UNEQUAL FORTUNE

Disappointed in all my well-founded hopes, for such I thought them,
I departed to rejoin my regiment at Malta. Landing at Calais, I
proceeded to Paris and thence continued my route to Marseilles. On
the day we arrived at Avignon, where a large garrison was stationed,
it happened that the commandant dined at the _table d’hôte_. I sat
opposite to him, conversing with a young Spanish nobleman attached to
the Spanish Embassy at the British Court, who took this route to return
to Spain. Having met him in the diligence, I had soon discovered him
to be a Spaniard, and in his language our discourse was maintained.
During dinner the Peninsular campaigns became the topic of general
conversation, in which I joined with the commandant, whom I soon
recognised as an old opponent. He did not recognise me. Nine years
had elapsed since our last meeting; he saw me walking lame into the
room; and I was in mailcoach trim. Having with apparent carelessness
asked him if he knew the Prince Prosper d’Arenberg, he answered in the
affirmative, and that they were particular friends. He added that they
were both taken prisoners in the same action. He then asked if I had
been in Spain during the period of the campaigns. I said yes, when he
remarked that perhaps I was in the Spanish Service. I told him that
then, as well as now, I served in the British army. He asked if I were
an Englishman; and when I said yes, he remarked in that complimentary
strain peculiar to well-bred Frenchmen, that one rarely meets an
individual speaking the languages of three different nations and with
such exactness as to pass for a native of each. The Spanish _attaché_,
not to be second in courtesy, attested the justice of the assertion
so far as it related to Spanish, declaring that until that moment he
took me for his countryman. The commandant then broke into the Spanish
language, which, to say the truth, he spoke far from well; nor did I
ever meet a Frenchman who could speak it without causing a smile from
his auditors. Continuing his broken and ill-pronounced Spanish, at
which the _attaché_ smiled and looked at me, the commandant said that
he spoke in that language because he had taken me for a Spaniard, on
which I replied that for a similar reason I spoke to him in French.
He instantly fixed his eye on my countenance; he was beginning to
recognise me. He then quickly asked me if I knew Lord Hill; and where
I first became acquainted with Prince Prosper. I told him that I had
the honour of knowing his lordship, and that my first acquaintance with
the prince was at Arroyo Molinos in Spain. His eyes now opened wide and
with apparent emotion he asked if he might take the liberty of asking
my name, which I had no sooner mentioned than, starting from his chair
and striding round to where I sat, to the no small astonishment of all
present, he embraced me warmly, saying that he would not kiss me, for
he had not forgotten Lisbon. He now presented me to the whole company,
which was numerous, as the British officer who made him prisoner, and
whom he had so often mentioned as a “grand petit diable.” He went on to
tell how he was made prisoner; but this I decline to repeat, as it was
rather too florid in description and too flattering to me. I will put
it briefly and in plainer words.

[Sidenote: MY FORMER PRISONER.]

It may be remembered that in the action of Arroyo Molinos, on October
28th, 1811, I jumped over the wall, through a breach in which the head
of the French column had passed and the rest were following. Before
my leap I had noticed a martial figure nobly mounted, evidently the
chief of a corps, leading on the French 40th Regiment of the line.
He was not more than five or six paces from the breach, while I was
from ten to twelve yards from it. Perceiving that he must pass through
before I could come up, wild with excitement and conscious also that
the commanding general was looking on, I rode at the wall, and having
cleared it instantly turned round to the breach into which Colonel
Voirol had just entered and was passing through. We met face to face
and instantly commenced a martial duet. We were both superbly mounted,
but the rocky nature of the ground was such that our horses were
totally unmanageable. We soon fell, or rather dragged each other to the
ground, when, true to the immutable laws of nature, I as the lighter
and more trivial remained uppermost. On falling, I must instantly have
been forked to death by the many Frenchmen around me; but all were too
intent on flight to look to others, and immediately after Voirol and
I came to the ground the most advanced soldiers of the 28th and 34th
Light Companies charged through the opening in the wall, as I have
before described. General Howard (now Lord Howard of Effingham) coming
up, I said, “General, here is a colonel for you; take him in charge.
I cannot stop; I must go on with the light bobs.” In the encounter I
had received a blow on the head, which knocked off my cap and set
it rolling down the rocks. I pushed on bareheaded till I picked up a
French foraging cap. After we returned in the evening from the pursuit
of the fugitives, I found both my horse and cap. This was the scuffle
which I mentioned in describing the battle; and I now detail the
circumstances, because my captive now supported my story, which critics
might pronounce absurd, of an individual scuffling with a whole column.

The commandant, Colonel Voirol, was as fine, upright and soldierlike a
person as could be seen, measuring upwards of six feet in height and
proportionally well built in every respect. His antagonist of Arroyo
Molinos, besides being of slight figure, was beneath the colonel in
stature by some inches; therefore it was perhaps that during his
description of the manner in which he was made prisoner, he was
scanned with dubious glance by all. The natives of France look with a
very jealous eye upon any foreigner whose martial prowess is put in
competition with that of the “Grande Nation Militaire.” This feeling
was still more apparent among the ladies, of whom there were many
present; for the women of France feel if possible more enthusiastic
for military greatness than even the men; and comparing battles
with what they read of tournaments in romances, fancy that tall and
robust figures must be invulnerable against any of slighter mould.
But Voirol’s gallantry was too well established in the French Army to
suffer from the misconception of _table d’hôte_ critics.

My gallant old friend cordially pressed me to remain with him for at
least a few days; but as I was travelling by diligence and my leave
already expired, I felt compelled to decline his hospitality; and
I determined to depart after dinner, not having time even to visit
the hallowed shrine where Petrarch mourned in pathetic numbers his
incredible love for the wrinkled old wife of another. But poetry
must have some object, real or ideal, in view to keep excitement
continually on the stretch. The hour of departure being announced by
the _conducteur_, the commandant accompanied me to the door of the
diligence, and again cordially shaking hands I departed for Marseilles,
where I embarked for that military hotbed, Malta.

Some time after my arrival I was visited by a most severe attack of
ophthalmia. My right eye became more like a ball of fire than an
organ of vision; the dreadful pain in my head entirely banished sleep
for so long a period that I dread to mention it. I heard the clock
of St. John’s Church strike every hour and half hour, day and night,
for a period of two months. I was bled, blistered and physicked to
the last extremity, and bathed in warm baths until I often fainted
from weakness; in addition to this, I had one hundred and ninety-five
leeches applied inside and outside the eyelids. However, through a
strong natural constitution I recovered; and by the unremitting care of
Staff-surgeon Lindsay and Assistant Staff-surgeon Kennedy, who attended
me, the ball of the eye was preserved, but its vision was lost. In
consequence of this loss His Majesty was graciously pleased to grant me
a pension.

[Sidenote: A PENSION GRANTED AND WITHDRAWN.]

In 1822 the regiment was removed to the Ionian Islands; having remained
there until 1826 we were ordered home; and on arriving in England we
moved into Lancashire. Soon after this the regiment was ordered to
Ireland, and landed at Dublin, where we did garrison duty for some time.

At this time I was directed to appear before the General Medical Board,
to have, as I supposed, the pension granted me for the loss of vision
confirmed; but to my utter surprise it was discontinued, although the
Medical Board, as also the certificate of Doctor Guthrie, the medical
gentleman employed by Government in similar cases, attested the loss
of useful vision. Upon my waiting on the Secretary of War, I was
given to understand that the Government had decided that no pensions
should henceforth be granted for the loss of limb or other injury,
except for actual wounds in the field. It is true that I had received
neither a bayonet wound nor musket-ball in the eye; but as a proof of
the correctness of Doctor Guthrie’s testimony, to this day (fourteen
years since the injury took place) I am obliged, to enable me to see
clearly with the left or sound eye, to close the defective one. But
the Secretary of War may have fallen into error in giving his reasons
for depriving me of the pension; for persons were indicated to me who
continued to receive pensions for injuries, though they were never
wounded in their lives. However, I would not quote names, lest in so
doing, for the purpose of strengthening my own claims, I might endanger
the interests of others.

The withdrawal of the pension disconcerted me much; for fully relying
on the royal grant being as permanent as the injury for which it was
made, I had married a Venetian lady of the famous family of Balbi. The
pension I had looked upon as some remuneration for my long and arduous
services.

Besides what I considered the injustice shown towards me throughout,
there were other considerations which powerfully wrought on my feelings
and rendered my position extremely irksome. I mounted the castle guard
in Dublin as lieutenant in 1805; and now in 1828, after three and
twenty years, I mounted the same guard as captain only. This was known
and remarked by many friends and acquaintances; it was known too that
in the brilliant campaigns which took place in the interim I had been
present and serving in two distinguished corps; and I discovered, or
fancied I discovered, something bordering on doubt as to my military
character in the countenances of all who regarded me. To account for
my non-advancement, or remove the doubts consequently entertained, was
out of my power. Decorum prevented my entering into detail of my own
services. To speak frankly, I was ashamed of my slender rank after such
a length of service; yet in conscience I could not accuse myself as the
cause.

[Sidenote: A VETERAN AT THE GOOSE-STEP.]

But my severest ordeal was yet to come; and to support this all my
philosophy and long-tried patience were insufficient. After remaining
some time in Dublin the regiment was ordered to Mullingar; and here,
as it would appear, my second childhood commenced. I was compelled to
fall in with a squad composed of young officers, who for the most part
entered the Service many years after H.R.H. the Commander-in-chief had
noted my name for a majority, and with soldiers who knew not yet how to
shoulder their firelocks. In this respectable company I was condemned
to be taught how to march–a branch of military tuition from which I
had considered myself emancipated at least twenty years before. In this
ordeal I was chased through the barrack square by an ignorant disciple
of Euclid, commonly called a dress sergeant, armed with a colossal pair
of widely yawning compasses. This scrutiny of my steps after I had
carried a musket-ball in my leg for fourteen years; after I had marched
as a boy in one of the most distinguished regiments in the Service from
Lisbon to Corunna, under the best drill and strictest disciplinarian in
the army, Sir John Moore; after I had crossed and re-crossed Spain and
Portugal in different directions without the mathematical precision of
my paces having ever been found fault with;–after all this, and after
twenty-four years’ service, to be brought up by a pair of compasses
in the barrack square of Mullingar was an indignity which I imagine
that human nature in its most subservient state could not, nay, should
not willingly submit to. Disgusted by this Mullingar ordeal, which
might be repeated again and again _for the good of the Service_, I
formed the determination of immediately retiring from that Service.
Add to this contemptuous treatment of old officers the suppression
of the old-established institutions of the corps; the celebration of
such martial _fêtes_ as the anniversary of the battles of Salamanca,
Nivelle and Toulouse. Those were days upon which it was the custom
of the regiment that all the men should wear the laurel, all the
officers, whether married or single, should dine at the mess-table and
guests be invited, thus giving an opportunity for those tales of war
which transmit a noble martial feeling into the glowing breast of the
aspiring young warrior who burns to prove the temper of his steel.
Sentiments such as these glowed in the breasts of the young boys who
joined the 28th Regiment in 1803, 1804, and 1805, while with suppressed
breathing we rapturously listened to the old officers who lately
returned from Egypt told of the gallant feats of arms they witnessed
and shared, and so inspired us that our heated imaginations pictured
soldiers in fight as of more than mortal size, and we longed “to follow
to the field some warlike chief” to lead the way to glory.

[Sidenote: OLD DAYS OF GLORY.]

In the 28th Regiment the anniversaries of the battles in which the
corps had served were strictly observed as days of jubilee and proud
recollection. The month of March in particular was one of revelry in
commemorating the battles fought in Egypt on the 8th, 13th and 21st.
The 17th, the Feast of St. Patrick, was not forgotten; and to these was
subsequently added the 5th, the anniversary of the celebrated battle of
Barossa; so that in March we had five days of celebration, which filled
our hearts with joy and on the following day our head with aches. The
inspiring war-cry, “Remember Egypt!” was after the return from that
country always used when leading into action. The regiment may now use
the names of many other places wherein they fought and distinguished
themselves; but I doubt if the mention of any subsequent battle will
act so powerfully on the minds of the men as the soul-stirring words,
“Remember Egypt!” and “The backplates!”

Why this war against old officers and long-established institutions?
On the return of the victorious army from the Peninsula and later
from France, a crowd of Green Park martinets rushed into the Service,
who, looking upon any distinction gained by others as a reflection on
themselves, seemed to be stimulated by sentiments like those of the
Chinese emperor, who destroyed all existing records in the hope that he
might be considered as the first who had reigned.

On the return of the regiment to Dublin, I, in pursuance of my
determination to retire, procured twelve months’ leave of absence to
proceed to the Island of Corfu; but previous to leaving England I made
a last effort at the Horse Guards. In an interview with Lord Hill,
finding there was no prospect of promotion, I took the liberty of
telling his lordship that it was not my intention ever again to return
to perform the duties of captain. His lordship remarked that he did
not see how that could be, as officers on procuring leave of absence
were required to sign a declaration that they would neither exchange
nor resign before rejoining their regiments. I told his lordship that
I should find out a remedy; and on an explanation being demanded, I
said that I should forego my year’s leave and send in my resignation
immediately. Upon this, his lordship with that kindness and feeling
which endeared him to all, and which gained him the title of “Our
father” from every soldier in the 2nd Division of Lord Wellington’s
army, a title more honourable than all the well-earned brilliant stars
which decorated his breast, recommended me not to be too precipitate.
I could not avoid remarking that his lordship could hardly accuse me
of precipitancy when I had waited for promotion which had been put off
from time to time for fourteen years, and at the expiration even of
that extraordinary length of time His Royal Highness’s pledge still
remained unredeemed. Lord Hill declared that he could never pay the
Duke of York’s legacies. I told his lordship that I resigned all claim
to the legacy, and rested my claims on their own merits, upon which
the General-in-chief desired me to write to him, and he would see what
he could do for me. In consequence of this favourable omen I wrote to
his lordship, enclosing a copy of my memorial presented to the Duke
of York in 1814, together with the testimonials which accompanied
it. To this letter I received a renewal of the old statement, that I
was still noted for promotion on a favourable opportunity; and so I
became fully convinced of the truth that deep scars, fractured bones
and the strongest testimonials were of no avail unless bolstered by
other support. I hesitated no longer; and although senior captain of
my regiment I renounced my year’s leave of absence and immediately
forwarded my resignation.

Thus the author of these Memoirs left the Army. He served at the
siege and capture of Copenhagen; he was for twelve days in constant
fight during Sir John Moore’s retreat to Corunna, and at the end of
this campaign he fought at the battle of Corunna in that division of
the army who drove the whole of the enemy’s cavalry off the field and
turned his left wing; he was for more than twelve months at Tarifa
continually engaged with the enemy’s foraging detachments, and he was
in both attacks on the strong post of Casa Vieja; he served in the
ever memorable battle of Barossa in that flank battalion (to use the
words of Lord Lynedoch) “which so greatly distinguished itself in the
action”; he served in the action of Arroyo Molinos, and he was present
at the siege and storming of Badajoz, where valour’s self might stand
appalled; he served through the Pyrenees as a volunteer, where more
continued hard fighting occurred than elsewhere throughout the whole
Peninsula campaigns, and finally fought in the great battle of the
Nivelle, in which he had a leg shattered. Innumerable skirmishes in
which he was engaged and in which light companies are so frequently
employed need not be mentioned. Of his conduct in these many actions
the testimonials of commanding officers and colonels of regiments
are a sufficient witness. And yet after serving for a quarter of a
century, with feelings harassed by neglect and petty vexations, he felt
himself driven to retire, and that without the slightest badge or mark
of military service save those indelibly imprinted by the searching
weapons of the more considerate foe. Whether he has been dealt with as
might be expected from a liberal, just and great nation is a question
humbly submitted to his Sovereign and his country.

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