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six months ; so that if half the troops subversive of dispatch ; and, at all events, had fallen ill the very day of landing, till existing forms are altered they must there would have been sufficient medicines be observed. of all kinds, including bark, for at least In point of fact, no inconvenience was five weeks.
ever experienced from want of medicines Every regimental hospital was complete or medical comforts; no actual want ever in stores and hospital bedding; besides existed. This you have from sir. Eyre which, there were 3,000 sets of hospital Coote in evidence; and he states that his bedding for the general hospital, and urgent representations to the governinent great quantities in the quarter-inaster-ge- on these subjects arose from an anxious neral's store, from whence supplies might desire to obviate that inconvenience. A be drawn when necessary: There was a convincing proof too that our supplies of full establishment of medical officers at- bark were never exhausted is, that no aptendant upon the army; and hospitals plication was at any time made to the established in England for the reception navy for any part of their supply, which of 5,500 sick and wounded men-orders was ample.There does appear indeed were also given for sending home the sick to have been a delay in forwarding one and wounded as expeditiously as it was pos- package of 1,000lbs. of bark from this sible to do so. The distance being so country. Whence that delay arose is not short, and the communication so easy, made out ; but one thing is very cer. it was of course concluded, that any addi- tain, that there was never any want of tional supplies might be forwarded before bark in our hospitals.- The most ample they could possibly be required.
supplies of bedding were sent out as exIf the original plan had been carried peditiously as possible, in addition to the into execution, the sickness of the army great provision originally made; and it would not have been nearly so great. stands in evidence before the House, that The country near Antwerp, which in at no time the sick with the army exthat case would have become the prin ceeded the number of hospital beds. cipaltheatre of our operations, is extremely The sickness was much beyond what healthy. The only part of our force could have been calculated upon by those then which would have been exposed 10 most experienced in the effects of that the effects of the unhealthy season of Zea climate. This appears upon the quarterland, was that part destined to occupy master general's journal. From a sickWalcheren.
ness so rapidly increasing, and so unAs soon as the necessity was known in expectedly extensive, confusion must this country, the utmost exertion was have been occasioned at first. made by the government, and the Com-mediately entering upon active operamander'in Chief at home, to supply the tions without previous possession of the wants of the army in every way. The country, you cannot at once have all first letter upon this subject was received your hospitals perfectly arranged ; nay, by the secretary of state for the war de- even when they are so, and you have a partment upon the second of September; great many more men wounded in a batand upon the fifth it was reported to him, ile than you had reason to expect, much that all the medical men required in that temporary inconvenience occurs. There letter, as well as the medicines, and stores, is some analogy between this circumstance and medical comforts, were ready and and the sudden manner in which the ordered off.
sickness attacked our troops in Zealand. The noble lord who began this debate I can readily conceive, therefore, that has deprecated the delays which, he says, though our supplies of bedding with the arose from too scrupulous an attention to army were fully sufficient, it might have the forms of office under circumstances of been some time before the hospitals could such urgency ; but the noble lord does be properly furnished. not recollect that these offices are all Medical men were certainly at times within a short distance of each other, and much wanted. The original number sent that the necessary forms therefore might out, however, was a full proportion of such be gone through in a few bours. I per a force, and very large augmentations of fectly agree in opinion that forms of office that number were subsequently made; in may be much too dilatory and multiplied. short, as many were sent out as could posBut certain forms are indispensable to sibly be procured that likewise stands in avoid confusion, which must always be evidence before the House. But the
dearth of medical assistance upon such ca- I must not omit to observe, that it was lamitous occasions is by no means a new expected by the government that the case. It frequently happens in the West chief part of the army would have returnIndies, when the epidemics incident to ed, after completing the service upon that climate rage with violence.
wbich it was sent, by the end of August, The surgeon-general of the forces, and or beginning of September at latest. the inspector-general of hospitals with Captain Puget, naval commissioner of lord Chatham's army, have stated in evi. Flushing, states, that he saw several of the dence, that if the necessary precautions sick in the hospitals there lying in their had been taken, the effects might have great coats on the floor, not having beds been considerably palliated though the to lie upon : and that according to the redisorder itself could not have been pre- ports of some officers many of them were vented ; and that if they had been con- without medicines for four days. He also sulted in time they should have suggested describes the hospitals themselves to have those precautions. Now really it has been very bad.-Now, no hospitals were never been usual for the government of a chosen till regularly inspected by medicountry to impart to the medical depart- cal officers; the roofs of some of them had ment the destination of an expedition, ex- been damaged by the bombardment, but cepting in cases of extreme necessity. If it appears that they were repaired as soon an expedition were going to a great dis- as possible.—At times the hospitals were tance, then such necessity might perhaps certainly much crowded, which is acarise. But in the present instance that counted for in evidence by the rapid inwas not the case, and such communications, flux of the sick. The large naval storeunless absolutely called for, are certainly house at Flushing, where capt. Puget saw acts of imprudence. I am far from mean- some of the men whom he took to be sick, ing to dispute that our present surgeon- was not an hospital but a barrack, which general, Mr. Keate, is a man of strict in- at that time was of course unknown to tegrity and well deserving of confidence, him.-Colonel Offney, who was acting as but unnecessary disclosures are always to quarter-master general in Flashing, and be avoided.
who often went into the hospitals there, In point of fact, ample supplies of all states in evidence, that he never saw any. medicines, stores, &c. either accompanied sick who were not furnished at least with the army, or were sent out in time; and straw and blankets; that these were only with regard to precautions, as the sickness the slightest cases; and that they were did not begin till about four vieeks after all provided with beds as soon as it was our first landing, there was full time to pos-ible to get them from ihe stores. have taken them, had they been suggested. With respect to some of the troops beHow came the medical department, the ing without medicines for four days, it is moment the destination of the troops was clearly proved, that this was owing to the notorious, not to suggest those precautions? regimental surgeon of colonel Cochrane's Was it their business to wait till regularly battalion not making timely application consulted upon the subject ? Certainly for the necessary supply. not. It lay entirely within their pro- It is stated, that some ships which vince; and whilst these palliations must brought home the sick were too much have occurred forcibly to them, the go- crowded, and without medical attendance, vernment at home and the Commander or any proper assistance. If this was so it in Chief abroad could not be aware of certainly was a very unpardonable negthem. Any thing necessary for this pur- lect; but none of these circunstances pose could very soon Irave been sent to so necessarily imply an inculpation of the short a distance; even 40,000 flannel government, or the commander in chief waistcoats, had they been wanted, might of the Expedition. They can only be have been made up in London upon an answerable for general arrangements and emergency in a week, and they would general directions; and if defects in the have arrived at Walcheren in a fortnight details are discovered, the blame must fall from the day they were ordered. That upon those who were specifically charged the necessary precautions, therefore, al-, with their execution. luded to by the surgeon-general; Mr. I cannot quit this subject without again Keate, and the inspector general, Mr. most sincerely lamenting that such a calaWebb, were not taken, neither the go- mity should have befallen us; but it is vernment nor the commander in chief of impossible, I think, after this investigathe Expedition are in the least to blame.
tion, to lay any part of it at the door of of the 17th is by much the strongest, and the government or the commander of the the only one which could possibly justify army. They appear to have done every a government in entertaining thoughts of thing that depended upon them to alie- relinquishing a post, so extremely essenviate the sufferings of our brave troops, xial to the vital interests of the nation.and this House and the country will, I This letter of the 17th was not sent from trust, now do them justice.
Walcheren, I conclude, on that day, bec I must beg leave to state a circumstance cause it contains an enclosure, dated the not immediately connected with the pre- 18th, and it was not received here till the sent discussion, but which materially con- 20th or 21st. cerns lord Chatham individually. It has From that period till the usual terminabeen reported, that he came home in a tion of the sickly season, viz. the middle Jine-of-battle ship, which ought to have or latter end of October (according to the been employed in conveying some of the authority of sir John Pringle, and of the sick from Flushing. If it had been so, he most intelligent inhabitants of Zealand), certainly would have been very reprehen there was literally not time to remove the sible; but it appears in papers upon the sick, to destroy the basin of Flushing, and table, that, previous to Jord Chatham's finally to evacuate the island. In point sailing from Flushing, a positive order was of fact, our preparations for that evacuagiven by the commander in chief of the tion were made in the beginning of Nofleet not to admit one sick man on board vember, and they could not be completed therefore this charge is completely on' ". On the 13th of September too, just founded, though certainly not more so when sir Eyre Coote was making the rethan all the rest of the obloquy which has presentations to which I have before albeen so prefusely heaped upon that noble luded, the commander in chief of the lord.
fleet, sir Richard Strachan, wrote a letter The next point in this case is, the re- to the government, urging them in the most tention of the island of Walcheren._Whe- earnest manner not to abandon a naval ther we succeeded in the destruction of station of such importance, till he should the enemy's fleet in the Scheldt, and his have an opportunity of personal communaval establishments at Antwerp, or not, nication with them; and he did not rebut particularly in the latter supposition, curn to England till the oth of October. it behoved us to retain the island of Wal- With such a letter from their naval cheren as long as it were possible to do commander, an eye-witness to those reaso.—The extreme importance of that sta- sons whicb could alone determine the gotion, for the purpose of neutralizing the vernment to abandon Walcheren, and enemy's ņaval establishments in the feeling as they must the extraordinary vaScheldt, has already been too clearly de- lue of the possession, would not they have monstrated to require any further ob- been highiy blameable if they had basservation. No man, I think, can doubt, tily decided upon its relinquishinent ? after a mature investigation of the sub- Most deeply as every person must deject, that the island of Walcheren, with plore the dire effects which were experireference to the the invasion of this coun- enced from that climate, (and no man can try, is next to Boulogne the most impor- deplore them more seriously than I do,) tant post the enemy possesses.— Impress- I must remark, that you do not abandon ed with this conviction, the retention or all your unhealthy colonies because they evacuation of that island was one of the are unhealthy; otherwise, you should most serious questions upon which the go withdraw at once from your possessions in vernnient of this country could possibly the West Indies. This you cannot do, deliberate. A determination of such mag. however you may feel for the mortality nitude, involving so many weighty con occasioned by the destructive epidemics siderations, could not be taken without the that quarter. During the administramost mature reflection.
tion of one of the greatest minister's we Sir Eyre Coote's letters representing ever had, the late Mr. Pitt, we held St. the sickly state of that part of the army Domingo long as a military station, under which occupied Walcheren, are dated the the pressure of similar calamities; and 31st of August, and the 11th and 17th of when Gibraltar was infected with a sort September. The two first, it is true, de- of plague, was it for that reason abanscribe the sickness as alarming : but that doned? On the contrary, did not the go. vernor, general Fox, immdiately repair to vasion of that island upon the northern or his post ; and were not reinforcements sent north-western side ; against which our out without a moment's delay, lest the naval station in the Roompot would have Spaniards should take advantage of the re- been a great protection : where, with duced state of our garrison? Let me ask, Flushing harbour for the ships to come too, has it ever been established as a prin- into occasionally, we could, I conclude, alciple, that we should not conquer and re-ways have kept a fleet. tain important posts, because their climate The best barracks would have been is occasionally unwholesome? Until that constructed for the troops; we should also principle is established, as one by which have had floating barracks, in which a the government is to be regulated, let it considerable part of the garrison might not be argued that there is a difference be- always have been kept during the untween not abandoning possessions which healthy season; and it is well known, that you have long retained, and seizing upon no man afloat was attacked by the fever. others with a view to retention, and form. We should likewise have had floating bos: ing upon this argument an accusation pitals: and whenever the sick amounted against ministers for attempting to retain to any considerable number, they would Walcheren. In the year 1794 we had have been immediately sent to England, troops' stationed a considerable time in the And the whole garrison might have been province of Zealand. - In the reign of frequently relieved from this country. Queen Elizabeth, this country retained The effects of ihe climate might thus the island of Walcheren, during a period have been in a great measure obviated; of 30 years. The climate then was of and when the fortifications which I have course the same as now. And it has fre- described were completed, the amount of quently been in the contemplation of dif- force stationary on the island of Walcheferent governments of this country, to ac- ren need not have been considerable, bequire permanent possession of that island : cause if the enemy effected a landing in the plan has been from time to time laid superior numbers, you could at once retire aside, not on account of the climate, but to your works and bid him defiance; his purely from military reasons : now, on communication would probably soon be this occasion those reasons were in our fa- cut off by our naval nieans, and our troops vour.
could be reinforced from England to any Had we not abandoned Walcheren, it extent. The enemy therefore would cermight have been very easily defended; tainly not succeed in taking Flushing, or we should have strengthened and per- in annoying the anchorage in its neighfected the works of Flushing, and made bourhood, and most probably would lose proper casemates for the troops; we every man he had landed upon Walcheshould have erected two strong forts of regular construction and profile, to protect It appears then evident, that if the mithe anchorage : these forts would have nisters had determined upon évacuating been connected with Flushing by a' line Walcheren, in consequence of sir Eyre also of regular construction and profile; Coote's letter of the 17th of September, the whole covered by a very deep and received here about the 21st, the removal broad wet ditch. Such arrangements, of the sick, the demolition of the enemy's combined with the means of inundation in naval establishments there (a point of your power, and cousidering that you are very essential importance), and the final sasters of the sea, would have rendered evacuation could not have taken place, till that situation impregnable. You would long after the period of the usual and aldiave had some strong forts, likewise of most invariable termination of the sicksegular construction and profile, with ness; and really, under that impression, casemates for the troops, and bomb-proof they would have been unjustifiable as a magazines, so placed as to prevent the government, if they had not endeavoured enemy front collecting vessels in the inte- to retaļn a possession of such extreme imrior of the Slough Passage, the extremities portance as long as it was practicable to of which would be watched by your naval do so; more 'especially as they were fully means; and the Slough is seldom or ever entitled to expect, that the sickness would frozen in such a manner as to be available cease in about three weeks from the refor military purposes. The enemy's at- ceipt of that letter which it is contended tack of Walcheren, therefore, would have ought to have governed their determinabeen nearly, if not quite, reduced to an in- tion.
I do not hesitate to say, that the per- | nearly two years, is a service undoubtedly manent attainment of such an object as of great importance. Flushing, would amply have compensated I do not dwell much upon the diversion the efforts of a whole campaign however in favour of Austria, because, though the long and arduous. At the same time, only one we could make, it was not of when, contrary to all reasonable expecta-considerable magnitude. However, Austion, the government found so extensive tria herself thought it essential, as appears and calamitous a sickness continuing be in the correspondence of that government; yond the period of its customary duration, and the presence of so large an army in I am ready to admit, that they are not to an enemy's territory, carrying on an atblame for viewing it as an imperious and tack against one of his principal naval and paramount necessity, and for sacrificing to coinmercial establishments, must always ihat consideration a political object so occasion great embarrassment. closely interwoven with the vital interests I think there can now be no doubt res. of the state. I contend, however, that it pecting the general policy by which his was not only very natural for them to be Majesty's government was actuated, in slow in coming to such a decision, but if determining to direct the efforts of this they had done so till driven to it by the country to the Scheldt; the expediency irresistible necessity which forced upon of that measure too is completely estathem such a disastrous alternative, they blished, not upon any loose reasoning, but might justly have been accused of lightly upon fair inference from the evidence and sacrificing the best interests of their coun.
papers now upon the table of the House. try; and they would not only have de. It is very clearly proved too, that the utserved all the censure now attempted to most attention was paid to the wants of be passed upon them, but impeachment the army by the government, and the would not have been more than adequate commander in chief of the Expedition. to the offence.
That the sickness was an inevitable calaThe expence of the Expedition to the mity with which they cannot be charged ; Scheldt has also been much dwelt upon. and that the attempt to retain as long as The least calculation made by the public possible the island of Walcheren, was not upon that point has amounted to five or only justifiable, but an indispensable oblisix millions; whereas it appears, by papers gation. I trust therefore that the Resoluon the table, that the extraordinary ex- tions of censure proposed by the noble pence, deducting of course what the naval lord will not for a moment be entertained. means employed and the troops would They are wholly unmerited, and if they have cost if they had remained at home, were to pass, would tend to shackle the and considering that most of the transports exertions of every government in a mancould not at any rate have been paid off, ner the most prejudicial to the interests of according to their old agreements, till the country. But that cannot be, until later in the year, did not amount to more all regard for those interests, and all libethan one million.
rality and justice shall have fled from the The failure has been talked of as com- British House of Commons. plete, which is entirely erroneous. An ex- I have now only to observe, that I tent of sickness totally unexpected, and heartily concur in the motion approving which those most experienced in that cli- the conduct of the army and navy. To the mate could not possibly calculate upon, Resolutions of fact I shall propose the pre: alone occasioned the abandonment of a vious question, because they are unnecesa conquest, the permanent possession of sary; and to the Resolutions of censure which would have been cheaply pur- a decided negative ; and I shall beg leave chased at the whole cost which the most to conclude with moving Resolutions of exaggerated statements have represented an opposite tendency. as that of the Expedition to the Scheldt; Mr. Herbert (of Kerry) expressed his and the having destroyed the naval esta. anxiety to decide upon this question solee blishments at Flushing, so as to make that ly upon its own merits, unprejudiced by port* of little or no use to the enemy
In every view he could
give the question, it was impossible for * Vide Evidence of lieut. gen. Don him not to have wished that our assistance and lieut. col. Pilkington, who was the was not fully applied to Spain. The rea. engineer employed in the demolition of son stated with respect to the want of the basin, &c. See vel. 15, Appendix. bullion, he could scarcely believe, when