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Title: The Story of a Peninsular Veteran - Sergeant in the Forty-Third Light Infantry, during the Peninsular War
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
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[Illustration: ARTHUR, DUKE OF WELLINGTON.]



                               THE STORY
                                   OF
                         A PENINSULAR VETERAN:
 SERGEANT IN THE FORTY-THIRD LIGHT INFANTRY, DURING THE PENINSULAR WAR.


[Illustration]

                                London:
                       WESLEYAN CONFERENCE OFFICE
                       2, CASTLE-ST., CITY ROAD;
                        AND 66, PATERNOSTER-ROW.



                       HAYMAN BROTHERS AND LILLY,
                               PRINTERS,
                     HATTON HOUSE, FARRINGDON ROAD,
                              LONDON, E.C.



The writer of the following pages, in the descriptions of Battles,
Sieges, and Military Incidents, is indebted to the _History of the War
in the Peninsula and the South of France_, by W. F. P. NAPIER, C.B.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                               CONTENTS.


                             CHAPTER I.
                             CHAPTER II.
                             CHAPTER III.
                             CHAPTER IV.
                             CHAPTER V.
                             CHAPTER VI.
                             CHAPTER VII.
                             CHAPTER VIII.
                             CHAPTER IX.
                             CHAPTER X.
                             CHAPTER XI.



                         LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


                                                               PAGE
    ARTHUR, DUKE OF WELLINGTON                      _Frontispiece_.

    VIEW OF ARKLOW                                               15

    VIEW OF COPENHAGEN                                           37

    THE BAY OF CORUNNA                                           62

    GATE IN TALAVERA                                             77

    THE HEROINE OF MATAGORDA                                     87

    BATTLE OF BUSACO                                            112

    STORMING OF CIUDAD RODRIGO                                  157

    CASTLE OF BADAJOS                                           180

    ABRAM RETURNING FROM THE SLAUGHTER OF THE KINGS             196

    MARTYRDOM OF RIDLEY                                         226

    PORTRAIT OF RIDLEY                                          228

    PORTRAIT OF LATIMER                                         230



                              THE STORY OF

                         A PENINSULAR VETERAN.



                               CHAPTER I.

    AUTHOR’S FAMILY AND BIRTH—CONDITION OF IRELAND—THE REBELLION—ITS
      CAUSES—ACTION AT RATHANGAN—MICHAEL MURPHY, THE FIGHTING
      PRIEST—MURDER OF JOHN TINKLER—THE PRETENDED MIRACLE WORKER—PRIEST
      ROCHE—ACTION AT ARKLOW—DEFEAT OF THE REBELS—ENTERS THE
      ARMY—APPREHENDED INVASION OF THE FRENCH—ORDERED ON ACTUAL
      SERVICE—THE SOLDIER AND HIS FAMILY—THE MILITARY ASYLUM.

I have the advantage of being an Irishman. My parents had also the
felicity of first seeing the light of day as it shone upon the soil of
the land which for ages has seemed to possess such passing interest in
the eyes of Britain. Their family consisted of six children: four boys
and two girls. I was the youngest of the whole, and, for reasons I do
not profess to comprehend, was a special favourite. I was named Thomas;
which, interpreted by parental love, was converted into Benjamin, with a
double portion of all that substance so scanty as theirs could supply. I
was born in the small townsland of Enneham, King’s County, in the
province of Leinster, about the year 1790, be the same a little earlier
or later. The exact period I cannot specify; as at that time and place,
and in consequence of the culpable negligence generally prevalent in
parochial registration, very little thought or care was shown in
recording such events.

Those were the days of intestine broil and vengeance. The seeds of
rebellion, which had been sown with an unsparing and remorseless hand,
were just ready to produce their baneful first-fruit. Such was the
jeopardy in which Protestants especially were placed, that no one who
beheld the morning sun arise could safely calculate upon seeing it go
down. ‘Domestic fury and fierce civil strife,’ kindled and mainly
maintained by papal cupidity and violence, raged through the fairest
portions of the country. No one had courage to trust his neighbours; for
no one could tell who was worthy of trust. Mutual confidence, based upon
moral principle, which alone can cement society, was blotted from the
list of social virtues. Not many dared depend even upon former friends.
The ties of relationship, and those arising from nearness of kin, were
frequently forgotten. Natural affection, usually invincible, was
unheeded; and under cover of night, or even in open day, the unwary
traveller became frequently a prey to instantaneous death from the
bullet of some skulking assassin, concealed behind the road-side bush or
brake.

My parents, I regret to state, were Roman Catholics. They knew no
better; for no other teaching had reached their minds. Their membership
with that fallen community was their misfortune rather than their fault.
I believe the profession they made was sincere; and that, though mingled
with the dross of Popish superstition, they were possessors of at least
some few grains of sterling piety. My mother, in particular, was
remarkably constant and fervid in her devotions; and the earnest manner
in which her beads were counted, though I could never detect the
meritorious points of calculation, is to be numbered among the earliest
and most powerful impressions I ever received. My father had for several
years acted as steward to Archibald Nevens, Esq., a gentleman who, at
that time, was the owner of considerable estates in the vicinity of
Portarlington.

Ours was a happy family. My father, though a plain man, was excelled by
few in attachment to his wife and children. ‘Hope springs eternal in the
human breast;’ and we flattered ourselves that futurity offered to our
notice lengthened years of comfort. But we soon found that our hold on
earthly happiness was fragile as the spider’s thread. My father was
taken ill and died. Even now the procession of his funeral is pictured
on my memory. The gentleman already named as my father’s employer had
fallen upon evil days. His property passed into other hands; and as the
purchaser knew nothing of our family, no one cared for the widow and her
orphan charge. A house with every needful convenience had been built for
us by the original proprietor. This we were abruptly ordered to quit.
Another king had arisen, who knew not Joseph or his father’s house. We
went away, weeping at every step. I saw my mother’s tears, and to this
day her low wailing strikes my ear. But though destitute, we were not
forsaken; though in straits, we did not perish; and by the blessing of
Almighty Providence upon the well-directed industry of my mother and my
elder brothers, we were sustained with food convenient.

The desolate condition of the moneyless and unprotected widow was
aggravated in no common degree by the political commotion already
adverted to. Persons unacquainted with the approaching terrors of that
era may imagine that an obscure and uninfluential family like ours had
little to apprehend, that our poverty was protection enough, and that
those who had nothing to lose had nothing to fear. Not so. The conflict
then impending arose from the dark designs of men ‘cursed with a heart
unknowing how to yield,’ and who were bent on havoc and rapine. Personal
robbery might not be planned, but many were ready for that and a great
deal more. Heresy and sedition were closely in league; the emissaries of
each were in ceaseless motion; and the ultimate design was to burst
forth from the unsuspected places of mischief, suddenly, and wide
wasting as the simoon of the desert, and sweep with indiscriminating
ire, from the abodes of their peaceful countrymen, every vestige of
existing government and every temple devoted to the reformed religion,
as by law and right reason established. Perfect secrecy on the part of
the rebels was happily unattainable. Every now and then circumstances
and facts transpired, the tendency of which could not be mistaken.
Hair-brained but hot-headed men became the self-elected orators of
secluded nocturnal assemblies. Liberty and equality and reason _versus_
religion, neat as imported from the French directory at Paris, was the
order of the day. Uproarious vociferation took the place of argument;
and though the majority of these Hibernian gentry were as ignorant of
jurisprudence as the more modern destructionist, nothing less than the
dismemberment of the British empire, and the establishment of a
republic, formed probably on the model of Citizen Robespierre, would
suit their purpose.

All this was designed, and most of it was divulged. Experience has
shown, that where numerous and unequally gifted agencies are employed,
let the pursuit be good or evil, entire privacy is next to impossible.
The parties may promise to be silent, or may bind themselves to be so by
oath; but concealed knowledge is a treasure, of which the custody is to
some communicative souls impracticable. They find themselves in the
possession of a secret; it struggles to break away; but they remember
their vow, and in order to hold it fast, they get a friend or two to
help them. The sons of Irish misrule assumed several names: there were
White-boys and Steel-boys, Oak-boys and Right-boys. Distinctions are,
however, needless,—they were all bad boys; and at length the entire
series were drawn into the wild and powerful vortex of United Irishmen;
it being understood that this body consisted chiefly of persons
professing the Roman Catholic religion.

The storm at length came down, and the consequences were awful. Although
not quite nine years of age when our neighbourhood rang with war’s
alarms, the scenes I was then compelled to witness cannot be forgotten.
I distinctly remember the transactions of an eventful day which took
place in a small town near my mother’s residence. The rebels had taken
possession of the place, and had murdered a magistrate who attempted to
oppose them. At that crisis a squadron of dragoons, stationed at
Tullamore, received orders to march and endeavour to dislodge them. The
cavalry rode into the main street with great gallantry, but were
received by a tremendous fire of musketry from the windows of the houses
on each side; so that, after sustaining a considerable loss, they were
compelled to retreat. Several of the soldiers were killed; and a number
of wounded men were afterwards conveyed on cars from the place of action
to the military hospital.

My poor mother was in the midst of these dangers; and I well remember
that she experienced great rudeness from the ruffian rabble. But the
Almighty preserved her from serious injury. He can restrain at pleasure
the wrath of man, as well as divert it into a new and unintended
channel. That night we were afraid of entering into any house, lest we
should attract the notice of the rebels, who were now flushed into
insolence and inebriety by their recent victory: we therefore crept
behind the foliage of some low trees, and passed the night in the open
air. Our next precaution was to protect the little remaining household
furniture from pillage. To effect this, we buried the most valuable
articles in the earth, as nothing above ground appeared to offer the
least protection. The property thus secreted was saved; but on raising
it subsequently, almost everything was spoiled by the dampness of the
soil in which it had been embedded.

One of my neighbours, John Tinkler, was singled out by these barbarians
as a victim. He was a man of singular benevolence, and held in general
esteem by the surrounding inhabitants; but he was a Protestant, and that
had long been placed at the head of the list of unpardonable crimes. The
house of this worthy man, whom I well knew, was beset by a horde of
armed ruffians, who commenced an immediate attack. Tinkler, in the midst
of his family, consisting of a wife and seven or eight children, though
surprised, determined to defend himself to the last extremity. He fought
desperately, though oppressed by numbers, until one of the villains
posted outside the house, and guided by the sound of his voice,
deliberately levelled his piece and fired. The bullet passed through the
door, and struck Tinkler, who fell dead just within the threshold,
valiantly defending his home and property; and I regret to add, that the
widow and her helpless charge, ejected by some means from the farm and
land, were obliged to seek shelter elsewhere.

These were but the beginning of sorrows. The spirit of ruinous anarchy
spread far and wide. It was particularly observed, that the Roman
Catholics were very much devoted to their chapels. Mass was celebrated
every day throughout most parts of the country; whereas, formerly, it
was chiefly observed only on the Sabbath-day. The chapel of Ballycanoe
was attended by a very numerous congregation at both morning and evening
prayers. Michael Murphy was officiating priest of that parish; a young
man, strongly made, and of a dark complexion, who had been a few years
resident in the place, and not long in holy orders. This person was
master of profound dissimulation, and contrived to throw around himself
the garb of saintly innocence at the very moment in which he was
preparing to smite with the sword. This military saint actually took the
oath of allegiance, in which he expressly declared himself ready to ‘be
true and faithful to his majesty King George the Third, and to the
succession of his family to the throne; and that he would prevent tumult
and disorder by every means within his reach, and give up all sorts of
arms in his possession,’ ‘All the above,’ quoth Michael, ‘I swear, so
help me God and my Redeemer!’ Meantime, in the immediate vicinity and
all around the residence of his reverence, timber was missing out of the
gentlemen’s nurseries. It was observed that the woods and shrubberies
were gleaned of such materials as would suit for the construction of
offensive weapons. In fact, this genuine sample of Popish fidelity, who,
had he lived, ought to have been rewarded with at least a cardinal’s
hat,—this pretended pattern of all that is good and praiseworthy, went
his way from the altar, put down the testament on which, after the
perpetration of his delusive affidavit, his lips had been pressed, and
straightway began to exemplify the inviolability of his oath to existing
government by the manufacture of pike-handles and granting absolution to
those who helped him.

Without going into the history of the Irish Rebellion, which is foreign
from my present purpose, the fact is sufficiently evident, that the
whole of that sanguinary struggle from first to last may be ascribed to
the crafty domination of the Roman Catholic clergy. It is not a little
singular, that three of the most daring military leaders, those I mean
who were principally signalised in the wholesale butchery of their
Protestant fellow subjects, were priests in that persecuting Church. One
of these, named Roche, assumed the power of working miracles. Indeed,
each of them, as occasion required, did a little business in that line.
Roche declared that in battle his person was invulnerable, that no shot
could hit or hurt him; and having picked up several bullets after an
engagement at Ross, he assured his dupes that he caught them in his hand
during the fight. The wily ecclesiastic, true worshipper as he was at
the shrine of Mammon, conceived the idea of turning the thing to good
account by the alternate practice of hypocrisy and theft, for either of
which his hand was ready. He succeeded; and I hardly know which to
admire most, the consummate impudence of the holy father, or the folly
of his disciples. Roche procured slips of paper, each of which he termed
a ‘protection, or gospel.’ In the centre was a figure of the Cross, with
an inscription underneath, stating: ‘In the name of God and of the
blessed Virgin, no gun, pistol, sword, or any other offensive weapon can
hurt or otherwise injure the person who has this paper in his
possession; and it is earnestly recommended to all women to carry it, as
it will be found an infallible preservation against the fatality of
child-bed.’ Anxious to secure customers in every rank, the price of
these tickets to the better sort of people was half-a-crown. As the poor
might haggle at parting with a coin so large, the vendor discreetly
condescended to open a retail trade at sixpence each. The circulation of
this trumpery, the value of which was equal to every other product of
the Catholic Church, was immense; customers were to be computed by
thousands.

Friar Murphy has already been noticed. His career, as has been related,
commenced with daring perjury; and as the progress and end of such a man
may be instructive, he shall have a parting glance. Like his iniquitous
associate, he was disposed to do the wonderful. His campaign, however,
with those of many other villains, was soon over. Bloody and deceitful
men do not live out half their days. It was at the Battle of Arklow, in
1798, that Commander Murphy determined by a decisive movement to blast
the hopes of the Protestant cause. On the morning of the 9th of June,
the rebel army was observed, amounting to 34,000 men, with three pieces
of artillery, advancing on the town. Had this formidable force arrived
only two days earlier, it would in all probability have captured the
place; but, providentially, reinforcements had been procured from
Dublin, so that the garrison amounted in the whole to 1,500 men, under
the command of Major-general Needham. Arklow, considered as a military
position, presented no points susceptible of advantageous defence, and
was altogether open and unprotected. About two o’clock p.m. advice was
received that the enemy was approaching: this was so little credited
that the garrison, which had been ordered under arms, was just going to
be dismissed, when a dragoon came galloping into the town with
intelligence that the rebels were at hand. The drums instantly beat to
arms, the troops flew to their respective stations, and preparations
were made to give the enemy a proper reception.

[Illustration: ARKLOW.]

Having advanced to the suburbs of the town, the rebels set fire to
several buildings, in hope that the smoke would annoy the garrison, and
confuse their operations. Just then the wind shifted to the opposite
quarter, so that the scheme not only failed, but served to confound
their own devices. The action commenced between a column of the rebels
and a detachment of the Dunbarton Fencibles, who were ordered out to
line the ditches on each side of the road. When they had exchanged about
a dozen rounds, the fencibles received orders to retreat, which was
performed, but with a little confusion. On perceiving this movement, the
rebels pursued with loud huzzas, and one of their officers, waving his
hat, called out, ‘Come on, my boys! the town is our own.’ That was an
error. He was suddenly surrounded by the troops, his horse was shot, and
himself wounded; on which he fell as though slain. In a little time
curiosity constrained him to lift up his head and look about; when he
was perceived, and shot dead. The rebels pressed on with obstinacy
worthy of a better cause; but on receiving a close fire of musketry and
grape-shot, they fell back to some distance. They then endeavoured to
extend their line in order to turn the left flank; but the fire of the
Cavan battalion was so severe, that the attempt was abortive. Another
column of the rebels tried to gain the lower end of the town by the
beach; but here they were repulsed by a desperate charge of cavalry,
headed by Colonel Sir Watkin Wynne. They then proceeded in great force
to a passage that led to the centre of the town, which was defended only
by a sergeant and twelve privates: this handful of men, however, made
good their position, and, as the pass they held was narrow, rendered
every effort to dislodge them from it ineffectual. At this critical
juncture Priest Murphy appeared, animating his men to renewed acts of
outrage: many of these, terror-stricken by the clamour of this clerical
warrior, were driven before him to the thickest of the fray. As no new
deception presented itself, he had recourse to the worn-out pretension
of working miracles. He declared, like Brother Roche, that he could
catch the bullets, or ward them off at pleasure; in proof of which, he
advanced at the head of a strong party in order to take a cannon
stationed near a barrack. In that moment his bowels were torn out with
canister-shot. The rebels, on observing him fall, fled with
precipitation, swearing the priest himself was down. On that day a
thousand rebels fell. Their retreat, as might be expected, was marked by
dreadful excesses: they broke the windows of churches and other places
consecrated to Divine service. They had an intolerable hatred to
Protestant Prayer-books, and tore to pieces all that came within their
reach. They carried the leaves of the church Bible on their pikes,
shouting, ‘Behold the French colours!’ and, to complete their impiety,
they put two Protestants to death in the aisle of a church. In other
parts they made saddles of the Bibles, and rode about upon them.

The retrospect of these vengeful days, while it serves to fix my faith
in true religion, as contrasted with that which is false, calls forth
unfeigned gratitude to God for His protecting mercy. Exposed as my
mother and family were to the pelting of the pitiless hurricane, none of
us sustained material personal injury. I have before stated that my
mother was conscientiously attached to the tenets, such as they are, of
the Church of Rome. I never observed anything reprehensible in her
conduct, though no one was more constant than she at the confessional;
neither know I to which of the saints she was disposed, on emergency, to
turn. That she loved the Saviour, and was willing to wash the feet of
the servants of her Lord, I can safely affirm. I can vouch for the
constancy and zeal of her private prayers and intercessions: I know that
the practices of her life agreed with the engagements of her lips: and I
cannot help thinking that she was a noble proof that God is no respecter
of persons; that holiness of heart may subsist in the most defective
dispensation; and that whoever seeks the face of God, through the merits
of His Son, in the path of penitence and faith, even though cumbered
with mistaken doctrinal views, shall not be cast away. The time, the
extent, and the unwitting nature of her ignorance God winked at: he saw
that she erred through ignorance. The eye of His omniscience pierced
through the veil of her mental delusion to the uprightness of intention
that dwelt within; and I believe, through Divine mercy, she went down to
her grave justified by grace, ‘hallowed and made meet for heaven.’

Agreeably with the religious views which my mother had entertained, she
endeavoured to teach me the principles of Papacy. I was, moreover,
frequently taken to mass: but, being young and heedless, one system of
religion was to me as good as another; in other words, I was careless
respecting them all. Indeed, I have reason to believe that my
indifference in this respect was to my mother a source of great grief.
Meantime I had arrived at the fourteenth year of my age; a period,
generally speaking, of no small vanity and self-complacency, and in
which many _men_ think themselves qualified, by the dignity of their
teens, to shake off the trammels of parental guidance. Among others, I
determined to walk alone; but unfortunately I cannot, on reflection,
boast of my first step. Among the youths with whom I contracted some
acquaintance, was a dissolute lad about my own age; by whose enticement,
when only just turned fifteen, I enlisted in the Queen’s County militia.
Not that my conduct, like his, had been openly immoral; yet he had
gained over me an ascendancy I could not resist. Evil communications
corrupt good manners; and perhaps the apparent freedom, the frankness
and gaiety of an open-hearted soldier’s holiday life, had an influence
which, though not acknowledged, was really felt. But, O, my mother! for
when I became a soldier she was still living. I had in this deed of
hardihood well-nigh forgotten her.

But she remembered me; and when I thought thereon, I wept. Never shall I
forget her last, her parting look! My elder brother had settled at some
distance; and on the eve of my departure to share in unknown danger, had
unexpectedly arrived. If bereaved of her children, she was bereaved; and
I know she said in her heart, ‘All these things are against me.’ Her
farewell was accompanied with a prayer for my future prosperity; and I
impute my preservation, under Providence, through life, to the pious
lessons and examples of my excellent mother. On leaving her presence on
this eventful occasion, I was taken before Captain Fitzmaurice, the
officer in command at the recruiting station, and was kindly received.
He expressed himself pleased with my look and healthy appearance; made
several minute inquiries relative to my family, and at once engaged me
as his servant. After serving in the corps about twelve months, I
received, principally, I believe, on account of my youth, an honourable
discharge, while the regiment was stationed at the Castle barrack in
Limerick, and returned to the quietude of home.

Habits of dissipation may be contracted at pleasure; but when once
confirmed by repetition, they are not so easily dismissed. This is
especially true in youth; and I soon found that though I had retired
beneath the roof of an excellent parent, my disposition to wander wide
was still the same. Contentedness of mind I found was a state, not a
place. The roll of the spirit-stirring drum, the glittering file of
bayonets, with the pomp and circumstance of military parade, not
unmingled perhaps with undefined thoughts of ultimate promotion, passed
in review before my imagination, in colours vividly charming: resistance
was vain. To this alluring panorama was added the consideration that,
though only seventeen, I had reached the height of persons required by
regimental rule. In fact, on the 6th of April, 1806, I enlisted in the
43rd Regiment of the line, and in company with several other recruits
proceeded to Cork, where we embarked for Bristol, at which place, after
a rough passage, we safely landed; and in a few days reached the town of
Ashford, in Kent, where the regiment was quartered.

Events and shifting scenes had crowded one after another with such
rapidity since I left home, that reflection was drowned; but the first
night in which I lay down in the barracks, memory began to be busy. I
could not help thinking of the peaceful fireside I had left; and in
despite of my most vigorous effort to shake off the intrusion,
conscience would not be denied, and the image of my mother, deserted at
her utmost need, and pinched perhaps by want, was a source of great
uneasiness. But having passed the Rubicon, retreat I knew was out of the
question. Independently of the conflict within, my situation in the
barrack was not adapted to afford much present consolation. The
sleeping-room of which I was an inmate was an oblong building of
unusually large dimensions, and was occupied by three companies of a
hundred men each. They were chiefly volunteers, and of course young
soldiers. Many were Irish, many more were English, several Welshmen were
intermingled, and a few Scotchmen came in to complete the whole. Most of
these, and that was the only point of general resemblance, had indulged
in excessive drinking. Some were uproariously merry; on others the
effect was directly the reverse, and nothing less than a fight, it
mattered not with whom, would satisfy. Meantime, as they were unable to
abuse each other in language mutually intelligible, exclamations
profanely jocular or absurdly rancorous rang through the building:
altogether, the coalition of discordant verbiage was such as to beggar
all description, and can be likened to nothing of which I ever heard or
read, except the confusion on the plains of Babel. Never will the
occurrence of that night be effaced from my mind. Surely, thought I,
hell from beneath is moved to engulf us all. These disorderly
proceedings, thank God! were of short continuance. In a few weeks we
marched to more convenient quarters, a few miles distant. The salutary
restraints of discreetly-managed discipline spake chaos into order, and
my situation became comparatively comfortable.

How it has happened I know not, but through all the changes of my life,
and they have been neither few nor trifling, I never lacked a friend.
One of the first of these has been alluded to; and another belonged to
the battalion to which I found myself attached, and, though no relative
of mine, was of the same name. He was exceedingly kind on numerous
occasions; and it will be readily believed, that the smallest act of
civility in favour of a mere novice, at the commencement of his military
life, was valuable. The drill of the regiment was severe; but I passed
muster without difficulty, and had, in addition, the good fortune to
attract the notice of our colonel, a fine old Scotchman; and the first
time I mounted guard I was selected by the adjutant as his orderly. This
preference, as I had never seen actual service, was perhaps to be
imputed to neatness of dress, and the condition of my arms and
accoutrements, in which, though only a private, I saw it my duty to be
particular; added to this, I was remarkable for flexibility of limb and
muscular power, thoroughly understood the use of my weapons, and, unless
flattered, had the advantage of a good figure.

That was a period of uncommon vigilance throughout the British army,
especially with regard to the corps stationed along the shores of Kent.
On the opposite side, and almost within sight, numerous and
well-disciplined masses of troops had for some time been encamped under
the personal inspection, it was said, of Napoleon, who entertained the
vainglorious project of conquering Britain. The harbour of Boulogne
contained a numerous and well-appointed flotilla, in which were to
embark the long-expected invading force. In the opinion of the best
judges, the attempt, even with favouring wind and tide, would have
failed. Had the navigation of the high seas by the medium of steam been
understood and applied at that time, a naval engagement, in the view of
perhaps both countries, might have recalled the fury of the ancient
armada, and would probably have been fought upon principles of
destructive tendency till then untried. Not that the result need be
doubted. Had it been possible for a few gunboats or flat-bottomed craft
to elude the vigilance of an English fleet, and shoot a little rubbish
upon our borders, no material injury could have arisen. Not a foreigner
would have survived to tell the tale of his rashness. I know the spirit
of the British army both at home and abroad, and can safely aver, that
they would have given an excellent account of the intruders, or perished
in repelling them. The experiment was not to be made: Providence ordered
that these aggressive movements should begin and end in gasconade. Some
good man has said, that the Almighty places the hedge of His providence
around the abode of His people, and the hedge of His grace around their
souls. My opinion is that these are the defences within which we are
entrenched; and that while we keep within the guarded circle, every foe,
whether secret or open, will be kept at bay.

In June, 1807, our regiment, which numbered a thousand effective men,
was called into actual service; and I soon had an opportunity of
observing the difference between the good-humoured _rencontres_ of a
holiday review and the tug and strife of desperate conflict. This
country stood, at the beginning of the present century, nearly, if not
quite, alone against the colossal influence of continental despotism.
The Emperor of the French, then at the zenith of power and ambition,
seemed determined to compass the globe in exertions to ruin the commerce
and prosperity of England. Its welfare was an intolerable worm at the
root of all his enjoyment; and among other plans in which it gratified
his soul to revel was that of forming a confederacy among the northern
powers of Europe, for the purpose of excluding the vessels of this
country from the navigation of the Germanic waters, and bringing against
it the concentrated strength of hostile navies. In this alliance it was
supposed that Denmark had largely shared; and as Lord Nelson had already
shown that the passage of the Sound was not so impregnable as had been
thought, the British ministry resolved to send an expedition, consisting
both of land and sea forces, for the purpose of capturing Copenhagen,
together with the fleet in that harbour. This singular determination was
defended in Parliament, not by charging the Danes with hostile
intentions, but by urging their inability to resist the increasing power
of France. In the opinion, however, of several creditable writers on
jurisprudence and the laws of nations, the measure is to be deplored,
not only because it is dishonourable in itself, but calculated to render
our name odious in a country where we should otherwise have found
cordial allies. There are some, observes an apostle, that say, ‘Let us
do evil, that good may come.’ Such was the case apparently here, and the
abettors of the act place themselves within the malediction that
followed. The argument of the British cabinet was: It is possible that
our antagonists, who want valuable ships, may seize the Danish navy:
this is the more likely because effectual resistance cannot be offered:
to remedy this awful breach of justice, in respect of a harmless neutral
power, we will save all further trouble, by taking possession of the
property ourselves. An illustration of three lines exhibits the
unfairness of the transaction: A well-armed freebooter pounces upon his
peaceable neighbour, ransacks his habitation, breaks open his coffers,
abstracts the property, seriously wounds the sufferer in the scuffle,
and marches off with the spoil: the burglar then justifies the act,
because he has heard, that unless he make haste, an acquaintance of his,
as great a thief as himself, but a far inferior pirate, with whom he has
quarrelled, has thought of doing the very same thing. The government of
this country supported itself on the occasion by several reasons. They
urged that the Danish fleet and stores, but for the proposed
interposition, must fall into the hands of Buonaparte, who wanted
exactly that kind of force to act against his formidable foe; that
Denmark was totally unable to prevent the seizure of her ships; that
there was ground to believe that in order to conciliate the esteem of
the French ruler, she would willingly yield to his desire; that in
either case the result would be equally unfavourable to this country,
inasmuch as the well-appointed fleet of our northern neighbours would
supply our inveterate enemy with the means of annoyance in which his
greatest deficiency was apparent; and that the rigid, inexorable law of
necessity and self-preservation not only permitted, but demanded, the
previous seizure of the instruments of intended war. But the causes of
hostility between nations involve considerations concerning which a
soldier is seldom called upon to trouble himself. Generally speaking, he
has little right to meddle or make concerning them. While others reason,
he is to obey orders, to fight and fear not; the questions he asks for
conscience’ sake being few and far between.

It was on the morning of a delightful day that we broke up our quarters
at Hythe, on our route to the place of embarkation. The scene was novel
and to myself, who witnessed it for the first time, highly impressive.
We breakfasted on the heights of Dover, and in the course of the day
marched to Deal. On the following morning, we proceeded to Ramsgate.
Boats for our conveyance to the transports then at anchor in the Downs
were moored off the pier-head, and in a short time I found myself on
board the _Sally_, formerly of Shields, which had been engaged by
government, and fitted up for the reception of troops. The embarkation
was effected in August, 1807; and I know not that any event, either
before or since, connected with the casualties and privations of
military life, ever struck my mind with greater force than that to which
I now refer. I allude principally to the strength of affection evinced
by the soldiers’ wives and children, many of whom followed in the line
of our march, and whom it was impossible to shake off, though permitted
to follow to the edge of the water. Indeed many were not content with
that: several women insisted on going with their husbands into the
boats, and actually did so. ‘Father,’ I heard a little child say, ‘shall
I never see you again?’ The grief of separation at last was inevitable;
and on nearing the ship’s side, I saw many an embrace, destined by the
fitful chances of war to be the last indulged on earth.

Having had some experience in the army, and a tolerably extensive
acquaintance with the men who compose it, I cannot permit this occasion
to pass, without pointing out the necessity for and the advantage
arising, in a national sense, from the asylum for the children of
deceased soldiers in the British army, instituted at Chelsea, by the
late Duke of York. No person ever understood and maintained the rights
and reasonable solaces of a soldier better than the then
commander-in-chief. Nothing on earth can exceed the coolness and
intrepidity with which a British column enters into action. Their firm
and steady step has often been the theme of foreign admiration; and in
the clash and hurrah of crossing bayonets they are known to be
unequalled. Yet every one acquainted with the finer workings of human
nature must suppose (for the reflection is inevitable), that on entering
within the range of a shower of bullets, the bravest heart may be
troubled by thoughts of an absent family, especially if left in an
unprotected and unprovided condition. But if the man have the
consolation of knowing, that in the event of any personal fatality, the
shield of his country’s honour and beneficence will be exhibited for the
protection of his orphan family, the tendency of the recollection at
such a crisis is to arm his mind with triple fortitude, and, if
possible, give greater ardour to his moral courage. The mind of a man
thus circumstanced is at once relieved from a load of domestic anxiety;
and having nothing on earth for which to care, but the maintenance of
the national weal, he casts himself upon the protection of the God of
armies, and cheerfully advances to the assigned position, on the grim
and serried ridge of war.

Support granted to the children of a slain soldier is at once an act of
justice and of mercy. It presents itself to the mind, commended quite as
much by the laws of sound policy as by those of genuine philanthropy. In
fact, an institution like that for which I contend may be fairly
considered as part of the soldier’s compensation, and the last reward
for toil and service rendered to his country. This arrear of pay, though
not immediately made, is nevertheless certain; and is to be viewed by
the faint and dying warrior as a kind of life-assurance, granted by the
generosity of his friends at home, secured by public faith, and payable
whenever his children are deprived of their best earthly benefactor. The
little pittance needful for the support of a modest but valuable
charity, in behalf of a soldier’s orphan progeny, is not to be
proscribed under the most rigid economy. To a great nation like this,
which has for ages taken the lead in acts of general beneficence, such a
step would present a solecism utterly irreconcileable either to right
reason or good feeling. Were an hypothesis so eccentric and deceptive to
prevail, every act of charity and almsgiving might be superseded.
Hospitals might be closed; gratuitous education might cease; the stream
of benevolence through its countless ramifications might no longer flow;
pity itself, that gentle though honoured inmate of the human breast,
might be known no more: but to call this economy would be a sad abuse of
terms. Instances often arise, in which judicious expenditure is the way
to effect the greatest saving; while, on the other hand, money hoarded
up on parsimonious and shortsighted motives is sure to melt away. Does
he save who rots the roof of his house for want of a tile? Can the
ruralist talk of management, who reaps just half an average crop, for
want of sufficient manure? Is it not better to preserve health, than
first lose and then try to regain it?

These questions scarcely wait for reply. The affirmation is written
either on the mind or heart of all; and upon principles exactly similar,
the work of juvenile education, combined as it is in the Military Asylum
with the sustenance of the children, and through that with the moral
improvement of one of the finest armies in the world, amounts to an
expression of English liberality and discrimination, the suppression of
which would be a common calamity.

It has been affirmed, and is frequently the subject of sore complaint,
that in some charitable foundations now in existence for the gratuitous
guardianship and instruction of youth, admissions are procured by
favouritism and a species of implied purchase; so that while the gate of
reception is closed upon the hapless orphan, who cannot find an
advocate, the entrance is invitingly open to those whose influence is
sufficiently powerful to command the omnipotent ‘vote and interest.’ By
this means the pious intent, nourished during the life of many a noble
benefactor, is defeated; and, while he sleeps in the dust, the benefits
of his endowment are diverted into channels altogether at variance with
those in which the wealth bequeathed was intended to flow. Not so in the
Military Asylum. It was built in order to promote the prosperity of the
children of English soldiers; none but such are received, nor can
admission be procured in any other form, than that projected by the
impartial and even-handed rules of the institution. It is the widow and
the fatherless whose cause is heard, and whose pleadings win the day.
Another proof of the superiority of the institution arises from the
order observed within doors: this has for years excited the admiration
of visitors, numbers of whom have inspected the school at various
periods. Great and persevering efforts are also made to improve and
elevate the morals of the children: they are taught to fear God and
honour the king, to be grateful to their benefactors, and kind to all.
The services of religion are, in fact, so interwoven with the daily
practices of the school, that serious impressions, unless in instances
of peculiar depravity, can scarcely fail of being made.

One of the most interesting sights imaginable is to see the whole body
of children assemble at the dinner hour. The perfect order and silence
produced by the application of something like military system, the clean
and healthy condition of the lads, on whose countenances no shadow of
care is cast, the neatness of their simple but comfortable uniform,
together with the judicious general arrangement, contribute to form one
of the most pleasing spectacles that the world can afford. Not a word is
spoken, nor is there the slightest irregularity, while in the act of
assembling. The dining tables having been previously arranged, and
plates of food for each _man_ being placed upon them, the youths march,
in single file and cap in hand, along the floor of the spacious
apartment. They step out together with as much trueness as a veteran
regiment: indeed, the steadiness of their advance and simultaneous tread
have a beautiful effect. In this animated procession of health and
vigour, imagination almost calls up their fathers’ forms, though slain
and buried in the battlefield. When the head of each column arrives at
the farther end of the tables, which are placed three abreast, and of
great length, the word ‘halt’ is given. In that instant every foot is
still. Each boy then places his cap upon the floor, when, on a given
signal, the entire corps face about to their respective seats. Having
clasped their hands in a devotional form, which is also done together,
one of the larger lads, placed at the end, pronounces, in a distinct and
audible voice, the ‘grace before meat;’ at the conclusion the whole of
the boys respond a loud amen. The effect is beautiful, and has often
been witnessed by the moistened eye of many a delighted observer. A roll
of, or rather, a single touch upon, the drum is then heard, when the
children take their seats and commence their meal; and, it is needless
to add, enjoy the bounty of their benefactors. A similar ceremony is
practised at the close. The accuracy of all the arrangements, the close
and vigilant adherence to the principles and purposes for which it was
founded, and the admirable provision made for the present and future
welfare of the children, render the Military Asylum an institution of
which the nation may be proud.

[Illustration]



                              CHAPTER II.

    EMBARKS FOR DENMARK—NARROW ESCAPE FROM DROWNING—LANDING OF THE
      FORCES—FORMIDABLE DEFENCE OF THE DANES—THEIR DEFEAT—BOMBARDMENT OF
      COPENHAGEN—PATRIOTISM OF THE DANES—DESCRIPTION OF THE CITY—RUINOUS
      EFFECTS OF THE SIEGE—SURRENDER OF THE FLEET—SUSPENSION OF
      HOSTILITIES—DANGEROUS PASSAGE HOME—LANDS AT YARMOUTH.

The fleet destined for the north bore away from the Downs with a fine
leading breeze. It consisted of forty-two ships of war, twenty-two of
which were of the line, several frigates, and a forest of transports, on
board of which the forces destined to act on shore were embarked: these
amounted to twenty thousand effective men, and were under the command of
Lord Cathcart, while Admiral Gambier directed the naval operations.
After a rough passage, we came in sight of the Danish coast about the
middle of August; and early on the morning of the 16th of that month,
the debarkation of the troops, under cover of several gun-brigs,
commenced. We landed at Wisbeck, a small place in the island of Zealand,
about eight miles from Copenhagen.

Just before leaving the vessel in which I had sailed, I had a narrow
escape. The weather being warm and fine, several of the soldiers and
sailors took the advantage of bathing, and I made one of the number. One
morning, after having enjoyed this luxury, and just as I was
half-dressed, a cry of distress was heard, and on looking over the
ship’s side, a sailor, evidently unable to swim, was observed,
endeavouring to float on the surface of the water by grasping an oar
that happened to be within his reach: unfortunately he was unable to
retain his hold, and immediately disappeared. The sea was calm, and so
remarkably clear, that the spot in which he sank was easily recognised.
Not a moment was to be lost; and, being an expert swimmer, I divested
myself of the clothing I had put on, and dived after him. On looking
about, I saw the poor fellow faintly struggling near the bottom, among
some long sedgy weeds: his head being still uppermost, I seized him with
one hand by the hair, and with the other was so far able to swim, as to
raise both the man and myself to the surface, when on a sudden he
fastened on me with a grasp so deadly, that I was incapable of moving
hand or foot; and had I not been able to disengage myself, I must
inevitably have perished. The struggle between us was terrific, being
myself at that time scarcely seventeen years of age, and he a powerful,
full-grown man. At length, by a desperate effort, I escaped from his
grasp. Deprived of my buoyancy, he sank like a stone. On account of the
length of time I had been under water, my preservation was little less
than miraculous; indeed, one of the officers, and several of the crew,
who witnessed the transaction, had given me up for lost; when to their
surprise I again emerged, and was safely taken on board. Thus was I
given back to light and life; but was the deliverance wrought by the
prowess of my own arm? So I once thought; but the film is taken from my
eyes. It was the Lord Who preserved my life, by the agency of His
overruling providence. The sea confessed His mighty power, and my days
declining like a shadow were graciously renewed. Diligent search was
made for the body of the poor man, but without effect: it had, no doubt,
drifted with the current far from the place in which the accident
occurred, to be found probably no more till the sea shall give up her
dead.

After the army had made good its landing, which was effected without
opposition, one of the first acts of our commander was to issue a
proclamation, in which he announced the object of the expedition,
lamented the necessity of the cause of it, and expressed a hope that the
Danish fleet, then at anchor in the roads, would be surrendered without
bloodshed; at the same time declaring, that if it were not given up,
force would be used to secure it; in which event, he argued, the
innocent blood unavoidably shed would be chargeable on those who advised
resistance to a measure dictated by imperious necessity. To this
specimen of military logic, rendered so conclusive by the force of arms,
the Danes deigned no reply. The government resolved to defend the
capital, and thus convince the world that the country intended to
maintain its honour and property against the assailants, whether they
came from the Thames or the Seine, and show the fallacy of the reasoning
upon which the British ministry founded the expediency of their present
extraordinary measure. Paper contentions and the rivalry of manifestoes
were therefore relinquished; and as neither party chose to recede,
negotiation was succeeded by the rude appeal to arms.

On the side of the invaders, the best understanding subsisted between
the army and navy, and suitable arrangements were promptly made by the
respective commanders for mutual co-operation. Several frigates and
gunboats took advantage of a favourable wind to place themselves in
front of the harbour, taking care to secure a position which enabled
them to throw shells into the city, while the troops advanced by land:
the operations on both elements were conducted with equal vigour and
success. The plan of defence adopted by the Danes was similar to that
projected some years previously, in the memorable engagement with
Nelson. Strong lines of gunboats and praams were securely moored for the
defence of the harbour, flanked at each extremity by the crown battery
and a blockhouse, in which upwards of a hundred pieces of cannon were
mounted; this force, which was judiciously planned, offered formidable
resistance to the British squadron. The Danes fired red-hot balls, and
soon after the commencement of the action several of our ships in
advanced positions were compelled to haul off: they, however, shortly
resumed their places, and poured an incessant fire on the rafts and
armed craft. As it was deemed imperatively needful to put an end to all
resistance on the harbour side of the city, batteries were erected on
shore by the English forces, who opened a well-directed fire on every
vessel in which Danish colours were visible. Congreve rockets flared
through the lurid sky without intermission. One of the Danish vessels
blew up with tremendous explosion, the fire of the others gradually
abated, and in a few hours all opposition from the flotilla ceased.

Meantime the main body of the besieging army pushed on its advanced
posts with great vigour: they carried their approaches to within four
hundred yards of the ramparts, and forced one of the strongest redoubts,
which was turned against the enemy. Having heard that a considerable
body of troops had assembled in order to surprise us, a detachment,
consisting of four regiments of British infantry, with a squadron of
hussars, under the command of Sir Arthur Wellesley, was ordered to march
against it. We found the Danes, fourteen thousand strong, advantageously
posted in front of the small town of Kioge. The attack began on our part
with the usual spirit. Some little impression having been made on the
enemy’s line, the 92nd were ordered to charge. The movement was executed
with astonishing celerity; the shock was irresistible, and the Danes,
unused perhaps to such personality, fled in all directions: numbers,
however, remained lifeless on the battlefield, and many more were taken
prisoners, and consigned to the British fleet.

As this was the first action of any importance in which I had been
closely engaged, it put my firmness to the test. The regiment in which I
served was placed on the right of the British line. The first thing that
startled me was the forceful rebound of a cannon-ball that struck the
ground within a few paces of the place where I stood; it scattered the
earth with violence, but fortunately did no injury, and the impression
of danger was soon erased by the heavy and rapid trampling of a cavalry
charge made in our favour, and which laid many a brave fellow low. Of
those who escaped from the destructive sweep, several sought refuge in a
churchyard, where a large body were overtaken and captured. I recollect
meeting with an exhausted Dane, concealed in the side of a ditch: the
interview seemed particularly disagreeable to him, and was quite
unexpected by myself. I soon put an end to all explanations by
conducting him to headquarters. But after the battle had ceased, and my
spirits became composed, I was subdued beyond all I ever felt before.
This emotion was produced by leisurely traversing the scene of action on
the following day. There lay the dead, just as they had fallen. They
were said to be enemies, but I felt that they and myself were partakers
of one common nature. I saw several Danish women moving with terror
among the slain, anxious to discover and yet afraid to ascertain who
pressed the field. The day before I was among the foremost of those
fearless spirits who dealt out wounds and carnage, careless of danger
and destitute of fear. But when the soul is allowed quietly to look
within; when the hurricane of wrath has spent its fierceness, and
nothing remains, save the desolation it has produced,—views and
sensations are strangely transposed. My compassionate musings were,
however, exceedingly brief. A soldier’s moral meditations seldom take
place; and if nature will occasionally assert her right, the hasty tear
is brushed away for sterner thoughts and deeds.

There is to be perceived among the Danes an amiable simplicity of
manners, coupled with remarkable firmness and bravery in action: this
was conspicuous in every conflict. Private emolument or the protection
of property was never suffered to compete with the measures necessary
for public defence. Life itself seemed of value only so far as it could
contribute to national honour. Gardens, smiling with the choicest
fruits, all but ripe, were cheerfully resigned as the site for erecting
batteries. Masses of soldiery were quartered in the cornfields. The
furniture of several mansions belonging to the nobility was hastily
removed, and the buildings offered to the service of government, as the
exigency of affairs required. The palace of the crown prince resembled a
barrack more than the residence of royalty. The entire people, of
whatever age or rank, emulous only to be distinguished in the defence of
home, came simultaneously forward, with the suffrage of their best
services. This unflinching devotedness, estimable whether in friend or
foe, was met by corresponding energy on the part of the besiegers, who
were persons not to be trifled with.

[Illustration: COPENHAGEN.]

Before I report further progress, a few brief notices of the city of
Copenhagen may not be uninteresting. It is universally acknowledged to
be the best-built capital in the north. Petersburg excels it in superb
edifices, but is disfigured by multitudinous wooden houses, and exhibits
therefore a striking contrast of pomp and penury. Copenhagen presents a
more equable and uniform appearance. The town is surrounded toward the
land with regular ramparts and bastions, a broad ditch full of water,
and several outworks. Its circumference is about five miles. The streets
are well paved, with a foot-way on each side, but are inconveniently
narrow. The greater part of the buildings are of brick, and a few of
freestone brought from Germany. The houses of the nobility are in
general splendid, and constructed in the Italian style of architecture:
the palace, which was erected by Christian VI., is a large pile of
building, the front of which is stone, and the wings of brick stuccoed.
Maritime affairs and the facilities of trade have also received proper
attention. The haven is commonly crowded with merchant ships, and the
streets are intersected with broad canals, by which merchandise is
brought close to the warehouses that line the quays. The city owes its
principal beauty and healthiness to a cause similar to that to which the
renovation and improvement of London are to be ascribed. A dreadful fire
broke out in Copenhagen, in 1728. Five churches and sixty-seven streets
were destroyed; the whole of which, and many others, have since been
rebuilt in modern style. The new part of the town, raised by king
Frederick V., (1746–1766) is extremely beautiful, scarcely inferior to
Bath. It consists of an octagon, containing four uniform and elegant
buildings of hewn stone, and of four broad streets leading to it in
opposite directions. Part of Copenhagen, which is called
Christianshafen, is built upon the isle of Amak.

The British commander, unwilling to injure the city, had hitherto
confined his offensive operations to the adjacent suburbs. It was,
however, notified to the Danes in occupation as a garrison, that unless
the terms proposed for the surrender of the fleet were immediately
accepted, an attack might be expected. On the 31st of August the
platform was raised, and the mortar batteries were ready for action.
General Pieman, the governor, having refused to listen to the proposals
forwarded, a vigorous fire was opened from the batteries and
bomb-vessels, and in a few hours it was observed that the city was on
fire in several places: the bombardment continued with little
intermission till the evening of the 7th of September. By that time
extensive injury had ensued, and it became evident that if the
bombardment continued much longer, the city would be reduced to ashes. A
flag of truce was in this extremity despatched, requesting a suspension
of hostilities for twenty-four hours, to afford time for proposing terms
of capitulation. The reply of Lord Cathcart was that nothing of the kind
could be entertained, unless grounded on the entire and unconditional
surrender of the Danish fleet. This was a bitter pill; but necessity,
which has often laid the mighty in the dust, compelled the besieged to
take it; and in the night of the 7th of September the articles of
capitulation were settled, to be ratified the following morning.
According to these, the British were put into possession of the citadel
and dockyards, all the ships of war and naval stores were to be
delivered up, a mutual restoration of prisoners was to take place,
private property to be respected, and in the space of six weeks the
citadel to be restored to the King of Denmark, and the whole island of
Zealand to be evacuated by the British army. In consequence of this
capitulation, we were put into possession of sixteen sail of the line,
fifteen frigates, six brigs, and twenty-five gunboats, all of which were
nearly ready for sea. A vast abundance of stores of all kinds necessary
to equip or build a fleet were found in the arsenals. It was therefore
necessary to load all the ships of the line and frigates which were
delivered up with masts, spars, and timber; so that ninety-two
transports were employed to bring the property to England.

Whatever may be the opinion respecting the justice or policy of the
expedition to Copenhagen, there can be but one relative to the mode in
which Lord Cathcart conducted it. While he did all that his duty as an
officer required, he was throughout the whole of the operations
attentive to the suffering Danes: he levied no contributions; not the
slightest military excess was committed; and had it not been that the
British army was engaged in bombarding their capital, the Danes might
have taken them for friends and allies, instead of hostile troops. Even
after the surrender of Copenhagen, we were not quartered in it for some
days, the Danish troops remaining in possession of all the gates but
that which was connected with the citadel. No interference took place
with respect to the police or any other internal regulation of the city,
and everything was done to tranquillise the public mind; but all was in
vain to reconcile the Danish government or people to the bombardment of
the capital and the seizure of their fleet in time of peace. As might
have been foreseen, the outrage was deemed intolerable: it is true they
were plundered with comparative politeness,—nobody hurt them when their
treasures were given up; still that did not alter the character of the
transaction: it conferred honour upon the agencies employed, who might,
without any special departure from the laws of war, have added
fierceness to bravery, and wasted what they did not want. But the
national spirit of the Danes was roused to unquenchable indignation;
they considered themselves the victims of lawless freebooters, superior
to themselves only in brute force, and infinitely inferior in everything
else. Under feelings excited by these galling considerations war was
proclaimed between Denmark and Great Britain.

Every one will readily believe, that, notwithstanding the good behaviour
of their visitors, the Danes were by no means enamoured with our
company, and not a little pleased when preparations were made for
departure. We had caused great injury to several of the finest erections
in the city, had thrown down the steeple of one of the best churches,
had created an entire suspension of commerce for a wearisome season, and
having collected as much naval property as we could grasp, and more than
we could carry, were getting it on board the captured vessels with as
much deliberation and order as if nothing more were in hand than a
regular shipment of purchased merchandise. The design of the expedition
having been fully executed, the troops were re-embarked towards the end
of October. On observing the signal for sailing, the whole of the fleet
prepared to weigh and stand out to sea; and when under sail, the almost
interminable line of shipping presented an extensive and magnificent
spectacle. The first part of the homeward voyage was performed under
favourable circumstances; but on nearing the English coast, the weather,
which had been fine, became rough and boisterous. Soon after we came in
sight of land, the regiment to which I belonged, for reasons with which
I am unacquainted, was shifted from the vessel we had occupied to the
_Sirion_, of seventy-four guns, one of the Danish prizes; and though so
near our destined port, we were exposed to danger, greater perhaps than
any we had hitherto experienced. There were on board, beside the crew,
seven companies of the 43rd, amounting to nearly as many hundred men.
Just at midnight, during a gale of wind, when all were wrapped in
security, and the greater part in slumber, the ship struck on a
sand-bank. The shock was excessively violent. Alarmed by the concussion,
which was attended by an ominous straining of the timbers, an immediate
rush was made by the soldiers below to gain the maindeck. To prevent
this dangerous intrusion, the hatches were secured, and a strong guard
appointed to keep them from being forced. The confusion and contention
that prevailed among such a body of resolute men, cooped up in their
berths between decks, and with the consciousness of danger, which they
were not even permitted to view, may be conceived, but not easily
described. To increase our alarm, the foremast went over with several
men in the top, one of whom fell on the shank of an anchor, and was
killed. By the mercy of God we were after all preserved. Several of the
most active soldiers, among whom I was one, were eventually ordered to
assist the crew, whose exertions were beyond all praise. The damaged
rigging and running tackle were all repaired; we contrived, under the
direction of the ship’s officer, to elevate a jury mast, and exhibit
canvas that answered the purpose of a foresail; and though in a
shattered condition, we had the happiness, assisted by a favourable
breeze, to feel the ship glide over the shoal, and swing into deep
water. On the following day, the sailor who lost his life by falling
from the foretop was committed to the deep. The body was carefully
enclosed in a blanket, and placed on an oblong grating, to each end of
which two round shot were lashed. The sea service for the burial of the
dead was then performed with great solemnity; immediately after which,
the grating was lowered from the ship’s side, and, being heavily
weighted, sank with the velocity of a stone. We landed in safety at
Yarmouth on the first day of December, and marched without loss of time
into the barracks, where all traces of our recent perils and exposure to
sudden mortality were soon forgotten, or remembered only for amusement.

Having saved a little money, I was soon able to furnish myself with such
extra articles of necessity and convenience as appeared desirable to a
young man just returned to his native shore, and aiming to appear
respectable. But, alas! I regret to state that my ambition was not
limited to things altogether needful. Surrounded by evil examples, I
became an easy prey to vicious men and their sinful practices. Prodigal
of cash while it lasted, the earnings of many a watchful, hard-fought
day were speedily dispersed; and among other considerations which now
occur to my mind, I am amazed that at the season of life now described,
although just escaped almost miraculously from the jaws of death, not
the smallest sense of gratitude to the Almighty seemed to enter the
minds either of my comrades or myself. That this acknowledgment is
discreditable to myself, I am sensible; but since such was the fact,—and
I am determined to represent things as they really were,—it must not be
suppressed merely for the purpose of putting a gloss upon conduct
essentially wrong. I shall not stoop even to concealment: the advice of
old Herbert is homely but sound,—

            ‘Dare to be true; nothing can need a lie:
            The fault that needs it most grows two thereby.’

Subsequent reflection upon the debased condition of my mind at that time
has shown me, and my experience has borne out the fact, that man by
nature is spiritually insensible, and in a condition that exactly
verifies the declaration of holy Writ. His soul is touched with an
iceberg. The faculties are chained down by invincible ignorance. There
is a moral chaos within; through every power darkness and confusion
reign with total absence of form and order. In the more emphatic
language of inspiration, he is ‘dead in trespasses and sins,’ nor can an
archangel’s voice awaken or revive him. But when the Spirit of truth
shall descend, the frozen heart shall melt, and flow down before the
Lord in streams of contrition and obedience. Equally sure am I that no
power less than Divine can effect the change alluded to. Reason can do
many things; it may distinguish right from wrong, and can prove the
truths on which the distinction rests. But the knowledge of good and
evil is one thing, power to choose the former and reject the latter is
another; and without pretending to unusual research, I fearlessly
affirm, and challenge refutation, that spiritual influence, and that
alone, is sufficient to overcome the spiritual malady of the human race.
Man does not want his heart to be merely mended; it must be renewed. To
attempt the repair of bad principles is wide of the mark: that would be
like decorating the outside of a building, the rottenness of whose
timbers betokens the nearness of its fall. All such trash and lumber
must be cleared away: they seldom pay even for stowage, and the safer
way is to carry them out of sight. A new foundation must be laid, based
on firmer ground, and constructed with better materials. Old things must
pass away, and all things become new. Principles are to be engrafted
which had no previous existence; and this decisive and comprehensive
reformation, which is not to be viewed as an accessory or appendage to
religion, but as its leading feature, constitutes the chief difference
between refinement in morals and actual conversion to God. Some apology
is perhaps due for thus breaking out into meditations instead of
pursuing my narrative: all I have to offer is, that, reflecting on the
goodness of God, I cannot refrain from exulting in the change I have
myself experienced, grounded on the sacred verities just described.
Feeling myself invigorated by the review, perhaps others may share in
the privilege, and rejoice in possession of the same hope. Travelling
through the great and terrible wilderness of this world, I gather solace
from such recollections, and go forward. The retrospect is like an oasis
in the desert; a beautiful green spot, amid the aridity of desolating
barrenness, verdant as the garden of the Lord, and refreshing as the dew
of Hermon.

[Illustration]



                              CHAPTER III.

    ORDERED TO SPAIN—LANDS AT CORUNNA—MARCH TO SAHAGAN—ARMY UNDER SIR
      JOHN MOORE OBLIGED TO RETREAT—ARRIVES AT CORUNNA—THE FRENCH
      REPULSED—SIR JOHN MOORE KILLED—EMBARKATION OF THE TROOPS.

When war’s alarms are heard, the soldier reckons only upon short repose;
and after remaining a few weeks on the coast, the regiment to which I
belonged was ordered into winter quarters. While stationed there, we had
the misfortune to lose two of our officers, both of whom sank into an
untimely grave. One of them fell a victim to the pernicious practice of
duelling, and the other was drowned by incautiously venturing beyond his
depth while bathing. During the time we remained in the neighbourhood
the unceasing kindness of the inhabitants was remarked by us all. In the
spring of the ensuing year we were ordered to Colchester, in the
vicinity of which several regiments were quartered ready for active
service, and expecting daily orders to embark for the continent. The
anticipated directions from London, so impatiently desired, arrived in
the autumn of 1808. We were ordered instantly to prepare for foreign
service; and never, I verily believe, was an invitation to a feast more
readily obeyed. The regiment mustered in full strength, the men were in
excellent condition; a brief and hearty farewell was all we could spare
for friends at home, and in an incredibly short period we were afloat at
Harwich, from whence we sailed to Falmouth to await the arrival of other
transports. In the course of a few days the squadron had assembled, and
immediately made sail. We soon found that our destination was Corunna,
in the north of Spain. The discovery led to a variety of conjecture, and
speculation was busy in marking out the nature of our future service.
The general opinion was, that we should not suffer from idleness. Eager
for the fray, nothing was coveted save a clear stage and no favour;
victory was reckoned on as a matter of course, and as to the hardships
and disasters of a hostile or contested land, every inch of which was to
be fought for, the idea had no existence, or was dismissed as a trifle.
Happy ignorance of the future! where prescience itself, unless true
wisdom had been added, could only have depressed the mind. I am happy on
reflecting that during the whole of our march not a man was missing: no
one slinked, and in the future conduct of the 43rd, no one, that I ever
heard of, deserted his colours or disgraced his country; but out of the
many hundred of gallant fellows that then composed our honourable corps,
how few were destined to see their native land again!

Our voyage was remarkably pleasant, and we landed at the desired haven
without danger or loss. The harbour of Corunna is spacious and safe, and
the town is defended by batteries and guns mounted at all points. The
citadel is also strongly fortified, but both are commanded by heights
within a short distance. Within the houses of the inhabitants there is
little to suit the taste of an Englishman. The weather when I was there,
though cold and chilly, seldom produced the sociable sight of a cheerful
fire within doors; indeed, I never observed so much as a hearth or stove
in which to kindle one. The superstitious contrarieties and absurdities
of papacy have here an unmolested reign. While holidays were observed
with punctilious scruples, for which no sound reason could be urged, the
Sabbath, though guarded by Scriptural injunction, was violated with
impunity. The churches are well built, but the altar-pieces are
disfigured by a profusion of tinsel and ornament. The Virgin Mary is
frequently exhibited in a figure some three feet high, dressed in laced
clothing; the saints also keep her company, some being placed in niches
of the building, and others enclosed in cases of glass, with care
proportioned, perhaps, to the merit assigned to each by their capricious
and fanciful worshippers.

Without in the least entering into political detail connected with the
causes and result of the memorable Peninsular campaign, which is not
within my present design, it may be enough to state, that the expedition
in which I had sailed was planned by the British government to act in
concert with several simultaneous movements in favour of the Spanish
constitutionalists, then contending with their French invaders. Our
arrival in October, 1808, proved to be a momentous crisis; a few weeks
previously Buonaparte had entered Spain, and taken the command of the
hostile army, with the avowed purpose of driving the English into the
sea. He advanced, as usual, by marches prodigiously rapid on Madrid, so
that at the end of November his advanced guard reached the important
pass of Somosierra. This pass was defended by 13,000 Spaniards, with
sixteen pieces of cannon. They were attacked by the French under the
Duke of Belluno, and after a vigorous resistance entirely defeated. On
the 2nd of December Buonaparte arrived in the vicinity of Madrid, and in
three days from that period was master of that capital. Dispirited and
overwhelmed as the Spanish generally were by the presence of the hero of
Jena and Austerlitz, it was evident they were unable, unless assisted by
foreign allies, to resist the advances of such masses of troops as those
now within their dominions. British co-operation was therefore sought
and obtained. Its value and the fidelity of the army it employed had
already been proved in Portugal, where, with a force decidedly inferior,
the invaders were repulsed at Vimiera, with unusual loss.

As a temporary residence at Corunna we had been placed in a long,
uncomfortable building, formerly used as a factory or rope-walk. On the
following day marching orders were received, when the entire division
was put into motion; and leaving the coast, our route lay through Lugo,
Villa Franca, and Benevente. After halting for a short time, we crossed
the Esla, and arrived at Sahagan, where we were ordered to remain. The
light corps occupied an extensive convent built on each side of a
square, in whose immense galleries several thousand infantry were
accommodated; a numerous body of monks, with other persons of similar
sanctity, notwithstanding our heretical exterior, had also taken refuge
under the same roof. On leaving the convent, we advanced in close order
for several miles; when, from the superior force of the enemy, it was
judged advisable to retreat. A countermarch by sections was ordered, and
just before midnight we had fallen back upon the line of our former
route. Here we were directed to lighten our knapsacks as much as
possible, and divest ourselves of every needless encumbrance.

Meantime the advanced guard of Buonaparte’s army had broken up from
Tordesillas, and strong detachments of cavalry had been pushed forward
to Majorga. On the 26th Lord Paget fell in with one of these parties at
the latter place; his lordship directly ordered Colonel Leigh, with two
squadrons of the 10th Hussars, to attack this corps, which had halted on
the summit of a steep hill. On approaching the top, where the ground was
rugged, the colonel judiciously reined in to refresh the horses, though
exposed to a severe fire. When he had nearly gained the summit, and the
horses had recovered their breath, he charged boldly, and overthrew the
enemy, many of whom were killed and wounded, and above a hundred made
prisoners. The brigade o£ which our regiment formed part was under the
command of General Crauford. Just before, or nearly at the moment of our
arrival on the banks of the river Esla, the principal part of the
British forces under Sir John Moore were rapidly passing; the stores
were conveyed by Spanish mules. We were in the rear, and the enemy
pressed forward with such impetuosity, that the chasseurs of the
Imperial Guard were frequently in sight, and, unable perhaps to do more,
captured some women and baggage.

Exposed as we were to the assault of a vigilant and superior foe, not a
moment’s repose could be obtained; and it has seldom happened that
personal courage has been put to a severer test. Permit me to recite an
instance: John Walton, an Irishman, and Richard Jackson, an Englishman,
were posted in a hollow road on the plain beyond the bridge, and at a
distance from their piquet. If the enemy approached, one was to fire,
run back to the brow of the hill, and give notice if there were many or
few; the other was to maintain his ground. A party of cavalry, following
a hay-cart, stole up close to these men, and suddenly galloped in, with
a view to kill them and surprise the fort. Jackson fired, but was
overtaken, and received twelve or fourteen severe wounds in an instant;
he came staggering on, notwithstanding his mangled state, and gave the
signal. Walton, with equal resolution and more success, defended himself
with his bayonet, and wounded several of the assailants, who retreated,
leaving him unhurt; but his cap, his knapsack, his belt, and his musket
were cut in above twenty places, and his bayonet was bent nearly double,
his musket covered with blood, and notched like a saw from the muzzle to
the lock. Jackson escaped death in his retreat, and finally recovered of
his wounds.

On the 27th, the cavalry being all over the river, preparations were
made to destroy the bridge: torrents of rain and snow were descending.
The cavalry scouts of the enemy were abroad, and a large party,
following the store-wagon, endeavoured to pass the piquet, and gallop
down to the bridge. The design was perceived and defeated. Smart
skirmishing was kept up all that day; but the masonry of the bridge was
so solid, that midnight had arrived before the arches could be
materially injured. We then descended the heights on the left bank, and
passing with the greatest silence by single files over planks laid
across the broken arches, gained the other side without loss: an
instance of singular preservation, as the night was dark and
tempestuous, and the enemy almost within hearing. The mine was almost
immediately after sprung with good effect,—I mean the bridge was ruined;
while we marched forward to Benevente, where the cavalry and the reserve
still remained. Here we re-entered the convent which had given us
protection on a former occasion.

During the brief stay made here we experienced a remarkable escape from
imminent danger. The lower corridors of the building were filled with
the horses of the cavalry and artillery, so thickly stowed that it was
scarcely possible for a single man to pass them, and there was but one
entrance. Two officers returning from the bridge, being desirous to find
shelter for their men, entered the convent, and with terror perceived
that a large window-shutter was on fire. The flame was spreading to the
rafter above; in a few moments the straw under the horses would ignite,
and six thousand men and animals be involved in inevitable ruin. One of
the officers (Captain Lloyd, of the 43rd), a man of great activity,
strength, and presence of mind, made a sign to his companions to keep
silence, and springing upon the nearest horse, ran along the backs of
the others until he reached the flaming shutter, which he tore off its
hinges and threw out of the window; then returning quickly, he awakened
some of the soldiers, and cleared the passage without creating any
alarm, which in such a case would have been as destructive as the
flames. I scarcely need add that Captain Lloyd was a man of more than
ordinary talent.

The town of Benevente, a rich, open place, is remarkable for a small but
curious Moorish palace or castle, containing a fine collection of
ancient armour, and is situated on an extensive plain, that, extending
from the Gallician mountains to the neighbourhood of Burgos, appeared to
be boundless. Here the army rested two days; but as little could be done
to remove the stores, the greater part were destroyed, of which I was a
reluctant eye-witness. I am sorry to say, that during this sojourn the
fine discipline of our corps, thus far maintained without a flaw, was
sadly broken down. Some circumstances may be urged in mitigation of the
fault, though, looking at that eventful crisis, nothing can altogether
extenuate the excesses into which numbers of the troops descended.
Exhausted as they were with privation and fatigue, it is no wonder that
they were eager in search of repose and refreshment. Unfortunately, one
of the first objects of attention was an extensive range of vaults, in
which pipes of wine were deposited. In such haste were the half-famished
men to quench their thirst, that shots were fired at the heads of the
casks, which sent them in altogether, so that the choice and heady
liquor ran in all directions, and was ankle-deep on the pavement;
besides which, and this was the most serious part of the calamity at
such a moment, the men, regardless of the potent and intoxicating
beverage, drank it like water. The result need not be told; and I have
often thought it was a special mercy that at such a juncture the
services of the men were not required. Had the enemy approached, no one
could have averted the fate of the aggressors. Unable either to fight or
fly, they must have fallen into hostile hands in all the disgrace of
impotent inebriety. It has often been to myself a source of
satisfaction, that on the occasion referred to I was preserved from the
excesses described. Not that I can take credit for possessing at the
time any extraordinary measure either of virtuous principle or religious
light; yet I was not without a strong sense of duty. The good advices of
my mother were frequently uppermost; and many a time, when hard pressed
by hunger and perilous service, my mind was supported by a persuasion
that my mother was praying for my preservation.

From the temporary mischief alluded to we soon recovered. Sobriety
marshalled our ranks as heretofore, and on the 29th the brigade quitted
Benevente, but the cavalry remained in the town, leaving parties to
watch the fords of the Esla. Soon after day-break, General Lefebre
Desnouettes, seeing only a few cavalry posts on the great plain, rather
hastily concluded that there was nothing to support them, and crossing
the river at a ford a little way above the bridge, with six hundred
horsemen of the Imperial Guards, he advanced into the plain. The piquets
at first retired fighting; but being joined by a part of the 3rd German
Hussars, they charged the leading French squadron with some effect.
General C. Stewart then took the command, and the ground was obstinately
disputed. At this moment the plain was covered with stragglers and
baggage-mules and followers of the army; the town was filled with
tumult; the distant piquets and videttes were seen galloping in from the
right and left; the French were pressing forward boldly, and every
appearance indicated that the enemy’s whole army was come up, and
passing the river. Lord Paget ordered the 10th Hussars to mount and form
under the cover of some houses at the edge of the town; he desired to
draw the enemy, whose real situation he saw at once, well into the plain
before he attacked. In half an hour, everything being ready, he gave the
signal; the 10th Hussars galloped forward, the piquets that were already
engaged closed together, and the whole charged. In an instant the scene
changed, the enemy was seen flying at full speed towards the river, and
the British close at their heels. The French squadron, without breaking
their ranks, plunged into the stream, and gained the opposite heights,
where, like experienced soldiers, they wheeled instantly, and seemed
inclined to come forward a second time; but a battery of six guns being
opened upon them, after a few rounds, they retired. During the pursuit
in the plain, an officer was observed separating from the main body, and
making towards another part of the river; being followed, and refusing
to stop when overtaken, he was cut across the head, and brought in a
prisoner. He proved to be General Lefebre. In this spirited action the
French left fifty-five killed and wounded on the field, and seventy
prisoners, besides the general and other officers. The British loss was
also severe.

_Rencontres_ of this sort had their value, as they served to curb the
audacity of the enemy, and furnished a seasonable sample of what might
be expected in the event of a general battle. Meantime the tide of
superior force, against whose overpowering number it was physically
impossible to present an effective check, came rolling on in waves of
gathering might. Napoleon had arrived at Valderas, Ney at Villator, and
Lapisse at Touro. The French troops were worn down with fatigue, yet the
emperor still urged them forward. He flattered himself, and wished to
persuade others, that he should intercept the retreat of the English at
Astorga; but the destruction of the bridge of Castro Gonzalo had been so
complete, that twenty-four hours were required to repair it, and the
fords were now impassable. After all, the emperor, with whom it was
never safe to trifle, was near the accomplishment of his design; for
scarcely had the rear of the British army quitted Astorga, when advanced
parties of French soldiery appeared in view.

Upon the 1st of January, 1809, the Emperor Napoleon took possession of
Astorga. On that day seventy thousand French infantry, ten thousand
cavalry, and two hundred pieces of artillery, after many days of
incessant marching, were thus united. The assemblage of this mighty
force, while it evinced the energy of the French monarch attested also
the genius of the English general, who, with a handful of men, had found
means to arrest the course of the conqueror, and to draw him, with the
flower of his army, to this remote and unimportant part of the
Peninsula, at the moment when Portugal, and the fairest provinces of
Spain, were prostrate before him. That Sir John Moore intercepted the
blow which was then descending on Spain no man of honesty can deny; for
what troops were there in the south to have resisted even for an instant
the progress of a man, who in ten days, and in the depth of winter,
crossing the snowy ridge of the Carpentinos, had traversed two hundred
miles of hostile country, and transported fifty thousand men from Madrid
to Astorga in a shorter time than a Spanish diligence would have taken
to travel the same distance? This stupendous march was rendered
fruitless by the quickness of the adversary; but Napoleon, though he had
failed to destroy the English army, resolved nevertheless to drive it
from the Peninsula; and being himself recalled to France by tidings that
the Austrian storm was ready to burst, he fixed upon the Duke of
Dalmatia to continue the pursuit, adding, for this purpose, three
divisions of cavalry and three of infantry to his command. This
formidable pursuing force was separated into three divisions, and
entrusted to the command of Laborde, Heudelet, and Loison; so that after
leaving a considerable corps in reserve in the Montagna de St. Andre,
nearly sixty thousand men and ninety-one guns were put on the track of
the English army.

About this period of the retreat an affair took place in the rear which
excited the admiration of all who heard it, and has seldom been exceeded
for cool and determined valour under circumstances the most
disadvantageous. So rapid were the advances of the British troops on
their route to Corunna, that none but men of athletic mould and vigorous
health could keep in column. As an unavoidable result, many of the
weaker men, and some that had been overtaken by sickness, were at some
distance behind. The number of stragglers thus compelled to fall out was
nearly five hundred. They were placed under the direction of Sergeant
William Newman, no other officer being present. In addition to the
personal ailments of these poor fellows, they were little more than half
clothed, and many of them barefooted, so that but for their muskets,
which they knew how to handle, they exhibited an appearance altogether
pitiable and defenceless. Shortly after the army had quitted the village
of Betanzos, an alarm was given that the French cavalry was approaching,
when the men were instantly thrown into confusion by an eager but
fruitless endeavour to overtake the British forces. In this exigence,
Sergeant Newman pushed on a little way to a narrow part of the road. He
there managed to hasten on the most feeble of the detachment, and
detained about a hundred of the best men, whom he ordered to face about
and contest the passage. This was promptly done, and with complete
success. The little corps of invalids, consisting of soldiers from
different regiments, withstood and repelled repeated attacks of the
French horsemen. The sergeant then gave orders to retire, and when again
pressed, reformed as before, and again repulsed the enemy. In this
spirited manner they covered the retreat of their helpless comrades for
four miles, when they were relieved from their perilous situation by the
rearguard of the British cavalry. It is pleasing to add, that the
intrepid sergeant who led this spirited movement was promoted to an
ensigncy in the 1st West India regiment; besides which, by way of
putting him in gentlemanly trim, a gift was added of fifty pounds
sterling.

Thus Sir John Moore was pressed in his retreat with fury that seemed to
increase every moment. The separation of the light brigade already
alluded to, a measure which he adopted by advice of the
quarter-master-general, weakened the army by three thousand men. Fifteen
days; only had elapsed since Sir John Moore had left Salamanca; and
already the torrent of war, diverted from the south, was foaming among
the rocks of Gallicia. Nineteen thousand British troops, if posted on
strong ground, might have offered battle to very superior numbers; but
where was the use of merely fighting an enemy who had three hundred
thousand men in Spain? Sir John Moore felt the impolicy and rashness of
such an attempt; his resolution therefore was, to fall down to the
coast, and embark with as little loss and delay as might be. Vigo,
Corunna, and Ferrol were the principal harbours, and their relative
advantage could be determined only by the reports of the engineers, none
of which had yet been received, so rapidly did the crisis of affairs
come on.

It will be imagined by every person, civil or military, that the mind of
a commander, though of the firmest texture, in the situation of Sir John
Moore, must have been severely exercised; and during this stage of the
retreat the unavoidable difficulties of the army were inflamed by the
unhappy intemperance of several who ought to have known and acted
better. On arriving at Bembibre, the immense wine vaults established
there exhibited such temptations, that hundreds of the men, unable to
exert themselves, or even to stand, were unavoidably left behind. That
refreshment was needed, no one can doubt; but it is more difficult to be
temperate than abstemious; the first healthful draught led to many an
inordinate one. Confusion worse confounded was the necessary result.
There was an heterogeneous mass of marauders, drunkards, muleteers,
women, and children; the weather was dreadful; and, notwithstanding the
utmost exertions of the superior officers, when the reserve marched next
morning the number of these unfortunate persons was not diminished.
Leaving a small guard to protect this bacchanalian crew, Sir John Moore
proceeded to Calcabellos; and scarcely had the reserve marched out of
the village, when some French cavalry appeared. In a moment the road was
filled with the miserable stragglers, who came crowding after the
troops, some with loud shrieks of distress, others with brutal
exclamations. Many, overcome with fear, threw away their arms. Many more
who preserved theirs were so stupidly intoxicated that they were unable
to fire; and kept reeling to and fro, insensible both to their danger
and disgrace. The enemy’s horsemen perceiving this confusion bore down
at a gallop, broke through the disorderly mob, cutting to the right and
left as they passed, and riding so close to the columns, that the
infantry were forced to halt in order to check their forwardness.

Nothing, in the nature of things, can be more mischievous, though it
endure only for a day, or even half that time, than such a violation of
discipline as that recorded. It not only tends to produce discouragement
in the ranks of well-ordered troops, whose resolution, founded on mutual
support, is by such means sadly assailed, but so far as it is observed,
and it can seldom be concealed, it gives proportionate confidence to the
enemy, of which, on this very occasion, there was almost instantaneous
proof. On the 3rd of January, 1809, just after mid-day, the French
general, Colbert, approached with six or eight squadrons; but observing
the ground behind Calcabellos strongly occupied, he demanded
reinforcements. Marshal Soult, believing the English did not mean to
make a stand, sent orders to Colbert to charge without delay. The
latter, stung by the message, which he thought conveyed an imputation on
his courage, obeyed with precipitate fury. The riflemen had withdrawn
when the French first came in sight, and were just passing the bridge
when a crowd of staff officers, the cavalry, and the enemy, came in upon
them in one mass. In the confusion, thirty or forty men were taken; and
Colbert, crossing the river, charged on the spur up the road. The
remainder of the riflemen threw themselves into the vineyards, and
permitting the enemy to approach within a few yards, suddenly opened
such a deadly fire, that the greater number of the French horsemen were
killed on the spot, and among the rest Colbert himself. His fine,
martial figure, his voice, his gestures, and, above all, his daring
valour, had excited the admiration of the British, and a general feeling
of sorrow prevailed when he fell. The French voltigeurs then crossed the
river, and a smart skirmish was maintained, in which two or three
hundred men on both sides were killed or wounded. Night put an end to
the combat.

The reserve at length reached Nogales, having by a forced march of
thirty-six miles gained twelve hours’ start of the enemy: but at this
period of retreat the road was crowded with stragglers and baggage; the
peasantry, although armed, did not molest the French, but, fearing both
sides alike, drove their cattle and carried away their effects into the
mountains on each side of the line of march. Under the most favourable
circumstances, the drooping portion of a retreating force indicates
sensible distress; and on the road near Nogales the followers of the
army were dying fast from cold and hunger. The soldiers, barefooted,
harassed, and weakened by their excesses at Bembibre and Villa Franca,
were dropping to the rear by hundreds. Broken carts, dead animals, and
the piteous appearance of women with children struggling or falling in
the snow, completed the picture of war and its desolating results. On
the evening of the 4th the French recovered their lost ground, and
passed Nogales, galling the rearguard with a continual skirmish. Here it
was that dollars to the amount of twenty-five thousand pounds were
abandoned. This small sum was kept near headquarters to answer sudden
emergencies; and the bullocks that drew it being tired, the general, who
could not save the money without risking an ill-timed action, had it
rolled down the side of a mountain. Part of it was gathered by the
enemy, and part by the Gallician peasantry.

After exchanging several shots with the enemy, wherever appearances
called for resistance, the army retired to Lugo, in front of which the
entire force was assembled; and on the 7th of January Sir John Moore
announced his intention to offer battle. Scarcely was the order issued,
when the line of battle, hitherto so peeled and spread abroad, was
filled with vigorous men, full of confidence and courage. At day-break
on the 8th the two armies were still embattled. On the French side
seventeen thousand infantry, four thousand cavalry, and fifty pieces of
artillery were in line; but Soult deferred the attack till the 9th. On
the English side sixteen thousand infantry, eighteen hundred cavalry,
and forty pieces of artillery awaited the assault. No advance was,
however, made; darkness fell without a shot being fired; and with it the
English general’s hope of engaging his enemy on equal terms.

This was a season of singular and almost unexampled peril. The French
were posted on the declivity of a precipitous range of mountains, with a
numerous body of cavalry to protect their infantry, wherever necessary.
Besides this, twenty thousand fresh troops were at the distance of two
short marches in the rear. Then it should be considered that the British
army was not in a condition to fight more than one battle. It was
unprovided with draught cattle, had no means of transporting reserve
ammunition, no magazines, no hospitals, no second line, no provisions.
In the opinion of competent judges a defeat would have been
irretrievably ruinous, and a victory of no real use. Some have suggested
that Sir John Moore might have remained longer in expectation of a
battle. That was not only inexpedient, but impossible. The state of the
magazines decided the matter; for there was not bread for another day’s
consumption in the stores at Lugo. It is true the soldiers were at the
moment in fighting mood, but want of necessary food would have deprived
them of physical energy; so that to expose an army of gallant but
starving men to the uncertain issue of an obstinate and probably
prolonged engagement would, not only have been absurd in policy, but
have amounted to a wanton and unmeaning waste of human life. An effort,
therefore, to gain a march as quietly as possible, and get on board
without molestation, or at least so to establish the army as to cover
the embarkation, was the most, if not the only, reasonable proposition
to which prudence ought to listen.

The general adopted this third plan, and prepared to decamp in the
night. He ordered the fires to be kept bright, and exhorted the troops
to make a great effort, which he trusted would be the last required of
them. The face of the country immediately in the rear of the position
was intersected by stone walls and a number of intricate lanes.
Precautions were taken to mark the right track by placing bundles of
straw at certain distances, and officers were appointed to guide the
columns. At ten o’clock the troops silently quitted their ground, and
retired in excellent order; but at this critical juncture a terrible
storm of wind and rain arose, so that the marks were destroyed and the
guides lost the true direction. Only one of the divisions gained the
main road; the other two were bewildered, and when daylight broke, the
rear columns were still near Lugo. The fatigue and depression of mind
occasioned by this misfortune, and the want of shoes especially,
contributed to break the order of the march, and the stragglers were
becoming numerous, when, unhappily, one of the generals commanding a
leading division, thinking to relieve the men during a nightly halt,
desired them to take refuge from the weather in some houses a little way
off the road. Complete disorder followed this untimely indulgence. From
that moment it became impossible to make the soldiers of the division
keep their ranks; and in this disastrous condition the main body of the
army, which had bivouacked for six hours in the rain, arrived at
Betanzos on the evening of the 9th. During the two following days Sir
John Moore was indefatigable in restoring the needful order and
discipline. He assembled the army in one solid mass. The loss of men in
the march from Lugo to Betanzos had been greater than in all the former
part of the retreat; so that the infantry then in column did not much
exceed fourteen thousand men.

[Illustration: BAY OF CORUNNA.]

As the troops approached Corunna, many an anxious look was directed
towards the harbour. _Nothing was to be discovered but the wide waste of
water._ The painful truth became evident, that contrary winds had
detained at Vigo the fleet on board of whose ships the forces sought to
embark; so that after one of the severest and most prolonged tests to
which human endurance could be submitted, and the consuming exertions,
pushed on through storm and tempest, of many wearisome days, the whole
was rendered nugatory by an event over which human foresight or power
had no control; and the point to which they had fought their way,
instead of presenting the means of effectual retreat, became a _cul de
sac_, or place leading nowhere. The men were immediately put into
quarters, and their leader awaited the progress of events. Three
divisions occupied the town and suburbs; the reserve was posted with its
left at the village of El Burgo, and its right on the road of St. Jago
de Compostella. For twelve days these hardy soldiers had covered the
retreat, during which time they had traversed eighty miles of road in
two marches, passed several nights under arms in the snow of the
mountains, were seven times engaged with the enemy; and they now
assembled at the outposts, having fewer men missing from the ranks than
any other division of the army. The bridge of El Burgo was immediately
destroyed, and an engineer was sent to blow up that of Combria, situated
a few miles up the Mero river. This officer was mortified at the former
failures, and so anxious to perform his duty in an effectual manner,
that he remained too near the mine, and was killed by the explosion.
This was followed by the destruction of an immense quantity of
combustible material. Three miles from the town four thousand barrels of
powder were piled in a magazine built on a hill; a smaller quantity
collected in another storehouse was at some distance from the first: to
prevent these magazines from falling into the hands of the enemy, they
were both fired on the 13th. The inferior one blew up with a terrible
noise, and shook the houses in the town; but when the train reached the
great store, there ensued a crash like the bursting forth of a
volcano—the earth trembled for miles, the rocks were torn from their
bases, and the agitated waters rolled the vessels as in a storm. A vast
column of smoke and dust, shooting out fiery sparks from its sides,
arose perpendicularly and slowly to a great height, and then a shower of
stones, and fragments of all kinds bursting out of it with a roaring
sound, killed several persons who remained too near the spot. A
stillness, interrupted only by the lashing of the waves on the shore,
succeeded, and the business of the war went on.

The plot now rapidly thickened. Hemmed in by the gathering forces of the
numerous French corps, whose advance had been hastened by prodigious
sacrifices, both of men and means, the handful of British troops,
thinned by recent losses, and worn down by the length of a harassed and
contested march, were now cooped within the surface of a few square
miles. Negotiation with the enemy, having for its object the permissive
embarkation of the army, had been intimated to the commander by some of
the officers as a prudent step, under the continued and increasing
difficulties of the army, but was properly rejected, with that high
spirit and clear judgment which was safely founded on an intimate
knowledge of the army he commanded, and the resistance it could offer,
even in its dangerous and unfavourable position. The enemy having
collected in force on the Mero, it became necessary to choose a position
of battle. A chain of rocky elevations, commencing on the sea-coast, and
ending on the Mero, just behind the village of El Burgo, offered an
advantageous line of defence; but this ridge was too extensive for the
British army, and, if not wholly occupied, the French might have turned
it by the right, and moved along a succession of eminences to the gates
of Corunna. There was no alternative but to take post on an inferior
range, enclosed, as it were, within the other, and completely commanded
by it within cannon-shot. The French army had been so exhausted by toil,
that it was not completely assembled on the Mero before the 12th. The
same evening the expected transports from Vigo hove in sight, and soon
after entered the harbour of Corunna; and the dismounted cavalry, the
sick, all the best of the horses, and fifty-two pieces of artillery were
embarked during the night; eight British and four Spanish guns were,
however, retained on shore, ready for action. Towards evening on the
15th, the English piquets opposite the right of the French got engaged,
and being galled by the fire of two guns, Colonel M’Kenzie, of the 5th,
at the head of some companies, endeavoured to seize the battery, when a
line of infantry, hitherto concealed by some stone walls, arose, and
poured in such a fire of musketry, that the colonel was killed, and his
men forced back with loss.

The morning of the 16th at length arose. All the encumbrances of the
army had been shipped on the preceding night, and every measure that
prudence could suggest was adopted for the safe and expeditious
embarkation of the men, whenever the darkness would permit them to move
without being perceived; but about two o’clock in the afternoon every
one saw that these preparations, though skilfully arranged, would not
then be required. A general movement along the French line gave notice
of immediate action, and nothing remained on our side but to give them a
proper reception. The British infantry, fourteen thousand five hundred
strong, occupied the inferior range of hills already named. The French
force could not be less than twenty thousand men; and the Duke of
Dalmatia, having made his disposition, lost little time in idle
evolutions. His lighter guns being distributed along the front of his
line, a heavy fire was opened from the battery on his left, when three
solid masses of infantry led to the assault. A cloud of skirmishers led
the way, and the British piquets being driven back in disorder, the
village of Elvina was carried by the first column, which afterwards
dividing, one-half pushed on against Baird’s front, the other turned his
right by the valley. The second column made for the centre. The third
engaged the left by the village of Palavia Abaxo. The weight of the
French guns overmatched the English six-pounders, and their shot swept
the position to the centre. The ground about the village of Elvina was
intersected by stone walls and hollow roads: a severe scrambling fight
ensued, but in half an hour the French were borne back with great loss.
The 50th regiment entered the village with them, and after a second
struggle drove them to some distance beyond it. Meanwhile, the general,
bringing up a battalion of the brigade of Guards to fill the space in
the line left vacant by those two regiments, the 42nd mistook his
intentions, and at that moment the enemy, being reinforced, renewed the
fight beyond the village; the officer commanding the 50th was wounded
and taken prisoner, and Elvina became the scene of another struggle.
This being observed by the commander-in-chief, he addressed a few
animating words to the 42nd, and caused it to return to the attack.
General Paget, with the reserve, now descended into the valley, and the
line of skirmishers being thus supported vigorously checked the advance
of the enemy’s troops in that quarter, while the 4th regiment galled
their flank. A furious action now ensued along the entire line, in the
valley and on the hills.

Sir John Moore, while earnestly watching the result of the battle about
the village of Elvina, was struck on the left breast by a cannon-shot.
The shock threw him from his horse with violence. He rose again in a
sitting posture. His eye was still fixed on the regiments engaged in his
front; and in a few moments, when he was satisfied that the troops were
gaining ground, his countenance brightened, and he suffered himself to
be taken to the rear. The dreadful nature of the injury he had received
was then noticed; the shoulder was shattered in pieces, and the muscles
of the breast torn into long strips, which were interlaced by their
recoil from the strain and dragging of the shot. As the soldiers placed
him in a blanket his sword got entangled, and the hilt entered the
wound. Captain Hardinge, a staff officer, who was near, attempted to
take it off; but the dying man stopped him, saying: ‘_It is as well as
it is. I had rather it should go out of the field with me._’ In that
manner Sir John was borne from the fight.

During this time the army was rapidly gaining ground. The reserve,
overthrowing everything in the valley, and obliging Houssaye’s dragoons,
who had dismounted, to retire, turned the enemy’s left, and even
approached the eminence upon which the great battery was erected. On the
left, Colonel Nicholls, at the head of some companies of the 14th,
carried Palavia Abaxo, and in the centre the obstinate dispute for
Elvina terminated in favour of the British; so that when the night set
in, their line was considerably beyond the position of the morning, and
the French were falling back in confusion. On the other hand, to
continue the action in the dark was a dangerous experiment; for the
French were still the more numerous, and their ground was strong. The
disorder they were in offered so favourable an opportunity to get on
board the ships, that Sir John Hope, upon whom the command of the army
had devolved, satisfied with having repulsed the attack, judged it more
prudent to pursue the original plan of embarking during the night. That
operation was effected without delay; the arrangements being complete,
no confusion or difficulty occurred. The piquets kindling a number of
fires covered the retreat of the columns, and were themselves withdrawn
at day-break, and embarked under the protection of General Hill’s
brigade, which was posted near the ramparts of the town. When the
morning dawned, the French, observing that the British had abandoned
their position, pushed forward some battalions to the height of St.
Lucie, and succeeded in establishing a battery, which, playing upon the
shipping in the harbour, caused a great deal of disorder among the
transports. Several masters cut their cables, and four vessels went on
shore; but the troops being immediately removed by the men-of-war’s
boats, the stranded vessels were burnt, and the whole fleet at last got
away.

Thus ended the retreat to Corunna. From the spot where he fell, Sir John
Moore was carried to the town by a party of soldiers. The blood flowed
fast, and the torture of the wound increased; but such was the firmness
of his mind that those about him expressed a hope that his hurt was not
mortal. Hearing this, he looked steadfastly at the injury for a moment,
and then said: ‘No; I feel that to be impossible.’ Several times he
caused his attendants to stop and turn him round, that he might behold
the field of battle; and when the firing indicated the advance of the
British, he expressed his satisfaction, and permitted the bearers to
proceed. Being brought to his lodgings, the surgeons examined the wound;
but there was no hope. The pain increased, and he spake with great
difficulty. His countenance continued firm, and his thoughts clear; only
once, when he spake of his mother, he became agitated. The fight was
scarcely ended when his corpse, wrapped in a military cloak, was
interred by the officers of his staff in the citadel of Corunna. The
guns of the enemy paid his funeral honours; and Soult, with a noble
feeling of respect for his valour, raised a monument to his memory.

Through the whole of this eventful retreat I was mercifully preserved
from grievous injury. The privations of the army were shared by all; and
to these I was no stranger. Many miles of road through which our route
lay were nearly deserted by the inhabitants, who, unknowing whom to
trust, were afraid both of friend and foe; hence arose great scarcity of
provisions. It often happened that long before we had appeared tidings
of our approach had induced the entire population of the district to
disappear, and with it all vestiges of food. Wine might occasionally be
obtained, and sometimes in profusion; but I had observed that when our
men had indulged in strong liquor, with little or no solid food, the
effect was injurious, so that on the following day, when the excitement
had subsided, they were unable to keep our pace: diminished strength
thus compelled them to drop off, and not a few were actually picked up
by the French, who hung on our rear. Another serious difficulty arose
from the circumstance that our retreat was conducted in winter. The
roads for an immense distance had been torn into deep ruts by the wheels
of the baggage-wagons and cannon, and rendered rough by the trampling of
cavalry horses; severe frost then set in, when the rough and rugged
surface was suddenly hardened into ice. Meantime my shoes were worn out,
and as they would no longer hold together, I was compelled to march
barefooted. This was severe, and the sensation produced was singularly
painful. In the frozen condition of the ground every step seemed to
place my feet on flint: scarcely able to move, and yet forbidden to
stay, the sergeant of my company, a worthy fellow, proposed to lend me a
pair of shoes, but his kindness was unavailing; on attempting to put
them on, they would not fit my feet. How it was that I was sustained
under these difficulties, I knew not then; but now I know: the Almighty
was my support, though I was heedless of His help. ‘His arm unseen
conveyed me safe’; and I feel at this moment some satisfaction, which I
hope may be pardoned, that though heavily pressed with the sufferings of
those days, I never fell out of the line of march, or impeded the public
service by imbecility of purpose or disposition to flinch from duty.
Previous to embarkation I was provided with the article needed; and,
praised be the Lord! I have never wanted a pair of shoes from that day
to this. On getting into the boat which conveyed me on board the ship,
determined to forget my former vexations, I threw my old shoes into the
sea, and there, like my past troubles, they were soon out of sight and
forgotten.



                              CHAPTER IV.

    DISASTERS OF THE RETREAT—VOYAGE HOME IN THE HINDOSTAN—ORDERED TO
      PORTUGAL—LANDED AT LISBON—ARRIVAL AT TALAVERA—THE HEROINE OF
      MATAGORDA—SIEGE OF CIUDAD RODRIGO BY THE FRENCH—THE DEFENCE OF
      LISBON—CAPTAIN GUACHÉ—GALLANTRY OF GENERAL CRAUFORD—TERRIBLE
      COMBAT AT BARBA DEL PUERCO.

During a violent snow-storm which overtook us on our march upon Corunna,
several of my comrades, and myself among the rest, wearied with fatigue,
took refuge one evening in a small out-house or hovel, as it afforded
temporary shelter from the descending storm. There we resolved to pass
the night; and having gathered a few sticks, we placed them in the
middle of the shed, and kindled a fire for mutual benefit. In the course
of the night we were surprised by hearing a rap at the door, accompanied
by the weak tone of some one craving admission. Half a dozen voices
instantly exclaimed: ‘Come in!’ when, lo! a woman, recognised as the
wife of a soldier, but hardly able to stand, crept into the shed, and
asked protection from the hurricane that was loudly howling along the
sierra. Had Satan himself begged an entrance at such a moment, we should
scarcely have been able to repress our pity. The poor, wandering woman
was received with rough but honest sympathy, and was invited to approach
the fire. When able to speak she asked for a certain company, to which
her husband belonged; we told her it was considerably in advance, and at
present out of her reach. Modesty prevented the poor creature from
further explanation; when, to the surprise of the men present, the weak
cry of a child was heard. The fact was, the mother had in the course of
the preceding day given birth to an infant while on the snowy ridge of a
desolate mountainous tract, and without the company of a single human
being; and yet, so far all was well: there is One Who tempers the wind
to the shorn lamb. The lives both of the mother and her offspring were
likely to survive. English soldiers know how to feel, nor are they quite
destitute of discretion; they may be rather rough in manner, nor can
they at all times invent the phraseology of oily compliment, but they
have no part of the bear about them except the skin, unless provoked,
and then the consequences must be abided: when virtue is in distress,
none can show sympathy with greater delicacy, or exercise benevolence
with more perfect freedom. At the appearance and sad tale of this
suffering daughter of affliction, every heart in the place was touched;
wretched as was our own condition, each man contrived to spare
something. They even parted with some article of their own linen, much
as they needed it, for the purpose of contributing to the warmth and
comfort of the sufferer; kindness of speech was added, and it did
wonders. While on our march the following day, the woman, again on her
feet, was observed by one of our officers; he was told the story of her
distress, and, with kindness which none but a great and gallant heart
possesses, he alighted from his horse and tramped with us in favour of
the poor woman and child. The animal, like his master, joined in the
scheme, and carried his novel load most comfortably. I rejoice to add,
that both root and branch were preserved, and eventually transplanted in
the soil at home.

Let me be permitted here to relate the particulars of another
circumstance, the truth of which is attested by evidence which none need
doubt. But it will be as well to premise at once, that if the fact to be
disclosed should meet the eye of any person disposed to deny the
doctrine of a particular Providence, overseeing and directing the
concerns of men, to bring down the lofty, to raise the lowly, and
support the weak and feeble, the detail will be unworthy of notice, as
the instruction it conveys is based upon the belief that, from the rapt
seraph that burns before the throne, to the minutest particle of dust
borne upon the eddying gale, and in and through the all but infinite
gradations of rational and instinctive beings which lie between,
almighty Goodness provides and metes out its dispensations with justest
weight and measure.

Not long before our arrival at Corunna, and in the severest part of the
retreat, Surgeon Griffith, of the Dragoons, while riding at a rapid
pace, observed a woman with a child reclining on the snow: the weather
was tempestuous, and the advanced posts of the enemy not far in the
rear. Humanity, however, compelled him to notice the unfortunate female;
he immediately reined in his horse and dismounted, when he discovered
with regret that the woman now stretched upon the ground had just
breathed her last. She had dropped, no doubt, and perished like many
others from mere exhaustion; while the infant, all unconscious of the
calamity, had nestled his head close to the cold bosom of his hapless
mother, and was endeavouring to suck as heretofore. The melancholy
spectacle had now fully aroused the compassion of the horseman, and as
relief came too late for the parent, he determined if possible to save
the child. He accordingly lifted him up, and after placing him
comfortably on the saddle, again mounted and rode on. The apprehended
danger was soon realised: having lost time by this merciful act, he was
overtaken by the enemy’s cavalry, by whom he and the child were captured
and ordered to the rear. This good Samaritan was, however, faithful to
his charge, and he and the infant, though prisoners, were inseparable
companions. After being detained some time in France, and having visited
Paris, Griffith obtained his liberty on parole, and proceeded to
England. The tender little child had by this time grown into a healthy
boy, and was placed by the interest of his benefactor in the Military
Asylum at Chelsea. Even here his kind attentions were continued; he
generally paid the lad a Sabbath-day visit, and never failed to bring
him a present either for his instruction or amusement, not forgetting to
line his pocket with a little of the needful for passing exigencies.

About three years after the occurrence just related, a soldier who had
lost his wife and child in Spain came to the asylum at Chelsea to
inquire concerning the welfare of a son of his named Hector, who had
been previously placed in the establishment. The veteran had not long
been engaged in conversation with Hector when the attention of the
former was excited by the appearance of a younger lad, in whose
countenance there were lines on which his sight seemed to be unavoidably
riveted. On consideration, the features were more familiar than ever;
the thought then arose, ‘Perhaps this may be my long-lost child who I
deemed had perished in the snow,’ The father recollected that on a
particular place just above one of the knees, his child had a scar; and
on raising the boy’s trousers, there it was! The two brothers, though
unknown, had been playfellows, and were mutually attached. The delights
of this singular recognition may be better conceived than described. Let
us hope that a life so remarkably preserved was well spent. How justly
might the father exclaim: ‘This my son, who was dead, is alive again;
and he who was lost is found!’

On the 18th of January, 1809, we left the shores of Spain, and made the
voyage home on board the _Hindostan_, of sixty-four guns, which had been
partially cut down and prepared as a transport. We encountered several
heavy gales during the passage, but were mercifully preserved from a
watery grave. It was on a Sabbath evening that the lighthouse near
Plymouth became visible from deck; it is built on a ledge of rock, about
eighteen miles from the harbour, and gave us cheering proof that we were
nearing the land we loved. After remaining at anchor for a short time,
it was judged advisable to proceed up the Channel; we accordingly
weighed, and stood for Portsmouth, at which place the shattered remains
of our regiment were safely landed. Aware of the deplorable figure we
made, the debarkation was cleverly effected under cover of the night.
The pride which urged this method was, I trust, excusable. Such a legion
of ragged warriors I should think never before approached this or any
other land; we were therefore glad to escape observation, and march
quickly into barracks. Our old clothes, by far too bad for amendment,
were speedily burned, together with a countless company of Spanish
insects thereunto appertaining, and which, to our oft-repeated sorrow,
we were never able fully to eject. A few weeks’ residence on shore
restored us to society and our friends; and in a period of time
marvellously short we held ourselves ready for service either at home or
abroad.

Time rolled rapidly away, and though our stay in England was extended to
the space of several months, such was the buoyancy of our spirits and
the general hilarity that it had passed like a summer’s day. The
business of recruiting our ranks had gone on so rapidly that by the end
of May we mustered a thousand rank and file; nor were our arms in the
least danger of contracting rust: firing at a target was an every-day
exercise, field-days were frequently appointed, and the note of warlike
preparation was familiar and agreeable. I am sorry to say that my
boasting cannot extend to the morals of my friends. Cards and dice, with
other games of chance, connected with the intemperance and dissipation
of which they are the usual forerunners, consumed the time of most of
those by whom I was surrounded. From these excesses I was preserved; and
if asked by what means, I can only reply, that I felt an aversion to
such practices, grounded, I firmly believe, upon the advices once
received from my honoured mother, which as a warning and monitory voice
pursued and protected me through life, and by which, though far away,
she seemed to speak the words of wisdom. The regularity of my conduct as
a private soldier attracted the notice of the officers, and I had the
satisfaction of hearing that there was some probability of an elevation
from the place I held in the ranks to that of a corporal in the British
army,—a distinction to which my wishes were earnestly directed. Having
remained some time at Colchester, orders were received towards the close
of May to march to the coast. We accordingly proceeded to Harwich, and
immediately embarked. With the exception of the inconveniences arising
from crowded berths and provisions of very defective quality, nothing
occurred to ruffle the good humour that prevailed between decks during
the passage.

In little more than thirty days from the time of leaving home we were
released from our confinement on shipboard. It was a pleasing sound when
the man on look-out exclaimed, ‘Land ahead.’ In the course of a few
hours we passed the castle of St. Julian, and soon after rode at anchor
in the Tagus, from whence we were conveyed in boats to Villa Franca and
Santarem. The latter is a fine, large town, commanding a noble view of
the adjacent country. The weather was extremely hot, and water scarce.
Wine was cheap, three pints of which could be obtained for about
fourpence. Anxious to form a junction with the forces under Sir Arthur
Wellesley, who, it was rightly conjectured, might be engaged with the
enemy, our march was urged by every possible means. We suffered in
consequence very severely. Over head the scorching rays of an almost
vertical sun appeared to wither the face of nature, while the hot sand
on which we trod blistered and inflamed our feet.

By uncommon exertion we reached Abrantes, where we found a small
encampment, formerly occupied but hastily abandoned by the French. Ready
to drop as most of us were, the halt, though short, was grateful, and of
great value. After a brief stay, our march was renewed with greater
speed than before; and as the nights were comparatively cool, we
advanced without intermission. Proofs that hard fighting had commenced
now crowded on us on every side. We met several dastardly renegade
Spaniards, who asserted that the British forces were defeated, and all
was lost. Scattered groups of wounded men were also occasionally seen
silently retiring. The muttering of distant artillery had been heard for
some time; but these indications of actual contest, so far from
dispiriting our party, called forth redoubled exertions to press
forward. Our pace increased to a kind of impetuous movement, which, by
tacit agreement, was to be neither retarded nor turned aside. The result
was, that though three thousand strong, with the exception of seventeen
stragglers left behind, one of whom was well thrashed with some olive
twigs for leaving the ranks, we had, in twenty-six hours, crossed the
field of battle in a close and compact body, and passed over sixty-two
English miles, in the hottest season of the year, each man carrying from
fifty to sixty pounds’ weight upon his shoulders. It is not for me to
boast; but if this was not stepping out with spirit, I should like to
know what is.

[Illustration: GATE IN TALAVERA.]

Our arrival was hailed as an auspicious omen; for though too late to
take any part in the battle of Talavera, which had just been fought, our
presence served to exhilarate the army, which, though victorious,
required support. The fight had been well sustained on both sides. From
nine o’clock in the morning until mid-day the field of battle Offered no
appearance of hostility; the weather was intensely hot, and the troops
on both sides descended and mingled, without fear or suspicion, to
quench their thirst at the little brook which divided the positions; but
at one o’clock in the afternoon the French soldiers were seen to gather
round their eagles, and the rolling of drums was heard along the whole
line. Half an hour later the guards of King Joseph, the reserve, and the
4th corps, were descried near the centre of the enemy’s position,
marching to join the 1st corps; and at two o’clock the tableland and the
height on the French right, even to the valley, were covered with the
dark and louring masses. The Duke of Belluno, whose arrangements were
now completed, gave the signal for battle; and eighty pieces of
artillery immediately sent out a tempest of bullets before the light
troops, who, coming on swiftly, and with the violence of a hailstorm,
were closely followed by the broad black columns, in all the majesty of
war.

Sir Arthur Wellesley, from the summit of the hill, had a clear view of
the entire scene of action. He saw the 4th corps rush forward with the
usual celerity of French soldiers, and, clearing the intrenched ground
in their front, fall upon Campbell’s division with prodigious fury; but
that general, assisted by Mackenzie’s brigade and by two Spanish
battalions, withstood their utmost efforts. The English regiments
putting the French skirmishers aside, met the advancing columns with
loud shouts, and, breaking in on their front, and lapping their flanks
with fire, and giving no respite, pushed them back with terrible
carnage. Ten guns were taken; but, as General Campbell prudently forbore
pursuit, the French rallied on their supports, and made a show of
attacking again, but did not attempt it. The British artillery and
musketry were directed with vehement accuracy against their masses, and
a Spanish regiment of cavalry charging on their flank at the same time,
the whole retired in disorder, and the victory was secured in that
quarter. The next grand attack was directed to the English centre, which
was thrown into great confusion, and for some time completely broken.
The fate of the day for some moments seemed to incline in favour of the
French, when suddenly Colonel Donellan with the 48th regiment, was seen
advancing through the midst of the disordered masses. At first it
appeared as if this regiment must be carried away by the retiring
crowds; but, wheeling back by companies, it let them pass through the
intervals, and then resuming its firm and beautiful line, marched
against the right of the pursuing columns, plied them with such a
destructive musketry, and closed upon them with a pace so regular and
steady, that the forward movement of the French was checked. The Guards
and the Germans immediately rallied; a brigade of light cavalry came up
from the second line at a trot; the artillery battered the enemy’s
flanks without intermission, and the French, beginning to waver, soon
lost their advantage, and the battle was restored.

The annals of warfare often tell us that in all actions there is one
critical and decisive moment which will give the victory to the general
who knows how to discover and secure it. When the guards first made
their rash charge, Sir Arthur Wellesley, foreseeing the issue of it, had
ordered the 48th down from the hill, although a rough battle was going
on there, and at the same time he ordered Cotton’s light cavalry to
advance. These dispositions gained the day. The French relaxed their
efforts by degrees; the fire of the English grew hotter, and their loud
and confident shouts, sure augury of success, were heard along the whole
line. The French army soon after retired to the position from whence it
had descended to the attack. This retrograde movement was covered by
skirmishers, and increasing fire of artillery; and the British, reduced
to less than fourteen thousand men, and exhausted by toil and want of
food, were unable to pursue. The battle was scarcely over when the dry
grass and shrubs taking fire, a volume of flame passed with
inconceivable rapidity across a part of the field, scorching in its
course both the dead and wounded. The loss of the British in the course
of this severe action and previous skirmishing was upwards of six
thousand men killed and wounded. That of the French, as afterwards
appeared in a manuscript of Marshal Jourdan, was rather more than seven
thousand three hundred.

The following morning presented a choice of disagreeables. Having taken
a position along the battlefield somewhat in advance of the British
line, we were surrounded with the dying and the dead. The number of the
latter was hourly increasing. Combatants who had mingled in the fray,
belonging to either army, lay intermingled in frightful heaps. Many of
the bodies, though exposed only for so short a time to the sun’s rays,
were offensively putrid and discoloured, so that interment without
ceremony or distinction became necessary for the safety of the living.
Meantime provisions were scanty, the water we had to drink was stagnant,
the heat of the weather increased, and the enemy was hastily
concentrating in great force in the vicinity. The 30th of July was
passed by Sir Arthur in establishing hospitals at Talavera, and in
fruitless endeavours to procure food, and the help required to keep the
wounded men from perishing. On this occasion the Spanish behaved
infamously. Not an inhabitant, although possessing ample means, would
render the slightest aid, nor even assist to bury the dead. The corn
secreted in Talavera alone was sufficient to support the army for a
month; but the troops were starving, although the inhabitants, who had
fled across the Tagus with their portable effects at the beginning of
the battle, had returned. This conduct left an indelible impression on
the minds of the English soldiers. From that period their contempt and
dislike of the Spaniards were never effaced. The principal motive in war
with these people was personal rancour; hence those troops who had
behaved so ill in action, and the inhabitants, who alike withheld their
sympathy and their aid from the English soldiers, to whose bravery they
owed the preservation of their town, were busily engaged after the
battle in beating out the brains of the wounded French, as they lay upon
the field; and they were only checked by the English soldiers, who, in
some instances, fired upon the perpetrators of this horrible iniquity.

Hitherto the allied generals had paid little attention to the Duke of
Dalmatia’s movements; but on the 30th of July information was received
that he had entered Placentia at the head of an imposing force. The
danger of the British on account of their numerical inferiority was
extreme; in fact, the fate of the Peninsula was suspended on a thread,
which the events of a few hours might dissever; and yet it was so
ordered that no irreparable disaster ensued. The generals on each side
at length became acquainted with each other’s strength; and this, it
will be believed, was a moment of extreme peril for the British. Their
progress was barred in front, the Tagus was on their left, impassable
mountains on their right, and it was certain that the retreat of the
Spanish would bring down the king and Victor upon their rear. In this
trying moment Sir Arthur Wellesley abated nothing of his usual calmness
and fortitude. He knew not the full extent of the danger; but assuming
the enemy in his front to be thirty thousand men, and Victor to have
twenty-five thousand others in his rear, he judged that to continue the
offensive would be rash, because he must fight and defeat those two
marshals separately within three days, which, with starving and tired
troops, inferior in number, was scarcely to be accomplished. The
movements of Sir Arthur were executed with precision and success. About
noon, the road being clear, the columns marched to the bridge, and at
two o’clock the whole army was in position on the other side; the
present danger was therefore averted, and the combinations of the enemy
baffled.

Our sufferings during these rapid transitions were almost intolerable.
During the passage several herds of swine were met with, feeding in the
woods, when the soldiers ran in among the animals, shooting, stabbing,
and, like men possessed, cutting off the flesh while the beasts were yet
alive. Well has it been said that hunger will break through stone walls.
I had carried a sheaf of wheat for many miles on my knapsack, rubbing
the ears when opportunity offered between my hands, and eating the
extracted grain with rapture. At night, by way of a feast, I used to
thrash a little more, by bruising the grain, having first laid my
greatcoat on the ground for the purpose. On one occasion a comrade, by
great exertion, procured a small quantity of bullock’s blood. We agreed
to boil it for dinner, and halve it between us. We did so; and, though
unaided even by a bit of salt, I thought it delicious. These privations
occurred in our passage through an elevated and open tract of country,
where shelter from the sultry heat could hardly be procured. One of
these spots we called Mount Misery. Many a time we have breakfasted upon
the acorns or oak-nuts beaten down by the Spanish swineherds for the use
of the hogs. A goat’s offal sold at this time for four dollars, or about
double the usual price of the whole animal; and men and officers strove
to outbid each other in the purchase of this wretched pittance. In one
word, famine raged through the camp; and it was notorious that the
Spanish cavalry intercepted the provisions and forage destined for the
English army, and fired upon the foragers, as if they had been enemies.

From Arzobispo the army moved towards Deleytoza; and our brigade, with
six pieces of artillery, was directed to gain the bridge of Almarez by a
forced march, lest the enemy, discovering the ford below that place,
should cross the river, and seize the Puerto de Mirabete. The roads were
rugged, and the guns could be drawn only by the force of men. The
movement was, however, effected. The Spaniards under Albuquerque were
not equally successful. The infantry were sleeping or loitering about
without care or thought, when Mortier, who was charged with the
direction of the attack, taking advantage of their want of vigilance,
commenced the passage of the river. The French cavalry, about six
thousand in number, were secretly assembled near the ford, and about two
o’clock in the day General Caulincourt’s brigade suddenly entered the
stream. The Spanish, running to their arms, manned the batteries, and
opened upon the leading squadrons; but Mortier, with a powerful
concentric fire of artillery, overwhelmed the Spanish gunners, and
dispersed the infantry who attempted to form. On the 20th of August the
main body of the British army quitted Jaraicejo, and marched by Truxillo
upon Merida. Our brigade, under General Crauford, being relieved at
Almarez by the Spaniards, took the road of Caceres to Valencia de
Alcantara; but the pass of Mirabete discovered how much we had suffered.
Our brigade, which only a few weeks before had traversed sixty miles in
a single march, were now with difficulty, and after many halts, only
able to reach the summit of the Mirabete, although only four miles from
the camp; and the side of that mountain was covered with baggage, and
the carcases of many hundred animals that died in the ascent. In this
eventful campaign of two months, the loss of the army was considerable.
Above three thousand five hundred men had been killed, or had died of
sickness, or had fallen into the hands of the enemy. Fifteen hundred
horses had perished for want of food; and, to fill the bitter cup, the
pestilent fever of the Guadiana, assailing those who by fatigue and bad
nourishment were predisposed to disease, made frightful ravages.
Dysentery, that scourge of armies, also raged, and in a short time above
five thousand men died in the hospitals.

Passing by the details of successive conflicts sustained with unequal
success by the Spanish forces in opposing their invaders, it may be
sufficient generally to state, that their inability to maintain the
defensive positions assumed, without English co-operation, was evident.
An attempt was at length made by the French forces, under Marshal
Victor, to gain possession of Cadiz, situate in the Isle of Leon, in
Andalusia, the finest port in Spain, with a mercantile and wealthy
population of a hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants. For this purpose
preparations of extraordinary magnitude were made. The assaulting army
was spread quite round the margin of the harbour. Works of
contravallation were constructed not less than twenty-five miles in
extent, and strong batteries frowned upon the city wherever they could
be erected with advantage to the besiegers. The lines of blockade were
connected by a covered way concealed by thick woods, and when finished
mounted three hundred guns. On the other hand, the Spanish troops under
Albuquerque, composing the garrison, were in a miserable condition. The
whole had been long without pay, and the greater part without arms or
accoutrements. Men were placed in command destitute of energy or local
influence, and private traffic was unblushingly pursued with the public
stores. Albuquerque was afterwards sent ambassador to England, where he
died soon after of a frenzy, brought on, it is said, by grief and
passion at the unworthy treatment he received.

In this deplorable state of affairs, British troops again appeared, and
the surrender of the city by that means was averted. On the 11th of
February, 1810, General Stewart arrived in Cadiz with three thousand
men, who were received with enthusiastic joy. On the 17th of the same
month, thirteen hundred Portuguese arrived, and Spanish troops in small
bodies came in daily. Two ships of war, the _Euthalion_ and _Undaunted_,
arrived from Mexico, with six millions of dollars; and other British
troops having appeared, the whole force assembled behind the Santa Petri
was not fewer than eighteen thousand effective men. The worst symptom
was, that among the Spaniards there was little enthusiasm, and not a man
among the citizens had been enrolled or armed, or had volunteered either
to labour or fight. General Stewart’s first measure was to recover
Matagorda, a most important point, about four thousand yards from the
city, which the Spaniards had foolishly dismantled and abandoned. In the
night of the 22nd, a detachment, consisting of fifty marines and seamen,
twenty-five artillerymen, and sixty-seven of the 94th regiment, the
whole under the command of Captain M’Lean, pushed across the channel
during a storm and took possession of the dismantled fort, before
morning effected a solid lodgment, and although the French cannonaded
the work with field artillery all the next day, the garrison was
immovable.

Early in March a more minute survey of the general state of the whole of
the defensive works was made, when it appeared that the force then
assigned was quite inadequate, and that to secure it against the efforts
of the enemy, twenty thousand soldiers, and a series of redoubts and
batteries, requiring the labour of four thousand men for three months,
were absolutely necessary; and yet an unaccountable apathy prevailed. In
vain did the English engineers present plans, and offer to construct
works: the Spaniards would never consent to pull down a house or destroy
a garden; and had the enemy been then prepared to press onward
vigorously, the city must have been lost by procrastination so fatal.

One word more for Matagorda. The capture of this place by a few intrepid
men has been mentioned. Though frequently cannonaded, it had been held
fifty-five days, and contributed to prevent the completion of the
enemy’s works at the Troccadero Point. This small fort, of a square
form, without a ditch, with bomb-proofs insufficient for the garrison,
and with one angle projecting towards the land, was little calculated
for resistance; and, as it could only bring seven guns to bear, a
Spanish seventy-four and an armed flotilla were moored on the flanks to
co-operate in the defence. The French had, however, raised great
batteries behind some houses on the Troccadero, and, as daylight broke
on the 21st of April, a hissing shower of heated shot falling on the
seventy-four and in the midst of the flotilla, obliged them to cut their
cables and take shelter under the works of Cadiz. Then the fire of
forty-eight guns and mortars of the largest size was concentrated upon
the little fort of Matagorda, and the feeble parapet disappeared in a
moment before this crashing flight of metal. The naked rampart, and the
undaunted hearts of the garrison, remained; but the troops fell fast,
the enemy shot quick and close; a staff, bearing the Spanish flag, was
broken six times in an hour, and the colours were at last fastened to
the angle of the work itself; while the men, especially the sailors,
besought the officers to hoist the British ensign, attributing the
slaughter to their fighting under a foreign flag. Thirty hours the
tempest lasted, and sixty-four men out of one hundred and forty were
down, when General Graham sent boats to carry off the survivors. The
bastion was then blown up, under the direction of Major Lefebre, an
engineer of great promise; and he also fell,—the last man whose blood
wetted the ruins thus abandoned.

[Illustration: THE HEROINE OF MATAGORDA.]

An action must be here recorded truly heroic. A sergeant’s wife, named
Retson, was in a casemate with the wounded men, when a very young
drummer was ordered to fetch water from the well of the fort. Seeing the
child hesitate, she snatched the vessel from his hand, braving the
terrible cannonade herself; and although a shot cut the bucket-cord from
her hand, she recovered the vessel, and fulfilled her mission. In July,
the British force in Cadiz was increased to eight thousand five hundred
men, and Sir Richard Keats arrived to take the command of the fleet. The
operations of the besiegers were thus greatly checked; and the mighty
lines, constructed with so much labour and skill, led to little or
nothing.

As the spring of the year advanced, the operation of the campaign became
increasingly extended and important. Reinforcements from France
continued to crowd the roads. The command of these collected forces,
which included seventeen thousand of the Imperial Guards, was entrusted
to Masséna, Prince of Essling, on account of his great name in arms.
Under his auspices Ney commenced the first siege of Ciudad Rodrigo; and
if he expected to carry it without delay, it only shows that, like some
of his predecessors, he was liable to mistake. The present governor, Don
Andreas Herrasti, was a veteran of fifty years’ service, whose silver
hairs, dignified countenance, and courteous manners excited respect; and
whose courage, talents, and honour were worthy of his venerable
appearance. His garrison amounted to six thousand fighting men, besides
the citizens; and the place, built on a height overhanging the northern
bank of the Agueda river, was amply supplied with artillery and stores
of all kinds. The works were, however, weak. There were no bomb-proofs,
and Herrasti was obliged to place his powder in the church for security.
The country immediately about Ciudad Rodrigo, although wooded, was easy
for troops, especially on the left bank of the Agueda, to which the
garrison had access by a stone bridge within pistol-shot of the castle
gate. But the Agueda, itself rising in the Sierra de Francia, and
running into the Douro, is subject to great and sudden floods; and six
or seven miles below the town, near San Felices, the channel deepens
into one continued and frightful chasm, many hundred feet deep, and
overhung with huge desolate rocks.

Towards the end of April a French camp was formed upon a lofty ridge
five miles eastward of the city; and in a few days a second, and then a
third arose. These portentous clouds continued to gather on the hills
until June, when fifty thousand fighting men came down into the plain,
and, throwing two bridges over the Agueda, begirt the fortress. In the
night of the 22nd, Julian Sanchez, with two hundred horsemen, passed
silently out of the castle gate, and, crossing the river, fell upon the
nearest French posts, pierced their line in a moment, and reached the
English light division, then behind the Azava, six miles from Ciudad
Rodrigo. We cheerfully received the party, and three days after this
feat the batteries opened. The assailants were warmly received. Three of
their magazines, by the fire of the besieged, blew up, and killed above
a hundred men.

On the 27th Masséna arrived in the camp, and summoned the governor to
surrender. Herrasti answered in the manner to be expected from so good a
soldier; and the fire was resumed until the 1st of July, when Masséna,
sensible that the mode of attack was faulty, directed the engineers to
raise counter-batteries, to push on their parallels, work regularly
forward, blow in the counterscarp, and pass the ditch in form. On the
9th of July the besiegers’ batteries reopened with terrible effect. In
twenty-four hours the fire of the Spanish guns was nearly silenced, part
of the town was in flames, a reserve magazine exploded on the walls, the
counterscarp was blown in by a mine on an extent of thirty-six feet, the
ditch filled by ruins, and a broad way made into the place. At this
moment three French soldiers, suddenly running out of the ranks, mounted
the breach, looked into the town, and having thus in broad daylight
proved the state of affairs, discharged their muskets, and with singular
success retired unhurt. The columns of assault immediately assembled.
The troops, animated by the presence of Ney, were impatient for the
signal to advance. A few minutes would have sent them raging into the
midst of the city, when the white flag waved on the rampart, and the
venerable governor was seen standing alone on the ruins, and signifying
by his gestures that he desired to capitulate. The defence made did no
discredit to the parties. Every one lent a hand. The inhabitants
contributed largely in maintaining the vigour and resolution of the
garrison. Women and children, and even the blind, were earnestly engaged
in providing necessaries for the fighting men. Those who were unable to
bear arms encouraged those who could. Indeed, it was to the spirit of
determined resistance prevailing among the people generally within the
walls that the powerful force without was so long detained there. Above
forty thousand shells had been thrown into the place, and not a house
remained uninjured.

One of the favourite designs of Napoleon at this period was to establish
his power in Portugal. This the British government was determined, if
possible, to prevent; and the person selected to direct the defence of
our ancient ally was Lord Wellington. Confidence was felt in no other;
and it was a question whether any other military leader was in all
respects properly qualified for the arduous undertaking. When his
lordship required thirty thousand men for the defence of Portugal, he
considered the number that could be fed rather than what was necessary
to fight the enemy. On this principle he asserted that success must
depend on the exertions and devotedness of the native forces. Two points
were to be secured at the very onset. One was, to concert measures by
which sustenance might be secured for the united British and Portuguese
army and the other, to devise plans by which the enemy should be
deprived of supplies whenever and wherever he entered the country. In
effecting this latter purpose it was demanded (for the exactions of war
are necessarily rigorous) that the people should destroy their mills,
remove their boats, break down their bridges, lay waste their fields,
abandon their dwellings, and carry off their property, on whatever line
the invader should penetrate; while the entire population, converted
into soldiers, and closing on the rear and flanks, should cut off all
resources, excepting those carried in the midst of the troops. These
were hard sayings; but they were dictated by stern necessity, and were
positively required for the safety of the kingdom. The call was obeyed.
Part of the public property was sacrificed in order that the whole
might, in some form or other, eventually be restored and rendered safe.

In pursuance of the comprehensive plans adopted by the British leader,
it was necessary to find a position covering Lisbon, where the allied
forces could neither be turned by the flanks, nor forced in front by
numbers, nor reduced by famine. The mountains filling the tongue of land
upon which Lisbon is situated furnished this keystone to the arch of
defence. Lord Wellington then conceived the design of turning these vast
mountains into one stupendous and impregnable citadel, on which to
deposit the independence of the whole peninsula. The works were
forthwith commenced. Intrenchments, inundations, and redoubts covered
more than five hundred square miles of mountainous country, lying
between the Tagus and the ocean. The actual force under Lord Wellington
cannot be estimated higher than eighty thousand men, while the frontier
he had to defend, reckoning from Braganza to Ayamonte, was four hundred
miles long. The British forces included in the above were under thirty
thousand. Every probable movement of the enemy was previously
considered; at the same time the English commander was aware how many
counter-combinations were to be expected in a contest with eighty
thousand French veterans, having a competent general at their head.
Hence, to secure embarkation in the event of disaster, a third line of
entrenchments was prepared, and twenty-four thousand tons of shipping
were constantly kept in the river to receive the British forces.

Where all behaved so well, distinctions are unnecessary, and may appear
invidious. Perhaps, however, I may be allowed to claim at least an equal
share of the honours of a successful campaign for the division of the
British army under the command of General Crauford, in which was
included the 43rd regiment. Without attempting to institute any
comparison between him and the commander-in-chief, the comprehensiveness
and strength of whose capacity in the direction of extensive movements
was unrivalled, it may be safely averred, that for zeal, intrepidity of
spirit, and personal prowess Crauford was not inferior to any general of
division in the forces. His men partook in a great measure of the
qualities of their leader. Inured to almost every species of warlike
toil, they were formidable either for assault or defence; and never were
the energies of fighting men more thoroughly tested than those of this
very corps in the course of the few succeeding months.

In the midst of March, Crauford lined the banks of the Agueda with his
hussars for a distance of twenty-five miles, following the course of the
river. The infantry were disposed in small parties in the villages
between Almeida and the lower Agueda. Two battalions of Portuguese
cacadores (riflemen) soon afterwards arriving, made a total of four
thousand men and six guns. While, therefore, the hussars kept a good
watch at the two distant bridges, the troops could always concentrate
under Almeida before the enemy could reach them on that side; and on the
side of Barba del Puerco the ravine was so profound that a few companies
of the 95th were considered capable of opposing any numbers. This
arrangement was suitable while the Agueda was swollen; but that river
was capricious, often falling many feet in a night without visible
cause. When it was fordable, Crauford always withdrew his outposts, and
concentrated his division; and his situation demanded a quickness and
intelligence in his troops, the like of which has never been surpassed.
Seven minutes sufficed for the division to get under arms in the middle
of the night; and a quarter of an hour, night or day, to bring it in
order of battle to the alarm-posts, with the baggage loaded and
assembled at a convenient distance in the rear, and this not upon a
concerted signal or as a trial, but at all times, and to a certainty.

Our condition at that season was no unapt epitome of what the Christian
ought to be. With a foe so vigilant as his spiritual adversary, the
godly man should be all eye and ear, ready to gather himself up for
action every moment, both by night and day; not by way of experiment and
trial, but as matter of constant and universal practice. The waters of
carnal security are sadly deceptive; the enemy may find some fordable
spot when least expected. If the heaven-bound pilgrim cast behind his
worldly load, and place it in the rear, as we did our baggage, he would
find himself so much the more free to give and take manfully. This is a
digression; but men have souls to save though they wear red coats, and
an occasional halt to look at eternal things through the vista of
temporalities may not, after all, produce much loss of time.

But to return. We soon found that our caution was called for. On the
19th of March General Ferey, a bold officer, attempted to surprise us,
for which purpose he collected six hundred Grenadiers close to the
bridge of San Felices, and just as the moon rising behind him cast long
shadows from the rocks, and rendered the bottom of the chasm dark, he
silently passed the bridge, and, with incredible speed ascending the
opposite side, bayoneted the sentries, and fell upon the piquet so
fiercely that friends and enemies went fighting into the village of
Barba del Puerco, while the first shout was still echoing in the gulf
below. So sudden was the attack, and so great the confusion, that the
British companies could not form, but each soldier encountering the
nearest enemy, fought hand to hand; and their colonel, Sydney Beckwith,
conspicuous by his lofty stature and daring actions, a man capable of
rallying a whole army in flight, urged the contest with such vigour,
that in a quarter of an hour the French column was borne back, and
pushed over the edge of the descent. Soon after this the whole army was
distressed for money; and Crauford, notwithstanding his prodigious
activity, being unable to procure food for the division, gave the reins
to his fiery temper, and seized some church plate, with a view to the
purchase of corn. For this impolitic act he was immediately rebuked, and
such redress granted that no mischief ensued. The proceeding itself was
not, however, altogether useless, as it convinced the priests that our
distress was real.

Nothing could be more critical than our position. From the Agueda to the
Coa the whole country, although studded with woods and scooped into
hollows, was free for cavalry and artillery, and there were at least six
thousand horsemen and fifty guns within an hour’s march of our position;
and yet, trusting to his own admirable arrangements, and to the
surprising discipline of his troops, Crauford still maintained his
dangerous position, thus encouraging the garrison of Ciudad Rodrigo, and
protecting the villages in the plain. The fall of that fortress was,
however, soon announced. A Spaniard, eluding the French posts, brought a
note from old Herrasti, the governor, claiming assistance. It contained
these words: ‘O ven luégo! luégo! á socorrer esta plaza,’ (O come now,
now, to the succour of this place!) But the gallant old man could not be
relieved.

Soon after this I had the misfortune to fall into bad hands. Having had
occasion to visit a neighbouring village on regimental business, and to
make some small purchases for one of the officers, I was detained rather
late in the evening, and on attempting on my return to cross a
mountainous district without a guide, I lost my way. After wandering in
various directions among rocks and low brushwood, two large dogs,
singularly fierce and powerful, used by the Spaniards to protect their
cattle from wolves, suddenly appeared in the attitude of springing at
me. Putting on a bold front, I stepped back, and drew my bayonet, when,
to my surprise, they seemed to dislike my appearance, and recoiled.
Concluding that some human abode was nigh, I followed the track of the
dogs, and presently arrived at an open space, where a few glowing embers
indicated that a fire had recently been there. While gazing on the spot
my attention was arrested by a rushing noise quite close to my ear, and
in almost the same instant, three men darted through an adjoining copse,
and were on me with incredible violence. One of them, who was armed with
a halbert, made a desperate plunge with his formidable weapon; and had I
not parried it, that moment would have ended my life. The others joined
in this unmanly and unaccountable attack; but though roughly used, I
escaped without mortal injury. I at first imagined that the fellows were
part of a banditti, living by rapine and plunder, and that, disappointed
of booty, they had wreaked their resentment by violent usage. I found
afterwards that they were cattle owners; and what aggravated their
conduct, a report was spread through their agency that I had a design
upon their property, than which nothing was further from my thought. The
outrage being reported to our commander, Major M’Leod, a sergeant with
his piquet of men was sent to investigate the truth. On arriving at the
place, there they found me, unable to move from the ill treatment I had
received. I stated exactly what had taken place, and requested that the
men might be secured, and taken to quarters, so that I might confront
them before the major. This was acceded to, and being permitted to
answer for myself, I produced the proper pass, still in my possession,
and soon convinced the board that I had been within the line of duty,
was the only injured party, and deserved some compensation for the
treatment I had received. This was immediately granted; so that with the
exception of a few bruises, which grew better under the agreeable remedy
just glanced at, I came off with flying colours, while the dons paid for
the entertainment.

At the beginning of July, the enemy began to appear in numbers; but,
obstinate in maintaining every inch of ground, our division remained
firm. The troops were marched in succession slowly, and within sight of
the French, hoping that they would imagine the whole British army was
come up. By this manœuvre two days were gained, but on the 4th a strong
body of the enemy assembled at Marialva; and a squadron of horse,
crossing the ford below that bridge, pushed at full force towards
Gallegos, driving back the piquets. The enemy then passed the river, and
the British retired, skirmishing upon Almeida, leaving two guns, a troop
of British and one of German Hussars, to cover the movement. This
rearguard drew up on a hill, half cannon-shot from a streamlet with
marshy banks, which crossed the road to Almeida. In a few moments a
column of French horsemen was observed coming on at a charging pace,
diminishing its front as it approached the bridge, but resolute to pass,
and preserving the most perfect order in spite of some well-directed
shots from the guns. Captain Krauchenberg, of the Hussars, proposed to
charge: the English officer did not conceive his order warranted it; but
the gallant captain rode full speed against the head of the advanced
column with his single troop, and with such a shock that he killed the
leading officer, overthrew the front ranks, and drove the whole back.

This skirmish was followed by another on the 11th. On this occasion two
French parties were observed, the one of infantry near Villa de Puerco,
the other of cavalry at Barquillo. An open country on the right would
have enabled the six squadrons to get between the infantry in Villa de
Puerco and their point of retreat; this was circuitous, and Crauford
preferred pushing straight through a stone enclosure as the shortest
road. The enclosure proved difficult, the squadrons were separated, and
the French, two hundred strong, had time to draw up in a square on a
rather steep rise of land; yet so far from the edge as not to be seen
till the ascent was gained. The two squadrons which first arrived
galloped in upon them; and the charge was rough and pushed home, but
failed. The troopers received the fire of the square in front and on
both sides, and in passing saw and heard the French captain, Gauche, and
his sergeant-major, exhorting the men to shoot carefully. Meanwhile
Colonel Talbot, mounting the hill with four squadrons of the 14th
Dragoons, bore gallantly in upon Captain Gauche; but the latter again
opened such a fire that Talbot himself and fourteen men went down close
to the bayonets, and the stout Frenchman made good his retreat. Crauford
fell back to Almeida, apparently disposed to cross the Coa; yet nothing
was further from his thoughts. Braving the whole French army, he had
kept, with a weak division, for three months within two hours’ march of
sixty thousand men, appropriating the resources of the plains entirely
to himself. Had he been satisfied with this feat, it would have shown
him to be master of some prudence; but forgetting that his stay beyond
the Coa was a matter of sufferance rather than real strength, he
resolved, with ambition not easily excusable, in defiance of reason and
the repeated order of his general, to fight again on the right bank,—a
piece of rashness for which we dearly paid.

Upon a calm review of the circumstances under which this engagement took
place, I consider it little short of a miracle that a single British
soldier survived to describe it. The troops we had to oppose were those
of a well-disciplined army, they were commanded by officers of approved
talent and courage, and outnumbered us at least in the proportion of
four to one. Nor, mingled as I was among the most furious combatants,
can I conceive how it happened that I escaped unhurt; to be sure, this
is talking as if God and His providence were banished from the earth.
Danger and death were undoubtedly averted by the unperceived but
almighty agency of the Divine protection; that delivered my soul from
perdition, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling, in order that
in future my days, so singularly lengthened, should be devoted to His
service. He gave His angels charge concerning me: such, at least, is my
conviction. Millions of spiritual creatures walk the earth, both when we
wake and when we sleep: these are all ministering spirits, sent forth to
minister to those who are the heirs of salvation; and as I humbly raise
my claim for a share therein, why should it be thought a thing
incredible that the Almighty was my special defence,

                   ‘And turned aside the fatal blow,
                     And lifted up my sinking head’?

On the evening of the 24th of July, which was stormy, a most dangerous
crisis arrived, and it proved to be a memorable period. Our whole force
under arms consisted of four thousand infantry, eleven hundred cavalry,
and six guns; and the position occupied was about one mile and a half in
length, extending in an oblique line towards the Coa. The cavalry
piquets were upon the plain in front, the right on some broken ground,
and the left resting on an unfinished tower eight hundred yards from
Almeida; the rear was on the edge of the ravine forming the channel of
the Coa, and the bridge was more than a mile distant in the bottom of
the chasm. The lightning towards midnight became unusually vivid. Having
been under arms for several hours, we were drenched with rain. As the
day dawned a few pistol-shots in front, followed by an order for the
cavalry reserve and the guns to advance, gave notice of the enemy’s
approach; and as the morning cleared, twenty-four thousand French
infantry, five thousand cavalry, and thirty pieces of artillery were
observed marching from Turones. Our line was immediately contracted, and
brought under the edge of the ravine. In an instant four thousand
hostile cavalry swept the plain, and our regiment was unaccountably
placed within an enclosure of solid masonry at least ten feet high,
situate on the left of the road, with but one narrow outlet about half
musket-shot down the ravine.

While thus shut up the firing in front redoubled, the cavalry, the
artillery, and the cacadores successively passed by in retreat, and the
sharp clang of the 95th Rifles was heard along the edge of the plain
above. A few moments later and we should have been surrounded; but here,
as in every other part of the field, the quickness and knowledge of the
battalion officer remedied the faults of the general. In little more
than a minute, by united effort, we contrived to loosen some large
stones, when, by a powerful exertion, we burst the enclosure, and the
regiment, reformed in column of companies, was the next instant up with
the riflemen. There was no room to array the line, no time for anything
but battle; every captain carried off his company as an independent
body, the whole presenting a mass of skirmishers, acting in small
parties and under no regular command, yet each confident in the courage
and discipline of those on his right and left, and all regulating their
movements by a common discretion. Having the advantage of ground and
number, the enemy broke over the edge of the ravine; their guns, ranged
along the summit, played hotly with grape; and their hussars, galloping
over the glacis of Almeida, poured down the road, sabreing everything in
their way. The British regiments, however, extricated themselves from
their perilous situation. Falling back slowly, and yet stopping and
fighting whenever opportunity offered, they made their way through a
rugged country, tangled with vineyards, in despite of the enemy, who was
so fierce and eager, that even the horsemen rode in among the enclosures
striking at us, as we mounted the walls or scrambled over the rocks.
Just then, I found myself within pistol-shot of the enemy, while my
passage was checked by a deep chasm or ravine. As not a moment was to be
lost, I contrived to mount to the edge, and, having gained the opposite
side, put myself in a crouching position, and managed to slide down the
steep and slippery descent without injury.

On approaching the river, a more open space presented itself; but the
left wing being harder pressed, and having the shortest distance, the
bridge was so crowded as to be impassable. Here therefore we made a
stand. The post was maintained until the enemy, gathering in great
numbers, made a second burst, when the companies fell back. At this
moment the right wing of the 52nd was seen marching towards the bridge,
which was still crowded with the passing troops, when M’Leod, a very
young man, immediately turned his horse round, called to the troops to
follow, and, taking off his cap, rode with a shout towards the enemy.
The suddenness of the thing, and the distinguished action of the man,
produced the effect he designed. We all rushed after him, cheering and
charging as if a whole army were behind to sustain us; the enemy’s
skirmishers, amazed at this unexpected movement, were directly checked.
The conflict was tremendous. Thrice we repulsed the enemy at the point
of the bayonet. M’Leod was in the hottest of the battle, and a ball
passed through the collar of his coat; still he was to be seen with a
pistol in his right hand, among the last to retire. At length the bugle
sounded for retreat. Just then, my left-hand man, one of the stoutest in
the regiment, was hit by a musket-shot; he threw his head back, and was
instantly dead. I fired at the fellow who shot my comrade; and before I
could re-load, my pay-sergeant, Thomas, received a ball in the thigh,
and earnestly implored me to carry him away. As the enemy was not far
off, such a load was by no means desirable; but he was my friend. I
therefore took him up; and though several shots were directed to us,
they all missed, and I was able, though encumbered with such weight, to
carry him safely over the bridge. At length the assistance of another
soldier was procured. We then carried the wounded man between us, and
placed him on a car, when he returned me sincere thanks.

As the regiments passed the bridge, they planted themselves in loose
order on the side of the mountain; the artillery drew up on the summit,
and the cavalry were disposed in parties on the roads to the right,
because two miles higher up the stream there were fords, and beyond them
the bridge of Castello Bom. The French skirmishers, swarming on the
right bank, opened a biting fire, which was returned as bitterly; the
artillery on both sides played across the ravine, the sounds were
repeated by numberless echoes, and the smoke, rising slowly, resolved
itself into an immense arch, sparkling with the whirling phases of the
flying shells. The enemy despatched a dragoon to try the depth of the
stream above; but two shots from the 52nd killed man and horse, and the
carcases floating down the river discovered that it was impassable. The
monotonous tones of a French drum were then heard, and in another second
the head of a column was at the long, narrow bridge. A drummer and an
officer in splendid uniform leaped forward together, and the whole
rushed on with loud cries. The depth of the ravine at first deceived the
soldiers’ aim on our side, and two-thirds of the passage were won before
an English shot had brought down an enemy. A few paces onward the line
of death was traced, and the whole of the leading French section fell as
one man. Still the gallant column pressed forward, but no foot could
pass that terrible line. The killed and wounded rolled together, until
the heap rose nearly to a level with the parapet. Our shouts now rose
loudly, but they were confidently answered; and in half an hour a second
column, more numerous than the first, again crowded the bridge. This
time the range was better judged, and ere half the distance was passed,
the multitude was again torn, shattered, dispersed, and slain. Ten or
twelve men only succeeded in crossing, and took shelter under the rocks
at the brink of the river. The skirmishing was renewed, and a French
surgeon, coming down to the very foot of the bridge, waved his
handkerchief, and commenced dressing the wounded under the hottest fire.
The appeal was heard; every musket turned from him, although his still
undaunted countrymen were preparing for a third attempt. This last
effort was comparatively feeble, and soon failed. The combat was
nevertheless continued by the French, as a point of honour to cover the
escape of those who had passed the bridge, and by the English from
ignorance of their object. One of the enemy’s guns was dismantled, a
powder magazine blew up, and many continued to fall on both sides till
four o’clock, when a heavy rain caused a momentary cessation of fire.
The men among the rocks returned unmolested to their own party, the
fight ceased, and we retired behind the Pinkel river. On our side
upwards of three hundred were killed or wounded. The French lost more
than a thousand men.

During the march that ensued, which of necessity was rapid, my mind was
deeply impressed with the occurrences of the preceding eventful day.
Many of my valued friends were missing, and their remains lay unburied
on the spot where they fell. Colonel Hull, who had joined the regiment
only the day before the action, was killed; and I afterwards saw his
body, with the face downwards, thrown across the back of a mule, for
conveyance to some place of interment. The colonel’s nephew was also
badly wounded in the mouth, and obliged to return to England.
Despondency is not, however, the fitting mood for a soldier. Tears for
the dead were soon brushed away, and, to secure our own preservation,
thought was soon diverted from musing on the past to the active
operations before us. Unremitted exertions were made by the commissariat
to provide us with necessaries. Grapes were plentiful; vegetables also
were within reach. Bread in sufficient quantities, with a pipe of wine
in front for regimental use, afforded an agreeable prospect; and the
evening after the arrival of this welcome reinforcement was spent in a
good-humoured review of dangers gone by.

[Illustration]



                               CHAPTER V.

    ADVANCE OF LORD WELLINGTON TO THE SIERRA BUSACO—BATTLE OF
      BUSACO—DISASTERS AT COIMBRA—MASSÉNA OUT-GENERALLED—TEMPTED BY A
      BUNCH OF GRAPES—DINNER INTERRUPTED BY THE ENEMY—LINES OF TORRES
      VEDRAS—GALLANT FIGHT AT BAROSSA—BADAJOS BETRAYED TO THE
      FRENCH—RETREAT OF MASSÉNA FROM TORRES VEDRAS.

The captain of the company in which I served being in want of a servant,
I had the honour of being engaged in that capacity. My place, however,
was no sinecure, and often amounted to a rather dangerous distinction.
The duties enjoined were heavy, and contributed not a little to increase
the severity of general military service. When my master dismounted from
his horse, I had to hold the animal, or lead him by the bridle along
roads through which it was difficult to drag myself; and the horse,
chafed by rough usage and deficient feed, was frequently so restive that
my employment was both irksome and laborious. This horse became an
eventual favourite. Having been placed for a short time at large, he
thought proper to escape, and accordingly scoured away over hill and
dale, with the saddle and accoutrements of his master, including a pair
of pistols in the holster and change of clothing behind. He was observed
by a party of French, who tried to secure him, but, strange to say, he
was determined they should not. By a kind of instinct, to me an entire
enigma, the horse chose the road in which he apparently knew his old
associates were to follow; and when we had crossed the bridge, to my
surprise, he was there beforehand, and waiting our arrival. A rare and
unpleasant circumstance took place here. The discipline and good order
of the 43rd were proverbial. The matter was therefore so much the more
vexatious. Being placed for a brief period in the vicinity of a village,
the landlady of a Spanish house of entertainment had broached a puncheon
of wine, which she retailed at a stipulated price. One of our men, with
more wit than wisdom, got behind the cask unperceived by the lady, and
having pierced the hinder end with his bayonet, drew away both for
himself and friends. In an evil hour the unlucky wight was detected, and
next morning was punished in presence of the regiment. That the man did
wrong, is clear; but being a good soldier, and of an excellent temper
withal, the event excited great regret, and the humiliating spectacle
was witnessed with reluctance.

One day a bullock was killed for our use, and afforded a luxurious
repast; but we were obliged to make haste about it. Scarcely had we
finished a hasty meal, when the advance of the enemy was announced. The
men were unwilling to lose even a fragment of viands so scarce; and
several were afterwards observed collecting bundles of the long dry
grass and making a fire, over which they frizzled pieces of meat,
impaled on the end of a ramrod. The hardships we endured in the
prosecution of this retreat were increasingly severe. Personal comforts
were out of the question. No change of linen could be procured, and as
to a pair of stockings, the luxury was not to be thought of. As mine
were worn to tatters, I contented myself without a new supply. Snatches
of broken slumber were all we could obtain, though, ready to stumble
with weariness. The physical energies both of myself and comrades have,
since that period, often appeared wonderful, even to myself. Many a time
I have marched eight or ten miles on the nourishment afforded by a
little water; and even then, with a pipe and good company, we talked
away dull care, and were able with three cheers to face about, and with
a determined volley warn away the following foe. We were much hurt by
exposure to extremes. After the exhaustion arising from a forced march,
pursued for hours, during the meridian heat of this burning climate, we
lay down to rest for the night; and on the following morning such was
the copiousness of the fallen dew, that our blankets appeared as if
dipped in water. Rising from the ground in such a condition, it will be
easily imagined that our sensations were not of an enviable cast. Even
then I thought of my native land; of its rivers and vales, all so
peaceful and beauteous, and they arose fairer than ever. And I thought
of my mother, who so often had cared and watched for me! But these
meditations were dismissed. Had they been long indulged, my heart would
have melted within me; and the time was at hand when the sterner
faculties were likely to be tried to the uttermost.

A sad disaster happened at this period. Almeida was besieged by Masséna
in person, at the head of a powerful army. The place, though regularly
constructed with six bastions, ravelines, an excellent ditch and covered
way, was extremely defective. With the exception of some damp casemates
in one of the bastions, there was no magazine for the powder. The
garrison consisted of about four thousand men. On the 18th of July the
trenches were begun, and on the morning of the 26th, the second parallel
being commenced, sixty-five pieces of artillery, mounted on ten
batteries, threw in their fire. Many houses were soon in flames, and the
garrison was unable to extinguish them; the counter fire was, however,
briskly maintained, little military damage was sustained, and towards
evening the cannonade slackened on both sides; but just after dark, the
ground suddenly trembled, the castle burst into a thousand pieces, and
gave vent to a column of smoke and fire. Presently the whole town sank
into a shapeless mass of ruin. Treason or accident had caused the
magazine to explode, and the devastation was incredible. Five hundred
persons were struck dead on the instant; only six houses remained
standing; and the surviving garrison, aghast at the terrible commotion,
disregarded all exhortations to rally. An immediate surrender was the
necessary result.

The invasion of Portugal by the French now assumed a most serious
aspect. Masséna’s command extended from the banks of the Tagus to the
Bay of Biscay, and the number of his troops exceeded a hundred and ten
thousand men. The view was discouraging, and was so felt by the British
ministry at home. Masséna could bring sixty thousand veterans into the
field, while the British force was scarcely fifty thousand, more than
half of which consisted of untried men. The Sierra Busaco was the place
on which Lord Wellington fixed for his position. A succession of
ascending ridges lead to this mountain, which is separated from the last
by a chasm so profound, that the unassisted eye could hardly distinguish
the movement of troops in the bottom. When this formidable position was
chosen, some officers expressed their fears that Masséna would not
assail it. ‘But if he do, I shall beat him,’ was the reply of the
English leader, who was well assured that the prince would attack.
Masséna was in fact anxious for a battle, and indulged in a vision in
which he beheld the allies fly before his face.

On the 22nd of September we fell back exactly a league, and encamped in
a pine wood. One night there happened among us an extraordinary panic,
for which none of us, either then or since, could assign any reasonable
cause. No enemy was near, nor was any alarm given, yet suddenly large
bodies of the troops started from sleep, as if seized with a frenzy, and
dispersed in every direction; some climbed the trees, they knew not why;
nor was there any possibility of allaying this strange terror, until
some person called out that the enemy’s cavalry were among them, when
the soldiers mechanically fell into something like order, and the
illusion instantly vanished. On the 25th the enemy’s cavalry were seen
gathering in front, and the heads of the three infantry columns were
visible on the tableland above Mortagas, coming on abreast, and at a
most impetuous pace; while heavy clouds of dust, rising and loading the
atmosphere for miles behind, showed that the whole French army was in
full march to attack. The cavalry skirmishers were already exchanging
pistol shots, when Lord Wellington, suddenly arriving, ordered the
division to retire, and, taking the personal direction, covered the
retreat with the 52nd and other troops. Nor was there a moment to lose;
the enemy with great rapidity brought up both infantry and guns, and
fell on so briskly, that all the skill of the general and the readiness
of the rearguard, where I was placed, could scarcely prevent the
division from being seriously engaged. Before three o’clock, forty
thousand French infantry were in position on the two points, and the
sharp musketry of the skirmishers arose from the gloomy chasms beneath.
The allies had now taken their stand; and along the whole of their front
skirmishers were thrown out on the mountain side, and about fifty pieces
of artillery disposed upon the salient points. In the evening, in order
to facilitate the approaching attack, the light French troops were
observed stealing by twos and threes into the lowest parts of the
valley, endeavouring to make their way up the wooded dells and hollows,
and to establish themselves unseen close to the piquets of the light
division. Some companies of rifle corps and cacadores checked this; but
similar attempts made with more or less success at different points of
the position seemed to indicate a night attack, and excited all the
vigilance of the troops. Had it not been so, none but veterans tired of
war could have slept. The weather was calm and fine, and the dark
mountain masses rising on either side were crowned with innumerable
watch-fires, around which more than a hundred thousand brave men were
gathered.

The attack began on the following morning before day-break. Three
columns were led by Ney and two by Reynier, the points being about three
miles asunder. The resistance was spirited, and six guns played along
the slope with grape; but in less than half an hour the French were
close upon the summit, so swiftly did they scale the mountain,
overthrowing everything that opposed their progress. The leading
battalions immediately established themselves upon the higher rocks, and
a confused mass wheeled to the right, intending to sweep the summit of
the sierra; but at that moment Lord Wellington directed two guns to open
with grape upon their flank, while a heavy musketry was poured into
their front; and in a little time the 45th and 88th regiments charged so
furiously that even fresh men could not have withstood them. The French,
quite spent with their previous exertion, opened a straggling fire, and
both parties, mingling together, went down the mountain side with mighty
clamour and confusion; the dead and dying strewing the way, even to the
bottom of the valley. Meanwhile the French who had first gained the
summit had reformed their ranks, with the right resting upon a precipice
overhanging the reverse side of the sierra; and thus the position was in
fact gained, if any reserve had been at hand; but just then General
Leith, who saw what had taken place, came on rapidly. Keeping the Royals
in reserve, he directed the 38th to turn the right of the French; but
the precipice prevented this; and meanwhile Colonel Cameron, informed by
a staff officer of the critical state of affairs, formed the 9th
regiment in line under a violent fire, and without returning a single
shot ran in upon and drove the Grenadiers from the rocks with
irresistible bravery and yet with excellent discipline; refraining from
pursuit, lest the crest of the position should be again lost, for the
mountain was so rugged that it was impossible to judge clearly of the
general state of the action.

On that side, however, the victory was secure. Ney’s attack was equally
unsuccessful. From the abutment of the mountain on which the light
division was placed, the lower parts of the valley could be discerned.
The tableland was sufficiently hollow to conceal the 43rd and 52nd
regiments, drawn up in a line; and a quarter of a mile behind them, but
on higher ground, and close to the convent, a brigade of German infantry
appeared to be the only solid line of resistance on this part of the
position. In front of the two British regiments, some rocks overhanging
the descent furnished natural embrasures, in which the guns of the
division were placed, and the whole face of the hill was planted with
the skirmishers of the rifle corps and of the two Portuguese cacadore
battalions. While it was yet dark, on listening attentively, we heard a
straggling musketry in the deep hollows separating the armies; and when
the light broke, the three divisions of the 6th corps were observed
entering the woods below, and throwing forward a profusion of
skirmishers soon afterwards. The French ascended with wonderful
cheerfulness, and though the light troops plied them unceasingly with
musketry, and the artillery bullets swept through their ranks, the order
of advance was never disturbed. Ross’ guns were worked with incredible
swiftness, yet their range was contracted every round, and the enemy’s
shot came singing up in a sharper key, until the skirmishers, breathless
and begrimed with powder, rushed over the edge of the ascent, when the
artillery suddenly drew back, and the victorious cries of the French
were heard within a few yards of the summit. Crauford, who, standing
alone on one of the rocks, had been intently watching the progress of
the attack, then turned and in a quick, shrill tone desired the two
regiments in reserve to charge. The next moment eighteen hundred British
bayonets went over the hill. Our shouts startled the French column; and
yet so truly brave were the hostile leaders, that each man of the first
section raised his musket, and two officers and ten men fell before
them, so unerring was their aim. They could do no more; we were on them
with resistless impetuosity. The head of their column was violently
overturned, and driven upon the rear; both flanks were lapped over by
our wings; and three terrible discharges at five yards’ distance
completed the rout. In a few minutes a long line of carcases and broken
arms indicated the line of retreat. The main body of the British stood
fast, but several companies followed in pursuit down the mountain.
Before two o’clock, Crauford having assented to a momentary truce,
parties of both armies were mixed amicably together, searching for the
wounded men. Towards evening, however, a French company having
impudently seized a village within half musket-shot of our division, and
refusing to retire, it so incensed Crauford, that, turning twelve guns
on the village, he overwhelmed it with bullets for half an hour. A
company of the 43rd was then sent down, who cleared the place in a few
minutes.

[Illustration: BATTLE OF BUSACO.]

An affecting incident, contrasting strongly with the savage character of
the preceding events, added to the interest of the day. A poor orphan
Portuguese girl, about seventeen years of age and very handsome, was
seen coming down the mountain, and driving an ass loaded with all her
property through the midst of the French army. She had abandoned her
dwelling in obedience to the proclamation; and now passed over the field
of battle with simplicity which told she was unconscious of her perilous
situation, and scarcely understanding which were the hostile and which
the friendly troops, for no man on either side was so brutal as to
molest her. In this Battle of Busaco, the French after astonishing acts
of valour, were repulsed. General Graind’orge, and about eight hundred
men were slain, besides nearly five thousand wounded; while the loss of
the allies did not exceed thirteen hundred. After this trial, Masséna
judged the position of Busaco impregnable, and to turn it by the Mondego
impossible, as the allies could pass that river quicker than himself.
But a peasant informed him of the road leading from Mortagas to Boyalva,
and he resolved to turn Lord Wellington’s left. To cover this movement
the skirmishing was renewed with such vigour on the 28th, that many
thought a general battle would take place; and yet the disappearance of
baggage and the throwing up of intrenchments on the hill covering the
roads to Mortagas indicated some other design. It was not till evening,
when the enemy’s masses in front being sensibly diminished, and his
cavalry descried winding over the distant mountains, that the project
became quite apparent.

On the 1st of October our outposts were attacked; but the French, on
entering the plain of Coimbra, suffered some loss from a cannonade; and
the British cavalry were drawn up in line, but with no serious intention
of fighting, and were soon after withdrawn across the Mondego. The light
division then marched hastily to gain the defiles of Condeixa, which
commences at the end of the bridge. At this juncture all the inhabitants
of the place rushed simultaneously out, who had not before quitted the
place, each with what could be caught up in the hand, and driving before
them a number of animals loaded with sick people or children. At the
entrance to the bridge the press was so great that the troops halted for
a few moments, just under the prison. The jailer had fled with the keys;
the prisoners, crowding to the windows, were endeavouring to tear down
the bars with their hands, and even with their teeth; some were shouting
in the most frantic manner, while the bitter lamentations of the
multitude increased, and the pistol-shots of the cavalry, engaged at the
fords below, were distinctly heard. Captain William Campbell burst the
prison doors, and released the wretched inmates, while the troops forced
their way over the bridge; yet at the other end, the uphill road,
passing between high rocks, was so crowded, that no effort, even of the
artillery, could make way. At last some of the infantry opened a passage
on the right flank, and by great exertions the road was cleared for the
guns; but it was not until after dusk that the division reached
Condeixa, although the distance was less than eight miles. Hitherto the
marches had been easy, the weather fine, and provisions abundant;
nevertheless, the usual mischievous disorders of a retreat had shown
themselves. In Coimbra, a quantity of harness and intrenching tools lay
scattered in the streets; at Leiria, the magazines were plundered by the
troops and camp followers; and at Condeixa a magazine of tents, shoes,
spirits, and salt meat was destroyed or abandoned to the enemy; and the
streets were flowing ankle-deep with wasted rum, while the Portuguese
division, only a quarter of a mile distant, could receive only half the
usual supply of liquor.

It is with some regret I reflect, that at this period, though exposed to
dangers so imminent, I was carried away in some degree with the torrent
of prevailing dissipation. Not that during any period of my active
service I ever suffered the pleasure of conviviality, so called, to
interfere with my duty. I was indeed often astonished to notice the
reckless gaiety of my companions in arms, many of whom would crowd
around the evening card-table, though aware that by dawn of day they
might be engaged in mortal combat. In the midst of examples so
contaminating, certain principles of morality, aided perhaps by a little
natural gravity, were never totally subverted; and, under the blessing
of God, preserved me from the grosser vices. Had I been favoured with an
able and enlightened Christian teacher, it is probable, even then, that
my mind might have received the light of Gospel truth. Insensible and
ungrateful indeed I must have been not to have perceived and felt the
mercies of Divine Providence; for during the entire period of my active
service, though exposed to perils almost unnumbered, I was, not only
preserved alive, but had been exempted from sickness, and therefore
able, without a single exception, to maintain my place in the division.

Masséna resumed his march on the 4th. Leaving his sick and wounded with
a slender guard at Coimbra, amounting altogether to four thousand seven
hundred men, he resumed his march by Condeixa and Leiria. His hospital
was established at the convent of Santa Clara, on the left bank of the
river; and all the inhabitants who were unable to reach the lines came
down from their hiding-places in the mountains. But scarcely had the
prince left the city, when Trant, Miller, and Wilson, with nearly ten
thousand militia, closed upon his rear, occupying the sierras on both
sides the Mondego, and cutting off all communication with Almeida. The
English army retreated; the right by Thomar and Santarem, the centre by
Batalha and Rio Mayor, the left by Olobaca and Obidos; and at the same
time a native force under Colonel Blunt was thrown into Peniché. Masséna
followed in one column, by the way of Rio Mayor; but meanwhile a capital
exploit, performed by a partisan officer, convicted the prince of bad
generalship, and shook his plan of invasion to the base. Colonel Trant
reached Milheada, and, believing that his arrival was unknown at
Coimbra, he resolved to attack the French in that city. Having surprised
a small post at Fornos, early in the morning of the 7th he sent his
cavalry at full gallop through the streets of Coimbra, with orders to
pass the bridge and cut off all communications with the French army.
Meantime, his infantry penetrated at different points into the principal
parts of the town; and the enemy, astounded, made little or no
resistance. The convent of St. Clara surrendered at discretion; and
thus, on the third day after the Prince of Essling had quitted the
Mondego, his depôts and hospitals, with nearly five thousand prisoners,
wounded and unwounded, among which there was a company of the marines of
the Imperial Guard, fell into the hands of a small militia force.

But Crauford, who had reached Alemguer on the 9th, was still there at
three o’clock on the afternoon of the 10th. The weather being stormy, we
were placed under cover, and no indication of marching was given. The
cavalry had already filed into the lines; yet no guards were posted, no
patrols sent forward, nor any precautions taken against surprise,
although the town, situated in a deep ravine, was peculiarly favourable
for such an attempt. It was clear to me and others that our officers
were uneasy at this posture of affairs; the height in front was
anxiously watched, and about four o’clock some French dragoons on the
summit were observed. The alarm was given, and the regiments got under
arms; but the posts of assembly had been marked on an open space very
much exposed, and from whence the road led through an ancient gateway to
the top of the mountain behind. The enemy’s numbers increased every
moment, and they endeavoured to create a belief that their artillery was
come up: this feint was easily seen through, but the general desired the
regiments to break, and reform on the other side of the archway, out of
gun-range; and immediately all was disorder. The baggage animals were
still loading, the streets were crowded with the followers of the
division, and the whole in one confused mass rushed or were driven
headlong to the archway. Several were crushed, and with worse troops
general panic must have ensued; but the greater number of the soldiers,
ashamed of the order, stood firm in their ranks until the confusion
abated. Nevertheless the mischief was sufficiently great; and the
enemy’s infantry, descending the heights, endeavoured, some to turn the
town on the left, while others pushed directly through the streets in
pursuit; and thus, with our front in disorder and our rear skirmishing,
the retreat was commenced. The weather was, however, so boisterous that
the firing soon ceased, and a few wounded, with the loss of some
baggage, was all the hurt sustained. I was on this occasion on the verge
of considerable personal danger. Having been ordered by an officer to
procure forage for his horse, I incautiously ventured too near the
enemy; and being further tempted by some clusters of fine grapes,
accidentally noticed, I remained some little time to discuss them. On a
sudden I found that the last column of the British was out of sight,
while imperceptibly to myself the advanced horsemen of the French had
nearly hemmed me in. Fully aware of my danger, which I felt conscious
had been increased by my agreeable but untimely repast, I was aroused to
instant exertion, and was happy enough to elude the surrounding scouts
and reach my division. Having, however, exceeded my commission, by
taking care of myself as well as the horse, and exposed both to extreme
jeopardy, I was glad to resign the animal to its owner, and resume my
musket and place in the ranks without notice; and had no objection to
perceive that my error had been unnoticed both by foes and friends.

The captain of the company in whose service I had engaged myself, like
many others, had not much time to spare. When an alarm was given of the
enemy’s approach, we were preparing for dinner. Three or four officers
messed together; and on that day another or two were expected, by way of
a small party. Culinary preparations on a moderate scale were going on,
and I had just opened the captain’s trunk, and taken out some
table-linen, when, lo! the well-known bugle sounded to arms. Aware that
something unexpected had happened, I ran upstairs, and on looking out at
a back window I saw the enemy on the brow of a mountain, a column of
whom were rapidly descending into the town. Coming down in haste, I
found the dinner ready; but there is many a slip between the cup and the
lip; and, reaching across the table, which was ready garnished, I swept
the whole—utensils, food, and all—into the orifice of a large
travelling-bag, and made my way with it into the street. Confusion and
disorder are terms too weak to describe the condition of the public
thoroughfare. This time, thought I, we shall be surely taken. The
captain clamoured for his horse; I was as urgent for a mule to carry the
baggage; every minute of delay seemed an hour. At length, by uncommon
effort, we cleared the town, and though the roads were bad, reached a
small village within the lines before midnight. I was billeted, with
several officers, in a gentleman’s house. It was well furnished; but I
regret to add, that in a few days most of the moveables were destroyed.
The proprietor, it would appear, had a presentiment of approaching
injury; for previous to our actual entrance on the premises, he and his
family had decamped.

I have already made some allusion to the lines of Torres Vedras, thrown
up for the defence of Lisbon by Lord Wellington. These lines consisted
of three distinct ranges of defence. The first, extending from Alhandra
on the Tagus to the mouth of the Zizandre on the sea-coast, was,
following the inflections of the hills, twenty-nine miles long. The
second, traced at a distance varying from six to ten miles in rear of
the first, stretched from Quintella, on the Tagus, to the mouth of the
St. Lorenzo, being twenty-four miles in length. The third, intended to
cover a forced embarkation, should it become necessary, extended from
Passo d’Arcos, on the Tagus, to the tower of Junquera, on the coast.
Here an outer line, constructed on an opening of three thousand yards,
enclosed an entrenched camp, designed to cover the embarkation with
fewer troops, should the operation be delayed by bad weather; and within
this second camp, Fort St. Julian’s, whose high ramparts and deep
ditches defied an escalade, was armed and strengthened to enable a
rearguard to protect both itself and the army. Of these stupendous
lines, the second, whether regarded for its strength or importance, was
the principal, and the others only appendages; the one as a final place
of refuge, the other as an advanced work to stem the violence of the
enemy, and to enable the army to take up its ground on the second line
without hurry or pressure. The aim and scope of all the works were to
bar those passes, and to strengthen the favourable fighting positions
between them, without impeding the movements of the army. The
fortifications extended to the space of fifty miles; there were one
hundred and fifty forts, and not fewer than six hundred pieces of
artillery mounted within them, while the river was protected by gunboats
manned with British marines.

Masséna was astonished at the extent and strength of works, the
existence of which had only become known to him five days before he came
upon them. He employed several days in examining their nature, and was
as much at a loss at the end of his inspection as at the beginning. The
heights of Alhandra he judged unattackable; but the valleys of Calandrix
and Aruda attracted his attention. There were here frequent skirmishes
with the light division to oblige Crauford to show his force; but by
making Aruda an advanced post, he rendered it impossible to discover his
true position without a serious affair; and in a short time the
division, with prodigious labour, secured the position in a manner which
was spoken of with admiration. Across the ravine on the left, a loose
stone wall, sixteen feet thick and forty feet high, was raised, and
across the great valley of Aruda a double line of abattis was drawn; not
composed, as is usual, of the limbs of trees, but of full-grown oaks and
chestnuts, dug up with all their roots and branches, dragged by main
force for several hundred yards, and then reset and crossed, so that no
human strength could break through. Breastworks at convenient distances
to defend this line of trees were then cast up; and along the summit of
the mountain, for the space of nearly three miles, including the salient
points, other stone walls, six feet high and four in thickness, with
banquettes, were built, so that a good defence might have been made
against the attacks of twenty thousand men.

The increased strength of the works in general soon convinced Masséna
that it was impracticable to force the lines without great
reinforcements; and towards the end of October the hospitals, stores,
and other encumbrances of the French army were removed to Santarem. On
the 31st of the month two thousand men forded the Zezere above Punheta,
to cover the construction of a bridge; and a remarkable exploit was
performed by a sergeant of the 16th Dragoons, named Baxter. This man,
having only five troopers, came suddenly upon a piquet of fifty men, who
were cooking. The Frenchmen ran to their arms, and killed one of the
dragoons; but the rest broke in amongst them so strongly, that Baxter
with the assistance of some countrymen made forty-two captives. On the
19th the light division entered the plain between the Rio Mayor and the
Tagus, and advanced against the heights by a sedgy marsh. The columns on
our side were formed for attack, and the skirmishers of the light
division were exchanging shots with the enemy, when it was found that
the guns belonging to Pack’s brigade had not arrived; and Lord
Wellington, not quite satisfied with the appearance of his adversary’s
force after three hours’ demonstrations, ordered the troops to retire to
their former ground. It was indeed evident that the French were resolved
to maintain their position. Every advantageous spot of ground was fully
occupied, the most advanced sentinels boldly returned the fire of the
skirmishers, large bodies of reserve were descried, some in arms, others
cooking; the strokes of the hatchet and the fall of trees resounded from
the woods upon the hills; and the commencement of a triple line of
abattis, and the fresh earth of entrenchments, were discernible in many
places. Our active light division was, however, again in motion. General
Crauford thought that the hostile troops who had shown themselves
amounted merely to a rearguard of the enemy. His eager spirit could not
bear to be restrained; and seizing a musket, he advanced in the night
along the causeway, followed only by a sergeant, and commenced a
personal skirmish with the French piquets, from whose fire he escaped by
miracle, convinced at last that the enemy were not in flight.

Lord Wellington judged it best to remain on the defensive, and
strengthen the lines. With this view the light division, supported by a
brigade of cavalry, occupied Valle and the heights overlooking the marsh
and inundation; the bridge at the end of the causeway was mined; a
sugarloaf shaped hill, looking straight down the approach, was crowned
with embrasures for artillery, and laced in front with a zig-zag covered
way, capable of containing five hundred infantry. Thus the causeway
being blocked, the French could not, while the inundation was
maintained, make any sudden irruption from Santarem. About this period a
column of French, six thousand strong, scoured all the country beyond
the Zezere, and contrived to secrete a quantity of food near Pedragoa,
while other detachments arriving on the Mondego, below Coimbra, even
passed that river, and carried off four hundred oxen and two thousand
sheep intended for the allies. These excursions gave rise to horrible
excesses, which broke down the discipline of the French army, and were
not always executed with impunity. The British cavalry at various times
redeemed many cattle, and brought in a considerable number of prisoners.

Finding the drudgery of servitude, when added to my customary military
duty, greater than I could well sustain, I requested permission to
resign my situation with the captain; and we parted, mutually satisfied
with past acquaintance, and on the fairest terms. While in the vicinity
of Santarem, the unarmed French and English soldiers, while procuring
wine for the respective forces, were frequently intermingled in the same
cellar, when there seemed to exist a tacit understanding that all
animosity was suspended. The liquor was, however, sometimes too
powerful; and one of our men, who had been a good soldier, after a sad
debauch relapsed into a fit of despondency. The inordinate cup was then
resorted to, but, as usual, it lifted him up only to throw him into
lower depths of misery. He then deserted; and when taken, seized an
opportunity of placing the muzzle of a musket to his mouth, and setting
his foot upon the trigger, blew his head to atoms.

The French in their retreat from Santarem had either consumed or
destroyed every particle of food that came within their reach, so that
the country was a spacious desert. During a sharp day’s march in
pursuit, a horrible calamity was unexpectedly disclosed. While passing
over a desolate mountain, a large house standing alone, and apparently
deserted, was discovered near the line of our route. Prompted by
curiosity, several men turned aside to inspect the interior, where they
found a number of famished wretches crowded together, for no other
conceivable purpose but to die in company. Thirty women and children had
perished for want of food, and lay dead upon the floor; while about half
that number of survivors sat watching the remains of those who had
fallen. Of those who thus perished the bodies were not much emaciated,
but the muscles of the face were invariably drawn transversely, giving
the appearance of a smile, and presenting the most ghastly sight
imaginable. Most of the living were unable to move; and it had been by
great exertion that they had crawled to a little distance from the group
of death. The soldiers offered some refreshment to these unfortunate
persons; but one man only had sufficient strength to eat. The women
seemed patient and resigned, and even in this distress had arranged the
bodies of those who first died with decency and care.

The blockade of Cadiz was now prosecuted with unusual vigour by the
French forces. The chain of forts they had built was perfected. The
batteries at the Troccaderos were powerful, and the flotillas ready for
action. Soult repaired in person to San Lucar; and in the last night of
October thirty pinnaces and gunboats slipped out of the Guadalquivir,
eluded the allied fleet, passed along the coast to Rota, and from
thence, aided by shore-batteries, fought their way to Santa Maria and
the San Pedro. The flotilla was afterwards transported over-land; and in
the ensuing month one hundred and thirty armed vessels and transports
were assembled in the Troccadero Canal. At that celebrated point there
were immense batteries and some notable pieces of ordnance, called
cannon-mortars, or Villantroys, after the inventor. These huge engines
were cast in Seville, and, being placed in slings, threw shells with
such prodigious force as to range over Cadiz, a distance of more than
five thousand yards; but to obtain this flight, the shells were partly
filled with lead, so that the charge of powder was proportionately of
less effective explosion. While Cadiz was thus begirt, a furious
engagement took place at Cerra de Puerco, called by the English the
heights of Barossa, about four miles from the sea-mouth of the Santa
Petri. Barossa is a low ridge creeping in from the coast about a mile
and a half, and overlooking a high and broken plain of small extent.

Graham, who commanded the British, was extremely desirous of holding the
Barossa height, as the key both to offensive and defensive movements.
Our Spanish allies on this occasion behaved scandalously; indeed,
nothing but the unflinching firmness and courage of the English troops
could have saved the army from entire ruin. Major Brown, seeing the
general confusion arising from the defeat of the Spaniards, and being
unable to stem the torrent, slowly retired into the plain, sending
notice of what was passing to Graham, and demanding orders. That
general, being then near Bermeja, answered that he was to fight; and
instantly facing about himself, regained the plains with the greatest
celerity, when, to his surprise, he beheld the Spanish rearguard and
baggage flying in confusion, the French cavalry between the summit and
the sea, and Laval close on his own left flank. In this desperate
situation he felt that to retreat upon Bermeja, and thus bring the enemy
pell-mell with the allies on that narrow bridge, must be disastrous;
hence, without a moment’s hesitation, he resolved to attack, although
the key of the field of battle was already in the enemy’s possession.
Ten guns, under Major Duncan, instantly opened a terrific fire against
Laval’s column, while Colonel Barnard, with the riflemen and the
Portuguese companies, running out to the left, commenced the fight. The
remainder of the British troops, without any attention to regiments or
brigades, so sudden was the affair, formed two masses, one of which,
under General Dilkes, marched hastily against Ruffin, and the other,
under Colonel Wheatley, against Laval. Duncan’s guns ravaged the French
ranks; Laval’s artillery replied with spirit; Ruffin’s batteries took
Wheatley’s columns in flank; and the infantry on both sides pressed
forward eagerly and with a pealing musketry; and when near together, a
fierce, rapid, prolonged charge of the British overthrew the first line
of the French, and, notwithstanding its extreme valour, drove it in
confusion over a narrow dip of ground upon the second, which was almost
immediately broken in the same manner, and only the chosen battalion,
hitherto posted on the right, remained to cover the retreat. Meanwhile
Brown, receiving his orders, had marched headlong against Ruffin. Nearly
half of his detachment went down under the enemy’s last fire; yet he
maintained the fight until Dilkes’ column, which had crossed a deep
hollow and never stopped even to reform the regiments, came up, with
little order indeed, but in a fierce mood, when the whole ran up towards
the summit. There was no slackness on any side, and at the very edge of
the ascent their opponents met them. A dreadful and for some time a
doubtful fight ensued. Ruffin and Chaudron Rousseau, commanding the
chosen Grenadiers, both fell, mortally wounded. The English bore
strongly onward; and their incessant, slaughtering fire forced the
French from the hill, with the loss of three guns and many brave men.
The defeated divisions retired concentrically, and having soon met, they
endeavoured with great energy to reform and renew the action; but the
fire of Duncan’s guns, close, rapid, and destructive, rendered the
attempt vain. Victor was soon in full retreat; and the British, having
been twenty-four hours under arms, were too exhausted to pursue. In this
brief but desperate fight upwards of twelve hundred British soldiers,
and more than two thousand Frenchmen, were killed or wounded; from the
latter, six guns, an eagle, and two generals, both mortally wounded,
were taken, together with four hundred other prisoners.

The activities of this spirited campaign were maintained in other
places. Badajos was sorely pressed by the French. Early in March, the
second parallel being completed, and the Pardaleras taken into the
works, the approaches were carried by sap to the covered way; mines were
also prepared to blow in the counterscarp, and yet Rafael Menacho, the
governor, was not dismayed. His sallies were frequent and vigorous; he
constructed new entrenchments where necessary; and everything went on
prosperously till the evening of the 2nd, when in a sally, in which the
nearest French batteries were carried, the guns spiked, and trenches
partly ruined, Menacho was killed, and the command fell to Imas, a man
so unworthy that a worse could not be found. At once the spirit of the
garrison died away, for cowardice is often contagious. The besiegers’
works rapidly advanced, the ditch was passed, a lodgment was made on one
of the ravelines, the rampart was breached, and the fire of the besieged
being nearly silenced, on the 10th of March the place was summoned in a
peremptory manner. Not that there was the least need to surrender. A
strong body of British and Portuguese were in full march for the relief
of the place. This information had been communicated by telegraph,
besides which Imas had been informed by a confidential messenger that
Masséna was in full retreat. The breach was not practicable, provisions
were plentiful, the garrison above eight thousand strong, the French
army reduced by sickness and the previous operations to fewer than
fourteen thousand men. Imas, however, instantly surrendered, but he also
demanded that his Grenadiers should march out of the breach. This was
granted, and he was obliged to enlarge the opening before they could do
so. Yet this man, so overwhelmed with opprobrium, was never punished.

Masséna continued to retreat; and a skirmish, attended with some loss on
both sides, unexpectedly took place at Pombal. The commander just named
was so closely followed by our division, that, the streets being still
encumbered, Ney drew up a rearguard on a height behind the town, and
threw a detachment into the old castle. He had, however, waited too
long. The French army was moving in some confusion, and in an extended
column of march, by a narrow defile between the mountains and the Soire
river, which was fordable, while the British divisions were in rapid
motion on the left bank, with the design of crossing lower down, and
cutting Masséna’s line of retreat; but darkness came on, and the
operation terminated in a sharp conflict at Pombal, whence the 95th and
the 3rd Cacadores drove the French from the castle and town with such
vigour, that the latter could not destroy the bridge, though it was
mined for the purpose. Daybreak on the 12th saw both armies in movement,
and eight miles of march brought the head of the British into a hollow
way leading to a high tableland, on which Ney had disposed five thousand
infantry, a few squadrons of cavalry, and some light guns. His centre
was opposite to the hollow road, his wings were covered by the woody
heights which he occupied with light troops. Behind him arose the
village of Redhina, situated on low ground, in front of which were
posted a division of infantry, a regiment of cavalry, and a battery of
heavy guns, all so skilfully disposed as to give the appearance of
considerable force.

After examining the enemy’s position for a short time, Lord Wellington
first directed the light division to attack the wooded slopes covering
Ney’s right; and in less than an hour these orders were executed. The
woods were presently cleared, and our skirmishers advanced even to the
open plain beyond. Just then, the French battalions, supported by four
guns, opened a heavy rolling fire, and at the same moment Colonel
Farrière, of the 3rd French Hussars, charged and took fourteen
prisoners. This officer, during the whole campaign, had never failed to
break in upon the skirmishers in the most critical moments, sometimes
with a squadron, sometimes with only a few men; he was, however, sure to
be found in the right place. The British light division, commanded by
Sir William Erskine, consisted of five battalions of infantry and six
guns, and was formed so that it outflanked the French right. It was also
reinforced with two regiments of dragoons. Meanwhile Picton seized the
woody heights protecting the French left, and thus Ney’s position was
exposed. Nevertheless, that marshal, observing that Lord Wellington,
deceived as to his real numbers, was bringing the mass of the allied
troops into line, far from retreating, even charged Picton’s
skirmishers, and continued to hold his ground with astonishing
confidence. In this posture both sides remained for about an hour, when
three shots were fired from the British centre as a signal for a forward
movement, and a most splendid spectacle of war was exhibited. The woods
seemed alive with troops, and in a few moments thirty thousand men,
forming three gorgeous lines of battle, were stretched across the plain,
but bending on a gentle curve, and moving majestically forward, while
horsemen and guns springing simultaneously onward from the centre and
left wing, charged under a volley from the French battalions. The latter
were instantly hidden by the smoke; and when that cleared away, no enemy
was to be seen. Ney keenly watched the progress of this grand formation,
and having opposed Picton’s foremost skirmishers with his left, withdrew
the rest of his people with such rapidity that he gained the village
before the cavalry could touch him. The utmost efforts of Picton’s
skirmishers and of the horse artillery scarcely enabled them to gall the
hindmost of the French. One howitzer was, indeed, dismounted close to
the bridge, but the village of Redhina was in flames. The marshal was
hard pressed, for the British were thundering at his rear, and the light
troops of the 3rd division, chasing like heated bloodhounds, passed the
river almost at the same time with the French. Ney at length fell back
upon the main body at Condeixa.

The mind is sometimes impressed by trifling occurrences, especially when
they take place unexpectedly, or are at all out of the common way. I
remember that in the midst of the clangor and firing just described, a
hare emerged from the woods, and for some time amused herself by sundry
doubles and evolutions between the hostile lines; at length, as if
satisfied that enough had been seen, she suddenly disappeared. The other
event is, that the tallest man I ever saw had been a private in the
French ranks at Redhina. He was lying dead on the road side.

Our forces continued to drive the enemy. Masséna, in repairing to Fonte
Coberta, had left orders to fire Condeixa at a certain hour. These
gentlemen left nothing willingly behind them, but ruin and desolation.
In a few days we came up with the rear. Picton contrived to wind round
the bluff side of a mountain about eight miles distant. As he was
already beyond the French left, instant confusion pervaded their camp.
The British immediately pushed forward; their advance was extremely
rapid, and it is affirmed that the Prince of Essling, who was on the
road, only escaped capture by taking the feathers out of his hat, and
riding through some of the light troops. Condeixa being thus evacuated,
the British cavalry pushed towards Coimbra, and cutting off Montbrun,
captured part of his horsemen. The rest of the army kindled their fires,
and the light division, in which, as usual, I was stationed, planted
piquets close up to the enemy; but about ten at night the French
divisions, whose presence was unknown to Lord Wellington, stole out, and
passing along the front of the British posts, made for Miranda de Corvo.
The noise of their march was heard, but the night was dark; it was
imagined to be the moving of the French to the rear, and being so
reported to Sir William Erskine, that officer put the light division in
march at daylight on the 14th. Our movements partook of extraordinary
rashness, and, what increased the danger, we were insensible of it. The
morning was so obscured that nothing could be distinguished at the
distance of a hundred feet, but the sound of a great multitude was heard
on the hills in front, and it being evident that the French were there
in force, many officers represented the impropriety of thus advancing
without orders, and in such a fog. But Erskine, with what is deemed
astounding negligence, sent the 52nd forward in a simple column of
sections, without a vanguard or other precaution, and even before the
piquets had come in from their posts. The road dipped suddenly,
descending into a valley, and the regiment was immediately lost in the
mist, which was so thick that the troops, unconsciously passing the
enemy’s outposts, had nearly captured Ney himself, whose bivouac was
close to the piquets. The riflemen followed in a few moments, and the
rest of the division was about to plunge into the same gulf, when the
rattling of musketry and the booming of round shot was heard, and when
the vapour slowly rose, the 52nd were seen on the slopes of the opposite
mountain engaged, without support, in the midst of the enemy’s army. At
this moment Lord Wellington arrived, and the whole of the light division
were pushed forward to sustain the 52nd. The enemy’s ground was so
extensive, and his skirmishers so thick and so easily supported, that in
a little time the division was necessarily stretched out in one thin
thread, and closely engaged in every part without any reserve; nor could
it even thus present an equal front, until Picton sent the riflemen of
the 60th to prolong the line. The fight was vigorously maintained amidst
the numerous stone enclosures on the mountain side; some advantages were
gained, and the right of the enemy was partially turned, yet the main
position could not be shaken until Picton and Cole had turned it by the
left. Ney then commenced his retreat, retiring from ridge to ridge with
admirable precision, and for a long time without confusion and with very
little loss. Towards the middle of the day, however, the British guns
and the skirmishers got within range of his masses, and the retreat
became more rapid and less orderly; yet he finally gained the strong
pass of Miranda de Corvo, which was secured by the main body of the
French. The loss in the light division this day was eleven officers and
a hundred and fifty men, and about a hundred prisoners were taken.

On the 15th the weather was so obscure that the allies could not reach
the Ceira before four o’clock in the afternoon, and the troops as they
came up proceeded to kindle fires for the night. The French right rested
on some thick and wooded ground, and their left on the village of Fons
d’Aronce; but Lord Wellington, having cast a rapid glance over it,
directed the light division, who were seldom forgotten when honour was
to be obtained, to hold the right in play, and at the same moment the
horse artillery, galloping forward to a rising ground, opened with great
and sudden effect. Ney’s left wing, being surprised and overthrown by
the first charge, dispersed in a panic, and fled in such confusion
towards the river that some, missing the fords, were drowned, and
others, crowding on the bridge, were crushed to death. On the right the
ground was so rugged and close that the action resolved itself into a
skirmish; and thus Ney was able to use some battalions to check the
pursuit of his left; but meanwhile darkness came on, and the French
troops in their disorder fired upon each other. Only four officers and
sixty men fell on the side of the British; the enemy’s loss was not less
than five hundred, of which one-half were drowned, and an eagle was
afterwards found in the bed of the river when the waters had subsided.

Ney maintained the left bank of the Ceira until every encumbrance bad
passed, and then, blowing up seventy feet of the bridge, sent his corps
on. Thus terminated the first part of the retreat from Santarem, in
which, though the ability of the French commander was conspicuous, it
revealed much that savoured of a harsh and ruthless spirit. Almost every
horror that could make war hideous attended this dreadful march. Death
was dealt out in all modes. Unpitying vengeance seemed to steel every
breast. Lives were lost by wounds, by fatigue, by fire, by water,
besides the numerous victims of famine. One of my comrades going out at
dusk in search of provisions, on turning a corner stumbled over the body
of a recently murdered man. The natives were of course excited to
retaliate, and Colonel Napier once saw a peasant cheering on his dog to
devour the dead and dying; the spirit of cruelty once unchained smote
even the brute creation. On the 15th, the French general, in order to
diminish the encumbrances on his march, ordered a number of beasts of
burden to be destroyed. The inhuman fellow charged with the execution,
who, if known, would have long since been hooted from society,
ham-stringed five hundred asses, and left them to starve; and thus they
were found by the British army. The acute but deep expression of pain
visible in these poor creatures’ looks wonderfully aroused the fury of
the soldiers; and so little weight has reason with the multitude, when
opposed by momentary sensation, that had prisoners been taken at that
moment, no quarter most assuredly would have been given.

[Illustration]



                              CHAPTER VI.

    COMBAT OF SABUGAL—FUENTES D’ONORO—BATTLE OF ALBUERA—AUTHOR SENT TO
      LISBON—GETS INTO TROUBLE—SIEGE OF CIUDAD RODRIGO—GENERAL CRAUFORD
      KILLED—FORTITUDE OF THE BRITISH SOLDIERS.

At daylight on the 3rd of April our nearness to the enemy indicated the
approach of another collision. The English general, having ten thousand
men pivoted on the 5th division at Sabugal, designed to turn Reynier’s
left, and surround him before he could be succoured. This well-concerted
plan was marred by one of those accidents to which war is always liable,
and brought on the combat of Sabugal, one of the hottest in which I was
ever engaged. The morning was so foggy that the troops could not gain
their respective posts of attack with that simultaneous regularity which
is so essential to success. Colonel Beckwith, who commanded the first
brigade, halted at a ford to await orders, and at that moment a staff
officer rode up, and somewhat hastily asked why he did not attack. The
thing appeared rash, but with an enemy in front he could make no reply;
and instantly passing the river, which was deep and rapid, mounted a
steep wooded hill on the other side. Many of the men were up to their
middle in water; and a dark, heavy rain coming on, it was impossible for
some time to distinguish friends from foes. The attack was thus made too
soon; for owing to the obscurity, none of the divisions of the army had
reached their respective posts; and Beckwith having only one bayonet
regiment and four companies of riflemen, was advancing against more than
twelve thousand infantry, supported by cavalry and artillery.

Scarcely had the riflemen reached the top of the hill, when a compact
and strong body of French drove them back upon the 43rd. The weather
cleared at that instant, and Beckwith at once saw and felt all his
danger; but, well supported as he was, it was met with a heart that
nothing could shake. Leading a fierce charge, he beat back the enemy,
and the summit of the hill was attained; but at the same moment two
French guns opened with grape, at the distance of a hundred yards, a
fresh body appeared in front, and considerable forces fell upon either
flank of the regiment. Fortunately, Reynier, little expecting to be
attacked, had, for the convenience of water, placed his principal masses
in the low ground behind the height on which the action commenced; his
renewed attack was therefore uphill, yet the musketry, heavy from the
beginning, now increased to a storm. The French mounted the acclivity
with great clamour; and it was evident that nothing but the most
desperate fighting could save the regiment from destruction. Captain
Hopkins, commanding a flank company of the 43rd, immediately ran out to
the right, and with admirable presence of mind seized a small eminence
close to the French guns and commanding the ascent by which the French
troops were approaching. His first fire was so sharp that the assailants
were thrown into confusion, they rallied, and were again confounded by
the volleys of this company; a third time they endeavoured to form an
attack, when Hopkins, with a sudden charge, increased the disorder, and
at the same moment the two battalions of the 52nd regiment, which had
been attracted by the fire, entered the line. Meantime the centre and
left of the 43rd were furiously engaged, and excited beyond all former
precedent. Beckwith, wounded in the head, and with the blood streaming
down his face, rode amongst the foremost of the skirmishers, directing
all with ability, and praising the men in a loud, cheerful tone. I was
close to him at the time. One of our company called out, ‘Old Sydney is
wounded.’ Beckwith heard the remark, and instantly replied, ‘But he
won’t leave you: fight on, my brave fellows: we shall beat them.’ The
musket bullets flew thicker and closer every instant; but the French
fell fast. A second charge cleared the hill, a howitzer was taken, and
the British skirmishers were even advanced a short way down the hill,
when small bodies of French cavalry came galloping in from all parts,
and obliged them to take refuge in the main body of the regiment. Having
brought down a Frenchman by a random shot, I advanced close to the poor
fellow as he lay on his side. Never shall I forget the alarm that was
pictured on his countenance; he thought I was going to bayonet him, to
avert which he held out his knapsack, containing most likely all his
worldly substance, by way of appeasing my wrath. Unwilling to injure a
fallen foe, I did not take his life, and in a few seconds he was
protected by a charge of cavalry.

The English line was now formed behind a stone wall above; yet one
squadron of dragoons surmounted the ascent, and with incredible
desperation, riding up to this wall, were in the act of firing over it
with their pistols, when a rolling volley laid nearly the whole of them
prostrate. By this time, however, a second and stronger column of
infantry had rushed up the face of the hill, endeavouring to break in
and retake the howitzer, which was on the edge of the descent, and only
fifty yards from the wall. But no man could reach it and live, so deadly
was the 43rd’s fire. One of my comrades, having previously passed the
howitzer, took a piece of chalk from his pocket, and, as he said, marked
it as our own, and we were determined to keep it. Reynier, convinced at
last that he had acted unskilfully in sending up his troops in small
parties, put all his reserves, amounting to nearly six thousand
infantry, with artillery and cavalry, into motion, and outflanking the
division on the left, appeared resolved to storm the contested position.
At this critical period the 5th division passed the bridge of Sabugal,
the British cavalry appeared on the hills beyond the enemy’s left, and
General Colville with the leading brigade of the 3rd division issued out
of the woods on Reynier’s right, and opened a fire on the flank that
directly decided the fate of the day. The loss of the allies in this
sanguinary contest, which did not last quite an hour, was nearly two
hundred killed and wounded; that of the enemy was enormous,—three
hundred dead bodies were heaped together on the hill, the greater part
round the captured howitzer; and more than twelve hundred were
wounded,—so unwisely had Reynier managed his masses, and so true and
constant was the English fire. Lord Wellington afterwards observed that
this was one of the most _glorious_ actions that British troops ever
sustained. If by this term we are to understand that a numerous and
well-disciplined force was signally repulsed by one of numerical
inferiority, and that on the British side our national honour was
upheld, he was right. In any other sense, the glories of war are, I am
afraid, of a cast rather ambiguous. I scarcely ever before saw such
determined firmness in our troops. It amounted almost to invincibility.
During the action there was through our ranks to be observed a fierce
and terrible anger, before the breakings forth of which the enemy
quailed and fled. Our fire was given with singular exactness and
rapidity. This fine conduct arose partly from a sense of extreme
personal danger, for of that not a man was insensible; and partly from
the desire, which I believe pervaded every breast, of properly
supporting the officers engaged.

Among others, I had been unusually excited, and had dealt out wounds and
destruction with an unsparing hand. In endeavouring to reach the enemy,
all concern for my own preservation was forgotten. Just as the action
commenced, a round shot struck a horseman close to my side, and brought
him down. Daniel Lowry, an intimate friend, who was also within a few
paces, was slain. My old captain was hit, and badly wounded; his place
was, however, well supplied by Lieutenant Brown, who succeeded in the
command of the company. After the action had ceased, the latter officer
was pleased to take special notice of my conduct, and by his
recommendation I was made corporal in one of the companies of the
regiment. We halted on the field of battle during the succeeding day.
Some of our men were quartered in a chapel which had been recently
occupied by French troops. Nearly the whole of the interior fittings
were destroyed. As the place had been used for Roman Catholic worship,
saints and images, attired in fanciful vestments, ‘black, white, and
grey, with all their trumpery,’ had been abundant. These petty
divinities, despite of their alleged virtues, were upset and destroyed;
some were prostrate on the floor, others were broken and disfigured, not
a few had been consumed, and all that remained of many were a few
glowing embers.

As food now became dreadfully scarce, a small party, of which I was one,
went in search of bread or any other article of sustenance we could
procure. After wandering at least ten or twelve miles from the camp
ground, we observed a young heifer, to which we immediately gave chase;
but the animal was so timid, and withal so swift of foot, that after a
weary pursuit the game was lost. The French soldiers had, in fact, laid
waste the land. Having spread themselves over the surface of many a
league, they had, like a devastating army of locusts, devoured every
particle of food within reach; and what in some respects is worse, what
they did not eat was destroyed. On ascending an eminence, we saw the
smoke of several burning villages. One of the men discovered also, at a
moderate distance, what appeared to be two or three huts; we accordingly
made for them; on arriving near the spot, we found they were tents,
pitched apparently for temporary use. Two or three women and some
children presently appeared, when we asked if they had any bread and
wine to sell; telling them at the same time, to secure their favour,
that we were English soldiers. They were inexorable, and declared they
had nothing; but one of our party, not disposed to credit the ladies,
forced his way into the tent, and dragged out a leathern bottle,
containing perhaps twenty or thirty gallons of liquid. We flattered
ourselves it was wine, but on inspection it was filled with oil. Several
loaves of bread were, however, discovered, with which we made free; but
had nearly paid a high price for the liberty taken. All on a sudden the
whole party of women and children set up a dismal piercing shout, and
almost at the same instant a numerous and armed party of men were
observed rapidly coming down the mountain side upon us. We were few in
number, and unfortunately were without our muskets. Sensible that if
overtaken, our lives were forfeited, a hasty retreat became necessary.
We were chased for several miles; but owing to our superior speed, we at
length left our pursuers behind. When out of the reach of danger, we
halted, almost dead with fatigue, and divided our spoil. It amounted to
a small piece of bread for each; but how sweet that morsel was, no man
can tell but he who has been driven to desperate acts by the call of
biting hunger. The next day our division took the route of Valdespina,
to look out for the enemy on the side of the passes leading upon Coria;
but Masséna was in full retreat for Ciudad Rodrigo, and on the 5th he
crossed the frontier of Portugal; so that Lord Wellington now stood
victorious on the confines of that kingdom, having executed what to
others had appeared incredible and vain.

The pursuit was continued. When Masséna reached the Agueda, his cavalry
detachments, heavy artillery, and convalescents again augmented his army
to more than fifty thousand men; but the fatigue of the retreat and want
of provisions would not suffer him to show a front to the allies; he
therefore fell back to Salamanca, and Lord Wellington invested Almeida.
Our division occupied Gallegos and Espeja, and the rest of the army were
disposed in villages on both sides of the Coa. Here Colonel Waters, who
had been taken near Belmonte, rejoined the army. His escape was most
extraordinary. Confident in his own resources, he had refused his
parole; but when carried to Ciudad Rodrigo, he rashly mentioned his
intention to the Spaniard in whose house he was lodged. This man
betrayed him; but a servant, detesting his master’s treachery, secretly
offered his aid, and Waters coolly allowed him to get the rowels of his
spurs sharpened. When the French army was near Salamanca, Waters, being
in the custody of gendarmes, waited until their chief, who rode the only
good horse in the party, had alighted; then, giving the spur to his own
beast, he galloped off. This was an act of astonishing resolution and
hardihood; for he was on a large plain, and before him and for miles
behind the road was covered with the French columns. His hat fell off,
and thus distinguished, he rode along the flanks of the troops, some
encouraging him, others firing at him, and the gendarmes, sword in hand,
close at his heels; but suddenly breaking at full speed between two
columns, he gained a wooded hollow, and having baffled his pursuers,
evaded the rear of the enemy’s army.

The beautiful village of Fuentes d’Onoro was now destined to suffer. It
had escaped all injury during the previous warfare, though occupied
alternately for above a year by both sides. Every family in it was known
to our division; and it was therefore a subject of deep regret to find
that the preceding troops had pillaged it, leaving only the shells of
houses where, three days before, a friendly population had been living
in comfort. This wanton act was so warmly felt by the whole army, that
eight thousand dollars were afterwards collected by general subscription
for the poor inhabitants; yet the injury sank deeper than the remedy.
The allies occupied a fine table land, lying between the Turones and the
Dos Casos; the left at Fort Conception, the centre towards the village
of Alameda, the right at Fuentes d’Onoro, the whole distance being five
miles. The first and third divisions were concentrated on a gentle
declivity, about a cannon-shot behind Fuentes d’Onoro, where the line of
ground occupied by the army turned back, and ended on the Turones. The
French came up in three columns abreast. General Loison fell upon
Fuentes d’Onoro, which was occupied by five battalions of chosen troops.
Most of the houses in this village were at the bottom of the ravine; but
an old chapel and some buildings on a craggy eminence overhung one end.
The low parts were vigorously defended; yet the violence of the attack
was so great, and the cannonade so heavy, that the British abandoned the
streets, and could scarcely maintain the upper ground; and the fight was
becoming perilous, when three fresh regiments, coming down from the main
position, charged with so little ceremony, that the French were forced
back, and, after a severe contest, finally driven over the stream of Dos
Casos.

On the 4th Masséna arrived; and, having examined all the line, made
dispositions for the next day. Forty thousand infantry, and five
thousand horse, with thirty pieces of artillery were under arms; and
they had shown, in the action of the 3rd, that their courage was not
abated. The position of the English was, on the other hand, not at all
desirable; and it required no common resolution to receive battle on
ground so dangerous. The action began by severe cavalry fighting; and
the British horsemen, being overmatched, retired behind the light
division, which threw itself into squares; but the main body of the
French were upon the seventh division, before the like formation could
be effected; nevertheless the troops stood firm, and, although some were
cut down, the Chasseurs Britanniques, taking advantage of a loose wall,
received the attack with such a fire, that the enemy recoiled.
Immediately after this, a commotion was observed among the French
squadrons; men and officers closed in confusion towards one point, where
a thick dust was arising, and where loud cries and the sparkling of
blades and the flashing of pistols indicating some extraordinary
occurrence. Suddenly the multitude was violently agitated; an English
shout arose, the mass was rent asunder, and Norman Ramsey burst forth at
the head of his battery, his horses on full stretch, and his guns
bounding along like things of no weight, with the mounted gunners in
close and compact order protecting the rear. But while this brilliant
action was passing in one part, the enemy were making progress in the
wood, and it was evident that the battle would soon be lost if the
original position was not immediately regained.

In this posture of affairs, Lord Wellington directed the seventh
division to cross the Turones and move down the left bank to Frenada.
General Crauford, who had resumed the command of the light division,
first covered the passage of the seventh, and then retired slowly over
the plain in squares, having the British cavalry principally on the
right flank. He was followed by the enemy’s horse, which continually
outflanked him, and near the wood surprised and sabred an advanced post
of the Guards, making Colonel Hill and fourteen men prisoners. Several
times Montbrun seemed disposed to storm the light division squares, but
we were too formidable to be meddled with. Yet, on the authority of
Colonel Napier, there was not during the war a more dangerous hour than
this for England. The whole of that vast plain, as far as the Turones,
was covered with a confused multitude, amidst which the squares appeared
but as specks. The seventh division was separated from the army by the
Turones; five thousand French cavalry, with fifteen pieces of artillery,
were close at hand, impatient to charge; the infantry of the eighth
corps was in order of battle behind the horsemen; the wood was filled
with the skirmishers of the sixth corps; and, if the latter body had
issued forth, our division was in imminent danger of being broken. No
effort of the sort was made. Montbrun’s horsemen merely hovered about
our squares; the plain was soon cleared, the cavalry took post behind
the centre, and the light division formed a reserve, sending the
riflemen among the rocks to connect it with the seventh. At sight of
this new front, so deeply lined with troops, the French stopped short,
and commenced a heavy cannonade, which did great execution from the
closeness of the allied masses; but twelve British guns replied with
vigour, and the violence of the hostile fire abated. All this time a
fierce battle was raging at Fuentes d’Onoro. Masséna had directed Drouet
to carry this village, at the very moment when Montbrun’s cavalry should
turn the right wing. It was, however, two hours later when the attack
began. The three British regiments made a desperate resistance, but,
overpowered by numbers, they were pierced and divided; two companies of
the 79th were taken, Colonel Cameron was mortally wounded, and the lower
part of the town was carried. The upper part was, however, stiffly held,
and the rolling of musketry was incessant. In this manner the fight
lasted till the evening, when the lower part of the town was abandoned
by both parties; the British maintaining the crags, and the French
retiring a cannon-shot from the stream. Fifteen hundred men and
officers, of which three hundred were prisoners, comprised the loss of
the allies; that of the enemy was computed at five thousand, but this I
have reason to believe was an exaggerated statement.

The night after the action, I was stationed on the line of sentinels,
not far from the French front, and at the extreme verge of our own. This
service, which demands perpetual vigilance, requires also, on account of
its wearisome and continued toil, no ordinary degree of physical energy,
as the safety of the army itself often depends upon the caution and
alertness with which the outposts are preserved. Often when pacing some
doubtful position, at dead of night, I have applied my ear to the
ground, to try if by that means a distant footstep could be heard. At
the precise time to which I now refer, the feeble voice of many a poor
wounded fellow, calling for help, might be heard. These were, however,
removed by the parties on both sides without delay, after which the dead
were buried with as much decency and respect as circumstances allowed. A
pile of about one hundred and thirty dead bodies, of which one-third
were British, was discovered on a small space at Fuentes d’Onoro; and
several large excavations or graves were formed, in which the remains of
our fallen friends were deposited.

Soon after this period the French were compelled to evacuate Almeida;
but by a singular and ingenious train of operations, the men who
defended it contrived to effect their escape. During the battle of
Fuentes d’Onoro, General Brennier, the governor of Almeida, with his
garrison of fifteen hundred, skirmished boldly with the blockading
force, and loud explosions, supposed to be signals of communication with
the relieving army, were frequently heard. When all hope of succour
vanished, a soldier named Tillet contrived, with extraordinary courage
and presence of mind, to penetrate, although in uniform, through the
posts of the blockade, carrying Brennier orders to evacuate the
fortress. The blockade, it would appear, was imperfectly maintained.
This was noticed by Brennier, who prepared to force his way through the
encircling troops. An open country and a double line of troops greatly
enhanced the difficulty; yet Brennier was resolved, not only to cut his
own passage, but to render the fortress useless to the allies. To effect
this, he ruined all the principal bastions, and kept up a constant fire
of his artillery, so directed that the mouth of one piece crossed that
of another; while therefore some shots flew towards the besiegers, and a
loud explosion was heard, others destroyed pieces without attracting
notice. At midnight, on the 10th, all being ready, he sprang his mines,
sallied forth in a compact column, broke through the piquets, and passed
between the quarters of the reserves with a nicety that proved at once
his talent of observation and his coolness. General Pack followed with a
few men collected at the instant, and plied him with a constant fire;
yet nothing could shake or retard his column, which in silence, and
without returning a shot, gained the rough country upon Barba del
Puerco. Here it halted for a moment, just as daylight broke; and Pack,
who was at hand, hearing that some English dragoons were in a village,
sent an officer to bring them out, thus occasioning a slight skirmish,
and consequent delay. The troops of the blockade had paid little
attention at first to the explosion of the mines, thinking them a
repetition of Brennier’s previous practice; but Pack’s fire having
aroused them, the 36th regiment was close at hand; and the 4th also,
having heard the firing at Valde Mula, was rapidly gaining the right
flank of the enemy. Brennier, having driven off the cavalry, was again
in march; yet the British regiments, having thrown off their knapsacks,
followed at such a pace that they overtook the rear of his column in the
act of descending the deep chasm of Barba del Puerco, killed and wounded
many, captured about three hundred, and even passed the bridge in
pursuit. Lord Wellington, it is said, was stung by this event, and
issued a remonstrance to the army, couched in terms which no one could
misunderstand.

When Marmont had thus recovered the garrison of Almeida, he withdrew the
greater part of his army to Salamanca. Lord Wellington also set out for
that province; but before he could arrive, a great and bloody battle had
closed the operations. Beresford held a conference with the Spanish
generals at Valverde, on the 13th, when it was resolved to abide the
enemy’s attack at Albuera. The position taken by the allied forces was,
it is said, singularly defective. It was occupied by thirty thousand
infantry, above two thousand cavalry, and thirty-eight pieces of
artillery; but the brigade of the fourth division being still absent,
the British infantry, the pith and strength of the battle, did not
amount to seven thousand. The French had fifty guns, and above four
thousand veteran cavalry, but only nineteen thousand chosen infantry;
yet being of one nation, obedient to one discipline, and animated by one
spirit, their excellent composition amply compensated for inferiority of
numbers. Beside which, it is acknowledged by military men, that the
talents of their general were immeasurably greater than those of his
adversary. Soult examined Beresford’s position without hindrance on the
evening of the 15th, and having detected the weakness of the entire
arrangement, resolved to attack the next morning. Passing by the varied
evolutions which preceded the contest, it may be sufficient to observe,
that a little before nine in the morning, Godinet’s division issued from
the woods in one heavy column of attack, preceded by ten guns. He was
flanked by the light cavalry, and followed by Werle’s division of
reserve; and, making straight towards the bridge, commenced a sharp
cannonade, attempting to force the passage. The allies’ guns, on the
rising ground above the village, answered the fire of the French, and
ploughed through their columns, which were crowding without judgment
towards the bridge, although the stream was fordable above and below.

Beresford, convinced that the principal effort would be on the right,
sent Blake orders to form a part of the first and all the second line of
the Spanish army on the broad part of the hills, at right angles to
their actual front. Soon after, the enemy’s columns began to appear on
the right; and Blake, moving at last, proceeded in the evolution with
such pedantic slowness, that Beresford, impatient of his folly, took the
direction in person. Great was the confusion and delay thus occasioned;
and before the troops could be put in order, the French were among them.
In one short half-hour Beresford’s situation was rendered nearly
desperate. Two-thirds of the French were in compact order of battle, on
a line perpendicular to his right, and his army, disordered, and
composed of different nations, was still in the difficult act of
changing its front. The Spaniards were already in disorder; some had
given way; and Soult, thinking that the whole army was yielding, pushed
forward his columns, while his reserves also mounted the hill, and all
the batteries were placed in position. At this critical moment, General
Stewart arrived with Colonel Colborne’s brigade, which formed the head
of the second division. The colonel seeing the confusion above, desired
to form in order of battle previous to mounting the ascent; but Stewart,
carried away by the impetuosity of his feelings, led up without any
delay in column of companies, and attempted to open out his line in
succession as the battalions arrived at the summit. Being under a
destructive fire, the foremost charged to gain room, but a heavy rain
prevented any object from being distinctly seen; and four regiments of
Hussars and Lancers, which had passed the right flank in obscurity, came
galloping in upon the rear of the line, at the instant of its
development, and slew or took two-thirds of the brigade. In the tumult,
a lancer fell upon Beresford, but the marshal, a man of great strength,
putting his spear aside, cast him from his saddle; and a shift of wind
blowing aside the mist and smoke, the mischief was perceived from the
plains by General Lumley, who sent four squadrons out upon the Lancers,
and cut many of them off.

During this unhappy effort of the second division, so great was the
confusion that the Spanish line continued to fire, although the British
were before them; on which Beresford, finding his exhortations to
advance fruitless, seized an ensign, and bore him and his colours by
main force to the front. Yet the troops would not follow, and the man
went back again on being released. At this juncture, Sir William Stewart
once more advanced; and the weather having cleared, he poured a dreadful
fire into the thickest of the French columns, convincing Soult, that
whatever might be the result, the day was not yet won. Houghton’s
regiments soon got footing on the summit, Dickson placed the artillery
in line; the remaining brigade of the second division came up on the
left; and two Spanish corps at last moved forward. The enemy’s infantry
then recoiled; yet soon recovering, renewed the fight with greater
violence than before. The cannon on both sides discharged showers of
grape at half range, and the peals of musketry were incessant, and often
within pistol-shot. But the close formation of the French embarrassed
their battle, and the British line would not yield them one inch of
ground nor a moment of time to open their ranks. Their fighting was,
however, fierce and dangerous. Stewart was twice hurt, Colonel Duckworth
of the 48th was slain, and the valiant Houghton, who had received many
wounds without shrinking, fell, and died in the act of encouraging his
men.

Still the combat raged with unabated fury. Colonel Inglis, twenty-two
officers, and more than four hundred men, out of five hundred and
seventy that had ascended the hill, fell in the 57th alone. And the
other regiments were much the same in loss; not one-third were standing
in any. Ammunition failed; and as the English fire slackened, the enemy
established a column in advance upon the right flank. The play of
Dickson’s artillery checked them for a moment, but again the Polish
Lancers charged, and captured six guns. In this desperate crisis,
Colonel Hardinge boldly ordered Cole to advance; and then riding to
Colonel Abercrombie, who commanded the remaining brigade of the second
division, directed him also to push forward into the fight. The die
being thus cast, the terrible battle was continued. The field was heaped
with carcases; the lancers were riding furiously about the captured
artillery on the upper slope of the hill, and on the lower parts a
Spanish and an English regiment, in mutual error, were exchanging
volleys; behind all, some Portuguese, in withdrawing from the heights
above the bridge, appeared to be in retreat. All now appeared to be
lost, when all was in a few minutes gained by the conduct of a few brave
and unconquerable men. Colonel Arbuthnot pushing between the fire of the
mistaken troops, enlightened their minds; while Cole, with the
Fusileers, flanked by a battalion of the Lusitanian legion, mounted the
hill, dispersed the lancers, recovered the captured guns, and soon
appeared on the right of Houghton’s brigade.

Such a gallant line issuing from the midst of the smoke, and rapidly
separating itself from the confused and broken multitude, startled the
enemy’s heavy masses, which were increasing and pressing onwards as to
an assured victory; they wavered, hesitated, and then vomiting forth a
storm of fire, hastily endeavoured to enlarge their front, while a
fearful discharge of grape from all their artillery whistled through the
British ranks. Myers was killed; Cole and the three colonels, Ellis,
Blakeny, and Hawkshawe, fell wounded; and the fusileer battalions,
struck by the iron tempest, began to reel. In that moment, when the last
particle of energy appeared to be gone, they arose in almost
unprecedented might, and surpassed their former selves. Closing at once
with their enemies, the strength and intrepidity of a British soldier
were exhibited in deeds seldom seen. In vain did Soult, by voice and
gesture, animate his Frenchmen; in vain did the hardiest veterans,
extricating themselves from the crowded columns, sacrifice their lives
to gain time for the mass to open out on so fair a field; in vain did
the mass itself bear up, and, fiercely striving, fire indiscriminately
upon friends and foes, while the horsemen, hovering on the flank,
threatened to charge the advancing line. Nothing could stop that
astonishing infantry. Their eyes were bent on the dark columns in front;
their firm, heavy, and measured tread shook the ground; their dreadful
volleys swept away the head of every formation; their deafening shouts
overpowered the dissonant cries that broke from all parts of the
tumultuous crowd, as foot by foot, and with horrid carnage, it was
driven by the vigour of the attack to the extreme edge of the hill. Here
the last stand was made, with the hope of averting this mountain
torrent. But it was in vain: the effort only served to increase the
irremediable confusion; and the mighty mass giving way, like a loosened
cliff, went headlong down the ascent.

The rain flowed after in streams discoloured with blood; and of six
thousand British soldiers who performed these wonders, fifteen hundred
unwounded men were all that remained upon the fatal hill. The serious
fighting had endured only four hours; and in that space of time nearly
seven thousand of the allies and above eight thousand of their
antagonists were struck down. Three French generals were wounded, two
slain, and eight hundred soldiers so badly hurt as to be left on the
field. On Beresford’s side, beside the loss of the British already
named, two thousand Spaniards and six hundred Germans and Portuguese
were killed or wounded. The trophies of the French were five hundred
unwounded prisoners, a howitzer, and several stand of colours; the
British had nothing of that sort to display; but the piles of carcases
within their lines told, with convincing eloquence, who were the
conquerors; and all the night the rain poured down, and the rivers and
hills and woods resounded with the groans of dying men. On the 18th
Soult retreated.

Towards winter I was charged with a mission to fetch clothing from
Lisbon for the use of the regiment. One description of article was
flannel shirts, of which I received six hundred, for the approaching
winter wear. On returning, I met with an accident, which had nearly
deprived me of sight. One of our party, with consummate carelessness,
placed his powder-horn upon the table, fully charged, and by some
accident the whole quantity exploded; my face was sadly scorched, but
providentially the organs of vision received no lasting injury. Our
party consisted of six or seven persons: of these, three were corporals,
of whom I was senior. Having to pass over several mountains of vast
height, our progress was necessarily slow. One evening, having ascended
the slope of a stupendous hill, on which the snow was deep, we were
unable to move the cars on which the stores were carried. Having also
but an imperfect knowledge of the pass, we found ourselves compelled to
spend the night in that bleak and desolate region. All the shelter we
could procure was to creep under the cars. Two of the men were soon
after seized with ague, and suffered extremely. The silence which
prevailed in this elevated region was singularly impressive.

After a wearisome night, which appeared almost endless, we were happy to
perceive the first morning ray. We soon after discovered a man coming
our way, driving two bullocks. I thought the omen a happy one; and in
the spirit of the national war then raging I ordered the man to stop,
and without hesitation pressed the animals into our service, by yoking
them to our cars. The driver demanded my authority for so doing. I told
him to look at my musket. To my dismay I afterwards found that some of
the troops had been in the habit of laying violent hands upon cattle,
having no other object in view than to extort money from the owners when
they applied to reclaim their property. To put down this practice, Lord
Wellington had issued a proclamation, of which, unfortunately, I had not
heard, denouncing these excesses in terms of great severity. In fact,
strange as it appeared to myself, who had no intention of violating
general orders, on my arrival at quarters I was handed over to the
provost-marshal, deprived of my arms and acoutrements, and thrown into
confinement among some of the most ill-favoured vagabonds that ever
infested man or beast. The officer in whose custody I was placed proved
himself one of Job’s comforters. He gave me to understand that not long
since a man in the 52nd had been shot for the exact crime of which I was
guilty; he then closed the prison-door and departed. Conscious, however,
that I had intended neither to rob nor injure, my mind was supported.
Let me tell an old-fashioned secret: the Almighty has always been my
guide and defence. What is more, He always will. But, says an objector,
this is rank fanaticism. That I cannot help: such is the truth; nor can
it be altered by the coinage of any term, whether of approval or
reproach. On the occasion now described, I was released as if nothing
had happened. After my enlargement had taken place, I found that my
worthy comrades had been to the owner of the animals, and had exhausted
the entire circle of a soldier’s pleading on my behalf. I was young, had
not heard of the late order, knew no better, used no violence, asked for
no money, was an Irishman; beside which they gave him to understand that
I was a good Catholic, to which I believe they subjoined a little cash
in hand. These two latter arguments were irresistible, and the matter
was smoothly settled.

The new year opened with uncommon effort on the side of the British
forces in Spain. Lord Wellington, whose means of collecting information
were extensive and correct, had discovered that a considerable reduction
had taken place in the French army. The Imperial Guards, seventeen
thousand strong, were required for the Russian war, and had returned to
France; so that the force in the Peninsula was diminished by sixty
thousand men. Marmont was also deceived, by what appeared to him the
careless winter attitude of the allies, and Ciudad Rodrigo was left
unprotected. The Frenchman was mistaken; and Wellington resolved to show
that he was, by grasping at that fortress. The troops disposable for the
attack of Ciudad Rodrigo were about thirty-five thousand, including
cavalry. From the scarcity of transports, only thirty-eight guns could
be brought to the trenches, and these would have wanted their proper
supply of ammunition if eight thousand shot had not been found among the
ruins of Almeida. When the place was closely examined, it was found that
the French, in addition to the old works, had fortified two convents.
They had also constructed an enclosed and pallisadoed redoubt upon the
Greater Teson; and this redoubt, called Francisco, was supported by two
guns and a howitzer, placed upon the flat roof of the convent of that
name. On minutely inspecting these enlarged works, it was resolved to
storm Fort Francisco, and, opening the first parallel along the Greater
Teson, to form counter-batteries with which to ruin the defences and
drive the besieged from the convent. Meanwhile, to cover the siege,
Julian Sanchez and Carlos d’Espana were posted in observation of the
enemy.

On the 8th of January, the eighth division and some Portuguese forded
the Agueda near Caridad, three miles above the fortress, and making a
circuit took post beyond the Great Teson. As there was no regular
investment, the enemy did not believe that the siege was commenced; but
in the evening the troops stood to their arms, and Colonel Colborne,
commanding the 52nd, having assembled two companies from each of the
British regiments of the light division, stormed the redoubt of
Francisco: of this party I had the honour to make one. The attack was so
rapid and furious that the assailants appeared to be at one and the same
time in the ditch, mounting the parapets, fighting on the top of the
rampart, and forcing the gorge of the redoubt, where the explosion of
one of the French shells had burst the gate open. The post was taken
with the loss only of twenty-four men and officers; and working parties
were set to labour on the right of it, for the fort itself was instantly
covered with shot and shells from the town. This tempest continued
through the night; but at day-break the parallel, six hundred yards in
length, was sunk three feet deep and four wide; the communication over
the Teson to the rear was completed, and the progress of the siege was
hastened several days by this well-managed assault. I was exposed to the
fire of the enemy for some time previous to our arrival at the fort, but
sustained no injury. We were discovered when about a hundred and fifty
yards from the fort.

After the redoubt had been taken, I was employed with several others in
escorting the prisoners to a place of safety. The garrison, it seems,
had no expectation of this unceremonious visit; and when we entered the
place I observed several packs of cards, with which the men had been
amusing themselves. On returning, I unexpectedly came in contact with a
French soldier, who by some means or other had escaped notice. I called
out instantly, desiring him to surrender, which he did; but while in the
act of conducting him to the others, a British sergeant, who deserves to
be named, but on whom compassionate silence shall be shown, stopped the
prisoner for the sake of plunder. Enraged at this unjust and
discreditable interference, I placed my gun on the ground, determined to
knock down the interloper, and secure my captive. A scuffle accordingly
ensued; when in an instant, we found to our dismay that further
contention was needless. The Frenchman observing our quarrel, instantly
took to his heels, and being exceedingly alert, was out of sight before
I could fire at him.

On the 12th we were employed in the trenches, from whence we picked off
the enemy’s gunners. The riflemen, also, taking advantage of a thick
fog, did great execution; but in the night the weather was so cold and
the besieged shot so briskly, that little progress was made. Two days
afterwards, the enemy, having observed that the men in the trenches went
off in a disorderly manner on the approach of the relief, made a sally,
and overturned the gabions of the sap; they even penetrated to the
parallel, and were upon the point of entering the batteries, when a few
of the workmen getting together, checked them until a support arrived,
and thus the guns were saved. This affair, together with the death of
the engineer on duty, and the heavy fire from the town, delayed the
opening of the breaching batteries; but at half past four in the
evening, twenty-five heavy guns battered the rampart, and two pieces
were directed against the convent of Francisco. The spectacle was
sublime. The enemy replied by more than fifty pieces; the bellowing of
eighty large guns shook the ground far and wide; the smoke rested in
heavy columns upon the battlements of the place; the walls crashed to
the blow of the bullet; and when night put an end to this turmoil, the
quick clatter of musketry was heard like the pattering of hail after a
peal of thunder; for the 40th regiment assaulted and carried the convent
of Francisco, and established itself on the suburb on the left of the
attack.

On the 17th the firing on both sides was very heavy, and the wall of the
place was beaten down in large cantles; but several of the besiegers’
guns were dismounted, their batteries injured, and many of their men
killed. General Borthwick, the commandant of the artillery, was wounded,
and the sap was entirely ruined. Even the riflemen in the pits were at
first overpowered with grape; yet towards evening they recovered the
upper hand, and the French could fire only from the more distant
embrasures. In the night the battery intended for the lesser breach was
armed, and that on the Lower Teson raised, so as to afford cover in the
day-time. On the 19th it was reported that both breaches were
practicable, and a plan of attack was immediately formed.

All the troops reached their different posts without seeming to attract
the attention of the enemy; but before the signal was given, and while
Lord Wellington was still at the convent of Francisco, the attack on the
right commenced, and was instantly taken up along the whole line. The
space between the army and the ditch was then ravaged by a tempest of
grape from the ramparts. The storming parties of the third division
jumped out of the parallel when the first shout arose; but so rapid had
been the movements on their right, that before they could reach the
ditch three regiments had already scoured the faussebraye, and were
pushing up the great breach, amid the bursting of shells, the whistling
of grape and muskets, and the shrill cries of the French, who were
driven fighting behind the retrenchments. There, however, they rallied,
and, aided by the musketry from the houses, made hard battle for their
post; none would go back on either side, and yet the British could not
get forward; and men and officers, falling in heaps, choked up the
passage, which was incessantly raked with grape from two guns flanking
the top of the breach at the distance of a few yards. It was now our
turn. We had three hundred yards to clear; but, impatient of delay, we
did not wait for the hay-bags, but swiftly ran to the crest of the
glacis, jumped down the scarp, a depth of eleven feet, and rushed up the
faussebraye, under a smashing discharge of grape and musketry. The
bottom of the ditch was dark and intricate, and the forlorn hope took
too much to their left; but the storming party went straight to the
breach, which was so contracted that a gun placed lengthwise across the
top nearly blocked up the opening. Here the forlorn hope rejoined the
stormers; but when two-thirds of the ascent were gained, the leading
men, crushed together by the narrowness of the place, staggered under
the weight of the enemy’s fire. Our commander, Major Napier, was at this
moment struck to the earth by a grape-shot, which shattered his arm, but
he called to his men to trust to their bayonets; and all the officers
simultaneously sprang to the front, when the charge was renewed with a
furious shout, and the entrance was gained. The supporting regiments
then came up in sections abreast, and the place was won. During the
contest, which lasted only for a few minutes after the faussebraye was
passed, the fighting had continued at the great breach with unabated
violence; but when the 43rd and the stormers of the light division came
pouring down on the right flank of the French, the latter yielded to the
storm; at the same moment the explosion of three wall-magazines
destroyed many persons, and the third division with a mighty effort
broke through the retrenchments. The garrison fought for a short time in
the streets, but finally fled to the castle, where an officer, who,
though wounded, had been amongst the foremost at the lesser breach,
received the governor’s sword.

[Illustration: STORMING OF CIUDAD RODRIGO.]

The allies now plunged into the streets from all quarters; after which,
throwing off the restraints of discipline, frightful excesses were
committed. The town was fired in three or four places; the soldiers
menaced their officers, and shot each other; many were killed in the
market-place; intoxication soon increased the disorder; and at last, the
fury rising to an absolute madness, a fire was wilfully lighted in the
middle of the great magazine, when the town, and all in it, would have
been blown to atoms, but for the energetic courage of some officers and
a few soldiers, who still preserved their senses. Three hundred French
had fallen, fifteen hundred were made prisoners; and beside the immense
store of ammunition, above one hundred and fifty pieces of artillery
were captured in the place. The whole loss of the allies was about
twelve hundred soldiers, and ninety officers; and of these above six
hundred and fifty men, and sixty officers, had been slain or hurt in the
breaches. General Crauford and General Mackinnon were killed. With these
died many gallant men, and amongst others, a captain in the regiment to
which I belonged. Of him it was felicitously said, that ‘three generals
and seventy other officers had fallen; but the soldiers fresh from the
strife only talked of Hardyman.’ Unhappily, the slaughter did not end
with the battle; for the next day, as the prisoners and their escort
were marching out by the breach, an accidental explosion took place, and
numbers of both were blown into the air. The personal sufferings of the
soldiers were severe, as the service had been unusually dangerous. While
in the front ditch near the glacis, a live shell exploded within a few
paces of the spot on which I stood. We threw ourselves flat on the
ground, but though nearly suffocated by the dust it threw around, no
material injury was inflicted either on myself or comrades.

The station I was ordered to take on the following day was of a
melancholy cast. It was in the ditch, among the unburied dead. Nothing
struck me more forcibly than the conduct of a soldier’s widow.
Suspecting that her husband had fallen, she traversed this vale of death
to seek him. Never shall I forget the anguish of her soul when she
discovered the much-loved remains. The brave man had fallen covered with
wounds; his countenance was sadly disfigured, and suffused with blood.
She fell upon his face, and kissed his faded lips; she then gazed at the
lifeless form, repeated her embraces, and gave way to the wild and
ungovernable grief which struggled for expression. Sin! what hast thou
done? Nor can I forbear observing, that a noble disregard for suffering,
and fortitude of no common kind, were frequently shown both by officers
and men, though severely hurt and disabled. None retired to the rear,
until compelled by stern necessity. This resolute disposition to
surmount, and if possible forget all surmountable difficulties, reminds
me of a French royalist officer, in the late revolutionary war. Being
engaged in a desperate action, he had the misfortune to have both his
legs carried away by a cannon-ball. While lying on the ground, a wounded
soldier indulged in loud and clamorous complaints: ‘Peace, friend,’ said
the officer, ‘our God died upon the cross; our king perished on the
scaffold; and I have lost my limbs. Revere the Almighty, and be
patient.’

The siege of Ciudad Rodrigo lasted twelve days. When the
commander-in-chief terminated his order for the assault, with this
sentence, ‘Ciudad Rodrigo _must_ be stormed this evening,’ he knew well
that it would be nobly understood. The difficulties we had to encounter
were great. The principal breach was cut off from the town by a
perpendicular descent of sixteen feet; and the bottom was planted with
sharp spikes, and strewed with live shells. The houses behind were all
loop-holed and sprinkled with musketeers.

The French had left their temporary bridges, but behind were parapets so
powerfully defended, that it was said the third division could never
have carried them, had not the light division taken the enemy in flank.
To recompense an exploit so boldly undertaken and so nobly finished,
Lord Wellington was created Duke of Ciudad Rodrigo, by the Spaniards,
Earl of Wellington, by the English, and Marquis of Torres Vedras, by the
Portuguese.

[Illustration]



                              CHAPTER VII.

    PRIZE MONEY—SIEGE OF BADAJOS—THE AUTHOR WOUNDED BY A MUSKET
      BALL—JOURNEY TO ELVAS—DESERTERS SHOT—RETURN TO ENGLAND—VISIT TO
      RELATIONS IN IRELAND—REJOINS AT MAIDSTONE—THE DROWNING MAN’S
      GRATITUDE.

Soon after the close of the siege just described, I received, in
conjunction with others who were similarly entitled, my share of
prizemoney on account of the property captured some years before at
Copenhagen. Some arrears of pay were also supplied by the hands of Major
Wells. A little good advice was kindly subjoined. We were exhorted to
save our money, to avoid excesses, and spend with economy. But alas! how
hardly shall they that are rich keep in the path of moderation and
humility. The cash burnt in our pockets. The intimations so civilly
given were altogether wasted, and might as well have been addressed to
our knapsacks. No sooner did opportunity offer, than the wine-houses
washed away, not only all our good advices, but the whole of our
hard-earned pittance so recently distributed. When a man is determined
to indulge in liquor, he is almost sure to find some justification for
it. It is commonly of Dean Aldrich’s sort, more wordy than wise:

                 ‘Good wine, old friends, or being dry,
                 Or that he may be by and by,
                 Or any other reason why.’

I am sorry to admit that I was carried away with the torrent of
sensuality which at this time set in with a kind of powerful flood-tide.
Every good impression was well-nigh obliterated from my mind. The nice
mental perception of right and wrong which I retained as a valued relic,
resulting from my mother’s advices, was nearly blunted; and my
subsequent experience has shown me that when once the barrier between
vice and virtue is weakened, or is dimly visible, great danger is at
hand. Among other habits unhappily contracted was that of profane
swearing; which, connected with singing licentious ballads and free
living, completed the depravity of my conduct. And yet I was more proud
of my religion than ever; and had any one called in question the
infallibility of the Pope, I should have instantly challenged him to
fight for the insolence of the thing.

It has been observed by an acute military writer, that the talents of
Lord Wellington rose with his difficulties; and notwithstanding the
serious impediments which obstructed the measure, he resolved to subdue
the important fortress of Badajos. He accordingly proceeded to Elvas,
which he reached on the 11th of March, and arrangements were immediately
commenced for the formal investment of the place. Badajos is a regularly
fortified town. The garrison, composed of French, Hessian, and Spanish
troops, was now near five thousand strong. Phillipon, the governor, had
greatly improved the defences of the place. A second ditch had been dug
at the bottom of the great one, which was also in some parts filled with
water. The gorge of the Pardaleras was inclosed, and that outwork was
connected with the body of the place, from whence powerful batteries
looked into it. The three western fronts were mined; and on the east,
the arch of the bridge behind the San Roque was built up to form an
inundation two hundred yards wide, which greatly contracted the space by
which the place could be approached by troops; and all the inhabitants
had been compelled, on pain of being sent away, to lay up food for three
months.

The plan fixed upon by the besiegers was, to attack the bastion of
Trinidad, because the counter-guard there being unfinished the bastion
could be battered from the hill on which Picurina stood. Of nine hundred
gunners present, three hundred were British, the rest Portuguese; and
there were one hundred and fifty sappers, volunteers from the third
division. In the night of the 17th eighteen hundred men broke ground one
hundred and sixty yards from the Picurina. A tempest, which happened to
arise, stifled the sound of their pickaxes; and though the work was
commenced late, a communication four thousand feet in length was formed,
and a parallel of six hundred yards, three feet deep and three feet six
inches wide, was opened. However, when the day broke, the Picurina was
reinforced; and a sharp musketry, interspersed with discharges from some
field-pieces, aided by heavy guns from the body of the place, was
directed on the trenches. On the 19th Lord Wellington, having secret
intelligence that a sally was intended, ordered the guards to be
reinforced. Nevertheless, at one o’clock, some cavalry came out by the
Talavera gate; and thirteen hundred infantry, under the command of
General Vielland, filed unobserved into the communication between the
Picurina and the San Roque. These troops jumping out, at once drove the
workmen before them, and began to demolish the parallel. Previous to
this outbreak the French cavalry, forming two parties, had commenced a
sham-fight on the right of the parallel; and the smaller party
pretending to fly, and answering Portuguese to the challenge of the
piquets, were allowed to pass. Elated by the success of their stratagem,
they then galloped to the engineer’s park, which was a thousand yards in
the rear of the trenches, and there cut down some men—not many, for
succour soon came; and meanwhile the troops at the parallel having
rallied upon the relief which had just arrived, beat the enemy’s
infantry back, even into the castle. In this hot fight the besieged lost
above three hundred men and officers, the besiegers only one hundred and
fifty; but Colonel Fletcher, the chief engineer, was badly wounded and
several hundred trenching-tools were carried off,—for Phillipon had
promised a high price for each. Yet this turned out ill; for the
soldiers, instead of pursuing briskly, dispersed to gather the tools.
After the action, a squadron of dragoons and six field-pieces were
placed as a reserve-guard behind St. Michael, and a signal-post was
established on the Sierra de Venta to give notice of the enemy’s
motions.

On the 24th, the fifth division invested the place, on the right bank of
the Guadiana; the weather was fine, and the batteries were heavily
armed. The next day at eleven o’clock, the pieces opened, but were so
vigorously opposed, that one howitzer was dismounted and several
artillery and engineer officers were killed. Nevertheless, the San Roque
was silenced; and the garrison of the Picurina was so galled by the
marksmen in the trenches, that no man dared look over the parapet.
Hence, as the external appearance of the fort did not indicate much
strength, General Kempt was charged to assault it in the night. The
outward seeming of the Picurina was, however, fallacious; the fort was
very strong; the fronts were well covered by the glacis, the flanks were
deep, and the rampart, fourteen feet perpendicular from the bottom of
the ditch, was guarded with thick slanting pales above; and from thence
to the top there were sixteen feet of an earthen slope. Seven guns were
mounted on the works, the entrance to which, by the rear, was protected
with three rows of thick paling; the garrison was above two hundred
strong, and every man had two muskets. The top of the rampart was
furnished with loaded shells, to push over; and finally some small mines
and a loop-holed gallery under the counterscarp intended to take the
assailants in rear were begun, but not finished. Five hundred men of the
third division being assembled for the attack, General Kempt ordered two
hundred, under Major Rudd, to turn the fort on the left; an equal force,
under Major Shaw, to turn the fort by the right; and one hundred from
each of these bodies were directed to enter the communication with San
Roque, and intercept any succours coming from the town. The engineers,
with twenty-four sappers bearing hatchets and ladders, guided these
columns; and fifty men of the light division, provided also with axes,
were to move out of the trenches at the moment of attack.

The night was fine, the arrangements clearly and skilfully made, and
about nine o’clock the two flanking bodies moved forward. The distance
was short, and the troops quickly closed on the fort, which, black and
silent before, now seemed one mass of fire; then the assailants, running
up to the palisades in the rear, endeavoured to break through; and when
the destructive musketry of the French and the thickness of the pales
rendered their efforts useless, they turned against the faces of the
work, and strove to break in there; but the depth of the ditch, and the
slanting stakes at the top of the brick-work, baffled them.

At this time, the enemy firing incessantly and dangerously, the crisis
appeared imminent; and Kempt sent the reserve headlong against the
front; thus the fight was continued strongly; the carnage became
terrible, and a battalion coming out from the town to succour the fort,
was encountered and beaten by the party on the communication. The guns
of Badajos and of the castle now opened; the guard of the trenches
replied with musketry, rockets were thrown up by the besieged, and the
shrill sound of alarm-bells, mixing with the shouts of the combatants,
increased the tumult. Still the Picurina sent out streams of fire, by
the light of which dark figures were seen furiously struggling on the
ramparts; for Powis first escaladed the place in front, where the
artillery had beaten down the pales; and the other assailants had thrown
their ladders on the flanks, in the manner of bridges, from the brink of
the ditch to the slanting stakes; and all were fighting hand to hand
with the enemy. Meanwhile the axe-men of the light division, compassing
the fort like prowling wolves, discovered the gate, and hewing it down
broke in by the rear. Yet the struggle continued; Powis, Holloway, Gips,
and Oats, of the 88th, fell wounded in or beyond the rampart. Nixon, of
the 52nd, was shot, two yards within the gate; Shaw, Rudd, and nearly
all the other officers had fallen outside; and it was not until nearly
half the garrison were killed, that Gasper Thiery, the commandant, and
eighty-six men surrendered, while a few rushing out of the gate
endeavoured to cross the bridge and were drowned. This intrepid assault,
which lasted an hour, cost four officers and fifty men killed, fifteen
officers and two hundred and fifty men wounded; and so vehement was the
fight throughout that the garrison either forgot or had not time to roll
over the shells and combustibles arranged on the rampart.

On the 3rd of April it was evident that the crisis of the siege drew
nigh. The British guns being all turned against the curtain, the masonry
crumbled rapidly away; in two hours a yawning breach appeared, and Lord
Wellington, having examined the points of attack in person, gave the
order for assault. The soldiers then made themselves ready for the
approaching combat, one of the most fierce and terrible ever exhibited
in the annals of war. Posterity will find it difficult to credit the
tale, but many who are still alive know that it is true. The British
General was so sensible of Phillipon’s firmness, and of the courage of
his garrison, that he spared them the affront of a summons; yet, seeing
the breach strongly entrenched, and the enemy’s flank fire still
powerful, he would not in this dread crisis trust his fortune to a
single effort. Eighteen thousand soldiers burned for the signal of
attack, and as he was unwilling to lose the services of any, to each
division he gave a task such as few generals would have the hardihood to
contemplate. Nor was the enemy idle; for while it was yet twilight some
French cavalry issued from the Pardaleras, escorting an officer, who
endeavoured to look into the trenches, with a view to ascertain if an
assault was intended: but the piquet on that side jumped up, and, firing
as it ran, drove him and his escort back into the works. The darkness
then fell, and the troops awaited the signal.

With respect to myself, I could not help largely sharing in the general
desire to advance; indeed, our duty in the trenches had been so severe
that, in spite of approaching peril, we had no objection to move. I had
been stationed in battery number six, and was frequently exposed to a
terrific raking fire from the besieged. Directions, I remember, were
given on one occasion to fill a quantity of sand-bags. Poor Woollams, a
private in the regiment, and myself, worked together; he held the mouth
of the sack open, while I threw in the sand with a shovel; before we had
been long thus engaged, a shell struck his knee, and in an instant
severed his leg, which dropped on the ground; he fell backwards, while
the shell, which lodged in the earth, at a few feet distance had burnt
nearly to the exploding point. Aware of the approaching danger, I threw
myself on my face; and I had scarcely taken the precaution when the
shell burst with ruinous effect. Stones, dust, and fragments of timber
were scattered in all directions; and among other substances whirled
into the air, was the lost limb of my comrade. I knew it while
descending by the pattern of the gaiter. As the leg was useless, I ran
to the sufferer to whom it had belonged, tied my coat-strap round his
thigh to check the effusion of blood, and, after placing him in a
blanket, carried him to the nearest hospital, where surgical assistance
was promptly afforded. On my return to the trenches, another friend was
borne off, greatly hurt; a comrade was loading his musket, and while the
ramrod was in the barrel, the piece was accidentally discharged. The
ramrod pierced through his body, and so firmly was the worm-end fixed
near the backbone, that the strongest man among us was unable to move
it. He was conveyed to the infirmary, and things went on as usual, as no
calamity of this sort could be allowed to interfere with the duties then
before us. The fine young man, whose case is just recorded, recovered
from the wound, but was, I believe, eventually drowned in a river near
Salamanca. At another time, during a violent cannonade from the
besieged, I had been conversing with a man on the trenches, when our
discussion was closed by a round shot, which took away the head of the
respondent, as smoothly as if it had been sabred. I was also informed
that another of our men had been killed merely by the wind of a
cannon-bullet; but as I did not witness the circumstance, I will not
vouch for its correctness. Not long before the storming parties were
selected, a sad instance of the fatal effects of intemperance occurred.
One of our company was ordered out on duty, but, being in a state of
inebriety, durst not appear. We afterwards missed him altogether; and
some time after we found his lifeless body coiled up in a blanket, in a
crouching posture, behind one of the tents. Our opinion was that he had
crept there for secrecy, and by some means or other was smothered. All
that remained in our power we did, which was to consign his remains to
the parent earth. The day on which we proceeded to Badajos I received a
letter from my brother in Ireland, in which he recommended me to an
officer named Carey. After some search I found the gentleman, who
received me with genuine kindness, and promised his future patronage
when the town was taken; an engagement on which, from his frank and
generous bearing, I at once felt it was safe to depend. But, Lord, what
is man, or the best of men? My newly-acquired friend fell while leading
on his men; so that our brief intercourse was the first and last which
this world afforded.

We were now selected and classified for the actual assault. The
difficulty was, not to procure men enough, but how to refuse
applications, for all were ready. Nor were these offers founded in
ignorance of the nature of the expected service; the candidates were not
such novices. The watch-word of Nelson was not forgotten,—‘England
expects every man to do his duty;’ and the resolution which everywhere
prevailed was entered into with a thorough consciousness that life was
then scarcely worth an hour’s purchase. And yet every countenance was
bright, for every heart was firm; and it was clear that the elevation
and strength of mind so universally prevalent was the effect of
principle, well considered and approved. Indeed, there was no stimulus
at hand to produce superficial excitement; no drops of Scheidam to
generate Dutch courage; the men were kept in the utmost silence and
order. It is true here and there a soldier might be perceived stealing
from the trenches with a little refreshment in his canteen for the
friend with whom he was to part; and in return, more than one message,
the last to be delivered on earth, was sent from many a brave man to
mother, wife, or some other valued relative, with directions that if
killed the knapsack of a certain number, with its contents, should be
duly forwarded. The night was dry, but clouded, the air thick with
watery exhalations from the river, the ramparts and the trenches were
unusually still, yet a low murmur pervaded the latter, and in the
former, lights were seen to flit here and there; while the deep voices
of the sentinels at times proclaimed that all was well in Badajos. The
French confiding in Phillipon’s direful skill, watched from their lofty
station the approach of enemies whom they had twice before baffled, and
now hoped to drive a third time, blasted and ruined, from the walls.

At ten o’clock the whole of the works were to have been simultaneously
assailed, and it was hoped that the strength of the enemy would shrivel
before this fiery girdle; but the disappointments of war are many. An
unforeseen accident delayed the attack of the fifth division; and a
lighted carcass thrown from the castle falling close to where the men of
the third division were drawn up, discovered their array, and obliged
them to anticipate the signal by half an hour. Then, everything being
suddenly disturbed, the double columns of the fourth and light divisions
also moved silently and swiftly against the breaches; and the guard of
the trenches, rushing forward with a shout, encompassed the San Roque
with fire, and broke in so violently that scarcely any resistance was
made. General Kempt passed the Rivellas in single files by a narrow
bridge, under a terrible musketry; and then reforming and running up the
rugged hill, had reached the foot of the castle, when he fell severely
wounded, and being carried back to the trenches, met Picton who hastened
forward to take the command. Meanwhile his troops spreading along the
front reared their ladders, some against the lofty castle, some against
the adjoining front on the left, and with incredible courage ascended
amidst showers of heavy stones, logs of wood, and bursting shells rolled
off the parapet; while from the flanks the enemy plied his musketry with
fearful rapidity, and in front with pikes and bayonets stabbing the
leading assailants, or pushed the ladders from the walls; and all this
attended with deafening shouts, and the crash of breaking ladders, and
the shriek of soldiers crushed by violent falls. Still, swarming round
the remaining ladders, these undaunted veterans strove who should first
climb; until all being overturned, the French shouted victory, and the
British, baffled but untamed, fell back a few paces, and took shelter
under the rugged edge of the hill. Here, when the broken ranks were
somewhat reformed, the heroic Colonel Ridge, springing forward, called
with stentorian voice on his men to follow; and seizing a ladder, once
more raised it against the castle, yet to the right of the former
attack, where the wall was lower, and an embrasure offered some
facility. A second ladder was soon placed alongside the first by the
grenadier officer Canch, and the next instant he and Ridge were on the
rampart; the shouting troops pressed after them; the garrison, amazed,
and in a manner surprised, were driven fighting through the double gate
into the town, and the castle was won. A reinforcement sent from the
French reserve then came up, a sharp action followed, both sides fired
through the gate, and the enemy retired; but Ridge fell,—and no man died
that night with greater honour.

During these events, the tumult at the breaches was such, as if the very
earth had been rent asunder, and its central fires were bursting up
uncontrolled. The two divisions had reached the glacis in silence; as
yet no stir was heard, and darkness covered the breaches. Some hay-packs
were then thrown, several ladders placed, and the forlorn hopes and
storming parties of the light division, about five hundred in all, had
descended into the ditch without opposition, when a bright flame
shooting upwards displayed all the terror of the scene. The ramparts,
crowded with dark figures and glittering arms were on the one side; and
on the other, the red columns of the British, deep and broad, were
coming on like streams of burning lava. A crash immediately followed,
and the storming parties were dashed to pieces with incredible violence
by the explosion of hundreds of shells and powder barrels. The place
which fell to my lot was just in the centre of this hurly-burly. With
what similitude to illustrate our condition at that moment I know not.
The regular discharge of musketry at given distances, and the usual
clash of arms in field-warfare is rather rough, to say the least of it;
but the collision of hostile forces in open space, where the combatants
may evade approaching ruin, is civil pastime compared with this deadly
ditch conflict. Each of the men fought as if the issue of the assault
depended on his single arm. As to timidity, the thing was unknown; every
drum-boy acted well. Shielded by Eternal Mercy, all undeserving as I
was, my life was preserved. Not that it then appeared even to myself
worth consideration. All thought of self-protection was banished from
the corps in general. Every nerve and muscle was strained to the utmost
tension in the struggle; among the whole body there appeared to be only
one heart; and in the attempt to reach the ramparts all other
considerations merged. But what an assemblage of furies; the excitement
was indescribable. Fancying that the man immediately behind myself did
not press forward with sufficient energy, I turned round, and with
imprecations of which the bare remembrance causes regret, I declared
that if he did not push on I would shoot him. Most likely I was wrong,
not only in language but in opinion. I have since thought the man did
his best; but in the raging of such a tempest, mistakes were easily
made, and the mere notion of defective effort ignited the passions.

For one instant we stood on the brink of the ditch, amazed at the
terrific sight; then with a shout that matched even the sound of the
explosion, the men flew down the ladders, or disdaining their aid,
leaped, unmindful of the depth, into the gulf below. The fourth division
came running after, and followed with like fury; there were, however,
only five ladders for both columns, which were close together; and a
deep cut made in the bottom of the ditch as far as the counter-guard of
the Trinidad, was filled with water from the inundation; into this
watery snare the head of the fourth division fell, and it is said that
above a hundred of the Fusileers, the men of Albuera, were there
smothered. Great was the confusion at this juncture; for now the ravelin
was crowded with men of both divisions, and while some continued to
fire, others ran down and jumped towards the breach; many also passed
between the ravelin and the counter-guard of the Trinidad; the two
divisions got mingled; and the reserves, who should have remained at the
quarries, also came pouring in, until the ditch was quite filled,—the
rear still crowding forward, and all cheering vehemently. The enemy’s
shouts were also loud and terrible; and the bursting of shells and of
grenades, the roaring of the guns from the flanks, answered by the iron
howitzers from the battery of the parallel, the heavy rolls and
explosion of the powder barrels, the flight of the blazing splinters,
the loud exhortations of the officers, and the continued clatter of the
muskets, made a maddening din.

Impatient of delay, a heavy column now bounded up the great breach; but
across the top glittered a range of sword-blades, sharp-pointed,
keen-edged on both sides, and firmly fixed in ponderous beams, which
were chained together and set deep in the ruins; and for ten feet in
front the ascent was covered with loose planks studded with sharp iron
points, on which the feet of the foremost being set, the planks moved,
and the unhappy soldiers, falling forward on the spikes, rolled down
upon the ranks behind. Then the Frenchmen, exulting at the success of
their stratagem, and leaping forward, plied their shot with terrible
rapidity; for every man had several muskets, and each musket, in
addition to its ordinary charge, contained a small cylinder of wood,
stuck full of leaden slugs, which scattered like hail when they were
discharged. At the beginning of this dreadful conflict, Colonel Andrew
Barnard had, with prodigious efforts, separated his division from the
other, and preserved some degree of military array; but now the tumult
was such that no command could be heard distinctly, except by those
close at hand; and the mutilated bodies, heaped on each other, and the
wounded, struggling to avoid being trampled upon, broke the formations.
Order was unattainable; yet officers of all stations, followed more or
less numerously by the men, were seen to start out, as if struck by
sudden madness, and rush into the breach. In one of these attempts,
Colonel M’Leod, of our regiment, a young man, whose feeble body would
have been quite unfit for war, had it not been sustained by an
unconquerable spirit, was killed. Wherever his voice was heard, there
his soldiers gathered; and with such a strong resolution did he lead
them up the fatal ruins, that when one behind him in falling plunged a
bayonet in his back, he complained not, and continuing his course, was
shot dead within a yard of the sword-blades. Two hours spent in these
vain efforts convinced the soldiers that the breach of the Trinidad was
impregnable. Gathering in dark groups, and leaning on their muskets,
they looked up with sullen desperation; while the enemy, stepping out on
the ramparts, and aiming their shots by the light of the fire-balls
which they threw over, asked, as their victims fell, ‘why they did not
come into Badajos?’

About midnight, when two thousand brave men had fallen, Wellington, who
was on a height close to the quarries, sent orders for the remainder to
retire, and reform for a second assault; for he had just then heard that
the castle was taken, and, thinking the enemy would still hold out in
the town, was resolved to assail the breaches again. This retreat from
the ditch, however, was not effected without further carnage and
confusion; for the French fire never slackened, and a cry arose that the
French were making a sally from the distant flanks, which caused a rush
towards the ladders. Then the groans and lamentations of the wounded,
who could not move, and expected to be slain, increased; many officers,
who had not heard of the order, endeavoured to stop the soldiers from
going back, and some would even have removed the ladders, but were
unable to break through the crowd.

All this time the third division was lying close to the castle; and,
either from the fear of risking the loss of a point which ensured the
capture of the place, or that the egress was too difficult, made no
attempt to drive away the enemy from the breaches. On the other side,
however, the fifth division had commenced the false attack on the
Pardaleras; and on the right of the Guadiana the Portuguese were sharply
engaged at the bridge. Thus the town was begirt; for General Walker’s
brigade, having pressed on during the feint on the Pardaleras, was
escalading the distant bastion of San Vincente. His troops had advanced
along the banks of the river, and reached the French guardhouse at the
barrier gate undiscovered, for the ripple of the waters smothered the
sound of their footsteps; but just then the explosion at the breaches
took place, the moon shone out, and the French sentinels, discovering
the columns, fired. The British troops immediately springing forward
under a sharp cover of musketry, began to hew down the wooden barrier at
the covered way, while the Portuguese, being panic-stricken, threw down
the scaling-ladders. Nevertheless, the others snatched them up again,
and forcing the barrier, jumped into the ditch; but the guiding engineer
officer was killed; and when the foremost man succeeded in reaching the
ladders, the latter were found too short, for the walls were generally
above thirty feet high. Meanwhile the fire of the French was deadly, a
small mine was sprung beneath the soldiers’ feet, beams of wood and live
shells were rolled over on their heads, showers of grape from the flank
swept the ditch, and man after man dropped dead from the ladders.
Fortunately, some of the defenders having been called away to aid in
recovering the castle, the ramparts were not entirely manned; and the
assailants, having discovered a corner of the bastion where the scarp
was only twenty feet high, placed three ladders there, under an
embrasure which had no gun, and was only stopped with a gabion. Some men
with extreme difficulty got up, for the ladders were still too short;
and the first man who gained the top was pushed up by his comrades, and
then drew others after him, until many had gained the summit; and though
the French shot heavily against them from both flanks, and from a house
in front, they thickened, and could not be driven back. Half the 4th
regiment entered the town itself to dislodge the enemy from the houses;
while the others pushed forward towards the breach, and by dint of hard
fighting successfully mastered three bastions. In this disorder a French
reserve, under General Viellande, came on the British advance with a
firm and rapid charge, and pitching some men over the walls, and killing
others outright, again cleared the ramparts, even to the San Vincente.
There, however, Colonel Nugent had taken his station with a battalion of
the 38th, as a reserve; and when the French came up, shouting and
slaying all before them, this battalion, about two hundred strong,
arose, and with one close volley destroyed them. The panic then ceased;
the soldiers rallied, and in compact order once more charged along the
walls towards the breaches; but the French, although turned on both
flanks, did not yield. Meanwhile the detachment of the 4th regiment,
which had entered the town when the San Vincente was first carried, was
strangely situated; for the streets were empty, and brilliantly
illuminated, and no person was seen; yet a low murmur or whisper was
occasionally heard, lattices were now and then gently opened, and from
time to time shots were fired from underneath the doors of the houses.
However, the troops, with bugles sounding, advanced towards the great
square of the town; and in their progress captured several mules going
with ammunition to the breaches. At length the French were beaten back,
other parties entered the place, and finally General Viellande, and
Phillipon, who was wounded, seeing all ruined, passed the bridge with a
few hundred soldiers, and entered San Cristoval, where they all
surrendered early the next morning, upon summons, to Lord Somerset, who
had with great readiness pushed through the town to the draw-bridge
before they had time to organize further resistance.

In these protracted conflicts many of the finest soldiers in the British
army met their fate, and fell in the firm and vigorous discharge of
their duty. Of these, numbers might have been preserved had they chosen
to have fallen back; but it was with them a point of honour to gain the
breach or die on the spot. So wonderful is the resolution of a noble
heart; and so much the more is it to be regretted that power, so morally
invincible, should be employed in the sad purpose of human destruction.
For my own part, my mind had been unhesitatingly made up from the first
shot that was fired, that so long as life and consciousness continued I
would fulfil my commission to the best of my ability. As the battle grew
hot I caught the contagion that burned all around, and in this desperate
and murderous mood advanced to the breach of Trinidad. My pride perhaps
wanted to be repressed; and while in the act of marching, I was wounded
in the left thigh by a musket-shot, which remains unextracted to this
day, and will probably go with me to the grave. At first, not disposed
to heed the casualty, I affected to despise such a trifle, and continued
to fight on. Nature, however, refused her support; and after firing a
few times, I felt myself getting weak and feverish. What rendered my
situation worse was, that at that precise moment the report of an
unexpected sally of the French was circulated. Had that been realised,
my doom would have been sealed, as I could neither resist nor retreat.
In this condition, faint with loss of blood, I contrived to descend into
the ditch with the help of my musket. Meanwhile the depth of water by
some added inundation had been increased, and no ladder was to be
discovered for my ascent on the opposite side. Unwilling to die there, I
made another effort, and at length observed a ladder standing in front
of the ditch. Unable to get up with my musket, I reluctantly left that
behind, and scrambled up with extreme difficulty. Numerous shots were
fired at me while ascending, and I perceived bullets whistling through
the rounds of the ladder, but not one of them struck me. But I was sadly
grieved at the loss of my musket; it had been a faithful friend to me; I
seldom knew it to fail in the hour of need; the number on it was
seventy-seven. Having succeeded in gaining the summit, I found, to my
surprise, a young man belonging to the gallant Napier’s company, who
kindly offered his arm, and supported me to the field-hospital. May the
Almighty think upon and reward this timely benefactor! He was amongst
the bravest where all were brave, and, though unhurt, had stood in the
fore-front and pinnacle at the severest point of strife. With so large
an influx of patients, it will be supposed that the hospital attentions
were not very prompt. I was placed on the ground, with many others in a
worse condition than myself, to await my turn for surgical assistance.
After some hours I found that unless my wound ceased bleeding I should
not long survive; this, with a little contrivance, I managed to effect.
But the most intolerable sensation was that of raging thirst; all my
worldly substance, ten times valued, would have been no price at all for
a draught of water. Meantime the frost was so severe, that my limbs
appeared to be deprived of flexibility and motion. In the course of the
night, hearing a deep moan at a little distance, I called out, ‘Who is
there?’ and was answered, ‘It’s me, Tom.’ The voice was familiar, and I
found it was that of Patrick Murphy, an old comrade and countryman in
Dalzell’s company, who had fought most nobly through several campaigns.
He had been miserably burnt while endeavouring to force the breach, and
suffered extremely. In the course of a day or two we were placed in
military spring-wagons, and conveyed to Elvas. We were afterwards
transferred to bullock-carts, a mode of conveyance not remarkable either
for comfort or speed; the carriages were clumsily constructed, and
ensured very little in the way of easy riding; added to which, we moved
only at the rate of about one mile an hour.

I have to add with sorrow that the conquest of Badajos was attended with
excesses that tend to tarnish the soldier’s character. All, indeed, were
not alike, for hundreds risked and many lost their lives in striving to
stop the violence; but the madness of ungovernable licentiousness
generally prevailed; and as the worst men were leaders here, all the
dreadful passions of human nature were displayed. Shameless rapacity,
brutal intemperance, savage lust, cruelty and murder, shrieks and
piteous lamentations, groans, shouts, curses, the hissing of fires
bursting from the houses, the crashing of doors and windows, and the
report of muskets used in violence, resounded for two days and nights in
the devoted town. Five thousand men and officers fell during the siege;
and of these, including seven hundred Portuguese, three thousand five
hundred had been stricken in the assault,—sixty officers and more than
seven hundred men being slain on the spot. Five generals were wounded;
about six hundred men and officers fell in the escalade of San Vincente,
as many at the castle, and more than two thousand at the breaches, each
division there losing about twelve hundred. Let any man picture to
himself this frightful carnage taking place in a space of less than a
hundred square yards. Let him consider that the slain died not all
suddenly, nor by one manner of death; that some perished by steel, some
by shot, some by water, that some were crushed and mangled by heavy
weights, some trampled upon, some dashed to atoms by fiery explosions;
that for hours this destruction was endured without shrinking; and that
the town was won at last. Let any man consider this, and he must admit
that a British army is by no means deficient either in physical or moral
excellence.

[Illustration: CASTLE OF BADAJOS.]

And it would be unjust to withhold the meed of praise from the French.
The garrison stood and fought manfully and with good discipline,
behaving worthily. Some of the instances of personal valour on each side
were wondrous. A soldier of the 95th, in his resolution to win, thrust
himself beneath the chained sword-blades, and there suffered the enemy
to dash his head in pieces with the ends of their muskets; and the
foremost man who entered the Santa Maria was an intrepid Portuguese
Grenadier, who was killed on the spot. Ferguson, of the 43rd, had
received two deep wounds in former assaults; and yet, though not half
cured, he was here leading the stormers of his regiment, the third time
a volunteer, and the third time wounded. In a former action a French
officer was observed in the heat of battle in the act of striking at the
gallant Felton Harvey, of the 14th Dragoons, when, on perceiving that he
had only one arm, the high-minded Gaul, with a rapid movement, brought
down his sword into a salute, and passed on. Traits like this are worth
preservation.

On alighting from our vehicles at Elvas, we were at first placed in a
dark, uncomfortable apartment, adjoining the fortifications; the roof
was of arched masonry, and so damp on the inner side, that water fell on
us in large drops. Our attendants were also nothing to boast of; for
under pretence of bringing our haversacks containing provisions, they
walked away with them altogether,—an evil against which we knew no
remedy, being unable, through weakness, to search for the depredators or
procure more food. The confusion in this unhappy lazar-house was
extreme. Every man naturally thought his own case the most serious, and
that it demanded care before all others. We were not, however, destined
to remain long in these unsuitable quarters. Orders were received
directing our removal to Estramores, and our journey thither was
commenced the same night. The procession was rather melancholy. Several
times we had to halt in order to bury some poor creature, who, exhausted
by suffering, had fled away. On our arrival at Estramores, we found
accommodation more suited to the exigencies of the invalided guests. A
convent, sufficiently spacious, had been fitted up as a military
hospital, and was well adapted for the purpose. When able to look
around, I discovered several of my former associates. Here lay the man
through whose body a ramrod had forced its way. On another couch reposed
Patrick Marr, a daring fellow, but of bad character. He, with others,
had led on the forlorn hope, and was violently struck with a
musket-bullet. Then there was a young man named Forbes, who volunteered
with myself into the 43rd. In a short period he died. Having an
excellent constitution, I soon recovered my health, and in the course of
a few weeks was pronounced convalescent.

In the winter of 1812 I was stationed at Gallegos; and on the 13th of
January, 1813, was promoted to the rank of sergeant, in the place of one
Hicks, who had recently died at Lisbon. Soon after this professional
lift, one of the army physicians was desirous of inspecting such of the
non-commissioned officers and men as had been wounded, or who, through
length and severity of service, were supposed to require rest. Among
these, I was one. On entering the room, Surgeon Gilchriest related
several particulars concerning my past experience, when my name was
included in a list of men who were directed to return to England. We
then proceeded without loss of time to Lisbon, escorted by a detachment
of the 95th. Mules were provided for us as far as Abrantes, after which
we proceeded by water. I am sorry to observe that several of our party,
thus indulged, ill requited the kindness shown, by drinking to excess;
and am sorrier still to add, that I was weak enough to swell the number.
The consequence was, that after a halt, when the detachment was ready to
proceed, we were unprepared. The officer in command, a very young man,
mildly remonstrated with me on the impropriety of such conduct. I
answered with unbecoming rudeness; on which he drew his sword, and I
flourished my cane. Several men, wiser than myself, then interfered, and
mischief was prevented. My opinion is, that a man altogether overcome
with strong liquor is beside himself, and should be consigned to the
care of his friends, if he have any, until he is _compos mentis_, and
may be safely trusted in social society. Next day I saw my error, and
made an apology for the rudeness of the preceding day. When we had
arrived to within six leagues of Lisbon, we landed for a short time,
waiting for the return of tide, leaving in our boat a man named Latimer,
in company with a Portuguese waterman. During that interval Latimer, who
was in jesting humour, amused himself by soliciting the poor Portuguese
to give him cigars. Not receiving what he expected, he foolishly took up
a musket, forgetting it was loaded, and presented the muzzle to his
unfortunate companion, jocularly observing, at the same time, that if he
did not give him a cigar he would shoot him. He accordingly snapped the
lock, and blew out the man’s brains, which, with part of his skull, were
scattered about the boat. On arriving at Lisbon, I was half afraid that
the officer with whom I had taken an unwarrantable liberty might call me
to serious account for the misdemeanour, especially as it had taken
place so soon after my promotion, when better things were expected; but
I had the happiness to find that he knew both how to forget and forgive.
He was an English officer; which in every correct vocabulary means a
gentleman, and no mistake. He parted with me in excellent humour, and
presented me with a small pecuniary balance at that time due for arrears
of pay.

Soon after my arrival at Lisbon, three soldiers were sentenced to death
for desertion; and while waiting for conveyance to England, I was
ordered, among others, to mount guard at the execution. One of the men,
being a Roman Catholic, was attended by a priest of that community; the
other two were assisted by a Protestant clergyman. On arriving at the
appointed spot, which was on the sands near Belem Castle, a party of
soldiers, who were to fire at the culprits was drawn up in front, with
their pieces loaded. The sufferers were ordered to kneel at the usual
distance; and in sight of all were the graves, prepared for their
reception. Just before the signal was given to fire, a dragoon galloped
up with a reprieve for the Roman Catholic. The man, however, was so
enfeebled and overcome that he was unable for some time to rise from his
knees, or take the least notice of this extraordinary deliverance. The
other two men were shot. Why the distinction was made, I know not; but
without doubt, there were circumstances in the conduct of each, that
called for lenity in the one instance and severity in the other two.

Our embarkation was immediately after effected; and having put to sea,
we were favoured with a brief and agreeable voyage to the Isle of Wight,
at which place we landed, and marched into Albary barracks. In the month
of May, 1813, I again joined the 2nd battalion of the 43rd. Nothing
surprised me more than the number of new faces in the corps. Such had
been the ravages arising from accident, death, and other mischances of
active warfare, that few only of my old associates remained, so that the
regiment was to me nearly strange and new. My old ragged coat, fairly
worn out, was exchanged for a new and handsome dress, ornamented with
the professional insignia of my recently-acquired rank; and the first
time I appeared on parade with the men was on the 4th of June, a day at
that time of cheerful and loyal celebration, being the birth-day of the
then reigning monarch, George the Third.

In the course of the summer, wishing to see my friends, I applied to the
colonel of the regiment for a furlough granting permission for that
purpose. Leave was given; and, that the service might at the same time
be promoted, I was charged with the command of a party of men who were
to proceed to, and be stationed at, Castlebar, in Ireland. None but
those who have visited and been detained in foreign lands, can conceive
aright of the intense desire that arises in the mind at intervals, to
visit the country of their forefathers.

                ‘Breathes there a man with soul so dead,
                Who never to himself hath said,
                This is my own, my native land?’

The supposition is incredible. Indeed, any circumstance which, while in
Spain, induced me to think of Ireland was affecting; and I well remember
the emotion felt on one occasion, merely because, on commencing a march,
the band struck up the national air of ‘Saint Patrick’s day in the
morning.’ Being directed to embark at Liverpool, I hastened there with
the detachment, without delay; and having engaged passages on board the
packet for Dublin, our luggage was shipped. My evil genius once more
prevailed, and was so far present, as to seduce me, and of course, the
soldiers under my direction, to enter a public-house of entertainment
for refreshments, which might perhaps have been dispensed with.
Forgetting ourselves, which those who love the potent glass are sure to
do, we remained too long, so that on walking to the pier we discovered,
to our no small dismay, that the packet had sailed. As negligence of
this sort amounted to a breach of orders, I was apprehensive, in
addition to the disappointment personally felt, of incurring the
displeasure of my superior officer; beside which, our property was on
board the vessel. Not a moment was to be lost. I therefore engaged a
boat then on the beach, told the master to name his own price, and
directed him to crowd all his canvas and strive to overtake the packet.
We were instantly on board and under sail, standing out to sea in the
track of the departed ship. Unfortunately the wind rose considerably,
which created a great swell, so that after long and wearisome exertion,
we had gained but little on the packet. We were at length perceived by
the captain, who civilly shortened sail, lay to, and received us on
board. Such are the penalties to be paid for unguarded delay.

Next evening I was refreshed beyond measure by a sight of the Pigeon
House in the Bay of Dublin; and soon after placed my feet on Irish soil.
One whole week, which seemed to be endless, expired before I had an
opportunity of seeing my relatives. At the end of that time I could no
longer refrain, and made a forced march to the neighbourhood, with a
heart as light and devoid of care as may be desired. Every object was
delightful. There was nothing like it any where else: the shrubs were so
green, the sky was so bright and blue, the air so sweet, and even the
earth was more soft and verdant than in other regions of the globe.
Having to pass near the residence of a beloved sister, who with her
husband and family, occupied a farm at Philipstone, I formed a little
plan, and pleased myself with it, of taking her by surprise. I
accordingly walked slowly to the house, as a wandering veteran in search
of lodgings. As I expected, she did not know me; and no wonder. When
last in her company, I was a mere gay and laughing youth. Now she saw
the weather-beaten sunburnt visage of an unknown soldier, with his
knapsack and side-arms, on whose countenance middle age had begun to
limn a few serious lines. I began by informing her that my billet
directed me to her house for quarter. ‘I take no soldiers here; you
cannot be received.’ ‘But you will not be so hard as to turn me away!
See how late it is.’ ‘Perhaps it may be; but I cannot provide for the
like of you.’ ‘Surely that is not what you mean to say; some of your
family are, likely enough, gone soldiering, and what would you think if
either of them were served so?’ ‘That cannot happen. I had one brother,
younger than myself, who listed in the army; but we shall never see him
again. He was killed in battle.’ ‘Indeed! Perhaps I might have known
him; pray what was his name?’ ‘Why, if it can be of any consequence to
you, it was Thomas.’ ‘To be sure it was, sister; and here he is now.
What! do you not know your brother?’ I need not describe the raptures of
the interview. I kissed her; she wept for joy; explanations, inquiries,
and wonderments, almost without measure or end, succeeded. In a few
minutes the report of my arrival got abroad. Some thought it unlikely;
others were sure it was impossible, unless the dead could be raised.
Indeed, I discovered that letters had been received, stating that I had
been slain at Badajos. Ocular demonstration, however, soon settled all
debate; and congratulations, such as few but an Irishman yields, were
tendered with true sincerity and friendship.

I proceeded without loss of time to my mother’s residence. Having been
misled by the report of my decease, she could scarcely credit the
testimony of her senses when I appeared before her. Great indeed was her
exultation and my pleasure at meeting once more on earth. Nor did the
time occupied by this social visit hang heavily upon my hands. Among
other enterprises which attracted my notice, I made proposals of
marriage to an excellent young woman, who was generous enough to listen;
the preliminaries were soon arranged; we were shortly after united; and
to this day I have reason to be thankful for the choice then made.
Beside all this, I had to detail my adventures to numerous groups of
listeners, each of whom must have a new version of the strange man’s
tale. The thirst was unquenchable for notices

               ‘Of breaches, ambuscadoes, Spanish blades,
               Of healths five fathom deep;’

with all the other vanities and circumstance of war. Being in high
spirits, aided it is likely with a little vanity, so likely to cleave to
a man who seeks to recommend himself by feats of arms, I had no
objection to dwell occasionally upon the perils and deliverances of
bygone time. But during the whole of this season my spirit was not
humbled by the least sense of moral defect. I knew nothing of myself.
Indeed, such was the loftiness of carriage which I thought it right to
assume that it was with me a point of honour never to sustain an affront
unavenged. And yet, on looking back, I can trace an invisible but
resistless influence, which even then guided me aright, and saved me
from various threatening dangers. What I mean is, I was never utterly
abandoned to my own devices.

My furlough having expired, I returned to England, and landed at
Liverpool, in the winter of 1814; which was remarkable for one of the
hardest frosts known in this country for many preceding years. I
received orders from the paymaster to proceed to Kent, with a party of
recruits destined for that district; and as most of the young fellows
were rude and unruly, and strangers to military restraint, it required
no common share of firmness, tempered with discretion properly to
conduct and manage them. I arrived, without missing a man, in the
vicinity of Maidstone. Just before entering the town, one of the most
ungovernable of the squad contrived to dip his hands in mischief; nor
was his mouth entirely guiltless. Having run up a score at one of the
road-side inns, for liquors had and drunk, he was unable to pay the
reckoning; when being minus of ready cash, he proposed leaving some
valuable equivalent in the hands of the landlord, as a temporary
deposit, to be shortly redeemed; this consisted of a bundle, containing,
he averred, much valuable property. We had not proceeded far on our
journey, when poor Boniface came running after us, stating that on
opening the package it contained nothing but a few worthless rags.
Meantime the shuffler, apprehensive of detection and no doubt
conscience-stricken, had purposely out-walked us, and was considerably
in advance when the plaintiff overtook us. We could only pity his sad
case, and preach caution for the future. The troublesome personage just
adverted to was the author of more mischief. At our next halt, under the
influence, it is probable, of the late excesses, he quarrelled with the
servants in the house; and being a powerful man, of about six feet two
inches in height, soon cleared the public room of its inmates; getting
into the street, he threw off his coat, and gave a general challenge for
a fight. The invitation was properly rejected; and, like many other
violent spirits, he was eventually subdued, and marched quietly to
quarters.

Here I received unexpected orders to proceed to Plymouth. On my arrival
there, I was stationed in the citadel. My removal was providential. I
here met with an old friend, by whose side I had fought in Spain; he had
received a commission as captain in the 2nd battalion. The last time we
had met was on the ramparts of Ciudad Rodrigo, where he was dreadfully
scorched by an explosion of combustibles. He introduced me in a very
handsome manner to several officers in the garrison, and made honourable
mention of my former conduct; by his influence I was also appointed
colour-sergeant to the company. While at Plymouth, an order was issued
which gave the soldiers liberty to attend such places of public worship
as they thought fit, only it was expected that each should keep to his
own community. When the order was read, I fell out for the Roman
Catholic, where I continued some time to attend. The truth is, it
mattered little by what name _my_ religion was designated; for it was
utterly worthless. I recollect that, one wet Sunday morning, it was my
turn to march the catholic party to Stonehouse chapel. The piety of the
others was about equal to mine. Finding ourselves rather damp from the
rain, it was proposed that instead of going to mass, we should adjourn
to the next public house. This was agreed to without a division; and
there we remained till night-fall. Meanwhile I was a mighty advocate for
papacy; indeed few were louder than myself if challenged on the score of
my religion. In the month of March, 1817, the second battalions of
several regiments, in order to reduce them to the peace establishment,
were disbanded; and that in which I served was of the number. We were
inspected, previously to dismission, by the medical officer; and though
my services had not extended the length required by rule, yet, in
consideration of the wounds I had received, I was placed upon the
pension-list for an allowance of one shilling _per diem_. Thus
disengaged from the toil of military avocation, I felt desirous of
directing my steps homeward again; I accordingly crossed the channel,
and arrived safely at Portarlington, Queen’s County, in the month of
May.

Coming events again introduced me to the army. In November, 1819, the
pensioners were called up for examination, that those who were fit for
service might be enrolled as a veteran battalion. For that purpose I
went to Carlow, and was deemed by the inspector fit for the duty
required. After continuing there several weeks, directions were
received, ordering that the whole of the sergeants, excepting four or
five, should be dispensed with. The matter was decided among us by lot,
and the decision happened to be against me. As I was placed by this
event in disadvantageous circumstances, and excluded from the rank to
which I felt myself entitled, I at once enlisted in the 7th foot,
intending to serve my full period of time, and be thus ultimately
entitled to an increased pension. With this view I resolved to conduct
myself with strict propriety. But what are human resolutions? Can the
Ethiop change his skin, or the leopard her spots? Just as soon can man
reform himself, independently of divine principles. Without descending
to particulars, I relapsed into conviviality and habitual dissipation.
Strong drink ruined all my existing prospects. There were several
religious men in the regiment, who expostulated with me on the folly of
such conduct; but such were my ignorance and depravity, their words were
as an idle tale. Nor, in fact, was I in other respects at home in the
regiment. I missed the partners of my former dangers and hard service,
men who not only talked of war, but had turned the tide of battle. We
had also certain interests in which we seemed to be proprietors in
common; and now I felt myself comparatively alone, and among strangers.
We lay for some time at Newcastle, and from thence removed to Tynemouth
Castle; while at the latter place, I was the means, under Providence, of
saving the life of a fellow creature. During a heavy gale of wind, a
sloop was driven ashore near the barracks, and all hands on board were
in danger of perishing. The waves broke frightfully over the deck,
sweeping in their course every moveable and threatening quick
destruction to the ship. The crew clung to the rigging with trembling
and uncertain grasp. Hundreds of spectators lined the shore but though
all felt deep concern, none knew how to assist. At last a rope was by
some means conveyed from the vessel to the beach, and soon after hauled
tight; a young sailor and myself then ventured on it, through the surf,
and reached the vessel in safety. Among others, the captain threw
himself overboard, but missed his hold of the rope, and sank. He was
under water some time, when I dived in search of him, and having
fortunately grasped him by the hair, was able to raise his head above
the surface of the water. The next moment we were both struck by a
powerful wave, which sent us with rapidity on the shelving rocks, where
we were picked up by several persons who came to assist. I was much
exhausted for several hours, but in the evening was sufficiently
recovered to walk to the inn, and inquire for the captain’s welfare. He
had been carefully attended, and, though much bruised, was doing well.
He knew me at the first glance, and exclaimed, ‘That’s the man that
saved my life. I hope the country will reward him.’ Several gentlemen
frequenting the Library and Reading-room, who saw the occurrence, were
equally loud in their praises; and a clergyman, I understood, moved that
I be rewarded with ten pounds and a silver medal. For distinctions so
flattering I ought perhaps to be grateful; for they are all the reward I
ever had. Why the worthy captain should expect the country to produce a
premium for the saving of his life, I am at a loss to conjecture. One
would have thought that the onus of doing that might have been laid upon
a party much easier of access. Never from that time did I hear from
these eloquently grateful parties.



                             CHAPTER VIII.

    THE AUTHOR RETIRES FROM THE ARMY—SHOULD A SOLDIER BE
      RELIGIOUS?—SCRIPTURE HEROES: ABRAM, JOSHUA, DEBORAH, JEPHTHAH,
      GIDEON, SAMSON, SAUL, AND DAVID—OTHER GODFEARING SOLDIERS: THE
      THUNDERING LEGION, ALFRED THE GREAT, GENERAL DYKERN, COLONEL
      GARDINER, FREDERIC OF PRUSSIA, COLONEL BERDELEBEN.

In November, 1823, on another reduction in the army, I finally retired
from the service. The leisure thus afforded induced me to look within,
not with the superficial survey of former years, but with a desire and
determination to discover my real condition as a moral and accountable
creature; in other words, the facts and verities of the Christian
religion were revealed to my mind with new and affecting power. To many
this will appear strange, to some ridiculous; and there are a few who
will ask, why a soldier of spirit, above all others, should trouble
himself about the concerns of religion. I answer that question by asking
another,—Why should he not? He has as deep an interest in gospel truth
as any other person; and if piety of life be deemed essential for any
person in any station of society, it is not less so for him. I
apprehend, that if there be any difference between civil and military
life, in this respect, the soldier ought to be the _most_ religious; for
his life is usually in greater jeopardy than that of the man of peace.
Death, it is true, comes to all men sooner or later; but the soldier
often anticipates its approach by the perils of active warfare. Others
have objected, that for military men, who are proverbial for
licentiousness, to set up for extraordinary sanctity, is not only
uncalled for, but absurd and hypocritical. I again ask, Why so? If
soldiers are actually so very bad, both in pretension and reality, they
stand so much the more in need of religion to make them better.
Salvation is a girdle which encompasses the world; and why a man is to
be excluded from its benefits because he had defended his country’s
right at the sword’s point, and hazard of his life and fame, I have yet
to learn.

But, say some, there is something so pitiful and gloomy in a soldier who
professes to be religious. There we are again at issue; and I consent to
try the question by this single test. I affirm the converse; and aver,
that pity must fall only on the irreligious, who are often gloomy and
sad from certain assaults of conscience, known only to themselves; while
some of the most intrepid and courageous men who ever lived were noted
for obedience to Divine law; and, what is more to the present purpose,
many of the ablest warlike achievements ever effected were planned and
executed by pious soldiers. What is more extraordinary still, we shall
presently discover that the success of many an expedition depended upon
that piety; and that the Almighty Ruler of the universe granted or
withheld the victory, to or from those whose hearts were right with Him.

It is not a little singular that one of the first battles recorded in
Scripture consisted of a well-conducted expedition formed and led on by
one of the greatest saints that ever lived; and the circumstances, so
far from being stated to his disparagement, evidently redound to his
honour. Soon after the combat in the Vale of Siddim, which was full of
slime pits, Lot, the nephew of Abram, was taken prisoner, and his
property carried away by the four kings commanding the victorious
forces. When the disaster was made known to Abram, he armed and led
forth his trained servants, three hundred and eighteen in number, and
pursued the army unto Dan. He there made the needful dispositions for
the approaching conflict; and, as his detachment was of far inferior
numerical strength, when compared with the opposing force, he properly
resolved upon a night attack. To use the emphatic language of holy writ,
there ‘he smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left
hand of Damascus;’ and to show that the discomfiture was complete, it is
added, ‘he brought back all the goods, and his brother Lot, the women
also, and the people.’ This action is enhanced when the principle is
examined which induced it. Abram fought not for his own profit, but for
the welfare and credit of his country. When rewards were tendered, he
refused them. ‘I have,’ said he unto the king of Sodom, ‘lift up mine
hand unto the Lord, the most high GOD, the possessor of heaven and
earth, that I will not take from a thread even to a shoe-latchet, lest
thou shouldest say, I have made Abram rich.’

The valour and success of a religious captain are also shown during the
hostile advances of the Israelites through the wilderness, nearly five
hundred years after the event just recited. Among other opponents,
Sihon, the Amoritish king, endeavoured to dispute their passage. We do
not discover that recourse was had to tedious and doubtful negotiations.
It was probably shown to the Israelitish leader, by divine impulse, that
with enemies so treacherous treaties were vain. At all events, an
immediate battle took place; Israel smote the foe with the edge of the
sword, after which the forces ‘turned and went up by the way of Bashan;
and Og, the king of Bashan went out against them, he and his people, to
the battle at Edrei.’ That monarch fell, and all his people; and it is
remarkable that the Israelitish chieftain was no other than the meek and
pious Moses, who had received the special command of the Almighty to
extirpate their enemies, who, we have therefore reason to believe, had
filled up the measure of their iniquity, and were no longer fit to live.

[Illustration: ABRAM RETURNING FROM THE SLAUGHTER OF THE KINGS.]

An instructive and highly curious circumstance is recorded in the Book
of Joshua, which discovers that religion not only sits well upon the
warrior, but that impiety is the bane of military life. In consequence
of a certain trespass committed by Achan the son of Carmi, the
Israelitish army became absolutely useless. They fled before the men of
Ai, who ‘chased them from before the gate even unto Thebarim, and smote
them in the going down so that the hearts of the people melted, and
became as water.’ Now, mark the difference when Joshua took the command.
Five kings with their combined armies advanced against the Gibeonites,
who, naturally alarmed, despatched a messenger to their allies,
requesting help. Joshua, like all other good men, lost no time in doing
a good action. He did not let the grass grow under his feet. He came on
the enemy ‘suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night, and slew them
with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that
goeth to Bethhoron, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah.’

What is, in some respects, more singular, the Israelites were
subsequently delivered from a foreign yoke by the heroism of a religious
woman. This was Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth. For twenty
years her country had groaned beneath the iron hand of Jabin, the
Canaanite, of whose numerous armies Sisera was captain. Under the
direction of Deborah, the Israelites, amounting only to ten thousand,
joined battle with their oppressors. The adversary was completely
beaten, so that not a man survived to tell the tale of their defeat;
and, lest the shadow of doubt should rest upon these active operations,
conducted as they were by the wise and good, they were celebrated, and
thus rendered immortal, by one of the noblest odes on record, written,
without doubt, under plenary inspiration: while pointed maledictions are
levelled against those lukewarm friends whose supineness kept them from
the righteous fray. Let us listen a minute. ‘The inhabitants of the
villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, until that I Deborah arose, that
I arose a mother in Israel. They fought from heaven; the stars in their
courses fought against Sisera. The river of Kishon swept them away, that
ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, thou hast trodden down
strength. Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the Lord, curse ye bitterly
the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the Lord,
to the help of the Lord against the mighty. So let all thine enemies
perish, O Lord; but let them that love Him be as the sun when he goeth
forth in his might.’ The result of these spirited demonstrations was of
the most substantial order; for it is particularly noted that the land
had rest forty years.

We find, also, that Gideon and Jephthah were of the same noble line of
godly soldiery. The former rescued his country from Midianitish
despotism; and the latter put down the children of Ammon. ‘He smote them
from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto
the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter.’ I scarcely
need add, that the sympathy of succeeding generations has been excited
by his rash and thoughtless vow connected with the virtuous and
noble-minded conduct of his daughter. But his fame, as the brave and
pious defender of his people, can never be tarnished.

About eleven centuries before the Christian era, another prodigy arose.
This was a man of superhuman physical power; and, what is most
remarkable, the feats resulting from his prodigious strength were
performed chiefly, if not exclusively, when, as the Scriptures term it,
‘the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him;’ and when that influence
departed, he became weak as other men. In other words, while his heart
was right with God he prevailed; and when he forsook the Rock of his
salvation, defeat and ruin were nigh. In the height of his glorious
career, he slew a thousand men with the jaw-bone of an ass; and when in
danger of perishing from thirst, a miracle was wrought in his favour.
‘God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water
thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived:
wherefore he called the name of that place En-hakkore,’ or, the well of
him that cried. It is true he lost his life at last, and, in the
interim, had been sadly abused; but his end was triumphant; and he fell,
buried beneath the bodies of the slain. This remarkable man judged
Israel twenty years; and if we survey the dreadful excesses in which the
people indulged, as recorded in the latter part of the Book of Judges,
the restraints of some such influential ruler as Samson appear to have
been necessary. When there was no king in Israel, every man did that
which was right in his own eyes; and that was, in most instances,
uniformly wrong.

Another of the heroes of antiquity, whose biography illustrates our
meaning, is Saul. The immediate cause of his first achievement arose
from the conduct of Nahash, an Ammonite, who insulted the men of
Jabesh-Gilead by epistolary insolence, and the threat of future outrage.
Unable to defend themselves, they contrived to obtain seven days’
respite for consultation. This they employed in sending messengers to
Gibeah, specially empowered to obtain immediate help. When the tidings
reached the ear of Saul, he was greatly moved: the Spirit of God came
upon him; measures were directly adopted to repress the raging of the
heathen, and the deputation were sent back to assure their friends that,
‘to-morrow, by that time the sun be hot, ye shall have help.’ Faithful
to the promise, Saul and his men were in sight by the morning watch; and
the Ammonites, though three hundred thousand of them shone in arms, were
utterly routed. Saul was a courageous man and an approved soldier.
Though at last slain in battle, and his countrymen were defeated, it
should be remembered that he had offended and forsaken his God by an
improper invasion of the office of the priesthood; had been weak enough
to consult a witch at Endor; and under a malignant influence had several
times attempted the life of his best earthly friend. The varied
vicissitudes of his life, and his untimely end, are therefore to be
viewed as proofs of the position now sought to be maintained. Pious
soldiers fight best. When Saul served God, he beat the Philistines; when
he ceased to serve God, the Philistines slew him. The occasion of his
death was touching, and called forth from a hand of no common skill a
lament not easily surpassed: ‘The beauty of Israel is slain upon the
high places; how are the mighty fallen! Ye mountains of Gilboa, let
there be no dew, neither let there be rain, upon you, nor fields of
offerings: for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away, the
shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil. How are the
mighty fallen, and the weapons of war perished!’ But of all the warriors
whose history is recorded in Scripture, none is to be compared with
David. Almost every step of his eventful life, from the period when he
was taken from the sheep-cote to his complete establishment on the
throne of Israel, was marked by a spirit of singular enterprise and
valour, regulated and impelled by fervent piety. He is described even in
youth as ‘a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in
matters, and a comely person, and the Lord was with him.’ His combat
with Goliath exhibits an astonishing instance of cool and determined
resolution, especially when the simplicity of his attire and weapons are
contrasted with the panoply of the tall Philistine. The Israelitish
slingers, it is said, could hurl stones with amazing force, and
precision so wonderful as to strike within an hair’s-breadth of the
intended mark. David was, no doubt, a proficient in this art, of which
the issue of the duel is sufficient proof. The Philistine came on, wrapt
probably in steel, and in formidable array, preceded by his
armourbearer. He then commenced a speech, somewhat Homeric, but replete
with invective, in which, like an overgrown coward, he impudently
invoked the curses of his gods upon his antagonist, and ended by
intimating that his shattered remains should soon be the vultures’ meal.
David’s answer was finely conceived, and as well expressed. Without
further delay, he addressed himself to the fight; ‘he put his hand in
his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine
in his forehead, that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell upon
his face to the earth.’ The military prowess and superior talents of
David were afterwards shown, during a lengthened course of brilliant
operations, in which he was generally successful.

As collateral evidence of the possible existence and moral worth of a
pious soldiery, it is worth notice, that in the New Testament, which
divulges the religion of peace and love, the writer of the Epistle to
the Hebrews in exhibiting ‘a great cloud of witnesses,’ whom he sets
forth to defend and exemplify the truth, takes care to include therein,
with special commendation, several of the heroes to whom allusion has
been made. Were it not that the time failed, as we are expressly told,
he had a desire to expatiate largely on their respective merits and
services. He is, therefore, obliged to content himself with an extract,
as it were, from the army-list, adding only a brief summary of a few of
the more splendid excellencies of each. There are delightful notices of
Gideon, and Barak, and Samson, and Jephthah, and David, and Samuel; ‘who
through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained
promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire,
escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed
valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens; and of
whom, waiving all other encomium,’ we are told in one comprehensive
sentence, that ‘the world was not worthy.’

Independently of the instances cited from sacred record, the page of
profane history furnishes numerous instances of sound and practical
piety among the professors in the rough and repulsive art of war; and
had we leisure for copious extract, there would be no difficulty in
arranging a formidable staff, composed of such persons,—of men, too, who
had been eminently successful in the strategy and science of hostility.
One of the earliest and most extraordinary manifestations of Christian
zeal is recorded to have happened to the Theban legion, in the reign of
Diocletian, the Roman Emperor; who, it is said, rather than conform to
the rites of Paganism, suffered martyrdom by the order of Maximian, to
the number of six thousand. Another instance of ancient military piety
is recorded in the case of the Thundering Legion, a name given to those
Christians who served in the Roman army of Marcus Antoninus, in the
second century. It seems that when that emperor was at war with the
Marcomanni, his army was enclosed by the enemy, and reduced to the most
deplorable condition, by the thirst under which they languished, in a
parched desert. Just at this time they were singularly relieved by a
sudden and unexpected rain. This event was attributed to the Christians,
who were supposed to have effected this by their prayers; and the name
of the ‘Thundering Legion’ was given to them on account of the thunder
and lightning that destroyed the enemy, while the shower revived the
fainting Romans.

Our own Alfred the Great combined in his own person that union of piety
and courage which, when associated, are so truly noble. He was born at
Wantage, in Berkshire, in 849. Those were dark ages; and the prince, we
are told, was twelve years of age before a master could be procured in
the western kingdom to teach him the alphabet. He felt the misery of
ignorance; he saw the oppression of his country; and determined, if
possible, to remove both. His improvement in letters was astonishing. He
ultimately acquired great erudition. Had he not been illustrious as a
king, he would have had fame as an author; and an old history of Ely has
asserted that he translated the Old and New Testaments. On ascending the
throne, he found that the Danes had penetrated into the heart of his
kingdom; and before he had reigned a month, he was obliged to take the
field against these formidable enemies. After numerous battles, fought
with varied success, he finally expelled them from the kingdom. Alfred
reigned twenty-eight years; during the last three of which he enjoyed
profound peace. He died A.D. 900, and was buried at Winchester. All
historians agree that he was one of the most valiant, wise, and
excellent kings that ever reigned in England. There is great reason to
believe that we are indebted to this prince for trial by jury; and the
Doomsday-book, which is preserved in the Exchequer, is thought to be no
more than another edition of Alfred’s Book of Winchester, which
contained a survey of the kingdom. In private life Alfred was one of the
most amiable men in his dominions; and of so equal a temper that he
never suffered either sadness or levity to enter his mind. He was a
remarkable economist of his time; and an explanation has been given of
the method he took for dividing and keeping an account of it. He caused
six wax candles to be made; on the candles the inches were regularly
marked; and having found that one of them burned just four hours, he
committed them to the care of the keepers of his chapel, who from time
to time gave him notice how the hours went; but, as in windy weather the
candles were wasted by the impression of the air on the flame, to remedy
this inconvenience he invented lanterns, there being then no glass in
his dominions. Of the piety of this consummate general there can be no
doubt. Just before his death he was visited by his son, to whom he gave
the following admirable advice: ‘My dear son, sit thee down beside me,
and I will deliver thee true instruction. I feel that my hour is coming;
my countenance is wan. My days are almost done. I shall go to another
world, and thou shalt be left alone in all my wealth. I pray thee,
strive to be a father and a lord to thy people. Be thou a father to the
children and a friend to the widow. Comfort thou the poor, shelter the
weak, and with all thy might right that which is wrong. Govern thyself
by law: then shall the Lord love thee, and God above all things shall be
thy reward. Call upon Him to advise thee in all thy need, and He shall
help thee in all thou undertakest.’

Godliness is profitable also for the private soldier, and contributes to
the confirmation of his courage. One of the directions given by Oliver
Cromwell to the soldiers of his army was, that every man should carry a
Bible in his pocket: the edition distributed was that since known by the
name of Field’s. This arrangement, so much in accordance with the spirit
of the times, was carried into effect when the Protector assumed the
command of the Parliamentary army against Charles the First. Among the
rest, there was a wild young fellow, who ran away from his
apprenticeship in London, for the sake of plunder and dissipation. This
fellow was obliged to be in the fashion. Being one day ordered out on a
skirmishing party, or to attack some fortress, he returned back to his
quarters in the evening without hurt. When he was going to bed, pulling
the Bible out of his pocket, he observed a hole in it; his curiosity led
him to trace the depth of this hole into his Bible, when he found that a
bullet had gone as far as Ecclesiastes xi. 9. He read the verse:
‘Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the
days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thy heart, and in the sight
of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring
thee into judgment.’ The words were set home upon his heart, by the
divine Spirit, so that he became a sound believer in the Lord Jesus
Christ, and lived in London many years after the civil wars were over.

Religion and its saving effects are the same at every period; and,
descending the stream of time, we may strengthen our case by relating an
account of late but genuine piety in the last hours of a brave and
accomplished officer. The following very interesting incident is related
by Dr. Fresenius, Senior of the Clergy at Frankfort:

  ‘After the battle of Bergen, in Germany, among the many wounded who
  were brought in to Frankfort-on-the-Maine, was the Right Honourable
  George C. Dykern, Baron, lieutenant-general of the Saxon troops, in
  the service of the king of France. He was born of an ancient and
  noble family in Silesia, on April 10th, 1710; so that it was on an
  anniversary of his birth-day that he received his wound. He was of
  equal abilities as a minister and a general. In his younger years he
  had gone through a regular course of study in the university, and
  had made great proficiency in philosophy, especially in mathematics.
  He afterwards studied polemic divinity, till he reasoned himself
  into an infidel. During his illness, he showed not the least desire
  for pious company or serious discourse, till the surgeon let his
  valet-de-chambre know that he could not live long. The man then
  asked his master whether he did not choose to be visited by a
  clergyman. He answered, with warmth, “I shall not trouble those
  gentlemen: I know well myself what to believe and do.” His man, not
  discouraged, continued thus: “My lord, have you ever found me
  wanting in my duty, all the time I have been in your service?” He
  answered, “No.” “Then,” replied he, “I will not be wanting now. The
  surgeons count you past hopes of recovery, but every one is afraid
  to tell you so. You stand upon the brink of eternity. Pray, sir,
  order a clergyman to be called.” He paused a little, but soon gave
  his hand to his servant, thanked him for his honesty, and ordered
  him to send for me.

  ‘When I came, the man told me plainly the general was a professed
  infidel. I went in, and after a short compliment said, “I am told,
  my lord, your life is near an end; therefore I presume, without any
  ceremony, to ask you one plain question: Is the state of your soul
  such that you can entertain a solid hope of salvation?” He answered,
  “Yes.” “On what do you ground this hope?” He replied, “I never
  committed any wilful sin. I have been liable to frailties; but I
  trust in God’s mercy, and the merits of His Son, that He will have
  mercy upon me.” These words he uttered very slowly, especially “the
  merits of His Son.” I made the following reply: “I am apt to believe
  you are not tainted with the grosser vices, but I fear you a little
  too presumptuously boast of never having committed wilful sin. If
  you would be saved, you must acknowledge your being utterly
  corrupted by sin, and consequently deserving the curse of God, and
  eternal damnation. As for your hoping for God’s mercy, through the
  merits of His Son, I beg leave to ask, do you believe God has a Son;
  that His Son assumed our nature, in order to be our Saviour; that in
  the execution of His office He was humbled unto death, even the
  death upon the cross; and that hereby He has given an ample
  satisfaction for us, and recovered our title to heaven?” He
  answered, “I cannot now avoid a more minute description of the state
  of my soul. Let me tell you, doctor, I have some knowledge of
  philosophy, by which I have chosen for myself a way of salvation. I
  have always endeavoured to live a sober life to the uttermost of my
  power, not doubting but that the Being of all beings would
  graciously accept me. In this way I stood in no need of Christ, and
  therefore did not believe on Him. But if I take the Scriptures to be
  a divine revelation, this way of mine, I perceive, is not the right
  one. I must believe in Christ, and through Him come to God.” I
  replied, “You say, if you take the Scriptures to be a Divine
  revelation.” He fetched a deep sigh, and said, “O God, thou wilt
  make me say, Because I take the Scriptures to be Thy word.” I said,
  “There are grounds and reasons enough to demonstrate the Divine
  origin of Christianity, as I could show from its most essential
  principles, were not the period of your life so short: but we need
  not now that diffusive method, faith being the gift of God. A poor
  sinner, tottering on the brink of eternity, has not time to inquire
  about grounds and reasons: rather betake yourself to earnest prayer
  for faith; which if you do, I doubt not but God will give it you.” I
  had no sooner spoken these words, than pulling off his cap, and
  lifting up his eyes and hands, he cried out, “O Almighty God, I am a
  poor cursed sinner, worthy of damnation; but, Lord Jesus, eternal
  Son of God, Thou diedst for my sins also! It is through Thee alone I
  can be saved! 0 give me faith, and strengthen that faith!” Being
  extremely weak, he was obliged to stop here. A little after, he
  asked, “Is faith enough for salvation?” “Yes, sir,” said I, “if it
  be living faith.” “Methinks,” said he, “it is so already; and it
  will be more so by and by: let us pray for it.” Perceiving he was
  very weak, to give him some rest, I retired into the next room; but
  he soon sent to call me. I found him praying; and Jesus was all he
  prayed for. I reminded him of some Scriptures, treating of faith in
  Christ; and he was much delighted with them. Indeed he was quite
  swallowed up with the grace of Jesus, and would hear of nothing but
  “Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” He cried out, “I do not know how
  it is with me: I never in my life felt such, a change. I have power
  to love Jesus, and to believe in Him whom I so long rejected. O my
  Jesus, how merciful Thou art to me!” About noon I stepped home; but
  he sent for me directly, so that I could scarcely eat my dinner. We
  were both filled with joy, as partakers of the same grace which is
  in Jesus Christ; and that in such a manner as if we had been
  acquainted for many years. Many officers of the army came to see him
  continually, to all of whom he talked freely of Jesus, of the grace
  of the Father in Him, and of the power of the Holy Ghost through
  Him; wondering without ceasing at his having found Jesus, and at the
  happy change, by which all things on this side eternity were become
  indifferent to him.

  ‘In the afternoon he desired to partake of the Lord’s supper, which
  he received with a melting, praising, and rejoicing heart. All the
  rest of the day he continued in the same state of soul. Towards
  evening he desired, that if his end should approach, I would come to
  him, which I promised; but he did not send for me till next morning.
  I was told by his valet, that he slept well for some hours, and then
  awaking, prayed for a considerable time, continually mentioning the
  name of our Lord, and His precious blood; and that he had desired
  several of the officers to make known his conversion to his court,
  which was that of Poland. After some discourse, I asked, “Has your
  view of Christ and His redemption been either altered or obscured
  since yesterday?” He answered, “Neither altered nor obscured. I have
  no doubt, not even a remote one. It is just the same with me, as if
  I had always thus believed and never doubted: so gracious is the
  Lord Jesus to me a sinner.” This second day he was unwearied in
  exercises of faith and prayer. Towards evening he sent for me in
  haste. When I came I found him dying, and in a kind of delirium; so
  I could do no more than give him now and then a word of comfort. I
  afterwards prayed for him, and those that were present, some of whom
  were of high, birth and rank. I then, by imposition of hands, as
  usual, gave him a blessing; which being done, he expired
  immediately. Prince Xavier, who was there, could not forbear
  weeping. The rest of the officers bewailed the loss of their
  general; yet praised God for having shown such mercy towards him. I
  wrote an account of it without delay to his mother, and had an
  immediate answer. She was a lady of seventy-two, of exemplary piety.
  She praised God for His mercy, adding, that He had now answered the
  prayers which she had never ceased to offer on her son’s behalf for
  eleven years.’

And how finely was the Christian character exemplified in the life of
Colonel Gardiner! This gentleman, when a mere youth, was engaged in
active service. He signalized himself by uncommon exertions at the
battle of Blenheim. At that time, destitute of religion, he sought ‘the
bubble reputation, e’en in the cannon’s mouth;’ and while in the act of
leading on his men to a desperate assault upon the enemy’s
intrenchments, swearing most profanely, a musket-shot struck him in the
mouth, and came out at the back of his neck. The infliction of the wound
was so instantaneous, that in the rage of the moment, though conscious
of being struck, he thought he had swallowed the bullet. In almost the
next moment he was undeceived, and fell senseless. There he lay,
weltering in blood, for some time; but being of a hale and vigorous
constitution, he was observed, when the fury of the fight had
diminished, among a heap of the dying and dead, to be yet alive.
Surgical help was directly obtained, and he was mercifully given back
from the very gate of death. It is well known that he afterwards became
an eminent Christian. His conversion to the faith, like that of Paul,
was sudden, decisive, and glorious; and late in life he fell by the blow
of a Lochaber axe, nobly fighting, when nearly all others fled, at the
battle of Prestonfield,—a capital instance of bravery, refined and
exalted by the purity of religious principle.

The goodly fellowship of our devout and enterprising heroes must also
include another associate: this is no less a person than Frederick the
Great of Prussia, a man who, when almost the whole of continental Europe
had combined to dismember his kingdom, arose with gigantic prowess, and
defended himself with such singular ability and courage, that, while his
numerous and powerful enemies were repelled, his influence as a monarch
was firmly established. That the mind of Frederick was deeply imbued
with Scriptural truth, is confirmed by his celebrated confession of
faith; which, for clearness of conception, and the forcibleness of the
terms in which his sentiments are expressed, shows that he knew the
truth. He was unhappily led away in old age by the subtleties of
Voltaire, who had contrived to insinuate himself into the presence of
Prussian royalty; but that apostasy on his majesty’s part may be viewed
as an error of feeble senility, nor does it destroy, or even derogate
from the value of the testimony yielded to religion by the master-mind
of Frederick, when the suffrage of his credence was worth having, in the
prime and vigour of his days and the more leisurely exercise of his
masculine intellect.

Old Colonel Berdeleben belongs undoubtedly to our corps. He was a
favourite of the great Frederick of Prussia, who lavished several
honours upon the worthy veteran. Deeply grateful for the distinction
thus conferred, but more entirely overcome with a sense of Divine
goodness, he observed, ‘Should I die this moment, I die in the favour of
God and my king. I truly rejoice that my sovereign has assured me of his
favour; but of what avail would the king’s favour be towards the
consolation of my conscience, and what would it help me in my present
situation, did I not possess the favour of God?’ Reasonings like this
may be scorned, but they cannot be confuted.



                              CHAPTER IX.

    JOHN HAIME—ALLEGED CAUSES OF WAR—THE AUTHOR AND POPERY—CONFESSION TO
      MAN USELESS—PURGATORY—TRANSUBSTANTIATION—IDOLATRY—LEGENDS—PAPAL
      PERSECUTIONS.

Instances of genuine conversion to the faith of the Gospel, attended by
the fruits of the Spirit, are also to be met with among what are
generally termed ‘common soldiers,’ by which are understood the private
men composing the main body of an army, by whom, as making up the
physical force employed, the brunt of actual fighting is chiefly
sustained; and it has pleased the great Head of the Church so to magnify
His grace, that many of these men, when exposed to the most imminent
peril, were enabled not only to perform their duty with coolness and
intrepidity, but to rejoice in the midst of privation and suffering. No
serious and intelligent man can forget that in the last century a most
remarkable revival of religion took place in these lands; and the
influence, it appears from authentic records, extended to the British
army.

A pious soldier, who was engaged in one of the German campaigns then in
operation, has observed, ‘The day we marched to Maestricht, I found the
love of God shed abroad in my heart, that I thought my very soul was
dissolved in tears. The day we engaged the French at Dettingen, as the
battle began, I said, “Lord, in Thee have I trusted, let me never be
confounded.” Joy overflowed my soul, and I told my comrades, “If I fall
this day I shall rest in the everlasting arms of Christ.”’ He did not
fall; and about ten months afterwards, in another written communication
directed to his pastor, he seems more happy than ever, though in
circumstances which, in ordinary cases, would have been destructive of
mental calmness. At the close of a severe action, he states, ‘As to my
own part, I stood the fire of the enemy above seven hours; then my horse
was shot under me, and I was exposed both to the enemy and our own
horse. But that did not discourage me at all; for I knew the God of
Israel was with me. I had a long way to go, the balls flying on every
side, and thousands lay dying and dead on either hand. Surely I was as
in the fiery furnace; but it never singed one hair of my head.’
Providentially, the veteran was not left to stand alone; for true
godliness is essentially communicative. He adds, ‘Going on, I met one of
our brethren with a little dish in his hand, seeking for water. He
smiled and said, he had got a sore wound in his leg. I asked him, “Have
you gotten Christ in your heart?” He answered, “I have, and have had Him
all day.”’

The name of the soldier whose remarks I have quoted was John Haime; and
he lived to be a useful member of the Church. He was favoured, while in
active military service, with the correspondence of one of the most
venerable and learned ministers of that age, the Rev. John Wesley, M.A.
A copy of one of the letters thus received from him has been preserved,
and is worthy of all acceptation, not only on account of the wisdom of
the advices it contains, but of the affectionate regard shown in the
midst, probably, of multiplied engagements, to an absent member of the
flock. ‘It is a great blessing,’ observes the writer, ‘whereof God has
already made you a partaker; but if you continue waiting upon Him, you
shall see greater things than these. This is only the beginning of the
kingdom of heaven, which He will set up in your heart. There is yet
behind, the fulness of the mind that was in Christ; “righteousness,
peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” It is but a little thing that men
should be against you, while they know that God is on your side. If He
gives you any companion in the narrow way, it is well; and it is well,
if He does not. So much the more will He teach and strengthen you by
Himself; He will strengthen you in the secret of your heart, and, by and
by, He will raise up, as it were out of the dust, those who shall say,
“Come, and let us magnify His name together.” But, by all means, miss no
opportunity; speak, and spare not. Declare what God has done for your
soul; regard not worldly prudence; be not ashamed of Christ, or of His
word, or of His servants; speak the truth in love, even to a crooked
generation; and all things shall work together for good, until the work
of God is perfect in your soul.’

But, although grateful remembrance is made that the Almighty has
preserved my life, and though convinced that He is able to keep His
faithful people in the most trying situations, let it not be supposed
that I consider war as an immaterial occurrence, and a light evil: on
the contrary, experience has shown me that it is one of the worst and
most destructive calamities by which humanity can be visited. Saved, as
we have been in this country, from the tempests which have so repeatedly
swept the European continent, and knowing nothing of ‘the horrid alarum
of war,’ save through the medium of _Gazettes_ and hear-say evidence, we
are apt to overlook the mischief inflicted on those, upon whose peaceful
residences the unwelcome avalanche has broken.

As for several years I literally fought my way through the world, it is
natural to suppose that the reasons and results of war have frequently
attracted my notice. The alleged and ostensible objects for which one
monarch or ruler has engaged in war with another, are to punish some
slight or injury, which the nation, or its dependencies, or some one of
its allies, may have sustained; or to prevent or repel the assaults and
invasions of its neighbours. In modern times, those who think of war,
enlarge eloquently upon the law of nations, the rights of civil society,
and especially the balance of power. This latter phrase has been
exceedingly in fashion through the range of diplomatic lore; and the
conflict, maintained through a long and dreadful struggle, to give
equilibrium to the balance in question, has cost an expenditure of blood
and treasure previously unknown in the history of this hemisphere. The
truth is, that where war is determined, pretences are easily invented or
discovered; as those who are for ever in search of a hook on which to
hang a fault, seldom fail of success. Such then are the feigned or
genuine motives for war; but every man who looks beneath the surface of
political expediency, is convinced that other and more really
efficacious reasons are to be detected. Avarice, ambition, religious
bigotry, the absence of all religion, desire of dominion, thirst for
fame, private pique and animosity, with other dispositions equally
censurable, have been the actual though unmentioned causes of many of
those sanguinary contests by which the face of nature is marred and
spoiled.

Roll rapidly, ye intervening years, which are yet to interpose between
the present and a better state of things! May the time hasten, when the
ingenuity of man shall be no longer misapplied in inventions so hateful;
when earth-born malice and resentment, by which it is called into
action, are subdued; and in place thereof shall arise the spirit of
peace and amity, as a mild and holy dove, to hover over the world,
ruling in the hearts of all, and bringing into willing bonds every power
of the soul to the obedience of Christ!

But this is a digression. With regard to myself, a powerful conviction
rested at this season on my mind, that I was not in the right path; but
being shackled with the trammels of popery, which I surveyed with
increasing suspicion, I scarcely knew how to proceed. During the time I
was in Ireland, my besetments on this account were painfully
distressing. ‘If the blind lead the blind, shall they not both fall into
the ditch?’ and for some time my spiritual guides conducted me into many
a miserable quagmire of superstition and absurdity. On complaining of
uneasiness of mind, I was directed to proceed forthwith to the priest,
in order to confess and receive absolution. My misgivings, as to the
value of these services, grew stronger; but the importunity of friends
prevailed, and away I went. On arriving at the chapel, which, in fact,
was a barn, I found a crowd of persons, all waiting to be relieved of
their respective moral burdens. His reverence at length appeared; and a
haughtier figure I do not remember to have seen. On commencing the
service, which to me was an intolerable jargon, a fierce rush was made
by those without for admission. The reason for such haste did not
consist in any specially devout desire first to catch the benedictions
of the reverend gentleman. We had been informed that it was a deadly sin
to eat before confession; so that hunger had nearly driven us to
extremities; and an open door, leading to what it might, was hailed with
delight, as the promise of relief of some sort. On pressing forward, I
unfortunately broke my watch-glass, which by no means tended either to
sweeten or equalize my feelings; and after a tremendous row, which had
nearly ended in a fight, I was ushered into the presence of the priest.
‘Tell out your sins,’ said he. This was a terrific commencement; but
there was no escape. I therefore related several particulars of my past
life, not forgetting several occurrences that took place during my
campaigns abroad. He then advised a course of penance, and ordered me to
see him again, stating that on a future occasion he should administer
the Eucharist, after which all would be well. I hope he obtained a
forgiveness better than that he pretended to bestow.

I was then compelled to apply to Father K——, a deep old file, at the
parish chapel. On advancing to him he sung out for money due, as he
said, to the Church. After such an opening, I had no relish, either for
his advice or pardon. I was induced, however, to give him another trial
a few weeks afterwards; but, if possible, I fared worse. In this
instance the priest had chosen a public ale-house for his station. Some
of the audience were adding to existing sin, by excessive drinking;
others were confessing sins already committed; and a few were receiving
absolution. I left this scene with unmingled disgust; and, as might have
been expected, felt my mind depressed, as before. Just at this season I
was taken seriously ill; and having been given over by the physician,
spiritual consolation was judged needful. The old priest was accordingly
introduced; but finding on his arrival that I had declined subscribing
to the church, a solitary question was all he asked, and he retired.
This priest soon after died. The Almighty was pleased, however, to
restore me to health; but no peace of mind could I procure. Having met
with another Catholic counsellor, he stated that about seven miles from
my residence were six holy wells; and that, if after twelve months’
penance I went round those wells on my bare knees, devoutly saying an
Ave Maria and a Pater Noster, I should find relief. To increase the
number of pilgrimages to the spot, booths were erected in the vicinity,
under which provisions of various sorts were sold, not forgetting a
copious store of whisky. This intolerable abuse has, I understand, been
suppressed; and the only wonder with me is, that it ever obtained, even
among the most credulous.

After a careful inspection of popish doctrine, conducted with all the
care and perseverance I possessed, the conclusion to which I arrived
was, that the precepts and practices of Catholicism are utterly at
variance with the revealed will of God, and subversive of sound
morality. In no part of their creed is this more evident than in those
directions which allow the sale of indulgences. This scandalous impiety
first aroused the attention of Luther, and the early Reformers. The
following is the form of an indulgence, as held forth in the sixteenth
century: ‘May our Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on and absolve thee, by
the merits of His most holy passion. And I, by His authority and that of
His blessed Apostles, St. Paul and St. Peter, and of the most holy Pope
Leo X., granted unto me in these parts, do absolve thee; first, from all
ecclesiastical censures, and then from all thy sins, transgressions, and
excesses, how enormous soever they may be, even such as are cognisable
by the holy see alone; and, as far as the keys of the holy Church
extend, I remit to you all punishments which you deserve in purgatory on
their account, and I restore you to the unity of the faithful, and to
that innocence and purity which you possessed at baptism; so that when
you die, the gates of punishment shall be shut, and the gates of
paradise and delight opened; and, if you shall not die at present, this
grace shall remain in full force when you shall be at the point of
death. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy
Ghost.’ By way of comment on the preceding article, the Catholic clergy
have observed that, ‘if any man shall purchase letters of indulgence,
his soul may rest secure with regard to its salvation. The souls
confined in purgatory, so soon as the money tinkles in the chest,
instantly escape from that place of torment, and ascend into heaven. The
efficacy of indulgences is such, that the most heinous sins would be
remitted and expiated by them, and the persons be freed from punishment
and guilt. This is the unspeakable gift of God, to reconcile men to
Himself. Lo! the heavens are open; if ye enter not in now, when will ye
enter? For a little money ye may redeem the soul of your father out of
purgatory from torments. If you had but one coat, you ought to strip
yourself immediately, and sell it, in order to purchase such benefits.’
Thus, with feigned words, these jesuitical gentlemen make merchandise of
the people. The principal design is evident; and that is—to secure the
money.

Archbishop Tillotson has observed, speaking of the superiority of the
reformed religion, ‘We make no money of the mistakes of the people; nor
do we fill their heads with fears of new places of torment, to make them
empty their purses in a vainer hope to be delivered out of them; we do
not pretend to have a mighty bank and treasure of merits in the Church,
which they sell for ready money, giving them bills of exchange from the
pope on purgatory; when they who grant them have no reason to believe
they will avail them, or be accepted in the other world.’ Bad as is the
plan of purchasing heaven by money, as these deceivers teach, it is not
the worse feature in the disposal of indulgences; for among other
methods resorted to by the heads of papacy to support a rotten fabric,
indulgences for future convenience in this world, and an exemption from
punishment hereafter, were given to those who would fight for the
Church, or, in plain terms, persecute all others. Bishop Burnet states
that a jubilee was granted after the massacre at Paris, to all who had
been in that butchery; and they were commanded to go and bless God for
the success of that action. The pope sent Cardinal Urson, his legate, to
France, to thank the king for so great a service done to the Church, and
to desire him to go on, and extirpate heresy root and branch, that it
might never grow again. And as the legate passed through on his journey
to Paris, he gave a plenary indulgence to all who had been actors in the
massacre. It may not be amiss, if we state, that by a plenary indulgence
a man returns to the state he was in after baptism; and, did he die that
instant, his soul would go at once to paradise, without passing through
purgatory. On this principle, the furies who shed the blood of the
saints in France were so fully meet for the inheritance of the saints in
light, that the alembic of purgatory, through which persons less saintly
must pass, might in their happy case be omitted.

The depravity connected with the sale of this filthy article has
extended itself in other modes. In a book printed in Rome, in the year
1514, by the authority of the pope, entitled, _The Tax of the Sacred
Roman Chancery_, is to be found a table containing a list of prices for
which certain sins may with safety be committed. This book was
afterwards reprinted at Paris, Cologne, and Venice; and has since been
translated into English, under the title of _Rome, a great Custom-House
of Sin_. It informs the world for what price the pardon of heaven and
absolution might, for particular crimes, be obtained. For instance,
pardon:

                                                          £ s. d.
      For stealing holy things out of a consecrated place 0 10  0
      For a layman murdering a layman                     0  7  6
      For murdering father, mother, wife, or sister       0 10  6
      For a priest keeping a concubine                    0 10  6
      For burning a house maliciously                     0 12  0
      For forging the pope’s hand                         1  7  0

Besides absolutions for crimes too shocking to be mentioned, from 9s. to
£2 10s. The preceding statement requires no comment. To enlarge upon its
tendency would be to blacken the chimney. Its design, on the part of the
monkish brotherhood who invented and maintain it, is to make a penny, by
means at which a modest devil would blush; and proves, by demonstration
strong as holy writ, that the abettors of such crimes are the true
descendants of that scoundrel hierarchy, at whose decline and fall the
truly great and good will rejoice and be exceeding glad.

Before now, instances have been known in which the fraternity were
foiled with their own weapons. A certain nobleman once told Tetzelius, a
mighty preacher of indulgences, that he had a mind to commit a very
heinous sin, and desired an indulgence or present pardon for it. This
was granted for a considerable sum; and when the money was paid, the
bull was given. Some time after, this nobleman took occasion to meet
Tetzelius in a certain wood, and breaking open his chest, robbed him of
his entire stock of indulgences. When Tetzelius threatened him with all
manner of curses, the nobleman showed him the bull he had paid so dear
for; and laughing at him, observed that this was the very sin he had a
longing to commit, when he was so fully absolved.

Equally absurd, though not so malignant in its immediate result, is the
doctrine of purgatory, of which the Scriptures know nothing. The
hypothesis on which this notion is founded seems to be an opinion that
some are not quite good enough to go to heaven, and yet too good to be
sent to hell; an idea evidently borrowed from the fabled invisible
domains of heathen writers. In errors of this sort, and indeed of any
description, our resort must be ‘to the law and to the testimony;’ and
if the truths therein contained are contradicted by an angel of light,
we are not to believe him. The holy Scriptures leave no ground for the
doctrine of purgatory. ‘There are twelve hours in the day, wherein men
ought to work: work while ye have the day; for the night cometh, when no
man can work,’ When death arrives, probation ceases; the die is cast,
the destiny is fixed, and cannot be revoked or amended. St. Paul asserts
that, ‘if the earthly house of our tabernacle were dissolved, we have a
building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens,’
He also affirms, that when ‘we are absent from the body, we are present
with the Lord;’ which is impossible, unless we are to conclude that our
Lord is in purgatory. We are told, moreover, in the Gospel, that ‘the
beggar died, and was carried by angels into Abraham’s bosom;’ not into
purgatory, or the popish limbo, but into paradise, whither the thief
upon the cross also went. We find also that Moses and Elias appeared on
the mount, in glory, with our Lord and His apostles. So that they could
not have been confined in purgatory, even before the death of Christ.
The inference is, there is no such place. ‘Blessed are the dead who die
in the Lord, for they rest from their labours.’ But purgatory is not
rest; it is a species of future ordeal; and God cannot deny Himself or
contradict His promises.

Papists affect that Augustine taught the doctrine of purgatory; but this
pretext will avail little; for if it could be proved, the weight is
nothing against Scripture. There was, indeed, a time when he had some
debate in his mind upon the subject, and observed, ‘that such a matter
as a middle state for purgation might be inquired of;’ but after more
diligent investigation and thought, he says: ‘We read of heaven and of
hell, but the third place we are utterly ignorant of; yea, we find it is
not in the Scriptures. Nor will any thing help thee but what is done
while thou art here. As the last day of man’s life finds him, so the
last day of the world shall hold him. Nor is there for any body any
third place that he can possibly be in, but with the devil, who is not
with Christ.’ The scheme of purgatory, like the other legends of papacy,
was doubtless invented with a special view to the ‘main chance,’ that
is, the cash. When a Roman Catholic talks of securing bliss, he means,
making money; and it is clear that in this view the doctrine now
exploded is intimately connected with indulgences, and that they stand
or fall together. This invisible trial was never heard of till the year
600; and the first who directed prayers for the dead to be used in the
Church of Rome was Odillo, abbot of Cluny, in the year 1000.

Transubstantiation is another of the absurdities of papacy, which no man
of sane mind can comprehend, much less receive. ‘Since Christ, our
Redeemer,’ observes the Council of Trent, ‘has said that it was truly
His own body which He offered under the appearance of bread, it has
always therefore been believed in the Church of God, and is now again
declared by this holy Council,—That, by the consecration of the bread
and wine, there is effected a conversion of the whole substance of the
bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord, and of the
whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood; which
conversion is fitly and properly termed by the holy Catholic Church,
Transubstantiation.’ To this proposition is annexed, in the usual spirit
of that persecuting Church, ‘If any one shall deny these statements, he
is accursed.’ This is advancing upon us with a vengeance. I see only one
alternative here for a reasonable being. We are compelled either to take
leave of our senses, or expose ourselves to eternal ruin. We are to
receive a positive, palpable contradiction as confirmed truth, that a
consecrated wafer, made of flour and water, is the real body of Christ;
that the wine, compressed from fruit, is His real blood; and what is
more, though we are sure that the bread and wine have been thus
prepared, we are nevertheless called upon to believe that they were not.
We are to believe that He who fills heaven and earth, and is immutable,
is as small as a crumb of bread or a drop of wine, and can be eaten and
drunk. In fact, we are expected to give implicit credit to
impossibilities; as if religion, instead of being a reasonable service,
was a tissue of absurdities, and a cunningly devised fable. The
conclusion is inevitable. Transubstantiation, like most other items of
popish belief, is opposed to reason and Scripture. It can have no other
than an ideal existence; and is compounded of such stuff as dreams are
made of. Hence it has been asserted, that even a century ago, several
discerning persons in the Church of Rome were grown so sensible of the
weakness of the doctrine, that they would be glad quietly to dispose of
it; but the Council of Trent, with the purblind zeal which has ever
characterized this fallen Church, have riveted it so fast to their
religion, and made it so necessary and essential a part of their belief,
that they cannot now disengage it. It is a millstone hung about the neck
of popery, that will some day sink it; and, in the opinion of many
well-informed men, it is a weight that will make the pillars of Saint
Peter’s crack, and requires more volumes to make it good than would fill
the Vatican.

Nor is the matter mended if we contemplate the worship of the Host, and
homage paid to images and pictures. Like many other of the antics of
popery, these are novelties, and were not known till 1216. Pope Adrian
the Sixth, it is said, had so much doubt of their value, that in his own
practice he used the precautionary form, ‘I adore thee if thou art
Christ;’ and judged the people should say the same. His suspicions were
well founded. As no power whatever can work a self-contradiction, so no
being can make that which is already made; but Christ was many years
before the Eucharist; therefore no power could make the eucharistic
bread to be the man Christ Jesus. Of course it ever remained a creature,
and adoration offered to it is idolatry. So of images. Referring to
these, an old writer remarks, ‘Now would anyone be pleased to consider
the pains taken in the formation of images, he would be ashamed to stand
in such fear of a thing that the hand of the artist had been so long
playing upon, to make a god. For this wooden god, taken perhaps out of
some old faggot or pile, or a piece of some forlorn stump, is hung up,
hewn, planed, and chiselled into shape; or if it be a deity of brass or
silver, it is ten to one but the pedigree is derived from a dirty
kettle, or worse than that. But if it happen to be a god of stone, then
the mallets are set to work upon him; but as he is not sensible of any
hardships endured in the preparation, it is to him of inferior moment.
Well, the image is cast, fashioned, and filed; but, pray, when does it
become divine?’ It may be soldered, put together, and set upon its legs;
but after all the article is of no value. Then comes the Catholic
priest, with his consecrating potentialities; and now, behold your God!
ye deluded worshippers. The truly enlightened Christian sees through the
folly of such practices. He knows that all divine or religious worship
is wholly due to Jehovah. If not wholly, not at all; for any reason that
would take away a part, must take away the whole. If, therefore, wholly
due to Him, then can no part thereof, however small, be given away from
Him, without injustice and impiety.

And what a bungling attempt is the usage of penance to purchase heaven!
Papists tell us, that confession to a priest is of infinite value, and
amounts to an exchange, which God allows, of the temporal punishments we
have deserved by sin, into these small penitential works. Yet, it is to
be feared, say they, that the penance enjoined is seldom sufficient to
take away all the punishment due to God’s justice on account of our
sins. The balance of the account remains unpaid, and must be settled in
purgatory. After confession, the penitent is ordered to say, ‘I beg
pardon of God, and penance and absolution from you, my ghostly father.’
The priest then gives the absolution, and adds, ‘May the passion of the
Lord Jesus Christ, the merits of the blessed Virgin Mary, and of all the
saints, and whatsoever good thou shalt do, and whatsoever evil thou
shalt suffer, be to thee unto the remission of thy sins, and the
increase of grace.’ In conformity with this piece of priestly fraud,
many poor creatures have submitted to miserable hardships; some have
worn hair shirts, having given themselves a certain number of stripes;
others have taken long and painful pilgrimages; and in Spain and Italy
these woeful travellers are frequently observed, almost naked, loaded
with chains, and groaning at every step.

But of all the proofs which may be adduced to discover the true
character of this base and fallen Church, her persecuting spirit is the
most conclusive. This has always been seen. The friends to the
Reformation were anathematized and excommunicated; and the life of
Luther was often in danger, though at last he died on the bed of peace.
Innumerable schemes were resorted to for the purpose of overthrowing the
Reformed Church, and wars were waged with that view. The invincible
Spanish Armada, as it was vainly called, had this end in view. The
Inquisition, which was established in the twelfth century, was a
dreadful weapon. Terrible persecutions were carried on in various parts
of Germany, and even in Bohemia, which continued thirty years; and the
blood of the saints was said to flow like the waters of a river. Poland,
Lithuania, and Hungary were similarly visited. In Holland and the Low
Countries the most amazing cruelties were exercised under the merciless
and unrelenting hands of the Spaniards, to whom the inhabitants of that
part of the world were then in subjection. Father Paul states, that the
Belgian martyrs amounted to fifty thousand; but Grotius observes, that
at least twice that number suffered by the hand of the executioner.

[Illustration: THE MARTYRDOM OF RIDLEY.]

In France the same diabolical spirit prevailed. After a succession of
cruelties, practised in various forms, a most violent persecution broke
out in the year 1572, in the reign of Charles the Ninth. Many of the
principal Protestants were invited to Paris, under a solemn oath of
safety, upon occasion of the marriage of the King of Navarre with the
sister of the French monarch. The queen dowager of Navarre, a zealous
Protestant, was, however, poisoned by a pair of gloves before the
marriage was solemnized. Coligni, Admiral of France, a brave and
virtuous man, was basely murdered in his own house, and then thrown out
of the window, to gratify the malice of the popish Duke of Guise. The
admiral’s head was afterwards cut off, and sent to the queen-mother; and
his body, after having been submitted to a thousand indignities, was
hung up by the feet on a gibbet. After this, the murderers ravaged the
whole city of Paris, and in the course of three days, butchered above
ten thousand persons, among whom were several of the nobility and
gentry, and others of high moral reputation. The streets and passages
resounded with the noise of those who met together for murder and
plunder; and a prodigious multitude of men, women with child, maidens,
and children, were involved in one common destruction. From the city of
Paris the massacre spread through the whole kingdom. In the city of
Meaux two hundred Protestants were thrown into prison, and after the
persecutors had ravished and killed a great number of women, and secured
piles of plunder, they executed their fury upon those in confinement.
Calling them out one by one, they were killed, like sheep appointed for
the slaughter. In Orleans they murdered above five hundred men, women,
and children, and enriched themselves with their spoil. Similar
cruelties were practised at Angers, Troyes, Bourges, La Charité, and
especially at Lyons, where above eight hundred Protestants were
inhumanly destroyed. Children were killed while hanging on their
parents’ necks; parents were torn from the embraces of their offspring,
and put to death; ropes were put about some, who were dragged inhumanly
about the streets, and thrown half dead into the rivers.

[Illustration: RIDLEY.]

What aggravated the cruelty of these scenes, and is demonstrative of the
sanguinary spirit of papacy, is, that the news of these excesses was
received at Rome with boundless satisfaction. When the letters of the
pope’s legate were read in the assembly of the cardinals, by which he
assured the pope that all was transacted by the express will and command
of the king, it was immediately decreed that the pope should march with
his cardinals to the church of St. Mark, and in the most solemn manner
give thanks to God for so great a blessing conferred on the see of Rome
and the Christian world; and that on the Monday after, solemn mass
should be celebrated in the church of Minerva, at which the pope,
Gregory the Thirteenth, and cardinals were present; and that a jubilee
should be published throughout the whole Christian world, to return
thanks to God for the extirpation of the enemies of the truth, and of
the Church in France. In the evening the cannon of the castle of St.
Angelo were fired, to testify the public joy; the whole city was
illuminated with bonfires; and no one sign of joy was omitted that was
usually made for the greatest victories obtained in favour of the Romish
Church.

But these persecutions, though black as Erebus, were far exceeded in
cruelty by those which took place in the time of Louis the Fourteenth.
The troopers and dragoons, hired for the purpose, went into the houses
of Protestants, where they destroyed the furniture, broke the
looking-glasses, wasted their corn and wine, and sold what they could
not destroy; so that in four or five days the Protestants had been
plundered of property worth a million of money. But this was only the
beginning of sorrows. They turned the dining-rooms of gentlemen into
stables for horses, and treated the owners of the houses where they
quartered with the greatest insolence and cruelty, lashing them about,
and depriving them of food. In several places the soldiers applied
red-hot irons to the hands and feet of men, and to the breasts of women.
Mothers that gave suck they bound to posts, and let their perishing
infants lie languishing in their sight, crying, and gasping for life.
Some they bound before a great fire, and, when half dead, let them go.
Amidst a thousand other till then unheard-of cruelties, they hung up men
and women by the hair, and some by their feet, on hooks in chimneys, and
smoked them with wisps of wet hay till they were suffocated. Others they
plunged repeatedly into wells; and many they bound, and then with a
funnel forced them to drink wine till the fumes destroyed their reason,
when they made them say they were Catholics. If any, to escape these
barbarities, endeavoured to save themselves by flight, they were pursued
into the fields and woods, where they were shot like wild beasts. On
these scenes the popish clergy feasted their eyes, and derived
astonishing amusement from them.

[Illustration: LATIMER.]

Nor did England escape. Though Wickliffe, the first Reformer, died
peaceably in his bed, yet such was the malice of persecuting Rome, that
his bones were ordered to be dug up, and cast on a dunghill. The remains
of that excellent man, which had rested undisturbed four-and-forty
years, were accordingly disinterred; his bones were burnt, and the ashes
cast into an adjacent brook. In the reign of Henry the Eighth, Bilney
and many Reformers were burnt; and when Queen Mary came to the throne,
persecution was let loose with ten-fold terror. Hooper and Rogers were
burned in a slow fire. Saunders was cruelly tormented at the stake a
long time before he expired. Taylor was put into a barrel of pitch, and
fire was set to it. Ferrar, Bishop of St. David’s, with seven other
illustrious persons, were sought out and burnt by the infamous Bonner,
in a few days. Sixty-seven persons were burnt in the year 1555, among
whom were the famous Protestants, Bradford, Ridley, Latimer, and
Philpot. In the following year, eighty-five persons were burnt. Ireland
has also been drenched with the blood of Protestants, nearly fifty
thousand of whom were murdered in a few days in different parts of the
kingdom, in the reign of Charles the First. What shall we say, also, of
South America? It is computed that, of the natives residing in the
extensive Spanish territory, fifteen millions were sacrificed in forty
years to the genius of Popery. In fine, it is supposed that, at
different times, not fewer than fifty millions of Protestants have been
the victims of the persecutions of the Papists, and put to death for
their religious profession. Such is mystic Babylon! ‘And I saw under the
altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the
testimony which they held: and they cried with a loud voice, saying, How
long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on
them that dwell on the earth?’ ... ‘And in her was found the blood of
prophets, and of saints, and of all them that were slain upon the
earth.’

[Illustration]



                               CHAPTER X.

    THE AUTHOR RENOUNCES POPERY—OBTAINS A SITUATION IN THE CHELSEA
      MILITARY ASYLUM—ATTENDS SLOANE-TERRACE CHAPEL—THE SERVICE
      DESCRIBED—SIMPLICITY OF PROTESTANT WORSHIP.

No one, I apprehend, will wonder, that at the close of the preceding
view, my mind was at rest as to the course most advisable. A voice
seemed to sound in my ears, ‘Come out of her, my people, that ye be not
partaker in her sins.’ With gratitude unfeigned, I thank God, who has
delivered me from such antichristian articles of faith. I entirely
reject them, persuaded that they are the mere invention of crafty men,
who, under the pretence of superior sanctity, are among the most
consummate hypocrites on earth; and heartily rejoice that though such
articles were once the terror, they are now the sport of enlightened
society.

An affecting question is asked by the prophet Zechariah, ‘Is not this a
brand plucked out of the fire?’ and it is with no small propriety that
the inquiry is made concerning myself. I have wandered over sea and
land; have been in perils both of flood and field; in ‘hair-breadth
‘scapes’ I have rivalled Othello’s self; for several years I was
dangerously familiar with the bayonet-point and whistling bullet; and
have followed a profession whose element is strife and bloodshed. While
thousands have fallen, I am preserved in the land and light of the
living; and, what is perhaps an equal mercy, am placed in a situation in
which I have become conscious of these obligations, and where the
privileges of church-fellowship exist in rich abundance. It would be
ungrateful, also, were I not to acknowledge the uncommon kindness with
which several of the officers under whom I served furnished me, on
application, with testimonials relative to my previous conduct in the
army. It would be mere affectation were I to profess myself indifferent
to opinions so generously expressed; and as military reputation, founded
on faithful services, is frequently the only riches of which an old
soldier can boast, I shall be pardoned for introducing some extracts
from letters received about this time from several gentlemen well known
in superior military circles.

I ought to premise that I had applied to Lieut.-Col Williamson,
Commandant at the Royal Military Asylum, Chelsea, for admission into
that institution as one of the superintendents of the children; to
secure which, I found it necessary to obtain respectable references as
to previous character. Colonel (now General) Pearson observed concerning
me: ‘I have much pleasure in stating, that his conduct on every occasion
merited my most perfect approbation, and that I consider him highly
qualified for any situation which requires activity, sobriety, and
integrity; and as such I beg leave to recommend him.’ Major Page, under
whose notice I had acted at Tynemouth, certified that he had known me
for several years, during which period he was pleased to say, that my
conduct as a soldier gave great satisfaction; and, with reference to an
event in my life already alluded to, adds ‘he particularly distinguished
himself, and was the means of rescuing from a watery grave three or four
sailors. I recollect his plunging through the surf and bringing a sailor
on shore, at the time no boat would quit the beach. I cannot say too
much in this soldier’s praise; and nothing gives me greater pleasure
than to recommend him.’ To make assurance doubly sure, Colonel Napier
added, that I had ‘served in the 43rd regiment nearly eleven years; had
been at the reduction of Copenhagen in 1807; at General Moore’s retreat
to Corunna in 1808, and the following year; and at the battles of
Almeida, Busaco, Pombal, Condeixa, Subagal, Fuentes d’Onoro, Ciudad
Rodrigo, and Badajos, at which latter place he was severely wounded in
the head and thigh.’ These nails, driven so forcibly, to fasten my
respectability, were clenched by Lieutenant-Colonel Duffy, who also
spoke of me in very handsome and obliging terms. Captain Patteson then
advanced, by stating concerning me: ‘I had every reason to be satisfied
with his steady, sober, honest, and soldier-like conduct, and had
frequent opportunities of observing his brave and valiant behaviour in
the field.’ Besides these, which told heavily on the board, I had a
letter of similar import from Lieutenant-Colonel Booth, who was
condescending enough to bring up the reserve, and inclose his
recommendatory note in another written and directed to myself, in which
he remarks: ‘I have great pleasure in stating what I remember of your
character in the 43rd regiment, for I have a perfect remembrance of you;
and it is gratifying to myself that you remember your old corps with so
great affection. You are entitled to our best wishes, as one of those
good and gallant soldiers who contributed to support the reputation of
the regiment during the Peninsular war.’

I have been induced to quote these flattering notices, not for the
purpose of self-esteem, and finding food for vanity; but I am anxious to
show, that alertness and vigilance are neither unnoticed nor unrewarded
in the British army; and that the superior officers are not unwilling to
recollect an old and wounded soldier, when the recognition can assist
him. Supported by such respectable rank and influence, my efforts to
gain admission into the asylum were successful, and in the month of
December, 1823, I was received as a company sergeant. After having been
in this situation about four years, I became acquainted with several
members of the congregation assembling at Sloane-terrace chapel,
Chelsea; and my views of human depravity, of moral obligation, and ‘the
exceeding sinfulness of sin,’ together with the necessity of a change of
heart and life, were rendered much clearer than formerly. I perceived
that in religion there is not only something to be professed, but a
great deal to be experienced. The more I inquired and reflected upon
myself, so much the more I was dissatisfied. At first I resolved to mend
my morals, and live more scrupulously. But a brief trial showed me that
my theory was good for nothing, nor would hang together. There was no
relish of salvation in it; and in escaping from one evil, I ran headlong
into a greater. My mind was afterwards led, by degrees almost
imperceptible, to reflect deeply upon that infinite goodness by which I
had thus far been brought through the great and terrible wilderness of
this world. I began more clearly to perceive, that religion consisted in
a divine change; and desires to share in its blessings, till then
unknown, created, no doubt, by the Spirit’s influence, were continually
present with me. But how to escape from the trammels of sin was the
great and apparently unconquerable difficulty: my condition is described
in holy writ with infinite accuracy;—‘For the good that I would, I do
not: but the evil that I would not, that I do. I find then a law, that
when I would do good, evil is present with me.’ The more I strove, the
deeper I sank; until, wearied with the vain task of conquering sin by
efforts founded on the strength merely of reason and propriety, I gave
up the contest, and endeavoured to conclude that it would be time enough
to enter on religious courses when I became old and good for little. The
illusion was incomplete. It was not sufficiently specious to deceive
even my own mind. Perhaps I ought rather to conclude, that the mercy of
God would not permit me thus to wander into the congregation of the
dead. I had no rest. My sins became increasingly alarming; and I felt
afraid of going to sleep, lest I should awake in perdition.

Among several other places of public resort in the vicinity of my
residence, and much frequented by military men, was ‘The Snow-shoes,’ a
public house of entertainment, of great convivial celebrity, where many
pounds of my money had unfortunately gone astray. In spite of some vivid
convictions to the contrary, I made an engagement to meet an old brother
sergeant, and ‘spend the evening,’ which, in gay language, generally
includes the luxury of cigars, and libations of strong liquor. It
happened, providentially, that my friend was not ready by the appointed
time, so that on my arrival I was seated alone, and had time for
reflection. A few minutes before I entered the house, a prayer rose in
my mind, that the Almighty would preserve me from the pending excesses,
the ruinous effects of which, I knew, must fall both on myself and
family. The check was so powerful that I halted at the threshold of the
passage. In that instant Satan suggested, ‘Take a little, and get home
in time,’ I accordingly went into the house and called for some liquor,
but had not remained long before I felt myself suddenly struck by some
powerful though unseen hand. My whole frame trembled, so that I was fain
to lean against the table for support. Meantime I thought a voice
repeated in my ear, ‘Go home!’ My agitation was so great as to excite
the attention of several persons in the room, who asked me what was the
matter. Unable to reply, and determined to obey my invisible but
friendly monitor, whom I considered as a gracious signal of Almighty
direction, I hurried out of the place, went home immediately, and
related the occurrence to my wondering family. This was only the
beginning of miracles; and from that time I can trace the operations of
the Spirit as they were graciously afforded, every link of which, as
part of a golden chain, let down from on high, contributed to draw me
from the miry clay of nature’s dismal dungeon, to the light and liberty
of Gospel day.

It so happened, or rather, was so ordered, that my daughter was placed
in a school conducted by a worthy member of the Wesleyan society. One
day the governess made some inquiries relative to the state of religion
in our family. How she was answered by her pupil I know not; but most
likely the good instructress had reason to conclude that our devotions
were not of the most exalted kind. Be that as it may, she kindly
selected a tract, entitled ‘James Covey,’ and gave it to the child, with
directions to read it at home. My daughter, aware of the prejudice I had
entertained against Methodism, was afraid to show me the tract. It was
at length so contrived that the ‘Covey’ should attract my notice. After
a cursory glance, it struck me there was some Methodist contrivance
about the matter; I therefore threw the tract upon the fire, and desired
that my daughter might be removed from those fanatical folks. Satisfied
with the exploit, I left the house, and resumed my employment; but on
taking off my hat, for the purpose of hanging it up, I observed what
appeared to be a sheet of paper, folded up inside the crown, beneath the
lining. On taking it out, to my surprise, there was ‘James Covey’ again.
The truth is, that this tract, though thrown upon the fire by my ungodly
rashness, was taken off with equal haste and superior wisdom, and had
been placed in my hat by the hands of my excellent wife. Wondering, at
first, how it came there, and impressed with the oddness of the
circumstance, I thought, that as pains had evidently been taken by some
one to draw my attention, it would be ungrateful were I entirely
negligent; and that, at all events, a slight inspection could not poison
my mind, especially if confined to the first page or so. I accordingly
began to read, but soon passed the bounds I had assigned. As I went on,
the tale was so charming that I felt anxious to ascertain the
catastrophe; in fact, I became so riveted to the performance, and saw,
as if I had looked in a mirror, my own case so completely shown forth in
the description of the sailor, that my almost impenetrable heart was
melted, nor could I help exclaiming, ‘Lord, if I should turn to Thee,
like him, wilt Thou have mercy on me?’

I was much impressed with the similarity that, in some respects, existed
between the sailor’s life and my own. He had fought by sea, and I by
land. He, in the days of his ignorance, had profaned the mysteries of
the Cross by disbelief and vanity; I had done the same. He found mercy;
and now, through the same medium, even by the new and living way, the
desire, though late, was found in my heart to follow in the same course.
Great searchings of heart followed the inquiries arising from the above
tract. The more I looked into my own condition, the greater was the
dissatisfaction felt. I found, not only that some things were wrong, but
that little or nothing was right. I felt convinced, also, that the
change required was of a spiritual kind; that old things were to pass
away, and all things become new; and that if any man have not the Spirit
of Christ, he is none of his.

In this condition of hope, mingled with sad uncertainty, I continued a
wearisome time. One Sunday forenoon I attended the chapel already
mentioned, with the hope of receiving instruction and encouragement;
and, with respect to the former, I succeeded. I had been told that the
minister appointed to preach on that day, had been useful to others;
which begat a hope respecting myself. Prayers having been read, he
ascended the pulpit. The simplicity with which the services were so far
conducted, especially when contrasted with the multiplied ceremonies of
the Romish Church, powerfully affected my mind. It appeared to me, that
the difference between the two lay precisely here: Papists cultivate the
forms of religion, with little of the power; while here the power was
present, with as much only of the form as served to give seriousness to
the worship. In the Catholic chapel, one is apt to be taken up with
circumstantials, while spirituality of mind, so essential to true
devotion, is well-nigh destroyed. There is the gaudy attire of the
priest, who performs his part by reading certain lessons in a language
which not one in twenty understands. Then an elegant picture, or image,
is exhibited, before which the priest, as if smitten with some sudden
emotion, pretends—for it is merely a studied piece of acting previously
rehearsed—to be melted into humility. He accordingly commences a series
of genuflexions and homage, on which, from the formality observed, the
principal value of the service seems to depend. Lads dressed in white
surplices then enter, bearing large wax candles. Anon is heard the
tinkling of a small bell, while an ignited perfume of some sort,
contained in a silver chafing-dish, and suspended by a chain, is waved
by one of these juvenile clericals for general gratification.

Laying aside these extraneous matters, the use of which is above my
comprehension, the preacher in the Protestant chapel now alluded to
adopted a widely different plan. He was in person of good figure, rather
tall and slender, with marked benevolence of countenance; I think
something under forty years of age; and was dressed in a plain black
suit of clothes, which, though sufficiently neat and respectable to
denote the sacred profession of the wearer, evinced a noble carelessness
of outward show or self-consequence. In truth, he had much better ground
of dependence. The service began with singing a hymn. I should think
that religion improved the voice, as well as reformed the life; for
every one appeared able to sing, and the effect was beautiful. The
minister then proposed prayer, to which all assented by kneeling in
silence. The petitions offered were singularly appropriate, and although
evidently not a pre-composed form of words, were fluent and
comprehensive; and what rendered them remarkably seasonable and
well-timed, they were so framed, as to apply to the apparent rank,
condition, and circumstances of the assembled congregation. Another
verse or two of a hymn was sung with equal effect, immediately after
which the preacher selected a text and began the sermon. Having nothing
before him but the Bible, and as the passage selected for discussion
consisted only of a few words, I concluded the homily would be rather
brief. The result showed that I knew little, either of it, or the
preacher.

In cathedral services, one is used, when the reverend Dean ascends the
pulpit, to observe a handsome quarto manuscript, enveloped in a cover of
clerical jet, nicely squared, and paged to prevent mistake, which is
safely pressed upon the cushion, and containing in characters so legible
as to defy mistake the approaching lesson of instruction. On the
occasion to which I now refer, these preparations were dispensed with.
The good pastor began his discourse without the least hesitation; and
being a man of pleasing address, and of distinct, though not very
powerful voice, the attention of an overflowing audience was immediately
arrested. After several introductory observations, of somewhat
discursive tendency, he applied himself to the explication of the
passage chosen for the occasion; and never in my life was I more
surprised. The remarks made seemed as if directly levelled at myself,
not recollecting that, as all have sinned alike, so all are to be saved
through one Mediator. I had imagined that the workings of my mind were
necessarily secret, and was sure the preacher knew nothing either of my
life or creed. I therefore strove to elude the unexpected application of
unwelcome truth; but the thing was impossible; there was no getting away
from the searching pursuit of the speaker. He traced the half-awakened
sinner through all the lanes and by-paths of subterfuge to which the
pride of human nature is so prone, and having concentrated his energy,
at once assaulted the conscience and convicted the heart. He then
entered, with such minuteness, into my condition; gave such an account
of the causes and cure of my uneasiness; hit upon my general train of
thought and reasoning with nicety so miraculous; anticipated, and then
overthrew my doubts with such force; guarded the moral law with
penalties so terrific; and depicted the wide waste of human
transgression with a pencil so true, that all my resources vanished.
What was also wonderful, he entered into and conducted the discussion
with such earnestness, as clearly proved the deep interest he took in
the matter. No legal pleader, however magnificent the expected fee, ever
took more pains to prove his point. The observations contained in the
body of the discourse were acute, and to me original; from some of them,
native corruption naturally recoiled; but before the mind had time to
gather up itself, and put on the show of defence, he advanced some
powerful scriptural quotation, so perfectly apposite and conclusive that
all resistance was vain. Nor was I less delighted with the trouble he
took to make himself understood; not that his enunciation was defective,
or his style obscure or far-fetched, but, afraid lest the least portion
of his meaning should be misapprehended, he placed himself, as it were,
in different positions, from which he took varied and delightful views
of several cardinal points of gospel truth; so that in the collected
light, thus produced, it was next to impossible for the plainest
understanding to misconceive his meaning.

The general effect of this remarkable pulpit exercise was, to constrain,
rather than compel, men to embrace religion; and this was effected by
the presentation of motive, so judiciously selected, and so elegantly
urged, that no human being, unless his heart were adamant, could hear
without emotion and obedience. The sermon was closed by an energetic
appeal to the congregation on the necessity of personal piety, and of
taking an immediate step in order to secure it; and from the profound
silence that prevailed, the appeal was, I doubt not, effective. Who,
indeed, could sit for an hour unmoved, while an approved minister of
righteousness, not only in formal phraseology does his duty, by the cold
and formal announcement of truth, but goes almost beyond himself, and
strives, by every method which zeal and ingenuity can devise, to render
that truth attractive, and save the souls of men? Let me subjoin another
observation. Deep and vivid as was the impression produced by the
preacher alluded to, I am not sure that he was to be numbered among
those who are termed extremely popular. But an unction from the Lord, as
if at a renewal of the pentecostal season, came down upon the word. The
communings at Emmaus were revived, when Jesus Himself drew nigh, and
broke the bread of life; so that many were fain to say, ‘Did not our
hearts burn within us, while He talked by the way, and opened unto us
the Scriptures?’ To my own mind, the entire service was very beneficial;
that is, I acquired self-knowledge. The remembrance of my sins was
grievous, and the burden, but for the mercy of God, intolerable. All my
preconceived notions of bettering myself were exploded, nor could I
offer any other prayer than that of the publican, ‘God be merciful to me
a sinner.’ I dare not mention the name of the minister to whom these
remarks refer; for he yet lives, and will, I trust, be preserved many
years, a blessing to the Church. For many subsequent months the ministry
of the Rev. Philip C. Turner was rendered exceedingly serviceable to my
mind.

People may think as they please, but religion is no fable; neither is
the work of grace upon the soul of man a mere hypothesis, to be examined
with suspicion, and embraced or rejected at humour. If there be a
genuine and awful reality on this side eternity, this is one; nor would
I suppress my belief in the fact, for the applause of millions. Truth is
great, and, though it be surveyed with scorn, must finally prevail.

[Illustration]



                              CHAPTER XI.

    JOINS THE METHODIST SOCIETY—NATURE AND USE OF CLASS-MEETINGS—THE
      WITNESS OF THE SPIRIT—FAITH AND ITS FRUITS—RELIGIOUS
      EXPERIENCE—RESOLVES TO END HIS DAYS IN THE SERVICE OF GOD.

My views of the way of life were by this time greatly enlightened; I had
also thoroughly informed myself relative to the drift and tenor of
Methodism. Under a deep persuasion that the truth and power of
scriptural piety prevailed among its professors, I joined their Society
in January, 1828; and trust never to be found without its pale, till
mortality is exchanged for life. Many persons are aware, and every one
who intends becoming a member ought to know, that there are constantly
held certain social weekly assemblies, entitled Class-meetings, an
entrance to one of which constitutes the beginning of membership. These
are of first-rate importance. The conversations thus taking place under
the direction of a leader, who is so named on account of his supposed
superior religious experience and stability, tend, beyond any other plan
ever formed, to keep alive a sense of spiritual things during the busy
seasons of secular engagement; beside which, the general effect of these
meetings in reference to the Society at large, operates as a bond of
union, so strong and indissoluble, that wherever the members are found,
and let the outward circumstances be what they may under which they
meet, they have, in reference to spiritual things and the mode of
establishing their general worship, an immediate understanding. By the
aid of this uniformity in opinion and belief, if a Class were composed
one half of London members and the other half of Cherokee Indians it
would not, in a religious view, make the smallest difference. They would
be sure to understand one another; for their pursuits are exactly the
same. They walk by the same rule, they mind the same thing, and
endeavour by one and the same simple process to keep the unity of the
Spirit in the bond of peace.

In support of these regular meetings, which are peculiar to this section
of the Church, many cogent and conclusive arguments are urged. It should
be understood that they are intended to promote the purposes of
experimental piety, and nothing else. Reasonings in their behalf are
adduced from Scripture: ‘They that feared the Lord spake often one to
another, and the Lord hearkened and heard, and a book of remembrance was
written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon
His name; and they shall be mine, saith He, when I make up My jewels.’
Proofs of their propriety are derived from analogy. In most worldly
schemes, and in the circle of arts, the actual value of improvements and
discoveries is estimated by experiment. The purity of metals is
ascertained by tests too nice to admit of imposition. The power of
mechanics is tried by the application of certain criteria. In scientific
pursuits and lectures, the positions advanced are usually illustrated by
experiment, exhibited for the mutual instruction of assembled
professors. These plans are adopted to prevent mistake and error, and
give to the art or science those principles of perpetuity founded on
demonstrated truth, that shall render them worthy of universal
acceptance. Is religion, then, to be the only pursuit in the prosecution
of which experience is superfluous? Shall a system of verities,
involving eternal consequences, referrible to every human being, and,
therefore, the most important the world ever saw, or can see, be
suffered to float on the waters of contingency, when opportunities offer
of coming at its nature and effect by actual experience? The reason, the
happiness, the present well-being, and the future condition of man,
conspire in giving a decided negative, and to censure conduct so rash
and ruinous.

So, at least, the Methodists think, and it will take some trouble to
prove them wrong. I had not long met in one of these Classes, which was
conducted by a young man, the qualities of whose mind singularly fitted
him for the office, when I discovered more clearly than ever my own
moral deficiency and spiritual condemnation. I found, to my surprise,
that several of the persons then present possessed a sense of their
acceptance with God, through the merits of His Son; and I was forcibly
struck with the modest though decided manner in which this profession
was made. The leader, I observed, took the principal part in the
conversation; and moderated, advised, or explained, on the passing
topic, as occasion required. I had received the spirit of bondage again
to fear, which confined me in the prison-house of condemnation, and the
discovery of those high attainments, of which I had living proofs, sent
me with all imaginable haste to the Scriptures; and, sure enough, I
found the Methodists knew what they were about.

The confidence they spake of is expressly mentioned as the privilege of
all true believers. In writing to ‘all that be in Rome, beloved of God,
called to be saints,’ St. Paul exults in the thought that, ‘the Spirit
itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of
God.’ The same doctrine is enforced in his Epistle to the Galatians,
‘Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into
your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.’ This delightful fruition of
Christian experience was exemplified in the instance of the great
Apostle Himself. In addressing ‘all the saints in Christ Jesus which are
at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons,’ he is so filled with holy
exultation and hope, that he declares himself to be ‘in a strait betwixt
two, having a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far
better.’ And it is equally clear that this spiritual attainment was not
an exclusive apostolical privilege; for in the epistle ‘to the saints
and faithful brethren in Christ, which are at Colosse,’ he affirms
concerning them, ‘And you, being dead in your sins, and the
uncircumcision of your flesh, hath He quickened together with Him,
having forgiven you all trespasses.’ It is equally certain that those
who live in the enjoyment of this distinguished mercy are conscious of
it; for ‘He which establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed
us, is God; Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of His Spirit
in our hearts.’ No one, indeed, could possess a gift so estimable
without knowing it, any more than a man could escape from dungeon-gloom
into daylight without being sensible of deliverance.

This doctrine is also held forth where some people never think of
looking for it, that is, in the service of the Church of England. The
worthy compilers of the Book of Common Prayer seem in such haste to
divulge the high attainment, that soon after the morning service has
commenced we are told that the Almighty ‘pardoneth and absolveth all
them that truly repent, and unfeignedly believe His holy Gospel.’ In the
collect for the Epiphany the assembled Church is taught to pray, ‘that
we, which know Thee by faith, may after this life have the fruition of
Thy glorious Godhead through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ In the service for
Ash-Wednesday the same doctrine is finely held forth: ‘Create and make
in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins, and
acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of Thee, the God of all mercy
perfect remission and forgiveness, through Jesus Christ our Lord.’
Verily, these are glorious truths; and were it not for their exceeding
antiquity, I should conclude they were composed by one of the Methodist
preachers.

With, a cloud of witnesses so commanding and influential, I could no
longer question the truth of the doctrine of reconciliation by faith in
Jesus Christ; so far from that, I felt a desire to obtain the blessing
for myself. There was an impulse within me which seemed to say, ‘Make
the trial,’ This, I believe, was the call of mercy; and, thank God, my
heart was eventually inclined to listen and obey. But the anguish that
succeeded was excessive. The more closely I examined myself, the more
aggravated and incurable my sins appeared. In this state I went one
evening to the Class; but was so cast down, and had fallen so deep into
the Bunyanite Slough of Despond, that I was nearly guilty of Pliable’s
error, who got out on the wrong side. I had resolved to tell my leader,
that feeling myself no better I should come no more, and relinquish
religious profession. On entering the room and taking a seat, the
thought of my sinfulness almost drank up my spirit. It struck me, ‘Why
do you come here? You are a greater sinner than Mary Magdalene.’
Nevertheless, I felt a desire, like the publican mentioned in the
Gospel, to look up and adopt his penitential request. I asked the leader
to pray, and he kindly consented. While we were jointly engaged in this
service, the Lord spake peace to my heart. The change was indescribable,
and inconceivable to all but the restored sinner. My burden was gone,
and I rejoiced in the God of my salvation. I felt myself, as it were,
elevated into a freer atmosphere, surrounded by a new creation. The
means of grace appeared of more value than my daily food. I found
special light and power by reading the Scriptures on my knees, preceded
or followed by prayer.

The retrospect of my past life fills me with amazement. I am astonished
at the infatuation under which I formerly laboured, and at the
forbearance of God Who so long winked at my waywardness and folly. I
well remember, that some time since, on sitting down to dinner, which I
used to do without the least acknowledgment to God, a religious friend,
who happened to come in, civilly asked if it was a custom to take my
meals without asking the blessing of the Giver? He made another
observation or two, no doubt with the best intention. Those were the
days of soldierly hauteur and impatience. I was deeply offended with his
interference, and felt half inclined to throw my adviser down stairs. My
better sense, however, mastered the meditated revenge; and, thank the
Lord, I was preserved from laying hostile hands upon a man whose good
counsel was so sadly despised, and who was, no doubt, in many respects a
man far superior to myself. God forbid that I should cease to thank Him
for His restraining and enlightening grace.

But were I to retrace and collect all the causes, on account of which my
gratitude arises, I know not where the end would be. One more I must
mention, by reason of its magnitude. It is for delivering me from the
errors and abominations of the Church of Rome. But if I rejoice, it must
be mixed with trembling. I have greater cause for humility; and know,
that ever since I had chosen the better part, had I been more faithful
to the grace given my spiritual progress would have been greater.
Surrounded with a praying people, I felt anxious to adopt the Methodist
method of offering up extemporaneous petitions. I saw many others had no
difficulty in the exercise, whose addresses to the Almighty were
remarkably copious and proper, though unaided by a printed form. ‘This,’
I thought, ‘is delightful; as the requests preferred arise from a sense
of want, felt at the time; and I will join the company.’ I had
miscalculated my gifts at that period; and accordingly, having uttered a
few sentences, was unable to proceed. Somewhat disconcerted at this
misadventure, I resolved to act with more caution, and applied to my
leader for a written prayer, which I proposed to commit to memory,
before I attempted to deliver anything more in public. His reply was,
‘Jesus will teach you how to pray.’ I felt at first rather discouraged
at this answer, though I afterwards saw its propriety. My adversary,
noticing the feebleness of my faith, immediately suggested, ‘There now,
you see he cares nothing about you; he neglects even your small
request!’ Thank God, I gradually surmounted the difficulty, and have
ever since been enabled, by a few plain sentences, to give expression to
my wants, and to join my fellow-Christians in their joint supplications
to the throne of grace, the offering up of which has been so beneficial
to the Church of Christ.

Soon after this period I made another discovery, much more affecting and
momentous than the deficiency of gifts,—it was deficiency of grace; and
most seriously awful were the consequences. The scantiness of my
knowledge, and very slender Christian experience, had so far warped my
judgment, that I began to conclude that the work in my heart was
complete; and as all enemies were destroyed, little more remained but to
ascend quietly to heaven. Painful experience soon overthrew my air-built
fabric, and taught the necessity of watchfulness and circumspection. It
was about the season of Christmas, when being inveigled into company by
far too gay and mirthful for Christian gravity, I was unhappily seduced
into the sinful practices then in the ascendant. I felt at first some
checks of conscience, but unhappily disregarded them. The beginning of
sin is like the letting out of water. Resistance must be immediate, or
the mountain-torrent will defy opposition. The season of festive
merriment, so called, continued for three days; and during the whole of
that time, I was seduced by the indecent levities of thoughtless men, to
whom I ought to have presented a better example. On the third night I
awoke to a sense of my situation. My first sensations were like those of
one who, having taken a wrong road, is suddenly smitten with the
widening obliquity of his path, and knows not how to repair his error.
My peace was gone. I felt that the Spirit of God was grieved, and had
withdrawn His influence. Shorn of my strength, I had become weak as
other men. I was afraid to be left alone, lest, impelled by satanic
suggestion, I should rashly throw away my life. From this dread
alternative I was, however, mercifully preserved.

After some time I so far rallied as to make an effort to pray; but I had
no power to kneel before the Lord. Having betrayed my trust, I thought
the divine anger had waxed hot against me, and that the weighty
penalties of the holy law would fall upon and grind me to powder; nor
had I courage to open my Bible, as each of its denunciations seemed to
stand in battle-array against me. I could neither eat nor sleep, so that
my health visibly declined. My wife sent for medical help; but my case
came not within the powers of the healing art. Indeed I was ashamed to
see the good man who paid the professional visit. Nothing was fitted for
my malady, save the balm of Gilead, and the heavenly Physician whose
favour I had forfeited. Hope itself seemed to expire; the enemy of my
soul whispered: ‘It will require at least twenty years to recover what
you have lost; and where will you be by that time?’ Such, indeed, was my
deplorable condition that I felt persuaded I should not survive many
days. At last, when despair had almost devoured me, a gleam of
encouragement, as the first dawn of light on the horizon’s extremest
verge, arose on my soul. Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity. The
relief was like life from the dead, and came just in time to save me
from impending destruction. The resurrection of Lazarus was scarcely a
greater miracle than this timely and critical deliverance; for in each
instance there was an exertion of nothing less than Omnipotence.

Animated by this beginning of renewed confidence, I ventured again to
approach the throne of grace. It was in the evening, at the family
altar; and there the Lord, in His infinite mercy, was pleased to cancel
my transgression, and write His pardon on my heart. With him who had
fled to Tarshish, when overtaken in his folly, I was empowered to plead,
‘I am cast out of Thy sight, yet will I look again toward Thy holy
temple.’ The Saviour looked on me as heretofore. The glance of Him I had
denied humbled me at His feet, and I felt ready to hide myself in the
dust. The undeserved and extraordinary manifestation of divine clemency
I now experienced was so overwhelming that my faculties were hardly able
to sustain it, and I had nearly fainted. That night, after a long and
wearisome season, I retired to rest rejoicing; and from that period, all
praise be to God, I have never been deprived of an abiding sense of His
favour, and of my acceptance through the merit of His Son. I have great
reason to be thankful that for several years last past I have proved the
all-sufficiency of divine grace, and have been able, in some humble
degree, I trust, to walk circumspectly, redeeming the time. I have long
since discovered, and hope never to forget, that the work of God in the
soul of man is to be progressively matured. In the journeyings of a
Christian, no idle delays can exist with safety. He pulls against wind
and tide; and if he cease to labour, the opposing current must waft him
back. Philosophy teaches that nature abhors a vacuum. The same thing may
be said of grace. Every portion of the space allotted as our earthly
course, must be properly filled, so that our great Pattern and Example
may be imitated, Who was ever engaged in doing good, even to the
unthankful.

I must here crave permission to recite another instance of Divine
goodness to myself, the unworthiest of all the servants who wait upon
the Lord. One evening I was invited to attend a Band-meeting at
Sloane-terrace chapel, at which one of the stated ministers presided. I
had for some time previously felt the necessity of more complete
conformity to the will of God. I began to consider more deeply that if
religion had any importance at all, it was all-important, and demanded
the undivided homage of my heart. Several passages of Scripture bearing,
as I thought, on the subject were applied to my mind with great energy;
especially the 25th verse of the 36th of Ezekiel: ‘Then will I sprinkle
clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness,
and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I
give unto you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take
away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of
flesh.’ Another passage in the New Testament, I thought had respect to
the same subject, 1 John i. 7: ‘But if we walk in the light, as He is in
the light, we have fellowship one with another; and the blood of Jesus
Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.’ On the strength of these
gracious declarations, the anticipation of some added and glorious
spiritual blessing was present with me. As the time of holding the
Band-meeting drew nigh, unbelief arose, by whose evil agency I was
greatly shaken. ‘What right have you to appear among the people of God?
Why intrude yourself? You have been unfaithful already; do you mean to
walk the same course again? Are you fitted for duty so sacred as that
you approach, or to enter into the presence of God and His chosen
people?’ These were terrible siftings; but, sustained by the Almighty, I
surmounted the assault, and kept to my determination. I pleaded the
promises, and found them exceeding great and precious. My past
unfaithfulness was, indeed, a source of deep repentance and regret; but
I remembered it was written: ‘All manner of sin shall be forgiven unto
men;’ and, ‘Whosoever cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast them out.’
According to my faith, so was it done unto me. My soul in confidence
arose,—it rose and broke through all. The meeting was honoured with the
Master’s presence. Like the disciples at Emmaus, our hearts burned
within us, while He opened our understandings, and applied His own
merciful promises. God was pleased on this occasion to enlarge and
renovate the hearts of His people. I was able with an unwavering hand to
set to my seal that God is truth and love; and felt that from Him alone
proceeds the power to conquer inbred sin. The peace of God, which
passeth all understanding, filled and satiated every power of my soul;
while on earth, nor perhaps in heaven, shall I ever forget that season
of holy exultation.

                 ‘Wherefore to Him my feet shall run,
                   My eyes on His perfections gaze;
                 My soul shall live for God alone,
                   And all within me shout His praise.’

A few weeks after this memorable occasion, I had another visitation of
Divine mercy. This was in my own house, and just at midnight. I had
indulged in wakeful meditations on the goodness of God, when my faith
became gloriously strong. I beheld the Saviour, high on His mediatorial
throne, dispensing the gifts of His grace to fallen and repentant man. I
felt a powerful application of His merits to my heart; was filled with
an eager desire to be dissolved, and be with Christ; and have reason to
be thankful that the healing influence of this manifestation, though not
always equally present, remains to the present day. I love the Lord,
because He hath heard the voice of my supplication. Let my right hand
forget her cunning, and my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I
prefer not Jerusalem to my chief joy.

Conceiving it to be my duty to recommend religion to others, I invited
several of my friends and neighbours to hear the Word preached: of the
effects produced upon them I am not perhaps competent to judge. Some
professed to differ with me in judgment. Others, with the indifference
of Gallio, put off my importunities to a more convenient season. By a
few my weakness was pitied; nor was I altogether exempt from contempt
and derision. But none of these things move me. ‘All hail, reproach! and
welcome, shame!’ Only bring me to heaven at last, and I will make no
complaint, though straight and thorny be the road. Instances, I think,
remain in which my well-intended, though humble efforts were not
useless. May the bread cast upon the waters be found after many days!
Anxious to do something more for the benefit of others, I have been
engaged for several years as a Visitor in the Stranger’s Friend Society,
and a missionary collector; and I trust that He, in Whose hands are the
hearts of all men, will favour me with His cheering aid in running the
errands of His love.

On all of my life that is past, I look back with humility and gratitude;
on what is to come, with confidence. He that has thus far been my
preserver and guide will not forsake me in the end. ‘Being justified by
faith, I have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Nor can I
reasonably doubt of the reality of the work; for ‘the Spirit itself
beareth witness’ to my adoption, that I am a child of God. I desire,
therefore, tremblingly, but in the exercise of steadfast reliance on the
promises, to exult in a consciousness of the Divine presence; which,
though invisible to mortal eye, is nigh to uphold and save. ‘Behold, I
go forward, but He is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive
Him; on the left hand, where He doth work, but I cannot behold Him; He
hideth Himself on the right hand, that I cannot see Him; but He knoweth
the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.’

The Almighty sustained me when foremost in the files of war, and no
weapon was permitted to give the fatal blow. To repress vanity, and
prove my dependence upon the shield of His protection, I was struck at
the breach of Badajos. But mercy was mingled with judgment; and though I
fell, it was to rise again. The injury was not mortal. Space was given
for repentance; and now, such is the goodness of the Lord, He hath
placed me among the living in Jerusalem. ‘For who hath despised the day
of small things? For they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in
the hands of Zerubbabel, with those seven. His hands have laid the
foundation, and His hands shall finish it. Not by might, nor by power,
but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.’

                ‘Contented now upon my thigh
                  I halt, till life’s short journey end;
                All helplessness, all weakness, I
                  On Thee alone for strength depend,
                Nor have I power from Thee to move;
                Thy nature and Thy name is Love.’

[Illustration]


      HAVMAN BROTHERS & LILLY, HATTON HOUSE, FARRINGDON ROAD, E.C.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



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                                  LONDON:

               T. WOOLMER, 2, CASTLE STREET, CITY ROAD, E.C.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                            TRANSCRIBER’S NOTES


     1. Silently corrected typographical errors and variations in
          spelling.
     2. Anachronistic, non-standard, and uncertain spellings retained as
          printed.
     3. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.





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