Chapters I to XVIII
MONTE VIDEO AND BUENOS AYRES,
Written in Glasgow in 1824.–H. G. SMITH.
I WAS born in the parish of Whittlesea and county of Cambridgeshire in the year . I am one of eleven children, six sons and five daughters. Every pains was taken with my education which my father could afford, and I was taught natural philosophy, classics, algebra, and music.1
In 1804 the whole country was en masse collected in arms as volunteers from the expected invasion of the French, and being now sixteen years of age, I was received into the Whittlesea troop of Yeomanry Cavalry, commanded by Captain Johnson. During this year the Yeomanry in the neighbourhood patrolled through Norman Cross Barracks, where 15,000 French prisoners were kept, when the Frenchmen laughed exceedingly at the young dragoon, saying, "I say, leetel fellow, go home with your mamma; you most eat more pudding." In the spring of 1805 the Whittlesea Yeomanry kept the ground at a review made by Brigadier-General Stewart (now Sir W. Stewart) when I was orderly to the General, who said, "Young gentleman, would you like to be an officer?" "Of all things." was my answer. "Well I will make you a Rifleman, a green jacket," says the General, "and very smart." I assure you the General kept his word, and upon the 15th [8th?] May, 1805, I was gazetted second lieutenant in the 95th Regiment Riflemen, 2 and joined at Brabourne Lees upon the 18th of August. A vacancy of lieutenant occurring for purchase, my father kindly advanced the money, and I was gazetted lieutenant the 15th September [August?], 1805. This fortunate purchase occurred when the 2nd Battalion of the corps was raising and the officers had not been appointed by which good luck twenty-seven steps were obtained by £100.
In the summer of 1806 a detachment of three Companies was directed to proceed from the 2nd Battalion of the corps from Faversham to Portsmouth, there to embark and form part of an army about to proceed to South America under the command of Sir Samuel Auchmuty. This detachment was under the command of Major Gardner, and I was appointed Adjutant, a great honour for so young an officer.3 The army sailed for America, touching at Plymouth, Falmouth, Peak of Teneriffe, and Rio Janiero, at which place it stayed one week to take in water, stores, etc., and, covered by the detachment of Riflemen, landed within a few miles of Monte Video upon the 16th of January, 1807. Some skirmishing took place the whole day with the light troops of the enemy. Upon the 17th and 18th the army halted for the artillery, stores, etc., to be landed. The outposts (Riflemen) were employed both of these days.
Upon the 19th the army moved forward, and a general action took place, the result of which was most favourable to the British, and a position was taken up in the suburbs of Monte Video. Upon the 20th the garrison made a most vigorous sortie in three columns, and drove in our outposts, and a heavy and general attack lasted for near two hours, when the enemy were driven to the very walls of the place. The Riflemen were particularly distinguished on this occasion.
The siege of Monte Video was immediately commenced and upon the morning of the 3rd of February, the breach being considered practicable, a general assault was ordered in two columns, the one upon the breach, the other an escalade. Both ultimately succeeded. Not a defence was destroyed nor a gun dismounted upon the works. The breach was only wide enough for three men to enter abreast, and when upon the top of the breach there was a descent into the city of twelve feet. Most of the men fell, and many were wounded by each other's bayonets. When the head of the column entered the breach, the main body lost its communications or was checked by the tremendous fire. Perceiving the delay, I went back and conducted the column to the breach, when the place was immediately taken. The slaughter in the breach was enormous owing to the defence being perfect, and its not being really practicable. The surrender of this fortress put the English in the possession of this part of the country.
I was now afflicted with a most severe fever and dysentery, and owe my life to the kind attentions of a Spanish family in whose house I was billeted. My own relations could not have treated me with greater kindness. My gratitude to them can never be expressed or sufficiently appreciated.4
In the autumn 5 an outpost was established on the same side of the river as Monte Video, but nearly opposite to Buenos Ayres, at Colonia del Sacramento. This had formerly belonged to the Portuguese. It was situated on a neck of land, and a mud wall was carried from water to water. There were no guns up, and in one place a considerable breach. One particular night a column of Spaniards which had crossed the river from Buenos Ayres stormed this post, and were near carrying it by surprise had it not been for the valour of Scott and his guard of Riflemen, who most bravely defended the breach until the troops got under arms. The enemy were not pursued, as their numbers were not known and the night was dark. Why this breach was not repaired one cannot say, except that in those days our commanders understood little of the art of war, and sat themselves down anywhere in a state of blind security without using every means to strengthen their posts. Experience taught us better.
The enemy did not re-cross the river, but took up a position about fourteen miles from Colonia, in which Colonel Pack (afterwards Sir Dennis Pack), who commanded the British force, resolved to attack them. The column consisted of three companies of Riflemen, the 40th Regiment, two 6-pounders, and three light companies. It marched upon the night of [6-7 June], and arrived in sight of the enemy at daylight in the morning. They were drawn up on an elevated piece of ground, with a narrow but deep, muddy, and miry river in their front. Their cavalry formed a right angle upon the right of their infantry and they had seven guns upon the left. The Rifle Brigade covered the troops whilst crossing the rivulet, and in about twenty minutes by a rapid advance the position was carried, the enemy leaving behind him his guns, tents, stores, etc., with a great quantity of ammunition. In the destroying of the latter poor Major Gardner and fourteen soldiers suffered most dreadfully from an explosion. Some flints had been scattered upon the field; the soldiers took the shot to break the cartridges and thus the whole blew up. About two hundred shells also exploded. The army at a short distance lay down, and not an individual was touched. Colonel Pack, with his army, the captured guns, etc., returned to Colonia in the evening. 6
A considerable force having arrived under General Whitelock, who took the command, the army was remodelled and embarked in August [really on the 17th of June], 1807, to attack Buenos Ayres. The post of Colonia was abandoned, and the three companies of the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade were embodied with five of the 1st just arrived from England, and I was appointed adjutant of the whole under the command of Major McLeod. The army landed upon [28 June], and was divided into two columns, the one consisting of the light troops under General Craufurd, and of a heavy brigade, the whole under Major-General Leveson-Gower. [Some uncomplimentary epithets are here omitted]. His column was one day in advance of the main body commanded by General Whitelock in person. His orders were to march up to the enemy's outposts and take up a position. In place of obeying his orders, General Leveson-Gower immediately attacked the enemy in the suburbs of Buenos Ayres, and drove them in with great loss, leaving their cannon behind them. Having thus committed himself, in lieu of following up the advantage he had gained and pushing forward into Buenos Ayres, which would have immediately surrendered, he halted his column and took up a position. The enemy recovered from his panic, and with the utmost vigour turned to and fortified the entrances of all the streets. (Buenos Ayres is perfectly open on the land side, but has a citadel of some strength within the town and upon the river. The houses are all flat-roofed, with a parapet of about three feet high.) The day after the affair alluded to, General Whitelock with his column arrived. The next day he reconnoitred the enemy, drove in their outposts, and partially invested the city. Some very heavy skirmishing took place in the enclosures, the fences consisting of aloe hedges, very difficult to get through, but making excellent breastworks. The Rifle Corps particularly distinguished themselves.
Upon the [5 July] the whole army attacked in four columns. The men were ordered to advance without flints in their musquets, and crowbars, axes, etc., were provided at the head of the column to break open the doors, which were most strongly barricaded. It must be stated that the streets of Buenos Ayres run at right angles from each other. Each street was cut off by a ditch and a battery behind it. Thus the troops were exposed to a cross fire. The tops of the houses were occupied by troops, and such a tremendous fire was produced of grape, canister, and musquetry, that in a short time two columns were nearly annihilated without effecting any impression. The column I belonged to, under Brigadier-General Craufurd, after severe loss, took refuge in a church, and about dusk in the evening surrendered to the enemy. Thus terminated one of the most sanguinary conflicts Britons were ever engaged in, and all owing to the stupidity of the General-in-chief and General Leveson-Gower. Liniers, a Frenchman by birth, who commanded, treated us prisoners tolerably well, but he had little to give us to eat, his citadel not being provisioned for a siege. We were three or four days in his hands, when, in consequence of the disgraceful convention entered into by General Whitelock, who agreed within two months to evacuate the territory altogether and to give up the fortress of Monte Video, we were released. The army re-embarked with all dispatch and sailed to Monte Video. Our wounded suffered dreadfully, many dying from slight wounds in the extremity of lockjaw.
The division of troops I belonged to sailed upon [12 July], under the command of Brigadier-General Lumley. I confess I parted from the kind Spanish family, who during my illness had treated me with such paternal kindness, with feelings of the deepest sorrow and most lively gratitude. The old lady offered me her daughter in marriage and $20,000, with as many thousand oxen as I wished, and she would build me a house in the country upon any plan I chose to devise.
Now that I am brought to leave the fertile plains of the Plate, let me make some little mention of its climate, soil and productions. Its summer is, of course, in January; during this time it is very hot. Still you have a sea breeze and a land breeze, which is very refreshing. During the rainy seasons the weather is very tempestuous. The climate altogether is, however, most mild and salubrious. Corn of all descriptions grows with the least possible care. The fertile grass plains are immense. The country is not dead flat, but undulated like the great Atlantic a few days after a gale of wind. Upon these plains thousands of oxen and horses are grazing; they are so thick that were an individual ever entangled amongst them he would be lost as in a wood. These animals are, however, all the property of individuals, and not wild as supposed, and each horse and ox is branded. You could buy a most excellent horse for two dollars (I gave ten for one, he being very handsome, which was a price unheard of before), a cow and calf one dollar, a pair of draft oxen five (they are thus dear in consequence of being trained). The country abounds in all sorts of wild fowl and innumerable wild dogs, which nature must have provided to eat the carcases of the slaughtered cattle, many of which are killed merely for their hides, a few of the prime pieces alone being made use of for food. The marrow is usually also taken and rendered into bladders, with which they cook everything, using it, in short, as we use butter, which makes their dishes very palatable. The native inhabitants, called "peons," or labourers, are a very superior race of men, almost Patagonians, are beautiful horsemen, and have a peculiar art of catching horses and oxen by what is termed the "lasso." This is a leathern thong of about thirty feet resembling the lash of a hunting-whip. An iron ring is at one end, through which the other end is passed, by which means a noose is formed; the end is then fastened to the girths of the horse. The lasso is collected in the man's hand, he swings it circularly round his head, and when the opportunity offers, he throws it over the head of the animal he wishes to catch. He is sure of his aim; the noose draws tight round the animal's throat, and he is of course choked, and down he drops.
In killing bullocks they are very dexterous. The moment the bullock finds himself caught he begins to gallop round; the end being fast to the saddle, the horse turns gradually round so that he is not entangled. A second peon with his lasso gallops after the bullock, and throws his lasso round the hind leg above the hough and rides in a contrary direction to the other horseman, consequently the bullock is stretched between the two horses. The riders jump off and plunge their knives into the bullock, and other persons are employed to dress it, etc.
The fleet separated in a gale of wind off the Azores. During this gale the transport I was in carried away its rudder. Our captain had kept so bad a reckoning we ran four hundred miles after he expected to make the Lizard. In the chops of the Channel we fell in with the Swallow, sloop of war, to whom we made a signal of distress, and she towed us into Falmouth Harbour [5 Nov.] It blew the most tremendous gale of wind that night. A transport with the 9th Dragoons aboard was wrecked near the Lizard, and this would inevitably have been our fate had we not been towed in by the sloop of war. The rudder was repaired, we were driven into Plymouth, and in the middle of December anchored at Spithead, where we delighted to have arrived. However, to our great mortification, we were ordered to the Downs, there to disembark.
I obtained leave of absence, and was soon in the arms of a most affectionate family, who dearly loved me. My mother's delight I shall never forget. There are feelings we possess in our youth which cannot be described. I was then only nineteen. My brothers and sisters were all well, and every moment called to my recollection some incident of juvenile delight and affection.
WITH SIR JOHN MOORE–BATTLE OF CORUÑA.
I STAYED in this happy land of my sires for two months, when I was ordered to join. The Regiment was then quartered at Colchester. Although there were many subalterns present who were senior to me, I had given to me, for my exertions abroad as Adjutant, the command of a Company. This was the act of my kind and valued friend Colonel Beckwith, whom I shall have occasion frequently to mention in these memoirs, but never without feelings of affection and gratitude. The Company was in very bad order when I received it, which Colonel Beckwith told me was the reason he gave it me. I now procured a commission for my brother Tom, who was gazetted over the heads of several other candidates.
In the summer [spring] of 1808 10,000 men were ordered to Sweden under the command of Sir J. Moore. Three Companies of the Rifle Brigade under Major Gilmour were to form part of the expedition. By dint of great exertion I was appointed Adjutant to this detachment. We marched to Harwich to embark. When the fleet was collected, we anchored a few days in Yarmouth roads. The fleet arrived at Gottenburgh [on 7th May], blowing a heavy gale of wind. The harbour of this place is most beautiful. The army never landed, but the men were drilled, embarking and disembarking in flat-bottomed boats. I jumped against three regiments, 95th, 43rd and 52nd, and beat them by four inches, having leaped 19 feet 4 inches.
(Commenced at Simla, Himalayas, 11th Aug. 1844.–H.G.S.)
At this period Napoleon announced his unjust invasion of Spain, and Sir John Moore's army was ordered to sail and unite with the forces collecting on the coast of Portugal for the purpose of expelling Junot's army from Lisbon. On approaching the mouth of the Mondego, a frigate met us to say Sir Arthur Wellesley's army had landed in Mondego and pushed forward, and that Sir John Moore was to sail for Peniche, and there land on arrival. The battle of Vimiera had been fought [21 Aug. 1808], and the Convention was in progress. Sir John Moore's army landed one or two days after the battle and took the outposts. The three Companies to which I was Adjutant joined Colonel Beckwith and the headquarters of the Regiment, and I was appointed to Captain O'Hare's Company (subalterns Smith, W. Eeles, Eaton).
After the embarcation of the French army, an army was formed under Sir John Moore for the aid of the Spaniards, and it moved on the frontier of Alemtejo.
The 95th were quartered in Villa Viciosa, in an elegant palace. I occupied a beautiful little room with a private staircase, called the Hall of Justice. I was sent by Sir Edward Paget to examine the fort Xuramenha and report upon it, the fords of the Guadiana, etc., near the important fortress of Badajos.
In the autumn of this year (1808), Sir John Moore's army moved on Salamanca. As I could speak Spanish, I was employed by Colonel Beckwith to precede the Regiment daily to aid the Quartermaster in procuring billets and rations in the different towns, and various were the adventures I met with. The army was assembled at Salamanca, and never did England assemble such a body of organized and elegant troops as that army of Sir John Moore, destined to cover itself with glory, disgrace, victory, and misfortune. The whole of this campaign is too ably recorded by Napier for me to dwell on. I shall only say that never did corps so distinguish itself during the whole of this retreat as my dear old Rifles. From the severe attack on our rear-guard at Calcavellos [3 Jan. 1809], where I was particularly distinguished, until the battle of Coruña, we were daily engaged with a most vigorous and pushing enemy, making the most terrific long marches (one day 37 miles). The fire of the Riflemen ever prevented the column being molested by the enemy; but the scenes of drunkenness, riot, and disorder we Reserve Division witnessed on the part of the rest of the army are not to be described; it was truly awful and heartrending to see that army which had been so brilliant at Salamanca so totally disorganized, with the exception of the reserve under the revered Paget and the Brigade of Guards. The cavalry were nearly all dismounted, the whole a mass of fugitives and insubordinates; yet these very fellows licked the French at Coruña like men [16 Jan.]. The army embarked the following day. I shall never forget the explosion of a fortress blown up by us–the report cannot be imagined. Oh, the filthy state we were all in! We lost our baggage at Calcavellos; for three weeks we had no clothes but those on our backs; we were literally covered and almost eaten up with vermin, most of us suffering from ague and dysentery, every man a living still active skeleton. On embarcation many fell asleep in their ships and never awoke for three days and nights, until in a gale we reached Portsmouth [21 Jan]. I was so reduced that Colonel Beckwith, with a warmth of heart equalling the thunder of his voice, on meeting me in the George Inn, roared out, "Who the devil's ghost are you? Pack up your kit–which is soon done, the devil a thing have you got–take a place in the coach, and set off home to your father's. I shall soon want again such fellows as you, and I will arrange your leave of absence!" I soon took the hint, and naked and slothful and covered with vermin I reached my dear native home, where the kindest of fathers and most affectionate of mothers soon restored me to health. 7
BACK TO THE PENINSULA UNDER SIR ARTHUR WELLESLEY.
IN two months I rejoined the Regiment at Hythe. From Hythe we marched for Dover, where we embarked for Lisbon [25th May] to join the Duke's8 army. Having landed at Lisbon we commenced our march for Talavera. On this march–a very long one–General Craufurd compiled his orders for the march of his Brigade, consisting of the 43rd, 52nd, and 95th, each upwards of 1000 strong. These orders he enforced with rigour (as it seemed at the moment), but he was in this way the means of establishing the organization and the discipline of that corps which acquired for it its after-celebrity as the "Light Division."
We had some long, harassing and excessively hot marches. In the last twenty-eight hours we marched from Oropesa to Talavera, a distance of fourteen Spanish leagues (56 miles), our soldiers carrying their heavy packs, the Riflemen eighty rounds of ammunition. But the battle of Talavera was thundering in our ears, and created a spirit in the Brigade which cast away all idea of fatigue. We reached the sanguinary field at daylight after the battle [29 July], greeted as if we were demi-gods by all the gallant heroes who had gained such a victory. We took up the outposts immediately, and some of us Riflemen sustained some heavy skirmishing. The field was literally covered with dead and dying. The bodies began to putrefy, and the stench was horrible, so that an attempt was made to collect the bodies and burn them. Then, however, came a stench which literally affected many to sickness. The soldiers were not satisfied with this mode of treating the bodies of their dead comrades, and the prosecution of the attempt was relinquished. After our stay at Talavera [29 July-3 August], during which we were nearly starved, the army commenced its retreat, passing the bridge of Arzobispo in the most correct and soldier-like manner, our Brigade forming the rear-guard. The army retired on Deleytosa, the Light Brigade remaining in a position so as to watch the bridge of Almaraz. Here for three weeks we were nearly starved [6 Aug.-20 Aug.], and our position received the name of Doby Hill.9 We marched every evening and bivouacked so as to occupy the passage of the Tagus, and at daylight returned to our hill. Honey was plentiful, but it gave dysentery. My mess–Leach's Company (Leach, Smith, Layton, and Bob Beckwith)–were not as badly off as our neighbours. We had a few dollars, and as I could speak Spanish, I rode into the lines of the Spanish troops, where I could always purchase some loaves of bread at a most exorbitant price. With this and some horrid starved goats we lived tolerably for soldiers in hard times. The army retired into quarters–the headquarters to Badajos, our Division (which had added to it Sir Rufane Donkin's Brigade, the 45th, 87th and 88th Regiments) to Campo Mayor [11th Sept.], where sickness and mortality commenced to an awful extent. On our reaching the frontier of Portugal, Castello de Vidi, wine was plentiful, and every man that evening had his skin full.
During the period we were at Campo Mayor [11th Sept.-12 Dec.], the Hon. Captain James Stewart and I got some excellent greyhounds. We were always out coursing or shooting, and were never sick a day; our more sedentary comrades many of them distressingly so. The seven right-hand men of Leslie's Company died in the winter of this year.
While at Campo Mayor the convalescents of my Light Brigade were ordered to our old fortress, called Onguala, on the immediate frontier of Portugal, and opposite to Abuchucha, the frontier of Spain. They consisted of forty or fifty weakly men. I was first for Brigade duty, and I was sent in command, with a Lieut. Rentall of the 52nd Regiment and my brother Tom, who was sick. I knew this country well, for we had had some grand battues there, and shot red deer and wild boars. So soon, therefore, as I was installed in my command, lots of comrades used to come from Campo Mayor to breakfast with me and shoot all day. On one occasion Jack Molloy, Considine, and several fellows came, and while out we fell into the bivouac of a set of banditti and smugglers. We hallooed and bellowed as if an army were near us. The bandits jumped on their horses and left lots of corn-sacks etc., in our hands; but on discovering our numbers, and that we fired no balls (for we had only some Rifle buttons pulled off my jacket), being well armed, they soon made us retreat. This, after my friends returned to Campo Mayor, so disconcerted me that I made inquiry about these same rascals, and ascertained there were a body of about twenty under a Catalan, the terror of the country. I immediately sent for my sergeant (a soldier in every sense of the word) to see how many of our convalescents he could pick out who could march at all. He soon returned. He himself and ten men, myself, Rentall, and my sick brother Tom (who would go) composed my army. I got a guide, and ascertained that there were several haunts of these bandits; so off I started. We moved on a small chapel (many of which lone spots there are in all Roman Catholic countries), at which there was a large stable. On approaching we heard a shot fired, then a great and lawless shouting, which intimated to us our friends of the morning were near at hand. So Pat Nann and I crept on to peep about. We discovered the fellows were all inside a long stable, with a railed gate shut, and a regular sentry with his arms in his hand. They were all about and had lights, and one very dandy-looking fellow with a smart dagger was cutting tobacco to make a cigar. Pat and I returned to our party and made a disposition of attack, previously ascertaining if the stable had a back door, which it had not. I then fell in our men very silently, Mr Rentall being much opposed to our attack, at which my brother Tom blew him up in no bad style of whispering abuse, and our men went for the gate. The sentry soon discovered us and let fly, but hit no one. The gate was fast and resisted two attempts to force it, but so amazed were the bandits, they [never] attempted to get away their horses, although their arms were regularly piled against the supports of the roof of the stable, and we took twelve banditti with their captain, a fine handsome fellow, horses, etc. His dagger I sent to my dear father. I sent my prisoners on the next day to Campo Mayor, galloping ahead myself, in an awful funk lest General Craufurd should blow me up. However, I got great credit for my achievement in thus ridding the neighbourhood of a nest of robbers; and the captain and five of his men (being Spaniards) were sent to Badajos and sentenced to the galleys for life, being recognized as old offenders. The remainder received a lesser punishment. My men got forty Spanish dollars each prize money, the amount I sold the horses for. I bought for forty dollars the captain's capital horse. The men wanted me to keep him as my share, but I would not. Dr. Robb, our surgeon, gave sixty Spanish dollars for a black mare. Thus ended the Battle of the Bandits.
CAMPAIGN OF 1810–THE 1ST GERMAN HUSSARS.
IN the winter of this year [12 Dec. 1809] we marched towards the northern frontier of Portugal. We marched towards Almeida, and were cantoned in villages to its rear–Alameda, Villa de Lobos, Fequenas, not far from the Douro. Here too was good shooting and coursing; but I was not permitted to be idle. We moved into Spain [19 Mar. 1810], and at Barba del Puerco had a most brilliant night attack in which Colonel Beckwith greatly distinguished himself.
At Villa de Ciervo a detachment of one sergeant and twelve Hussars (1st German) were given me by General Craufurd to go right in among the French army, which had moved on Ciudad Rodrigo and then retired. Many are the hairbreadth escapes my Hussars and I had, for we were very daring; we were never two nights in the same place. One night at Villa de Ciervo, where we were watching a ford over the Agueda, two of my vedettes (two Poles elegantly mounted) deserted to the enemy. The old sergeant, a noble soldier, came to me in great distress. "Oh mein Gott, upstand and jump up your horse; she will surely be here directly!" I was half asleep, with my horse's reins in my hand, and roared out, "Who the devil is she?" "The Franzosen, mein Herr. Two d—d schlems have deserted." So we fell back to the rear of the village, sitting on our horses the remainder of the night, every moment expecting the weakness of our party would cause an attempt to cut us off. At daylight we saw fifty French dragoons wending their way on the opposite bank to the ford. I immediately got hold of the padre and alcalde (priest and magistrate), and made them collect a hundred villagers and make them shoulder the long sticks with which they drive their bullock-carts and ploughs, which of course at a distance would resemble bayonets. These villagers I stationed in two parties behind two hills, so that the "bayonets" alone could be seen by the enemy. Then with my sergeant and ten Hussars (two having deserted) I proceeded to meet the enemy, first riding backwards and forwards behind a hill to deceive him as to my numbers. The French sent over the river about half their number. I immediately galloped up to them in the boldest manner, and skirmished advancing. The enemy were deceived and rapidly retired, and I saved the village from an unmerciful ransacking, to the joy of all the poor people.
At this period General Craufurd had officers at two or three of the most advanced vedettes where there were beacons, who had orders to watch the enemy with their telescopes, and, in case of any movement to report or fire the beacon. I was on this duty in rather a remote sport on the extreme left of our posts. The vedette was from the 1st Hussar picquet. These men would often observe a patrol or body of the enemy with the naked eye which was barely discernible through a telescope, so practised were they and watchful. Towards the evening my servant ought to have arrived with my dinner (for we officers of the look-out could take nothing with us but our horse and our telescope), but he must have missed his way, and as my appetite was sharpened by a day's look-out I began to look back, contrary to the vedette's idea of due vigilance. He asks, "What for Mynheer so much look to de rear?" I, sad at the fast, "Hussar, you are relieved every two hours. I have been here since daylight. I am confounded hungry, and am looking out for my servant and my dinner." "Poor yonge mans! but 'tis notings." "Not to you," said I, "but much to me." "You shall see, sir. I shall come off my horse, you shall up clim, or de French shall come if he see not de vedette all right." Knowing the provident habits of these Germans I suspected what he was about. Off he got; up get I en vedette. With the greatest celerity, he unbuckled his valise from behind his saddle, and took out a piece of bacon (I had kept up a little fire from the sticks and bushes around me), from a cloth some ground coffee and sugar, from his haversack some biscuit, and spread on the ground a clean towel with knife, fork and a little tin cup. He had water in his canteen–his cooking-tin. He made me a cup of coffee, sliced some bacon, broiled it in the embers, and in ten minutes coffee, bacon, biscuit were ready and looked as clean as if in a London tavern. He then says, "Come off." Up he mounts, saying, "Can eat. All you sall vant is de schnaps." I fell to, and never relished any meal half so much; appetite was perfect, and the ingenious, quick and provident care of the Hussar added another to the many instances I had witnessed of this regiment to make them be regarded, as indeed they were, as exemplary soldiers for our emulation.
My servant soon after arrived. The contents of his haversack I transferred to my kind friend the Hussar's, and half the bottle of wine, on which the Hussar remarked, "Ah, dat is good; the schnaps make nice;" and my servant put up his valise again for him. I was highly amused to observe the momentary glances the Hussar cast on me and my meal, for no rat-catcher's dog at a sink-hole kept a sharper look-out to his front than did this vedette. In the whole course of my service I never was more amused, and nothing could be more disinterested than the Hussar's conduct, which I never forgot.
CAMPAIGN OF 1810–BATTLE OF THE COA.
SOON after this the French invested Ciudad Rodrigo, and regularly commenced the siege. The Light Division (into which fell the three regiments 43rd, 52nd and two Battalions of Rifles, 1st and 3rd Portuguese Caçadores, the latter under Elder, a most brilliant Rifle officer), 1st Hussars, 14th Light Dragoons, 16th Light Dragoons occupied Gallegos, Exejo, etc., our advanced post being at Marialva, on the road to Ciudad Rodrigo. During the whole siege our alerts were innumerable, and at Marialva we had several very smart skirmishes, but so able were Craufurd's dispositions, we never lost even a vedette.
The French were in the habit of patrolling over the Agueda with cavalry and infantry, about 30 Dragoons and 200 foot. General Craufurd determined to intercept one of these patrols [10 July], and [moved out with] the cavalry, 1st Hussars, 14th and 16th Light Dragoons, and Light Division. It may now be asked, Was it necessary to take out such a force to intercept so small a party? Certainly. Because the enemy might have crossed the Agueda to support the patrols. We were all moved to where directed, the infantry were halted, some of the cavalry moved on. At grey daylight the patrols of the enemy appeared, their Dragoons some way in advance of the infantry. The patrol was very incautiously conducted (not like our 1st Hussars), and the Dragoons were taken in a moment. The infantry speedily retired to an eminence above the ford and formed square. Craufurd ordered them to be attacked by the cavalry, and several right good charges were made; but the French were steady, the dead horses in their front became a defence, and our cavalry never made the slightest impression. Craufurd never moved one of us. The charges of cavalry ceased for a few seconds–the fields around were high-standing corn. The gallant fellow in command gave the word, "Sauve qui peut." In a moment all dispersed, ran through the standing corn down to the banks of the river, and were saved without the loss of a man. The officer was promoted on his arrival in his camp.
Our loss was very considerable. Poor Colonel Talbot of the 14th (commanding) killed, and a lot of men. I and Stewart, Adjutant of the Rifle Brigade, asked leave to go ahead, and we saw it all. Indeed, it was in sight of the whole division. Had two Companies of ours only been moved to threaten the ford, the enemy would have laid down their arms. Such a piece of soldiering as that morning presented the annals of war cannot produce.10
While we were at a village called Valde Mula, in the neighbourhood of Fort Concepcion, that most perfect little work was blown up [21 July]. It was the neatest fortification I ever saw (except the Moro in the Havana subsequently), and the masonry was beautifully executed.
After the fall of Ciudad Rodrigo, which made a brilliant defence, our advanced line fell back to the Dos Casas, and in front of Alameda we had a brilliant affair with the French, in which Krauchenberg 1st Hussars and McDonald Royal Artillery greatly distinguished themselves. The 3rd Caçadores were this day first under fire, and behaved nobly. After this our advanced posts were retired behind the Dos Casas to cover Almeida. While Massena prepared his army to invade Portugal and besiege Almeida, we were daily on the alert and had frequent skirmishes. General Craufurd, too, by a variety of ruses frequently made the whole French army turn out.
In the early morning of the 24th of July (I was on picquet with Leach and my Company that night) the enemy moved forward with 40,000 men. Our force, one Brigade of Horse Artillery, three Regiments of cavalry, five of infantry, were ordered by the Duke to remain as long as possible on the right bank of the Coa, where there was a bridge over the river on the road from Almeida into Portugal to Celerico and Pinhel, posting ourselves between the fortress and the bridge, so as to pass over so soon as the enemy advanced in force. In place of doing this, Craufurd took up a position to our right of Almeida, and but for Colonel Beckwith our whole force would have been sacrificed. Fortunately a heavy rain had fallen, which made the Coa impassable except by the bridge, which was in our possession, and the enemy concentrated his force in one rush for the bridge [24 July].
During the Peninsular War there never was a more severe contest. The 43rd lost 17 officers and 150 men, my Regiment 10 officers and 140 men. When we passed the bridge my section was the rear-guard of the whole, and in a rush to drive back the enemy (with whom we were frequently absolutely mixed), my brother Tom and I were both severely wounded, and a Major Macleod, a noble fellow, afterwards killed at Badajos, put me on his horse, or I should have been taken. The enemy made several attempts to cross, but old Alister Cameron, Captain in the Rifle Brigade, had posted his Company in a ruined house which commanded the bridge, and mainly contributed to prevent the passage of the enemy, who made some brilliant attempts. The bridge was literally piled with their dead and they made breastworks of the bodies. On this day, on going to the rear wounded, I first made the acquaintance of my dear friend Will Havelock,11 afterwards my whipper-in, who was joining the 43rd fresh from England, with smart chako and jacket. I had a ball lodged in my ankle-joint, a most painful wound. We were sent to Pinhel, where the 3rd Division was seven leagues from the action, the nearest support (?). Sir Thomas Picton treated us wounded en princes.
The wounded were ordered to the rear, so as to embark on the Mondego at Pinhel. In collecting transport for the wounded, a sedan chair between two mules was brought, the property of some gentleman in the neighbourhood, and, fortunately for me, I was the only person who could ride in it, and by laying my leg on the one seat and sitting on the other, I rode comparatively easy to the poor fellows in the wretched bullock-cars, who suffered excruciating agony, poor brother Tom (who was very severely wounded above the knee) among the rest. This little story will show what wild fellows we were in those days. George Simmons' (1st Rifles) bullocks at one stage had run away. As I was the spokesman, the surgeon in charge came to me in great distress. I sent for the village magistrate, and actually fixed a rope in my room to hang him if he did not get a pair of bullocks (if the Duke of W. had known he would have hung me). However, the bullocks were got, and off we started. The bullocks were not broken, and they ran away with poor George and nearly jolted him to death, for he was awfully wounded through the thick of the thigh. However, we all got down to Pinhel [31 July], and thence descended the Mondego by boats, landing every night. At one house a landlord was most insolent to us, and Lieut. Pratt of the Rifles, shot through the neck, got very angry. The carotid artery must have been wounded, for it burst out in a torrent of blood, and he was dead in a few seconds, to our horror, for he was a most excellent fellow. On the same bed with me was a Captain Hull of the 43rd Regiment with a similar wound. I never saw any man in such a funk.
On our reaching the mouth of the Mondego, we were put on board a transport. In the ship with me was a stout little officer, 14th Light Dragoons, severely wounded, whose thigh afterwards disgorged a French 6-lb. shot. On arrival in Lisbon [7 Aug.] we were billeted in Buenos Ayres, poor Tom and I in awful agony in our miserable empty house. However, we got books, and I, although suffering, got on well enough. But poor Tom's leg was in such an awful state he was sent home. George Simmons's wound healed.12 My ball was lodged on my ankle-joint, having partially divided the tendo Achillis. However, we heard of the army having retired into the celebrated lines of Torres Vedras, and nothing would serve us but join the Regiment. So our medical heroes very unwillingly sent us off to Belem, the convalescent department under Colonel Tucker, 29th Regiment, a sharp fellow enough. When I, George Simmons, and Charlie Eeles, 3rd Battalion, just arrived sick from Cadiz, waited on him to express our desire to join, he said, "Oh, certainly; but you must be posted to do duty with convalescents going up the country." I was lame and could not walk. George Simmons cantered on crutches, and Charlie Eeles was very sick. However, go or no go, and so we were posted to 600 villains of every Regiment in the army under a long Major Ironmonger of the 88th (afterwards of Almeida celebrity, when the garrison escaped). We marched in a day [7 Oct.]. On the first day's march he pretended to faint. George Simmons, educated a surgeon, literally threw a bucket of water over him.13 He recovered the faint, but not the desire to return; and the devil would have it, the command devolved on me, a subaltern, for whom the soldiers of other corps have no great respect, and such a task I never had as to keep these six hundred rascals together. However, I had a capital English horse, good at riding over an insubordinate fellow, and a voice like thunder. The first bivouac I came to was the guards (these men were very orderly). The commanding officer had a cottage. I reported myself. It was raining like the devil. He put his head out of the window, and I said, "Sir, I have 150 men of your Regiment convalescent from Belem." "Oh, send for the Sergeant-major," he very quietly said;–no "walk in out of the rain." So I roared out, "We Light Division men don't do duty with Sergeant-majors, nor are we told to wait. There are your men, every one–the only well-conducted men in 600 under my charge–and these are their accounts!" throwing down a bundle of papers, and off I galloped, to the Household man's astonishment. That day I delivered over, or sent by officers under me, all the vagabonds I had left. Some of my own men and I reached our corps that night at Arruda, when old Sydney Beckwith, dear Colonel, said, "You are a mad fool of a boy, coming here with a ball in your leg. Can you dance?" "No," says I; "I can hardly walk but with my toe turned out." "Can you be my A.D.C.?" "Yes; I can ride and eat," I said, at which he laughed, and was kind as a brother; as was my dear friend Stewart, or Rutu, as we called him, his Brigade Major, the actual Adjutant of the Regiment.
That very night General Craufurd sent for me, and said, "You have come from Sobral, have you not, to-day, and know the road?" I said, "Yesterday." "Well, get your horse and take this letter to the Duke for me when it is ready." I did not like the job, but said nothing about balls or pains, which were bad enough. He kept me waiting about an hour, and then said, "You need wait no longer; the letter won't be ready for some time, and my orderly dragoon shall take it. Is the road difficult to find?" I said, "No; if he keeps the chaussée, he can't miss it." The poor dragoon fell in with the French patrol, and was taken prisoner. When the poor fellow's fate was known, how Colonel Beckwith did laugh at my escape!
At Arruda we marched every day at daylight into position in the hills behind us, and by the ability of Craufurd they were made impregnable. The whole Division was at work. As Colonel Beckwith and I were standing in the camp one day, it came on to rain, and we saw a Rifleman rolling down a wine-cask, apparently empty, from a house near. He deliberately knocked in one of the heads; then–for it was on the side of a rapidly shelving hill–propped it up with stones, and crept in out of the rain. Colonel Beckwith says, "Oh, look at the lazy fellow; he has not half supported it. When he falls asleep, if he turns round, down it will come." Our curiosity was excited, and our time anything but occupied, so we watched our friend, when in about twenty minutes the cask with the man inside came rolling down the hill. He must have rolled over twenty times at least before the rapidity disengaged him from his round-house, and even afterwards, such was the impetus, he rolled over several times. To refrain from laughing excessively was impossible, though we really thought the noble fellow must be hurt, when up he jumped, looked round, and said "I never had any affection for an empty wine-cask, and may the devil take me if ever I go near another–to be whirled round like a water-mill in this manner!" The fellow was in a violent John Bull passion, while we were nearly killed with laughing.
When Massena retired, an order came to the Light Division to move on De Litte, and to Lord Hill to do the same on our right at [Vallada?]. This dispatch I was doomed to carry. It was one of the utmost importance, and required a gallop. By Jove, I had ten miles to go just before dark, and when I got to Colborne's position, who had a Brigade under Lord Hill, a mouse could not get through his works. (Colborne was afterwards my Brigadier in the Light Division, and is now Lord Seaton.) Such a job I never had. I could not go in front of the works–the French had not retired; so some works I leaped into, and led my noble English horse into others. At last I got to Lord Hill, and he marched immediately, night as it was. How I got back to my Division through the night I hardly know, but horse and rider were both done. The spectacle of hundreds of miserable wretches of French soldiers on the road in a state of starvation is not to be described.
We moved viâ Caccas to Vallé on the [Rio Mayor], where our Division were opposite Santarem. The next day [20 Nov.] the Duke came up and ordered our Division to attack Santarem, which was bristling on our right with abattis, three or four lines. We felt the difficulty of carrying such heights, but towards the afternoon we moved on. On the Duke's staff there was a difference of opinion as to the number of the enemy, whether one corps d armée or two. The Duke, who knew perfectly well there were two, and our move was only a reconnaissance, turned to Colonel Beckwith. "Beckwith, my Staff are disputing whether at Santarem there is one corps d' armée or two?" "I'll be d—d if I know, my Lord, but you may depend on it, a great number were required to make those abattis in one night." Lord Wellington laughed, and said, "You are right, Beckwith; there are two corps d' armée."14 The enemy soon showed themselves. The Duke, as was his wont, satisfied himself by ocular demonstration, and the Division returned to its bivouac. Whilst here, Colonel Beckwith was seized with a violent attack of ague.
Our outposts were perfectly quiet, although sentries, French and English, were at each end of the bridge over the Rio Mayor, and vedettes along each bank. There was most excellent coursing on the plains of Vallé, and James Stewart and I were frequently out. Here I gave him my celebrated Spanish greyhound, Moro, the best the world ever produced, with a pedigree like that of an Arab horse, bred at Zamora by the Conde de Monteron; but the noble dog's story is too long to tell here. In one year Stewart gave me him back again to run a match against the Duke of Wellington's dog. But the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo prevented our sports of that description. Colonel Beckwith going to Lisbon, and I being his A.D.C., it was voted a capital opportunity for me to go to have the ball cut out from under the tendon Achillis, in the very joint. I was very lame, and the pain often excruciating, so off I cut.
Soon after we reached Lisbon, I was ordered to Buenos Ayres to be near the surgeons. A board was held consisting of the celebrated Staff Surgeon Morell, who had attended me before, Higgins, and Brownrigg. They examined my leg. I was all for the operation. Morell and Higgins recommended me to remain with a stiff leg of my own as better than a wooden one, for the wounds in Lisbon of late had sloughed so, they were dubious of the result. Brownrigg said, "If it were my leg, out should come the ball." On which I roared out, "Hurrah, Brownrigg, you are the doctor for me." So Morell says, "Very well, if you are desirous, we will do it directly." My pluck was somewhat cooled, but I cocked up my leg, and said, "There it is; slash away." It was five minutes, most painful indeed, before it was extracted. The ball was jagged, and the tendonous fibres had so grown into it, it was half dissected and half torn out, with most excruciating torture for a moment, the forceps breaking which had hold of the ball. George Simmons was present, whose wound had broken out and obliged him to go to Lisbon.15 The surgeon wanted some linen during the operation, so I said, "George, tear a shirt," which my servant gave him. He turned it about, said, "No, it is a pity; it is a good shirt;" at which I did not — him a few, for my leg was aching and smoking from a wound four or five inches long. Thank God Almighty and a light heart, no sloughing occurred, and before the wound was healed I was with the regiment. Colonel Beckwith's ague was cured, and he had joined his Brigade before I could move, so when I returned to Vallé he was delighted to see his A.D.C.
CAMPAIGN OF 1811.
I FOUND the army in hourly expectation to move, and the Captain of my Company–Leach–was gone sick to the rear, so I said to my Colonel, "I must be no longer A.D.C., sir. However grateful I am, my Company wants me." "Ah, now you can walk a little, you leave me! Go and be d—d to you; but I love you for the desire." Off I started, and the very next day we marched [6 Mar. 1811], Massena retreating out of Portugal, and many is the skirmish we had. My leg was so painful, the wound open, and I was so lame. When others could lie down I was on horseback, on a dear little Spanish horse given me by James Stewart, afterwards an animal of still greater renown.
At Pombala I had with my Company a very heavy skirmish [11 Mar.]. At Redinha my Company was in the advance [12 Mar.], supported by Captain O'Hare's. A wood on our front and right was full of Frenchmen. The Light Companies of the 3rd Division came up. I asked, "Are you going to attack that wood?" A Captain of the 88th Light Company, whom I knew, quite laughed at my question. I said very quietly, "You will be beat back, and when you are, I will move on the edge of the wood and help you." How he laughed! My prediction was very soon verified: he was wounded, and picked up by my Company, which I moved on the right flank of the French and stopped them immediately. I sent to my support, O'Hare, to move up to me. The obstinate old Turk would not, and so I was obliged to come back, and had most unnecessarily five or six men wounded.
The Plain of Redinha is a fine field for military display, and our lines formed to attack Ney's rearguard were magnificent. The enemy had many guns in the field, with prolonged lines, an excellent mode for retreat on such ground, and no rearguard was ever drawn off in more masterly style, while I thought our attack in lines was heavy, slow, and not half so destructive as a rush of many contiguous columns would have been. The enemy had to retire over a bridge through the village of Redinha, and we Riflemen sorely pressed them on their left. A line of French infantry, concealed behind an atalaya (or tower) on a hill good for the purpose, were lying down as my Company and the one commanded by that wonderful Rifleman, Willie Johnstone, got within twenty yards of them. To our astonishment, up jumped the line, fired a volley (they did not hit a man), and went about. At them we all went like devils, a regular foot race, except for me and my little horse Tiny, from which I could not dismount. In the pursuit he carried me down a rock twelve feet high, and Johnstone and I got to the bridge and cut off half a Battalion of French. So many Legions of Honour I scarcely ever saw in a group, but the eagle was off! We never told what we had done, though we enjoyed the fun, but it is an anecdote worthy of record in Napier's History.
We were engaged with the enemy every day. The next turn up was at Condesia [Condeixa]; the next at Casal Nova [14 Mar.], where we had as heavy a skirmishing fight as ever occurred. We Light Division gentlemen had our full complement of fighting, for the French were obliged to hold a village to give their column time to retire, and if the Duke's orders had been obeyed, our Division ought not to have attacked until the 3rd and 4th Divisions were well up on the Frenchmen's left. I lost several men that day, as did all our Companies, and particularly the 52nd. Poor Major Jack Stewart,16 a dear little fellow, a friend of mine, was shot through the lungs and died in three days, (Beckwith's Brigade Major, Lieut. James Stewart, was in three days [28 Mar., near Freixadas] killed off the very same little English horse, called Tom); Strode, a Lieutenant, received his death-wound while talking to me, etc. That night I was on picquet. The enemy were retiring all night, but their sentries and ours were in sight. At daylight a thick fog came on. Beckwith's Brigade, with him at its head, moved up to where I was posted. He said, "Come, Harry, get your Company together, and fall in at the head of the column." At this moment two of the 16th Dragoons rode back, and Beckwith said, "Where do you come from?" "We have patrolled a league and a half in the front, and seen naught." "A league and a half, my friend," says old Sydney, "in a thick fog is a d—d long way. Why, Harry, you said the vedettes were close to you. "So they are," I said, "and you will be fired at the moment you advance." We had not gone fifty yards when "Pop! pop!" Oh, how old Sydney laughed! "A league and a half!" But the fog was so thick we could not move, and the enemy, hearing our column on their rear, being clear, moved off.
In a few days, as we had got well up to the French rear-guard and were about to attack, a General Order was received, to my astonishment, appointing me Brigade Major17 to the 2nd Light Brigade, not dear old Sydney's. He expected it, since he and Colonel Pakenham (dear Sir Edward!) were trying to do something for me on account of my lame leg. Beckwith says, "Now give your Company over to Layton, and set off immediately to Colonel Drummond," who commanded the Brigade. Hardly had I reached it, when such a cannonade commenced, knocking the 52nd about in a way I never saw before and hardly since. We were soon all engaged, and drove the French, with very hard fighting, into and over the river, with a severe loss in killed, prisoners, and drowned. A very heavy fight it was, ending just before dark. I said to my Brigadier, "Have you any orders for the picquets, sir?" He was an old Guardsman, the kindest though oddest fellow possible. "Pray, Mr. Smith, are you my Brigade Major?" "I believe so, sir." "Then let me tell you, it is your duty to post the picquets, and mine to have a d—d good dinner for you every day." We soon understood each other. He cooked the dinner often himself, and I commanded the Brigade.
Our next great fight was a bitter one, Sabugal [3 April]. I shall never forget the German 1st Hussars, my old friends, moving on that day; their singing was melodious. Sir W. Erskine commanded the cavalry and Light Division, a near-sighted old ass, and we got meléed with Reynier's corps d' armée strongly posted on heights above Sabugal, and attacked when the Duke intended we should have moved round their left to Quadraseyes, as the 5th, 4th, and 3rd Divisions were to attack their front in the centre of their position. However, we began, and never was more gallantry mutually displayed by friend and foe than on this occasion, particularly by dear old Beckwith and his 1st Brigade. Some guns were taken and retaken several times. A French officer on a grey horse was most gallant. Old Beckwith, in a voice like thunder, roared out to the Riflemen, "Shoot that fellow, will you?" In a moment he and his horse were knocked over, and Sydney exclaimed, "Alas! you were a noble fellow."
My Brigadier, as I soon discovered, left the command to me, so I led away, and we came in for a pretty good share in preventing Reynier's turning the left of Beckwith's Brigade. Fortunately, the 5th Division got into action just in time, for the French at the moment were squeezing us awfully. The Light Division, under the shout of old Beckwith, rushed on with an impetuosity nothing could resist, for, so checked had we been, our bloods were really up, and we paid off the enemy most awfully. Such a scene of slaughter as there was on one hill would appal a modern soldier. The night came on most awfully wet, and the 5th and Light Division were sent back to Sabugal for shelter. Most dilapidated the place was, but the roofs were on, and Sir W. Gomm, A.Q.M.G. of the 5th, and I divided the town between us, our poor wounded lying out in the rain and cold all night. The next morning was fine, and as the sun rose we marched over the field of battle. Our soldiers' blood was then cool, and it was beautiful to hear the remarks of sympathy for the distress of the numerous dying and wounded all around us. Oh, you kings and usurpers should view these scenes and moderate ambition!
This evening [4 April] we had a long march into Quadraseyes, but did not see a vestige of the enemy all day, nor of our commissariat either. We were literally starving. That old rogue Picton had seized the supplies of the Light Division for his 3rd. If he be now in the Purgatory that we condemned him to, he is to be pitied.
We closely pursued the French over the frontier, but never had a real slap at them. Almeida, which was garrisoned by their troops, was invested by the 5th Division, while the Light Division moved into its old lines, Gallegos, Marialva, Carpio, and Espeja. From the French garrison of Ciudad Rodrigo the enemy frequently came out. The Duke had gone into the Alemtejo, and Sir Brent Spencer commanded–a regular old woman, who allowed the French to commit all sorts of extravagances under our noses, when a rapid move on their rear from Espeja would have punished them. Sir W. Erskine commanded the advance Cavalry and Light Division.
I was at breakfast one morning with Sir William Erskine, who, early in the morning, with his staff had taken out a small party to reconnoitre Ciudad Rodrigo. The enemy immediately sent over a detachment of cavalry to check the advance, and a great argument occurred between Sir William and his A.A.G., Macdonald, whether the enemy crossed one or two squadrons. During the discussion in came Sir William's orderly, a clever old dragoon of the 1st German Hussars. "Ah!" says Sir William, "here is my old orderly; he can tell us. Hussar, how many squadrons of the enemy crossed the Agueda this morning?" With a body as stiff and erect as a statue, and a salute with an arm braced as if in the act of cutting down his enemy, "Just forty-nine mans, no more; I count him." The laugh was against both disputants.
Now occurred the dreadful disaster of the escape of the French garrison of Almeida. I shall never forget the mortification of our soldiers or the admiration of our officers of the brilliancy of such an attempt, the odds being a hundred to one against success. My long friend Ironmonger, then of the Queen's, into whose face George Simmons threw the bucket of water when marching, as before described, from Belem18, was grievously to blame.
Massena's army were rapidly recovering. They had received reinforcements, and were preparing to throw into Ciudad Rodrigo a large convoy of provisions. For this, it was necessary for them to put us back, and the present moment seemed a favourable one, as it was the intention ultimately to withdraw the French army to Salamanca and the neighbouring large towns, so that no demand might be made on the ample supplies required for Ciudad Rodrigo. At this moment Soult was making a formidable demonstration in the Alemtejo and Estremadura, our attempt on Badajoz had failed, and a large portion of our army had moved towards the south; it was therefore a fair opening for Massena to drive us over the Coa.
However, the dear Duke of Wellington took a braver view of the situation, and concentrated his army behind Fuentes D'Oñoro, and there fought that celebrated battle which lasted a day and a half [5 May]. General Craufurd joined us here on the day of the general action. The soldiers received him with every demonstration of joy. The officers at that time execrated him. I did not; he had appointed me his A.D.C., though I would not go to him, and he was always most kind and hospitable to me.
On the morning of this day old Sydney again distinguished himself, for the enemy from Poza Velha turned our right flank and licked our cavalry (14th Light Dragoons and Royals) awfully, bringing 4000 fresh fellows against them. There never was a more heavy fight than for several hours in the village of Fuentes. Here I saw the 79th Regiment, in an attack on the head of a French column coming up the road, bayonet eight or nine French officers and upwards of 100 men, the only real bayonet conflict I ever witnessed. After the battle of Fuentes d'Oñoro, the French retired unmolested, for we were glad to get rid of them. As they had such a formidable body of cavalry, on that open country we literally could not molest them.
At this time almost all our army moved into the Alemtejo viá Arronchas, where, on Sir John Moore's advance to Salamanca, I had a nice quarter which I occupied four different times during the war. The poor family were always delighted to see me. On our advance into the Alemtejo we heard of the bloody battle of Albuera [16 May], and many of us rode on to see the field, which was well demonstrated by the lines of dead bodies, a most sanguinary conflict, and beautifully and truly described by Napier.
I must here record a most ridiculous night alarm the Light Division had, although leagues from any enemy, on their march into the Alemtejo. A drove of bullocks galloped over our men asleep in the bivouac, and for some time the officers could hardly persuade our best soldiers they were not French cavalry. My Brigadier, Drummond, was sleeping under a tree on his little portable iron bedstead. The light of a fire showed him, to my amusement, in his shirt (not a very long one), endeavouring to climb into the tree. I fell in his guard, and manfully charged nothing up a road leading to our camp, while General Craufurd lay on his back laughing to hysterics, poor fellow. Drummond soon after died at Guinaldo, in my arms, of a putrid sore throat, and Craufurd was killed in the storm of Ciudad Rodrigo.
During all this summer our army was assembled watching Soult, who neither attacked us nor we him. Never did we spend a more inactive summer. The enemy from Ciudad Rodrigo moved on Castello Branco, and threatened thereby our left flank and line of communication over the Tagus. When Soult could no longer feed his assembled army, he retired, and our Light Division were rapidly moved on Castello Branco, the remainder of the army of the north following.
Our army this autumn was cantoned, as near as it could be fed, on the frontiers to watch Ciudad Rodrigo, which the Duke contemplated besieging. After the death of General Drummond, Major-General Vandeleur was appointed to my Brigade, a fine, gentleman-like old Irish hero. We were quartered at Martiago, and our Division, some at El Bodon, others at Zamora, Guinaldo, etc. It was a very hot autumn, but towards the end of the year, when the rains commenced, there was capital coursing.
General Craufurd this year, in one of his mad freaks, reported that the Light Division was in want of clothing, etc., and it must go to the rear. The Duke ordered us to march one cold night over the Agueda to Larade, not far from Guinaldo, for his inspection. A great scene occurred. Craufurd had not arrived before the Duke rode down the line, and the Duke laughed and said, "Craufurd, you are late." "No, my Lord; you are before your time. My watch is to be depended on." (I was riding a brown mare which I gave £120 for to Charlie Rowan, who had been thrown by her, after buying her from General Craufurd because he could not ride her. The mare charged the Duke, I on her back. "Hallo, Smith," says the Duke, "your horse masters you.") The Duke, to our delight, says to General Craufurd, "I never saw the Light Division look better or more ready for service. March back to your quarters; I shall soon require you in the field." About this time Marmont moved up to Ciudad Rodrigo with an enormous convoy of provisions and he compelled the Duke to assemble, and the brilliant affair of cavalry and squares of infantry behind El Bodon took place [24 Sept.].
About this time we had some heavy and laborious manoeuvring, night marches, etc. During these movements we marched a dark night's march from Guinaldo, and, as the road was wet and far from good, we had several checks in the column, when I heard a conversation between a 16th Light Dragoon and one of the German 1st Hussars, neither of whom had abstained from the ingredient which formed the subject. 16th Dragoon: "I say, Hussar, I likes it strong and hot and sweet, and plenty of —. How do you like it?" Hussar: "I likes him raw."
Marmont, having accomplished his object, fell back, and we returned to our old cantonments. The Duke of Wellington's dispatch dated "Quadrasies, Sept. 29," so fully details all these operations and shows the beauty of the manoeuvres so distinctly, I may confine myself to what occurred the evening General Pakenham's brigade had such a formidable brush at Aldea de Ponte.
The 4th Division was to return at dusk, as was the Light. I was lying in bivouac, talking to General Craufurd and John Bell, when a dragoon rode up with a note from General Cole, requesting Craufurd to send an officer as a guide to lead his division to the heights of Rendo at dusk. I said, "Oh, John Bell will go, of course." "No," says John; "Harry Smith knows the road best." So I was ordered to go. Before I reached Cole it was dark. I found his Division moving: they were all right. I reported myself to him–the first time I had ever spoken to him. Colonel Brooke, brother of the "Shannon" Brooke, his Q.M.G., was with him. "Oh," says Cole, "sent by Craufurd, are you? Do you know the road?" We Light Division gentlemen were proper saucy fellows. I said, "I suppose I should not have been sent if I had not." "Ugh," says Cole, as hot as pepper. Here I may remark upon the difficulty there is at night to know roads, even for one well acquainted with them. Fires lighting, fires going out, the covering of the country with troops–such things change the face of nature, and a little anxiety adds to the difficulty. Cole, a most anxious man, kept saying, "Are you sure you know the road, sir?" etc, etc, etc. At last I said, "General Cole, if you will let me alone, I will conduct your Division; if you thus attract my attention, I cannot." It was an anxious moment, I admit. I was just at a spot where I might miss the road, a great road which I knew was near. I galloped ahead to look for it, and oh, how General Cole did blow me up! I found my road, though, and so soon as the head of the column had fairly reached it, I said, "Good night, General," and in a moment was in full speed, while he was hallooing to me to come back. I had some difficulty in finding my own Division, which was moving parallel with the force. When I told Craufurd of my first acquaintance with that hot Irishman Cole, how he laughed! Poor dear Sir Lowry! I was afterwards A.Q.M.G. to him after the battle of Waterloo, and served under him as Commandant of Cape Castle and Senior Member of Council when he was Governor, and many is the laugh we have had at our first acquaintance.
On one of our marches from the Alemtejo to the north, in a house where General Drummond and I were quartered at Idanha a Nova, a very facetious Portuguese gentleman showed us a sort of a return of the British, so incorrect that General Drummond laughed at it; but Charlie Rowan, our A.A.G. (now the great policeman in London19), who was dining with General Drummond, told this anecdote at the Duke's table at Guinaldo, and I was sent back about 150 miles to fetch my friend. I could speak Portuguese as well as English. I therefore persuaded our hero to accompany me to the Duke without telling why, but a more unpleasant ride than this, in charge of my friend and all alone, without groom, etc., I never had, and many was the blessing I bestowed on Charlie Rowan's tongue. I delivered my friend to the Adjutant-General at Guinaldo, and had twenty-four miles to join my General at Robledillo.
CAMPAIGN OF 1812: STORMING OF CIUDAD RODRIGO.
AS the winter approached we had private theatricals. The Duke appointed so many days for horse races, greyhound matches, etc., and the very day they were to come off, which was well known to the French army, we invested Ciudad Rodrigo, namely, on the 8th of January, 1812, and that very night carried by storm the outworks called Fort San Francisco, up to which spot it took the French several days to approach. We broke ground, and thus the siege commenced.
When the detachments of the Light Division Brigades were parading, my Brigade was to furnish 400 men. I understood four Companies, and when Colonel Colborne (now Lord Seaton) was counting them, he said, "There are not the complement of men." I said, "I am sorry if I have mistaken." "Oh, never mind; run and bring another Company." I mention this to show what a cool, noble fellow he is. Many an officer would have stormed like fury. He only thought of storming Fort San Francisco, which he carried in a glorious manner.20
The siege was carried on by four Divisions–1st, 3rd, 4th, and Light, cantoned as near Ciudad Rodrigo as possible. One Division was on duty at a time, and each had to ford the Agueda the day it was for duty. The Light was at El Bodon. We had a distance of nine miles to march every fourth day, and back on the fifth, so that we had only three days' halt. The frost was excessive, and there was some little snow, but fortunately the weather was fine above head.
The Light Division stormed the little breach on the evening of the 19th of January (nine o' clock). I was supping with my dear friend Captain Uniacke, and brother Tom, his only subaltern not wounded. When I parted from Uniacke–he was a noble, light-hearted fellow–he says, "Harry, you will be a Captain before morning." Little, poor fellow, did he think he was to make the vacancy. I was senior subaltern of the 95th, and I went to General Craufurd and volunteered the forlorn hope that was given to Gurwood. Craufurd said, "Why, you cannot go; you, a Major of Brigade, a senior Lieutenant, you are sure to get a Company. No, I must give it to a younger officer." This was to me a laborious night. Just as my Brigade had to march, I discovered the Engineer officer had not brought up the ladders, fascines, and bundles of hay, and old George Simmons was sent for them.
In ascending the breach, I got on a ravelin at the head of the 43rd and 52nd, moving in column together. Colborne pulled me down again, and up the right breach we ascended. I saw the great breach, stormed by the 3rd Division, was ably defended, and a line behind a work which, as soon as we rushed along the ramparts, we could enfilade. I seized a Company of the 43rd and rushed on the flank, and opened a fire which destroyed every man behind the works. My conduct caused great annoyance to the Captain, Duffy, with whom I had some very high words; but the Company obeyed me, and then ran on with poor Uniacke's Company to meet the 3rd Division, or rather clear the ramparts to aid them, when the horrid explosion took place which killed General Mackinnon of the 3rd division on the spot and many soldiers, awfully scorching others. I and Uniacke were much scorched, but some splinters of an ammunition chest lacerated him and caused his death three days after the storm. Tom, my brother, was not hurt.
I shall never forget the concussion when it struck me, throwing me back many feet into a lot of charged fuses of shells, which in the confusion I took for shells. But a gallant fellow, a Sergeant MacCurrie, 52nd Regiment, soon put me right, and prevented me leaping into the ditch. My cocked hat was blown away, my clothes all singed; however the sergeant, a noble fellow, lent me a catskin forage-cap, and on we rushed to meet the 3rd Division, which we soon did. It was headed by a great, big thundering Grenadier of the 88th, a Lieutenant Stewart, and one of his men seized me by the throat as if I were a kitten, crying out, "You French —." Luckily, he left me room in the windpipe to d— his eyes, or the bayonet would have been through me in a moment.
Gurwood got great credit here unfairly. Willie Johnstone21 and poor Uniacke were the two first on the ramparts, Gurwood having been knocked down in the breach and momentarily stunned, which enabled them to get before him. However, Gurwood's a sharp fellow, and he cut off in search of the Governor, and brought his sword to the Duke, and Lord Fitzroy Somerset buckled it on him in the breach. Gurwood made the most of it.
We had many officers of rank wounded. George Napier, of the 52nd, lost an arm; the General of Brigade, Vandeleur, was wounded severely in the shoulder; and Colonel Colborne, of the 52nd, received an awful wound, but he never quitted his Regiment until the city was perfectly ours, and his Regiment all collected. A musket-ball had struck him under the epaulette of his right shoulder, and broken the head of the bone right off in the socket. To this the attention of the surgeons was of course directed. Some months after Colborne complained of a pain four inches below where the ball entered, and suppuration took place, and by surgical treatment the bone was gradually exposed. The ball, after breaking the arm above, had descended and broken the arm four inches below, and was firmly embedded in the bone. The pain he suffered in the extraction of the ball was more even than his iron heart could bear. He used to lay his watch on the table and allow the surgeons five minutes' exertions at a time, and they were three or four days before they wrenched the ball from its ossified bed. In three weeks from that day Colborne was in the Pyrenees, and in command of his Regiment. Of course the shoulder joint was anchylosed, but he had free use of the arm below the elbow.
After this siege we had a few weeks' holiday, with the exception of shooting some rascals who had deserted to the enemy. Eleven knelt on one grave at Ituero. It is an awful ceremony, a military execution. I was Major of Brigade of the day. The Provost-Marshal had not told the firing off, so that a certain number of men should shoot one culprit, and so on, but at his signal the whole party fired a volley. Some prisoners were fortunate enough to be killed, others were only wounded, some untouched. I galloped up. An unfortunate Rifleman called to me by name–he was awfully wounded–"Oh, Mr. Smith, put me out of my misery," and I literally ordered the firing party, when reloaded, to run up and shoot the poor wretches. It was an awful scene.
"Blood he had viewed, but then|
it flowed in combat . . ."
CAMPAIGN OF 1812: THE STORMING OF BADAJOS–HARRY SMITH'S MARRIAGE.
AT this period of the year (February, March) the coursing in this part of Spain is capital, and by help of my celebrated dog Moro and two other excellent ones, I supplied the officers' mess of every Company with hares for soup We had a short repose, for the army moved into Estremadura for the purpose of besieging Badajos. We Light, 3rd and 4th Divisions, thought, as we had taken Ciudad Rodrigo, others would have the pleasure of the trenches of Badajos, but on our reaching Elvas [17 Feb., 1812] we were very soon undeceived, and we were destined for the duty,–to our mortification, for soldiers hate sieges and working-parties. The Guards work better than any soldiers, from their habits in London. Badajos was invested by the 3rd, 4th, and Light Divisions on the Spanish side, or left bank of the river, and by the 5th Division22, on the Portuguese side, or right bank. On the night of the 17th March, St. Patrick's Day, the Light Division broke ground under a deluge of rain, which swelled the Guadiana so as to threaten our bridge of boats. Our duties in the trenches were most laborious during the whole siege, and much hard fighting we had, sorties, etc. The night [26 Mar.] the out-works La Picurina was carried by my dear friend Sir James Kempt, part of the 3rd Division (which was his) were to compose the storming party. The Light Division, the working party, consequently were sent to the Engineer Park for the ladders. When they arrived, General Kempt ordered them to be planted (Sir H. Hardinge, D.Q.M.G. of the Portuguese army, was here distinguished). The boys of the 3rd Division said to our fellows, "Come, stand out of the way;" to which our fellows replied, "D— your eyes, do you think we Light Division fetch ladders for such chaps as you to climb up? Follow us"–springing on the ladders, and many of them were knocked over. A notorious fellow, a Sergeant Brotherwood, a noble fellow on duty, told me this anecdote. The siege was prosecuted with the same vigour from without with which it was repelled from within.
After some hours in the trenches, when we returned I invariably ate and went out coursing, and many is the gallant course I had, and many the swift hare I and my dog Moro brought home from the right bank of the Guadiana. One day James Stewart, I, and Charlie Eeles set off; having three hours off duty, to look for a hare or two at a celebrated spot where the hares ran very strong because there was a rabbit warren which saved them. Moro, of course, was of the party. We soon found an unusually strong hare, and, although the greyhounds fetched round a dozen times, she still worked her way for the warren. I was riding a great stupid Irish horse bought from General Vandeleur, called Paddy, and as it was important for the soup to kill this hare, however unsportsmanlike on quiet occasions it would be deemed, I rode to head her from the warren. My stupid beast of a horse put his foot into a hole and rolled over me. Stewart and Eeles picked me up, but I was insensible. Although I have generally managed on such occasions to get away from the horse, the animal had rolled over me, and when I came to myself I was sitting on Eeles' knee, my arms tied up with a whip-thong, and James Stewart, with a blunt-looking penknife, trying to bleed me, an operation I quickly prohibited by starting on to my legs. Moro killed his hare, though, without my help.
On the night of the 6th April the 3rd Division were to storm the citadel, the 4th and Light the great breach, the 5th the Olivença Gate, and to escalade, if possible. The command of the Light Division had devolved on Colonel Barnard. Vandeleur was wounded, and stayed at Portalegre, and poor Beckwith had gone to the rear with violent ague; he never joined us again, noble soldier that he was.
This escalade has been so frequently described, I shall only say that when the head of the Light Division arrived at the ditch of the place it was a beautiful moonlight night. Old Alister Cameron, who was in command of four Companies of the 95th Regiment, extended along the counterscape to attract the enemy's fire, while the column planted their ladders and descended, came up to Barnard and said, "Now my men are ready; shall I begin?" "No, certainly not," says Barnard. The breach and the works were full of the enemy, looking quietly at us, but not fifty yards off and most prepared, although not firing a shot. So soon as our ladders were all ready posted, and the column in the very act to move and rush down the ladders, Barnard called out, "Now, Cameron!" and the first shot from us brought down such a hail of fire as I shall never forget, nor ever saw before or since. It was most murderous. We flew down the ladders and rushed at the breach, but we were broken, and carried no weight with us, although every soldier was a hero. The breach was covered by a breastwork from behind, and ably defended on the top by chevaux-de-frises of sword-blades, sharp as razors, chained to the ground; while the ascent to the top of the breach was covered with planks with sharp nails in them. However, devil a one did I feel at this moment. One of the officers of the forlorn hope, Lieut. Taggart of the 43rd, was hanging on my arm–a mode we adopted to help each other up, for the ascent was most difficult and steep. A Rifleman stood among the sword-blades on the top of one of the chevaux-de-frises. We made a glorious rush to follow, but, alas! in vain. He was knocked over. My old captain, O'Hare, who commanded the storming party, was killed. All were awfully wounded except, I do believe, myself and little Freer of the 43rd. I had been some seconds at the revêtement of the bastion near the breach, and my red-coat pockets were literally filled with chips of stones splintered by musket-balls. Those not knocked down were driven back by this hail of mortality to the ladders. At the foot of them I saw poor Colonel Macleod with his hands on his breast–the man who lent me his horse when wounded at the bridge on the Coa. He said, "Oh, Smith, I am mortally wounded. Help me up the ladder." I said, "Oh no, dear fellow!" "I am," he said; "be quick!" I did so, and came back again. Little Freer and I said, "Let us throw down the ladders; the fellows shan't go out." Some soldiers behind said, "D— your eyes, if you do we will bayonet you!" and we were literally forced up with the crowd. My sash had got loose, and one end of it was fast in the ladder, and the bayonet was very nearly applied, but the sash by pulling became loose. So soon as we got on the glacis, up came a fresh Brigade of the Portuguese of the 4th Division. I never saw any soldiers behave with more pluck. Down into the ditch we all went again, but the more we tried to get up, the more we were destroyed. The 4th Division followed us in marching up to the breach, and they made a most uncommon noise. The French saw us, but took no notice. Sir Charles Colville, commanding the 4th Division (Cole having been wounded at Albuera), made a devil of a noise, too, on the glacis. Both Divisions were fairly beaten back; we never carried either breach (nominally there were two breaches).
After the attacks upon the breaches, some time before daylight Lord Fitzroy Somerset came to our Division. I think I was almost the first officer who spoke to him. He said, "Where is Barnard?" I didn't know, but I assured his Lordship he was neither killed nor wounded. A few minutes after his Lordship said that the Duke desired the Light and 4th Divisions to storm again. "The devil!" says I. "Why, we have had enough; we are all knocked to pieces." Lord Fitzroy says, "I dare say, but you must try again." I smiled and said, "If we could not succeed with two whole fresh and unscathed Divisions, we are likely to make a poor show of it now. But we will try again with all our might." Scarcely had this conversation occurred when a bugle sounded within the breach, indicating what had occurred at the citadel and the Puerto de Olivença; and here ended all the fighting. Our fellows would have gone at it again when collected and put into shape, but we were just as well pleased that our attempt had so attracted the attention of the enemy as greatly to facilitate that success which assured the prize contended for.
There is no battle, day or night, I would not willingly react except this. The murder of our gallant officers and soldiers is not to be believed. Next day I and Charlie Beckwith, a brother Brigade-Major, went over the scene. It was appalling. Heaps on heaps of slain,–in one spot lay nine officers. Whilst we were there, Colonel Allen of the Guards came up, and beckoned me to him. I saw that, in place of congratulating me, he looked very dull. "What's the matter?" I said. "Do you not know my brother in the Rifles was killed last night?" "God help him and you! no, for I and we all loved him." In a flood of tears, he looked round and pointed to a body. "There he lies." He had a pair of scissors with him. "Go and cut off a lock of his hair for my mother. I came for the purpose, but I am not equal to doing it."
The returns of killed and wounded and the evident thin appearance of our camp at once too plainly told the loss we had sustained. O memorable night of glory and woe! for, although the 4th and Light were so beaten, our brilliant and numerous attacks induced the governor to concentrate all his force in the breaches; thus the 3rd escaladed the citadel, and the 5th got in by the Olivença gate. Although we lost so many stout hearts, so many dear friends and comrades, yet not one staff officer of our Division was killed or wounded. We had all been struck. My clothes were cut by musket-balls, and I had several contusions, particularly one on my left thigh.
Now comes a scene of horror I would willingly bury in oblivion. The atrocities committed by our soldiers on the poor innocent and defenceless inhabitants of the city, no words suffice to depict. Civilized man, when let loose and the bonds of morality relaxed, is a far greater beast than the savage, more refined in his cruelty, more fiend-like in every act; and oh, too truly did our heretofore noble soldiers disgrace themselves, though the officers exerted themselves to the utmost to repress it, many who had escaped the enemy being wounded in their merciful attempts! Yet this scene of debauchery, however cruel to many, to me has been the solace and the whole happiness of my life for thirty-three years. A poor defenceless maiden of thirteen years was thrown upon my generous nature through her sister, as described so ably in Johnny Kincaid's book, of which this is an extract–
"I was conversing with a friend the day after, at the door of his tent, when we observed two ladies coming from the city, who made directly towards us; they seemed both young, and when they came near, the elder of the two threw back her mantilla to address us, showing a remarkably handsome figure, with fine features; but her sallow, sun-burnt, and careworn, though still youthful, countenance showed that in her 'the time for tender thoughts and soft endearments had fled away and gone.'
"She at once addressed us in that confident, heroic manner so characteristic of the high-bred Spanish maiden, told us who they were–the last of an ancient and honourable house–and referred to an officer high in rank in our army, who had been quartered there in the days of her prosperity, for the truth of her tale.
"Her husband, she said, was a Spanish officer in a distant part of the kingdom; he might, or he might not, still be living. But yesterday she and this her young sister were able to live in affluence and in a handsome house; to-day they knew not where to lay their heads, where to get a change of raiment or a morsel of bread. Her house, she said, was a wreck; and, to show the indignities to which they had been subjected, she pointed to where the blood was still trickling down their necks, caused by the wrenching of their ear-rings through the flesh by the hands of worse than savages, who would not take the trouble to unclasp them!
"For herself, she said, she cared not; but for the agitated and almost unconscious maiden by her side, whom she had but lately received over from the hands of her conventual instructresses, she was in despair, and knew not what to do; and that, in the rapine and ruin which was at that moment desolating the city, she saw no security for her but the seemingly indelicate one she had adopted–of coming to the camp and throwing themselves upon the protection of any British officer who would afford it; and so great, she said, was her faith in our national character, that she knew the appeal would not be made in vain, nor the confidence abused. Nor was it made in vain! Nor could it be abused, for she stood by the side of an angel! A being more transcendingly lovely I had never before seen–one more amiable I have never yet known!
"Fourteen summers had not yet passed over her youthful countenance, which was of a delicate freshness–more English than Spanish; her face, though not perhaps rigidly beautiful, was nevertheless so remarkably handsome, and so irresistibly attractive, surmounting a figure cast in nature's fairest mould, that to look at her was to love her; and I did love her, but I never told my love, and in the mean time another and a more impudent fellow stepped in and won her! But yet I was happy, for in him she found such a one as her loveliness and her misfortunes claimed–a man of honour, and a husband in every way worthy of her!"
"That a being so young, so lovely, and so interesting, just emancipated from the gloom of a convent, unknowing of the world and to the world unknown, should thus have been wrecked on a sea of troubles, and thrown on the mercy of strangers under circumstances so dreadful, so uncontrollable, and not have sunk to rise no more, must be the wonder of every one. Yet from the moment she was thrown on her own resources, her star was in the ascendant.
"Guided by a just sense of rectitude, an innate purity of mind, a singleness of purpose which defied malice, and a soul that soared above circumstances, she became alike the adored of the camp and of the drawing-room, and eventually the admired associate of princes. She yet lives, in the affections of her gallant husband, in an elevated situation in life, a pattern to her sex, and everybody's beau ideal of what a wife should be."23
I confess myself to be the "more impudent fellow," and if any reward is due to a soldier, never was one so honoured and distinguished as I have been by the possession of this dear child (for she was little more than a child at this moment), one with a sense of honour no knight ever exceeded in the most romantic days of chivalry, an understanding superior to her years, a masculine mind with a force of character no consideration could turn from her own just sense of rectitude, and all encased in a frame of Nature's fairest and most delicate moulding, the figure of an angel, with an eye of light and an expression which then inspired me with a maddening love which, from that period to this (now thirty-three years), has never abated under many and the most trying circumstances. Thus, as good may come out of evil, this scene of devastation and spoil yielded to me a treasure invaluable; to me who, among so many dear friends, had escaped all dangers; to me, a wild youth not meriting such reward, and, however desirous, never able to express half his gratitude to God Almighty for such signal marks of His blessing shown to so young and so thoughtless a being. From that day to this she has been my guardian angel. She has shared with me the dangers and privations, the hardships and fatigues, of a restless life of war in every quarter of the globe. No murmur has ever escaped her. Bereft of every relative, of every tie to her country but the recollection of it, united to a man of different though Christian religion, yet that man has been and is her all, on whom have hinged the closed portals of hope, happiness, and bliss; if opened, misery, destitution, and bereavement, and every loss language can depict summed up in one word, "He is lost to me." But, O my God, Thou hast kindly spared us for each other; we have, through Thy grace, been but little separated, and we have, in unison of soul, received at Thy holy altar the Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ.24 May we, through His mediation, be still spared to each other in this life, and in the life to come be eternally united in Heaven!
After the disorganization our troops had rushed into, it became the duty of every officer to exert himself, and nobly did Colonel Barnard set about the task, and ably supported was he by every officer in the Division. We had not marched for the north two days when our soldiers were, like Richard, "themselves again." When the French garrison were marched to the rear, my Brigade furnished an escort to the next Division en route to Elvas. I paraded upwards of four thousand very orderly, fine-looking fellows. Many of the officers praised the gallantry of our men, and all said, "Why break ground at all with such soldiers? Had you stormed on the rainy night of the 17th March, you would have taken the place with half the loss." This is creditable to us, but the Duke of Wellington would have been by no means borne out in such an attempt.
However, as all this writing is to show rather my individual participation in these scenes of glory and bloodshed, I must dwell a little upon the joy of my marriage. I was only twenty-two, my wife just on the verge of fourteen.25 But in southern climates Nature more early develops herself and attains maturity. Every day was an increase of joy. Although both of us were of the quickest tempers, we were both ready to forgive, and both intoxicated in happiness. All my dearest friends–Charlie Beckwith, John Bell, Johnstone, Charlie Eeles, Jack Molloy, etc.–were saying to themselves, "Alas! poor Harry Smith is lost, who was the example of a duty-officer previously. It is only natural he must neglect duty now." I assured them all that the contrary would be the case, for love would incite me to exertions in hopes of preferment, the only mode I had to look to for a comfortable maintenance; and my wife's love, aided by her good sense, would see I was never neglecting her if engaged in the performance of my duty. Conscientiously did I act up to my feeling then, and no one ever did or ever could say, I was out of my place night or day.
My duty was my duty–I gloried in it; my wife even still more so, and never did she say, "You might have been with me," or complain if I was away. On the contrary, after many a day's fatiguing march, when I sought her out in the baggage or awaiting me, her first question invariably was, "Are you sure you have done all your duty?" Then I admit my attention was unbounded, and we were happy–oh, how happy, often amidst scenes of distress and privation that would have appalled stouter hearts, not devoted like ours! And oh, when I reflect on God's mercy to us both! In a succession of the most brilliant battles for years I was never even wounded, and, although I say it, no man ever exposed himself in every way more as a soldier, or rode harder as a sportsman. Wonderful, most wonderful, have been my hairbreadth escapes from falls of horses under and over me all over the world.
CAMPAIGN OF 1812: BATTLE OF SALAMANCA–OCCUPATION OF MADRID–RETREAT TO SALAMANCA.
BUT to the thread of my narrative. Hardly had we reached the frontier of Portugal [24 April, 1812], our old haunts, Ituero, Guinaldo, etc., when our army moved on again for Spain, and fought the Battle of Salamanca. Before this battle we had an immense deal of marching and manoeuvring. The armies of Marmont and Wellington were close to each other for several days, so that a trifling occurrence would have brought on a general action, and we were frequently under cannonade.
My wife could not ride in the least at first, and oh, the difficulty I had! although she had frequently ridden a donkey on her pilgrimage to Olivença, once to avoid the siege of Badajos, and at other times to her grandmother's at Almendrajos. 26 However, I had one of my saddles turned into a side-saddle most ably by a soldier of Ross's Troop of Horse Artillery, and at first made her ride a great brute of a Portuguese horse I had; but she so rapidly improved, took such pains, had so much practice and naturally good nerves, that she soon got ashamed of her Portuguese horse, and wanted to ride my Spanish little fellow, who had so nobly carried me at Redinha and in many other fights. I always said, "When you can ride as well as you can dance and sing, you shall," for in those accomplishments she was perfect. In crossing the Tormes [21 July], the very night before the battle of Salamanca (there are quicksands in the river), her Portuguese horse was so cowardly he alarmed me, and hardly had we crossed the river when a clap of thunder, louder than anything that can be described, burst over our heads. The Portuguese horse was in such a funk, she abjured all Portuguese, and insisted hereafter on riding her own gallant countryman, as gallant as any Arab. He was an Andalusian, which is a thorough-bred descendant of the Moosul horse, which is literally an Arab. The next day she mounted her Tiny, and rode him ever afterwards over many an eventful field, until the end of the war at Toulouse. She had him afterwards at my father's house. The affection between them was of the character of that between spaniel and master. The dear, gallant horse lived to twenty-nine years of age, and died a happy pensioner on my brother Charles's estate.
It is difficult to say who was the proudest on the morning of the battle [22 July], horse, wife, or Enrique (as I was always called). She caracoled him about among the soldiers, to their delight, for he was broken in like a Mameluke, though very difficult to ride. (The soldiers of the whole Division loved her with enthusiasm from the events so peculiar in her history, and she would laugh and talk with all, which a soldier loves. Blackguards as many of the poor gallant fellows were, there was not a man who would not have laid down his life to defend her, and among the officers she was adored, and consulted on all occasions of baggage-guard, etc.) Her attendant, who also had a led horse in case of accident, with a little tent and a funny little pair of lanterns, my dear, trusty old groom West, as the battle began, took her to the rear, much to her annoyance, and in the thunder of cannon, the pride of equestrianism was buried in anxiety for him on whom her all depended. She and West slept on the field of battle, he having made a bed for her with the green wheat he had cut just in full ear. She had to hold her horse all night, and he ate all her bed of green wheat, to her juvenile amusement; for a creature so gay and vivacious, with all her sound sense, the earth never produced.
Next morning soon after daylight she joined me on the march. I was at that time so afflicted with boils, I could hardly live on horseback. I had eleven immense ones at the time on my legs and thighs, the excruciating pain of which is not to be described. Our surgeon, old Joe Bowker, insisted on my going to Salamanca, and one particular boil on the bone of the inside of my knee proved a more irresistible argument. So to Salamanca I had to go, my brother Tom doing my duty. I stayed fourteen days at Salamanca, a time of love and excitement, although, so distressed was the army for money, we lived almost on our rations, except for a little assistance from the lady of our house in coffee, etc. Wade, Sir Lowry Cole's A.D.C., lent me one dollar out of forty which he had received to support his General (who had been severely wounded in the battle), and his staff. In such times of privation heroism is required which our countrymen little dream of.
At the end of the fourteen days I had as many boils as ever, but, boils and all, off we started, and rode some terrible distances for three or four days. We overtook the Division, to the joy of the soldiers, before we crossed the Guadarama Pass [11 Aug.] There had been no fighting in my absence, thank God.
We soon reached the neighbourhood of Madrid. No city could be better laid out for pomp and show, and the Duke's entry [13 Aug.] was a most brilliant spectacle. My vivacious wife used to enjoy her native capital, and in her admiration treated London and Paris as villages in comparison. We spent a very happy time. It was a great amusement to improve our wardrobe for the walk on the elegant Prado of an evening, in which no love among the Spanish beauties showed to greater advantage than my Estremenha, or native of Estremadura. During our stay in the vicinity of Madrid we made several agreeable acquaintances, among others the vicar of one of the many rich villages around Madrid, Vicalbaro, a highly educated and clever fellow, a great sportsman and excellent shot, with a morbid hatred to a Frenchman. Upon our moving forward beyond Madrid as far as the beautiful and clean city Alcala [23 Oct.], I was brought in contact with the celebrated and unfortunate General Elio, whom I had known in South America at Monte Video. He was very conversational, and we had a long talk as to that colonial war; but, as I was acting as interpreter for my friend James Stewart, the A.Q.M.G. of our Division, who was making arrangements of march with Elio, conversation on the past turned into plans for the future. We moved forwards towards our right to Arganda [27 Oct.]. At this period the Duke had gone to Burgos, and Lord Hill commanded. We soon felt the loss of our decided and far-seeing chief, and we made marches and counter-marches we were unaccustomed to. At ten at night, at Arganda, Major-General Vandeleur received an order from General Alten, who remained in Alcala, to march immediately back to Alcala with the whole Division. Vandeleur sent for me and told me to order the assembly to sound. I remonstrated and prayed him to wait until two hours before daylight, for every soldier in the Division had more or less indulged in the wine for which Arganda was celebrated. The good general had been at the shrine of Bacchus too, and was uncontrollable. Blast went the assembly, and staggering to their alarm-posts went the soldiers. Such a scene of good-natured riot I had never seen in my own Division. With the Duke we generally had a sort of hint we might be wanted, and our tried soldiers would be as steady as rocks. Oh, such a dark night's march as we had back to Alcala! Vandeleur repented of his obstinacy, and well he might.
We halted the next day at Alcala. Here, although it was now October, it was evident to me that a long retreat to the frontier was about to be undertaken, and I got from a Spanish officer, called Labrador, his fine large Andalusian horse in exchange for an Irish brute I had bought from General Vandeleur. He gave me three Spanish doubloons to boot, a fortune in those days, particularly to me.
These three doubloons were given to my vivacious Spanish wife, who put them up most carefully in my portmanteau, among my few shirts. On the march the motion of the mule had shaken them out of place, the doubloons were gone, and all our fortune! Her horror, poor girl, is not to be described. She knew it was our all, and her delight when I gave the treasure into her charge was now more than eclipsed by the misery of the loss. I only laughed, for in those days hardships and privations were so common, they were missed when comparative affluence supplied their place.
We marched [30 Oct.] to Madrid, or rather its suburbs, where the poor inhabitants were in indescribable distress, seeing that they were again to be abandoned to French clemency and contributions. While our troops were halted, waiting for orders whether to bivouac or whether to retire, to our astonishment up came the Vicar of Vicalbaro. He took me on one side, and told me most pathetically that he had made himself so obnoxious to the French, he feared to stay, and had come to crave my protection. This I gladly promised. While I described to him the hardships a winter retreat would impose upon him and us, he said gallantly, "I am young and healthy like yourselves; what you suffer, I can. My only fear is that I may inconvenience you and my young countrywoman, your wife." I laughed, and called her. She was all fun, notwithstanding the loss of the doubloons, and began to quiz him; but in the midst of her raillery he observed, as he said to me afterwards, her soul of kindness, and the Padre was installed in my establishment, while my old comrades laughed and said, "Harry Smith will do, now he has a father confessor," by which name the Padre always went–"Harry Smith's confessor." The hour or two of halt was occupied by the padre in buying a pony which he soon effected, and his marching establishment, a few shirts, with an immense capa, or cloak, almost as much as the pony could carry.
It rained in torrents, and we marched to Aravaca, some miles to the rear of the capital, where we found Lord Hill's headquarters in possession of every hole in the village, which was a very small one. General Vandeleur, who was still suffering from his wound at Ciudad Rodrigo, found a Captain of the Waggon Train in possession of a small house. In walks the General to a nice clean little room with a cheerful fire. "Who are you, sir?" says the General. "I am Captain —, of the Royal Waggon Train, attached to Lord Hill, and this house is given me for my quarters." "I, sir, am General Vandeleur, and am d—d glad to see you in my quarters for five minutes." The poor Captain very quietly packed up his traps and went–I know not where.
I, my young wife, the Padre, all my greyhounds and dogs, about thirteen, got into a little hole about six feet square, and were glad enough to get out of the rain, for, though my wife had her little tent, that, pitched on exceedingly wet ground, was a horrid shelter for any one. Owing to the kindness of our Provost-Marshal (Mr. Stanway), I got my horses also under a kind of out-office. We marched the next day to the foot of the Guadarama Pass, where our soldiers, when dismissed in bivouac, had a fine hunt after a wild boar, which they killed. The sunshine brightened, and when I returned from a variety of duties I found the young wife as neat as a new pin in her little tent, her habit and all her things which had got wet in yesterday's rain hung out to dry. So after breakfast I proposed to decorate my person (shave I need not, for as yet that operation was unnecessary), and the portmanteau was opened, the delinquent from which our doubloons had escaped. Some of the shirts were wet from the rain, and in searching for a dry one, out tumbled the three doubloons, which had been shaken into the folds of the shirt by the motion of the mule, and so lost. Oh, such joy and such laughing! We were so rich. We could buy bread and chocolate and sausages and eggs through the interest of the Padre (for we found the holy friar could get things when, however much money was exhibited, it proved no talisman), and our little fortune carried us through the retreat even to Ciudad Rodrigo, where money was paid to us.
This retreat was a very severe one as to weather, and although the enemy did not actually press us, as he did the column from Burgos, we made long marches and were very broad awake, and lost some of our baggage and stores, which the wearied bullocks obliged us to abandon. On reaching Salamanca, my wife, with the foresight of age rather than youth, expended some of the doubloons in buying me two pairs of worsted stockings and a pair of worsted mits, and the same for herself; which I do believe saved her from sickness, for the rain, on the retreat from Salamanca, came in torrents.
CAMPAIGN OF 1812: RETREAT TO THE LINES OF TORRES VEDRAS–WINTER OF 1812-13.
THE army concentrated again under the dear Duke of Wellington, and took up its old victorious position on the Arapiles [14 Nov.], but not with the same prospects. Soult, an able fellow, had nearly double our force, and so soon as our rear was open the army was in full march on Ciudad Rodrigo. It rained in torrents, and the roads rose above the soldiers' ankles. Our supplies were nil and the sufferings of the soldiers were considerable. Many compared this retreat with that of Coruña, at which I then laughed, and do now. The whole distance from Ciudad Rodrigo is only forty-four miles. On one day to Coruña we marched thirty-seven miles, fighting every yard, and the cold was intense; on this retreat it was cold, but no frost in the atmosphere.
In crossing the Huebra [17 Nov.], at San Muños, the enemy pressed our rear-guard very sharply, and we had some very heavy skirmishing. Sir E. Paget, by his own obstinacy in not believing the French Dragoons had intervened upon our line of march, was taken prisoner, and our rear-guard (my Brigade) driven from the ford. They had to take to the river as well as they were able, the soldiers leaping from a steep bank into it.
The sense and strength of my wife's Spanish horse were this day put to the test, for she had nothing for it but to make him leap into the river from the high bank, which the noble animal did, all fours like a dog. The poor Padre attempted the same, with the result that he and pony floated down the stream, and the pony was drowned, but his large Spanish capa or cloak kept him afloat, and he was dragged out by some of our soldiers. His holiness began now to think I had not exaggerated the hardships of a soldier's life. When well out of the river, he quietly asked my poor old West for a horse I always had ready to jump on in case my own were killed. West very quietly said, "Never lend master's other fighting horse, not to nobody." My wife interceded for the poor Padre, but had the same refusal. Old West says, "We shan't march far; the river bothered us, it will stop the French. Our Riflemen don't mean to let those fellows over. Night and the walk will warm you."
I, seeing the distress my poor wife was likely to be in, had told her particularly to stay with the 52nd, thinking they would move into bivouac, while the Riflemen held the bed of the river where we had crossed, to which alone my attention was drawn. There was a ford, however, lower down the river, to which the 52nd were suddenly ordered. It was impassable, but in the enemy's attempt to cross, a heavy skirmish ensued, in which poor Captain Dawson was killed and forty or fifty men wounded; my wife in the thick of it, and the friar.
As soon as the ford was ascertained impassable, I was sent to bring back the 52nd, when, to my astonishment and alarm, I found my young wife drenched with leaping in the river, as much as from the torrents of rain above. The poor Padre might have been drawn for "the Knight of the Woeful Countenance." I brought the whole into our wet and miserable bivouac, and gave some Portuguese of my Brigade a dollar for a large fire, when, cold and shivery as she was, she laughed at the Padre. We had nothing to eat that night, as our mules were sent on, and there was this young and delicate creature, in the month of November in the north of Spain, wet as a drowned rat, with nothing to eat, and no cover from the falling deluge. Not a murmur escaped her but once. I had had no sleep for three nights, our rear being in a very ticklish position. In sitting by the fire I had fallen asleep, and fell between the fire and her. She had previously been roasted on one side, a cold mud on the other. This change of temperature awoke her, and for the only time in her life did she cry and say I might have avoided it. She had just woke out of her sleep, and when cold and shivery our feelings are acute. In a moment she exclaimed, "How foolish! you must have been nice and warm, and to know that is enough for me."
I took the Padre a mule; the rain broke, the little rivulet would soon be fordable, and at daylight the next morning we expected a regular squeeze from the enemy. To amend matters, too, in place of our moving off before daylight and getting a start, we were to follow the 1st Division, and this did not move. General Alten sent repeatedly to poor dear Sir William Stewart (who gave me my commission), to represent the prospect he had of a brush which ought to be avoided, when up rides to Charlie Beckwith, our A.Q.M.G., the Honourable Arthur Upton, saying, "My dear-e Beckwith, you could not inform me where I could get a paysano (a peasant)? The 1st Division can't move; we have no guide." "Oh, d—," says Charlie, "is that it? We will do anything to get you out of our way. Come to Harry Smith. He has a paysano, I know." I always had three or four poor fellows in charge of a guard, so requisite are guides with light troops. I gave him his paysano, and by this time the sun was an hour high at least. To our delight, in place of a fight retreating, which partakes neither of the pomp nor majesty of war, but of nothing but hard and often inglorious losses, we saw the French army dismissed, all drying their clothes and as little in a state to attack as we were desirous of their company. We had a clear, cold, but unmolested long march, and fell in with some stores coming. Yesterday the soldier's life was one of misery, to-day all joy and elasticity!
Just as the rear-guard had moved off the ground, I heard the voice of a soldier familiar to me calling out, "Oh, Mr. Smith!" (The Rifle soldiers ever called me "Mr. Smith.") "Don't leave me here." I rode up. As gallant a Rifleman as ever breathed, by name O'Donnell, lay there with his thigh fractured the day before by a cannon-shot. I was grieved for him. I had no means to assist him but one which I deemed it impossible he could avail himself of–the tumbril of a gun. He said, "Oh, I can ride." I galloped to Ross, who literally sent back with me a six-pounder, and took the poor fellow on the tumbril, the gunner cheerfully giving him his place. It was grievous to see poor O'Donnell hoisted up with his thigh smashed. We got him there, though, and he said, "I shall do now." He died in two hours. I shall ever feel grateful to Ross; few men could have done it, but his guns were drawn by noble horses, and he was, and is, a SOLDIER.
Over the bivouac fire this night the Padre became eloquent and sentimental. "When you told me at Madrid what were the hardships and privations of a soldier's life in retreat, pursued by a vigorous enemy, I considered I had a very correct idea; I now see I had no conception whatever. But what appears to me so extraordinary is that every one acts for himself alone. There you see a poor knocked-up soldier sitting in the mud, unable to move; there come grooms with led horses. No one asks the sick man to ride, no one sympathizes with the other's feelings–in short, every one appears to struggle against difficulties for himself alone." I could see the Padre had not forgotten my old man West's refusal of my second war-horse.
On the day following [19 Nov.], the weather was clear but bitterly cold We reached the suburbs of Ciudad Rodrigo, happy enough to know that for this campaign the fighting was over. Although some of our troops had a long march before them into Portugal, we Light Division gentlemen were close at home. Many of our stoutest officers were sick, John Bell, Charlie Eeles, etc., and we had many wounded to look after. The Padre and my cheerful, light-hearted wife were cooking in a little house all day long. The Padre was a capital cook, and equally good when the food was prepared. I went out coursing every day, and some of our regiment fellows, notwithstanding the "retreat" and its hardships, went out duck-shooting, up to their middles in water, Jonathan Leach among the rest.
My brigade was ordered into our old villages of Alameda, Fuentes d'Oñoro, Guinaldo, and to march via San Felices el chico, there to cross the Agueda. The weather was very rainy and cold, but my vivacious little wife was full of animation and happiness, and the Padre usually cooking.
Fuentes d'Oñoro was to be the head-quarters of our Brigade. General Vandeleur took up his quarters in the Curé's house, around which in the battle had been a sanguinary conflict. I was at the other end of the village for the sake of an excellent stable. It belonged to the father of the beautiful Maria Josefa, who fled from her father's house with a commissary, was infamously treated by him, returned to her father's house, and was received by the good old man kindly, although with nearly a broken heart. Songs were sung about her all over Spain, and she was universally condemned, pitied, and pardoned. I put the Padre in this house, told him the tale of woe, and, to his credit, he did everything a Christian clergyman ought, to urge on the parents pardon of the ill-used penitent. Nor did he plead in vain, the poor thing was forgiven by every one but herself. The Padre requested my generous-hearted wife to see her, and this was a consolation to poor Maria Josefa worth a general action to behold.
My billet was some little distance from the stable, and while there my landlord married a second wife. The inhabitants of this part of Spain are very peculiar and primitive in their manners, dress, and customs; they are called Charras. The dress of the women is most costly, and a marriage feast exceeds any feast that I ever saw, or that has been described by Abyssinian Bruce. We had fun and much feasting for three days. One of the ceremonies is that during a dance in which the bride is, of course, the prima donna, her relatives and friends make her presents, which she receives while dancing in the most graceful, though rustic, attitudes. The presents are frequently considerable sums in gold, or gold and silver ornaments of singular workmanship. All relatives and friends give something, or it is regarded as a slight. My wife, who learned to dance the rustic measure on purpose, presented a doubloon in the most elegant and graceful manner, to the delight of her compatriots around, although, being an Estremenha, she was regarded by these primitive, but hospitable and generous, creatures, as half a foreigner. The bride has a knife in her uplifted hand, upon it an apple, and the smaller presents are presented by cutting the apple, and placing in the cut the money or ornament.
In this part of Spain the pigs are fed most delicately; they are driven first into woods of cork trees, which produce beautiful, sweet acorns, then into woods of magnificent chestnut trees, the keeper getting into the trees and flogging down the acorns and chestnuts with an immense long whip. The pigs thus fed yield a meat different from the usual meat of the animal. They are of a beautiful breed, become exceedingly fat, and the season of killing them and making black puddings and sausages for the year's supply is one of continual feasting. The peasants also cure the meat along each side of the backbone called loma de puerco. This they do in a very peculiar manner with salt, red pepper, and of course a soupçon of garlic in a thick slice; and, notwithstanding the little garlic, when simply boiled, it is the most delicious food, for breakfast particularly, that even a French cook could boast of.
During our stay at Fuentes, many were the rides my wife took on her horse Tiny to our friends in the different villages. At last, however, an order came to our Brigade head-quarters to vacate Fuentes d' Oñoro, as it was required for a part of the head-quarters establishment not far off at Freneda, and we moved to Guinaldo, to our deep regret. The Padre a few days before had taken his departure for his living at Vicalbaro. Two most magnificent mules, and his servant, came for him. We parted with mutual regret, but I am sorry to say he only wrote to us twice afterwards, and once to ask a favour for some individual.
At this time I was sporting mad. The Duke had a capital pack of fox-hounds. James Stewart, my chum, our A.Q.M.G., had an excellent pack of harriers to which I acted as whipper-in. After a very severe run, swimming two rivers, my Andalusian, which produced the doubloons at Alcala, died soon after he got back to his stable. Mr. Commissary Haines, at head-quarters, had a beautiful pack of little beagles. I was too proud to look at them. I had the best greyhounds in the world,–"Moro," and some of his almost equally celebrated sons.
CAMPAIGN OF 1813: BATTLE OF VITTORIA.
AT Guinaldo we soon saw it was requisite to prepare for another campaign, and without any previous warning whatever, we received, about twelve at night, an order to march, which we did at daylight [21 May, 1813], and marched nineteen successive days without one halt.
I commenced this campaign under very unfortunate circumstances as far as my stud was concerned. I had five capital horses, and only two fit for work. Tiny, my wife's noble little horse, had received a violent injury from the pulling down of the bullock-manger (an immensely heavy timber, with mere holes in it for the ox's muzzle), when the extreme end and sharp point fell on his off fore-hoof, and he was so lame he could hardly travel to Vittoria. This was an awful loss to my wife. General Vandeleur now and then mounted me, or I should have been badly off indeed. James Stewart gave me a celebrated English hunter called "Old Chap." He had picked up a nail in his hind foot, and was not fit to ride for months, and an English mare had thrown out a ring-bone. (I must observe that winter quarters to my stud was no holiday.)
The march from Guinaldo to Palencia and thence to Vittoria was exceedingly interesting; the weather delightful; supplies, the mainspring of happiness in a soldier's life, plentiful; and never was any army (although the Duke had so censured us after the retreat from Burgos) inspired with such confidence in their leader, and such dependence on their own prowess. All was cheerfulness, joy, and anticipation. On reaching Toro [2 June], we found the bridge over the Douro destroyed. The river was full and barely fordable for cavalry and baggage animals. The bridge was partially repaired, some boats collected, and by boats our artillery, baggage, and material crossed, some of the infantry in boats, some scrambling over the bridge. The Douro, a magnificent and deep flowing river, was much up for the time of year. The passage was a most animating spectacle; it would have been a difficulty to an inexperienced army. With us, we were ordered to cross, and it was a matter of fun and excitement. No halt of Divisions, the river was crossed, and the day's march completed. My wife's dear Spaniard being lame, she rode a thoroughbred mare, which I gave £140 for, an elegant animal, but it no more had the sagacity of Tiny than a cur has that of a foxhound, and the day before we reached Palencia, upon a greasy bank, the mare slipped up and fell upon my poor wife and broke a small bone in her foot. This was to me an awful accident; heretofore health and happiness facilitated all; now, but for her natural vivacity and devotion, such was the pain, she must have remained at Palencia, and we must have separated. The bare idea aroused all her energy, and she said, "Get me a mule or an ass, and put a Spanish saddle for a lady on it; my feet will rest upon the foot-board, and go I will!" Dozens of officers were in immediate requisition, some trying mules to find a very easy one, others running from shop to shop to get a good easy and well-cushioned saddle. There was no difficulty. The word "stay behind" was the talisman to move pain, and the mule was put in progress next morning with that success determination ever ensures, for "Where there's a will, there's a way."
The whole of the Duke's army passed this day through the narrow main street of rather a pretty city, Palencia [7 June]. From a little after daylight, until past six in the evening, there was a continued stream of men–cavalry, artillery, infantry, and baggage, without a moment's interruption the whole day. To view this torrent of life was a sight which made an indelible impression upon a beholder.
But to my wounded wife. At the end of the march, the Brigade head-quarters went, as usual, into the village near the bivouac. Oh, the ceremony of her dismounting, the quantity of officers' cloaks spread for her reception; the "Take care! Now I'll carry the leg," of the kind-hearted doctor! Talk of Indian attention! Here were a set of fellows ready to lay down their lives even to alleviate momentary pain.
As we approached Burgos, the scene of previous failure, we Light, 3rd, and 4th Divisions expected the reluctant honour of besieging it, and so flushed with hope were we to meet the enemy in an open field and not behind bastions, curtains, embrasures, and defences, we fairly wished Burgos at the devil.
The day we were moving upon it [13 June] (the Duke knew it would not be defended), to our delight, one, two, three, four terrific explosions took place, and well did we know the enemy had blown Burgos to where we wished it. The universal joy was most manifest, for, if we had besieged it, former failure would have excited these crack Divisions to get into it with the determination they had ever previously evinced, but the blowing it up happily got us out of the difficulty to our hearts' content.27
My wife's foot gradually improved, and in a few days she was on her horse again, and en route in the column; for the soldiers, although generally averse to be interfered with by horses on the line of march, were ever delighted to get her to ride with their Company. Seeing her again on her horse was a great relief to my mind, for, in her peculiar and isolated position, the bare surmise of our separation was horrid, and, if I must have left her behind, the fact of a true Catholic allying herself to a heretic would, among bigoted inhabitants, have secured her anything but tender attention.
Our Division at San Millan, near Vittoria [18 June], intercepted the route of one of the French Columns as it was retiring into their position at Vittoria, and had as brilliant a fight entirely of our own as any one throughout the campaign. Some of the 1st Hussars also had a severe brush. Our Division halted the next day [20th], but the army never did, from the day of breaking up its cantonments until they fought the battle of Vittoria. It was a most wonderful march, the army in great fighting order, and every man in better wind than a trained pugilist.
At the Battle of Vittoria [21 June] my Brigade, in the middle of the action, was sent to support the 7th Division, which was very hotly engaged. I was sent forward to report myself to Lord Dalhousie, who commanded. I found his lordship and his Q.M.G., Drake, an old Rifle comrade, in deep conversation. I reported pretty quick, and asked for orders (the head of my Brigade was just getting under fire). I repeated the question, "What orders, my Lord?" Drake became somewhat animated, and I heard His Lordship say, "Better to take the village," which the French held with twelve guns (I had counted by their fire), and seemed to be inclined to keep it. I roared out, "Certainly, my Lord," and off I galloped, both calling to me to come back, but, as none are so deaf as those who won't hear, I told General Vandeleur we were immediately to take the village. There was no time to lose, and the 52nd Regiment deployed into line as if at Shorncliffe, while our Riflemen were sent out in every direction, five or six deep, keeping up a fire nothing could resist. I galloped to the officer commanding a Battalion in the 7th Division (the 82nd, I think). "Lord Dalhousie desires you closely to follow this Brigade of the Light Division." "Who are you, sir?" "Never mind that; disobey my Lord's order at your peril." My Brigade, the 52nd in line and the swarms of Riflemen, rushed at the village, and although the ground was intersected in its front by gardens and ditches, nothing ever checked us until we reached the rear of the village, where we halted to reform–the twelve guns, tumbrils, horses, etc., standing in our possession. There never was a more impetuous onset–nothing could withstand such a burst of determination. Before we were ready to pursue the enemy–for we Light Division ever reformed and got into order before a second attack, thanks to poor General Bob Craufurd's most excellent tuition–up came Lord Dalhousie with his Q.M.G., Drake, to old Vandeleur, exclaiming, "Most brilliantly achieved indeed! Where is the officer you sent to me for orders?" "Here I am, my lord." Old Drake knew well enough. "Upon my word, sir, you receive and carry orders quicker than any officer I ever saw. "You said, 'Take the village.' My lord, there it is," I said, "guns and all." He smiled, and old Drake burst into one of his grins, "Well done, Harry."
We were hotly engaged all the afternoon pursuing the French over very broad ditches. Until we neared Vittoria to our left, there was a plain free from ditches. The confusion of baggage, etc., was indescribable. Our Brigade was moving rapidly on, when such a swarm of French Cavalry rushed out from among the baggage into our skirmishers, opposite a company of the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade, commanded by Lieutenant Tom Cochrane, we thought they must have been swept off. Fortunately for Tom, a little rough ground and a bank enabled him to command his Company to lie down, and such a reception they gave the horsemen, while some of our Company were flying to their support, that the French fled with a severe loss. Our Riflemen were beautiful shots, and as undaunted as bulldogs. We knew so well, too, how to support each other, that scarcely had the French Dragoons shown themselves when Cochrane's rear was supported, and we had such mutual confidence in this support that we never calculated on disaster, but assumed the boldest front and bearing.
A rather curious circumstance occurred to me after the first heights and the key of the enemy's central position was carried. I was standing with Ross's Brigade of guns sharply engaged, when my horse feIl as if stone dead. I jumped off, and began to look for the wound. I could see none, and gave the poor animal a kick on the nose. He immediately shook his head, and as instantly jumped on his legs, and I on his back. The artillerymen all said it was the current of air, or, as they call it, the wind, of one of the enemy's cannon-shot. On the attack on the village previously described, Lieutenant Northey (52nd Regiment) was not knocked off as I was, but he was knocked down by the wind of a shot, and his face as black as if he had been two hours in a pugilistic ring.
The fall of my horse had been observed by some of our soldiers as they were skirmishing forward, and a report soon prevailed that I was killed, which, in the course of the afternoon, was communicated to my poor wife, who followed close to the rear on the very field of battle, crossing the plain covered with treasure. Her old groom, West, proposed to carry off some on a led horse. She said, "Oh, West, never mind money. Let us look for your master." She had followed the 1st Brigade men, the 2nd having been detached, unobserved by her, to aid the 7th Division. After the battle, at dusk, my Brigade was ordered to join the 1st Brigade, with General Alten's head-quarters. I had lost my voice from the exertion of cheering with our men (not cheering them on, for they required no such example), and as I approached the 1st Brigade, to take up the ground for mine, I heard my wife's lamentations. I immediately galloped up to her, and spoke to her as well as I could, considering the loss of my voice. "Oh, then, thank God, you are not killed, only badly wounded." "Thank God," I growled, "I am neither," but, in her ecstasy of joy, this was not believed for a long while.
After putting up my Brigade (we required no picquets, the Cavalry were far in our front in pursuit of the flying enemy) we, that is, my General and Staff, repaired to a barn, where we got in our horses and some forage, and lay down among them. It was dark; we had no lights, and sleep after such a day was as refreshing as eating, even if we had any means. At daybreak our luggage had arrived, and we were busy preparing some breakfast. Hardly did the kettle boil when "Fall in!" was the word. Just as we were jumping on our horses, my young wife, her ears being rather quick, said, "I am sure I hear some one moaning, like a wounded man." We looked round, and I saw there was a loft for hay over our barn. I immediately scrambled up with assistance, for the ladder, like Robinson Crusoe's, had been hauled up. When I reached the landing-place, such a scene met my eye! Upwards of twenty French officers, all more or less severely wounded, one poor fellow in the agony of death, and a lady, whom I recognized as Spanish, grieving over him. At first the poor fellows funked. I soon assured them of every safety and protection, and put my wife and the poor Spanish lady, her countrywoman, in communication. All we could spare, or, rather, all our breakfast, was given to the wounded, for march we must. The General sent his A.D.C. for a guard; we did all we could at the moment, and the poor fellows were grateful indeed. The Spanish lady had a most beautiful little pug dog, a thoroughbred one, with a very extraordinary collar of bells about its neck. She insisted upon my wife's accepting the dog as a token of gratitude for our kindness. The little animal was accepted immediately, and named "Vittoria"; we jumped on our horses, and parted for ever, gratified, however, at having had it in our power to render this slight assistance to the poor fellows wounded and in distress. The dog became afterwards a celebrated animal in the Division, universally known and caressed, and the heroine of many a little anecdote, and hereafter at Waterloo must claim half a page to itself. It was the most sensible little brute Nature ever produced, and it and Tiny became most attached friends.
On this day's march our soldiers could scarcely move–men, in such wind and health as they were–but the fact is they had got some flocks of the enemy's sheep, and fallen in with a lot of flour; they had eaten till they were gorged like vultures, and every man's haversack was laden with flour and raw meat, all of which, except a day or two's supply, the Generals of Brigade were obliged to order to be thrown away. We were soon, however, close on the heels of the enemy, and the first shot revived the power to march. The retreat of the enemy was marked by every excess and atrocity and villages burning in every direction. Oh, my countrymen of England, if you had seen the twentieth part of the horrors of war I have, readily would you pay the war-taxes, and grumble less at the pinching saddle of National Debt! The seat of war is hell upon earth, even when stripped of the atrocities committed in Spain and Portugal, and everywhere else, I believe, except dear old England, by the French Army.
We Light Division had the pleasure, ere we reached Pamplona, to take the enemy's only remaining gun.28
CAMPAIGN OF 1813: ADVANCE TO VERA.
THE night before we reached Pamplona [24 June], the enemy, rather unexpectedly to us, drove in the picquets of my Brigade in a very sharp skirmish, although we were as ever prepared, and the Division got under arms. This convinced us that the whole army, except the garrison at Pamplona, was in full retreat into France. It is a peculiar custom of the French unexpectedly to put back your picquets when they are about to retire; that is, when the ground admits no obstacle of bridge, river, or village, intervening. The object of such forward moves I have never heard satisfactorily given.
On this evening a stout French gentleman came in to our advanced post, saying he wanted to see the Duke. I took him to General Vandeleur. He dined with us, and a most jawing, facetious fellow he was. At first we regarded him as a spy, which he afterwards told General Vandeleur he was, and in the employ of the Duke. He could not proceed that night, for we did not know in the least where head-quarters were, and the night was excessively dark; so the French gentleman, whom I wished at the devil, was given in charge to me. If he had had any inclination to escape I defied him, for I put some of our old vigilant Riflemen around him, so that not a man could get in or out of the room I had put him in. We afterwards heard my friend was a man of great use to the Duke, and one of King Joseph's household.
The next day [25 June] we Light Division passed Pamplona, leaving it by a very intricate road to our right, and were cantoned in the village of Offala. It was necessary to keep a look-out towards Pamplona, and my General, Vandeleur, and I rode to look where to post our picquets. I had a most athletic and active fellow with me as a guide, very talkative, and full of the battle of Vittoria. He asked me what was the name of the General before us. I said, "General Vandeleur." I heard him muttering it over to himself several times. He then ran up to the General, and entered into conversation. The General soon called me to him, for he could not speak a word [of Spanish]. "What's the fellow say?" "He is telling all he heard from the Frenchmen who were billeted in his house in the retreat. He is full of anecdote." He then looked most expressively in Vandeleur's face, and says, "Yes, they say the English fought well, but had it not been for one General Bandelo, the French would have gained the day." "How the devi1 did this fellow know?" says Vandeleur. I never undeceived the General, and he fancies to this day his Brigade's being sent to assist the 7th Division was the cause of the Frenchmen's remark. My guide, just like a "cute" Irishman or American, gave me a knowing wink.
This very fellow turned out to be owner of the house my wife and baggage and I got into–the General's Aide-de-camp, as was often the case, having shown her into one near the General. After I had dressed myself, he came to me and said, "When you dine, I have some capital wine, as much as you and your servants like; but," he says, "come down and look at my cellar." The fellow had been so civil, I did not like to refuse him. We descended by a stone staircase, he carrying a light. He had upon his countenance a most sinister expression. I saw something exceedingly excited him: his look became fiend-like. He and I were alone, but such confidence had we Englishmen in a Spaniard, and with the best reason, that I apprehended no personal evil. Still his appearance was very singular. When we got to the cellar-door, he opened it, and held the light so as to show the cellar; when, in a voice of thunder, and with an expression of demoniacal hatred and antipathy, pointing to the floor, he exclaimed, "There lie four of the devils who thought to subjugate Spain! I am a Navarrese. I was born free from all foreign invasion, and this right hand shall plunge this stiletto in my own heart as it did into theirs, ere I and my countrymen are subjugated!" brandishing his weapon like a demon. I see the excited patriot as I write. Horror-struck as I was, the instinct of self-preservation induced me to admire the deed exceedingly, while my very frame quivered and my blood was frozen, to see the noble science of war and the honour and chivalry of arms reduced to the practices of midnight assassins. Upon the expression of my admiration, he cooled, and while he was deliberately drawing wine for my dinner, which, however strange it may be, I drank with the gusto its flavour merited, I examined the four bodies. They were Dragoons–four athletic, healthy-looking fellows. As we ascended, he had perfectly recovered the equilibrium of his vivacity and naturally good humour. I asked him how he, single-handed, had perpetrated this deed on four armed men (for their swords were by their sides). "Oh, easily enough. I pretended to love a Frenchman" (or, in his words, 'I was an Afrancesado'), "and I proposed, after giving them a good dinner, we should drink to the extermination of the English." He then looked at me and ground his teeth. "The French rascals, they little guessed what I contemplated. Well, we got into the cellar, and drank away until I made them so drunk, they fell, and my purpose was easily, and as joyfully, effected." He again brandished his dagger, and said, "Thus die all enemies to Spain." Their horses were in his stable. When the French Regiment marched off he gave these to some guerrillas in the neighbourhood. It is not difficult to reconcile with truth the assertion of the historian who puts down the loss of the French army, during the Spanish war, as 400,000 men, for more men fell in this midnight manner than by the broad-day sword, or the pestilence of climate, which in Spain, in the autumn, is excessive.
The next day we marched a short distance to a beautiful village, or town, rather,–Villalba, where we halted a day, and expected to remain three or four. It was on a Sunday afternoon, and some of the recollection of the Sunday of our youth was passing across the mind of the lover of his family and his country–the very pew at church, the old peasants in the aisle; the friendly neighbours' happy faces; the father, mother, brothers, sisters; the joys, in short, of home, for, amidst the eventful scenes of such a life, recollection will bring the past in view, and compare the blessings of peace with the horror, oh! the cruel horror, of war! In the midst of this mental soliloquy, my dear wife exclaims, "Mi Enrique, how thoughtful you look!" I dare not tell her that my thoughts reverted to my home. Hers being a desolate waste, the subject was ever prohibited, for her vivacious mind, and her years of juvenile excitement, could never control an excess of grief if the words, "your home," ever escaped my lips.
My reverie was soon aroused by the entrance of a soldier, without ceremony–for every one was ever welcome. "Sir, is the order come?" "For what?" I said. "An extra allowance of wine?" "No," he said, "for an extra allowance of marching. We are to be off directly after these French chaps, as expects to get to France without a kick from the Light Division." I was aware he alluded to General Clausel's division that was retiring by the pass over the Pyrenees, called La Haca. It is most singular, but equally true, that our soldiers knew every move in contemplation long before any officer. While we were in conversation, in came the order; away went all thoughts of home, and a momentary regret on quitting so nice a quarter was banished in the excitement of the march.
In twenty minutes our Division was in full march to try and intercept Clausel's Division. That night we marched most rapidly to Tafalla, next day to Olite, thence brought up our right shoulder towards Sanguessa. This was a night-march of no ordinary character to all, particularly to me and my wife. Her Spanish horse, Tiny, was so far recovered from his lameness that she insisted on riding him. On a night-march we knew the road to be difficult. In crossing the Arragon [30 June], although the bridge was excellent, on this march by some singular accident (it was very dark and raining) an interval occurred in our column–a thing unprecedented, so particular were we, thanks to Craufurd's instructions–and the majority of the Division, in place of crossing the bridge, passed the turn and went on a league out of the direction. My Brigade was leading. Two Battalions came all right, and I stayed more at the head of the column than was my wont, to watch the guides. So dark and intricate was the road we were moving on, I proposed to the General to form up, and see that our troops were all right. After the two first Battalions formed, I waited a short time in expectation of the next, the 2nd Battalion of the Rifle Brigade. I hallooed, seeing no column, when a voice a long way off answered. It was that of the most extraordinary character, the eccentric Colonel Wade. I galloped up, and said, "Colonel, form up your Battalion, so soon as you reach the Brigade." "By Jesus," he said, "we are soon formed; I and my bugler are alone." I, naturally somewhat excited, asked, "Where's the Regiment?" "Upon my soul, and that's what I would like to ask you." I then saw some mistake must have happened. I galloped back in the dark to the bridge, saw no column whatever, but heard voices far beyond the bridge. The column, after passing it in the dark, had discovered the error and were coming back. Meanwhile, my wife heard me hallooing and came towards me. I had dismounted, and was leading my horse a little way off the road up the left bank of the Arragon; the rain was falling in torrents, the bank of the river gave way under me, and a flash of lightning at the moment showed me I was falling into the bed of the river about thirty feet below. I had firmly hold of my bridle–the avalanche frightened my noble horse (the celebrated "Old Chap," the hunter that James Stewart gave me); he flew round and dragged me from inevitable perdition. My wife and old West were close behind at the moment, and she witnessed the whole, equally to her horror and satisfaction. Then such a tale of woe from herself. The uneven ground at night had so lamed her dear little horse, Tiny, that he could not carry her. She got off in the rain and dark, herself still excessively lame from the broken bone in the foot, and literally crawled along, until the rocky road improved, and West again put her upon her faithful Tiny. I could devote neither time nor attention to her. Day was just beginning to break. I directed her to the bivouac, and most energetically sought to collect my Brigade, which, with the daylight, I soon effected. When I got back, I found my wife sitting, holding her umbrella over General Vandeleur (who was suffering dreadfully from rheumatism in the shoulder in which he had been wounded at the storm of Ciudad Rodrigo), recounting to him her night's adventures and laughing heartily. The weather totally precluded any possibility of our molesting Clausel, and we were ordered to march to Sanguessa, which we did the following day, and Charlie Gore, General Kempt's A.D.C., gave a ball [1 July], where there was as much happiness as if we were at Almack's, and some as handsome women, the loves of girls of Sanguessa.
That night's march was the most extraordinary thing which ever occurred to our organized Light Division. We all blamed each other, but the fact is the turn of the road to the bridge was abrupt, the night dark, the road so narrow that staff-officers could not ride up and down the flank of the column; it may be regarded as "an untoward event." From Sanguessa we made rather long marches for the Valle of San Estevan, through a most beautiful country covered in a great measure with immense chestnut trees. After we had halted a day or two [7-14 July] in this valley, of which the beauty is not to be conceived, we marched on towards Vera by a road along the banks of the river Bidassoa. At Vera, the enemy had fortified a large house very strongly, and their picquets were upon its line. On our advance, we put back the enemy's picquets, but not without a sharp skirmish, and we held the house that afternoon.
In front of the mountain of Santa Barbara was a very steep hill, which the enemy held in force, but a dense fog of the mountains prevented us seeing each other. Colonel Barnard, with the 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade, was sent to dislodge them [15 July]. They proved to be three or four times his numbers. His attack, however, was supported, and as he himself describes it, "I hallooed the fellows off in the fog." We had a good many men and officers, however, severely wounded. The next day, or in the night, the enemy abandoned the fortified house of the large village of Vera in their front, retired behind the village, and firmly established themselves on the heights, while we occupied Vera with some sick officers, our picquets being posted beyond. The enemy's vedettes and ours for many days were within talking distance, yet we never had an alert by night or by day.
CAMPAIGN OF 1813: IN THE PYRENEES–GENERAL SKERRETT–COMBAT OF VERA–FIGHT AT THE BRIDGE, AND DEATH OF CADOUX.
JUST before we reached Vera, my dear friend and General, Vandeleur, was moved to a Cavalry Brigade, and General Skerrett, a very different man, was sent to us, with a capital fellow for an A.D.C.–Captain Fane, or, as usually designated, "Ugly Tom." I, who had been accustomed to go in and out of my previous Generals' tents and quarters as my own, and either breakfast or dine as I liked, was perfectly thunderstruck when it was intimated to me I was to go only when asked; so Tom the A.D.C. and we lived together, to the great amusement of my wife, who was always playing Tom some trick or other.
During our halt in this position, the siege of San Sebastian was going on. Soult, an able officer, who had been appointed to the command of the beaten French force, soon reorganized it, and instilled its old pride of victory, and inspired all again with the ardour and vivacity of French soldiers. The siege of San Sebastian was vigorously prosecuted. Pamplona was closely invested, and, from want of provisions, must inevitably ere long surrender. Soult, therefore, had a brilliant opportunity either to raise the siege of San Sebastian, or to throw supplies in to Pamplona, or to do both, if great success attended his operations. This opportunity he ably availed himself of, by making a rapid movement to our right to the Pass of Roncesvalles of knightly fame, and obliging the Duke of Wellington to concentrate a great part of his army to protect Pamplona, or, rather, to ensure its strict blockade, while the siege of San Sebastian was for the time suspended, awaiting supplies which were on their passage from England. My Division, the Light, was kept between the two, as were Lord Dacre's "horsemen light," to "succour those that need it most," 29 and we had some very harassing marches, when it was discovered Soult had penetrated the Pyrenees and was resolved on a general action. This he fought on the 27th and 28th July, with the Frenchman's usual success, a good thrashing.30
The Light Division made a terrible night march on this occasion, one of the most fatiguing to the soldiers that I ever witnessed. On the Pyrenees, as on other mountains, the darkness is indescribable. We were on a narrow mountain path, frequent1y with room only for one or two men, when a soldier of the Rifle Brigade rolled down a hill as nearly perpendicular as may be. We heard him bumping along, pack, rifle, weight of ammunition, etc., when from the bottom he sang out, "Halloa there! Tell the Captain there's not a bit of me alive at all; but the devil a bone have I broken; and faith I'm thinking no soldier ever came to his ground at such a rate before. Have a care, boys, you don't follow. The breach at Badajos was nothing to the bottomless pit I'm now in."
After the battles of the Pyrenees, our Division was pushed forward with great rapidity to intercept the retreat of one of the corps d' armée, and General Kempt's–the 1st–Brigade had some very heavy fighting [at Jansi, 1 Aug.]; while at [Echallar], poor General Barnes, now no more, in command of a Brigade of the 7th Division, made one of the boldest and most successful attacks on five times his number, but one in which bravery and success far exceeded judgment or utility.
We moved on again, and on one of our marches came to some very nice cottages, one of which fell to the lot of myself and Tom Fane, the A.D.C. The poor peasant was a kind-hearted farmer of the mountains, his fields highly cultivated, his farmyard supplied with poultry; every domestic comfort his situation in life demanded was his–poor fellow, he merited all. He killed some ducks for our supper, his garden supplied beautiful peas, and we had a supper royalty would have envied with our appetites. My wife had spread her cloak on the floor–she was perfectly exhausted–and was fast asleep. I awoke her, she ate a capital supper, but the next morning upbraided me and Tom Fane for not having given her anything to eat; and to this day she is unconscious of sitting at our supper-table. Judge by this anecdote what real fatigue is. The next morning we could hardly induce our host to receive payment for his eggs, his poultry, his bread, bacon, peas, milk, etc., and he would insist on giving my wife a beautiful goat in full milk, which was added to the boy Antonio's herd.31 We marched with mutual feelings of newly-acquired but real friendship. Three days afterwards, we returned to the very same ground, and we again occupied our previous dear little mountain retreat, but the accursed hand of war had stamped devastation upon it. The beautiful fields of Indian corn were all reaped as forage, the poultry yard was void, the produce of our peasant's garden exhausted, his flour all consumed–in a word, he had nothing left of all his previous plenty but a few milch goats, and that night he, poor thing, supped with us from the resources of our rations and biscuit. He said the French had swept off everything the English did not require. The latter paid for everything, and gave him bons or receipts for the Indian corn reaped as forage, which he knew some day our commissary would take up and pay. I never pitied man more, and in the midst of his affliction it was beautiful to observe a pious resignation and a love for his country, when he exclaimed, "Gracias a Dios, you have driven back the villainous French to their own country."
"O fortunatos nimium, sua si bona norint,
Agricolas ... procul discordibus armis."
We returned to our line on this side of Vera, and the siege of San Sebastian was again vigorously resumed. We Light Division, with the 3rd and 4th, were out of that glory, which we did not regret, although the Duke never took the town until he sent to these three Divisions for volunteers for the storming party [31 Aug.]. Then we soon took it; but in candour I should state that the breaches were rendered more practicable than when first stormed, the defences destroyed, and the enemy's means of defence diminished. It was, however, still a tough piece of work, in which we lost some valuable officers and soldiers. The enemy made a forward movement [the same day, 31 Aug.] for the purpose of reinforcing the garrison, and in the morning put back our picquets, and we anticipated a general action. However, the whole of the enemy moved to the Lower Bidassoa, and crossed in force. The day was very rainy, and the river was so full the French were compelled to retreat rapidly; in fact, so sudden was the rise of the river, many were obliged to retire by the bridge in our possession, as described by Napier.
I have only, therefore, to relate an incident which occurred between me and my new General–who, I soon discovered, was by nature a gallant Grenadier, and no Light Troop officer, which requires the eye of a hawk and the power of anticipating the enemy's intention–who was always to be found off his horse, standing in the most exposed spot under the enemy's fire while our Riflemen were well concealed, as stupidly composed for himself as inactive for the welfare of his command. 32 When the enemy put back our picquets in the morning, it was evidently their intention to possess themselves of the bridge, which was curiously placed as regarded our line of picquets. Thus–
We did not occupy Vera, but withdrew on our own side of it, and I saw the enemy preparing to carry the houses near the bridge in the occupation of the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade. I said, "General Skerrett, unless we send down the 52nd Regiment in support, the enemy will drive back the Riflemen. They cannot hold those houses against the numbers prepared to attack. Our men will fight like devils expecting to be supported, and their loss, when driven out, will be very severe." He laughed (we were standing under a heavy fire exposed) and said, "Oh, is that your opinion?" I said–most impertinently, I admit,–"And it will be yours in five minutes," for I was by no means prepared to see the faith in support, which so many fights had established, destroyed, and our gallant fellows knocked over by a stupidity heretofore not exemplified. We had scarcely time to discuss the matter when down came a thundering French column with swarms of sharpshooters, and, as I predicted, drove our people out of the houses with one fell swoop, while my General would move nothing on their flank or rear to aid them. We lost men and some officers, and the enemy possessed the houses, and consequently, for the moment, possessed the passage of the bridge. From its situation, however, it was impossible they could maintain it, unless they put us farther back by a renewed attack on our elevated position. So I said, "You see now what you have permitted, general and we must retake these houses, which we ought never to have lost." He quietly said, "I believe you are right." I could stand this no longer, and I galloped up to Colonel Colborne, in command of that beautiful 52nd Regiment, now Lord Seaton, who was as angry as he soon saw I was. "Oh, sir, it is melancholy to see this. General Skerrett will do nothing; we must retake those houses. I told him what would happen." "I am glad of it, for I was angry with you." In two seconds we retook the houses, for the enemy, seeing our determination to hold them, was aware the nature of the ground would not enable him to do so unless he occupied the position we intended to defend, and his effort was as much as not to see whether we were in earnest, or whether, when attacked in force, we should retire. The houses were retaken, as I said, and the firing ceased the whole afternoon.
The evening came on very wet. We knew that the enemy had crossed the Bidassoa [31 Aug.], and that his retreat would be impossible from the swollen state of the river. We knew pretty well the Duke would shove him into the river if he could; this very bridge, therefore, was of the utmost importance, and no exertion should have been spared on our part so to occupy it after dark as to prevent the passage being seized. The rain was falling in torrents. I proposed that the whole of the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade should be posted in the houses, the bridge should be barricaded, and the 52nd Regiment should be close at hand in support. Skerrett positively laughed outright, ordered the whole Battalion into our position, but said, "You may leave a picquet of one officer and thirty men at the bridge." He was in the house on the heights he had previously occupied. I had a little memorandum-book in my pocket; I took it out for the first time in my life to note my General's orders. I read what he said, asking if that was his order. He said, "Yes, I have already told you so." I said most wickedly, "We shall repent this before daylight." He was callous to anything. I galloped down to the houses, ordered the Battalion to retire, and told my brother Tom, the Adjutant, to call to me a picquet of an officer and thirty men for the bridge. Every officer and soldier thought I was mad. Tom said, "Cadoux's company is for picquet." Up rode poor Cadoux, a noble soldier, who could scarcely believe what I said, but began to abuse me not supporting them in the morning. I said, "Scold away, all true; but no fault of mine. But come, no time for jaw, the picquet!" Cadoux, noble fellow, says, "My company is so reduced this morning, I will stay with it if I may. There are about fifty men." I gladly consented, for I had great faith in Cadoux's ability and watchfulness, and I told him he might rest assured he would be attacked an hour or two before daylight. He said, "Most certainly I shall, and I will now strengthen myself, and block up the bridge as well as I can, and I will, if possible, hold the bridge until supported; so, when the attack commences, instantly send the whole Battalion to me, and, please God, I will keep the bridge." It was then dark, and I rode as fast as I could to tell Colborne, in whom we had all complete faith and confidence. He was astonished, and read my memorandum. We agreed that, so soon as the attack commenced, his Battalion should move down the heights on the flank of the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade, which would rush to support Cadoux, and thus we parted, I as sulky as my hot nature would admit, knowing some disaster would befall my dear old Brigade heretofore so judiciously handled.
In the course of the night, as we were lying before the fire, I far from asleep, General Skerrett received a communication from General Alten to the purport "that the enemy were retiring over the swollen river; it was, therefore, to be apprehended he would before daylight endeavour to possess himself of the bridge; that every precaution must be taken to prevent him." I, now being reinforced in opinion, said, "Now, General, let me do so." As he was still as obstinate as ever, we were discussing the matter (I fear as far as I am concerned, very hotly) when the "En avant, en avant! L'Empereur récompensera le premier qu'avancera," was screeched into our very ears, and Cadoux's fire was hot as ever fifty men's was on earth. "Now," says I, "General, who is right?" I knew what the troops would do. My only hope was that Cadoux could keep the bridge as he anticipated. The fire of the enemy was very severe, and the rushes of his columns most determined; still Cadoux's fire was from his post. Three successive times, with half his gallant band, did he charge and drive back the enemy over the bridge, the other half remaining in the houses as support. His hope and confidence in support and the importance of his position sustained him until a melancholy shot pierced his head, and he fell lifeless from his horse.33 A more gallant soul never left its mortal abode. His company at this critical moment were driven back; the French column and rear-guard crossed, and, by keeping near the bed of the river, succeeded in escaping, although the Riflemen were in support of poor Cadoux with as much rapidity as distance allowed, and daylight saw Colborne where he said he would be.
I was soon at the bridge. Such a scene of mortal strife from the fire of fifty men was never witnessed. The bridge was almost choked with the dead; the enemy's loss was enormous, and many of his men were drowned, and all his guns were left in the river a mile or two below the bridge. The number of dead was so great, the bodies were thrown into the rapid stream in the hope that the current would carry them, but many rocks impeded them, and when the river subsided, we had great cause to lament our precipitancy in hurling the bodies, for the stench soon after was awful. The Duke was awfully annoyed, as well he might be, but, as was his rule, never said anything when disaster could not be amended. I have never told my tale till now. Skerrett was a bilious fellow (a gallant Grenadier, I must readily avow), and I hope his annoyance so affected his liver it precipitated a step he had desired–as his father was just dead, and he was heir to an immense property–to retire home on sick-leave. You may rely on it, I threw no impediment in his way, for when he was gone, Colonel Colborne was my Brigadier, whom we all regarded inferior to no one but the Duke. Many is the conversation he and I have had over the lamentable affair which killed poor Cadoux. I really believe, had he survived, he would have held the bridge, although the enemy attacked it in desperation, and although each time the column was driven back, a few men in the dark succeeded in crossing, and these fellows, all practised soldiers, posted themselves under cover on the banks of the river below the bridge, and caused the loss our people sustained, that of noble Cadoux among the rest, with impunity. Cadoux's manner was effeminate, and, as a boy, I used to quiz him.34 He and I were, therefore, although not enemies, not friends, until the battle of Vittoria, when I saw him most conspicuous. He was ahead of me on his gallant war horse, which he took at Barossa with holsters full of doubloons, as the story went. I was badly mounted that day, and my horse would not cross a brook which his was scrambling over. I leaped from my saddle over my horse's head (I was very active in those days), seized his horse by the tail, and I believe few, if any, were as soon in the middle of the Frenchmen's twelve guns as we were in support of the 7th Division. From that day we were comrades in every sense of the term, and I wept over his gallant remains with a bursting heart, as, with his Company who adored him, I consigned to the grave the last external appearance of Daniel Cadoux. His fame can never die.
The enemy retired into their previous position, as did we, and San Sebastian was ours. We were in this line for some time, daily watching the enemy making works with extraordinary vigour and diligence, which we knew ere long we should have the glory (the pleasure, to most of us) to run our heads against, for such was the ardour and confidence of our army at this moment, that, if Lord Wellington had told us to attempt to carry the moon, we should have done it.
During the occupation of our present position, I found the Basque inhabitants on the Spanish side, and those on the French side of the Pyrenees, carried on a sort of contraband trade, and that brandy and claret were to be had. One day, therefore, upon General Skerrett's complaining to me he could get no wine or sheep, I told him I could get him both. My smugglers were immediately in requisition. They got me eight sheep and one dozen of claret. I was disappointed at the small supply–accustomed to hospitable old Vandeleur's consumption–and I told my new General. He said he was exceedingly obliged to me; he should be glad of one sheep and two bottles of wine. It did not make a bad story through the Brigade. I and the A.D.C., Tom Fane, however, managed to consume all.
One day (the man may now be conceived) Skerrett gave a great dinner, and the liberal Barnard and Colborne, commanding Regiments in the Division) were asked to dine. Tom Fane and I were amused, for we knew he had but little to give them to eat and less to drink, and where were the materials to come from? And Barnard loved a good dinner, with at least two bottles of good wine. To my astonishment, when I waited on him, as I usually did every morning, for orders, he was dressed. I said, "Where are you going, General?" (To me he was ever a most affable, and rather an amusing, fellow.) He said, "To head-quarters at Lesaca." So Tom and I supposed he would come back laden with supplies. (At head-quarters there was an excellent sutler, but the prices were, of course, beyond any moderate means.) So Tom, A.D.C., was on the look-out for his return. He soon arrived with a bottle of sherry in each pocket of his military blue coat, viz. two, and says, "Fane, tell Smith, as my wine stock is not large, to be cautious of it." Tom did tell me, and, when we met in the dining-room, the joke was too good not to tell such noble and liberal fellows as Barnard and Colborne. Down we sat to, oh! such a dinner; our soldiers in camp lived far better. So Barnard says, "Being so near the French, we shall have plenty of cooks in camp soon; come, Smith, a glass of wine," and I think we drank the pocket two bottles in about as many minutes; when Barnard as funny a fellow and as noble a soldier as ever lived, says, "Now General, some more of this wine. We camp fellows do not get such a treat every day." Barnard had a French cook, taken at the battle of Salamanca, and lived like a gentleman. "Barnard," Skerrett says, looking like a fiend at me, "that is the last, I very much regret to say, of an old stock" (Barnard winked at me); "what I must now give you, I fear, won't be so good." It was produced; it was trash of some sort, but not wine. "No," says Barnard, "that won't do, but let us have some brandy." We got some execrable coffee, and here ended the only feast he ever gave while in command of my Brigade. Poor Skerrett, he soon inherited £7000 a year, not long to enjoy it. He was killed in the most brilliant, and at the same time the most unfortunate, affair that ever decorated and tarnished British laurels, at Bergen Op Zoom.
CAMPAIGN OF 1813: COLONEL COLBORNE–SECOND COMBAT OF VERA.
IN our Division, generally speaking, the officers of each Company had a little mess of their own, an arrangement indispensable, so much detached were we on picquets, etc. Some of us lived most comfortably, and great interchange of hospitality existed. We all had goats, and every mess had a boy, who was in charge of them on the march and in quarters, and milked them. On the march the flock of each regiment and Brigade assembled and moved with their goat-herds, when each drove his master's goats to his quarters. We observed extraordinary regularity with these goats, and upon inquiry we found out the little fellows organized themselves into regular guards. They had a captain, quite a little fellow of dear old Billy Mein's (52nd Regiment); their time of duty was as regular as our soldiers': they had sentries with long white sticks in their hands, and Mein's little boy held a sort of court-martial, and would lick a boy awfully who neglected his charge. My little boy's name was Antonio, and when he was for guard, I have seen him turn out unusually smart, with his face and hands washed. This little republic was very extraordinary, and quite true to the letter as I have drawn it. Mein's little captain told it all to my wife, who took great interest in them after she was acquainted with their organization, and the captain often consulted her. When our army was broken up after Toulouse, and all the Portuguese Corps of course marched back into Portugal, and the followers with them, we all of us gave our goats to the poor little boys to whom we had been so much indebted. My little fellow had a flock of fifteen. Many are probably great goat-proprietors now from this basis for future fortune.
Our Brigade was now commanded by Colonel Colborne, in whom we all had the most implicit confidence. I looked up to him as a man whose regard I hoped to deserve, and by whose knowledge and experience I desired to profit. He had more knowledge of ground, better understood the posting of picquets, consequently required fewer men on duty (he always strengthened every post by throwing obstacles–trees, stones, carts, etc.–on the road, to prevent a rush at night), knew better what the enemy were going to do, and more quickly anticipated his design than any officer; with that coolness and animation, under fire, no matter how hot, which marks a good huntsman when he finds his fox in his best country.
The French were now erecting works, upon a position by nature strong as one could well devise, for the purpose of defending the Pass of Vera, and every day Colonel Colborne and I took rides to look at them, with a pleasant reflexion that the stronger the works were, the greater the difficulty we should have in turning them out–an achievement we well knew in store for us. On Oct. 7, the Duke resolved to cross the Bidassoa, and push the enerny at once into his own country, San Sebastian having been taken. Now had arrived the time we long had anticipated of a regular tussle with our fortified friends on the heights of Vera. The Duke's dispatch, Oct 9, 1813, No. 837, tells the military glory of the exploit. My object is the record of anecdotes of myself and my friends. On the afternoon of the 7th, about two o'clock, we were formed for the attack, and so soon as the head of the 4th Division under that noble fellow, Sir Lowry Cole, appeared in sight, we received the command to move forward. We attacked on three different points. Advancing to the attack, Colborne, who had taken a liking to me as an active fellow, says, "Now, Smith, you see the heights above us?" "Well," I said, "I wish we were there." He laughed. "When we are," he says, "and you are not knocked over, you shall be a Brevet-Major, if my recommendation has any weight at head-quarters." Backed by the performance of our Brigade, next day off he posted to Lord Fitzroy Somerset, and came back as happy as a soldier ever is who serves his comrade. "Well, Major Smith, give me your hand." I did, and my heart too (although not as a blushing bride). Kind-hearted Colonel Barnard heard of this, went to Lord Fitzroy Somerset, asking for the Brevet for one of his Captains, remarking that I should be made a Major over the heads of twenty in my own Regiment. This startling fact obliged Lord Fitzroy to lay the matter before the Duke, who, I am told, said, "A pity, by G—! Colborne and the Brigade are so anxious about it, and he deserves anything. If Smith will go and serve as Brigade-Major to another Brigade, I will give him the rank after the next battle." Colborne's mortification was so great that I banished mine altogether by way of alleviating his disappointment. There was such a demonstration of justice on the part of his Grace, and so did I love the fellows whose heads I should have jumped over, that, honestly and truly, I soon forgot the affair. Colborne said, "Go and serve with another Brigade." "No," says I, "dear Colonel, not to be made of your rank. Here I will fight on happily, daily acquiring knowledge from your ability."
The 1st Caçadores, under poor Colonel Algeo, moved so as to threaten the enemy's left, and intercept or harass the retreat of the troops in the redoubt (which the noble 52nd were destined to carry at the point of the bayonet without one check), and the 2nd Battalion of the 95th and the 3rd Caçadores moved to the enemy's right of this redoubt for a similar purpose. This Battalion was fiercely opposed, but so soon as it succeeded in putting back the enemy, Colonel Colborne, at the head of the 52nd, with an eye like a hawk's, saw the moment had arrived, and he gave the word "Forward." One rush put us in possession of the redoubt, and the Caçadores and 2nd Battalion 95th caused the enemy great loss in his retreat to the top of the pass where his great defence was made. The redoubt just carried was placed on the ridge of the ravine, and must be carried ere any advance could be made on the actual [position].
In this attack poor Algeo was killed. He rode a chestnut horse marked precisely as my celebrated hunter and war-horse, "Old Chap," which I rode on that day. My wife was looking on the fight from the very cottage window we had occupied so long, barely without the range of musketry, and saw this horse gallop to the rear, dragging for some distance the body by the stirrup. The impulse of the moment caused her with one shriek to rush towards it, and so did anxiety and fright add to her speed that my servant for some time could not overtake her. The horse came on, when she soon recognized it was poor Algeo's charger, not mine, and fell senseless from emotion, but soon recovered, to express her gratitude to Almighty God.
After this attack–and there never was a more brilliant one–the 4th Division was well pushed up the hill, and, so soon as our Brigade was reformed, we prepared for the great struggle on the top of the Pass of Vera. Colborne sent me to Sir Lowry to tell him what he was about to attempt, and to express his hope of a support to what he had just so vigorously commenced. General Cole was all animation, and said, "Rely on my support, and you will need it, for you have a tough struggle before you." On my return, we again advanced with a swarm of Riflemen in skirmishing order keeping up a murderous fire. Firing up a hill is far more destructive than firing down, as the balls in the latter case fly over. The 52nd Regiment, well in hand, with their bayonets sharp and glistening in the sun (for the afternoon was beautiful), were advanced under a most heavy fire, but, from the cause mentioned, it was not near so destructive as we expected. Still more to our astonishment, the enemy did not defend their well-constructed work as determinedly as we anticipated. Although they stood behind their parapets until we were in the act of leaping on them, they then gave way, and we were almost mixed together, till they precipitated themselves into a ravine, and fled down almost out of sight as if by magic.
On the opposite side of this ravine, a few of the Riflemen of General Kempt's Brigade were pushing forward with a noble fellow, Reid, of the Engineers, at their head. At the moment he did not know how full of the enemy the ravine was. Colonel Colborne and I were on horseback. We pushed on, a little madly, I admit, followed by those who could run fastest, until the ravine expanded and a whole column of French were visible, but we and Reid on the opposite side were rather ahead, while the enemy could not see from out the ravine. The few men who were there could not have resisted them, and certainly could not have cut them off; had they been aware. Colonel Colborne, however, galloped up to the officer at the head of the column with the bearing of a man supported by 10,000, and said to the officer in French, "You are cut off. Lay down your arms." The officer, a fine soldier-like looking fellow, as cool as possible, says, presenting his sword to Colonel Colborne, "There, Monsieur, is a sword which has ever done its duty," and then ordered his men to lay down their arms. Colborne, with the presence of mind which stamps the character of a soldier, said, "Face your men to the left, and move out of the ravine." By this means the French Soldiers were separated from their arms. At this moment there were up with Colborne myself; Winterbottom, Adjutant of the 52nd Regiment, my brother Tom, Adjutant of the 95th, and probably ten soldiers, and about as many with Reid on the opposite ridge. Reid wisely did not halt, but pushed forward, which added to the Frenchman's impression of our numbers, and Colborne turns to me, "Quick, Smith; what do you here? Get a few men together, or we are yet in a scrape." The French having moved from their arms, Colborne desired the officer commanding to order them to sit down. Our men were rapidly coming up and forming, and, when our strength permitted, we ordered the enemy to march out of the ravine, and there were 22 officers and 400 men. Three pieces of cannon we had previously carried (vide the Duke's dispatch, Oct. 9, 1813, No. 837). Colonel Colborne, myself, and others were called madmen for our audacity. I never witnessed such presence of mind as Colborne evinced on this occasion, and when, like a man as he is, he returned the poor Frenchman's sword, "There," he says, "wear the sword, your pride; it is not yet disgraced." The fortune of war gave us the advantage over equal bravery. 35
By this time our men had got well out of the Pyrenees into the plain of France below, and as night was rapidly approaching, I was sent on to halt them, ready for Colonel Colborne to take up his position. The prisoners were sent to the rear (what became of their arms I never knew) under charge of a Lieutenant Cargill, of the 52nd Regiment, a manly, rough young subaltern, who on his march, just at dusk, met the Duke, who says, "Halloa, sir, where did you get those fellows?" "In France. Colonel Colborne's Brigade took them." "How the devil do you know it was France?" "Because I saw a lot of our fellows coming into the column just before I left with pigs and poultry, which we had not on the Spanish side." The Duke turned hastily away without saying a word. The next morning Mr. Cargill reported this to Colonel Colborne, whom I hardly ever saw so angry. "Why, Mr. Cargill, you were not such a blockhead as to tell the Duke that, were you?" In very broad Scotch, "What for no? It was fact as death." It did not escape the Duke, who spoke to Colborne, saying, "Though your Brigade have even more than usually distinguished themselves, we must respect the property of the country." "I am fully aware of it, my lord, and can rely upon the discipline of my soldiers, but your lordship well knows in the very heat of action a little irregularity will occur." "Ah, ah!" says my lord, "stop it in future, Colborne." Nor had his Grace cause to complain of us.
This night we slept on our arms, and cold and miserable we were, for no baggage had been permitted to come to us. The next day we occupied the heights of Vera, our outposts remaining pushed forward, and head-quarters and our general hospital were established at Vera. My wife joined me very early, and I never before had seen her under such excitement, the effect of the previous day, when, as she conceived at the moment, she had seen me killed. She did not recover her usual vivacity for several days, and the report of a musket acted on her like an electric shock. We remained in this position several days.
One day I dressed myself in all my best to do a little dandy at head-quarters, to see some of my wounded comrades and officers, and to look into our hospitals. In galloping through the country, I heard a very melancholy and faint call, repeated once or twice without attracting my attention. When I turned towards it, it was repeated. I rode up and among several dead bodies of the enemy, I found the poor fellow who had called to me greatly exhausted. Four days had elapsed since the action, and he had both legs shot off high up. I dismounted and felt his pulse, which was still far from faint. Of course he prayed me to send succour. I promised to do so, and I proceeded to tie some of the bushes of the underwood to mark the spot, and continued to do so until I reached a mountain track leading to Vera. I now even hear the hideous moans he uttered when I turned from him, although I earnestly assured him of help. Away I galloped to the hospital, not to visit my own poor fellows, but to get a fatigue party and a stretcher, and off I set for my poor wounded enemy, whom, from the precautions taken, I easily found. Poor thing, from the belief that I had abandoned him, he was nearly exhausted. We got him on the stretcher, the party set off to the hospital, and I to my bivouac, for it was late and I was well aware the poor thing would be treated just as one of our own soldiers. I had literally forgotten the circumstance, when one day after we had advanced considerably into France, a month or five weeks after the man was picked up, a large convoy of disabled men, as an act of humanity, were sent to their own country from the rear. My Brigade was of course on the outpost, and it became my duty to go to the enemy's advanced post close to, with a letter and flag of truce. I was received as usual with great civility, and the convoy passed on. While I was talking to the French officers, a poor fellow on one of the stretchers called to me and the officer, and began a volley of thanks, which, if it had been of musquetry, would have been difficult to resist. I said, "I know nothing about you, poor fellow; that will do." "I know you; I owe my life to you; you fetched the party who carried me to hospital. Both stumps were amputated; I am now doing perfectly well, and I was treated like one of your own soldiers." I never saw gratitude so forcibly expressed in my life.
CAMPAIGN OF 1813: BATTLE OF THE NIVELLE.
OUR Division was soon after pushed forward to our right on a ridge somewhat in advance, and fully looking upon the enemy's position. His right extended from St. Jean de Luz, his left was on the Nivelle, his centre on La Petite Rhune 36 and the heights beyond that village. Our Division was in the very centre opposite La Petite Rhune.
One morning Colonel Colborne and I were at the advance vedette at daylight, and saw a French picquet of an officer and fifty men come down to occupy a piece of rising ground between our respective advanced posts, as to which the night before I and a French staff-officer had agreed that neither should put a picquet on it. (Such arrangements were very commonly made.) Colonel Colborne said, "Gallop up to the officer, wave him back, or tell him he shall not put a picquet there." Having waved to no purpose, I then rode towards him and called to him. He still moved on, so I galloped back. Colborne fell in our picquet, ordered up a reserve, and fired five or six shots over the heads of the Frenchmen. They then went back immediately, and the hill became, as previously agreed, neutral ground. I give this anecdote to show how gentleman-like enemies of disciplined armies can be; there was no such courtesy between French and Spaniards.
A few days previously to Nov. 10, the Battle of the Nivelle, the Division took ground on the ridge of hills in our occupation, and the extreme right of the Division became the left. Gilmour, commanding the 1st Battalion of the Rifles, then in the 1st Brigade, had built a very nice little mud hut about ten feet square with a chimney, fireplace, and a door made of wattle and a bullock's hide. When my wife rode up, Gilmour had just turned out. The night was bitterly cold; it was November in the Pyrenees. Gilmour says, "Jump off and come into your own castle, which I in perpetuity bequeath to you." When I returned from my Brigade and new line of picquets, etc., I found my wife as warm and as snug as possible–dinner prepared for me and Tom Fane, our horses all bivouacked, our cold tent pitched, and our servants established in it; all was comfort, happiness, and joy, every want supplied, every care banished. At night we retired to our nuptial couch, a hard mattress on the floor, when a sudden storm of rain came on. In ten seconds it came down through the roof of our black-earth sods, and, literally in a moment, we were drenched to the skin and as black as chimney-sweepers. The buoyant spirits of my wife, and the ridiculous position we were in, made her laugh herself warm. We turned the servants out of our tent, and never enjoyed the late comforts of our castle again.
The enemy, not considering this ground strong enough, turned to it with a vigour I have rarely witnessed, to fortify it by every means art could devise. Every day, before the position was attacked, Colonel Colborne and I went to look at their progress; the Duke himself would come to our outpost, and continue walking there a long time. One day he stayed unusually long. He turns to Colborne, "These fellows think themselves invulnerable, but I will beat them out, and with great ease." "That we shall beat them," says Colborne, "when your lordship attacks, I have no doubt, but for the ease–" "Ah, Colborne, with your local knowledge only, you are perfectly right; it appears difficult, but the enemy have not men to man the works and lines they occupy. They dare not concentrate a sufficient body to resist the attacks I shall make upon them. I can pour a greater force on certain points than they can concentrate to resist me." "Now I see it, my lord," says Colborne. The Duke was lying down, and began a very earnest conversation. General Alten, Kempt, Colborne, I, and other staff-officers were preparing to leave the Duke, when he says, "Oh, lie still." After he had conversed for some time with Sir G. Murray, Murray took out of his sabretache his writing-materials, and began to write the plan of attack for the whole army. When it was finished, so clearly had he understood the Duke, I do not think he erased one word. He says, "My lord, is this your desire?" It was one of the most interesting scenes I have ever witnessed. As Murray read, the Duke's eye was directed with his telescope to the spot in question. He never asked Sir G. Murray one question, but the muscles of his face evinced lines of the deepest thought. When Sir G. Murray had finished, the Duke smiled and said, "Ah, Murray, this will put us in possession of the fellows' lines. Shall we be ready to-morrow?" "I fear not, my lord, but next day." "Now, Alten," says the Duke, "if, during the night previous to the attack, the Light Division could be formed on this very ground, so as to rush at La Petite Rhune just as day dawned, it would be of vast importance and save great loss, and by thus precipitating yourselves on the right of the works of La Petite Rhune, you would certainly carry them." This Petite Rhune was well occupied both by men and works, and a tough affair was in prospect. General Alten says, "I 'dink' I can, my lord." Kempt says, "My Brigade has a road. There can be no difficulty, my lord." Colborne says, "For me there is no road, but Smith and I both know every bush and every stone. We have studied what we have daily expected, and in the darkest night we can lead the Brigade to this very spot." I was proud enough at thus being associated, but no credit was due to me. "Depend on me, my lord," says Colborne. "Well then, Alten, when you receive your orders as to the attack, let it be so."
Just before starting on this night's march, [9 Nov.], having had many military arrangements to make before I got on my horse, I had got a short distance when I remarked that, although I knew a proper tough fight was in hand, I had forgotten to bid my "goodbye" to my wife, which habit (on my part, at least) had rendered about as formal as if going to London out of the country. Her feelings were acute enough on such occasions, so I went into my hut, and avowed my neglect. She looked very sad, and I said, "Hallo, what's the matter?" "You or your horse will be killed to-morrow." I laughed and said, "Well, of two such chances, I hope it may be the horse." We parted, but she was very sad indeed.
As we started for our position before the great, the important day [Battle of Nivelle, 10 Nov.], the night was very dark. We had no road, and positively nothing to guide us but knowing the bushes and stones over a mountain ridge. Colborne stayed near the Brigade, and sent me on from spot to spot which we both knew, when he would come up to me and satisfy himself that I was right. I then went on again. In this manner we crept up with our Brigade to our advanced picquet within a hundred and fifty yards of the enemy. We afterwards found Kempt's Brigade close to our right, equally successfully posted. When Colborne and I rode up to our most advanced picquet, of course by the rear, we found, to the deIight of us both, the Sergeant, Crowther, and his men, all sitting round a fire, as alert as if on sentry themselves, with their rifles between their legs, the sentry a few paces in their front. We had crept up by ourselves. Without any agitation, they stood up very quietly to reconnoitre us, when Colborne spoke, and commended their vigilance. [I and] Tom Fane, Skerrett's A.D.C., who nobly stayed with me rather than go to the rear, lay down for about two hours, when I could sleep, but Tom told me he could not. He had had a small flask of brandy, but, what with the cold and the necessity of keeping it out, the brandy was exhausted. About an hour before daylight, by some accident, a soldier's musket went off. It was a most anxious moment, for we thought the enemy had discovered us, and, if they had not, such shots might be repeated, and they would; but most fortunately all was still. I never saw Colborne so excited as he was for the moment. The anxious moment of appearing day arrived. We fell in, and our attack was made on the enemy's position in seven columns, nor did we ever meet a check, but carried the enemy's works, the tents all standing, by one fell swoop of irresistible victory. Napier, the author of the History of the Peninsular War, at the head of the 43rd, had his pantaloons torn by the ball, and singed by the fire, of one of the enemy from the parapet of their works. Such was the attack and such the resistance, that a few prisoners whom we took declared that they and their officers were perfectly thunderstruck, for they had no conception any force was near them. The 4th Division had some heavy fighting on our right. Vide Napier and the Duke's despatch.37 Ours was the most beautiful attack ever made in the history of war.
The key of the enemy's position was in our hands, and the great line was our next immediate object. We were speedily reformed, and ready for our attack on the enemy's line-position and strong field fortifications. In descending La Petite Rhune, we were much exposed to the enemy's fire, and when we got to the foot of the hill we were about to attack, we had to cross a road enfiladed very judiciously by the enemy, which caused some loss. We promptly stormed the enemy's works and as promptly carried them. I never saw our men fight with such lively pluck; they were irresistible; and we saw the other Divisions equally successful, the enemy flying in every direction. Our Riflemen were pressing them in their own style, for the French themselves are terrific in pursuit, when poor dear gallant (Sir Andrew) Barnard was knocked off his horse by a musket-ball through his lungs.38 When Johnny Kincaid (the author), his adjutant, got up to him, he was nearly choked by blood in his mouth. They washed it out for him, and he recovered so as to give particular orders about a pocket-book and some papers he wished sent to his brother. He did not want assistance; the soldiers loved him; he was borne off to the rear, and, when examined by Assistant-Surgeon Robson, it was found that the ball had not passed through, but was perceptible to the touch. The surgeon had him held up, so that when he made a bold incision to let the ball out, its own weight would prevent its being repelled into the cavity of the chest. The ball was boldIy and judiciously extracted, no fever came on, and in three weeks Barnard was at the head of a Brigade, with one wound still open, and in the passage of the Gave d'Oleron he plunged into the water, and saved the life of a soldier floating down the river.
But to the fight. Everything was carried apparently, and our Division was halted. Some sharp skirmishing was going on, and Colborne and I were standing with the 52nd Regiment, again ready for anything, on a neck of land which conducted to a strong-looking star redoubt, the only work the enemy still held, when Charlie Beckwith, the A.Q.M.G. of our Division, came up with orders from General Alten to move on. "What, Charlie, to attack that redoubt? Why, if we leave it to our right or left, it must fall, as a matter of course; our whole army will be beyond it in twenty minutes." "I don't know; your orders are to move on." "Am I to attack the redoubt?" says Colborne. "Your orders are to move on," and off he galloped. Colborne turns to me, and says, "What an evasive order!" "Oh, sir," says I, "let us take the last of their works; it will be the operation of a few minutes," and on we went in a column of companies. As we neared the enemy, Colborne's brilliant eye saw they were going to hold it, for it was a closed work, and he says, "Smith, they do not mean to go until fairly driven out; come, let us get off our horses." I was just mounted on a beautiful thoroughbred mare, my "Old Chap" horse being somewhat done, and I really believed anything like fighting was all over. I said nothing, but sat still, and on we went with a hurrah which we meant should succeed, but which the garrison intended should do no such thing. My horse was struck within twenty yards of the ditch, and I turned her round so that I might jump off, placing her between me and the fire, which was very hot. As I was jumping off; another shot struck her, and she fell upon me with a crash, which I thought had squeezed me as flat as a thread-paper, her blood, like a fountain, pouring into my face. The 52nd were not beat back, but swerved from the redoubt into a ravine, for they could not carry it.39 While lying under my horse, I saw one of the enemy jump on the parapet of the works in an undaunted manner and in defiance of our attack, when suddenly he started straight up into the air, really a considerable height, and fell headlong into the ditch. A ball had struck him in the forehead, I suppose–the fire of our skirmishers was very heavy on the redoubt. Our whole army was actually passing to the rear of the redoubt. Colborne, in the most gallant manner, jumped on his horse, rode up to the ditch under the fire of the enemy, which, however, slackened as he loudly summoned the garrison to surrender. The French officer, equally plucky, said, "Retire, sir, or I will shoot you!" Colborne deliberately addressed the men. "If a shot is fired, now that you are surrounded by our army, we will put every man to the sword." By this time I succeeded in getting some soldiers, by calling to them, to drag me from under my horse, when they exclaimed, "Well, d— my eyes if our old Brigade-Major is killed, after all." "Come, pull away," I said; "I am not even wounded, only squeezed." "Why, you are as bloody as a butcher." I ran to Colborne just as he had finished his speech. He took a little bit of paper out, wrote on it, "I surrender unconditionally," and gave it to me to give the French officer, who laughed at the state of blood I was in. He signed it, and Colborne sent me to the Duke. When I rode up (on a horse just lent me), his Grace says, "Who are you?" "The Brigade-Major, 2nd Rifle Brigade." "Hullo, Smith, are you badly wounded?" "Not at all, sir; it is my horse's blood." "Well." I gave him the paper. "Tell Colborne I approve." The garrison began to march out just as my Brigade were again moved on, and General Downie was left to receive it with his Spaniards. The garrison was composed of the whole of the French 88th Regiment, complete in every respect. The Duke was sorry we had attacked, for the 52nd lost many men, and it never was the Duke's intention, as he saw what Colborne had previously observed. Some discussion afterwards took place as to the order Colborne received. However, I think now, as I did then, move on implied attack.
This was a most brilliant day's fighting, and showed how irresistible our army was. As the Duke foretold, the enemy had not men enough. We were never opposed to a formed body. The whole army was in occupation of their works, and when we penetrated, retired. A proclamation had been issued to show the French inhabitants we made war on their army, not on them, and never in an enemy's country was such rigid discipline maintained as by the British Army. It is scarcely to be credited. The day after the battle our baggage moved up, and my wife joined me, horror-struck at the state of my cocked hat, clothes, and only half-washed face. She would not believe I was not awfully wounded, and then reminded me of her prophecy, that either I or my horse would be killed the following day.
A curious coincidence occurred in respect to this horse. Shortly before the Battle of Salamanca [22 July, 1812] a great friend of mine, Lindsay,40 of the 11th Dragoons, came and prayed me to take it in exchange for a magnificent brown mare I had bought from Charlie Rowan; he had often tempted me, but I resisted, but upon this occasion I yielded, so earnest was he for a Dragoon's charger; and he gave me sixty guineas to boot. In a few months he was killed off my gallant mare on the Bridge of Tudela on the Douro, and now his mare was killed under me as described. Lord Fitzroy Somerset bought his mare at the sale; his lordship afterwards sold her to me, and she went with me to Washington. I brought her back, gave her to a brother, and she bred many foals afterwards.
COMBAT OF THE 10TH DECEMBER–HARRY SMITH'S DREAM AND THE DEATH OF HIS MOTHER.
THE following day we moved into a most beautiful country, intersected with hedgerows, and the finest and sweetest second crop of hay I ever saw, which our horses rejoiced in. We took up our posts in front of Arbonne [15 Nov.], and the following day had a sharp skirmish at our advanced posts. We halted here a day or two, and then moved on to a line more approaching Bayonne. The first Brigade occupied the Chateau d'Arcangues [17 Nov.], of which Johnny Kincaid recounts some anecdotes; the second the Chateau of Castilleur, where Colonel Colborne packed the 52nd Regiment as close as cards; and the 2nd Battalion, 95th Regiment, and the 1st and 3rd Caçadores also had cover. Our posts were here very close upon each other, and we had far more skirmishing and alarms than usual.
Upon the morning of the 9th December, the 1st and 7th Divisions came close up to our rear, which led us to suppose something was going on. The enemy in our front were alarmed, and stood to their arms. Shortly after these Divisions moved to our right, for the purpose of crossing the river [Nive], and our Division moved on to drive back the enemy's picquets in the direction of Bayonne. To occupy his attention, our Riflemen formed up before the firing commenced close to the enemy's strongest post, on the high-road to Bayonne, where we had been watching each other for several days. When I and Beckwith, the A.Q.M.G., rode up and ordered our people to advance, not a shot was fired. The French saw we were going to attack, but did not withdraw their picquet. We beckoned to them to do so, but they would not take the hint. We then actually fired some shots over their heads. There was positively a reluctance on our part to shoot any man in so cold-blooded a manner. The moment a shot was fired the affair became general, and we drove in the French picquets, who rapidly retired, and we had little fighting all day. In the evening, having effected the demonstration required, the Division retired to its old ground, and we resumed our usual line of picquets.
On the following morning [10 Dec.], having a presentiment the enemy would create a considerable diversion upon the left of our army, I was with our most advanced picquets before daylight. I had not been there many minutes, when I was joined by Beckwith, and soon after up came Colborne. We said, "The enemy are going to attack us." Colborne said, "No; they are only going to resume their ordinary posts in our front." I said, "But look at the body in our immediate front, and a column far off; evidently moving on the 1st Division," which was on the extreme left. It was evident we should be attacked immediately, and I said so, but Colborne asserted it was no such thing. I prayed him to allow me to order my Brigade under arms. At last he consented, and, although I rode at the utmost speed, our troops were barely out in time, so furiously did the French drive us back. They took the Chateau of Castilleur from us, making at the same time a heavy attack on that of Arcangues. Much of our baggage fell into the enemy's hands, although they could not carry it off. My wife had barely time to slip on her habit and jump upon her horse; her Vittoria pug-dog in the scuffle was left behind, so sharp was the fire on the Chateau. A bugler of the 52nd Regiment, however, knew pug, whipped him up, and put him in his haversack. This was nearer a surprise than anything we had ever experienced. For some time the enemy possessed our quarters and bivouac, and–what was of great importance to Tom Fane–rifled his portmanteau. They also carried off a goose which was fattening for our Christmas dinner. We soon repaid our friends with interest and retook our position, but it was one of as heavy attacks as I have ever witnessed.
In the afternoon of that day, the enemy made a most vigorous attack on Sir J. Hope, particularly at the Mayor's House of Biaritz,41 sharply skirmishing with us at the same time to occupy our attention. I thought then, and I think now, if my Brigade had been moved on the left of the attack on Sir J. Hope, it would have caused the enemy great loss, as his flank was exposed, but the Duke of Wellington knew better, and never attempted hazardous and little affairs, but ever played a great and safe game.
That evening the Regiments of Nassau and Frankfort walked over to us from the French lines into those of the 7th Division at Arbonne. Colonel Beyring,42 Count Alten's A.D.C., was said to have been for some time with them, and it was evident the Duke knew about their intention.
Upon the 11th [Dec.] we had some partial skirmishing. The 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade struck their tents for the purpose of moving their ground. The enemy were most alarmed, and took up their ground to receive us. That night, when our armies were dismissed, rations were served out. In my life I never heard such a row as among the French when preparing to cook. I was posting the night's sentries, when I saw a French officer doing the same. I went towards him, and we civilly greeted each other. I said I wished to speak to him. He came up with the greatest confidence and good humour. I showed him my vedette, and then remarked that his was too far in advance and might create an alarm at night when relieving. He said he did not see that, but to please me, if I would point out where I wished he should be, he would immediately move him–which he did. He presented his little flask of excellent French brandy, of which I took a sup, and we parted in perfect amity.
When I returned to Colborne, who was in the Chateau, I found him lying asleep before a fire just as he had got off his horse. I did not awake him, nor had I anything to eat. Sleep at night readily supplies the place of food, and hunger at night on that account is not nearly so acute and painful as in the morning, when your day's work is before you. Down I lay, without one thought in the world, from exhaustion. I had a long dream, its purport that the enemy had attacked my father's house (the front of which opened to the street, the back into a beautiful garden, by what we children called "The Black Door"). My father had my mother in his arms; I saw them as plainly as ever I did in my life, he carrying her through the Black Door, at the moment calling out, "Now, some one shut the door; she is safe and rescued." At the instant I sprang on my feet, and in our usual military words in cases of alarm, roared out in a voice of thunder, "Stand to your arms." Colborne was on his feet like a shot, the light of the fire showed me the room and my delusion, and I said, "Oh, sir, I beg your pardon; I have been dreaming." He said, in his noble way, "Never mind, it is near daylight, and it shows that asleep or awake, you are intent on your duty." He lay down, and was asleep in a moment. I never felt so oppressed in my life, so vividly was depicted to my mind the scene described, and I took out of my pocket a little roster of duties and picquets bound in calf-skin, and noted down the hour and particulars of my dream. In a few days I received a letter from my afflicted father,43 telling me my mother died on Sunday morning, Dec. 12, at one o'clock, at the very moment I cried out, "Stand to your arms." Such is the fact. When I lay down, I was tired and exhausted, as before expressed. I had not a thought in the world of home or anything, nor was I prepared for the probability of the event. I presume to make no remarks on such intimations from God alone, but the whole day I was heavy and oppressed, nor did I ever shake off the vivid impression until the receipt of the letter put me in possession of the loss I had sustained.
SIR HARRY SMITH'S BIRTHPLACE, WHITTLESEY.
(The "Black Door" is seen to the right.)
From a photograph by A. Gray, Whittlesey, 1900. [Opposite p. 156.
Her dying moments were perfectly composed; to the last she blessed her two sons engaged in the wars of their country, and died saying, "Would I could have seen them after their dangers and good conduct!" Among all our relations and friends we receive kindness and attention and unbounded love, but the love of a mother is distinct in character; youth in distress turns to the mother for sympathy and pardon; in joy it desires to impart its feeling to the mother, who participates in it with the warmth of a mother's heart. The mother is the friend, the counsellor, the pardoner of offences, and, happen what may, the mother ever clings to her offspring. When I first parted from my mother to join my Regiment, the French Army was assembled at Boulogne, and every day was full of news that the French were coming. We dined early that day, I and my father, who was kindly to accompany me to Brabourne Lees, in Kent. At dinner I held up manfully. Then I ran to the stable to part with a beautiful little horse I had reared almost from a foal–he was thoroughbred, and carried me hunting in such a style that no one could beat me. I threw my arms round Jack's neck, and had a good cry. I saw my poor mother observed what I had been doing, and a smile of approbation curled upon her placid lip. The awful moment now approached: the buggy was at the door. I parted with my dear brothers and sisters (five boys and five girls) tolerably well, my poor mother glad to observe in me a force of character which she hoped in greater and more eventful scenes I might evince. It came next to her turn. She seized me in her arms, and wept awfully. Suddenly, with an effort I shall never forget, her tears were dried, she held me at arm's length, and, gazing at me most intently, said, "I have two favours to ask of you: one is that you never enter a public billiard-room; the next–our country is at war–if ever you meet your enemy, remember you are born a true Englishman. Now, God bless and preserve you, which I hope He will, and listen to the constant, the fervent prayers, I will offer up for your welfare." I exclaimed, "Dear mother, I promise!" God knows the first request I have honestly fulfilled, the latter I hope I have–at least, my superiors and comrades ever gave me credit for a bold and courageous bearing. I returned to her beloved embrace after South America, and got a commission for my brother Tom, and again to her nearly naked and a skeleton after the retreat to Coruña. I was covered with vermin, and had no clothes but those on my back. To her alone did I impart what, although I felt no disgrace, I did not want to be known. She dressed me, and put me in a hot bath, and we preserved our secret mutually inviolate. I soon again left her for Talavera, restored to health by her care, never to see her again, but our intercourse by letters was constant. The last she received from me was after we had carried the heights of Vera in such a brilliant manner, and it told her that for my conduct I was promised the brevet rank of Major. May every soldier obey the fifth commandment as I did! I never was in a situation of appalling death, mortality, and danger, but my mother's words rang in my ears, "Remember you were born an Englishman." My dear wife participated and sympathized in all my grief, for I admit it was excessive, saying ever, "I have lost father and mother, and my brother died in my arms of his wounds. Your home and relatives you have still left, while I live alone for you,–my all, my home, my kindred."
The morning after my dream [12 Dec.] I was very early at our advanced posts, and I saw some French soldiers coming on in a very unusual manner to attack us, while the mass of their force were dismissed in bivouac. The 1st Caçadores had the advance. I never saw the French so daring since the retreat to Coruña, and they were most excellent shots, and actually astonished our Caçadores. Colborne, hearing a smart firing, rode up, and stopped in the road opposite one of the barricades of our picquets. I said, "I don't know what the devil we have got in our front to-day. Don't stand there, you will be shot in a moment!" He laughed, but would not move. In a second a ball went through his cap just above his noble head. He moved then and laughed. "Look at the fellows," he says, "how viciously they come on; it is evident it is no general attack, for the troops in their bivouac are not under arms. They want this post." "Which," says I, "they will have in ten minutes, unless I bring up the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade," for our Caçadores were evidently not equal to their task. Colborne says, "Fetch them!" In a very short time our Riflemen came up. By this time the enemy had driven in everything beyond the barricade, and were prepared to assault it. Our 95th fellows had a few men wounded as they were coming up the road, before they could be extended, which made them as savage as the enemy, who were capering about the fields in our front as if drunk. Our fellows turned to, and soon brought them to repent any pranks or exposure. We took a few prisoners, and ascertained the Regiment was the 32nd Voltigeurs, a crack corps of Suchet's army which had joined the night before, when we heard all the noise going on in the bivouac. These gentIemen had ever previously been venturous and laughed at the tales of British prowess; that morning's lesson, however, seemed to have made converts of them, for I never after observed any extra feats of dancing; but Colborne and all of us were perfectly astonished when the fact was known, and our 2nd Battalion 95th Regiment were rather elated in having thus shown themselves such able instructors.
We were very much on the alert all day, and a few shots were exchanged. At night our picquets were strengthened, for we were not aware if our friends, the new Voltigeurs, intended a fresh prank. After these three days' fighting and vigilance, the enemy withdrew close to Bayonne, their and our advanced posts being nearly as before. Notwithstanding the loss of our goose, we had a capital Christmas dinner, at which, of course, we had the Commissary of the Brigade, and induced him to find us champagne, which many commissaries were able to do.
CAMPAIGN OF 1814: BATTLE OF ORTHEZ–ANECDOTE OF JUANA SMITH.
FROM the Chateau of Castilleur we moved more into the mountains to the rear and to our left of Ustaritz, where we never saw the enemy [Jan. 1814]. Our time was spent in shooting, and exploring the mountains. While we were in this position forage was very scarce, and we chopped up the furze-bushes very small by way of hay. It is astonishing how it agreed with the horses. The natives use it in the same way for their cattle.
We remained in this position until the end of February, when we moved, reaching Orthez on the 26th. Here our Division had one of the sharpest skirmishes in a town which I ever saw. Orthez is situated on both sides of the Gave de Pau and has a bridge, which the enemy held with great jealousy. On the afternoon of this day, the Duke and his head-quarters came up. It was his intention to have fought the battle that afternoon, had the 3rd Division been able to reach its position in time. I heard the Duke say, "Very well, Murray, if the Division does not arrive in time, we must delay the attack till to-morrow. However, I must have a sleep." He folded his little white cloak round him, and lay down, saying, "Call me in time, Murray." Murray awoke the Duke, saying, "It is too late to-day, my Lord." "Very well, then, my orders for to-morrow hold good."
At dark we withdrew all our posts out of Orthez but a picquet near the bridge in the town, and at daylight [27 Feb.] we crossed by a pontoon bridge below Orthez, and marched over difficult ground. We saw the enemy very strongly posted, both as regards the elevation and the nature of the ground, which was intersected by large banks and ditches, while the fences of the field were most admirably calculated for vigorous defence. As we were moving on the right of the 3rd Division, Sir Thomas Picton, who was ever ready to find fault with the Light, rode up to Colonel Barnard. "Who the devil are you?" knowing Barnard intimately. "We are the Light Division." "If you are Light, sir, I wish you would move a little quicker," said in his most bitter and sarcastic tone. Barnard says very cool, "Alten commands. But the march of infantry is quick time, and you cannot accelerate the pace of the head of the column without doing an injury to the whole. Wherever the 3rd Division are, Sir Thomas, we will be in our places, depend on it."
We were soon engaged, but less for some time than the troops to our right and left. I never saw the French fight so hard as this day, and we were actually making no advance, when the Duke came up, and ordered the 52nd Regiment to form line and advance. The Battalion was upwards of seven hundred strong. It deployed into line like clockwork, and moved on, supported by clouds of sharpshooters. It was the most majestic advance I ever saw. The French, seeing this line advance so steadily, were appalled; their fire, which at first was terrific, gradually decreased as we neared. The Divisions on our right and left also moved on. The battle was won.
In this advance the 52nd suffered considerably. The present Duke of Richmond, then Lord March, a Captain in the corps, received a severe wound in the side; the ball still annoys him. The Duke himself also got a crack on his knee, which lamed him for several days. When Lord March lay on the ground after the attack, I went to bring up Maling, Surgeon of the 52nd Regiment. As soon as he arrived, to my horror, he poked his forefinger into the wound to trace the course of the ball. At this moment up rode Lord Fitzroy Somerset, and Lord March's brother, Lord George Lennox, awfully affected, believing the wound mortal. Lord March said, "Maling, tell me if I am mortally wounded, because I have something I wish to impart to George." Maling said, "If you will be quiet, you will do very well." Maling did not think so. However, Lord March made a miraculous recovery. I never knew a finer young fellow, braver or cooler. In those days, he would not have opposed his kind patron, the Duke, as he did subsequently. That every peer and every other man should speak out his mind according to his conscience, I earnestly desire; but, as Duke of Richmond, he opposed the Duke of Wellington politically in a manner rather partaking of personal hostility than political consistency. 44 Every admirer of Lord March in the army, and he had many, lamented the course he pursued.
But to the fight. We drove the enemy in great confusion before us. On this occasion, I literally lost a Battalion of my Brigade, the 1st Caçadores, for two days, they got so mixed with the 6th Division. The night I found them, after much diligence, I and my Brigadier, Barnard, got into a little sort of inn, kept by an old soldier disabled in Bonaparte's Italian campaigns. He did not require to be told the wants of a soldier, but from habit and sympathy turned to like a "good 'un" to cook us some dinner. As he was hard at work, he said to Barnard, "Ah, the French are not always victorious, and I see war now is [not?] what it was when I served. The Cavalry give way first, then come the Artillery, and then follow the Infantry in disorder." He became in the course of the evening very eloquent over his own wine, and told us some very amusing stories. The next morning, when Barnard paid him for everything we had consumed, he was perfectly thunderstruck. I shall never forget his astonishment or his "Eh bien! monsieur, comme vous voulez."
The baggage reached us early the following day [1 March], and in the afternoon we forded the Adour, which was deep, rapid, and broad. My wife had ridden over the field of battle, and described it as covered with dead, dying, and wounded. She observed an extraordinary number of wounds in the head. These were due to the fact that, owing to the cover of the high banks before described, the head only was vulnerable or exposed. She saw one fine fellow of an Artilleryman with both his arms shot off, which he said occurred while he was ramming down the cartridge into his own gun. She offered him all she had in the eating or drinking way, but he most disdainfully refused all.
The same afternoon we made a long and rapid march on Mont de Marsan, where a Division of Cavalry and Marshal Beresford and his head-quarters preceded us. We did not reach Mont de Marsan until some hours after dark. We were ordered to take up quarters for the night, but so full of Cavalry and head-quarters was the place, and all scattered over the town, not collected, as we Light Division used to be by streets and regiments as if on parade, we had great difficulty in getting in anywhere.
The night was showery, with sleet drifting, frosty and excessively cold. My poor wife was almost perished. We at last got her into a comfortable little house, where the poor Frenchwoman, a widow, lighted a fire, and in about half an hour produced some bouillon in a very handsome Sèvres slop-basin, saying this had been a present to her many years ago on the day of her marriage, and that it had never been used since her husband's death. She, therefore, wished my wife to know how happy she was to wait on the nation who was freeing France of an usurper. The widow was a true "Royaliste," and we were both most grateful to the poor woman. The next day we were ordered back to St. Sever, on the high-road to Toulouse, and parted with our widow with all mutual concern and gratitude, our baggage being left to follow. We had a very showery, frosty, and miserable long march over an execrable road, after which we and Barnard got into a little cottage on the roadside. At daylight the following morning we were expecting to move, but, having received no order, we turned to breakfast, my wife relating to Barnard the kindness she had received the previous night and the history of the basin. To our horror in came my servant, Joe Kitchen, with the identical slop-basin full of milk. The tears rolled down my wife's cheeks. Barnard got in a storming passion. I said, "How dare you, sir, do anything of the sort?"(he was an excellent servant.) "Lord, sir," he says, "why, the French soldiers would have carried off the widow, an' she had been young, and I thought it would be so nice for the goat's milk in the morning; she was very angry, though, 'cos I took it."
Barnard got on his horse, and rode to headquarters. About ten o'clock he came back and said the Duke told him the army would not march until to-morrow. My wife immediately sent for the trusty groom, old West, and said, "Bring my horse and yours too, and a feed of corn in your haversack." She said to me, "I am going to see an officer who was wounded the day before yesterday, and if I am not back until late, do not be alarmed." Young as she was, I never controlled her desire on such occasions, having perfect confidence in her superior sense and seeing her frequently visit our wounded or sick. I went to my Brigade, having various duties, just before she started. It became dark, she had not returned, but Barnard would wait dinner for her, saying, "She will be in directly." She did arrive soon, very cold and splashed from hard riding on a very dirty, deep, and wet road. She laughed and said, "Well, why did you wait dinner? Order it; I shall soon have my habit off." Barnard and I exclaimed with one voice, "Where have you been?" "Oh," she says, "do not be angry, I am not taken prisoner, as you see. I have been to Mont de Marsan, to take back the poor widow's basin." I never saw a warm-hearted fellow so delighted as Barnard. "Well done, Juana, you are a heroine. The Maid of Saragossa is nothing to you." She said the widow cried exceedingly with joy, but insisted on her now keeping the basin for the milk, which my wife would on no account do. She had ridden that day thirty miles and had every reason to expect to meet a French patrol. I said, "Were you not afraid of being taken prisoner?" "No, I and West kept a good look-out, and no French dragoon could catch me on my Spanish horse, Tiny." She was tired from the excessive cold, but the merit of her act sustained her as much as it inspired us with admiration. The story soon got wind, and the next day every officer in the Division loaded her with praise. It was a kind and noble act which few men, much less a delicate girl of sixteen, would have done under all the circumstances. Our worthy friend, Bob Digby, of the 52nd Regiment, Barnard's A.D.C., overhearing my wife's orders to West, after she had started, most kindly followed and joined my wife on the road, for, as he said, he was alarmed lest she should fall in with a patrol.
CAMPAIGN OF 1814: AT GÉE, NEAR AIRE–BATTLE OF TARBES–BATTLE OF TOULOUSE–END OF THE WAR.
ON our advance [9 March, etc.], we were for some days at a village called Gée, near Aire, where the 2nd Division, under Sir W. Stewart, had a brilliant little affair.
But I must first interpose an anecdote. One of his A.D.C.'s, his nephew, Lord Charles Spencer, a Lieutenant of the 95th Regiment, was mounted on a very valuable horse which he had paid more for than he could afford, contrary to the advice of Sir William. In driving the French through the town, Lord Charles's horse was shot on the bank of a large pond, into which he himself was thrown head foremost. (The fire at this moment was very heavy, and in a street more balls take effect than in the open.) Sir William very quietly says, "Ha, there goes my poor nephew and all his fortune," alluding to the price he paid for his horse.
I have often heard Colonel Colborne (Lord Seaton) affirm that if he were asked to name the bravest man he had ever seen (and no one was a better judge), he should name Sir William Stewart. Although he gave me my commission, I never saw him under fire. If he exceeded in bravery my dear friend, Sir Edward Pakenham, he was gallant indeed. Pakenham's bravery was of that animated, intrepid cast that he applied his mind vigorously at the moment to the position of his own troops as well as to that of the enemy, and by judicious foresight ensured success, but he never avoided a fight any sort.
The village of Gée was to the right of the high-road to Toulouse, the River [Adour] running to our right. The Cavalry were posted on the main road, their advance vedettes looking on to the village of [Tarsac?] where the enemy were very alert and obstinate in resisting our approach.
On the day the army advanced, 45 the French Cavalry made a fierce resistance in the village, and when driven out, made some desperate charges on the chaussée, in one of which the officer in command was cut down while gallantly leading his Squadron. An officer of our 15th Hussars (I think Booth), having admired his gallant bearing, dismounted to his assistance. He said he believed he was not mortally wounded, and he requested to be carried to the Chateau in the village he had so gallantly fought for, where his father and family resided. This peculiar tale may be relied on, like everything else, as I hope, which I have asserted. For several days it was the usual topic of conversation, and when any one came from the rear, inquiry was always made if the French Captain who was wounded and in his father's house, (we never knew his name), was doing well. We learnt afterwards that he perfectly recovered, but the sword wound had stamped him with a deep scar.
At Gée we had several alerts, and our baggage for some successive days was loaded for hours. On one of these occasions the old housekeeper of a large house which Barnard occupied, and whom he had paid for many a fat fowl and fish out of tanks, etc., came into the room where my wife remained waiting to join the troops, seized my wife and vowed she would put her to death, grasping her with a fiend-like strength. Fortunately, at this moment my servant returned to say the Division were not to march, and rescued my poor affrighted and delicate wife. We afterwards learnt that this violent woman, if anything excited her, was afflicted with temporary insanity, and she had been put in a rage below, and came up to vent her spleen on my poor wife. We were in this house for two or three days after, but my wife had been so alarmed she would never allow her servant to quit her. The latter was a powerful woman of the 52nd, rejoicing in the name of Jenny Bates.
While in this village, Charlie Beckwith, the Q.M.G., came to me and said, "Harry, I want a Company for picquet immediately." I named the Corps, 1st Battalion 95th, who had one ready accoutred in waiting, as we always had in positions subject to alerts. It was out in five minutes, and Charlie Beckwith marched to point out where the officer commanding was to post it. I invariably went out with every picquet when possible. On this occasion I had other duty. In the afternoon I got on my horse to look for my picquet. I met Charlie Beckwith in the village. He said, "I will ride with you." We did not find the picquet where we expected–on our side of a bridge (beyond which was a comfortable village). Having heard no firing, we were not alarmed for the safety of the Company, still we could not find it. We rode to the bridge, the object of the officer's watch, saying, "There will surely be a sentry upon it." We rode up and found one certainly, but on the enemy's side. We asked where the Company was. The vedette was an Irishman. "By Jasus, the Captain's the boy. It was so rainy and cold on the plain, he harboured us all comfortably, like the man that he is, in the village." The French were in the habit of patrolling into this village in force, and, although the Captain had so posted himself as I do believe he would have been able to hold his own until the Division came up, it could have cost us a fight to rescue him from the far side of the bridge, which he ought never to have crossed. So the Captain got a blowing-up, and the Company had to make their fires in a cold, wet, and miserable bivouac. I never had a picquet out from the Brigade without visiting it so as to judge how it was posted, and how to withdraw it either at night or in case of abrupt necessity.
We had also a sharp skirmish at Vic Begorre, but the brunt of it fell on the 3rd Division, where one of the most able officers got himself killed where he had no business to be–Major Sturgeon, of the Staff. I hold nothing to be more unsoldierlike than for officers well mounted to come galloping in among our skirmishers. The officers of companies have always some little exertion to restrain impetuosity, and your galloping gentlemen set our men wild sometimes. We Light Division, while ever conspicuous for undaunted bravery, prided ourselves upon destroying the enemy and preserving ourselves; for good, light troops, like deer-stalkers, may effect feats of heroism by stratagem, ability, and cool daring.
At Tarbes [20 March] we fell in with the enemy, strongly posted, but evidently only a rear-guard in force. The Duke made immediate dispositions to attack them, and so mixed up did we appear, that we concluded a large number of the enemy must be cut off. The Light Division, however, alone succeeded in getting up with them. Our three Battalions of the 95th were most sharply engaged. Three successive times the enemy, with greatly superior force, endeavoured to drive them off a hill but the loss of the enemy from the fire of our Rifles was so great that one could not believe one's eyes. I certainly had never seen the dead lie so thick, nor ever did, except subsequently at Waterloo. Barnard even asked the Duke to ride over the hill and see the sight, which he consented to do, saying, "Well, Barnard, to please you, I will go, but I require no novel proof of the destructive fire of your Rifles."
At this period we lived capitally. It was delightful to see one of our soldiers with a piece of cold bacon, slicing it over his bread like an English haymaker.
We had at this time exceedingly wet weather. Notwithstanding the fulness of the Garonne, however, after a feint or two and some skilful demonstrations to deceive the enemy, the Duke succeeded [4 April] in throwing over the 3rd, 4th, and 6th Divisions with as much ease as he had previously overcome what seemed to others insurmountable difficulties. These Divisions were strongly posted under Marshal Beresford as a tête du pont. They were barely established on the opposite side when such a torrent of rain fell, our bridge could not stem the flood. It was hauled to the shore, and, of course, our communication cut off. Marshal Beresford had every reason to apprehend an attack, for the enemy, being in his own country, possessed perfect information, and would know the moment the bridge was impassable. The Marshal wrote very strongly to the Duke, who was ferried over in a little boat with one or two of his Staff, while their horses swam across. His Grace quickly but narrowly examined the position, which was excellent, behind a very difficult ravine. "Beresford," said the Duke, "you are safe enough; two such armies as Soult's could make no impression on you. Be assured, he is too clever a General to attempt to drive you into the river." Our Division was immediately opposite the bridge, but on the left, or opposite bank, to the Marshal. The river soon subsided sufficiently to enable us to relay the bridge, and at daylight on the 10th of April the Light Division crossed, followed by the remainder of the army, except Lord Hill's corps, which was posted on the Pyrenees side of Toulouse. It was evidently the Duke's intention to attack Soult's position this day. Nor were we long on the march before each general officer had his point of rendezvous designated.
The battle of Toulouse [10 April] has been so often fought and refought, I shall only make two or three remarks. Sir Thomas Picton, as usual, attacked when he ought not, and lost men. The Spaniards made three attacks on a very important part of the enemy's position defended by a strong redoubt. The first was a very courageous though unsuccessful attack; the second, a most gallant, heavy, and persevering one, and had my dear old Light Division been pushed forward on the right of the Spaniards in place of remaining inactive, that attack of the Spaniards would have succeeded. I said so at the moment. The third attempt of the Spaniards was naturally, after two such repulses, a very poor one. At this period, about two o'clock in the afternoon, the Duke's Staff began to look grave, and all had some little disaster to report to His Grace, who says, "Ha, by God, this won't do; I must try something else." We then saw the heads of the 4th and 6th Divisions coming into action immediately on the right flank of the enemy, having been conducted to that particular and vulnerable spot by that gallant, able, and accomplished soldier, my dear friend, John Bell, A.Q.M.G., 4th Division.
I must record an anecdote of John. He was mounted on a noble English hunter, but the most violent and difficult horse to manage I ever rode to hounds, and would of course, in a fight, be equally so. This animal knew by the mode in which she was mounted whether her rider was an artist or not, and in a moment would throw her rider down by way of fun. Colonel Achmuty, a noble fellow, would ride John Bell's horse awkwardly, and she would then plunge like a devil, but if ridden, she was as quiet as possible. John Bell had on this horse a very large and high-peaked Hussar saddle, with his cloak strapped on the pique before, a favourite mode of General Robert Craufurd, who indeed gave Bell the identical saddle. Over this pique Craufurd's black muzzle could barely be discovered (he was a short man), so entrenched was he. In conducting their Divisions, the Staff officers moved on small roads through a country intersected by deep and broad ditches full of water. Many of them attempted to ride on the flanks, but no one succeeded but Bell on his fiery horse. At one ditch John Bell was fairly pitched over the pique on to the neck of his horse, a powerful mare six feet high. "Oh," says John, in telling this story, "Ah, to get there was extraordinary, but wait! The horse tossed up her head, and by some violent exertion pitched me over the pique back again to my saddle." "Oh, John!" I exclaimed, "how is that possible?" "With that, Harry, I have nothing to do."
But to the fight. The 4th and 6th Divisions were brought up in most gallant style, carrying redoubt after redoubt, which were ably defended by the enemy. It was the heaviest fighting I ever looked at, slow owing to the redoubts. The ground was gained step by step, and so was the battle of Toulouse. Our Cavalry lost a brilliant opportunity of distinguishing themselves and punishing the rearguard of the French.
This battle appeared to me then, and does the more I reflect on it, the only battle the Duke ever fought without a weight of attack and general support. It was no fault of the Duke's. There are fortunate days in war as in other things. Our attacks were commenced by that of the 3rd Division; then came those of the Spaniards, in which the Light Division did not support as the 4th Division supported us at the heights of Vera. Thus, until the afternoon, we literally had done rather worse than nothing. The success of this battle is to be attributed mainly to the 4th and 6th Divisions, but I will ever assert that the second attack was most heavy and energetic, and would have succeeded if my dear old Division had been shoved up. As a whole, the French lost a great number of men and were thoroughly defeated. The French have now agitated a claim to the victory, which they are as much borne out in as they would be in claiming the victory at Waterloo.
The next day [11 March] various were the reports flying about camp as to peace, etc. In the afternoon I was posting a picquet, and in riding forward no nearer than usual to a French sentry, the fellow most deliberately fired at me. I took off my cocked hat and made him a low bow. The fellow, in place of reloading his musket, presented arms to me, evidently ashamed of what he had done.
Peace was soon made known. The French moved out of Toulouse, and we occupied it. (The most slippery pavement to ride over in Europe is that of the streets of Toulouse.) My Division was most comfortably cantoned in the suburbs. I and my wife, and two or three of my dear old Rifle comrades–Jack Molloy and young Johnstone (not the Rifle hero of Badajos and Ciudad Rodrigo, Old Willie)–had a delightfully furnished château. We got a French cook, and were as extravagant and wanton in our ideas as lawless sailors just Ianded from a long cruise. The feeling of no war, no picquets, no alerts, no apprehension of being turned out, was so novel after six years perpetual and vigilant war, it is impossible to describe the sensation. Still, it was one of momentary anxiety, seeing around us the promptitude, the watchfulness, the readiness with which we could move and be in a state of defence or attack. It was so novel that at first it was positively painful–at least, I can answer for myself in this feeling. I frequently deemed the old Division in danger, who had never even lost a picquet, or, to my recollection, a sentry, after so many years' outpost duty.
We had one melancholy duty to wind up our period of war–the funeral of poor Colonel Coghlan, 61st Regiment. The officers of the army attended, the Duke himself as chief mourner. Many is the gallant fellow we had all seen left on the field or with some trifling ceremony consigned to his long home; but this funeral, in the midst of a populous city, in a graveyard, after a ceremony in a Protestant chapel, where the corpse was placed, in the custom of our home and infancy, while the service was read by a clergyman, after death in the last battle, and nearly at the end of it, too–all so tended to excite our comrade-like feelings, it positively depressed us all, for the love a soldier bears another tried and gallant soldier is more than fraternal.
Toulouse, a royalist city, soon rushed into the extravagant and vivacious joy of France. We had theatres, balls, fêtes, etc., until the army moved into regular cantonments. There we had plenty of room and quarters, no squabbling about the shade of a tree in bivouac, or your stable being previously occupied by cavalry or artillery horses. Abundance of food, drink, and raiment, and the indolence of repose, succeeded the energetic and exciting occupation of relentless and cruel war. I had a safeguard in a lovely young wife; but most of our gallant fellows were really in love, or fancied themselves so, and such had been the drain by conscription of the male population, you never saw a young Frenchman. The rich and fertile fields in this part of France were cultivated by female exertion.
My Division went to Castel Sarrasin [towards the end of April]. This place is situated on the Tarne, which divides it from Marsac, where were a body of French troops; but, as they seldom came to visit us, we seldom encroached upon them, for the Napoleonist officers were brutally sulky and so uncivil, John Bull could not put up with it with impunity. This part of France is a garden, and the views, trees, beautiful rivers, and the idleness rendered it a perfect Elysium. I say "idleness;"–because it was so totally novel, it was amusing. Fortunately–for we were nine months in arrear of pay–money was so scarce that a trifle of ready money produced a great deal. Among the rich inhabitants money was never seen, any more than young men. Rents were paid in produce, wages in kind, purchases made by barter. Oh, dear John Bull, grumbling, still liberal John Bull, had you witnessed, felt, and suffered all this, and then had the best rooms in your house occupied by soldiers (for, however orderly, there is much riot and fun ever going on amongst them), you would now wear the yoke of the national debt as a light burden!
1 The birthplace of Sir Harry Smith in St. Mary's Street, Whittlesey, is now called "Aliwal House." In his MS. he left the year of his birth vacant, and it would appear that he was uncertain of his own age (cp. p. 73). This may account for the date of his birth having been often given wrongly as 1788. The east end of the south aisle of St. Mary's church was at this time partitioned off and used as a schoolroom, the vicar or curate teaching. It was here that Harry Smith received his education from the Rev. George Burgess, then curate, who survived to welcome him in Whittlesey in 1847 on his return after the battle of Aliwal. This part of the church, having been restored in 1862 as a memorial to him, is now known as "Sir Harry's Chapel."
Harry Smith's father, John Smith (son of Wakelyn Smith), surgeon, born 1756, died 2 Sept. 1843, married in 1781 Eleanor (born 1760, died 12 Dec. 1813), daughter of the Rev. George Moore, M.A. (Queen's College, Cambridge), vicar of St. Mary and St. Andrew, Whittlesey, and minor canon of Peterborough Cathedral. They had in all fourteen children, but only eleven survived infancy, viz. 1, Mary Anne; 2, John Stona; 3, Eleanor Moore; 4, Elizabeth; 5, Henry George Wakelyn (b. 28 June, 1787); 6, Jane Alice (Mrs. Sargant), b. 1789; 7, William; 8, Thomas Lawrence (b. 25 Feb. 1792); 9, Anna Maria; 10, Charles (b. 10 Aug. 1795); 11, Samuel.
Mrs. Sargant, Harry Smith's favourite sister, resided for many years in Clapton Square, and died in 1869. She was the author of Joan of Arc, a Play, Charlie Burton (a tale, translated into French and German), and many other works.
Thomas Lawrence (frequently mentioned in this book) received his commission in the 95th (Rifle Brigade) on 3 March, 1808, and took part in the actions of Sir John Moore's expedition to the battle of Corunna. Like his brother Harry, he served with the Light Division throughout the Peninsular War to the Battle of Toulouse, being dangerously wounded at the Coa. He was recommended for promotion for his conduct at Waterloo. He proceeded with his regiment to Paris, and riding as Adjutant at the head of the 2nd Battalion, was the first British officer who entered the city on 7 July, 1815. He went on half-pay in 1817. In 1824 he was appointed Barrack-master, in which capacity he served in Ireland till 1838, when he was transferred to Chatham. On the formation of Aldershot Camp in 1855, he was appointed Principal Barrack-master there, and held his appointment till 1868. On retirement he was made a C. B. and granted a special pension. He died in London on 6 April, 1877, and was buried in the cemetery, Aldershot.
Charles was present as a "Volunteer" with the 1st Battalion 95th at Quatrebras and Waterloo, after which he received a commission as Second Lieutenant. Two or three years later he retired from the army and settled at Whittlesey. He became J. P. and D. L. for Cambridgeshire, and Lieut.-Colonel of the Yeomanry Cavalry of the county, and died at Whittlesey on 24 Dec. 1854.
Further information about Sir Harry Smith's family was given to Mr. Arthur M. Smith, at his request, for his book The Smiths of Exeter, and will there be found, although, in the opinion of the present editor, no connexion between the two families can be established. See also p. 794 inf.
2 In consequence of a representation made to the Government by Colonel Coote Manningham and Lieut.-Colonel the Hon. William Stewart, an "experimental Corps of Riflemen" was formed early in 1800, with Manningham as colonel and Stewart one of the lieut.-colonels. It was actually organized by Stewart. On the 25th of December, 1802, the corps were ordered to be numbered as the 95th Regiment. In 1803 they were brigaded with the 43rd and 52nd as part of Sir John Moore's Camp of Instruction at Shorncliffe. The 2nd Battalion was formed on the 6th of May, 1805, according to Cope, and joined the 1st Battalion at Brabourn Lees, near Ashford, in June (see Cope's History of the Rifle Brigade, p. 1 etc.).
3 For his diary of the voyage, etc., see Appendix I.
4 The following extracts from Hughes and Clark's Life of Adam Sedgwick (i. p. 76 etc.) refer to this time–
"Sedgwick went on December 17, 1804, to spend Christmas with Ainger at his father's house at Whittlesea....He never forgot the simple pleasures which he there enjoyed....It was on this occasion that he made the acquaintance of Henry Smith, son to the surgeon of Whittlesea, then a boy of 16. Sedgwick watched his career with affectionate interest.
"In 1807 he wrote to Ainger–
"'Pray has Henry Smith escaped the fate which many of our brave countrymen have met in Egypt? I believe his Regiment was in the expedition.'
"W. Ainger replies–
"Whittlesea, August 3, 1807.
"'Henry Smith, after whom you inquired, did not go into Egypt, but to Buenos Ayres. His father had a letter from him after the engagement. His Captain was killed by his side in the outset; the command of the Company then of course devolved to Henry, who, I believe, acquitted himself very creditably, and did not, to use his own expression, get a single scratch. Last week brought his friends another letter from Monte Video, which acquainted them that he was then (in April) just recovering from the attack of a fever, which appears, Sedgwick, to have been not less formidable than yours was. He says he has lost all his flesh; but I find he retains all his spirit."
5 I.e. the English spring
6 Cope says he could find no particulars of this affair of the 7th of June beyond the mention of it and the casualties. Pack's own report of the affair, however (with Whitelock's covering despatch), is given under his name in Philippart's Royal Military Calendar (1820). It is interesting to compare that account with the one in the text, as each has some details not in the other. It seems that the Spaniards, two thousand in number, were under Major-General Elio (see p. 79, below) and the name of their position was San Pedro.
7 See his reference to this time, p. 159.
8 The author, writing many years after the events described, does not discriminate the titles borne at different times by his revered commander, but speaks of him as "the Duke," even from the time he was Sir Arthur Wellesley. At the risk of offending the historical sense of some readers, I have made no attempt to remove such a harmless anachronism.
9 Cp. E. Costello, Adventures of a Solder, p. 36: "For bread we took the corn from the fields, and, having no proper means of winnowing and grinding it, were obliged, as a substitute, to rub out the ears between our hands and then pound them between stones to make it into dough, such as it was. From this latter wretched practice, we christened the place 'Dough Boy Hill,' a name by which it is well remembered by the men of our Division." Cp. p. 321, below.
10 Cp. Cope, p.55; "Why Craufurd did not use his guns or let loose the Riflemen at the French infantry, seems inexplicable."
11 Elder brother of Sir Henry Havelock. See p. 297.
12 George Simmons writes in his diary for the 17th of September, 1810 "I removed to Pedroso for the convenience of sea-bathing, my thigh being much better, which enabled me, with crutches, to move about. Lieutenant Harry Smith was also with me. I found great benefit from the sea-bathing." Sir Harry Smith, writing to Major George Simmons on the 16th of June, 1846 (soon after the battle of Aliwal, when he had driven the Sikhs into the Sutlej), refers to their bathing together at this time, though he says at Belem, not at Pedroso (both places are close to Lisbon) "Dear George,–We little thought at Bellam [Belem], when hopping about there, I should become a master of that art we were both 'girning' under, or a swimming master for pupils in the Sutledge!"
13 Simmons states in his diary that the Commandant was Major Murphy (not Ironmonger), and writes that at the end of the second day's march "another one hundred heroes had disappeared, which made our Commandant raving mad. Smith called upon me to assist him in a medical capacity. I had a bucket of spring water thrown upon him, which did him good; he had several fits, but this put an end to them" (p. 111). According to the Army Lists, Major Barnaby Murphy, 88th Regiment, was killed at Salamanca, July, 1812. Lieut.-Colonel W. Iremonger, 2nd Foot, retired 2 May, 1811 (? 12 May). There is no Ironmonger in the Army List. The garrison of Almeida escaped on 11 May, 1811. In his despatch of 15 May, 1811 Wellington censures a Lieutenant-Colonel (name not given), but it is for "imprudence," not cowardice.
14 Cp. Kincaid, Random Shots, pp. 101, 102.
15 He was at Lisbon from 3 Dec. to 4 Feb., when he returned to his Regiment with Colonel Beckwith (A British Rifleman, pp. 124, 135).
16 Cope says Major John Stewart was killed in this fight near Casal Nova, and Lieut. Strode mortally wounded (14 March).
17 The duties of a Major of Brigade are given in a letter of Sir W. Gomm, Sept.19, 1808: "The pay and rank are the same as those of Aide-de-camp. The officer has the rank of Major during the time he holds the employment, and he is not considered as generally belonging to the General's family so much as the Aide-de-camp. The situation is more independent" (Carr-Gomm's Life of Sir W. Gomm, 1881, p. 106).
18 See p. 34.
19 Colonel Rowan (from 1848 Sir Charles Rowan, K.C.B.) was Chief Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Force from its institution in 1829 till 1850. He died in 1852.
20 Costello (p. 140) tells how, after the taking of Fort San Francisco, many of the French wounded prisoners were stripped naked by the Portuguese Caçadores. One of them, a sergeant, on being marched in, and seeing his officer in the same plight with himself; "ran to embrace him, and, leaning his head on his shoulder, burst into tears over their mutual misery. Captain Smith, the General's aide-de-camp, being present, generously pulled forth his pocket-handkerchief and wrapped it round the sergeant's totally naked person, till further covering could be obtained."
21 There is an interesting account of this heroic soldier in the United Service Journal for 1837, Part I. p. 354, by J. K. (John Kincaid), written after Johnstone's death at the Cape.
22 Not till 24 March (Napier, iv. 105).
23 Random Shots by a Rifleman, by Sir John Kincaid, pp. 292-296. I venture to quote the rest of Kincaid's interesting passage:
"Thrown upon each other's acquaintance in a manner so interesting, it is not to be wondered at that she and I conceived a friendship for each other, which has proved as lasting as our lives–a friendship which was cemented by after-circumstances so singularly romantic that imagination may scarcely picture them! The friendship of man is one thing–the friendship of woman another; and those only who have been on the theatre of fierce warfare, and knowing that such a being was on the spot, watching with earnest and increasing solicitude over his safety alike with those most dear to her, can fully appreciate the additional value which it gives to one's existence.
"About a year after we became acquainted, I remember that our Battalion was one day moving down to battle, and had occasion to pass by the lone country-house in which she had been lodged. The situation was so near to the outposts, and a battle certain, I concluded that she must ere then have been removed to a place of greater security, and, big with the thought of coming events, I scarcely even looked at it as we rolled along, but just as I had passed the door, I found my hand suddenly grasped in hers. She gave it a gentle pressure, and, without uttering a word, had rushed back into the house again, almost before I could see to whom I was indebted for a kindness so unexpected and so gratifying.
"My mind had, the moment before, been sternly occupied in calculating the difference which it makes in a man's future prospects–his killing or being killed, when 'a change came o'er the spirit of the dream,' and throughout the remainder of that long and trying day I felt a lightness of heart and buoyancy of spirit which, in such a situation, was no less new than delightful.
"I never until then felt so forcibly the beautiful description of Fitz-James's expression of feeling, after his leave-taking of Ellen, under somewhat similar circumstances–
"'And after oft the knight would say,
That not when prize of festal day
Was dealt him by the brightest fair
That e'er wore jewel in her hair,
So highly did his bosom swell
As at that simple, mute, farewell.'"
24 From the time of their first residence at the Cape in the thirties, Juana Smith conformed to the Church of England, and was in consequence disowned by her remaining Spanish relatives.
25 He was really twenty-four, but he seems never to have known his own age. His wife (born 27 March, 1798) was just past fourteen.
26 Her relations are numerous. She was in three sieges of her native city: in one her wounded brother died in her arms. She was educated in a convent, and is a lineal descendant of Ponce de Leon, the Knight of Romance, and certainly she, as a female, inherits all his heroism. Her name, Juana Maria de Los Dolores de Leon, at once gives the idea of Hidalgo consanguinity, and she is of one of the oldest of the notoriously old Spanish, not Moorish, families. After Talavera, when the Duke's headquarters were at Badajos, and my wife was a child, Colonel Campbell and Lord Fitzroy Somerset were billeted in her sister's house. That was in the palmy days of their affluence, when they derived a considerable income from their olive groves. These, alas! were all cut down by the unsparing hand of the French, and the sisters' income seriously reduced. An olive tree requires great care and cultivation, nor does it bear well until twenty or thirty years old.–H. G. S.
27 Vide Duke's letter, Nov. 23, 1812, to Lord Liverpool, in his Grace's letter to Marshal Beresford, Oct. 31, "You see what a scrape we have been in, and how well we have got out of it."–H. G. S.
28 Cope, p. 141.
29 "Lord Dacre, with his horsemen light.
Shall be in rearward of the fight,
And succour those that need it most."
Marmion, VI. xxiv.
30 At the battles of the Pyrenees.
31 See pp. 129, 130.
32 Sir R. D. Henegan writes thus of Col. Skerrett, in describing the defence of Tarifa: "The commanding-officer of this expedition, although unimpeachable in the courageous bearing of a soldier, was wanting in the bold decision which, in military practice, must often take the lead of science and established rules."–Henegan's Seven Years' Campaigning (1846), vol. i. p. 234. Colonel T. Bunbury, Reminiscences of a Veteran, i. p. 116, gives a similar account: "Skerrett as an individual was brave to rashness; but I should have doubted it had I not so frequently witnessed proofs of his cool intrepidity and contempt of danger. At the head of troops, he was the most undecided, timid, and vacillating creature I ever met with."
33 Cope's account of Cadoux's death (pp. 149, 150), derived, he tells us, from Colonel Thomas Smith, is rather different. According to this, Skerrett sent to desire Cadoux to evacuate his post. Cadoux refused, saying that he could hold it. At 2 a.m. the French made a rush, but Cadoux, by his fire from the bridge-house, kept the head of the advancing column in check. Skerrett now peremptorily ordered Cadoux to leave the bridge-house. Cadoux could only comply, but remarked that "but few of his party would reach the camp." And as a matter of fact every officer present was either killed or wounded (Cadoux being killed), besides 11 sergeants and 48 rank and file out of a total strength of 100 men. Until the party left the bridge-house, Cadoux had not lost a man except the double sentries on the bridge, who were killed in the rush made by the French. Accordingly, while Harry Smith in the text blames Skerrett for leaving Cadoux in an almost impossible position without support, Thomas Smith's charge against Skerrett is that he recalled Cadoux when he was well able to hold his own.
34 In the Recollections of Rifleman Harris (1848), we have an account of Cadoux which tallies closely with that of the text: "I remember there was an officer named, I think, Cardo, with the Rifles. He was a great beau, but although rather effeminate and ladylike in manners, so much so as to be remarked by the whole Regiment at that time, yet he was found to be a most gallant officer when we were engaged with the enemy in the field. He was killed whilst fighting bravely in the Pyrenees, and amongst other jewellery he wore, he had a ring on his finger worth one hundred and fifty guineas."
35 Kincaid (Random Shots, p. 273) tells the story at second hand with his usual esprit.
36 Cope writes Arrhune. The Duke's Despatches have Rhune.
37 St. Pé, Nov. 13, 1813. No. 847.
38 Cope's account (p. 155) represents Barnard as falling wounded in the attack on the redoubt described in the text below. But he seems here to have read George Simmons's rather carelessly. Though Simmons, in his Journal for Nov. 10, says Barnard was wounded "towards the end of this day's fighting" (p. 321), in his letter of Dec. 7, he makes it clear that it was before the final attack on the redoubt; in fact, as Barnard was "reconnoitring how to move to the best advantage" (p. 326). There is no discrepancy between this and the text above.
39 It is difficult to reconcile this story with that told by Colonel Gawler (quoted by Leeke, Lord Seaton's Regiment at Waterloo, vol. ii. p. 365). Speaking of the check received by Colborne and the 52nd in their advance on the redoubt, he goes on: "At this moment an interesting episode occurred. Baron Alten, seeing from the lower ridge the desperate nature of the effort, endeavoured to send an order to prevent further attempts. It was confided to the Brigade-Major, Smith. Trusting to the shifting character of the mark of a horseman in motion, he tried the desperate venture; but it was impossible; no single living creature could reach the 52nd under the concentrated fire from the forts. The horse was soon brought down, and Captain Smith had to limit his triumph to carrying off his good and precious English saddle, which he performed with his accustomed coolness to the amusement of observing friends and enemies."
40 Query, Lindsell? See W. Tomkinson, Diary of a Cavalry Officer (1894), p. 195.
41 So in the Duke's despatch. But query, Barrouilhet? See Napier, Bk. xxiii. ch. ii., and the plan in Sir H. E. Maxwell's Life of Wellington, p. 358.
42 Query, Baring? The name Beyring seems not to occur in the Army Lists of 1813, 1814.
43 See Appendix II. The hour of the death is not stated in the letter.
44 Charles, from 1819 5th Duke of Richmond, after the introduction of the Catholic Emancipation Bill became a vigorous opponent of Wellington. Though reckoned an ultra-Tory, he joined the Reform Ministry in 1830, and afterwards supported Lord Melbourne. On the other hand, in 1845-6 (after the date when the remarks in the text were written), he was a leader of the opposition to corn-law abolition. He died within a few days of Sir Harry Smith, on 21st October, 1860.
45 According to G. Simmons' diary (p. 340), this attack on the French Cavalry took place on 16th March, two days before the advance of the Division. Simmons says the French Captain "died soon after."