"Chapter L" by Sir Henry (Harry) George Wakelyn Smith (1788-1860).
AGAIN IN ENGLAND–LAST YEARS, 1852-1860.
BEFORE Sir Harry Smith reached England, Lord John Russell's Government had fallen, one main cause of its fall being a general and perhaps excessive dissatisfaction with Lord Grey's administration of the colonies. It was widely felt that Sir Harry had been made the scapegoat of the Whig Government, and there was every disposition to give him a warm welcome.
The Gladiator reached Portsmouth on the afternoon of Sunday, 1st June, and at seven that evening Sir Harry and Lady Smith disembarked and proceeded to the George. Next day he was visited by a great number of persons, both official and private, and at four the Corporation hastily came together to vote him an address. In sharp contrast to the terms of Lord Grey's dispatch, it expressed admiration for his "capacity and fitness for command" shown amid almost unparalleled difficulties. Sir Harry was brought to the Council Chamber to receive it. In his reply he tersely described the situation in which he had been placed. "I became a Governor without a Legislative Council, a Commander-in-Chief without a British army." Meanwhile the Mayor had been requisitioned to call a public meeting of the inhabitants. It was held to suit Sir Harry's convenience at a quarter to ten next morning, "military time." At this meeting, which was enthusiastically sympathetic, Sir Harry recalled an incident of his youth.
"Many years ago I embarked on my first campaign from your shores, unknown to the world, nay, I may say, unknown to myself, for no youth is aware of the latent qualities which may hereafter be brought forth. At the storming of Monte Video, an event which is not known to many of you, because it occurred before many of you were born, I was Adjutant of three Companies, and was fast asleep when they fell in. A brother officer came and shook me by the shoulder and awoke me, saying, 'The troops are falling in; come, wake up.' I arose and exclaimed, 'Lord, in Thee have I trusted; let me never be confounded,' and with many others came out unscathed from a dreadful storm. These words have guided me during my life."
In each of the two speeches Sir Harry showed the most magnanimous spirit towards the Government which had recalled him.218
The feeling displayed at Portsmouth was typical of that which prevailed throughout the country, and as he acted at Portsmouth so he acted throughout. He wrote in 1857, "All England upon my arrival again received me with open arms. I was requested to stand as a member for Cambridge, for Westminster, for Edinburgh, for Glasgow. I declined to interfere with politics or to embarrass Her Majesty's Government, which I say my position enabled me to do, had not my desire been ever to serve it faithfully and fearlessly." Perhaps his determination not to pose as a man with a grievance was manifested most strikingly when, after his arrival in London, while declining an invitation of the United Service Club, he accepted one even from Lord Grey. A writer in Colburn's Magazine for November, 1860, is very indignant at this, and calls it "the most lowering act" of Sir Harry's life. But Sir Harry was only maintaining the generous position he had taken up–that Lord Grey, even if he had acted wrongly, had acted from a sense of duty.219
But with whatever mixture of feelings Sir Harry visited Lord Grey, he received another invitation, we may be sure, with the most unadulterated pleasure. On the 18th June he was the guest of his beloved master and faithful defender, the Duke of Wellington, at the Waterloo Banquet at Apsley House–the last Waterloo Banquet ever held. Around the Duke's table, with Prince Albert and the Duke of Cambridge, sat between thirty and forty generals who had played their part in the struggle of giants thirty-seven years before. They included Lord Anglesey, Lord Hardinge, and Sir De Lacy Evans. At this gathering of glorious soldiers and old comrades, Sir Harry Smith's health was proposed by the Great Duke himself and drunk with the greatest enthusiasm.
Early in August Sir Harry and Lady Smith settled themselves at Belmont House near Havant, where they were near neighbours of another famous Peninsular and Indian soldier, Sir Charles Napier. A month later they crossed to Guernsey to visit their old friends Sir John and Lady Catherine Bell. Sir John as Lieutenant-Governor held a review of the Guernsey Militia in his friend's honour, and induced Sir Harry to address them. He spoke on a favourite topic–the power of an armed peasantry to resist an invader.
"In the mountains of the Tyrol, under Hofer, the militia peasantry of the country repelled the attacks of the well-trained battalions of Napoleon. In Algeria for nearly thirty years have the peasantry defended their country, which even now is not conquered, although 450,000 French soldiers have been sent there. In the Caucasian Mountains the peasantry have resisted for thirty years the efforts of 800,000 Russian soldiers to subjugate them, and the Russians have made to this hour no progress. In South Africa I have experienced what the determined efforts of an armed peasantry can do, for after having beaten the Kafirs in one place, they immediately appeared in another I state this to you to show what a brave and loyal people as you are, are capable of doing."220
After returning from Guernsey, Sir Harry visited Sir Charles Napier, and here met, for the first time for many years, his old friend and comrade of the Light Division, the historian, Sir William Napier. It was while the three brilliant soldiers were thus together that they heard, with an emotion easy to imagine, that their great chieftain, the Duke, had passed away (14th Sept.).221 At the Duke's funeral on the 18th November Sir Harry rode as Standard-bearer, attended by Col. Garvock.
On 21st January, 1853, Sir Harry was appointed to the command of the Western District, and to be Lieutenant-Governor of Plymouth. His feelings on again obtaining employment were no doubt those expressed in General Beckwith's letter to him on the occasion: "We should all die in our boots, with our spurs on, if possible; at any rate, the grand affair is to keep the game alive to the last." Accordingly, he and his wife took up their abode at Government House, Devonport, where they remained till the autumn of 1854. It was a busy time when troops were constantly departing for the Crimea, and a great deal of hospitality was dispensed at Government House.
Mr. W. F. Collier of Woodtown, Horrabridge, sends me the following reminiscences of Sir Harry at this time:–
"He was an active General, to be seen everywhere. When inspecting or reviewing infantry, he usually rode his little Arab, Aliwal, and always, when the troops were in line, he would suddenly put his horse into a gallop and ride at the line as if he were going to charge through them (the men were, of course, well up to this trick and stood perfectly steady); the little Arab always suddenly halted within about a foot of the line. I have seen him perform this show for the benefit of the public often.
"He went to the public balls in his tight Rifle uniform of the time–a tight 'invisible-green' jacket, with tight trousers to match. It was very trying to the figure, and his then was rather spare and dilapidated, rather of the Don Quixote order.
"Lady Smith was a dear old lady, very kind, and very popular."
Sir Harry had distinguished himself from the beginning of his career by his zeal for the common soldier, and in his last years no old soldier appealed to him in vain. Through the kindness of Colonel L. G. Fawkes, R.A., I am enabled to give the following charming letter addressed by Sir Harry at this time to Sergeant T. Himbury, an old soldier of the 95th:–
"Government House, Devonport, May 20th, 1853.
"OLD COMRADE HIMBURY,
"I well recollect you. Upon the receipt of your letter of the 16th inst., I recommend your memorial to 'The Lords and other Commissioners of Chelsea Hospital' to have your pension increased to two shillings a day. There are few men now remaining in the British Army who have seen so much service and been in so many actions as yourself; and the fact alone, of your having been wounded when one of the Forlorn Hope at the important storm of San Sebastian, where we, the Light, Third, and Fourth Divisions sent our gallant volunteers, is enough. The Lords Commissioners are very kind to such gallant old soldiers as yourself, and, if they can increase your pension, I am sure they will. Let this certificate accompany your memorial, and let me hear that another, though not a forlorn, hope has succeeded. My wife well remembers your picking her up when her horse fell upon her, and again thanks you.
"Your old friend and comrade,
"H. G. SMITH, Major-General,
"Colonel 2nd Battn. Rifle Brigade."
Sir Harry's interest was not confined to the rank and file, and early in June, finding on the appearance of the Gazette that various officers whom he had recommended for promotion for their services in South Africa had had their claims overlooked, he wrote some vigorous letters to Lord Hardinge, the new Commander-in-Chief, and in some cases obtained what he desired. In one of these letters (12th June) he adds, "I had a great sham fight yesterday on Roborough Downs, horsed four guns myself, and taught the troops a forward fight."
Early in 1854, we see the shadow of the Crimean War coming over the land. It was a new experience for Harry Smith to be at home when there was fighting to be done. But now Charles Beckwith wrote to him from Turin, "I suppose, old boy, that our share in coming events will be reading the Gazette at breakfast, shutting the garden-gate, and turning the siege of Dendermond into a blockade." That was what it had now come to.
From a drawing by Julian C. Brewer, 1854. [Opposite p. 658.
In March, 1854, Sir Harry had permission to appoint as his aide-de-camp Lieut.-Colonel Holdich of the 80th Foot, who had held the same position during the Sutlej campaign and in South Africa, and had since greatly distinguished himself in Burmah. Although Colonel Holdich resigned this position in 1856 in order to proceed with his regiment to South Africa (Major Hugh Smith replacing him), he remained closely bound to Sir Harry and Lady Smith to the end of their lives.
On the 20th June Sir Harry became Lieutenant-General (in South Africa he had had the local rank of Lieutenant-General, but no more), and on the 29th September he was transferred from Devonport to Manchester, being appointed to the command of the Northern and Midland Military Districts. Soon after he and his wife took up their residence at Rusholme House, which was their home till 1857, when they removed to Somerville, Victoria Park.
One of Sir Harry's first duties, after taking up his command at Manchester, was to proceed to Hull to supervise the military arrangements for the reception of the Queen, who was to pay a visit there on her way from Scotland. After being present at Her Majesty's arrival on the evening of 13th October, he dined by command with the royal party at the Station Hotel. Next morning he was on the Fairy when the Queen made a tour of the docks, but immediately afterwards left Hull on another mission of great interest. At the request of Lord Hardinge, now Commander-in-Chief, he proceeded on the 15th October to Paris to represent the British Army at the funeral of Marshal St. Arnaud, who had died in the Crimea. He was accompanied by his own aide-de-camp, Lieut-Colonel Holdich, Colonel Brook Taylor, A.G. of the Manchester District, and Lord Arthur Hay, aide-de-camp to Lord Hardinge (representing the Commander-in-Chief). On the 16th Lord Cowley, the British Ambassador, entertained the military deputation at breakfast, and then conveyed them to the Invalides, the place of interment. Sir Harry was subsequently admitted to an audience of the Emperor at St. Cloud, of which he has left the following note:–
"After a very long conversation, the Emperor said, 'You will see the Queen, and I pray you to assure Her Majesty how sensible I, the French Army and Nation are of the mark of respect paid to us by sending to attend the melancholy funeral of Marshal St. Arnaud, an officer of your rank and reputation with a Deputation of British Officers. The amicable relationship which existed between the Marshal and Lord Raglan renders his loss still more to be deplored.'"
Sir Harry was back in London on the 21st.
Christmas, 1854, brought Sir Harry a double sorrow. His "third Waterloo brother," Charles, died at Whittlesey on Christmas Eve, and four days earlier his old friend Sir James Kempt passed away at the age of ninety. On 17th January, 1855, Sir Andrew Barnard followed. On Sir Andrew's death, Sir Harry, who had been since 1847 Colonel of the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade, was appointed to the command of the 1st Battalion. In one of his strangely beautiful letters written on 27th January, Charles Beckwith grieves over the sufferings of the men in the Crimea, gives his friend some of his thoughts on the great mystery of death, and then refers in particular to the recent deaths of their old friends.
"What a good old fellow Sir James was! I did not feel Sir Andrew's loss so much, as they told me that his intellect had failed. I had a good letter the other day from Lord Seaton. All these men I regard as the patriarchs of all that is solid in England. These men and their fellows, the men of Alma, Balaklava, Inkerman, of the Birkenhead, and the Arctic Regions, I hold to be the foundation-stones of England. In them is incarnate the sense of duty and obedience as a fixed habit, not a sentiment or conviction, as the people say, but a true witness of the Omnipotent who wills it thus. . . . Adieu. Love to Juana. We must expect to be rather ricketty at the best, but we may toddle on. It is highly desirable that we may all go together as nearly as may be. Bring Bright to a garrison Court Martial, take care of your old bones, remember me kindly to any old fellow that may write to you, and believe me,
"Your affectionate friend,
It might atone for many faults in Harry Smith that he loved and was loved by Charles Beckwith
The following letter to H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge and the Duke's reply are self explanatory:–
"Manchester, March 9, 1855.
"I cannot avoid expressing to Your Royal Highness my delight on reading the opinion so nobly given by you, when in the Chair, as to the Patriotic Fund, of the value, worth, and zeal of our Regimental Officers. In a service of fifty years I have ever found them the same, and ever looked up to and beloved by their soldiers. Your Royal Highness's expressions in the Chair are calculated to do vast good in these twaddling and criminating times, and to uphold that class of men, alone qualified to command British soldiers, who feel themselves that gentlemen best command them.
"H. G. SMITH,
"To H.R.H. the Duke of Cambridge, etc."
"St. James's Palace, March 10th, 1855.
"MY DEAR SIR HARRY,
"Many thanks for your most kind letter just received. I really am delighted to find that all my friends approve of my speech the other day. I felt it was a duty I owed to the Officers of the Army to state what I did in their favour, they having been most unjustly assailed from all quarters, and not a soul to take their part, which I felt was too bad. Never are there a set of men who have worked harder, and their trials have been great. You know my devotion for the service. I could not allow such imputations to go by unanswered. The Departments have been very bad, though I admit their great difficulties, but the Army, as far as troops are concerned, cannot be improved.
"I remain, my dear Sir Harry,
"Yours most sincerely,
In May Sir Harry received with great pleasure from Prince Adalbert of Prussia the beautifully illustrated volume on the First Sikh War written by the lately deceased Prince Waldemar, who had fought in those battles as a volunteer, and had gained the esteem and affection of his comrades.
On the 25th July Sir Harry wrote to Major George Simmons–
"I have not been myself since the 18th June last. I went to Preston to inspect some militia and a Depôt Battalion of the line, and I was wet for six hours. George, on one 18th June, I did not much mind a wetting. Age is a bore. Ah, poor dear Lord Raglan! He died, I fear, of a broken heart. I desire you write 'Dear Harry S—,' and not 'Dear General,' you old humbug. Juana sends you and yours her love, as does your old comrade,
As General in command of the Midland District, Sir Harry was present at Birmingham on 22nd November, when Prince Albert laid the foundation stone of the "Midland Institute." On rising to reply for the "Army and Navy," he called forth vociferous cheering by the words, "I pray my country not precipitately to make peace. Let peace be based upon the surest foundations."
A letter of Lady Smith's dated "31st March, 1857," reminds us of the regulation ordering all officers to leave the upper lip unshaven, of which the effect is seen in portraits of Sir Harry after this date. "Your uncle is, thank God, quite well. His moustaches are growing very nicely, and I do think they become his dear old face." A week later he wrote to his nephew, Mr. George Moore Smith, of Whittlesey, his native place, to express his delight at "the pluck" he had shown during some riots, when the rioters had cheered him for going in among them.
On 5th May the Manchester "Art Treasures" Exhibition was opened by Prince Albert, who wrote the same night to the Queen: "After luncheon [at Abney Hall] we donned our uniform, and drove with an escort, etc., etc., to Manchester, some six miles, and through the town–Sir Harry Smith upon his Arab 'charging the multitude.'" 222 On 29th June the Queen and various members of the Royal Family, including Prince Frederick William of Prussia, newly betrothed to the Princess Royal, visited the Exhibition. It was Sir Harry Smith's duty to make all the military arrangements, and he rode on the right of Her Majesty's carriage in the procession. When the Queen was about to knight the Mayor, she turned to Sir Harry for his sword, telling the Mayor at the same time that it had been "in four general actions." On receiving it back he respectfully bowed, and, stooping over it, pressed the hilt to his lips. Her Majesty afterwards expressed a wish for the sword, saying, "Do you value it very much, Sir Harry?" and, needless to say, it was at once presented to her. Sir Harry had worn it from 1835.223
Sir Harry and Lady Smith having invited General and Mrs. Beckwith to come over from Paris and stay with them during the time of the Exhibition, the General replied, "You must understand that if I should come to England, I shall certainly present my wife to Juana. As to the Exhibition, it will be a thing to be seen and felt, but your house will be little better than a hotel for a part of the time, and I think much more of your blessed faces than of all other possible sights. I had rather see John Bell's 'old divine countenance' than that of Raphael himself."
That summer of 1857–the summer of the Indian Mutiny–filled the letters of Harry Smith and Charles Beckwith with gloomy forebodings. It is interesting to see the reminiscence of the old Light Division contained in the last words of Beckwith's letter of the 18th September: "Do you think 'Young Varmint'224 can get to Lucknow? I have some doubts. God protect him and bless him."
General Beckwith did not achieve the visit to Manchester in 1857, but wrote on 15th January, 1858, that he would like to come in the following July. He says–
"I am glad to hear from you, because you really know something of what is going on in the world, and, above all, something of the men who take an active part in directing its affairs. I have nothing but my own theories and the newspapers to direct me, two fallacious guides. It is impossible not to shed a tear on H. Havelock's grave. I wish he could have once more embraced his wife and daughters. There is another thing, Harry, that hangs on my mind, and that is Punjaub Lawrence. As far as I can see, nothing was foreseen and nothing was prevented from Calcutta. Everything–wisdom, counsel, action, foresight–came from Lahore. 'There was a little city and few men within it, and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it. Now, there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man.'. . . My wife, the most simple-minded creature living, sends her duty to Juana, and I send my love. Is John Bell on the staff of your district? My kind regards to him. I think with reverence and affection of his 'old divine face.'"
In May Sir Harry Smith, Lord Burghersh and the Garter King at Arms were commissioned to go to Lisbon in attendance on the Marquis of Bath, who was to invest Don Pedro V., on the occasion of his marriage, with the Order of the Garter. The young queen, Princess Stephanie of Hohenzollern, visited the English Court on her way to Portugal, and Sir Harry and Lady Smith were bidden to a dinner-party at Buckingham Palace on 7th May, and to a State Ball on the 10th, given in connexion with her visit.
Lord Bath and his suite reached Lisbon on the 17th, a day before the Queen. They were present at various festivities held in honour of the royal wedding, and after the investiture at Belem Palace on the 27th were the guests of the King at a State Dinner. Sir Harry received from the King at this time the Order of St. Bento d'Aviz. It must have been very interesting to the Peninsular veteran thus to revisit under such different circumstances the place where he and George Simmons had bathed together forty-eight years before when convalescent from their wounds received at the Coa.225
Alas! the first letter he received from Charles Beckwith after his return told him, in sentences worthy of Thackeray, that Simmons, with his simple hero-worship of them both, had passed away.
"Todas son muertas! and amongst the rest old George Simmons, who went out of the world in a few moments with a smile on his countenance. The first thing George would ask was, 'Where's the rigiment? My word, the General and Sir Harry will soon be here.'"
"I shall be ready to move on Manchester on the 14th July with my young wife. I hope to find you during an interregnum of giving dinners and dining out, as I want to comfort my head and heart during my stay in England, and have no reverence for cotton lords. Your blessed faces and those of the old stock that I may be lucky enough to meet, will mend up and comfort my soul which has passed through a dreary desert for the last thirty years. I had much rather see old Sousa e Silva226 than Milner Gibson. In fact, it is not safe for me to get into a colloquy with this sort of chap, as I should certainly rap out something disagreeable. . . . Love to Juana. Corramba, how I shall enjoy myself at Manchester!"
In July the anticipated visit duly took place.
On the 9th October, at Newcastle, Sir Harry inspected for the last time his own Regiment, the 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade. When he had inspected them and put them through some rapid manœuvers, he formed the men into square, and addressed them in words full of his lifelong affection for the corps. That was the only Regiment or Battalion, he said, in which he had taken his place in the ranks, and their services, their "everything, in fact," would never be forgotten. He then desired the men to let him get out of the square, observing that he well knew he never could get into it if they wished to prevent him.227
Early in 1859 Sir Harry had a bad fall and cut his knee. He went to London unwisely, inflammation came on, and he nearly lost his leg. Beckwith writes to him–
"MY DEAR OLD FELLOW,
"What a spoony of a Manchester doctor to let you set off! Why didn't you turn back? However, when you've got your nose in a given direction, you never turn back. . . . You see how a man may be 'severely wounded' being at ease and in his own house, after riding through showers of lead and iron unscathed. I am certain that you will have greatly profited by this occasional martyrdom, and that you are now much fitter to 'fall in' in the ranks of the celestial army."
For eight weeks the patient was confined to his room, and almost constantly to his bed. He reports his return to Manchester on 12th April and adds–
"In a few days I hope to mount Alice's228 pony. I have suffered very much occasionally, but my pluck never forsook me. My greatest distress was to see my dear old faithful wife suffer so–her anxiety was intense."
Sir Harry's five-years' command of the Northern District was to expire on the 30th September. He hated the idea of being out of harness, and wrote in May to the Duke of Cambridge, begging that he might be reappointed, but the Duke replied that, though his feelings were strongly in favour of continuing Sir Harry in the command he so worthily filled, he could not, in justice to other officers, make an exception in his case. Accordingly Sir Harry saw his time at Manchester drawing to an end.
There, as in all his previous employments, he had gained the love and esteem of all who came in contact with him, by his high spirit, his generosity, and his kindness of heart, while they smiled at his soldierly inflexibility in little things. A lady who visited him at this time tells me how severe he would be on bad riders, or men who used a spoon to their pudding or left a wine-glass unfinished; how proud he was of his little beautifully formed foot, and how when in bad health he would scrupulously dress for dinner, perhaps to imitate the Duke of Wellington, whom he made his pattern in all things; how he would ride a very strong and spirited horse, although it exhausted him; how he would take men into his employment from pure charity, because they needed assistance; how in society he would devote himself still to the prettiest woman present; how rigidly punctual he was in his house; how charming with children and young people; how he would go through whatever he felt to be his duty at any cost.
Sir Harry's departure from Manchester was therefore a time of severance from many friends. The Council of the City, in a formal resolution, requested the Mayor to assure him of their regret at his removal, and their thanks for the great courtesy and kindness with which he had discharged his duties. In his reply to the Mayor, Sir Harry wrote–
"After the approbation of his Sovereign, the greatest compliment which can be conferred on the soldier is to live in the affections of his countrymen. Thus to learn that the Council of the wealthy and populous City of Manchester appreciates any services it has been my duty to perform is, I assure you, most gratifying to my feelings. During the five happy years I have commanded the Northern District and resided in Manchester, I have received the greatest kindness and hospitality both in the City and in the neighbourhood, and joyfully do I record that during that period no single instance of any collision between the citizens and the soldiers throughout these extensive districts was ever brought before me. . . . The kindly feelings evinced by you, Sir, in your letter of transmission, are most forcibly impressed upon my mind, the more so as you include Lady Smith, the faithful partner of my joys, sorrows, and military career for so many years in every quarter of the globe."
Lord De Tabley wrote–
"I do assure you that, amongst the many neighbours who have had an opportunity of forming your acquaintance and cultivating your friendship during the period of your command here, there is no one who regrets the termination of the command more sincerely than I and my family. Most exceedingly also will the Regiment, which you have so kindly, more than once, inspected, miss the cheering and encouraging glance and word of the General they were always so glad and proud to see. As you say, time passes, but I trust that friendship and kindly feeling will remain."
Similarly, Lord Derby, "the Rupert of debate," wrote from Knowsley–
"Your retirement will, I am sure, be a subject of very general regret. I hope that Lady Derby and I may have the pleasure of again seeing you and Lady Smith at this place. I beg of you to place me at the feet of the Doña Juana, and to believe me, my dear Sir Harry,
To Major C. W. Meadows Payne, his second aide-de-camp, whom he had first met in South Africa in the thirties, Sir Harry wrote a warmly affectionate letter of farewell.
"Manchester, 30th Sept. 1859.
"MY DEAR OLD AND VALUED FRIEND PAYNE,
"This day closes for the present our Military Career–but no change in our circumstances can effect any change in that Fraternal Love which has endeared us to each other for so many years. During the last five years, while my A.D.C., you have been of the greatest possible service to me in both your official and private capacity, my interests have been yours, and the frank confidence I have ever reposed in you has been observed with every regard for my honour.
"It may happen, even at my advanced age, I may be again employed–if so, I hope you would again join your General who so valued your services.
"Meanwhile, Payne, may every blessing attend you and yours, and may every Veteran General have such a Friend as yourself to confide in.
"Your old friend,
"H. G. SMITH.
"Major Payne, A.D.C."
There was one other loved friend from whom Sir Harry had now to part. His little Arab "Aliwal" had been ridden by him at Maharajpore and at all the battles of the Sutlej Campaign; it had come home with him to England in 1847, accompanied him to the Cape, returned with him in 1857, and had since served him faithfully in his commands at Devonport and Manchester. A lady, the daughter of Sir Harry's aide-de-camp, Major Payne, writes–
"My sister and I have a vivid recollection of the lovely horse, and how, when we used to meet Sir Harry when we were out walking and he was riding, he would call out, 'Stand still, children,' and then come galloping up at full speed, and Aliwal would stop at our very feet;229 and my mother used to tell us that on the anniversary of the Battle of Aliwal, when there was always a full-dress dinner at the General's house, some one would propose Aliwal's health, and Sir Harry would order him to be sent for. The groom would lead the beautiful creature all round the dinner-table, glittering with plate, lights, uniforms, and brilliant dresses, and he would be quite quiet, only giving a snort now and then, though, when his health had been drunk and the groom had led him out, you could hear him on the gravel outside, prancing and capering. The horse was now old, and Sir Harry, in his new house in London, would not be able to keep him; and though Sir Robert Gerard (now Lord Gerard) kindly offered him a home, Sir Harry feared that his old age would perhaps be an unhappy one, and he resolved to shoot him. My father and the faithful groom were with Sir Harry when he did so, and I believe they all shed tears."
That night Sir Harry's place was vacant at dinner, and he was seen no more till the following morning. The following epitaph on his horse in Sir Harry's handwriting is still preserved:–
"Near this Stone is buried Sir Harry Smith's celebrated
Arab charger of the Purest Blood,
Sir Harry rode him in the battles of Maharajpore, Moodkee, Ferozeshahur, Aliwal, and Sobraon. He was the only horse of the General Staff that was not killed or wounded. He came from Arabia to Calcutta, thence to Lahore; he has marched nearly all over India; came by ship to England, thence to the Cape of Good Hope and back to England. He was twenty-two years old; never was sick during the eighteen years in Sir Harry's possession. As a charger, he was incomparable, gallant, and docile; as a friend, he was affectionate and faithful."
On leaving Manchester Sir Harry and Lady Smith visited Sir John Bell at 55, Cadogan Place, London, and took a house for themselves a few doors off (No. 15), which they entered at the end of November.
The letters of General Charles Beckwith show him to have been vexing himself for years with the question, "How is England to defend herself against invasion?" Although Harry Smith's letters to him are not in my hands, I do not doubt that he had also deeply pondered the same momentous problem. Neither of the friends forgot the famous letter which Wellington, in their eyes the wisest of all Englishmen, had addressed in 1847 to Sir John Burgoyne, and in which, after saying that he had studied our Southern Coast piece by piece and did not doubt that a foreign army could be landed at many points, he added–
"I know no mode of resistance excepting by an army in the field capable of meeting and contending with its formidable enemy, aided by all the means of fortification which experience in war can suggest.
"I shall be deemed foolhardy in engaging for the defence of the empire with an army composed of . . . a force of militia. I may be so, I confess it. I should infinitely prefer an army of regular troops. But I know that I shall not have these. I may have others.
"I am bordering upon seventy-seven years of age passed in honour. I hope that the Almighty may protect me from being the witness of the tragedy which I cannot persuade my contemporaries to take measures to avert." 230
These solemn words of warning were present to the minds of Beckwith and Harry Smith when, in 1859, they saw the public mind seriously alarmed by the fear of invasion, and an army of citizen soldiers springing up in its defence. They would have been untrue to their master if they had not gladly hailed the Volunteer Movement, and seized the opportunity of aiding their country to put its defences in order. Harry Smith, as we have seen, had told the Guernseymen of the immense value of a citizen army. On 17th May, 1859, he wrote at Manchester the following memorandum:–
"1. I am one who thinks that the most formidable enemies are the armed population of a country–take Switzerland, America, Spain, etc., and I have never seen more formidable opposition than by armed savages even.
"2. I would therefore gradually enroll every man in England who has a vote, and teach them to shoot. That is all we require at present; plenty of time to talk of a little drill and embodiment. And as we may become threatened by war, I would enroll all gamekeepers and their helpers as Light Infantry, or rather Riflemen. I would enroll all the navvies, give them arms, but call them 'Pioneers.' I would enroll all the Railroad men, not to take them from the rail, but teach them to shoot.
"3. I would never talk of war, but thus show such a set of Bulldog teeth as no sensible enemy would like the grip of. All this in aid of the Regular Army, the Militia, etc.
"4. I would erect such works at Plymouth as I have long ago pointed out: no great fortifications; outworks of strength, on points which would render it unassailable. So at all our ports, etc.
"5. Why, when the Napoleon threatened us with invasion, Mr. Pitt had 800,000 men with arms in their hands; 200,000 more enrolled. Every waggon, boat, etc., was numbered, and alarm-posts established everywhere throughout England. By heavens, if any enemy, or enemies, thought of invading us, England would 'chevaux-de-frises' like a porcupine's back, with lots of men everywhere. These are our resources if our Navy let them land. And we should have swarms of little steamers with Armstrong's guns on our coasts.
"6. I should like some 'Places d'armes' on the Reigate Hills range–small, but capable to resist all but a siege. These points being occupied add to the defensive, and are capital Points of Rendezvous.
"7. If the war231 is protracted and our neutrality shaken, we must go back to the old constitutional plan of Ballot for the Militia.
"8. All I have here written about would be easy, feasible, and requisite if a large French Camp was forming in Boulogne, Cherbourg & Co., but, as yet, John Bull's steam is hardly up. Government measures of defence upon the basis of strict neutrality would be acceptable to the People, and, by Government being energetic, the People would think there is more necessity than they see, and would rally round it in defence of Queen, Country, 'pro aris et focis.' And if they did not get their steam up, give them a touch of 'The blessings of Tortona'232 and various other interesting anecdotes of war and contributions, etc., etc.
"H. G. S."
Sir Harry's interest in the question was still shown after his removal to London. The Times of 19th December having discussed in a leader whether the country would be wise in following Lord Palmerston's advice and spending £10,000,000 on fortifications, or in trusting its defence merely to its fleet, army, and volunteers, Sir Harry again put his views on paper in a letter to the editor (which, however, seems not to have been published). I give a few extracts:–
"3. What you state as to Fortifications is truly correct. They must ever be regarded as auxiliaries, and no mode of defence would be more objectionable than 'large fortifications,' absorbing, as you observe, the men required in the field.
"4. 'Should we not take our stand upon the ocean and the coast rather than assume that an enemy will make good his advance into the country?' On this allow me to observe that, in war, one of its first principles is to ensure a 'reserve.' This, if we were defeated at sea (which I by no means anticipate), your small fortifications around your arsenals, docks, etc., and upon a few points on the most vulnerable side of the capital, would secure.
"7. A movable Column or Columns of Riflemen and Armstrong's guns might not arrive at the point in time. Defences must be permanent and leave nothing to chance.
"8. The assertion that 'No force would ever attempt a landing on a hostile shore in the face of 2000 Riflemen supported by good artillery,' is very correct, but it must be observed that this small force would cover but an atom of the coast, and the enemy would land on either flank, leaving a force in front of the 'atom of defence.'
"11. Arm the People, who have demonstrated their readiness. Place such an armament under a system of organization which would ensure obedience. That authority to emanate and be exercised direct from the Crown, and to descend by a continuous chain of responsibility from the Crown to the private. Thus would England be so armed as to prevent the melancholy exhibition of a Panic, as injurious to her trade throughout the world as it is degrading to her position as a State. Nothing so well ensures the friendship of nations as irresistible power.
"12. I conclude by asserting that the Navy, some small fortifications, the Army and Militia, and the 'Rifle Volunteers' (in other words, 'the Armed People of invincible England') will ensure her defence as effectually as they will re-establish her 'prestige' throughout Europe and the world."
At Glasgow, when the survivors of the "Sharpshooters" of 1819 met to consider the question of re-embodying the old force, they wrote to their old commander, and received a letter from him full of reminiscences of his Glasgow days, and full of encouragement to them to do what they were proposing–
"London, Feb. 7, 1860.
"My war cry for England has ever been, Arm the people! . . . Some of my gallant and experienced comrades who write upon the subject of the defence of England take as extreme and one-sided a view as some of our leading journals do on the other–the one declaring the inutility of Volunteers, the other that they are omnipotent. I ask either of these extremities–If you saw a large French army in battle array, which must occupy a large tract of country, with artillery, cavalry, and their sharpshooters, how do you propose to check their advance? I cannot conjecture the reply of either. But this I will assert and maintain, with my last breath–It is alone to be done by a combination of regular troops, as a barrier and a reserve, with swarms of riflemen everywhere as powerful–most powerful–auxiliaries. We must bear in mind that the distance from our coast to London is barely three days' march, hence the object of the enemy is to advance by a coup de main to seize London. Could I say loose troops would stop them? No. But a combination would ensure their defeat, and then let loose the sons of Britain, with this command–'Forward and shoot; you shall all be supported at the requisite points.' Should any enemy have the audacity to attempt our shores, could he avoid our ever invincible Navy, I as a General of some experience in war, would be proud to command a combined force as I have described, and 'Let deeds show.' . . .
"One word more. Teaze not our youths as Volunteers with the minutiæ of drill–a few things are alone necessary. To march in quick time, to march in column, form line, gain ground to the right and left, to advance again in line, to extend and occupy bridges or walls; a rallying square may be practised. Soldiers require these alone in the field. Then, to be good shots. Pluck enough they have, and, with prompt obedience, England's regular army, so nobly supported and its numbers so increased, can, may, and will defy the —.
"Let our watchword be,
"'Arm the People.'
"Ever faithfully yours,
"H. G. SMITH.
"To Peter Mackenzie, Esq., Gazette Office, Glasgow." 233
When others were timorous of the Volunteer Movement as a danger to public order, Harry Smith saw in it the possible salvation of the country which he had served valiantly with the sword and could serve now only by words.
His spirit was still high, and it chafed him to live in London without horses and on a diminished income. He had never had the art of saving money, and he now writes (7th March) to Major Payne–
"You would laugh to see me poring over twopences. Hang me if I know how people in England live. I hate London, and I love you, Tom.
He says in the same letter that he had taken a cold at the funeral of his old friend Sir William Napier, but when he writes again on 12th June he gives a better report of himself.
"Everybody tells me I look well. I am thin, but as active as ever. I want horses and that stirring exercise. I say nothing, Tom, but I do feel the loss, for the last fifty years having ever had a right good stud. But you can't eat your cake and have it. London full of the world, a most heartless reunion; it is for the girls a regular Constantinople. Tom, do write often. I don't care what the subject of your letter may be, so that it is not melancholy. Say it rains or don't rain; yesterday 'twas fine, to-day pouring with rain again."
Two months later the old man has had a warning that his sands are nearly run. He asks his "dear old Tom Payne" to copy a paper which he has drawn up.
"You won't d— me, won't you? I have not been well lately with violent palpitation of the heart, and I should not like to slip my wind without an attempt to secure for Juana the pension of my rank which must be an especial [one?]. I have consulted Yorke and Bell, who agree in my course; but, Tom, I am no nearer dropping off the hooks for doing this.
"I write on my back to-day, but much better. Say nothing of all this."
The following letter, addressed to Major Payne by Colonel Shadwell (Q.M.G. at Manchester), though of the nature of a false alarm, shows the coming of the end, and how it struck home to those who loved him.
"Manchester, 15th Sept. 1860.
"MY DEAR TOM,
"You will probably have heard from London direct of our dear old friend Sir Harry's alarming state From Alice's account this morning, he was yesterday morning in extremis, and ere this has most likely breathed his last.
"It has come like a thunderbolt on us, as only five days ago Lady Smith wrote to us in such good spirits about the dear old man.
"We saw him, I am now thankful to say, when in town for a few days the middle of last month.
"I presume, from the intense agony he has endured, that he has succumbed to an attack of angina pectoris.
"What a friend we have lost! so true, so constant, so generous, so kind, and then to think of dear Lady Smith! I shudder to think of what her state will be when she comes to realize it.
"My wife is quite upset by it, and so am I.
"Always, my dear Payne,
"Yours very truly,
On the 12th October, at 1, Eaton Place West, which had been his home for the last six months, the end came. Sir Harry had reached the age of 73 on the 28th June preceding.
A year before, in sending his nephew George Moore Smith a subscription towards the restoration of St. Mary's, Whittlesey, he had written, "I enclose a cheque for our subscription to the repairs of the Dear Old Church, which I do most willingly, and should do more willingly if our bones could repose with our fathers." But though the church where his father and mother lay was closed for interments, he could still be taken to Whittlesey, and there in a corner of the new cemetery he was laid to rest on the 19th. All business in the little town was suspended for the day, and some thousands of the inhabitants of the town and district lined the route of the procession. The Rifle Corps of Ely, Wisbeach, March, Ramsey, and Whittlesey were represented at their own request, and with arms reversed preceded the hearse from the station to St. Mary's Church, and thence to the cemetery. The coffin was borne by eight old soldiers who had all served under Sir Harry, and had all won medals; the pall-bearers were six Whittlesey gentlemen, most of them his schoolfellows. Among the mourners were his surviving "Waterloo brother," Major Thomas Smith, his nephew Lieut.-Colonel Hugh Smith, Colonel Garvock, his Military Secretary at the Cape, and Colonel Shadwell, whose letter has been printed above. Three volleys were fired over the grave by the volunteers of Whittlesey, March, and Wisbeach.
A sum of £700 was subscribed to found a memorial to Sir Harry Smith's memory, and was spent on the restoration of that part of St. Mary's Church, Whittlesey–the chapel at the end of the south aisle–in which, when it was used as a schoolroom, he had received his early education.234 It is now known as "Sir Harry's Chapel." On the south wall was erected a monument of white marble surmounted by a bust of Sir Harry, executed by Mr. G. G. Adams, A.R.A.235 It bears the inscription:–
"This monument was erected and this chapel restored in 1862 by public subscription to the memory of Lieutenant-General Sir Harry G. W. Smith, Baronet of Aliwal, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Colonel of the 1st Battalion, Rifle Brigade. He entered the 95th Regiment in 1805, served in South America, Spain, Portugal, France, North America, the Netherlands, India, and at the Cape of Good Hope, of which he was Governor and Commander-in-Chief from 1847 to 1852, and on the Home Staff to 1859, when he completed a most gallant and eventful career of fifty-four years' constant employment. He was born at Whittlesey, 28th June, 1788,236and died in London 12th October, 1860. Within these walls he received his earliest education, and in the cemetery of his native place his tomb bears ample record of the high estimation in which his military talents were held by his friend and chief, the great Duke of Wellington.
"Coruna, Busaco, Fuentes d'Onoro, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Nive, Orthez, Toulouse, Waterloo, Maharajpore, Ferozeshuhur, Aliwal, Sobraon, South Africa.237
"O Lord, in Thee have I trusted; let me never be confounded."238
SIR HARRY'S CHAPEL.
(His monument is on the left.)
From a watercolour by Mrs. B. S. Ward. [Opposite p. 684.
On Sir Harry's tomb in the cemetery, Lady Smith caused to be inscribed the last sentences of the extract from the Duke of Wellington's speech of 2nd April, 1846, given above (pp. 558-560), though in a slightly different version.
After her husband's death, Lady Smith resided for some years at 19, Robertson Terrace, Hastings, and later at 79, Cadogan Place, S.W. Passionately cherishing her husband's memory, she was the beloved friend of all members of his family, and the goodness of heart and active sympathy which she showed to some who were heavy-laden will never be forgotten by their descendants. The editor of this book recalls from his boyhood the proud and animated tones in which she would speak of "Your uncle Harry"–pronouncing the name with the full Continental a and a strongly trilled r. Her noble heart ceased to beat on the 10th October, 1872, and she was laid with her hero in his last resting-place at Whittlesey.
Of the other close friends and companions of Sir Harry Smith, Charles Beckwith died in July, 1862, among the Piedmontese whom he had served so truly; Sir John Bell in 1876, having lived to the age of ninety-four.239 Sir Harry's sister, Mrs. Sargant (of whom it has been humorously said that she was "the only person in the world of whom he was afraid"), died in 1869; his youngest sister, Miss Anna Maria Smith, in 1875; his brother, Colonel Thomas Smith, C.B.–the last survivor of the family of eleven–in 1877. Colonel Smith's widow still lives at the age of ninety-three, fresh in body and mind, though it is ninety-three years since her husband sailed to the Peninsula under Sir John Moore.240
Few words are necessary in bringing this book to a close. If it has been a long one, the Editor can only plead that Harry Smith put more into his seventy odd years than would make the lives of half a dozen other men.
The autobiography shows us the strong family affections of his boyhood, his abiding reverence for his father, who had made him a man and a bold horseman, his love of brave soldiers like Colborne and Barnard and Pakenham, his supreme worship of his great master and example, Wellington. Such were the influences under which he was trained for the service of his Sovereign and of his country. In the hour of responsibility it was seen that he possessed in rare harmony qualities on which that training had not been thrown away–"an ardent spirit, which inflamed a whole army with kindred ardour, combined with a power of self-control which kept the mind clear and calm in the most difficult emergencies–the union of fiery passion with temperate reason."241 A born leader, he never lost the confidence of the officers and men who were under his command–he had it as clearly amid the anxieties and disappointments of the Kafir War of 1851-2 as after his marvellous campaign of Aliwal. His soldiers literally loved him, both for his bonhomie and for his lifelong zeal for their welfare.242
Sir Harry Smith was above all things a great soldier. In his civil administration of the Cape, undertaken at a time of enormous difficulty, his success was less brilliant than elsewhere, but even here he justified Havelock's opinion of him: "There is no species of business which Harry Smith's mental tact will not enable him to grasp." History will approve of the firm stand he made against mob-rule in the time of the Anti-convict agitation, and, seeing events in true perspective, will forget little errors of judgment (magnified at the moment by party-feeling) when set side by side with his zeal for the good of the Colony and his far-sighted perception of England's true policy in South Africa.
Such practical mistakes as Harry Smith made, both within the Colony and in his dealings with Kafir chiefs, were due to a generous, chivalrous disposition, which was ready to put the best construction on other people's conduct and to attribute to them a goodness of heart resembling his own. With an open foe, in warfare, he was caution itself, but he was too little of a Macchiavelli to read treachery in the smile of a seeming friend. A generous open nature was similarly responsible for such flaws in his character as his hastiness and warmth of language under provocation,243 as his extravagance in money matters (strangely contrasting with the severity in many respects of his own life), and a little vanity in regard to his own achievements, a vanity perhaps not more real than other men's, but occasionally less carefully concealed. If he sometimes seemed to his subordinates an exacting master, we may remember that during his whole career as a soldier he had never spared himself.
If any one were disposed to take an unfavourable view of this or that trait in Harry Smith's character, I hope the picture given of him in these pages would be a sufficient corrective. Praised by Wellington for his generalship as hardly any man else was praised, acknowledged by Havelock as the man who had made him a soldier, he had through life the warm respect and love of a score or two of brave and worthy men, such as D'Urban, and John Bell, and Kempt, and Barnard, and Kincaid, and George Simmons, and Charles Beckwith. They recognized his rare military genius: they respected him because, in his own words, he had always been "a working man who put his heart into his work:" they loved him for what Lord Raglan called "the chivalrous and gallant spirit" which had been his guide in his military career; because he was fearless of danger, indomitable in energy, overflowing in kindness, magnanimous and placable towards those who seemed his foes, loving his friends, even to his old age, with the ardour of a boy. Little wonder that one of the noblest and largest-hearted of women also pardoned his faults and adored him as only few men have been adored.
Historians may perhaps find some matter of instruction in the autobiography now presented to them. But is it too much to hope that it may have a still happier fortune, and that young Englishmen and Englishwomen yet unborn may be kindled to a noble emulation by the brave and glowing hearts of Harry and Juana Smith?
218 Portsmouth Times, 5th June, 1852.
219 Lord Grey fully appreciated Sir Harry's chivalry. He writes "On a question of this kind we were not at liberty to consult our private feelings. This was fully understood by Sir Harry Smith himself, of whose most handsome and honourable conduct I cannot too strongly express my sense. He has shown no resentment against us for what we did, but has fairly given us credit for having been guided only by considerations of public duty. I feel individually very deeply indebted to him for the kindness with which he has acted towards me since his return."–The Colonial Policy of Lord John Russell's Administration (1853), vol. ii. p. 247. Men will decide according to their dispositions whether such conduct was "lowering" to Sir Harry or not. It was at least part and parcel of his nature.
220 Portsmouth Times, 11th Sept. 1852.
221 Life of Sir W. Napier, vol. ii. p. 327.
222 Martin's Life of the Prince Consort, vol. iv. p. 37.
223 Sir Harry felt a strong personal devotion to the Queen, and would speak of her as "the most gracious lady in the whole world."
224 Henry Havelock's elder brother, Will, as before stated, was called in the Peninsula "Young Varmint," for "his keenness and daring in the saddle and in every manly sport." See account of W. H. by H. H. in Buist's Annals of India for 1848.
225 See p. 33 n. It is characteristic of Sir Harry's kindness of nature that he now brought home from Lisbon some little presents for the children of his aide-de-camp, Major Payne.
226 See p. 184 n.
227 Cope, p. 451.
228 Miss Alice E. Smith (daughter of Major Thomas Smith), now Mrs. Lambert, was a great deal with her uncle and aunt from 1852 onwards.
229 Cp. p. 657.
230 Sir H. E. Maxwell's Life of Wellington, vol. ii. pp. 361-364.
231 I.e. the war then being waged in Italy.
232 Tortona was laid waste in 1155 and 1163 by Frederick Barbarossa.
233 Glasgow Gazette, 11th Feb. 1860.
234 See p. 1 n.
235 Called by Lady Smith, "not quite, yet like my own Henrique!"
236 The date should be 1787.
237 The first twelve names represent the 12 clasps attached to sir Harry's Peninsular medal; for Waterloo, Maharajpore, and South Africa (1853) he had separate medals; the remaining three names are those of his clasps for the Sutlej campaign. He wore, besides, the Grand Cross of the Bath and the Portuguese Order of St. Bento d'Aviz.
238 See p. 653.
239 In his last years the gallant old General would say that "he did not care any longer to go to the club and meet a lot of old fogies whom he didn't know."
240 She died Jan. 10, 1902.
241 Cape Town Mail, 5th April, 1851.
242 I visited last year at Ely, Mr. B. Genn, late of the 15th Hussars, who had served under him in India in 1846, and who had fired over his grave. As soon as I had opened the door, a fine engraving of Sir Harry greeted me. It had been bought at a sale. The old veteran spoke of his commander always as the "dear old man." When I asked him if he thought him a good General, he fired up quickly, "Why, think of the battle of Aliwal! Not a mistake anywhere."
243 The following characteristic story has been sent me by Major J. F. Anderson, of Coxwell Lodge, Faringdon: "Sir Harry was very quick-tempered, and on one occasion (during the Kafir War of 1835?), when my father remonstrated with him as to an order he gave, he said, 'Learn to obey, sir,' and ordered him into his tent under arrest. In the evening he sent to ask my father to dine with him!"