JOVIAL PRELUDE TO WAR

On the day following that upon which we returned to Tarifa I was sent
to Gibraltar with despatches giving an account of our late movements
to the lieutenant-governor, who was much pleased with the conduct of
the regiment in general, but particularly with that of Colonel Browne
for the determined and judicious manner in which he conducted the whole
of the operations, as was fully testified by General Beguines in a
despatch written to General Campbell on the subject.

Rather excited than depressed by the failure of the intended sortie
from Cadiz, General Graham, the resources of whose mind multiplied
in proportion as difficulties appeared, still insisted not only on
the local advantages to be gained by a sortie before Soult should
return with reinforcements, but also that to boldly march out from the
strongest hold in Spain and undauntedly maintain the war in the open
field would inspire the nation with confidence and stimulate the whole
population to the deeds of national glory which Spaniards were wont to
perform. He contended that with such sentiments properly directed the
Spaniards alone were an overmatch for any invading nation, and would
shortly succeed in freeing their country and driving every Frenchman
in Spain down the northern side of the Pyrenees. These arguments could
not be opposed even by General La Peña, who opposed everything except
the enemy. It was therefore arranged that seven thousand Spaniards and
three thousand British troops should embark at Cadiz and sailing to
Tarifa there descend, since that was the nearest place which the allies
possessed in rear of the enemy’s lines. To facilitate this enterprise
General Graham made a sacrifice not easily paralleled. He ceded the
chief command to his ally, thus patriotically giving up the certainty
of personal fame as a leader for the honour of his country’s arms and
the prosperity of the general cause; and such was the confidence he
felt in the valour of the British troops under his command and in the
happy results, if La Peña would only do his duty towards his country,
or do anything except what was glaringly wrong, that he condescended
to serve under the Spanish general, and that too against the opinion
of Lord Wellington, who recommended him never to move out of Cadiz to
execute any movement except in chief command. The duke well knew by
dearly bought experience of what leaven Spanish generals were moulded.
He knew that it required the utmost exertions of a British general to
persuade those of Spain to save their own corps, without calculating on
more. Of this Cuesta gave convincing proof by his movements before the
battle of Talavera, by his inertness and incapacity while the battle
raged and above all by his disgraceful conduct after the battle was
fought, on account of which his lordship felt compelled for the safety
of his own troops to separate from the Spanish army, bidding them
farewell with feelings of respect for the gallant soldiers, of contempt
for the vanity and ignorance of their commanders, and of distrust of
the government who would have devoted their allies and compromised the
honour and independence of their country for personal ambition and mean
self-interested motives. Spanish character in the different branches
was discovered rather too late for his advantage by Sir John Moore, who
portrayed it in its true colours for the information of His Majesty’s
counsellors and the guidance of his successors in Spain.

It was now agreed that Generals La Peña and Graham should march
immediately after disembarkation against the rear of the enemy’s lines,
force a passage to the continental bank of the Santi Petri River, and
by dislodging the French from the posts which they there occupied cover
the construction of the bridge and the sortie from the Isla de Leon.
The Spanish general, Zayas, who was appointed to the command at Cadiz
during La Peña’s absence, was directed to second the project if the
opportune moment should arrive.

[Sidenote: GRAHAM SAILS FROM CADIZ.]

All being now ready, General Graham with the British troops sailed
from Cadiz on February 21st for Tarifa. This place presenting
only a roadstead and the wind blowing fresh on the 22nd, when the
general came before it, a descent was found impracticable, and he
therefore proceeded to Algesiras, where he landed, and marching
over an excessively bad road arrived on the evening of the 23rd at
Tarifa. The weather continuing boisterous, the troops halted to await
the Spaniards; and Major Duncan’s brigade of guns, which had been
disembarked at Algesiras, had to be put on board again and brought
by water to Tarifa on account of the state of the road, over which a
wheelbarrow could not be rolled without disaster.

At Tarifa the 28th Regiment were garrisoned under the command of
Colonel Belson, who had rejoined a few days previously from England.
General Graham being well acquainted with the old corps, particularly
during the campaign of Sir John Moore, requested General Campbell’s
leave to lead it during the expedition, which was granted; but the
lieutenant-governor, not forgetting Colonel Browne’s eminent services
during his long command at Tarifa under many critical circumstances,
sent the flank companies of the 9th and 82nd Regiments from Gibraltar,
which, together with those of the 28th Regiment, were to be placed
under the command of Colonel Browne, thus giving him an independent
flank battalion, subject to no orders but those coming direct from
General Graham.

[Sidenote: GUESTS GALORE.]

During the few days which the British troops spent at Tarifa our time
was passed in that jovial conviviality always to be observed among
British soldiers on the opening of a campaign. This formed a remarkable
era in the history of the 28th Regiment, never equalled in any other
corps. They formed the proper garrison of Tarifa, and having been
quartered there for some time were the only regiment which had an
established mess. The town furnished but one posada, or inn if it may
be so called; and this afforded but little accommodation to so large
a concourse as that now assembled. Upwards of a hundred and fifty
officers dined at our mess daily; those of the regiment, together with
those of the flank companies sent from Gibraltar, who were of course
honorary members, amounted to nearly fifty, for the officers of the
28th Regiment, never being much addicted to depôt duty, always mustered
strong at headquarters.

Our mess-room was very spacious, and at either end was a room which
entered into it; not only these three, but in fact every room in the
house, had tables put down; and many there were who felt glad to
procure a dinner even in the kitchen. The draught on our cellar was
deep, and profiting by the experience of the first day of the jubilee,
on the second day, the 24th, we passed a restriction act limiting
each officer to a pint of port and half a bottle of claret; but
notwithstanding this precaution, we ran a pipe of port dry in less
than four days. Porter and brandy, being easily procured, were not
subject to restriction; a great part of these was disposed of in the
kitchen and the small rooms by the mess-man as his private speculation.
It was calculated that, including port claret brandy and porter, two
thousand bottles were emptied in our mess-house within the week. Our
wine accounts, as must be evident under such circumstances, were
much confused and difficult to keep, since it was no easy matter to
ascertain with whom each visitor had dined. The mess waiter was sent
round daily to ascertain this fact, so necessary for the guidance of
the wine committee. Discrepancies not unfrequently occurred between the
highly favoured host and the too obliging guest. I recollect the mess
waiter telling Colonel Belson one day that Lieutenant-Colonel A—-n
said he dined with him, upon which Belson remarked to the guest, loud
enough to be heard by many, “A—-n, you do not dine with me.” The
other very humorously replied, “Oh, I beg pardon–I made a mistake; now
I recollect, it was for to-morrow I was engaged to you.” “There you
are mistaken again,” said Belson; “it was for yesterday, when you did
not forget.” These circumstances I recollect well, as I happened to be
president of the mess for that week. Colonel Belson would not allow
me to cede the chair, and always sat on my left hand. Our mess-man, a
sergeant of the regiment named Farrel, although he piqued himself on an
acquaintance with algebra, yet with all the aid of the assumed numbers,
A B C, could never discover the unknown quantities consumed. He went
into the field at Barossa, but was never heard of afterwards. Among the
slain he was not; and, enquiries being made at the French headquarters,
he was not one of the few prisoners taken with a part of our baggage
which fell into the hands of the enemy previous to the commencement of
the action, “when the Spaniards in their way lived to fight another
day.” It is more than probable that in the annals of warfare no
regiment has ever had an opportunity of enjoying themselves to such
an extent as the 28th Regiment while General Graham’s army remained
at Tarifa. We were happy to see our friends, who, to do them justice,
waiving all ceremony showed us extraordinary attention.

Even the sergeants contrived to procure a room, where they enjoyed
themselves as much as the officers in the mess-room; and their jokes,
if not equally refined, were not the less entertaining. Being a member
of the mess committee, my avocations obliged me to keep a vigilant
look-out through all parts of the house, which gave me an opportunity
of hearing unobserved many of the jests and repartees which took place
in the sergeants’ room, or debating society, as it was termed. But
although these were at times rather sharp, still perfect good-humour
prevailed throughout. The principal spokesmen, if my memory fail not,
were a Sergeant Turnbull of the Guards, and a Sergeant O’Brien, of the
87th Regiment. They were most determined opponents, and each had a
bigoted attachment to his own country, in support of which he poured
forth witty and pungent repartees to the great entertainment of the
auditors.

On one occasion, while I was on my way to our cellar, which was fast
falling into consumption, my steps were arrested by loud bursts of
laughter issuing from the debating-room. The first words which I
distinctly heard were, “O, O, O! You are all ‘O’s’ in Ireland!”

[Sidenote: SERGEANTS IN DEBATE.]

This remark evidently came from the Guardsman, when O’Brien drily
replied, “‘O’ means ‘from,’ or ‘the descendant of’; therefore I am not
surprised at its being ridiculed by persons of your country, where long
line of descent is so difficult to be traced.”

“And pray, Mr. O, from whom are you descended?”

“From Bryan Boro, the Great Boro.”

“And surely ‘Boro’ must be a corruption of the Spanish word ‘Burro,’
which signifies ‘an ass’?”

Then Pat grew eloquent on the deeds of his great ancestor, who at the
age of eighty gained a most glorious victory over the invading Danes on
the celebrated plains of Clontarf. Equally eloquent was he also on the
demerits of the Englishmen of that ancient time, until cried out the
British sergeant with a fine scorn:

“I like to hear a fellow of your kind, with your beggarly Irish pride,
talking of records and historical facts! Look to the history of your
own country to learn its disgrace. What have you ever done or achieved
except through murders, robbery, cruelty, bloodshed and treachery?
Have you not always been fighting amongst yourselves, or against your
masters, since we did you the honour of conquering you?”

“If we compare notes about murder and treachery, you need not fear
being left in the background,” retorted the Irishman; “and as to the
honour of being conquered, faith! I cannot cope with you in your
dignities there, for I cannot deny that you have been honoured in that
way by Romans, and by Danes, and by Saxons, and by Picts, and by Scots.”

“Your arguments,” at last said the Englishman, after some further
exchange of historical fragments, “might pass without contempt had they
not been delivered with such a disgusting brogue. I should recommend
you to go back again to some charity school–I mean, in England.”

“If I intended to go to a charity school, it should certainly be in
England. In my country it is only the destitute who go; but in yours
it is the rich men who send their sons on to the ‘foundations’ of the
public schools which were originally intended for the education of poor
clergymen’s sons. With respect to my brogue, which you civilly term
disgusting, it is our national accent and not disgusting to native
ears, although to us the language is foreign. But I should like to
know with what accent your countrymen spoke bastard French when it was
crammed down their throats with a rod of iron for upwards of three
hundred years?”

“A language does not go down the throat,” said the Englishman; “it
comes up, at least in every other country except Ireland. I make you a
present of the bull, although there is no necessity for the donation,
for all bulls are Irish.”

“How are all bulls Irish?”

“Because England, your mother-country, has ceded all bulls to you as
being legitimately Irish.”

“I don’t understand how you make out England to be our mother-country.
Step-mother is the proper term to give her; and, faith! a true
step-mother she has proved herself to be.”

Thus raged the fight amid the laughter and encouragement of the
hearers, until, being president of the mess, I was reluctantly obliged
to return to the mess-room.

During the stay of the British army at Tarifa strong working parties
were constantly employed in levelling the roads, which the French
engineers had frequently reported impassable for artillery; however,
profiting by our exertions in the present instance, they subsequently
brought guns against Tarifa.

The stormy weather having somewhat abated, the second division of the
fleet, laden with La Peña and seven thousand Spaniards, arrived off
Tarifa on the morning of the 27th. It still blew fresh; but owing
to the indefatigable exertions of the navy the astonished Spaniards
found themselves all disembarked before the evening. Again they were
startled at the activity of the British general, who would have marched
that night. The forward state in which the British were induced the
Spaniards to proclaim their army also in movable condition. La Peña and
his troops thus prepared and the roads made passable for artillery, the
march was announced for the morrow.

The night of the 27th being the last jovial one the army were to pass
at Tarifa, one hundred and ninety-one officers dined at the mess. The
exhilarating juice of the grape was freely quaffed from out the crystal
cup, and the inspiring songs of love and war went joyfully round, and
the conclusion of each animating strophe was loudly hailed with choral
cheers; for such is the composition of a soldier that the object of
his love and his country’s foe alike call forth the strongest and
most indomitable effusions of his heart, so closely allied is love to
battle. Hilarity and mirth reigned throughout. Lively sallies of wit
cheerfully received as guilelessly shot forth added brilliancy to the
festive board. Officers having entered their profession young, mutual
attachment was firmly cemented, genuine and disinterested. Each man
felt sure that he sat between two friends; worldly considerations,
beyond legitimate pleasures and professional ambition, were banished
from our thoughts. The field of glory was present to our view and
equally open to all; none meanly envied the proud distinctions which
chance of war fortunately threw in the way of others. Oh, what an
odious change I have lived to witness! But the days of our youth are
the days of our friendship, our love and our glory. A fig for the
friendship commenced after the age of sixteen or seventeen, when the
cool, calculating and sordid speculations of man suffocate the fervid
and generous feelings of youth!

Our revels continued until the morning; and in the morning, while many
a Spanish fair with waving hands and glistening eyes was seen in the
balcony, we marched out of Tarifa with aching heads but glowing hearts.

Towards evening we halted, and the army was modelled. The leading
division was placed under the command of General Lardizabal, an
officer in every way qualified for the post. The Prince of Anglona
was appointed to the centre or principal body of the Spaniards; but
with this body La Peña remained. Two regiments of Spanish guards, the
Walloons and that of the Royal City, were attached to the British
troops, commanded by General Graham; this corps were termed the
reserve. The artillery were attached fortunately to the troops of their
respective nations; but by some courteous mismanagement two squadrons
of German hussars were united to the Spanish cavalry under the command
of Colonel Whittingham, and thus attached to the Spanish army. This
officer held higher rank in the Spanish army, and, if I recollect
right, commanded a corps of Spanish cavalry, clad and paid by England;
but their movements were peculiarly Spanish.

On March 1st La Peña moved towards Casa Vieja, and marched the whole
army in column of companies nearly within gunshot of that post; and
while moving along the plain close to the “Blessed old House,” the
column was reduced to subdivisions, giving the enemy full opportunity
of counting every man in the army. Whether this extraordinary mode of
procedure arose from treachery or ignorance cannot be asserted, for at
that time it was difficult to distinguish one from the other in the
movements of Spanish generals. However that may be, the circumstance
was loudly censured by all. As soon as the army halted, General Graham
mentioned this oversight to La Peña; yet it was not until next morning
and after the whole allied army had passed the post mentioned on its
route to Medina Sidonia, that the British general obtained permission
to dislodge the enemy from the convent. The light company of the
28th Regiment, having made close acquaintance with the post not long
previously, were sent on this duty. On our approach the enemy evacuated
the convent. As we were not able to come up with them, a party of
the German hussars were sent in pursuit, by whom they were soon
overtaken. But although thus threatened by cavalry, they considered it
unadvisable to form square as the light company were fast approaching;
they therefore turned round and formed line. Here some untoward work
took place on both sides. The French, seeing no possibility of escape,
remained steady until the Germans were close upon them, when they
deliberately fired a volley at them and then threw down their arms; two
of the cavalry were killed and others wounded. The Germans, enraged
at their loss and justly considering it an act of wanton and useless
bloodshed, charged the unfortunate defenceless wretches, sparing not
a man; all were cut down. I never in my life witnessed in so small an
affair such mutilation of human beings. When they were carried into
the convent yard the doctor of the 82nd Regiment, attached to the flank
battalion, declined to dress their wounds, as it was totally impossible
that any one of them could survive. The light company were left on
piquet or rearguard in the convent during the day, with orders to join
the army after dusk at Medina Sidonia. Not long after this we were all
astonished at seeing the whole army retiring, but could descry no enemy
to account for the movement; however, it appeared that as La Peña moved
on Medina he was informed by some roving Spanish soldiers whom he met
that Medina had lately been reinforced. Upon this information alone he
made the retrograde movement, which cost the Spaniards many lives and
might have been fatal to the Spanish cause; but of this in its place.
Thenceforth La Peña was distrusted by every British soldier, and the
constancy of General Graham in accompanying him farther is to be much
admired. At nightfall the piquet joined its own battalion, not at
Medina, but on the very ground whence the army moved that morning.

[Sidenote: A MARCH IN FLOOD.]

On the morning of the 3rd, taking nearly an opposite direction to
that of Medina, the army moved towards Vejer. This day’s march was
excessively harassing. A causeway, along which we must pass, was
constructed over the edge of a lake; and the heavy rains had so swollen
the waters that not a vestige of the causeway was perceptible. Our
guides were guerillas, but imperfectly acquainted with the place; and
thus many of our men in attempting the passage fell into the deep.
Even along the causeway, when discovered, we were up to our middle
in water; the track was marked by placing men on the submerged road.
The British general with his staff stood in the water to guide and
animate the soldiers during their aquatic movement. Having passed
this obstacle, which occupied much time, we pushed on to Vejer, from
which we dislodged the enemy there posted. The town is built on a high
conical hill looking down on the celebrated Bay of Trafalgar, where
every breast was filled with thoughts of the immortal Nelson. From this
eminence the enemy had a full view of the surrounding country, and not
only could discover all our movements as we approached, but, as on
the preceding day when we were passing the convent, were enabled to
ascertain our exact strength.

On the afternoon of the 4th, about three o’clock, the army again moved
forward, before the men’s clothing and appointments were dry. General
Graham, previous to leaving Tarifa, requested La Peña to make short
marches, and thus bring the troops fresh into action. But the Spanish
general, as is common with the weak, imagining that genius was marked
by diversity of opinion and mistaking mulish obstinacy for unshaken
determination, disregarded this sound advice. He acted on the principle
of differing from the British general in everything; and accordingly he
marched the army for sixteen hours, the greater part of the time during
a cold night, making frequent momentary halts, which always tend to
harass rather than refresh troops.

On the dawn of the 5th our advanced guard of cavalry (Spanish) were
encountered and worsted by a few French dragoons; the affair was
trifling, yet its moral influence was sensibly felt throughout the day.
Cold, wearied, dejected but not disheartened, we still moved forward,
until the sun, rising with unusual splendour and genial warmth,
dissipated the drowsiness, which but a moment previously bowed down
every head, and roused us to wonted animation. On opening our eyes to
broad daylight, we found ourselves on the south-west skirts of Chiclana
plain.

[Sidenote: LETTER OF LA PEÑA.]

On the evening of February 27th La Peña had written from Tarifa to
General Zayas communicating his intention to move forward next day,
and stating that Medina Sidonia would be in his possession on the 2nd
of the ensuing month, and that he would be close to the Isla de Leon
on the evening of the 3rd. Zayas, acting on mailcoach time, regardless
of unforseen contingencies, badness of roads or any other obstacles
which might retard La Peña’s advance, and without ascertaining whether
that general was close at hand or not, trusting only to his watch for
regulating his measures, laid down the bridge on the night of the
3_rd._ The following day passed without any appearance of La Peña or
the British troops. The enemy, taking advantage of this delay, attacked
the bridge on the night of the 4th with their piquets and small
detachments, killed and wounded many Spaniards, took three hundred
prisoners and broke two links of the bridge. It was through mere good
fortune that the Isla did not fall into their hands. At the critical
moment Captain A. Hunt, R.A., with the ten-inch howitzers, arrived
and supported a charge made by a Spanish regiment over the bridge of
boats, and so the enemy were repulsed. But if Marshal Victor had been
more active, and had marched down six or eight thousand men during
the 4th and screened them behind Bermeja Castle until night, and then
made his attack with such a force, instead of with some six or seven
hundred, there is not the slightest doubt but that he would have taken
the Isla, and then either defended or destroyed the bridge. Under such
circumstances the allied army would have been compelled to retire to
Gibraltar to avoid Sebastiani, who, upon learning that Victor was in
possession of the Isla, would of course have come forward with an
overwhelming force.

It was in consequence of the losses sustained at the bridge on the
night of the 4th and morning of the 5th, together with the imminent
danger in which the Isla de Leon was of being taken, that I ventured
to say that La Peña’s dastardly retreat from Medina Sidonia cost the
Spaniards many lives, and might have been fatal to the Spanish cause.
La Peña’s proceedings on our arrival at the plain of Chiclana were
equally absurd and dangerous. Early on that morning (the 5th) he
ordered General Lardizabal down to the Santi Petri point without giving
or receiving any information whatever. Not even a gun was fired to give
notice to those in the Isla of our arrival, nor was it ascertained
whether the bridge was strongly defended or in whose possession it
actually was. The proceedings of Zayas and La Peña offer a correct
specimen of the manner in which combined movements were executed by
Spanish generals; all acted independently and generally in direct
opposition to each other. On this occasion Lardizabal acted gallantly.
Having beaten away a strong force of the enemy from the Santi Petri
point, he established communication with Zayas, thus enabling him with
three thousand Spanish troops and an immense park of artillery to pass
from the Isla over the bridge.

The army, as already mentioned, entered the plain of Chiclana early on
the morning of the 5th, close to a low mountain ridge called Cerro de
Puerco, or “the boar’s neck,” from its curving shape bristling with
pine trees, and from the number of those animals always to be found
there. This ridge, distant from the point of Santi Petri about four
miles, gradually descends for nearly a mile and a half to the Chiclana
plain. On its north side the plain is broken by ravines, pits and
rugged ground; a large pine forest hems it on all sides at unequal
distances. Situated midway between the hill and Santi Petri point,
close to the western point of Cerro de Puerco, stands La Torre, or the
Tower of Barossa. The eastern point of this ridge looks upon the space
between Chiclana and the Santi Petri; whilst its western boundary looks
down upon the boat road leading from Vejer to Bermeja and the Isla de
Leon, passing within less than half a mile of the tower above mentioned.

[Sidenote: FOLLY OF LA PEÑA.]

In preparing for the battle General Graham, like an experienced
soldier, pointed out to La Peña all the advantages which the ground
offered, insisting on the absolute necessity of occupying the ridge
of Barossa with their strongest force, it being the key of the whole
ground. But the Spanish general, indignant at having his proper line
pointed out by a _foreigner_, spurned his advice and being borne out
by his Adjutant-General Lacy, ordered the British general to proceed
to Bermeja to maintain the communication between the allied troops in
the field and those in the Isla. General Graham, although naturally
courteous and through policy yielding, yet on this occasion absolutely
refused obedience until the Spaniard pledged himself to post on the
heights of Barossa a Spanish force at least equal to that commanded
by the British general. Long before his movement down to Bermeja, he
detached Colonel Browne with his battalion to occupy the western point
of Barossa. There we were shortly afterwards joined by the Walloon and
the Ciudad Real regiments of guards. To this body were subsequently
added three other Spanish battalions, four guns, and all the allied
cavalry, commanded, as I have already said, by Colonel Whittingham. The
whole were under the orders of General Cruz-Murgeon, accompanied by
Brigadier-General Beguines, and all, as we thought, determined to do
their duty.

Soon after General Graham with the British division had moved from
the plain through the pine grove towards Bermeja, Marshal Victor, who
anxiously watched the movements of the allies, seeing their troops
at three different points, Barossa, Santi Petri and Bermeja, moved
forward from Chiclana towards the road which leads from Vejer. This
movement was not immediately perceived by us, the Spaniards being
placed between our battalion and the point mentioned; but a confused
and hasty movement on their part induced the colonel to send me to
ascertain the cause. I was told by General Cruz-Murgeon that they
merely wished to take ground to our left; but seeing the hurry of the
Spaniards increase, I instantly galloped beyond their extreme flank,
and now discovered the French cavalry moving towards the coast road and
rather inclining towards our position. Retiring quickly, I reported the
circumstance to Colonel Browne.

[Sidenote: COLONEL BROWNE ABANDONED.]

By this time the greater part of the Spanish troops had passed between
us and the coast road and were soon in rapid march towards the beach
leading to Bermeja. Colonel Browne strongly and rather indignantly
remonstrated against their conduct. At this period Colonel Whittingham
rode up, and addressing Colonel Browne said, “Colonel Browne, what
do you intend to do?” The reply was, “What do I intend to do, sir? I
intend to fight the French.” Whittingham then remarked, “You may do as
you please, Colonel Browne, but we are decided on a retreat.” “Very
well, sir,” replied Browne; “I shall stop where I am, for it shall
never be said that John Frederick Browne ran away from the post which
his general ordered him to defend.” Generals Murgeon and Beguines were
present during the conversation, and as they expressed a wish to know
its exact import, I informed them word for word in plain Spanish,
which I pledge myself was a correct and full interpretation, and could
not be misunderstood. Colonel Whittingham again addressed Colonel
Browne, saying, “If you will not come with us but wish to retire on
General Graham’s division, I shall give you a squadron of cavalry
to cover your retreat.” Browne wheeled round, making no answer; and
thus a formidable corps, composed of two regiments of Royal Spanish
Guards, three regiments of the line, a park of artillery and a strong
force of cavalry, all well armed clad and appointed, undaunted by the
scowling frowns of their allies and the reproachful taunts of their
own countrymen, were not afraid to run away. They retrograded with
firm tread; nor faltering step nor slow was seen, and not one longing
lingering look was cast behind. They left four hundred and seventy
British bayonets bristling on the neck of the boar.

The Spaniards being now out of the way and soon out of sight, Colonel
Browne directed Lieutenant Sparks, 30th Regiment, who acted as
engineer, to loophole a chapel which stood on the summit of the hill.
Some men were loosely thrown in, and the remainder of our little
battalion formed three sides of an oblong square, the low tower or
chapel supplying the fourth face.

By this time the French cavalry had gained the coast road, probably
either to cut off the retreat of the allies by that route or to prevent
any troops coming by way of Vejer. Be that as it may, they now turned
directly towards us. On approaching nearly within musket range, they
opened right and left, apparently to gain both our flanks; and now for
the first time their artillery were discovered not far behind, and at
the same moment their infantry were seen moving forward, darkening
the distant part of the plain which skirts the town of Chiclana.
Hesitation would now be madness. Our men were instantly withdrawn from
the chapel, and forming column of quarter distance we proceeded quickly
down the hill towards the pine forest which shut out Bermeja from our
view. The enemy’s horsemen were soon on every side of our little column
and kept gradually closing in; but dreading that, before we could get
away to a sufficient distance from the hill, the artillery, which we
had seen whipping over the plain, would open their fire upon us, we
durst not halt to form square; our situation was rather perplexing, but
we were determined. In this order we moved rapidly down the hill, which
being uneven and woody favoured our retreat; but on crossing a ravine
we became more exposed, having entered on comparatively level ground,
scarce of wood. Colonel Browne now threw out a few loose files, but not
far from each angle of the column, to warn the cavalry off, some few
of whom were hurt by their fire. To say the truth, the cavalry showed
rather a wavering inclination than a firm determination to charge us.
Having passed over the level ground, we touched the skirts of the
forest, and on our forming line the cavalry drew off.

[Sidenote: WORDS OF GRAHAM AND BROWNE.]

During these operations General Graham, entangled in the pine forest,
was pressing forward towards Bermeja, when two peasants rode breathless
up to him, stating that the whole French army, headed by Marshal
Victor, were rapidly crossing the plain of Chiclana and coming down
on his rear. Upon this he immediately turned round and soon perceived
the Spaniards, who had fled from the hill, posting along towards the
coast; and since these were mistaken for French, the English troops
were on the point of firing into them. At this moment Captain Calvert,
having discovered something red through the thick foliage of the
wood, cried out, “That must be Colonel Browne’s flank battalion,” and
darting forward soon discovered his surmise to be fact. General Graham
came forth instantly to meet us, saying, “Browne, did I not give you
orders to defend Barossa Hill?” “Yes, sir,” said Browne; “but you would
not have me fight the whole French army with four hundred and seventy
men?” “Had you not,” replied the general, “five Spanish battalions,
together with artillery and cavalry?” “Oh!” said Browne; “they all ran
away long before the enemy came within cannon-shot.” The general coolly
replied, “It is a bad business, Browne; you must instantly turn round
and attack.” “Very well,” said the colonel; “am I to attack in extended
order as flankers, or as a close battalion?” “In open order,” was the
reply, and the general returned to the troops in the wood.

All this time we never saw our English comrades, though they were close
before us, so dense was the wood. The flank battalion were instantly
extended into skirmishing order, which had scarcely been done when
the general again rode back to Colonel Browne, saying, “I must show
something more serious than skirmishing; close the men into compact
battalion.” “That I will, with pleasure,” cried the colonel; “for it is
more in my way than light bobbing.” The order to close on the centre
was instantly bugled out, during which movement the colonel sent to
know from the general, who had again retired, if he was to advance as
soon as formed, and whether he was to attack immediately in his front
or more towards his right. The answer was, “Attack in your front, and
immediately.”

All being now ready, Colonel Browne rode to the front of the battalion
and taking off his hat said in a voice to be heard by all, “Gentlemen,
I am happy to be the bearer of good news: General Graham has done you
the honour of being the first to attack those fellows. Now follow me,
you rascals!” He pointed to the enemy, and giving the order to advance
broke into his favourite air:

“Now, cheer up, my brave lads! To glory we steer,
To add something new to this wonderful year.”

Thus we moved forward with four hundred and sixty-eight men
and twenty-one officers to attack the position, upon which but
three-quarters of an hour previously we had stood in proud defiance
of the advancing foe, but which was now defended by two thousand five
hundred infantry and eight pieces of artillery, together with some
cavalry. To this force were added two battalions of chosen grenadiers,
commanded by General Rousseau, the whole under the orders of the
General of Division, Rufin.