SEA-SICK BY REGULATION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Sidenote: TO PORTUGAL.]

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

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

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

[Sidenote: HEAVY MARCHING ORDER.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Sidenote: WORDS OF SIR JOHN MOORE.]

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

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

[Sidenote: SPANIARDS AND PORTUGUESE.]

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

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

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

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

[Sidenote: ADVANCE TO SALAMANCA.]

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

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

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