Chapters XXIV to XXVIII
HARRY SMITH AND HIS WIFE START TOGETHER FOR THE WATERLOO CAMPAIGN–GHENT–BATTLE OF WATERLOO.
MY wife and I and my brother Charles were to start in a chaise at three o'clock the next morning. I never saw my poor father suffer so much as at thus parting from three of us at once, and feeling that his companion, my wife, was lost to him. He said, "Napoleon and Wellington will meet, a battle will ensue of a kind never before heard of, and I cannot expect to see you all again."
We reached Harwich in the afternoon, found West, his horses, and all our things right, and went to the Black Bull, from whence I had embarked years before for Gottenburgh. There we found my old acquaintance, the landlord, Mr. Briton, a man as civil as full of information. He said I had no chance of embarking at Harwich, unless I freighted a small craft that he would look out, and fitted it up for my horses.
Next day I came to terms with the skipper of a sloop of a few tons' burden, himself and a boy the crew. I couldn't help thinking of the 74's and frigates in which I had been flying over the ocean. We measured it, and found there was just room for the horses, and a hole aft, called a cabin, for my wife and self and brother. I did not intend to embark the horses till the wind was fair–a fortunate plan, for I was detained in the Black Bull by foul winds for a fortnight. The wind becoming fair, in the afternoon we embarked all our traps. Mr. Briton amply provided us with provisions and forage, and brought his bill for myself, wife, brother, two grooms, five horses, lady's maid, sea stock, etc. I expected it to be fifty or sixty pounds; it was twenty-four and some shillings, and we had lived on the fat of the land, for having been half-starved so many years, when once in the flesh-pots of England, we revelled in a plenty which we could scarcely fancy would last.
A gentle breeze carried us over to Ostend in twenty-four hours, where we landed our horses by slinging them and dropping them into the sea to swim ashore. My wife's noble mare, which we called the "Brass Mare" after her son of that ilk, when in the slings and in sight of the shore, neighed most gallantly, and my wife declared it an omen of brilliant success. We went to the great inn of Ostend. The difference between it and our late bivouac, the Black Bull, is not to be described. I found an English horse-dealer there. I bought two mules of him and a stout Flanders pony for our baggage, and in three days we were en route for Ghent, stopping one night at Bruges, where was an excellent inn, and the best Burgundy I had drunk up to that hour. My wife was delighted to be once more in campaigning trim.
When we reached Ghent we found Sir John Lambert had reached it the day before. Louis XVIII. was there, his Court and idlers, and Ghent was in as great a state of excitement as if the Duke of Marlborough was again approaching. I found our Brigade were all New Orleans Regiments–three of the best regiments of the old Army of the Peninsula, the 4th, 27th, and 40th, and the 81st in garrison at Brussels. We were ordered to be in perfect readiness to take the field with the warning66 we had been so many years accustomed to.
Louis held a Court while we were there. I was near the door he entered by. He was very inactive, but impressive in manner. He laid his hand on my shoulder to support himself. His great topic of conversation was how delighted he was to see us, and how much he was indebted to our nation. A more benign countenance I never beheld, nor did his subsequent reign belie the benignity of his expression.
While at Ghent I waited on Sir John Lambert every morning just after breakfast for orders. On one occasion we heard a voice thundering in the passage to him, "Hallo there, where the devil's the door?" I went out, and to my astonishment saw our noble friend Admiral Malcolm. "Why, where the devil has Lambert stowed himself? The house is as dark as a sheer hulk." He was delighted to see us, and sang out, "Come, bear a hand and get me some breakfast; no regular hours on shore as in the Royal Oak." He had been appointed to the command of the coast. He was very much attached to the Duke. During our stay at Ghent we had Brigade parades almost every day, and my General, an ex-Adjutant of the Guards, was most particular in all guard mountings, sentries, and all the correct minutiæ of garrison. The three regiments were in beautiful fighting trim, although the headquarters ship with the Grenadiers, the 27th, had not arrived from America. Poor 27th! in a few days they had not two hundred men in the ranks.
As we anticipated, our march from Ghent was very sudden. In an hour after the order arrived we moved en route for Brussels. We reached Asche on the afternoon of the 16th June. The rapid and continuous firing at Quatre Bras, as audible as if we were in the fight, put us in mind of old times, as well as on the qui vive. We expected an order every moment to move on. We believed the firing to be at Fleurus. As we approached Brussels the next day [17 June], we met an orderly with a letter from that gallant fellow De Lancey, Q.M.G., to direct us to move on Quatre Bras.
In the afternoon, after we passed Brussels, the scene of confusion, the flying of army, baggage, etc., was an awful novelty to us. We were directed by a subsequent order to halt at the village of Epinay, on the Brussels side of the forest of Soignies, a report having reached his Grace that the enemy's cavalry were threatening our communication with Brussels (as we understood, at least). The whole afternoon we were in a continued state of excitement. Once some rascals of the Cumberland Hussars, a new Corps of Hanoverians (not of the style of our noble and gallant old comrades, the 1st Hussars), came galloping in, declaring they were pursued by Frenchmen. Our bugles were blowing in all directions, and our troops running to their alarm-posts in front of the village. I went to report to Sir John Lambert, who was just sitting quietly down to dinner with my wife and his A.D.C. He says very coolly, "Let the troops—; this is all nonsense; there is not a French soldier in the rear of his Grace, depend on it, and sit down to dinner." I set off; though, and galloped to the front, where a long line of baggage was leisurely retiring. This was a sufficient indication that the alarm was false, and I dismissed the troops and started for the débris of a magnificent turbot which the General's butler had brought out of Brussels. This was in the afternoon.
Such a thunderstorm and deluge of rain now came on, it drenched all that was exposed to it, and in a few minutes rendered the country deep in mud and the roads very bad. All night our baggage kept retiring through the village.
In the course of the night, Lambert's Brigade were ordered to move up to the position the Duke had taken up in front of the forest of Soignies, and our march was very much impeded by waggons upset, baggage thrown down, etc. [18 June]. We met Sir George Scovell, an A.Q.M.G. at head-quarters, who said he was sent by the Duke to see the rear was clear, that it was choked between this and the Army, and the Duke expected to be attacked immediately; our Brigade must clear the road before we moved on. Our men were on fire at the idea of having to remain and clear a road when an attack was momentarily expected, and an hour would bring us to the position. The wand of a magician, with all his spells and incantations, could not have effected a clear course sooner than our 3000 soldiers of the old school.
This effected, General Lambert sent me on to the Duke for orders. I was to find the Duke himself, and receive orders from no other person. About 11 o'clock I found his Grace and all his staff near Hougoumont. The day was beautiful after the storm, although the country was very heavy. When I rode up, he said, "Hallo, Smith, where are you from last?" "From General Lambert's Brigade, and they from America." "What have you got?" "The 4th, the 27th, and the 40th; the 81st remain in Brussels." "Ah, I know, I know; but the others, are they in good order?" "Excellent, my lord, and very strong." "That's all right, for I shall soon want every man." One of his staff said, "I do not think they will attack to-day." "Nonsense," said the Duke. "The columns are already forming, and I think I have discerned where the weight of the attack will be made. I shall be attacked before an hour. Do you know anything of my position, Smith?" "Nothing, my lord, beyond what I see–the general line, and right and left." "Go back and halt Lambert's Brigade at the junction of the two great roads from Genappe and Nivelles. Did you observe their junction as you rode up?" "Particularly, my lord." "Having halted the head of the Brigade and told Lambert what I desire, ride to the left of the position. On the extreme left is the Nassau Brigade67–those fellows who came over to us at Arbonne, you recollect.68 Between them and Picton's Division (now the 5th) I shall most probably require Lambert. There is already there a Brigade of newly-raised Hanoverians, which Lambert will give orders to, as they and your Brigade form the 6th Division. You are the only British Staff Officer with it. Find out, therefore, the best and shortest road from where Lambert is now halted to the left of Picton and the right of the Nassau troops. Do you understand?" "Perfectly, my lord." I had barely turned from his Grace when he called me back. "Now, clearly understand that when Lambert is ordered to move from the fork of the two roads where he is now halted, you are prepared to conduct him to Picton's left." It was delightful to see his Grace that morning on his noble horse Copenhagen–in high spirits and very animated, but so cool and so clear in the issue of his orders, it was impossible not fully to comprehend what he said; delightful also to observe what his wonderful eye anticipated, while some of his staff were of opinion the attack was not in progress.
I had hardly got back to Lambert, after reconnoitring the country and preparing myself to conduct the troops, when the Battle of Waterloo commenced. We soon saw that where we should be moved to, the weight of the attack on Picton would be resisted by none but British soldiers. For a few seconds, while every regiment was forming square, and the charge of Ponsonby's Brigade going on (which the rising ground in our front prevented us seeing), it looked as if the formation was preparatory to a retreat Many of the rabble of Dutch troops were flying towards us, and, to add to the confusion, soon after came a party of dragoons, bringing with them three eagles and some prisoners. I said to General Lambert, "We shall have a proper brush immediately, for it looks as if our left will be immediately turned, and the brunt of the charge will fall on us." At this moment we were ordered to move to the very spot where the Duke, early in the morning, had expected we should be required. Picton had been killed, Sir James Kempt commanded on the left of the road to Genappe, near La Haye Sainte; his Division had been already severely handled, and we took their position, my old Battalion of Riflemen remaining with us.
The Battle of Waterloo has been too often described, and nonsense enough written about the Crisis,69 for me to add to it. Every moment was a crisis, and the controversialists had better have left the discussion on the battle-field. Every Staff officer had two or three (and one four) horses shot under him. I had one wounded in six, another in seven places, but not seriously injured. The fire was terrific, especially of cannon.
Late in the day, when the enemy had made his last great effort on our centre, the field was so enveloped in smoke that nothing was discernible. The firing ceased on both sides, and we on the left knew that one party or the other was beaten. This was the most anxious moment of my life. In a few seconds we saw the red-coats in the centre, as stiff as rocks, and the French columns retiring rapidly, and there was such a British shout as rent the air. We all felt then to whom the day belonged. It was time the "Crisis" should arrive, for we had been at work some hours, and the hand of death had been most unsparing. One Regiment, the 27th had only two officers left–Major Hume, who commanded from the beginning of the battle, and another–and they were both wounded, and only a hundred and twenty soldiers were left with them.
At this moment I saw the Duke, with only one Staff officer remaining, galloping furiously to the left. I rode on to meet him. "Who commands here?" "Generals Kempt and Lambert, my lord." "Desire them to get into a column of companies of Battalions, and move on immediately." I said, "In which direction, my lord?" "Right ahead, to be sure." I never saw his Grace so animated. The Crisis was general, from one end of the line to the other.
That evening at dark we halted, literally on the ground we stood on; not a picquet was required, and our whole cavalry in pursuit. Then came the dreadful tale of killed and wounded; it was enormous, and every moment the loss of a dear friend was announced. To my wonder, my astonishment, and to my gratitude to Almighty God, I and my two brothers–Tom, the Adjutant of the 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade, who had, during the day, attracted the Duke's attention by his gallantry, and Charles, in the 1st Battalion, who had been fighting for two days–were all safe and unhurt, except that Charles had a slight wound in the neck. In the thunderstorm the previous evening he had tied a large silk handkerchief over his stock; he forgot to take it off; and probably owed his life to so trifling a circumstance. There was not an instance throughout the Army of two brothers in the field escaping.70 We were three, and I could hardly credit my own eyes. We had nothing to eat or drink. I had some tea in my writing-case, but no sugar. It had been carried by an orderly, although in the ranks. He found me out after the battle, and I made some tea in a soldier's tin for Sir James Kempt, Sir John Lambert, and myself; and while we were thus regaling, up came my brother, of whose safety I was not aware.
Captain McCulloch of the 95th Regiment wished to see me. He was a dear friend whom I had not seen since he was awfully wounded at Foz d'Aruz [Foz de Aronce] on Massena's retreat, after having had seven sabre-wounds at the Coa, in Massena's advance, and been taken prisoner. He was in a cottage near, awfully wounded. I found him lying in great agony, but very composed. "Oh, Harry, so long since we have met, and now again under such painful circumstances; but, thank God, you and Tom are all right." I had brought all my remaining tea, which he ravenously swallowed. The ball had dreadfully broken the elbow of the sound arm, and had passed right through the fleshy part of his back, while the broken bone of the arm previously shattered at Foz d'Aruz was still exfoliating, and very painful even after a lapse of years. I got hold of a surgeon, and his arm was immediately amputated. When dressed, he lay upon the stump, as this was less painful than the old exfoliating wound, and on his back he could not lie. He recovered, but was never afterwards able to feed himself or put on his hat, and died, Heaven help him, suddenly of dysentery.
No one, but those who have witnessed the awful scene, knows the horrors of a field of battle–the piles of the dead, the groans of the dying, the agony of those dreadfully wounded, to whom frequently no assistance can be rendered at the moment; some still in perfect possession of their intellect, game to the last, regarding their recovery as more than probable, while the clammy perspiration of death has already pounced upon its victim; others, again, perfectly sensible of their dissolution, breathing into your keeping the feelings and expressions of their last moments–messages to father, mother, wife, or dearest relatives. Well might Walter Scott say
"Thou canst not name one tender tieOften have I myself, tired and exhausted in such scenes, almost regretted the life I have adopted, in which one never knows at any moment how near or distant one's own turn may be. In such dejection you sink into a profound sleep, and you stand up next morning in fresh spirits. Your country's calls, your excitement, honour and glory, again impel, and undauntedly and cheerfully you expose that life which the night before you fancied was of value. A soldier's life is one continued scene of excitement, hope, anticipation; fear for himself he never knows, though the loss of his comrade pierces his heart.
But here dissolved its relics lie."
Before daylight next morning [19 June] a Staff officer whose name I now forget, rode up to where we were all lying, and told us of the complete déroute of the French, and the vigorous pursuit of the Prussians, and that it was probable that our Division would not move for some hours. At daylight I was on horseback, with a heart of gratitude as became me, and anxious to let my wife know I was all right. I took a party of each Regiment of my Division with me, and went back to the field; for I was now established as Assistant-Quartermaster-General.
I had been over many a field of battle, but with the exception of one spot at New Orleans, and the breach of Badajos, I had never seen anything to be compared with what I saw. At Waterloo the whole field from right to left was a mass of dead bodies. In one spot, to the right of La Haye Sainte, the French Cuirassiers were literally piled on each other; many soldiers not wounded lying under their horses; others, fearfully wounded, occasionally with their horses struggling upon their wounded bodies. The sight was sickening, and I had no means or power to assist them. Imperative duty compelled me to the field of my comrades, where I had plenty to do to assist many who had been left out all night; some had been believed to be dead, but the spark of life had returned. All over the field you saw officers, and as many soldiers as were permitted to leave the ranks, leaning and weeping over some dead or dying brother or comrade. The battle was fought on a Sunday, the 18th June, and I repeated to myself a verse from the Psalms of that day–91st Psalm, 7th verse: "A thousand shall fall beside thee, and ten thousand at thy right hand, but it shall not come nigh thee." I blessed Almighty God our Duke was spared, and galloped to my General, whom I found with some breakfast awaiting my arrival.
So many accounts and descriptions have been given of the Battle of Waterloo, I shall only make one or two observations. To those who say the ultimate success of the day was achieved by the arrival of the Prussians, I observe that the Prussians were part of the whole on which his Grace calculated, as much as on the co-operation of one of his own Divisions; that they ought to have been in the field much sooner, and by their late arrival seriously endangered his Grace's left flank; and had Napoleon pushed the weight of his attack and precipitated irresistible numbers on our left, he would have forced the Duke to throw back his left and break our communication with the Prussians. The Duke's army was a heterogeneous mass, not the old Peninsular veterans; young 2nd Battalions most of them, others intermixed with the rabble of our allied army. Thus the Duke could not have counter-manoeuvred on his left, as he would have been able with his old army; and we had one Division under Colville far away to our right.
Napoleon fought the battle badly; his attacks were not simultaneous, but partial and isolated, and enabled the Duke to repel each by a concentration. His cavalry was sacrificed early in the day. If Napoleon did not desire to turn our left flank, and the battle is to be regarded as a fight hand to hand, he fought it badly.
By a general attack upon our line with his overpowering force of artillery, followed up by his infantry, he might have put hors-de-combat far more of our army than he did. His cavalry would have been fresh, and had he employed this devoted and gallant auxiliary late in the day as he did early, his attempts to defeat us would have been far more formidable.
His artillery and cavalry behaved most nobly, but I maintain his infantry did not. In proof; I will record one example. On the left, in front of the 5th Division, 25,000 of the Young Guard attacked in column. Picton was just killed, and Kempt commanded. It is true this column advanced under a galling fire, but it succeeded in reaching the spot where it intended to deploy. Kempt ordered the Battalion immediately opposite the head of the column to charge. It was a poor miserable Battalion compared with some of ours, yet did it dash like British soldiers at the column, which went about. Then it was that Ponsonby's Brigade got in among them, and took eagles and prisoners.
As a battle of science, it was demonstrative of no manoeuvre. It was no Salamanca or Vittoria, where science was so beautifully exemplified: it was as a stand-up fight between two pugilists, "mill away" till one is beaten. The Battle of Waterloo, with all its political glory, has destroyed the field movement of the British Army, so scientifically laid down by Dundas, so improved on by that hero of war and of drill, Sir John Moore. All that light-troop duty which he taught, by which the world through the medium of the Spanish War was saved, is now replaced by the most heavy of manoeuvres, by squares, centre formations, and moving in masses, which require time to collect and equal time to extend; and all because the Prussians and Russians did not know how to move quicker, we, forsooth, must adopt their ways, although Picton's Division at Quatre Bras nobly showed that British infantry can resist cavalry in any shape. It is true the Buffs were awfully mauled at Albuera, but what did my kind patron, Sir William Stewart, order them to do? They were in open column of companies right in front, and it was necessary at once to deploy into line, which Sir William with his light 95th had been accustomed to do on any company: he orders them, therefore, to deploy on the Grenadiers; by this the right would become the left, what in common parlance is termed "clubbed;" and while he was doing this, he kept advancing the Grenadiers. It is impossible to imagine a battalion in a more helpless position, and it never can be cited as any criterion that a battalion must be in squares to resist cavalry. At the Battle of Fuentes d'Oñoro, the overwhelming French cavalry, having rapidly put back our very inferior force, were upon a regiment of infantry of the 7th Division, to the right of the Light Division, before either were aware. The French advance of the Chasseurs Britanniques, I think (it was one of the mongrels, as we called those corps, anyhow), was imposing, heavy, and rapid (I was close to the left of our infantry at the time), but it made not the slightest impression on the regiment in line; on the contrary, the Chasseurs were repulsed with facility and loss.
But to return to our narrative. A party was sent to bury the dead of each regiment as far as possible. For the Rifle Brigade, my brother Charles was for the duty. In gathering the dead bodies, he saw among the dead of our soldiers the body of a French officer of delicate mould and appearance. On examining it, he found it was that of a delicate, young and handsome female. My story ends here, but such is the fact. What were the circumstances of devotion, passion, or patriotism which led to such heroism, is, and ever will be, to me a mystery. Love, depend upon it.
That afternoon we moved forward by the Nivelles road. I had to go into my General's room. I was not aware he was there, and entered abruptly. He was changing his shirt, when I saw he had received a most violent contusion on his right arm. It was fearfully swelled (in those days our coat-sleeves were made very large), and as black as ebony from the shoulder to the wrist. "My dear General," I said, "what an arm! I did not know you had been wounded." "No, nor you never would, if accident had not shown you." He made me promise to say nothing, about which I compromised by saying, "To no one but to a surgeon, whom you must see. An arm in that state, if inflammation succeed, might slough, and you would lose it." The General would not see a surgeon, and thank God he got well.
But turn we now to the poor wife. I left her at daylight on the 18th, prepared to get on her horse and go to Brussels, to await the result of the storm of war which I had prepared her for. Her tale of wonder must form a separate and distinct narrative.
WHEN the troops had moved forward on the morning of the 18th June, I, as you directed, got on my horse and went to Brussels, intending to await the result of the pending battle. On arrival I found my baggage and servant in the great square, and an order had just arrived for the whole of the baggage of the army to move on the road towards Antwerp, and afterwards to cross the canal about five miles from Brussels, at a village on the Antwerp side. On reaching the village I dismounted, the baggage was unloaded, and West was endeavouring to get something for me to eat in the inn. It was about five o'clock. Suddenly an alarm was given that the enemy was upon us. West brought my mare to the door as quickly as I could run downstairs, but from the noise, confusion, and everything, my horse was perfectly frantic. West succeeded in tossing me up, but my little pug, Vitty, was still below. I said, "Now, West, give me my dog;" when, as he put her into my lap, I dropped my reins. West, knowing I always gathered up my reins before I jumped up, let go, and off flew the mare with such speed that, with the dog in my lap, it was all I could do for some time to keep my seat. I had the snaffle rein in my hand, but I could not restrain her; the curb rein was flying loose, and I couldn't stoop to get hold of it. She flew with me through the streets of Malines, across a bridge over the river, the road full of horses and baggage, still flying away, away, until I was perfectly out of breath. I saw a waggon upset lying immediately before me across the road, and I knew that if I could not turn her on one side, I must inevitably be knocked to pieces. The mare would not answer my snaffle rein, and I felt her charge the waggon as at a fence to leap it. The height was beyond the spring of my horse. As the animal endeavoured to leap, the loose curb rein caught. This brought her at once to a halt, and I was precipitated on her head, pug and all. I had come at this rate eight miles, over a road covered with mud and dirt. The mare was as much out of breath as I was. I managed to get back into the saddle, and felt that now was my only chance to get hold of the curb. I succeeded in doing so, and we were then on terms of equality.
Having righted my habit, I looked back and saw some five or six men on horseback, whom of course I construed into French Dragoons, although, if I had considered a moment, I should have known that no Dragoon could have come the pace I did; but I was so exhausted, I exclaimed, "Well, if I am to be taken, I had better at once surrender." The first horseman proved to be one of my servants, riding one of the Newmarket horses, having taken the animal from West against his orders. The others were a Commissary, an officer of the Hanoverian Rifles, and an officer, I regret to say, of our own Hussars. I addressed myself to the Hussar, who appeared the oldest of the party. "Pray, sir, is there any danger?" (I had forgotten almost all the little English I knew in my excitement.) "Danger, mum! When I left Brussels the French were in pursuit down the hill." "Oh, sir, what shall I do?" "Come on to Antwerp with me." He never pulled up. During the whole conversation we were full gallop. One of the party says, "You deserve no pity. You may well be fatigued carrying that dog. Throw it down." I was very angry, and said I should deserve no pity if I did.
Our pace soon brought us to Antwerp, where the Hussar was very civil, and tried to get me a room in one of the hotels. This he soon found was impossible, as all the English visitors at Brussels had fled there. We must now go to the Hôtel de Ville and try for a billet. Whilst standing there, the officer having gone inside, I was an object of curious attention. I was wet from head to foot with the black mud of the high-road. On my face the mud had dried, and a flood of tears chasing each other through it down my cheeks must have given me an odd appearance indeed. While standing on horseback there, an officer of the English garrison, whom I did not know (he must have learnt my name from my servant) addressed me by name. "Mrs. Smith, you are in such a terrible plight, and such is the difficulty of your getting in anywhere, if you will come with me, I will conduct you to Colonel Craufurd, the Commandant of the Citadel; his wife and daughters are most kind and amiable people, and readily, I know, would they contribute with happiness anything to your comfort." My situation was not one to stand on delicacy. I therefore promptly accepted this offer, leaving my kind Hussar in the Hôtel de Ville. When I arrived, nothing could exceed the kindness of all, which was as striking at the moment as it seems to me now. I was stripped from a weight of mud which, with my long riding-habit, I could hardly move under. A shower of hot water again showed my features, and I was put in the clothes of good Mrs. Craufurd, a very tall woman; and in these comfortable dry clothes I was nearly as much lost as in the case of mud I had been washed out of.
The hospitality of this night ought to have soothed me, but the agony of hope, doubt, and fear I was in absorbed every other feeling, although I was so sensible of kindness.
The next day [19 June] the officer who had so kindly brought me to Colonel Craufurd came to tell me a great quantity of baggage was momentarily arriving: could I give him any directions or clue to find mine? In about an hour he returned with my spare horses, old trusty West, who had never left anything behind, my baggage, and my maid.
In the afternoon we heard of the battle having been fought and won, but no news of my husband. So, contrary to the wishes of my kind host and hostess, I ordered my horse to be ready at three o'clock in the morning to rejoin my husband, whatever shape fate had reduced him to. It was all I could do to resist the importunity of those kind people who wished me to remain. But at three o'clock [20 June] West and I were on horseback, desiring baggage, servants, and horses to follow. In conversation with West, I ascertained that at the village we fled from, my mattrass, and in it my dressing-case (bought on a Sunday at Weeks'72) with all my fortune, two Napoleons, had been left in the inn. When I arrived, I asked the landlord of the little wretched inn about it. He pretended he knew nothing, but old cunning West got information in the stable-yard, and gave a boy five francs to conduct him to the hayloft where my treasure was. West soon transported what he called ours to me, and upon opening it, I found my important dressing-case there untouched. I had something in the shape of breakfast. In the mean time my servants had arrived, the lost mattrass was restored to the baggage, and West and I, in light marching order, started for Brussels. We were only five miles away, and arrived by seven in the morning.
Seeing some of our Rifle soldiers, with an eagerness which may be imagined, I asked after my husband, when to my horror they told me that Brigade-Major Smith of the 95th was killed. It was now my turn to ask the "Brass Mare" to gallop, and in a state approaching desperation I urged her to the utmost speed for the field of battle to seek my husband's corpse. The road from Brussels to the field almost maddened me, with wounded men and horses, and corpses borne forward to Brussels for interment, expecting as I was every moment to see that of my husband, knowing how he was beloved by officers and soldiers. The road was nearly choked which was to lead me to the completion, as I hoped, of my life; to die on the body of the only thing I had on earth to love, and which I loved with a faithfulness which few can or ever did feel, and none ever exceeded. In my agony of woe, which of course increased as my expectations were not realized (it was now Tuesday), I approached the awful field of Sunday's carnage, in mad search of Enrique. I saw signs of newly dug graves, and then I imagined to myself, "O God, he has been buried, and I shall never again behold him!" How can I describe my suspense, the horror of my sensations, my growing despair, the scene of carnage around me? From a distance I saw a figure lying; I shrieked, "Oh, there he is!" I galloped on. "No, it is not he! Find him I will, but whither shall I turn?" O ye in peaceful homes, with every comfort around you, you wonder how I did not sink under my afflictions, a foreigner in a strange land, thus at once bereft of my all! I will tell you. Educated in a convent, I was taught to appeal to God through Jesus Christ. In this my trouble I did so. At this moment, as a guardian angel, a dear and mutual friend, Charlie Gore, A.D.C. to Sir James Kempt, appeared to me. In my agony and hope, hope alone of finding the body, I exclaimed, "Oh, where is he? Where is my Enrique?" "Why, near Bavay by this time, as well as ever he was in his life; not wounded even, nor either of his brothers." "Oh, dear Charlie Gore, why thus deceive me? The soldiers tell me Brigade-Major Smith is killed. Oh, my Enrique!" "Dearest Juana, believe me; it is poor Charles Smyth, Pack's Brigade-Major. I swear to you, on my honour, I left Harry riding Lochinvar in perfect health, but very anxious about you." "Oh, may I believe you, Charlie! my heart will burst." "Why should you doubt me?" "Then God has heard my prayer!" This sudden transition from my depth of grief and maddening despair was enough to turn my brain, but Almighty God sustained me. Gore told me he had returned to Brussels to see poor Charlie Beckwith, who had lost, or must lose, his leg; and that he was then in the act of looking for the grave of our mutual friend, poor Charlie Eeles. Gore said, "I am now going to Mons: can you muster strength to ride with me there?" I said, "Strength? yes, for anything now!" and we reached Mons at twelve o'clock at night. I had been on the same horse since three in the morning, and had ridden a distance from point to point of sixty miles; and after all the agony, despair, relief, and happiness I had gone through in one day, I ate something, and lay down until daylight next morning [21 June], when I rapidly pushed on to Bavay, on my really wonderful thoroughbred mare.
I first met Sir John Lambert, who showed me where Enrique was to be found. Until I saw him, I could not persuade myself he was well, such a hold had my previous horror taken of my every thought and feeling. Soon, O gracious God, I sank into his embrace, exhausted, fatigued, happy, and grateful–oh, how grateful!–to God who had protected him, and sustained my reason through such scenes of carnage horror, dread, and belief in my bereavement.
I was afterwards told all this, and I could not but reflect on what we had all gone through since the morning we had parted with my father, and how his prediction of a terrific struggle had been verified. Our adventures formed the subject of a long letter, and from him came one soon after.
"Never did I receive two letters with such pleasure as your two last after the glorious Battle of Waterloo. For three of you, my sons, to have been so hotly engaged, and to have come off unhurt, must not have been chance or fate; but Providence seems to have watched over you all and protected you. How grateful ought we all to be to the Almighty God! I assure you my prayers have ever been offered up to the Throne of Grace for the protection of you all, and a safe return to England."
This letter is now on my table before me, fresh as when written,73 while the author, God bless him, has mixed with the earth to which all must return. He lived to the age of 87, and died in Sept. 1843, a strong and healthy man until within a few months of his dissolution. It is difficult to say whether he was the more proud of having three sons at Waterloo, or grateful to Almighty God for their preservation.
MARCH TO PARIS–HARRY SMITH QUARTERMASTER-GENERAL OF THE RESERVE–HE BECOMES LIEUT.-COLONEL AND C.B.–THE 6TH DIVISION MOVED FROM NEUILLY TO ST. GERMAIN–THE DUC DE BERRI AS A SPORTSMAN–ON THE REDUCTION OF THE 6TH DIVISION HARRY SMITH REJOINS HIS REGIMENT AS CAPTAIN–MARCH TO CAMBRAY–HE IS MADE MAJOR DE PLACE OF THAT TOWN.
OUR march to Paris was unaccompanied by anything to relate except that I had a gallop round Mons and a good look on Malplaquet, but could picture to myself no position, while I felt as a soldier standing on the classic ground of the gallant achievements of my country and our former army of heroes (for I regard Marlborough and Wellington as the greatest men England or the world ever produced). But the latter days of Wellington are as conspicuous for ability and energy as the days of his youth. Poor Marlborough dwindled into imbecility, and became a miser. To Wellington his country has ever been enthusiastically grateful, while Marlborough, by ill-treatment, was driven into voluntary banishment. Although I love Wellington with a fervour which cannot be exceeded, I pray my God he may never outlive his mental faculties, but leave this world and the country and cause he has so eminently served while that world and country are still in admiration and wonder. Alava, the Spanish General, so attached and devoted to the Duke (by-the-bye, he was a Captain of a Spanish battleship or frigate, I forget which), told me and Juana two years after the Battle of Waterloo that the night after that eventful day, the Duke got back to his quarters at Waterloo about nine or ten at night. The table was laid for the usual number, while none appeared of the many of his staff but Alava and Fremantle. The Duke said very little, ate hastily and heartily, but every time the door opened he gave a searching look, evidently in the hope of some of his valuable staff approaching. When he had finished eating, he held up both hands in an imploring attitude and said, "The hand of Almighty God has been upon me this day," jumped up, went to his couch, and was asleep in a moment. At this period he was not aware of the extent of his wonderful victory.
When we approached the capital, we found the French army strongly posted in a position near St. Denis and the previously shamefully abandoned post of Mont Martre. From this position we expected to have to drive them, but a day or two's suspense relieved us. In a day or two we went to see the entrée of Louis into Paris–a humble spectacle indeed compared to the magnitude of the struggle that brought it about.
Lieut.-General Sir Lowry Cole had now arrived to take the command of the 6th Division, previously under Lambert. The 5th, 6th, and Brunswickers composed the Reserve, about 17,000, Sir James Kempt, the senior General, commanding; whose Quartermaster-General, Sir William Gomm, gave all orders for marching, bivouac, etc. Now it became my province to do so, and I never felt more proud than in having the movement and arrangement of march of 17,000 soldiers.
Our army was in the environs of Paris, the 5th Division at Clichy, the 6th at Neuilly, the Brunswickers near Clichy. The house I and my wife occupied in the town of Neuilly we found was a sort of country residence belonging to a nice old lady in Paris. There was a beautiful and most productive garden, and an establishment of regular gardeners. When I sent for the head man and desired him to take to his mistress the vegetables he was accustomed to send her, and to obey her orders, whatever they were, he was thunderstruck. I said, "If the garden is not kept in real good order, then I will show you what an Englishman is." The poor old lady, hearing this, came out to thank us, and we often dined with her in Paris. She lived in great style, and was of use to my wife in showing her milliners, etc., for a refit à la mode was necessary.
Our life was now one of continued pleasure and excitement–nothing but parties at night and races by day. At these I was steward. The crowd of foreign officers being very unruly in riding in after the race-horses, I put some proper fellows of soldiers at the distance-post (who, having resisted many a charge of French cavalry, cared little for an unarmed galloping man), with orders to run the rope across to stop this disorder. My orders were obeyed, as I expected, and that gallant hero, Marshal Blucher, not seeing the rope, rode his horse full speed against it and fell, and in the crash the noble old fellow broke his collar-bone, to my annoyance and distress.
While one day walking in my garden at Neuilly, my old friend Tom Fane, who had come to Paris as one of the sight-seers, came full gallop up to me and Juana, "Hurrah, Harry, the Gazette has arrived! You are Lieutenant-Colonel, and here is a case for you; it has some order in it, I think. I found it at the Military Secretary's office, and, being to your address, brought it. Let me open it." It was the Order of Companion of the Bath, which pleased poor Tom more than it did me. Thus again had I and Juana cause to be grateful to Almighty God, not only for perfect safety, but for worldly distinction and promotion. It was barely fourteen months since the Battle of Toulouse. I had crossed the Atlantic to and from America four times; fought a gallant action, and captured the metropolis of that world; brought home dispatches, and received £500; was in communication with ministers, and honoured by a long audience of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent; again went out; again was under fire for three weeks, and in the sanguinary disaster at New Orleans; was in the Battle of Waterloo, and had been promoted from Captain to Lieut.-Colonel and Companion of the Bath; without a wound; restored to my wife in health and contentment, and nothing to distress or annoy me beyond the loss and wounds of so many gallant and dear friends. Cold must that heart be which could not feel to its inmost core God Almighty's providence.
While in our cantonments around Paris we had frequent reviews with Emperors, Kings, etc., as spectators, and nothing could exceed the style and bearing of our army. The conduct, too, was exemplary. The taking down of the horses from Venice, from the Place du Carrousel; the execution of poor Ney, that hero of reality, not romance; the desire of Blucher to destroy the bridge of Jena, which the Duke of Wellington prevented; the escape of La Vallette, etc., kept us all in a state of excitement, while the lions of Paris, then the entrepôt of every article of value in the arts, afforded daily occupation. Not a valuable picture in Europe but was in the Place du Carrousel. It was my delight to stand, often an hour at a time, looking at Paul Potter's small painting of the bull and the peasant behind the tree, and I have been so fascinated I have expected the bull to charge.
In the autumn  it became necessary to move the army into more permanent quarters, and my Division, the 6th, was sent to St. Germain, that magnificent and ancient resort of former kings. The woods were in perfect order, and cut into beautiful foci and avenues like radii of circles, for hunting in the French style. The Duke de Berri had hounds, and was passionately fond of the sport. The stag was turned out, there were relays of hounds in couples, and huntsmen of various denominations with large French horns, all in a costume de chasse, with large cocked hats and a couteau de chasse by their sides. The carriages, full of ladies of the court and others, assembled in one of the foci, or centres, from which the avenues radiated. When the stag crossed into another part of the wood, the carriages galloped to the "focus" of that part of the forest where the hunt was now going on, and such a crash of horns as there was to denote that the stag had changed his direction! The Duke went galloping up and down the avenues, changing very frequently from one fat brute of a horse to another. My wife and I, who went out every day and galloped after the Duke, an ill-tempered fellow, up and down the avenues, were barely able to keep our real good hunters warm. It was, however, capital fun, although foreign to our ideas of hunting. I always fancied myself a figure in a tapestry, hunting being a favourite subject for that kind of delineation.
LIEUT.-COLONEL HARRY SMITH.
From a picture painted in Paris in 1815. [Opposite p. 294.
At the mort (or death), or when the stag was at bay, there was always a great row of horns and shouting, but no dog-language. On one occasion the stag, a noble animal, was at bay, and fiercely contending with the hounds. The Duke de Berri jumped off his horse and drew his couteau de chasse, making great demonstration of going up to the stag, while his courtiers were screeching, "Oh, monsieur, monsieur, prenez garde, pour l'amour de Dieu." He reminded me of the Irish hero, "Hold me, Jim; you know my temper," for the Duke had no real idea of doing anything of the sort, although, when the poor noble animal had been shot by some of the piqueurs, the Duke then ran in valorously and dipped his couteau in the beautiful animal's chest. For this feat a lot of us were determined to play the Duke a trick, and the next hunting-day we contrived to break down the paling of the forest and to induce the stag to bolt. We succeeded to our hearts' content, and away into the open went stag safe enough, the hounds in no wind after him. The Duke and all his equipage were soon planted, and he was in a furious passion. The couteau de chasse was not required that day.
The most ridiculous thing is that they do not let the hounds "tear him and eat him" while their blood is up. The stag is taken to the kennel and skinned, and all the meat cut into small pieces and put again into the hide, and the hounds then, in this cold-blooded way, rush at a mess, instead of the whole pack, in a state of excitement, falling on the hunted animal reeking with fatigue.
We were all amused one day at observing a man elegantly mounted on an English horse in the full costume of the French chasse (couteau, etc.), when who should this be but our own dear Duke! He looked so neat and smart, and we had such a laugh. He himself had a beautiful pack of hounds and some boxed stags, which gave runs sometimes, but he was not of the age for a sportsman.
About this time I and Will Havelock set on foot a pack of foxhounds. We sent to England for hounds. The numbers of our pack being thirteen couple, we sent to Brussels for [five couple more] from the Prince of Orange's establishment. This pack afterwards became a capital one.
On the conclusion of the treaty between the Allied Powers and France, by which an Army of Occupation was designated to remain on the northern boundary of France for three or five years, the large armies (except their quota of the contingent) marched back to their respective countries. Of the British Army four Divisions alone were to remain. Mine was reduced, and being no longer on the staff, I joined my regiment Some of my old comrades said to Charlie Beckwith, who had also joined, "Now, how will Harry Smith, after a career of such extended authority, like to come back to the command of a Company?" Charlie says (for he loved me), "In the execution of his duty and care of his Company he will be an example to us all."
My corps was moved again into the environs of Paris preparatory to its march to the north. I was now visited by the deepest distress and grief, for three days expecting the death of all I loved and cherished–my dear wife. Nothing but vigour of mind and a good constitution saved her. I had encountered many previous difficulties, dangers, and disasters, but never aught like this. God in His continued mercy spared her to me. Praised be His Name.
She was scarcely fit to move when we marched from Paris to Louvres [16 Jan. 1816] and an adjacent village. My Company went to Vernais. We were again under Sir John Lambert, who had been moved from one Brigade to another. My wife drove herself in my tilbury; I marched with my men. We had a large cold château as a quarter, with a very civil landlord. I had with me the hounds–eighteen couple. He put them up most kindly, and appeared delighted–so much so that I had no delicacy in asking him to get me a dead horse or to buy a dying brute for a few shillings. To my astonishment, he regarded the request as a direct insult. It was all I could do to make him understand I had no idea of offending. He was with difficulty appeased, but I saw he never forgot the dead horse, any more than the Antiquary's nephew the "phoca or seal."
From hence we marched to Cambray, around which place and Valenciennes the greater part of the army was to be cantoned, Three fortresses were to be garrisoned by us. The Duke's headquarters were to be at Cambray. One day Major Balvaird came to me. He was my commanding officer (I being only a Brevet Lieut.-Colonel and Captain under his command). He was an excellent fellow, and as gallant a soldier as ever lived, a bosom friend, and a Scotchman with a beautiful accent. "Weel, Harry, mi mon, the deevil is in it. I have an order to send a Captain to the depôt at Shorncliffe. You are the first for my duty, my lad. You canna be more hurt at being ordered than I am to order you. So be prepared. There is a just one chance for you, but you must be prepared." My mortification was excessive, for with my habits, hounds, horses, and wife, etc., the income I should get in England was not at all to my desire. However, I said nothing to my wife, always hoping something might turn up.
On the march one night my Company was in a wretched little village, my quarters a miserable dirty little farmhouse. On any other occasion I should have cared more than my wife herself, but she was still very delicate, and I was awfully afraid of a relapse. It was February, and the cold very severe. In watching her, I did not go to sleep until just before it was time to jump up and march, when I had a curious dream that the Duke of Wellington sent for me and said, "Smith, I have two staff appointments to give away, you shall have one," and that as I went out, poor Felton Hervey, the Military Secretary, said, "You are a lucky fellow, Harry, for the one you are to have is the most preferable by far." I told my wife this dream, and said, "Mark my words if it does not turn out to be true."
On reaching our cantonment at Bourlon, a little beyond Cambray, I had just put up my Company when General Lambert sent for me. "Smith," he says, "I am ordered to send a field officer to Cambray, who, in conjunction with an officer of Engineers, is to take over Cambray, its guns, stores, etc., from the French Commander and Engineers. It may lead to something further. I therefore wish you to start at daylight; the duty is important." His wish was my law. Off I started. I had scarcely completed the transfer when the General Orders were put into my hand in which I saw I was appointed Major de Place, or Town-Major of Cambray, and Charlie Beckwith Major de Place of Valenciennes, each with the pay or allowance of Assistant Quartermaster-General, to which department we were to report. Thus my dream was verified, for, as Cambray was headquarters, and I had none of that horrid duty, billeting on the inhabitants, which was attached to Valenciennes (the headquarters A.Q.M.G. being desired to do it), I was given the better place of the two, as Hervey said in my dream.
CAMBRAY, 1816-1818–SPORT AND GAIETY–THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON–HARRY SMITH RECEIVES A VISIT FROM HIS FATHER.
SOON after our establishment at Cambray, I received a note from one of His Grace's Aides-de-Camp. "The Duke desires you will come to him immediately, and bring with you the sheet of Cassini's map of the environs of Cambray." Fortunately I had this map. I asked myself what in the name of wonder the Duke could want. Off I cut. "Well, Smith, got the map?" I opened it. "Now, where is my château?" "Here, my lord." "Ah, the coverts are very well shown here. Are there foxes in all these?" "Yes, my lord, too many in every one." "Well, then, hounds must always know their own country"–he drew his finger as a line across the map. "Now, your hounds hunt that side, mine this."
On one occasion, when Lord Castlereagh was staying with His Grace, the former wanted to see some coursing in France, and about 2 o'clock in the afternoon the Duke sent for me to bring some greyhounds. We went out, and were lucky in finding, and killed a brace. I never saw a man in such spirits as the Duke. He rode like a whipper-in.
I once trained some greyhounds for the Duke, almost puppies, against some of the same age which that noble fellow, Sir Edward Barnes had bred. We were to meet near the Duke's château, where there were plenty of hares. We had great sport to beat Sir Edward every match. My wife rode her "Brass" seventeen miles before we looked for a hare. The Duke made her one of his umpires. She rode every course, and back again at night.
Poor Felton Hervey was prejudiced against Spanish greyhounds, and he and the present Duke of Richmond got out some English hounds to the Peninsula to beat my celebrated "Moro," which Harry Mellish, a gallant hero alike as soldier and sportsman, declared the best dog he ever saw in his life. Of course the English dogs had no chance.
While at Cambray I had two dogs, sons of the "Moro," and we had a great coursing party–the Duke of Wellington, Lord Hill (who had beautiful English greyhounds), Sir Hussey Vivian, etc. We were near the Duke's château, where there were plenty of right good hares. Hervey objected to my Spaniards running. We had been coursing all day and not a hare was killed, so I rode up to the Duke and said, "My lord, this won't do. A hare must be killed to go to the château." The Duke said, "Ah! but how?" "My Spaniards should kill you a hare, my lord." The sun was almost down. Felton Hervey says, "Lord Hill's 'Laura' and 'Rattler' shall get a hare. We will put them in slips; Smith shall call 'Loo,' and if they don't kill their hare, then let the Moro blood try, and I will halloo them out of their slips." At it we went. A hare jumped up under the nose of Lord Hill's dogs. I hallooed. The hare hadn't twenty yards' law. "Ah," says the Duke, "you gave the hare no chance." "Plenty, my lord. They won't kill her." After a terrific course she fairly beat them. Hervey was very angry. It was nearly dark, when hares run like devils. My dogs, two brothers, were in the slips. So late in the evening hares are sly. One jumped up sixty yards off; and Hervey hallooed. The honesty of the field went with me, and all sung out, "Shame, Hervey! your dogs were close to their hare." "Never mind," I said. "My lord, you shall have the hare." I was on that wonderful horse Lochinvar, and never did I so ask him to go along. My dogs soon closed with their hare, when I knew, if they once turned her with such a law, she was ours. We had a terrific course, and killed her in a bank, within three yards of a covert where she would have been safe. I galloped back in triumph with my hare, for not a horse could live with Lochinvar, and I threw the hare down at his Grace's feet Hervey was furious, and insisted that I and Lochinvar acted third greyhound. I did not, and I gained accordingly. The Duke laughed, and turned round to go home, saying, "Thank you for the hare, Smith. We should have gone home without one but for your Spanish greyhounds."
Coming home from riding one afternoon, I overtook the Duke on the bank of the canal, all alone. When I rode up I must either pass him, or saddle myself on him as companion, neither of which etiquette or delicacy tolerated. After my usual salutation, the Duke, with his brilliant imagination in trifles as well as things of moment, said, "If not in a hurry, ride home with me." After a little talk about hounds, greyhounds, etc., he said, "What! no dogs with you?" I said, "On Sundays, my lord, I never take them out." "Very proper," he said, "although I fear in our late struggle we respected Sunday but little. All our great battles were fought on that holy day which ought to be." "Yes," said I, "my lord, so was Trafalgar, and so was that dire disaster, New Orleans." "Was it?" he said. "You were there, were you not?" "Indeed was I, my lord." His Grace never mentioned dear Sir Edward Pakenham, and of course I never did, although my heart was full of him. "Tell me all about it." I did so. "What! the troops stood and fired in column, did they? What corps?" I named them. "Ah," he said, "they had not been accustomed to victory, but it was quite right to keep two such corps as the 7th Fusiliers and the 43rd in reserve." "We ought not to have landed where we did, my lord." "Certainly not," he said. "I was consulted about those lakes, and I immediately asked, 'Is there navigation there for purposes of trade?' When I was answered 'No,' I said, 'Then it is injudicious to use them to land an army, and craft of any size will never get up to land the troops.'"
I had received and carried many orders from his Grace, but of course never held a military conversation with him before. I was never so struck as by the pointed questions he asked and the more rapid questions my answers elicited. In half an hour's ride he was perfectly acquainted with all I could tell him, and said, "I am glad I have had this conversation with you. It agrees as nearly as may be with the opinion I had previously formed. If you are not engaged, you and Juana come and dine with me to-day. Her friend Alava will be there." I was as proud as may be, because I knew by this his Grace was satisfied with my explanation. How I longed to tell him how I loved and admired his brother-in-law, Sir Edward Pakenham! But although I talked of "the General," I never made use of the magic word (to me at least) "Pakenham."
One night, at a great ball at the Duke's, the Prince and Princess Narinska were present, and a lot of Russian and Cossack officers. The Princess was the only Russian lady, a very beautiful and accomplished woman. The Duke wished that the mazurka should be danced in compliment to her, but none of our ladies would stand up with the Princess. So the Duke came up to my wife, and took her hand: "Come, Juana, now for the Russian fandango; you will soon catch the step." A young Russian came forward as her partner. The Princess danced elegantly, and the Duke was as anxious as I was that Juana should acquit herself well. She did, and he was as pleased as possible.
The Duke was in great spirits in those days, and whenever he was surrounded by Emperors and Kings he showed himself the great man that he was. His attention to them was most marked, but we ever observed that his Grace felt he was the representative of our King and country, and we could see the majesty and still the delicacy with which he conducted himself.
On one occasion the King of Prussia begged to see as many of the British Army by themselves as could be collected, and the majority were assembled not far from the pillar erected by the French in honour of the victory of [Denain74], and which was equally in honour of the Duke of Marlborough. (The French never gained a battle until [Marlborough] was so madly taken away by the intrigues of the British Government.) The King arrived much before his time, and our troops were not formed to receive him. The Duke's quick eye detected his approach in the distance, and he says, "Hallo, Fremantle, there he is! He will be upon us before we are ready, and we can't keep him back with picquets. Ride up and make him take a long detour until you see we are ready, although a few minutes will suffice us. "Our troops were in position like lightning, and it was beautiful to see the Duke so animated, so cool, so proud of his Army and the rapidity with which we all moved to act up to his wishes. He was altogether very popular with his Army, but not so much so as after Toulouse. He felt that everything that occurred at his headquarters must be a precedent for the guidance of all the Armies he was in command of, and he was frequently rigid, as it seemed, to extremes, particularly in all cases of disputes between officers and the French inhabitants. At Cambray it was part of my duty to receive all complaints, and, generally speaking, our own people were the aggressors. When the French were, his Grace demanded that their authorities should make an equal example. This correct principle of action was as highly extolled by all thinking men as it deserved, especially as the French had degraded themselves all over the world (except in dear old England which we protected) by acts of cruelty, oppression, and tyranny towards the inhabitants. The Duke said, "We are Englishmen and pride ourselves on our deportment, and that pride shall not be injured in my keeping." On parting with his Army, he thanked the British contingent after all the others. "He begs them to accept his best acknowledgments for the example they have given to others by their own good conduct, and for the support and assistance they have invariably afforded him to maintain the discipline of the Army." This I thought at the time, and I do so more now, was the highest compliment his Grace could pay us. We had saved Europe, and now we were thanked for our conduct in quarters, when in occupation of the country of our enemy, who had been the oppressors of the world; although, as good does come out of evil, so has Europe been wonderfully improved owing to the liberal principles moderately derived from the madness of French democracy.
Our life in Cambray was one excess of gaiety. My dear old friend and commander, Sir Andrew Barnard, had been appointed Commandant, so that, surrounded by my old generals, friends, and comrades, I was at home at once. We were both young; my wife was beautiful. We were fêted and petted by every one. I was the huntsman of a magnificent pack of hounds, steward of races, riding steeplechases, etc. My wife was taken the greatest notice of by every one, especially by the Duke, who, having known her as a child, always called her his Spanish heroine, Juana. She rode beautifully hunting, was the best of waltzers, and sang melodiously. We were surrounded by the best society. All England's nobility poured forth to see the lion of the day, the Duke's headquarters. No wonder that in the midst of this gaiety and in this land of plenty, after the life of hardship and privation which we had led, we should have been somewhat intoxicated by the scene around us, and I spent a lot of money which, had I saved it prudently, would have now nearly accumulated to a fortune. I had prize-money for the Peninsula, for Washington, and for Waterloo paid at this period. I had money left me by my grandmother. All went as fast as I could get it.
In 1817, I and a friend went to look over the field of Waterloo. The wood of Hougoumont had been cut down, which very much altered the appearance of the ground, as did the want of troops, etc. To those unaccustomed to look at ground with and without troops, the difference cannot well be explained. I trod, however, upon this immortal field with a thrilling sensation of gratitude to Almighty God, first for personal safety and for the additional honour and glory my country's Army had acquired there, and next for the beneficial results to Europe ensured by the achievement of that wonderful battle. The left of the position as well as the centre was as during the battle, with the exception of the many tombs and monuments erected to mark the spots where lay interred so many gallant spirits, and many is the burning tear I shed over the mounds of some of my dearest friends, many of England's brightest sons and rising soldiers. No one can feel what a soldier does on such a spot, especially one who was in the midst of the strife. But nothing struck me so forcibly as the small extent of the field. It appeared impossible that so many thousands of troops could have contended on so constricted a space, the one spot on earth which decided the fate of Emperors and Kings, and the future destiny of nations.
Every year we had a grand review of the whole Army of the contingencies. One year the Duke of Kent was the Review-Marshal. The last year of occupation, viz. the third, we had an immense sham-fight, which ended on the heights of Fimare, where the Army passed in review [23 Oct.] the Emperor of Russia, King of Prussia, the Grand Duke Constantine, the Grand Duke Michael, etc. In the course of the day the Duke, riding with their Majesties, saw Juana. He called her up and presented her to the Emperor of Russia, "Voilà, Sire, ma petite guerrière espagnole qui a fait la guerre avec son man comme la héroine de Saragosse." The Emperor shook her hands, and asked her to ride for some time with him as she spoke French fluently, when he put a variety of questions to her about the war in Spain, all of which she could answer as intelligently as most officers. At night she danced with the Grand Duke Michael, an excellent waltzer. When the Emperor's courtiers observed the attention paid by the Emperor to my wife, they sought out the husband. I was in my Rifle uniform. One fellow said, "Are you aware to whom Madame has had the honour to be presented?" "To be sure," I said, saucily, "and by whom–the greatest man in the world."
That night, riding into Valenciennes on the pavé, both sides of the road being covered with troops marching to their cantonments, it was very cold, and I was clapping my hands on my shoulders, à l'anglaise, when my wife says, "You have lost your Star of the Bath." I had felt something catch in the lace of my sleeve, so I turned back. A column of Russian Cuirassiers were marching over the ground I had traversed, and the sides of the road being excessively dusty, I said to myself, "What nonsense! I can never find it," and was in the act of turning back to my wife, when a flat-footed dickey dragoon horse, having set his hollow foot upon it, tossed it under my horse's nose out of the dust upon the pavé. It is a most ridiculous occurrence to record, but my astonishment at the time was excessive. The star was bruised by the horse's foot, in which shape I wore it twenty-nine years.
The period of occupation was now reduced to three years, and the Army was prepared to withdraw–to our mortification, for we should have been delighted with two years more. It was now, on winding up my private accounts which had been miserably neglected, I discovered my money was far exceeded by my debts. I therefore, as one of my auxiliaries, put up to raffle, for 250 napoleons, a celebrated thoroughbred horse, the Young Lochinvar, by Grouse, out of Dab Chick, Vandyke's dam. This horse I had bought for a large sum in my native town, just before the Battle of Waterloo, from a gentleman who had bought him at Newmarket for an immense price and whose circumstances compelled him to become a bankrupt. My father was aware of his pending situation, and just on the eve of it bought Lochinvar. I had ridden him hunting three years; he was the only horse in the Army that was never planted in the deep fields of France. As a horse he was as celebrated as His Grace was as a General, 16 hands high and equal to 14 stone. It went to my heart to part with him. My wife said, "Oh, I will have a ticket" "Oh, nonsense, it is only throwing five napoleons away." However, she had her own way, as wives always have (especially Spanish wives), and, by another piece of my continued good luck, her ticket won the horse, and I had Lochinvar in my stable, while the 245 napoleons readily found claimants. It was a piece of fortune I was very grateful for. I loved the horse, and he carried me in that stiff county of Kent afterwards, as he had ever done elsewhere.
From the day on which I presented my billet to my landlord in Cambray, I was much struck with his manly bearing and open conduct. He was a man of a large family, a Monsieur Watin, and his brother, also with a family, resided with him. He showed me all his house and his stables (he had built a kitchen and servants' rooms for any one who should be quartered on him). He said, "In this life, happiness is not to be attained, but it must not be impeded. I am aware of the way French officers behave in quarters. I hear you English are less exigeant. This part of the house I reserve for myself and my brother, the rest I give to you." And I certainly had the best, for he only reserved to himself one sitting-room. I said, "I have more than enough." "No, no," he said, "when you give a soirée you shall have this too." I was three years in his house, and I never had a word with either him or any member of his family. On the contrary, nothing could be more amicable. In the course of the second year my father came and paid me a visit for near three months. Never was man more happy and delighted. He was fond of field sports and of flowers. The Bishop of Cambray had a magnificent garden, and many an hour did my father spend there. When he arrived, of course I begged him to tell us what he liked best at table. "Oh, anything," he says, "only take care your French cook does not make the pastry with oil, which I know they do, but with butter." I had an excellent cook, and I told him to be careful about his pastry, which was, of course, made with oil. Every day my father praised the pastry. After some weeks I let him into the secret. "Ah," says he, "such through life is prejudice." He was far from disliking French wines. The day he left us–"Well, it is very true that you and the poor man of the house live very friendly, but you have the whole nearly. I shall go home now and pay my taxes with delight. Even were they double, readily would I pay rather than have such a fellow as you and your establishment quartered on me!" Poor dear father! I had been your pet son. Everything I practised that was manly, you taught me, and to my equestrian powers and activity, which first brought me into notice, did I owe my rapid rise in the service.
From a picture painted by J. P. Hunter, Somersham, Hunts, May, 1837. [Opposite p. 314.
The day having at length arrived when we were to leave Cambray, [27 Oct.?] Sir Andrew Barnard and I were asked to at least twenty breakfasts. My first was with the family on whom we were billeted, and if they had been our nearest relations no greater feeling could have been evinced. Monsieur Watin was a great carpenter. To him I gave a capital chest of tools, to his brother, who was a sportsman (in his way), I gave one of Manton's double-barrelled guns, and my wife made many presents to the female part of the family. Then came my nineteen breakfasts with Barnard. We positively sat down a few minutes with all our hosts and ate something; both of us laughing and saying, "We have been together in situations when the sight of such breakfasts would have been far from objectionable, but 'enough is as good as a feast.'" I never was so tired of the sight of food. I felt as though I never could feel the sensation of hunger again. All this attention, however, was very gratifying, and upon parting with our worthy family, as our carriage drove through the streets, there was nothing but waving of handkerchiefs and adieus. The garrison had marched two days before. The most complimentary letter I ever read was addressed to the Commandant Barnard by the Mayor, a Monsieur Bethune, a Bonapartist too, to the purport that, although every Frenchman must rejoice at the cessation of the foreign occupation of his country, as individuals he and all the city would and must ever remember the English with gratitude for their generosity and liberality, and for the impartial justice ever shown by Barnard during his three years' Commandantship. In a French fortress the Commandant has far more authority than the Prime Minister in England. Thus we parted from Cambray, where we had had three years' gaiety amidst the wealth and aristocracy of England, in the country of an enemy that had contended and struggled to subdue our own in a most sanguinary war by sea and land, lasting with but little intermission from 1798 to 1815. The garrison of Cambray was composed of a Brigade of Guards, the 1st Battalion Grenadiers under Colonel the Hon. William Stewart, and the Coldstreams under Colonel Woodford. I never before or since served with such correct soldiers, and they had the very best non-commissioned officers. There were peculiarities in the mode in which the officers performed their duties, but, according to their own rules, it was a lesson of rectitude, zeal, honour, and manliness. I quite agree with Johnny Kincaid that the officers in our Army who come from our aristocracy are ever most zealous as officers, and certainly most agreeable as companions, and I have now served with most corps of the Army, Hussars, Guards, Infantry, etc.
RETURN TO ENGLAND (1818)–HARRY SMITH REJOINS HIS REGIMENT–SHORNCLIFFE–GOSPORT–DISCHARGE OF THE PENINSULAR VETERANS.
ON reaching Calais I could not avoid calling to memory the British possession of that celebrated fortress, for so many years the bone of contention and strife. All was bustle and embarcation. We embarked in a small vessel [31 Oct.?], and the wind obliged us to go to Ramsgate. The London Custom House had provided for baggage to be examined at Ramsgate as well as at Dover, and nothing could be more liberal and gentlemanlike than the Custom House officers (of course acting under instructions). My wife had an immense box of French dresses which, being all extended on account of the large flounces then worn, required great room. While I was passing my baggage, one of the officers said, "And that large box–what does it contain?" I said, "My wife's dresses." "I have not the least doubt of it, sir, as you say so, sir; but I declare I never saw such a box of ladies' dresses in my life before." Then came her guitar. "What is this?" "Oh, hand it along, it's naught but a fiddle."
The celebrated Cavalry officer, Sir John Elley, a very tall, bony, and manly figure of a man, with grim-visaged war depicted in his countenance, with whiskers, moustaches, etc. like a French Pioneer, came over to Dover during the time of our occupation of France. He was walking on the path, with his celebrated sword belted under his surtout. As the hooking up of the sword gave the coat-flap the appearance of having something large concealed under it, a lower order of Custom officer ran after him, rudely calling, "I say, you officer, you! stop, stop, I say! What's that under your coat?" Sir John turned round, and drawing his weapon of defence in many a bloody fight, to the astonishment of the John Bulls, roared out through his moustache in a voice of thunder, "That which I will run through your d—d guts, if you are impertinent to me!"
My Regiment was at Shorncliffe, and thither I and my wife proceeded, parting with many friends of the Guards, some of whom she has never seen since. I was given an entirely new Company, that is, one composed of recruits. I interceded with Colonel Norcott, however, to give me a few of my dear old comrades into each squad, and with their help and example I soon inspired the rest with the feelings of soldiers. There was a pack of hounds too in the neighbourhood, and though it is a stiff, bad country, fox-hunting is fox-hunting in any shape, and I had two noble hunters, Lochinvar and a celebrated mare, besides the "Brass Mare" for my wife. My whole income at the moment was my pay, 12s. 6d. a day. One day, after a capital run with the hounds, Mr. Deedes asked me to dine with him, and I had a post-chaise to go in to dinner, which cost me 17s. Thus
"How happy's the soldier who lives on his pay,
And spends half-a-crown out of sixpence a day!"
My Battalion was ordered to Gosport, and soon after at Shorncliffe, which had been the depôt of the Regiment during the whole war, not a Rifleman was left. I marched [about Dec. 24-28] in command of the Headquarters Division, all our old soldiers. Neither they nor I could help remarking the country as a difficult one to make war in. You would hear the men, "I say, Bill, look at that wood on the hill there and those hedgerows before it. I think we could keep that ourselves against half Soult's Army. Ah, I had rather keep it than attack it! But, Lord, the war's all over now."
When I first joined at Shorncliffe we heard of nothing but "the French are coming over." We have been in among them, I take it, since. They never could have got to London through such a stiff country. We would have destroyed the roads and cut down the trees to make those d—d things they used to do–abbatis75; besides, where would be the use of all their capering cavalry, etc.?
During this march, when the men were billeted in the inns and scattered over the country, I could not divest myself of the feeling of insecurity I had acquired after so many years' precautionary habits; and although I repeated to myself a hundred times daily, "You are in England," the thought would arise, "You are in the power of your enemy." Before dismissing the men, I always told them the hour I should march in the morning, and men who were billeted either ahead or on the sides of the road were to join their Companies as I arrived. During the whole march I never had a man absent or irregular. Such a band of practised and educated soldiers may never again traverse England.
My wife posted from Shorncliffe into Sussex–to Beauport, Sir John Lambert's temporary seat, where the kind family insisted on her staying until I came to fetch her to Gosport, which I did soon after. On arrival at Gosport we were led to believe we should be a year or two there, and we began to (what is called) make ourselves comfortable.
We had a great number of guards and sentries literally over nothing. One night, however, on visiting the different guards and counting them, I found every man present. I asked, "What! no man on sentry?" "Oh no, sir; the 86th, whom we relieved, say they always bring in all sentries at night." "Why, this is a new way–new to us." "Certainly," the sergeants said.
The following day I and two or three officers went to inspect every sentry's post. We found some with orders "to see that no one took that gun away" (a 32-pounder dismounted), one "to see as them goats did not leave the rampart." He was one of our soldiers, and I said, "Confound you, did you take such an order from a storekeeper?" He said, "Why, I hardly look on it as a horder, only civil-like of me; and you know, sir, goats were worth looking after at Dough Boy Hill" (near Almaraz, so called from our having nothing to eat for three weeks but dough and goats' flesh, and very little of either).76 I represented all this to Lord Howard of Effingham, who very readily entertained the report, and sentries were all taken off, where not required. Colonel Norcott soon after joined.
While we were here 300 of our oldest and best soldiers were discharged. Every one came to say farewell to my wife; and there was a touching parting between officers and soldiers, now about to be dispersed through Great Britain, after so many years' association under such eventful circumstances. There was not one who could not relate some act of mutual kindness and reciprocity of feeling in connexion with the many memorable events in which they had taken part. I and many of the officers marched several miles on the road with these noble fellows. In the Barrack Square they had prayed me to give them the word of command to march off. "Sure," says an Irishman, "it's the last after the thousand your honour has given us." I did so; but when the moment arrived to part every man's tears were chasing each other down his bronzed and veteran cheeks. They grasped their officers' hands,–"God bless your honour!" then such a shout and cheer. Such feelings in times of peace are not, cannot be acquired. My faithful old West was of the party; but he parted from me and his mistress in our house. Poor faithful, noble fellow, as gallant as a lion, he had been with me from Vimiera and Coruña until 1819.
The 18th June, the first anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo which we had spent in England, was such a day throughout the Regiment, with dinners for the soldiers, non-commissioned officers, wives and children. Among the officers there was such a jubilee of mirth, mingled with grief for our lost comrades, as must be conceived, for never was there a Regiment in which harmony and unanimity were more perfect.
In the autumn the manufacturing districts, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, etc., became much disturbed, and our soldiers, who invariably know everything first, insisted on it we should go to Glasgow. My Company was out at target practice with others, when we heard the assembly sound. "Hurrah for Glasgow!" said the men. We all marched home, and found we were to embark on board a man-of-war immediately. By four o'clock that afternoon [18 Sept.] we were all on board the Liffey. Sir James Kempt had succeeded Lord Howard of Effingham in the command at Portsmouth, and proud he was to see one of his old Battalions in peace the same ready soldiers they were in war. My wife remained behind to go in the Spartan frigate, which had been recently fitted up for the Duchess of Kent. The Captain put her up superbly, and she reached Leith Roads in time to join my Company on the march.77
66 See p. 80.
67 The Regiment of Orange Nassau held Smohain and La Haye, and part of the second Regiment of Nassau the farm of Papelotte.
68 See p. 155.
69 In 1833, Major G. Gawler, of the 52nd, published The Crisis of Waterloo, in which he claimed for his regiment the honour of having by their flank-attack defeated the Imperial Guards in their last charge, an honour generally given to the Guards. His contention was supported by Rev. W. Leeke in Lord Seaton's Regiment at Waterloo (1866).
70 There was one case at least: John Luard, Lieutenant, 16th Light Dragoons, and George Luard, Captain, 18th Hussars.
71 The MS. is in Harry Smith's hand, and the wording is probably his.
72 See p. 259.
73 See Appendix II., pp. 708, 709.
74 Battle of Denain, 24 July, 17I2. Denain is only about five miles from Cambray. Marlborough was removed from the command of the armies of the Grand Alliance by the intrigues of Oxford and St. John in order to force the allies into the peace of Utrecht. The withdrawal of the British troops in the field a little later was immediately followed by the first really serious defeat sustained by the allies in the central field of the war since Marlborough had assumed the command; Villars cutting up and annihilating an isolated force of 8000 men under the Earl of Albemarle, who were holding a bridge across the Scheldt at Denain to cover Eugene's force besieging Landrécy. For the clearing up of this passage (left incomplete in the MS.) I am indebted to my colleague, Mr. H. W. Appleton, M.A.
75 Few good riders haggle at a ditch, but an abattis of trees, with their trunks towards their friends, and their branches spread out towards the foe, is a less manageable obstacle."–H. Havelock, in his account of his brother W. H. (Buist's Annals of India for 1848).
76 See p. 19, bottom.
77 The 1st Battalion landed at Leith on 27th Sept. (Cope, p. 217.)