Adventures in the Rifle Brigade, in the Peninsula, France, and the Netherlands - from 1809 to 1815
by Captain J. Kincaid
1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

[Transcriber's note: Obvious printer's errors have been corrected. Hyphenation and accentuation have been standardised, all other inconsistencies are as in the original. The author's spelling has been maintained.

There is no Chapter IV in this book.

The errata changes have been included in the file.]







FROM 1809 TO 1815.







K. C. B.










In tracing the following scenes, I have chiefly drawn on the reminiscences of my military life, and endeavoured faithfully to convey to the mind of the reader the impression which they made on my own at the time of their occurrence. Should any errors, as to dates or trifling circumstances, have inadvertently crept into my narrative, I hope they will be ascribed to want of memory, rather than to any wilful intention to mislead. I am aware, that some objections may be taken to my style; for

"Rude am I in my speech, And little bless'd with the set phrase of peace: For, since these arms of mine had seven years' pith, Till now, some nine moons wasted, they have us'd Their dearest action in the tented field: And little of this world can I speak, More than pertains to feats of broil and battle; And therefore little shall I grace my cause In speaking for myself; yet, by your gracious patience, I will a round unvarnished tale deliver,"



Joined the Rifles. Walcheren Expedition. A young Soldier. A Marine View. Campaign in South Beeveland. Retreat to Scotland.


Rejoin the Regiment. Embark for the Peninsula. Arrival in the Tagus. The City of Lisbon, with its Contents. Sail for Figuera. Landing extraordinary. Billet ditto. The City of Coimbra. A hard Case. A cold Case, in which a favourite Scotch Dance is introduced. Climate. The Duke of Wellington.


Other People, Myself, and my Regiment. Retreat to the Lines of Torres Vedras. Leave Coimbra, followed by a select group of Natives. Ford the Streets of Condacia in good spirits. A Provost-Marshal and his favourites. A fall. Convent of Batalha. Turned out of Allenquer. Passed through Sobral. Turned into Arruda. Quartering of the Light Division, and their Quarters at Arruda. Burial of an only Child. Lines of Torres Vedras. Difference of opinion between Massena and Myself. Military Customs.

CHAP. V. 38

Campaign of 1811 opens. Massena's Retreat. Wretched Condition of the Inhabitants on the Line of March. Affairs with the Enemy, near Pombal. Description of a Bivouac. Action near Redinha. Destruction of Condacia and Action near it. Burning of the Village of Illama, and Misery of its Inhabitants. Action at Foz D'Aronce. Confidential Servants with Donkey-Assistants.

CHAP. VI. 61

Passage of the Mondego. Swearing to a large Amount. Two Prisoners, with their Two Views. Two Nuns, Two Pieces of Dough, and Two Kisses. A Halt. Affair near Frexedas. Arrival near Guarda. Murder. A stray Sentry. Battle of Sabugal. Spanish and Portuguese Frontiers. Blockade of Almeida. Battle-like. Current Value of Lord Wellington's Nose. Battle of Fuentes D'Onor. The Day after the Battle. A grave Remark. The Padre's House. Retreat of the Enemy.


March to Estremadura. At Soito, growing Accommodations for Man and Beast. British Taste displayed by Portuguese Wolves. False Alarm. Luxuries of Roquingo Camp. A Chaplain of the Forces. Return towards the North. Quarters near Castello de Vide. Blockade of Ciudad Rodrigo. Village of Atalya; Fleas abundant; Food scarce. Advance of the French Army. Affairs near Guinaldo. Our Minister administered to. An unexpected Visit from our General and his Followers. End of the Campaign of 1811. Winter Quarters.


Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo. The Garrison of an Outwork relieved. Spending an Evening abroad. A Musical Study. An Addition to Soup. A short Cut. Storming of the Town. A sweeping Clause. Advantages of leading a Storming Party. Looking for a Customer. Disadvantages of being a stormed Party. Confusion of all Parties. A waking Dream. Death of General Crawford. Accident. Deaths.

CHAP. IX. 121

March to Estremadura. A Deserter shot. Riding for an Appetite. Effect the Cure of a Sick Lady. Siege of Badajos. Trench-Work. Varieties during the Siege. Taste of the Times. Storming of the Town. Its Fall. Officers of a French Battalion. Not shot by Accident. Military Shopkeepers. Lost Legs and cold Hearts. Affecting Anecdote. My Servant. A Consignment to Satan. March again for the North. Sir Sidney Beckwith.

CHAP. X. 143

A Farewell Address to Portalegre. History of a Night in Castello Branco. Regimental Colours lost, with Directions where to find them. Cases in which a Victory is sometimes won by those who lost it. Advance to Salamanca. The City. The British Position on St. Christoval. Affair in Position. Marmont's Change of Position and Retreat. A Case of Bad Luck. Advance to Rueda, and Customs there. Retire to Castrejon. Affairs on the 18th and 19th of July. Battle of Salamanca, and Defeat of the Enemy.

CHAP. XI. 165

Distinguished Characters. A Charge of Dragoons. A Charge against the Nature of Things. Olmeda and the French General, Ferez. Advance towards Madrid. Adventures of my Dinner. The Town of Segovia. El Palacio del Rio Frio. The Escurial. Enter Madrid. Rejoicings. Nearly happy. Change of a Horse. Change of Quarters. A Change confounded. Retire towards Salamanca. Boar-Hunt, Dinner-Hunt, and Bull-Hunt. A Portuguese Funeral conducted by Rifle Undertakers.

CHAP. XII. 183

Reach Salamanca. Retreat from it. Pig Hunting, an Enemy to Sleep-Hunting. Putting one's Foot in it. Affair on the 17th of November. Bad Legs sometimes last longer than good ones. A Wet Birth. Prospectus of a Day's Work. A lost dejune better than a found one. Advantages not taken. A disagreeable Amusement, End of the Campaign of 1812. Winter Quarters. Orders and Disorders treated. Farewell Opinion of Ancient Allies. My House.


A Review. Assembly of the Army. March to Salamanca. To Aldea Nueva. To Toro. An Affair of the Hussar Brigade. To Palencia. To the Neighbourhood of Burgos. To the Banks of the Ebro. Fruitful sleeping place. To Medina. A Dance before it was due. Smell the Foe. Affair at St. Milan. A Physical River.

CHAP. XIV. 213

Battle of Vittoria. Defeat of the Enemy. Confusion among their Followers. Plunder. Colonel Cameron. Pursuit, and the Capture of their Last Gun. Arrive near Pampeluna. At Villalba. An Irish method of making a useless Bed useful.

CHAP. XV. 231

March to intercept Clausel. Tafalla. Olite. The dark End of a Night March to Casada. Clausel's Escape. Sanguessa. My Tent struck. Return to Villalba. Weighty Considerations on Females. St. Esteban. A Severe Dance. Position at Bera. Soult's Advance, and Battle of the Pyrenees. His Defeat and subsequent Actions. A Morning's Ride.

CHAP. XVI. 246

An Anniversary Dinner. Affair with the Enemy, and Fall of St. Sebastian. A Building Speculation. A Fighting one, storming the Heights of Bera. A Picture of France from the Pyrenees. Returns after an Action. Sold by my Pay-Serjeant. A Recruit born at his Post. Between Two Fires, a Sea and a Land one. Position of La Rhune. My Picture taken in a Storm. Refreshing Invention for wintry Weather.


Battle of the Nivelle, and Defeat of the Enemy. A Bird of Evil Omen. Chateau D'Arcangues. Prudence. An Enemy's Gratitude. Passage of the Nive, and Battles near Bayonne, from 9th to 13th December.


Change of Quarters. Change of Diet. Suttlers. Our new Quarter. A long-going Horse gone. New Clothing. Adam's lineal Descendants. St. Palais. Action at Tarbes. Faubourg of Toulouse. The green Man. Passage of the Garonne. Battle of Toulouse. Peace. Castle Sarrazin. A Tender Point.

CHAP. XIX. 301

Commencement of the War of 1815. Embark for Rotterdam. Ship's Stock. Ship struck. A Pilot, a Smuggler, and a Lawyer. A Boat without Stock. Join the Regiment at Brussels.

CHAP. XX. 307

Relative Situation of the Troops. March from Brussels. The Prince and the Beggar. Battle of Quatre-Bras.

CHAP. XXI. 327

Battle of Waterloo, 18th June, 1815. "A Horse! a Horse!" Breakfast. Position. Disposition. Meeting of particular Friends. Dish of Powder and Ball. Fricassee of Swords. End of First Course. Pounding. Brewing. Peppering. Cutting and Maiming. Fury. Tantalizing. Charging. Cheering. Chasing. Opinionizing. Anecdotes. The End.



Joined the Rifles. Walcheren Expedition. A young Soldier. A Marine View. Campaign in South Beeveland. Retreat to Scotland.

I joined the second battalion rifle brigade, (then the ninety-fifth,) at Hythe-Barracks, in the spring of 1809, and, in a month after, we proceeded to form a part of the expedition to Holland, under the Earl of Chatham.

With the usual Quixotic feelings of a youngster, I remember how very desirous I was, on the march to Deal, to impress the minds of the natives with a suitable notion of the magnitude of my importance, by carrying a donkey-load of pistols in my belt, and screwing my naturally placid countenance up to a pitch of ferocity beyond what it was calculated to bear.

We embarked in the Downs, on board the Hussar frigate, and afterwards removed to the Namur, a seventy-four, in which we were conveyed to our destination.

I had never before been in a ship of war, and it appeared to me, the first night, as if the sailors and marines did not pull well together, excepting by the ears; for my hammock was slung over the descent into the cockpit, and I had scarcely turned-in when an officer of marines came and abused his sentry for not seeing the lights out below, according to orders. The sentry proceeded to explain, that the middies would not put them out for him, when the naked shoulders and the head of one of them, illuminated with a red nightcap, made its appearance above the hatchway, and began to take a lively share in the argument. The marine officer, looking down, with some astonishment, demanded, "d—n you, sir, who are you?" to which the head and shoulders immediately rejoined, "and d—n and b—t you, sir, who are you?"

We landed on the island of South Beeveland, where we remained about three weeks, playing at soldiers, smoking mynheer's long clay pipes, and drinking his vrow's butter-milk, for which I paid liberally with my precious blood to their infernal musquitos; not to mention that I had all the extra valour shaken out of me by a horrible ague, which commenced a campaign on my carcass, and compelled me to retire upon Scotland, for the aid of my native air, by virtue of which it was ultimately routed.

I shall not carry my first chapter beyond my first campaign, as I am anxious that my reader should not expend more than his first breath upon an event which cost too many their last.


Rejoin the Regiment. Embark for the Peninsula. Arrival in the Tagus. The City of Lisbon, with its Contents. Sail for Figuera. Landing extraordinary. Billet ditto. The City of Coimbra. A hard Case. A cold Case, in which a favourite Scotch Dance is introduced. Climate. The Duke of Wellington.

I rejoined the battalion, at Hythe, in the spring of 1810, and, finding that the company to which I belonged had embarked, to join the first battalion in the Peninsula, and that they were waiting at Spithead for a fair wind, I immediately applied, and obtained permission, to join them.

We were about the usual time at sea, and indulged in the usual amusements, beginning with keeping journals, in which I succeeded in inserting two remarks on the state of the weather, when I found my inclination for book-making superseded by the more disagreeable study of appearing eminently happy under an irresistible inclination towards sea-sickness. We anchored in the Tagus in September;—no thanks to the ship, for she was a leaky one, and wishing foul winds to the skipper, for he was a bad one.

To look at Lisbon from the Tagus, there are few cities in the universe that can promise so much, and none, I hope, that can keep it so badly.

I only got on shore one day, for a few hours, and, as I never again had an opportunity of correcting the impression, I have no objection to its being considered an uncharitable one; but I wandered for a time amid the abominations of its streets and squares, in the vain hope that I had got involved among a congregation of stables and outhouses; but when I was, at length, compelled to admit it as the miserable apology for the fair city that I had seen from the harbour, I began to contemplate, with astonishment, and no little amusement, the very appropriate appearance of its inhabitants.

The church, I concluded, had, on that occasion, indulged her numerous offspring with a holiday, for they occupied a much larger portion of the streets than all the world besides. Some of them were languidly strolling about, and looking the sworn foes of time, while others crowded the doors of the different coffee-houses; the fat jolly-looking friars cooling themselves with lemonade, and the lean mustard-pot-faced ones sipping coffee out of thimble-sized cups, with as much caution as if it had been physic.

The next class that attracted my attention was the numerous collection of well-starved dogs, who were indulging in all the luxury of extreme poverty on the endless dung-heaps.

There, too, sat the industrious citizen, basking in the sunshine of his shop-door, and gathering in the flock which is so bountifully reared on his withered tribe of children. There strutted the spruce cavalier, with his upper-man furnished at the expense of his lower, and looking ridiculously imposing: and there—but sacred be their daughters, for the sake of one, who shed a lustre over her squalid sisterhood, sufficiently brilliant to redeem their whole nation from the odious sin of ugliness. I was looking for an official person, living somewhere near the Convent D'Estrella, and was endeavouring to express my wishes to a boy, when I heard a female voice, in broken English, from a balcony above, giving the information I desired. I looked up, and saw a young girl, dressed in white, who was loveliness itself! In the few words which passed between us, of lively unconstrained civility on her part, and pure confounded gratitude on mine, she seemed so perfectly after my own heart, that she lit a torch in it which burnt for two years and a half.

It must not detract from her merits that she was almost the only one that I saw during that period in which it was my fate to tread war's roughest, rudest path,—daily staring his grim majesty out of countenance, and nightly slumbering on the cold earth, or in the tenantless mansion, for I felt as if she would have been the chosen companion of my waking dreams in rosier walks, as I never recalled the fair vision to my aid, even in the worst of times, that it did not act upon my drooping spirits like a glass of brandy.

It pleased the great disposer of naval events to remove us to another and a better ship, and to send us off for Figuera, next day, with a foul wind.

Sailing at the rate of one mile in two hours, we reached Figuera's Bay at the end of eight days, and were welcomed by about a hundred hideous looking Portuguese women, whose joy was so excessive that they waded up to their arm-pits through a heavy surf, and insisted on carrying us on shore on their backs! I never clearly ascertained whether they had been actuated by the purity of love or gold.

Our men were lodged for the night in a large barn, and the officers billetted in town. Mine chanced to be on the house of a mad-woman, whose extraordinary appearance I never shall forget. Her petticoats scarcely reached to the knee, and all above the lower part of the bosom was bare; and though she looked not more than middle aged, her skin seemed as if it had been regularly prepared to receive the impression of her last will and testament; her head was defended by a chevaux-de-frise of black wiry hair, which pointed fiercely in every direction, while her eyes looked like two burnt holes in a blanket. I had no sooner opened the door than she stuck her arms a-kimbo, and, opening a mouth, which stretched from ear to ear, she began vociferating "bravo, bravissimo!"

Being a stranger alike to the appearance and the manners of the natives, I thought it possible that the former might have been nothing out of the common run, and concluding that she was overjoyed at seeing her country reinforced, at that perilous moment, by a fellow upwards of six feet high, and thinking it necessary to sympathize in some degree in her patriotic feelings, I began to "bravo" too; but as her second shout ascended ten degrees, and kept increasing in that ratio, until it amounted to absolute frenzy, I faced to the right-about, and, before our tete-a-tete had lasted the brief space of three-quarters of a minute, I disappeared with all possible haste, her terrific yells vibrating in my astonished ears long after I had turned the corner of the street; nor did I feel perfectly at ease until I found myself stretched on a bundle of straw in a corner of the barn occupied by the men.

We proceeded, next morning, to join the army; and, as our route lay through the city of Coimbra, we came to the magnanimous resolution of providing ourselves with all manner of comforts and equipments for the campaign on our arrival there; but, when we entered it, at the end of the second day, our disappointment was quite eclipsed by astonishment at finding ourselves the only living things in a city, which ought to have been furnished with twenty thousand souls.

Lord Wellington was then in the course of his retreat from the frontiers of Spain to the lines of Torres Vedras, and had compelled the inhabitants on the line of march to abandon their homes, and to destroy or carry away every thing that could be of service to the enemy. It was a measure that ultimately saved their country, though ruinous and distressing to those concerned, and on no class of individuals did it bear harder, for the moment, than our own little detachment, a company of rosy-cheeked, chubbed youths, who, after three months feeding on ship's dumplings, were thus thrust, at a moment of extreme activity, in the face of an advancing foe, supported by a pound of raw beef, drawn every day fresh from the bullock, and a mouldy biscuit.

The difficulties we encountered were nothing out of the usual course of old campaigners; but, untrained and unprovided as I was, I still looked back upon the twelve or fourteen days following the battle of Busaco as the most trying I have ever experienced, for we were on our legs from daylight until dark, in daily contact with the enemy; and, to satisfy the stomach of an ostrich, I had, as already stated, only a pound of beef, a pound of biscuit, and one glass of rum. A brother-officer was kind enough to strap my boat-cloak and portmanteau on the mule carrying his heavy baggage, which, on account of the proximity of the foe, was never permitted to be within a day's march of us, so that, in addition to my simple uniform, my only covering every night was the canopy of heaven, from whence the dews descended so refreshingly, that I generally awoke, at the end of an hour, chilled, and wet to the skin; and I could only purchase an equal length of additional repose by jumping up and running about, until I acquired a sleeping quantity of warmth. Nothing in life can be more ridiculous than seeing a lean, lank fellow start from a profound sleep, at midnight, and begin lashing away at the highland fling, as if St. Andrew himself had been playing the bagpipes; but it was a measure that I very often had recourse to, as the cleverest method of producing heat. In short, though the prudent general may preach the propriety of light baggage in the enemy's presence, I will ever maintain that there is marvellous small personal comfort in travelling so fast and so lightly as I did.

The Portuguese farmers will tell you that the beauty of their climate consists in their crops receiving from the nightly dews the refreshing influence of a summer's shower, and that they ripen in the daily sun. But they are a sordid set of rascals! Whereas I speak with the enlightened views of a man of war, and say, that it is poor consolation to me, after having been deprived of my needful repose, and kept all night in a fever, dancing wet and cold, to be told that I shall be warm enough in the morning? it is like frying a person after he has been boiled; and I insisted upon it, that if their sun had been milder and their dews lighter that I should have found it much more pleasant.


From the moment that I joined the army, so intense was my desire to get a look at this illustrious chief, that I never should have forgiven the Frenchman that had killed me before I effected it. My curiosity did not remain long ungratified; for, as our post was next the enemy, I found, when anything was to be done, that it was his also. He was just such a man as I had figured in my mind's eye, and I thought that the stranger would betray a grievous want of penetration who could not select the Duke of Wellington from amid five hundred in the same uniform.


Other People, Myself, and my Regiment. Retreat to the Lines of Torres Vedras. Leave Coimbra, followed by a select group of Natives. Ford the Streets of Condacia in good spirit. A Provost-Marshal and his favourites. A fall. Convent of Batalha. Turned out of Allenquer. Passed through Sobral. Turned into Arruda. Quartering of the Light Division, and their Quarters at Arruda. Burial of an only Child. Lines of Torres Vedras. Difference of opinion between Massena and Myself. Military Customs.

Having now brought myself regularly into the field, under the renowned Wellington, should this narrative, by any accident, fall into the hands of others who served there, and who may be unreasonable enough to expect their names to be mentioned in it, let me tell them that they are most confoundedly mistaken! Every man may write a book for himself, if he likes, but this is mine; and, as I borrow no man's story, neither will I give any man a particle of credit for his deeds, as I have got so little for my own that I have none to spare. Neither will I mention any regiment but my own, if I can possibly avoid it, for there is none other that I like so much, and none else so much deserves it; for we were the light regiment of the Light Division, and fired the first and last shot in almost every battle, siege, and skirmish, in which the army was engaged during the war.

In stating the foregoing resolution, however, with regard to regiments, I beg to be understood as identifying our old and gallant associates, the forty-third and fifty-second, as a part of ourselves, for they bore their share in every thing, and I love them as I hope to do my better half, (when I come to be divided,) wherever we were, they were; and although the nature of our arm generally gave us more employment in the way of skirmishing, yet, whenever it came to a pinch, independent of a suitable mixture of them among us, we had only to look behind to see a line, in which we might place a degree of confidence, almost equal to our hopes in heaven; nor were we ever disappointed. There never was a corps of riflemen in the hands of such supporters!

October 1st, 1810.—We stood to our arms at day light this morning, on a hill in front of Coimbra; and, as the enemy soon after came on in force, we retired before them through the city. The civil authorities, in making their own hurried escape, had totally forgotten that they had left a gaol full of rogues unprovided for, and who, as we were passing near them, made the most hideous screaming for relief. Our quarter-master-general very humanely took some men, who broke open the doors, and the whole of them were soon seen howling along the bridge into the wide world, in the most delightful delirium, with the French dragoons at their heels.

We retired, the same night, through Condacia, where the commissariat were destroying quantities of stores that they were unable to carry off. They handed out shoes and shirts to any one that would take them, and the streets were literally running ankle deep with rum, in which the soldiers were dipping their cups and helping themselves as they marched along. The commissariat, some years afterwards, called for a return of the men who had received shirts and shoes on this occasion, with a view of making us pay for them, but we very briefly replied that the one half were dead, and the other half would be d——d before they would pay any thing.

We retired this day to Leria, and, at the entrance of the city, saw an English and a Portuguese soldier dangling by the bough of a tree—the first summary example I had ever seen of martial law.

A provost-marshal, on actual service, is a character of considerable pretensions, as he can flog at pleasure, always moves about with a guard of honour, and though he cannot altogether stop a man's breath without an order, yet, when he is ordered to hang a given number out of a crowd of plunderers, his friends are not particularly designated, so that he can invite any one that he takes a fancy to, to follow him to the nearest tree, where he, without further ceremony, relieves him from the cares and troubles of this wicked world.

There was only one furnished shop remaining in the town at this time, and I went in to see what they had got to sell; but I had scarcely past the threshold when I heard a tremendous clatter at my heels, as if the opposite house had been pitched in at the door after me; and, on wheeling round to ascertain the cause, I found, when the dust cleared away, that a huge stone balcony, with iron railings, which had been over the door, overcharged with a collection of old wives looking at the troops, had tumbled down; and in spite of their vociferations for the aid of their patron saints, some them were considerably damaged.

We halted one night near the Convent of Batalha, one of the finest buildings in Portugal. It has, I believe, been clearly established, that a living man in ever so bad health is better than two dead ones; but it appears that the latter will vary in value according to circumstances, for we found here, in very high preservation, the body of King John of Portugal, who founded the edifice in commemoration of some victory, God knows how long ago; and though he would have been reckoned a highly valuable antique, within a glass case, in an apothecary's hall in England, yet he was held so cheap in his own house, that the very finger which most probably pointed the way to the victory alluded to, is now in the baggage of the Rifle Brigade! Reader, point not thy finger at me, for I am not the man.

Retired on the morning of a very wet, stormy day to Allenquer, a small town on the top of a mountain, surrounded by still higher ones; and, as the enemy had not shewn themselves the evening before, we took possession of the houses, with a tolerable prospect of being permitted the unusual treat of eating a dinner under cover. But by the time that the pound of beef was parboiled, and while an officer of dragoons was in the act of reporting that he had just patrolled six leagues to the front, without seeing any signs of an enemy, we saw the indefatigable rascals, on the mountain opposite our windows, just beginning to wind round us, with a mixture of cavalry and infantry; the wind blowing so strong, that the long tail of each particular horse stuck as stiffly out in the face of the one behind, as if the whole had been strung upon a cable and dragged by the leaders. We turned out a few companies, and kept them in check while the division was getting under arms, spilt the soup as usual, and transferring the smoking solids to the haversack, for future mastication, we continued our retreat.

We past through the town of Sobral, soon after dark, the same night; and, by the aid of some rushlights in a window, saw two apothecaries, the very counterparts of Romeo's, who were the only remnants of the place, and had braved the horrors of war for the sake of the gallipots, and in the hopes that their profession would be held sacred. They were both on the same side of the counter, looking each other point blank in the face, their sharp noses not three inches apart, and neither daring to utter a syllable, but both listening intensely to the noise outside. Whatever their courage might have been screwed up to before, it was evident that we were indebted for their presence now to their fears; and their appearance altogether was so ludicrous, that they excited universal shouts of laughter as they came within view of the successive divisions.

Our long retreat ended at midnight, on our arrival at the handsome little town of Arruda, which was destined to be the piquet post of our division, in front of the fortified lines. The quartering of our division, whether by night or by day, was an affair of about five minutes. The quarter-master-general preceded the troops, accompanied by the brigade-majors and the quarter-masters of regiments; and after marking off certain houses for his general and staff, he split the remainder of the town between the majors of brigades: they in their turn provided for their generals and staff, and then made a wholesale division of streets among the quarter-masters of regiments, who, after providing for their commanding officers and staff, retailed the remaining houses, in equal proportions, among the companies; so that, by the time that the regiment arrived, there was nothing to be done beyond the quarter-master's simply telling each captain, "here's a certain number of houses for you."

Like all other places on the line of march, we found Arruda totally deserted, and its inhabitants had fled in such a hurry, that the keys of their house doors were the only things they carried away; so that when we got admission, through our usual key,[1] we were not a little gratified to find that the houses were not only regularly furnished, but most of them had some food in the larder, and a plentiful supply of good wines in the cellar; and, in short, that they only required a few lodgers capable of appreciating the good things which the gods had provided; and the deuce is in it if we were not the very folks who could!

[Footnote 1: Transmitting a rifle-ball through the key-hole: it opens every lock.]

Unfortunately for ourselves, and still more so for the proprietors, we never dreamt of the possibility of our being able to keep possession of the town, as we thought it a matter of course that the enemy would attack our lines; and, as this was only an outpost, that it must fall into their hands; so that, in conformity with the system upon which we had all along been retreating, we destroyed every thing that we could not use ourselves, to prevent their benefiting by it. But, when we continued to hold the post beyond the expected period, our indiscretion was visited on our own heads, as we had destroyed in a day what would have made us luxurious for months. We were in hopes that, afterwards, the enemy would have forced the post, if only for an hour, that we might have saddled them with the mischief; but, as they never even made the attempt, it left it in the power of ill-natured people to say, that we had plundered one of our own towns. This was the only instance during the war in which the light division had reason to blush for their conduct, and even in that we had the law martial on our side, whatever gospel law might have said against it.

The day after our arrival, Mr. Simmons and myself had the curiosity to look into the church, which was in nowise injured, and was fitted up in a style of magnificence becoming such a town. The body of a poor old woman was there, lying dead before the altar. It seemed as if she had been too infirm to join in the general flight, and had just dragged herself to that spot by a last effort of nature, and expired. We immediately determined, that as her's was the only body that we had found in the town, either alive or dead, that she should have more glory in the grave than she appeared to have enjoyed on this side of it; and, with our united exertions, we succeeded in raising a marble slab, which surmounted a monumental vault, and was beautifully embellished with armorial blazonry, and, depositing the body inside, we replaced it again carefully. If the personage to whom it belonged happened to have a tenant of his own for it soon afterwards, he must have been rather astonished at the manner in which the apartment was occupied.

Those who wish a description of the lines of Torres Vedras, must read Napier, or some one else who knows all about them; for my part, I know nothing, excepting that I was told that one end of them rested on the Tagus, and the other somewhere on the sea; and I saw, with my own eyes, a variety of redoubts and field-works on the various hills which stand between. This, however, I do know, that we have since kicked the French out of more formidable looking and stronger places; and, with all due deference be it spoken, I think that the Prince of Essling ought to have tried his luck against them, as he could only have been beaten by fighting, as he afterwards was without it! And if he thinks that he would have lost as many men by trying, as he did by not trying, he must allow me to differ in opinion with him!!!

In very warm or very wet weather it was customary to put us under cover in the town during the day, but we were always moved back to our bivouac, on the heights, during the night; and it was rather amusing to observe the different notions of individual comfort, in the selection of furniture, which officers transferred from their town house to their no house on the heights. A sofa, or a mattress, one would have thought most likely to be put in requisition; but it was not unusual to see a full-length looking-glass preferred to either.

The post of the company to which I belonged, on the heights, was near a redoubt, immediately behind Arruda; there was a cattle-shed near it, which we cleaned out, and used as a sort of quarter. On turning out from breakfast one morning, we found that the butcher had been about to offer up the usual sacrifice of a bullock to the wants of the day; but it had broken loose, and, in trying to regain his victim, had caught it by the tail, which he twisted round his hand; and, when we made our appearance, they were performing a variety of evolutions at a gallop, to the great amusement of the soldiers; until an unlucky turn brought them down upon our house, which had been excavated out of the face of the hill, on which the upper part of the roof rested, and in they went, heels over head, butcher, bullock, tail and all, bearing down the whole fabric with a tremendous crash.

N.B. It was very fortunate that we happened to be outside; and very unfortunate, as we were now obliged to remain out.

We certainly lived in clover while we remained here; every thing we saw was our own, seeing no one there who had a more legitimate claim; and every field was a vineyard. Ultimately it was considered too much trouble to pluck the grapes, as there were a number of poor native thieves in the habit of coming from the rear, every day, to steal some, so that a soldier had nothing to do but to watch one until he was marching off with his basket full, when he would very deliberately place his back against that of the Portuguese, and relieve him of his load, without wasting any words about the bargain. The poor wretch would follow the soldier to the camp, in the hope of having his basket returned, as it generally was, when emptied.

Massena conceiving any attack upon our lines to be hopeless, as his troops were rapidly mouldering away with sickness and want, at length began to withdraw them nearer to the source of his supplies.

He abandoned his position, opposite to us, on the night of the 9th of November, leaving some stuffed-straw gentlemen occupying their usual posts. Some of them were cavalry, some infantry, and they seemed such respectable representatives of their spectral predecessors, that, in the haze of the following morning, we thought that they had been joined by some well-fed ones from the rear; and it was late in the day before we discovered the mistake and advanced in pursuit. In passing by the edge of a mill-pond, after dark, our adjutant and his horse tumbled in, and, as the latter had no tail to hold on by, they were both very nearly drowned.

It was late ere we halted for the night, on the side of the road, near to Allenquer, and I got under cover in a small house, which looked as if it had been honoured as the head-quarters of the tailor-general of the French army, for the floor was strewed with variegated threads, various complexioned buttons, with particles and remnants of cabbage; and, if it could not boast of the flesh and fowl of Noah's ark, there was an abundance of the creeping things which it were to be wished that that commander had not left behind. We marched before daylight next morning, leaving a rousing fire in the chimney, which shortly became too small to hold it; for we had not proceeded far before we perceived that the well-dried thatched roof had joined in the general blaze, a circumstance which caused us no little uneasiness, for our general, the late Major-general Robert Crawford, had brought us up in the fear of our master; and, as he was a sort of person who would not see a fire, of that kind, in the same light that we did, I was by no means satisfied that my commission lay snug in my pocket, until we had fairly marched it out of sight, and in which we were aided not a little by a slight fire of another kind, which he was required to watch with the advanced guard.

On our arrival at Valle, on the 12th of Nov. we found the enemy behind the Rio Maior, occupying the heights of Santarem, and exchanged some shots with their advanced posts. In the course of the night we experienced one of those tremendous thunderstorms which used to precede the Wellington victories, and which induced us to expect a general action on the following day. I had disposed myself to sleep in a beautiful green hollow way, and, before I had time even to dream of the effects of their heavy rains, I found myself floating most majestically towards the river, in a fair way of becoming food for the fishes. I ever after gave those inviting-looking spots a wide birth, as I found that they were regular watercourses.

Next morning our division crossed the river, and commenced a false attack on the enemy's left, with a view of making them show their force; and it was to have been turned into a real attack, if their position was found to be occupied by a rear guard only; but, after keeping up a smart skirmishing-fire the greater part of the day, Lord Wellington was satisfied that their whole army was present, we were consequently withdrawn.

This affair terminated the campaign of 1810. Our division took possession of the village of Valle and its adjacents, and the rest of the army was placed in cantonments, under whatever cover the neighbouring country afforded.

Our battalion was stationed in some empty farm-houses, near the end of the bridge of Santarem, which was nearly half a mile long; and our sentries and those of the enemy were within pistol-shot of each other on the bridge.

I do not mean to insinuate that a country is never so much at peace as when at open war; but I do say that a soldier can no where sleep so soundly, nor is he any where so secure from surprise, as when within musket-shot of his enemy.

We lay four months in this situation, divided only by a rivulet, without once exchanging shots. Every evening, at the hour

"When bucks to dinner go, And cits to sup,"

it was our practice to dress for sleep: we saddled our horses, buckled on our armour, and lay down, with the bare floor for a bed and a stone for a pillow, ready for any thing, and reckless of every thing but the honour of our corps and country; for I will say (to save the expense of a trumpeter) that a more devoted set of fellows were never associated.

We stood to our arms every morning at an hour before daybreak, and remained there until a grey horse could be seen a mile off, (which is the military criterion by which daylight is acknowledged, and the hour of surprise past,) when we proceeded to unharness, and to indulge in such luxuries as our toilet and our table afforded.

The Maior, as far as the bridge of Valle, was navigable for the small craft from Lisbon, so that our table, while we remained there, cut as respectable a figure, as regular supplies of rice, salt fish, and potatoes could make it; not to mention that our pig-skin was, at all times, at least three parts full of a common red wine, which used to be dignified by the name of black-strap. We had the utmost difficulty, however, in keeping up appearances in the way of dress. The jacket, in spite of shreds and patches, always maintained something of the original about it; but woe befel the regimental small-clothes, and they could only be replaced by very extraordinary apologies, of which I remember that I had two pair at this period, one of a common brown Portuguese cloth, and the other, or Sunday's pair, of black velvet. We had no women with the regiment; and the ceremony of washing a shirt amounted to my servant's taking it by the collar, and giving it a couple of shakes in the water, and then hanging it up to dry. Smoothing-irons were not the fashion of the times, and, if a fresh well-dressed aide-de-camp did occasionally come from England, we used to stare at him with about as much respect as Hotspur did at his "waiting gentlewoman."

The winter here was uncommonly mild. I am not the sort of person to put myself much in the way of ice, except on a warm summer's day; but the only inconvenience that I felt in bathing, in the middle of December, was the quantity of leeches that used to attach themselves to my personal supporters, obliging me to cut a few capers to shake them off, after leaving the water.

Our piquet-post, at the bridge, became a regular lounge, for the winter, to all manner of folks.

I used to be much amused at seeing our naval officers come up from Lisbon riding on mules, with huge ships' spy-glasses, like six-pounders, strapped across the backs of their saddles. Their first question invariably was, "Who is that fellow there," (pointing to the enemy's sentry, close to us,) and, on being told that he was a Frenchman, "Then why the devil don't you shoot him!"

Repeated acts of civility passed between the French and us during this tacit suspension of hostilities. The greyhounds of an officer followed a hare, on one occasion, into their lines, and they very politely returned them.

I was one night on piquet, at the end of the bridge, when a ball came from the French sentry and struck the burning billet of wood round which we were sitting, and they sent in a flag of truce, next morning, to apologize for the accident, and to say that it had been done by a stupid fellow of a sentry, who imagined that people were advancing upon him. We admitted the apology, though we knew well enough that it had been done by a malicious rather than a stupid fellow, from the situation we occupied.

General Junot, one day reconnoitring, was severely wounded by a sentry, and Lord Wellington, knowing that they were at that time destitute of every thing in the shape of comfort, sent to request his acceptance of any thing that Lisbon afforded that could be of any service to him; but the French general was too much of a politician to admit the want of any thing.


Campaign of 1811 opens. Massena's Retreat. Wretched Condition of the Inhabitants on the Line of March. Affairs with the Enemy, near Pombal. Description of a Bivouac. Action near Redinha. Destruction of Condacia and Action near it. Burning of the Village of Illama, and Misery of its Inhabitants. Action at Foz D'Aronce. Confidential Servants with Donkey-Assistants.

The campaign of 1811 commenced on the 6th of March, by the retreat of the enemy from Santarem.

Lord Wellington seemed to be perfectly acquainted with their intentions, for he sent to apprize our piquets, the evening before, that they were going off, and to desire that they should feel for them occasionally during the night, and give the earliest information of their having started. It was not, however, until daylight that we were quite certain of their having gone, and our division was instantly put in motion after them, passing through the town of Santarem, around which their camp fires were still burning.

Santarem is finely situated, and probably had been a handsome town. I had never seen it in prosperity, and it now looked like a city of the plague, represented by empty dogs and empty houses; and, but for the tolling of a convent-bell by some unseen hand, its appearance was altogether inhuman.

We halted for the night near Pyrnes. This little town, and the few wretched inhabitants who had been induced to remain in it under the faithless promises of the French generals, shewed fearful signs of a late visit from a barbarous and merciless foe. Young women were lying in their houses brutally violated,—the streets were strewed with broken furniture, intermixed with the putrid carcasses of murdered peasants, mules, and donkeys, and every description of filth, that filled the air with pestilential nausea. The few starved male inhabitants who were stalking amid the wreck of their friends and property, looked like so many skeletons who had been permitted to leave their graves for the purpose of taking vengeance on their oppressors, and the mangled body of every Frenchman who was unfortunate or imprudent enough to stray from his column, shewed how religiously they performed their mission.

March 8th.—We overtook their rear guard this evening, snugly put up for the night in a little village, the name of which I do not recollect, but a couple of six pounders, supported by a few of our rifles, induced them to extend their walk.

March 9th.—While moving along the road this morning, we found a man, who had deserted from us a short time before, in the uniform of a French dragoon, with his head laid open by one of our bullets. He was still alive, exciting any thing but sympathy among his former associates. Towards the afternoon we found the enemy in force, on the plain in front of Pombal, where we exchanged some shots.

March 11th.—They retired yesterday to the heights behind Pombal, with their advanced posts occupying the town and moorish castle, which our battalion, assisted by some Cacadores, attacked this morning, and drove them from with considerable loss. Dispositions were then made for a general attack on their position, but the other divisions of our army did not arrive until too late in the evening. We bivouacked for the night in a ploughed field, under the castle, with our sentries within pistol shot, while it rained in torrents.

As it is possible that some of my readers might never have had the misfortune to experience the comforts of a bivouac, and as the one which I am now in, contains but a small quantity of sleep, I shall devote a waking hour for their edification.

When a regiment arrives at its ground for the night, it is formed in columns of companies, at full, half, or quarter distance, according to the space which circumstances will permit it to occupy. The officer commanding each company then receives his orders; and, after communicating whatever may be necessary to the men, he desires them to "pile arms, and make themselves comfortable for the night." Now, I pray thee, most sanguine reader, suffer not thy fervid imagination to transport thee into elysian fields at the pleasing exhortation conveyed in the concluding part of the captain's address, but rest thee contentedly in the one where it is made, which in all probability is a ploughed one, and that, too, in a state of preparation to take a model of thy very beautiful person, under the melting influence of a shower of rain. The soldiers of each company have a hereditary claim to the ground next to their arms, as have their officers to a wider range on the same line, limited to the end of a bugle sound, if not by a neighbouring corps, or one that is not neighbourly, for the nearer a man is to his enemy, the nearer he likes to be to his friends. Suffice it, that each individual knows his place as well as if he had been born on the estate, and takes immediate possession accordingly. In a ploughed or a stubble field there is scarcely a choice of quarters; but, whenever there is a sprinkling of trees, it is always an object to secure a good one, as it affords shelter from the sun by day and the dews by night, besides being a sort of home or sign post for a group of officers, as denoting the best place of entertainment; for they hang their spare clothing and accoutrements among the branches, barricade themselves on each side with their saddles, canteens, and portmanteaus, and, with a blazing fire in their front, they indulge, according to their various humours, in a complete state of gipsyfication.

There are several degrees of comfort to be reckoned in a bivouac, two of which will suffice.

The first, and worst, is to arrive at the end of a cold wet day, too dark to see your ground, and too near the enemy to be permitted to unpack the knapsacks or to take off accoutrements; where, unincumbered with baggage or eatables of any kind, you have the consolation of knowing that things are now at their worst, and that any change must be for the better. You keep yourself alive for a while, in collecting material to feed your fire with. You take a smell at your empty calibash, which recalls to your remembrance the delicious flavour of its last drop of wine. You curse your servant for not having contrived to send you something or other from the baggage, (though you know that it was impossible). You then damn the enemy for being so near you, though probably, as in the present instance, it was you that came so near them. And, finally, you take a whiff at the end of a cigar, if you have one, and keep grumbling through the smoke, like distant thunder through a cloud, until you tumble into a most warlike sleep.

The next, and most common one, is, when you are not required to look quite so sharp, and when the light baggage and provisions come in at the heel of the regiment. If it is early in the day, the first thing to be done is to make some tea, the most sovereign restorative for jaded spirits. We then proceed to our various duties. The officers of each company form a mess of themselves. One remains in camp to attend to the duties of the regiment; a second attends to the mess: he goes to the regimental butcher, and bespeaks a portion of the only purchaseable commodities, hearts, livers, and kidneys; and also to see whether he cannot do the commissary out of a few extra biscuit, or a canteen of brandy; and the remainder are gentlemen at large for the day. But while they go hunting among the neighbouring regiments for news, and the neighbouring houses for curiosity, they have always an eye to their mess, and omit no opportunity of adding to the general stock.

Dinner hour, for fear of accidents, is always the hour when dinner can be got ready; and the 14th section of the articles of war is always most rigidly attended to, by every good officer parading himself round the camp-kettle at the time fixed, with his haversack in his hand. A haversack on service is a sort of dumb waiter. The mess have a good many things in common, but the contents of the haversack are exclusively the property of its owner; and a well regulated one ought never to be without the following furniture, unless when the perishable part is consumed, in consequence of every other means of supply having failed, viz. a couple of biscuit, a sausage, a little tea and sugar, a knife, fork, and spoon, a tin cup, (which answers to the names of tea-cup, soup-plate, wine-glass, and tumbler,) a pair of socks, a piece of soap, a tooth-brush, towel, and comb, and half a dozen cigars.

After doing justice to the dinner, if we feel in a humour for additional society, we transfer ourselves to some neighbouring mess, taking our cups, and whatever we mean to drink, along with us, for in those times there is nothing to be expected from our friends beyond the pleasure of their conversation: and, finally, we retire to rest. To avoid inconvenience by the tossing off of the bed-clothes, each officer has a blanket sewed up at the sides, like a sack, into which he scrambles, and, with a green sod or a smooth stone for a pillow, composes himself to sleep; and, under such a glorious reflecting canopy as the heavens, it would be a subject of mortification to an astronomer to see the celerity with which he tumbles into it. Habit gives endurance, and fatigue is the best nightcap; no matter that the veteran's countenance is alternately stormed with torrents of rain, heavy dews, and hoar-frosts; no matter that his ears are assailed by a million mouths of chattering locusts, and by some villanous donkey, who every half hour pitches a bray note, which, as a congregation of presbyterians follow their clerk, is instantly taken up by every mule and donkey in the army, and sent echoing from regiment to regiment, over hill and valley, until it dies away in the distance; no matter that the scorpion is lurking beneath his pillow, the snake winding his slimy way by his side, and the lizard galloping over his face, wiping his eyes with its long cold tail.

All are unheeded, until the warning voice of the brazen instrument sounds to arms. Strange it is, that the ear which is impervious to what would disturb the rest of the world besides, should alone be alive to one, and that, too, a sound which is likely to sooth the sleep of the citizens, or at most, to set them dreaming of their loves. But so it is: the first note of the melodious bugle places the soldier on his legs, like lightning; when, muttering a few curses at the unseasonableness of the hour, he plants himself on his alarm post, without knowing or caring about the cause.

Such is a bivouac; and our sleep-breaker having just sounded, the reader will find what occurred, by reading on.

March 12th.—We stood to our arms before daylight. Finding that the enemy had quitted the position in our front, we proceeded to follow them; and had not gone far before we heard the usual morning's salutation, of a couple of shots, between their rear and our advanced guard. On driving in their outposts, we found their whole army drawn out on the plain, near Redinha, and instantly quarrelled with them on a large scale.

As every body has read Waverley and the Scottish Chiefs, and knows that one battle is just like another, inasmuch as they always conclude by one or both sides running away; and as it is nothing to me what this or t'other regiment did, nor do I care three buttons what this or t'other person thinks he did, I shall limit all my descriptions to such events as immediately concerned the important personage most interested in this history.

Be it known then, that I was one of a crowd of skirmishers who were enabling the French ones to carry the news of their own defeat through a thick wood, at an infantry canter, when I found myself all at once within a few yards of one of their regiments in line, which opened such a fire, that had I not, rifleman like, taken instant advantage of the cover of a good fir tree, my name would have unquestionably been transmitted to posterity by that night's gazette. And, however opposed it may be to the usual system of drill, I will maintain, from that day's experience, that the cleverest method of teaching a recruit to stand at attention, is to place him behind a tree and fire balls at him; as, had our late worthy disciplinarian, Sir David Dundas, himself, been looking on, I think that even he must have admitted that he never saw any one stand so fiercely upright as I did behind mine, while the balls were rapping into it as fast as if a fellow had been hammering a nail on the opposite side, not to mention the numbers that were whistling past, within the eighth of an inch of every part of my body, both before and behind, particularly in the vicinity of my nose, for which the upper part of the tree could barely afford protection.

This was a last and a desperate stand made by their rear-guard, for their own safety, immediately above the town, as their sole chance of escape depended upon their being able to hold the post until the only bridge across the river was clear of the other fugitives. But they could not hold it long enough; for, while we were undergoing a temporary sort of purgatory in their front, our comrades went working round their flanks, which quickly sent them flying, with us intermixed, at full cry, down the streets.

Whether in love or war, I have always considered that the pursuer has a decided advantage over the pursued. In the first, he may gain and cannot lose; but, in the latter, when one sees his enemy at full speed before him, one has such a peculiar conscious sort of feeling that he is on the right side, that I would not exchange places for any consideration.

When we reached the bridge, the scene became exceedingly interesting, for it was choked up by the fugitives who were, as usual, impeding each other's progress, and we did not find that the application of our swords to those nearest to us tended at all towards lessening their disorder, for it induced about a hundred of them to rush into an adjoining house for shelter, but that was netting regularly out of the frying-pan into the fire, for the house happened to be really in flames, and too hot to hold them, so that the same hundred were quickly seen unkennelling again, half-cooked, into the very jaws of their consumers.

John Bull, however, is not a blood-thirsty person, so that those who could not better themselves, had only to submit to a simple transfer of personal property to ensure his protection. We, consequently, made many prisoners at the bridge, and followed their army about a league beyond it, keeping up a flying fight until dark.

Just as Mr. Simmons and myself had crossed the river, and were talking over the events of the day, not a yard asunder, there was a Portuguese soldier in the act of passing between us, when a cannon-ball plunged into his belly—his head doubled down to his feet, and he stood for a moment in that posture before he rolled over a lifeless lump.

March 13th.—Arrived on the hill above Condacia in time to see that handsome little town in flames. Every species of barbarity continued to mark the enemy's retreating steps. They burnt every town or village through which they passed, and if we entered a church, which, by accident, had been spared, it was to see the murdered bodies of the peasantry on the altar.

While Lord Wellington, with his staff, was on a hill a little in front of us, waiting the result of a flank-movement which he had directed, some of the enemy's sharpshooters stole, unperceived, very near to him and began firing, but, fortunately, without effect. We immediately detached a few of ours to meet them, but the others ran off on their approach.

We lay by our arms until towards evening, when the enemy withdrew a short distance behind Condacia, and we closed up to them. There was a continued popping between the advanced posts all night.

March 14th.—Finding, at daylight, that the enemy still continued to hold the strong ground before us, some divisions of the army were sent to turn their flanks, while ours attacked them in front.

We drove them from one strong hold to another, over a large track of very difficult country, mountainous and rocky, and thickly intersected with stone walls, and were involved in one continued hard skirmish from daylight until dark. This was the most harassing day's fighting that I ever experienced.

Daylight left the two armies looking at each other, near the village of Illama. The smoking roofs of the houses showed that the French had just quitted and, as usual, set fire to it, when the company to which I belonged was ordered on piquet there for the night. After posting our sentries, my brother-officer and myself had the curiosity to look into a house, and were shocked to find in it a mother and her child dead, and the father, with three more, living, but so much reduced by famine as to be unable to remove themselves from the flames. We carried them into the open air, and offered the old man our few remaining crumbs of biscuit, but he told us that he was too far gone to benefit by them, and begged that we would give them to his children. We lost no time in examining such of the other houses as were yet safe to enter, and rescued many more individuals from one horrible death, probably to reserve them for another equally so, and more lingering, as we had nothing to give them, and marched at daylight the following morning.

Our post that night was one of terrific grandeur. The hills behind were in a blaze of light with the British camp-fires, as were those in our front with the French ones. Both hills were abrupt and lofty, not above eight hundred yards asunder, and we were in the burning village in the valley between. The roofs of houses every instant falling in, and the sparks and flames ascending to the clouds. The streets were strewed with the dying and the dead,—some had been murdered and some killed in action, which, together with the half-famished wretches whom we had saved from burning, contributed in making it a scene which was well-calculated to shake a stout heart, as was proved in the instance of one of our sentries, a well known "devil-may-care" sort of fellow. I know not what appearances the burning rafters might have reflected on the neighbouring trees at the time, but he had not been long on his post before he came running into the piquet, and swore, by all the saints in the calendar, that he saw six dead Frenchmen advancing upon him with hatchets over their shoulders!

We found by the buttons on the coats of some of the fallen foe, that we had this day been opposed to the French ninety-fifth regiment, (the same number as we were then,) and I cut off several of them, which I preserved as trophies.

March 15th.—We overtook the enemy a little before dark this afternoon. They were drawn up behind the Ceira, at Fez D'Aronce, with their rear-guard, under Marshal Ney, imprudently posted on our side of the river, a circumstance which Lord Wellington took immediate advantage of; and, by a furious attack, dislodged them, in such confusion, that they blew up the bridge before half of their own people had time to get over. Those who were thereby left behind, not choosing to put themselves to the pain of being shot, took to the river, which received them so hospitably that few of them ever quitted it. Their loss, on this occasion, must have been very great, and, we understood, at the time, that Ney had been sent to France, in disgrace, in consequence of it.

About the middle of the action, I observed some inexperienced light troops rushing up a deep road-way to certain destruction, and ran to warn them out of it, but I only arrived in time to partake the reward of their indiscretion, for I was instantly struck with a musket-ball above the left ear, which deposited me, at full length, in the mud.

I know not how long I lay insensible, but, on recovering, my first feeling was for my head, to ascertain if any part of it was still standing, for it appeared to me as if nothing remained above the mouth; but, after repeated applications of all my fingers and thumbs to the doubtful parts, I, at length, proved to myself, satisfactorily, that it had rather increased than diminished by the concussion; and, jumping on my legs, and hearing, by the whistling of the balls from both sides, that the rascals who had got me into the scrape had been driven back and left me there, I snatched my cap, which had saved my life, and which had been spun off my head to the distance of ten or twelve yards, and joined them, a short distance in the rear, when one of them, a soldier of the sixtieth, came and told me that an officer of ours had been killed, a short time before, pointing to the spot where I myself had fallen, and that he had tried to take his jacket off, but that the advance of the enemy had prevented him. I told him that I was the one that had been killed, and that I was deucedly obliged to him for his kind intentions, while I felt still more so to the enemy for their timely advance, otherwise, I have no doubt, but my friend would have taken a fancy to my trousers also, for I found that he had absolutely unbuttoned my jacket.

There is nothing so gratifying to frail mortality as a good dinner when most wanted and least expected. It was perfectly dark before the action finished, but, on going to take advantage of the fires which the enemy had evacuated, we found their soup-kettles in full operation, and every man's mess of biscuit lying beside them, in stockings, as was the French mode of carrying them; and it is needless to say how unceremoniously we proceeded to do the honours of the feast. It ever after became a saying among the soldiers, whenever they were on short allowance, "well, d—n my eyes, we must either fall in with the French or the commissary to-day, I don't care which."

As our baggage was always in the rear on occasions of this kind, the officers of each company had a Portuguese boy, in charge of a donkey, on whom their little comforts depended. He carried our boat-cloaks and blankets, was provided with a small pig-skin for wine, a canteen for spirits, a small quantity of tea and sugar, a goat tied to the donkey, and two or three dollars in his pocket, for the purchase of bread, butter, or any other luxury which good fortune might throw in his way in the course of the day's march. We were never very scrupulous in exacting information regarding the source of his supplies; so that he had nothing to dread from our wrath, unless he had the misfortune to make his appearance empty-handed. They were singularly faithful and intelligent in making their way to us every evening, under the most difficult circumstances. This was the only night during Massena's retreat in which ours failed to find us; and, wandering the greater part of the night in the intricate maze of camp-fires, it appeared that he slept, after all, among some dragoons, within twenty yards of us.


Passage of the Mondego. Swearing to a large Amount. Two Prisoners, with their Two Views. Two Nuns, Two Pieces of Dough, and Two Kisses. A Halt. Affair near Frexedas. Arrival near Guarda. Murder. A stray Sentry. Battle of Sabugal. Spanish and Portuguese Frontiers. Blockade of Almeida. Battle-like. Current Value of Lord Wellington's Nose. Battle of Fuentes D'Onor. The Day after the Battle. A grave Remark. The Padre's House. Retreat of the Enemy.

March 17th.—Found the enemy's rear-guard behind the Mondego, at Ponte de Marcella, cannonaded them out of it, and then threw a temporary bridge across the river, and followed them until dark.

The late Sir Alexander Campbell, who commanded the division next to ours, by a wanton excess of zeal in expecting an order to follow, would not permit any thing belonging to us to pass the bridge, for fear of impeding the march of his troops; and, as he received no order to march, we were thereby prevented from getting any thing whatever to eat for the next thirty-six hours. I know not whether the curses of individuals are recorded under such circumstances, but, if they are, the gallant general will have found the united hearty ones of four thousand men registered against him for that particular act.

March 19th.—We, this day, captured the aide-de-camp of General Loison, together with his wife, who was dressed in a splendid hussar uniform. He was a Portuguese, and a traitor, and looked very like a man who would be hanged. She was a Spaniard, and very handsome, and looked very like a woman who would get married again.

March 20th.—We had now been three days without any thing in the shape of bread, and meat without it, after a time, becomes almost loathsome. Hearing that we were not likely to march quite so early as usual this morning, I started, before daylight, to a village about two miles off, in the face of the Sierra D'Estrella, in the hopes of being able to purchase something, as it lay out of the hostile line of movements. On my arrival there, I found some nuns who had fled from a neighbouring convent, waiting outside the building of the village-oven for some Indian-corn-leaven, which they had carried there to be baked, and, when I explained my pressing wants, two of them, very kindly, transferred me their shares, for which I gave each a kiss and a dollar between. They took the former as an unusual favour; but looked at the latter, as much as to say, "our poverty, and not our will, consents." I ran off with my half-baked dough, and joined my comrades, just as they were getting under arms.

March 21st.—We, this day, reached the town of Mello, and had so far outmarched our commissary that we found it necessary to wait for him; and, in stopping to get a sight of our friends, we lost sight of our foes, a circumstance which I was by no means sorry for, as it enabled my shoulders, once more, to rejoice under the load of a couple of biscuits, and made me no longer ashamed to look a cow or a sheep in the face, now that they were not required to furnish more than their regulated proportions of my daily food.

March 30th.—We had no difficulty in tracing the enemy, by the wrecks of houses and the butchered peasantry; and overtook their rear-guard, this day, busy grinding corn, in some windmills, near the village of Frexedas. As their situation offered a fair opportunity for us to reap the fruits of their labours, we immediately attacked and drove them from it, and, after securing what we wanted, we withdrew again, across the valley, to the village of Alverca, where we were not without some reasonable expectations that they would have returned the compliment, as we had only a few squadrons of dragoons in addition to our battalion, and we had seen them withdraw a much stronger force from the opposite village; but, by keeping a number of our men all night employed in making extensive fires on the hill above, it induced them to think that our force was much greater than it really was; and we remained unmolested.

The only person we had hit in this affair was our adjutant, Mr. Stewart, who was shot through the head from a window. He was a gallant soldier, and deeply lamented. We placed his body in a chest, and buried it in front of Colonel Beckwith's quarters.

March 31st.—At daylight, this morning, we moved to our right, along the ridge of mountains, to Guarda: on our arrival there, we saw the imposing spectacle of the whole of the French army winding through the valley below, just out of gun-shot.

On taking possession of one of the villages which they had just evacuated, we found the body of a well-dressed female, whom they had murdered by a horrible refinement in cruelty. She had been placed upon her back, alive, in the middle of the street, with the fragment of a rock upon her breast, which it required four of our men to remove.

April 1st.—We overtook the enemy this afternoon, in position, behind the Coa, at Sabugal, with their advanced posts on our side of the river.

I was sent on piquet for the night, and had my sentries within half-musket shot of theirs: it was wet, dark, and stormy when I went, about midnight, to visit them, and I was not a little annoyed to find one missing. Recollecting who he was, a steady old soldier and the last man in the world to desert his post, I called his name aloud, when his answering voice, followed by the discharge of a musket, reached me nearly at the same time, from the direction of one of the French sentries; and, after some inquiry, I found that in walking his lonely round, in a brown study, no doubt, he had each turn taken ten or twelve paces to his front, and only half that number to the rear, until he had gradually worked himself up to within a few yards of his adversary; and it would be difficult to say which of the two was most astonished—the one at hearing a voice, or the other a shot so near, but all my rhetoric, aided by the testimony of the serjeant and the other sentries, could not convince the fellow that he was not on the identical spot on which I had posted him.

April 2d.—We moved this day to the right, nearer to the bridge, and some shots were exchanged between the piquets.


April 3d, 1811.

Early this morning our division moved still farther to its right, and our brigade led the way across a ford, which took us up to the middle; while the balls from the enemy's advanced posts were hissing in the water around us, we drove in their light troops and commenced a furious assault upon their main body. Thus far all was right; but a thick drizzling rain now came on, in consequence of which the third division, which was to have made a simultaneous attack to our left, missed their way, and a brigade of dragoons under Sir William Erskine, who were to have covered our right, went the Lord knows where, but certainly not into the fight, although they started at the same time that we did, and had the music of our rifles to guide them; and, even the second brigade of our own division could not afford us any support, for nearly an hour, so that we were thus unconsciously left with about fifteen hundred men, in the very impertinent attempt to carry a formidable position, on which stood as many thousands.

The weather, which had deprived us of the aid of our friends, favoured us so far as to prevent the enemy from seeing the amount of our paltry force; and the conduct of our gallant fellows, led on by Sir Sidney Beckwith, was so truly heroic, that, incredible as it may seem, we had the best of the fight throughout. Our first attack was met by such overwhelming numbers, that we were forced back and followed by three heavy columns, before which we retired slowly, and keeping up a destructive fire, to the nearest rising ground, where we re-formed and instantly charged their advancing masses, sending them flying at the point of the bayonet, and entering their position along with them, where we were assailed by fresh forces. Three times did the very same thing occur. In our third attempt we got possession of one of their howitzers, for which a desperate struggle was making, when we were at the same moment charged by infantry in front and cavalry on the right, and again compelled to fall back; but, fortunately, at this moment we were reinforced by the arrival of the second brigade, and, with their aid, we once more stormed their position and secured the well-earned howitzer, while the third division came at the same time upon their flank, and they were driven from the field in the greatest disorder.

Lord Wellington's despatch on this occasion did ample justice to Sir Sidney Beckwith and his brave brigade. Never were troops more judiciously or more gallantly led. Never was a leader more devotedly followed.

In the course of the action a man of the name of Knight fell dead at my feet, and though I heard a musket ball strike him, I could neither find blood nor wound.

There was a little spaniel belonging to one of our officers running about the whole time, barking at the balls, and I saw him once smelling at a live shell, which exploded in his face without hurting him.

The strife had scarcely ended among mortals, when it was taken up by the elements with terrific violence. The Scotch mist of the morning had now increased to torrents, enough to cool the fever of our late excitement, and accompanied by thunder and lightning. As a compliment for our exertions in the fight, we were sent into the town, and had the advantage of whatever cover its dilapidated state afforded. While those who had not had the chance of getting broken skins, had now the benefit of sleeping in wet ones.

On the 5th of April we entered the frontiers of Spain, and slept in a bed for the first time since I left the ship. Passing from the Portuguese to the Spanish frontier is about equal to taking one step from the coal-hole into the parlour, for the cottages on the former are reared with filth, furnished with ditto, and peopled accordingly; whereas, those of Spain, even within the same mile, are neatly whitewashed, both without and within, and the poorest of them can furnish a good bed, with clean linen, and the pillow-cases neatly adorned with pink and sky-blue ribbons, while their dear little girls look smiling and neat as their pillow-cases.

After the action at Sabugal, the enemy retired to the neighbourhood of Ciudad Rodrigo, without our getting another look at them, and we took up the line of the Agueda and Axava rivers, for the blockade of the fortress of Almeida, in which they had left a garrison indifferently provisioned.

The garrison had no means of providing for their cattle, but by turning them out to graze upon the glacis; and we sent a few of our rifles to practice against them, which very soon reduced them to salt provisions.

Towards the end of April the French army began to assemble on the opposite bank of the Agueda to attempt the relief of the garrison, while ours began to assemble in position at Fuentes D'Onor to dispute it.

Our division still continued to hold the same line of outposts, and had several sharp affairs between the piquets at the bridge of Marialva.

As a general action seemed now to be inevitable, we anxiously longed for the return of Lord Wellington, who had been suddenly called to the corps of the army under Marshal Beresford, near Badajos, as we would rather see his long nose in the fight than a reinforcement of ten thousand men any day. Indeed, there was a charm not only about himself but all connected with him, for which no odds could compensate. The known abilities of Sir George Murray, the gallant bearing of the lamented Pakenham, of Lord Fitzroy Somerset, of the present Duke of Richmond, Sir Colin Campbell, with others, the flower of our young nobility and gentry, who, under the auspices of such a chief, seemed always a group attendant on victory; and I'll venture to say that there was not a bosom in that army that did not beat more lightly, when we heard the joyful news of his arrival, the day before the enemy's advance.

He had ordered us not to dispute the passage of the river, so that when the French army advanced, on the morning of the 3d of May, we retired slowly before them, across the plains of Espeja, and drew into the position, where the whole army was now assembled. Our division took post in reserve, in the left centre. Towards evening, the enemy made a fierce attack on the Village of Fuentes, but were repulsed with loss.

On the 4th, both armies looked at each other all day without exchanging shots.


May 5th, 1811.

The day began to dawn, this fine May morning, with a rattling fire of musketry on the extreme right of our position, which the enemy had attacked, and to which point our division was rapidly moved.

Our battalion was thrown into a wood, a little to the left and front of the division engaged, and was instantly warmly opposed to the French skirmishers; in the course of which I was struck with a musket-ball on the left breast, which made me stagger a yard or two backward, and, as I felt no pain, I concluded that I was dangerously wounded; but it turned out to be owing to my not being hurt. While our operations here were confined to a tame skirmish, and our view to the oaks with which we were mingled, we found, by the evidence of our ears, that the division which we had come to support was involved in a more serious onset, for there was the successive rattle of artillery, the wild hurrah of charging squadrons, and the repulsing volley of musketry; until Lord Wellington, finding his right too much extended, directed that division to fall back behind the small river Touronne, and ours to join the main body of the army. The execution of our movement presented a magnificent military spectacle, as the plain, between us and the right of the army, was by this time in possession of the French cavalry, and, while we were retiring through it with the order and precision of a common field-day, they kept dancing around us, and every instant threatening a charge, without daring to execute it.

We took up our new position at a right angle with the then right of the British line, on which our left rested, and with our right on the Touronne. The enemy followed our movement with a heavy column of infantry; but, when they came near enough to exchange shots, they did not seem to like our looks, as we occupied a low ridge of broken rocks, against which even a rat could scarcely have hoped to advance alive; and they again fell back, and opening a tremendous fire of artillery, which was returned by a battery of our guns. In the course of a short time, seeing no further demonstration against this part of the position, our division was withdrawn, and placed in reserve in rear of the centre.

The battle continued to rage with fury in and about the village, whilst we were lying by our arms under a burning hot sun, some stray cannon-shot passing over and about us, whose progress we watched for want of other employment. One of them bounded along in the direction of an amateur, whom we had for some time been observing securely placed, as he imagined, behind a piece of rock, which stood about five feet above the ground, and over which nothing but his head was shown, sheltered from the sun by an umbrella. The shot in question touched the ground three or four times between us and him; he saw it coming—lowered his umbrella, and withdrew his head. Its expiring bound carried it into the very spot where he had that instant disappeared. I hope he was not hurt; but the thing looked so ridiculous that it excited a shout of laughter, and we saw no more of him.

A little before dusk, in the evening, our battalion was ordered forward to relieve the troops engaged in the village, part of which still remained in possession of the enemy, and I saw, by the mixed nature of the dead, in every part of the streets, that it had been successively in possession of both sides. The firing ceased with the daylight, and I was sent, with a section of men, in charge of one of the streets for the night. There was a wounded Serjeant of highlanders lying on my post. A ball had passed through the back part of his head, from which the brain was oozing, and his only sign of life was a convulsive hiccough every two or three seconds. I sent for a medical friend to look at him, who told me that he could not survive; I then got a mattress from the nearest house, placed the poor fellow on it, and made use of one corner as a pillow for myself, on which, after the fatigues of the day, and though called occasionally to visit my sentries, I slept most soundly. The highlander died in the course of the night.

When we stood to our arms, at daybreak next morning, we found the enemy busy throwing up a six-gun battery, immediately in front of our company's post, and we immediately set to work, with our whole hearts and souls, and placed a wall, about twelve feet thick, between us, which, no doubt, still remains there in the same garden, as a monument of what can be effected, in a few minutes, by a hundred modern men, when their personal safety is concerned; not but that the proprietor, in the midst of his admiration, would rather see a good bed of garlic on the spot, manured with the bodies of the architects.

1  2  3  4     Next Part
Home - Random Browse