Return to quarters

On the 3rd of January, 1814, a slight affair took place on the river
Joyeuse, which caused the army to be put in motion. Our division
crossed the Nive by the bridge of Ustaritz, made a day’s march
and encamped; but nothing further of consequence taking place, we
repassed the left of the river, and resumed our old cantonments, in
the scattered villas, farm-houses, and cottages about the village of
Arrauntz. During this month the Duke d’Angoulême took up his abode
with the British army at St. Jean de Luz.

The Duke of Dalmatia received an order to detach from Bayonne a
large portion of his force of cavalry, artillery and infantry to the
succour of Napoleon, who, since his disastrous campaign in Russia, had
slowly retrograded through Germany, and after fighting many mighty
battles, had been forced to recross the Rhine into France, and was now
endeavouring with skeleton numbers, by a series of skilful manœuvres,
combats and diplomacy, to preserve the throne against a host of
invaders directed personally by the three crowned heads of Europe,
whose banners were at last nailed together and threatening _la ville
de Paris_. There Maria-Louisa, with her infant son by her side, was
issuing bulletins announcing the partial successes gained by Napoleon
her husband, over the troops of her father, the Emperor Francis of
Austria, the Czar of Russia, and the King of Prussia. Such was the
state of events at this momentous epoch—Great Britain still continuing
the focus of resistance, and straining every nerve to keep the Holy
Alliance unanimous.

The weather now became very severe, and as some reports were circulated
that there was a probability of the British army advancing into the
interior of France, I obtained a few days’ leave for the purpose of
visiting my wounded friends at Bera; and accordingly I set off in the
direction of Saint Jean de Luz. A severe frost had hardened the roads,
and the ground was covered with snow, but I had scarcely travelled
a league, when I heard an independent firing towards Bayonne, which
almost induced me to return, under the apprehension, that some portion
of the army were engaged; but, on reaching a more elevated hill, I
found that none of the troops were in motion, and it afterwards turned
out to be the young French conscripts practising at targets. On this
open heath, signal posts were erected, to communicate with the right
of the army, on the right bank of the Nive. Batteries were thrown up a
few miles in front of Saint Jean de Luz, to cover that town on the high
road from Bayonne. They appeared strong and well finished.

The narrow and dirty streets of Saint Jean de Luz presented a gloomy
aspect, being filled with muleteers, cars loaded with biscuit-bags,
bullocks, rum-casks, ammunition, idlers, and all the disagreeable
incumbrances attached to the rear of an army. As I passed along the
high road, I felt exceedingly surprised at the numerous delapidated
houses, and empty chateaux, with the orchards and all the fruit
trees cut down and converted into _abattis_, which had been done
by the French army; but every article that had been left by them in
good order, the followers of our army had ransacked. How often do
the soldiers of armies bear the odium of enormities and plunderings,
committed most frequently by the non-combatant wolves in the shape of
men, whose crimes are of such long standing, and so frequently executed
(under the cloak of night, or under the mask of hypocrisy), that at
last no atrocity is too heinous for so cowardly a banditti to commit.
They devour the rations on their way to the hungry army: they steal the
officers’ horses: they extort exorbitant prices for small articles,
which they have stolen from the peaceful inhabitants: they strip
the deserted and expiring wounded on the field of battle, and would
willingly sell their bodies, could they find purchasers.

Having jogged along some miles, amongst this horde of scattered
ruffians, I came to the narrow road turning off to the left, which
leads across the mountains to the town of Bera; and towards evening
I reached, with difficulty, the summit of the contracted pass,
narrowed by the drifted, and frozen snow. Here I stopped for a few
minutes, (notwithstanding the piercing coldness of the frosty air) to
contemplate the town of Bera, and the scattered _quintas_ embosomed
in the valley, now wrapped in a _death-like stillness_, and covered,
as well as the surrounding mountains, with snow. The brittle branches
of the trees were stiffened, fringed, and sparkling with icicles. A
few short months had produced a great change! When last I had been
at this spot, the foliage was tinted with an autumnal hue, and red
lines of soldiers, were formed there, their silken and embroidered
ensigns waving, and their bright arms gleaming in the rays of the
sun, the craggy heights bristled with bayonets, the drums beating,
the merry bugle horns echoing throughout the winding vallies: every
eminence was crowned with curling smoke, the vivid firing of small
arms, or the occasional flash of the cannon, reverberating amid the
forests in hollow caves, broken chasms, and fissures of the granite
rock,—producing sounds afar off, like the rumbling of distant
thunder,—and altogether giving an inconceivable life, and animation to
the scenery.

On my descending from this pinnacle, to make my way down the side of
the mountain, the road was so blocked up with snow, the narrow pathway
in, the middle so slippery, and the foot-hold so uncertain, that I
could hardly keep myself on my legs, or the animal on its own; and,
resting every now and then, I did not reach the solitary and deserted
street of the town, until an hour and a half after nightfall.

When opposite to the porch of the well known Casa, (that of the
before-mentioned Spanish family), although shivering and benumbed with
cold, I hesitated to knock for admittance. All was dark and silent;
no lights issued from the casement, nor was the sound of any voice to
be heard from within. In this short interval, many conjectures rushed
across my mind; my friends might be gone to some distant town; the
former hospitable inmates might no longer inhabit its gloomy walls,
it might be occupied with strangers, or be the sanctuary of the dead.
With such dismal forebodings, I gave a thundering rap; the massive
door was opened by a soldier, holding a little iron lamp in his hand,
(filled with _aceyte_, and having a small wick burning at the spout)
which cast a faint glimmering light across the out lines of my cloak,
and wiry-haired steed, covered with slakes of snow. Without waiting
for any explanation, the man was hastily closing the door, while
lustily calling out, “There is no room here, this house is full of
wounded officers;” but on making myself known, the portal was thrown
back on its hinges; lights appeared at the top of the stairs, and the
voices of my friends joyfully greeted my arrival. In the midst of our
embracings, “Take care of my side,” said one of them, (still hugging
me), “for it has sloughed away, and you shall see my bare ribs anon.”
Another was stretched on his pallet, from which he had not risen for
upwards of two months, but was slowly recovering under the soothing
attention, and gentle hand of la Señorita Ventura. The former had made
too free with the roseate wine at Christmas, which had caused his wound
to break out anew, leaving his ribs quite bare of flesh for the space
of six inches in diameter; but they were both in excellent spirits—the
_braceiro_ was replenished with ruddy embers, and placed at my feet,
and a hot dinner speedily served up, with a bottle of sparkling wine
to solace and comfort my inside, after my freezing journey. Over this
we recounted all that had passed since our separation at the battle of
the Nivelle. I described fresh battles, and combats, and they all the
torments they had endured while slowly carried two leagues in blankets
up and down the rocks and mountains, or on the verge of terrific
precipices, in momentary dread that those supporting them might slip,
and let them fall on the jagged and naked rocks. Before I retired to
rest, I paid a visit to a young officer of the 52nd regiment, who
occupied a room at the upper part of the house; he was suffering
dreadfully, and dying from a wound which he had received in the groin.

The following day, Captain Smith of the 20th regiment dined with us,
who came from the neighbourhood of Roncesvalles, bringing in his train
a coffin, and having performed a pilgrimage, through the intricacies
of the mountains at this inclement season of the year, in search of a
friend, who had been killed in that neighbourhood five months before.
Three or four days passed in this manner, when a trifling circumstance
broke up our sociable conviviality. The last evening, as we were
seated round the _braceiro_, I was engaged in an agreeable tête-à-tête
with _la Señorita Ventura_ which seriously affected one of my wounded
friends, who was deeply enamoured of her; he continued, however, to
smother his anguish for a short time, and the strangeness of his
manner, left little doubt on my mind that an excuse would only make bad
worse, on so delicate a subject. I therefore announced the intention of
taking my departure on the following morning. One of them held me by
the collar, and declared I should not go, as I had introduced them to
the family, and that any jealous feeling was the height of ingratitude;
however, the blow was so injurious to my friend’s vanity or love, that
he could not endure my presence for another evening; twice, by such
introductions, I had almost saved his life, yet he could not forgive,
although an excellent fellow. Such is all-powerful love!

Having bidden adieu, myself and a friend of the rifles (who had been
to Bera to see his wounded brother) repassed Saint-Jean de Luz, and
soon after alighted at the quarters of a commissary, who had formerly
belonged to the light division. While we were partaking of some
refreshment, he asked us whether the division had not been surprised
on the 10th of the last December; when told to the contrary, he
assured us that it was generally supposed to be the case, and he was
exceedingly glad to hear it contradicted, feeling an interest in all
that concerned the welfare of the division, for he had made his _débút_
with it. Before leaving the main road, the same questions were put to
us in another quarter, by an officer who had been previously in our
own corps; which will give a faint idea how rapidly evil and malicious
reports fly; and so evil a one as this I had seldom known hatched.
However, looking to the front, we only fancied ourselves on the high
road of blunders; but the most curious and laughable part of the
business was, that these very reports were in circulation by those who
were so far to the rear when the battle of the Nive first began, that,
had it not been for the determined resistance of the van guards of the
light[17] and fifth divisions, the enemy would have passed all the
defences, and most probably seized Saint Jean de Luz, and the bridge at
Ustaritz;—and strange it is, but not less true, that the most doleful
accounts float about behind an army: victory is construed into defeat;
and if a slight retrograde is made, off go the non-combatants as hard
as they can tear, carrying away every one in the torrent whom they can
persuade to take their friendly advice.

A thaw had now set in; the cross roads, in many places, were perfect
bogs and quagmires, so that we did not reach our cantonments until late
at night, and were covered with mud, having been frequently obliged to
dismount, to wade through the slough, before we dared trust our horses
to pass through, as many animals were still sticking or lying in the
liquid mud, after having floundered about until they were smothered in
the mire.

Preparations being made, early in February, for pushing into the
interior of France, General Hill broke up from Bayonne in the middle
of that month, and at first moved in a southerly direction as far as
Hellete, driving the enemy across the rivers Joyeuse, Bidouze, and
through the town of St. Palais.[18] These movements cut the French off
from the small fortress of St. Jean Pied-de-Port, which General Mina
blockaded, and obliged the right of their army to leave Bayonne to its
own defence. Thence, marching along the right bank of the Adour, they
crossed the river at the Port de Lanne, for the purpose of supporting
their centre and left, which were retiring before General Hill, and
taking post behind the river or Gave d’Oleron, with their right resting
on the left bank of the Adour, and occupying the towns of Peyrehorade,
Sauveterre, and the small fortress of Navarriens.

The six divisions of the army, besides cavalry and artillery, destined
to penetrate into the interior, consisted of the _second_, _third_,
_fourth_, _sixth_, _seventh_, and _light divisions_, which were now
extending in echelon from Vieux Mouguerre to Navarriens and drawing
off by degrees in succession towards the right: the _first_ and _fifth
division_, Lord Alymer’s brigade, and a corps of Spaniards being left
behind to blockade the fortress of Bayonne under General Hope.

Our division, having passed the Nive, occupied the small town of
Bastide; but, as the clothing of our regiment had reached as far as the
town of Ustaritz, we once more crossed the river for it, and having
halted there one day, retraced our steps to rejoin the army, the right
of which had crossed the Gave d’Oleron, while General Beresford with
two divisions showed front, ready to cross that river at Peyrehorade.

The right of General Hope’s corps, consisting of the fifth division,
having crossed to the right of the river Nive, invested Bayonne on that
side. On the 23rd, part of the first division passed the Adour, (two
hundred and seventy yards in width) on a raft four miles below Bayonne,
from whence the enemy advanced to endeavour to force this small
van-guard to recross the river, but without effect. The two following
days, the whole of the first division were ferried over to the right
bank of the river: Lord Alymer’s brigade, and the Spaniards in reserve
hemmed in the enemy on the side of St. Jean de Luz, which completed
the lines of circumvallation, drawn round the entrenched camp of this
fortress and its citadel: but, owing to the intersection of the rivers,
this corps was split into _three_ different bodies, communicating with
each other by the grand bridge of Chasse-Marées,[19] thrown over the
Adour, and one across the Nive. Subsequently some changes of the troops
took place.

On the 25th our regiment reached a village within a mile of St.
Palais, and on the following morning entered that town, when, to our
mortification, we were ordered to halt until relieved by some other
regiment, while the 57th, whom we had replaced, marched forward to join
the army. It was therefore evident that the troops were left to keep
open the line of communication in rear of the army, as well as to fetch

On the morning of the 27th we heard that the 79th Highlanders were
to enter the town; we therefore got under arms, and as soon as they
entered at one end, we marched out at the other and towards the middle
of the day passed the Gave d’Oleron,[20] at Sauveterre. A fine stone
bridge crossed the river; but its centre arches had been blown up and
entirely destroyed: it was therefore necessary to ford the river, which
was more than a hundred yards in breadth; and, although hardly three
feet deep below the bridge, the current was so extremely rapid, and the
bottom so intersected with loose stones, that it was thought advisable
for the strongest men to throw off their knapsacks, and to join hands
and form a strong chain with their faces to the current, to pick up
any of the soldiers, who might chance to turn giddy or loose their
foot-hold—for if an individual wavered to either side, the probability
was, that he was whirled round by the force of the stream, and lifted
off his legs, sinking to the bottom like a lump of lead, loaded as he
was, with knapsack, accoutrements and sixty pounds of ball cartridge!

We breakfasted at a hotel in the town of Sauveterre, and, as the band
played through it, the inhabitants stood at their windows smiling with
as much indifference, as if the column had been composed of the native
troops of their own country.

At this time we could distinctly hear, at some distance to our front,
a heavy firing, and the rolling of musketry and cannon. Owing to its
continuation we marched forward the whole of the day. The country
was extremely fertile, with large farm houses and chateaux on each
side of the road. All the doors were closed, nor did we meet a single
individual, from whom we could gain the least information. Towards
dusk the howling of the great watch-dogs might be heard all over the
country; and although we bivouacked in the night in a wood, within
three miles of Orthes, we were utterly ignorant of the cause of the
heavy firing during the day.

At dawn on the 28th we had hardly traversed a mile when we observed
the tents of the 57th regiment pitched on the top of a hill, to the
right of the road, without any signs of a move. This corps had been
two days from St. Palais, and in one march we were passing them. I was
sent forward to gain information, and absolutely reached the old narrow
bridge on the river Pau at Orthes, before I heard from an officer
of engineers, who was superintending its repairs, that a battle had
taken place on the previous day. The centre arch being destroyed,
this officer had strict orders not to let any one pass it, until it
should be fully repaired: however, as an especial favour, he had the
complaisance to cause a few planks to be laid down, and, at a great
risk, I succeeded in getting my horse over and entered the town—where
I met a soldier of the 52nd, who could not tell me the road the light
division had taken after the victory, and, when asked what they had
been doing the day before: “Why sir,” replied he, “I never saw Johnny
fight better.” Directly after this I saw Lord George Lennox, in a light
dragoon uniform, who told me, that he feared his brother the Duke of
Richmond,[21] a Captain of the 52nd, was mortally wounded, having been
shot through the body by a musket ball, while ascending a hill with his
regiment, at the close of the battle.

[Footnote 17: The reserves of the light division were not brought into
action, but manned the main position, in case of its being attacked,
which did not take place—while the main body of the army awoke from
its slumbers and came to the battle-ground.]

[Footnote 18: All the above towns, including Bayonne, in September
1807, had been occupied by the French troops under General Junot
(afterwards Duke of Abrantes) previously to their entrance into Spain
under the plea of uniting with the Spaniards for the invasion of

[Footnote 19: The sailors of Admiral Penrose’s squadron assisted in
boldly running these boats over the bar at the mouth of the Adour
(where some of them and crews were unfortunately lost) for the purpose
of forming the famous bridge of boats across that river. Admiral
Collier also co-operated with the crews of his squadron in landing
cannon, and working them in battery at St. Sebastian.]

[Footnote 20: Near this spot, a few days before, some light companies
of the third division had forded; but they had no sooner crossed than
they were violently attacked by the enemy, and forced to repass it
under a heavy fire, losing many brave soldiers killed and drowned,
before a sufficient force could cross to their support.]

[Footnote 21: Then Earl of March; he had been on Field-Marshal
Wellington’s staff for some time previously, and only joined his
regiment a short time before this action.]

It was now eight o’clock in the morning, and finding little probability
of gaining the requisite intelligence of the route of the light
division, without seeing the adjutant-general, I made direct to his
_maison_, and, being ushered up stairs, I found him in bed, comfortably
reposing with the curtains drawn tightly round him. Whether he was half
asleep from over-fatigue, or from some other cause, he gave me the
route of the _fourth_ division, by the road leading towards the town of
Sault de Navailles.

On overtaking the tail of that division, we fell into a slow pace, owing
to some obstacles and the broken bridges over the various tributary
streams, which were very much swollen at this time of the year.

On this day, our hussars had an affair beyond Sault de Navailles with
the enemy’s cavalry; and, in the afternoon, I saw one of their officers
on horseback, deadly pale from a wound in the abdomen.

After nightfall, we bivouacked in a wood to the right of the high
road on the river Louts, within a short way of the town of Hagetman.
Our baggage did not come up; the night was miserably cold, and the
whole of the officers of our regiment took possession of a tumble-down
shed, or forsaken cow-house, where, having spread out some stalks of
Indian corn, some of us began to roast potatoes, when an aid-de-camp,
appertaining to a General, came up to the door-way (for _door_ there
was none), and said, halloo! halloo! who’s here? who’s here? when one
of our majors coolly replied, “Officers and pigs,” which created a
general laugh; and the General sent elsewhere to put up his horses.—In
the middle of the night, one of the officers, having suddenly awoke
out of his sleep, called out with all his might, “come up, come up,”
fancying that a French cart-horse had got amongst us. A ludicrous scene
took place—every one for himself! till at last a heap of living heroes
were piled together, each scrambling on the top of the other, and all
bawling out “lights! lights!” At last, by main strength, I managed to
extricate myself from a pressure nearly as bad as that in the black
hole of Calcutta. The soldiers and servants, hearing such a hullabaloo,
flocked into the hut, which added to, rather than diminished the
disorder of the scene. At length a lighted wisp of straw being brought
in, every one stared about, with the greatest astonishment; for the
object of terror had vanished, or rather had not appeared. Some crawled
out from their hiding places, demanding who had taken away the horse,
while the respectful and confounded servants protested, one after the
other, that they had not seen a horse, nor taken any away. The alarm
took place from some one kicking against the shed, which was mistaken,
by the officer who created the alarm, for the hoofs of a horse shod by
a French farrier, within an ace of his head! Sleep was banished, and
roars of laughter continued throughout the rest of the night.

On the 29th, we got under arms very early, to give the two divisions
the “go by;” but our movements had been anticipated, and we received
strict injunctions not to stir from our ground, but to follow in the
rear, as on the preceding day. We, therefore, again found ourselves
creeping along the road as before. When we were within four miles of
the river Adour, Field-Marshal Wellington rode up (he had received
a blow on the hip from a spent ball at the battle of Orthes, while
directing the last attack on the heights,) and said, “Forty-third, what
do you do here?” upon which the senior officer told the Field-Marshal
that the officer commanding the column would not let us pass. In the
short space of ten minutes, the whole of the troops in our front were
halted, and we marched forward, and soon after ascended a hill, and
formed column in the grand place of the town of St. Sever, immediately
overlooking the left bank of the river Adour. Here we found a baker’s
oven full of hot bread, which a commissary (with a _val_ in his hand,)
had laid an embargo on; and it was with the utmost favour that we were
permitted to purchase a few loaves, or rather, having taken forcible
possession, we were permitted to retain the bread, paying for the same;
as they might have found an attempt at a re-capture rather a difficult
matter from men suffering from hunger, and out of humour, on a cold
hazy spring morning. To whom the bread was afterwards served out I
cannot pretend to say.

The rear divisions, with drums beating, were passing near the town,
and at last increased into a dense column, while forming up opposite
the _wooden bridge_, which the enemy had set fire to. As soon as the
flames were got under, and ladders placed close together to facilitate
the passage of the infantry, General Sir Thomas Picton, with his usual
ardour, pushed forward his division, the head of which crowded the
ladders with all haste.

Our regiment now debouched from the town, with orders to cross, and
Lieut.-Col. Ross’s brigade of horse-artillery forded the river below
the bridge, to accompany us, for the purpose of taking possession of
the stores in the populous town of Mont de Marsan, distant twelve
miles, situated on the high road to Bordeaux.

When we reached the foot of the bridge, General Sir Thomas Picton
declined halting the third division; and it was not until he had
received the most _positive instructions_ to halt, that he did so. His
troops were standing up and down the ladders as we passed them, when
a variety of curses and imprecations took place; all the battles of
Spain and Portugal were fought over again, with a mixture of rage and
good humour: some vociferated that they could always lead the light
division, whilst the older soldiers were satisfied, voluntarily, to
follow them: “Let us follow the _Lights_, it is our right; no division
is entitled to bring up our rear except the fourth; we are the takers
of fortified towns, and the General-in-chief’s _three lucky divisions_!”

The Duke of Dalmatia now left the high road and the fine town of
Bordeaux to its fate, and retired, with his principal force, up the
right bank of the Adour, to support his left flank at the town of
Barcelone, and to meet General Hill’s corps, which had branched off
to the right, and was moving in the direction of Air, to threaten the
French Marshal’s communication with Toulouse; a point he could not give
up, it being the pivot of his defence on the formidable river Garonne.

All the way to Mont de Marsan the road is straight and sandy. Instead
of being received with hostility at that place, as we anticipated, we
were agreeably surprised to see the people flocking without the town
in vast crowds, to see _les étrangers_. Our clothing was old, and
almost the whole of the men wore blanket trousers. The French expressed
much wonder at seeing the troops of the richest nation in the world
so threadbare[22] and poorly clad. The band struck up, and the women
exclaimed, “_Ma foi! les Anglais ont de la musique! et voilà de beaux
jeunes gens aussi!_” The shops were open, and the inhabitants proffered
their merchandize with an easy assurance of manner, as if we had been a
century amongst them: so much for a divided nation; so much for honour
and glory, and the extreme _bon ton_ of civilization!

The seventh and our own division entered the town, where we halted two
days, and then our division shifted its quarters into villages two
leagues distant from it. Our regiment took possession of the large
village of Brinquet. The senior officer was quartered in a château,
and invited us all to a dance; the _salle à manger_ was lighted up,
and the reflection shone on the highly polished floor.[23] The band
was in attendance, but unfortunately there was only one _demoiselle_;
therefore, making a virtue of necessity, we waltzed with her turn and
turn about, until she was quite exhausted; and we finished by partaking
of an excellent supper, consisting of the choicest viands, sweetmeats,
champaign, and other delicious wines. An officer was indiscreet enough,
in the warmth of the moment, to propose to the young lady to send for
a few _grisettes_ from the village, assuring her that in Spain the
village maids failed not to attend on such occasions. She started with
horror at such a monstrous proposal, saying, “_Dans la campagne, à la
bonheur: mais des grisettes dans un salon, c’est affreux!_”

We halted some days at this village, and for a while the war
was forgotten; and convivial dinner parties were given in this
plentifully-supplied country, where provisions might be purchased for
a trifle: fine capons a franc each, while turkeys, geese, ducks, eggs,
bacon, milk, butter, excellent wine, and all articles of consumption,
were to be had at proportionably low prices.

One fine morning myself and messmate mounted our capering, snorting
steeds, their ears cocked, and their carcases swelled out with
good provender, to pursue our way towards Mont de Marsan, with the
laudable intention of making a few purchases for an intended dinner
party. Having made our selection of pastry, sweetmeats and desert,
we directed the whole to be carefully packed and forwarded to a
certain wine merchant, who was busily packing up, in a large hamper,
several dozens of his choicest wines and liqueurs; and it was agreed
that the whole was to be paid for at our quarters, to insure their
punctual delivery by a certain hour—to which the wily merchant and
confectioner complacently and readily assented, not having failed by
the bye to charge English prices on all the commodities, that is to
say about a hundred per cent above the market price. We escorted the
cart the greater part of the way to show the driver the right road,
but when within a short distance of the village, we pointed it out,
exhorting him to use all speed, and rode on to superintend other
little preliminaries. Upon reaching the _maison de logement_, the
people told us that the regiment had marched off three hours before
towards Grenade, and not a vestige of any thing belonging to us was
left behind. The people begged and entreated that we would take some
refreshment, which we would have assented to, (for our appetites were
as keen as the wind), but the cart and hamper were momentarily expected
at the door. What was to be done? To pay for that which we could not
consume, or carry away, would be the height of folly; therefore,
confiding our predicament to the good-natured host, he embraced us,
and, setting spurs to our steeds, at a hand canter, we quitted the long
village at one end, as the cart drew up at the other; nor did we relax
our pace, until the shades of evening brought us to a town crammed
with cavalry, artillery, tumbrils, baggage and commissariat.

Here we gained some tidings from one of the heavy German dragoons of
the route of our division, and alighting at a hotel, we got our horses
well fed, and rubbed down, and, having partaken of an excellent bottle
of wine, and a dish of stewed veal, we resumed our journey.

At eleven o’clock at night, we entered another town, filled with
infantry soldiers, who were standing round the fires they had kindled
in the streets, whilst others were fast asleep, sitting on the stone
steps, or lying under the threshold of doorways. We would fain have
passed the night here, but admittance was nowhere to be gained,
although we dismounted and kicked, and thumped with all our might at
the several doors. These noises had so repeatedly occurred during the
night through the troops outside striving to gain an entrance, that
such salutations were unattended to. Thence wandering onwards amidst
darkness and uncertainty we issued from the town by a broad road,
enveloped in a thick fog, for not a soul could now give us the least
clue to the division; and it is impossible to convey an idea of the
uncertain information in rear of an army. I have often been within half
a mile of the division, without meeting a person who knew any thing
of its march, and, without the least hesitation, people would give a
totally opposite direction to that followed by the troops.

In half an hour, we heard a buzz of voices to the right of the road,
and through the dense mist could see the glimmer of fires, and in a
few minutes more found our corps, encamped in a fallow field, where we
passed a shivering night. Often is the cup of happiness dashed from the
lip; but certainly the conclusion of our intended _fête_ was quite the
reverse of what we had anticipated, when briskly and gaily starting for
Mont de Marsan on the preceding day!

During this short suspension of hostilities with us, General Hill had
been engaged with the enemy, on the 2nd of March near the town of Air,
and, after a sharp affair, succeeded in driving them to the right bank
of the Adour, and also in a southerly direction towards the large town
of Pau.

From this place, we moved into wretched villages, situated on muddy
cross roads in the neighbourhood of Cazeres. The weather continued
frigid; the atmosphere was overcast with either miserable fogs, or
heavy rains.

The peasantry in Gascony speak a sort of _patois_, or broken French.
The women tilled the fields, harnessed the horses, drove and loaded
carts, and handled the implements of husbandry—such as the plough, the
long spade, and dung-forks—just like the men: their appearance is ugly
and coarse; many of their statures are of Herculean proportions. They
wear wooden shoes, and a bundle of short coarse woollen petticoats,
with a piece of coarse cloth, or sack wrapped about their heads, the
flaps of which hang on their shoulders, or down their backs, to keep
off the inclemency of the weather, altogether giving them a most
uncouth appearance. The wives and daughters of the _gros fermiers_
possess a little more life and animation, and were pretty well attired;
but they are a plain, innocent, plodding people, over whose morals
the _Curé du Village_ exercises a gentle sway, apparently more by the
superiority of his education, than by spiritual exhortations.

These pastors reside in comfortable houses, decorated with the vine,
the rose tree, odoriferous plants, &c. Their garden is generally well
stocked with vegetables, or otherwise prettily arranged by some fair
hand under the designation of _ma nièce_. An entrance was never gained
to these abodes, unless all the other houses were crammed to excess by
the soldiery.

While in this neighbourhood we frequently moved towards the high road,
and stood to our arms the whole day. On the 12th General Beresford
with the seventh division entered Bordeaux, where he was received with
acclamations by the populace, who hoisted the white flag, and the
_cocarde blanche_, crying, “_vivent les Bourbons! vivent les Anglais!_”

The Duke of Dalmatia, finding our left flank extended as far as
Bordeaux, moved forward, and on the 13th made a feint by the roads of
Conche, and Castleneau, (on the left of the Adour), to turn General
Hill’s right flank. The general-in-chief, to counteract this movement,
threatened the town of Plaisance on the right bank of the river, by
this means countermanœuvring, and threatening the enemy’s right flank,
and also their communication with Tarbes.—General Beresford now
quitted Bordeaux, leaving the seventh division at that place under Lord
Dalhousie, and the army closed up in three columns, for the purpose of
ascending both banks of the Adour, towards Tarbes:—our division moved
in the direction of the town of Plaisance with the hussar brigade.

One day we were with the 15th hussars on picquet at a mill to the
right of the great _Chaussée_. The soldiers laid themselves down under
the sheds with the horses, and the officers reposed on some sacks of
flour, just over the wheel of the water mill, which kept up an eternal
clattering noise throughout the night. In the morning we came out as
white as millers!

On the 17th the weather cleared, the roads dried up, the atmosphere was
warm and genial, the hedges and young trees were clothed with a spring
verdure, and the country looked most inviting, presenting a similar
face to that of England.

On the 19th having finished our march, we encamped on a ridge of hills,
about five miles East of Vic-Bigorre which lay in a valley. About two
o’clock P. M. we were ordered to stand to our arms, and on reaching the
summit of the hill, we saw the third division attack that town. The
sun shone forth in full lustre, and a vehement fire of small arms and
cannon almost enveloped with volumes of smoke, the scene of contest. We
moved on the verge of the hills in a parallel line to turn the right
flank of the enemy;—a heavy brigade of cavalry during the middle of
the combat, turned the right of the French through the meadows close to
Vic-Bigorre, and they were finally driven through the place.

I hardly ever recollect a more delightful march than that we enjoyed
towards the evening. The sun was sinking behind the western hills,
the surrounding country was wrapped in tranquillity, the din of war,
had died away. The soldiers were tired, conversation ceased, and no
sounds broke on the ear except the tread of the men’s footsteps, or the
planting of the horses’ feet of the hussars, who were riding along in
single files, or going off to the side of the road, so as not to retard
our march.

[Footnote 22: The soldiers carried their new clothing, which they had
lately received, and which was not yet altered and made up, on the top
of their knapsacks.]

[Footnote 23: The floor and stairs are polished in France, as in old
fashioned gentlemen’s houses in the interior of England.]

You may also like