places
by a corps whose tents had not arrived. The confusion thus caused
was increased by the cross-fire of the infantry who had been left
in charge of the baggage, and the French cavalry wheeled about and
retired at full speed, leaving the ground behind them covered with
their dead. After several more desperate efforts, in which assailants
and assailed displayed equal courage, Menou realised that he was
defeated, and fell back slowly and in good order. His solid columns
offered a splendid target to our artillerymen; but the guns were
silent, to the intense surprise of the French who expected to be
pursued by a hail of projectiles, and to the mortification of the
British infantry, who looked to the gunners to avenge their losses.
But the gunners could not fire; they were as short of ammunition as
the foot soldiers themselves, many of whom had been forced to rely
exclusively on their bayonets in the later phases of the battle.
It was not that ammunition was lacking in the camp, but owing to a
staff blunder there was no means of getting it up to the fighting
line. Had our gunners been able to do their duty the French loss
would have been enormous, but they escaped with 2000 casualties.[112]
On our side the gallant Abercromby was mortally wounded; and of the
11,500 men engaged, 10 officers and 233 other ranks were killed; 60
officers and 1133 other ranks wounded; 3 officers and 29 men missing.
The Royal Irish, who were on the left flank of Cradock’s brigade,
and therefore far away from the scene of the serious fighting, were
almost untouched, only two private soldiers being wounded.

Some days were spent in the work of reorganisation. Stores and
ammunition had to be brought up from Aboukir, and arrangements
made with the natives for the hire of transport of various kinds.
Before the army was ready to move Sir Ralph Abercromby died, deeply
regretted by all who had been privileged to serve under him. He was
succeeded by a future Colonel of the XVIIIth, Major-General the Hon.
John Hely-Hutchinson,[113] who decided to leave Major-General Coote
to invest Alexandria with 6000 men, while he himself led the main
column to Cairo. As a first step he sent a mixed force of British and
Turks across the desert to seize Rosetta, a town important from its
position at the mouth of the western branch of the Nile, and a few
days later reinforced it with the XVIIIth and the 90th regiments.
Rosetta was occupied without trouble; our gunboats entered the
Nile; a large amount of river craft was collected, and on May 4,
9500 British and Turkish troops began to move upon Cairo.[114] The
march proved a very trying one, for the heat was great, the climate
exhausting, and as there were no roads and practically no land
transport, the army had to depend for its supplies on the flotilla of
boats which accompanied its progress towards the capital of Egypt.
Sending a strong detachment to the right bank of the river to connect
him with the Turkish contingent from Syria, Hely-Hutchinson worked
up the left bank with the main body, gradually capturing or driving
away the garrisons of the fortified posts along the Nile. In these
small affairs the Royal Irish had no opportunity of distinguishing
themselves.

After joining forces with the Turks, the General pushed on towards
Cairo, and halting on the 16th of June within a few miles of the
city, found the French much more disposed to treat for surrender than
to fight. The perimeter of the crumbling fortifications was far too
large to be adequately defended by the 9000 effective men to whom the
garrison was reduced; outside the walls was encamped an Anglo-Turkish
army of 30,000 men, and Baird’s contingent from India and the Cape
might any day bring an important accession to its strength; the civil
population was disaffected; the _morale_ of the soldiers was shaken
by the events of the campaign; all ranks were anxious to return to
France, and it was well known that the English were prepared to
give them very favourable terms. In such circumstances negotiations
proved swift and easy, and on June 27 a convention was signed, by
which Hely-Hutchinson undertook to escort the French garrison with
its baggage, field-guns and ammunition to Rosetta, and there embark
it for the French ports on the Mediterranean. The march from Cairo
to the sea, organised and commanded by Moore, was a very delicate
operation, brilliantly carried out. It began on July 15: the Turks
led the column; then, after a long interval, followed the French
infantry and guns, their cavalry abreast of them, but on the left
flank, farthest from the river; some distance behind came the British
column, with a detachment of dragoons and Turkish cavalry bringing up
the rear. Three hundred river craft, filled with sick and baggage,
slowly dropped down the Nile under the escort of our gunboats,
and kept up constant communication between the French and English
columns. The embarkation was completed on the 7th of August, when
13,672 soldiers and 82 civilians sailed for France, in transports
convoyed by British men-of-war. Everything passed off smoothly,
but of all the British officers at Rosetta none can have been more
heartily thankful when the last of our enemies was safely on board
ship than Colonel Montresor, who, as governor, was responsible for
the safety of the persons and the property of the inhabitants while
the French troops were marching through the town.

Hely-Hutchinson now turned his attention to Alexandria, which he
had left invested by General Coote when the main body advanced upon
Cairo. Thanks to the arrival of large reinforcements from England,
he was now able to besiege it in due form, and pushed on his works
so fast that on the 31st of August the garrison, 10,528 strong,
surrendered on terms identical with those granted at Cairo. The Royal
Irish were present at the operations, and with other picked troops
their grenadier company, with drums beating and Colours flying,
marched into Alexandria to take formal possession of the town.
Their triumphal entry marked the end of the Egyptian campaign, in
which 500 officers and men were killed and 3058 were wounded: how
many died from sickness is not known, but the mortality must have
been considerable. In the regiment Captain-Lieutenant G. Jones was
killed, and Captain W. Morgue, Ensign H. Bruley, Ensign W. Brand,
Quartermaster M. M‘Dermott, and fifty-six of the other ranks died
from wounds, accident, or disease.[115] During the summer the Royal
Irish suffered much from sickness, and in the month of July more than
two hundred men were in hospital, chiefly from ophthalmia, which was
then raging among the troops.

The thanks of Parliament were voted to both services; the XVIIIth
Royal Irish were authorised to carry on the Colours the emblem of a
Sphinx and the word “Egypt,” and gold medals were presented by the
Sultan to all the officers of the regiment. It was not until the year
1847 that a British medal was issued for this campaign, when only
three officers--Hill, Beavan, and Deane--were still alive to claim
the decoration.

As soon as the last of the French were shipped off to France,
Hely-Hutchinson’s army was broken up. Some of the troops remained to
share with Baird’s contingent the duty of holding Egypt for a few
months; the remainder returned to various parts of the Mediterranean
to await the results of the negotiations for peace then going on
between the Governments of England and France. The Royal Irish
were sent first to Malta, and then on to Elba, where Montresor was
appointed military governor of Porto Ferraio for the second time: and
when peace was declared the regiment was ordered home, and landed at
Cork at the end of August, 1802.

Though there were many signs that France looked upon the Peace of
Amiens more as a truce than as the end of her struggle with Britain,
our Government soon began to cut down all military expenditure with
unreasoning haste. Wholesale discharges from the army left only
40,000 regular troops in the United Kingdom; the militia, after an
embodiment of nine years, were sent to their homes; the “fencible”
regiments of horse and foot, raised for purposes of local defence,
were disbanded. Thus the renewal of the war in 1803 found us almost
disarmed; and when Napoleon collected an army for the invasion
of England the Government was hard pressed to raise a garrison
sufficient for the needs of the United Kingdom. By paying huge
bounties to recruits the numbers of the regular army were increased
to 12,000 cavalry and 75,000 infantry; bounties nearly as large
attracted 80,000 men to the militia; while to escape a mitigated
form of compulsory service, introduced to catch those who would not
serve of their own free will, 343,000 men joined corps of Yeomanry
or regiments of Volunteers. How far this mass of armed men would
have been able to face veterans who had won innumerable victories in
western and central Europe is a matter of speculation. Happily for
England at the beginning of the nineteenth century, though perhaps
unhappily for the British Empire of the present day, the threatened
invasion did not take place, and our race had no opportunity to
ascertain by practical experience whether Britons, very imperfectly
trained to war, are as good fighting men as foreigners who have
thoroughly mastered the soldier’s trade before they meet their enemy
on the battlefield.

[Illustration: MAP N^o. 3.

  THE BASIN
  of
  THE MEDITERRANEAN
  1727. 1793-1801

  W. & A.K. Johnston Limited, Edinburgh & London.]

Among the steps taken to increase the regular army was the formation
of additional battalions of infantry, one or two of which were
allotted to existing regiments. The second battalion of the XVIIIth
was raised in Ireland in 1803, and, like the first, served in
Scotland until the summer of 1804, when both were sent to Barham
Downs, one of the many camps in the south of England where large
numbers of troops stood ready to march towards the coast. After
a few months the first battalion was ordered to the West Indies,
and sailing in January, 1805, with other corps, reached Jamaica at
the end of April, 935 strong.[116] The second battalion remained at
Barham Downs until the destruction of the Franco-Spanish fleet at
Trafalgar put an end to Napoleon’s hope of obtaining the temporary
command of the Channel necessary to pass his troops across the
Straits of Dover. As soon as all danger of invasion was over the
encampment was broken up, and the second battalion was sent to
garrison Jersey.

When the first battalion of the Royal Irish landed at Kingston,
the island was in a fever of anxiety, for the attitude of the
black population, who had been thoroughly unsettled by the French
Revolution, was disquieting not only in Jamaica but throughout
the British West Indies; the coasts were infested by privateers
who captured many trading ships; and a great fleet of the enemy’s
men-of-war was reported to be cruising among the neighbouring
islands. These French ships, however, were part of the squadrons
sent by Napoleon to decoy Nelson and his brother admirals from their
blockade of the seaports on the Mediterranean and the Bay of Biscay:
their business was to evade the British fleet, to return to Europe,
and joining forces with the remainder of the Franco-Spanish fleet,
to sweep all British men-of-war from the Channel before our admirals
had discovered that they had quitted the West Indies. Thus Jamaica
was not attacked; in a few months the excitement died down, and the
Royal Irish fell into the routine of the station where they were
destined to spend twelve long and dreary years. Once there seemed a
prospect of active service: in 1809 they were ordered to form part of
an expedition to the island of San Domingo,[117] where the Spaniards,
who had again become our allies, were waging war against the French
garrison. Major-General Sir Hugh Carmichael sailed from Jamaica on
the 7th of June, and landed three weeks later at Polingue, a port
thirty miles from the city of San Domingo, where the Spaniards were
besieging the common enemy. As soon as his troops were safe on shore
the General hurried up to the front, and after a reconnaissance
decided that, as the French had already held out for eight months,
the best way to deal with them would be by a sudden and vigorous
attack. At nightfall on the 1st of July his men struggled up from the
coast, tired out by heavy marches in pouring rain, over bad roads,
through unbridged rivers, and without horses for the guns, which
had to be dragged by hand. Next day the French opened negotiations
for surrender, but asked for such impossible terms that Carmichael
made his plans to storm the works, and allotted to the Royal Irish
an important part in the operations; but before the assault could be
delivered the garrison of the town capitulated. As the tricolor still
flew over an outlying fort, Major E. Walker, XVIIIth regiment, was
sent to reduce it with the Light companies of his own and two other
battalions: but on the approach of the little column, the officer in
command laid down his arms, and with the lowering of his flag passed
away the last chance of the Royal Irish of distinguishing themselves
in the second phase of the great war with France. The terms of the
capitulation were much the same as those granted in Corsica and
Egypt: the French were to be sent back to their own country, and
after the Royal Irish had seen their enemies safely embarked for
France, they returned to Jamaica. At the taking of San Domingo none
of the British were injured, while few if any died of sickness in the
island. In this respect they were infinitely more fortunate than the
troops who served in the campaign in San Domingo between 1793 and
1795, when in a few weeks whole regiments were virtually annihilated
by yellow fever, which in those three years claimed 40,000 victims
from the army and the fleet in West Indian waters.

As the news of Wellington’s successive victories in the Peninsula
slowly made its way to Jamaica the hearts of the Royal Irish must
have sunk very low, when they realised that they were stationed in
a part of the world where there was no prospect of adding to the
laurels of the regiment. Yet their lot was common to the greater part
of the British army, scattered over the whole face of the globe, in
places where the prospect of active service seemed most improbable.
In 1809, England had about 218,000 regular soldiers, of whom only
22,000 were fighting in the Peninsula. A hundred and eight thousand
were locked up in the United Kingdom, to give solidity to the 450,000
Militia and Volunteers then under arms; the Mediterranean fortresses
and Sicily absorbed 22,000; the West Indies nearly as many; 8000
guarded the Canadian frontier; the communication with the East was
kept open by 900 at Madeira, and nearly 6000 at the Cape; 4000 held
the Island of Ceylon; in India were 24,000 white troops, of whom
only 4000 were in the pay of the East India Company, while 1300 were
employed in keeping order in the penal settlement of New South Wales.
The corps of artillery and engineers and troops at sea accounted for
the remainder of the army.

The second battalion was no more fortunate than the first, for in
1807 it was ordered to a recently acquired British possession in the
West Indies, the island of Curaçoa. In December, 1806, a gallant
sailor, Captain Sir Charles Brisbane, was ordered to reconnoitre the
island, then belonging to Holland; converting his reconnaissance
into an attack, he led his four frigates into the harbour, and
boarded two Dutch men-of-war lying at anchor; then sending landing
parties on shore he captured the forts, and made himself master
of Curaçoa. The battalion arrived in June, 726 strong,[118] and
remained stationary until 1810, when, worn down to a mere skeleton
by sickness, and by large drafts to the sister battalion in Jamaica,
it was ordered home to recruit. Beyond the fact that in 1808 the
officers presented a handsome sword of honour to Brisbane, whom they
found installed at Curaçoa as Governor, nothing is known of the
doings of the second battalion during its short existence, which
ended in 1814, when, like nearly all the other second battalions of
the army, it was disbanded. The story of its resuscitation will be
found in Chapter IX.

Though neither battalion was on active service in the West Indies,
for the expedition to San Domingo cannot be counted as a campaign,
the regiment was exposed during this tour of duty in the colonies to
dangers greater and far more trying than those of pitched battles.
Tropical diseases played havoc among the Royal Irish: between the
arrival of the first battalion in the middle of 1805, and its return
to England in the spring of 1817, the loss of both battalions
from sickness was fifty-two officers and seventeen hundred and
seventy-seven non-commissioned officers and men.[119] The heaviest
mortality appears to have occurred during the two months ending
January 25, 1806, when a hundred and forty names were added to the
list of dead. Nor was disease the only peril to which the Royal Irish
were exposed. While they were stationed in Jamaica the island was
scourged by earthquakes and tidal waves, by fires that destroyed
flourishing towns, by floods that laid waste great tracts of
cultivated land. There were mutinies among the regiments raised from
the slaves; conspiracies among the negroes to murder the white men,
and widespread disaffection and unrest throughout all the coloured
population. After such grim experiences of West Indian life it was
with feelings of great joy that in January, 1817, the regiment bade
farewell to the land where so many hundreds of their comrades had
perished.



CHAPTER V.

1817-1848.

THE FIRST WAR WITH CHINA.


The XVIIIth Royal Irish regiment landed at Portsmouth in March, 1817.
Since 1783, the Royal Irish had only served three years in the United
Kingdom, and they looked forward to a long tour of duty at home, but
the fates were against them. Almost as soon as Napoleon surrendered
himself to the captain of the _Bellerophon_ the economists in the
House of Commons began to demand retrenchment in the army, and with
such success that in 1821 only 101,000 men, exclusive of the troops
in the East India Company’s service, were left to protect the whole
of the British possessions throughout the world. The garrison of the
United Kingdom absorbed about half the army, the remainder being
stationed in India and the colonies, where, it is said, Wellington
hid them to be out of sight of the anti-military politicians. Among
the regiments ordered abroad was the XVIIIth, which in February,
1821, left Cork for the Mediterranean; it spent three years at Malta
and eight in the Ionian Isles,[120] and in March, 1832, returned to
England.

In the autumn of 1832, the Royal Irish were quartered in detachments
in various towns in Lancashire and Yorkshire; during the general
election at the end of the year several companies were called upon
to help the civil power in quelling serious riots at Sheffield,
Bolton, and Preston, where officers and men won high praise for the
combination of forbearance and determination which they showed in
dealing with excited mobs. Towards the end of 1833 the regiment was
concentrated at Manchester, whence on May 8, 1834, to quote the words
in which the Digest of Service records the first train journey of
the XVIIIth, it “proceeded by railway conveyance” to Liverpool to
embark for Dublin. In September the regiment moved to Cork; a few
months later it was at Birr, and early in 1836, while at Athlone,
it was warned for foreign service in Ceylon. Throughout their
tour of duty in the United Kingdom the Royal Irish received warm
commendation from all the generals under whom they had served, and
these favourable opinions were fully endorsed in a letter from the
Adjutant-General, who on December 20, 1834, wrote that “the report
of the XVIIIth Royal Irish regiment is considered most satisfactory.
The excellent state of its discipline is highly creditable to Colonel
Burrell, and Lord Hill cannot be but more disposed to attachment
(_sic_) to that officer’s exertions when he finds that discipline
has been so effectually maintained without having had recourse to
corporal punishment for a period exceeding two years.”

Two companies under Major Pratt sailed from Cork in the transport
_Numa_ on November 15, 1836, and arrived at Colombo towards the end
of April, 1837. The remainder of the corps, under Colonel Burrell,
embarked in the transport _Barossa_, touched at Teneriffe and Rio
de Janeiro, and reached its destination at the end of May. After
serving for some time at Colombo, where new colours were presented
by Lieutenant-General Sir John Wilson, K.C.B., the headquarters and
a wing of the regiment were stationed at Trincomalee, where in 1840
welcome news reached them. Trouble had arisen with China, and the
regiment was to form part of an expedition against the Celestial
Empire. The causes of our quarrel with the Emperor of China, very
shortly stated, were that the Chinese had not kept to the treaties
of commerce which they had entered into with England; they had
attacked and robbed British merchants, fired upon English ships, and
grossly insulted the representative of the Queen. The Mandarins, or
high officials of Canton, were the chief offenders; to punish them
a naval blockade of that port was established; ships of war were
ordered up from the Indian station, and a small body of troops was
collected to co-operate with the Navy in bringing the Chinese to
their senses. The six companies of the Royal Irish in Ceylon sailed
eastwards in May and June, 1840, and the three depôt companies,
recently landed at Bombay from England, joined headquarters soon
after the regiment arrived in China, raising it to a total strength
of 667 of all ranks.[121] The other British regiments were the 26th
and the 49th; the Native army of India contributed detachments of
Madras Artillery and Sappers and Miners, a corps known as the Bengal
Volunteers, and the 37th regiment of Madras Native Infantry, while
the Navy was represented by three line-of-battle ships, two frigates,
fourteen smaller men-of-war, four armed steamers, and twenty-seven
transports. With this small force England was about to go to war
with a country of three hundred and sixty millions of inhabitants,
whose seaport towns were defended by forts bristling with ordnance
varying in calibre from 68-pr. to 18-pr. guns, and whose army
immeasurably exceeded in number the British fighting men. Fortunately
for us the Chinese artillerymen, though not wanting in courage, were
ill-trained; their forts, though massive, were badly planned; and the
infantry, though they often fought well and showed much courage as
individuals, were poorly disciplined, badly armed, and as a rule very
badly commanded. Though the government of Pekin had spent much money
in making cannon on European models, they had neglected to reproduce
the muskets with which the troops of the white races were equipped.
Thus the Chinese foot soldiers did not possess the equivalent of our
flint-lock smooth-bore muskets; their firearms were matchlocks and
gingals or portable wall pieces, worked on tripods by a crew of three
men, and throwing two-ounce balls. Their other weapons varied; the
Tartars, the picked troops of the Empire, used the bow; other corps
had spears and swords, while others again carried battle-axes and
very unpleasant cutting instruments like bill-hooks, fastened to the
end of long poles.

The policy and general conduct of our expedition was entrusted to
two Plenipotentiaries. One of these officials soon broke down in
health and disappeared from the scene; the other, who was credited
with some knowledge of the Chinese character, proved to be amiable
and well-intentioned, but vacillating, credulous, and incompetent
to meet the wiles of Eastern diplomacy. His gullibility and want of
backbone cruelly hampered the movements of the sailors and soldiers
until, many months after the beginning of the war, he was replaced by
Sir Henry Pottinger, an Indian officer of large experience in dealing
with Oriental races.

After assembling at Singapore, the point fixed for the general
rendezvous, the fleet sailed for China, and, contrary to the
universal expectation, did not stop at the mouth of the Canton river,
but followed the coast upwards to the island of Chusan.[122] From
its position near the mouth of the Yang-Tse-Kiang river this island
was of great strategic importance, and was required as a base of
operations. Tinghae, its principal town, was weakly held, but when
the Mandarins were summoned to surrender they replied that, though
they had no hope of making a successful resistance, they were in
honour bound to defend their post. After a short bombardment by the
men-of-war on July 5, 1840, the troops were landed, the XVIIIth
leading the attack, and the place fell into our hands. Our casualties
were very few; the Chinese, on the contrary, lost very heavily, but
the climate quickly avenged them. For several months the troops were
kept inactive in Chusan, which proved to be a hot-bed of disease. In
the hope of conciliating the inhabitants the soldiers at first were
ordered to live under canvas, though there were hundreds of houses
in which they could have been quartered. The camping grounds were
selected without reference to the doctors, who protested in vain
when they saw the “tents pitched on low paddy-fields, surrounded by
stagnant water, putrid and stinking from quantities of dead animal
and vegetable matter. Under a sun hotter than was ever experienced in
India,” wrote a Madras army surgeon, “the men on duty were buckled
up to the throat in their full-dress coatees, and in consequence
of there being so few camp followers, fatigue-parties of Europeans
were daily detailed to carry provisions and stores from the ships to
the tents, and to perform all menial employments, which experience
has long taught us they cannot stand in a tropical climate.”[123]
The troops were fed on rations not only unsuited to the climate but
of bad quality; much of the biscuit was bad, and the meat salted
in India proved uneatable. Small wonder that in such circumstances
intermittent fever, diarrhœa, and dysentery raged among all ranks;
and though after a time the troops were moved into the houses of the
natives, disease had taken such hold upon all ranks that in November
there were not more than five hundred effectives at Chusan. The Royal
Irish fared better than the other regiments, as the ships from which
they drew most of their supplies were laden with stores prepared
not in India, but in England; but still they suffered severely--two
officers, Major R. Hammill and Lieutenant H. F. Vavasour, and about
fifty of the other ranks died between July 5th and the end of the
year.[124] Yet these losses were insignificant compared to those of
the 26th, which from nine hundred was reduced to a strength, all
told, of two hundred and ninety-one.

In January, 1841, there were combined naval and military operations
against the forts at the mouth of the Canton river, in which the
Royal Irish took no part as they had been left to garrison Chusan;
a few of the regiment, however, were present, probably invalids
serving on board ship for change of air. After several batteries had
been dismantled and many heavy guns spiked or otherwise disabled,
the Mandarins made a treaty with the Plenipotentiary, by which they
agreed to cede to us the island of Hong Kong, to pay a considerable
indemnity, and to allow trade to be reopened at Canton, while on
our side we undertook to restore Chusan to the Chinese. No time was
lost in occupying Hong Kong, of which formal possession was taken
on February 26, 1841, two days after the Royal Irish arrived there.
Colonel Burrell, XVIIIth, had been the senior military officer
throughout the occupation of Chusan, and very thankful must he have
been when, after seeing the last of the garrison safely on board
ship, he turned his back on the island which proved fatal to such
numbers of his men.[125] Very soon after the expedition had been
concentrated at Hong Kong it became evident that the treaty was not
worth the paper it was written upon. Far from being anxious for
peace, the Chinese had only sought to gain time to prepare for war.
An army of labourers was strengthening the defences of Canton; an
army of soldiers was being collected in the interior of China to man
them; large rewards were offered for the capture of British ships and
British fighting men; for a battleship a hundred thousand dollars
were promised; the Admiral and the Plenipotentiary were worth fifty
thousand dollars each; the other officers were rated on a descending
scale, while the price of a Madras Sepoy was only fifty dollars. On
the 24th of February the fleet bombarded the celebrated Bogue forts
in the Canton river; five hundred guns were taken, and everyone
hoped that the ships would now be allowed to push up the river and
capture Canton, when all movements were temporarily arrested by the
announcement that the Plenipotentiary had entered into a truce.
As, however, the Chinese did not fulfil its terms, the men-of-war
engaged, silenced and destroyed such of the batteries as they had
not yet attacked; made their way up the reaches of the river, and
anchored close to Canton. The city lay almost defenceless under their
guns, when the Plenipotentiary agreed to a suspension of hostilities
on condition that the port should be reopened to British trade. This
arrangement suited the Chinese admirably: the civil population would
be enriched by the money paid by the merchants for the tea crop,
then ready for delivery; while the military Mandarins gained time to
cast new ordnance, to rebuild their ruined forts, and to reinforce
the garrison before again defying the “Barbarians.”[126] The troops
were ordered back to the harbour of Hong Kong, where Major-General
Sir Hugh Gough, who had recently arrived from Madras to take command
of the land forces, reorganised his little army, and attempted,
though with small success, to infuse his own spirit of determination
into the weak-kneed Plenipotentiary, whom Gough in a private letter
described as “whimsical as a shuttle-cock.”

It was not long before the position of affairs at Canton once more
became most serious. The gun factories had been working night and
day; the forts had been repaired and re-armed; large numbers of
soldiers had arrived; and in May the extermination was decreed of the
European merchants, who on the faith of the truce had now returned to
their counting-houses. This roused the Plenipotentiary into temporary
activity; he arranged with Gough and the senior naval officer for
a combined assault on Canton, and warned all Europeans to leave
the place forthwith. By the evening of the 23rd of May the navy,
after hard work in bombarding the river forts by day and warding
off the approach of fire-rafts by night, had prepared the way for
the execution of Sir Hugh Gough’s plan for the capture of Canton.
This city of a million inhabitants was surrounded by walls of great
thickness, and from twenty-five to twenty-eight feet in height; its
ramparts, bristling with guns, were manned by forty-five thousand
regular soldiers and an equal number of militia. To the west, south,
and east of the town were large and prosperous suburbs, but on the
north this expansion had been checked by a range of heights which,
running parallel with the northern wall, completely dominated Canton
and its defences. The Chinese had realised that if these heights
passed into the hands of the British the town would become untenable:
not only had they defended them with four strong forts, armed with
forty-two heavy guns, but they had formed a large entrenched camp
outside the north-eastern corner of the city, in order further to
secure the safety of the heights which they rightly anticipated
would be the point of our attack. Such was the position against
which Gough, with less than 2800 soldiers, sailors, and marines,
was about to try his strength. He divided his little force into two
columns of very unequal size.[127] The right, or smaller detachment,
was to force its way through the western suburb as far as the
European settlement, or, as it was locally termed, “the factories”;
occupy it, and place it in a state of defence. General Gough took
personal command of the left or larger column, which consisted of
four so-called brigades, the largest of which had in the ranks less
than 900 officers and men. When the left column had been transhipped
into all kinds of craft, from smart men-of-war’s gigs to lumbering
native tea junks, it was towed in a motley procession of about eighty
boats for five miles up a creek of the river to Tingpoo, a village
about three miles and a half from the western base of the northern
heights. Here the fourth brigade landed without opposition, just as
the guns of the fleet were thundering out a royal salute in honour of
the birthday of Queen Victoria. With the 49th regiment Sir Hugh Gough
made a rapid reconnaissance inland, and then, leaving outposts behind
him, returned to superintend the disembarkation of the main body.

Daylight on the 25th saw the whole column in motion, slowly
threading its way, often in single file, over the densely cultivated
rice-fields which lay between Tingpoo and their objective. The
XVIIIth was ordered to leave an officer and thirty men at the
landing-place to keep open the communications and to protect stores;
the duty fell to Lieutenant W. P. Cockburn, who distinguished himself
by the skill he displayed a few hours later in beating off an attack
by a considerable body of the enemy. Until the infantry were within
range of the western pair of forts the Chinese remained silent;
then a heavy fire from their guns forced Gough to halt until his
artillery could be brought into action. By eight A.M. the gunners
had succeeded in dragging two 5½-in. mortars, two 12-pr. howitzers,
two 12-pr. field-pieces, and a rocket battery to within 600 yards
of the two western forts. These they bombarded vigorously, while
the General reconnoitred and issued his orders for the assault: the
Naval brigade was to storm the western forts, while the 1st and
4th brigades were to drive the Chinese from the hills close to the
eastern forts. Under cover of our guns the troops advanced, exposed
to a heavy but fortunately ill-directed fire: with great dash the
sailors wrested the western forts from the enemy, who fought with
stubbornness though without skill; the infantry swept over the
heights with such vigour that the Chinese deserted the eastern forts
before the troops had time to close upon them; and the Marines, who
had been detached from Burrell to cope with a demonstration against
our right flank and rear, disposed of their antagonists with little
trouble. In the charge of the XVIIIth upon the forts the grenadier
company led in extended order, accompanied by the General, who in his
despatch reported that it had seldom fallen to his lot to “witness
a more soldier-like and steady advance, or a more animated attack.
Every individual steadily and gallantly did his duty. The XVIIIth and
49th were emulous which should first reach the appointed goals; but
under the impulse of this feeling they did not lose sight of that
discipline which could alone ensure success.”

Though the ridge had been won with such ease, the day’s work was
by no means over. As soon as the Chinese realised that the forts
were lost, they opened from the city walls so heavy a fire of guns,
gingals, and matchlocks that it became necessary to keep the British
troops well under cover, and part of the garrison of the entrenched
camp advanced into a village, threatening our left flank. The 49th
dislodged them, but later in the day there was such animation in
the camp that Gough ordered Burrell to storm it with the Royal
Irish, under Lieutenant-Colonel H. Adams, and a company of Marines.
Between the foot of the heights held by the British and the enemy’s
entrenchments stretched a great expanse of rice-fields deep in water;
a narrow causeway bridged this inundation, and along it, under a
galling fire, the XVIIIth advanced at the double, scattered the enemy
in every direction, set fire to the tents, and blew up the magazines.
This success was not a bloodless one--three officers were wounded,
and there were some casualties in the other ranks. The assault was
led by Captain Grattan, whose “spirited conduct” on this occasion
led Gough to select him to carry despatches to the Governor-General
of India.[128] With the capture of the village the operations ended,
for though Gough was burning to assault the northern wall of the
town, his heavy guns were not yet in position, and his infantry, out
of training from their long detention on board ship, were completely
exhausted by the abnormal heat of the day. To this exhaustion the
unsuitable dress of the soldiers doubtless contributed not a little.
Notwithstanding the protests of the doctors the men still wore
tightly buttoned red coatees or shell jackets, stocks, and blue
Nankin trousers; and their headgear was a huge shako or a small
forage cap, both useless in an almost tropical climate.

Gough’s little force bivouacked on the heights they had won, elated
at their own success and at that of the right column, which had made
good its position in “the factories.” Early on the 26th, before our
artillery was ready to open fire, the Chinese sent a messenger to
say that they desired peace; Gough replied that before entering into
any negotiations he must see the Chinese General, and in waiting
for this elusive personage, who never appeared, several hours were
wasted; then torrents of rain rendered any movements impossible, and
Gough had to content himself with completing his preparations for
the storming of the city wall on the 27th. But in his plans he had
not reckoned with the Plenipotentiary, who, without consulting the
officers commanding the naval and military forces, agreed with the
Chinese to accept an indemnity of six millions of dollars, to be paid
within six days, when the whole expedition was to retire from the
Canton river. Remonstrances were useless, for the Plenipotentiary was
supreme, and after several anxious days spent in skirmishing with
the local irregular troops, the soldiers re-embarked and the fleet
once more returned to Hong Kong, leaving the Chinese more firmly
convinced than ever that the English were as easy to hoodwink in
diplomacy as they were difficult to fight in battle. These operations
cost fourteen killed and ninety-one wounded. The casualties in the
Royal Irish were Captain J. J. Sargent, Lieutenants D. Edwardes and
G. Hilliard wounded, and five men killed or wounded.[129]

Owing to a combination of adverse circumstances nothing was
accomplished by sea or land for some months. The Plenipotentiary,
ever engaged in futile negotiations with the Chinese, could not bring
himself to accept the active policy pressed upon him by Sir Hugh
Gough, who pointed out that the Emperor of China would never respect
us until the expedition had forced a passage up the great waterway of
the Yang-Tse-Kiang, and struck a vigorous blow at the heart of the
Celestial Empire. A great typhoon drove many ships ashore, dismasted
others, and blew down part of the settlement at Hong Kong. Malarial
fever, caught in the rice grounds around Canton, became so prevalent
that at one time two-thirds of the troops were unfit for duty. The
Royal Irish did not suffer more than other corps, yet on August 1,
six weeks after a draft had raised their strength to 747 all told,
136 of the regiment were in hospital, and three officers died.[130]
With the arrival of Sir Henry Pottinger, the new Plenipotentiary, the
aspect of affairs changed; and on the 21st of August the regiment
formed part of the column embarked for the attack of Amoy--a
seaport three hundred miles up the coast towards the mouth of the
Yang-Tse-Kiang. The position of Amoy is naturally strong, and since
the beginning of the war it had been so greatly fortified that, after
it was taken, soldiers and sailors agreed that it would have proved
impregnable had it been defended by Europeans. Amoy stands at the
head of a bay studded with islands, the most considerable of which,
Kulangsu, commands both the city and the strait or channel, only six
hundred yards in width, by which the inner harbour is entered. From
every island and from every headland guns frowned upon the bay, and,
to quote Gough’s biographer--

  “immediately in front of the outer town stood a succession of
  batteries, and from these there extended a solid rampart, facing
  the sea, about a mile in length. It was, says an eye-witness,
  ‘well built of granite, faced with earth, extending along the
  shore nearly up to the suburbs of the city, and designed to
  command the passage to the harbour. It presented a line of
  guns, a full mile in length, the embrasures being covered with
  large slabs of stone protected by earth heaped upon them, and
  mounting no less than ninety-six guns.’ The end of this rampart
  was connected by a castellated wall with a range of rocky
  heights running parallel to the beach and the rampart, which
  was thus protected from a flanking attack.... On the island of
  Kulangsu there were several strong batteries, mounting altogether
  seventy-six guns, and some of these faced the long stone rampart
  on the opposite side of the strait, thus exposing the assailants
  to a cross-fire.”[131]

The naval and military commanders decided that the works of Amoy
and Kulangsu should be attacked at the same time; the ships were to
bombard them in front, while the troops took them in reverse. The
morning of the 26th of August saw the plan carried into effect: the
batteries at Kulangsu fell easily into our hands: those at Amoy were
so strongly built that though two line-of-battle ships poured many
thousands of projectiles into them at 400 yards’ range, the masonry
was practically uninjured. The cannonade, however, served its purpose
in preventing the Chinese gunners from sinking the boats in which
the XVIIIth and 49th were carried to their appointed landing-place
at the foot of the castellated wall. While the Royal Irish, scaling
this wall, turned the flank of the works on the sea front, the 49th
rushed along the shore and scrambled over the parapet of the great
battery; both regiments swept the work from end to end, driving the
Chinese before them, and then joined the Marines, who had occupied
the heights. Here they commanded the “outer city”; but the “inner
city” was protected by a range of hills occupied by a large number
of the enemy. Gough ordered the 49th to turn these hills, and sent
the XVIIIth straight at the Chinese, up a steep gorge where a few men
could have checked a regiment. The Chinese, however, made a very poor
resistance; the troops bivouacked on the heights, and next morning
occupied the citadel and “inner city” of Amoy. The total British loss
was seventeen killed and wounded; among the latter were two men of
the Royal Irish. The Chinese suffered severely, and several of their
leaders committed suicide rather than accept defeat.

The adventures of the XVIIIth on this occasion are amusingly
described by Lieutenant A. Murray, the officer in command of the
picked shots of the regiment, who throughout the campaign worked
together under his orders--

  “We got into boats about 12 o’clock, and were taken in tow by
  the steamer _Nemesis_,[132] and as we had to go to the different
  ships to collect the men, we were towed about the harbour for a
  long time, at the imminent risk of being capsized, as the string
  of boats increased every minute, and consequently threading our
  way through the fleet became more dangerous. I cut one boat
  adrift to prevent her sinking us, as she was twice our size and
  was pounding us to pieces, the Colours of the regiment being in
  the boat with me.... The steamer stood pretty closely into the
  shore, and the boats cast off, the _Nemesis_ covering our landing
  with her guns and rockets. Our Grenadier and Light companies, and
  marksmen, under the command of Major Tomlinson, were ordered to
  move to the front to take the flanking wall of the battery, which
  was done very easily, and they (_i.e._, the Chinese) only fired
  a few shots and a volley of rockets. We got over the wall by
  stepping on each others’ backs. On seeing us come over the wall
  the Chinese, who till then had stood to their guns, ... now ran
  in all directions, throwing their large shields over their backs.”

After capturing a Mandarin’s flag Murray followed the grenadier and
light companies along the rear of the batteries, where a number of
the enemy came at them boldly; the Chinese were soon dispersed,
however, and fell back to a clump of aloe bushes, from which they
were driven by a second charge. Of the bivouac Murray writes--

  “It was almost night when we reached the summit of the heights
  and there were ordered to halt for the night. This was rather
  a pleasant look-out for tired and hungry men, without anything
  to eat or a house to sleep in, with a bitter cold wind blowing;
  however there was nothing for it but to choose the softest
  possible rock, light a cheroot and fancy yourself comfortable for
  the night.... There was great picking and choosing among us for
  soft rocks; but I believe we all came to the conclusion that one
  rock is as hard a pillow as another.”[133]

After destroying the batteries and securing the five hundred guns
captured at Amoy, the expeditionary force put to sea, leaving as
garrison of Kulangsu 361 officers and men of the XVIIIth under
Major J. Cowper, part of the 26th, and a detachment of artillery--a
total of 550 of all ranks. The intention was to attack the towns of
Chinhai and Ningpo, and then, in order to efface the bad impression
produced by our evacuation of Chusan at the beginning of the year,
to re-occupy that island. Bad weather, however, scattered the ships,
and, when at length they were reassembled it was decided at once to
seize Tinghae, the capital of Chusan, before the Chinese had finished
their preparations for its defence. Since we had abandoned it our
enemy had fortified the town assiduously. On the sea wall facing the
harbour a battery of eighty guns had been thrown up. On the west it
ended at the base of an eminence, in our previous occupation known
as Pagoda Hill, where cannon were now mounted; to the eastward it
stretched almost to the foot of a line of heights, entrenched but
not yet armed. Gough decided to land at the foot of these heights,
and after carrying them to push some of the troops against the
town, while others attacked the long battery from flank and rear.
The ships were to avoid the fire of the guns on the sea front by
taking up their stations on the outer flanks of Pagoda Hill and the
eastern heights. The fleet came into action on October 1, 1841,
and covered by their bombardment three hundred of the Royal Irish
under Lieutenant-Colonel Adams, the newly arrived 55th regiment,
and eight guns of the Madras Artillery disembarked under a heavy
though ill-aimed fire of matchlocks and gingals. The 55th won the
eastern heights, though not without difficulty, for the garrison of
Tinghae were soldiers of a better stamp than the defenders of Amoy.
The Royal Irish were sent off to the right, marching in quarter
column and covered by the flank companies and picked marksmen, who
ran into the enemy at an encampment near the long battery. Here the
Chinese showed fight, and lost considerably in hand-to-hand work.
Murray relates that a “white-buttoned” Mandarin,[134] after wounding
one of the marksmen in the chest with a spear, “closed with him and
got his forage cap off, another man came up and thrust at him with
a bayonet, which he wrenched off, but was shot by a third.” While
the sharpshooters were thus employed the grenadier company had made
its way into the long battery, where there was a sharp skirmish at
close quarters round a gun. The Chinese stood bravely, and were
not dislodged until another company of the regiment came up at the
double, when they fell back, leaving the ground covered with their
own wounded and a few of the XVIIIth. In this little fight pistols
were used with effect. A Chinaman ran at Murray, sword in hand, but
as the hero of the adventure writes, “having no particular confidence
in my regulation spit, or perhaps in my own skill as a swordsman,
I stuck my sword in the mud beside me, took a steady aim, and shot
him.” As soon as the Royal Irish had cleared the long battery of
the enemy they climbed Pagoda Hill, to find that its garrison had
been driven away by the shot and shell of the men-of-war and the
artillery. As the Colours of the XVIIIth were raised on the top of
the hill, those of the 55th began to float over the walls of Tinghae,
and the capital of Chusan once more passed into our hands at the cost
of some thirty killed and wounded. In the XVIIIth the casualties
were a sergeant and six rank and file wounded. The loss of Chusan
greatly annoyed the Chinese, who complained that we had not fought
them fairly. Instead of anchoring our ships right under the cannon
of the long battery and making a frontal attack by sea and land, as
they expected, we had meanly bombarded the extreme ends of their
line of defence, landed where their guns could not play upon us, and
taken the battery in flank. Had cricket been one of the national
institutions of China, the beaten troops would doubtless have said
that we had not played the game!

Leaving an adequate garrison in Chusan General Gough next attacked
Chinhai, a seaport at the mouth of the Ningpo river, twelve miles
from the important city of Ningpo. Its fortifications, though strong,
were easily turned on the 10th of October, when the place was taken
with a total loss of four killed and sixteen wounded. One man in the
Royal Irish was killed[135] and four wounded. The Chinese suffered
very heavily, for here, as elsewhere in the campaign, their arms
were as indifferent as their shooting, and after standing well for a
time they broke before a charge, and were then mowed down in every
direction. The slaughter of the fugitives was a hideous necessity:
we were but a handful in an enormous country, and our enemies were
so numerous that we should have been overwhelmed by numbers had we
not inflicted severe punishment upon them in every engagement. To the
bad marksmanship of the Chinese must be attributed the XVIIIth’s good
luck on this occasion. As the Royal Irish approached the range of
strongly held hills which they were to seize, they found themselves
on the bank of an unfordable canal, well under the enemy’s fire.
This canal was spanned by a bridge, narrow in itself, and made
still narrower by an arch across it; the archway was blocked by a
large stone, and even after this obstruction had been removed the
passage was so small that the men had to take off their great-coats
in order to squeeze through it one by one. “We had one or two very
stout fellows,” wrote one of the officers present, “whom we had
great difficulty in pushing through, but when we came to the big
drum we _were_ in a fix. However, we got a little boat, and put
McGiff, the big drummer, and his drum into it, with a pole to shove
himself across. The Chinese thought the big drum was some new form of
infernal machine, and opened a tremendous fire upon it, much to our
amusement, but it was anything but fun for McGiff. He and the drum,
however, got over safe and sound, except the drum heads, which were
much damaged by bullets.”

Three days later Ningpo fell without a shot being fired, and the
little army was played into the town by the band of the XVIIIth.
Here Gough was obliged to halt: much as he desired to push on to
the banks of the Yang-Tse-Kiang he could not do so without troops,
and sickness, casualties, and the drain of the garrisons of Hong
Kong, Kulangsu, Tinghae, and Chinhai had left him with only about
seven hundred and fifty men in hand. With so slender a force he
could do nothing but await reinforcements; and for several months
the headquarters of the XVIIIth and 49th remained at Ningpo,
occasionally employed in demonstrations to postpone the attack
which, as he rightly anticipated, could not be long delayed. Beyond
these demonstrations there was little to break the monotony of
existence in this Chinese city. The duty was heavy. Nearly five
miles of continuous wall, twenty-seven feet high, twenty feet broad,
and broken only by six gates, surrounded the town: each of these
entrances required a strong guard; the town was patrolled several
times during the twenty-four hours; and the field officer and captain
of the day, mounted on sure-footed Chinese ponies, rode frequently
round the ramparts to visit ground which could not be watched by
the sentries on the gates. Once a week the Colours were trooped in
the presence of the General, who insisted on the attendance of all
officers not otherwise employed. When troops were available there
was drill in a large square, to the great delight of a number of
little native boys who had attached themselves to the Royal Irish.
These children hung about the temple, which had been converted into
a barrack, and did odd jobs for the men, helping them to cook and to
carry dinners to the guards. In return for these kind offices the
soldiers made pets of the boys, and taught them military expressions
with such assiduity that in a short time “almost all the young
blackguards about the place could swear in very good English.” These
youngsters proved their friendship with the XVIIIth by confirming
the rumours, already current, that during the absence of Sir Hugh
Gough, who had been summoned to a conference at Chusan with Sir
Henry Pottinger, a great army was about to attack Ningpo; and after
warning their soldier friends that next day there was going to be
a great fight, they disappeared. This warning was repeated by the
traders in the market, who drew their hands across their throats to
give their British customers to understand that all the “Barbarians”
would soon be killed. In the night of March 9-10, 1842, large bodies
of the enemy simultaneously assaulted the south and west gates. The
attack on the former was successful; the Chinese forced it open,
routed the guard, and were making their way into the centre of the
town when they were met by part of the 49th, who drove them through
the gate and back into the suburbs with heavy loss. The west gate
was held by Lieutenant A. W. S. F. Armstrong and twenty-eight men
of the XVIIIth, carefully picked among the best soldiers of the
regiment by the adjutant, Lieutenant Graves, who, like every one
of the garrison at Ningpo except the officer in temporary command,
had realised that there was trouble in the air. Five minutes after
the bugles had sounded the alarm the Royal Irish were on parade,
and two companies went off at the double to reinforce Armstrong’s
guard, who, owing to the construction of the parapet, were unable to
fire down upon the Tartars as they strove to lever the gate off its
hinges with crowbars and axes. Suddenly among the defenders appeared
a private, Michael Cushin, described as a first-class soldier with
only one failing, who seems to have been the hero of the defence. He
had been imprisoned for drunkenness at the west gate, and when the
attack began, begged to be released. As soon as his cell was opened,
he wrenched the bar off the door and began to use it on the Tartars’
heads: next he killed the officer commanding a party of the enemy on
the point of clambering over the parapet: then his quick wits solved
the problem of the ill-planned rampart. Collecting ten or twelve
men, they put their shoulders to the part of it which overhung the
gate, and with a few great heaves topped the mass of masonry into
the crowd below.[136] Through the gap thus made the guard began to
ply their muskets, and when the supports arrived with a light gun, a
murderous fire was opened upon the Tartars, who sullenly abandoned
the assault and retired, leaving two silk banners as trophies in the
hands of the XVIIIth. After the south gate had been re-occupied a
handful of British soldiers, among whom were some of the Royal Irish,
pushed their way through the town, and near one of the gates found a
great number of the enemy drawn up across the street. The infantry
reserved their volley until twenty yards from the Tartars, the guns
fired canister at fifty yards’ range, and a party of the regiment,
under Lieutenant Murray, after breaking through a house and fording a
canal, occupied the side streets of the thoroughfare down which the
enemy was driven, and by their musketry contributed much to his great
losses. For six miles the Tartars were hunted, first through the
suburb and then in the open country, but there was no fight left in
them, and the civilian inhabitants who crowded the streets and roads
gave them no help, and appeared to regard the fighting as a spectacle
arranged for their own amusement. The attitude of most of the Chinese
throughout the campaign, indeed, was one of complete apathy: they
looked upon the war as an annoying but unavoidable interruption to
their daily life, and finding that their conquerors treated them
well, acquiesced in their presence, and made as much money out of
them as possible.

The enemy attacked Chinhai about the same time that he attempted
to wrest Ningpo from us, but was beaten off with ease by the
garrison, largely composed of a detachment of the Royal Irish
under Brevet-Major Grattan. A few days after these exciting little
episodes, the XVIIIth was present at successful raids against
the town of Tze-Ke and other places near Ningpo; but as those of
the Royal Irish who were in the column hardly came into action
it is unnecessary to describe these skirmishes. About this time
Colonel Adams, being invalided home, was succeeded in command by
Lieutenant-Colonel N. R. Tomlinson; and in the month of April three
companies of the detachment at Kulangsu rejoined headquarters.

It has already been mentioned that ever since Sir Hugh Gough’s
arrival he had pointed out that the war would never be brought to a
satisfactory conclusion until, abandoning the policy of attacking
only the towns on the sea-coast, we pushed our way into the heart
of the country, and threatened the Emperor in his palace at Pekin.
After much correspondence between the Ministry at home and the
Governor-General of India at Calcutta, Gough’s strategy was adopted,
and in May, 1842, the XVIIIth was afloat again, this time bound for
Chapoo, where a naval arsenal was to be destroyed before the fleet
entered the river Yang-Tse-Kiang. The place was strongly fortified,
but, as usual, the enemy proved unprepared for anything but a frontal
attack, and as soon as his works were turned on the 18th of May he
was easily routed, except at one point, where the stubborn valour of
the Tartar soldiery cost the regiment dear. Finding their retreat
cut off, three hundred of these men flung themselves into a large
stone house, and determined to take no quarter but to fight to the
bitter end. The building was quickly and skilfully prepared for
defence. The outer windows were manned by picked shots; the interior
passages and the central hall were loopholed; mats were hung to
exclude the light, so that if the British succeeded in making their
way across the threshold they would plunge into semi-darkness, and
not see the loopholes from which they would be shot down by a cross
fire. A party of the Royal Irish tried to force their way into this
death-trap, but were so warmly received that Lieutenant Murray, who
was in command, drew off his men to wait for reinforcements; and
after a similar attempt by some of the 49th had been repulsed, the
house was surrounded by skirmishers to prevent the escape of any of
the enemy. Before long, more companies of the XVIIIth and 49th came
on the scene, and the officer in command of the latter corps, who was
the senior officer present, decided not to press the attack until
the Tartars had been shaken by artillery. The decision was a wise
one, but unfortunately Lieutenant-Colonel Tomlinson overheard some
expressions which he considered a reflection either upon his regiment
or himself, and instantly led a headlong charge towards the entrance
of the house. At the door he fell, so desperately injured that in
five minutes he had ceased to breathe, while every man who tried
to enter with him was killed or wounded. After he was shot down it
became almost impossible to prevent the XVIIIth from rushing madly at
the building, for the men burned to avenge their Colonel, whom they
described as “the best officer who ever said ‘Come on’ to a grenadier
company.” In more formal language General Gough recorded the same
opinion, saying in his despatch that Tomlinson fell “in full career
of renown, honoured by the corps, and lamented by all.”

When a few artillerymen came up with a light gun and some rockets
they opened on the house, but without result; equally fruitless were
the efforts of a party of sailors to set fire to the woodwork of
the upper storeys; then the explosion of a powder-bag made a small
breach in a wall through which a few of the Royal Irish tried to
force their way, only to be driven back with loss. A second attempt
to set fire to the woodwork, however, was more successful, and the
explosion of another powder-bag brought down more of the wall, and
thus exposed many of the Tartars to our musketry. Soon the whole
place was in a blaze, and when at last our men rushed through the
doorway from which they had been so often repulsed, they found
themselves in a hell on Earth. Three hundred Tartars had defended
the building; now all but fifty-three lay dead upon the floor; and
of the survivors nearly all were wounded. Many of their wadded
cotton uniforms had taken fire, and to the horrors of the reek of
blood and the stench of singeing flesh were added the cries of the
wounded, as they feebly strove to beat out the sparks which fell
from the roof upon their clothing. In the midst of this scene of
carnage sat an old Tartar colonel, who, when the red-coats began to
show through the smoke, laid down his pipe, snatched up his sword,
and cut his throat. This stout old warrior failed to kill himself,
and with the rest of the wounded was tended by our doctors, and then
released--a chivalrous recognition of their bravery which greatly
astonished the prisoners and convinced them that the “foreign devils”
were not as black as the Mandarins had painted them. The discovery,
unfortunately, came too late to prevent an epidemic of suicide
among the population of Chapoo. When our men entered the town it
was full of dead: “men, women, and children were found drowned or
hanged; whole families seemed to have destroyed themselves, and some,
from the positions they were in, must have had difficulty and most
desperate resolution to effect their purpose. The wells and every
place where they could find water enough were full of bodies.”[137]

The Chinese are believed to have fought Gough’s little army of
2200 men[138] at Chapoo with 8000 regular troops, 1700 of whom
were Tartars. Their losses were, as usual, enormous--from 1200
to 1500--while those of the British were two officers and eleven
other ranks killed, six officers and forty-six other ranks wounded.
The casualties among the XVIIIth were heavy: Colonel Tomlinson, a
sergeant, and three privates were killed;[139] Lieutenants A. Murray
and E. Jodrell, a sergeant, a drummer, and twenty-seven rank and file
were wounded. One of the pay-sergeants had a very narrow escape: he
was in the habit of carrying the company roll in his forage cap, and
when at nightfall he wanted to make entries in it he found it cut to
pieces by bullets.

As soon as the arsenal, guns, and other munitions of war at Chapoo
were destroyed, the expedition made sail for the Yang-Tse-Kiang,
where we bombarded Woosung, a town at the mouth of the river of
the same name. Though small, the place was heavily fortified, for
the Chinese trusted to its guns for the protection of the lower
reaches of the river. In the capture of Woosung the army played no
part, for the troopships were aground on mud-banks when the sailors
and marines, after knocking the batteries to pieces, landed to take
possession of the town. Two days later, on the 19th of June, the
Royal Irish formed part of a column which marched fourteen miles
inland to Shanghai, destroyed the warlike stores at this great
centre of trade, and then returned to Woosung, to find that during
their short absence some batteries of Royal Artillery, the 98th,
and several Madras regiments had joined the force, and that Major
J. Cowper had come up from Kulangsu to take command of the XVIIIth,
bringing with him the company which had been left to garrison
Chinhai. The fleet remained storm-bound at Woosung until the 7th
of July: then the weather moderated, and the Admiral, Sir William
Parker, ordered his seventy vessels--men-of-war, transports, and
store ships--to weigh anchor for Nankin, now the object of our
operations. This enormous city was the commercial capital of China,
and the centre of a great network of canals connecting Pekin with the
Yang-Tse-Kiang and the southern provinces of the Empire. Once masters
of Nankin, we could stop all inland traffic on the canals, and by
paralysing the commerce of the country bring irresistible pressure
on the Emperor, six hundred miles away in his Court at Pekin. The
task before the Navy was a heavy one. In peace time the mere passage
of so large a number of ships over a hundred and seventy miles of an
almost unknown river would have presented difficulties. Now these
difficulties were increased by the necessity of guarding against
attack, and by the knowledge that before the guns of the fleet could
be trained upon the walls of Nankin we would have to fight the
garrison of at least one large town on the banks of the river. The
steamers scouted upstream, sounding and surveying as they went: the
sailing ships followed in a stately procession many miles in length,
watched by crowds of peasants who gazed in wonder at the “war junks”
of the Barbarians. On the 20th of July, the rearmost of the fleet
reached Chinkiangfu, a walled city fifty miles below Nankin; and
next day Gough landed his troops, now numbering 6664 men. The first
brigade (Major-General Lord Saltoun) was to clear the enemy from a
camp south-west of the town; with the second, Major-General Schoedde
was to attack the northern wall of the town; to Bartley’s brigade
(the third) was entrusted the storming of the western wall. The first
brigade did its work easily; the second had hard fighting before
its bayonets glittered on the northern wall; the third brigade, and
especially the XVIIIth regiment, had exciting adventures in carrying
out the duty assigned to them.

The Royal Irish were the last troops to disembark. They did not land
till seven A.M., when the heat was already so oppressive that the
Adjutant, Lieutenant Graves, persuaded Major Cowper to leave the
men’s great-coats behind, undertaking to provide the entire regiment
with furs from the shops of the pawnbrokers, with whom the wealthy
Chinese regularly stored their winter clothing. To go into action
without great-coats was quite a new departure, but even more daring
was the next order: the men were told to take off their stocks, sling
them over the left shoulder, and unfasten three buttons of their
jackets and three buttons of their collars! These precautions, though
to our ideas not very far-reaching, served their purpose, for while
in other corps numbers of men were knocked over by the heat, not a
man in the XVIIIth suffered from sunstroke. The regiment was making
its way through the suburbs to the western face of the wall, when
an A.D.C. arrived with orders for the Royal Irish to come up at the
double to the western gate, where the General was anxiously awaiting
them. The troops around General Gough were in bad case: many lay
senseless from sun apoplexy; the remainder were so exhausted that
they could only keep up a feeble fire on its defenders. As soon as
the XVIIIth appeared Gough welcomed them with the order “Go on, Royal
Irish, and storm.” “We halted,” writes an officer who was present,
“to tell off a storming party of fifty men, and then with arms at the
trail and bending low, the stormers made a dash down a cross-street
within about twenty yards of the gate, and from the windows of the
houses which ran parallel to the wall, we opened fire on the Chinese
gunners and soon silenced them. The engineers then advanced and
placed a powder-bag against the gate (a very strong one and, as we
afterwards found, strengthened by four or five tiers of sand-bags
piled against it from inside); we were ordered to lie down; the fuse
was lit, and in about ten seconds everything was flying about our
heads. This brought us to our feet in a hurry; we gave a cheer and
dashed into the archway, which was densely filled with smoke; those
who got in first were soon brought to their knees by kicking against
the sand-bags which we could not see, but we had to scramble on as
quick as possible as there was danger of receiving a poke from a
friendly bayonet behind! We got out as black as monkeys, to find
ourselves in a sort of yard, surrounded by high walls, with a second
gate leading from it into the city. We had just started breaking this
second gate down, when we heard a friendly voice behind it shouting
‘Hold on, we’ll open it for you!’” It turned out that the 55th, after
escalading their own wall, had worked round to the western gate,
which the Chinese abandoned when they saw their flank in danger.

The Royal Irish were at once sent to drive the Tartars from the
western wall. They moved off left in front,[140] and as there was not
room on the rampart for four men abreast they marched in threes. The
grenadier company were soon dropped to hold a commanding building
close to the wall; the remainder of the regiment pushed on without
seeing any of the enemy, until a keen-eyed officer noticed a large
number of Tartars emerging from the shelter of some houses on the
town side of the wall. The commanding officer, insisting that they
were not fighting men but harmless coolies, refused to send out
skirmishers to protect the head and right flank of his straggling
column, and the Tartars were allowed to establish themselves in
gardens surrounded by high walls, which made excellent rests for
matchlocks and gingals. As soon as the regiment was within range
they opened a heavy fire upon the leading company, killing Captain
C. J. R. Collinson, wounding Lieutenant S. Bernard, and causing
several casualties in the ranks. The rampart along which the XVIIIth
was marching was so narrow that it was difficult for messengers
to pass rapidly from company to company, and as no orders were
received the men halted for directions: but by the time the enemy
had discharged a second volley, an officer had called upon the Light
company to avenge their captain. Collinson’s “Light Bobs” dashed
down the slope of the rampart, scaled the mud walls and, followed by
the remainder of the regiment, fell furiously on the Tartars, who,
after a stout resistance, broke and fled. Not all, however, of the
enemy had lost heart. Just as the regiment had re-formed after the
charge, a gigantic Tartar rushed towards the line, brandishing a
sword in each hand; the officers, unwilling to send so brave a man
to his death, made signs to him to retire, but in vain, and he was
almost amongst the men when a well-aimed bullet laid him low. The
grenadier company came in for a full share of the excitements of the
day. Their captain, Wigston, noticed some of the Tartars drawn up
across a narrow street leading to his post, and sent a subaltern,
Lieutenant W. Venour, and twelve men to dislodge them. The Tartars
held their fire until the party of grenadiers were close to them, and
then let fly with some effect. Lieutenant I. H. Hewitt with fourteen
men hurried up to reinforce Venour’s detachment, and the street
was cleared after sharp hand-to-hand fighting. Hewitt had a narrow
escape: a Tartar cut at him with his sword, and the blow would have
been fatal had not Private M‘Carthy “raised his musket and parried
it, though unfortunately with the loss of his thumb, the sword
cutting right through the bone, and also through Hewitt’s forage
cap, slightly raising the skin of his head. We left a picket there,”
continues Lieutenant Murray, “as occasional shots were still fired
from the houses. A short time afterwards a Tartar soldier rushed in
amongst the men and stabbed one of them in the side with his knife:
he was shot instantly. We were obliged to set fire to the houses to
drive the Tartars out of them, for we would not let the men follow
them into the buildings.”

Although the troops did their best to stop the frenzy of rage and
terror which seized upon the population after we had captured the
town, the number of people who committed suicide at Chinkiangfu
was as great or even greater than at Chapoo. One instance among
hundreds will prove how determined the Tartars were not to survive
the disgrace of a defeat. When their General realised that the day
was lost he retired to his house, ordered his servants to set fire
to the building, and allowed himself to be burned to death. It was
fortunate for the success of Gough’s little army that the overweening
contempt of the Chinese for foreigners had prevented the employment
of European adventurers to mould and lead their armies. Had the
Tartar troops been trained and disciplined by Continental soldiers of
fortune, as were the Sikhs, the enemies whom Gough was to encounter
in a few years, a great array of British soldiers would have been
required to win on the banks of the Yang-Tse-Kiang victories as
decisive as those of Sobraon and Goozerat.[141] In the capture of
Chinkiangfu two officers and thirty of the other ranks were killed,
eleven officers and ninety-eight other ranks wounded, and three
privates missing. The casualties among the small Naval landing party
were three killed and twenty-one wounded. The XVIIIth lost one
officer, Captain Collinson, and two private soldiers killed; one
officer, Lieutenant S. Bernard, two sergeants, and fifteen privates
wounded.

While the soldiers were fighting on shore, the sailors were doing
invaluable work on their own element by blockading the chief
waterways to Pekin; and in a few days the result of the stoppage
of trade with the capital was so disastrous to the merchants of
China that the Emperor was obliged to sue for peace. But before
negotiations had been opened, Pottinger, Gough, and Parker realised
that the presence of British troops and British ships at Nankin would
greatly stimulate the tardy movements of the Chinese diplomatists,
and on August 9, 1842, the whole force, less a small garrison left to
hold Chinkiangfu, was ready to assault the walls of the commercial
capital of China. But no assault was necessary, as twenty days
later a treaty of peace, this time a genuine one on the part of the
Chinese, was signed on board a British man-of-war. Its terms were
satisfactory: every point on which England had gone to war was ceded
by the Emperor; our national honour was vindicated, and the rights
of our traders secured. During the negotiations dignified courtesies
were exchanged between the Mandarins and the Plenipotentiary. On one
of these occasions the grenadier company of the Royal Irish acted
as guard of honour to Sir Henry Pottinger while he solemnly dined
with the Chinese officials: our late enemies turned out their best
soldiers to receive the English guests, but though Lieutenant Murray
admits that among them were many tall, fine-looking fellows, he
insists that they were “nothing in appearance to our company, who
looked remarkably well, and must have astonished the Chinese much.”
Though the spectators doubtless admired the physique and martial
bearing of the Irishmen who had so often routed the picked troops of
China, they must have smiled at the contrast between the comfortable
dress of the Tartars, who wore long loose coats and boots coming
well up the leg, and the stocks, tightly buttoned shell-jackets and
equally tight white trousers of the British army.[142] The spies
among the crowd, for the Chinese had many very observant secret
service agents in their employ, must have wondered why the infantry
who served on board ship were armed with percussion muskets, while
those who fought on land carried flint-locks.

No sooner had the treaty of peace been officially ratified by
the Emperor of China than the expedition began to descend the
Yang-Tse-Kiang with all speed, for the climate had begun to
tell heavily upon the health of soldiers and sailors alike. So
short-handed from sickness was the crew of H.M.S. _Rattlesnake_ that
the Royal Irish, by this time nearly as much at home on a ship as
in a barrack, helped largely in working her successfully down the
river. At the mouth of the Yang-Tse-Kiang the expedition broke up:
some of Gough’s units sailed for India; others went home, while
the corps ordered to remain in Chinese waters proceeded to their
several destinations. Among the latter was the XVIIIth, which was
sent to Chusan, where its various detachments were assembled by the
end of October, 1842. When the casualty returns were prepared it
was found that though the losses in action had been small, those
caused by dysentery, malaria, and cholera had been very heavy.
Lieutenant-Colonel N. R. Tomlinson and Captain C. J. R. Collinson had
been killed; Major R. Hammill, Lieutenants H. Vavasour, A. Wilson, F.
Swinburn, D. Edwardes, J. Cochrane, G. W. Davis, S. Haly, Hon. C. H.
Stratford, Ensign M. Humphreys, and Assistant-Surgeon J. Baker had
died from disease; six officers had been wounded but had recovered
from their injuries. Among the other ranks nine non-commissioned
officers and men had been killed, seventy-seven wounded, and two
hundred and fourteen had died from illness, accident, or the
effect of wounds.[143] In honour of those who perished a monument
was erected in St Patrick’s Cathedral. It stands in the north
transept--the Walhalla of the regiment, where the old Colours, faded
by the sun in many climes and pierced by bullets in many battles,
overhang the stately memorials by which the Royal Irish regiment has
sought to keep green the memory of its illustrious dead. The numerous
monuments are described fully in Appendix 10, and photographs of
them are reproduced in various parts of the book.

At the opening of Parliament in 1843, the House of Lords passed
the usual vote of thanks to the troops which had taken part in the
campaign. A medal was issued to the officers and men who had served
in the Chinese war; leave was granted to the XVIIIth to add to its
other battle honours the word “China” and the device of the Dragon,
and Colonel G. Burrell, Lieutenant-Colonel W. H. Adams, and Majors J.
Cowper and J. Grattan were awarded the C.B.

Very disagreeable orders awaited the regiment on its arrival at
Chusan. Four companies were to remain there as part of its garrison
until the Chinese had fulfilled all the obligations of the treaty,
while headquarters and the greater part of the regiment were to
occupy the island of Kulangsu, which our Government also held as
a pledge of Chinese good faith. Kulangsu had already acquired the
reputation of being one of the most unhealthy stations in China, and
the Royal Irish soon discovered that its evil reputation was but too
well deserved. According to Lieutenant-Colonel Graves’s statement,
when the headquarters companies landed they found the detachment of
the regiment which had been there for some months in a deplorable
condition. There had been many deaths among all ranks; every one of
the surviving officers was down with fever,

  “and there were not thirty men under command of a sergeant who
  were fit for duty or could shoulder a firelock.... When the
  Headquarter companies landed from Chusan the men were healthy and
  well seasoned, but they very soon began to feel the climate, and
  before long half the men were on the sick list, and we began to
  bury them very fast. I had been appointed Staff Officer for the
  island, and at first found much difficulty in getting coffins
  quick enough, so I ordered twenty at a time to be supplied by a
  contractor at Amoy. Several of our officers died, and at last
  I found much difficulty in getting men enough to relieve the
  guards. I went to our Colonel, Cowper--who was the Commandant of
  the island--and represented that if we did not get a ship sent up
  from Hong Kong for the invalids we should very soon have no men
  for guard. We got a ship and found her of the greatest benefit;
  she was anchored half a mile out of the harbour, and the invalids
  sent on board her came back in a week fit for duty.

  “A large draft joined from England, about three hundred strong,
  together with the women and children. This caused a little stir,
  but it was a short-lived happiness: they went down almost as
  fast as we could provide coffins for them. We pitched tents and
  moved our camp daily about the island, but it was no use--cholera
  and fever still continued. The men began to drink to drown
  dull care; the officers off the sick list were constantly
  on Court-Martial duty, and the Colonel received an official
  letter from Headquarters drawing his attention to the number
  of Courts-Martial for drunkenness, and directing him to parade
  the regiment and reprimand the men for their conduct, which
  was alleged to be the principal cause of the severe mortality.
  As Staff Officer and adjutant of the regiment I was ordered to
  read this letter to the men, which I began to do, but I must
  acknowledge I fairly broke down and had to hand it to another
  officer to finish. I felt so keenly how our gallant poor fellows
  were being sacrificed, after their long, hard services, to a
  climate no one could live in, and _how_ they bore it!”

In April 1844, after a hundred and thirty-six officers and men
had fallen victims to the climate of Kulangsu,[144] the regiment
was reunited at Chusan. The next station was Hong Kong, where the
ordinary routine of garrison life in the East was suddenly broken
by an urgent and wholly unexpected call to arms. The people of
Canton, always overbearing and offensive towards Europeans, had
recently insulted and ill-treated British subjects, and their
Mandarins had refused to make redress for the outrages. The British
Plenipotentiary, Sir John Davis, was a believer in the saying “A word
and a blow, and the blow first,” and he determined to teach the mob
of Canton a lesson they would not soon forget. During the night of
the 1st of April, 1847, the Royal Irish, under Lieutenant-Colonel
Cowper, with 23 officers and 509 other ranks, and the 42nd regiment
of Madras Native Infantry, 399 strong, were packed into a couple of
small men-of-war and an armed steamer. Early on the following morning
the flotilla was off the entrance to the Canton river; the troops
were landed, and driving the Chinese artillerymen from the batteries,
spiked the guns. The works higher up the stream were then treated in
the same way, but not without vigorous opposition from the enemy,
whose aim, however, was much distracted by the steady fire of a
party of the Royal Irish, described in the despatches as the “acting
gunners of the XVIIIth, who replied to the batteries in a style
which would have done credit to experienced artillerymen.” As soon
as the ships were off Canton the soldiers occupied the “factories”;
placed them in a state of defence, and made plans for storming the
town. The Royal Irish were looking forward to winning much glory (and
much prize money too!) in the capture of Canton, when the Mandarins,
greatly perturbed by Sir John Davis’s prompt reprisals, hastily made
full atonement for their misdeeds, and the expedition returned to
Hong Kong. They had done a good week’s work: 879 guns, many of great
calibre, had been spiked, much ammunition destroyed, and a greatly
needed lesson given to the Canton roughs--and all without the loss of
a soldier, bluejacket, or marine.

General D’Aguilar, who was in command, mentioned in his despatch the
following officers of the regiment, viz., Lieutenant-Colonel Cowper;
Captain J. Bruce, A.A.G.; Captain Clark Kennedy, Acting A.Q.M.;
Captain J. W. Graves; Captain A. N. Campbell, and Lieutenant E. W.
Sargent, Acting A.D.C.

Before the troops left Canton the British merchants asked for an
officer to train their newly formed Volunteer corps. Captain J.
W. Graves was selected, and with part of the Light company spent
two months in “the factories,” where between drilling his civilian
recruits, drawing up plans for the defence of the settlement against
a sudden rush, and eating the good dinners to which the merchants
invited him, his time was fully occupied. Soon after this detachment
rejoined headquarters the regiment was warned to prepare to sail for
India, and on November 20, 1847, embarked for Bengal on the transport
ship _Balcarres_. Major W. F. Dillon was in command; with him were 24
officers, 42 sergeants, 15 drummers, and 595 rank and file, and when
he arrived at Fort William on January 10, 1848, he found awaiting
him drafts from England amounting to 7 officers, 1 drummer, and 334
rank and file. Thus the XVIIIth began its tour of duty in India with
a total strength of one thousand and eighteen of all ranks.



CHAPTER VI.

1848-1854.

THE SECOND WAR WITH BURMA.


When the XVIIIth Royal Irish regiment arrived in India the Sikh War
appeared to be over, and all chance of winning fresh laurels seemed
relegated to the distant future. Further troubles, however, broke
out in the Punjab, and for a time the regiment had every hope of
again seeing active service under Sir Hugh Gough, as it was ordered
up country and incorporated in the “Army of Reserve” on its arrival
at Umballa in March, 1849. But Gough’s victory at Goozerat[145] had
finally crushed the power of our gallant foes; the “Army of Reserve”
was not called upon to take the field, and the Royal Irish remained
at Umballa till the end of 1849, when they marched to Meerut, where a
draft of two hundred and twenty recruits from home awaited them. The
two flank companies did not accompany headquarters, as in November
they had been sent on an important and interesting duty: they formed
the European portion of the escort selected to guard the Marquis of
Dalhousie, Governor-General of India, in his progress from Rurki
to Lahore, the capital of the great province just added to the
British dominions. This detachment of the XVIIIth was commanded by
Captain C. A. Edwards, who in a statement prepared for this history
mentions that as it was feared fanatics would attempt to murder the
Governor-General in his sleep, four picked men of the Royal Irish
at night patrolled the space between the inner and outer walls of
Lord Dalhousie’s tent. These sentries appear to have been abnormally
ceremonious in their manners, for the Governor-General, while warmly
praising their incessant vigilance, said that he had only one fault
to find with them--they _would_ salute him when he was in his
dressing-gown! It is not clear whether Edwards’ party were present at
the historic scene of Dhuleep Singh’s deposition at Lahore, but they
acted nominally as guard of honour, but virtually as escort to this
important prisoner on his journey to Meerut. In the cold weather
of 1850 the regiment was ordered back to Calcutta; from Allahabad
the journey was by river, in flats towed by small steamers. On its
arrival it was quartered in Fort William, where, when all outlying
detachments had been collected, Colonel Reignolds had under his
command a magnificent regiment of eleven hundred and five officers
and men. As it was generally understood that the Royal Irish would
be ordered home in a few months, many officers obtained leave of
absence and started for England under the firm impression that for
some time there would be no more fighting in the East.[146] But the
truth of the saying “You never know your luck” has seldom been better
illustrated than in the case of the XVIIIth at the beginning of
1852, when the regiment found itself hurried off to take part in an
expedition to Burma.

The causes of this war, the second which the Burmese had forced upon
us in the course of thirty years, were almost identical with those
which had brought about the conflict with China, described in the
preceding chapter. Persistent disregard of treaties and systematic
oppression of European traders had culminated in maltreatment of
British subjects so flagrant that our Government was compelled to
seek redress by arms; and in each theatre of war the prestige of
Britain was re-established by the combined efforts of both branches
of the Service. The dissensions between England and the King of Ava,
as the ruler of Burma was officially described, were brought to a
climax by the misconduct of one of his lieutenants, the governor of
Rangoon, who wantonly imprisoned the master of a British ship, and
exposed him in the stocks to the gibes and insults of an Eastern
rabble. When a squadron demanded reparation for this outrage the
Burmese temporised, but soon so clearly showed they did not mean to
mend their ways that the commodore seized a Burmese ship-of-war and
blockaded the port of Rangoon. The truculent governor retaliated by
confiscating the property of all British subjects within his reach;
and the sailors thereupon towed their prize to sea under a heavy fire
from the stockades on the banks of the Rangoon river. When this news
reached Calcutta the Indian Government at once ordered a combined
naval and military expedition[147] to rendezvous at the mouth of the
branch of the Irrawaddy on which Rangoon stands, and on January 19,
1852, Lieutenant-Colonel Reignolds with the headquarters and right
wing of the regiment (444 all told) embarked at Calcutta, followed
in a few weeks by Lieutenant-Colonel C. J. Coote with the left wing,
518 strong.[148] This was not the first time that the sails of a
great British expedition had whitened Burmese waters. In 1824, the
King of Ava had invaded the territories of the East India Company, an
act of unprovoked aggression punished by the capture of Rangoon, and
followed by a long series of operations, in which a very large number
of the British troops perished of disease before the Burmese sued for
peace, and ceded to us the provinces of Aracan and Tenasserim, long
narrow strips of territory washed respectively by the waters of the
Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. Rangoon was restored to the King
of Ava, and with it two hundred miles of coast-line that lay like a
wedge between our new dominions.[149]

In the first phase of the campaign of 1852-53, the operations were
chiefly confined to the capture of important towns near the mouths
of the great rivers which, rising in the Himalayas, flow through
the swamps and forests of Burma on their way to the Indian Ocean.
The war-steamers forced their way up the streams and engaged the
stockades and other defences on the banks; while the soldiers landed,
stormed these works, and then, pushing forward into the jungle,
carried the towns by assault. While the operations were confined
to the immediate neighbourhood of rivers and navigable creeks no
question of land transport arose, but when it became necessary to
send columns of troops deep into the interior of the country, the
innumerable difficulties of fighting in a pathless and tropical
jungle at once made themselves felt. The ships could indeed bring
stores to the point on the river from which the column struck inland;
they could hold a base upon which the troops could fall back in case
of need; but there the power of the navy ceased. The wants of the
soldiers could only be supplied by bullock-carts or elephants, and
the long lines of transport animals had to wind their way through
a densely wooded country, admirably suited to the guerilla tactics
of surprises and ambuscades. Like the Chinese, the Burmans though
brave as individuals were undisciplined as soldiers, and as a rule
preferred to fight behind ramparts to meeting their enemy in the
field. In China the garrisons of the cities waited our attack behind
high stone walls; in Burma the defenders of the towns manned huge
timber stockades, in the building of which they were very skilful.
A nation of woodsmen, with their sharp square-pointed swords they
could hew down forest trees and run up timber barricades with extreme
rapidity, and when time was allowed them they could produce really
formidable fortifications, such as those awaiting the British at
Rangoon. These consisted of a substantial rampart, fourteen or
fifteen feet high, about twelve feet wide on the top, and revetted
within and without by great teak logs placed vertically, with the
lower ends sunk in the ground. The intervening space was filled with
well-rammed earth. The logs of the outer revetment stretched up some
six feet or more above the level of the parapet, every fourth or
fifth log being cut some three feet shorter than the others to form
loopholes and embrasures. There were many flanking towers; traverses
protected the gates; the ditches were deep, often flooded with
water, and protected by thick abattis. Guns, varying in calibre from
32-prs. to wall pieces and gingals, were mounted on the parapets.
The infantry were armed with flint-lock muskets, many of them old
weapons, worn out and sold as scrap iron by the British military
authorities.

When the ships containing the Bengal contingent reached the mouth
of the Rangoon river on April 2, 1852, Major-General H. Godwin, who
was in command of the troops, sent a vessel under a flag of truce to
inquire whether any answer had been received from the King of Ava to
the letter containing the British demands for redress. The Burmese
replied by firing on the flag of truce, and Godwin, not feeling
strong enough to attack Rangoon until the Madras contingent had
joined him, sailed for the capital of Tenasserim, Moulmein, at that
time threatened by the garrison of the neighbouring Burmese city of
Martaban. On the morning of the 5th of April the fleet opened fire
upon Martaban, and under cover of the bombardment the right wing of
the XVIIIth and part of the 80th landed; a storming party, led by
the grenadier companies of these two regiments, scaled the wall, and
in a short time the place was in our hands. Thanks to the diary of
the late Colonel G. A. Elliot, then a subaltern in the Royal Irish,
interesting particulars have been preserved of this little fight, in
which the younger men in the regiment were in action for the first
time. Under a heavy but badly directed fire the grenadiers dashed
across the twenty yards of ground between the water’s edge and the
main defence of the city, a thick wall fifteen feet high and about
eight hundred yards in length. Here the enemy’s bullets began to take
effect among the Royal Irish. Colonel Elliot writes that--

  “Private Fergusson received three in his left arm, and died of
  his wounds,[150] John Donovan two in his left hand, Coleman one
  through his left arm. We ran up and got close under the wall in
  extended order; the General was seen to take off his hat and
  give a cheer, which our men returned and then quickly sprung
  up the wall, (which was overgrown with shrubs) and rushed upon
  the Burmese, who quickly retired to some jungle, whence they
  fired, though without much effect. While surmounting the wall
  one of our officers noticed a man in the regiment get on to the
  top and look intently into a large bush below him. Still gazing
  intently, he loosed a brick, flung it down into the bush, raised
  his musket and shot a Burmese who had been hiding there in
  cover. We then advanced, and joining part of the 80th, and one
  of our own companies, skirmished up one of the hills enclosed
  by the wall, driving the Burmese before us, and charging them
  whenever they appeared in numbers. The hill was very steep, and
  obstacles existed in the shape of felled trees with branches
  pointing downwards. At the top was a Pagoda, surrounded by a
  wall mounted with gingals, but as there was no resistance, the
  men rested here for an hour in the shade. We then moved down a
  lane which led towards the next hill; after advancing about two
  hundred yards we came to an open space where the bullets began to
  fly over our heads from the hill in front. The men halted, and
  Lieutenant-Colonel Reignolds, XVIIIth, who was acting Brigadier,
  halted for reinforcements: ... but as soon as the Burmese saw
  that we had stopped, they began shouting and challenging us to
  come on, and after a while they poured down the hill towards us.
  Colonel Reignolds now allowed the men to charge, and with a cheer
  they dashed forward. The enemy ran back to a wall on the top of
  the hill and began a badly aimed fire; Glesson, Grenadier Company
  was struck in the mouth. The enemy evacuated the hill.”

After clearing a third hill the detachment whose fortunes Elliot has
described joined the main body, and as the enemy were completely
routed all marched back to the beach. The casualties in this affair
were eight wounded, seven of whom were men of the Royal Irish; but
many soldiers were struck down by the sun, a warning, unhappily
disregarded, against the folly of wearing in the tropics the same
uniform as that in use in the United Kingdom. In the despatch
describing the capture of Martaban the following officers of the
regiment were mentioned, viz., Lieutenant-Colonel Reignolds;
Captain A. N. Campbell, on whom devolved the command of the wing
when Reignolds was ordered to act as Brigadier; and Captain A.
Gillespie, grenadier company, who was the first man over the enemy’s
fortifications.

Godwin had now secured the safety of Moulmein; and leaving a small
garrison in Martaban, he returned with the greater part of his force
to the Rangoon river, where the Madras contingent and reinforcements
from Bengal awaited him. Among the latter was the left wing of the
Royal Irish, who since its arrival had been employed with the Navy
in destroying the stockades at the mouth of the river. On the 10th
of April the fleet began to move up-stream, and next morning the
steamers were in their appointed positions, ready to bombard the
works which defended the landing-places giving access to Rangoon.
The Burmese opened fire; the sailors replied with energy, and the
cannonade continued till late in the day, when landing parties, among
whom were detachments of the XVIIIth, stormed the stockades; and
driving away the enemy, cleared the way for the disembarkation of the
main body. Though General Godwin had served in the first expedition
to Burma, his recollections of the topography of Rangoon would
have been misleading had they not been supplemented by information
supplied by a British trader, from whom he learned that since the
war of 1824-26 part of the town had been abandoned and lay in
ruins; a new quarter had sprung up, and the fortifications had been
remodelled to meet the fresh conditions. Rangoon was now built in a
rough square, with sides about three-quarters of a mile in length,
surrounded by deep ditches, and walls sixteen feet high and eight
feet thick. In the works was included the Shwe Dagon, turned into
a citadel by the mounting of cannon upon the three tiers of huge
terraces which support the foundations of this great pagoda. From
the landing-places on the river to the gate in the southern wall is
about a mile and a quarter; and the Burmese, remembering that in the
first war we had marched by that road, concluded that the tactics of
1826 would be repeated in 1852, and concentrated the greater part of
their artillery and about ten thousand troops on the southern section
of the defences. Godwin, however, completely upset this scheme of
defence by declining to attack where he was so obviously expected.

Early on the 12th of April the right column--composed of the XVIIIth,
51st, the 40th Bengal Native Infantry, two guns of the Madras
Artillery, and a detachment of the Madras Sappers and Miners--landed,
with a day’s cooked rations and sixty rounds of ammunition on their
persons; by 7 A.M. they were advancing on an outwork, known as the
“White House stockade,” which obstructed their path through the
jungle. The field-guns, escorted by the grenadier and Light companies
of the XVIIIth, shelled it till the 51st were ordered to the assault;
the other companies of the regiment were following in support, when
they were suddenly ordered to halt, and to crowd into the jungle to
clear the track for the Madras Sappers and the parties of bluejackets
and European soldiers who carried the scaling ladders, then urgently
required at the front. Some of the Royal Irish had been detailed for
this duty, which proved a dangerous one, as out of the four men of
the regiment told off to the first ladder three were wounded. This
delay threw the Royal Irish “out of the hunt,” and by the time they
reached the stockade the 51st had stormed and occupied it. At this
point General Godwin was forced to call a halt: five of the senior
officers had been struck down by solar apoplexy, two of them fatally;
many of the men lay on the ground senseless from sunstroke; all
ranks were worn out by the overpowering heat, and he was forced to
bivouac on the ground he had gained. From papers left by Colonel,
then Lieutenant, C. Woodwright, XVIIIth, it appears that during the
afternoon, while the Royal Irish were slaking their thirst at wells
discovered in the jungle, a number of Burmese stalked the covering
parties, surprised them by a heavy fire, and occupied a pagoda, from
which they directed an annoying fusilade on the watering-place. While
other portions of the regiment drove back the enemy’s skirmishers,
Woodwright’s company was ordered to seize the pagoda: this was
accomplished successfully, though with the loss of Colour-Sergeant
Kelly and several men seriously wounded. Twice in the night the
Burmese attempted to rush the bivouac of the Royal Irish, but were
driven back by a few rounds of canister from light field-guns.

For more than forty hours General Godwin was unable to advance.
His commissariat officers were very slow in issuing rations to
replace the one-day’s supply carried by the troops; the gunners were
equally slow in landing and transporting to the front the four 8-in.
howitzers, on which he relied to make a breach in the defences of
Rangoon; and it was not until 5 A.M. on the 14th that the column was
again in motion. The XVIIIth and the 40th Bengal Native Infantry led,
followed by the 51st and the 35th Madras Native Infantry; the 80th
were in charge of the guns, and a Madras Native Infantry regiment
kept up communication with the ships in the river. Working slowly
through jungle so thick that paths had to be cut for the passage
of the guns, Godwin avoided the enemy’s main stockades; but as his
leading troops came within sight of the great pagoda, the guns on
its terraces opened fire. Opposite the gate in the eastern wall,
by which he proposed to force his way into Rangoon, the ground was
so difficult that there was barely room for the XVIIIth and the
80th to form up in quarter columns, while they halted till the
guns had made a practicable breach. The Burmese artillery played
upon the easy target offered to them, and their skirmishers became
so bold that five hundred muskets were required to keep them at
a respectful distance from the main body of the infantry. The
situation was becoming impossible when it was discovered that the
gate had been opened, presumably to afford a safe retreat to the
Burmese soldiers who were harassing our flanks. Godwin determined
to assault forthwith, and placed Lieutenant-Colonel Coote in command
of a storming party, composed of two companies of the Royal Irish,
the wing of the 80th, and part of the 40th B.N.I. Under a galling
fire, the column moved with great steadiness across a shallow valley,
half a mile in width, and swept like a tidal wave over terrace after
terrace until the Shwe Dagon was won. Then the Burmese broke and
fled in panic, losing heavily in their retreat, especially at a
point where part of the grenadier company of the Royal Irish fell
upon them in flank with the bayonet, and in a short time Rangoon
was in our hands. In the British land forces the casualties between
the 11th and the 14th of April were a hundred and forty-five--two
officers were killed and fourteen wounded; fifteen of the other
ranks were killed, and a hundred and fourteen wounded. Nearly a
third of these losses fell upon the Royal Irish: Lieutenant and
Adjutant R. Doran, pierced by four bullets, fell mortally wounded at
the foot of the pagoda;[151] Lieutenant-Colonel Coote, Captain W.
T. Bruce, and Lieutenant G. A. Elliot were wounded; a sergeant and
two privates were killed, a sergeant, a drummer, and thirty-seven
privates wounded.[152] In his despatch General Godwin mentions four
officers of the Royal Irish--Lieutenant-Colonel Reignolds, who was in
temporary command of a brigade, Lieutenant-Colonel Coote, Captain G.
F. S. Call (Brigade Major), and Captain J. J. Wood, who brought the
regiment out of action.

For the next few months the XVIIIth lay sweltering at Rangoon, where
General Godwin was obliged to await the arrival of reinforcements
before undertaking further operations on a large scale. During this
period of enforced inaction life was by no means agreeable: the heat
was intense, the labour of hut-building severe, the duties heavy,
and there was much sickness among the troops. Two small expeditions
pushed out north and west--the first occupied the town of Pegu; the
second captured the city of Bassein, important as commanding one of
the three navigable mouths of the Irrawaddy. In neither of these
enterprises did the Royal Irish play any part. Their only “outing”
at this time seems to have been a two-days’ hunt after a Burmese
official whom the General was anxious to take prisoner. After hard
marching they had their quarry almost within their grasp, when he
disappeared into the jungle, leaving in their hands a string of carts
laden with his numerous wives. In August it became known that the
King of Ava, by no means disheartened by the loss of Rangoon and
the other towns we had wrested from him, was gathering large forces
near Prome, two hundred miles up the Irrawaddy. After a flotilla of
gunboats had destroyed the stockades on the banks of the river near
that town, Godwin determined to occupy it, to serve as an advanced
base in the movement upon Ava, which he awaited the permission of
Government to begin. When the long-expected reinforcements began to
arrive, the Royal Irish found themselves in a division commanded
by Sir John Cheape. The first brigade was under Lieutenant-Colonel
Reignolds, and consisted of the XVIIIth, and the 40th and 67th Native
Infantry regiments. Two officers of the Royal Irish were on the
staff: Captain G. F. S. Call was Brigade Major to Reignolds’ brigade,
Captain W. T. Bruce was Assistant Adjutant-General to the first
division. This organisation, however, appears to have been merely one
on paper, for in September Godwin announced to the troops that he was
about to resume active operations, and warned the XVIIIth, the 80th,
and the 35th Madras Native Infantry to hold themselves in readiness
to embark under command of Brigadier-General Reignolds. These
regiments, with some Artillery and Sappers and Miners, disembarked
with slight opposition at Prome on the 9th of October, and on
marching a short way inland found that the Burmese had disappeared.
In the landing there were a few casualties, none of them among the
Royal Irish; but that night the young soldiers of the regiment had
a stern lesson in outpost duty--one of their comrades, who allowed
himself to be surprised on sentry, was killed, and his head sent as a
trophy to the King of Ava. While troops were being gradually passed
up the river to Prome, the Burmese attacked our garrison in Pegu, and
a considerable force had to be sent to the rescue, but the XVIIIth
was not employed either in the relief of Pegu, or in the operations
of a column sent to clear the jungles round Martaban.

For many months it continued to form part of the garrison of
Prome, which was invested by the Burmese, who surrounded the place
with stockades, thrown up in the jungle, a mile or two beyond our
outposts. In November three companies helped to destroy one of these
works, whose defenders had been active in intercepting supplies
brought in by friendly natives. Later in the month two companies
under Brevet-Major Edwards were sent on a much longer expedition;
they formed the British contingent in a small column sent to rid
the districts of Khangheim and Padaung of the enemy. Crossing to
the right bank they worked up-stream, and at first met with little
opposition, though they were “sniped at” by night. “On one occasion
the watering-place was surrounded by a small party, and several
sepoys who had gone there to fill their drinking-vessels were killed
or wounded. The column passed the spot where a few days before
the Captain of a native regiment with a small body of his men was
surprised by the Burmese, and the place where they were beheaded was
still plainly discernible by the blood-stains on the stones. The
heads of the Captain and two men had been sent to Ava; their bodies
were left on the banks of the river till buried by the English.”[153]
The senior officer of the column broke down in health; Edwards
succeeded to the command; and from the Digest of Service it appears
that after several successful skirmishes he drove the Burmese into a
place called Tomah, where he hemmed them in until March, 1853, when
reinforcements of all arms enabled him to storm their stockade, and
capture their guns, stores, and bullock-carts. During a lull in these
operations Major Edwards was sent on a difficult, but interesting
piece of work--to lead a small column to the top of the Tonghoo
pass over the Yo-Ma range of mountains between Burma and Aracan,
and there take charge of a hundred and forty-eight elephants, sent
from India by the Governor-General to reinforce the transport of
the army. Edwards’ command was composed of a hundred of the XVIIIth
under Major Borrow, the same number of the 80th, two hundred Sikhs,
and a few Madras Sappers and Miners, with three thousand coolies to
carry the supplies and drive the slaughter cattle. All went well
till the column began to ascend the foothills of the main range,
when the coolies, frightened at the steep, jungle-covered slopes,
flung down their loads and deserted in a body. As the European troops
could carry but a portion of the stores, they soon ran out of tea,
biscuit, and spirits, and had to fall back upon beef-on-the-hoof,
and for many days had nothing to eat but meat; to the Sikhs, whose
religion debared them from animal food, a small quantity of grain
was supplied. A day or two after this breakdown of the transport the
guides confessed that they had lost their way, so Edwards decided
to work upwards, along the course of the streams that furrowed the
mountain-side. Slowly but sturdily the troops breasted the hills;
by day they hacked paths through the jungle; by night they slept in
clothing soaked in many fords and torrents. Yet such was the stamina
of the Europeans that during the expedition not one fell ill, and
they outmarched the Sikhs, who broke down and had to be left behind.
After nineteen days of this tremendous strain Edwards reached the
rendezvous; the elephants had not yet come up, but a large supply of
rice had already arrived, and his troops, eager for vegetable food,
pounced on it with delight. In a few days the elephants lumbered up
the pass, loaded with commissariat stores of every kind, on which the
men feasted, while the animals rested after their climb. Then the
long column of men and beasts crashed downwards through the forest
and reached Padaung, on the Irrawaddy, in less than a quarter of the
time occupied in the upward march. Official thanks were given to all
ranks when the convoy of elephants was handed over to the transport
department, and a month’s extra batta was granted to those who had
taken part in the expedition.

The account of the doings of the XVIIIth at the front must now be
broken by Lord Wolseley’s description of his first meeting with the
regiment of which he is now the honoured Colonel-in-Chief. As a
callow subaltern in the 80th, quite new to the practical side of war,
he found himself at Rangoon in charge of a piquet, composed in part
of very young soldiers of the XVIIIth, who had been left at the base
under command of Brevet-Lieutenant-Colonel Grattan. These youngsters
were not yet disciplined; they had been greatly amused at the young
officer’s attempts to march his detachment to its post, and three of
them, carried away by their high spirits, took liberties and refused
to number off in the way he ordered. Wolseley promptly made prisoners
of the culprits, and next morning

  “had to appear at the Orderly Room of the Royal Irish detachment.
  It was a little room in a small teak-built hut, and there Colonel
  Grattan, C.B., of that historic regiment, daily dispensed justice
  to his young recruits. He was an old and amusing Irishman, full
  of quaint stories, and a very pleasant companion. Taken prisoner
  in the China War, he had been carried about in a cage as a
  show for the amusement of millions who had never before seen a
  European. His smiling face and grotesque grimaces always obtained
  for him a favourable reception. He greeted me pleasantly when
  I entered the orderly room, where--I may explain for Civilian
  readers--the Commanding Officer of every regiment and battalion
  in the Army holds a daily court to administer justice all round.
  Three prisoners from Tipperary were marched in bare-headed, and
  were drawn up facing the Colonel, who sat, pen in hand, behind a
  little table which separated them from him. A Corporal and a file
  of the guard, with drawn bayonets, stood beside the culprits,
  an acting Sergeant-Major, standing as all the others were, at
  ‘Attention’, made up the stage. A solemn silence that somewhat
  awed me pervaded the scene, and my shyness became greater when
  the funny-looking colonel addressing me, asked me sternly what
  complaint I had to make against the prisoners. I told my story as
  best I could, being extremely impressed by what I believed to be
  the gravity of the offence. My military reading and study of the
  Mutiny Act and Articles of War had led me to believe that, next
  to striking an officer or running away in battle, these prisoners
  had committed the most heinous offence in absolutely refusing
  to obey a lawful command when on outpost duty before the enemy.
  I expected they would be at once sent to trial before a general
  court martial, and either sentenced to death, or if their lives
  were spared in consideration of their youth and entire ignorance
  of a soldier’s duty, they would at least be transported.

  “When I had finished my awful indictment, the Colonel with
  his funny little grey eyes, frowned from under his long grey
  eyebrows, first at me and then in sternness at the boy prisoners
  before him. There was an awful pause; you could have heard a pin
  drop if any one there had had such an evidence of civilization
  ready for the occasion. I held my breath, not knowing what was
  coming. I looked at the Sergeant-Major; his face was wooden and
  devoid of all expression as he stolidly looked straight before
  him into nothing. In a moment a volley of oaths from the Colonel
  removed the atmospheric pressure. He called the prisoners ‘limbs
  of Satan,’ and choking, partly at least I should say because his
  vituperative vocabulary had come to an end, he jumped to his
  feet, upsetting the table, with its ink bottle, papers, etc.,
  and rushed upon the prisoners, kicking hard at the nearest, and
  crying aloud: ‘Get out, ye blackguards; never let me see you
  again.’ Whether it was that the prisoners were accustomed to this
  mode of justice and, being frightened, were anxious to avoid the
  toes of their Colonel’s boots as he lashed out at them or not,
  they turned round and ran for their lives, the Sergeant-Major
  after them, with their caps, which he had been holding--according
  to regulation--whilst this strangely scenic trial was being
  enacted.

  “I was in dismay, and for a moment thought of running too, but
  seeing the old Colonel burst out laughing, I tried to smile, but
  it was an unhealthy attempt at hilarity on my part. However,
  being assured the men would never forget the scene or misbehave
  again, I went away feeling rather that I had been the culprit,
  and had only escaped condign punishment through consideration
  of my youth and complete ignorance of all military customs and
  laws. I don’t know whether these three boys from Tipperary
  retained a lasting remembrance--as I did--of the curious mode
  of administering justice, but I am sure their Colonel’s conduct
  was far more in consonance with their views of propriety, and
  far better suited to the case, than any sentence of imprisonment
  and trial by court martial would have been. I laugh now as I
  think of the whole scene, and as I do so, I feel all the more how
  necessary it is that Irish soldiers should have Irish officers
  over them, who understand their curiously Eastern character, and
  who are consequently better able to deal with them than strangers
  can.”[154]

Until the middle of February, 1853, the headquarter companies at
Prome had a weary time. Sickness was rampant; in a letter written
at the end of November, 1852, an officer of the XVIIIth mentions
that the regiment could only turn out 350 men fit to take the field.
Ninety men had been buried at Rangoon, where cholera broke out a few
hours after the capture of the great Pagoda; for a month the Royal
Irish had been dying at the rate of almost one a day; 137 were in
hospital; large numbers had broken down and been invalided out of
the country. The other regiments were equally unhealthy, and out of
the whole garrison of Prome the General could only count on some
900 effectives, whose numbers were daily reduced by the ravages
of climate and by the strain of the guards and piquets, which,
though cut down as low as safety permitted, told severely upon the
troops who remained at duty. The only break in this harassing and
monotonous existence was afforded by occasional reconnaissances and
night attacks, in which the enemy showed themselves more anxious to
murder and decapitate individual men than to close with any formed
body of soldiers. Suddenly four companies of the Royal Irish were
warned for an expedition to clear the line of communication, which
was harassed by Myat Toon, a robber chieftain, who from his lair
near Donobyu attacked the native boats in our employ on their way
up the Irrawaddy with provisions for the front. The village of
Donobyu was about fifty miles above Rangoon; it was connected with
the Irrawaddy by a network of creeks, and surrounded by dense jungle,
almost impassable from deep nullahs full of water, which cut up the
ground in every direction. In this jungle Myat Toon had fortified
many positions, formidable in themselves, and most difficult of
access to Europeans. The sailors had made several spirited attempts
to penetrate into this labyrinth, but their boats were unable to pass
the barricades of logs and forest trees with which the waterways had
been obstructed; and a combined force of bluejackets and soldiers,
acting on land under a post-captain in the navy, was surprised and
defeated with the loss of two guns. The army was now to take in
hand the punishment of the seven or eight thousand guerillas who
followed the fortunes of Myat Toon, and General Godwin selected
Sir John Cheape to lead the avenging force, composed of a small
body of Irregular Native cavalry, detachments of Madras Sappers and
Madras and Bengal Artillery with one 24-pr. howitzer and a 9-pr.
field-gun, two hundred of the XVIIIth under Captain A. W. F. S.
Armstrong,[155] two hundred of the 51st, two hundred Sikhs, and the
67th Bengal Native Infantry regiment. Major F. Wigston, XVIIIth,
was in charge of the right wing of the column, with Lieutenant F.
Eteson, XVIIIth, as his staff-officer. Descending the river to
within thirty-five miles of Donobyu, Cheape disembarked at Henzada,
a village where a number of country bullock-carts awaited him. As
he was led to believe that three or four days’ march would bring
him to Myat Toon’s stockades, he decided to fill up his transport
with seven or eight days’ rations, dash on his enemy, defeat him,
and then hasten back to the steamers. Leaving behind him the sick,
who, though it was barely a week since he left Prome, were already
numerous, he plunged into an unknown country, where his guides proved
useless, his information defective and misleading. He could not
find the main body of Myat Toon’s men, though skirmishing dacoits
hung on his flanks, and in four days he was obliged to fall back
to the river for supplies. He now transferred his base to Donobyu,
which was known to have been evacuated by the enemy, and sending his
empty carts there by land under escort of a party of the XVIIIth, he
re-embarked with the remainder of his troops for Donobyu, where he
remained till the 7th of March, when the native regiment joined him,
and with it a draft of recruits for the 80th and a large supply of
commissariat stores. After providing for the safety of his base and
of another batch of sick men, General Cheape started on his second
hunt for Myat Toon, whose entrenchments he was again assured could be
reached in three days. Now began a campaign, short in duration, but
harassing beyond measure to the troops engaged in it. The soldiers
had to feel their way along narrow paths, often obstructed by trees
cut down across the track by foes, who rarely showed themselves by
day, though they disturbed the bivouac by sniping shots at night. To
bridge the nullahs took much time and labour; the burden of guarding
the transport carts was heavy; the heat was steamy, exhausting,
and depressing; fog hung over the face of the land until several
hours after sunrise; the water was tainted, and cholera broke out
among the men. Then rations began to run short, and the column was
obliged to halt four days in this pestilential forest while a convoy
brought up fresh supplies from Donobyu. After forming an advance
base for his spare stores and the sick and wounded, Cheape once more
pushed forward, and on the 17th the right wing came upon traces of
the enemy, who had blocked the track with a series of abattis and
recently felled trees. The Royal Irish were leading, for Wigston,
remembering that it was St Patrick’s Day and anxious to do honour to
the occasion, had detailed them as advance-guard to give them every
chance of a fight, if the Burmese would so far oblige them. After
they had turned these obstacles, or cut their way through them,
they ran against a stockade held by Myat Toon’s followers, and with
a wild yell dashed at the work, which with the help of the Sikhs
they carried “most gallantly” at the point of the bayonet.[156] The
defenders did not wait for the cold steel, but after firing up to the
last moment bolted into the jungle. One man, however, lingered too
long over his parting shot, and was pursued by two subalterns, Hewitt
and Eteson, who gave chase down the bed of a dry watercourse. Hewitt
slipped and fell; Eteson succeeded in running his quarry down, and
was rewarded by obtaining from his prisoner much useful information
about the enemy’s main position. In this little affair Lieutenant
Woodwright and five rank and file were wounded. Next day there was
sharp skirmishing before the approach of darkness forced Cheape to
halt on a narrow path, leading towards the village reported to be
the headquarters of Myat Toon. Very soon after the piquets had been
posted and the bivouac formed, the fog fell so heavily as to render
reconnaissance very difficult, but when the outposts reported that
the enemy was busy felling trees and completing the defences of his
position, Lieutenant Eteson, three officers of the Sikhs, and three
Sepoys stole forward, ascertained where the enemy was at work, and
then returning to the General, described the place with sufficient
accuracy to enable the gunners to fire rockets at it with some effect.

At the first glimmer of dawn on the 19th of March, our scouts began
to grope their way down a wet nullah close to the bivouac, and
followed it to its junction with a large creek, where the sound of
voices warned them that the Burmese were at hand. Creeping from tree
to tree, the reconnoitrers reached the edge of the creek, and peering
through the gloom dimly discerned Myat Toon’s works on the farther
bank. The position was a strong one: the creek served as a moat to
a line of cleverly built breastworks, well loopholed, and protected
by abattis; the left rested on an impassable swamp; the right ended
in a dense thicket. As far as the scouts could see, the enemy’s
front was about a quarter of a mile long; but its prolongations into
the jungle really gave it a length of twelve hundred yards. Cheape
would gladly have turned the enemy’s right by a flank march; but to
do so he would have had to cut a road through thick jungle, and the
condition of the troops precluded his imposing so heavy a task upon
them, for though their spirit was high, their bodies were enfeebled
by the effect of scanty food and bad water, while their numbers had
been much reduced by the ravages of dysentery and cholera. There was
nothing for it but a frontal attack; slowly and in silence he moved
towards the creek, and then under cover of the fog marched along its
bank within a hundred yards of the Burmese stockades. For a time this
processional movement was not discovered, for Myat Toon, convinced
that the British would not leave their bivouac till the sun had
dispelled the fog, had taken no precautions against surprise; then
suddenly a rolling fire burst from the whole face of the works; to
meet it, the Sikhs were extended along our bank of the nullah, while
the remainder of the troops fell back into the jungle to form for
battle. Thus began an engagement as confused as the ground on which
it was fought. At first a musketry duel raged across the creek; then
scouting parties, or, as we should now call them, battle patrols,
ascertained that opposite the enemy’s right of the line of stockades
the creek ran dry, and was crossed by a track, which proved to have
been prepared for defence: large forest trees had been felled across
it; it was swept with grape from the two guns captured from the
navy, flanked by a detached work, and pitted with _trous-de-loup_.
A storming party was hastily organised; and the detachment of the
80th attempted to force its way across to the other side of the
creek, but being inadequately supported, failed in its object. Then
the Royal Irish and the Sikhs tried to push through the dense belt
of jungle on the right of the Burmese line, but could not pass the
abattis and detached breastworks hidden in its thickets. Finally,
the General decided that at all costs the track must be won and the
stockades near it carried at the point of the bayonet. The troops, as
may well be imagined, were by this time greatly scattered, and while
the buglers were rallying the infantry, the Bengal artillerymen, with
the help of stragglers from the British detachments, dragged their
24-pr. howitzer into action only twenty-five yards from the enemy,
and covered the concentration of the foot soldiers by a destructive
storm of canister. In this episode Private ---- Connors, Royal Irish,
greatly distinguished himself. Early in the fight a Burmese bullet
had broken his left arm; he made his way to the doctor, had the
broken limb temporarily bound up, and then under heavy fire helped to
run the howitzer up to the front, tugging at the spokes of a wheel
with his right arm. At length a number of men from the XVIIIth, 51st,
and 80th were collected, and, guided by Ensign Wolseley, charged
down the track yelling at their enemies, who manned the parapets and
shouted defiantly, “Come on, Come on!” to them in Burmese. This is
not the place to describe how Wolseley led his mixed command, nor how
he was struck down, hard hit, at the moment of victory; his personal
adventures in this charge, the second he led during the engagement,
are narrated in the first volume of his Autobiography. It is enough
to say that the troops advanced with determination, swept over the
works, and killed and wounded large numbers of the four thousand
men opposed to them. Those of the Royal Irish who took part in the
final rush were well to the front: Lieutenant W. P. Cockburn fell
desperately wounded as he scaled a stockade; Lieutenant Eteson was
one of the first into the main work; and a party, led by Lieutenant
Woodwright, recaptured the two naval guns, and marked the number of
the regiment upon them with a rusty nail.

Cheape’s success would have been complete if he had been able to
secure Myat Toon; but the Chief escaped with his life, though with
little else, for he was compelled to abandon all his supplies
and munitions of war. To follow him farther into the jungle was
impossible, for the health of the column was so bad that the General
was obliged to return to Donobyu, and thence to Prome where his
steamers anchored on April 2. The operations against Myat Toon had
been costly; the losses in action were one hundred and thirty,
while cholera alone caused more than a hundred deaths. Most of the
casualties occurred on the 19th of March, when eleven men were killed
and eighty-four officers and men wounded. In the Royal Irish regiment
Lieutenant W. F. Cockburn died of his injuries; Major F. Wigston was
severely wounded; a corporal and eight men were killed; a sergeant
and twenty-six men wounded; three colour-sergeants and eleven men
died of cholera;[157] and the health of the whole detachment was so
much affected that on landing at Prome only twenty-two officers and
men remained fit for duty. Major F. Wigston, Captain A. W. F. S.
Armstrong, and Captain W. T. Bruce were mentioned in despatches.

The regiment was not again in action during the Burmese war, as
negotiations for peace put a stop to all further operations in the
field. The province of Pegu was annexed to England, and as soon as
the new territory settled down, the XVIIIth was ordered to Calcutta,
arrived there at the end of November 1853, and a few weeks later
embarked for home.

[Illustration: MAP N^o. 4.

  SKETCH MAP
  OF
  EASTERN CHINA]

[Illustration: MAP N^o. 5.

  SKETCH MAP
  OF
  NORTHERN BURMA

  W. & A.K. Johnston Limited, Edinburgh & London.]

In recognition of their services Majors F. Wigston and C. A.
Edwards were awarded brevet-lieutenant-colonelcies, and Captains
A. N. Campbell and W. T. Bruce brevet majorities. A medal and
clasp was issued to all ranks, and the word “Pegu” was added to
the battle honours of the regiment. The losses of the Royal Irish
in this campaign were enormous. When they returned to India their
roll had been reduced by three hundred and sixty-five officers and
men, of whom but few had been killed in action or died of wounds;
the remainder had fallen victims to the diseases which rendered the
swamps and jungles of Burma fatal to Europeans.[158] The names of the
officers who perished in Burma are recorded on the memorial at St
Patrick’s Cathedral.



CHAPTER VII.

1854-1856.

THE WAR IN THE CRIMEA.


When the Royal Irish reached England in June, 1854, after a six
months’ voyage from Calcutta, they were greeted by the news that
for the first time since Waterloo Britain had become embroiled in
a European war, and in alliance with France had sent troops to
protect Turkey against the Russians, who had invaded the part of
the Sultan’s dominions then known as the Danubian principalities.
The Czar had long cast covetous eyes on Turkey, whose European
provinces on the Ægean and the Sea of Marmora prevented the expansion
of Russia towards the Mediterranean, and thus limited her seaboard
to the Baltic and the Black Sea. In the middle of the nineteenth
century Turkey appeared to be so decadent a country that its ruler
was commonly described as “the sick man”; the Czar actually threw
out suggestions to England that she should divide with him “the sick
man’s heritage,” and on her indignant refusal he determined to bide
his time and pick a quarrel with the Sultan on the first opportunity.
A pretext soon presented itself in a dispute between the Greek and
Latin branches of the Christian faith concerning their respective
rights in the Holy Places of Jerusalem: the Czar hotly espoused
the cause of the Greek Church, while the Emperor Napoleon III.,
reviving the historic claim of France to represent the Latin Church
in Palestine, vigorously supported the views of the Roman Catholics.
The Sultan, profoundly indifferent to the rivalries of those whom
his religion taught him to regard as infidel dogs, attempted to
propitiate both sides, but with such conspicuous ill-success that
the Czar declared war against him in October, 1853, and invaded the
Turkish provinces on the Danube. To defend Turkey against this wanton
and unprovoked attack, England and France in the spring of 1854
landed a considerable number of troops at Varna, a Bulgarian port on
the Black Sea. It was from no love of the Turks that England thus
plunged into war with Russia: she took up arms in pursuance of the
foreign policy which for centuries she has followed on the Continent,
and sided with the weaker state--not on altruistic grounds but solely
to preserve the balance of power in Europe, and to prevent the Czar
from possessing himself of Constantinople, and thus obtaining direct
access to the Mediterranean Sea.

The Anglo-French troops were still at Varna when, in the interests of
peace, Austria brought such pressure upon the Czar that he recalled
his armies from Turkish soil. But though the immediate danger to
Constantinople was averted by this intervention, the governments of
England and France agreed that there would be no safety for Turkey,
and therefore no tranquillity in European politics, until the Russian
fleet in the Black Sea had been captured or destroyed, and its base
at Sebastopol levelled to the ground. When the demolition of this
great naval station was thus determined on, the allies knew little of
Sebastopol,[159] except that it was a fortress in the south of the
Crimea, a peninsula jutting into the Black Sea from the mainland of
Russia: and no soldier in western Europe had any conception of the
difficulties awaiting the Anglo-French Expedition when it put to sea
from Varna on September 7, 1854. Exclusive of the crews of the great
fleet of warships by which the transports were escorted, the fighting
men numbered about 63,000, of whom 28,000 were French, 7000 Turks,
and 28,000 British. The French were under Marshal St Arnaud; Lord
Raglan, who had served on Wellington’s staff in the Peninsular war,
commanded the British troops. Neither of these officers lived to see
the end of the campaign: St Arnaud died in September, 1854, and was
succeeded by General Canrobert who, after a few months, resigned his
post to General Pélissier: Lord Raglan fell a victim to cholera at
the end of June, 1855, and was replaced by General Simpson. The Turks
were commanded by Omar Pasha.

The effort to collect and equip for war the comparatively small body
of men forming the British quota of the combined forces had greatly
taxed the military resources of England. After the fall of the great
Napoleon had restored peace to Europe, enormous reductions had been
made in our military expenditure;[160] not only was the _personnel_
of the army cut down, but the _matériel_ was allowed to fall into
decay. For more than thirty years every arm and every department of
the service was systematically starved, with results well summed up
by Lord Palmerston, who in 1846 bluntly informed his colleagues in
the Cabinet that our military weakness was such that England existed
“only by sufferance and by the forbearance of other Powers.” This
opinion was endorsed by the highest authority in the British army,
for Wellington himself acknowledged that our supply of guns, arms,
ammunition, and all kinds of stores was inadequate. Nor were these
grievous shortcomings atoned for by any high standard of efficiency
amongst the troops, for though the drill and discipline of the army
were alike excellent, neither the soldiers nor the departments vital
to their existence in the field were trained in the slightest
degree for active service; indeed, until 1853, when a few thousand
men spent some weeks under canvas, no camp of exercise had been
formed in England since the end of the Great War with France.
Marksmanship was almost a lost art; and although the deadly volleys
of the British infantry in the Peninsula had won for our troops the
reputation of the best shots in Europe, musketry was so entirely
neglected during the dead period after Waterloo, that the injunction
“Fire low, and hit ’em in the legs, boys,” was the only instruction
given to recruits. Even in the Foot Guards the men were considered
to be masters of their weapon if, once in every three years, they
fired thirty rounds of ball cartridge. The military education of the
officers was no better than that of the rank and file; there was no
attempt to teach them anything beyond barrack-square drill; the vast
majority grew up ignorant of every detail of their profession, and
as the Staff College at Camberley was not then in existence, the
officers selected for employment on the staff proved in the majority
of cases to be blind leaders of the blind. The few veterans of the
Peninsula who were still to be found among the Generals had seen war
on a grand scale; the officers who had served in eastern and colonial
campaigns had acquired much useful knowledge in these distant
operations, but with these exceptions the Staff and regimental
officers were as untrained in the practice, as they were unversed in
the theory of war.

When the Royal Irish reached England they were quartered at Chatham
and Canterbury. At first there seemed no likelihood of their being
actively employed, for when the regiment had left India many men
had volunteered into other corps, and the climate of Burma had
told so heavily on those who still remained with the Colours that
a large number of them were unfit for active service. Fortune,
however, befriended the XVIIIth; in October the flank companies
under Brevet-Lieutenant-Colonel Edwards were ordered to Windsor, to
strengthen the militia battalion which had replaced the regiment of
Foot Guards at the Royal Castle. Her Majesty, Queen Victoria was much
impressed by the bronzed and soldierly appearance of the detachment,
and learning from Colonel Edwards that the regiment was most anxious
to serve in the war, she was pleased to direct that the XVIIIth
should proceed forthwith to the Crimea, where reinforcements were
urgently required. As the result of the medical examination proved
that less than four hundred men were fit for the campaign, volunteers
were invited from other regiments: four hundred joined from the
94th, a hundred and fifty from the 51st, and smaller contingents
from other corps. On December 8, 1854, the regiment, eight hundred
and forty-eight strong,[161] embarked at Portsmouth in the s.s.
_Magdalene_, and reached the Crimea at the end of the year, about
three months and a half after the Allies had made good their footing
on Russian soil.

To enable the reader to understand the condition of the British
Expeditionary Force when the _Magdalene_ steamed into the harbour of
Balaclava, it is necessary to give a very short account of the main
events of the war up to the end of 1854. Between the 14th and 18th
of September the Allies[162] were engaged in landing at Kalamita
Bay, about thirty miles north of Sebastopol; two days after their
disembarkation was completed they forced the passage of the river
Alma, defeating the Russians so completely that they were allowed
to march southward without molestation, and to form bases on the
coast within a few miles of Sebastopol, the British establishing
themselves at Balaclava, a little port eight miles to the south, the
French at Kamiesch Bay, six miles to the south-west of the fortress.
The Russian stronghold lies on the shores of a harbour, in shape not
unlike a T: the top of the letter is represented by an arm of the sea
running eastward from the Euxine for about four miles, and varying
in width from a thousand to twelve hundred yards, while the leg is
formed by a narrow creek which from the south runs into the main
inlet, about two miles from the entrance to the open sea. On these
deep and sheltered waters the whole of the Russian fleet could ride
in safety, protected by a ring of forts from attack by land or sea,
and the labours of successive generations of engineers had converted
the western shore of the creek, or inner harbour, into a vast arsenal
and dockyard, round which a thriving and populous city had sprung
up. The Generals of the Anglo-French forces soon ascertained by
reconnaissance that they had not nearly men enough to invest the
whole perimeter of the fortress, and at the same time to repel the
attacks to be expected from the enemy’s field troops. All they could
hope to accomplish was to pour upon one portion of the defences a
fire so heavy as to become insupportable; and as the real power of
the defence was obviously concentrated in the arsenals, stores, and
barracks round the inner harbour, the Allies selected the southern
works, those protecting the heart of the fortress, as the object of
their first attack, and took up positions on the plateau between
Balaclava and Sebastopol. Bounded on the north by the harbour, on
the west and south by the sea, and on the east by the valley of the
Tchernaya, the surface of this plateau, or “Upland” as the British
termed it, was seamed by ravines which, beginning as mere depressions
in the ground, grew deeper as they approached the fortress, finally
becoming precipitous gorges, difficult for troops to cross. Close
to the harbour the ground between these gorges rose into gentle
elevations, crowned by works which, as soon as the Russians realised
that the southern side of the fortress was threatened, were heavily
armed and greatly strengthened. The largest of these ravines,
dividing the plain from south to north, descended to the head of the
inner harbour, and served as the boundary between the British on the
right, and the French on the left of the besiegers’ line.

Owing to the inability of the Allies to invest the fortress
completely, communication continued uninterrupted between the
northern part of Sebastopol and the interior of the Crimea; early
in October the civilian population quitted the town, and thus
relieved the troops of the burden of feeding thousands of useless
non-combatants. The forethought of the Russians had collected in the
magazines of Sebastopol enormous supplies of guns, ammunition, and
warlike stores; the commissariat was well provided; the garrison
consisted of 38,000 men--soldiers, military workmen already partially
trained to arms, and sailors from the men-of-war which, at the
approach of the Allies, had been sunk to block the mouth of the outer
harbour. Among the regular troops was an officer in himself worth
an army--Todleben, an engineer who had already made his mark in the
fighting on the Danube. When it became known that the Allies were
sailing for the Crimea he was sent to Sebastopol, where he became the
mainspring of the defence. His courage and genius, his versatility
and resource, his boundless energy, his power of inspiring enthusiasm
and devotion among his men won for him the deepest respect of his
enemies, and the fervent admiration of his fellow countrymen, who
with good reason claim for him a high place among great military
engineers. He soon had an opportunity of displaying his talents.
In the middle of October the Allies opened fire upon the fortress,
and at the close of the bombardment had reason to be satisfied with
the result, for the works were reduced to shapeless heaps, the
batteries ruined, the guns disabled. But next morning the assailants
discovered that in Todleben they had to meet a master-mind: during
the night he had rebuilt the parapets, repaired the batteries, and
replaced the damaged guns from the almost boundless supply of cannon
at his command. On the 25th, the Russian Field army, which after
its defeat at the Alma had retired into the interior of the Crimea
to await reinforcements, made an unsuccessful attempt to break the
line of communication between the British camps on the Upland and
Balaclava. A few days later the Allies determined to assault the
fortress, but their project was discovered by the enemy. At dawn
on the 4th of November, the garrison and the field army together
attacked the British right; and though after a desperate battle, to
which the name of Inkerman has been given, the victory remained to
the Allies, it was dearly bought: the British casualties were 597
killed and 1760 wounded, while those of the French were 143 killed
and 786 wounded. The Russians on their side lost more than 12,000
men, of whom a very large proportion were left dead upon the field.

So far our army had not fared badly in the campaign: the hardships
had not been greater than were to be expected on active service,
and reinforcements had filled the gaps caused by casualties and
disease. Cholera, indeed, hung about the camp, and the men were
undoubtedly overworked, for when the Anglo-French generals drew up
their plans for the siege, the share in the operations which Lord
Raglan undertook was greater than his troops could accomplish without
undue fatigue. But despite sickness and overstrain the health of
the army was fairly good, and when, a few days after Inkerman, it
was officially announced that the Allies would spend the winter
in the Crimea, men looked forward to the prospect without great
apprehension, for the weather was fine, and the Indian summer,
bright, mild, and dry, gave no hint of the rigours of the coming
winter. Suddenly a terrific storm of rain and wind burst upon the
Crimea, levelled whole camps and blew the tents, and all that the
tents contained, far and wide over the Upland; the supplies of food
and forage at the front were destroyed, and communication with
Balaclava was temporarily cut off by the force of the hurricane.
Had the fleet of store-ships then at anchor at Balaclava, or lying
off the port, escaped destruction, the damage, in great measure at
least, could have been repaired; but twenty-one vessels were dashed
to pieces, and eight more disabled. The ships that went to the
bottom contained forage, ammunition, war-like stores of every kind,
drugs and surgical appliances, warm flannel shirts and drawers,
woollen stockings, boots and watch-coats--everything that the army
most urgently required. When fresh supplies arrived at Balaclava
from England the means of conveying them to the Upland was utterly
inadequate, for we had landed without a transport corps, depending
for land carriage on such horses and vehicles as could be seized in
the Crimea. The animals thus obtained died fast from want of forage,
and in January, 1855, the Commissariat department could only muster
333 horses and mules and 12 camels, while the divisional transport
consisted of a few ponies, dying from starvation and overwork. Though
horses in plenty were to be bought in the countries near the Crimea,
and many transports were available to bring them to Balaclava, it
was useless to import animals until forage arrived to feed them, and
forage unhappily was an article of which the Treasury had neglected
to make an adequate provision. Consequently upon the troops fell the
whole labour of carrying on their shoulders from the port to the
camps everything that was required, not only for their own support,
but for the conduct of the siege. As was to be expected, the men
broke down terribly fast; in November there were nearly 17,000 on the
sick list; in December there were more than 19,000 ineffectives, and
in January, 1855, no less than 23,076 men filled the hospitals. The
horrors of this period of the war are well described by Field-Marshal
Sir Evelyn Wood, who served on shore as a midshipman in one of the
Naval brigades.

  “In the early part of the winter the battalions at the front
  were generally on duty two nights out of three, and later,
  every alternate night. The life of the rank and file was thus
  spent:--The men were mustered carrying great-coat and blanket,
  just before dusk, and marched through a sea of mud into the
  trenches. These were cut up by deep holes from which boulders and
  stones had been taken, and into these holes on dark nights, the
  men often fell. When the soldier reached his position, he had to
  sit with his back to the parapet, and his feet drawn up close
  under his body to allow others to pass along the four-feet-wide
  trench. If he was not detailed for a working party, nor for
  piquet in the trenches or in advance of them, he might lie down,
  resting as best he could, in a wet ditch. Assuming that the
  soldier was not on piquet, and that there was no alarm--and these
  were of frequent occurrence--he could, after the working parties
  and their reliefs had ceased to move about the trenches, repose
  till daylight, when he marched back to camp, and after a few
  hours’ rest had to carry a load of some kind.

  “The comparative repose enjoyed by those men who were required
  only as a guard, or reserve in the trenches, was very different
  to the condition of those who were employed from 200 to 300 yards
  in advance of our works, often within conversational distance of
  the opposing sentries. The reliefs for the sentries could snatch
  a dog’s sleep for four hours out of six, hoping their comrades
  would by remaining on the alert give them time to jump up ere
  the enemy was on them; but for the two hours that each man was
  out near the enemy, the strain on the nervous system would have
  been great even to a robust, well-fed man. These sentries had
  necessarily to stand absolutely still, silent and watchful, and
  as the severity of the weather became more and more marked,
  numbers of men whose frames were weakened by want of adequate
  nutritious food, were found in the morning frost-bitten and
  unable to move. One battalion which landed nearly 900 strong
  early in November, was actually in the trenches six nights out of
  seven, and then became so reduced, not only in numbers,[163] but
  also in the men’s bodily strength, that it was unable for some
  time to go there again.

  “When the soldier got back to camp, he used to lie, often in
  a puddle, which chilled his bones, under a worn-out tent,
  through which the rain beat. The less robust would fall asleep,
  completely worn out, to awake shivering, and in many cases to be
  carried to a hospital tent scarcely more comfortable than the
  tent which they had left, and thence to a grave in two or three
  days. Those who were stronger, went out to collect roots of
  brushwood, or of vines, and roasted the green coffee ration in
  the lid of the canteen, afterwards pounding it in a fragment of
  shell with a stone, ere they boiled it for use. Others, unequal
  to this laborious process, would drink their rum, and eating a
  piece of biscuit, lie down again in the great-coat and blanket
  which they had brought, often wet through from the trenches.

  “In the afternoon the soldier was sent on ‘fatigue’ duty from
  five to seven miles, according to the position of his camp,
  usually to Balaclava, to bring up rations. On his return he had
  again to gather fuel in order to boil the salt beef or salt pork
  in his mess tin, which did not hold water enough to abstract the
  salt. A portion of the meat therefore only was consumed, and
  it was necessary from time to time to tell off men to bury the
  quantities thrown away. Salt pork which was issued two days out
  of seven, was frequently eaten by the men in its raw state, from
  the difficulties of finding fuel to cook it.

  “Shortly before dusk the soldier either marched back to the
  trenches, or lay down to sleep if he was not on piquet in front
  of the camp. Many men disliking to report themselves sick, were
  carried back from the trenches in the morning, and died a few
  hours afterwards. Those who were reported sick were taken to
  hospital, in many cases merely a bell tent; here the men lay,
  often in mud on the ground, and in many instances their diet was
  only salt meat and biscuit.[164] They were moreover so crowded
  together that the doctors could scarcely pass between the
  patients.

  “The Regimental Medical officers unable to provide comforts,
  medicine or proper housing, were eager to send down their
  patients, even in storm and rain, to Balaclava, as the best
  chance of saving their lives. As we had no ambulances, and the
  French could not always lend us mule litter-transport, many were
  necessarily carried on cavalry horses, which slipping upon the
  hill outside Balaclava, often caused further injury or the death
  of the patient.

       *       *       *       *       *

  “The small schoolhouse at Balaclava, which we used as a hospital,
  held only between 300-400 men, thus the great majority of the
  sick and wounded were necessarily laid on the beach, exposed to
  all weathers, while awaiting their turn for embarcation in the
  transports. On the steamer running between Balaclava and the
  Bosphorus--a voyage of 36 to 48 hours--the soldier seldom got
  anything but tea and biscuit, sometimes only water. During this
  short but terribly trying passage, from 8 to 9% succumbed and
  were thrown overboard. Once on shore there was often a further
  painful wait on the beach before they were carried up to the
  hospital.

       *       *       *       *       *

  “We who saw the ‘old soldier’ die without a murmur may well be
  excused dilating on his virtues, when we endeavour to describe
  what he suffered for our country, the ministry of which, having
  given him a task far beyond his strength, failed to supply
  him with clothes and food. It is impossible to overpraise the
  disciplined silence of men under privations, which in a few weeks
  reduced one battalion from nearly 1000 effectives to a strength
  of 30 rank and file.”[165]

This misery was at its height when the Royal Irish disembarked at
Balaclava on December 30, 1854; casualties, hardships, and disease
had so thinned the British ranks that in January, 1855, to meet all
requirements of the siege Lord Raglan had only 11,000 men at duty
on the Upland, many of whom were only fit to be in hospital: one
day, indeed, after providing fatigues to bring up the necessaries of
life from Balaclava, he could only turn out two hundred and ninety
officers and men to guard his trenches--about one-twentieth part of
the garrisons of the forts opposite his works, against which at any
moment the Russians might have directed a sortie. The regiments upon
which the war had told most heavily had almost ceased to exist: one
battalion paraded for duty with a few officers, a sergeant, and seven
rank and file. With his army in such a condition, it was impossible
for Lord Raglan to continue responsible for the whole of the ground
allotted to him at the beginning of the siege, and the French, who
had been very largely reinforced, and whose sufferings, though great,
were in comparison with ours but insignificant, relieved him on the
extreme right of his line. The material result of this necessary
but deplorable admission of weakness was to “sandwich” the British
between two wings of the French army, while morally it reduced us to
the position of a mere contingent in the forces of Napoleon III. By
England’s persistent neglect of all things military she had sown the
storm, and her unhappy soldiers in the Crimea reaped the whirlwind;
and it was not for many months, after thousands of lives had been
wasted[166] and money spent like water, that her army was once more
able to take its proper place in the forces of the alliance against
Russia.

The Royal Irish were not at once sent up to the front, but for
nearly a fortnight were employed on fatigues about the port. Thanks
to this delay they were able to see their baggage and camp equipage
safe on shore, and thus, when ordered to the Upland, they began the
campaign well prepared to face the hardships that awaited them. In
this respect they were far better off than the regiments which first
landed in the Crimea. The original expedition had disembarked with
hardly any vehicles; the men were so much enfeebled by the climate of
Varna that they could not bear the weight of their knapsacks, which
with the rest of the baggage were left on board the transports; and
when these vessels ultimately reached Balaclava, knapsacks, stores,
and regimental property of every kind were lost in the confusion
which for many months reigned supreme at our base of operations. The
miseries undergone by the troops who landed at the beginning of the
war have already been described; and the ragged, jaded starvelings
who dragged themselves from the camps on the Upland to the port of
Balaclava on the daily quest for food were in pitiable contrast to
the well-fed, well-clothed, well-shod men of the XVIIIth. These
material advantages doubtless contributed largely towards the
comparative immunity from sickness enjoyed by the regiment during the
siege, but an even more important factor in its well-being was the
presence in its ranks of a large number of soldiers who had been on
active service, and of many officers who had learned in two long wars
not only to take care of themselves, but also of the men under their
command.

On January 12, 1855, the Royal Irish received orders to join
Major-General Sir William Eyre’s brigade, then composed of the 4th,
38th, and 50th regiments, which formed part of the third division
under Lieutenant-General Sir Richard England; and leaving a guard
over such of their property as they could not carry with them, they
started for the Upland. Their introduction to campaigning in the
Crimea was a rude one; a blizzard raged as they floundered through
deep snow along a track, marked by the bodies of transport animals
killed by starvation and overwork; and when late in the afternoon
they reached Eyre’s camp, they were told off by companies to find
shelter in the lines of other corps, for their own tents had been
left standing at Balaclava from want of transport to move them. When
the Royal Irish succeeded in bringing up their tents from Balaclava,
they settled down in camp with the handiness of seasoned troops.
Most of the officers dug out the earth inside their tents to a depth
of eighteen inches, piling the soil on the curtains to keep out the
wind. There was no means of draining the inside of these habitations,
“holes in the ground, roofed over with canvas,” as they were well
described, but as the camp of the third division was pitched on dry
and porous ground the XVIIIth were not troubled with water inside
their tents, nor outside had they the miseries of mud and standing
pools which made the camps on low ground so wretched. As for “warming
the tents,” continues Captain Kemp’s[167] statement,

  “in mine we improvised a stove out of an old square biscuit-tin;
  we let part of it into the earthen wall of the dug-out tent, and
  made a chimney-pipe out of round meat tins, slipped one inside
  the other. This chimney passing through the soil, came out clear
  of the canvas and was then turned upwards for a couple of feet.
  It answered well, though we were at times half smothered with the
  smoke. Wood for fuel was very scarce. A small quantity was served
  out for the soldiers’ cooking places, but the men had to carry
  it into camp on their shoulders for a distance of two miles or
  more. Their cooking was done in the usual trench in the open, but
  in very severe weather--rain, wind or snow--it was impossible to
  keep the fires going: this was one of the great hardships of the
  campaign. The cooking for the officers was done close to their
  tents, in holes or trenches dug by the servants, who used to
  throw the earth round the kitchen, and cover it with any bits of
  canvas they could find. Our servants had to forage for firewood,
  and generally brought back nothing but the wet roots of vines
  which they had grubbed up.”

Each officer took out with him to the war a canteen containing
cooking utensils, plates, dishes, and cups, but the wear and
tear of camp life soon made havoc of this kit. At a farewell
dinner given in March by the XVIIIth to Colonel Reignolds when,
completely broken down by hardships, he made over the regiment to
Brevet-Lieutenant-Colonel Edwards and went home invalided, each of
the officers had to cook some part of the feast in his own kitchen,
and brought the remnants of his plates, knives and forks, and the
articles of food he had provided to the dinner, where empty jam pots
took the place of soup plates and champagne glasses.

As soon as the Royal Irish joined Eyre’s brigade they began to do
duty in the trenches, where parties were sent for twelve hours at a
time to guard the works, make good with sand-bags the damage done to
the parapets by the enemy’s projectiles, and improve the drainage.
In March, when the weather began to moderate, the tour of duty was
increased to twenty-four hours, much to the men’s satisfaction,
as those who were not wanted by day for guards or working parties
snatched some hours’ sleep in the dry caves of the great ravine
which, as has already been mentioned, marked the left of the
British front. The duty, heavy for all, was particularly hard on
the officers, who were often in the trenches for seventy-two hours
in the week. By day they had to direct the men at their labours, by
night to be prepared to meet an attack from the fortress. Thanks to
their incessant care in seeing that the men were always ready for any
emergency, and to half-hourly visits to the sentries, the officers
of the XVIIIth were never surprised, and whenever the regiment was
in the trenches the Russians received so unfriendly a welcome that
they never attempted to push home, though on several occasions they
crossed bayonets with the outlying sentries. These local attacks were
not the only dangers of night work during the siege. If the wind
served, and the Russians heard a party at work, they threw fireballs,
which on striking the ground burst into a great flare; then, guided
by the light, they poured grape upon the labourers, who used to throw
themselves for shelter behind the parapet of the trench until the
cannonade ceased. Things began to brighten on the Upland in March:
a great burst of indignation at home against the archaic methods
by which the army was administered had roused the officials of the
War Office and the Treasury to a tardy sense of their shortcomings:
a gang of navvies from England had almost finished a railway from
Balaclava to the camps; a transport corps had been organised and was
doing good service,[168] and the troops, once more properly clothed,
discarded the weird garments with which they had covered their
nakedness during the winter months, and began to resume the bearing
of British soldiers. So marked was the improvement in the appearance
of the men that some martinets considered that only one thing was
required to bring the army up to its old level--the resumption
of the stock, which by general consent had been discarded at the
beginning of the war: but this relic of barbarism was not taken
into use for many months, and then only on the ceremonial parades
at the end of the war. In justice to the XVIIIth it should be said
that throughout the siege all ranks managed to turn out respectably
attired. The officers wore their red shell-jackets or blue frocks
under the regimental great-coat; and they were also provided with
a non-regulation garment, much like the “coat-warm-British” of the
present day, made of serge, lined with rabbit-skin, and reaching
almost to the knee. The great-coats of the men looked decent, and
concealed the blankets below them, converted into loosely fitting
under-coats by the simple expedient of cutting holes in them for the
men’s arms to come through. All ranks had fur caps, the envy of the
whole army. About this time the Minié rifles, with which the army
were then supposed to be armed, were issued to the Royal Irish, who
had been hurried off to the war equipped with Brown-Bess percussion
muskets, the same weapons that they had used in Burma.

Even in the worst part of the winter the Allies never wholly
discontinued their siege operations, and as the weather became
less severe their parallels were pushed forward steadily towards
Sebastopol. The Russians on their side had not been idle: large
reinforcements from the field army so abundantly made good the losses
of the garrison that Todleben could command the services of 6000, and
even on occasions of 10,000 men in carrying out his improvements
of the defences. He seized and fortified fresh ground overlooking
some of the works of the Allies, and devised a successful method of
harassing the men on duty in the trenches. Under cover of darkness
he dug numbers of shallow rifle-pits within musketry range of our
lines, posting in each a marksman whose duty it was to shoot at every
living target he could see. These pits were gradually connected by
continuous trenches, and became a source of much annoyance to the
Anglo-French troops, who found them difficult to deal with: to turn
the sharpshooters out with the bayonet was costly, while to shell
so small a mark as they presented was very difficult, and therefore
little sandbag forts were run up at intervals on the parapets of the
trenches, manned by soldiers detailed to keep down the skirmishers’
fire. In spite, however, of Todleben’s efforts the Allies succeeded
in arming their batteries with an imposing number of heavy guns,
and early in April finished their preparations for a vigorous
bombardment, the prelude (as it was universally believed) to the
storming of Sebastopol. The French could bring to bear 378 pieces
of ordnance; the British had only 123 guns and mortars available,
but as for the most part they were much more powerful than those of
the French, the difference in weight of metal was not great. The
cannonade began on the 9th of April, and raged for ten days and
nights, for though the guns did not fire after the sun was down, the
mortars continued to play upon the fortress throughout the night.
Though mitigated by Todleben’s genius for rapid repairs, the effect
of the bombardment was very great, and all ranks were awaiting orders
for the attack when Canrobert, who on the death of St Arnaud had
succeeded to the command of the French, decreed that the assault was
to be postponed.[169] The fire of the guns was gradually allowed to
die down: the digging parties resumed work upon the approaches: and
the Russians were allowed to carry out the restoration of their works
without interruption other than that of occasional shots from our
batteries. This bombardment cost the enemy 6000 men: in the ranks
of the Allies the casualties were far smaller, amounting among the
French to 1585, among the British to 265 of all ranks.

Up to the middle of June the record of the XVIIIth is one of
exceedingly hard work, unbroken by the excitement of any important
engagement. The Royal Irish were employed in many different ways.
They toiled along the track, first from Balaclava, and then from
railhead to the camps on the Upland, laden, to use the soldiers’
expression, “like commissariat mules,” with stores; they were on
fatigues of every kind, from digging parallels and throwing up
batteries to making gabions and fascines; and they took their turn
in the trenches, where, though they demanded and often obtained the
dangerous privilege of guarding the approaches nearest to the enemy,
their losses were small. Between the 6th of February, when their
first casualty occurred, and the 17th of June, only six men were
killed and thirty-six wounded. Of these injuries, however, many were
of the gravest nature: on one occasion a shell from a Russian mortar
burst among a detachment on its way to the trenches and struck down
ten of the party. To save the lives of the wounded the surgeons had
to perform amputations upon each of them, and seven men lost a leg
apiece, two an arm each, while the least hurt escaped with the loss
of a hand. This comparative immunity from casualties, however, was
not to last, for the regiment was now to be called upon to undergo
an ordeal nearly as severe as those in its campaigns under William
III. and Marlborough. At the beginning of June the immediate object
of the Allies was the capture of three outlying fortifications,
outposts which covered the left of the line of Russian defences. The
trenches of the French right attack were faced by the White Works
and a hill called “the Mamelon,” the latter of which barred the way
to the Malakoff redoubt, one of the keys of the main position; the
British sap led to “the Quarries,” where a number of works covered
the Redan, a fort as formidable and as important as the Malakoff
itself. On the 6th of June another great bombardment began; five
hundred and forty-four pieces of heavy ordnance hurled shot and shell
into the Russian works, and though answered by almost an equal number
inflicted great injury: many cannon were dismounted and earth-works
ruined before darkness imposed silence upon our guns, though not upon
our howitzers, which continued to fire throughout the night. Thanks
to the boundless energy of Todleben and the dogged industry of his
men, much of the damage was made good before dawn; the cannon were
remounted and the parapets rebuilt; but early in the morning the
English and French re-opened fire with such terrible effect that in
two hours the _morale_ of the defenders was seriously affected. Then
the infantry of the Allies was let loose, and after heavy fighting
succeeded in taking the points assailed. In these achievements the
XVIIIth had no part, as the third division was not employed in the
capture of the Quarries.

As soon as these three outlying works had been taken, the Allies
began to prepare for an attack on the Malakoff and the Redan, and on
the 17th of June the batteries concentrated a furious fire on the
Russian fortifications, with results so destructive to the enemy’s
artillery that everything appeared to promise success for the assault
on the morrow. Lord Raglan and Marshal Pélissier, who had recently
been placed in command of the French army, had already agreed upon
their plans; remembering how rapidly during the night of the 6th-7th
of June the Russians had re-fitted their batteries, the Generals
decided that the cannonade should be resumed at daylight for two
hours, when it was calculated that the enemy’s guns would be silenced
and the repairs of the night destroyed. The infantry was then to come
into action, the French against the Malakoff, the British against
the Redan. Barnard’s brigade of the third division was to support
the storming columns, while on the extreme left Eyre, with the other
brigade of the same division, was to threaten the fortifications
on the Russian right of the Redan and in front of the Dockyard
Creek, and to convert his demonstration into a serious attack if
the assault on the Redan proved successful. Raglan’s preparations
for the execution of his part of this scheme were completed, when
suddenly, late on the night of the 17th, Pélissier informed the
British Commander-in-Chief that he had resolved to dispense with
the preliminary bombardment, and to storm the Malakoff at daybreak.
Against his own judgment, and in an evil hour for the Allied armies,
Raglan consented to this all-important change of plan; the infantry
attacks on the Malakoff and the Redan were delivered without adequate
artillery preparation; Todleben, who had done wonders during the
night, was ready at every point, and the combined assault was beaten
back with heavy loss. The only troops on whom Fortune smiled this day
were those of Eyre’s brigade, who fought magnificently, and worthily
sustained the honour of the British army. The brigade was at this
time composed of the 9th, XVIIIth, 28th, 38th, and 44th regiments,
but so heavily had the campaign told upon them that, when in the
small hours of the 18th of June Eyre mustered these five battalions,
there were but two thousand men in their depleted ranks. Covered by
an advance-guard of a hundred and fifty sharpshooters--volunteers
from each company in his command--the General left his camp while
it was still black night, and marched down the great ravine towards
the Dockyard Creek. At daybreak, just as the troops detailed for
the assault on the Redan were swarming out of the trenches in which
they had been assembled, Eyre’s advance-guard reached a cemetery,
surprised the occupants of the rifle pits by which it was defended,
and captured it without much trouble. This cemetery marked one flank
of the enemy’s line, the other rested on a mamelon;[170] and to quote
the words of Eyre’s report, the intervening ground “was intersected,
and the road barricaded with stone walls, which our men were obliged
to pull down under fire before they could advance. In rear of this
position, towards the fortress, the enemy occupied several houses,
there were bodies of the enemy seen in rear, but in what strength
I could not say. This position, under cover of the walls of the
fortress, was strong.” Well might General Eyre describe the position
as “strong.” The suburb, of which these houses formed part, consisted
of villas standing in gardens, planted with peach-trees in full
blossom, and surrounded with low stone walls, thickly overgrown with
vines. From several points it was commanded by the Russian artillery;
to our “half-left” was the Garden Wall battery; in front rose the
Creek battery, built at the head of the inner harbour of Sebastopol;
on our right was the Barrack battery, and hidden behind the Redan
were field-guns, which after the assault on that work had failed
turned their fire upon Eyre’s regiments.

Before describing the doings of the XVIIIth in detail it will be well
to give a short account of the work done by the brigade as a whole.
Such an account is to be found in the letter to ‘The Times’[171] by
Sir William Russell, the celebrated war correspondent, who, writing
only two days after the battle, seems to have obtained his facts from
the reports supplied to Eyre by the officers commanding his units.
As Russell’s letter is in substantial agreement with Eyre’s report
to his divisional general, its evidence appears valuable. After
mentioning that the advance-guard occupied the cemetery with small
loss, he says--

  “the moment the enemy retreated, their batteries opened a heavy
  fire on the place from the left of the Redan and from the Barrack
  battery. Four companies of the XVIIIth at once rushed on out of
  the cemetery towards the town, and actually succeeded in getting
  possession of the suburb. Captain Hayman was gallantly leading on
  his company when he was shot through the knee. Captain Esmonde
  followed, and the men, once established, prepared to defend the
  houses they occupied.[172] As they drove the Russians out, they
  were pelted with large stones by the latter on their way up to
  the battery, which quite overhangs the suburb. The Russians could
  not depress their guns sufficiently to fire down on our men, but
  they directed a severe flanking fire on them from an angle of the
  Redan works. There was nothing for it but to keep up a vigorous
  fire from the houses, and to delude the enemy into the belief
  that the occupiers were more numerous than they were. Meanwhile
  the Russians did their best to blow down the houses with shot
  and shell, and fired grape incessantly, but the soldiers kept
  close, though they lost men occasionally, and they were most
  materially aided by the fire of the regiments in the cemetery
  behind them, which was directed at the Russian embrasures; so
  that the enemy could not get out to fire on the troops below. The
  9th regiment succeeded in effecting a lodgment in the houses in
  two or three different places, and held their position as well as
  the XVIIIth.... While these portions of the 9th and XVIIIth, and
  parties of the 44th and 28th were in the houses, the detachments
  of the same regiments and of the 38th kept up a hot fire from the
  cemetery on the Russians in the battery and on the sharpshooters,
  all the time being exposed to a tremendous shower of bullets,
  grape, round-shot, shell. The loss of the brigade under such
  circumstances, could not but be extremely severe. One part of
  it, separated from the other, was exposed to a destructive fire
  in houses, the upper portion of which crumbled into pieces or
  fell in under fire, and it was only by keeping in the lower
  storey, which was vaulted and well built, that they were enabled
  to hold their own. The other parts of it, far advanced from our
  batteries, were almost unprotected, and were under a constant
  mitraille and bombardment from guns which our batteries had
  failed to touch.”

Though the repulse of the main British column left Eyre in a
situation of hourly increasing peril, he resolutely continued to hold
the points which the dash and bravery of his troops had gained. At
first he hoped that the Redan might yet be stormed, when his brigade
would be ready to follow up the victory; and when it became clear
that the attack was not to be renewed he declined to fall back,
until an authority higher than his own had decided how much of the
ground that his brigade had won was to be retained. Though Eyre was
wounded comparatively early in the day, it was not until late in the
afternoon that, after giving orders for the gradual withdrawal of the
troops from the houses nearest to the enemy, he made over his command
to the next senior officer and quitted the battlefield. The process
of withdrawal took several hours, and it was not until 9 P.M. that
the Royal Irish, the last regiment of the brigade to retire, began
its march back to the camp of the third division.

How the XVIIIth fared must now be told, as far as possible, in the
words of the officers who had the honour to be present. Late on the
17th, the rumour had run through the lines of the Royal Irish that
the town was to be assaulted next day. The men were wild with joy at
the prospect of taking part in the attack, and talked and sang in
their tents so incessantly that the officers could get no rest during
the few hours allowed the regiment for sleep. At 1 A.M. on the 18th
of June, a date ever memorable in the annals of the regiment, six
hundred and sixty-nine officers and men paraded in front of the camp
of the 9th regiment, where the brigade was formed, the XVIIIth in
front, the 44th, 38th, 28th, and 9th regiments following in the order
named. On the march down the great ravine occurred an interesting
instance of the rigidity of the drill which, in the middle of the
nineteenth century, fettered the movements of the British army. It
has been mentioned that every infantry regiment then had two flank
companies of picked men: those of the right, or grenadier company,
were chosen for height and strength; those of the left, or Light
company, were selected for activity and intelligence. On the parade
ground the rule was that all battalion movements should be made from
the right, and consequently that in column the grenadier company
should always lead. Colonel Edwards had learned in the school of the
Chinese and Burmese wars that all drill is but the means to one end,
the successful attack on an enemy; and thinking that on this occasion
the quick-moving “Light Bobs” were the men first to be employed,
marched off “left in front.” This daring innovation did not long pass
unnoticed, and almost within sight of the enemy he was ordered to
halt, and countermarch his regiment in order to bring the grenadier
company to the head of the column. In 1855, the countermarch was an
evolution slow and ponderous in broad daylight, and doubly difficult
of execution in semi-darkness, at a time when the pulses of all
ranks were throbbing with the excitement of a night march and an
impending battle. After the manœuvre was carried out, the brigade
once more advanced, forming into a mass of close columns whenever the
ground permitted. Though it was now almost day the Russians had not
yet detected the presence of Eyre’s troops, and the General took an
opportunity of addressing the Royal Irish, telling them he knew they
would prove themselves good soldiers and “this day do something that
will ring in every cabin in Ireland.” Then he added, “Now, men, above
all things you must be quiet or you’ll get peppered!” In answer to
this very reasonable appeal a shout arose from the ranks, “All right,
your Honour, we’ll get in. Three cheers for the General!” Before the
officers could stop them the men had given three lusty cheers. Eyre
remonstrated, but the Royal Irish were far too eager for the fray to
be sensible, and in response to his reiterated entreaties for silence
they burst out into stentorian cheering, this time for Old Ireland.
“Let them go in and attack,” cried the General in despair; “they will
only draw fire upon us!”

From a letter written by Colonel Edwards two days after the battle,
it appears that while the advance-guard was driving the Russians from
the cemetery at the point of the bayonet, the XVIIIth

  “halted in the open ready for action. Just here the first
  round-shot danced among us, and as the advance party had
  extended and were under such cover as they could find, we met
  the intruder. That peculiar thud (once heard, never forgotten)
  denoted that the round-shot had told, two men being killed. But
  we were compelled to wait a little longer, and then the Grenadier
  company moved off in skirmishing order, soon followed by Nos. 1
  and 2 companies. These three companies occupied the ruined houses
  on the Woronzoff road.”

As the grenadiers, led by Captain Armstrong, were pressing forward
they found their way obstructed by one of the stone walls mentioned
in General Eyre’s report. Two subalterns raced for the wall, and
leapt it at the same moment: Lieutenant Taylor landed safely on the
other side, but Lieutenant Meurant was shot dead as he rose at the
jump. Soon afterwards the remainder of the regiment in column of
sections was moved forward in support, along a lane leading towards
the suburb from the great ravine, the rocky cliffs of which gave the
XVIIIth some cover from cannon shot. The Russian riflemen, however,
speedily found the range, “and the men,” says Colonel Edwards,

  “commenced to fall fast. The General had given me orders to stand
  there, but the casualties were then so great that I put the men
  behind the houses and walls, which saved them much. I did not see
  the General again; he was wounded across the head.

  “All this time the men were coming back from the front, hopping
  or crouching according to the nature of the wound, amongst them
  my friend Captain Hayman, supported by two men, shot through
  the knee, but with a cheerful smile on his face. Seeing that
  the advance was much weakened I supported them with two other
  companies, sending Major Kennedy to the front; he was shortly
  after slightly hit on the side of the head, but not compelled
  to return. The enemy knew well the position of the houses they
  were in, and threw the shell amongst them. Fancy one of these
  visitors falling within ten feet of you--down you must lie, and
  close too, and wait for its bursting, when you are fortunate if
  you have nothing worse than dust to complain of! They not only
  gave shells, but rifle-balls and grape, and many a poor fellow
  who went out to help a wounded comrade was obliged in his turn to
  be carried in desperately wounded.

  “Again the front calls out for ammunition and more men. ‘Up, my
  boys, catch hold of that barrel of ammunition, and rush through
  the whizzing balls, the tearing grape!’ Away they go with a
  cheer! About 12 o’clock the last company but one went out and
  other companies, returning, dreadfully thinned, formed the
  support. Shortly after one, more men were wanted; I sent out the
  last company and went myself. Away we hop from stone to stone
  or bush: ‘ping-ping’ passes the rifle-bullet crashing around
  you; you feel the grape; never mind, on you must go! I found the
  advanced parties in a row of houses under the battery, regularly
  enclosed by a screen of projectiles; you could only creep about.
  In the morning these houses had been occupied by the Russians;
  by the time I got there, everything was broken:--pier glasses in
  shivers; the piano (or as a man called it, the music-box) torn
  open; beds, tables and wardrobes in jumbles of masses. The enemy
  did not like our being there, nor did they like that the houses
  gave us cover; they therefore set fire to them with shells. About
  3 o’clock I received an order to retire, which I could not comply
  with as there were eighteen wounded men to bring away, which
  could not be done till dark.”

According to Colonel Edwards, the three companies of the XVIIIth in
the ruined houses on the Woronzoff road and the other battalions
of the brigade also received this order, and gradually drew back,
leaving the greater part of the Royal Irish in a most dangerous
situation.

  “Every moment our small party was decreasing. What weary hours
  they seemed from three till eight, and just before it was time to
  move, the enemy brought field-pieces to bear upon the houses,
  and they commenced knocking them down about our heads. At last I
  heard with joy ‘The last wounded man has been carried off, Sir.’
  ‘Well, then, go away by twos and threes: keep up a warm fire.
  When across the open, bugler, sound the Regimental Call and the
  Retire.’

  “The work is done, but out of 669 men who left the camp, 250 of
  the Royal Irish had suffered more or less. We did not get home
  till ten o’clock, wearied and exhausted. The remainder of the
  brigade acted on our right, and the 44th lost nearly as many in
  proportion as we did. Our brigade was more than successful, and
  have received great praise, especially the Royal Irish regiment.”

In so broken and disjointed a combat it is always difficult for the
General to select officers and men for special commendation. Eyre
appears to have found it impossible to do so, and after stating in
his report that every one in his brigade “most nobly performed his
duty,” and that “the conduct of all was so exemplary that he could
scarcely with justice particularize individuals,” he contented
himself with mentioning the names of his staff and the officers
commanding the advance-guard and the five regiments of the brigade.
Colonel Edwards’ report on the part played by the XVIIIth doubtless
recorded some of the deeds of valour performed by the Royal Irish;
but unhappily no copy of this document has been preserved in the
archives of the regiment. His letter, vivid and deeply interesting
as it is, was written, it is believed, for the information of Her
Majesty, Queen Victoria, and aims obviously at giving a general
account of the engagement, without any unnecessary detail. The
“Digest of Service” should have contained every particular of the
doings of the regiment, but unfortunately it was compiled by an
officer who recorded the adventures of the XVIIIth in the Crimea in
two or three loosely-written pages of foolscap, from which everything
of historical value was omitted. Thus the only accounts of the
exploits of the Royal Irish on the 18th of June are to be found in
a few statements, contributed by officers many years after the war
was over, and in the dry official words announcing the bestowal of
decorations. Every soldier knows that for one specially brave deed
reported after an engagement, scores pass unnoticed or are forgotten,
and therefore the instances now given can be regarded only as
specimens of the conduct of the regiment as a whole.

Captain Thomas Esmonde was awarded the Victoria Cross[173] for two
acts of bravery, the first of which was performed on the 18th of
June. The Gazette runs as follows: “for having, after being engaged
in the attack on the Redan,[174] repeatedly assisted at great
personal risk under a heavy fire of shell and grape, in rescuing
wounded men from exposed situations; and also, while in command of a
covering party two days after, for having rushed with the most prompt
and daring gallantry to a spot where a fire-ball from the enemy had
just been lodged, which he effectually extinguished before it had
betrayed the position of the working party under his protection,
thus saving it from a murderous fire of shell and grape, which was
immediately opened upon the spot where the fire-ball had fallen.”

Captain Dillon volunteered to rescue from under a heavy fire of grape
and musketry seven wounded men, who were lying in the houses nearest
to the Russian works, and succeeded in doing so.

Sergeant John Grant belonged to one of the companies in the houses
nearest to the Russian battery, and brought a message from his
captain to Colonel Edwards. When Colonel Edwards saw that Sergeant
Grant was bleeding from two severe wounds he desired him to fall back
out of harm’s way, but Grant so earnestly begged to be allowed to
return to his officer that Colonel Edwards permitted him once more to
risk his life in crossing the fire-swept belt of ground between the
supports and his own company. Grant lived for many years to enjoy an
annuity of £20, which accompanied the medal for meritorious service
in the field, awarded to him for this act of bravery.

Lieutenant T. D. Baker displayed great gallantry throughout the day,
as did Sergeant John Gleeson, Corporal Niel O’Donnell, and privates
J. Weir, E. Loughton, and J. Byrne.

As an instance of the spirit shown by the wounded who were left
upon the field, this story is quoted from Russell’s account of the
battle. During the armistice of the 19th for the collection of the
wounded and the burial of the dead, Major-General Eyre came to the
part of the cemetery where a sergeant of the Royal Irish lay, with
both his legs broken by a round-shot. “General,” exclaimed the
non-commissioned officer, “thank God, _we_ did _our_ work, anyway.
Had I another pair of legs, the country and you would be welcome to
them!”

The operations of the 17th and 18th cost the French 3500 men,
the British 1500, the Russians 5400, and of the six generals and
commanders, French and English, who led the attacks on the 18th,
four were killed and one disabled. When Eyre’s casualty returns
were made up, it was found that his brigade had lost 562 killed and
wounded. To this total the Royal Irish contributed no less than 259,
almost 39 per cent of the regiment as it went into action. Among the
officers, Lieutenant J. W. Meurant was killed, and ten were wounded,
several being dangerously or severely injured. They were--Major J.
C. Kennedy; Captains J. Cormick, A. W. S. F. Armstong, M. Hayman, H.
F. Stephenson, and J. G. Wilkinson; Lieutenants W. O’B. Taylor, W.
Kemp, F. Fearnley, and C. Hotham. Of the other ranks 57 were killed
or mortally wounded, 16 were dangerously and 87 severely wounded,
and 88 more slightly injured.[175] The wounded were gradually carried
back to the camp of the IIIrd brigade, which they soon filled to
overflowing. To our modern ideas the preparations for their reception
were singularly rough. “So many of us had been hit,” writes Captain
Kemp, who himself had been struck by a bullet in the knee, “that
the orderly room and mess huts and every other available place was
appropriated for our use. At first my leg was doomed to come off,
and I was laid on the amputation table for the purpose, but as I was
too weak then it was left on till the morrow. Next day I was allowed
to retain it by the decision of one of the staff surgeons, who said,
most luckily for me, ‘Let us give the poor lad a chance,’ but I
became very ill from fever and the intense heat of the tent,[176] and
shortly afterwards was ordered home. I was moved to Balaclava in one
of the ‘carrying chairs’ slung on the side of a mule, and fainted
nearly all the way from sun and weakness.”

After their double repulse at the Malakoff and the Redan the Allies
lost no time in resuming the ordinary operations of the siege: their
approaches were steadily pushed forward, and their guns kept up a
heavy fire upon the fortress. In July the average daily loss in
Sebastopol was two hundred and fifty, while each day in August saw
the strength of the garrison diminished by eight or nine hundred
officers and men. The Russians, magnificently stubborn fighters as
they were, began to realise that the place was becoming untenable.
The parapets were crumbling under the projectiles of the Anglo-French
artillery; many guns were disabled or worn out, and though there
was still a large reserve of cannon in the arsenal, the fire of our
mortars made it impossible to mount them on the shattered batteries.
Round the disabled guns the dead lay in great heaps, while the
wounded could not be moved till darkness brought some respite to the
harassed garrison. Barracks, arsenals, and store-houses were all more
or less in ruins; and the hospitals, overflowing into the streets and
squares of the town, were rapidly emptied into a cemetery, grimly
termed “the grave of the Hundred Thousand.” Towards the end of August
the Russians determined to abandon Sebastopol; they began to build
a bridge across the outer harbour, strong enough to carry guns and
waggons upon its sixteen feet of roadway; threw up barricades across
the streets of the town, and laid great mines under the forts and
magazines. On the 5th of September, the Allies once more brought all
their guns into action, and bombarded the fortress, almost without
intermission, for three days and nights, and on the 8th, the French
once more assaulted the Malakoff, and the British the Redan. As the
third division was in the reserve and did not come into action,
the XVIIIth regiment was not engaged, and therefore all that need
be said about the result is that we failed to take the Redan, while
the French carried the Malakoff, and succeeded in holding it against
the strenuous efforts of the enemy to recapture it. These attacks
were made by the Russian rear-guard to gain time for the retreat of
the main body from the southern shores of the harbour, and were so
far successful that when the French General heard that the head of
the enemy’s column was marching over the bridge, he was still too
uncertain of ultimate success to attempt any interference with the
retirement. During the night the Russians successfully exploded many
of their mines; destroyed their few remaining warships; set fire to
the town in many places, and called in the troops from the forts;
and by daybreak on the 9th the whole of the garrison, carrying with
them most of the wounded, had crossed the bridge, broken it behind
them, and found safety on the heights to the north of the harbour
of Sebastopol. The losses on both sides in this, the last important
episode in the Crimean War, were very heavy. Our defeat at the Redan
cost us 2271 officers and men, among whom were three generals,
wounded: the French casualties amounted to 7567 of all ranks,
including five generals killed and four wounded: the Russians lost
nine generals and 12,906 other officers and men.

With the fall of the fortress the war in the Crimea came virtually
to an end. The Allies had accomplished their self-imposed task of
destroying Sebastopol and the Black Sea fleet; there was no immediate
object to be gained by a pitched battle with the Russian Field army;
disagreements on questions of future policy caused a considerable
amount of friction between the Ministers of Queen Victoria and the
Emperor Napoleon III., and fettered the movements of the Generals,
who engaged in no further operations except two comparatively
unimportant raids against the towns of Eupatoria and Kilburn, in
neither of which the XVIIIth regiment took part. The French, indeed,
were not anxious, if indeed they were able, to continue the war;
but the English had atoned, though very tardily, for their previous
neglect of their army, by preparing so energetically for another
campaign, that in November there were in the Crimea 51,000 British
troops, a contingent of 20,000 Turks, raised, trained, and officered
by Englishmen, and a German legion of ten thousand men.[177] The
good health of this large body of soldiery showed how excellent
our system of administration had become at the seat of war; at
home recruits were forthcoming in great numbers; the militia had
relieved the troops in the United Kingdom and the Mediterranean
of much garrison duty; Malta was full of trained soldiers, eager
to be employed on active service; in short, the Army, purified by
the ordeal it had passed through, had become once more a first-rate
fighting machine. But the troops arriving after the fall of the
fortress had no opportunity of distinguishing themselves, for though
the enemy annoyed us by cannonading Sebastopol from the northern
shore of the harbour, he made no offensive movement against the
camps on the Upland. Thus the second winter in the Crimea was a
time of comparative rest for the greater part of the army, though
not for the regiments placed at the disposal of the Royal Engineers
to complete the destruction of the forts, arsenals, and dockyards
of the fortress. To the Royal Irish fell a very heavy task, the
demolition of the docks in the inner harbour. As Colonel Edwards
was senior to the engineer officer in charge of the work, the
headquarters of the XVIIIth remained outside the town, and Major
Call was placed in command of the working parties, which practically
consisted of the whole of the Royal Irish. The labour of preparing
the docks for destruction was very great, and the hardships of the
men extreme: to quote the words of the general order of February 7,
1856, praising the zeal and perseverance of all ranks, and thanking
Major Call, among other officers, for his valuable services, “the
work was carried out in the depth of winter; the docks occasionally
flooded, the shafts filled with water, the pumps choked with frost;
but all ranks united to overcome difficulties, and the mass of ruins
is a proof of the success attending the cheerful performance of a
laborious duty.”

This official record is not the only testimony to the good behaviour
of the Royal Irish while they worked like navvies in the docks.
General C. G. Gordon, who as a young officer of Royal Engineers had
served in the Crimea, replied to a request for information about the
doings of the XVIIIth at the siege of Sebastopol in a characteristic
letter:--

  “PORT LOUIS, 3/3/82.

  “MY DEAR MAJOR SAVILE,--Thanks for your note received to-day. I
  am afraid I cannot write anything which would be of value about
  the 18th Royal Irish, as it is now 28 years ago or nearly so,
  since the Crimea. I know that they were a favourite regiment with
  the R.E. for work, both in the trenches and in the destruction
  of the docks, from the energy and pluck of the officers and men,
  and it was then that I formed my opinion of Irishmen being of a
  different nature than other Britishers inasmuch as they required
  a certain management and consideration, which, if given them,
  would enable you, so to speak, to hold their lives in your hand.
  The officers liked the men and the men liked the officers; they
  were a jovial lot altogether, but they would do anything if you
  spoke and treated them as if you liked them, which I certainly
  did. You know what great hardships they went through in the Docks
  in working at the shafts which, 30 feet deep, were often full
  of water, if left, unpumped out, for 12 hours. Poor devils! wet,
  draggled, in their low ammunition boots, I used to feel much for
  them, for the Generals used to be down on them because they were
  troublesome, which they were when people did not know how to
  manage them.

  “Kindest regards to General Edwards, a fine, clever old officer
  who had all our respect.

  “I am sorry I can write you no details.--Believe me, yours
  sincerely,

  “C. G. GORDON.”

It will be noticed that neither in the official expression of thanks
nor in Gordon’s letter is there any reference to the fact that the
Russians frequently shelled the working parties at the docks. The
troops were so used to being under fire that they looked upon it as
an everyday occurrence, and a few casualties were considered unworthy
of notice. Thanks, however, to Colonel Elliot’s diary, we know that
rheumatic fever and frost-bite were not the only dangers to which the
Royal Irish were exposed. On December 3, 1855, the Russians fired two
hundred and fifty shells, wounding four men of the regiment; on the
21st they dropped three shells into a barrack-room, luckily without
hitting any one, but smashing beds, knapsacks, and rifles in every
direction; on the last day of the year a shell carried away the arm
of a private, ---- Fitzgerald.

While with immense difficulty the English and French engineers
were levelling the naval and military buildings to the ground, and
shattering the docks beyond all hope of restoration, the diplomatists
of Europe were doing their utmost to bring hostilities to an end;
late in February an armistice was arranged, and on the 30th of
March, 1856, the world was gladdened by the news that peace had been
proclaimed. The effort to save Constantinople from the Russians,
though successful, had cost England dear, as these grim figures show--

  ----------------------+--------+--------+---------+---------+-------
                        |        |        |         |         |
                        | Killed.| Died of| Died of | Wounded.| Total.
                        |        | Wounds.| Disease.|         |
  ----------------------+--------+--------+---------+---------+-------
  Officers              |    157 |     86 |     147 |     515 |    905
                        |        |        |         |         |
  Non-Commissioned      |        |        |         |         |
      Officers          |    161 |     85 |     574 |     579 |  1,399
                        |        |        |         |         |
  Privates              |  2,437 |  1,848 |  15,320 |  10,782 | 30,387
  ----------------------+--------+--------+---------+---------+-------
                        |  2,755 |  2,019 |  16,041 |  11,876 | 32,691
  ----------------------+--------+--------+---------+---------+-------

Though our Allies also suffered severely, the losses of the Western
Powers and of the Ottoman Empire pale into insignificance before
those of the Russians. During the last six months of the siege
81,000 soldiers were killed or wounded in or around Sebastopol; the
whole campaign in the Crimea cost the Czar 153,000 troops; while the
reinforcements from the interior of Russia endured such terrible
hardships on the march to the Black Sea that hundreds of thousands of
men broke down on the way. It is believed that Russia’s total loss
during the war was not less than half a million of men.

The casualties in the XVIIIth Royal Irish regiment were--

  _Officers_--

  Killed            Lieutenant J. W. Meurant.
  Died of disease   Lieutenant E. D. Ricard.
  Wounded           Major J. C. Kennedy.
                    Captains J. Cormick, A. W. S. F. Armstrong,
                      M. Hayman, H. F. Stephenson,
                      J. Wilkinson.
                    Lieutenants W. O’B. Taylor, W. Kemp, F.
                      Fearnley, C. Hotham.

In the other ranks, 41 were killed, 44 died of wounds, 70 died from
accident or disease, and 275 were wounded. Their names will be found
in Appendix 2 (I).[178]

During the first nine months of its service in the Crimea, the
regiment was reinforced by 289 non-commissioned officers and men,
who arrived in drafts from home, and later from Malta where the
four reserve companies were stationed; and on September 9, although
between 140 and 150 men had been killed or died in hospital, and
219 had been invalided or become ineffective from various causes,
there remained, exclusive of officers, no less than 724 effectives
present with the Colours.[179] The XVIIIth regiment was among the
last to leave the Crimea; it was not until June 20, that it embarked
on H.M.S. _Majestic_, an eighty-gun ship, fitted with an auxiliary
screw. Though the crew received their soldier passengers most
hospitably, the voyage was not an agreeable one. The subalterns were
berthed in the cockpit, where, as one of them recorded in his diary,
“there was no room to wash, or dress, or put our baggage; sentries
and reliefs passed through our sleeping-place all night long, shaking
us out of our hammocks; then at a certain hour ruthless sailors came
and packed away the hammocks, whether you wanted to get up or not;
and finally, there was no place to be sick, for the bulwarks were
so high that you could not see over them!” On the 18th of July the
Royal Irish landed at Portsmouth, entrained for Farnborough, and were
marching thence to Aldershot when they were ordered to quicken their
pace as Queen Victoria was waiting to welcome the regiment. Colonel
Edwards thus describes Her Majesty’s inspection of the soldiers who
had fought her battles in China, Burma, and the Crimea: “When formed
in line the appearance of the regiment showed signs of service, the
old clothing, long beards, and the dust of the march giving the men
but a sorry aspect. Her Majesty, passing down the line on foot,
requested me to point out men most deserving of her notice. My answer
was, ‘Were I to do so, the whole regiment would step to the front.’
However, several of the wounded officers and men were presented. When
the Queen arrived in front of the Colours, I respectfuly submitted to
Her Majesty that the regimental badge of the Harp and Crown had been
removed from the uniforms of the men, and the Queen most graciously
gave orders that they should be restored.”

For their services in the Crimea many officers, non-commissioned
officers, and men received promotion or reward. Lieutenant-Colonels
C. A. Edwards and J. C. Kennedy were appointed to be Companions
of the Order of the Bath; Edwards also was made a Brevet-Colonel;
Major G. F. S. Call, Captains J. Cormick, A. W. S. F. Armstrong, J.
Laurie, and M. J. Hayman each received a step in brevet rank. Captain
T. Esmonde was one of the first to receive the Victoria Cross, and
the newly instituted medal for distinguished conduct in the field
was awarded to Sergeant H. Morton, Corporals M. Egan and T. Murphy,
and the following private soldiers, viz., R. Baglin, E. Erwin, T.
Flannery, H. Forrestall, R. Marshall, W. Major, J. M. Guinness, N.
O’Neill, J. Sessman, 2830 P. Whelan, 3521 P. Whelan.[180] In the
matter of foreign decorations the XVIIIth fared well, as each of our
Allies presented orders or medals to specially deserving officers
and men. Brevet-Colonel Edwards, Brevet-Majors Armstrong and Hayman,
Sergeant-Major T. Watt, and Sergeant J. Grant were created members
of the French Legion of Honour by Napoleon III., who also bestowed
war medals on Colour-Sergeant E. Dunne, Sergeant J. Harvey, Sergeant
J. Gleeson, Corporal N. O’Donnell, and Privates J. Cox, E. Laughton,
and J. Byrne. Victor Emmanuel gave the Sardinian war medal to
Lieutenant-Colonel J. C. Kennedy, Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Call,
Lieutenant T. D. Baker, and Private J. Weir. The Turkish Order of
the Medjidie was awarded to Colonel Edwards, Lieutenant-Colonel J.
C. Kennedy, Brevet-Major Cormick, and Lieutenants C. Hotham, O’B.
Taylor, W. Kemp, and C. J. Coote. The British medal for the Crimea
and clasp for Sebastopol and the Turkish medal were awarded to all
who had taken part in the siege, and the word “Sebastopol” added to
the battle honours of the regiment.

[Illustration: MAP N^o. 6.

  Sketch Map
  of the
  CRIMEA
  1855-56

  W. & A.K. Johnston Limited, Edinburgh & London.]

A stained-glass window has been placed in the north transept of St
Patrick’s Cathedral in honour of those who fell in the war with
Russia.



CHAPTER VIII.

1856-1859.

OPERATIONS DURING THE MUTINY IN INDIA.


Four days after the Queen had inspected the regiment it moved to
Dublin, where the arrival of the reserve companies from Malta and
the depôt from Preston brought up the numbers at headquarters to
seventeen hundred and sixty-nine of all ranks. On the 25th of August,
new Colours were presented by the Earl of Carlisle, Lord Lieutenant
of Ireland, the old Colours finding a fitting resting-place in St
Patrick’s Cathedral, where they hang over the monuments to the Royal
Irishmen who laid down their lives for their country in the swamps
of China, in the jungles of Burma, and on the blood-stained glacis
of the fortress of Sebastopol. A few months later the regiment was
warned for foreign service, this time at the Cape of Good Hope, but
the order was cancelled when the news reached England that the native
army of Bengal had mutinied, and the XVIIIth remained in Ireland,
very indignant at not being sent at once to help quell the rising
in India. It was not until the autumn of 1857 that the War Office
determined to employ the Royal Irish in the East: an advance party of
three companies (in all, 208 officers and men) embarked on September
24, followed in two months by headquarters and the remainder of the
XVIIIth (666 of all ranks), who reached Bombay early in February,
1858.[181] They landed, hoping to be in time to take an active part
in the campaign, and their disappointment was bitter when they were
ordered to Poona, a great city in the Bombay Presidency. The Royal
Irish found much heavy work awaiting them, for the place was then, as
it still is, a hot-bed of sedition, ready to revolt at any moment;
and the troops were constantly under arms to prevent an outbreak.
But as the accounts of successive British victories in northern and
central India reached the malcontents, the danger diminished, and in
April, 1858, the local situation had sufficiently improved to warrant
the withdrawal of part of the British garrison from Poona. On the
Royal Irish was thrown the duty of providing detachments in various
places in western India, to watch native regiments of doubtful
loyalty, and help the civil power in re-establishing law and order
round their posts. With the dispersal of the regiment disappeared its
chances of service as a complete unit, but each company commander
still hoped to have to deal individually with a body of rebels, or
with one of the bands of marauders called into existence by the
mutiny. Fate, however, was not kind to the Royal Irish in 1858-59:
the strenuous work of the detachments was unrelieved by a single
fight, and even when three or four companies were brought together
for some combined movement they had no luck; in extreme heat they
made forced marches, cut roads through jungle, forded rivers, but all
to no purpose: wherever they went the enemy disappeared, to fall into
the hands of some column operating many miles away.

In a letter from D^r Ffolliott, one of the regimental
assistant-surgeons, are preserved a few details of the experiences
of one of the detachments. Captain J. Canavan started from Poona on
April 23, 1858, with two subalterns and a hundred and twenty of the
Royal Irish, a company of Bombay native infantry, camel transport,
and dhoolies for the sick and wounded, and at the end of a month’s
hard marching brought his column to Asseerghur without a casualty
and with no sick men. According to Ffolliott, who was in medical
charge, this immunity from disease was due to the care taken to keep
the men’s clothing dry at the numerous fords through which the road
ran: the troops were allowed ample time to undress before going into
the water, and to put their clothes on again before the march was
resumed. Asseerghur was an old native fortress, perched on the top of
an almost perpendicular rock rising nearly eight hundred feet out of
the plain. As it had never been occupied by European troops, there
were no barracks; the men were quartered in an old mosque; while the
officers occupied a large bungalow, where they used to entertain a
few European ladies who had taken refuge in Asseerghur while their
husbands were in the field. Every week there was a dinner-party,
followed by a dance to the drums and fifes of the detachment.

On his way to take up the command of a brigade at Mhow, Colonel
Edwards was present at one of these entertainments, where he must
have been pleased at the determination of his officers to keep up
their spirits under the bitter disappointment of finding themselves
thus completely “sidetracked.” In November, Asseerghur was greatly
excited at the report that Tantia Tope was in the neighbourhood.
Tantia was one of the few native leaders who had shown good military
qualities; he had fought well against Lord Strathnairn (then Sir
Hugh Rose) in central India, and when after many defeats he had
betaken himself to the country north of the Nerbudda, he had evaded
the columns threatening him from many directions. The net, however,
was now closing in upon him; it was believed he would try to break
southwards into the Deccan, and as Asseerghur commanded one of the
approaches to this part of India it became a place of temporary
importance. One evening the Fort Adjutant bustled into the quarters
of the XVIIIth with great news: in a few hours Tantia Tope, with
eight or nine thousand men, was going to attack Burhanpore, a rich
and populous town not many miles away; Canavan with fifty men of the
Royal Irish was to throw himself into the city, and Ffolliott was
to accompany him. While Canavan was issuing his orders, Ffolliott
went off to make medical arrangements at the hospital, where, to
use his own words, “I found every sick man in war paint. My acting
hospital sergeant said there was not much the matter with them; they
had heard there was to be a fight that night, and wanted to join the
party going, so I discharged them out of hospital. Canavan made no
distinction; the first fifty for duty were ordered to fall out, and
in two hours from the time we were warned we were on the march.”
As Canavan and his party were considered to be going on a forlorn
hope, every European not on duty was on the parade ground to wish
the Royal Irish “good luck” as they moved off, and the ladies were
in tears, until their grief was changed to mirth at the discovery
that the doctor had filled his pouch, not with medical appliances,
but with revolver cartridges. Many of the garrison sat up till dawn,
listening anxiously for the burst of fire with which it was feared
the detachment would be overwhelmed. But no crash of musketry broke
the stillness of the night, and before Canavan reached Burhanpore he
learned the place had been reinforced by a larger column, with whose
movements the Commandant of Asseerghur was unacquainted, and that
Tantia Tope had disappeared. As no fighting was expected, Canavan was
ordered to return to his own post without delay--another instance
of bad luck, for in a day or two there was a sharp skirmish near
Burhanpore, in which his company would certainly have taken part.

In January, 1859, the greater part of the regiment was brought
together under Lieutenant-Colonel Call, and made many marches through
the district of Jaulna, vainly pursuing Rohilla freebooters who had
no intention of standing up to fight. As soon as these robber bands
dispersed, the XVIIIth went back to garrison duty at detached posts,
and in three or four months, when the country had begun to settle
down, most of the companies joined headquarters at Sholapur, and then
marched to Hyderabad in the Deccan, which they reached on June 21,
1859. The muster roll shows that three officers, Captain W. F. G.
Forster, Lieutenant T. Watt, and Assistant-Surgeon C. E. Porteous,
and twenty-seven of the rank and file died of disease during the
Indian Mutiny campaign.[182]



CHAPTER IX.

1858-1882.

RAISING OF THE SECOND BATTALION: THE WAR IN NEW ZEALAND.


After the Indian Mutiny a considerable increase in the strength of
the army was sanctioned by Parliament, for the reasons stated in
chapter x., and additional units of infantry were raised, not as new
regiments but as second battalions of existing organisations. The
XVIIIth was one of the regiments selected for this augmentation,
and on March 25, 1858, forty-four years after the original second
battalion had been disbanded,[183] the nucleus of a new second
battalion was formed at Enniskillen by the transfer from the first
battalion of a hundred seasoned soldiers.[184] A hundred and fifty
men joined from the Dublin City militia; other militia regiments
contributed volunteers, and recruits came in fast from the north of
Ireland. For the first few months of its existence the new battalion
was in charge of Major A. W. S. F. Armstrong; then Lieutenant-Colonel
A. N. Campbell, on promotion from the first battalion, assumed the
command which he continued to hold until October, 1859, when he
exchanged with Lieutenant-Colonel A. A. Chapman, 48th regiment. In
the same month the battalion was sent to England, and two years
later to the Channel Isles, where the detachment at Alderney did
good service in fighting a great fire which threatened to devastate
the island. Though the greater part of the rank and file was
composed of growing lads, “the ready and willing spirit displayed
by all and their coolness under such circumstances”[185] greatly
impressed the local authorities. This incident proved, if proof had
been necessary, that the task of converting a mass of recruits into
trained and disciplined soldiers had been entrusted to good hands;
and early in 1863, the second battalion was considered to be fit for
foreign service, and was selected to relieve one of the regiments
then garrisoning New Zealand. When the various detachments from
Jersey, Guernsey, and Alderney had concentrated at Parkhurst in the
Isle of Wight, they were inspected by Major-General Lord William
Paulet, who in a complimentary speech commented with pleasure on the
great increase in the height of the men since he had last seen the
battalion eighteen months before.

On April 2, 1863, the headquarters and eight companies under
command of Lieutenant-Colonel Chapman sailed from Portsmouth in
the ship _Elizabeth Anne Bright_, followed on the 12th by the two
service companies under Brevet-Colonel G. J. Carey in the ship
_Norwood_.[186] The depôt companies were stationed at Buttevant.
After a prosperous and, for a sailing-ship, a rapid voyage of
ninety-one days, the _Elizabeth Anne Bright_ on the 4th of July
reached Auckland, where three weeks later the _Norwood_ arrived
also. When the leading ship dropped anchor, the Royal Irish learned
that war had broken out with the natives, and that the battalion
was to take the field at once. Before describing the part played
by the XVIIIth in the campaign a short account must be given of
the Maoris, the enemy at whose hands the second battalion was to
receive its baptism of fire. According to native traditions, New
Zealand was peopled many centuries ago by an adventurous race (said
by ethnologists to be of Malay stock) who, swarming off from the
Melanesian archipelago, crossed the Southern Pacific in war canoes
and landed in New Zealand, which they named the Land of the Long
White Cloud. Either the country was uninhabited or the aborigines
were easily conquered, for no trace of their presence is found in
Maori folklore. The newcomers first occupied the coasts, and then
gradually spread over the whole of the North and South islands,
forming clans which recognised no central authority and held all land
within their borders as the property not of individuals but of the
tribe. Between the tribes there was incessant strife, which hardened
the Maoris into a nation of fighting men, skilled not only in every
wile of savage warfare but also, as we shall see, in the art of
fortifying their strongholds.

The existence of the Maoris and the very position of the country they
inhabited remained unknown to Europeans until 1642, when Tasman, the
great Dutch navigator, sighted the Land of the Long White Cloud. His
government kept the information to themselves; and Captain Cook, a
British explorer even more celebrated than his Dutch forerunner,
rediscovered New Zealand in 1769, established friendly relations
with the natives, and took formal possession of the country for his
sovereign, George III. But neither at that time nor for many years
later was England in the mood to develop her new acquisition. Her
conflict with the American colonists, her struggle with the European
coalition which supported their rebellion, and her gigantic efforts
to save the Continent of Europe from the domination of Napoleon, had
taxed her resources to the utmost; and it was not until seventy years
after Cook had annexed the country that definite official steps were
taken to assert British authority in New Zealand. But long before our
Government decided to occupy the islands, adventurous Britons had
established themselves among the Maoris. The penal settlement, formed
towards the close of the eighteenth century at Sydney, provided a
port from which New Zealand became accessible from the mainland of
Australia, and a brisk trade gradually sprang up between the natives
and ship’s captains in timber, potatoes, and native flax. Nor were
these the only articles of commerce. Collectors of curiosities
in Europe were eager to possess specimens of the tattooing or
face ornamentation for which the Maoris were celebrated, and the
heads of warriors, defeated and slain in battle and preserved as
trophies in the villages of the victors, were eagerly exchanged for
the muskets with which the white strangers were armed. By degrees
little settlements of Europeans grew up at various points along the
coast--each an Alsatia to which escaped convicts, deserters from the
garrison of Sydney, run-away sailors, riff-raff of every kind, sought
a refuge from the trammels of civilisation. Many of these wanderers
threw in their lot with the natives: some perished miserably;
others were well treated and lived with the Maoris for many years.
A few of the survivors were men of some education, and from their
reminiscences, and those of the missionaries and pioneers who arrived
from England in the early “forties,” it is possible to form an
idea of the Maoris before they became tamed by British influence.
Their character as a nation was very complex. Though cannibals, and
bloodthirsty to a degree, their sense of honour was high, and their
word once pledged was considered inviolable. They were by no means
devoid of chivalry; their language was full of poetry; their manners
were dignified; their laws were well defined, and the tenure of land
and the ownership of movable property were regulated by customs,
enforced by the power of the whole clan.

In the course of years the condition of the European settlements
became a serious scandal; law and order were unknown, and there
were constant collisions between the natives and the Europeans, in
which the white men appear to have been frequently the aggressors.
The Governor of New South Wales, who was supposed to exercise a
shadowy authority over the British in New Zealand, reported strongly
to the Colonial Office on the subject, and the missionaries loudly
complained that their efforts among the Maoris were hampered by the
presence of a considerable number of Europeans, whose conduct was
unrestrained by any form of government. In 1840, England yielded to
the pressure of public opinion and formally annexed New Zealand. This
step, ostensibly taken solely for the benefit of the Maoris, was
also influenced by political considerations, for the French had long
desired to establish themselves in the Southern Pacific: ever since
the time of Cook their ships had occasionally visited New Zealand,
and it was known that France was preparing to found a colony in
the South island. An English frigate, the _Druid_, sailed with the
newly-appointed Governor about the same time as _L’Aube_, a French
man-of-war started in charge of a transport full of emigrants for New
Zealand. Our ship outstripped the French vessels, and when _L’Aube_
reached the South island her captain, to his bitter mortification,
found that the Union Jack had been hoisted forty-eight hours before!

The terms upon which New Zealand passed into the hands of the Crown
were almost unique in the history of England. Our possessions in
the East have been won by the sword in wars forced upon us by the
lawlessness of the neighbouring States. In America the presence of a
large French garrison in Canada and at the mouth of the St Lawrence
was a thunder cloud constantly overhanging the New England colonies
until we captured Quebec in the Seven Years’ War. In the southern
hemisphere Australia was a no-man’s land--a wilderness inhabited only
by a few tribes of degraded savages. The necessity of defending the
colonists in South Africa against the attacks of marauding Kaffirs
has caused the gradual extension of British rule from Cape Town on
the Atlantic to Zululand on the Indian Ocean. But in New Zealand
the chiefs were treated as our equals when, at the solemn treaty of
Waitanga in 1840, they ceded on behalf of their clans the sovereignty
of their territories to Queen Victoria, and accepted her protection,
and with it all the rights and privileges of British subjects.

For several years after this treaty was made the country seemed
thoroughly quiet: large numbers of emigrants arrived from England
and prospered greatly in their new homes; and the majority of Maoris
appeared to acquiesce in our presence. Some of the clans were glad to
be saved from internecine strife; others appreciated the increased
demand for their staple productions of flax and timber, which was one
of the results of the European influx; but others again, especially
the tribes in the centre of the North island, grew dissatisfied with
the new order of things, and elected a king to rule over them,
who established a capital at Ngaruawahia, a strategic point at the
junction of the Waikato and Waipa rivers.[187] From a mistaken policy
of non-intervention this movement was not put down, and it rapidly
degenerated into openly expressed antagonism towards the settlers.
In 1862, to quote the words of one of the Ministers of the Crown, it
“presented the following features:--

  “An elected king, a very young man of no force of character,
  surrounded by a few ambitious chiefs who formed a little mock
  court, and by a body-guard who kept him from all vulgar contact
  and from even the inspection of Europeans, except on humiliating
  terms; entirely powerless to enforce among his subjects the
  decisions of his magistrates; an army, if it might be called
  so, of 5000 to 10,000 followers scattered over the country, but
  organised so that large numbers could be concentrated at any
  one point on short notice; large accumulated supplies of food,
  of arms and ammunition; a position in the centre of the island
  from which a descent could be made in a few hours on any of
  the European settlements; roads prohibited to be made through
  two-thirds of the island; the large rivers barred against
  steamers so that nine-tenths of the country was closed against
  the ordinary means of travel and transport; the Queen’s law set
  at utter defiance; her magistrates treated with supercilious
  contempt; her writs torn to pieces and trampled under foot;
  Europeans who had married native women driven out of the King’s
  districts, while their wives and children were taken from
  them, unless they would recognise and pay an annual tribute to
  the King; all this accompanied by an exhibition of the utmost
  arrogance and undisguised contempt for the power of the Queen,
  the Governor and the Europeans.”[188]

The safety of the colony was threatened seriously by these sullenly
rebellious tribes; and when in 1863, a body of the King’s followers
intervened in a dispute between Maoris and Europeans in the
south-west of the North island, war became inevitable. The King’s
party, which was largely composed of the Waikato tribe, planned to
open the campaign by raiding Auckland and exterminating its white
inhabitants. Lieutenant-General Sir Duncan A. Cameron, who was in
command of the Imperial troops in New Zealand, and Sir George Grey,
the Governor of the colony, decided to anticipate the Maoris by
advancing upon their strongholds in the wild country south of the
Waikato. This river rises in the centre of the North island and winds
its way northwards from its source to within forty miles of Auckland,
when it turns sharply to the south-west at the native village of
Te Ta. Here a tributary, the Mangatawhari creek, joins it from the
north-east, and the two streams marked the northern limit of the
district held by the followers of the King. Civilisation had spread
about twenty-five miles to the south of Auckland, and a metalled
road ran past scores of prosperous farms, tangible proofs of the
success which had attended the colonists in this part of New Zealand.
At the village of Drury the good road was replaced by a rough and
narrow track, which winding through a broad belt of bush known as the
Hunua forest, crossed very undulating country much cut up by deep
ravines, half buried in ferns and scrub. This dense forest, which
a series of almost impenetrable thickets rendered ideal for Maori
offensive tactics, was to be the scene of many skirmishes in which
detachments of the XVIIIth greatly distinguished themselves.

The arrival of the Royal Irish brought up the number of regular
battalions in New Zealand to seven;[189] but by no means all of
these were available for the front. It was necessary to keep up the
strength of the detachments in various parts of both islands; the
line of communication absorbed a great quantity of fighting men, and
garrisons had to be provided for the settlers in lonely hamlets and
isolated farms. Though at one time during the war the armed whites in
the colony reached the respectable total of 15,000 men, the greatest
force of regular and volunteer troops actually under the hand of
the General at any time appears never to have exceeded two thousand
five hundred. To form an accurate estimate of the numbers against us
is impossible, for many tribes remained neutral, others were on our
side, while others again took but a fitful part in the operations and
preferred to plunder settlers rather than to meet soldiers in the
field. One point, however, seems quite clear; on every occasion when
there was serious fighting we greatly out-numbered our savage but
very gallant foes.

As soon as the Royal Irish landed they were sent to Otahuhu, a
camp a little to the south of Auckland, where General Cameron
was concentrating his troops. Here the battalion received their
campaigning kit: officers and men were provided with blue serge
“jumpers,” haversacks, water-bottles and pannikins: all ranks carried
a blanket and waterproof sheet, rolled, and slung over the left
shoulder; the men were armed with Enfield rifles and bayonets. Five
days later the column marched through Drury to the Queen’s redoubt,
a work which commanded the crossing of the Waikato at Te Ta. A
detachment of two hundred of the XVIIIth, under Captain Inman, was
dropped at Drury to hold that post on the line of communication, and
a few days later the whole of the battalion appears to have been
echeloned along the bush track between Drury and the Queen’s redoubt.
On hearing that Cameron was in motion the Maoris divided their
forces: one column was to hold the British at the Waikato while the
other was to turn Cameron’s left, harass his communications, and if
possible swoop upon Auckland. It was with the enemy’s right wing that
the Royal Irish were chiefly engaged for the first few months of the
war, but before giving an account of their doings it is necessary to
sketch very briefly the operations south of the Waikato.

On July 12, 1863, Cameron crossed the river and dislodged the enemy
from the heights of Koheroa above the Mangatawhari creek. He was,
however, unable to follow up this initial success; for nearly three
months difficulties of land transport, the want of steamers of
sufficiently light draught for river work, and the activity of the
Maoris on his rear prevented further movements against the series
of works which at various points commanded the right bank of the
Waikato. The military genius of the Maoris and its limitations
were alike revealed in these fortifications, in which the system
of defence evolved by a long series of inter-tribal conflicts had
been cleverly adapted to new conditions of war. Before firearms were
introduced into New Zealand, the

  “Maoris’ _pahs_, or stockaded and entrenched villages, usually
  perched on cliffs and jutting points overhanging river or sea,
  were defended by a double palisade, the outer fence of stout
  stakes, the inner of high solid trunks. Between them was a
  shallow ditch. Platforms as much as forty feet high supplied
  coigns of vantage for the look-out. Thence, too, darts and stones
  could be hurled at the besiegers. With the help of a throwing
  stick, or rather whip, wooden spears could be thrown in the
  sieges more than a hundred yards. Ignorant of the bow and arrow,
  and the boomerang, the Maoris knew and used the sling; with it
  red-hot stones would be hurled over the palisades among the
  rush-thatched huts of an assaulted village, a stratagem all the
  more difficult to cope with as Maori _pahs_ seldom contained
  wells or springs of water.”[190]

In the series of skirmishes dignified by the name of the Maori war
of 1860-61 the natives had carefully studied our tactics and our
weapons; and in the war of 1863-66, in order to bring into play the
muskets and double-barrelled guns with which they were armed, and
to minimise the effect of our rifle and shell fire, they selected
positions open in front, with flanks resting on rivers, swamps,
or impenetrable bush. They made great use of earthworks and of
redoubts, square or oblong in shape, flanked at opposite angles by
bastions and surrounded by ditches, in some cases twelve feet wide
and measuring eighteen feet from the bottom of the ditch to the top
of the parapet. Pushed out to the front and flanks were two or three
tiers of rifle-pits or short trenches, connected by sunk roads with
each other and with the main work. The marksmen in these pits were
often protected by head cover, made of trunks of trees or of hurdles
thatched with fern and covered deep with earth; and to break the
force of a bayonet charge, stout palisades were sometimes built in
front of the rifle-pits with spaces left for grazing fire to sweep
over the glacis. Yet though this system of fortification showed that
to their natural cleverness the Maoris added the power of rapidly
absorbing new ideas, their intelligence failed them in one essential
particular. In the selection of a position they never realised the
importance of a good water-supply, and when an attack was threatened
they neglected to store their works with water, trusting to their
young men to bring in by night the quantity required for the next
day’s consumption. Thus after a close investment of a few days they
had no alternative but to cut their way out or to surrender.

While General Cameron was waiting for his river steamers, a rumour
reached the Maoris at Meri-Meri, the position nearest to Cameron’s
encampment, that the General and his soldiers were short of food.
Under a flag of truce the Chiefs sent down the river a little fleet
of canoes laden with potatoes and milch-goats as a present to the
British troops. This was by no means an isolated instance of native
chivalry, for, to use the slang of the present day, the Maoris were
“sportsmen,” and always said that there was no glory in fighting
hungry men. When at length the arrival of river craft enabled Cameron
to move, he threatened the front of the works of Meri-Meri with five
hundred men, among whom were a detachment of Royal Irish, while a
turning party of rather greater strength, in barges mounted with
Armstrong guns, was towed to a landing-place in rear of the enemy’s
works. The Maoris did not await the attack, but fled southwards
across country which recent rains had made impassable for Europeans.
Cameron occupied their position, which the detachment of the XVIIIth
fortified under the direction of the Royal Engineers. In November
the General took an important step towards freeing the line of
communication from the natives who harassed his convoys in the Hunua
forest and ravaged the farms in the neighbourhood of Auckland. Many
of these guerillas came from the country round the estuary of the
Thames river, and thither he sent an expedition under Brevet-Colonel
Carey, XVIIIth regiment, to overawe the district and establish a line
of blockhouses between the Thames and the Waikato. While Carey was
carrying out his mission successfully Cameron pushed up the river,
and on November 20th, attacked the formidable works at Rangiriri,
the Maoris’ second position on the Waikato. Before the enemy had
been thoroughly shaken by artillery the order was given for the
assault, and though repeated and gallant charges were delivered,
the troops that day achieved but a partial success, bought at the
cost of 132 casualties. Under cover of the night several hundred
of the enemy escaped; the remainder, 183 in number, surrendered
at daybreak and were made prisoners of war. In this engagement
the Royal Irish were represented only by one officer, Captain and
Brevet-Lieutenant-Colonel Sir H. Havelock, V.C.,[191] then serving on
the headquarter staff as D.A.Q.M.G., and a few men. The losses at
Rangiriri greatly dispirited the enemy, who allowed Cameron to march
unmolested up the right bank of the Waikato, and on December 9, 1863,
to occupy Ngaruawahia, the capital of the rebellious country.

The Royal Irish were hard at work on the line of communication during
this time. Tracks had to be cut through virgin forest and garrisons
provided for settlers’ farms; convoys needed large escorts, while the
road along which the waggons lumbered had to be strongly piquetted
and constantly patrolled. In these duties detachments of the XVIIIth
met with many exciting adventures; they alternately rescued parties
of other regiments from imminent danger or were themselves saved from
destruction by the timely arrival of reinforcements. Many laurels
were won in these skirmishes, of which the details, as far as they
have been preserved, are here recorded.[192] Six days after the
headquarters of the battalion had reached the Queen’s redoubt Captain
Ring, with Ensign Bicknell, two sergeants, and forty-seven rank and
file, was sent in charge of a convoy to Drury. The track passed
through a forest, thus described by an officer of great experience of
campaigning in the forests of many parts of the British Empire: “The
bush of New Zealand is wonderfully dense and entangled. A European
going into it about twenty yards and turning round three times is
quite at a loss to find his way out again unless he is somewhat of an
Indian path-finder and can judge of the points of the compass by the
bark of the trees, the sun, &c. Trying to run through the bush one
is tripped up by the supplejack and other creepers.”[193] While on
the march Ring fell into an ambuscade of about 140 Maoris; fire was
opened by invisible enemies upon his advance-guard, his right flank,
and his rear; a driver and two horses in the centre of the convoy
fell wounded; the line of waggons was thrown into confusion, and the
Maoris attacked his left flank. He retired immediately with as many
men as he could concentrate, and, in skirmishing order, kept the
enemy at bay for some time; then seeing himself nearly surrounded he
retreated into a settler’s farm, which he held until some of Inman’s
detachment at Drury extricated him from his dangerous situation. In
this affair four men were killed and ten wounded.[194]

Soon after this affair Ring found himself in charge of a mixed body
of troops at Keri-Keri, on the road which runs north-east from
Drury through the Wairoa country to the coast. With him were five
officers and about two hundred rank and file of the battalion, and
two officers and a hundred men of a New Zealand militia regiment. In
the morning of the 22nd of July he learned that a number of natives
had murderously attacked two settlers, and immediately afterwards
heard heavy firing about two miles off near Pukekewereke, where
sixteen volunteers were defending themselves against very heavy odds.
Leaving the militia and two officers and a hundred of his own men to
hold the post, he hurried to the rescue with Lieutenant Wray, Ensigns
Jackson and Butts, and the remainder of the Royal Irish. On reaching
the scene of the skirmish Ring opened fire, and, to use the words of
his report, “the natives retreated to my former entrenchment above
the _wharé_[195] at Keri-Keri; the fire of the skirmishers drove them
down the side of the hill into the brushwood; the leading skirmishers
on the right, under Lieutenant Wray, took possession of the hill and
kept up fire on them; I, with another body of skirmishers, proceeding
to take that on the right flank, but found that the natives, who
mustered a strong force, nearly surrounded me; here I lost a man
killed, whose rifle and bayonet were taken possession of by the
natives, though not without serious loss to them. I then concentrated
my men on the entrenchment, and having heard from a Royal Artillery
officer who rode up to my position that the 65th regiment was in my
immediate vicinity, I requested that he would inform the officer
commanding the 65th that there was a track in the enemy’s rear, and
that if an attack were made in that direction it would be of great
service. As it was quite impossible for me to follow so strong a
force of the enemy into the bush with my small force, I remained
in the entrenched position until close on sunset, keeping a steady
fire on the enemy, who were endeavouring to obtain the body of the
private who was killed and whom I would not leave. I repeatedly tried
to obtain possession of the body by sending out volunteers of the
man’s company, but desisted, finding it would entail greater loss. I
was about to retire, leaving a rear-guard in the entrenchment, when
the mounted artillery arrived.” The gunners were closely followed by
a party of the 65th, who threw themselves into the fray with great
spirit. On the appearance of these fresh troops the natives drew off
into bush so thick that no pursuit was possible, and after the body
of the dead soldier had been recovered the whole force returned to
their entrenchments. This affair cost the battalion one man killed
and four wounded.[196] For Ring’s conduct and good judgment on this
occasion General Cameron recommended him for a brevet-majority, to
which he had been gazetted in England before he fell mortally wounded
at the engagement of Orakau on March 31, 1864. The detachment was
commended for the firmness with which they had held their ground
against superior numbers.

The next time any of the XVIIIth were in action seems to have been on
the 25th of August. The attack on Ring’s convoy had shown how easily
traffic could be stopped in the Hunua forest. To make communication
safer through this belt of bush the Government of New Zealand set
a large number of men to cut down the scrub on either side of the
road. Soldiers as well as civilians were employed on the work;
among the former were a party of a corps which appears not only to
have been ignorant of the first principles of warfare, but grossly
disobedient to orders. General Cameron had officially reminded the
troops that axe-men should always be protected by a covering party;
but the detachment disregarded this order and, far from taking
precautions for their safety, piled arms near the road under charge
of a single sentry. The Maoris crawled through the bush, rushed the
sentry, and before the detachment could regain their rifles nearly
all the arms had fallen into the enemy’s hands. Several of the ----
were hit; the remainder, defenceless without their rifles, had
fallen back for shelter into the forest, when the guard of a convoy,
chiefly composed of a company of the Royal Irish, under Captain R. P.
Bishopp, appeared on the scene, and after an hour’s sharp skirmishing
succeeded in driving away the enemy. In this affair one man of the
XVIIIth was wounded.[197] Early in September the headquarters of
the Royal Irish were moved to Drury, leaving two companies under
Captain Noblett to man the Queen’s redoubt. During the month three
detachments of the battalion had brushes with the enemy. Half a mile
from the village of Pokeno, near the Queen’s redoubt, a party of
62 non-commissioned officers and men, under Ensign C. Dawson, were
attacked by a body of natives, who fired into them from the rear. A
bayonet charge drove the enemy into a gully, down which the Royal
Irish pursued them for half a mile, when a burst of war-whoops and
yells from the village warned Dawson to collect his men to meet a
fresh danger. Making his way back to Pokeno, he was received by a
volley from Maoris hidden among the stumps and logs of timber in a
clearing in front of the village, and from another party on his left
flank. Dawson had his men well in hand, kept them in skirmishing
order, and maintained a steady fire from all available cover, until
he was extricated from this unpleasant situation by the arrival of a
party of the 40th, and later by a further reinforcement, the escort
to a convoy commanded by Captain Noblett, XVIIIth regiment. The
Maoris fled before the levelled bayonets of the combined detachments
and took refuge in the bush, into which the soldiers could not
follow. A few days later, a convoy in charge of a body of volunteers
broke down at Pukekohe, near Drury; some of the Royal Irish, under
Captain Inman, were sent to its assistance, and found the waggons
stuck in deep mud, while the Maoris were attacking the stockade which
contained the garrison of the post. Inman’s party rescued the convoy;
then, reinforced by the volunteers, they went in with the cold steel,
and received praise from General Cameron for “the gallant manner in
which they charged the enemy, driving him back into the bush with
severe loss from the position he had taken up near the stockade.” For
his services on this and other occasions Captain Inman received a
Brevet-Majority.

About the same time another party of the XVIIIth were in action on
the Wairoa road, along which various blockhouses had been built to
cover the approach to Auckland. One of these works, the Galloway
redoubt, was in charge of Major Lyon, an ex-imperial officer, under
whose orders some of the battalion were placed. On the 15th of
September the Maoris attacked the redoubt, but were beaten off, after
an affair in which the steadiness of the Royal Irish was conspicuous.
Two days later Lyon, who had been reinforced by another party of
the XVIIIth under Lieutenant Russell, took the offensive, and under
cover of darkness led his troops towards Otau, a native village
occupied by local insurgents. It was found to be on the far side of
a river, and while Lyon searched for a ford, he engaged the enemy
with musketry--according to a well-known historian, with unexpectedly
important results--

  “Across the stream at early dawn a detachment of the XVIIIth
  regiment poured concentrated fire upon the _wharés_ [huts]. They
  did not know that within them was a band of Maoris, who had come
  to join the fighting, and who, under the volleys poured upon the
  huts, fell like sheep. The troops, unable to cross the stream,
  withdrew, unconscious of what they had done. Major Lyon, who
  made a circuit by a bridge, found the settlement deserted. ‘The
  _wharés_,’ he said, ‘were riddled with shot, blood in profusion
  both inside and out. They were unmistakably taken by surprise.’
  In after years a Maori who was present told how extensive was the
  slaughter unwittingly inflicted by the XVIIIth, who exercised
  themselves by firing at the huts without knowing how they were
  occupied. As the wounded and dead were carried away before Major
  Lyon reached the spot, he also was ignorant of the severity of
  the blow inflicted.”[198]

In October, the battalion were again fortunate enough to rescue
a party of New Zealand volunteers from a dangerous situation. An
officer of the irregulars while reconnoitring a large body of natives
near his post at Manku, was drawn into an engagement, forced back
into his stockade, and closely surrounded. The news reached Drury
in the evening, and a strong party of the XVIIIth under Captain
Noblett was at once sent, with some of the 70th, to the relief of the
volunteers. Pushing on throughout the night the troops early in the
morning reached Manku, from which the Maoris decamped promptly, thus
depriving the Royal Irish of the excitement of a skirmish. They at
once returned to Drury, where they arrived after twenty-two hours’
continuous marching. At the end of the month two companies in charge
of Captain Noblett reinforced Ring’s post in the Wairoa country; and
in November an expedition, largely composed of the Royal Irish, was
sent to avenge outrages committed on the settlers in this district.
The marauders had stockaded themselves in a position surrounded by
dense bush, swamps, and precipitous ravines, but after a skirmish the
_pah_ was captured and destroyed.

In war opportunities of distinction do not come to every officer, and
such in a marked degree was the case in New Zealand, where much good
work was done by some of the officers of the XVIIIth whose names do
not appear in General Cameron’s reports. Though the vigorous action
of the troops on the line of communication and in the Wairoa country
prevented the Maoris from raiding Auckland itself, it was impossible
for Cameron with the small number of men at his disposal to carry
the war into the enemy’s country, and at the same time protect all
the outlying farms cleared in the bush by enterprising settlers. In
most cases the colonists abandoned their farms, sent their women and
children to Auckland, and turned themselves into a militia, which
proved a valuable asset in the British force. Occasionally, however,
the entire population of a settlement held its ground, and required
help from the troops. Thus, in September, Captain Kemp[199] with 150
of the Royal Irish was sent to the relief of one of these outposts
of civilisation; a forced march through virgin forest, past many
farms which the Maoris had looted and burned to the ground, brought
him to his destination, where he found the colonists had thrown up
stockades round their tiny church, in peaceful times used by various
denominations as a place of worship, but now turned into the keep
of the primitive fortress. Leaving these brave pioneers a supply
of provisions and cartridges, and a small party of troops to give
backbone to the defence, he returned to Drury, where his next duty
was to form a post at a deserted farm on the line of communication.
With his own company and fifty men under Lieutenant Briggs he cut
down tree ferns, and with their trunks, lashed together with wild
vines (locally known as supplejack), built a strong palisade, eight
feet in height, enclosing not only the farm buildings but also
space enough for the tents of his detachment. As soon as the farm
had been placed in a state of defence, the British instinct of
cleanliness asserted itself, and the house and outbuildings were
thoroughly cleansed; then parties of men were sent out to “round up”
the farmer’s cattle which had strayed into the forest, while others
improved the defences and escorted the convoys to the next post on
the way to the front. Encouraged by the presence of the detachment
the farmer returned with his family to his house, which can hardly
be described as a peaceful home, for, to quote Captain Kemp’s diary,
“Our nights were disturbed by seeing lights in the bush. I burned
all the low scrub (near the farm), and twice a-week took out a
skirmishing party and scoured the forest: we saw a few natives but
they always escaped us in the thick undergrowth. However we were not
further molested.” Kemp’s diary then briefly records a succession of
escorts to convoys and to prisoners taken at the fight of Rangariri;
much road-making, and marches knee-deep in swamps.

In January, 1864, the Royal Irish were employed in various ways.[200]
Part of the battalion was sent to guard the line of communication
from the Queen’s redoubt southward to Ngaruawahia; the remainder
formed the garrisons of the chain of works which Brevet-Colonel Carey
had established between the Waikato and the estuary of the Thames.
Thanks to Captain Kemp, we know something of the hard work done by
those of the XVIIIth who were in charge of these posts. On the 7th of
January, with two hundred men, he

  “marched to the Surrey redoubt; it was very hot as we skirted the
  swamps and many men fainted from the heat. We placed a detachment
  in the redoubt, slept in the open outside it, and marched at 5.30
  A.M. next day eight miles to the Esk redoubt on high ground in
  open fern-covered country. Here I left Briggs and a detachment
  and took my company down to the Miranda redoubt, four miles
  farther on, situated at the edge of a steep cliff overlooking
  the estuary of the Thames and defended by a small river on the
  north side. Here I had command of two hundred men, one half being
  Waikato militia. We enlarged the redoubt and made a road down to
  the landing-place (previously all stores were dragged up the face
  of the cliff and the Commissariat suffered heavy losses). We made
  a floating bridge over the small river, sunk a well for drinking
  water, and built a small redoubt on the approach from the south
  in which a strong piquet was posted at night. Boats being unable
  to come in at low water we made a causeway across the mud flats
  to a deep-water landing-place.... We were annoyed at first by
  spies and small parties of the enemy at night, so I sent out
  scouring parties and destroyed their villages, bringing in large
  quantities of beautiful peaches, potatoes, and other vegetables.”

At the end of January, General Cameron had accumulated enough stores
at Ngaruawahia to warrant his advancing farther to the southward.
He therefore worked up the right bank of the Waipa, building and
garrisoning redoubts as he advanced, and in a few days reached the
village of Te Rore, where for nearly three weeks he was brought to
a halt--not by the enemy, but by the eternal difficulty of supply
and transport. Shoals in the rivers made water-carriage uncertain,
and though the crews of the little steamers, the flat-bottomed
row-boats, and the other craft specially built for the expedition
did their best, this mode of transport was always liable to break
down. By land things were no better. In the plain between the Waikato
and Waipa rivers there were hardly any roads, and the native paths,
winding through forests of tree ferns, were so narrow that men could
only march in single file. These paths crossed innumerable creeks
running in deep watercourses, impassable for guns or waggons till
roads had been cut down the steep banks and bridges thrown over
the streams. The difficulty of keeping supplied even the small
number of men--less than 2500--who were concentrated at Te Rore was
enormous, for though Cameron’s headquarters were only eighty miles
from his base at Auckland, every box of “stores had to be shifted
twelve or fourteen times on account of changes of land and water
carriage.”[201] To relieve this strain Cameron cut a road through the
bush to Raglan, a port twenty miles distant on the west coast, and
thus gained a second or subsidiary base, but as a set-off to this
advantage a considerable number of men were necessarily withdrawn
from active operations to guard the new line of communication.

While the advance depôt at Te Rore was being gradually filled up, the
Maoris threw up a formidable chain of works to bar farther advance
into their country; but after a few skirmishes they were manœuvred
from these positions and disappeared into the mountains in the centre
of the island. To prevent their return down the Waikato river, a
post was formed on its left bank at Pukerima, and manned by the
headquarter companies of the XVIIIth from Ngaruawahia. The stay of
the battalion at the Maori capital had been uneventful, though to
celebrate the temporary reunion of most of the companies pony races
and sports for the men were organised, and made a welcome break in
the monotony of the campaign, for in the long intervals between
active operations amusements for all ranks were not to be obtained.
An officer writes: “There were very few opportunities during the war
for gymkhanas and that sort of thing, and a ‘sing-song’ over the
camp-fire was as much as could be attempted. Occasionally a little
duck-shooting from canoes was obtainable if we were stationed near a
river, or more rarely a raid on the semi-wild boar sometimes to be
met with in the bush. Pigeon-shooting was sometimes to be had, but
this was about all.”

Not all the companies went with headquarters to the new post;
some held the works on the lower reaches of the river, and a
detachment of four companies under Captain Ring was at Te Awamutu,
where Colonel Carey, recently promoted to be Brigadier-General
and second-in-command of the forces in New Zealand, was throwing
up strong redoubts. Here everything appeared to be quiet until a
scouting party of colonists discovered that a number of Maoris had
slipped back to the Waikato plain, and were vigorously entrenching
themselves a few miles off near the native village of Orakau.
Carey at once reconnoitred the _pah_, and decided to move on the
enemy’s position during the night; the main column was to advance on
Orakau,[202] while smaller parties were to place themselves by forced
marches on the enemy’s flank and rear. Like a good soldier, Carey
did not issue his orders till the last moment, and it was not till
after dark on the 30th of March that the officers of the detachment
of the XVIIIth heard the news, which reached them in a very dramatic
manner. They were sitting at mess in a native hut, dimly lighted by
a few camp lanterns, when the voice of a staff officer was heard
calling for Ring, who in a few minutes returned, looking pale and
depressed. Waiting until the soldier servants had left the hut to
reply to his comrades’ inquiries as to the cause of his sudden gloom,
he explained that the detachment was to march that night to attack
the _pah_, and he added in confidence that he had a presentiment that
his last hour was close at hand. “I have taken part in many affairs
of this kind,” he said, “but I have never felt as I do now.” When his
friends “chaffed” him and tried to cheer him up, he answered, “Oh!
never fear. I’ll do my duty.” After issuing the necessary orders to
the detachment he wrote his farewell letters, hastily put his affairs
in order, and then marched off with the advance-guard, which he had
the honour on this occasion to command.

The column reached Orakau at dawn on March 31. The Maoris, though
evidently taken by surprise, opened fire on the advance-guard,
composed of 120 Royal Irish and a party of 20 men of an irregular
corps, known as the Forest Rangers. Ring extended his men into
skirmishing order, and, supported by a company of the 40th, led
them to the attack. The position, which apparently had not been
reconnoitred adequately, proved very formidable. On a swelling down
the Maoris had thrown up an “earthwork with good flank defences, deep
ditches, with posts and rails outside, and nearly covered from view
by flax-bushes, peach-trees, and high fern.”[203] Though repulsed by
the fire of their unseen enemies Ring’s men re-formed quickly, and
reinforced by a second company of the 40th, made another but equally
futile effort to storm the works, being again beaten back with the
loss of several officers and men, among whom was Brevet-Major Ring,
mortally wounded. When Captain Baker, XVIIIth, D.A.A.G., saw that
Ring was down, he flung himself off his horse, and calling for
volunteers led a third assault. This failed also, but though these
three attacks were unsuccessful, they served their purpose by so
completely occupying the attention of the enemy that he did not
realise that the British troops were hemming him in on every side;
and though the cordon was at first but slender it sufficed to prevent
reinforcements from throwing themselves into the _pah_. At midday
a large party of Maoris tried to break through our lines from the
outside, but a few shells and the musketry of the outposts kept
them at a respectful distance, unable to do more than excite their
besieged comrades to further resistance by shouts and war dances.
As soon as the detached columns detailed to surround the _pah_ were
in their places, Carey began to sap up to the works, covering his
movements with artillery fire. In defending themselves against this
bombardment the Maoris showed great resource. “Long bundles of fern
were cut and bound with strips of green flax until an enormous mass
of yielding fern received the harmless cannon-balls and guarded the
earthworks.”[204]

Throughout the afternoon and night the besieged kept up a heavy
fire upon the troops, who “dug themselves in” so effectually with
their bayonets that the casualties were few. The sap was pushed on
vigorously, and on the 1st of April various small reinforcements,
snatched up from the line of communication, reached Carey. Among
them was a party of the XVIIIth under Captain Inman, composed of 1
captain, 2 subalterns, 8 sergeants, 2 drummers, and 110 rank and
file, and 70 officers and men of the 70th; after marching all night,
they were sent at once into the trenches and rifle-pits with which
the _pah_ was being rapidly encircled. Though the enemy kept up a
heavy fire upon the men digging in the sap, the work went on without
intermission until the morning of the 2nd, when Lieutenant-Colonel
Havelock brought into camp a quantity of hand-grenades, which
a brave artilleryman, at the risk of his life, hurled into the
enemy’s rifle-pits. Under cover of the confusion produced by these
missiles Carey ran into the sap a 6-pr. Armstrong gun, whose fire
breached the palisades, and beat down the musketry directed upon
the working-parties. The situation had improved so much that he was
preparing to assault, when General Cameron ordered him to stay his
hand. The General had recently arrived on the scene, but not wishing
to deprive Carey of his command announced that he was present as
a spectator only; learning, however, that many women and children
were in the _pah_, he desired that the garrison should be given the
chance to surrender before the attack was pressed home. The condition
of the Maoris was now desperate. When surprised by our sudden swoop
on Orakau, they had little or no water in the _pah_; our line of
outposts and rifle-pits proved impenetrable to the parties who sought
for water in the night; their only food was raw potatoes; their
losses in fighting men had been considerable, and their supply of
bullets was almost exhausted. Yet they disdained to yield, and when
an interpreter addressed them, saying, “Hear the word of the General:
you have done enough to show that you are brave men; your case is
hopeless; surrender, and your lives will be spared;” they haughtily
replied, “This is the word of the Maori: we will fight for ever and
ever and ever.” They were then invited to send away the women, and
answered, “The women will fight as well as we.”

After this abortive negotiation fire was reopened on both sides, and
some of the troops appear to have lost their heads and attempted
to storm the _pah_ without orders.[205] One of these unauthorised
assaults was led by a soldier in the XVIIIth, Private Hannon, who,
throwing his forage cap over a partially breached spot in the
defences, dashed after it with some twenty men, for the most part
belonging to New Zealand corps. After clambering over a stout fence
they dropped into a ditch, where Hannon and nine other brave men
were mown down by a volley fired at point-blank range. But though a
similar attack by a party of regulars and volunteers also failed to
carry another weak spot in the fortifications, every hour saw the
Maoris less able to face the storm of grape-shot, hand-grenades,
and rifle-bullets poured upon them on every side. Suddenly Rewi,
their war chief, decided to cut his way out or to perish in the
attempt. While his followers mustered among the huts round which
their works were built, they sang one of the hymns taught them by the
missionaries, and then, remembering the old days before white men had
settled in New Zealand, chanted invocations to their ancient gods.

  “Their voices,” says Rusden, “were heard by the wondering
  English, who were to marvel still more at their daring. At the
  rear a double line of the investing troops had been thrown back
  under cover to enable a gun to open fire. Through that opening,
  about four o’clock in the broad day, chanting their appeal to the
  God of battles and moving steadily as in scorn of their foes,
  the Maoris marched towards the narrow neck of swamp between
  the ridge and mound. Carey (in his official report) said they
  rushed. Mr Fox writes that an eye-witness told him ‘they were in
  a great column, the women, the children, and the great chiefs in
  the centre, and they marched out as cool and steady as if they
  had been going to Church.’ Rewi ordered that no shot should be
  fired. The little ammunition left was needed for defence in the
  desperate course through the swamp.... Some accounts state that
  as if to deceive the troops and gain time for the fugitives, a
  Maori, while his countrymen departed, sprang up with a white
  flag on the parapet and was riddled by bullets. One chief, more
  successful, diverted the English for a few moments; he walked
  coolly towards the troops and surrendered.”[206]

The regiment (not the XVIIIth) charged with the defence of the ground
across which the Maori column was moving, was disposed in two lines,
the foremost lying under a bank which, while it covered the men from
fire from the _pah_, prevented their watching the ground in front
of them. The Maoris marched towards this bank, and, incredible as
it seems, passed through these two lines of British regular troops,
apparently without opposition. It was rumoured at the time that
before the men in the first line discovered that the natives were out
of their trenches, the Maoris had actually jumped over their heads
and were well on their way towards the second line! Thanks to the
energy of the General and his staff and the zeal of the remainder of
the troops, the natives did not escape in a body, but were headed off
by a handful of mounted men, who punished them severely in a pursuit
which lasted until nightfall. Thirty-three prisoners fell into our
hands; more than a hundred bodies were found on the field; it was
known that at least twenty men had been buried in the _pah_, while
traces in the bush proved that a considerable number of killed and
wounded had been carried away after the troops had been recalled to
camp. The natives themselves acknowledged to a loss of two hundred,
out of a strength considered by General Cameron not to exceed three
hundred fighting men. Well might the British General in his despatch
say that it was impossible not to admire the heroic courage and
devotion of the Maoris in defending themselves so long against
overwhelming numbers.[207]

When the Royal Irish were let loose, the men were wild to avenge the
death of Captain Ring, who was deservedly respected and admired by
all ranks in the regiment. Though the officers did all they could to
prevent unnecessary slaughter, more than one Maori was slain in the
belief that it was he who had fired the shot which laid Ring low.
When a fugitive was overtaken the cry arose, “That’s the man that
killed the Captain!”--then came a wild yell, a bayonet thrust, and
all was over. Not all the XVIIIth, however, were believers in such
stern methods: two instances of clemency are recorded, one of which
unhappily ended fatally to the poor Irishman. A soldier overtook and
seized a Maori and spared his life; the prisoner was lying on the
ground exhausted and apparently harmless, and his captor had turned
away for a moment, when the native seized a rifle and shot him dead.
The savage’s triumph was short-lived, however, for other men of the
XVIIIth were on the spot and silenced him for ever. In the other case
there was no such tragedy. Early in the pursuit a Maori was taken
prisoner and placed in the charge of two privates, who, as they heard
the shouts of their comrades dying away in the distance, cursed their
bad luck in being obliged to remain behind. An officer came up when
their impatience reached its climax, and overheard this conversation.
“Shall we kill him, Barney?” Barney thought for a moment, and then
shook his head. “I couldn’t kill the craytur in cold blood, Pat, but
I wish we were quit of him.” “Kick him and let him go,” was the ready
response. No sooner said than done; the prisoner disappeared into the
bush, while Pat and Barney hurried after the regiment!

The British losses were sixteen killed and fifty-two wounded. The
casualties among the Royal Irish were one officer (Brevet-Major
Ring) and eight of the other ranks killed or mortally wounded, nine
non-commissioned officers and men wounded.[208] In his official
report Brigadier-General Carey, after expressing his deep regret at
the death of Brevet-Major Ring, brought the services of Captain Inman
to the notice of the General Officer commanding in New Zealand.

After the capture of Orakau the enemy retired again into the
mountains, whither Cameron did not deem it prudent to follow him;
and when the disaffected tribes in other parts of the North island
heard how inconclusively the campaign on the Waikato had ended, there
was an insurrection in the east, chiefly memorable for our defeat at
the Gate _pah_, while in the south-west (the Taranaki country) there
were frequent skirmishes between the troops and hostile natives.[209]
To neither of these scenes of action were the Royal Irish summoned;
after occupying Ngaruawahia for three months the regiment marched to
Otahuhu camp, where it formed part of the garrison of Auckland during
the remainder of the year.

At the beginning of 1865, the Royal Irish were sent to the
south-west coast of the North island, to reinforce the small number
of regular troops holding the Taranaki (or New Plymouth) district,
where since the war began the British had been able to do little
more than to hold redoubts round a few settlements, and to send
occasional punitive expeditions into the enemy’s country. In the
beginning of the campaign the rebel tribes, the adherents of the
King, had fought us solely on political grounds; they objected to
our presence and wished to drive us out of New Zealand, but no
question of religion entered into the quarrel. Many of the Maoris
had embraced Christianity, and had become such strict Sabbatarians
that on one occasion the garrison of a besieged _pah_ left their
works on a Sunday morning to attend chapel, with results disastrous
to themselves. But early in 1864, the British learned that a set
of fanatics had arisen, named Hau-Haus, whose tenets, appealing to
all that was worst in the Maori character, were a weird mixture
of cannibalism, paganism, and Christianity.[210] In April 1864,
a detachment of the 57th was badly cut up near New Plymouth; an
officer, Captain Lloyd, and six men were killed by the Hau-Haus,
who cut off their heads and drank their blood. A few days later,
according to the native accounts, the Angel Gabriel appeared and
ordered Lloyd’s head to be exhumed and carried throughout New
Zealand, to serve as the medium of Jehovah’s communication with
man. As soon as the head was disinterred it appointed priests, and
announced that thanks to the protection of Gabriel and his angels
the followers of the new religion would be invulnerable: the Virgin
Mary would be constantly present with them: the religion of England
was false and its scriptures must be burned; men and women were to
live together promiscuously; the priests would obtain victories by
shouting the word “Hau,”[211] and could invoke the help of legions of
angels for the extermination of the whites. As soon as New Zealand
had rid itself of the English, men would arrive from heaven to
teach the Maoris all the arts and sciences known to Europeans. This
extraordinary creed is believed to have been evolved by educated and
unscrupulous natives, who realised that the Maoris had been shaken in
their allegiance to the “King movement” by the result of the Waikato
campaign, and that a stronger bond of union was required than a
purely political organisation, the fortunes of which were not then in
the ascendant.

Though in several affairs with the 57th the Hau-Haus learned by
bitter experience that they were by no means invulnerable to Enfield
bullets, the new religion found many converts. The tribes in the
south-west of the North island had always been turbulent and hostile.
They had committed grave and unprovoked outrages, such as the murder
of a party of soldiers in 1863, which heralded the outbreak of the
war. They were now in a state of open hostility, and almost the only
part of the district which acknowledged the Queen’s rule was the
ground enclosed by the redoubts round the settlements of Taranaki and
Wanganui. The Government of New Zealand decided that there could be
no peace until the tribesmen had been chastised, their power broken,
and their country opened up. To accomplish these objects General
Cameron had about five thousand troops, a thousand white volunteers,
and a thousand native auxiliaries. His plan of campaign was that two
columns, one based on Taranaki, the other on Wanganui, should force
their way along the coast until they joined hands on the road between
these two settlements.

On January 2, 1865, a detachment of seven companies (about 500 of
all ranks) of the Royal Irish, under Major J. H. Rocke, embarked for
Wanganui in H.M.S. _Falcon_ and _Eclipse_, the remainder of the
battalion being left under Lieutenant-Colonel Chapman at Otahuhu
camp. On the voyage the _Eclipse_ ran ashore on a sandbank, but the
soldiers were transhipped to another vessel, and on reaching their
destination took their place in a column commanded by Colonel Waddy,
50th, consisting of the Royal Irish; 50th; detachments of Royal
Artillery and Royal Engineers, and a small party of extemporised
cavalry, in all 963 officers and men. On January 24, Waddy moved
up the coast towards the Waitotara river. The route first led past
settlers’ farms, well-planted and rich in clover-fields, and then
skirted native villages, deserted by the Maoris, who had left their
peach-groves and patches of tobacco, Indian corn, and water-melons
to the mercy of the troops. Next came a weary stretch of steep
sandhills, and it was late in the afternoon when Waddy halted near
a lake close to the Maori village of Nukumaru. During the march
no enemies had shown themselves, and from Colonel Waddy’s report
it appears that the camp was formed before the outposts were in
position. When the tents were pitched piquets were sent out; among
them was a party of the Royal Irish, under Captain Hugh Shaw, with
orders to take up ground half a mile to the north of the camp. Shaw
moved off in skirmishing order and cautiously approached a patch
of bush close to the village, which it was necessary to occupy. It
was not until he was within thirty yards of this bush that a large
number of Maoris, lurking in the thicket, disclosed their presence by
a heavy fire. Though surprised, Shaw kept his head, and remembering
that he had just passed a small ditch with a fence in front of it,
rallied his party behind this meagre cover, which was but sixty yards
from the Maoris’ position. As soon as he had set his rifles to work
he counted his men, and found that one was missing, lying hard hit
half-way between the piquet and the natives in the bush. Shaw was in
a dilemma. To leave the man where he was would condemn him to certain
death, for at nightfall he would inevitably be tomahawked by the
Maoris: to order a few of the piquet to bring him in was to expose
the rescue party to very great danger, nor did Shaw wish to send men
on a forlorn hope unless he himself led them. Yet, if he did head a
rescue party, he was technically abandoning his post, and, during
his absence, throwing upon his subordinates the responsibility not
only for the lives of the piquet but for the safety of the whole
camp. Shaw decided to face this risk--a very grave one, as the events
of the next day proved--and called for volunteers to help him save
the wounded man. Four private soldiers, Brandon, Brien, Kearnes,
and Clampitt sprang to their feet and dashed headlong after their
officer. In a few moments these five gallant men were bending over
their comrade, whom they found still living. The air around them
seemed alive with bullets, for the piquet was firing viciously at the
puffs of smoke which marked the lairs of the Maori sharpshooters,
while the enemy concentrated his musketry upon the rescuers. There
was no time to consult how best to move the wounded man: Shaw caused
him to be hoisted upon his own back, and, staggering under the
weight, carried him back in triumph to the piquet. Incredible as it
may seem, neither Shaw nor any of his companions were hit in this
adventure. Shaw was awarded the Victoria Cross, while privates James
Kearnes, George Clampitt, and John Brandon were presented with the
silver medal for distinguished conduct in the field.[212]

The sound of the firing brought up Major Rocke with a hundred men
of the battalion, and thanks to this reinforcement the piquet was
able to maintain so hot a fusilade that the enemy did not attempt
either to surround, or to close in upon them. For some hours the
fire-fight raged, the natives returning shot for shot; then the
musketry died down, and the Maoris stole away to the shelter of a
neighbouring _pah_. Early on the morning of the 25th, the piquet was
relieved by Captain Noblett with seventy-five of his own men, and
twenty-five of the 50th regiment. On the right he posted his party
of the XVIIIth near the village, while on the left his detachment of
the 50th watched a deep watercourse, with banks covered by a thick
growth of wild flax. On the far side of this watercourse was another
piquet, also of the 50th, but not under Noblett’s command. During the
forenoon not an enemy was seen; the bush seemed absolutely deserted,
but it was the lull before the storm. In the middle of the day the
Maoris suddenly abandoned their traditional policy of standing on
the defensive in carefully fortified positions, and two columns, in
all about 600 men, falling simultaneously on the flanks of Noblett’s
piquet swept it before them, and pushed forward so vigorously
through the breach thus made in the outpost line that for a time the
safety of the camp was seriously imperilled. From the scanty details
preserved of this interesting fight it appears that about two P.M.
Captain Noblett heard firing on his left, where Enfield bullets
were falling among his detachment of the 50th. On hurrying to the
point of danger, he discovered that these badly directed bullets
came from the far side of the watercourse, where the distant piquet
of the 50th was trying to stem a Maori rush. After making necessary
dispositions he ran back to the right of his ground, to find that
there also the natives were attacking in strength; they had set fire
to the bush, and under cover of the smoke were pushing fast through
the village, and driving the piquet of the XVIIIth backwards towards
the camp. When the alarm was given all the troops not on outpost
fell in and hurried up to the front. The first party ready to move
was Captain Daubeny’s company of the XVIIIth; in a short time they
met Captain Noblett’s piquet in full retreat; Noblett rallied his
men upon the reinforcement, and then the two detachments, extending
into skirmishing order, by their steady front and well-sustained
fire effectively checked the enemy. Elsewhere, however, things did
not go so well, and the natives were almost in the camp before the
combined effect of a charge of mounted men and the shells of 6-pr.
Armstrong guns drove them back into the bush. In their retreat the
Maoris abandoned twenty-two killed and two wounded, and succeeded
in carrying away about seventy dead or injured warriors. In the two
days’ fighting the British casualties were--officers, one killed and
two wounded; other ranks, fifteen killed and thirty wounded. The
losses of the XVIIIth were three private soldiers killed and twelve
wounded, one mortally.[213] The General in his report favourably
mentioned the names of Major Rocke, Captain Shaw, and Captain Dawson.

After this repulse the Maoris retired to a _pah_ close by at Wereroa,
a position which they deemed impregnable. This opinion General
Cameron appeared to share, for he did not attack, but, hoping to
entice the enemy out of his works, moved slowly up the coast. At the
mouth of the Waitotara river Major Rocke and four companies of the
Royal Irish were left to guard a bridge of casks, while the remainder
of the battalion, recently joined by the three headquarter companies
under Lieutenant-Colonel Chapman, marched with the rest of the column
to Patea. Here they remained for many months in charge of a line of
posts on the road between Wanganui and Taranaki, sharing in only one
of the few operations which took place in this part of the country in
1865.[214]

The state of affairs in New Zealand at this time was very
unfortunate. General Cameron, who commanded the Queen’s troops, was
at daggers drawn with Sir George Grey, the Governor of the colony.
The New Zealand ministry was wrangling fiercely with the Cabinet at
home, for at the very time that Cameron announced he could not carry
out Grey’s policy without considerable reinforcements of regular
troops, the Colonial Office intimated that the War Office was about
to withdraw five battalions from New Zealand.[215] The General
was already worn out by physical fatigue and mental anxiety: the
threatened withdrawal of the troops was the last straw on the camel’s
back; on the ground of ill-health Cameron asked to be relieved of his
command, and in August, 1865, was succeeded by Major-General Trevor
Chute. About a month before the new Commander-in-Chief arrived, Sir
George Grey, who had in vain urged Cameron to attack the _pah_ at
Wereroa, remembered that before entering the service of the Colonial
Office he had been a captain in the army, and determined to prove
to the Maoris that their vaunted stronghold was not impregnable. On
the morning of July 20, he assembled a small column, consisting of
a hundred of the 14th regiment, an equal number of the Royal Irish
under Captain Noblett, and about four hundred and seventy colonists
and friendly natives. In his plan of attack Grey allotted a duty to
the regular troops which required great discipline and steadiness:
they were to demonstrate, and threaten an attack upon the front, the
best defended face of the fortification, while the colonists and
“friendlies,” by a long and circuitous march, established themselves
on ground from which the rear of the Maori works could be commanded.
The two hundred regular troops pitched their tents well within view
of the natives, threw out posts, marched and counter-marched, and
successfully “bluffed” the enemy into the belief that a large body of
soldiers were preparing for an assault. The irregulars succeeded in
placing themselves unseen in rear of the _pah_; there was some work
with the rifle, and then the Maoris, seized with panic, swarmed down
a steep cliff and abandoned their fortress, almost without firing a
shot in its defence. A reinforcement of fifty of the XVIIIth were
brought up from the line of communication by Major Rocke, who was now
in command of the regiment,[216] but they took no part in the affair.
The enemy lost fifty men and many stores: in Sir George Grey’s column
there appear to have been no casualties.

For the rest of the year 1865 the headquarters of the battalion
remained at Patea, with detachments along the coast. In December,
General Chute was directed by the Governor to prepare an expedition
against the Hau-Haus who infested the country between Taranaki and
Wanganui. He drew a hundred officers and men under Major Rocke
from the posts held by the Royal Irish; 139 of all ranks from the
14th regiment; about 100 from the 50th, and with 45 of the Forest
Rangers and 300 native auxiliaries, took the field at the beginning
of January, 1866. After making himself master of the strongly
palisaded village of Otahuhu,[217] he led his column on a more
difficult enterprise, the capture of the Putahi _pah_, which stood
in a clearing on the top of a hill, 500 feet in height, with sides
rough with spurs, seamed in every direction by watercourses, and
covered with dense jungle. Only one path led from the plain to the
summit through this labyrinth, difficult in itself and rendered
almost impassable by the stockades and other defences with which
it was known to bristle. Chute decided to avoid this death-trap by
attacking the _pah_ from the rear. Long before dawn on the 7th of
January, 1866, his troops had begun a march, which in his despatch
he described as “one continued struggle through a dense primeval
forest and bush, over ravines and gullies which could in most cases
only be ascended and descended by the aid of supple jack, and then
only with great difficulty. The distance to be traversed could not
have exceeded four miles, but the obstacles and obstructions opposed
to us made it a severe task for four hours.” General Chute’s method
of attacking the Maori works was rough but effective. “There was
usually,” writes General Alexander, “an open plateau in front of the
_pahs_; he brought his men there to the edge of the bush, and when
his line and supports and natives in reserve were all ready he made
his bugler sound a single G; the men advanced from under cover, and
on the double G being given a rush was made at the _pah_, hatchets
were drawn from the belts of the men, the withes of the outer fence
were suddenly cut, the palisading broken through, and the _pah_
stormed with cheering in the smoke.” Such was his plan at the capture
of Putahi. As soon as the Forest Rangers reached the plateau they
opened out into skirmishing order, lying down within 400 yards of the
enemy to cover the formation of the remainder of the troops, who as
they emerged gradually from the bush were extended--the detachment of
the XVIIIth on the right, the 14th in the centre, and the 50th on the
left, with the native contingent in reserve. It was more than an hour
before the soldiers at the rear of the column, breathless from their
exertions in scaling precipices, had found their places in the ranks.
During that time the Hau-Hau garrison, about two hundred strong, had
first performed a war dance to keep up their spirits, and then fired,
but with little effect, upon the troops. When Chute’s line was in
order he gave the word to advance. Under a heavy but almost harmless
fusilade the soldiers moved forward, as steadily as on an ordinary
parade; when they were within eighty yards of the enemy the double
G was sounded; they charged and burst into the _pah_, driving the
enemy before them headlong into the bush. A general pursuit followed,
in which the Hau-Haus are said to have lost considerably; then the
troops were called off; the _pah_ was destroyed and the column
marched back to camp. In this affair the British casualties were two
men killed and ten wounded, none of them belonging to the XVIIIth.

In the course of the next few days General Chute captured several
more of the Hau-Hau strongholds, and wound up his punitive expedition
by marching round the east of Mount Egmont to Taranaki, by a
track believed to be impracticable for civilised troops. In these
successes, however, the XVIIIth had no share, for Rocke’s party was
ordered back to Patea the day after the Putahi _pah_ was captured.
With Chute’s march the war, as far as most of the regular army
was concerned, came to an end. The British Government decided that
the Imperial forces should no longer be actively employed, as it
considered that the Maoris had been sufficiently weakened for the
colonists to finish the struggle without further help from the mother
country.[218] Nearly all the troops were accordingly withdrawn from
the neighbourhood of Wanganui; the Royal Irish, however, remained
in their old posts in the Patea-Wanganui district, which continued
to be much harassed by rebellious tribes. Communication along
the coast road was interrupted; small parties of colonists were
frequently surprised and murdered; and the local forces were twice
rudely handled in operations in the bush. Occasionally the garrisons
of the posts made sorties against the insurgents, but nothing of
importance occurred until October, 1866, when the Governor arrived
at Patea and called upon Major Rocke for the help of his regiment
in quelling disturbances in the country round Wanganui. Major Rocke
was in the happy position of being his own commanding-officer,
with no senior present to whom the question had to be referred.
He joyfully responded to Sir George Grey’s appeal by organising a
mobile column of three hundred Royal Irish and an equal number of
New Zealand militia, and led the combined force to Waingongoro,
where the Governor at an interview with the rebel leaders failed to
persuade them to lay down their arms. Sir George Grey at once moved
towards Papoia, a native village buried in the heart of the forest,
believed to be strongly fortified, and known to be approachable only
by difficult paths. He determined to surprise this village by an
attack at dawn, and Rocke accordingly paraded his men at midnight on
the 17th-18th of October. The Royal Irish led the march, preceded
by a storming party under Lieutenant Pringle, who had volunteered
for this dangerous duty. Silently, and with every precaution to
avoid giving the alarm to their watchful enemy, the Royal Irish
slowly followed the friendly natives who guided them along a steep
and narrow track. At daybreak the men at the head of the column
noticed that the path was leading into a glen, and a few minutes
later discovered that across this glen the Hau-Haus had thrown a
huge barricade, nine feet in height, made of the trunks of trees
and crowned with a stiff “post and rails” fence. At this moment a
number of natives, hidden in the bush, opened a heavy fire upon the
storming party, but Pringle disregarded this flank attack, and with
his men rushed at the barricade, breached it with axes, and drove the
defenders into the bush. The rest of the column poured through the
gap and swarmed into the village, which the Maoris hastily abandoned,
leaving several dead behind them. This success, obtained without loss
to the XVIIIth, was quickly followed up by Rocke, who, making his
way across country hitherto believed to be impassable to Europeans,
raided several hostile villages, which the Hau-Haus, cowed by the
capture of Papoia, abandoned without resistance. At the conclusion
of this three weeks’ campaign, the gallantry of Lieutenant Pringle
in his charge on the barricade was brought to the notice of the
officer commanding the troops in New Zealand; and two of the men who
accompanied him, privates Acton and Hennigan, were awarded the medal
for distinguished conduct in the field.[219] It may here be mentioned
that although this affair was the last in which regular soldiers took
part, it was not until 1869 that the issue of a medal for the New
Zealand war was sanctioned, while not until 1870 was leave given to
the regiments which had been engaged in the war to add the words “New
Zealand” to the battle honours on their Colours. For their services
Brevet-Colonel G. J. Carey and Brevet-Lieutenant-Colonel Sir H. M.
Havelock, Bart., V.C., were created Companions of the Order of the
Bath; Major J. H. Rocke received a Brevet-Lieutenant-Colonelcy; and
Captains J. Inman and T. D. Baker were promoted to Brevet-Majorities.

During the time the Royal Irish were engaged in active operations
against the Maoris their casualties were--

_Officers_--

  Died of wounds,                   Brevet-Major J. T. Ring.
  Died from accident or disease,    Lieutenants F. P. Leonard and
                                        O. R. Lawson.
                                    Ensign G. B. Jenkins.

_Other ranks_--

  Killed or died of wounds, 17; died from accident or disease, 39;
  wounded, 36.[220]

Until March 1867, the regiment continued to hold the line of posts
between Patea and Wanganui; then the condition of the country
warranted the concentration of the Royal Irish at the latter
place, where they remained till December, when headquarters and
six companies were sent to Auckland, with two detachments, each
of two companies, at Napier and Taranaki. When the headquarter
companies reached Auckland the command of the battalion was assumed
by Lieutenant-Colonel G. A. Elliot, who had arrived from England on
promotion from the first battalion, _vice_ Colonel Chapman, retired
on half-pay. At this time the effective strength of the battalion was
861, all told.[221]

[Illustration: MAP N^o. 7.

  Sketch Map
  of part of the
  NORTH ISLAND
  of
  NEW ZEALAND
  1863-67

  W. & A.K. Johnston Limited, Edinburgh & London.]

There is little of interest to chronicle in the doings of the
battalion during the year 1868. The headquarters remained at
Auckland, with detachments in various parts of the colony. The
armament of the Royal Irish was modernised by the issue of Snider
breech-loading rifles to replace the muzzle-loading Enfields with
which the men had hitherto been provided. In December Colonel
Beatson, the officer who for a year and a half had commanded the
troops in New Zealand, left the colony; before sailing he issued
farewell orders in which he expressed his “unqualified satisfaction
with the correct and soldierly conduct of the 2nd battalion,
XVIIIth Royal Irish regiment, which reflects credit not only on
themselves alone but also on the British army of which they are
now almost the only representatives in this distant colony.” Early
in 1869, the battalion was warned to be in readiness to relieve
the 50th in Australia. The European population, however, strongly
opposed the departure of the Royal Irish: officers and men were
alike popular with all classes of society, and while on personal
grounds the colonists wished to retain the regiment among them,
from the political point of view they deprecated the withdrawal of
the XVIIIth, who were the rear-guard of the British army in New
Zealand. As a concession the Ministry at home reluctantly postponed
the departure of the battalion, but after a few months again ordered
it to Australia. The Government of New Zealand remonstrated warmly
against this decision, and offered to guarantee for five years any
annual payment which the War Office might fix as the price of the
retention of the XVIIIth. But as the Imperial Government had decided
to throw upon the settlers the responsibility for the defence of
the colony, it decided that no regular troops should remain in New
Zealand, and at the beginning of 1870 the battalion embarked, the
headquarters and four companies for Sydney, and detachments of two
companies each for Melbourne, Adelaide, and Hobart.

How highly the Royal Irish were appreciated in New Zealand will be
seen by the following extracts from official documents, newspaper
articles, and farewell speeches on the subject of their departure.
Sir George Bowen, who succeeded Sir George Grey as Governor of the
colony, recorded his “sense of the important service rendered by the
2nd battalion, XVIIIth Royal Irish during the present rebellion,
and also of the admirable conduct of the officers and men, who
have invariably maintained the most cordial relations with their
fellow-subjects. Their approaching departure is viewed with deep and
general regret both on public and on personal grounds.”[222]

In a speech made by Sir George Arney, Chief Justice of the Colony, on
the 16th of February 1870, the following passage occurs:--

  “I believe that every inhabitant of New Zealand has heard often
  of the 18th Royal Irish--has heard not only of that gallant and
  distinguished regiment, but also of the society of gentlemen who
  have won the affections, I believe, and certainly have commanded
  the respect, of the whole colony. And that which I have said of
  the Officers, I may in some degree also say of the men. As the
  head of one special department, I can say that during my long
  sojourn here, I have known no other regiment which has been so
  distinguished by its freedom from crime; and the men of this
  regiment have themselves thus become respected, not only by those
  of their immediate class, but by all classes of society in the
  Colony. That circumstance must be taken as due not only to the
  efficient command of the Officer at the head of the regiment,
  but also to the temper and discretion with which his orders have
  been carried out by the Officers of the regiment. I will say but
  little on the fact that this Colony is now losing the presence
  of this gallant regiment; it is a subject which, I believe, is a
  painful one to the hearts of the whole of the colonists in New
  Zealand. I believe that the 18th will be universally regretted,
  as they are now universally respected.”

The Ministers of the New Zealand government also gave their testimony
to the good conduct of the regiment in a communication to the
Governor.


  “MEMORANDUM FOR HIS EXCELLENCY.

  “Ministers cannot permit the last detachment of Her Majesty’s
  18th regiment to leave the Colony without expressing the regret
  which they feel at the departure of the regiment, and bearing
  testimony of the uniform good conduct of the force under the
  command of Lieutenant-Colonel Elliot, during the period of its
  service in the Colony; the sentiment which the Government thus
  places on record is that of the whole community.

  “The Government also desires to express the feeling which it
  entertains of the readiness which Lieutenant-Colonel Elliot,
  and the Officers commanding detachments under him, have always
  displayed to aid the Colony as far as lay in their power.

  “The Government also desires to record its appreciation of the
  uniform courtesy and consideration which they have experienced
  on the part of Lieutenant-Colonel Elliot in their communications
  with him through His Excellency the Governor.

  “(Signed) WILLIAM FOX,
  “_Premier_.”

By the beginning of March, 1870, the various detachments of the
regiment had settled down in their new stations, but they were not
destined long to enjoy the pleasures of life in the capitals of the
Australian colonies,[223] for very soon came orders for the regiment
to return to England. The policy of withdrawing all Imperial troops
from New Zealand had been carried out. It was now Australia’s turn
to be denuded of her garrison, and in August 1870, after hundreds of
men had taken their discharges in order to settle in Australasia,
the Royal Irish embarked for Plymouth. The sailing ship _Silver
Eagle_ left Sydney on the 21st of August with the four headquarter
companies; Lieutenant-Colonel Elliot was in command, and with him
were one captain, four subalterns, two surgeons, and one hundred and
thirty-five other ranks. On board the sailing ship _Corona_, which
left Melbourne about the same time, were Brevet-Lieutenant-Colonel
Rocke and two other field-officers, five captains, nine subalterns,
and two hundred and forty-six other ranks. The _Corona_ arrived at
Plymouth on November 16; the _Silver Eagle_ made so long a voyage
round Cape Horn that before she reached port on December 5th, it was
currently reported that she had been lost at sea.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Australians were profoundly moved when the Royal Irish left their
shores. The XVIIIth was already very popular, and apart from this
personal feeling, the settlers were deeply wounded at the removal of
this, the last British regiment of the garrison of Australasia. While
all men regarded this step as the breaking of one of the few visible
links between the mother country and her offshoots in the southern
hemisphere, many pessimists hinted that the policy of the Home
government was intended to force all the colonies into a declaration
of independence. When the _Corona_ sailed from Melbourne fifty
thousand people crowded to the beach to wave a sad farewell to the
XVIIIth, gloomily comparing the departure of the regiment with the
abandonment of Britain by the Roman legions. Happily these prophets
of evil were mistaken. The loyalty of the colonies to the Empire is
unimpaired, and the tie of sentiment has been strengthened by the
presence in three African campaigns of large bodies of volunteers
from Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, who fought shoulder to
shoulder with Imperial troops in quarrels with which the colonists
were concerned solely as members of the British race. Though the
offer of two thousand Australasian militia and volunteers to serve
against the Boers in the war of 1881 was refused by Mr Gladstone’s
government, four years later eight hundred men from New South Wales
were fighting at Suakim, and four hundred Canadian _voyageurs_
were steering whale-boats upon the Nile in the expedition towards
Khartoum: while in the recent struggle with the Boers for the
possession of South Africa, nearly thirty thousand men from Greater
Britain represented the oversea provinces of the Empire in the army
of the old country.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the second battalion landed in England, it was quartered at
Devonport, where the energies of the officers and non-commissioned
officers were devoted to welding into shape the recruits enlisted to
fill its depleted ranks. These youths were of poor physique and small
stature, and only three hundred were finally accepted as suitable
for the Service, but good food and systematic training did wonders
for them: in a year their average height had increased an inch,
while they had grown two inches wider round the chest. The burden of
drilling and disciplining this mass of raw material fell upon the
adjutant, Lieutenant H. B. Moore; his success was so conspicuous
that when he left the army in 1873, Lieutenant-Colonel S. Wilson,
who in 1871 had succeeded Colonel Elliot in command, warmly thanked
him for his work in a regimental order. During the six years spent
by the battalion at various garrison towns in England nothing of
interest occurred, except that the Royal Irish were represented in
the Ashantee war by Major T. D. Baker and Lieutenant I. W. Graves,
both of whom were mentioned in despatches.[224] In June, 1876,
the retirement of Colonel Wilson placed Lieutenant-Colonel R. H.
Daniel in command; and in the following month began a tour of duty
in Ireland, as barren of events as had been that in England. The
battalion was at Kilkenny in the spring of 1878, when in anticipation
of a possible war with Russia part of the reserve was called out, and
four hundred men from the Kilkenny and Wexford militia were poured
into the ranks of the Royal Irish, whose officers led a strenuous
life during the three months of the embodiment. On the death of
Colonel Daniel in May, 1882, Lieutenant-Colonel C. F. Gregorie
arranged an exchange with Lieutenant-Colonel M. J. R. M‘Gregor, first
battalion, and was gazetted to the command of the second battalion on
September 14, 1878. After passing three years in Ireland, the home
battalion of the Royal Irish spent two years at Aldershot, and then
was moved to Chatham where the marching-in state showed a strength of
15 officers, 37 sergeants, 12 drummers and 356 rank and file. Here
it remained until August, 1882, when it embarked for Egypt on active
service.



CHAPTER X.

THE FIRST BATTALION.

1865-1884.

CHANGES IN ARMY ORGANISATION: THE SECOND AFGHAN WAR.


While the second battalion of the Royal Irish regiment was winning
its spurs in New Zealand, the first was quartered in southern India.
At the end of 1865 it was ordered home; volunteering into other corps
was permitted, and 381 non-commissioned officers and men elected to
finish their service in the East, while 29 officers[225] and 450
other ranks, with 44 women and 72 children, embarked in February,
1866, at Bombay in two ships, the slower of which did not reach
England until the end of June. Two years later the battalion was
sent to Ireland, and in August, 1871, was warned for another tour
of foreign service. This order filled all ranks with dismay, for if
any corps in the British army had the right to expect a long rest at
home it was the first battalion of the XVIIIth. Since 1692, when it
first landed on the Continent, it had spent a hundred and nineteen
years out of the United Kingdom, and between 1837, when it sailed for
Ceylon, and its return from India in 1866, it had served abroad with
one short break of less than six months’ duration; it had fought with
distinction in China, in Burma, and in the Crimea, and had shared in
the suppression of the Indian Mutiny. To explain why the War Office
sent the first battalion on foreign service again so quickly, it
becomes necessary to allude briefly to the long series of changes in
the organisation of the army which began to take effect in 1870.

The strain thrown on the military resources of Britain by the
Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny had convinced even the most
determined economists in the House of Commons not only that the army
was too small, but that it was utterly lacking in power of rapid
expansion in case of need. To increase its numbers in time of peace
was comparatively easy, and by the addition in 1858-59 of second
battalions to the twenty-five senior regiments of the line, the
infantry was materially strengthened. But to render the army more
elastic, more fit to meet a sudden national emergency, was a far
more difficult matter. The process by which the XVIIIth was brought
up to war strength for the Crimea[226] was the only method then
known for making a regiment ready to take the field, for as there
were no reservists to replace men too weakly or too young for a
campaign, the ranks of a corps ordered on active service could only
be filled by the depletion of other units, which by this process of
“robbing Peter to pay Paul” were reduced to impotence, until they
in turn had obtained recruits and trained the raw material into
soldiers. Of the various attempts to form an adequate reserve one
only was successful--the “militia reserve,” composed of the best
men in the constitutional force, who for a small annual retaining
fee undertook in case of need to serve as regular soldiers in any
part of the world. But this was only a reversion to the methods of
the Crimean days, for it called away the pick of the militia at the
moment when they were required, if not for active service, at least
for garrison duty at home and in the Mediterranean; and at best it
could produce but a limited supply of men who were obviously very
inferior in quality to well-trained ex-regular soldiers. The problem
of how to create an adequate reserve remained virtually unsolved for
many years, though numberless committees were appointed to consider
the question in all its bearings. The subject was, indeed, most
complex. The army at home had to be prepared to defend the British
Isles, to embark on expeditions beyond the limits of the United
Kingdom, and to replace the waste caused by death, by invaliding, and
by the discharge of “time-expired” men among the troops abroad, of
whom 70,000 were quartered in India, while nearly 50,000 more were
scattered in garrisons among our fortresses and colonies in other
parts of the world. Gradually the opinion gained ground that it was
hopeless to expect the army to discharge these varied duties, unless
there was behind it a large body of highly-trained and disciplined
men who, when a war was imminent, could be counted upon to reinforce
the troops at home; and the brilliant success of the Prussians in
“the Seven Weeks’ War” of 1866, determined our government to adopt
a modification of the German principle of short service with the
Colours, followed by a period of service in the Reserve. To devise
a system suitable to an army recruited by voluntary enlistment,
and of which a very large proportion is normally stationed abroad,
required years of preparation, and it was not until 1870 that Mr
Cardwell, then Secretary of State for War, began to introduce
the great innovations which modernised the British army. By the
abolition of “purchase,” rich men were no longer able to buy their
steps, and by the power of the purse obtain promotion over the heads
of their poorer comrades; the ages were fixed at which officers
of various ranks were to retire, so that a reasonable flow of
promotion was obtained; the garrisons of the tropical colonies were
reduced, while those of the great oversea provinces were gradually
withdrawn; recruits were enlisted for twelve years--the first six
to be passed with the Colours, and the remainder in the Reserve;
while to provide for an adequate and systematic flow of trained men
to India and our other outlying possessions, regiments were linked
together in pairs--one serving at home, the other abroad. One of the
functions of the “home” battalion was to impart to the recruits the
ground-work of military training, and, when the young soldiers were
fit to serve out of the United Kingdom, to send them in drafts to
the “foreign” battalion, where they remained for the rest of their
service with the Colours, and then on their return to the United
Kingdom were transferred to the Reserve. In the first twenty-five
regiments, which already possessed two battalions, the process of
“linking” was effected without the difficulty and friction which
frequently occurred in cases where two corps, strangers to each other
in tradition and sentiment, were suddenly brought into the intimate
relation of virtual partnership; and when in 1882, regiments ceased
to be designated by numbers, and the identity of the original units
was merged into that of the territorial regiment, the XVIIIth became
the Royal Irish regiment with no regret beyond that of the loss of
the number under which it had won distinctions in every part of the
world.

As the second battalion had only just returned from New Zealand
and Australia, it was the turn of the first battalion, under the
newly introduced system, to go abroad; and on January 18, 1872,
Lieutenant-Colonel G. H. Pocklington, with 26 officers and 606 other
ranks, embarked for Malta. After three years the first battalion,
917 strong, sailed for India under command of Lieutenant-Colonel
E. L. Dillon, and early in December reached Bareilly, where it was
quartered for nearly four years. While it was at this station His
Majesty King Edward VII., then Prince of Wales, made a Royal progress
through the Eastern Empire that would one day be his, and on the
6th of March, 1876, stopped at Bareilly on his way from the Terai
to Allahabad: His Royal Highness was received by a guard of honour
of the Royal Irish, while the remainder of the battalion lined the
avenue through which he passed on his way to the palace of the Nawab
of Rampore. In the evening the Prince did the battalion the honour
of dining with the officers, and gave to the mess portraits of the
Princess of Wales and himself as a memento of his visit, and a few
days later two large steel engravings of the Prince and Princess of
Wales were sent by His Royal Highness as a present to the sergeants’
mess. A year later the death occurred of Field-Marshal Sir John
Forster Fitzgerald, G.C.B.,[227] who since 1850, when he succeeded
Lord Aylmer, had been the Colonel of the XVIIIth, Royal Irish
regiment. This veteran, whose age had earned for him the title of
“the father of the British Army,” was born in Ireland in 1786, before
the abolition of the iniquitous system by which wealthy men were
allowed to buy commissions for infants prattling in the nursery. At
the mature age of eight Fitzgerald was a captain in the regular army,
at seventeen he was a major, and he obtained his lieutenant-colonelcy
when only twenty-four years of age. He served in the Peninsula,
commanding a brigade in the battle of the Pyrenees in 1813; in 1854
he became General, and in 1875 received a Field-Marshal’s bâton. He
died in March, 1877, at Tours, and by the special order of Marshal
Macmahon, then President of the French Republic, the whole of the
garrison attended the funeral to pay to the British officer the
honours accorded to Frenchmen of his exalted military rank. He was
succeeded as Colonel of the XVIIIth by Lieutenant-General Clement A.
Edwards, C.B.[228]

The first battalion changed stations from Bareilly to Ferozepore
in February, 1878, and just after Lieutenant-Colonel M. MacGregor
succeeded to the command on September 13, 1878, two companies were
detached to Mooltan, while a third was sent to Dera Ismail Khan,
one of the posts guarding the north-west frontier of India. For
a few days there seemed to be a chance of “blooding” some of the
young soldiers of the XVIIIth, for the Mahsood Waziris raided into
our country and burned the town of Tank some thirty miles from Dera
Ismail Khan. The native cavalry of the garrison were at once sent
to the scene of the outrage, and fell heavily upon the freebooters,
many of whom were killed and wounded, while the remainder fled to
the neighbouring hills, where they threw up sangars and challenged
us to attack them. But the officer in command of the British column
was not disposed to squander the lives of his troops by assaulting
stone breast-works without a preliminary bombardment; and remembering
that some of the Royal Irish had been taught gun-drill at Dera Ismail
Khan, he ordered up a couple of pieces, manned by soldiers of the
XVIIIth under an officer of the regiment, Lieutenant H. Shuldham-Lye.
The amateur gunners, “spoiling for a fight,” pushed on to Tank at
speed, but when the tribesmen heard that guns were to be used against
them they suddenly dispersed, and the little campaign came to an end.
For its services the detachment was officially thanked by the officer
in command of the operations.

A few months after the Royal Irish arrived at Ferozepore Russian
intrigues involved Britain in war with Afghanistan, an independent
State whose mountains overhang part of the north-west frontier of
India. As early as 1837, England and Russia were contending for the
privilege of directing the foreign policy of the Amir of Afghanistan,
upon whose borders the rival European Powers were advancing by giant
strides in the course of their Asiatic conquests; and when the Amir,
Dost Mahomed, cordially welcomed a Russian officer, who brought from
the Czar proposals for an alliance against England, our government
determined to depose Dost Mahomed and to replace him with a nominee
of their own. The attempt to carry this scheme into execution
produced the first Afghan war, in which the Czar made no effort to
help the Amir, being satisfied at having involved his great rival in
an expensive and disastrous campaign with the country he proposed
some day to use as a stepping-stone in the invasion of India. At the
end of the Crimean war Russia, foiled in her projects against Turkey,
devoted her energies to the subjugation of Central Asia, where vast
territories fell into her hands; and by the conquest of Khiva in
1873, she advanced her outposts to within four hundred miles of our
Indian frontier, establishing herself within easy striking distance
of Afghanistan. Shere Ali, the Amir, trembling for his independence,
offered his friendship to England if she would give him a specific
promise of help against Muscovite aggression, but as our government
refused any such guarantee he decided to throw in his lot with
Russia. In 1877, there was war between the Sultan and the Czar, and
as it seemed probable that England would again intervene by force
of arms to save Turkey from annihilation, the Russians intrigued
more vigorously than ever with Afghanistan, sending a military envoy
to the Amir, who received him with every mark of distinction. To
counteract the effect produced in every village in India by the
knowledge that a Russian envoy had been officially welcomed at Kabul,
the Viceroy decided that a British mission should visit Shere Ali,
who was informed that Sir Neville Chamberlain was coming to discuss
matters of importance with him in a friendly spirit. In due time the
mission set forth from Peshawar, but in the Khyber Pass, just within
the Amir’s boundary, its members were turned back by Afghan troops,
who under orders from Kabul refused to allow them to advance farther
into Afghanistan. As Shere Ali declined to apologise for this insult,
war became inevitable, and after our ultimatum had been rejected
British troops invaded his country from various points.

It is not proposed to describe the operations of the second Afghan
war, for the first battalion of the Royal Irish, upon whom fortune
had frowned during the Mutiny, were still pursued by ill luck, and
played but the smallest part in the campaign. Though the war began in
November 1878, it was not until the beginning of the following year
that the first battalion was ordered up from Ferozepore to join the
reserve division of the Northern Afghanistan field force at Peshawar.
A few weeks later this division was broken up; the battalion was
transferred to the Khyber Line force; and on May 2, 1879, eight
hundred and four stalwart Royal Irishmen found themselves at the
foot of the great wall of rock which forbids access to Afghanistan
from the plains of India.[229] This natural rampart is pierced by
the Khyber Pass--a dark and gloomy gorge, winding its way between
high mountains which so nearly approach each other that in places
their rugged sides are only ten or twelve feet apart. Through this
defile, one of the most difficult in the world, runs the track which
for centuries has been the highway of commerce between Central Asia
and Hindustan. In the middle of the pass the mountains, suddenly
receding, form a plain, where the battalion spent the next ten
months in discharging the useful but unattractive duties which
fall to the lot of line of communication troops. They had to hold
Lundi Kotal and Ali Musjid; to provide escorts for convoys through
the pass, and to piquet the neighbouring hills. The guards were
numerous, for the local tribesmen were expert thieves, to whom every
British rifle was worth its weight in rupees; and notwithstanding
the vigilance of the sentries in the sangars round the camp, Afridi
robbers succeeded in abstracting a few firearms from the tents in
which the men were sleeping. A good many non-commissioned officers
and privates were lucky enough to escape from the drudgery of this
existence by obtaining employment as signallers on the Kabul-Peshawar
line, where from constant practice they became experts with flag and
heliograph. During the summer there was a sharp outbreak of cholera
in the battalion, which cost the lives of Quartermaster R. Barrett
and sixty of the other ranks.[230] “It came up from India in the
most curious way, right along the signallers’ posts. We heard of it
first at Jumrood; a few days afterwards a man in the first post was
taken ill; a few days more and the second post was attacked, though
there appeared to be no communication possible (except by heliograph)
between the posts, and it gradually kept on till it reached the
regiment. We knew it was coming; we could not move, and I think,”
writes an officer, “that it showed the staunchness of the Royal
Irish that they never went to pieces at all.” To keep up the spirits
of the men and give them some amusement the officers rigged up a
gymnasium and laid out a polo-ground and racecourse, where regimental
gymkhanas were often held.

[Illustration: THE AFGHANISTAN, EGYPT (1882) AND NILE CROSS AT
CLONMEL.]

Although the first battalion was not actively engaged in the Afghan
war, the officers and men who served in the Khyber Pass received the
medal, and the regiment was permitted to add the words “Afghanistan
1879-80” to its battle honours. At the end of the campaign in 1881
the Royal Irish returned to India, and for the next two years and a
half oscillated between the great cantonment of Rawal Pindi and the
hill station of Kuldurrah. On May 23, 1882, when Lieutenant-Colonel
M. MacGregor’s term of command expired, he was succeeded by
Lieutenant-Colonel H. Shaw, V.C., and in July of the same year the
death of Lieutenant-General Edwards broke one of the few links still
connecting the XVIIIth with its campaigns in the middle of the
nineteenth century. He died full of years and honours, respected and
admired not only by the regiment with which he had passed the best
years of his life, but by every officer and man with whom he had
served during his long career.[231] Lieutenant-General and Honorary
General Sir Alexander Macdonnell, K.C.B., was appointed to replace
him as Colonel.[232] A few weeks after the Royal Irish lost their
Colonel, the second battalion sailed from England for Egypt to
take part in the campaign described in the next chapter. The first
battalion continued to serve in India until August, 1884, when in
its turn it was summoned to Egypt as one of the corps selected for
the attempt to rescue General Gordon from the dangers besetting him
at Khartoum. The account of the doings of the first battalion in the
Nile Expedition will be found in chapter xii.



CHAPTER XI.

THE SECOND BATTALION.

1882-1883.

THE WAR IN EGYPT.


In Chapter iv. the campaign of 1801 is described, in which the Royal
Irish regiment played a distinguished part in the expulsion of the
French from Egypt. To explain why, more than eighty years later,
it became necessary for British troops again to take the field in
the valley of the Nile, a few words of historical retrospect are
necessary. Our short occupation of Egypt in 1801 was purely military
and in no way interfered with the status of the country, which for
many years continued nominally to be a province of the Ottoman
Empire. In the first half of the nineteenth century an adventurer
named Mahomed Ali, who started in life as a small government official
in Turkish employ, made himself master of Egypt and conquered the
Soudan, a vast no-man’s land, which from Wadi-Halfa, the southern
boundary of Egypt proper, stretched for 1300 miles up the valley of
the Nile. For thirty years he waged an intermittent war with the
Sublime Porte, occupying Syria and threatening the safety of the
Sultan in Constantinople itself, until the great Powers of Europe,
which in 1827 had combined to destroy the Turkish fleet at Navarino,
united in 1840 to save the Ottoman Empire from disruption, and sent
a joint naval expedition against Mahomed’s garrisons on the Syrian
seaboard. Next year the Sultan made peace with his rebellious vassal,
who restored Syria to his overlord as the price of the hereditary
viceroyalty of Egypt, which was then conferred upon him. A few
years later the opening of the “overland route,” by which mails and
passengers for the East were carried between Alexandria and Suez,
began to bring Egypt closely within the sphere of British politics;
and the completion in 1869 of the Suez canal by a French company,
whose moving spirit was M. de Lesseps, the engineer, made the safety
of the new waterway, and the good government of the country through
which it ran a matter of paramount importance to the British
Empire.[233] Yet England by no means desired to add the possession of
Egypt to her other burdens. Her attitude is well described by Lord
Cromer:

  “The general political interest of England was clear. England
  did not want to possess Egypt, but it was essential to British
  interests that the country should not fall into the hands of
  any other European Power. British policy, in respect to Egypt,
  had for years past been based on this principle. In 1857 the
  Emperor Napoleon III. made overtures to the British Government
  with a view to the partition of the northern portions of Africa.
  Morocco was to fall to France, Tunis to Sardinia, and Egypt to
  England. On this proposal being submitted to Lord Palmerston,
  he stated his views in a letter to Lord Clarendon. ‘It is very
  possible,’ he said, ‘that many parts of the world would be better
  governed by France, England, and Sardinia than they now are....
  We do not want to have Egypt. What we wish about Egypt is that it
  should continue to be attached to the Turkish Empire, which is
  a security against its belonging to any European Power. We want
  to trade with Egypt and to travel through Egypt, but we do not
  want the burden of governing Egypt.... Let us try and improve all
  these countries by the general influence of our commerce, but let
  us abstain from a crusade of conquest which would call down upon
  us the condemnation of all other civilised nations.’ On another
  occasion Lord Palmerston used the following homely but apt
  illustration. ‘We do not want Egypt or wish for it ourselves any
  more than any rational man with an estate in the north of England
  and a residence in the south would have wished to possess the
  inns on the north road. All he could want would have been that
  the inns should be well kept, always accessible, and furnishing
  him when he came with mutton chops and post-horses.’”[234]

Unfortunately Egypt was anything but well governed. A thin veneer of
European civilisation barely concealed the barbaric methods of the
East, and the corruption and extravagance of her rulers were almost
incredible. In 1863, her public debt was about three millions and
a quarter sterling.[235] Thirteen years later, under the rule of
Ismail, it had increased to sixty-eight millions, with a floating or
unfunded debt of twenty-six millions more, or ninety-four millions
in all. As the funded debt had been contracted in Europe, chiefly in
the money markets of London and Paris, and as a large portion of the
floating debt was due to European creditors, the English and French
Cabinets wrung from the Khedive a reluctant consent that European
men of business should be appointed to investigate the financial
condition of his country. In 1878, the Anglo-French committee of
enquiry discovered that the finances of Egypt were rotten to the
core. For the debt of ninety-four millions there was practically
nothing to show, except the Suez canal, towards the building of which
the Government of Egypt had contributed sixteen millions.[236] There
was no money to pay the interest on the bonds, and the old method
of raising a fresh loan to pay the interest on those already in
existence was obviously no longer possible.

In the hope that the influence of high-principled European men of
business would improve the government, the Powers insisted that the
Khedive should employ ministers of their selection. He did so, but
by resolutely obstructing the officials thus imposed upon him, he
reduced the administration to such a state of chaos that in June,
1879, the patience of England and France was exhausted, and with
the concurrence of the other Powers and the reluctant consent of
the Sultan, the Khedive was deposed in favour of his son, Prince
Tewfik. The change of viceroy did not, however, produce the result
anticipated. Affairs did not improve under Tewfik’s rule; by the
end of 1881 the population was in a ferment; a strong anti-European
feeling had arisen among the people, while the army was mutinous,
and regarded not Tewfik but Arabi, a clever and intriguing Egyptian
colonel, as its master. With the object of strengthening the
Khedive’s position, England and France in January, 1882, addressed to
Tewfik a “dual note,” stating that they considered his maintenance
on the throne as the sole guarantee of good order and prosperity
in Egypt. This note, however, in no way impressed the population;
the condition of the country daily grew more unsatisfactory, and by
May a series of military demonstrations had made Arabi the virtual
dictator of Egypt, though Tewfik continued in name to be its ruler.
Massacres of Christians in various parts of the country caused an
enormous exodus of the European population,[237] trade was completely
dislocated, and the safety of the Suez canal appeared imperilled.

The Egyptian army, exclusive of the garrison of the Soudan, consisted
of about 9000 men actually serving with the Colours, but more than
50,000 men had passed through the ranks into the reserve, and in the
Bedouins, the dwellers in the desert, Arabi had a further reserve,
though of very doubtful value. His artillery was powerful; exclusive
of heavy guns there were forty-eight batteries of field-artillery,
not, however, fully horsed. When war broke out the reserve men were
recalled, and 40,000 recruits enlisted, who after a few days’ drill
were thrust, virtually untrained, into the ranks. Egypt was rich in
horses and camels, and in addition to the horses required for the
artillery, eleven thousand transport animals were obtained from the
population. Nominally, these beasts were the free-will offerings of
their owners, but there is reason to believe that the generosity of
their donors was greatly stimulated by the use of the _courbash_.

During 1881, and the first part of 1882, many communications on the
subject of Egypt had passed between the governments of England and
France and the other European Powers.[238] All were agreed that order
should be restored on the banks of the Nile, but, save England and
France, none seemed disposed to undertake the task. At first France
was much more inclined to a military intervention than Britain,
for England in 1882 no more desired to annex Egypt than in 1857,
when she rejected the French Emperor’s schemes for the partition
of northern Africa. But she remembered that, even before the time
of the great Napoleon, France had cast covetous eyes upon Egypt,
and as it was impossible for England to allow Egypt to be occupied
by any Continental nation, her obvious policy was to co-operate
with France, and by re-establishing order and good government in
the country to render the Egyptians capable of managing their own
affairs without European guidance. To this policy England loyally
adhered until France refused to advance further in the matter. As
tangible evidence that the Western Powers really intended to support
the Khedive, an Anglo-French squadron was sent to Alexandria, where
it lay for several weeks, until our Admiral, Lord Alcester (then
Sir Beauchamp Seymour), discovered that in direct defiance of the
Khedive’s orders, Arabi was preparing to make good his threat to
attack any European troops landing in Egypt. Not only was he mounting
guns on the fortifications, but he was also attempting to prevent the
British fleet from leaving the port by secretly throwing great blocks
of stone into the entrance of the harbour. Through Lord Alcester, the
British government informed Arabi that unless he at once desisted
the forts would be shelled. Arabi promised compliance, but when
the search-lights from the ships were turned on, it was seen that
under cover of night the work was being pressed forward.[239] The
danger to the fleet soon grew too serious to be ignored, and after
repeated but equally fruitless warnings, notice was given to Arabi
that on the 11th of July the forts would be bombarded. Thereupon the
French Admiral announced that his instructions did not permit him to
take part in such an operation, and on the 10th he steamed out of
Alexandria, leaving his British colleague in the lurch. The forts
were bombarded with complete success, and Arabi, retiring inland for
a few miles, threatened Alexandria from a position at Kafr-el-Dauar,
astride the railway to Cairo. To save the town from pillage by its
mob, and to defend it against attack by the Egyptian army, a large
number of British sailors and soldiers were landed. The troops had
just arrived from Cyprus, where, under Lieutenant-General Sir A.
Alison, a brigade, supplied by the Mediterranean garrisons, had been
assembled with secret orders to seize and protect the Suez canal
against Arabi, who had openly expressed his determination to destroy
it.

Meanwhile preparations for an expedition were on foot in England.
An army corps drawn from the United Kingdom, the Mediterranean
garrisons, and India was to be sent to Egypt under command of Lord
Wolseley (then Lieutenant-General Sir Garnet Wolseley) with the
temporary rank of General. It consisted of a cavalry division, two
infantry divisions, artillery, engineers, and a strong contingent
of British and native soldiers from India. In the first division,
under Lieutenant-General G. H. S. Willis, were the 1st, or brigade
of Guards, commanded by H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught, and the
2nd brigade (in which was the 2nd battalion of the Royal Irish),
under Major-General G. Graham. The second division, commanded by
Lieutenant-General Sir E. Hamley, was composed of the brigades of
Major-General Sir A. Alison and Major-General Sir E. Wood. The Indian
contingent, which was to join Lord Wolseley in Egypt, was led by
Major-General Sir H. T. Macpherson. The total number of troops who
embarked as part of the original army corps were 25,309.[240] The
units selected for the war were mobilised; the reserve, or to be
strictly accurate, those of its members who had left the Colours
within two years were called out; transports were engaged and fitted
up for troops, and the House of Commons voted the necessary money.
Suddenly the policy of France completely veered round, and on the
29th of July, only nine days after the French Ministry had formally
engaged to take part in the expedition, the Chamber by an enormous
majority refused to spend a penny upon the restoration of law and
order in Egypt. This remarkable change of front, which not only threw
the whole expense, but the whole conduct of the expedition upon the
British, was doubtless annoying to our statesmen, but agreeable to
our generals, many of whom knew from personal experience in China
and the Crimea how difficult co-operation with our French allies had
proved in those campaigns. The defection of the French caused no
alteration in Lord Wolseley’s plans. To crush the Khedive’s mutinous
army and to restore order among his subjects it was essential
that Cairo, the hot-bed of disaffection, should be occupied as
speedily as possible by British troops, and this he proposed to
do by landing, not at Alexandria, but at Ismailia, a town on the
canal half-way between Suez and Port Said. From Ismailia to Cairo
is about seventy-five miles, while from Alexandria to the capital
is nearly double that distance. By the former route the track would
lie alongside a canal of drinkable water, over hard sand which made
a fair surface for marching. In the latter route, _i.e._ through
the Delta of the Nile, there were practically no roads fit for
wheeled vehicles, the local traffic being carried on by railway,
by pack animals, and by boats on the innumerable canals by which
the country is irrigated. Moreover, during the months of August,
September, and October--the time of “high Nile,” which was rapidly
approaching--the whole of the Delta is under water. Thus, of the two
lines of advance, that through the desert was obviously the better
one, and it possessed the additional advantage that the preparations
for undertaking it served to protect the Suez canal from attack, and
to secure possession of the canals by which Suez, Ismailia, and Port
Said are supplied with drinking water. It was of the first importance
that Arabi should remain in complete ignorance of the British plans;
and thus the bombardment of Alexandria and the landing of Alison’s
brigade, neither of which had formed part of Lord Wolseley’s original
scheme, turned to our advantage, for the arrival of Alison’s troops
confirmed the Egyptian General in his opinion that the invading army
would disembark at Alexandria. Wolseley seized every opportunity
to strengthen him in this belief; Alison was ordered to keep Arabi
constantly in fear of an attack, and succeeded in doing so by a
series of demonstrations against the works which the rebel army had
thrown up.

By the end of July the troops began to leave the United Kingdom: and
the second battalion of the Royal Irish regiment, almost the last
corps to sail, embarked on August 8, 1882, at Plymouth, bound, as was
then believed by all on board, for Alexandria. To enable the reader
to appreciate the situation when the battalion reached the seat of
war, it is necessary to give a short account of the events which took
place while it was still at sea. On the 15th of August Lord Wolseley
arrived at Alexandria, and with his naval colleague, Admiral Lord
Alcester, settled the details of the combined operation by which the
sailors in the men-of-war already stationed in the Suez canal were
to seize and hold the towns upon its banks, until the soldiers could
begin to land at Ismailia. A considerable portion of the expedition
had already disembarked at Alexandria, and transports were daily,
almost hourly, arriving from England. The question of how these
troops were to be re-embarked and despatched to the canal without
giving Arabi any clue to their destination now had to be solved.
Throughout his career as a soldier, Wolseley had urged the necessity
of deceiving your enemy in war: now he had a great opportunity to
give the British army an object lesson in the art of mystifying
an opponent, and right well did he avail himself of it. A strong
believer in the truth of the axiom that whatever is rumoured in your
camp to-day will be known to-morrow to the enemy, he determined to
mislead, not only Arabi but the whole of the British army as to his
intentions. Orders were accordingly issued for a combined naval and
military attack from the sea upon the forts at Aboukir Bay, supported
by the troops left to garrison Alexandria. Not even General Hamley,
who was in command at Alexandria, was in the secret; and with the
help of his brigadiers, Alison and Wood, he worked out elaborate
details for co-operation in the advance of the main body after it
had landed at Aboukir Bay; the scheme was submitted to Wolseley and
gravely approved! At noon on the 19th of August all the troops,
except those left to hold Alexandria, were on board their ships,
and eight ironclads and seventeen transports steamed away towards
Aboukir. Before his departure the Commander-in-Chief handed a sealed
packet containing his real plan to General Hamley, with strict orders
not to open it till early on the morning of the 20th. The fleet
reached Aboukir in four hours, and anchored till nightfall, when
the gunboats and other small naval craft stood inshore and engaged
the forts, while the big ships slipped away unobserved and arrived
at Port Said early next morning, to find that the navy had carried
out their instructions admirably. The sailors had surprised the
detachments of the enemy watching Port Said, Ismailia, and Suez;
these places were in their hands. They were in possession of the
whole of the Suez canal. They had prevented any vessels from entering
it and, to clear the way for the transports, had ordered all steamers
then in the canal to tie up at the _gares_ or shunting-places,
familiar to every soldier whose service has taken him east of Suez.
The merchant ships complied with three exceptions. A French mail-boat
claimed the right to pass, and was allowed to do so as a matter of
international courtesy: two English master mariners of the baser sort
disobeyed, and when the British gunboat that regulated the traffic
was out of sight they followed in the Frenchman’s wake. This incident
considerably delayed the entrance of the British fleet into the
Canal, but by the evening of the 23rd, the day before the Royal Irish
reached Lake Timsah, 9000 men and a few stores had been landed at
Ismailia; the fresh-water canal and the whole line of railway between
Suez and Ismailia had fallen into our hands, and communication by
land had thus been secured with the Indian contingent, which had
begun to disembark at Suez on the 20th. Thanks to Lord Wolseley’s
_ruse de guerre_, these successes had been obtained almost without
bloodshed.

The report that Aboukir was to be bombarded duly reached Arabi, who
sent large reinforcements to the threatened forts. The Egyptians
believed that the Delta was the object of the British attack, and
consequently had concentrated the greater part of their army at the
mouths of the Nile, with a body of 12,000 men at Tel-el-Kebir, a
post in the eastern desert thirty-three miles to the westward of
Ismailia. To this flank guard was allotted the duty of defending
the Delta against an enemy based on the canal, and of guarding
Zag-a-zig, the most important junction in the railway system of
Egypt. By his successful feint upon Aboukir, Wolseley prevented the
despatch of reinforcements from the Delta to Tel-el-Kebir, and thanks
to the rapidity with which the naval landing-parties had seized the
telegraph lines, news of the occupation of the Suez canal did not
reach the garrison of Tel-el-Kebir in time to enable them to oppose
our disembarkation at Ismailia. Very shortly after Arabi heard that
Wolseley had landed on the bank of the canal he transferred his
Headquarters to Tel-el-Kebir, where his Intelligence department must
have been singularly inefficient, for, “strange as it may appear,
it now seems to be certain that the great transfer of force on the
19th of August from Alexandria to Ismailia remained unknown to Arabi
till he heard of it with evident astonishment about a year later in
Ceylon,”[241] where, after the war was over, he was detained as a
political prisoner. But though the British General had thus stolen a
march upon his enemy, many difficulties still confronted him, well
described in the following extract from the official history of the
campaign.

  “There was only one small pier at Ismailia. Ships did not at
  first anchor nearer than about half a mile from the shore. Every
  man, every horse and every gun, as well as all the ammunition and
  stores for the supply of the army, had first to be transhipped
  from the transports into barges and small boats, rowed or tugged
  to shore, and then landed on the small pier.... In no sense were
  the conditions for the rapid landing of a large number of troops
  and of a vast quantity of stores in existence at Ismailia. It
  is true that this state of things could be ultimately changed
  by our engineers. But this would also be a question of time.
  Every tool, every scrap of material, all the bridging stores
  and all the means of constructing other piers, for laying
  down tramways and increasing the pier accommodation must, by
  an inexorable necessity, be first landed under the conditions
  actually existing. Materials for all these purposes, including
  landing-stages expressly made for Ismailia, had been prepared
  in England before the expedition sailed, but it would not be
  possible to send them forward in the most advanced vessels
  of the fleet, for those ships must be otherwise filled. In
  order to secure the all-important lines of communication--the
  railway and Sweet-water canal--for the advance from Ismailia,
  it was essential that the first vessels of the fleet should be
  occupied by the troops which would be sent forward to seize
  them. These troops, once sent forward, must be supplied with
  food and ammunition, so that a considerable force, with all
  its guns and equipment, tons of supplies, ordnance stores and
  ammunition and the means of local transport ... must be sent
  on in the most advanced ships before any engineering material
  for the improvement of the means of landing ... could be put on
  shore.”[242]

The Egyptians had dammed the “Sweet-water” canal at Magfar, a few
miles west of Ismailia, and the water, the only supply for the towns
on the Suez canal and for the army when it moved into the desert,
was falling rapidly. While keeping every available man at work at
Ismailia, Lord Wolseley sent Graham with a small force of all arms
to Magfar, and after two days’ skirmishing, not only occupied that
place, but Kassasin also, where an important lock, twenty miles
up the canal from Ismailia, fell into our hands. Here Wolseley
determined to establish an advanced base, where, under the protection
of a comparatively small force, supplies could be accumulated in
readiness for the campaign in the desert. Graham was left in charge
of this post; among his troops were two of the units of his brigade
(the 2nd), viz.: a battalion of Royal Marine Light Infantry and the
2nd battalion, York and Lancaster regiment; the remainder of his
command, the 2nd battalion of the Royal Irish regiment and the 1st
battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers, though they landed on the
night of the 24th, did not take part in these preliminary operations,
being detained at Ismailia to help in unloading the store-ships and
transports.

The Royal Irish arrived from England with a total strength of
seven hundred and seventy-one, including a hundred and fifty
non-commissioned officers and men from the reserve.[243] Among
their fellow-passengers was a newspaper correspondent, Major Terry,
a half-pay officer, who found the XVIIIth such good comrades that
he attached himself to the battalion throughout the war. From his
account the voyage was a pleasant one, the ship comfortable, and the
troops well fed. The time passed quickly, for in addition to the
ordinary routine of life on board a transport, the officers were
hard at work reading the books on Egypt with which Colonel Gregorie
had provided himself, and lecturing to the men about the country
in which they were going to fight. The correspondent described the
rank and file as “rather under height, but a very broad-shouldered
and robust body of men, with quiet manners and pleasant to talk
to. Intensely Irish, they easily brighten into excitement in their
amusements, and when their own stirring national airs are played
by the band.” At Malta the XVIIIth heard many rumours about Lord
Wolseley’s plans, but the only definite information they received
was the order to paint their helmets and belts mud-colour, and to
dull the brass-work on their uniforms. To our modern ideas the
red serge jumpers and blue serge trousers in which the expedition
took the field was a kit singularly ill adapted for a campaign in
Egypt. Spine-pads and spectacles with blue glasses were served
out, but many men did not understand the value of these novel
articles of equipment, and lost them, much to their sorrow when
a few days later they found themselves in the desert exposed to
the full blaze of a semi-tropical sun. On the 22nd the _City of
Paris_ reached Alexandria, and was immediately ordered on to Port
Said, where the battalion found the navy in possession of the town,
apparently quite as much at home there as in Portsmouth harbour. As
the ship was steaming slowly along the canal, the Royal Irish were
much entertained by a party of bluejackets, stationed at Kantara
to protect the floating bridge. The guard of sailors turned out
and presented arms in the most orthodox fashion; and then produced
a concertina and played “Rule Britannia,” dancing on the sand and
swinging their cutlasses round their heads with immense energy.

On August 24, the _City of Paris_ arrived at Lake Timsah, and
anchored in the midst of a great fleet of warships and transports,
the latter surrounded by steam-launches, tugs, and lighters, all
busily employed in landing at Ismailia the _personnel_ and _matériel_
of the expedition. This town, a creation of M. de Lesseps, is on the
western shore of the lake, where, half-hidden in groves of palm and
plane trees, it lies like a green oasis in a desert of yellow sand.
Here the Royal Irish remained for the next four days, earning golden
opinions by the sustained energy which they displayed in carrying
out the irksome duty of moving stores from the water-side to the
railway station. Then came the welcome order to join their brigade
at Kassasin. They moved in detachments, constantly halting to help
repair the railway and to clear obstructions from the Sweet-water
canal. The march was a singularly unpleasant one: the heat was very
great, the dust and flies were exasperating to a degree, the tents
had gone astray, and the only water to be had was from the canal,
which belied its name, as it was polluted by the dead bodies of
Egyptian soldiers. Several of the stations on the railway showed
traces of the recent presence of Arabi’s troops, who in their flight
had abandoned their rifles and ammunition, and left their dead
unburied behind them. There was so much work to be done on the line
that it was not until late on the 8th of September that the last
companies of the Royal Irish reached Kassasin.

Arabi had been misled by the lying reports of his Bedouin scouts, who
informed him that they had cut the communication between Ismailia
and Kassasin, and that the latter was held by a small force, whereas
as a matter of fact the railway from Ismailia to the front was in
working order; Kassasin was occupied by about 8000 men under General
Willis, and the brigade of Guards, a battery, and a regiment of
cavalry were all within reinforcing distance. Acting on this false
information, he determined to take the offensive, and at dawn on the
9th he put his troops in motion and pushed from Tel-el-Kebir towards
Kassasin with several squadrons of cavalry, thirty or thirty-one
guns, and seventeen battalions of infantry. His cavalry advance-guard
greatly outnumbered our mounted troops, who however succeeded in
holding back the Egyptian horsemen, until the infantry had taken
up a position astride the canal to meet the attack now threatening
from the west and north. Covered by a vigorous but comparatively
harmless cannonade, the enemy’s infantry, a large part of which had
been brought by train, advanced towards the camp, the uniforms of the
regular soldiers contrasting strongly with the white robes of the
Bedouins as they moved over the low sandy hummocks of the desert. For
a time General Willis stood on the defensive, and the Royal Irish
were detailed as the escort to the field-guns. Then he gave orders
for a general advance, and the battalion was placed in echelon on
the right rear of the first line of Graham’s brigade, ready to form
front to the right, and face the flank attack which for a moment was
anticipated. At first the battalion moved in quarter column, and
then in line; at no time during the 9th was it extended for attack,
for the British guns played so rapidly upon the Egyptians that they
fell back in disorder, giving Graham’s brigade no opportunity to
close with them; and by half-past ten the enemy had retired to his
works at Tel-el-Kebir, leaving four field-pieces in our hands. From
his entrenchments Arabi opened an angry but harmless artillery fire
upon the troops, who by General Willis’s directions halted out of
range. In ceasing his pursuit at a moment when it seemed that a
vigorous, though necessarily costly attack might have made him master
of the entrenchments, General Willis was acting in perfect accord
with the spirit of Lord Wolseley’s strategy, for Alison’s brigade of
infantry had only just arrived from Alexandria at Kassasin, and the
Commander-in-Chief was not yet ready to advance across the desert.
Had the Egyptians been attacked and beaten on the 9th, Wolseley could
not have followed up the victory, and therefore their defeat would
not have been the absolutely crushing blow that he hoped to inflict
(and did actually inflict) upon them a few days later. The British
troops remained facing Tel-el-Kebir for about three hours, and thus
secured time for a careful reconnaissance of Arabi’s position; then
they were ordered back to camp. The Egyptian losses were severe, but
the British casualties were only three men killed, two officers and
seventy-five other ranks wounded. Among the wounded were Captain H.
H. Edwards, Royal Welsh Fusiliers (attached to the XVIIIth) and two
private soldiers of the battalion.[244] A subaltern in the Royal
Irish thus recorded the experiences of the second battalion on this
occasion: “Just as we were sitting down to breakfast the bugles
sounded for us to fall in, and a minute or two later the enemy had
got so close that they began lodging shell in our camp and made it
so hot that the ---- had to clear out sharp. We were out pretty
quick, and were alongside some guns which opened on the enemy and of
course drew their fire on us. For about an hour we were in a pretty
warm corner; shells burst thickly around us, but no one was touched
except two men slightly wounded. After a time we got the order to
advance, and in doing so we got a few rifle-shots among us which
did not do us any harm. Our men did not fire a shot. As we advanced
the enemy retreated. We were left to cover the retirement of the
battalions who had been in the firing line and were relieved at four
o’clock in the afternoon.”

In a short time the Commander-in-Chief’s preparations were completed;
the whole of the troops selected for the march across the desert were
concentrated at Kassasin, and those appointed to hold the lines of
communication were at their posts. Lord Wolseley had already formed
his plan of attack, which he thus described in his despatch of the
16th of September--

  “The enemy’s position was a strong one; there was no cover of
  any kind in the desert lying between my camp at Kassasin and
  the enemy’s works north of the Canal. These works extended from
  a point on the Canal 1½ miles east of the railway station at
  Tel-el-Kebir for a distance almost due north of about 3½ miles.
  The general character of the ground which forms the northern
  boundary of the valley through which the Ismailia[245] Canal and
  railway run is that of gently undulating and rounded slopes,
  which rise gradually to a fine open plateau from 90 to 100
  feet above the valley. The southern extremity of this plateau
  is about a mile from the railway and is nearly parallel to it.
  To have marched over this plateau upon the enemy’s position by
  daylight our troops would have had to advance over a glacis-like
  slope in full view of the enemy and under the fire of his
  well-served artillery for about five miles. Such an operation
  would have entailed enormous losses from an enemy with men and
  guns well-protected by entrenchments from any artillery fire we
  could have brought to bear upon them. To have turned the enemy’s
  position either by the right or left was an operation that would
  have entailed a very wide turning movement, and therefore a long,
  difficult and fatiguing march, and what is of more importance,
  it would not have accomplished the object I had in view, namely
  to grapple with the enemy at such close quarters that he should
  not be able to shake himself free from our clutches except by
  a general fight of all his army. I wished to make the battle a
  final one; whereas a wide turning movement would probably have
  only forced him to retreat, and would have left him free to have
  moved his troops in good order to some other position farther
  back. My desire was to fight him decisively where he was, in
  the open desert, before he could take up fresh positions more
  difficult of access in the cultivated country in his rear. That
  cultivated country is practically impassable to a regular army,
  being irrigated and cut up in every direction by deep canals. I
  had ascertained by frequent reconnaissance that the enemy did
  not push his outposts far beyond his works at night, and I had
  good reasons for believing that he then kept a very bad look-out.
  These circumstances, and the very great reliance I had in the
  steadiness of our splendid infantry, determined me to resort
  to the extremely difficult operation of a night march, to be
  followed by an attack before daybreak on the enemy’s position.”

The field-works at Tel-el-Kebir were not of uniform strength, for
Arabi, believing that the British would advance along the Sweet-water
canal, had devoted himself to the fortification of the right of his
line, where for more than two miles stretched an unbroken series of
breastworks, with parapets five or six feet high, and ditches varying
from eight to twelve feet in width, and from five to nine feet in
depth. Behind these defences about two miles of interior works had
been thrown up, connected with those in front by rifle-pits and
trenches, and from redoubts built at numerous salients, cross-fire
could be poured in every direction. Towards the left the works
dwindled in size, and at the extreme northern end of the line, that
which, as we shall see, was attacked by the Royal Irish, they were
but a mere collection of shelter trenches. Arabi had twenty-five
thousand soldiers, six thousand Bedouin irregulars, and about sixty
guns with which to defend these fortifications against the eleven
thousand infantry, two thousand cavalry, and sixty-one guns that the
British Commander-in-Chief could bring against him. The remainder of
Wolseley’s command was absorbed by the garrisons of Alexandria, Port
Said, Ismailia, Suez, and other points on the Suez canal, and the
posts on the line of communication between Kassasin and the base at
Ismailia.

Though the British advance was to be astride the Sweet-water canal,
the main attack was to be delivered on the works to the north of
it, where the first division was to assault the left, the second
division the right of the entrenchments. The cavalry division,
with its batteries of Royal Horse artillery, was to circle round
the left of the Egyptian position, threaten its defenders from the
rear, and pursue them when the infantry had driven them from their
entrenchments. On the south of the canal the Indian brigade and the
naval contingent were to clear the country, capture the villages
which had been placed in a state of defence, and seize the important
railway junction of Zag-a-zig. To the field batteries an interesting
_rôle_ was assigned. It was obvious that in a night march they could
not discharge the ordinary duty of artillery, that of keeping in
check the enemy’s fire so as to render it possible for the attacking
infantry to advance. But it was almost equally obvious that, if the
forty-two field-guns could be brought up to the entrenchments of
Tel-el-Kebir by early dawn, they would be able to pour a crushing
short-range fire upon the defenders: if either division required
support the guns would be at hand to give assistance, and should
either of the infantry attacks fail, the artillery would be ready to
beat the enemy down behind his works until the attackers were able to
renew the assault. The seven field batteries therefore were ordered
to march in the interval between the infantry divisions, keeping
level with them.

The first and second divisions and the field artillery were assembled
after dark on September 12, on the rising ground known to the Staff
as Ninth Hill, which lay about four miles to the east of Arabi’s
position. To give the enemy’s scouts and spies no clue to the
intended movements the tents were not struck till sunset, when all
bugle calls ceased. Then the troops were set in motion, the men
marching light with a hundred rounds of ammunition, rations, and
water-bottles.[246] As soon as the sun went down the Royal Engineers
began to set up on Ninth Hill long lines of posts, running many
hundred yards into the desert, to serve as guides towards the enemy’s
entrenchments. The night was unusually dark, the posts were hard to
find, and it was not till eleven P.M. that all the units had reached
their proper places. Graham’s brigade was on the right of the line,
with its battalions standing in the following order from the right,
Royal Irish, York and Lancaster, Royal Marine Light Infantry, Royal
Irish Fusiliers: in the centre were the field-guns: on the left was
Alison’s brigade. H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught’s brigade of Guards
supported Graham, while in rear of Alison was a small brigade of two
battalions under Colonel Ashburnham, King’s Royal Rifle Corps.

At 1 A.M. on the 13th of September, Graham called together the
officers commanding the battalions of his brigade and in a low voice
gave them instructions, briefly and to the point: the works of
Tel-el-Kebir were to be surprised; the troops were to close upon them
at earliest dawn, and carry them at the point of the bayonet. The
soldiers were then roused; the orders were explained to them, and in
half an hour the greater part of the army was on the march to attack
an enemy of nearly double its numbers, and holding fortifications
about which, except their strength, little definite was known. The
Indian brigade did not leave its resting-place, south of the Canal,
until 2.30 A.M., as to have moved earlier would have run the risk
of giving the alarm to the inhabitants of the belt of cultivated
land through which Macpherson had to march. Throughout the night
telegraphic communication was kept up between the Indian brigade
and a detachment of Royal Marine artillery, who followed behind
the second division. It was many years since a British general had
attempted operations at night upon so large a scale. In the Peninsula
Wellington’s troops had been thoroughly accustomed to marching and
manœuvring in darkness, but the art was now almost a lost one, and
Wolseley wisely gave great latitude to his divisional generals in the
choice of the formations in which their commands were to advance;
he wished the brigades to be so marshalled that no manœuvring would
be necessary to pass them from the order in which they marched into
that in which they were to attack, and he suggested, though without
positively commanding, that each brigade should move in line of
columns of half battalions at deploying intervals. Neither Alison
nor Graham adopted the suggestion in its entirety. Alison drew up
his men in line of half battalion columns of double companies, and
not only marched but attacked in this formation; Graham first moved
in columns of half battalions at deploying intervals, but found it
necessary to make several changes in formation before he finally
closed with the enemy. Nothing but the perfect discipline of the
troops enabled Lord Wolseley and his generals to move this great
mass of men and guns at dead of night, across nearly four miles of
ground which it had not been possible thoroughly to reconnoitre,
and to bring it to within a few hundred yards of the fortifications
before it was detected by the enemy. No smoking was allowed; the
men were as silent as the grave; the few orders issued were passed
along the ranks in a whisper. In the blackness of the night Staff
officers riding from flank to flank found it impossible to see a
column, when two hundred yards away from it; yet when their ears had
grown attuned to the silence, which at first appeared crushing and
unnatural, they became aware of a low dull noise, that sound of human
feet, of horses’ hoofs, of jingling harness, which no forethought
could prevent. Fortunately throughout the night a little breeze blew
from west to east, and thus Arabi’s men, being up-wind, would have
heard nothing if their watch had been vigilant, instead of extremely
negligent.

In the 2nd brigade the precaution of extending a chain of connecting
links between the half battalions did not ensure perfect leading
by the guides. Sometimes the half battalions would open out, and
at others close unduly upon each other. These mistakes had to be
corrected, and each correction took time. At an hour variously
estimated between 3 and 4 A.M.[247] General Willis considered that
the 2nd brigade had come within range of the Egyptian works. He
wished to rest his men for a moment, and accordingly, after forming
line, ordered a short halt. With the priceless trust of British
soldiers in their officers, the men immediately dropped on the sand
and fell fast asleep during the few minutes’ repose which they were
allowed. About the same time the Highland brigade was halted to
refresh the men. As all orders were passed in a low tone from company
to company and from battalion to battalion, this order was not at
once received by the troops on the outer flanks; they continued to
advance, but as they remained in touch with the centre they lost
direction and by the time the command reached them they had wheeled
inwards, though quite unconsciously. Thus the brigade halted not in
line, but in a crescent-shaped formation. When the order was given
to resume the march the flank battalions, quite unaware that they
had lost direction, moved straight to their front, and soon almost
crashed into each other. Each thought the other was the enemy, but
by a triumph of discipline, every man waited for orders to fire,
and thus gave time for the officers to discover the mistake. The
brigade was halted, the companies of direction placed on the true
line of advance, and the remainder of the Highlanders, gradually and
successively drawing back, re-formed upon the proper alignment. This
mistake, which took about twenty-five minutes to correct, is a good
example of the difficulty of night operations and the necessity of
implicit obedience to orders.

After a short rest Graham’s brigade again advanced, this time in
line, but the formation was found unsuitable, and was changed to an
advance by fours from the right of companies. To keep in the proper
direction was no easy matter, especially as the mass of artillery
on the left was steering a few degrees too far to the northward,
and thus continually elbowed the 2nd brigade off the right path: to
correct this pressure frequent turns half-left and half-right had
to be made. Suddenly, at about 4.45 A.M., “far away to the left was
heard a tremendous rattle of musketry, mingled with the firing of big
guns, succeeded by ringing and sustained cheers, and”--to quote the
special correspondent who, as already mentioned, had attached himself
to the Royal Irish--“we felt sure that the Highland brigade had found
its quest and run into it.” At this moment it became necessary again
to correct a mistake in direction, and “a halt and change of front a
quarter circle to the left were at once ordered.... A rattling fire
of small arms now opened on us from the works, distant about 600
yards.[248] It was still dusk, but the blackness of night had given
place to a pale darkness, through which the flashes of fire sparkled
with ceaseless rapidity.”

By this time, owing to the difficulty of marching at night over the
featureless desert with nothing to steer by but the stars, Lord
Wolseley’s force was no longer in line but in echelon from the
left, and when the Highlanders struck the enemy’s works the head of
Graham’s brigade was probably more than 800 yards from the Egyptians’
entrenchments. As soon as the brigade had formed line the Royal
Irish pushed forward, and were rapidly nearing the position when the
brigade-major, suddenly appearing on the scene, told Colonel Gregorie
it was General Graham’s wish that he should form the Royal Irish
for attack. Though it was obvious that the battalion was too close
to the trenches for the evolution to be carried out accurately, the
necessary orders were given, and C and D companies extended, with
B and E in support, and the remainder in reserve. Then the leading
companies swept onwards under a heavy but fortunately ill-directed
fusilade; the supports and reserves closed upon the firing-line, and
with wild yells and almost without firing a shot, the Royal Irish
swarmed over the shelter trenches at the extreme end of Arabi’s
line, driving before them at the point of the bayonet the Egyptians,
who slowly and in good order fell back to a second line of works in
rear. The Royal Irish were now enfiladed by a redoubt on their left
flank, but taking no notice of its fire they pressed onwards until,
after driving the Egyptians from the second line of entrenchments,
they were peremptorily halted and ordered to re-form their ranks.
While this second charge was being delivered, Lieutenant Chichester
made a gallant effort to storm the redoubt with a few men; but he
and two or three of his followers fell wounded, and it remained in
the hands of the enemy until the York and Lancaster carried it with
a rush. The Marines and the Royal Irish Fusiliers gradually made
themselves masters of the works in front of them, and the Egyptians,
falling into confusion, and to a large extent abandoned by their
officers who were among the first to fly, retired in disorder. When
they discovered that the British cavalry had swung round the left
of their position and were directly threatening them from the rear,
their retreat became a rout. Yet there were many among the rank
and file, especially in the regiments composed of Nubians, who had
shown bravery in the battle, and at the time it was thought that had
these men been well led they would have been formidable enemies.
The justice of this, opinion has been proved by the services of the
modern Egyptian troops in the Soudan, where regiments of Egyptian
peasants and Soudanese blacks, trained and officered by men of the
regular British army, have on many occasions acquitted themselves
excellently.

Some interesting episodes have been recorded of the part played
by the Royal Irish in this phase of the engagement. The special
correspondent relates that as the battalion was advancing towards
the first line of trenches two men, mad with excitement, dashed
out of the ranks and rushed towards the enemy. For a moment they
disappeared, but

  “presently they were seen by themselves, beyond the first works,
  and in front of the big redoubt, in the very midst of the foe.
  These gallant two! One was on his knee facing south-west;
  apparently he is conscious of having gone beyond support. The
  Egyptians in their trenches and ditches are in front, to right
  and to left of him. He glances back towards where kneels, a few
  yards behind him, his brave companion. But who can save you now,
  rash, gallant young Irishmen! You have turned from the front
  of your regiment and are cut off from all aid. My position on
  horseback enabled me to see the men, who, kneeling, were hid by
  the trenches from their own regiment. I saw an Egyptian officer
  move up behind the left of the leading man, and seizing his arm,
  strike him over the head or shoulder with his sword. A struggle
  ensued, but the smoke of battle hid them from further view. After
  the fight Colonel Gregorie found two dead bodies of his men among
  the others of his regiment in the place described: their names
  were Corporal Devine and Private Milligan.”

The good conduct of other soldiers is thus described by Colonel (then
Lieutenant) Chichester--

  “They stood back to back, tackled six Nubians, and accounted for
  them all. I now forget their names, but I was going to recommend
  them for reward, but afterwards heard that they had been killed
  later in the battle. A very brave reservist in my company was
  badly wounded and lay on the ground close to where I had fallen.
  He had eight bullet holes in his body, yet he only died the day
  that our transport full of wounded arrived at Plymouth. When the
  men came to attend him on the battlefield, he said, ‘Don’t mind
  me; look after others, worse hurt.’”

In sharp contrast to the gallant behaviour of this Irishman was the
treachery of an Egyptian officer who lay injured on ground occupied
by the XVIIIth. One of the men offered him water; he drank it, and
then suddenly rolled over, snatched up a rifle and shot down one of
the soldiers who were tending him. Prompt steps were taken to prevent
this ruffian from doing more mischief!

After pursuing for some distance, Graham halted to re-form his
brigade in readiness for further action. He had every reason to be
proud of his command, for, as he reported to Lord Wolseley, “the
steadiness of the advance of the 2nd brigade under what appeared
to be an overwhelming fire of musketry and artillery will remain a
proud remembrance.” As he rode from battalion to battalion he was
greeted with many cheers, a tribute to the leader who, though a
stern disciplinarian, had ever proved himself mindful of the comfort
of his men, watchful of their safety, and who had now led them to
decisive victory. By the time the second brigade had re-formed its
ranks the troops on the left had also finished their work. The task
set to Alison’s command had proved much harder than that allotted to
Graham’s battalions. Not only were the fortifications which faced
the Highland brigade far stronger than those attacked by the second
division, but when the Highlanders had surmounted them they came
under a very heavy fire from the inner works. But thanks to the
timely aid of the guns, which pushed right into the entrenchments,
the enemy was driven back in wild confusion, and in less than an hour
Arabi’s army was shattered as completely as it had been surprised.

Lord Wolseley lost no time in reaping the fruits of his victory. As
soon as the enemy’s works were in his hands the cavalry were ordered
to continue their pursuit, and to strain every nerve to reach Cairo
before Arabi had been able to burn it, as he had threatened to do
if he was defeated; while the Indian brigade, which had completely
driven the enemy from the cultivated country on the southern bank
of the canal, was to push on to Zag-a-zig, and by occupying it,
prevent the various detachments of Arabi’s troops in the Delta from
coming to his assistance. Both enterprises were successful. At four
o’clock on September 14, the cavalry after a magnificent forced march
began to appear before the gates of Cairo, where Arabi, who was one
of the first to quit the entrenchments of Tel-el-Kebir, had taken
refuge. Without attempting to fight, or to carry out his plan for
the destruction of the city, he surrendered at once, and with him the
garrison of ten thousand men. The Indian brigade made itself master
of Zag-a-zig, capturing much rolling stock, in which a great portion
of the infantry was moved up to Cairo. With their arrival the war
was over, and in ten days’ time every garrison in Egypt had been
disarmed, and the men set free to resume the avocations of peace.

Not all the British infantry, however, went on at once to Cairo.
Among the regiments left at Tel-el-Kebir was the second battalion
of the Royal Irish, who thus had plenty of opportunity to admire
the fifty-eight guns which had been taken on the 13th. In the
engagement the Egyptians are believed to have lost about two thousand
killed;[249] of the number of their wounded there is no record, but
several hundred were tended by our army doctors, while many uninjured
prisoners were taken, disarmed, and turned adrift. The British
casualties were nine officers killed and twenty-seven wounded; of the
other ranks forty-eight were killed, three hundred and fifty-five
wounded, and thirty missing--in all, four hundred and sixty-nine.

In the Royal Irish the losses were:

  _Killed_              Captain C. M. Jones (attached from
                          the Connaught Rangers) and three
                          other ranks.

  _Mortally Wounded_    Four private soldiers.

  _Wounded_             Lieutenant A. G. Chichester and Lieutenant
                          H. H. Drummond-Wolff
                          (attached from the Royal Fusiliers)
                          and fourteen other ranks.[250]

After a week at Tel-el-Kebir the Royal Irish were moved by train to
Cairo, where they were quartered in a barrack, the filth of which was
so great that to this day the remembrance stinks in the nostrils of
those who occupied it. The duty was heavy; there was much sickness
among all ranks, and beyond ceremonial parades in honour of the
return of the Khedive to the capital in which he had been reinstated
by British bayonets, nothing of interest occurred during the three
weeks the battalion spent in Cairo except a great fire, in the
suppression of which it was employed. Lieutenant W. R. B. Doran (now
Colonel Doran, C.B., D.S.O.), in a letter written at the time, thus
described the part played on this occasion by the Royal Irish, who
were fortunate to escape without any of the casualties which occurred
among other corps--

  “On the 29th of September we were startled by a tremendous bang,
  followed by what sounded like a succession of cannon-shots. After
  an interval there was another great explosion, more cannon-shots,
  and then a rattle of musketry. We thought at first it was some
  kind of plot. It turned out that a lot of trucks full of powder,
  unexploded shells, and small-arm ammunition had been set on fire
  by another train containing hay. How the hay was set on fire no
  one has yet found out. About 6.30 P.M. we were turned out in a
  great hurry, and went to the railway station, to stop all traffic
  in the streets in the neighbourhood, and to prevent the scum
  from beginning to loot; they had just begun, but they got such
  ‘toco’ from the ‘Tommies’ that they soon stopped their little
  games. We remained guarding the streets till nearly 1 A.M., when
  we were relieved and began, as we thought, to march home, but
  were grievously disappointed, as before we had gone half a mile
  we were halted in a square and told to lie down and go to sleep
  in the road. I was rather hungry, as I had not quite finished my
  dinner when the order to fall in came, so I managed to get a sort
  of penny bun from one of our captains, half of which I ate; the
  other half I put under my head and went to sleep on the hardest
  bed and strangest pillow I have ever had!”

The battalion was sent to Alexandria[251] on October 11, and a month
later Lieutenant-Colonel Gregorie, after serving his full time in
command, was succeeded by Lieutenant-Colonel R. W. E. Dawson. On
February 1, 1883, the medals with clasps for Tel-el-Kebir were
presented to the Royal Irish on the racecourse of Alexandria by a
veteran soldier, Field-Marshal Lord Napier of Magdala, G.C.B., and a
few days later the battalion, which to the great satisfaction of all
ranks was not included in the 10,000 troops left to hold Egypt for
the Khedive, sailed for Malta, and after remaining there for three
months, landed at Plymouth at the end of May, 1883.

The regiment received permission to add to its battle honours the
words “Egypt 1882” and “Tel-el-Kebir.”

Lieutenant-Colonel C. F. Gregorie was appointed a Companion of the
Order of the Bath; Major G. W. N. Rogers and Captain J. H. Daubeney
each received a step in brevet rank; Quartermaster and Honorary
Captain T. Hamilton was made an Honorary Major; Lieutenant A. G.
Chichester and Sergeant E. O’Donnell were mentioned in despatches.
The following officers were permitted to accept and wear decorations
awarded by the Sultan, viz.: Lieutenant-Colonel Gregorie, the
Medjidie (3rd class); Major Rogers, the Osmanieh (4th class); Captain
Daubeney, Medjidie (4th class); and Lieutenant Chichester, Medjidie
(5th class), and all ranks were presented by the Egyptian government
with a decoration known as the Khedive’s Star.

Two officers attached to the second battalion--Captain H. H. Edwards,
Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and Lieutenant H. H. Drummond-Wolff, Royal
Fusiliers, were also mentioned in despatches.



CHAPTER XII.

THE FIRST BATTALION.

1884-1885.

THE NILE EXPEDITION.


At the time of England’s armed intervention in Egypt in 1882, the
Khedive’s authority extended nominally far beyond the limits of the
province which Mahomet Ali had wrested from the Sublime Porte. The
founder of the Egyptian dynasty, not satisfied with fighting his
Suzerain the Sultan in Syria, had pushed armies up the Nile into
the heart of the Soudan, or country of the Blacks, a no-man’s land
which stretched from Wadi Halfa, the southern boundary of Egypt, to
the Great Lakes far beyond the equator. This region had no form of
government; its inhabitants were oppressed by Arab slave-hunters;
its condition was pitiable in the extreme. Mahomet Ali gradually
conquered every tribe in the Nile valley up to the junction of the
White and Blue Niles, where he built Khartoum, and thrust forward
outposts in every direction from the capital of his new dominions,
which was about a thousand miles south of Cairo. The country thus
annexed became known as the Egyptian Soudan, and extended from the
shore of the Red Sea to the western frontier of Kordofan; it was
about the size of France and Germany put together, and its population
in 1883 was estimated at fourteen millions of mixed breed, the
descendants of the aboriginal negroes and the Arabs who overran
the country early in the Mohammedan era. This blend had produced a
race possessing the outward characteristics and mental attributes
of the Arab, combined with the endurance and brute courage of the
Negro.[252] After anarchy such as had prevailed in the Soudan,
almost any form of government might have been expected to improve
the condition of the country; but in this respect Egyptian rule
completely failed. Taxation was heavy; extortion was the rule,
rather than the exception, and slave-hunting, with all its attendant
horrors, was not suppressed; indeed, thanks to the connivance of the
officials, who were virtually in partnership with the slave-dealers,
it so greatly increased that the country was rapidly becoming
depopulated, when in 1869, the pressure of British public opinion
compelled the Khedive to institute reforms in the administration,
and to appoint an Englishman, Sir Samuel Baker, as Governor-General
of the Equatorial provinces, which stretched from Khartoum to the
Great Lakes. Five years later Baker was succeeded by General (then
Colonel) Charles George Gordon, who held the post till 1879. Though
both accomplished much towards the establishment of better government
and the suppression of slave-hunting, their efforts were cramped
and thwarted by the officials at Cairo and at Khartoum, who were
naturally disinclined to lose the enormous profits they derived from
the trade in slaves. A country so mercilessly treated only needed a
leader to turn upon its oppressors, and in 1881, such a leader arose
in the Soudan. A prophecy had long been current among Mohammedans
that about this time a “Mahdi” would appear and convert the whole
world to the true faith, and of this prophecy a religious adventurer,
named Mohammed Ahmed, availed himself to the uttermost. He proclaimed
himself the Mahdi whose advent had been predicted, and announced that
as soon as the Soudan had joined his cause he would march on Egypt,
destroying all who opposed him, and convert the whole world to Islam.
Such was the spiritual part of his programme, carefully prepared
to rouse the fanaticism latent in every Mohammedan; the temporal
advantages he offered to his followers were universal equality and
community of goods. Although denounced as an impostor by the educated
Mussulmans, who probably regarded his socialistic propaganda with
misgivings, he rapidly gained a great following, and obtained several
successes over the Egyptian garrisons, which were at this time in a
wretched condition. The troops had not been paid for many months,
in some cases even for years: the soldiers were undrilled, their
officers incompetent to drill them: the loyalty of all ranks was as
doubtful as their courage. To stiffen this unpromising material,
several Englishmen in the service of Egypt were sent to Khartoum;
among them was Hicks Pasha, at one time an officer in the Indian
army, now the newly appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Khedive’s
troops in the Soudan.

In September, 1883, Hicks, acting under the orders of the Egyptian
government, led an expedition into the depths of Kordofan, where the
Mahdi had retired to organise the tribesmen, from thirty to sixty
thousand strong, whom his recent victories had attracted to his
standard. Hicks commanded about 11,000 weakly and ill-fed men, of
whom many were so unwilling to be soldiers that to prevent desertion
they had to be sent up the Nile in chains. His artillery consisted of
thirty-six Krupp, Nordenfelt, and mountain guns, and his transport
was supplied by six thousand horses and camels. The whole of the
Egyptian troops were thoroughly out of heart; they were aware that
they were about to march into a country of which little was known
except that it was almost waterless, and that they would encounter
hordes of desperate and ruthless fanatics. As the men filed out of
Khartoum they were in floods of tears. The fate of such an army
may easily be imagined: on the 5th of November it was surprised by
the Mahdi with 40,000 of his followers, and cut to pieces, near El
Obeid in Kordofan.[253] Hicks and the other Europeans died fighting
dauntlessly to the last; the Egyptians allowed themselves to be
butchered almost without resistance: three hundred were given
quarter, only to become the slaves of the victors, into whose hands
passed the guns, much ammunition, thousands of rifles, and all
the transport animals. One man alone escaped to bring the news to
Khartoum. Yet so little was the importance of the Mahdist movement
appreciated by the English government that at the very time Hicks’s
column was being destroyed in Kordofan, Mr Gladstone was urging the
reduction of the British army of occupation in Egypt. When Hicks’s
fate became known in Cairo the situation grew very complicated. The
Cabinet in London, afraid of being drawn into armed intervention
in the Soudan, had persistently assumed an attitude of aloofness
on the subject of Hicks’s operations, and, affecting to ignore the
fact that Britain was virtually, though not officially, mistress in
Egypt, and that a word from her representative at Cairo, Lord Cromer
(then Sir Evelyn Baring), would have stopped the expedition, declined
all responsibility on the ground that it had been undertaken solely
on the authority of the Egyptian government. The annihilation of
Hicks’s army had placed Khartoum in a position of great danger: only
two thousand troops were left to man the four miles of earthworks
by which the town was ringed, and its communications with Cairo
and Suakim were seriously threatened. The generals in command of
the British army at Cairo admitted that, if the Mahdi advanced
on Khartoum, it would be impossible to hold it in its existing
condition, and that in all probability the whole valley of the Nile,
as far south as Wadi Halfa, would be lost to Egypt. Alarmed at the
crushing blow which had befallen him, and at the consequences likely
to follow it, the Khedive begged that British troops might be sent to
the Soudan, or, if these should not be forthcoming, that a contingent
of Turks might be imported to hold Khartoum. Our government refused
to move a single soldier to the Soudan, but had no objection to the
employment of a Turkish force to garrison Khartoum, provided that no
expense was thereby thrown upon the Egyptian Treasury. They, however,
advised Tewfik to abandon all territory south of Assouan, softening
the blow by the promise that England would defend not only Egypt
proper, but also the ports of the Red Sea against the Mahdists. To
this wholesale dismemberment of his dominions the Khedive demurred,
and again suggested a Turkish occupation of the Soudan, whereupon
England sternly replied that if the Egyptian ministers would not
carry out the evacuation of the Soudan they would have to make room
for Englishmen, ready to enforce her policy. The Khedive thereupon
withdrew his opposition, and agreed that the whole of the Soudan,
except the port of Suakim, should be abandoned to its fate. During
these negotiations the situation at Khartoum had become so serious
that the senior European officer there, in reporting that it would
be impossible to hold the town against the whole population of the
Soudan, which had now thrown in its lot with the Mahdi, urged that
immediate orders should be given for a withdrawal down the river. The
question next arose--who was to effect the withdrawal, not only of
the troops, but also of the officials, traders, and other members of
the civil army of occupation in the Soudan?

The English ministers then bethought themselves of General Gordon,
one of the most remarkable characters of the nineteenth century.
His career had been a strange and eventful one. After serving with
distinction as a Royal Engineer in the Crimea, the chances of
war carried him to the Far East where he played his part in the
Anglo-French expedition to China. When the object of the campaign
was accomplished, peace was signed with the Emperor of China, but
the end of the war found some of the most fertile provinces of the
Celestial Empire in the hands of great hordes of insurgents, with
whom the Chinese authorities were wholly unable to cope. Gordon
was lent to the Emperor to command a force of Chinamen, raised by
himself and officered by adventurers of mixed nationality. With a
rare combination of military talent and personal courage, readiness
to assume responsibility, power of influencing his subordinates, and
complete absence of self-seeking, he welded his unpromising material
into good soldiers, with whom he stormed many walled towns and won
battles innumerable against vastly superior numbers. After a long
struggle, in which his men earned the title of “the ever-victorious
army,” he completely crushed the rebels; and then, disbanding the
troops who had learned to look upon him as invincible, he returned
to Europe with the justly earned reputation of a born leader of men.
During his five years’ sojourn in the Soudan Gordon had acquired
great influence over its inhabitants. The fighting men had learned
to follow, the slave-hunters to fear him: the traders respected his
stern and evenhanded justice: all classes knew that his word, once
pledged, was never broken, and that his orders must be obeyed to the
letter. At a few hours’ notice, Gordon was sent to Egypt to secure
the retreat of the garrison of Khartoum and of the thousands of
civilians who would probably wish to accompany it, and also to effect
the evacuation of the remainder of the Soudan. For this enormous
task he was allowed one Staff officer, Colonel D. Stewart,[254] 11th
Hussars, with whom he reached Khartoum on February 18, 1884.

While Gordon was on his way up the Nile, the tide of war was setting
strongly against the Egyptians in the eastern Soudan, where a wing of
the Mahdi’s army was commanded by Osman Digna, an ex-slave dealer who
had been ruined by the capture of his _dhows_ by British cruisers.
Osman Digna had stormed several fortified towns and villages, held
by the Khedive as outposts round Suakim, and had cut to pieces
columns of Egyptian troops sent at various times to the relief of
the garrisons scattered throughout the district. Suakim itself was
threatened, and the ships of war then lying off the port landed
bluejackets and Marines for its protection, while Major-General Sir
Gerald Graham was sent from Cairo to reinforce them with 4000 British
troops. There were two sharp engagements at El-Teb (February 29)
and Tamai (March 13), in which Osman Digna fought with magnificent
courage, but sustained such heavy losses that his power for evil
appeared sufficiently diminished to warrant the withdrawal of the
British soldiers from the eastern Soudan.

While these events were taking place round Suakim, things were
going badly with Gordon at Khartoum, and though direct telegraphic
communication with him was cut off about a month after his arrival,
the news which reached Cairo showed that his position was becoming
one of considerable danger. In April, the Secretary of State for
War began to realise that it might become necessary to send an
expedition to rescue Gordon, and called upon Lord Wolseley for a
plan of campaign. In his reply Wolseley showed that Khartoum could
only be approached by the caravan roads converging on Berber from
the Red Sea or by the valley of the Nile, and strongly advocated
the latter route. He proposed to move the dismounted troops up the
river in boats, and after pointing out that Gordon’s supplies would
not permit him to hold Khartoum later than the 15th of November,
urged that immediate preparations should be made to meet possible
contingencies. For several months government took little action
beyond making inquiries about the track across the desert from Suakim
to Berber, and sending naval officers up the Nile to report whether
Lord Wolseley’s scheme was practicable. These officers reported
against it, and Sir F. C. A. Stephenson, the General commanding the
British troops in Egypt, agreed with their views. On the other hand,
a committee composed of three officers who had taken part in the Red
River expedition in Canada emphatically expressed their opinion that
Wolseley’s plan was perfectly feasible, and pointed out that the
naval objections to it were based on the assumption that steamers of
considerable size, and boats up to 40 tons burden would be required,
whereas the army only asked for whale-boats, which could be used at
any state of the Nile.

While these discussions were going on, the tide of Mahdism steadily
flowed northwards. To meet a possible attack upon Egypt proper, the
bulk of the Khedive’s army, then in process of reorganisation by
British officers, was hurried to Assouan, where it was strengthened
by English battalions; the Nile was patrolled by steamers manned
by the navy; and irregular levies of Bedouins, also commanded by
British officers, were pushed up the river into Dongola, the most
southern portion of the Egyptian dominions in which the authority of
the Khedive was still recognised. Dongola was ruled by a Mudir who,
though originally in sympathy with the Mahdi, had been won back by
golden arguments to the cause of his Suzerain. In the course of the
summer his territory was attacked; it was considered necessary to
help him with British bayonets, and the 1st battalion of the Royal
Sussex regiment was moved southwards from Assouan. On the 8th of
August, only eight days before the Royal Sussex reached the town of
Dongola, a vote of credit was obtained from the House of Commons to
cover the expense of sending troops to the assistance of the Mudir;
but though by this vote government definitely committed itself to
the Nile route, and therefore to the use of small boats, it was not
until the 12th that official sanction was given for the construction
of these craft. Four hundred were then ordered, and in a few days
the number was doubled. The boats were to carry twelve men with
their equipment, ammunition, and rations; to be suitable alike for
rowing, sailing before a wind, and tracking (_i.e._, being hauled up
stream from the bank), for ascending and descending rapids, and for
passing over shallow and rocky places in the river: to be as light
as possible, yet strong enough to be dragged over short stretches
of ground to avoid cataracts; and to be 32 feet in length, 6 feet
9 inches in breadth, and only 2 feet 6 inches in depth. The first
consignment reached Alexandria on September 22, the last on October
18, 1884.

It had not been proposed to employ Lord Wolseley in the expedition,
but on August 26, he was appointed to command the troops upon the
Nile. He reached Cairo on September 9, when there were actually in
Egypt, or on their way thither, a regiment of cavalry, one battery
of Royal Horse artillery, one of Royal Field artillery, one camel
battery of mountain guns, and two garrison batteries; four companies
of Royal Engineers, one of which was at Suakim; a battalion of
mounted infantry, 423 strong; and thirteen and a half battalions of
infantry--in all, nearly 11,000 officers and men, among whom were the
first battalion of the Royal Irish regiment. Not all these troops,
however, were available for the actual operations at Khartoum when
that far-distant goal should be approached. The garrisons of Cairo
and Alexandria absorbed four and a half battalions of infantry, a
squadron of cavalry, and all the artillery except the mountain guns.
Though the Egyptian army held the line of communication from Cairo
to Hannek, it was considered necessary to strengthen this section
with a British battalion, while to secure the Nile between Hannek and
Berber, at least five battalions would be required. Lord Wolseley
aimed at placing about 5400 men in line at Shendi, a place on the
river about 100 miles south of Berber, and the same distance to the
northward of Khartoum, and after making allowance for the inevitable
wastage of troops in an expedition such as he was to conduct, and
for the possibility that he might have to send part of his column on
a sudden dash across the desert, he asked the War Office to supply
him with eleven hundred more men, volunteers from regular regiments
at home, to be turned into “camelry”--_i.e._, infantry mounted upon
camels. The request was granted, and these reinforcements arrived in
time to reap a large share of the honours of the campaign.

Before any troops could be moved to Shendi, through a country from
which little or no food could be obtained, it was necessary to form
an advanced base as high up the river as possible, where stores of
all kinds were to be collected before the main body began to arrive
from Cairo. It was also necessary to establish along the line of
communication on the river a chain of intermediate depôts, from
which the troops would draw rations and thus preserve intact the
cargo of stores with which each whale-boat was to be freighted.
Korti was selected for the advanced base, and there, when the first
thousand miles of its journey from the sea was accomplished, the
expeditionary force was to effect its preliminary concentration.[255]
As far as Wadi Halfa, about 750 miles above Cairo, the navigation of
the Nile presents no great difficulties, and every available river
steamer and river boat was pressed into the service. But above Wadi
Halfa a formidable series of cataracts, or rapids as they should
more accurately be termed, proved fatal to so many of the native
craft that the transport of stores to the higher reaches had almost
entirely to be carried out by the whale-boats. It was not until the
1st of November that a sufficient quantity of supplies had been sent
up the river to warrant Lord Wolseley in moving the main body of his
infantry. Then as speedily as possible each corps was despatched
in turn on its journey southward. Towards the end of December the
first battalion of infantry reached Korti, where the camelry, who
had marched along the banks of the Nile, were beginning to assemble;
in about four weeks more the last regiments arrived, and by the
end of January the preliminary concentration had been successfully
accomplished.

       *       *       *       *       *

While the second battalion was winning fresh honours for the regiment
at Tel-el-Kebir, the first battalion was in India. It was stationed
at Meerut in August, 1884, when the welcome order was received to
start for Egypt forthwith on active service. In high spirits at the
prospect of a campaign, all ranks worked with a will; by the 20th
the preparations were finished, and the Royal Irish, after a very
hot railway journey, embarked at Bombay on the 29th, and three weeks
later arrived at Cairo in magnificent order. They are described by an
officer who was then serving with the regiment--

  “When the 1st battalion Royal Irish landed in Egypt in 1884, it
  was, bar none, the finest battalion I have ever seen, both in
  physique and in general appearance. Under Colonel M. MacGregor
  they were considered to be the best dressed regiment in India,
  and since his departure they had lived up to their reputation.
  In this respect they presented a very marked contrast to many
  of the battalions in Egypt, who were dressed in a very hideous
  grey serge very similar to that worn by convicts, which was
  worn apparently exactly as it had been issued from store. Their
  physique was equally distinguishable from the Corps who had
  lately arrived from home. The average service was (if I remember
  right) about seven years, and the average height, taken from the
  annual return prepared at Wady Halfa, was 5.7¾, and the chest
  measurement was 38″. While we were at Cairo a gymkhana was held
  at Gezireh, where one of the events was a tug-of-war open to
  all troops in garrison. The Royal Garrison artillery for some
  time past had invariably won this contest: so invincible were
  they considered that no infantry regiments would compete against
  them, and they used to take the prize on every occasion with a
  ‘walk-over.’ On the arrival of the Royal Irish, we determined to
  enter our team, which had been practically unbeaten in India. On
  the day of the gymkhana the R.G.A. expected to have another ‘walk
  over,’ when to their surprise and to that of the spectators (we
  had kept the fact dark that we intended to enter a team), ten
  strapping Royal Irishmen, in jerseys of the regimental colours,
  stepped out on to the ground. The gunners were so unprepared
  for this that they hadn’t even taken the trouble to be suitably
  dressed for a tug-of-war. So confident were they of beating all
  comers that instead of the usual line they had arranged an open
  ditch filled with water, across which the opposing teams had to
  pull. It was not many minutes before the two leading gunners were
  in the water, and the rest, to save themselves a ducking, had to
  let go the rope!”

The Royal Irish were almost the last troops to leave lower Egypt; but
at length the long-expected order reached them, and on the evening
of November 12, 1884, they entrained for Assiut, the farthest point
to which the railway ran up the Nile. The marching-out state showed
a strength of seven hundred and forty-six officers and men.[256]

Next morning, after a journey of 229 miles, the Royal Irish arrived
at Assiut, and at once exchanged the train for the barges in which
they were to be towed 318 miles to Assouan, at the foot of the First
Cataract. The men were packed into four barges, in each of which a
subaltern was on duty for twenty-four hours at a time; the remainder
of the officers were divided among the steamers and a _dahabiah_.
“That night the halt was not sounded till 10 o’clock, when,” wrote
a young officer of the Royal Irish, “a nice job we had of it. Our
steamers did not keep together, so that we had to go along the bank
for about a mile in the dark, and draw rations for the next day, and
very ticklish work it was, as the path was quite close to the river
and bits of the bank were continually falling in.” Progress was slow,
for both barges and tugs occasionally ran on to sandbanks, and it was
not until November 24, that the flotilla, which had been joined by
the 2nd battalion, Royal West Kent regiment, reached its destination.
As the barges could not pass the rapids the Royal Irish landed,
and spent an unhappy day in the belief that they were to remain at
Assouan. They had been ordered to encamp, and some of the officers
were on their way to select the ground, when a tremendous roar of
cheers and Irish yells told them the battalion had received good
news; shortly afterwards a staff-officer informed them that they were
to proceed up the river forthwith, and after a short journey in the
railway turning the rapids, the Royal Irish re-embarked at Shellal,
this time in the sailing-boats or _dahabiahs_ in which the traffic
of the Nile from time immemorial has been carried on. The next stage
(210 miles) in the voyage was to Wadi Halfa, the frontier town of
Egypt, and the most southern point which Roman legions had occupied
in the valley of the Nile. Here a long stretch of rapids called the
Second Cataract barred the passage of all local craft at that time
of year, and the troops landed and went into camp, where owing to a
block on the line of communication the battalion was detained for
more than a fortnight. This halt was by no means a restful one, for
the fatigues were incessant, but some of the officers found time to
reconnoitre the nearest of the rapids through which they were about
to pass, and reported that a task awaited the XVIIIth as arduous in
its way as any that had fallen to the lot of the regiment during
the two centuries of its existence. The Second Cataract, like that
at Assouan, is turned by a line of railway thirty-three miles in
length, which ended at Gemai, where, in an improvised dockyard, the
whale-boats lay waiting for the Royal Irish. By December 16, the line
of communication was again clear, and the first detachment--B and E
companies under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Wray--were sent by rail
to Gemai, where they took possession of their “whalers,” and many
stores. When these were packed the flotilla started in single file,
and sometimes sailing, sometimes rowing (with many different strokes
and styles), worked up a smooth stretch of river till nightfall,
when the boats were tied up to the bank, and the crews disembarked
and pitched their camps. Next morning the detachment reached Sarras,
where the remainder of the stores were issued. Each whaler carried
the arms, ammunition, tents, and camp equipage of her crew, materials
for repairing any damage she might sustain on the voyage, and cases
containing a hundred days’ rations for twelve men. These cases were
not to be opened, but were to be delivered intact at the point of
concentration, the supplies for current use being drawn at the
various posts on the line of communication. By the time the whole of
the freight (about four tons) was on board the boats, the load of
boxes at stem and stern rose so high above the gunwales that the men
at the oars were half-hidden behind the high-piled cargoes.

Lord Wolseley had always attributed much of the success of the
little Red River expedition to the skill of the boatmen, or
_voyageurs_ who navigated his canoes over the waterways of Canada.
With some difficulty he induced the British government to sanction
the enrolment of a corps of Canadian boatmen for the much larger
expedition of 1884; nearly four hundred officers and men were
raised, many of whom proved themselves as valuable on the Nile as
their predecessors had been on the rivers of Ontario and Manitoba.
These _voyageurs_ joined the whalers at Sarras: they were placed in
charge of the actual handling of the boats, but, except as watermen,
they had no authority. The flotilla as a whole was in charge of the
regimental officers, who were distributed among the whalers, but in
every company many boats were necessarily commanded by sergeants and
even by corporals. In most cases the non-commissioned officers were
as ignorant of boat work as their men, and with their crews had to
learn by experience the use of oars and sails, the employment of
poles to prevent the whalers from being dashed against the rocks, and
the art of tracking. Even the best of the _voyageurs_, though experts
in other branches of boatmanship, knew nothing of sails, which
were not used in the navigation of the rivers with which they were
familiar. In the forenoon of December 18, B and E companies pushed
off from Sarras, followed by the remainder of the battalion, less G
company, which next day brought up the rear. Thus the whole battalion
was now afloat, engaged in a ceaseless struggle with the rapids of
the Nile, and greatly handicapped by want of _voyageurs_, of whom
the supply had run so short that instead of a couple of Canadians
being posted to each boat, as had been the case with the corps first
up the river, only two could now be allotted to each company of the
Royal Irish. The difficulties encountered, as will be seen, were
enormous, but the first battalion of the Royal Irish overcame them
with brilliant success, and made the passage up the river faster
than any other corps in the expeditionary force. In order to “get
the last ounce” of work out of his troops, Lord Wolseley appealed
to both the sporting and the patriotic instincts of his soldiers by
offering a prize of £100 to the non-commissioned officers and men of
the battalion which made the fastest run with the fewest accidents
from Sarras to Debbeh, and by promising that the winning corps should
be selected for the post of honour in the farther advance towards
Khartoum. The money prize was awarded to the Royal Irish, who thus
won the right to share in the hardships of the march across the
desert to Metemmeh. Before that march is described, some account
must be given of the portion of the Nile up which the Royal Irish
had to force their way before they could hope to strike a blow for
the relief of Gordon. For eighty miles above Sarras the river runs
through a wild and barren region known as Batn-el-Hájar or the
Womb of Rocks, of which the official historian gives the following
description:--

  “After leaving Sarras the first serious obstacle to navigation
  is the cataract of Semneh, the foot of which is reached after
  an eleven miles’ pull against a smooth, swift current running
  between high rocky banks. Then come ten miles of swifter-flowing
  water, against which, however, with the help of a moderate
  breeze, it is possible to proceed with the help of the track
  lines. At the head of this rapid is the great ‘Gate of Semneh,’
  a narrow gorge, between two rocky cliffs, partly blocked by two
  islands about equi-distant from the shores and from each other.
  Through the three passages thus formed the whole pent-up volume
  of the Nile rushes as through a sluice-gate. Here the boats have
  to be unloaded, and their cargoes, package by package, carried
  for half a mile over the rocks and deposited near smooth water
  above the cataract. Then the track lines are passed round the
  rocks, and two or three boats’ crews manning one line, each boat
  is in turn hauled by main force up the water slide and run in
  opposite its cargo on the beach.

  “For the next sixteen miles the course of the river is unimpeded
  by any serious obstacle, still for every yard the current runs as
  strong as the Thames in flood, on every side the basalt mountains
  radiate their heat, and everywhere the sunken rocks lie in
  wait for the unwary steersman. At the end of this distance the
  cataract of Ambako is reached, a very different piece of water to
  that of Semneh. At the latter spot an obstacle to navigation was
  formed by the volume of the Nile being pent into a narrow gorge;
  at Ambako the same effect is produced by a broad expanse of river
  being choked by an innumerable mass of reefs and islets. At full
  high Nile, when the lower rocks are buried deep beneath the
  surface, the cataract is not a formidable one; but as the river
  falls and reef after reef makes its appearance, the difficulties
  of navigation increase, until at low Nile the cataract has become
  impassable for the larger native craft, and is a grave source of
  difficulty even to the buoyant English whalers.

  “Here every means of propulsion has to be employed. At one moment
  the whalers, under the lee of some islet, may be paddled gently
  up a narrow lane of almost stagnant water. Then, as the shelter
  of the rock is lost, though its crew pull for dear life, it is
  carried back some hundreds of yards until a point of vantage is
  reached near the shore. Next the track line is got out, and step
  by step the boat is hauled round a projecting point by a treble
  boat’s crew. Now a fresh breeze and a clear reach of moderate
  water make it just possible to gain a few hundred yards by making
  the very most of sails and oars; then a bit of shelving shore
  is met with, along which good progress may be made by half the
  crew tracking, while the remainder stay on board and use their
  punt-poles. At length, by dint of perseverance, the five miles of
  rapid are surmounted in twice as many hours of incessant labour,
  and another eight miles of open water are entered on.”[257]

Though no two cataracts are exactly alike, their general features
are much the same, and therefore it is enough merely to mention
the others passed by the XVIIIth. Above the rapids of Ambako came
the cataract of Tanjur, which, though only two miles and a half
long, usually took the boats a whole day to ascend, and fifteen
miles higher up was another rapid, nearly as troublesome as that
of Semneh. This was succeeded by ten miles of smooth water running
between hills crowned with ruins, relics of a nation so ancient that
its very name has been forgotten. Then followed the cataract of
Dal, round which stores had to be carried for three or four miles
by hand; these rapids once passed, the boats entered a long reach
of calm but swift-running water 100 miles in length, at the head of
which two more cataracts, those of Kaiber[258] and Hannek, had to
be surmounted. From Hannek to Korti the navigation of the Nile was
fairly easy.

The record of the forty days spent by the battalion between Sarras
and Korti is one of unceasing toil. The Royal Irish worked like
galley slaves. From dawn to dark, in burning and daily increasing
heat, they rowed, and poled, and hauled the boats by ropes through
the easier portions of the rapids. In the more difficult places it
became necessary to lighten the whalers, and the crews had to unload
them partially or entirely and to transport the cargo across the
rocks, work the boats through the broken water, and then carefully
repack them, with the knowledge, acquired by bitter experience, that
an hour or two later the performance would have to be repeated.
Occasionally, to avoid some especially bad piece of river, the boats
had to be emptied, lifted out of the water, and hauled across country
on the rollers provided for the purpose. Sometimes a boat missed the
narrow passage among the rocks which barred her way, and was whirled
backwards down the current until the men on the banks, hanging on
to the drag ropes with their arms almost wrenched from the sockets,
succeeded in hauling her into slack water. Occasionally a whaler was
wrecked; nearly every day and sometimes several times in the day
one or more were injured by striking against submerged rocks, and
in default of professional boat-builders the officers had to repair
the damage themselves. Major-General (then Captain) Burton Forster’s
diary contains many references to his labours as a shipwright, and
a few are quoted almost at random, to show what “handy men” the
officers of the XVIIIth became in the expedition of 1884-85. “Found
Sergeant Evans’s boat again broken at a small rapid. Stopped, and put
in a plank about nine feet long, as the original one was cracked all
that distance.” ... “Got all the ten boats of my Company up rapids
by dark and beached them for repairs.” ... “Four-fifths of the keel
torn off Corporal ----’s boat, mended her.” The work went on for
seven days a-week; there was no rest on Sundays, or even on Christmas
day, the entry for which runs--“Divine service for Roman Catholics,
then drew boats up main rapids, kept moving, and unloaded in the
evening.” In less arduous circumstances the voyage up the Nile would
have proved a pleasant experience, for the scenery possesses a weird
beauty of its own, wholly unlike that of any other part of the world;
the climate is glorious, and the endless series of ruins which line
the banks interesting in the extreme. But the officers of the Royal
Irish had no time to admire scenery, or to study the archæology of
the ancient Egyptians. They had suddenly been turned into fresh-water
sailors; they had become jacks-of-all-trades--shipwrights, doctors,
dock labourers; they had to maintain discipline, to keep up _morale_,
and to cheer the men when under the strain of unceasing toil even
their buoyant spirits for a moment flagged.

An officer of the regiment thus records his reminiscences of the boat
work on the Nile--

  “Greatcoats and nothing else was the favourite kit with the men
  of my boat, who prided themselves on their dress and were anxious
  to save one good suit of khaki in which, they said, they would
  march into Khartoum. It was a handy costume when you stuck on a
  sandbank or struck upon a rock, as you could be overboard in a
  second to shove the boat off. Very often my men used to row in
  their ‘birth-day suits’! Just before we started up the Nile I
  had been transferred to a new company, and my skipper[259] left
  the detailing of the crews of the boats to the Colour-Sergeant,
  who took advantage of my youth and innocence (?) to put into my
  boat ten of the biggest blackguards in the company, and a really
  good corporal of the old stamp (Corporal George M‘Kee). Though I
  was new to the company, my future boat’s crew were well known to
  me by name and sight as being constant attenders at the Orderly
  Room, so I thought a ‘few kind words’ would do them no harm, and
  consequently informed them that I knew them well, but that we
  were going to have no d----d nonsense in my boat, or out of it
  they would go to sink or swim! A grin of amusement was all the
  answer I got to my short speech.

  “When we started off the Corporal and I were the only two men who
  had ever handled an oar in their lives. Luckily the Corporal was
  a good tough nut, and had been stroke in the regimental boat some
  years previously when we were in Malta. That first day’s row is
  still a nightmare to me. We left Sarras at 12 noon, the Corporal
  and I doing the rowing, while the remainder did their best to
  imitate us, but only succeeded for the most part in ‘catching
  crabs.’ The current for the Nile was slight--but except quite
  close in-shore it ran at about 3 miles an hour. Unfortunately
  our Cox, never having handled a tiller before, kept alternately
  running us out into the stream or into the banks. The distance
  from Sarras to Gemai was only 12 or 14 miles, but we did not get
  there till 8 P.M., and I thought we should never get there. I was
  more dead-beat than I have ever been before or since, and once
  I had thrown myself on to the sand when we eventually reached
  Gemai, I could not have gone another yard. However, youth and a
  sound sleep worked wonders, and next morning I was as fit as a
  fiddle, and started loading up the food stuff--a job requiring a
  lot of time and care, as each box had to be fitted into its place
  like blocks in a Chinese puzzle. With the stores, we also took in
  one or two Canadian _voyageurs_ per company. My company had two.
  Regiments who had preceded us had had a _voyageur_ for each boat,
  but a good many of them had become ‘fed up’ and had gone home or
  to Hospital, and by the time the Royal Irish went up the river,
  the supply only ran to about one or two for every 10 or 12 boats.

  “I was given a French Canadian, and the company tool chest, and
  told to bring up the rear--a pleasant task which meant I had to
  go to the assistance of any boat in difficulties on a rock or
  sandbank, come last into the night’s halting-place, and when
  there sit up most of the night mending the ‘lame ducks’ of the
  fleet. The actual mending did not take so long, as we soon learnt
  to patch up holes and tears, but the repairs usually involved the
  unloading of the boat, and fitting together the ‘Chinese puzzle’
  of boxes in the dark was an operation that took two or three
  hours.

  “My Canadian was a very fine specimen of his class, and had
  a flow of bad language--both French and English--that I have
  seldom heard surpassed or even equalled. Owing to my being able
  to talk a certain amount of French, we became very good friends,
  and under his instruction I became an expert _voyageur_ both at
  the helm and with the pole in the bows, and could have taken a
  boat up any of the rapids. Though we were such good friends,
  it did not prevent him ‘doing me in the eye.’ Each boat had a
  box labelled ‘Medical comforts,’ which was on no account to be
  opened. Very foolishly the authorities had a printed label on
  the box showing its contents, which in addition to beef-tea,
  arrowroot, &c., also consisted of 2 bottles of brandy and two of
  port wine. It had been reported that no box of medical comforts
  had reached its destination intact. I determined that my boat
  should be the exception, so the box was put in the stern of the
  boat, so that I could keep my eye on it during the day while I
  pulled stroke, and at night I slept on it in the boat. Never did
  it go out of my sight except at the portages, when my friend
  George, the Canadian, volunteered to carry it for safety’s (?)
  sake. I drew the line at carrying boxes at portages, and trusted
  George. When, however, my box was examined on arrival at Korti,
  though it appeared quite untouched, the liquor was all gone, the
  arrowroot, &c., were, however, quite complete; George had no use
  for _them_!

  “It was marvellous how quickly the men took to rowing. In a few
  days they were pulling powerful if not stylish oars, and they
  certainly put their hearts and their backs into it. My crew of
  blackguards were simply splendid, and we never had any difference
  of opinion. On one occasion we came to a very stiff bit of
  water, and I turned round and said, ‘Now, boys, we’ll have to
  pull here,’ and the man behind--one of the biggest and sturdiest
  scamps in the battalion, said, ‘Begorra, sir, we’ll pull to hell
  wid you,’ and a voice from the bows added, ‘and out the other
  side, sir.’

  “The Nile sores were the things that troubled us most; any
  scratches or in many cases ordinary rowing blisters, turned into
  festering sores which nothing could cure so long as we remained
  on the river. I took the skin off my ankle shoving the boat off a
  rock, and tho’ I kept it perfectly clean, and put vaseline on it,
  it would not heal. The strange thing was that once we got into
  the desert, tho’ we could not wash, these sores all began to heal
  at once.

  “Other regiments suffered terribly from lice, but so far as I
  know we had none in the Royal Irish. I certainly had none in my
  company. I attribute this to the fact that our men were always
  in the water to shove the boat off if she stuck on a sandbank or
  rock, while I noticed other regiments seemed to dislike getting
  into the water, and used to try to shove off a boat that stuck
  with poles and oars, and much bad language. The day’s work did
  not vary much: we awoke at the first streak of dawn--had some tea
  or coffee and biscuit--bully beef if you cared for it, and then
  used to sail if the wind was really strong--which to us seemed
  very seldom,--to sail and row, if the wind was only moderate. If
  there was no wind, or an adverse one, it was a case of rowing,
  or towing if the bank was favourable, the latter being a quicker
  mode of progression than rowing against the strong current. If
  we had a really good sailing breeze, we didn’t like to waste
  it, and had cold bully beef and biscuit at about midday as we
  sailed along, but if we had had a tough morning’s row or two,
  we used to halt for about an hour to have a hot meal. At about
  sunset the leading boat of the company would halt for the night
  at some suitable spot, and the others if possible closed up.
  This often was not possible, owing to the numerous mishaps that
  were always taking place from bumps on rocks and sandbanks. The
  boats, when the Royal Irish took them over, had done several
  trips already, and were for the most part in a pretty rotten
  condition, and the materials for repairing them had run out, so
  that we had to use any expedients such as biscuit tins, &c.,
  to patch them up. I thought myself lucky if on arrival at the
  night halting-place there was no damaged boat to mend, and that
  in consequence I could get a full night’s sleep--such a splendid
  sleep it was, too, under the clear sky of the Soudan winter!
  The ordinary monotony of the journey was broken at places like
  Dal, where one had to pull for four solid hours up a gigantic
  mill-stream, sometimes only gaining a few feet after half an
  hour’s pull, when one’s muscles felt as if they would crack. At
  Dal we took out the rifles and ammunition and a few of the boxes
  out of each boat, took a picked crew of eight men, and had two
  half-breed Indians in the boat, one at the helm, the other in
  the bows with a pole. It was most exciting work, and at first
  the task looked an impossible one, but the skill with which the
  _voyageurs_ took advantage of every back water, and shot past
  the most dangerous-looking places was perfectly marvellous. Most
  of us officers learnt the trick before we reached Korti, and
  could have qualified as _voyageurs_. Amongst the _voyageurs_ I
  should tell you, there were some who had not much claim to the
  title, and hardly knew the stern of a boat from the bow. They
  had come out for a picnic, but when they saw the Cataracts they
  ‘went sick’! One of the so-called _voyageurs_ was a man who had
  been in the Royal Irish a short time before we went to Egypt.
  He was a smart, plucky fellow, who soon learnt the tricks of
  the trade, and by the time the regiment came up he was quite an
  expert, and went by the name of ‘Dare-Devil Dick.’ Some of the
  _voyageurs_ were an insubordinate lot, and gave a good deal of
  trouble--especially in wanting to halt, and as they were not
  subject to military law it was difficult to know what to do with
  them on these occasions. One gentleman, however, met his match,
  after he had been particularly abusive to an officer who was
  well known in the service for his handiness with his fists. The
  _voyageur_, amongst other things, said that he was not going
  to obey any one’s orders, and that he was as good a man as any
  officer, so the officer told his men to row ashore, which they
  did; he then took off his coat and said, ‘You said you were as
  good a man as I am, take off your coat and I’ll show you whether
  you are or not.’ The Canadian looked at him for a moment, and
  then said, quite quietly, ‘No, boss, I guess not.’ ‘All right,’
  said the officer, ‘you will obey my orders in future, or out of
  the boat you go, neck and crop.’ After that there was no further
  trouble.

  “Pipes, or rather a lack of pipes, were soon a matter of great
  difficulty. The old soldier had not acquired the modern habit
  of cigarette smoking, and clay pipes were practically the only
  kind the men ever smoked. In the rough work of the Nile boat
  the supply of these soon gave out, and in my boat after about
  a week there was only one stump of a ‘dhudheen’ left amongst
  the twelve of us. This was passed round, each man getting ‘two
  or three draws and a spit’ out of it. I had started with three
  or four briar pipes, but they all disappeared--appropriated,
  I regret to say, by officers. As I did not care to share the
  dirty little stump that did duty for a pipe in my boat, I had
  to devise something as a substitute for my beloved briars. A
  broken oar-handle for the bowl, a boat’s auger, and a hollow reed
  for the stem soon provided me with the means of making quite a
  serviceable article. As the ash of the oar got very charred, the
  bowl had to be lined with a bit of biscuit tin. My patent was
  soon copied, and in a few days, as far as my crew was concerned,
  it was a case of ‘one man one pipe.’ My pipe did me yeoman’s
  service till after the return of the battalion from Metemmeh,
  when, amongst other luxuries in the shape of jam and sardines, an
  enterprising Greek brought up a store of wooden pipes which he
  sold at fabulous prices.”

The only amusement on the voyage was to watch the wild geese and
pelicans which abounded in some parts of the river, to look for
traces of the hippopotami, much disturbed by the long procession
of whale-boats through the upper part of the river, and to take
“pot-shots” at the crocodiles. The old ones were wary, and offered
but indifferent targets for the officers’ revolvers; the young ones,
less used to the ways of mankind, were slower in taking to the water.
One, indeed, remained so long on an overhanging bank that when a
party of the Royal Irish approached him his only means of escape was
by taking a header into the water, right over a man who was standing
on the edge of the river.

On the 23rd of January the leading boats reached Korti, where by the
27th the whole regiment was assembled, but not in the same strength
as it left Cairo. The hardships and fatigues of the unaccustomed life
had taken toll, and many men had been dropped at various hospitals
on the line of communication.[260] One soldier had been drowned in
the Nile, a fate which Lieutenant-Colonel Hugh Shaw, V.C., nearly
shared. His boat was working close in-shore when a sudden fall of
earth and stones from the bank struck her gunwale, and threw him into
the swiftly running river. As soon as the dust had cleared away he
was seen struggling in the stream; instantly Orderly-Room Sergeant
Hanrahan and Colour-Sergeant Moylan plunged into the water, swam to
him, and held him up until all three were rescued. For this gallant
action the bronze medals of the Royal Humane Society were awarded to
these non-commissioned officers. The Royal Irish won great praise not
only for the short time in which they made the passage from Sarras,
but also for the excellent care they had taken of the stores with
which their boats were freighted, and Lord Wolseley’s thanks were
officially conveyed to them in a special general order dated the 4th
of February, 1885.

  “The following battalions in the order given have completed the
  journey from Sarras to Debbeh in the quickest time:--

  1. The 1st Battalion Royal Irish.
  2. The 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders.
  3. The 1st Battalion Royal West Kent.

  The 2nd Division Naval Brigade, the Royal Irish, and the Royal
  West Kent have distinguished themselves by the care they have
  taken of their boats. The division of the Naval Brigade and
  Captain Forster’s Company of the Royal Irish handed in their
  supplies at Korti complete, no case or package being either
  damaged or missing. General Lord Wolseley congratulates the
  men of the Royal Irish most heartily upon having won the small
  prize which he offered to mark his personal appreciation of
  the battalion which should accomplish the difficult journey of
  about 370 miles in the shortest time. As they have been first on
  the river, so he hopes they may be amongst the first to enter
  Khartoum, and he feels assured that he can wish this old and
  distinguished regiment nothing more thoroughly in accordance with
  its own desires.

  “It has been most gratifying to watch the manner in which all
  the battalions have striven to reach at the earliest date this
  point where the army was to concentrate, and Lord Wolseley
  warmly thanks both officers and soldiers for the untiring spirit
  shown by them in overcoming the many and serious obstacles to
  navigation presented by the cataracts and rapids of the great
  river. All alike have worked well and cheerfully under conditions
  entailing considerable privation and continuous labour.

  “The conduct of all ranks has been most creditable to the
  army, and Lord Wolseley will not fail to bring the energy and
  discipline that have been shown to the notice of Her Majesty the
  Queen.

  “EVELYN WOOD,
  “_Chief of Staff_.”

In forwarding his cheque for £100 Lord Wolseley wrote as follows:--

  “CAMP KORTI, THE SOUDAN,
  “_11th March 1885_.

  “DEAR COLONEL SHAW,--It is with the greatest pleasure that I send
  you the enclosed cheque for £100, the prize won by your splendid
  Battalion by having come up the Nile to Debbeh in boats in less
  time than any other Regiment. Being an Irishman myself it is very
  gratifying to feel that my small prize has been carried off by
  my own countrymen.--Believe me to be, dear Col. Shaw, very truly
  yours, WOLSELEY.”

The general situation, as far as it was known when the XVIIIth
reached Korti, was very gloomy. Khartoum was besieged on three
sides, and on Gordon now rested the entire burden of its defence. In
August he had sent his only fellow-countrymen, Lieutenant-Colonel D.
Stewart and Mr Power, the correspondent of ‘The Times,’ on a mission
down the river; their steamer had been wrecked, and they had been
treacherously murdered by Arabs who had offered them hospitality.
Thus with no officer whom he could trust, no friend in whom he could
confide, he was left alone to face the hordes of fanatics by whom
he was surrounded, while his men were suffering much from physical
privations, and from the mental depression produced by waiting in
vain for the British troops who, as their General had repeatedly
assured them, were coming to their help. The tone of Gordon’s latest
messages, brought by native runners to Lord Wolseley, showed that his
position was growing so desperate that the time for which Khartoum
could hold out must no longer be reckoned in months and weeks,
but in days and hours. A modification of the plan of campaign had
therefore become necessary. In the original scheme the point for the
second concentration of the relieving force was fixed at Shendi, a
town on the right bank of the Nile, faced on the opposite shore by
the villages of Metemmeh and Gubat. But the passage of a column of
boats over the four hundred miles of river between Korti and Shendi
would inevitably take several weeks. Hitherto the troops had only
been called upon to overcome natural difficulties: now they would
be in the enemy’s country, and while working up rapids at least
as troublesome as those already ascended, they would be exposed
at any moment to attack and consequent delay. Even if unmolested
on the lower reaches, they were committed to one serious military
operation, the capture of Berber, a town on the Nile a hundred miles
below Shendi; it commanded the river, and therefore must be seized
and occupied before the expedition could pass it on the voyage up
stream. From these various causes the column must necessarily move so
slowly that long before the first whaler could be expected to appear
off Shendi, Gordon might be overwhelmed, yet the Nile was the only
route by which a large body of troops with adequate supplies could be
placed within striking distance of Khartoum. For smaller detachments,
however, the river was not the only possible line of advance. A
glance at the map will show that the Nile in its windings between
Shendi and Korti forms two sides of a huge triangle, the third side
of which is marked by the camel track, 173 miles in length, linking
Korti with Metemmeh. This road crosses the Bayuda desert, a barren
waste of sand, dotted at rare intervals with wells for the most part
inadequate for the needs of any considerable number of animals and
men--yet in a dash across this desert lay the only hope of saving
Gordon.

Lord Wolseley determined to divide the force which remained available
for active operations after the safety of his line of communication
had been secured. To Major-General Earle he entrusted the “river
column,” a strong brigade of all arms, which, after capturing
Berber, was to establish an advanced base near Shendi. The camel
corps and various other troops were placed under the orders of
Brigadier-General Sir Herbert Stewart, who was to lead the “desert
column” across country to Metemmeh, and there establish an advanced
base. If the information he received there convinced him that
Khartoum was at the last gasp, he was to push forward at once with
the “camelry” to Gordon’s rescue, but if the danger did not seem
immediate he was to stand fast, and co-operate with Earle when
the river column had won its way to Shendi. If Stewart halted at
Metemmeh, his Intelligence officer, Colonel Sir Charles Wilson, was
to embark with a few picked men on the Egyptian steamers which were
known to be waiting on that part of the Nile to establish touch with
the British, push on towards Khartoum, and, if possible, communicate
with Gordon.

Though Lord Wolseley was intensely anxious to place Stewart’s column
within reach of Gordon, it was not until the end of December that the
preparations for the movement were completed. Among the innumerable
difficulties which confronted the commander of the expedition
two stood out pre-eminently. One was the probability, almost the
certainty, that at Metemmeh the desert column would find neither food
for themselves nor forage for their camels, and that a large amount
of bulky supplies must therefore accompany the troops. The other was
the fact that, although camels were the only means by which stores
could be carried across the desert, the number of these animals at
his disposal was inadequate, and could not be supplemented from local
sources, as the Mudir of Dongola had failed in his promise to obtain
a large quantity of them from his tribesmen. As enough camels could
not be collected to carry to Metemmeh in one trip the _personnel_
and supplies of the column, Wolseley decided to cross the Bayuda
desert by stages. To carry out this plan it was necessary, as a first
measure, to form a depôt between Korti and Metemmeh; and Gakdul,[261]
98 miles from Korti, was selected, as it was known that its two or
three natural reservoirs yielded a good supply of drinking water.
In addition to the stores which were to be left at Gakdul, and the
supplies for the march there and back, the camels had to carry not
only their own food, for the desert yielded but scanty grazing, but
also water for the whole column, as it was known that the wells
between Korti and Gakdul could not be depended upon. As the XVIIIth
a month later followed the track of this convoy, the details of
the march of Stewart’s “camelry” will show how remarkable were the
performances of the first battalion, when it crossed the desert on
foot. At 3 P.M. on December 30, 1884, the first convoy of 2206 camels
started, with an escort of about 1100 troops, the mounted infantry on
camels, the XIXth Hussars on their horses. With an interval of two
hours the column marched till 7.30 A.M. on the 31st, rested for eight
hours, then pushed on again, stopping at 8 P.M. for a short time
at the wells of Hambok, where a small quantity of very indifferent
water was obtained, and halted at 1.15 A.M. on January 1, 1885, at
the well of El Howeiya, which yielded no better water than that of
Hambok. At 8.30 A.M. the convoy was again in motion, and plodded on
till 1 P.M., rested for two hours and a half, and then pushed on
throughout the night and early morning until at 6.45 A.M. on the 2nd
it reached Gakdul, where there proved to be abundance of good water.
The ninety-eight miles from Korti had been covered in 63¾ hours, 32¾
hours of which had been spent in actual marching; but weary as the
troops were, no rest could be allowed them. The stores with which the
camels were loaded had to be unpacked and arranged in proper order;
the camels to be watered--a process which occupied the whole day,
and the post to be prepared for defence, for though from the absence
of formed bodies of the enemy it was clear that the march across the
desert had taken the Mahdists by surprise, their scouts had been seen
hovering in the distance.

Before the next stage in the advance to Metemmeh could be undertaken
the intermediate base had to be completely filled up with supplies,
and to bring these, Stewart started on the return journey to Korti
less than fourteen hours after he had reached Gakdul. He left behind
him a garrison of 422 officers and men to guard the wells, and
improve the arrangements for watering the troops and the camels; and
he dropped small parties at the minor water-holes to clean them to
the best of their ability. By noon on the 5th Stewart was back at
Korti; but though his men had not suffered from their exertions, his
camels had felt the strain. Tired by their long march up the Nile,
the animals were in poor condition when they left Korti; they had
been on short rations of food and water on the journey to and from
Gakdul, and though every effort had been made to bring more camels
from lower Egypt, the supply of fresh animals was quite inadequate,
and the rest of the work in the desert had to be done by beasts whose
strength and endurance was rapidly diminishing. On the 7th a second
convoy of 1000 camels left Korti: 100 were laden with small-arm
ammunition, 80 with medical stores, 30 with artillery stores, the
remainder with food supplies. This column reached Gakdul in safety,
and on its return passed Stewart, who on the 8th marched from Korti
with 1600 troops, about 300 natives (chiefly camel-drivers from
Aden), 2228 camels, and 155 horses.

The second phase of the desert march began on January 14, when
Stewart pushed southwards from Gakdul with 1802 officers and men,
three light pieces of artillery and a “Gardner” gun, 155 horses
belonging to the XIXth Hussars, 1700 riding and 1188 transport
camels. Two days later the XIXth Hussars came into contact with the
enemy near the wells of Abu Klea, where on the 17th the Mahdists,
after a very desperate fight, were defeated with a loss of about a
thousand killed. Our casualties were 9 officers and 65 other ranks
killed, 9 officers and 85 other ranks wounded. Struggling onwards
towards Metemmeh, the desert column again met the enemy on the 19th,
this time at Abu Kru, close to the river. The Arabs fought with as
much gallantry as at Abu Klea, but were again heavily defeated, and
fled leaving the ground covered with their dead. To us the cost of
this engagement was 1 officer and 22 other ranks killed, 8 officers
and 90 other ranks wounded; among the latter was Sir Herbert Stewart,
who eventually succumbed to his injuries. When he fell, Colonel Sir
Charles Wilson succeeded to the command of the troops, though Captain
Lord Charles Beresford, R.N., in charge of the small Naval contingent
which accompanied the column, was actually the senior officer present.

On the 20th, Wilson occupied the village of Gubat, which is within
half a mile of the river; next day he threatened Metemmeh, two
miles farther inland, but before his attack had developed several
Egyptian steamers came in sight, and some hundreds of Gordon’s
Soudanese soldiers landed, bringing the news that a considerable body
of Mahdists were advancing. Wilson recalled his troops; fortified
himself at Gubat; reconnoitred in various directions, and after many
delays owing to the worn-out machinery of the river-boats, embarked
on the 24th with a handful of the Royal Sussex and a considerable
number of the Soudanese on his mission to Khartoum. It was not until
this date that he was able to send off a despatch to Lord Wolseley
describing the battle of the 19th and the movements which followed
it. This report reached Korti in the early morning of January 28, and
Wolseley at once decided to send Sir Redvers Buller to take command
of the desert column, and to reinforce it with infantry, who were not
to be carried on camels but to march on foot. Mindful of his promise
that the battalion which won his prize on the river should have
every opportunity of distinguishing itself on land, Lord Wolseley
selected the Royal Irish to accompany Sir Redvers, and ordered them
to move in detachments, the headquarters with A, B, and C companies
starting that evening, the remainder following as soon as possible.
In the afternoon of January 28, 1885, the battalion paraded for
Lord Wolseley’s inspection, dressed in the fighting kit devised for
them by a former commanding officer, Colonel M. J. R. MacGregor. It
consisted of a khaki-coloured frock and trousers of cotton drill,
a helmet covered with the same material, grey woollen putties,
a woollen shirt, socks, and ammunition boots; spine protectors,
cholera belts, and drawers had been issued, but were not in general
use among the rank and file; all hands carried haversacks, wooden
water-bottles, and rolled greatcoats. The officers wore “Sam Browne”
belts, which supported their swords and field-glasses, revolvers
and cartridge-pouches; the non-commissioned officers and men were
equipped with braces and waistbelts, pouches containing seventy
rounds of ammunition, three-edged bayonets (longer than those in
use at the present day), and Martini-Henry rifles. As in previous
campaigns it had been discovered that when these rifles were fired
fast, the barrels became so hot that it was almost impossible to
grasp them, they were fitted with leather hand-guards, tightly laced
round the stock and barrel behind the back-sight, to enable the men
to get a firm grip of their weapons. The remainder of the campaigning
kit was carried on transport camels; to every ten men was allotted
one animal, which was loaded with their camp kettles, a blanket and a
waterproof sheet apiece, and one or two sea-kit bags, each of which
contained sets of the following articles, viz.: one flannel shirt,
two pairs of socks, a tin of grease, a canteen, a towel, soap, and a
hold-all, complete. The troops were allowed no tents.

When Lord Wolseley rode on to the parade ground he was saluted by as
fine a body of soldiers as he had ever seen. By a process of natural
selection the weakly men had been weeded out in the voyage up the
river, and only those of perfect constitution had reached Korti.
Thanks to the varied forms of exercise they had taken since they left
Cairo, the soldiers drawn up before him were in rude health and fit
to go anywhere and do anything. After he had warmly praised their
appearance, which he described as “hard, lean, and long-legged,” and
informed them that to the regiment would probably be awarded the
prize for the race from Sarras to Debbeh, he warned the Royal Irish
that very hard work awaited them in the Bayuda desert. Before they
could reach Gakdul they would have to make six marches, each sixteen
miles long, in a country so dry that they must not count on receiving
more than half a gallon of water a-day, a ration which they must make
do for drinking, cooking, and washing! He wound up his speech by
telling the XVIIIth that he trusted soon to join it on the other side
of the desert, a hope, however, doomed to be frustrated by specific
orders from home desiring him to remain at Korti, the better to
direct the movements both of the desert and the river columns, the
latter of which had been set in motion on the 24th of January.

When the inspection was over the headquarter companies returned to
their preparations for the march. The skins containing water for
the journey were filled, rations drawn, camels taken down to the
river to drink and then loaded, and just after nightfall on January
28, 1885, the column started--as all ranks hoped and believed for
Khartoum. The first two or three stages of the journey across the
desert were by no means agreeable. The men of the XVIIIth had not
only to look after their own regimental camels and those of the large
convoy they were escorting to Gakdul, but to watch over the safety
of a number of slaughter cattle and to prevent the camel-drivers
from tapping the water-skins, which were not to be opened unless by
order of high authority. Though the Royal Irish had mastered the
ways of a whale-boat in the rapids, they were new to the tricks of
the camel-drivers, who, from idleness or dishonesty, often fastened
the loads so insecurely that in the night everything slipped off
the saddles and fell in a cascade upon the sand. The soldiers
had to pick up the boxes of stores and baggage which littered the
desert and re-pack them firmly; they had also to halt frequently to
enable weakly or lazy animals to keep up in their proper places;
but when, after two or three rude experiences, they had learned
how to cope with the camels and the natives who drove them, these
initial difficulties were overcome and the troops pushed sturdily
on towards Gakdul. For the greater part of the way the track ran
over great plains of yellow sand, which played havoc with the men’s
boots, already partly worn out by the _portages_ on the Nile; but
occasionally it crossed low round-topped ridges of black rock,
belts of coarse dark-green grass, and thick growths of low acacia
and mimosa trees. As the column marched at night and rested by day,
the officers were able to get some sport; a gazelle was bagged and
many sand-grouse were seen, though not hit, for the Martini-Henry
rifle hardly lends itself to shooting birds on the wing! The rations
consisted of a pound of ship’s biscuit and the same amount of
preserved salt beef, an ounce of tea and three of sugar, an ounce of
preserved vegetables, a quarter of an ounce of salt, and 1/320 of
a gallon of lime juice. The thirst produced by the combined effect
of the salt beef and the dry heat of the desert was great, and the
regular allowance of half a gallon of water was hardly sufficient
to quench it. General Forster’s diary records the joy with which
all hands greeted the occasional issue of a larger supply; an
additional quart rendered it possible to do a little cooking, while
an extra half gallon brought some form of washing within the range of
practical politics! On the half gallon issue the men could only spare
enough water to make tea; as their salt beef had been well cooked
before it was hermetically sealed in tin, they ate it cold; if water
enough could be obtained, the preserved vegetables were soaked and
boiled in the lid of a canteen.[262] To rest the camels, now breaking
down fast from the combined effects of too much work and too little
food and water, the convoy halted at the wells of El Howeyat for
twenty-four hours and then marched on to Gakdul. The headquarters of
the Royal Irish reached this post early on the 4th of February, and
next day were joined by four more companies (D, E, F, and G) of the
battalion under Lieutenant-Colonel Wray. Unencumbered by the charge
of a large convoy, this detachment had covered the ninety-eight miles
between Korti and Gakdul in a hundred and eight hours--a very fine
performance for men who, though in perfect all-round training, had
done no marching for many weeks.

The journey across the desert had so far been uneventful. The
only exciting incident was the escapade of a lance-corporal, who
temporarily losing his reason, wandered into the desert, and was
not rescued till he had strayed twelve miles from the bivouac. A
few tribesmen, captured by the irregulars who guarded the lines of
communication, were the only enemies seen; they were wild-looking
savages, short but wiry, with fierce eyes gleaming under shocks of
matted hair, and armed with formidable spears more than five feet
in length. They did not form part of the Mahdi’s regular army, but
were local freebooters, more disposed to plunder than to fight. When
the Royal Irish were a few miles north of Gakdul they met messengers
hurrying to Korti with the news that Khartoum had fallen. On the 5th
they had comparative rest, but on the 6th they were kept hard at work
filling water-skins at the wells, ready for the next stage in their
advance--Gakdul to Abu Klea, a distance of fifty-two miles. While
thus employed they were joined by H company, which had been detained
at Korti when the second detachment moved forward. In their anxiety
to lose no chance of distinguishing themselves the company had made
a great march, winding up by covering twenty-eight miles on the last
day. Sir Redvers Buller, who had ridden part of the way from Korti
with the headquarter companies, did not allow H company to start with
the rest of the battalion when it marched on the 7th, but, mounting
them on camels, sent them on a day or two later. How the men liked
this new form of locomotion is not recorded, but it is probable that
many agreed with the sailor who, after his first ride, remarked, “My
camel is a queer beast. He’s been playing cup and ball with me all
the afternoon and only missed me twice!”

Hitherto only the precautions usual in ordinary warfare had been
taken on the march and in the bivouac, but now that the Royal Irish
were well in the enemy’s country and liable to attack at any moment,
the formation was adopted which recent experience had proved to be
best suited for fighting in the Soudan. Under the immediate escort
of one company, successive lines of camels, about forty abreast,
lumbered along in a loose column which, if necessary, could be closed
up into a solid mass. At one of the front angles of the column of
camels were four companies; at the opposite rear angle was the
remainder of the battalion, both marching in column or half-column
of companies, ready to form square at a moment’s notice. The animals
laden with the reserve of ammunition moved behind the leading
companies into whose square they were to be received in case of
danger; those bearing the rations and the water-skins followed the
companies in rear, who were charged with their defence. If the enemy
attacked, each square could support the other with flanking fire,
and both could rake the ground over which spearmen would have to
pass in order to close on the camels with the cold steel. At every
halt square was formed, and at night the bivouacs were surrounded
with _zaribas_--walls of stone, boxes of stores, saddles or mimosa
bushes, anything, in short, which would serve to break a sudden rush
of the Mahdi’s followers.

The column, however, was not attacked, and notwithstanding the
cumbrous formation in which the Royal Irish moved they got over
the ground fast, and on one occasion marched twenty-four miles in
twenty-five hours and a quarter, coming in fairly fresh, alert, and
fit for outpost duty. They reached Abu Klea on the morning of the
12th, passing close to the battlefield of January 17, still covered
with dead bodies, for though the Mahdists had buried their chiefs,
the rank and file remained where they had fallen. Two companies,
C and E, were dropped at the wells to strengthen the garrison of
the post; the remainder of the battalion, after a few hours’ rest,
started for Gubat, where they arrived next day after a march of
twenty-one miles, “swinging into bivouac,” as Sir Redvers Buller
reported, “as cheerily as if they had been going to a field-day at
Aldershot.” The troops of the desert column received the XVIIIth with
great enthusiasm, turning out to a man to cheer it into camp. Among
them were the soldiers who had accompanied Wilson in his abortive
attempt to rescue Gordon from Khartoum, and who had just struggled
back to Gubat after a series of adventures, remarkable even in the
annals of the British army. In two tiny steamers, manned by natives
of very doubtful loyalty, they had laboriously passed through the
long and dangerous series of rapids known as the Sixth Cataract,
and after running the gauntlet of the enemy’s guns and rifles, had
arrived off Khartoum--to find that barely thirty-six hours earlier
the town had been captured by the Mahdi, into whose hands Gordon,
if he was still alive, had undoubtedly fallen. Wilson realised that
his mission had failed, and with a heavy heart ordered his steamers
to retire down the river. The retreat was conducted in circumstances
as unpropitious as can be imagined; the native crews, excited at the
defeat of the Christian General, were almost mutinous; the Soudanese,
by far the majority of the fighting men on board, were stupefied
by the knowledge that their wives and children were in the Mahdi’s
clutches; every hour the dangers of navigation increased, for the
Nile was sinking fast, and in one night dropped no less than three
feet. But in spite of all difficulties Wilson made good progress
down stream until his steamers, one after the other, were wrecked by
the treachery of the Arab pilots. Landing his troops on an island he
entrenched himself, and succeeded in informing the British at Gubat
of his desperate plight. The sailors at once manned one of the river
boats and fought their way up the Nile in time to save Wilson and his
comrades from the destruction which threatened to overwhelm them.

On his way to Gubat, Buller had received a despatch from Lord
Wolseley written after the news of the fall of Khartoum had reached
headquarters, but before the rescue of Wilson’s detachment had been
reported at Korti. His orders were to ensure the safety of Wilson and
his men; to send all sick and wounded back to Korti; to make every
preparation for the evacuation of Gubat, and if he considered it
necessary, to fall back to Abu Klea or even to Gakdul. When Buller
reached Gubat the situation was full of difficulty. Wilson indeed
was safe, but within two miles of the bivouac was the strongly built
village of Metemmeh, which we had threatened but not seriously
attacked. It was held by two thousand of the enemy, almost delirious
with joy at their victory at Khartoum; the Intelligence officers had
ascertained that three or four thousand Mahdists, well provided with
rifles, guns, and ammunition would shortly reinforce Metemmeh, and
as there was nothing now to detain the Mahdi before Khartoum, his
main army might also have to be reckoned with. The supplies of the
desert column were running short: at Gubat there were only rations
for twelve days, and the depôt at Abu Klea contained but a similar
quantity. Worse than all, the transport was breaking down rapidly;
“the camels,” Buller reported, “are emaciated, and their carrying
power small. Indeed I do not think we have camels enough to get this
force out at one go.” After a few hours’ deliberation he reluctantly
decided to retire, and began his preparations, fortunately unhindered
by the enemy who circled round the bivouac without attempting to
close in upon it. Early on the morning of the 13th of February the
sick and wounded were sent off, the convalescents on camels, the
worst cases on stretchers carried by Gordon’s Soudanese. The convoy
was escorted by part of the camel corps and three companies of the
Royal Irish, and when all danger of an attack seemed over, the
detachment was ordered to rejoin the main body of the battalion. Just
as the three companies reached the bivouac a Hussar orderly dashed
into the lines to report that eight or nine miles off the convoy was
surrounded by a large number of the enemy, and was in great peril.
Colonel Shaw and half a battalion of the XVIIIth hurried off to the
rescue, but to their deep disgust did not come into action. The
Mahdists had surrounded the convoy on three sides and were pouring
in a fairly well directed fire when a detachment of camelry, on the
way from Abu Klea to Gubat, suddenly struck the enemy on the flank
just as the Royal Irish began to come in sight. The Arabs did not
await Shaw’s attack and retired, leaving the convoy free to go on
to Abu Klea, which it reached without further incident. Shaw’s half
battalion did not accompany the sick, but was ordered back to Gubat,
where the troops spent the night in destroying stores which could not
be carried away and throwing into the Nile boxes of ammunition for
which there was no transport. As day broke on the 14th, the column,
1700 strong, was set in motion. With the exception of a few of the
XIXth Hussars whose horses were still serviceable, all arms and
all ranks trudged over the desert on foot. The post of honour, the
command of the rear-guard, was entrusted to Colonel Shaw, who covered
the retreat with the Royal Irish, two guns, a detachment of the XIXth
Hussars, and three hundred of Gordon’s Soudanese. A few of the enemy
followed, but when Buller halted and offered battle the Mahdists
drew off, and by midday on the 15th the column was in bivouac at
Abu Klea. The men had not suffered much on the march, though the
boots were beginning to fall off their feet, but so many animals had
dropped from exhaustion that General Buller was forced to admit that
any active operations were entirely out of the question, until the
mounted corps were supplied with fresh camels, the transport camels
replaced, and the XIXth Hussars completely remounted. There was not
forage enough for the surviving animals, and it was evident that the
wells could not be relied upon to supply the whole of the troops now
concentrated around them. Buller accordingly decided to send back
to Gakdul most of the camelry, all spare camels, and nearly all the
XIXth Hussars, while with the remainder of his command he awaited
instructions at Abu Klea.

The two companies of the XVIIIth detached to garrison the post of
Abu Klea now rejoined headquarters, bringing with them a record of
excellent service performed in clearing the bush which surrounded the
wells, building _zaribas_, and similar useful though unshowy work.
Early on the 16th, the battalion was directed to entrench one of the
low hills which encircle the wells; just as the shelter trenches
were finished and occupied, and the men were eating a well-earned
meal, large numbers of the enemy appeared on ground commanding the
defences of the Royal Irish, and opened fire at about 1100 yards’
range. To meet this attack, which enfiladed some of the trenches,
fresh works had to be thrown up under continuous and sometimes very
heavy musketry. “The Gardner and the screw-guns gave the enemy a
little physic,” wrote an officer in his diary, “but the rebels kept
it up all night, and we expected an attack at any time. Next morning
they began in a desultory sort of way, but a few shells and a strong
infantry fire made them lie close. Finally a field-piece of theirs
came into action, but its shells fell short and dead. Two of our
7-pounders went out and fired a round or two, and the Mahdists then
disappeared. We had an easy night on the 17th, and only regretted
two things: one that we had not had a slap at them, the other that
we had not received the half pound of bread that was due to us as a
ration!” During this prolonged skirmish, in which there were many
“close shaves” from the flat-trajectoried Remington rifles used
by the enemy, Quartermaster and Honorary Lieutenant Jamieson and
thirteen other ranks were wounded.[263] In the column the total
casualties were three men killed, four officers and twenty-three
other ranks wounded. For the next few days the regiment was very busy
cutting down scrub and building redoubts--work with which the enemy’s
fire did not materially interfere, as it was delivered from a very
respectful distance.

When the untoward news of the fall of Khartoum reached England, the
country was profoundly moved. A great cry for vengeance arose, and
amidst a whirlwind of telegrams from the Cabinet, Lord Wolseley
recast his plans, and proposed that the towns of Abu Hamed and Berber
should be captured, and held during the summer as posts to cover
an advance in strength up the river in the cool season. Government
accepted the idea, and sent an expedition to Suakim to draw off to
the shores of the Red Sea part of the enemy who might otherwise
attack the troops echeloned along the Nile. But by the middle of
February it become evident that Wolseley’s scheme was too ambitious.
The river column, though successful in an engagement at Kirbekan, was
making slow progress up stream owing to the abnormally “low Nile.”
To enable this column to arrive at Berber with its cargo of stores
intact, the original plan had provided that it should be fed by
convoys across the desert of Korosko, but recent events at Khartoum
had roused the fanaticism of the tribesmen to such an extent that
it was very improbable this route would long remain open. A large
quantity of Earle’s biscuit had proved uneatable; the remainder would
only carry the column to Berber and back to Korti, and therefore none
could be left to ration the garrison of Berber when that place had
been taken. Wolseley thereupon proposed that the Royal Irish and part
of the camel corps should strike across the Bayuda desert and fall
upon Berber from the westward, but he was forced to abandon this idea
when he realised that the transport, without which it was impossible
to undertake the expedition to Berber, had completely given out, and
that the marching power of the troops was seriously crippled by the
condition of their boots.

  “In view of all these conditions the Commander-in-Chief felt
  that he was no longer justified in persevering with the combined
  movement of the Desert and River columns on Berber, and he was
  forced, reluctantly, to abandon all hope of taking that place
  before the autumn. The intention to take Berber being given up,
  the capture of Abu Hamed became unnecessary; it would only have
  led to a useless waste of life, and have unnecessarily prolonged
  the line of river to be defended during the summer months.
  The retention of the Desert column in its exposed position in
  the desert was equally without object. A concentration on the
  Nile became the only course open to Lord Wolseley. Orders were
  accordingly sent on the 20th February, directing the river
  column to return ... and at the same time Sir Redvers Buller was
  directed to return to Korti.”[264]

In obedience to this order the one thousand seven hundred and forty
effectives,[265] left to General Buller, made ready to march on the
evening of the 23rd of February after an exciting day. About 11
A.M. Captain Morgan, Royal Irish Regiment, from his outpost to the
south-east of the bivouac had signalled that masses of the enemy were
advancing towards Abu Klea. Later it was reported that the Mahdists,
between five and eight thousand strong, had halted two or three
miles from the wells. The situation was a serious one, but neither
the General nor his men were disturbed at the news: the packing was
carefully finished, the convoy of wounded sent off under a strong
escort, the wells filled up with thorny scrub and the many saddles
for which there were no camels left, and soon after sunset the
troops filed away in good order, leaving the Royal Irish to bring
up the rear. The camp fires were made up, the usual bugle calls
were sounded, and then in groups of twos and threes the men of the
XVIIIth silently collected at the appointed place and were formed
into a rear-guard. Whether the evacuation of the wells was unnoticed
by the enemy, or whether the Mahdists thought it wiser not to attack
the retiring column, is not known, but the fact remains that Buller
was not seriously molested in his retreat, of which Major-General
Burton Forster’s diary gives interesting details. “During the night
of the 23rd-24th many camels fell down and were left behind. Halts
were numerous, and we had a very hard and awkward march in the dim
moonlight through the grass and scrub till 11.30 P.M. The _rouse_
sounded at 4 A.M. (24th) and we started at 5, having come about 9
miles from Abu Klea. We marched till about 9.30, seeing only a few
of the enemy’s scouts in the afternoon, and halted about 18 miles
from Abu Klea. The vedettes fired at them and they disappeared. We
started again at 5 P.M., and marched on till midnight, rested on the
25th till 5 P.M., when we started again, halting at 9.30 P.M. after
doing 13 miles. Next morning we started at 6 A.M. and reached Gakdul
about noon.... The work has been stiff and hot, especially on a daily
ration of three-quarters of a gallon of water!... I think the march
of 56 miles in 64 hours is very creditable to Buller’s column.... The
men have been in their clothes without changing or washing from the
16th to the 26th, and it has told on them: they are not as fit about
the feet as we could wish. Some of the officers succeeded in changing
their socks once during the ten days, and were more comfortable in
consequence.”

An interesting account of the retreat is given in a letter written
from Gakdul on February 27, 1885, by Colonel B. J. C. Doran, C.B.,
then a subaltern in the first battalion, Royal Irish regiment.

  “You will see by the address that we have commenced retracing
  our steps towards Korti, we arrived here yesterday morning and
  very thankful we all were to get in. The march back has been so
  far anything but comfortable, and our march going up was child’s
  play compared with this retreat, for of course then the regiment
  was by itself in two detachments and could consequently move
  pretty quickly having only a small amount of transport to hamper
  it, but marching with the ‘Desert Column’ as it is called, is
  quite another thing, besides having a large Hospital of sick and
  wounded to take care of. We left Abu Klea on the 23rd in two
  parties; the first consisting of the Hospitals and the whole
  of the baggage, rations, &c., for the column escorted by some
  mounted infantry started at 2 P.M. I went with this lot, as I
  am acting Quartermaster now to the regiment. The second party
  consisted of all the troops and did not start till 7 P.M.: they
  had no baggage or transport to hinder them, so of course when
  they started were able to catch us up, as they did about 8 or 9
  miles out of Abu Klea where we halted and where a depôt of water
  had been left; they got in about 1 A.M. We started off again at
  daylight and marched till about 10 A.M., when the whole column
  halted, pretty well done up; the water question all along has
  been a very difficult affair. We were to rest here until 4 P.M.,
  when we were again to start off, however just as everyone had
  made themselves as comfortable as is possible on these occasions
  under a blanket to keep off the sun and were just getting a
  few winks of sleep, we were startled at hearing heavy firing
  going on in our rear; it was at some distance but the sound of
  cannon being fired was quite distinct, everyone was up like a
  shot, and orders were given to get all baggage loaded ready to
  move off at once. However, after half an hour’s excitement we
  desisted, as it was discovered to be only about two men and a boy
  (natives) amusing themselves--we presume to frighten us--with
  some gunpowder in cases. To understand the cause of all this
  alarm, you must know that ever since the night we were potted at
  the natives still hovered around Abu Klea, and we only moved out
  just in time. Had we stayed there another day, we should have
  had a good fight, for just as the column I was with was about
  to start, from one of the outlying posts on the neighbouring
  hills it was signalled down that the enemy were seen advancing
  from Metemmeh direction in thousands; this caused a good deal
  of excitement; however, after coming within about 2 miles of
  our advanced posts, they all halted and settled down for the
  night. Meanwhile the column with sick and wounded got away and
  were well clear of all the hills and in a fine open desert by
  the time it was dark, and where we halted, as I said before, we
  were joined by all the remainder of the garrison that night,
  they having sneaked out under cover of the dusk. All the wells
  we filled up and left fires burning so as to deceive the enemy.
  I don’t suppose they found out we had gone until next morning,
  and then pretty late, as they would not have approached the place
  except very cautiously. It was a very nasty place to get out
  of, as for about six miles the road or track runs in a valley
  with commanding hills on both sides, and had the enemy made any
  attempt to hold the ground at the head, where it emerges into the
  desert, very few of us would have got out without scratches. Once
  in the desert we did not mind how many came on us, so now you can
  understand the commotion caused by the firing of cannon, as we
  thought they must have found out and were following us. This of
  course was almost impossible, as where they were encamped they
  had only one or two wells which they must have dug, and they must
  have wanted water, as they could not have got any since they left
  the river at Metemmeh, and it would have taken them quite a day
  to clear out the wells we had filled in at Abu Klea. In the first
  24 hours after leaving Abu Klea we had done about 30 miles, not
  bad going for a column on an allowance of water, in the desert
  in fact. Everyone had to walk, except the sick and wounded,
  because all the camels belonging to the camel corps and mounted
  infantry had to be used for transport and baggage animals. There
  were only just sufficient to bring us away, and nearly all of
  them were completely played out before they commenced the march.
  However, we struggled on somehow, and arrived here more dead than
  alive. Thank goodness we are getting a day’s rest here, which
  will enable the men to pull themselves together, get some decent
  food and plenty of water to drink, and that good. If I had been
  told a month ago that I should drink as filthy water as I have
  done, day after day, and been very thankful to get it, I should
  have laughed! The thickness of pea-soup was considered _good_:
  sometimes, if it was thicker, then it might be a little bad,
  but not to be thrown away. Considering all things, the desert
  march has been _the_ most trying thing known in a campaign for
  years. By the time we arrive at Korti, we shall have been away
  five weeks or more. We shall not have so many difficulties to
  contend with henceforward, as the next half will be much easier
  and I doubt the enemy following us beyond this. Everything about
  movements is kept a State secret here, and we don’t know what is
  going to happen, except we move out of this to-morrow or next
  day--they say to Merawi, to help the column gone up the River,
  but I have my own idea that we are going straight to Korti,
  though the Colonel told the officers on parade yesterday that
  after a day’s rest here, we were to move towards Merawi. It
  will be getting very hot here soon, and if we are to summer out
  here, it would be advisable to try and build ourselves some sort
  of shelter. However, I suppose when we get to Korti we shall
  probably then know what government has settled to do about the
  Soudan. I am sure if they only saw it, they would have no desire
  ever to keep such a country!”

At Gakdul the Royal Irish had a comparatively pleasant rest. A
quantity of stores had recently arrived from Korti, and as there was
no means of carrying them back, the Commissariat distributed them
among the troops, who were regaled on jam, cheese, fresh bread, fresh
meat, vegetables, and other long-forgotten delicacies. The men had
time to change their clothes, there was enough water for washing,
and better than all, a great budget of letters from home awaited the
regiment. Some of the units of the column started at once for Korti,
but it was not until the 2nd of March that the battalion was warned
to start next day, an order which was very welcome, for the wells
had begun to give out, and “the water had become filled with living
animals, smelt, and was as fit to drink as a dirty duck pool!” From
the 5th to the 8th the Royal Irish halted at the wells of Megara,
where a successful foray of desert robbers upon the slaughter cattle
considerably reduced their rations of meat. Then they once more
pushed northward, this time in detachments, the last of which reached
Korti on the 14th. As Lord Wolseley rode out to welcome them he saw
men whom a civilian would have derided as tramps and scarecrows, but
in whom a soldier’s eye recognised troops of the finest quality.
Their uniforms hung in rags, patched where patching was possible with
any material that had come to hand. Their boots were a nightmare.
Their skins were the colour of mahogany, their faces seamed with the
lines which hunger and thirst, exposure to heat and cold, want of
sleep, and prolonged exertion stamp upon every soldier in a campaign.
Their stern eyes, their hard-set mouths, their steady march and proud
carriage all showed that their spirit and discipline were as high as
ever, and that the great fatigues of their marches in the desert had
in no way impaired the efficiency of the Royal Irish. On the 16th
Lord Wolseley inspected the battalion, warmly thanked all ranks for
the work they had done, and informed them that General Buller had
reported on them in the most favourable terms.

Among those who had done much towards keeping the _morale_ of the
XVIIIth at the high standard maintained throughout the Nile campaign
was the Roman Catholic chaplain, the Reverend Father Brindle, D.S.O.,
now Bishop of Nottingham, whose name even now is one to conjure with
in the Royal Irish regiment. After serving with the second battalion
in the war of 1882, he accompanied the first battalion throughout
the whole of the expedition up the Nile. His genial personality,
his devotion to duty, his coolness in danger, his indifference to
hardship, combined to give him a remarkable influence over the men,
which he exerted invariably in the highest interests of the Service.

The Royal Irish thoroughly enjoyed the comparative civilisation of
the headquarters camp. They were once more under canvas; they had an
inexhaustible supply of water; and they feasted their eyes, weary
from the glare of the Bayuda desert, upon the palms and acacias
growing on the narrow strip of cultivation which fringes both banks
of the Nile. But they were not allowed to rest there long. When
the rear-guard of the desert column returned to Korti, the British
government were still determined to avenge Gordon and to crush the
Mahdi’s power at Khartoum; and Lord Wolseley arranged to concentrate
the expeditionary force for the summer in cantonments along the Nile
near Korti. The XVIIIth was assigned to a movable column, commanded
by Brigadier-General Brackenbury, whose headquarters were at Debbeh,
with detachments in the neighbouring villages, one of which, Kurot,
was occupied by the Royal Irish, where they settled down, as they
thought for many months. Some of their huts were made of logs, grass
mats, and similar materials, bought from the natives and issued to
the troops; others were built of bricks, made out of the soil on the
banks of the river and dried in the sun. “The battalion,” writes an
officer who was present, “excelled at making the moulds for these
bricks, and a sergeant, Kelly, was the crack moulder.” The want of
straw, however, proved as serious a hindrance to the brick-making
of Wolseley’s troops as to the Israelites of old, for many thousand
bricks cracked and were wasted. But only a fortnight after the last
unit had reached its allotted post, Wolseley was warned by the
Cabinet that owing to the possibility of England being embroiled in
war elsewhere, the expedition to Khartoum might be abandoned, and on
the 11th of May he received orders to withdraw from the Soudan. He
obeyed; but as the General-in-Chief in Egypt, who had been studying
the local situation for many months, he strongly protested against
the new policy, pointing out that if we retreated the Mahdi’s power
would greatly increase, and that the British government would not
only have to reinforce the garrison of Egypt, but to fight for
the protection of that country. The difficulty of carrying out
the evacuation was greatly increased by the necessity of bringing
back about thirteen thousand natives, who, having thrown in their
lot with us, could not be abandoned to the tender mercies of the
Mahdists; but by dint of careful organisation and hard work the task
was accomplished. General Brackenbury’s command started on the 1st
of June in whale-boats for Abu Fatmeh, where three hundred men of
the XVIIIth, under Lieutenant-Colonel Wray, were landed, and after
marching some distance down the Nile rejoined the remainder of the
battalion. Though the difficulties were light compared to those of
the upward voyage, they were by no means insignificant, for the
_voyageurs_ had gone back to Canada, and the Royal Irish, who acted
as rear and baggage guard to the column, had much work in towing
and mending whale-boats, wrecked or damaged in shooting the rapids.
When the battalion reached Alexandria, it was joined by a strong
draft: a hundred and seventy-nine non-commissioned officers and men
from the second battalion at Malta had landed in January, of whom
fifty-eight had been fortunate enough to be sent to Suakim, where
they served as mounted infantry in the eastern Soudan. Thus by a
curious chance the Royal Irish were represented in the campaign of
1884-85 not only on the Nile, but also on the shores of the Red Sea,
where a young officer of the regiment, Lieutenant D. G. Gregorie,
who had already greatly distinguished himself while serving in the
Egyptian army, was awarded the fourth class of the order of the
Osmanieh.

[Illustration: MAP N^o. 8.

  THE EGYPTIAN WAR
  1882]

[Illustration: MAP N^o. 9.

  THE NILE CAMPAIGN
  1884-85

  W. & A.K. Johnston Limited, Edinburgh & London.]

As a matter of historical interest it may be mentioned that Lord
Wolseley’s predictions proved singularly correct. Within six months
of our withdrawal from Dongola a large body of the enemy attempted
the invasion of Egypt, besieged for forty days a fort held by
British troops, and did not retire southwards until on December 30,
1885, they had been defeated at the battle of Ginniss. To meet this
incursion it was found necessary to hurry nearly seven thousand
British troops up the Nile, and to increase the garrison of Lower
Egypt by about three thousand men.

In despatches Lord Wolseley mentioned the following officers of
the Royal Irish: Lieutenant-Colonel Shaw, V.C.; Captain Guinness,
and Lieutenant B. J. C. Doran. Lieutenant-Colonel Shaw was awarded
the C.B.; Captain Guinness was promoted to a Brevet-Majority, and
Lieutenant B. J. C. Doran was noted for a Brevet-Majority on his
attaining the rank of Captain. The Egyptian medal and clasp for the
Nile, 1884-85, and the Khedive’s Star were issued to all ranks. In
1886, the regiment was permitted to add to its battle honours the
words, “Nile 1884-5,” in commemoration of the ascent of the River and
the operations in the Bayuda desert.

The first battalion, Royal Irish regiment embarked at Alexandria
on August 24, 1885, in the s.s. _Stirling Castle_, and arrived at
Plymouth on September 9.



CHAPTER XIII.

THE SECOND BATTALION.

1883-1902.

THE BLACK MOUNTAIN EXPEDITION: THE TIRAH CAMPAIGN.


Early in 1884, the second battalion of the Royal Irish regiment began
a long tour of foreign service. Its first station was at Malta, where
drafts from home brought up its numbers to a total of nine hundred
and sixty-seven of all ranks.[266] While at Malta, the battalion
heard that the expedition, described in Chapter xii., was to be
sent to the relief of Gordon at Khartoum, and hoped to be included
in it, but the War Office decided otherwise; and though the Royal
Irish were represented in the Nile column, the honour, as we have
seen, fell to the first, not to the second battalion, which remained
stationary till January 7, 1885, when leaving a large detachment as a
reinforcement for the first battalion in Egypt, it sailed for Bombay,
and early in February reached Umballa with a strength of six hundred
and fifty-two of all ranks.

A month later the battalion was ordered up to Rawal Pindi to increase
the number of British regiments at a _durbar_, which the Amir of
Afghanistan was to attend. On the journey the Royal Irish were
in a very alarming railway accident: part of the troop train ran
off the line--three bandsmen, Moore, Tod, and Frost, were killed;
Lieutenant-Colonel Dawson was seriously injured; Major Hamilton,
Lieutenant Symonds, Surgeon-Major Pratt, Bandsman Hayes, and
Drummer Brennan were also hurt. As soon as the _durbar_ was over
the battalion proceeded to Subathu, where, with a detachment at
Jutogh, it remained until November, 1887, when it changed stations
for Nowshera, with detachments at Fort Attock and Cherat. While on
the march the Royal Irish were annoyed by thieves, who hung about
the outskirts of the camp in the hope of stealing modern firearms,
for which there was a constant demand among the hillmen beyond the
frontier. To keep their rifles safe, the soldiers before going to
sleep at night used to tie or strap them to their legs, but even this
precaution sometimes failed. On one occasion a small detachment
secured their firearms in the usual way when they turned into their
“E. P.” tent; but one of the party was not well, and to let him rest
comfortably a comrade slept with both his own and his friend’s rifle
fastened to him. In the middle of the night the Good Samaritan woke,
feeling that some one was stealthily touching him; he instantly
raised an alarm, when down fell the tent, and before the men could
crawl from beneath the heavy folds of canvas, the thieves made off
with a rifle. On investigation it was found that the robbers had
noiselessly undone all the tent ropes with the exception of the four
corner ones, which, when their presence in camp was discovered,
they had cut through to cover their retreat. The Royal Irish took
such stern measures to prevent further thefts that the thieves for
a considerable time avoided a battalion which they described as a
“_Shaitan ki pultan aur Sahiblog bahut zaberdust_.” This may be
translated freely--The Devil’s own regiment with very high-handed
officers!

During the time the second battalion was at Nowshera, one of its
subalterns, Lieutenant W. Gloster, did a very daring piece of
work. He had become noted for his good military sketching, and was
specially selected to do reconnaissance work across the border beyond
our frontier post at Hoti Maidan. His instructions were those which
many officers before and since have received when sent on similar
enterprises: he was told that though it was most desirable that the
work should be done, the government would not be responsible for
him: and that on no account was he to cause trouble on the border:
if he liked to apply to the Guides at Hoti Maidan for an escort he
might do so, but in all probability his request would be refused. The
commandant at Hoti Maidan declined to help him, saying that if an
escort of the Guides showed themselves beyond our frontier the whole
of the country might break into a flame. Nothing daunted, Gloster in
some mysterious way made friends with several of the Headmen along
the border. “How he did it,” writes the officer who describes the
adventure, “I don’t know, as he couldn’t speak a word of any language
but English, and his only mode of conversation with his Pathan pals
was a tremendous slap on the back, and ‘How are you, old cock?’ One
night he was taken across the frontier by one of his new friends,
made his sketch in the early hours of the morning, and was back
on British territory just as his presence was discovered and the
tribesmen were assembling to cut him off.”

On July 22, 1888, Lieutenant-Colonel T. C. Wray, who had been in
command since January 9, 1887, died suddenly of heart disease, and
was succeeded by Lieutenant-Colonel G. W. N. Rogers.

The second battalion in September, 1888, was called upon to take part
in a punitive expedition beyond the north-west frontier of India.
Hazara, a wild and rugged district on the left bank of the river
Indus, about eighty miles east of Peshawar, had long been disturbed
by the lawless conduct of some of the tribes of mountaineers
inhabiting the no-man’s land beyond our border. The Akazais, the Khan
Khel of the Hassanzais and the Alaiwals raided into our country,
looted the villages, and killed peaceful British subjects; and though
punished by the infliction of fines and by being “blockaded”--_i.e._,
debarred from bringing their produce into British territory, they
did not mend their ways. Growing bolder from comparative immunity,
they brought matters to a head by attacking and killing a party of
officers and men who were surveying a part of the Black mountain,
within the Queen’s dominions. To avenge these two Englishmen and
the Gurkha soldiers who were murdered with them; to maintain our
prestige in India, and to prevent an outbreak on other parts of the
north-west frontier, a considerable force was mobilised and placed
under the command of Brigadier-General J. W. M‘Queen, C.B., A.D.C. It
consisted of three mountain batteries (two British and one native), a
company of Sappers and Miners, the 1st battalion of the Suffolk, and
the second battalions of the Northumberland Fusiliers, Royal Irish,
and Royal Sussex regiments, eight battalions of native infantry,
and a native pioneer battalion. These troops were organised in two
brigades, commanded respectively by Brigadier-Generals C. N. Channer,
V.C., and W. Galbraith; and to meet the requirements of mountain
warfare, in which it is impossible for one man to supervise the
movements of a large body of soldiers, the brigades were subdivided
into two columns, to each of which a British battalion, 600 strong,
and two native regiments were allotted. A native cavalry regiment,
the second battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders, and a native
infantry regiment formed the reserve. The Royal Irish, whom Major
Brereton commanded until Lieutenant-Colonel Rogers returned from
leave at home, were in the fourth column,[267] the other units of
which were part of a British mountain battery, three companies of
the 34th Pioneers, the 4th and 29th Punjab Native infantry, with a
field hospital and a detachment of military telegraphists. The whole
force, including some Kashmiri troops and three hundred of the Khyber
rifles, numbered 272 officers and 12,282 non-commissioned officers
and men; the strength of the fourth column was 51 officers and 2414
of the other ranks.

The immediate object of the expedition was the punishment of the Khan
Khel and the Akazais, whose watch-towers and villages were perched
among the crags and precipices of the range which, in some places
rising to a height of more than 9000 feet, cuts off the valley of
Agror from the left bank of the Indus. It was decided to penetrate
into this maze of mountains from two directions: three columns of
the Hazara Field force, after concentrating at Ughi, the chief
British outpost in the Agror valley, were to cross the range from
east to west, while the fourth column, commanded by Colonel A. C. W.
Crookshank, was to assemble fifteen miles to the south-west of Ughi
at Derband, our frontier village on the Indus, and push northwards
up the left bank of the river.[268] As this detachment could not
be expected to join hands with the main body for several days, it
was accompanied by General Galbraith, who, while leaving to Colonel
Crookshank the actual handling of the troops, took charge of the
general operations. Though there was little definite information
concerning the prospective theatre of war, it was known that the
roads were impracticable for any but mule transport; so baggage was
reduced to a minimum; no tents were taken, and regimental officers
were cut down to fifty, the lower ranks to sixteen pounds weight of
kit. The main body had with it five days’ supplies and a hundred
rounds of ammunition per man, seventy on the person of the soldier,
thirty on mule-back. As the fourth column to some extent was acting
independently, its supply was increased to seven days, and the
number of rounds carried by mules was doubled. A general reserve of
a hundred rounds per man was formed at the base.

The fourth column had finished its concentration on October 1, and
on the morning of the 2nd, Galbraith advanced seven miles into
the enemy’s country and bivouacked at Chamb, on a site he had
reconnoitred while awaiting the arrival of his troops. Here he was
informed by telegraph that owing to delays in bringing up stores to
Ughi he was to make no forward movement for twenty-four hours, so
after his mountain guns, escorted by four companies of the Royal
Irish, had driven the enemy from the neighbouring hills, he improved
the track leading from his bivouac into the valley of the Indus.
Before dawn on the 4th, he had secured his right flank by crowning
the heights with a detachment of native infantry, and as soon as it
was light the advance-guard--two companies of the Royal Irish under
Captain Lysaght--began to descend into the gorge of the river.[269]
At 8 A.M. the advance-guard had reached comparatively open ground,
where Lysaght halted to allow the remainder of the troops to come
up; then he pushed on again, and an hour later a few of the enemy
opened fire from the village of Shingri. The Royal Irish extended
to the left of the hamlet, two companies of native infantry made a
similar movement to the right, and with little difficulty and small
loss the outpost was routed and dispersed. For another mile nothing
was seen of the enemy, but when the advance-guard approached the next
village, Towara, the hillmen were found awaiting our attack. Across
the valley, here about twelve hundred yards in width, stretched their
first line: the right rested on a patch of jungle growing amidst the
boulders on the river bank; the left was posted on the crags of the
lowest tier of the bare and arid mountains which form the eastern
wall of the gorge of the Indus. Rather less than a mile above Towara
the valley was completely closed by a steep spur or under-feature,
on the far end of which the village of Kotkai, built on a huge mass
of broken rocks, commanded not only the spur itself, but also the
bed of the river, the hillmen’s line of retreat and the only track
by which the British could continue to force their way northward
up the left bank. On this spur the enemy, whose total strength was
computed at 4000 fighting men,[270] had established his second line
in well-built sangars; and on the eastern hills lurked about a
thousand sharpshooters, armed with rifle and matchlocks, whose fire
upon the valley below them would cross with that of a detachment of
equal strength, posted in breastworks on the heights overhanging the
western bank. Against the hillmen who held this formidable position
General Galbraith could bring into action only his mountain guns, a
couple of Gatlings, and about fourteen hundred foot soldiers, as the
remainder of his men were employed in guarding the baggage and in
crowning the hills in rear of the column.

Galbraith’s first care was to rid his flanks of the enemy. Covered
by the fire of the guns and the steady and well-directed volleys of
the Royal Irish, the 34th Pioneers drove the hillmen from the jungle
on the left, while the 4th Punjab infantry scaled the precipitous
heights on the right, pushing the foe before them in confusion. But
the process took time, and it was not until 1 P.M. that the Royal
Irish were allowed to move towards the enemy in the plain, where many
flags showed that the tribesmen were assembled in large numbers. When
the battalion had gained six hundred yards it was halted behind a
low stone wall, and ordered to open upon the foe in front of them,
while the guns shelled the defenders of the Kotkai ridge. By this
time, the flanking detachments had done their work and were once more
level with the troops in the centre, and Galbraith, considering that
the hillmen were sufficiently shaken to warrant his assaulting their
first position, ordered a general advance. With perfect steadiness
the Royal Irish moved forward with sloped arms towards a clump of
trees three or four hundred yards distant; the mountaineers who held
this part of the line were beginning to fall back, when the word
“Charge” was shouted by some unauthorised person whose identity has
never been discovered; the call was sounded by a bugler, and with a
wild yell the battalion dashed forward. They had covered some fifty
yards of ground, when from a nullah about eighty yards off emerged
a horde of swordsmen, Hindustani fanatics, each of whom had sworn
to gain Heaven that day by slaying at least one of the Unbelievers.
The suddenness of their appearance, their demoniacal yells and
headlong rush might have startled any troops, but the Royal Irish
were staunch; after an instant of surprised inaction the company
commanders ordered their men to fire independently, and then to meet
the rush with the bayonet. An officer thus described the affair in
his diary: “We got the word to charge; the men went at them with a
will, bayoneting or shooting every Ghazi within reach. The swordsmen
then wheeled away as if they did not quite relish us, and went
towards the 34th Pioneers, who fell back a bit at first but then
pulled themselves together. Our men wheeled up of their own accord
and followed the Ghazis, and I don’t think many got away. We killed
or wounded about a hundred.[271] In the pursuit Gloster with one or
two dare-devils of his company dashed after one of the enemy who was
carrying a standard, shot him down, and brought back the flag in
triumph.”[272]

After the main body of the enemy had been dispersed, several
incidents occurred characteristic of warfare on the north-west
frontier of India. When the fighting appeared to be over, a medical
officer, seeing a sepoy lying hard hit on the plain, went off alone
to dress his wounds, and suddenly found himself surrounded by five
Ghazis; one he brought down with his revolver; the others circled
round him, waiting their chance to dash in and hack him to pieces.
The Royal Irish at that moment were re-forming their ranks; a patrol
of an officer and four men hurried to the doctor’s rescue, and shot
three of the fanatics; the fourth came on most pluckily, and was only
ten yards from our men when one of them shot him, and then pinned
him to the ground with his bayonet. These hillmen are wonderfully
tenacious of life, and although the Ghazi had a Martini bullet
through his chest and a bayonet wound in his stomach he strove up
to his last gasp to kill his hated foes. A little later in the day
General Galbraith was the hero of an adventure in which the good
marksmanship of the battalion undoubtedly saved his life. While the
Royal Irish were sitting on the ground in quarter-column, waiting
for orders, the General on foot, unarmed, and with no escort but
his aide-de-camp who was mounted, walked over the battlefield to
ascertain from two friendly hillmen who accompanied him if any of the
dead belonged to tribes which were nominally neutral.

  “Suddenly [writes an officer] we heard some shots fired, and
  looking up we saw about two or three hundred yards off the
  General running as hard as he could towards us, closely followed
  by some Ghazis. The A.D.C.’s pony had became unmanageable so he
  could not fire, and the Ghazis were catching the General up; we
  accordingly ordered two or three picked shots to fire--risky
  work, for the fanatics were within a few yards of the General and
  he almost masked our fire. Still the risk had to be taken, and
  (luckily perhaps) as we fired, the General stumbled and fell,
  and the whole of the Ghazis were shot. We heard afterwards that
  when the General was examining the corpses, two of the supposed
  ‘deaders’ had jumped up and gone for him, and being unarmed, he
  could do nothing but run. The ‘friendlies,’ seeing the General’s
  plight, had gone for the Ghazis, and as they were all dressed
  alike, we were unable to tell friend from foe, and had shot all
  four of them.”

In the course of the afternoon a hospital was established in a clump
of trees, among which stood a shrine packed with the furniture and
other belongings of some of the tribesmen with whom we were at war.
From one of these trees a Ghazi was dislodged by a bullet; the sound
of the shot brought up a couple of our men who, suspecting that more
fanatics were in hiding, began to rummage among the lumber in the
shrine, where two more Ghazis were discovered to whom very short
shrift was allowed. When the advance was resumed, half the battalion
was ordered to keep down the fire from the sangars on the right bank
of the river, while the other companies and part of the 29th Punjab
infantry climbed the ridge and moved upon Kotkai. They entered it
without opposition, for the enemy, already shaken by the shells of
the mountain battery, retired before them to Kunhar, a village two or
three miles higher up the river. By the time we were in possession of
the Kotkai position the day was so far spent that pursuit had become
impossible, and the wing of the Royal Irish was sent down to bivouac
in the plain, while the native regiment remained to hold the village
as an advanced post.

The next few days were full of varied occupations. The battalion
marched with convoys of sick to Chamb, carried stores over rocks
that the mules could not face, escorted the General up precipitous
mountains when he visited tribes of doubtful loyalty to arrange the
terms on which their neutrality was to be secured, and for more than
one day carried on a long musketry fight with the hillmen, who had
now flocked to the farther side of the river, whence they maintained
a harassing fire upon our working parties. Under the steady shooting
of the Royal Irish, the enemy gradually melted away, and when the
British brought river craft up the Indus to replace the ferry-boats
which had been destroyed, the mountaineers realised that the river
was no longer an impassable barrier and disappeared, leaving the
road-makers unmolested in their heavy task of converting mere
goat-tracks on the side of a cliff into roads wide enough for the
passage of heavily laden mules in single file. On the 11th the whole
column reached Kunhar, though the road was still so rough that over
the greater part of it the baggage had to be passed by hand. The 12th
was spent in improving the path to Gazikot, a mile or two higher up
the river; and on the 13th, Galbraith transported the Royal Irish
and part of his native infantry across the river in boats, marched
through various deserted villages, and blew up a hill fortress at
Maidan. The tribesmen watched his proceedings from the neighbouring
heights, and when he began to retire attacked his rear-guard, but
were driven back, and the column regained the left bank without
difficulty. After the destruction of Maidan the enemy began to lose
heart, and though the troops in the fourth column made several raids
into the mountains on each side of the Indus, occupying villages so
filthy that the Europeans could not sleep in the houses and had to
bivouac upon the roofs, they did not again come under hostile fire.
On all these operations the Royal Irish were employed, and in their
spare time Galbraith found plenty of occupation for them in the
unexciting but very arduous work of improving the communications with
the frontier of India.

While the fourth column was forcing its way up the Indus the other
columns pushed eastwards from the Agror valley. They climbed
mountains, made roads, destroyed watch-towers, and burned hostile
villages with small loss, for they met with no opposition such as
that which had awaited Galbraith at Kotkai, and their casualties were
mainly caused by the “snipers” who harassed their bivouacs at night.
Thus taken between two fires, the Hassanzais and Akazais learned
that though slow to rouse, the Government of India when it begins to
strike, does so with effect. Astonished to find that the fastnesses
of the country could be reached by regular troops, dismayed at the
loss of several hundred of their fighting men, and realising that the
longer they deferred their submission, the heavier would be their
punishment, these clans decided to surrender; paid the heavy fines
imposed upon them, and promised amendment for the future. During the
negotiations there was an episode in which Lieutenant Gloster played
an amusing part, thus described by one of his brother officers--

  “When the hillmen with whom we had been fighting came to the
  conclusion that for the time being they had had enough of
  it, they began to send Jirgahs or deputations of headmen to
  interview General Galbraith, who had very little knowledge of
  the manners and customs of the Border tribes. Presuming on his
  ignorance of frontier etiquette, they used to behave towards
  him with gross impertinence: they would walk into his hut and
  greet his Pathan orderlies, who acted as interpreters, with
  great respect, but take no notice of the General himself; then
  sit down without being asked, and finally spit on the floor--a
  particularly gross form of insult throughout the East. Gloster
  who since the engagement at Kotkai had been orderly officer to
  the General, was present at these interviews and used to boil
  with rage, but as his chief took no notice he had to swallow his
  wrath as best he could. But Gloster’s chance came when Colonel
  ----, an officer of long experience on the frontier, joined the
  column and took over the conduct of the negotiations for peace.
  On the morning after Colonel ----’s arrival the tribesmen walked
  into the new-comer’s hut with their usual swagger and went
  through their customary insulting performances--but not for long,
  as Colonel ---- turned upon them, first with a volley of abuse
  in Hindustani and Pushtu, and then with his stick and boots. In
  amazement they made for the door, and then as each astonished
  Pathan passed out, he got a blow on the side of the head from a
  huge fist, followed by a hearty kick from a long and powerful
  leg. A very chastened and exceedingly polite deputation returned
  to make terms next day!”

As soon as the Hassanzais and Akazais had made their peace with the
Indian government, a portion of General M‘Queen’s command moved
northwards to punish other recalcitrant tribes; but as the fourth
column played no part in these operations it is not necessary to
describe them. As far as the Royal Irish are concerned, the only
incident during the remainder of the Black Mountain campaign was
the visit of the Commander-in-Chief in India, General Sir Frederick
Roberts, who on the 28th of October inspected the second battalion
at Palosi, and complimented all ranks on their behaviour during this
little mountain war. Early in November the expedition had finished
its work; the columns marched back across the British frontier,
and the Royal Irish, passing through Durband, arrived at their old
station of Nowshera on the 23rd of the month.[273]

General Galbraith in a farewell order thanked all ranks of the fourth
column for the admirable manner in which they had performed their
duties, adding that their exemplary behaviour and unvarying good
discipline had not been less conspicuous than their conduct in the
field. His official report on the operations of the river column
mentioned Major R. K. Brereton and Lieutenant W. Gloster, Royal Irish
regiment, and the Roman Catholic chaplain attached to the battalion,
Father Francis Van Mansfeld, who during the fighting on October 4,
distinguished himself by carrying water to the wounded under a heavy
fire. The losses of the Hazara Field force during this short campaign
were small: the total casualties, including two officers mortally
wounded, were less than a hundred. In the second battalion of the
Royal Irish two men were killed and three wounded in action, while
two were fatally injured by falling down a precipice.[274] The
Indian Medal with a clasp for “Hazara 1888” was granted to the troops
who took part in this expedition.

Until December, 1889, the second battalion remained at Nowshera;
then it was stationed for a short time at Peshawar, and in April,
1890, headquarters and four companies were moved to Cherat, where
the medals for the Hazara campaign were presented on parade by Mrs
Rogers, the wife of the officer who then commanded the battalion.
The year 1890 was memorable in the sporting annals of the regiment.
After having been in the final tie for the Infantry polo tournament
for three years running, the officers of the second battalion won
it at Umballa with a team composed of Captain Apthorp, Lieutenants
Cullinan, Kellett, Wynne, and Garraway--the last mentioned taking
the place of Wynne, who met with an accident during the game. The
non-commissioned officers and men also had a triumph in winning
the Calcutta football tournament. The month of December found the
second battalion on the way to Lucknow, where they remained till
November, 1894, when a five weeks’ march brought them to Jubbulpore,
an excellent centre for big game shooting. The officers lost no
opportunity of going after tiger, and Lieutenant J. B. S. Alderson
had a very exciting adventure in which his life was saved by the
coolness of Lieutenant-Colonel Lawrence, then in command of the
battalion. In the Chitri jungle Alderson was following up a wounded
tiger on foot, when the beast charged and seized him by the arm.
Colonel Lawrence rushed to the rescue, and with three steady shots
killed it, but not without much difficulty, for as the huge brute
lay upon Alderson mauling his arm, the bullets had to be placed so
that they would strike the animal without doing his victim any harm.
When Alderson was brought into hospital, he was so weak from shock,
fatigue, and loss of blood that it was pronounced unsafe to put him
under chloroform, and it was nearly midnight before all his numerous
wounds were dressed. Though suffering agonies he never uttered a
word, except from time to time to ask one of his brother officers,
who were standing round his bed, to fill and light the pipe, which
he did not allow to go out during the operation. His right arm had
been bitten through, but neither the bones nor arteries were injured,
and he recovered--to meet a soldier’s death a few years later in the
South African war.

During the cold weather of 1896-97 the second battalion was inspected
by the Lieutenant-General commanding in Bengal, who pronounced it to
be “in first-rate order, in a very efficient condition, and quite
fit for active service.” The Commander-in-Chief in India considered
this “a very satisfactory report on the battalion, which appears to
be very well commanded by Colonel Lawrence.” A few months after this
inspection matters began to go badly on the frontier, where for some
time past fanatical priests had been preaching “a Holy War” against
the English. The first tangible symptom of unrest was a treacherous
attack by the hillmen of the Tochi valley upon a British officer
and his escort; then followed an outbreak in the Swat valley, where
the tribes suddenly fell in thousands upon our post at Malakand. The
garrison fought gallantly, and in spite of enormous odds held their
ground for several days until the enemy were dispersed by a relieving
column. The Mohmands were the next to rise, and finally the Afridis
and Orakzais took up arms against us. To meet this formidable though
fortunately ill-combined attack, troops were hurried to the frontier;
among them were the Royal Irish, who on August 13, 1897, received
the order to mobilise for active service. The news was welcomed by
the battalion with wild enthusiasm, and proved so good a tonic to
the large number of non-commissioned officers and men who, though
apparently recovered from the malarial fever prevalent at Jubbulpore,
still had the seeds of the disease lurking in their system, that
eight hundred and twenty-seven of all ranks were passed by the
doctors.[275] In two days everything was in readiness, and on August
15, the Royal Irish entrained for Rawal Pindi. The journey, at that
time of year always an exhausting one, was made doubly trying by the
result of a railway accident; the troop trains, timed to reach Pindi
early in the morning, did not arrive there till nearly midnight,
and by some departmental blunder the battalion was left all day
without food or shelter from the sun. At Khasalghur, where the rail
ended, the Royal Irish had very heavy work, loading and reloading
stores in extreme heat. Then followed several forced marches, in the
first of which they escorted a convoy four or five miles in length
for twenty-six miles over a very rugged country, drained by two
rivers passable only at deep fords. When they joined Major-General
Yeatman-Biggs in the Miranzai valley, they found his column at Hangu,
a village at the base of the foot hills of the great Samana ridge,
where the camp, pitched on fields from which the crops had just been
reaped, stood on ground saturated by the heavy rain of the monsoon.
In a previous campaign on the frontier, an imperfectly entrenched
British force had been attacked at night by a horde of hillmen, whose
determined rush was not repelled without great difficulty and hard
fighting. Mindful of this episode, Yeatman-Biggs had ringed his camp
with works, which were occupied by the troops at night, when, to
avoid offering a target to “snipers,” the tents were struck. As the
weather was very wet and steamy, it was impossible for the men ever
to get their clothes thoroughly dried, and during the fortnight that
the headquarters of the battalion remained at Hangu there was much
fever among those who were unlucky enough to be left in camp,[276]
but the companies sent on detachment kept in good health and
accomplished the remarkable marches mentioned in Colonel Lawrence’s
order, quoted in appendix 5.

On the evening of September 12, General Yeatman-Biggs issued orders
for his column to march forthwith to the rescue of a party of the
36th Sikhs, who were hard pressed in Fort Gulistan, an advanced post
on the Samana ridge. At that moment the battalion was so reduced by
detachments and by sickness that only two hundred and ninety-five
Royal Irishmen were present to take part in the arduous operations
by which the Gulistan garrison was relieved on the 13th. After this
success Yeatman-Biggs was ordered to remain on the Samana; the sick
of the battalion were sent up from the hospitals below, and in the
pure air of the mountains rapidly regained their health. In addition
to the ordinary camp guards, duties, and fatigues the battalion was
employed in road-making and in reconnaissances among the hills; and
in high spirits and absolutely unaware that they had been reported
upon unfavourably, all ranks anxiously awaited orders for a farther
advance into the enemy’s country, when a telegram reached Colonel
Lawrence from a civilian friend at Rawal Pindi, telling him of a
rumour that the Royal Irish were to be ordered back from the front
for garrison duty in India. Colonel Lawrence at once went to the
General, who said it was true that the battalion was to go back,
as the doctors reported it to be saturated with malaria. At the
Colonel’s request a medical board was assembled, whose members were
instructed to be very thorough and searching in their examination,
and to pass no one who was not thoroughly fit for the hard work of
active service. The doctors did not see the whole of the battalion,
as a hundred and fifty officers and men were absent on detachment,
but out of those whom they inspected, five hundred and twenty-three
were passed as absolutely fit, and above the average physique of
the army. With this favourable report in his hand, Colonel Lawrence
made every effort to obtain the recision of the order but without
success; and on September 30, appeared the following paragraph in
Major-General Yeatman-Biggs’ Field Force orders: “under instructions
from Army Headquarters, Simla, the 2nd battalion, Royal Irish
regiment, is to proceed to Rawal Pindi for garrison duty, on relief
by the 2nd Derbyshire regiment.”

It will be observed that no reason was given for the removal of the
battalion from the fighting line; and soon after the Royal Irish
reached Rawal Pindi rumours, most injurious to their character
as soldiers, became current in civilian circles and found their
way first into the Indian and then into the British newspapers.
Major-General Sir Henry Havelock-Allan, the Colonel of the regiment,
was in England when these rumours were repeated by the London press;
and stirred to the heart by the aspersions on the fair fame of the
corps with which he had so long and honourable a connection, he
hurried to India to investigate the truth of these stories. Shortly
after the second battalion returned to Rawal Pindi Colonel Lawrence
was appointed to the command of the XVIIIth regimental district;
but before leaving India he went to Simla to ascertain if possible
why the battalion had been so unjustly treated. He was unable to
obtain an interview with the Commander-in-Chief, but from the
Adjutant-General he learned that, several days before the medical
board had been convened, General Yeatman-Biggs had reported that
the Royal Irish were so saturated with malaria that they could not
keep up with the rest of the column. As General Havelock-Allan and
Colonel Lawrence crossed on the voyage without meeting in any port,
the former landed at Bombay with an unbiassed mind; without stopping
to see the battalion at Rawal Pindi he hastened to the frontier, and
after the fullest inquiries in every direction was able to assert
proudly that the Royal Irish had behaved like good soldiers in the
Tirah campaign. By his tragic death in the Khyber Pass at the end of
December, the regiment apparently lost its only influential friend
in the East, and when, shortly afterwards, the authorities at Simla
refused to grant the board of inquiry for which Lieutenant-Colonel
Forster had applied in order to refute the libels on his battalion,
the spirits of all ranks sank very low. The dignified attitude of the
officers under misfortune won universal respect and admiration at
Pindi; and it speaks well for the discipline of the battalion that
in such distressing circumstances there was no sign of angry feeling
among the men, and that all ranks, knowing that there was no grounds
for the aspersions made against them in the press, possessed their
souls in patience until their conduct should be investigated by an
authority even higher than that of Simla.

While Havelock-Allan was on the frontier he had laid the grievances
of the Royal Irish before General Sir William Lockhart, who was
in command of all the troops engaged in the Tirah campaign; and
after Lockhart had seen the battalion at Havelock-Allan’s funeral
at Pindi, he exerted himself so vigorously on its behalf that,
after being closely inspected by the chief army doctor in India,
it was ordered back to the front, and on February 9, 1898, joined
the third brigade, under Colonel (now Lieutenant-General Sir
Ian) Hamilton, in the Bara valley. Thence it moved up to Barkai,
where the expeditionary force received the Royal Irish with open
arms. “The fuss that has been made over us is wonderful,” wrote
an officer of the XVIIIth. “Every general within fifteen miles of
Barkai rode over to congratulate the regiment in the names of their
respective commands, and the officers were inundated with shoals
of complimentary telegrams.” Unfortunately, as far as Hamilton’s
brigade was concerned, all fighting was over when the battalion
was allowed to return to the front, and thus it had no opportunity
of again meeting the enemy; but still it had been sent back to the
fighting line, and thus from the military point of view its honour
was completely vindicated. One thing, however, was still needed to
re-establish the second battalion in the eyes of civilians--a letter
from Army headquarters at Simla clearing it from the charges made
against it in the newspapers. Such a letter arrived on the 17th of
February, but being marked “confidential” could not be sent to the
public press for publication. When Colonel Lawrence received from
the second battalion a copy of this confidential letter, he rightly
considered that for the complete exoneration of the Royal Irish
he should be permitted to make its contents known to the world;
he accordingly asked leave of Colonel Gough, Secretary to Lord
Wolseley, then Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, to publish it
to the brigade of regular and militia battalions of the Royal Irish
territorial regiment, about to assemble at Kilworth under his orders.
In reply “as an exceptional case and in view of his proceeding to
Kilworth where other battalions of the regiment are stationed” he
received an extract from a letter from the Adjutant-General to the
Commander-in-Chief, India, which runs as follows:--

“I am directed by the Secretary of State to inform you that a perusal
of the papers connected with the withdrawal of the 2nd battalion,
Royal Irish regiment from the field force on the North-West frontier
has satisfied the Commander-in-Chief that a grave injustice was done
to the 2nd battalion, Royal Irish regiment when it was recalled from
field service.”

Colonel Lawrence immediately published this complete exoneration in
an order to the troops at Kilworth (see appendix 5).

In order that the public should realise how completely the charges
against the Royal Irish had been refuted, it was suggested that some
signal honour should be conferred upon the regiment. Her Majesty
Queen Victoria, always remembering the XVIIIth when they guarded
her at Windsor, had been much concerned at the libels on her Irish
soldiers; she at once appreciated the importance of proving to the
world that the rumours about the second battalion were absolutely
without foundation, and by her command Lord Wolseley was appointed to
be the first Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Irish regiment. This mark
of the Queen’s favour closed the Tirah incident, the most painful
episode in the long history of the regiment.

       *       *       *       *       *

As the second battalion was not one of the corps fortunate enough
to be sent from India to South Africa for the Boer war, the record
of its service during the remainder of the period embraced by this
history is almost barren of interest. In February, 1900, the Royal
Irish distinguished themselves at Mhow in putting out a dangerous
fire, and were specially thanked by Major-General Nicholson, C.B.,
who commanded the district--

  “The General Officer Commanding wishes to convey to the troops
  in garrison, his thanks for the excellent work done by them
  during the last few days in endeavouring to extinguish the recent
  fire in the Commissariat stack-yard. The promptitude with which
  Officers and men of the Royal Irish regiment turned out on the
  first alarm undoubtedly saved the remainder of the stacks at
  the time, and the zeal evinced and arduous work done by all the
  troops in garrison on that and subsequent days has been fully
  appreciated by the General Officer Commanding, and he will
  have much pleasure in bringing the same to the notice of the
  Lieutenant-General Commanding, Bombay Command.”

A month later the battalion learned from Army Orders that to
commemorate the gallantry of the Irish regiments in the recent
battles in South Africa, the Queen had ordered that in future all
ranks of these corps should wear on St Patrick’s Day a sprig of
shamrock in their head-dresses--a recognition of national sentiment
which caused great satisfaction to both battalions of the XVIIIth,
and to every other Irish regiment in Her Majesty’s army.

In the ordinary course of Indian reliefs the second battalion was due
to turn its face homewards in the autumn of 1900, but owing to the
war in South Africa all such arrangements were cancelled, and the
Royal Irish were ordered to remain at Mhow, where they were still
quartered when in July, 1901, Lieutenant-Colonel J. Burton-Forster,
relinquishing the command on appointment to the Staff, was succeeded
by Lieutenant-Colonel H. S. Shuldham-Lye. The dislocation of reliefs
was not the only effect produced on the second battalion by the
South African war. As every recruit, as soon as he was fit for
active service, was sent to join the first battalion, there was
great danger that the second battalion would become dangerously weak
if the time-expired men left India at the end of their engagement
to serve with the Colours. As every battalion in India was in a
similar plight the government offered liberal terms to men willing to
re-engage, viz.--a bounty of £10 with a two months’ furlough at home,
or an additional bounty of £16 in lieu of furlough to all ranks below
the rank of sergeant, who had completed six years and three months’
colonial service, and who had not entered upon the twelfth year of
such service. The men who accepted these terms were to engage to
extend their service so as to complete twelve years with the Colours.
Twenty-two of the Royal Irish accepted the £10 bounty with furlough;
two hundred and ninety-seven preferred to have £26 paid into their
hands, and did not take a holiday at home.

[Illustration: WINDOW COMMEMORATIVE OF SOUTH AFRICAN WAR, 1899-1902.

ST PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, DUBLIN.]



CHAPTER XIV.

1885-1900.

THE FIRST BATTALION.

MOUNTED INFANTRY IN MASHONALAND: THE WAR IN SOUTH AFRICA: COLESBERG
AND BETHLEHEM.


For nearly four years after the return of the first battalion
to England in 1885 it was quartered alternately at Plymouth and
Devonport. During this time only three events of importance occurred
in its history. In February, 1886, General Sir Richard Dennis Kelly,
K.C.B.,[277] from the Prince of Wales’s Leinster Regiment (Royal
Canadians), was appointed Colonel of the Royal Irish regiment, _vice_
Lieutenant-General and Honorary General Sir Alexander MacDonell,
K.C.B., transferred to the Rifle Brigade. New Colours were presented
to the battalion on September 7, 1886, at Devonport, by the Lady
Albertha Edgcumbe, daughter of the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe, at a
ceremony marked by a departure from precedent; hitherto the Colours
of the Royal Irish had always been consecrated by a clergyman of the
Church of England, but on this occasion the service was performed by
a Roman Catholic priest in recognition of the fact that the large
majority of the rank and file were members of the Church of Rome.
In the Gazette of March 9, 1889, Sir Richard Kelly was transferred
to the command of the Border regiment, and was succeeded by
Lieutenant-General and Honorary General George Frederick Stephenson
Call, C.B.[278] From Plymouth the battalion, six hundred and
ninety-nine of all ranks, under Lieutenant-Colonel A. J. A. Jackson,
was ordered in May, 1889, to Colchester, where it was inspected by
its new Colonel, General Call, who after serving in the XVIIIth in
China, Burma, and the Crimea, had commanded it in India. While at
Colchester two serious misfortunes happened. In the autumn of 1889
the sergeants’ mess was burned down, and in it were lost several
cups and trophies, and worse than all, the two engravings given by
the late King Edward VII. to the non-commissioned officers during
his visit to India while he was Prince of Wales. Nearly two years
later, on July 31, 1891, the officers’ mess hut met with a similar
fate. A little past midnight, after the mess had been closed, an
officer discovered that the building was on fire. The alarm was at
once given; not only the Royal Irish, but the whole of the garrison
turned out, but their united efforts, coupled with those of the town
fire-brigade, failed to master the flames, and the hut and nearly all
it contained was destroyed. There were several gallant but fruitless
attempts to save the Colours; and it was only at great personal risk
that Private W. O’Neill succeeded in bringing away the silver model
of a whale-boat, the trophy commemorating the battalion’s success in
the race up the Nile. Among the few things rescued was the snuff-box,
which, as already mentioned on page 146, was the only piece of
regimental plate saved from the wreck of the _Buckinghamshire_ in
1851.

Late in the autumn of 1891 the battalion was ordered to Ireland,
and arrived at the Curragh in November under Lieutenant-Colonel J.
D. Edge, whose marching-in state showed a strength of 697 officers
and men. Next year, on November 14, new Colours were presented by
Lady Wolseley, to replace those lost in the fire at Colchester. At
the end of the ceremony Lord Wolseley addressed the Royal Irish, and
after reminding his audience that throughout his military career he
had been intimately associated with the regiment, he continued as
follows:--

  “I served side by side with it in Burma when I was very young. I
  met it again in the Crimea, and I can well remember what pride
  I felt as an Irishman in its gallant conduct on the 18th June,
  1855. It also served in India whilst I was there during the
  Mutiny, and it must be in the remembrance of many of those who
  are now on parade that we were comrades together during the war
  in Egypt in 1882. I remember well, in the first streak of dawn
  on the desert of Tel-el-Kebir, seeing the Royal Irish among the
  first to cross the entrenchments, and again, two years later, we
  met on the Nile, in which expedition they played a distinguished
  part. I felt proud that they should have been the winners of a
  prize which was offered to the battalion which made the journey
  up the river in the shortest time. I have a very much prized
  trophy of the expedition which was given me by one for whom I
  have the greatest respect--one of the very best men and best
  soldiers I ever knew--I refer to Father Brindle, your former
  chaplain, who accompanied you from Cairo up the river, and then
  across the Desert to Gubat. The trophy is the flag of the boat in
  which he made the voyage up the Nile; it is marked ‘H Company,
  Royal Irish.’ Yours is one of the oldest regiments in the army.
  When first raised it was named ‘The regiment of Ireland.’ That
  name was changed by William III. to the Royal Irish regiment,
  as a reward, a distinction for your gallant services at the
  taking of Namur. If I were to enter into detailed history of the
  regiment it would be to give a history of the British army, for
  the history of one may be said to be the history of the other. I
  chanced to read an old book the other day, describing the wars
  of the early part of the last century, in which it was stated
  that the discipline, system of drill, and fighting, training of
  the army then had been copied from the discipline and military
  system long established in the Royal Irish regiment. As you know
  from the names of the battles on your Colours you shared in all
  the glories of the Duke of Marlborough, and although hereafter I
  have no doubt you will add many names to these Colours--for we
  shall have wars as long as the world lasts--no greater victory
  than that of Blenheim or Ramillies can ever be shared in by any
  regiment. Now, what is the value of all this glory to a regiment,
  or to the army of which it is a part? It is this, it intensifies
  the pride of the regiment, and the pride of that Empire to
  which we all belong; it is an incentive to those who come after
  us to imitate, and, if possible, to excel the deeds of their
  forefathers. May God bless these Colours and prosper this fine
  old distinguished regiment.”

After three years at the Curragh the battalion was ordered to
Limerick, where it arrived early in November, 1894. The Royal Irish
had hardly settled down in their new quarters when they lost their
Lieutenant-Colonel, J. D. Edge, who died in Dublin on the 15th of
December, and less than a month later General Call followed him to
the grave. Lieutenant-Colonel J. H. A. Spyer succeeded to the command
of the battalion: General Call was replaced by Lieutenant-General
and Honorary General R. W. M‘L. Fraser, on whose transfer to the
Royal Warwickshire regiment less than a year later, Major-General and
Honorary Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Havelock-Allan, V.C., a former
officer of the XVIIIth, was appointed to fill the vacancy on November
22, 1895.

In the spring of 1896 news reached England of a dangerous native
rising in Rhodesia, a huge territory lately added to the possessions
of Britain, and bounded to the north by the Zambesi river, to the
east by Portuguese East Africa, and to the south by the Transvaal.
The distances in the theatre of war were so enormous, and the
mobility of the enemy so great, that the War Office determined
to reinforce the troops in South Africa with foot soldiers who
could ride, and the battalions at home were called upon to furnish
detachments of officers and men who had been trained to act as
mounted infantry. Lieutenant S. G. French was selected to command the
contingent from the Royal Irish, and with thirty non-commissioned
officers and men, formed part of a composite unit known as the Irish
Company, mounted infantry. They embarked on May 2, 1896; landed at
Cape Town, and after remaining some time encamped at Wynberg, sailed
to Beira, the harbour in Portuguese territory from which Rhodesia
could be approached most easily by sea. Thanks to the courtesy of
the Government at Lisbon, our troops were allowed to make use of
the port, and to pass through the belt of coast land between the
ocean and the frontier of Rhodesia. Once arrived at Salisbury, the
principal British settlement in our new territory, the handful of
Royal Irish were allotted to a column under Lieutenant-Colonel E.
A. H. Alderson, and were employed in pacifying northern Mashonaland.
This is not the place to describe the expedition: it is enough to say
that the representatives of the regiment did well on every occasion
when they were engaged.[279] In Colonel Alderson’s report of November
25, 1897, he stated that “the detachment under Lieutenant French
did their work excellently in every way, especially when on active
service in Mashonaland. After the action at Makia’s Kraal on August
30, 1896, I had much pleasure in reporting them to Sir Frederick
Carrington, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., commanding the forces in Rhodesia,
as follows: ‘I should like to mention the ready way in which the
Royal Irish section of the Irish Company, Mounted Infantry, followed
Lieutenant French across a considerable piece of open ground under a
brisk fire.’” When Lieutenant French and his detachment returned to
England they rejoined headquarters where the medal, issued to all who
took part in the campaign, was presented to them in due course.

The Royal Irish were so popular in Limerick that, when it became
known that the first battalion was to move to Dublin in the autumn,
the townspeople petitioned the Government to allow it to remain for
another year. When the request was granted the Corporation took the
opportunity of presenting the commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel
Spyer, with a very complimentary address, containing many references
to the uniformly good conduct of the regiment, and to the high
esteem with which it was regarded by all creeds and classes of the
population. The Royal Irish were still quartered in Limerick at
the time of the Jubilee celebrating the completion of the sixtieth
year of Her Majesty Queen Victoria’s reign. Certain disloyalists
attempted to mar the rejoicings by hoisting a black flag upon one of
the islands of the Shannon; the local authorities were most anxious
to remove this emblem of treason, but the owners of the river boats,
intimidated by the rabble, refused the large sum of money offered for
the use of their craft, and there appeared no means of reaching the
obnoxious flag, when Private ---- Cullen, Royal Irish regiment, came
to the rescue, and, to quote from the account of his gallant feat
which appeared in the London ‘Globe’ of July 5, 1897,

  “lowering himself by a rope from the barracks, which overhang
  the river, he plunged in, and struck out for the rock. Crowds
  congregated on the opposite bank, and some at least--for there
  are many in Limerick too loyal and too sensible to be the
  playthings of vindictive agitators--watched his progress through
  the fierce current in mental trepidation. He reached the rock,
  tore up the pole and flag, and not daring to return in the teeth
  of the stream, swam with his capture to the bank. It was only
  after a long and hard struggle that he was able to make land,
  where a strong body of police met and escorted him back to
  barracks. Had it not been for the police, serious if not fatal
  injuries would have been done him, as a great crowd of women were
  prepared to stone him as he approached.”

At the end of 1897, the Royal Irish regiment heard with deep regret
of the death of their Colonel, Sir Henry Havelock-Allan, V.C., who,
while in India to disprove the charges brought against the second
battalion, was killed in the Khyber Pass on December 31, 1897. He
was succeeded by Major-General C. F. Gregorie, C.B.,[280] who had
commanded the second battalion at Tel-el-Kebir. In the summer of
1898, as has been already mentioned, Her Majesty Queen Victoria paid
the regiment the very high honour of directing that Field-Marshal the
Right Honourable Garnet, Viscount Wolseley, K.P., G.C.B., G.C.M.G.,
Colonel Royal Horse Guards, Commander-in-Chief, should be appointed
Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Irish regiment.[281]

In August, 1898, the first battalion moved to Buttevant with many
regrets, for officers and men alike had found Limerick an ideal
station. The racing was good, the hunting excellent,[282] the
inhabitants were hospitable and thoroughly appreciated the good
qualities of the Royal Irish, whom they had grown to look upon as
personal friends. In the autumn of 1898, the bronze medal of the
Royal Humane Society was presented to Lieutenant E. M. Panter-Downes
by Colonel W. W. Lawrence, commanding the XVIIIth regimental
district; the circumstances in which this decoration was won are
set out in the following extract from Colonel Lawrence’s speech on
parade, when he pinned the medal on to the recipient’s breast:--

  “I have a very pleasing duty to perform this morning, and that is
  to present to Mr Panter-Downes, of the 1st battalion, the Royal
  Humane Society’s medal for risking his life to save that of a
  gentleman at Kilkee, Co. Clare, in August last. Captain Vigors
  and Mr Panter-Downes went to bathe that morning. There was a very
  heavy sea running, and the waves were breaking over the rocks.
  They noticed a man’s clothes on the cliff, but saw nothing of him
  at the time. Shortly after they saw him in the water, in a very
  exhausted condition, almost at the last gasp. Mr Panter-Downes at
  once jumped in and swam thirty or forty yards through the surf
  to the drowning man. He secured him, and with him swam back to
  the iron ladder used by bathers, where Captain Vigors met him,
  and between the two of them they got the man in safely. When they
  were on the ladder the waves were washing over them, and they
  were in danger of being carried away.”

On Colonel W. W. Lawrence’s retirement from the service he was
succeeded in command of the 18th regimental district by Colonel
J. H. A. Spyer, who was promoted Colonel on the 16th of January,
1899. In the same Gazette Major H. W. N. Guinness was promoted
to be Lieutenant-Colonel. The autumn of 1899 found the battalion
still quartered in Ireland, with the eyes of all ranks turned upon
South Africa, where the course of political events showed with
ever-increasing clearness that the South African republics were
determined to force a war upon Great Britain. The causes of the
quarrel are too complex to be discussed in a regimental history;
from the soldier’s point of view the all-important question was
whether England was to continue the paramount power in South Africa
or to be ousted by the Dutch republics, and the earnest hope of
every man in the regiment was that the XVIIIth would be allowed to
take part in the struggle in which this great question was to be
decided. For a time this hope seemed destined not to be fulfilled,
for though Captain S. E. St Leger was appointed to command a company
of mounted infantry, of which a section was provided by the Royal
Irish,[283] the first battalion was not among the troops selected
for the “Expeditionary Force” despatched to the seat of war in
October and November. The officers made every effort to induce the
War Office to send the battalion to South Africa, but failed to
obtain anything more definite than a promise that if more troops were
required, every attention would be paid to the desire of the Royal
Irish to be actively employed. When it was decided to strengthen the
expeditionary force with another division, the 5th, the battalion
hoped to find a place in one of its brigades, but it was not included
in General Warren’s command, and until the beginning of December
there seemed no prospect that it would take part in the Boer war.
The Royal Irish were then at Aldershot, where they had arrived on
November 24, to join the second battalions of the Bedfordshire,
Worcestershire, and Wiltshire regiments in the 12th infantry brigade,
commanded by Colonel, afterwards Major-General R. A. P. Clements.
They had not yet thoroughly settled down in their new quarters when
they were roused to the highest pitch of enthusiasm by the news that
the 12th brigade was to mobilise forthwith, and to start in a few
days for South Africa as part of Lieutenant-General Kelly-Kenny’s
newly formed division, the 6th. Then began a rush so tremendous
that those who went through it now look back on the time between
the 2nd of December, when the orders were received, and the 16th,
when the battalion sailed, as a nightmare; there was an enormous
amount of work to be done; the days were very short; the barracks
were badly lighted; everyone was at fever heat with excitement;
and the strain upon the officers and non-commissioned officers
was quite indescribable. All men over twenty years of age had to
be medically examined to see if they were fit for active service;
clothing and equipment for the field had to be drawn and fitted, and
arrangements made for the well-being of the women and children of the
battalion, whether “on” or “off” the strength; the reserve men had
to be brought over from Clonmel, armed, clothed, and fitted out in
every way.[284] Lectures on the value of inoculation against enteric
were given to induce men to submit themselves voluntarily to the
operation; soldiers whose marksmanship was below the average received
additional instruction in musketry, and preparations were made for
the disposal of those men who were too young or not physically fit
for the campaign. In the midst of all this bustle, three officers and
sixty-seven of the other ranks were sent off to the mounted infantry
at Shorncliffe,[285] and the reservists--three sergeants, seven
corporals, and two hundred and seventy privates--arrived, who, from
their age, their long service, and the experience which many of them
had gained on the north-west frontier of India, proved invaluable in
the South African war.

The Royal Irish, who shared the s.s. _Gascon_ with the Wiltshire
regiment, embarked at Southampton with thirteen officers, one warrant
officer, and 672 non-commissioned officers and men, or a total of
686 of all ranks, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel W. H.
N. Guinness.[286] To understand why so small a number of officers
started with headquarters for South Africa, the reader must remember
that before the battalion left Ireland it had furnished a draft of
men trained to mounted infantry work, who were accompanied by three
officers; during the weary weeks when it seemed probable that the
Royal Irish would remain at home as part of the garrison of the
United Kingdom, several officers had obtained staff appointments in
South Africa, or had been attached to regiments already at the seat
of war, and, as has been already mentioned, three more joined the
mounted infantry while the battalion was at Aldershot.

The XVIIIth sailed from England under all the depressing influences
of the “Black Week”--the disastrous seven days in which three
considerable bodies of British troops sustained severe reverses at
the hands of the Boers. General Sir Redvers Buller, then in supreme
command in South Africa, had been defeated at Colenso in his attempt
to extricate the defenders of Ladysmith from the grip of the burghers
whose commandos hemmed them in on every side. Lieutenant-General
Gatacre had been heavily repulsed at Stormberg in his attack upon
one of the columns that had invaded the north-east of Cape Colony.
Lieutenant-General Lord Methuen, after three successes in his march
from the Orange river towards Kimberley, had failed with heavy loss
to dislodge Cronje from the kopjes of Magersfontein. But though the
country was profoundly depressed at the news of these successive
defeats, the spirits of the Royal Irish were as high as ever, and
even had their buoyant temperaments been influenced by the national
gloom at the time of their departure, life on board the _Gascon_
was too full of occupation to allow time for thinking of unpleasant
things. As the reservists had not joined in time to be equipped
fully before they left Aldershot, their field service kit was issued
to them on the voyage; and as many of them had not been trained to
the use of the Lee-Metford rifle, they were put through a course of
musketry at sea. All hands were daily exercised in physical drill;
ammunition carriers and company scouts were selected and given
theoretical instruction in their duties; identity cards were prepared
and sewn into the men’s clothing, and wire cutters served out. To
provide healthy amusement for the troops the officers organised
“tugs-of-war” and other forms of athletics in the afternoons, while
concerts and “sing-songs” filled up the evening hours.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the _Gascon_ reached Cape Town on the 6th of January, 1900, the
Royal Irish and the Wiltshire were ordered not to disembark, as the
destination of Clements’ brigade was still uncertain. For three days
the battalion remained inactive, with little to do but to gaze on the
lovely scenery of Table Bay; to admire the great fleet of transports
and store-ships floating on its waters, and to form some idea of the
general situation at the front. This was no easy matter, for the
censorship over the South African press was severe, and the papers
in Cape Town gave much less news of the war than those published
in the United Kingdom. Gradually the Royal Irish ascertained that
the Boer leaders had not known how to profit by their victories.
The state of affairs had not altered materially since the _Gascon_
left England, and the Union Jack still waved over the three towns to
which the burghers were laying siege. The reports from Mafeking were
satisfactory, and showed a spirit of hopeful resolution, contrasting
favourably with the attitude of part of the civilian population of
Kimberley. This great mining centre was held by a force of improvised
volunteers, stiffened by half a battalion of regular infantry and
a few gunners. Its townspeople had been greatly discouraged by
Methuen’s defeat at Magersfontein; they were now beginning to feel
the privations of the siege, or rather of the investment, for in
the true sense of the word Kimberley was not besieged; and every
native runner who made his way through the enemy’s lines brought
urgent appeals for immediate relief, not only from politicians and
merchants, but also from Mr Rhodes, whose influence at the diamond
fields was so commanding that he was virtually dictator of Kimberley.
In Natal the garrison of Ladysmith had just repulsed a vigorous
assault upon their southern defences; but supplies were beginning to
run short, enteric and dysentery were rampant, and privations and
overwork were beginning to tell heavily upon the _physique_ of Sir
George White’s troops, whose _morale_, however, hardship and fatigue
had in no wise impaired. In the field the enemy had made no more
progress than in his siege operations. No Boer commando had crossed
the Tugela to harass Sir Redvers Buller as he lay echeloned along the
railway from Chieveley to the coast, and thus he had been unmolested
while preparing for his second attempt to relieve Ladysmith--the
effort which beginning on the 10th of January, 1900, ended in failure
twenty-eight days later at Vaal Kranz. In Cape Colony the Boers
had been as slothful as in Natal. Gatacre’s opponents were still
concentrated round Stormberg; the commandos which had raided across
the Orange river by the Norval’s Pont bridge were so stoutly opposed
by Lieutenant-General French that they could advance no farther than
Colesberg: Cronje, who since his victory on December 11, 1899, had
remained inactive at Magersfontein, was confronted by Methuen’s
entrenchments at the junction of the Riet and Modder rivers, and the
railway between Methuen’s camp to the bridge over the Orange river
was adequately guarded. Thus the invaders had not gained ground,
and as even the most disaffected of the Cape Dutch had no intention
of breaking into open rebellion until commandos of Transvaalers or
Free Staters appeared among them, no general rising throughout the
colony had taken place; and the safety of the railways running from
the coast to our various advanced posts was not seriously imperilled,
though the protection of those lines of communication immobilised a
large number of troops.

Four days after the _Gascon_ steamed into Table Bay, Field-Marshal
Lord Roberts arrived at Cape Town to take command of the army in
South Africa. For political reasons the disembarkation of the
headquarter staff was made the occasion for a military display;
troops lined the streets, and a company of the Royal Irish was sent
on shore to form a guard of honour at the landing-stage. A few hours
later the _Gascon_ sailed for Port Elizabeth, where on January 12,
1900, the battalion landed, and was ordered to a camp three miles
from the harbour. It was so long since the XVIIIth had been on
active service that among the rank and file only the reservists,
and indeed not all of them, knew how varied and how arduous are
the fatigue duties which troops are called upon to perform in a
campaign, and the first day’s work in South Africa proved very trying
to men just out from England: in burning heat they had first to
take their part in unloading the ship, then to pack the stores and
baggage on a train which stopped a mile short of their destination;
next to “off-load” the goods, and finally to carry them by hand
into the camp and there arrange them in proper order. Before many
weeks were over the young soldiers, partly by experience and partly
by the teaching of their older comrades, had learned that in war
for every day spent in fighting fifty are occupied in marching, in
making entrenchments or breast-works, in mending roads, in building
bridges, in digging waggons out of deep mud-holes, and in dragging
guns up the sides of precipitous mountains. Early on the 13th, the
battalion was ordered up country to reinforce General French, who
with a column of all arms was defending the western portion of the
De Aar-Naauwpoort-Stormberg railway which, running roughly parallel
with the Orange river, links together the various lines from the
coast to the interior of the sub-continent. The eastern part of
this cross-country railway was in the hands of the enemy, and one
of the most important points left to us was Naauwpoort junction,
only thirty-three miles south of Colesberg, the little town where
Schoeman, the leader of the invaders, had taken up his quarters. He
had intended to drive the British garrison out of Naauwpoort, break
up the line connecting Cape Town with Kimberley, and then raise the
standard of revolt in the central provinces of Cape Colony; but by
a series of brilliant and audacious manœuvres French had gradually
edged him back into the network of kopjes encircling Colesberg. Now,
in the middle of January, our infantry watched the southern and
western faces of this natural fortress, while our mounted troops,
widely thrust out on either flank, sought opportunities to harass
Schoeman’s communications with the Orange Free State. The railway
from Port Elizabeth to Bloemfontein, the capital of the Free State,
had been recovered to within ten miles of Colesberg; and railhead was
at Rensberg siding, where the battalion arrived on the 15th after a
journey full of novel experiences. Owing to want of rolling stock
the soldiers were conveyed, not in ordinary passenger carriages,
but in open goods trucks. If a company was lucky it travelled in
empty trucks, but if there were no “empties” available, the men had
to perch on the top of loads of coal or stores, and to cling on for
dear life as the train swayed violently in rounding sharp turnings
in the line. Every bridge and every important culvert was held by
detachments of local volunteers, who as the train approached their
post emerged from their improvised shelters to beg for newspapers,
and to report that all was well. Every station was guarded by
irregular troops, and on the platforms were loyalist ladies, who
enthusiastically greeted the Royal Irish, pressing fruit, flowers,
and tobacco upon them, and begging for regimental buttons or badges
as mementos of the meeting. At every siding stood long trains,
shunted to give passage to the troops--some composed of “empties”
going back to the base to refill, others laden with supplies of every
kind for the front. At long intervals there were halts at stations to
give the men time to eat the meals, for which preparations had been
made in advance by the Railway staff officers in charge of the line;
and as the troop-train gradually neared railhead it passed several
villages where French had met and beaten back the enemy while the
battalion was still upon the sea.

When the Royal Irish reached Rensberg they heard that they were to
reinforce the extreme right of French’s main line, then resting
on Slingersfontein, a farm ten miles south-east of Colesberg. The
burghers, discovering that this post was weakly manned, were becoming
aggressive; and only a few hours before, a detachment of New Zealand
Mounted Rifles under Captain Madock, R.A., with a handful of the
Yorkshire regiment, had found very great difficulty in beating back
a determined attack upon two hills, which, rising about four hundred
feet above the plain between Slingersfontein and the Boer positions
round Colesberg, were held as outworks to the farm. General Clements
was placed in command of the Slingersfontein area, and when on the
16th the battalion, now provided with transport waggons and mules,
arrived at his headquarters, he ordered Colonel Guinness to occupy
these kopjes as permanent detached posts. Three companies marched off
to “Madock’s” and “New Zealand hills,” as the scenes of the previous
day’s fighting were now called; the rest of the Royal Irish went on
picket; and though the strain of work slightly diminished as the
remainder of the 12th brigade successively joined its headquarters,
for the next few weeks the battalion was on outpost for two nights
out of three. As soon as Slingersfontein was fairly safe, French used
it as a pivot for the mounted troops with whom he was trying to find
and turn the enemy’s left flank, but as to the east and south-east
of Colesberg he was checked by commandos in superior and apparently
ever-increasing strength, he sought at the other end of his line for
opportunities to manœuvre the enemy still farther backwards towards
the Orange river. Before he was able to profit by the information
gained in his reconnaissances to the north of the village, he was
summoned to Cape Town by Lord Roberts, who desired to explain to him
personally the part allotted to the cavalry division in the plan of
campaign, elaborated by the Commander-in-Chief and three or four of
his most trusted advisers since their arrival in South Africa. In a
regimental history it would be out of place to describe how the main
army was assembled within striking distance of the western frontier
of the Orange Free State: it is enough to say that, thanks to the
absolute secrecy maintained by the few officers who were in Lord
Roberts’ confidence, the long and difficult process was effected with
remarkable success. The troops were entrained without an idea where
they were going; the military railway officials despatched the trains
in obedience to orders they did not understand; contradictory and
misleading reports were spread broadcast over the colony in order to
deceive the enemy’s spies and sympathisers. This policy produced the
desired result. The burghers, completely puzzled by the information
that reached them, failed to penetrate the object of Lord Roberts’
movements, and beyond reinforcing the commandos at Colesberg, made no
important changes in their dispositions.

As the cavalry division was now required to cover the concentration
of the main army, French returned to Rensberg to superintend its
transfer to the Orange-River-Kimberley line; and on the 6th of
February, after seeing the last of his own troops quietly disappear
from the neighbourhood of Colesberg, he made over the command of the
district to Clements, whom Lord Roberts had appointed to continue the
work hitherto performed by the cavalry commander. The duty entrusted
to Clements was no easy one. The detachment left with him was weak
in numbers, weaker still in mobility; it consisted of two squadrons
of regular cavalry; about 650 Australian volunteers, many of whom
had arrived in South Africa as foot soldiers; 450 regular infantry,
of whom a considerable proportion were by no means good riders; one
battery of Horse, one of Field artillery, and two howitzers; the
12th brigade of infantry and half a battalion of the Royal Berkshire
regiment. With this small force he had to maintain himself on a
front twenty-five miles in length against a foe whose numbers were
now estimated to be between 11,000 and 12,000 men, well armed and
mounted, and whose artillery, a 40-pr., five field-guns, and five
pom-poms, was by no means to be despised. Clements carried on the
system of defence devised by French. Companies or larger detachments
of infantry were posted on important points, a mile or more apart,
in rough forts built of the stones and boulders with which the hills
were strewn. Every opportunity was taken to make these works more
secure, and as the Royal Irish plied pick and shovel and crowbar to
improve their defences, careful observation was kept on the enemy’s
big gun, and whenever the 40-pr. was turned in their direction a
signal warned them to take cover instantly. Thanks to the vigilance
of their look-out men, the Royal Irish, though frequently shelled,
were able always “to go to earth” in time, and suffered no losses
from the cannonade. The front and flanks of the positions were
watched by groups of sentries, concealed from the enemy’s view and
fire by sangars--the dry-stone breastworks, of which constant use was
made throughout the war. Very soon after French’s troops had been
withdrawn, the burghers discovered that the British facing them had
perceptibly diminished in strength, and at once began a series of
attempts to turn Clements’ flanks and cut off his communications with
the rest of the army. Between the 6th and the 11th there was fighting
on various parts of the line, and so many shells fell among the tents
of the Royal Irish and the Worcester that the camps were removed to
less exposed positions.[287] On the 12th, both flanks were severely
bombarded and then attacked by riflemen, who succeeded in ousting the
defenders of Hobkirk’s farm, the post marking our extreme left. At
the other end of the line the half battalion of the Worcestershire,
which was holding a group of kopjes to the east of Slingersfontein,
was hotly shelled, and then exposed to a rifle-fire so heavy that
after considerable loss it was unable to retain the whole of the
ground entrusted to it, though the greater part was stubbornly and
successfully defended till nightfall.

Clements had been obliged to throw every available man into his
fighting line, and thus, when his left was turned and his right in
serious danger, he had no reserves in hand with which to recapture
the lost positions. He decided therefore to retire, and while the
troops on the flanks were still able to hold the Boers in some degree
in check, he made his preparations to fall back on Rensberg. From
details which have been preserved of the way in which the troops
were withdrawn from the right of the line, we learn that each of the
detachments, scattered over the many miles of country comprised in
the Slingersfontein area, received orders to leave its post at an
hour timed to bring it into camp thirty minutes before the column
was to march. At about 8 P.M., after all the Kaffirs employed as
bullock-drivers had been “rounded up and placed under guard to
prevent their bolting,” the oxen were inspanned with as little noise
as possible, and as each waggon was ready it was sent off to the
unit to which it was allotted. The tents were then struck, each
corps leaving a few standing to deceive the enemy, and finally the
telegraph and signalling stations were dismantled and packed up.[288]
While the carts and waggons were returning to the rendezvous of
the baggage, a company of the Royal Irish was sent to reinforce a
detachment of the battalion in guarding a defile through which the
column was about to retire, and when the troops were assembled the
march began. Part of the XVIIIth, preceded by a few mounted scouts,
formed the advance-guard; then came two guns of the Royal Horse
artillery, followed by the whole of the transport vehicles and the
remainder of the guns, under escort of dismounted troops. The convoy
was flanked by infantry, with supports distributed at intervals
throughout its length. The rear-guard was composed of the rest of
the foot soldiers in column of half companies at column distance,
followed by a company in extended order, and covered by the whole of
the mounted troops, widely extended. Thanks to the brilliancy of the
moonlight and to the fact that the burghers made no attempt to harass
the retreat, Clements arrived early on the 13th at Rensberg, where to
his annoyance he found that the Boers had anticipated his movements
by occupying a range of kopjes, which from the east commanded the
railway from Rensberg to Arundel, the next station southward on the
line towards Naauwpoort Junction. As the presence of the enemy among
these kopjes made it impossible for him to remain at Rensberg, the
General determined to fall back on Arundel, which he reached at 5
A.M. on the 14th of February.

Here for a few days he stood on the defensive, his infantry holding
positions on the hills, his mounted men demonstrating vigorously on
either flank. During this time the _rôle_ of the Royal Irish was much
the same as that assigned to them at Slingersfontein: four companies
held a large kopje to the left rear of the village, and the remainder
of the battalion was constantly employed on outpost and on fatigues
of every kind. The enemy was by no means inactive, and on the 20th
attacked Clements in front and on both flanks, but without success;
and the good fortune which had attended the XVIIIth throughout the
operations at Colesberg continued at Arundel, for though at both
places it was frequently shelled and often exposed to the fire of
long-range snipers, no casualties occurred while it was serving south
of the Orange river. In a short time Clements was reinforced by two
field-batteries, two 5-in. guns, a battalion of British militia,
and a considerable number of mounted volunteers, chiefly from Cape
Colony and Australia; and after driving away the detachment of the
enemy which was threatening his left rear, he gradually recovered
the ground he had abandoned, shelling the Boers out of successive
positions, the flanks of which he threatened with his mounted troops.
At that moment it was not part of the Commander-in-Chief’s plan to
strike hard for the Norval’s Pont bridge, so Clements’ movements
were comparatively slow, but on the 28th of February he re-occupied
Colesberg without opposition, for as the Boers had heard of Cronje’s
surrender at Paardeberg,[289] they were now falling back on the
Orange river, doing as much damage as possible to the railway in
their retreat. Clements followed them, repairing the line as he
advanced; and on the 8th of March the head of his column stood on the
left bank of the river, facing a considerable number of burghers,
who from the other side of the stream exulted in the destruction
of the Norval’s Pont bridge, the three central spans of which they
had blown up. It was impossible to attempt to force the passage of
the Orange, as floods rendered it impassable for several days; the
pontoon troop did not arrive as soon as it was expected; when it did
come up several of the pontoons proved unserviceable, and it was
not until the 15th that the river was bridged by a structure, 260
yards in length, supported partly on pontoons and partly on piers
extemporised from casks. Large numbers of the labourers employed in
its construction were supplied from the ranks of the Royal Irish. As
soon as the bridge was practicable, a considerable body of troops
crossed at once and established themselves unmolested on the soil of
the Free State.

To those who judge of the importance of a military operation by
the length of the casualty lists, the work done by the Royal Irish
and the other units of the 12th brigade since they landed in South
Africa will appear insignificant, as between the 6th of February and
the 15th of March the total losses in Clements’ whole command only
amounted to 327 killed, wounded, and missing. Soldiers, however,
will appreciate the value of the part played in this stage of the
campaign by General Clements, who, in the words of the official
historian, “had to detain the Boers at Colesberg and prevent them
from swooping upon the lines of communication south of the Orange--a
movement which, if successful, would have caused an outbreak of
active disloyalty in large districts of Cape Colony hitherto sullenly
quiescent. By maintaining himself between Rensberg and Arundel he
fulfilled his chief function, as well as the hardly less important
duties of guarding the right rear of the main army, of securing
the safety of the important railway junction of Naauwpoort, and
incidentally of keeping under his fire a body of the enemy who might
otherwise have joined in the opposition to Lord Roberts’ march.”[290]

The history of the battalion for the next two months is almost
devoid of interest. The Royal Irish formed part of the column which
Clements led from the Orange river to Bloemfontein, over a vast and
gently undulating plain, dotted at rare intervals with villages whose
inhabitants, professing to be tired of the war, readily handed over
to the troops a few hundred rifles, some of modern pattern, others
so obsolete as to be fit for nothing but a museum of antiquities. On
the 4th of April, the 12th brigade reached the capital of the Free
State, where it remained stationary for several weeks, fully, though
by no means agreeably, occupied in the drudgery which fell to the
lot of every soldier fated to garrison any of the towns wrested from
the enemy. There was much wood cutting: many fatigues at the railway
station: heavy guards and outposts, and frequent route marches.
For men whose drill was not perfect there were parades; and when
drafts began to arrive from home, courses of musketry and judging
distance were carried out for the benefit of the new-comers. The use
of the rifle was not the only part of a soldier’s trade in which
the youngsters required training. As they were ignorant of the art
of making themselves comfortable on active service their comrades,
who had learned much since they landed at Port Elizabeth, took this
branch of their education in hand, and taught the recruits to live
together in groups of three men, dividing the work among them: one
collected fuel--_e.g._, cow-dung or scraps of wood; the second looked
after the fire and cooked; while the third pitched the bivouac and
acted as orderly man to the little mess.

In May the battalion was in great strength, for although exposure,
hardships, and enteric fever had begun to take toll, the drafts
had more than made good the waste of the campaign. The deficiency
of officers was a thing of the past, for many had found their way
out to South Africa within two or three weeks of the landing of
the battalion at Port Elizabeth, and others had brought out drafts
from home. In March six officers and a hundred and ninety-six other
ranks joined near Arundel; in April two officers and ninety six men
(chiefly from the militia reserve) reached Bloemfontein; and on May
8, two large parties reported themselves to Colonel Guinness: the
first consisted of two officers and ninety-six men from the depôt;
the second was a company of volunteers--three officers and a hundred
and nine other ranks from the 5th (Irish) battalion of the King’s
(Liverpool regiment). In no war ever waged by Britain has the stream
of reinforcements been so abundant, so evenly distributed, and so
well maintained as in the long struggle with the Boer republics. The
Royal Irish were not more favoured than other corps, yet from the
time the battalion landed until peace was declared no less than 1180
non-commissioned officers and men joined headquarters. The second
battalion provided 150 seasoned men from India, and eight drafts, 443
in all, were sent out from home by the officer commanding details:
the militia battalions of the Royal Irish territorial regiment
contributed 423 (exclusive of three officers),[291] and the Irish
volunteers in Liverpool furnished a contingent of 164 (also exclusive
of five officers).

In years to come, when the nation has realised that for its own
safety every male citizen must be trained to arms, students of
regimental history will wonder how so many partially instructed
troops found their way into the ranks of the Royal Irish. Neither the
militia nor the volunteers were liable to serve abroad in case of
war, but as has been said in Chapter x., in the militia a reserve of
men had been established, picked for physique and character, who in
return for a small annual retaining fee had assumed the liability to
serve in time of war as regular soldiers in any part of the world.
As soon as the reserve of the regular army was called out, these
men were summoned to the depôt of their territorial regiments, and
gradually sent out to the battalions in South Africa. The militia
reservists joining the Royal Irish were for the most part hardy,
though not highly trained peasants who after a short experience in
the field became very valuable soldiers. When the United Kingdom
began to understand that the campaign in South Africa was developing
into the most difficult and arduous war she had waged for nearly a
century, all branches of the Auxiliary Forces volunteered for active
service. The regiments of Yeomanry became the nucleus of the mounted
force sent to South Africa under the name of Imperial Yeomanry:
many militia battalions went out as complete units, and volunteer
battalions were permitted to form from their ranks companies of
picked officers and men, whose function it was to reinforce the
infantry of the line at the seat of war. The Royal Irish were
fortunate in their volunteer company, which was well officered and
composed of men mostly Irish by descent, whose trades as engineers,
boilermakers, fitters, carpenters, and bricklayers had developed both
their muscles and their brains. The company landed on March 11, but
on its way up country, to use the slang of the South African war,
it was “snaffled on the L. of C.,” or in other words, detained at
various posts on the lines of communication, where all ranks learned
so much of their duty in the field that a week after they joined
at Bloemfontein they were considered fit to take their turn at the
outposts: and in the forcing-house of active service they speedily
developed into a very useful body of men.

When the militia reservists and the volunteers reached Bloemfontein
it was anything but a cheerful place, for enteric still raged in
the hospitals, and the road to the cemetery was daily trodden by
long processions of soldiers, bearing on their shoulders stretchers
whereon rested the bodies of the comrades whom they were carrying to
the grave. To counteract these depressing influences the officers
organised rifle meetings, inter-company football matches, and
athletic sports of various kinds. The effect of these amusements was
good, but better still was the news that the brigade was once more to
take the field, when on the 17th of May General Clements was ordered
to entrain his command to Winburg, a little town about sixty-five
miles north-east of Bloemfontein.

Since the battalion had landed at Port Elizabeth the military
situation had improved marvellously. Ladysmith, Kimberley, and
Mafeking had been relieved. Lord Roberts had forced his way across
the south-east of the Free State, captured Cronje with 4000 burgers
at Paardeberg on February 27, and entered Bloemfontein on March 13,
to find that the enemy had scattered northwards before him in panic.
When the burghers who faced Gatacre and Clements in the north of Cape
Colony heard of Cronje’s surrender, they fell back into the east
of the Free State, leaving rear-guards to watch the Orange river,
and if possible prevent the British from crossing it at Bethulie
and Norval’s Pont. Lord Roberts’ first care on reaching the capital
of the Free State was to join hands with Gatacre and Clements; to
make himself master of the railway from Bloemfontein to the Orange,
and to secure the waterworks on which the troops were dependent for
pure water. From the country west of the railway no serious attack
was anticipated, but as there was danger that the large number of
Boers who had betaken themselves to the mountainous regions in the
east of the Free State might rally, destroy the waterworks, and
cut the railway--the line of communication with the coast--the
Commander-in-Chief sent a strong mounted flank-guard into the hills
east of the waterworks, while with smaller detachments he covered
the right or eastern side of the railway. At the end of March and
beginning of April these flank-guards were overtaken by a series of
misfortunes: the largest and most important was defeated with heavy
loss at the waterworks in an engagement known as Sannah’s Post;
the second was captured at Reddersberg; a third narrowly escaped
a similar fate by a hasty and exhausting retreat;[292] at Wepener
only did we still hold our ground. Yet, though these reverses were
annoying, their effect was very transitory, for the Boers failed to
seize the opportunity of falling upon the railway, and by frittering
away their strength in an unsuccessful siege of Wepener allowed an
uninterrupted stream of supplies to reach the army at Bloemfontein.
Strengthened by large reinforcements from England and from Natal,
Lord Roberts then began a series of manœuvres by which he succeeded
in pushing the enemy backwards towards their eastern fastnesses, and
at the end of April the danger to the line of communication was so
greatly diminished that he was free to resume the main object of the
campaign.

The Commander-in-Chief’s plan was as vast as it was simple. Upon
Pretoria, the capital of the Transvaal, were to converge several
columns working on a front nearly three hundred miles in length. On
the extreme right of the line, General Buller was to sweep the Boers
out of the mountains of northern Natal, where they had established
themselves after they had been obliged to abandon the siege of
Ladysmith. Far away on the extreme left, a force, based on Kimberley
and commanded by Lieutenant-General Hunter, was to relieve Mafeking
and invade the Transvaal from the west. Lord Roberts was to lead the
main army along the railway from Bloemfontein to Pretoria, with his
left covered to some extent by Lieutenant-General Lord Methuen, who
was to move northwards through the west of the Free State; his right
was to be guarded by two strong columns under Lieutenant-Generals
Ian Hamilton and Colvile,[293] while to Lieutenant-General Rundle,
who commanded the recently landed 8th division and the body of South
Africans styled the Colonial division, was entrusted the duty of
preventing raids upon the railway between Bloemfontein and the Orange
river by commandos from the hilly country east of the line. The area
which Rundle had to watch has been described as “the granary and the
manœuvre ground of the Orange Free State, a region dotted with towns
and villages, wealthy in crops, and abounding in the water-courses,
ridges, and kopjes on which the Boers had fashioned their favourite
tactics. Here men could both hide in safety and subsist in ease;
the harvest of the past year had been too rich for its owners to
be willing to desert their stores. The region, in short, formed an
irresistible attraction both to farmers and fighting men; and it
flanked the British communications from end to end.”[294] In a series
of successful skirmishes Rundle gradually pushed the enemy before
him, and by the middle of May his line stretched from Clocolan to
Winburg. Lord Roberts had entered Kroonstad on the 12th, and so
satisfactory did the situation in the south-east of the Free State
then appear that a redistribution of the forces was sanctioned, in
the course of which the 12th brigade was ordered from Bloemfontein to
Winburg.

For a few days after its arrival the battalion was employed in
building sangars at various points round the town, and as no enemy
appeared to test these works many a young soldier thought that his
labour had been wasted; but this was not the case, for when at the
end of August the place was suddenly attacked, the fortifications
thrown up by Clements proved of great value in the defence, in which
some of the mounted infantry of the regiment took part. On May 26,
the battalion started for the town of Senekal, now the advance
base in the eastern Free State, and during a three days’ “trek”
realised the truth of the camp saying that the march of a British
column in South Africa could be traced by “bully-beef” tins and dead
animals, for the dreary, dusty, khaki-coloured plain was littered
with empty rations cases, and with the carcases of mules and oxen
abandoned by the troops as they pressed forward to the front. With
this very uninviting piece of country the Royal Irish were destined
to make further acquaintance, as during the month of June they
furnished several strong escorts to convoys over the forty miles of
road between Senekal and the railhead at Winburg. The 12th brigade
remained nearly a month at Senekal, where the Royal Irish, who spent
two nights a-week shivering in the works round the town, became
painfully aware that though the winter days on the veld are glorious
the nights are abominably cold.

While the battalion was at Senekal the Free State burghers under
Christian De Wet had taken the initiative in the eastern part of
their republic: they had made prisoners of considerable detachments,
captured large and valuable convoys, and by breaking up the railway
at several points to the north of Bloemfontein had interrupted the
line of communication with Pretoria, where Lord Roberts, after
occupying Johannesburg, had hoisted the British flag on the 5th of
June. Among the measures at once taken by the Commander-in-Chief
for the pacification of the Orange Free State was the formation of
strong flying columns to penetrate into the districts in which the
burghers were still in arms. One of these columns was to be commanded
by Clements, who, with his own brigade and that of Major-General A.
H. Paget (the 20th), was to march upon Bethlehem where a considerable
number of the enemy were known to be assembled. With nearly 5000
men[295] Clements left Senekal on June 28, bound in the first place
for Lindley, a village forty miles to the north-east, where he was
to join hands with Paget before moving towards Bethlehem. The column
marched in what the troops called “the picture-frame formation”: half
battalions in very extended order formed the front, sides, and rear
of a vast hollow square, covering two or three miles of ground, while
the mounted troops scouted widely in every direction. At Klipplaat
Drift, three miles from Senekal, the Boers opened fire upon the
advance-guard with four guns, a pom-pom, and a maxim, and made so
stout an opposition that Clements had only gained seven miles when
the approach of night obliged him to bivouac, with the enemy still
in strength on his front and flanks. Though most of the work fell
on the mounted troops, part of the Royal Irish regiment was engaged
during the afternoon. A young officer who had recently brought out a
number of recruits to the battalion thus describes his experiences in
this, his first engagement: “The regiment was the left flank-guard.
It was the first time that many of us had been in action, and we
realised the truth of the saying that ‘it takes a ton of lead to
kill a man,’ for though for several hours we were under a hot rifle
fire from invisible enemies at more or less effective range, with
shells falling among us, I don’t think we lost more than one man
killed.[296] Our militia reservists were splendid in their ignorance
of danger. As the bullets were whistling over their heads one of them
was heard to ask his comrade whether ‘it was the birds making that
noise!’ He must have been brother to the man who, when ordered to set
his sights at a prescribed range, explained his failure to do so by
saying that he ‘didn’t know figures.’”

Before daylight next morning the mounted troops dashed upon a ridge
about a mile and a half from the bivouac, forestalling the burghers
in its occupation. The Boers thereupon fell back in the direction
of Bethlehem, leaving a rear-guard who first harassed the troops by
long-range “sniping,” and then disputed the passage of a drift at
the Zand river. In the course of this day’s skirmishing a private
in the battalion was wounded.[297] After Paget and Clements joined
hands they turned towards Bethlehem, thirty miles to the south-east
of Lindley, and pushed through bodies of the enemy who, though they
appeared unwilling to commit themselves to anything but a feeble
skirmish, watched every movement with the eyes of a lynx, determined
to lose no opportunity of punishing any carelessness on our part.
Thanks to Clements’ vigilance, his column was very little harassed on
the march, but a strong flank-guard on Paget’s left was very roughly
handled: a battery was rushed, and for several minutes the guns
passed into the hands of the burghers, from whom they were rescued
only after a sharp fight.

Clements bivouacked on the 5th of July at Bontjeskraal, about eight
miles north-west of Bethlehem, and with a column greatly reduced in
numbers by the absence of the Malta mounted infantry[298] and the
Bedfordshire, who by the order of the Commander-in-Chief had been
sent back to garrison the village of Lindley, he advanced early next
morning through scenery thoroughly characteristic of this part of
South Africa. A broad valley, bounded by flat-topped, square-sided
kopjes bare of vegetation and forbidding of aspect, descended by a
gentle slope towards the belt of rolling downs by which Bethlehem is
encircled and commanded on every side. As the Royal Irish, who were
in advance-guard, cautiously made their way down this valley, they
caught distant glimpses of the trees and scattered houses of the
settlement, standing like an oasis of civilisation in a wilderness of
veld, while far to the south the horizon was bounded by the mountains
of the Brandwater Basin--range upon range of fantastically-shaped
peaks white with freshly fallen snow, as yet unmelted by the morning
sun. The troops had little time, however, to admire the weird
beauty of the scene, for the burghers had revealed their presence
by shelling the outposts at dawn, and as the advance-guard began to
debouch it came under fire from the position, strong by nature and
improved by fortification, where five thousand men with seven pieces
of artillery awaited our attack. From Vogelsfontein, a farm three
miles north-east of the town, their line curved outwards along the
western rim of the depression in which Bethlehem stands, and then
turning sharply to the east ended at Volhuter’s Kop, a grim pile of
rocks dominating all the approaches from the south. Before Clements
allowed the advance-guard to become seriously engaged, he sent a flag
of truce to the officer in command of the burghers to demand the
instant surrender of the town, but after receiving a laconic refusal
from Christian De Wet[299] he began to carry out the scheme already
concerted with General Paget. The enemy’s flanks were first to be
turned by the mounted troops and then assaulted by the infantry; the
20th brigade was to carry Volhuter’s Kop on the south; the 12th
brigade to make itself master of Vogelsfontein farm on the north.
The plan was a simple one, but it miscarried, as owing to the great
length of De Wet’s position, the difficulties of the ground, and the
failure of the mounted men on our extreme left to make their way
over a rocky watercourse, the movements of the infantry were greatly
delayed, and though late in the afternoon Paget won a little ground,
the 12th brigade made no material progress, and when night put an end
to the engagement neither of the enemy’s flanks had been turned, or
even threatened seriously.

When the 12th brigade deployed, the Royal Irish were on the
right, the Worcestershire on the left, the Wiltshire in support.
About 1 P.M. the XVIIIth advanced in column of double companies,
widely extended, the leading companies each formed in two lines of
skirmishers with ten paces interval between the men and two hundred
yards’ distance between the lines. Very soon shells from guns
scattered along a ridge about five thousand yards to the eastward
began to fall among them, and for a time our artillery gave no great
help, until a field-battery dashed through the ranks, caught up half
a company to serve as escort, and pushed on to a ridge where it
came into action. The burghers at once turned their pieces against
the audacious battery, and thanks to this diversion the battalion
had been able to move forward to within rifle-shot of the enemy’s
trenches, when an order brought it to a halt. For the rest of the day
the Royal Irish remained stationary, skirmishing with the enemy in
their front, annoyed by marksmen concealed in the houses of the town,
and enfiladed by rifle and maxim fire from a hill upon their right.
So biting indeed was the musketry from this hill that to escape it
one of the companies was forced to take cover in a donga, where it
remained till nightfall, when the XVIIIth was ordered to withdraw and
bivouac at a farm out of range of the enemy’s rifles. In the opinion
of the rank and file the only good point in this weary day’s work
was that though the battalion had been engaged for several hours it
had only two men wounded, but the General knew that the time had not
been wasted, for he had seen so much of De Wet’s position that he was
able to recast his plans, and had now determined, while not relaxing
his efforts to turn the flanks, to deliver a crushing blow at the
centre of the Boer line, where it rested on a hill half a mile to the
north-west of Bethlehem.

Long before daybreak on the 7th the troops began to take their
places for the renewed attack; and the Royal Irish stumbled over the
uneven surface of the veld until they were halted at daybreak by
Colonel Guinness, who pointed out to his officers the dim outline of
a kopje, just visible in the uncertain light. This hill, he said,
General Clements considered the key of the position: it was to be
taken at all cost; the Royal Irish had been selected to deliver
the assault, and three companies of the Wiltshire regiment were to
support them in second line. As the mists of dawn gradually cleared
away the officers realised that their objective was the very hill
from which their right had been harassed by musketry on the afternoon
of the 6th; they knew that it was strongly held, for a patrol from
one of their outposts, reconnoitring it during the night, had heard
the voices of many burghers talking in the trenches; and they could
see that a long slope, bare of cover and exposed throughout to the
enemy’s fire, led up to its crest, where two guns had been posted
within the last few hours. If our gunners succeeded in beating down
the defence, the hill would be comparatively easy to carry; but if
the stress of battle compelled them to turn their projectiles in
another direction, many a good soldier would fall before the day
was won. As soon as it was light enough for the artillerymen to
see, the field and 5-in. guns opened a slow, well-aimed cross-fire
upon the hill, and the Royal Irish prepared for the attack. Colonel
Guinness formed his battalion in three lines: the first consisted of
B company; the second (the supports) was composed of H, G, and C, in
the order named from right to left; in the third (the reserve) were
F, E, and D companies. One company, A, which had been on outpost
all night, did not rejoin till the position was nearly won. The
supports and reserve were in lines of columns of half companies,
whose extensions were not to exceed three paces. Before 7 A.M. the
scouts of B company became warmly engaged with the burghers, who
could be seen in strength upon the hill; Captain Daniell reinforced
them with half his company (H), and then for a long time a fierce
fire-fight raged, the Boers trying to crush B company with musketry
and shrapnel, while Daniell’s men kept up a vigorous fusilade to
cover the supporting companies, which were gradually making their way
into the front line. D company ranged up on the left, the volunteers
on the right; while still farther to the right G company came into
action, firing heavy volleys. The expenditure of cartridges was
great, and during this phase of the combat the pouches of D company
were replenished at least four times by the ammunition carriers, who,
to quote from Captain Daniell’s diary, “walked about, backwards and
forwards, up and down the firing line without the slightest fear. I
specially noticed a lad named Hanrehan and Lance-Corporal Ryan, the
company tailor.” Whenever the officer commanding a company considered
it was possible to push on, the subaltern or sergeant in charge of
each section selected two soldiers, who dashed forward for about
thirty yards, and then dropping on the ground covered the advance
of their comrades with their shots. Then followed another pair, and
yet another, until the whole of the section was in its new position,
when its commander, who had superintended the movement, in his turn
dashed over the bullet-swept ground. Troops less highly trained, less
perfectly disciplined than the Royal Irish, would have required an
officer to head them in these rushes, but the men of the XVIIIth
could be trusted to advance and to carry out their orders without
such leading; the difficulty was not to get them to go on, but to
prevent their going on too fast and too far. Whenever the ground was
favourable the companies were “pulled together” and steadied, to
prepare them for the next rush. A sergeant in the Royal Irish thus
describes his impressions of

  “the first fair stand-up fight the regiment had been in during
  the war. We advanced to a real attack such as you read about in
  textbooks, over comparatively level ground affording scarcely any
  cover, and with due attention to intervals between individuals
  and firing line, supports, and so forth. A very frosty morning,
  bright and bracing; a steady controlled fire to greet us as we
  deployed for attack; a G.O.C. implicitly believed in by every man
  in the battalion; a C.O. who possessed every one’s confidence;
  and officers in front (too much so indeed) to lead the way--such
  were our surroundings. In the ranks one cannot see much in a
  general engagement, but I have a distinct recollection of there
  being a total lack of confusion during the action: signals, words
  of command, were quickly responded to; the passing of orders was
  rapidly carried out; volunteers for every purpose were numerous;
  wounded men were instantly cared for and taken back to the
  dressing-station by the stretcher-bearers.”

The battalion gained ground, but not rapidly, for the opposition
was considerable and the firing line had been again reinforced,
when just as the leading men had reached a belt of burned grass, on
which their khaki clothing was unpleasantly conspicuous, they were
brought to a sudden halt by a donga--a natural moat protecting the
part of the hill on which the enemy’s guns were posted. As this
donga was impassable, the only thing to do was to turn it; and each
company successively moved off to the right in perfect order, circled
round the head of the obstacle, and then re-formed in the required
direction as steadily as though on parade in a barrack square. At
this moment our bombardment swelled into a violent cannonade. Our
musketry had already made itself felt among the defenders of the
hill, and when the shells began to rain upon them, the burghers, who,
in the words of an artillery officer, “had hitherto stuck to their
work like men,” lost heart, and gradually quitted their trenches,
leaving to a few of their gunners the task of saving the guns. These
gallant fellows succeeded in getting one away in safety, and did not
cease their efforts to remove the other until a mass of Royal Irish,
yelling like demons and with bayonets fixed, were within a couple of
hundred yards of them. Then they turned and fled for their lives, and
the gun, one of the 15-prs. lost by the 77th battery at Stormberg,
once more passed into the hands of its lawful owners. While part of
the battalion established itself on the crest of the hill, where a
long line of trenches, cut deep into the rock, showed how diligently
the Boers had fortified this part of the position, the remainder
was held in readiness to push forward into the town. But with the
capture of the hill the engagement virtually ended; Paget, with
the help of two companies of the Royal Irish, made himself master
of Volhuter’s Kop almost without loss: Vogelsfontein was occupied
without resistance, and the burghers streamed away in full retreat,
followed only by the shells of the artillery, for the mounted troops
(chiefly Imperial Yeomen and Australian Rifles) were still too new
to their work to be launched in pursuit of an enemy who never proved
more formidable than in a rear-guard action. The comparative ease
with which the Boers were driven out of Bethlehem was owing to the
fact that De Wet had learned that a column of British under General
Hunter was moving down on him from the north;[300] as he felt unable
to make head against this reinforcement, he had only fought to gain
time for his main body to join the large number of Free Staters, who
from behind the Wittebergen range faced General Rundle and the 8th
division. To this is due the small number of casualties on the 6th
and 7th of July, together amounting only to a hundred and six killed
and wounded--a total to which the Royal Irish contributed almost
half. Among the officers Captain J. B. S. Alderson was mortally, and
Captain T. Warwick-Williams (volunteer company) slightly, wounded; of
the other ranks, two were killed, four died of their injuries, and
forty-seven were wounded.[301]

As soon as the engagement was over the troops were allowed to fall
out and cook their food; fires sprang up everywhere, and while some
of the men made porridge from meal found in a neighbouring farm,
others tried to convert the burghers’ pigs into pork. An officer
thus describes the scene: “One of the volunteers pursued a very old
beast with a field-telegraph pole poised above his head; when he
got within striking distance he brought it down with a crash, but
of course by the time it reached the ground the pig was well away.
Then up galloped one of Brabant’s Horse, who with bayonet fixed
tried to use his rifle as a hog-spear; he lunged at the pig, missed
it, buried his bayonet in the ground, and came a lovely cropper off
his horse. This old pig was a wary brute, and after running many
risks, escaped unhurt.” In the course of the afternoon some of the
officers of the battalion were allowed to visit Bethlehem, which
they found no better and no worse than the other towns in the Free
State. In this part of South Africa every settlement had the same
general characteristics. In the middle of an unpaved, undrained, and
evil-smelling market square was a large church, built at the expense
of the congregation by an architect who apparently took a barn as his
model of ecclesiastical architecture. The square was fringed with
the most important buildings in the place--the government offices,
the bank, the stores, and the hotels--not standing side by side,
but apparently dropped down from the sky at random, with great gaps
between them, where loose cattle roamed at will. The dwelling-houses
were scattered along the roads leading from the church to the open
veld. Those belonging to British traders and to burghers who had
acquired a veneer of European civilisation stood in pretty gardens,
gay with flowers and planted with trees, and looked like small “villa
residences” transported from a London suburb to the wilds of South
Africa. The abodes of the old-fashioned Boers, on the other hand,
were nothing but cottages built of sun-dried bricks, without a tree,
a flower, or a blade of grass to mitigate their hideousness.

A few hours after the occupation of Bethlehem General Clements issued
this general order:--

  “The G.O.C. wishes to congratulate the force under his command
  on the way in which it has acquitted itself during a trying
  time since it marched from Senekal. The mounted troops had very
  hard work, and have seen a good deal of fighting. The artillery
  have performed most excellent work and made excellent practice.
  The infantry have had hard work, continuous marching, and done
  excellently while in contact with the enemy. The Royal Irish
  regiment particularly distinguished itself to-day. To one and
  all the thanks of the G.O.C. are due, and he has the utmost
  confidence that the 12th brigade force as now constituted will
  continue to maintain the high reputation it has already won.”



CHAPTER XV.

THE FIRST BATTALION.

1900-1902.

SOUTH AFRICA (_continued_).

SLABBERT’S NEK: THE BRANDWATER BASIN: BERGENDAL: MONUMENT HILL:
LYDENBURG: THE MOUNTED INFANTRY OF THE ROYAL IRISH REGIMENT.


Two days after Bethlehem was taken, General Hunter’s column entered
the town, and Clements fell back towards Senekal to obtain the
supplies of which his men were much in need. After a week’s halt at
Biddulphsberg, the 12th brigade was recalled by General Hunter, now
in command of the whole of the troops in the eastern Free State,
to take part in a great combined movement against the burghers who
had retired into the hilly region drained by the river Brandwater,
and locally known as the Brandwater Basin. It is bounded on the
south by the river Caledon, the frontier of the native state of
Basutoland, whose savage warriors, longing for a pretext to attack
their hereditary enemies the Boers, stood ready to resist any
violation of their territory, and thus forbade the passage of the
stream. To the west, north, and east the basin is enclosed by high,
almost continuous ranges, which, springing from the right bank of
the Caledon, form a huge horse-shoe, whose northern foot-hills sink
into the plain a few miles south of Bethlehem. This mountain wall is
about seventy miles in perimeter, and is crossed at five places by
roads fit for wheeled traffic: the western face (the Wittebergen)
is pierced by Commando Nek, the northern by Slabbert’s and Retief’s
Neks, the eastern (the Roodebergen) by Naauwpoort Nek and the Golden
Gate. Very soon after Hunter arrived at Bethlehem, he decided to
fight his way with part of his force into the Brandwater Basin from
the north and west, and to drive the burghers into the arms of
detachments posted at the mouths of Naauwpoort Nek and Golden Gate:
but before this plan could be carried into effect he had to wait for
supplies of food and ammunition, and it was not until a fortnight
after the occupation of Bethlehem that his troops were ready to
begin work. On July 21st, his army was thus distributed: Rundle with
the 8th and Colonial divisions stretched from Ficksburg to Senekal;
the brigades of Clements and Paget lay at Wit Kop and Witnek, a few
miles north-west of Slabbert’s Nek; the Highland brigade (the 3rd,
under Major-General MacDonald), stood at Bethlehem ready to march
on Retief’s Nek; and Major-General Bruce-Hamilton with the 12th
brigade, to which part of the Royal Irish mounted infantry had been
attached, commanded the exit from Naauwpoort Nek. Next day orders
were issued for a general attack along the whole of the western and
northern line; Rundle was to bombard Commando Nek, while Clements and
MacDonald assaulted Slabbert’s Nek and Retief’s Nek respectively.
Clements advanced on the 22nd to Bester’s Kop, the enemy’s outposts
retiring before him towards Slabbert’s Nek. He had only two of his
four battalions at that moment with him, for the Worcestershire had
been temporarily detached, and the Bedfordshire had not rejoined from
Lindley.

During the night, the draft of ninety-eight non-commissioned officers
and men, with whom Major Lysaght had joined the battalion on the
18th, had a rough introduction to the joys of campaigning in South
Africa: there was a great storm; rain fell in torrents; many of
the horses broke loose and stampeded in every direction, and when
the Royal Irish fell in after a hurried meal of sodden biscuit and
bully beef, they were wet to the skin, and longed for the excitement
of a fight to get their blood once more in circulation. But the
General’s plans had been kept secret, and the Royal Irish, who were
in advance-guard, had no idea that an action was imminent, and
trudged wearily over the rough surface of the rolling down, scarcely
glancing at the curious line of isolated kopjes which, at intervals
of a mile or more, rose like watch towers across their path. Suddenly
distant firing was heard; at the sound of the guns the XVIIIth
stepped out vigorously, and soon discovered that Brabant’s Horse, the
cavalry screen to the column, were being shelled by the defenders of
Slabbert’s Nek. As Clements reconnoitred this formidable position,
he found that its difficulties had not been exaggerated by his
guides--loyal Britons settled in the Free State, who at the outbreak
of the war had placed their local knowledge at the disposal of the
Intelligence department. The Nek, or pass, ran through a defile
about half a mile in width, overhung by steep, almost precipitous
mountains, and its entrance was partially barred by a low rounded
knoll, with smooth glacis-like sides, seamed with trenches which
swept the ground to the front and flanks. To the left of the defile,
as he looked at it, was a long square-topped kopje, with cliff-like
walls that only a goat could climb: to the right stretched another
kopje, higher, longer, and more irregular in shape, with five great
spurs projecting from its rugged flank. Above these spurs rose
a series of ledges, like the steps of a gigantic staircase; the
hillside was strewn with boulders and honeycombed with caves, and
the topmost peak raised its snowy crest nearly two thousand feet
above the plain. The greater part of this kopje was held by the left
wing of the enemy, and Clements realised that until he had taken it
he could not hope to force the pass; therefore, as soon as his flanks
were covered by mounted troops, and his artillery had begun to shell
the trenches on the Nek, he directed Lieutenant-Colonel Grenfell,
with part of his corps (the 1st Brabant’s Horse) and a few Imperial
Yeomanry, to seize one of the projecting spurs. This mission the
irregulars fulfilled, but when they began to scale the ledges they
were brought to a standstill by a furious burst of musketry; the
General at once ordered two companies of the Wiltshire to occupy a
spur on the right of that ascended by Brabant’s Horse, and directed
the Colonel of the Royal Irish, who were then about five thousand
yards from Grenfell’s spur, to send two companies to reinforce
the dismounted troopers. The choice fell on G (Captain Gloster)
and H (Captain Daniell), the former being in command of the whole
detachment.

After a stiff climb, H company joined Grenfell on one of the ledges
or steps in the kopje, where they found Brabant’s Horse hotly engaged
with the burghers, who held two tiers of rocks, the lower four or
five hundred yards up the hillside, the higher about two hundred
yards farther off; another body of the enemy enfiladed the ledge
from a donga. In an hour or two Gloster joined Daniell, prolonging
the line to the left, where, to quote from a letter of Lieutenant
Kelly, a subaltern in G company, “we fired wildly at where we thought
the enemy were, for we could not see a man, but had a good idea, as
they were shooting uncommonly straight. Brabant’s were on the same
ledge with us, and a real cheery lot they were--quite delighted
with everything and full of jokes.” Just after the Royal Irish had
snatched a mouthful of food, a message arrived from the General, “as
soon as you have occupied the spur, send two companies to the top of
the hill.” Gloster and Daniell reconnoitred the ground, and decided
to “rush” the next belt of rocks, Gloster working up to them from
the right, while Daniell made a dash across the open. After sending
for ammunition and filling the men’s pouches, Gloster moved forward
with half his company, leaving Kelly with the remainder of G company
to support his advance with musketry. Following the plan made by the
two captains, Daniell gave Gloster about ten minutes’ start, and
then pushed on from both flanks, but though Kelly kept up a vigorous
fusilade upon the ridge of rocks, the immediate object of the
combined attack, the enemy was unshaken, and the bullets fell like
hail among the men of H company as they ran up the slope. Suddenly
Gloster’s half company began to appear on the right, moving in such
a way as to come under the musketry of Kelly’s party, who from their
position could not see Gloster’s men; the danger was so imminent that
Daniell himself ran back across the fire-swept zone and ordered
Kelly to follow him to the ridge, now held by the leading troops.
When they reached the front line they found that Gloster, mortally
wounded, was sinking rapidly. Again to quote his subaltern: “he had
reached the top quite under cover, and in his usual dashing manner
was pushing forward in front. He climbed up and looked over a rock;
and seeing some Dutchmen quite close, raised his rifle, and as he did
so was shot, as was another man in exactly the same way. The bullet
passed through the right fore-arm and chest. He was a really gallant
fellow, and died nobly.” When Daniell thus succeeded to the command
of the detachment, the situation was very unpleasant. The ledge upon
which the men crouched was so commanded by the enemy’s fire that
every time a soldier peered over it he drew a storm of bullets: and
on the left front the burghers seemed to be in force within twenty
or thirty yards of our position. The men were anxious to avenge
Gloster’s death with the bayonet, but a charge was impossible, for
it could only have been delivered on a very narrow front and under
converging fire. There was nothing for it but to lie under the crest
of the ridge, to keep the men on the alert by shooting at the rocks
behind which the Boers were ensconced, and to report by signal
that any farther advance would be attended by very serious risk.
Fortunately, cartridges never ran short, as the ammunition carriers
were able to reach the firing line under cover from the left rear,
where Lieutenant Panter-Downes with a few men showed so determined
a front that he kept the burghers at a respectful distance, and
prevented them from enfilading Daniell’s party.

While Gloster’s detachment was struggling for foothold on the hill
the battalion marched towards the foot of Grenfell’s spur; on the
way two companies (D under Captain Milner and F under Captain
White) were diverted to the left front to watch the burghers in the
trenches on the pass. The plain that these companies had to cross
looked perfectly level from a distance, but in reality was a series
of undulations over which without a landmark it was difficult to
move in the right direction. Such a landmark was found in a cluster
of Kaffir huts, but the Boers had taken the range accurately, and
when D company passed between the kraals it was greeted by a storm
of bullets, by one of which Captain Milner was dangerously wounded.
Neither company halted until it was about nine hundred yards from the
works on Slabbert’s Nek, with whose defenders for the rest of the
day they exchanged a slow but steady fire; and from the right of D’s
line the Boers who were facing Gloster’s party could be plainly seen;
“but,” writes an eye-witness, “we did not dare to shoot much at them,
as they were too much mixed up with our men.”

As two companies were acting as escort to the guns, the main body of
the XVIIIth was now reduced to two companies of regular soldiers and
one of volunteers. This skeleton battalion was finally halted about
eighteen hundred yards to the left rear of Grenfell’s spur, and in
widely extended lines, lay for many hours exposed to the shots of
marksmen, who were so well concealed that they offered a very poor
target in return. The headquarter companies of the Royal Irish had
nothing to do except to fire an occasional round in the direction
from which the enemy’s bullets came; to listen to the bursts of
musketry from the hill, and to wonder how long the shells of a
pom-pom playing on them from the Nek would continue to fall among the
regiment without doing any harm. Happily only one of these horrible
little projectiles found a billet: it shattered the big drum, greatly
to the amusement of every one, except the drummer, who was fast
asleep beside it. The damage to the drum was soon avenged by a 5-in.
shell, which smashed the pom-pom and blew several Boer gunners to
pieces.

When darkness put an end to the combat, the result of the day’s
operations seemed meagre in the extreme. Brabant’s Horse and
Gloster’s detachment of the Royal Irish had doubtless made a
lodgment on the hill to the right of the pass; but they could do no
more than hold their ground, and could expect no help from the two
companies of the Wiltshire, who had failed to establish themselves
on the spur which they had been ordered to seize. The works on the
Nek had been vigorously bombarded, but their defenders appeared
to be unshaken by the shells of the artillery and the threatening
presence of Paget’s brigade on the left of the guns. But the General
was in no way dispirited, for excellent news had reached him in the
afternoon. An officer of Brabant’s Horse, who with a small party of
mounted men was watching the outer flank of the big kopje, heard that
Grenfell and Gloster were “held-up” on the ledges, and determined to
ascertain if there was no other way to the top of the hill. By “a
most daring and successful reconnaissance” on foot, he discovered a
track leading to the summit, running well to the right of the ledges,
through ground apparently unoccupied by the enemy. When Clements
received this report he saw that once he had gained possession of
the top, he could outflank the burghers facing Brabant’s Horse and
the Royal Irish, drive them before him into the Nek, and then rake
its defences with rifle-fire. As it was then too late to attempt any
important movement, he ordered a squadron of Brabant’s (dismounted)
to be at the summit by daybreak next morning, promising them the
support of four companies of the Royal Irish and two of the Wiltshire
regiment, who were not to follow the path discovered by the officer
of Brabant’s, but to ascend by a ridge still farther to the right.
While most of the infantry bivouacked on the ground they stood on,
four companies of the Royal Irish were assembled, and moved to the
farmhouse fixed as the rendezvous of the little column. At 4 A.M.
on the 24th Lieutenant-Colonel Guinness, who commanded the combined
force, began to ascend the kopje, described by General Clements
as “an almost unclimbable hill”; four hours’ desperate scrambling
brought the Royal Irish, breathless and exhausted, to its highest
crest, where they found the dismounted troopers of Brabant’s Horse,
who moving by a shorter and easier route had gained the summit some
little time before their comrades of the XVIIIth. Hitherto the march
had been unopposed, but now a few shots were fired by burghers who
appeared more anxious to retire than to fight. Part of the infantry
then joined hands with G and H companies whose adventures during the
night will be told later; the remainder drove the enemy before them,
turned the works upon the Nek, and swept them with musketry from the
left rear. A great burst of cheering greeted the appearance of the
Royal Irish on the top of the hill; a general advance was ordered;
the Boer resistance suddenly collapsed, and by 11 A.M. Clements was
master of Slabbert’s Nek.

An officer has supplied the author with a very spirited account
of the proceedings of the headquarter companies, from which the
following extracts have been taken:--

  “We arrived at the farm about 7 or 8 P.M. on the 23rd, without
  transport, and consequently without blankets or food, on the
  coldest night I remember having spent during the war. After
  seeing the men settled and giving them leave to break open their
  emergency rations, we went into the farm building. Here the
  Wiltshire officers who had arrived before us, had already made
  themselves comfortable before a fire in the kitchen, and had
  a chicken roasting for their breakfast. There were six of us,
  and we had had nothing inside us since dawn--hence lowering of
  the moral sense and theft! We had only two emergency rations
  among us: we ate them: they were excellent, but not enough,
  and we eyed that bird hungrily until the Wilts nodded: then
  some one suggested the eating of that chicken. We needed very
  little persuasion to tear it limb from limb, and we devoured it
  hastily, like house-breakers at supper in a burgled house! The
  anger of the Wilts was great when a couple of hours later they
  awoke; they did not suspect us at the time, thinking we had been
  all asleep, and their wrath was directed against the men. So
  warped had our sense of right and wrong become that it was not
  until we had dined them next day in camp that we gave ourselves
  away.... After a few hours’ sleep we--_i.e._, A, D, F, and the
  volunteers, and two companies of the Wiltshire, started on our
  night march, led by Colonel Guinness and a guide, and a more
  miserable time we never had. It was bitterly cold, with a Scotch
  mist blowing sharply down from the hill above us. The necessity
  for secrecy forbade our smoking, and the effort to keep from
  coughing, kicking down stones, and otherwise making a noise was
  very trying. The track lay up a ‘razor-edge’ sort of ridge, very
  slippery and strewn with boulders. The higher we climbed the
  more difficult it became, until finally we were ‘clawing up’ on
  hands and knees, and the last bit, just as there was a glimmer of
  light, was the worst of all: we had to pull each other up by our
  rifles, yet, with precipitous ground all around us, we lost not
  a man.”

The column had now reached the shoulder of the kopje, and rested on
the snow-covered ground for a short time while Colonel Guinness and
the guide looked for a path towards the top. The path, when found,
proved to be a mere goat-track, on a narrow ledge with a wall of rock
on the right hand and a precipice on the left. On this track there
was only room to walk in Indian file, and

  “we were about half-way across this bit when the fog lifted a
  little and showed us what a giddy path we were following. It also
  showed us a few slouch-hatted figures on a spur below us. I can
  tell you we company officers were fairly alarmed, caught as we
  were in a place where movement of any sort, except fore or aft,
  was impossible, so it was to our great relief that we discovered
  these men to be a handful of Brabant’s scouts. A few shots were
  fired at us at about 8 A.M. when we got to the real top of the
  hill, by a few Boers, some on a knoll below us and others to our
  front, but these men soon cleared out. The fog was now lifting
  rapidly and the sun came out as we advanced down into position
  on the knoll overlooking the Nek itself and the Boer line of
  retreat. Heavy firing had been going on since dawn, down where
  the rest of the brigade was, and across the valley where Paget’s
  brigade was also trying to force the pass. For some time we saw
  nothing, then a few small mounted parties of Boers were seen
  riding off towards Fouriesberg. We opened fire, the range I think
  being about a thousand yards. This was the signal for a regular
  bolt of the whole Boer force. We fired rapidly on them, but I
  don’t know if we did much execution firing at such a steep angle
  downwards. Our right was hurried forward down the hill, but the
  steepness and difficulty of the ground prevented our getting much
  closer. By the time we had got well down, practically all the
  Boers had cleared out. It was wonderful to see how the men bucked
  up. Before the firing began they were moving about like a lot
  of cripples, ‘dead to the world,’ and anxious only to get a few
  minutes to sit down and sleep in. The moment they realised what
  was going on, all this was thrown off and they were as happy and
  as energetic as a parcel of schoolboys.”

While the headquarter companies of the battalion were doing this
fine piece of rock climbing, G and H were clinging to their ground
with the utmost determination. As soon as it became dark Daniell
had posted the men with him, about a hundred of all ranks, along
the ridge in little detachments of three or four; in front of each
post lay a sentry, flat on his stomach, peering over the rocks to
watch the movements of the enemy. Up to midnight the Boers “sniped”
assiduously; then the fire died away, and Daniell and Kelly moved
constantly up and down the line to make sure that the soldiers,
lulled by the sudden silence and exhausted by hunger and fatigue, had
not fallen asleep. About 4 A.M. on the 24th, Panter-Downes brought
up the remainder of H company: while this welcome reinforcement was
being posted there was an alarm, caused by the approach of a number
of Kaffirs whom the Boers had sent to reconnoitre the position:
the men promptly lined the top of the ridge, and speedily gave
the burghers to understand that the Royal Irish were quite ready
to receive them! When day broke, says one of the officers who was
present--

  “we quickly found out that the enemy were still there, but
  they had left the rocks on our left, so we occupied them. They
  ‘hotted’ us for a bit, but as soon as the companies appeared
  on the top of the mountain they began to disperse. The guns
  kept up a hot bombardment, and very soon we could see the enemy
  beating a retreat all round. We sent down for water and food,
  made ourselves comfortable, and watched the enemy retire.
  Brabant’s brought up our gun and the Hotchkiss, and made some
  splendid practice among the Boers as they left a hill, and we
  saw a good many of them knocked over.... We received tremendous
  congratulations for our part in the battle, especially the charge
  up the hill.... We buried poor Gloster and five men by a tree at
  the foot of the hill.”[302]

The capture of Slabbert’s Nek cost only forty-four casualties, of
which many occurred among the Royal Irish. Captain W. Gloster was
killed; Captain E. F. Milner was dangerously wounded; six of the
other ranks were killed, and ten wounded, three of whom died of their
injuries.[303]

In General Clements’ report of July 26, he gave high praise to the
1st battalion, Royal Irish regiment, in these terms--

  “Lieutenant-Colonel H. W. N. Guinness has again proved himself
  a commanding officer of the first class. His battalion has
  throughout proved itself to be all that could be desired on
  service. His leading of a force on the 24th of July over an
  almost unclimbable hill, and by this means turning the enemy’s
  position at Slabbert’s Nek, is deserving of special mention.

  “Captain W. Gloster, who I regret to say was killed while leading
  his company at Slabbert’s Nek on the 23rd of July, was an officer
  of great promise. By his death the Service loses a most valuable
  company leader.

  “Captain E. H. Daniell has proved himself a first-rate company
  leader in difficult circumstances by the handling of his men on
  the 23rd and 24th of July, on both of which dates he showed great
  gallantry.

  “Lieutenant J. A. M. J. P. Kelly did particularly good service
  on the night of the 23rd of July, in leading his men over an
  open space, 300 yards wide, swept by a heavy cross-fire, and
  maintaining his position all night at close quarters (20 yards)
  from the enemy who were holding the rocks and caves in his front.”

In the same report General Clements stated that Major K. P. Apthorp,
who was temporarily employed as an intelligence officer on his staff,
had afforded him “very great help until taken prisoner on June 6.”

The following non-commissioned officers and private soldiers were
also mentioned:--

No. 4512, Lance-Corporal P. Doyle;[304] No. 4248, Lance-Corporal M.
Tytherleigh; No. 4868, Lance-Corporal J. Rathbone; No. 1408, Private
---- Baker; No. 4129, Private ---- Ryan; and No. 5024, Private P.
Dumphy, particularly distinguished themselves on the night of July
23. No. 4506, Private J. Kavanagh, who showed remarkable courage and
coolness on the same occasion, was wounded while carrying a message
across ground heavily swept by fire.

As soon as General Clements learned that the Highland brigade had
driven the Boers from Retief’s Nek, he marched two or three miles
along the road to Fouriesburg, the chief town in the Brandwater
Basin, and then encamped. The halt was very welcome; an officer
writes, “we were all very much done up, especially those who had been
in Colonel Guinness’s night march, and after a good ‘square’ meal and
a double issue of rum (Reger, our Quartermaster, surpassed himself
on this occasion) there were few of us awake that afternoon.” Next
day the whole of Hunter’s army was in motion. MacDonald was sent to
help Bruce Hamilton in the task of sealing the mouths of Naauwpoort
Nek and the Golden Gate, the passes by which the Boers might dash
eastward into the open country round Harrismith, the principal town
in that part of the Free State. Clements and Paget marched through a
fertile country, well watered and full of prosperous farms, towards
Fouriesburg, whither Rundle, who had dislodged the burghers from
Commando Nek, was also hastening. As the advance-guard of the 8th
division was the first to reach the goal, Clements’ and Paget’s
brigades were halted a few miles from Fouriesburg, and did not move
again until the 27th, when they entered the place after a feeble
opposition from a few snipers dropped by the main body of the enemy
who, still ignorant that British troops awaited them at the eastern
passes, were retreating at speed towards Naauwpoort Nek and the
Golden Gate. But though most of the burghers were hurrying eastward,
it was necessary to ensure that no detachments should break out
through Slabbert’s, Retief’s, or Commando Neks, and so heavy was the
call upon the infantry to garrison these defiles that Hunter could
only muster five battalions to drive the Boers into the net spread
by MacDonald and Bruce Hamilton. One of these was the 1st battalion,
Royal Irish regiment, which with part of the Wiltshire formed the
advance-guard under Clements on the 28th, when the burghers fought
a rear-guard action near Slaap Kranz ridge with great tenacity and
cunning. The position proved to be a very strong one, and Clements
was unable to oust the enemy from it, though his artillery and
infantry were engaged throughout the day. Colonel Guinness was
anxious to be allowed to seize a commanding knoll in front of the
left of the Boer line, which seemed to offer a good base for an
assault upon the pass itself, but General Clements considered that
the Royal Irish had done enough for the day, and ordered a battalion
of the Scots Guards, recently arrived on the field, to occupy it. At
midnight they advanced on the main position and found it undefended,
for the Boers, after checking the whole column for many hours, had
silently disappeared when they saw that the odds had become too heavy
for them to face. The casualties of the day amounted to thirty-four
killed and wounded, the Royal Irish losing one man killed and five
wounded.[305]

With the encounter at Slaap Kranz the campaign in the Brandwater
Basin came to an end. De Wet had always opposed the policy of
retreating into the mountains of Fouriesburg, but his views had
been over-ridden, and, as mentioned on page 330, he had fought
Clements at Bethlehem to gain time for the main body to complete
its concentration in the valley of the Brandwater. When he arrived
there with his rear-guard, he set himself to convince the members of
his very unruly army that the fastnesses to which they had betaken
themselves would prove not a sanctuary but a trap, and urged them to
follow him in a bold dash into the open veld. His rough eloquence
appeared to convince the majority; his scheme for breaking out of
the mountains was accepted, and on the night of July 15, he made
his way with two thousand six hundred men across Slabbert’s Nek,
and headed northwards, in the full belief that within twenty-four
hours the remainder of the burghers would follow him. But as soon as
De Wet’s commanding personality was removed the Free Staters fell
into confusion; instead of carrying out the plan to which they had
agreed they began to quarrel among themselves; they lost precious
days in wrangling over the choice of another leader, and by the time
that Hunter’s columns were advancing upon the passes they had become
demoralised, suspicious of their chiefs and of each other. Dry rot
spread so rapidly among them that on the 30th, Prinsloo, who claimed
to have been elected General-in-Chief, surrendered with 4140 men,
three guns (two of which had been lost by the Royal Horse artillery
at Sannah’s Post), 4000 horses and ponies, many waggons, a large
number of rifles, and a million rounds of small-arm ammunition.

The Royal Irish saw enough of the prisoners to form an idea of the
manner of men with whom they had been fighting since the beginning
of the year. The first impression was one of utter astonishment.
Was it possible that this motley crowd of civilians formed part of
the burgher levies which for many months had constantly opposed and
frequently defeated the British army? Some were old men with long
white beards; others were in the prime of life; others, again,
were lads not half-way through their teens; none wore a vestige
of uniform, and the majority were dressed in clothes so badly cut
that no self-respecting peasant in Europe would have condescended
to wear them. Yet among the captives every grade of society in the
Free State republic was represented: there were land-owners, who
possessed tens of thousands of acres and great wealth of flocks and
herds; members of Parliament; civil servants; merchants; lawyers;
doctors; and last, but by no means least in numbers, “bywohners,”
or poor Boers, who, as they had no land of their own, were allowed
to squat on the estates of their richer neighbours. The land-owning
class, as a rule, were magnificent men, well-grown, sturdy, and
inured to hardships; constant hunting on their farms had made them
good rifle shots and excellent judges of distance,[306] and, as has
already been mentioned, many of them had served in campaigns against
the Kaffirs. In character they much resembled the British yeomen of
two hundred years ago, for although brave, patriotic, and hospitable,
they were ignorant, obstinate, and deeply distrustful of new men and
new ideas. A certain number of the professional classes had been
sent in their youth to Europe to complete their education; their
travels had greatly widened their intellectual horizon, and as they
did not stay away long enough to lose their sporting tastes or their
hereditary instinct for irregular warfare, they proved a valuable
asset in the Boer army. In dress as well as education these younger
men presented a curious contrast to their fellow-citizens, who were
still as uncouth in speech and manners as the original pioneers of
the Free State, while the Europeanised burghers were dressed in
well-cut Norfolk jackets, boots, and breeches, and spoke English
admirably with accents acquired at the Universities of Oxford,
Edinburgh, or Glasgow. The very baggage owned by the prisoners when
they surrendered showed how wide a difference there was between the
old school and the new. The old-fashioned burghers, however rich they
were, had gone on active service with their few belongings packed in
old and shapeless carpet-bags; the youngsters took the field with
kit-bags or suit-cases imported from England.

General Hunter’s success in the Brandwater Basin, to which the Royal
Irish contributed not a little, was far-reaching in its results;
in the words of the official historian “it removed in a moment the
possibility of attack in force from the west, which had kept Sir
Redvers Buller’s army chained fast to the railway from Heidelberg
down to Ladysmith. True, De Wet, Olivier, and other guerillas were
still at large, but, vagrant and weakened, they were unlikely
seriously to raid Natal across the Drakensberg, an eventuality which
had never been absent, and with reason, from Sir R. Buller’s mind.
None had known better than he how vulnerable still that many-gated
colony was to incursions which would have undone in a few hours the
heavy work of months.”[307] Now General Buller was able to organise
a mobile force to march northwards against the Pretoria-Komati Poort
railway in order to co-operate with Lord Roberts in the invasion of
the Eastern Transvaal, where the remnants of the Boer army still
kept the field. In this great movement the Royal Irish were destined
to play their part, for on the 1st of August Clements’ brigade left
Hunter’s army; on the 9th it marched into Kroonstad, and after
many halts and delays on the railway reached Pretoria on the 18th.
It was one of the peculiarities of the war in South Africa that
no General could hope to keep his brigade intact for any length
of time; so far Clements had been fortunate, but now his turn for
dismemberment arrived, and after bidding farewell to the commander
whom they admired and respected deeply, the Royal Irish were sent
off to Belfast, a station on the Komati Poort line, where they
joined Major-General Smith-Dorrien’s brigade (the 19th) in a column
commanded by Lieutenant-General Ian Hamilton.[308]

The battalion was not actively engaged on the 27th of August in
the battle of Bergendal, though some of the companies on outpost
came under long-range artillery fire from the formidable position
astride of the railway, which Lord Roberts and Sir Redvers Buller
attacked respectively in front and flank. When the Boers fell back
from their carefully prepared entrenchments they retired at first
along the railway; but under the dispiriting influences of this,
its latest defeat, the burgher army soon began to fall to pieces.
One column struck southward; a second hurried eastward towards the
Portuguese frontier; while a third, commanded by General L. Botha,
turned northwards and headed for the maze of hills by which the town
of Lydenburg is surrounded. This detachment made so firm a stand
at Badfontein that Sir Redvers Buller, who had been entrusted with
its pursuit, asked for reinforcements, and General Ian Hamilton was
sent to his help with the greater part of his column. Starting from
Belfast on September 3, Hamilton, after two days’ hard marching and
continuous skirmishing, succeeded in placing himself on the right
rear of Botha’s entrenched line at Badfontein; the Boers thereupon
drew off eastward to Paardeplaatz, a huge mountain within distant
cannon-shot of Lydenburg. As a preliminary to dislodging the burghers
from this new position, the British troops occupied Lydenburg during
the morning of the 7th; in the afternoon, after the bivouacs had
been formed, the soldiers were allowed to bathe in the creeks; they
were splashing about in the water, when suddenly two 6-in. guns
began to fire from Paardeplaatz, ten or eleven thousand yards off,
and an unlucky shell killed two men of the battalion and dangerously
wounded another.[309] The Royal Irish were at once moved to a place
of safety, and for the rest of the day had the satisfaction of
watching the Boer gunners waste invaluable ammunition upon the empty
shelters of the bivouac. Next day (the 8th) Paardeplaatz was carried
by the British troops. The Boers held a precipitous hill, 1500 feet
in height, and shaped exactly like a horse-shoe: the only track ran
to the farthest point of the shoe up an ever-narrowing ridge, cleft
asunder in various places by deep dongas, almost impassable even by
infantry. Two 6-in. guns commanded the path, and lighter guns and
pom-poms were posted on various points along the crest. Hamilton
was ordered to attack in front and to turn the left flank, while
Buller worked round the right of Botha’s line. Although the turning
movements involved several hours of hard marching and scrambling,
the frontal and flank attacks were delivered simultaneously, and
carried the position with a rush. A wing of the Royal Irish (F, G, H
companies, and the volunteers) under Major Hatchell were the first
troops to reach the topmost ridge, which commanded the enemy’s only
line of retreat, a natural causeway a few yards wide, with deep
precipices on either side of it. This road was crowded with Boers,
who, after saving their guns, were now in full retreat; the mass
presented a splendid target for musketry, but just as the men were
bringing their rifles into play down fell a mountain mist, completely
veiling the burghers from their view. To pursue amidst the precipices
in such a fog was impossible; the only thing left to do was to fire
volleys in the direction taken by the enemy, who is said to have
suffered some loss from these unaimed bullets. The British casualties
were small; and in the Royal Irish only one man was wounded.[310]

Hamilton now returned to the railway, and then moved eastwards
towards Komati Poort, over country in places so difficult as to be
almost impassable. For instance, part of his route lay over hills
so steep that in the ten miles between Godwaan station and Kaapsche
Hoop the track rose 2200 feet. To lighten the loads, the wooden cases
enclosing the biscuit tins were removed, and the soldiers were made
to carry their second blankets, usually transported in the waggons.
As the column toiled up the steep inclines, the troops hauled the
vehicles after them by main force, and when the descent began, each
waggon was held back by ten men, who steadied it with drag-ropes down
the worst places on the road. Though Hamilton encountered none of the
enemy, the march was in many ways an exciting one. A company of the
battalion was crossing a railway bridge only wide enough to carry a
train, when the sound of an engine was heard in a cutting hard by,
and an officer who was present wrote--

  “I know my hair stood on end. A scramble ensued, which is rather
  amusing to _look back upon_. Some of us just slipped over the
  edge and hung on by the sleepers, with the torrent, thirty or
  forty feet below, to fall into, and rocks to land on if you
  missed the water. The train was, however, pulled up before
  getting on to the bridge, and all got safely over. I believe the
  rear-guard saw a lion on the last march down the Kaap valley into
  Kaapmuiden. One of the men in my company woke up one fine morning
  to find a snake asleep beside him. It was with some difficulty he
  was able to persuade his fellows he was not a de Rougemont, and
  when at last they carefully pulled off the blankets--the wretched
  fellow was sweating at every pore with fright--they discovered a
  particularly venomous-looking puff adder coiled up between his
  legs! The snake was duly killed, but I imagine that man will
  never forget the horrible five minutes he must have spent before
  persuading those around he was not blarneying them.”

On September 25, Hamilton caught up the advance-guard of the army at
Komati Poort, where an amazing amount of stores and railway plant had
been found, but no enemy. On the approach of the British the burghers
had broken into small bands and disappeared along the Portuguese
frontier; some returned to their homes and either took no further
part in the war or joined our side; others, to whom all honour as
brave and determined enemies is due, reassembled to form the guerilla
bands which kept the war alive for twenty-one weary months after the
Boer army had ceased to exist as a formed and organised body of men.

The troops composing Hamilton’s column received his thanks for their
exertions in a general order, dated October 1, 1900--

  “General Ian Hamilton wishes to congratulate his force on the
  fine work which has been performed by them since they marched
  out of Belfast on September 3rd, 1900. During this period they
  have driven the enemy out of his most formidable selected
  positions--first on the main Lydenburg road, where they barred
  the progress of the Natal arms; and secondly, on the height
  overlooking Lydenburg itself. They have also encountered and
  overcome every sort of natural obstacle, and have carried the
  British flag through tracts of waterless bush, and over ranges
  of lofty mountains to the most remote frontier of the enemy. All
  this has been done with so much spirit, and so cheerfully, as to
  excite the G.O.C.’s greatest admiration, who will take the first
  opportunity of informing Lord Roberts of the splendid work done
  by all ranks under his command.”

In an unofficial letter, written after the war was over, General
Smith-Dorrien stated that of all the troops which came under his
orders in South Africa, “none served me more loyally or gave me
less trouble than the Royal Irish; I have nothing but pleasant
associations to remember with regard to the time I had the honour of
having the battalion under my command.”

The Royal Irish spent a few days in clearing the railway and in
attending a review of the British troops, held in honour of the
birthday of the King of Portugal, and then were ordered to entrain
for Belfast; the journey, by no means an uneventful one, is vividly
described by Captain Dease.

  “The regiment returned from Komati Poort in several trains, as
  there was an excess of rolling stock on the line which wanted
  moving up towards Pretoria. The Boers had made quite a mess of
  things on the railway. They had fired great numbers of trucks
  and disabled a good many engines. The big bridge across the Kaap
  at Kaapmuiden had also been destroyed, and rather cleverly too.
  They had blown down the upper part of one of the piers, got
  steam up in one of the heavier ‘Free State Railway’ engines, set
  it going from Kaapmuiden station, and succeeded in absolutely
  smashing up the damaged pier, as well as the spans on either
  side. The volunteers and C company did most of the work on the
  building of a deviation and temporary bridge, which was taken in
  hand immediately. We left Kaapmuiden at about 5 P.M. on the 30th
  September. As I had had some mechanical training as a boy, I took
  on the driving of the second train, in which were most of our
  officers. The first train was given five minutes’ grace before I
  was told to start. My fireman was a corporal in the Royal Scots,
  I think, who had ‘been on’ a traction engine at home, while the
  second man was also a soldier from some other regiment, with an
  equal recommendation for his present job! I myself had a fair
  knowledge of locomotive work, but (at that time) little of the
  vacuum brake: anyway, I certainly had not sufficient knowledge
  of the work for the job in hand. All went well till we got to
  the deviation and bridge we had made over the Kaap. Here the fun
  began. The road up the other side was at so steep a gradient
  that I couldn’t get my train up it. We stopped and rolled back
  over the bridge. A second try met with as little success. It
  then occurred to my fireman and myself that if we ‘backed’ up
  the grade behind the bridge, and then rushed forward down on to
  the bridge the momentum would carry us over. This it did, but
  the train must have had a narrow escape of wrecking that frail,
  temporary structure. After this we proceeded ‘with caution,’
  going not more than about 10 miles an hour. Darkness fell about
  three or four miles beyond the Kaap bridge. The ‘road’ here runs
  along the sides of hills, with a steep slope to the Krokodil
  Valley, a couple of hundred feet below. Naturally the curves are
  very sharp, and cuttings numerous. I was very ‘jumpy’ at the
  time, not knowing the road and uncertain of myself as a driver,
  and kept the speed down. It was fortunate I did so, for as we
  rounded a corner a group of men on the hillside shouted to me to
  ‘stop,’ ‘danger,’ &c. I jammed down the air-brake hard and shut
  off steam, bringing the train up with a terrific jerk, to find
  the buffer of my engine within a few yards of the rear of the
  train in front. The sudden pull up had caused quite an upset in
  the trucks behind, as the jerk was hard enough to roll everyone
  and everything in the trucks over. We found that the driver
  of the first train’s engine (also an amateur like myself) had
  allowed the water to run too low in his boiler, melting the plug
  over his fire-box, and rendering the engine totally useless.
  We were still talking about our narrow escape when suddenly
  round the curve behind us were seen the front lights of a third
  train. We happened to have no ‘tail lights,’ and before warning
  could be given our train had been run into with a terrific smash
  from behind. For a few minutes the confusion was indescribable.
  Then things straightened themselves out. A piquet was sent
  some distance down the line to prevent another train colliding
  with the third train, and parties went to work extricating the
  injured. The extraordinary thing was that although quite a
  number of trucks had been ‘piled up’ in our train, nobody was
  killed, and only about thirty or forty hurt. One of the latter
  was Deane-Morgan: he had been standing on the edge of a culvert
  when the crash came, and, without thinking, he involuntarily
  took a step backwards, and dropped about thirty feet or so into
  the bed of a nullah. He hurt his knee badly, but no bones were
  broken--another extraordinary escape.

  “We spent that night and part of the next morning clearing away
  the wreck, and at last arrived at Krokodil Poort, the next
  station, in the afternoon. The journey thence to Waterval Onder
  was exciting only to me on the engine, as it was performed
  through the night, but peaceful to everyone else.”

After these adventures the Royal Irish reached Belfast on the
4th of October, and at once relieved the troops then holding the
outposts round the town, where the duty was so heavy that when the
Commander-in-Chief ordered the battalion to Pretoria to represent
Ireland at the formal annexation of the Transvaal to the British
Crown, only three companies could be spared to take part in the
ceremony. Along the whole of the Pretoria-Komati Poort railway, as
indeed on all the lines throughout the theatre of war, every station
was held as a fortress; every train was guarded by soldiers;[311]
every bridge and almost every culvert absorbed a detachment, great or
small, for its defence; while flying columns were often required to
disperse the guerilla bands which threatened weak points on the line
of communication. Until December, the Boers in the eastern Transvaal
occupied themselves chiefly in train-wrecking; but on the 28th of
that month they stormed a strongly entrenched post at Helvetia,
captured a large number of men, and carried away in triumph a 4.7-in.
gun. Encouraged by this success, they determined to attack the posts
along eighty miles of railway; the stations at Pan, Wildfontein,
Wonderfontein, Belfast, Dalmanutha, Machadodorp, and Nooitgedacht
were to be assailed simultaneously, though the main effort was to be
against Belfast, where a great depôt of stores and much ammunition
formed a prize worth striving for. Though the headquarters of three
battalions were stationed at Belfast, the Colonels of the Royal
Irish, the Shropshire Light Infantry, and the Gordon Highlanders
could muster between them no more than 1300 men--a small number of
foot soldiers with which to furnish outposts, guard the town and
guns, and reinforce threatened points on the enormous perimeter of
fifteen miles rendered necessary by the formation of the ground
around the place. The remainder of the garrison consisted of two
hundred and eighty of the 5th Lancers, a hundred and eighty mounted
infantry, a battery of field artillery, and two 4.7-in. guns.

Belfast was defended by three main groups of works, more of the
nature of detached posts than of outposts in the ordinary acceptation
of the term. South of the railway the Gordon Highlanders were in
charge of a long stretch of rising ground; on the other side of
the line the Shropshire Light Infantry held Colliery Hill, to the
north-west of the town; while the Royal Irish were responsible for
Monument Hill, a kopje two miles north-east of the centre of Belfast,
and for one of the 4.7-in. guns, which was posted upon it. These
hills, three miles apart, were linked by a party of mounted infantry
at a drift half-way between them. Early on the 7th of January, 1901,
Major Orr’s detachment at Monument Hill was relieved by Captain
Fosbery, who was in command of his own company, A, and of D company
(Captain Milner); Lieutenant Dease was the only subaltern with the
party, which consisted of ninety-three officers, non-commissioned
officers and men. Fosbery at once began to improve and complete the
partially finished defences he had taken over from his predecessor,
but the number of workers at his disposal was not great, for D
company had just returned from an exhausting spell of train-escort
duty, and as he wished to allow Captain Milner’s men time to rest, he
kept them in reserve and gave them little to do. By sundown, however,
much had been accomplished, and when General Smith-Dorrien came to
visit the post he was satisfied with the progress made, though he
disapproved of the loopholes, which he directed should be altered,
but owing to the darkness it became impossible to carry out this
order, and its execution was postponed till the morrow.

The top of the hill is a plateau about eight hundred yards long, and
less than a quarter of a mile in width: at the northern end a rough
stone sangar, four feet high, enclosed the 4.7-in. gun: farther
to the south a semicircular trench partly surrounded the tents
occupied by D company: a short way down the south-western slope of
the hill a blockhouse of stone and sods was virtually completed,
and scattered along the perimeter of the plateau were eight small
trenches, two of which were not yet fit for use. By the scheme of
fortification the whole of the post should have been ringed with
a strong barbed-wire fence, but at nightfall this portion of the
defences was not completely finished. After Fosbery had sent two
sections to a subsidiary post connecting Monument Hill with the left
of the Gordon Highlanders, there remained in hand six sections, which
he thus disposed for the night. Two sections of A company were to man
the perimeter trenches, with a sentry posted a few yards in front
of each; the remaining section of A with the maxim was to act as a
support in the sangar, from which, as will be seen, the 4.7-in. gun
had been withdrawn; the three sections of D company were to sleep in
their tents, but to be ready at a moment’s notice to line the trench
near their little camp. In the course of the evening a mist settled
down upon the country round Belfast, so heavy that in the town itself
the range of vision was limited to twenty yards; on Monument Hill it
was like a London fog, and effectually prevented patrolling to the
north-east, east, and south-east, where the precipitous sides of the
kopje fell into broken ground, difficult even by day to search with
any degree of thoroughness. Thus the safety of the post was entirely
dependent on the vigilance and sharp hearing of the sentries in front
of the trenches.

Nothing occurred to disturb the garrison of Belfast until midnight,
when heavy firing, beginning at Monument Hill, then spreading to
Colliery Hill, and finally raging at the Gordons’ posts, showed that
the burghers had surrounded the town and were assailing it vigorously
on every side. From information obtained by the British officers
captured during the engagement, it is known that General L. Botha,
who had under him about two thousand men, had allotted to the Ermelo
commando the task of driving the Gordon Highlanders from the southern
works: the Middelburg commando was to engage the Shropshire Light
Infantry at the Colliery, but not to press home the attack until
General B. Viljoen, with seven hundred and fifty of the Johannesburg
and Bocksburg commandos, had made himself master of Monument Hill--a
post which was to be carried at all cost, not only on account of its
tactical importance, but also because the burghers were determined
to capture the big gun which they thought was left at night on the
top of the kopje. Fortunately, during the 7th, General Smith-Dorrien
had decided that it should be dragged down the hill and back into the
artillery lines at nightfall; and thus the gun was preserved from the
fate which overtook the defenders of the sangar in which the Boers
expected to find the piece of ordnance they coveted so earnestly.

Owing to the fact that of the three officers on Monument Hill one
was killed and the others wounded and carried away by the enemy,
the official report of the part played by the Royal Irish is
necessarily somewhat meagre. But, thanks to a narrative prepared
by Captain Dease, and to information supplied by others who were
present, it is possible to form some idea of the desperate struggle
for the possession of the hill. The night piquets were posted at
dusk, and the officers of A company divided the duty between them,
Fosbery taking the watch till 2 A.M., when Dease was to relieve him.
Everything was quiet till about a quarter to twelve, when Dease,
who was in a shelter near the tents of the reserve, heard a distant
challenge, followed almost immediately by the report of a rifle.
Nothing happened, and as nervous sentries often fired at imaginary
enemies, no one was disturbed by the single shot, though, as it
turned out, it was fired not by a British soldier but by a burgher,
who when the sentry at the north-east trench challenged, shot him
dead. Dease was trying to go to sleep again, when two more rifles
rang out; he dashed out of his shelter, and with Fosbery, whom he
met in the fog, hurried to the centre of the plateau to ascertain
the cause of the firing. On the way they came under a sudden
fusilade from a party of Boers who, after scaling the northern and
north-eastern slopes of the kopje, had surprised and carried a couple
of the trenches, thus establishing themselves inside our line of
works. The two officers rushed forward and reached the gun sangar
just as the burghers were advancing upon it.

  “The fog,” writes Captain Dease, “at this time was extremely
  dense, and the position of the enemy could only be distinguished
  by the flashes of the rifles. The Boers at first concentrated on
  the maxim gun, and a tremendous hand-to-hand combat took place.
  Our men used their bayonets with effect, and some of the machine
  gunners (who had slung their rifles in an abortive effort to
  get the gun to work) set-to with picks, axes, and anything they
  could lay hands on. In short, as the men said, ‘it was the father
  and the mother av a fight!’ The enemy suffered so severely that
  they ceased trying to get over the sangar wall, but remained a
  yard or two on the far side, pouring in a terrific rapid fire at
  the crest line of the sangar. It is difficult to be clear about
  the sequence of events, but I think that among the eighteen men
  originally in the sangar there were only one or two casualties
  during the hand-to-hand part of the fight; but during the next
  phase, when the Boers contented themselves with sweeping the
  crest, we lost very heavily, for our fellows, the lust of battle
  on them after the hand-to-hand fight near the machine gun,
  exposed themselves in a most reckless manner, and were with
  difficulty prevented from getting out of the sangar and charging
  into the enemy. The action had continued for about half an hour,
  when the Boers made a second rush on the gun, and being met at
  that point by a mere remnant, forced us back. At this moment,
  as we were gradually drawing back towards the entrance to the
  sangar, 3733 Private J. Barry,[312] who was nearest the maxim,
  picked up a pickaxe lying near it. As he forced his way to the
  gun through the Boers, efforts were made to stop him, and he had
  just time to drive in the point of the pick into the junction of
  the barrel and breech-casing before he was literally swept down
  by a hail of bullets from the enemy round him.[313] As he was
  shot at by about a dozen burghers within five yards’ distance
  and from all sides, I fancy they must have played havoc in their
  own ranks! Fosbery now realised that the position in the sangar
  was untenable, and shouting out to us to ‘charge through the
  entrance and make for the blockhouse,’ led the way. The Boers
  were there in great force, and we were met with a very hot but
  unaimed fire. Only Fosbery, Corporal Gorman, and myself took
  part in this charge; all the rest of us were either killed or
  wounded. About ten yards from the entrance Fosbery, in trying
  to club down a Boer with the butt of his carbine, was wounded
  in two places: I got a few yards farther, and while occupied
  with a couple of the enemy in front was hit on the head by a
  butt-ended rifle, and temporarily stunned: Corporal Gorman, I
  think, surrendered, but of this I am uncertain, as I was too
  busy to notice what he was doing, as he was behind me. When I
  recovered consciousness about ten, perhaps twenty, minutes later,
  I searched for and found Fosbery, who was still alive. I did what
  I could in the way of first aid, but he was hopelessly hit and
  had already lost a great deal of blood. The Boers were so close
  to him when they shot him down that his clothing was scorched
  all round the wounds. A little after this I suddenly ran into a
  group of wandering Boers, and having lost my carbine when I was
  knocked over, was easily collared and put under escort. But of
  this and all subsequent proceedings I can remember nothing. I had
  been singularly unfortunate in the fight in jamming my revolver
  (a Service Webley) as I reloaded it. It was no good to me, and I
  can remember using it as a missile during the charge--I hope with
  effect! A carbine that night was a useless weapon for officers.
  We had no bayonets, and the short length of the stock and barrel
  placed us at a great disadvantage in the hand-to-hand _mêlée_.”

While the support was fighting desperately in the gun sangar
against overwhelming odds, most of the piquets on the perimeter
were swamped by sheer weight of numbers. Their trenches were of
a type found very useful by the battalion in actions where it
had been exposed to continuous bombardment, such as those in the
Colesberg campaign--narrow slits in the ground, 2 feet 6 inches
wide, nearly 5 feet deep, loopholed with a parapet 2 feet in height
and at least 3 feet in width. But excellent as this pattern had
proved elsewhere, it was not a success in very close fighting at
night, for the trench was so deep that its occupants could not see
over the parapet, and the loopholes were ill adapted for firing
on an enemy at a few yards’ range. Around these works parties of
Boers, from twenty to two hundred strong, suddenly loomed up out of
the fog and closed rapidly from all sides upon the defenders, whom
they covered with their rifles, demanding instant surrender. Though
thus caught in an absolute death-trap, most of these little groups
of four or five soldiers showed fight, not laying down their arms
until one or more of their number had been killed or wounded. Here
Lance-Corporal Dowie, a veteran who had served in the Egyptian war
of 1882, met a glorious death. He was in command of a small trench,
which he succeeded in holding during the first assault: he refused to
surrender, though he must have realised that resistance was hopeless,
and with his men continued to fight on desperately until a number
of burghers, rushing in from behind, overwhelmed the party and left
Dowie dead in the work he had defended so gallantly.

The reserve fared no better than the piquets or the support. When
awakened by the sound of battle, the men of D company manned the
broad and shallow trench by which, as it has been said, their tents
were enclosed, though very incompletely. At first the attack came
from their front and right, but after the capture of the sangar had
made the Boers masters of the northern end of the hill, a fresh body
of the enemy fell upon them from the left rear. There was a short,
wild struggle; then the burghers surged forward, and hemmed in the
men of D so closely that many of them could not use their bayonets,
and while the Boers in front seized the muzzles and pointed them in
the air, those behind knocked our men down with the butts of their
Mauser rifles. By this time Captain Milner was severely wounded:
and those of his company who were not killed, wounded, or prisoners
ceased to be a formed body of troops. Singly or in small groups they
tried to make their way towards Belfast, but in the fog they stumbled
across large parties of the enemy, into whose hands they fell. Out
of the ninety-three officers and men of the Royal Irish on the hill
only seven escaped; the remainder were killed, wounded, or captives
in the hands of the enemy. Little more than half an hour after the
first shot was fired the defence had been beaten down completely, and
the only sounds to be heard on Monument Hill were the groans of the
wounded, and the hoarse shouts of the burghers as they collected the
rifles and ammunition and sought vainly for the 4.7-in. gun, which
they hoped to turn upon the garrison of the town.

When the attack began General Smith-Dorrien had only two
companies--(one of the Royal Irish and one of the Shropshire Light
Infantry) available as reinforcements for the posts north of the
line. Both companies turned out, stood to their arms, and awaited
orders, while Lieutenant-Colonel Spens, Shropshire Light Infantry,
at once reconnoitred towards Monument Hill, and before the firing
had quite died down, met a soldier who gave him the grim news that
Fosbery’s detachment had been cut to pieces. Halting his party, Spens
went forward with two or three men to ascertain for himself the real
position of affairs, and, undetected by the enemy, worked his way
up the kopje until he reached a wire fence from which he could see
the burghers swarming over the camp which they were looting. Then,
convinced that the post was lost indeed, he withdrew, taking with
him the men of two small outlying piquets whom the enemy had not
discovered, but who, in his opinion, would inevitably be captured as
soon as the fog lifted. This daring reconnaissance was equalled by
that of a corporal in the 5th Lancers, who volunteered to find out
what had happened to the Royal Irish. He thus described the scene
upon the hill--

  “I left the road and struck across the veld, and by running,
  creeping, crawling, and rolling I managed to get up to the wire
  entanglements which encircled the post. The difficulty now was
  to get through the wire. I could hear shouts and groans, and
  there was some shooting going on, but whether Briton or Boer
  was in possession I could not tell. I dared not go round the
  entanglement to the entrances, as I knew they would be guarded,
  and so by a series of wriggles soon found myself inside the post.
  What was to be done now? I knew if I were seen I should be shot,
  whoever held the hill, so I continued to wriggle and roll on my
  stomach. I soon came across the effects of the fight, the dead
  bodies of the infantry and Boers, and the tents which had been
  cut down on top of the Irishmen. Some one was calling ‘Water, for
  God’s sake give me water,’ and suddenly a dog barked a few yards
  to my right, and I could just distinguish a man. I immediately
  covered him with my rifle, but apparently he had not seen me. I
  remained where I was for some time, and then slowly crawled back
  a little and worked my way to where I heard the shouts for water
  coming from. I soon found two of the Irishmen badly wounded, and
  asked them in a whisper what had happened, but the only reply
  was a piteous appeal for water. I then crawled some fifty yards
  to the cook-house and found a camp kettle with some water in it,
  and slowly wriggled back to the two wounded men, and filling my
  cap with water gave them a good drink. They then told me that the
  Boers had rushed the sentries in the fog, cutting down the tents
  on their occupants, and shooting and clubbing the men as they
  rushed out, and although the garrison had made a gallant fight
  they were overpowered and the post captured. There was a lot of
  shouting going on by the Boers, and I quietly crawled towards it,
  and then there was a shot. Beyond a man standing on the monument
  I could see nothing, and so gradually crawled back to the wire
  entanglements; as soon as I was clear of these ran back to the
  horses, where I found Sergeant Evans and Aldridge safe, and we
  rode back to camp and made our report.”[314]

Along the rest of the line of outworks the enemy pressed home the
attack with great gallantry and determination, but was repulsed
at all important points. The Gordon Highlanders beat back Botha’s
burghers, though with the loss of a small isolated post, and the
Shropshire Light Infantry maintained their hold on the vital part
of their position, though also with the loss of a small outlying
detachment. Only at Monument Hill were the Boers successful, and this
success, obtained solely by overwhelming numbers, they failed to turn
to account. Whether they were dispirited by their losses, bewildered
by the fog, or crippled by the want of trained staff officers to
direct their movements and carry out Botha’s plans, it is impossible
to say, but the fact remains that beyond capturing some scores of
rifles, a few tents, and much ammunition from the Royal Irish, the
burghers accomplished nothing, and retired so hastily with their
prisoners and booty that when Spens returned in the early morning to
Monument Hill he found it occupied only by the dead and wounded.

It will be remembered that Botha’s scheme provided for the
simultaneous attack on seven posts along the railway. These attacks
were duly made, but in most cases they were not serious, and in
none were they successful. The returns prove that Belfast was the
real objective of the burghers, for out of 179 casualties sustained
in the defence of these seven places, 143 fell upon the troops in
Belfast. The Royal Irish were by far the greatest sufferers; of the
three officers on Monument Hill, Captain Fosbery was killed, Captain
Milner was severely wounded, Lieutenant Dease injured, and both were
taken prisoners; while among the ninety non-commissioned officers
and privates eight were killed outright, five died of their wounds,
twenty-two were wounded in varying degrees of severity, and fifty-one
were taken prisoner.[315] The Boers on their side also lost heavily:
in the attack on Belfast fifty-eight burghers were killed, of whom
fourteen fell at Monument Hill.

General Smith-Dorrien, in his report on the events of the 7th-8th of
January, stated that the heavy loss in killed and wounded among the
Royal Irish was “sufficient evidence that their defence was a fine
one.” He specially mentioned Captain Fosbery for his “splendid work
in command of the post,” adding that from all sides he heard how well
this officer had behaved until he was shot down. In Force Orders,
dated the 12th of January, 1901, he expressed his

  “appreciation of the steadiness of the troops on the morning
  of the 8th. He would specially mention the fine defence of the
  Royal Irish piquet at the monument under that gallant officer,
  Captain Fosbery, whose death he deplores, until overwhelmed by
  vastly superior numbers after a hard fight.... He regrets the
  heavy losses, but does not consider them heavy, considering the
  determined nature of the attack. He also considers that had it
  not been for the fog the attack would have been much more easily
  repulsed.”

The General also wrote as follows of Private John Barry:--

  “I would especially call attention to the heroic conduct of No.
  3733 Private J. Barry, Royal Irish, who seeing the machine gun
  surrounded by Boers seized a pick and began to smash the action,
  which he completed in spite of the threats of the Boers. I regret
  to say that the Boers in retaliation shot him dead, or I would
  have recommended him for a V.C.”

The War Office decided to award this honourable decoration to Barry,
although he was not alive to wear it, and it was presented to his
widow to be held as a treasured heirloom in Barry’s family. Thus, for
the third time since the Order of the Victoria Cross was instituted,
did a member of the Royal Irish regiment win this, the highest prize
for valour in the British army.

For several days the garrison of Belfast toiled continuously to make
good the weak points in the defences revealed by the night attack,
and then settled down into the old routine of occasional raids into
the neighbouring country and frequent skirmishes on the line of
communication. A party of the Royal Irish under Captain Grogan had
an extraordinary escape while escorting a train about this time; the
burghers had mined the railway with dynamite and expected to see the
train and its guard of soldiers blown sky-high, but their hopes were
disappointed; a couple of heavily laden trucks in front of the engine
met the full force of the explosion and were hurled off the rails;
none of the escort were hurt, and the greater part of the train was
uninjured.

On February 22, F, G, and H companies under Major Orr were sent to
Helvetia, where they spent a fortnight in remodelling the defences,
and then moved on to Lydenburg as escort to a convoy of supplies for
the troops holding that distant post. Though unopposed by the enemy
the march was very trying, for the rain fell in torrents, and the
road, deep in mud, led across three rivers where the water reached to
the waists of the soldiers as they struggled through the fords. Very
soon after the convoy reached its destination Lieutenant-Colonel C.
W. Park, Devonshire regiment, who at that moment was senior officer
at Lydenburg, learned that a small commando of about seventy Boers
had established itself in a valley near Krugerspost, twelve or
fourteen miles north of the British camp. He determined to capture
the laager, and on the 13th of March issued orders for the night
march by which the burghers were to be encircled and surprised.
The infantry selected for the enterprise were three companies of
the Rifle Brigade, three of the Devonshire, and the detachment of
the Royal Irish, now under command of Captain W. H. White, vice
Major Orr, who had been obliged to go into hospital. They were to
be carried in ox waggons for six miles; then after dismounting they
were to make a long sweep across the veld to avoid a Boer piquet, the
position of which had been ascertained, and on reaching a specified
point break into three small columns, and crown the hills commanding
the laager. The operation was by no means easy, for its success
demanded not only that the troops should accomplish the various
stages of the march within the time allowed by the calculations of
the staff, but also that the guides should lead the detachments
quickly and unerringly to the appointed places.

As soon as the column left the road its troubles began: the surface
of the veld was seamed with spruits, pitted with bogs, and covered
with high grass; it was impossible to move in close formation, and
once the companies had been opened out, it became so difficult to
maintain connection between the various units that when the troops
reached the spot where the encircling movement was to begin, they
were half an hour “behind scheduled time.” The Royal Irish detachment
was now handed over to a guide, who led it along a ravine which every
moment grew narrower and steeper. At first the man seemed confident
in himself; then suddenly he lost his head, and confessed he was
doubtful about the exact position of the laager. The situation was
serious, for if the Royal Irish did not succeed in making their way
to the ground allotted to them in the scheme of attack, there would
be a gap in the enveloping line through which the Boers might easily
escape. Captain White accordingly sent Lieutenant Panter-Downes with
H company up the ravine with orders to push on and connect with the
left of the Devons, while he himself moved the remainder of the
detachment farther to the left to feel for the Rifle Brigade. Just
as the first glimmer of dawn was showing in the east a message from
Panter-Downes arrived to report that he had discovered the laager,
which was not visible from the slope up which White was climbing.
While F and G companies linked up with the Riflemen and gained a
crest commanding the Boer camp, H strove to get into touch with the
Devons, but before Panter-Downes could make his way across a very
difficult piece of broken ground the Boers took the alarm, discovered
the gap in our line, and hurled themselves upon it, not without
success, for though they left thirty-seven of their number in our
hands, the remainder of the commando escaped. Some of them owed their
liberty to the chivalry of the Royal Irish; in the words of the
Record of Service they “would have been shot down had they not worn
long night-drawers and so been mistaken for women.” Though about half
the _personnel_ of the commando got away, all its _matériel_--tents,
waggons, horses, and much grain--fell into Colonel Park’s hands at a
cost of only five casualties, all among the Royal Irish.[316]

In a few days the detachment returned to the railway and rejoined
the battalion, which now had been withdrawn from the garrison of
Belfast to take part in active operations in the northern Transvaal.
Early in the year the Intelligence department had become aware
that the repeated attacks upon the railway were intended to divert
attention from the preparations for a great raid to the southward,
by which General Botha hoped to restore the shattered fortunes
of the republican armies. Lord Kitchener, who on Lord Roberts’
departure for England in December, 1900, had succeeded to the supreme
command of the British forces in South Africa, first sent General
French with 22,000 combatants to harry Botha’s commandos south of
the Pretoria-Delagoa Bay line, and then organised a body of nearly
10,000 men with whom Lieutenant-General Sir B. Blood was to sweep
a huge piece of country, bounded on the south by the same railway,
on the north by the 25th degree of latitude, on the east by the
Stenkamps Berg, and on the west by the Oliphant river. The principal
settlement in this district was Roos Senekal, on which Blood’s
troops were to converge from various points. Three of the columns
were commanded by Major-General F. W. Kitchener, the remainder by
Major-General R. S. R. Fetherstonhaugh; the Royal Irish were allotted
to that under the immediate orders of Colonel Park, who was one of
Kitchener’s subordinate commanders. Leaving the railway on March 27,
the battalion reached Lydenburg on April 11, where began six months
of work as arduous, monotonous, and disagreeable as ever British
soldiers were called upon to perform. On some occasions the Royal
Irish formed part of an outer ring of troops whose business it was
to block every Nek and every drift by which a commando could break
from the net that was closing upon it; at other times, as part of
the striking column, they made forced marches by day and night, too
often to find that the burghers had taken the alarm and had fled,
leaving behind them their womenkind, who they knew would be well
treated by the British. They had to “round-up” great mobs of cattle,
to remove women and children from farms used as headquarters by the
local guerillas, to escort convoys, and to march incessantly “in
a most difficult country over almost impossible roads.” For weeks
together they never bivouacked twice in the same place, and whenever
they found themselves for a few days at Lydenburg or at a station
on the line, instead of resting, they had to build blockhouses. On
one of these brief visits to the comparative civilisation of the
railway the battalion was joined by Lieutenant W. G. Lindsey and
thirty non-commissioned officers and men of the 5th (Irish volunteer
battalion), the King’s (Liverpool) regiment, who on May 20, 1901
arrived to replace the volunteer company which on October 8, 1900,
had started on its journey back to England.

A detailed account of the work of the regiment between April and
October, 1901, would contain so little beyond a list of bivouacs at
places with uncouth and unknown names, that no attempt will be made
to follow the wanderings of the Royal Irish: the reader who desires
to know their exact position on every day throughout this period
will find the information in Appendix 8. At the end of September the
battalion, to use the South African expression, “came off trek,” and
as soon as it had been refitted, relieved the Manchester regiment at
Lydenburg. An idea of the straits to which the men had been reduced
by hard marching will be gathered from a report dated September 1:
“many have no shirts at all, and others have no boots. All the boots
and trousers are in a bad state and will not hold together much
longer.”

Colonel Park took the opportunity of thanking the officers and men
for their services in a farewell order dated October 1, 1901--

  “It is with the greatest regret that the Officer Commanding the
  column has now to part with the first battalion, the Royal Irish
  regiment, the last remaining unit of the original force which
  started from Lydenburg under his command five and a half months
  ago.

  “The splendid fighting qualities of the Royal Irish are well
  known to all, and their magnificent marching powers and the good
  spirit of all ranks under the hardships and privations of active
  service have been the admiration of the O.C. column, and of all
  ranks who have served with him. Colonel Park wishes them the best
  of good luck, and trusts that at some future time he may have
  again the honour of serving with this gallant and distinguished
  regiment.”

Though the war had already lasted for two years, the strenuous
exertions of Botha, De Wet, and a few other Boer leaders prolonged
the struggle, hopeless though it was, for nine months longer. During
this time the battalion remained at Lydenburg, taking its share of
duty in garrisoning the town, in escorting convoys, and in manning
the fifty-five blockhouses by which the place was linked with the
railway at Machadodorp, forty-five miles away. From the regimental
point of view only two incidents worthy of record occurred in this
phase of the war: the capture of B. Viljoen, the Boer general who had
inflicted so heavy a loss upon the Royal Irish at Monument Hill, and
the destruction by dynamite of a blockhouse held by a party of the
Royal Irish.

At the beginning of the year 1902, Schalk Burger, the acting
President of the Transvaal Republic, was in hiding near Dulstroom
with the few adherents who formed his so-called government. Viljoen,
the commander of the remnants of the commandos raised in the
districts north of the Pretoria-Delagoa Bay railway, had been driven
to Pilgrim’s Rest, whence Burger summoned him to a conference to
arrange for the transfer of the “government” to the comparative
safety of that remote settlement. The preliminaries being settled,
Viljoen preceded Burger on the journey over the fifty miles of
country between Dulstroom and Pilgrim’s Rest. This ride, writes
the author of the Official History, “proved to be the last of the
Boer leader’s many adventures. The British Intelligence Department
was keenly watching the vagrant legislature; and ambuscades lay in
many a likely spruit-bed and rail and river crossing. Into one of
these traps--laid by a party of the Royal Irish regiment, sent out
under Major A. S. Orr by Lieut.-Colonel H. Guinness--fell Viljoen
as, having stolen past the outposts of Lydenburg, he made to ford
the Spekboom river.” The details of the capture were as follows: at
about 7 P.M. on January 25, 1902, Major Orr with five officers and a
hundred and twenty of the other ranks was suddenly ordered to hasten
to two drifts, where it was reported that a party of burghers would
attempt to cross during the night.[317] Captain Farmer was sent with
a detachment to block one of these drifts; near the other Major
Orr hid the remainder of his force, posting twenty men in a ruined
farmhouse a few hundred yards to his flank.

By 10 o’clock at night the trap was set, and the soldiers were
resting after their long march over heavy mealie-fields and through
spruits swollen by recent rain, when the detachment in the farm
opened a sharp fusilade on a small number of Boers approaching
from the south-west, and drove them towards the drift where Orr
had established himself. So perfectly in hand were the Royal Irish
that, though they could hear horses galloping towards them, they
remained silent and motionless until the leading horsemen, who
rode in pairs, were almost under the muzzles of their rifles. Then
Colour-Sergeant J. Boulger, who was nearest the road, shouted “Hands
up.” Disregarding this summons the Boers galloped on: Boulger
realising that they meant to dash through the drift, opened fire on
the horses of the two Boers in front: his men followed his example,
and the animals, one pierced by nine, the other by three bullets,
dropped dead, in their fall pinning to the ground their riders,
Viljoen and Bester, one of the General’s staff. Then there was a
short confused skirmish, in which Nel, another of Viljoen’s staff,
and a Cape Boer lost their lives; the remainder of the party, which
numbered ten in all, escaped, though not across the drift. As soon
as Viljoen and Bester had been drawn from beneath their horses, they
were recognised by one of the civilian scouts, who told Major Orr the
names of the prisoners. Between men who have frequently faced each
other in battle arises a curious feeling of quasi-friendship, and the
Royal Irish and the commandos led by Viljoen had frequently met on
many a hard-fought field: moreover, after Monument Hill Viljoen had
treated his prisoners, both officers and men, with great kindness:
therefore, as Orr hurried his captives to Lydenburg he assured them
that they had fallen into good hands, and during the few days that
Viljoen remained at Lydenburg awaiting an escort to the railway the
regiment did its best to make his captivity agreeable. The burghers
were very anxious to rescue him; and one night, writes an officer,
“two or three of them stole into the town to see if it was possible
to dig him out, but finding a sentry at his door and another at his
window gave up the attempt, leaving behind them a clever cartoon of
Lord Kitchener sitting in a zariba of barbed wire, surrounded by
surrendered burghers whom he was imploring to go out and persuade the
others to come in, while floating above him was the spirit of Joe
Chamberlain! The drawing was signed, ‘Phil Jung, with apologies to
Phil May.’” In his report Colonel Guinness specially mentioned Major
Orr, to whose good dispositions of the force at his command was due
the successful issue of the affair, and Colour-Sergeant Boulger,[318]
who had been very favourably reported upon by Major Orr.

The dynamite episode occurred two months later. Among the blockhouses
held by the Royal Irish was one, named by the troops Ben Tor, which
stood on a kopje so thickly covered with big boulders that the
sentries could not watch all the approaches to it. The building
was of stone, roofed with sheets of galvanised iron; and on the
night of the 18th of March it was held by a non-commissioned
officer--Sergeant M‘Grath--and nine private soldiers. About two
o’clock in the morning of the 19th, the two men on sentry outside
the blockhouse heard sounds which they rightly interpreted to be
those of approaching feet. While one remained on the look-out, the
other crawled into the blockhouse and reported to Sergeant M‘Grath,
who immediately stood to arms and manned his loopholes, but almost
before the men were in their places a bomb was hurled on the roof,
which unfortunately being flat, not sloping, afforded the missile a
secure lodgment. In a second there was a tremendous explosion: the
blockhouse was wrecked; one of the walls was thrown down, and every
man of the garrison dangerously or severely wounded, except the
sentry outside who escaped all injury. After capturing this man the
Boers waited for some minutes to see if any one was still on foot;
then, satisfied that no resistance was to be expected, they rapidly
looted the blockhouse and decamped, fortunately without finding the
boxes of reserve ammunition hidden under the sheets of galvanised
iron which formed the beds of the garrison. Beyond stripping some
of the wounded, the burghers did their victims no harm, and sent
off the uninjured soldier to summon medical aid from Lydenburg. By
dawn a detachment of troops, a doctor, and an ambulance were on the
way to Ben Tor, where, says one of the officers, “the place was
like a shambles--too horrible to describe.” As soon as the wounded
men had been removed,[319] the blockhouse was rebuilt and greatly
strengthened.

Nothing of note occurred in the battalion during the remainder of the
campaign, which was brought to an end by the declaration of peace
on May 31, 1902. This is not the place to discuss the terms upon
which the Boer guerillas were allowed to surrender their arms and
return to their homes; to enumerate the enormous sums spent by the
Imperial Treasury in rebuilding and restocking the burghers farms, or
to speculate on what may be the ultimate effect on South Africa and
the Empire of the policy by which, little more than five years after
the last shot was fired in the war, all the rights and privileges
of self-government were granted to our former enemies. Whatever the
future may have in store for England, the Royal Irish regiment will
always have the satisfaction of remembering that throughout the long
struggle with the Boer republics, all ranks worthily maintained the
honour of their corps.

       *       *       *       *       *

The doings of the officers and men who served in the mounted infantry
are in no degree less interesting than those of the first battalion,
but, unfortunately, want of space renders it impossible to describe
in detail the many engagements and operations of importance in which
they took part. All that can be attempted is a bare outline of their
work, with a few instances of the many exploits which the independent
nature of their employment gave them the opportunity to perform.
Though for a time the two contingents were in the same brigade, they
were employed together so seldom that their movements are chronicled
separately.

When the first battalion was called upon to provide a section for
Captain St Leger’s Cork company of the 1st regiment of mounted
infantry, commanded by Colonel E. A. H. Alderson, the choice fell
upon Second Lieutenant P. U. Vigors and thirty-seven non-commissioned
officers and men, who landing at Cape Town early in November, 1899,
were sent up country to De Aar, a place important as a great railway
junction and an advanced base, where large quantities of stores had
been accumulated. Here they spent nearly three months, chiefly on
detached duties, such as guarding the railway bridge at Hanover
Road, outposts, a