Twenty-Five Years In The Rifle Brigade Part 16

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A considerable number of slaves, belonging to the estates where we had lately been stationed, followed us down thus far, some of whom would not return, but were afterwards sent on board of ship. These, male and female, often amused us with their native dances, the men generally having a number of rings or bells about them, which sounded as they kept time to the tune. Some of their dances were, however, far from decent, particularly on the part of the females, which, it may be supposed, highly delighted some of our young and thoughtless countrymen. Some were induced to return to their masters: for those who came on board of ship, I believe it was not till very lately that the two governments came to terms as to the remuneration which their owners claimed for them.

At length the turn came for my battalion to go on board, which we did on the 25th of January, when our whole five companies were put on board the Dover, the ship that had brought out two companies of the battalion, and which were then not much fewer in number than the five at present were; in fact, we had lost more than half. The whole army did not get embarked till ----, when the 7th Fusileers came on board. This regiment had been necessarily left alone at the fishermen's huts till the boats could return, as before stated, to bring them off, and yet even this single battalion the enemy, with upwards of 10,000 men, dared not come down and attack, although there were no works to protect it in this exposed situation. Nothing could possibly demonstrate more fully and clearly, that, notwithstanding the repulse they had unfortunately given our troops, they dreaded them in the open country; or else it must be attributed to the prudent sagacity of their leader, who, having gained a victory which he had previously scarce dared to hope for, now wisely resolved not to risk the tarnishing of his dear-bought laurels. It is not an easy matter to reconcile this cautious and timid conduct with their furious onset on the night of the 23d, and with their boasting speeches after our failure on the 8th instant.

Now, while we remain at rest for a short while on board of ship, let us take a retrospective glance at the late events. It is certain we were singularly unfortunate. Providence, which had smiled upon us in our late operations against the most formidable army in the world, the French, here taught us most painfully, that the victory is not always to be gained by strength or courage. Indeed it was but a just punishment for the contempt we entertained for our opponents, and which unfortunate feeling, I believe, was almost universal. I own I entertained it in a high degree; for I judged it next to a moral impossibility that an army of undisciplined and unmanageable peasants, however numerous, could for a moment withstand the attack of those troops who had overthrown the victorious legions of Bonaparte. But every soldier was a patriot, and they fought for their country, and for a country of all others most suitable for the operations of such troops; full of fastnesses, composed of creeks, and necks, and woods, &c. of all which they did not fail to take the utmost advantage. For this work of theirs, constructed on a spot of ground said to have been pointed out by General Moreau, completely shut us out from all approach towards the town, and compensated for every disadvantage under which they, as irregulars, laboured; for it was not only a formidable barrier to our army, but it gave them, by the protection it afforded their persons, all the steadiness of troops inured to combat, and permitted them the full exercise of that superior skill as marksmen for which they are famed, and which exposure in the open field would have deprived them of; for here they were covered up to the chin, and suffered comparatively nothing from all our fire.

But I fear we have something for which to blame ourselves on this occasion. It is certain, I believe, that they had been timely apprized of the destination of our expedition, however secret we pretended to keep it ourselves, and if rumour may in such a case be permitted to go for any thing, it is said that information was conveyed from Jamaica to New Orleans direct by a French ship, which left the former for the latter place some time before our arrival. How she came into the possession of that information, I cannot justly tell. It is certain, however, that the Americans must have had timely notice, or General Jackson could not have had the men from Kentucky and Tennessee to oppose us the first night we landed.

I before hazarded an opinion, that had we pushed forward on the 24th December, we should in all probability have proved successful. I will say nothing as to the point of debarkation being well or ill chosen, although many have said we should have been more likely to succeed had we attacked Fort ----, which, after carrying, would have allowed us to land behind the town, instead of three leagues below it. These things I am totally incapable of judging of, from my ignorance of the country. I also before expressed my opinion, that had we attacked on New Year's Day, when our artillery produced such an effect on the appalled Americans, we should have had a better chance of carrying their works.

Another thing in which I venture to differ from the plan adopted by our lamented commander, is, that I would have employed the 7th and 43d to the post of honour, instead of keeping them in reserve. They, it was well known, had each established a reputation for being the finest regiments in the service, and every reliance might have been placed in their executing whatever task was a.s.signed them, if executable by human powers. Far different was it with those who unfortunately led the attack, for except one of the regiments of the attacking column, they had not any of them been conspicuous as fighting regiments.

It was, I believe, a well known maxim of Bonaparte's, always to put his best troops in front; if they were successful, their example served to stimulate the others to copy their example; if unsuccessful, their discipline and valour never permitted them to become so totally disorganized as to render the reverse irretrievable. The onset also of these better troops, must produce a far different effect on the enemy than the hesitating and dispirited attack of inferior ones. Had our troops on this occasion rushed forward to the ditch in double quick time, or at least at a quick march, I venture to affirm the work would have been carried with the fourth part of the loss of what they suffered. Reason itself must point out to any man, whether acquainted with military matters or not, that to move slowly under a galling fire is more trying and destructive to the troops so moving, than to rush at once to the point aimed at; but much more, to halt at the very point where every fire-arm can be brought to bear upon them with the deadliest effect, is of all other modes of proceeding the least likely to succeed.

They were thus exposed for hours to as destructive a fire as ever was poured upon the heads of an attacking army, while, had they pushed on at the rate I mention, a few minutes would have sufficed to put them from under the fire of the artillery at least, for when close to the ditch, it could not be brought to bear upon them. Mark the mode in which the three companies on the left effected the task a.s.signed to them. Before the enemy were aware almost that they were to be attacked, these troops were in possession of the work they were destined to storm; so quickly indeed that the defenders of that work had not time to effect their retreat, and were, as before noticed, made prisoners by the attacking party. This not only secured their safety while left there by themselves, but enabled them, in some degree, to effect their retreat with less loss than they would otherwise have been exposed to.

I have dwelt perhaps too long on this, but of all other causes I deem this to have been the greatest of our sad failure. It is lamentable, however, to be obliged to confess, that ill conduct on the part of some parties, but of one individual in particular, contributed in no small degree to our repulse on this melancholy occasion. For the rest, nothing could exceed the determined courage and patient endurance of hardship that the army in general evinced, and certainly nothing could exceed the gallantry of our leaders.

It was now determined to make an attempt upon Mobile, a town lying about thirty or forty leagues to the eastward of New Orleans. Accordingly, the fleet got under weigh and proceeded in the direction of the entrance into Mobile Bay, which is protected on the west side by shoals and Isle Dauphine, and on the east by a fort, built on a point of land called Mobile Point, and mounting about twenty pieces of heavy ordnance. Its name is Fort Boyer, I believe. Before our arrival in this country, an attempt had been made on this fort by one of our frigates, but which entirely failed, owing to her taking the ground on the shoals before mentioned. As she could not be got off, and as she lay under the fire of the fort, her crew were compelled to abandon her, but, I believe, not till they had first set her on fire; her wreck lay here when we came.

Until this fort was taken, no vessel of any size could enter the bay, consequently it became necessary to attack it in form. The brigade formerly General Gibbs's, consisting of the 4th, 21st, and 44th, was therefore landed a little behind the point, and proceeded without delay to invest it; the remainder of the troops were landed on Isle Dauphine.

We were put on sh.o.r.e on the 8th February, and instantly commenced hutting ourselves by brigades. Some of the officers had tents issued out to them; the acting Quartermaster and myself had one between us. This island is almost covered with pine-wood, but in other respects it is nearly a desert, and without any inhabitants resident on it, save one family, a Mr Rooney, formerly from Belfast I understand, but now a naturalized American. He was married to a native of Louisiana, a lady of French extraction. He had been a midshipman in the American navy, but had been dismissed for some misconduct, it was said, and banished to this island. He appeared to us to be no great things.

I omitted to mention that the 40th regiment had arrived from England before we left the banks of the Mississippi, but it being after the failure they were of no use, and were consequently not permitted to land. They were afterwards placed in our brigade, which now bivouacked near to the point of the island facing the bay. When we arrived, the island contained a considerable number of cattle, with pigs, &c.

belonging to Rooney, but which had been permitted, as is customary in this country, to run wild in the woods, there being no danger of their leaving the island. These, however, soon fell a prey to such hungry fellows as we were, who had been for some time past on rather short commons. But they did not answer our expectations, being in taste, what may appear singular, quite fishy. This was attributed to their feeding so much on marine vegetables, there being little other pasture for them on the island.

A hoax was played off upon great numbers of our young hands respecting this fishiness. There was on one point of the island a considerable oyster-bed, and it was generally pretty near this that the cattle were found and shot, that being the most distant from our bivouack. It was therefore said the flesh of the cattle became of that peculiar flavour from feeding upon oysters. Some, without reflecting, credited this strange story, as the a.s.sertor generally said he had seen the cattle opening the oysters with their tongues. This oyster-bed, however, was a source of great luxury to us, for it not only afforded us the means of rendering the salt junk more palatable by having an excellent sauce to make it go down, but it even afforded a most wholesome and delicious meal upon occasions by eating them raw. We also made the best use of our time when not employed on military affairs, in endeavouring to catch as many fish as we could; and for this purpose, my mess purchased from one of the poor Spanish fishermen before mentioned (and who, for the information and kindness they had shown us, were obliged to quit their habitations and follow us), an excellent casting-net, with which the acting Quartermaster and myself occupied ourselves from day to day, generally bringing home a sufficient quant.i.ty of fish to serve our mess.

I never laboured more a.s.siduously in any occupation than I did in this, not only from a relish for such amus.e.m.e.nt, but because we really wanted something to eke out our scanty meals. We at length got a siene-net from one of the men-of-war, with which we were not only able to supply ourselves most abundantly, but always had a large quant.i.ty to give away to the soldiers. Wild-fowl also were very plentiful when we first entered the island; but from the number killed, and the constant shooting at them, they soon became scarce and difficult to get at.

Here also there were abundance of alligators, and on our fishing and shooting excursions we frequently started them from their lurking-places, which were generally among the reeds by the side of an inland lake, or rather creek of the sea. On these occasions we seldom saw them, for they always endeavoured to avoid us; but wherever they ran along the bottom of the water, they stirred up the mud so greatly all the track they took, that we had no difficulty in tracing them. I never remember to have seen a live one on these occasions, but a dead one once afforded us considerable amus.e.m.e.nt. One evening, on our return home from our constant occupation, there being three or four of us of the party, I was in front, and the acting Quartermaster and the others in the rear of me. On a sudden I was alarmed by the cry of "Oh stop, here's an alligator!" and before I could look round, a shot was fired apparently into the earth, close beside their feet. I went back to see what was the matter, and found indeed, as he had said, an alligator, but one which I suppose had been dead for several months at least. It was buried in the sand, and only a part of its body appeared; but whether he imagined it might have placed itself in that situation intentionally, with the view of enticing its prey within its reach, or what other thought he had, I cannot tell, but, to make a.s.surance doubly sure, he fired his rifle right into the body of the half-rotten alligator. He was long and often severely roasted about this afterwards. A young one was caught alive, however, by some of the 14th dragoons, and brought home to England, and afterwards, I understand, presented to the British Museum. All this while the siege of the fort was going forward, but as we had nothing to do with it, we had plenty of time, not only to hunt for extra prog, but to amuse ourselves in any other manner we pleased.

The army, about this time, was inspected by our Chief, General Lambert, by battalions. My kind late commanding-officer, Captain Travers, who was severely wounded at the attack on the 8th, had rejoined by this time, although still very lame. During the inspection, the General said to him, "Travers, I am sorry to hear that your sergeant-major ran away on the night of the 23d, during the attack."--"That is impossible, General," said Travers, "for he fought as bravely as any man could possibly do, and was carried off the field near the end of the fight, severely wounded. But I have a guess what has given rise to this report.

A sergeant of ours left his battalion, I believe, either during or after the fight, and having taken up his quarters near one of the houses where the wounded were carried, the surgeon pressed him to remain with him as hospital-sergeant. I made efforts to have him sent to his battalion, but could not get it done. This must have been the cause of such a story having got abroad."--"Ah," says the General, "I am sorry that the poor sergeant-major should have lain under a stigma, of which he was altogether undeserving; and, now since we have done him an involuntary injustice, and he is a deserving man, we must try what amends we can make him for it." He accordingly recommended him for an ensigncy in one of the West India regiments; and before that day twelvemonth, he had risen to the rank of lieutenant. Nothing could be finer than the feeling of Sir John Lambert on this occasion; indeed, he has always shown himself a most excellent upright man, and a gallant officer.

About this time, a Russian vessel was detained going up to New Orleans with a cargo of wine from Bordeaux; but although she would, I doubt not, have been a legal capture, for breaking the blockade, the master was permitted to dispose of his cargo to our army, and an excellent thing he made of it, for the wine, which he must have purchased for about one shilling or one and sixpence a bottle, he charged us in general about four shillings for; we were glad, however, to get it at any price, and a most seasonable supply it was indeed. On one of our shooting excursions, an officer of ours fell in with a sow and two or three pigs, in the wood; he instantly fired at one of the pigs and killed it; but when going to pick it up, the sow set upon him with such fury, that he was glad to abandon his prize, and retreat with precipitation.

When the army landed near New Orleans, the 14th light dragoons had taken their saddles and other horse equipments with them, in hopes of being able to get mounted in the country; and which, being bulky, required a good large boat to bring off again. They were therefore put on board a considerable-sized one, with an officer of the regiment and a guard to protect them. On their way down towards the shipping, night overtook them before they could reach their destination, on which they pushed towards the sh.o.r.e, whether of an island or the mainland, I cannot say, in hopes of being more secure for the night; they consequently put on a sentry, and all lay down in the boat to sleep. Soon afterwards, however, a boat came rowing rapidly alongside, and before the sentry could discover who or what they were, they boarded, and instantly made the party all prisoners. The officer, I believe, when called on to deliver up his sword, was so annoyed at being trapped in such a manner, that he threw it into the lake, as far as he could fling it. The American officer who captured them was a lieutenant in their navy, and went by the name of Commodore Shiel (for every fellow is a commodore who commands even a few boats). He was so elated by his success on this occasion, and, I believe, by having taken another boat with stores, that he boasted to his prisoners, that he would take even Admiral Cochrane himself yet, before he left the country.

While we remained on Isle Dauphine, a commissary, with a sergeant and party of our men, were sent on sh.o.r.e, on the mainland, to shoot bullocks for the supply of the army. They had landed, and the commissary, with the sergeant and I think two men, went off into the neighbouring wood, leaving the two or three other men at the landing-place to protect the boat. Here again Mr Shiel made his appearance, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, having come round a jutting point before the men were aware of his presence; he instantly, of course, made them prisoners, and, taking their arms from them, he put them on board their own boat, then, sending a part of his crew on board to manage it, despatched it for the American harbour. He now with a few more of his people went in search of the commissary and his party, whom he soon found; and they seeing resistance would be vain, when their own boat was departed, were compelled at once to surrender. He instantly put them into his own boat; and taking the commissary into the after-sheets alongside of himself, the sergeant and the other men were put forward to the head of the boat.

Whether any preconcerted scheme and signal had been agreed upon between the commissary and the sergeant, I do not know, but an opportunity soon after offering, the commissary gave the sergeant the wink, and instantly seizing Mr Shiel by the thighs, pitched him right overboard in an instant; the sergeant, at the same moment, seizing the stoutest of Shiel's men, and serving him in a like manner. The others being attacked by the remaining two men, at once surrendered, and, I believe, suffered themselves to be bound; and our people, having now resumed their arms and become masters of the boat, admitted Mr Shiel, who, I fancy, had clung to the boat to prevent his drowning, to come once more on board.

What became of the other man who was thrown over, I know not; whether he swam on sh.o.r.e, or was drowned, or was afterwards taken into the boat, I cannot tell; but the result was, that the great, the boasting Commodore Shiel, was brought to the island a prisoner, where he landed like a drowned rat, and quite chopfallen.

The commissary, who was a fine, stout, and gallant young fellow, spoke highly in praise of Tom f.u.kes, our sergeant, for his bravery and good management on the occasion.

At length the works being all completed for battering the fort, Colonel Smith was sent in with a flag of truce to demand its surrender. The commandant was quite undecided how to act, and asked the Colonel what he, as a man of honour, would advise him to do. "Why," says the Colonel, "do you not see that our guns are now overlooking your whole work, and that we could, in a very short time, knock it down about your ears? I have no hesitation in telling you, that the rules of war will fully justify you in surrendering to such a superior force, and when the siege has advanced to such a point as it actually is." His arguments, together with the truth of his statements, at length overcame the courage and determination of Jonathan, and he instantly agreed to surrender, the garrison, afterwards becoming prisoners of war, marching out and laying down their arms on the glacis.

Thus, on the 12th February, this important fortification fell into our hands, together with 400 men of the 2d regiment of the United States, and either one or two American colours. This obstacle removed, every exertion was now made to advance up the lake to the attack of Mobile; but on the 14th, a vessel arrived with the unexpected, but cheering information, that peace had been concluded at Ghent between the two nations, and that it only required the ratification of Mr Maddison, the United States' president. Of course, all further operations of a warlike nature were suspended for the present, till it was known whether the treaty would be ratified or not. This ship also brought out the notification of our two Generals, Lambert and Keane, being appointed Knights of the Bath. Some of our Colonels also were included in the list, viz. Blakeny of the the 7th, and d.i.c.kson of the royal artillery.

And now nothing was thought of but amus.e.m.e.nt, and making ourselves as comfortable as possible. But we began to get very short of provisions.

Our people were therefore obliged to send to the Havannah, where they procured the strongest sort of beef I ever saw. It was not salted; but after the cattle had been killed, all the thin belly part had been cut round the whole bullock, in narrow stripes, of about two inches in width; this being laid, or hung up in the sun, which is extremely powerful in that country, it was dried without having the least offensive taste or smell, farther than a little rancidity, which was not by any means unpleasant; but when brought from on board, it had much more the appearance of coils of ropes (for it was coiled up in a similar manner) than provision for the use of man. An aide-de-camp of General Lambert's, then Lieutenant, but now Major D'Este, son of his Royal Highness the Duke of Suss.e.x by Lady Augusta Murray, used frequently to join the shooting party of our acting quartermaster and myself; and, on one occasion, having obtained a canoe, a trip to the mainland was projected, for the purpose of shooting; accordingly we took two or three men with us, and started from the northernmost point of the island, that being the nearest to the main, which we saw before us, and not more than five or six miles distant. It was considered the best mode of proceeding for us all to get into the boat, except one man, who was a famous wader, (having often accompanied us in our expeditions around the island,) and who was to wade as far out into the sea as he could, dragging the canoe after him. This he could do very easily, for she was quite light, and the water was exceeding shallow for a great distance into the sea. He continued towing us in this manner for about half a mile, when, being fairly up to his chin, he and we thought it was high time for him to come on board; but, in doing this, he gave her such a cant as turned her right over, and pitched us all into the water. I luckily had my eye upon the man when he sprung to get into the canoe, and suspecting that she could not bear so rough a pull, was ready; and accordingly, when I saw her going, leaped out, without being plunged overhead, as all the others were. But all our rifles, &c. were pitched out, and of course sunk to the bottom, to which we were obliged to dive before we could get them up. This accident put a stop to our excursion, and we waded out again, looking extremely foolish. Nevertheless we ought to have been truly thankful to Providence that it occurred before we got out of our depth; for, with such a frail bark, it is more than probable some accident would have happened before our return, had not this prevented our further progress.

Innumerable were our adventures of this nature, for the water was delightfully warm, and having no military occupation at the time, we could not find any better amus.e.m.e.nt. A party, indeed, suggested the getting up of theatricals, which being approved on all hands, workmen were instantly set about erecting the theatre-royal, Isle Dauphine.

This, of course, with the getting off of parts, occupied the managers and the other performers for some time; but at length all being ready, most excellent entertainments took place, following each other in quick succession. At some of these parties, American officers, who now often paid us visits, were highly entertained, and paid us high compliments, not only as to the splendour and magnificence of our theatrical representations, but to our ingenuity as displayed in hut-building, which, they said, even surpa.s.sed the architectural abilities of the Indians in that branch of the art,--a high compliment indeed!


Ratification of the Treaty of Peace--Exchange of Prisoners--Our Troops embark for England--When off the coast of Ireland, receive intelligence of Bonaparte's escape from Elba--The Author and his Battalion reach the Downs, and proceed to Thorncliffe--Embark for France--Arrive at Paris, and occupy the Champs Elysees--Review of the Russian Guards--Russian Discipline--British Troops reviewed--Accident to Prince Blucher--Amus.e.m.e.nts in Paris--The Allied Forces, except the Army of Occupation, leave Paris--The Author's Battalion embark for England--Reach Dover, and return to Thorncliffe--He obtains leave of absence, and visits his Family--His Battalion ordered to Ireland--Sets out to join it, accompanied by his Wife, who dies three days after they reach Dublin--His Battalion reduced--Joins the first Battalion at Gosport, which is ordered to Scotland--Arrive at Leith, and march to Glasgow--The Author returns home in ill health--His Father dies--Joins his Battalion again--Winters at home--His Battalion ordered to Ireland--Joins it at Belfast--They occupy different stations during the Whiteboy Insurrection--Six companies of his Battalion ordered to Nova Scotia, but the Author remains with the other four companies--He is shortly ordered to proceed to Nova Scotia--His health declines--Returns home in consequence, takes advantage of Lord Palmerston's Bill, and retires on full pay.

On the 5th March, the ratification of the treaty of peace, by Mr Maddison, arrived; and now all our thoughts were turned towards our dear native country. On the 15th also, all our poor fellows, who had been made prisoners by the Americans, joined us at this island, an exchange in consequence of peace having of course taken place. Many of these were strange-looking figures when they came among us, most of them having been stripped of great part of their uniforms, their caps particularly, and wearing moca.s.sins, a sort of Indian sandals, instead of shoes or boots, and being so sunburnt as to be scarcely recognisable.

Major Mitch.e.l.l told us that General Jackson had treated him exceeding harshly, because he did not choose to give the General such information respecting our numbers, &c. as he wished. He also said he met with great insolence on his way up to Natchez, where the prisoners were kept, from the different parties of Kentucky men, and others, whom he met on their way down "to take a shoot," as they termed it, "at his countrymen." He met many thousands in this manner, so that 10 or 12,000 is the very lowest number that Jackson could have had for the defence of his lines.

I do not remember that we ever had Divine service performed during the period of this expedition except once or twice, and that about this time. Indeed the activity required of the army at all times, during the continuance of hostilities, almost necessarily precluded it. At this time I remember perfectly the preacher's text was, "My son, give me thy heart." Alas! how few of the hearts of his hearers were given at that time to Him who only had a right to demand them! I confess with shame and sorrow, that almost any trifle, however unworthy, possessed a greater interest in my heart than He who had formed it, and who alone is worthy of supreme regard.--The good Lord pardon this neglect, for Christ's sake!

The regiments now began to go on board the different ships, as fast as arrangements could be made to receive them; and when on board, they sailed at once without waiting for the others, there being now no danger of falling in with an enemy. The weather now began to grow exceedingly warm, which brought out alligators and snakes in abundance. The latter were extremely annoying, for they sometimes got into our very tents, and one on one occasion so frightened a captain of ours (who was not afraid of man) as to make him sprawl up the tent-pole to get out of its reach, roaring out at the same time most l.u.s.tily for help. It was killed and put into a bottle of spirits, and I believe he brought it home. It was an exceeding small one, but with the most beautiful crimson, or rather pink-coloured wavy streak running down its back imaginable. We were told it was one of the most venomous of all the American reptiles, save probably the rattlesnake.

The thunder and lightning also became very frequent, and the former, I think, the most awfully grand I ever heard. It appeared to roll along just on the very tops of the pine-trees, many of which indeed were scathed to the very roots by the latter.

On the 31st March our turn came to go on board, and we were rejoiced to find that the Dover, our old friend was to be our princ.i.p.al ship, the remainder of the men beyond what she could hold being sent on board the Norfolk transport. While we were preparing for sea, I took a boat and a party with a siene, and went on sh.o.r.e on a sandy point of the island, where I had not been before, and in a short time caught a fine load of fish, mostly grey mullet, with which we returned on board, greatly to the satisfaction of all those who shared in them. Every thing being now ready, we weighed and bid adieu to America on the 4th April, shaping our course for the Havannah, where our captain intended to call for various purposes, but princ.i.p.ally to replenish his stock, which had begun to get exceedingly low.

On our pa.s.sage thither we encountered a heavy gale, which detained us longer than we had calculated for our voyage. We did not reach that place till the 19th. Here we found ourselves once more in Espana, every thing here being exactly like what you meet with in the mother country,--the same stink of oil, garlic, and dried fish. Speaking of the latter, which is called by them Bacalao, an officer of ours who kept a journal, when describing this place, says, "The natives catch a great quant.i.ty of fish on the coast, called Bacalao." Unfortunately it is not called Bacalao till after it is dried, but Piscado. This brought, as it might be expected, lots of laughter upon his head.

I need not describe the Havannah, because any one who has a Gazetteer, may there read an account of it; and which, though perhaps not altogether a correct one, will be sufficient to give him an idea of what it is; suffice it to say, it is an exceeding strong place, and would not, I apprehend, be so easily taken, if the inhabitants are true to their country, as it was in the year 1762. The capture of it at the time above stated, made the place extremely interesting to me, for one of my earliest and best friends served as a lieutenant in the 56th grenadiers at the taking of it; and often have I heard him expatiate, with great delight and animation, on the scenes he witnessed, and the dangers he encountered, in this most arduous undertaking. He is now, poor man, no more, having died only very lately, and I sincerely trust and hope he is in peace. The Moro and the Punta, and all the other immense fortifications, attracted my particular regard, on this old gentleman's account; but so extremely jealous were the Spaniards, that they would not permit even us, their late faithful helpers and friends, to view the works. We visited the theatre, which is a fine building, but heavy and badly lighted, but apparently well supplied with performers. The piece on this occasion was Anthony and Cleopatra. There were also some equestrian performers here from the United States. They had built a fine circus, at about half a mile's distance from the city, to which every one of course repaired. All the world was there; even little Connolly, whom I had known at Cadiz as a major in the Spanish service, was here in the command of a regiment, and had attained the rank of full Colonel. He did not seem over anxious to recognise any of his former acquaintances, nor even to let it be known that he was so much of a Briton as to have acquaintance with any people of that country; in short, he wished to be considered a complete Spaniard. I doubt not he is now a rank apostolical. We paid a visit also to old Woodville, the famous cigar-maker. He was an expatriated Englishman, from Portsmouth I believe, obliged to flee his country on account of some smuggling transaction, and, in doing this, he had changed his name. We found the old man ill in bed, but able to sit up and speak with us. He wore an immense long white beard, reaching down nearly to the bed as he sat up.

Yet this old man had a young black wife, and a whole fry of young mulattoes running about the house like as many little pigs. He was very kind, but apparently not over well to do. We bought each a considerable quant.i.ty of his famed cigars, for which we paid him, I think, four dollars a thousand--more, I apprehend, than he usually gets from the Spaniards for them.

Having laid in such sea stock as we could conveniently procure, and having stored ourselves well with the delicious preserves of this country, and withal bought a fine turtle, weighing about two cwt., on the 24th we set sail for old and happy England, glad once more to set our faces homeward.

We had a quickish run through the Gulf of Florida, or, as it is more properly called, the Bahama Channel, and, keeping to the northward of Bermuda, shaped our course so that we pa.s.sed a little to the south of the Great Newfoundland Bank. From hence the wind was roughish generally, but quite fair, so that we frequently ran at the rate of 200 miles in the twenty-four hours, the transport being an excellent sailer.

Nothing particular occurred till we were within a few days' sail of Ireland, when we fell in with an American who had just left England.

From him we learned the totally unlooked-for information, that Bonaparte had made his escape from Elba, and had returned to France, and that the whole continent was once more involved in war. Nothing could exceed the change which this unexpected news produced among our people. Some who were desponding at the gloomy prospect of half-pay, revived in a moment, and again set honour, glory, and promotion, once more before the eyes of their imagination. Indeed, I think no one seemed sorry at the change; but some probably would have preferred a short repose, before they were called upon again to leave that home which they had painted to themselves so comfortable and happy.

On the ---- we arrived at Plymouth, where the good folks received us with great cordiality; but the news from Flanders now engrossed all attention, and our unfortunate business seemed forgotten. It was as well perhaps that it was so, for we had no victory to boast; and with the world it is but too often the case, that a want of good fortune is almost tantamount to a want of good conduct. We were ordered on to Portsmouth, which we reached in two days; and from thence proceeded still onwards to the Downs. Our arrival was telegraphed to London, from whence, after some communication by post also with the Commander-in-Chief, we were ordered to disembark, which we did on the 2d June. The cause of this being ordered, and of our not proceeding direct to Flanders, was, that we were extremely ill off for equipment, nearly one-fourth of our men being without arms or appointments, all those who had been prisoners, and many of those who had been severely wounded, having been deprived of them. In some respects the order for our landing was unfortunate, as far as regards the honours of that great and crowning victory of Waterloo, in which we consequently had no share; and, on the other hand, as far as regards my own public accounts, at least it was fortunate for me, for I was thus enabled to have them prepared, and forwarded to the War Office, and finally settled without loss of time, which I could not have done had we left England again immediately.

We were ordered from Deal to Thorncliffe, our old quarters, where we found three companies of my battalion, and five or six of the other two.

All our old friends were of course glad to see us; and, under such circ.u.mstances, the meeting of those between whom friendship has long subsisted, is in a great measure a compensation for the toil and sufferings of a soldier's life. We continued at Thorncliffe for some time, but busily preparing once more to take the field; and had Bonaparte not been so precipitate in his movements, we might have shared in the glory of his final overthrow.

I was compelled to go to London while we remained here, for the purpose of settling a variety of accounts, &c., and while there was persuaded to appear before the Medical Board, for the purpose of obtaining a certificate as to the nature of my wound, on which to found a claim for a year's pay, the amount at this time given to all whom that Board recommended as fit subjects for this bounty. I had omitted doing so when in London before, because I thought no one had any claim for it, except such as had suffered most materially in health in consequence of their wounds. However, at the suggestion of my friends I did appear before the Board, who considered my wound of such severity as to ent.i.tle me to that bounty; and I accordingly soon after received the sum of L.118, 12s.

6d., the amount of one year's pay. I have reason to be thankful both to the government and to my friends for this unlooked-for augmentation of my funds, and trust I did not make an ill use of it.

But at length the news of the memorable battle of Waterloo arrived, and we had no share in it. I know not whether I shall be believed, but I think there were few of my companions in the late expedition but felt somewhat disappointed, and rather vexed, that this decisive action should have taken place so early, and almost wished that the government had despatched us even as we were on our first arrival in England; for really, as it turned out, it was most unfortunate to those of my friends, who had been undergoing probably as severe and hazardous a service as any our army had lately been engaged in, and that all that should be looked upon as almost worse than nothing, while some young fellows, who had never before seen an enemy, should be covered with the honours and distinctions which were so amply lavished on them, merely because they had the good fortune to share in that brilliant and decisive victory. But regret is vain and unprofitable, and a soldier must make up his mind to meet with bad as well as good fortune, or he will only render his life the more miserable.

On the 10th of July we embarked at Dover, and on the 13th landed at Ostend; but we were entering only on a barren service, the honours having been all acquired previous to our arrival. We moved forward by the way of Bruges, Ghent, Oudenarde, and Mons, and then through Bavay and Chatelet to Peronne; from Peronne through Roye, Pont Lant, Maxence, and Louvre, to Paris. Here we were posted to the brigade in which our other two companies were stationed, and occupied the Champs Elysees as our camp. Certainly the sights we witnessed in this far-famed capital amply repaid us for our trip to France, however devoid of military glory that might be.

It will not be expected that I should enter into a detail of all the lions which this splendid city contains, and which have attracted the curiosity of nearly half the gentry of this country. Suffice it to say, we saw the palaces of the Tuilleries, St Cloud, Luxemburg, and Versailles, with all the splendour they contain--the churches of Notre Dame and the Pantheon--the Hospital of Invalids--the Garden of Plants--the Hotel de Ville--the Palais Royal, and the far-famed Louvre.

In this latter, a person might at that time spend a twelvemonth, without exhausting the curiosities and beauties it contained; but, during our stay here, we witnessed its divestment of nearly all its most valued specimens of art, to the great regret, grief, and annoyance of those who had ransacked almost all nations to decorate this splendid gallery. This was undertaken and executed by our ill.u.s.trious Chief, in the name and on the behalf of this our generous nation. He dealt out with a just and impartial hand, to all who had claims upon this magnificent collection, the specimens of art which had formerly adorned their national churches and palaces, without one painting or one statue of the meanest description being reserved for himself, who had been mainly instrumental in this restoration, or for the nation which he represented.

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Twenty-Five Years In The Rifle Brigade Part 16 summary

You're reading Twenty-Five Years In The Rifle Brigade. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): William Surtees. Already has 93 views.

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