Imágenes de página

duced during the war. The Adige is of considerable breadth, and judging at the moment, I should have said it was nearly as broad as the Thames at London-bridge. The passage of the river was effected in the following manner : several chasse-marées were brought up and anchored with double chain-cables, at regular distances across the river, and over these a double net-work of cables was thrown, the strength of which was sufficient to bear any weight, and at the same time afforded a firm and secure footing. Although exposed to the enemy's fire during the whole time of passing, we accomplished our transit without any accident whatsoever. On leaving Bayonne our route for several days lay through sandy forests, and here was the commencement of our privations and fatigues. The deep sandy roads knocked up our horses and baggage-animals, while the want of all fresh provisions compelled us to subsist entirely on the most execrable ration beef. The houses, or rather the hovels, in which we were lodged at night, were generally untenanted and despoiled of every convenience. In one respect we were fortunate enough—we had plenty of clothing, in which some of the infantry regiments were miserably deficient. On our march we met some regiments proceeding to St. Jean de Luz to procure clothing: for the most part they were entirely without shoes and stockings.

We now diverged to the right, and passing the town of Dax, celebrated for its hot-wells, we again inclined toward the Pyrenees, and recrossed the Adige. We had been for some days close upon the heels of the army, and we were highly chagrined to find how many

laurels had been reaped without our assistance. The victory of Orthes had been succeeded by several gallant charges, in which both the cavalry and infantry had been engaged. We frequently fell in with waggon loads of sick and wounded, and large bodies of prisoners going to the rear. On the day on which we recrossed the Adige we met the fifth and seventh divisions of the army, under the command of Lieut.-Gen. the Earl of Dalhousie, not

Dalhousie the great god of war,

Lieutenant-Colonel to the Earl of Mar, but a worthy descendant of his. The day before we joined the army, we had halted about two o'clock in the afternoon, in the expectation of taking up our quarters for the night in a neighbouring town, when we received orders to push forward to the front, and, marching at a sharp trot till two o'clock in the morning, we arrived at our station. For miles before we reached the army the country before us was one blaze of light, and as we passed through the camps of the different regiments on the road-side, we were received with loud cheers. The night of my arrival was, I think, the most miserable I ever spent. The rain had been falling in torrents, and as our baggage was left far behind us, we had neither tents nor provisions, except what our holster-pipes could contain. Into one of mine I had crammed a Bologna sausage, which seemed made for the purpose, and a little bread and cheese, while in the other I had contrived to deposit a comfortable bottle of brandy. As soon as I arrived I threw myself from my horse, and applying my mouth to the mouth of the flask, (a proceeding technically termed sucking the monkey.) I soon fell into a sound sleep, which I enjoyed for

about three hours and a half, when I was roused for the purposeof commanding a foraging party. I soon found that our yesternight's exertions had taken effect on both horses and men : all around me I saw nothing but

Troops of pains and regimental woes. We seemed just to have forestalled a party of the enemy, who appeared to be advancing with views similar to our own; however as I pushed forward as vigorously as our tired horses would allow me, I gained the place in view, and we suffered no disturbance. We found plenty of straw in the town, and I was fortunate enough to secure, on my own account, a good supply of wholesome provender, consisting of bread, ham, and a little very pleasant brandy. We returned to the camp in about two hours, and found our baggage had arrived, which enabled me to make a comfortable cup of tea, to which a slice of the captured ham afforded an excellent relish. I was startled out of a gratifying doze, into which I had just fallen, by the bugles sounding to horse, and in less than ten minutes we were all of us mounted and in order. A large body of the army, of which we formed a part, moved upon the town of Tarbes, a large and populous place. The scene, in passing through this town, was one of the most brilliant I had yet beheld. We saw the enemy, stationed at the top of the hills which overlooked the town, engaged with several bodies of our troops, which were attempting to turn their position. As we marched through the principal streets of Tarbes, the inhabitants flocked out of their houses to gaze at us as we passed ; and certainly a gallant sight it was, our colours being all displayed, and our bands striking up a variety of gay and martial tunes. We were greeted on every hand with cries of Vivent les Anglais! l'itent les Portugueses ! although the French were yet contesting the outskirts of the town. The moment we made our appearance in the suburbs, the enemy commenced a brisk fire upon us. The troop of artillery attached to our brigade was immediately sent forward to return the compliment. It fell to the lot of the squadron to which I was attached to perform the duty of covering the guns, that is to say, of ranging ourselves in line close behind them. I now began to think the matter rather serious, and certainly it seemed high time to prepare our testamentary documents. This friendly salutation between us and the enemy continued for the space of three or four hours, when the position being nearly turned, we were ordered forward to charge a body of dragoons which yet kept their station. Nothing struck me more forcibly on this occasion than the contrast between my own horse and the steeds of the old campaigners, which had been used to the service. While my own charger snorteil, pranced, and plunged under me, and like the war-horse in Scripture seemed to cry Ha! ha! the horses which had been accustomed to the sound of the firing and had seen their fellows drop around them, stood trembling excessively as if in terror of a similar fate. This fact furnishes an illustration of the distinction between physical and moral courage. A young soldier when he first goes into battle, however hot and impatient he is, has still a little throbbing at his heart, and a little trembling in his limbs ; while a veteran, on the contrary, loses all these symptoms of rash and youthful valour, and becomes more collected and calm in proportion as he is acquainted with the extent of the dangers with which he is environed. But to the charge. The enemy prudently filed off as we advanced, and just as we were preparing to make a deadly onset upon them, they put spurs to their horses and made off with the most mortifying coolness. I confess I had wrought up my spirit to perform some terrible prodigies of valour, and when I saw our prey escape, I felt in the situation of a bow, the string of which has slipped just as the arrow has been drawn to the head.

Although we were disappointed in the present instance, a few days afterwards we had a rencontre which was sufficient to satisfy the keenest appetite. I have already, in the commencement of these my commentaries, attempted to describe my sensations during an infantry charge; but the same operation when I was mounted on the back of an ungovernable beast of a charger, proved a very different affair. It was about sunset after a long day's march, and we had halted and were just lighting our camp-fires, calculating amongst ourselves who would be the happy man to go out upon picquet, when we were suddenly ordered to mount and advance immediately. The enemy's picquet was within a few yards before us, and I with about twenty men was ordered forward to skirmish with them. Skirmishing is by no means a pleasant occupation; it is too like a harlequinade. My men made a very skilful use of their carbines, and we gradually drove the enemy's skirmishers in. I observed that they fell in upon a regiment of French dragoons, which were stationed upon an open space of ground on the outside of a small town. The object of our movement I immediately found to be, to attack this body of horse. Our regiment liad no sooner arrived on the plain than we formed in front of the enemy. I was called in with my party just as our soldiers had drawn their sabres. This looked as if they were in earnest. The squadron to which I belonged was the first, and indeed the only one which charged. We advanced at a steady trot till we were about ten yards from the enemy, when the words "gallop," “charge," followed close upon one another, and every man “dashed the rowels in his steed," and fixed himself firmly in his saddle. Like a young sportsman who first draws a trigger, I no sooner touched my horse's Hank with my heel, than I involuntarily shut my eyes, and immediately after I felt å most tremendous shock. This made me look about me, and I perceived that the impetus of my noble charger had laid three French jades and their riders prostrate before me.

One of the dragoons, a light active fellow, had just gained his legs, and with sacre in his mouth, and a long sabre in his hand, was about to wreck his vengeance upon my Bucephalus ; when a back-handed blow from my sword upon his headpiece put a speedy termination to his schemes of revenge. Our squadron did not cover the whole front of the French regiment, but as far as we did extend, wherever we came in contact, the enemy were, to use Bonaparte's own expression, completely “ bouleversée, renversée.” A portion of the enemy retired about a hundred yards, and immediately formed again with great adroitness; but we were so little disordered by the first attack, that we were ready, as soon as they were in order, to make a fresh charge, which we instantly did with the same spirit and the same success as before. The discomfited party, supported by a fresh squadron of Hussars, again shewed front in the town; and so slightly had our men suffered in

these two charges, a thing almost unparalleled, but proceeding, no doubt, from the weak state of the French horses and men, that we repeated the dose again in the centre of the market-place, while the French inhabitants

were looking out of their windows, and screaming with horror and amazement at the skilful manner in which we administered it. The French displayed their usual gallantry; and though they were evidently unfit to stand up before us, on being driven out of the town they tried the experiment a fourth time with the same success : nothing but darkness prevented us from either killing or capturing every man of them.

A great number of prisoners fell into our hands; but our principal object, as is the usage and practice of dragoons, was to capture horses, and not men; seeing that the quadruped will fetch about two hundred crowns, whereas the biped is utterly worthless. We returned into the town with our prizes, where in consequence of the darkness of the night and some of our men having straggled, a little plundering took place. Indeed so great was the hurry and confusion of all these transactions, that after I had got into camp, I discovered a couple of fine roasted gallinas and a bottle of sparkling champaigne, which made an excellent supper; nor could I complain of the want of provisions for several days afterwards. I was roused the following morning by a messenger from my old friend and commander the Baron, who had received a severe wound in the head, and was just delivering up his sword to the common enemy. I found him certainly on the point of capitulation : he was still sensible; and beckoning to me to approach the spot where he lay, which was a dry ditch, covered by a tarpaulin supported at the corners with four sticks, he appointed me his executor, desiring me to transmit the produce of his effects to his mother at Nuremberg. There was something very melancholy in my poor friend's departure, under privations and in circumstances like these, though at the same time the scene was not altogether free from the ludicrous. Begging every one else to withdraw, he recounted to me in a whisper the various places in which his multifarious treasures were deposited. He had very little vested in any government funds or in real securities, but in the folds of his doublet, and in various parts of his equipage, he told me, a very considerable sum in gold would be discovered. His principal regret at leaving this world seemed to be the loss of the fine prospect of plunder, which our present circumstances promised. He compared himself to Moses, who perished the moment he was entering upon the land of promise. Before we marched, I performed the duty of my new office, and consigned the remains of the gallant officer to a hole which I caused to be dug for the purpose. He was interred like a soldier, in the most unsophisticated style, without either windingsheet or coffin. Perchance, reader, if thou hast sojourned in the village of Carbon, thou hast stepped over the ashes of as true a soldier ever smoked pipe and drank brandy beneath the canopy of Heaven !

The Baron, and one dragoon wounded, were the only losses which we sustained, while, on the contrary, the French had about two hundred men hors de combat. After three or four days hard marching, I was sent back, with my own troop and a company of Portuguese caçadores, to a small town called St. Martory, to guard the passage of a bridge against the brigands in the mountains and the French troops on the


[blocks in formation]

other side of the river, and to prevent them from annoying the rear and cutting off the supplies of our army. The duty was by no means either a safe or a pleasant one. We were forced to be perpetually on the qui vive, not knowing the point from which the enemy would come upon us, though we were assured they were prepared to do so. Our horses were never unsaddled, nor did our men put off their clothes ; and we stationed constant picquets on the opposite side of the river towards the Pyrenees. Some of the Portuguese who were employed on this service, caused us considerable alarm one night. Three French deserters, by a circuitous route, were intending to reach St. Martory, and the Portuguese in their alarm multiplied these three men in buckram into a large body of the enemy. The bugle roused me from my bed, to which, as a special favour to them, I had " for that night only” consigned my wearied limbs, and seizing my sword and belt, and placing my casque upon my head, I sallied forth, clothed in the inerpressibles usually worn by the Highland regiments. I believe many of the troop wore the same regimentals. The Portuguese were firing pretty sharply when I arrived amongst them, and I expected a serious affair of it. The serjeant of the Portuguese informed me that they had killed one of the enemy, (and sure enough one of the poor dragoons had fallen) and that the rest were lying behind an enbankment. I instantly ordered our men to charge; but, as we were proceeding on a trot, we were stopped by the two other deserters, who were lying flat on their faces directly in our road, and who, on being questioned, informed us of the true state of the affair. Thus we returned shivering to quarters, without any loss of life, though not entirely without loss of blood.



From the Spanish of D. José Cadalso.

Quien de aquesta Collina.
Who with yonder festive band

Downward comes with easy pace,
With the wine-cup in his hand

And the smile upon his face?
With the ivy and the vine

Are his rosy temples crown'd-
Jolly swains and nymphs divine

Lightly there are dancing round,
To the pipe's enlivening voice

Every tongue his deeds repeating;
And with shouts and cheerful noise

All his jovial coming greeting.
'Tis Bacchus to a certainty,

The jolly God—I know him well.
Sir, you're mistaken, it was I,
The author of this bagatelle.

« AnteriorContinuar »