FIGHTING IN THE PYRENEES

All the troops, except those left to repair and garrison Badajoz,
having moved off, I proceeded immediately to Lisbon. Here I remained
as short a time as possible, not from over anxiety to see England,
but because, although I had the horrors of the sacking of Badajoz in
painful recollection, I felt greater horror at the idea that I might be
taken for a Belemite. During the splendid campaigns which took place in
the Peninsula from 1808 to 1813 many British officers were collected
at Belem, and with peculiar tact so contrived as always to remain in
the rear of the army. Some were unwillingly kept back from debility of
constitution or through wounds, but a large majority were inflicted
with a disease which, baffling the skill of learned doctors, loudly
called for a remedy far different from that of medical treatment.
This patrician band, amounting to the incredible number of upwards of
a thousand, were formed into an inefficient depôt at Belem, a suburb
of Lisbon, distant thence about five miles. That this over prudent
body was not exclusively composed of wounded will appear when it is
known that the greater number of its members had never seen nor heard
a shot fired during the whole of the eventful period mentioned, far
more cautions indeed than the smooth-faced Roman patricians who fled
from the slingers at Pharsalia. This careful band did not venture so
far even as the skirts of the fight; and it might truthfully be said
that the movement of the whole army was attended with less difficulty
than the movement of a single Belemite to the front. The complaint or
disease of which they complained they invariably attributed to the
liver; but medical men after careful analysis attributed it to an
affection of the heart, founding their conclusions on the fact that
whenever any of those backward patients came forward, the violent
palpitations of that organ clearly proved that it was much more
affected by the artificial fire in the field than was the liver by the
physical heat of the sun.

A ludicrous scene took place in Lisbon whilst I was there, in which
one of these gentlemen of the rearguard made a very conspicuous,
though not happy figure, and so caused much merriment. Prevailing upon
himself to fancy that he was deeply in love with a young and beautiful
Portugese lady of noble birth and ample fortune, he was unwearied in
his addresses. These, as it would appear, were not disagreeable to the
amiable fair; but her parents entertaining quite different sentiments,
used every endeavour to cut off all communication between the lovers.
Notwithstanding, our hero, active and persevering in the wars of Venus
as passive and quiescent in those of Mars, was not to be shaken; and
finding that his visits to the lady’s house were no longer desired,
he became incessant in his attendance at a post taken up opposite
to a particular window in the rear of the mansion wherein the lady
resided. Here a telegraphic correspondence was established between
the lovers. This being discovered by the vigilant parents, means were
adopted to prevent the appearance of their daughter at the propitious
window. Finding however that the hero was not to be diverted from his
purpose, and that he continued to attend every evening about dusk in
the vicinity of the window, they determined to bring about by stratagem
that which neither threat nor remonstrance could effect.

[Sidenote: WITH LOVE’S LIGHT WINGS.]

In the meantime the champion, more of love than of war, relaxed not
in his dusky visits, although uniformly disappointed. Fancy then his
ecstasy one evening, after such continued vexations and as he was
about to depart, at again beholding the cherished object of all his
solicitude present herself at the accommodating window. His heart
bounded at recognising the high bonnet with pink ribbons, so well
remembered. Half frantic with delight he rapturously pressed his hands
to his heart, then applying them to his lips shot them forward in the
direction of the lovely fair. Here his happiness was increased tenfold
at perceiving that his angel, who on former occasions but doubtingly
countenanced his love, now with fervour apparently equal to his own
repeated all his amorous gestures; this he naturally attributed to pure
affection, heightened by long separation. His amorous expressions also
were repeated, so far as the distance which separated them allowed him
to distinguish words, although as he afterwards related he fancied the
intonation of the voice an octave higher than usual and the sudden
interruptions rather hysterical; but this he attributed to the flurried
state of her mind at the moment. All tended in his excited imagination
to show the great interest she felt at the interview. Urged by these
sentiments, he hurried forward; his charmer hurried from the window.
Excited to the highest pitch and considering the retreat from the
window, which was left open, rather an invitation than a repulse, he
determined to enter; and fortunately discovering a short ladder in
the garden, left as he thought through accident or neglect, with its
aid he boldly entered the room. The obscurity here being greater, he
could barely see the loved object of his search quickly retire to a
large armchair; to this he promptly followed, and throwing himself
upon his knees held forth his clasped hands in a supplicating manner,
when lo and behold! the doors were suddenly thrown open and a numerous
concourse of ladies and gentlemen with lights hurried into the room
before the lover had time to resume his upright position. Fancy his
confusion and amazement at beholding in the first person who entered
the object of all his affections, and his horror and consternation
when turning round to the object before whom he knelt, he found his
closed hands firmly clasped by a large Brazilian monkey! This ape was
the particular favourite of the young lady, and on this occasion was
dressed by order of her parents in the precise apparel which they
had seen their daughter always wear during the balcony interviews.
Thunderstruck and abashed as he regarded all the objects round and as
the shrill voice and chirping hysterical sounds flashed on his memory
now dreadfully explained, he fully represented wild despair and abject
humility. Yet he still clung to the hope that the young lady would try
to extricate him from his degrading dilemma, when she thus addressed
him: “Ah, faithless wretch!–not content with endeavouring to betray
me alone, but also to attempt seducing the affections of my favourite,
my darling monkey! Begone, wretch, nor let me ever more behold thy
odious presence!” and darting at him a glance of the utmost disdain
she flounced out of the room. Now, becoming furious at his ludicrous
situation, and scarcely knowing how to vent his rage, he drew forth
his sword from under his cloak and in a menacing attitude prepared to
attack the innocent object at whose feet he had so lately knelt, and
to whom he had so ardently poured forth the fervency of his passion.
The imitative animal, instantly snatching up a large fan which lay
on the armchair and little knowing his danger, immediately assumed
a similar menacing attitude, when a loud cry burst forth from all,
“Shame, shame, to enter the lists against a poor defenceless monkey!”
This was too much to be borne, and the beau, the dupe of stratagem,
followed the example of the young lady by leaving the room, with this
difference–the young lady proudly and slowly went upstairs, but our
hero with an entirely opposite feeling rushed hurriedly down. There
was thought of remonstrances to the British authorities; but it being
ascertained that this tender man of war was not quartered in Lisbon,
but a Belemite who in amorous mood strayed away from his tribe, no
military investigation took place. However the affair becoming the
topic of general merriment, the gallant gay Lothario could not endure
the derision to which he was exposed. But what annoyed him most was the
report that he had fought a duel with a monkey. He therefore determined
to join the army and resigning the voluptuous court of Venus ranged
himself at last under the rigid standard of Mars; thus what the hero
of the Peninsula failed to accomplish was brought about by a Brazilian
baboon, the forcing of a Belemite from out his safehold to the field of
war.

[Sidenote: A JULIET OF BRAZIL.]

Having remained but a very few days in Lisbon, I proceeded to England
and reporting myself at the Horse Guards was ordered to join the 2nd
Battalion of my regiment, quartered at Lewes. Thence I was immediately
sent on recruiting service; but having shortly after procured my
recall, I applied to His Royal Highness the Duke of York for leave to
join the 1st Battalion of the Regiment then in the Peninsula, although
I belonged to the 2nd Battalion at home. His Royal Highness was pleased
to grant my request; this was facilitated by there being at the time
three captains of the 1st Battalion in England. I now proceeded to
Portsmouth to procure a passage to Lisbon. Here I found there was but
one transport ready to sail for the Peninsula; this being a horse
transport was filled with those animals and dragoon officers, to whom
alone the cabin was dedicated. However, Colonel Sir James Douglas,
Colonel Belnevis, Majors Leggatt and Arnot, infantry officers, having
arrived before me at Portsmouth had contrived to get berths, but there
was none left for me; even the floor was portioned off. My application
for a passage was therefore negatived; but after repeated entreaties
to Captain Patten, Agent of Transports, he permitted me to sail in
the vessel, with the proviso however that I should pledge my word of
honour not to take that precedence in choice of berths to which my rank
entitled me; in a word, not to interfere with the convenience of the
cavalry officers, who were all subalterns. From my anxiety to return to
Spain and impatience of delay, I hesitated not a moment in agreeing to
the proposal.

[Sidenote: A THREATENED FIGHT BY SEA.]

Our voyage proceeded prosperously until we approached the Bay of
Biscay, when entering on its skirts and in very rough weather we fell
in with a British man-of-war. Perceiving us alone, she very genteelly
undertook to protect us. In pursuance of this disinterested act she
made signals for us to follow her movements, in obeying which we
entered much deeper into the bay than the master of the transport or
any other person on board could account for. While we were steering
thus for a considerable time, certainly very wide of our true course,
an American privateer with a prize in tow hove in sight, when our
kind and voluntary protector immediately left us, making his course
for those vessels, which on his approach separated taking different
directions. But the British man-of-war turning his back on the
hostile privateer, allowed her to depart without any molestation; and
considering perhaps that he best served his country in doing so chose
the prize for chase, by the capture of which salvage would reward his
patriotism. The three vessels were soon out of sight. The man-of-war
and the prize we never saw more; but towards evening the privateer was
again discovered bearing down upon us. Approaching within gunshot she
lay to on our starboard bow. Having four guns aside which were shotted
and everything ready for action, we also played the bravo, and reefing
our mainsail also lay to. Colonel Douglas, as chief in command, took
no particular station; Colonel Belnevis, Major Leggatt and Major Arnot
commanded the starboard guns; the bow gun, same side, was allotted
to me. When we had silently broadsided each other for some time, the
privateer, seeing our vessel full of troops and moreover double her
size, dared not hazard an attempt at boarding, and perceiving our four
guns aside did not fire into us; while we, on the other side, had many
reasons for not wishing an action. Perceiving however the hesitation
of the enemy, we put the best face on the affair and resolved stoutly
to bear down direct upon her. On our approaching the privateer crowded
all sail and to our infinite satisfaction bore away, repeating the
same signals made by our faithful commodore in the morning–_i.e._, to
follow her movements; and this too with the English flag flying. To say
the truth we were in miserable fighting trim; for although we had four
guns aside, we dreaded their explosion more than the shot from our
enemy. The locks of these guns were but very imperfectly fastened on;
and through some extraordinary oversight no medical officer had been
embarked.

The wind having much increased and we being in the centre of the bay,
the vessel rolled awfully. Water-casks, portmanteaus, hencoops breaking
from their lashings fearfully traversed the decks, and obeying only
the rolling of the vessel threatened broken limbs to all who came
in their way. These obstacles and many others of a minor kind gave
particular annoyance to the cavalry officers, who being dressed for
professional fight and mostly being but a short time in the Service,
wore their spurs unconscionably long and consequently detrimental; for
many things which otherwise would have crossed the deck, fastened on
the spurs, and their owners in the confusion of the moment could not
account for the closeness with which they were charged, forgetting
that their own weapons dragged the encumbrances after them. All things
considered, we were well pleased at not being obliged to fight; our
nerves could not have been doubted. The infantry, four field officers
and one captain were veterans often proved in action; and the gallantry
of the dragoons could not for a moment be called in question, for
they showed themselves gamecocks even to the heels. The name of one
of these officers I mention from his peculiar and melancholy fate,
Lieutenant Trotter, 4th Dragoon Guards. At the Battle of Waterloo he
gallantly took a French dragoon officer prisoner in single combat.
While conducting him to the rear (of course on his parole and therefore
permitted to ride), Trotter never thought of being on his guard; but
the assassin, watching an opportunity when Trotter turned round, drew
out a pistol which he had concealed in his breast and shot poor Trotter
through the head. He instantly fell dead but the murderer escaped.

[Sidenote: A STRANGE PROTECTOR.]

When we had succeeded in lashing the water-casks, portmanteaus and
coops, and recooping the fugitive poultry, and having fortunately got
rid of both our foe and our protector, we, to make use of a military
phrase, brought up our left shoulders to resume our proper course, from
which we had been diverted, nay, ordered to deviate by the insidious
interference of a man-of-war. The master of the transport calculated
that by obeying his signals, our voyage was considerably prolonged.
Thus was the public Service retarded and British troops placed in a
perilous situation by a person whose bounden duty it was to protect
them, yet who first led us into danger and then left us to our fate in
a comparatively defenceless transport while he himself turned his back
on friend and foe and went in search of a prize. Few such instances
have occurred or are likely to occur, since such conduct is surely as
repugnant to the feelings of our brave sailors as to our own.

During the rest of our voyage we met with no further adventure. After
our encounter I told Colonel Douglas that having been now called upon
duty I was entitled to a choice of berths according to my rank, in
which Douglas fully agreed; but as I had pledged my word to Captain
Patten that I should not interfere with the dragoon officers, I
continued my usual dormitory, which was on the hay put on board for the
horses.

On our arrival at Lisbon, Colonel Douglas ascertained the name of our
convoy and that of the captain. He declared at the time that he would
report the whole transaction to the Commander-in-chief. Whether he did
so or not I cannot say, as I never after had the pleasure of meeting
him but once, and that on the Pyrenees and under circumstances which
precluded much conversation: he was bleeding profusely from a gunshot
wound which he had just received in the neck. I recollect being told on
our arrival at Lisbon by a gallant old naval officer, who was highly
indignant at the affair, that we were taken in convoy because our
voluntary protector did not belong to the station, and therefore took
the opportunity of offering his services as a pretext for trespassing
on Sir Richard Keats’ cruising ground.

Having remained in Lisbon barely long enough to prepare equipment
necessary to take the field, I now marched from that capital for the
fourth time; but although superior in rank I did not feel more happy.
On former occasions I proudly fell into the ranks of as fine and
gallant a corps as ever moved forth to battle; I laughed and joked with
old comrades whom I sincerely esteemed. Our march was enlivened with
martial music, and we enjoyed each other’s society when the daily march
was over. That was a walk of pleasure; but now the contrast was woeful.
Silent and alone I left Lisbon. I had a dreary march of some hundred
miles before me; heavily therefore I plodded along and always in dread
of being taken for a Belemite. At last however I fortunately fell in
with an artillery officer, a lieutenant who was proceeding to the army
with a relay of mules for the guns. My new acquaintance being also
proficient in more languages than one, we could, as occasion required,
and without dread of detection, pass as natives of different countries;
and through the general information acquired by the curious traveller
who has wandered far, we were enabled to act in many capacities. In
some measure therefore to brighten the gloom and break the monotony
of our long and dreary march, we exerted our ingenuity in frequent
varieties of calling.

[Sidenote: PLANNING AN ELOPEMENT.]

In our playful frolics we acted many parts; but to recount all the
occurrences which took place during this extraordinarily long march
would be impossible; yet, lest it should be imagined that I wish to
insinuate that fortune smiled upon all our juvenile and thoughtless
freaks and to show that, as all who adventure much, we also shared
her frowns, I shall relate one anecdote. Approaching the Ebro, we
were billeted in the house of a hidalgo a short way from the town of
Reynosa. In the mansion of our noble host dwelt two beautiful young
ladies, nieces of a High Church dignitary, then absent at Madrid.
With one of these fair ladies the lieutenant of artillery became
desperately enamoured, and his love seemed to be returned. A mutual
attachment was confessed; a union was mutually agreed upon; and the
fair Iberian heroically determined to knit her fate with that of her
lover and confiding in his honour resolved on an elopement. That my
friend’s intentions were perfectly honourable I had no doubt; but to
induce a Spanish bishop to give the hand of his niece to a heretic was
not to be thought of. Under these circumstances I of course lent my
aid, seeing that my companion was determined at all hazard to carry
her off. The elopement was fixed for the morning dawn. The heroine,
the better to elude discovery, determined to travel for a stage or
two in male attire; to this I contributed a new hat. In this hat were
closely crammed a pair of doeskin inexpressibles belonging to the
great gun officer, which were privately consigned to the fair lady
and by her kept in her room until required. One of our servants was
to accompany the lady and gentleman, who were to start at daybreak,
each riding in a man’s saddle and as men do, to which the lady made
no objection. In truth Spanish ladies see nothing either morally or
physically wrong in this mode of travelling. The principal object to
be attained was to lull the suspicions of the family, particularly
that of the young lady’s aunt and of her elder sister, whose vigilance
was roused by certain telegraphic glances which passed between the
incautious lovers. To forward this we invited the whole family that
night and generously supplied them with mulled wine highly spiced and
sweetened and qualified with a liberal portion of brandy. This punch
royal was plentifully supplied; and to say the truth the beverage was
freely quaffed by all to a very late hour, when at length all retired
to rest. The anxiously looked-for dawn having appeared, we beheld the
little lady emerging from her room fully equipped for travelling. Her
costume certainly caused some mirth. My friend’s doeskins not being
sufficiently ample, were ripped down the rear; but for security, as
well as to prevent untoward accidents, the young lady had established a
communication between the separated parts of the dress by cross-lacing
or frogging, such as may be seen across the breast of a hussar’s
blue frock. My hat was tastefully perched on the crown of her head,
rather on one side and made fast to a net or caul in which her hair
was confined, an arrangement not unfrequently adopted by men in
Spain. Thus, with the addition of a pair of top or jockey-boots (also
mine) and a handsome whip, she had all the appearance of a smart and
fashionable little postilion. Her white jacket was also slit and
frogged, but in front and for a similar reason. Now as we lightly
tripped downstairs a confused noise was heard through the house, a
violent retching caused by the previous night’s dissipation; all were
indeed aroused; and as we were hurrying our little postilion towards
the stables we were overtaken by the ever vigilant aunt and a host of
servants. Protestations of honourable intentions were vain; the poor
little postilion was made prisoner and marched back to the house, while
we slunk off crestfallen and abashed.

[Sidenote: AN ELOPEMENT PREVENTED.]

Moving silently along we arrived that night at Reynosa and were
billeted in different houses. Next day we visited the interesting
little hamlet Fontebro, so called from its being close to two springs,
whence that noble stream the Ebro derives its waters; this was three
miles distant from Reynosa. On our return we dined with the gentleman
at whose house I was quartered, a most hospitable person; his wife was
equally hospitable; they cordially invited us to remain some days. We
met a large party of ladies and gentlemen at dinner and were highly
entertained, as is generally the case at all foreign tables where
people meet to eat, drink and be merry, rather than to watch what
others eat and drink and criticise their manner of doing so. I once
heard a fine gentleman ask the person next him at a dinner-party and in
hearing of the person who caused the remark, “Can you fancy anything
so vulgar and ill-bred as to be helped twice to soup?” The answer was
pungent and laconic, “Yes, remarking it.”

In the midst of our hilarity a servant entered with a parcel directed
to the two English officers who had arrived at Reynosa the previous
evening. For some reason or other I felt no inclination to open it;
but the good couple of the house insisted that we should stand upon no
ceremony, but examine its contents. When I loosened the string with a
faltering hand, the first object which presented itself was my hat,
with a pair of jockey-boots stuffed into it, the hat so soaked and
squeezed that it appeared more like a dirty wet sponge than a cover
for the head; next came the little white frogged jacket, which caused
a good deal of laughter. On my showing some reluctance to explore
further, the lady of the house, next to whom I sat, put her hand into
the little bag and to our confusion drew forth my friend’s mutilated
buckskins with the hussared rear face; these she held up to full view,
whirling them round and round for the benefit of all eyes. The roars
of laughter now became absolutely hysterical; we endeavoured to join
in the general mirth, but I fear our laughter partook somewhat of
Milton’s grin. Hundreds of questions were now asked in a breath–where
did they come from? to whom did they belong? why cut them up? with
many other curious enquiries, especially from the ladies. Seeing that
any attempt at plausible explanation would most likely be doubted,
we considered it better truly to relate the principal circumstances,
glossing them over as well as we could. Our account but increased the
mirth, especially among the fair, who wondered at our having been at
all abashed at what should only cause a hearty laugh. One asked which
of us helped to lace up the young lady, as she could not see to do it
herself; and other like questions they asked which I cannot now call
to mind. They all pathetically lamented the disappointment of the poor
young would-be fugitive who was all ready. The affair certainly created
much merriment; but we could not conceal even from ourselves that the
merriment was entirely at our expense. Thus ended our last adventure,
with a loss to my friend of a pair of doeskin tights cut up for a lady,
and to me of a pair of boots and a new hat, for the water with which it
was saturated had ruined it beyond repair.

[Sidenote: ARRIVAL IN THE PYRENEES.]

Next morning before dawn we crossed the Ebro and continued our march
towards the army, perfectly cured of our frolics. Passing through
Vittoria a few days after the celebrated battle there fought, I halted
for a day to visit many old comrades, seventeen officers of the 28th,
who had been wounded in the action. After cordially condoling with
them all I went on again; and after a march of six hundred miles at
length joined the army in the beginning of July on the great barriers
placed by nature to separate France from Spain. The consequences of
the victory at Vittoria still continued to operate. The enemy were
thrust backwards at all points, and about the 7th or 8th of the month
the entire frontier of Spain, from the celebrated Roncesvalles to the
fortress of San Sebastian on the Bay of Biscay, was, with the exception
of Pampeluna and one or two minor places, occupied by the victorious
allies. In this position the triumphant army remained tranquil for a
short time, except for the operations carried on in the investment and
siege of San Sebastian and of Pampeluna.

Soon after the battle of Vittoria the titular king, Joseph, returned
to Paris and was replaced in the chief command of the French army of
Spain by the Duke of Dalmatia. On July 12th this marshal arrived at
Bayonne from Dresden, despatched thence by Napoleon. Soult, inferior
to no officer in France (except perhaps the emperor), either in
judgment or activity, immediately set about remodelling his army; and
to revive their confidence and rouse their drooping spirits, cast down
by repeated disasters, he determined to make an offensive movement
against the position maintained by the allies. After ten or twelve
days passed in continual preparations for carrying out his plans of
relieving Pampeluna and if possible raising the siege of San Sebastian,
he on July 25th simultaneously attacked the passes of Roncesvalles and
Maya; and such was the weight of his columns that he broke through
those passes, obliging the allies, after hard fighting and disputing
every inch of ground, to retire, which movement continued the whole
of that day and part of the night. On the 26th the enemy again came
on and a good deal of fighting took place. The allies still retreated
and directed their course towards Pampeluna. Soult was close at hand.
The 4th Division under General Cole had passed Villaba, within three
miles of Pampeluna, in full retreat, early on the morning of the
27th, closely followed by General Picton with the 3rd Division, and
both divisions closely followed by Soult. This induced the garrison of
Pampeluna to make a fierce sortie; and General O’Donnel, who commanded
the blockading troops, seeing Soult rapidly advancing and the two
British divisions as rapidly retreating, and becoming naturally much
alarmed, commenced spiking his guns and destroying his magazines,
when fortunately Don Carlos D’Espana with his division arrived at the
critical moment; he immediately drove back the garrison and reassured
O’Donnel. Soult now fully expected to relieve Pampeluna in a few hours
and appearances were much in favour of his doing so; in fact it was all
but accomplished.

[Sidenote: ADVANCE OF SOULT.]

Picton, now perhaps reflecting that his retreat in the morning,
together with that of Cole whom he commanded, was more precipitate
than need called for, and perceiving the crisis at hand and all that
depended on the affair, suddenly halted and placed his division across
the outlets from the valleys of Zubiri and Lanz, thus screening
Pampeluna. At the same time he ordered General Cole to occupy the
heights between Oricain and Arletta; but that general, observing a
hill which stood forward about a mile in advance and commanded the
road to Huarte, moved forward to possess it, with the concurrence of
Picton who now saw its importance. Soult, who was close at hand, also
saw the importance of possessing this hill, which as the armies were
then situated was the key of Pampeluna. He immediately pushed forward
a strong detachment with accelerated pace to gain the hill; and so
exactly simultaneous was the rush of the contending parties that while
the enemy were ascending one side Cole’s advanced guard were mounting
the other. Two Spanish regiments, part of O’Donnel’s blockading
troops, already posted on the hill and seeing the hostile troops
approaching the summit, made a furious charge on the enemy’s ascending
strong body and gallantly bore them down the hill. Soult lost the key.
His heavy columns soon came up, flushed with what they considered a
victory, as they had driven before them two British divisions; but
their career was suddenly checked on seeing the mountains in their
way crowned by ten thousand troops of Cole’s division; and not two
miles further back stood Picton with a still stronger force, the 3rd
Division, resting on Huarte.

Soult having now his troops in hand commenced a general attack. His
first and most vigorous effort was against the Spanish hill immediately
on the right of Cole’s division; but the gallantry of the Spaniards
was repeated and the enemy thrust down the hill. At this moment Lord
Wellington arrived from the valley of Bastan, where he had left General
Hill to deal with Count D’Erlon. Although he witnessed the victorious
gallantry of the Spaniards, yet perceiving the great loss they
sustained and the importance of maintaining the hill, he ordered the
4th English Regiment to their support. A general skirmish now commenced
along the whole front, which continued until one of the customary
Pyrenean visitors, a dense fog, put an end to the firing for the day.
Various movements took place on both sides and throughout almost all
the divisions during the night and next morning. About noon the enemy
gathered at the foot of the position; and a cloud of skirmishers pushed
forward and ascended the hill like the flames and smoke of a volcano
that could not be contained. At the same time Clauzel’s division burst
forth from the valley of Lanz, and pushing forward rapidly turned
Cole’s division, and were doubling in his rear when a Portugese
brigade of the 6th Division suddenly appearing checked them in good
time; and at the same instant the 6th Division, who came into line
that morning, formed in order of battle across the front of the enemy.
Thus the French column, who moved forward with intention to turn the
left of the allies, now found themselves in a sore predicament; two
brigades of the 4th Division attacked them on the left; the Portuguese
brigade galled their right; while the whole body of the 6th Division
overwhelmed them in front and with a loud cheer and deadly charge sent
them headlong off the field, which was strewed with their dead. This
part of the fight was thus terminated. But higher up the hills the
battle continued with increased fury; every hill was charged, taken
and retaken repeatedly; nor were the French less forward than the
British in repeating their charges. The 6th Division, in which I served
with the 36th Regiment, after having quitted those in the valley, now
climbed the rugged steep and lined with the troops above just becoming
victorious; and a few more charges decided the fate of the day. The
enemy withdrew at all points. They stated their loss to be no more than
two general officers and eighteen hundred killed and wounded; but it
was generally rated much higher. The allies had upwards of two thousand
men killed and wounded.

[Sidenote: STUBBORN FIGHTING.]

The 29th was respected as a military sabbath by both armies, neither
firing a shot throughout the day; but this calm was the immediate
precursor of a violent storm. On the morning of the 30th a furious
attack was commenced against General Hill’s corps, which led to a
battle at Buenza. D’Erlon had twenty thousand men, the allies scarcely
half that number. Hill maintained his ground for a long time; but, his
left being turned, he retired, losing five hundred men. Being joined
by Campbell and Morillo he offered battle; but Soult, who had come
up, declined the fight. On the same morning at daylight another combat
commenced at Sauroren; and this combat lasted much longer and was far
more severe than Hill’s. Here the 6th Division suffered severe loss in
charging the enemy, who retired reluctantly, but too far to return.
They were now driven from the whole of their position and beaten at all
points.

In these battles of the 30th the allies suffered a loss between killed
and wounded, including some taken prisoners, of nearly two thousand
men. The loss on the enemy’s part was far greater; their killed and
wounded alone surpassed that of the allies, besides three thousand made
prisoners. Soult now turned his face towards France. At ten o’clock on
the morning of the 31st General Hill came up with his rearguard between
Lizasso and the Puerto. Turning round, they halted and made good
battle; but their position was forced. Fortunately for them a thick fog
prevented an effective pursuit. The allies lost about four hundred men
and the enemy about the same number. On August 1st and 2nd the enemy
were in full retreat for France; and although, wherever encountered
they suffered defeat, yet they were never in flight; and on these
two days we suffered a loss of at least one thousand men put _hors
de combat_; and we were on the point of suffering another and a more
severe loss.

[Sidenote: WELLINGTON ALMOST CAPTURED.]

On August 2nd, the last day of the fighting, the Duke of Wellington
hurried to Echallar to reconnoitre the enemy and consult his maps,
taking a party of the 43rd Light Infantry as a guard; but the enemy
unobserved, discovering the party sent a detachment to cut them off.
A Sergeant Blood of the 43rd with some of the men, being in front,
perceived the enemy coming on at speed; and seeing the danger in which
the duke was placed, dashed down from rock to rock roaring out the
alarm. The duke instantly mounted and galloped off; the French came up,
but only in time to fire a volley after him.

Both armies now reoccupied pretty nearly the same positions which they
held previous to the attack of July 25th; and thus terminated the
fighting commonly called the battles of the Pyrenees; and never were
battles more fierce or harassing. The principal encounters were at the
point of the bayonet. We and they charged alternately up and down the
sides of rugged and rocky mountains, exposed to the excessive summer
heat of July and at the same time to the cold of winter. Dripping with
perspiration from hard fighting and scorching sun in the valleys, we
had immediately to clamber up to the tops of high mountains and face
the extreme cold naturally to be found there and dense fogs, which
soaked through us and are more penetrating and oppressive than heavy
rain; and this change we suffered more than once in the day, our
constitutions thus undergoing a similar ordeal to that which I have
heard is resorted to in perfecting chronometers, which, to prove their
qualities of compensation, are moved in rapid succession from an oven
to an ice-house and _vice-versâ_.

During these combats we, with the Spaniards and Portuguese, lost
between killed, wounded, and taken seven thousand three hundred
officers and men. The enemy on their part lost upwards of thirteen
thousand and about four thousand prisoners. This short but bloody
campaign lasted but nine days, one of which, the 29th, was dedicated
to rest and peace; on the other eight days ten distinct battles
were fought and hotly contested. I cannot enter into or attempt a
full description of those combats, fought along positions always
intersected by lofty mountains which generally confined the view of
regimental officers to their respective corps. Even staff officers
scarcely knew what was passing beyond the limits of their brigades
or divisions; and consequently the information necessary to furnish
accurate detail must depend on the narratives of many, and thus would
far exceed the just limits of these modest Memoirs. Throughout those
combats the Spanish fought with the greatest bravery, as did the
Portuguese. It was remarked at the time that had Picton with the two
divisions under his command continued to retreat for two hours longer
on the morning of the 27th, Soult would inevitably have gained the
double object which he had in view, the relief of Pampeluna and the
animation of his drooping troops; for although he might have been
compelled to retreat immediately afterwards, he could have boasted
of beating back the allies and succouring the beleaguered fortress,
and averred that his subsequent retreat was preconcerted to guard the
French frontier. And this renewal of the spirit and confidence of his
troops might have been attended with double disadvantage; for it may be
remarked of opponents throughout animated nature that as one becomes
elated by success, the other in equal ratio becomes depressed; and
though physical strength remain intact, moral influence is shaken.

Some changes in posting the divisions now took place. General Hill’s
corps formed on the heights above Roncesvalles; and the 6th Division
lay down in front of the Maya Pass. The contending armies now again
remained tranquil, although our lines were not far asunder, but in
no part so close as at the Maya Pass, where the advanced sentries of
both lines in many places, particularly at night, were not ten yards
asunder. In this novel mode of campaigning we continued for upwards
of three months. At the commencement some fieldworks were thrown up
by us and soon abandoned; but during the whole time of our stay there
the enemy were incessant in fortifying their lines from the base of
the mountains to their very summit, upon which their strong forts and
redoubts were constructed.

[Sidenote: HOSTILE SENTRIES IN CONTACT.]

While we were in this position no acts of hostility took place save
at Pampeluna and San Sebastian, although our mutual piquets after
nightfall were in some parts in the same field, occasionally separated
by a partial wall or small stream and frequently by nothing which
might show a line of demarcation. Slight or, as they were termed,
china walls were the most frequent barriers. In many instances the
advanced sentries were almost in contact; yet so well was civilised
warfare understood that they never interfered with each other and
scarcely ever spoke. The usual words, “All’s well,” were never cried
out. This monotonous roar was superseded by “stone chatters”–white
polished stones, about two pounds’ weight each, were placed on the
spot where each sentry was usually posted at night, and he struck them
against each other twice in slow time. This was repeated along the
chain of sentries. Should any sentry neglect this for more than five
minutes, the next sentry instantly struck the stones three times and
quickly; this rapidly passed along the line and a visit from the piquet
immediately followed. By these means we were sure that a sentry could
not sleep nor be negligent on his post for more than five minutes at
a time. It was rather remarkable that whatever signals our sentries
made were immediately repeated by those of the enemy. In visiting these
advanced sentries, I sometimes spoke to French officers performing a
similar duty, although this, strictly speaking, was not sanctioned. On
those occasions I often got a small flask of French wine; the manner
in which this was procured was rather curious. The French officer put
down his flask and retired a few paces, when I advanced and emptied it
into my wooden canteen; I then replaced the flask and my friendly foe
took it up after I had retired. This may appear strange to the civil
reader and upon reflection so it did to ourselves; nor could we well
explain how it was that two officers familiarly conversing within a few
yards should entertain such absolute horror of coming within touch, as
if it were equal to high treason; but such was the case. It would seem
that warfare bore close affinity to the plague; so long as you avoided
contact all was safe. It was prohibited under the heaviest penalty that
soldiers should ever exchange a word with the enemy. At this time the
army was very scantily provisioned; and many disgraceful desertions
took place to the French who were well supplied.

On one of my visits to the sentries, when I had got my flask of wine,
the French officer asked me, apparently as a commonplace question, when
we intended to attack them, adding, “You need have no hesitation in
telling us, for we know you intend it, and we are prepared night and
day to receive you.” I replied that as to his preparation to receive us
his present generosity gave earnest; but as to the time when the attack
should take place, I was totally ignorant. I added that Lord Wellington
was too well acquainted with natural consequences not to know that he
who betrays himself by divulging his secrets cannot reasonably depend
on another for fidelity; and that he who threatens openly will be
counteracted secretly; that in either case defeat is generally the
result. After this I never entered into conversation with any French
officer.

[Sidenote: CAPTURE OF SAN SEBASTIAN.]

Whilst our right and centre were in this state of tranquillity, towards
our left, especially near San Sebastian, the war was carried on with
the greatest activity. This fortress, after one or two failures and
very severe losses on our part, was at length taken by storm on
August 31st. The small castle which crowned Monte Orgullo held out
until September 9th, when it capitulated, the gallant governor having
obtained honourable terms. Immediately after the storming the town was
set fire to in all quarters; and the most shocking barbarities, such as
are scarcely credible, were perpetrated by the British soldiers on the
unfortunate inhabitants of all ages and sexes.

Early in August Soult had meditated a strenuous attack to relieve
San Sebastian, but the scattered and disorganised state of his army
caused much delay. At last, when all was ready, he was about to assault
the allies on August 30th, but something prevented which induced him
to defer the attack until next morning. On August 31st therefore at
daylight, the enemy rushed forward with the usual impetuosity attending
their first attack, bearing down all before them. Their front column,
directed by General Reille, made great progress up the heights to San
Marcial, while Lamartiniere’s division assailed to the right; and when
their skirmishers had gained two-thirds of the hill and were checked,
their dense column were moved forward. Then the Spaniards, who were
posted there, undauntedly coming forward, vigorously charged the French
column and sent them headlong down the hill.

During this time the head of Villatte’s column, having crossed the
fords at the foot of the hill on rafts and boats, ascended the ridge
and more vigorously renewed the fight, and gained the left of the
Spanish line. The 82nd English Regiment moved forward a short distance
to maintain the post. At this moment Lord Wellington appeared, when the
Spaniards, scarcely kept steady by their own officers, now shouting
forth a cheer of recognition rushed forward to the charge with such
impetuosity that these opponents too were swept down the hill as if
by a torrent. Some pontoon boats which came to their rescue, becoming
overloaded by the fugitives in their hurry to get away, were sunk,
when many were drowned; and the breaking of the bridges to allow the
boats to come to the rescue decided the combat at that point, with
the loss of many hundreds of the enemy. Soult, who beheld this defeat
from the mountain called “Louis XIV.,” determined to try in another
quarter; but it was several hours before the scattered masses could
be collected and the bridges repaired. This effected, he sent the
remainder of Villatte’s reserve over the river, and uniting it with
Foy’s division urged on a more formidable attack at Vera. In this
combat he was not more successful; but although beaten at all points,
still he hesitated not. He determined to make a third attack, for he
had plenty of troops still left. He had forty thousand men collected
in the morning; he attacked with thirty thousand; and the allies in
action amounted to only ten thousand. But the heavy cannonade clearly
heard from San Sebastian during the morning now ceased, for during
the combats above mentioned, San Sebastian had been stormed and taken
without any interruption from without. The movements of Soult previous
to his attack were in appearance confused, but they were designedly so,
with a view of deceiving Wellington; but the latter was well informed
on the night of the 29th what Soult’s plan was; and he consequently
sent orders to the Maya Pass to move the troops there stationed
forward on the morning of the 31st to keep D’Erlon’s corps occupied,
and prevent his sending any reinforcement to aid Soult’s attack. Sir
Charles Colville therefore moved out with the 6th Division. We had a
sharp affair and lost some fifty or sixty men; no other part of the
right or centre of our line was disturbed. Wellington felt perfectly
secure in the strength of his position. A brigade of Guards had come up
from Oporto; and three fresh regiments had just arrived from England
and formed a brigade for Lord Aylmer. Soult, having received in the
course of the day (31st) a report of the storming and capture of San
Sebastian, no longer hesitated; he retired, determined to assemble
his forces and prepare for a more general action. In these latter
combats the enemy lost three thousand five hundred men, the English
and Portuguese one thousand, the Spaniards sixteen hundred, all in the
field; but the whole loss of the allies on this day, including the
storming of San Sebastian, exceeded five thousand. Both armies now
fell into their former positions, and for some time tranquillity was
observed.

You may also like