Inconveniences of a miry march

We did not halt and encamp until an hour after dark. On the 20th in the
morning we passed the road leading towards Rabastens on our left hand,
where a picquet of the hussars had planted their vedettes. When within
a short distance of Tarbes the hussars rode forward, and pushed their
line of vedettes half way up the hills to the left of the road, with
their carbines resting on their thighs, and within one hundred yards of
the French infantry, who did not fire, although stationed on the verge
of the wood.

Two battalions of rifle corps immediately filed off the road, mounted
the hill, and began a most severe skirmish with the enemy, who made
such a desperate opposition, that the rifles were obliged to close; the
French charged, but the rifles were immoveable, and, for two or three
minutes, the combatants were firing in each other’s faces. At last the
rifles beat them back, and carried the wood.

We could also see the right of the enemy formed on some heights round
a windmill two miles to our left, where the sixth division attacked
them; and the cannon continued to play at this point. While the right
of our army made a demonstration of crossing to the right bank of the
Adour, opposite the town of Tarbes, two hundred _chasseurs à cheval_
blocked up the wide road opposite to us. It had hedges on each side;
our regiment formed column to the left of it, on a piece of waste
ground; and a troop of the tenth hussars rode up and formed across
it from hedge to hedge, opposed to the French horse. Two vedettes of
the Chasseurs instantly walked their horses within one hundred yards
of the tenth, and invited them to charge; several of us stood on the
flank of our dragoons, and told them to stop a minute or two, until a
company crept along the hedge to take the chasseurs in flank when their
main body seeing this instantly wheeled threes about and unmasked two
pieces of cannon, which they fired at half range, and both balls flew
close over the heads of the hussars. Owing to the attack of the sixth
division taking the right of the enemy in reverse, they were thrown
on two sides of a square, and obliged to retire from Tarbes, refusing
their right face, while covering the retreat of their left wing!

The horse artillery now came forward at full trot, protected by the
tenth hussars, who by half-squadrons, filled up the intervals between
the guns, which presented a most picturesque and martial effect.
Without further delay, the rest of our division followed up the hill to
the left, in support of the rifles; and on reaching the summit a most
interesting spectacle presented itself. The town of Tarbes lay in the
valley to the right close to the Adour; the dense red columns of our
right wing were in the act of passing it with cavalry and artillery;
while the glitter of the enemy’s bayonets formed a brilliant spectacle,
and the tail of their winding columns covered the country, as they
rapidly threaded the by-roads through small woods, villages, and over
hill and dale. They were also running in a dense crowd on the high road
towards Tournay, (threatened by the hussars, and the horse-artillery)
where a rapid interchange of cannon balls took place, and we were in
momentary expectation of overtaking them, when broken ground and hedges
suddenly intervened, and they eluded our grasp.

A French captain stood by the road side imploring his life, and calling
out for the English, in evident fear of the Portuguese and Spaniards;
he held a commission in his hand, and both his eyes were shot out of
their sockets, and hanging on his cheeks!—On our descending from the
rough country into a valley, the enemy were ascending a steep ridge
rising out of it, covered at its base by a rivulet. Our army were
forming up in order of battle ready for the assault, but the day was
too far advanced: the French then opened their cannon all along the
ridge, and particularly against our right wing, opposite the high road
leading to the town of Tournay. During the twilight, the bright flashes
of the cannon had a very pretty effect—the sixth division had followed
them up, and we could hear their firing an hour after nightfall,
while still attacking and taking in reverse the extreme right of
the enemy—which obliged them to retreat during the night from this
formidable range of heights.

On the following morning we crossed the heights in our front, the enemy
being in full retreat towards Toulouse—by a flank march to the right.
We cut in upon the high road towards St. Gaudens, on which the second
division were marching. The weather was cold, with sharp cutting winds,
and a succession of rains set in.

The second day we entered a small town crowded with troops; the rain
descended in such torrents, that the cavalry horses were put into the
lower rooms of the houses, and we were quartered in the house of a
cobbler, which was divided into three compartments: the soldiers filled
the loft; the horses the kitchen; and we put up in the shop, in which
there were two beds in dark recesses. The little cobbler, seeing our
boots soaked through, very good humouredly proposed making us some
_bonne soupe_, and, without further preamble, set about the _cuisine_.
His figure was unique—he wore a cocked-hat square to the front, and
as old as the hills. His hair was greased to excess, and grimed with
the remains of powder, ending in a _queue_ of nine inches long, and
about four in circumference, tightly bound with a leathern thong. His
height was hardly more than five feet: he possessed a swarthy broad
bony visage, small penetrating grey eyes, thick, bushy, black eye
brows, a short neck, long sinewy arms, covered with hair, (the shirt
sleeves being tucked up), large hands and feet, narrow shoulders,
short body, broad hips, and bow-legs—and was the reputed father of
a delicate daughter of about fifteen years of age, with light hair,
skin as fair as alabaster, and cheeks vying with roses;—she meekly
lent a willing hand in making us welcome to their abode, strewed with
old shoes, _sabot_-lasts, leather, soles, heels, waxed ends, and live
poultry,—the latter being tolerated as guests, owing to the urgent
entreaties of the little _grisette_, who was in great dread that they
might be plucked, if left to roost in the loft amongst the soldiery.
A large iron kettle was slung over the wood fire, and filled with
water, into which a few cabbage leaves were first immersed, and, when
it simmered, half a pound of hog’s lard was added (from an earthen
jar hanging by a cord from a large beam), with a little pepper and
salt; half a dozen brown pans were then laid out, into which our
host cut with a clasp knife some slices of coarse bread, and with a
wooden ladle, the contents of the cauldron were poured over it, the
grease floating on the surface of the boiling liquid. _La voilà!_
said our host. _La voilà, messieurs, la bonne soupe!_ To refrain from
appreciating the kind intentions of the cobbler, and his fair daughter,
was impossible; but we could not partake of such a mess.

The times of scarcity were gone by, and as our canteens arrived at
this juncture, stored with every thing good, and a keg of excellent
wine, we invited the civil little cobbler to partake, and he spent a
glorious evening, shedding tears over his cups, and declaring that _les
Anglais_ were _de très bons garçons_; while the daughter sitting in
the chimney corner, sang some pretty French songs. At the usual hour
of rest, by common consent we laid down on one bed, and the cobbler
and his daughter turned into the other; but, for the sake of decorum,
the father lay with his head on the bolster, and the daughter placed
a pillow at the foot of the bed, and thus turning _dos-à-dos_, they
avoided each others feet, and by the glimmer of the fire, we could see
the little girl’s bright eyes under the coverlet.

Making our adieu on the following morning, and the weather clearing
up, we continued our march, at the end of which the troops entered the
various chateaux and farm-houses on each side of the way. The country
being very much intersected with hedges, green fields, plantations,
and gardens, we suddenly encountered an old man near some scattered
cottages, who was so terrified at our unexpected appearance, that he
ran up, seized the bridles of our horses, and led us to a large oven,
filled with ready-baked bread, all of which he insisted upon giving to
the soldiers: thence he took us to an out-house, where there was a
quantity of wine casks: “All, messieurs,” exclaimed the peasant, “is
yours.” We assured him that every thing consumed would be duly paid
for, which he would not hear of, in his over eagerness and civility,
and, breaking from us, he rushed into the ranks of the soldiers, (who
were quietly at ordered arms, waiting until the different houses should
be marked off for their reception, according to usage), and bawled out,
“_camarades!_” although your officers will not sanction your having
bread and wine, I insist upon supplying you. At length, to put an end
to such rhapsodies, we agreed that, at the utmost, he might give to
each soldier a pint of wine, of which they cheerfully and thankfully
partook.

On the following morning, when the soldiers had fallen in, and the
over-generous peasant found what an orderly set of people he had
to do with, he boldly came forward and demanded payment, and, when
expostulated with, bawled out with the greatest indecency, before the
rest of the assembled villagers, that we were _des voleurs_, and with
the greatest effrontery put himself at the head of the company, as if
to stop its march. Such vile behaviour so disgusted us, that we ordered
one of the soldiers to put him out of the way.

The rain began to pour down in torrents, and the road was of such a
clayey substance, and so sticky, that it tore the gaiter-straps and the
shoes from off the soldiers’ feet, and they were obliged to put them
on the tops of their knapsacks, while trudging along bare-footed, and
hardly able to drag one leg after the other. This so much impeded our
march, that it was nearly dark before we halted on the road, and the
mounted officers were ordered to seek shelter for the men, right and
left, but not further than a mile from the post of alarm.

Several officers started across the country, each fixing on some
particular house. As I perceived a hill a short way off, I galloped up
it, from whence, half a mile further, I saw a spacious farm and barns,
the whole being enclosed by a high wall. Knowing the general civility
and peaceable demeanour of the inhabitants, without further precaution,
I rapped loudly at the large gates; but no person came forward, and
all the windows were closed; however, quite satisfied of getting an
entrance upon the arrival of the company, I rode round, to convince
myself of the place being inhabited, when all at once a powerful and
ferocious wolf dog bounded over the wall, and tore at the hind quarters
of my horse with such ferocity, that the animal trembled, and although
I used my spurs, was almost immoveable. I then drew my sabre, but,
whichever way I turned my horse, the dog kept behind, and to add to
my danger, a man opened a shutter with a gun in his hand. As I could
not get my animal to stir, the only resource left was to dismount and
engage the savage brute in foot, (my sabre had a sharp rough edge),
trusting that the peasant might miss me the first shot. At this
critical moment, the company mounted the hill, and the man called off
his dog.

My horse was bleeding, and the heel was nearly torn off my boot:—the
women came forth from the house, and threw wide the gates for our
admittance, and almost prostrated themselves at our feet, expressing
the greatest solicitude, and protesting, that the dog had broken
loose; and, when questioned about the gun, they vehemently assured us
that the man, knowing I was in danger, as a last resource intended
to shoot his own dog; this excuse was ridiculous, for the moment the
animal heard the voice of its master it ceased to attack. Although we
were aware that these were false assertions, both from the actions and
professions of the people, yet we could not do otherwise than feign
to believe them. Without doubt, on my first appearance, they thought
me a straggling marauder, and they were only about to act as we might
have done against foreigners in our own country, who might perchance
come for the purpose of eating our provisions, levying contributions,
and trampling down our fields; for although such outrages were
strictly forbidden in the British army, yet people living in secluded
farm-houses could not be supposed to credit such peaceable reports,
until they had received ocular demonstration of the fact.

Notwithstanding the gaiety of our manner for the rest of the day, the
women seemed to dread the coming night, feeling conscious of an act
having been committed which they apprehended would not pass unpunished.
The men did not show themselves after dark, and it was droll to witness
the many little kind acts of the females, to strive to banish from
our minds the occurrence.—Even on the following morning, they loaded
our animals with poultry, and filled our keg with fourteen pints of
inestimable wine. As they seemed in affluent circumstances, we did not
refuse these peace-offerings.

At the close of this day, we were quartered in a chateau, not unlike an
old-fashioned gentleman’s house in England. The out-houses were in a
delapidated condition, the grounds were indifferently laid out, with
the trees and avenues cut into various shapes, in representation of
birds, &c. An old carriage stood in an out-house, and the horses had
long tails, and were as fat as butter, and not unlike a Flanders cart
horse.

The French gentleman, while showing his premises, held a rake in his
hand, and was dressed in a green velvet forage cap, a frieze coat made
like a dressing gown, coarse trowsers, and wooden shoes; but in the
evening he was well attired; in fact quite metamorphosed. The linen,
napkins and plate were in plenty, but we were much surprised at the
common clasp knives at table; otherwise, every thing (such as massive
plate and old fashioned china) was good, and well laid out. The stairs
were carpeted and polished, and the rooms were without grates, the
wood being burnt on hobs. The _filles de chambre_ left their wooden
clogs at the bottom of the stairs, walking about the rooms in their
stocking’d feet, and, although coarsely dressed, and of rough exterior,
they executed all the necessary offices with a respectful attention and
extreme good nature, and, when offered some silver in the morning, they
refused it, as if to say, “_Ciel!_ how can we take the money of _les
étrangers, et les jeunes officiers_?”

On the sixth day we entered a town within a short distance of Toulouse.
The enemy lined the opposite bank of a small rapid river, about four
hundred yards from the town; a howitzer was planted over the bridge,
and a group of French officers were assembled in conversation.

Another officer and myself by degrees sauntered past our sentinels, who
were not pushed beyond the houses of the town. When within a hundred
yards of them, we made the usual salute, but, to our astonishment, it
was not returned, and the whole of the group left the spot, with the
exception of one officer, who leaned on the breech of the gun, as much
as to intimate that we were too far in their country to expect confabs
and that the time was come to stand to their cannon.

We regretted having placed ourselves so completely in their power: to
go back was impossible with any security, if their intentions were
of a hostile nature. Trusting however to the well-known courtesy of
_les militaires Français_, we left the road, and walked up to the bank
of the river, within fifteen yards of a French sentinel, who, with
his musket carelessly thrown across his body, eyed us steadily, as
if to examine whether our approach should be received in a hostile,
or amicable manner. Appearances certainly looked as if we had come
expressly to reconnoitre the nature of the ground, and as we slowly
retired, we momentarily expected a round of grape shot, and were not
a little relieved to find ourselves once more behind the houses; for
there was not a bush or any thing to screen us from their observation
the whole of the way.

In the middle of the night we were aroused and ordered to pack up
and accoutre, and make a flank march to the right, over execrable
roads, in order to support the second division, who were to cross the
river Garonne above Toulouse, at the village of Portet. The number of
pontoons, however, proving inadequate to cover the width of the river,
it was tried elsewhere—On the 31st of March the pontoons were laid
down within a short distance of Roques, General Hill crossed: but the
ground was found so swampy, that he was obliged to repass the river.

In this part of the country, wine abounded to such an extent, that
serious alarm was experienced for the morals and sobriety of the
troops. Almost every shed, and even the stables, were half filled with
wine casks, (owing to the long war, and to the want of exportation),
and, during the rainy weather, it was necessary to beg of the soldiers
to be moderate. Publicly they were not permitted to partake of the
wine; but how could they be effectually hindered from broaching casks
under which they slept, after being covered with the mud of the miry
roads, or soaked through and through from incessant rains? and such was
the abundance of the juice of the grape, that a peasant was glad to
sell a hogshead of the best wine for twenty _francs_, which was divided
among our several small messes.

The people of Gascony have a particular method of feeding their cattle:
the trap doors or sliding partitions communicate with the interior of
the kitchens, and when thrown aside, the oxen or cows thrust in their
heads, and are fed by the hand with the stalks of maize, or Indian corn.

One evening, while in the kitchen of a small house, round the cheerful
blaze of a crackling wood-fire, partaking of our dinner, and the
servant girls standing behind us feeding the cattle, we were suddenly
aroused by the cackling of the poultry in a large out-house—where the
soldiers were quartered; and, on ascending the ladder, we observed some
feathers scattered about the floor. The soldiers stood up and saluted,
as if no depredations had been committed. One soldier alone remained
sitting, and feigning to be in great pain from the effects of a sore
foot. The officer with me having shrewd suspicions of this individual,
said, “Get up,—surely you can stand upon one leg.”—”Oh no!” answered
this piece of innocence, (possessing a muscular frame, and a face as
brown as a berry), “no indeed Sir, I cannot; for, besides the pain
in my foot, I am otherwise much indisposed.” Finding however that we
were determined, he slowly and reluctantly arose from his crouching
posture, by which he had concealed a half-plucked goose. This was death
by martial law, and we put on a most ferocious aspect, and threatened
I know not what. However, as soon as the lecture was over, and we were
out of the soldier’s sight, we could no longer refrain from giving way
to our hilarity, at the old marauder being so fully detected. Who could
kill an old soldier for plucking a goose? The bird being duly paid for,
the kind-hearted woman not only gave it back to the soldiers, but, we
understood, cooked it for their supper.

We now halted at St. Simon and pushed our advanced posts within two
miles of Toulouse, situated on the right bank of the Garonne; but the
enemy still held the Faubourg of St. Ciprien, facing us on the left of
the river.

One day we passed in a handsome chateau, with all the rooms on the
_parterre_; it was well furnished, and the doors and windows opened on
a spacious lawn, from which descended a flight of stone steps of about
thirty feet in breadth, to an extensive garden laid out _à l’Anglaise_,
in broad and serpentine walks, labyrinths, fish ponds, fruit trees,
exotics, rose trees and flower beds, which in the summer must
altogether have formed a lovely retreat. The inhabitants had fled from
the chateau, and all its windows, and doors, were flapping, and jarring
in the wind; the knapsacks were suspended in the gilded ornaments of
its mirrors, and the soldiers reposed on the silken covering of the
chairs and couches.

On the night of the 3rd of April, our division broke up from before
Toulouse, (the second division taking our station), crossed the
river Touch and marched northerly down the Garonne, as a corps of
communication between the right and left wings of the army—in
readiness to move to either flank.

On the morning of the 4th the left wing under Lord Beresford crossed
the Garonne, just above the town of Grenade, by a pontoon-bridge.

In the afternoon the rain came down in torrents, and the river was
so swollen and the current so strong, that the pontoon-bridge was
obliged to be taken up, and Lord Beresford was cut off with his corps
for four days on the right bank of the river, while the enemy had the
opportunity of attacking him, or debouching by the Faubourg de St.
Ciprien against him—of which they did not take advantage.

During these few days we obtained good shelter in the fine large
farm-houses with which the country abounded, every one of them having a
large round pigeon-house at the corner, (which was entered by a regular
door from the interior of the house); the swarms of pigeons were so
great, that they literally covered the whole face of the country. Here
we ate pigeon-pie, omelets, and eggs in profusion. “_Diable_,” said the
French, “_comme les Anglais mangent des œufs!_”

On the 8th the bridge of boats being restored, we mounted our horses
to see a Spanish army cross; and a more bombastical display I never
beheld! The Spaniards crossed by companies: at the head of each
marched an officer with a drawn sword, (accompanied by a drummer),
and strutting in time to the tapping or roll of the drum; exclaiming,
while looking pompously over his shoulder, “_Vamos, guerréros!_” The
very bridge seemed to respond to such glorious appeals, for it rose and
fell with a gentle undulating motion, to the _rub dub, rub a dub_, of
Spain’s martial drum.

As soon as these _Guerréros_ had formed column on the sod of
_Languedoc_, a heavy brigade of artillery passed the bridge, and one of
the cannon becoming stationary in the middle of it, one of the pontoons
nearly went under water; and, had not the drivers whipped and spurred
with all their might, in another instant, the boat would have been
swamped, and the gun would have dragged the horses and drivers into the
rapid and furious torrent.

The bridge was again taken up during the night, and, on the following
day, our division formed on a rising ground near Aussonne to be in
readiness to pass it; but, having waited nearly the whole day, the
Duke of Wellington quitted the spot extremely angry, leaving Sir Colin
Campbell to superintend the finishing of it.

At two o’clock on the morning of the 10th, our division crossed the
pontoon-bridge, and, bringing up our left shoulder near Fenoulhiet, six
miles from Toulouse the army marched in parallel columns on that place.

The country north of the town is flat, and on every side intersected
with rural cottages, enclosed by gardens, fruit trees, and small
plains, or fields of corn.

When within two miles of Toulouse, we could distinguish the black
columns of the enemy filing out of the town to the eastward, and
forming in order of battle on the _Terre de Cabade_, which was crowned
with redoubts, and constituted the _apex_ of their grand position
nearly three miles long, and extending in a southerly direction by
Calvinet, towards the road of Montauban. They also occupied with a
small body of troops and two pieces of light artillery, the detached
eminence of _la Borde de La Pugade_, for the purpose of watching the
movements on the left and centre of our army. This small hill was of
fallow ground, without hedges, trees, or entrenchments.

At the first view, the French army seemed to be formed from the right
bank of the Garonne, and resting their right flank on the detached
hill of _la Borde de la Pugade_, which, in reality, only formed a
dislocated elbow of their position. The ancient wall of the town was
lined by the enemy, being covered at a short distance by the royal
canal (which communicates with the Garonne), and runs in a half circle
round the north and west sides of Toulouse. Over it there were six
bridges, within five miles, occupied as _têtes-du-pont_; the three to
the southward being marked by the before-mentioned heights, which gave
the enemy an exceedingly strong position, and to embrace which it was
necessary to split our army into three distinct bodies, to be ready to
fight independently of each other—as follows:—

Lord Hill’s corps was stationed on the left bank of the Garonne (to
coop up the enemy in the entrenched faubourg of St. Ciprien), but was
so completely cut off from the army destined to fight the battle,
owing to the river intervening, that the nearest communication with it
was, at least, sixteen miles by the pontoon bridge we had crossed in
the morning—although, as the bird flew, little more than two miles
from the right flank of the army, composed of four divisions, and a
corps of Spaniards which were destined to fight the battle. The right
wing consisted of the third and light divisions, the centre of the
Spaniards, and the left wing of the fourth and sixth divisions with the
great bulk of the cavalry, ready to shoot forward from the village of
Montblanc, to throw the enemy on two sides of a square.

At nine o’clock in the morning the forcing began on the Paris road near
a large building in front of the _tête-du-pont_, in the vicinity of
Graniague, by the third division with its right on the river Garonne.
The left brigade of the light division branched off to the right, to
make a sham attack opposite the _tête-de-pont_, near les Minimes, and
to keep up the link with the third division; while the first brigade
edged off to the left to support the Spaniards now moving forwards in
échelon on our left. While they were crossing a small rivulet, two of
the enemy’s cannon fired on them from the detached eminence of _la
Borde de la Pugade_. As soon as the Spaniards had crossed the stream or
ditch, they rapidly advanced and drove the French from their advanced
post, behind which they formed in columns for the grand attack. At
this time a sprinkling musketry was kept up to our right by the third
division and our second brigade, while driving the enemy behind their
_têtes-du-pont_.

At eleven o’clock the Spaniards moved forward single-handed, to attack
the heights of la Pugade, under a heavy fire of musketry and grape
shot, which thinned their ranks and galled them sadly. The ground was
fallow, of a gentle ascent, without hedges or trees, so that every shot
told with a fatal precision. Notwithstanding this, they closed, and
kept onwards. The French position was a blaze of flashing cannon, and
sparkling musketry, and the iron balls were cutting through the fallow
ground, tearing up the earth and bounding wantonly through the country.
The fatal moment had arrived: the Spaniards could do no more: the
shouting of the French army was daggers to their hearts, and thunder to
their ears, and when within fifty yards of crowning all their hopes,
down went the head of their column, as if the earth had opened and
swallowed them up. A deep hollow road ran parallel with the enemy’s
works, into which the affrighted column crowded. Terrible shelter!
for at this time the enemy sprang over their entrenchments, and stood
over their victims, pouring down the bullets on their devoted heads
with fatal precision, so that two thousand of them fell a prey to the
adversary, without destroying hardly any of their opponents; and, as if
in anticipation of such a result, the enemy had constructed a battery
of heavy calibre at the bridge of Montauban, which raked the road, and
ploughed up the heaps of the living and the dead—the former crawling
under the latter to screen themselves for a few short moments from the
merciless effects of the enemy’s projectiles.

The rear of the Spaniards now closed up, and, stretching their necks
over the brink of the fatal gulf, they turned about and fled like
chaff before the wind, amid the volume and dense clouds of rolling
smoke majestically floating in the air, as if to veil from the enemy
the great extent of their triumph.

As soon as the fugitives could be scraped together in a lump, they
once again moved forward to make a second attack, led on by a group
of Spanish officers, on foot, and on horseback. The shot levelled
them to the earth, without any chance of success: the disorganized
column once more stood in a mass on the bank of the fatal hollow
road, by this means bringing all the enemy’s fire to a focus; but
at the sight of the mangled bodies of their dying comrades, their
last sparks of courage forsook them, and they fled from the field,
heedless of the exhortations of many of their officers, who showed an
example worthy of their ancient renown. The French again bounded over
their entrenchments, and at full run came round the left flank of the
disconcerted Spaniards (at a point where the road was not so deep), and
plied them with more bullets, nor ceased to follow them, until they
were stopped by the fire of a brigade of guns, (supported by a regiment
of English heavy dragoons), and attacked on their left flank by the
rifle corps, supported by our brigade. This movement prevented them
from cutting asunder and separating the two wings of our army.

The enemy, finding that they had totally defeated the Spaniards,
immediately moved a body of troops to make head against the _fourth_
and _sixth divisions_, and cavalry, which were now moving along the
river Ers, parallel with the heights of Calvanet, before bringing up
their left shoulders to attack that position; but, owing to the marshy
state of the ground, the troops were much impeded on their march.

After the repulse of the Spaniards, the battle almost ceased, with the
exception of an irregular musketry-fire amongst the detached houses
bordering the canal. During this pause in the grand event, several of
us fell asleep (under the gentle rays of an April sun), from want of
rest, having been under arms all the previous day, and marching nearly
the whole of the night.

How long I enjoyed this slumber I cannot say, for a round shot
whizzing, close over my head, caused me hastily to start on my feet.
For a few seconds, I almost fancied I was at a review, or dreaming of
it, for the right wing of the British army were within less than cannon
range opposite the left wing of the enemy, whose bright arms and brazen
eagles glistened on the venerable towers of Toulouse.

Soon after this, we descried an officer of our regiment, (who was an
extra aide-de-camp to Gen. Baron Alten) riding at the base of the
enemy’s position, and turning and twisting his horse at full speed,
which induced us to imagine that he was wounded, and no longer able to
manage the animal, which appeared to be running away with him. Suddenly
he fell from his saddle to the ground, and the horse made a dead stop.
Of course we thought he was killed, when, to our great surprise, he
remounted, and came towards us at a canter with a hare in his arms,
that he had ridden down.

In the middle of the day, the sixth division crossed the valley
opposite the heights of Calvanet; and the interchanged cannon shots,
and the forked musketry, rattled without intermission. At length, amid
charges of cavalry and sanguinary fighting (for the enemy marched down
the hill to meet them,) this division gained the French position, and
took a redoubt, which, however, they could hardly maintain, owing to
the great loss they had sustained in moving up the hill; for, while
struggling with the enemy’s infantry in front, their second line had
been charged by the French horse[24].

During this part of the combat the fourth division was edging off by
an oblique march to its left, to turn the enemy’s right flank near the
road of Montauban, which manœuvre greatly enhanced the victory on this
hard-fought day.

The French several times returned to the charge on the _plateau_, and
made a most desperate attempt at four o’clock in the afternoon to
retake the great redoubt in the centre, but without effect.

Owing to this failure the French quietly evacuated the redoubts on the
left of their position on the canal, on the heights of _Terre Cabade_,
and their whole army retired behind the _têtes-du-pont_, and the
faubourg of St. Etienne.

On the following day the Duke of Dalmatia held the town hemmed in
almost on every side; but, as there was not any firing, an officer and
myself rode towards the road where the Spaniards had been repulsed.
Its steep banks were at least twenty-five feet in depth, with two or
three narrow pathways by which the Spaniards had descended in hopes of
obtaining a little shelter. This spot was strewed with heaps of the
slain, piled on the top of each other in strange confusion, many having
tumbled over the precipitous banks, and remaining stuck on the twisted
bayonets on whose points they had fallen. Death here appeared in every
possible shape; some were jammed in the crowd, and propped up in an
erect posture against the bank; others were standing on their heads,
or sprawling with legs and arms spread out to their fullest extent.
Almost the whole of the cadaverous dead were without caps, which in
the _mêlée_ had been knocked off, and were intermixed with knapsacks,
breast-plates, broken arms, bayonets, and swords. A mournful silence
reigned around. No voice broke on the stillness that reigned over the
lacerated remains of the swarthy Spaniards!

While looking down on these inanimate objects swept off by the scythe
of war, I noticed a naked man lying on his back at my feet: as there
was no appearance of any wound about his person, we were lost in
conjectures as to the probable cause of his death. A Spaniard who
stood by was so overcome with curiosity, that he laid hold of the dead
man’s hair; but, to his inexpressible wonder the head was as light
as a feather, for it now appeared, that a cannon ball had struck him
sideways, leaving nothing of the head remaining but the scalp and face.
The sight was too horrible to look upon, and we hastily remounted our
horses, and returned from this melancholy spectacle. While riding
over the field of battle, the motion of a horse is the most gentle and
easy to be fancied: the animals cock their ears, snort, look down, and
plant their feet with a light and springing motion, as if fearful of
trampling on the dead soldiers.

The heights of the Terre Cabade and Calvanet are free from trees or
hedges, and have two hollow roads cutting through the middle of them,
which protected the French from our cavalry. The banks of these roads
are so steep, and at the same time so imperceptible, that a whole
brigade of dragoons at a canter might be swallowed up without any
previous warning. Many dead horses lay in this hollow way, with their
lifeless riders thrown to a distance, maimed, bruised, or with broken
limbs.

The ascent in front of this position is very steep, but southerly;
where the fourth division attacked, it is of a gentle acclivity.

The bodies of the soldiers of the sixth division lay very thick,
in front of the heights of Calvanet, and also round a fort of the
_maison des Augustins_. Here the Highlanders and English soldiers
were intermixed with the French. The town of Toulouse lay nearly
within point blank range on the west of these heights, from whence we
could see the enemy’s columns under arms at the _têtes-du-pont_ which
protected the various bridges across the canal. They were in a manner
besieged in the town, as the only road left open to them was by a
narrow strip of land south of Toulouse, between the canal and the river
Garonne.

On the night of the 11th the enemy retreated towards Carcassone, taking
the road by St. Aigne, Montgiscard, Baziege, and Ville-franche, to
Castelnaudary.

[Footnote 24: It will always be a matter of surprise to me, how the
sixth division managed to carry the front of so formidable a position
almost single-handed. The following day, while passing over the range
of heights, the firelocks of one of its brigades were piled, and I
counted only five hundred, out of eighteen hundred stand effective on
the morning of the battle. Both brigades suffered enormously in killed
and wounded.]

END OF THE
MEMOIRS OF CAPTAIN COOKE.

AN ACCOUNT
OF THE
BRITISH CAMPAIGN OF 1809,
UNDER SIR ARTHUR WELLESLEY,
IN PORTUGAL AND SPAIN:

BY
THE EARL OF MUNSTER.

NOTICE TO THE READER.

The following Narrative of one of the most brilliant and important
Campaigns of the British Army on the Peninsula, was originally
published, in parts, (commencing in May 1829) in the United Service
Journal, under the head of “A revised Journal of an Officer on the
Staff of the Army.” Though anonymous, it was soon discovered by
internal evidence to be the production of Colonel Fitzclarence—now
Earl of Munster,—who served throughout the whole of the Peninsular
Campaigns, with the exception of that of 1812, when he returned to
England on promotion.

Yielding, in point of fidelity and spirit, to no existing Record of the
Events of which it treats, this soldier-like Sketch is reprinted in a
complete form, as a valuable addition to the Military Memoirs of The
British Army.—EDITOR.

AN ACCOUNT
OF THE
BRITISH CAMPAIGN IN 1809,
UNDER
SIR A. WELLESLEY,
IN PORTUGAL AND SPAIN.

On the 18th of January, 1809, when the last transport, containing the
rear guard of Sir. J. Moore’s army, sailed from the harbour of Corunna,
the British little foresaw that the Peninsula was still to be the arena
for their conquests and renown. None were so sanguine as to hope that
their splendid successes and example should yet cause Europe to regain
the moral feelings she had lost under the long victorious career of
France, or that the latter country was finally to sink under their
exertions.

Neither did Buonaparte suspect, when halting on the confines of the
Galician mountains, and leaving to Soult the easy task of “driving the
leopard into the sea,” that his legions were soon to be checked and
defeated; or that his vaunted representation of the broken-hearted
and dismayed state of the British army, should, by the repulse of
his troops within a few days after in a set battle, become a severe
reflection on the conduct of his own soldiery. Neither Soult nor the
Frenchmen under his command could have supposed, at the same period,
how early the fate of war would create a total reverse in their
hitherto prosperous campaigns; or that their corps, which had led the
advance to Corunna, should soon become the _pursued_, and in a retreat
not less disastrous than that they had just witnessed. But Buonaparte
ever miscalculated, and at this time was wholly unacquainted with, the
perseverance of our national character, or the power of England; and
when he compared her apparent means with those of France, by showing
she had not a million of infantry or one hundred thousand cavalry to
oppose her rival, he had to learn the extent of her vast and boundless
resources, and the determined character of her people.[25]

When this boastful and triumphant comparison was made, the ruler of
France little feared that the refutation of England’s inadequacy
to cope with his power would be proved within seven years, by her
hurling him from the throne, and leading him a captive at her chariot
wheels, or that he should end his days in one of her distant colonies,
in confinement and obscurity! Buonaparte thus considering the army
expelled from Spain as the utmost extent of the means and exertion of
the English as a military people, hastily concluded that they could not
again appear on the continent. He naturally deduced from this, that the
subjection of both Spain and Portugal was the inevitable consequence of
his success in Galicia, and that it only required the time necessary
for their occupation to secure them under Gallic sway.[26]

But how uncertain are the results of human calculation! At the moment
when Buonaparte thought the Peninsula at his feet, the seeds of
discontent sown by that restless ambition, which was urging him on
to his ruin, began to develope themselves in a distant nation. Their
growth to maturity was as rapid as opportune, and created a powerful
diversion in favour of those countries to the southward suffering under
his yoke.

The perhaps necessary employment of the French nation, and of the
military feeling and spirit grown up since the revolution, which
Napoleon fostered, had twice, previously to his invasion of Spain,
caused him to direct his conquests against his most powerful military
neighbour,—Austria.

The last campaign of 1806 left the family of Hapsburg indignant at
their reverses, and on their vanquisher becoming entangled by his
unjust aggression of Spain, they hoped a fit opportunity was offered
for redeeming their character and importance in Europe. If the bold
advance of Sir J. Moore into the heart of Spain, and his demonstration
on Carrion, had made Buonaparte direct the most considerable portion
of his armies on the front or flanks of the English, thus interrupting
for a time, in other quarters, the rapidity of conquest, not less did
the Austrian declaration of war, drawing off a portion of the resources
of France, tend materially to the ultimate advantage of the rightful
cause. Buonaparte was not only personally arrested from overrunning
Spain by his return to France, but from directing a just combination
among his dispersed marshals, which circumstance fortunately allowed
England to regain a firm footing in the Peninsula, and, by the events
of the succeeding campaign, an opportunity of renewing a good feeling
and confidence in the people. Considering the reorganized Austrian as
a more dangerous enemy than the broken Spaniards or expelled English,
Buonaparte, on withdrawing from Astorga, only passed through Madrid,
and returned to Paris. He, however, left (with the exception of the
Imperial Guard, about 15,000 of whom had accompanied him across
the Pyrenees,) his armies entire, under the command of his various
marshals, to complete the subjugation of Spain.

Of these eight _corps d’armée_, (each equal to the whole British army
in Spain in 1809,) which had crossed the frontier, five had co-operated
directly or otherwise against Sir J. Moore. The sixth, commanded
by the gallant Ney, was ordered to remain in and reduce to control
Galicia and the Asturias. The fourth, under Mortier, with a vast body
of cavalry commanded by Kellerman, was to overawe Leon and Castille;
while Victor, with the first corps, was at once to complete the ruin
of the beaten Spanish armies, and to threaten the line of the Tagus,
the south of Portugal, and eventually its capital. The eighth corps,
which had, under Junot, served in 1807-8 in Portugal, and according to
the convention of Cintra been carried to Rochelle, and subsequently
recrossed Spain, and met their old antagonists before Corunna, was
broken up, and its _débris_ added to the second corps under Soult.[27]

This force was intended to take the active part of the campaign against
Portugal, which country was to be immediately attacked, the orders to
that effect being received within ten days after the embarkation of the
British. So certain was Buonaparte of Soult’s conquest, that he fixed
the 5th of February for the arrival of his troops at Oporto—and the
16th of the same month for his triumphant entrance into Lisbon!

The army under Soult consisted of 23,500 men, of which 4,000 were
cavalry, divided into ten regiments. It was accompanied by fifty-six
pieces of cannon. Besides these troops, a division under Gen. Lapisse
was to be pushed south from Salamanca to invade Portugal, by the way of
Almeida, at the same time becoming a point of communication between the
corps of Victor and Soult.

The army of the latter General advanced to the southward, through
Galicia, by several routes, but the principal part, with the artillery,
marched through St. Jago. His directions were to invade Portugal along
the sea-coast, and, with that view, he attempted to cross the Minho at
Tuy, but failing, was forced to proceed up the right bank of the river
as far as Orense, where he crossed that barrier. Besides the great loss
of time from this disappointment and change of route, the army was much
detained by the opposition of the peasantry and the remains of Romana’s
dispersed army, and it was only on the 10th of March it was able to
enter Portugal, by the valley of the Tamega.

Though Soult met considerable opposition from Gen. Silveira,[28] the
French army reached and captured Chaves on the 12th, and Braga on
the 20th, after defeating a corps of Portuguese troops under Baron
Eben; and nine days subsequently, forced the entrenched lines covering
Oporto, having been more than seven times longer on their march than
had been calculated by Buonaparte. The next day Gen. Franceschi, with
several regiments of cavalry, was pushed on to the banks of the Vouga,
where he established his posts opposite those of Col. Trant, who had
collected a few troops and ordenança, and a corps of volunteers,
formed of the students of the University of Coimbra, who gave up their
literary pursuits for the defence of their country. The division of
Gen. Mermet was cantoned in Villa Nova, with the 31st regiment in its
front in support of the cavalry. Soult’s corps had been diminished
upwards of 3,000 men within the two months occupied in its march,
having left great numbers of sick at Chaves and Braga. Although it
had overcome all opposition, its chief found himself in an isolated
position, shut out from all intercourse with the other French corps,
and his difficulties increasing every day, as he was obliged to
separate and detach a considerable portion of his force to subdue the
country, and attempt to open his communication with Lapisse.

But, however insecure and critical his post, it was likely to become
more immediately endangered by the activity of the British, whose
Government, far from being discouraged at the result of the preceding
year, was employed in preparation for a hearty prosecution of the
contest. At the moment the British army withdrew from Corunna, the
troops left in the Peninsula, including a brigade under Brigadier-Gen.
Cameron, (which had advanced to the north-east frontier of Portugal,)
the 14th Light Dragoons, and the sick, convalescents, and stragglers
of Sir J. Moore’s army, did not consist of above 7,000 men, under the
command of Sir J. Craddock, at Lisbon. The want of information was
great, and the state of alarm so exaggerated, that the advance of the
French on that capital was daily expected. The artillery and cavalry
were embarked, and the forts of St. Julien and Bugio dismantled, to
prevent their guns being turned upon the ships while withdrawing from
the Tagus.

The Portuguese felt the danger in which their country was placed,
and the Regency called upon the people to rise _en masse_. They had
little else than the populace to oppose the invader, as the same
principle which had instigated the march of the Spanish corps under
Romana to Denmark, had been acted upon with the only respectable part
of the Portuguese army. These had been sent into France under the
Marquis de Lorna, and suffered a harder fate than the Spanish troops,
the greater part of whom, by aid of the English fleet, returned to
fight their country’s battles, while the miserable remnant of the
Portuguese perished at Moscow, under the appellation of the “_Légion
Portugaise_.” The remaining regular troops were scarcely to be
considered as organized, and those under Silveira, though actuated by
the best spirit, were little better than the rest. One regiment of two
battalions, called the Lusitanian legion, raised by Sir R. Wilson at
Oporto, was an exception to the general inefficiency, it having made
considerable progress in discipline and order. Sir Robert had proceeded
with the first battalion to the frontier opposite Ciudad Rodrigo, while
the other, under Baron Eben, had been engaged in the defence of the
Tras os Montes, and in the entrenchments around Oporto.

But this inefficient army had a probability of being regenerated.
Scarce had the fleet returned from Corunna, when the British Government
evinced its conviction that the Spanish and Portuguese cause was not
hopeless, and, with a view to make the latter aid in their own defence,
sent General Beresford with twelve or fourteen officers from England to
re-organize and form their army. This determination being made so soon
afterwards, and before the despondency of the failure at Corunna had
worn off, was much ridiculed at the time as being too late, and doubts
were expressed if Lisbon would not be in the possession of the enemy
before they could reach the Tagus. This anticipation was not confirmed
by events, and, with the rank of a Portuguese Marshal, General
Beresford, on the 13th of March, issued a spirited address to that
nation, in which he assured them, that they only required organization
and discipline to make them equal to face the invader. How just were
the Marshal’s ideas of their latent martial character, is to be learned
from their brilliant conduct in the ensuing war. Much, however, was to
be done to raise from degradation the military profession in Portugal.
Perhaps in no age or country had it fallen so low. Even among the
Chinese, where civil and literary celebrity is ever sought before that
of arms, it was never so despised, as it had been among our faithful
allies since the war of succession.

In 1762-3, La Lippe had been called in by the Marquis de Pombal, who
formed the army into twenty-four regiments of infantry, twelve of
cavalry, and four of artillery, and which had continued, at least
nominally, till the arrival of Junot. Few of his regulations were
permanent or long respected. During the whole of the latter half of
the eighteenth century, in all the short successive wars, though
occasionally invigorated by fresh disciplinarians from foreign
countries, the Portuguese army never rose above mediocrity. It is
true, but few opportunities were offered of trial, but in 1801, at
Arronches, the scandalous panic that seized the corps commanded by the
Duke d’Alafoes, made them to be considered worse than contemptible. Not
that the people required either physical or moral qualities, as might
be easily proved from their conflicts with the Spaniards: having ever
placed themselves at least upon an equality, in courage and conduct,
with their neighbours. The French, in their progress through the Tras
os Montes, drew a favourable comparison of their bravery with that of
the Spaniards, while it was impossible to see the peasantry and not be
convinced of their bodily strength and capability of bearing fatigue.

The difficulty of creating a Portuguese army lay not with the men
but with the officers, who had sunk so low in the estimation of the
country, of themselves, and of their men, as to be little superior to
the degrading and menial offices, (as when La Lippe arrived in 1792,)
they once filled, of servants in the houses of the nobility. No cause
of improvement had offered itself since those disgraceful times, which
had naturally placed them on terms of the greatest familiarity and
equality with their men. It was no uncommon spectacle to find them in
a common _cabaret_ gambling, if not cheating the soldiers out of the
pay they had just made over to them. It was not less to counteract
this deteriorating cause, than to organize the soldiers, that Gen.
Beresford had taken officers with him from England, whose numbers were
subsequently greatly increased. Those who accompanied him in the first
instance, and some who afterwards joined him, were, with the view to
place British Captains in command of battalions, first raised a step
of rank in their own service, and received another in that of the
Portuguese, when appointed to regiments.

The Marshal established his head-quarters at Thomar, and fairly
grappled with all the prominent difficulties, and, aided by the
example and conduct of the officers placed under his orders, at once
did away the causes of the want of respect and confidence of the men.
The interior economy was strictly investigated, and the regiments
made efficient, not only by British arms and equipments, but by being
subsidized to fight their own battles by the money of England.

Without going farther into detail, it will be sufficient to remark,
that the arrangement and system of the Marshal were so good, and
improvement so rapid in the Portuguese army, that within two months
from the date of his first order, a battalion of the 16th regiment was
brought into collision with the enemy; and if it did not distinguish
itself as much as it did on so many subsequent occasions, it evinced
neither confusion nor dismay. Eighteen months after, the general
conduct of the whole Portuguese army was marked by traits of discipline
and bravery, and even of individual gallantry, which continued on the
increase to the end of the war, and which were most unquestionably
shown on many subsequent occasions, by overthrowing the veterans of
France with the bayonet.

The twenty-four regiments of the line formed by La Lippe had been
broken into two battalions each in 1797, and were continued at that
establishment; as were the twelve regiments of cavalry, of which
not above one-third had been ever mounted. The artillery was placed
under British officers, as well as the other arms. To this the whole
population was to be added, though as irregulars or _ordenanza_, rather
than militia. This force was increased in the course of the next
year, by six regiments of Caçadores, which were, at a later period
during the war, doubled, on their value being duly appreciated. But
England was not less active in sending reinforcements of her own troops
to the Peninsula. Doubts had been once entertained, whether future
operations should be carried on from the south of Spain, rather than
from Portugal; and the first convoy of troops was directed to Cadiz.
On its reaching that port, the besotted Spaniards hesitated, as they
had the year before when Sir D. Baird arrived at Corunna, respecting
the disembarkation of the troops. After some futile negotiations, and
(in consequence of the slow advance of the French,) in the revived hope
of saving Lisbon, the British troops fortunately passed to the latter
place, as the frontier statistics of Portugal are better calculated for
military operations than those of Andalusia.

The first reinforcement that reached the Tagus early in March was
commanded by Lieut.-Gen. Sherbrooke, which was followed in the
beginning of April by another, under Major-Gen. Hill, together
increasing the army to 13,000 men. The arrival allayed much the fears,
and not only allowed Sir J. Craddock to take up a position out of
Lisbon, and cover the great roads that led upon it, with the right on
Santarem, and the left on the Sea, but even to contemplate offensive
operations, and in the middle of April to push the army in advance
towards the North.

In the mean time, the administration at home had determined to give the
command of the army for the defence of Portugal to the same general
officer who had so successfully attacked it the year before, and,
in order to make room for him, Sir J. Craddock was appointed to be
Governor of Gibraltar.

Sir A. Wellesley sailed on the 16th of April on board the Surveillant,
Sir George Collier, from Portsmouth, to which place or to England he
did not again return, until 1814, as Duke of Wellington, when, on his
first arrival from the south of France, his Grace proceeded direct to
the same town—where the Prince Regent was showing to the Emperor of
Russia and the King of Prussia the arsenal and fleet.

The same night the frigate was nearly lost off St. Catherine’s Head in
the Isle of Wight: so imminent was the danger, and so close the ship
to the breakers, that Sir G. Collier desired Sir Arthur to dress, and,
thinking the loss of the vessel certain, advised him to stay by the
wreck as long as possible, this being considered a more probable means
of escape than a premature attempt to reach the shore. The frigate
missed stays more than once: but a fortunate start of wind off the
land prevented her wreck.[29] Even had all escaped with life, but for
this shift of wind, (or rather the never failing happy destiny of Sir
Arthur, who might have desired Sir G. Collier not to despair, while he
had not Cæsar, but Wellesley and his fortunes on board) much valuable
time would have been lost, not only as to striking the blow at Soult,
but by allowing fresh combinations between the distant French Marshals,
and perhaps not giving the opportunity of opposing them in detail.

The entrance of the Surveillant into the Tagus was an interesting
event, when, at a distance of twenty years, it was considered, that
she bore in her bosom the regeneration of England’s military fame,
and that Europe was to date from it the positive commencement of that
formidable and permanent position taken up by our armies, which allowed
its nations to breathe, and subsequently, by our victories over the
common enemy, to break the spell of gloomy conviction, becoming daily
universal, that the French armies were invincible.

Sir Arthur’s landing at Lisbon on the 22nd of April was strongly marked
by the gratifying expression of the people’s feeling; they hailed him
as their former deliverer, and evinced their gratitude by illuminating
the city during his stay. On the 25th Sir J. Craddock, in a farewell
address, bade adieu to the army, and two days subsequently Sir Arthur
took the command, and in his first order changed its staff, placing
Brig.-Gen. Stewart at the head of the Adj.-General’s, and Col. Murray,
3d Guards, at that of the Quarter-master General’s department. The
same day his Excellency went in procession with the royal carriages,
escorted by a squadron of the 16th dragoons, to be introduced to
the Regency, at the palace of the Inquisition in the Roçio, on his
receiving from them the rank of Marshal General.

The state of affairs in the Peninsula at this time was neither
satisfactory nor encouraging. Although Buonaparte had withdrawn from
Spain, his legions, which had passed through Madrid, and witnessed
the replacing Joseph on the throne, had subsequently overthrown all
the Spanish armies. The advanced guard of the Duke del Infantado’s
army under Vanegas had been beaten at Ucles in January, and the army
of Cartojal had met a defeat at Ciudad Real. Cuesta, with the main
Spanish army, after retiring across the Tagus, and taking position at
Almaraz, had allowed his flank to be turned by the bridge of Arzobispo,
and was forced, in consequence, to retreat across the Guadiana, when,
at Medellin on its banks, he was on the 28th of March completely
routed, through the bad conduct of his cavalry. His infantry, who
from their behaviour on this occasion deserved a better fate, were
so completely,—not at the mercy, for none was shown, but—in the
power of the enemy’s cavalry, that their horsemen were worn out with
slaughtering their easily routed victims; and it was reported, many
wore their arms for several days in slings, from having had such
opportunity of using their sabres. The remnant of the Spanish army
took refuge in the Sierra Morena, where attempts were made to recruit
the infantry—the dastardly cavalry, not less disgraced in the action
by their conduct, than after by the General’s notice of it, scarcely
requiring a man. While so little aid was to be expected for the
British from these broken armies, Victor was left with 22,000 men,
in a position threatening the weakest part of Portugal, and, by the
existence of the bridge of Alcantara, both banks of the Tagus.

But in the mean time, Soult’s position at Oporto had become more
critical every day. Vigo had surrendered to the Spaniards, aided by
some English ships, while Silveira had retaken Chaves, with 1,300
sick, and had continued his advance by Amarante to Penafiel. Lapisse
had advanced as far as Ciudad Rodrigo, but, on finding himself opposed
by Sir R. Wilson and the Spanish troops, he made no attempt to
communicate with or join Soult, and, after a little skirmishing, passed
on to join Victor on the Tagus. Soult’s communications were thus wholly
destroyed, and his force had been much dispersed in trying to make them
good; not less than between six and 7000 men having been sent into the
valley of the Tamega and other points. But, although Marshal Soult had
not above half the number of men collected at Oporto that Victor’s army
consisted of, still the British army was not strong enough to oppose
both at once. It became necessary, therefore, to act with vigour on one
point, and the former army being the weakest, and in the Portuguese
territory, while its retreat was endangered, drew the more immediate
attention of the British General. Lest Victor should be enabled to
advance to the south of the Tagus, Sir Arthur lost no time at Lisbon,
and, after a stay of but six days, set out on the 23d for the army,
part of which had arrived at Coimbra. All the towns were illuminated
on the road, and on his Excellency’s arrival at Coimbra on the 2d, in
addition to other demonstrations of joy, the ladies from the balconies
covered him with roses and sugar-plums!

The army was brigaded anew on the 4th of May.

_Cavalry._

MAJOR-GEN. COTTON.

14th Light Dragoons.
20th — —
16th — —
3rd — — King’s G. L^n.

_Infantry._

BRIG.-GEN. H. CAMPBELL.

2 Battalions of Guards.
1 Comp. 5 Batt. 60th Regt.

_First Brigade._

MAJOR-GEN. HILL.

3rd or Buffs
66th Regiment.
48th —
1 Comp. 5 Batt. 60th Regt.

_Third Brigade._

MAJOR-GEN. TILSON.

5 Comp. 5 Batt. 60 Regt.
88th Regiment.
1 Batt. Port^{se}. Grenadiers.
87th Regiment.

_Fifth Brigade._

BRIG.-GEN. A. CAMPBELL.

7th Fusileers.
1 Batt. 10th Port^{se}. Regt.
53rd Regiment.
1 Comp. 5 Batt. 60th Regt.

_Seventh Brigade._

BRIG.-GEN. CAMERON.

9th Regiment
2nd Batt. 10th Port^{se}. Regt.
83rd Regiment
1 Comp. 5 Batt. 60th Regt.

_Sixth Brigade._

BRIG-GEN. STEWART.

1st Batt. Detachments.
1st Batt. 16th Port^{se}. Regt.
29th Regiment.

_Fourth Brigade._

BRIG.-GEN. SONTAG.

2nd Batt. Detachments.
1st. Batt. 16th Port^{se}. Regt.
79th Regiment.
1 Comp. 5 Batt. 60th Regt.

_Second Brigade._

MAJOR-GEN. M’KENZIE.

27th Regiment
45th —
31st —

_King’s German Legion._

MAJOR-GEN. MURRAY.

1 Brigade (2 Regiments)
BRIG.-GEN. LANGWORTH.
2 Brigade (2 Regiments)
BRIG.-GEN. DRIBOURG.

It was subsequently divided into wings under Lieut.-Gens. Sherbrooke
and Paget, and the cavalry placed under Lieut.-Gen. Payne. The same
reasons that pressed the departure of the Commander of the Forces from
Lisbon, accelerated the preparations of the campaign, and advance upon
Oporto. A few days’ delay were, however, necessary to complete the
arrangements, according to the following plan of operations. While
Sir A. advanced with the main force of the army on the enemy’s front,
a corps that quitted Coimbra on the 5th, was intended to move on
the enemy’s left flank and rear. This was to be under the orders of
Marshal Beresford, and consisted of Maj.-Gen. Tilson’s brigade, and
some cavalry. It was ordered to direct its march on Viseu, and across
the Douro, to co-operate with Silveira. This officer was unfortunately
driven from Amarante on the 2d of May, the enemy thus opening to
themselves a practicable route for carriage to the eastern frontier.
Lisbon was to be covered during these northern operations by a corps of
observation, under Maj.-Gen. M’Kenzie, to watch Victor. It was posted
at Santarem, consisting of the General’s own brigade, a brigade of
British heavy cavalry, and 7,000 Portuguese. In his front at Alcantara,
was Col. Mayne, with a battallion of the Lusitanian legion.

On the 6th, opportunity was taken of inspecting that portion of the
army around Coimbra, on some sands two miles from the town. The British
troops appeared in excellent order, and the Portuguese regiments,
though not so soldier-like as their allies, looked better than was
expected, as it was the fashion of the day to hold them in utter
contempt. Their dark olive complexions, and blue single-breasted coats,
gave them a _sombre_ appearance when in contrast with our countrymen,
and it could not be denied that the comparison was to the advantage
of the latter. It was a fine sight, although of the 21,000 British in
Portugal, only 17,000 were present, on account of the two detachment
corps.[30]

On the 7th, part of these troops advanced in two columns on the main
roads towards Oporto, by Adiha on the Vouga, and by the bay of Aveiro
to Ovar. On the 9th, the remainder of the army and head quarters
quitted Coimbra in the same direction. The advance of the French under
Gen. Franceschi had remained on the Vouga, and arrangements were
made for surprising it on the 10th.[31] If the success of this _coup
d’essai_ was to be taken as a sample of our future proceedings, it
would have been unfortunate, as, between the neighing of the horses of
the Portuguese cavalry, and the stupidity of the guides, the enemy were
prepared, and the whole was a complete failure. But for the withdrawing
of the French, and the capture of two four-pounders, we had little to
boast in the scrambling skirmish it produced. We advanced to the spot
where they had been encamped, which was as much chosen for beauty of
situation as strength. We had here the first instance of the trouble
the French took in embellishing their camps; in the centre of the front
they were erecting a pretty wooden obelisk.

On the following day the army advanced on the great northern road, and,
about twelve o’clock, a squadron of the enemy was seen on the skirts
of a wood, in front of a little village. On some three-pounders and
our cavalry advancing against them, they fell back, but showed some
infantry, and our light troops were directed to attack them. This
produced some skirmishing as we continued to advance. The country
was much inclosed; the enemy clung longer to their ground than was
expected, as we only supposed it an affair of posts; but a column of
infantry on a height over the village of Grijon soon convinced us that
it was at least a strong advanced guard. The road here crossed a ridge
of hills, at right angles, covered with olives and fir woods, which
offered a strong position. The ground was not ill chosen, though the
left was without any _appui_. Brigadier Gen. Stewart’s brigade formed
in line to the support of the 16th Portuguese regiment, acting as
skirmishers on the left of the road, while the German light infantry
were engaged on the right. The four battalions of the German legion
brought their left shoulders up, and marched diagonally across to turn
the left, the enemy’s weak point. The skirmishing was very sharp in the
woods, and the 29th regiment was forced to support the Portuguese, who
were once obliged to fall back. At this moment they pushed a column
of infantry down the road through the village of Grijon, which being
reported to Sir Arthur, he replied in the most quiet manner, “If they
come any farther, order the battalion of detachments to charge them
with the bayonet.”

The officers of the staff, many of them at that time young soldiers,
could not help evincing strong feeling on hearing the simple and
distinct manner in which this order was given; but before some months
had passed over their heads, they had opportunities of not only
hearing, but seeing them carried into execution. On this occasion the
alternative mentioned by Sir Arthur did not occur, as, on their flank
being turned, and finding our whole force on their front, about two
o’clock they retired from their position. Our guns were brought up to
bear upon them in their retreat, Brig.-Gen. Stewart put himself at
the head of two squadrons, and trotted after the enemy, who withdrew
their troops with astonishing rapidity. The country was much inclosed
and intersected, and, on nearing the enemy’s rear guard, the cavalry
entered a deep ravine, closely wooded. The French lined the sides
with their light infantry, who opened a close and sharp fire, which,
for a moment, created some confusion, and checked the advance; but on
coming in sight of five companies, drawn up in line in a wider space,
by the exertion and example of the General, the latter led them to the
charge, broke through the enemy, and made above one hundred prisoners.
This rapid movement threw the 31st French regiment off the road of
retreat, and they fell back on Ovar, where finding Maj.-Gen. Hill,
they withdrew, after some skirmishing, to Oporto, during the night.
Thus ended the operations of this day, which were beautiful in their
prosecution and satisfactory in the result.

The enemy’s corps (besides the cavalry engaged the day before on the
Vouga,) consisted of 4 or 5,000 infantry of the division of Mermet,
which had been pushed on to this ground from Villa Nova on the 8th, on
Soult’s hearing of our probable advance. It was the 47^e _de ligne_
that was charged on the retreat, and however valiantly they may have
acted, they cannot be praised for prudence or judgment in forming a
line to receive cavalry.[32] Instead of this, had they vaulted over the
enclosures, or scrambled up the banks, they might have killed every man
of the cavalry without endangering a soldier. One of the privates was
very loud in his attempts to draw notice, and by his vociferation, that
he was the son of a marquis, proved the aristocratic feeling not quite
deadened by the revolution, though the conscription had reached and
levelled all ranks of society. Our loss was under one hundred men: one
officer of the 16th Dragoons received no less than three balls, though
happily none proved mortal.

Our first progress to the front, on the morning of the 12th, showed us
the horrors produced by a war of invasion. Beyond Grijon nine bodies
of unfortunate Portuguese peasants were seen hanging on trees by the
side of the road, blackened in the sun. The common people, naturally
considering the enemy as _hors de la loi_, sought every means, open or
otherwise, for their destruction. This brought on them that retaliation
produced by the military ideas of a regular army, who conceived they
had only a right to be opposed by _soldiers_, and not by the unclothed
and unorganized population. These they considered as insurgents and
brigands, and shot and hung, with as little compassion as we should a
burglar. The exasperation of the French was not wholly uncalled-for,
as the atrocities committed on the stragglers and sick were horrible,
amounting often, besides shocking lingering deaths, to frightful
mutilations.

A hair-dresser who escaped from Oporto in the night, had brought in,
soon after daybreak, the intelligence that the enemy had destroyed
the bridge of boats over the Douro at one o’clock; and the still more
disagreeable information, that all the boats were secured on the other
side the Douro. On the fugitive barber being taken to Sir Arthur by
Colonel Waters of the Adjutant General’s Department, that officer was
instructed to proceed immediately to the banks of the river, and
directed to procure boats, _coute qui coute_.

As we advanced on the high road to Oporto, this report of the
destruction of the bridge was confirmed, and doubts came fast and
thick upon us, respecting the passage of the Douro in the face of an
enemy. On our arrival at Villa Nova, we found General Hill’s brigade
arrived from Ovar, and with the troops of the centre column choking the
streets; through these Sir Arthur threaded his way, and took post on
the right of the town in the garden of the convent of Sierra. From this
elevated spot the whole city was visible, like a panorama, and nothing
that passed within it could be hidden from the view of the British
general. The French guards and sentries were seen in the various parts
of the town, but no bustle was evinced, or even apparent curiosity. No
groups were noticed looking at us, which was afterwards accounted for,
by learning that the French were ordered to remain in their quarters
ready to turn out, and the Portuguese not allowed to appear beyond the
walls of their houses. There were a few sentries in the quays, but none
without the limits or above the town. A line of baggage discovered
retiring beyond the town across the distant hills, was the sole
indication of our threatening neighbourhood.

The passage of a river in the front of an enemy is allowed to be the
most difficult of military operations; and when it became obvious, from
the collection of boats on the other bank, that precautions had been
taken to secure them from us, the barrier appeared insurmountable.
General Murray had been directed to march in the morning to try and
cross the river, about five miles up at Aventas, but having only four
battalions and two squadrons, unless we could aid his successful
passage, he would lie open to defeat; and in consequence our anxiety
was very great to establish ourselves on the opposite bank. In the
meanwhile Colonel Waters (who has since become so distinguished for
his intelligence and activity) had passed up the left bank of the
river, searching for means to cross it, and about two miles above the
city, found a small boat lying in the mud. The peasantry demurred at
going over to the other side to procure some larger boats seen on
the opposite bank; but the Colonel, (from speaking Portuguese like a
native,) learned that the Prior of Amarante was not distant from the
spot, and hoped by his influence to attain his object. This patriotic
priest, on learning the desire of the British, joined with Colonel
Waters in inducing the peasants, after some persuasion, to accompany
the Colonel across, who brought back four boats.

When our doubts and fears were at the highest, this agreeable
information arrived, and was received by all with the greatest
satisfaction, while three companies of the Buffs, accompanied by
General Paget, were immediately conveyed to the other side.

The spot at which they passed over and landed was about half a mile
above the city, at the foot of a steep cliff, up which a zigzag road,
or winding path, led to a vast unfinished brick-building, standing on
the brink. This was intended as a new residence for the bishop, and
placed in the Prado, being surrounded by a wall with a large iron-gate,
opening on the road to Vallongo. It was a strong post, and the three
companies, on gaining the summit, threw themselves into it, as it at
once covered the place of disembarkation, and was for themselves a good
means of defence. Our artillery was posted on the high bank, on the
other side, completely commanding the Prado and the Vallongo road.

Soult had his quarters on the side of the city near the sea, and,
having collected all the boats, as he supposed, on the right bank,
considered himself in perfect security. He thought if we made any
attempt to cross, it would be in conjunction with our ships lying off
the bar, and all his attention was directed to that quarter. He even
turned into ridicule the first report of our having crossed, and
discredited the fact to the last, until it was incontestably proved by
our firing. The boats had made more than one trip before any one in the
town appeared to notice it. Foy has the credit of being the first to
discover our having passed, and he instantly ordered the drums of the
nearest battalion to beat the _general_. We heard the drums beat when
nearly the whole of the Buffs had crossed, and soon saw symptoms of
bustle and confusion in the town, and the French regiments forming on
their parades. This was an anxious moment, and just as the whole of the
Buffs had landed, a battalion was observed moving down a road towards
them. This was the 17th, brought down by Foy, and which was quickly
supported by the 70th. The first made an attack on the Buffs, who stood
their ground, giving a tremendous fire, while our artillery from the
opposite side killed and wounded a great number of the enemy.

More boats, in the mean time, were brought across and more troops; the
48th, 66th, and a Portuguese battalion landed, and not only defended
themselves successfully, but even drove the enemy from the walls,
between the town and the bishop’s palace. This petty success was seen
by Sir Arthur and his staff, who cheered our soldiery as they chased
the enemy from the various posts. The enemy’s troops now came through
the town in great numbers, and obliged our troops to confine themselves
to the enclosure. They continued running along the road towards and
beyond the iron-gate, while our shells and shot were whizzing through
the trees and between the houses into the road as they passed. They
brought up a gun through the gate to batter the house; but this proved
an unfortunate experiment, as our troops increasing in number by fresh
embarkations, (though General Paget was wounded), charged and captured
it. They also brought some guns to bear from the open spaces in the
town, but they were tamely if not badly served. But General Murray had
made good his position on the north bank of the river, and we soon
descried him making as much show as possible, marching with his ranks
open towards the Vallongo road, thus threatening the communication of
the enemy with Loison. He was not, however, strong enough to interrupt
the retreat of 10,000 desperate men; for the French now began to think
of nothing else, and directed their march toward Amarante. On their
deserting the quays, the Portuguese jumped into the boats, which soon
transported across, (amidst the cheers of the people and the waving
of pocket-handkerchiefs by the women from the windows,) the guards
and General Stewart’s brigade, who proceeded through the town with the
greatest speed.

The Buffs, in the mean time, had dashed into the city and cut off
a battery of Light Artillery in retreat, which, becoming jammed
between that regiment, and the 29th received the fire of both, and
was captured. The flight of the enemy was continued, but they were
overtaken by the two squadrons which had passed with General Murray,
led by Brig.-Gen. Charles Stewart, who charged the rear and made 200
prisoners. Major Hervey, who commanded the Dragoons, lost his arm. The
enemy collected their scattered troops at some distance, but continued
their retreat towards Amarante in the night. Our loss did not exceed
120 men, while the enemy, besides killed and wounded, left in our hands
500 prisoners and 1000 sick in the hospitals, and several pieces of
cannon. The city was illuminated at night, and Sir Arthur, without
allowing himself any rest, the same evening gave out an order of thanks
to the army. The operations of the three preceding days had been most
gratifying, and the quickness with which the enemy had been forced
from his various positions and pursued, seldom equalled. The army
had advanced 80 miles in four days, three of which were in constant
presence of the enemy.

Sir Arthur had completely surprised in his quarters one of the most
distinguished French Marshals, and consummated in his face the most
difficult operation in war, that of crossing a deep and rapid river
before an enemy. Nothing can relieve Soult from the disgrace of
this day; and all that has been or whatever may be written in his
defence, can but palliate his want of precaution and fatal security.
The rapidity of Sir Arthur’s own movements had been wonderful; for
within twenty-six days since leaving Portsmouth, Oporto was captured
and the enemy in full retreat. Captain Fitzroy Stanhope, one of the
Commander-of-the-Forces’ aide-de-camps, was sent to England with the
dispatches of this success by one of the ships cruising off the port,
whose crews from the sea had seen the smoke of the firing during the
actions of the 11th and 12th.

The retreat of the enemy was directed upon Amarante, the seizure of
that place from Silveira by Loison, ten days before, having opened them
a loop-hole for escape. But Marshal Beresford, after crossing the Douro
at Pedro de Regoa, had joined Silveira, and on the 11th drove Loison
out of Amarante, and thus closed the road and the enemy’s hopes in that
direction. Loison fell back on Guimaraens by the good carriage-road
that led to Chaves, sending information of his movement to Soult at
Oporto. Soult on his arrival at Penafiel, on the night of the 12th,
received this disagreeable news, and finding himself pressed in so
many directions, and no road open for carriages, determined at once to
destroy the heavy material of his corps and to join Loison across the
Sierra de Santa Catherina, at Guimaraens. Capt. Mellish, who was sent
on the morning of the 13th to Penafiel, confirmed the report which had
reached Oporto, of the destruction of their ammunition-waggons, guns,
and carriages. The cannon had been placed mouth to mouth and discharged
into each other, by trains laid communicating through the mass of
baggage and ammunition waggons.

Want of provisions and uncertainty of the enemy’s route prevented the
advance of the army on the 13th, but the Germans were pushed on with
some six-pounders on the road of the enemy’s retreat. On ascertaining
that the enemy had given up the idea of retreating by Amarante, orders
were sent to Marshal Beresford, to direct his march on Chaves, at which
place he arrived on the 16th, detaching Silveira in the direction of
the enemy’s rear on Ruivaens. On the 14th, the army advanced half-way
on the road towards Braga. Soult collected his army, (the garrison
of Braga retiring on our advance) on the morning of the 15th at
Guimaraens, but finding our troops at Villa Nova de Famillacao, and no
road open for cannon, he destroyed the baggage and the military chest
of Loison’s corps, and in despair took to the Goat-herds’ paths across
the mountain, trusting to the interest, aid, and information procured
by the Bishop of Braga. Their army was in great confusion during the
13th, but the two following days it became totally disorganized. The
paths were so narrow, that but one man could pass at a time, and the
cavalry were obliged to lead their horses, while their column, thus
distressingly lengthened, had the additional misery of incessant
rain that fell in torrents during the whole of this trying period.
The peasantry, happy in revenging the horrors and atrocities of
their enemy’s advance, watched them like vultures, and failed not
to dart upon all who sunk under fatigue; the stones they rolled on
them swept whole files into the abysses, while single shots from the
mountain-tops slew soldiers in the column of march. Their sufferings
met commiseration from the British alone, who had not suffered from the
guilty acts for which they were now receiving retribution.

Their _déroute_ was so complete, that Sir A. Wellesley thought it
unnecessary to follow them with the whole army beyond Braga, which
city he reached on the 16th. The probability of Victor’s threatening
the south was also to be taken into consideration, and he therefore
contented himself in pursuing with some cavalry, the Guards, and
Brig.-Gen. Cameron’s brigade, while the Germans, following the enemy,
even with three-pounders, across the Sierra de Santa Catherina, reached
Guimaraens the same day. The French continued their retreat, and on
the night of the 15th reached Salamonde, where their position was most
alarming. They found one of the bridges on the Cavado, on the road
to Ruivaens, destroyed and occupied, while that called Pontè Nova
only offered a single beam. They, however, surprised and killed the
Portuguese who guarded the last, and this proved the safety of their
army. They restored the troops into some order on the night between
the 15th and 16th, while the bridge was being repaired, which was made
passable by the morning, and allowed them to continue their march
towards Montalegre, leaving a rear-guard at Salamonde. Our cavalry
discovered them about half-past one o’clock, but the Guards did not
arrive until late. The position of the enemy was behind a deep and wide
ravine, accessible only by the road, with their right on the torrent,
and the left upon a ridge of broken mountains. The light troops were
directed to turn this point, and when sufficiently on their flank,
about half past six, the column and two-three-pounder guns, which
had joined from Gen. Murray’s column, were pushed along the road to
attack in front. The enemy, who had placed their pickets, thinking the
cavalry were the only troops up, and hoping to continue all night,
instantly retired from the position, and, as it was almost dark, little
advantage could be taken of the confusion in which they fled, farther
than that of the guns firing on their columns, and the light infantry
pressing them _en tirailleur_. A few prisoners were made, among whom
was an officer. The rain continued incessant, and the miserable village
scarcely allowed cover for a quarter of the troops.

The next morning the disasters of the enemy in their flight of the
night before were fully revealed by the wreck left at and near the
bridge over the Cavado. The bridge had been only partially repaired,
and the infantry were obliged to file, and the cavalry to lead their
horses across. The passage must have been ever dangerous, but the
confusion occasioned by our pursuit and cannonade, and the darkness
of the night, rendered it to a degree hazardous. The rocky torrent of
the Cavado, in consequence, presented next morning an extraordinary
spectacle. Men and horses, sumpter animals and baggage, had been
precipitated into the river, and literally choked the course of the
stream. Here, with these fatal accompaniments of death and dismay, was
disgorged the last of the plunder of Oporto, and the other cities north
of the Douro. All kinds of valuable goods were left on the road, while
above 300 horses, sunk in the water, and mules laden with property,
fell into the hands of the grenadier and light companies of the guards.
These active-fingered gentry soon found that fishing for boxes and
bodies out of the stream produced pieces of plate, and purses and belts
full of gold and silver; and, amidst scenes of death and destruction,
arose shouts of the most noisy merriment.

Soult reached the pass of Ruivaens before Silveira, or his capture
would have been certain; but at that place learning that Marshal
Beresford had arrived at Chaves, he turned the head of his columns
towards Montalegre. The British army being greatly distressed from
fatigue, want of provisions, and bad weather, only advanced a league on
the 17th; but a squadron of cavalry and a battalion of Germans, were
pushed to the bridge of Miserele and Villa da Ponte. On the 18th, the
Guards, Germans, and Brig.-Gen. Cameron’s brigade, pushed on in pursuit
of the enemy, whose track might have been found from the _débris_
of baggage, dead and dying men, (worn down by fatigue and misery to
skeletons,) houghed mules, and immense quantities of cartridges, which
the wearied soldiery threw away to lighten themselves from even the
weight of the balls.

Marshal Beresford had directed Silveira to march on Montalegre, but
he arrived about two hours too late, the enemy having dragged their
weary march along by that town and across the frontier, at twelve
o’clock. This was witnessed by some of our officers, who had pushed
on, and observed their distressed and miserable state. On our arrival
at Montalegre, we saw their retiring columns in march fairly over the
Spanish frontier, and a village on their route in flames. However, Col.
Talbot, of the 14th light dragoons, followed the enemy’s route for
some way, and made prisoners an officer and 50 men. Marshal Beresford
crossed the frontier, but proceeded no farther than Ginso, on hearing
that Sir Arthur had given up the pursuit. The Commander-of-the-Forces,
from the advices received from Gen. M’Kenzie, had become anxious
respecting the line of the Tagus, and, being content with seeing the
enemy across the frontier, desisted from a more northern advance, and
ordered the troops to be cantoned in the nearest villages, wherever
the order might reach them.

Thus ended this short but active operation of twelve days, in which
the disasters of the Corunna campaign were repaid on the corps of
Soult with interest, as the distress and misery of the enemy were more
considerable than we had suffered in the preceding January. Instead
of the fine Gallician road of retreat, they were obliged to file
through mule and even goat-herd paths, while the incessant rain was
more distressing than the snow. The French had not stores and supplies
to fall back upon, but, on the contrary, passed through the most
unproductive wilds in the valleys and mountains. But the difference of
the circumstances of the two retreats marks their degrees of misery.
The peasantry, while friendly to us in Gallicia, evinced, in the Tras
os Montes, every mark of hatred to the enemy, whose cruelties had well
deserved severe retributive justice. This was carried to a distressing
extent, and though it kept the French together, added greatly to the
extent of their loss. Our army was never so disorganized in Gallicia as
that of the French, who could not have attempted to fight a battle at
Montalegre, as we did at Corunna. The loss of men (including Soult’s
invasion and retreat) seems to have been nearly equal; but the enemy,
besides the military chest and baggage, (of which we only sacrificed a
part,) left the whole of their artillery, while we embarked ours safely
at Corunna. But Soult saw that his escape could be alone confined to
his men, and barely avoided capture, if not destruction, by sacrificing
the whole of his _matériel_. The fortunate chance of finding a traitor
in the Bishop of Braga tended to the safety of their retreat, which had
been constantly endangered, and would have been intercepted, had he
continued his march from Salamonde, on Chaves, instead of Montalegre.

Intelligence from the south of Victor’s intention to invade Portugal
had induced Sir A. Wellesley to avoid pushing more troops beyond Braga
than was absolutely necessary, in order that they should be as near
and as ready as practicable, to proceed against Victor. This Marshal,
having been joined by Lapisse, hoping to create a diversion in favour
of Soult, seized, with a corps of 12 to 14,000 men, the bridge of
Alcantara, and pushed his patrols to Castello Branco. This movement
required strict attention, and rendered necessary a more speedy
retrograde movement from the northern frontier than would have been
desired after the fatigues of the troops; but, only allowing two days’
rest at Oporto, they were withdrawn to Coimbra, by the same routes by
which they had advanced. Head-quarters were on the 23rd at Coimbra.
Here the Portuguese regiments, which had acted with us in the Tras os
Montes, were ordered to form the garrison of Oporto. These regiments
had given some hopes of good promise, yet none were so sanguine at this
time as to expect from them their subsequent bravery and efficiency.

Sir Arthur continued his route on the 5th to Thomar, where we found the
heavy brigade, consisting of the 3rd dragoon guards and 4th dragoons,
which had disembarked while we were in the north, and appeared in
excellent condition. Head-quarters were established at Abrantes on the
8th of June, from whence Major-Gen. M’Kenzie, on our advance, had been
pushed forward to Castello Branco; as Victor, finding that Soult’s
retreat had left Portugal free from danger in the north, considered
his own position less tenable, and had withdrawn from the north of the
Tagus. The French army soon afterwards fell back from Caseres upon
Merida and Medellin.

Although it was understood that Sir Arthur’s orders only extended
to the defence of Portugal, yet he felt that these stirring times
required active exertions from all Europe, and that tranquillity was
incompatible with the strides France was making to universal dominion.
The cause of our allies on the spot, and of those more distant,
struggling in Germany, pointed out the propriety of some attempt to
create at least a diversion in their favour. It was evident that, could
arrangements be made with the Spaniards, the disorganization of Soult’s
army offered an opportunity for striking a blow at Victor, and perhaps
at the Spanish capital, particularly as Sebastiani was supposed to be
fully employed in La Mancha. Sir Arthur, in consequence, offered to aid
the Spaniards in a forward offensive movement into Spanish Estramadura.
Such a step appeared the only means of re-establishing the war in the
Peninsula, as the cause of Spain was fast sinking under the superior
troops and management of the French, who, however they might dread the
population, had learned that the armies were incapable of opposing
their progress[33]. Much precious time was wasted in the arrangements
for the necessary co-operation of the two armies, which, but for the
pride and obstinacy of Cuesta, might have been more usefully employed.
It was only after considerable _negotiation_, (an expression perfectly
applicable to the intercourse between ourselves and our allies, though
we had only in view the saving their country,) that it was determined
to make a simultaneous advance into Spanish Estramadura.

In the meanwhile, Victor, who had retreated from the Guadiana, and
withdrawn his army across the Tagus, was evidently falling back to
receive aid from Madrid and La Mancha. The plan for this forward
movement, was the advance of both armies along each bank of the Tagus,
and a junction of the allies in front of the enemy in the plains of
Estramadura. The British were to march to the north of the river by
Coria and Placentia, turning Almaraz and the enemy’s posts facing
Cuesta, while the others were to cross at Almaraz, and to co-operate
with our advancing columns. It was necessary to secure the frontier of
Portugal to the north and north-east, and the passes along the frontier
of that country leading from Castille and Leon, as two _corps d’armée_,
besides that of Soult, were in the north of Spain.

Marshal Beresford, posted near Almeida, was to undertake the first with
the Portuguese army, while Cuesta promised to occupy the Banos pass,
leading direct from Salamanca upon Placentia. The Spaniards engaged
to find means of collecting and furnishing us with provisions. On
the 27th June, head-quarters left Abrantes for Villa del Rey; on the
28th, they reached Cortesada; the 29th, Sarzedas, and Castello Branco
on the following day; and halted the 1st of July. They continued their
march on the 2nd to Zobreira; and the 3rd, passed the frontier to
Zarza Mayor, where they crossed upon the route of the captured Gen.
Franceschi, who, after reaching Spain with Soult’s army, had been taken
in Leon, and was being carried to Seville, fated to die incarcerated
within the walls of Grenada. He was a distinguished officer of light
cavalry, and had been opposed to us not only six weeks before on the
Vouga, but the like number of months antecedently on the plain of
Leon. He was dressed in a hussar’s uniform, and decorated with a star,
bearing an emblem similar to the arms of the Isle of Man, three legs
diverging from a common centre.

The army was here joined by the Lusitanian legion under Sir R. Wilson,
and after halting on the 4th, reached Coria on the 5th, Galestad on the
7th, and Placentia on the 8th. The approach to this city drew forth
the admiration of all. The bishop’s palace and cathedral tower above
the houses, which rise from a bed of verdure, bordered by the river,
while the whole is backed with the most splendid mountains, with silver
tops of perpetual snow. The river above this city is divided into two
branches, which form an island, covered with the finest trees.

The several reinforcements received antecedently to, and during our
short stay at Placentia, rendered necessary a new distribution of the
regiments and brigades. The cavalry were divided into three brigades;
the first, of the 14th and 16th light dragoons, under Sir Stapleton
Cotton; the second, commanded by Gen. Fane, consisted of the 3d dragoon
guards and 4th dragoons; and the third, of the first German hussars,
and 23d light dragoons, led by Gen. Anson.

The infantry was divided into four divisions:—

1st. DIVISION.—LIEUT.-GEN. SHERBROOKE.
BRIG.-GEN. H. CAMPBELL, Guards and 1 Comp. 5 Batt. 60th.
Regiment.
BRIG.-GEN. CAMERON, 61st, 83d. Regiments, 1 Comp. 5 Batt.
60th. Regiment.
BRIG.-GEN. LANGWORTH, 2 Batt. King’s German Legion.
BRIG.-GEN. LOWE, 2 Batt. King’s German Legion.

2d. DIVISION.—MAJOR-GEN. HILL.
BRIG-GEN. STEWART, 29th, 48th Regiments, 1 Batt. Detachment.
MAJ.-GEN. TILSON, Buffs. 48th, 66th. Regiments.

3d. DIVISION.—MAJOR-GEN. M’KENZIE.
1st. Brigade, 24th, 31st, 45th. Regiments.
COL. DONKIN’S Brigade, 5 Comps. 5 Batt. 60th Regt. and 87th
88th Regts.

4th DIVISION.—BRIG.-GEN. A. CAMPBELL.
1st Brigade, 7th, 53d, Regiments, 1 Comp. 5 Batt. 60th Regiment.
2nd Brigade, 2 Batt. Detachment, 97th Regt. 1 Comp. 5 Batt.
60th Regiment.

To these was to be added the Lusitanian legion under Sir R. Wilson,
being the only Portuguese troops employed in this operation.

This distribution into divisions was the first step to the gradual
growth of these corps into little armies, complete in themselves like
the Roman legions, being, (with the sole exception of cavalry,) about
their strength. The light companies of the regiments composing them
were formed into a battalion, which under some intelligent officer,
ever marched at the head, and to which was added a company or more
of the deadly riflemen of the foreign corps, the 60th. These were
the Velites, while the battalions were all worthy to be considered
as Triarii or Principes. They had subsequently artillery, spare
ammunition, and engineer, medical, and commissariat staff attached to
them; and when each was increased in 1810, by a Portuguese brigade,
consisting of a battalion of light infantry, and two line battalions,
they became in themselves superior in numbers to some of the petty
expeditions in which England has often placed her hope, while they
have only wasted her strength. Our whole force of British did not
consist of 18,000 men, principally of men raised by the voluntary
enrolment of the militia.

We learned at Placentia, that the French occupied Talavera de la Reyna,
and were supposed to be waiting for reinforcements from Madrid and La
Mancha. During the concentration of the army at Placentia, Sir Arthur
had his first personal communication with Cuesta at Casa del Puertos.
His Excellency passed in review the Spanish army, and definitively
settled the plan of the campaign.

The British army was to cross the Teitar, and direct its march upon
Oropesa, where it was to form a junction with the Spanish army from
Almaraz, and to advance on Talavera de la Reyna. The cavalry of the
Spaniards under the Duke of Albuquerque, and the division of infantry
commanded by Ballasteros, were to continue and move on the left bank of
the Tagus, and cross that river at the Puente del Arzobispo.

To diminish and separate the enemy’s force, and distract their
attention, General Vanegas from La Mancha was to threaten Aranjuez,
while Sir R. Wilson, who was already on the Teitar, was to have,
besides his own corps, some few Spanish troops, and to act upon their
other flank, and by pushing to and beyond Escalona, make them uneasy
respecting the capital.

Sir Arthur, after having halted eight days at Placentia, moved on
the 17th to Talaquela; on the 18th to Majedas, and on the following
day to Casa de Centinela, across vast plains, occasionally covered
with forests of cork trees. These quarters of the 19th, as the name
indicates, consisted of a single house, which offered such miserable
accommodation, that Sir Arthur, as well as the rest of the staff,
preferred sleeping in wigwams, made with boughs of trees. On the 20th,
while the army pushed on to Oropesa, the heat and the want of water
were so great, that the troops suffered exceedingly, and several
men sank under exhaustion. Here we became an allied army, forming a
junction with the Spaniards, from whom we hoped, however we might
doubt, to receive support and assistance. But the first view of the
infantry considerably damped our expectations, though we were assured
their cavalry, moving across at Arzobispo, were to appearance (for we
had not forgotten their conduct at Medellin) the best of the army. On
further acquaintance, however, our conclusions respecting even this
part of the army were not more favourable than that we had formed of
their sister arm the first day we joined them; as they wanted in
spirit and conduct, what the foot soldiers required in appointments and
organization.

The army of Spain, before the breaking out of the Revolution, though
not so degraded as that of Portugal, had been long declining. Although
the army intended for the coast of Barbary, assembled under Gen. Count
O’Reilley, as late as 1788, was in an efficient state, it had greatly
altered for the worse within the last twenty years. Instead of keeping
pace with the rest of Europe in improvements in the art of war, Spain
had considerably retrograded; and while the two last years had shaken
to pieces the old establishment, the officers educated under it were
incapable of forming a new army.

Although the men were the same as those who, three centuries before,
had raised the Spanish name to the height of celebrity it so well
deserved and so long maintained, they were no longer led by a
chivalrous nobility and gentry. The officers taken from these classes
in the beginning of the 19th century, evinced in their character the
debasing state of the Court and Government.

In July, 1809, it was but the remnant of an organized army, and even
this was only evinced (except in a few regiments) in the appellation
of the corps known to be of long standing. A portion of the
garde-du-corps accompanied this army; the sole remains of the court
establishment of the past Bourbons, whether of France or Spain. It
had been created by Philip V. on taking possession of the throne of
Spain at the beginning of the last century, and consisted entirely of
officers. Those with Cuesta bore cartouch belts of green leather and
silver. Some of the heavy cavalry looked respectable, particularly
the regimento del Rey, the first of dragoons, which, commanded by a
relation of Cuesta, would have passed muster in any army.

The carabineers, a part of the royal guard, and who bore a better
character for conduct in the field than the other regiments of cavalry,
were efficient both in men and horse, as well as in appointments.

A brigade of two regiments of heavy dragoons, one of which was the
regiment of Saguntum, attracted the attention of the British officers,
from being dressed in yellow with cocked-hats, and they looked better
than would be supposed from so singular a costume.

Their light cavalry consisted of Hussars (_Usares_) and Chasseurs,
dressed in all the colours of the rainbow. Little judgment seemed to
have been employed in proportioning the size of the horse to the light
or heavy cavalry, though it must be allowed the Spanish horses offer
little choice, being universally slight, and not so well adapted for
the shock of a charge as for an Eastern irregular kind of warfare.

The Spanish cavalry had a means of turning their jackets and sleeved
waistcoats into a stable dress, by the sleeves, taking off at the
shoulders, being only laced on with a differently coloured cord from
that of the coat; thus, besides being useful, having a good appearance.
Their mode of riding was new to the English; the stirrup leathers
were so long, that they could only touch them with their toe; while
the carabine, hanging perpendicularly along the valise, was equally
novel. Boots were far from universal, and many had in their stead a
kind of leather legging, stiff-fitting, buttoned tight to the limbs,
and formed like a gaiter, coming over the shoe. Many horsemen, however,
were devoid of covering for the legs or feet, and the naked toe was
seen peeping through a sandal, touching the stirrup. Of the infantry,
the Walloon Guards, (consisting principally of foreigners,) and the
Irish brigade, were in the best order. The first, in two or more
battalions, were dressed in dark blue, and broad white lace; while
the uniforms of the latter were light blue. These consisted of the
regiments of Yrlanda, Ultonia, and Hibernia, being the remains of the
Irish Catholic regiments. At this time, although they had no privates,
there were still among them some few officers of that nation. The white
Bourbon uniform had entirely disappeared, and circumstances and economy
had changed the colour of the principal part of the infantry into a
deep chocolate.

But several battalions were, with the exception of the British arms,
little better in appearance than peasantry; and though the major part
of them had chaccos, many could only boast a kind of sandal instead of
shoes, and in lieu of cross, waist-belts, from which hung tubes like
the ancient Bandeleer, lined with tin, each containing a cartridge. Few
had great coats; the generality having blankets, (with a hole in the
middle for the head to pass through,) hanging loose about their person.

Their artillery was good, from attention having been given to it before
the breaking out of the war, but the train was unlike any other in
modern armies, the guns and ammunition-waggons being drawn by mules,
not two abreast, but in teams like cart-horses, without reins, and
under no farther command than the voice of their conductors, who ran
on foot on the side of the road. Their guns were heavy, and among the
field batteries were several of twelve-pounders.

Their _matériel_ for provisions, stores, and baggage was perfectly
inadequate to their army, and ill adapted for their country. Instead of
a large proportion of sumpter mules, they were accompanied by a vast
train of tilted two wheeled carts, carrying little, and with long teams
of mules, lengthening to inconvenience the line of march.

The whole army was said to consist of 7000 cavalry and 31,000 infantry.

But we should not have been dissatisfied with our allies, _malgré_
their appearance, or even their rags, had we felt any reason to confide
in them. The men were evidently capable of “all that man dare,” but the
appearance of their officers at once bespoke their not being fit to
lead them to the attempt. These not only did not look like soldiers,
but not even like gentlemen; and it was difficult, from their mean
and abject appearance, particularly among the infantry, to guess from
what class of society they could have been taken. Few troops will
behave well if those to whom they ought to look up are undeserving
respect; and on this principle we might, at Oropesa, have predicted
coming events, as far as the conduct of the Spanish soldiers was
concerned. But besides their general inefficiency, we found their moral
feeling different from what we expected. The preceding two years had
made a great alteration in the feeling of the nation; the burst of
enthusiasm was but momentary, and being only fed by accidental victory,
soon subsided on a reverse of fortune. Far from their army evincing
devotion, or even the most common courage in their country’s cause,
they were more often guilty, individually and collectively, of the most
disgraceful cowardice.

The inefficiency of the officers spread to the staff, and we hourly
regretted that the revolution had not occasioned a more complete
_bouleversement_, so as to bring forward fresh and vigorous talents
from all classes. The proof that this opinion was just, was evinced
by none of the regular military showing themselves worthy of command.
Indeed, with the exception of a few self-made soldiers among the
Guerillas, who had risen from among the farmers and peasantry, it would
be difficult to point out during the whole war any officer, whose
opinion, even in his own department, or on the most trivial military
subject, was worthy of being asked.

The Cortes ruling for Ferdinand, and continuing the old system, formed
one of the causes of the want of success of the Spaniards. They had
to meet youthful Generals and the fresh energies of France with all
the improvements of modern warfare, by old besotted and prejudiced
Generals, whose armies were formed of obsolete principles, while
the system of an _ancien régime_ of a decrepit Government continued
to cramp every step to improvement. To these were added that blind
pride and self-vanity, which made them still consider themselves what
history and tradition had represented their forefathers and nation. No
proofs of inferiority would open their eyes, and without reflection or
consideration they rushed from one error and misfortune into others,
benefiting by no experience, and disdaining to seek aid or improvement
from those capable of restoring them to efficiency.

Had they placed their armies at our disposal, and allowed the
introduction of the active and intelligent British officers into
command, their regular army might have become as celebrated in
after-ages for the defence of the Peninsula, as the Portuguese or
their own Guerillas; while at present, with the exception of their
irregular warfare and defence of cities, their military character,
during a period so brilliant for their allies, both Portuguese and
British, appears absolutely contemptible. The army which we joined at
Oropesa, in addition to its other drawbacks, was headed by a general as
decrepit in mind as body. To abilities not superior to the most common
intellect he united the greatest fault in a commander of an army, that
of indecision, while every act bespoke his suspicion and jealousy of
his allies and their commander.

Attached to this army was an example, in the person of Lord Macduff,
of one of those gallant spirits, who occasionally shaking off the
indolence of wealth, volunteer to aid some soul-stirring cause. His
Lordship had the rank of a Spanish Colonel.

On the 21st, the two Commanders-in-Chief dined together, and in return
for the military spectacle Cuesta had given to Sir Arthur at Casa
de Puertos, when he visited him from Placentia, the British troops,
with the exception of Gen. M’Kenzie’s division on the advance, were
drawn out in the evening for his inspection. The mounting on horseback
to proceed to the review, showed how ill-fitted was Cuesta for the
activity of war. He was lifted on his horse by two grenadiers, while
one of his aide-de-camps was ready on the other side to conduct his
right leg over the horse’s croup, and place it in the stirrup! Remarks
were whispered at this moment, that if his mental energy and activity
did not compensate for his bodily infirmity, Sir Arthur would find
him but an incapable coadjutor. The Spanish General passed along the
line from left to right, just as the night fell, and we saw him put
comfortably into an antiquated square-cornered coach, drawn by nine
mules, to proceed to his quarters.

On the morning of the 22d, we came in sight of the town of Talavera
de la Reyna, which has since become so celebrated in English history.
The town, seen about three miles distant, was embosomed in trees and
inclosures, while the scarped hills on the right marked the course
of the Tagus. The inclosures ended about a mile to the left of the
town, joining some low, open, undulating hills, which stretched to
some valleys and higher ridges. This open country communicated with
an extensive plain in front of the town, across which passed the road
from Oropesa, being gradually lost as it approached Talavera in the
vineyards and woods. In the midst of this plain were posted about
800 or 1000 French cavalry, who, with the utmost indifference, were
dismounted, feeling assured that a few skirmishers would check the
advance of the Spanish cavalry in their front. These, under the Duke
d’Albuquerque, had crossed the Tagus at the Puente del Arzobispo,
and had arrived early opposite the French advance. Instead of being
anxious to show their Allies their activity when at so little cost,
being five or six times more numerous than the enemy, they made no
attempt to drive them in, but contented themselves with deploying
into several long lines, making a very formidable appearance. With
feelings of astonishment we rode on to the skirmishers, who consisted
of mounted Guerillas, dressed like the farmers of the country. We
expected to see them closely and successfully engaged, having heard
they were peculiarly adapted for petty warfare; but we found them
utterly incapable of coping with the enemy’s _tirailleurs_, who were
driving them almost into a circle. They were so careless and inexpert
in the use of their arms, that one of them nearly shot, by accident, an
English officer near him.

The Spaniards (from the commencement) thus continued skirmishing
for four hours,[34] until Gen. Anson’s brigade arrived, which they
allowed at once, and as a matter of course, without any reference or
notice, to pass through the intervals of their squadrons; at the same
time these heroes notified their own want of efficiency and spirit,
by acknowledging and paying tribute to both in their allies, by a
profusion of _vivas!_

On our advancing, the French drew off to the left of the town along the
open ground, skirting the inclosures, and exchanging shots with our
skirmishers. The Spaniards kept to the right along the great road, and
could scarcely be brought by the intercession of British officers to
enter the town, from whence they learned a body of 4 or 500 infantry
had just retired. Brig. General Charles Stewart, who happened to be
on the spot, persuaded their officers to follow their retreat along
the fine Madrid road, which was one hundred and fifty yards wide. The
enemy were overtaken retiring in two small columns, and to the attack
of one General Stewart led the Spanish cavalry. The result, as indeed
all we saw on this day of our allies, was a proof of their total want,
not only of discipline, but of courage. On this and two succeeding
attempts, (to which the English general headed them), on receiving the
enemy’s fire, when the principal danger was past, they pulled up and
fled in every direction; yet in Cuesta’s account of this affair, he
called it an “_intrepid charge_.”

Cruelty and cowardice are ever combined, and these same Spaniards who
had thus avoided closing with the unmaimed enemy, murdered in cold
blood a few wounded and dying men their column left in the road when
they retired, who were struck down by the artillery which was brought
up after the cavalry’s repulse. Their barbarity was even heightened by
accompanying each stab with invectives and comments on their victims’
never again seeing their homes or Paris. On the left the enemy retired
before our cavalry, about four miles beyond the town. Anson’s brigade
made an attempt to charge about 1,500 of their cavalry, but they were
found unassailable, having taken post beyond the bed of the Alberche,
which, running for about two miles at right angles with the Tagus,
empties itself into that river. The enemy allowed them to come close,
and then opened a fire of four guns and two howitzers, which occasioned
some small loss before they could withdraw out of fire. One of the
horses of this brigade, the hip and leg of which was carried off, and
its entrails trailing on the ground, recovered itself on three legs,
and tried to take its place again in squadron.

The enemy had tirailleurs in the underwood near the river, and were
very jealous of its banks, opening a fire of artillery on all who
showed themselves. Sir Arthur and head-quarter staff came unexpectedly
in the afternoon under a fire of some light guns on the right in front
of the Spaniards, and one of several four-pound shots whizzed close
over the General’s head. The troops were ordered to bivouack in the
neighbourhood of Talavera, and General M’Kenzie’s division was pushed
on to the front in the neighbourhood of an old ruined building, at the
angle of the Alberche, where it turned east. It was evident that the
enemy were in force on the opposite side of the river; and a ridge
of hills, above 800 yards from the bank, sloping towards it, offered
them a very suitable defensive position. Its left rested on the Tagus,
and its right was secured by the turning of the Alberche, and some
difficult wooded ridges beyond. Their strength could not exceed 23,000
men, being the troops which had fallen back from the south of the
Tagus, not having been joined by any troops from Madrid or Aranjuez.

We fully expected a battle on the following day, and about twelve
o’clock on the 23rd, the first and third division got under arms, and
advanced in the direction of the enemy’s right, while the rest of the
army were ready to move at a moment’s notice; but, unfortunately,
Sir Arthur had to overcome the wavering conduct of his confederate
General, who appeared quite unaware of the use of time or opportunity
in military operations. He could not be brought so to decide on
attack, that Sir Arthur could feel secure of the Spaniards making a
simultaneous attack with his army, or that the British might not be
left to gain the day alone. The bivouack of Cuesta was on the road to
Madrid, about three-quarters of a mile from the Alberche, where, on the
cushions taken out of his carriage, he sat, the picture of mental and
physical inability.

Two soldiers stood near to aid or support him in any little necessary
operation, and the scene would have been ridiculous had it not been
painful, as we saw the tide, which, “when taken at its flood,” might,
nay, would “lead us on to fortune” and victory, fast ebbing, without
our taking advantage of it. After considerable suspense, it was
universally reported throughout the army, that on being pressed and
driven to his last excuse, Cuesta pleaded that it was Sunday, at the
same time promising to attack at daylight the next morning; and our
troops were in consequence ordered back to their bivouacks. It may be
fairly considered that pride had considerable weight on this occasion.
Cuesta was a true Spaniard, and disliked the suggestion of an English
general in his own country, and, with recollections of two hundred and
fifty years before, could not bring his ideas down to present changes
and circumstances. These feelings were national, and ever evinced, and
it was only very late in the war, after the Spaniards found they had
not an officer to lead their armies, and they despaired of finding
one, that they consented to place Sir Arthur at their head. Sir Arthur
deserves as much credit for keeping his temper during his six years’
intercourse with the Spanish Government and officers, as for the
general conduct of the war. When we reflect on promises broken and
engagements violated, involving the safety of his army, the honour of
his character, and his credit as an officer, and yet know of no quarrel
that extended (if any existed) beyond correspondence or negotiation,
future ages are bound to give our Commander credit for unbounded
placidity of temperament.

Though sorely annoyed by this determination, the officers could not
let pass without ridicule the incongruity we had observed within the
last three days in the old gentleman’s proceedings. It was impossible
not to notice the Spanish General going out to battle, to within half
a mile of the advanced-posts, in a carriage drawn by nine mules, and
the precautions to preserve him from the rheumatism, like those taken
by delicate ladies, in our humid climate, at a _fête champêtre_, in
placing the carriage cushions on the grass. To these the Spanish
Commander-in-Chief was supported by two grenadiers, who let him drop
on them, as his knees were too feeble to attempt reclining without
the chance, nay certainty, of a fall. Yet this was the man to whom the
Cortes had entrusted their armies, but who ought (if he did not himself
feel his own inability), to have been removed without a moment’s delay
after the first trial. They had only one excuse; the year before had
made common honesty a virtue, and they forgot every other requisite, in
a desire to avoid treachery.

We began, however, to have some hope on the evening of the 23rd, when
orders were delivered out for attack the next morning at daylight.
General Sherbrooke was to move at two in the morning, while the
remainder of the army was to rendez-vous in rear of the third division,
at the angle of the Alberche. The British column of attack, with the
third division at its head, supported by General Anson’s brigade, and
followed by the first, second, and fourth divisions, was to attack the
enemy’s right, the Spaniards were to force the troops on the heights
crossed by the road to Madrid, while the remainder of the British and
the whole of the Spanish cavalry were to cross the river on the open
ground in the enemy’s front. No drums or trumpets were to sound. The
columns for attack were formed before daybreak on the 24th, and the
left column, which was to cross the river and ascend the heights round
the enemy’s right and opposite the village of Casaleguas, was already
on its march, when it was discovered the enemy had retired during the
night.

While this event proved the effect of procrastination in warfare, it
was to be deeply lamented on every account. The enemy, the day before,
not consisting of above 22,000 men, had most imprudently offered us
battle before the reinforcements from Madrid or la Mancha had reached
him, and, if he had been attacked, must have been annihilated. We had
near 18,000 British and 36,000 Spaniards, of whom 10,000 were horse,
and, the position once forced, they would have had to retire across
an open plain of many leagues, pursued by a victorious enemy and a
superior cavalry.

Colonel Delancey had gained and continued in the rear of the enemy all
night, and joined us at daylight with a French officer he had taken. We
entered their variously-hutted camps across the river, which we found
arranged with comfort and taste. Their army, on arriving from the line
of the Tagus, had found the ripe wheat standing, and, regardless of its
value, had not only thatched, but made whole huts, with the corn in the
ear, which, hanging down, shed the grain on the ground as we passed
along and between them. They had built with boughs of trees an immense
_Salle de Spectacle_, and formed, by cutting down and removing the
largest olive trees, and sticking their pointed ends into the ground,
an avenue, leading up to it, of some length—an act more wanton and
reprehensible than that of taking the unthrashed corn, as the fruit of
the olive is not produced under several years’ growth.

Shy as Cuesta was of coming to blows with the enemy when in his
front, he became most anxious for his pursuit when at a distance and
in retreat. Without considering that Victor was only falling back on
reinforcements, he ordered his army to advance, (as if the French were
in full retreat for the Ebro,) and established his posts on the 25th at
Torrijos. Had not the English General taken quite a different view of
the subject, it would have been most imprudent, if not impossible to
advance, as provisions began to fail us. The Spaniards, far from aiding
our commissariat, took no precautions whatever to prepare food for
18,000 additional mouths, and our position threatened to be untenable
for want of food.

Sir Arthur, in consequence, declined making any forward movement, and
contented himself with pushing two divisions of infantry across the
Alberche, and posting them at Casaleguas. In the meanwhile the enemy
were concentrating their various corps. The reserve, and the Guards
from Madrid left that capital with King Joseph on the 22d at night,
and joined the 4th _corps d’armée_, under Sebastiani, at Toledo. These
united on the 25th, between Torrijos and Toledo, with the corps under
Victor, and formed an army of 45 to 48,000 men, after a garrison of
2,000 had been left in Toledo. This small force was sufficient to cover
any advance of the Spaniards from La Mancha, as Vanegas frittered away
the time to no purpose, while Madrid was overawed by General Belliard,
entrenched in the Retiro.

On the junction of these armies, Cuesta saw too late his mistake in
so inconsiderately advancing from the neighbourhood of the British,
and before he could withdraw his most advanced corps, became engaged
with the enemy. The cavalry Regiment of Villa Viciosa, drawn up in an
enclosure surrounded by a deep ditch, with but one means of egress,
was hemmed in by the enemy and cut to pieces, without a possibility of
escape. A British officer of Engineers saved himself by his English
horse taking at a leap the barrier which surrounded the Spaniards, and
which their horses were incapable of clearing. The Spaniards, on the
26th, fell back towards the Alberche and Talavera, in such confusion
that it can only be compared to a flight, while the enemy followed with
the evident intention of bringing the Allies to battle.

Every one now felt its approach, and some little preparations were
made to strengthen a position which Sir Arthur had selected, resting
on Talavera. These consisted in placing some of the Spanish heavy
guns in battery on the main road, in front of the Madrid gate, and
throwing up some barricades on the different approaches to the town. A
breastwork was commenced on a small rising ground in a little plain,
at the spot where the flanks of the British and Spanish would unite,
about the centre of the Allied army. These were the only attempts at
entrenchment, and the last was not completed. All the troops were
ordered to hold themselves in readiness to move at a moment’s notice.

On the 27th the British cavalry were ordered to the front, to cover the
retreat of the Spaniards and of our own divisions across the Alberche.
About mid-day the enemy’s army began to show itself, and while our
cavalry withdrew to the right bank of the river, in the open ground,
the 5th division fell back from Casaleguas, through a woody country,
to the same spot, near an old ruined house, the Casa de Salinas,
which they had occupied before the enemy retreated. Before re-crossing
the Alberche, they set fire to the old hutted camps of the enemy, the
smoke from which rose so thickly as completely to hide from view the
country beyond and to the west of the village of Casaleguas. The two
brigades of the 5th division lay upon their arms in front of this ruin,
the highest part of which overlooked the surrounding trees, offering
a view of the country. Sir Arthur dismounted, and, leaving his horse
standing below, scrambled with some difficulty up the broken building,
to reconnoitre the advancing enemy. Though ever as gallant, we were by
no means such good soldiers in those days as succeeding campaigns made
us, and sufficient precautions had not been taken to ascertain what
was passing within the wood (on the skirt of which the division was
posted,) and between it and the ford below Casaleguas.

But the enemy had crossed, under cover of the smoke from the burning
huts, a very large force of infantry, and, gradually advancing, opened
a fire so suddenly on our troops lying on the ground, that several men
were killed without rising from it. This unexpected attack threatened
the greatest confusion, little short of dismay, but the steadiness
of the troops, particularly the 45th, prevented disorder, and gave
time for Sir Arthur and his staff to withdraw from the house and mount
their horses. Sir Arthur’s escape, may, however, be considered most
providential. The troops were withdrawn from the wood into the plain,
but after we had lost many officers and men. As this was the enemy’s
first attack, and might, by our withdrawing, be considered successful,
it was peculiarly unfortunate, from adding to the enemy’s confidence
in attacking our army. These two brigades, being supported by General
Anson’s cavalry, gradually fell back towards our army.

The enemy now crowded the heights, extending from Casaleguas to the
Tagus, with vast bodies of troops, accompanied with quantities of
artillery. These crossed at the various fords on the Alberche, to the
plain west of it; while some of their cavalry, in the loosest order,
came in crowds through the woods, following our advanced corps as they
gradually withdrew to our position, of which, as we approached the
chosen ground, the principal features began to show themselves. Their
horse artillery soon overtook us in our retreat, and opened a heavy and
constant fire, particularly of shells, under which the troops formed
on their ground. As the enemy closed on our position, our different
divisions were seen hurrying to the post assigned them, which formed
the left wing of the Allies; and some anxiety was felt for the arrival
of the troops who were to defend a towering height, which, it was
evident, would be the key of the position.

The men, as they formed and faced the enemy, looked pale, but the
officers, riding along their line, only of two deep, on which all our
hopes depended, observed they appeared not less cool and tranquil than
determined. In the mean while the departing sun showed by his rays the
immense masses moving towards us, while the last glimmering of twilight
proved their direction to be across our front towards the left, leaving
a sensation of anxiety and doubt if they would not be able to attack
that point even before our troops, which had not yet arrived, were up.
The darkness, only broken in upon by the bursting shells and flashes
of the guns, closed quickly upon us, and it was the opinion of many
that the enemy would rest till morning. But this was soon placed beyond
doubt, by the summit of the height on our left being suddenly covered
with fire, and for an instant it was evident the enemy had nearly, if
not completely, made a lodgment in our line. This attack was made by
three regiments of the division of Ruffin, the 24th, 96th, and 9th, but
of which, the enemy say, the last only reached the summit, the very
citadel of our position.

They had marched, without halting, up the rise of the hill, and came
upon the German Legion, who had, having been informed they were to the
rear of General Hill’s division, and believing they were in a second
line, lain down on their arms, and when the enemy topped the hill, _en
masse_, many were asleep. But General Hill’s corps had not arrived, and
the Germans were first roused by the enemy seizing them as prisoners,
or firing into them at _brûle-pourpoint_. The flashes of the retiring
fire of the broken and surprised Germans marked the enemy’s success,
and the imminent danger of our army. General Sherbrooke, posted in the
centre, with the promptitude required in such an emergency, ordered
the regiments of the brigade next to the Germans to wheel into open
column, and then, facing them about, was preparing to storm the hill,
with the rear-rank in front, when the brigade of Gen. Donkin by a
brilliant charge restored the height to its proper owner, also driving
the French from the top of the hill into the valley, with immense
loss, and the colonel of the 9th regiment terribly wounded. A second
attack was afterwards repelled by the timely arrival of the division
of Gen. Hill, Colonel Donkin’s brigade having taken ground to its
right. There was some fear that the enemy, when the Germans had been
driven back, had carried off the only heavy guns we had with our army,
but fortunately they had been withdrawn at dusk from the brow of the
hill. Major Fordice, of the Adj.-Gen. department, an officer of great
promise, fell in retaking these heights, with many valuable officers
and men.

After this attack was repulsed, the enemy remained quiet, awaiting
the morn which was to decide the fate of the battle. The British
light infantry was thrown out to the front, with sentries still more
advanced towards the enemy. This necessary precaution, coupled with
the inexperience of our troops, principally militia-men, produced a
heavy loss, from the jealousy they felt of all in their front, after
this night attack. This was increased by the constant word “_stand up_”
being passed along the line, and on more than one occasion it led to an
individual soldier firing at some object in his front, which was taken
up by the next, and so passed, like, and to appearance being a running
wildfire, down the front of one or more regiments, till stopped by the
officers. In this, the troops unfortunately forgot their light infantry
in front, and many brave officers and men fell a sacrifice to the fire
of their comrades; amongst them was Colonel Ross of the Guards.

The Spaniards were not less on the alert than ourselves, but their
anxiety not only extended to firing musquetry, but to salvos of the
cannon placed in front of Talavera. On one occasion this was said to
have originated from a cow having got loose and cantered up to their
line. Our troops, however, stood firm to their ground, while regiments
of the Spaniards, after giving a volley, quitted their position and
fled through the gardens and enclosure, bearing down all before them,
and were only brought into line again by degrees. One of these alarms
about midnight, in front of Talavera, was so great, that a large
portion of the troops posted in the front, left their ground, and
rushed through the town, and in the midst of the crowd of fugitives was
seen a certain square-cornered coach, the nine mules attached to it
being urged to the utmost; implying that its inmate was as anxious to
escape as the meanest in the army.

Sir Arthur, surrounded by his staff, slept, wrapped in his cloak, on
the open ground, in rear of the second line, about the centre of the
British army. A hasty doze was occasionally taken, as more continued
rest was disturbed by alarm of different kinds,—while the reflections
of others kept them waking. The bustle of the day had prevented a
review of our situation, but, on being left to our own thoughts, it
was impossible not to reflect on the awfully approaching crisis. We
could not but feel that here was to be another trial of the ancient
military rivalry of England and France; that the cool, constitutional,
persevering courage of the former was again to be pitted against the
more artificial, however chivalrous, though not less praiseworthy,
bravery of the latter. This view of the relative valour of the two
nations cannot be questioned, if we consider that the reminding the
British of this moral quality is wholly unnecessary, and instead of
language of excitement being constantly applied to our soldiery, that
of control, obedience, and composure is solely recommended; while our
ancient opponents are obliged incessantly to drive into the ears of
their men, that they are nationally and individually the bravest of
the human race. Hearing nothing else so flattering to their unbounded
vanity, they become so puffed up by this eternal stimulant, as to be
fully convinced of its truth, which, in consequence, makes their first
attack tremendous.

Buonaparte, being aware of this weak point in their character, fed
it in every way, and the object of wearing a paltry piece of enamel
gained him many battles. But this sort of created courage is not
capable of standing a severe test, and the French have always been in
their military character more Gauls than Franks; and what Cæsar said
of the former eighteen centuries ago, is still applicable to the races
now occupying their fine country. If stoutly opposed at first, this
kind of courage not only diminishes but evaporates, and has, does, and
will, ever fail before that of the British. As soldiers, taking the
expression in its widest sense, they are equal, if not superior, to us
in many points; but on one, that of individual constitutional courage,
we rise far superior to them. It is remarkable how often they evince a
knowledge of this, and in nothing more than their subterfuges of all
kinds to keep it from resting on their minds. All France, aware of this
inferiority, by all species of casuistry attempts to conceal it; and in
order not to shock their national vanity, they blame every unsuccessful
officer opposed to us, even should his dispositions be ever so good,
and such as might, but for the courage of our men, have succeeded.

Buonaparte’s conduct, after Vittoria, was directed to work on this
feeling, and, by sacrificing the officers to the self-vanity of the
troops, established for a time the _moral_ of the army, by making
those who had fled like sheep at Vittoria, fight us again, though
unsuccessfully, with renewed spirit. Besides the bravery of the two
nations, no less was the plain of Talavera to try the merit of two
systems, and prove the value of different means and education in
forming a powerful and efficient military. It was not only to be shown
if a chivalrous enthusiasm, and a confidence founded on vanity was
to overcome natural and patriotic courage, but if a sense of duty,
inculcated by a real discipline, was to sink under feelings created by
an absence of control and a long train of excess and military license.
It was whether an organized army, worthy of a civilized period, and
state of warfare, should not overcome a military cast grown up in the
heart of Europe, (from the peculiarity of the times and circumstances,)
little better than the Bandits led by Bourbon to the walls of Rome
in the sixteenth century. The system on which the French armies were
formed was so demoralizing and pernicious in its effects, that the
army of Buonaparte ought not to be considered as the national force of
France, but that of a conqueror, like Ghenghis Khan, or Tamerlane, of
a more civilized age and quarter of the world. Like those scourges,
the ruler of the French existed by upholding that soldiery the times
had first created, and which his ambition subsequently fostered, and,
in perpetuating their attachment to his person by leading them to
victory and plunder; in consequence, robbery was not only overlooked
but permitted, and an economist of the French army has since dared in
print to excuse its atrocities. This, it is true, is written by one
of the revolutionary school, but it will be, (as long as the work is
read,) a perpetual disgrace to the army whose acts he records.[35]
All discipline sank under this state of things. Coercion was neither
necessary nor prudent, where the views of all were directed to the same
lawless objects; and the military code was rather a bond of union and
companionship, fostering a spurious glory, or ambition, and a thirst
and hope of reward in unshackled military license and execution, than a
collection of laws respecting the rights and claims of human nature.

The quickness and intelligence of the French soldiery pointed out the
necessity of an obedience to their officers, whom they considered as
leading them to objects equally desirable to all; and thus actuated,
far from having to receive orders, they readily anticipated them. A
Bedouin robber does not require the positive commands of his chief to
do his utmost to destroy the guards, or to plunder the camels of a
caravan; and no more did the French, with gain or impure military fame
in view, require farther stimulus or direction.

But these various causes so suited the French, that they had the
effect, since the Revolution, of raising their armies to the summit
of fame, while their successes over the continental troops had made
them universally dreaded. They felt this, which increased their
confidence; and the army before us, sleeping on the opposite side of
the ravine, was strongly imbued with this impression, being formed of
the fine regiments of the Italian army, who had so often conquered
under Buonaparte, and subsequently marched from one victory to another.
Neither the corps of Victor nor Sebastiani, nor the guard or reserve
under Desolles, from Madrid, had formed parts of the armies defeated by
us at Vimiera or Corunna, nor had any recollections of our prowess to
shake that good opinion of themselves, in which the principal strength
of the French armies consists.

Though no fears could be entertained for the result, dependent on the
brave fellows lying around us, we could not but regret that they were
not composed of troops as fine as those who accompanied Sir John Moore.

We could not hide from ourselves that our ranks were filled with young
soldiers, being principally the second battalions of those English
regiments which had embarked at Corunna, and consisting of draughts
from the militia that had never seen an enemy. With the exception of
the Guards and a few others, there were more knapsacks with the names
of militia regiments upon them, than of numbered regular regiments.
Indeed we felt, no contrast could be stronger than that of the two
armies. The ideas of England have never run wild on military glory.
We more soberly consider our army rather as a necessary evil than an
ornament and boast; and as an appeal to brute force and arms is a proof
of barbarism, so ought the general diffusion of the former sentiment
in a community to be viewed as conclusive evidence of advance to
civilization and intelligence; and instead of directing the talents,
or drawing forth the best blood of a people to be wasted in the field,
a well-wisher to his country ought to desire them to be retained at
home for the general advantage. But, however secure in ourselves, we
recollected that we formed but one-third of the Allied army, and
that 36,000 men lay in the same line, every action of whom had led
us to consider them as more likely to occasion some common reverse
than a happy termination to our operations. We were convinced that if
attacked, even in their strong and almost impregnable position, it was
most likely to be attended by their immediate flight, which would leave
the whole of the enemy to direct his efforts upon us single-handed. In
addition, a certain degree of coolness had grown up between the two
commanders; and Sir Arthur must have felt that the weakness of his ally
by his side was not less to be dreaded than the strength of his enemy
in his front. The prospect on the eve of the 28th July, 1809, was thus,
though far from hopeless, by no means one of encouragement or sanguine
expectation.

The rest of all the officers lying around Sir Arthur was hasty and
broken, and interrupted by the uneasiness of the horses held at a
distance, and the arrival of deserters, a few of whom came over during
the night. They generally informed us, that we were to be attacked at
daylight, and that the corps that stormed the hill had consisted of
6000 men. Our glances were constantly directed towards the point from
whence the sun was to rise for the last time on many hundreds who were
here assembled within a mile around, while Sir Arthur, occasionally
asking the hour, showed he looked for daylight with as much anxiety
as any of us. Just before day, we quietly mounted our horses and rode
slowly towards the height, where we arrived just as the light allowed
us to see the opposite side of the ravine beneath us covered with
black indistinct masses. Every instant rendered them more visible, and
the first rays of the sun showed us Sebastiani’s division opposite
our centre, Victor’s three divisions at our feet, with the reserve,
guard, and cavalry extending backward to the wood near the Alberche.
Our eyes were, however, principally attracted by an immense solid
column opposite but rather to the left of the hill, evidently intended
for attack. Its front was already covered with tirailleurs, ready to
advance at the word, and who saw before them the dead bodies of their
comrades, who had fallen the night before, strewing the ground. The
gray of the morning was not broken in upon by a single shot from either
side, and we had time to observe our position, (which had not been
completely occupied before dark on the preceding eve,) and how the
troops were posted.

The distance from the Tagus to the height on our left, which
overlooked a deep valley, bounded beyond by some sharp and rugged
hills, was little less than two miles. The right of the Allied army
rested on the town of Talavera and the river. About half the ground
from our right to a little beyond the centre was flat, and covered
with woods and vineyards, but where these ceased, the remainder of
the country was open, and gradually rose to the foot of our important
conical hill on the left.

A rill ran along the whole front of our line, and in that part of the
ground which was open and undulating, it passed through a ravine,
the brow of which was taken advantage of in posting our troops. The
Spaniards, from being incapable of moving, were posted in heavy columns
in the most difficult country, till they joined our right, which was
in an open space, though in its front and rear were inclosures. At
this point had been commenced a little redoubt, which however remained
imperfect, and was the only “_intrenchment_” of those with which the
French, in their accounts, as an excuse for their defeat, have so
liberally strengthened our line. But as every thing is sacrificed by
them to vanity, truth cannot be expected alone to escape.

On the right of the British was posted the fourth division, under
Sir A. Campbell, supported by Sir S. Cotton’s brigade of cavalry; on
their left commenced the first division, of which the Guards were on
the right. The remainder of this division, consisting of Brig.-Gen.
Cameron’s brigade and the Germans, extended across the most open
ground, and joined on the left to the brigade of Colonel Donkin and
the second division, clustered round the height for its defence. The
other brigade of Gen. M’Kenzie was placed in the second line. The
remainder of the cavalry had bivouacked at some distance to the rear,
and were not come up. The enemy were employed from daylight in placing
opposite our centre thirty pieces of cannon on the opposite side of
the ravine, but not a shot was fired on either side, and the whole
looked as if the armies had met for a review. But the calm augured the
coming storm, and the quiet evinced that all were aware of the great
approaching struggle, and that it was useless to throw away a casual
fire, or destroy individuals, where salvos alone and the death of
thousands could decide the day. When the vast column we had seen in
the dusk was considered ready, a single cannon shot from the centre
of the enemy’s batteries was the signal for its advance, and for
the opening of all their guns. A shower of balls instantly fell on
all parts of our position, and the smoke, (the wind being east, and
the damp of the morning preventing its rising,) was blown across the
ravine, and completely enveloped us in a dense fog. But we had seen the
forward movement intended for our dislodgment, and knew, under cover
of this cannonade and smoke, it was advancing up the face of the hill.
It consisted of a close column of battalions, of the same division of
Ruffin which had attacked the night before.

Gen. Hill, with the brigades of Tilson and Stewart, which had already
successfully tried their strength with these same troops, was ready to
receive them. The Buffs, 48th, and 66th, advanced to the brow of the
hill, wheeling round to meet them with their arms ported, ready to rush
on the ascending foe as soon as perceived through the intense smoke.
They were not long in suspense, and without a moment’s hesitation, by a
desperate charge and volley, they overthrew, as they topped the hill,
the enemy, who fled in the utmost confusion and consternation, followed
by our troops, even across the ravine. Here they rallied, and, after an
exchange of sharp firing, our regiments were withdrawn again to their
vantage ground. Had the cavalry been present, the victory might have
been completed at this early hour, but they had not come in from their
bivouack. As the smoke and tumult cleared off, and the troops were
seated behind the summit of the hill, we found our loss considerable,
and that Gen. Hill had been forced to quit the field from a shot in
the head. The dead of the enemy lay in vast numbers on the face of the
hill, and had been tall, healthy, fine young men, well-limbed, with
good countenances; and as proof of their courage, (the head of their
column having reached within a few yards of the top of the hill before
being arrested,) the bodies lay close to our ranks. The face of the
height was furrowed out into deep ravines by the water rushing down its
steep sides during the rains, and the dead and wounded of both nations
lay heaped in them.[36] Musquetry almost ceased after this defeat, but
the cannonade continued; our centre and right suffering considerably,
though in the other parts of the line, as our shots were plunging,
while theirs were directed upwards, it was not so deadly. It continued
for above an hour after the repulse, and showed us the inferiority of
our calibre. All our guns, with the exception of one brigade of heavy,
were miserably _light_ six pounders, while the French returned our fire
with eights and twelves.

As the weather was dreadfully hot, and it was impossible to know how
long we should occupy this ground, orders were given to bury the men
who had fallen the night before and in the morning attack, lying around
the hill interspersed with the living.

The entrenching tools were thus employed, and it was curious to see
the soldiers burying their fallen comrades, with the cannon shot
falling around, and in the midst of them, leaving it probable that an
individual might thus be employed digging his own grave! Gradually,
however, the fire slakened, and at last wholly ceased, and war appeared
as much suspended as before daylight and previously to the attack of
the morning. The troops on the advance talked together, and the thirsty
of both armies met at the bottom of the ravine, and drank from the same
stream. There was also a well at the foot of the hill to the left,
where the same water was divided among the collected of both nations
around its brink.

About nine it was evident that the enemy had no intention of disturbing
us for some time, as their numerous fires proved they were not
inclined to fight again on empty stomachs. This was a painful sight to
us, who felt acutely for our starving soldiery, who began to experience
the most pinching want. All the promises of the Spaniards had ended
in nought. They had made no arrangements to act up to their word, and
starvation began to stare us in the face. Generally, however, it was
borne by our men with philosophy, but one hungry soldier became almost
troublesome, and, close to Sir Arthur and his staff, said, “It was very
hard that they had nothing to eat,” and wished that they might be let
to go down and fight, “for when engaged, they forgot their hunger.”
The poor fellow was, however, at last persuaded to retire. Till about
eleven o’clock all remained quiet, but about that hour immense clouds
of dust were seen rising above the woods towards the Alberche opposite
the centre of the Allied army, implying movements of large bodies of
troops. This indicated the preparing for a general assault, and was
occasioned by Sebastiani’s corps forming a column of attack.[37] As
the enemy’s troops approached, the cannonade was renewed, and our
inferiority of metal was so evident, that a brigade of Spanish 12
pounders was borrowed from Cuesta. The fellows attached to these guns
showed good spirit, and, posting their guns on the side of the hill,
were found most effective. The French, at times, had the most exact
range of the height, and threw shot and shells upon it with terrible
precision. One shell killed four horses, held by a man, who escaped
uninjured. Their fuses, however, often burned too quick, exploding
the shells high in the air and forming little clouds of smoke. It
was curious that the enemy changed their fire from the troops to our
artillery, or from our batteries to our line, whenever we gave them the
example.

But the dust drew near in the woods, and a vast column was seen
preparing to advance against Sir A. Cameron’s brigade in the open
ground. General Sherbrooke had cautioned his division to use the
bayonet, and when the enemy came within about fifty yards of the
Guards, they advanced to meet them, but on their attempting to close
the enemy by a charge, they broke and fled. The regiment on their left,
the 83rd, made a simultaneous movement, driving the enemy with immense
loss before them; but the impetuosity of the Guards led to endangering
the day. The flying enemy led them on till they opened a battery on
their flank, which occasioned so heavy a loss, that the ranks could
not be formed after the disorder of pursuit, and, on being ordered to
resume their ground, produced confusion.

The enemy instantly rallied and followed them, and were so confident
of victory, that their officers were heard to exclaim, “_Allons, mes
enfans; ils sont tous nos prisonniers_.” But Sir Arthur had foreseen
the difficulty in which the Guards were likely to become entangled, and
had ordered the 48th from the height to their support. This gallant
regiment arrived in the rear of the Guards at the moment when they were
retiring in confusion, pressed by the enemy, on the line of position.
They allowed the Guards to pass through them, and then, breaking in
upon the enemy, gave them a second repulse. The Guards quickly formed
in the rear, and moved up into the position; and their spirit and
appearance of good humour and determination after having lost in twenty
minutes five hundred men, was shown by their giving a hurrah, as they
took up their ground; and a report soon after that the enemy’s cavalry
was coming down upon them, was answered by a contemptuous laugh along
their ranks.

The remainder of Sherbrooke’s division, after repulsing the enemy,
had retired to their former ground in excellent order. The enemy
had made an attack at the same time on the fourth division; they
accompanied this by a _ruse_, which nothing but the determination of
our troops could have overcome. Trusting to the similarity of uniform,
they advanced towards the 7th, 97th, and 53d, crying out they were
Spaniards, and repeating the Spanish cry of _Vivan los Ingleses!_
Though this did not deceive our officers, it did the men, who, under
this false impression, could not be brought to fire on them; this
allowed their approaching quite close, when they gave their fire so
unexpectedly, that it staggered our line, and even caused them to fall
back. This was, however, only to exemplify the French proverb, _reculer
pour mieux sauter_, as indignation and anger took place of surprise,
and a spontaneous rush with the bayonet instantly threw the enemy into
utter rout. A Spanish regiment of infantry, on the right flank of the
fusileers, broke and fled on this attack; but the King’s regiment of
horse, with great gallantry, dashed into the wood in co-operation with
our troops in pursuit. Several pieces of cannon fell into the hands
of Gen. A. Campbell, and three were captured by the Spanish cavalry,
while the flight of the enemy was so rapid, that several others were
left in their retreat.

Besides these attacks, the enemy’s endeavours and intentions were
extended along the whole British line, with the exception of the hill,
which they did not again attack after the morning. We had not posted
any troops in the valley, or on the hills on our left, the former being
commanded, and the latter considered too distant; but it soon became
evident that the enemy had turned their views to these points.

The Spanish division of Gen. Bassecourt was in consequence borrowed
from Cuesta, and sent across the valley to oppose the enemy’s light
troops on the distant ridge. The French soon after advanced two heavy
columns into the valley, consisting of the divisions of Vilelle and
Ruffin, and two-thirds of our cavalry were ordered to occupy the
valley opposite them. Gen. Anson’s brigade arrived first, while the
heavy brigade was moving from the rear of the centre to its support.
The enemy’s two columns advanced, supported by cavalry, threatened
to turn our left, and orders, either positive or discretionary,
were given to charge them if opportunity offered; these were either
interpreted into direct orders, or considered as definitive, under
particular circumstances, and the 23d regiment soon after advanced
in line against one of the columns, the brigade of Laval, which had
taken post with its flank against a house. This gallant regiment moved
forward with great steadiness, and the squadron, (for the width of
only one could embrace the front of the column,) on arriving within
firing distance, received a well-directed volley. It seemed to stop
them in their career—the whole country was instantly covered with
horses galloping back without riders, and men straggling to the rear
without horses, while a dense spot seen from the hill marked where the
slaughtered lay.

Though this squadron was annihilated, the others dashed on, passed
between and round the columns, and fell upon a brigade of cavalry in
the rear, broke through them, and rushed on a second brigade beyond.
Of these, some cut their way back, while many were slain or taken.
Though this desperate charge cost the 23d two-thirds of its men and
horses, it had the effect of astounding the enemy, who, seeing not only
the 1st German, and the 3d and 4th dragoons prepared for a similar
act, but the Spanish cavalry moving into the valley in support, and
their efforts unsuccessful elsewhere, not only gave up all farther
idea of penetrating in that quarter, but seemed satisfied that it
was imprudent and hopeless any longer to continue the contest. But
for being on the defensive, the gaps in our lines, which now forcibly
showed themselves, by the regiments not covering one-third of their
former ground, would have made us come to the like conclusion; and it
was no unpleasing sight to see them begin gradually to draw off their
infantry, and bring forward, to cover their retreat, their cavalry,
which had been all day in numerous _échelons_, extending back to the
woods. They formed several lines, and must have numbered not less than
9 or 10,000 cavalry, dressed in all the colours of the rainbow.

But the views of the British were attracted to a new enemy which had
threatened occasionally during the day, and had gained great head soon
after the defeat on the right and centre. The ripe corn and dry grass
took fire from the cartridges and wadding, and hundreds of acres were
rapidly consumed, involving in their conflagrations the more severely
wounded and helpless; adding a new and horrid character to the misery
of war.

It was so general, that it was a consolation to the friends of officers
slain, to learn that their bodies, when found, did not bear the marks
of being scorched or burned in their last moments!

But the attention of all was directed till dusk to the enemy’s evident
preparations for retreat, and during the night they drew off behind the
Alberche, which river they had all crossed by the daylight of the 29th;
on which morning, Brig.-Gen. R. Craufurd joined the army with 3000 men,
and a troop of horse-artillery, and was pushed on to the old ruin, from
which Sir Arthur had so narrowly escaped two days before. But these
reinforcements, consisting of the 43d, 52d, and 95th, (the beginning of
the celebrated light division,) did not make up for the heavy loss we
had sustained during the 27th and 28th.

Out of 17,500 men we had lost 5,335, including Generals M’Kenzie and
Langworth killed, and Gen. Hill, Sir H. Campbell, and Brig.-Gen. A.
Campbell, wounded. This was two-sevenths of our force, and is, with
the exception of Albuera, the heaviest list of casualties offered, for
the men engaged, of any victorious army in modern war. The loss of the
23d Dragoons was remarkable from its extent; that fine regiment, which
had only joined three weeks, being only able to assemble, after the
action, one hundred men. Two officers and forty-six men and ninety-five
horses were killed on the spot, and besides the numerous wounded, three
officers, and about one hundred men were taken, in consequence of
penetrating into the enemy’s supporting cavalry. The whole regiment
was so reduced, as to be sent home to England, on our return to the
Portuguese frontier.

The Spanish returns gave between 1300 and 1400 men, but this included
their loss on the 25th in front of St. Ollala[38].

The French army fell back across the Alberche, diminished not less
than one-fifth, if not one-fourth of their effectives, their loss
being indifferently rated from 10 to 14,000 men. Some of the little
enclosures in front of the right of the British were choked with their
dead, and in one little field more than 400 bodies were counted.

Besides the innumerable dead, vast numbers of wounded were left in our
front; and many more stand of arms than the most sanguine rated their
loss, were abandoned on the field of battle[39]. Nineteen pieces of
cannon remained in our possession as trophies of our victory[40].
Besides these, they left in our possession several silk standards,
but whether they had borne eagles or not it was difficult to say; as,
besides being much broken and torn when brought into head-quarters, the
staff of one had been used as a poker to a bivouac fire. It was the
custom of the French to unscrew their eagles, and for the eagle-bearers
to conceal them about their person when in danger. Having only one to
a regiment, and there being five battalions to each, every eagle taken
by us during the war, may be considered as equivalent to five stand of
colours, and the trophies at Whitehall as ten times more numerous than
they appear.

It is a remarkable and curious instance of the instability of human
institutions, that these idols of the French armies for so many years,
and around which so much blood was spilt, only now exist as trophies to
their conquerors.

This hard-fought battle was remarkable from the circumstance of almost
the entire efforts of an army being directed on the troops of one
nation of their allied opponents. It is, perhaps, fortunate, that
the rancour and vanity of the enemy led them to this conduct, as, had
they forced the Spaniards from the difficult country on our right, our
army would have been thrown off the Tagus, and had to combat the whole
French army, with its communications threatened, if not cut off.

With the exception of occupying the ground, the dash of the regiment of
King’s cavalry, and the employment of a few battalions in skirmishing
on the hills on our left, the Spaniards did nothing whatever[41]. But
their previous behaviour had tended to make us uneasy during the whole
battle, and so disgusted was Cuesta with some of his troops, that he
ordered several officers and men to be shot for cowardice the next day.
This battle gave the character to all the subsequent actions in the
Peninsula. They were ever almost entirely of infantry and artillery,
while the cavalry, which acted with such effect on the continent, did
not assert its power. However brilliant Vimiera and Corunna, still
Talavera must be considered as the place where the military character
of the two nations was fairly brought to trial and proved. This battle
proved the total want of firmness of the enemy in meeting our troops
with the bayonet, and offered an example, followed by others on every
occasion, of their best troops flying like chaff before the wind, on
the hostile troops arriving within charging distance.

The French would ever expose themselves to fire at the smallest
distance as long as ourselves, but a hurra and a rush with the bayonet,
within reach, caused their instant flight.

With the exception of a few desperate men at the rear of a flying
column, or from accidental circumstances, scarce any bayonet wounds
were exchanged during the whole war; and their dread of closing was so
strongly evinced in foggy weather, that a shout was sufficient, as at
the pass of Maida in the Pyrenees, to disperse a forming column.

Indeed, our bayonets might as well have been of pasteboard, from
their temper being so seldom tried, for the dread of them alone was
sufficient to scatter the best troops of France. In fact it is a bad,
if not useless weapon in their hands, and the Portuguese beat them with
it on more than one occasion.

Brig.-Gen. Alexander Campbell had two horses shot under him, and though
wounded through the thigh, continued on his horse till the close of the
battle. Sir H. Campbell, who headed the brigade of Guards, was wounded
in the face, the ball entering the cheek and coming out behind the
ear. Col. Gordon, of the 83d, was badly wounded in the neck, and when
in the act of being removed to the rear, a shell fell into the blanket
in which he was carried, and bursting, slew alike the wounded and
his bearers. A man of the 87th, while lying down, was shot, the ball
entering the head, and was alive five days after.

The incessant and terrible cannonade had created the most shocking
wounds, and an unusual portion of wounded were not expected again to
join the ranks. The standard of one of the regiments of Guards had
three balls in its staff. The prisoners and deserters stated that,
during the action, a Westphalian regiment, in the enemy’s service,
mutinied, but that they were reduced to obedience and marched to the
rear.

The morning after the battle was employed in removing our numerous and
suffering wounded into the convents and churches, now converted into
hospitals. By requisitions of beds and blankets, within three days,
principally through the exertion of the head of the medical staff,
Dr. Frank, no patient was without a mattrass. Nurses and orderlies
were selected to attend, and Sir Arthur visited the hospitals himself.
The number of deaths from wounds that proved mortal, obliged immense
burial parties to be employed during the first three or four days
in removing the bodies from the hospitals. Even in the case of the
officers, it was only through the attention of their brother officers,
who read the service themselves, that the usual funeral forms were
used, while the men were interred without prayers, being generally
placed in ditches and the bank dug in upon them.

The heat of the weather rendered as necessary a proper attention to
the dead of the enemy, and the Spaniards burned a vast number of the
slain; but the weather was too rapid for all exertion, and the tainted
air was fraught with every horror, so that the quarters of some of the
troops were forced to be changed. Though distressing to relate, it must
not be overlooked, that the 29th was disgraced by the atrocious conduct
of the Spaniards, in putting to death most of the enemy’s wounded left
in our front. The amount has been rated as high as one thousand, but
it is certain several hundred were thus inhumanly butchered. One of
our officers found a French officer badly wounded, and, on offering to
seek aid, the poor fellow remarked, that he had no right to expect it,
until our own numerous wounded were housed and dressed. But during the
search for assistance, the Spaniards had passed the spot, and he was
found stabbed to death!

Sir Arthur felt he could not too soon thank the army which had so nobly
aided his efforts, and on the 29th his Excellency issued a long order
to that effect, naming distinguished officers and regiments. The enemy
continued a rear guard on the Alberche till the night of the 31st
July, when they retired through St. Ollala, and our patrols passed
through that town: here our officers learned some curious details of
the enemies’ bearing, under the different feelings of confidence of
success and the discouragement of subsequent defeat. In the house
where the King had lodged, an instance was given highly creditable to
Joseph. A caricature was discovered of El Rey Pepé, which created great
indignation in those around Joseph’s person, accompanied by threats and
ill-treatment. The King, the next morning, on his departure, tendered
his host a snuff-box, remarking, that he should be more careful of its
contents than of the caricature; on its being opened, it was found to
contain the King’s miniature.

We were prevented from moving after the enemy, not only on account of
our numerous wounded, but from want of provisions. Our difficulties
on this head greatly increased after the battle, and were felt to so
great an extent, that the army in part became disorganized, from the
ravenous callings for food overpowering all other considerations.
While, it was said, comparative plenty reigned in the Spanish camp, our
troops were driven to seek and take provisions by force, wherever they
could find them; this led to such straggling from the camp, that on
the 2d of August the rolls were ordered to be called every two hours.
While our position was thus unsatisfactory and even doubtful, news
reached head-quarters that our rear was threatened by troops moving
down from Castile and Leon. On the 30th a rumour (proved however to be
anticipated) spread that the French had arrived in Placentia, and the
anxiety became universal.

Our information at this time was less perfect than it afterwards
became, and the various reports left the impression that it was
Soult’s corps alone of 12 to 15,000 men that was thus menacing our
communication with Portugal. This however did not make our position
untenable, as our army of between 15 and 16,000, was capable of
defeating his force, if Cuesta could be persuaded to hold his ground,
and keep in check the lately defeated army, and thus cover our
hospitals. To this Cuesta agreed, and, ordering Gen. Bassecourt’s
division to act as our advance, caused it to march to Oropesa on the
2d. Arrangements were made respecting the hospitals, and Col. M’Kinnon
was left in their charge, with but thirty-four medical officers (all we
could spare) to attend 5,000 sick and wounded.

We left Talavera on the 3d, under the full expectation of fighting
the forces coming from the north, concentrating about Naval Moral.
On our arrival at Oropesa on the evening of that day, Bassecourt was
pushed on towards that place, and orders were given out implying active
and immediate operations, by directing the troops to hold themselves
in readiness to march by such orders as they might receive from the
Quarter-master-general.

But the course of the night changed all our prospects. Sir Arthur
received a despatch from Cuesta stating, that he had received
information on which he could depend, that not only had Soult’s corps
moved from the north, but that it was accompanied by the two other
corps, the 5th and 6th, and that he had, in consequence, determined to
retire from Talavera. This implied the sacrifice to the enemy of all in
our hospitals who had not the power of walking, as the Spaniards, on
Col. M’Kinnon applying to them for means of transport, furnished only
ten or a dozen carts, while very many quitted the town empty. Col.
M’Kinnon, thus under the painful necessity of leaving nearly 2,300 sick
and wounded, gave directions for the rest to withdraw by a nearer road
to the bridge of Arzobispo, than through Oropesa.[42]

This unexpected news added to Sir Arthur’s difficulties; and while
these were under consideration, they were greatly increased by the
whole Spanish army coming in upon us, at daylight on the 4th, with
their carts and baggage.

On this occasion the old General had not wanted decision, as was proved
by the arrival of himself and army within a few hours after forming his
opinion.

The intelligence of Cuesta proved most true; a junction of the three
corps had taken place, and the King, before he left Madrid, had sent
them orders on the 22d to advance on Placentia. The head-quarters of
the 2d, 5th, and 6th corps were at Salamanca on the 27th of July, and
directing their march on three succeeding days to the south, forced
all the weak passes and posts, and arrived on the 1st of August, at
Placentia, making prisoners 300 sick in the hospitals.

The Spanish troops, retiring before Soult, crossed the Tagus, and
fortunately destroyed the bridge of boats at Almarez. But the enemy
only thought of intercepting and surrounding the British, and their
advance reached Naval Moral on the 3d, but five leagues from Oropesa,
thus cutting off the direct road by Almarez to Portugal.

No time was now to be lost, as we were not only likely to be attacked
from the west, but, in consequence of the retreat of the Spaniards,
threatened with the advance of King Joseph, and his defeated army at
Talavera, within three or four days: in which case we should have had,
besides 36 to 38,000 from Madrid, 30 to 34,000 from Placentia.

But Sir Arthur soon decided, and gave directions, at four o’clock on
the 4th, for all the baggage to proceed across the bridge of Arzobispo.
This was preparatory to a similar movement of the army; and having
recalled Bassecourt’s division, the whole British force filed over to
the left bank of the Tagus, where the wounded from Talavera arrived a
short time before.

The Spaniards followed to the side of the river, but did not cross that
evening. So nearly had the enemy intercepted our retreat, that at
dusk his cavalry interchanged some shots with our advance-posts, close
to Arzobispo, and carried off one of our videttes. The Spaniards did
not cross the next day; but the British army proceeded down the river,
by the same road where the enemy had turned Cuesta’s flank before the
battle of Medellin, in the preceding spring. This was rendered most
necessary, as the occupation of Almarez could alone secure a retreat
upon Portugal; and the pontoons, though removed, had been left but in
the charge of some militia. Head-quarters on the 5th were near the
village of Peretada de Gabern, and the 3rd division, which had been
placed under the orders of General Craufurd, with the addition of his
light brigade, was pushed by narrow paths across the mountain, and
reached a point within two leagues of the passage over the Tagus.

On the 6th it reached Roman Gourdo, which secured this important
position, and head-quarters moved on to Meza de Ibor, (the spot of
Cuesta’s unsuccessful affair on the 17th of March), and the following
day to Deleytoza. It was now possible to halt with security; from the
pass at Almarez being secured; and in a large convent, about a mile
from the town, a hospital was formed, and it was found above 2,000
wounded had accompanied the army.

General A. Campbell had found his way in a huckster’s tilted-cart, with
a bed made in it, across the most difficult passes in the mountain.

The roads during three days’ march were scarcely capable of transport,
and the greatest difficulty was experienced in conveying the artillery,
while the troops were often halted to cover their retreat.

As we moved over the high ridges, we had a most extensive view across
the place we had traversed a fortnight before from Placentia, and saw
the glittering of the arms, and the rising dust of the French columns
moving on Oropesa.

Colonel Waters and Captain Mellish crossed the river, and reconnoitered
the last of these columns, and learned from the peasants, that it was
the third of the same size that had passed along that road within the
preceding few days; thus fully confirming the information of the three
corps having been directed on our rear.

Thus, as in the preceding year, the British had again drawn five _corps
d’armée_ of the eight in Spain upon them. Some of the troops from the
north were not re-equipped after their losses in the north of Portugal,
but the three corps had little short of 35,000 effectives. However
precipitate the retreat of Cuesta, it would have been eventually
necessary, for, although we could have checked on the 5th, 6th, and
7th, the successive arriving columns of the enemy from Naval Moral,
(allowing time for the very desirable transport of many more of our
wounded beyond Arzobispo), still our position would sooner or later
have become untenable.

It may be conjectured that few armies have witnessed such vicissitudes
as the French and English armies within the short period of eleven
months. The two armies had more than once advanced and retired in the
face of each other. Many of those we saw marching across the plain with
the sanguine hope of intercepting our retreat, had been driven from
Portugal and carried to France, had witnessed our embarkation from
Corunna, and had since been expelled from the Tras os Montes, and now
again were compelling us, by an immense superiority of numbers, again
to retrograde.

After leaving the Spaniards at Arzobispo, the two armies were totally
disunited, and little or no subsequent communication took place between
them. We had seen enough of both officers and men to despise and
distrust them, from their chief to the drummer, and to hope that we
might never again be in the same camp. They not only were incapable of
acting as a military auxiliary, but were wholly remiss in fulfilling
their promises, and instead of attempting to find us in provisions,
while plenty reigned in their camp, even our officers were destitute
of bread. While our troops were on one occasion four days without this
indispensable necessary, they had the shameless impudence to sell
loaves to our starving soldiers at an immoderate price. So pressing
were our wants, that one of our commissaries took from them by force
one hundred bullocks and one hundred mule loads of bread. But if
their conduct before us had been despicable, it no less at a distance
deserved reprehension. Vanegas, who was to have made a powerful
diversion from La Mancha on Toledo, completely failed, even to the
extent of alarming the enemy, who felt satisfied that 2,000 men in that
city were sufficient to keep in check his whole force, while the passes
along the Portuguese and Spanish frontier were gained almost without a
struggle.

But disasters quickly followed the Spaniards after our separation.
On the 6th they crossed to the left bank of the Tagus, and on the
following day Cuesta retired with his main force, leaving two divisions
of infantry, and the cavalry with the artillery in battery to defend
the bridge. The enemy showed themselves on the 6th on the opposite
bank, and increased in number on the 7th, but the interposition of the
river between them made the Spaniards consider themselves in perfect
safety. On the 8th, the French brought up the artillery, and opened a
fire on some redoubts constructed by the Spaniards, while they made
preparations for crossing the river. The Spanish cavalry, devoid of all
caution, were out in watering order, when 2,000 cavalry dashed into the
river, above the bridge, at a good ford, and attacked the redoubts in
the rear, at once enveloping the Spanish camp in confusion, dismay, and
rout. They fled, some in the direction of Messa de Ibor, others to the
southward, leaving their baggage and guns in the hands of the enemy.
Those who fled on the former road abandoned guns and ammunition-waggons
several leagues beyond the point of pursuit; and Colonel Waters, sent
from our head-quarters with a flag of truce, finding them thus safe,
persuaded the Spaniards, with difficulty, to return and bring back
their deserted guns.

This disgraceful affair was the climax of disasters to this army. It
could not assemble in a few days subsequently 18,000 men, and the Duke
of Albuquerque (against whose advice the Spanish cavalry had been left
unprepared), quitted it in disgust, sending in charges to the Cortes
against his commander. This was anticipated by Cuesta, who, on the
plea of his health, resigned on the 13th the command of the army. To
complete the sad picture presented by the Spaniards, Vanegas, without
answering any purpose, just so committed himself on the Toledo side,
that Sebastiani fell upon him at Almonacaio on the 10th, and routed him
with considerable loss.

Want of forage and provisions continued to an alarming degree in the
mountainous tract around Deleytosa and Almarez, and, still keeping the
advance at the latter place, rendered necessary the armies’ moving
more to the westward. Head-quarters were on the 11th at Jarecejo, in
order to be nearer Truxillo, where a large depôt was forming. Sir
Arthur ordered, with justice, that the stoppage for the troops usually
of sixpence a-day for their provisions, should be only three-pence
from the 27th of July till further orders, in reference to their want
of regular supplies.[43] While the head-quarters were at this place,
the effects of want of food began to show themselves on the troops, by
sickness breaking out, though not at first to the alarming extent it
did a month after on the Guadiana.

But the road by Castel Branco to Lisbon was only covered by a small
force of four British regiments, which had been moving up under
General C. Craufurd, and it became necessary to place the army nearer
to Portugal, in a position to cover both banks of the Tagus, should
the enemy direct his march from Placentia. Although Craufurd was soon
joined by Marshal Beresford from the north, the army moved on the 20th
from Jarecejo to Truxillo, and gradually withdrew towards the frontier,
head-quarters passing through Majadas, Medellin, Merida, to Badajoz,
where Sir Arthur established himself on the 3rd of September with the
troops cantoned as follows:—

First Division at { Badajos, Arroyo, Lobone, Almendralejo,
{ Talavera la Real, and Santa Marta.

Second Division { Modtejo, La Mata, La Puebla de la
{ Calsada, Gorravilla, and Torre Major.

{ Campo Mayor.
Third Division {
{ Villa de Rey.

{ Olivenza.
Fourth Division {
{ Badajos.

In the mean time the enemy had not followed the defeated Spaniards,
but, fearful of leaving the north of Spain without troops, as early as
they had separated the two armies, and felt secure of the capital, the
three corps set out on their return, on the 9th, towards Salamanca.
Sir R. Wilson, whose advance to Escalona had not produced the supposed
effect on the French army, or at Madrid, in retiring from his exposed
situation, took post in the pass of Baños. This was the direct road for
the enemies returning columns, who, after a sharp affair on the 12th,
forced the position, and continued their route, leaving Sir Robert to
fall back on the frontier of Portugal.

Thus ended the campaign of 1809, which was not less brilliant than
interesting, and tended greatly to the ultimate deliverance of Spain
and Europe. Though no immediate results were produced from it, there
can be no doubt it saved Andalusia for a time, which province would
never have fallen into the enemy’s power, had not the besotted
Spaniards sought opportunities for defeat, and committed themselves, as
at Ocana. In drawing the three corps from the north, it showed all that
part of Spain that the struggle was continued with firmness in other
quarters; and the very fact of relieving the country from the pressure
of the enemy, allowed breathing time, and proved their stay might not
be permanent.

The battle of the 27th and 28th July broke much the enemy’s confidence
when opposed to us; and their repulse not only gave spirits to the
Spaniards, but opened the eyes of Europe to the possibility of
defeating the French; for it may be fearlessly advanced, that the
_morale_ of the European armies was restored by this and our succeeding
campaigns in Spain.

[Footnote 25: This was not greatly exaggerated, if the artillery,
the regular Foreign Regiments in the French service, and those of
the various countries of Europe, at Buonaparte’s disposal, are
included.—’Sous le titre modeste de protecteur, Napoléon envahit
l’argent et les soldats d’une moitié de l’Allemagne,’ says Foy,
speaking of the Confederation of the Rhine; and besides, he had the
armies of Italy, Naples, Holland, and the Grand Duchy of Varsovie at
his command.]

[Footnote 26: Cependant, parce que les Anglais s’étaient embarqués à
la Corogne, Napoléon se complut dans l’idée qu’ils ne reparaitraient
point sur le continent, et que les Portugais, perdant tout espoir
d’en être secourus, recevraient les Français en amis.—Telle était
son aveugle confiance, que les mouvemens de l’armée étaient tracés
par dates.—_Mémoires sur les Opérations Militaires des Français en
Gallice, en Portugal, et dans la Vallée du Tage, en 1809._]

[Footnote 27: At Corunna a soldier’s wife, taken in the retreat, was
sent in by Junot. She brought his compliments to the general officers
he had known the preceding year, and a message that he and his corps
were opposite them, ready to “_pay off old scores_.”]

[Footnote 28: This is the present Marquis de Chaves, who headed the
insurrection in 1827, against the Constitution.]

[Footnote 29: The author was himself on board.—Ed.]

[Footnote 30: The French called the British force with which we
advanced against Oporto, 30,000 men.]

[Footnote 31: Franceschi was an old opponent of Gen. Stewart, the
Adjutant-General having commanded the brigade, of which a portion
had been surprised at Rueda in Leon, a few months before, during the
Corunna campaign.]

[Footnote 32: In the French account of this campaign, published at
Paris 1821, the Author represents _le 47^e de ligne_, when covering
this retreat, as “se conduisant valeureusement.”]

[Footnote 33: The Author of the “Voyage en Espagne et Lettres
Philosophiques,” says at this time, “Les Espagnols ne pouvaient plus
rien par eux-mêmes: ils n’avaient à opposer que des partis mal armés,
mal équipés, mal aguerris, et plus mal commandés encore.”]

[Footnote 34: In the Author’s original copy of his Journal, written a
few days after, he finds the conduct of the Spaniards on this occasion
thus noticed:—”and it is my belief they would have continued till
_now_, if we had not aided them.”]

[Footnote 35: It is needless to say, this alludes to Foy’s Introduction
to the War of the Peninsula.]

[Footnote 36: We were occupied after this attack in carrying away our
wounded in blankets, by four or five soldiers, and within a short time
the number of unfortunate men assembled round our field hospital, a
small house and enclosure behind our centre, barely out of cannon shot,
proved our heavy loss.]

[Footnote 37: It is remarkable how the accounts differ respecting the
hour of attack. Sir Arthur says about twelve, another relater mentions
two, and Jourdan, in his interesting letter, places it as late as four
o’clock.]

[Footnote 38: Nous pûmes remarquer à l’occasion de ces deux
affaires, le peu de cas que les Espagnols faisaient des Anglais;
ils ne les surent aucun gré des efforts qu’ils firent à Talavera,
et croyaient faire éloge de leur armée en disant qu’elle n’avait
essuyé presqu’aucune perte. Les Anglais de leur côté les méprisent
souverainement, et sont honteux de les avoir pour Alliés.—_M.S.
Journal of a French Officer taken at Badajoz._]

[Footnote 39: It was said 17,000 were found.]

[Footnote 40: A noble Peer, on the vote of thanks to the army,
afterwards remarked, that the capture of these guns was no proof of a
victory, as, he sagaciously observed, it might have been _convenient_
for the enemy to leave them on the field of battle.]

[Footnote 41: “Les Espagnols seuls restaient paisibles spectateurs du
combat,” says a French author.]

[Footnote 42: We had the satisfaction of hearing after, that Victor, on
entering Talavera, behaved with the greatest attention and kindness to
those who, by the chance of war, had thus been left to his mercy and
care.]

[Footnote 43: It was not till the 12th of August that rations of
spirits were delivered to the troops, and only on the 2nd September,
that the regular delivery of provision, allowed the stoppage of
sixpence per day.]

NARRATIVE
OF THE
CAMPAIGN IN HOLLAND
IN 1814,
WITH DETAILS OF THE
ATTACK ON BERGEN-OP-ZOOM:

BY LIEUT. J. W. DUNBAR MOODIE, H. P.
21ST FUSILEERS.

(ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE UNITED SERVICE JOURNAL.)

NARRATIVE
OF THE
CAMPAIGN IN HOLLAND IN 1814.

There are certain events in the life of every man on which the memory
dwells with peculiar pleasure; and the impressions they leave, from
being interwoven with his earliest and most agreeable associations,
are not easily effaced from his mind. Sixteen years have now elapsed
since the short campaign in Holland, and the ill-fated attack on
Bergen-op-Zoom; but almost every circumstance that passed under my
notice at that period, still remains as vividly pictured in my mind as
if it had occurred but yesterday.

Our regiment, the 21st, or Royal North British Fusileers, was stationed
at Fort-George when the order came for our embarkation for Holland.
Whoever has experienced the dull monotony of garrison duty, may easily
conceive the joy with which the intelligence was hailed. The eve of our
embarkation was spent in all the hilarity inspired by the occasion,
and, as may be supposed, the bottle circulated with more than ordinary
rapidity. Our convoy, Captain Nixon, R.N. in return for some kindness
he had met with from my family, while on the Orkney station, insisted
on my taking my passage to Helvoet Sluys, along with our commanding
officer and acting-adjutant, on board his own vessel, the Nightingale.
The scene that was exhibited next day, as we were embarking, must be
familiar to most military men. The beach presented a spectacle I shall
never forget. While the boats, crowded with soldiers, with their arms
glittering in the sun, were pushing off, women were to be seen up
to their middles in the water, bidding, perhaps, a last farewell to
their husbands; while others were sitting disconsolate on the rocks,
stupified with grief, and almost insensible of what was going forward.
Many of the poor creatures were pouring out blessings on the officers,
and begging us to be kind to their husbands. At last, when we had got
the soldiers fairly seated in their places, which was no easy task, we
pulled off, while the shouts of our men were echoed back in wailings
and lamentations, mixed with benedictions, from the unhappy women left
behind us. As for the officers, most of us being young fellows, and
single, we had little to damp our joy at going on foreign service.
For my own part, I confess I felt some tender regrets in parting with
a fair damsel in the neighbourhood, with whom I was not a little
smitten; but I was not of an age to take these matters long to heart,
being scarcely sixteen at the time. Poor A—— R—— has since been
consigned, by a calculating mother, to an old officer, who had nearly
lost his sight, but accumulated a few thousand pounds in the West Indies.

We soon got under way, with a fair wind, for Holland. Instead of being
crammed into a transport, with every circumstance which could render
a sea-voyage disagreeable, we felt ourselves lucky in being in most
comfortable quarters, with a most excellent gentlemanly fellow for
our entertainer in Captain Nixon. To add to our comforts, we had the
regimental band with us, who were generally playing through the day,
when the weather or sea-sickness would allow them. On arriving off
Goeree, we were overtaken by one of the most tremendous gales I have
ever experienced, and I have had some experience of the element since.
We had come to anchor, expecting a pilot from the shore, between two
sandbanks, one on each side of us, while another extended between us
and the land. The gale commenced towards night, blowing right on shore.
Our awful situation may well be conceived when the wind increased
almost to a hurricane, with no hope of procuring a pilot. The sea,
which had begun to rise before the commencement of the gale, was now
running mountains high, and we could see the white foam, and hear the
tremendous roar of the breakers on the sandbank astern of us. Of the
two transports which accompanied us with the troops on board, one
had anchored outside of us, and the other had been so fortunate as
to get out to sea before the gale had reached its greatest violence.
We had two anchors a-head, but the sea was so high, that we had but
little expectation of holding-on during the night. About midnight, the
transport which had come to anchor to windward, drifted past us, having
carried away her cables.

The sea every now and then broke over us from stem to stern, and
we continued through a great part of the night to fire signals of
distress. It is curious to observe on these occasions the different
effects of danger on the minds of men: the nervous, alarmed too soon,
and preparing themselves for the worst that may happen; the stupid and
insensible, without forethought of danger, until they are in the very
jaws of destruction, when they are taken quite unprepared, and resign
themselves up to despair; and the thoughtless, whose levity inclines
them to catch the external expression of the confidence or fear in the
countenances of those around them. About one o’clock in the morning,
the captain got into bed, and we followed his example, but had hardly
lain down, when the alarm was given that one of the cables was gone. We
immediately ran on deck, but it was soon discovered that the wind had
shifted a few points, and that the cable had only slackened a little.
As the day dawned, the wind gradually abated, and at length fell off
to a dead calm. A light haze hid the low land from our view, and hung
over the sea, which still rolled in huge billows, as if to conceal the
horrors of our situation during the preceding night. In an hour or two,
the fog cleared away sufficiently to enable us to see a few miles in
all directions. Every eye was strained in search of the two transports,
with our regiment on board, but seeing nothing, we all gave them up for
lost; for we could hardly conceive the possibility of the transport,
which drifted past us in the night, escaping shipwreck on this low and
dangerous coast, or of the other being able to get out to sea. By the
help of our sweeps and a light breeze, we were getting more in with
the land, when at last we observed a pilot-boat coming out to us. Our
little Dutch pilot, when he got alongside of us, soon relieved our
minds from anxiety as to the fate of one of the transports, which had
fortunately escaped the sandbanks, and was safe in Helvoet Sluys.

A Dutchman being an animal quite new to many of us, we were not a
little diverted with his dress and demeanour. Diederick was a little,
thick-set, round-built fellow, about five feet three inches in
height, bearing a considerable resemblance in shape to his boat: he
was so cased up in clothes, that no particular form was to be traced
about him, excepting an extraordinary roundness and projection “_a
posteriori_,” which he owed as much, I believe, to nature as to his
habiliments. He wore a tight, coarse, blue jerkin, or pea-jacket, on
his body, and reaching half-way down his legs, gathered up in folds
tight round his waist, and bunching out amply below. His jacket had
no collar, but he had a handkerchief tied round his neck like a rope,
which, with his protruding glassy eyes, gave him the appearance of
strangulation. On his legs he wore so many pairs of breeches and
trowsers, that I verily believe we might have pulled off three or four
pairs without being a whit the wiser as to his natural conformation.
On his feet he wore a pair of shoes with huge buckles, and his head
was crowned with a high-topped red nightcap. Thus equipped, with the
addition of a short pipe stuck in his mouth, “_ecce_” Diederick, our
worthy pilot, who stumping manfully up to the Captain, with his hand
thrust out like a bowsprit, and a familiar nod of his head, wished him
“_goeden dag_,” and welcomed him cordially to Holland. I observed that
our Captain seemed a little “taken aback” with the pilot’s republican
manners; however, he did not refuse honest Diederick a shake of his
hand, for the latter had evidently no conception of a difference in
rank requiring any difference in the mode of salutation. After paying
his respects to the captain, he proceeded to shake us all by the hand
in turn, with many expressions of goodwill to the English, whom he was
pleased to say had _always_ been the Dutchmen’s best friends. Having
completed the ceremonial of our reception, he returned to the binnacle,
and, hearing the leadsman sing out “by the mark three,” clapping his
fat fists to his sides, and looking up to see if the sails were “clean
full,” exclaimed with great energy, “Bout Skipp!” The captain was
anxious to procure some information regarding the channels between
the sandbanks, and depth of the water, but all the satisfaction our
friend Diederick would vouchsafe him was, “_Ja, Mynheer, wanneer wij
niet beter kan maaken dan moeten wij naar de anker komen_[44].” We soon
reached Helvoet Sluys, and came to anchor for the night.

On landing next day, we found the half of the regiment which had so
fortunately escaped shipwreck, with the transport which had drifted
past us in the night of the gale. Here we took leave of our kind
friends the captain and officers of the Nightingale, and next day
marched to Buitensluys, a little town nearly opposite to Willemstadt.
Here we were detained for several days, it not being possible to cross
the intervening branch of the sea, in consequence of the quantities of
ice which were floating down from the rivers. We soon got ourselves
billeted out in the town and neighbouring country, and established a
temporary mess at the principal inn of the place, where we began to
practise the Dutch accomplishments of drinking gin and smoking, for
which we had a convenient excuse in the humidity and coldness of the
climate. Our hard drinkers, of course, did not fail to inculcate the
doctrine, that wine and spirits were the “sovereignest remedy” in the
world for the ague, of which disease they seemed to live in constant
dread, particularly after dinner. During our sojourn at Buitensluys,
our great amusement through the day was skaiting on the ice with the
country girls, who were nothing shy, and played all manners of tricks
with us, by upsetting us, &c. &c. thus affording rather a dangerous
precedent, which was sometimes returned on themselves with interest.

We are accustomed to hear of the Dutch phlegm, which certainly forms
a distinguishing feature in their “physical character;” they are dull
and slow in being excited to the strong emotions, but it is a great
mistake to suppose that this constitutional sluggishness implies any
deficiency in the milder moral virtues. The Dutch, I generally found
to possess, in a high degree, the kindly, charitable feelings of human
nature, which show themselves to the greater advantage, from the
native simplicity of their manners. I had got a comfortable billet at
a miller’s house, a little out of the village. The good folks finding
that I was a Scotchman, for which people they have a particular
liking from some similarity in their manners, began to treat me with
great cordiality, and threw off that reserve, which is so natural with
people who have soldiers forced into their houses whether they will
or not. The miller and his cheerful “frow” never tired of showing me
every kindness in their power while I remained with them, and to such
a degree did they carry this, that it quite distressed me. On leaving
Buitensluys, neither my landlord nor his wife would accept of any
remuneration, though I urgently pressed it on them. When the avarice of
the Dutch character is taken into account, they certainly deserve no
small praise for this disinterested kind-heartedness.

The ice having broken up a little, we were enabled to get ferried over
to Willemstadt, and proceed on our march to Tholen, where we arrived in
two or three days. The cold in Holland this winter was excessive, and
Tholen being within four miles of Bergen op-Zoom, a great part of the
inhabitants, as well as garrison, were every day employed in breaking
the ice in the ditches of the fortifications. The frost, however, was
so intense, that before the circuit was completed, which was towards
evening, we were often skaiting on the places which had been broken
in the morning; we could not, with all our exertions, break more
than nine feet in width, which was but an ineffectual protection
against the enemy, had they felt any inclination to attack us in this
half-dilapidated fortress, with our small garrison.

After we had been here some days, the remainder of our regiment, who
had been saved by the transport getting out to sea, joined us. They
had sprung a leak, and were near perishing, when it was fortunately
stopped, and the gale abated. The first thing we all thought of on
coming to Tholen was procuring snug billets, as we might remain some
time in garrison. With this view, I employed a German corporal, who
acted as our interpreter. He volunteered from the Veteran Battalion
at Fort George to accompany us. After looking about for some time, he
found out a quarter which he guessed would suit my taste. The house
was inhabited by a respectable burgher, who had been at sea, and still
retained the title of Skipper. His son, as I afterwards learned, had
died a few months before, leaving a very pretty young widow, who still
resided with her father-in-law. I had not seen her long before I
became interested in her. Johanna M—— was innocence and simplicity
itself; tender, soft, and affectionate; her eyes did not possess that
brightness which bespeaks lively passions, and too often inconstancy;
but they were soft, dark, and liquid, beaming with affection and
goodness of heart. On coming home one day, I found her with her head
resting on her hands and in tears; her father and mother-in-law, with
their glistening eyes resting on her, with an expression of sympathy
and sorrow, apparently more for her loss than their own; as if they
would have said, “Poor girl! we have lost a son, but you have lost
a husband.” Johanna, however, was young, and her spirits naturally
buoyant: of course it cannot be supposed that this intensity of
feeling could exist but at intervals. As usual, I soon made myself
quite at home with the Skipper and his family, and became, moreover,
a considerable favourite, from the interest I took in Johanna, and
a talent at making punch, which was always put in requisition when
they had a visit from the “_Predikaant_,” or priest of the parish;
on these occasions I was always one of the party at supper, which is
their principal meal. It usually consisted of a large tureen, with bits
of meat floating in fat or butter, for which we had to dive with our
forks; we had also forcemeat-balls and sour-crout. The priest who was
the very picture of good-nature and good-living, wore a three-cornered
cocked-hat, which, according to the fashion of the middle classes,
never quitted his head, excepting when he said grace. When supper was
over and the punch made, which always drew forth the most unqualified
praises of the “_Predikaant_,” he would lug out a heap of papers from
his breeches-pocket, inscribed with favourite Dutch ditties, which, so
far as I could understand the language, contained political allusions
to the state of matters in Europe at the time. The burden of one of
the songs I still remember, from the constant recurrence of the words,
“_Well mag het Ue bekoomen_,” at the end of each stanza. The jolly
priest being no singer, always read these overflowings of the Dutch
muse with the most energetic gestures and accent. At the end of each
verse, which seemed by its rhyme to have something of the titillating
effect of a feather on the sober features of the “Skipper,” the reader
would break out into a Stentorian laugh, enough to have shaken down the
walls of Jericho, or the Stadt-huis itself. The good “_vrow_,” whose
attention was almost entirely occupied with her household concerns, and
who had still more prose in her composition than her mate, would now
and then, like a good wife, exhibit some feeble tokens of pleasure,
when she observed his features to relax in a more than ordinary degree.

Soon after I had taken up my abode in the house, I observed that
Johanna had got a Dutch and English grammar, which she had begun to
study with great assiduity, and as I was anxious to acquire Dutch,
this naturally enough brought us often together. She would frequently
come into my room to ask the pronunciation of some word, for she was
particularly scrupulous on this head. On these occasions, I would make
her sit down beside me, and endeavour to make her perfect in each word
in succession; but she found so much difficulty in bringing her pretty
lips into the proper form, that I was under the necessity of enforcing
my instructions, by punishing her with a kiss for every failure. But so
far was this from quickening her apprehension, that the difficulties
seemed to increase at every step. Poor Johanna, notwithstanding this
little innocent occupation, could not, however, be entirely weaned from
her affection for the memory of her departed husband, for her grief
would often break out in torrents of tears; when this was the case, we
had no lesson for that day.

Garrison duty is always dull and irksome, and soldiers are always
glad of any thing to break the monotony of a life where there is no
activity or excitement. One day, while we lay at Tholen, a letter was
brought from head-quarters, which was to be forwarded from town to
town to Admiral Young, who was lying in the Scheldt at the time. A
couple of horses and a guide were procured, and I was sent with the
letter, much to my own satisfaction, as I was glad of an opportunity
to see more of the country. I was ordered to proceed to a certain
town, the name of which I forget, where another officer should relieve
me. It was late when I got to the town, and not being aware that it
was occupied by a Russian regiment, I was not a little surprised in
being challenged by a sentry in a foreign language. I could not make
out from the soldier what they were, until the officer of the guard
came up, who understood a little English. He informed me that they
were on their march to Tholen, where they were to do garrison duty.
On desiring to be conducted to his commanding officer, he brought me
to the principal house in the town, at the door of which two sentries
were posted. The scene in the interior was singular enough. The first
object that met my eyes on entering the Colonel’s apartment, was a
knot of soldiers in their green jackets and trowsers, lying in a heap,
one above another, in the corner of the room, (with their bonnets
pulled over their eyes,) like a litter of puppies, and snoring like
bull-frogs. These were the Colonel’s body-guard. The room with its
furniture exhibited a scene of the most outrageous debauchery. Chairs
overturned, broken decanters and bottles, fragments of tumblers and
wine-glasses lay scattered over the floor and table. Two or three
candles were still burning on the table, and others had been broken in
the conflict of bottles and other missiles. Taking a rapid glance at
the state of matters in passing, we approached the Colonel’s bed, which
stood in one corner of the room. My conductor drew the curtains, when
I saw two people lying in their flannel-shirts; the elder was a huge,
broad-faced man, with a ferocious expression of countenance, who I was
informed was the Colonel; the other was a young man about seventeen
years of age, exceedingly handsome, and with so delicate a complexion,
that I actually thought at the time he must be the Colonel’s wife. With
this impression I drew back for a moment, when he spoke to me in good
English, and told me he was the Adjutant, and begged I would state what
I had to communicate to the Colonel, which he would interpret to him,
as the latter did not understand English. The Colonel said he should
forward the letter by one of his officers, and as I could then return
to Tholen, we should proceed to that place next morning. We proceeded
accordingly next morning on our march to Tholen. The Colonel had sent
on his light company as an advanced-guard, some time before us, with
orders to halt at a village on the road, until the regiment came up.
Whether they had mistaken his orders I know not, but on coming to the
village, no light company was to be found; and on inquiry, we learned
that they had marched on. The rage of the Colonel knew no bounds, and
produced a most ridiculous and childish scene betwixt himself and the
officers. With the tears running down his cheeks, and stamping with
rage, he went among them; first accusing one, and then the other, as
if they were to blame for the mistake of the advanced-guard. Each of
them, however, answered him in a petulant snappish manner, like enraged
pug-dogs, at the same time clapping their hands to their swords, and
some of them drawing them half out of the scabbards, when he would
turn away from them, weeping bitterly like a great blubbering boy all
the while. The officers, however, began to pity the poor Colonel, and
at last succeeded in appeasing his wrath and drying his tears. He
proceeded forthwith to order an enormous breakfast to be prepared for
us immediately. It was of no use for the innkeeper to say that he had
not any of the articles they desired, he was compelled by threats and
curses to procure them, come whence they would. As our landlord knew
well whom he had to deal with, our table soon groaned under a load
of dishes, enough apparently to have dined four times our number. In
a trice we had every thing that could be procured for love or money,
and it was wonderful to observe with what alacrity the landlord waited
on us, and obeyed the orders he received. He appeared, in fact, to
have thrown off his native sluggishness, and two or three pairs of
breeches for the occasion. Before proceeding on the march, I wished to
pay my share of the entertainment, but my proposal was treated with
perfect ridicule. At first, I imagined that the Russians considered me
as their guest, but I could not discover that the innkeeper received
any remuneration for the entertainment prepared for us. The Russians
had many odd customs during their meals, such as drinking out of each
other’s glasses, and eating from each other’s plates; a compliment,
which in England, we could willingly dispense with. They seemed to have
a great liking to the English, and every day our men and theirs were
seen walking arm-in-arm about the streets together. The gin, which
was rather too cheap in this country, seemed to be a great bond of
union between them; and strange to say, I do not recollect a single
instance of their quarrelling. Notwithstanding the snapping between
the commanding officer and the other officers, they seemed on the
whole to be in excellent discipline in other respects. The manner in
which they went through their exercise was admirable, particularly
when we consider that they were only sailors acting on shore. There
was one custom, however, which never failed to excite our disgust and
indignation; hardly a day passed but we saw some of their officers
boxing the ears of their men in the ranks, who seemed to bear this
treatment with the greatest patience, and without turning their eyes
to the right or left during the operation; but such is the effect of
early habits and custom, that the very men who bore this degrading
treatment, seemed to feel the same disgust for our military punishment
of flogging; which, however degrading in its effects on the character
of the sufferer, could not at least be inflicted at the caprice of the
individual. We may here observe the different effects produced on the
character of men by a free and a despotic system of Government: it was
evidently not the _nature_, but the _degree_, of punishment in our
service which shocked the Russian prejudices.

We had all become thoroughly sick of the monotony and sameness of our
duties and occupations at Tholen, when we received orders to march the
next day, (8th March, 1814). As the attack on Bergen-op-Zoom, which
took place on that evening, was of course kept a profound secret, the
common opinion was, that we were destined for Antwerp, where the other
division of the army had already had some fighting. Though elated,
in common with my brother officers, with the prospect of coming to
closer quarters with the enemy, it was not without tears on both sides
that I parted with poor Johanna, who had somehow taken a hold of my
affections that I was hardly aware of till this moment. The time left
us to prepare for our march I devoted to her, and she did not even seek
the pretext of her English grammar to remain in my room for the few
hours we could yet enjoy together. We had marched some miles before I
could think of any thing but her, for the recollection of her tears
still thrilled to my very heart, and occasioned a stifling sensation
that almost deprived me of utterance. But we were soon thrown into a
situation where the excitement was too powerful and engrossing to leave
room for other thoughts than of what we were immediately engaged in.

It was nearly dark when we arrived at the village of Halteren, which
is only three or four miles from Bergen-op-Zoom, where we took up
our quarters for the night. On the distribution of the billets to
the officers for the night, I received one upon a farm-house about
a mile in the country. I had not been long at my new lodging, when
I was joined by four or five officers of the 4th Battalion Royal
Scots, who had just arrived by long marches from Stralsund, and were
billetted about the country. They had heard that an attempt to surprise
Bergen-op-Zoom would be made that same night. It is not easy to
describe the sensations occasioned in my mind by this intelligence; it
certainly partook but little of fear, but the novelty (to me at least)
of the situation in which we were about to be placed, excited a feeling
of anxiety as to the result of an attempt, in which, from the known
strength of the place, we dared hardly expect to be successful. There
is also a degree of melancholy which takes hold of the mind at these
moments of serious reflection which precede the conflict. My comrades
evidently shared this feeling with me. One of them remarked, as we
were preparing to march, “My boys, we’el see something like service
to-night,” and added, “we’el not all meet again in this world.” Poor
Mac Nicol, who made the remark, fell that night, which was the first
and the last of my acquaintance with him. I believe every one of us
were wounded. Learning from my new acquaintances that the grenadier
company of their regiment, (Royal Scots), which was commanded by an
old friend of mine, (Lieutenant Allan Robertson,) and whom I had not
seen for some years, was only about a mile farther off, I thought I
should have time to see him and join my regiment before they marched,
should they be sent to the attack. However, the party of the Royals
whom I accompanied lost their way, from their ignorance of the road,
and we in consequence made a long circuit, during which I heard from
an aid-de-camp who passed us, that the 21st were on their march to
attack the place on another quarter from us. In these circumstances I
was exceedingly puzzled what course to take; if I went in search of
my regiment, I had every chance of missing them in the night, being
quite ignorant of the roads. Knowing that the Royals would be likely to
head one of the columns from the number of the regiment, I took what I
thought the surest plan, by attaching myself to the grenadier company
under my gallant friend. There is something awfully impressive in the
mustering of soldiers before going into action; many of those names,
which the serjeants were now calling in an under tone of voice, would
never be repeated, but in the tales of their comrades who saw them
fall.

After mustering the men, we proceeded to the general “rendez-vous” of
the regiments forming the column; the Royals led the column followed by
the other regiments according to their number. As every thing depended
on our taking the enemy by surprise, the strictest orders were given to
observe a profound silence on the march.

While we are proceeding to the attack, it will not be amiss to give the
reader a slight sketch of the situation of Bergen-op-Zoom, and the plan
of the operations of the different columns, to render my relation of
the proceedings of the column I served with the more intelligible.

Bergen-op-Zoom is situated on the right bank of the Scheldt, and
takes its name from the little river Zoom, which, after supplying
the defences with water, discharges itself into the Scheldt. The old
channel of the Zoom, into which the tide flows towards the centre of
the town, forms the harbour, which is nearly dry at low-water. The
mouth of the harbour was the point fixed upon for the attack of the
right column, under Major-General Skerret, and Brig.-Gen. Gore. This
column consisted of 1100 men of the 1st regiment, or Royal Scots, the
37th, 44th, and 91st, (as far as I can recollect). Lieut.-Col. Henry,
with 650 men of the 21st, or Royal Scot’s Fusileers, was sent on a
false attack near the Steenbergen-gate, to the left of the harbour, (I
suppose the reader to be standing at the entrance of the harbour facing
the town). Another column, consisting of 1200 men of the 33d, 55th, and
69th regiments, under Lieut.-Col. Morrice, were to attack the place
near the Bredagate, and endeavour to enter by escalade. A third column,
under Col. Lord Proby, consisting of 1000 men of the 1st and Coldstream
Guards, was to make nearly a complete circuit of the place, and enter
the enemy’s works by crossing the ice, some distance to the right of
the entrance of the harbour and the Waterport-gate. This slight account
of the plan of attack I have borrowed in some degree from Col. Jones’
Narrative, who must have procured his information on these points from
the best sources. However, as I only pretend to speak with certainty
of what fell under my own immediate observation, I shall return to the
right column, with which I served on this occasion.

When we had proceeded some way we fell in with a picket, commanded by
Capt. Darrah, of the 21st. Fusileers, who was mustering his men to
proceed to the attack. Thinking that our regiment (the 21st), must
pass his post on their way to the false attack, he told me to remain
with him until they came up. I, in consequence, waited some time,
but hearing nothing of the regiment, and losing patience, I gave him
the slip in the dark, and ran on until I regained my place with the
grenadier company of the Royals. On approaching the place of attack, we
crossed the Tholen-dike, and immediately entered the bed of the Zoom,
through which we had to push our way before we entered the wet ditch.
It is not easy to convey an idea of the toil we experienced in getting
through the deep mud of the river; we immediately sank nearly to our
middles, and when, with great difficulty, we succeeded in freeing one
leg from the mire, we sank nearly to the shoulder on the other side
before we could get one pace forward. As might be expected, we got
into some confusion in labouring through this horrible slough, which
was like bird-lime about our legs; regiments got intermixed in the
darkness, while some stuck fast, and some unlucky wretches got trodden
down and smothered in the mud. Notwithstanding this obstruction,
a considerable portion of the column had got through, when those
behind us, discouraged by this unexpected difficulty, raised a shout
to encourage themselves. Gen. Skerret, who was at the head of the
column, was furious with rage, but the mischief was already done. The
sluices were opened, and a torrent of water poured down on us through
the channel of the river, by which the progress of those behind was
effectually stopped for some time. Immediately after the sluices were
opened, a brilliant firework was displayed on the ramparts, which
showed every object as clearly as daylight. Several cannon and some
musketry opened on us, but did us little harm, as they seemed to be
discharged at random. At the moment the water came down, I had just
cleared the deepest part of the channel, and making a great effort,
I gained a flat piece of ice which was sticking edgeways in the mud;
to this I clung till the strength of the torrent had passed, after
which I soon gained the firm land, and pushed on with the others to
the ditch. The point at which we entered was a bastion to the right of
the harbour, from one of the angles of which a row of high palisades
was carried through the ditch. To enable us to pass the water, some
scaling-ladders had been sunk to support us in proceeding along
the palisade, over which we had first to climb with each other’s
assistance, our soldiers performing the office of ladders to those who
preceded them. So great were the obstacles we met with, that had not
the attention of the enemy fortunately (or rather most judiciously),
been distracted by the false attack under Col. Henry, it appeared quite
impossible for us to have affected an entrance at this point. While we
were proceeding forward in this manner, Col. Muller[45] of the Royals
was clambering along the tops of the palisade, calling to those who had
got the start of him, to endeavour to open the Waterport-gate, and let
down the drawbridge to our right; but no one in the hurry of the moment
seemed to hear him. On getting near enough, I told him I should effect
it if it was possible.

We met with but trifling resistance on gaining the rampart; the enemy
being panic struck, fled to the streets and houses in the town, from
which they kept up a pretty sharp fire on us for some time. I got
about twenty soldiers of different regiments to follow me to the
Waterport-gate, which we found closed. It was constructed of thin
paling, with an iron bar across it about three inches in breadth. Being
without tools of any kind, we made several ineffectual attempts to open
it. At last, retiring a few paces, we made a rush at it in a body, when
the iron bar snapped in the middle like a bit of glass. Some of my
people got killed and wounded during this part of the work, but when we
got to the drawbridge, we were a little more sheltered from the firing.
The bridge was up, and secured by a lock in the right hand post of the
two which supported it. I was simple enough to attempt to pick the lock
with a soldier’s bayonet, but after breaking two or three, we at last
had an axe brought us from the bastion where the troops were entering.
With the assistance of this instrument we soon succeeded in cutting
the lock out of the post, and taking hold of the chain, I had the
satisfaction to pull down the drawbridge with my own hands.

While I was engaged in this business, Col. Muller was forming the
Royals on the rampart where we entered; but a party of about 150 men
of different regiments, under General Skerret, who must have entered
to the left of the harbour, were clearing the ramparts towards the
Steinbergen-gate, where the false attack had been made under Col.
Henry; and a party, also, under Col. Carleton, of the 44th regiment,
was proceeding in the opposite direction along the ramparts to the
right, without meeting with much resistance. Hearing the firing on the
opposite side of the town from Gen. Skerret’s party, and supposing
that they had marched through the town, I ran on through the streets
to overtake them, accompanied by only one or two soldiers, for the
rest had left me and returned to the bastion after we had opened the
gate. In proceeding along the canal or harbour, which divided this part
of the town, I came to a loop-holed wall, which was continued from
the houses down to the water’s edge. I observed a party of soldiers
within a gate in this wall, and was going up to them, taking them for
our own people, when I was challenged in French, and had two or three
shots fired at me. Seeing no other way of crossing the harbour but by
a little bridge, which was nearly in a line with the wall, I returned
to the Waterport-gate, which I found Col. Muller had taken possession
of with two or three companies of his regiment. I went up to him, and
told him that I had opened the gate according to his desire, and of the
interruption I had met with in the town. Not knowing me, he asked my
name, which he said he would remember, and sent one of the companies
up with me to the wall, already mentioned, and ordered the officer who
commanded the company, after he should have driven the enemy away, to
keep possession of it until farther orders. On coming to the gate,
we met with a sharp resistance, but after firing a few rounds, and
preparing to charge they gave way, leaving us in possession of the gate
and bridge.

Leaving the company here, and crossing the little bridge, I again set
forward alone to overtake Gen. Skerret’s party, guided by the firing on
the ramparts. Avoiding any little parties of the enemy, I had reached
the inside of the ramparts where the firing was, without its occuring
to me that I might get into the wrong box and be taken prisoner.
Fortunately I observed a woman looking over a shop door, on one side of
the street; the poor creature, who must have been under the influence
of some strong passion to remain in her present exposed situation, was
pale and trembling. She was a Frenchwoman, young, and not bad-looking.
I asked her where the British soldiers were, which she told me without
hesitation, pointing at the same time in the direction. I shook hands
with her, and bade her good night, not entertaining the smallest
suspicion of her deceiving me; following her directions, I clambered up
the inside of the rampart, and rejoined Gen. Skerret’s party.

The moon had now risen, and though the sky was cloudy, we could see
pretty well what was doing. I found my friend Robertson here, with the
grenadier company of the Royals; I learned from him that the party,
which was now commanded by Capt. Guthrie of the 33d regiment, had
been compelled by numbers to retire from the bastion which the enemy
now occupied, and should endeavour to maintain the one which they now
possessed, until they could procure a reinforcement. He also told me
of Gen. Skerret’s being dangerously wounded and taken prisoner, an
irreparable loss to our party, as Capt. Guthrie was ignorant of the
General’s intentions. In the mean time the enemy continued a sharp
firing on us, which we returned as fast as our men could load their
firelocks. Several of the enemy who had fallen, as well as of our own
men, were lying on the ramparts; one of our officers, who had been
wounded in the arm, was walking about, saying occasionally, in rather
a discontented manner, “This is what is called honour;” though I could
readily sympathise with him in the pain he suffered, I could not
exactly understand how, if there is any honour in getting wounded, any
bodily suffering can detract from it.

We found a large pile of logs of wood on the rampart; these we
immediately disposed across the gorge of the bastion, so as to form a
kind of parapet, over which our people could fire, leaving, however,
about half the distance open towards the parapet of the rampart. On
the opposite side of the bastion were two twenty-four-pounders of the
enemy’s, which being raised on high platforms, we turned upon them,
firing along the ramparts over the heads of our own party. However
valuable this resource might be to us, we were still far from being
on equal terms with the French, who besides greatly exceeding us in
numbers, had also brought up two or three fieldpieces, which annoyed
us much during the night. There was also a windmill on the bastion they
occupied, from the top of which their musketry did great execution
among us. In the course of the night, they made several ineffectual
attempts to drive us from our position: on these occasions, which we
always were aware of from the shouts they raised to encourage each
other, as soon as they made their appearance on the rampart, we gave
them a good dose of grape from our twenty-four-pounders, and had a
party ready to charge them back. I observed our soldiers were always
disposed to meet the enemy half-way, and the latter were soon so well
aware of our humour, that they invariably turned tail before we could
get within forty or fifty paces of them. The firing was kept up almost
continually on both sides until about two o’clock in the morning, when
it would sometimes cease for more than half-an-hour together. During
one of these intervals of stillness, exhausted with our exertions,
and the cold we felt in our drenched clothes, some of the officers
and I lay down along the parapet together, in hopes of borrowing a
little heat from each other. I fell insensibly into a troubled dozing
state, in which my imagination still revelled in the scenes of night.
While I yet lay the firing had recommenced, which, with the shouts
of the enemy, and the words of those about me, seemed to form but the
ground work of my fitful dream, which continued to link imaginary
circumstances to reality. How long I might have lain in this stupor,
between sleeping and waking, I know not, when suddenly I felt the
ground shake under me, and heard at the same time a crash as if the
whole town had been overwhelmed by an earthquake; a bright glare of
light burst on my eyes at the same instant and almost blinded me. A
shot from the enemy had blown up our small magazine on the ramparts,
on which we depended for the supply of the two twenty-four-pounders
which had been of such material use to us during the night. This broke
our slumbers most effectually; and we had now nothing for it but
to maintain our ground in the best way we were able until we could
receive a reinforcement from some of the other parties. Immediately
after this disaster, raising a tremendous shout or rather yell, the
enemy again attempted to come to close quarters with us, in hopes of
our being utterly disheartened; but our charging party, which we had
always in readiness, made them wheel round as usual. In the course of
the night, we had sent several small parties of men to represent the
state of our detachment, and endeavour to procure assistance, but none
of them returned, having, we supposed, been intercepted by the enemy.
Discouraged as we were by this circumstance, we still continued to hold
our ground until break of day.

By this time the firing had entirely ceased in the other part of the
town, naturally leading us, in the absence of all communication, to
conclude that the other parties had been driven from the place. However
this may have been, the first dawn of day showed us in but too plain
colours the hopelessness of our situation. The enemy now brought
an overwhelming force against us; but still we expected, from the
narrowness of the rampart, that they would not be able to derive the
full advantage of their superiority; but in this we were deceived. The
bastion we occupied was extensive, but only that portion of it near the
gorge was furnished with a parapet. At this spot, and behind the logs
which we had thrown up, our now diminished force was collected. Keeping
up an incessant fire to divert our attention, the French (who now
outnumbered us, at least three to one,) detached a part of their force,
which skirting the outside of the ramparts, and ascending the face of
the bastion we occupied, suddenly opened a most destructive fire on our
flank and rear. From this latter party we were totally unprotected,
while they were sheltered by the top of the rampart: we were thus left
to defend ourselves from both at once as we best could. But still they
would not venture to charge us, and it would have been of little use
for us to charge them, for the moment we quitted the parapet, we would
have been exposed to a cross fire from the other bastion.

The slaughter was now dreadful, and our poor fellows, who had done all
that soldiers could in our trying situation, now fell thick and fast.
Just at this moment, my friend Robertson, under whose command I had
put myself at the beginning of the attack, fell. I had just time to
run up to him, and found him stunned from a wound in the head; when
our gallant commander, seeing the inutility of continuing the unequal
contest, gave the order to retreat. We had retired in good order about
three hundred yards, when poor Guthrie received a wound in the head,
which I have since been informed deprived him of his sight. The enemy,
when they saw us retreating, hung upon our rear, keeping up a sharp
fire all the time, but they still seemed to have some respect for us
from the trouble we had already given them. We had indulged the hope,
that by continuing our course along the ramparts, we should be able to
effect our retreat by the Waterport-gate,[46] not being aware that
we should be intercepted by the mouth of the harbour. We were already
at the very margin before we discovered our mistake and completely
hemmed in by the French. We had therefore no alternative left to us
but to surrender ourselves prisoners of war, or to attempt to effect
our escape across the harbour, by means of the floating pieces of ice
with which the water was covered. Not one of us seemed to entertain
the idea of surrender, however, and in the despair which had now taken
possession of every heart, we threw ourselves into the water, or leaped
for the broken pieces of ice which were floating about. The scene
that ensued was shocking beyond description—the canal or harbour was
faced on both sides by high brick walls; in the middle of the channel
lay a small Dutch decked vessel, which was secured by a rope to the
opposite side of the harbour. Our only hope of preserving our lives or
effecting our escape, depended on our being able to gain this little
vessel. Already, many had, by leaping first on one piece of ice and
then on another, succeeded in getting on board the vessel, which they
drew to the opposite side of the canal by the rope, and thus freed one
obstruction: but immediately afterwards, being intercepted by the
Waterport redoubt, they were compelled to surrender. The soldiers in
particular, when they found themselves inclosed by the enemy, seemed
to lose the power of reflection, and leaped madly into the water, with
their arms in their hands, without even waiting until a piece of ice
should float within their reach. The air was rent with vain cries for
help from the drowning soldiers, mixed with the exulting shouts of the
enemy, who seemed determined to make us drain the bitter cup of defeat
to the very dregs. Among the rest I had scrambled down the face of the
canal to a beam running horizontally along the brick-work, from which
other beams descended perpendicularly into the water, to prevent the
sides from being injured by shipping. After sticking my sword into my
belt, (for I had thrown the scabbard away the previous night,) I leaped
from this beam, which was nine or ten feet above the water, for a piece
of ice, but not judging my distance very well, it tilted up with me,
and I sunk to the bottom of the water. However, I soon came up again,
and after swimming to the other side of the canal and to the vessel, I
found nothing to catch hold of. I had therefore nothing for it but to
hold on by the piece of ice I had at first leaped on, and swinging my
body under it, I managed to keep my face out of the water. I had just
caught hold of the ice in time, for encumbered as I was with a heavy
great coat, now thoroughly soaked, I was in a fair way to share the
fate of many a poor fellow now lying at the bottom of the water. I did
not, however, retain my slippery hold undisturbed. I was several times
dragged under water by the convulsive grasp of the drowning soldiers,
but by desperate efforts I managed to free myself and regain my hold.
Even at this moment, I cannot think without horror of the means which
the instinct of self-preservation suggested to save my own life, while
some poor fellow clung to my clothes: I think I still see his agonized
look, and hear his imploring cry, as he sank for ever.

After a little time I remained undisturbed tenant of the piece of ice.
I was not, however, the only survivor of those who had got into the
water; several of them were still hanging on to other pieces of ice,
but they one by one let go their hold, and sank as their strength
failed. At length only three or four besides myself remained. All this
time some of the enemy continued firing at us, and I saw one or two
shot in the water near me. So intent was every one on effecting his
escape, that though they sometimes cast a look of commiseration at
their drowning comrades, no one thought for a moment of giving us any
assistance. The very hope of it had at length so completely faded in
our minds, that we had ceased to ask the aid of those that passed us on
the fragments of ice. But Providence had reserved one individual who
possessed a heart to feel for the distress of his fellow-creatures more
than for his own personal safety. The very last person that reached the
vessel in the manner I have already described, was Lieut. M’Dougal, of
the 91st Regiment. I had attracted his attention in passing me, and he
had promised his assistance when he should reach the vessel. He soon
threw me a rope, but I was now so weak, and benumbed with the intense
cold, that it slipped through my fingers alongside of the vessel; he
then gave me another, doubled, which I got under my arms, and he thus
succeeded, with the assistance of a wounded man, in getting me on
board. I feel that it is quite out of my power to do justice to the
humanity and contempt of danger displayed by our generous deliverer on
this occasion. While I was assisting him in saving the two or three
soldiers who still clung to pieces of ice, I got a musket-ball through
my wrist; for all this time several of the enemy continued deliberately
firing at us from the opposite rampart, which was not above sixty yards
from the vessel. Not content with what he had already done for me, my
kind-hearted friend insisted on helping me out of the vessel; but I
could not consent to his remaining longer exposed to the fire of the
enemy, who had already covered the deck with killed and wounded, and
M’Dougal fortunately still remained unhurt. Finding that I would not
encumber him, he left the vessel, and I went down to the cabin, where
I found Lieut. Briggs, of the 91st, sitting on one side, with a severe
wound through his shoulder-blade. The floor of the cabin was covered
with water, for the vessel had become leaky from the firing. I took my
station on the opposite side, and taking off my neckcloth, with the
assistance of my teeth, I managed to bind up my wound, so as to stop
the bleeding in some measure. My companion suffered so much from his
wound that little conversation passed betwixt us.

I fell naturally into gloomy reflections on the events of the night.
I need hardly say how bitter and mortifying they were: after all our
toils and sanguine anticipations of ultimate success, to be thus robbed
of the prize which we already grasped, as we thought, with a firm hand.
Absorbed in these melancholy ruminations, accompanied from time to
time by a groan from my companion, several hours passed away, during
which the water continued rising higher and higher in the cabin, until
it reached my middle, and I was obliged to hold my arm above it, for
the salt-water made it smart. Fortunately the vessel grounded from the
receding of the tide. Escape in our state being now quite out of the
question, my companion and I were glad on the whole to be relieved from
our present disagreeable situation by surrendering ourselves prisoners.

The firing had now entirely ceased, and the French seemed satiated with
the ample vengeance they had taken on us. As there was no gate near us,
we were hoisted with ropes over the ramparts, which were here faced
with brick to the top. A French soldier was ordered to show me the way
to the hospital in the town. As we proceeded, however, my guide took
a fancy to my canteen which still hung by my side, and laying hold of
it without ceremony, was proceeding to empty its contents into his own
throat. Though suffering with a burning thirst from loss of blood, I
did not recollect till this moment that there was about two-thirds of
a bottle of gin remaining in it. I immediately snatched it from the
fellow’s hand and clapping it to my mouth, finished every drop of it at
a draught, while he vented his rage in oaths. I found it exceedingly
refreshing, but it had no more effect on my nerves than small beer in
my present state of exhaustion.

The scene as we passed through the streets, strewed here and there with
the bodies of our fallen soldiers, intermixed with those of the enemy,
was, indeed, melancholy; even could I have forgotten for a moment how
the account stood between the enemy and us, I was continually reminded
of our failure, by the bodies of many of our people being already
stripped of their upper garments. When we arrived at the hospital, I
found one of the officers of my regiment, who had been taken prisoner,
standing at the door. My face was so plastered with blood from a prick
of a bayonet I had got in the temple from one of our soldiers, that
it was some time before he knew me. In passing along the beds in the
hospital, the first face I recognised was that of my friend Robertson,
whom I had left for dead when our party retreated. Besides the wound he
received in the head, he had received one in the wrist, after he fell.

On lying down on the bed prepared for me, I was guilty of a piece of
simplicity, which I had ample occasion to repent before I left the
place. I took all my clothes off, and sent them to be dried by the
people of the hospital, but they were never returned to me. I was
in consequence forced to keep my bed for the three days I remained
prisoner in Bergen-op-Zoom.

The hospital was crowded with the wounded on both sides. On my right
hand lay Ensign Martial of the 55th regiment, with a grape-shot wound
in his shoulder, of which, and ague together, he afterwards died at
Klundert. On my left, in an adjoining room, lay poor General Skerret,
with a desperate wound through the body, of which he died next night.
It was said that he might have recovered, had it not been for the
bruises he had received from the muskets of the enemy after he fell.
This story I can hardly credit. However that may be, there is no doubt
we lost in him a most gallant, zealous, and active officer, and at
a most unfortunate time for the success of the enterprise. On the
opposite side of the hospital lay Capt. Campbell, of the 55th regiment.
He had a dreadful wound from a grape which entered at his shoulder and
went out near the back-bone. He was gifted with the most extraordinary
flow of spirits of any man I have ever met with. He never ceased
talking from sun-rise till night, and afforded all of us who were in
a condition to relish any thing, an infinite deal of amusement. I had
told Campbell of the trick they had played me with my clothes, and it
immediately became with him a constant theme for rating every Frenchman
that passed him.

In the course of the next day a French serjeant came swaggering into
the hospital, with an officer’s sash tied round him, and stretched
out to its utmost breadth. He boasted that he had killed the officer
by whom it had been worn. Twice a-day two of the attendants of the
hospital went about with buckets in their hands, one containing small
pieces of boiled meat, which was discovered to be horseflesh by the
medical people, while another contained a miserable kind of stuff,
which they called soup, and a third contained bits of bread. One of
the pieces of meat was tossed on each bed with a fork in passing; but
the patient had always to make his choice between flesh and bread, and
soup and bread, it being thought too much to allow them soup and meat
at the same time. I was never so much puzzled in my life as by this
alternative. Constantly tormented with thirst, I usually asked for
soup, but my hunger, with which I was no less tormented, made me as
often repent my choice. While we lay here we were attended by our own
surgeons, and had every attention paid to us in this respect that we
could desire.

In the mean time arrangements were entered into with Gen. Bizanet, the
French commander, for an exchange of prisoners, and in consequence the
last of the wounded prisoners were removed in waggons to Rozendaal, on
the third day after we had been taken. On this occasion I was obliged
to borrow a pair of trowsers from one of the soldiers, and a coat from
my neighbour Martial, of the 55th, who being a tall man and I rather
little, it reached half-way down my legs. Altogether I cut rather an
odd figure as I started from the hospital. My regimental cap and shoes
had, however, escaped the fate of my other habiliments, so, considering
circumstances, matters might have been worse. But, one trial to my
temper still remained which I did not expect: the old rascal, to whom I
delivered my clothes when I sent them to be dried, had the unparalleled
impudence to make a demand on me for the hospital shirt, with which, in
place of my own wet one, I had been supplied on entering the hospital.
I was so provoked at this unconscionable request, that I believe I
should have answered him with a box on the ear, but my only available
hand was too well employed at the time in supporting my trowsers. There
was still another reason for my objecting to his demand: before I was
taken prisoner, while lying in the vessel, I had managed to conceal
some money which happened to be in my pockets on going to the attack;
this I had carefully transferred, with due secrecy, to the inferior
margin of the hospital shirt in which it was tied with a garter,
when we were preparing to leave the place. This treasure, though not
large, was of some importance to me, and I determined that nothing
short of brute force should deprive me of it. My gentleman, however,
pertinaciously urged his claim to the aforesaid garment, and a violent
altercation ensued between us, in which I had an opportunity of showing
a proficiency in Dutch swearing, that I was not aware of myself till
this moment. My friend Campbell came up at last to my assistance, and
discharged such a volley of oaths at the old vampire, that he was
fairly beaten out of the field, and I carried away the shirt in triumph.

We were marched out of the town by the Bredagate to Rozendaal, a
distance of about fifteen miles, where we arrived the same night. The
French soldiers who had fallen in the conflict had all been removed
by this time, but, as we proceeded, escorted by the victors, many a
ghastly corpse of our countrymen met our half-averted eyes. They had
all been more or less stripped of their clothing, and some had only
their shirts left for a covering, and were turned on their faces. My
heart rose at this humiliating spectacle, nor could I breathe freely
until we reached the open fields beyond the fortifications. All who
were unable to march were crowded into the waggons which had been
prepared for them, while those who were less disabled straggled along
the road the best way they could. As may be supposed, there were no
needless competitors for the waggon conveyance, for the roads were
rough, and every jolt of the vehicles produced groans of agony from the
wretched passengers.

On arriving at Wouw, which I took in my way, I explained my absence
from the regiment to the satisfaction of the commanding officer. I soon
heard of the fate of poor Bulteel, (2nd Lieutenant 21st Regiment,)
who fell during this ill-starred enterprise, by a cannon-ball, which
carried off the top of his head. Never was a comrade more sincerely
lamented by his messmates than this most amiable young man. His
brother, an officer in the Guards, whom he had met only a few days
before, fell the same night. The captain of my company, and kind
friend, M’Kenzie, had his leg shattered by a shot on the same occasion,
and I was informed that he bore the amputation without suffering a
groan to escape from him. Four others were more slightly wounded. The
dead had all been collected in the church, and a long trench being dug
by the soldiers, they were all next day deposited in the earth without
parade, and in silence. In a few days I proceeded to Rozendaal, where,
for the present, the prisoners were to remain.

At this place I had more cause than ever to feel grateful for the
kindness of my Dutch landladies and landlords; the surgeon who attended
me finding it necessary to put me on low diet, and to keep my bed, the
sympathy of the good people of the house knew no bounds; not an hour
passed but they came to inquire how I was. So disinterested was their
unwearied attention, that on leaving them I could not induce them to
accept the smallest remuneration. After some time we went to Klundert,
where we were to remain until our exchange should be effected.

Before concluding my narrative of the unfortunate attack on
Bergen-op-Zoom, the reader may expect some observations relative to
the plan of attack, and the causes of its ultimate failure; but it
should be remembered, before venturing to give my opinions on the
subject, that nothing is more difficult for an individual attached to
any one of the different columns which composed the attacking force,
than to assign causes for such an unexpected result, particularly
when the communication between them has been interrupted. In a battle
in the open field, where every occurrence either takes place under
the immediate observation of the General, or is speedily communicated
to him, faults can be soon remedied, or at least it may be afterwards
determined with some degree of accuracy where they existed. But in
a night-attack on a fortified place, the case is very different. As
the General of the army cannot be personally present in the attack,
any blame which may attach to the undertaking, can only affect him in
so far as the original plan is concerned; and if this plan succeeds
so far that the place is actually surprised, and the attacking force
has effected a lodgment within it, and even been in possession of the
greater part of the place, with a force equal to that of the enemy,
no candid observer can attribute the failure to any defect in the
arrangements of the General. Nothing certainly can be easier than,
after the event, to point out certain omissions which, had the General
been gifted with the spirit of prophecy, _might possibly_, in the
existing state of matters, have led to a happier result; but nothing,
in my humble opinion, can be more unfair, or more uncandid, than to
blame the unsuccessful commander, when every possible turn which
things might take was not provided against, and while it still remains
a doubt how far _the remedies proposed_ by such critics would have
succeeded in the execution.

According to the plan of operations, as stated in Sir Thomas Graham’s
dispatch, it was directed that the right column, under Major-General
Skerret, and Brig.-General Gore, which entered at the mouth of the
harbour, and the left column under Lord Proby, which Major-General
Cooke accompanied in person, and which attacked between the Waterport
and Antwerp gates, should move along the ramparts and form a junction.
This junction, however, did not take place, as General Cooke had been
obliged to change the point of attack, which prevented his gaining the
ramparts until half-past eleven o’clock, an hour after General Skerret
entered with the right column; a large detachment of which, under
Colonel the Hon. George Carleton, and General Gore, had, unknown to
him, (General Cooke), as it would appear, penetrated along the ramparts
far beyond the point where he entered. The centre column, under
Lieut.-Colonel Morrice, which had attacked near the Steenbergen lines,
being repulsed with great loss, and a still longer delay occuring
before they entered by the scaling-ladders of General Cooke’s column,
the enemy had ample opportunities to concentrate their force, near
the points in most danger. However, notwithstanding all these delays
and obstructions, we succeeded (as already stated) in establishing a
force equal to that of the enemy along the ramparts. But still, without
taking into account the advantage which the attacking force always
possesses in the alarm and distraction of the enemy, (which, however,
was more than counterbalanced by our entire ignorance of the place,) we
could not, in fact, be said to have gained any decided superiority over
our adversaries; on the contrary, the chances were evidently against
our being able to maintain our position through the night, or until
reinforcements could come up. “But why,” I have heard it often urged,
“were we not made better acquainted with the place?” In answer to this
question, it may be observed, that though there can be no doubt that
the leaders of the different columns, at least, had seen plans of the
place, yet there is a great difference between a personal knowledge of
a place, and that derived from the best plans, even by daylight; but
in the _night_ the enemy must possess a most decided advantage over
their assailants, in their intimate knowledge of all the communications
through the town, as well as in their acquaintance with the bearings
of the different works which surround it.

Another circumstance which must have tended most materially to the
unfortunate result of the attack was, that the two parties, which had
been detached from the right column, were deprived of their commanders
in the very beginning of the night, by the fall of Generals Skerret
and Gore, and Colonel Carleton. The reader, were I inclined to account
for our failure, by these early calamities alone, need not go far to
find instances in history where the fate of an army has been decided
by the fall of its leader. There are some statements, however, in the
excellent account published by Colonel Jones, (who must have had the
best means of information on these points), which irresistibly lead
the mind to certain conclusions, which, while they tend most directly
to exonerate Sir Thomas Graham, as well as the General entrusted with
the command of the enterprise, from the blame which has so unfairly
been heaped on them, at the same time seem to imply some degree of
misconduct on the part of the battalion detached by General Cooke to
support the reserve of 600 men under Lt. Col. Muller at the Waterport
gate. This battallion, he (Colonel Jones), states, perceiving the
enemy preparing to attack them after having got possession of the
Waterport-gate, left the place, by crossing the ice. No reason is given
why this battalion did not fall back on General Cooke’s force at the
Orange bastion.

The surrender of the reserve at the Waterport-gate seems to have arisen
either from some mistake, or from ignorance of the practicability of
effecting their escape in another direction, for it does not appear
that they were aware of General Cooke’s situation. The loss of these
two parties seems, therefore, to have been the more immediate cause of
the failure of the enterprise; for had both these parties been enabled
to form a junction with General Cooke, we should still, notwithstanding
former losses, have been nearly on an equality, in point of numbers at
least with the enemy. As matters now stood, after these two losses,
which reduced our force in the place to less than half that of the
French, General Cooke appears to have done all that could be expected
of a prudent and humane commander, in surrendering to prevent a useless
expenditure of life, after withdrawing all he could from the place. It
would appear, in consequence of the delay that occurred before General
Cooke entered the place, and the repulse of Colonel Morrice’s column,
that the plan of the attack had been altered; otherwise it is difficult
to account for the proceedings of General Skerret in his attempting to
penetrate so far along the ramparts to the left of the entrance of the
harbour, with so small a force.

In Sir Thomas Graham’s dispatch, (as I have already noticed), it is
stated that the right column, under General Skerret, and the left
under General Cooke, “were directed to form a junction as soon as
possible,” and “clear the rampart of opponents.” From the latter words
it is evident that he meant by the nearest way along the ramparts;
consequently, according to this arrangement, General Skerret’s column,
after entering at the mouth of the harbour, should have proceeded
along the ramparts to its right. In this direction, Colonel Carleton
had proceeded with 150 men, while General Skerret pushed along the
ramparts in the opposite direction; from these circumstances, it is
fair to conclude that General Skerret despaired of being able to form
a junction with the left column, and therefore wished to force the
Steenbergen-gate, and admit the 21st Fusileers, under Colonel Henry,
while Colonel Carleton should form a junction with Colonel Jones. It
is stated in Col. Jones’s account that General Skerret attempted to
fall back on the reserve at the Waterport-gate, but was prevented
by the rising of the tide at the entrance of the harbour. Though it
would be rash at this distance of time to venture to contradict this
statement, I cannot help thinking that he has been misinformed on this
point; for, on my joining the party, after opening the Waterport-gate,
I heard nothing of such an attempt having been made; and if they
had still entertained the idea of retiring from their position, I
could have easily shown them the way by the foot-bridge across the
harbour, where Colonel Muller had sent a company of the Royals from
the Waterport-gate. The party were, when I came to them, at bastion
14,[47] to which they had just retired from bastion 13, where General
Skerret had been wounded and taken prisoner, and they were now
commanded by Captain Guthrie of the 33rd Regiment: it was under the
orders of the last mentioned officer that we threw up the log parapet,
which was of such use to us during the night. The admirable judgment
and coolness displayed by this gallant officer, upon whom the command
so unexpectedly devolved, cannot be mentioned in too high terms of
commendation.

In concluding my narrative, it will, I trust, be admitted, that however
much we may deplore the unfortunate issue of the enterprise, and the
unforeseen difficulties which tended to frustrate the best concerted
plan of operations, there have been few occasions during the war in
which the courage and energies of British soldiers have been put to
such a severe test, or have been met by a more gallant and successful
resistance on the part of the enemy.

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