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Title: Wellington's Men - Some Soldier Autobiographies
Author: Fitchett, W. H. (William Henry)
Language: English
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 _Bell's Indian and Colonial Library_


 WELLINGTON'S MEN



_UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME_

BY

W.H. FITCHETT, B.A., LL.D.

In Paper Covers or Cloth


 DEEDS THAT WON THE EMPIRE.
 Historic Battle Scenes. With 16 Portraits
 and 11 Plans.

 FIGHTS FOR THE FLAG. With 16
 Portraits and 13 Plans.

 HOW ENGLAND SAVED EUROPE.
 The Story of the Great War, 1793-1815.
 Four Volumes. With Portraits, Facsimiles,
 and Plans.



 WELLINGTON'S MEN

 SOME SOLDIER
 AUTOBIOGRAPHIES

 _Kincaid's "Adventures in the Rifle Brigade";
 "Rifleman Harris"; Anton's "Military
 Life"; Mercer's "Waterloo"_


 EDITED BY

 W.H. FITCHETT, B.A., LL.D.

 AUTHOR OF
 "DEEDS THAT WON THE EMPIRE," "FIGHTS FOR THE FLAG,"
 "HOW ENGLAND SAVED EUROPE," ETC.

 [Illustration]


 LONDON
 GEORGE BELL & SONS
 AND BOMBAY
 1900



_This Edition is issued for circulation in India and the Colonies
only._



CONTENTS


                                                              PAGE

   The Soldier in Literature                                    1

   I. From Torres Vedras to Waterloo--                         23

   I. A Young Soldier                                          28

   II. Retreats and Pursuits                                   41

   III. Some Famous Battles                                    62

   IV. The Imminent Deadly Breach                              86

   V. In the Pyrenees                                         105

   VI. Quatre Bras                                            116

   VII. The Rifles at Waterloo                                126


   II. One of Craufurd's Veterans--                           139

   I. The King's Shilling                                     144

   II. In the Peninsula                                       153

   III. When the Fight is Over                                171

   IV. A Memorable Retreat                                    178

   V. Stern Scenes                                            194

   VI. Some Famous Soldiers                                   209

   VII. The "Tommy Atkins" of a Century Ago                   222


   III. A Royal Highlander--                                  235

   I. About Soldiers' Wives                                   241

   II. Fighting in the Pyrenees                               257

   III. The Hillside at Toulouse                              276

   IV. The 42nd at Quatre Bras                                287

   V. The Highlanders at Waterloo                             297


   IV. With the Guns at Waterloo--                            307

   I. Waiting for the Guns                                    311

   II. On March to the Field                                  327

   III. Quatre Bras                                           335

   IV. The Retreat to Waterloo                                350

   V. Waterloo                                                370

   VI. After the Fight                                        397



THE SOLDIER IN LITERATURE



WELLINGTON'S MEN



THE SOLDIER IN LITERATURE


This volume is an attempt to rescue from undeserved oblivion a cluster
of soldierly autobiographies; and to give to the general reader some
pictures of famous battles, not as described by the historian or
analysed by the philosopher, but as seen by the eyes of men who fought
in them. History treats the men who do the actual fighting in war very
ill. It commonly forgets all about them. If it occasionally sheds a few
drops of careless ink upon them, it is without either comprehension
or sympathy. From the orthodox historian's point of view, the private
soldier is a mere unconsidered pawn in the passionless chess of some
cold-brained strategist. As a matter of fact a battle is an event which
pulsates with the fiercest human passions--passions bred of terror and
of daring; of the anguish of wounds and of the rapture of victory; of
the fear and awe of human souls over whom there suddenly sweeps the
mystery of death.

But under conventional literary treatment all this evaporates. To
the historian a battle is as completely drained of human emotion as
a chemical formula. It is evaporated into a haze of cold and cloudy
generalities.

But this is certainly to miss what is, for the human imagination,
the most characteristic feature of a great fight. A battle offers
the spectacle of, say, a hundred thousand men lifted up suddenly
and simultaneously into a mood of intensest passion--heroic or
diabolical--eager to kill and willing to be killed; a mood in which
death and wounds count for nothing and victory for everything. This
is the feature of war which stirs the common imagination of the race;
which makes gentle women weep, and wise philosophers stare, and the
average hot-blooded human male turn half-frenzied with excitement.
What does each separate human atom feel, when caught in that whirling
tornado of passion and of peril? Who shall make visible to us the
actual faces in the fighting-line; or make audible the words--stern
order, broken prayer, blasphemous jest--spoken amid the tumult? Who
shall give us, in a word, an adequate picture of the soldier's life in
actual war-time, with its hardships, its excitements, its escapes, its
exultation and despair?

If the soldier attempts to tell the tale himself he commonly fails.
In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred he belongs to the inarticulate
classes. He lacks the gift of description. He can do a great deed, but
cannot describe it when it is done. If knowledge were linked in them to
an adequate gift of literary expression, soldiers would be the great
literary artists of the race. For who else lives through so wide and
so wild a range of experience and emotion. When, as in the case of
Napier, a soldier emerges with a distinct touch of literary genius, the
result is an immortal book. But usually the soldier has to be content
with making history; he leaves to others the tamer business of writing
it, and generally himself suffers the injustice of being forgotten in
the process. Literature is congested with books which describe the
soldier from the outside; which tell the tale of his hardships and
heroisms, his follies and vices, as they are seen by the remote and
uncomprehending spectator. What the world needs is the tale of the
bayonet and of "Brown Bess," written by the hand which has actually
used those weapons.

Now, the narratives which these pages offer afresh to the world are of
exactly this character. They are pages of battle-literature written by
the hands of soldiers. They are not attempts at history, but exercises
in autobiography. So they are actual human documents, with the salt
of truth, of sincerity, and of reality in every syllable. The faded
leaves of these memoirs are still stained with the red wine of battle.
In their words--to the imaginative and sympathetic hearer, at all
events--there are still audible the shouts of charging men, the roll
of musketry volleys, the wild cheer of the stormers at Ciudad Rodrigo
or Badajos, the earth-shaking thunder of Waterloo. Passages from four
of such autobiographies are woven into the pages of this book: Captain
Kincaid's "Adventures in the Rifle Brigade in the Peninsula, &c.";
Sergeant Anton's "Recollections of Service in the 42nd"; the tale of
"Rifleman Harris" in the old 95th; and Mercer's experiences in command
of a battery at Waterloo. All these books are old; three, at least, are
out of print, and form the rare prizes to be picked up by the fortunate
collector in second-hand bookshops. Anton's book was published in 1841,
Kincaid's in 1830, and is endorsed "very scarce." Captain Curling
edited "Rifleman Harris" in 1848. Mercer's "Journal of the Waterloo
Campaign" was written in 1830, and published as late as 1870. But it
consists of two volumes, in which the story of the great battle is
only an episode, and it has never reached any wide circle of readers.
Yet Mercer's account of Waterloo is the best personal narrative of the
great fight in English literature.

All these books are thus of rare interest and value. They belong to the
era of "Brown Bess," of the Peninsula, and of Waterloo. Each writer
represents a distinct type of soldiership. Kincaid was a captain in
one of the most famous regiments in British history--the Rifles in
Craufurd's Light Division. Harris was a private in another battalion of
the same regiment. Mercer commanded battery G--fondly described by its
Captain as "the finest troop in the service"--at Waterloo. Anton was a
Scottish soldier in that not least famous of Scottish regiments--the
42nd, or Royal Highlanders. They all took part in that chain of
memorable victories, which stretches from Roliça to Waterloo, and they
were all--though in widely different ways--fighting men of the highest
quality. Kincaid led a forlorn hope at Ciudad Rodrigo. Harris was one
of the unconquerable, much-enduring rearguard in Moore's retreat to
Corunna. Anton shared in the wild fighting of the 42nd at Toulouse.
Mercer fought his battery at Waterloo until, out of 200 fine horses in
his troop, 140 lay dead or dying; while of the men not enough survived
to man four guns; and these, as the great battle came to its end, fell,
smoke-blackened and exhausted, in slumber beside their blood-splashed
guns. Each writer, too, had, in an amusing degree, an intense pride in
the particular body to which he belonged. The army with him counted for
little, the regiment was everything.

Kincaid says, with entire frankness, if anybody who had not the good
fortune to belong to the "Rifles" expects to be named in his book, he
was "most confoundedly mistaken." "Neither," he adds, "will I mention
any regiment but my own, if I can possibly avoid it. For there is
none other that I like so much, and none else so much deserves it.
For we were the light regiment of the Light Division, and fired the
first and last shot in almost every battle, siege, and skirmish, in
which the army was engaged during the war." Kincaid admits that the
43rd and 52nd--the other regiments that formed the immortal Light
Division--deserved to be remembered, too; but the most flattering
compliment he can pay them is to say, "wherever we were, they were."
"Whenever it came to a pinch," he adds, "we had only to look behind
to see a line"--consisting of these two regiments--"in which we might
place a degree of confidence almost equal to our hopes in heaven. There
never was such a corps of riflemen with such supporters!"

Harris, again, cherishes the comforting persuasion that his particular
battalion could outmarch, outshoot, outlaugh, outdare--perhaps even
outdrink--any other in the British army. "We were," he says, "always
at the front in an advance, and at the rear in a retreat." He praises
the army as a whole, but it is only for the sake of erecting a pedestal
on which some new monument to the glory of the "Rifles" can be placed.
He recalls the memory of the British army as it approached Salamanca.
"The men," he says, "seemed invincible. Nothing, I thought, could
have beaten them." Yet the cream of it all was the "Rifles"! Harris's
working creed, in brief, consists of three articles: (1) that the
finest army in the world was that which Wellington led; (2) that the
finest regiment in that army was the 95th; and (3) that the best
battalion in the regiment was that his major commanded! "We had some
of as desperate fellows in the Rifles as had ever toiled under the
burning sun of an enemy's country in any age. There never were such a
set of devil-may-care fellows so completely up to their business as the
95th. They were in the mess before the others began, and were the last
to leave off. It was their business to be so.... There was, perhaps,
as intelligent and talented a set of men amongst us as ever carried a
weapon in any country. They seemed at times to need but a glance at
what was going on to know all about its 'why and wherefore.'"

Sergeant Anton, again, has all a good Scotchman's austere pride
in the superiority of a Scotch regiment over any other that ever
carried muskets. He has nothing but an imperfectly disguised pity
for those unfortunate people who have the bad taste to be born south
of the Tweed. Any Scotch regiment, he visibly holds, is necessarily
better than any possible regiment not brought up on porridge. And if
amongst the Scottish regiments there was any quite equal to the Royal
Highlanders, Sergeant Anton, at least, would like to know the name
of that surprising body. In the same fashion Captain Mercer, the one
educated man in this cluster of soldier-scribes, plainly cherishes a
hearty belief that battery G has the finest horses, the best equipment,
the smartest men, and the most perfect discipline, not merely in the
British army, but in any army known to history! Pride in the regiment
to which the soldier happens to belong is a fine element of military
strength. Under modern short-service conditions it grows faint; but
amongst Wellington's veterans it had almost the fervours of a religion.

It may be added that these writers are curiously distinct, and look at
war through very diverse eyes. Kincaid represents a type of officer in
which the British army of all days is rich; and whose qualities explain
some of the failures, and most of the triumphs of that army. He was
gallant in every drop of his blood; cool, hardy, athletic, a fit leader
of the fighting line. He had been reared in luxury, accustomed to feed
daintily every day, to lie softly every night; he was full of the
pride of his caste; yet in the actual business of fighting, Kincaid,
like all officers of the type to which he belonged, could outmarch the
privates in the ranks. He fared as hardly as they, shared their scanty
rations, lay like them on the wet soil, endured in every way as much,
and grumbled less. He was not only first in the charge, but last in
the retreat, and took it all--hunger, wet, cold, perils--with smiling
face, as part of the day's work. Harris, who views his officers through
a private's eyes, is never weary of dwelling on their hardihood, as
well as their pluck. "The gentlemen," he says, "bear it best." "It is
usually found," he adds, "that those whose birth and station might
reasonably have made them fastidious under hardship and toil, bear
their miseries without a murmur; while those whose previous life might
have better prepared them for the toil of war, are the first to cry out
and complain of their hard fate."

Kincaid belongs to this fine type of officer; but he had all the
limitations of his type. He knew nothing of the scientific side of
his profession. He fought by the light of nature, and looked on a
battle as a game of football. He was a true product of the English
public schools; gay, plucky, hardy, reckless. He lived under the
empire of great feelings--of patriotism, honour, &c.--but tortures
would not make him use great words to describe them. A shy and proud
self-disparagement is the note of Kincaid's type. They are almost more
afraid of being detected in doing a fine thing than others are of
being proved guilty of doing a base thing. Kincaid himself describes
how Ciudad Rodrigo was carried, but omits to mention the circumstance
that he volunteered for the forlorn hope, and led it. The tone of his
book is that of the officers' mess, bright, off-hand, jesting at peril,
making light of hardships. He tells the tale of heroic deeds--his own
or others'--with the severest economy of admiring adjectives. The only
adjectives, indeed, Kincaid admits are those of a comminatory sort.

Harris is a fair sample of the unconquerable British private of the
Peninsular age, with all the virtues, and all the limitations of his
class. He is stocky in body, stubborn in temper, untaught and primitive
in nature. He seems to have had no education. His horizon is singularly
limited. He sees little beyond the files to right and left of him. The
major who commands the battalion is the biggest figure in his world.
His endurance is wonderful. Laden like a donkey, with ill-fitting
boots and half-filled stomach, he can splash along the muddy Spanish
roads, under the falling rain, or sweat beneath the Spanish mid-summer
heats, from gray dawn to gathering dusk. He will toil on, indeed,
with dogged courage until his brain reels, his eyes grow blind, and
the over-wrought muscles can no longer stir the leaden feet. Harris
is loyal to his comrades; cherishes an undoubting confidence in his
officers; believes that, man for man, any British regiment can beat
twice its numbers of any other nation; while his own particular
regiment, the 95th, will cheerfully take in hand four times that ratio
of foes. Harris has no hate for a Frenchman; he respects and likes him
indeed, but he always expects to thrash him, and having shot his French
foe he is quite prepared to explore his pockets in search of booty.

For the British private in the Peninsula was by no means an angel in
a red coat. His vices, like his virtues, were of a primitive sort. He
drank, he swore, and alas, he plundered. If the valour which raged at
the great breach of Badajos, or swept up the slope of rugged stones at
San Sebastian, was of almost incredible fire, so the brutality which
plundered and ravished and slew after the city was carried, was of
almost incredible fierceness. Harris had no education or almost none;
yet he learned to write, and write well. His style, it is true, is
that of the uneducated man. He is most sensitive to things that touch
himself. He is conscious of the weight of his knapsack, of the blisters
on his feet, of the hunger in his stomach, and he drags all these
emotions into his tale. Yet Harris had, somehow, by gift of nature, an
unusual literary faculty. He sees, and he makes you see. It is true the
area of his vision is narrow. It is almost filled up, as we have said,
by his right- and left-hand files. It never goes beyond the battalion.
But on that narrow canvas he paints with the minuteness and fidelity of
a Dutch artist.

Sergeant-major Anton is really an economical and domestically inclined
Scotchman, whom chance has thrust into the ranks of the Royal
Highlanders; and who, finding himself a soldier, devotes himself to the
business with that hard-headed and unsentimental thoroughness which
makes the Lowland Scot about the most formidable fighting man the world
knows. For Anton is a Lowlander; heavy-footed, heavy-bodied, dour,
with nothing of a Highlander's excitability or clan-sentiment. A story
is current of how, in storming a kopje in South Africa, a Highland
soldier dislodged a Boer, and, with threatening bayonet, brought him to
a stand against a wall of rock. As he lingered for the final and fatal
lunge, another eager Scot called out "Oot o' the way, Jock, and gie
me room tae get a poke at him." "Na, na, Tam," shouted his frugal and
practically-minded comrade, "awa' wi' ye and find a Boer tae yersel'."

There is a touch of this severely practical spirit in Anton, and in
this, no doubt, he reflects his regiment. Given a French battery to
be stormed, here are men who, with bent heads, wooden faces, and
steady bayonets, will push on into the very flame of the guns, and
each man will do his separate part with a conscientious thoroughness
that no foe can withstand. The story of the fight on the hillside
at Toulouse illustrates this stern quality in Scottish soldiership.
But the domestic side of Anton's nature is always visible. He was
one of the few married men in his regiment, and he is never wearied
of describing what snug nests he built for his mate and himself in
the intervals betwixt marching and fighting, or when the troops had
gone into winter quarters. The value of Anton's book, indeed, lies
largely in the light it sheds on the fortunes and sufferings of the
hardy women, sharp of tongue and strong of body, who marched in the
rear of Wellington's troops; and who, to their honour be it recorded,
were usually faithful wives to the rough soldiers whose fortunes they
shared. Anton, it is amusing to note, is the only one of the group who
makes deliberate--and, it may be added, singularly unhappy--attempts
at fine writing. He indulges in frequent apostrophes to the reader,
to posterity, to his native country, and to the universe at large. In
his many-jointed sentences linger echoes of ancient sermons; far-off
flavours of the Shorter Catechism are discoverable in them. Anton,
however, can be simple and direct when he has an actual tale of
fighting to tell. He forgets his simplicity only when he moralises over
the battle-field the next day.

Mercer is much the ablest and most accomplished writer of the four. He
belonged to the scientific branch of the army, the artillery, and he
had studied his art with the thoroughness of a scholar. That Mercer was
a cool and gallant soldier of the finest type cannot be doubted. He
has, indeed, a fine military record, and rose to the rank of general,
and held command of the 9th Brigade of Royal Artillery. But Mercer was
a many-sided man in a quite curious degree. He was a scholar; a lover
of books; a country gentleman, with a country gentleman's delight in
horse-flesh and crops. He was, moreover, an artist, with a Ruskinesque,
not to say a Turneresque, sense of colour and form. A fine landscape
was for him a feast, only rivalled by the joy of a good book. He
lingers on the very edge of Quatre Bras, while the thunder of cannon
shakes the air, and while his own guns are floundering up a steep hill
path, to note and describe the far-stretching landscape, the glow of
the evening sky, the Salvator-like trees, the sparkle of glassy pools,
&c. Mercer is so good an artillery officer that he sees every buckle
in the harness of his horses, and every button on the uniforms of his
men; and yet he is sensitive to every tint and change in the landscape
through which his guns are galloping.

On the morning after Waterloo, his face still black with its smoke, and
his ears stunned with its roar, he picks his way across the turf, thick
with the bodies of the slain, into the garden of Hougoumont. The bodies
of the dead lie there, too; but Mercer is almost intoxicated with the
cool verdure of the trees, with the chant of a stray nightingale,
and even with "the exuberant vegetation of turnips and cabbages," as
well as with the scent of flowers! It is this combination of keen
artistic sensibility with the finest type of courage--courage which, if
gentle in form, was yet of the ice-brook's temper--which makes Mercer
interesting. Here was a man who might have fished with Izaak Walton,
or discussed hymns with Cowper, or philosophy with Coleridge; yet this
pensive, gentle, artistic, bookish man fought G Battery at Waterloo
till two-thirds of his troop were killed, and has written the best
account of the great battle, from the human and personal side, to be
found in English literature.

Here, then, are four human documents, of genuine historic value, as
well as of keen personal interest. They have their defects. There is
no perspective in their pages. To Rifleman Harris, for example, the
state of his boots is of as much importance, and is described with as
much detail, as the issue of the battle. These memoirs will not give
the reader the battle as a whole; still less the campaign; least of
all will they give the politics behind the campaign. But a magic is in
them, the magic of reality and of personal experience. They seem to
put the reader in the actual battle-line, to fill his nostrils with
the scent of gunpowder, to make his eyes tingle with the pungency of
ancient battle-smoke.

It may be added that these books give pictures of such battle
landscapes as will never be witnessed again. They belong to the period
when war had much more of the picturesque and human element than it has
to-day. "Brown Bess" was short of range, and the fighting-lines came so
near to each other that each man could see his foeman's face, and hear
his shout or oath. War appealed to every sense. It filled the eyes. It
registered itself in drifting continents of smoke. It deafened the ear
with blast of cannon and ring of steel. It adorned itself in all the
colours of the rainbow. The uniforms of Napoleon's troops, as they were
drawn up on the slopes of La Belle Alliance, were a sort of debauch of
colour. Houssaye gives a catalogue of the regiments--infantry of the
line in blue coats, white breeches, and gaiters; heavy cavalry with
glittering cuirasses and pennoned lances; chasseurs in green and purple
and yellow; hussars with dolmans and shakos of all tints--sky-blue,
scarlet, green, and red; dragoons with white shoulder-belts and
turban-helmets of tiger-skin, surmounted by a gleaming cone of brass;
lancers in green, with silken cords on their helmets; carabineers,
giants of six feet, clad in white, with breastplates of gold and lofty
helmets with red plumes; grenadiers in blue, faced with scarlet, yellow
epaulettes, and high bearskin caps; the red lancers--red-breeched,
red-capped, with floating white plumes half a yard long; the Young
Guard; the Old Guard, with bearskin helmets, blue trousers and coats;
the artillery of the Guard, with bearskin helmets, &c.

Such a host, looked at from the picturesque point of view, was a sort
of human rainbow, with a many-coloured gleam of metal--gold and silver,
steel and brass--added. And colour counts at least in attracting
recruits. Harris joined the 95th because his eyes were dazzled with
the "smartness" of its uniform. Lord Roberts has told the world how
he joined the Bengal Horse Artillery purely because he found their
white buckskin breeches, and the leopard skin and red plumes on the
men's helmets, irresistible! Napoleon, it will be remembered, turned
the spectacular aspect of his army to martial use. On the morning of
Waterloo he brought his troops over the slope of the hill in eleven
stately columns; he spread them out like a mighty glittering fan in
the sight of the coolly watching British. To foes of more sensitive
imagination the spectacle of that vast and iris-tinted host might
well have chilled their courage. But the British--whether to their
credit or their discredit may be disputed--keep their imagination and
their courage in separate compartments. They are not liable to be
discouraged, still less put to rout, by the most magnificent display of
what may be called the millinery of war.

But that aspect of war has faded, never to revive. Khaki kills the
picturesque. Battle has grown grey, remote, invisible. It consists
of trenches miles long, in which crouch unseen riflemen, shooting
at moving specks of grey, distant thousands of yards; or in guns
perched on hills five miles apart bellowing to each other across the
intervening valleys. It is not merely that in a battle of to-day a
soldier cannot see the features of the man he kills; he probably does
not see him at all. The Highlanders at the Modder marched, panted,
thirsted, killed, and were killed, for eight hours, and never saw a
Boer! The soldier to-day sees neither the pin-pricks of flame nor the
whiff of grey smoke which tell that somebody is shooting at him. For
these are days of smokeless powder and long-range rifles. The man shot
at only learns that circumstance as he catches the air-scurry of the
passing bullet, and the atmosphere about him grows full of what one
half-terrified war correspondent calls "little whimpering air-devils."

The interest of these books is that they bring back to us living
pictures, as seen through living human eyes, of the great battles of a
century ago--battles which have grown obsolete in fashion, but which
changed the currents of the world's history, and of whose gain we are
the heirs to-day.

It is curious, in a sense even amusing, to note how diversely their
famous commander impressed these four soldiers, each occupied in
recording for the benefit of posterity what he saw. Anton apparently
never sees Wellington. The human horizon for the Scottish sergeant is
filled with the colonel of his regiment. Harris gravely records how he
saw the great Duke take his hat off on the field of Vimiero; for the
rest, he held the ordinary view of the rank and file of the Peninsula
that the Duke's long nose on a battle-field was worth 10,000 men.
Kincaid says he was so anxious to see the Duke when he joined the army
that, as he puts it, "I never should have forgiven the Frenchman that
killed me before I effected it." He was soon gratified, but seems quite
unable to give any description of the great soldier. He contemplated
him with the sort of frightened awe with which the youngest boy at Eton
would look at "the head" arrayed in his official robes; a vision to
be contemplated from a safe distance, without the least desire for a
nearer and personal acquaintance.

Mercer came closer to the great Duke, and regards him with a cooler
and therefore a severer judgment. Mercer had boundless confidence in
Wellington as a battle-leader, but not the least affection for him
as a man, and it is plain he had no special reasons for affection.
Wellington had many fine moral qualities, but anxious consideration for
other people, or even calm justice in his dealings with them, is not
to be included in their catalogue. The famous general order he issued
after the retreat from Burgos is an example of the undiscriminating
harshness with which Wellington could treat an entire army. And that
element of harshness--of swift, impatient, relentless discipline that
could not stay to discriminate, to weigh evidence, or even to hear
it--was one great defect of Wellington as a general. About his soldiers
he had as little human feeling as a good chess-player has about his
pawns. Mercer never came into intercourse with the Duke but with
disaster to himself, a disaster edged with injustice.

When his troop was in France, Mercer says he ran an equal risk of
falling under the Duke's displeasure for systematically plundering
the farmers, or for not plundering them! If a commander of a battery
allowed his horses to look in worse condition than those of another
battery he was relentlessly punished. "The quick eye of the Duke
would see the difference. He asked no questions, attended to no
justification, but condemned the unfortunate captain as unworthy of the
command he held, and perhaps sent him from the army." But the official
amount of forage supplied was quite insufficient for the purpose of
keeping the horses in high condition. Other troops supplemented the
supply by "borrowing" from the farmers, and there was no resource but
to imitate them, or to risk professional ruin by presenting at parade
horses inferior in look to those of other troops nourished on mere
felony. Wellington forgave neither the unlicensed "borrowing" of the
officers nor the want of condition in their horses. Yet one fault or
the other was inevitable.

The Duke, it seems, "had no love for the artillery," and all his
harshness was expended on that branch of the service. "The Duke of
Wellington's ideas of discipline," says Mercer, "are rigid; his modes
of administering them are summary, and he is frequently led into acts
of the grossest injustice." Thus the owner of a building where some of
Mercer's men were quartered--a thorough rogue--complained to the Duke
that the lead piping of his house had been plundered and sold by the
guilty British gunners. Wellington made no inquiry, took no evidence.
A staff officer rode to Mercer's quarters one day with a copy of
this complaint, on the margin of which was written in the Duke's own
hand-writing: "Colonel Scovell will find out whose troop this is, and
they shall pay double." This was the first intimation the unfortunate
Mercer had received of the charge against him. The Frenchman pretended
to estimate his loss at 7000 francs, and Mercer was advised, in high
quarters, to pay this sum in order to escape the Duke's wrath. Mercer
appealed to Sir George Wood, who told him his only chance lay in
evading payment as long as he could; then the Duke might be caught in a
more amiable mood. The actual thief--one of the French villagers--was
discovered and convicted; but this circumstance, Mercer records, "has
not in the least altered my position with the Duke of Wellington; for
none dare tell him the story; and even Sir Edward Barnes, who kindly
attempted it, met with a most ungracious rebuff!"

The French scoundrel, meanwhile, was dunning Mercer to get his 7000
francs. The situation remained thus for weeks, till the audacious
Frenchman ventured on a second interview with the Duke. The Duke had
dismounted, as it happened, in a very ill humour, at the door of his
hotel, and the Frenchman pursued him up the grand staircase with his
complaint. The Duke turned roughly upon him, "What the devil do you
want, sir?" The Frenchman presented his bill with a flourish, whereupon
the Duke exclaimed to his aide-de-camp, "Pooh! kick the rascal
downstairs!" The Frenchman and his bill thus vanished from the scene;
but Mercer's comment is "that I eventually escaped paying a heavy sum
for depredations committed by others is due, not to the Duke's sense of
justice, but only to the irritability of his temper."

On another occasion Sir Augustus Fraser, meeting him, said, "Mercer,
you are released from arrest." Mercer stared: but on inquiry,
discovered that he had been officially under arrest for a fortnight
without knowing it. At a review, just before passing the saluting
point, a horse in the rear division of his battery got its leg over the
trace. The limber gunners leaped smartly off, put things straight, and
jumped to their places again; but the division, with their 18-pounders,
had to trot to regain place, and were just pulling up when they reached
the saluting point. The precise and rhythmical order of the troop
was a little disturbed, and Wellington, in a burst of wrath, put Sir
Augustus Fraser himself, who was in command of all the artillery, the
major in command of the brigade, and Mercer, the captain of the guilty
troop, under arrest, where--happily all unconscious--they remained for
a fortnight. Later Mercer wished to apply for leave of absence, but Sir
George Wood declined to present the request, as he said, "'It would not
be prudent just now to remind the Duke of me in any way.' Rather hard
and unjust this," is Mercer's comment.

Mercer, however, tells one story, which shows that the Duke of
Wellington was capable of sly satire at the expense of the French. An
English officer walking on the boulevard was rudely pushed into the
gutter by a French gentleman, whom the Englishman promptly knocked
down. The Frenchman, it turned out, was a marshal. He complained to the
Duke, but could not identify the officer who had knocked him down. The
Duke thereupon issued a general order, desiring that "British officers
would, in future, abstain from beating marshals of France."



 I

 FROM TORRES VEDRAS TO
 WATERLOO



I.--FROM TORRES VEDRAS TO WATERLOO


Kincaid, the author of "Adventures in the Rifle Brigade," was born at
Dalheath, near Falkirk, in 1787. He held a lieutenant's commission in
the North York Militia, but in 1809 when only twenty-two years old,
joined, as a volunteer, the second battalion of the famous 95th--the
"Rifles" in the immortal Light Division. His first military service
was of an unhappy sort. He took part in the Walcheren expedition, and,
spite of a cheerful temper and a good constitution, fell a victim
to the swamp-bred agues and fevers which destroyed that ill-led
and ill-fated expedition. He emerged from his first campaign with
shattered health and no glory. In 1811 his battalion was ordered to
the Peninsula, and with it Kincaid marched and fought from the lines
of Torres Vedras to Waterloo. In the hard fighting of those stern days
the Rifles played a brilliant part. Kincaid kept guard in the great
hill-defences of Torres Vedras, joined in the pursuit of Massena, when
that general fell suddenly back, shared in the fury of the breaches at
Ciudad Rodrigo, and in the yet wilder assault on the great breach at
Badajos, and took part in all the great battles of those years from
Fuentes to Vittoria. He survived the stubborn and bloody combats in the
Pyrenees, fought at Toulouse, Quatre Bras, and on the famous ridge
at Waterloo. His battalion stood almost in the centre of Wellington's
battle-line on that fierce day, and the most desperate fighting of the
day eddied round it.

Kincaid was thus a gallant soldier, in a gallant regiment, and played a
part in great events. But his promotion was slow; he only received his
captain's commission in 1826. He was more fortunate, indeed, after he
left the army than while he served in it. He was given a place in the
Yeomen of the Guard in 1844, was knighted in 1852, and died in 1862,
aged seventy-five.

Kincaid's "Adventures in the Rifle Brigade" is a book of great merits
and of great faults. It is brisk, stirring, and picturesque, and paints
with great vividness the life of a subaltern in a fighting regiment
and during fighting times. But the book lacks order. Dates are dropped
into it, or are left out of it, with the most airy caprice. It has
no intelligible relationship to history. It never gives the reader
a glimpse of the history-making events which serve as a background
to the marching and the fighting of the Rifles. Kincaid, in a word,
races through his campaigns as a youth might race across the hills in
a harrier-chase; or, rather, as a boy with a lively sense of humour,
might saunter through a fair--without a plan, except to get all the
fun he can, and stopping, now to laugh at a clown, now to stare at a
mimic tragedy, now to exchange a jest with some other boy. His choice
of incident is determined absolutely by the "fun" they include--the
flavour of humour, or the gleam of the picturesque, which he can
discover in them. He makes no pretension, that is, to connected and
adequate narrative. But his record of adventures is always amusing,
often vivid, and sometimes has a certain thrilling quality which, after
the lapse of so many years, yet keeps its power.

Kincaid's tale is best served by re-grouping its incidents under
distinct heads. In his earlier chapters, for example, he gives
curiously interesting sketches of what may be called the non-fighting
side of a soldier's life--the marches, the bivouacs; the gossip of the
camp fires; the hardships--of muddy roads, of rain-filled skies, or of
dust and heat and thirst, of non-existent rations, and of sleepless
nights--which the soldier has to endure. So the reader gets a glimpse
the orthodox historians quite fail to give of the hardy, resourceful,
much-enduring British soldier of the Peninsula. Kincaid may be left to
tell all this in his own words, though with generous condensation.



CHAPTER I

A YOUNG SOLDIER


Kincaid dismisses, as not worth remembering or recording, all the tame
days of his life before he became a soldier on active service, and
plunges abruptly into his tale:--

"I joined the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade (then the 95th), at Hythe
Barracks, in the spring of 1809, and, in a month after, we proceeded to
form a part of the expedition to Holland, under the Earl of Chatham.

"With the usual quixotic feelings of a youngster, I remember how
desirous I was, on the march to Deal, to impress the minds of the
natives with a suitable notion of the magnitude of my importance, by
carrying a donkey-load of pistols in my belt, and screwing my naturally
placid countenance up to a pitch of ferocity beyond what it was
calculated to bear.

"We embarked in the Downs, on board the _Hussar_ frigate, and
afterwards removed to the _Namur_, a seventy-four, in which we
were conveyed to our destination. We landed on the island of South
Beeveland, where we remained about three weeks, playing at soldiers,
smoking mynheer's long clay pipes, and drinking his vrow's butter-milk,
for which I paid liberally with my precious blood to their infernal
mosquitoes; not to mention that I had all the extra valour shaken out
of me by a horrible ague, which commenced a campaign on my carcass, and
compelled me to retire upon Scotland, for the aid of my native air, by
virtue of which it was ultimately routed.

"I shall not carry my first chapter beyond my first campaign, as I am
anxious that my reader should not expend more than his first breath
upon an event which cost too many their last.

"I rejoined the battalion, at Hythe, in the spring of 1810, and,
finding that the company to which I belonged had embarked to join
the first battalion in the Peninsula, and that they were waiting
at Spithead for a fair wind, I immediately applied, and obtained
permission, to join them. We anchored in the Tagus in September; no
thanks to the ship, for she was a leaky one, and wishing foul winds to
the skipper, for he was a bad one.

"To look at Lisbon from the Tagus, there are few cities in the universe
that can promise so much, and none, I hope, that can keep it so badly.
I only got on shore one day for a few hours, and as I never again had
an opportunity of correcting the impression, I have no objection to its
being considered an uncharitable one; but I wandered for a time amid
the abominations of its streets and squares, in the vain hope that I
had got involved among a congregation of stables and out-houses; but I
was at length compelled to admit it as the miserable apology for the
fair city that I had seen from the harbour.

"It pleased the great disposer of naval events to remove us to another
and a better ship, and to send us off for Figuera next day with a
foul wind. Sailing at the rate of one mile in two hours, we reached
Figuera's Bay at the end of eight days, and were welcomed by about a
hundred hideous-looking Portuguese women, whose joy was so excessive
that they waded up to their arm-pits through a heavy surf, and insisted
on carrying us on shore on their backs! I never clearly ascertained
whether they had been actuated by the purity of love or gold."

Kincaid joined Wellington's forces at what might well have seemed a
very gloomy juncture. The British army was in full retreat. The star
of Massena shone in the ascendant. Talavera and Busaco had been fought,
and fought apparently in vain. Spain was abandoned, Portugal invaded.
Wellington seemed to be retreating to his ships. The secret of the
great lines of Torres Vedras, which were to finally arrest Massena's
advance, and save not only Portugal, but the Peninsula--perhaps
Europe--had been so well kept that even Wellington's own forces
were in ignorance of their existence. Yet Kincaid shows an easy and
careless unconsciousness of the disquieting aspect the campaign wore.
It was enough for him that he marched and fought with his regiment,
and shared all its fortunes. He scarcely looks beyond the files of
his own company, and has no doubt whatever that the French will be
satisfactorily thrashed in the end!

  "We proceeded next morning to join the army; and as our route lay
  through the city of Coimbra we came to the magnanimous resolution
  of providing ourselves with all manner of comforts and equipments
  for the campaign on our arrival there; but when we entered it at
  the end of the second day, our disappointment was quite eclipsed by
  astonishment at finding ourselves the only living things in the city,
  which ought to have been furnished with twenty thousand souls.

  "Lord Wellington was then in the course of his retreat from the
  frontiers of Spain to the lines of Torres Vedras, and had compelled
  the inhabitants on the line of march to abandon their homes, and
  to destroy or carry away everything that could be of service to
  the enemy. It was a measure that ultimately saved their country,
  though ruinous and distressing to those concerned, and on no class
  of individuals did it bear harder, for the moment, than our own
  little detachment, a company of rosy-cheeked, chubbed youths, who,
  after three months' feeding on ship's dumplings, were thus thrust,
  at a moment of extreme activity, in the face of an advancing foe,
  supported by a pound of raw beef, drawn every day fresh from the
  bullock, and a mouldy biscuit.

  "The difficulties we encountered were nothing out of the usual course
  of old campaigners; but, untrained and unprovided as I was, I still
  looked back upon the twelve or fourteen days following the battle
  of Busaco as the most trying I have ever experienced, for we were
  on our legs from daylight until dark, in daily contact with the
  enemy; and, to satisfy the stomach of an ostrich, I had, as already
  stated, only a pound of beef, a pound of biscuit, and one glass of
  rum. A brother-officer was kind enough to strap my boat-cloak and
  portmanteau on the mule carrying his heavy baggage, which, on account
  of the proximity of the foe, was never permitted to be within a
  day's march of us, so that, in addition to my simple uniform, my
  only covering every night was the canopy of heaven, from whence the
  dews descended so refreshingly that I generally awoke, at the end of
  an hour, chilled, and wet to the skin; and I could only purchase an
  equal length of additional repose by jumping up and running about
  until I acquired a sleeping quantity of warmth. Nothing in life can
  be more ridiculous than seeing a lean, lank fellow start from a
  profound sleep at midnight, and begin lashing away at the Highland
  fling as if St. Andrew himself had been playing the bagpipes; but it
  was a measure that I very often had recourse to, as the cleverest
  method of producing heat. In short, though the prudent general may
  preach the propriety of light baggage in the enemy's presence, I will
  ever maintain that there is marvellous small personal comfort in
  travelling so fast and so lightly as I did.

  "The Portuguese farmers will tell you that the beauty of their
  climate consists in their crops receiving from the nightly dews the
  refreshing influence of a summer's shower, and that they ripen in
  the daily sun. But they are a sordid set of rascals! Whereas I speak
  with the enlightened views of a man of war, and say, that it is poor
  consolation to me, after having been deprived of my needful repose,
  and kept all night in a fever, dancing wet and cold, to be told that
  I shall be warm enough in the morning? It is like frying a person
  after he has been boiled; and I insisted upon it, that if their sun
  had been milder and their dews lighter I should have found it much
  more pleasant.

  "Having now brought myself regularly into the field, under the
  renowned Wellington, should this narrative, by any accident,
  fall into the hands of others who served there, and who may be
  unreasonable enough to expect their names to be mentioned in it, let
  me tell them that they are most confoundedly mistaken! Every man may
  write a book for himself, if he likes; but this is mine; and, as I
  borrow no man's story, neither will I give any man a particle of
  credit for his deed, as I have got so little for my own that I have
  none to spare. Neither will I mention any regiment but my own, if I
  can possibly avoid it, for there is none other that I like so much,
  and none else so much deserves it; for we were the light regiment of
  the Light Division, and fired the first and last shot in almost every
  battle, siege, and skirmish in which the army was engaged during the
  war.

  "In stating the foregoing resolution, however, with regard to
  regiments, I beg to be understood as identifying our old and gallant
  associates, the 43rd and 52nd, as a part of ourselves, for they bore
  their share in everything, and I love them as I hope to do my better
  half (when I come to be divided); wherever we were, they were; and
  although the nature of our arm generally gave us more employment in
  the way of skirmishing, yet, whenever it came to a pinch, independent
  of a suitable mixture of them among us, we had only to look behind to
  see a line, in which we might place a degree of confidence, almost
  equal to our hopes in heaven; nor were we ever disappointed. There
  never was a corps of riflemen in the hands of such supporters!"

On October 12, Wellington entered the lines of Torres Vedras, and
Massena found his advance barred by frowning lines of trenched and
gun-crowned hills, the screen behind which his great antagonist had
vanished. During the last few days of the retreat and pursuit the pace
of events quickened; the British rearguard was sharply pressed, and
Kincaid, for once grows consecutive and orderly in his narrative:--

  "_October 1, 1810._--We stood to our arms at daylight this morning,
  on a hill in front of Coimbra; and, as the enemy soon after came
  on in force, we retired before them through the city. The civil
  authorities, in making their own hurried escape, had totally
  forgotten that they had left a jail full of rogues unprovided
  for, and who, as we were passing near them, made the most hideous
  screaming for relief. Our quarter-master-general very humanely took
  some men, who broke open the doors, and the whole of them were soon
  seen howling along the bridge into the wide world, in the most
  delightful delirium, with the French dragoons at their heels.

  "We retired the same night through Condacia, where the commissariat
  were destroying quantities of stores that they were unable to carry
  off. They handed out shoes and shirts to any one that would take
  them, and the streets were literally running ankle deep with rum, in
  which the soldiers were dipping their cups and helping themselves as
  they marched along. The commissariat, some years afterwards, called
  for a return of the men who had received shirts and shoes on this
  occasion, with a view of making us pay for them, but we very briefly
  replied that the one-half were dead, and the other half would be
  d----d before they would pay anything.

  "We retired this day to Leria, and, at the entrance of the city,
  saw an English and a Portuguese soldier dangling by the bough of a
  tree--the first summary example I had ever seen of martial law.

  "We halted one night near the convent of Batalha, one of the finest
  buildings in Portugal. It has, I believe, been clearly established,
  that a living man in ever so bad health is better than two dead
  ones; but it appears that the latter will vary in value according to
  circumstances, for we found here, in very high preservation, the body
  of King John of Portugal, who founded the edifice in commemoration
  of some victory, God knows how long ago; and though he would have
  been reckoned a highly valuable antique, within a glass case, in an
  apothecary's hall in England, yet he was held so cheap in his own
  house, that the very finger which most probably pointed the way to
  the victory alluded to, is now in the baggage of the Rifle Brigade.
  Reader, point not thy finger at me, for I am not the man.

  "Retired on the morning of a very wet, stormy day to Allenquer, a
  small town on the top of a mountain, surrounded by still higher ones;
  and, as the enemy had not shown themselves the evening before, we
  took possession of the houses, with a tolerable prospect of being
  permitted the unusual treat of eating a dinner under cover. But by
  the time that the pound of beef was parboiled, and while an officer
  of dragoons was in the act of reporting that he had just patrolled
  six leagues to the front, without seeing any signs of an enemy,
  we saw the indefatigable rascals, on the mountains opposite our
  windows, just beginning to wind round us, with a mixture of cavalry
  and infantry; the wind blowing so strong that the long tail of
  each particular horse stuck as stiffly out in the face of the one
  behind, as if the whole had been strung upon a cable and dragged by
  the leaders. We turned out a few companies, and kept them in check
  while the division was getting under arms, spilt the soup as usual,
  and, transferring the smoking solids to the haversack, for future
  mastication, we continued our retreat.

  "Our long retreat ended at midnight, on our arrival at the handsome
  little town of Arruda, which was destined to be the piquet post of
  our division, in front of the fortified lines. The quartering of our
  division, whether by night or by day, was an affair of about five
  minutes. The quarter-master-general preceded the troops, accompanied
  by the brigade-majors and the quarter-masters of regiments; and
  after marking off certain houses for his general and staff, he split
  the remainder of the town between the majors of brigades; they,
  in their turn, provided for their generals and staff, and then
  made a wholesale division of streets among the quarter-masters of
  regiments, who, after providing for their commanding officers and
  staff, retailed the remaining houses, in equal proportions, among the
  companies; so that, by the time that the regiment arrived, there was
  nothing to be done beyond the quarter-master's simply telling each
  captain, 'Here's a certain number of houses for you.'

  "Like all other places on the line of march, we found Arruda totally
  deserted; and its inhabitants had fled in such a hurry, that the
  keys of their house doors were the only things they carried away,
  so that when we got admission through our usual key--transmitting
  a rifle-ball through the keyhole: it opens every lock--we were not
  a little gratified to find that the houses were not only regularly
  furnished, but most of them had some food in the larder, and a
  plentiful supply of good wines in the cellar; and, in short, that
  they only required a few lodgers capable of appreciating the good
  things which the gods had provided; and the deuce is in it if we were
  not the very folks who could!

  "Those who wish a description of the lines of Torres Vedras, must
  part. I know nothing, excepting that I was told that one end of them
  rested on the Tagus, and the other somewhere on the sea; and I saw,
  with my own eyes, a variety of redoubts and fieldworks on the various
  hills which stand between. This, however, I do know, that we have
  since kicked the French out of more formidable-looking and stronger
  places; and, with all due deference be it spoken, I think that the
  Prince of Essling ought to have tried his luck against them, as he
  could only have been beaten by fighting, as he afterwards was without
  it! And if he thinks that he would have lost as many men by trying,
  as he did by not trying, he must allow me to differ in opinion with
  him.

  "In very warm or very wet weather it was customary to put us under
  cover in the town during the day, but we were always moved back
  to our bivouac on the heights during the night; and it was rather
  amusing to observe the different notions of individual comfort, in
  the selection of furniture, which officers transferred from their
  town house to their no house on the heights. A sofa, or a mattress,
  one would have thought most likely to be put in requisition; but
  it was not unusual to see a full-length looking-glass preferred to
  either.

  "We certainly lived in clover while we remained here; everything we
  saw was our own, seeing no one there who had a more legitimate claim;
  and every field was a vineyard. Ultimately it was considered too much
  trouble to pluck the grapes, as there were a number of poor native
  thieves in the habit of coming from the rear every day to steal some,
  so that a soldier had nothing to do but to watch one until he was
  marching off with his basket full, when he would very deliberately
  place his back against that of the Portuguese, and relieve him of his
  load, without wasting any words about the bargain. The poor wretch
  would follow the soldier to the camp, in the hope of having his
  basket returned, as it generally was, when emptied."

Massena held on to his position in front of the great lines he dared
not attack till November 12, then he fell back to Santarem, whence he
could still keep Wellington blockaded. He held this position till March
1811, nearly five months in all--months of cold, rain, and hunger--a
miracle of stubborn and sullen endurance. Kincaid, acting on his usual
principle that all time not occupied in actively doing something is to
be counted as non-existent, passes over the tale of these months in
a dozen lines. His narrative only becomes full again when Wellington
sallies out of his hilly stronghold and presses in pursuit of Massena.
We then have graphic pictures of the hardships of a soldier's life:--

  "Massena, conceiving any attack upon our lines to be hopeless, as
  his troops were rapidly mouldering away with sickness and want, at
  length began to withdraw them nearer to the source of his supplies.
  He abandoned his position, opposite to us, on the night of November
  9, leaving some stuffed-straw gentlemen occupying their usual posts.
  Some of them were cavalry, some infantry, and they seemed such
  respectable representatives of their spectral predecessors, that,
  in the haze of the following morning, we thought that they had been
  joined by some well-fed ones from the rear; and it was late in the
  day before we discovered the mistake, and advanced in pursuit.

  "It was late ere we halted for the night, on the side of the road,
  near to Allenquer, and I got under cover in a small house, which
  looked as if it had been honoured as the headquarters of the
  tailor-general of the French army, for the floor was strewed with
  variegated threads, various complexioned buttons, with particles and
  remnants of cabbage; and, if it could not boast of the flesh and fowl
  of Noah's ark, there was an abundance of the creeping things which it
  were to be wished that that commander had not left behind.

  "On our arrival at Valle, on November 12, we found the enemy behind
  the Rio Maior, occupying the heights of Santarem, and exchanged
  some shots with their advanced posts. In the course of the night
  we experienced one of those tremendous thunderstorms which used to
  precede the Wellington victories, and which induced us to expect a
  general action on the following day. I had disposed myself to sleep
  in a beautiful green hollow way, and, before I had time even to dream
  of the effects of their heavy rains, I found myself floating most
  majestically towards the river, in a fair way of becoming food for
  the fishes. I ever after gave those inviting-looking spots a wide
  berth, as I found that they were regular watercourses.

  "Next morning our division crossed the river, and commenced a false
  attack on the enemy's left, with a view of making them show their
  force; and it was to have been turned into a real attack, if their
  position was found to be occupied by a rearguard only; but, after
  keeping up a smart skirmishing fire the great part of the day, Lord
  Wellington was satisfied that their whole army was present; we were
  consequently withdrawn.

  "This affair terminated the campaign of 1810. Our division took
  possession of the village of Valle and its adjacents, and the rest
  of the army was placed in cantonments, under whatever cover the
  neighbouring country afforded."

Here are some of Kincaid's pictures of a British army in winter
quarters, with one fierce campaign behind it, and another, almost
sterner still in character, before it:--

  "Our battalion was stationed in some empty farm-houses, near the end
  of the bridge of Santarem, which was nearly half a mile long; and our
  sentries and those of the enemy were within pistol-shot of each other
  on the bridge.

  "I do not mean to insinuate that a country is never so much at peace
  as when at open war; but I do say that a soldier can nowhere sleep so
  soundly, nor is he anywhere so secure from surprise, as when within
  musket-shot of his enemy.

  "We lay four months in this situation, divided only by a rivulet,
  without once exchanging shots. Every evening, at the hour

 'When bucks to dinner go,
 And cits to sup,'

  it was our practice to dress for sleep: we saddled our horses,
  buckled on our armour, and lay down, with the bare floor for a
  bed, and a stone for a pillow, ready for anything, and reckless of
  everything but the honour of our corps and country; for I will say
  (to save the expense of a trumpeter) that a more devoted set of
  fellows were never associated. We stood to our arms every morning at
  an hour before daybreak, and remained there until a grey horse could
  be seen a mile off (which is the military criterion by which daylight
  is acknowledged, and the hour of surprise past), when we proceeded to
  unharness and to indulge in such luxuries as our toilet and our table
  afforded.

  "Our piquet-post, at the bridge, became a regular lounge for the
  winter to all manner of folks. I used to be much amused at seeing our
  naval officers come up from Lisbon riding on mules, with huge ships'
  spy-glasses, like six-pounders, strapped across the backs of their
  saddles. Their first question invariably was, 'Who is that fellow
  there' (pointing to the enemy's sentry close to us), and, on being
  told that he was a Frenchman, 'Then why the devil don't you shoot
  him!'

  "Repeated acts of civility passed between the French and us during
  this tacit suspension of hostilities. The greyhounds of an officer
  followed a hare, on one occasion, into their lines, and they very
  politely returned them. I was one night on piquet at the end of the
  bridge when a ball came from the French sentry and struck the burning
  billet of wood round which we were sitting, and they sent in a flag
  of truce next morning to apologise for the accident, and to say that
  it had been done by a stupid fellow of a sentry, who imagined that
  people were advancing upon him. We admitted the apology, though we
  knew well enough that it had been done by a malicious rather than a
  stupid fellow from the situation we occupied.

  "General Junot, one day reconnoitring, was severely wounded by a
  sentry, and Lord Wellington, knowing that they were at that time
  destitute of everything in the shape of comfort, sent to request his
  acceptance of anything that Lisbon afforded that could be of any
  service to him; but the French general was too much of a politician
  to admit the want of anything."



CHAPTER II

RETREATS AND PURSUITS


The campaign of 1811-12 is not the least memorable of the immortal
campaigns in the Peninsula. It saw Fuentes, Albuera, and Salamanca
fought; it includes the great sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo and of Badajos;
it witnessed the failure at Burgos. We give Kincaid's account of these
great events in other chapters; in this we are simply grouping his
pictures of soldiers on the march--in retreat or pursuit--with the
hardships and combats which attend such movements. This campaign is
specially rich in such pictures. It begins with the fierce marches in
which Wellington pursued Massena beyond the Portuguese frontier, and
closes with the disastrous and memorable retreat from Burgos:--

  "The campaign of 1811 commenced on March 6, by the retreat of the
  enemy from Santarem.

  "Lord Wellington seemed to be perfectly acquainted with their
  intentions, for he sent to apprise our piquets the evening before
  that they were going off, and to desire that they should feel for
  them occasionally during the night, and give the earliest information
  of their having started. It was not, however, until daylight that
  we were quite certain of their having gone, and our division was
  instantly put in motion after them, passing through the town of
  Santarem, around which their camp fires were still burning.

  "Santarem is finely situated, and probably had been a handsome town.
  I had never seen it in prosperity, and it now looked like a city of
  the plague, represented by empty dogs and empty houses; and, but for
  the tolling of a convent bell by some unseen hand, its appearance
  was altogether inhuman. We halted for the night near Pyrnes. This
  little town, and the few wretched inhabitants who had been induced to
  remain in it, under the faithless promises of the French generals,
  showed fearful signs of a late visit from a barbarous and merciless
  foe. Young women were lying in their houses brutally violated--the
  streets were strewn with broken furniture, intermixed with the
  putrid carcasses of murdered peasants, mules, and donkeys, and
  every description of filth, that filled the air with pestilential
  nausea. The few starved male inhabitants who were stalking amid the
  wreck of their friends and property, looked like so many skeletons
  who had been permitted to leave their graves for the purpose of
  taking vengeance on their oppressors, and the mangled body of every
  Frenchman who was unfortunate or imprudent enough to stray from his
  column showed how religiously they performed their mission.

  "_March 8._--We overtook their rearguard this evening, snugly put
  up for the night in a little village, the name of which I do not
  recollect, but a couple of six-pounders, supported by a few of our
  rifles, induced them to extend their walk.

  "_March 11._--As it is possible that some of my readers might never
  have had the misfortune to experience the comforts of a bivouac, and
  as the one which I am now in contains but a small quantity of sleep,
  I shall devote a waking hour for their edification.

  "When a regiment arrives at its ground for the night it is formed in
  columns of companies at full, half, or quarter distance, according
  to the space which circumstances will permit it to occupy. The
  officer commanding each company then receives his orders; and,
  after communicating whatever may be necessary to the men, he desires
  them to 'pile arms, and make themselves comfortable for the night.'
  Now, I pray thee, most sanguine reader, suffer not thy fervid
  imagination to transport thee into Elysian fields at the pleasing
  exhortation conveyed in the concluding part of the captain's address,
  but rest thee contentedly in the one where it is made, which in
  all probability is a ploughed one, and that, too, in a state of
  preparation to take a model of thy very beautiful person, under the
  melting influence of a shower of rain. The soldiers of each company
  have a hereditary claim to the ground next to their arms, as have
  their officers to a wider range on the same line, limited to the end
  of a bugle sound, if not by a neighbouring corps, or one that is
  not neighbourly, for the nearer a man is to his enemy the nearer he
  likes to be to his friends. Suffice it, that each individual knows
  his place as well as if he had been born on the estate, and takes
  immediate possession accordingly. In a ploughed or a stubble field
  there is scarcely a choice of quarters; but whenever there is a
  sprinkling of trees it is always an object to secure a good one, as
  it affords shelter from the sun by day and the dews by night, besides
  being a sort of home or signpost for a group of officers, as denoting
  the best place of entertainment; for they hang their spare clothing
  and accoutrements among the branches, barricade themselves on each
  side with their saddles, canteens, and portmanteaus, and, with a
  blazing fire in their front, they indulge, according to their various
  humours, in a complete state of gipsyfication.

  "There are several degrees of comfort to be reckoned in a bivouac,
  two of which will suffice.

  "The first, and worst, is to arrive at the end of a cold, wet
  day, too dark to see your ground, and too near the enemy to be
  permitted to unpack the knapsacks or to take off accoutrements;
  where, unencumbered with baggage or eatables of any kind, you have
  the consolation of knowing that things are now at their worst, and
  that any change must be for the better. You keep yourself alive for
  a while in collecting material to feed your fire with. You take a
  smell at your empty calabash, which recalls to your remembrance the
  delicious flavour of its last drop of wine. You curse your servant
  for not having contrived to send you something or other from the
  baggage (though you know that it was impossible). You then d---- the
  enemy for being so near you, though, probably, as in the present
  instance, it was you that came so near them. And, finally, you take
  a whiff at the end of a cigar, if you have one, and keep grumbling
  through the smoke, like distant thunder through a cloud, until you
  tumble into a most warlike sleep.

  "The next, and most common one, is when you are not required to look
  quite so sharp, and when the light baggage and provisions come in at
  the heel of the regiment. If it is early in the day, the first thing
  to be done is to make some tea, the most sovereign restorative for
  jaded spirits. We then proceed to our various duties. The officers
  of each company form a mess of themselves. One remains in camp to
  attend to the duties of the regiment; a second attends to the mess;
  he goes to the regimental butcher and bespeaks a portion of the only
  purchasable commodities--hearts, livers, and kidneys; and also to see
  whether he cannot do the commissary out of a few extra biscuits, or a
  canteen of brandy; and the remainder are gentlemen at large for the
  day. But while they go hunting among the neighbouring regiments for
  news, and the neighbouring houses for curiosity, they have always an
  eye to their mess, and omit no opportunity of adding to the general
  stock.

  "Dinner-hour, for fear of accident, is always the hour when dinner
  can be got ready; and the 14th section of the articles of war is
  always most rigidly attended to by every good officer parading
  himself round the camp-kettle at the time fixed, with his haversack
  in his hand. A haversack on service is a sort of dumb waiter. The
  mess have a good many things in common, but the contents of the
  haversack are exclusively the property of its owner.

  "After doing justice to the dinner, if we feel in a humour for
  additional society, we transfer ourselves to some neighbouring mess,
  taking our cups and whatever we mean to drink along with us, for in
  those times there is nothing to be expected from our friends beyond
  the pleasure of their conversation; and, finally, we retire to rest.
  To avoid inconvenience by the tossing off of the bed-clothes, each
  officer has a blanket sewed up at the side, like a sack, into which
  he scrambles, and, with a green sod or a smooth stone for a pillow,
  composes himself to sleep, and, under such a glorious reflecting
  canopy as the heavens, it would be a subject of mortification to an
  astronomer to see the celerity with which he tumbles into it. Habit
  gives endurance, and fatigue is the best nightcap; no matter that the
  veteran's countenance is alternately stormed with torrents of rain,
  heavy dews, and hoar-frosts; no matter that his ears are assailed
  by a million mouths of chattering locusts, and by some villainous
  donkey, who every half-hour pitches a bray note, which is instantly
  taken up by every mule and donkey in the army, and sent echoing from
  regiment to regiment, over hill and valley, until it dies away in the
  distance; no matter that the scorpion is lurking beneath his pillow,
  the snake winding is slimy way by his side, and the lizard galloping
  over his face, wiping his eyes with its long, cold tail.

  "All are unheeded, until the warning voice of the brazen instrument
  sounds to arms. Strange it is that the ear which is impervious to
  what would disturb the rest of the world besides, should alone be
  alive to one, and that, too, a sound which is likely to soothe the
  sleep of the citizens, or at most to set them dreaming of their
  loves. But so it is. The first note of the melodious bugle places
  the soldier on his legs, like lightning; when, muttering a few curses
  at the unseasonableness of the hour, he plants himself on his alarm
  post, without knowing or caring about the cause.

  "Such is a bivouac; and our sleep-breaker having just sounded, the
  reader will find what occurred by reading on.

  "_March 12._--We stood to our arms before daylight. Finding that
  the enemy had quitted the position in our front, we proceeded to
  follow them; and had not gone far before we heard the usual morning's
  salutation of a couple of shots between their rear and our advanced
  guard. On driving in their outposts, we found their whole army drawn
  out on the plain, near Redinha, and instantly quarrelled with them on
  a large scale."

Here is a picture of one of the almost constant skirmishes which marked
Wellington's advance and Massena's slow and stubborn retreat:--

  "As everybody has read 'Waverley' and the 'Scottish Chiefs,' and
  knows that one battle is just like another, inasmuch as they always
  conclude by one or both sides running away, and as it is nothing to
  me what this or t'other regiment did, nor do I care three buttons
  what this or t'other person thinks he did, I shall limit all my
  descriptions to such events as immediately concerned the important
  personage most interested in this history.

  "Be it known, then, that I was one of a crowd of skirmishers who
  were enabling the French ones to carry the news of their own defeat
  through a thick wood at an infantry canter when I found myself all
  at once within a few yards of one of their regiments in line, which
  opened such a fire that had I not, rifleman-like, taken instant
  advantage of the cover of a good fir-tree, my name would have
  unquestionably been transmitted to posterity by that night's gazette.
  And however opposed it may be to the usual system of drill, I will
  maintain, from that day's experience, that the cleverest method of
  teaching a recruit to stand at attention is to place him behind a
  tree and fire balls at him; as had our late worthy disciplinarian,
  Sir David Dundas himself, been looking on, I think that even he must
  have admitted that he never saw any one stand so fiercely upright as
  I did behind mine, while the balls were rapping into it as fast as
  if a fellow had been hammering a nail on the opposite side, not to
  mention the numbers that were whistling past within the eighth of an
  inch of every part of my body, both before and behind, particularly
  in the vicinity of my nose, for which the upper part of the tree
  could barely afford protection.

  "This was a last and a desperate stand made by their rearguard, for
  their own safety, immediately above the town, as their sole chance
  of escape depended upon their being able to hold the post until the
  only bridge across the river was clear of the other fugitives. But
  they could not hold it long enough; for, while we were undergoing
  a temporary sort of purgatory in their front, our comrades went
  working round their flanks, which quickly sent them flying, with us
  intermixed, at full cry down the streets.

  "When we reached the bridge, the scene became exceedingly
  interesting, for it was choked up by the fugitives, who were, as
  usual, impeding each other's progress, and we did not find that
  the application of our swords to those nearest to us tended at all
  towards lessening their disorder, for it induced about a hundred
  of them to rush into an adjoining house for shelter, but that was
  getting regularly out of the frying-pan into the fire, for the house
  happened to be really in flames, and too hot to hold them, so that
  the same hundred were quickly seen unkennelling again, half-cooked,
  into the very jaws of their consumers.

  "John Bull, however, is not a bloodthirsty person, so that those who
  could not better themselves, had only to submit to a simple transfer
  of personal property to ensure his protection. We, consequently,
  made many prisoners at the bridge, and followed their army about a
  league beyond it, keeping up a flying fight until dark.

  "_March 13._--Arrived on the hill above Condacia in time to see that
  handsome little town in flames. Every species of barbarity continued
  to mark the enemy's retreating steps. They burnt every town or
  village through which they passed, and if we entered a church which,
  by accident, had been spared, it was to see the murdered bodies of
  the peasantry on the altar.

         *       *       *       *       *

  "Our post that night was one of terrific grandeur. The hills behind
  were in a blaze of light with the British camp-fires, as were those
  in our front with the French ones. Both hills were abrupt and lofty,
  not above eight hundred yards asunder, and we were in the burning
  village in the valley beyond. The roofs of houses every instant
  falling in, and the sparks and flames ascending to the clouds.
  The streets were strewed with the dying and the dead,--some had
  been murdered and some killed in action, which, together with the
  half-famished wretches whom we had saved from burning, contributed in
  making it a scene which was well calculated to shake a stout heart,
  as was proved in the instance of one of our sentries, a well-known
  'devil-may-care' sort of fellow. I know not what appearances the
  burning rafters might have reflected on the neighbouring trees at the
  time, but he had not been long on his post before he came running
  into the piquet, and swore, by all the saints in the calendar, that
  he saw six dead Frenchmen advancing upon him with hatchets over their
  shoulders!

  "We found by the buttons on the coats of some of the fallen foe,
  that we had this day been opposed to the French 95th Regiment (the
  same number as we were then), and I cut off several of them, which I
  preserved as trophies."

Here is another picture of a brilliant skirmish at the passage of the
Ceira. In this combat Wellington showed himself keener in vision and
swifter in stroke than Ney, and inflicted on that general both disgrace
and loss. Ney was, as a result, relieved of his command of the French
rearguard, and sent to France under something like a cloud. Here he
joined Napoleon, and took part in the perils and horrors of the Russian
campaign--once more, there, commanding a French rearguard in retreat:--

  "_March 15._--We overtook the enemy a little before dark this
  afternoon. They were drawn up behind the Ceira, at Fez d'Aronce,
  with their rearguard, under Marshal Ney, imprudently posted on
  our side of the river, a circumstance which Lord Wellington took
  immediate advantage of; and, by a furious attack, dislodged them in
  such confusion that they blew up the bridge before half of their own
  people had time to get over. Those who were thereby left behind,
  not choosing to put themselves to the pain of being shot, took to
  the river, which received them so hospitably that few of them ever
  quitted it.

  "About the middle of the action, I observed some inexperienced light
  troops rushing up a deep roadway to certain destruction, and ran to
  warn them out of it, but I only arrived in time to partake the reward
  of their indiscretion, for I was instantly struck with a musket-ball
  above the left ear, which deposited me at full length in the mud.

  "I know not how long I lay insensible, but, on recovering, my first
  feeling was for my head, to ascertain if any part of it was still
  standing, for it appeared to me as if nothing remained above the
  mouth; but, after repeated applications of all my fingers and thumbs
  to the doubtful parts, I at length proved to myself satisfactorily,
  that it had rather increased than diminished by the concussion; and
  jumping on my legs, and hearing, by the whistling of the balls from
  both sides, that the rascals who had got me into the scrape had been
  driven back and left me there, I snatched my cap, which had saved my
  life, and which had been spun off my head to the distance of ten or
  twelve yards, and joined them a short distance in the rear, when one
  of them, a soldier of the 60th, came and told me that an officer of
  ours had been killed a short time before, pointing to the spot where
  I myself had fallen, and that he had tried to take his jacket off,
  but that the advance of the enemy had prevented him. I told him that
  I was the one that had been killed, and that I was deucedly obliged
  to him for his kind intentions, while I felt still more so to the
  enemy for their timely advance, otherwise, I have no doubt, but my
  friend would have taken a fancy to my trousers also, for I found that
  he had absolutely unbuttoned my jacket.

  "There is nothing so gratifying to frail mortality as a good dinner
  when most wanted and least expected. It was perfectly dark before
  the action finished, but, on going to take advantage of the fires
  which the enemy had evacuated, we found their soup kettles in full
  operation, and every man's mess of biscuit lying beside them, in
  stockings, as was the French mode of carrying them; and it is
  needless to say how unceremoniously we proceeded to do the honours of
  the feast. It ever after became a saying among the soldiers, whenever
  they were on short allowance, 'Well d-- my eyes, we must either fall
  in with the French or the commissary to-day, I don't care which.'

  "_March 19._--We, this day, captured the aide-de-camp of General
  Loison, together with his wife, who was dressed in a splendid hussar
  uniform. He was a Portuguese, and a traitor, and looked very like a
  man who would be hanged. She was a Spaniard, and very handsome, and
  looked very like a woman who would get married again.

  "_March 20._--We had now been three days without anything in the
  shape of bread, and meat without it after a time becomes almost
  loathsome. Hearing that we were not likely to march quite so early
  as usual this morning, I started before daylight to a village about
  two miles off, in the face of the Sierra d'Estrella, in the hopes
  of being able to purchase something, as it lay out of the hostile
  line of movements. On my arrival there, I found some nuns who had
  fled from a neighbouring convent, waiting outside the building of
  the village oven for some Indian-corn leaven, which they had carried
  there to be baked, and, when I explained my pressing wants, two of
  them, very kindly, transferred me their shares, for which I gave
  each a kiss and a dollar between. They took the former as an unusual
  favour; but looked at the latter, as much as to say, 'Our poverty,
  and not our will, consents.' I ran off with my half-baked dough, and
  joined my comrades, just as they were getting under arms.

  "_March 31._--At daylight, this morning, we moved to our right, along
  the ridge of mountains, to Guarda; on our arrival there, we saw the
  imposing spectacle of the whole of the French army winding through
  the valley below, just out of gunshot. On taking possession of one of
  the villages which they had just evacuated, we found the body of a
  well-dressed female, whom they had murdered by a horrible refinement
  in cruelty. She had been placed upon her back, alive, in the middle
  of the street, with the fragment of a rock upon her breast, which it
  required four of our men to remove.

  "_April 1._--We overtook the enemy this afternoon in position behind
  Coa, at Sabugal, with their advanced posts on our side of the river.
  I was sent on piquet for the night, and had my sentries within half
  musket-shot of theirs; it was wet, dark, and stormy when I went,
  about midnight, to visit them, and I was not a little annoyed to find
  one missing. Recollecting who he was, a steady old soldier, and the
  last man in the world to desert his post, I called his name aloud,
  when his answering voice, followed by the discharge of a musket,
  reached me nearly at the same time, from the direction of one of the
  French sentries; and, after some inquiry, I found that, in walking
  his lonely round, in a brown study, no doubt, he had each turn taken
  ten or twelve paces to his front, and only half that number to the
  rear, until he had gradually worked himself up to within a few yards
  of his adversary; and it would be difficult to say which of the two
  was most astonished--the one at hearing a voice, or the other a shot
  so near, but all my rhetoric, aided by the testimony of the sergeant
  and the other sentries, could not convince the fellow that he was not
  on the identical spot on which I had posted him."

On April 3, 1811, was fought the battle of Sabugal, which is told
elsewhere. We take up Kincaid's sketches of a soldier's bivouac and
marching experiences after Fuentes, during the pause while Ciudad
Rodrigo was being blockaded:--

  "Our battalion occupied Atalya, a little village at the foot of
  the Sierra de Gata, and in front of the river Vadilla. On taking
  possession of my quarter, the people showed me an outhouse, which,
  they said, I might use as a stable, and I took my horse into it,
  but, seeing the floor strewed with what appeared to be a small brown
  seed, heaps of which lay in each corner, as if shovelled together in
  readiness to take to market, I took up a handful, out of curiosity,
  and truly, they were a curiosity, for I found that they were all
  regular fleas, and that they were proceeding to eat both me and my
  horse, without the smallest ceremony. I rushed out of the place, and
  knocked them down by fistfuls, and never yet could comprehend the
  cause of their congregating together in such a place."

Marmont, who now commanded the French army, charged with the defence
of Ciudad Rodrigo, advanced, towards the end of September, for its
relief, and Wellington at once fell back. Kincaid's cheerful spirits
can extract fun out of even a night march and a retreat!

  "About the middle of the night we received an order to stand to our
  arms with as little noise as possible, and to commence retiring,
  the rest of the army having been already withdrawn, unknown to us;
  an instance of the rapidity and uncertainty of our movements which
  proved fatal to the liberty of several amateurs and followers of
  the army, who, seeing an army of sixty thousand men lying asleep
  around their camp-fires, at ten o'clock at night, naturally concluded
  that they might safely indulge in a bed in the village behind until
  daylight, without the risk of being caught napping; but, long ere
  that time they found themselves on the high-road to Ciudad Rodrigo,
  in the rude grasp of an enemy. Amongst others, was the chaplain of
  our division, whose outward man conveyed no very exalted notion
  of the respectability of his profession, and who was treated with
  greater indignity than usually fell to the lot of prisoners, for,
  after keeping him a couple of days, and finding that, however gifted
  he might have been in spiritual lore, he was as ignorant as Dominie
  Sampson on military matters; and, conceiving good provisions to be
  thrown away upon him, they stripped him nearly naked and dismissed
  him, like the barber in 'Gil Blas,' with a kick in the breech, and
  sent him into us in a woeful state.

  "In every interval between our active services we indulged in all
  manner of childish trick and amusement with an avidity and delight of
  which it is impossible to convey an adequate idea. We lived united,
  as men always are who are daily staring death in the face on the same
  side, and who, caring little about it, look upon each new day added
  to their lives as one more to rejoice in.

  "We invited the villagers every evening to a dance at our quarters
  alternately. A Spanish peasant girl has an address about her which I
  have never met with in the same class of any other country; and she
  at once enters into society with the ease and confidence of one who
  had been accustomed to it all her life. We used to flourish away at
  the bolero, fandango, and waltz, and wound up early in the evening
  with a supper of roasted chestnuts.

  "Our village belles, as already stated, made themselves perfectly at
  home in our society, and we, too, should have enjoyed theirs for a
  season; but when month after month and year after year continued to
  roll along, without producing any change, we found that the cherry
  cheek and sparkling eye of rustic beauty furnished but a very poor
  apology for the illuminated portion of Nature's fairest works, and
  ardently longed for an opportunity of once more feasting our eyes on
  a lady."

After the glory of Salamanca came, by way of anti-climax, the
inglorious failure at Burgos. Kincaid's battalion took part in the
toils and suffering of the retreat from Burgos. There is no note of
grumbling in his tale. Yet seldom has an army suffered more than
during those bitter November days, when Wellington's soldiers, with
the discouraging memory of the failure at Burgos chilling their
imaginations, toiled in retreat along muddy roads, across swollen
rivers, through blinding and incessant rain, almost without food; while
fiercely on their rear hung the pursuing French cavalry. Wellington
made a brief halt on November 14 at Salamanca, and we take up Kincaid's
story at this point:--

  "_November 7._--Halted this night at Alba de Tormes, and next day
  marched into quarters in Salamanca, where we rejoined Lord Wellington
  with the army from Burgos.

  "On the 14th the British army concentrated on the field of their
  former glory, in consequence of a part of the French army having
  effected the passage of the river above Alba de Tormes. On the 15th
  the whole of the enemy's force having passed the river a cannonade
  commenced early in the day; and it was the general belief that, ere
  night, a second battle of Salamanca would be recorded. But as all the
  French armies in Spain were now united in our front, and outnumbered
  us so far, Lord Wellington, seeing no decided advantage to be gained
  by risking a battle, at length ordered a retreat, which we commenced
  about three in the afternoon. Our division halted for the night at
  the entrance of a forest about four miles from Salamanca.

  "The heavy rains which usually precede the Spanish winter had set in
  the day before; and as the roads in that part of the country cease to
  be roads for the remainder of the season, we were now walking nearly
  knee-deep in a stiff mud, into which no man could thrust his foot
  with the certainty of having a shoe at the end of it when he pulled
  it out again; and that we might not be miserable by halves, we had
  this evening to regale our chops with the last morsel of biscuit that
  they were destined to grind during the retreat.

  "We cut some boughs of trees to keep us out of the mud, and lay
  down to sleep on them, wet to the skin; but the cannonade of the
  afternoon had been succeeded after dark by a continued firing of
  musketry, which led us to believe that our piquets were attacked,
  and, in momentary expectation of an order to stand to our arms, we
  kept ourselves awake the whole night, and were not a little provoked
  when we found next morning that it had been occasioned by numerous
  stragglers from the different regiments shooting at the pigs
  belonging to the peasantry, which were grazing in the wood.

  "_November 16._--Retiring from daylight until dark through the same
  description of roads. The French dragoons kept close behind, but did
  not attempt to molest us. It still continued to rain hard, and we
  again passed the night in a wood. I was very industriously employed
  during the early part of it feeling, in the dark, for acorns as a
  substitute for bread.

  "_November 17._--We were much surprised in the course of the forenoon
  to hear a sharp firing commence behind us on the very road by which
  we were retiring; and it was not until we reached the spot that we
  learnt that the troops, who were retreating by a road parallel to
  ours, had left it too soon, and enabled some French dragoons, under
  cover of the forest, to advance unperceived to the flank of our line
  of march, who, seeing an interval between two divisions of infantry,
  which was filled with light baggage and some passing officers, dashed
  at it and made some prisoners in the scramble of the moment, amongst
  whom was Lieutenant-General Sir Edward Paget.

  "Our division formed on the heights above Samunoz to cover the
  passage of the rivulet, which was so swollen with the heavy rains,
  as only to be passable at particular fords. While we waited there
  for the passage of the rest of the army, the enemy, under cover of
  the forest, was, at the same time, assembling in force close around
  us; and the moment that we began to descend the hill, towards the
  rivulet, we were assailed by a heavy fire of cannon and musketry,
  while their powerful cavalry were in readiness to take advantage of
  any confusion which might have occurred. We effected the passage,
  however, in excellent order, and formed on the opposite bank of the
  stream, where we continued under a cannonade and engaged in a sharp
  skirmish until dark.

  "When the firing ceased, we received the usual order 'to make
  ourselves comfortable for the night,' and I never remember an
  instance in which we had so much difficulty in obeying it; for the
  ground we occupied was a perfect flat, which was flooded more than
  ankle-deep with water, excepting here and there, where the higher
  ground around the roots of trees presented circles of a few feet of
  visible earth, upon which we grouped ourselves. Some few fires were
  kindled, at which we roasted some bits of raw beef on the points of
  our swords, and ate them by way of a dinner. There was plenty of
  water to apologise for the want of better fluids, but bread sent no
  apology at all.

  "It made my very heart rejoice to see my brigadier's servant commence
  boiling some chocolate and frying a beef-steak. I watched its
  progress with a keenness which intense hunger alone could inspire,
  and was on the very point of having my desires consummated, when the
  general, getting uneasy at not having received any communication
  relative to the movements of the morning, and, without considering
  how feelingly my stomach yearned for a better acquaintance with the
  contents of his frying-pan, desired me to ride to General Alten
  for orders. I found the general at a neighbouring tree; but he cut
  off all hopes of my timely return, by desiring me to remain with
  him until he received the report of an officer whom he had sent to
  ascertain the progress of the other divisions.

  "While I was toasting myself at his fire, so sharply set that I could
  have eaten one of my boots, I observed his German orderly dragoon
  at an adjoining fire stirring up the contents of a camp-kettle,
  that once more revived my departing hopes, and I presently had the
  satisfaction of seeing him dipping in some basins, presenting one to
  the general, one to the aide-de-camp, and a third to myself. The mess
  which it contained I found, after swallowing the whole at a draught,
  was neither more nor less than the produce of a piece of beef boiled
  in plain water; and though it would have been enough to have
  physicked a dromedary at any other time, yet, as I could then have
  made a good hole in the dromedary himself, it sufficiently satisfied
  my cravings to make me equal to anything for the remainder of the day.

  "On November 19 we arrived at the convent of Caridad, near Ciudad
  Rodrigo, and once more experienced the comforts of our baggage and
  provisions. My boots had not been off since the 13th, and I found it
  necessary to cut them to pieces to get my swollen feet out of them.

  "Up to this period Lord Wellington had been adored by the army, in
  consideration of his brilliant achievements, and for his noble and
  manly bearing in all things; but, in consequence of some disgraceful
  irregularities which took place during the retreat, he immediately
  after issued an order conveying a sweeping censure on the whole army.
  His general conduct was too upright for even the finger of malice
  itself to point at; but as his censure on this occasion was not
  strictly confined to the guilty, it afforded a handle to disappointed
  persons, and excited a feeling against him on the part of individuals
  which has probably never since been obliterated.

  "It began by telling us that we had suffered no privations; and,
  though this was hard to be digested on an empty stomach, yet, taking
  it in its more liberal meaning, that our privations were not of an
  extent to justify any irregularities, which I readily admit; still,
  as many regiments were not guilty of any irregularities, it is not
  to be wondered if such should have felt at first a little sulky to
  find, in the general reproof, that no loop-hole whatever had been
  left for them to creep through; for, I believe I am justified in
  saying that neither our own, nor the two gallant corps associated
  with us, had a single man absent that we could not satisfactorily
  account for. But it touched us still more tenderly in not excepting
  us from his general charge of inexpertness in camp arrangements;
  for it was our belief, and in which we were in some measure borne
  out by circumstances, that had he placed us at the same moment in
  the same field with an equal number of the best troops in France,
  that he would not only have seen our fires as quickly lit, but every
  Frenchman roasting on them to the bargain, if they waited long enough
  to be dressed, for there perhaps never was, nor ever again will be,
  such a war-brigade as that which was composed of the 43rd, 52nd, and
  the Rifles."

1812 found the Rifles once more taking part in marches which taxed the
endurance of the soldiers to the uttermost; but this time the temper of
the troops was gay and exultant in the highest degree. They were taking
part in the great movement which thrust the French back to Vittoria.
The elation of coming and assured victory was in the soldiers' blood.
The Rifles, after days of toilsome marches through wild and mountainous
country, at last reached the fruitful valley of the Ebro. Here is a
pleasant campaign scene:--

  "We started at daylight on June 15, through a dreary region of solid
  rock, bearing an abundant crop of loose stones, without a particle
  of soil or vegetation visible to the naked eye in any direction.
  After leaving nearly twenty miles of this horrible wilderness behind
  us, our weary minds clogged with an imaginary view of nearly as much
  more of it in our front, we found ourselves all at once looking down
  upon the valley of the Ebro, near the village of Arenas, one of the
  richest, loveliest, and most romantic spots that I ever beheld. The
  influence of such a scene on the mind can scarcely be believed. Five
  minutes before we were all as lively as stones. In a moment we were
  all fruits and flowers; and many a pair of legs, that one would have
  thought had not a kick left in them, were, in five minutes after,
  seen dancing across the bridge to the tune of 'The Downfall of
  Paris,' which struck up from the bands of the different regiments.

  "I lay down that night in a cottage garden, with my head on a melon,
  and my eye on a cherry-tree, and resigned myself to a repose which
  did not require a long courtship.

  "We resumed our march at daybreak on the 16th. The road, in the
  first instance, wound through orchards and luxurious gardens,
  and then closed in to the edge of the river, through a difficult
  and formidable pass, where the rocks on each side, arising to a
  prodigious height, hung over each other in fearful grandeur, and in
  many places nearly met together over our heads.

  "After following the course of the river for nearly two miles, the
  rocks on each side gradually expanded into another valley, lovely as
  the one we had left, and where we found the fifth division of our
  army lying encamped. They were still asleep; and the rising sun, and
  a beautiful morning, gave additional sublimity to the scene; for
  there was nothing but the tops of the white tents peeping above the
  fruit trees; and an occasional sentinel pacing his post, that gave
  any indication of what a nest of hornets the blast of a bugle could
  bring out of that apparently peaceful solitude.

  "We were welcomed into every town or village through which we passed
  by the peasant girls, who were in the habit of meeting us with
  garlands of flowers, and dancing before us in a peculiar style of
  their own; and it not unfrequently happened, that while they were
  so employed with one regiment, the preceding one was diligently
  engaged in pulling down some of their houses for firewood, a measure
  which we were sometimes obliged to have recourse to, where no other
  fuel could be had, and for which they were ultimately paid by the
  British Government; but it was a measure that was more likely to have
  set the poor souls dancing mad than for joy, had they foreseen the
  consequences of our visit."

At this stage the march brought the British into actual contact with
the enemy, and there ensued much brisk skirmishing, in which the Rifles
found huge enjoyment:--

  "On the morning of the 18th, we were ordered to march to San Milan, a
  small town, about two leagues off; and where, on our arrival on the
  hill above it, we found a division of French infantry, as strong as
  ourselves, in the act of crossing our path. The surprise, I believe,
  was mutual, though I doubt whether the pleasure was equally so; for
  we were red-hot for an opportunity of retaliating for the Salamanca
  retreat; and, as the old saying goes, 'There is no opportunity
  like the present.' Their leading brigade had nearly passed before
  we came up, but not a moment was lost after we did. Our battalion
  dispersing among the brushwood, went down the hill upon them; and,
  with a destructive fire, broke through their line of march, supported
  by the rest of the brigade. Those that had passed made no attempt
  at a stand, but continued their flight, keeping up as good a fire
  as their circumstances would permit; while we kept hanging on their
  flank and rear, through a good rifle country, which enabled us to
  make considerable havoc among them. Their general's aide-de-camp,
  amongst others, was mortally wounded; and a lady, on a white horse,
  who probably was his wife, remained beside him, until we came very
  near. She appeared to be in great distress; but, though we called to
  her to remain, and not to be alarmed, yet she galloped off as soon as
  a decided step became necessary. The object of her solicitude did not
  survive many minutes after we reached him."



CHAPTER III

SOME FAMOUS BATTLES


Kincaid shared in all the bloody fights of the Peninsula, from Sabugal
to Toulouse. His descriptions of these fights are hasty and planless;
they give no hint of the strategy behind them or of the results which
followed them. But they are always vivid, racy, and rich in personal
incident, and we give in this chapter some transcripts from them.

Sabugal was the last combat fought on Portuguese soil in Massena's
sullen retreat from the lines of Torres Vedras. Massena was never so
dangerous as in retreat, and Ney, with all his fiery valour, commanded
his rearguard. The French, too, were in a mood of almost reckless
savagery, and they greatly exceeded in numbers the force pursuing
them. It may be imagined, then, what an incessant splutter of fierce
and angry skirmishes raged betwixt Wellington's advance-guard and the
French rear. Yet the veterans on both sides maintained a singularly
cool and business-like attitude towards each other, an attitude not
unflavoured with gleams of unprofessional friendliness. Thus as the
French were falling back after the disastrous fight at Redinha, night
fell while the skirmishers of the Rifles were still eagerly pressing
on the tired French rearguard. The officer commanding the French
suddenly held up his sword in the grey dusk with a white handkerchief
tied to it. An officer of the Rifles went forward to parley, when the
Frenchman explained that he thought both sides needed a rest after a
hard day's work. To this the officers of the Rifles cheerfully agreed,
and politely invited the Frenchman and his subalterns to share their
rations. This proposal was accepted; the French and English officers
sat merrily round a common fire, and shared a common meal; then parted,
and before daybreak became pursuers and pursued again!

Sabugal was described by Wellington himself as "one of the most
glorious actions British troops ever engaged in"; but it was little
better than a gallant blunder. The day was one of drifting fog and
blinding rain. Wellington's plan was with three divisions--a force
10,000 strong--to envelop and crush Massena's left wing, commanded
by Regnier, but Erskine, who commanded the Light Division, failed to
understand his orders, wandered off with his cavalry in the fog, and
left Beckwith with four companies of the Rifles and the 43rd lying
sheltered near the ford across the Coa. When Wellington's general
attack was developed, Beckwith was to cross the river and attack. A
staff officer stumbled upon him early in the day, before the other
troops had moved, and demanded, with a note of anger in his voice, why
he did not attack? Beckwith instantly led his men across the stream,
and with one bayonet battalion and four companies of Rifles, proceeded
to attack 12,000 French infantry supported by cavalry and guns! And
in a combat so strange, against chances so apparently hopeless, the
handful of British won! Here is Kincaid's story:--

  "_April 3, 1811._--Early this morning our division moved still
  farther to its right, and our brigade led the way across a ford,
  which took us up to the middle; while the balls from the enemy's
  advanced posts were hissing in the water around us, we drove in their
  light troops and commenced a furious assault upon their main body.
  Thus far all was right; but a thick, drizzling rain now came on, in
  consequence of which the third division, which was to have made a
  simultaneous attack to our left, missed their way, and a brigade of
  dragoons, under Sir William Erskine, who were to have covered our
  right, went the Lord knows where, but certainly not into the fight,
  although they started at the same time that we did, and had the
  'music' of our rifles to guide them; and even the second brigade of
  our division could not afford us any support for nearly an hour, so
  that we were thus unconsciously left with about fifteen hundred men,
  in the very impertinent attempt to carry a formidable position on
  which stood as many thousands.

  "The weather, which had deprived us of the aid of our friends,
  favoured us so far as to prevent the enemy from seeing the amount
  of our paltry force; and the conduct of our gallant fellows, led on
  by Sir Sidney Beckwith, was so truly heroic, that, incredible as it
  may seem, we had the best of the fight throughout. Our first attack
  was met by such overwhelming numbers, that we were forced back and
  followed by three heavy columns, before which we retired slowly, and
  keeping up a destructive fire, to the nearest rising ground, where
  we re-formed and instantly charged their advancing masses, sending
  them flying at the point of the bayonet, and entering their position
  along with them, where we were assailed by fresh forces. Three
  times did the very same thing occur. In our third attempt we got
  possession of one of their howitzers, for which a desperate struggle
  was making, when we were at the same moment charged by infantry in
  front and cavalry on the right, and again compelled to fall back;
  but, fortunately at this moment we were reinforced by the arrival of
  the second brigade, and with their aid we once more stormed their
  position and secured the well-earned howitzer, while the third
  division came at the same time upon their flank, and they were driven
  from the field in the greatest disorder.

  "Lord Wellington's despatch on this occasion did ample justice to
  Sir Sidney Beckwith and his brave brigade. Never were troops more
  judiciously or more gallantly led. Never was a leader more devotedly
  followed.

  "In the course of the action a man of the name of Knight fell dead at
  my feet, and though I heard a musket ball strike him, I could neither
  find blood nor wound. There was a little spaniel belonging to one of
  our officers running about the whole time, barking at the balls, and
  I saw him once smelling at a live shell, which exploded in his face
  without hurting him."

It may be added that, when the fight was over, round that fiercely
disputed howitzer 300 dead bodies were found piled!

An amusing instance of the cool and business-like temper with which
the veterans of the Rifles fought occurred in this combat. A rifleman
named Flinn had covered a Frenchman, and was in the act of drawing the
trigger, when a hare leaped out of the fern in front of him. Flinn
found this game more tempting; he took quick aim at it, and shot it.
His officer rebuked him when the fight was over for that wasted shot.
"Sure, your honour," was his reply, "we can kill a Frenchman any day,
but it isn't always I can bag a hare for your supper."

On May 3, 1811, began the confused manoeuvring and fierce combats,
stretching through two days, known as the battle of Fuentes d'Onore.
In the middle of the fight Wellington had to change his front, swing
his right wing back across the open plain--then in possession of the
triumphant French cavalry--to a ridge at right angles to his former
front. The Light Division formed part of the force executing this
movement. It was formed in three squares, flanking each other. Masses
of French cavalry eddied furiously round them as they marched. But the
stern and disciplined ranks of the Light Division never wavered. They
moved, says Napier, "in the most majestic manner"; and, he adds, that
"all the cavalry that ever charged under Tamerlane or Genghis Khan
would have failed to break their lines." Kincaid's account is graphic,
and betrays no consciousness of the exceptional nature of the deed
performed by his division:--

  "_May 5, 1811._--The day began to dawn, this fine May morning, with a
  rattling fire of musketry on the extreme right of our position, which
  the enemy had attacked, and to which point our division was rapidly
  moved.

  "Our battalion was thrown into a wood, a little to the left and
  front of the division engaged, and was instantly warmly opposed to
  the French skirmishers; in the course of which I was struck with a
  musket ball on the left breast, which made me stagger a yard or two
  backward, and, as I felt no pain, I concluded that I was dangerously
  wounded; but it turned out to be owing to my not being hurt. While
  our operations here were confined to a tame skirmish, and our view
  to the oaks with which we were mingled, we found, by the evidence of
  our ears, that the division which we had come to support was involved
  in a more serious onset, for there was a successive rattle of
  artillery, the wild hurrah of charging squadrons, and the repulsing
  volley of musketry; until Lord Wellington, finding his right too much
  extended, directed that division to fall back behind the small river
  Touronne, and ours to join the main body of the army. The execution
  of our movement presented a magnificent military spectacle, as the
  plain between us and the right of the army, was by this time in
  possession of the French cavalry, and, while we were retiring through
  it with the order and precision of a common field-day, they kept
  dancing around us, and every instant threatening a charge, without
  daring to execute it.

  "We took up our new position at a right angle with the then right of
  the British line, on which our left rested, and with our right on
  the Touronne. The enemy followed our movement with a heavy column of
  infantry; but, when they came near enough to exchange shots, they
  did not seem to like our looks, as we occupied a low ridge of broken
  rocks, against which even a rat could scarcely have hoped to advance
  alive; and they again fell back, and opened a tremendous fire of
  artillery, which was returned by a battery of our guns.

  "The battle continued to rage with fury in and about the village,
  while we were lying by our arms under a burning hot sun, some stray
  cannon-shot passing over and about us, whose progress we watched
  for want of other employment. One of them bounded along in the
  direction of an 'amateur,' whom we had for some time been observing,
  securely placed, as he imagined, behind a piece of rock, which stood
  about five feet above the ground, and over which nothing but his
  head was shown, sheltered from the sun by an umbrella. The shot
  in question touched the ground three or four times between us and
  him; he saw it coming--lowered his umbrella, and withdrew his head.
  Its expiring bound carried it into the very spot where he had that
  instant disappeared. I hope he was not hurt; but the thing looked so
  ridiculous that it excited a shout of laughter, and we saw no more of
  him.

  "A little before dusk, in the evening, our battalion was ordered
  forward to relieve the troops engaged in the village, part of which
  still remained in possession of the enemy, and I saw, by the mixed
  nature of the dead, in every part of the streets, that it had been
  successively in possession of both sides. The firing ceased with
  the daylight, and I was sent, with a section of men, in charge of
  one of the streets for the night. There was a wounded sergeant of
  Highlanders lying on my post. A ball had passed through the back
  part of his head, from which the brain was oozing, and his only
  sign of life was a convulsive hiccough every two or three seconds.
  I sent for a medical friend to look at him, who told me that he
  could not survive; I then got a mattress from the nearest house,
  placed the poor fellow on it, and made use of one corner as a pillow
  for myself, on which, after the fatigues of the day, and though
  called occasionally to visit my sentries, I slept most soundly. The
  Highlander died in the course of the night.

  "When we stood to our arms at daybreak next morning, we found the
  enemy busy throwing up a six-gun battery immediately in front of
  our company's post, and we immediately set to work, with our whole
  hearts and souls, and placed a wall, about twelve feet thick, between
  us, which, no doubt, still remains there in the same garden, as
  a monument of what can be effected in a few minutes by a hundred
  modern men, when their personal safety is concerned, not but that the
  proprietor, in the midst of his admiration, would rather see a good
  bed of garlic on the spot manured with the bodies of the architects.

  "When the sun began to shine on the pacific disposition of the enemy,
  we proceeded to consign the dead to their last earthly mansions,
  giving every Englishman a grave to himself, and putting as many
  Frenchmen into one as it could conveniently accommodate. Whilst in
  the superintendence of this melancholy duty, and ruminating on the
  words of the poet:--

 'There's not a form of all that lie
   Thus ghastly, wild and bare,
 Tost, bleeding, in the stormy sky,
   Black in the burning air,
 But to his knee some infant clung,
 But on his heart some fond heart hung!'

  "I was grieved to think that the souls of deceased warriors should be
  so selfish as to take to flight in their regimentals, for I never saw
  the body of one with a rag on after battle.

  "The day after one of those negative sort of victories is always one
  of intense interest. The movements on each side are most jealously
  watched, and each side is diligently occupied in strengthening such
  points as the fight of the preceding day had proved to be the most
  vulnerable. They had made a few prisoners, chiefly Guardsmen and
  Highlanders, whom they marched past the front of our position, in
  the most ostentatious way, on the forenoon of the 6th; and, the day
  following, a number of their regiments were paraded in the most
  imposing manner for review. They looked uncommonly well, and we
  were proud to think that we had beaten such fine-looking fellows so
  lately!"

In the tangled and hurried marches which preceded the battle of
Salamanca, the Rifles took, of course, an active part. They were
probably the quickest-footed and most hardy regiment under Wellington's
command. But in the great battle itself Kincaid's battalion played a
small part, being held in reserve. Kincaid's account is both amusing
and interesting:--

  "Hitherto we had been fighting the description of battle in which
  John Bull glories so much--gaining a brilliant and useless victory
  against great odds. But we were now about to contend for fame on
  equal terms; and, having tried both, I will say, without partiality,
  that I would rather fight one man than two any day; for I have
  never been quite satisfied that the additional quantum of glory
  altogether compensated for the proportionate loss of substance; a
  victory of that kind being a doubtful and most unsatisfactory one to
  the performers, with each occupying the same ground after that they
  did before; and the whole merit resting with the side which did not
  happen to begin it.

  "Marmont came down upon us the first night with a thundering
  cannonade, and placed his army _en masse_ on the plain before us,
  almost within gunshot. I was told that, while Lord Wellington was
  riding along the line, under a fire of artillery, and accompanied by
  a numerous staff, a brace of greyhounds in pursuit of a hare passed
  close to him. He was at the moment in earnest conversation with
  General Castanos; but the instant he observed them he gave the view
  hallo and went after them at full speed, to the utter astonishment
  of his foreign accompaniments. Nor did he stop until he saw the hare
  killed; when he returned and resumed the commander-in-chief as if
  nothing had occurred.

  "I was sent on piquet on the evening of the 19th, to watch a portion
  of the plain before us; and, soon after sunrise on the following
  morning, a cannonade commenced behind a hill to my right; and though
  the combatants were not visible, it was evident that they were not
  dealing in blank-cartridge, as mine happened to be the pitching-post
  of all the enemy's round shot. While I was attentively watching its
  progress, there arose all at once, behind the rising ground to my
  left, a yell of the most terrific import; and, convinced that it
  would give instantaneous birth to as hideous a body, it made me look
  with an eye of lightning at the ground around me; and, seeing a broad
  deep ditch within a hundred yards, I lost not a moment in placing
  it between my piquet and the extraordinary sound. I had scarcely
  effected the movement when Lord Wellington, with his staff, and a
  cloud of French and English dragoons and horse artillery intermixed,
  came over the hill at full cry, and all hammering at each other's
  heads, in one confused mass over the very ground I had that instant
  quitted. It appeared that his lordship had gone there to reconnoitre,
  covered by two guns and two squadrons of cavalry, who by some
  accident were surprised and charged by a superior body of the enemy,
  and sent tumbling in upon us in the manner described.

  "A piquet of the 43rd had formed on our right, and we were obliged
  to remain passive spectators of such an extraordinary scene going
  on within a few yards of us, as we could not fire without an equal
  chance of shooting some of our own side. Lord Wellington and his
  staff, with the two guns, took shelter for a moment behind us, while
  the cavalry went sweeping along our front, where, I suppose, they
  picked up some reinforcement, for they returned almost instantly in
  the same confused mass; but the French were now the fliers; and, I
  must do them the justice to say, that they got off in a manner highly
  creditable to themselves. I saw one, in particular, defending himself
  against two of ours; and he would have made his escape from both, but
  an officer of our dragoons came down the hill, and took him in the
  flank at full speed, sending man and horse rolling headlong on the
  plain.

  "I was highly interested all this time in observing the distinguished
  characters which this unlooked-for turn-up had assembled around us.
  Marshal Beresford and the greater part of the staff remained with
  their swords drawn, and the Duke himself did not look more than
  half-pleased, while he silently despatched some of them with orders.
  General Alten and his huge German orderly dragoon, with their swords
  drawn, cursed the whole time to a very large amount; but, as it was
  in German, I had not the full benefit of it. He had an opposition
  swearer in Captain Jenkinson of the artillery, who commanded the
  two guns, and whose oaths were chiefly aimed at himself for his
  folly, as far as I could understand, in putting so much confidence
  in his covering party, that he had not thought it necessary to unfix
  the catch which horse-artillerymen, I believe, had to prevent their
  swords quitting the scabbards when they are not wanted, and which
  on this occasion prevented their jumping forth when they were so
  unexpectedly called for.

  "The straggling enemy had scarcely cleared away from our front when
  Lord Combermere came from the right with a reinforcement of cavalry;
  and our piquet was at the same moment ordered to join the battalion.

  "The movements which followed presented the most beautiful military
  spectacle imaginable. The enemy were endeavouring to turn our left;
  and, in making a counteracting movement, the two armies were marching
  in parallel lines close to each other on a perfect plain, each ready
  to take advantage of any opening of the other, and exchanging round
  shot as they moved along. Our division brought up the rear of the
  infantry, marching with the order and precision of a field-day, in
  open column of companies, and in perfect readiness to receive the
  enemy in any shape, who, on their part, had a huge cavalry force
  close at hand and equally ready to pounce upon us.

  "_July 22._--A sharp fire of musketry commenced at daylight in the
  morning; but as it did not immediately concern us and was nothing
  unusual we took no notice of it, but busied ourselves in getting our
  arms and our bodies disengaged from the rust and the wet engendered
  by the storm of the past night. About ten o'clock our division was
  ordered to stand to their arms. The enemy were to be seen in motion
  on the opposite ridges, and a straggling fire of musketry, with
  an occasional gun, acted as a sort of prelude to the approaching
  conflict. We heard, about this time, that Marmont had just sent to
  his _ci-devant_ landlord in Salamanca to desire that he would have
  the usual dinner ready for himself and staff at six o'clock; and so
  satisfied was 'mine host' of the infallibility of the French Marshal,
  that he absolutely set about making the necessary preparations.

  "There assuredly never was an army so anxious as ours was to be
  brought into action on this occasion. They were a magnificent body
  of well-tried soldiers, highly equipped, and in the highest health
  and spirits, with the most devoted confidence in their leader, and
  an invincible confidence in themselves. The retreat of the four
  preceding days had annoyed us beyond measure, for we believed that we
  were nearly equal to the enemy in point of numbers, and the idea of
  our retiring before an equal number of any troops in the world was
  not to be endured with common patience.

  "We were kept the whole of the forenoon in the most torturing state
  of suspense through contradictory reports. One passing officer
  telling us that he had just heard the order given to attack, and
  the next asserting with equal confidence that he had just heard the
  order to retreat; and it was not until about two o'clock in the
  afternoon that affairs began to wear a more decided aspect; and when
  our own eyes and ears at length conveyed the wished-for tidings that
  a battle was inevitable, for we saw the enemy beginning to close
  upon our right, and the cannonade had become general along the whole
  line. Lord Wellington about the same time ordered the movement which
  decided the fate of the day--that of bringing the third division from
  beyond the river on our left rapidly to our extreme right, turning
  the enemy in their attempt to turn us, and commencing the offensive
  with the whole of his right wing.

  "The effect was instantaneous and decisive, for although some
  obstinate and desperate fighting took place in the centre, with
  various success, yet the victory was never for a moment in doubt,
  and the enemy were soon in full retreat, leaving seven thousand
  prisoners, two eagles, and eleven pieces of artillery in our
  hands. Had we been favoured with two hours' more daylight, their
  loss would have been incalculable, for they committed a blunder at
  starting which they never got time to retrieve, and their retreat was
  therefore commenced in such disorder, and with a river in their rear,
  that nothing but darkness could have saved them.

  "The third division, under Sir Edward Pakenham, the artillery, and
  some regiments of dragoons, particularly distinguished themselves.
  But our division, very much to our annoyance, came in for a very
  slender portion of this day's glory. We were exposed to a cannonade
  the whole of the afternoon, but, as we were not permitted to advance
  until very late, we had only an opportunity of throwing a few
  straggling shot at the fugitives before we lost sight of them in the
  dark, and then bivouacked for the night near the village of Huerta (I
  think it was called).

  "We started after them at daylight next morning, and crossing at a
  ford of the Tormes we found their rearguard, consisting of three
  regiments of infantry, with some cavalry and artillery, posted on
  a formidable height above the village of Serna. General Bock, with
  his brigade of heavy German dragoons, immediately went at them, and
  putting their cavalry to flight, he broke through their infantry, and
  took or destroyed the whole of them. This was one of the most gallant
  charges recorded in history. I saw many of these fine fellows lying
  dead along with their horses, on which they were still astride, with
  the sword firmly grasped in the hand, as they had fought the instant
  before, and several of them still wearing a look of fierce defiance,
  which death itself had been unable to quench."

In the mountain march which turned the French right, and drove Joseph's
whole army, burdened with the plunder of a kingdom, back into the
fatal valley of Vittoria, the Rifles had a full share. In the actual
fighting of June 21, 1813, their part was brilliant. They fired the
first shot in the fight; they were first across the river; they were
first up the central hill of Arinez, where the fury of the great
battle culminated; and they captured the first gun taken. Barnard's
daring advance with his riflemen really enabled the third and seventh
divisions to carry the bridge of Mendoza. Barnard opened so cruel a
flank fire on the French guns and infantry guarding the bridge that
they fell back in confusion, and the British crossed practically
without confusion. It is needless to add that the hardy and active
Rifles led in the pursuit of the defeated French far into the night
after the battle, and early on the succeeding day:--

  "_June 21, 1813._--Our division got under arms this morning before
  daylight, passed the base of the mountain by its left, through the
  camp of the fourth division, who were still asleep in their tents,
  to the banks of the river Zadora, at the village of Tres Puentes.
  The opposite side of the river was occupied by the enemy's advanced
  posts, and we saw their army on the hills beyond, while the spires of
  Vittoria were visible in the distance. We felt as if there was likely
  to be a battle; but as that was an event we were never sure of until
  we found ourselves actually in it, we lay for some time just out of
  musket-shot, uncertain what was likely to turn up, and waiting for
  orders. At length a sharp fire of musketry was heard to our right,
  and on looking in that direction we saw the head of Sir Rowland
  Hill's corps, together with some Spanish troops, attempting to force
  the mountain which marked the enemy's left. The three battalions of
  our regiment were, at the same moment, ordered forward to feel the
  enemy, who lined the opposite banks of the river, with whom we were
  quickly engaged in a warm skirmish. The affair with Sir Rowland Hill
  became gradually warmer, but ours had apparently no other object than
  to amuse those who were opposite to us for the moment, so that for
  about two hours longer it seemed as if there would be nothing but an
  affair of outposts.

  "About twelve o'clock, however, we were moved rapidly to our left,
  followed by the rest of the division, till we came to an abrupt turn
  of the river, where we found a bridge, unoccupied by the enemy,
  which we immediately crossed and took possession of what appeared
  to me to be an old field-work on the other side. We had not been
  many seconds there before we observed the bayonets of the third and
  seventh divisions glittering above the standing corn, and advancing
  upon another bridge which stood about a quarter of a mile farther
  to our left, and where, on their arrival, they were warmly opposed
  by the enemy's light troops, who lined the bank of the river (which
  we ourselves were now on), in great force, for the defence of the
  bridge. As soon as this was observed by our division, Colonel Barnard
  advanced with our battalion, and took them in flank with such a
  furious fire as quickly dislodged them, and thereby opened a passage
  for these two divisions free of expense, which must otherwise have
  cost them dearly. What with the rapidity of our movement, the colour
  of our dress, and our close contact with the enemy before they would
  abandon their post, we had the misfortune to be identified with them
  for some time by a battery of our own guns, who, not observing the
  movement, continued to serve it out indiscriminately, and all the
  while admiring their practice upon us; nor was it until the red coats
  of the third division joined us that they discovered their mistake.

  "On the mountain to our extreme right the action continued to be
  general and obstinate, though we observed that the enemy were giving
  ground slowly to Sir Rowland Hill. The passage of the river by
  our division had turned the enemy's outpost at the bridge on our
  right, where we had been engaged in the morning, and they were now
  retreating, followed by the fourth division. The plain between them
  and Sir Rowland Hill was occupied by the British cavalry, who were
  now seen filing out of a wood, squadron after squadron, galloping
  into form as they gradually cleared it. The hills behind were covered
  with spectators, and the third and the light divisions, covered by
  our battalion, advanced rapidly upon a formidable hill in front of
  the enemy's centre, which they had neglected to occupy in sufficient
  force.

  "In the course of our progress our men kept picking off the French
  vedettes, who were imprudent enough to hover too near us; and many
  a horse, bounding along the plain, dragging his late rider by the
  stirrup-irons, contributed in making it a scene of extraordinary and
  exhilarating interest.

  "Old Picton rode at the head of the third division, dressed in a blue
  coat and a round hat, and swore as roundly all the way as if he had
  been wearing two cocked ones. Our battalion soon cleared the hill in
  question of the enemy's light troops; but we were pulled up on the
  opposite side of it by one of their lines, which occupied a wall at
  the entrance of a village immediately under us.

  "During the few minutes that we stopped there, while a brigade of
  the third division was deploying into line, two of our companies
  lost two officers and thirty men, chiefly from the fire of artillery
  bearing on the spot from the French position. One of their shells
  burst immediately under my nose, part of it struck my boot and
  stirrup-iron, and the rest of it kicked up such a dust about me
  that my charger refused to obey orders; and while I was spurring
  and he capering I heard a voice behind me, which I knew to be Lord
  Wellington's, calling out, in a tone of reproof, 'Look to keeping
  your men together, sir;' and though, God knows, I had not the
  remotest idea that he was within a mile of me at the time, yet so
  sensible was I that circumstances warranted his supposing that I
  was a young officer cutting a caper, by way of bravado, before him,
  that worlds would not have tempted me to look round at the moment.
  The French fled from the wall as soon as they received a volley
  from part of the third division, and we instantly dashed down the
  hill and charged them through the village, capturing three of their
  guns; the first, I believe, that were taken that day. They received
  a reinforcement, and drove us back before our supports could come
  to our assistance; but, in the scramble of the moment, our men were
  knowing enough to cut the traces and carry off the horses, so that
  when we retook the village immediately after the guns still remained
  in our possession.

  "The battle now became general along the whole line, and the
  cannonade was tremendous. At one period we held on one side of a
  wall, near the village, while the French were on the other, so that
  any person who chose to put his head over from either side was sure
  of getting a sword or a bayonet up his nostrils. This situation was,
  of course, too good to be of long endurance. The victory, I believe,
  was never for a moment doubtful. The enemy were so completely
  out-generalled, and the superiority of our troops was such, that to
  carry their positions required little more than the time necessary
  to march to them. After forcing their centre the fourth division and
  our own got on the flank and rather in rear of the enemy's left wing,
  who were retreating before Sir Rowland Hill, and who, to effect their
  escape, were now obliged to fly in one confused mass. Had a single
  regiment of our dragoons been at hand, or even a squadron, to have
  forced them into shape for a few minutes, we must have taken from ten
  to twenty thousand prisoners. After marching alongside of them for
  nearly two miles, and as a disorderly body will always move faster
  than an orderly one, we had the mortification to see them gradually
  heading us, until they finally made their escape.

  "Our elevated situation at this time afforded a good view of the
  field of battle to our left, and I could not help being struck with
  an unusual appearance of unsteadiness and want of confidence among
  the French troops. I saw a dense mass of many thousands occupying a
  good defensible post, who gave way in the greatest confusion before
  a single line of the third division, almost without feeling them.
  If there was nothing in any other part of the position to justify
  the movement, and I do not think there was, they ought to have been
  flogged, every man, from the general downwards.

  "The ground was particularly favourable to the retreating foe, as
  every half mile afforded a fresh and formidable position, so that
  from the commencement of the action to the city of Vittoria, a
  distance of six or eight miles, we were involved in one continued
  hard skirmish. On passing Vittoria, however, the scene became
  quite new and infinitely more amusing, as the French had made no
  provision for a retreat; and Sir Thomas Graham having seized upon
  the great road to France, the only one left open was that leading
  by Pampeluna; and it was not open long, for their fugitive army and
  their myriads of followers, with baggage, guns, carriages, &c., being
  all precipitated upon it at the same moment, it got choked up about
  a mile beyond the town, in the most glorious state of confusion; and
  the drivers, finding that one pair of legs was worth two pair of
  wheels, abandoned it all to the victors.

  "It is much to be lamented, on those occasions, that the people who
  contribute most to the victory should profit the least by it; not
  that I am an advocate for plunder--on the contrary, I would much
  rather that all our fighting was for pure love; but as everything of
  value falls into the hands of the followers and scoundrels who skulk
  from the ranks for the double purpose of plundering and saving their
  dastardly carcasses, what I regret is that the man who deserts his
  post should thereby have an opportunity of enriching himself with
  impunity, while the true man gets nothing; but the evil, I believe,
  is irremediable. Sir James Kempt, who commanded our brigade, in
  passing one of the captured waggons in the evening, saw a soldier
  loading himself with money, and was about to have him conveyed to the
  camp as a prisoner, when the fellow begged hard to be released, and
  to be allowed to retain what he had got, telling the general that
  all the boxes in the waggon were filled with gold. Sir James, with
  his usual liberality, immediately adopted the idea of securing it as
  a reward to his brigade for their gallantry; and, getting a fatigue
  party, he caused the boxes to be removed to his tent, and ordered an
  officer and some men from each regiment to parade there next morning
  to receive their proportions of it; but when they opened the boxes
  they found them filled with 'hammers, nails, and horse-shoes!'

  "As not only the body, but the mind, had been in constant occupation
  since three o'clock in the morning, circumstances no sooner
  permitted--about ten at night--than I threw myself on the ground,
  and fell into a profound sleep, from which I did not awake until
  broad daylight, when I found a French soldier squatted near me,
  intensely watching for the opening of my 'shutters.' He had contrived
  to conceal himself there during the night; and when he saw that I
  was awake, he immediately jumped on his legs, and very obsequiously
  presented me with a map of France, telling me that as there was now a
  probability of our visiting his native country, he could make himself
  very useful, and would be glad if I would accept of his services. I
  thought it unfair, however, to deprive him of the present opportunity
  of seeing a little more of the world himself; and therefore sent him
  to join the rest of the prisoners, which would insure him a trip to
  England, free of expense."

On the rough and shaggy field of the Pyrenees, with its deep and
tangled valleys and wind-scourged summits, where Soult was maintaining
a gallant and obstinate fight against Wellington, the British endured
and achieved much. Kincaid's account of the carrying of the Great
Rhune, of the passage of the Bidassoa and of the Nivelle, and of all
the fighting which led up to Toulouse, is worth giving:--

  "_November 10, 1813._--Petite La Rhune was allotted to our division
  as their first point of attack; and, accordingly, on the 10th being
  the day fixed, we moved to our ground at midnight on the 9th. The
  abrupt ridges in the neighbourhood enabled us to lodge ourselves,
  unperceived, within half musket-shot of their piquets; and we had
  left every description of animal behind us in camp, in order that
  neither the barking of dogs nor the neighing of steeds should give
  indication of our intentions. Our signal of attack was to be a gun
  from Sir John Hope, who had now succeeded Sir Thomas Graham in the
  command of the left wing of the army.

  "We stood to our arms at dawn of day, which was soon followed by
  the signal gun; and each commanding officer, according to previous
  instructions, led gallantly off to his point of attack. The French
  must have been, no doubt, astonished to see such an armed force
  spring out of the ground almost under their noses, but they were
  nevertheless prepared behind their entrenchments, and caused us some
  loss in passing the short space between us; but the whole place
  was carried within the time required to walk over it, and in less
  than half-an-hour from the commencement of the attack it was in our
  possession, with all their tents left standing.

  "Petite La Rhune was more of an outpost than a part of their
  position, the latter being a chain of stupendous mountains in its
  rear; so that, while our battalion followed their skirmishers into
  the valley between, the remainder of our division were forming for
  the attack on the main position and waiting for the co-operation of
  the other divisions, the thunder of whose artillery, echoing along
  the valleys, proclaimed that they were engaged far and wide on both
  sides of us. About mid-day our division advanced to the grand attack
  on the most formidable-looking part of the whole of the enemy's
  position, and, much to our surprise, we carried it with more ease
  and less loss than the outpost in the morning, a circumstance which
  we could only account for by supposing that it had been defended by
  the same troops, and that they did not choose to sustain two hard
  beatings on the same day. The attack succeeded at every point, and in
  the evening we had the satisfaction of seeing the left wing of the
  army marching into St. Jean de Luz."

Barnard, the gallant leader of the Rifles, was shot through the breast
when pressing in pursuit of the broken French, who had been driven
from the Little Rhune. He fell from his horse, and it was evident that
the lung was pierced, for blood and air issued from the wound, while
blood ran from the fallen man's mouth. "Do you think I am dying?" asked
Barnard coolly of an officer bending over him. "Did you ever see a man
so wounded recover?" He was told there were cases of recovery from such
a wound. "Then," said Barnard, "if any man can recover, I know that I
shall." And he did, his resolve not to die materially helping him to
survive. For so much does a cool and strong will count!

Kincaid's account of Toulouse is singularly brief. The Rifles were
placed so as to connect Picton's left with the Spaniards under Freire,
who were to attack the shoulder of Mont Rave. Thus Kincaid was able to
watch, and afterwards describe, the memorable rout of the Spaniards,
which forms the most picturesque feature of the battle. The Rifles
themselves were engaged in a sharp musketry fire with the convent, and
as they advanced a great open sewer had to be crossed and held. The
Rifles, according to the regimental record, suffered more from the
odours of the sewer than from the bullets of the French:--

  "We crossed the river, and advanced sufficiently near to the enemy's
  position to be just out of reach of their fire, where we waited until
  dispositions were made for the attack.

  "On our side of the river the Spanish army, which had never hitherto
  taken an active part in any of our general actions, now claimed
  the post of honour, and advanced to storm the strongest part of
  the heights. Our division was ordered to support them in the low
  grounds, and at the same time to threaten a point of the canal; and
  Picton, who was on our right, was ordered to make a false attack on
  the canal. These were all that were visible to us. The remaining
  divisions of the army were in continuation to the left.

  "The Spaniards, anxious to monopolise all the glory, I rather think,
  moved on to the attack a little too soon, and before the British
  divisions on their left were in readiness to co-operate. However,
  be that as it may, they were soon in a blaze of fire, and began
  walking through it at first with a great show of gallantry and
  determination; but their courage was not altogether screwed up to the
  sticking-point, and the nearer they came to the critical pass the
  less prepared they seemed to meet it, until they all finally faced to
  the right-about, and came back upon us as fast as their heels could
  carry them, pursued by the enemy.

  "We instantly advanced to their relief, and concluded that they
  would have rallied behind us, but they had no idea of doing anything
  of the kind, for when with Cuesta and some of the other Spanish
  generals they had been accustomed, under such circumstances, to run
  a hundred miles at a time; so that, passing through the intervals of
  our division, they went clear off to the rear, and we never saw them
  more. The moment the French found us interpose between them and the
  Spaniards they retired within their works.

  "The only remark that Lord Wellington was said to have made on their
  conduct, after waiting to see whether they would stand after they got
  out of the reach of the enemy's shot, was, 'Well, d---- me, if ever
  I saw ten thousand men run a race before!' However, notwithstanding
  their disaster, many of their officers certainly evinced great
  bravery, and on their account it is to be regretted that the attack
  was made so soon, for they would otherwise have carried their point
  with little loss, either of life or credit, as the British divisions
  on the left soon after stormed and carried all the other works, and
  obliged those who had been opposed to the Spaniards to evacuate
  theirs without firing another shot.

  "When the enemy were driven from the heights, they retired within
  the town, and the canal then became their line of defence, which
  they maintained the whole of the next day; but in the course of the
  following night they left the town altogether, and we took possession
  of it on the morning of the 12th.

  "The inhabitants of Toulouse hoisted the white flag, and declared
  for the Bourbons the moment that the French army had left it; and,
  in the course of the same day, Colonel Cooke arrived from Paris
  with the extraordinary news of Napoleon's abdication. Soult has
  been accused of having been in possession of that fact prior to the
  battle of Toulouse; but, to disprove such an assertion, it can only
  be necessary to think, for a moment, whether he would not have made
  it public the day after the battle, while he yet held possession of
  the town, as it would not only have enabled him to keep it, but, to
  those who knew no better, it might have given him a shadow of claim
  to the victory, if he chose to avail himself of it--and I have known
  a victory claimed by a French marshal on more slender grounds. In
  place of knowing it then, he did not even believe it now; and we were
  absolutely obliged to follow him a day's march beyond Toulouse before
  he agreed to an armistice."



CHAPTER IV

THE IMMINENT DEADLY BREACH


Of the three great and memorable sieges of the Peninsula--Ciudad
Rodrigo, Badajos, and San Sebastian--Kincaid took part in the first
two, and has left a curiously interesting account of his experiences
in them. Wellington's capture of Ciudad Rodrigo was a very swift and
dazzling stroke of war. The place was a great frontier fortress; it
held vast magazines of warlike material. While in French hands it
barred Wellington's advance into Spain. If captured, it would furnish a
secure base for such an advance.

Marmont and Soult, each in command of an army stronger than that under
Wellington, kept watch over the great fortress. To pluck it from their
very hands would have been judged beforehand an impossible thing. Yet
Wellington did it! He achieved the feat by a combination of secrecy,
audacity, and speed rarely excelled in war. He hid his preparations
beneath a veil of profoundest silence and mystery. Then, when his foes
had been thrown completely off their guard, he leaped on the doomed
fortress; and almost before the thunder of his guns had reached the
ears of Soult and of Marmont the fortress was lost! Wellington had
everything against him. His supplies were scanty, his siege train
miserable. The weather was bitter, and rains incessant, the ground
rocky. Yet the siege never faltered nor paused. Wellington broke ground
on January 8; he stormed the city on January 19. Never was a great
warlike operation conceived more subtly, or executed with greater fire
and swiftness.

Kincaid has a special right to tell the tale of this siege. He shared
in the hardships of the trenches, and led the storming party at one of
the breaches.

  "_January 8, 1812._--The campaign of 1812 commenced with the siege
  of Ciudad Rodrigo, which was invested by our division on the 8th of
  January.

  "There was a smartish frost, with some snow on the ground, and, when
  we arrived opposite the fortress, about mid-day, the garrison did
  not appear to think that we were in earnest, for a number of their
  officers came out, under the shelter of a stone wall, within half
  musket-shot, and amused themselves in saluting and bowing to us in
  ridicule; but, ere the day was done, some of them had occasion to
  wear the laugh on the opposite side of the countenance.

  "We lay by our arms until dark, when a party, consisting of a hundred
  volunteers from each regiment, under Colonel Colborne of the 52nd,
  stormed and carried the Fort of St. Francisco, after a short, sharp
  action, in which the whole of its garrison were taken or destroyed.
  The officer who commanded it was a chattering little fellow, and
  acknowledged himself to have been one of our saluting friends of the
  morning. He kept incessantly repeating a few words of English which
  he had picked up during the assault, and the only ones, I fancy,
  that were spoken, viz., 'dem eyes, b--t eyes!' and, in demanding
  the meaning of them, he required that we should also explain why
  we stormed a place without first besieging it; for, he said, that
  another officer would have relieved him of his charge at daylight,
  had we not relieved him of it sooner.

  "The enemy had calculated that this outwork would have kept us at bay
  for a fortnight or three weeks; whereas its capture the first night
  enabled us to break ground at once, within breaching distance of the
  walls of the town. They kept up a very heavy fire the whole night on
  the working parties; but, as they aimed at random, we did not suffer
  much, and made such good use of our time that, when daylight enabled
  them to see what we were doing, we had dug ourselves under tolerable
  cover.

  "In addition to ours, the first, third, and fourth divisions were
  employed in the siege. Each took the duties for twenty-four hours
  alternately, and returned to their cantonments during the interval.
  We were relieved by the first division, under Sir Thomas Graham, on
  the morning of the 9th, and marched to our quarters.

  "_January 12._--At ten o'clock this morning we resumed the duties of
  the siege. It still continued to be dry, frosty weather; and, as we
  were obliged to ford the Agueda, up to the middle, every man carried
  a pair of iced breeches into the trenches with him.

  "My turn of duty did not arrive until eight in the morning, when
  I was ordered to take thirty men with shovels to dig holes for
  ourselves, as near as possible to the walls, for the delectable
  amusement of firing at the embrasures for the remainder of the
  night. The enemy threw frequent fire-balls among us, to see where we
  were; but, as we always lay snug until their blaze was extinguished,
  they were not much the wiser, except by finding, from having some
  one popped off from their guns every instant, that they had got
  some neighbours whom they would have been glad to get rid of. We
  were relieved as usual at ten next morning, and returned to our
  cantonments.

  "_January 16._--Entered on our third day's duty, and found the
  breaching batteries in full operation, and our approaches close to
  the walls on every side. When we arrived on the ground I was sent
  to take command of the Highland company which we had at that time
  in the regiment, and which was with the left wing, under Colonel
  Cameron. I found them on piquet, between the right of the trenches
  and the river, half of them posted at a mud cottage and the other
  half in a ruined convent close under the walls. It was a very
  tolerable post when at it; but it is no joke travelling by daylight
  up to within a stone's throw of a wall on which there is a parcel of
  fellows who have no other amusement but to fire at everybody they see.

  "We could not show our noses at any point without being fired at;
  but, as we were merely posted there to protect the right flank of the
  trenches from any sortie, we did not fire at them, and kept as quiet
  as could be, considering the deadly blast that was blowing around us.
  There are few situations in life where something cannot be learnt,
  and I myself stand indebted to my twenty-four hours' residence there
  for a more correct knowledge of martial sounds than in the study of
  my whole life-time besides. They must be an unmusical pair of ears
  that cannot inform the wearer whether a cannon or a musket played
  last, but the various notes, emanating from their respective mouths,
  admit of nice distinctions. My party was too small and too well
  sheltered to repay the enemy for the expense of shells and round
  shot; but the quantity of grape and musketry aimed at our particular
  heads made a good concert of first and second whistles, while the
  more sonorous voice of the round shot, travelling to our friends on
  the left, acted as a thorough bass; and there was not a shell, that
  passed over us to the trenches, that did not send back a fragment
  among us as soon as it burst, as if to gratify a curiosity that I was
  far from expressing.

  "Everything is by comparison in this world, and it is curious to
  observe how men's feelings change with circumstances. In cool blood
  a man would rather go a little out of his way than expose himself to
  unnecessary danger; but we found, this morning, that by crossing the
  river where we then were and running the gantlet for a mile exposed
  to the fire of two pieces of artillery, that we should be saved the
  distance of two or three miles in returning to our quarters. After
  coming out of such a furnace as we had been frying in, the other
  fire was not considered a fire at all, and passed without a moment's
  hesitation.

  "_January 19, 1812._--We moved to the scene of operations about two
  o'clock this afternoon; and, as it was a day before our regular turn,
  we concluded that we were called there to lend a hand in finishing
  the job we had begun so well. Nor were we disappointed, for we found
  that two practicable breaches had been effected, and that the place
  was to be stormed in the evening by the third and light divisions,
  the former by the right breach, and the latter by the left, while
  some Portuguese troops were to attempt an escalade on the opposite
  sides of the town.

  "About eight o'clock in the evening our division was accordingly
  formed for the assault, behind a convent, near the left breach.

  "At a given signal the different columns advanced to the assault;
  the night was tolerably clear, and the enemy evidently expected us,
  for as soon as we turned the corner of the convent wall, the space
  between us and the breach became one blaze of light with their
  fire-balls, which, while they lighted us on to glory, lightened not a
  few of their lives and limbs; for the whole glacis was in consequence
  swept by a well-directed fire of grape and musketry, and they are the
  devil's own brooms; but our gallant fellows walked through it to the
  point of attack, with the most determined steadiness, excepting the
  Portuguese sack-bearers, most of whom lay down behind their bags, to
  wait the result, while the few that were thrown into the ditch looked
  so like dead bodies, that, when I leapt into it, I tried to avoid
  them.

  "The advantage of being on a storming party is considered as giving
  the prior claim to be 'put out of pain,' for they receive the first
  fire, which is generally the best, not to mention that they are
  also expected to receive the earliest salutations from the beams
  of timber, hand-grenades, and other missiles which the garrison
  are generally prepared to transfer from the top of the wall, to
  the tops of the heads of their foremost visitors. But I cannot say
  that I myself experienced any such preference, for every ball has
  a considerable distance to travel, and I have generally found them
  equally ready to pick up their man at the end as at the beginning of
  their flight.

  "We had some difficulty at first in finding the breach, as we had
  entered the ditch opposite to a ravelin, which we mistook for a
  bastion. I tried first one side of it and then the other, and seeing
  one corner of it a good deal battered, with a ladder placed against
  it, I concluded that it must be the breach, and calling to the
  soldiers near me to follow, I mounted with the most ferocious intent,
  carrying a sword in one hand and a pistol in the other; but, when
  I got up, I found nobody to fight with, except two of our own men,
  who were already laid dead across the top of the ladder. I saw in a
  moment that I had got into the wrong box, and was about to descend
  again, when I heard a shout from the opposite side that the breach
  was there; and, moving in that direction, I dropped myself from the
  ravelin, and landed in the ditch, opposite to the foot of the breach,
  where I found the head of the storming party just beginning to fight
  their way into it. The combat was of short duration, and, in less
  than half-an-hour from the commencement of the attack, the place was
  in our possession.

  "After carrying the breach, we met with no further opposition, and
  moved round the ramparts to see that they were perfectly clear of the
  enemy, previous to entering the town. I was fortunate enough to take
  the left-hand circuit, by accident, and thereby escape the fate which
  befel a great portion of those who went to the right, and who were
  blown up, along with some of the third division, by the accidental
  explosion of a magazine.

  "I was highly amused, in moving round the ramparts, to find some of
  the Portuguese troops just commencing their escalade, on the opposite
  side near the bridge, in ignorance of the place having already
  fallen. Gallantly headed by their officers, they had got some ladders
  placed against the wall, while about two thousand voices from the
  rear were cheering with all their might for mutual encouragement;
  and, like most other troops under similar circumstances, it appeared
  to me that their feet and their tongues went at a more equal pace
  after we gave them the hint. On going a little farther we came
  opposite to the ravelin which had been my chief annoyance during my
  last day's piquet. It was still crowded by the enemy, who had now
  thrown down their arms and endeavoured to excite our pity by virtue
  of their being 'Pauvres Italianos'; but our men had somehow imbibed
  a horrible antipathy to the Italians, and every appeal they made in
  that name was invariably answered with: 'You're Italians, are you?
  then d--n you, here's a shot for you'; and the action instantly
  followed the word.

  "We continued our course round the ramparts until we met the head
  of the column which had gone by the right, and then descended into
  the town. At the entrance of the first street, a French officer
  came out of a door and claimed my protection, giving me his sword.
  He told me that there was another officer in the same house who was
  afraid to venture out, and entreated that I would go in for him. I,
  accordingly, followed him up to the landing-place of a dark stair,
  and, while he was calling to his friend, by name to come down 'as
  there was an English officer present who would protect him,' a
  violent screaming broke through a door at my elbow. I pushed it open,
  and found the landlady struggling with an English soldier, whom I
  immediately transferred to the bottom of the stair head foremost. The
  French officer had followed me in at the door, and was so astonished
  at all he saw, that he held up his hands, turned up the whites of his
  eyes, and resolved himself into a state of most eloquent silence.

  "As the other officer could not be found, I descended into the
  street again with my prisoner; and, finding the current of soldiers
  setting towards the centre of the town, I followed the stream,
  which conducted me into the great square, on one side of which the
  late garrison were drawn up as prisoners, and the rest of it was
  filled with British and Portuguese intermixed without any order or
  regularity. I had been there but a very short time, when they all
  commenced firing, without any ostensible cause; some fired in at the
  doors and windows, some at the roofs of houses, and others at the
  clouds; and at last some heads began to be blown from their shoulders
  in the general hurricane, when the voice of Sir Thomas Picton,
  with the power of twenty trumpets, began to proclaim damnation to
  everybody, while Colonel Barnard, Colonel Cameron, and some other
  active officers, were carrying it into effect with a strong hand;
  for seizing the broken barrels of muskets which were lying about in
  great abundance, they belaboured every fellow most unmercifully about
  the head who attempted either to load or fire, and finally succeeded
  in reducing them to order. In the midst of the scuffle, however,
  three of the houses in the square were set on fire; and the confusion
  was such that nothing could be done to save them; but, by the
  extraordinary exertions of Colonel Barnard during the whole of the
  night, the flames were prevented from communicating to the adjoining
  buildings.

  "We succeeded in getting a great portion of our battalion together by
  one o'clock in the morning, and withdrew with them to the ramparts,
  where we lay by our arms until daylight.

  "There is nothing in this life half so enviable as the feelings of
  a soldier after a victory. Previous to a battle there is a certain
  sort of something that pervades the mind which is not easily defined;
  it is neither akin to joy or fear, and, probably, anxiety may be
  nearer to it than any other word in the dictionary; but, when the
  battle is over, and crowned with victory, he finds himself elevated
  for a while into the regions of absolute bliss! It had ever been the
  summit of my ambition to attain a post at the head of a storming
  party--my wish had now been accomplished and gloriously ended; and
  I do think that, after all was over, and our men laid asleep on the
  ramparts, that I strutted about as important a personage, in my own
  opinion, as ever trod the face of the earth; and, had the ghost of
  the renowned Jack-the-Giant-Killer itself passed that way at the
  time, I venture to say that I would have given it a kick in the
  breech without the smallest ceremony. But, as the sun began to rise,
  I began to fall from the heroics; and, when he showed his face, I
  took a look at my own and found that I was too unclean a spirit to
  worship, for I was covered with mud and dirt, with the greater part
  of my dress torn to rags.

  "The fifth division, which had not been employed in the siege,
  marched in and took charge of the town on the morning of the 20th,
  and we prepared to return to our cantonments. Lord Wellington
  happened to be riding in at the gate at the time that we were
  marching out, and had the curiosity to ask the officer of the leading
  company what regiment it was; for there was scarcely a vestige of
  uniform among the men, some of whom were dressed in Frenchmen's
  coats, some in white breeches and huge jack-boots, some with cocked
  hats and queues; most of their swords were fixed on the rifles, and
  stuck full of hams, tongues, and loaves of bread, and not a few were
  carrying bird-cages! There never was a better masked corps!

  "Among other things carried from Ciudad Rodrigo, one of our men had
  the misfortune to carry his death in his hands, under the mistaken
  shape of amusement. He thought that it was a cannon-ball, and took
  it for the purpose of playing at the game of nine-holes, but it
  happened to be a live shell. In rolling it along it went over a bed
  of burning ashes, and ignited without his observing it. Just as he
  had got it between his legs, and was in the act of discharging it a
  second time, it exploded, and nearly blew him to pieces."

The story of the siege of Badajos is darker and more tragical than
that of the capture of Ciudad Rodrigo. The defences of Badajos were
much more formidable than those of the sister fortress, the garrison
was more numerous, the defence more stubborn and skilful. Phillipon,
the commander of the assailed city, has, indeed, won enduring fame by
the skill and valour of his defence. Yet the siege only lasted twenty
days. It was begun on March 16; on April 6 the city was stormed. It was
carried by a night assault; but the breaches were imperfect, and the
art of Phillipon had made the Great Breach practically impregnable. But
the fierce and unquailing valour with which the British stormers flung
themselves on the breaches, and died on their rough and blood-splashed
slopes, makes one of the most thrilling stories in the history of war.
All the attacks on the breeches failed; but Picton carried the castle
by escalcade, and Leith forced his way over the bastion of St. Vincent,
where no breach existed, and where the scarp was thirty feet high; and
so the town was carried. It was one of the Rifles of whom Napier tells
the story, that in his resolution to win, he thrust himself beneath
the chained sword-blades at the summit of the Great Breach, and there
suffered the enemy to dash his head to pieces with the ends of their
muskets. Of Major O'Hare, who led the stormers of the Rifles, a grim
story is told. As his men were moving off in the darkness he shook
hands with a brother officer, and said: 'A Lieutenant-Colonel or cold
meat in a few hours.' He fell, shot dead on the breach itself ten
minutes afterwards.

As Kincaid led one of the storming parties at Ciudad Rodrigo, a lighter
part was assigned to him at Badajos. He commanded a strong party whose
business it was to line the glacis and keep down the fire from the
ramparts. He tells the tale briefly:--

  "On the 17th of March 1812, the third, fourth, and light divisions
  encamped around Badajos, embracing the whole of the inland side of
  the town on the left bank of the Guadiana, and commenced breaking
  ground before it immediately after dark the same night.

  "The elements on this occasion adopted the cause of the besieged,
  for we had scarcely taken up our ground when a heavy rain commenced,
  and continued, almost without intermission, for a fortnight; in
  consequence thereof the pontoon bridge, connecting us with our
  supplies from Elvas, was carried away by the rapid increase of
  the river, and the duties of the trenches were otherwise rendered
  extremely harassing. We had a smaller force employed than at Rodrigo,
  and the scale of operations was so much greater that it required
  every man to be actually in the trenches six hours every day, and
  the same length of time every night, which, with the time required
  to march to and from them, through fields more than ankle-deep in a
  stiff mud, left us never more than eight hours out of the twenty-four
  in camp, and we never were dry the whole time.

  "One day's trench work is as like another as the days themselves,
  and like nothing better than serving an apprenticeship to the double
  calling of gravedigger and gamekeeper, for we found ample employment
  both for the spade and the rifle.

  "The Portuguese artillery, under British officers, was uncommonly
  good. I used to be much amused in looking at a twelve-gun
  breaching-battery of theirs. They knew the position of all the
  enemy's guns which could bear upon them, and had one man posted to
  watch them, to give notice of what was coming, whether a shot or
  a shell, who accordingly kept calling out, 'Bomba, balla, balla,
  bomba,' and they ducked their heads until the missile passed; but
  sometimes he would see a general discharge from all arms, when he
  threw himself down, screaming out, 'Jesus, todos, todos!' meaning
  'everything.'

  "An officer of ours was sent one morning before daylight with ten
  men to dig holes for themselves opposite to one of the enemy's guns
  which had been doing a great deal of mischief the day before, and he
  had soon the satisfaction of knowing the effect of his practice by
  seeing them stopping up the embrasure with sand-bags. After waiting a
  little he saw them beginning to remove the bags, when he made his men
  open upon it again, and they were instantly replaced without the guns
  being fired. Presently he saw the huge cocked hat of a French officer
  make its appearance on the rampart near the embrasure, but knowing
  by experience that the head was somewhere in the neighbourhood, he
  watched until the flash of a musket through the long grass showed
  the position of the owner, and calling one of his best shots, he
  desired him to take deliberate aim at the spot, and lent his shoulder
  as a rest to give it more elevation. Bang went the shot, and it was
  the finishing flash for the Frenchman, for they saw no more of him,
  although his cocked hat maintained its post until dark.

  "In proportion as the grand crisis approached, the anxiety of the
  soldiers increased, not on account of any doubt or dread as to the
  result, but for fear that the place should be surrendered without
  standing an assault; for, singular as it may appear, although there
  was a certainty of about one man out of every three being knocked
  down, there were, perhaps, not three men in the three divisions who
  would not rather have braved all the chances than receive it tamely
  from the hands of the enemy. So great was the rage for passports into
  eternity in our battalion on that occasion that even the officers'
  servants insisted on taking their places in the ranks, and I was
  obliged to leave my baggage in charge of a man who had been wounded
  some days before.

  "On the 6th of April three practicable breaches had been effected,
  and arrangements were made for assaulting the town that night: the
  third division by escalade at the castle, a brigade of the fifth
  division by escalade at the opposite side of the town, while the
  fourth and light divisions were to storm the breaches. The whole were
  ordered to be formed for the attack at eight o'clock.

  "_April 6, 1812._--Our division formed for the attack of the left
  breach in the same order as at Ciudad Rodrigo. The command of it had
  now devolved upon our commandant, Colonel Barnard. I was then the
  acting adjutant of four companies, under Colonel Cameron, who were to
  line the crest of the glacis, and to fire at the ramparts and the top
  of the left breach.

  "The enemy seemed aware of our intentions. The fire of artillery
  and musketry, which for three weeks before had been incessant, both
  from the town and trenches, had now entirely ceased as if by mutual
  consent, and a death-like silence of nearly an hour preceded the
  awful scene of carnage.

  "The signal to advance was made about nine o'clock, and our four
  companies led the way. Colonel Cameron and myself had reconnoitred
  the ground so accurately by daylight that we succeeded in bringing
  the head of our column to the very spot agreed on, opposite to the
  left breach, and then formed line to the left without a word being
  spoken, each man lying down as he got into line, with the muzzle of
  his rifle over the edge of the ditch, between the palisades, all
  ready to open. It was tolerably clear above, and we distinctly saw
  their heads lining the ramparts, but there was a sort of haze on
  the ground which, with the colour of our dress, prevented them from
  seeing us, although only a few yards asunder. One of their sentries,
  however, challenged us twice, "Qui vive," and, receiving no reply,
  he fired off his musket, which was followed by their drums beating
  to arms; but we still remained perfectly quiet, and all was silence
  again for the space of five or ten minutes, when the head of the
  forlorn hope at length came up, and we took advantage of the first
  fire while the enemy's heads were yet visible.

  "The scene that ensued furnished as respectable a representation of
  hell itself as fire and sword and human sacrifices could make it, for
  in one instant every engine of destruction was in full operation. It
  is in vain to attempt a description of it. We were entirely excluded
  from the right breach by an inundation which the heavy rains had
  enabled the enemy to form, and the two others were rendered totally
  impracticable by their interior defences.

  "The five succeeding hours were therefore passed in the most gallant
  and hopeless attempts on the part of individual officers, forming
  up fifty or a hundred men at a time at the foot of the breach,
  and endeavouring to carry it by desperate bravery; and, fatal as
  it proved to each gallant band in succession, yet, fast as one
  dissolved, another was formed. We were informed about twelve at night
  that the third division had established themselves in the castle; but
  as its situation and construction did not permit them to extend their
  operations beyond it at the moment, it did not in the least affect
  our opponents at the breach, whose defence continued as obstinate as
  ever.

  "I was near Colonel Barnard after midnight, when he received repeated
  messages from Lord Wellington to withdraw from the breach and to form
  the division for a renewal of the attack at daylight; but as fresh
  attempts continued to be made, and the troops were still pressing
  forward into the ditch, it went against his gallant soul to order
  a retreat while yet a chance remained; but after heading repeated
  attempts himself, he saw that it was hopeless, and the order was
  reluctantly given about two o'clock in the morning. We fell back
  about three hundred yards, and re-formed all that remained to us.

  "Our regiment alone had to lament the loss of twenty-two officers
  killed and wounded, ten of whom were killed, or afterwards died of
  their wounds. We had scarcely got our men together when we were
  informed of the success of the fifth division in their escalade, and
  that the enemy were, in consequence, abandoning the breaches, and we
  were immediately ordered forward to take possession of them. On our
  arrival we found them entirely evacuated, and had not occasion to
  fire another shot; but we found the utmost difficulty and even danger
  in getting in in the dark, even without opposition. As soon as we
  succeeded in establishing our battalion inside, we sent piquets into
  the different streets and lanes leading from the breach, and kept the
  remainder in hand until day should throw some light on our situation.

  "When I was in the act of posting one of the piquets a man of ours
  brought me a prisoner, telling me that he was the governor; but the
  other immediately said that he had only called himself so the better
  to ensure his protection, and then added that he was the colonel of
  one of the French regiments, and that all his surviving officers were
  assembled at his quarters, in a street close by, and would surrender
  themselves to any officer who would go with him for that purpose.
  I accordingly took two or three men with me, and, accompanying him
  there, found fifteen or sixteen of them assembled, and all seeming
  very much surprised at the unexpected termination of the siege. They
  could not comprehend under what circumstances the town had been lost,
  and repeatedly asked me how I had got in; but I did not choose to
  explain further than simply telling them that I had entered at the
  breach, coupling the information with a look which was calculated to
  convey somewhat more than I knew myself; for, in truth, when I began
  to recollect that a few minutes before had seen me retiring from the
  breach under a fanciful overload of degradation, I thought that I had
  now as good a right as any man to be astonished at finding myself
  lording it over the officers of a French battalion; nor was I much
  wiser than they were as to the manner of its accomplishment.

  "They were all very much dejected, excepting their major, who was
  a big, jolly-looking Dutchman, with medals enough on his left
  breast to have furnished the window of a tolerable toy-shop. His
  accomplishments were after the manner of Captain Dugald Dalgetty;
  and while he cracked his joke he was not inattentive to the cracking
  of the corks from the many wine bottles which his colonel placed
  on the table successively, along with some cold meat, for general
  refreshment, prior to marching into captivity, and which I, though a
  free man, was not too proud to join them in.

  "When I had allowed their chief a reasonable time to secure what
  valuables he wished about his person, he told me that he had two
  horses in the stable, which, as he would no longer be permitted to
  keep, he recommended me to take; and as a horse is the only thing on
  such occasions that an officer can permit himself to consider a legal
  prize, I caused one of them to be saddled, and his handsome black
  mare thereby became my charger during the remainder of the war.

  "In proceeding with my prisoners towards the breach I took, by
  mistake, a different road to that I came; and as numbers of Frenchmen
  were lurking about for a safe opportunity of surrendering themselves,
  about a hundred additional ones added themselves to my column as we
  moved along, jabbering their native dialect so loudly as nearly to
  occasion a dire catastrophe, as it prevented me from hearing some
  one challenge in my front; but, fortunately, it was repeated and I
  instantly answered; for Colonel Barnard and Sir Colin Campbell had a
  piquet of our men drawn across the street on the point of sending a
  volley into us, thinking that we were a rallied body of the enemy.

  "The whole of the garrison were marched off as prisoners to Elvas,
  about ten o'clock in the morning, and our men were then permitted
  to fall out to enjoy themselves for the remainder of the day, as a
  reward for having kept together so long as they were wanted. The
  whole of the three divisions were by this time loose in the town, and
  the usual frightful scene of plunder commenced, which the officers
  thought it necessary to avoid for the moment by retiring to the camp.

  "We went into the town on the morning of the 8th to endeavour
  to collect our men, but only succeeded in part, as the same
  extraordinary scene of plunder and rioting still continued. Wherever
  there was anything to eat or drink, the only saleable commodities,
  the soldiers had turned the shopkeepers out of doors and placed
  themselves regularly behind the counter, selling off the contents of
  the shop. By-and-by another and a stronger party would kick those out
  in their turn, and there was no end to the succession of self-elected
  shopkeepers, until Lord Wellington found that to restore order severe
  measures must be resorted to. On the third day he caused a Portuguese
  brigade to be marched in and kept standing to their arms in the great
  square, where the provost-marshal erected a gallows and proceeded to
  suspend a few of the delinquents, which very quickly cleared the town
  of the remainder, and enabled us to give a more satisfactory account
  of our battalion than we had hitherto been able to do.

  "The third day after the fall of the town, I rode, with Colonel
  Cameron, to take a bathe in the Guadiana, and, in passing the verge
  of the camp of the fifth division, we saw two soldiers standing at
  the door of a small shed, or outhouse, shouting, waving their caps,
  and making signs that they wanted to speak to us. We rode up to see
  what they wanted, and found that the poor fellows had each lost a
  leg. They told us that a surgeon had dressed their wounds on the
  night of the assault, but that they had ever since been without food
  or assistance of any kind, although they, each day, had opportunities
  of soliciting the aid of many of their comrades, from whom they could
  obtain nothing but promises. In short, surrounded by thousands of
  their countrymen within call, and not more than three hundred yards
  from their own regiment, they were unable to interest any one in
  their behalf, and they were literally starving. It is unnecessary to
  say that we instantly galloped back to camp and had them removed to
  the hospital.

  "On the morning of the 7th, when some of our officers were performing
  the last duties to their fallen comrades, one of them had collected
  the bodies of four young officers who had been slain. He was in
  the act of digging a grave for them, when an officer of the Guards
  arrived on the spot, from a distant division of the army, and
  demanded tidings of his brother, who was at that moment lying a naked
  lifeless corpse under his very eyes. The officer had the presence
  of mind to see that the corpse was not recognised, and, wishing to
  spare the others feelings, told him that his brother was dangerously
  wounded, but he would hear more of him by going out to the camp;
  and thither the other immediately bent his steps, with a seeming
  presentiment of the sad intelligence that awaited him."

One curious incident in the siege of Badajos may be related. The day
after the assault two Spanish ladies, the younger a beautiful girl of
fourteen, appealed for help to two officers of the Rifles, who were
passing through one of the streets of the town. Their dress was torn,
their ears, from which rings had been roughly snatched, were bleeding,
and to escape outrage or death they cast themselves on the protection
of the first British officers they met. One of the officers was Captain
Harry Smith of the Rifles. Two years later he married the girl he had
saved in a scene so wild. Captain Harry Smith, in after years, served
at the Cape as Sir Harry, and this Spanish girl, as Lady Smith, gave
her name to the historic town which Sir George White defended with such
stubborn valour. The two great sieges of Badajos and of Ladysmith are
separated from each other by nearly a century; but there exists this
interesting human link betwixt them.



CHAPTER V

IN THE PYRENEES


The great battles and sieges, of course, arrest the attention of the
historian, and their tale has been told over and over again. But what
may be called the unrecorded marches and skirmishes of the campaign
have genuine interest; and Kincaid, as we have seen, describes these
with great vividness. Another set of such pictures is supplied by the
campaign in the Pyrenees, where the soldiers marched and fought in
wild and sunless ravines, on the wild-blown crests of mighty hills,
or in deep and roadless valleys. Here are some of Kincaid's Pyrenean
reminiscences. The month is July 1813. Wellington is pushing the broken
French back through the hill passes towards the French frontiers:--

  "We advanced along the banks of the Bidassoa, through a succession
  of beautiful little fertile valleys, thickly studded with clean,
  respectable-looking farm-houses and little villages, and bounded by
  stupendous, picturesque, and well-wooded mountains, until we came to
  the hill next to the village of Bera, which we found occupied by a
  small force of the enemy, who, after receiving a few shots from our
  people, retired through the village into their position behind it.
  Our line of demarcation was then clearly seen. The mountain which the
  French army occupied was the last ridge of the Pyrenees; and their
  sentries stood on the face of it, within pistol-shot of the village
  of Bera, which now became the advanced post of our division. The left
  wing of the army, under Sir Thomas Graham, now commenced the siege
  of St. Sebastian; and as Lord Wellington had, at the same time, to
  cover both that and the blockade of Pampeluna, our army occupied an
  extended position of many miles.

  "Marshal Soult having succeeded to the command of the French army,
  and finding, towards the end of July, that St. Sebastian was about
  to be stormed, and that the garrison of Pampeluna were beginning to
  get on short allowance, he determined on making a bold push for the
  relief of both places; and, assembling the whole of his army, he
  forced the pass of Maya, and advanced rapidly upon Pampeluna. Lord
  Wellington was never to be caught napping. His army occupied too
  extended a position to offer effectual resistance at any of their
  advanced posts; but, by the time that Marshal Soult had worked his
  way to the last ridge of the Pyrenees, and within sight of 'the haven
  of his wishes,' he found his lordship waiting for him, with four
  divisions of the army, who treated him to one of the most signal and
  sanguinary defeats that he ever experienced.

  "Our division during the important movements on our right was
  employed in keeping up the communication between the troops under
  the immediate command of Lord Wellington and those under Sir Thomas
  Graham, at St. Sebastian. We retired, the first day, to the mountains
  behind Le Secca; and, just as we were about to lie down for the
  night, we were again ordered under arms, and continued our retreat
  in utter darkness, through a mountain path, where, in many places, a
  false step might have rolled a fellow as far as the other world. The
  consequence was, that, although we were kept on our legs during the
  whole of the night, we found, when daylight broke, that the tail of
  the column had not got a quarter of a mile from their starting-post.
  On a good broad road it is all very well, but on a narrow, bad road
  a night march is like a nightmare, harassing a man to no purpose.

  "On the 26th, we occupied a ridge of mountain near enough to hear
  the battle, though not in a situation to see it; and remained the
  whole of the day in the greatest torture for want of news. About
  midnight we heard the joyful tidings of the enemy's defeat, with the
  loss of four thousand prisoners. Our division proceeded in pursuit
  at daylight on the following morning. We moved rapidly by the same
  road on which we had retired; and, after a forced march, found
  ourselves, when near sunset, on the flank of their retiring column on
  the Bidassoa, near the bridge of Janca, and immediately proceeded to
  business.

  "The sight of a Frenchman always acted like a cordial on the spirits
  of a rifleman; and the fatigues of the day were forgotten, as our
  three battalions extended among the brushwood, and went down to
  'knock the dust out of their hairy knapsacks,'[1] as our men were in
  the habit of expressing themselves; but, in place of knocking the
  dust out of them, I believe that most of their knapsacks were knocked
  in the dust; for the greater part of those who were not floored along
  with their knapsacks, shook them off, by way of enabling the owner to
  make a smarter scramble across that portion of the road on which our
  leaden shower was pouring; and, foes as they were, it was impossible
  not to feel a degree of pity for their situation; pressed by an enemy
  in the rear, an inaccessible mountain on their right, and a river on
  their left, lined by an invisible foe, from whom there was no escape
  but the desperate one of running the gantlet.

  "We advanced next morning, and occupied our former post at Bera. The
  enemy still continued to hold the mountain of Echelar, which, as it
  rose out of the right end of our ridge, was, properly speaking, a
  part of our property, and we concluded that a sense of justice would
  have induced them to leave it of their own accord in the course of
  the day; but, when towards the afternoon, they showed no symptoms of
  quitting, our division, leaving their kettles on the fire, proceeded
  to eject them. As we approached the mountain, the peak of it caught a
  passing cloud, that gradually descended in a thick fog and excluded
  them from our view. Our three battalions, however, having been let
  loose, under Colonel Barnard, we soon made ourselves 'Children of the
  Mist'; and, guided to our opponents by the whistling of their balls,
  made them descend from their 'high estate'; and, handing them across
  the valley into their own position, we then retired to ours, where we
  found our tables ready spread, and a comfortable dinner waiting for
  us.

  "This was one of the most gentleman-like day's fighting that I ever
  experienced, although we had to lament the vacant seats of one or two
  of our messmates.

  "_August 22._--I narrowly escaped being taken prisoner this morning,
  very foolishly. A division of Spaniards occupied the ground to our
  left, beyond the Bidassoa; and having mounted my horse to take a look
  at their post, I passed through a small village, and then got on a
  rugged path winding along the edge of the river, where I expected to
  find their outposts. The river at that place was not above knee-deep,
  and about ten or twelve yards across; and though I saw a number of
  soldiers gathering chestnuts from a row of trees which lined the
  opposite bank, I concluded that they were Spaniards, and kept moving
  onwards; but, observing at last, that I was an object of greater
  curiosity than I ought to be to people who had been in the daily
  habit of seeing the uniform, it induced me to take a more particular
  look at my neighbours, when, to my consternation, I saw the French
  eagle ornamenting the front of every cap. I instantly wheeled my
  horse to the right about; and seeing that I had a full quarter of
  a mile to traverse at a walk, before I could get clear of them, I
  began to whistle, with as much unconcern as I could muster, while
  my eye was searching like lightning for the means of escape in the
  event of their trying to cut me off. I had soon the satisfaction of
  observing that none of them had firelocks, which reduced my capture
  to the chances of a race! for, though the hill on my right was
  inaccessible to a horseman, it was not so to a dismounted Scotchman;
  and I therefore determined, in case of necessity, to abandon my
  horse, and show them what I could do on my own bottom at a pinch.
  Fortunately they did not attempt it; and I could scarcely credit my
  good luck when I found myself once more in my own tent."

No fighting in the whole Peninsular campaign was more stubborn than
that which took place in the Pyrenees towards the close of 1813. Soult
showed great skill and audacity as a general. He was fighting to keep
the invader's foot from profaning the "sacred" soil of France, and
his genius shines at its brightest in the combats fought in the wild
country betwixt San Sebastian and Bayonne. But Wellington's troops were
veterans, flushed with victory and full of pride in themselves and
confidence in their leader; and they were irresistible. One or two of
Kincaid's sketches of fighting in the Pyrenees may be given:--

  "The ensuing month passed by without producing the slightest novelty,
  and we began to get heartily tired of our situation. Our souls, in
  fact, were strung for war, and peace afforded no enjoyment, unless
  the place did, and there was none to be found in a valley of the
  Pyrenees, which the ravages of contending armies had reduced to a
  desert. The labours of the French on the opposite mountain had, in
  the first instance, been confined to fortification; but, as the
  season advanced, they seemed to think that the branch of a tree, or a
  sheet of canvas, was too slender a barrier between them and a frosty
  night, and their fortified camp was gradually becoming a fortified
  town of regular brick and mortar. Though we were living under the
  influence of the same sky, we did not think it necessary to give
  ourselves the same trouble, but reasoned on their proceedings like
  philosophers, and calculated, from the aspect of the times, that
  there was a probability of a speedy transfer of property, and that it
  might still be reserved for us to give their town a name; nor were
  we disappointed. Late on the night of the 7th of October, Colonel
  Barnard arrived from headquarters with the intelligence that the next
  was to be the day of trial. Accordingly, on the morning of the 8th,
  the fourth division came up to support us, and we immediately marched
  down to the foot of the enemy's position, shook off our knapsacks
  before their faces, and went at them.

  "The action commenced by five companies of our third battalion
  advancing, under Colonel Ross, to dislodge the enemy from a hill
  which they occupied in front of their entrenchments; and there never
  was a movement more beautifully executed, for they walked quietly and
  steadily up, and swept them regularly off without firing a single
  shot until the enemy had turned their backs, when they then served
  them out with a most destructive discharge. The movement excited the
  admiration of all who witnessed it, and added another laurel to the
  already crowded wreath which adorned the name of that distinguished
  officer.

  "At the first look of the enemy's position it appeared as if our
  brigade had got the most difficult task to perform; but as the
  capture of this hill showed us a way round the flank of their
  entrenchments, we carried one after the other until we finally gained
  the summit, with very little loss. Our second brigade, however, were
  obliged to take 'the bull by the horns' on their side, and suffered
  more severely; but they rushed at everything with a determination
  that defied resistance, carrying redoubt after redoubt at the point
  of the bayonet, until they finally joined us on the summit of the
  mountain, with three hundred prisoners in their possession.

  "We now found ourselves firmly established within the French
  territory, with a prospect before us that was truly refreshing,
  considering that we had not seen the sea for three years, and that
  our views for months had been confined to fogs and the peaks of
  mountains. On our left the Bay of Biscay lay extended as far as the
  horizon, while several of our ships of war were seen sporting upon
  her bosom. Beneath us lay the pretty little town of St. Jean de Luz,
  which looked as if it had just been framed out of the Liliputian
  scenery of a toy-shop. The town of Bayonne, too, was visible in the
  distance, and the view to the right embraced a beautiful, well-wooded
  country, thickly studded with towns and villages, as far as the eye
  could reach.

  "On the morning of the 9th we turned out as usual an hour before
  daylight. The sound of musketry to our right in our own hemisphere
  announced that the French and Spaniards had resumed their unfinished
  argument of last night relative to the occupation of La Rhune; while
  at the same time 'from our throne of clouds' we had an opportunity
  of contemplating, with some astonishment, the proceedings of the
  nether world. A French ship of war, considering St. Jean de Luz no
  longer a free port, had endeavoured, under cover of the night, to
  steal alongshore to Bayonne, and when daylight broke they had an
  opportunity of seeing that they were not only within sight of their
  port, but within sight of a British gun-brig, and if they entertained
  any doubts as to which of the two was nearest, their minds were
  quickly relieved on that point by finding that they were not within
  reach of their port, and strictly within reach of the guns of the
  brig, while two British frigates were bearing down with a press
  of canvas. The Frenchman returned a few broadsides. He was double
  the size of the one opposed to him, but, conceiving his case to be
  hopeless, he at length set fire to the ship and took to his boats.
  We watched the progress of the flames, until she finally blew up and
  disappeared in a column of smoke. The boats of our gun-brig were
  afterwards seen employed in picking up the odds and ends.

  "The French, after leaving La Rhune, established their advanced post
  on Petite La Rhune, a mountain that stood as high as most of its
  neighbours; but, as its name betokens, it was but a child to its
  gigantic namesake, of which it seemed as if it had at a former period
  formed a part; but having been shaken off like a useless galoche, it
  now stood gaping, open-mouthed, at the place it had left (and which
  had now become our advanced post), while the enemy proceeded to
  furnish its jaws with a set of teeth, or, in other words, to face it
  with breastworks, &c., a measure which they invariably had recourse
  to in every new position.

  "Encamped on the face of La Rhune, we remained a whole month idle
  spectators of their preparations, and dearly longing for the day
  that should afford us an opportunity of penetrating into the more
  hospitable-looking low country beyond them; for the weather had
  become excessively cold, and our camp stood exposed to the utmost
  fury of the almost nightly tempest. Oft have I in the middle of
  the night awoke from a sound sleep and found my tent on the point
  of disappearing in the air like a balloon, and, leaving my warm
  blankets, been obliged to snatch the mallet and rush out in the
  midst of a hailstorm to peg it down. I think that I now see myself
  looking like one of those gay creatures of the elements who dwelt, as
  Shakespeare has it, among the rainbows!

  "By way of contributing to the warmth of my tent, I dug a hole
  inside, which I arranged as a fireplace, carrying the smoke
  underneath the walls, and building a turf-chimney outside. I was not
  long in proving the experiment, and, finding that it went exceedingly
  well, I was not a little vain of the invention. However, it came on
  to rain very hard while I was dining at a neighbouring tent, and on
  my return to my own I found the fire not only extinguished, but a
  fountain playing from the same place up to the roof, watering my bed
  and baggage, and all sides of it, most refreshingly.

  "It is very singular that, notwithstanding our exposure to all the
  severities of the worst of weather, we had not a single sick man in
  the battalion while we remained there."

To this period belongs the stern fighting near Bayonne betwixt December
9 and 13, 1813.

  "We turned out at daylight on the 10th, but as there was a thick
  drizzling rain which prevented us from seeing anything, we soon
  turned in again. My servant soon after came to tell me that Sir
  Lowry Cole and some of his staff had just ascended to the top of the
  château, a piece of information which did not quite please me, for I
  fancied that the general had just discovered our quarter to be better
  than his own, and had come for the purpose of taking possession of
  it. However, in less than five minutes we received an order for our
  battalion to move up instantly to the support of the piquets; and
  on my descending to the door to mount my horse, I found Sir Lowry
  standing there, who asked if we had received any orders, and on my
  telling him that we had been ordered up to support the piquets, he
  immediately desired a staff-officer to order up one of his brigades
  to the rear of the château. This was one of the numerous instances in
  which we had occasion to admire the prudence and forethought of the
  great Wellington! He had foreseen the attack that would take place,
  and had his different divisions disposed to meet it.

  "The enemy came up to the opposite ridge in formidable numbers,
  and began blazing at our windows and loopholes and showing some
  disposition to attempt it by storm; but they thought better of it,
  and withdrew their columns a short distance to the rear, leaving the
  nearest hedge lined with their skirmishers. An officer of ours, Mr.
  Hopewood, and one of our sergeants, had been killed in the field
  opposite, within twenty yards of where the enemy's skirmishers now
  were. We were very anxious to get possession of their bodies, but had
  not force enough to effect it. Several French soldiers came through
  the hedge at different times with the intention, as we thought, of
  plundering, but our men shot every one who attempted to go near them,
  until towards evening, when a French officer approached, waving a
  white handkerchief and pointing to some of his men who were following
  him with shovels. Seeing that his intention was to bury them we
  instantly ceased firing, nor did we renew it again that night.

  "The 43rd, from their post at the church, kept up an incessant shower
  of musketry the whole of the day, at what was conceived at the time
  to be a very long range; but from the quantity of balls which were
  afterwards found sticking in every tree where the enemy stood, it
  was evident that their berth must have been rather uncomfortable.
  One of our officers, in the course of the day, had been passing
  through a deep roadway between two banks with hedgerows, when, to
  his astonishment, a dragoon and his horse tumbled heels over head
  into the road, as if they had been fired out of a cloud. Neither of
  them were the least hurt; but it must have been no joke that tempted
  him to take such a flight. General Alten and Sir James Kempt took up
  their quarters with us in the château; our sentries and those of the
  enemy stood within pistol-shot of each other in the ravine below.

  "On the 12th there was heavy firing and hard fighting all day to our
  left, but we remained perfectly quiet. Towards the afternoon Sir
  James Kempt formed our brigade for the purpose of expelling the enemy
  from the hill next to the château, to which he thought them rather
  too near; but, just as we reached our different points for commencing
  the attack, we were recalled, and nothing further occurred.

  "I went about one o'clock in the morning to visit our different
  piquets, and seeing an unusual number of fires in the enemy's lines,
  I concluded that they had lit them to mask some movement; and, taking
  a patrol with me, I stole cautiously forward and found that they had
  left the ground altogether. I immediately returned and reported the
  circumstance to General Alten, who sent off a despatch to apprise
  Lord Wellington.

  "As soon as day began to dawn on the morning of the 13th, a
  tremendous fire of artillery and musketry was heard to our right.
  Soult had withdrawn everything from our front in the course of the
  night, and had now attacked Sir Rowland Hill with his whole force.
  Lord Wellington, in expectation of this attack, had last night
  reinforced Sir Rowland Hill with the sixth division; which enabled
  him to occupy his contracted position so strongly that Soult, unable
  to bring more than his own front to bear upon him, sustained a signal
  and sanguinary defeat.

  "Lord Wellington galloped into the yard of our château soon after the
  attack had commenced, and demanded, with his usual quickness, what
  was to be seen? Sir James Kempt, who was spying at the action from an
  upper window, told him; and, after desiring Sir James to order Sir
  Lowry Cole to follow him with the fourth division, he galloped off to
  the scene of action. In the afternoon, when all was over, he called
  in again on his return to headquarters, and told us, 'that it was the
  most glorious affair that he had ever seen; and that the enemy had
  absolutely left upwards of five thousand men killed and wounded on
  the ground.'"

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 1: The French knapsack is made of unshorn goatskin.]



CHAPTER VI

QUATRE BRAS


Napoleon escaped from Elba on January 26, 1815; on March 19 he reached
Fontainebleau, and Louis XVIII. fled from Paris. Instantly the flames
of war were rekindled throughout Europe. England hurried her best
troops into the Netherlands, where a great army under Wellington
was assembling. Amongst the first of the regiments to embark were
naturally the famous Rifles. Kincaid had persuaded himself that his
fighting days were ended, and he was peacefully shooting woodcocks in
Scotland when summoned to join his regiment at speed. His battalion had
sailed, and he caught the first boat leaving Leith for Rotterdam. It
took ten days to reach the coast of Holland, and then went helplessly
ashore. Kincaid got safely to land, and pushed on to Brussels, when he
found his battalion forming part of the fifth division under Picton.
A fortnight's pause followed, while the Prussian and English armies
watched and listened for the first sign or sound which would show where
Napoleon's blow was about to fall. It was the fate of the Rifles to
take a gallant part in the stern fight at Quatre Bras, and Kincaid
tells the story very graphically:--

  "As our division was composed of crack regiments under crack
  commanders, and headed by fire-eating generals, we had little to
  do the first fortnight after my arrival beyond indulging in all
  the amusements of our delightful quarter; but, as the middle of
  June approached, we began to get a little more on the _qui vive_,
  for we were aware that Napoleon was about to make a dash at some
  particular point; and, as he was not the sort of general to give
  his opponent an idea of the when and the where, the greater part of
  our army was necessarily disposed along the frontier, to meet him
  at his own place. They were, of course, too much extended to offer
  effectual resistance in their advanced position; but as our division
  and the Duke of Brunswick's corps were held in reserve at Brussels,
  in readiness to be thrust at whatever point might be attacked, they
  were a sufficient additional force to check the enemy for the time
  required to concentrate the army.

  "We were, the whole of June 15th, on the most anxious lookout for
  news from the front; but no report had been received prior to the
  hour of dinner. I went, about seven in the evening, to take a stroll
  in the park, and meeting one of the Duke's staff he asked me, _en
  passant_, whether my pack-saddles were all ready? I told him that
  they were nearly so, and added, 'I suppose they won't be wanted, at
  all events, before to-morrow?' to which he replied, in the act of
  leaving me, 'If you have any preparation to make, I would recommend
  you not to delay so long.' I took the hint, and, returning to
  quarters, remained in momentary expectation of an order to move. The
  bugles sounded to arms about two hours after.

  "To the credit of our battalion, be it recorded that, although the
  greater part were in bed when the assembly sounded, and billeted
  over the most distant parts of that extensive city, every man was on
  his alarm-post before eleven o'clock in a complete state of marching
  order; whereas it was nearly two o'clock in the morning before we
  were joined by the others.

  "As a grand ball was to take place the same night at the Duchess
  of Richmond's, the order for the assembling of the troops was
  accompanied by permission for any officer who chose, to remain for
  the ball, provided that he joined his regiment early in the morning.
  Several of ours took advantage of it.

  "Waiting for the arrival of the other regiments, we endeavoured to
  snatch an hour's repose on the pavement; but we were every instant
  disturbed, by ladies as well as gentlemen, some stumbling over us in
  the dark--some shaking us out of our sleep to be told the news--and
  not a few conceiving their immediate safety depending upon our
  standing in place of lying. All those who applied for the benefit
  of my advice, I recommended to go home to bed, to keep themselves
  perfectly cool, and to rest assured that, if their departure from the
  city became necessary (which I very much doubted), they would have at
  least one whole day to prepare for it, as we were leaving some beef
  and potatoes behind us, for which, I was sure, we would fight rather
  than abandon!

  "The whole of the division having at length assembled, we were put in
  motion about three o'clock on the morning of the 16th, and advanced
  to the village of Waterloo, where, forming in a field adjoining the
  road, our men were allowed to prepare their breakfasts. I succeeded
  in getting mine in a small inn on the left-hand side of the village.
  Lord Wellington joined us about nine o'clock; and from his very
  particular orders to see that the roads were kept clear of baggage,
  and everything likely to impede the movements of the troops, I have
  since been convinced that his lordship had thought it probable that
  the position of Waterloo might, even that day, have become the
  scene of action; for it was a good broad road, on which there were
  neither the quantity of baggage nor of troops moving at the time to
  excite the slightest apprehension of confusion. Leaving us halted,
  he galloped on to the front, followed by his staff; and we were soon
  after joined by the Duke of Brunswick, with his corps of the army.

  "His Highness dismounted near the place where I was standing, and
  seated himself on the roadside, along with his adjutant-general.
  He soon after despatched his companion on some duty; and I was
  much amused to see the vacated place immediately filled by an old
  beggar-man, who, seeing nothing in the black hussar uniform beside
  him denoting the high rank of the wearer, began to grunt and scratch
  himself most luxuriously! The Duke showed a degree of courage which
  few would under such circumstances; for he maintained his post until
  the return of his officer, when he very jocularly said, 'Well,
  O----n, you see that your place was not long unoccupied!' How little
  idea had I, at the time, that the life of the illustrious speaker was
  limited to three short hours!

  "About twelve o'clock an order arrived for the troops to advance,
  leaving their baggage behind; and though it sounded warlike, yet we
  did not expect to come in contact with the enemy, at all events, on
  that day. But, as we moved forward, the symptoms of their immediate
  presence kept gradually increasing; for we presently met a cartload
  of wounded Belgians; and, after passing through Genappe, the distant
  sound of a solitary gun struck on the listening ear. But all doubt
  on the subject was quickly removed; for, on ascending the rising
  ground where stands the village of Quatre Bras, we saw a considerable
  plain in our front, flanked on each side by a wood, and on another
  acclivity beyond, we could perceive the enemy descending towards us
  in most imposing numbers.

  "Quatre Bras, at that time, consisted of only three or four houses;
  and, as its name betokens, I believe, stood at the junction of four
  roads, on one of which we were moving; a second inclined to the
  right; a third, in the same degree, to the left; and the fourth, I
  conclude, must have gone backwards; but, as I had not an eye in
  that direction, I did not see it. The village was occupied by some
  Belgians, under the Prince of Orange, who had an advanced post in a
  large farmhouse at the foot of the road, which inclined to the right;
  and a part of his division also occupied the wood on the same side.

  "Lord Wellington, I believe, after leaving us at Waterloo, galloped
  on to the Prussian position at Ligny, where he had an interview
  with Blucher, in which they concerted measures for their mutual
  co-operation. When we arrived at Quatre Bras, however, we found him
  in a field near the Belgian outpost; and the enemy's guns were just
  beginning to play upon the spot where he stood, surrounded by a
  numerous staff.

  "We halted for a moment on the brow of the hill; and as Sir Andrew
  Barnard galloped forward to the headquarter group, I followed, to
  be in readiness to convey any orders to the battalion. The moment
  we approached, Lord Fitzroy Somerset, separating himself from the
  Duke, said, 'Barnard, you are wanted instantly; take your battalion
  and endeavour to get possession of that village,' pointing to one
  on the face of the rising ground, down which the enemy were moving;
  'but if you cannot do that, secure that wood on the left, and keep
  the road open for communication with the Prussians.' We instantly
  moved in the given direction; but, ere we had got half-way to the
  village, we had the mortification to see the enemy throw such a force
  into it as rendered any attempt to retake it, with our numbers,
  utterly hopeless; and as another strong body of them were hastening
  towards the wood, which was the second object pointed out to us, we
  immediately brought them to action, and secured it. In moving to that
  point, one of our men went raving mad, from excessive heat. The poor
  fellow cut a few extraordinary capers, and died in the course of a
  few minutes.

  "While our battalion reserve occupied the front of the wood, our
  skirmishers lined the side of the road, which was the Prussian line
  of communication. The road itself, however, was crossed by such
  a shower of balls, that none but a desperate traveller would have
  undertaken a journey on it. We were presently reinforced by a small
  battalion of foreign light troops, with whose assistance we were in
  hopes to have driven the enemy a little farther from it; but they
  were a raw body of men, who had never before been under fire, and, as
  they could not be prevailed upon to join our skirmishers, we could
  make no use of them whatever. Sir Andrew Barnard repeatedly pointed
  out to them which was the French, and which was our side; and, after
  explaining that they were not to fire a shot until they joined our
  skirmishers, the word 'March!' was given; but march to them was
  always the signal to fire, for they stood fast, and began blazing
  away, chiefly at our skirmishers too, the officers commanding whom
  were every time sending back to say that we were shooting them: until
  we were at last obliged to be satisfied with whatever advantages
  their appearance could give, as even that was of some consequence
  where troops were so scarce.

  "Bonaparte's attack on the Prussians had already commenced, and the
  fire of artillery and musketry in that direction was tremendous; but
  the intervening higher ground prevented us from seeing any part of it.

  "The plain to our right which we had just quitted had likewise become
  the scene of a sanguinary and unequal contest. Our division after we
  left it deployed into line, and, in advancing, met and routed the
  French infantry; but in following up their advantage they encountered
  a furious charge of cavalry, and were obliged to throw themselves
  into squares to receive it. With the exception of one regiment,
  however, which had two companies cut to pieces, they were not only
  successful in resisting the attack, but made awful havoc in the
  enemy's ranks, who, nevertheless, continued their forward career, and
  went sweeping past them like a whirlwind up to the village of Quatre
  Bras, to the confusion and consternation of the numerous useless
  appendages of our army who wore there assembled waiting the result of
  the battle.

  "The forward movement of the enemy's cavalry gave their infantry
  time to rally; and strongly reinforced with fresh troops, they again
  advanced to the attack. This was a crisis in which, according to
  Bonaparte's theory, the victory was theirs by all the rules of war,
  for they held superior numbers both before and behind us; but the
  gallant old Picton, who had been trained in a different school, did
  not choose to confine himself to rules in those matters. Despising
  the force in his rear, he advanced, charged, and routed those in his
  front, which created such a panic among the others that they galloped
  back through the intervals in his division with no other object in
  view but their own safety. After this desperate conflict the firing
  on both sides lulled almost to a calm for nearly an hour, while each
  was busy in renewing their order of battle.

  "The battle, on the side of the Prussians, still continued to rage in
  an unceasing roar of artillery. About four in the afternoon a troop
  of their dragoons came, as a patrol, to inquire how it fared with us,
  and told us in passing that they still maintained their position.
  Their day, however, was still to be decided, and, indeed, for that
  matter, so was our own; for, although the firing for the moment had
  nearly ceased, I had not yet clearly made up my mind which side had
  been the offensive, which the defensive, or which the winning. I
  had merely the satisfaction of knowing that we had not lost it; for
  we had met fairly in the middle of a field (or, rather unfairly,
  considering that they had two to one), and, after the scramble was
  over, our division still held the ground they fought on. All doubts
  on the subject, however, began to be removed about five o'clock. The
  enemy's artillery once more opened, and on running to the brow of
  the hill to ascertain the cause, we perceived our old light-division
  general, Count Alten, at the head of a fresh British division, moving
  gallantly down the road towards us. It was, indeed, a joyful sight;
  for, as already mentioned, our division had suffered so severely
  that we could not help looking forward to a renewal of the action,
  with such a disparity of force, with considerable anxiety. But this
  reinforcement gave us new life, and, as soon as they came near
  enough to afford support, we commenced the offensive, and driving in
  the skirmishers opposed to us, succeeded in gaining a considerable
  portion of the position originally occupied by the enemy, when
  darkness obliged us to desist. In justice to the foreign battalion
  which had been all day attached to us, I must say that, in this last
  movement, they joined us cordially and behaved exceedingly well. They
  had a very gallant young fellow at their head; and their conduct in
  the earlier part of the day can therefore only be ascribed to its
  being their first appearance on such a stage.

  "Leaving General Alten in possession of the ground which we had
  assisted in winning, we returned in search of our division, and
  reached them about eleven at night, lying asleep in their glory on
  the field where they had fought, which contained many a bloody trace
  of the day's work. The firing, on the side of the Prussians, had
  altogether ceased before dark, but recommenced with redoubled fury
  about an hour after; and it was then, as we afterwards learnt, that
  they lost the battle.

  "We lay down by our arms near the farmhouse already mentioned, in
  front of Quatre Bras; and the deuce is in it if we were not in
  good trim for sleeping, seeing that we had been either marching or
  fighting for twenty-six successive hours."

In the retreat from Quatre Bras to Waterloo, made necessary by the
defeat of Blucher at Ligny, the Rifles formed part of the rearguard.
Says Kincaid:--

  "_June 17._--As last night's fighting only ceased with the daylight,
  the scene this morning presented a savage, unsettled appearance; the
  fields were strewed with the bodies of men, horses, torn clothing,
  and shattered cuirasses; and, though no movements appeared to be
  going on on either side, yet, as occasional shots continued to be
  exchanged at different points, it kept every one wide awake. We had
  the satisfaction of knowing that the whole of our army had assembled
  on the hill behind in the course of the night.

  "About nine o'clock we received the news of Blucher's defeat, and of
  his retreat to Wavre. Lord Wellington, therefore, immediately began
  to withdraw his army to the position of Waterloo. Sir Andrew Barnard
  was ordered to remain as long as possible with our battalion, to mask
  the retreat of the others; and was told, if we were attacked, that
  the whole of the British cavalry were in readiness to advance to our
  relief. I had an idea, however, that a single rifle battalion in the
  midst of ten thousand dragoons, would come but indifferently off in
  the event of a general crash, and was by no means sorry when, between
  eleven and twelve o'clock, every regiment had got clear off, and we
  followed before the enemy had put anything in motion against us.

  "After leaving the village of Quatre Bras, and passing through our
  cavalry who were formed on each side of the road, we drew up at
  the entrance of Genappe. The rain at that moment began to descend
  in torrents, and our men were allowed to shelter themselves in the
  nearest houses; but we were obliged to turn out again in the midst of
  it in less than five minutes, as we found the French cavalry and ours
  already exchanging shots, and the latter were falling back to the
  more favourable ground behind Genappe; we therefore retired with them
  _en masse_ through the village, and formed again on the rising ground
  beyond.

  "While we remained there we had an opportunity of seeing the
  different affairs of cavalry; and it did one's heart good to see how
  cordially the Life Guards went at their work. They had no idea of
  anything but straight-forward fighting, and sent their opponents
  flying in all directions. The only young thing they showed was in
  every one who got a roll in the mud (and, owing to the slipperiness
  of the ground, there were many) going off to the rear, according to
  their Hyde Park custom, as being no longer fit to appear on parade! I
  thought at first that they had been all wounded, but, on finding how
  the case stood, I could not help telling them that theirs was now the
  situation to verify the old proverb, 'The uglier the better soldier!'

  "The roads as well as the fields had now become so heavy that our
  progress to the rear was very slow; and it was six in the evening
  before we drew into the position of Waterloo. Our battalion took
  post in the second line that night, with its right resting on the
  Namur Road, behind La Haye Sainte, near a small mud cottage, which
  Sir Andrew Barnard occupied as a quarter. The enemy arrived in front
  in considerable force about an hour after us, and a cannonade took
  place in different parts of the line, which ended at dark, and we lay
  down by our arms. It rained excessively hard the greater part of the
  night, nevertheless, having succeeded in getting a bundle of hay for
  my horse, and one of straw for myself, I secured the horse to his
  bundle, by tying him to one of the men's swords stuck in the ground,
  and, placing mine under his nose, I laid myself down upon it, and
  never opened my eyes again until daylight."



CHAPTER VII

THE RIFLES AT WATERLOO


Nothing in Kincaid's "adventures" is finer than his account of
Waterloo. He tells, it is true, only that which took place about
himself, and, as the grey and strangling battle-smoke lay for hours
on the ridge where Kincaid stood, he could see only a very tiny patch
of the great landscape of the battle. Waterloo, for him, might be
described as a ring of imprisoning smoke, over which bellowed and
echoed constantly the roar of a hundred guns, and out of which, at
irregular intervals, broke lines of French infantry--sometimes as a
spray of skirmishers, sometimes as massed battalions. Sometimes, by
way of change, a column of horsemen--helmeted dragoons, cuirassiers in
glittering breastplates, red lancers of the Guard--broke through the
fog, rode at the stubborn line of the Rifles, and reeled off into the
fog again, pursued by darting musketry volleys. To endure and to repel
incessant attacks, hour after hour, was the business of the dwindling
companies of the Rifles. The third battalion, to which Kincaid
belonged, formed part of Adams's brigade. It stood a hundred yards
to the rear of La Haye Sainte, a little to the left of Wellington's
centre. The famous sandpit was in the immediate front of the battalion,
and was held by three companies of Rifles. On this point in the British
line the utmost strength of the French attack--horse, foot, and
artillery--was expended, and no men that day saw fiercer fighting than
did Kincaid and his fellow-riflemen. Kincaid, therefore, has this right
to tell the story of Waterloo: he fought through the whole of that
fateful day in the very heart of the great struggle:--

  "When I awoke this morning at daylight, I found myself drenched with
  rain. I had slept so long and so soundly that I had, at first, but
  a very confused notion of my situation; but having a bright idea
  that my horse had been my companion when I went to sleep, I was
  rather startled at finding that I was now alone, nor could I rub my
  eyes clear enough to procure a sight of him, which was vexatious
  enough; for, independent of his value as a horse, his services were
  indispensable, and an adjutant might as well think of going into
  action without his arms as without such a supporter. But whatever my
  feelings might have been towards him, it was evident that he had none
  for me, from having drawn his sword and marched off. The chances of
  finding him again, amid ten thousand others, were about equal to the
  odds against the needle in a bundle of hay; but for once the single
  chance was gained, as, after a diligent search of an hour, he was
  discovered between two artillery horses, about half a mile from where
  he broke loose.

  "The weather cleared up as the morning advanced; and, though
  everything remained quiet at the moment, we were confident that
  the day would not pass off without an engagement, and, therefore,
  proceeded to put our arms in order, as, also, to get ourselves dried
  and made as comfortable as circumstances would permit.

  "We made a fire against the wall of Sir Andrew Barnard's cottage,
  and boiled a huge camp-kettle full of tea, mixed up with a suitable
  quantity of milk and sugar, for breakfast; and, as it stood on
  the edge of the high-road, where all the big-wigs of the army
  had occasion to pass, in the early part of the morning, I believe
  almost every one of them, from the Duke downwards, claimed a
  cupful. About ten o'clock an unusual bustle was observable among
  the staff-officers, and we soon after received an order to stand to
  our arms. The troops who had been stationed in our front during the
  night were then moved off to the right, and our division took up its
  fighting position.

  "Our battalion stood on what was considered the left centre of the
  position. We had our right resting on the Brussels road, about a
  hundred yards in the rear of the farmhouse of La Haye Sainte, and our
  left extending behind a broken hedge, which ran along the ridge to
  the left. Immediately in our front, and divided from La Haye Sainte
  only by the great road, stood a small knoll, with a sand-hole in its
  farthest side, which we occupied, as an advanced post, with three
  companies. The remainder of the division was formed in two lines;
  the first, consisting chiefly of light troops, behind the hedge, in
  continuation from the left of our battalion reserve, and the second,
  about a hundred yards in its rear. The guns were placed in the
  intervals between the brigades, two pieces were in the roadway on our
  right, and a rocket brigade in the centre.

  "The road had been cut through the rising ground, and was about
  twenty or thirty feet deep where our right rested, and which, in a
  manner, separated us from all the troops beyond. The division, I
  believe, under General Alten occupied the ground next to us, on the
  right.

  "Shortly after we had taken up our ground, some columns, from the
  enemy's left, were seen in motion towards Hougoumont, and were soon
  warmly engaged with the right of our army. A cannon ball, too, came
  from the Lord knows where, for it was not fired at us and took the
  head off our right-hand man. That part of their position, in our
  own immediate front, next claimed our undivided attention. It had
  hitherto been looking suspiciously innocent, with scarcely a human
  being upon it; but innumerable black specks were now seen taking post
  at regular distances in its front, and recognising them as so many
  pieces of artillery, I knew, from experience, although nothing else
  was yet visible, that they were unerring symptoms of our not being
  destined to be idle spectators.

  "From the moment we took possession of the knoll we had busied
  ourselves in collecting branches of trees and other things, for
  the purpose of making an abatis to block up the road between that
  and the farmhouse, and soon completed one, which we thought looked
  sufficiently formidable to keep out the whole of the French cavalry;
  but it was put to the proof sooner than we expected, by a troop of
  our own light dragoons, who, having occasion to gallop through,
  astonished us not a little by clearing away every stick of it. We
  had just time to replace the scattered branches, when the whole of
  the enemy's artillery opened, and their countless columns began to
  advance under cover of it."

The attack on Hougoumont, it will be remembered, was intended by
Napoleon to be a mere feint, serving to draw off Wellington's attention
from the real attack, the onfall of D'Erlon's huge columns on the
left centre of the British position, which Napoleon hoped to pierce
and destroy. Napoleon's tactics broke down first at Hougoumont, for
the feigned attack grew persistent and obstinate, and drew into its
madness more than twelve thousand good infantry, and after all failed.
D'Erlon's great infantry attack was defeated by the stubbornness of
Picton's slender lines, and by the sudden and overwhelming onfall
of the Life Guards, Inniskillings, and Greys. Kincaid tells how he
watched the French columns taking position for their attack:--

  "The scene at that moment was grand and imposing, and we had a few
  minutes to spare for observation. The column destined as 'our'
  particular 'friends,' first attracted our notice, and seemed to
  consist of about ten thousand infantry. A smaller body of infantry
  and one of cavalry moved on their right; and, on their left, another
  huge column of infantry, and a formidable body of cuirassiers, while
  beyond them it seemed one moving mass.

  "We saw Bonaparte himself take post on the side of the road
  immediately in our front, surrounded by a numerous staff; and each
  regiment, as they passed him, rent the air with shouts of 'Vive
  l'Empereur,' nor did they cease after they had passed, but, backed
  by the thunder of their artillery, and carrying with them the
  rub-a-dub of drums and the tantarara of trumpets, in addition to
  their increasing shouts, it looked at first as if they had some
  hopes of scaring us off the ground, for it was a singular contrast
  to the stern silence reigning on our side, where nothing as yet
  but the voices of our great guns told that we had mouths to open
  when we chose to use them. Our rifles were, however, in a very few
  seconds required to play their parts, and opened such a fire on the
  advancing skirmishers as quickly brought them to a standstill; but
  their columns advanced steadily through them, although our incessant
  tiralade was telling in their centre with fearful exactness, and our
  post was quickly turned in both flanks, which compelled us to fall
  back and join our comrades behind the hedge, though not before some
  of our officers and theirs had been engaged in personal combat.

  "When the heads of their columns showed over the knoll which we had
  just quitted, they received such a fire from our first line that they
  wavered and hung behind it a little; but, cheered and encouraged by
  the gallantry of their officers, who were dancing and flourishing
  their swords in front, they at last boldly advanced to the opposite
  side of our hedge and began to deploy. Our first line, in the
  meantime, was getting so thinned that Picton found it necessary to
  bring up his second, but fell in the act of doing it. The command of
  the division at that critical moment devolved upon Sir James Kempt,
  who was galloping along the line, animating the men to steadiness. He
  called to me by name, where I happened to be standing on the right
  of our battalion, and desired 'that I would never quit that spot.'
  I told him that 'he might depend upon it;' and in another instant I
  found myself in a fair way of keeping my promise more religiously
  than I intended; for, glancing my eye to the right, I saw the next
  field covered with the cuirassiers, some of whom were making directly
  for the gap in the hedge where I was standing.

  "I had not hitherto drawn my sword, as it was generally to be had
  at a moment's warning; but from its having been exposed to the last
  night's rain, it had now got rusted in the scabbard and refused to
  come forth! I was in a precious scrape. Mounted on my strong Flanders
  mare, and with my good old sword in my hand, I would have braved
  all the chances without a moment's hesitation; but I confess that I
  felt considerable doubts as to the propriety of standing there to be
  sacrificed without the means of making a scramble for it. My mind,
  however, was happily relieved from such an embarrassing consideration
  before my decision was required; for the next moment the cuirassiers
  were charged by our household brigade, and the infantry in our front,
  giving way at the same time under our terrific shower of musketry,
  the flying cuirassiers tumbled in among the routed infantry, followed
  by the Life Guards, who were cutting away in all directions. Hundreds
  of the infantry threw themselves down and pretended to be dead, while
  the cavalry galloped over them, and then got up and ran away. I
  never saw such a scene in all my life.

  "Lord Wellington had given orders that the troops were on no account
  to leave the position to follow up any temporary advantage; so that
  we now resumed our post, as we stood at the commencement of the
  battle, and with three companies again advanced on the knoll. I was
  told it was very ridiculous at that moment to see the number of
  vacant spots that were left nearly along the whole of the line, where
  a great part of the dark-dressed foreign troops had stood, intermixed
  with the British, when the action began.

  "Our division got considerably reduced in numbers during the last
  attack; but Lord Wellington's fostering hand sent Sir John Lambert to
  our support with the sixth division, and we now stood prepared for
  another and a more desperate struggle. Our battalion had already lost
  three officers killed and six or seven wounded; among the latter were
  Sir Andrew Barnard and Colonel Cameron.

  "Some one asking me what had become of my horse's ear was the
  first intimation I had of his being wounded; and I now found that,
  independent of one ear having been shaved close to his head (I
  suppose by a cannon-shot), a musket-ball had grazed across his
  forehead and another gone through one of his legs, but he did not
  seem much the worse for either of them.

  "Between two and three o'clock we were tolerably quiet, except from
  a thundering cannonade; and the enemy had by that time got the range
  of our position so accurately that every shot brought a ticket for
  somebody's head. An occasional gun beyond the plain, far to our left,
  marked the approach of the Prussians; but their progress was too
  slow to afford a hope of their arriving in time to take any share in
  the battle. On our right the roar of cannon and musketry had been
  incessant from the time of its commencement; but the higher ground
  near us prevented our seeing anything of what was going on."

The anguish of the fight, as far as the Rifles were concerned, came
when La Haye Sainte was carried by the French. This gave them cover
at half-musket range, whence they could waste the British front with
their fire. Their elation at having carried the farmhouse, it may be
added, gave them new fire and audacity. They believed they had broken
the British centre, that the day was won, that the stubborn British
line was about to crumble and flee! And French soldiers are never so
dangerous as when the rapture of real or imagined victory is kindling
their blood. The pressure on the sadly-thinned lines of the Rifles was
cruel, but it was borne with cool and stubborn valour:--

  "Between three and four o'clock the storm gathered again in our
  front. Our three companies on the knoll were soon involved in a
  furious fire. The Germans occupying La Haye Sainte expended all their
  ammunition and fled from the post. The French took possession of it;
  and as it flanked our knoll we were obliged to abandon it also and
  fall back again behind the hedge.

  "The loss of La Haye Sainte was of the most serious consequence as
  it afforded the enemy an establishment within our position. They
  immediately brought up two guns on our side of it, and began serving
  out some grape to us; but they were so very near that we destroyed
  their artillerymen before they could give us a second round.

  "The silencing of these guns was succeeded by a very extraordinary
  scene on the same spot. A strong regiment of Hanoverians advanced
  in line to charge the enemy out of La Haye Sainte; but they were
  themselves charged by a brigade of cuirassiers, and, excepting one
  officer, on a little black horse, who went off to the rear like a
  shot out of a shovel, I do believe that every man of them was put to
  death in about five seconds. A brigade of British light dragoons
  advanced to their relief, and a few on each side began exchanging
  thrusts; but it seemed likely to be a drawn battle between them,
  without much harm being done, when our men brought it to a crisis
  sooner than either side anticipated, for they previously had their
  rifles eagerly pointed at the cuirassiers, with a view of saving the
  perishing Hanoverians; but the fear of killing their friends withheld
  them, until the others were utterly overwhelmed, when they instantly
  opened a terrific fire on the whole concern, sending both sides to
  flight; so that, on the small space of ground, within a hundred yards
  of us, where five thousand men had been fighting the instant before,
  there was not now a living soul to be seen.

  "It made me mad to see the cuirassiers in their retreat stooping and
  stabbing at our wounded men as they lay on the ground. How I wished
  that I had been blessed with Omnipotent power for a moment, that I
  might have blighted them!

  "The same field continued to be a wild one the whole of the
  afternoon. It was a sort of duelling-post between the two armies,
  every half-hour showing a meeting of some kind upon it; but they
  never exceeded a short scramble, for men's lives were held very cheap
  there.

  "For the two or three succeeding hours there was no variety with us,
  but one continued blaze of musketry. The smoke hung so thick about,
  that, although not more than eighty yards asunder, we could only
  distinguish each other by the flashes of the pieces.

  "I shall never forget the scene which the field of battle presented
  about seven in the evening. I felt weary and worn out, less from
  fatigue than anxiety. Our division, which had stood upwards of
  five thousand men at the commencement of the battle, had gradually
  dwindled down into a solitary line of skirmishers. The 27th Regiment
  were lying literally dead, in square, a few yards behind us. My horse
  had received another shot through the leg, and one through the flap
  of the saddle, which lodged in his body, sending him a step beyond
  the pension-list. The smoke still hung so thick about us that we
  could see nothing. I walked a little way to each flank, to endeavour
  to get a glimpse of what was going on; but nothing met my eye except
  the mangled remains of men and horses, and I was obliged to return to
  my post as wise as I went.

  "I had never yet heard of a battle in which everybody was killed; but
  this seemed likely to be an exception, as all were going by turns.
  We got excessively impatient under the tame similitude of the latter
  part of the process, and burned with desire to have a last thrust at
  our respective _vis-a-vis_; for, however desperate our affairs were,
  we had still the satisfaction of seeing that theirs were worse. Sir
  John Lambert continued to stand as our support at the head of three
  good old regiments, one dead (the 27th) and two living ones, and we
  took the liberty of soliciting him to aid our views; but the Duke's
  orders on that head were so very particular that the gallant general
  had no choice.

  "Presently a cheer, which we knew to be British, commenced far to the
  right, and made every one prick up his ears--it was Lord Wellington's
  long-wished-for orders to advance; it gradually approached, growing
  louder as it drew near--we took it up by instinct, charged through
  the hedge down upon the old knoll, sending our adversaries flying
  at the point of the bayonet. Lord Wellington galloped up to us at
  the instant, and our men began to cheer him; but he called out, 'No
  cheering, my lads, but forward, and complete your victory!'

  "This movement had carried us clear of the smoke; and, to people
  who had been for so many hours enveloped in darkness, in the midst
  of destruction, and naturally anxious about the result of the day,
  the scene which now met the eye conveyed a feeling of more exquisite
  gratification than can be conceived. It was a fine summer's evening,
  just before sunset. The French were flying in one confused mass.
  British lines were seen in close pursuit, and in admirable order,
  as far as the eye could reach to the right, while the plain to the
  left was filled with Prussians. The enemy made one last attempt at a
  stand on the rising ground to our right of La Belle Alliance; but a
  charge from General Adams's brigade again threw them into a state of
  confusion, which was now inextricable, and their ruin was complete.
  Artillery, baggage, and everything belonging to them fell into our
  hands. After pursuing them until dark, we halted about two miles
  beyond the field of battle, leaving the Prussians to follow up the
  victory.

  "This was the last, the greatest, and the most uncomfortable heap of
  glory that I ever had a hand in, and may the deuce take me if I think
  that everybody waited there to see the end of it, otherwise it never
  could have been so troublesome to those who did. We were, take us all
  in all, a very bad army. Our foreign auxiliaries, who constituted
  more than half of our numerical strength, with some exceptions, were
  little better than a raw militia--a body without a soul, or like an
  inflated pillow, that gives to the touch and resumes its shape again
  when the pressure ceases--not to mention the many who went clear out
  of the field, and were only seen while plundering our baggage in
  their retreat.

  "Our heavy cavalry made some brilliant charges in the early part of
  the day; but they never knew when to stop, their ardour in following
  their advantages carrying them headlong on, until many of them 'burnt
  their fingers,' and got dispersed or destroyed. Of that gallant
  corps, the Royal Artillery, it is enough to say that they maintained
  their former reputation--the first in the world--and it was a serious
  loss to us in the latter part of the day to be deprived of this more
  powerful co-operation, from the causes already mentioned.

  "If Lord Wellington had been at the head of his old Peninsula army,
  I am confident that he would have swept his opponents off the face
  of the earth immediately after their first attack; but, with such a
  heterogeneous mixture under his command, he was obliged to submit to
  a longer day.

  "The field of battle next morning presented a frightful scene
  of carnage; it seemed as if the world had tumbled to pieces and
  three-fourths of everything destroyed in the wreck. The ground
  running parallel to the front of where we had stood was so thickly
  strewed with fallen men and horses, that it was difficult to step
  clear of their bodies; many of the former still alive, and imploring
  assistance, which it was not in our power to bestow. The usual
  salutation on meeting an acquaintance of another regiment after an
  action was to ask who had been hit? but on this occasion it was,
  'Who's alive?' Meeting one next morning, a very little fellow, I
  asked what had happened to them yesterday? 'I'll be hanged,' says
  he, 'if I know anything at all about the matter, for I was all
  day trodden in the mud and galloped over by every scoundrel who
  had a horse; and, in short, that I only owe my existence to my
  insignificance.'

  "Two of our men, on the morning of the 19th, lost their lives by a
  very melancholy accident. They were cutting up a captured ammunition
  waggon for firewood, when one of their swords, striking against a
  nail, sent a spark among the powder. When I looked in the direction
  of the explosion, I saw the two poor fellows about twenty or thirty
  feet up in the air. On falling to the ground, though lying on their
  backs and bellies, some extraordinary effort of nature, caused by
  the agony of the moment, made them spring from that position five or
  six times, to the height of eight or ten feet, just as a fish does
  when thrown on the ground after being newly caught. It was so unlike
  a scene in real life that it was impossible to witness it without
  forgetting, for a moment, the horror of their situation.

  "I ran to the spot along with others, and found that every stitch of
  clothes had been burnt off, and they were black as ink all over. They
  were still alive, and told us their names, otherwise we could not
  have recognised them; and, singular enough, they were able to walk
  off the ground with a little support, but died shortly after.

  "About twelve o'clock on the day after the battle we commenced our
  march for Paris. I shall, therefore, leave my readers at Waterloo, in
  the hope that, among the many stories of romance to which that and
  the other celebrated fields gave birth, the foregoing unsophisticated
  one of an eye-witness may not have been found altogether
  uninteresting."



II

ONE OF CRAUFURD'S VETERANS

II.--ONE OF CRAUFURD'S VETERANS


"Rifleman" Harris, an innocent-looking sheep-boy, his face brown with
the winds and rains of the Dorsetshire Downs, drifted, so to speak,
into a soldier's life pretty much as a floating leaf, blown from
some rustic valley and fallen into a rustic stream, might drift into
a great historic river, furrowed by a thousand keels, and be swept
away to unknown seas. His autobiography is curious alike in what it
omits and in what it tells. It is so barren of one class of personal
details that we are left in ignorance of when the writer was born.
He leaves himself in his own volume without a Christian name. We are
not told why he enlisted, nor where. Unlike most people undertaking
an autobiography, Rifleman Harris appears to have had no interest
whatever in himself, and he was incapable of imagining that anybody
else would be interested. But he was keenly concerned in all the
personal incidents of a soldier's life, and he describes them with a
simplicity and a directness, an economy of adjectives, and a felicity
of substantives, which makes his "Recollections" one of the freshest
and most interesting soldier autobiographies ever written.

He had some good luck as a soldier. He belonged to a famous regiment;
he served under some famous commanders; he heard the first shots fired
by British muskets in the Peninsula. But he had also much ill-luck. He
tramped, perspired, and probably swore, under South American suns in
that most ignominious of all expeditions, under the most contemptible
leader that ever wore a cocked hat--Whitelocke's fiasco at Buenos
Ayres. He next served in Portugal, and took part in the fighting at
Roliça and Vimiero. Under Sir John Moore he shared in the heroism and
the horrors of the dreadful retreat to Corunna, or rather to Vigo. That
Harris survived snow and rain and hunger, the inexpressible toils of
the long marches, the biting cold of the black unsheltered nights, as
well as the sabres of the pursuing French horsemen and the bullets of
the French skirmishers, is little less than marvellous. But he did, and
landed at Spithead, ragged, bare-footed, unshaven, with rusty musket,
hollow cheeks, and eyes that had almost gone sightless with mere
fatigue--about as stiff and hardy and unconquerable a bit of soldierly
flesh and blood as the world of that day could produce.

A British private who had known the shame of Whitelocke's South
American expedition and the distress of Moore's immortal retreat might
well think he had exhausted all the evil possibilities of a soldier's
life. But the unfortunate Harris had one more evil experience. He found
a place in the unhappy Walcheren expedition, and crept out of it with
wrecked constitution and ague-poisoned blood. He served after this in a
veteran battalion; tried hard for service in the Peninsula, but, to his
unspeakable disgust, was disqualified by a doctor with an unsympathetic
temper and an inelastic conscience, and while still only thirty-two was
discharged on a pension of sixpence a day. "For the first time," he
says, "since I had been a shepherd-lad on the Blandford downs I found
myself in plain clothes and with liberty to go and come where I liked."

But Harris never received a sixpence of his hard-earned pension, bought
with blood and sweat. Before the first payment became due Napoleon
had escaped from Elba; the veterans were called back to the ranks.
Harris, wasted with fever and shaken with ague--legacies from Walcheren
swamps--was unable to join, and forfeited his pension. He had to spend
the rest of his days making shoes and writing his "Recollections of a
Rifleman." In view of this record, perhaps, the most striking thing in
Harris' "Recollections" is their unconquerable good humour. The writer
never grumbles. No faintest accent of discontent ever steals into his
voice. His cheerfulness is invincible. He is proud of his officers;
in the best of temper with his comrades; takes mud, rain, toil, empty
stomach, and too heavy knapsack, a couch on the wet grass and under
weeping skies, the pain of wounds, and the peril of death, all as part
of the day's work, about which nobody has any right to grumble. A
soldier's life, he plainly holds, is the pleasantest in the world. No
one is better qualified than Rifleman Harris to tell to a modern and
ease-loving generation how the men of the Peninsula marched, suffered,
fought, and conquered.



CHAPTER I

THE KING'S SHILLING


Harris's "Recollections" begin with the simplicity and directness of
one of De Foe's tales:--

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

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

Harris's earliest experiences as a soldier naturally made the deepest
impressions upon him. He found himself in a new world, with new
comrades, and under strange new laws--laws with sanctions, swift,
inevitable, and terrible--behind them. Here is one of his earlier
stories:--

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

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

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

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

  "This was done in the deepest silence, and the next moment we were
  primed and ready. There was then a dreadful pause for a few moments,
  and the drum-major, again looking towards us, gave the signal before
  agreed upon (a flourish of his cane) and we levelled and fired. We
  had been previously strictly enjoined to be steady and take good aim,
  and the poor fellow, pierced by several balls, fell heavily upon his
  back; and as he lay, with his arms pinioned to his sides, I observed
  that his hands waved for a few moments, like the fins of a fish, when
  in the agonies of death. The drum-major also observed the movement,
  and, making another signal, four of our party immediately stepped up
  to the prostrate body, and placing the muzzles of their pieces to the
  head, fired, and put him out of his misery. The different regiments
  then fell back by companies, and the word being given to march past
  in slow time, when each company came in line with the body the word
  was given to 'mark time,' and then 'eyes left,' in order that we
  might all observe the terrible example. We then moved onwards, and
  marched from the ground to our different quarters.

  "The 66th stopped that night about three miles from Portsdown Hill,
  and in the morning we returned to Winchester. The officer in command
  that day, I remember, was General Whitelocke, who was afterwards
  brought to court-martial himself. This was the first time of our
  seeing that officer. The next meeting was at Buenos Ayres, and during
  the confusion of that day one of us received an order from the fiery
  Craufurd to shoot the traitor dead if he could see him in the battle,
  many others of the Rifles receiving the same order from that fine and
  chivalrous officer.

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

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

The 66th was shortly afterwards sent to Ireland; and Harris, who had
shown himself smart and intelligent, was put into the light company
of his regiment. While in Dublin he saw some companies of the famous
95th Rifles marching. They bore the signature of Sir John Moore's
soldierly hand on them; and Harris records that "I fell so in love
with their smart, dashing, and devil-may-care appearance that nothing
would serve me till I was a rifleman myself," and meeting a recruiting
party of the regiment, he volunteered into the second battalion. He
gives a strangely interesting account of the recruits which formed the
raw material out of which Wellington evolved the magnificent soldiers
of the Peninsula--men with whom, to use Wellington's own words, he
"could go anywhere, and do anything." Rougher, wilder material--half
savage and half child-like--than these recruits can hardly be imagined.
Certainly no such strange human material finds its way into British
barracks to-day:--

  "This recruiting-party were all Irishmen, and had been sent over from
  England to collect (amongst others) men from the Irish Militia, and
  were just about to return to England. I think they were as reckless
  and devil-may-care a set of men as ever I beheld, either before or
  since.

  "Being joined by a sergeant of the 92nd Highlanders, and a Highland
  piper of the same regiment (also a pair of real rollicking blades),
  I thought we should all have gone mad together. We started on our
  journey, one beautiful morning, in tip-top spirits, from the Royal
  Oak, at Cashel; the whole lot of us (early as it was) being three
  sheets in the wind. When we paraded before the door of the Royal Oak,
  the landlord and landlady of the inn, who were quite as lively, came
  reeling forth, with two decanters of whisky, which they thrust into
  the fists of the sergeants, making them a present of decanters and
  all, to carry along with them, and refresh themselves on the march.
  The piper then struck up, the sergeants flourished their decanters,
  and the whole rout commenced a terrific yell. We then all began to
  dance, and danced through the town, every now and then stopping for
  another pull at the whisky decanters. Thus we kept it up till we had
  danced, drank, shouted, and piped thirteen Irish miles, from Cashel
  to Clonmel. Such a day, I think, I never spent, as I enjoyed with
  these fellows; and on arriving at Clonmel, we were as 'glorious' as
  any soldiers in all Christendom need wish to be.

  "In about ten days after this, our sergeants had collected together
  a good batch of recruits, and we started for England. Some few days
  before we embarked (as if we had not been bothered enough already
  with the unruly Paddies), we were nearly pestered to death with a
  detachment of old Irishwomen, who came from different parts (on
  hearing of their sons having enlisted), in order to endeavour to
  get them away from us. Following us down to the water's edge, they
  hung to their offspring and, dragging them away, sent forth such
  dismal howls and moans that it was quite distracting to hear them.
  The lieutenant commanding the party, ordered me (being the only
  Englishman present) to endeavour to keep them back. It was, however,
  as much as I could do to preserve myself being torn to pieces by
  them, and I was glad to escape out of their hands.

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

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

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

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

  "Baffled in this attempt, they rushed through the streets knocking
  down everybody they met. The drums now commenced beating up for a
  volunteer corps of the town, which, quickly mustering, drew up in
  the street before the jail, and immediately were ordered to load
  with ball. This somewhat pacified the rioters, and our officers
  persuading them to listen to a promise of pardon for the past, peace
  was at length restored amongst them."

Harris's first experience of active service was in that obscure and
more than half-forgotten expedition to Copenhagen in 1807. Harris found
that coming under fire was, on the whole, an exhilarating experience.
Certainly the manner in which he bore himself when first he heard the
whistle of hostile bullets showed he had the makings of a good soldier.

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

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

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

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

  "I feel sorry to record the want of courage of this man, but I do
  so with the less pain as it gives me the opportunity of saying
  that during many years' arduous service, it is the only instance I
  remember of a British soldier endeavouring to hold back when his
  comrades were going forward. Indeed, Johnson was never again held in
  estimation amongst the Rifle corps; for the story got wind that I had
  threatened to shoot him for cowardice in the field, and Lieutenant
  Cox mentioned to the colonel that he had overheard my doing so; and
  such was the contempt the man was held in by the Rifles, that he was
  soon afterwards removed from amongst us to a veteran battalion."



CHAPTER II

IN THE PENINSULA


Harris's Peninsular experiences began in 1808. The Rifles formed part
of a modest force of less than 10,000 men about to sail for a raid on
the Spanish colonies in South America. But Napoleon had just effected
the highly ingenious but quite felonious transfer of the Spanish crown
to the head of his brother Joseph. As a result all Spain rose in revolt
against French arms; and what yesterday had been for England an enemy
to be plundered, became to-day an ally to be helped. The expedition
which was intended to destroy Spanish colonies was, therefore,
despatched to assist in the deliverance of Spain itself.

An even larger share than usual of the national gift for blundering
at the beginning of a campaign was shown at the start of the great
operations in the Peninsula. The force despatched was utterly
inadequate. It was 20,000 men against 120,000. But even this little
force was broken into fragments and despatched on totally unrelated
adventures. Spencer was sent with 10,000 men to Cadiz; another body
of 10,000 was despatched to the Tagus. By a happy chance--perhaps it
would be fair to say by a happy flash of insight--Wellesley was given
command of this latter expedition; but Sir Harry Burrard was promptly
despatched to supersede Wellesley, and Sir Hew Dalrymple to supersede
Sir Harry Burrard! Under this delightful arrangement the astonished
British army had three distinct commanders within the space of
twenty-four hours.

Harris describes the long and loitering pause at Cork, where the ships
lay for six weeks, without disembarking the unfortunate soldiers. At
last, on July 12, 1808, the expedition sailed. The landing-place chosen
was the mouth of the Mondego. The Rifles, Harris records with delight,
"were the first out of the ships. We were, indeed, always in the front
in an advance and in the rear in a retreat." The heats of a Spanish
summer lay on the plains and the hills; the roads were mere ribbons of
sand, the watercourses were parched; and Harris's first experience of
marching under service conditions, and on sandy Spanish roads, was very
trying. He says:--

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

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

A pleasanter description is given of the march on the following day. He
says:--

  "The next day we again advanced, and being in a state of the utmost
  anxiety to come up with the French, neither the heat of the burning
  sun, long miles, nor heavy knapsacks were able to diminish our
  ardour. Indeed, I often look back with wonder at the light-hearted
  style, the jollity, and reckless indifference with which men who were
  destined in so short a time to fall, hurried onwards to the field of
  strife; seemingly without a thought of anything but the sheer love of
  meeting the foe and the excitement of the battle."

Harris's "Recollections" have absolutely no chronology, or chronology
only of the most distracted and planless character. A clear thread of
narrative is to be obtained only by the process of re-arranging all his
incidents.

The opening skirmish--the first splutter of British muskets in the long
Peninsular campaigns--took place on August 15, and naturally the 95th,
which formed the British outposts, were the actors in the combat. They
erred by over-vehemence. They fell on so eagerly, and pursued so fast
and so far, that they presently found themselves charging the entire
French army, and were drawn off with some loss. Harris's description
is brief:--

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

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

Wellington described the affair as "unpleasant" from the general's
point of view; but apparently the Rifles found it very enjoyable.

On August 17 Roliça was fought. The British again erred by
over-eagerness, the 29th in particular suffering heavy losses owing to
the fact that the regiment went straight at the enemy's front instead
of turning its flank. The battle, however, was on the British side
a bit of characteristic, dogged, and straight-forward fighting. The
French flank was turned, their front driven in, and they were compelled
to fall back from one position to another till they finally abandoned
the fight. Here is Harris's account, collated from the different parts
of his volume:--

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

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

  "Soon afterwards the firing commenced, and we had advanced pretty
  close upon the enemy. Taking advantage of whatever cover I could find
  I threw myself down behind a small bank, where I lay so secure, that
  although the Frenchmen's bullets fell pretty thickly around, I was
  enabled to knock several over without being dislodged, in fact, I
  fired away every round I had in my pouch whilst lying on this spot.
  At length after a sharp contest we forced them to give ground, and
  following them up, drove them from their position in the heights, and
  hung upon their skirts till they made another stand, and then the
  game began again.

  "The 29th Regiment received so terrible a fire that I saw the right
  wing almost annihilated, and the colonel (I think his name was
  Lennox[2]) lay sprawling amongst the rest. We had ourselves caught it
  pretty handsomely, for there was no cover for us, and we were rather
  too near. The living skirmishers were lying beside heaps of their own
  dead, but still we had held our own till the battalion regiments came
  up. 'Fire and retire'[3] is a very good sound, but the Rifles were
  not over fond of such notes. We never performed that manoeuvre except
  when it was made pretty plain to us that it was quite necessary; the
  29th, however, had got their faring here at this time, and the shock
  of that fire seemed to stagger the whole line and make them recoil.
  At the moment a little confusion appeared in the ranks, I thought.
  Lord Hill was near at hand and saw it, and I observed him come
  galloping up. He put himself at the head of the regiment and restored
  them to order in a moment. Pouring a regular and sharp fire upon the
  enemy he galled them in return; and, remaining with the 29th till he
  brought them to the charge, quickly sent the foe to the right-about.
  It seemed to me that few men could have conducted the business with
  more coolness and quietude of manner under such a storm of balls as
  he was exposed to. Indeed I have never forgotten him from that day.

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

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

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

  "Within about half-an-hour after this I left Sergeant Fraser, and,
  indeed, for the time had as completely forgotten him as if he had
  died a hundred years back. The sight of so much bloodshed around will
  not suffer the mind to dwell long on any particular casualty, even
  though it happen to one's dearest friend. There was no time either
  to think, for all was action with us Rifles just at this moment, and
  the barrel of my piece was so hot from continual firing that I could
  hardly bear to touch it, and was obliged to grasp the stock beneath
  the iron, as I continued to blaze away.

  "James Ponton was another crony of mine (a gallant fellow!); he had
  pushed himself in front of me, and was checked by one of our officers
  for his rashness. 'Keep back, you Ponton!' the lieutenant said to
  him more than once. But Ponton was not to be restrained by anything
  but a bullet when in action. This time he got one which, striking
  him in the thigh, I suppose cut an artery, for he died quickly. The
  Frenchmen's balls were flying very wickedly at that moment; and I
  crept up to Ponton, and took shelter by lying behind, and making a
  rest for my rifle of his dead body. It strikes me that I revenged his
  death by the assistance of his carcass. At any rate I tried my best
  to hit his enemies hard.

  "There were two small buildings in our front, and the French, having
  managed to get into them, annoyed us much from that quarter. A small
  rise in the ground close before these houses also favoured them; and
  our men were being handled very severely in consequence. They became
  angry, and wouldn't stand it any longer. One of the skirmishers
  jumping up, rushed forward, crying, 'Over boys!--over! over!' when
  instantly the whole line responded to the cry, 'Over! over! over!'
  They ran along the grass like wildfire, and dashed at the rise,
  fixing their sword-bayonets as they ran. The French light bobs
  could not stand the sight, but turned about and fled, and, getting
  possession of their ground, we were soon inside the buildings.

  "After the battle was over I stepped across to the other house I have
  mentioned, in order to see what was going on there, for the one I
  remained in was now pretty well filled with the wounded (both French
  and English) who had managed to get there for a little shelter. Two
  or three surgeons also had arrived at this house, and were busily
  engaged in giving their assistance to the wounded, now also here
  lying as thickly as in the building which I had left; but what struck
  me most forcibly was, that from the circumstance of some wine-butts
  having been left in the apartment, and their having in the engagement
  been perforated by bullets, and otherwise broken, the red wine had
  escaped most plentifully, and ran down upon the earthen floor where
  the wounded were lying, so that many of them were soaked in the wine
  with which their blood was mingled.

  "The Rifles fought well this day, and we lost many men. They
  seemed in high spirits, and delighted at having driven the enemy
  before them. Joseph Cochan was by my side loading and firing very
  industriously about this period of the day. Thirsting with heat and
  action he lifted his canteen to his mouth, 'Here's to you, old boy,'
  he said, as he took a pull at its contents. As he did so a bullet
  went through the canteen, and, perforating his brain, killed him in
  a moment. Another man fell close to him almost immediately, struck
  by a ball in the thigh. Indeed, we caught it severely just here, and
  the old iron was also playing its part amongst our poor fellows very
  merrily. When the roll was called after the battle, the females who
  missed their husbands came along the front of the line to inquire of
  the survivors whether they knew anything about them. Amongst other
  names I heard that of Cochan called in a female voice, without being
  replied to.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vimiero followed hard on Roliça, being fought only four days
afterwards. In this battle the French attacked, and their onfall was
marked by high daring and tactical skill. But the British out-fought as
their general out-manoeuvred the French, and Junot was only saved from
complete destruction by the circumstance that Sir Harry Burrard, at the
very moment of victory, displaced Wellesley in command, and ordered the
pursuit to cease. The Rifles were in the skirmishing line, and were
naturally driven back when the French advanced in mass. The steadfast
British line, however, took very badly the retreat of the skirmishers,
as Harris, in amusing fashion, records. Harris's account is interesting
as a picture of what may be called the domestic details of the
fighting, the preparations for it, the rough jesting of the fighting
line, the fashion in which individual soldiers fought and died. There
is, indeed, an almost Homeric touch in Harris's picture of individual
combats. Here is his story of how the Rifles fought at Vimiero:--

  "It was on the 21st of August that we commenced fighting the battle
  of Vimiero.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  "I myself was very soon so hotly engaged, loading and firing away,
  enveloped in the smoke I created, and the cloud which hung about me
  from the continued fire of my comrades, that I could see nothing for
  a few minutes but the red flash of my own piece amongst the white
  vapour clinging to my very clothes. This has often seemed to me the
  greatest drawback upon our present system of fighting; for whilst in
  such state, on a calm day, until some friendly breeze of wind clears
  the space around, a soldier knows no more of his position and what is
  about to happen in his front, or what has happened (even amongst his
  own companions) than the very dead lying around.

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

  "A man named John Low stood before me at this moment, and he turned
  round during a pause in our exertions, and addressed me: 'Harris, you
  humbug,' he said, 'you have plenty of money about you, I know, for
  you are always staying about and picking up what you can find on the
  field. But I think this will be your last field-day, old boy. A good
  many of us will catch it, I suspect, to-day,' 'You are right, Low,' I
  said, 'I have got nine guineas in my pack, and if I get shot to-day,
  and you yourself escape, it's quite at your service. In the meantime,
  however, if you see any symptoms of my wishing to flinch in this
  business, I hope you will shoot me with your own hand.'

  "Low as well as myself survived this battle, and after it was over,
  whilst we sat down with our comrades and rested, amongst other
  matters talked over, Low told them of our conversation during the
  heat of the day, and the money I had collected, and the Rifles from
  that time had a great respect for me. It is, indeed, singular how
  a man loses or gains caste with his comrades from his behaviour,
  and how closely he is observed in the field. The officers, too, are
  commented upon and closely observed. The men are very proud of those
  who are brave in the field, and kind and considerate to the soldiers
  under them. An act of kindness done by an officer has often during
  the battle been the cause of his life being saved. Nay, whatever
  folks may say upon the matter, I know from experience that in our
  army the men like best to be officered by gentlemen, men whose
  education has rendered them more kind in manners than your coarse
  officer, sprung from obscure origin, and whose style is brutal and
  overbearing.

  "During the battle I remarked the gallant style in which the 50th,
  Major Napier's regiment, came to the charge. They dashed upon
  the enemy like a torrent breaking bounds, and the French, unable
  even to bear the sight of them, turned and fled. Methinks at this
  moment I can hear the cheer of the British soldiers in the charge,
  and the clatter of the Frenchmen's accoutrements, as they turned
  in an instant, and went off as hard as they could run for it. I
  remember, too, our feelings towards the enemy on that occasion was
  the north side of friendly, for they had been firing upon us Rifles
  very sharply, greatly outnumbering our skirmishers, and appearing
  inclined to drive us off the face of the earth. Their Lights, and
  Grenadiers, I, for the first time, particularly remarked on that day.
  The Grenadiers (the 70th, I think), our men seemed to know well.
  They were all fine-looking young men, wearing red shoulder-knots and
  tremendous-looking moustaches. As they came swarming upon us, they
  rained a perfect shower of balls, which we returned quite as sharply.
  Whenever one of them was knocked over our men called out, 'There goes
  another of Boney's Invincibles.'

  "In the main body immediately in our rear, were the second battalion
  52nd, the 50th, the second battalion 43rd, and a German corps, whose
  number I do not remember, besides several other regiments. The whole
  line seemed annoyed and angered at seeing the Rifles outnumbered by
  the Invincibles, and as we fell back, 'firing and retiring,' galling
  them handsomely as we did so, the men cried out (as it were with one
  voice) to charge. 'D--n them!' they roared, 'charge! charge!' General
  Fane, however, restrained their impetuosity. He desired them to stand
  fast and keep their ground.

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

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

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

  "I had observed him more than once during this day, spurring here
  and there, keeping the men well up, and apparently in the highest
  spirits. He could not have enjoyed himself more, I am sure, if he
  had been at a horse-race, or following a good pack of hounds. The
  battle was just over; a flag of truce had come over from the French;
  General Kellerman, I think, brought it. We threw ourselves down where
  we were standing when the fire ceased. A Frenchman lay close beside
  me; he was dying, and called to me for water, which I understood
  him to require more from his manner than his words (he pointed to
  his mouth). I need not say that I got up and gave it him. Whilst
  I did so, down galloped the major in front, just in the same good
  spirits he had been all day; plunging along, avoiding, with some
  little difficulty, the dead and dying which were strewed about. He
  was never a very good-looking man, being hard-featured and thin--a
  hatchet-faced man, as we used to say. But he was a regular good
  'un--a real English soldier, and that's better than if he had been
  the handsomest ladies' man in the army.

  "The major just now disclosed what none of us, I believe, knew
  before, namely, that his head was bald as a coot's, and that he
  covered the nakedness of his nob, up to the present time, by a
  flowing Caxon, which, during the heat of the action, had somehow been
  dislodged, and was lost; yet was the major riding hither and thither,
  digging the spurs into his horse's flanks, and just as busy as before
  the firing had ceased. 'A guinea,' he kept crying as he rode, 'to
  any man who will find my wig!' The men, I remember, notwithstanding
  the sight of the wounded and dead around them, burst into shouts of
  laughter at him as he went; and, 'a guinea to any man who will find
  my wig,' was the saying amongst us long after that affair."

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 2: It was Colonel Lake.]

[Footnote 3: "Fire and retire"--one of the bugle sounds to the
skirmishers when hard pressed.]



CHAPTER III

WHEN THE FIGHT IS OVER


Harris sees with characteristic clearness of vision, and describes,
with almost appalling _vraisemblance_, the grim scenes of the
battle-field after the fiery tide of battle has ebbed from it. He
says:--

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

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

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

Harris, it will be noticed, has no reserves. He relates incidents
which can hardly be regarded as creditable to the character of the
British private, and does it with an amusing unconsciousness as to the
impression his stories will produce on readers of a more sensitive
age. The British soldier of that day had a rough chivalry of his own.
He faced his foe gallantly on the battle-field. He would maintain a
friendly barter of spirits and rations with him when night had fallen
on contiguous bivouacs. But when his enemy was dead, and no more
fighting remained to be done, and no exchange of clandestine brandy was
possible, then the British private would empty his foeman's pockets
or take a pair of serviceable boots from his feet with the easiest
nonchalance. The transaction, he considered, did not injure the dead,
and it contributed to the comfort of the living. So Harris's tale of
the plundering and the night scenes of a battle-field resemble those
to be found in Smollett's "Count Fathom"--with this superiority on the
side of Harris, that his tales are transcripts of actual facts:--

  "After the battle I strolled about the field, in order to see if
  there was anything to be found worth picking up amongst the dead. The
  first thing I saw was a three-pronged silver fork, which, as it lay
  by itself, had most likely been dropped by some person who had been
  on the lookout before me. A little farther on I saw a French soldier
  sitting against a small rise in the ground or bank. He was wounded
  in the throat and appeared very faint, the bosom of his coat being
  saturated with the blood which had flowed down. By his side lay his
  cap, and close to that was a bundle containing a quantity of gold and
  silver crosses, which I concluded he had plundered from some convent
  or church. He looked the picture of a sacrilegious thief, dying
  hopelessly, and overtaken by Divine wrath. I kicked over his cap,
  which was also full of plunder, but I declined taking anything from
  him. I felt fearful of incurring the wrath of Heaven for the like
  offence, so I left him, and passed on.

  "A little farther off lay an officer of the 50th Regiment. I knew him
  by sight, and recognised him as he lay. He was quite dead, and lying
  on his back. He had been plundered, and his clothes were torn open.
  Three bullet-holes were close together in the pit of his stomach.
  Beside him lay an empty pocket-book, and his epaulette had been
  pulled from his shoulder.

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

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

  "After I had shot the French light infantry man, and quenched my
  thirst from his calabash, finding he was quite dead, I proceeded to
  search him. Whilst I turned him about in the endeavour at finding
  the booty I felt pretty certain he had gathered from the slain, an
  officer of the 60th approached and accosted me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The plundering exploits of the British private were not always confined
to his foes, living or dead. His own officers sometimes suffered. Says
Harris:--

  "I remember there was an officer, named, I think, Cardo, with the
  Rifles. He was a great beau; but although rather effeminate and
  ladylike in manners, so much so as to be remarked by the whole
  regiment at that time, yet he was found to be a most gallant officer
  when we were engaged with the enemy in the field. He was killed
  whilst fighting bravely in the Pyrenees; and amongst other jewellery
  he wore, he had a ring on his finger worth 150 guineas.

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



CHAPTER IV

A MEMORABLE RETREAT


Harris found a new commander-in-chief in Sir John Moore, and it was his
fortune to share in the sufferings and glory of the immortal retreat to
Corunna. Moore has never yet come to his true inheritance of fame as a
commander. The great figure of Wellington hides him almost from human
memory. Yet no British general, perhaps, ever conceived and executed a
more audacious stroke of soldiership than did Moore when he made his
famous stroke at Napoleon's communication, and spoiled the whole plans
of that master-spirit in war for the conquest of Southern Spain, and
brought him and his far-scattered columns hurrying up to the north-west
angle of the Peninsula.

Napoleon had assumed in person the command of the French armies in
Spain, and had 300,000 veterans under his eagles. He had shattered the
Spanish armies, was in possession of the Spanish capital, and was on
the point of marching to overwhelm the rich provinces as yet unravaged
by war to the south. Moore, with 24,000 men under his command, resolved
to strike boldly at Napoleon's communications, and so arrest the
southward march of all the French columns. When, in this manner, he
had paralysed the strategy of the French, Moore calculated he could
outmarch all the converging columns rushing to destroy him, and
escape. But he was accepting a terrific risk.

Moore's generalship, though it was followed by the tragedy of the
retreat to Corunna, and his own death in the battle at that place,
was perfectly successful. He wrecked Napoleon's strategy, and yet
escaped his counter-stroke. He secured a breathing-space for the
Spanish nation. He arrested and brought to a close Napoleon's personal
career in that country. He made possible Wellington's great Peninsular
campaigns. It is one of the examples of the irony of history that to
Moore, one of the greatest soldiers England has produced, success
brought no adequate fame, and it cost him his own life.

The second battalion of the Rifles, to which Harris belonged, joined
Moore's forces at Sahagun, and the great retreat began almost
immediately afterwards. On December 24 Moore turned his columns
westward for their march to his sea-base at Corunna. It was a march of
some 220 miles, through rugged mountainous country, with the French
hanging on his rear or pushing past his flank, while the bitter
tempests of the winter in Northern Spain blackened the skies above the
toiling troops, and scourged them almost incessantly with snow and
sleet and rain. At Astorga, Moore divided his army, and part, under
Craufurd, took the road to Vigo. The Rifles formed part of Craufurd's
force, and Harris's account thus sheds light on what is the least known
branch of the famous retreat.

The retreat lasted in all eighteen days, and some 4000 men fell
from the ranks, slain by mere hardship and exposure, during that
comparatively brief period; yet the retreating British did not lose a
flag or a gun in the retreat, and when they turned to bay at Corunna
they proved that neither their discipline nor their fighting power had
been in the least impaired by their sufferings. Harris's account is
really a bit of very fine descriptive writing, though its charm lies
in its simplicity and its unconscious realism. It must be remembered
that when the second battalion of the Rifles joined Moore's forces at
Sahagun they were worn out with long marches, and the fame of Roliça
and Vimiero lay upon them. Moore's forces had up to that time seen
no fighting, and still carried in face and uniform something of the
freshness of barrack life:--

  "At Sahagun we fell in with the army under command of Sir John Moore.
  I forget how many thousand men there were; but they were lying in
  and around the town when we arrived. The Rifles marched to an old
  convent, some two miles from Sahagun, where we were quartered,
  together with a part of the 15th Hussars, some of the Welsh
  Fusiliers, and straggling bodies of men belonging to various other
  regiments, all seeming on the _qui vive_, and expecting the French to
  fall in with them every hour. As our small and wayworn party came to
  a halt before the walls of the convent, the men from these different
  regiments came swarming out to greet us, loudly cheering us as they
  rushed up and seized our hands. The difference in appearance between
  ourselves and these new-comers was indeed (just then) very great.
  They looked fresh from good quarters and good rations. Their clothes
  and accoutrements were comparatively new and clean, and their cheeks
  ruddy with the glow of health and strength; whilst our men, on the
  contrary, were gaunt-looking, wayworn, and ragged; our faces burnt
  almost to the hue of an Asiatic's by the sun, our accoutrements rent
  and torn, and many without even shoes to their feet. However, we had
  some work in us yet, and perhaps were in better condition for it than
  our more fresh-looking comrades."

Harris describes how, just before the retreat began, he was summoned
at midnight to undertake, on somewhat alarming conditions, a very
practical bit of preparation for the march:--

  "In the middle of the night I remember, as well as if the sounds were
  at this moment in my ear, that my name was called out many times
  without my being completely awakened by the summons. From weariness
  and the weight of my knapsack and the quantity of implements I
  carried, I was at first quite unable to gain my legs; but when I did
  so I found that Quarter-master Surtees was the person who was thus
  disturbing my rest.

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

  "With some little trouble, and not a few curses from them as I
  stirred them up with the butt of my rifle, I succeeded in waking
  several of our snoring handicrafts; and the quarter-master bidding
  us instantly follow him, led the way to the very top of the convent
  stairs. Passing then into a ruinous-looking apartment, along which
  we walked upon the rafters, there being no flooring, he stopped when
  he arrived at its farther extremity. Here he proceeded to call our
  attention to a quantity of barrels of gunpowder lying beside a large
  heap of raw bullocks' hides. 'Now, Harris,' said he, 'keep your eyes
  open, and mind what you are about here. General Craufurd orders you
  instantly to set to work and sew up every one of these barrels in
  the hides lying before you. You are to sew the skins with the hair
  outwards, and be quick about it, for the general swears that if the
  job is not finished in half-an-hour he will hang you.'

  "The latter part of this order was anything but pleasant, and whether
  the general ever really gave it I never had an opportunity of
  ascertaining. Well knowing the stuff Craufurd was made of, I received
  the candle from the hands of Surtees, and bidding the men get
  needles and waxed thread from their knapsacks, as the quarter-master
  withdrew, I instantly prepared to set about the job.

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

The exact moment when the advance for the purpose of falling on
Soult was exchanged for retreat at speed before Napoleon's fiercely
converging columns to the sea-coast is dramatically marked in Harris's
"Recollections." From the first, it will be noted, the retreat was
pushed with the utmost sternness and energy, and at the cost of great
suffering to the men. Moore had daringly advanced till his scanty
columns were almost caught by the overwhelming forces of the French
closing upon him; and to escape destruction the British had to tax
their own strength and energy to the utmost:--

  "General Craufurd was in command of the brigade, and riding in front,
  when I observed a dragoon come spurring furiously along the road to
  meet us. He delivered a letter to the general, who turned round in
  his saddle the moment he had read a few lines, and thundered out
  the word 'to halt!' A few minutes more and we were all turned to
  the right-about, and retracing our steps of the night before--the
  contents of that epistle serving to furnish our men with many a
  surmise during the retrograde movement. When we again neared Sahagun,
  I remember seeing the wives and children of the men come rushing into
  the ranks, and embracing the husbands and fathers they expected never
  to see again.

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

  "'Keep your ranks there, men!' he said, spurring his horse towards
  some Riflemen who were avoiding a small rivulet. 'Keep your ranks and
  move on--no straggling from the main body.'

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

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

  "'To England, McLauchlan,' returned the officer, with a melancholy
  smile upon his face as he gave the answer--'if we can get there.'"

The Rifles formed part of the rearguard, and to the hardships and
sufferings common to the whole retreating force was added, in their
case, the strain of constant engagement with the enemy. As a matter of
fact, this served as a tonic to the men. It preserved their discipline.
It gave them what they felt to be a delightful distraction from the
monotony of splashing wet, hungry and faint, along muddy roads.
They forgot the blinding rain, the eddying snowflakes, the pinch of
hunger, as they turned a score of times in the day at bay and drove
back with the roll of their volleys the pursuing French cavalry. Here
are some pictures of how a British rearguard bears itself in adverse
circumstances:--

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

  "Before long they had their wish: the enemy's cavalry were on our
  skirts that night; and as we rushed out of a small village, the name
  of which I cannot now recollect, we turned to bay. Behind broken-down
  carts and tumbrils, huge trunks of trees, and everything we could
  scrape together, the Rifles lay and blazed away at the advancing
  cavalry.

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

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

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

  "My feet were sore and bleeding, and the sinews of my legs ached as
  if they would burst, but I resolved to accompany him. In our wearied
  state the task was not easy, but, by the aid of Higgins, a tall and
  powerful fellow, I managed to reach the top of the mountain, where we
  placed ourselves in a sort of gully or ditch, and looked over to the
  enemy's side, concealing ourselves by lying flat in the ditch as we
  did so. Thus, in favourable situations, like cats watching for their
  prey, were the rest of the Rifles lying perdu upon the hills that
  night. The mountain we found was neither so steep nor so precipitous
  on the enemy's side. The ascent, on the contrary, was so easy that
  one or two of the videttes of the French cavalry were prowling about
  very near where we lay. As we had received orders not to make more
  noise than we could help, not even to speak to each other, except in
  whispers, although one of these horsemen approached close to where I
  lay, I forbore to fire upon him.

  "At length he stopped so near me that I saw it was almost impossible
  he could avoid discovering that the Rifles were in such close
  proximity to his person. He gazed cautiously along the ridge, took
  off his helmet, and wiped his face, as he appeared to meditate
  upon the propriety of crossing the ditch in which we lay, when
  suddenly our eyes met, and in an instant he plucked a pistol from
  his holster, fired it in my face, and, wheeling his horse, plunged
  down the hillside. For the moment I thought I was hit, as the ball
  grazed my neck, and stuck fast in my knapsack, where I found it,
  when, many days afterwards, I unpacked my kit on shipboard. About
  a quarter of an hour after this, as we still lay in the gully, I
  heard some person clambering up behind us, and, upon turning quickly
  round, I found it was General Craufurd. The general was wrapped in
  his greatcoat, and, like ourselves, had been for many hours drenched
  to the skin, for the rain was coming down furiously. He carried in
  his hand a canteen full of rum and a small cup, with which he was
  occasionally endeavouring to refresh some of the men. He offered me a
  drink as he passed, and then proceeded onwards along the ridge. After
  he had emptied his canteen, he came past us again, and himself gave
  us instructions as to our future proceedings.

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

  "Accordingly, a short time after he had left us, we were ordered to
  descend the mountain side in single file, and having gained the road,
  were quickly upon the bridge. Meanwhile the Staff Corps had been hard
  at work mining the very centre of the structure, which was filled
  with gunpowder, a narrow plank being all the aid we had by which to
  pass over. For my own part, I was now so utterly helpless that I
  felt as if all was nearly up with me, and that, if I could steady
  myself so as to reach the farther end of the plank, it would be all I
  should be able to accomplish. However, we managed all of us to reach
  the other side in safety, when, almost immediately afterwards, the
  bridge blew up with a tremendous report, and a house at its extremity
  burst into flames. What with the concussion of the explosion and the
  tremulous state of my limbs, I was thrown to the ground, and lay
  flat upon my face for some time, almost in a state of insensibility.
  After a while I somewhat recovered; but it was not without extreme
  difficulty, and many times falling again, that I succeeded in
  regaining the column.

  "Soon after I had done so, we reached Benevento, and immediately took
  refuge in a convent. Already three parts of it were filled with
  other troops, among which were mingled the 10th Hussars, the German
  Legion, and the 15th Dragoons; the horses of these regiments standing
  as close as they could stand, with the men dismounted between each
  horse, the animals' heads to the walls of the building, and all in
  readiness to turn out on the instant. Liquor was handed to us by the
  Dragoons, but having had nothing for some time to eat, many of our
  men became sick instead of receiving any benefit from it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

In spite of all his own sufferings, Harris was still able to note,
with an unconsciously artistic eye, the scenes--wild, tragic, and
picturesque--which the retreat afforded:--

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

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

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

  "We pushed on still cursing the enemy for not again showing
  themselves, that we might revenge some of our present miseries upon
  their heads.

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

  "We were now upon the mountains; the night was bitter cold, and the
  snow falling fast. As day broke, I remember hearing Lieutenant Hill
  say to another officer (who, by the way, afterwards sank down and
  died), 'This is New Year's Day; and I think if we live to see another
  we shall not easily forget it.'

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

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

  "Many trivial things which happened during the retreat to Corunna,
  and which on any other occasion might have entirely passed from my
  memory, have been, as it were, branded into my remembrance, and I
  recollect the most trifling incidents which occurred from day to
  day during that march. I remember, amongst other matters, that we
  were joined, if I may so term it, by a young recruit, when such an
  addition was anything but wished for during the disasters of the
  hour. One of the men's wives (who was struggling forward in the
  ranks with us, presenting a ghastly picture of illness, misery, and
  fatigue), being very large in the family-way, towards evening stepped
  from amongst the crowd and laid herself down amidst the snow, a
  little out of the main road. Her husband remained with her; and I
  heard one or two hasty observations amongst our men that they had
  taken possession of their last resting-place. The enemy were, indeed,
  not far behind at this time, the night was coming down, and their
  chance seemed in truth but a bad one.

  "To remain behind the column of march in such weather was to perish,
  and we accordingly soon forgot all about them. To my surprise,
  however, I some little time afterwards (being myself then in the rear
  of our party) again saw the woman. She was hurrying with her husband
  after us, and in her arms she carried the babe she had just given
  birth to. Her husband and herself between them managed to carry that
  infant to the end of the retreat, where we embarked. God tempers the
  wind, it is said, to the shorn lamb, and many years afterwards I saw
  that boy a strong and healthy lad. The woman's name was M'Guire,
  a sturdy and hardy Irishwoman; and lucky was it for herself and
  babe that she was so, as that night of cold and sleet was in itself
  sufficient to try the constitution of most females. I lost sight of
  her, I recollect, on this night when the darkness came upon us, but
  with the dawn, to my surprise she was still amongst us."



CHAPTER V

STERN SCENES


The sufferings of the retreat steadily increased. The weather grew more
bitter, the country more difficult, the supply of food scantier. Under
the strain of incessant marching, the strength of the men gave way. All
were ragged and hungry; many were bare-footed; many were sick, racked
with coughs, shaken with ague, or burning with fever. Their discipline
seemed to go to pieces. Nothing survived but a spirit of dogged, sullen
courage that seized, with a thrill of something like fierce delight,
every opportunity of turning on their relentless pursuers:--

  "The shoes and boots of our party were now mostly either destroyed
  or useless to us, from foul roads and long miles, and many of the
  men were entirely bare-footed, with knapsacks and accoutrements
  altogether in a dilapidated state. The officers were also, for the
  most part, in as miserable a plight. They were pallid, wayworn,
  their feet bleeding, and their faces overgrown with beards of many
  days' growth. What a contrast did our corps display, even at this
  period of the retreat, to my remembrance of them on the morning their
  dashing appearance captivated my fancy in Ireland! Many of the poor
  fellows, now near sinking with fatigue, reeled as if in a state of
  drunkenness, and altogether I thought we looked the ghosts of our
  former selves; still we held on resolutely. Our officers behaved
  nobly, and Craufurd was not to be daunted by long miles, fatigue,
  or foul weather. Many a man in that retreat caught courage from his
  stern eye and gallant bearing. Indeed, I do not think the world ever
  saw a more perfect soldier than General Craufurd.

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

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

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

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

  "About this period I remember another sight, which I shall not to
  my dying day forget; and it causes me a sore heart even now as I
  remember it. Soon after our halt beside the turnip field the screams
  of a child near me caught my ear, and drew my attention to one
  of our women, who was endeavouring to drag along a little boy of
  about seven or eight years of age. The poor child was apparently
  completely exhausted, and his legs falling under him. The mother had
  occasionally, up to this time, been assisted by some of the men,
  taking it in turn to help the little fellow on; but now all further
  appeal was in vain. No man had more strength than was necessary for
  the support of his own carcass, and the mother could no longer raise
  the child in her arms, as her reeling pace too plainly showed. Still,
  however, she continued to drag the child along with her. It was a
  pitiable sight, and wonderful to behold the efforts the poor woman
  made to keep the boy amongst us. At last the little fellow had not
  even strength to cry, but, with mouth wide open, stumbled onwards,
  until both sank down to rise no more. The poor woman herself had, for
  some time, looked a moving corpse, and when the shades of evening
  came down, they were far behind amongst the dead or dying in the
  road."

Hunger and desperation sometimes tempted even the veterans of the
Rifles to leave the ranks in the hope of discovering, in some fold of
the lonely Asturian hills, a shepherd's hut, or a little farmhouse,
where food might be got at and an hour's shelter enjoyed. Harris
describes one such adventure undertaken by himself:--

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

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

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

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

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

  "To return to my own adventures on this night. When Brooks and
  myself reached the village I have mentioned we found it filled with
  soldiers, standing and lying huddled together like cattle in a fair.
  A most extraordinary sight it appeared as the torches of the peasants
  flashed upon the wayworn and gaunt figures of our army. The rain was
  coming down, too, on this night, I remember; and soon after I reached
  our corps I fell helplessly to the ground in a miserable plight.
  Brooks was himself greatly exhausted, but he behaved nobly, and
  remained beside me, trying to persuade some of our men to assist him
  in lifting me up, and gaining shelter in one of the houses at hand.
  'May I be ----!' I heard him say, 'if I leave Harris to be butchered
  in the streets by the cowardly Spaniards the moment our division
  leaves the town.'

  "At length Brooks succeeded in getting a man to help him, and
  together they supported me into the passage of a house, where I lay
  upon the floor for some time. After a while, by the help of some wine
  they procured, I rallied and sat up, till eventually I got once more
  upon my legs, and, arm in arm, we proceeded again into the streets
  and joined our corps. Poor Brooks certainly saved my life that night.
  He was one of the many good fellows whom I have seen out, and I
  often think of him with feelings of gratitude as I sit at my work in
  Richmond Street, Soho."

There were certainly not many men, even in Craufurd's rearguard,
stronger in body or hardier in temper than Harris, yet at last even his
iron strength and dauntless energy failed him. He began to lag behind,
making occasional and desperate rallies to keep up with his battalion.
He says:--

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

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

  "After lying still for a while, I felt somewhat restored and sat up
  to look about me. The sight was by no means cheering. On the road
  behind me I saw men, women, mules, and horses lying at intervals,
  both dead and dying; whilst far away in front I could just discern
  the enfeebled army crawling out of sight, the women[4] huddled
  together in its rear, trying their best to get forward amongst those
  of the sick soldiery, who were now unable to keep up with the main
  body. After a while I found that my companion, the sergeant, who lay
  beside me, had also recovered a little, and I tried to cheer him up.
  I told him that opposite to where we were lying there was a lane,
  down which we might possibly find some place of shelter if we could
  muster strength to explore it. The sergeant consented to make the
  effort, but after two or three attempts to rise, gave it up. I myself
  was more fortunate; with the aid of my rifle I got upon my legs,
  and seeing death in my companion's face, I resolved to try and save
  myself, since it was quite evident to me that I could render him no
  assistance.

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

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

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

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

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

  "I now made the best of my way along the road in the direction
  in which I had last seen our army retreating the night before. A
  solitary individual, I seemed left behind amongst those who had
  perished. It was still raining, I remember, on this morning, and the
  very dead looked comfortless in their last sleep as I passed them
  occasionally lying on the line of march. It had pleased Heaven to
  give me an iron constitution, or I must have failed, I think, on this
  day, for the solitary journey and the miserable spectacles I beheld
  rather damped my spirits.

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

  "Soon after passing these unfortunates, I overtook a party who
  were being urged forward under charge of an officer of the 42nd
  Highlanders. He was pushing them along pretty much as a drover would
  keep together a tired flock of sheep. They presented a curious
  example of a retreating force. Many of them had thrown away their
  weapons, and were linked together arm-in-arm, in order to support
  each other, like a party of drunkards. They were, I saw, composed of
  various regiments; many were bareheaded and without shoes, and some
  with their heads tied up in old rags and fragments of handkerchiefs.
  I marched in company with this party for some time, but as I felt
  after my night's lodging and refreshment in better condition, I
  ventured to push forward, in the hope of rejoining the main body, and
  which I once more came up with in the street of a village.

  "On falling in with the Rifles, I again found Brooks, who was
  surprised at seeing me still alive, and we both entered a house, and
  begged for something to drink. I remember that I had a shirt upon
  my back at this time, which I had purchased of a drummer of the 9th
  Regiment before the commencement of the retreat. It was the only good
  one I had. I stripped, with the assistance of Brooks, and took it
  off, and exchanged it with a Spanish woman for a loaf of bread, which
  Brooks, myself, and two other men, shared amongst us.

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

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

At last the great retreat, with its horrors and sufferings, drew to a
close. The sea was reached, and not even Xenophon's Ten Thousand, as
they caught from some hill summit the purple gleam of the far-off sea,
knew a keener delight than did Craufurd's bare-footed, famine-wasted
veterans. Says Harris:--

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

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

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

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

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

  "'Hullo, there, you lazy lubber!' he said, as he grasped hold of me,
  'who the ---- do you think is to stay hum-bugging all day for such a
  fellow as you?'"

Here is Harris's description of how, after a stormy passage, the
transports reached the English coast, and the wrecks of Moore's gallant
battalions were allowed to land:--

  "After remaining off Spithead for about five or six days, one fine
  morning we received orders to disembark, and our poor bare feet once
  more touched English ground. The inhabitants flocked down to the
  beach to see us as we did so, and they must have been a good deal
  surprised at the spectacle we presented. Our beards were long and
  ragged; almost all were without shoes and stockings; many had their
  clothes and accoutrements in fragments, with their heads swathed in
  old rags, and our weapons were covered with rust; whilst not a few
  had now from toil and fatigue become quite blind.

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

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

Harris gives a bit of dreadful arithmetic, which shows the losses
sustained in the retreat:--

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

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

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 4: Some of these poor wretches cut a ludicrous figure,
having the men's greatcoats buttoned over their heads, whilst their
clothing, being extremely ragged and scanty, their naked legs were very
conspicuous. They looked a tribe of travelling beggars.]



CHAPTER VI

SOME FAMOUS SOLDIERS


Harris's "Recollections" abound in what may be called thumb-nail
sketches of his comrades and his officers. He had a quick eye for
character as well as for incident; and his descriptions are always
interesting and often very amusing. Harris was naturally more
interested, perhaps, in his comrades than in his officers and his
generals. He was closer to them and understood them better. Yet he
gives some sharply-drawn pictures of famous British battle-leaders as
they were seen by the eyes of the men whom they led. Here, for example,
is a picture of General--afterwards Lord--Hill, just before the battle
of Roliça. "Farmer" Hill was his sobriquet amongst the men, and he
owed that title as much to his homely and kindly spirit as to his red,
broad, and farmer-like face. Says Harris:--

  "We were pelting along through the streets of a village, the name of
  which I do not think I ever knew, so I cannot name it. I was in the
  front and had just cleared the village when I recollect observing
  General Hill (afterwards Lord Hill) and another officer ride up to
  a house, and give their horses to some of the soldiery to hold. Our
  bugles at that moment sounded the halt, and I stood leaning upon my
  rifle near the door of the mansion which General Hill had entered;
  there was a little garden before the house, and I stood by the gate.
  Whilst I remained there the officer who had entered with General Hill
  came to the door and called to me. 'Rifleman,' said he, 'come here.'
  I entered the gate and approached him. 'Go,' he continued, handing
  me a dollar, 'and try if you can get some wine! for we are devilish
  thirsty here.' Taking the dollar I made my way back to the village.
  At a wine-house, where the men were crowding around the door, and
  clamouring for drink (for the day was intensely hot), I succeeded,
  after some little difficulty, in getting a small pipkin full of wine,
  but the crowd was so great that I found as much trouble in paying
  for it as in getting it; so I returned back as fast as I was able,
  fearing that the general would be impatient, and move off before I
  reached him.

  "I remember Lord Hill was loosening his sword-belt as I handed him
  the wine. 'Drink first, Rifleman,' said he, and I took a good pull
  at the pipkin and held it to him again. He looked at it as I did so,
  and told me I might drink it all up, for it appeared greasy; so I
  swallowed the remainder, and handed him back the dollar which I had
  received from the officer. 'Keep the money,' he said, 'my man. Go
  back to the village once more and try if you cannot get me another
  draught.' Saying this, he handed me a second dollar, and told me
  to be quick. I made my way back to the village, got another pipkin
  full, and returned as fast as I could. The general was pleased
  with my promptness, and drank with great satisfaction, handing the
  remainder to the officer who attended him; and I dare say, if he
  ever recollected the circumstance afterwards, that was as sweet a
  draught, after the toil of the morning march, as he has drunk at many
  a nobleman's board in old England since."

Of Beresford, again--who, if he was not a great general, was at least a
terrible fighter--Harris gives an amusing sketch:--

  "I remember a great many of the leaders and heroes of the wars of my
  own time. Alas! they have been cleared off of late pretty handsomely!
  A few years more and the world will be without another living
  remembrancer of either them or their deeds. The ranks are getting
  thin, too, amongst those who, like myself, were the tools with which
  the great men of former days won their renown. I don't know a single
  living man now who was a comrade during the time I served. Very
  nearly fifteen years back, I remember, however, meeting with Robert
  Liston, and that meeting brings Marshal Beresford to my mind.

  "Robert Liston was a corporal in the second battalion of the
  Rifles, when we lay for a few days in the passages of a convent in
  Portugal. We were then making for the frontiers of Spain, when we
  were swept into that disastrous retreat to Corunna. There was a
  punishment parade in the square of this convent. A soldier of the
  92nd or 79th was the culprit, and the kilts were formed to witness
  the performance. Some of the Rifles were looking from the windows
  of the convent at the punishment of the Highlander, when a brickbat
  was hurled from one of the casements and fell at the very toe of the
  lieutenant-colonel, who was standing in the midst, and in command of
  the regiment. The lieutenant-colonel (whose name I never knew) was,
  of course, indignant at such an act; he gazed up at the window from
  which the brick had been thrown, and caused an inquiry instantly
  to be made. It was between the lights when this happened, and it
  was impossible to discover who had done it; however, two or three
  men of the Rifles were confined on suspicion. A man named Baker
  flatly accused Corporal Liston of the act; upon which Liston was
  marched a prisoner to Salamanca (a distance, I should think, of some
  hundred miles); and often did he complain of his hard fate in being
  a Prisoner so long. When we got to Salamanca we halted there for
  eight days; and Liston, being tried by general court-martial, was
  sentenced to receive eight hundred lashes. The whole brigade turned
  out on the occasion, and I remember that the drummers of the 9th
  Regiment were the inflicters of the lash. Liston received the whole
  sentence without a murmur. He had, indeed, been a good soldier, and
  we were all truly sorry for him; in fact, he always declared solemnly
  that he had no more to do with the brickbat than Marshal Beresford
  who commanded the brigade. Whoever committed the act, in my opinion,
  well deserved what Liston got.

  "Marshal Beresford was in command of the brigade at this time; and I
  well remember what a fine-looking soldier he was. He was equal to his
  business, too, I should say; and he, amongst others of our generals,
  often made me think that the French army had nothing to show in the
  shape of officers who could at all compare with ours. There was a
  noble bearing in our leaders, which they on the French side (as far
  as I was capable of observing) had not; and I am convinced that the
  English soldier is even better pleased to be commanded by some men
  of rank in his own country than by one who has risen from his own
  station.

  "They are a strange set, the English! and so determined and
  unconquerable, that they will have their way if they can. Indeed, it
  requires one who has authority in his face, as well as at his back,
  to make them respect and obey him.

  "I never saw Liston after that punishment whilst in Spain; and I
  suppose he remained behind, and got on in the best manner he was able
  in the rear; but, about ten years afterwards, as I was passing down
  Sloane Street, Chelsea, I observed a watchman calling the hour. It
  struck me that I knew his face, and, turning back, I stopped him,
  asking if he was not Robert Liston, formerly a corporal in the 95th
  Rifles? After answering in the affirmative, the first words he spoke
  were, 'Oh, Harris! do you remember what happened to me at Salamanca?'

  "'I do well,' I said.

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

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

Of another yet more famous soldier, Napier, we get an interesting
glimpse in Harris's pages:--

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

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

  "I was a young soldier then, and the lonely situation I was in,
  together with the impressive manner in which Major Napier delivered
  his caution, made a great impression on me, and from that hour I
  have never forgotten him. Indeed, I kept careful watch all night,
  listening to the slightest breeze amongst the foliage, in expectation
  of the sudden approach of the French."

Of Wellington himself--then Sir Arthur Wellesley--we have a brief
sketch at Vimiero:--

  "I remember seeing the Duke of Wellington during the battle of
  Vimiero; and in these days, when so much anxiety is displayed to
  catch even a glance of that great man's figure as he gallops along
  the streets of London, it seems gratifying to me to recollect seeing
  him in his proper element, 'the raging and bloody field,' and I have
  frequently taxed my mind to remember each action and look I caught of
  him at that time.

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

The real hero of Harris's pages, however, is Craufurd, the stern and
even rashly heroic leader of the Light Division, who ended his career
on the great breach at Badajos. Harris came into close contact with
Craufurd, studied him with a curious vividness of insight, and felt
for him an admiring loyalty almost too great for words. His account of
Craufurd gives us what is very rare in literature--a description of a
great commander by one of the privates who trudged in the battalions
he commanded. Harris, in the retreat to Vigo, saw Craufurd under
conditions which might well tax to the uttermost the resources and
temper of a general.

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

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

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

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

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

  "'I heard you, sir,' said Craufurd, 'and I will bring you also to a
  court-martial.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  "Many who read this, especially in these peaceful times, may suppose
  this was a cruel and unnecessary severity under the dreadful and
  harassing circumstances of that retreat; but I, who was there, and
  was, besides, a common soldier of the very regiment to which these
  men belonged, say it was quite necessary. No man but one formed
  of stuff like General Craufurd could have saved the brigade from
  perishing altogether; and if he flogged two, he saved hundreds from
  death by his management.

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

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

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

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

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

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



CHAPTER VII

THE "TOMMY ATKINS" OF A CENTURY AGO.


Harris's descriptions of his comrades are always kindly, but they are
keen. There is a touch of barrack freedom about them, and they have
a Dutch realism which sometimes makes them unquotable. They give an
excellent idea of the British soldier of a bygone generation, the men
who constituted the rank and file of the most famous army that ever
marched beneath the British flag--the men of the Peninsula. Perhaps
nowhere else in literature can be found descriptions so homely and
real of the soldier as seen--on the march, in the firing line, and by
the camp-fire--by his own comrade. Harris's attention is naturally
most arrested by the human oddities amongst his comrades, or by such
of them as had in their appearance, or in their fate, a gleam of the
picturesque. Here are some of the portraits in his picture gallery:--

  "A youth joined the Rifles soon after I myself put on the green
  jacket, whose name was Medley. He was but a small chap, being under
  the standard one inch[5]; but our officers thought he promised fair
  to become a tall fellow, and he was, accordingly, not rejected.
  Medley did not deceive them, for, on the day he first joined the
  Rifles, he was five feet one inch in height, and on the day he was
  killed, at Barossa, he was exactly six feet one. He was celebrated
  for being the greatest grumbler, the greatest eater, and the most
  quarrelsome fellow in the whole corps. I remember he cut a most
  desperate figure in the retreat to Corunna; for there he had enough
  to bear both of fatigue and hunger; and a very little of either of
  these disagreeables would make him extremely bad company at any time.
  It was dangerous, too, to bid him hold his tongue sometimes; for he
  had picked up so amongst us since he was only five feet one, and
  grown so bony as well as tall, that he would challenge and thrash
  any man in the corps. Corunna, however, though it could not stop
  his growling, took the desire of boxing quite out of him, and he
  sprawled, scrambled, and swore, till he somehow got through that
  business. If General Craufurd could have heard but the twentieth
  part of what I heard him utter about him on that retreat, I think he
  would have cut Medley in half. He was, as I said, a capital feeder,
  and his own allowance was not half enough to satisfy his cravings, so
  that he often got some of his comrades to help him out with a portion
  of theirs. He was killed at Barossa, as I said, and he carried his
  ill-humour with him to the very last hour of his life; for, being
  knocked over by a musket-ball in the thigh, he was spoken to as he
  lay by some of his comrades, who, asking if they should assist him,
  and carry him to the rear, he told them to 'Go and be d--d!' and
  bidding them mind their own business, abused them till they passed on
  and left him. I was told this last anecdote of him by the very men
  who had spoken to him and got his blessing as he lay.

         *       *       *       *       *

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

         *       *       *       *       *

  "Thomas Mayberry was a man well known at that time in the Rifles. He
  was a sergeant in my day, and was much thought of by our officers as
  a very active and useful non-commissioned officer, being considered,
  up to the time of his committing the slight mistake I shall have to
  tell of, one of the most honest men in the army. With the men he
  was not altogether so well liked, as he was considered rather too
  blusterous and tyrannical. Whilst in the town of Hythe, he got the
  fingering of about two hundred pounds for the purpose of paying
  for necessaries purchased for the men of his company, and which
  two hundred pounds he had, in a very short space of time, managed
  to make away with, and lose in the society of a party of gamblers,
  who at that time infested the town of Hythe. He was brought to
  court-martial, together with two other men, whom he had seduced to
  become partners in his gambling transactions; and, on the inquiry,
  it was further discovered that he had been in the habit of cheating
  the men of his company out of a farthing a week each for the last
  ten months. That was, perhaps, the worst thing against him. He was
  sentenced to receive seven hundred lashes.

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

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

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

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

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

         *       *       *       *       *

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

         *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

         *       *       *       *       *

  "Whilst we lay near Cork we were joined by one Richard Pullen,
  amongst others; he had exchanged from the English militia into the
  Irish, and volunteered to us Rifles from the North Mayo. He brought
  with him little else to boast of but his wife and his two children,
  Charles and Susan. Charles was a mischievous boy of about twelve,
  and Susan was a pretty little lass of about fourteen years of age.
  I remember they all went with us to Copenhagen, and got through
  that expedition pretty well. That affair suited a man of Pullen's
  description, for he didn't like too much service; and we soon found
  he was rather a shy cock. I remember remarking that Pullen (even on
  the first day of the retreat to Corunna) looked very chapfallen and
  seedy; and he was beginning even then to complain that he could not
  stand much more. The wife and children, too, were dropping behind.
  They all thought, poor souls! that when night came on they were, of
  course, to be billeted; but the open world was now their only refuge,
  and no allowance to stop or lie down, even on the bare heath, at that
  time. I saw Pullen again on the third or fourth day; neither the
  wife nor children were then with him, nor could he tell where they
  were; he could only answer for himself, and expected to drop dead,
  he said, every step. That's all I saw of Pullen and his wife and
  children on the retreat, or even thought of them; for I had enough
  to do to keep my own strength up. When we landed at Portsmouth,
  both myself and others (to our no small surprise) saw Pullen once
  more; and much we wondered at the sight of him, when so many better
  and stronger soldiers had died before half of that retreat was
  accomplished. We found that he had left behind him, and knew nothing
  of the fate of either his wife or his children, Charles and Susan. As
  the men continued to disembark, however, there was Pullen inquiring
  anxiously of every one for some tidings of them. None, however, could
  he get. At last he saw his wife coming up the beach, and hobbled off
  to meet her, each at the same moment inquiring for the children,
  Charles and Susan. He trusted they were with the wife; and she hoped
  they were with the husband; and both sat down upon the beach and
  cried in concert.

  "All our men thought it useless of them to continue their inquiries;
  but they never failed to ask after their offspring of every fresh
  face they fell in with who had been in that retreat. In about a
  fortnight's time, not satisfied, they advertised Charles and Susan in
  the public newspapers; and we all laughed at the very idea of their
  ever finding them again, and told them they might have spared the
  money. To our no small surprise, however, the artillery at Plymouth
  answered their advertisement, stating that a little girl had been
  heard screaming upon the mountains in Spain by them in the night, and
  that they had taken care of her as well as they could, and had her
  then with them. The description answering, the girl was forwarded
  to Hythe; and Pullen and his wife once more embraced their daughter
  Susan.

         *       *       *       *       *

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

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

         *       *       *       *       *

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

         *       *       *       *       *

  "The story of Demon, whom I myself enlisted from the Leicester
  militia, is not a little curious. Demon was a smart and very
  active man, and serving as corporal in the light company of the
  Leicestershire, when I persuaded him to join our corps, where he was
  immediately made a sergeant in the third battalion then just forming,
  and from which he eventually rose to be a commissioned officer in one
  of our line regiments. The cause which led to Demon's merits being
  first noticed was not a little curious, being neither more nor less
  than a race.

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

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

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

One gleam of the more tender sentiments which shines in Harris's
"Recollections"--almost the solitary love affair he records--was of a
very amusing kind. He was the shoemaker of the company, and when in
Lisbon he was detailed, with three other men, to discover a shoemaker's
shop, where all the worn-out shoes of the battalion might be mended.
Says Harris:--

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

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

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

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

  "Soon after this the army marched for Spain; the Rifles paraded in
  the very street where the shop I had so long worked at was situated,
  and I saw Maria at the window. As our bugles struck up she waved
  her handkerchief; I returned the salute, and in half-an-hour had
  forgotten all about her. So much for a soldier's love!"

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 5: The standard at that time, when men were quickly used up,
was five feet two with us.]



III

A ROYAL HIGHLANDER



III.--A ROYAL HIGHLANDER


James Anton, who rose to be quarter-master-sergeant of the 42nd, or
Royal Highlanders, and wrote a "Retrospect of Military Life," published
in 1841, was a typical Scottish soldier of the ranks. His memoir
gives, quite unconsciously, an amusing picture of the writer. He was
but an infant when his father died. His mother, a Scottish peasant
woman, hardy and frugal like all her class, reared her child with an
even greater economy of oatmeal and a more plentiful allowance of the
Shorter Catechism than is common in the poorest Scottish homes.

Anton is fond of describing his experiences in large literary terms. Of
his mother he says, "Sparta never had her equal in respect to what may
be called self-denial. She ceased not by precept, as well as example,
to impress on me the same contempt for ease and luxury she herself
entertained." Probably Anton's mother had the vaguest notion of what
such words as "ease and luxury" meant. She worked like a slave, fared
like a Trappist monk, and trained her child to thin diet, long lessons,
and hard work from his tenderest years.

Like most Scottish mothers, she was a God-fearing woman, rich in the
homely wisdom of peasant life. A love of education burns in Scottish
blood of all ranks, and young Anton was drilled in grammar and the
multiplication table, plentifully flavoured with the Shorter Catechism,
the proverbs of Solomon, the Psalms of David, and Scripture history
generally.

He emerged from the process lean and stunted physically--he was
rejected at first for the militia as being under the standard, and
only succeeded in striking the gauge on a second test by standing on
half tip-toe. But he had some of the qualities which go to make a
good soldier. He was cool, shrewd, tough, rich, after the fashion of
Scottish youth, in hard-headed common-sense, with a stomach that could
extract nutriment from the sternest diet, and a frugality which could
accumulate savings from the very scantiest pay. He records with true
Scottish complacency that when he entered the militia he had saved the
magnificent sum of £15; and before he left that corps for the line
this had grown to £60. That was a very remarkable record for a private
soldier; and, characteristically enough, he adds that during this whole
process he sent a £1 note at regular intervals to his mother--a form of
domestic piety in which a Scottish lad, peasant or soldier, does not
often fail.

It may be asked what impulse sent a youth of this type--under-sized,
lean, frugal, canny--to a soldier's life? But a fighting impulse is
native to Scottish blood, whether Lowland or Highland; and Anton, in
addition, had wit enough to see that a soldier's career for the sober,
frugal, order-obeying, pence-accumulating Scottish peasant had many
advantages. Certainly, Anton himself did not do badly as a private of
the 42nd.

Anton joined the militia in 1802. While serving in Aberdeen the
militiamen were allowed to sell their labour, when drill was over, to
the contractors then occupied in building a bridge over the Denburn;
and Anton, of course, worked hard and long, and so the pence in his
pouch grew fast. He records, quaintly, his joy in the very frugality of
the rations served out to him and his fellow-militiamen. They received
half a pound of beef or mutton per man daily; and this was a quarter
of a pound less than the orthodox allowance. But, Anton argues, "if
we did not get it, we did not pay for it. Indeed, small allowances of
provisions are always best. Why force upon us," he asks indignantly,
"more than is barely necessary for subsistence, when--when, in brief,
more meal in the platter means fewer pence in the pocket?" It was not
for nothing that Anton had been brought up with something more than
Spartan rigour!

Anton entered the army just in time to see one ridiculous custom
disappear. The long, elaborate, flour-besprinkled and grease-besmeared
queue of Marlborough's days still dangled down the unfortunate
soldier's back. Anton records the deliverance of the army from this
barbaric ornament with a touch of unusual feeling:--

  "During the time that the regiment was quartered in Musselburgh, a
  general order was issued for the army to discontinue the tying of
  the hair, and to have it cropped. Never was an order received with
  more heartfelt satisfaction than this, or obeyed with more alacrity,
  notwithstanding the foolish predictions of some old superannuated
  gentlemen that it would cause a mutiny in the army. The tying was a
  daily penance, and a severe one, to which every man had to submit;
  and there is little doubt but this practice had been introduced by
  some foreign fops, and enforced by antiquated prigs as necessary to
  the cleanly appearance of the soldier. It had been very injurious
  in its effects on the general comforts of those who were obliged to
  submit to it, and the soldier looks back to the task with the painful
  remembrance of the punishment he suffered every morning, daubing the
  side of his head with dirty grease, soap, and flour, until every
  hair stood like the burr of a thistle, and the back was padded and
  pulled so that every hair had to keep its due place; if one less
  subordinate than the rest chanced to start up in spite of grease,
  soap-lather, and flour, the poor man had to sit down and submit his
  head to another dressing, and afterwards parade for inspection among
  the defaulters of the regiment.

  "A certain latitude and longitude was assigned for the breadth and
  length of the queue, to which a gauge was frequently applied, in
  the same manner as some modern sticklers for uniformity at this day
  use a measure to ascertain the dimensions of the soldiers' folded
  greatcoats at guard mounting; but with this difference, the coat
  receives no bad impression from the stickler's gauge, whereas the
  greased and powdered hair retained the mark, and the poor fellow who
  had the misfortune to have the powder brushed aside by his awkward
  inspector, stood a chance of being turned off parade to have his hair
  dressed afresh, just as if the unlucky mark rendered him unfit for
  any military movement, or divested him of all the requisites of a
  soldier. Indeed, it was no uncommon circumstance for us, when on the
  guard-bench and asleep, to have the rats and mice scrambling about
  our heads, eating the filthy stuff with which our hair was bedaubed."

In 1805 Anton joined the 42nd, and his professional life as a soldier
began.



CHAPTER I

ABOUT SOLDIERS' WIVES


Anton's officers were quick to discover his steadiness, his frugality,
his methodical loyalty to every duty of a soldier. He was first put
on recruiting service, and then had his reward in the form which most
delighted him. He was allowed to marry. Only to a certain proportion of
soldiers in each regiment was granted this privilege; and Anton, who
was an odd combination of soft domestic instincts and hard soldierly
pluck, welcomed with a joy which he takes no pains to conceal the
permission to impose on the object of his affections the hardships and
the perils which must befall the wife of a soldier who accompanies her
husband on active service.

Anton plainly showed all his usual Scottish sense in his choice
of a helpmate. She was a hardy peasant girl, plain-featured and
strong-bodied, as frugal, as uncomplaining, and as canny as Anton
himself; and one chief merit of Anton's memoirs is the picture it
offers of a woman's experiences, caught in the rush and whirl of the
great history-making campaigns of the Peninsula.

Anton was still happier when, on his regiment being ordered on active
service, he was allowed to take his wife with him. This was a very
rare privilege indeed. Only four women were permitted to follow each
company of the regiment; and Anton tells how, when the regiment had
reached Ostend, at the beginning of the Waterloo campaign, even this
privilege was suddenly narrowed, and instructions were received that
only two women could be allowed to go with each company. Half the women
of the regiment were thus left stranded, penniless and friendless, in
a foreign port, and saw their red-coated husbands march off into space
with many a backward look at their weeping wives.

But the hardy women of the barracks are not easily defeated. "We had
been only two days in Ghent," says Anton, "when the women left at
Ostend found their way to the regiment." They had marched on their own
account in the regiment's track, and presented themselves bedraggled
and footsore at its quarters in Ghent. The authorities were inexorable,
and the weeping women were again conveyed back to the same place from
which they escaped, and there closely watched. But woman's wit and
wiles proved too much for the sentinels. In a week or two the forsaken
but enterprising wives eluded the vigilance of the sentries, and joined
their husbands once more; and as no official reports were made to their
prejudice, they were allowed to follow the fortunes of their husbands
during the campaign.

Anton, somewhat ungratefully--considering the devotion and sufferings
of his own wife--says that, in his judgment, women ought not to be
allowed to accompany the soldiers through a campaign. He writes:--

  "On all occasions of troops being despatched to the scene of
  expected hostilities women should not be permitted to accompany
  them. If any exception is made in one single instance it only gives
  room for pressing and almost irresistible applications from others,
  and throws the performance of a very painful duty, namely, refusing
  permission, on the officers commanding companies. Every private
  soldier conceives that he has as good a right to this indulgence
  for his wife as the first non-commissioned officer in the regiment,
  and certainly he is right; she will prove much more useful than one
  who, instead of being serviceable, considers herself entitled to be
  served, assumes the consequence of a lady without any of the good
  qualifications or accomplishments of one, and helps to embitter the
  domestic enjoyments of others by exciting petty jealousies that
  otherwise would never exist."

Anton gives very sensibly, and from the private soldier's point of
view, his opinion of how the soldier's wife should be treated:--

  "It is generally the case in selecting women to follow the army to
  a foreign station, that choice is made of those without children,
  as they are considered more capable of performing the services that
  may be required of them than those encumbered with a family. This,
  though just as regards our wants, is not so with respect to many a
  well-deserving woman, who is thus cast on the public or left to her
  own exertions, which too often fail her in the endeavour to support
  herself and children, while the childless woman is selected to profit
  from that circumstance.

  "A woman who is permitted to accompany her husband receives a half
  ration free; a child above seven years, one-third; and one under
  seven years, a quarter of a ration; and although this is but a very
  trifling allowance, would it not do much better to give it to those
  of good character who are not permitted to accompany their husbands?
  I must also remark that, on foreign stations where this allowance
  is made to the women and children, it will be found that the least
  necessitous are the first to apply and the first to be placed on
  this benevolent list. I have seen privates' wives, with three or
  more children, without rations; while the wives and children of
  sergeant-majors and quartermaster-sergeants were getting them."

Anton gives--quite incidentally, and without betraying any
consciousness that he is adding a very exceptional chapter to military
records--an account of his own experiences as a married soldier, which
is very amusing and sometimes very touching. Here is his story of an
early Spanish bivouac, and one cannot but pity the feelings of a modest
Scottish girl in such an environment:--

  "After having seen the provisions distributed I set about looking
  out for some accommodation for my wife, for we had not as yet been
  accustomed to lie on the open field, as in bivouac, nor even seen
  the like, and the tent was far from comfortable for a poor, wearied,
  young woman; I shall not mention delicacy, for that would be out of
  place--we must submit to circumstances. The names of seventeen men
  were on the roll of the tent besides myself, so it may be easily
  guessed how crowded it must have been had the whole been off duty,
  but this was seldom the case. However, as no other shelter was to be
  had we took a berth under it.

  "Eleven soldiers lay in it that night along with us, all stretched
  with their feet to the centre and their heads to the curtain of
  the tent, every man's knapsack below his head, and his clothes and
  accoutrements on his body; the one-half of the blankets under, and
  the other spread over the whole, so that we all lay in one bed.
  Often did my poor wife look up to the thin canvas that screened her
  face from the night-dew and wish for the approaching morn. It was
  announced at last, before daybreak, by an exclamation of 'Rouse!'
  which passed from tent to tent along the lines, when every man
  started up, folded his blanket, and strapped it on the back of his
  knapsack, ready for a march, and soon afterwards the sound of bugle
  and drum echoed from hill to hill; meanwhile, the army stood to arms,
  each regiment at its alarm post, until about sunrise."

The regiment was in camp here for a short time, and Anton resolved on
securing better accommodation for his wife. He says:--

  "I now set about erecting a hut for myself and wife, resolving, if
  possible, not to mix blankets with so many bedfellows again. This I
  was the more anxious to do, because at that time the whole of the men
  were affected with an eruption on their skin similar to the itch, and
  their clothing was in a very filthy state, owing to its being seldom
  shifted, and always kept on during the night.

  "With the assistance of a few willing hands I finished the hut in
  the course of the day, so that it served for a temporary shelter,
  and prevented myself and wife from depriving the men of their very
  limited accommodation in the tent. When I stretched myself down at
  night in my new habitation, my head rested against the one end, while
  my feet touched the other, at which was the entrance; my wife's apron
  being hung up as a substitute for a door, a couple of pins on each
  side served for lock and hinges, and feeble as that barrier was, none
  of the men entered when that was suspended, and we might have left it
  to its own keeping from morning till night without an article being
  abstracted. Thieving, indeed, was unknown in the regiment; but, in
  fact, there was little of worth to steal amongst us."

Later--in October, when the bitter winds were beginning to awake on
the cold summits of the Pyrenees--the division encamped on the heights
above Urdach. Anton then tried his fortunes once more with a hut. But
disaster followed. He writes:--

  "Here I erected a hut, larger than my former one and more
  substantial. Having occupied that which I had left nearly four weeks,
  I considered that, if I were to occupy this the half of that time,
  I should be satisfied in bestowing more labour on it, and making
  my accommodation more complete; but rain continued to fall for two
  days in succession, and placed us in a very unpleasant situation. I
  had cut a trench round the outside of my hut so as to carry off the
  torrents which rushed against it from the declivities above, and my
  poor wife was no less busily employed in securing the few articles
  within.

  "When the weather cleared I set about re-thatching my new habitation,
  but the first night after I had finished my work a violent gale
  struck every tent in the camp, and swept my little hut completely
  off. I had thrown my blanket over it and fixed it down with cords
  and pegs, on purpose to secure the thatch; having thus secured the
  roof, or I may rather say my hut, for it was all roof and ends,
  we stretched ourselves down, and the roaring of the wind in a few
  minutes lulled us to sleep, for we felt confident of having made all
  secure.

  "Our repose, however, was short; we were awakened by the feeble
  branches which composed the rafters falling on our heads, and, on
  looking up, no roof sheltered us from the blast. The stars shone
  brightly between the flying clouds, and the busy hum of a thousand
  voices rose on the wind as the men strove to re-pitch the fallen
  tents. We started to secure the few loose articles around us; we
  looked for our blanket, but it was gone with the thatch and several
  minor articles that were no more to be seen. The men lay close under
  the fallen, fluttering tents, whilst I and my trembling companion
  found shelter in the lee of a rock, until morning roused every
  soldier to arms.

  "My wife in the meantime nastily collected a few of the scattered
  branches of the hut, and huddled them together, so as to cover an
  umbrella, which served as a ceiling to the thatchless roof, until I
  should return from duty and construct a more substantial dwelling.
  Our loss, trifling as it may seem, was the more severely felt as
  there was no opportunity of replacing it by any fair means of
  purchase. Our day's provisions were among the articles missing, and
  this was far from being a comfortable lookout for the day, as I had
  to mount the advance picket that morning: however, we had a little
  money, and, scarce as bread was, it was to be had for a good price.

  "The advance picket was more than two miles from the camp, and as I
  had not taken any provisions with me for the day, my wife bought a
  small loaf and a little wine; this last she mulled and mixed with
  some of the bread, and was bringing it to me, but in her too great
  anxiety to reach me soon, by short roads, she slipped on one of the
  steep banks and rolled down a considerable declivity. Fortunately,
  she was not hurt, but heartily vexed at her own mishap, returned to
  the camp, made a fresh purchase, and again hastened to me. The tear
  was in her eye as she related the misfortunes of the day, but she
  returned to camp gratified at having provided me with an unexpected
  and comfortable refreshment.

  "I speak not of these casualties as sufferings on my part, for there
  were many worse off than I; but I point them out as some of the
  privations to which the poor women following the army had to submit,
  and which many of them were ill able to endure, and received but
  little sympathy from their husbands while patiently bearing them."

Perseverance is a Scottish virtue, and Anton, with the industry of
a Robinson Crusoe in kilts, set to work to invent a third hut. It
represented a gallant but melancholy attempt to secure the comforts of
domestic life amid the severities of war:--

  "I set about constructing a hut that should be proof against wind
  and rain. One of my officers (Lieutenant D. Farquharson) very kindly
  made an offer of any pecuniary assistance I might require, and gave
  me a blanket to replace that which was lost. The latter I accepted
  gratefully, it was more than money could purchase; the former I
  declined, as I was far from being in want.

  "I now became a complete Robinson Crusoe in my daily labour, when
  regimental duties permitted; and much I owe in gratitude to the
  memory of those who then superintended those duties for the indulgent
  manner in which I was treated, and not being troubled with vexatious
  interruptions to draw me off from my domestic avocations. They are
  now no more; they have fallen on the battle-field of a foreign
  land. A few men willingly afforded me every assistance; their only
  recompense being a small drop of spirits, which my wife had carefully
  reserved from my daily allowance. The wood was at no great distance,
  and the face of the hills was covered with broad ferns, which served
  for thatch.

  "I now laboured hard for three days, and every spare hour, when off
  duty, was dedicated to the rendering of my hut proof against the
  weather. My friend Fraser gave me the use of the intrenching tools,
  and I dug an ample space within, three feet deep, and a trench around
  the outside, four feet deep; this was to carry off the water from the
  roof, and the latter I secured more substantially than many of our
  Highland bothies are in the north of Scotland, or than the cabins
  in the remote districts of Ireland. We were enjoying the comfort of
  its nightly shelter, and I was adding something daily towards its
  stability for upwards of two weeks; at last I constructed a fireplace
  under the roof, and one of the men had brought a bundle of sticks for
  fuel, and the fire was lighted for the first time.

  "I was sitting on my knapsack taking a late dinner, quite at home,
  with the dish on my knee, for I had no table, when the drum beat
  'Orders.' I set down my dish (a wooden canteen, the one end of which
  was taken out) unfinished, attended the call, and with no small
  regret heard that the camp was to be struck, and everything ready
  to be moved off that night (November 9, 1813). I cannot express how
  vexed I was to leave my little habitation, my sole property, which I
  held by military right; but I was bound to follow my feudal superior.
  I had reared it at the expense of a blister on every finger, and I
  exulted as much over it, in secret, as the rich man in the Gospel did
  over his extensive possessions and his plentiful stores. On leaving
  the camp that night, many of the married people set fire to their
  huts, but I left mine with too much regret to become its incendiary;
  and my poor Mary shed tears as she looked back upon it, as a bower of
  happiness which she was leaving behind."

What the poor soldier's wife felt as she hung in the rear of the
fighting line and watched the drifting smoke, pierced with gleams of
red flame, where her husband stood to shoot and to be shot at; or
with what emotion she scrutinised the figure of each wounded soldier
limping, or being carried, to the rear cannot be guessed; and Anton
does not stop to tell. Perhaps he had not imagination enough to
understand any such emotions in his wife's bosom. Nothing, indeed,
is more wonderful than the unconquerable cheerfulness Anton shows,
as a husband, under all conditions; and if his wife ever grumbled,
Anton does not allow her complaints to become audible to us. After the
passage of the Nivelle the regiment encamped on the actual scene of the
fighting. Says Anton:--

  "We bivouacked on the field until morning, and fortunately for us
  the night was fair, though cold and frosty. This was the first
  night on which my wife and I had to lie down with no other covering
  than a blanket between us and the sky, but we had many worse nights
  than this afterwards, and worse fields before us; however, on
  looking around, we generally saw many worse off than ourselves;
  and, doubtless, were we always to look into others' misfortunes or
  sufferings, when we suffer ourselves, we would find some cause for
  self-congratulation amidst the most distressing hardships."

It would be interesting to know whether Mrs. Anton shared her husband's
stubborn Scottish philosophy. But she is the inarticulate figure of the
two. Her notes on her husband's memoirs would be very interesting; but,
unfortunately, they are not handed down to us. Occasional glimpses are
afforded us of the experience of other wives whose husbands probably
had less of resource and address than Anton. Here is another picture of
a woman's experiences in a campaign:--

  "In the neighbourhood of our bivouac were a few straggling houses, in
  which some staff officers took up their quarters, and our guard was
  posted under the leafless branches of a chestnut tree in the close
  vicinity. The sergeant of our guard, being a married man, considered
  himself very fortunate in having secured a small pig-sty near his
  post for his wife's accommodation, and the poor woman felt happy in
  the possession, small as it was; for its roof was a shelter from the
  wintry blasts, and its contiguity to the guard left no room to fear
  danger, were she permitted to keep possession; however, this was not
  to be the case.

  "Our adjutant's clerk, who had never occasion to approach the field
  in time of danger, had taken up his quarters in one of the adjoining
  houses, after the action ceased, but, being dispossessed by some
  superiors, and every other place preoccupied by soldiers who would
  not suffer his intrusion, he meanly invaded the miserable shelter
  selected for the poor woman. In vain she remonstrated with him, in
  vain she requested him with tears to allow her the sole possession of
  a place so unfit for his accommodation, and which she had laboured
  hard to clean out for her own; but to no purpose, she might remain
  if she pleased, but he should not depart. It is doubtful whether
  we had a woman in the regiment so regardless of her character as
  to have taken a night's shelter, in the absence of her husband,
  otherwise than with the crowd, where no advantage could be taken of
  her situation or weakness; but every man acted towards a modest woman
  with that kindness which he would towards a sister. Indeed, we had
  women in the regiment that, if they had been in possession, would
  have kept him out and put him at defiance to enter, but this one was
  not possessed of that masculine boldness; she therefore bundled up
  her few articles, and, hastening across the road, the only distance
  by which she had been separated from her husband, threw herself in
  his arms and burst into tears.

  "Three months only had elapsed since this couple joined the regiment.
  She was a comely, modest, interesting young woman, and always
  unassumingly but cleanly and decently dressed. But allowing that
  she had had but few or no accomplishments or amiable qualifications
  to recommend her to sympathy, it is but natural to think that
  whatever distressed her affected the husband. They had as yet seen or
  experienced but little of the petulant intrusions or consequential
  presumptuous ill-manners to which soldiers and their wives are
  sometimes obliged to submit without remonstrance. 'What is the
  matter with you, dear?' the sergeant asked, somewhat astonished at
  her unexpected appearance. 'Oh!' she exclaimed, 'I've been turned
  out o' yon bit placey that I was in, an' I'm come to stop wi' you a'
  night.' 'Who turned you out?' the sergeant hastily inquired. 'Oh,
  say naething about it, I'll be as well here wi' you as I would ha'e
  been yonder by mysel'; let us mak' no disagreement about the matter
  wi' them that we canna shake oursel's free o'; let the proud little
  creature keep it to himsel' in quietness; we are strangers as yet, so
  dinna let angry words be heard.' 'But what creature turned you out?
  surely it was not a man.' 'Ay, he thinks himsel' ane;' she whispered,
  'It was G--t.' 'Is it possible,' said the sergeant, 'that a married
  man can be possessed of so little feeling as to turn you out to the
  inclemency of the night, and neither his wife nor child accompanying
  him to plead for the accommodation?' 'I am happier with you,' she
  replied, 'than if I had lain all night in yon hole; but, dear, oh,
  dear, how hard it rains; the fire will be drowned out, an' we'll be
  starved to death before mornin'.'

  "'Poor body!' the sergeant ejaculated, as he wrapped the blanket
  round her shoulders, 'I'll soon make a good fire; sit you under that
  branch of the tree, the reek will annoy you less, and the drops will
  not fall so thick nor so heavy.' 'I'm well enough,' she returned,
  'and I care na' for the reek or the rain when wi' you; but dinna min'
  the fire till this heavy dag's o'er, ye'll get yoursel' a' wet.' The
  sergeant threw a faggot of wood on the fire, and in a short time
  nothing was heard but the rattling of rain and hailstones, the
  braying of mules, and the tinkling of their bells.

  "This was a severe night, the rain poured down in torrents until
  midnight, when it was succeeded by snow, which covered the face of
  the country before daybreak."

It may be suspected that Anton, who is much given to literary
excursions and alarums, has infused a little of what he regarded as
appropriate pathos into this scene. Nevertheless, it is a picture with
real human interest.

Here are some additional examples of what the soldiers' wives in
Wellington's campaign suffered. The troops had to ford the Adour,
whose ice-fed and ice-cold waters were swollen with winter rains. Says
Anton:--

  "In passing through, the men supported each other as well as they
  could, so as to prevent them falling, for the stones in the bottom
  were very slippery. The wife of a sergeant of one of the regiments
  attempted to pass on a donkey with a child in her arms, and owing to
  some sudden stumble or slip of the animal, the child gave a start and
  dropped into the stream; the distracted mother gave a shriek, leaped
  after the infant, and both were swept off by the rapid current in
  the presence of the husband, who plunged into the water in hopes to
  recover them, but they were gone for ever, and he himself was with
  difficulty rescued. After this accident, the women who were following
  the army remained until the bridge was so far repaired as to enable
  them to pass over."

Anton's own wife had an unfortunate experience on the Adour:--

  "After having crossed the river, we marched a few miles up the
  right bank, or contiguous thereto, on the main road, and took up
  our camp-ground for the night in a newly-ploughed field, rendered
  a complete mire by the rain and hail which fell upon us with
  dreadful fury as we were piling our arms on the broken ridges. Yet,
  notwithstanding the severity of this headlong torrent, a hundred
  fires were blazing in a few minutes along the side of the fences that
  bordered the fields. Fortunately for us, General Pack had taken up
  his quarters in the farmhouse adjoining, and allowed straw, of which
  there was abundance, to be taken for the bottom of the tents; this
  was an unexpected indulgence, even although the straw was rather wet.

  "I was General Pack's orderly this night, and had a good roof over
  my head, and the dry floor of a cartshed, with plenty of dry straw
  for a bed; but my poor wife was absent, for the first time since we
  left home. She was detained, along with several other women, on the
  right bank of the Adour, until the bridge was repaired. While this
  was doing, one of the women belonging to the regiment begged her to
  take charge of a little ass-colt with a couple of bundles, until she
  should go back to St. Severe to make some purchases; she complied,
  and before the other returned, the bridge was repaired. One regiment
  had passed, and she followed, driving the colt before her; but before
  she got to the farther end, the stubborn animal stood still and would
  not move a foot. Another regiment was advancing, the passage was
  impeded, and what to do she knew not.

  "She was in the act of removing the woman's bundles from the beast's
  back, and struggling to get out of the way, determined to leave the
  animal, when a grenadier of the advancing regiment, casting his eye
  on a finely-polished horn with the masonic arms cut on it, and slung
  over her shoulder, stepped aside, saying, 'Poor creature, I shall not
  see you left struggling there, for the sake of what is slung by your
  side.' At the same time, handing his musket to one of his comrades,
  he lifted the colt in his arms and carried it to the end of the
  bridge. My poor wife thanked him with the tear in her eye, the only
  acknowledgment she could make for his kindness."

In the fighting at Toulouse, one of the married men in the regiment was
killed, and Anton gives a somewhat laboured, but touching, account of
the grief of the soldier's widow:--

       *       *       *       *       *

  "Here fell Cunningham, a corporal in the grenadier company, a man
  much esteemed in the regiment; he was a married man, but young, and
  was interred before his wife entered the dear-bought field; but
  she had heard of his fate, and flew, in spite of every opposition,
  to the field; she looked around among the yet unburied soldiers to
  find her own, but she found him not. She flew to the place where the
  wreck of the regiment lay on the field. 'Tell me,' she asked, 'where
  Cunningham is laid, that I may see him and lay him in the grave with
  my own hand!' A tear rose in the soldier's eye as he pointed towards
  the place, and twenty men started up to accompany her to the spot,
  for they respected the man and esteemed the woman.

  "They lifted the corpse; the wounds were in his breast; she washed
  them, and pressing his cold lips to hers, wept over him, wrapped
  the body in a blanket, and the soldiers consigned it to the grave.
  Mournful she stood over the spot where her husband was laid, the
  earth was again closed over him, and she now stood a lonely,
  unprotected being, far from her country or the home of her childhood.
  I should not, perhaps, say unprotected, for, however callous our
  feelings may occasionally be, amidst a thousand distressing objects
  that surround us, any one of which, if individually presented to
  our consideration at any other time or place than the battle-field,
  would excite our sympathy, yet amidst all these neither the widow
  nor the orphan is left unregarded, or in some measure unprovided
  for. In this instance, the officer who commanded the company to
  which Cunningham belonged, having been severely wounded, sent for
  the widow; she became his sick-nurse, and under his protection was
  restored in decent respectability to her home.

  "The only protection a poor soldier can offer to a woman, suddenly
  bereft of her husband, far from her kinsfolk, and without a residence
  or home, would, under more favourable circumstances, be considered as
  an insult, and perhaps under these, from the pressure of grief that
  actually weighs her down, be extremely indelicate.

  "I make free to offer this remark, in justification of many a
  good woman, who, in a few months, perhaps weeks, after her sudden
  bereavement, becomes the wife of a second husband; and, although
  slightingly spoken of by some of little feeling, in and out of the
  army, yet this is, perhaps, the only alternative to save a lone,
  innocent woman's reputation; and the soldier who offers himself may
  be as little inclined to the connection through any selfish motive
  as the woman may be from any desire of his love, but the peculiar
  situation in which she is placed renders it necessary, without
  consulting false feelings, or regarding the idle remarks that may be
  made, to feel grateful for a protector, and in a soldier, the most
  binding is the surest."



CHAPTER II

FIGHTING IN THE PYRENEES


Anton's own adventures in the Peninsula were brief, but of a stern
and exciting quality. His regiment embarked on August 17, 1813, and
thus reached Spain when the war had come to its latest stage--on the
rough and hilly floor of the Pyrenees. The 42nd landed at Passages on
September 7. The first sound of war which reached its ears was the
sullen and distant boom of the guns thundering on San Sebastian. Anton
had an eye for the picturesque, and he gives some interesting pictures
of the scenery of the Pyrenees. Here is his description of a scene
which met his eyes one daybreak shortly after landing:--

  "The view from the summits of these mountains at that early hour,
  when the sun began to gild their tops, and to throw his cheering rays
  on the white canvas which speckled their sides, was grand beyond
  description. The valleys below were hidden under an ocean of white,
  wreathing mist, over which the hills, like a thousand islands,
  raised their rocky summits amidst the pure serenity of a cloudless
  atmosphere; the white tents of a British army spotted their sides,
  while ten thousand bayonets glittered around. The drums, fifes,
  bugles, and wild, warlike strains of the Highland bag-pipe, drowned
  the notes of a hundred useless instruments that offered their softer
  sounds to the soldiers' ears. Flocks of vultures hovered around to
  feed on the bodies of men who had fallen in sequestered spots by the
  hostile bullet, and were left to wolves and birds of prey, along with
  the carcasses of the exhausted animals that had failed in bearing
  their oppressive burdens to the expectant camp.

  "As the sun rose over the mountains, the misty vapours rolled away,
  and all the vales, woods, streams, and distant cottages appeared to
  view. What a lovely prospect this must have been to the once happy
  native of the soil!"

On October 6 the 42nd had its first near glimpse of mountain fighting,
though the regiment took no actual part in the combat:--

  "On October 6 we advanced towards the heights of Urdach, and
  descended a few paces on the brow of that part of the mountain
  which overlooks the valley of that name and the distant course of
  the Nivelle. A thick cloud hovered beneath us, and hid the country
  from our view. The loud report of guns in the valley shook the hills
  and echoed throughout the dark woody ravines below, while the quick
  rounds of musketry prepared us to expect an order to descend to the
  scene of action. The division stood in columns of brigade, or in
  lines along the mountain paths, as the position could be taken up.

  "We remained upwards of two hours enveloped in the misty clouds,
  every man full of anxiety to view the contest below. At last our
  wishes were gratified; the curtain arose, and the interesting scene
  burst all at once on our view. A far-discerning eye might see the
  skirmishers of both armies approaching close to each other, each man
  with well-directed aim looking along the deadly tube that sent the
  intended messenger of death to the opposing adversary. Vineyards,
  orchards, straggling bushy fences, and streamlets with steep banks
  intersected the country, and afforded occasional cover to both sides,
  as well as a rest to the marksman's musket in taking a deliberate
  aim. The ascent of the cloud, which had hovered beneath us and
  over the combatants, afforded them a view of our columns and lines
  ready to descend, a prospect no less discouraging to the enemy than
  animating to our friends."

Anton's first personal experience in the stirring business of war was
at the passage of the Nivelle. The river, it will be remembered, was
approached by a night march. Anton's account is interesting, though
marred by a laborious attempt at fine writing:--

  "The moon shone in the cloudless vault of heaven as we descended the
  narrow paths of the mountains; behind us were our camp-fires and
  blazing huts, while the ill-clothed and worse-disciplined troops of
  Spain were hurrying up the mountain path to occupy the ground we had
  left. To our right appeared the enemy's watch-fires, blazing brightly
  on the distant brow of one of the diverging ridges that jut out from
  the main body of the Pyrenees, their pickets little dreaming that we
  were worming our way through the intricate windings so near their
  posts, in order to rouse them to work in the morning. On our left
  a deep, woody ravine, with its roaring stream, skirted our path;
  before us the narrow ridge jutted out between two of those ravines,
  in a peninsula form, until its extremity overlooked the valley where
  we had witnessed the contest on October 6. The path led us down by
  many a circuitous and steep descent to the vale of Urdach, which we
  reached by daybreak.

  "We were now approaching the Nivelle, and all its woody margins were
  lined with light troops, our battalions forming in columns about two
  furlongs from the bank of the river: not a musket was yet fired.
  The guns were already posted on all the commanding eminences on the
  left of the river. The generals had given their orders regarding the
  attack about to be made, the movements likely to follow, and their
  aides-de-camp were flying from corps to corps with the preparatory
  directions. No voice was heard, save that of command, until the foot
  of the advanced skirmisher was dipped in the stream; the bullet
  arrests him in his advance, and, as if at the command of some
  necromancer, thick and obscuring clouds rise from bank to bank, from
  eminence to eminence, as the loud thunder of war bursts from ten
  thousand muskets.

  "The river is passed, and the soldiers of France retire or fall
  before their stern invaders. We pass through a wood and come to the
  bottom of a steep hill (the heights of Ainhoe), the face of which
  presents long ridges of formidable breastworks, behind which the
  enemy keeps up a heavy fire of musketry, and fears no danger in the
  security of his cover. On the summit overlooking these works is a
  battery which commands that part of the river within its range.

  "The 11th Regiment was now ordered to ascend and storm those
  breastworks, and never did a regiment perform a task so dangerous,
  so obstructed, and apparently impracticable, with better success or
  in better order. Its line was preserved without a break, not only in
  climbing the hill but in springing over the breastworks, bayoneting
  those that waited its approach, even until it cleared the battery on
  the western summit, where, justly proud of its conquest, it made the
  hills echo to its loud huzzahs.

  "Meantime our regiment advanced more to the right, where, on a gentle
  slope of the hill, stood the huts (the recent camp or quarters)
  of the enemy. Some of those huts caught fire, and, owing to the
  combustible material of which they were constructed, the whole were
  nearly enveloped in one blaze. The position which the enemy had
  occupied in the morning was now in our possession, and the sixth
  division crowned the heights of Ainhoe.

  "The regiment's loss this day did not exceed twenty-seven killed and
  wounded; among the latter were Captain Mungo M'Pherson and Lieutenant
  Kenneth M'Dougall.

  "This was the first engagement I was in, and I considered myself no
  longer a recruit. I had now smelled the enemy's powder, as the old
  soldiers boastingly exclaimed; I had heard his bullets whistling
  past my ears, seen them dropping harmless at my feet, and burrowing
  in the ground. I had observed, during this contest, the men whom I
  knew to be the greatest boasters in the company, men who never ceased
  enlarging on the exploits they had accomplished, the actions they had
  witnessed, or the hardships they had endured, when they had such a
  one as myself to listen to their stories; I observed some of those
  boasters very closely, and I could not help remarking that the men
  who spoke less acted better.

  "It is, perhaps, needless to observe that it is scarcely in the
  power of an individual foot-soldier to perform any enterprising
  feat in the field of action, unless he be on some detached duty in
  front, such as is frequently the case with the skirmishers. If he is
  with the battalion he must keep in his ranks; it is on the united
  movement of the whole body that general success depends; and he that
  rushes forward is equally blamable with him who lags behind, though
  certainly the former may do so with less chance of censure, and no
  dread of shame. A man may drop behind in the field but this is a
  dreadful risk to his reputation, and even attended with immediate
  personal danger, while within the range of shot and shells; and woe
  to the man that does it, whether through fatigue, sudden sickness,
  or fear--let him seek death, and welcome it from the hand of a
  foe, rather than give room for any surmise respecting his courage;
  for when others are boasting of what they have seen, suffered, or
  performed, he must remain in silent mortification.

  "I have seen it frequently remarked, in the periodicals of the time,
  that the loss in killed and wounded was greater than was actually
  acknowledged on our side; that we overrated the enemy's loss, and
  underrated our own; but this is not the case. The loss of the enemy,
  of course, is a guess rather than a certainty, until we become
  possessed of their official returns; but that of our own is never
  underrated. Indeed, a soldier feels a greater pride in boasting of
  his wounds than in trying to conceal them; mere scratches are often
  magnified into wounds, and stated as such in the returns.

  "I never yet, among the many I have seen wounded, knew but one
  individual who kept his wound from being placed on the list; his name
  was Stewart. We were evacuating a redoubt on the heights of Toulouse,
  when a bullet struck him behind, pierced through his cartridge-box,
  cut his clothes, and hit him smartly on the breech. 'I shall give
  that to the rascal again,' he said, as he recovered himself and
  picked up the bullet. 'I shall be ashamed,' he added, 'to let it be
  known that I was struck behind.' Had this bullet struck him on the
  breast or limbs, there would have been one more on our list of that
  day's casualties."

Late in November the army went into cantonments; but on the night of
December 8, the troops were in motion again. Says Anton:--

  "On the night of December 8, our division was under arms in columns
  of brigades until nearly daybreak, the artificers being employed
  in placing a bridge of pontoons over the river, below the town. As
  soon as this was finished, the troops began to pass along, while the
  drummers, left behind, beat the reveille at the usual places. This
  circumstance induced the enemy to conclude that we still occupied our
  quarters, although we were forming our columns silently in their
  neighbourhood, concealed amidst a dense mist. As soon as objects were
  discernible, a signal gun announced our time of advance. A wooden
  bridge still remained over the river at Ustritz, but so far broken
  down by the enemy as to be impassable; the discharge of this gun,
  however, so alarmed the French conscript sentries posted at the end
  of the bridge, on the right bank, that they retired in great haste
  towards the picket to which they belonged, and our artificers lost no
  time in making the necessary repairs for the passage of the troops
  and stores.

  "The greater part of this day's action consisted in skirmishing, in
  which the light infantry companies sustained the principal brunt.
  Towards the close of the day, the enemy retired upon a farmhouse
  situated on a commanding eminence, having some of the adjoining
  fields enclosed by low dry-stone walls and quickset hedges, behind
  which they appeared in considerable force, supported by some
  artillery. In dislodging these troops, Captain George Stewart and
  Lieutenant James Stewart, both of the light company, were killed on
  the spot, and Lieutenant Brander was severely wounded."

A sudden burst of tempestuous weather arrested the movements of the
troops, and the men returned to their camps. Directly the rains ceased,
however, Soult was once more in movement. Swiftly marching to his
right, he threw the whole strength of his army on the British left,
holding the Jean de Luz road. Failing here, he faced about, pushed on
at speed to his left, and leaped on the British right. In the toilsome
marches and bloody combats of these operations, the 42nd had a full
share. Here is a picture by Anton of the fighting near Bayonne:--

  "On the sixth division's attaining the heights overlooking Bayonne,
  its movements were immediately directed to its right, so as to
  support more effectually the left of the second; and Sir Denis Pack
  ordered the 42nd to advance to the main road, by which a brigade of
  the enemy was retiring. Our colonel was as anxious to execute the
  order as the men were proud to have been selected to perform it, but
  he led us into such a brake of furze, thorns, and brambles that it
  would have been impossible to have taken our bare-thighed regiment
  through its impenetrable meshes. The general, observing our painful
  but ineffectual struggling, withdrew us from that spot, and pointed
  to another place by which we should have advanced, and which would
  have been practicable; but by this time the enemy had passed our
  mark, and were descending towards the valley of the Adour, where,
  joined by another brigade, they made a determined stand against the
  92nd Highlanders, that were coming round on the other flank.

  "The ground at that place was intersected with deep drains, loose
  stone walls, and thorn bushes. Here a contest ensued, which cannot be
  described with justice to both parties; perhaps the like seldom or
  never occurred during the war. The enemy, although on their retreat,
  were within a short distance of their own fortified position of
  Bayonne, and in view of their own army and people, from whom praise
  or censure was to be expected; they were also in the animating
  discharge of an urgent duty, namely, that of opposing the invaders
  of their beloved country. Yet, notwithstanding all these stimulants,
  the gallant 92nd bore down every opposition. The guns ceased to play
  upon this spot, so closely were both parties intermixed. Muskets
  were broken, bayonets bent, and stones were thrown with deadly
  vengeance. Victory crowned our native band, but it was dearly bought.
  Fourteen officers, eight sergeants, and 163 rank and file lay killed
  and wounded on the spot, and thrice that number of the enemy were
  scattered in heaps around them.

  "The sun sank over the blue waves of the Bay of Biscay, and darkness
  rested on the fields, before the fire of the skirmishers ceased. Both
  armies, wearied of the struggle, rested on the ground during the
  night, the pickets occupying the dilapidated remains of the houses in
  front; to these the wounded men crawled for shelter, or were carried
  thither if near the spot.

  "The unfortunate men who had fallen in remote places were suffered to
  remain under the inclement sky, until morning brought them relief, or
  death ended their sufferings. The rain poured down heavily during the
  night, and those who had crawled for shelter to the dry ditches along
  the roads or fields breathed their last beneath the gathering floods."

The bitter, incessant rain now drove the army into permanent winter
quarters, and the British troops shivered in their bleak camps from
December 14, 1813, to February 21, 1814. On the latter date camps were
broken up, and the campaign of 1814 began. Anton's account of the first
great fight of that campaign--Orthez--is naturally concerned only in
the doings of his own regiment:--

  "On the afternoon of the 25th we were ordered to halt, just as we
  were about to ford the Gave, below a large farmhouse, where the river
  is fordable, but was said to have been set with spikes, so as to form
  an obstruction to our passage. Perhaps there was no truth in this
  report; however, we suddenly retrograded and passed on pontoons, not
  far from a small village, in which we were quartered for the night.
  On the following day we approached the neighbourhood of Orthez, where
  we pitched camp on the south side of the gently rising heights, the
  north side of which forms the left bank of the Pau and overlooks the
  handsome town beyond.

  "An explosion, occasioned by the blowing up of a bridge, excited the
  curiosity of a few to steal up the height, notwithstanding that we
  had been charged against discovering ourselves to the enemy. Others
  followed the example, and as no measures were taken, or perhaps were
  necessary, to prevent it, the men indulged themselves with a view
  of Orthez, the beautiful valley, with the Pau stealing softly along
  its south side, while the long range of mountain heights bounding
  it on the north rose abruptly over the road leading from Bayonne
  and Peyrehorade. Many a man gazed on that mountain range who little
  thought that before to-morrow's sun should go down, he would be
  stretched upon it a lifeless corpse."

Orthez was, in many respects, a memorable fight. Soult was superior in
numbers, held an almost impregnable position, fought with great skill,
and for one delusive golden moment believed he had beaten Wellington!
As he saw the British columns which had attacked both his right and
left flanks reeling back, broken and disordered, it is said that he
smote his thigh and exclaimed with excitement, "At last I have them!"
The battle was won by the obstinate valour of the British soldiers,
especially of the immortal Light Division and the swiftness of
Wellington's counter-stroke at Soult's centre. Soult's left was covered
by the Pau, and his centre by what seemed to be an impassable marsh.
Two diverging and hilly ridges, thrust out like the horns of a bull,
constituted his right and left flanks.

Beresford's attack on the French right, though urged five times over,
failed. Picton's assault on the horn which formed Soult's left, urged
with equal fire, also failed. Wellington won by sending the Light
Division across the marsh and breaking Soult's centre. The 42nd formed
part of Picton's attacking force, and the onfall of such troops under
such a leader is not easily arrested; but the position held by the
French was practically impregnable. In a private letter Picton wrote:
"We were for nearly two hours exposed to the most continued and severe
cannonade I ever witnessed. One of our 9-pounders had every man killed
by round shot." In Anton's account the fire of this fierce fight is
somehow chilled:--

  "Early on the morning of Sunday, the 27th, we marched down the left
  bank of the Pau, passed over on a pontoon bridge, and directed
  our course upon the main road up the valley towards Orthez. Two
  divisions of the army were already on the road before us. The heights
  on our left appeared to be in the possession of the enemy, and as
  our movements were plainly to attack his centre or his left, which
  was posted in and above the town, corresponding movements became
  necessary on his part, and his ranks were seen advancing along the
  ridge parallel with ours. As the mountain approaches that place
  where the road to St. Severe passes over it from Orthez, there is a
  downward bend of about a mile; it rises, however, to a considerable
  height on the east side of that road, and commands the town and its
  approaches.

  "On our coming near this bending, our brigade was ordered to move to
  its left; several enclosures were in our way, but this was no time
  to respect them, as the enemy was welcoming us with round shot and
  shell. The gardens and nurseries were trodden down in an instant,
  and a forest of bayonets glittered round a small farmhouse that
  overlooked a wooded ravine on the north side.

  "The light companies which had preceded the brigade were keeping up a
  sharp fire upon the enemy's skirmishers, and our Grenadier company
  was ordered to take post along the bank overlooking the ravine, and
  commanding a narrow road below. No place seemed less practicable for
  cavalry to act, but the enemy were determined to make every effort
  to re-establish their lines on the heights from which they had
  been driven by the light troops, and some of their squadrons were
  seen approaching to drive back our advance, which by this time was
  reinforced by the Grenadiers, but the more effectually to repel an
  attack, two additional companies were despatched to reinforce those
  already sent, and these had scarcely been formed when the charge of
  cavalry was announced; it was met and repulsed; men and horses were
  tumbled over the steep bank on the narrow road below, skirting the
  ravine.

  "The gallant young officer who led that charge, passed through the
  ranks like a lion pouncing on his prey, and was made prisoner by
  M'Namara of the Grenadier company. This man, if my memory serve
  me well, gave the horse and sword to one of our captains, who was
  afterwards appointed brevet-major; but poor M'Namara, who was more of
  a soldier than a courtier, rose not to corporal. After this repulse
  of the cavalry, we passed through the ravine, and moved towards the
  road that passes over the bending of the hill. The light infantry
  companies of the brigade, under the command of Major Cowel, were
  skirmishing in front. The major was severely wounded, and carried to
  the rear.

  "The hill rises rather abruptly on the east side of the road, and
  slopes gradually towards the north side, to which our advance was
  directed, in order to turn the enemy's right, which had fallen back
  as we advanced. There is a small village consisting of one street on
  that brow of the hill towards the north, upon which the enemy was
  driven back, and from this kept up a destructive fire of musketry
  from garden walls, windows, and loopholes. Our regiment was ordered
  to drive him from that annoying post, which I may say had now become
  the right of his position. The bearer of this order was Lieutenant
  Innes, who was then acting brigade-major to Sir D. Pack; he preceded
  the regiment, and may be said to have led it on. The word of command
  to advance at the charge was received with loud animating cheers.

  "No movement in the field is made with greater confidence of success
  than that of the charge; it affords little time for thinking,
  while it creates a fearless excitement, and tends to give a fresh
  impulse to the blood of the advancing soldier, rouses his courage,
  strengthens every nerve, and drowns every fear of danger or of death;
  thus emboldened, amidst the deafening shouts that anticipate victory,
  he rushes on and mingles with the flying foe.

  "In an instant the village was in our possession, and the fugitives
  were partly intercepted by the advance of the second division of the
  army, under Lord Hill, which had passed the Pau above Orthez, and was
  now approaching round the east end of the heights.

  "The enemy, thus dispossessed of his last position of any importance,
  commenced a hasty retreat through some enclosed fields and young
  plantations, through which his columns directed their course, until
  impeded by intersecting ditches which induced them to take the main
  road; there the ranks were broken, confusion ensued, and a complete
  rout was the consequence.

  "Fortunately for them the sun was nearly set, and although the
  pursuit continued for several miles, they succeeded in keeping the
  lead, and having reassembled during the night, continued their
  retreat towards the Adour.

  "The loss of the regiment in this battle was four officers, six
  sergeants, and eighty-eight rank and file. We left behind us our
  dead, our dying, and our wounded; the former careless who shut those
  eyes that looked up to heaven from their gory bed, or who should
  consign their naked limbs to a grave in the field of a strange land.
  Night suspended hostilities, and the army bivouacked in columns on
  the fields bordering the road leading to St. Severe.

  "Night after a battle is always glorious to the undisputed victors;
  they draw close to one another to hear and tell of the hazards of
  the day, while some show the petty prizes snatched off the field,
  and curse some inter-meddling satrap that would not let them linger
  behind to get a better. The batmen and baggage-guard join the jocund
  circles round the camp-fires, and exhibit some full canteens of
  wine, the hastily snatched spoil of the day, or the plunder of some
  poultry-house, baker's oven, or farmer's pantry, no less acceptable
  to men long used to mouldy ship biscuit and scanty fare than silver
  or gold would have been to those who experienced no want.

  "Midnight shuts our eyes in welcome slumber, and nought is heard
  to break the awful stillness that prevails, save the tinkling of
  the mule-bells and the tread of a silent soldier round the expiring
  embers of a camp-fire."

The pursuit of the enemy after Orthez witnessed some wild and some
amusing scenes:--

  "On the 28th we advanced on the road leading to St. Severe, our
  cavalry in front pursuing and harassing the enemy's rear, and making
  a number of his stragglers prisoners. Many of these were deeply
  gashed by sabre wounds, and, being unable to get on so fast as the
  escorts urged, they fell down by the roadside faint from loss of
  blood, or panting with thirst, frequently soliciting a little water
  to cool their parched tongues. It is but justice to say that the
  British soldier attended to their appeals and relieved them when in
  his power so to do, and sympathised as much for them as if they had
  never fired a shot at him.

  "We halted this day about three leagues from St. Severe, where the
  road is crossed by a considerable stream. A considerable quantity of
  vine-supporters lay scattered in bundles contiguous to our regiment's
  camp ground, and dry wood being always a desirable article for those
  who had the culinary duties to perform, a general charge was made in
  order to secure a quantity before the other regiments came to the
  knowledge of it.

  "Our colonel had just dismounted, and was about to proceed to a
  farmhouse adjoining to stable his horse, when the sudden rush of the
  men, after having piled their arms and thrown down their knapsacks,
  attracted his attention. He gazed upon them with astonishment,
  hesitated a moment, and asked one of the guard the cause of so sudden
  a movement. This soon discovered itself, for the men were loaded
  with armsful of sticks, and rejoicing over their booty and good
  luck, anticipating the comfortable warmth it would afford during
  the drizzly night. Sir Denis Pack had taken up his quarters in the
  farmhouse, or was supposed to have done so, and nothing was more
  likely than that he would take an interest in protecting the owner's
  property. The colonel, whether in dread of the general, or a mistaken
  sense of justice, called out to the marauders, as he was pleased to
  call them, to carry back their burdens. Some obeyed, others dropped
  them at their feet, and a few less obedient persisted in bringing
  them along; but the whole seemed rather unwilling to comply. The
  colonel, dissatisfied at the apathy displayed in obeying his orders,
  darted among the offenders and personally chastised those who seemed
  the most reluctant to obey.

  "Among the most refractory of those wood foragers were two men of
  singular dispositions; their names were Henderson and Doury. The
  former was a contradictory, obstinate, careless, awkward fellow. His
  visage was long, his lips thick, his mouth always open, and, to use
  a Scotch term, slavering. His feet were flat-soled, without any
  spring, and he marched like a wearied pedlar under a pack, jolting
  along the road. He had not seen much service, but, like many old
  soldiers, he had much to say--he was nicknamed 'the Gomeral.' Doury
  was a silly, good-natured simpleton, the butt of every man's jest,
  yet no jester himself; for, when excited, his utterance failed so far
  that it was little else than a breathless gibbering of inarticulate
  sounds. Such another couple was not in the regiment, or perhaps in
  the brigade, and would not be accepted of for the service in time
  of peace. Those two were bringing in their burdens notwithstanding
  the interdiction, and had entered the field on which the colonel was
  standing. The colonel, observing that Henderson led the other on,
  strode hastily forward to enforce obedience. Doury was the first to
  observe him, fled past his companion, dropped the sticks at his feet,
  and escaped. Not so Henderson: he fell over the bundle dropped at his
  feet, with his face pressed against the soft, miry field; the colonel
  overtook him as he recovered, seized him by the kilt, the pins of
  which yielded to the tug, and left his naked flesh to some merited
  chastisement. This excited bursts of laughter from all the men, and
  the poor fellow afterwards declared that he was more vexed at the
  laughter than hurt by the punishment."

War is a rough school, and under its hard experiences all the finery of
an army quickly vanishes. Colours fade, feathers moult, bright metals
turn rusty, uniforms grow ragged, and the once "smart" army becomes,
from the tailor's point of view, a thing to weep over or to shudder at.
Here is a picture of a gallant army in rags and sandals:--

  "At this time the clothing of the army at large, but the Highland
  brigade in particular, was in a very tattered state. The clothing of
  the 91st Regiment had been two years in wear; the men were thus under
  the necessity of repairing their old garments in the best manner they
  could: some had the elbows of their coats mended with grey cloth,
  others had the one-half of the sleeve of a different colour from the
  body; and their trousers were in equally as bad a condition as their
  coats.

  "The 42nd, which was the only corps in the brigade that wore the
  kilt, was beginning to lose it by degrees; men falling sick and
  left in the rear frequently got the kilt made into trousers, and on
  joining the regiment again no plaid could be furnished to supply
  the loss. Thus a great want of uniformity prevailed; but this was
  of minor importance when compared to the want of shoes. As our
  march continued daily, no time was to be found to repair them until
  completely worn out; this left a number to march with bare feet
  or, as we termed it, to pad the hoof. These men being occasionally
  permitted to straggle out of the ranks to select the soft part of
  the roads or fields adjoining, others who had not the same reason to
  offer for this indulgence followed the example, until each regiment
  marched regardless of keeping in rank, and sometimes mixed with other
  corps in front and rear. To put a stop to this irregularity, the
  men without shoes were formed by themselves and marched, under the
  command of officers and non-commissioned officers, in rear of the
  brigade.

  "It is impossible to describe the painful state that some of those
  shoeless men were in, crippling along the way, their feet cut or
  torn by sharp stones or brambles. To remedy the want of shoes, the
  raw hides of the newly-slaughtered bullocks were given to cut up, on
  purpose to form a sort of buskins for the bare-footed soldiers. This
  served as a substitute for shoes, and enabled the wearers to march in
  the ranks of their respective companies.

  "Our knapsacks were also by this time beginning to display, from
  their torn ends, their worthless contents; and as our line of march
  was in an opposite direction from our expected supplies, our exterior
  appearance was daily getting worse; but the real spirit of the
  soldier was improving, and I make little doubt but we would have
  followed our leaders to the extremity of Europe without grumbling. We
  were getting hardier and stronger every day in person; the more we
  suffered, the more confidence we felt in our strength; all in health,
  and no sickness. The man in patched clothes and a piece of untanned
  hide about his feet, when he looked around him, saw others in some
  respects as ill appointed as himself; and he almost felt a pride in
  despising any new-comer with dangling plumes, plaited or crimped
  frills, white gloves, and handsome shoes--all good-for-nothing
  frippery to the hardy, toil-worn soldier, the man of flint, powder,
  and steel, as he thought himself. His was the gloveless hand and the
  shoeless foot that braved alike the cold and the heat, the toil of
  the field and the fatigue of the march; nothing came wrong to him; he
  started in the morning from his hard pillow and harder bed, required
  no time to blacken his shoes, but braced up his knapsack, regardless
  of the state of the roads or weather, and was ready to march off.

  "I have already mentioned that there was some skirmishing with the
  enemy this day, as we advanced. Here we had three men killed and
  several wounded. One of those who were killed had been doing the duty
  of pioneer previous to this day; doubtless he had considered this a
  degrading duty, and had pressingly requested to be permitted to join
  the ranks. His request was granted; this was his first entry on the
  field since he obtained that indulgence, and here he fell. He lay
  on the field adjoining the road; some one had rifled his knapsack,
  but had thrown the blanket over him. Having the general's baggage
  in charge I was following the brigade with the guard and the mules
  when I observed some soldiers examining to what regiment the killed
  belonged; one bore off the knapsack, but left the blanket carelessly
  cast on the corpse, a batman was making a prize of the blanket, and a
  Portuguese muleteer was about to take off the kilt.

  "I could be at no loss to know to what regiment he belonged, as the
  42nd was the only corps in the division that had that dress, and
  I desired one of the guard to recover the blanket, and to spread
  it over the body, for we had no time to inter it. He sprang on the
  spoilers in an instant, snatched the blanket from the batman, and
  seizing the muleteer rather roughly, tumbled him into the ditch that
  lined the road; then, spreading the blanket over the corpse, left it;
  but doubtless to be soon stripped again. Thus falls the poor soldier."



CHAPTER III

THE HILLSIDE AT TOULOUSE


Anton attempts a more ambitious account of the battle of Toulouse than
of any other fight in which he was engaged; and there is some reason
for this. It was a cluster of Scottish regiments--the 42nd conspicuous
amongst them--which, by mere invincible and all-enduring valour,
saved Wellington from failure in that great fight. Soult, it will be
remembered, knew Toulouse almost with the familiarity of a native. A
strong place by nature, he had made it almost impregnable by the energy
and skill with which he had multiplied its defences during the long
pause before the British advanced.

Wellington delivered his attack at three points. Hill assailed the west
front of the city; Picton the north; Beresford the east. The first
two attacks were, perhaps, not seriously meant, and certainly failed.
Freire, with his Spaniards, whose task it was to carry the northern
shoulder of Mont Rave, fell on gallantly, but was smitten into utter
rout, extorting from Wellington the grim comment, "Well, ---- me, if
ever I saw ten thousand men run a race before!" Beresford's task was
perilous in the highest degree; to any other troops than those he led,
it might well have proved impossible. He had to toil for two miles
along a road which was little better than a strip of marsh, past the
flank of Mont Rave, strongly held by the French. On his left was the
river Ers. The road was so difficult that the guns were left behind.
There was deadly peril at every step that the French might overwhelm
the toiling column with a flank attack; or break through betwixt it and
the main body of the British army.

But Beresford--who had fought Albuera--was exactly the man for a task
which required blind and desperate valour. His men splashed doggedly
on their way; on their right the foe, tormenting their flank with
his fire; the fordless river to their left; their guns left behind
them. When they had reached the southern extremity of the ridge, the
regiments brought up their left shoulder, and proceeded to carry the
hill. It was seamed with trenches, and bristled with guns. Soult,
who saw that this was the one point of peril to his battle-line, had
brought up two divisions to the threatened point, and the French,
gallantly led, and confident in their numbers, in their advantage of
position, and in their success at the other attacked points, came
boldly down the hill to crush Beresford's slender and extended line.

Nothing, however--not the slippery hill-slope, the cruel fire of the
French guns, nor the onfall of the solid French battalions--could stay
Beresford's men. Soult's columns were smashed with rolling musketry
volleys. The batteries were carried with the bayonet, and the hill
was won. The 42nd played a most gallant part in this great fight, and
endured dreadful losses. Anton came through it all untouched, and tells
the whole story in a spirited fashion. He sees nothing, however, and
describes nothing, but what takes place immediately about himself:--

  "We broke up camp a little after midnight, on the morning of Easter
  Sunday, April 10, and marched towards Toulouse. The moon shone bright
  in the unclouded heavens, and reflected a stream of light from the
  muskets of our advanced columns, for our arms had not then received
  the brown varnish that now 'dims their shine.'

  "General Pack's brigade was formed in contiguous columns of regiments
  to the left of the road leading to Toulouse. At this time the
  Spaniards, who were in advance and ascending the heights, were
  attacked with such fury that they gave way in all directions. It
  was apprehended that the enemy would have borne down upon us in
  the impetuosity of the movement, and we deployed into lines. The
  79th Regiment was at this time in front of the 42nd, and General
  Pack, anticipating a charge from the enemy's victorious and elated
  infantry, after thus scattering the Spaniards, gave orders to the
  79th to receive them with a volley, immediately form four deep, face
  about, and pass through the ranks of the 42nd. The latter received
  orders to form four deep, as soon as the former had given its fire;
  let the line pass through, then form up, give a volley, and charge.
  This was providing against what might have taken place, but did not,
  for the enemy was recalled, and the Spaniards were afterwards rallied.

  "We now moved off to our left, along a green embankment, a small
  lake or large pond [really a flooded river] on our left, and a wet
  ditch and marshy meadow on the right. The shot and shell were flying
  over our heads into the lake, but the range was too elevated to
  hurt us, and we ran along the bank until we came to a place where
  we could leap the ditch and form on the swampy ground beyond it. We
  had scarcely formed, when a strong column of the enemy, with drums
  beating a march, descended the hill in our front, and thinking from
  the nature of the ground that we should be neither able to advance
  nor retreat, rushed down confident of success. For us to retire would
  have been scarcely practicable; the bank from which we had leaped
  down and over the ditch was too high in several places for us to
  leap back from such uncertain footing, for we were sinking to the
  ankles, and sometimes deeper at every step; to advance was the only
  alternative, and it was taken.

  "The light companies of the division were by this time in our front,
  and without any hesitation dashed forward; we followed fast, and
  the opposing column reascended the hill, and left us the undisputed
  masters of the valley. We now ascended at double quick time, and the
  whole of the division crowned the eastern summit of the heights.
  Here we were exposed to a destructive fire of round shot, shell,
  grape, and musketry, while we had not as yet got up one gun, owing
  to the numerous obstructions that lay in the way. The ground we
  occupied sloped towards one of the main roads that run over the hill
  to the city, and the fields on the opposite side of the road were in
  possession of the enemy, and extremely broken and intersected by deep
  cross-roads, breastworks, and redoubts, but could, from our present
  position, have been commanded by artillery, had it been practicable
  to bring a few guns forward; but this required some time, and
  indefatigable labour.

  "The light companies of the division advanced beyond the road, and
  maintained a very unequal skirmish with the enemy, who lay securely
  posted behind their breastworks and batteries, and in their redoubts,
  from all of which they took the most deadly aim. The 61st Regiment
  was ordered forward to support the skirmishers, and became the marked
  object of the enemy's batteries, from which incessant showers of
  grape cut down that corps by sections, while Soult was, perhaps, not
  losing a man, being so safely sheltered from our musketry; it was,
  therefore, seen necessary to withdraw the skeleton of that regiment
  to the road, on which we had taken post after its advance. It was now
  warmly welcomed back, for its retreat was no defeat, and its loss was
  scarcely equalled by any corps in the field. Not a subaltern left the
  field without a wound, and the honour of the colours was assigned to
  sergeants.

  "The enemy, emboldened by this momentary success, on his part, began
  to advance towards the road, and our regiment was ordered to advance
  by wings and storm one of the redoubts.

  "Our colonel was a brave man, but there are moments when a well-timed
  manoeuvre is of more advantage than courage. The regiment stood on
  the road with its front exactly to the enemy, and if the left wing
  had been ordered forward, it could have sprung up the bank in line
  and dashed forward on the enemy at once. Instead of this, the colonel
  faced the right wing to its right, countermarched in rear of the
  left, and when the leading rank cleared the left flank it was made
  to file up the bank, and as soon as it made its appearance the shot,
  shell, and musketry poured in with deadly destruction; and in this
  exposed position we had to make a second countermarch, on purpose to
  bring our front to the enemy. These movements consumed much time, and
  by this unnecessary exposure exasperated the men to madness.

  "The word 'Forward--double quick!' dispelled the gloom, and forward
  we drove, in the face of apparent destruction. The field had been
  lately rough ploughed or under fallow, and when a man fell he tripped
  the one behind, thus the ranks were opening as we approached the
  point whence all this hostile vengeance proceeded; but the rush
  forward had received an impulse from desperation, 'the spring of
  the men's patience had been strained until ready to snap, and when
  left to the freedom of its own extension, ceased not to act until
  the point to which it was directed was attained.' In a minute
  every obstacle was surmounted; the enemy fled as we leaped over
  the trenches and mounds like a pack of noisy hounds in pursuit,
  frightening them more by our wild hurrahs than actually hurting them
  by ball or bayonet.

  "The redoubt thus obtained consisted of an old country farm cottage,
  the lower part of its walls stone, the upper part mud or clay. It
  stood in the corner of what had been a garden, having one door to a
  road or broad lane, and another to the garden; the whole forming a
  square which had been lately fortified on three sides by a deep but
  dry trench, from which the earth had been cast inwards, and formed a
  considerable bank, sloping inwards, but presenting a perpendicular
  face of layers of green turf outwards. The cottage served as a
  temporary magazine, and the mound or embankment as a cover to the
  enemy from the fire of our troops; and from this place our men had
  been dreadfully cut down.

  "It cannot be for an instant supposed that all this could have been
  effected without very much deranging our ranks, and as the enemy had
  still a powerful force, and other works commanding this, time would
  not permit of particularity, and a brisk independent fire was kept
  up with more noise than good effect by our small groups upon our not
  yet defeated enemy. Our muskets were getting useless by the frequent
  discharges, and several of the men were having recourse to the French
  pieces that lay scattered about, but they had been as freely used
  as our own, and were equally unserviceable. Our number of effective
  hands was also decreasing, and that of the again approaching foe
  seemed irresistible.

  "Two officers (Captain Campbell and Lieutenant Young) and about sixty
  of inferior rank were all that now remained without a wound of the
  right wing of the regiment that entered the field in the morning.
  The flag was hanging in tatters, and stained with the blood of
  those who had fallen over it. The standard cut in two, had been
  successively placed in the hands of three officers, who fell as we
  advanced; it was now borne by a sergeant, while the few remaining
  soldiers who rallied around it, defiled with mire, sweat, smoke, and
  blood, stood ready to oppose with the bayonet the advancing column,
  the front files of which were pouring in destructive showers of
  musketry among our confused ranks. To have disputed the post with
  such overwhelming numbers, would have been the hazarding the loss of
  our colours, and could serve no general interest to our army, as we
  stood between the front of our advancing support and the enemy; we
  were therefore ordered to retire. The greater number passed through
  the cottage, now filled with wounded and dying, and leaped from the
  door that was over the road into the trench of the redoubt, among the
  killed and wounded.

  "We were now between two fires of musketry, the enemy to our left
  and rear, the 79th and left wing of our own regiment in our front.
  Fortunately, the intermediate space did not exceed a hundred paces,
  and our safe retreat depended upon the speed with which we could
  perform it. We rushed along like a crowd of boys pursuing the
  bounding ball to its distant limit, and in an instant plunged into a
  trench that had been cut across the road; the balls were whistling
  amongst us and over us; while those in front were struggling to get
  out, those behind were holding them fast for assistance, and we
  became firmly wedged together, until a horse without a rider came
  plunging down on the heads and bayonets of those in his way; they on
  whom he fell were drowned or smothered, and the gap thus made gave
  way for the rest to get out.

  "The right wing of the regiment, thus broken down and in
  disorder, was rallied by Captain Campbell (afterwards brevet
  lieutenant-colonel) and the adjutant (Lieutenant Young) on a narrow
  road, the steep banks of which served as a cover from the showers of
  grape that swept over our heads.

  "In this contest, besides our colonel, who was wounded as he gave the
  word of command, 'Forward,' the regiment lost, in killed and wounded,
  twenty officers, one sergeant-major, and four hundred and thirty-six
  of inferior rank.

  "Meantime the Portuguese brigade was ordered to take possession of
  the evacuated redoubt, which was accomplished with little loss, for
  the enemy had been backward of entering, lest we might have been
  drawing them into an ambush, or had an intention of blowing up the
  cottage, in which a considerable quantity of loose cartridges had
  been left near a large fire by themselves when they were driven out,
  and most likely intended for that purpose against us, but we had
  removed the whole to a place of less danger.

  "Thus far the left flank of our army was secured; the Spaniards,
  farther to the right, were making good their advances, our artillery
  was about getting posted on commanding eminences, while only one
  battery remained on the western summit in the enemy's possession, and
  before sunset it was stormed also, and all the heights overlooking
  Toulouse remained in our possession."

As soon as the fight is over Anton proceeds to mount the pulpit and
deliver himself of a homily on the night-scene after a battle, which
may be usefully abridged:--

  "Night after battle is always glorious to the undisputed victors, and
  whatever the loss may have been, the idea of it seems to be banished
  from our thoughtless minds. Here, however, by the first early dawning
  of the morning, let us more seriously cast our eye over this scene
  of slaughter, where the blood of the commander and the commanded mix
  indiscriminately together over the field.

  "Here lies many a gallant soldier, whose name or fame will never pass
  to another generation; yet the annals of our country will do justice
  to the general merit of the whole; from my feeble pen no lasting fame
  can be expected; time blots it out as I write; and even were I to
  attempt to pass an eulogy it might be considered contemptible from so
  humble an individual, by those who survive and witnessed the action.

  "I trust I shall not be considered egotistical in saying that I had
  some narrow escapes this day; but what soldier entered the field and
  came safe out of it had not narrow escapes? A musket-ball struck my
  halberd in line with my cheek, another passed between my arm and my
  side, and lodged in my knapsack, another struck the handle of my
  sword, and a fourth passed through my bonnet and knocked it off my
  head; had the ball been two inches lower, or I that much higher, the
  reader would have been saved the trouble of perusing this narrative.
  The company in which I was doing duty lost four officers, three
  sergeants, and forty-seven rank and file, in killed and wounded. The
  officers were:--Lieutenant D. M'Kenzie severely wounded, Lieutenants
  Farquharson and Watson mortally wounded, and Ensign Latta killed.

  "There was one officer of the regiment taken prisoner this day: he
  had lately joined us from the 1st Royals, in which he had been cadet,
  and had not the uniform of the regiment; but his deficiency of the
  uniform betrayed no lack of personal courage; the charm of the bonnet
  and plume, though wanting, did not make him less the soldier; he
  fell, wounded, near to Lieutenant Farquharson, at the side of the
  redoubt, as we entered it, and when we fell back he was made prisoner.

  "I have already mentioned that before the regiment advanced to storm
  the redoubt, we were posted on the main road that passes over the
  heights. During the short time we were in that position we had orders
  not to raise our heads above the bank, nor let the enemy see where
  we were posted. Notwithstanding this prohibition, our sergeant-major,
  as brave a man as ever entered a field, was despatched from the
  right flank to warn those on the left to comply with this order,
  for several were rising up occasionally and sending a bullet at the
  enemy, and thus, perhaps, defeating the intention of the order. He
  went, but though cautioned to stoop as he proceeded, he considered
  this unmanly, and never did he walk with a more upright dauntless
  carriage of the body or a firmer step: it was his last march; a
  bullet pierced his brain and stretched him lifeless, without a sigh.

  "There was a man of the name of Wighton in the regiment, a grumbling,
  discontented, disaffected sort of a character. He was one of the
  men attached to the tent placed under my charge on joining the
  regiment. Some men take all for the best; not so with Wighton, he
  took everything for the worst; indeed, his very countenance indicated
  something malignant, misanthropical, and even sottish in his
  disposition. He was a low, thick, squat fellow, with a dark yellowish
  swarthy complexion, and his broad face bore a strong resemblance to
  that of a Calmuc Tartar. As he rushed along the field his front-rank
  man exclaimed, 'God Almighty preserve us, this is dreadful!' 'You be
  d--d,' Wighton replied, 'you have been importuning God Almighty this
  half-dozen of years, and it would be no wonder although He were to
  knock you down at last for troubling him so often; as for myself,
  I do not believe there is one; if there were, He would never have
  brought us here!' The last word hung unfinished on his tongue; the
  messenger of death sealed his lips in everlasting silence.

  "The contest that raged upwards of an hour around the redoubt, of
  which we had gained possession, was maintained without much regard
  to order or strict discipline; in short, it was rather tumultuary.
  Every man was sensible of the necessity of having order restored,
  but thought himself the only orderly man of all the rest, and his
  voice was heard over that of his commander calling out 'Form up.' In
  the meantime, his own attention was more engaged in keeping in the
  crowd, to load his piece, and afterwards pushing forward, to send a
  bullet to the enemy as often as he possibly could load and discharge,
  than attending to formation.

  "A Grenadier of the 79th Regiment, for both regiments (the 42nd
  and 79th) were somewhat intermixed, rushed forward, discharged his
  piece with effect, and suddenly turning the musket so as to grasp
  the muzzle, dealt deadly blows around him; he fell, grasping one of
  the enemy in one hand, and the broken firelock in the other. Another
  sprung up on the top of the bank, called on his comrades to follow,
  and with a loud cheer, in which many joined that did not follow, he
  rushed forward in the same manner as his brave companion had done,
  and like him shared a similar fate.

  "It is only in this disorganised kind of conflict that individual
  courage may best act and best be seen. In united, orderly movements,
  the whole acquires the praise; and in this each individual is
  comprised, and proud of contributing his part to the honour of his
  corps, does his duty without attempting those feats of romantic
  daring which ancient historians record, but which modern tactics
  render nugatory or almost useless. Individual daring is lost in
  orderly movements."



CHAPTER IV

THE 42ND AT QUATRE BRAS


The return of Napoleon from Elba found the 42nd on duty in Ireland.
But when Great Britain was pouring her choicest troops into the
Netherlands, in readiness for the last great struggle, so famous a
regiment as the 42nd could not be left behind. The regiment embarked
at Cork on May 4, 1815, for Ostend, and thence marched in leisurely
fashion to Brussels.

Anton discovers quite a new justification for the Duchess of Richmond's
famous ball, which will live in history longer than any other ball at
which men and maidens ever danced. He says:--

  "On the night of June 15, we were roused from our peaceful slumbers
  by the sounding of bugles, the rolling of drums, and the loud notes
  of our Highland bagpipes, which threw their wild, warlike strains
  on the midnight breeze, to awaken the plaided sons of Caledonia to
  arms. Until daybreak of the 16th we stood to our arms on the streets
  of Brussels, and here we were served out with four days' provisions
  for each man. The grand ball was broken up, and our Highland dancers,
  who had been invited to display their active movements before the
  assembled lords, ladies, and military chieftains, were sent to their
  respective regiments to prepare for other sport--that of glorious
  battle.

  "I have heard some passing animadversions upon our great commander,
  for thus passing away time upon the eve of so momentous an affair
  as that about to take place. I think, as a soldier, and one who was
  on the spot, I have as good a right to give my opinion concerning it
  as any of those croaking politicians who were hundreds of miles from
  the scene of operations; and in giving my opinion, I give it as that
  of every soldier who was in Brussels at the time, and I believe we
  are not the worst judges of what is most likely to forward a ready
  assembling, or a speedy concentration of the troops, in order to
  attain the end in view.

  "Owing to this general assembly of all our principal officers, the
  Duke had not only all his personal staff about him, but that of
  the generals under his command. They, again, had around them all
  the commanding officers of corps, to whom they could personally
  communicate their orders. The unusually late hour at which the
  despatches from the scene of hostilities had arrived, and the
  information respecting the intended movements of our allies, in
  consequence of their having unexpectedly had to retreat from the
  bravely contested field, might have changed all our commander's
  plans. If this should have been the case, he had all those about him
  to whom he could communicate his designs, without passing hours at
  the desk, and sending orderlies off to the quarters of officers in a
  city, the language of whose inhabitants was foreign to us. All this
  trouble, happily for us and for Britain, was saved by this fortunate
  ball."

Quatre Bras was not the least perilous of Wellington's battles. Ney's
onfall took the Iron Duke by surprise, and that Quatre Bras was not
a British defeat was due as much to Ney's blunders in attack as to
Wellington's fine skill in defence, and to the magnificent courage
of his troops. Ney could, with ease, have thrown 40,000 men into the
fight. Wellington, at the beginning of the battle, had in hand only
7000 Dutch-Belgian troops, with seventeen guns. Picton's division only
reached the field in the afternoon, having started on their long march
from Brussels at five o'clock in the morning. Later, reinforcements
came trickling in, till, just as night was darkening, the Guards
reached the scene of action.

But the British came up in fragments, and at remote intervals of time.
Wellington had very inefficient artillery, and no horsemen; and a fight
under such conditions might well have gone wrong. Fortunately, Ney left
half his forces out of the fight, and attacked with 20,000 instead of
overwhelming the British with 40,000.

The Highland regiments formed Pack's brigade. They came up almost
exhausted with their long march, and were flung hurriedly into the
strife. The 42nd, in particular, fared very badly. In the whirl and
passion of the fight it changed commanders no less than four times in
little more than as many minutes. But disaster itself could hardly
shake the ranks of the veterans of the Peninsula. Here is Anton's
description of Quatre Bras. It gives a most spirited account of the
struggle betwixt horsemen and infantry:--

  "On the morning of June 16, before the sun rose over the dark forest
  of Soignes, our brigade, consisting of the 1st, 44th, and 92nd
  Regiments, stood in column, Sir Denis Pack at its head, waiting
  impatiently for the 42nd, the commanding officer of which was chidden
  severely by Sir Denis for being so dilatory. We took our place in the
  column, and the whole marched off to the strains of martial music,
  and amidst the shouts of the surrounding multitude. We passed through
  the ancient gate of the city, and hundreds left it in health and high
  spirits who before night were lifeless corpses on the field to which
  they were hastening.

  "As we entered the forest of Soignes, our stream of ranks following
  ranks, in successive sections, moved on in silent but speedy course,
  like some river confined between two equal banks. The forest is of
  immense extent, and we continued to move on under its welcome shade
  until we came to a small hamlet, or auberge, embosomed in the wood to
  the right of the road. Here we turned to our left, halted, and were
  in the act of lighting fires on purpose to set about cooking. We were
  flattering ourselves that we were to rest there until next day; for
  whatever reports had reached the ears of our commanders, no alarm had
  yet rung on ours. Some were stretched under the shade to rest; others
  sat in groups draining the cup, and we always loved a large one,
  and it was now almost emptied of three days' allowance of spirits,
  a greater quantity than was usually served out at once to us on a
  campaign; others were busily occupied in bringing water and preparing
  the camp-kettles, for we were of the opinion, as I have already said,
  that we were to halt there for the day.

  "But, 'Hark! a gun!' one exclaims; every ear is set to catch the
  sound, and every mouth seems half opened, as if to supersede the
  faithless ear that doubts of hearing. Again another and another
  feebly floats through the forest. Every ear now catches the sound,
  and every man grasps his musket. The distant report of the guns
  becomes more loud, and our march is urged on with greater speed.
  Quatre Bras appears in view; the frightened peasantry come running
  breathless and panting along the way. We move on to the left of the
  road, behind a gently rising eminence, form column of companies,
  regardless of the growing crop, and ascend the rising ground; a
  beautiful plain appears in view, surrounded with belts of wood, and
  the main road from Brussels runs through it.

  "We now descended to the plain by an echelon movement towards our
  right, halted on the road (from which we had lately diverged to the
  left), formed in line, fronting a bank on the right side, whilst
  the other regiments took up their position to right and left, as
  directed by our general. A luxuriant crop of grain hid from our view
  the contending skirmishers beyond, and presented a considerable
  obstacle to our advance. We were in the act of lying down by the
  side of the road, in our usual careless manner, as we were wont when
  enjoying a rest on the line of march, some throwing back their heads
  on their knapsacks, intending to take a sleep, when General Pack came
  galloping up, and chid the colonel for not having the bayonets fixed.
  This roused our attention, and the bayonets were instantly on the
  pieces.

  "There is something animating to a soldier in the clash of the fixing
  bayonet; more particularly so when it is thought that the scabbard is
  not to receive it until it drinks the blood of its foe.

  "Our pieces were loaded, and perhaps never did a regiment in the
  field seem so short taken. We were all ready and in line--'Forward!'
  was the word of command, and forward we hastened, though we saw no
  enemy in front. The stalks of the rye, like the reeds that grow on
  the margin of some swamp, opposed our advance; the tops were up to
  our bonnets, and we strode and groped our way through as fast as we
  could. By the time we reached a field of clover on the other side we
  were very much straggled; however, we united in line as fast as time
  and our speedy advance would permit. The Belgic skirmishers retired
  through our ranks, and in an instant we were on their victorious
  pursuers.

  "Our sudden appearance seemed to paralyse their advance. The singular
  appearance of our dress, combined, no doubt, with our sudden début,
  tended to stagger their resolution: we were on them, our pieces were
  loaded, and our bayonets glittered, impatient to drink their blood.
  Those who had so proudly driven the Belgians before them, turned
  now to fly, whilst our loud cheers made the fields echo to our wild
  hurrahs.

  "We drove on so fast that we almost appeared like a mob following
  the rout of some defeated faction. Marshal Ney, who commanded the
  enemy, observed our wild unguarded zeal, and ordered a regiment of
  lancers to bear down upon us. We saw their approach at a distance,
  as they issued from a wood, and took them for Brunswickers coming
  to cut up the flying infantry; and as cavalry on all occasions have
  the advantage of retreating foot, on a fair field, we were halted in
  order to let them take their way; they were approaching our right
  flank, from which our skirmishers were extended, and we were far
  from being in a formation fit to repel an attack, if intended, or to
  afford regular support to our friends if requiring our aid. I think
  we stood with too much confidence, gazing towards them as if they had
  been our friends, anticipating the gallant charge they would make on
  the flying foe, and we were making no preparative movement to receive
  them as enemies, further than the reloading of the muskets, until a
  German orderly dragoon galloped up, exclaiming, 'Franchee! Franchee!'
  and, wheeling about, galloped off.

  "We instantly formed a rallying square; no time for particularity;
  every man's piece was loaded, and our enemies approached at full
  charge; the feet of their horses seemed to tear up the ground. Our
  skirmishers having been impressed with the same opinion that these
  were Brunswick cavalry, fell beneath their lances, and few escaped
  death or wounds; our brave colonel fell at this time, pierced through
  the chin until the point of the lance reached the brain. Captain
  (now Major) Menzies fell, covered with wounds, and a momentary
  conflict took place over him; he was a powerful man, and, hand to
  hand, more than a match for six ordinary men. The Grenadiers, whom he
  commanded, pressed round to save or avenge him, but fell beneath the
  enemies' lances.

  "Of all descriptions of cavalry, certainly the lancers seem the
  most formidable to infantry, as the lance can be projected with
  considerable precision, and with deadly effect, without bringing the
  horse to the point of the bayonet; and it was only by the rapid and
  well-directed fire of musketry that these formidable assailants were
  repulsed.

  "Colonel Dick [who afterwards fell at Sobraon] assumed the command on
  the fall of Sir Robert Macara, and was severely wounded. Brevet-Major
  Davidson succeeded, and was mortally wounded; to him succeeded
  Brevet-Major Campbell (now lieutenant-colonel on the unattached
  list). Thus, in a few minutes, we had been placed under four
  different commanding officers.

  "An attempt was now made to form us in line; for we stood mixed in
  one irregular mass--grenadier, light, and battalion companies--a
  noisy group; such is the inevitable consequence of a rapid succession
  of commanders. Our covering sergeants were called out on purpose that
  each company might form on the right of its sergeant; an excellent
  plan had it been adopted, but a cry arose that another charge of
  cavalry was approaching, and this plan was abandoned. We now formed
  a line on the left of the Grenadiers, while the cavalry that had
  been announced were cutting through the ranks of the 69th Regiment.
  Meantime the other regiments to our right and left, suffered no
  less than we; the superiority of the enemy in cavalry afforded him
  a decided advantage on the open plain, for our British cavalry and
  artillery had not yet reached the field.

  "We were at this time about two furlongs past the farm of Quatre
  Bras, as I suppose, and a line of French infantry was about the same
  distance from us in front, and we had commenced firing at that line,
  when we were ordered to form square to oppose cavalry. General
  Pack was at our head, and Major Campbell commanded the regiment.
  We formed square in an instant; in the centre were several wounded
  French soldiers witnessing our formation round them; they doubtless
  considered themselves devoted to certain death among us seeming
  barbarians, but they had no occasion to speak ill of us afterwards;
  for as they were already incapable of injuring us, we moved about
  them regardful of their wounds and suffering.

  "Our last file had got into square, and into its proper place, so far
  as unequalised companies could form a square, when the cuirassiers
  dashed full on two of its faces; their heavy horses and steel armour
  seemed sufficient to bury us under them, had they been pushed forward
  on our bayonets.

  "A moment's pause ensued; it was the pause of death. General Pack was
  on the right angle of the front face of the square, and he lifted his
  hat towards the French officer, as he was wont to do when returning
  a salute. I suppose our assailants construed our forbearance as an
  indication of surrendering; a false idea; not a blow had been struck
  nor a musket levelled, but when the general raised his hat, it served
  as a signal, though not a preconcerted one, but entirely accidental;
  for we were doubtful whether our officer commanding was protracting
  the order, waiting for the general's command, as he was present. Be
  this as it may, a most destructive fire was opened; riders cased in
  heavy armour, fell tumbling from their horses; the horses reared,
  plunged, and fell on the dismounted riders; steel helmets and
  cuirasses rang against unsheathed sabres as they fell to the ground;
  shrieks and groans of men, the neighing of horses, and the discharge
  of musketry, rent the air, as men and horses mixed together in one
  heap of indiscriminate slaughter. Those who were able to fly, fled
  towards a wood on our right, whence they had issued to the attack,
  and which seemed to afford an extensive cover to an immense reserve
  not yet brought into action.

  "Once more clear of these formidable and daring assailants we formed
  line, examined our ammunition boxes, and found them getting empty.
  Our officer commanding pointed towards the pouches of our dead and
  dying comrades, and from them a sufficient supply was obtained. We
  lay down behind the gentle rise of a trodden-down field of grain, and
  enjoyed a few minutes' rest to our wearied limbs; but not in safety
  from the flying messengers of death, the whistling music of which was
  far from lulling us to sleep.

  "Afternoon was now far spent, and we were resting in line, without
  having equalised the companies, for this would have been extremely
  dangerous in so exposed a position, for the field afforded no cover,
  and we were in advance of the other regiments. The enemy were at no
  great distance, and, I may add, firing very actively upon us. We
  had wasted a deal of ammunition this day, and surely to very little
  effect, otherwise every one of our adversaries must have bled before
  this time. Our commanding officer cautioned us against this useless
  expenditure, and we became a little more economical.

  "Our position being, as I have already observed, without any cover
  from the fire of the enemy, we were commanded to retire to the rear
  of the farm, where we took up our bivouac on the field for the
  night. The day's contest at a close, our attention was directed to
  the casualties which had occurred in our ranks. We had lost, in
  killed, one colonel, one lieutenant, one ensign, one sergeant-major,
  two sergeants, and forty-eight rank and file. One brevet
  lieutenant-colonel, five captains, five lieutenants, two ensigns,
  fourteen sergeants, one drummer, and two hundred and fourteen rank
  and file composed our list of wounded. Six privates fell into the
  enemy's hands; among these was a little lad (Smith Fyfe) about five
  feet high. The French general, on seeing this diminutive-looking lad,
  is said to have lifted him up by the collar or breech and exclaimed
  to the soldiers who were near him, 'Behold the sample of the men
  of whom you seem afraid!' This lad returned a few days afterwards,
  dressed in the clothing of a French Grenadier, and was saluted by the
  name of Napoleon, which he retained until he was discharged.

  "The night passed off in silence: no fires were lit, every man lay
  down in rear of his arms, and silence was enjoined for the night.
  Round us lay the dying and the dead, the latter not yet interred, and
  many of the former, wishing to breathe their last where they fell,
  slept to death with their heads on the same pillow on which those who
  had to toil through the future fortunes of the field reposed."



CHAPTER V

THE HIGHLANDERS AT WATERLOO


Anton's account of the retreat from Quatre Bras to Waterloo, of the
camp on the historic ridge through the falling rains and blackness of
the night before the great battle, and of the tumult and passion, the
perils and the triumph, of the memorable day, has many merits. But it
is marred by a perfect paroxysm of apostrophes to posterity, to the
spirits of the fallen, to freedom, to all sorts of more or less heroic
and non-existent abstractions. In describing the struggle in which he
was a microscopic and almost nameless actor, Anton feels it necessary
to mount on the tallest literary stilts available, and walking on
stilts is not usually a very graceful performance. Anton's account
of the battle, in a word, recalls the famous description of a Scotch
haggis. It contains much good substance, but in a very confused and
planless state. His story, indeed, only becomes intelligible by virtue
of generous omissions. Here is Anton's tale of the march from Quatre
Bras:--

  "On the morning of the 17th the unclouded heavens began to present
  the approach of day, our usual signal to rise from our sky-canopied
  bed. We started to arms and took up a new line on the field, facing
  our yet silent foe. Here, after arranging our ranks and equalising
  the companies, we piled our arms, and commenced to prepare our
  yesterday's dinner, which served us for an excellent breakfast.

  "The men not thus engaged were now busily employed in burying the
  dead, and those who had been attending the wounded in the adjoining
  houses had not neglected the interest of their respective messes.
  Besides our own allowances of meat which we had brought from
  Brussels, there was not a mess without a turkey, goose, duck, or fowl
  floating in the seething kettle; and an abundance of vegetables from
  the neighbouring gardens helped to add to the richness of the soup
  which was preparing, and which we got good time to take, and for this
  we were truly thankful, for we were very hungry.

  "A passing fog hung over the plain a short time, but soon
  disappeared, and left us with a cloudless sky. A general retrograde
  movement now took place, and we retired on the main road by which we
  had advanced from Brussels.

  "It was with regret that many of us left that field, on which some of
  our men lay breathing their last. Among this number was a young man
  whose wound was in his forehead, from which the brain protruded. In
  this state he had lain on the field during the night; his eyes were
  open, with a death film over them; two of his comrades were watching
  the last throb of his expiring breath before they would consign his
  body to the grave, already opened to receive it, when the call to
  arms made us leave him on the field to the hands of strangers.

  "The sun shone brightly on our arms as we left the fields of Quatre
  Bras, and passed the farms round which the remains of some thousands
  of brave men, British, Brunswick, Belgic, and French, were interred;
  and many yet lay scattered over the fields, and may have remained
  hidden amidst the grain which still continued standing, until the
  sickle or the scythe laid the fields bare.

  "The enemy did not as yet seem to notice our movement, and we
  continued our march until we had passed the village, half-way to
  Waterloo. Here we turned off the road to our right, formed in
  columns, and halted; and, short as that halt was, it afforded time
  for one of our regiments to hold a drum-head court-martial and
  carry the sentence into effect on the spot. Examples of this kind
  are absolutely necessary, whatever philanthropists may say to the
  contrary. They tend to preserve regularity, order, and discipline;
  and although an individual may suffer a punishment which is debasing
  and cruel, yet it is better that this should be awarded and inflicted
  than to see hundreds fall victims to the rapacity that might ensue
  from not timely visiting the aggressor with punishment.

  "We had now attained the undulating height of Mont St. Jean, and
  Wellington said, 'We shall retire no farther.' The thunder ceased to
  roll its awful peals through the heavens, the thick embodied clouds
  deployed, spread wide, and half dissolved in drizzly mist, but, as if
  doubtful of man's resolves, resumed again their threatening aspect,
  as if to secure our halt."

At Waterloo Sir Denis Pack's brigade--the 1st, 42nd, 44th, and
92nd--formed part of Picton's division, and held the line immediately
to the left of the great Brussels road. It was on this part of
Wellington's battle-front that Napoleon launched his first great
infantry attack--D'Erlon's corps, four close-massed columns--over
13,000 bayonets in all--with the fire of seventy-four guns sweeping the
path in their front as with a besom of flame.

The story of how Picton's slender lines met this mighty onfall, shook
the French columns into retreat with actual bayonet push, and how the
Life Guards, Inniskillings, and Greys swept down the slope and utterly
wrecked D'Erlon's swaying battalions is one of the most dramatic
passages in the story of the famous day.

Anton's account of the night before Waterloo is graphic:--

  "Our lines now formed behind the long-extended ridge of Mont St.
  Jean, having the village of Waterloo a mile or two in our rear, and
  at no less a distance the dark forest of Soignes, which extends
  to Brussels. The right of our front British line extended beyond
  Hougoumont as far as Merke Braine; the left is said to have extended
  to Wavre! Sir T. Picton's division consisted of the 28th, 32nd, 79th,
  and the 95th (rifle corps), under the command of Sir James Kempt; and
  the 1st, 42nd, 44th, and 92nd Regiments, under the command of Sir
  Denis Pack, extended from the left of the Brussels road to a copse
  on a rising ground which probably overlooked the whole field. The
  extensive farm-houses and offices of La Haye Sainte were to the right
  of the division, but in front and on the right side of the road.

  "Before us was a line of Belgic and Dutch troops; a narrow road,
  lined with stunted quickset hedges, runs between this line of
  foreigners (or I may, with more justice, say natives) and us. This
  road commands a view of the enemy's position, and the side next to us
  is the artillery's post; the hedges in front form a feeble cover from
  the enemy's view, but no defence against his shot, shell, or musketry.

  "Our line, being on the slope next to Waterloo, was hidden from the
  enemy, who took up his position on the heights of La Belle Alliance,
  parallel to those of St. Jean: a valley corresponding to those wavy
  heights on either side divides the two armies, a distance of about
  half a musket-shot intervening between the adverse fronts.

  "We piled our arms, kindled fires, and stood round the welcome blaze
  to warm ourselves and dry our dripping clothes. Midnight approached,
  and all the fields towards the artillery's post were hid in darkness,
  save what the fitful gleams of our fires cast over them. Silence
  prevailed, and wet although we were, we were falling asleep sitting
  round the fires or stretched on scattered branches brought for fuel.
  At this time a very heavy shower poured down upon us, and occasioned
  some movement or noisy murmur in the French army or line of Belgians.
  This induced our sentries to give an alarm. In an instant each man
  of the brigade stood by his musket; the bayonets were already on the
  pieces, and these all loaded, notwithstanding the rain. We stood thus
  to our arms for nearly an hour, sinking to our ankles amongst the
  soft muddy soil of the field, when the alarm was found to be false,
  and we again sat or lay down to repose.

  "Long-looked-for day at last began to break; we stood to our useless
  arms for a few minutes, and then began to examine their contents.
  The powder was moistened in the piece and completely washed out of
  the pan. The shots were drawn, muskets sponged out, locks oiled, and
  everything put to rights."

Anton's description of the actual on-coming of the French and of the
charge of the Greys is in his worst style; turgid, windy, unreal. Yet
it is the story of a man who actually plied 'Brown Bess' in the central
passion of the fight, and ran in with levelled bayonet on D'Erlon's
Grenadiers, and cheered the gallant Greys as they rode past on their
famous charge. Had Anton told his tale with the prosaic simplicity
of De Foe or the stern realism of Swift, we might have had a battle
picture memorable in literature. As it is, we must be thankful for
small mercies. The present reader at least shall be spared Anton's
incessant apostrophes:--

  "Now, on our right, Napoleon urged on his heavy columns, while a
  like movement was made against our left. The guns opened their
  war-breathing mouths in thundering peals, and all along the ridge of
  Mont St. Jean arose one dense cloud of smoke.

  "France now pushed forward on the line of our Belgic allies, drove
  them from their post, and rolled them in one promiscuous mass of
  confusion through the ranks of our brigade, which instantly advanced
  to repel the pursuers, who came pushing on in broken disorder, in the
  eagerness of pursuit, till obstructed by the hedge and narrow road,
  while a like obstruction presented itself to us on the other side.
  We might have forced ourselves through as the Belgians had done,
  but our bare thighs had no protection from the piercing thorns; and
  doubtless those runaways had more wisdom in shunning death, though at
  the hazard of laceration, than we would have shown in rushing forward
  upon it in disorder, with self-inflicted torture. The foe beheld
  our front and paused; a sudden terror seized his flushed ranks. We
  were in the act of breaking through the hedge, when our general gave
  orders to open our ranks. In an instant our cavalry passed through,
  leaped both hedges, and plunged on the panic-stricken foe. 'Scotland
  for ever!' burst from the mouth of each Highlander as the Scots Greys
  pass through our ranks.

  "What pen can describe the scene? Horses' hoofs sinking in men's
  breasts. Riders' swords streaming in blood, waving over their heads,
  and descending in deadly vengeance. Stroke follows stroke, like
  the turning of a flail in the hand of a dexterous thresher; the
  living stream gushes red from the ghastly wound. There the piercing
  shrieks and dying groans; here the loud cheering of an exulting army,
  animating the slayers to deeds of signal vengeance upon a daring foe.
  It was a scene of vehement destruction, yells and shrieks, wounds
  and death; and the bodies of the dead served as pillows for the dying.

  "A thousand prisoners are driven in before our cavalry as they
  return over the corpse-strewn field, and the loud shouts of ten
  thousand soldiers welcome the victors back. But long and loud are the
  enthusiastic cheerings of the proud Highlanders as they greet the
  gallant Greys' approach. 'Glory of Scotland!' bursts spontaneously
  from the mouth of each Highlander, while rending shouts of 'England!'
  or 'Ireland!' welcome the 1st and Inniskilling Dragoons, and echo
  along the lines. This dreadful charge made by our cavalry in our
  immediate front gave an impulse bordering on enthusiasm to our
  spirits that nothing could depress. But the enemy, as if dreading
  more than common opposition at this spot, forbore to press upon it
  during the remaining part of the day.

  "The right and left both sustained the impetuous onset of Napoleon's
  cavalry, and these on each occasion met with powerful opposition,
  and were driven back in wild confusion. But on the right and centre
  he seems to urge his greatest force throughout the whole day. La
  Haye Sainte is one pool of blood; against it Napoleon's artillery
  incessantly play, and columns of infantry are urged on to drive
  the brave defenders out. But these meet them with fire and steel,
  and repel them with determined resolution. Here a never-ceasing
  combat rages throughout the day, and forms an interesting object in
  the general picture of the field. Hougoumont is no less a scene of
  slaughter; there, every effort is made to obtain possession and to
  break in upon our right wing. Sometimes in the heat of a charge they
  rush past its bounds, but meet with wounds or death as they fly back;
  for it is only when the enemy occasionally pursues his apparently
  victorious course beyond his lines and past our guns that he gets a
  view of our columns or lines of infantry, which immediately take
  advantage of his disordered front, and drive him back, with immense
  loss, beyond our guns and down the descent; they then retire to their
  well-chosen ground and send out a company or two of skirmishers from
  each regiment to keep up a never-ceasing fire, save when driven back
  on their respective columns in those repeated charges.

  "The sun, as he hastens down, bursts through the hazy clouds and
  gleams in brightness over the long-contested field. It is the setting
  sun of Napoleon's greatness.

  "The loss of the regiment this day was trifling, if compared with
  that which it sustained on the 16th at Quatre Bras: we had only six
  men killed; one captain, three lieutenants, and thirty-three rank and
  file wounded. Brussels, which had been kept in a state of excitement
  since the night of the 15th, heard the glad tidings of the result
  of the battle, and the doors were opened wide for the reception of
  the bleeding soldiers, who had been conveyed thither on waggons or
  had dragged their maimed limbs along the way without assistance. The
  poor women, who had been forced back to the rear of the army when the
  battle commenced, were hurried amidst the mingled mass of fugitives,
  panic-struck batmen, mules, horses, and cattle, back to the gates of
  Brussels; but on entering, found no friendly hand stretched out to
  take them off the streets.

  "Night passes over the groaning field of Waterloo, and morning gives
  its early light to the survivors of the battle to return to the
  heights of St. Jean, on purpose to succour the wounded or bury the
  dead. Here may be seen the dismounted gun, the wheels of the carriage
  half sunk in the mire; the hand of the gunner rests on the nave, his
  body half-buried in a pool of blood, and his eyes open to heaven,
  whither his spirit has already fled. Here are spread, promiscuously,
  heaps of mangled bodies--some without head, or arms, or legs: others
  lie stretched naked, their features betraying no mark of violent
  suffering.

  "The population of Brussels, prompted by a justifiable curiosity,
  approach the field to see the remains of the strangers who fell
  to save their spoil-devoted city, and to pick up some fragment as
  a memorial of the battle, or as a relic for other days. Of these
  the field affords an abundant harvest; cuirasses, helmets, medals,
  swords, pistols, and all the various weapons of destruction in
  military use, besides the balls and bullets, which may be ploughed up
  a thousand years hence. Here also are hundreds of blankets, ripped-up
  knapsacks, torn shirts, stockings, and all the simple contents of
  the fallen soldiers' kits. Letters and memoranda of the slain strew
  the field in every direction, which are picked up by the curious and
  carefully preserved."



IV

WITH THE GUNS AT WATERLOO



IV.--WITH THE GUNS AT WATERLOO


Mercer, the author of the "Journal of the Waterloo Campaign," came of
a soldierly stock. His father belonged to the Royal Engineers, served
on the staff of Sir Henry Clinton in the American War of Independence,
and rose to the rank of general. Cavalie Mercer, with whose book we are
concerned, was born in 1783, passed through the Military Academy at
Woolwich, obtained a commission in the artillery at sixteen, and had
not reached the retired list when he died at the age of eighty-five.
But though his career as a soldier was long and honourable, it
cannot--except for the three great days of Quatre Bras and Waterloo--be
called very inspiring.

Mercer's first military service was in Ireland at the time of the
rebellion. War is always hateful, but its blackest form is civil war.
Mercer was next unfortunate enough to take part in the most ignoble
expedition known to British arms--Whitelocke's shameful and unhappy
performance at Buenos Ayres. This was the worst school imaginable for
a young soldier, but Mercer had fine military gifts, and though he was
shut out from the Peninsular campaigns, when he made his appearance
on the field of Waterloo he showed himself to be an artillery officer
of very fine quality--cool, skilful, and gallant. He served after the
peace in North America, and commanded the artillery in Nova Scotia in
the troubled days of the Maine boundary-line dispute, when it seemed
likely that England and the United States would drift into war.

Mercer's long military career found its climax in the three memorable
days of June 16-18, 1815; and the splendours and terrors, the bloodshed
and the triumph of those mighty battles are vividly reflected in his
pages.



CHAPTER I

WAITING FOR THE GUNS


Mercer held the rank of second captain only in troop G, but Sir
Alexander Dickson, whose troop it was, being employed on other duties,
Mercer was in actual command. It was a fine troop, perfect in drill,
and splendidly horsed. It owed this latter circumstance, perhaps, to
a characteristic bit of War Office administration. The artillery was
being reduced to the level of a peace establishment when Napoleon
broke loose from Elba, and there came the sudden summons to war. A
second troop of horse-artillery was at that moment in Colchester
barracks. It was broken up, and troop G took the picked horses of
both batteries--"thus," says Mercer proudly, "making it the finest
troop in the service." One fine troop was in this way made out of two
half-dismantled batteries.

The troop was made up of eighty gunners and eighty-four drivers, with
the usual proportion of officers and non-commissioned officers. The
horses numbered no less than 226. There were six guns--five of them
being nine-pounders, and one a heavy five-and-a-half inch howitzer.
Mercer has the wholesome pride of a good officer in his own men and
guns. He tells with pardonable complacency the story of how his troop
shone in a grand cavalry review held on May 29, near Gramont:--

  "About two o'clock the Duke of Wellington and Prince Blucher,
  followed by an immense cortège, in which were to be seen many of
  the most distinguished officers and almost every uniform in Europe,
  arrived on the ground. Need I say that the foreigners were loud in
  praise of the martial air, fine persons, and complete equipment of
  the men and horses, and of the strength and beauty of the latter? and
  my vanity on that occasion was most fully gratified, for on arriving
  where we stood, the Duke not only called old Blucher's attention to
  'the beautiful battery,' but, instead of proceeding straight through
  the ranks, as they had done everywhere else, each sub-division--nay,
  each individual horse--was closely scrutinised, Blucher repeating
  continually that he had never seen anything so superb in his life,
  and concluding by exclaiming, 'Mein Gott, dere is not von orse in
  dies batterie wich is not goot for Veldt Marshal': and Wellington
  agreed with him. It certainly was a splendid collection of horses.
  However, except asking Sir George Wood whose troop it was, his Grace
  never even bestowed a regard on me as I followed from sub-division to
  sub-division."

The troop, as Mercer's story shows, was literally smashed up at
Waterloo; but Mercer, with great energy and skill, quickly built it up
again, and at a great review in Paris, where the allied sovereigns were
present, the English guns were once more the admired of all observers.
He writes:--

  "It seems that we have been the _rara avis_ of the day ever since our
  review. The rapidity of our movements, close-wheeling, perfection
  of our equipment, &c., &c., excited universal astonishment and
  admiration. The consequence of this was an application to the Duke
  for a closer inspection, which he most magnanimously granted, and
  ordered Ross's troop out for that purpose. They paraded in the
  fields near Clichy. The reviewers, I understand, were _marechaux
  de France_; but there was also a great concourse of officers of all
  nations. After the manoeuvres the troop was dismounted, and a most
  deliberate inspection of ammunition, and even of the men's kits,
  appointments, shoeing, construction of carriages, &c., &c., took
  place. I believe they were equally astonished and pleased with what
  they saw, and as there were several among them taking notes, have
  no doubt that we shall soon see improvements introduced into the
  Continental artillery."

Mercer, curiously enough, declares that the British artilleryman of his
day had no affection for his horse, and in this respect compares very
ill with the German artilleryman; the same thing, he says, applies to
British and German cavalry:--

  "Affection for, and care of, his horse is the trait _par excellence_
  which distinguishes the German dragoon from the English. The former
  would sell everything to feed his horse; the latter would sell his
  horse itself for spirits, or the means of obtaining them. The one
  never thinks of himself until his horse is provided for; the other
  looks upon the animal as a curse and a source of perpetual drudgery
  to himself, and gives himself no concern about it when once away from
  under his officer's eye. The German accustoms his horse to partake of
  his own fare. I remember a beautiful mare, belonging to a sergeant of
  the 3rd Hussars, K.G.L., which would even eat onions. She was one of
  the very few that escaped after the disastrous retreat of Corunna,
  and had been saved and smuggled on board ship by the sergeant
  himself. In the Peninsula the only means of enforcing some attention
  to their horses amongst our English regiments was to make every man
  walk and carry his saddle-bags whose horse died or was ill."

All branches of the British army, it may be added, did not impress
the allied sovereigns in the same favourable manner as the artillery.
The British infantry seemed under-sized as compared with Austrians,
Prussians, &c. Mercer's account of the memorable review, held only five
weeks after Waterloo, is interesting:--

  "At length the approach of the sovereigns was announced, and they
  came preceded and followed by a most numerous and brilliant cortège,
  in which figured, perhaps, some of almost every arm of every army
  in Europe. It was a splendid and most interesting sight. First came
  the Emperor Alexander and the King of Prussia, in their respective
  green and blue uniforms, riding together--the former, as usual, all
  smiles; the latter taciturn and melancholy. A little in their rear
  followed the Austrian Emperor, in a white uniform, turned up with
  red, but quite plain--a thin, dried-up, thread-paper of a man, not of
  the most distinguished bearing; his lean, brown visage, however, bore
  an expression of kindness and _bonhomie_, which folk say his true
  character in no way belies. They passed along, scanning our people
  with evident interest and curiosity; and in passing me (as they did
  to every commanding officer), pulled off their hats, and saluted me
  with most gracious smiles. I wonder if they do the same to their own.
  Until yesterday I had not seen any British infantry under arms since
  the evening the troops from America arrived at Garges, and, in the
  meantime, have constantly seen corps of foreign infantry.

  "These are all uncommonly well dressed in new clothes, smartly made,
  setting the men off to the greatest advantage--add to which their
  coiffure of high broad-topped shakos, or enormous caps of bearskin.
  Our infantry--indeed our whole army--appeared at the review in
  the same clothes in which they had marched, slept, and fought for
  months. The colour had faded to a dusky brick-dust hue; their coats,
  originally not very smartly made, had acquired by constant wearing
  that loose, easy set so characteristic of old clothes, comfortable
  to the wearer, but not calculated to add grace to his appearance.
  _Pour surcroît de laideur_, their cap is perhaps the meanest, ugliest
  thing ever invented. From all these causes it arose that our infantry
  appeared to the utmost disadvantage--dirty, shabby, mean, and very
  small. Some such impression was, I fear, made on the sovereigns, for
  a report has reached us this morning that they remarked to the Duke
  what very small men the English were. 'Ay,' replied our noble chief,
  'they are small; but your Majesties will find none who fight so
  well.' I wonder if this is true. However small our men and mean their
  appearance, yet it was evident that they were objects of intense
  interest from the immense time and close scrutiny of the inspection."

Mercer, with his troop, embarked at Harwich on April 9, and landed
at Ostend on the 13th. Thence he marched, with frequent halts, to
Brussels. His account of the marches and experiences of his troop is
very interesting, if only as showing that even under a great commander
like Wellington, amazing blunders and much distracted confusion were
possible. Nothing more absurd can well be imagined than the fashion
in which Mercer's fine troop was disembarked at Ostend; and nothing
could be more planless and belated than the marching--or rather the
loitering--of troop G towards Brussels. Wellington used to complain
afterwards that in the Waterloo campaign he had the most villainous
staff with which an unhappy general was ever afflicted; and the
helpless quality of Wellington's staff is reflected in Mercer's account
of the orders he received--or did not receive--directing his march to
the front. Here is Mercer's account of how his troops started from
their English barracks on the march which was to end on the smoky ridge
at Waterloo:--

  "On the morning of the 9th, the troop paraded at half-past seven
  o'clock with as much regularity and as quietly as if only going to
  a field-day; not a man either absent or intoxicated, and every part
  of the guns and appointments in the most perfect order. At eight,
  the hour named in orders, we marched off the parade. The weather was
  fine, the scenery, as we skirted the beautiful banks of the Stour,
  charming, and the occasion exhilarating. Near Manningtree we halted a
  short time to feed our horses, and then, pursuing our route, arrived
  at Harwich about three o'clock in the afternoon. Here we found the
  transports--the _Adventure_, _Philarea_, and _Salus_, in which last I
  embarked.

  "About 2 P.M. on the 11th, a light breeze from the N.W. induced our
  agent to get under way, and we repaired on board our respective ships
  with every prospect of a good and speedy passage. In this, however,
  we were disappointed, for the breeze dying away as the sun went down,
  we anchored, by signal, at the harbour's mouth, just as it got dark.

  "The evening was splendid. A clear sky studded with myriads of stars
  overhead, and below a calm unruffled sea, reflecting on its glassy
  surface the lights of the distant town, the low murmuring sounds
  from which, and the rippling of the water under the ships' bows,
  were the only interruptions to the solemn stillness that prevailed
  after the people had retired to their berths. In our more immediate
  neighbourhood stretched out the long, low, sandy tract, on the
  seaward extremity of which the dark masses and Landguard fort could
  just be distinguished.

  "With daybreak on the morning of the 12th came a favourable wind,
  though light, and again we took up our anchors and proceeded to sea.
  For some distance after clearing the harbour our course lay along
  the Suffolk coast, and so near in that objects on shore were plainly
  discernible. To us who had long been stationed at Woodbridge, only a
  few miles inland, this was highly interesting. We knew every village,
  every copse, every knoll--nay, almost every tree. There were the
  houses in which we had so oft been hospitably entertained; there were
  the sheep-walks on which we had so often manoeuvred; and there in the
  distance, as we passed the mouth of the Deben, our glasses showed us
  the very barrack on the hill, with its tiled roofs illumined by the
  noontide sun. About Bawdsey we left the coast, and steered straight
  over with a light but favourable wind; the low, sandy shores of
  Suffolk soon sank beneath the horizon.

  "During the night a light breeze right aft and smooth water enabled
  us to make good progress; but towards morning (13th) the wind had
  very considerably increased, and although the coast was not in sight,
  we were sensible of its neighbourhood from the number of curious
  heavy-looking boats plying round us in all directions, having the
  foremast with its huge lug-sail stuck right up in the bow or rather
  inclining over it.

  "Nothing, certainly, could be more repulsive than the appearance of
  the coast--sandhills as far as the eye could reach, broken only by
  the grey and lugubrious works and buildings of Ostend, and further
  west by the spires of Mittelkerke and Nieuport peering above the
  sandhills. The day, too, was one little calculated to enliven the
  scene. A fresh breeze and cloudy sky; the sea black, rough, and
  chilly; the land all under one uniform cold grey tint, presenting
  scarcely any relief of light and shadow, consequently no feature.
  Upon reconnoitring it, however, closer, we found that this forbidding
  exterior was only an outer coating to a lovely gem. Through the
  openings between the sandhills could be seen a rich level country of
  the liveliest verdure, studded with villages and farms interspersed
  amongst avenues of trees and small patches of wood.

  "A black-looking mass of timber rising from the waters off the
  entrance of the harbour, and which we understood to be a fort, now
  became the principal object of our attention. The harbour of Ostend
  is an artificial one, formed by _jetées_ of piles projecting as far
  as low-water mark. The right on entering is merely a row of piles
  running along in front of the works of the town; but on the left is
  a long mole or _jetée_ on the extremity of which is a small fort.
  Behind this mole to the north-east the shore curving inwards forms a
  bight, presenting an extent of flat sandy beach on which the water
  is never more than a few feet deep even at the highest tides. A
  tremendous surf breaks on this whenever it blows from the westward.

  "Followed by a crowd of other craft of all sorts and sizes, we
  shot rapidly along towards that part of the harbour where a dense
  assemblage of shipping filled up its whole breadth and forbade
  further progress, so that one wondered what was to become of the
  numerous vessels in our wake. The mystery was soon explained, for
  each having attained the point, turning her prow to the town, ran
  bump on the sands and there stuck fast. Those immediately above us
  had just arrived, and from them a regiment of Light Dragoons was in
  the act of disembarking, by throwing their horses overboard and then
  hauling them ashore by a long rope attached to their head-collars.
  What a scene! What hallooing, shouting, vociferating, and plunging!
  The poor horses did not appear much gratified by their sudden
  transition from the warm hold to a cold bath.

  "Our keel had scarcely touched the sand ere we were abruptly boarded
  by a naval officer (Captain Hill) with a gang of sailors, who, _sans
  cérémonie_, instantly commenced hoisting our horses out, and throwing
  them, as well as our saddlery, &c., overboard, without ever giving
  time for making any disposition to receive or secure the one or the
  other. To my remonstrance his answer was, 'I can't help it, sir; the
  Duke's orders are positive that no delay is to take place in landing
  the troops as they arrive, and the ships sent back again; so you must
  be out of her before dark.' It was then about 3 P.M., and I thought
  this a most uncomfortable arrangement.

  "The scramble and confusion that ensued baffle all description.
  Bundles of harness went over the side in rapid succession as well
  as horses. In vain we urged the loss and damage that must accrue
  from such a proceeding. 'Can't help it--no business of mine--Duke's
  orders are positive,' &c., &c., was our only answer. Meantime the
  ebb had begun to diminish the depth of water alongside, and enabled
  us to send parties overboard and to the beach to collect and carry
  our things ashore, as well as to haul and secure the horses. The
  same operation commenced from the other vessels as they arrived, and
  the bustle and noise were inconceivable. The dragoons and our men
  (some nearly, others quite, naked) were dashing in and out of the
  water, struggling with the affrighted horses, or securing their wet
  accoutrements as best they could. Some of the former were saddling
  their dripping horses, and others mounting and marching off in small
  parties. Disconsolate-looking groups of women and children were to be
  seen here and there sitting on their poor duds, or roaming about in
  search of their husbands, or mayhap of a stray child, all clamouring,
  lamenting, and materially increasing the babel-like confusion.

  "It was not without difficulty that I succeeded at last in
  impressing upon Captain Hill the necessity of leaving our guns and
  ammunition-waggons, &c., on board for the night--otherwise his
  furious zeal would have turned all out to stand on the wet sand or
  be washed away. Meantime, although we were on shore, we were without
  orders what to do next. Not an officer, either of the staff, the
  garrison, or even of our own corps, came near us. Night approached,
  and with it bad weather evidently. Our poor shivering horses and
  heaps of wet harness could not remain on the sands much longer, when
  the flood began to make again; and it was necessary to look about
  and see what could be done. With this intent, therefore, leaving the
  officers to collect their divisions, I got one of my horses saddled
  and rode into the town. Here was the same bustle (although not the
  same confusion) as on the sands. The streets were thronged with
  British officers, and the quays with guns, waggons, horses, baggage,
  &c.

  "One would hardly expect to meet with any delay in finding the
  commandant of a fortress, yet such was my case; and it was not until
  after long and repeated inquiry that I discovered Lieut.-Colonel
  Gregory, 44th Regiment, to be that personage, and found his
  residence. From him, however, I could obtain nothing. He seemed
  hardly to have expected the compliment of reporting our arrival, and
  stated that he had no other orders but that the troops of every arm
  should march for Ghent the moment they landed, without halting a
  single day in Ostend.

  "Strange to say neither I nor the colonel recollected there was such
  a person in Ostend as an assistant-quarter-master-general, who should
  be referred to on such an occasion. Yet this was the case; and that
  officer, instead of attending to the debarkation of the troops,
  or making himself acquainted with the arrivals, kept out of sight
  altogether. Baffled at all points, I was returning to the sands when
  I met Major Drummond on the Quai Impérial, and related my story. His
  advice was to march to Ghystelle (a village about six miles from
  Ostend), and after putting up there for the night, to return and
  disembark my guns, &c., in the morning. While speaking, however,
  some one (I forget who) came up with the agreeable information that
  Ghystelle was already fully occupied by the 16th Dragoons. He,
  however, gave me directions for some large sheds about a mile off,
  where his own horses had passed the preceding night.

  "This was some consolation: so riding off immediately to reconnoitre
  the place and the road to it, I returned to the beach just as it
  got dark; and a most miserable scene of confusion I there found.
  Our saddles, harness, baggage, &c., were still strewed about the
  sand, and these the flood, which was now making, threatened soon to
  submerge. _Pour surcroît de malheur_, the rain came down in torrents,
  and a storm, which had been brewing up the whole afternoon, now burst
  over us most furiously. The lightning was quite tremendous, whilst
  a hurricane, howling horribly through the rigging of the ships, was
  only exceeded in noise by the loud explosions and rattling of the
  incessant claps of thunder.

  "Our people, meantime, blinded by the lightning, had borrowed some
  lanterns from the ship, and were busily employed searching for the
  numerous articles still missing. The obscurity, however, between the
  vivid flashes was such that we were only enabled to keep together by
  repeatedly calling to each other, and it was not without difficulty
  and great watchfulness that we escaped being caught by the tide,
  which flowed rapidly in over the flat sands. At length, having
  collected as many of our things as was possible, and saddled our
  horses (some two or three of which had escaped altogether), we began
  our march for the sheds a little after midnight, with a farrier and
  another dismounted man carrying lanterns at the head of our column.

  "The rain continued pouring, but flashes of lightning occurred now
  only at intervals, and the more subdued rolling of the thunder told
  us that it was passing away in the distance. Our route lay through
  the town, to gain which we found some advanced ditch to be crossed
  by a very frail wooden bridge. Half the column, perhaps, might
  have cleared this, when, 'crack,' down it went, precipitating all
  who were on it at the moment into the mud below, and completely
  cutting off those in the rear. Here was a dilemma. Ignorant of the
  localities, and without a guide, how was the rear of the column to
  join us, or how were the people in the ditch, with their horses, to
  be extricated? Luckily none were hurt seriously, and the depth was
  not great--not more, perhaps, than six or eight feet; but that was
  enough to baffle all our attempts at extricating the horses. Some
  Belgic soldiers of a neighbouring guard, of which we were not aware,
  fortunately heard us, and came to our assistance; and one of them,
  crossing the ditch, undertook to guide the rear of our column and
  those below to another gate, whilst one accompanied us to the Quai
  Impérial, where, after waiting a while, we were at length assembled,
  drenched with rain and starving of cold and hunger.

  "The Quai was silent and dark; the only light gleamed dimly through
  the wet from a miserable lamp over the door of a café, in which
  people were still moving; and the only sounds that broke the
  stillness of the quarter were the splashing of the rain and the
  clattering of our steel scabbards and horses' feet as we moved
  dejectedly on--winding our way through unknown avenues (for in the
  dark I found it impossible to recognise the narrow streets through
  which I had so hurriedly passed in the afternoon), occasionally
  illuminated by a solitary lamp, the feeble light of which, however,
  was somewhat increased by reflection on the wet pavement. After
  following for some time this devious course, I began to fear I had
  missed the road, when again we stumbled upon a Belgic guard, by whose
  direction and guidance we at length reached the outer barrier. Here
  we again came to a standstill, the officer in charge refusing to let
  us out. Some altercation ensued; I forget the particulars, but it
  ended in his opening the gate.

  "Once clear of the town, we hoped soon to reach our lodging; but had
  scarcely advanced a hundred yards ere we found that result was more
  distant than we had fancied, and that patience was still requisite.
  The rain had rendered the fat soil so slippery that our horses could
  scarcely keep their legs, and the road running along the narrow
  summit of a dyke, with ditches on each side, rendered precaution and
  slow movement imperative. Every moment the fall of some horse impeded
  the column; our lanterns went out; and after wandering a considerable
  time, we at length ascertained, by knocking up the people at a house
  by the wayside, that we had overshot our mark, and it was not until
  two in the morning that we succeeded in finding the sheds. These were
  immensely long buildings attached to some saw-mills, for what use I
  know not, unless to store planks, &c., for they were now empty; but
  they were admirably adapted to our purpose, since we could range all
  our horses along one side, while the men occupied the other, in one
  of them. A quantity of hay, and some straw, left by our predecessors,
  was a valuable acquisition to man and beast under such circumstances.
  All our enjoyments are the effect of contrast. It would be considered
  miserable enough to be obliged to pass the night under such equivocal
  shelter as these sheds afforded, and that, too, in wet clothes; yet
  did we now, after twelve hours of harassing work and exposure to the
  weather, look upon them as palaces, and having cared for our poor
  beasts as far as circumstances would permit, proceeded to prepare for
  that repose so necessary and so longed for.

  "Our road back to the town, now we had daylight, appeared very
  short, and having dried considerably, was not so slippery as last
  night. The gates were not yet opened when we arrived; a crowd of
  workmen of different kinds had already assembled and were waiting
  for admission, as were we, for a few minutes. At last they opened,
  and we proceeded to the harbour in search of our ship. The quais,
  beach, &c., were thronged as on the day before, and we added to
  the bustle in disembarking our guns and carriages, &c. This was
  completed by eleven o'clock, and we were ready to march forward;
  but the commissariat detained us waiting the issue of our rations
  until 3 P.M.--four mortal hours, considering our eagerness to get
  on and explore this new country, and the bore of being confined to
  one spot, since it was impossible to wander about the town, seeing
  that we could not calculate the moment when these gentry might find
  it convenient to supply us. Of our horses two were still missing, as
  were some saddle-bags and a number of smaller articles; and this is
  not to be wondered at when the scandalous manner in which they were
  thrown overboard, the badness of the weather, the darkness of the
  night, together with the ebbing and flowing of the tide, are taken
  into consideration.

  "The appearance, too, of the troop was vexatious in the extreme. Our
  noble horses, yesterday morning so sleek and spirited, now stood
  with drooping heads and rough staring coats, plainly indicating
  the mischief they had sustained in being taken from a hot hold,
  plunged into cold water, and then exposed for more than seven hours
  on an open beach to such a tempest of wind and rain as that we
  experienced last night. Here was a practical illustration of the
  folly of grooming and pampering military horses, destined as they
  are to such exposures and privations. As for our men, they looked
  jaded, their clothes all soiled with mud and wet, the sabres rusty,
  and the bearskins of their helmets flattened down by the rain.
  Still, however, they displayed the same spirit and alacrity as that
  which has always been a characteristic of the horse-artillery, more
  particularly of G troop."

The tedium of waiting for so many hours on Ostend beach was relieved by
a naval incident of an exciting quality:--

  "A loud cry of dismay suddenly pervaded the crowd, and all
  simultaneously rushed to the ramparts. I followed this movement.
  The morning, though somewhat overcast, had been fine, and the wind
  moderate; but as the day advanced, and the flood-tide set in, the
  south-westerly breeze had gradually increased to a gale. On reaching
  the rampart, I immediately observed that the flat shore to the
  northward, as far as the eye could reach, was covered with a sheet of
  white foam from the tremendous surf breaking on it; whilst the spray,
  rising in clouds and borne along before the blast, involved the whole
  neighbourhood in a thick salt mist. Nothing could be more savage and
  wild than the appearance of the coast.

  "In the offing, numerous vessels under small sail were running for
  the harbour. One small brig had missed, and before assistance could
  be given, had been whirled round the _jetée_, and cast broadside on
  amongst the breakers. Her situation was truly awful. The surf broke
  over her in a frightful manner, sending its spray higher than her
  masts, and causing her to roll from side to side until her yards
  dipped in the water, and induced a belief every moment that she
  must roll over. Every now and then a huge wave, larger than its
  predecessor, would raise her bodily, and then, rapidly receding,
  suddenly let her fall again on the ground with a concussion that
  made the masts bend and vibrate like fishing-rods, and seemed to
  threaten instant annihilation. Of her sails, some were torn to rags,
  and others, flying loose, flapped and fluttered with a noise that was
  audible from the rampart, despite the roaring of the surf. The people
  on board appeared in great agitation, and kept shouting to those on
  shore for assistance, which they were unable to give.

  "Intense anxiety pervaded the assembled multitude as the shattered
  vessel alternately rose to view or was buried in a sea of foam.
  Numbers ran down to the sands opposite to her; and from them she
  could not have been twenty yards distant, yet could they not afford
  the despairing crew the slightest aid. Whilst thus attending in
  breathless expectation the horrid catastrophe, the return of our
  quarter-master with the rations summoned us unwillingly from the
  rampart to commence our march. We afterwards learnt that a boat from
  the harbour had succeeded in saving the crew (she had no troops on
  board); but the unfortunate pilot who thus gallantly risked his
  own life for them was killed by the boat rising suddenly under the
  vessel's counter as he stood in the bow, which dashed his brains out."



CHAPTER II

ON MARCH TO THE FIELD


Mercer's description of his march across the Low Countries is full of
keen observation, and rich in pictures of peasant life. At Ghent the
troop halted for seven days. Here the much-wandering Louis XVIII. held
his Court, and Mercer gives an entertaining account of the scenes he
witnessed:--

  "During the seven days we remained in Ghent our time was so occupied
  by duties that there was little leisure to look about us. Amongst
  other duties, it fell to our lot to furnish a guard of honour to
  Louis XVIII., then residing in Ghent, his own troops having been sent
  to Alost to make room for the British, which were continually passing
  through. Our subalterns were very well pleased with this arrangement,
  for the duty was nothing. They found an excellent table, and passed
  their time very agreeably with the young men of the _gardes du
  corps_, some of whom were always in attendance. Many of these were
  mere boys, and the ante-room of his most Christian Majesty frequently
  exhibited bolstering matches and other amusements, savouring strongly
  of the boarding-school. However, they were good-natured, and always
  most attentive to the comforts of the officer on guard. The royal
  stud was in the barrack stables, and consisted principally of grey
  horses, eighteen or twenty of which had been purchased in England at
  a sale of 'cast horses' from the Scots Greys.

  "We frequently met French officers of all ranks, and formed
  acquaintance with many gentlemanly, well-informed men. At the Lion
  d'Or and Hôtel de Flandre we found there was a _table d'hôte_
  every night at eight o'clock, and, by way of passing the evening,
  usually resorted to one or the other for supper. Here we were sure
  of meeting many Frenchmen, and as the same people were generally
  constant attendants, we became intimate, and discussed the merits
  of our national troops respectively over our wine or _ponche_. It
  was the first time most of them had had an opportunity of inspecting
  British troops closely, though many had often met them in the field;
  and they were very curious in their inquiries into the organisation,
  government, and equipment of our army. Although allowing all due
  credit to the bravery displayed by our troops in the Peninsula, and
  the talents of our general (the Duke), yet were they unanimous in
  their belief that neither would avail in the approaching conflict,
  and that we must succumb before their idol and his grand army, for
  though these gentlemen had deserted Napoleon to follow the fortunes
  of Louis XVIII., it was evident they still revered the former.

  "Their admiration of our troops, particularly of the cavalry,
  was very great, but they expressed astonishment at seeing so few
  decorations. It was in vain we asserted that medals were rarely given
  in the British army, and then only to commanding officers, &c. They
  shook their heads, appeared incredulous, and asked, 'Where are the
  troops that fought in Spain?' There might have been something more
  than mere curiosity in all this; there might have been an anxiety to
  ascertain whether their countrymen were about to cope with veterans
  or young soldiers. It might have been thrown out as a lure to provoke
  information relative to the present employment of those veteran
  bands. Moreover, I shrewdly suspected many of the gentlemen were
  actually spies.

  "Amongst others who had followed Louis XVIII. was Marmont. I think
  it was the day after our arrival, passing over the open space near
  the Place d'Armes by the river, I saw a French general officer
  exercising a horse in the _manège_, and learnt with astonishment
  that this was Marmont; for the man in question had two good arms,
  whereas for years past I had, in common with most people in England,
  looked upon it as a fact that he had left one at Salamanca. French
  deserters, both officers and privates, were daily coming in; it was
  said they deserted by hundreds."

On April 24 the troop received orders to resume its march, its next
quarters being at Thermonde, or, as it ought to have been spelt,
Dendermonde. From Dendermonde, on May 1, the troop was ordered to march
to Strytem. Mercer had neither map, nor directions, nor guides, and
his account of the incidents of the march, and the fashion in which
(as though he were exploring some absolutely unknown land) he had to
"discover" Strytem is amusing:--

  "_May 1._--I still slept, when at five o'clock in the morning our
  sergeant-major aroused me to read a note brought by an orderly
  hussar. It was most laconic--_la voici_: 'Captain Mercer's troop of
  horse artillery will march to Strytem without delay. Signed,' &c., &c.

  "Where is Strytem? and for what this sudden move? These were
  questions to which I could get no answer. The hussar knew nothing,
  and the people about me less. One thing was positive, and that was
  that we must be under weigh instanter, and pick out Strytem as best
  we might. The sergeant-major, therefore, was despatched to give
  the alert; and having given the hussar a receipt in full for his
  important despatch, I proceeded to clothe my person for the journey,
  having hitherto been _en chemise_. As the trumpeter was lodged in a
  house close by with my own grooms, the 'boot and saddle' quickly
  reverberated through the village, and set its whole population in
  movement.

  "To my questions respecting Strytem, Monsieur could give no
  satisfactory answers. 'It lay in a very fine country somewhere in the
  neighbourhood of Brussels, and we had better take the road to that
  city in the first instance, and trust for further information to the
  peasantry as we went along.' These people are singularly ignorant in
  this respect, having no knowledge, generally speaking, of any place
  more than two or three miles from home. Monsieur, however, invited me
  to follow him to his study--a small room all in a litter--over the
  gateway, and there, after some hunting amongst books, old clothes,
  &c., &c., he rummaged out the mutilated fragment of an old but very
  excellent map, which he insisted on my putting into my sabre-tache,
  which I did, and still keep for his sake.

  "'Prepare to mount!' 'Mount!' The trumpets sound a march, and waving
  a last adieu to the group at the gate of my late home, I turn my back
  on it for ever perhaps. The men were in high spirits, and horses
  fat as pigs and sleek as moles--thanks to rest, good stabling, and
  abundance of _tref_. Most of the peasants on whom many of our men had
  been billeted accompanied them to the parade, and it was interesting
  to witness the kindness with which they shook hands at parting, and
  the complacency with which, patting the horses on the neck, they
  scanned them all over, as if proud of their good condition.

  "Passing through Lebbeke, we found the three brigades of 9-pounders
  also getting on march, and the whole village astir. The officers told
  us their orders were to march direct to Brussels, and they were fully
  persuaded the French army had advanced.

  "At Assche we found a battery of Belgian horse artillery in quarters.
  Then men lounging about in undress, or without their jackets, without
  any appearance of a move, induced us to believe our own was, after
  all, only another change of quarters--and we were right. The people
  here knew Strytem, which they said was only a few miles distant, to
  the southward of the road we were on. Accordingly I despatched an
  officer to precede us, and make the necessary arrangements for our
  reception; at the same time, quitting the _chaussée_, we plunged into
  a villainous cross-road, all up and down, and every bottom occupied
  by a stream crossed by bridges of loose planks, which to us were
  rather annoying, from their apparent insecurity, as well as from the
  boggy state of the ground for some yards at either end of them.

  "The road became worse than ever--deep, tenacious mud, sadly broken
  up. After marching a short distance we passed a wheelwright's shop;
  then came to a broader space, where stood a small mean-looking
  church, a miserable cabaret, a forge, two very large farm
  establishments, with a few wretched-looking cottages--this our guide
  gave us to understand was Strytem."

At Strytem, where the troop halted for some time, Mercer had an
opportunity of seeing something of the cavalry corps which the Duc de
Berri was forming in the Bourbon interest. The Duc de Berri, according
to Mercer, was a very ill-mannered brute. Says Mercer:--

  "One day I had a good opportunity of seeing this curious corps
  and its savage leader. The former presented a most grotesque
  appearance--cuirassiers, hussars, grenadiers _à cheval_, and
  chasseurs, dragoons and lancers, officers and privates, with a few
  of the new _gardes du corps_, were indiscriminately mingled in the
  ranks. One file were colonels, the next privates, and so on, and all
  wearing their proper uniforms and mounted on their proper horses, so
  that these were of all sizes and colours. There might have been about
  two hundred men, divided into two or three squadrons, the commanders
  of which were generals. The Prince, as I have said, was drill-master.
  A more intemperate, brutal, and (in his situation) impolitic one, can
  scarcely be conceived. The slightest fault (frequently occasioned by
  his own blunders) was visited by showers of low-life abuse--using on
  all occasions the most odious language.

  "One unfortunate squadron officer (a general!) offended him, and
  was immediately charged with such violence that I expected a
  catastrophe. Reining up his horse, however, close to the unhappy
  man, his vociferation and villainous abuse were those of a perfect
  madman; shaking his sabre at him, and even at one time thrusting
  the pommel of it into his face, and, as far as I could see, pushing
  it against his nose! Such a scene! Yet all the others sat mute as
  mice, and witnessed all this humiliation of their comrade, and the
  degradation of him for whom they had forsaken Napoleon. Just at this
  moment one of our troop-dogs ran barking at the heels of the Prince's
  horse. Boiling with rage before, he now boiled over in earnest, and,
  stooping, made a furious cut at the dog, which, eluding the weapon,
  continued his annoyance. The Duke, quitting the unfortunate _chef
  d'escadron_, now turned seriously at the dog, but he, accustomed to
  horses, kept circling about, yapping and snapping, and always out of
  reach; and it was not until he had tired himself with the fruitless
  pursuit that, foaming with rage, he returned to his doomed squadrons,
  who had sat quietly looking on at this exhibition."

As the early days of June passed, and Napoleon was preparing for his
daring leap on the allied forces, the general strain grew more tense.
French spies were busy all through the English and Prussian posts.
Mercer describes a visit paid by a particularly daring spy to his own
post:--

  "It was on the evening of the 15th June, and about sunset or a
  little later, that an officer of hussars rode into the village
  of Yseringen, Leathes being at the time at dinner with me at our
  château. He was dressed as our hussars usually were when riding
  about the country--blue frock, scarlet waistcoat laced with gold,
  pantaloons, and forage-cap of the 7th Hussars. He was mounted on a
  smart pony, with plain saddle and bridle; was without a sword or
  sash, and carried a small whip--in short, his costume and _monture_
  were correct in every particular. Moreover, he aped to the very life
  that 'devil-may-care' nonchalant air so frequently characterising our
  young men of fashion. Seeing some of our gunners standing at the door
  of a house, he desired them to go for their officer, as he wished to
  see him. They called the sergeant, who told him that the officer was
  not in the village.

  "In an authoritative tone he then demanded how many men and horses
  were quartered there, whose troop they belonged to, where the
  remainder of the troop was quartered, and of what it consisted? When
  all these questions were answered, he told the sergeant that he had
  been sent by Lord Uxbridge to order accommodation to be provided for
  two hundred horses, and that ours must consequently be put up as
  close as possible. The sergeant replied that there was not room in
  the village for a single additional horse. 'Oh, we'll soon see that,'
  said he, pointing to one of the men who stood by, 'do you go and tell
  the maire to come instantly to me.' The maire came and confirmed the
  sergeant's statement, upon which our friend, flying into a passion,
  commenced in excellent French to abuse the poor functionary like a
  pickpocket, threatening to send a whole regiment into the village;
  and then, after a little further conversation with the sergeant, he
  mounted his pony and rode off just as Leathes returned to the village.

  "Upon reporting the circumstances to the officer, the sergeant stated
  that he thought this man had appeared anxious to avoid him, having
  ridden off rather in a hurry when he appeared, which together with a
  slight foreign accent, then for the first time excited a suspicion of
  his being a spy, which had not occurred to the sergeant before, as
  he knew there were several foreign officers in our hussars, and that
  the 10th was actually then commanded by one--Colonel Quentin. The
  suspicion was afterwards confirmed, for upon inquiry, I found that
  no officer had been sent by Lord Uxbridge on any such mission. Our
  friend deserved to escape, for he was a bold and clever fellow."



CHAPTER III

QUATRE BRAS


Napoleon's plan for what was to prove the last campaign in his own
wonderful career was daring and subtle. He had to face two armies,
each almost equal in strength to his own; and though the forces of
Blucher and of Wellington were scattered over a very wide front, yet
their outposts touched each other where the great road from Charleroi
ran northwards to Brussels. Napoleon, with equal audacity and genius,
resolved to smite at the point of junction betwixt the two armies, and
overthrow each in turn. The risks of this strategy were immense, for
if his enemies succeeded in concentrating and fighting in concert, he
would be overwhelmed and destroyed--as actually happened at Waterloo.
Napoleon, however, calculated to win by the swiftness and suddenness of
his stroke, destroying Blucher before Wellington could concentrate for
his help, and then, in turn, overwhelming Wellington. By what a narrow
interval that great plan failed of success is not always realised.

Both Blucher and Wellington were off their guard. On June 15, at the
very moment when Napoleon's columns were crossing the Belgian frontier,
Wellington was writing a leisurely despatch to the Czar explaining his
intention to take the offensive at the end of the month. Blucher,
only a few days before, as Houssaye records, had written to his wife,
"We shall soon enter France. We might remain here another year, for
Bonaparte will never attack us." Yet with miraculous energy and
skill, Napoleon, in ten days, had gathered a host of 124,000 men,
over distances ranging from 30 to 200 miles, and held them, almost
unsuspected, within cannon-shot of the allied outposts. On June 15,
while the stars in the eastern summer sky were growing faint in the
coming dawn, the French columns were crossing at three separate points
the Belgian frontier, and the great campaign had begun.

Its history is compressed into three furious days. On the 16th Napoleon
defeated Blucher at Ligny, while Wellington, with obstinate courage and
fine skill, aided by many blunders on his enemy's part, and much good
luck on his own, succeeded in holding Quatre Bras against Ney. On the
17th Wellington fell back before the combined armies of Napoleon and
Ney to Waterloo. On the 18th the great battle, which sealed the fate
of Napoleon and gave a long peace to Europe, was fought. Napoleon's
strategy had fatally broken down. He aimed to separate the English
and the Prussian armies while keeping his own concentrated. The
exact opposite happened. Blucher's bold westward march from Wavre to
Waterloo united the allied forces, while Napoleon's force was fatally
divided--Grouchy, with 30,000 troops, being left "in the air" far to
the east. Napoleon, in a word, suffered the exact strategic disaster he
sought to inflict on his opponents.

We take up the thread of the adventures of Mercer and Battery G as
active operations begin. It offers a curious picture of the distraction
and confusion of a great campaign:--

  "_June 16._--I was sound asleep when my servant, bustling into the
  room, awoke me _en sursaut_. He brought a note, which an orderly
  hussar had left and ridden off immediately. The note had nothing
  official in its appearance, and might have been an invitation to
  dinner; but the unceremonious manner in which the hussar had gone off
  without his receipt looked curious. My despatch was totally deficient
  in date, so that time and place were left to conjecture; its contents
  pithy--they were as follows, viz.:--

  "'Captain Mercer's troop will proceed with the utmost diligence to
  Enghien, where he will meet Major M'Donald, who will point out the
  ground on which it is to bivouac to-night.

 'Signed, ----, D.A.Q.M.-Gen.'

  That we were to move forward, then, was certain. It was rather
  sudden, to be sure, and all the whys and wherefores were left
  to conjecture; but the suddenness of it, and the importance of
  arriving quickly at the appointed place, rather alarmed me, for
  upon reflection I remembered that I had been guilty of two or three
  imprudences.

  "First, all my officers were absent; secondly, all my country waggons
  were absent; thirdly, a whole division (one-third of my troop)
  was absent at Yseringen. 'Send the sergeant-major here,' was the
  first order, as I drew on my stockings. 'Send for Mr. Coates' (my
  commissariat officer), the second, as I got one leg into my overalls.
  'William, make haste and get breakfast,' the third, as I buttoned
  them up. The sergeant-major soon came, and received his orders to
  turn out instanter, with the three days' provisions and forage in
  the haversacks and on the horses; also to send an express for the
  first division. He withdrew, and immediately the fine martial clang
  of 'boot and saddle' resounded through the village and courts of the
  château, making the woods ring again, and even the frogs stop to
  listen.

  "The commissary soon made his appearance. 'What! are we off, sir?'
  'Yes, without delay; and you must collect your waggons as quickly as
  possible.' 'I fear, Captain Mercer, that will take some time, for St.
  Cyr's are gone to Ninove.' My folly here stared me full in the face.
  Mr. Coates said he would do his utmost to collect them; and as he was
  a most active, intelligent, and indefatigable fellow, I communicated
  to him my orders and determination not to wait, desiring him to
  follow us as soon as he possibly could. My first enumerated care was
  speedily removed, for I learned that the officers had just arrived
  and were preparing for the march, having known of it at Brussels ere
  we did. The two divisions in Strytem were ready to turn out in a few
  minutes after the 'boot and saddle' had resounded, but, as I feared,
  the first kept us waiting until near seven o'clock before it made its
  appearance. At length the first division arrived, and the animating
  and soul-stirring notes of the 'turn-out' again awoke the echoes of
  the hills and woods. Up jumped my old dog Bal, and away to parade
  and increase the bustle by jumping at the horses' noses and barking,
  as parade formed. Away went the officers to inspect their divisions,
  and Milward is leading my impatient charger, Cossac, up and down the
  court.

  "We had cleared the village and marched some miles well enough, being
  within the range of my daily rides; but, this limit passed, I was
  immediately sensible of another error--that of having started without
  a guide; for the roads became so numerous, intricate, and bad, often
  resembling only woodmen's tracks, that I was sorely puzzled, spite
  of the map I carried in my sabre-tache, to pick out my way. But a
  graver error still I had now to reproach myself with, and one that
  might have been attended with fatal consequences. Eager to get on,
  and delayed by the badness of the roads, I left all my ammunition
  waggons behind, under charge of old Hall, my quartermaster-sergeant,
  to follow us, and then pushed on with the guns alone, thus foolishly
  enough dividing my troop into three columns--viz., the guns,
  ammunition waggons, and the column of provision waggons under the
  commissary. For this piece of folly I paid dearly in the anxiety I
  suffered throughout this eventful day, which at times was excessive.

  "Rid of all encumbrances, we trotted merrily on whenever the road
  permitted, and, arriving at Castre (an old Roman legionary station),
  found there the 23rd Light Dragoons just turning out, having also
  received orders to march upon Enghien. A Captain Dance, with whom I
  rode a short distance, told me he had been at the ball at Brussels
  last night, and that, when he left the room, the report was that
  Blucher had been attacked in the morning, but that he had repulsed
  the enemy with great slaughter, was following up the blow, and that
  our advance was to support him. The road for the last few miles had
  been upon a more elevated country, not so wooded--a sort of plateau,
  consequently hard and dry; but immediately on passing Castre, we
  came to a piece which appeared almost impassable for about a hundred
  yards--a perfect black bog, across which a corduroy road had been
  made, but not kept in repair, consequently the logs, having decayed,
  left immense gaps.

  "The 23rd floundered through this with difficulty, and left us
  behind. How we got through with our 9-pounders, the horses slipping
  up to the shoulders between the logs every minute, I know not; but
  through we did get, and without accident, but it took time to do so.
  About noon, after threading our way through more mud and many watery
  lanes, doubtful if we were in the right direction, we came out upon
  a more open and dry country, close to a park, which upon inquiry
  proved to be that of Enghien. To the same point various columns
  of cavalry were converging, and under the park wall we found Sir
  Ormsby Vandeleur's brigade of light dragoons dismounted, and feeding
  their horses. Here we also dismounted to await the arrival of Major
  M'Donald; and as I looked upon the day's march as finished, deferred
  feeding until our bivouac should be established--another folly, for
  an officer in campaign should never lose an opportunity of feeding,
  watering, or resting his horses, &c. Having waited a good half-hour,
  and no Major M'Donald appearing, I began to look about for some
  one who could give me information, but no staff-officer was to be
  seen, and no one else knew anything about the matter. Corps after
  corps arrived and passed on, generally without even halting, yet all
  professing ignorance of their destination. Pleasant situation this!

  "Sir Ormsby's dragoons were by this time bridling up their horses and
  rolling up their nosebags, evidently with the intention of moving
  off. Seeing this, I sought out the general, whom I found seated
  against a bank that, instead of a hedge, bordered the road. Whether
  naturally a savage, or that he feared committing himself, I know not,
  but Sir Ormsby cut my queries short with an asperity totally uncalled
  for. 'I know nothing about you, sir! I know nothing at all about
  you!' 'But you will perhaps have the goodness to tell me where you
  are going yourself?' 'I know nothing at all about it, sir! I told you
  already I know nothing at all about you!' and starting abruptly from
  his seat, my friend mounted his horse, and (I suppose by instinct)
  took the road towards Steenkerke, followed by his brigade, leaving
  me and mine alone in the road, more disagreeably situated than ever.
  I now began to reflect very seriously on the 'to stay' or 'not to
  stay.' In the former case, I bade fair to have the ground all to
  myself, for although everybody I spoke to denied having any orders,
  yet all kept moving in one and the same direction. In the latter
  case, my orders in writing certainly were to stay; but circumstances
  might have occurred since to change this, and the new order might
  not have reached me. Moreover, it was better to get into a scrape for
  fighting than keeping out of the way, so I made up my mind to move
  forward too.

  "Accordingly I had already mounted my people when Sir H. Vivian's
  brigade of hussars, followed by Major Bull's troop of our horse
  artillery, passed. Bull, I found, was, like myself, without orders,
  but he thought it best to stick close to the cavalry, and advised
  me to do the same, which I did, following him and them on the road
  to Steenkerke. The country about this place appeared more bare and
  forbidding than any I had yet seen in the Pays Bas. Just as we moved
  off, the column of Household troops made its appearance, advancing
  from Ninove, and taking the same direction.

  "It was now that the recollection of my absent waggons began to
  torment me, and I actually feared never to see them again. However,
  there was no help for it now, and I continued onward. A few miles
  farther we crossed the Senne by an old stone bridge, and about four
  in the afternoon arrived at Braine le Comte, almost ravenous with
  hunger, and roasted alive by the burning sun, under which we had been
  marching all day.

  "We found several regiments drawn up in close columns, dismounted
  and feeding. It was somewhere between Enghien and Braine le Comte
  that we met an aide-de-camp (I believe one of the Duke's) posting
  away as fast as his poor tired beast could get along, and dressed in
  his embroidered suit, white pantaloons, &c., &c., having evidently
  mounted as he left the ballroom. This, I remember, struck us at the
  time as rather odd, but we had no idea of the real state of our
  affairs.

  "We had formed up, and were feeding also, but the nosebags were
  scarcely put on the poor horse's heads than the cavalry corps,
  mounting again, moved off, one after the other, and we were
  constrained to follow ere the animals had half finished. Here, as
  before, I could obtain no intelligence respecting our march, the
  direction and meaning of which all I spoke to professed a profound
  ignorance. Whilst halting, Hitchins, slipping into the town, brought
  us out a couple of bottles of wine, the which we passed round from
  one to the other without any scruple about sucking it all out of one
  muzzle.

  "A little hamlet (Long Tour, I think) lay at the foot of the
  hills, the straggling street of which we found so crowded with
  baggage-waggons of some Hanoverian or other foreign corps that for
  a long while we were unable to pass. The cavalry, therefore, left
  us behind, for they broke into the adjoining fields until they had
  cleared the impediment. Although annoyed at being thus hindered,
  I could not but admire the lightness, and even elegance, of the
  little waggons, with their neat white tilts, and as neat and pretty
  _jungfrauen_ who were snugly seated under them. We found the ascent
  of the hills more difficult than we expected, the road, which went up
  in a zigzag (indeed, it could not have been otherwise), little better
  than a woodman's track, much cut up, and exceedingly steep--so much
  so, that we found it necessary to double-horse all our carriages by
  taking only half up at once."

Now, at last, the sullen guns from Quatre Bras began to make themselves
audible. Mercer's gunners were chiefly recruits; they had never yet
heard the deep, vibrating sounds that tell of the shock of mighty
hosts. That far-off call of angry guns stirred their blood and
quickened their march; but the troop reached Quatre Bras only when the
battle ended. Mercer's narrative, however, gives a striking picture of
how a great battle affects everything within sound of its guns:--

  "At length the whole of our carriages were on the summit, but we
  were now quite alone, all the cavalry having gone on; and thus
  we continued our march on an elevated plateau, still covered
  with forest, thicker and more gloomy than ever. At length we had
  crossed the forest, and found ourselves on the verge of a declivity
  which stretched away less abruptly than the one we had ascended,
  consequently presenting a more extensive slope, down which our road
  continued. A most extensive view lay before us; and now, for the
  first time, as emerging from the woods, we became sensible of a
  dull, sullen sound that filled the air, somewhat resembling that of
  a distant water-mill, or still more distant thunder. On clearing
  the wood it became more distinct, and its character was no longer
  questionable--heavy firing of cannon and musketry, which could now
  be distinguished from each other plainly. We could also hear the
  musketry in volleys and independent firing. The extensive view below
  us was bounded towards the horizon by a dark line of wood, above
  which, in the direction of the cannonade, volumes of grey smoke
  arose, leaving no doubt of what was going on. The object of our march
  was now evident, and we commenced descending the long slope with an
  animation we had not felt before.

  "It was here that Major M'Donald overtook us, and without adverting
  to the bivouac at Enghien, of which probably he had never heard,
  gave me orders to attach myself to the Household Brigade, under Lord
  Edward Somerset, but no instructions where or when. I took care not
  to tell him they were in the rear, lest he might order us to halt for
  them, which would have been a sore punishment to people excited as
  we now were by the increasing roar of the battle evidently going on,
  and hoped that by marching faster they might soon overtake us. Just
  at this moment a cabriolet, driving at a smart pace, passed us. In it
  was seated an officer of the Guards, coat open and snuff-box in hand.
  I could not but admire the perfect nonchalance with which my man
  was thus hurrying forward to join in a bloody combat--much, perhaps,
  in the same manner, though certainly not in the same costume, as he
  might drive to Epsom or Ascot Heath. The descent terminated in a
  picturesque hollow, with a broad pool, dark and calm, and beyond it
  an old mill, perfectly in keeping with the scene. The opportunity of
  watering our poor brutes was too good to be missed, and I accordingly
  ordered a halt for that purpose. Whilst so employed, an aide-de-camp,
  descending from a singular knoll above us, on which I had noticed a
  group of officers looking out with their glasses in the direction of
  the battle, came to summon me to Sir Hussey Vivian, who was one of
  them.

  "On ascending the knoll Sir Hussey called to me in a hurried manner
  to make haste. 'Who do you belong to?' said he. I told him, as also
  that the brigade was yet in the rear. 'Well,' he replied, 'never
  mind; there is something serious going on, to judge from that heavy
  firing, and artillery must be wanted; therefore bring up your guns as
  fast as you can, and join my hussars; can you keep up?' 'I hope so,
  sir.' 'Well, come along without delay; we must move smartly.' In a
  few minutes our people, guns and all, were on the hill. The hussars,
  mounted, set off at a brisk trot, and we followed. Alas! thought
  I, where are my ammunition waggons? The hussars, to lighten their
  horses, untied the nets containing their hay, and the mouths of their
  corn-bags, which, falling from them as they trotted on, the road was
  soon covered with hay and oats. We did not follow their example, and
  although dragging with us 9-pounders preserved our forage and also
  our place in the column.

  "By-and-by a large town appeared in front of us, and the increasing
  intensity of the cannonade and volumes of smoke about the trees led
  us to suppose the battle near at hand, and on the hill just beyond
  the town. This town was Nivelle.

  "Beyond the town the ground rose, also in shadowy obscurity, crowned
  with sombre woods, over which ascended the greyish-blue smoke of the
  battle, now apparently so near that we fancied we could hear the
  shouts of the combatants--a fancy strengthened by crowds of people
  on the heights, whom we mistook for troops--inhabitants of Nivelle,
  as we soon discovered, seeking to get a sight of the fearful tragedy
  then enacting. Before entering the town we halted for a moment,
  lighted our slow matches, put shot into our leathern cartouches,
  loaded the guns with powder, and stuck priming wires into the vents
  to prevent the cartridges slipping forward, and, thus prepared for
  immediate action, again moved on.

  "On entering the town what a scene presented itself! All was
  confusion, agitation, and movement. The danger was impending;
  explosion after explosion, startling from their vicinity, and
  clattering peals of musketry, like those lengthened thunder-claps
  which announce to us so awfully the immediate neighbourhood of the
  electric cloud. The whole population of Nivelle was in the streets,
  doors and windows all wide open, whilst the inmates of the houses,
  male and female, stood huddled together in little groups like
  frightened sheep, or were hurrying along with the distracted air of
  people uncertain where they are going or what they are doing. In a
  sort of square which we traversed a few soldiers, with the air of
  citizens, probably a municipal guard, were drawn up in line, looking
  anxiously about them at the numerous bleeding figures which we now
  began to meet.

  "Some were staggering along unaided, the blood falling from them
  in large drops as they went. One man we met was wounded in the
  head; pale and ghastly, with affrighted looks and uncertain step,
  he evidently knew little of where he was or what passed about him,
  though still he staggered forward, the blood streaming down his face
  on to the greatcoat which he wore rolled over his left shoulder.
  An anxious crowd was collecting round him as we passed on. Then
  came others supported between two comrades, their faces deadly pale
  and knees yielding at every step. At every step, in short, we met
  numbers, more or less wounded, hurrying along in search of that
  assistance which many would never live to receive, and others receive
  too late. Priests were running to and fro, hastening to assist at
  the last moments of a dying man; all were in haste--all wore that
  abstracted air so inseparable from those engaged in an absorbing
  pursuit. Many would run up, and, patting our horses' necks, would
  call down benedictions on us, and bid us hasten to the fight ere
  it were yet too late, or uttering trembling and not loud shouts of
  'Vivent les Anglais!'

  "A few there were who stood apart, with gloomy, discontented looks,
  eyeing their fellow-citizens with evident contempt and us with
  scowls, not unmixed with derision, as they marked our dusty and jaded
  appearance. Through all this crowd we held our way, and soon began to
  ascend the hill beyond the town, where we entered a fine _chaussée_
  bordered by elms, expecting every moment to enter on the field
  of action, the roar of which appeared quite close to us. It was,
  however, yet distant.

  "The road was covered with soldiers, many of them wounded, but
  also many apparently untouched. The numbers thus leaving the field
  appeared extraordinary. Many of the wounded had six, eight, ten, and
  even more attendants. When questioned about the battle, and why they
  left it, the answer was invariable: 'Monsieur, tout est perdu! les
  Anglais sont abîmes, en déroute, abîmes, tous, tous, tous!' and then,
  nothing abashed, these fellows would resume their hurried route. My
  countrymen will rejoice to learn that amongst this dastardly crew not
  one Briton appeared. Whether they were of Nassau or Belgians I know
  not; they were one or the other--I think the latter.

  "One redcoat we did meet--not a fugitive though, for he was severely
  wounded. This man was a private of the 92nd (Gordon Highlanders),
  a short, rough, hardy-looking fellow, with the national high
  cheek-bones, and a complexion that spoke of many a bivouac. He came
  limping along, evidently with difficulty and suffering. I stopped
  him to ask news of the battle, telling him what I had heard from
  the others, 'Na, na, sir, it's aw a damned lee; they war fechtin'
  yat an' I laft 'em; but it's a bludy business, and thar's na saying
  fat may be the end on't. Oor ragiment was nigh clean swapt aff, and
  oor colonel kilt just as I cam' awa'. Upon inquiring about his own
  wound, we found that a musket ball had lodged in his knee, or near
  it; accordingly Hitchins, dismounting, seated him on the parapet of
  a little bridge we happened to be on, extracted the ball in a few
  minutes, and, binding up the wound, sent him hobbling along towards
  Nivelle, not having extracted a single exclamation from the poor man,
  who gratefully thanked him as he resumed his way.

  "A little farther on, and as it began to grow dusk, we traversed the
  village of Hautain le Val, where a very different scene presented
  itself. Here, in a large cabaret by the roadside, we saw through the
  open windows the rooms filled with soldiers, cavalry and infantry;
  some standing about in earnest conversation, others seated around
  tables, smoking, carousing, and thumping the board with clenched
  fists, as they related with loud voices--what?--most likely their own
  gallant exploits. About the door their poor horses, tied to a rail,
  showed by their drooping heads, shifting legs, and the sweat drying
  and fuming on their soiled coats, that their exertions at least had
  been of no trivial nature.

  "The firing began to grow slacker, and even intermitting, as we
  entered on the field of Quatre Bras--our horses stumbling from time
  to time over corpses of the slain, which they were too tired to step
  over. The shot and shell which flew over our line of march from time
  to time (some of the latter bursting beyond us) were sufficient to
  enable us to say we had been in the battle of Quatre Bras, for such
  was the name of the place where we now arrived, just too late to be
  useful. In all directions the busy hum of human voices was heard;
  the wood along the skirts of which we marched re-echoed clearly and
  loudly the tones of the bugle, which ever and anon were overpowered
  by the sullen roar of cannon, or the sharper rattle of musketry; dark
  crowds of men moved in the increasing obscurity of evening, and the
  whole scene seemed alive with them. What a moment of excitement and
  anxiety as we proceeded amongst all this tumult, and amidst the dead
  and dying, ignorant as yet how the affair had terminated! Arrived at
  a mass of buildings, where four roads met (_les quatre bras_), Major
  M'Donald again came up with orders for us to bivouac on an adjoining
  field, where, accordingly, we established ourselves amongst the
  remains of a wheat crop.

  "_June 17._--A popping fire of musketry, apparently close at hand,
  aroused me again to consciousness of my situation. At first I could
  not imagine where I was. I looked straight up, and the stars were
  twinkling over me in a clear sky. I put out a hand from beneath my
  cloak, and felt clods of damp earth and stalks of straw. The rattle
  of musketry increased, and then the consciousness of my situation
  came gradually over me. Although somewhat chilly, I was still drowsy,
  and regardless of what might be going on, had turned on my side
  and began to doze again, when one of my neighbours started up with
  the exclamation, 'I wonder what all that firing means!' This in an
  instant dispelled all desire to sleep; and up I got too, mechanically
  repeating his words, and rubbing my eyes as I began to peer about.

  "One of the first, and certainly the most gratifying, sights that
  met my inquiring gaze, was Quarter-master Hall, who had arrived
  during the night with all his charge safe and sound. He had neither
  seen nor heard, however, of Mr. Coates and his train of country
  waggons, for whom I began now to entertain serious apprehensions.
  From whatever the musketry might proceed, we could see nothing--not
  even the flashes; but the increasing light allowed me to distinguish
  numberless dark forms on the ground all around me, people slumbering
  still, regardless of the firing that had aroused me. At a little
  distance numerous white discs, which were continually in motion,
  changing place and disappearing, to be succeeded by others, puzzled
  me exceedingly, and I could not even form a conjecture as to what
  they might be. Watching them attentively, I was still more surprised
  when some of these white objects ascended from the ground and
  suddenly disappeared; but the mystery was soon explained by the
  increasing light, which gave to my view a corps of Nassau troops
  lying on the ground, having white tops to their shakos.

  "Daylight now gradually unfolded to us our situation. We were on
  a plateau which had been covered with corn, now almost everywhere
  trodden down. Four roads, as already mentioned, met a little to the
  right of our front, and just at that point stood a farmhouse, which,
  with its outbuildings, yard, &c., was enclosed by a very high wall.
  This was the farm of Quatre Bras. Beyond it, looking obliquely to the
  right, the wood (in which the battle still lingered when we arrived
  last night) stretched away some distance along the roads to Nivelle
  and Charleroi, which last we understood lay in front."



CHAPTER IV

THE RETREAT TO WATERLOO.


Mercer's battery formed part of the British rearguard in the retreat
from Quatre Bras to Waterloo, and his gunners had some very breathless
and exciting experiences on the road, with the thunder rolling over
their heads and the French cavalry charging furiously on their rear.
Mercer tells the story with great vividness and spirit:--

  "On the Charleroi road and in the plain was a small village
  (Frasnes), with its church, just beyond which the road ascended the
  heights, on the open part of which, between the road and the wood
  towards the left, was the bivouac of the French army opposed to us.
  Its advanced posts were in the valley near Frasnes, and ours opposite
  to them--our main body occupying the ground between Quatre Bras and
  the wood on the left. A smart skirmish was going on amongst the
  hedges, &c., already mentioned, and this was the firing we had heard
  all the morning. Our infantry were lying about, cleaning their arms,
  cooking, or amusing themselves, totally regardless of the skirmish.
  This, however, from our position, was a very interesting sight to
  me, for the slope of the ground enabled me to see distinctly all the
  manoeuvres of both parties, as on a plan. After much firing from
  the edge of the wood, opposite which our riflemen occupied all the
  hedges, I saw the French chasseurs suddenly make a rush forward in
  all directions, whilst the fire of our people became thicker and
  faster than ever. Many of the former scampered across the open fields
  until they reached the nearest hedges, whilst others ran crouching
  under cover of those perpendicular to their front, and the whole
  succeeded in establishing themselves--thus forcing back and gaining
  ground on our men.

  "The fire then again became sharper than ever--sometimes the French
  were driven back; and this alternation I watched with great interest
  until summoned to Major M'Donald, who brought us orders for the day.
  From him I first learned the result of the action of yesterday--the
  retreat of the Prussians, and that we were to do so too. His
  directions to me were that I should follow some corps of infantry,
  or something of the sort; for what followed caused me to forget it
  all: 'Major Ramsay's troop,' he said, 'will remain in the rear with
  the cavalry to cover the retreat; but I will not conceal from you
  that it falls to your turn to do this, if you choose it.' The major
  looked rather conscience-stricken as he made this avowal, so, to
  relieve him, I begged he would give the devil his due and me mine.
  Accordingly all the others marched off, and as nothing was likely to
  take place immediately, we amused ourselves by looking on at what was
  doing.

  "Just at this moment an amazing outcry arose amongst the infantry at
  the farm, who were running towards us in a confused mass, shouting
  and bellowing, jostling and pushing each other. I made sure the
  enemy's cavalry had made a dash amongst them, especially as the fire
  of the skirmishers became thicker and apparently nearer, when the
  thing was explained by a large pig, squealing as if already stuck,
  bursting from the throng by which he was beset in all directions.
  Some struck at him with axes, others with the butts of their muskets,
  others stabbed at him with bayonets. The chase would have been
  amusing had it not been so brutal; and I have seldom experienced
  greater horror than I did on this occasion, when the poor brute,
  staggering from the repeated blows he received, was at last brought
  to the ground by at least half-a-dozen bayonets plunged into him at
  once.

  "All this time our retreat was going on very quietly. The corps at
  Quatre Bras had retired early in the morning, and been replaced by
  others from the left, and this continued constantly--every corps
  halting for a time on the ground near Quatre Bras until another from
  the left arrived, these moving off on the great road to Brussels,
  ceding the ground to the new-comers.

  "At first every one, exulting in the success of yesterday--they
  having repulsed the enemy with a handful of men, as it were,
  unsupported by cavalry and with very little artillery--anticipated,
  now our army was united nothing less than an immediate attack on the
  French position. We were sadly knocked down, then, when the certainty
  of our retreat became known. It was in vain we were told the retreat
  was only a manoeuvre of concentration; the most gloomy anticipations
  pervaded every breast. About this time Sir Alexander Dickson paid me
  a visit, having just arrived from New Orleans, where he commanded the
  artillery, to be our deputy-quartermaster-general. He only stayed a
  few minutes.

  "As the infantry corps on the plateau became fewer, the fire of the
  skirmishers amongst the hedges gradually relaxed, and at length
  ceased--the Rifles, &c., being drawn, and following the line of
  retreat. At last, about noon, I found myself left with my troop,
  quite alone, on the brow of the position, just by the farm of Quatre
  Bras--the only troops in sight being a small picket of hussars, near
  the village of Frasnes, in the plain below; a few more in our rear,
  but at some little distance, amongst the houses; and a brigade of
  hussars far away to the left (about two miles), close to the wood
  in that quarter. Thus solitary, as it were, I had ample leisure
  to contemplate the scene of desolation around me, so strangely at
  variance with the otherwise smiling landscape. Everywhere mementoes
  of yesterday's bloody struggle met the eye--the corn trampled down,
  and the ground, particularly in the plain, plentifully besprinkled
  with bodies of the slain. Just in front of the farm of Quatre Bras
  there was a fearful scene of slaughter--Highlanders and cuirassiers
  lying thickly strewn about; the latter appeared to have charged up
  the Charleroi road, on which, and immediately bordering it, they lay
  most numerously.

  "In communicating to me the orders of our retreat, Major M'Donald had
  reiterated that to join Lord Edward Somerset's brigade without delay,
  but still he could not tell me where this brigade was to be found.
  Meantime Sir Ormsby Vandeleur's brigade of light dragoons having
  formed up in front of the houses, and supposing from this that all
  the cavalry must be nigh, as one step towards finding Lord Edward I
  crossed the road to the right of these dragoons, and rode towards
  the part where, as before stated, the light was intercepted by trees
  and bushes. On passing through these I had an uninterrupted view of
  the country for miles, but not a soldier or living being was to be
  seen in that direction. As I pushed on through the thickets my horse,
  suddenly coming to a stand, began to snort, and showed unequivocal
  symptoms of fear. I drove him on, however, but started myself when
  I saw, lying under the bush, the body of a man stripped naked. This
  victim of war was a youth of fair form, skin delicately white, and
  face but little darker; an embryo moustache decorated the upper lip,
  and his countenance, even in death, was beautiful. That he was French
  I conjectured, but neither on himself nor his horse was there a
  particle of clothing that could indicate to what nation he belonged.
  If French, how came he here to die alone so far in the rear of our
  lines?

  "I know not why, but the _rencontre_ with this solitary corpse had
  a wonderful effect on my spirits--far different from what I felt
  when gazing on the heaps that encumbered the field beyond. Seldom
  have I experienced such despondency--such heart-sinking--as when
  standing over this handsome form thus despoiled, neglected, and
  about to become a prey to wolves and carrion crows--the darling of
  some fond mother, the adored of some fair maid. His horse, stripped
  like himself, lay by--they had met their fate at once. Returning
  to my troop, I found Sir Augustus Frazer, who had come to order my
  ammunition waggons to the rear that the retreat might be as little
  encumbered as possible, and to tell me that what ammunition was used
  during the day would be supplied by my sending for it to Langeveldt,
  on the road to Brussels, where that to Wavre branches from it.

  "Thus divested of our ammunition, it was evident that our retreat
  must be a rapid one, since with only fifty rounds a gun (the number
  in the limbers), it could not be expected that we could occupy any
  position longer than a few minutes. In the end, this measure nearly
  led to very disagreeable results, as will be seen anon."

Lord Uxbridge--afterwards the Marquis of Anglesey--was a very fine
cavalry leader, a sort of English Murat, with all the dash, activity,
and resource of that famous soldier. But he had too much fire in
his temper for cool generalship. The tumult and shock of battle had
the effect of champagne upon him. It kindled in his brain a sort of
intoxication. So he took risks a cooler-headed soldier would have
avoided. Uxbridge's fiery and audacious daring is vividly reflected in
Mercer's account of how he covered the retreat to Waterloo:--

  "It was now about one o'clock. My battery stood in position on the
  brow of the declivity, with its right near the wall of the farm,
  all alone, the only troops in sight being, as before mentioned, the
  picket and a few scattered hussars in the direction of Frasnes,
  Sir O. Vandeleur's light dragoons two or three hundred yards in our
  rear, and Sir H. Vivian's hussars far away to the left. Still the
  French army made no demonstration of an advance. This inactivity was
  unaccountable. Lord Uxbridge and an aide-de-camp came to the front
  of my battery, and dismounting, seated himself on the ground; so did
  I and the aide-de-camp. His lordship with his glass was watching
  the French position; and we were all three wondering at their want
  of observation and inactivity, which had not only permitted our
  infantry to retire unmolested, but also still retained them in their
  bivouac. 'It will not be long now before they are on us,' said the
  aide-de-camp, 'for they always dine before they move; and those
  smokes seem to indicate that they are cooking now.'

  "He was right; for not long afterwards another aide-de-camp, scouring
  along the valley, came to report that a heavy column of cavalry was
  advancing through the opening between the woods to the left from the
  direction of Gembloux. At the same moment we saw them distinctly;
  and Lord Uxbridge having reconnoitred them a moment through his
  glass, started up, exclaiming, in a joyful tone, 'By the Lord, they
  are Prussians!' jumped on his horse, and, followed by the two aides,
  dashed off like a whirlwind to meet them. For a moment I stood
  looking after them as they swept down the slope, and could not help
  wondering how the Prussians came there. I was, however, not left long
  in my perplexity, for, turning my eyes towards the French position, I
  saw their whole army descending from it in three or four dark masses,
  whilst their advanced cavalry picket was already skirmishing with and
  driving back our hussars. The truth instantly flashed on my mind, and
  I became exceedingly uneasy for the safety of Lord Uxbridge and his
  companions, now far advanced on their way down the valley, and likely
  to be irretrievably cut off.

  "My situation now appeared somewhat awkward; left without orders
  and entirely alone on the brow of our position--the hussar pickets
  galloping in and hurrying past as fast as they could--the whole
  French army advancing, and already at no great distance. In this
  dilemma, I determined to retire across the little dip that separated
  me from Sir O. Vandeleur, and take up a position in front of his
  squadrons, whence, after giving a round to the French advance as
  soon as they stood on our present ground, I thought I could retire
  in sufficient time through his intervals to leave the ground clear
  for him to charge. This movement was immediately executed; but the
  guns were scarcely unlimbered ere Sir Ormsby came furiously up,
  exclaiming, 'What are you doing here, sir? You encumber my front, and
  we shall not be able to charge. Take your guns away, sir; instantly,
  I say--take them away!' It was in vain that I endeavoured to explain
  my intentions, and that our fire would allow his charge to be made
  with more effect. 'No, no; take them out of my way, sir!' was all the
  answer I could get; and accordingly, I was preparing to obey, when up
  came Lord Uxbridge, and the scene changed in a twinkling. 'Captain
  Mercer, are you loaded?' 'Yes, my lord.' 'Then give them a round
  as they rise the hill, and retire as quickly as possible.' 'Light
  dragoons, threes right; at a trot, march!' and then some orders to
  Sir Ormsby, of whom I saw no more that day. 'They are just coming up
  the hill,' said Lord Uxbridge. 'Let them get well up before you fire.
  Do you think you can retire quick enough afterwards?' 'I am sure of
  it, my lord.' 'Very well, then, keep a good lookout, and point your
  guns well.'

  "I had often longed to see Napoleon, that mighty man of war--that
  astonishing genius who had filled the world with his renown. Now
  I saw him, and there was a degree of sublimity in the interview
  rarely equalled. The sky had become overcast since the morning, and
  at this moment presented a most extraordinary appearance. Large
  isolated masses of thunder-cloud, of the deepest, almost inky black,
  their lower edges hard and strongly defined, lagging down, as if
  momentarily about to burst, hung suspended over us, involving our
  position and everything on it in deep and gloomy obscurity; whilst
  the distant hill lately occupied by the French army still lay bathed
  in brilliant sunshine. Lord Uxbridge was yet speaking when a single
  horseman,[6] immediately followed by several others, mounted the
  plateau I had left at a gallop, their dark figures thrown forward in
  strong relief from the illuminated distance, making them appear much
  nearer to us than they really were.

  "For an instant they pulled up and regarded us, when several
  squadrons coming rapidly on the plateau, Lord Uxbridge cried out,
  'Fire!--fire!' and, giving them a general discharge, we quickly
  limbered up to retire, as they dashed forward supported by some
  horse artillery guns, which opened upon us ere we could complete the
  manoeuvre, but without much effect, for the only one touched was
  the servant of Major Whinyates, who was wounded in the leg by the
  splinter of a howitzer shell.

  "It was now for the first time that I discovered the major and his
  rocket-troop, who, annoyed at my having the rear, had disobeyed
  the order to retreat, and remained somewhere in the neighbourhood
  until this moment, hoping to share whatever might be going on. The
  first gun that was fired seemed to burst the clouds overhead, for
  its report was instantly followed by an awful clap of thunder, and
  lightning that almost blinded us, whilst the rain came down as if
  a waterspout had broken over us. The sublimity of the scene was
  inconceivable. Flash succeeded flash, and the peals of thunder were
  long and tremendous; whilst, as if in mockery of the elements, the
  French guns still sent forth their feebler glare and now scarcely
  audible reports--their cavalry dashing on at a headlong pace, adding
  their shouts to the uproar. We galloped for our lives through the
  storm, striving to gain the enclosures about the houses of the
  hamlets, Lord Uxbridge urging us on, crying, 'Make haste!--make
  haste! for God's sake, gallop, or you will be taken!' We did make
  haste, and succeeded in getting amongst the houses and gardens, but
  with the French advance close on our heels. Here, however, observing
  the _chaussée_ full of hussars, they pulled up. Had they continued
  their charge we were gone, for these hussars were scattered about the
  road in the utmost confusion, some in little squads, others singly,
  and, moreover, so crowded together that we had no room whatever to
  act with any effect--either they or us.

  "Meantime the enemy's detachments began to envelop the gardens,
  which Lord Uxbridge observing, called to me, 'Here, follow me with
  two of your guns,' and immediately himself led the way into one
  of the narrow lanes between the gardens. What he intended doing,
  God knows, but I obeyed. The lane was very little broader than our
  carriages--there was not room for a horse to have passed them!
  The distance from the _chaussée_ to the end of the lane, where it
  debouched on the open fields, could scarcely have been above one or
  two hundred yards at most. His lordship and I were in front, the
  guns and mounted detachments following. What he meant to do I was at
  a loss to conceive; we could hardly come to action in the lane; to
  enter on the open was certain destruction. Thus we had arrived at
  about fifty yards from its termination when a body of chasseurs or
  hussars appeared there as if waiting for us. These we might have seen
  from the first, for nothing but a few elder bushes intercepted the
  view from the _chaussée_.

  "The whole transaction appears to me so wild and confused that at
  times I can hardly believe it to have been more than a confused
  dream--yet true it was--the general-in-chief of the cavalry exposing
  himself amongst the skirmishers of his rearguard, and literally
  doing the duty of a cornet! 'By God! we are all prisoners' (or some
  such words), exclaimed Lord Uxbridge, dashing his horse at one of
  the garden-banks, which he cleared, and away he went, leaving us
  to get out of the scrape as best we could. There was no time for
  hesitation--one manoeuvre alone could extricate us if allowed time,
  and it I ordered. 'Reverse by unlimbering' was the order. To do this
  the gun was to be unlimbered, then turned round, and one wheel run up
  the bank, which just left space for the limber to pass it. The gun is
  then limbered up again and ready to move to the rear. The execution,
  however, was not easy, for the very reversing of the limber itself
  in so narrow a lane, with a team of eight horses, was sufficiently
  difficult, and required first-rate driving.

  "Nothing could exceed the coolness and activity of our men; the thing
  was done quickly and well, and we returned to the _chaussée_ without
  let or hindrance. How we were permitted to do so, I am at a loss to
  imagine; for although I gave the order to reverse, I certainly never
  expected to have seen it executed. Meantime my own situation was
  anything but a pleasant one, as I sat with my back to the gentlemen
  at the end of the lane, whose interference I momentarily expected,
  casting an eye from time to time over my shoulder to ascertain
  whether they still kept their position. There they sat motionless,
  and although thankful for their inactivity, I could not but wonder
  at their stupidity. It seemed, however, all of a piece that day--all
  blunder and confusion; and this last I found pretty considerable
  on regaining the _chaussée_. His lordship we found collecting the
  scattered hussars together into a squadron for our rescue, for which
  purpose it was he had so unceremoniously left us. Heavy as the rain
  was and thick the weather, yet the French could not but have seen the
  confusion we were in, as they had closed up to the entrance of the
  enclosure; and yet they did not at once take advantage of it.

  "Things could not remain long in this state. A heavy column of
  cavalry approached us by the _chaussée_, whilst another skirting
  the enclosures, appeared pushing forward to cut us off. Retreat
  now became imperative. The order was given, and away we went,
  helter-skelter--guns, gun-detachments, and hussars all mixed
  _pêle-mêle_, going like mad, and covering each other with mud, to be
  washed off by the rain, which, before sufficiently heavy, now came
  down again as it had done at first, in splashes instead of drops,
  soaking us anew to the skin, and, what was worse, extinguishing every
  slow match in the brigade. The obscurity caused by the splashing
  of the rain was such, that at one period I could not distinguish
  objects more than a few yards distant. Of course we lost sight of our
  pursuers altogether, and the shouts and halloos, and even laughter,
  they had at first sent forth were either silenced or drowned in the
  uproar of the elements and the noise of our too rapid retreat; for
  in addition to everything else the crashing and rattling of the
  thunder were most awful, and the glare of the lightning blinding.
  In this state we gained the bridge of Genappe at the moment when
  the thunder-cloud, having passed over, left us in comparative fine
  weather, although still raining heavily.

  "For the last mile or so we had neither seen nor heard anything of
  our lively French friends, and now silently wound our way up the
  deserted street, nothing disturbing its death-like stillness save the
  iron sound of horses' feet, the rumbling of the carriages, and the
  splashing of water as it fell from the eaves--all this was stillness
  compared with the hurly-burly and din from which we had just emerged.

  "On gaining the high ground beyond the town, we suddenly came in
  sight of the main body of our cavalry drawn up across the _chaussée_
  in two lines, and extending away far to the right and left of it.
  It would have been an imposing spectacle at any time, but just now
  appeared to me magnificent, and I hailed it with complacency, for
  here I thought our fox-chase must end. 'Those superb Life Guards
  and Blues will soon teach our pursuers a little modesty.' Such
  fellows!--surely nothing can withstand them. Scarcely had these
  thoughts passed through my mind ere an order from his lordship
  recalled us to the rear. The enemy's horse artillery, having taken
  up a position in the meadows near the bridge, were annoying our
  dragoons as they debouched from the town. The ground was heavy from
  the rain, and very steep, so that it was only by great exertion that
  we succeeded at last in getting our guns into the adjoining field.

  "The moment we appeared the French battery bestowed on us its
  undivided attention, which we quickly acknowledged by an uncommonly
  well-directed fire of spherical case. Whilst so employed, Major
  M'Donald came up and put me through a regular catechism as to length
  of fuse, whether out of bag A or B, &c., &c. Although much vexed at
  such a schooling just now, yet the major appeared so seriously in
  earnest that I could not but be amused; however, to convince him that
  we knew what we were about, I directed his attention to our excellent
  practice, so superior to that of our antagonist, who was sending all
  his shot far over our heads. The French seemed pretty well convinced
  of this too, for after standing a few rounds they quitted the field,
  and left us again without occupation. The major vanishing at the same
  time, I sent my guns, &c., to the rear, and set off to join Lord
  Uxbridge, who was still fighting in the street. Our ammunition was
  expended the waggons having been taken away by Sir Augustus Frazer
  at Quatre Bras.

  "On regaining my troop I found Major M'Donald and the rockets with
  it. They were in position on a gentle elevation, on which likewise
  were formed the lines of cavalry stretching across the _chaussée_.
  Immediately on our left, encased in the hollow road, the Blues were
  formed in close column of half-squadrons, and it was not long ere
  Lord Uxbridge, with those he had retained at Genappe, came sweeping
  over the hill and joined us. They were closely followed by the
  French light cavalry, who, descending into the hollow, commenced a
  sharp skirmish with our advance-posts. Soon squadron after squadron
  appeared on the hill we had passed, and took up their positions,
  forming a long line parallel to ours, whilst a battery of horse
  artillery, forming across the _chaussée_, just on the brow of the
  declivity, opened its fire on us, though without much effect. To this
  we responded, though very slowly, having no more ammunition than what
  remained in our limbers.

  "In order to amuse the enemy and our own cavalry, as well as to
  prevent the former noticing the slackness of our fire, I proposed to
  Major M'Donald making use of the rockets, which had hitherto done
  nothing. There was a little hesitation about this, and one of the
  officers (Strangways) whispered me, 'No, no--it's too far!' This I
  immediately told the Major, proposing as a remedy that they should go
  closer. Still there was demur; but at last my proposition was agreed
  to, and down they marched into the thick of the skirmishers in the
  bottom. Of course, having proposed the measure myself, I could do no
  less than accompany them.

  "Whilst they prepared their machinery, I had time to notice what was
  going on to the right and left of us. Two double lines of skirmishers
  extended all along the bottom--the foremost of each line were within
  a few yards of each other--constantly in motion, riding backwards
  and forwards, firing their carbines or pistols, and then reloading,
  still on the move. This fire seemed to me more dangerous for those on
  the hills above than for us below; for all, both French and English,
  generally stuck out their carbines or pistols as they continued to
  move backwards and forwards, and discharged them without taking any
  particular aim, and mostly in the air. I did not see a man fall on
  either side. The thing appeared quite ridiculous, and but for hearing
  the bullets whizzing overhead, one might have fancied it no more than
  a sham-fight.

  "Meanwhile the rocketeers had placed a little iron triangle in the
  road with a rocket lying on it. The order to fire is given, portfire
  applied; the fidgety missile begins to sputter out sparks and wriggle
  its tail for a second or so, and then darts forth straight up the
  _chaussée_. A gun stands right in its way, between the wheels of
  which the shell in the head of the rocket bursts; the gunners fall
  right and left; and those of the other guns, taking to their heels,
  the battery is deserted in an instant. Strange; but so it was. I saw
  them run, and for some minutes afterwards I saw the guns standing
  mute and unmanned, whilst our rocketeers kept shooting off rockets,
  none of which ever followed the course of the first; most of them, on
  arriving about the middle of the ascent, took a vertical direction,
  whilst some actually turned back upon ourselves; and one of these,
  following me like a squib until its shell exploded, actually put me
  in more danger than all the fire of the enemy throughout the day.
  Meanwhile the French artillerymen, seeing how the land lay, returned
  to their guns and opened a fire of case-shot on us, but without
  effect, for we retreated to our ridge without the loss of a man, or
  even any wounded, though the range could not have been above 200
  yards.

  "As we had overtaken the rear of our infantry, it became necessary
  to make a stand here to enable them to gain ground. Major M'Donald
  therefore sent me in pursuit of my ammunition waggons, since all in
  our limbers was expended. Having before sent for these, we calculated
  that they could not now be very far off. In going to the rear, I
  passed along the top of the bank, under which, as I have said, the
  Blues were encased in the hollow road. Shot and shells were flying
  pretty thickly about just then, and sometimes striking the top of the
  bank would send down a shower of mud and clods upon them.

  "The ammunition waggons I found coming up, and was returning with
  them when I met my whole troop again retiring by the road, whilst
  the cavalry did so by alternate regiments across the fields. The
  ground offering no feature for another stand, we continued thus along
  the road. The infantry had made so little progress that we again
  overtook the rear of their column, composed of Brunswickers--some of
  those same boys I used to see practising at Schapdale in my rides to
  Brussels. These poor lads were pushing on at a great rate. As soon
  as their rear divisions heard the sound of our horses' feet, without
  once looking behind them, they began to crowd and press on those in
  front, until at last, hearing us close up to them, and finding it
  impossible to push forward in the road, many of them broke off into
  the fields; and such was their panic that, in order to run lighter,
  away went arms and knapsacks in all directions, and a general race
  ensued, the whole corps being in the most horrid confusion. It was
  to no purpose that I exerted my little stock of German to make them
  understand we were their English friends. A frightened glance and
  away, was all the effect of my interference, which drove many of them
  off."

The retreat came to an end here. The rearguard, without knowing it, had
reached the low ridge running east and west across the Brussels road,
where Wellington had resolved to make his final stand, and where the
greatest battle in modern history was on the morrow to be fought:--

  "We did not long remain idle, for the guns were scarcely loaded ere
  the rear of our cavalry came crowding upon the infantry corps we had
  passed, and which were then only crossing the valley, the French
  advance skirmishing with these, whilst their squadrons occupied the
  heights. We waited a little until some of their larger masses were
  assembled, and then opened our fire with a range across the valley of
  about 1200 yards. The echo of our first gun had not ceased when, to
  my astonishment, a heavy cannonade, commencing in a most startling
  manner from behind our hedge, rolled along the rising ground, on part
  of which we were posted. The truth now flashed on me; we had rejoined
  the army, and it is impossible to describe the pleasing sense of
  security I felt at having now the support of something more staunch
  than cavalry.

  "The French now brought up battery after battery, and a tremendous
  cannonading was kept up by both sides for some time. The effect was
  grand and exciting. Our position was a happy one, for all their shot
  which grazed short came and struck in the perpendicular bank of our
  gravel-pit, and only one struck amongst us, breaking the traversing
  handspike at one of the guns, but injuring neither man nor horse. Our
  fire was principally directed against their masses as we could see
  them, which was not always the case from the smoke that, for want
  of wind, hung over them; then against their smaller parties that
  had advanced into the valley to skirmish with the rearguard of our
  cavalry.

  "Here, for the second and last time, I saw Napoleon, though
  infinitely more distant than in the morning. Some of my
  non-commissioned officers pointed their guns at the numerous cortège
  accompanying him as they stood near the road by Belle Alliance; and
  one, pointed by old Quarter-master Hall, fell in the midst of them.
  At the moment we saw some little confusion amongst the group, but it
  did not hinder them from continuing the reconnaissance.

  "Whilst we were thus engaged, a man of no very prepossessing
  appearance came rambling amongst our guns, and entered into
  conversation with me on the occurrences of the day. He was dressed in
  a shabby old drab greatcoat and a rusty round hat. I took him at the
  time for some amateur from Brussels (of whom we had heard there were
  several hovering about), and thinking many of his questions rather
  impertinent, was somewhat short in answering him, and he soon left
  us. How great was my astonishment on learning soon after that this
  was Sir Thomas Picton! The enemy, finding us obstinate in maintaining
  our position, soon slackened, and then ceased firing altogether; and
  we were immediately ordered to do the same, and establish ourselves
  in bivouac for the night.

  "Thoroughly wet--cloaks, blankets, and all--comfort was out of
  the question, so we prepared to make the best of it. Our first
  care was, of course, the horses, and these we had ample means of
  providing for, since, in addition to what corn we had left, one of
  our men had picked up and brought forward on an ammunition waggon
  a large sackful, which he found in the road near Genappe. Thus
  they, at least, had plenty to eat, and having been so well drenched
  all day, were not much in need of water. For ourselves we had
  nothing!--absolutely nothing!--and looked forward to rest alone to
  restore our exhausted strength. Rather a bore going supperless to bed
  after such a day, yet was there no help for it.

  "Our gunners, &c., soon stowed themselves away beneath the carriages,
  using the painted covers as additional shelter against the rain,
  which now set in again as heavy as ever. We set up a small tent, into
  which (after vain attempts at procuring food or lodgings in the farm
  or its out buildings, all of which were crammed to suffocation with
  officers and soldiers of all arms and nations) we crept, and rolling
  ourselves in our wet blankets, huddled close together, in hope, wet
  as we were, and wet as the ground was, of keeping each other warm.
  I know not how my bedfellows got on, as we all lay for a long while
  perfectly still and silent--the old Peninsular hands disdaining to
  complain before their Johnny Newcome comrades, and these fearing to
  do so lest they should provoke such remarks, as 'Lord have mercy
  on your poor tender carcass! what would such as you have done in
  the Pyrenees?' or 'Oho, my boy! this is but child's play to what we
  saw in Spain.' So all who did not sleep (I believe the majority)
  pretended to do so, and bore their suffering with admirable heroism.

  "For my part, I once or twice, from sheer fatigue, got into something
  like a doze; yet it would not do. There was no possibility of
  sleeping, for, besides being already so wet, the tent proved no
  shelter, the water pouring through the canvas in streams; so up I
  got, and to my infinite joy, found that some of the men had managed
  to make a couple of fires, round which they were sitting smoking
  their short pipes in something like comfort. The hint was a good
  one, and at that moment my second captain joining me, we borrowed
  from them a few sticks, and choosing the best spot under the hedge,
  proceeded to make a fire for ourselves. In a short time we succeeded
  in raising a cheerful blaze, which materially bettered our situation.
  My companion had an umbrella (which, by the way, had afforded some
  merriment to our people on the march); this we planted against
  the sloping bank of the hedge, and seating ourselves under it, he
  on one side of the stick, I on the other, we lighted cigars and
  became--comfortable. Dear weed! what comfort, what consolation dost
  thou not impart to the wretched!--with thee a hovel becomes a palace.
  What a stock of patience is there not enveloped in one of thy brown
  leaves!

  "And thus we sat enjoying ourselves, puffing forth into the damp
  night air streams of fragrant smoke, being able now deliberately to
  converse on what had been and probably would be. All this time a most
  infernal clatter of musketry was going on, which, but for the many
  quiet dark figures seated round the innumerable fires all along the
  position, might have been construed into a night attack. But as these
  gentlemen were between us and the enemy we felt assured of timely
  warning, and ere long learned that all this proceeded as before from
  the infantry discharging and cleaning their pieces.

  "Whilst so employed, a rustling in the hedge behind attracted our
  attention, and in a few minutes a poor fellow belonging to some
  Hanoverian regiment, wet through like everybody else, and shivering
  with cold, made his appearance, and modestly begged permission to
  remain a short time and warm himself by our fire. He had somehow or
  other wandered from his colours, and had passed the greater part
  of the night searching for them, but in vain. At first he appeared
  quite exhausted, but the warmth reinvigorating him, he pulled out his
  pipe and began to smoke. Having finished his modicum and carefully
  disposed of the ashes, he rose from his wet seat to renew his search,
  hoping to find his corps before daylight, he said, lest it should be
  engaged. Many thanks he offered for our hospitality; but what was
  our surprise when, after fumbling in his haversack for some time,
  he pulled out a poor half-starved chicken, presented it to us, and
  marched off. This was a Godsend, in good truth, to people famished as
  we were; so calling for a camp-kettle, our prize was on the fire in a
  twinkling.

  "Our comrades in the tent did not sleep so soundly but that they
  heard what was going on, and the kettle was hardly on the fire ere
  my gentlemen were assembled round it, a wet and shivering group, but
  all eager to partake of our good fortune--and so eager that after
  various betrayals of impatience, the miserable chicken was at last
  snatched from the kettle ere it was half-boiled, pulled to pieces
  and speedily devoured. I got a leg for my share, but it was not one
  mouthful, and this was the only food I tasted since the night before."

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 6: That this was Napoleon we have the authority of General
Gourgaud, who states that, irritated at the delay of Marshal Ney, he
put himself at the head of the chasseurs (I think), and dashed forward
in the hope of yet being able to catch our rearguard.]



CHAPTER V

WATERLOO


Mercer's account of Waterloo has much less of literary art and skill
in it than other parts of his book. He plunges the reader, without
warning and without explanation, into the roar of the great fight. His
description of the ground and of the position of the army is thrust,
as a sort of parenthesis, into the middle of the story of the actual
struggle. Mercer's troop was stationed till long past noon in reserve
on the British right. The battle to Mercer was nothing but an incessant
and deep-voiced roar of guns, a vision of drifting smoke, in which
would appear at times dim figures of charging horsemen, or outlines of
infantry squares, edged with steel and flame, and out of which flowed
tiny processions of wounded, trickling backwards over the ridge in
front. About three o'clock, however, the troop was suddenly brought
up to the battle-line, at a point where it was in imminent peril of
giving way. From that moment Mercer was in the smoky, tormented,
thunder-shaken vortex of the great fight, and his description of it is
graphic and impressive in the highest degree.

This is how the morning of Waterloo dawned for Mercer and his gunners:--

  "_June 18._--Memorable day! Some time before daybreak the bombardier
  who had been despatched to Langeveldt returned with a supply of
  ammunition.

  "With the providence of an old soldier, he had picked up and
  brought on a considerable quantity of beef, biscuit, and oatmeal,
  of which there was abundance scattered about everywhere. Casks of
  rum, &c., there were, and having broached one of these--he and his
  drivers--every one filled his canteen--a most considerate act, and
  one for which the whole troop was sincerely thankful. Nor must I omit
  to remark that, amidst such temptations, his men had behaved with
  the most perfect regularity, and returned to us quite sober! The
  rum was divided on the spot; and surely if ardent spirits are ever
  beneficial, it must be to men situated as ours were; it therefore
  came most providentially. The oatmeal was converted speedily into
  stirabout, and afforded our people a hearty meal, after which all
  hands set to work to prepare the beef, make soup, &c. Unfortunately,
  we preferred waiting for this, and passed the stirabout, by which
  piece of folly we were doomed to a very protracted fast, as will be
  seen.

  "Whilst our soup was cooking, it being now broad daylight, I mounted
  my horse to reconnoitre our situation. During the night another troop
  (I think Major Ramsay's) had established itself in our orchard, and
  just outside the hedge I found Major Bean's, which had also arrived
  during the night, direct from England. Ascending from the farm
  towards the ground we had left yesterday evening, the face of the
  slope, as far as I could see, to the right and left, was covered
  with troops _en bivouac_--here, I think, principally cavalry. Of
  these some were cleaning their arms, some cooking, some sitting
  round fires smoking, and a few, generally officers, walking about or
  standing in groups conversing. Many of the latter eagerly inquired
  where I was going, and appeared very anxious for intelligence, all
  expecting nothing less than to recommence our retreat. I continued
  on to the position we had occupied last, and thence clearly saw the
  French army on the opposite hill, where everything appeared perfectly
  quiet--people moving about individually, and no formation whatever.
  Their advanced-posts and vedettes in the valley, just beyond La Haye
  Sainte, were also quiet.

  "Having satisfied my curiosity I returned the way I came,
  communicating my observations to the many eager inquirers I met with.
  Various were the speculations in consequence. Some thought the French
  were afraid to attack us, others that they would do so soon, others
  that the Duke would not wait for it, others that he would, as he
  certainly would not allow them to go to Brussels; and so they went on
  speculating, whilst I returned to my people. Here, finding the mess
  not yet ready, and nothing to be done, I strolled into the garden
  of the farm, where several Life Guardsmen were very busy digging
  potatoes--a fortunate discovery, which I determined to profit by.
  Therefore, calling up some of my men, to work we went without loss of
  time."

It is amusing to notice that Mercer was so busy digging potatoes that
he quite failed to observe that the battle had actually commenced! His
senses were buried in the potato-hillocks! So the regiments fell into
line, the batteries moved off to their assigned places, the French guns
began to speak, and Waterloo had begun; and though Mercer stood on the
very edge of the field, he took no notice of the rise of the curtain on
the great tragedy. He says:--

  "Whilst thus employed I noticed a very heavy firing going on in
  front, but this did not make us quit our work. Shortly after, to my
  great astonishment, I observed that all the bivouacs on the hillside
  were deserted, and that even Ramsay's troop had left the orchard
  without my being aware of it, and my own was left quite alone, not a
  soul being visible from where I stood in any direction, the ground
  they had quitted presenting one unbroken muddy solitude. The firing
  became heavier and heavier. Alarmed at being thus left alone, when
  it was evident something serious was going on, I hastened back and
  ordered the horses to be put to immediately.

  "Away went our mess untasted. One of the servants was desired to hang
  the kettle with its contents under an ammunition waggon. The stupid
  fellow hung the kettle as desired, but first emptied it. Without
  orders, and all alone, the battle (for now there was no mistaking it)
  going on at the other side of the hill, I remained for a few minutes
  undecided what to do. It appeared to me we had been forgotten. All,
  except only ourselves, were evidently engaged, and labouring under
  this delusion, I thought we had better get into the affair at once.
  As soon, therefore, as the troop was ready I led them up the hill on
  the high-road, hoping to meet some one who could give me directions
  what to do."

The tragedy of the battle soon made itself visible, in very dramatic
shape, to Mercer:--

  "We had not proceeded a hundred yards, when an artillery officer
  came furiously galloping down towards us. It was Major M'Lloyd, in
  a dreadful state of agitation--such, indeed, that he could hardly
  answer my questions. I learned, however, that the battle was very
  serious and bloody. Their first attack had been on that part of our
  position where his battery stood; but now the principal efforts
  were making against our right. All this was told in so hurried
  and anxious a manner, that one could hardly understand him. 'But
  where are you going?' he added. I told him my plan. 'Have you no
  orders?' 'None whatever; I have not seen a soul.' 'Then, for God's
  sake, come and assist me, or I shall be ruined. My brigade is cut
  to pieces, ammunition expended, and, unless reinforced, we shall be
  destroyed.' He was dreadfully agitated, and when I took his hand
  and promised to be with him directly, seemed transported with joy;
  so, bidding me make haste, he darted up the hill again, and went
  to receive that death-stroke which, ere long, was to terminate his
  earthly career. I trust before that termination he heard the reason
  why I never fulfilled that promise; for weeks elapsed ere he died,
  no doubt--otherwise he must have set me down for a base poltroon. My
  destiny led me elsewhere. My tutelary spirit was at hand: the eternal
  Major M'Donald made his appearance, and, giving me a sharp reprimand
  for having quitted my bivouac, desired me instantly to return to the
  foot of the hill, and there wait for orders.

  "Sulkily and slowly we descended, and forming in line on the ground
  opposite the farm of Mont St. Jean, with our left to the road, I
  dismounted the men that they might be a little less liable to be hit
  by shot and shells which, coming over the hill, were continually
  plunging into the muddy soil all around us. This was a peculiarly
  dismal situation--without honour or glory, to be knocked on the head
  in such a solitude, for not a living being was in sight.

  "It was while thus standing idle that a fine, tall, upright old
  gentleman, in plain clothes, followed by two young ones, came across
  our front at a gallop from the Brussels road, and continued on
  towards where we supposed the right of our army to be. I certainly
  stared at seeing three unarmed civilians pressing forward into so
  hot a fight. These were the Duke of Richmond and his two sons. How
  long we had been in this position, I know not, when at length we
  were relieved from it by our adjutant (Lieutenant Bell), who brought
  orders for our removal to the right of the second line. Moving,
  therefore, to our right, along the hollow, we soon began a very
  gentle ascent, and at the same time became aware of several corps
  of infantry, which had not been very far from us, but remained
  invisible, as they were all lying down. Although in this move we may
  be said to have been always under a heavy fire, from the number of
  missiles flying over us, yet were we still so fortunate as to arrive
  in our new position without losing man or horse."

Now Mercer at last got a glimpse of the whole landscape of the great
fight. But even when looking at Waterloo, and to an accompaniment of
flying lead, Mercer has an eye for the picturesque, not to say the
pastoral:--

  "In point of seeing, our situation was much improved; but for danger
  and inactivity, it was much worse, since we were now fired directly
  at, and positively ordered not to return the compliment--the object
  in bringing us here being to watch a most formidable-looking line of
  lancers drawn up opposite to us, and threatening the right flank of
  our army.

  "To the right we looked over a fine open country, covered with crops
  and interspersed with thickets or small woods. There all was peaceful
  and smiling, not a living soul being in sight. To our left, the main
  ridge terminated rather abruptly just over Hougoumont, the back of
  it towards us being broken ground, with a few old trees on it just
  where the Nivelle road descended between high banks into the ravine.
  Thus we were formed _en potence_ with the first line, from which we
  (my battery) were separated by some hundred yards. In our rear the
  14th Regiment of infantry (in square, I think) lay on the ground. In
  our front were some light dragoons of the German Legion, who from
  time to time detached small parties across the ravine. These pushed
  cautiously up the slope towards the line of lancers to reconnoitre.

  "The corn, down to the edge of the ravine nearer the Nivelle road
  and beyond it, was full of French riflemen; and these were warmly
  attacked by others from our side of the ravine, whom we saw
  crossing and gradually working their way up through the high corn,
  the French as gradually retiring. On the right of the lancers, two
  or three batteries kept up a continued fire at our position; but
  their shot, which could have been only 4-pounders, fell short--many
  not even reaching across the ravine. Some, however, did reach their
  destination; and we were particularly plagued by their howitzer
  shells with long fuses, which were continually falling about us, and
  lay spitting and spluttering several seconds before they exploded,
  to the no small annoyance of man and horse. Still, however, nobody
  was hurt; but a round-shot, striking the ammunition boxes on the body
  of one of our waggons, penetrated through both and lodged in the
  back of the rear one, with nearly half its surface to be seen from
  without--a singular circumstance! In addition to this front fire, we
  were exposed to another on our left flank--the shot that passed over
  the main ridge terminating their career with us.

  "Having little to occupy us here, we had ample leisure to observe
  what was passing there. We could see some corps at the end near us
  in squares--dark masses, having guns between them, relieved from a
  background of grey smoke, which seemed to fill the valley beyond,
  and rose high in the air above the hill. Every now and then torrents
  of French cavalry of all arms came sweeping over the ridge, as if
  carrying all before them. But, after their passage, the squares were
  still to be seen in the same places; and these gentry, who we feared
  would next fall on us, would evaporate, nobody could well say how.
  The firing still increased in intensity, so that we were at a loss to
  conjecture what all this could mean.

  "About this time, being impatient of standing idle, and annoyed by
  the batteries on the Nivelle road, I ventured to commit a folly, for
  which I should have paid dearly, had our Duke chanced to be in our
  part of the field. I ventured to disobey orders, and open a slow
  deliberate fire at the battery, thinking with my 9-pounders soon to
  silence his 4-pounders. My astonishment was great, however, when our
  very first gun was responded to by at least half-a-dozen gentlemen
  of very superior calibre, whose presence I had not even suspected,
  and whose superiority we immediately recognised by their rushing
  noise and long reach, for they flew far beyond us. I instantly saw my
  folly, and ceased firing, and they did the same--the 4-pounders alone
  continuing the cannonade as before. But this was not all. The first
  man of my troop touched was by one of these confounded long shots. I
  shall never forget the scream the poor lad gave when struck. It was
  one of the last they fired, and shattered his left arm to pieces as
  he stood between the waggons. That scream went to my very soul, for
  I accused myself as having caused his misfortune. I was, however,
  obliged to conceal my emotion from the men, who had turned to look at
  him; so, bidding them 'stand to their front,' I continued my walk up
  and down, whilst Hitchins ran to his assistance.

  "Amidst such stirring scenes, emotions of this kind are but of short
  duration; what occurred immediately afterwards completely banished
  Gunner Hunt from my recollection. As a counterbalance to this
  tragical event, our firing produced one so comic as to excite all
  our risibility. Two or three officers had lounged up to our guns to
  see the effect. One of them was a medico, and he (a shower having
  just come on) carried an umbrella overhead. No sooner did the heavy
  answers begin to arrive amongst us, than these gentlemen, fancying
  they should be safer with their own corps, although only a few yards
  in the rear, scampered off in double-quick, doctor and all, he still
  carrying his umbrella aloft. Scarcely, however, had he made two
  paces, when a shot, as he thought, passing rather too close, down he
  dropped on his hands and knees--or, I should rather say, hand and
  knees, for the one was employed in holding the silken cover most
  pertinaciously over him--and away he scrambled like a great baboon,
  his head turned fearfully over his shoulder, as if watching the
  coming shot, whilst our fellows made the field resound with their
  shouts and laughter."

At this point Mercer indulges in some reflections which illustrate, in
a striking fashion, the confusion of a great battle, and the difficulty
with which even those who are actors in it can describe what took
place. It is not merely that a battle-field, by its area, and the
fashion in which the all-obscuring smoke drifts over it, evades clear
vision and description. The actors in the fight are themselves in such
a mood of excitement, and are so passionately preoccupied by their own
part in the combat and the scenes immediately about them, that no brain
remains sufficiently cool and detached to take in the battle-field as a
whole:--

  "I think I have already mentioned that it was not until some days
  afterwards that I was able to resume my regular journal, consequently
  that everything relative to these three days is written from
  memory. In trying to recollect scenes of this nature, some little
  confusion is inevitable; and here I confess myself somewhat puzzled
  to account for certain facts of which I am positive. For instance,
  I remember perfectly Captain Bolton's brigade of 9-pounders being
  stationed to the left of us, somewhat in advance, and facing as we
  did, consequently not far from the Nivelle road. Bolton came and
  conversed with me some time, and was called hastily away by his
  battery commencing a heavy fire. Query--Who, and what was he firing
  at? That he was himself under a heavy fire there is equally no doubt,
  for whilst we were not losing a man, we saw many, both of his men
  and horses, fall, and but a few minutes after leaving me, he was
  killed himself--this is a puzzle. I have no recollection of any
  troops attempting to cross the ravine, and yet his fire was in that
  direction, and I think must have been toward the Nivelle road.

  "A distressing circumstance connected with this (shall I confess it?)
  made even more impression on my spirits than the misfortune of Gunner
  Hunt. Bolton's people had not been long engaged when we saw the men
  of the gun next to us unharness one of the horses and chase it away,
  wounded, I supposed; yet the beast stood and moved with firmness,
  going from one carriage to the other, whence I noticed he was always
  eagerly driven away. At last two or three gunners drove him before
  them to a considerable distance, and then returned to their guns.
  I took little notice of this at the time and was surprised by an
  exclamation of horror from some of my people in the rear. A sickening
  sensation came over me, mixed with a deep feeling of pity, when
  within a few paces of me stood the poor horse in question, side by
  side with the leaders of one of our ammunition waggons, against which
  he pressed his panting sides, as though eager to identify himself as
  of their society--the driver, with horror depicted on every feature,
  endeavouring by words and gestures (for the kind-hearted lad could
  not strike) to drive from him so hideous a spectacle.

  "A cannon-shot had completely carried away the lower part of the
  animal's head, immediately below the eyes. Still he lived, and seemed
  fully conscious of all around, whilst his full, clear eye seemed
  to implore us not to chase him from his companions. I ordered the
  farrier (Price) to put him out of misery, which, in a few minutes he
  reported having accomplished, by running his sabre into the animal's
  heart. Even he evinced feeling on this occasion.

  "Meantime the roar of cannon and musketry in the main position never
  slackened; it was intense, as was the smoke arising from it. Amidst
  this, from time to time, was to be seen still more dense columns
  of smoke rising straight into the air like a great pillar, then
  spreading out a mushroom head. These arose from the explosions of
  ammunition waggons, which were continually taking place, although the
  noise which filled the whole atmosphere was too overpowering to allow
  them to be heard."

By this time the great French cavalry charges were in full course.
Some 10,000 of the finest cavalry in the world were being flung on the
stubborn British squares, which, as the French horsemen swept round
them, seemed swallowed up in a tossing sea of helmets and gleaming
swords and heads of galloping horses. The spray, so to speak, of that
fierce human sea, was flung on the spot where Mercer and his gunners
stood:--

  "Amongst the multitudes of French cavalry continually pouring over
  the front ridge, one corps came sweeping down the slope entire, and
  was directing its course straight for us, when suddenly a regiment
  of light dragoons (I believe of the German Legion) came up from the
  ravine at a brisk trot on their flank. The French had barely time to
  wheel up to the left and push their horses into a gallop when the
  two bodies came into collision. They were at a very short distance
  from us, so that we saw the charge perfectly. There was no check,
  no hesitation on either side; both parties seemed to dash on in a
  most reckless manner, and we fully expected to have seen a horrid
  crash--no such thing! Each, as if by mutual consent, opened their
  files on coming near, and passed rapidly through each other, cutting
  and pointing, much in the same manner one might pass the fingers of
  the right hand through those of the left. We saw but few fall. The
  two corps re-formed afterwards, and in a twinkling both disappeared,
  I know not how or where.

  "It might have been about two o'clock when Colonel Gould, R.A., came
  to me--perhaps a little later. Be that as it may, we were conversing
  on the subject of our situation, which appeared to him rather
  desperate. He remarked that in the event of a retreat there was but
  one road, which no doubt would be instantly choked up, and asked my
  opinion. My answer was, 'It does indeed look very bad; but I trust in
  the Duke, who, I am sure, will get us out of it somehow or other.'
  Meantime gloomy reflections arose in my mind, for though I did not
  choose to betray myself (as we spoke before the men), yet I could
  not help thinking that our affairs were rather desperate, and that
  some unfortunate catastrophe was at hand. In this case I made up my
  mind to spike my guns and retreat over the fields, draught-horses and
  all, in the best manner I could, steering well from the high-road and
  general line of retreat.

  "We were still talking on this subject when suddenly a dark mass of
  cavalry appeared for an instant on the main ridge, and then came
  sweeping down the slope in swarms, reminding me of an enormous surf
  bursting over the prostrate hull of a stranded vessel, and then
  running, hissing and foaming up the beach. The hollow space became
  in a twinkling covered with horsemen, crossing, turning, and riding
  about in all directions, apparently without any object. Sometimes
  they came pretty near us, then would retire a little. There were
  lancers amongst them, hussars, and dragoons--it was a complete
  _mêlée_. On the main ridge no squares were to be seen; the only
  objects were a few guns standing in a confused manner, with muzzles
  in the air, and not one artilleryman. After caracoling about for a
  few minutes, the crowd began to separate and draw together in small
  bodies, which continually increased; and now we really apprehended
  being overwhelmed, as the first line had apparently been. For a
  moment an awful silence pervaded that part of the position to which
  we anxiously turned our eyes. 'I fear all is over,' said Colonel
  Gould, who still remained with me. The thing seemed but too likely,
  and this time I could not withhold my assent to his remark, for it
  did indeed appear so.

  "Meantime the 14th, springing from the earth, had formed their
  square, whilst we, throwing back the guns of our right and left
  divisions, stood waiting in momentary expectation of being enveloped
  and attacked. Still they lingered in the hollow, when suddenly loud
  and repeated shouts (not English hurrahs) drew our attention to
  the other side. There we saw two dense columns of infantry pushing
  forward at a quick pace towards us, crossing the fields, as if they
  had come from Merke Braine. Every one both of the 14th and ourselves
  pronounced them French, yet still we delayed opening fire on them.
  Shouting, yelling, singing, on they came right for us; and being now
  not above 800 or 1000 yards distant, it seemed folly allowing them
  to come nearer unmolested. The commanding officer of the 14th to
  end our doubts rode forwards and endeavoured to ascertain who they
  were, but soon returned assuring us they were French. The order was
  already given to fire, when luckily Colonel Gould recognised them as
  Belgians. Meantime, whilst my attention was occupied by these people,
  the cavalry had all vanished, nobody could say how or where.

  "We breathed again. Such was the agitated state in which we were kept
  in our second position. A third act was about to commence of a much
  more stirring and active nature."

Now came, and in a dramatic fashion, the summons which brought troop G
into the very front of the fight; and from this point Mercer's story is
clear, sustained, and vivid:--

  "It might have been, as nearly as I can recollect, about 3 P.M. when
  Sir Augustus Frazer galloped up, crying out, 'Left limber up, and
  as fast as you can.' The words were scarcely uttered when my gallant
  troop stood as desired in column of sub-divisions, left in front,
  pointing towards the main ridge. 'At a gallop, march!' and away we
  flew, as steadily and compactly as if at a review.

  "I rode with Frazer, whose face was as black as a chimney-sweep's
  from the smoke, and the jacket-sleeve of his right arm torn open by
  a musket-ball or case-shot, which had merely grazed his flesh. As we
  went along he told me that the enemy had assembled an enormous mass
  of heavy cavalry in front of the point to which he was leading us
  (about one-third of the distance between Hougoumont and the Charleroi
  road), and that in all probability we should immediately be charged
  on gaining our position. 'The Duke's orders, however, are positive,'
  he added, 'that in the event of their persevering and charging home,
  you do not expose your men, but retire with them into the adjacent
  squares of infantry.' As he spoke we were ascending the reverse
  slope of the main position. We breathed a new atmosphere--the air
  was suffocatingly hot, resembling that issuing from an oven. We were
  enveloped in thick smoke, and, _malgré_ the incessant roar of cannon
  and musketry, could distinctly hear around us a mysterious humming
  noise, like that which one hears of a summer's evening proceeding
  from myriads of black beetles; cannon-shot, too, ploughed the ground
  in all directions, and so thick was the hail of balls and bullets
  that it seemed dangerous to extend the arm lest it should be torn off.

  "In spite of the serious situation in which we were, I could not
  help being somewhat amused at the astonishment expressed by our
  kind-hearted surgeon (Hitchins), who heard for the first time this
  sort of music. He was close to me as we ascended the slope, and
  hearing this infernal carillon about his ears, began staring round
  in the wildest and most comic manner imaginable, twisting himself
  from side to side, exclaiming, 'My God, Mercer, what is that? What
  is all this noise? How curious!--how very curious!' And then when a
  cannon-shot rushed hissing past, 'There!--there! What is it all!'
  It was with great difficulty that I persuaded him to retire; for a
  time he insisted on remaining near me, and it was only by pointing
  out how important it was to us, in case of being wounded, that he
  should keep himself safe to be able to assist us, that I prevailed
  on him to withdraw. Amidst this storm we gained the summit of the
  ridge, strange to say, without a casualty; and Sir Augustus, pointing
  out our position between two squares of Brunswick infantry, left us
  with injunctions to remember the Duke's order, and to economise our
  ammunition.

  "The Brunswickers were falling fast--the shot every moment making
  great gaps in their squares, which the officers and sergeants were
  actively employed in filling up by pushing their men together, and
  sometimes thumping them ere they could make them move. These were the
  very boys whom I had but yesterday seen throwing away their arms, and
  fleeing, panic-stricken, from the very sound of our horses' feet.
  To-day they fled not bodily, to be sure, but spiritually, for their
  senses seemed to have left them. There they stood, with recovered
  arms, like so many logs, or rather like the very wooden figures which
  I had seen them practising at in their cantonments. Every moment I
  feared they would again throw down their arms and flee; but their
  officers and sergeants behaved nobly, not only keeping them together,
  but managing to keep their squares close in spite of the carnage
  made amongst them. To have sought refuge amongst men in such a state
  were madness--the very moment our men ran from their guns, I was
  convinced, would be the signal for their disbanding. We had better,
  then, fall at our posts than in such a situation.

  "Our coming up seemed to re-animate them, and all their eyes
  were directed to us--indeed, it was providential, for, had we not
  arrived as we did, I scarcely think there is a doubt of what would
  have been their fate. That the Duke was ignorant of their danger
  I have from Captain Baynes, our brigade-major, who told me that
  after Sir Augustus Frazer had been sent for us, his Grace exhibited
  considerable anxiety for our coming up; and that when he saw us
  crossing the fields at a gallop, and in so compact a body, he
  actually cried out, 'Ah! that's the way I like to see horse artillery
  move.'"

Then follows perhaps the most spirited description of a duel betwixt
guns and horsemen--from the gunner's point of view--to be found in
English literature:--

  "Our first gun had scarcely gained the interval between their
  squares, when I saw through the smoke the leading squadrons of the
  advancing column coming on at a brisk trot, and already not more than
  one hundred yards distant, if so much, for I don't think we could
  have seen so far. I immediately ordered the line to be formed for
  action--case-shot! and the leading gun was unlimbered and commenced
  firing almost as soon as the word was given; for activity and
  intelligence our men were unrivalled.

  "The very first round, I saw, brought down several men and horses.
  They continued, however, to advance. I glanced at the Brunswickers,
  and that glance told me it would not do; they had opened a fire
  from their front faces, but both squares appeared too unsteady,
  and I resolved to say nothing about the Duke's order, and take
  our chance--a resolve that was strengthened by the effect of the
  remaining guns as they rapidly succeeded in coming to action, making
  terrible slaughter, and in an instant covering the ground with men
  and horses. Still they persevered in approaching us (the first round
  had brought them to a walk), though slowly, and it did seem they
  would ride over us. We were a little below the level of the ground
  on which they moved, having in front of us a bank of about a foot
  and a half or two feet high, along the top of which ran a narrow
  road--and this gave more effect to our case-shot, all of which almost
  must have taken effect, for the carnage was frightful. The following
  extract, from a related account of a conscript, translated from the
  French and published by Murray, is so true and exact as to need
  no comment: 'Through the smoke I saw the English gunners abandon
  their pieces, all but six guns stationed under the road, and almost
  immediately our cuirassiers were upon the squares, whose fire was
  drawn in zigzags. Now, I thought, those gunners would be cut to
  pieces; but no, the devils kept firing with grape, which mowed them
  down like grass.'

  "I suppose this state of things occupied but a few seconds, when I
  observed symptoms of hesitation, and in a twinkling, at the instant
  I thought it was all over with us, they turned to either flank and
  filed away rapidly to the rear. Retreat of the mass, however, was
  not so easy. Many facing about and trying to force their way through
  the body of the column, that part next to us became a complete
  mob, into which we kept a steady fire of case-shot from our six
  pieces. The effect is hardly conceivable, and to paint this scene
  of slaughter and confusion impossible. Every discharge was followed
  by the fall of numbers, whilst the survivors struggled with each
  other, and I actually saw them using the pommels of their swords
  to fight their way out of the _mêlée_. Some, rendered desperate at
  finding themselves thus pent up at the muzzles of our guns, as it
  were, and others carried away by their horses, maddened with wounds,
  dashed through our intervals--few thinking of using their swords, but
  pushing furiously onward, intent only on saving themselves. At last
  the rear of the column, wheeling about, opened a passage, and the
  whole swept away at a much more rapid pace than they had advanced,
  nor stopped until the swell of the ground covered them from our
  fire. We then ceased firing; but as they were still not far off, for
  we saw the tops of their caps, having reloaded, we stood ready to
  receive them should they renew the attack.

  "One of, if not the first man who fell on our side was wounded by his
  own gun. Gunner Butterworth was one of the greatest pickles in the
  troop, but at the same time a most daring, active soldier; he was No.
  7 (the man who sponged, &c.) at his gun. He had just finished ramming
  down the shot, and was stepping back outside the wheel when his foot
  stuck in the miry soil, pulling him forward at the moment the gun was
  fired. As a man naturally does when falling, he threw out both his
  arms before him, and they were blown off at the elbows. He raised
  himself a little on his two stumps, and looked up most piteously in
  my face. To assist him was impossible--the safety of all, everything,
  depended upon not slackening our fire, and I was obliged to turn from
  him. The state of anxious activity in which we were kept all day,
  and the numbers who fell almost immediately afterwards, caused me to
  lose sight of poor Butterworth; and I afterwards learned that he had
  succeeded in rising, and was gone to the rear; but on inquiring for
  him next day, some of my people who had been sent to Waterloo told me
  that they saw his body lying by the roadside near the farm of Mont
  St. Jean--bled to death. The retreat of the cavalry was succeeded by
  a shower of shot and shells, which must have annihilated us had not
  the little bank covered and threw most of them over us. Still some
  reached us and knocked down men and horses.

  "At the first charge the French column was composed of grenadiers _à
  cheval_[7] and cuirassiers, the former in front. I forget whether
  they had or had not changed this disposition, but think, from the
  number of cuirasses we found afterwards, that the cuirassiers led
  the second attack. Be this as it may, their column reassembled. They
  prepared for a second attempt, sending up a cloud of skirmishers,
  who galled us terribly by a fire of carbines and pistols at scarcely
  forty yards from our front."

Betwixt the cavalry rushes came little intervals of waiting, while the
broken squadrons re-formed in the valley below, and the breathless
gunners on the ridge renewed their ammunition. These pauses gave the
French skirmishers--who had crept close up to the guns--their chance,
and which were more trying to the British gunners than even the wild
onfall of the horsemen:--

  "We were obliged to stand with port-fires lighted, so that it was
  not without a little difficulty that I succeeded in restraining the
  people from firing, for they grew impatient under such fatal results.
  Seeing some exertion beyond words necessary for this purpose, I
  leaped my horse up the little bank, and began a promenade (by no
  means agreeable) up and down our front, without even drawing my
  sword, though these fellows were within speaking distance of me.
  This quieted my men; but the tall blue gentlemen, seeing me thus
  dare them, immediately made a target of me, and commenced a very
  deliberate practice, to show us what very bad shots they were, and
  verify the old artillery proverb, 'The nearer the target, the safer
  you are.' One fellow certainly made me flinch, but it was a miss;
  so I shook my finger at him and called him _coquin_, &c. The rogue
  grinned as he reloaded, and again took aim. I certainly felt rather
  foolish at that moment, but was ashamed after such bravado to let him
  see it, and therefore continued my promenade. As if to prolong my
  torment, he was a terrible time about it. To me it seemed an age.
  Whenever I turned, the muzzle of his infernal carbine still followed
  me. At length bang it went, and whiz came the ball close to the back
  of my neck, and at the same instant down dropped the leading driver
  of one of my guns (Miller), into whose forehead the cursed missile
  had penetrated.

  "The column now once more mounted the plateau, and these popping
  gentry wheeled off right and left to clear the ground for their
  charge. The spectacle was imposing, and if ever the word sublime
  was appropriately applied, it might surely be to it. On they came
  in compact squadrons, one behind the other, so numerous that those
  of the rear were still below the brow when the head of the column
  was but at some sixty or seventy yards from our guns. Their pace
  was a slow but steady trot. None of your furious galloping charges
  was this, but a deliberate advance at a deliberate pace, as of men
  resolved to carry their point. They moved in profound silence, and
  the only sound that could be heard from them amidst the incessant
  roar of battle was the low, thunder-like reverberation of the ground
  beneath the simultaneous tread of so many horses.

  "On our part was equal deliberation. Every man stood steadily at his
  post, the guns ready, loaded with a round-shot first and a case over
  it; the tubes were in the vents; the port-fires glared and spluttered
  behind the wheels; and my word alone was wanting to hurl destruction
  on that goodly show of gallant men and noble horses. I delayed this,
  for experience had given me confidence. The Brunswickers partook
  of this feeling, and with their squares--much reduced in point of
  size--well closed, stood firmly with arms at the recover, and eyes
  fixed on us, ready to commence their fire with our first discharge.
  It was indeed a grand and imposing spectacle. The column was led on
  this time by an officer in a rich uniform, his breast covered with
  decorations, whose earnest gesticulations were strangely contrasted
  with the solemn demeanour of those to whom they were addressed. I
  thus allowed them to advance unmolested until the head of the column
  might have been about fifty or sixty yards from us, and then gave the
  word 'Fire!' The effect was terrible, nearly the whole leading rank
  fell at once; and the round-shot, penetrating the column, carried
  confusion throughout its extent. The ground, already encumbered with
  victims of the first struggle, became now almost impassable. Still,
  however, these devoted warriors struggled on, intent only on reaching
  us. The thing was impossible.

  "Our guns were served with astonishing activity, whilst the running
  fire of the two squares was maintained with spirit. Those who pushed
  forward over the heap of carcasses of men and horses gained but a
  few paces in advance, there to fall in their turn and add to the
  difficulties of those succeeding them. The discharge of every gun was
  followed by a fall of men and horses like that of grass before the
  mower's scythe. When the horse alone was killed, we could see the
  cuirassiers divesting themselves of the encumbrance and making their
  escape on foot. Still, for a moment the confused mass (for all order
  was at an end) stood before us, vainly trying to urge their horses
  over the obstacles presented by their fallen comrades, in obedience
  to the now loud and rapid vociferations of him who had led them on
  and remained unhurt.

  "As before, many cleared everything and rode through us; many came
  plunging forward only to fall, man and horse, close to the muzzles of
  our guns; but the majority again turned at the very moment when, from
  having less ground to go over, it was safer to advance than retire,
  and sought a passage to the rear. Of course the same confusion,
  struggle amongst themselves, and slaughter prevailed as before, until
  gradually they disappeared over the brow of the hill. We ceased
  firing, glad to take breath. Their retreat exposed us, as before, to
  a shower of shot and shells: these last, falling amongst us, with
  very long fuses, kept burning and hissing a long time before they
  burst, and were a considerable annoyance to man and horse. The bank
  in front, however, again stood our friend, and sent many over us
  innocuous."

Here is a picture of what may be called the human atmosphere of the
battle in its later stages, the high-strung nerves, the weariness, the
exhaustion of passion, the carelessness of close-pressing death, the
fast-following alternation of deadly peril and of miraculous escape:--

  "Lieutenant Breton, who had already lost two horses, and had mounted
  a troop-horse, was conversing with me during this our leisure moment.
  As his horse stood at right angles to mine, the poor jaded animal
  dozingly rested his muzzle on my thigh; whilst I, the better to hear
  amidst the infernal din, leant forward, resting my arm between his
  ears. In this attitude a cannon-shot smashed the horse's head to
  atoms. The headless trunk sank to the ground--Breton looking pale
  as death, expecting, as he afterwards told me, that I was cut in
  two. What was passing to the right and left of us I know no more
  about than the man in the moon--not even what corps were beyond the
  Brunswickers. The smoke confined our vision to a very small compass,
  so that my battle was restricted to the two squares and my own
  battery; and, as long as we maintained our ground, I thought it a
  matter of course that others did so too.

  "It was just after this accident that our worthy commanding officer
  of artillery, Sir George Adam Wood, made his appearance through the
  smoke a little way from our left flank. As I said, we were doing
  nothing, for the cavalry were under the brow re-forming for a third
  attack, and we were being pelted by their artillery. 'D--n it,
  Mercer,' said the old man, blinking as a man does when facing a gale
  of wind, 'you have hot work of it here,' 'Yes, sir, pretty hot;' and
  I was proceeding with an account of the two charges we had already
  discomfited, and the prospect of a third, when, glancing that way,
  I perceived their leading squadron already on the plateau. 'There
  they are again,' I exclaimed; and, darting from Sir George _sans
  cérémonie_, was just in time to meet them with the same destruction
  as before. This time, indeed, it was child's play. They could not
  even approach us in any decent order, and we fired most deliberately;
  it was folly having attempted the thing.

  "I was sitting on my horse near the right of my battery as they
  turned and began to retire once more. Intoxicated with success, I was
  singing out, 'Beautiful!--beautiful!' and my right arm was nourishing
  about, when some one from behind, seizing it, said quietly, 'Take
  care, or you'll strike the Duke;' and in effect our noble chief,
  with a serious air, and apparently much fatigued, passed close by me
  to the front, without seeming to take the slightest notice of the
  remnant of the French cavalry still lingering on the ground. This
  obliged us to cease firing; and at the same moment I--perceiving a
  line of infantry ascending from the rear, slowly, with ported arms,
  and uttering a sort of feeble, suppressed hurrah, ankle-deep in a
  thick, tenacious mud, and threading their way amongst or stepping
  over the numerous corpses covering the ground, out of breath from
  their exertions, and hardly preserving a line, broken everywhere into
  large gaps the breadth of several files--could not but meditate on
  the probable results of the last charge had I, in obedience to the
  Duke's order, retired my men into the squares and allowed the daring
  and formidable squadrons a passage to our rear, where they must have
  gone thundering down on this disjointed line. The summit gained,
  the line was amended, files closed in, and the whole, including our
  Brunswickers, advanced down the slope towards the plain.

  "Although the infantry lost several men as they passed us, yet on
  the whole the cannonade began to slacken on both sides (why, I know
  not), and, the smoke clearing away a little, I had now, for the first
  time, a good view of the field. On the ridge opposite to us dark
  masses of troops were stationary, or moving down into the intervening
  plain. Our own advancing infantry were hid from view by the ground.
  We therefore recommenced firing at the enemy's masses, and the
  cannonade, spreading, soon became general again along the line."

Mercer, so far, had been fighting sabres with 12-pounders, and all the
advantage had been on his side. He had inflicted enormous damage on the
enemy, and suffered little himself. But now the enemy's guns began to
speak, and Mercer's battery was smitten by a cruel and continuous flank
fire, which practically destroyed it:--

  "Whilst thus occupied with our front, we suddenly became sensible of
  a most destructive flanking fire from a battery which had come, the
  Lord knows how, and established itself on a knoll somewhat higher
  than the ground we stood on, and only about 400 or 500 yards a little
  in advance of our left flank. The rapidity and precision of this fire
  were quite appalling. Every shot almost took effect, and I certainly
  expected we should all be annihilated. Our horses and limbers being
  a little retired down the slope, had hitherto been somewhat under
  cover from the direct fire in front; but this plunged right amongst
  them, knocking them down by pairs, and creating horrible confusion.
  The drivers could hardly extricate themselves from one dead horse
  ere another fell, or perhaps themselves. The saddle-bags, in many
  instances, were torn from the horses' backs, and their contents
  scattered over the field. One shell I saw explode under the two
  finest wheel-horses in the troop--down they dropped. In some
  instances the horses of a gun or ammunition waggon remained, and all
  their drivers were killed.[8]

  "The whole livelong day had cost us nothing like this. Our gunners,
  too--the few left fit for duty of them--were so exhausted that they
  were unable to run the guns up after firing, consequently at every
  round they retreated nearer to the limbers; and as we had pointed our
  two left guns towards the people who were annoying us so terribly,
  they soon came altogether in a confused heap, the trails crossing
  each other, and the whole dangerously near the limbers and ammunition
  waggons, some of which were totally unhorsed, and others in sad
  confusion from the loss of their drivers and horses, many of them
  lying dead in their harness attached to their carriages. I sighed for
  my poor troop--it was already but a wreck.

  "I had dismounted, and was assisting at one of the guns to encourage
  my poor exhausted men, when through the smoke a black speck caught my
  eye, and I instantly knew what it was. The conviction that one never
  sees a shot coming towards you unless directly in its line flashed
  across my mind, together with the certainty that my doom was sealed.
  I had barely time to exclaim 'Here it is, then!'--much in that
  gasping sort of way one does when going into very cold water, takes
  away the breath--'whush' it went past my face, striking the point of
  my pelisse collar, which was lying open, and smash into a horse close
  behind me. I breathed freely again.

  "Under such a fire, one may be said to have had a thousand narrow
  escapes; and, in good truth, I frequently experienced that
  displacement of air against my face, caused by the passing of shot
  close to me; but the two above recorded, and a third, which I shall
  mention, were remarkable ones, and made me feel in full force the
  goodness of Him who protected me among so many dangers. Whilst in
  position on the right of the second line, I had reproved some of my
  men for lying down when shells fell near them until they burst. Now
  my turn came. A shell, with a long fuse, came slop into the mud at my
  feet, and there lay fizzing and flaring to my infinite discomfiture.
  After what I had said on the subject, I felt that I must act up to
  my own words, and, accordingly, there I stood, endeavouring to look
  quite composed until the cursed thing burst--and, strange to say,
  without injuring me, though so near. The effect on my men was good."

But was it really a French battery which was wrecking Mercer's guns?
Or, in the mad inevitable distraction of a great battle were the Allied
gunners destroying each other? Mercer's story leaves this point in a
state of very disquieting doubt:--

  "We had scarcely fired many rounds at the enfilading battery, when
  a tall man in the black Brunswick uniform came galloping up to me
  from the rear, exclaiming, 'Ah! mine Gott!--mine Gott! vat is it you
  doos, sare? Dat is your friends de Proosiens; an you kills dem! Ah!
  mine Gott!--mine Gott; vil you no stop, sare?--vil you no stop? Ah!
  mine Gott!--mine Gott! vat for is dis? De Inglish kills dere friends
  de Proosiens! Vere is de Dook von Vellington? vere is de Dook von
  Vellington? Ah! mine Gott!--mine Gott!' &c., &c., and so he went on
  raving like one demented. I observed that if these were our friends
  the Prussians, they were treating us very uncivilly; and that it
  was not without sufficient provocation we had turned our guns on
  them, pointing out to him at the same time the bloody proofs of my
  assertion.

  "Apparently not noticing what I said, he continued his lamentations,
  and, 'Vil you no stop, sare, I say?' Wherefore, thinking he might
  be right, to pacify him I ordered the whole to cease firing,
  desiring him to remark the consequences. Psieu, psieu, psieu, came
  our 'friends'' shots, one after another; and our friend himself had
  a narrow escape from one of them. 'Now, sir,' I said, 'you will be
  convinced; and we will continue our firing, whilst you can ride round
  the way you came, and tell them they kill their friends the English;
  the moment their fire ceases, so shall mine,' Still he lingered,
  exclaiming, 'Oh, dis is terreeble to see de Proosien and de Inglish
  kill von anoder!'

  "At last, darting off, I saw no more of him. The fire continued on
  both sides, mine becoming slacker and slacker, for we were reduced
  to the last extremity, and must have been annihilated but for the
  opportune arrival of a battery of Belgic artillery a little on our
  left, which, taking the others in flank nearly at point blank, soon
  silenced and drove them off. We were so reduced that all our strength
  was barely sufficient to load and fire three guns out of our six.

  "These Belgians were all beastly drunk, and, when they first came up,
  not at all particular as to which way they fired; and it was only
  by keeping an eye on them that they were prevented treating us, and
  even one another. The wretches had probably already done mischief
  elsewhere--who knows?"

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 7: These grenadiers _à cheval_ were very fine troops, clothed
in blue uniforms without facings, cuffs, or collars. Broad--very
broad--buff belts, and huge muff caps, made them appear gigantic
fellows.]

[Footnote 8: "The field was so much covered with blood, that it
appeared as if it had been flooded with it," &c.--Simpson's "Paris
after Waterloo," &c., p. 21.]



CHAPTER VI

AFTER THE FIGHT


Mercer could hardly tell when and how Waterloo began, and he can almost
as little tell when and how it ended! So wild is the confusion, so
overwhelming the excitement of a great battle for the actors in it:--

  "My recollections of the later part of this day are rather confused;
  I was fatigued and almost deaf. I recollect clearly, however,
  that we had ceased firing, the plain below being covered with
  masses of troops, which we could not distinguish from each other.
  Captain Walcot of the Horse Artillery, had come to us, and we
  were all looking out anxiously at the movements below and on the
  opposite ridge, when he suddenly shouted out, 'Victory!--victory!
  they fly!--they fly!' and sure enough we saw some of the masses
  dissolving, as it were, and those composing them streaming away in
  confused crowds over the field, whilst the already desultory fire of
  their artillery ceased altogether.

  "I shall never forget this joyful moment!--this moment of exultation!
  On looking round, I found we were left almost alone. Cavalry and
  infantry had all moved forward, and only a few guns here and there
  were to be seen on the position. A little to our right were the
  remains of Major M'Donald's troop under Lieutenant Sandilands, which
  had suffered much, but nothing like us. We were congratulating
  ourselves on the happy results of the day when an aide-de-camp rode
  up, crying, 'Forward, sir! forward! It is of the utmost importance
  that this movement should be supported by artillery!' at the same
  time waving his hat much in the manner of a huntsman laying on his
  dogs. I smiled at his energy, and, pointing to the remains of my poor
  troop, quietly asked, 'How, sir?' A glance was sufficient to show him
  the impossibility, and away he went.

  "Our situation was indeed terrible. Of 200 fine horses with which we
  had entered the battle, upwards of 140 lay dead, dying, or severely
  wounded. Of the men, scarcely two-thirds of those necessary for four
  guns remained, and these so completely exhausted as to be totally
  incapable of further exertion. Lieutenant Breton had three horses
  killed under him; Lieutenant Hincks was wounded in the breast by a
  spent ball; Lieutenant Leathes on the hip by a splinter; and although
  untouched myself, my horse had no less than eight wounds, one of
  which, a graze on the fetlock joint, lamed him for ever. Our guns and
  carriages were, as before mentioned, altogether in a confused heap,
  intermingled with dead and wounded horses, which it had not been
  possible to disengage from them.

  "My poor men, such at least as were untouched, fairly worn out,
  their clothes, faces, &c., blackened by the smoke and spattered
  over with mud and blood, had seated themselves on the trails of the
  carriages, or had thrown themselves on the wet and polluted soil, too
  fatigued to think of anything but gaining a little rest. Such was
  our situation when called upon to advance. It was impossible, and we
  remained where we were. For myself, I was also excessively tired,
  hoarse to making speech painful, and deaf from the infernal uproar of
  the last eleven hours. Moreover, I was devoured by a burning thirst,
  not a drop of liquid having passed my lips since the evening of the
  16th; but although, with the exception of the chicken's leg last
  night, I may be said to have eaten nothing for two whole days, yet
  did I not feel the least desire for food."

When the battle was over, Mercer's artistic sensibilities--his eye
for landscape, his sense of sky-effects and of natural beauty--awoke.
He was perhaps the only man in Wellington's army who could study
cloud-effects in the night-sky, which looked down on the slain of
Waterloo, or contemplate, with botanical discrimination and approval,
the plants in the garden at Hougoumont the next morning:--

  "The evening had become fine, and but for an occasional groan or
  lament from some poor sufferer, and the repeated piteous neighing of
  wounded horses, tranquility might be said to reign over the field. As
  it got dusk, a large body of Prussian artillery arrived, and formed
  their bivouac near us. There was not light to see more of them than
  that their brass guns were kept bright, and that their carriages were
  encumbered with baggage, and, besides, appeared but clumsy machines
  when compared with ours. All wore their greatcoats, which apparently
  they had marched in. As they looked at us rather scowlingly, and did
  not seem inclined to hold any communication with us, I soon returned
  to my own people, whom I found preparing to go supperless to bed--the
  two remaining officers, the non-commissioned officers, and men
  having all got together in a heap, with some painted covers spread
  under, and others drawn over them--at a distance from our guns, &c.,
  the neighbourhood of which they said, was too horrible to think of
  sleeping there.

  "For my part, after standing all day amongst all these horrors, I
  felt no squeamishness about sleeping amongst them; so pulling down
  the painted cover of a limber over the footboard in the manner of a
  tent roof, I crept under it and endeavoured to sleep. The cramped
  situation in which I lay, and the feverish excitement of my mind,
  forbade, however, my obtaining that sound and refreshing sleep so
  much needed; I only dozed. From one of these dozes I awoke about
  midnight, chilled and cramped to death from the awkward doubled-up
  position imposed upon me by my short and narrow bed. So up I got to
  look around and contemplate a battle-field by the pale moonlight.

  "The night was serene and pretty clear; a few light clouds
  occasionally passing across the moon's disc, and throwing objects
  into transient obscurity, added considerably to the solemnity of
  the scene. Oh, it was a thrilling sensation thus to stand in the
  silent hour of the night and contemplate that field--all day long
  the theatre of noise and strife, now so calm and still--the actors
  prostrate on the bloody soil, their pale wan faces upturned to the
  moon's cold beams, which caps and breastplates, and a thousand
  other things, reflected back in brilliant pencils of light from as
  many different points! Here and there some poor wretch, sitting up
  amidst the countless dead, busied himself in endeavours to stanch
  the flowing stream with which his life was fast ebbing away. Many
  whom I saw so employed that night were, when morning dawned, lying
  stiff and tranquil as those who had departed earlier. From time to
  time a figure would half raise itself from the ground, and then, with
  a despairing groan, fall back again. Others, slowly and painfully
  rising, stronger, or having less deadly hurt, would stagger away with
  uncertain steps across the field in search of succour.

  "Many of these I followed with my gaze until lost in the obscurity of
  distance; but many, alas! after staggering a few paces, would sink
  again on the ground with their entrails hanging out--and yet I gazed!
  Horses, too, there were to claim our pity--mild, patient, enduring.
  Some lay on the ground with their entrails hanging out, and yet they
  lived. These would occasionally attempt to rise, but like their
  human bedfellows, quickly falling back again, would lift their poor
  heads, and, turning a wistful gaze at their side, lie quietly down
  again, to repeat the same until strength no longer remained, and
  then, their eyes gently closing, one short convulsive struggle closed
  their sufferings. One poor animal excited painful interest--he had
  lost, I believe, both his hind-legs; and there he sat the long night
  through on his tail, looking about, as if in expectation of coming
  aid, sending forth, from time to time, long and protracted melancholy
  neighing. Although I knew that killing him at once would be mercy, I
  could not muster courage even to give the order. Blood enough I had
  seen shed during the last six-and-thirty hours, and sickened at the
  thought of shedding more. There, then, he still sat when we left the
  ground, neighing after us, as if reproaching our desertion of him in
  the hour of need."

After the storm of a great battle has rolled away it leaves behind a
wreckage--human and animal--of a very amazing sort; and of the wreckage
of Waterloo Mercer gives a grimly vivid description. The effect is that
of one of Vereschagin's pictures translated into literary terms:--

  "_June 19._--The cool air of the morning lasted not long; the rising
  sun soon burst in all his glory over our bloody bivouac, and all
  nature arose into renewed life, except the victims of ambition which
  lay unconscious of his presence. I had not been up many minutes when
  one of my sergeants came to ask if they might bury Driver Crammond.
  'And why particularly Driver Crammond?' 'Because he looks frightful,
  sir; many of us have not had a wink of sleep for him.' Curious! I
  walked to the spot where he lay, and certainly a more hideous sight
  cannot be imagined. A cannon-shot had carried away the whole head
  except barely the visage, which still remained attached to the torn
  and bloody neck. The men said they had been prevented sleeping by
  seeing his eyes fixed on them all night; and thus this one dreadful
  object had superseded all the other horrors by which they were
  surrounded. He was of course immediately buried, and as immediately
  forgotten.

  "Our first care after this was to muster the remaining force, to
  disentangle our carriages from each other, and from the dead and
  dying animals with which they were encumbered. Many sound or only
  slightly wounded horses, belonging to different corps of both armies,
  were wandering about the field. Of these we caught several in the
  course of the morning, and thus collected, with what remained of our
  own fit for work, sufficient to horse four guns, three ammunition
  waggons, and the forge. Of men we had nearly enough for these at
  reduced numbers, so we set to work equipping ourselves without
  delay. Although supplies of ammunition had been sent to us during
  the action, yet little remained. The expenditure had been enormous.
  A return had been called for yesterday evening just as we were lying
  down to rest, but, fatigued as we all were it was impossible to give
  this correctly. As near as I could ascertain, we must have fired
  nearly 700 rounds per gun. Our harness, &c., was so cut to pieces,
  that but for the vast magazines around us from which we could pick
  and choose we should never have got off the field.

  "Soon after daybreak an officer came from headquarters to desire
  me to send all my superfluous carriages to Lillois, where a park
  was forming, and to inform me that a supply of ammunition would be
  found in the village of Waterloo. Accordingly the carriages were
  sent without delay; but this requiring all the horses, they were
  obliged to make a second trip for the ammunition. Whilst this was
  doing I had leisure to examine the ground in our immediate vicinity.
  Books and papers, &c., covered it in all directions. The books at
  first surprised me, but upon examination the thing was explained.
  Each French soldier, it appeared, carried a little accompt-book of
  his pay, clothing, &c., &c. The scene was now far from solitary;
  for numerous groups of peasants were moving about busily employed
  stripping the dead, and perhaps finishing those not quite so. Some of
  these men I met fairly staggered under the enormous load of clothes,
  &c., they had collected. Some had firearms, swords, &c., and many had
  large bunches of crosses and decorations; all seemed in high glee,
  and professed unbounded hatred of the French.

  "I had fancied we were almost alone on the field, seeing only the
  remains of Major Bull's troop of horse artillery not far from us
  (the Prussians had gone forward about or a little before daybreak);
  but in wandering towards the Charleroi road I stumbled on a whole
  regiment of British infantry fast asleep, in columns of divisions,
  wrapped in their blankets, with their knapsacks for pillows. Not a
  man was awake. There they lay in regular ranks, with the officers and
  sergeants in their places, just as they would stand when awake. Not
  far from these, in a little hollow beneath a white thorn, lay two
  Irish light-infantry men sending forth such howlings and wailings
  and oaths and execrations as were shocking to hear. One of them had
  his leg shot off, the other a thigh smashed by a cannon-shot. They
  were certainly pitiable objects, but their vehement exclamations,
  &c., were so strongly contrasted with the quiet, resolute bearing of
  hundreds both French and English around them, that it blunted one's
  feelings considerably.

  "I tried in vain to pacify them; so walked away amidst a volley of
  abuse as a hard-hearted wretch who could thus leave two poor fellows
  to die like dogs. What could I do? All, however, though in more
  modest terms, craved assistance; and every poor wretch begged most
  earnestly for water. Some of my men had discovered a good well of
  uncontaminated water at Hougoumont and filled their canteens, so I
  made several of them accompany me and administer to the most craving
  in our immediate vicinity. Nothing could exceed their gratitude,
  or the fervent blessings they implored on us for this momentary
  relief. The French were in general particularly grateful; and those
  who were strong enough entered into conversation with us on the
  events of yesterday, and the probable fate awaiting themselves. All
  the non-commissioned officers and privates agreed in asserting that
  they had been deceived by their officers and betrayed; and, to my
  surprise, almost all of them reviled Bonaparte as the cause of their
  misery.

  "Many begged me to kill them at once, since they would a thousand
  times rather die by the hand of a soldier than be left at the
  mercy of those villainous Belgic peasants. Whilst we stood by them
  several would appear consoled and become tranquil; but the moment we
  attempted to leave, they invariably renewed the cry, 'Ah, Monsieur,
  tuez moi donc! Tuez moi, pour l'amour de Dieu!' &c., &c. It was in
  vain I assured them carts would be sent to pick them all up. Nothing
  could reconcile them to the idea of being left. They looked on us as
  brother soldiers, and knew we were too honourable to harm them: 'But
  the moment you go, those vile peasants will first insult and then
  cruelly murder us.' This, alas! I knew, was but too true.

  "One Frenchman I found in a far different humour--an officer of
  lancers, and desperately wounded; a strong, square-built man, with
  reddish hair and speckled complexion. When I approached him he
  appeared suffering horribly--rolling on his back, uttering loud
  groans. My first impulse was to raise and place him in a sitting
  posture; but, the moment he was touched, opening his eyes and seeing
  me, he became perfectly furious. Supposing he mistook my intention,
  I addressed him in a soothing tone, begging he would allow me to
  render him what little assistance was in my power. This only seemed
  to irritate him the more; and on my presenting him the canteen with
  water, he dashed it from him with such a passionate gesture and
  emphatic 'Non!' that I saw there was no use in teasing, and therefore
  reluctantly left him.

  "Returning towards our position, I was forcibly struck by the
  immense heap of bodies of men and horses which distinguished it
  even at a distance; indeed, Sir Augustus Frazer told me the other
  day, at Nivelles, that in riding over the field, 'he could plainly
  distinguish the position of G troop from the opposite height by the
  dark mass which, even from that distance, formed a remarkable feature
  in the field.' These were his very words. One interesting sufferer I
  had nearly forgotten. He was a fine young man of the grenadiers _à
  cheval_, who had lain groaning near us all night--indeed, scarcely
  five paces from my bed; therefore was the first person I visited
  as soon as daylight came. He was a most interesting person--tall,
  handsome, and a perfect gentleman in manners and speech; yet his
  costume was that of a private soldier. We conversed with him some
  time, and were exceedingly pleased with his mild and amiable address.
  Amongst other things he told us that Marshal Ney had led the charges
  against us.

  "I now began to feel somewhat the effects of my long fast in a
  most unpleasant sense of weakness and an inordinate craving for
  food, which there was no means of satisfying. My joy, then, may be
  imagined when, returning to our bivouac, I found our people returned
  from Lillois, and, better still, that they had brought with them a
  quarter of veal, which they had found in a muddy ditch, of course in
  appearance then filthy enough. What was this to a parcel of men who
  had scarcely eaten a morsel for three days? In a trice it was cut up,
  the mud having been scraped off with a sabre, a fire kindled and fed
  with lance-shafts and musket-stocks; and old Quarter-master Hall,
  undertaking the cooking, proceeded to fry the dirty lumps in the
  lid of a camp-kettle. How we enjoyed the savoury smell! and, having
  made ourselves seats of cuirasses[9] piled upon each other, we soon
  had that most agreeable of animal gratifications--the filling our
  empty stomachs. Never was a meal more perfectly military, nor more
  perfectly enjoyed."

By this time the artillery officer in Mercer was exhausted, the
botanist and artist began to emerge, and he strolls off to visit, as
a sort of country gentleman at leisure, the garden at Hougoumont! He
says:--

  "Having despatched our meal and then the ammunition waggons to
  Waterloo, and leaving the people employed equipping as best they
  could, I set off to visit the château likewise; for the struggle that
  had taken place there yesterday rendered it an object of interest.
  The same scene of carnage as elsewhere characterised that part of the
  field over which I now bent my steps. The immediate neighbourhood
  of Hougoumont was more thickly strewn with corpses than most other
  parts of the field--the very ditches were full of them. The trees
  all about were most woefully cut and splintered both by cannon shot
  and musketry. The courts of the château presented a spectacle more
  terrible even than any I had yet seen. A large barn had been set on
  fire, and the conflagration had spread to the offices and even to the
  main building. Here numbers, both of French and English, had perished
  in the flames, and their blackened swollen remains lay scattered
  about in all directions. Amongst this heap of ruins and misery many
  poor devils yet remained alive, and were sitting up endeavouring to
  bandage their wounds. Such a scene of horror, and one so sickening,
  was surely never witnessed.

  "Two or three German dragoons were wandering among the ruins, and
  many peasants. One of the former was speaking to me when two of the
  latter, after rifling the pockets, &c., of a dead Frenchman, seized
  the body by the shoulders, and raising it from the ground, dashed it
  down again with all their force, uttering the grossest abuse, and
  kicking it about the head and face--revolting spectacle!--doing this,
  no doubt, to court favour with us. It had a contrary effect, which
  they soon learned. I had scarcely uttered an exclamation of disgust,
  when the dragoon's sabre was flashing over the miscreants' heads,
  and in a moment descended on their backs and shoulders with such
  vigour that they roared again, and were but too happy to make their
  escape. I turned from such scenes and entered the garden. How shall I
  describe the delicious sensation I experienced!

  "The garden was an ordinary one, but pretty--long straight walks
  of turf overshadowed by fruit-trees, and between these beds of
  vegetables, the whole enclosed by a tolerably high brick wall. Is
  it necessary to define my sensations? Is it possible that I am not
  understood at once? Listen, then. For the last three days I have
  been in a constant state of excitement--in a perfect fever. My eyes
  have beheld nought but war in all its horrors--my ears have been
  assailed by a continued roar of cannon and cracking of musketry, the
  shouts of multitudes and the lamentations of war's victims. Suddenly
  and unexpectedly I find myself in solitude, pacing a green avenue,
  my eyes refreshed by the cool verdure of trees and shrubs; my ears
  soothed by the melody of feathered songsters--yea, of sweet Philomel
  herself--and the pleasing hum of insects sporting in the genial
  sunshine. Is there nothing in this to excite emotion? Nature in
  repose is always lovely: here, and under such circumstances, she was
  delicious. Long I rambled in this garden, up one walk, down another,
  and thought I could dwell here contented for ever.

  "Nothing recalled the presence of war except the loop-holed wall
  and two or three dead Guardsmen[10]; but the first caused no
  interruption, and these last lay so concealed amongst the exuberant
  vegetation of turnips and cabbages, &c., that, after coming from
  the field of death without, their pale and silent forms but little
  deteriorated my enjoyment. The leaves were green, roses and other
  flowers bloomed forth in all their sweetness, and the very turf when
  crushed by my feet smelt fresh and pleasant. There was but little of
  disorder visible to tell of what had been enacted here. I imagine it
  must have been assailed by infantry alone; and the havoc amongst the
  trees without made by our artillery posted on the hill above to cover
  the approach to it--principally, perhaps, by Bull's howitzer battery.

  "I had satisfied my curiosity at Hougoumont, and was retracing my
  steps up the hill when my attention was called to a group of wounded
  Frenchmen by the calm, dignified, and soldier-like oration addressed
  by one of them to the rest. I cannot, like Livy, compose a fine
  harangue for my hero, and, of course, I could not retain the precise
  words, but the import of them was to exhort them to bear their
  sufferings with fortitude; not to repine, like women or children,
  at what every soldier should have made up his mind to suffer as the
  fortune of war, but above all, to remember that they were surrounded
  by Englishmen, before whom they ought to be doubly careful not to
  disgrace themselves by displaying such an unsoldier-like want of
  fortitude.

  "The speaker was sitting on the ground, with his lance stuck upright
  beside him--an old veteran, with a thick, bushy, grizzly beard,
  countenance like a lion--a lancer of the Old Guard, and no doubt had
  fought in many a field. One hand was flourished in the air as he
  spoke, the other, severed at the wrist, lay on the earth beside him;
  one ball (case-shot, probably) had entered his body, another had
  broken his leg. His suffering, after a night of exposure so mangled,
  must have been great; yet he betrayed it not. His bearing was that
  of a Roman, or perhaps of an Indian warrior, and I could fancy him
  concluding appropriately his speech in the words of the Mexican king,
  'And I too; am I on a bed of roses?'

  "In passing Bull's bivouac it was my fate to witness another very
  interesting scene. A wounded hussar had somehow or other found his
  way there from another part of the field, and exhausted by the
  exertion, had just fainted. Some of those collected round him cried
  out for water, and a young driver, who, being outside the throng,
  had not yet seen the sufferer, seized a canteen and ran away to fill
  it. Whilst he was absent the hussar so far recovered as to be able
  to sit up. The driver returned at this moment, and pushing aside
  his comrades, knelt down to enable the hussar to drink, holding the
  canteen to his lips, and in so doing recognised a brother whom he not
  seen for years. His emotion was extreme, as may be supposed."

From the narrative of the march to Paris which followed Waterloo, we
take only one incident. Mercer is at Nivelles, watching the crowds and
the excitement in the streets:--

  "Suddenly a loud shout announces something extraordinary even on
  this day of excitement. Every one hurries to the spot, pushing each
  other, jumping, shouting. 'What can it mean?' I inquired. 'Monsieur
  l'Officier, c'est un convoi des prisonniers que vient d'arriver,'
  replied my man, doffing at the same time his _bonnet de nuit_ and
  making a most respectful salaam. I stopped to see the convoy pass.
  The prisoners, dressed in grey _capotes_ and _bonnets de fourrage_,
  marched steadily on. Some _vieux moustaches_ look very grave, and
  cast about furious glances at the noisy crowd which follows them with
  the perseverance of a swarm of mosquitoes, _sacré_-ing and venting
  all kind of illiberal abuse on them and the b-- of an Emperor. Many,
  however, younger men, laugh, joke, and return their abuse with
  interest, whilst the soldiers of the escort (English) march doggedly
  along, pushing aside the more forward of the throng, and apparently
  as if only marching round a relief.

  "At noon arrived in the neighbourhood of Mons, where we overtook
  the Greys, Inniskillings, Ross's troop of horse artillery, and
  several other corps, both of cavalry and infantry. We had, in
  short, now rejoined the army. The Greys and the Inniskillings were
  mere wrecks--the former, I think, did not muster 200 men, and the
  latter, with no greater strength, presented a sad spectacle of
  disorganisation and bad discipline; they had lost more than half
  their appointments. Some had helmets, some had none; many had the
  skull-cap, but with the crest cut or broken off; some were on their
  own large horses, others on little ones they had picked up; belts
  there were on some; many were without, not only belts, but also
  canteens and haversacks. The enemy surely had not effected in a
  single day so complete a disorganisation, and I shrewdly suspect
  these rollicking Paddies of having mainly spoilt themselves. The
  other corps all looked remarkably well, although they, too, had
  partaken in the fight.

  "We crossed after the Greys, and came with them on the main road to
  Maubeuge at the moment a Highland regiment (perhaps the 92nd), which
  had come through Mons, was passing. The moment the Highlanders saw
  the Greys an electrifying cheer burst spontaneously from the column,
  which was answered as heartily; and on reaching the road the two
  columns became blended for a few minutes--the Highlanders running
  to shake hands with their brave associates in the late battle. This
  little burst of feeling was delightful--everybody felt it; and
  although two or three general officers were present, none interfered
  to prevent or to censure this breach of discipline."

FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 9: "Here were more cuirasses than men, for the wounded (who
could move), divesting themselves of its encumbrance, had made their
escape, leaving their armour on the ground where they had fallen."]

[Footnote 10: In some accounts of the battle and visits to the field,
&c., it has been stated that this garden was a scene of slaughter.
Totally untrue! As I have stated in the text, I did not see above two
or three altogether. There certainly might have been more concealed
amongst the vegetation, but they could not have been many.]



INDEX


   Adams, General, 126, 136

   ---- Sergeant-Major, 230

   Adour, river, 253, 254

   ---- valley of the, 264, 269

   _Adventure_, transport, 316

   Agueda, river, 88

   Ainhoe, the heights of, 260, 261

   Alba de Tormes, 55

   Albuera, battle of, 41;
     Beresford at, 277

   Alexander, Emperor, 314

   Allenquer, town, 34, 37

   Alost, 327

   Alton, General Count, 57, 114, 115;
     at Salamanca, 71;
     at Quatre Bras, 122, 123;
     at Waterloo, 128

   Andover, 149, 150

   Anglesey, Marquis of, _see_ under Uxbridge, Lord

   Arenas, 59

   Arinez, 75

   Armstrong, ----, 219

   Arruda, 35

   Ascot Heath, 344

   Assche, 330

   Astorga, 179

   Atalya, 52

   Auchmuty, General, 147

   Austrian Emperor, 314


   Badajos, 5, 41, 86, 104, 225;
     the great breach at, 11, 25, 215;
     the siege of, 95 _sqq._

   Baker, ----, 211, 213

   Barnard, Sir Andrew, at Quatre Bras, 120, 121, 124;
     at Waterloo, 125, 127, 132;
     in Spain, 232

   ---- Colonel, 82;
     at Vittoria, 75, 76;
     at Ciudad Rodrigo, 93;
     at Badajos, 98, 99, 102;
     in the Pyrenees, 108, 110

   Barnes, Sir Edward, 20

   Barossa, battle of, 223

   Bath, 149

   Bathala, convent of, 34

   Bawdsey, 317

   Bay of Biscay, 111, 265

   Baynes, Captain, 385

   Bayonne, 109, 111, 266;
     the fighting before, 113, 263, 264

   Bean, Major, 371

   Beckwith, Sir Sidney at Sabugal, 63, 64, 65

   Belgian skirmishers, 291;
     allies, 120, 300, 302, 322;
     horse artillery, 330

   Bell, ----, 230

   ---- Lieutenant, 374

   Benevento, 188

   Bengal Horse Artillery, 16

   Bera, village of, 105, 106, 107

   Beresford, Marshal, at Salamanca, 71;
     sketch of, 210-213;
     at Orthez, 266;
     at Toulouse, 276 _sqq._

   Berri, Duc de, 331

   Bidassoa, river, 105;
     passage of the, 81, 107, 108

   Blandford Downs, 143, 144

   Blucher, Prince, interviewed by Wellington at Ligny, 120;
     his defeat at Ligny, 123, 336;
     retreats to Wavre, 124;
     at Waterloo, 311;
     at Quatre Bras, 335 _sqq._

   Bock, General, 74

   Boer and Highlander in South Africa, 12

   Bolton, Captain, 378, 379

   "Boney's Invincibles," 168

   Braine le Comte, 341

   Brander, Lieutenant, 263

   Breton, Lieutenant, 391, 398

   Brooks, James, 197 _sqq._

   Brotherwood, ----, 168,171

   Brunswick, Duke of, 117, 119

   Brunswick allies at Quatre Bras, 292;
     at Waterloo, 364, 384 _sqq._

   Brussels, 116, 117, 287 _sqq._, 298, 305, 315, 330, 364, 366, 372;
     Duchess of Richmond's ball at, 118, 287

   Buenos Ayres, the fiasco at, 142, 147, 309

   Bull, Major, 341, 403

   Bunbury, Lieutenant, 156

   Burgos, the retreat from, 18, 41, 54, 55

   Burrard, Sir Harry, supersedes Sir Arthur Wellesley, 153, 154, 163;
     at Vimiero, 215

   Busaco, battle of, 31

   Butterworth, Gunner, 387


   Cadiz, 153

   Cameron, Colonel, at Ciudad Rodrigo, 89, 93, 98;
     at Badajos, 102;
     at Waterloo, 132

   Campbell, Sir Colin, 102

   ---- Captain, at Toulouse, 281, 282;
     at Quatre Bras (Brevet-Major), 293, 294

   Cardo, ----, 177

   Caridad, convent of, 58

   Cashel, 148, 149

   Castanos, General, 70

   Castre, 339

   Ceira, passage of the, 49

   Charleroi road, 335, 349, 350, 383, 403

   Chatham, Earl of, 28

   Chelsea, 212

   Chichester, 145, 147

   Ciudad Rodrigo, 5, 25, 41, 52, 58, 98;
     leader of the forlorn hope at, 6, 10;
     Marmont marches to the relief of, 53;
     the storming of, 86 _sqq._

   Clichy, 312

   Clinton, Sir Henry, 309

   Clonmel, 149

   Coa, 51;
     river, 63

   Coates, ----, 337, 338, 349

   Cochan, Mrs., 161, 162

   Coimbra, 30, 33

   Colborne, Colonel, 87

   Colchester Barracks, 311

   Cole, Sir Lowry, 113, 115

   Combermere, Lord, 72

   Condacia, 33, 48

   Cooke, Colonel, 84

   Copenhagen, expedition to, 151, 228

   Cork, 154, 228, 287

   Corunna, Moore's retreat to, 6, 142, 178 _sqq._, 223, 227, 228, 313;
     sufferings of the retreat, 194 _sqq._

   Cowel, Major, 268

   Cox, Lieutenant, 152, 200, 206

   Crammond, Driver, 401

   Craufurd, General, 141 _sqq._;
     in Buenos Ayres, 147;
     in the retreat to Corunna, 179 _sqq._, 230;
     described by a private who served under him, 215 _sqq._

   Crosby, Sergeant-Major, 230

   Cuesta, General, 83

   Cunningham, Corporal, 255, 256

   Czar, Wellington's despatch to the, 335


   Dalheath, near Falkirk, 25

   Dalrymple, Sir Hew, 154, 215

   Dance, Captain, 339

   Davidson, Brevet-Major, 293

   Deben, river, 317

   Demon, ----, 230 _sqq._

   Denburn, river, 239

   Dendermonde, 329

   D'Erlon, General, at Waterloo, 129, 299, 300

   Devine, ----, 225, 226

   Dick, Colonel, 293

   Dickson, Captain, 147

   ---- Sir Alexander, 352

   Doury, -----, 271, 272

   Downs, the, 28

   Drummond, Major, 320

   Dundas, Sir David, 47

   Dutch troops at Waterloo, 300


   Ebro, valley of the, 59

   Echelar, mountain, 107

   Elba, 116, 143, 311

   Eleder, Captain, 147

   Elvas, 96, 102

   Enghien, 337, 339, 341, 343

   Epsom, 344

   Ers, river, 277

   Erskine, Sir William, 63, 64

   Essling, Prince of, 36


   Fane, General, 164, 168

   Farquharson, Lieut. D., 248, 284

   Fermoy, 226

   Fez d'Aronce, 49

   Figuera, Bay of, 29

   Flinn, Rifleman, 65

   Flushing, 226, 227

   Fontainebleau, 116

   Franklin, ----, 189, 190

   Fraser, Sergeant, 158, 159

   Fraser, ----, 248

   Frasnes, village of, 350, 352

   Frazer, Sir Augustus, 21, 354, 362, 382;
     at Waterloo, 383, 384, 385, 405

   Freire, General, 82, 276

   Fuentes d'Onore, battle of, 25, 41, 52, 66

   Fyfe, Smith, 295


   Garges, 314

   Gave, river, 265

   Gembloux, 355

   Genappe, 119, 124, 360, 362, 366

   German Legion, 189;
     at Waterloo, 375, 380

   Ghent, 242, 320, 327

   Ghystelle, 320

   Gibraltar, 230

   Gosport, 145

   Gould, Colonel, 381, 382

   Gourgaud, General (quoted), 357

   Graham, Sir Thomas, at Vittoria, 79, 81;
     at Ciudad Rodrigo, 88;
     at San Sebastian, 106, 230

   Gramont, 311

   Great Rhune, 81

   Gregory, Lieut.-Colonel, 320

   Grouchy, General, 336

   Guarda, 51

   Guardiana, river, 96, 102

   Guards at Quatre Bras, 289 _sqq._


   Hall, Quarter-master, 348, 366, 405

   Hart, Captain, 225, 226

   Hart, the brothers John, Mike, and Peter, 226, 227, 228

   Harwich, 315, 316

   Hautain le Val, 347

   Henderson, ----, 271, 272

   Higgins, Thomas, 187, 223, 224

   Hill, Sir Dudley, 199

   ---- Sir Rowland, 75-78, 115

   ---- General (afterwards Lord Hill), at Roliça, 158;
     "Farmer" Hill described, 209, 210;
     at Orthez, 269;
     at Toulouse, 276

   ---- Lieutenant, 184, 185, 191

   ---- Captain, 318, 319

   Hilsea barracks, 145, 146

   Hincks, Lieutenant, 398

   Hitchins, Surgeon, 342, 347, 377, 383

   Holland, expedition to, 28

   Hope, Sir John, 81

   Hopewood, ----, 114

   Hopwood, Lieutenant, 171

   Hougoumont, 128, 300 _sqq._, 375, 383, 403;
     the garden of, 14, 399, 406, 408;
     the attack on, 129

   Houssaye (quoted), 15, 336

   Howans, Dan, 216 _sqq._

   Huerta, 74

   Hunt, Gunner, 377, 379

   _Hussar_, frigate, 28

   Hythe, 29, 224, 225, 229, 232

   ---- barracks, 28


   Innes, Lieutenant, 269

   Inniskilling Dragoons at Waterloo, 129, 299 _sqq._, 410

   Isle of Wight, 145


   Jackman, ----, 226

   Jagger, Ben, 216

   Janca, 107

   Jenkinson, Captain, 71

   Junot, General, 40, 163


   Kellerman, General, 169

   Kempt, Sir James, 80, 114, 115;
     at Waterloo, 131, 300

   Knight, ----, 65


   La Belle Alliance, 15, 136, 300, 365

   La Haye Sainte, 125, 126, 133, 300 _sqq._, 372

   La Rhune, 111, 112

   Ladysmith, 104

   Lake, Colonel, 157

   Lambert, Sir John, 132, 135

   Landguard fort, 316

   Langeveldt, 354, 371

   Latta, Ensign, 284

   Le Secca, 106

   Leathes, Lieutenant, 333, 398

   Lebbeke, 330

   Leech, Captain, 152, 161, 164, 165

   Lefebvre, General, 186, 189

   Leith, 95, 116

   Leria, 34

   Life Guards at Quatre Bras, 124;
     at Waterloo, 129, 131, 299, 361, 372, 410

   Light Division, the (Craufurd's), 6, 7, 25, 215;
     the light regiment of the, 32;
     at Sabugal, 63;
     at Fuentes d'Onore, 66;
     at Orthez, 266

   Ligny, 120;
     the battle of, 123, 336

   Lillois, 402, 405

   Lisbon, 29, 39, 40, 232, 233

   Liston, Corporal Robert, 211, 212

   Little Rhune, 82

   Livy, 408

   Loison, General, 50

   Louis XVIII., flees from Paris, 116;
     holds court at Ghent, 327, 328

   Low, John, 167


   Macara, Sir Robert, 293

   M'Donald, Major, at Quatre Bras,
   337 _sqq._;
     in the retreat to Waterloo, 351 _sqq._;
     at Waterloo, 374 _sqq._, 397

   M'Dougall, Lieut. Kenneth, 261

   M'Guire, Mrs., 193

   M'Kenzie, Lieutenant, 284

   Mackenzie, General, 231

   McLauchlan, Patrick, 184, 185

   M'Lloyd, Major, 373

   M'Namara, ----, 268

   M'Pherson, Captain Mungo, 261

   Mahone, Patrick, 171

   Maine, boundary line dispute, 310

   Manningtree, 316

   Marmont, General, 52, 86, 329;
     at Salamanca, 70, 72

   Massena, Marshal, 25, 30, 46, 63;
     before Torres Vedras, 33;
     pursued by Wellington, 37;
     retreats from Torres Vedras, 62

   Maubeuge, 410

   Maya, Pass of, 106

   Mayberry, Sergeant Thomas, 224, 225, 226

   Medley, ----, 222, 223, 224

   Mendoza, bridge of, 75

   Menzies, Major, 292

   Merke Braine, 300, 382

   Militia, North York, 25

   Miller, Driver, 389

   Milward, ----, 338

   Mittelkerke, 317

   Molly, Lieutenant, 227

   Mondego, 154

   Mons, 410

   Mont Rave, 82, 276, 277

   Mont St. Jean, the heights of, 299, 300, 302, 374, 387

   Moore, Sir John, 6, 142, 147;
     at Corunna, 178 _sqq._

   Morrisson, ----, 225, 226

   Mullins, ----, 172

   Musselburgh, 239


   Namur, 28

   Napier, Sir William, 4 (quoted), 66

   ---- Major, 167, 213, 214

   Napoleon, allusions, 15, 16, 49, 178, 183, 328, 404;
     his abdication, 84;
     escapes from Elba, 116, 143, 311;
     at Quatre Bras, 117, 121, 122, 335 _sqq._;
     at Waterloo, 129, 130, 302 _sqq._;
     transfers the Spanish crown to his brother Joseph, 153;
     overtakes the rearguard in the retreat to Waterloo, 356, 357, 365

   Nassau troops, 349

   New Orleans, 352

   Ney, Marshal, defeated by Wellington at the passage of the Ceira, 49;
     in the retreat from Torres Vedras, 62;
     at Quatre Bras, 288, 292, 336 _sqq._;
     leads the cavalry charges at Waterloo, 405

   Nieuport, 317

   Ninove, 338, 341

   Nivelle, river, 258, 259;
     passage of the, 81, 250, 259;
     town, 344, 345, 347, 349, 405, 409;
     road, 375 _sqq._

   Nova Scotia, 310


   O'Hara, Major, 95

   Old Guard, the, 16, 408

   Orange, Prince of, 120

   Orr, ----, 177

   Orthez, battle of, 265 _sqq._

   Ostend, 242, 315, 317, 320, 324;
     harbour, 318


   Pack, General Sir Denis, 254, 264, 269, 271;
     at Toulouse, 278;
     his brigade at Quatre Bras, 289 _sqq._;
     at Waterloo, 299 _sqq._

   Paget, Lieut.-Gen. Sir Edward, 56

   Pakenham, Sir Edward, 74

   ---- Captain, 164

   Pampeluna, 79, 106

   Paris, 116, 138, 409;
     grand review after Waterloo, 312

   Passages, 257

   Pau, river, 265, 266, 267, 269

   Peninsula, 241, 257;
     British soldier of the, 11, 27;
     the Rifles in the, 25, 29;
     campaign of 1811-12, 41;
     fights of the, 62;
     sieges of the, 86;
     experiences in the, 153

   Petite la Rhune, 81, 112

   Peyrehorade, 266

   _Philarea_, transport, 316

   Phillipon, General, 95

   Picton, Sir Thomas, 77, 82, 116;
     at Toulouse, 83, 276;
     at Ciudad Rodrigo, 93;
     at Badajos, 95;
     at Quatre Bras, 122, 289;
     at Waterloo, 129, 131, 299, 366;
     at Orthez, 266 _sqq._

   Plymouth, 229

   Ponton, James, 159

   Portsdown Hill, 147;
     execution at, 145

   Portsmouth, 228

   Portugal, 30, 34, 142

   ---- King John of, 34

   Price, farrier, 379

   Prussia, King of, 314

   Prussian troops, 351, 355;
     at Quatre Bras, 123;
     at Waterloo, 395, 399, 403

   Pullen, Richard, 228 _sqq._

   Pyrenees, 25, 80;
     marches and fights in the, 105 _sqq._, 246, 257

   Pyrnes, 42


   Quatre Bras, 14, 25, 309;
     the battle of, 116 _sqq._, 288 _sqq._, 335 _sqq._;
     the village of, 119;
     the Prussians at, 123;
     the retreat to Waterloo from, 297 _sqq._

   Quentin, Colonel, 334


   Ramsay, Major, 351, 371, 372

   Rave, Mont, 82, 276, 277

   Redinha, the fight at, 46, 62

   Regnier, General, 63

   Richmond, Duchess of, the ball given at Brussels by the, 118, 287

   ---- Duke of, 374

   "Rifles," the 95th, opposed to the 95th (French Regiment), 48;
     at Vittoria, 74, 75;
     at Ciudad Rodrigo, 87;
     at Badajos, 95, 103;
     at Quatre Bras, 116, 123;
     at Waterloo, 127 _sqq._;
     in Buenos Ayres, 147;
     at Copenhagen, 151;
     at Vimiero, 163

   Roberts, Field-Marshal Lord (quoted), 16

   Roliça, allusions to the battle of, 6, 142, 156, 162, 169, 180, 209

   Ross, Colonel, 110

   Ross's troop of Horse Artillery, 312, 410

   Rotterdam, 116

   Royal Artillery, at Waterloo, 136

   ---- G Battery, 6, 9, 15, 311;
     at Waterloo, 136;
     at Quatre Bras, 337

   Royal Highlanders (42nd), 6, 8, 12, 203;
     at the Modder, 17;
     in the Pyrenees, 257 _sqq._, 273, 275;
     at Toulouse, 276 _sqq. _;
     at Quatre Bras, 287 _sqq._


   Sabugal, battle of, 51, 52, 62;
     Wellington's description of the battle, 63

   Sahagun, 179, 180, 183

   St. Cyr, Marshal, 338

   St. Francisco, fort, 87

   St. Jean, the heights of Mont, 299, 300, 302, 374, 387

   St. Jean de Luz, 82, 111;
     road, 263

   St. Severe, 254, 267;
     road, 270, 271

   Salamanca, 8, 41, 61, 211, 213, 329;
     Wellington halts at, 54, 55;
     battle of, 69 _sqq._

   Salisbury plain, 149, 150

   _Salus_, transport, 316.

   Samunoz, 56

   San Milan, 61

   San Sebastian, 11, 86, 230, 257;
     siege of, 106 _sqq._

   Sandilands, Lieutenant, 397

   Santarem, 37, 41, 42;
     heights of, 38

   Schapdale, 364

   Scots Greys at Waterloo, 130, 299 _sqq._, 410

   Scovell, Colonel, 20

   Senne, river, 341

   Serna, 74

   Shoreham cliff, 231

   Sierra de Gata, 52

   ---- d'Estrella, 51

   Sitdown, Joseph, 192

   Smith, Sir Harry, and Lady, 104

   Smollett's "Count Fathom," 173

   Sobraon, battle of, 293

   Soho, 182, 199, 207

   Soignes, forest of, 289, 290, 300

   Somerset, Lord Edward, 343, 353

   ---- Lord Fitzroy, 120

   Soult, Marshal, 81, 84, 86, 109, 115, 182, 263;
     advances to the relief of San Sebastian, 106;
     at Orthez, 266 _sqq._;
     at Toulouse, 276 _sqq._

   South Africa, 12

   South Beeveland, island of, 28

   Spencer, General, 153

   Spithead, 29, 142, 206

   Steenkerke, 340

   Stewart, ----, 262

   ---- Captain George, 263

   ---- Lieutenant James, 263

   Stour, river, 316

   Strangways, ----, 362

   Strytem, 329, 330, 331, 338

   Surtees, Quarter-master, 181, 182


   Tagus, river, 29, 36, 153

   Talavera, battle of, 30

   Toulouse, 6, 13, 25, 62;
     battle of, 81 _sqq._, 276 _sqq._;
     heights of, 262

   Touronne, river, 67

   Tormes, 74

   Torres Vedras, 35;
     the great hill defences of, 25;
     the lines of, 30;
     Wellington enters the lines of, 33;
     Massena's retreat from, 62

   Travers, Major, 164, 169, 175

   Tres Puentes, village of, 75

   Tweed, river, 8


   Urdach, 246, 259;
     heights of, 258

   Ustritz, 263

   Uxbridge, Lord, 333, 334;
     in the retreat to Waterloo, 354 _sqq._


   Vadilla, river, 52

   Valle, 38

   Vandeleur, Sir Ormsby, 340, 353, 355, 356

   Vigo, 142, 179, 185, 207, 215

   Vimiero, 142, 180, 213;
     Wellington at, 18;
     battle of, 163 _sqq._, 227

   Vinegar Hill, 230

   Vittoria, 25, 171;
     the "Rifles" at, 59, 74;
     battle of, 75 _sqq._

   Vivian, Sir Hussey, 341, 344, 355


   Wade, Lieut.-Col. Hamilton, 219

   Walcheren expedition, 25, 142, 143

   Walcot, Captain, 397

   War Office administration, 311

   Waterloo, allusions, 5, 14, 16, 25, 26, 120, 242, 309;
     G Battery at, 15;
     village of, 118, 300 _sqq._, 402;
     retreat from Quatre Bras to, 123, 125, 297, 350;
     battle of, 126 _sqq._, 370 _sqq._;
     Highlanders at, 297 _sqq._;
     charge of the Scots Greys at, 301 _sqq._;
     with the guns at, 309 _sqq._;
     the ridge at, 364;
     after the battle, 397

   Watson, Lieutenant, 284

   Wavre, 124, 300, 336, 354

   Wellesley, Sir Arthur (_see_ Wellington)

   Wellington, Duke of, allusions, 8, 13, 18, 26, 29, 32, 40, 46, 53, 54,
   55, 62, 65, 69, 81, 106, 115, 118, 132, 148, 153, 154, 156, 163, 178;
     at Vimiero, 18, 214;
     severity of, 19, 20;
     irritability of, 20;
     satire of, 22;
     retreat to the lines of Torres Vedras, 30, 33;
     pursues Massena, 37, 41;
     reconnaissance by, 38;
     courtesy of, 40;
     defeats Ney at the passage of the Ceira, 49;
     indiscriminate censure by, 58;
     at Sabugal, 63;
     at Fuentes d'Onore, 66, 67;
     at Salamanca, 70, 71, 73;
     at Vittoria, 77;
     at Toulouse, 84, 276 _sqq._;
     at Ciudad Rodrigo, 86, 94;
     at Badajos, 99, 102;
     in the Pyrenees, 105;
     forethought of, 113;
     in the Netherlands, 116;
     at Quatre Bras, 120, 288 _sqq._, 335 _sqq._;
     withdraws to Waterloo, 124;
     at Waterloo, 135, 137, 299 _sqq._, 311 _sqq._;
     at Orthez, 266 _sqq._;
     at Brussels, 288;
     complains of his staff, 315;
     resolves to stand at Waterloo, 364

   Whinyates, Major, 357

   White, Sir George, 104

   Whitelocke, General, in Buenos Ayres, 142, 309;
     court-martialled, 147

   Wighton, ----, 285

   Winchester, 145

   Wood, Sir George Adam, 20, 21, 312, 391

   Woodbridge, 317

   Woolwich Military Academy, 309


   Yeomen of the Guard, 26

   Young, Lieutenant, 281, 282

   Young Guard, the, 16

   Yseringen, 333, 337


   Zadora, river, 75


THE END


Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson & Co. Edinburgh and London



 October, 1900.

BELL'S

Indian & Colonial Library.

_Issued for Circulation in India and the Colonies only._

May be had in cloth, gilt, or in paper wrappers.

_Additional Volumes are issued at regular intervals._

   Aide (Hamilton).
     Elizabeth's Pretenders (102).

   Alexander (Mrs.).
     A Choice of Evils (33).
     A Ward in Chancery (40).
     A Fight with Fate (117).
     Mrs. Crichton's Creditor (170).
     Barbara (187).
     The Cost of Her Pride (249).
     The Stepmother (287).

   Allen (Grant).
     A Splendid Sin (138).
     An African Millionaire. Illustrated (173).
     The Incidental Bishop (210).

   Anstey (F.).
     Under the Rose. Illus. (39).

   Appleton (George W.).
     The Co-Respondent (54).
     François the Valet (267).

   Austen (Jane).
     Pride and Prejudice. Illustrated (280).

   Baring Gould (S.).
     Perpetua (189).

   Barrett (Wilson) and Barron (Elwyn).
     In Old New York (306).

   Barrington (Mrs. Russell).
     Helen's Ordeal (31).

   Benson (E.F.).
     Limitations (141).
     The Babe, B.A. (144).

   Bickerdyke (John).
     Her Wild Oats (253).

   Birrell (O).
     Behind the Magic Mirror (126).

   Bjornson (Bjornstjerne).
     Arne, and the Fisher Lassie (6).

   Bloundelle-Burton (J.).
     The Seafarers (315).

   Boothby (Guy).
     The Woman of Death. Illustrated (346).

   Bronte (Charlotte).
     Shirley (78).

   Broughton (Rhoda) and Bisland (Elizabeth).
     A Widower Indeed (48).

   Buchan (John).
     The Half-hearted (350).

   Buchanan (Robert).
     Father Anthony (247).

   Burgin (G.B.).
     Tomalyn's Quest (142).
     Settled Out of Court (255).
     Hermits of Gray's Inn (264).
     The Tiger's Claw (314).

   Burleigh (Bennet).
     The Natal Campaign. Illustrated (312)

   Caird (Mona).
     The Wing of Azrael (79).
     Pathway of the Gods (257).

   Calverley (C.S.).
     Verses and Fly-Leaves (14).

   Cameron (Mrs. Lovett).
     A Bad Lot (46).
     A Soul Astray (86).
     A Man's Undoing (176).
     Devils' Apples (212).
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     The Ways of a Widow (235).
     A Fair Fraud (263).

   Capes (Bernard).
     Joan Brotherhood (345).

   Castle (Egerton).
     The Light of Scarthey (95).

   Cobban (J.M.).
     Her Royal Highness's Love Affair (191).
     The Golden Tooth.

   Coleridge (Christabel).
     The Tender Mercies of the Good (92).

   Coleridge (S.T.)
     Table-Talk and Omniana (13).

   Creswick (Paul).
     At the Sign of the Cross Keys (328).

   Crockett (S.R.).
     The Men of the Moss-Hags (91).

   Cushing (Paul).
     God's Lad (352).

   Daudet (Alphonse).
     The Hope of the Family (233).

   Dawe (W.C.).
     The Emu's Head (119).

   De la Pasture (Mrs. Henry).
     Deborah of Tod's (211).
     Adam Grigson (290).

   Dickens (Charles).
     Pickwick Papers. Illus. (18).
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   Douglas (Theo.).
     A Legacy of Hate (286).
     Nemo (309).

   Doyle (A. Conan).
     The White Company (20).
     Rodney Stone. Illus. (143).
     Uncle Bernac. Illus. (168).
     The Tragedy of the Korosko (204).
     The Green Flag, &c. (313).
     The Great Boer War (349).

   Du Maurier (G).
     Trilby. Illustrated (65).
     The Martian. Illustrated (180).

   Ebers (Georg).
     An Egyptian Princess (2).

   Egerton (George).
     The Wheel of God (229).

   Falkner (J. Meade).
     Moonfleet (260).

   Fenn (G. Manville).
     The Star-Gazers (7).
     The Case of Ailsa Gray (125).
     Sappers and Miners (136).
     Cursed by a Fortune (152).
     High Play (203).
     The Vibart Affair (268).

   Finnemore (John).
     The Red Men of the Dusk (295).

   Fitchett (W.H.).
     Deeds that Won the Empire. Illustrated (198).
     Fights for the Flag. Illus. (248).
     How England Saved Europe.
       4 vols. Illustrated (323-326).

   Fletcher (J.S.).
     Mistress Spitfire (154).

   Francis (M.E.).
     A Daughter of the Soil (61).

   Fraser (Mrs. Hugh).
     The Looms of Time (227).

   Garland (Hamblin).
     Jason Edwards (250).

   Gaskell (Mrs.).
     Wives and Daughters (76).

   Gerard (Dorothea).
     Lot 13 (93).
     Miss Providence (197).

   Gift (Theo.).
     An Island Princess (47).
     Dishonoured (108).

   Gissing (George).
     Denzil Quarrier (26).
     The Emancipated (29).
     In the Year of Jubilee (42).
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     Born in Exile (89).
     The Unclassed (99).
     Human Odds and Ends (202).

   Gordon (Lord Granville).
     The Race of To-day (196).

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     Lost Man's Lane (228).

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     Valdar the Oft-Born. Illustrated (183).
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     The Justice of Revenge.

   Griffiths (Major Arthur).
     Ford's Folly, Ltd. (300).
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     The Thin Red Line.

   Gunter (A.C.).
     A Florida Enchantment (277).
     The Princess of Copper (348).

   Haggard (Lieut.-Col. Andrew).
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   Hardy (Thomas).
     Tess of the D'Urbervilles (3).
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   Harradan (Beatrice).
     Ships that Pass in the Night (1).

   Harte (Bret).
     Stories in Light and Shadow (252).
     Jack Hamlin's Mediation, and other Stories (294).
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   Hawthorne (Julian).
     A Fool of Nature (121).

   Henty (G.A.).
     The Woman of the Commune (96).

   Hiatt (Charles).
     Ellen Terry: An Appreciation (353).

   Hill (Headon).
     The Spies of the Wight (266).

   Holland (Clive).
     Marcelle of the Latin Quarter (317).

   Hooper (George).
     Waterloo. With Maps and Plans (10).

   Hope (Anthony).
     Comedies of Courtship (107).
     Half a Hero (139).

   Hume (Fergus).
     Lady Jezebel (221).
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   Hunt (Violet).
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     The Way of Marriage (150).

   Hutcheson (J.C.).
     Crown and Anchor (135).
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   Hyne (C.J. Cutcliffe).
     Adventures of Captain Kettle. Illustrated (244).
     Further Adventures of Captain Kettle (288).
     Four Red Night Caps.

   Jocelyn (Mrs. R.).
     Only a Flirt (171).
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   Jokai (Maurus).
     Eyes Like the Sea (16).

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     The Two Lancrofts (44).

   Kenealy (Arabella).
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     The Catch of the County (34).
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   Kipling (Rudyard).
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   L (X.).
     The Limb (124).

   Le Breton (John).
     Mis'ess Joy (340).

   Lee (Albert).
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   Le Queux (W.).
     The Eye of Istar. Illus. (167).
     Whoso Findeth a Wife (188).
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     Scribes and Pharisees (215).
     If Sinners Entice Thee (236).
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     In White Raiment.

   Little (Mrs. A.).
     A Marriage in China (148).

   McHugh (R.J.).
     The Siege of Ladysmith. Illustrated (321).

   Mallock (W.H.).
     A Human Document (21).
     The Heart of Life (101).
     The Individualist (272).

   Marsh (Richard).
     In Full Cry (279).
     The Goddess (334).
     An Aristocratic Detective.

   Marshall (A.H.).
     Lord Stirling's Son (70).

   Mathers (Helen).
     Bam Wildfire (238).

   Meade (Mrs. L.T.).
     A Life for a Love (62).
     A Son of Ishmael (134).
     The Way of a Woman (174).
     The Desire of Men (292).
     The Wooing of Monica (302).

   Meade (L.T.) and Halifax (Clifford).
     Stories from the Diary of a Doctor (63).
     Where the Shoe Pinches (330).

   Meredith (George).
     Richard Feverel (67).
     Lord Ormont and his Aminta (57).
     Diana of the Crossways (66).
     The Egotist (68).
     The Amazing Marriage (100).
     The Tragic Comedians (158).

   Merriman (Henry Seton).
     With Edged Tools (15).
     The Grey Lady. Illus. (190)

   Middleton (Colin).
     Without Respect of Persons. (45).

   Mitford (Bertram).
     John Ames, Native Commissioner (296).
     Aletta: A Story of the Boer Invasion (322).
     War and Acadia.

   Morrow (W.C.).
     The Ape, the Idiot, and other People (232).

   Muddock (J.E.).
     The Star of Fortune (27).
     Stripped of the Tinsel (113).
     The Lost Laird (220).
     In the King's Favour (274).
     Kate Cameron of Brux.

   Natal (Rt. Rev. Lord Bishop of).
     My Diocese during the War (327).

   Nisbet (Hume).
     Kings of the Sea. Illustrated (184).
     The Revenge of Valerie (298).
     The Empire Makers (316).
     For Right and England (338).

   Needell (Mrs. J.H.).
     The Honour of Vivien Bruce (281).

   Newland (Simpson).
     Paving the Way. Illus. (246).
     Blood Tracks of the Bush (341).

   New Note, A. (58).

   Norris (W.E.).
     The Flower of the Flock (335).

   Oliphant (Mrs.).
     The Prodigals (9).

   Ottolengui (R.).
     The Crime of the Century (128).

   Ouida.
     The Fig Tree, and other Stories.

   Parker (Gilbert) and others.
     March of the White Guard, &c. Illustrated (28).

   Paterson (Arthur).
     A Man of his Word (59).

   Payn (James).
     In Market Overt (84).
     Another's Burden (182).

   Pemberton (Max).
     A Gentleman's Gentleman (115).
     Christine of the Hills (161).
     The Phantom Army (243).
     Signors of the Night (293).

   Pett Ridge (W.).
     A Breaker of Laws (347).

   Philips (F.C.).
     Poor Little Bella (200).

   Phillipps-Wolley (C.).
     One of the Broken Brigade (193).
     The Chicamon Stone (310).

   Phillpots (Eden).
     Some Every-Day Folks (56).
     My Laughing Philosopher (114).
     Lying Prophets (155).
     Children of the Mist (240).

   Poushkin (A.).
     Prose Tales. Translated by T. Keane (52).

   Prescott (E. Livingston).
     The Rip's Redemption (254).
     The Measure of a Man (259).
     Illusion (289).

   Price (Eleanor C.).
     Alexia (75a).

   Quiller-Couch (M.).
     The Spanish Maid (195).

   Riddell (Mrs. J.H.).
     Did He Deserve it? (169).
     Footfall of Fate (332).

   'Rita.'
     Joan and Mrs. Carr (118).
     Vignettes, & other Stories (130).

   Russell (Dora).
     A Torn out Page (308).
     A Great Temptation.

   Russell (W. Clark).
     A Voyage at Anchor (303).

   Sergeant (Adeline).
     A Rogue's Daughter (111).
     Told in the Twilight (116).
     The Love Story of Margaret Wynne (237).
     Blake of Oriel (285).
     A Rise in the World (304).
     Daunay's Tower (333).
     Miss Cleveland's Companion.

   St. Aubyn (A.).
     A Proctor's Wooing (153).
     A Fair Impostor (208).
     Bonnie Maggie Lauder (276).
     A Prick of Conscience (342).

   Stables (Dr. Gordon).
     The Rose of Allandale (137).

   Stead (W.T.).
     Real Ghost Stories (199).

   Steele (Mrs.).
     Lesbia (123).

   Stockton (Frank R.).
     The Great Stone of Sardis. Illustrated (205).
     Associate Hermits (258).

   Stuart (Esme).
     Arrested (147).

   Thackeray (W.M.).
     The Newcomes (71).
     Vanity Fair (72).

   Thomas (Annie).
     Four Women in the Case (131).
     Essentially Human (166).
     Dick Rivers (209).

   Thomson (Basil).
     The Indiscretions of Lady Asenath (226).

   Tirebuck (W.E.).
     Meg of the Scarlet Foot (234).
     The White Woman (275).

   Tracy (Louis).
     The Final War. Illus. (186).
     An American Emperor (192).
     Lost Provinces. Illus. (245).
     The Invaders. Illustrated.

   Trollope (Anthony).
     Doctor Thorne (74).
     Lily Dale (75).

   Tynan (Katharine).
     The Way of a Maid (103).

   Underwood (Francis).
     Doctor Gray's Quest (83).

   Vandam (Albert D.).
     The Mystery of the Patrician Club (35).
     French Men and French Manners (104).

   Vynne (Nora).
     The Priest's Marriage (305).

   Wakeman (Annie).
     The Autobiography of a Char-woman (344).

   Walford (L.B.).
     The Archdeacon (256).

   Warden (Florence).
     A Perfect Fool (41).
     Kitty's Engagement (53).
     A Spoilt Girl (98).
     A Lady in Black (109).
     Our Widow (122).
     The Mystery of Dudley Home (157).

   Warden (Florence).
     The Girls at the Grange (175).
     Girls will be Girls (207).
     Little Miss Prim (219).
     A Lowly Lover (297).
     The Plain Miss Cray (318).
     Town Lady and Country Lass (339).

   Wells (H.G.).
     When the Sleeper Wakes (273).
     Tales of Time and Space (299).
     Love and Mr. Lewisham (331).

   Westall (William).
     For Honour and Life (8).

   Wicks (Frederick).
     The Infant. Illustrated by A. Morrow (88).

   Wiggin (Kate Douglas).
     Marm Liza (149).
     Penelope's Experiences in Scotland (223).

   Wilkins (Mary E.).
     Pembroke (17).
     Madelon (120).
     Jerome (178).
     Silence, and other Stories (231).

   Winter (John Strange).
     A Born Soldier (36).
     Bootles' Children, and other Stories (110).
     The Peacemakers (213).
     Heart and Sword (241).
     A Name to Conjure With (283).
     The Married Miss Binks (337).
     A Self-made Countess (351).

   Whishaw (Fred.).
     Many Ways of Love (269).


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