Vida y Asedios de una pequeña gran ciudad
There is no Chapter IV in this book.
The errata changes have been included in the file.]
ADVENTURES IN THE RIFLE BRIGADE,
IN THE PENINSULA,FRANCE, AND THE NETHERLANDS,
FROM 1809 TO 1815.
CAPTAIN J. KINCAID.
T. AND W. BOONE, STRAND.
MAJOR-GEN. SIR ANDREW BARNARD,
K. C. B.
COLONEL OF THE FIRST BATTALION RIFLE BRIGADE,
AND ITS LEADER
DURING A LONG AND BRILLIANT PERIOD
OF ITS HISTORY,
THIS VOLUME IS RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED
BY HIS VERY OBEDIENT
AND VERY OBLIGED HUMBLE SERVANT,
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,"
CHAPTER I. 1
Joined the Rifles. Walcheren Expedition. A young Soldier. A Marine
View. Campaign in South Beeveland. Retreat to Scotland.
CHAP. II. 4
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.
CHAP. III. 15
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.
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
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.
CHAP. VII. 83
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.
CHAP. VIII. 100
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
CHAP. X. 143
A Farewell Address to Portalegré. 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 _déjûné_ 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.
CHAP. XIII. 200
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.
CHAP. XVII. 263
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.
CHAP. XVIII. 280
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
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.
ADVENTURES IN THE RIFLE BRIGADE.
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
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
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
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
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 _tête-à-tête_ 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
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
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
THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON.
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
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
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
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
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, 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
[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
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 Vallé, 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
This affair terminated the campaign of 1810. Our division took
possession of the village of Vallé 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
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 Vallé, 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
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
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 Cácadores, 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
BATTLE OF SABUGAL,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
On the 4th, both armies looked at each other all day without
BATTLE OF FUENTES D'ONOR,
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
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
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
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.
When the sun began to shine on the pacific disposition of the enemy,
we proceeded to consign the dead to their last earthly mansions,
giving every Englishman a grave to himself, and putting as many
Frenchmen into one as it could conveniently accommodate. Whilst in
the superintendence of this melancholy duty, and ruminating on the
words of the poet:--
"There's not a form of all that lie
Thus ghastly, wild and bare,
Tost, bleeding, in the stormy sky,
Black in the burning air,
But to his knee some infant clung,
But on his heart some fond heart hung!"
I was grieved to think that the souls of deceased warriors should be
so selfish as to take to flight in their regimentals, for I never saw
the body of one with a rag on after battle.
The day after one of those negative sort of victories is always one of
intense interest. The movements on each side are most jealously
watched, and each side is diligently occupied in strengthening such
points as the fight of the preceding day had proved to be the most
Lord Wellington was too deficient in his cavalry force to justify his
following up his victory; and the enemy, on their parts, had been too
roughly handled, in their last attempt, to think of repeating the
experiment; so that, during the next two days, though both armies
continued to hold the same ground, there was scarcely a shot
They had made a few prisoners, chiefly guardsmen and highlanders, whom
they marched past the front of our position, in the most ostentatious
way, on the forenoon of the 6th; and, the day following, a number of
their regiments were paraded in the most imposing manner for review.
They looked uncommonly well, and we were proud to think that we had
beaten such fine-looking fellows so lately!
Our regiment had been so long and so often quartered in Fuentes that
it was like fighting for our fire-sides. The _Padre's_ house stood at
the top of the town. He was an old friend of ours, and an old fool,
for he would not leave his house until it was too late to take
anything with him; but, curious enough, although it had been
repeatedly in the possession of both sides, and plundered, no doubt,
by many expert artists, yet none of them thought of looking so high as
the garret, which happened to be the repository of his money and
provisions. He came to us the day after the battle, weeping over his
supposed loss, like a sensitive Christian, and I accompanied him to
the house, to see whether there was not some consolation remaining for
him; but, when he found his treasure safe, he could scarcely bear its
restoration with becoming gravity. I helped him to carry off his bag
of dollars, and he returned the compliment with a leg of mutton.
The French army retired on the night of the 7th, leaving Almeida to
its fate; but, by an extraordinary piece of luck, the garrison made
their escape the night after, in consequence of some mistake or
miscarriage of an order, which prevented a British regiment from
occupying the post intended for it.
May 8th.--We advanced this morning, and occupied our former post at
Espeja, with some hopes of remaining quiet for a few days; but the
alarm sounding at daylight on the following morning, we took post on
the hill, in front of the village. It turned out to be only a patrole
of French cavalry, who retired on receiving a few shots from our
piquets, and we saw no more of them for a considerable time.
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
Lord Wellington, soon after the battle of Fuentes, was again called
into Estremadura, to superintend the operations of the corps of the
army under Marshal Beresford, who had, in the mean time, fought the
battle of Albuera, and laid siege to Badajos. In the beginning of
June our division was ordered thither also, to be in readiness to aid
his operations. We halted one night at the village of Soito, where
there are a great many chestnut trees of very extraordinary
dimensions; the outside of the trunk keeps growing as the inside
decays. I was one of a party of four persons who dined inside of one,
and I saw two or three horses put up in several others.
We halted, also, one night on the banks of the Coa, near Sabugal, and
visited our late field of battle. We found that the dead had been
nearly all torn from their graves, and devoured by wolves, who are in
great force in that wild mountainous district, and shew very little
respect either for man or beast. They seldom, indeed, attack a man;
but if one happens to tie his horse to a tree, and leaves him
unattended, for a short time, he must not be surprised if he finds, on
his return, that he has parted with a good _rump steak_; _that_ is the
piece that they always prefer; and it is, therefore, clear to me,
that the first of the wolves must have been reared in England!
We experienced, in the course of this very dark night, one of those
ridiculous false alarms which will sometimes happen in the best
organized body. Some bullocks strayed, by accident, amongst the piles
of arms, the falling clatter of which, frightened them so much that
they went galloping over the sleeping soldiers. The officers'
baggage-horses broke from their _moorings_, and joined in the general
charge; and a cry immediately arose, that it was the French cavalry.
The different regiments stood to their arms, and formed squares,
looking as sharp as thunder for something to fire at; and it was a
considerable time before the cause of the _row_ could be traced. The
different followers of the army, in the mean time, were scampering off
to the rear, spreading the most frightful reports. One woman of the
52d succeeded in getting three leagues off before daylight, and swore,
"that, as God was her judge, she did not leave her regiment until she
saw the last man of them cut to pieces!!!"
On our arrival near Elvas, we found that Marshal Beresford had raised
the siege of Badajos; and we were, therefore, encamped on the river
Caya, near Roquingo. This was a sandy unsheltered district; and the
weather was so excessively hot, that we had no enjoyment, but that of
living three parts of the day up to the neck in a pool of water.
Up to this period it had been a matter of no small difficulty to
ascertain, at any time, the day of the week; that of the month was
altogether out of the question, and could only be reckoned by counting
back to the date of the last battle; but our division was here joined
by a chaplain, whose duty it was to remind us of these things. He
might have been a very good man, but he was not prepossessing, either
in his appearance or manners. I remember, the first Sunday after his
arrival, the troops were paraded for divine service, and had been some
time waiting in square, when he at length rode into the centre of it,
with his tall, lank, ungainly figure, mounted on a starved, untrimmed,
unfurnished horse, and followed by a Portuguese boy, with his
canonicals and prayer-books on the back of a mule, with a hay-bridle,
and having, by way of clothing, about half a pair of straw breeches.
This spiritual comforter was the least calculated of any one that I
ever saw to excite devotion in the minds of men, who had seen nothing
in the shape of a divine for a year or two.
In the beginning of August we began to retrace our steps towards the
north. We halted a few days in Portalegré, and a few more at Castello
The latter place is surrounded by extensive gardens, belonging to the
richer citizens; in each of which there is a small summer-house,
containing one or two apartments, in which the proprietor, as I can
testify, may have the enjoyment of being fed upon by a more healthy
and better appetized flea, than is to be met with in town houses in
These _quintas_ fell to the lot of our battalion; and though their
beds, on that account, had not much sleep in them, yet, as those who
preferred the voice of the nightingale in a bed of cabbages, to the
pinch of a flea in a bed of feathers, had the alternative at their
option; I enjoyed my sojourn there very much. Each garden had a
bathing tank, with a plentiful supply of water, which at that season
was really a luxury; and they abounded in choice fruits. I there
formed an attachment to a mulberry-tree, which is still fondly
cherished in my remembrance.
We reached the scene of our former operations, in the north, towards
the end of August.
The French had advanced and blockaded Almeida, during our absence, but
they retired again on our approach, and we took up a more advanced
position than before, for the blockade of Ciudad Rodrigo.
Our battalion occupied Atalya, a little village at the foot of the
Sierra de Gata, and in front of the River Vadilla. On taking
possession of my quarter, the people showed me an outhouse, which,
they said, I might use as a stable, and I took my horse into it, but,
seeing the floor strewed with what appeared to be a small brown seed,
heaps of which lay in each corner, as if shovelled together in
readiness to take to market, I took up a handful, out of curiosity,
and, truly, they were a curiosity, for I found that they were all
regular fleas, and that they were proceeding to eat both me and my
horse, without the smallest ceremony. I rushed out of the place, and
knocked them down by fistfuls, and never yet could comprehend the
cause of their congregating together in such a place.
This neighbourhood had been so long the theatre of war, and
alternately forced to supply both armies, that the inhabitants, at
length, began to dread starvation themselves, and concealed, for their
private use, all that remained to them; so that, although they were
bountiful in their assurances of good wishes, it was impossible to
extract a loaf of their good bread, of which we were so wildly in want
that we were obliged to conceal patroles on the different roads and
footpaths, for many miles around, to search the peasants passing
between the different villages, giving them an order on the commissary
for whatever we took from them; and we were not too proud to take even
a few potatoes out of an old woman's basket.
On one occasion, when some of us were out shooting, we discovered
about twenty hives of bees, in the face of a glen, concealed among the
gumcestus, and, stopping up the mouth of one them, we carried it home
on our shoulders, bees and all, and continued to levy contributions on
the _depot_ as long as we remained there.
Towards the end of September, the garrison of Ciudad Rodrigo began to
get on such "short commons" that _Marmont_, who had succeeded
_Massena_, in the command of the French army, found it necessary to
assemble the whole of his forces, to enable him to throw provisions
Lord Wellington was still pursuing his defensive system, and did not
attempt to oppose him; but Marmont, after having effected his object,