Early in October the Duke of Wellington, having San Sebastian now
secure in his rear and foreseeing that a great battle must soon be
fought, determined to push forward his left wing, gain the lower
Bidassoa and the great Rhune mountain and thus establish a part of his
army within the French frontier. The better to conceal his design,
which was rather hazardous, continual manœuvring took place from right
to left of the allied lines, which completely succeeded in deceiving
the enemy. Everything was so well arranged that not the slightest
appearance of an attack was discovered. On the morning of October 7th
the 5th Division and Lord Aylmer’s brigade proceeded to the fords; and
still the enemy perceived no change, the tents in the allied camp being
left standing. The 5th Division soon crossed the stream, and had formed
on the opposite bank without firing a shot or a shot being fired at
them, so completely were the enemy taken by surprise. A signal rocket
was now fired from Fontarabia, when the batteries along the whole line
of our attack opened against the enemy, who were driven from their
different posts before they well knew what was passing; and so little
did Soult contemplate an attack in that quarter, always expecting it
from Roncesvalles, that on the 6th he reviewed D’Erlon’s division at
Ainhoa, and remained that night at Espelette. Next morning, although
a false attack was made against D’Erlon’s position, yet Soult having
heard the cannonade from San Marcial, instantly discovered the true
point of attack and hurried thither; but before he arrived at the scene
of action all his positions on the Bidassoa were carried; and although
his presence corrected many errors and gave surprising confidence to
his troops, yet he never could regain what was lost during his early
absence. He loudly complained of want of vigilance in his generals; and
not without just cause, for they were nowhere prepared.


Meanwhile the 6th Division continued the false attack on D’Erlon.
Colonel Douglas with a Portuguese brigade was sent further on to the
left, and the 36th Regiment were ordered to be in readiness for his
support. Colonel Leggatt, who commanded us, sent me to find Douglas
and inform him that the regiment were ready when required. Douglas had
attacked and gallantly carried a post strongly occupied on the crown of
a hill, at the foot of which I arrived just as he was led down, having
been severely wounded in the neck. After the usual congratulations of
old friends I delivered my message. He requested me to ride up the hill
and see what was going forward, adding that the position was gallantly
carried and it would be a pity to lose it. Topping the hill I found the
Portuguese warmly engaged; but the enemy were advancing in force on
two sides of the hill. I rode back to Douglas, who was slowly moving
to the rear, and he asked me to go as fast as possible and report;
there was no time to be lost. Taking the nearest direction towards the
regiment, I was compelled to pass in front of a line of the enemy’s
skirmishers, who had been winding round the hill. They displayed the
courtesy of their nation by discharging a general salute; its only
result was a shot through my great coat and one in my saddle-bow.
Having safely run the gauntlet and though in great haste, yet resolving
to show the polite nation that we yielded as little in courtesy as in
arms, I turned round and taking off my hat bowed low. The firing ceased
and they gave me a loud cheer. Hurrying forward, I soon joined the
regiment who were already in motion. Pushing on with the light company,
to whom I acted as guide, and arriving at the point where I had saluted
the skirmishers, we fully expected to be engaged; but to our surprise
the French were retreating, leaving the hill in possession of the
Portuguese. It appeared that as soon as our regiment began to descend
from the lofty hill upon which they were formed, they were perceived by
the enemy, who, taking them no doubt for the head of a strong column,
considered it prudent to retire. The regiment having come up, ascended
the hill, where we remained until towards dark, and then retired,
leaving the post to the Portuguese. The loss of the Portuguese was
rather severe, upwards of a hundred and fifty men _hors de combat_.
But the spirited attack made by Douglas, the British regiment moved up
to his aid, and the false attack of the whole 6th Division completely
succeeded in deterring D’Erlon from making any attempt to succour the
French right wing, where the true attack was raging and where his
support was most necessary.


During all these movements and combats, which lasted nearly three days,
the allies were invariably successful; and all the objects proposed
were fully attained. The fighting was desperate and well maintained on
either side. On fording the Bidassoa, Halket’s light Germans drove
up all the enemy’s advanced parties close to the summit of the Croix
des Bouquets; but this being the key of the position, the enemy were
strengthening it continually from the first onset both with guns and
troops: so that when the Germans approached, the position had become
so strong that Halket, having lost many men during his ascent, was
brought to a stand. At this critical moment Colonel Cameron with
the 9th Regiment, having arrived just as the Germans were checked,
put them aside and making a desperate charge gained the summit. The
enemy’s guns had just time to retire through their infantry, who also
quickly retreated to a second ridge. The approach to this was narrow;
but Cameron reducing his front quickly followed. However, the enemy
having the start were soon formed, and the approach being winding with
sharp turns, they poured a destructive fire both in front and flank
into the regiment. Yet this did not retard their quick advance for a
moment; while the enemy seemed no way moved by the vehement advance of
Cameron until the regiment approached within a few yards, when a loud
cheer and rapid charge so astonished them that they scarcely knew what
they were about until they found themselves borne off the hill. Thus
the 9th Regiment gallantly carried the key of the position, but with
a heavy loss both in officers and men, the usual result of unswerving
bravery. But were I to relate the gallant deeds of all throughout the
whole of these operations, it would be necessary to enumerate all the
British corps employed; nor was the bravery displayed by the Spaniards
less daring. Courage was never wanting to the Spanish soldiers; but
confidence in their chiefs was rare. Through the battles of the
Pyrenees their divisions were intermixed with those of the British,
not formed aloof in a separate corps, as at Talavera and Barossa, nor
depressed and held back by such paralysing commanders as Cuesta and La
Peña. They now, conjointly with their brave allies, fought forward; and
well did they maintain their line. On the 8th, after General Giron with
a body of Spaniards had driven off the French outposts on the road from
Vera to Sarre and was charging up a hill near Puerto and pressing on
abreast with the British troops, he was suddenly checked by a strong
line of abattis, defended by two French regiments sending forth a heavy
fire. The Spaniards became irresolute, but maintained their ranks. At
the moment Lieutenant Havelock, of the 43rd Regiment, who was on the
staff, witnessing the check and unable to curb his excitement, taking
off his hat and holloaing to the Spaniards, applied his spurs and
dashed over the defence in among the enemy. At this the whole line of
Spaniards broke into cries–“The little fair boy!–Forward with the
little fair boy!” and they tore through the abattis, and furiously
charging the two French regiments drove them up the hill and over and
hurried them into the embrace of General Kemp’s ascending brigade, who
sent them waltzing with graceful velocity round the base of the hill.
But although gallant example will almost always fix wavering resolve
and give impetus and immediate decision to calculating courage, yet it
but seldom succeeds in eliciting bravery out of cowardice. The surest
criterion by which to judge of the gallantry and steadiness of the
Spaniards during those operations is by reference to the casualties
they suffered. It is true that a body of men may suffer great loss even
in running away, but in the present instance there was no retreating;
all was fighting forward; and when men advancing or standing still
suffer severe loss, it is a certain proof of bravery and firmness.
The loss of the enemy during these last combats was fourteen hundred
men; and that of the allies, British, Portuguese and Spaniards, sixteen
hundred; and of this number eight hundred were Spaniards.


Most persons who have written on the campaigns in the Peninsula
represent the Spanish army as ragged, half-famished wretches; nor did I
refrain from such epithets on seeing the miserable troops commanded by
the Marquis Romana in the campaign of Sir John Moore; but on reflection
no blame could be attached either to their immediate commanders or to
the soldiers for their motley appearance. The scandal and disgrace were
the legitimate attributes of the Spanish Government. The members of
the Cortez and Juntas were entirely occupied in peculation, amassing
wealth for themselves and appointing their relatives and dependents to
all places of power and emolument, however unworthy and unqualified;
and although it was notorious that shiploads of arms, equipments,
clothing and millions of dollars were sent from England for the use
and maintenance of the Spanish troops, yet all was appropriated to
themselves by the members of the general or local governments or their
rapacious satellites, while their armies were left barefoot, ragged
and half-starved. In this deplorable state they were brought into the
field under leaders many of whom were scarcely competent to command a
sergeant’s outlying piquet; for in the Spanish army, as elsewhere, such
was the undue influence of a jealous and covetous aristocracy, that,
unsupported by their influence, personal gallantry and distinction,
however conspicuous, were but rarely rewarded. This is a pernicious
system, especially with an army in the field; for injustice and neglect
powerfully tend to damp and dispirit the ardour even of the most
zealous and devoted, and discourage that laudable ambition which is
the lifespring in the breast of a true soldier.

Again the armies became tranquil except at Pampeluna. Shortly before
its surrender it was ascertained that the Governor-General was in
the habit of sending despatches to Soult by a woman. A general order
was therefore issued to the covering divisions to have all women
coming from the rear and going to the front searched. Soon after this
order was received, a woman who passed into the camp of the regiment
came howling to the commanding officer, who, not comprehending a
word she said, sent for me to interpret. This was attended with some
difficulty, the Basque dialect being but imperfectly known and the
woman totally ignorant of any other. However it appeared that this
woman, suspected of carrying despatches clandestinely, came simply to
dispose of a pannier of bread and a small basket of eggs. In passing
the quarter-guard she was stopped and searched, during which search all
her bread and eggs were taken away by the men of the guard, commanded
by a lieutenant of the regiment. Payment was not forthcoming, for the
simple reason that the troops, being six months in arrear of pay, not
a sixpenny piece was to be found amongst the men. On my reporting the
affair as it occurred, the colonel ordered the officer to pay for the
bread and eggs out of his private finances, at the same time giving him
and the whole guard a severe but well-merited reprimand; for besides
the plundering of the woman, which might have been attended with
serious inconvenience by deterring others from bringing supplies to
the camp, the woman came from the front; and this must have been seen
by the whole guard. On my paying the woman for her bread and eggs as
directed, she loudly demanded remuneration on other accounts–loss
of time, torn garments, etc.; but strictly confining myself to the
colonel’s instructions I declined entering into her others affairs, at
which she appeared much disappointed. There were at that period many
females searched with scant ceremony, but whether or not any despatches
of the nature expected were ever seized I never heard.


Soult having failed in every attempt to throw succour into Pampeluna,
it surrendered on October 31st, after a gallant defence of a few
months, during which many successful sallies were made. The covering
divisions being now at liberty, a forward movement was decided upon;
but the first days of November were excessively boisterous and rainy.
On the 6th and 7th, the earliest period when a movement could take
place, the right wing under Sir Rowland Hill were pushed into the
valley of Bastan, preparatory to a general attack which was intended
for next day; but the heavy rain which fell on the evening of the 7th
and next day rendered the roads again impassable, and so the battle of
the Nivelle was delayed for two days.

On the evening of the 9th the 6th Division descended through the Pass
of Maya, which we had guarded with such anxious care for upwards of
three months; and marching the whole of that night we found ourselves
on the memorable morning of November 10th close in front of the enemy’s
position, which they had been incessantly strengthening during the
whole of that period. It was still dark; and here we halted in columns,
awaiting the progress of our left and left centre, who were pushed
forward before daybreak. At length the auspicious dawn appeared,
cheering and renovating after a harassing night march over deep and
slobbery roads. Although in our present position we appeared to be
well sheltered by forest trees, yet as soon as the misty haze of dawn
was dispelled by clearer light our columns were discovered by the
enemy’s redoubts, which frowningly looked down from the heights above.
After a short cannonade, which they immediately opened, their range
became so accurate that their shells were falling amongst us rather
quickly, causing many casualties. I saw one shell drop in the midst of
a Portuguese regiment in close column immediately in our rear; it blew
up twelve men, who became so scorched and blackened that on their fall
they resembled a group of mutilated chimney-sweeps. The 36th Regiment
lost several men by the bursting of shells. Sir H. Clinton, who
commanded the division, perceived that although the huge trunks of the
trees amid which we were formed might stop a solid round-shot propelled
horizontally, yet their open branches afforded no protection against
shells descending from a height above us. Considering therefore the
place no longer tenable, he marched us out of the wood and drew up in
line on its skirts in full view of the enemy’s redoubts, judging that
even this open exposure would not be attended with so severe a loss as
continuing to be shelled in column.

We now had a full view of the splendid scenery in front and the active
warfare on our left; and I had an opportunity of witnessing a good
deal of what was passing. A long narrow strip of ground, flanked with
a wall on either side, not far from us, separated the combatants on
our left. The British troops frequently advanced and were driven back;
so did the enemy, and so they fared. Often did French officers advance
into the field bearing their standards to animate their followers;
but they instantly fell and were as instantly replaced. At last the
British troops, disdaining the protection of the wall, rushed in a
body into the field and carried it. I can see plainly before me now
Colonel Lloyd, who commanded the 94th Regiment, mounted on a large jet
black charger, waving his hat to cheer on his men and riding up to the
bayonets of the enemy close behind their wall. I saw him fall. His men
were up at the instant and dearly avenged their commander’s death.
I felt double regret at his fate, having had the pleasure of being
intimately acquainted with him when he was in the 43rd Regiment.


The order at length arrived about ten o’clock for the 6th Division
to advance. Wrought up to the greatest excitement from being so many
hours without moving, exposed to a fire of shot and shell and musketry
from the breastworks of enemies partly concealed, and seeing the
battle advancing upwards on our left, we now eagerly rushed forward.
Proceeding rapidly we soon waded the Nivelle immersed above our middle,
the men carrying their pouches above their heads, and immediately
drove back all the enemy’s piquets and outposts on both banks of the
river without deigning to fire a shot. Some few we bayoneted who were
too obstinate to get out of our way in time. Thus far advanced, the
glorious scene became more developed. High up the mountains the blaze
from their forts and redoubts was broad and glaring, while the mountain
sides presented a brilliant surface of sparkling vivid fire, never
ceasing but always ascending as our gallant troops rushed forward; and
nearly two hundred pieces of artillery angrily roaring forth mutual
response, echoed from mountain to mountain, rendering the whole scene
truly magnificent.

[Sidenote: MY LEG SMASHED.]

Having crossed the Nivelle, we rapidly advanced towards the forts and
redoubts above Ainhoa, destined to be carried by the 6th Division.
The hill which we, the 36th Regiment, faced was the steepest I ever
climbed. The ground over which we had to pass had been intersected
for months with incessant labour and French resource; every five
yards exposed us to a new cross-fire and deep cuts, which furnished
graves for many a gallant British soldier. The brambles all through
were so high and thickly interwoven and the inequalities of the
ground so great as to prevent those who were not ten yards asunder
from seeing each other. We moved forward in line; there was no road.
Under such circumstances but little order could be preserved; and,
as must be expected where all were anxious to advance, the strongest
and most active gained the front. In this disordered order of battle
the regiment advanced against the heavy-armed battery and principal
redoubt. This was the goal which we kept in view, the prize, to obtain
which the regiment unswervingly and rapidly ascended the mountain,
from whose summit it thundered destruction all around. Between us and
the base of this battery, to which we at length drew near, a small
and rather clear space intervened. I shot forward alone with all
the velocity I could command after so rapid an ascent, and arriving
immediately under the fort I perceived the enemy regularly drawn up
behind trees cut down to the height of about five feet, the branches
pointing forward, forming an abattis. I immediately turned about, and
after receiving an appropriate salute retraced my steps with redoubled
speed. I seized the king’s colour carried by Ensign Montgomery, which
I immediately halted; and called for the regimental Colour Ensign,
McPherson, who answered, “Here am I.” Having halted both colours in
front of the foremost men, I prevented any from going forward. By these
means we shortly presented a tolerably good front, and gave the men a
few moments’ breathing time. The whole operation did not take above ten
minutes; but the men coming up every instant, each minute strengthened
the front. At this exciting moment my gallant comrades, Lieutenants
Vincent and L’Estrange, who stood by my side, remarked that if I did
not allow the regiment to advance, the 61st Regiment would arrive at
the redoubt as soon as we should. I immediately placed my cap on the
point of my sword and passing to the front of the colours gave the
word, “Quick march. Charge!” We all rushed forward, excited by the old
British cheer. But my personal advance was momentary; being struck by
a shot which shattered both bones of my left leg, I came down. Vincent
instantly asked what was the matter. I told him that my leg was broken,
and that was all. I asked him to put the limb into a straight position
and to place me against a tree which stood close by; in this position I
asked for my cap and sword, which had been struck from my hand in the
fall; and then I cheered on the regiment as they gallantly charged into
the redoubt.


The fort being carried, the regiment pursued the enemy down the
opposite side of the hill, whilst I remained behind idly to look
around me. The scene was beautifully romantic and heroically sublime.
Groups of cavalry were seen judiciously, although apparently without
regularity, dotted along the sides of every hill, watching an
opportunity of falling on the discomfited foe. Our troops gallantly
bore on over an unbroken series of intrenchments, thickly crowded with
bayonets and kept lively by incessant fire. The awful passing events
lay beneath my view; nor was there aught to interrupt my observation
save a few bodily twitches, the pangs of prostrated ambition, and the
shot and shells which burst close, or nearly cut the ground from under
me. Alone I lay reclined, being unable to maintain an upright position;
and thus I had a good opportunity for melancholy contemplation, not
unmixed with patriotic joy as I reviewed the battle which tended slowly
upwards. The deadly strife was surprisingly grand; yet the sublimity of
the scene defied all attempt at description. The wreck and destruction
of men and matter was strewn around; the piteous life-ending moans
of the wounded writhing in torture, and the loud yelling fury of the
maddened combatants, repeated by a thousand discordant echoes, were
truly appalling, especially to a person who being put out of the fight
could be only a spectator of the tumult. The fierce and continued
charge of the British was irresistible, nor could they be checked;
onward they bore, nor stopped to breathe, rushing forward through glen,
dale and forest, where vivid flashed the fire and bright gleamed the
steel. Yet they seemed to chase only the startled red deer, prowling
wolf or savage wild-boar, until they arrived at the steel-bristling
strongholds of the foe. Now they occupied the same level upon which I
lay. Here the battle raged in its utmost fury; and for a short time
it became stationary. The contending foes were the soldiers of the
two most warlike nations of Europe and the most steadfast in mutual
jealousy and aversion. The British legions impetuously rushed forward
on the native soil of France, resolved to uphold till death the honour
and glory of their country. Those of France with equal bravery and
resolution determined to resist to the last this insulting intrusion on
their soil. Thus mutually stimulated to madness, they met with a shock
tremendous. France nobly maintained her well-earned military fame;
but her surprisingly valiant deeds proved vain in this bloody border
strife, where noble emulation wrought up to the highest pitch the Percy
and Douglas and a third not nerveless arm, all now dealing forth
deadly blows under one and the same banner. What foe could resist their
united attack or penetrate the shield formed of the Rose, Shamrock and
Thistle when closely bound together in a union strong as lasting? What
foe could triumph over Wellington, who, born in Ireland, with the keen
policy of Scotland, adopting England and combining the genius of all
three, was the one appropriate chief to wield their united strength in
the field? A force constituted of such moral and physical strength,
and led by such a man could not long be withstood. The star of the
three united nations shone victorious on the summits of the lofty
Pyrenees, gilding the tall pines which capped their heads for miles and
foreboding downfall to Imperial France, since it was the star of true
liberty and national independence. The French on their side with broken
brand and fallen crest reluctantly gave way, sullenly retiring within
their national boundary, no longer invulnerable.

This memorable battle, which introduced the victorious British army
and their allies into France, commenced before daybreak and continued
until after dark. The enemy were beaten back from their strong frontier
position, losing fifty-one guns, two thousand prisoners, stores
incalculable and some thousands killed and wounded; the nature of
the ground prevented the number of these from being ascertained,–it
must have been immense. As to our regiment’s advance up the hill to
the attack, it may perhaps be alleged that I should not have urged
forward the colours so rapidly nor have been so far in front. Our
advance, considering the steepness of the hill, was certainly rather
rapid; but had we not thus rapidly advanced, as in a continued charge
through breastworks, we should have lost double the number of men; and
it certainly would not have fallen to the proud lot of our regiment
_alone_ to have stormed and carried the enemy’s great redoubt; and
this we did, as may be gathered from the remark made by Vincent and
L’Estrange about the 61st Regiment. But it is of little consequence
whether I kept up with the colours or the colours came on at my pace;
anyway it affords proud consolation to reflect that it was in front of
them I fell.


Immediately before entering the redoubt, Montgomery, who carried
the king’s colour, furled the sheet round the staff, which he used
as a lance, and thus armed gallantly charged in amongst the foremost
bayonets. Being a powerful and athletic person (afterwards lieutenant
of Grenadiers), he made good use of his silk-bound weapon, and never
did blood-stained royal banner bear more honourable testimony of
personal prowess in war. I know not what became of the staff; it should
ever be kept with the regiment and accompany it into action. Besides
common promotion arising from casualties, one captain of the regiment
got the brevet rank of major; he was _not_ in the action, but I, who
was serving voluntarily and had a leg shattered while charging at the
head of the regiment, was neglected. Being subsequently asked if I did
not get the brevet step for my voluntary services and wound, I answered
no, but that I got a permanent step and that was a lame one.

From the Duke of Wellington’s despatch relative to the battle of the
Nivelle the following extract is copied: “While these operations
were going on in the centre, I had the pleasure of seeing the 6th
Division, under Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton, after having
crossed the Nivelle and having driven in the enemy’s piquets on both
banks, and having covered the passage of the Portuguese division under
Lieutenant-General Sir John Hamilton on its right, make a most handsome
attack upon the right of the Nivelle, carrying all the intrenchments
and the redoubt on that flank.” In justice to the regiment I beg to
remark that if the attack of the division was most handsome, that
of the 36th Regiment must have been most beautiful, for it was this
regiment which managed to take the lead and single-handed carried the

Immediately after the redoubt was taken, under which I fell, another
fort on our right, not yet attacked, turned some of its guns against
the one just captured; and their shot and shell ploughing the ground
all around me nearly suffocated me with dust and rubbish. Those who
were not very severely wounded scrambled their way down the hill; but
I might as well have attempted to carry a millstone as to drag my
shattered leg after me. I therefore remained among the dead and dying,
who were not few. My situation was not enviable. After some hours
Assistant-Surgeon Simpson of the regiment appeared. I then got what is
termed a field dressing; but unfortunately there were no leg splints;
and so arm splints were substituted. Through this makeshift I suffered
most severely during my descent. Some of the band coming up, I was put
into a blanket and carried down the hill; but as we proceeded down this
almost perpendicular descent, the blanket contracted from my weight
in the middle, and then owing to the want of the proper long splints
the foot drooped beyond the blanket’s edge; it is almost impossible to
imagine the torture which I suffered. Having gained the base of the
hill towards dark, a cottage was fortunately discovered and into this I
was carried.

Up to the noon of this day I congratulated myself on my good fortune
in having served in the first and last battle fought in Spain, and
proudly contemplated marching victoriously through France. I recalled
too with pleasure and as if it were a propitious omen, that on this day
five years ago I first trod Spanish ground. On November 16th, 1808, we
marched into Fuentes de Oñoro, under the command of Sir John Moore.
Then I was strong hale and joyous, with the glorious prospects of war
favourably presented to view; but the afternoon of this, the fifth
anniversary, proved a sad reverse. On this day I was carried out of
Spain, borne in a blanket, broken in body and depressed in mind, with
all my brilliant prospects like myself fallen to the ground. Such is
glorious war.


After the field dressing Simpson departed in search of other wounded
persons; and on his report of my wound two or three other medical
officers sought me, fortunately in vain, that they might remove the
limb. On the 4th day I was conveyed to a place where a hospital was
established; but the inflammation of the leg was then so great (it was
as big as my body) that no amputation could be attempted. A dressing
took place which was long and painful, for I had bled so profusely
while in the cottage that a cement hard as iron was formed round the
limb, and before my removal it was absolutely necessary to cut me out
of the bed on which I lay. After a considerable time passed in steeping
with tepid water, the piece of mattress and sheet which I carried away
from the cottage were removed; and now began the more painful operation
of setting the leg. Staff-Surgeon Mathews and Assistant-Surgeon Graham,
31st Regiment, were the operators. Graham seized me by the knee and
Mathews by the foot. They proposed that four soldiers should hold me
during the operation; to this I objected, saying with a kind of boast
that I was always master of my nerves. They now twisted and turned and
extended my leg, aiming along it like a spirit level. The torture was
dreadful; but though I ground my teeth and the big drops of burning
perspiration rapidly chased each other, still I remained firm, and
stifled every rising groan. After all was concluded I politely thanked
Mathews, carelessly remarking that it was quite a pleasure to get
wounded to be so comfortably dressed. This was mock heroism, for at
the moment I trembled as if just taken from the rack; however, it had
a strange effect upon Mathews, who told Lavens that he feared I was
somewhat deranged from the great loss of blood and agonising pain which
I suffered. Lavens, Assistant-Surgeon of the 28th Regiment and an old
messmate, only laughed and offered to be responsible for the soundness
of my intellect if no other cause than bodily pain interfered. Some
time afterwards Mathews told him that the inflammation had much
subsided and he thought that amputation might safely be performed;
yet I appeared so strong, doing so well and in such good spirits, he
felt some little inclination to give the limb a chance, if he could
believe that my good spirits would continue. Lavens, whom I saw every
day, replied that he need not dread low spirits on my part under any
circumstance, and as to the difference between the loss of life and
that of a limb he felt convinced it would be no great matter to me. If
therefore he thought the preservation of the limb depended on corporeal
or mental constitution, he recommended the trial. Mathews told all this
to me, when I willingly concurred in the attempt to save the leg. It
had served me well during many a long and weary march, in many a lively
skirmish and some hard-fought battles, particularly whilst in the 28th
Light Company; I therefore felt extremely unwilling to part with it.
One feels regret at losing even a favourite walking-stick; what then
must the feeling be at losing a faithful leg? The trial was decided on;
but in justice to Dr. Mathews I feel called upon to declare that he
most fully pointed out the imminent danger attending the experiment.
Thus far I have entered into detail in consequence of a remark made to
the General Medical Board, Drs. Weir, Franklin and Car, who said, when
I appeared before them in London, that the medical officer who saved
my leg was in no way borne out in making the attempt, for there were
ninety-nine chances to one against my life. It is true that the wound
was as severe as could possibly be inflicted; the tibia and fibula were
both shattered, and the orifice made seemed the entrance to a quarry of
bones, five-and-thirty pieces of which exfoliated and kept the wound
open for several years.


When I was carried out of the field my whole fortune consisted of one
crusado novo, a Portuguese silver coin value three shillings. This I
had much difficulty in persuading the poor cottagers to accept, not
from a consideration that the sum was an inadequate remuneration for
the mutilation of their mattress and whatever food they supplied, but
solely from pure motives of generosity. They wept at my parting, and
prayed to every saint in heaven or elsewhere for my speedy and perfect
recovery. On my arrival therefore in hospital, I possessed not a single
farthing; and in my situation other nourishment was required than that
of a ration pound of bread and beef. My host, Don Martin D’Echiparre,
continually sat by my bedside. Looking upon him as a generous and
liberal person, I, after a few evenings, candidly confessed my
pecuniary embarrassments, requesting him to lend me a few dollars and
offering him my gold watch until I should receive a remittance from the
paymaster. He replied, “Do you take me for a Jew? I never lend less
than a hundred guineas; these you may have when you please.” This I
considered a bombastical evasion and declined his offer. Next morning
he made his usual visit and approaching close said in a low voice,
“You refused last night to take a hundred guineas; take at least these
fifty,” and he held them forth. I told him that so large a sum was both
superfluous and useless; however, after a good deal of controversy, he
consented to lend me so small a sum as ten guineas.

After a lapse of three months an order was received to remove the
hospital depôt to St. Jean de Luz. What was to be done? I had received
no remittance; consequently I had no means of repaying the ten guineas,
six of which were already spent–one more was absolutely necessary to
defray the cost of my removal to St. Jean de Luz, which would take four
days. I was to be carried in a litter borne by inhabitants, to pay whom
would require the greater part of the guinea. To pay back the remaining
three would be but a poor return; but my truly noble and generous host
having entered the room, relieved me from my unpleasant dilemma. After
expressing his deep regret at my departure, he thus addressed me:
“Being aware that you have had no remittance from the army; and knowing
from the hospitable and generous manner in which you have entertained
the many officers who continually came to see you, in which hospitality
I nightly participated with pleasure, that you must want money, I put
these four farthings in my pocket for you,” presenting four Spanish
doubloons. “I offer you,” continued he, “this small sum because of your
obstinacy in refusing the hundred guineas; but if you will accept that
sum and another hundred in addition, you would please me much more. Do
not pay me from St. Jean de Luz nor from England, but only when you get
home to your friends in Ireland; and if you never pay, it will be of
no consequence whatever.” However I declined to accept either hundreds
or doubloons: and after mutual protestations of sincere friendship and
regard, we bade each other a final farewell and parted with unfeigned
regret. This anecdote I relate as highly honourable to the country in
which it occurred. D’Echiparre was a Frenchman by birth, but a Spaniard
by adoption, and in the Spanish language we always conversed. He was
a Valladolid merchant and had realised upwards of ten thousand pounds,
which in that part of the country was considered a handsome fortune.


On my arrival at St. Jean de Luz I was so fortunate as to procure two
months’ pay (not in advance for we were seven months in arrear), when I
immediately sent the ten guineas to my generous host.

The time having arrived to get rid of the cumbrous sick and wounded
officers, we were removed to los Pasages and there embarked in a
transport bound for Portsmouth; but the wind proving contrary prevented
our entering the channel and we were compelled to put into Bantry Bay
in Ireland. Here we anchored close to a village, if I recollect right,
called Castletown, and put up at an inn kept by the widow Martin. The
wind continuing very boisterous and contrary, we resolved to travel
overland through Ireland. Enquiring for a postchaise, we were informed
that there was a postchaise, but that some miles of the road were
as yet unfinished, and consequently not carriageable. Upon this we
dropped down to the village bearing the name of the bay. Here having
learned that the road was perfectly good, we landed our baggage and
went ashore; but now to our great dismay we found that this village
had no postchaise. In this dilemma we decided to place our baggage on
pack-saddles and to travel as in Spain. The operation of packing had
commenced, when looking into the courtyard I discovered a hearse. Upon
enquiry the waiter said: “Please, your honour, it is an ould lady who
died here lately, and her friends thought they would bury her proudly;
so they sent to Cork for the hearse and it is going back to-day to
Bandon.” I sent for the driver and immediately concluded a bargain;
he engaged to carry us to Bandon in the hearse; and thence we were
to have two postchaises to take us to Cork for a sum agreed upon. The
pack-saddling was relinquished; and the whole party, consisting of
Captain Taylor, 28th, with a broken thigh, Captain Girlston, 31st, a
broken arm, Captains Bryan and Cone, 39th, sick leaves, and Captain
Blakeney, 36th, a broken leg, entered the hearse. Our first stage was
Dunmanway, where we made a tremendous meal; the innkeeper complimented
us by saying that he never saw travellers in a hearse make so hearty
a breakfast. Our appearance must have been extraordinary; for as we
moved along in the carriage of death, but not with its usual pace, the
country folk, abandoning their legitimate avocations, ran after us for

On our arrival at Bandon thousands of the inhabitants followed and
impeded our way. I recollect that a regiment of militia quartered
there ran like others to see the novel show, when hundreds of the
runabout crowd cried out to them: “Get ye out of the way! What have ye
to do with the honours of war? Look there!” and they pointed to our
crutches, which stuck out from the open hearse in all directions, like
escutcheons emblasoning the vehicle of death. At length we got safe to
our inn, attended as numerously as if the hero of the Peninsula himself
had been present. Here I called upon a lady who lived close to our
inn–a Mrs. Clarke. She had two sons in the army, with both of whom I
was intimately acquainted, particularly the eldest; he was a brother
officer of mine in the 28th Regiment and was afterwards removed to
the 5th Regiment, in which he lost a leg. To him we are indebted for
that valuable publication, _The United Service Journal_. The other I
knew in the 77th Regiment; he also had been severely wounded in the
leg, so that the lady had seen both her sons on crutches. When she saw
the rough crutches which I carried, or rather which carried me, she
offered me a pair more highly finished, belonging to one of her sons;
but since mine were made of the halberts of two sergeants who lost
their lives charging into the redoubt under which I fell, I declined
the lady’s very polite offer.


Next morning we set out for Cork; and being actually enclosed within
postchaises we contrived to screen our honours of war from public
notice and therefore were not cheered to our hotel. At Cork the party
separated, each making his way to England as best he could. On my
arrival in London, I waited on Sir Henry Torrens, military secretary
to His Royal Highness the Commander-in-chief. I mentioned to the
secretary my intention of memorialising the Duke of York for promotion
by brevet, in consideration of my voluntary services and severe wounds
received whilst so serving. Sir Henry after hearing my statement
said that I was perfectly right, but at the same time advised me to
procure testimonials of my services from my different commanding
officers in support of my memorial. With this advice I willingly
complied, conscious of my having on every occasion endeavoured to
perform my duties to the fullest extent of my abilities. After such
encouragement from so high an authority as the Commander-in-chief’s
secretary and firmly relying on the nature of the testimonials which
I should receive, I considered my promotion certain. I immediately
wrote to Colonel Cross, commanding 28th Regiment at Fermoy, and to
Colonel Browne (late 28th), commanding 56th Regiment at Sheerness.
With their replies and a memorial to His Royal Highness, I waited
on the secretary; but on presenting them, he, without even opening
them, said: “Recollect, Captain Blakeney, that I did not promise you
promotion. I cannot give away majorities.” I replied that I did not
apply for a majority; I only asked for the rank by brevet, which was
throughout the army considered as a reward for meritorious officers
when regimental promotion might be attended with difficulty. I received
no answer. Chagrined and disappointed because, when the secretary had
told me that I was right in making a memorial and had advised me to
get my commanding officer’s testimonials, he now opposed that memorial
before he even submitted it to the Commander-in-chief, I retired with
strong impressions, which I now decline to state. In a short time I
received an answer to my memorial stating that I could not at the
present moment be promoted by brevet, but that I should get a majority
when a favourable opportunity offered. Unbounded confidence was not
inspired by this promise from the Horse Guards, particularly after what
had passed on the subject. How far this diffidence was justified may be
seen in the sequel.

The above statement may appear extraordinary; but between the time of
my first interview with Sir Henry Torrens and the arrival of those
testimonials from my various commanding officers, which the secretary
had suggested, the star of Napoleon had begun to set. His abdication
soon followed; war was no longer contemplated; and the claims of
officers, of whatever nature, were abandoned to a heartless neglect.

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