Vol 1 of Peninsular Journal of Charles Crowe
 of Coddenham, Suffolk: Soldier 1785-1854.

The following is the journal of Charles Crowe covering his time in the Peninsular War 1812-1814.  This is volume 1 of a 2 Volume work (click here for Vol 2).  The document is all in script and reads very well as Charles had in fact rewritten it some years later in 1851. 

Please note that an edited version of Charles Crowe's full diary has now been published 'An Eloquent Soldier' edited by Gareth Glover and published by Pen & Sword 2011.  Copies can be bought from most book sellers.  This published version has comprehensive notes all the way through explaining the people the places and the background to the events.  The version below is a basic unedited version.

Volume 1 reads as follows:

 

A Faithful Transcript of my own Letters and Diary from The Peninsula In the years 1812 - 1813 - 1814

By Charles Crowe 

With my recollections of concurrent events

(Commenced Dec 29th 1842)

In the month of September 1812, the 2nd Battalion of the 48th Regiment, stationed at the new Barracks Chelmsford, was roused one morning, soon after the arrival of the mail, from the monotony of Garrison Duty, by the unusual early call from the bugle for orders. The sound put every one on the alert, but no one could explain the cause, for the Adjutant had not returned from the Colonel's quarters: whither clerks from the orderly room were repairing loaded with books and papers of returns. Curiosity and conjecture were at the highest pitch, when the Adjutant, his officials all bustle and haste, made their appearance; and encountered from many voices at once, the eager enquiry of "Well Dixon, what's in the wind now?"

His laconic response was "A detachment for Portugal: nine officers, and every effective man: parade an hour later, in heavy marching order; every one to be present; so my hearties look out!!" - and off posted this important functionary.

 

While the parade was forming, Colonel - now Lieutenant General Sir William Hutchinson Knight.G.C.H, put his arm into mine, drawing me aside, said, "The order I have received is very peremptory, that I shall be obliged to insert your name in the return, in spite of my wish to retain you here!"

I replied "I feel highly satisfied Colonel, by your kind wish, but truly I have now worn a Red Coast so long, that I feel anxious to earn a title to it, by foreign service."

"Well, well!" Rejoined the Colonel, "that is a right feeling on your part. I wish it was participated by others, but I am determined that some of our "skulkers" shall go! Captains Grey and Watkins, belong to the 9th Battalion, but are in no hurry to join! They shall go!" It will be shown hereafter how this good resolve was partially over rided.

 

Some weeks passed, and when the route arrived, I was unable to raise myself in bed, in consequence of a violent inflammation of the liver, and was so reduced that, when the Detachment passed under my window to 'The Grenadiers March' I could not help crying with vexation and disappointment. I was roused from my despondency by a knocking at my door, and in compliance with my feeble call of "Come in" that amiable and warm hearted creature, Mrs Hambly , who had just parted with her husband, brought back some music books, which I had lent her. She was naturally, all sorrow and excitement! She gave me her blessing, and good wishes for my recovery and rushed out again. This was the last time we met. Poor dear Lady! Hers was a short, but strange and eventful life!!!

 

In the course of that day Colonel Hutchinson kindly visited my sick room, and cheered my spirits by his animated witty and gentlemanly conversation. My recovery was rapid, for in about ten days I was able to creep into the sunshine in the Barracks Square where the Colonel, and even Mrs Hutchinson kindly joined my walk, occasionally.

 

During one of these saunterings, I told the Colonel that finding myself convalescent, I was anxious to obtain his leave to join the Detachment at Portsmouth by means of the coaches. He admitted the plan was practicable, if I was equal to the exertion, for after a long fortnight's march the Detachment had but just reached Wilsea Barracks, where, in all probability, they would wait three or four weeks for embarkation. In the most friendly manner he gently urged me to give up my plan, but finding me resolved, issued the order for my proceeding and kindly prepared for me, an early dinner in his own apartments before I started. The kindness I experienced on this occasion, I shall ever remember with gratitude and pride!

 

Saturday October 16th afternoon I packed myself into the coach for London and when I arrived at the Old Slaughter's Coffee House in St.Martin's Lane, a great resort at that time for military men, I found thirty miles journey was quite enough for my strength. And I began to think I had been rash in not harkening to the friendly advice of Colonel Hutchinson. The arrival of my old schoolfellow, my cousin, a surgeon near Pall Mall, cheered my exhausted spirits.

 

A good night's rest and excellent breakfast did me much good, so that when my brother joined me from Surrey, and offered to accompany me to Portsmouth I felt all my energies renewed. The proximity of The Golden Cross, Charing Cross, induced us to take the coach from thence. Of this we afterwards bitterly repented for we were from five o'clock on the Monday afternoon 'till nearly eight the next morning travelling seventy two miles. I was quite exhausted by fatigue, but roused up when my brother told me we were about to enter the Fortress, for we were approaching the palisades of the Half Moon, or Ravelin. How fervently did I wish myself outside the coach, that I might have had a full view of the imposing aspect of a regularly fortified town! I did make the utmost use of my languid senses, but our provoking coachman, who had for so many hours been drawing "his long length along" redoubled his speed, and we passed the palisades and the ravelin, rumbled over the drawbridge under the portcullis, and through the dark gateway into the town, with a celerity, which gratified his whipship, but not my curiosity. My military ardour awakened with the conviction that I was at length within a formidable fortress, the defence of which would require at least twenty thousand soldiers!!

 

We took up our quarters at the George Hotel, and engaged private apartments, that we might uninterruptedly enjoy the society of each other, until the following evening when my brother would return home.

 

Philip [Philip Crowe, 1779-1831], were it possible! Participated with more than a brothers feelings in my situation, because in the year 1799, he was in the same hotel, with our kind uncle Wisemann, previous to his own embarkation for the East Indies Army! During breakfast Philip questioned me relative to my prospects of promotion to a Lieutenant, when I expressed the utmost confidence which I felt in the promises of Lord Moira [Francis Rawdon-Hastings, 1754-1826], to our uncle Henry [Rev Henry Crowe, 1741-1816], and his Lordship's letter to myself acknowledging the receipt of Colonel Hutchinson's strong testimonial, especially as these were supported by the provisional application of my former Colonel Sir William Parker Bart of the West Suffolk Militia, who had been private secretary to his Lordship when Ambassador.

 

Philip admitted my hopes were well grounded, but thought that a letter to his Lordship from the port of embarkation for foreign service would be a good auxiliary. I therefore wrote the following, under his superintendence.

 

(copy)

Portsmouth Oct 19th 1812

My Lord,

Before embarking for Spain, I once more trouble your Lordship with my thanks for kindness, which I shall recollect with pride and gratitude, though it has not hitherto been accompanied with the success your Lordship intended.

 

I observed in last Tuesday's Gazette the promotions in the 27th Regiment but, however, my ambition may feel hurt at the non appearance of my nam. I trust that as a soldier I feel other sentiments which will not allow me to repine at so equitable an arrangement when, to the generosity which prompted your Lordship's former patronage, I have added the hopes, which a faithful discharge of my duties on service is allowed to encourage, I have finally to request that I may still be remembered. And then if your Lordship has an opportunity of getting me into the 27th Regiment I shall no longer regret the present delay.

 

My late Commanding Officer Colonel Hutchinson has given me so many flattering assurances of his approbation, and of his willingness to testify the same, that if your Lordship should have an opportunity of applying by letter to him, concerning my character, I feel confident that the result would be honourable to me, and satisfactory to your Lordship.

 

I have the honor to be etc etc

Etc etc

Charles Crowe

Ensign 48th Regiment. 

 

To Lord Moira

Etc etc

 

To this, when in the Peninsula, I received the following flattering reply.

 

London 28th October 1812

Sir,

There was so much proper feeling and delicacy in the letter which you addressed to me that I thought it would be advantageous for you to have it perused by the Commander in Chief* (The Duke of York) and I am persuaded it has made an impression very favourable for you.

 

There being no less than six vacancies occasioned by the casualties of Service in the list of Lieutenants of my Regiment, I thought I could without injustice recommend you and another young man for whom I was interested for two of them, four Ensigns of the Regiment being to be promoted before you. The other person I knew to be as much an object of the Duke of York's patronage as of mine, yet His Royal Highness found it necessary to reject the application on the ground that there were eight Ensigns in the Regiment older than you two. In the event of another recruiting company being added to my Regiment (a measure long pressed by me as urgently necessary to keep up three Battalions on service) I have great hopes you would be appointed to a Lieutenantcy in it. The Duke of York has recommended the addition of that Company to my depot, but the Secretary at War has made difficulties.

 

I have the Honor, Sir, to be

Your obedient servant

(signed) Moira

Ensign Crowe

48th Regiment

 

With the forgoing, I find I have preserved the following copy (the original I transmitted to Lord Moira) it is so characteristic of my kind friend, that I must transcribe it here:-

 

New Barracks

August 29th 1812

Dear Sir,

You were pleased some few days ago, to apply to me for a testimonial of my opinion of you as an Officer under my command. It becomes, therefore, a matter not more due to justice than productive of sincere satisfaction to me thus to certify that I have marked with an highly approving eye your diligent attention towards, and accurate performance of your duty in all respects, since I have enjoyed the honor of commanding the second Battalion.

 

Believe me to be 

Dear Sir

Your very faithful humble servant

Colonel & Lieutenant Colonel. 48th Regiment

 

Ensign Crowe

48th Regiment

Chelmsford.

 

My brother and I were about to sally forth to view the town, when I spied Captain Grey. This gave me a good opportunity of reporting my arrival, and I requested him to obtain permission from the Commandant at Wilsea Barracks, where the Detachment was quartered, for me to remain in lodgings near the seaside, for the recovery of my health in conformity to the instructions of our Surgeon at Chelmsford. My request was readily granted for the Barracks were so over full, that Officers were living two, three and even four, in one room. In our walk I met with my fellow Ensign, Hambly, and told him my plan when he promised to ask his brother-in-law, Twincham [William Holloway Twynam of the Magicienne ], a Purser in the Navy, residing at Southsea to search for lodgings for me. We met many more of my old companions, all of whom were surprised to see me there. Philip and I wearied ourselves in our peregrination over the town, and along or rather round the fortifications, and mutually regretted the supineness of Government in having suffered a densely inhabited town, like Southsea, to have sprung up within less than half range of shot immediately in front of the Queen's, and nearly so of the King's Bastion where an enemy might at once make a strong lodgement.

 

The next evening my kind brother left me by the Mail. When I went into the coffee room of the hotel, and found myself very solitary!!! I was looking at a newspaper, without reading a word, for my thoughts were far away when I was roused by the loud voice of my compeer Hambly , as he entered with some Officers of the Fusiliers. He came across and asked me to join their supper party, but I declined by saying my health and spirits would not enable me, and that I intended to go off to bed early. He regretted I would not, for he had promised to show his friends some of his sleight of hand tricks, and he wanted my assistance, so he would call me to join them after supper to which, at his earnest request I assented. It was very evident that some of the party had encountered a previous carousal, for they soon became very talkative, and my chum very easily conglomerated their bewildered senses by his expertness. One of the salt cellars from the table, he apparently swallowed, somewhat, of the cut edges hurting this throat, but offered to swallow any other moderately sized article with a smoother surface if they would offer it. The young fellows had been preparing for their voyage, accordingly one produced a cake of Windsor soap, another a bottle of Cheltenham Salts. Both of which followed the salt cellar - "not heeding consequences!" Weary as I was, I could not help laughing at the utter astonishment of the dupes. Hambly next offered if any one had a half crown in his pocket, he would show the reflection of it from the ceiling, with the King's head downwards. The coin was soon produced, and very soon after was sticking to the ceiling, as promised to the confusion of the owner, and to the great delight of the waiter, who was watching the proceedings. This man was very attentive to my breakfast next morning, and expressed a fervent hope that my friend would come every evening, for he was the most clever gentleman ever seen, and it was very kind of the gentleman not to conjure the half crown down again, for he had himself taken care of that before he went to bed.

 

The most ludicrous part of the exhibition next ensued. With the flow of language indispensably requisite with legerdemain, Hambly complained very much of the uneasiness of his stomach, and expressing his fears that the glass salt cellar would come up, begged the excuses of the company if he should be obliged to disgorge it. The apology was readily assented to, for every one expressed an earnest desire to see it again, that they might be convinced that it had been down. Consequently after much groaning, and many contortions and distortions, the salt cellar was seen half way out of his capacious mouth, and was replaced on the table. All gazed with astonishment, but no one would defile his fingers by touching it! While their attention as thus engaged a sudden noise brought the bottle of salts again to sight. In course of time and after much palaver, the cake of soap reappeared.

 

Hambly offered each article to their respective owners but No! Neither would touch an article which had been into a man's paunch!! Consequently, at the close of the evening, I, as an invalid, received the bottle of salts as my share of the proceeds of the performance, and Hambly retained the soap to assist him in scraping off his black beard.

 

His next trick was new to me, for I had never seen him preform it before. He bit a good sized piece out of a wine glass, and to appearance, ground it with his teeth into an impalpable white powder. This, I afterwards found out, was a piece of tobacco pipe which he had dexterously substituted for the piece of glass. The trick however succeeded to the admiration of all the party. But one young fellow, who was decidedly the worse for his potations, would, in spite of our remonstrances, attempt the performance of this trick himself, ant bit the glass so unguardedly, that he cut his lips and face most lamentably. Beyond all doubt he bitterly repented his folly next morning. This bloody circumstances broke up the party.

 

The following day, through Hambly's assistance, I ensconced myself in very comfortable lodgings, in Belle Vue Terrace, Southsea, facing the Queen's Bastion. The upper story was occupied by Major Dickerson of the Marines, who had come from Plymouth with his bride to spend the honeymoon. I sent a note up to him requesting permission for the private marine who waited on him to clean my accoutrements. This was granted and after a few days I found the Major's card on my table. I duly returned the compliment, and the first evening that I was invited to take tea with them, I found the bride's youngest sister, and brides maid, was of the party which was increased by the arrival of Lieutenant Foot, Flag Lieutenant to the Port Admiral, and his wife who was another sister.

 

Foot was a frank, open hearted, merry Jack Tan, "full of life and full of glee." When I alluded to having been in the West Suffolk Militia, Foot enquired of I knew Lieutenant Patrick and his wife. I replied, "Indeed I do, for I am happy to say I was most intimate with them, and spent most of my evenings at their lodgings!" At which declaration, Foot surprised me by exclaiming

"Holla, avast young fellow! I have found you out - Oh, ho! You are an old flirt of my sister's, Mary Patrick!!! Can Poll talk as fast as ever?"

I answered - "Not quite so fast as her brother!" At this he gave my hand a grip from which it did not fast recover. 

"Aye, yea!" He replied, "I find that my sister Polly has taught you some of her pertness! Now then," he continued, "that I know all about you young chap, I will give you some good advice. You see that little fire frigate on the other side of the room," pointing to his young sister-in-law, "she has twice been bride's maid, to my wife, and to Dickerson's, and is now keeping a sharp look out for her own promotion. I see she is preparing all her sails to bear down on you. And if you do not keep your weather eye up, she will carry you into Port Matrimony before you know your bearings!!" The jocase sally produced a hearty laugh from all the party, and a lusty box on the starboard bows of the rattling Lieutenant from the lively and lovely bride's maid. I enjoyed many pleasant evenings with this merry company.

 

Hambly introduced me to his sister Mrs Twincham and her husband. And they introduced me to the family of the Comptroller of Customs, Mr Williams, a very find handsome man, and his wife was also very handsome. Their family were very engaging particularly the second daughter, about twenty years of age, with flaxen hair, bright blue eyes, a beautiful complexion, an amiable and lovely countenance, and most prepossessing manners. In fact I verily believe that had I been long stationed there, I should, like Corporal Trim, have fallen souse over head and ears in love! Thus a fortnight passed very quickly and very pleasantly.

 

November 6th

The troops were embarked, before I was aware. And Hambly engaged a berth for me, on board the ship John, with himself. Accordingly I sent my sea stock on board the next day

 

November 8th

I met my friend Lieutenant Vander [Vandermeulan ? page 18], who, when he had heard of my plan, exclaimed "That will not do! You will lose all the benefit gained by living quietly in lodgings. There are seven Commissary Clerks on board the John, whom Hambly will keep playing cards all night, and worry you into another illness! You shall go in the Isabella with me, there is only Lieutenant Cobbould of the Dragoons, a very gentlemanly pleasant fellow. Come with me to the Transport Office. I know the old Comptroller, and will persuade him to transfer you to my ship." After much persuasion the sturdy weather beaten tar granted our request. Fortunately we were enabled to arrange about my sea stock sent on board for just as we regained the High Street we met Hambly who reimbursed me. By Vander's assistance I very soon prepared another, and more frugal stock, and sent it to the Blue Ports Hotel, at the Point, where Hambly and I had engaged beds for the night, that we might embark early the next morning.

 

I was well pleased with this new arrangement for I found Hambly's unceasing flow of spirits was at times very overpowering! We very wisely engaged a boat's crew to call us, and to take us on board for Sunday November 9th. We were awakened before daylight by a violent knocking at the house door, and before we could half dress ourselves, the waiter in great hast came into the room to say the Commodore had fired his signal gun and hoisted the Blue Peter! Under these circumstances not a moment could be lost. We swallowed a hasty breakfast while the men were taking our luggage to the boat, then hurried off.

 

As we passed out of the harbour we beheld the whole of the fleet under way, and, apparently leaving us behind, which made me regret very much that I did not go on board the day before with my friend Vander instead of spending the evening with Mrs Twincham to console her on the departure of her husband, appointed Purser to the Magicienne [42 gun frigate under Capt Hon Willam Gordon], our Commodore's ship, a beautiful new frigate, and this her first voyage. My anxiety not to loose my passage convinced me of the risk Officers run by lingering on shore to the last minute and resolved in my own mind to profit by the present experience, should the chances of war allow me to see another embarkation. Thus, on reaching Lisbon, I was not surprised to find both our Captains Grey and Watkins, had not arrived.

 

At the same time there were strong grounds for suspecting they had purposely stayed behind! If such was the fact, the plan did not answer their purpose. For Colonel Hutchinson on being informed of the circumstances, determined to follow up his resolution as expressed to me in the Barrack Square at Chelmsford and lost no time in making his report to the War Office. In consequence of which the two renowned sculkers were ordered to remain at Wilsea, until another opportunity offered for them to embark.

 

The morning was very fine, the bright sun enlivened the animating scene, and as the wind was light, we rapidly gained on the fleet, which dispelled my fears and raised my spirits so that I was able fully to enjoy the very imposing sight which amply repaid me for my past anxiety. The whole channel between the Hampshire coast and the Isle of Wight was covered with canvas, every vessel being under full sail, all bound to the same port conveying so many hundreds of Britain's hardy sons, eager to fight for their country's glory!!!

 

Beyond the middle of the fleet we came up with the Isabella, and the John, not far distant to windward. I was heartily rejoiced to get on board and to receive the congratulations of my friend and his companions.

 

Vander having returned from Portugal with the skeleton of the 2nd Battalion after the fatal battle of Albuera, was quite an old sailor, well versed in all that was going forward, and kept up the interest of the scene by imparting a great deal of information. He possesses a book of signals by which he explained the one made by the part or our convoy in the van, the Niemen frigate and the Columbine, Brig of War - "Lay to for the Commodore!"

 

Soon afterwards we saw the Magicienne coming up with every sail set and swelling with the breeze.

 

She passed not far from us, in most beautiful and gallant state, towering over us, as a lofty steeple over the nave of a church making our Brig the Isabella and all the other transports look like Cockboats attending her Sovereign will! It may be truly said, "that an English Man-of-War under full sail is on of the grandest sights in the world!!" The delay however proved unfortunate for us, by enabling a boat to reach us, which, but for that, could not have come up with the ship. Vander was on the sharp look, and exclaimed "I am sorry to say there is a boat making for this vessel with a grim shabby looking old chap in a brown great coat, and confound the old curmudgeon! I declare he has no sea stock with him!!" How shall we manage this business my friends?" For as the old soldiers say on service 'A joke is a joke, but keep your hand out of my haversack these hard times!' We agreed that there was no alternative but to admit him to share with us. When he came on board, we were glad to find his address was more gentlemanly than his dress! And that he was Dr Rice, a Staff Surgeon of long standing. He very handsomely apologized for not having any sea stock, and assured us that he did not receive his Order for Embarkation until Friday, and reached Portsmouth so late on Saturday, that he had not time to do more than obtain his order for a ship.

 

We passed the Needles in fine order about 4pm with a fine and favourable wind. After which we went to dinner but only the Doctor and myself could sit it out.

 

At night I found my bed excessively hard. The tow of which my mattress was made was so scanty that it had become two knots in hard earnest. The next day I made a friend of the Mate who had exchanged it for me and lent an additional one. We were now out at sea, with a brisker wind which convinced us that our vessel lived best in a fresh breeze. No small consolation this, in the month of November! The master explained this circumstance by informing us that a ship is coppered for three years service, but his had been seven as a transport. And her owners apprehending that she would be paid off ere long were unwilling to spend their money about repairs.

 

As nothing but a distant view of the Isle of Alspunt on the French coast occurred for some days I will fill up the tediousness of a sea voyage with a brief sketch of the extraordinary life of my brother Officer Hambly , whom I have already so often mentioned and of whom I shall have much to say hereafter.

 

His father was a merchant at Truro, in Cornwall, and more than once Mayor of that Borough. According with the spirit of the time, he made some rash ventures, and the French ouivzers took off his cargoes, whereby his prospects were ruined. He then went to Gibraltar, and opened a store or warehouse.

 

My companion obtained a commission in the Cornwall Militia from which he volunteered as Lieutenant of the 23rd Fusiliers, taking with him his quota of men, which would entitle him to retain the same rank in the Line, according to the Regulation then in force. Every Officer was obliged under such circumstances to give each man an additional bounty to accompany them, and thus Hambley expended nearly a hundred pounds. He had a very long march to perform with his men, to join the Depot of the Fusiliers at Colchester. When he arrived near London, he learned with vexation and dismay, that another Regulation had been issued and that no more Officers would be allowed to retain their rank. Full of indignation he hastened to the War Office, and from what he stated to me I am inclined to think, demeaned himself more according to the justice of his claim, than the peculiarity of the case. However this may have been he was so dissatisfied with the reception he had experienced, that he returned to the Detachment, rashly gave over the charge to a Serjeant, sent his Commission back to his old Commanding Officer, and embarked for Gibraltar.

 

He was soon weary of an idle life, and being well versed in the Spanish language, accepted an appointment as Lieutenant Colonel of a corps of Patriots up the Mediterranean. There he remained nearly a year and half, but disgusted with the service, where the men were so badly fed, worse clothed, and still worse paid, he again returned to Gibraltar. His next essay was to join Lord Wellington's army as a volunteer, was attached to, and carried his musket in the very Regiment, the 23rd, in which, but for his rashness, he might most probably been a Lieutenant of some standing. Here he encountered much privation and hardship. But after the Battle of Albuera obtained an Ensigncy in the 48th Regiment, one of the eleven then appointed at Northampton a few days after I had joined the 2nd Battalion. But there was too great a dissimilarity to admit of our being very intimate.

 

Hambley was senior in years to most of the Officers present, but was nevertheless boon companion with all the youngsters, and accompanied them by day and by night in all their wild pranks. One evening when thus engaged, Hambley was collared by a Footman, whom he knocked down, and then escaped.

 

The man's master was wealthy and independent, a retired lawyer, disliked by all his neighbours for his litigiousness, a violent Whig, fond of finding fault with Government and everything therewith connected. A complaint against the Military was consequently quite to his taste. He therefore compelled his servant to identify his assailant. No easy task this, in a dark winterly night! Thus the servant guided solely by size fixed on me, and the third morning afterwards, when I was at breakfast, a Constable walked in with a summons from the Mayor. I was totally ignorant of the event until that moment. But having been the whole evening in question, in company with Assistant Surgeon Wright, and the night also, for we occupied the same room at the George Hotel, I was enabled to establish a most unquestionable alibi, and carried the business through with a very high hand! Not failing to give the Whig lawyer a right good wiggin for his want of courtesy.

 

I have detailed this circumstance, because I know of no other reason for Hambley's partiality to me. 

 

Soon after this we marched to and occupied Weedon Barracks, with the Depot of the 14th Regiment. At mess one evening the conversation related to a Ball at Daventry, about five miles distant. Some present were much disposed to accompany those Officers of the 14th who were going. When Surgeon Wright casually said, he had no doubt his old flirt, Miss Bayley would be there.

"And who is Miss Bayley?" enquired Hambley. Wright told him that Miss B. was the daughter of a Clergyman, a D.D. [Doctor of Divinity] in that neighbourhood. That she was a very pleasant and animated young lady of about five and twenty, and very fond of dancing.

"Give me," said Hambley, "a note of introduction, and I will go and dance with her, or forfeit a dozen of wine to the mess." After very great persuasion Dr Wright did write a chit that note, and off started the votaries of Terpsichore.

 

Suffice to say that, that day three weeks, Ensign Hambley and Miss Bayley were dully married! And a very happy couple they were while they lived, pool souls!! Hambley had not been long with the 1st Battalion in Portugal ere he received a letter from his wife, stating that her father was dead, and that if he did not return to her assistance there was great probability that she would not receive even seven instead of ten thousand pounds. This letter was submitted to Lord Wellington, and Hambley obtained leave to return to England on private affairs. After this I saw him no more. He purchased a Lieutenancy in the 49th and sailed with a Detachment to join that Regiment in Canada. The ship was wrecked on the coast of Newfoundland. Hambley exerted himself with his wanted activity and presence of mind, but a tremendous wave swept him and many others of the wreck. He made good his landing on the shore, and when he had recovered his strength a little, returned on board to save his wife. This unfortunate pair was next day washed ashore locked in each others arms!

 

The history of my ship mates is quickly told. Vander is now Senior Major in the 73rd Regiment, and Lieutenant Colonel in the Army. Poor Cobbold soon returned home, and died of consumption.

 

Sunday 16th November. 

Vander and I agreed to reverence the day, and a parade for Divine Service had been ordered. I was to have officiated as Chaplain, but the rain was too heavy to allow any but the sailors working the ship to remain on deck. The Master dined with us. When he left our cabin he foresaw a storm, and gave orders accordingly. Late in the evening the Hatchways were closed, and covered over with tarred purlings and a most awful night ensued. The wind blew great guns, and the sea ran mountains high. Our ship pitched and tossed and reeled most furiously. Sleep was out of question, especially after midnight, when the table broke from the lashings to the floor, and set at liberty all our trunks stowed beneath, which drove slap bang from side to side as the vessel rolled. Thus Cobbold and myself in the lower berths were alternately in dread of unwelcome intruders. I succeeded in catching hold of and securing my own trunk, and was leaning forward to reach Vander's when Dr Rice, anxious about his case of instruments, dropped from the berth above, and caught my head between his thighs. At this very juncture, the ship lurched suddenly to narboard [Page 30], so that the Doctor, being rather short, could but just reach the floor, and by clinging to his own berth, save himself from falling backward. Thus I remained in a pillory without the possibility of withdrawing my head, to the great amusement of our opposite companions. Pinching and thumping availed me not, for the Doctor could not budge a jot, until the ship righted on its way to falling to starboard, which made the Doctor scramble up to save his legs from the trunks, and thus set me free. All of us now could join the hearty laugh, and joke the Doctor's nimbleness in saving his shanks. Our glee was however, cut short, for as the ship was rising on a lofty wave and appeared to stand on end, a cross wave struck our stern, made every plank and timber quiver, smashed our dead lights, or storm window shutters, to atoms, and shipped much water.

 

Cobbold and I had now to change our operations, and were obliged as the vessel rolled to either side, to hold up our bed clothes to prevent the water washing into our berths, and were thus employed until the water by degrees found its way under the cabin door to the ship's waste. All this was bad enough, but in the hold, where men and horses were so closely stowed, the scene was horrible! Three fine horses were suffocated, and falling against those next to them, threw them down, and they by their plunging injured others. When the storm mitigated in the morning, so as to allow the hatchways to be partly opened and fresh air admitted some men fainted.

 

As soon as practicable the dead horses were drawn out of the hold and thrown overboard. But it was a very difficult undertaking to set the other poor fallen and frightened animals again on their legs, during the continued rolling of the vessel. Other ships also threw their dead horses, the most crowded had, consequently, more casualties. There were very many detachments of Dragoons embarked in the fleet, particularly of the Oxford Blues, who lost a very many of their fine black horses. The sea presented a melancholy scene, covered with floating carcases as far as we could see. Our rigging stood well, but some vessels were greatly shattered, and some two or three were obliged to run before the gale, and returned to Plymouth.

 

Our convoy scudded about in all directions to collect their scattered charge. We maintained our central position. About 3pm Vander descried a suspicious square rigged ship close in shore hugging the wind under easy sail, for we had crossed the bight of the Bay of Biscay, and could discern the Spanish coast. Our Master pronounced the stranger to be an American Man-of-War. This unwelcome intelligence induced us to go down and muster our men between decks, as well as we could, and make them look to, and prepare their arms and ammunition, in case of an attack during the night. When we returned on deck our Commodore had the signal flying "Look to the strange sail at Windward." And away went the Brig of War, our Columbine, dashing and splashing in most gallant style through the lofty billows which seemed all to combine to oppose her progress. We watched her with a lively interest, as long as the daylight lasted, then returned to our cabins, and having made as good a meal as the rolling of the vessel would allow, we laid down, sword in hand, prepared for any alarm. Having however, to make up for lost sleep the night before, we soon forgot our cares and anxieties until the morning.

 

The weather continued very rough, and on the Friday 21st November we encountered another boisterous gale. The want of exercise made me very unwell, and not even the conjured bottle of Cheltenham salts could conjure me relief.

 

22nd November. 

We stood close in to the coast of Portugal and expected to enter the Tagus, but the wind was adverse.

 

Sunday 23rd November. 

We were roused early by the Master conversing in Portugese with the pilot he had engaged, and found the scene around us very interesting. On our left was the formidable Fort St.Julian. Behind and much above were the rocks which formed part of the Grand Aquaduct supplying all Lisbon with most excellent water, the interstices connected by lofty arches. On our right was a dangerous shoal which we skirted within pistol shot, the channel being so narrow. On this shoal is built the strong Fort de Bugio [Saint Lawrence of the Dry Head], bristled with numerous guns. From thence the shore on each side is rocky, and bold. That on our left was well inhabited all the way. But the southern, separated from the city by the broad river, or estuary, alternated by clusters of rocks, hamlets, and vineyards. In one of these I saw, to my surprise, ten or a dozen men hard at work, totally regardless of the holy day. The wind was light and unfavourable, barely sufficient to enable us to make head way against the strong tide which runs six knots per hour. This however afforded us ample time to admire the beautiful appearance of the city, hanging, as it were, on the side of a rock. The glare of the white buildings was oppressive to the eye at mid day, but the setting sun threw a pleasing tinct on the whole, and made every house visible. The uniformity of the buildings, with the streets at right angles presented a very prepossessing aspect.

 

We anchored opposite the fish market, after five o'clock. Our companion Dr Rice having no charge on board, and being as much at home, as he would have been in London, landed with the pilot, leaving a pressing invitation for all of us to dine with him on the morrow. After it became dark I watched in vain for the lamplighters, the paucity of light scarcely made darkness visible, and afforded no appearance of the extent of the city, and scarcely of its locality. But all doubts on this latter point were silenced by the horrible barking and howling of the innumerable dogs. To this we became insensible when ensconced in our berths, and in full enjoyment of the quietude of a harbour, we did not fail to redeem the lost sleep of the week past.

 

24th November  

Cobbold would not leave the ship. But Vander and I went on shore, reported ourselves at the offices of the Adjutant General, and Town Major, and obtained a billet for both at the same house, which we could not visit that day. So to make the most of our time we went to dine with our late chum Dr Rice and much enjoyed our visit. In the evening about 9 o'clock we engaged a boat to take us on board. The tide was flowing rapidly, but our boatman pulled so lazily that I was soon convinced we should not reach our ship. This probability annoyed me excessively for we had been on shore without authority and I was vexed that in the very outset I should expose myself to the censure of Captains Grey and Watkins, whose conduct towards me at Chelmsford I had been obliged to highly resent, when they betrayed their foolish jealousy of Colonel Hutchinson's partiality for me. My friend Vander was too old a soldier to heed such things. He did however expostulate and exhort the men, but all to no purpose.

 

I was provoked at their want of energy, and standing up, I half drew my sword, and pointed significantly to the bright blade while I made it glitter with the light of the moon. Vander telling them at the same time, that I was a most desperate blood thirsty fellow. All this was of no avail, for we went more than a boat's length astern of our ship.

 

There was only one expedient, namely to return to the lee of the shore and make another attempt, to which our boatman agreed, but as soon as we regained the shore, the scoundrels jumped out and ran away, shouting aloud "that the English were going to kill them!" I was much too angry to join my friend's hearty laugh at this upshot. But I could not have carried my resentment so far as he did, by kicking the boat off into the current, whereby the men lost their boat as well as their pay.

 

It was now too late to obtain another boat. We were obliged, therefore, to return and state our case to the Doctor, who prevailed on his landlady to make two beds on the floor of the sitting room where we dined.

 

25th November 

Our men disembarked, and marched into Belem Castle, where we left them in charge of an Officer of the Regiment stationed there on Depot Duty. Here we learned that Captain Grey had lost his passage, and that Captain Watkins, his ship had returned to England during the storm. Thus my friend Vander became the Senior Officer of the Detachment.

 

We two traced three miles through vile and dirty streets to Lisbon, to make good our billet on an "Illustrissimo!" who was not at home, but his servant according to orders received from this illustrissimo, conducted us to a house in a back street where we were shown one room, with one table, and six chairs, and were informed that was all we had to expect.

 

This was too bad! So we obtained another billet, which was on an Archbishop, No.39 Rua do Salibie, and in a back wing of the house we were accommodated with four rooms and a kitchen, all very clean, and facing to the south we did not need any fire. At night we greatly enjoyed the clean beds. We were far away from active parts of the city, to the northward of the Inquisition, and lived very comfortably free from idle callers. Only once did we catch a glimpse of His Holiness the Archbishop, at a window towards the garden. His Major Domo was very civil, but a crafty old chap. For instance, we desired him to take a bottle of porta, part of the small residue of our sea stock, to the Archbishop with a polite message. The next day when we enquired if His Holiness relished the porta, the old fox confessed that considering it much to heavy a beverage for a person so grievously afflicted with the gout as the Archbishop, he had drank it himself, and as it was so very good he would gladly accept another bottle! But we thought this was too much of a good thing!! I will not attempt a history of Lisbon but as a passing soldier merely state that I found it much smaller, more poverty stricken, and by far more filthy, than I expected. Its extent I thought somewhat larger than Dublin. The dock yard was a burlesque on the name, all its stores consisted of five small anchors, a small quantity of cordage and the frame of a frigate on the stocks, in the same state as when the English first entered Portugal.

 

In most of the old streets the ruins left by the earthquake of 1755 still stare you in the face, and form dens for the innumerable half wild dogs which lurk therein by day, and by night act partly scavengers to the city at large by feeding on the refuse thrown from the various houses, to which they rush in swarms by the instinct of experience, and many quarrels occur while the more peaceably disposed members of the community cull the choice morsels! When the French occupied Lisbon, Marshal Janot [Jean Janot, 1754-1820] gave an order and two thousand of these dogs were killed one night!! By the numbers we saw we should not have imagined that such a slaughter had ever taken place. The declivity of the city is from north to south, consequently the transverse streets are generally on a level, and these are filthy beyond the apprehension of an Englishman!! It is no easy task to cross them by day, and rashness by night, as we found on our return from the river to the Doctor's lodgings. In our progress we heard the vile shouts "Aqua Ni" water is coming, which they are obliged to call thrice and show a light. But the shout and light were on our side of the street, and as these execrable deluges are thrown from the attic or fifth story, we could not identify the exact house from whence the nuisance was coming, and our only recourse was to ensconce ourselves in the recess of some door way, and escaped tolerably well. Had the light been on the opposite side, we could have bolted away at once. In Lisbon there are no underground sewers, no water closets of any kind. A large bucket with a board laid on the top receives the slops etc etc of all the house, and at night is poured from the attic into the street.

 

At our billet we enjoyed the comfort of a regular retreat at the corner of the garden. The walk to it was planted on one side with orange trees, on the other with Qumous each bearing half ripe fruit, and an abundance of blossoms.

 

Except in the modern streets, the ground floor of the houses is used as a stable, or store for wood and lumber. The large arched doorway is open during the day, facing which is a broad staircase leading to the top of the house. Each story of which is generally occupied by a separate family, who burn frequently during the day lavender and various herbs to drown obnoxious scents. And as every family makes its own selection for such purposes multifarious are the fumes which assail the olfactory nerves when ascending a flight of these stone steps as we fully experienced when we called on the worthy old Quarter Master of our regiment, who had arrived to take charge of the stores which we had brought out.

 

My friend Vander urged me to obtain Dollars for a spare Bank of England note which, like a young soldier, I had failed to get exchanged at Portsmouth, and conducted me to a banker on the quay, where the ground floors are occupied as stores or warehouses. In one of these, the whole front occupied by the door and the open window, the shutters to which hung down outside, like a butcher's shop, an elderly man stood listlessly behind a counter, whereon were placed an ink stand, some pens, a quire of long writing paper, and a few piles of dollars, about 20 or 30 in each, these formed the whole visible stock of this Yeleped Banker, alias, Money Changer. Being satisfied by inspection of my bank note, he went to work with pen, ink and paper, in a long multiplication sum. I could not resist calling out "What on earth is the fellow about?" "Let him along, replied my friend, he will not produce a dollar for your note until he has rendered the sum into Mille Rez, twenty of which make a Nintin, that is not worth three halfpence. The old chap at length crept into division: his paper barely long enough to allow him to ascertain that my ten pounds were worth 35 dollars! Just three fourths of its sterling value, or six and three pence for the dollar. The Officers of the Life and House Guards purchased all the horses and mules in the market. A very indifferent mule fetched 120 dollars, equal to

Please note that the information on this website is provided freely however it is copyright JJ Heath-Caldwell (unless otherwise stated). You are permitted to make single copies of any of the information on this website for personal use. You are not allowed to use any of the information on this website for commercial purposes. Should you wish to request permission to use any of this information for commercial purposes, please contact JJ Heath-Caldwell, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.