HELL ON EARTH

On the departure of the prince I immediately joined my regiment at
Albuquerque. On my arrival I had the honour of dining with General
Hill. He congratulated me on my good fortune in carrying the prince
safely to Lisbon, remarking that had I not been able to harangue the
peasantry in their native language, sixty soldiers instead of six
would scarcely have been a sufficient guard. The general had heard
from several Spanish officers of the difficulty and danger which I had
encountered. He then congratulated me on the certainty of my immediate
promotion; was pleased to say that I should soon reap the reward which
I so well merited, and then handed me the following letter, which he
requested me to keep by me:–

“GALLEGOS: _January 16th, 1812_.

“SIR,–I am directed to transmit to you the annexed extract
of a letter from Lieutenant-Colonel Torrens, in reply to your
recommendation in favour of Lieutenant Blakeney.

“The Commander-in-Chief will take an early opportunity of
recommending Lieutenant Blakeney for promotion.

“I have the honour to be, etc.,
“FITZROY SOMERSET,
“_Military Secretary_.

“LIEUTENANT-GENERAL HILL.”

Towards the latter end of February my name appeared in the _Gazette_,
promoted to a company in the 36th Regiment, dated January 16th, 1812.
After endeavouring in vain to accomplish an exchange back into my
old corps, I forwarded a memorial to the Duke of Wellington applying
for permission to join the 1st Battalion 36th Regiment, then in the
Peninsula. His Grace answered that he could not interfere with the
appointment of an officer from one battalion to another; that being
promoted I must join the 2nd battalion, to which I properly belonged;
and that I must therefore proceed to England and report my arrival
to the adjutant-general. A copy of this answer was forwarded from
headquarters to the officer commanding the 1st Battalion 36th Regiment,
then at Almendralejo. It was matter of surprise to many that whilst
hundreds of officers were vainly applying for leave to go to England, I
could not procure leave to keep from it; but such, no doubt, were the
arrangements between the Horse Guards and the army in the Peninsula.

[Sidenote: THE AFFAIR OF MERIDA.]

In the beginning of March General Hill moved upon Merida, endeavouring
to surprise a detachment of the enemy there stationed. He approached
within a short distance without being discovered; but an advanced guard
being at length perceived, the enemy hastily evacuated the town. As we
neared the place we saw their rearguard of cavalry crossing the bridge.
Our cavalry and light artillery had previously forded the Guadiana, and
it was confidently expected would soon come up with the retiring foe.
No longer doing duty with the 28th Regiment, I rode over the bridge as
the German dragoons were closely pressing on the enemy’s rear, passing
by their flank. I soon came in view of their main body. They proceeded
hesitatingly, having no doubt been informed by their patrols that our
cavalry had already forded the Guadiana. They halted on a conical hill,
or rather rising mound, which they occupied from its base to its
summit, apparently expecting to be charged. I immediately wheeled round
and returning at full speed informed General Hill of what I had seen.
The general, whose coolness was never more apparent than when the full
energy of the mind was called into action, replied in his usual placid
manner: “Very well; we shall soon be with them. Gallop over the bridge
again and tell General Long to keep closer to the wood.” Instantly
setting off I soon recrossed the bridge, at the far end of which I
met Lord Charles Fitzroy returning after having delivered a similar
message. The cavalry general’s reply was that he wished to keep clear
of the skirts of the wood, when one of us remarked that the wood must
have skirts more extensive than a dragoon’s cloak to keep them at such
a distance. The enemy, perceiving how far they kept away, descended
from the mound on which they had expected to be charged, and rapidly
pushed forward without any molestation; for as our dragoons moved they
still more deviated from the enemy’s line of march, and seemed to be
_en route_ for Badajoz. Had our cavalry closed upon the wood and even
menaced a charge, the progress of the enemy would have been impeded;
but had our cavalry and light guns, by which they were accompanied,
pushed forward rapidly, which they could have done since the plain was
flat and level, and headed the enemy, they would have kept them until
our infantry came up. But nothing of the kind was attempted, and so
every French soldier escaped, though every one ought to have been made
prisoner, and this affair of Merida would have been more complete than
even that of Arroyo Molinos; for when I reported the position of the
enemy to General Hill, they were not more than two miles distant from
our advanced guard. This affair caused an era in the life of General
Hill; for I heard many of his oldest acquaintances remark that before
the evening of this day they never saw a cloud upon his brow.

All hopes of being permitted to remain in the Peninsula having
vanished, I resolved to return to England. With heavy heart I parted
from the regiment in which I first drew my sword, in which my earliest
friendships were formed and my mind modelled as a soldier. In Colonel
Abercrombie’s quarters at Merida many of the officers were assembled.
Sorrowful, I bade adieu to my gallant old comrades, and quaffed a
goblet to their future success whilst I clasped the colours to my
breast–those colours which alone throughout the British army proudly
display the names of the two bloodiest fought battles in the Peninsula,
Barossa and Albuera; and in each of these battles the regiment claimed
a double share of the glory. At Barossa, while Colonel Belson at the
head of the 1st Battalion charged and turned the chosen grenadiers
forming the right of the enemy’s line, Colonel Browne of the regiment,
at the head of their flank companies, united with those of two other
corps, commanded the independent flank battalion; and this battalion,
the first in the battle and alone, suffered more casualties both in
officers and men (I allude particularly to the flankers of the 28th
Regiment) than triple that sustained by any other battalion present
in that memorable fight. At Albuera the 2nd Battalion of the regiment
were led by a gallant officer, Colonel Patterson; and the brigade in
which they served, that which with the brigade of the gallant Fusiliers
turned the wavering fortunes of the day, were commanded by the gallant
Abercrombie, the second lieutenant-colonel of the regiment.

[Sidenote: FAREWELL TO THE SLASHERS.]

Next morning at parting the light bobs gave me a cheer. I distinguished
among them some few of the old ventriloquists of Galicia; but on this
occasion their notes were, I believe, genuine. I bade a mournful
farewell to the old Slashers, and bent my steps towards Badajoz, then
about to be besieged. The next evening (March 15th) I came before the
place; and very opportunely Lieutenant Huddleston of the 28th Regiment,
my brother officer in the battalion company which I commanded for a
short time, arrived on the same day, being appointed to serve in the
Engineer department. He willingly shared his tent with me; and Sir
Frederick Slavin, also of the 28th Regiment, then adjutant-general
of the 3rd Division, introduced me to General Picton, who did me the
honour of saying that I should always find a cover at his table during
my stay before Badajoz. General Bowes, with whom I had the pleasure
of being acquainted at Gibraltar, gave me a similar invitation. Thus,
finding myself comparatively at home, I felt in no way inclined to
proceed too quickly to Lisbon.

During the siege I assisted generally in the trenches. On March 16th
everything was finally arranged, and on the following evening the
different divisions and regiments prepared to occupy their respective
posts. All the troops being assembled, generals and commanding officers
inspected their brigades and regiments in review order. The parade
was magnificent and imposing. The colours of each regiment proudly,
though scantily, floated in the breeze; they displayed but very little
embroidery. Scarcely could the well-earned badges of the regiments be
discerned; yet their lacerated condition, caused by the numberless
wounds which they received in battle, gave martial dignity to their
appearance and animated every British breast with national pride. The
review being terminated, a signal was given for each corps to proceed
to that spot of ground which they were destined to open. The whole
moved off. All the bands by one accord played the same tune, which
was cheered with shouts that bore ominous import and appeared to shake
Badajoz to its foundation. The music played was the animating national
Irish air, St. Patrick’s Day, when the shamrock was proudly clustered
with the laurel; and indeed, though these two shrubs are not reckoned
of the same family by proud collectors in the Cabinet, veterans hold
them to be closely allied in the field. Never was St. Patrick’s day
more loudly cheered or by stouter hearts, and never was the music more
nobly accompanied nor with more warlike bass; for all the troops echoed
the inspiring national air as proudly they marched to their ground.
Phillipon maintained an incessant fire of cannon, roared forth in proud
defiance from the destined fortress; and Badajoz being now invested on
both sides of the Guadiana, the operations of the siege were eagerly
pressed forward.

On the 19th, during the completion of the 1st parallel, a sortie was
made by the besieged soon after mid-day. Fifteen hundred of their
infantry, screened by the ravelin San Roque, formed between that
opening and the Picurina or small redoubt. They immediately pressed
forward and gained the works before our men could seize their arms,
while at the same time a party of cavalry, about fifty, the only
horsemen in the fortress, got in rear of the parallel. The confusion
was great at the first onset. Those on guard and the working men
were driven out of the trenches, and the cavalry sabred many in the
depôts at the rear; but the mischief being quickly discovered was soon
remedied. The Guards being reinforced immediately rallied and drove the
enemy out of the works at the point of the bayonet, when many lives
were lost. A part of the embankment was thrown into the trenches, and
the enemy carried away almost all the entrenching tools found in the
parallel. We lost one hundred and fifty men in killed and wounded
during this attack.

[Sidenote: CAPTURE OF FORT PICURINA.]

The siege was now carried on without interruption, notwithstanding the
severity of the weather, which frequently filled the trenches with
water; and so great was the fall of rain on the 22nd that the pontoon
bridge was carried away by the Guadiana overflowing its banks, and
the flying bridges over that river could scarcely be worked. This
threatened a failure of the siege, from the difficulty of supplying the
troops with provisions and the impossibility of bringing the guns and
ammunition across. Fortunately for the attack of the fortress however
the disaster was remedied by the river falling within its banks.

The morning of the 25th was ushered in by saluting the garrison with
twenty-eight pieces of cannon, opened from six different batteries;
and in the evening Fort Picurina was stormed, gallantly carried and
permanently retained. The enemy made a sortie on the night of the 29th,
on the right bank of the Guadiana against General Hamilton’s division,
who invested the fortress on that side; they were driven back with
loss, and on this occasion the besiegers had no casualties.

On the last day of March twenty-six pieces of ordnance from the 2nd
Parallel opened their fire against Fort Trinidad and the flank of the
protecting bastion, Santa Maria. This fire continued incessantly, aided
by an additional battery of six guns, which also opened from the 2nd
Parallel on the morning of April 4th against the ravelin of San Roque.
On the evening of the 6th Trinidad, Santa Maria and the ravelin of San
Roque were breached.

Preparations were made to storm the town that night; but reports
having been made by the engineers that strong works had been erected
for the defence of the two breaches, particularly in rear of the
large one made in the face of the bastion of Trinidad, where deep
retrenchments had been constructed and every means resorted to which
art and science could devise to prevent an entrance, the attack was
therefore put off. Many hundred lives were spared, but for twenty-four
hours only. All the guns in the 2nd Parallel were now directed against
the curtain of Trinidad; and towards the following evening a third
breach appeared; and the storming of Badajoz was arranged in the
following order for the night of the 6th. The 4th division under
command of Major-General the Honourable C. Colville, and the light
division under Lieutenant-Colonel Barnard, were destined to attack the
three breaches opened in the bastion of Trinidad, Santa Maria and the
connecting curtain. Lieutenant-General Picton, with the 3rd or fighting
division, was directed to attack the castle, which, from the great
height of its walls and no breach having been attempted there, the
enemy considered secure against assault. The ground left vacant by the
advance of the 4th and light divisions was to be occupied by the 5th
division, commanded by General Leith, with instructions to detach his
left brigade, under General Walker, to make a false attack against the
works of the fortress near the Guadiana, as also against the detached
work the Pardaleras. Brigadier-General Power, commanding a Portuguese
brigade on the opposite bank, was ordered to divert by making false
attacks upon a newly formed redoubt called Mon Cœur, upon Fort St.
Cristoval, upon the _tête du pont_ and upon I forget what else. With
these instructions the troops moved forward from the entrenchments
about ten o’clock at night to attack the destined town. The 3rd
Division, under Picton, preceded the general movement about a quarter
of an hour for the purpose of drawing away the enemy’s attention from
the openings in the wall, since these were considered the only really
vulnerable points of the fortress. The 4th and light divisions pushed
gallantly forward against these breaches, and were not discovered
until they had entered the ditch. During their advance the town was
liberally supplied with shells from our batteries, and the upper parts
of the breaches were continually fired upon by light troops placed
upon the glacis to disperse the enemy and prevent their repairing the
broken defences. This fire was but slightly answered, until the two
divisions mentioned were discovered entering the ditch, when they were
assailed by an awful cannonade, accompanied by the sharp and incessant
chattering of musketry. Fireballs were shot forth from the fortress,
which illumined the surrounding space and discovered every subsequent
movement.

[Sidenote: NIGHT ATTACK ON BADAJOZ.]

The dreadful strife now commenced. The thundering cheer of the British
soldiers as they rushed forward through the outer ditch, together with
the appalling roar of all arms sent forth in defiance from within,
was tremendous. Whenever an instant pause occurred it was filled
by the heartrending shrieks of the trodden-down wounded and by the
lengthened groans of the dying. Three times were the breaches cleared
of Frenchmen, driven off at the point of the bayonet by gallant
British soldiers to the very summit, when they were by the no less
gallant foe each time driven back, leaving their bravest officers
and foremost soldiers behind, who, whether killed or wounded, were
tossed down headlong to the foot of the breaches. Throughout this
dreadful conflict our bugles were continually sounding the advance.
The cry of “Bravo! bravo!” resounded through the ditches and along
the foot of the breaches; but no British cry was heard from within
the walls of Badajoz save that of despair, uttered by the bravest,
who despite of all obstacles forced their way into the body of the
place, and there through dire necessity abandoned, groaned forth their
last stabbed by unnumbered wounds. Again and again were the breaches
attacked with redoubled fury and defended with equal pertinacity and
stern resolution, seconded by every resource which science could adopt
or ingenuity suggest. Bags and barrels of gunpowder with short fuses
were rolled down, which, bursting at the bottom or along the face of
the breaches, destroyed all who advanced. Thousands of live shells,
hand-grenades, fireballs and every species of destructive combustible
were thrown down the breaches and over the walls into the ditches,
which, lighting and exploding at the same instant, rivalled the
lightning and thunder of heaven. This at intervals was succeeded by an
impenetrable darkness as of the infernal regions. Gallant foes laughing
at death met, fought, bled and rolled upon earth; and from the very
earth destruction burst, for the exploding mines cast up friends and
foes together, who in burning torture clashed and shrieked in the air.
Partly burned they fell back into the inundating water, continually
lighted by the incessant bursting of shells. Thus assailed by opposing
elements, they made the horrid scene yet more horrid by shrieks uttered
in wild despair, vainly struggling against a watery grave with limbs
convulsed and quivering from the consuming fire. The roaring of cannon,
the bursting of shells, the rattle of musketry, the awful explosion of
mines and the flaring sickly blaze of fireballs seemed not of human
invention, but rather as if all the elements of nature had greedily
combined in the general havoc, and heaven, earth and hell had united
for the destruction alike of devoted Badajoz and of its furious
assailants.

In consequence of untoward disasters, which occurred at the very
onset by the troops being falsely led, their numbers were seriously
diminished and their compact formation disorganised. The third or last
opening in the curtain was never attempted, although this breach was
the most practicable, as it had been made only a few hours before, and
thus there had been no time to strengthen its defences. Owing to this
ruinous mistake, the harassed and depressed troops failed in their
repeated attacks.

At length the bugles of the 4th and light divisions sounded the recall.
At this moment General Bowes, whom I accompanied in the early part of
the fight, being severely wounded, and his aide-de-camp, my old comrade
and brother officer Captain Johnson, 28th Regiment, being killed, as
I had no duty to perform (my regiment not being present), I attended
the general as he was borne to his tent. He enquired anxiously about
poor Johnson, his relative, not being aware that this gallant officer
received his death-shot while he was being carried to the rear in
consequence of a wound which he had received when cheering on a column
to one of the breaches.

Having seen the general safely lodged, I galloped off to where Lord
Wellington had taken his station. This was easily discerned by means
of two fireballs shot out from the fortress at the commencement of the
attack, which continued to burn brilliantly along the water-cut which
divided the 3rd from the other divisions. Near the end of this channel,
behind a rising mound, were Lord Wellington and his personal staff,
screened from the enemy’s direct fire, but within range of shells. One
of his staff sat down by his side with a candle to enable the general
to read and write all his communications and orders relative to the
passing events. I stood not far from his lordship. But due respect
prevented any of us bystanders from approaching so near as to enable
us to ascertain the import of the reports which he was continually
receiving; yet it was very evident that the information which they
conveyed was far from flattering; and the recall on the bugles was
again and again repeated. But about half-past eleven o’clock an officer
rode up at full speed on a horse covered with foam, and announced the
joyful tidings that General Picton had made a lodgment within the
castle by escalade, and had withdrawn the troops from the trenches to
enable him to maintain his dearly purchased hold. Lord Wellington was
evidently delighted, but exclaimed, “What! abandon the trenches?” and
ordered two regiments of the 5th Division instantly to replace those
withdrawn. I waited to hear no more, but, admiring the prompt genius
which immediately provided for every contingency, I mounted my horse. I
was immediately surrounded by a host of Spaniards, thousands of whom,
of all ages and sexes, had been collecting at this point for some
time from the neighbouring towns and villages to witness the storming
and enjoy the brilliant spectacle, wherein thousands of men, women
and children, including those of their own country, were to be shot,
bayoneted or blown to atoms. Notwithstanding the hundreds of beautiful
females who closely pressed round and even clung to me for information,
I merely exclaimed in a loud voice that Badajoz was taken and then made
the best of my way to the walls of the castle; their height was rather
forbidding, and an enfilading fire still continued. The ladders were
warm and slippery with blood and brains of many a gallant soldier, who
but a few moments previously mounted them with undaunted pride, to be
dashed down from their top and lie broken in death at their foot.

[Sidenote: WELLINGTON AT BADAJOZ.]

As soon as General Picton had arrived at the walls he instantly
ordered them to be escaladed, frightful as was their height. Ladder
after ladder failed to be placed against the walls, their determined
bearers being killed. But Picton, who never did anything by halves
or hesitatingly, instead of parsimoniously sending small parties
forward and waiting to hear of their extinction before fresh support
was furnished, boldly marched his whole division to the foot of the
walls; and thus, without loss of time, by immediately supplying the
place of the fallen, he at length succeeded in rearing one ladder.
Then having his reserves close at hand, scarcely was a man shot
off when an equally brave successor filled his place; and in this
manner those who mounted that one ladder at length made a lodgment.
This being firmly established, the fire from within slackened; many
ladders were soon reared and the whole of the 3rd Division entered the
castle. The Connaught Rangers were said to be the first within the
wall. In consequence of some misconduct, General Picton had changed
the name “Rangers” to “Robbers.” After the storming of the castle a
private of the corps called out half-drunken to the general, “Are we
the ‘Connaught Robbers’ now?” “No,” answered Picton; “you are the
‘Connaught Heroes.’”

[Sidenote: MEETING OF THE 3rd AND 5th DIVISIONS.]

The confusion in the castle was awful all night long. All the gates had
been built up but one, and that narrowed to the width of two men. On
this straight gate a terrible fire was directed from outside and in.
The 3rd Division first fired on the French and, when they had gone,
continued to fire on their own comrades of the 5th Division, who had
entered the town on the opposite side by escalading the bastion of San
Vincente. This capture was opposed as fiercely and made as bravely as
that of the castle. The 3rd Division having taken the castle about
half-past eleven, Picton received orders to maintain it until break of
day, when he was to sally forth with two thousand men and fall on the
rear of the breaches, which it was intended should again be attacked
by the 4th and light Divisions. The party who carried the ladders
of the 5th Division lost their way and did not come up until after
eleven o’clock, which necessarily made General Leith an hour late in
his attack on the bastion of San Vincente, so that before he entered
the town the castle was in possession of the 3rd Division. The enemy
who defended the breaches being no longer attacked in front, turned
all their force against the 5th Division as they advanced from their
captured bastion along the ramparts. As soon as General Walker’s
brigade of this division gained the interior of the fortress, they
moved forward along the ramparts, driving everything before them until
they arrived not far from the breach in the Santa Maria bastion; here
the enemy had a gun placed, and as the British troops advanced a French
gunner lit a port fire. Startled at the sudden and unexpected light,
some of the foremost British soldiers cried out, “A mine, a mine!”
These words passing to the rear, the whole of the troops fell into
disorder, and such was the panic caused by this ridiculous mistake
that the brave example and utmost exertions of the officers could not
prevail upon the men to advance. The enemy, perceiving the hesitation,
pushed boldly forward to the charge, and drove the British back to
the bastion of San Vincente, where they had entered. Here a battalion
in reserve had been formed, who, in their turn rushing forward to the
charge, bayoneted or made prisoner every Frenchman they met, pursuing
those who turned as far as the breaches. The 3rd and 5th Divisions
interchanged many shots, each ignorant of the other’s success and
consequent position; and both divisions continued to fire at the
breaches, so that had the 4th and light divisions made another attack
many must have fallen by the fire of both divisions of their comrades.

From both within and without, as has been said, a constant fire was
kept up at the narrow and only entrance to the castle. This entrance
was defended by a massive door, nearly two feet thick, which was
riddled throughout; and had the 3rd Division sallied forth during the
confusion and darkness, they must have come in contact with the 5th
Division, when no doubt many more lives would have been lost before
they recognised each other. This was fortunately prevented by Picton
being ordered to remain in the castle until morning.

The scenes in the castle that night were of a most deplorable and
terrific nature: murders, robberies and every species of debauchery and
obscenity were seen, notwithstanding the exertions of the officers to
prevent them. Phillipon expecting that, even though he should lose the
town, he would be able to retain the castle at least for some days, had
had all the live cattle of the garrison driven in there. The howling
of dogs, the crowing of cocks, the penetrating cackle of thousands of
geese, the mournful bleating of sheep, the furious bellowing of wounded
oxen maddened by being continually goaded and shot at and ferociously
charging through the streets, were mixed with accompaniments loudly
trumpeted forth by mules and donkeys and always by the deep and hollow
baying of the large Spanish half-wolves, half-bloodhounds which guarded
the whole. Add to this the shrill screaming of affrighted children,
the piercing shrieks of frantic women, the groans of the wounded, the
savage and discordant yells of drunkards firing at everything and in
all directions, and the continued roll of musketry kept up in error on
the shattered gateway; and you may imagine an uproar such as one would
think could issue only from the regions of Pluto; and this din was
maintained throughout the night.

[Sidenote: SURRENDER OF PHILLIPON.]

Towards morning the firing ceased; and the 4th and light divisions
passed through the breaches over the broken limbs and dead bodies
of their gallant comrades. A great part of the garrison were made
prisoners during the night by the 5th Division; but Phillipon, with
most of the officers and a portion of the men, retreated across the
Guadiana into Fort Cristoval. He demanded terms of capitulation next
morning; but Lord Wellington gave him ten minutes to consider and
straightway prepared the guns to batter the place. However, that was
prevented by Phillipon surrendering at discretion.

As soon as light served and communication between the castle and the
town opened, I bent my way along the ramparts towards the main opening
in the Trinidad bastion. The glorious dawn of day, contrasted with
the horrible scenes which I had witnessed, filled the mind with joy.
The sun rose in majesty and splendour, as usual in the blooming month
of April, which in that climate is as our May. The country around was
clothed in luxuriant verdure, refreshed by recent dew, which still
clinging to each green leaf and blade in diamond drops reflected the
verdant hue of the foliage upon which it hung till diamonds seemed
emeralds. A thousand nameless flowers, displaying as many lovely
colours, were on all the earth. Proudly and silently the Guadiana
flowed, exhibiting its white surface to the majestically rising orb
which gave to the ample and gently heaving breast of the noble stream
the appearance of an undulating plain of burnished silver. On its
fertile banks the forward harvest already promised abundance and
contentment even to the most avaricious husbandman. The fruit trees
opened their rich and perfumed blossoms; the burnished orange borrowing
colour of the sun glowed in contrast with the more delicate gold of
lemon; and everywhere grey olive trees spread ample boughs–but here,
alas! they were not the emblems of peace. Every creeping bramble and
humble shrub made a fair show that morning; birds sang in heaven; all
sensitive and animated nature appeared gay and seemed with grateful
acknowledgments to welcome the glorious father of light and heat. The
lord of creation alone, “sensible and refined man,” turned his back
on the celestial scene to gloat in the savage murders and degrading
obscenity that wantoned in devoted Badajoz.

When I arrived at the great breach the inundation presented an awful
contrast to the silvery Guadiana; it was fairly stained with gore,
which through the vivid reflection of the brilliant sun, whose glowing
heat already drew the watery vapours from its surface, gave it the
appearance of a fiery lake of smoking blood, in which were seen the
bodies of many a gallant British soldier. The ditches were strewn with
killed and wounded; but the approach to the bottom of the main breach
was fairly choked with dead. A row of _chevaux de frise_, armed with
sword-blades, barred the entrance at the top of the breach and so
firmly fixed that when the 4th and light Divisions marched through, the
greatest exertion was required to make a sufficient opening for their
admittance. Boards fastened with ropes to plugs driven into the ground
within the ramparts were let down, and covered nearly the whole surface
of the breach; these boards were so thickly studded with sharp pointed
spikes that one could not introduce a hand between them; they did not
stick out at right angles to the board, but were all slanting upwards.
In rear of the _chevaux de frise_ the ramparts had deep cuts in all
directions, like a tanyard, so that it required light to enable one to
move safely through them, even were there no opposing enemy. From the
number of muskets found close behind the breach, all the men who could
possibly be brought together in so small a place must have had at least
twenty firelocks each, no doubt kept continually loaded by persons in
the rear. Two British soldiers only entered the main breach during the
assault; I saw both their bodies. If any others entered they must have
been thrown back over the walls, for certain it is that at dawn of the
7th no more than two British bodies were within the walls near the main
breach. In the Santa Maria breach not one had entered. At the foot of
this breach the same sickening sight appeared as at that of Trinidad:
numberless dead strewed the place. On looking down these breaches I
recognised many old friends, whose society I had enjoyed a few hours
before, now lying stiff in death.

[Sidenote: DEAD AT PEACE, LIVING AT PLAY.]

Oppressed by the sight which the dead and dying presented at the
breaches, I turned away and re-entered the town; but oh! what scenes
of horror did I witness there! They can never be effaced from my
memory. There was no safety for women even in the churches; and any who
interfered or offered resistance were sure to get shot. Every house
presented a scene of plunder, debauchery and bloodshed, committed with
wanton cruelty on the persons of the defenceless inhabitants by our
soldiery; and in many instances I beheld the savages tear the rings
from the ears of beautiful women who were their victims, and when the
rings could not be immediately removed from their fingers with the
hand, they tore them off with their teeth. Firing through the streets
and at the windows was incessant, which made it excessively dangerous
to move out. When the savages came to a door which had been locked
or barricaded, they applied what they called the patent key: this
consisted of the muzzles of a dozen firelocks placed close together
against that part of the door where the lock was fastened, and the
whole fired off together into the house and rooms, regardless of those
inside; these salvos were repeated until the doors were shattered,
and in this way too several inhabitants were killed. Men, women and
children were shot in the streets for no other apparent reason than
pastime; every species of outrage was publicly committed in the houses,
churches and streets, and in a manner so brutal that a faithful recital
would be too indecent and too shocking to humanity. Not the slightest
shadow of order or discipline was maintained; the officers durst
not interfere. The infuriated soldiery resembled rather a pack of
hell-hounds vomited up from the infernal regions for the extirpation
of mankind than what they were but twelve short hours previously–a
well-organised, brave, disciplined and obedient British army, and
burning only with impatience for what is called glory.

But whatever accounts may be given of the horrors which attended
and immediately followed the storming of Badajoz, they must fall
far short of the truth; and it is impossible for any who were not
present to imagine them. I have already mentioned that neither the
regiment to which I was just appointed nor that which I had just left
was at the siege. I therefore could have had but little influence in
controlling the frenzied military mob who were ferociously employed
in indiscriminate carnage, universal plunder and devastation of every
kind. Three times I narrowly escaped with life for endeavouring to
protect some women by conveying them to St. John’s Church, where a
guard was mounted. On one occasion, as Huddleston and I accompanied
two ladies and the brother of one of them to the church mentioned, we
were crossed by three drunken soldiers, one of whom, passing to our
rear, struck the Spanish gentleman with the butt-end of his firelock on
the back of his head, which nearly knocked him down. On my censuring
the fellow’s daring insolence in striking a person in company with two
English officers, another of the men was bringing his firelock to the
present, when I holloaed out loudly, “Come on quick with that guard.”
There was no guard near, but the ruse luckily succeeded, and so quickly
did the soldiers run away that I felt convinced that their apparent
intoxication was feigned. On another occasion a sergeant struck me
with his pike for refusing to join in plundering a family; I certainly
snapped my pistol in his face, but fortunately it missed fire or he
would have been killed. However the danger which he so narrowly escaped
brought him to his senses; he made an awkward apology and I considered
it prudent to retire. By such means as these, by the risk and humanity
of officers, many women were saved. We did not interfere with the
plundering; it would have been useless.

[Sidenote: HELL-HOUNDS OF SAVAGE WAR.]

One circumstance, being of a very peculiar nature, I shall relate.
During the morning of the 7th, while the excesses, of which I have
given but a faint idea, were at their height, Huddleston came running
to me and requested that I would accompany him to a house whence he
had just fled. The owner was an old acquaintance of all the officers
of the 28th Regiment, when a few months previously we were quartered
at Albuquerque, where he lived at the time. Huddleston conducted me to
the bedroom of this man’s wife. When we entered, a woman who lay upon
a bed uttered a wild cry, which might be considered as caused either
by hope or despair. Here were two British soldiers stretched on the
floor, and so intoxicated that when Huddleston and I drew them out
of the room by the heels they appeared insensible of the motion. The
master of the house sat in a corner of the room in seeming apathy; upon
recognising me he exclaimed, with a vacant stare, “And why this, Don
Roberto?” Having somewhat recovered from his stupor, he told me that
the woman on the bed was his wife, who was in momentary expectation
of her _accouchement_. In my life I never saw horror and despair so
strongly depicted as upon the countenances of this unfortunate couple.
Several soldiers came in while we remained; and our only hope of saving
the unfortunate lady’s life was by apparently joining in the plunder of
the apartments, for any attempt at resistance would have been useless
and would perhaps have brought on fatal consequences. I stood as a kind
of warning sentry near the bedroom door, which was designedly left
open; and whenever any of the men approached it, I pointed out the
female, representing her as a person dying of a violent fever; and thus
we succeeded in preserving her life. Huddleston and I then set to work
most actively to break tables and chairs, which we strewed about the
rooms and down the stairs. I remained for some hours, when I considered
that all was safe; for although many marauding parties had entered,
yet on perceiving the ruinous appearance of the house, and considering
that it must have already been well visited, they went off immediately
in search of better prey. We even scattered a shopful of stationery
and books all over the apartments, and some of the articles we held in
our hands as if plunder, for the purpose of deceiving the visitors. I
recollect taking up some coloured prints of Paul and Virginia; these
I afterwards presented as a trophy of war to an old friend, Mrs.
Blakeney, of Abbert, Co. Galway, as the sole tangible remembrance of
the storming of Badajoz. I frequently called at the house during the
two following days and was happy to find that no further injuries
were suffered. Huddleston’s servant and mine slept in the house. We
ourselves retired to the camp as darkness approached, for to remain in
Badajoz during the night would have been attended with certain danger,
neither of our regiments being in the place. The sack continued for
three days without intermission; each day I witnessed its horrid and
abominable effects. But I shrink from further description.

[Sidenote: SOLDIERS RETURN TO SANITY.]

On the morning of the fourth day (April 10th) the 9th Regiment were
marched regularly into town. A gallows was erected in the principal
square and others in different parts of the town. A general order
was proclaimed that the first man detected in plundering should be
executed; but no execution took place. The soldiers well knew how far
they might proceed, and no farther did they go. The butcheries and
horrible scenes of plunder and debauchery ceased in Badajoz; and it
became an orderly British garrison. During the sack the Portuguese
troops plundered but little, for as they had not been employed in
the storming the British soldiers would have killed them had they
interfered with the spoil. But during the three days’ transfer of
property they lay hid close outside the town, where they awaited the
British soldiers, who always came with a sheet or counterpane filled
with every species of plunder, carried on their heads and shoulders
like so many Atlases; and as these always left the town drunk and lay
down to sleep between it and the camp, the artful Portuguese crept
up and carried away everything, and thus they finally possessed all
the plunder. I witnessed this mean jackal theft a hundred times; and,
without feeling the slightest affection for those second-hand dastard
robbers, I enjoyed seeing the British soldiers deprived of their booty,
acquired under circumstances too disgusting to be dwelt on.

The storming of Badajoz caused a severe loss to the British army. The
3rd and 5th Divisions, who successfully escaladed the walls, lost
either in killed or wounded six hundred men each; and the casualties
suffered by the 4th and light Divisions amounted to upwards of five
hundred more than the loss of the successful escalading divisions.

The great loss caused in the ranks of those who attacked the breaches
was due to their having been erroneously led on to an unfinished
ravelin, constructed in front of the centre breach, that of Trinidad.
This work had been a good deal raised during the siege, and being
mistaken for a breach, which in its unfinished state it much resembled,
the 4th Division gallantly mounted and soon reached the top. Here
they were severely galled by a destructive fire from the whole front;
a deep precipice and wet ditch intervened between the ravelin and
the breaches. Astonished and dismayed the men began to return the
enemy’s fire. At this critical moment the light division, who had
been led as much too far to their right as the 4th Division had been
to their left, came up; and unfortunately they also mounted the fatal
deceptive ravelin. All was now confusion and dreadful carnage was
passively suffered by those devoted troops. The officers, having at
length discovered the mistake, hurried down the ravelin and gallantly
showed the example of mounting the Trinidad and Santa Maria breaches,
followed by the bravest of the men; but the formation as an organised
body being broken, only the excessively brave followed the officers. On
arriving at the top of the breaches, which were stoutly defended, so
weak a force were consequently hurled down to destruction. The utmost
disorder followed. Thus the attacks on the three breaches, where alone
Badajoz was considered vulnerable, all failed of success; while those
defences which both by the besiegers and besieged were deemed almost
impregnable, were gallantly forced. Such are the vicissitudes of war,
especially in night attacks. At dawn on the 7th there was no dead body
near the last made and most vulnerable breach–a proof that by error it
was never attacked.

Immediately after the fall of Badajoz the chief part of the army
moved towards the north of Portugal, where Marmont had collected his
corps. However, all his exploits consisted in a distant blockade of
Ciudad Rodrigo and some romantic attempts against the fortress of
Almeida. Failing in his attempts against those two places, he marched
upon Castello Branco, threatening to destroy the Bridge of Boats at
Villavelha; but on the advance of Lord Wellington to attack him he
retired out of Portugal and thus terminated his inglorious incursion.

Fortunately for the operations carried on against Badajoz, Marmont’s
jealousy of Soult was such that he ignored all his remonstrances and
did not unite with him; he continued obstinate and Badajoz fell.

Marshal Soult arrived with his army at Llerena on April 3rd, and on
the 4th Lord Wellington made arrangements to receive him. His plan was
to leave ten thousand men in the trenches and fight the marshal with
the remainder of his army; but Soult, either feeling diffident of
his strength or still in the hope that Marmont would bend his course
southerly, arrived at Villa Franca, but thirty miles from Llerena and
the same distance from Badajoz, only on the 7th, thus taking four days
to march thirty miles in haste to relieve a beleaguered fortress. On
his arrival at Villa Franca on the 7th, he was informed that Badajoz
had fallen that morning, or rather the night before, and that Phillipon
had surrendered at discretion. He then, like Marmont, retired and moved
into Andalusia.

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