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Twenty-Five Years in the Rifle Brigade.
by William Surtees.
The Author of the following Narrative entered the Army in early life. He commenced his military career in 1795, as a private soldier in the Northumberland Militia; and in the following year he volunteered into the Pompadours. In this regiment he first faced the enemy, during the expedition to Holland under the Duke of York. On getting his discharge from the Pompadours, in 1802, he again entered the service as a private in the Rifle Brigade, to which he was attached for a period of twenty-five years. From his steady conduct, and ardent love for his profession, he was soon advanced from the ranks, and, after various intermediate steps, was appointed Quartermaster; a situation which he held as long as he continued in the corps, enjoying the respect and esteem of his brother officers of all ranks, as is amply testified by the letters which form the Appendix to this volume.
Though, as Quartermaster, the Author was not called by duty to join in battle, yet he lost no opportunity of entering the scene of action, or of placing himself in a favourable situation for observing what was pa.s.sing. It is unnecessary to enumerate the arduous services of the Rifle Brigade from 1802 to 1815. During the whole of that period the Author was actively engaged with his corps.
The Narrative is faithfully--indeed literally--printed from the Author's MS. as he left it at his death. The critical reader may therefore detect various inaccuracies which, had life been spared to the Author, would probably have been corrected; but he will find much to approve, and, hackneyed as Narratives of the Peninsular War have become, he will also find much that is new. There is no embellishment in the style of the Author's composition, but there is a quiet Defoe-like sincerity and simplicity characteristic of his pages, and a strain of unaffected piety, that is very pleasing; and the scenes and descriptions which he gives, though sometimes singularly chosen, and reported quite with a manner of his own, are on the whole portrayed with strong graphic effect. One word, however, before closing,--our Author is never vulgar.
A severe pulmonary affection compelled him to quit his corps in 1826. He retired to Corbridge, his native village, where he arrived on the 24th of October in that year, and continued there, respected and beloved, and constantly engaged in acts of benevolence, till the period of his death, 28th May, 1830.
_November 23, 1832._
TWENTY-FIVE YEARS IN THE RIFLE BRIGADE.
Birth and Parentage--Enters the Militia--Volunteers into the Line--Joins the Army destined for Holland--The Troops embark at Deal--Land at the Helder--Laxity of discipline--March for Schagen--Detachment under Sir Ralph Abercromby sent to surprise Hoorne--Hoorne surrenders.
I was born on the 4th of August, 1781, in the village of Corbridge, in the county of Northumberland; of parents who may be said to have been among the middle cla.s.ses, my father being a tradesman. They gave me such an education as was customary with people of their station in life; viz.
reading, writing, and arithmetic. My mother having sprung from a pious race, was the first to implant in my mind any sense of religion; indeed, it is to the spiritual seed sown in my heart by her during my youth, that I am indebted, under G.o.d, for having been brought, many years afterwards, to consider my ways, and to turn to Him. Nevertheless, being naturally of a sensual and wicked disposition, I, as might be expected, spent a dissolute youth, which often caused great pain and uneasiness to my good and pious mother. But I did not continue long under the paternal roof; for, having from my infancy a great predilection for a military life, I embraced almost the first opportunity that offered, after I became sufficiently grown, to enter into the militia of my native county. I enlisted on the 15th of November, 1798, being then little more than seventeen years of age. I entered this service with the determination that, should I not like a soldier's life, I would then, after remaining a few years in it, return home; but, if I did like it, to volunteer into the line, and make that my occupation for life. It will readily be believed that this undutiful step affected deeply my excellent parents; for though my father was not _then_ a religious man, he had a heart susceptible of the tenderest feelings; and I really believe that no parents ever felt more deeply the combined emotions of tender regret at my leaving them so young, and for such a purpose, and at the disgrace which my wayward conduct had, as they imagined, brought upon myself. But though evil in itself, G.o.d overruled it for good to me, and, I trust, to them also. I would here remark that the life of a soldier was by no means considered in my native village, at that time, as at all creditable; and when I sometimes in my boyhood used to exhibit symptoms of a military inclination, I was often taunted with the then opprobrious expression, "Ay, thou likes the smell of poother,"
intimating thereby that I was likely to disgrace myself by going for a soldier.
I left my family in much grief in the beginning of 1799, and marched with several other recruits to join my regiment at Chelmsford in Ess.e.x, where we arrived in about a month, and where I began my military career.
I always liked a soldier's life, consequently I did not suffer from many of those parts of it which are so unpleasant to those of a contrary disposition; and, as I took pleasure in it, I of course made more progress in acquiring a knowledge of my duty than some others who set out with me. I was early placed in the first squad, an honour which I considered no trifling one in those days,--but none of us finished our drill; for, in July of the same year, an order was issued, permitting such men as chose to extend their services, to volunteer into the line, in order to recruit the army then destined for Holland. We had previously marched from Chelmsford to Colchester, a distance of twenty-one miles, which march was to me, I think, the severest I ever underwent; for being young, and totally unaccustomed to any thing like it, the weight of the musket, bayonet, accoutrements, and knapsack, appeared, towards the latter end of the march, to be almost intolerable; but I kept up, although excessively tired. This will show how necessary it is at all times to accustom troops, destined for service, to move in such order as they will be expected to do when they take the field--for, if unaccustomed to the carriage of the knapsack, and to frequent marches with it for exercise, they will be utterly unable to perform any movement against, or in the face of an enemy, with that celerity necessary to ensure success. I volunteered, with several of my comrades, into the 56th regiment, or Pompadours, so called from their facings being Madame Pompadour's favourite colour, and we set off (carried in waggons to accelerate our movements) for Canterbury, which we reached in two days and one night, having travelled without making a halt; and there we joined the skeleton of our regiment, just then returned from the West Indies, where twice, during the war, it had been nearly exterminated by disease.
In a few days after our arrival, a selection was made throughout the volunteers for fit subjects for the light company, when, fortunately, both myself and William Sutherland (who had been in the same company with me in the militia, and who, from our names and size being so nearly similar, had always stood next me in the ranks) were chosen for this, in my mind, honourable service. I felt not a little proud at my advancement, as I considered it, (and as I believe the generality of soldiers consider it,) to be made a light-bob.
The regiment had not at this time either arms, appointments, or clothing; but, being in a few days sent off to Barham Downs, where the army for Holland was a.s.sembled and encamped, we soon after were supplied with the necessary equipment, and commenced without delay to drill and get the men in readiness for embarkation. At this time the flank companies of all those regiments destined for Holland were separated from their battalions, and formed into what are termed flank battalions.
That in which my company was placed consisted of eleven light companies, the command of which was given to Lieut.-Col. Sharpe, of the 9th regiment, an experienced and gallant veteran, who had commanded a similar battalion in the eastern district, under the Earl of Chatham.
The grenadier battalion was composed of an equal number of grenadier companies, and belonged to the same regiments to which ours belonged.
Before our arrival on Barham Downs, the first division of the expedition, under Sir Ralph Abercromby, had sailed; and we soon after were called out to fire a _feu de joie_ for their capture of the Dutch fleet, and their having effected a landing and gained a victory near the Helder. Nothing could be more brilliant than our display upon this occasion appeared to me--we were nearly 20,000 strong, I imagine, and, being formed in one extensive line, the firing of the _feu de joie_ produced a fine effect. To my non-military readers, perhaps, it will be necessary to explain what is termed a _feu de joie_. The usual mode is, when formed in line, for the fire to commence by signal with the right file of the whole, and each of those on their left take it up rapidly in succession, so that, to a looker-on, it has the appearance of a wild-fire running along the line; but on this occasion we heightened the effect, by beginning with the right of the front rank only, and when it had pa.s.sed along by the front, the left-hand man of the rear rank took it up, and so it pa.s.sed along by the rear to the right again. It appeared to me, at that time, certainly the finest sight I had ever witnessed. Every heart present was elated with joy, and beat high to be led on to share in those glorious achievements which we were then celebrating; but, alas! we were then ignorant that we were as unfit at that time to suffer the toils and privations of a campaign, as if we had never seen a soldier; we were all young, and inexperienced in the highest degree, and our discipline, as might be naturally expected, was far from good; for, being an army hastily collected from every regiment of militia in the kingdom, the officers of course neither had that knowledge of the characters of their men, which is so essential, nor had the latter that confidence in their officers, which only a service together for some length of time can engender, and which is absolutely necessary to secure an unreserved and active obedience to their commands. But the period of our embarkation fast approached; previously to which, we were reviewed by his Royal Highness the Duke of York, (who was destined to command us,) accompanied by several others of the Royal Family, and by General Sir Charles Grey, my countryman. I believe they all expressed themselves highly satisfied with our appearance and movements, and hoped that we would shortly add fresh laurels to those already gained by our forerunners.
As it was expected to be a service of only a short duration, it was determined that the men should embark in what is called "light marching"
or "service order," that is, with only about half the usual complement of necessaries, consequently every soldier had to leave a considerable portion of his things behind him; and, in order to deposit them safely, empty casks were procured for each company, into which every man was ordered to stow his extra things, after being properly packed and labelled with his name, &c. This rather grieved me, for I had brought with me from home as good a kit (as the soldiers term it) as any in the army. My dear mother had prepared me shirts fine enough for any officer, and abundance of them, but of those thus left I never saw one afterwards. During our stay in this camp, I never enjoyed better health or greater lightness of spirits, forgetful or heedless of the deep and lasting anguish which my late rash step must naturally inflict upon the hearts of my tender and affectionate parents; but I was no doubt stimulated to this thoughtless forgetfulness of them, by witnessing the animating scenes around me, where all was bustle and high antic.i.p.ation of more glorious doings.
We marched from this camp to Deal, where we embarked in transports already prepared to receive us. As soon as we arrived we were instantly put on board, but never shall I forget the effect which the sight of the sea, and such a number of ships of various sizes and descriptions, had upon me; for before this I had never been near the sea, although I had marched from the north to the south of England. But, to add to all the strange things which then met my view, we were instantly on marching down put into a large boat that lay high upon the beach; which, when filled with troops, they run down into the sea with astonishing rapidity, turning my stomach, as we entered the water, completely topsy-turvy. The effect of all this can better be conceived than described; we were immediately rowed off to, and put on board our transport, which happened to be a brig called the Zephyr of Shields.
Here also every thing was quite new to me; but all was met and performed with the highest spirits, so far as sea-sickness permitted. We remained on board two or three days before the fleet was ready for sea; but at length we sailed with a favourable breeze, and in two or three days more we made the coast of Holland, and soon afterwards came to anchor within the Texel. Every thing being ready for landing, and the Helder being in our possession, we disembarked there on the 15th of September, 1799, having been just one week on board. We were formed on landing near the town, and waited till some others had disembarked, before we moved off.
Among those regiments which landed, I remember the 35th was one. This regiment, after coming on sh.o.r.e, was drawn up close to us; they had not been long landed before the men began with their knives to cut off each other's hair, which then was worn in the shape of a club; this was done without any orders from their officers, and appeared to me, I confess, such a breach of discipline, as I could not have antic.i.p.ated; for though on the whole it was an improvement, as later usage has shown, yet I apprehend for a body of soldiers, without any permission from higher authority, to take upon them to break through the long-established custom of the service, was such an utter renunciation of all obedience to authority, as directly to threaten with destruction the best interests of the army to which they belonged; however, at such a time it would perhaps have been attended with still worse consequences to have made an example of the offenders, although, had stricter discipline been enforced from the outset, I feel a.s.sured the army in general would have benefited by it.
Towards evening, we moved forward through the town of Helder, and proceeded on our route towards Schagen, and halted for the night on the road, and where such as could find houses, of which there were a few straggling ones in the neighbourhood, got into them. I awoke in the night, and still fancied myself on board ship; for the wind and rain were beating violently against the little hovel into which a few of us had crept, and I imagined it was the dashing of the sea against the bow of the vessel. Indeed so strong was this imagination, that when I got up, I literally could not stand steady, not having been long enough on board, to acquire what is termed my "sea legs;" that is, I had not learned the art of standing steady when the vessel heeled; and, strange as it may appear to a person who has never been at sea, I believe most landsmen have the same feeling for some short time after being put on sh.o.r.e. We had each man been supplied with a blanket while in camp on Barham Downs, but had no proper or uniform mode of carrying them; we had no great-coats, but made use of the blanket sometimes as a subst.i.tute in the morning, when we turned out to proceed on our march. We certainly made a strange appearance. Some had their blankets thrown around them, others had them twisted up like a horse collar, and tied over their shoulders in the manner of a plaid; while some had them stuffed into, and others tied on to the top of their knapsack; in short, we appeared like any thing but _regular_ troops. We moved forward as soon as we were formed, and early in the day reached Schagen-bruck, where his Royal Highness stood to inspect us as we marched past. Near this place we fell in with some of the Russian regiments, they having landed nearly at the same time, and of which nation there were, I believe, about 20,000 troops expected to join our army. But if we appeared irregular and grotesque, I know not well how to describe them; their riflemen were shod with boots very much resembling those of our fishermen, coming up considerably higher than the knee; thus rendering them, I should imagine, incapable of celerity of movement, one of the chief requisites in a rifle corps; they also wore large c.o.c.ked hats and long green coats.
Their grenadiers were dressed more apropos, having high sugar-loaf shaped caps, mounted with a great deal of bra.s.s, and projecting forward at the top, with long coats, and gaiters reaching above the knee. Their regular infantry were nearly similar to the grenadiers, only they wore c.o.c.ked hats instead of caps. The regiment which we saw on this occasion had with it, I should think, full half as many followers as soldiers, some of whom carried immensely large copper kettles; others the provisions, and others the officers' baggage; in short, these were the scullions, the cooks, and, as it were, the beasts of burden of the regiment; but this was a bad system, for it increased by one half the number of mouths to fill, and must have been attended with the worst consequences when provisions were scarce. The officers, I remember, carried what was formerly used in our service, a long sort of pole, with a head like a halberd, and called, I believe, a "spontoon." This, on pa.s.sing a general at a review, the officer twists and twirls around his head, precisely as a drum-major in our service does his cane. When we had pa.s.sed his Royal Highness at the bridge, we moved forward to the town of Schagen, and took up our quarters in the church. I thought this extremely odd, as I had been accustomed to view so sacred an edifice with more reverence than to suppose they would quarter soldiers in it; but we were stowed in it as thick as we could well be, and made the best of our quarters; some taking the chancel, others the vestry, and some the body of the church; nay, some even took up their lodging in the reading-desk and pulpit. We could contrive to make out the Lord's prayer in Dutch, but could not well proceed further, although there is much similarity between that language and the English of my native county.
Here, for the first time, we learnt that our brigade was what was called the _reserve_, and commanded by Colonel M'Donald of the 55th regiment; but on this occasion and in Egypt, the reserve was not what is generally understood by that term, for in both places it was composed of some of the best troops in the expedition, and was generally first called into action. On this occasion, the reserve consisted of the 23d Welsh fusileers, the 55th regiment, the grenadier battalion before mentioned, and our light battalion.
We remained here till the 18th, when towards evening we were ordered under arms, having been previously supplied with provisions; and, after every preliminary was adjusted, we set forward on our march towards the city of Hoorne, situated on the Zuyder Zee. Of our destination, the men, of course, were totally ignorant, but no doubt the officers knew. It turned out that about 8000 troops had been appointed for this service, the execution of which was intrusted to that gallant old veteran, and hitherto successful general, Sir Ralph Abercromby. The intention was to make a rapid and extensive flank movement during the night, and surprise and capture the said city, while his Royal Highness was to attack the enemy in front. We moved off as it became dark, but such was the state of the roads that it became the most trying and distressing march that I believe ever troops undertook; the roads were literally knee deep in mud in most places, while every now and then they were rendered nearly impa.s.sable, both by the enemy having broken down the bridges over the innumerable ca.n.a.ls and dikes which intersect this country, and these ca.n.a.ls in many places having overflowed their banks. None but those who have experienced this or something similar, can form an idea of the fatigue attending a night march in such a country, where the column is large. We marched, I think, in sections of about eight file, that is, with eight men abreast in the front rank, and the like number in the rear rank covering them. Conceive, then, your arriving at an obstacle which the darkness of the night multiplies a hundred-fold. Not more than one man will attempt to pa.s.s this obstacle at the same time, and he has to grope his way; consequently all the other fifteen men must stand still, or nearly so, till he is over, before they each move on in turn.
Multiply this by the 300 sections behind, and you will have a halt for the rear of probably an hour or more; standing all this while nearly up to the knees in mire; or, what is worse, as each regiment has accomplished the task of getting over, this of course causes the others in the rear to be drawing up towards it by degrees, so that probably you are compelled to stand (or, if you choose, you may lie down in the mud) for a quarter of an hour, or more perhaps; and then move on again for the s.p.a.ce of a few hundred yards, and then another halt; so that could you lie down to enjoy a little rest, the constant cry of "forward"
resounding in your ears, just as you begin to close your eyes, renders it the most tiresome and trying situation that I know of. It is true, the head of the column does not suffer in an equal proportion with those in the rear, or a night march in an enemy's country would be a dangerous operation.
During this march, I remember, when the road was extremely deep, some one on the right of my section called out that there was an excellent path a little beyond him; when one poor fellow moved in that direction, but had not made many steps, till souse he went into a deep ca.n.a.l.
Whether the man who called out had been actually deceived by the smooth surface of the water, which appeared in the dark like a nice level road; or whether he did it through mischief, I know not, but the poor simpleton who followed his advice paid dearly for his curiosity, being with some difficulty extricated from his uncomfortable situation. I may observe that these ca.n.a.ls or dikes skirt both sides of every road in this part of Holland, and are even made use of as fences for the fields, there not being any hedges or walls that I remember to have seen.
About break of day we reached the city, which at once surrendered; but just before daylight, I became so excessively weary that I could not continue in the ranks any longer; indeed men had been dropping out for some hours before, so that, I suppose, when the head of the column reached Hoorne, one half the number had fallen out; for it was beyond the powers of human nature to sustain such excessive fatigue. I, with two or three others, got behind a house that stood by the roadside, and laid ourselves down on a paved footpath which led from the back-door.
Never in my life did I experience a greater luxury than this appeared to be, where something hard, and that would keep me out of the deep and filthy mire, could be found to rest upon.
I laid me down and slept as soundly as ever I did in my life for about an hour, which quite refreshed me. We then got up and set off with all despatch to overtake the column, which we came up with and joined just as they halted after reaching the city. None of the troops entered the place, I believe; but my battalion being towards the rear of the column, was at a considerable distance from it. All now lay down to rest, and such as had houses near them occupied them; but those who had not, chose the driest parts of the ca.n.a.l bank or road, and all were soon buried in profound sleep, excepting those who were placed on guard.
The Russian Allies carry Bergen--Allow themselves to be surprised, and the whole Army forced to retire to their former position--Skirmishing in the vicinity of Old Patten--The Russians endeavour to force their way back to Bergen--The Russian and British Forces joined--The Enemy forced to abandon Egmont-op-Zee--Alkmaar surrenders--The Troops advance to Egmont Binnen--Skirmishing--General Engagement--The Enemy repulsed--The Forces retire to Zaand Wyck--Armistice concluded--Return to England.
From daylight we had heard a heavy and constant cannonade towards our right and rear. His Royal Highness, with the remainder of the army, as was before intimated, had moved forward and attacked the main body of the enemy; but as I did not witness this action, I forbear to relate what I heard concerning it, further than this, that the Russians who attacked the enemy posted in the neighbourhood of Bergen, having by some mismanagement allowed themselves to be surprised after having carried that village, the whole army had been obliged to retire to their former position. In consequence of this failure, I believe, we were ordered towards evening to fall in, and (what appeared annoying in the extreme) to retrace our weary footsteps by the same dirty road by which we had advanced. Nearly the same fatigue and misery were endured as in our advance; but the column did not keep so much together as before, the men falling out by hundreds, so that the stoppages were not quite so great.
We did not return to Schagen after our retreat, but were cantoned in some villages in front of that town; and a few days afterwards we were moved to the right of Schagen, through Schagen-bruck, to a farm hamlet called Zaand Wyck.
Here we remained till the 1st of October; but I should not omit to mention, that we had, during the intervening period, several marches, all of which were made by night, and in which similar sufferings and fatigue were endured as in the march to Hoorne. This, it may probably be remembered, was one of the wettest autumns almost upon record; and in these marches we generally had the full benefit of the torrents which fell in this naturally wet country. I have actually seen the water running out at the bottom of the men's trowsers like that from the gutter which carries the rain from the roof of a house. When we had not a night march, we invariably had to be at our alarm post an hour before daybreak,--and that being about four miles distant from our quarter at this time, we never had what may be called a full night's rest.
Military men will know that the custom of being at the alarm post before daybreak is almost universal; for, that being the usual time of attack, it behoves those who are apprehensive of a visit from the enemy to be on the look-out, and to be prepared to receive them when they come--here they remain, till, as the vulgar phrase goes, "You can see a white horse a mile off," that is, till it is clear daylight, and they have ascertained that no enemy is in the neighbourhood; after which, if all be quiet, they retire to their quarters. Our accommodations at Zaand Wyck may be said to have been good, for our officers had a farm-house to live in, and we had a good dry barn and other outhouses to lie down in; and in which I enjoyed some comfortable nights' lodgings. But on the 1st of October, in the afternoon, we were ordered to fall in, it having been previously intimated to us that we might probably have a brush with the enemy.
We were, of course, all life and glee on receiving the information, and the usual quant.i.ty of provisions having been issued, and every other preparation made in the night, we moved off by the same road by which we had usually advanced to our alarm post. This we pa.s.sed, and then entered a most unpleasant country to march through; it being nearer the enemy, of course all bridges and other communications had been destroyed. As we moved on, a little after daylight we were overtaken by the 11th light dragoons, on which we were ordered to open to the right and left to let them pa.s.s us. They seemed in high spirits, and some of them cried out, as they pa.s.sed us, "Go on, my lads, lather them well, and we'll come up and shave them."
Sir Walter Scott mentions this saying as made use of by some of the cavalry at Waterloo, as if it were at that time new; but I can a.s.sure him it is as old as 1799, if not much older, for I certainly heard it used on this occasion, and I know not but it may have been said long before. The cavalry inclined, after pa.s.sing us, to their left, while we kept down towards the sea; and soon after, on ascending a small eminence, we got a view of the village of Old Patten, where we discovered about 10,000 or 12,000 of our army drawn up near the sea-beach. We pa.s.sed them, and moved forward in the direction of a high range of sand-hills, which commenced about a mile beyond the village, and which overlooked all the plain below. Here the enemy was posted, and I was told that they began as soon as we were within reach to cannonade us; but from the heads of the men in front, I could not perceive any appearance of such cannonade, nor do I believe that any of their shot reached us. A little farther on, however, we met a Russian yager, or rifleman, coming back and holding out his hand, which had been wounded, and from which the blood was flowing pretty copiously.
This was the first blood that I had ever seen as drawn in hostile conflict, and it certainly produced a somewhat strange effect upon me; it showed plainly that we were in the immediate vicinity of that enemy we had so often talked about, and whom we hoped to conquer; that now the time had arrived which would infallibly prove what every man, boaster or not, was made of; and that it might happen that it was my lot to fall.
Having reflected (rather confusedly I own) on the pa.s.sing scene before me, and offered up an occasional prayer to Him who alone can cover the head in the day of battle, we now approached the bottom of this sandy eminence, when my company was ordered to unfix bayonets, (for we had previously primed and loaded,) and dash on at double quick time till we came in contact with the enemy. No time was left for reflection now, the immediate duty we had to perform occupied all our attention fully; we soon got into a smart fire from the enemy's riflemen, which we found was the only description of troops, except a few artillery, that we had to contend with, their main bodies of heavy infantry being on the right and left of this sandy range, which in some places was about a mile in breadth, in others more or less.
After the fight had fairly commenced, we kept but little order, owing partly to the want of discipline and experience in our people, and partly to the nature of the ground, which was rugged and uneven in the extreme, being one continued range of sand-hills, with hollows more or less deep between them; and partly it may be attributed to the ardour of our young men, who pressed on perhaps too rapidly. We continued to advance, and never once made a retrograde movement, the enemy regularly retiring from height to height on our approach; but they had greatly the advantage over us in point of shooting, their b.a.l.l.s doing much more execution than ours; indeed it cannot be wondered at, for they were all riflemen, trained to fire with precision, and armed with a weapon which seldom fails its object if truly pointed; while we were (what shall I say) totally ignorant of that most essential part of a soldier's duty.
They consequently suffered little from our fire; but we could not believe this, and tried to persuade ourselves they had either buried their dead in the sand before we came up to them, or carried them off as they retreated; but experience has since taught me to know that we then must have done them little harm.
About the middle of the day, as I and a young man of the name of Thomas Bambrough (a countryman of my own, and who had volunteered with me,) were moving on in company, in pa.s.sing through one of the valleys to an opposite height, we were a.s.sailed by a little volley from a group of the enemy which we discovered on a hill in front of us; one of which shots took effect in poor Bambrough's thigh just about the ham; he instantly fell, and roared out most piteously; I laid down my musket and endeavoured to hoist him on my back, in order to take him out of the fire, which they now poured in without intermission; but in this I failed, for he was so completely disabled by the wound, as to be rendered totally helpless, and it was so extremely painful that he could not bear the least movement.
I felt constrained to leave him, although I did so with reluctance, telling him that I would push on to the height we had first in view, to which I then perceived some more of our men had advanced, and would drive the enemy from their position; of course all this was not literally told him, but something to that effect was said; and I found that the moment I left him they ceased to fire on him; and, as I promised, we did drive off the enemy. Shortly after, some of our own people came up to where poor Bambrough lay, and carried him off to the rear; he was sent to an hospital, where he soon after died, they not being able, I understand, to extract the ball. Soon after this, there were some tremendous volleys of musketry heard on our left, apparently down in the plain below us. I, with one or two others, now inclined a little towards the left, in order to have a peep at the troops there, so hotly opposed to each other, in doing which, we still kept our line in front of the enemy's skirmishers.
We found it was the Russian army endeavouring to force their way towards the village of Bergen, the scene of their former disaster; but they were most distressingly r.e.t.a.r.ded by the innumerable ca.n.a.ls or ditches, by which the country was so intersected, and which were generally impa.s.sable by fording. On some occasions I could perceive, when they had found an entrance into an enclosure, and had fought their way to the farther side of it, they were obliged to retrace their steps, and get out by the same way by which they had entered, the enemy all this while pouring into them a close and destructive fire. This appeared to me to be most trying to their patience, and very disheartening; but they bore it with great steadiness.