Vol 2 of Peninsular Journal of Charles Crowe
of Coddenham, Suffolk: Soldier 1785-1854.
The following is Volume 2 (unedited) of the journal of Charles Crowe covering his time in the Peninsular War 1812-1814 (click here for Vol 1). Volume 2 had been missing for the last 20 years but recently turned up in the collection of the Inniskillings Museum. It has now been reunited with Volume 1 and I would like to express my grateful thanks to the Inniskillings Museum who have been exceedingly helpful in this matter.
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 also be ordered 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 2 reads as follows:
August 15th 1813. Sunday. This morning at 5.o.clock, I started, with bag and baggage, scrip and scrippage. As I rode along, I was amused by observing the effects of the Sun on the mist in the vallies between the mountains. I could but remark, how absolute was his power, where ever his rays penetrated. I could almost, have found arguments for the Hindoos, in their worship of this grand luminary. But reflection hinted that even His power, however potent, was not absolute; since He, himself, is subject to laws! Then, "Plato thou reasonest well! For there is a Power, above, and that all nature cries aloud through all her works!!!
Then how thankful ought the Christian to be, for having been trained in that religion, which offers him an unerring path to the protection of "That Divine Power"!!! "Lord what is man that Thou art mindful of him; or the son of man that Thou so regardest him?" As these reflections were not inappropriate to the day, I encouraged them: And my meditations were greatly assisted by the numerous dead bodies along the road.
"When Nature's beauties spread beneath the eye,
And all above the worlds blue canopy,
When reason's self doth elevate the mind,
How good, how virtuous, feels the heart inclined!
A serjeant of the 66th Regt joined us; and seemed as well pleased with company as we were. I invited him to keep company, as far as our routes would allow. We passed the Village, from whence we drove the French on the 1st inst and parted at the bridge of San Estevan (Santestaban ?). The roads had been bad; and certainly I was hungry; thus I felt confident, that the distance, in my route, of 3 ½ leagues, was not correct. My servant agreed with me, that it was 5 leagues, or 15 miles. I obtained a good Billet; and like my room the better for being up two flights. As my servant placed the breakfast things on the table, I was astonished at the multitude of flies, which congregated on every fresh article as soon as placed on the table. The hot tea pot only was free. My sugar canister was coated with a black hord: It was equal to one of the plagues in Egypt. In spite of all, I made a good breakfast and walked forth to examine the Town.
The Natives were then going to Church: the curiosity of a traveller induced me likewise. The edifice was lofty and handsome; decorated as most Roman Catholick Churches, with separated shrines, and tawdry dressed figures. I did not think to ascertain the particular day celebrated; but every person had a small basket before them, spread with a clean napkin; on which were a number of cakes and small loaves, or rolls; and three or four wax-tapers burning before each basket. Four priests were hard at work in different ceremonies, at the same time, making such a hubbub, that it was totally impossible for any one of the congregation, to understand what either of them was about. I could not participate in the apparent devotion which I noticed in those around me, who were chiefly females: Disgust, was my predominant feeling; and I retired as quietly as possible; returned to my billet; opened my portmanteau for my prayer book and fervently read the morning service of my own Church which dissipated all my polemical reflections.
On making my second sally I certainly felt more amiable; and meeting the congregation on their return, I was not in the least inclined to quarrel with anything, and certainly not with any person; for I beheld many very fine countenances, and many lovely girls; whose beautiful faces seemed brightened by the conviction of having fulfilled the bounden duty of keeping the Sabbath day holy.
I did not trouble myself to define, whether it was the sparkling of so many black eyes, or whether it was the delight of once more beholding social society; but confess, that I enjoyed the scene to the very utmost.
I found the Town surrounded by a wall of loose constructure about 14 feet high pierced with loop holes for musketry against the Geurrillas: for the French never dreamed of our reaching that secluded spot. And every house near the walls was looped most effectively. A large detached house, south east, of the walls was made a Fortress of no small consequence: every one of its lofty stories had a separate range; nor could any force, but field pieces have silenced it fire. The yards around were protected by a wall ten feet high; and also looped. The two Gateways were protected by chevaux defuse; forming, together as great a defence against the valley, as the house, for a longer range. I imagine, that, after the thrashing the French received from our 7th Division on the 30th ult at Savy (Tavy?), they were convinced it would be futile to stay here.
A serjeant, of our German Hussars, stationed here assured me it was only three leagues to Zizasso, my next stage; and that by starting at 2.pm I should have plenty of time. On leaving San Estevan, I recrossed the Bridge, which I reconnoitered on the st inst and retraced that day's march, along the southern bank of the Bidasoa; hidden, for the most part from our view by blocks of rock; which reflecting the heat of the meridian Sun, rendered our course most intolerably hot: there was not a breath of air to fan our scorched faces. My animals were greatly oppressed by the extreme heat; and the two mules became very restless and irritated. So much so, that I ordered Reynolds, my servant, to keep a hold on the halter of the Baggage mule in front. The young one followed without restraint; but on a sudden she bolted off to the left at full speed over the plain, full half a mile. I pursued as fast as my pony's short legs could carry me, and saw the brute scramble like a cat up an isolated pile of rock some ten feet in height; on the top of which there was not sufficient space for three mules to have stood. On arriving I was utterly astonished how the animal could have ascended so perpendicular a pile, which even with the assistance of hand I should never have attempted! On the other side I fastened my little steed to some stunted plants of broom; and standing on my saddle, with difficulty gained the summit; where my astonishment was increased; I felt quite bewildered; for it was evident that both of us must jump down, hap what will! Thus, I became as desperate about descent, as the mule had been in ascent. I clapped my shoulder to her haunches, and with all my strength shoved her off. She remained where she alighted, trembling from head to foot, as if palsied. I made my looky-leap, where least observed by either animal; for fear of having another hot pursuit. On my way back I bitterly regretted my officious folly which let to the purchase of this useless and troublesome mule! Yet, angry as I felt, I could not but compassionate the poor beast; which still trembled like an aspen leaf. My servant very reluctantly obeyed my order to mount it, and lead the baggage mule.
Conversing about the mule's sudden freak Reynolds said he had no doubt but that the animal had been attacked by a Crab-fly; which prefers mules to any other beast; and their bite is so very sharp, that a mule becomes distracted. If three or four of these flies get among the baggage on the line of march they will throw the whole into confusion. We always find them in swampy places or near water, flying low. They are twice the size of a common bug, and flat; shaped like a sea-crab; have very many legs with which they run very quickly forward, back, or sideways; and therefore we call them Crabflies. It is very difficult to catch them, even if an animal is standing still. This little piece of natural history excited my curiosity; and I afterwards found by personal observation that the account was correct: for having caught one, I could not hold it; and had some trouble to crush it on the ground.
My great exertion threw me into a profuse perspiration. I had not a dry thread about me: but the extreme heat of the road soon dried everything and left a painful burning heat, pervading every part of me, as if I were with in the focus of an immense burning-glass, or lens!
It is impossible to describe my agonizing sufferings at this juncture!! Had my pony felt the increase of weight as I did myself, he must have fallen under it. The oppression on my head and shoulders made me think of the representation of Atlas bearing the whole heavens! Subsequently, I learned, that all this was decidedly a Coup de Soliel! Which is generally fatal; especially in India. I pulled the oil case covering from my cap, and thew it away. I felt relief from this act; and was endeavouring to recover myself, when my Baggage Mule gave a terrific roar, broke all restraint and ran along the road, until he found a break in the rocky embankment, where he rushed into the Bidasoa and swam to a pile of rock in the middle of the stream gaining a footing thereon, which no animal but a mule could have done. I was fearful of his laying down, and, entangled by his heavy load, of his being drowned.
I did not wait for consideration; but spurred my little steed into the stream, my knees were soon under water, but pony swam with me, until I reached the mule's halter, and he quietly accompanied us back to shore. Thus combined events caused me much future suffering and misery; and I must carry their mark to my grave. In the interim I cannot be too thankful for the preservation not only of my life, but of my eyesight!! The remainder of my Diary abounds, I find, with memoranda of my daily sufferings; which I must endeavour to curtail. Our road after this, became a long and tedious ascent: we questioned some Spanish soldiers, whom we met respecting the distance; but their accounts were incoherent. Relying on the report of the German, we made the best progress we could. But the steep ascent was too much for my little mule; my whole attention was directed to urging her forward or I could have derived much gratification form the grandeur of the scenery. I could only compare ourselves to pismires ascending a molehill. When the road descended we all proceeded tolerably well. I began to ruminate on the events of the day; and thought of the verse in Lob "the heart of man deviseth his ways, but the Lord directeth his steps"! Yesterday I made a firm resolve that I would not travel in the dark! But I was now on a mountain top, the night closing fast around me; and three hours marsh from my destination, according to the report of a Capatrass of a brigade of loaded mules proceeding to the army. About 8.o.clo our road led through a wood; which made night more gloomy and ill accorded with my feelings. I ordered my servant to load his musket. With a tight rein in one hand with loaded pistol, on full cock, in the other, I led our line of march. I did not reach Lizasso (Lizaso ?) till ten o'clock; and should not have obtained a billet, if Captain - the Commandant had not kindly assisted. He put me into a very good house where I found everything remarkably clean; and the inhabitants very obliging. I could not eat any supper; was very thirsty; and made my servant heat some wine. The very worst thing I could take. On inspection of my bed room, I saw that the good hostess had put nice clean white sheets on my bed. But on turning down the clothes, I discovered that it was much to lively a sport for even a way-worn soldier to venture on: a regular cloud of fleas sprang up! I ordered my servant to place my own blankets on the brick floor of the small room, and of my sitting room; some seven feet broad, and may kind Providence forbid, that I may ever pass such an other night as I did here.
This morning was far advanced ere I could retire to rest. Exhausted nature yielded to the influence of sleep for about two hours; when a provoking fly alighted and tickled my face. I would have raised my arm outside the clothes but my hand felt so excessively heavy, that in the delirium of the fever I fancied it twined to a huge shoulder of mutton, which I could not lift! I lay in this horrible state for a long long time 'till nature was again exhausted; and I slept late. It was past 8.o.cl. when I arose; and found myself excessively ill, almost incapable of exertion!!
I had to wait the return of Captain D- the Commandant from coursing: the day was so far gone, that I readily accepted the Goodfellow's invitation to dinner.
Started in good time this morning and found the road much improved in the neighbourhood of Pamplona by what the troops had done to them. I met numerous stores going to the Spanish Army, on their rudely constructed cars. I halted for breakfast at an isolated house at Berrioplano, by the road side, and had no objection to ascend two flights of stairs to my room, to gain a fresh current of air. The south window admitted more of the Sun's rays than I could have wished: but the western afforded a good view of Pamplona; distant about half a league. Thee house stood above the road; not a tree within sight; no bank or rock behind; no house within a quarter of a mile; I was in the third story, with a draught through; yet the flies were innumerable! I thought them bad enough at St.Estevan but here they were ten times more numerous. I was obliged to draw my small cloth off the table to cover over the table; but it was difficult to eat or drink without swallowing flies. The Garrison made much noise, with their large guns, while I staid here. The natives were become accustomed to them; and only when the breeze brought a stronger sound, that they exclaimed, Ah! Diable!! As I proceeded on the Grand Carmina Real I met a Dragoon Officer and his baggage. He asked me many questions about the road, and the halting places. I questioned him also, and learned that Harry Franklin, our Assistant Surgeon was at the next Depot. This was most welcome news, and I was impatient till I could take my good friend by the hand. Irivizun is a good town protected by walls of some importance. On arriving I reported myself to the Commandant, Captain Gun of the 91st Regiment and obtained my Ration Return. This was a "good shot" and I quickly made for Franklin's quarters. He was surprised and delighted to see me. But I found him quite in low spirits for want of society; and impatient to rejoin his regiment. However, a conversation about old friends soon roused him: and I felt convinced that we rendered much good to each other.
My good friend would not allow me to depart until I had partaken of his hospitality breakfast. I left the Grand Carmina; and the road I took proving very tolerable, I arrived at Lacunza in good time; and Alsasua about 6pm, whence, by the assistance of a private of 5th Dragoon Guards, I obtained a very comfortable billet, at an old surgeon's. The Dragoon was tipsy; and become so very officious that I was obliged to give him to understand I stood in no further need of his kind services.
Reached Salvatierra about 10.a.m: from its external appearance, as we passed on the 22nd June, I expected to have found a place of some importance: but to my surprise, only three parallel streets surrounded by an old and defective wall. It is absurd to note it in the maps as a fortified town for Guirillas would laugh at it. Two hours from hence brought me in sight of Vitoria: but the road was so circuitous, that I did not arrive till dark.
When searching for the Commandant's I fortunately met with my old friend Lieutenant Duke of the 48th, who took me to his own quarters, and procured me a bed on the floor of his room. It being too late to procure a billet, the greater part of this day was occupied in getting rid of my charge; and thereby contributing to the comforts of the afflicted. The performance of this duty introduced me to so many brave fellows suffering severely from "the fate of War"! that my military ardour was very far from "Fever heat!" in truth my spirit was much below par!! That I was glad to divert my mind by saking for my own billet: which, by the assistance of my two brother offices, Pollock and Radcliffe, I made good at No.18 Coreria Street; up two flights of stairs; a large and airy room facing S.W. with a glass door into a balcony. But my friends kindly insisted on my joining their mess, at Pollock's quarters. Wearied with the excitement of feelings during the day, and the pain in my head, which was become very acute, but of which I had no time through the day to dwell on, I went early in the evening to my own billet. Not expecting me so soon, my servant was absent, with the key of my apartment: so I patiently seated myself on the stairs till he should return. Major Fitzgerald of the 82nd Regiment occupying the opposite apartment, on seeing me, insisted on my going into his room. The Major was wounded in a similar manner as Captain Butler of ours. A ball had perforated both cheeks; knocked out all his teeth; and cut his tongue so severely, that it was difficult to understand what he was saying. He seemed to be quite the polished Irish Gentleman. And soon gave me to understand, in a most courteous way, his anxiety to have the house to himself. In as much, that in the balcony beyond my room, was a certain convenience, highly requisite for an invalid, to which he was obliged to resort.
Desired of contributing to the comforts people, when I can, I obtained another billet; and left the Major full enjoyment of the balcony. My new quarters were in the Street Herreria, near my two chums. The accommodation was but indifferent: and the inhabitants very reluctant to admit me, although my billet was regularly issued from the Alcalda's office. I did not wonder at this; for since June 21st they had never been free from sick or wounded Officers. Certes! We are fighting for their freedom; and therefore have a claim for accommodation, but I am equally certain that John Bull would not relish foreigners at fice quarters.
I find here the Sabbath is kept in a Catholic, i.e. Roman Catholic manner. It is considered more a day of rest and recreation than for Divine Worship! All customs in extremes are bad and so is this! Many a fusty old Saint, on his, or her day, had more strict observance and prayer, than is ever thought of on That day, which Holy Writ hath ordered to be kept Holy!! I noticed that two young girls in the opposite house, were dressed in five different garbs, during the day! In the crowded afternoon Mall we met many bare and bald headed, fat priests, monks or friars, with lovely girls of gentlewomanly appearance, holding reluctantly on their arms.
August 23rd to 26th.
I had fully resolved to have returned to my Regiment; but the excessive pain in my head and eyes which I have endured all the week obliged me to conform to the advice of my friend Harry Franklin and to apply for medical advice.
Our poor brother officer Lieutenant Phillip Gordon died this day; after most severe suffering from his wound received 21st June, by a musket ball; which broke the thigh so high up, that amputation at the hip joint, was the only expedient. This arduous operation required greater skill than could be found in a new, and hastily formed hospital station: and his case was too far gone for such skill did arrive. Gordon was the Senior Lieutenant of our Three Battalions; had entered the Peninsular with the 3rd Battalion in 1808: and consequently had seen much service. He was a large raw boned Scotchman; and his national reserve never suffered him to drop a hint as to what had been his career. He must have been full fifty years of age: and consequently either risen from the ranks, or entered the army late in life. He was on good terms with everyone: but there was no glimpse of the Gentleman in his appearance or conversation. He lived the hard life of a soldier; had his own tent; and never indulged in anything beyond his bar rations. So that poor Phil Gordon always had spare dollars to cash a Bill on England for any Officer who wanted to raise "The Wind"! And this parsimony was "The ruling passion e'en'n death" for the Staff Surgeon who attended him, thrice urged us to request Gordon to live more generously.
We buried poor Gordon this day in a most respectable manner. We three, with Crape on our arms and swords, followed as Chief Mourners; accompanied by all Officers of the Division who were able to attend. The coffin was covered with black cloth, studded with brass nails. The ceremony attracted a vast concourse of inhabitants; who behaved with the utmost decorum, and evidently were much impressed by the solemnity of the 'Funeral Service' although they did not comprehend a single word.
An Assistant Staff Surgeon bled me this morning freely; which gave me some relief. And in the evening I dined with my old friend Duke.
A large blister was applied to the back of my neck; which also afforded relief.
We had heard of an assault on St Sebastian, its failure, and that many Portuguese, of whom the storming party mainly consisted, were taken prisoners. This day Pollock received a letter from Weir, stating that Jack Harding, a Serjeant, and twelve men had marched to the second attack of St. Sebastian, being our quota of the number required from our Division by a letter from the Adjutant General to General Cole in which he states "by Lord Wellington's order, that 100 British, and 50 Portuguese are wanted to set an example to a Column of attack, in a point of great moment: but which only requires conduct to insure success!" This remarkable Order spoke His Lordship's chagrin at the failure of the first assault: and put every one concerned on their high mettle.
Harding was acting as Adjutant and therefore decidedly off the Roaster: but finding that the turn of duty came to his name, he was resolved to take it, regardless of our Colonel's remonstrance, and even solicitations. Had I been with the regiment, and Harding not taken the perilous duty, it would have fallen on me. General Sir Lowry Cole was excessively pleased that "A Forlorn Hope," should be called from His Division in such a manner. He inspected the marching off of the party: and shaking every Officer by the hand, desired them to remember the 4th Division!! The Light, and 1sts Divisions furnished the same complement.
Late this evening intelligence arrived of the taking of San Sabastián, in the afternoon of the 31st ult. The bells began to jangle immediately in the most absurd and discordant manner; resembling the Alarm of Fire in an English village. But yet, purchance the Spanish would say with the Portuguese, that "the English have fine bells, but know not how to ring them!" Lights were exhibited at every house; and bon fires on every street; with men, women, and children dancing to the monotonous beating of lozenge shaped tamborines covered on both sides; and singing their loyal airs; which want cadence; as much as their music, and variety as much as their dance! The step was 1:2:3.4 - 4:3:2:1 incessantly on the same spot. And the beat on the tamborine corresponded with tum pa-tum tum.
I had frequently listened to the sound of the Guitar when passing the streets; and from what I heard concluded all performances as noviciates. A wounded English Officer, a very handsome and gentlemanly fellow although a decided coxcomb, had a good quarter in the lower part of the plaza near the mall. Frequently in an evening he would stand in either balcony to his windows, a monkey on one side, and a parrot on the other, touching his guitar in a scientific style to the Spanish, English, Scotch and Irish, airs which he sang admirably. While the assembled crowd below, priests and peasants, listened with wonder and delight.
I could not have imagined that a native like the Spanish, which, not long ago, asserted its due preponderance in the affairs of Europe, and was famed for her Moorish wars, her riches, her colonies, her Armada, should be so devoid of the general refinements of society.
It requires, apparently, some great excitement like the present, to rouse their innate indolence to action.
Their architecture and mechanics prove the same. The more modern part of this city, Los Arquillas, and the Grand Praça, are substantial, light, and uniform: but if you scrutinize the rooms in these buildings you will scarcely find a ceiling or floor that is parallel, a window or door square to its due proportions. I noticed a doorway of nine feet by four, that had full three inches difference between one side and the other, the shape of the ceiling and the floor agreed admirably.
The Governor has received intelligence of the gallant conduct of the Spaniards near the mouth of the Bidasao on the 31st ult. and has ordered Bull baiting and illuminations for four nights. Immense placards at the corner of every street blazoned forth the bravery of the Spanish soldiery. All this, we imagined, was instigated by the Spanish General, Alava; who is Lord of all the lands around. He loses no opportunity of rousing the lithargickness of his countrymen. He discarded his own brother for his partiality to the French! Could this unhappy country find two or three such real patriots in very district, she might soon reassume her former greatness! And Phoenix-like spring from her own ashes.
We, likewise, received particulars of the taking of San Sabastián; and had to mourn the loss of our highly esteemed friend Harding; of Kenyon the Volunteer, the adopted pet of my chum and self. Ten days after his death his commission as ensign was received! Had this arrived sooner he would have been saved!! Pollock felt as a brother the loss of his messmate Harding!! Another volunteer, who had been very recently attached to our regiment, was also killed. He had been one of the Senior Lieutenants in the Marines. He had been cashiered by an Order from the Admiralty for having been a second in a fatal duel at Portsmouth. Two very young officers, much attached to each other were drawn into an intrigue by an insidious and designing woman, the wife of an officer afloat. She so artfully cajoled the two youths, that each fancied himself the exclusively favoured paramour. One of them chanced to speak slightingly of the lady as she passed and distantly bowed to the two younkers. An altercation ensued; and a duel resulted, and the volunteer's friend was shot dead. Of our little devoted band, that is, poor Jack Harding, one Serjeant, 12 men, and two volunteers, only four survived!! Half way to the breach Jack was struck on the thigh by a grape shot. When he fell, his whole party halted, but Jack raised himself on his hands, and called out, Serjeant Achison what are you about, go forward, and do your duty! Look to the Castle on your Buttons, and prove yourself an Enniskillener!! This was like an electric shock, the Serjeant put his cap on his halberd, waving it, and shouting, gained the breach, and with three men survived to tell the sad history. The Colonel made him a Colour Serjeant for his brave conduct: but being of a volatile disposition he soon afterwards lost his colours.
I felt better this day: and in the evening made out with my friends Pollock and Vandermeulan of 48th. We traversed part of the battle field of June 21st "faught our battle o'er again!" and felt confirmed in our former opinions, that we were not assisted by our Cavalry as we ought to have been.
Dined with my worthy friend Duke and afterwards walked with him to examine the cannons taken June 21st collected beyond the city; beside the road to Tolosa: and a most gratifying sight it was, such a park of artillery was never before taken from an enemy!
123 guns - of numerous calibre
33 howitzers - large and new.
3 mortars of small size
159 I counted, but we were informed that very many had been sent away. Some of the largest were made in 1703 by Charles 3rd. Many of the field pieces were of French manufacture during the Republic; with Liberte et Egalite on their muzzles. A few were marked Ferdinando 7th. And some few A.N. The remainder were Carlos 4th. Excepting one of great length and octagon shape, with an Eschutcheon of Five Stars. We could not decipher the motto. Unquestionably it was a great curiosity. The calibre not more than six pounds although its length is equal to the Egyptian Gun in St.James' Park. There was a due proportion of ammunition wagons to the above; with a great number of various descriptions; and the remains of 17 coaches; the whole occupying an immense space of ground.
Alas! Alas! What a length of time I detoured in this stupid place! Never in my life do I remember to have murdered time, as I have, here! And never was I so tired of myself. The doctor affords me small relief; and nature does as little!! He calls it an intermitting complaint; and knows not what remedy to apply, or would surely try it. Colomel gave me most relief, but he not continue it. I have no books to read, and my head is too heavy for writing. I might say with Shakespeare's Richard 2nd "Time was I wasted time, but now doth Time waste me, for he hath made me his numbering clock"! My bed is my best friend and antidote to the pain I suffer.
A night or two when the paroxysm was less severe I accompanied my companions to the Theatre. By frequent visits, and the aid of a grammier, I think I could soon master the language; for in the drama pure Spanish, genuine Castilian is spoken: which when lisped by a pretty woman is very fascinating. Here are two actresses under whose tuition I think I should prove a very apt scholar. But this would not serve for general intercourse with the pisans. He studied Spanish grammatically, and complained to his Patron, the Priest of Eschalaon Ces! Ces! Replied Senhor Padre - you speak pure Castilian, the natives do not comprehend you.
One evening we were fortunate in seeing The Bolero danced in perfection. The hero and heroine, with castanets in each hand, came dancing from opposite sides: surprised and pleased to meet a fellow dancer, they distantly acknowledge their mutual delight, and join in dancing. The hero becomes enamoured, and makes advances. The heroine is prudishly indignant, snaps both her castanets most loudly before his face, and pretends to fell away. He pursues until, satisfied with the sincerity of his passion, the lady allows him to come nearer and more near, when they dance before each other, waving their lifted arms in a most graceful marje.
In fact this dance is a personification of a regular courtship: and the acting so rivetted our attention that we never noticed the very slight adjunction from the orchestra, for in fact the castanets supplied the music; and it was marvellous to note how their few intonations were adapted to the actions.
I cannot admire the Spanish drama. The first act, with two or there persons on the stage is very tedious and uninteresting. The prologue to old plays in England, was delivered by one of the best actors, who adapted "the word to the action and the action to the word"! but here three most inanimate persons hold a monotonous pribble prabble in an under tone, for a long half hour; and weary the auditors, that is, if they can hear, before the play begins. After which, as if to make up for the loss of time, occurrences and incidents are jumbled together contrary to nature; and oft times contradict instead of confirming the plot, which generally is bad. And the moral, of which no play ought to be deficient, is by no means obvious!! Thus the origin and design of the drama are totally lost!! Moreover, the paucity of female characters fails to arouse that attention which makes a play interesting and the consequent want of variety renders a long play extremely irksome.
I am disposed to write as slightingly of the theatre itself: for in the first place it is very indifferently or, insufficiently lighted. And an Englishman must ever feel disgusted by the prompter's box, in the middle of the front of the stage: from whence he rehearses and leads, the whole part of every character in so audible a manner, that the audience must hear him. And at the same time makes no point of secreting himself from observation; although his awning is full three feet broad, and two feet above the stage: but with the head, as well as arms, and even book, extended, beckons forward the next character. The performers do not consider it requisite to be perfect in even their own part; for the prompter tells them every word: consequently, their eyes and attention are fixed on him; and never directed to the audience. And having repeated their part, remain motionless and inattentive to the reply, until beckoned, or called, by the prompter, to rehearse a rejoinder. Thus there is no acting, or treading the boards; which gives animation to every character; and is requisite in all. The leading characters are assigned of course to the best performers; who are generally perfect and fully sustain their parts; but are obliged to act behind a semicircle of subordinates in front of the prompter's box. I have seen the real heroine standing behind in the utmost unconcern and indifference, while her rich rival endeavoured to inveigle the affections of her plighted lover!!
There are but few ladies to be seen in the theatre; the house being so badly lighted, there is no opportunity of displaying charms, or dress. A box or balco for as many of a party as might come, can be exclusively engaged for about three shillings. And such select parties were often to be seen. Watching them to catch the characteristics of the natives, I was much amused frequently, at seeing an elegant young woman light a paper cigar i.e. tobacco scattered on paper, and rolled up, the size and length of a large quill, and after 3 or 4 puffs, presenting it to her brother or favoured swain. In the front of the pit, behind the orchestra are three rows of seats armed off and numbered; called Tunettas, admittance to which is two shillings. They are engaged by those who go purposely to enjoy the play. There are two rows of benches immediately under the Balcos: the admittance to which is about nine pence; corresponding with our two shilling gallery; and are occupied only in by ---- in the other part of the pit all stand. A similar accommodation for women being in front of the upper Balcos. On a fair calculation I should imagine that the utmost of a full house would be thirty pounds.
After the above comments, it will only be justice to mention that I saw, with surprise and delight the performance of the Tragedy of the Wife with two Husbands!! The characters were well cast, and as well supported! The plot good; and the moral plain.
It was a performance altogether worthy the attention of an enlightened audience.
At the Theatre we frequently selected Lunettas in the third row, if not already occupied; by the centre seat occupied the Mayore of Vitoria; who freely conversed with us; and evinced a decided partiality for our friend Pollock. The Mayore, meeting him one day, exclaimed - Ah! Senor Capitaine I am glad to meet you! For you and your friends must accompany me this evening to the Theatre. I have secured our old seats. You will be much amused; since, according to your description of the English Drama you can never witness the like of this evening's performance. You well know that our Sovereign and his family were cajoled by Bounaparte; and went to Bayonne: where they became prisoners: and King Charles with his son Ferdinand, were compelled to sign their abdication of the Throne of Spain!! All this will be personated; and you with your friends must witness the scene. Agreeable to promise the Mayor called us in good time: we found every part of the house crowded. When the curtain rose, the scene was certainly very striking! At the utmost extents of the stage, on a raised Throne, sat Bounaparte; on his right Talleyrand; and Joseph Bounaparte, afterwards King of Spain. On his left the Queen, wife of King Carlos: next to her, the Prime Minister of Spain, her paramour whom Bounaparte had inveigled into the French interest by dubbing him The Prince of Peace. Beyond these, on either side, sat French Marshals and various functionaries. On the extreme right close to the pit, stood Charles, King of Spain; and his Heir Apparent, Prince Ferdinand. Opposite to them was a table, covered with an awful document detained by a massive inkstand. Beside which stood a youth of about 16 or 18 years of age representing The Infanto, Don Carlos. Bounaparte stated in a long harangue the benefit to his country if the King would abdicate! But Old Carlos was reluctant! Whereupon Talleyrand made a most furious declamation which convinced the pusillanimous King that he had no alternative. He tottered across to the table, a small insignificant old man, amidst the execrations of the audience. And he toddled back with the same accompaniment!!! Bounaparte then ordered Prince Ferdinand to countersign his father's abdication. With an efficient step and gesture drawing a delicate white handkerchief through his fingers the character obeyed; and as he crossed the stage, the yells and execrations of the audience were deafening vociferating every approbious epithet that the Spanish language affords, and that is not scanty, until he approached the table; when Don Carols stepped out and exhorted his brother, with various reasons not to sigh or even touch the accursed document.
Incensed at the youth's heroism Bounaparte rose from his throne; and indignantly exclaimed "What is that child about? Take him back to the nursery!?
While the Infanto was forced away by the attending guards, the yells from the audience were redoubled - Don Carlos! Don Carlos!! Forever!!! He must be our King! Etc.etc.etc The Mayore here addressed us - You may be surprised at all this scene, but it is a faithful representation of what occurred at Bayonne. We do not wish for the return of Old Carlos, his depraved wife, or his nincompoop son Ferdinand! Don Carlos must be our King!! For, until we have some one to rule us with a rod of iron, we shall never be free from anarchy and bloodshed; and Spain cannot regain her due station among the nations of Europe!!
Entering, or retiring from the Theatre, I noted the absence of those disgusting scenes of depravity, attendant in England. The same may be said of the streets. But this non-appearance of vice, is no proof of its non-existence. Here as in Portugal the brothels are licensed by the Priests; and are under their sole control. It is dreadfully painful to reflect on the extent of wickedness practised here, nurtured by the sacred garb of Religion!!
We heard much of the licentiousness of the bald headed Priests, and Hooded Friars, with private families; and of the injured husband and father being kept in awe by the bread of the Anathema of their Church and were very incredulous on the subject. But conviction would force itself on us when we met in the mall, a lovely young woman reluctantly resting her hand on the arm of her father confessor, and marked his disgraceful looks and gestures or rather deportment!!
There are three large Churches in this city; abounding as usual with gaudy pictures and a profusion of gilding. San Miguel, or Saint Michael's, near the Arquillos or Square has a large white figure of The Virgin on the south wall facing the square. Not one of the numerous persons pass this Nostra Senora Blanca! Without crossing themselves and mumbling a prayer; and the men doff their broad hats. The Church stands on a platform of masonry 7 or 8 feet high faced with stone, in which is a box, marked above 'por Amor de Deos.' Into which some few dropped money. But I trust the Love of God! is to be purchased otherwise than by copper vintons!! Within this Church is a group of wooden figures, intended to represent our Saviour and the Apostles, at the last supper table. The whole are on a frame, capable of being carried by handles hanging down by the feet of the table, which exactly resembled the Bier used in England, except being longer and something taller. They are all five feet nothing men, but their big heads would be in better proportion to shoulders seven feet high. Their features are so very grotesque, that we found it difficult to restrain our inclination to laugh! And when we noticed their arms placed on or over the table, in most unnatural attitudes, forming a most absurd dish of giblets, we were obliged to look around on the sacred walls of the edifice to convince ourselves that such a spectacle was intended for a religious purpose!! We were here with eight or ten officers of various regiments; and many jocular remarks were made, no wise tending to sober our countenances. We found that some of these said arms were moveable at the shoulder and the elbow. One of our most facetious companions projected one of them towards the next figure, saying "Come Old Fellow pull that chap by the nose!" But the simple machinery was not adapted to such a movement; and the shoulder joint broke! Frightened at the event, the wag dropped the worm-eaten arm on the table where it severed into atoms!! Instantly all of us were grave as judges, and with hasten step, stalked sedately out of the Church. When every one scampered off to his own quarters. I believe it better for the future, that I leave such subjects to pass unnoticed, since I have so little liberality.
Agreeable to the Doctor's orders I last night swallowed his copious dose of Calomel; and consequently did not leave my won quarters until dinner time. During this interval I was surprised by an orderly Corporal showing me Garrison Orders, stating that having been reported fit, I was ordered on Depot duty. This annoyed me excessively!! I was as unfit as I had been from the first! Moreover, it was a very plain intimation that my Surgeon thought I was sculking. In the evening Pollock and Radcliffe went to the Theatre; and I returned home.
My chagrin and molestation had augmented by reflection. I was resolved to put a bold face on this matter, and rejoin my regiment; and that if I could not obtain a route, I would desert and return without one. During breakfast my two kind friends sympathized in my wounded feelings; and agreed to accompany me to the regiment although they had not been reported convalescent.
We succeeded to the utmost of our wishes; for Pollock was intimate with the Commandant, Major Bruton of the Fusiliers, a blunt, warm hearted old soldier; who being himself disgusted with Depot duty, laughed heartily at the trick. I was about to play the Staff Officers; although he had signed the Order for me to perform Depot duty. All this was good: but it was not possible for us to start before Wednesday morning.
This day was fully occupied in preparing for our march. But I was summonsed to sit on a Court Martial. I showed my route; and desired the Orderly to beat a retreat; as I could not attend. The event pleased me mightily; for it seemed to afford me revenge.
Our baggage started soon after nine o'clock. And we followed at eleven. The day was fine, although the clouds were threatening. The road wound round the mountains in a pleasing manner. We all enjoyed our ride; and reached Salinis about three. Like old soldiers we pursued our first day's march leisurely; and I found myself much fatigued. Our baggage arrived half an hour after; and was just housed, when one of our servants apprehended the man who had stolen Radcliffe's horses from Vitoria. Of course the villain stoutly denied the charge. But fortunately Lt. Col. Rudd of the 77th Regiment with a Serjeant and party were in the town, on their way to Vitoria to attend a Court Martial; of which the Colonel was to be president. He ordered his party to take charge of the culprit. The town of Salinis is barricaded as usual: and at the gate a toll is collected for the repairs of the Carmina Real which passes it. The town is situate half way down a mountain looking delightfully into a fertile valley. (sentence erased) In the Grand Paca or market place a fountain affords and abundant supply of excellent water. The Adjutant of the Brunswick Oels, an acquaintance of Radcliffe's, had overtaken us on the road, and conversed with us some long time. Like my companions, his wounds were not healed but he was likewise impatient to rejoin his regiment. We found on our arrival that he was engaged to dine with the Lt. Col. Rudd. And they joined us afterwards. We found the Adjutant a most entertaining companion; one of those brave heroes who preferring "Death or Victory!" the motto, and war cry of the Corps, to French thraldom, followed their Prince through hosts of enemies and innumerable dangers to England. He was wounded and taken prisoner in the last encounter with the enemy, and did not reach Heligoland till two months after the Prince arrived in England. Norman, was a small active fellow strongly imbued with "Esprit de Corps"! His animated conversation was a strong contrast to, and compensated for the beastiality of the Lieutenant Colonel, who was drunk when he came, and yet was thirsty, at all events he drank to and with the last. Converse, he could not, all his thoughts and ideas were fixed on wine. It was quite grievous to see a well known brave soldier, and good hearted fellow thus lose himself. Before he became too much inebriated he amused us much by relating that at the Battle of Albuera a cannon ball carried away his valise from behind him, with the skirts of his jacket.
Radcliffe was obliged to return to prosecute the stealer of his horses. Pollock and I proceeded along a most delightful valley; favoured with a lovely day. The peasants houses ranged on each side; at the distance of two, three and four hundred yards from each other: that at every turning of the road, they had the appearance of a long continuous street; and the well cultivated fields looked like one extensive garden. In peaceable times this must be a nucleus of content, industry, and earthly happiness! We passed though Mondragon, a large and good town. On approaching Bergara the road was diversified and interesting; capable of forming, with the river, a very formidable military position. The large Gateway, a handsome stone arch, over the road, that the direction of the different routes inscribed thereon. Under to the arch to Vere: to the left Bilboa; and the right to France. The latter reminded us that we were on the great road to Bayonne; and gave rise to many reflections and remarks; which were arrested by our passing a most admirably planned Block House; commanding the road we had so attentively noticed. On enquiry we learned that the ten thousand French, who retired from Bilboa, resolved to make a stand here and fortified the spot accordingly. I will not say that our troops would not have assailed this post but I can say that many brave fellows would have fallen in the attack. Bergara is a fine well built town; and has not suffered from the calamities of war, which have dilapidated half the Peninsular. At the entrance we noticed a Nunnery in an unfinished state; and made enquiries of the number of Nuns and Order, for which it was intended: but it was very evident that our interrogations gave displeasure. No horses are allowed to pass through the Praça: where stands the Town Hall; where the Gateway was formerly: a low, but handsome and ornamented building. The following Motto is cut on its front.
Oque mueho lo de Alba
Oque poco lo de Ava
Signifying, when there is much sin, or transgression there is little grace, or pardon.
We found our billet better than usual.
We had a short and pleasant ride to Villa Real: but as we must draw our rations here, we could not advance further. The road passed through this town; and during the six years the French occupied it, they fortified themselves to the utmost of its locality, against the mountaineers. We were informed that no troops were allowed to be stationed here; they were always hurrying to and fro.
The weather was unfavourable and prevented our starting at our usual early hour. It cleared up however before we had travelled a league, along the continued delightful valley; where nature was refreshed by the showers, during the night and morning. At Villa Franca, we had to put up with the worst billets we had hitherto experienced,. The Gateway led us to expect a good town, but we found ourselves woefully mistaken! I sat down without the walls, to watch the approach of our baggage, and Pollock soon joined me. An old weather beaten and lame sailor, who had asked us in vain for charity, as we rode in, was passing us in silence, not deigning even a look at those who had disregarded his entreaties. I felt the reproof and gave him somewhat. We asked the particulars of his wounded leg. He said he was wounded when fighting against the English, nine years ago, in the West Indies: he could not stand to work; and charity was his sole dependence. "And a pitiful dependence that is, thought I , for most of these who pass are soldiers, and though their hearts do not want the inclination, their pockets lack the means!! "Thy disabled Veterans, Old England, are provided for, though Thou never hadst Pence!!!
Knowing Tolosa to be the residence of the Paymaster General with the Grand Military Chest, we fully expected to find it a town of some importance; and were mightily chagrined to find only three parallel dirty streets. We obtained salted mackerel and sardines, alias sprats, for dinner.
Its was fortunate that we reached Oinania (Bidania ?) at an early hour; for it was crowded with Artillery and Cavalry and we were sent to a farmhouse across the river as our billet. We were well pleased with our quarters: the description thereof may prove interesting. The house was about 20 yards square; the entrance in the centre. On the right hand was a kitchen some nine feet square; all the rest of the ground floor was used as a stable. In the middle a broad ladder led through the floor above; and the apartment was open to the very roof; excepting small bed rooms, right and left of the Western side, nine feet long and four broad; the intermediate space occupied by two large wooden chests, and a small door to a balcony. The Eastern side was, for the most part, to the weather, hot, or cold. The furniture consisted of a low table, and two broken chairs. The floor was well stored with ears of maize, or Indian corn; which were thrown more in a heap for our accommodation. For this occupation the tenant pays so many Reals, in proportion to the number of Casta?os, or Chesnut trees. An extensive orchard joins the farmyard; but apples trees form no part of the Covenants. His rent is registered; and for every hundred Reals, he pays Eight as a government duty or Land Tax. He was had at work; delighted with the conviction that now he should have to pay only 8 instead of 20 and oftimes 50 Reals, levied by the French. He admitted that eight Reals was trifling. Moreover, he added, "I pay that to my own lawful Government"! When the little table was prepared for our dinners, with our silver spoons and forks and Pollock's plated goblets, the contrast to the other parts of the house was very great.
This day in our route, we passed through a village occupied by Horse Artillery. I saw an Officer sitting on the bridge; and was about to pass him unheedingly; his earnest look at me induced me to look at him, when we had again exchanged looks, he sprang forward, exclaiming "Good Lord, is not your name Crowe? Yes! And is not your name Day? It was James Day from Norwich. And had we been more nearly related, we could not have been more mutually pleased with the encounter.
We ordered the baggage to take the direct road to Renteirea (Errenteria ?). And leaving our rural abode about 8.o.clo. made the best of our time to visit the ruins of the famed fortress of San Sabastion. The morning was most lovely and the blue sea bursting suddenly to our view after a few brief observations, wafted our thoughts our fond thoughts, to England, for some time.
We reached the spot where our Engineers first broke ground; which rising, did not, at first, require much labour to render the approaches safe. A large Convent on the right had been transmuted into a Fortress of considerable importance, as an advanced position. It was taken by Portuguese; and very much was said about their gallant conduct on the occasion. Within a few days the French recaptured it; and deserved infinite praise for the boldness of the attempt and the bravery with which they retained it.
This Convent, converted, rivetted our attention for some time, and we were surprised to see it still standing: we could not conjecture, why one brick was left on another, as our Lines so entirely commanded its situation. In our progress we could, by the Gabions still standing, mark the admirable position of our various batteries: all of which had a good command or range, until our lines reached the sea shore. When our Engineers advanced their approaches in rear of the Convent they exhumed many coffins of French Officers and place them in their ramparts; which being now levelled, these coffins were exposed to the weather, more or less. Our regrets and indignation were much excited, that these coffins had not be place in the trenches, and again buried. When we came in full view of the Fortress, we noticed that the sea wall on the East had been carefully repaired; to effect which, the workmen had cleared away and made use of chief of the materials battered down from the awful breaches, on which our own immediate comrades had died, and by which our brave soldiers had reached the heights. This circumstance was a great disappointment to us! For we had fully resolved to have secured our steeds, and with a melancholy satisfaction passed up over the footsteps of our lost comrades; and searched out the spots where our much lamented friend Jack Harding, poor Kenyon, and other brave fellow had died!!! The town showed all the horrors of a bombardment: excepting the houses under the Rock, on which the Citadel is built, which our guns could not reach, not one remained entire. They had been uniform and handsome; with stone basements, and had extensive and handsome balconies to the upper windows. The streets are parallel, and at right angles. We could not discover a land or alley anywhere.
The ascent from the town to the Citadel on the South side of the rock, was in Barbet: but the French built a parapet with flat loose stones, sufficiently high to secure all passes up and down. When ascending this road we arrived at the fatal South East angle commanding the main breach, from whence the besieged incessantly poured forth death and destruction on their assailants. This parapet originally had but one large gun: in consequence of our attack, however, it became a most important place, and the French, by cutting into the face of the rock, and other expedients, established three twenty-four-pounders, on traversing carriages. These kept up such an unceasing fire, that their touch-holes, the size of this quill with which I am writing, were fused, like holes in a honey-comb; which admitted my four fingers! The centre gun was dismounted and burst, by one of our shots sticking in its muzzle. From this spot we had a full view of the Breach; and well contented that our turn of duty had not forced us into it. I reflected upon it with acute feelings for had I been with the Regiment, and Harding availed himself of his office as Acting Adjutant I must have risked my life there. Approaching the Castle we had a view of the North side of the Rock furrowed by the shot and shells from our guns which had passed over the Citadel: to which the Garrison retired, after our troops had taken possession of the town; but next day surrendered. And well they might! Their ammunition was exhausted we their flour magazine no longer proof against the weather, and the few remaining bags were so mouldy that they could not be lifted.
On passing through the different apartments of the Castle we were surprised to observe how remarkably thin the walls of the upper rooms were. We could distinctly perceive that our balls, from our batteries, and also from our ships in the bay, had passed directly through both walls although so elevated. Every room had from two to six perforations of this kind; excepting the Donjon; which being in the rock, had escaped. The 400 Portuguese taken prisoners by the French when they recaptured the Convent, were confined in the upper part of the Castle: sixty of whom were killed by out shots. Having attentively surveyed the fortifications collectively we were strongly inclined to the opinion, that the Engineer who constructed these works, relied too much on the appeared strength of the conical shaped rock. For had it not been the additions which the French made in various parts the capture would not have cost us so dearly. It will be many years ere this town and fortress can be restored to their original grandeur and importance. On leaving San Sabastian we passed by the route along which poor Jack Harding and his gallant party must have advanced to their death beds.
On arriving at Renterias (Errenteria?) we found our servants waiting; having received a billet for another country quarter; full half a league back the road we had come. There was no redress; though it proved worse than our last night's abode. From the field in front of the house we had a very picturesque view of Passages, or Pas-sa haes (Pueto de Pasajes or Pasaia?); from when the packets sailed for England. It is, probably, the most extraordinary port in the whole world. I cannot suppose there is such another. Without any appearance of the proximity of the sea, we found a basin, of less than a hundred acres in extent, with an unruffled surface, and vessels from six to eight hundred tons safely moored to the banks. The egress is a chasm between two perpendicular rocks, twice the heights of the mast-head of a large brig. On the eastern rock is a neglected fort, destitute of guns. A casual observer would imagine this to be a most secure port; and such it is, in itself; but ingress and egress are dangerous; for in case of any swell in the bay, towards the opening, vessels are in danger of being driven on the rocks on either side. No ship ventures out but with an ebbing tide, for in such a confined place sails are useless. The passage is not more than 150 feet wide.
We could obtain nothing but salt meat, or regular junk, for our rations, at Renteiria. And moved off little satisfied with our cargo. We passed through Oarazun (Oiartzun?); and between one and two.
After noon took possession, for the night, of a forsaken house, by the road side. The valley was very picturesque, the day fine, and the clear river most inviting; that we took a cold bath before dinner. I must admit our quarters were capacious; but by no means accommodating, or comfortable; for as the night advanced the wind and rain drove in most bitterly; and the shutters to the windows in front having been destroyed we were compelled to force the doors off the back apartments to fence out the weather. Moreover, our situation was so lonesome, that we considered it requisite to keep watch throughout the night. Fortunately the ground floor, was a wine store, and had no opening but the main entrance to the house. Over which was a wooden balcony; under whose partial shelter, our servants kept a good fire with the abundance of fuel, which we had providentially secured: and we ordered them to stand sentry by turns; and give the alarm, should any person approach. Pollock and I, did not undress but with drawn swords in hand, crept under our blankets. This precaution was soon tested. For about 11 o'clock my servant being on duty, fired a shot, and called out, "Stand to your arms!!" My friend and I, had not long made our appearance below, when a very suspicious and desperate looking fellow, a pisan, came towards us, pretending to be looking for his lost mule. We told him very plainly that we knew this was flam; for the sentry heard him conversing with his comrades, before the shot was fired: and that if he, or any man, or any number of men dared to come near the house, during the night we would show them no mercy. During this parlance we frequently stirred up the fire with our drawn swords. Our vigilance and alertness had a good effect: for although we kept a dog watch, we rested ourselves unmolested for the remainder of the night.
We moved off in good time; but the road was so very steep and bad we could proceed but slowly; and were obliged to dismount, and walk chief of the way. On approaching to Lesaca (Lesaka?) we were informed that the whole front of the army was engaged. We left our baggage and hurried forward through Lesaca, reaching Bara (Bera, Fance?) between two and three o.clock. Here we ascertained that our own Division had only moved up in support of the Light Division and the Spaniards, in driving the enemy from their numerous breastworks; which, as I have before stated intersected our lines; and on which they had been actively working during their long sojourn in that locality. We ascended the heights, following the track of the contending parties; and were grieved to see so many sad proofs of the undaunted manner in which our gallant Riflemen had advanced. We did not, I think, pass anyone of these field works, without seeing two or three of the brave fellows dead; evidently shot in surmounting the embankment and fallen back into the ditch. A large work near the centre of the position had been contested most bravely; as evinced by the many dead on both sides. But our attention was rivetted for some time to two who had bayoneted each other; and though opposed in life, were united in death! For it would have required considerable force to have unclenched their grasp of their muskets!! We could not but compare the two countenances; the contrast forced itself on our notice. The Frenchman was evidently an old soldier, and had perhaps witnessed many a hard fought battle: his cp, low on his brow, was well secured under his chin, and his livid countenance still wore the satanick and malicious grin of desperation! The young Rifleman's cap had rolled back into the ditch; leaving his full and curling hair floating in the breeze: a good tempered smile rested on his ruddy face; which seemed to say, "I bar no malice to anyone, I have only done my duty!!" His sword-bayonet was thrust, with all the vigor of youth, far through his antagonist. We overtook our Regiment about 4 o'clock, and accompanied them to their ground above Lesaca: under the mountain that was still contested by the Spaniards and French.
Our baggage came up in good time for us to pitch our tents for the night. Allowing me before it was quite dark, to run, and shake hands with my old friends Captains Reid and Wauch of the 48th who had joined during my absence. I received a letter from my father, dated July 24th
We remained inactive this day; and amused our leisure by watching the firing on the mountain; chief part of which was perpendicular, the rest very rough and inaccessible, there was but one ascent; thereby rendering it a natural fortress. It was past noon ere the Spaniards could gain possession. I judge this to be what on the maps is called the Crown Mountain.
At night I was ordered on picquet with Major Thomas and Lieutenant Ruddock.
We advanced at daybreak in support of the Spaniards; who were sharply attacked at an early hour. After halting for many hours we took up our ground in a young oak wood. Our baggage was late in reaching us. I was excessively ill; but fortunately fell in with Captain Smith of the 20th Regiment, nephew of Sir Sidney Smith, who gave me two cups of tea; which revived me much. We are decidedly in France near Serrè (Sare, Fance?).
October 10th & 11th. I spent in Company's Accounts.
Dined with the Colonel. I am removed to the 8th Company under Captain Chitty, who lately came from the 2nd Battalion in Valencia: an Englishman; very gentlemanly and agreeable. We chum very pleasantly.
Our tent was near the road, with a good view of the Crown mountain. In the evening Harry Franklin and Pollock, sat chatting with us, when the 20th Regiment retired to their camp. As he passed we asked Captain Smith how he was. He replied in his every cheerful and jocular way O may dear fellows we are all alive, although fagged out with two nights bivouack in support of those rascally Spaniards, but lying on the ground they had occupied, we are most animated! For "we have lice in all our quarters!!" Soon afterwards we saw Downie, the Spanish General, approaching; a fine rattling Irishman, formerly a Commission (Also Assistant Surgeon crossed out) of our army attached to the Spanish Service in the Alentejo; when Portugal was the seat of --- and an old acquaintance of Franklins. As soon as he saw Harry's cheerful face, with three bounds he was in the midst of us! Pulling off his gorgeous sash and sword, he threw himself down in our tent, exclaiming "I am going on very important business, and have not a minute to spare but it is impossible to pass Harry Franklin. Come lads give me some wine, for I am as dry as a lime-burner's wig!! Oh! How delightful to be once more in the company of good fellows!! My curse on those lousy dastardly Spaniard!! What a labourious task have I had with them in those mountains!! If you Red Coats had not remained so close at our heels, I never could have urged the villains on. Oh! How I wish myself back in my old post!!! !!! Franklin reminded him of his rank and pay as a General Officer. "Psha! Nonsense, he replied. "I tell you that I should be a far richer and much happier man with my old Corps!"
But recollect your Honors, and your Legion with Downie cut out of tin, I front of their caps!
"My dear fellow I cannot stop to talk about such trumpery, I must be going! With sword and sash in hand, he sprang up on his feet, and went off with the elastic step of a native mountaineer. Shakespeare asserts "There is a turn and tide in the affairs of man, which taken at the flood, lead to honor and distinction, but if once lost can never be regained" Such was Downie's case!!! We watched him round the base of the mountain on our left ere we returned to the tent, when Franklin exclaimed, "How extraordinary had been that man's career! Soon after the commencement of the Peninsular War he came out in the Commissariat Department (reference to surgeon crossed out) In the South of Spain he was Commissary of a Spanish force stationed in the Alentijo near the French lines; which were strong, and kept our Advanced Guard in check. A party of the enemy, one night, assaulted this station, and behaved with all their wanted cruelty and wanton desperation. Downie roused the Spaniards to action; mustered all capable of bearing arms, pursued and routed the assailants; and following up his success, proceeded so far into the French lines, that the whole army retired (with the full persuasion that it was a General Attack by our army) and maintained his ground until relieved by the Advance Guards. This gallant event opened the Field for others most important: and having been effected by Spaniards, their Government became wild with enthusiasm: instantly appointed Downie a full General in their service: and the Cortes gave him the Sword of Pizarro!! A Legion, or, Brigade was quickly formed; of which every man had a tin plate round the bottom of his cap, with Downie cut in front. On one occasion when pressing hard on the enemy, they came to a small river; Downie dashed through it; but to his dismay found that not one of his men had followed his example! Drawing himself up, he indignantly threw back his sword exclaiming "Take that back to your Cortes, and tell them I scorned to betray the Sword of Pizarro!!! This well timed and spirited rebuke had its full effect every man instantly rushed forward. After this brave act a Regiment of Cavalry was added to his Brigade; clad and appointed (except that their lackets were red.) like our Hussars. But the comparison will hold no further! Their unsoldierlike manner, would make it burlesque!!" He was shot through both chests and bayoneted in the side: which old wound oft caused him much pain.
This day began at a very early hour; for soon after midnight we were awakened by very sharp firing; and arose in full expectation of a sudden order to advance. No order arriving we laid down on our blankets till about 5.o.clo. when we advanced to support the Spaniards. We found that they had decidedly lost the advanced redoubt; nor did we marvel for it was quite within the French lines: that we were surprised they had been suffered to retain it a whole week. Availing themselves of the huts found of branches, which they had erected, the French endeavoured to regain the Second Redoubt but the Spaniards set fire to the huts, and secured their own position. Regardless of all this, the French strove hard for this Second Redoubt and the two guns they had left there; which they were anxious to redeem. Ere noon they gave it up as a bad job. And in the afternoon we levelled the works, rolling the guns down to the ravine beneath.
Agreeable to the Brigade Orders of yesterday for an officer to be sent to the advanced posts to report to General Sir Lowry Cole what occurred in front, I was ordered to remain, when the Brigade retired to their camp. I remained till dark; and returned with the working party.
A rainy morning. I have sent my pony with the foraging party to Passages for corn. Wrote a letter to Radcliff.
October 15th & 16th.
I fagged hard at the 5th Company's Accounts finding great difficulties; in consequence of two Serjeants having been employed therein during my absence.
The morning very fine; the Brigade attended Divine Service. A tremendous hurricane came on, after midday; and continued without intermission; and obliged us to be unremitting in our attention to the pegs and cords, for fear of our tent being blown away.
The wind continues with pelting rain.
So ill I could not raise myself the whole day; my head was in agony: applied to Franklin, who made for me some Calomel pills and applied for me to be admitted into a house in Bera; which our Staff Surgeon would not allow but next day ordered me to the rear.
Our Paymaster having received orders for the Short and Long Bat and forage, advanced me ten guineas on account. I have so arranged the Accounts of the 5th Company, that my friend Boyle can settle them for me. And I started this morning with my servant, Barry Bradley, and baggage. I had not travelled a league, ere I was attacked by a fit of fever. It was fortunate that the day was so fine; for thrice was I obliged to dismount and lay down; that I proceeded but slowly on my route. I arrived at Irun about sunset: but it was so crowded with Spanish soldiers, that a billet was refused, and I was ordered to proceed to Fontarabia (Hondarribia ?); which was out of my way. I arrived before it became dark; and was sent a mile further to a house by the sea beach.
Fontarabia, situate on the South Bank of the Bidasoa (Bidassoa ?) just above its confluence with the sea is a very striking object and would from many points make a good picture. Its lofty walls, founded on rock, but now delapsed, prove that once it was of some importance. The entrance has double gates, with drawbridge to it.
My billet proved to be very indifferent; but I was so completely worn out, that I instantly threw myself on the bed; wholly regardless of the inhabitants it might contain; and a return of fever made me callous to their attacks. Excepting a bunch of ordinary grapes at Irun, I had eaten nothing during the day. My servant made me some tea; and I drank two cups of it, before I went to bed, where I passed a restless and sleepless night: but just before day break, nature was exhausted; and I slept so late that my march was retarded.
While breakfast was preparing I strolled to the sea beach; and sent a sigh across to England! It was a sigh of affectionate remembrance, for my only regret was, that I was obliged to leave my regiment in face of the enemy, in daily expectation of a great battle!! But, "whatever is, is right!!" I made but a poor breakfast after my ramble: and the bright Sun was over clouded ere I finished: that I could no longer see the camps of the 1st and 5th Divisions on the other side of river. I started in a pelting rain for Passages; the Hospital Station to which I was ordered. Reported myself to Staff Surgeon Doctor Baxter, late Surgeon in the 48th Regiment and to whom my good friends, Paymaster Hughes and Captain Parry had given me letters of introduction. But the town was so full that I was ordered to return to this mud hole, Renteiria. And only obtained billet on a very ordinary house, already occupied by a Conductor of Stores, a Subordinate of the Commissariate. I asserted my priority of rank, and obtained the only bed, such as it is, for my friends in England would be astonished at its component parts; the fourteen inches height of stump bedstead being filled with branches pruned from the vine; and which, although very elastic, were not at all soft or agreeable; despite the thin bed of - I know not what- place above. I must endeavour to obtain better quarters. I wish I could obtain the opposite house; where my brother officer Lieutenant Shaw waits for a passage to England. Lieutenant Harnet, with a party, for Arms, left the regiment the same day as myself; has accomplished his mission, and will return on the morrow.
Shaw is ordered to Passages to take his passage. The Commandant will not grant me his quarters; but has ordered my companion the Conductor off. Having the house to myself, and the Stable beneath being more than usually secure, I will be content with my lot, in spite of my uncomfortable bed with swarms of fleas. My servant and baggage shall occupy the small room out of mine, now vacant. The people are as dirty as the house, but very civil, as soon as they comprehend our signs of what we want: but as true Biscayans they understand the Spanish language as little as English or French. During the afternoon when we were endeavouring to make our quarters as clean and comfortable as we could, my servant went to ask our hostess the loan of a broom, an article indispensably requisite in England, in all shapes and forms but here totally unknown! He returned in a great wrath, exclaiming "Troth, but these are the queerest folk I ever came neer!" How so Barney Bradley? "Why, sure now, they don't understand their own language, when I spoke Spanish to them; and when I spake Portuguese they know as little of that!!" Then truly Barney, I knew not what you are to do; unless you talk Irish to them! "Is it now Irish that you are talking about" he indignantly replied, "Sure they have not wit enough to understand that!!" In this sulky humour he went out; and was absent a long time. On his return, I found he had gone to the neighbouring hills, to cut broom for his purpose. With that, and a vine-dresser's heavy hoe, he got, fully a barrow load of dirt, from off the floor of my room; to the astonishment of the inhabitants of the house: who were evidently much pleased with the neatness when finished. Nevertheless, their genuflections and crossing of themselves, betrayed a superstitious awe of the innovation to their own habits.
I was too ill to do more than read the Service for the morning. But, as Stern's Corporal Trim states, "A Soldier, when he as time, prays as fervently as a parson!"
I felt better this morning; and the fine weather tempted me to venture over the harbour in a boat to Passages. By this route the distance is about three miles; but more than four by the road. I am well pleased I did not obtain a quarter in this confined town; the dirt exceeds even Renteiria. In the Praça, or market place I should have been molested by the incessant noise, and the back streets are execrable. The coast out side the harbour's mouth is rocky, and the swell of the sea, the Bay of Biscay, great; that the supply of fish is uncertain, and very indifferent in kind. I gave three shillings for a Dogfish, not a foot in circumference: but it was good flavoured; and will give me two more dinners. An immense swell set into this secluded harbour, on Saturday night and caused the vessels to beat each other to pieces: the damage is estimated at ?12.000! All that are left sea worthy, are clearing out in great haste. Sir George Collier is Port Admiral. The packet for England is a new and compact vessel; and will sail tomorrow morning.
Began a letter to my brother Phillip.
A detachment of the 4th Division arrived from Vitoria. Ensign Clunis, of our regiment was with it. He breakfasted with me and as the day was fine I escorted him to Passages; and we returned to a late dinner. I was rejoiced to find he had recovered from the very singular wound received at Pamplona. A bullet entered six inches above the left knee; a slight inflammation showed its upward course: the Surgeon fearing that it had entered the lower part of the body, kept their patient in bed. But finding, after long observation, no further trace, ordered him to take exercise. Some time after the ball was cut out of the corresponding spot above the right knee!!
Torrents of rain all day.
Clunis and the detachment returned this morning. I am greatly surprised by the receipt of a letter from the sister of my friend Lieutenant Joe Hill, dated September 24th in reply to my letter of the 6th of that month, which I wrote by Joe's earnest request, at his bedside at Vitoria to inform his mother of his loss of his leg high above the left knee. I wrote a second letter this day. Considering that the letter was directed to me at Vitoria was sent from thence to the regiment, and followed me hither, it is an unusually quick transit; and would not have tried my patience had the young lady been interested for me, instead of her brother.
Torrents of rain, which, with these open windows, but ill accord with any continued course of Calomel. Wrapped in my boat-cloak, I wrote to an old friend in Norfolk.
Spent the day in a satisfactory way. I found myself the better for a walk during the sunshine of the morning. In the afternoon finished my letter to my brother.
Sent my servant to Passages with my two letters for England: and to fetch my linen from the washerwoman; for here is no one that I can employ. Lieutenant Brynes of our regiment, on his way from Vitoria, is detained here for Depôt Duty. He dined with me: and in the evening, his fellow traveller, Assistant Staff Surgeon Randall, who attended Pollock and Radcliffe, kindly paid me a visit.
A fine morning. I accompanied Byrnes and Lieutenant Boyle of the 82nd Regiment to Passages. We found the harbour quite full; many transports having entered yesterday. Some from St.Andero with convalescents; and some from England with reinforcements; of which, a detachment for our regiment Ensigns Phibbs, (name erased), Weir and Slattery, with 105 fine young men. They were quickly landed, and marched off to Barazun, near Irun, where I suppose they will halt a day or two. Byrnes and I introduced ourselves to Ensign Kater, who is here sick. A good tempered thoughtless, rattling, little fellow; who will not be able to stand much hard service. On our return we met Ensign Weir with Dr Felton, who had recognised him. In the evening Lieutenant Fairfield arrived from the Regiment with a party for corn. I enquired if he had dined; and his young soldier's made him answer in the affirmative: but the truth soon came out; and he was glad to partake of bread and cheese, the utmost I could then offer.
Fairfield breakfasted with us, and made up for his fast of yesterday; or, from what we could make out, of many days! For we could not learn when he last had a regular meal. He is one of those heedless chaps, who quickly spend their money, then live as they can. He very soon obtained his loads of corn; and started off on his return; probably the only man of the whole party of some thirty who had naught to eat on the road. We found out that young Weir is in search of a baggage animal. On leaving Passages, like a regular Jonny Newcome, he gave his haversack, with its contents to a Serjeant to carry for him. Overjoyed at meeting Dr Felton, he never thought of his haversack; but now recollected that therein is all his money! I mounted him on my mule to search for his riches at Ourayun. In the afternoon he sent his servant with the mule and a note expressing his thanks; and stating that the men of the detachment were so disorderly that Ensign Phibbs could not allow him again to be absent. But requesting me to send his and Phibbs baggage on, by his brother's mule, which had arrived for corn. This was another specimen of Jonny Raw! A load of corn is quite burthen enough for any animal, along such roads. But the foraging party being gone, I could not comply with his request. I went to examine the nature of the baggage: and, more to my amusement than surprise, I found these very young soldiers had fallen into the general error, here is baggage enough to load three strong animals!! I requested Dr Felton to allow it to remain under his care; for should these young chaps be ordered to march to the Regiment, they must leave it in care of natives, who would plunder it. The Doctor coincided with my opinion; and I returned Weir an answer to that effect.
I omitted the other day, to mention a letter I received from our Colonel, requesting me to ascertain if any regimental clothing or stores had arrived, by these numerous transports. Having written my official report that there was nothing arrived here, I gladly availed myself of this fine, lovely morning, to go to Passages and put my reply into the letter box in the office of the Commissariat; whom I found in a rather warm altercation with a Captain of the Royal Navy; whose back was towards me, but his voice interested me much more than the topic of conversation, some what about the duty of Transports, and their mode of entering the harbour. I did not heed what it was all about; for I felt confident that I knew the voice, although more excited than I ever heard before. The Captain closed the debate rather with warmth, saying, "I cannot wait any longer, I am under sailing orders; and my Frigate is standing off and on, waiting my return. But as I have charge of this Coast I tell you, Major, these order must be obeyed!
I marked the limp as he turned around, which confirmed my surmises; and instantly I was face to face with Frederick Langford; with whom I parted a few years since in my father's house at Swaffham. He fixed his eyes on mine, in an enquiring state of surprise, for a few second, then seized my hand exclaiming, "Why Charles, is it possible, that we meet again on foreign service! I am certainly glad to see you but you look cursedly ill!" I told him I was suffering from Coup de Soleil. "Oh! That is a bad case, he replied. I wish I was not under sail, I would have taken you on board my ship and soon made you well! Now I cannot stop; For this troublesome business has already detained me too long. Good by, my dear fellow! I hope you will soon get well; and give the French a d&ldots;d good licking in the Spring!!! And off he went.
The good fellow obtained his promotion in a very singular manner: and as I heard Dr William, the Second Lord Nelson, relate the circumstances to my father, I will here recount them: for now there are not many people who know the event. In his usual blunt manner, The Doctor said, "I have been unintentionally Mr. C. the cause of promoting Lieutenant Langford the son of Mr Landford, your neighbour, in this town I wrote to my brother Horace, that in his Fleet there was a Lieutenant Frederick Langford, a son of a Clergyman whom I wished to be promoted. My brother hit on this Frederick Ld and posted him; and informed me that he had complied with my request; and thanking me for bringing him to the acquaintance of such a worthy gallant fellow!! I soon found the mistake; and wrote to Horace that it was Frederick, son of Dr. Langford of Eton, I wished to be promoted as it might help my son Horace, at that school. My brother replied I will comply with your request as soon as I can, but I will be friend of Frederick the first, as long as I live, for he is an honor to the County of Norfolk."
Two more transports have arrived, with reinforcements, and many very, very young Officers. I have not, for a long time, seen so many smart new jackets out in their very best! One young chap of the Fusiliers sported this tall Bearskin Grenadier Cap and looked tremendously fine and grand! Poor lad! He will very soon be glad to leave it in some ravine, never to see daylight again. During my absence Phibbs and Weir came over for their baggage. In the evening I went over and sat with Boyle of the 82nd.
I ought to have stated that "the limp as Captain Langford turned round," was caused by the severe would he received in the hip, form a grape shot, when culling out some French gunboat from Bologne harbour. And that Lady Hamilton of notoriety (see Life of Nelson) attended his sick bed daily, till he recovered.
While I was at breakfast this morning Phibbs and Weir arrived to draw rations for their Detachment previous to their march tomorrow. They will be escorted to the regiment by Lieutenant Weir, who has been sent to Oaryun to take the command of the party: the presence of an Old Officer is highly requisite, to re-establish order, for last night they fought with some artillery men, and have nearly killed three. I was introduced to Ensign Slattery of the Detachment, who is to remain here on the sick list. He is a very, very young Officer. I was ordered to attend the Medical Board: after long waiting my case is postponed for tomorrow. The current rumour of this day states that our Army was to attack the enemy before daybreak: however founded, this report was much strengthened by the sound all the morning, of a distant and heavy cannonading. My chum Radcliffe having recovered his horse at Vitoria, arrived at noon and is ordered to remain here for Garrison duty. In the afternoon he rode off to see his old companion Lieutenant Weir at Oarazun, and return; a mighty pleasant nocturnal ride this! Who, but Tom, would have started on such a wild goose-chase? Pamplona having surrendered, the Garrison was this evening marched into this town to wait transport to England. They are a remarkably fine body of men; their looks, and hilarity, do not denote the great hardships and privations, which they must have suffered. Provisions were so scarce, that it is supposed they have not left even a rat or mouse alive in the fortifications. A strong Guard at each gateway keep them within the walls of this town.
These Frenchmen have kept up an incessant jabbering throughout the night. Most heartily do I wish them safely lodged in Foctin, or Yaxley Depôts. The Church is appropriated to them as their barrack; and is already in a most filthy state for in addition to the natural want of cleanliness in these people, they are all, more or less suffering from diarrhoea, in consequence of their late privations, and some of them to such an extreme, that they cannot get out to relieve themselves. We are told that 1500 were too ill to leave the fortress. My brother officer, Byrnes, who lodges with me, has charge of 664 of these prisoners. There are 1915 in this town. And at Leso the same number making a Garrison of 5330 men: a much larger number than was estimated when we invested Pamplona. These prisoners have abundance of money; and eagerly purchase at any price. Disgusted with Byne's duty Tom Radcliffe has marched with the Detachment and sent a man with a note to me, to order his baggage to overtake him this night. The Commandant has enough to engage his attention, and may therefore overlook this bold attempt of my friend. But Tom is confident that our Colonel will not censure him!! He has forfeited, by this disobedience of Orders, three days rations for himself, servant, and animals! But Tom is an excellent forager. And I am confident that his servant will look out for something for the poor "Bastes," as well as his own mouth. I passed the Medical Board this morning: where I fell in with Lieutenant Moore of the 45th Regiment, who informed me that when the Army advanced after the Battle of Pamplona his Division, the 3rd, returned by Roncesvalles; and that on his progress, his attention was drawn to a naked corpse in a garden, with the bowels protruding from a desparate wound across the abdomen; and that on close attention he recognised the face of his school fellow Charles Crawford! I felt quite a disgust to this man, when I found that he was not the Old School fellow who did bury poor Crawford's remains!!
After the observance of the day, I walked out; to enjoy the fine weather as much as my miserably aching head would allow.
At Passages I was informed that the rumour on Friday of the Army attacking was false: most of the army remains in statu quo as when I left it. I saw a packet come in with a mail from England. And profusion of stores of every description, landing from transports.
I met Lieutenant Wilbraham, R.N. who walked with Hambley and myself from Barricalia to Punhete on our route from Lisbon, where he was Agent for Transports. I should have been glad, could he have assured me that his long and arduous services had been rewarded by promotion.
A suttler asked 50 dollars, just fifteen pounds for Canteens; which I could have purchased at Portsmouth for three guineas and a half.
A large blister was last night applied to my neck: that now,, if not high minded, I am stiff necked!! This troublesome companion instead of relieving made my poor head more miserable that I wandered along the mud wall of the harbour, until I was opposite the convent on the other side, which is close to Passages. The tide was excessively high, and the busy boats of various shapes, kind, and nation, scudding about, aided by the fine weather, presented an interesting scene, had I been well enough to have enjoyed it. A detachment of the 77th Regiment is come round from Lisbon to escort these French prisoners to England.
I found that Taylor is of this party. He was with the regimental Depot at Danbury Barracks, when I was there with the 2nd Battalion. 48th Regiment. The air and duty of Lisbon has agreed with him.
After I was returned to my quarters, I heard much talking with heavy foot-steps on the stairs, and went to ascertain the cause; when I met three Spanish Officers attended by the Alcalda, or Mayor, coming up to enforce three billets in this house. I told them there were two English Officers, and their servants here, besides the two families; that there was no room for more. One of the Officers was extremely indignant; and endeavoured to pull me down stairs; but received in kind, what he so officiously intended for me. I knocked him down upon the Alcalda. As soon as he could recover his feet, he drew his sword, and cut furiously at me. I put my fist to his nose, and calmly assured him that although I was without my sword, if he did not instantly sheath his, I would break it over his head!! The Alcalda interposed and desired the ruffian to descend: consequently I allowed the rest of the party to ascend. At this juncture Byrnes and my servant came to my support: they coolly opened the window shutters, determined to bundle both the Officers and the Alcalda out into the street! Their indignation was so furious that I had great difficulty to establish a cessation of the hostilities. If I had not succeeded in this, as Senior in rank, I should have been in a very awkward predicament. For however custom justified me in resisting encroachment on my own billet, I had no right to resist the Alcalda in locating one of the Spaniards on the poor family in the atticks.
The French prisoners were marched off this morning by an Officer of the Quarter Master General's staff. The Church is opened for ventilation; and unfortunately the wind is in the South, and blows the stench up to my quarters, rendering my room insufferable. I was compelled to walk out for fresh air. Curiosity induced me to go up to the Church door, inspite of my olfactory nerves; the floor was really ankle deep with filth! I never witnessed such a sight. And the street on the south side of the Church was like an open sewer!! I never saw such an accumulation of filth!! I was obliged to wander beyond the bridge to relieve my miserable head.
Today I was in even greater pain; and vainly expected my doctors; for they did not come. Received a letter from Close.
Endured great agony. About four in the afternoon the Assistant Staff Surgeon came, attended by an Hospital Mate, or Assistant: and ordered my head to be shaved. Which operation Byrnes kindly performed for me, and put on the capacious blister, which the Hospital Mate sent.
I can tell nothing of the events of yesterday, but from my servants report. He states that the doctors were much alarmed at the state in which they found me. I judge that my excruciating sufferings made me delirious! They have again dressed my miserable Caba?a (head)" and declared that the utmost remedy had now been applied, and that if the pain was not relieved before the blister healed, there was no alternative for me, but going to England; as the only chance for my recovery! That should I brave another summer in this country, and experienced a relapse before having perfectly recovered from this attack the result must be fatal in some way; loss of sight would, at least, be certain to ensue!! There could be no doubt, but that my disorder had been occasioned by extreme heat of the Sun, that is, I was Sun struck! The effects of which must be thoroughly eradicated or a relapse would occur. Delightful comfort this! For a wretch whose head is as painful within as without; and his heart in unison therewith!! When left to myself the "Blue devils" attacked me most furiously, ere I could recollect that it was Sunday, when I made the best use of my prayer book that my weak state would admit.
I am informed Lord Wellington has appointed a certain number of prisoners from Pamplona to be exchanged; including the Governor, who has petitioned to be allowed to proceed to England, rather than return to France. Six hundred prisoners form the front, marched to Passages, for transport; escorted by a party of the 16th Light Dragoons.
There has been incessant rain for the last three days: nevertheless, the town is not, I am told, yet purified. I rose to dinner much below par; for, during my sleepless night a dreadfully low fit came on me; that I even cried from sorrow and vexation; before I could pray for relief, and although I had a little sleep after but could not shake off my melancholy!
I was compelled to sit up in my bed this morning, to make out my Return for drawing rations. I found myself better for the exertion; and wrote to my friend Close of the 48th and Boyle of our own regiment. Before I had finished my fellow lodger Byrnes came to take leave of me; he having received an unexpected order to escort some prisoners to Head Quarters at San Pe?, who were to be exchanged. My blistered head is healed; but contrary to the Surgeon's expectation I am in great pain, that in spite of any reluctance I much fear I shall be obliged to return to England when I am in Orders to do so. For the present according to General Orders promulgated this day, I have a month's sick leave to Bilboa. How truly absurd and annoying this! How is it possible for me to remove, and for what! When Dr. Fenton came to see me in compliance with my request sent I stated how much I was molested by the Order, he promised me a Certificate if necessary, that I was incapable of removing. I learn that I must remain in durance vile, until the 5th December when my leave will expire; and I appear before another Board of Strange Medical Officers; who will know only the official statement of my case, and the black marks put against my name, for I have a strong impression that some of the Medicoes imagine that I am sculking, despite the severe treatment received from them; and my frequented repeated disinclination to return to England!! The Assistant Staff Surgeon in his attendance this day, did deviate from his usually sententious remarks; by relating an attempt by two men of the 63rd Regiment to rob his house last night. And that they are to be tried tomorrow. He also told me, that two men, the other night, entered the room where two officers of 16th Dragoons were in bed in two recesses. The villains had a light, and deliberately ransacked the clothes on the chair beside the first bed, unlocked the baggage, and took whatever they pleased: then proceeded to the other recess; and when satisfied quietly retired with their booty. The two officers confessed that they were awakened, and saw all that passed, but did not dare to resist, for fear of having their throats cut! Oh! What valiant Heroes! Their swords stood within their reach, but they were afraid to use them!! What are we to expect from troops led by such doughty commanders!!!
I was more free from pain yesterday; but awoke this morning in great pain; and did not rise till late. Mr Slattery introduce a Mr McDonald of the 74th just imported who stated that he was in the same Company in the East Middlesex Militia, with my cousin Captain Fincham and my brother Edward, of whom he speaks most highly. My visitors informed me, that the Fleet with invalids and prisoners, after being out three days is driven back to port by stress of weather.
A Medical Board assembled this day but did not concern me. An entire day of rain, and I may say, of pain. I think it is Eliza, writing to Yorick, on her birthday says, "we mark our existence by the days of pain and misery we endure; while those of ease pass unnoticed in enjoyment!" I will therefore refrain from detailing my daily sufferings.
Having read the Service for this morning, I rose to enjoy the fine day. When my servant went to Passages for my linen, I sent a note to Mr Kater requesting the loan of any books he might have. The cub stupidly sent me two military books. The afternoon was so fine that I strolled to nearly opposite the Convent, and met Surgeon Buckley of the 48th on horse back; who is on the Sick List of Passages. We looked for some time, at each other, in doubt and surprise, and both were surprised that two men, who only three months back were so intimate should thus hesitate to recognise each other. When we parted this circumstance pressed on my mind, and weighed down my spirit, as I sauntered home. Where I was well pleased to find Ensign McNicoll arrived from the regiment with a party for corn. He dined with me; and after, I sent of Slattery
McNicoll informs me that there was much sharp fighting with the enemy on the 10th and that our regiment came in for its share of hard knocks. Major Johnson was killed; and his little son, who came out with him, and joined us in June as a volunteer must now return to England, to solicit for a commission. He will doubtless succeed under such a circumstance. Lieutenant Crawley of the Light Company was taken prisoner. Ensigns Phibbs, Galbraith, and Ireland (late Serjeant Major) were wounded; and fourteen men: and nineteen or our men were killed.
By the frostiness of this lovely day I fervently hope the weather will become more settled. In my walk today I met Colonel Erskine of the 48th on his way back to England. Two months ago, when at Vitoria, on his route to join the Old Corps, I passed, without saluting him. Now, he was glad to find any one to speak to him; and condescended to recognise me. We had a long conversation; but I was very cavalier with him; for I always disliked the man. My antipathy began with our first acquaintance. When I introduced myself on joining the 2nd Battalion of the 48th Regiment at Northampton Colonel Erskine said, "You come from the West Suffolk Militia, they have excellent bugles, drummers and fifers: on the next volunteering from the Militia, I shall send you to your Old Corps to obtain as many of them as possible" I instantly replied, "I hope and request Colonel, you will not send me on such an errand, for I should not be able to fulfil your wishes! Sir William Parker my late Colonel is justly proud of his bugles and fifers; having perfected them at his own expence; instead of taxing his officers for the support of a band of music. I have received much personal kindness, and strong marks of friendship from Sir William, and I could not undertake so ungracious a duty!!" This, of course, placed me on the Colonel's 'Black List,' that is, I was no favourite. It is very curious that some such coincidence always attended me, on joining a new Corps. When I joined the West Suffolk Militia at Sunderland Sir William Parker reproved me for making my appearance on the 25th of the month, instead of, on, or before the 24th. Whereas the voyage from Lynn in Norfolk oft times accomplished in sixteen hours, had, by the perseverance of the winds and waves, detained me sixteen nights and days! I have before stated the malignant prejudices I had to contend against on joining the 27th Regiment. I am reluctant to forego the history of this Colonel Erskine; because it will elucidate the evils of a military life, which rarely meet the eye and cognizance of civilians.
When Major, and in command of the regiment, at Oporto, he dismounted, and headed the Grenadiers in their valiant charge. He was wounded: and sent to England: but, his object was attained; he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. In this rank an Officer must wait the gradation of promotion: and Erskine's military ardour evaporated. After a full absence for a slight wound he returned to the Peninsula. And as Field Officer of the working party, before Badazos, sculked and was hustled and justled in the entrenchment by his own men, when a sortie was made by the Garrison. After which he, somehow, obtained leave to return to England; and, under the interest of his wife's family, who were engaged about Court, managed to stay at home a very long time; during which I joined the 48th. He remained at Northampton with us, but a short time: and I saw him no more, until I passed him in Vitoria. When I rejoined the Army in October I heard much of his ill fame from my old comrades. In the camp of which we took possession October 9th, the ground studded with stumps of the young oak trees which had been cut down, Colonel Erskine had the rashness and absurd folly to order the whole regiment to practice the Go, Goose step, the imitation of recruits on a level barrack square! This, and many other ill judged petty acts of want of judgement, and of abused authority, roused the Corps of Veterans, who had done their duty manfully in many a hard fought battle, almost to open rebellion!! I never learned the particulars of the result, except, that Colonel Erskine was attacked by ague (i.e. a shaking fit!) and the Doctors recommended him to return to England. I encountered him under these circumstances; and must add, I never saw any man in fuller enjoyment of health!! In 1816 my communication with my Old Corps, then stationed at Naas, near Dublin, informed me, that Erskine, in command, had pursued his wanted tyrannical conduct, to such an extent that Lieutenant General Sir Lowry Cole K.C.B. was sent by the Commander of the Forces in Ireland, to enquire into the case. Having done so, Cole told Erskine that if he did not alter his conduct, he should be dismissed from the Service!! This quieted Erskine in a great measure; but when the Regiment received orders to prepare for foreign service, Brevet Major Thwaites, the senior Captain, with some others, resolved to forego their long and arduous services, and chances of promotion rather than be under such a man; and retired on Half pay. The regiment was sent to New South Wales where Erskine's tyranny again effervesced; and very many of my old brother Officers (my crony close, and Val Blomfield inclusive) exchanged their commissions for grants of land, and became settlers. The regiment next moved to Bombay: where Colonel Erskine died, if not "unshrived," certainly unwept," unhonoured "and unsung!"
I was visited this day by Drs Boatflower and Fenton, their questions and prescription, I fancied had a strong tendency to England! I fervently wish my sick leave was expired, and my irksome suspense ended.
The weather continuing fine, I took a short walk this afternoon. On my return my opposite neighbour, Lieutenant Campbell of the 71st Regiment brought from the post office my friend Close's reply to my letter of the 17th. It is so replete with kindness and friendly solicitude, that it was too much for my feelings! In the evening I was compelled to poultice an extremely painful boil on the centre of my breast.
A party is come from the regiment to escort the clothing and stores; of which I can gain no intelligence. Sent one of Grenadiers, with a pass, to make enquiries at Tolosa. Took a short walk at the flood time in the harbour, and returned quite exhausted.
Ensign Kater came from Passages to see me. When he had lunched, I accompanied him back to the ferry opposite the Convent. On my way I missed the Brigade of Battering Guns; and was informed they moved off this morning for Bayonne. This looks as if something was about to take place in good earnest.
Another painful boil on the extremity of my back, obliged me to remain in bed. In my suffering I imbibed a supposition that this was Sunday, and kept the day holy. My serious thoughts were interrupted by a Sutler of the 34th Regiment who came to purchase my old friend, my mule. I felt great reluctance to part with the noble beast, although he did compel me to swim across the Bidasoa, but with the apparent certainty of my being obliged to return to England, when I should not be able to obtain half the value, I thought it bad policy to refuse an Order on the regimental paymaster, subscribed by an Officer of the regiment, for 130 dollars at six shillings each. Should I be able to rejoin the Army, my legs must carry me, and my pony the baggage; which does not by a wide difference equal my weight. The Grenadier returned from Tolosa; but no intelligence of the clothing etc. He brought the information that the Paymaster General has advanced his quarters on the 21st to Irun.
Obliged to remain in bed, till dinner time.
Another Sabbath spent in bed! About 3.p.m. I arose: and in compliance with Kater's most earnest request, however unequal to the undertaking, went over to see him. I found him confined to bed; and most truly miserable no poor wretch ever more earnestly wished himself back in England. I sympathised with him most feelingly! For although a short time I used actually to weep at the prospect of being obliged to return home, yet, what I have lately suffered induces me to consider such a measure as my only chance of regaining health. This day week will decide my fate.
I learn that the next Medical Board will be composed of entirely new Medicoes. Be this as it may, I cannot imagine it will alter my destination. I borrowed from Kater a fine edition of Campbell's Pleasures of Hope: lavished I had not, for some parts of it, excited very painful reflections!!
A party of the 48th is arrived for corn. The officer has received a billet in this house above me. He is newly imported and I know nothing of him. But the Serjeant is an old stager; and most respectfully called to enquire for me. While he drank some Grog I made enquiries about my old and particular acquaintances.
This day a party arrived from my own Regiment; under the command of Ensign Ovens; who dined with me. He was heartily grieved at finding me so ill; and expressed his sympathy in the kindest manner. Yet his very little but queer chap, was particularly active in exciting the enmity which I encountered from the Junior Officers on joining the 27th Regiment.
A deficiency of corn has detained Ovens and party.
I was surprised by a visit of a new Medical man, Assistant Staff Surgeon Christie. His gentlemanly suavity of manners was very prepossessing; and induced me to relate my sufferings very frankly; to which he listened with an apparent interest which surprised me yet more. After many searching questions, he said "Do you recollect experiencing at any particular time, the heat of the sun more than usually oppressive?" I replied "Oh! Pray Doctor do not talk on that subject!! "Yes, he replied, but I must: and request you to state full particulars, how it occurred; what you experienced at the time; and what has been the consequence?" Accordingly, I gave him a full description of the events of the 15th of August. When he said "I thought as much, from the first of your statement of your symptoms. I have served long in India, and have witnessed many cases of Coup de Soliel. Such is your case and I am astonished that you have survived the shock!! Your only chance now for recovery is to return to England: and I wish to prepare you for what will occur. You will lose your sight, and be blind for life!! But I will call again tomorrow, and talk more about your case"
My spirits were depressed beyond measure and I longed for the morrow, that I might again see One who seemed to feel an interest for me, and my sufferings. But late in the evening Christie was ordered to repair instantly to another Hospital Station.
I rose to breakfast: and afterwards by the support of my servant, reached where the Medical Board was assembled. Being informed that the Board would attend at my quarters I returned; and found the walk had been quite long enough for my strength. I had not recovered the exertion, ere three Medical Men, all strangers to me, arrived. After a multiplicity of questions, they seemed to know as much about the cause of my sufferings as before they saw me! But doomed me to another month's abidance in this vile place: although the late Board declared a return to England as the only expedient.
Found myself this day much the worse for the exertion of yesterday.
Lieutenant Norton of the 34th Regiment came to the billet above. Although a stranger I invited him down for a chat, after dinner and found him very intelligent and gentlemanly. He had once been in my state; was restored by leeches: and gave me great hopes of my recovering. Speaking Spanish freely, Norton had been conversing with a Priest about the dialect of the Province, Biscay, which is called Vansquence: scarcely comprehensible to anyone, not born with it on their tongue: like the Irish, and North Scotch, most difficult to be taught, learned, written or construed. Yet, this prejudiced fanatick, this Drone on the earth, most pertinaciously insisted that it was the most genuine and natural language; so much so, that could a child, on first coming into the world, before it had heard any person speak, ask for what it needed, it would talk Vansquence!! Nay, he even asserted that it was the language of Adam and Eve!!
What vast utility has this man's twenty years of study in the University been to him! And how greatly it will benefit society!!
Received a very kind letter from my friend Pollock. Also one from the Pagadore or Paymaster; with a statement of my accompt. He is sadly afraid of its reaching me before my departure for England.
My new Doctor, Staff Surgeon Donoghue a hearty good fellw, visited me; and has recommended the application of leeches if they can be obtained, but of that he has many doubts.
My servant made diligent enquiries yesterday, but could not procure any leeches. This evening I was in such excruciating pain that I sent for medical advice. At length an Hospital Mate came: a gentlemanly good look chap; evidently a noviciate; but so cavalier in his manner; that I was led to surmise, that my message had probably called him from an agreeable Mime party. He promised to report my case to Dr Donoghue, and scampered off.
December 12th. Sunday
Too ill to leave my bed; until summonsed by young AE Sculapias, to rise and undergo the operation of bleeding at the temporal arteries. I made all the haste I could, assisted by my doughty squire, Barny Bradley. But the weather was very frosty: and the sudden transition from a warm bed, to a room with open windows, chilled, and retarded the circulation; and probably benumbed my feeling the Doctor's knife; the sensation however was quite bad enough; being so close to the ear. I heard as well as felt the incision. The Medico found that my temporal arteries were deeply seated; made a second cut, and expressed his surprise: he made a third, but poor Barney Bradley at that was quite overcome, he lustily pushed the Doctor aside, and offered him battle, exclaiming "by Jasus you want to kill my poor Master!!!" Even with the blood trickling down to, and dropping from my chin, I could not but smile at the event: the Medico laughed heartily! At my injunction poor barney promised to command his feelings, and the artery was opened: but with so slight an effect, that the left side was operated upon; but proved equally unsatisfactory. The Medico formed two pledgets by wrapping lint over two copper vintems, coins as broad as a half-crown: these he applied on either side, by means of a tight bandage; ordering me not to disturb them until he should take them off some three weeks hence! This woeful operation occupied full an hour and half; quite exhausted, I threw myself on the bed; and remained almost motionless till night; when I undressed. And the next day was not inclined to move.
I was rejoiced to find my head much relieved from pain. And was able to rise and amuse myself by writing to my good friend Close. Also to fill up and return the Receipt for my travelling expenses to Portsmouth this time twelve months; which Colonel Hutchinson so kindly assisted me in obtaining. I was likewise glad to look out and notice some fine German soldiers as they passed along this street; belonging to a Regiment which came bodily over to us from the French; with their arms and accoutrements. They are come here to wait for transport to England, on their way back to Germany.
I have experienced a wretched night: the result, I believe, of Kater's long and loud talking last evening. I allowed him to make his bed on the floor of this room; he having been suddenly ordered to come here for Depôt Duty; instead of joining the regiment, as he intended in a day or two. But I hope he will soon more off, for I shall become tired of his company. He is gone to demand a billet
Here is great rumour of there having been much fighting in front. And as no corn party has arrived, though four days past the time I am inclined to think something has occurred.
Yesterday a blister was applied behind each of my ears. And I was very crusty with the Hospital Mate this morning, when he came to dress them. By his very off hand way of proceeding I am induced to imagine he has been educated in an Hospital: had he ever seen private practise he would have more suavity of manner. Surgeon Balkeley, late of the 48th but now appointed to his old Corps, the 77th kindly called on me: and gave me a hash of politicks from a paper of the 4th inst he had seen. He told me, the last Packet but one, to England, was captured; but is supposed to be recaptured with the two ships that took her. Colonel Grant who had commanded her Hussar Brigade; and some Officers of the Life Guards were on board.
December 19th. Sunday
I awoke this morning more free from pain; but extremely weak and languid. I was, however, able to read the full service for the day.
The Corn Parties begin to make their appearances. Ensign Armit is arrived from our regiment; and is gone to kater for accommodation: this is fortunate for me; the pair are well suited. I learn from Armit, that our Division has had many marches to support other troops; but is now in front and performing Out Post duty: no other material change has occurred. Armit has much Irish volatility in his manner, and amused me very much be describing the arrival at our advanced Picquet of a French Brigadier with a Flag of Truce to enquire if Lord Wellington was likely to recover from his wound in the head; and if General Clinton's wound were dangerous? When assured that neither had been injured, he expressed his chagrin in very plain terms.
I went last evening to the kitchen fire (the only one) to warm my feet, as usual, before going to bed. The whole family party were seated around. On the further side sat the anxious mother, ministering to the comfort of her only son, a Guirella; come home to be nursed and restored from hard living, and hard service. His legs were bound up in Cabbage leaves, as Blisters. He is rather under size; but had seen much service. He and my man Barney were great cronies. Next sat the Goodman of the family and his daughter. His niece Catline, or Catherine, sat on my right. A very good looking young woman of bout six and twenty but not of the Spanish cast of beauty. Her hair was black, but her eyes were brown; and very animated; her face fair, round and plump. Finding me low in spirits, Catline with the utmost good nature tried to rouse me by talking her Vansquence (Nansquence?) to me, but our conversation was more by eye, than tongue. During which, I had received great warmth from the fire; and my blood circulated more freely; which caused an irritation on my right temple; and induced me to put my finger and rub around the pledget. The sensation was so pleasing that I went too far, a small scale fell off the wound, and blood burst out with such vehemence, that poor Catline's fair face and neck were covered. Horrified at the circumstance, she could rise from her low stool, but vehemently crossed her herself; fumbled her scanty Rosary and with extended hand muttered her Ave Maria's. I clapped my finger on the wound to stop the blood and sent Barny to fetch the Hospital Mate; who on arriving, availed himself of the event to bleed me to his hearts contents; for he took full a pint of blood. He altered the pledgets and bandage; most painfully incommoding my ears, and half healed blisters; that I passed a most comfortless night. Received another kind letter from my friend Close. A strong detachment from our Division has arrived fro a supply of muskets; under command of Captain Bignell, with Ensign O'Shea, of our regiment: and my old friend Lieutenant Duke of the 48th.
December 22nd & 23rd.
My worthy friend Duke has made many kind visits; and we have had much interesting conversation about mutual friends and the Old & Bold 48th. Captain Bignell called: and Frank was as anxiously kind as his frank and rough manner would enable him to express. In the evening I was surprised by a visit from Lieutenant Rawlings of the 4th Regiment in the 5th Division; to whom I relinquished my turn of Volunteering from the West Suffolk Militia; by which he joined the 4th Regiment. I must admit he is much polished, since we parted at Liverpool; but is still a rough warm hearted fellow! This man's history might fill a volume! He was a natural son of a wealthy farmer in the Fens of Norfolk; who was Captain in the Downham Volunteers, when the different Corps were enrolled as Local Militia, in which he obtained Ensigney, for his hopeful Scion. During the fortnight's permanent duty we performed at Norwich, this shrewd intelligent chap, attached himself to me. Subsequently finding that I had joined the W.S. Militia, he made interest and followed me: and was well known by the Cognomen of "The Fenmen." He amused me with his history since we parted. On the death of his father, he obtained leave to return to England; and received his legacy of five hundred pounds: with which he joined the Depot of his regiment at Colchester. He started a Tandem, and a livery servant: spent his legacy, ran deeply into debt: and was rejoiced on being ordered to return to the Peninsula. Waiting at Portsmouth for the sailing of the fleet of transports he was accosted by a stranger; who was desirous to enquire for Lieutenant Rawlings. He replied, with the greatest self command, and assured the stranger, that poor Rawlings was safe on board his transport, as his only protection from arrest! This discomforted Sheriff's Officer, or, Bumbailiff thanked him for this information, and walked away greatly disappointed. Rawlings took this hint; returned to his hotel and paid his bill; then purchased from the chamber maid some female garments in which he dressed himself; and quickly went on board: thereby escaping the fangs of the law, and his creditors. He assured me he had remitted money sufficient to clear off all his debts; and had plenty to spare. I expressed my astonishment; which he soon dispelled by informing me, he had found a connection with Marsden who has a contract to supply the Army with horses and mules, and with cattle: who had supplied him with money at first starting; also a good English horse; on which, when he was clear of the routine of regimental duty he scoured the country round; and bought animals of every description; and made great profit. I can easily imagine him well qualified for such an undertaking; his Fenman's judgement will serve him well.
December 25th Christmas Day!
I was so ill yesterday that I scarcely turned round in my bed. And had no sleep till this morning that I did not wake till noon. I was, however, so much refreshed by my sound sleep, that after breakfast I arose, and stubbed off a beard of ten days growth: which made me yet more comfortable; and I felt reluctant to return to bed; but the troublesome swelling on my right temple compelled me. And I read the full service for the day.
December 26th. Sunday
The swelling on my temple was much reduced this morning, by a considerable discharge of puss from the incision; but my head has been excessively painful. In the evening the artery again burst out; my servant however managed to stop it.
I took the precaution of burning a lamp all night; for fear of the artery proving troublesome. I slept well; but awoke so ill, and full of pain, that I wrote a note to, and requested a visit from Staff Surgeon Donoghue himself. He kindly obeyed my summons: and evinced the utmost sympathy for my sufferings: expressed his astonishment at finding me so very ill, contrary to the reports he had received of my case; and promised for the future my head should be better treated. He likewise gave me a requisition on the Purveyor, for a bottle of Porter, and for two bottles of Port Wine., Soon afterwards he sent the rattleheaded Hospital mate to dress my sadly festered head. The young Medico is evidently much chagrined at having been reported. I trust it will do him good!
My old Surgeons Fenton and Christie paid me a friendly visit, and expressed great surprise at finding me so ill. They informed me that, three Packets had arrive from England within a few days: and that many Officers here had received letters. But not one came for me!!
My head is now dressed daily; and is much easier for it. My servant tells me the artery is very prominent which accounts for the injunction of young AEsculpius that I must avoid all exertion, for fear of its again bursting.
An Order from Head Quarters disallows forage to all Subalterns, not commanding Companies. I am truly rejoiced that I sold my mule! The corn parties are again appearing. And I hope to see my friend Close. I am informed, a Rocket Brigade has arrived, and marched to the front. They will greatly surprise the rich inhabitants of Bayonne: all accounts agree that there is immense treasure in that city. I am also told that the Spanish Officers taken, in the French Service have pledged themselves to show a practicable plan for taking Bayonne. They may be right and honest; but I much doubt Lord Wellington's faith in rascals who have fought against their own country!!
My good friend Close arrived in time to breakfast with me. I am rejoiced to see him looking so well: and that a good night's rest enables me to enjoy his company at dinner; after his unsuccessful trip to Passages for corn. The Batmen of my own regiment under Ensign McLeod caused me, through my servant, much trouble, in their attempts to occupy my stable, beneath. But Barney at length drove them away. I should have had no peace by day or night. The person who bought my mule paid me four doubloons, and promised to bring the balance about the 8th of next month.
Again no corn. A large fleet arrived from England: but the Artillery by precedence has taken all the corn; leaving the reinforcement to the Rocket Brigade, and a large supply of arms, to follow as they can. I wrote to the Paymaster. Also to my friend Pollock; requesting him to report to the Colonel, confidentially, the shameful conduct of our Batmen. The artery again broke; but bled only a small quantity. And thus painfully I finished this eventful year!!
January 1st. 1814
I was awoke this New Year's morning by the congratulations and kind wishes of my esteemed friend Close, in his blankets, on the floor of my room. This is a grand holyday with the natives here: and I gave my host a piece of Junk, or salt beef, which I had received as part of my rations; and I was glad it proved a great treat to all the family: they scarcely ever eat meat; it being too expensive. From the statement of my servant of the uncomfortable state of the Officer in the billet above me, Lieutenant Robinson of the 57th Regiment, or the Old Die Hards, as they were called after their dauntless intrepidity at Albuera, where they fell in ranks. I sent him an invitation to dine with me. Poor fellow, the fortune of war has been most severe on him! For in addition to a shot through his thigh, and another through his body, a third ploughed its way up from the middle of his forehead, carried away the front bone, and laid his brains bare but unscathed. His head is bound round with many folds of black ribbon; for contact with the air produces insensibility. This poor young fellow embarked for England, with Major Johnson's son, in November: they were driven about by adverse winds; once nearly into Bayonne; another close under St Andario. I am induce, by his own statement, to conclude that the excitement was too much for him; for the Master of the Transport put back and relanded him. He confessed that his wound had caused derangement; and his present resolved to region his regiment proves he is not free. I well remember that in November, when passing along one of these streets, my attention was drawn to the opposite side by the audible and fervent prayers in my own language of some poor sufferer. I now recognised my guest as the supplicant.
An ample supply of corn arrived by this morning's tide; but as all parties were in waiting much confusion and delay ensued. I am very thankful I have been so free from pain, and enjoy the society of my valuable friend.
Close left me early to breakfast with his brother Officer Lieutenants McDougall. I had a painful and restless night, consequently feel very indifferent. The Medico warned me for the Board on the 5th and seemed surprised when I declared I could not walk to attend it. I do not understand, nor am I at all satisfied with his report of my head. He says it is quite superficial, yet I fid the discharge increases considerably.
January 4th. I sent my servant to Passages with a very peremptory note to Kater, for the volume of Shakespeare, foolishly lent to him; and which he had lent to another person. A vague answer was all I received; and my book is, I fear irrevocably lost. In the afternoon a Surgeon called to assure me that Board would on the morrow come to my rooms. My head and eyes were excessively painful all day: and after dinner I had much fever: impelled however, by an irresistible impulse I exerted myself, and turned out my writing case, reperused old letters, and tore them in to pieces. The kindness expressed in many overcame my weak feelings.
The Medical Board has been too fully occupied to visit the out-patients: thus I must endure another night of suspense and uncertainty. Bulkerly called and chatted some time. I congratulated him on the improvement of his looks; and he kindly expressed a fervent wish he could have returned my courtesy but it was too evident that I suffered much pain.
My servant awoke me this morning by his abrupt entrance and announcing the arrival of the Medical Board. The occurrence so surprised me, that I shook in my bed. The President, Dr Bermester, asked many questions, but did not wait for a reply to any one: and I began to feel a rising indignation, when he exclaimed "I think sir, you would be much better with your regiment!" This gave me utterance and I replied "And a d--- fine Effective Soldier, I should make on picquet don't you think?" The paper was filled up by Dr Christie: I sullenly signed it, in compliance with Christie's request. I could perceive that this good fellow's feelings were nearly as deeply wounded as my own! Dr Burmester then examined my head abused my servant for not washing the wound clean and myself for lying in bed. Again my indignation was roused; and I calmly, but very significantly replied, "It is evident Doctor, that both of us are victims of misrepresentation. For that Scape Grace of an Hospital Mate who has attended me, would not allow the wound to be washed: and, contrary to my remonstrance, insisted on my remaining in bed!!" But I might as well have whistled ligs to a milestone, or a psalm tune to a horse; for this Military Abernathy took himself off as his prototype would have done. Leaving me to digest as I could the ill-judged calumny that I was sculking. As the artery was pronounced to be healed, I resolved to become my own Doctor; and joyfully left my bed at noon: walked across to see Slattery: and in the evening wrote to Pollock and to Close.
I have not experienced the good nights rest, I anticipated from the exertions of yesterday. I went over the way to talk with Slattery; when I had been there some time, I was taken so ill, that I was obliged to call my servant to conduct me home: and could not hold up for the rest of the day. My head is so extremely painful that I am resolved to put my feet into hot water before going to bed.
Lieutenant Campbell of the 71st Regiment from the opposite house, came in last evening accompanied by a friend, a Rifle Officer. They gave me a good hash of European politicks, with which I was much amused and highly gratified by the favourable tenour. Our conversation lasted so long that it was eleven o.clock before I could fulfil my intention and get to bed. Campbell has sent five newspapers for my amusement; and they have proved a great treat.
January 9th. Sunday
Awoke so ill, and full of pain I could not rise till noon; and with exertion read the service for this morning. The day, also, rainy and cold, is as cheerless as myself . Moreover, I feel I did not retire to rest at peace with All mankind. Dr Burmesters's unfeeling conduct, and the slur he has cast on my character, rankle deeply in my mind!! Had I the strength I would wring the rascal's nose and he then might test my want of pluck.
Arose about noon, somewhat better, and as the weather had cleared up, by great exertion rode to opposite the Convent: but returned much fatigued. I found a regular formed Depot of Ammunition, for our ensuing campaign. The British Artillery flat is duly hoisted. A brigade of 18 pounders, with numerous wagons of ammunition are waiting an order to advance. Numerous reports are afloat: One asserts that our Division is gone to General Hill; to allow his Light Brigade, the 50th, 71st. and 92nd to come here to morrow for their new cloathing. True the stores are here; but it is not probable that three regiments can be spared at one time. Another report states, that Soult has sent a flag of truce to inform Lord Wellington that an Armistice had been formed in the North. But his Lordship begs leave to await the announcement from his own government. My neighbour Campbell assured me that Colonel Napier of the 50th landed form England yesterday; and started immediately for Head Quarters.
Finding myself better this morning I rode towards Oarazun: but the wind from the snow clad Pyrenees mad me sneer. On my return met Campbell; who informed me he had been to Passages, and read the General Orders; wherein my Sick Leave was stated to be for three days! I kept the utmost restraint on my indignation; hastened home; and wrote to Dr Burmester to know if this was correct. He very Officially referred me to the General Orders recently promulgated. My indignation and wrath now rose considerably above fever heat; and my resentment strongly prompted me to evince, some how, my sense of the affront!!
"For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
Which patient merit of the unworthy takes!" Hamlet; with these reflections "the native hue of resolution, sickly'd with the pale cast of though, made me rather bear the ills I have, than fly to others that I know not of!!" And I soothed my wounded feelings by writing to my friend Pollock a full statement of circumstances; and expressed my resolve to rejoin my regiment as soon as I possibly can.
Rose this morning in a most determined disposition. Called on Slattery and Kater. Returned home: swallowed some meagre soup: rode to the ferry, it was low water; that the boat was obliged to keep the tortuous course of the river. On landing I went direct to the quarters of my old friend Quartermaster Stubbs of the 48th. He was not at home; but Mrs Stubbs gave me some wine: this short rest gave me fresh energy; and I proceeded into the town; where I met my friend Bulkley who informed me, that he was modestly ordered by the General Orders to join his regiment "for change of air!!" Likewise Lieutenant Steele of the 48th. As Bulkley and I pursued our walk, we met Staff Surgeons Baxter and O'Connor. I mentioned my leave, and my feelings: both of them laughed heartily; but declared they never before knew of such unfeeling treatment. When I showed them my poor head, they shook theirs! Bulkeley declared he never saw so ugly a wound!! I went to the Commandant's office, and read the General Order, in compliance with Dr Burnesters "kindly feeling" reference, and saw my fate. Slattery is ordered to return to England. I fear he will experience a hard fate, should a peace be established. I met Steele; who gave me intelligence of a mule for sale. Found a letter from Close, containing much news. I saw abundance of game, in the market; but the prices were most exorbitant: a hare, big with young, two dollars i.e. twelve shillings. A Woodcock, or Golden Plover four and sixpence. Returned home about four o.clock with a furious pain in my head.
The only exertion I was equal to this day, was, to go to look at the mule which Steele mentioned. It was, by far, too small beyond moderation in price demanded for me to treat for it.
While dressing this morning, I heard the well known voice of my friend Lieutenant Vandermeulan of the 48th who after billeting his corn party, returned to breakfast. After which we went to Passages. I found two letters for me at the office. One from my good friend Paymaster Hughes of the 48th containing my account, with a balance of £20 against me but he has not given me credit for some 8 or 9? for the accounts of the men of the Detachment which accompanied me from England. I must rectify this, when I join the regiment. The other from Close giving me the Shaves! Or On Dits, of the day. Also, an account of General Cole's particulars (and I could say more!!) request; for a Certificate from each officer, of the number of animals he has! No Division, nay, only our Brigade is this persecuted by "the insolence of office!" and thereby hangs a tale!!
I am grieved to learn that my friend Pollock is very ill: I wish I was near him. The weather was too fickle to induce me to venture over the harbour. Vander went; and was fully occupied all day by endeavouring to obtain corn. I looked at two mules of the 48th which are for sale: finding them not what I wanted, started off in a resolute fit, to examine one, priced at a hundred dollars belonging to Colonel Gough of the 87th Regiment (the present hero of China and India!). On my way met Lieutenant Drummond of the 82nd who introduced me to one of his brother Officers from whom I purchased an active Cobb Horse, and pack saddle for forty dollars. Returned home; and laid down till my friend Vander came to dinner. He had not been able to obtain the complement of corn, or allowances, which he claimed; and gave me the Checks for the residue. I scrupted to receive them, as encroaching on Government supplies. Vander,however, over ruled my fastidious honesty, by the assurances, that, after the hubbub he had made, if I did not avail myself of the supply, the Commissariat Clerk would.
January 16th. Sunday
Vandermeulin and his party started for San Iaen de Riuz on their way back to the old regiment. Having been obliged to resort to medicine, I found myself so unwell that I laid down; and fortunately obtained some sleep; which was very beneficial. Afterwards, "I rose, and, put on my Sunday clothes" to wit, clean linen, and, satisfactorily read the morning service. After taking a bason of soup, mounted my new horse; and rode to Leso; to visit Lieutenant Armstrong of the 48th. He was not at home: and I was obliged to exert the utmost of my Spanish, to make the people of his house, comprehend my errand. It was an infamously bad road: but made me well satisfied with my new stead. I would not part with him for double what I gave. On my return, called on Kater. If the morrow is fine I will take to the office, the long letter to my father which I finished last evening.
Rose this morning the worse for the searching wind from over the water yesterday; the succeeding hurricane all night; and the cold rain all this day. I will have not water for my feet; and go early to bed at night. My intended trip to Passages to lay in a stock of articles I readiness for my march to the regiment has been thus prevented.
Having drawn my rations, I went to Passages: purchased an old horse with a good bridle and saddle for ten dollars from the same officer. Also bought many other things which cost me much money. I will equip the old horse with my old bridle and saddle and sell them together. Met Bulkeley: and Ensign Fox of the 48th with whom I parted at Chelmsford. At the Post Office, that is, at the Commandant's office, I was informed that a packet, without the mails fortunately, was lost near San Sabastien, two days ago; and only two of the crew saved. A fleet sailed this afternoon, with a very strong wind, from W.N.W. which caused great roughness within the harbour. With my Ration Return, I sent my friend Vander's Checks, for straw, wood, and corn. Of the two first article, nothing was forthcoming: but my servant received 420lbs of barley: and, ere I returned, has sold a bag full of it, for five dollars. I took a late dinner with Kater, agreeable to promise; that I might make the utmost of a long day.
When rising this morning, my nose began to bleed; which I encouraged. My head was greatly relieved thereby. Received a kind letter from my chum Radcliffe; offering to send his pony to convey my baggage to the regiment. But from the Orders I saw yesterday recently issued by the Commandant, I much fear I shall not be able to get off without a detachment; and by no means so soon as I have plan'd for. I will test the point to morrow; although my pony "is absent without leave" having made his way out of the stable; and I have sold Horse and Gear to Kater, for the price I gave for him. In the afternoon again rode out on my new Cobb; and am more satisfied with my purchase.
After much pain during chief of the night, I arose very ill. My sufferings however, were relieved by the pleasure of regaining my pony. Although scarcely able to keep my head off the pillow, I applied for a Route: and was answered by a peremptory Order to wait for a Detachment. Could I feel at all convalescent, I would follow Tom Radcliffe's example and bolt off!! I could not reach my regiment in less than four days forced marches, and in so ineffective a state, that, if ordered back to his vile place, I should make my reappearance under very disadvantageous auspices! No! I must again learn "To bear the ills I have, than fly to others that I know not of!!" Therefore, I wrote a full statement of circumstances to the Acting Adjutant of my regiment; requesting him to report it to the Colonel
Yesterday was, throughout, rainy, and comfortless: and I was equally cheerless! But rose this morning better. And as the weather invited, I went to Passages. The roughness of the harbour, proved there had been foul weather abroad. Signals from the Admiral and Commodore, foretold that a fleet was beating into harbour: and away went all the boats. With a crowd I went up to the Fort on the Rock; and looked down on an English Cutter as she was towed in, and moored along side the Admiral. A large fleet made their way in, main part of which, were ships, which sailed three days ago; forced to put back by stress of weather: but some of them are lost! A packet arrived; too late to venture an entrance; so sent the mails on shore.
In the crowd, was a person, whom I imagined was the Master of a Vessel; accompanied by his wife; and extremely nice little English woman; dressed very neatly. I was so much pleased with her appearance that my lips almost itched to kiss my country woman's pretty mouth. And I lost no opportunity of gazing at her, when I could do so, without impertinence. I waited on the Rock until the greater part of the crowd had left. Although I had, as I thought, given them a fair start, I was obliged to traverse the declivity beside the narrow path, to pass the long line of loiterers. In my progress I overtook the master and his little wife. The skipper was making all sail ahead; leaving his rib to follow in his wake, as she could; down the steep and slippery pathway. On my discerning them, the active volition of thought, afforded me a chuckling laugh by bringing to my recollection a caricature print, oft seen in cottages at home, of, "six weeks after marriage!" the husband stalks away, leaving his wife, with an umbrella under her arm, to get over the stile and pass a narrow foot bridge by herself!! Just as I came up with my pretty country woman, she slipped and had nearly fallen, if I had not caught hold of her. I proffered my assistance down the steep: with which she was well pleased; and I was very proud. Not so, the skipper! For when the path widened, he shortened sail; and took his Rib in tow, in a surly manner bidding me Good Day!! This simple incidence amused me, on my return to the ferry: and while looking out for a boat I was hailed by my two brother Officers Captain Kirkland and Lieutenant Hanley; who had obtained leave for England. I verily believe, both on a matrimonial "fatigue party"! I escorted them to the Commandant's to report themselves, and to secure a passage. After which they willingly accepted my offer of taking their nights rest on the floor of my room; and accompanied me home. They enjoyed my humble dinner; and relished my wine so well, that we at till near midnight, talking about past events, and regimental news. Pleading my state of health I was as abstemious as hospitality would allow. But my guests under the combined effects, of the abstinence and fatigue of a long forced march; and anticipation of the fate to which they were hastening, made them 'very mellow' as they crept between their blankets, very contentedly.
January 23rd. Sunday
My guests left me after breakfast: and obtained billets at Passages. I went for a short walk: while absent, Lieutenant Weir, bound to England called. In full expectation that he would return to dine, I rode out to relieve my agonizing pain, possibly, caused by the extra wine I felt obliged to take last evening! I steered due East; heedless of whither I went, I rode over mountain and through vale, until I reached the Carmine Real; which I traversed nearly to Oarazun before I turned home direct. I found Weir and his friend Captain Phillips of the 40th Regiment partaking of the lunch my servant had set out. They had engaged passage in a merchant ship, direct to Cork: and on leaving me went to their berths; expecting to sail by the next tide. When they were gone, I ordered my servant to bring me a 'Caldaro,' that is, an iron pot filled with burning charcoal. I then read the Service for the day. In the evening I finished a letter to my sister Susan; which I will endeavour to send to England by some of these immigrating Red Jackets.
The ground is covered with a thick coat of snow; which precluded riding or walking. I must again have the Caldaro; although it did yesterday burn through the dirt and char the floor. I noticed that my last Rations Return was signed by a new Official. A Barton Captain 39th Regiment. This induced me, personally to present my Return this day, to ascertain how far my surmises are correct. As soon as I entered the room I recognised Alfred Barton from Norwich! His small neat features not a jot altered, since he left my Father's house twelve years ago!! I placed my Return on the table: Barton looked at it, then at me; and again he looked at both. "Pray, said he, did we ever meet before?" I replied quaintly 'Not since you left me at Swaffham!' He was much pleased with the recognition; and promised to call on me as soon as he could; to talk about "Days o'auld lang sine." Snow continued all day. I wrote to Captain Chitty which was as much as I was able to do: for my poor head is not on good terms with this inclement weather.
I had not finished breakfast when my brother officer, Lieutenant Gough arrived. He had billeted his corn party; so I brewed him some fresh tea; which he much enjoyed. Afterwards he went to visit his cousin Colonel Gough, before mentioned, who lies here badly wounded, I find. Regardless of the snow and dirt, I accompanied Gough to Passages. The fleet has not been able to get out. I met Hanley, and requested him to take charge of my letter to my sister. I will not send the one to Chitty, now Gough has arrived. We found a General Court Martial sitting at Passages. Colonel Barnes, of the Royals is President.
The morning milder; but the afternoon rainy. No corn to be obtained till nigh. Gough is to dine with his cousin: and I with McAdam of the 9th to meet Bulkeley. Two men of the 50th Regiment were too drunk last night to find their homes and slept in the snow: one is dead; and the other despaired of. I learned that the Commissary receives rum, direct from Jamaica. It matters not from whence it comes, it is much more like aquafortis than liquer! The Clerk gave me a taste of Brandy, equally vile.
Our party last evening was excessively pleasant. I found McAdam the perfect gentleman; and Bulkeley's flow of spirits and wit, caused time to fly on a rapid wing; that it was eleven o.clock when I reached my quarters. Gough started this morning. I went to Passages; and again met Hanley, for the fleet has not yet sailed; the Commodore having unshipped his rudder in the late gales. For three days there have arrived no letters from the Army. In the afternoon, however, I received one from Close requesting me to send him a supply of tea and sugar by Ensign Fox. I will endeavour to purchase them on board some ship at a lower price. On my return I encountered rain, as well as mud. I am inclined to sell my old pony, that has carried me over so many weary miles. But resolved to make another application for a route, to get away from this detestable place.
I think I never knew such a terrible night as we have experienced! The tremendous hurricanes of wind, were succeeded by torrents of rain; accompanied by most vivid lightning, and terrific peals of thunder!! Even more loud that we experienced on the heights of Pamplona. One clap exceeded all power of description!! The whole house shook; and my bed rocked. Every person that I have met this day, expressed the horror they felt; and declared that an earthquake could scarcely cause more consternation!! The heavy rain has effectively washed away all traces left by the French prisoners. I joined a party of Officers in the market place; where we walked for two or three hours. Lieutenant Allcock of the 58th Regiment was attended by a poodle dog, which was delighted by such an assemblage of good companions; and exhibited his various and entertaining postures and tricks, for the amusement of the party: and not less so to that of some Spaniards who, wrapped in their dark capootas, or cloak, with their low, and broad verged hats pulled over their brows, had watched the whole proceeding. Both master and dog were exhilarated by the fun they had made. One of the Spaniards was crossing the square: on a signal from his master, the dog seized, and nearly pulled the Don's capoota off. I can never forget the fellow's indignant look; and his hand was instantly in his breast, grasping his poingnard!! Allcock laughed heartily at the event: but we thought more seriously of it, gathered round, and forced him to return to his quarters with his dog.
I dined with Bulkeley. McAdam is going to Head Quarters in charge of a French Commissary and his family taken at San Sebastian. After a pleasant visit I returned home at ten o.clock.
As I was very abstemious last night I cannot account for my sufferings; and from the general nervated state of my whole frame, I am fearful that the weather affects me. I was obliged to sleep during the day. Will put my feet into hot water and go early to bed that I may be better tomorrow.
January 30th. Sunday
My night was painful and restless; yet I am better than yesterday. Filled up my Rations Return: and visited Kater: found him much better. The morning cleared; and induced me to take my walk in the Pla?a. I learned that every sick man, capable of being removed is to be sent to England. Also, that a ship is arrived laden with arms and accoutrements. I this be true, detachments will soon be sent to the Army. This intelligence awakened many reflections in my mind, whether to take myself off, running all risques, or, to wait for a Detachment. I had not been long in my room, when the Depôt Serjeant Major entered with the Order Book; warning me to sit on a Court Martial. This, to my great annoyance, proved that my name is duly registered: and now I must have patience. But the sooner I can get away the better: for I am truly ashamed, if not of my profession, certes, of my present abidance! In consequence of the tales I hear, of the conduct (of) officers and men relative to their parcularitions on Commissariat Stores etc etc etc.
The Court Martial was comprised of Captain Davy, 7th Fusiliers president: Lieutenant Martin of the 4th Balls 58th: McDougall 48th and myself. I hope never again to meet two such oafs, as the second and forth! I well know that the latter was a dolt; and Martin was equally a nonentity! Both declared they never had written the proceedings of a Court; and I could readily believe them, for truly I could not imagine either equal to the arduous task. Although the youngest of the party, I was too much of an Old Soldier to proffer my services in recording the heavy charges produced. Drunkenness: Insolence: Forgery: and Theft!! But promptly availed myself of my privilege as Senior, to speak first, and strongly seconded the president's proposition that Lieutenant Balls should be the Amanuensis. The charges so heavy that we could decide on only two prisoners. And adjourned till the morrow. I dined with Captain Barton: we had a long chat about Norwich, Norfolk friends, and events of by-gon times. His chum Lieutenant Fairfield of the 88th long a Subaltern, is brother to Fairfield of our regiment; and, excepting his natural power of singing, as his brother has, is an equally negative character: and the two brothers would match well with the two members I met this morning. I admit I was rather prejudiced against this identical Fairfield having hear him one day protest "That the only way to take an advantage in the Service, was, never to look at an Order Book." This cockscombical bluster disgusted me.
The Court was again obliged to adjourn till Thursday; a Spaniard one of the principal witnesses being from home. I paid Kater a visit: and walked as much as the weather would permit. Rumour speaks loudly of great turmults in France.
The weather promises more favourably. Some ships, five weeks from England have brought a great import of new Officers. Lord Wellington, attended by only one Aid de Camp and an Orderly Serjeant of Dragoons, passed through to the ferry; on his way to Passages: he returned in a few hours. It is surmised, he went to adjust a difference between the Quarter Master General and the Alcalda; respecting billeting. A Detachment is ordered to march on the 4th for our division. This tedious Court Martial will prevent my joining them.
The Court could not reassemble to day: the President being obliged to attend at Passages, with detachments; for arms and accoutrements. And from what I hear, our Detachment cannot march for some days. The weather is rainy; but from the shifting pains in my head, I am inclined to think it will soon become more settled. The great Major General of Cavalry, Terrence O'Loughlin, and suite, returned from Head Quarters; and was at a loss for a billet: his old one being assigned to Lord Dalhousie. Thus even a Life Guardsman must take second rate fare.
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The weather improved: but still stormy. Spent the evening with Campbell, over the way.
A fine morning induced me to accompany Campbell to Passages. I met Hanley: and visited Captain Kirkland on board his ship. He came ashore with me, but returned on board to his dinner. Ensign Galbraith is arrived with a batch of Invalids from our Division at Barer; and has taken up his abode with Kater. Received a letter from Close. Again I spent the evening with Campbell, in his warm, clean and comfortable billet. How much I regret I could not succeed in my application for those quarters.
February 6th. Sunday
A fine frosty morning. I did not breakfast till late; thinking some one might arrive with a corn party. After the duty of the day, I took a good walk. Campbell brought me a letter from my brother, dated October 19th. It is much worn and dirtied: on rejoining the regiment, I will call the Drum Major to account for not forwarding it. My brother suggests the policy of my entering the Spanish Service. Could he know the discipline, and organization, of the Spanish Army; and our Commander-in-Chief's want of confidence, Philip as an old Soldier would not urge the measure! I should hesitate accepting even the appointment as a Field Officer, that is a Lieutenant Colonelcy; especially being confident in my standing in the estimation of my own Colonel!! I find that I promptly replied to my brother's suggestion; for my answer now before me is dated February 12th. In which I stated, that I had often thought on the policy of the plan proposed: but have repudiated the thought, as soon as I came in contact with a Spanish Regiment! It was painfully repugnant to the feelings of a Soldier to see beardless boys who, by the rank of their family, had obtained a Captain's Commission without even having been Subaltern, commanding Lieutenants and privates, "bearded like the park," and every one as old as the Captain's father. These cubs of Captains are treated as men of rank, but not as soldiers they strut at the head of their companies, but the men look to their old Lieutenants for orders. If purchance you see an old Officer as Captain, you may probably find him, with his 3 or 4 or even 6 Subalterns, and some of his Serjeants, in rear of the regiment, embracing, and patting each other on the back; like so many over-fond school girls!! And taking the fuming Sigar from each others moist lips, as a token of regard! A Subaltern, Lieutenant, or Ensign, very rarely rises above his original rank!! Of the strong detachment which escorted the French prisoners from Pamplona, there was only one English Officers. He probably was the one we left with the Spanish investing that Fortress. Such a service would prove a perfect exile! Moreover, the system of recruiting the Spanish Army is most disgusting to an Englishman. Should you feel inclined to rebut my observation, by quoting our own Press Gangs, recollect they only force sailors form the Merchant to the King's service! When at Vitoria, I never passed a week without seeing one or more gangs of miserable wretched, half starved objects; from twelve to twenty in each gang; a strong rope tied to the right and left hand of each rank, all foot-foundered and nearly naked; forced from their homes; and escorted from stage to stage by a guard with loaded muskets!! What can be expected from an Army thus organized!
I must be a Lieutenant two year before I could obtain a Captaincy in the Portuguese Service. The same regulation may pertain to Spanish. In either, I must put on the semblance of being a Roman Catholic, or be considered a Heretick; and have no authority! The Spanish Major General Doylie, as related to Sir John Doyle: was Lieutenant in the 88th regiment; and on the Staff of our Army. In the South, he rallied a Spanish Regiment and let them forward. He distinguished himself so much, that the Spanish Government offered him promotion: having good friends, he was soon appointed Colonel; and resigned our Service. Now he has a Brigade, bearing his name on their caps. I likewise mentioned the career of Major General Downie; as I have detailed under date October 9th. To which I added Captain Donovan, who lately exchanged into our Regiment is a Lieutenant Colonel of Spanish Cavalry: but writes that he is disgusted with the Service; and heartily wishes himself back amongst us. These are the only English Officers I have met, or known in the Spanish Service; although I have seen the greater part of that Army: also of Don Carlos; and Don Julian's; which are considered much more effective. When Lord Wellington was made Field Marshal of Spain, that army was from 12 to 18 months in arrears of pay and clothing. To rectify which, his Lordship travelled to Madrid; and would not leave until the Junta promised to place their army on the same footing as that of Portugal; which is always in advance of the British, especially in pay.
During the long Cantonments near Lesaca, in the autumn, the Spaniards, from want of a well regulated Commissariat, were compelled to live on bread and apples; with what few animals they could find on the mountains. This produced much dysentry; which killed many. And in their present cantonments the Spaniards suffer severely for hunger. A quarter of a pound of bread; one pound of potatoes (i.e. when they can be procured); two table spoon full of oil; is the ration for a Spanish soldier per diem. Poor John Bull would look very blue with such allowance in winter!! The Spanish Army has, in no wise, improved by its intercourse with the British. Their characteristic haughtiness, jealousy, and thirst for revenge, for the slightest offence, which cannot be satisfied but by the blood of the imagined offender, have deterred British Officers from joining them. The change of Service would not be consonant with my feelings! And I am proud to say, I am very certain that my Colonel would not favour the measure.
The Detachment for our Division, strange to say, marched yesterday, under Officers belonging to the 2nd Division! This want of system in our Commandant will induce me to alter all my plans.
The fleet sailed this morning: and with it, my letter to my sister; and one to my good friend Mr Wilde of the 48th.
The alternations of the weather for some days past have not suited me. I have written to request Pollock to solicit the Colonel to appoint me to the charge of the Cloathing; that I may make escape from the control of our twaddling Commandant: a wary, sententious Scotsman who tries to make "every word weigh a pound!" to impress on every one the importance of himself and his office; by way of cloak to his incapacity to that office. A Detachment has this day been selected here, to proceed to the Army: but I have not received any notice to be in readiness.
I heard much of the great battle in the North of Europe between the Allies and French, on the 27th, 28th and 29th January.
The Detachment was duly mustered this morning. I left them in the Pla?a, waiting the arrival of the noble Commandant. To get out of his way, I accompanied Lieutenant Allcock of 58th to Passages. We beguiled our walk by talking about his two brother Officers, my early school fellows in Norfolk, William, and Anthony Bale. Alcock declared he never knew two such handsome and stupid fellows. Anthony had left the Service; and William was continued on the Recruiting Service; for which he was well adapted; as he procured more recruit, than any other Officer. I replied, I could readily imagine such: having seen him draw his sword, in a most portentuous manner, and with his large cocked-hat square to the front, surmounted by a prodigious plume, precede his Recruiting Party through a village fair. Allcock was greatly amused by my anecdote. We agreed that Bale was a very fine young man; but that his handsome face was so devoid of intelligence that physiognomists would be puzzled. At Passages we met Mr Sousher: his frank, and gentlemanly manner do credit to his maternal English blood! His father is an eminent merchant at Lisbon. We went with him on board the lately arrived packet. She left England 31st ultimo; and reached this port on the sixth day, February 5th. I found only a few pickles and some ordinary boots and shoes for sale. I was gratified by looking over this packet. All was quite in Man of War's trim. A passage to England is 82 dollars; and six for a bed. At the present exchange of six shillings and three pence the dollar, this is equal to seven and twenty pounds!
I was roused from my slumber by the welcome voice of my friend Lieutenant Boyle. After breakfast we proceeded to Passages: where he gladly purchased 100 lbs of potatoes for two dollars. The same was worth 10 dollars near the army. The fleet which on the 6th made an attempt to sail, had been driven back. Boyle and I reached the Fort, in time to see them again venture out. The wind was favourable; and they at once made an offing. We noticed Kirkland, and Hanley on the deck of their vessel. And although much above the mast's head, we held a converse with them; while they were towed out. Boyle tells me, it is supposed our whole Army will advance; as soon as the weather will permit. I hope and pray that I may join the regiment before this occurs!!
My friend Boyle left me: and I took a long walk with Campbell. The fineness of the day induced me to venture without my Great Coat. I learned that the Alcalda takes a duty of one dollar on every skin of wine sold in the town: also five vintems, or about seven pence, on every half gallon of spirits. But I could not ascertain if this was for his own perquisite, or a Government law (tax?). The fine weather and exercise relieved the extreme pain I endured all last night: and in the evening I will again have recourse to bathing my head with cold water.
I could not find at Passages letters, or any news. The wind was direct, and I watched four Brigs come straight into harbour. Our Regimental Clothing and stores are on board the transport N.199.That I only wait the Colonel's orders; and be very busy, and likewise free from control of the Commandant. The weather continued fine; and appears to be decidedly settled.
February 13th. Sunday.
A cloudy lowering day caused me excessive pain: that I wandered in misery: and not until the evening could I observe the duty of the day.
The Adjutant General has been here today; and kicked up a find dust on finding so many men, arms and accoutrements uselessly detained: and has left peremptory orders that every effective man be furnished and marched off for the army the day after tomorrow. I received an answer from my friend Pollock; assuring me that the Colonel in compliance with my request has written to the Commandant an injunction to allow me to proceed forthwith to rejoin my regiment. Thus I may expect soon to leave this place; and one the morrow will prepare accordingly.
In full confidence of receiving a marching order, I expended a Dobloon at Passages; and secured an excellent Stock of requisites for camp or field. On my return an Orderly Serjeant produced the Order Book, warning me to march all the men of our Division, in the morning at daybreak, round to Passages; to be furnished with arms and necessaries. I was well pleased to notice in both Depôts that the functionaries were roused by the Adjutant General, into action; and every one of them, instead of listlessly drawing their heels after them, was on the full beat. I heard much of a sortie of the Garrison of Bayonne, on General Hill's division investing: and that the 1st Division marched long before daylight to his support.
The weather was very favourable; although cold: but rain would have made our berth at the water's edge very comfortless. Lieutenant McDougall of 48th and myself were the only Officers. I urged Mac into exertion; by which we got out party equipped before 3.p.m. we were detained however, until 5 o'clock. waiting the arrival of men from the Depôts. Campbell and Galbraith spent the evening with me and did not leave till 11. o'clock. when I had to pack and prepare for marching tomorrow. I sold my old pony, with bridle and saddle, to Galbraith for forty dollars, but no ready money.
Our men mustered this morning in good order. We impatiently waited the arrival of the Commandant who gave the order for marching about 8. o'clock. Detachments followed us, for 3rd, 6th and 7th Divisions: in all 690 men. And as the detachment for the 2nd Division marched yesterday 300 strong; there is no marvel why the Adjutant General stormed and swore so furiously. The first of our march was mild and pleasant: but having passed Oarazoun (Oiartzun) , and ascended the Pyrenees, we encountered a sharp biting wind from the north sea, which gave me great pain the whole day. Our first day's march was too long for convalescents long unaccustomed to marching; that we were obliged to make many long halts. Our Engineers having repaired the wooden bridge over the Bidasoa at Irun, which the French burnt on their retreat; we were able to march along the capital road, the Carmine Real. And when we crossed the bridge, and entered France, our road was still better; except where it had been broken up by the enemy to impede our artillery. Every part of our route now became most interesting, by the numerous field works constructed by the French to defend the Right of their position. True it is, nature formed the country; but certainly the Engineers proved their judgement in their selection of the inequalities of the ground, for erecting their redoubts and breast works. Even in this short distance, the contrast of the two Kingdoms was most striking. Small inclosures well cultivated; numerous country houses with neighbouring cottages all bespoke more industry, comfort and cleanliness!!
My compeer, McDougall, in his wanted indolence, left the command of our party entirely to me. By great exertions I marched our entire party into St. Jean de Luz. Between 4 and 5 o'clock p.m. The Provost housed our men and we proceeded to seek our own billets; when my old acquaintance Rawlings of the 4th met me and conducted me to the quarters which he had secured for the night, allotted to a Commissary of his acquaintance. I was well pleased with this good luck; for my feet, feelingly complained of the severe duty of the day: and we had received orders to pursue our march at nine o'clock on the morrow! My kind hearted host had provided an excellent dinner which I much enjoyed: and retired early to a good mattress on the floor, between bales of English hay.
While seeking a quarter yesterday my attention was arrested by the show made at a very neat pastry cook shop. Abundance of tempting pies in standing crusts made my mouth water. I was started at the prices; but treated my day's exertion by purchasing a pork pie for seven shillings; the smallest offered. It was some 15 inches long and about 10 or 12 broad. This morning I swallowed part of my extravagance; and made an excellent breakfast; feeling well prepared for another day's march; with the certainty of a good dinner after. On my way to the barracks I learned that we were not to march today: and that a Lieutenant Daniels of the 7th Fusiliers was to take the command of our detachment. Such being the case, I was obliged to again seek a quarter; after four attempts I housed myself tolerably well at No.6 Rice St, Jacques. In my search for a billet I was excessively annoyed at finding in numerous places the name of some Officers of the Guards, chalked on the door, with his Brevet Rank! I made a trial at a Captain's house; knowing that in the regiment, he was like myself only a Lieutenant. A servant in livery, a private servant, that is a civilian, assured me The Captain always came to his billet whenever duty would allow him to leave Lord Hill's Division before Bayonne. Thus I discovered that these Guardsmen retain permanently, their Marine Quarters; to the great inconvenience of all other troops! Most fervently did I wish these cockscombs were under the control of the stringent Orders of our Division!! Establishing myself and baggage in my billet occupied my time until noon; when I attended the parade of our men. My various perambulations afforded me a good sight of the numerous streets of this town; regularly built at right angles; tolerably wide and neat: very superior to what I saw through Portugal and Spain. Here are no marks of the devastation of war! But everything in this large town bespoke a flourishing commercial depot; built in, almost, a quagmire, in a most daring manner not much above the water of the Bay of Biscay, in defiance of its loud roar, and drenching surf. The latter, frequently toils along the beach, paved (words erased) nearly a mile outward, and render the streets impassable. A substantial Strand, or, wall of blocks of granite, is built to protect the town. But when Old Father Neptune gets into a rage, he does not heed the puny works of man. When the wind is dead on shore, the swell is so great with a flowing tide, that boats have great difficulty and danger in getting to sea through the vast surf: for the entrance, or channel, of the harbour is narrow and shallow: that only small craft can enter. It is called a harbour, but in fact, is only a sandy oval basin, parallel with the westward of the town. Soon after gaining possession of this town, Lord Wellington ordered a hut of fagots to be constructed on the neck of sand between the basin and the sea. Some heavy guns were hauled up to the Strand, and fired some large rockets. The first was too strong for the range; but the second set the hut in a blaze; to the great consternation of the spectators, and the fame of our rockets spread like wildfire through the country. The Provost, or Mayor, of this town, is an elderly gentlemanly man: speaks very good English. He is very polite and attentive to the British, but I am inclined to think he is actuated by policy, for he received his (word erased) Office from Bouanaparte.
No Order for our marching. The wind is bitterly cold; and makes my poor head very painful. Regardless of which I went to witness a Brigade of the Battering Train of 24 pounder guns, crossing the lofty Pile Bridges, from the South, or Spanish side of the Nivelle River (La Nivelle). But it is scarcely worthy the name of river! It begins from the summit of the Pyrenees, west of the Pass of Maya: is rapid in its narrow channel at this season of the year, through a bed of ooze more than a quarter of a mile broad, to the South West of the town; over which the pile bridges are erected. But they had been built many years; and tottered most fearfully, at every gun drawn over: although twelve of the fourteen horses were taken off; and the Artillery men at the drag ropes were extended on the platform. I was much interested by this sight. And each gun made it more attractive, for the hauling of the last was truly awful. The great, and oft repeated vibration on the lofty piles, had rendered them so unstable in the ooze below that every bridge reeled like a ship at sea!!
When attending our parades, I saw evidently that our new Commander Lieutenant Daniels felt very much out of his sphere, in this land of the "Phillistian," and in commiseration gave him the courtesy of the morning. He is a broad set fellow, about 5 feet 6 or 7 and full forty years of age: whatever "Swell" he might have made when young, he has now totally lost the debonair appearance of a Gallant Fusilier! To my surprise he followed me home this day; and was so urgently pressing, that I agreed to dine with him. I made an excellent feed off a fine piece of roasted beef. In our afternoon's conversation Daniels confessed that he felt quite out of his element and truly miserable: he had been in the regiment chief of his life: for very many years had been on the Recruiting Service in various parts of England and sent many hundreds of Recruits to Head Quarters. But did not perceive that his success in this way would not forward him in promotion in the army. He had for some time been the Senior Lieutenant of the regiment; and finding that many of his Juniors obtained their rank as Captains, over his head, he sent a remonstrance to the War Office: to which he received the laconic reply "Sir, I am ordered by the Commander-in-Chief" to inform you that unless you join your Regiment on Service you can not expect any promotion!" Under such circumstances poor Daniels had torn himself from wife and family at a late period of life to act the young Cavalier!! I fully sympathised with the poor fellow, but at the same time saw the force of Sir John Moore's remark; 'that matrimony spoils the solider!! After tea I accompanied Daniels, by request, to a Coffee House in the market place, to meet a friend of his. On entering, I looked around and did not feel quite satisfied but that it was below the dignity of a Commissioned British Officer to enter such a rendezvous and kept my cloak well wrapped over my uniform; until I saw many other Officers come in: when I thought of Stern's reflection, "They manage these things better in France!" This as an easy method of conforming to circumstances; nevertheless I did not sit on velvet! The assemblage of company was most incongruous! At one table was a Commissariat Clerk, 'hail fellow well met,' with Capatarasses of Musketeers. At another Serjeants of Dragoons and Guards: in other places Officers, with merchants of their own, and other nations. Clerks of the Ordnance; and suttlers: servants out of livery, and women in men's clothing!! I did not heed the purport of the meeting of Daniels and his friend; for I was watching the mixed medley.
February 20th. Sunday
At half past 8 o'clock. came an Order for our party to draw three days rations and to march at 9 o'clock! I was too much incensed to laugh at the absurd impracticability of this Order! But complied therewith: ordering my servant to prepare the baggage, but not to load it, until he found a probability of our starting. It proved that I was correct in my judgement. The Commissariat was not prepared for such a demand; and had to kill before they could comply. Thus it was long past noon when we received our meat, teeming with the late vital warmth of the poor bullocks. It was now impossible for us to comply with our Order for marching: and Daniels accompanied me to the Assistant Adjutant General; to whom I stated the full circumstances; and he, at once, altered our route. About 4 o'clock. we marched off to Gwithery (Guéthary); where we comfortably housed our men before dark. McDougall took the single billet; that Daniels and I went into the same house: which we found still occupied by the servant and luggage of a General German Officer.
When a full league past Herreity we left our road and proceeded on Bounaparte's Military Road. Both of which we found better than we expected, after the many severe frosts. We distinctly saw the French picquets on the opposite hills. On passing we noticed how well Garrette's House had been prepared by the French for defence, by numerous field works. After a long day's march we reached our night's quarters in good time, but I can not say in good order! In course of the evening I made Daniels read my copy of the Standing Orders of our Division: and pointed out the necessity of his exerting himself, or he would stand a chance of being reported at Head Quarters; which would still further impede his promotion. The poor fellow was so desperately frightened at the onerous responsibility, which had been forced upon him, that he entreated me to take the command of the detachment. I assured him that plan was futile; for the many crafty old soldiers of whom we had charge, knew, as well we did, who was the Junior Officer! I called to his recollection, the Three Officers of our Division who had on this day's given us the go-by; although they confessed that they had been ordered to join us. The only expedient I could suggest, was, that when the party was mustered for march on the morrow, Daniels should announce to the men that he had appointed me to act as Adjutant. This would enable me to take the lead, without the appearance of superseding Daniels; or McDougall who gave himself no trouble about, but preceded the party every day.
Some of the sun-burnt veterans looked very significantly at me, when Daniels made the announcement! I fully met the look, and said, "Men, you know the order of march as well as I do: we are now so near the army, that if we do not observe Order we shall all be found fault with: give me no trouble; and I will not trouble you! Left face! Quick March! Left Countermarch!!!" And away we went, left in front; very compact and very contented. We were all marching merrily forward: enjoying the goodness of the road, and the fine morning; Daniels and myself in the rear, in close conversation when we heard horsemen in our rear. I looked back; and had only time to say, 'Here is Lord Wellington! Salute as he passes!" How do you do; how do you do!! He said, "What Division?" I replied "The Fourth, my Lord!"
"Thank you! Thank you! I'll tell Cole of you!! And he galloped on. Soon after, we were overtaken by Lieutenant Hare, of the 2nd or Queen's Regiment. He said he had been ordered to join, and take the command of our Detachment. He requested to look at our route. After minutely inspecting it, he said 'Thank you! My name is not inserted in your route, so I will say Good-day! I wish you well with your regiments.' I felt excessively annoyed that I was lurched into the collar of detachment duty, by my name being in the route! Fortunately for me our road was excellent; for I endured much pain in my knee from wringing my foot at San Jean de Luz, where I slipped on the pavement: moreover, I experienced a very great deal of fever; and began to feel serious apprehension that I should knock up on the road. By very great exertion I persevered; and was grieved on reaching Hasparn (Hasparren), to learn there was not room for us in the town, but must proceed to the adjacent neighbourhood. We could only see that it was a very neat and extensive town. We soon housed our men and our unsociable compeer McDougall took possession of the next cottage, rather than move his fat carcase in search of the billet he had received. Daniels and I sought our double billet; and were well repaid for our extra exertion. We were kindly welcomed to the Chateau of a person of landed property and independence. Neatness and regularity pervaded everywhere. The furniture and arrangements were decidedly French; but we could not have found more real comfort at any English Squire's. Our host was a French, open hearted, good fellow, about 45 years of age: a widower with three children. His son, not yet old enough to be forced from home by the conscription, was very gentlemanly. He favoured us with many French airs on his clarionette to some of which his sisters sang. They had also been well educated in the interior of France; and were very ladylike. I had told them, on making our appearance that we could not talk French; but they attacked us with good Spanish; and most politely comprehended any deficiencies in that language; for I was compelled to be spokesman. The young ladies enthusiastically admired everything that was English, spoke of music of our nation; and betrayed me into the confession that I tormented the flute. On which, they insisted on seeing my flute and music book. Daniels also urged me to make an attempt to return the civility we experienced. I played 'Oh Nanny wilt thou gan wi me; lessie of Dumblane, and a Welch air. Our host was much please. The ladies were enchanted - more especially when they forced me to sing a verse of each!! And the son quickly copied them. Thus we passed three hours or more, until supper, dinner, or the evening's repast was ready: for our kind host having detected our servants when preparing our dinner, insisted on our partaking of his meal; which was abundant and excellent; as was the wine. The family party was increased by five men, who apparently had spruced themselves up after their labour in the fields. They did not understand Spanish; that we could not make out their exact standing but from their manners etc, we imagined them to be collateral branches of the family, like the Irish. Soon after supper, the whole party went to cards. In my own mind I felt a strong wish that the pack of cards could have recounted their adventures! For evidently they were a Spanish manufacture, and had been smuggled across the Pyrenees. We two retired early to our beds; much gratified by the kindness we had received. And more so, by the reflection that this hospitable mansion must have been occupied throughout the winter by British Officers; as we were within the Cantonments so long occupied by our own Division. In fact, our route was filled up only to this post; where we expected to have it renewed. But we could not find anyone to whom we could apply.
We could not learn any intelligence of our Division. We advanced to Bastido (La Bastide-Clairence) about noon; and on our way heard a heavy cannonading at Bayonne. Proceeded to Bardash (Bidache); where our Division had been all winter; and managed to quarter off our men before it was dark. Our own billet was the very reverse of our last night's quarters. The house was small and dirty: the inhabitants churlish. I could have fancied myself again in Portugal.
We ought to have drawn rations for our men yesterday, but none were to be procured. And here, the exhausted Commissariat Stores afforded only 40 lbs of bread and 40 lbs of meat, not a third of the quantity we required. We three Officers declined drawing anything for ourselves, or our servants; that what we could obtain was served out to the party. Nevertheless it was but too evident that our men were very dissatisfied: and my word of Attention! preparatory for marching was sullenly disregarded. I approached and remonstrated with them. A surly, malignant fellow of the 7th Fusiliers seized his musket, fixed his bayonet, and presented it to me! I looked sternly for some time at the scoundrel, but he was not to be cowed in that way! Very deliberately I drew my sword, and said "You old villain! If you advance one step from the ranks, I will run you through the body! Order your arms and unfix your bayonet!!" Finding that I was not to be trifled with, the old rascal obeyed, very sullenly. On which I appealed to the men of the 48th and those of my own regiment, (but they were chiefly young soldiers and had been but little time with our regiment and scarcely knew one Officer from another) whether they ever found me negligent in securing comfort for any men? The inconvenience we now feel is only the chance of service and could not be guarded against. On joining our regiments this day we will report that you have been two days without rations! And, as for you sir! Advancing two steps towards the mutineer, I knew not your character, but strongly suspect that, so often as you have been sculking in the rear, you must have experienced this inconvenience many a time! By the fellow's involuntary start, I found I had struck the right chord, therefore added, "were it not, that your gallant comrades are in front of the enemy, and have no time to attend to such a worthless chap, I would myself, march you a prisoner to your regiment, and give in, a written charge against you!!" Now lads!! Attention! Shoulder Arms! Right face! Quick March!! And away we silently trudged.
It was very fortunate that I could take such a decided part in this affair; or we should, all three of us have been in a very awkward predicament! And the onus would have fallen most heavily on poor Daniels as the Senior which, I strongly suspect, the mutineer fully contemplated. I was right well disposed to have marched the scoundrel to his regiment as a prisoner: but well knew what a nuisance to any corps to have charge of a criminal, when before the enemy. Moreover, the crime would have required a General Court Martial: and in prosecuting I must have placed Daniels in a very undesirable light.
The Adjutant Commissary had assured me that we should be able to overtake the Division in the course of the day. This gave us encouragement. Soon after we passed the town of Berdash (Bidache), we overtook the rear of the baggage belonging to our Left Brigade; with which we came up, when taking their ground for encamping. Daniels took a most affectionate leave of me; and I left the poor fellow to his unenviable fate never to see or hear more of him. In the course of an hour we had all joined our respective regiments. I was much gratified by the welcome of Colonel MacLean, and all my brother Officers: accompanied Captain Chitty to dine with Captain Lynch: and Captain Hamilton of the Grenadiers, made room for me to sleep in the house he occupied.
We marched at noon: forded the Gaison River with out much inconvenience; and were dry again ere we reached the larger stream of the Gave d'Oberon (Le Gave d'Oloron). Luckily I succeeded in getting into a ferry boat; for the water reached waist; and our men had to take their ammunition and bayonets under their arms. We soon took up ground for our camp; but it was night before the baggage could reach us. As the stream was rapid, the animals were not suffered to pass collectively, but by sections. The night was very cold; and but little wood could be procured for our fires. I dined with Captain Hamilton on eggs, ham, and roasted lamb! Tom is an excellent forager; and had procured some very excellent claret from the adjoining town of Soide (Sorde-l'Abbaye). In this town is a large building; which originally was an English monastery. During the French Revolution the monks were killed, and the Mayor has taken the mansion as his official residence.
I slept in camp; was very comfortable and am truly rejoiced in having rejoined my own sphere! This day we crossed the Gave d'Pau; as deep and rapid as Gave d'Oloron; Captain Chitty kindly took me up behind him on his white horse. Late in the evening we encamped on a cold, wet, clay field. At a late hour I dined with Captain Lynch.
February 27th. Sunday
We marched off, not suspecting any mischief; but had not measured a league, when each of our Brigades marched into three separate fields on the right of the road, to allow the Artillery of the 3rd and 6th Division to advance. This took all of us at surprise, and conjecture: but it was evident that a Big Fight would soon begin. From the upper part of our field we could look over the intervening high ground and saw the French in position. When the Artillery had passed, our Left Brigade was ordered to advance. Captain Smith of the 20th Regiment when passing spoke to us; and expressed his opinion that there would not be much to do today, since we were not in front! But found in the course of the day the fallacy of his conclusion for the Left Brigade came in for their share of hard blows. We lost sight (of) our brave companions when they filed into a hollow road on the left of the road; before reached a tall farm house, which appeared to have an extensive view of the adjacent country. Part of our Portuguese followed them. Our Brigade advanced soon after; followed by the remaining Portuguese Regiment and sooner filed into another hollow road, a little ravine between two inequalities of ground: this as we found extended more to the left. We were on no pretence to show ourselves on the rising ground; to lie very close; and maintain this post until relieved by the 7th Division. The latter part of our Orders drew forth many quaint remarks from our old soldiers. "Troth and sure now" - said a sturdy Irishman - "Have we not a mighty pretty berth! For should the right of the French Line attack us, must not we fight like Tigers to maintain this cursed hole?" Subsequently we learned the brunt of this battle. Marshal Soult had ascertained that only three of our Divisions had passed the rivers: and having 45,000 to our, some 18,000 men, resolved on fighting; and giving us a right good licking! And during the last night, three regiments of new conscripts had joined him. Our men rested very quietly in the hollow: but curiosity urged some of us Officers to the top, to see what was going on when the French favoured us with some shots and shells. And again we were peremptorily ordered not to show ourselves. We afterwards crept up to the summit; and with our swords shoved away the earth, until we gained a view of passing events. Our Light Companies of the Brigade were thrown forward in our front; and experienced much sharp skirmishing: for the enemy well imagined that our Left was our weakest point: and their skirmishers made many resolute attempts to force their way along the by road which crossed the left opening of our hollow position: but our Light Bobs valiantly kept them back. Early in the afternoon a dashing young Officer of Marshal Soult's Staff attempted to reconnoitre our position; and galloped along this road in a daring manner. Two men of the 48th Light Company marked him advancing; secreted themselves till he came up; then sprang our and took him prisoner. With two bayonets and loaded muskets close to his body the Young Cavalier had not alternative; and most indignantly threw his sword to the ground. The brave fellows conducted him to our Brigadier General Anson, who gave him in charge, on Parole, to two of his own Staff. I felt truly grieved for the crestfallen fine handsome fellow, when led past us. And on the march next day was surprised to notice the cheerful animation with which he conversed with his escorts. About this time the Artillery of our Division came up, and opened their fire, in front of the farm house between the roads. Lord Wellington, desirous to obtain a good view of the whole battle, rode up to the house, left his horse with the only Dragoon that accompanied him, and opened the door, but instantly closed it again, sprang into his saddle, and rode off at full speed! To his utter astonishment he found the room filled with French Dragoons; who strange to say were quietly reposing themselves without a single sentry to guard their post to inform them of their danger. It is marvellous that the firing of our Brigade of Artillery, so close to the house had not induced them to look out. Roused by His Lordship's attempt to enter, they hurried to the stable; mounted; and then galloped off, helter skelter between our skirmishers as they could. During all this, the battle was most furious on our right a mile beyond the house: in the village of San Bees (Zl du Berié ?); on the Grand Road from Orthes (Orthevielle?); to Dax and Bayonne. The enemy's Cavalry made many determined attempts on our Light, or 2nd and 3rd Divisions. The additional fire of our Brigade threw consternation into Soult's raw conscripts: they were on the Grand Road from Orthes opposite our position, and which there passed along a ridge about level of that from which we were watching them. They were wholly terrified, broke from their ranks, but knew not whither to go, then huddled together in an incongruous mass, elevated their muskets and fired a volley at the clouds!! We saw Marshal Soult ride up to them; drop the reins on the neck of his white charger; sword in hand, and hat in his left hand, he vehemently exhorted them; for we could plainly see his gestures, although we were too far off to hear his words. He could not prevail; they listened for a short time; but turned tail, and bolted off for Peyerorade (Peyrehorade) on the road to Dax. In the village the case was quite different, the enemy fought in full confidence of their superiority in numbers; were five times driven out; but our Light Division at length succeeded in turning the left flank of the French: Sir John Moore's old Regiment, the 52nd made a valorous charge up the rising ground; which descended the Battle, about 4.pm. the Enemy began his retreat having lots nine guns and many men taken prisoner. We were ordered to emerge from our ravine; and rapidly follow the retiring foe: which we continued to do, until day light barely allowed us to take our ground for encampment, beside the road. Our baggage reached us between 8 and 9 in the evening.
We commenced our march at 7.o.clo but were molested by repeated halts; to allow the various Brigade of Artillery to pass to our front. Their progress however, consequently ours, was impeded by destroyed bridges and roads broken up that we did not encamp before it was dark.
My birthday: and friends at home thinking of me, have passed the day much more comfortably than I have! Repeated storms of rain hindered our march and frequent halts, most cheerless. The Adour River near San Sevierre is very broad; its long and lofty wooden bridge showed that it was subject to great floods. Today the stream was low; and banks of sand were dry between some of the piers: in the centre the current was very rapid. The enemy burnt a wide chasm in the bridge here; and totally destroyed its extremity; availing themselves of the lowness of the stream. Their stratagem did not much avail them; for while our Artificers and Engineers constructed a platform over the centre; our pontoons were towed across and the passage re-established. In spite of this delay, many of the timbers were still burning when we crossed. Our camp ground was wet and cold; but being on a stiff clay, we felt some assurance that the tent pegs would not readily draw; even with the boisterous wind which rocked the tent: and frequently obliged us to go out and regulate the weather cords. Regardless of this concatenation of disagreeables, we sat down with keen appetites, to our dinner of lumps of ration beef, bacon and onions. And finished our repast with one bottle of the best Claret I ever tasted. Pollock's mess obtained it in San Savierre; during one of our halts; and gave a bottle of it to Captain Chitty. Fortunately for him and myself our comrade Ensign Ovens, preferred the common wine. We procured excellent Brandy, for two shillings the bottle: which gave some relish to the vapid and impure water; which our abominable ration-rum could not afford.
During this day's march we were wet and dry. The heavy squals of rain frequently drenched our backs; and the keen wind dried us. We halted 4 or 5 hours on the Military Road; near a Chateau, surrounded by vineyards. Our exposed situation was excessively bleak and the wind piercingly cold. Our soldiers tore the vine trees up from their roots and made a large fires; around which we stood to dry ourselves from the frequent storms of rain. For some time we could not comprehend what were the movements of this day but at length learned that we were performing our accustomed duty of supporting some other force. The 6th Division in our front drove the Enemy from the village of Grenada. And there established their own night's quarters. In the evening we were sent to scattered houses beside the road; some more than a mile distant: where our comrades in advance had rested last night. In the small house allotted to our 7th and 8th Company there was much baggage belonging to the 6th Division with which remained seven of their soldiers' wives; to secure a shelter from the inclement weather. We could not, at so late an hour, compel the batmen to march off with their baggage: but consigned one room to the use of the whole party. Our house had five rooms below with double that number of doors: but only two windows: certes! There was one upper apartment; of which I will say no more. Fortunately there were small stables, with outbuildings; with plenty of clean straw; by which our men were well off. Better than we, five Officers, were in the house. The divisions of the house, were merely stakes and clay. And during our dinner, a woman with the baggage, in the adjoining room was taken in labour! And during the night another woman was delivered!!
However indifferent our quarters, we are well pleased to remain here: as the weather all night and this day has been most tremendous: rain, hail, snow, lightning, thunder and wind have made us fully enjoy the comforts of a house, and a good fire. Anxious as we were, to get rid of the baggage of the 6th Division, we could not urge its departure; everything would have been saturated with water. And if the baggage had moved off, the hapless women must have remained! I searched to the bottom of my canteen-basket, and found part of a cake of chocolate, which I brought from Lisbon. With which my servant made, not so scientifically as Mrs Glass would have suggested, two good messes for the lying-in woman; for which they were very thankful. Some of our soldiers discovered in the garden, behind the house, a hidden well, in which the natives had deposited the chief of their moveable goods and chattels. We placed a sentry over the store, to prevent any article being taken during our sojourn.
Little thinks the town man's wife
While at home she tarries
What must be the lassie's life
Who a soldier marries! -Old Song.
The baggage moved off early this morning: and with it the two poor women, with their new born infants, wrapped in soldier's fatigue-jackets.
At 9.o.clo we marched to the rear; for the new clothing. When passing General Sir L. Cole's head quarters, I was verbally ordered to bring the sick forward. I considered this to apply to the sick of our own regiment, of whom there were not more than half a dozen. Under this impression, I allowed my baggage to proceed. But was amazed; on reporting myself and men, to find that the Order pertained to the sick of the whole Division! I represented to the Staff Surgeon, all the circumstances of my awkward situation. He kindly exonerated me: and I rejoined my comrades at San Siveir: Lord Wellington's head quarters. Our men were well housed in a military hospital: and the Officers billeted. Ensign Ovens had obtained a good double billet for us two. An excellent and clean bed; and the greatest civility: for all which we amply paid: Captain Chitty joined us at dinner; and the worthy hostess charged twelve francs for her culinary science in cooking our ration beef!! She never gained so much by her own country men! We sent and made diligent enquiries for the famous Claret; but could not procure even one bottle. His Lordship's Staff had engrossed all. We here learned that Lord Wellington had been wounded; and was confined to his bed, for a few days. When reconnoitring, a musket ball passed under and lascerated his thigh. The Adour is so swollen by the late snow and rain; and the current became so strong that during the night, six of our pontoons were forced from their moorings; and carried along way down the stream.
March 5th. Sunday
After a fine day, and a long march of four leagues, we were quartered in Sault de Nouvelle.
At Orthey we halted for rations during which, some of us indulged ourselves by a second breakfast; at the Restaurateur, a la France. We had an omelette, fresh salmon fried; apples; pears; walnuts; claret; brandy; bread; butter and cheese; for, four shillings and six pence each. The town is expensive and good: with numerous shops and capital market; and prices very moderate. At 5pm we halted at Peuzs.
Passed through Peyniorade: a good town, of one wide and long street; but far inferior to Orthez. After marching about a league and half we again crossed the Adour; which here takes an immense curve, and appears to flow towards the Pyrenees; but it again turns; and flows into the sea at Bayonne. The sudden rise of the river, had baffled the exertions of our engineers in their endeavour to establish a floating bridge here. We were ferried over by some natives; who are regularly engaged for that purpose: and each man receives forty sous per diem. Two large boats, or wherries, fastened together by a strong platform, with rails around, to prevent accidents; conveyed nearly two companies at once. Having crossed the river we were compelled to march forward in quest of quarters; for the village of Port de Lance was on the opposite bank. And finding the village of San Marie was a full half mile on the left of the road, we pursued our march, more than a mile; ere the Adjutant, at full gallop, checked our course, with an Order to retrace our weary steps. We three, Captain Chitty, myself and Ensign Ovens were billeted on the Curè, or Priest. He was a shrewd fellow, and very civil. It was very evident, from his broad shoulders, and sleek sides that, he, did not "live on bread alone," nor on air!! We purchased from him a turkey for seven shillings and as he was very communicative, and gave Chitty a tolerable map of France, we invited him to dine with us. He could not avail himself of our civility, because we were in Lent: but he assured us that his brother-in-law would soon be present, and would willingly join our party. We, for our part, declined this civility not having the honor! of that Gentleman's acquaintance.
We felt a full conviction that if our dinner had been after the hour of Vespers, the jolly Curè would willingly have broken his fast, with the breast of our turkey! We went into the cuisine, to witness the old fashioned method of a turnspit dog labouring in his warm wheel. And we insisted on poor pug being his master's humble representative at our repast. And pug proved himself to be a sociable fellow. The Curè, on his return was much amused with our joke with pug; and gave us some fine liquer, and excellent brandy of which he would not partake: but after a little scruple, relished some wine we had scalded with cinnamon and cloves: and was excessively amused by our calling it Bishop!!
The latter part of this day's march was very bad. When within a league of Bayonne the roads, as well as the adjacent fields were brought to a puddle by the constant passing of troops. To avoid which, we diverged to our right; and I suspect, went from bad to worse! for more than half a mile, a narrow, hollow, road was a regular water course, mid leg deep. At sunset we encamped on a firm sandy ground, amongst some scattered oak Thus; near the mouth of the Adour; and within a mile of the village Bocos; the head quarters of General Sir John Hope; commanding the First Division; chiefly composed of the Guards; and investing Bayonne. We knew full well, that this was the extent of our rearward march and we spared no pains in selecting, as far as we could, a choice spot for our tent; that we might, to the utmost, enjoy the halt we anticipated.
When we were quietly enjoying our breakfast, Captain Hamilton looked in. We noticed that Tom was in great wrath; but could not prevail on him to partake with us. And his ebullation soon burst forth, "You will scarcely credit what I have witnessed this morning! Desirous of obtaining a good sight of Bayonne during our short sojourn, I mounted my horse very early this morning; and rode to the Advanced Picquet, and asked the Serjeant if I could be allowed to go beyond his post. The stupid (man) was astonished by my question; and declared he could not say! What I exclaimed, not say! What the devil, are you placed here for? The fellow did not know!! I demanded where I could find the Officer of the Picquet. He is in the house, was the reply. I entered a nice Chateau: paced long passages: saw many empty apartments: ascended the stairs; and in one of the rooms found Mr Guardsman comfortably reclining on a sofa. I excused my intrusion: explained who I was; and why I had come. My Gentleman forced himself from his recumbrancy; and declared he did not know how far I could advance! Fancying that the fellow was not sufficiently awake to comprehend my enquiries, I repeated them. Again he declared he did not know! "Not know Sir," I exclaimed, "Pray with what intent are you placed here?" "Oh, I am here on picquet." "On picquet forsooth." I retorted, "Let me tell you Sir, that when we with the Grand Army (are) on Outlying Picquet, we know, to an inch, how far any man may advance! "Pray, how far off are your advanced sentries?" "Mon honor, I cannot say." "Not say, Sir! Why Sir, I am utterly amazed!! I am wholly astounded!!!! Good morning to you!" Ere I left the room, I again turned towards him, and added "Before I depart allow me to tell you one thing. If you do not better comprehend the duties of an Outlying Picquet, and be much more on the alert, these French Rascals will some day sally from the fortress and give you a cursed licking!! And this I wasted my morning's exertion! but have fully confirmed the opinion throughout the Army, that the Guardsmen are by their Commissions, Officers: They are personally brave as chivalrous gentlemen ought to be: but, they are not soldiers!! Were it not for their Adjutant and their superior Non Commissioned Officers, 'The Guards would be 'Live Lumber!!' Fully satisfied with his pathos, Tom strutted off to his own breakfast, "with what appetite he may!" Soon after this, the Adjutant rode up to our tent, and warned me for a foraging party, to march immediately. I must cordially wish him to have been with Tom Hamilton's advanced sentries. But that availed me not. After a long march of at least four leagues; and by diligent search, we obtained nearly our proper quantity: and rejoined the camp before 8 in the evening. But I was fairly knocked up. I learned that Tom Hamilton's prophecy had been verified during my absence! The Garrison made a strong sortie; and attacked the Guards with such determination, that our Regiment had been ordered out, to their support. And did not return to camp long before my party. Sir John Hope was so well pleased with the promptitude with which his unexpected summons was complied, that he sent a request to Head Quarters that our Regiment might remain as part of his Division. Subsequent events proved that Lord Wellington could not spare such a reduction of the Centre Division of his main Army which, after all the casualties of eleven months campaign was far from the strength requisite. We understood that The Guards had many killed and wounded this day.
This morning, when we awoke, we were much pleased by the brilliant light occasioned by a dense coat of snow covering our tent. Our philosophical reflections had not a very wide scope; for the warmth from our disturbed blankets soon effected a thaw: the dripping water compelled us to start up, and knock the snow off the outsides. When we had effected this, we very promptly huddled in our clothes; for the keen March wind penetrating the wet canvas rendered our abode miserably cold. The deep snow dissolved very tardily; keeping us prisoners to our tent chief of the day. I dined with the Colonel, in a miserable hovel. But he preferred it to a tent.
The new clothing having arrived at the other side of the Harbour we started in light-marching order, about 11 o'clock to fetch it. We found the Harbour constructed with an admirable stone embankment on each side: the great breadth was adapted to the occasional swell of the Adour; not to the depth of the Harbour in a general way, for a vessel of 200 tons could not venture an entrance. Twenty six coasting vessels, of about fifty tons burthen, are securely moored, stern and stern with the current: they are cleared between the fore and mizzen masts: in that space, they support five very large cables: which are secured on either side to 24 pounder guns, buried in the sand, with blocks of stone, and every available ponderous mass. Athwart the hawsers or cables, thick deals were closely placed; affording a free passage for a Battering Train. We were mightily pleased by noticing the efforts of Engineering Skill in conquering obstacles! Moreover this admirable bridge is constructed beyond the view of the Garrison, and consequently free from any annoyance of its firing. Three of our Gun Boats are stationed above the bridge within sight and range of the forts between it, and a strong boom, or iron chain, supported by logs of wood, which the French had established for defence of the Fortress. But they never anticipated the vast service this boom would be to us! Our Gun Boats, and our bridge were secured from any attack: and the velocity of the current was checked, especially when the rive was swollen. We did not return to camp till past four o'clock: and had just time sufficient to dry ourselves form the showers of rain, before dinner.
Was fully occupied in fitting the new clothing, drawing stores from the Quartermaster etc etc etc.
I had the unpleasant duty to escort 123 french prisoners; who at various times had made their escape from the Garrison; to deliver them over to General Robinson's Brigade of the 5th Division, a few miles beyond the bridge. My friends Pollock and Radcliffe had admonished me not to enter into conversation with the prisoners for they would worry my very life out. I acted on their kind hint; and looked very stern and determined, on taking the command: with a firm voice ordered my strong Guard to prime and load before the poltroons; and gave them very peremptory orders. We started at 8 o'clock in the morning. On our way to the bridge I found my friends had given me very useful advice. Most of the prisoners hung back and tried to draw me into conversation: but I sternly ordered them to "Marchon!" I would not drop a single word of French. One of the party had before been a prisoner; was a long time in Fortin Prison near Gosport. He spoke our language freely: and frankly declared his earnest desire to return to his old quarters; where he had good fare, and civil treatment; rather than be prisoner in Bayonne; subject to harassing duties and the stinted allowance of an invested Garrison. I noticed that the light-hearted, merry fellow, found congenial spirits in my Irish men; and that a great deal of jocularity was passing freely. He ingratiated himself so adroitly that my men called him Jack. I halted the party short of the bridge; and called for Jack, to be my interpreter. I said to him, "Jack! I cannot talk French but you can understand what I say! You shall hear my orders; and I will then send you to tell them to your comrades. I tell you plainly, that I am a most determined, resolute, fellow! And I will not be fooled by you French chaps. If any one of you, attempt an escape, while crossing this bridge, he shall be shot, and thrown into the river!! I shall stay here with the Corporal and four men; and will not cross until my Serjeant sends me word that all of you are on the other side. I then ordered the Serjeant to escort the party across; then to count his prisoners; and if any were absent, to send back four men to poke with their bayonets into every boat; and if any resistance was offered, for them to shoot the offender. Having allowed full time for Jack to import my orders to his companions, I gave the order to march. My orders were complied with: two prisoners dropped into the centre boats and secreted themselves, until forced out by the point of the bayonet. When all were over, we pursued our march. On reaching the 5th Division I assembled my party in a circle, in a large open field: desired my Serjeant to keep our soldiers on the alert; and to show no mercy if any prisoner attempted to escape: while I proceeded to report to General Robinson. I found him superintending the works at his advanced picquet, stationed at a spacious chateau; the garden of which was fortified by an Abatis, trees laid on each other; their sharpened branches outwards. Drummers and fifers, never oppressed with hard duty, lead very idle and disorderly lives, when their regiments are investing any fortress. To remedy which, General Robinson makes them attend by relays to play to the working parties. On entering I saw the General in front, intently watching somewhat in the valley below the garden: this gave me an opportunity of making a slow approach and noticing all I could. It is a charming situation: parts of the fortifications were well seen to the right, but a bluff of land beyond the broad valley, hid the citadel. The road from Bayonne passed under and round this promontory. At which point was stationed the General's advanced sentry. "Look at that fellow," the General exclaimed as I reached his side "Aye! And look at that worthless baggage!! If that soldier touch that keg of wine, I will have him instantly withdrawn, and shoot him!!" A woman had crept round the promontory, and urged the sentry to allow her to pass. The sentry stood firmly at shouldered arms. The woman presented a keg to the sentry, when he presented his bayonet. At this juncture a man, a civilian, with a child in his arms, made his appearance. The sentry instantly presented, ready to fire: a short parley ensued; the man and woman retired as far as they could without exposing themselves to notice from the Garrison. Satisfied by the steady conduct of the sentinel, the General ordered the Corporal of the Picquet to fetch in the man and woman; that the sentry's attention might not be diverted; and to report to him the name and regiment of the soldier, who had so strictly obeyed orders. The General turning around, muttered "Confound these people! They are a constant annoyance." He quickly fixed on me an inquisitive look: and on my reporting my errand, the following colloquay ensued. "G" Damn you sir! And the prisoners likewise!! "C! Thank you General! The same to you! With all my heart!! This made him laugh.
"G." But, why did you not shoot every one of the rascals.
'C.' I must leave that honourable Office, to your superior authority, General! He again laughed heartily; and added, "Truly this is an abominable nuiscance! At least twice a week, have I to detach my soldiers to escort these potrons for embarkation! The garrison appears to countenance their desertion!! "C! Of Course General! There are fewer mouths to be fed!! "G" You are right you are right!! But what has your Regiment to do, down here?" I explained "G" Then I tell you to get back quickly to the main Army! Don't stay here on this cursed duty!! 'C' We are confident, General, that our Colonel will not remain in this locality, on hour, beyond which he is obliged! "G" Good day! Good day!! Good luck to you all!! And thus I parted with the blunt General Robinson. Having gotten rid of my troublesome charge, I ventured a dangerous hazard; but assured of the steadiness of my Serjeant, I ordered him to march my Guard back to Camp: that I might seek out, and once more shake by the hand, my old companions of the West Suffolk, Lieutenants Woodward and Rawlings of the 4th Regiment. This was the last time I saw poor Woodward: he was killed, subsequently in America; in a charge at New Orleans. My rough but warm hearted friend Rawlins, the Fenman, whom I saw at Renteria and at San Jean de Luz, insisted on my taking refreshment with him. But I could not altogether refuse Woodward's hospitality; for truly I was very hungry. This bait served to sharpen my appetite for the excellent beefsteak, which Rawlings would, in spite of my earnest remonstrances, order for me. In vain did I urge the Stringent Orders of our Division; and the risk I had incurred by staying behind my Guard. He expressed his abhorrence of such buffery; vowed he would not remain in such a Division and denounced it, as worse than the Judge of a Garrison at home! I admit there was much truth in my friend's blunt remarks, but, I was extremely fidgety. Our altercation has scarcely terminated, when the beefsteak, admirably cooked, was duly paraded. I had noticed the opening of the box canteen; the handsome plates and dishes, the silver forks and spoons etc etc taken out and marvelled at what I saw. When I had freely partaken of my friend's hospitality, I could not restrain my astonishment, and said, "Old friend, I am really astounded at what I see here! You told me at Renteria, that you left England, seven hundred pounds in debt; but that you had paid off all that. Here you have a Chateau, with windows opening on the town; offices and stables, all to yourself, such a billet as our General Officers seldom, if ever, enjoy: you have numerous servants: a canteen, superior to any in our whole Division: abundance of provision bottled wine, porter, and ale: in short all luxuries: I cannot comprehend how you command such!! He replied 'Oh! As for all that you wonder at. All is easy enough, if properly undertaken! This Chateau I, I grant, a very good quarter. But in the back, I have charge of the Subscription Pack of Hounds belonging to the Division; and which I imported from England. I made a good job of them. I have a private servant, a knowing rascal, a servant and batman from the ranks. Here is the Huntsman as we call him and his two assistants these fellows consider me as their master. As for that Canteen, it is a good one; but nothing more than I want. You would indeed be astonished, to see my friend Marsden's set out for a dinner! Why in the stables I have three English horses, worth more than two hundred guineas. General Robinson the other day, gave me eighty guineas for a horse! And wants to purchase one of these. I told you before, that I traverse the country round; and purchase every thing I fall upon; and make a good thing of it. You are a steady going sort of chap; and you might do the same thing; if you will but set about it. I will introduce you to Marsden; and will be answerable for his backing you, through thick and thin!! I thanked my friend for his kind offer and intentions but stated On Grand obstacle to the plan, want of funds! I had scarcely uttered my last word ere Rawlings sprang forward, and unlocked a strongbox; which, to my astonishment was filled with bags of money; one of which he placed before me in a trice. And said, There are five hundred dollars to begin with; and if you want more I will supply you!! I was compelled again to refer to the Stringent Orders of our Division; which he again execrated. He said he had bought a ship load of potatoes; and expected them every tide and that he would send me a sack of them.
My kind host mounted me on one of his fine horses and a servant on another, to ride to the bridge. I gave a good breathing to both animals; for I made the utmost of the conveyance. When trudging my solitary way to the camp, I reflected on the cogs of one of the large underwheels of an Army. Oft had I seen native cars, drawn by bullocks, conveying heavy stores; sick and wounded soldiers! No one knew who sent up the four stately mules destined for Lord Wellington's service; nor who the successive supply of mules at Escallion; when I was compelled to purchase one or the conveyance of the 4th Company's tents. I could now, discern the entire of this large wheel: Also from whence came the droves of bullocks, which almost daily joined our line of march! The Commissariat although a subordinate, yet with its collateral branches is a vital part of an army!! Well might Sir Arthur Wellesley declare in India, that Lord Lake's Army, was the best school that a young officer could be with; because he would he must perceive the want of an effective Commissariat!!
After breakfast I sallied forth; but found the market very scantily supplied. A Muscovy Duck for 6/. Was the only purchase I could make: with which my Companions were well pleased; considering it, in such a locality, as a good catch. Learning that an Order had arrived for us to march immediately, I hastened back: and found that, as our foraging Party of yesterday is not returned, we shall not start before the morrow. My attention was attracted by a Detachment of "Jonny Newcomes" for the Fuzileer Brigade, passing our camp, in fierce array, with fixed bayonets: their Officer in front drawn sabre in hand; and his large bearskin cap on his head; looking as portentous as possible! All which afforded us no small amusement; and I was freely enjoying the quiz, but discerned that this handsome and fierce looking bearskin capped Officer was Matthew Higgins; my brother Ensign in 48th Regiment who left us at Chelmsford to join the Fuzileers. He was delighted by my recognition. He readily assented to my proposition to halt his men; and let them stand at ease; while he entered our tent, to take wine and receive a regular schooling: for although, not Soloman's eldest son, Matthew Higgins was perfectly an Irish Gentleman; and I ever felt a regard for him. I well knew my man; and gave him some friendly useful hints, and said "Mat' when you left us at Chelmsford, you thought yourself on the high road to promotion! You have been grubbing at home while I, and some other of your compeers have given you the "Go by," Unfix bayonets; and march your men with sloped arms, pass what you may, put your sabre into its scabbard; you will find we here rarely draw our swords: and burn that tremendous fur cap, this very night! At this Matthew opened his round eyes in astonishment; and urged its great cost. Never heed that, I replied, here you will find it useless. I have never seen an Officer of either Fuzileers with such an incumbrance. You will be wofully quizzed if you exhibit it to your regiment. Higgens was very thankful for my admonitions; and cheerfully pursued his route. I then packed my trunks and regulated our mess account: which occupied me until Captain Chitty's friend came to dine with us. Mr Caldwell, a very gentlemanly, pleasant young man.
We started early this morning: and found the crossroads much the worse for the constant traffic since we arrived. In our route we passed through the cantonments of a Portuguese Brigade. One of their Captains, my old acquaintance Lieutenant Brown of the 48th and whom I formerly knew at Norwich where his father was a minor Canon, recognised me; and insisted on my waiting behind to partake of his breakfast, then on the table: such a provoke on a march, was too good a thing to be refused; for I had been out long enough to have found a second appetite. Brown obtained a Company in 13th Portuguese Regiment. We crossed the Adour in good time its current was greatly reduced in breadth and force since we passed on the 7th inst. A Brigade of the Battering Train is stationed in this town Port de Lance but we found plenty of room. Our men were well off: and we could not complain; for our hostess recompensed for the want of room by the ready civility with which she cooked an omelette and fried our sausages.
When at breakfast, our hostess begged of us some sugar; assuring us, as he apology, that the market price was 18 francs per pound! but any was smuggled over from Spain it was sold for six francs. Passing through Peniorad I purchased a Woodcock and a couple of Golden Plovers, for six shillings. We halted for another in Puzo: the native much less civil then we found them on the 6th inst.
Before daybreak our drums and fifes paraded the town playing "St.Patrick's day in the morning" with other Irish airs. And the natives fancied us all run mad, on beholding our caps green with Shamrocks! Nor did their terror subside until they saw us march away. We took our former quarters at Sault de Nauvaille. Where I felt so ill that I was obliged to sleep; ere I could exert myself to even changing my shoes.
Our men, in true Irish spirit, have commemorated St. Patrick to excess and committed many misdemeanours. The natives attended our mornings muster with so many complaints; that the Triangle was pitched, and a Drum's Head Court Martial summonsed. Two or three offenders were tied up and received their deserts on the spot. Scarcely a man was sober until the exercise of marching brought them to their senses. Our route named San Savoir, as our next halt; but on our way, we met some British soldiers who said they had been surprised during the night, and narrowly escaped being taken prisoners, by some French Cavalry. Our Colonel cross examined our informants, and ordered the Light Company to the front, as an Advanced Guard. On which we gave the word, "Steady Lads!" "Heads up soldiers!!" This was like an electric shock! and we could have taken our men into any enterprise. On arrival at the next village we found the natives in greatest consternation; which our presence pacified. Our Colonel left two Companies here; as a picquet to a Brigade of Guns which was advancing in our rear. We proceeded and encamped in advance of the small town of Harzaman. Here we learned, that Deserters from the French Cavalry, above a hundred, had become Brigands; and pillaged the country around Pau, their head quarters. The Mayor of Harzaman being a red hot Republican was deposed, on our entering the country. He had given information the day before to these Brigands, that a small party of British were in the town. Accordingly the rascals came last night; and made prisoners, two Officers; two Paymasters; five Hospital Mates; 40 or 50 soldiers; and all their baggage. The deposed Mayor made his escape, when he saw us unexpectedly arrive.
We waited the arrival of our two Companies, left at Hazaman and proceeded in a short time to San Savier. Head Quarters having advanced we found plenty of room, but not a single bottle of the fine Claret was to be had! His Lordship's staff had cleared every cellar.
We had a long march to Barcelona where I was on Guard. A large and good town: but we were surprised to find, in the grand Square, or Market Place, a triangular gallows, affording accommodation to three malefactors at the same time! We were much astonished at this public offer of triple accommodation, never before having noticed any thing of that kind.
Lieutenant Harnet rejoined us this morning, before we started. The Colonel had despatched him some days ago, to ascertain where we could find our Division. He reports that they are Seven Leagues off, and are daily advancing. This is a bad prospect for us; for instead of a halt, our daily marches will be extended. The morning was fine; but squals of rain blew up: before they became heavy we reached Plaiscance: a good town; well inhabited, and the market abundantly supplied with poultry at reasonable prices. Captain Chitty was billeted on the Curè; where we dined. Our fowl was again roasted by a turnspit dog. The patron was very civil: gave us some excellent wine; and, apparently, enjoyed our company. He has resided here since the year 1784.
A Cassidore of our Division, who left it two days back, was our guide on this day's march. The rain was incessant all day; and made our long march very fatiguing. We pursued cross roads, through a stiff clay country, sodden with the frequent rains. We were oft times obliged to pass through vineyards but found them little better.
We marched for Tournay; but when within a league of it, met the Paymaster of the Fuzileers; who informed us the Division had altered its course this day. So we halted for the night, in the village of Rouan. Our Host was, at first, much alarmed; but soon came round, and was very attentive to our little wants. He has a brother, prisoner in England; and received three letters from him, while talking with us. The servant girl of the house, could only talk Patwa; a true child of nature, who had a peculiar delight in examining every article belonging to us; even the epaulettes on our shoulders.
Our Paymaster mustered the Regiment and proceeded to Tarbes (Farbes?), for money. We countermarched: and passing through Trie, halted at Castalban. Both large towns.
Again we found intolerably bad roads; equal to those of the 22nd. Halted at Boulong. On our way met Pollock who went yesterday to Headquarters. He brought to us English letters. I received one from my father dated February 4th detailing the severe illness of my dear mother; and the death of many old friends! That when I cam to a fire, I burnt it.
Our march this day was very bad: the frequent heavy showers kept us thoroughly comfortless. Halted at Lombes, an excellent town.
March 27th. Sunday
The roads bad enough in themselves, were rendered more intolerable by a brigade of Portuguese Artillery forcing their way; and crowding us to the confined banks and ditches. We passed Lord Wellington's Head Quarters. Pursuing the road we had a good sight of Toulouse. We then struck across the country to the very worst quarters I ever saw. And no orders issued for the morrow, we spent our evening in conjecturing how to make our hovel comfortable but-
- to our surprise, were roused before 6.oclock by the passing, and an order to join, our Brigade; which halted for us, on the hill beyond the village. We all proceeded, and encamped about a mile and half North of Toulouse. Our Left Brigade preceded us, as an Advanced Guard in due form; with advanced Videttes. Strongly indicating that we must keep our heads up, and be awake to any, and every thing. In the evening our camp ground was good; when we had cut down the numerous young oak trees.
We were all glad of a halt. I paid a visit of congratulation to Lieutenant Colonel Wilson on his recovery from his painful wounds received at Pamplona, and having rejoined the old 48th and proceeded to condole with my friend Close, suffering from one of his wonted attacks of bilious fever.
An order for marching arrived: but by way of an 'agreeable' prelude, we were first to attend a Brigade punishment. We remained under arms full two hours, afterwards, then returned to our ground; and again pitched our tents. How we are indebted on this, as well as many other occasions, to our 'dearly bellowed' Lieutenant General for his great care and consideration for our comfort!!! Received a letter from my brother Philip dated 28th February.
This morning I repeated my visit to my sick friend. Also to Colonel Wilson, I found him alone: he promised to recommend my brother Edward to a Commission in the 48th when he had an opportunity. A sudden order to march, sent me back, in double quick time. On reaching our tent, I found a letter from my sister Fanny; and one from my cousin G.Jr. which by some mistake had been sent to the 53rd Regiment. We marched about a league: and again encamped under orders to march to the attack of the Bridge and all the formidable works before it at St Cyprier W.S.West of Toulouse. It was half past two when we struck our tents; and it was sadly into the dark night before we were again settled.
We were all ready at the appointed time; but receiving no order to march, we had "par divertisement," a Drum's head Court Martial. After which, we waited a full hour: when the Covering Serjeants were ordered to the front; and to accompany the Quarter Master, to take up cantonments. Thus we found that "Broken head Fair," was postponed 'sine dieu!' We soon followed; left in front; a strong intimation, that when anything did go forward our regiment would come into full benefit! We proceeded fully a league, along the Rio Grande, or great road, to Toulouse. Halted more than an hour ere we could learn our destination. Our regiment took possession of a row of good houses, not far from the road; which were much the worse for the occupancy of French soldiers; and of a Portuguese Brigade, which vacated this morning.
We instantly ordered Fatigue Parties, to clear away the filth; and soon made ourselves at home. The other part of our Brigade returned to the camp ground we left. The Light Companies of our Brigade form the advanced Picquet; and our regiment the In-lying Picquet. They are stationed in two very fine Chateaus, on an eminence; which affords an excellent view of the road broken up; the Foubourg of St. Cyprien; the Fete de Pont; the bridge itself; loaded with barriers of every description; with guns of heavy calibre, commanding the whole range. After lunch, that is to say "Breakfast," we visited these Chateaus: and were well pleased that we had not been sent to surmount such deadly impediments. The gardens of the Chateaus were in very nice order; and we found many herbs and esculents, I secured three seedling roots of celery, which greatly improved our ration soup at dinner. I ought to state that the defences above alluded to, were faced by two very strong block houses. While we were indulging our curious gaze, a flag of truce advanced beyond the block houses accompanied by some peasants. We ran down to the road on the tiptoe of expectation, to learn its purport. But it was merely a request that two peasants with their horses might be allowed to return to their homes, which was at once allowed.
A Light Company man of the 48th posted as an advanced sentry, deserted to the enemy. Our Quarters eastern most of the cantonments command a fine view of the city; and we wish we could proceed thither; without passing "Broken head fair!"
There are some six thousand French on this side of the river and bridge. Their Army on the other side were formed on the heights beyond the city, in open order; making the utmost show they can; but we feel confident they are not more than thirty or forty thousand strong, if so much.
We stood to our arms before daylight. After which, the Provisional Battalion relieved the Light Companies, at their advanced picquet. Each Regiment is to relieve daily in rotation. I walked to the extreme left of our sentries; and obtained an admirable view of the bridge, and the many works in its front. I was within a stone's throw of the French sentry; and saw another beyond, very deliberately seated and lousing himself.
April 3rd. Sunday
At 6 o'clock a.m. we returned to encampment. The 40th Regiment took our cantonments: and the 48th relieved the Provisionals. After breakfast we attended, with the rest of the Brigade, not on duty, Divine Service, a Base drum, no end, serving for Reading Desk, and pulpit. I hope, I shall never again be obliged to listen to such an incoherent address, yedliped a sermon. After I left Renteria, an abscess formed on the top of my head; and has been discharging ever since the 7th March. My kind friend Harry Franklin, our Assistant Surgeon, deemed it requisite to summons a Medical Board on my case; which I attended this evening; and was ordered to return to England. This greatly depressed my spirits: I wandered about the camp listlessly till quite dark. On returning to our tent, Captain Chitty kindly enquired the result: which I briefly related, and my determination not to leave; under existing circumstances; except my name should appear in General Orders; with which I must comply! Chitty confirmed my resolve; and added "If it was my case, I would not leave. You can go on, as you have for the last six weeks, and we will do all we can to make you comfortable!" When at night I crept at an early hour into blankets, I reflected that I had cherished the hope that I had out-marched my ill-fortune! I was never a favourite with Dame Fortune, herself, and now, her lilt of a daughter Mis-fortune, had pulled off her hood, resolved to persecute me. In the course of the day I twice visited my sick friend Close.
Agreeable to orders we were last night under arms at half past ten o'clock; and at eleven proceeded along the road to Grenade, with strict orders for the utmost silence to be observed no man was to speak to his fellow; and every man to carry his musket firmly, so that it did not clash with another. All which was strictly complied with; for the night was as comfortless as might be rain began to fall when we started, the wind arose and both continued till break of day. The night was extremely dark; and I wonder how those at the head of the line of march could discern the road. We behind followed of course - like ducks to a pond and verily we had a very narrow escape from the water!! Our progress was very slow, and for myself, I must confess I was insensible to rain and wind, and the danger of our position. For being thoroughly worn out by the painful anxiety and reflection, during the late afternoon, I marched along, unconsciously, between the rear file of our Company, who kindly took me in tow. About three in the morning I was roused from my stupor by the Colonel's voice behind, demanding "What Officer is that?" When I replied he said "You are one of the very last I should have expected to pursue this road. What could induce you to come here, here is the rapid Garonne on your right, and this broad canal on your left! if attacked how can you extricate yourselves!!" I replied 'I hear the Garonnee, and can imperfectly discern the chasm on our left; and admit that we are in a very awkward predicament, but know not why we came here. We have only followed the line of march! The Colonel desired us to make room that he might proceed to the head of the regiment "for he was very anxious about this untoward circumstance." And well he might! for on discussing this circumstance subsequently with my compeers, I learned that he had reconnoitered the road by daylight, and ought to have led our march: but this isolated road had escaped his wonted acute perception; and he had left us to find our own way. We heard the rumbling of the Pontoon Carriages, on the other side of the canal; but could not imagine - not knowing the cause - what evil portended! About 4.o.clo.am the sky became more clear, and we were well pleased to find ourselves accompanied by friends. At break of day we met, short of the (word erased) of Blanca; when a Rivulet diverted the course of the detestable canal; and afforded us egress from our dilemma. Operations actively commenced: while regular working parties carried the Pontoon down the declivity to the Garonne our Artillery took up position on the bank, with light fuses. A boat, with a small party of our Brunswick Oels, ferried across emerging a strong cord; by which, when landed, they hauled a Hawser, or Cabel. The communications being thus established, they resumed their rifles, and faced the enemy; whom a strong close column mustered under cover of the numerous trees, on our right, watching us. Soon after they were visited by a General Officer and his Staff; who rode quickly about, until he had fully reconnoitered our proceedings. It was now broad daylight: and convinced that there was no abidance within point blanc of our guns, the General sent an Aid de Camp to order the Column of Infantry to retire. He then took two more galloping views of our proceedings, and disappeared leaving a Cavalry picquet, with videttes, to watch our operations. But they soon after withdrew; probably under cover of the trees. At all events we saw no more of them. During all this, our working parties had been acting, and carried down down everything requisite. About 7 o'clock the first pontoon was moored: the process now proceeded rapidly: and a 9 o'clock preceded by a Brigade of Hand Rockets, our Brigade, left in front crossed the Garonne; our Drums and fifes playing the Grenadier's March - never had I stepped to tune with so proud a pace!! When the whole of the Division had crossed, our Artillery followed, with their matches still burning. But nothing obstructed our progress; and we marched in a Southern direction: followed by 6th 3rd and the Light Divisions. At a late hour in the evening we were crammed into some miserable hovels: but the other Divisions bivouacked.
We stood to our arms, long before daylight: then returned to our hovels; one half of our men remaining accoutered. At 11 o'clock came an Order to march; but we only proceeded to camp, near the village.
Rain in abundance throughout the night most obligingly ceased, when we turned out at 4 am. In full expectation of being attacked, we were all day on the alert. The Garrison had forced into the swollen river many trees, and large beams of wood, to sever our bridge, of tin pontoons: but they all passed very harmlessly; for our Engineers were equally alive to the circumstance; and opened the bridge; to allow the flush of water to pass; and with it passed the trees and timber. Our force on tis side of the Garonne, consists of 3rd, 4th, and 6th and Light Divisions, the 7th, 10th, 15th, and 18th Hussars: the Heavy German Cavalry, and three Regiments of Heavy Cavalry, under Colonel Vivian, three Brigades of Guns: one of Flying Artillery: and one of Hand Rockets. The 2nd Division is where we left them, before the Bridge of St. Cyprien; West of Toulouse: and keeps Marshall Soult in awe; or he would gladly avail himself of the separation of our Army. Should he have the temerity to make the attempt, he will assuredly find out his mistake for Lord Wellington has, most unquestionably, passed over the Elite of his army. And the 2nd Division would quickly force their way across the Bridge of St. Cyprien.
The 3rd Division is moving to the front, this day. This fine weather will allow of all of us pushing on tomorrow. At 10am we moved our camp to the rear of the village. And 2pm our Company was ordered forward as outlying picquet. It fell to my lot to be in advance: my furthest sentries were very near the French videttes, and had a good view of the town, its approach, and defences.
All was quiet during the night. I was relieved by Ensign Ovens, for one hour, to allow me to get my breakfast. After mid-day the Division advanced: and had proceeded some way, before I received orders to withdraw my Advance: that we had to scamper across the country, to rejoin our Company and Division marching to the left. During the day we halted till our Artillery could come up with us. We saw the enemy in position North East of the city; on a range of hills; on which are some formidable field works. We took up our camp ground at 6p.m. Waiting for our baggage, we perceived the purport of our flanking movement; for on the rising ground to our left, we saw our Hussars very busily engaged with the French Cavalry: the declining Sun was at the exact point to shine on their sabres; and every cut was like a flash of lightning. We saw them drive away the foe. And they kept them at a good distance. It was late before our baggage arrived
We remained in hourly expectation of Orders to march. Forty three French prisoners, taken last night, passed our camp this morning. They were cut about their heads, most desperately. One man's nose was clean cut off; another was deficit a cheek and an ear.
April 10th. Easter Sunday
We struck our tents soon after midnight: and marched to support our Light Companies, at the Bridge; Croix de Rade; across the Ers; N.E. of the city. As we were this day, left in front, our 8th Company was sent forward as Advanced Guard: and proceeded to the Bridge (word erased); barricaded with every description of wagons, carts, and hurdles, that could be procured. We spent the remainder of the morning on the cold sloping approach to the bridge. This was our main approach. The French, last night, destroyed a bridge, Southward; but this leading to Croiz de Orade was of too much consequence for us to part with. We were therefore sent to assist in the Light Companies to defend their barricade in front of the bridge, in case of a night attack. Waiting such an event to leave the road open for the Reliefs of the Sentries beyond, we reclined on the grassy side of the bank; at the foot of which was a broad ditch of water. About 8 oclock our whole Division joined our post. A fatigue party cleared the road of the barricading; while the Light Companies rushed forward and drove the French picquet from a good country house, or villa, with a spacious walled in yard, eastward situate of the foot of the Heights, on which were the enemy Grand Field works. And they instantly poured down an abundance of shots and shells of every size. Regardless of which, our Company was again sent to the support of the Light Companies. It is quite marvellous how we passed through this tremendous pelting, with scarcely a casualty. We found the two upper stories of the house absolutely riddled by cannon balls! The Light Companies ensconced themselves in the basement but we were obliged to remain outside, with our backs to the wall of the house; and with awe watched the bursting of every shell!! It was a curious notice, to mark, how the splinters of the shells, influenced by internal combustion, still
MAP of TOULOUSE
- retained the forward impetus from the mortar! Chief of the fragments passed over, or through the Eastern wall of the courtyard; tearing the attached buildings and sheds into atoms. While we were thus "agreeably" engaged, our Division advanced in open column of Brigades over the morass - so soft, that every General and Field Officer was compelled to march, and have his horse led over. Our Left Brigade skirted the bank of the River Ers: our Portuguese took the centre of the morass: and our Right Brigade proceeded nearer to the heights. The Division had made but small advance, ere an Aid de Camp galloped into the court yard; and led the Light Companies to skirmish to the front - leaving orders, for us, in ten minutes to follow, and regain our post at the head of the Brigade. Not one of us looked at a watch, to note the time! As soon as the Light Bobs were gone, we quitted our uncomfortable abidance: but which in truth, now, became the safest location - for the advance of the Division diverted the whole attention of the redoubts. When the enemy found we could and would pass the morass, in defiance of their heavy cannonading, the blew up the bridge over the Ers, south west of their position; and thereby impeded the approach of our Artillery and Cavalry. The three columns of our Division advanced in sections of threes; to be as compact as possible; and at the same time to allow free passage for cannonballs, through our line of march, as chance could direct. Regardless of this precaution, some shots and shells swept down all before them. When leaving court yard, Captain Chitty ordered me to bring up the rear as closely as possible as he would lead the Company, helter skelter as fast as he could run. I had no difficulty with this order: every man scampered off as briskly as he could. My progress was arrested by a most heart-rending scene!! An infernal shell of large calibre, had struck our regiment in the centre as it passed! I know not how many men were killed or wounded by the explosion: but in the midst lay Lieutenant Gough - nephew of the Hero of China and India - supporting himself on the ridge of a furrow by his hands! The internal of his right thigh was torn more open than the leaves of this book - the bone was shrived into atoms - and the femoral artery jetting out his life's blood, in a most awful manner!! I stopt and condoled with him - he thanked me - but urged my departure! "Run forward my dear friend! This is not a place for any one to tarry in!!" 'But Gough, can I render you any service? What of your baggage?' "My kind friend! in a very short time baggage and every thing in this world will be of no consequence to me - do pray run forward, and escape from this dreadful fire!! - your stay, causes me painful apphucting. And thus! I left the poor fellow to his fate. Our kind hearted Assistant Surgeon, Harry Franklin visited him very soon after - but mortal aid was futile!! Our Light Companies secured the base of the enemy's position, and left the valley free. By hard running I overtook my company just as they took the head of the line of march; opposite the second redoubt; right of the French position: from which we experienced no firing. Having passed the extreme of their position, some three hundred yards, we brought forward our left shoulders, and ascended to the summit of the French position and works; completely outflanking the enemy. The acclivity was great, and our progress consequently slow; during which, I was much amused by a trait in the field of the Grand Battle! Our Commander Lieutenant General Cole, (who when Lieutenant Colonel commanded our regiment,) anxious for success of the movement of his Division, had followed on foot; and gaining the pivot flank of our leading company endeavoured to encourage our exertions. "Bravo! Enniskillerners!! I always knew you were the lads to depend on at a sharp pince!! Our men had not had time to regain their breath, after their sharp run over the morass when they had to ascend the heights - that - Sir Lowry Cole, had all the colloquoy. At length old Dan Sullivan - the veteran of our Company could not restrain himself - "Och! Ge lar o'that Lawry! Sure now dout I remember how you (you) would always blackguard and bully us on parade? And now you want us to have our head broken by these cursed vicre balls you come 'Tipping us the Blarney!' Ge lar o' that Lowry - and we will prove ourselves soldiers!!" More pleased, than offended, at the freedom of the response - for he well knew he had struck the right chord of an Irish Harp, or Heart - Sir Lowry looked towards the enemy, until he could recompose his countenance. As the first and second redoubt were vacated we had flattered ourselves that on crossing the height, we should get into a quiet position. Very far from that! The Division spanning the height, in open column of Brigades, attracted a tremendous cannonading! And immediately on our left, was a strong muster of French Cavalry: threatening our position, and watching our Light Companies skirmishing in our front, very deliberately; well knowing that our Artillery could not join us. To remedy this deficiency General Cole despatched an Aid de Camp, who very shortly returned, accompanied by two Artillery men with Hand Rockets. General Cole welcomed their arrival, by saying "Come Lads, drive away those Cavalry!" The reply was, "Leave them to us General, and we will punish them!!' The shaft of the first rocket, slightly touched the mound; which caused it to pass in front of the Squadron under the noses of the horses; and drove them off helter-skelter! After awhile they reformed on the same ground. "Now then - said the Artillery man "I will! have you!!" And he was as good as his promise! The second rocket passed through the bodies of the first horse, the second man, and the head of the third - or drove it from the shoulders. The precision of this aim was admirable! and had the desired effect; for our unwelcome visitors did not again make their appearance. One drunken trooper reappeared in the lower ground immediately in front of our Skirmishers - evidently a good horseman, although he could not sit steadily in his saddle. He kept his steed well in hand; and with his flourishing sword appeared to offer single combat to anyone. Our skirmishers heard his vociferations: and replied by their muskets. Multitude of shots were fired at this drunken Charletan. But as he kept in constant motion not one was immediately fatal; although we could see his clothes and face were bloody. Our sympathy was for the sober horse! Who, stung by repeated bullets at length galloped off in spite of all restraint and bore his Tom (fool crossed out) of a rider out of our sight. During all this to compete with this demonstration of Cavalry, our regiment was ordered into Close Column. The enemy marked this movement: and as we thus offered a prominent mark, directed two of their mine pounders against us. The first shots fell short and harmless; but one spent ball came whizzing along the ground to the front of the Column. A young Grenadier jocularly said to it "Get out of that Old Chap, we don't want you here!" And gave the ball a kick - the centrifugal force whipped off his foot!! This event caused anuneasiness amongst our men; for it was evident that the enemy had measured the range; and the Cavalry having taken themselves off, we were unnecessarily exposed to danger. Captain Chitty ordered me to pace in rear of the Column and command silence. About the centre I was calling some men to order, when I found great difficulty in keeping myself from falling - so many men falling against me. I turned my eyes right, and saw a chasm in the Column like a V - an unfortunate, but well directed ball, struck the breast of the front Grenadier; and in its passing, killed and wounded eleven men!1 Many men knocked down in the confusion had difficulty in convincing themselves that they were not personally injured. I felt obliged to rouse them from their horror; and urge them back to their posts. A recruit, belonging to our Company was driven twice his own length from the ranks. When risen the poor fellow trembled like an aspen leaf. "Come my good chap get into your rank." Oh Sir! - he replied - that's where the ball passed!! "Well then - I rejoined - that no two balls strike in the same spot!!" What don't they Sir?" and the brave fellow resumed his post. Leading this recruit back, I called to old Dan Sullivan, before mentioned, who was driven down. Regaining his feet, and deliberately picking up his musket, Dan gave me one of his quaint side glances - adding - "Och sure you are a cool hand! for didn't that ball pass between your own legs, sure!!" 'There give over your blarney, Master Dan! Get into your place!!' Dan resumed his place, grumbling "Och! Och! Sure you were always a cool hand!!" The Cavalry having departed, we now formed line over the height; and sat down by our arms. Thus deprived of a point blank aim, the French fired ricochet shots; which passed us; and passing to the rear Brigades did very little mischief. During all this time, we heard a great deal was going on. The 6th Division who followed us, defiled; and attacked the centre redoubt. Here was some desperate fighting. General Pack was wounded at the head of his Brigade but was able to continue in the field. This assault outflanked the Right of the Enemy's position. Our Skirmishers had been equally active, and fought their way over the height, to a small two floored house, South West of our left: westward of which, was a garden, enclosed by a clay wall about seven feet high. Through which they cut loop holes to fire on the enemy, ensconced in a sunken road; parallel with our position and the small house. By the house was a small by road, passing the hollow road, at a right angle. We had also a by-road, about two hundred yards below the left of our line, in the same direction. Both of these roads we had to defend: and in the exposed field between them, very many Officers and men were wounded and killed: for they were exposed on an open plain, without any shelter; to the deliberate fire of the enemy; who were not to be seen, until they popped up their heads to take aim. This desultory warfare exasperated our men excessively! They called for Orders to advance; pledging themselves to take the city!! We had the utmost difficulty to allay their excitement. Beyond all question, our advance would have achieved all this! And we did not learn for some days, why we were detained in such a perilous, and tantalizing position! Lord Wellington knew of Bournapate's retreat from Russia: and sent by Flag of Truce, the intelligence to Marshall Soult who replied, that he had not received such from his own government; and could not accept it from an enemy!! The citizens aware of this sent an earnest request to Lord Wellington to save the city! Which he promised!! Thus we were kept - as the Poet has said - "To be popped at, like pidgeons, for sixpence per day!" In such matters soldiers are not consulted: they are required to be at their post! And I will resume mine by taking up the thread of my narrative. Our Company the 8th, was ordered to take post in the by-road below the heights. This was in direct line from a bridge on the Languedoc Canal: on which the French placed a cannon; which raked our post. We laid down on the bank, beside the road: but our Red Jackets afforded a glimpse of our locality: and the balls most uncomfortably furrowed the road, scattering the gravel over us with such fury, that we were compelled to lie on our faces. I now felt my self totally worn out, by the violent pain in my head, and the want of sleep: and went and laid myself down on the rising bank on the other side. The enemy marked me; and destroyed my slumber, by directing their fire at me: I was in such agony, that I was totally indifferent about life!! Some of the balls fell so close to me that I was dusted all over. Captain Chitty kindly exerted his authority and ordered me back to my post. An event occurred to amuse us, and divert the tedium of our situation. Captain Bignold's lurcher-dog, Doxy, ever restless, crossed the road; and by a slight turn of her head, acknowledged my call. She proceeded to the open plain; and hunted about. Bignold noticed his dog - and sprang up, exclaiming - "Doxy is scenting a hare"! Away he ran with his Blac-thorn stick - a regular shillala (skillala ?) in hand - for Frank had no sword - having carelessly left it behind some day. It was a long course; but Bignold actively pursued. The hare being hard pressed, ran very close under the fire of the French, in the hollow road; who tried hard to punish Bignold for his rashness. He secured his game; and triumphantly brought it at his back, on his Shillala; and presented it to our Brigadier, Major General Anson. In less than three hours poor Frank received his death wound very near to the spot where the hare was killed. The French Cavalry mustered in rear of their nine pounder gun, on the bridge apparently with an intent to charge along one of the two roads. (In consequence our Company - crossed out) The 6th Company had relieved the 7th in the field between us and the house, occupied by the Light Companies; and requiring relief - having lost many men, and nearly expended their ammunition, requested Captain Chitty to report it to our Colonel. Chitty despatched me: and the Colonel ordered me to hunt up Captain Bignold and desire him with the 5th Company to relieve the 6th. After a long search, I found poor Bignold, with cap off and jacket open; with Pollock and Radcliffe; seated behind a sand bank, in rear, some way of the Regiment enjoying such food as they could muster. Bignold promptly obeyed the Order: and I saw him no more, until late in the evening; when I found the poor fellow in the Chateau in rear of our right - to which the wounded had been conveyed. He had received a musket ball in his right temple, which forced out the eye, and lodged behind the left eye - destroying all but - its sight! Another shot had fractured his left arm, a little below the shoulder. And in his attempting to rise, it had left a bloody mark on the serbase of the room. Being ordered late in the evening to take the command of the 5th Company I sent poor Frank's servant down with his rations. And soon after was able to go myself to render him any assistance; but nothing could be done. Poor Frank was too delirious to recognise my salutation; taking the morsels of broiled beef from his servant; rubbing each on the sole of his shoe; and holding each piece up to his left eye before he put it to his mouth! - all the time calling for his dear Mother!! He continued in this restless state until near 8 o'clock next morning when his existence and suffering ceased. My painful recollections of my good, kind hearted comrade, have drawn my pen from the field of battle: but I must return to my past. The 7th Company had gone down to support the Light Companies at the house and had returned. But the French made a sudden and violent effort to dislodge our Light Bobs. On which we were ordered from our raking, gravel road to go down to their support. Captain Chitty on receiving the Order, came to me, and said, Truly, my friend, this is no joke of a job!! We must run through the fire of this great reinforcement of French skirmishers: I shall order the Company to scamper widely over the fields, for we shall be within point-blank-shot. And you must bring up the rear as well as you can. Away we went, helter-skelter: passed over the field without a single casualty, and arrived at the gate on the west side fortunately; but it was small, that only one could enter The French well knew the locality and fired over the eastern wall in the hope of killing us at our ingress. We found we were sent to relieve a Company of our Portuguese: a recruit in which, caused great danger to himself and me while placing our men at the loop holes; he fired before he could take his aim; the ball recoiled and passed close to my face, for I felt the wind. The enemy's reinforcement quickly expended their ammunition and retired. When we had more deliberately expended ours we were relieved. But on retiring we had again to run the Gauntlet the enemy was relieved shortly before: and they noticing our relief, played the same trick as when we entered: the balls whizzed very closely. Captain Chitty saw the danger; and ordered me to force the men out at the doorway as quickly as possible. All, but four or five, were gone, and I was urging them to be active; and clapped my hand on the knapsack of the rearmost - a smart young soldier, who had not long joined us with whom we were much pleased - at that juncture I felt the wind of a ball on my right ear - it pierced the head of the poor young fellow who fell dead across my path! I felt excessively grieved! the only kindness I could now render, was to drag his corpse aside, that it might not be trampled on!! This delayed me a short while; that when I got out I found all our men clear a head of me; and I could go my own pace over the field. I moved too briskly to offer any aim; but looked about as I trotted along; and saw my good old friend Captain Reid of the 48th placing his Company for skirmishing. This old veteran had been often wounded; and his usual ill-luck awaited him here: he very soon received a shot on his ribs; which glided off, causing two wounds. He kept his post for some time encouraging and directing his men where to fire with most effect. Another shot struck and brought him to the ground making two more wounds, finding himself growing faint from loss of blood, he resolved to crawl on his hands and knees towards the house. Some of his men came to assist him; but he ordered them back to their post; as he could still take care of himself. He was lying in the lower room, when a cannon ball passed through the room above; in which were assembled all the Light Companies Officers, watching the proceedings of the enemy. The arrival of such an unwelcome visitor - although no one was wounded - caused a great commotion among the occupants. The pressure was so great that my worthy friend Val Blomfield, Lieutenant 48th who was by the south window jumped out; and alighted in the garden below; mid-leg deep in the mould. He called out to his comrades "I am very safe and comfortable, hope you all are the same?" The Honourable Lieutenant Browne of he 40th Lieutenant Commander ran down stairs, his face and jacket covered with fragments of the white wall. Old Reid laughingly said "Why sir, you are in a forlorn plight; and you seem frightened!" the Honourable tartly replied "Sir your remarks are very inappropriate - had you been in the room above, you would not have thought it an occasion for joking - and I consider your laughing as excessively unfeeling!!" "D..n it Sir - rejoined the veteran - I consider, that when a man has four holes in his body, he has a right to laugh if he can! Our Company again occupied the gravely road; and while receiving a supply of communication, were molested by more recouchet shots; which pelted us with stones and gravel. We found our Division guns silent, for want of ammunition: having expended all that they could bring with them over the hastily repaired bridge. We found it very heart-sickening to continue in our comfortless, inactive position and see our brother Officers pass, badly wounded. Captain Geddes was carried by, wounded in the thigh; which crippled him for life! Lieutenants Harcourt and Burns; and Ensign Arnett were supported past us, after our return. The wind was behind us; but between the gusts, we could here distinctly the heavy firing, near the bridge, from which we sallied in the morning. It was late in the evening when we received Orders to rejoin the Regiment. And right glad we were to quite our vile station, and stretch our legs. Night, welcome Night! put an end to the bloody conflict!! We took up position in segment of a circle. Our left opposite and close to, the extreme redoubt; occupied by our Portuguese. Our right tending to the further redoubts held by the 6th Division. These redoubts were constructed with large casks; the staves of which supplied us with firewood for the night. I borrowed a blanket: sucked a bone of chicken - the remains of provisions we had brought - ate some bread with lemons - drank some ordinary country wine - then took my couch in an adjoining furrow, and slept without rocking!!
After we had taken up our position, I went as I have before related, to visit poor Captain Bignold having been ordered to take the command of his 5th Company. Near the chateau I met that excellent fellow Harry Franklin, our Assistant Surgeon looking spiritless and oppressed: and I gave him a cheerful salutation, which roused him from his melancholy - Harry replied - "I am rejoiced to see you, my dear fellow, safe after this dreadful battle! all day have I been in that house, no one to speak to but my poor wounded comrades whom I have been cutting and slashing, until I am gorged with gore! Sick unto death!! I must go and seek for something to eat and drink. I have preformed (my memory cannot now recall the great number) operations or rather amputations; and that nice fellow, Corporal of your 5th Company distresses me exceedingly! - he bears his sufferings with heroic fortitude! he lost so much blood on the field, that there is no chance for his recovery but I must perform my painful duty; and amputate both legs above the knee - it is the only chance of life - but I do not think he can not think he can survive it!! I wish, my good friend, you would attend me!! I responded, Well, well! Harry! For yours and the poor fellows sake, I will attend you; with the hope of being a comfort to either or both - but truly I am not ambitious of the occasion; for, really, I have had enough of this day!! I saw no more of my friend Harry that evening; and was right glad to escape from such a painful scene! Next morning I learned that the poor Corporal did not survive the operation two hours. When entering the chateau, to visit poor Bignold, I saw, in the ante-room, a pile of arms and legs, fully corroborating Harry Franklin's remark! It was a sight to take the shine, out of any aspirant for Military Glory!! And in the room with poor Frank Bignold, were ten or a dozen poor fellows, looking most death like! I was glad to hurry away from such a spot!!
I have omitted to state, that after we reoccupied our position in the gravely road, and were receiving a fresh supply of ammunition, our Colonel rode past us to reconnoiture the post of the Light Companies from whence we had returned. In his wonted manner, he would not hurry "the poor beast, his horse - for it was a remarkable sight, even to see him trot. He passed down without scaith: but, returning was shot through his bridle wrist. Like a true Scotchman our Colonel never burthened himself with a pocket-handkerchief. On my noticing his wound he asked me to lend him one! It was a most unfortunate application. - the small one I had was in constant requisition by my poor oozing head and totally unfit for a fresh wound. I was compelled to say "I had not one!!"
I find here, an old letter we had two Officers and above 100 men killed, four Officers wounded.
We were under arms long before daylight. When the Sun arose, not a responsive smile could he find in all our ranks! The zeal of the fight had sunk with the shades of the past evening: and this morning, the recollection of the horrors of the day past, and anticipation of what this day might produce, could not awaken cheerfulness in any countenance. We piled arms and renewed our fires. We three roasted some beef-steaks, on a couple of ram-rods; and with some salt pork, given by one of our men, made a tolerable breakfast; although our store of bread was very small - "tea, coffer and eggs, not to be mentioned!!" No Orders arrived and we remained in an irksome suspense! At length, Lieutenant Batty and I, ventured to visit and inspect the right of our position. Stationed as we were, at the extreme right of the French works; forming an extended crescent - or as it is called in fortification, a half-moon - we did not feel satisfied with the result of the great sacrifice on the past day. The morass, over which we scampered yesterday in fearful haste, we deliberately repassed: and found it furrowed by the innumerable shots and shells, from the French: especially in front of the third redoubt, from the right; which was stormed and carried by our gallant companions the 6th Division, under Lieutenant General Sir H. Clinton, who accompanied us yesterday over the bridge. Here was sufficient to assure us, that whatever we had suffered, others partook of the hard knocks. When we reached the road from Toulouse, over the bridge to Croix d'Olade; the numerous graves on each side, made our hearts ache!! A Grenadier of the 42nd Regiment was mournfully wandering about; but quickly raised his head; shewing the big tears which streamed down his fine manly countenance, glad to relieve this grief, by responding to our kind enquiry - "Who are buried here?" Oh! He replied - we had a fine gallant Company yesterday - but - Alas! Here they lie!! -there are only two, besides myself, left to tell the tale! Our right wing was ordered to lead General Freyre's Spanish to carry this approach to the city. We made such good progress, that the French pushed the Spaniards hard, and the rascals turned tail, leaving us to bear the brunt. We fought every inch of ground but could not stand against such numbers!! Oh! My curse on those cowardly Dons!! Our left wing, and the 12th Regiment of Portuguese came to our assistance: they were soon followed by the Light Division; and the enemy was effectually beaten.
We reached the parapet of the fifth redoubt, from which more especially the (they) blazed at us so incessantly yesterday; for its position caught us point-blanc on the morass over we scampered in dreadful haste: and we marvelled at our escaping so well. We were proceeding to inspect the 6th and 7th redoubts, or left of the French position; but an alarm was given: the advanced and in-lying picquest, and guards, were instantly under arms: and we deemed it prudent to hasten back to our ports, to be ready for any event. So far from alarm, our soldiers were employed to seek for and deposit in the 1st and 2nd redoubts all the cannon balls they could find: the men imagined they were to receive six pence for each ball; but I never heard of their being paid; although it was said they collected four thousand! The real purport was fully accomplished - by giving employment, they were kept from prowling about, or slinking into the city. I went down to the hospital, and chatted some time with Captains Geddes and Reid. Poor Bignold was still alive and had continued all night in the distressing restless state in which I left him last evening.
The French have been in motion all day: we see them very busy on the other side of the canal. They are evidently moving off: we shall not see any of them on the morrow. Late in the afternoon our baggage came; and we pitched our camp on the side of the hill, out of sight. Colonel MacLean's wound obliged him to leave the Regiment; and go into the village beyond the hospital; whither the slightly wounded were conveyed. Before leaving he issued Orders for Major Thomas to take the Command of the Regiment; Lieutenant Batty of the 3rd Company; Boyle of the 4th and I, of the 5th. From poor Bignold's dislike to, and consequently neglect of accompts, I much fear I shall have a very ruffled skein to unravel! but if my head will allow me to accomplish the task, I shall reap the emolument, until our other Battalions join us.
When we turned out this morning we discovered some large building in Toulouse burning furiously: which convinced us that the enemy was gone: and when daylight came, not a French soldier was to be seen. Our picquets advanced, and quietly took possession of the city. We returned to our tents: but before we could finish breakfast, came an Order for us to march immediately. We soon gained a large road; and after four leagues march, halted near Le Bastide. I went out with a foraging party; and found that the French soldiers, even in their own country pillaged every portable thing.
Breakfasted in full expectation of another Order for marching. But about noon came permission for Officers to visit Toulouse. Captains Chitty and Lynch went. Our halt has given rise to numerous reports and conjectures. The Horse Artillery are come to the rear. We are assured that Paris has proclaimed Louis 18th and the Preliminaries of Peace were published in the Theatre at Toulouse.
The surgeons have pronounced my poor head to be healing; and that I may be able to wait til the regiment goes to England. "Long life to their Honors for I have long since set them at naught!"
I employed the whole day with the accompts of the 5th Company and find my assumptions realized. I shall find a great deficiency. Captain Chitty returned to dinner: and confirms the rumour respecting the Peace; and of the death of poor Bignold.
Ensign Ireland of the 5th Company (late our Serjeant Major) had assisted me in inspecting poor Bignold's wardrobe and effects; and we discovered plain proofs that poor Frank had been most woefully plundered; before the baggage came into our charge: from suspicion of the fact, we kept the whole within our sight. We found, that Frank used to roll his surplus money, for the Company, into cartridges of twenty guineas each but only one contained the correct number; and some were sadly deficient. He kept these, with his wardrobe in a common pannier, covered with bullock's hide. There was a lock to it: but the bend in the lid proved that the contents had been often rifled. Agreeable to Orders we disposed of everything by Cant - the Quarter Master being the Auctioneer. And under existing circumstances, all sold well.
Rode to Villenouvelle to see after the Sutler of the 34th Regiment who owes me 66 dollars for my mule. He was gone to Toulouse; but returns tomorrow with the Paymaster. We received another month pay, this day. I found, on my return, my chums in the acct of shifting our tent; more under cover from these troublesome high winds. On removing my bedding I discovered that for the night I had been nurturing a numerous next of reptiles; much resembling vipers. A flag of truce has been sent to Marshal Soult; but he refuses to coincide with the Peace, until informed thereof by his own government: this is very prudent on his part! but in consequence, we are ordered to advance tomorrow.
April 17th Sunday
We started at 6.am and after a march of five leagues, over extremely rough cross-country roads arrived at St. Felices. While our dinner was preparing, I had leisure to return thanks for spending this day differently from last Sunday!
A little anecdote may diversify the monotony of my journal. Colonel Coke bore the Flag of Truce to Marshal Soult. A Counsel of all the Generals was held. During their deliberations a rumour ran amongst the French soldiers, that an English Officer had arrived with preliminaries for peace: and three hearty shouts rent the air. One General walked to the window to ascertain the cause; and turning round, coolly remarked, "It was only a hare started up, amongst the men!" Colonel Coke replied "Yes! We have had many such hares, in the North!!" Soult could not refrain from smiling.
We were Ordered to be ready to march; and continued in uncertainty till noon; when a counter order arrived. A detachment of recruits for the 53rd and 48th Regiments arrived. With the latter came my old acquaintance Lieutenant Brotherirdge: with whom I associated at Northampton; and who received me at his quarter at Santarem, on my route from Lisbon.
I spent this day in Company's accompts.
Rumour talks loudly, that Soult has mounted the White Cockade. Our inactivity rather confirms this. I persevered with my ruffled accompts.
As Marshal Soult is now assured of the Peace, we, at 6 this morning began to retrace our advance. And the French Army advanced from St. Felices and occupied our post: this may be our last glimpse of our late mortal enemies. To be quite clear from them we had another tedious, and rough march, of five long leagues. And when we halted I was ordered for a foraging party: luckily we had not to travel many miles to attain our object. In the evening when we sat down to dinner rain came down freely; and continued.
We marched along a narrow road, which at length proved to be the one on our left, on the 10th instant which we so resolutely defended. While approaching, and passing the house, where the Light Companies had been posted, a solemn silence pervaded the whole line of march. A silent monitor said, "How many of our brave comrades fell here!" When we saw the hollow road, of which the French availed themselves, we were surprised that our loss was not even more severe! In our progress we crossed the bridge over that truly grand National work, the Canal; which connects the trade of the Mediterranean with that of the Atlantic Sea. We entered Toulouse (Thoulouse?) with fixed bayonets, but supported arms: the floating fragments of our Colors proudly told the natives whence we came, and what we had been doing! The utmost regularity was preserved in our line of march.
On quitting the city, and crossing the noble bridge over the Garonne, we found the Breast Works sufficiently removed to make a free passage; but enough remained to prove how many men must have lost their lives in attempting to force such a very formidable position. When the Brigade had far past the city, I obtained leave to return. To visit the Colonel, and other wounded friends; not forgetting poor Captain Geddes; whom I found in great pain; also my very good friend Captain Reid of the 48th. I met my strange, quondam, friend Rawlings of the 4th Regiment cashiered, by sentence of a General Court Martial; for not being to be found, when called to some duty, unexpectedly; while he was galloping over the country as Acting Commissary; in consequence of some Seniors being on the sick list. According to his own statement, his, is a very peculiar, and very severe case. And under this conviction he is about to accompany the proceedings of the Court Martial to England; and plead his own cause before the Prince Regent. He has stated many strong points in bar of sentence: and he is not the chap to let such rest. I should not be surprised if he be reinstated. He made me promise to dine with him. I went twice; and could not again see him. So proceeded to Harnetts house where was Captain Chitty very ill with ague. They about going dinner. I not only accepted their kind invitation to partake; for I was very tired and hungry; but brought up for the night: the camp being more than a league off. In former times travellers visited Thoulouse as the Capital of the South of France. The streets are irregular, and very badly paved. The Cathedral is an uninteresting pile of red bricks. In former days it boasted of its fine painted glass; but the shattered windows told now only the wanton recklessness of the revolution. The Capital, or rather, Governor's House, occupies one side of the Grand Square. A long, low, neat modern building; faced with stucco, like the rest of the other best buildings; and totally uninteresting. The want of stone, for buildings, may account for the ugly and irregular houses in the South of France. The deficiency of Public Buildings may originate from the system of Government, by centralizing every proceeding in Paris. Thus the bridge, here over the Garonne shines without a rival. It is a beautiful structure of stone; unsullied by coal-smoke. But its extremity is sadly disfigured by the addition of brick porticoes, or approaches: to which had been affixed, in the system of fortification, strong gates; which marred altogether the noble structure. The numerous breast-works, and barricades, yet remaining on the bridge, were by no means so unsightly as these vile brick buildings. Beyond them, extending Westward is an extensive and very handsome mall; commanding a fine view of the river; terminated by lofty and handsome iron gate: through which the beauties of the distant country may be seen to great advantage; when the mud walls and redoubts shall be cleared away. The tow rows of trees on each side of this mall are not half grown; thereby proving this public work to be modern: probably coeval with the canal; which brought commerce and prosperity to the city. Where the shops are good, and abounding with every thing. Hotels not so numerous as in England. Some large floating buildings, below the bridge, strongly moored to the wharf, and connected by a slight platform, puzzled my imagination very much: I supposed them to be floating baths; such as I had seen on the Thames but I subsequently found them to be (what I had never before seen) public washing houses, the laundresses very busily washing and folding their linens.
After our social breakfast, Chitty offered me his horse, to rejoin the regiment; and he was to accompany the Paymaster in a carriage. A return of his ague prevented my kind friend leaving: so that I was to take his place, with the Pagador. But at one o'clock no carriage could be procured, so I marched myself off. Six weary leagues brought me to quarters at Isle en Jordain (L'Isle Jourdain); thoroughly knocked up. A large uninteresting town.
We marched three leagues and a half passing two large villages. And encamped by Regiments in convenient grass fields.
April 24th Sunday
We marched, right in front, along the great road: but my feet still suffered from my forced march on Friday; that for more than two leagues I hobbled woefully; the interesting appearance of the fine town of Auch, beguiled my sufferings; the approach with the lofty Cathedral towering above, was very interesting: and as we expected to encamp not far beyond, we all anticipated a pleasing ramble in the afternoon; and only two of three Officers obtained leave to diverge from the line of march. We found our error when too late. And our comrades informed us the Cathedral retained its wonted grandeur; having been saved from spoliation, by the residence of the Archbishop. That the extensive barracks, which we noticed, will amply accommodate the 6th Division, and our Portuguese Brigade, marching in our rear; for this town had been a Depôt for ten thousand men; being a central point to Bayonne, Bordeaux, Thoulouse and the Interior of the Country. From what we hear, it my be, that the 4th Division will never meet again! Report says - our Portuguese will half here till they march next month, for Portugal. That our Left Brigade will march tomorrow for Candon and we for Valence. Our Paymaster is not yet arrived from Thoulouse.
I was on baggage-guard: and on my arrival found that the town had proved too small for our Brigade. The 48th Regiment was sent to a village, on our left: and we went to houses in the adjacent country: that our cantonment must have compassed five square miles. Had we been before an enemy, we should have been ordered to make ourselves comfortable under canvas in some ploughed field. My 5th Company were well off; not more than four men in a house; and the natives treated them most hospitably to bread and wine. My hose had been a soldier, at Vitoria, Pamplona, San Sebastian. Although we had been thus opposed as bitter foes, "now all the wars are over," "Should friend or foe henceforth appear, we gaily live no clover, and will greet him with a welcome cheer, now that the wars are over" - and this brave fellow received me with the hospitality of a warm friend. Wine, bread, eggs, fowls, marmalade were freely produced, ere I could express a wish!! The worthy fellows eyes glistened with tears of gratitude when I congratulated him on having escaped the perils of the service and been able to return to the blessings of domestic life.
Our Paymaster mustered the Regiment this morning: and after breakfast we went to him for money. In the afternoon two detachments of recruits joined us.
As the hour of march was ordered at 9 o'clock and the distance said to be only one league, I was induced last night to take medicine; and have been all day extremely ill. Our route proved to be full two leagues to Condon: and we were three hours waiting for the arrangement of quarters. That I was too much knocked up, to receive with due courtesy the proffered politeness of two very pretty women in my billet.
Ensign Ovens has kindly procured for me, a fresh billet, in the house of a person who lives in the country: that I may be exempted from the exertion of competing with the kindly proffered and intentioned civility; which to so great an invalid, is irksome. My host comes every day into the town.
Despatched a messenger, with a horse and mule, to Captain Chitty, for his use. And to bring back the ledger, and accounts of the 7th Company; that I may settle with the men according to Orders. I find my quarters very comfortable; as my servant has been indefatigable in clearing away all the dirt and rubbish.
We find the Mayor of this town an extremely troublesome Official, relative to Quarters, and everything under his control. In truth he is an evident rogue in office. A few days before the Battle of Thoulouse, he levied forty thousand franks, on the natives within his jurisdiction, for, and in the name of the Emperor. Availing himself of "the turn of tide of affairs!" he has sacked this money for his own use. But a deputation has been sent to represent the affair to King Louis 18th.
In the evening my patron, with wife, son, and daughter, paid me a visit to hear our drums, fifes and bugles at retreat-beating: at sunset. I could, most willingly, have excused their visit; for the exertion was irksome to me. Fortunately Ovens had not left our mess: and his broken French helped out my deficient parlee. I did my utmost to be hospitable: and my English tea, coffee, and brown sugar gave great satisfaction. Mademoiselle was troublesomely agreeable: our scarlet jackets, and gold appointments were 'Superbe!' And the noise made by our little scamps of drummers and fifers was 'Magnifique!' The party was so well pleased with their entertainment, that a very little persuasion detained them for Taptoo-breaking; which greatly delighted them. Nor would they depart until both of us promised to visit their Chateau on the morrow.
At noon, Ovens accompanied me to make a call at the Chateau; we were most cordially welcomed; our visit appeared to be most favourably received. Mademoiselle was particularly assiduous in welcoming us. And, on this occasion, I somewhat rejoiced in my ignorance of the French language!!
May 1st. Sunday
Curiosity induced many of the inhabitants to attend our muster at 12 o'clock for Divine Service. Our Chaplain gave us a sermon unusually good and appropriate, everyone was attentive; and all wondered to hear such an unusual flow of good doctrine from His Reverence. After which I visited the Church much small than when built. I was assured it was greatly injured in former times by the English: but the only clue I could gain relative to the event was that the General's name was Montague! It is now called only a chapel: It is very neat within; with some paintings quite Roman Catholic; which, although not executed by the most masterly hand, are chaste and very descriptive.
This morning, at sunrise, one of our Drummers received deserts of his good behaviour; according to the Sentence of a General Court Martial. One thousand lashes was his award but he escaped with only eight hundred. This event also excited the curiosity of the inhabitants; but very few waited for the end. They were much shocked at the severity of our punishments; but admitted the good effect; not a single complaint having been made against any man, since we entered the town which would not have (been) the case with their own soldiers. The Drummer's misdemeanour had been committed long before we came hither. The daughter of the Gentleman where Major Thames was quartered, a very fine woman about 26 years of age, and very high spirited, intimated her desire to witness the punishment. The Major flattered himself, that his strong remonstrances had prevailed: but the young lady crept to the scene just as the blood was trickling down the culprits back but was quickly carried home, totally insensible.
It was rather singular that another punishment occurred this day. In which I was Judge, and Juror, and if not, Executioner, I directed the process. The Guard House afforded no accommodation for an Officer. And a strong Serjeant's Guard was responsible to the Officer of the Day. As this was my duty, I kept close quarters, in case I should be called for. Early in the afternoon the Serjeant of my 5th Company came and earnestly requested me to go and quiet the woman Fisher, wife of our Fifer; for she was mad with excessive drink; and her most outrageous conduct had so frightened the inhabitants that they had fastened up all their houses!! I instantly ordered him to give her in charge of the Guard. But he assured me he had thrice done so; and she had force her way out. I sent him for the Fifer to meet me at the Guard-house: on my way thither I was quite astonished to observe the great consternation which this beast of a woman had occasioned! - any wonder however ceased when I me the frantick demon - I never witnessed anything so atrocious!! I desired the husband to control her, but he declared his incapability for she had knocked him about like a ninepin. And the poor fellows face and clothes confirmed his assertion. He begged of me to quiet her if I could anyhow; but that he would not go near her. It was very evident that something must be done; but I knew not what. Thinking my rank and authority would check the fiend's fury, I tried to reason with her; but she showed fight, and made such desperate blows at me, that I was competed to beat them off with my sheathed sword in my left hand. I then fixed a very stern and steady look on her and by my orders some soldiers closed around her and forced her into the guard house. I made the Drummer take the sling from his drum and unbraid it: I very soon wipt the cord round and secured the woman's legs; carried it up and tied her hands behind her - but could not affix it to her tongue - her yells and vociferations were quite deafening! - to stop this nuisance I was obliged to put a drumstick across her mouth and bound it behind her head. In this state she was placed on the inclined plane, or guard bed. I walked about outside, until the "dear Oraturio dulcet notes became pianissimo," and the Serjeant of the Guard informed me that she was nearly asleep. I gave him orders to remove the drumstick when she was in sound sleep: and if, on her awaking she was become quiet, to release her. About three hours after I received a report that Mrs Fisher was gone to her billet quite subdued. The natives had narrowly watched my proceedings with this horrible monster; and on my way home gave me many salutes. I was rejoiced to find their confidence fully restored. Necessity, is said to be, the mother of invention - and such must have (been) the case in the above expedient; for otherwise, I know not how I could think of it. Had I not stopped the nuisance I should have incurred censure: for I stood in double responsibility, as Officer of the Day, and Officer of the Company to which the witch belonged. Our discipline, and the good conduct of our men were the admiration of every inhabitant; and the greatest cordiality subsisted in every rank. It was not to be endured that a vile drunken woman should thus disgrace us!! This Mrs Fisher is the identical Fifer's wife, who purchased Madame Soult's satin slippers, at Cant, the day of the Battle of Vitoria! Every one in the regiment, not even excepting her own husband, was rejoiced at my having abashed the dauntless Mrs Fisher - well known to be as desperate a marauder as ever followed an Army.
We found provisions in the town very reasonable. Bread 3 sous per pound: eggs 10 sous per dozen: fine fowls 3 francs a couple: and the market well supplied.
A mail from England brought me a letter from my brother Edward, dated Limerick, 14th April.
An Italian arrived here this day, and displays some slight handed tricks. A private soldier will be admitted for three sans; an Officer for six. Surely a country must be superlatively blest; to enable a man to play the fool or the knave at such trifling cost!
Our Commanding Officer, Major Thomas surprised me much this morning on parade. He came direct up to me, and with a grave face enquired - "Did you not receive a message from me last evening?" Really, I did not Major! or I should have most certainly attended to it!! "You are positive you did not receive my message!" I am positive Major!! - "Sir, I can tell you, that I have had a most serious complaint laid against you" - but the Major could not carry on the farce - he burst into a violent fit of laughter, then stated, "the truth is, that vile woman Mrs Fisher came to complain of your treatment of her yesterday. I did not know how to keep a serious countenance before the baggage, for I thought there never was anything better done. And I am very very much obliged by your admirable expedient! She stated her complaint most fully. I replied - And did he actually so treat you? Oh yes Your Honor - with dozens of courtesies - that he did! Then do you go to him - Oh yes! Your Honor,, that I will. Give him my best regards and best thanks and tell him I hope he will always serve you in like manner, whenever you are so beastly drunk and disgrace your regiment and your country!!" Again the worthy Major laughed heartily, and added, I did not imagine that you would receive my message, but I am truly rejoiced that some one has succeeded in shaming that brute of a woman.
Such was the fact; for she felt so subdued that she disappeared; and never again joined her husband. It is very fortunate that my quarters are so comfortable; for the strong course of medicine which I am put under torments me day and night.
We learn that our 1st and 2nd Battalions are marching to meet us at Bordeaux. Should such be the case, it will be a most unprecedented event that ever occurred in the British Army - to say no more - for three Battalions of one Regiment to meet in Foreign Service! We hear rumours of our proceeding on our march; but I hope not yet. Colonel MacLean visited us today; on his route to Bourdeaux, to wait the arrival of our older comrades.
A large party of my brother Officers is gone today to dine at Castebrak: where are the Medical Springs and Baths: much frequented by the natives, of the South of France.
May 6th & 7th.
The Patron, or owner of my house is so well pleased with my politeness that his frequent visits are become very troublesome. And as he most generally makes his appearance at my dinner time I must write him a decided "Sponge."
May 8th. Sunday
We marched at 7.am and passing Valence, and our old cantonments, about noon arrived at our quarters at Londrien (Jondrein Langon?) A long town of miserable houses; but famous for its brandy distilleries which is the only remark which can be made on it; although it is a thoroughfare on the great road from Thoulouse to Bordeaux. I was fatigued with the march; but accomplished it better than I expected: and took a billet on an Auberg, or Inn: where I selected a double bedded room; to the astonishment of my host: who promised that no one else should intrude.
My messenger returned with a note from Captain Chitty saying he should probably proceed direct to Bordeaux; which afforded me ample employment, for three days.
Early this morning an Order arrived, for us to send our best tents to the 40th Regiment, ordered to America. We considered this as a plain indication that we shall not go there. To my great surprise my friend Captain Chitty rejoined us; accompanied by Lieutenant Harnet; who dined with me. Chitty's renovated health made him full of spirits on again joining us. In one instance somewhat to my annoyance; for I had requested the landlord to let me have some of his oldest and best wine. Well knowing the plain matter of fact character, of my servant Barny Bradley, Chitty asked, on his entering carefully with a bottle "Did you shake the bottle, Barny?" No Sir! "Then shake it well Barny!" No sooner said, than done! All remonstrance was vain!! So we laughed heartily at sturdy Barney's solemn and prompt obedience or orders. Chitty informs me, the 13 Regiments formed into 6 Brigades, for 2 Divisions, are to be sent from this country to America without loss of time.
Proved very wet and cold: that a good fire proved very agreeable.
May 15th. Sunday.
We received Orders to hold ourselves in readiness to march to Bourdeaux. This induced me to mount my mule and ride to say farewell to my esteemed old friends in the 48th Regiment. The roads were bad; but I never travelled two leagues in so fine country. At Aroch (Auros?), I found my old comrades in most excellent quarter; experiencing the utmost civility from the inhabitants, who with their Mayor welcomed the Officers on their arrival last Sunday by a public Ball. The compliment was to be repaid this evening: but I could not venture to comply with the many pressing invitations to remain and partake of the festivity. The town is very good; and contains more pretty girls than I have yet seen in any place.
This evening I wrote to Lieutenant Norton of the 34th Regiment to procure the money due to me from their Sutler.
The route is arrived for us to march on Wednesday. A Court of Enquiry has allowed my demand, or claim, for ?154.6.8 on the effects of poor Captain Bignold in behalf of the 5th Company.
A very warm day; which made me very languid. As the tents we have received, in exchange, from the 40th Regiment are much the worse for wear; and consequently very light, I am resolved to put my baggage under them on the bat mule; and ride my horse. For in my present state of health I cannot enter on a march of 20 or 25 leagues.
A very pleasant march through Montréal to Sos. An excellent town: all the houses were far superior, and the inhabitants of a much higher grade, than we had hitherto seen. We were much surprised to find such an assemblage of really genteel people congregated so close to the trackless roads of the Black Forest. The town stands on a rising ground, and commands an extensive and lovely prospect, from West to South East. At the back, it is sheltered by the Forest from every cold blast. None but the 40th Regiment had pursued this line of march: and had left such a strong impression of the good discipline of British Soldiers, and of suavity of their Officers, that we were welcomed with the greatest cordiality; and, I trust, did not prove unworthy of our precursors! All our Officers were invited to a Ball in the evening at a large private mansion, between 7 and 8 o'clock. Our old friends of the 40th had attended, en masse; at a similar fete. And we followed their good example. About 9 o'clock the ladies went to partake of their 'petit soupè,' and expected, we found afterwards that every Officer would accompany his partner; but as we received no intimation on this point, we did not intrude. An after explanation seemed to cause surprise to the French ladies at our modesty. The dancers however reassembled and kept up till past 2 o'clock in the morning. Dancing was not congenial to my state; that I returned to my quarters at an early hour. My amiable host kindly welcomed me; and produced some excellent wine, pear, apples, walnuts, and a variety of good things. He was a physician. Short and broad in statue (shape?), with a fine benevolent countenance. His wife was extremely ill above stairs; which deterred his two sons, and two daughters from the Ball. Both his sons had been conscripts. The elder, a good hearted soldier had been an Officer of Hussars: a fine man and real good fellow. We each smoked a cigar. The younger son was a fine, broad shouldered of good height; and very frank in manners. He was very cordial towards me: but I fancied I could detect more of the laxity of French principles in him, than his brother. He had, most certainly been in a very bad school! as he stated "When an Infantry Officer, I was taken prisoner: conveyed to England: was a long time in Fortin Prison near Gosport: we were well treated; and I was much pleased by conversing with the lovely English ladies, who came to purchase the variety of articles which my fellow prisoners were allowed to offer for sale. An exchange of prisoners brought me back to France. But it was not long 'ere I was again taken, and conveyed to England. I was altogether, thirteen years in England. I like your Country; and the natives too; for they are kind, good people!!" Oh! Oh! I exclaimed - all this history accounts for your speaking our language so freely! "To be sure, rejoined for on my second visit to England, I was placed on parole of honor. When I took a pretty English girl to teach me the language. Why did you not pursue the same plan here; that you might have spoken French as freely as I can English?"
I evaded this question by reminding him, that we had been only a short time in his country; and we had never been stationary. He resumed his history. "On my second return to France, I was appointed to a Cavalry Regiment; and advanced with the Grand Army against Russia." He related horrible accounts of the carnage at the Battles of Dresden and Leipsic; but did not state why he did not pursue the march beyond!! Of course I did not proffer a category on that point! As Burns says - "Let that flea stick fast i' the wa!" Suffice it to say, he wore the insignia of the Legion of Honor. I was perfectly satisfied that my Demi Anglo companion was a faithful interpreter between me and his family; for his good father made many pertinent enquiries relative to the battles I had been in; and was well satisfied with my replies. In proof, it was near midnight ere I could break up our conversation. The good old Physician expressed very great commiseration for my sufferings; tenderly examined the abscess on my crown; delicately hinted his opinion that I had suffered much from my case not being well considered; and expressed most fervent hopes for my passing through the Black Forest, where Coup de Soliel frequently occurred most fatally. This day twelve months we left our quiet cantonments on the confines of Portugal; and commenced our active campaign which, under Divine Auspices, has secured the Peace of all Europe! and brought us hither to partake of the kind hospitality of our late foes.
Well might my kind host and his military sons, prepare me for the horrors of the Black Forest of Henry the 4th. A long dreary march through lofty pines; over a trackless sand; and the roads so devious; that we could not have found our way and were obliged to take a forrester to conduct us to the next Hut, where he was relieved by a fresh guide. The heat from the sun was oppressive: not a breath of wind could visit and refresh us; no water could be found to quench our parching thirst. Added to all which, the oppressive stench of turpentine made bad, still worse. This gum, is a source of vast profit. Every pine is punctured on its southern side, and a wide cup, or small basin cut in its protruding root receives the exudation. Which the Forresters collect. Heartily rejoiced was I that I was mounted; for I felt certain that in my present state of debility I could not have accomplished such a trying march! The cloud of dust which accompanied us greatly aggravated our sufferings. I never saw soldiers on the march so horribly oppressed!! And the consequence was, that when we arrived at Castel Laloux, thirty men were absent; very few of whom were ever seen again. This vast trail of uninhabited country is infested by large, and very ferocious wolves. We saw many majestic Cork Trees in this stinking wilderness, which most pleasingly broke on the monotony of the dark pines. But I hope I shall never again be compelled to encounter such another march of seven long leagues!! At Castel Laloux (Casteljaloux ?) we were surprised to find the 3rd, 28th and 39th Regiments; under Major General Byng; from the 2nd Division. He had advanced by the other side of the Forest: but suffered equally as ourselves. A man of the Light Company of the 39th fell dead, from Coup de Soliel!
The soil was very light; but every league we advanced the country improves. And around Antagnac, the beauties of spring appeared in full loveliness. Our prospect moreover, was no longer bounded by the snow clad Pyrenees. We parted company yesterday in the forest; where they have my full permission to remain: for after ten or eleven months association I am not desirous to renew our acquaintance. Around Barzas our halting place, the luxuriance of South France again appeared. Thriving hedges, spreading oaks, elms and magnificent chestnut trees proved the nature of the soil. Of which industry had availed, and showed rich gardens, and extensive vineyards, luxuriant fields of rye, were full in ear; and afforded us abundance of forage without travelling leagues to reach for it. The Duc d'Angoleme travelled this road on his way to Bourdeaux. At Antagnac we noticed the withered triumphal arch, erected for him. And at Barzas we found a lofty pine tree standing in the Royal Square; with wreaths of white flowers around its stem, with white coronets suspended from every branch to its very top. Bazas is a very fine large town: the Royal Square spacious and handsome. The Cathedral occupies the southern side: and at once arrest the visitor's eye by its richly carved stone work to the very summit of its lofty pinnacle. The Grand Entrance consists of three Saxon arches; ornamented with numerous statues of saints; which have a very imposing effect in approaching but as I felt no veneration for their Saintships a nearer inspection somewhat spoiled the effect. Above these arches, or doors, were two circular windows of rich stone work; surmounted by an apex of light masonry, to a great height; in very chaste style. Within the roof is plain arched stone work. There are many good paintings of religious subjects; and, as I have observed in this country, not so absurdly extravagant in delineation, as in Spain and Portugal. The semi-circular Grand Altar of variegated marbles, with white splinths and capitals to the numerous pillars is very handsome. The window above was once handsome with stained glass; but the colours are faded to a dirty hue; and the dingy appearance mars the effect of the whole.
At San Macaire we reached the noble river Garronne. All the sick of our New Brigade were taken in their wagons to the quay, put into boats, and sent down to Bordeaux. We proceeded to the straggling, but pretty village of Puniac (Preignac?); and were all comfortably housed before the heavy rain came on.
May 22nd. Sunday
Marched a league and half to the village of Podinac (Podensac ?): in which we found Captain Maxwell's brigade of Artillery. Here we are to wait further orders. By the French newspaper, which we found here, we are told that peaceful arrangements have been made between England and America. Should this be the case, we must wait for dispatches to tell our destination. An English mail passed this evening but dropped nothing for us. We imagine that our Colonel has detained our letters, expecting us at Bordeaux.
Podenac stands on the great road; and commands a beautiful view of the Garonne and the country on the opposite bank; the old towers of Rious being most picturesque objects. Not far from which we saw the town of Cadillac, famed for its white claret. As Podenac is for its distillery of Brandy. I obtained one bottle of white brandy as clear as water, and of most superior quality. The towns in this district are inhabited by Americans or merchants connected with that country. We found all of them very sullen; for they considered that we were on our way to lower the pride of Cousin Johnathan, in his own country. But as we gave them no cause for complaint, they were compelled to show us cold civility.
The Garonne abounds with fish of every description: and I saw this morning, a noble sturgeon landed. Some of our Officers proceeded to Bordeaux by the packet-boat: the passage is only one franc. We had heavy showers all day.
Our Paymaster joined us, last evening, this morning issued money: and mustered the Regiment in the evening.
We marched five leagues, through a most beautifully rich, and picturesque country to Bourdeaux. Our First Battalion arrived yesterday; and many of the soldiers came to meet us. They waited our arrival, on a raised footpath beside a narrow sunken road. They expected to have found "Their younger brethren." Their dear Babes," - as they (have) been want to call us, a corps of young sickly boys. But when we made our appearance, all of them sprang up and saluted us as if proud of "Their Younger Brethren!" And accompanied us in our progress. I heard however much jeering behind me; for being in the centre of the line of march, I could turn my attention either way: and I felt desirous to catch the remarks which "Our Old Boys" made on us. Some 3 or 4 younger of them were very free with their jokes and jeers "Sure now are these Our Dear Babes? And troth but they are Nice Babes! Right nice Children!! 'Ge lar o'that - give over that nonsense? Exclaimed a fine looking veteran, walking parallel with me - "Look at their Colors! There has been no children's play where they have been!! This just and appropriate appeal silenced our garrulous visitors! Before we were dismissed to our billets, we were informed that we might dispose of all our animals; as there would be no more forage allowed. As soon as I could house my baggage, I sent my batman to find purchasers for my horse, and mule; in which he quickly succeeded; for there were many people, taught by the regiments which had preceded us, waiting our arrival. He brought me 9½ dollars for the horse; and 42 for the bat mule; far short of the value of either animal; but considering how the market had been over supplied, I was well content. If I obtain my money from the Sutler I shall have realized twenty dollars from my animals during my campaign: and very few Officers can say as much. I must confess that in spite of my numerous engagements at this juncture, a feeling of regret haunted me, at parting so abruptly with my steady animals, who had so long borne all I was worth, and had charge of. But I must admit that at night I felt relief from anxiety of my animals being stolen from the stable. Arrangements had been made for the Officers of the two Battalions to dine together. I expressed a reluctance to attend; but my friend Chitty said I must. He added "I am quite certain this scheme will prove a failure! There is not in all France a Restauranteur that can provide a dinner for 60 or 70 English Officers! I have seen the room; and intend to seat myself before the door from the cuisine; be sure to sit opposite to me; we will have a dinner, and who may, must lick their lips!" I duly complied with my friend's admonitions; and we managed to make a dinner on the "petit morceau," which the servants were continually bringing in; and on which Chitty laid an embargo according to his taste. A boiled or roasted fowl, one duck; an omelette, about enough for one person! And everything in the same proportion!! Not a joint of meat was placed on the long table or rather extended table; for it in form of an (diagram of a three side arrangement of tables) the two C.C.'s forming the centre: Chitty and myself at the upper end,, or angle, the Senior Officers presided Major General Smith, late Colonel in 1st Battalion was Chairman. They had to fight their battles o'er again 'pro passer le temps; until they obtained somewhat to eat.
Many Officers at the extremity of the table made only a spare luncheon; and numerous small supper parties were formed to make up for what was to have (been?) a dinner. The Field Officers at the head of the table quietly chatted away the time of this tedious and unsatisfactory repast: and when the Saloon was deserted, ordered a fresh dinner for themselves. After reflection suggested to my mind the good which probably resulted from all this discomforture. For, had we found the regularity and comfort of a mess room, the renewal of former friendships, and the peculiar circumstances of the Senior and Junior Battalions of the same Regiment meeting on the Continent in peaceful times, from the two extremes of Sicily and Oporto; might have produced excesses in some of us, that would have tarnished the character of the English Officers! Some old, knowing fellows of the 1st Battalion well acquainted with Continental habits, formed a party of Old Friends in a distant room; and fully enjoyed themselves. I have mentioned Major General Smith. He was beloved by every Officer and man in the whole regiment! The present General Sir Lionel Smith
I have good grounds for supposing him to be one of the natural sons of Charlotte Smith, the great novelist. I would I could give as high encomium to his brother Hankey (Haukey?) - of horse racing notoriety in India - afterwards, the mischievous Peter Plowman of Stonham in Suffolk.
I waited on my Colonel; and expressed my desire to go to England, for recovery of health. I was much astounded by the portentous attitude which he assumed and the sententious manner in which he replied - "Yes sir! The sooner you go there the better; for you have been frequently reported for disobedience to the Orders of the Medical Staff!!" He then laughed heartily; cordially shook me by the hand, "You have worn out the Campaign manfully; you shall proceed to England now; and I trust, recover your health; for verily you have endured great sufferings. I shall be heartily rejoiced my good fellow to welcome your joining the 2nd Battalion which, as you may have heard, will arrive this day. The effective men will be instantly paraded and draughted into the 1st Battalion, the aged and infirm will proceed to England or Ireland. We shall go home a mere skeleton!" In our discussion of the excellencies of this fine city, the Colonel assured me that the noble stone quay was seven miles in extent; he had ridden the whole length to ascertain the fact. I spent the rest of the day in company accounts; that is as long as I could see; but the house in which I was billeted and the street reminded me of some of the close parts of London. I was located near the very spacious square, or market place, in which we halted on our arrival; and which forms part of what may be termed the Old City: all the streets around are rather narrow; the houses lofty; and the pavement in both path and coach way very indifferent. A little southward of this part, gradually improve until you reach, what may be called the New City. Here the houses are much more modern, and uniformly handsome. The streets are very spacious, at right or handsome radiant angles; with broad gravel walks and rows of trees; and a centre road that would admit half a score carriages abreast. The Mall is very spacious; and kept in excellent order. Near the end is the Theatre; a noble building outside and within. It has a wide open plain in its front; making it a grand ornament. The orchestra is very large; and was most effectually filled. The Garonne here may not be probably wider than the Thames: but it was difficult to draw a comparison: there were no crowds of shipping to beguile the eye; and the opposite bank covered with brush wood and trees, gradually rising from its margin, failed all judgement.
Capital and uniform houses faced the noble quay full three hundred yards from the river; leaving a space sufficient for all the commerce of London to be carried on without bustle or confusion. What was transacting seemed to be the result of late events and only the beginning of prosperity to this beautiful port. To the eye of an Englishman, it was a curious sight to behold long ranges of open casks of wine, waiting the fiat of the customs officers and of the merchant, to be bunged down and shipped off. The Custom House forms a segment of a circle; and is very ornamental By the slight view, which I could gain, the interior appeared to be convenient, correspondingly. The park without the city, is not extensive: but the utmost is made of the space.
An untoward event, after parade this morning, has totally upset our quietitude: and we were ordered to march to camp in the afternoon; which is actually to bivouac, for we have no animals to carry our ragged tents; or our baggage or canteens. The Order must have been given under the indignation of the moment, without any consideration: for we Officers, who knew not, and could not know, aught of the circumstances, are most punished! We were living very amicably with our Firs Battalion. But when the Second arrived, they resumed the taunts and jeers about "Dear Babe, and the Sweet Young Children" - until one young chap in our Light Company offered to fight one of the old fellows. Our Light Company were quartered in a street, at the north west angle of the Grand Square: and when they saw it clear, came out, in fatigue dress, to support their spirited comrade. A regular pugilistic fight ensued. As my be imagined, the inhabitants crowded to their upper windows to behold the extraordinary scene. The Guard of French soldiers sallied forth from their Guard House, with fixed bayonets to disperse the assembly: but our Light Bobs, without arms, closed around the Guard, nearly as numerous as themselves and in the most good natured manner and jocularity forced them back to their Guard House; and kept them therein, until our Light Bob gave the Old fellow a sound drubbing. No violence, beyond quietly shoving, was offered to the Guard: they felt an interest in, and would gladly have witnessed the affray; as explained to them in Portuguese, Spanish and garbled French: and rejoiced to learn that the Younger Combatant had conquered. On which they resumed their duty, as if nothing had occurred. The circumstance was, however, reported to the Authorities; and we were ordered to leave the city. On proceeding to the Heath of San a Hone, about a league and half; a young Sheppard came to meet us. He was mounted on stilts, full four feet from the ground; and compassed four or five yards at every stride. On his shoulder he bore a well proportioned pole, at least twelve feet in length. As he passed many jocular remarks were exchanged but only understood by the good humour of both parties. We had made but little progress 'ere the Sheppard overtook us on our reverse flank! He had in fact walked round us in this short time; and proceeded to the Heath, to announce our arrival. Where we found him, seated on the upper rail of a Suttler's wagon, supported by his long pole! Curiosity could not fail to draw our Irish lads to inspect such an unusual being. And very soon one of them proposed to wrestle with the Sheppard: the length of his pole was the distance defined. He then took his pole I both hands as a counterpoise. Pat made a sudden rush at the stilts - the Sheppard thew out one of his legs and laid Paddy sprawling on the ground. He again took his distance: and Pat renewed his attack; but was again brought to the ground. After a third attempt Pat good humouredly treated the Sheppard with a quintilla of wine. This diverting scene had so engrossed my attention that I had not surveyed the large camp, which we had joined. I found here was waiting for embarkations to America, the 3rd, 9th, 39th. 40th, 44th, 57th, 76th, 81st, and 88th Regiments. A peltingstoun (pelting stoun ?) of rain, for nearly an hour, thoroughly soaked us. This forced on me the reflection, "What can I do this night? lying on the wet ground surcharged with Mercury as I am, would be my death!! A small house had been assigned to our Commandant Major Thomas. I went to him - he replied - My dear poor fellow! Why did you not come sooner? I have given leave to so many, that not half can find room to lie down on. But do you come and take your chance. Musing on my forlorn prospect I wandered to the tent of Surgeon Bulkeley - surgeon of the 9th - late of the 8th. He received me most cordially and declared that I should not leave his tent, for he would supply me with a blanket for the night. In my evening ramble I me again and had a long conversation with Lieutenant James Day of the Horse Artillery.
May 29th, Sunday.
Nothing could exceed the assiduous kindness of my friend Bulkeley (Bulkeby ?) and his chum, Captain A - who lived in the same tent. I enjoyed a good night's rest.
Captain A ( I am sorry I cannot now recall the good fellows name correctly) had lost his right arm at the shoulder. I felt grieved that such a high spirited and fine young man was so mutilated! and could but admire the alacrity with which he shaved and dressed himself with his left hand only. It was past noon 'ere we received and pitched our tents. When I found myself so unwell, that I was obliged to lie down; when I obtained a short nap; then dressed; to join my friend Chitty's mess with some of his old comrades from the 1st and 2nd Battalions. But I could not feel at home with so many strangers.
It has been very showery all day. I wrote to my good old friend Close of 48th. It may be, we are for every separated! Also wrote Captain Geddes; and to Lieutenant Norton of the 34th respecting my dollars.
I have received a kind letter from Norton; assuring me that he had paid to my brother Officer 66 dollars for me. Also a note from Captain Geddes acknowledging that he had received them. An Order was received the evening for the issue of two months pay.
The remainder of the 2nd Battalion is to come to camp this day.
This is the last memorandum in my diary! And I must proceed with my Journal without specifying dates. In consequence of our conference on the 27th of last month, with Colonel MacLean I was ordered to return to the city; and attend a Medical Board. And the result was, that I was peremptorily ordered to return to England. The 3rd Battalion embarked for America. I went on board of the Transport ship, and settled the accompts of the 5th Company. I had nearly accomplished my duty, when Major Mills, in command of the Regiment, enquired what I was about! On my reply, he rejoined, "Sir you are on board; and I insist on your proceeding with us; you want to shirk duty!!" To which I very quietly responded - 'Major Mills, I refer you to those Officers behind you, that know me! They will tell you when I ever shirked my duty!! Major I am acting agreeable to the Orders of Colonel MacLean: moreover - I am ordered by a Medical Board to repair forthwith, to England!!' But I must request of you, Major Mills, to nominate an Officer to receive over the accompts of this Company. My friend Chitty was close behind, and pulled the Major round by his elbow; and I imagine, explained my situation; for Major Mills soon called forward a Lieutenant to take charge of the Company, and to receive over the accompts. My old chum, Tom Radcliffe stood hard by, and attentively regarded the above altercation. When I had accomplished my business, Tom addressed me - "You have ever been a cool hand; and you have proved it in this instance. Why blood and nouns! But I should have been in a towering rage with that Major!!" No Tom! No!! there was no occasion, for I had the advantage! and you saw how he slunk away. But, Tom, heed well what you have just witnessed and never lay yourself open to your new Commanding Officer!! I now felt myself at large; and as the transports were to drop the river with the morning's tide, I lingered on board reluctant to say farewell to Officers and soldiers, with whom I had shared so many dangers. I noticed that my old chum, Tom Radcliffe was unusual grave and thoughtful; and at length made him confess, that his finances were low; that he required more clothing for a cold climate; but had not been able to find anyone who would cash his bill on his father in Dublin, for twenty pounds. And that in truth he was not authorized to draw it until the end of this month. I well knew that - but urged him to consider the disadvantage of the present exchange; for an English Guinea was worth twenty six shillings! All I could urge availed not. I could not bear to see my worthy friend so depressed on embarking for another campaign; so offered him sixteen guineas on his promising that his father should remit twenty pounds to my agent in London. This was not done. And when in Ireland, I had to deem his Reverence for the money. And after two years received it in Irish currency. I had observed many soldiers resting on the hatchways of the transport. Having crossed the plank on to the quay, I gave a parting look towards my old comrades; and observed that these soldiers belonged to the Seventh, Fifth, and Fourth
Companies, which I had commanded. I could not turn away, without a valediction - so waving my hand, I said aloud, "Good by! God bless you lads!" - this gave electric shock - and I received three hearty cheers - which made me hurry to my quarters with a heart brim full!! I felt a great satisfaction, not that I knew the state of his finances, that I gave my friend Tom my canteen of tin pots, plates and kettle, when I left the camp.
My billet was only a short distance from my good friend Pollock; who was as desirous of my society, as I was of his; for both of us felt bereaved. We two went every morning, some little distance to a coffee, for our breakfast. The room was very spacious, supported by iron pillars; and unpanelled all round by large mirrors; that we saw our noble selves reflected in every direction - but that was not our point of attraction! No! by no means. We obtained most excellent coffee, with scalded and cold cream; excellent rolls, cold and hot; good butter; strawberries, or grapes; as we wished: all, at the moderate charge of about two shillings.
Captain Geddes was billeted at a silversmith's the corner of our street. His house faced the very spacious street, or mall, reaching down to the river. Geddes kindly invited me, to witness a Grand Roman Catholic procession, The Elevation of the Host; in commemoration of the restoration of Peace. The Silversmith had invited his numerous friends and customers. As Gedde's apartments were on the first floor; the rooms were filled with select company - all females; for their fathers, husbands and brothers, were in attendance on the procession. There were many very elegant and really beautiful women: and every one in full costume. Geddes spoke French fluently: and being a very gentlemanly, quiet, and good looking fellow, got on well with all. I grievously lamented my ignorance of the language: for many lovely ladies, noting my invalid appearance kindly endeavoured to understand my broken sentences. I thought to get free from their kind importunities, by declaring I had not been wounded, but was suffering from Coup de Soliel. This was a most unlucky declaration! For instantly curiosity suggested innumerable questions. When and how did it happen. What did I feel at the time, and what were my sufferings etc etc, that I was obliged to call Geddes to help me out of my new difficulty. I was quite rejoiced when the procession came in view; for then I was in peace; and could gaze with other spectators. But in the interval of its returning, I was attacked by a very lovely elegant lady, and her daughter, worthy of such a mother. They assured me that what little I did talk was good; and that if I would but try I should soon acquire the language; for it was very easy. I could not make them comprehend that the exertion was too much for me. Of the procession, suffice it to say, there were hundreds, perhaps I might say,, thousands of people, attending all the paraphernalia of Roman Catholic absurdities, and burning wax candles and tapers of every size imperiously vieing with the gloriously shining sun.
Our companion Tom Radecliff had left us and sailed for America: this drew Pollock and myself more closely intimate. After breakfast, one morning, my friend Carlisle, in one of his thoughtful moods, said, Walk with me to the large music in the adjoining street. I wish to purchase a set of the best harp strings, that can be procured in France. When looking over my M:S:Music Book, you have oft times admired the elegant writing; and run your jokes very hard about the name of Caroline, attached to many favourite airs. I expressed my fears, that I had occasionally pressed my jocularity too far! No! never he emphatically rejoined!! - it was my serious thoughts that made you think so. The theme was always grateful although producing painful reflections. Were you to see Caroline, you would admire her much more even than you have her writing!! Most probably, I added. She is doubtless very musical. O! yes - quite a proficient; especially on the harp! When the 2nd Battalion reaches England, I will instantly apply for leave of absence; which cannot be refused, after my eight years campaign in the Peninsula. It is now more than ten years since my cousin Caroline and I parted. I have written to her frequently; but have never heard from, or of her! This reflection may have caused my abstraction, when associating with esteemed friends. And now, like an incubus, haunts me with painful forebodings; and repress the pleasure I ought to anticipate on revisiting my family! - but I will have my fate - and fathom the mystery!! The purchase made, I expressed my fervent raisons, that when we should meet again in England, I might receive his assurance that all strings had sounded in unison!! It was late in the following spring ere Pollock rejoined the 2nd Battalion; stationed in the New Barracks, at Gosport: where he obtained a Captains Room, upstairs in the North wing. It is true, we had a medley of Officers; from the three Battalions; and also from the Depot which had joined. But there were some few Peninsula chums present: all of whom marked with much regret the evident alteration in our much esteemed Old Comrade - whose only enjoyment seemed to be more than ever centred in his solitary flute.
I was at that juncture in command of a Company and also occupied in arduous duties, as Acting Adjutant: drilling some young Officers, and an almost weekly batch of raw recruits: besides draughting men; to complete the 1st Battalion for service (as it proved) at Waterloo: and soon after to the 3rd Battalion for service in France. With all the multifarious, transfer, and embarkation, returns incidental thereto - sufficient to addle the brains of some men - that I had no leisure for friendly intercourse. When superintending my Drill Squads before the North Wing, my voice would occasionally draw my friend to his open window to exchange nods. And frequently was my attention to the Drill diverted by listening by the prevailing melancholy strains from Pollock's room! One Irish melody seemed to take the lead of all other tunes.
The Harp, that once thro' Tara's Halls
The soul of Music shed;
Now hangs as mute in Tara's wall
As if that soul was fled.
Whenever I could run up to my friends room I felt as if I was intruding; for conversation soon flagged. Past scenes, and passing events, were alike indifferent to him. I found myself one day more than usually free from duty. Recollecting that my friend Pollock was engaged in the odious duty of Guard, over convicts, working on the fortifications I joined him, in his solitary walk, on the parapets. And I was rejoiced to find my society was here acceptable. We conversed about Old Comrades and past service, in the cordial manner we were once wont: which enabled me, in as delicate a way as I could, to speak of Bordeaux; and enquire the success of the Harp Strings? This struck a chord which vibrated most forcibly - my friend started as if electrified! - in a space, rallied himself - and replied - True! True!! I now recollect you were with me: and I likewise remember your ominous, kind wishes, when I had made purchase! So I will relate the sequence - for you are the only person, to whom I can confide my grief!! Then as if recollecting that he had still a confidential friend - he told me - "Not one of my numerous letters ever reached Caroline's hand. And her letters to me, were also intercepted by some member of her family. She was continually urged to forget a man, who had forgotten her, or he would (have) written to her!" At length, worn out by such insidious remonstrances, she yielded to the wishes of her family - and became the wife of another!! I found her surrounded by four lovely children, but I could not notice them - for, you can readily imagine, the meeting was agonizing to both of us! I presented the Harp Strings, as proof that I had not forgotten her, and left the house, resolved never to see her again!!"
The other topic of our friendly conversation is irrelevant to this epoch of my Journal: but I will relate it here as a sequence to the foregoing.
It will at least serve as a proof that, as, "there is honor among thieves." - so is there among soldiers; despite the obloquy so unsparingly heaped on them by the money-getting people of England.
I sympathized most sincerely with my disconsolate friend, and expressed my sorrow that my suspicions were so sadly fulfilled! I told him, I have noticed you attentively since you rejoined us; and have been much grieved to mark how much you have secluded yourself from society, even from your old and intimate chums! I am afraid, said my forlorn companion, I must plead guilty to your charge - for truly my spirit is almost broken!! But by way of palliation, I will further confess that I have not told you all the persecutions to which I have been subjected. No young man ever entered the army with brighter prospects of success than myself; for my family could have claimed the best of interest, in my behalf: but because of my attachment to Caroline, I was left to make my own way as I could. I obtained my Lieutenancy by the routine of promotion: and have presented a strong memorial, as you know, to the Commander in Chief, well seconded by our Colonel, and some General Officers, for a Captaincy and I feel so confident of success, that I will not apply to any one of my family. In short, I have experienced such treatment, such studied neglect from some of my relatives, that I should not be in a hurry to see them again!! I will not revisit Ireland, unless duty compels me!!
When I had made the brief reply, which the great delicacy of the communication sanctions, I was resolved to avail myself of the opportunity which had so unexpectedly occurred, and went on to say, "My old friend Pollock, I rejoice that you have again admitted me to your confidence! - and I will prove myself worthy of that confidence, by admonishing you of the dangers of the precipice, on which you are now thoughtlessly treading. It is very natural that your feelings so deeply wounded, as inevitably they must be, that you should feel gratified by the kindness from a family in this place, with whom, recollect, mere chance brought you acquainted. You have, thereby, been drawn into a flirtation with their young lady visitor; of whose family and connections you know nothing. Under the circumstances which you have related you can have no thoughts of matrimony! - and I well know you are too honorable to think of disgracing the poor girl!! All you old acquaintances have conversed with me on this topic. And now, to their kind wishes, I will add my most fervent request, that you will instantly break off this acquaintance - for - recollect, you are not justified in gaining a woman's affections unless you intend to make her your wife!! My poor oppressed friend, ardently seized my hand thanked me fervently, and promised he would never again go to the house. The next day, after the Paymaster had mustered the Regiment, my esteemed friend Robert Carlisle Pollock, started off to London: where he found his promotion to a Company in a Garrison Battalion, then on duty at the Tower; which he instantly joined. And we have never again met. He afterwards purchased a majority: married a lady of good family and fortune: and I am rejoiced to see his name now in the List as Full Colonel!!
After this long digression, I must return to Bourdeaux. And my next topic will offer a very singular contrast to the foregoing. I went to ask our Colonel if he could give any information as to when Captain Geddes and myself might expect to obtain passage to England. I found our esteemed Commander more than usually animated and jocose. On my entering, he exclaimed - I am glad you are come for I want an old Companion to laugh with me, and talk over the strange, the most strange, even I must think, that ever occurred - which I have just witnessed. Did you not meet Harry Wolseley, Paymaster of the 3rd Battalion on the stairs? And did you know that Harry was a married man? No! Truly I did not meet the "Immortal" Harry - and certainly never suspected him to be a Benedict! Well, added the Colonel, I cannot imagine what could be Harry's motive. I was engaged here writing, when Paymaster Wolseley was announced, and ushered in; accompanied by a very prepossing, well dressed, gentlewoman - whom he at once introduced as this wife! He had no Official topic to talk about, but our conversation was various, and did not slack. And in the course of it I learned that the Twain - once, One, had mutually agreed to separate. And that Madame had been some years, the mistress, of one of the French Marshals!! Hearing that her "Lawful Husband" was here with his regiment, she had resolved to pay him a "friendly" visit!! They were, apparently, on most friendly terms; and talked of former times with the utmost indifference. I found likewise that the Madame could not make a long visit; for she is to start tomorrow on her return. But what could induce the woman, after such a long separation, to come such a distance to visit the husband, from whom she had - it appears - voluntarily separated herself? Can you imagine?
I replied - In truth, Colonel, I can only imagine that - although not a Field Marshal, the Fair, Frail One, is a good tactician - and has come hither to recognoiter: that if, - after the change of events, which have already taken place in this country, the Marshal should find it expedient to reduce his 'staff!' - she was desirous to return to her husbands protection!!
The Colonel was amused by, and admitted the probability of, my solution of his question. But, he added, how could Harry Wolesley recognise a woman, of such a character? I answered - Allow me to recount an anecdote from A Militia Mess Table, and I think I shall be able to solve your second problem!!
My servant George Bane, was a married man: but left his wife in Suffolk, when the Regiment marched to Newcastle on Tine. Some time before I joined, George obtained a furlough, to visit his aged parents. At a very late hour of the night, George knocked at his father's cottage: his mother at the chamber window, recognised her son's voice; and exclaimed - Oh, George! My dear boy George! - don't come here - for you wife has been playing such tricks! - she is - this - that - & the other!!! - In his wonted glum manner, George replied - Ah, well! - come down, and let me in - never you mind! - for if she have broken a pitcher, I have broken a Gotch!! - which in the East Anglian dialect, is a coarse jug, or pitcher. Thus I can imagine, that Harry Wolseley feels disposed to cut tallies (ties, talkies?) with his wife as readily as Old George Bean did. Our Colonel was highly diverted by, and thankful for my exposition of his dilemma.
Henry, or Harry, Wolseley, was one of the extraordinary characters, met in Military life. A younger son of Sir Charles Wolseley, Bart., in - I think, Staffordshire; and of Radical notoriety - was an Officer in some Dragoon Regiment. But was compelled by his reckless imprudence to resign his position. It was a very generally supposition, that Harry obtained the Paymastership of our 3rd Battalion by his influence with our Colonel in Chief, Earl Moira as being a Free Mason. Certes! Nature never intended Harry for an Accountant!! He joined us at Eschalloôn, before we left our Cantonments in 1813, clad in a blue Surtout of most military cut; a regular Wellington cocked-hat; and tremendously long Staff plume: an ample supply of camp equipage: and private, with military servants. That few of our way-faring Generals could show such. All the Officers of the regiment were abashed by the prodigious swell of our new Paymaster; and kept aloof until duty brought them into contact: when every one forgot the dash of the Old Dragoon; and hailed the frank, open-hearted, gentlemanly, Harry Wolseley. I had not been very intimate with Wolseley: but at Bourdeaux circumstances brought us very much together. And I shall ever retain a pleasing recollection of our friendly intercourse! He had apartments at a first rate hotel, very near our billets; where there was an excellent table d'hote, at 2 o'clock for three francs; which my friend Pollock and I regularly attended; as well our friend Harry. Here he was in his own element; for with him, society was the soul of existence! Our hilarity astonished, the really genteel assembly, both male and female, present: all of whom had strongly imbued the French opinion, that an Englishman was always a sullen, churlish fellow. Harry had alluded to this national impression: and would, frequently, on noticing the surprise of the company, at our merriment, recount in French, - which he spoke most fluently - our campaigning anecdotes; to the great delight of all present. That, it is a fact, the company at the Table d'Hote, became more numerous. If I should form an opinion from what we daily saw at this Table d'Hote, I should say, the French know nothing of what the English comprehend, by enjoying "the Festive Board!" Every- person seemed to attend for the sole purpose of mechanically satisfying the cravings of nature; which being accomplished, each person bolted off, according to the expedition each individual had made. Thus we three, Wolseley, Pollack, myself, were generally left in full possession of the Sal a Manger. And here we enjoyed many pleasant hours: for, generally we sat until near 6 o'clock when the Theatre opened. It was the old sociability of the Mess Table, which each enjoyed; for we drank very little wine. I will admit, that on one occasion we had two bottles of champaign: which our friend Harry extolled so highly. And on another, Harry would insist on our partaking with him. On each occasion the scene was highly diverting: Harry was exhilarated; with one foot on his chair, and the other on the table; with arms and hands extended; he arraigned Lord Castlereagh, and every Tory in the House of Commons with the utmost flow of words: - and ended by protesting that what he had said was incontrovertible for the "Immortal Harry Wolseley" had pronounced it!! When this enthusiasm was over, the Immortal Harry, accompanied us to the Theatre, as placidly as any "Mortal Gentleman." I must confess I said to the Immoral Harry, the rudest speech, I ever made to any man! But he, fortunately, took it in the jocular sense, in which I related it. Meeting him on the stairs to his apartments, he grasped my hand in a Masonic manner; which I could not return. He exclaimed, Oh! Why are you not a Mason? I replied I beseech you do not ask me! This only awakened curiosity. And in a long good natured altercation I unfortunately said, I had a Family prejudice against Masonry. This was like an electric spark. Harry compelled me to confess. My grandfather was a Mason; and would have died a much richer man if he had not. My uncle Robert was in the Militia, when that force was first raised: on revisiting his parents he expressed to his father his earnest desire to become a Mason. My grandfather's laconic reply was, "Bob, decidedly not!" Why Sir, rejoined my uncle, your particular friend Captain Mason, in whose Company I am, is one of the craft, and many of our Officers likewise. And as you are a Free Mason I did not expect you would object to my becoming one also. "For that very reason, Bob! One fool in a family is enough!!" - was my grandfather's ultimatum.
Captain Geddes, as well as myself became very impatient for our promised Transport to England. He, poor fellow, with his shattered thigh, was not able to exert himself. By our Colonel's advice I took the Passage Boat down the Garonne to Podilac, a considerable town, at the mouth of the river. But there were no ships in port. I spent three very pleasant days here, with my brother Officer Captain Bass: who, on our reaching Bordeaux, was sent hither, by a Medical Board, for the benefit of the sea air. He was one of the Officers who joined us from the Catalonian Officer. And after the battle of Pamplona was ordered by Lieutenant General Sir Lowry Cole to act as Brigade Major; although Major General Anson had appointed me to that post. Bass suffered severely from scurvy on his legs. And on his arrival applied to a resident Physician: whom first prescription was a walk in the country: during which he showed Bass the plant of the Tanzy - there, he said, gather a double-handful of that; make a strong infusion; and drink of it, a third of a pint, thrice a day: and you will need no Physician. I will not pick your pocket! This disinterested advice afforded Bass the utmost benefit; who respected the man, for his generous conduct. But he was a strong specimen of a French Atheist! A very shrewd intelligent man; whose professional abilities required a wider field of action. He spoke the English language freely. And sought our company whenever he could. Complaining of the twaddle of the town. He visited Bass soon after my arrival. On his leaving us, Philip Bass said - I cannot help liking that man, although he is decidedly an Atheist - but his unwearied flow of spirits, his ever ready wit, and good humour, render his company very acceptable. Soon after my arrival here, he came in, with an assumed look of gravity; and said - "We are to have 'A Grand Rareeshow' today! The Host is to be elevated through the streets; in commemoration of peace. You will see my wife and sister in the group as grave as mustard-pots, with wax tapers, as long my arm. And I am appointed One, to support the Canopy. If I do not attend I shall be excommunicated and lose all my Practise - but don't you look at me, and make me laugh!" he came the next day to discuss the whole proceeding. And mentioned with much glee, that before the procession begun, four English sailors strolling up the town, with bottle and glass in hand, seated themselves, and drank to all friends in Old England, on what was intended the High Altar, for the centre of the town; until the Gendarms drove them out.
One day, when on the jetty, on the look out for ships coming in with the tide, I saw only one apparently an English Brig of War, lying to, at the entrance of the river; and three boats laden with men, leave her; and pull hard into port. As they approached, the little jetty, and the beach were thronged with people of both sexes, with most anxiously animated countenances. I learned that the boats were bringing home French sailors who had been prisoners in England; and who belonged to this port and its neighbourhood. It is totally impossible to describe the scene when the fine fellows landed - the kissing - hugging - laughing - shouting - the joyful tears - the singing - shouting - jumping - dancing!! In fact, heartfelt joy knew no bounds, or how to vent itself! It was truly a most interesting scene - far too much for my state of health; that as soon as I could I returned someway towards the town: but as the tide had another hour to follow, I watched for more ships.
The crowd followed: and my hand learned perpetual motion by acknowledging the very numerous shouts from the prisoners of 'Vive les Englis.' Their relatives were astonished and delighted, to see them in such good plight, so clean and comfortable. One man, a young fellow, who spoke tolerable English, exclaimed aloud - 'Oh England is a fine country to live in! Prosperity to the brave, the generous English!!" - having released my hand from his cordial grasp, I made for my friend Bass' quarters.
About ten days afterwards Captain Geddes and I, took our departure for Old England on board a Transport, of about 300 tons: accompanied by Brevet Major Beckwith of the Rifles; who afterwards lost his leg at Waterloo; his twenty seventh personal conflict with the French. There was also a Lieutenant, whose name, and regiment I forget: who was taken prisoner, on 26th July, at the Pass of Maya. He interested us very much by describing the gallant conduct of a fine but unfortunate Volunteer attached to his advanced Company; who, from an isolated piece of rock kept up a deliberate and effective fire, on the head of the approaching enemy. Having expended his ammunition, he descended just as the French rushed forward in great strength. And Lieutenant - saw the poor fellow shot and bayoneted with the utmost Tiger-like fury - and himself a prisoner. Lieutenant &ldots; was marched to Verdun: where he experienced great kindness, and even pecuniary assistance from Lord - who was also a prisoner. There were very peculiar circumstances attending his Lordship's fate. As Captain of Dragoons his name was in Orders for Advanced Piquet at night. During the day an English Mail arrived; bringing due notification of his Lordship's promotion to the vacant Majority. In a true chivalrous spirit he would not shirk the turn of Duty as a Captain. His piquet was over-powered: and after a gallant defence, taken prisoner.
Major Beckwith was a fine, gentlemanly young high spirited fellow - the exact prototype of a Rifleman. His unwearied flow of spirits kept us in good humour during two days and nights in a dead calm, in the middle of the Bay of Biscay; when the sails and ropes flapped against the masts; and the vessel rocking from stem to stern incessantly. There were ten or a dozen ships in the fleet. The one nearest to us, during this calm, was much larger, and had on board chiefly Dragoon Officers. Who amused themselves by throwing a corked bottle on the sea; and firing at it with their pistols. This was a pleasing divertion to them; but by no means such to us! - for some of their bullets glanced on the face of the swell, came over our deck in a very unpleasant proximity - that we were obliged to hail and desire them to desist. We felt very reluctant to interfere with the sports of these Royal Dragoons because we were very unwelcome neighbours to them. Theirs was the largest and best sailing ship in the fleet: and ours was the worst sailor. We had scarcely lost sight of land when the Commodore fired a gun, and signalled for our ship to make more sail. Our Master or Skipper, replied he could not. The next signal required him to state "Why not?" His rejoinder was - "I have been lying, for near three years in various harbours, with Commissariat stores; and my vessel wants careening!" On receiving which, the Commodore ordered this larger and faster ship to lay to, and take our in tow! This order annoyed the crews of both ships: and placed us within a short hawser's length of these bottle-breaking aspirants. Major Beckwith was on deck, reading a volume of Voltaire's work: and when tired with his study, began to banter our Skipper, how he could manage to steer without sails, such a huge, unwieldily bark as the Ark? - and where he could stow provender for so many animals? The Skipper did not relish this close questioning of his seamanship: at which Beckwith chafed him the more. But in so doing, advanced so far into the French Infidelity, that we requested him to drop the conversation. The Skipper noting our remarks, turned a full front on his opponent and in a glum sailor's voice loudly exclaimed "I'll tell you, what it is Major! - unless you burn those damned books, and throw their ashes over-board, we shall never have a fair wind!!"
What a contrast "The Bay of Biscay, Oh!" (Old song) presented to my view! On my voyage to Portugal "The boiling surges mixed with the clouds Death rode the Storm; and Humanity dropped a fruitless (doubtful) tear for the toiling mariner, whose heart was sinking with dismay!!" (Keith's Sketches) Now there was not the slightest ripple on the long rolling swell; which kept us reeling, that not even a plate could stand on our mess table! The waters were like a sea of molten glass! We saw innumerable fishes scudding around us. And the very large Dogfishes dashed to our sides with shark-like rapacity.
It was too dark, when we entered Plymouth harbour, to take any note. All passengers were eager to gain land: and many instantly got on board the night coach about to start. My friend and self engaged rooms: enjoyed a quiet cup of tea: and retired to rest, as well as we could: but both suffered too much to partake freely of our return to England!!
My friend's severe wound like my painful head, seemed displeased with the exchange from the motion of the sea to the quietude of land! We could not afford any comfort to each other!! So that, soon after breakfast, I walked myself out to view the town and fortifications. But wandered heedlessly; without any clue to objects worthy of notice: that truly, I recollect nothing of this famed sea port.
We had an early dinner: and about 3pm ensconced ourselves in the Stage Coach for London. About midnight we reached Exeter. Where my companion was obliged to stop: his would was too painful to enable him to proceed further. He lent me five guineas; in case I should not be able to accomplish the whole of the long journey for my purse was become small; from having lent the twenty pounds to my old chum Radcliffe on his embarking for America. I doggedly pursued my longsome journey; but was thoroughly knocked up, when I reached our appointed quarters late the following evening. And soon went to my bed. Poor Geddes did not join till three days after. Having a full month unexpired of my sick furlough, I was resolved, bearing in mind Dr Christie's opinion so decidedly expressed at Rentereia, that my sufferings resulted from a Coup de Soliel, - to obtain the opinions of private, and unprejudiced Medical men; before I again came under the control of Military Medicoes. I stated my case to my cousin George Fincham, Surgeon in Spring Gardens: who, next morning accompanied me to Dr Lynn; in Parliament Street. Who, I afterwards found, was an Assistant Examiner to the Military Medical Board; which coincidence excused me afterwards from being ordered to reside within an appointed district to be visited by a Staff Surgeon. I paid the Doctor's fee with the utmost satisfaction! - he patiently listened to my statement; and the different opinions I had heard: and then expressed most unequivocally, and emphatically, "Sir, you have had two critical escapes for your life - first from the effect of sun; and secondly, from being poisoned with Mercury! It will be months before we can set you right!! And, but for your very strong constitution, you would not have reached this house, to tell your tale!!"
My brother drove to town; and conveyed me to his hospitable house, in Surrey: which was my comfortable hospital for six months. During this interval, I visited my Colonel, on his return. And congratulated him on his promotion to the rank of Colonel - from Lieutenant Colonel. He replied, "I thank you, my good fellow - for I know you are sincere! It is fine! - all very fine!! - that after forty four years service - and the last eight years in the Peninsula, never been absent from my regiment - and having been wounded three or four times - I have now the "Honor" of being "Full Colonel," on seventeen shillings and six pence per diem!! When I go to dine with these wealthy Londoners, the butler who takes away my plate, is better paid than I am - although his life has never been endangered!! But we will turn from this subject. When you entered this room, I did not recognise you, in plain clothes!" I replied, "Why truly Sir John (for he was become a K.C.B.) I scarcely knew myself - for this long flapped coat is yet very queer to me! He laughed at my joke; and declared that he could not reconcile himself to plain clothes; after wearing uniform so many years. We were both in a similar predicament with our highly esteemed brother Officer Lieutenant Wright: whose brothers met at Cork and welcomed his return, after twenty years absence. Always cheerful, Jack's open manly countenance beamed with its wonted hilarity. But next morning at breakfast; Jack was serious, fidgety, and uncomfortable: he could not be reconciled to the long-tailed Blue Coat, lent him! The party sallied forth to view the improvement of the city, during his absence. Ere they turned the corner of the first street, Jack declared he had forgotten something; and requested his brothers to wait three minutes 'till he returned. He hastened back to the hotel: slipped on his weather beaten old Red Jacket: and bounded back with a light heart, and a Hart-like step! - exclaiming "Now I will go anywhere, with you - for Jack Wright is all right again! Bad-luck to that long-tailed Blue Coat - everybody was looking at me!!" Such is the force of habit.
Prior to the 24th I joined the 2nd Battalion at Sand Down, in the Isle of Wight. The small barrack was fully occupied by Officers who had come from Ireland with our Depot. These "Home Service Gentry," were no favourites with our Colonel Sir John MacLean - for - although some three or four were my Seniors, I was soon ordered to the Charge of a Company. The reason did not invite excursions: that excepting long walks, I saw but little of the beauties of this sweet island.
We marched to Newport, and took possession of that fine Barrack.
We all felt assured that this would be our resting place, until our 1st and 3rd Battalions should return from America. We were very amicable. Although, never did such an heterogeneous community assemble! The candour, and gentlemanly behaviour of Officers returned from active Service, totally abashed the arrogance and selfishness of our 'Dèpot Rangers'! They could not help feeling how little claim they had to the character of soldiers, beyond their commissions and their Red Jackets. Two or three honest good fellows expressed their chagrin, and regretted extremely that they had been so ill advised by Major Neynoe commanding the Depot; who managed to keep his own favourites at home. I think I have already mentioned, that when this Major, but then Lieutenant Colonel Neynoe made his appearance at Bourdeaux - "when all the wars were over" (old song) no Officers would notice him, excepting a very few juniors, who had known him at home. He was so sensible of "Cut, direct," - that he soon made himself scarce. With such incongruity of members: with out a Mess Fund - or Materials - and the uncertainty of the Reduction of the Regiment; all organisation was postponed. A provisional committee was formed: who established an economical and comfortable Mess, at an Inn. The room was small, for so large a party; but all together we were very comfortable.
I shall never forget one incident connected wit this Mess. My highly esteemed friend Dr McRoberts, our Surgeon, feeling, one day very unwell and chilly from a cold he had caught placed himself with his back to the fire. Soon after dinner, and before the Prince Regent's allowance of wine was exhausted; McRoberts received an urgent request to attend Captain Bass who was confined to his bed, with violent rheumatic fever. Mac obeyed the summons with his wonted good nature. On arriving, he accosted his patient "Well my poor friend Philip how are you?" Bass replied - I am in excruciating pain; and you must give me some thing to take!! "Oh yes - rejoined Mac - Take! Take!!" Well exclaimed Bass - What can I take? "Why Phil, you must take three pails of hot water." What! Exclaimed the patient - how am I to take that that quantity? "Why Phil, you must take three spoonful at a time!!" Good night! - good night Mac!! Bass retorted: I hope you will in the morning, be able to afford me some more efficient relief.
McRoberts could not have drank more than three glasses of wine! - that it proves how insidious is the progress of inebriation!!
By introduction from my friend Hayes of Northampton, with whom I became acquainted soon after joining the 48th Regiment there I knew many families at Newport: and freely enjoyed with them the comforts of civil life!
In the stormy month of February, we were ordered across to Wilsea (Hilsea ?) Barracks; near Portsmouth. At 3 o'clock in the morning we marched for Ryde to avail ourselves of the tide. A more comfortless morning no one would wish to encounter! A driving rain; and the sky as dark as pitch. At Ryde a soldiers wife stepped over the quay, and had a very narrow escape from being drowned. Our passage across was very boisterous. Half the deck of the Packet was constantly under water; and our little Drummers hanging on the shrouds; and their Drums floating above their heads. Thee was abundance of sickness but the waves kept the deck clean. The few who were not ill, were mutually rejoiced to land at Portsmouth. At Hilsea my friend Boyle and I obtained a Captains Quarters with two rooms; and were very comfortable after the first night, when we slept on the floors. The Master of the Canteen, on old Mess man, undertook to Mess us, in a regular way; and we got on very well. Soon after this a new Mess Committee was appointed: and despite of the great reluctance, and remonstrances of each of us, Captain Amiel and myself were obliged to comply with the unanimous vote; and become the active members; our Junior members not taking any &ldots;.
We received from Government Stores, packages of utensils belonging to the Mess of the 2nd Battalion packed up in haste, on leaving Sicily 3 or 4 years before. Superintending the unpacking was truly a painful task; it was grievous to see such destruction of valuable articles. Dish covers, knives and forks red with rust, broke through corroded table clothes, some twelve yards long, which were expressly woven in Scotland, with Lord Moira's arms in the centre, and interspersed with Regimental badges. Scarcely anything was useful!!
With much trouble and anxiety, and with some expense, we had sundry articles polished and were able to furnish a very tolerable Mess Table. We had scarcely effected all our plans, when the Corpse was ordered across the harbour to the new barracks at Gosport: which were built expressly for an Hospital for Military returning from foreign service; consequently, with spacious accommodation for men; there was a limited number of Officers rooms: but those were very good.
My friend Boyle and I, took rooms at the New Inn facing the Portcullis Gateway in the fortifications of Portsmouth: and were very comfortable.
I was one day ordered on the unpleasant duty of Convict Guard. We mustered at five in the morning. I applied to Lieutenant Adair, our Acting Adjutant for instructions. My Guard was supplied with ammunition; and ordered to prime and load; and I was to receive further instructions from the Superintendent of Convicts. We were at our post within the fortifications before 6 o'clock when more than 200 convicts, heavily ironed, landed from the hulks, to work on the face of the parapets. I soon found that my duty was irksome but not very onerous. I had some four or five sentinels; whose orders were, that should the prisoners prove refractory, to shoot the ringleaders. There was no probability of such an event: for the felons seemed pleased to be on "terra firma;" and deemed it recreation to cut the long grass and weeds from the face of the Curtains. Their work was light; and their conversation as careless and volatile as if they were free again in a Hay field. A few of them worked sullenly, as if they felt the degradation of their situation. One sturdy broad shouldered fellow was callous to all shame; and was very loquacious. He had a give and a jeer for every one less serious than himself. Until the tide turned against himself, by the assertion that it was impossible for him to keep his tongue stil. Whereon, he betted a day's rations against each of three of his compeers, that after dinner he would not speak until they left work at 6 o'clock. It was really entertaining throughout the afternoon to listen to the banterings this fellow endured from the whole gang; and to notice the grimaces, with which he replied to the innumerable sarcastick remarks, from all the gang. In spite of all he won his wagers. And gave a hearty shout at the termination of his probation. I will not stop to enter on the wild field for reflection, laid open by this event.
It was on this Duty and nearly on the same spot, that, subsequently, I held my amicable expostulation with my esteemed friend Lieutenant Pollack - as before related. After which I was appointed to Act as Adjutant with a strict injunction to attend to the Drilling of the Junior Officers and men. The real meaning of which, was, that, if possible, I was to make the Colonel's nephew, for whom he had obtained an Ensigncy, an Officer and a soldier. Never had any luckless Official such a forlorn task. The little insignificant looking, low bred, sullen cub - presuming on his relationship to the Colonel gave me all the trouble he could. For a time I treated him as a boy; and frequently entered the Colonel's quarters, where he lived; and pulled him out of bed. Finding that I could not gain any influence over the brat - and to avoid the necessity of an Official Report of his delinquency - I admonished him from the passage in an audible voice near the Colonel's bed room door. My ruse fully answered: when I carried in letters form the post, I was required to give a full verbal statement. My recruit was summonsed; and received a very severe reprimand!
I have mentioned the above, as connected with my other pupil, whose youthful friendship I would gladly confirm in manhood! Ensign Stewart, well educated, perfectly gentleman, ever cheerful; and as a son of a general, most anxious to become a soldier in every point. He attached himself to me with the affection of a younger brother. Was frequently by my side at noon, and afternoon drills. And sought my instruction and advice on every occasion. He requested me to point out what part of duty required more immediate attention. I replied - with your prompt assiduity, you will soon learn the routine of Garrison Duty. And Military Evolutions will quickly demonstrate themselves to you, with your progress in Mathematics. But many of them depend on you, as a Company Officer, keeping your proper distance in open Column: in an Eschallon movement of the utmost importance. Each man is reckoned to occupy twenty two inches: Know the face of your Company: and by your steady pace and your eye, reckon your distance. By my young friend's request, I tested him next morning by "The Skeleton Drill" - in which he acquitted himself very satisfactorily. Not so my other pupil! At post hour, taking despatches to the Colonel - he addressed me - I watched your Drilling this morning; where did you learn that system? "I hope you approved it, Sir John!!" Unquestionably most highly - the many years that I have been a soldier, I never saw it before: and I earnestly beg, and desire of you to continue it; it is most admirably effective. The reminiscence of these peaceful times must give place to more stirring events.
Seven Companies of our 1st Battalion arrived from America; having encountered tremendous weather in the Atlantic; where they lost sight of the Head Quarters Ship, with the other three Companies on board - and all were supposed to have gone to the bottom. It was really disgusting to hear the levity of remarks, on the chance of such an event proving true; and the great promotion resulting - made with unblushing front by some individuals. So I will proceed. The arrival was reported to the War Office: and in reply an Order arrived, that the seven Companies were not to disembark: but be completed to One hundred men each Company from our ranks, i.e. the 2nd Battalion 1st Division to proceed as quickly as possible to France. This order came sharp on us; for even as Adjutant I was obliged to part with my servant, old Carter, to complete the number of men. I cannot but mention the peculiarities of this old man's career - for he was above 60 and more fitted for discharge than active service. He had been long in the regiment; but being a good bricklayer and mason,, had all along been detained with the Depot by Major Neynoe who found him a very useful tool in building Castle Neynoe - a white bricked house, some twenty miles from Enniskillen: - an excellent specimen, this, of "Irish Jobbing," - even in military affairs!! Old Carter took leave of me with streaming eyes, and a firm presage of his fate. In vain did I recount the many perils I had escaped; but I could not rally the poor fellow's spirits - and his presension was but too true - for a cannon-ball cut him in twain!
Although we did manage to furnish the number of men required; there was deficiency in Officers: only sixteen, instead of twenty one. And on one with us belonged to that 1st Battalion. I volunteered my services, and requested my Colonel to sanction it. His reply was more than usually laconic - "Nonsense! - your head knocked off - you are my Adjutant and I shall not part with you!!" Thus I was prevented from whitening the Field of Waterloo with my bones! By the nip on the brow on Sir John MacLean, that there was some strong resolve, working in his mind. After some silence, in a firm resolute tone, he said "Go and send Lieutenant McLeod to me: then proceed to the Orderly Room, and forward the Embarkation Returns as much as possible; for we have no time to lose. Yet leave the List of Subalterns open till you hear from me by my Orderly. I obeyed: and McLeod embarked with the seven Companies. Never was a greater act of justice done in the Service! Sir John and the Lieutenant were both Scotchmen. McLeod had married the sister of Major Neynoe, and by him had been kept at the Depot, throughout the War, as Paymaster, while others were fighting for his promotion.
Six hundred and ninety nine men (for one man who had reinlisted was absent without leave: drunkenly spending his bounty in Isle of Wight) and seventeen Officers; sailed to bear their part at Waterloo: formed in square in the centre of the British Army, endured the brunt of the whole day. Thrice did The Duke of Wellington ride up to the little square of the 27th Regiment, calling out - "Make room for me, Lads!" I am very sorry I have no official returns from which I can recount the loss of this small corps on that bloody day: but it was very much greater, according to their numbers, than any other regiment in the field. Ensign Kater was on baggage guard: and of the sixteen Officers present Lieutenant Betty was the only one unscathed! Chief of them killed; and some were wounded a second time. Lieutenant Miller lost the sight of his right eye by the wind of a musket ball: a bandage was applied; and he returned to his post - but a severe wound obliged him to go to the rear. Ensign Ireland - a tall muscular Irishman, who as Serjeant Major of our 3rd Battalion had been through all the Peninsular War - declared he had been in many a hard fought battle; but this was the worst he had ever witnessed - to stand still all day to be shot at was most irksome and trying! Within the next half hour this poor fellow was killed! Every one who has been in the field of battle will accord to poor Ireland's remark. But the little gallant band of Enniskilleners is only mentioned by their desperate loss in killed and wounded - where as - in reading the history of the Battle of Waterloo, a civilian is led to imagine that The Guards and Hussars fought the whole of the hard fight!!
"Palmam qui merit ferat" - and here I will leave the topic; or I shall be drawn into remarks about the invidious distribution of medals!!
At the early morning's Drill, our Quarter Master's Serjeant, returning from Portsmouth, told me the account he had of the Battle; and that the English Army was in full retreat on Brussels. At post-hour, I imparted to the Colonel the news as I had heard it. With a significant shake of his head, he replied, I can readily imagine there has been a hard fought battle; but I must have better authority than the paper you quote 'ere I can believe that the British Army is beaten! Go you to the Orderly Room and test these documents and I will go to the Mess Room and examine the newspapers. It was the only instance that I saw Sir John in the Square before parade. In the evening after dinner, when we had fully discussed the important news of the day, Sir John fixed his eyes on me, and quaintly said - "Yes, truly, such a fight could not but be attended with heavy loss of life. Our seven Companies have suffered woefully! Yet a friend of ours, present, was half angry with me, because I would not allow him to go to this Broken-head Fair!! In all probability he would not now have had a smile on his countenance!! With a broad grin, I bowed my assent to the Colonel's remark.
About a fortnight after the seven Companies had sailed for France, our 3rd Battalion also returned from America. And Orders from the War Office, for us to transfer a stated number of men, cleared off every Drill Squad, to whom I had given Arms: many of them had not fired off a musket. This event brought me into disagreeable collision with the great and pompous Major - now Lieutenant Colonel Neynoe. He was continually obtruding my Orderly Room: giving orders about the intricate and troublesome Embarkation Returns: rejecting some men and nominating others. My Clerks were puzzled, and could not fulfil my orders. After he had caused me much delay, I was fortunately present when he repeated his officious visits; and ordered me to make a variety of alterations. I listened to all his bluster; and quaintly replied - Colonel Neynoe this is the Orderly Room of the Second Battalion, and I am acting under the Orders of Sir John MacLean; without whose authority I cannot make any alteration: I must therefore refer you to him! This was a decided closer! - my Clerks could proceed with the Returns - for the Self-Important man never troubled them again. Nor would he, during his short stay, even speak to, or look at me!! Sir John was greatly amused, when I recounted the circumstances.
A very painful duty devolved to me, when embarking these raw soldiers. Most of them had brought young wives from Ireland: the War Office Order granted only three women per Company. And the number actually on board the Transports, according to the Official Returns was too great to allow many embarking. Sir John had to draw lots, for every company. I was obliged to have a Serjeant's Guard at the approach of the jetty from whence the men descended into boats, to row off to Spithead. I was deeply engaged at the extreme of the jetty, when a shout of horror made me look to the rear. A lovely young woman with a baby in her arms, had forced through the Guard, and was rushing with the frenzy of desperation to throw herself and babe into the boat below to her husband! She was not ten yards distant; but instantly I ran, and grasped her in my arms - and having given myself a rotatory motion to check her impetus, the woman; baby, and Adjutant were sprawling on the jetty!! In this interval the boat had shoved off; and the wretched lovely woman had no alternative, but to return to Ireland with the Government allowance per mile, with her numerous, and equally disconsolate, companions.
Soon after this - but this Corps, although in France, was too distant to partake in the eventful Battle of Waterloo.
Some three months, nearly, after the proper time, the Head Quarter Ship of the 1st Battalion arrived. We had no effective men to give to the three Companies. So they soon pursued their voyage to France; to form part of the Army of Occupation.
Having retained, after this drafting and bustle, all Officers effective in the 2nd Battalion, Sir John MacLean found it requisite to regulate their appointment to Companies. Captain Kirkland was very ambitious of the command of Grenadiers. But Captain Bass claimed it by Seniority; and with adequate pretensions; and the Colonel acceded thereto. Whereon, I requested that myself and my friend Radcliffe might be his Lieutenants. Tom could nearly see the top of my head; and I could over the Captain. It is politic to have a short Captain on the right: small as he may be, he greatly setts off a Grenadier Company. Soon after, Sir John, having obtained leave of absence, gave up the Command to Major Spurrow. And in the month of August we embarked for Cork; to march from thence to our own town of Enniskillen. Amidst the consequent bustle, Major Sparrow was very solicitous about an American boat, on the beach behind our Hospital; left by Major Thomas of 1st Battalion in charge of Lieutenant Weir and another: both of whom were now on leave; without consigning their charge to any one. As the Skipper of our Transport agreed to take the boat, I promised to sail her out; aided by Lieutenant Crawley. Lieutenant Phibbs also volunteered: but I was not proud of his company; for his wounded left arm was useless. Yet I thought he could bale out the leakage. My two comrades wore their uniform: but I slipt my Husk when I had embarked all my men as Acting Adjutant and put on a round hat and a light-blue Cricketting jacket; which added somewhat to the effect of the event which ensued. Having partaken of a jolly good breakfast at the New Inn we three careless chaps embarked on our perilous enterprise. I saw, when hoisting, that the leg sail was too much for the size of the narrow craft; and would not haul - taught. We glided very pleasantly round the Gosport harbour: and were spanking along very briskly toward's Portsmouth Point, when the thwart board split, and down came the mast and sail into the water to larboard. I had the helm; and Phibbs beside me. He grasped me so firmly with his one arm, that I could not shake him off: so dragged him to midships; and laid him to star board, as a good weighty counter-ballast. Crawley and I, then slackened the halliards and righted our bark, although half full with water. We gave the scoop to Phibbs and used our hands to bale: intending to paddle to the Point by means of the broken thwart-board - for we had no oar. While thus engaged, two men in a boat hailed us; having noticed our catastrophe, they promptly came off to our assistance and towed us to the Point. Where we found the Jolly Boat of our Transport with four of her crew: one of whom willingly agreed to accompany us to the ship. Having strongly lashed the thwart-board to its berth, we again hoisted sail; and went out of harbour in gallant style. When fairly out to sea, we neared a Man of War's boat, with a Lieutenant and his six oars. He marked our speed; and we heard him call out "Pull away boys!" - but their efforts were in vain. We went past like the wind itself! Indignantly the R.N. Lieutenant demanded "What boat, Ahoy?" "Aye, aye, Sir!" I replied: the question and response were repeated - and - we were beyond hearing. Our jolly Tar at the helm, was delighted beyond beyond measure, at having beaten a Man of War's boat, and with my saucy reply. It was evident the Lieutenant was chacing us: - that on reaching our Ship, I sprang on deck; and made Major Sparrow laugh heartily at the event. He desired us to go below; for the Man of War's man was fast approaching and promised to fight the battle for us. In his wonted quiet, gentlemanly manner, the Major answered every enquiry respecting our little skiff. The Lieutenant proceeded to his own Ship; but soon returned; most earnestly desirous to purchase our matchless boat. But the Major declared his inability to part with it. Subsequent events proved it was a pity he did not: for landing our men in Waterford Harbour, her back was broken; and we were obliged to leave her on the strand.
We were very closely stowed in this small Transport; with full 360 men, women and children. The Major, his wife and two children occupied the Master's Cabin, to Starboard. Captain Bass and his wife, for advanced in pregnancy, and very ill, had the cabin to larboard. I occupied one of the hammocks strung from the ceiling of the cabin: and never slept more soundly: for we sailed during the night; and passed the Needles; before I got on deck at an early hour. I had reckoned on watching the Coast; and to get a peep at the Land's End. Our Skipper allayed my disappointment, by saying he had taken a wide course, to avoid all dangers of a lee-shore. And I became reconciled.
During our desultory voyage, our Skipper invited some of the Junior Officers to his Berth, midship. They made it such a "Midnight Carousal" that the Major called all parties to account next morning. This did accord with the Skipper's idea of being Commanding Officer on board: he stoutly asserted his right to act as he pleased on board of his own ship. To which the Major quietly replied, "I can assure you, that you have no authority on board; as a Transport, this is a King's Ship: and I am authorised to make you prisoner and call the Mate to navigate us into port." This made the Skipper most indignant and obstreperous. On which Captain Bass requested the Major to suspend the discussion for a few minutes. He ran up on deck and hoisted a whip; which was quickly answered by a Brig of War, a few miles distant; and a boat lowered at the same instant. On Captain Bass reporting all this, the meeting was adjourned; until the boat reached us, and a First Lieutenant of the Brig of War came on deck. When the Major, with full apologies for the trouble given stated the case. The Lieutenant was very laconic in his reply, "You are quite correct, Major, in what you done: Give me your written charge against the man: and I will take him on board our Ship and deliver him prisoner to the Provost Martial at Portsmouth!!" This was not required. The Skipper his Top-gauging sails: and the Lieutenant returned to his Brig. We had been under sail for nearly three weeks, when the Quarter Master reported a short supply of provisions. This called another Council. The Skipper produced his charts, and reported his course. But all this was anything but satisfactory. He was ordered to steer for the nearest port: and decided on Milford Haven. He put the helm about; but as the atmosphere was so dense, could gain no sight of any land mark, from the main top mast. I lent him my telescope: he soon came down and declared it the very best glass he ever used: he had seen the two towers: and that we were standing well for Milford Haven. A signal for a pilot was hoisted: and ere long a boat came along side. The pilot came on board and took the helm: the Skipper then ventured to break the consequential taciturnity of his office, by enquiring if we were not standing well in for Milford Haven? "Milford Haven!" Exclaimed the Dignitary, with utter astonishment. "Why sure, now, ar'nt you in Waterford Harbour!!" This welcome declaration excited a Hurra from everyone on board. The pilot soon ordered the Binnacle to be closed; the Compass was three points and a half out. On examination all the three Compasses on board were faulty. Thus, "under Divine Providence," - the fog obliging us to alter our course nearly 400 souls were rescued from starvation or shipwreck. The Major reported our arrival to the War Office Dublin: but we remained on board many days, waiting a reply. Tom Radcliffe obtained leave to visit a friend, Lord Ch&ldots;.. in the neighbourhood. On his return next morning, finding no orders had arrived, he requested another day, and that I might accompany him: for his ( -) enjoined him to introduce some particular friend and Tom had mentioned me. So that however reluctant, I could not decline going. During our walk of four Irish miles, Tom informed me that when in the Militia and quartered at Waterford he first became acquainted with Lord S.. Ch&ldots; . His family was then living with him: but that now, there was only a Doctor to attend to his Lordship's health; and a lawyer to take care of estates - that in fact, he had out-run his means; and was a prisoner in his own house. On receiving this information I made a dead halt, resolved to return to the ship by myself - but Tom urged me on. I found a retired Country in which a prudent man with an income of 4 or 500? a year might be very comfortable. The garden and everything denoted the present state of affairs. His Lordship's reception of me was gentlemanly cordiality; and his marked attention quite flattering. At 3 o'clock dinner, there were three bottles of wine on the table, of which very little was drunk. After dinner they were more freely partaken of, and more was ordered to be brought. But after a lapse of time the butler came and whispered to his Lordship and quickly disappeared. Evidently his Lordship was disconcerted; and soon after left the room. In about twenty minutes the Doctor was summonsed as his Lordship was taken very unwell. Nearly an hour elapsed before the Doctor returned with his Lordships apologies for not being able from indisposition, of rejoining us. Whisky, sugar, lemons, and hot water, were placed on the table; and the three Irishmen very readily comforted themselves with Whisky Toddy. Never having tasted Whisky, I was very guarded in my potations; and my companions rallied me for not partaking more freely of the "deare Erature (Crature ?)." The Doctor and my friend Tom kept up the conversation and right glad was I to be along in my bed room. But even there painful reflections haunted me, till Whisky made me forgetful of the world's troubles and imprudence. In the morning, I was the first down stairs; and walked into the garden. His Lordship joined me; and we had a very pleasant half hours converse. After an ample breakfast, my friend and I were obliged to take our leave. On our walk back I found that my friend Tom quite understood his Lordship's illness - saying - "Och, sure! It was all about you! He wanted more wine for your drinking; but the Lawyer had only allowed two bottles and had the key of the wine cellar in his pocket. Sure now this is a very common thing in Ireland. The day before when I was there, didn't we all take to Whisky like mither's children!!" I made Tom promise never again to draw me into such a party. After a lapse of some days an Order arrived at 8 o'clock in the morning, for us to disembark, "Forthwith," and march to Carrick on Suir. A Dragoon was sent to convey the Order and unfortunately made such speed, that he deprived us all of our breakfast: for no more rations could be given on board ship. With empty stomachs every one now set to work, helter skelter. Since I had been a soldier I had never witnessed such confusion. And acting as Adjutant, the onerous duty of controlling this confusion rested with me. It was most absurd and injudicious to Order us to march to Carrick on the day of our landing. We might have staid one night at Waterford! But to order Old Soldiers, women and children, who had been three weeks closely stowed in a small Transport, to disembark; march 3 English miles to Waterford; wait to draw rations; then march 13 Irish miles to Carrick, the same day; was actually cruel! - and worthy of puppets and Jacks-in-Office, in the War Office!! Our Transport was, of course, moored in deep water. We had only the Dolly Boat and master's small boat for disembarkation of 360 men, besides women, children and baggage. We made use of Major Thomas' light boat; but that was soon knocked to pieces on the rocks. About 11 o'clock a.m. our small Regiment halted in the market place of Waterford. But we had no money for the march. No Paymaster! - for he was to follow us to Cork by packet. To remedy this evil, the Major, myself as Adjutant, and the Quarter Master, had to pledge ourselves; to borrow money on the Paymaster's accounts: and then to apportion it to Companies and the Staff as requisite. This grand object effected, I had to bustle about and collect the numerous documents necessary to fill up the Disembarkation Return to send to the War Office in Dublin.
When thus actively engaged, I encountered an elderly Quaker, of prepossessing manners and address; who accosted me - "Friend, I understand thy name is Crowe - art thee of the Clare family?" I said I was an Englishman. "Well, but still Friend Thou shalt be welcome, if thee will come to my house and take refreshment - for I find thee have not broken thy fast!" I thanked him for his kind offer, and assured him, that altho' my brother Officers were enjoying a good breakfast at the Inn I had not, at that late hour - past noon - tasted anything that day; for I had too much duty to fulfil to think about myself!! Obadiah expressed his regret for he should have liked to have asked me about my family and name.
Having marched with the Regiment out of town the Major and myself returned to the Inn; to break our fast; and then fill up the voluminous Return nearly as large as a Times Newspaper.
Eleven Irish are equal to fourteen English miles. That this day's march was enough for every man of us. It was very late in the evening, and too dark for me to examine the approach to or appearance of Carrick. I reached it excessively fatigued and hungry, clubbed dinner and supper in one hearty meal, and tumbled into bed: - leaving baggage, women and children to arrive at any hour of the night they could. Captain Bass had been left to bring up, by water, the sick, and infirm: with the Major's wife and two children: and his own wife, far advanced in pregnancy; and who had suffered woefully from sea-sickness. We had to wait their arrival. When two difficulties presented themselves. Poor Bass was quite in despair: not knowing how to get his suffering wife on shore. For, like his wife, he was short and robust and could not carry any additional weight. He willingly resigned the task to me. I threw off my sword and sash: went on board the Packet boat: took Mrs Bass on my arms, carried her along the plank to, and across the quay; upstairs at the Inn; and placed her on a bed. She gave me a hearty kiss of thanks. And consequently when the young Captain made his appearance, I was solicited to be one of his Godfathers. The other event was a poor maniac we had in our sick: this man threw himself over board at Spithead with a Bible under his arm. He was floating like a cork, without any exertion when I reached him and endeavoured to pull him out of the water; but his resistance was so violent, that had not another boat arrived, he would certainly have sunk me and my little skiff. As soon as the poor wretch landed, he threw himself down and thrice kissed his native soil most ardently. The Assistant Surgeon was obliged to have him bound down to a car, till he could leave him at Mullingar Hospital. Our march to Callen wore off the over fatigue of the exertions of the preceeding day. But the Inn was small; and unaccommodating. An active fellow attended as waiter at our dinner, but was so badly assisted by a gawky girl, that he was himself obliged frequently to go out of the room. My friend Tom Radcliffe lost all patience; and seized the man on his return, pinned him against the wall exclaiming, "Sir confess yourself a Beast of waiter, or I will "spifticate" you!" - finding him self in the clutch of such a big chap, the poor fellow tremblingly replied, "Plaise your Honor, I am a Baist of a waiter!!" - this event put every one in good humour, and we some how made a dinner.
Our next day's march was to Kilkenny; where I could have wished to have made a long halt; for although we arrived early, I wanted much more time to admire the town and neighbourhood. I should have delighted in visiting the romantically situated castle on the beetling rocks on the other side of the clear river which flows between it and the town. I forget the Irish song which celebrates Kilkenny for its beauties; its water without mud; and its coals without smoke. It was the native place of our worthy and merry comrade Lieutenant Edmonds; who gladly escorted a clutch of his particular friends to every point worth seeing; but we had a very transient glance. Soon after dinner we accompanied him to his mother's pretty residence: and most pleasantly made the evening long! We had not yet received an Order to Recruit!! - otherwise I think both of his pretty sisters would gladly have joined our Regiment.
Our next day's march was on poetical ground, the site of Goldsmith's Deserted Village! So admirably illustrated by Reverend R.H. Newell B.D. We passed close by the Church, of Kilkenny West; the Hawthorn Tree; the Parsonage; the School House: - from whence the Domino, with spectacles on nose, peered at us from an aperture, ycleped a window, a foot and half high and a foot broad: while some thirty urchins squatted by the walls outside, with slates and books on their knees, gazed with amazement. Major Sparrow had given the Command to Captain Windsor: and gone on to Maryborough to wait our arrival. Arriving on Friday at Ballynakiln, the Billet Master presented to Captain Windsor a note; intimating at the same time that Mr French, living in a noble mansion near the town, always sent an invite to the two Senior Officers of any passing Regiment; rather than having anyone billeted on him. When all our men were provided for, and had disappeared, Captain Windsor came up to me, with the note, saying "I know not what to do; this my only billet and no one will go with me; I do not like to go by myself." I replied - "Go! my good fellow, go! by any means. Why this is decidedly a trump card!!" But will you go with me?" "Yes, surely! It is remarkable that our Irish comrades should slight this invitation but you and I will see the upshot. Send a note to say we are coming." It was rather singular that out of an Irish Regiment, two Englishmen should accept this invitation! We found it more than a mile to the Park; wherein every turn of the road, and grouping of trees, were arranged in very chaste manner. Mr French was before the house, when we arrived, talking with his three daughters just returned from their mornings excursion: all received us with great cordiality and utmost good breeding. The eldest (and much oldest) was on horseback. She had been farming: and talked in a most masculine manner of the cross in breeding sheep and cattle, and of dogs; of which she had a numerous attendance. She was very tall of large make; that her figure and character corresponded. Her two sisters on foot, were short and round made: possessing no very prepossessing attraction but their truly feminine and modest demeanour. We found Mr French the perfectly amiable and polished gentleman. The mansion was erected by Mr French; on a knoll in flat district; and commanded a view of seven Counties.
I never visited a more enchanting spot! Mr French was brother-in-law with Lord Castlereagh: had two sons in the Guards: and was much amused after dinner with talking about our Campaigns. My friend was naturally taciturn; that I had to draw him out, to tell how he was disabled and crippled in his hands, by the wounds he had received with the Army in Valencia. After a time Mr French turned the conversation on myself by asking "And what were you doing with the Main Army under Lord Wellington?! 'Why truly Sir, we were for a year and half in face of the enemy; but we never fought, unless we were forced to it.' Mr French enjoyed my trite response. We sat late at the table. Adjourned to the Drawing Room and before 11 o'clock took leave of our hospitable host and hostess and family. Next morning at 5 o'clock while preparing to start, Captain Windsor came to my bed room, and said he had been surprised by a visit from Mr French in his dressing-gown, to insist on our returning to dinner with the Bishop of Cloyne Dr Bennet: and for us to stay over the morrow: (Sunday) The Regiment had passed the Park, ere we reached the main road: Windsor's wounds prevented his stepping out to recover distance; so proceeded till we came to an Inn; where we engaged a post chaise to Maryborough. Major Sparrow was much pleased with our report of our visit, and strongly urged our return. The Quartermaster was by no means pleased: for we insisted on a baggage car being unloaded; that we might get at our best uniforms. I slipt off my weather-beaten Spanish Jacket and sported my new Grenadier's Apparel. Our chaise took us back to the Inn where fresh horses and driver were supplied. We had not proceeded for ere it became evident that our driver was drunk. And when about half way the rascal fell down on his foot-board! The horses readily obeyed my order to stand still - but, what was to be done? - by main force I hauled the fellow down; and then crammed him in at bottom of the chaise, Windsor shoving with his feet - the only assistance he could give. And I was obliged to became postilion. Our approach was noticed from the windows of the Mansion: and the drunken fellow's legs protruding on one side, made our appearance very grotesque and even ominous. That all the family all the family came to the door to meet us. I humoured the event; flourishing my half-broken shabby whip; and requested the Ladies to keep clear of my steeds - for altho' high in bone, and low in flesh, they were very mettlesome! The Bishop laughed as heartily as any one at our awkward predicament. And I also made him laugh after dinner, by relating the blunders our soldiers made with foreign languages.
I have not space to recount how very pleasantly we spent the time. Nor to tell of the flirting propensity of the Bishop's young and very pretty niece; and how boldly he tried to make a fool of me!!
We had a sober driver to take us on the Monday to Portarlington. And our Major was greatly amused by our adventures.
The next day we had a wet and dreary march to Philipstown. Next day to Mullingar; where we halted a day: and were met by our Old Comrade Lieutenant Joe Hill; who lost his leg at Vitoria: and for whom I wrote by his bed-side a report of his calamity to his family: but on this occasion did not see one of them - for Joe made a bad use of the lower part of the House; which his mother and sisters had assigned to him. Subsequently when at Enniskillen, seated quietly in my lodgings, I was astounded by my servant ushering a lady who whished to speak with me. She entered in a very ladylike manner, but with the utmost self-possession and I was alarmed by this extraordinary "Coup de Main!" Having taken the chair, which I proffered on other side of the table, she announced herself as Joe Hill's eldest sister: and widow of an Officer who had lent more than a hundred pounds to a fellow Free Mason of another regiment; which she, the widow, had not been able to regain: and she had called to request my advice as to what steps she could take to recover it!! All this was No Go! I quickly peered through this pretext - recommended the Lady to report the circumstances to the Commander in Chief the only person who could take cognizance, and was well pleased to hand my lady down stairs, and shut the door upon her.
After another Sunday's halt at Cavan, we had a long march to Enniskillen; where we were received as Brothers and welcomed with every demonstration of joy. I tried hard to participate in this joy but could not! - for looking from my place as Adjutant in rear of our handful of wounded and weather beaten Veterans, of some three hundred, jaded by their march of 23 Irish miles - and reflecting on the many thousands of young fellows, which we had drained from the town and neighbourhood - for the 3rd Battalion had in eight years, drawn three thousand.
I really thought our return was far from joyous!! We found the 50th Regiment in the Barracks; who hospitality, according to Military etiquette, received as many of us at their Mess table, as would attend. Our Depot-Rangers all most assiduously avoided the invitation: but we who had been in the Peninsula were glad to meet our Veteran Compeers and fight our battles o'er again; in most joyous mood, to a very late hour. Soon after our arrival, the Summer Assizes were held. And instead of the custom in England, of sending soldiers out of the town; our Commanding Officer was required to furnish a Guard of Honor for the Judges. Our Grenadier Company received their Lordships. And the Sheriffe invited the Officers to dine with him. Captain Bass returned to his lodgings Radcliffe, conversant with the custom, resolved to attend: and persuaded me. I thought I might see what Irish Society was: but I am sorry to confess, the Grand Jury afforded me a very unprepossessing presage. We imagined that our native town of Enniskillen would be our winter quarters. But a soldier always lives in uncertainty. Our native town of Enniskillen stands on an island in Lock Erne; with a bridge South East, and West. History tells - that Irish Rebels joined by Frenchmen, were advancing to take the town. The elder inhabitants advanced by the South Eastern bridge, as Cavalry: attacked the enemy and were worsted. The young men sallied out by the Western bridge, as Infantry; marched round by Belturbet; took the enemy in the rear; and gained a most decisive victory. From this event, originated the two Regiments: the Enniskillen Dragoons; and the Enniskilleners, or 27th Regiment. From which, the Dragoons were wont to call as their younger brethren. Late in the month of October we were ordered to Ballyshannon. I would much rather have marched the 25 Irish miles: but could not refuse Major Sparrow's request to ride a young, ill-trained horse, which he had purchased. And very wearied I was by the task.
Here we enjoyed a very peaceful and social life as Brethren. Some of our Officers had been formerly stationed here: and knew many families in the neighbourhood: of whom the leading ones, were two cousins; both Barristers; and both named Robert Johnson. But for their forensick talents, one was known as Sweet Bob; and the other as Bitter Bob. But both had very lovely wives and children. Sitting at Mess, one evening, between Dr McRoberts our Surgeon, and Captain Butler - of high Irish family - the Doctor said to me - "My good fellow, Butler and I have been sponsors for you!" - Indeed!! I thank both of you - but truly - I think I am old enough to answer for myself! "Well, well! I grant it; but we have promised that you will attend a Ball, which the two Mssrs Johnsons and ourselves purpose having at the Hotel. For the two ladies are desirous of becoming better acquainted with the Officers of our Regiment." I replied Why dear friend Mac, I am quite astounded that you can be "Gulled" in this way! The plain case is, Mrs Bitter Bob has a young cousin staying with her; and wants to knick one out of us. As far as I am concerned, it is no Go! - for Sir John Moore declared at Coxheath Camp, that an Officer should never marry - But - My good friend - if the two Mrs Bobs had a wish to be better acquainted with us, tell me! - why have they not called on the Major's wife? - for although she is a Sicilian, due courtesy shown to her would have effected the desired object of the two Mrs Bobs!! Moreover Captain Bass' wife is an Irish Lady! And Mrs Captain Kirkland perfectly the English Gentlewoman!! My two friends freely admitted that they were nonsuited by the force of my reply. Captain Chitty on the other side of the table had listened to the conversation; and strenuously coincided with my opinion and view of the case. Much good natured conversation passed on this topic - when McRoberts made it a personal request that I would attend - for otherwise - after what had been said - there would not be a muster! I replied, "Truly my dear McRoberts my regard for you, will ever make me desirous of obliging - but in the present instance I must do it on one condition - namely - That you will dance with me, as soon as you have fulfilled your engagements to the very few ladies who will be present!! This proposition produced a general and hearty laugh! McRoberts assented to the terms; and Captain Chitty conformed to the stipulation. Our married Officers with their wives attended the Ball but did not dance. Chitty and I danced together but the ladies were too much chagrin'd to be able to laugh at our burlesque courtesies to each other. However, when McRoberts danced with me, there could be no restrain their risibility - and the evening passed off very well.
Dr Crawford, a Scotch Physician, and a High Kirk man, was the leading man in the town. He had a large and very amiable family. He was Barrack Master. My lodgings were opposite his house. And his eldest son very pointedly sought my acquaintance; which afforded me much friendly and agreeable society; for I was always welcome: and spent much time in such intellectual society.
There were two Captain McKay in our regiment. Captain Hugh McKay, by far the better, was not present. Captain John, whom we always called Jock, was a very talkative plausible fellow; with something to say on every topic. His wife and family were in Scotland. By his palavering about Religion (for no one gave Jock credit for any at heart.) He gained a footing with a very sedate family, opposite the Inn where we Messed. A widow Lady living in a very genteel way with her two daughters and only son; who was a Norway Merchant. After many solicitations I did accompany Jock to call on this family: who lent me Biship Porteus' Lectures and offered any book. It was some time before I scented the Norway Rat, and perceived that Jock had undertaken to inveigle me into a match with the elder daughter!! On which I kept a respectful distance. Because I was regular in attending Church, Jock never lost an opportunity of bantering me on Religion: and a true Scotch Presbyterian, when I had beaten him on one point, he would attack me on another. I remember one evening, when all had left the Mess Room, excepting McRoberts, Jock, and myself; standing before the fire: Jock began the topic of Future Rewards and punishment. I left the brunt of the argument to McRoberts; who fought it manfully. But incensed by opinions expressed with so much levity, I interrupted the conversation - saying - "McKay I will plainly tell you my opinion, that the greatest Hell, a man can know, here, or hereafter, is his own conscience! Look you to it!!" McRoberts instantly seized my run and drew me out of the room, exclaiming, "Come away, come away! That is a full answer!!" Never again did Jock banter me about Religion.
In February 1816, a sudden Order marched us back to Enniskillen: where we received frequent Orders to various stations; some Captains command and very many Subalterns; that there was scarcely an Officer per company left at Head Quarters. I was retained; and had the payment and charge of three Companies - nearly one third of the Regiment. This proved a very onerous task: for we received an Order to recruit, to a hundred men per Company. Without any fuss our Serjeants stuck Colours on their Caps: the news spread abroad: and in 2 or 3 weeks time we had a hundred fine young fellows who voluntarily came every week to enlist. Never was any Regiment so expeditiously completed. During the bustle, Major Phipps commanding our large detached party at Cavan, made a requisition for an additional Subaltern: and I was ordered there. My space will not admit of my recounting the disagreeable coincidence attendant on this change! And when there, although with the worthy little Major I got on quite well, I found nothing homogenious in Captain Lynch and Lieutenant Armitt.
March 23 1817
I rose early and waited on our Colonel while at breakfast, on his return from Dublin; by the mail.
I found Sir John very crestfallen: and it was long ere he said with more than usual emotion - "I am the harbinger of very bad new! I have received Orders to reduce the 2nd Battalion as quickly as possible. And I am very sorry to say, the Reduction must commence with you my good friend, after tomorrow you will be placed on Half Pay!!" I looked and felt as gloomy as Sir John, himself, but was obliged to succumb to my expected fate. I made my arrangements: and paid a melancholy visit to Head Quarters; where every thing and every person was gloomy. Not having received the official returns from the Out Post, my good friend Mackie the Paymaster was not able to settle with me.
So that I left Enniskillen with a very heavy heart, and a very light purse, for Dublin: where I learned that no packet had arrived for more than 3 weeks; and that not one was expected, while the strong wind continued in the West. What a predicament for an almost penniless Subaltern, in the Head Hotel in Dublin!! I ate my breakfast with a very, very sad heart - then sallied forth to consult with my esteemed friend, Harry Franklin one of our Assistant Surgeons, studying in the Hospitals for his Diploma. By whose advice, Mr Crowe went to Mss Rooks boarding and lodging houses. Where Harry introduced me to his friend Mr McLaghlan, Surgeon of 49th Regiment. I soon became very intimate with my new Dr Macs friend. And that we might pursue our walks when his lectures were over, I used to accompany him thither. Once I heard an interesting lecture no the eye. On another occasion he urged my accompanying him, since it was only a lecture on Rabbit catching! He laughed heartily at my surprise and question for explanation: and said it was on Midwifery - adding I knew as much as they can tell me: but I must attend a certain course of lectures. I did not imagine that I should gain any practical knowledge, from this Rabbit catching.
With my new acquaintance McLaghlan time passed very fluently; as did my small finances: that after a fortnight I was obliged to write and request my friend Mackie our Paymaster to advance me ?10 on account. The arrival of which, at the end of the 3rd week enabled me to embark on the first packet for Liverpool. I had, in vain applied at the War Office in Dublin, for my travelling allowances: but was informed, that the Order for our Reduction was so sudden, that no relevant orders had been received; and no money could be issued. I was fully justified in expecting money for this service (source?); but was compelled to leave Ireland with small finances.
Our passage was very rough; and our Company very incongruous. The Skipper's Cabin was occupied by Captain W. Commarest R.N. and his amiable little wife; who, as I afterwards learned had given birth to twins; and was far advanced, (as I suspected) with another pair! Captain W and I chimed in very well during the afternoon and had much pleasant conversation. I could not assimilate with the many beardless, blustering youths in the Cabin: evidently young Subalterns, like myself unexpectedly reduced to half pay. They freely smoked cigars and drank grog to suppress sea-sickness. That I played the Old Soldier and prevailed on the mate to give me his berth, under the Companion Ladder: that I might be free from smoke and card playing; which as I had suspected, continued till 4 o'clock next morning. About 6 o'clock the mate, in great haste, thundered down; shouting at the utmost pitch of voice, "Och, now, is there never a Doctor among you?" In vain he thrice repeated his eager enquiry: then came to his stores near my berth. When the following colloquoy ensued - "What is the matter Mate?" - 'Och, sure, a poor creature of a woman, a soldier's wife, in the hold is taken in labour; and the Divil a Doctor among you to help her!!' - "But Mate what are you about drawing whisky at this time of the morning?" 'Och! - sure now, the poor Divil must have some little comfort.' "I beg and beseech Mate, do not give it to her!" But in the warmth of his compassion he ran off like a lapwing.
I bethought, my lecture in Dublin, on Rabbit Catching may here, in want of better skill, be of service! So I quickly huddled on what clothes I had taken off, and repaired to the Hold. I found the woman laying within half a yard of the heels of three fine horses. I ordered all men, skulking below with sea-sickness on deck, for we had 4 or 5 recruiting parties on board. There were four soldiers wives: all mothers but not one of them knew what was necessary to be done.
The kind Mate's glass of whiskey grog was not half consumed: so availing myself of the reeling of the packet, I upset the remainder: placed the poor woman properly: and instructed the others what to do: and left them. Ere I had finished my breakfast there was a great cry for the Doctor, but Doctor-like I took things coolly. On my return to my patient she pulled me down and giving me a hearty kiss, declared that I was "A Jewel of a Doctor!!" A fine boy was born; and everything right. When on deck Captain W. came with his wife's thanks "to the Doctor" for his kindness to the woman. "My dear Sir I am no Doctor!" and explained why, and how, I had acted. We had a hearty laugh: and he ran to his Cabin where he and his wife reechoed our laugh. He soon returned with a liberal contribution, requesting me to raise a subscription among the passengers, to enable the poor woman, her new born baby, and husband, belonging to a Recruiting Party of 49th Regiment, to proceed on our arrival at Liverpool, by coach, direct, to Birmingham; instead of marching that distance. This was not an easy task - for our gambling companions were not liberal. However I had the satisfaction of despatching the party by the evening coach for Birmingham; with 3 or 4 shillings to procure them comfort. Accompanied by Captain and Mrs W I visited, the next day, my old haunts in Liverpool. .
We dined together at 3 o'clock and in the evening I took coach to Northampton: where I arrived next morning to a late breakfast. My small purse was not entirely empty but I could not produce a Guinea demanded for carriage of my large trunk. Leaving it in Coach Office with a promise to redeem it on the next day but one, when I could obtain money from my Agent in London; I repaid repaid to visit, as invited, my friend W. Hayes Paper Manufacturer a mile beyond the town; where I experienced so much hospitality while quartered at Northampton. The very cordial reception I experienced made me feel happy once in &ldots; And after a good night's rest I felt quite cheerful! But another dark cloud came over me before dinner!! W.H encountered a man from the Coach Office with a message, that if my trunk was not paid for it must be forwarded to London by next coach and the contents sold. W.H. instantly sent his own servant with the money, for the trunk; then came and chided me for not acquainting him with my difficulties: the nature of which, on my explanation, he quickly comprehended; having been formerly a Lieutenant of 11th Dragoons. I was truly happy to be able to repay him the next day. My intention was to remain here a week; but my kind host and his amiable wife would not suffer my departure and I remained more than three months. When my brother received me, in Surrey - until the following January; I then visited my beloved parents at Lowerstoft.
Here various circumstances prolonged my stay. And I became acquainted with Dr Thomas, a Surgeon of the Army of long standing. And with his sister, my Wife!!!
We married 18 December 1818 - Midsummer 1822 we came to our present peaceful abode - where I trust we shall both come to A Halt!!
Oct 23rd 1857.
The End of Volume 2. Transcribed by Michael Heath-Caldwell.
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 also be ordered 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.