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FOR about two hours after daybreak, no movement whatever was made on the left of the army. Parties of cavalry and light infantry were, indeed, from time to time, sent forward, for the purpose of guarding against a sudden return of the enemy's columns; but the main body kept its ground as it had done the day before, and the stations of the out-posts were not altered. About nine o'clock in the morning, however, a few changes occurred. My picquet, for example, marched a little to the right, and relieved a body of Brunswickers, which occupied a farm-house near the point where the ravine wound inwards upon the enemy's position; and this body, together with several other battalions, proceeded at a quick pace towards the station of General Hill's corps. The indefatigable Soult, it appeared, had withdrawn his forces from before us, only to carry them against the opposite flank. The whole of the night of the 12th was spent in filing his battalions through the entrenched camp; and by day-break on the 13th, he showed himself in force upon the right of the army. But Sir Rowland was prepared for him. His own division kept the enemy in full play, till reinforcements arrived, when a decided attack was made; and the French, worn out with the exertions of the four preceding days, were totally defeated. They escaped with difficulty within their fortified lines, leaving five thousand men upon the field.
But I must not presume to intrude upon the province of the historian ; let me therefore return to myself, and my own little party.
The house of which we now took possession, exhibited very unequivocal symptoms of having been the arena of sundry desperate conflicts. The walls were everywhere perforated with cannon-shot; the doors and windows were torn to pieces; a shell or two had fallen through the roof, and bursting in the rooms on the ground-floor, had not only brought the whole of the ceiling down, but had set fire to the
wood-work. The fire had, indeed, been extinguished; but it left its usual traces of blackened timbers and charred boarding. Several dead bodies lay in the various apartments, and the little garden was strewed with them. These we, of course, proceeded to bury; but there were numbers concealed by the bushes on the hillside beyond, on which no sepulture could be bestowed, and which, as afterwards appeared, were left to furnish food for the wolves and vultures. Then the smell, being not only about the interior, but the exterior, of the cottage, was shocking. Not that the dead had as yet begun to putrefy; for though some of them had lain for a couple of days exposed to the influence of the atmosphere, the weather was far too cold to permit the process of decomposition to commence; but the odour, even of an ordinary field of battle, is extremely disagreeable. I can compare it to nothing more aptly, than the interior of a butcher's slaughter-house, soon after he may have killed his sheep or oxen for the market. Here that species of perfume was peculiarly powerful; and it was not the less unpleasant, that the smell of burning was mixed with it.
Having remained at this post till sun-set, I and my party were relieved, and fell back to join the regiment. We found it huddled into a single cottage, which stood at one extremity of the green field, where we had halted, only yesterday, to bring the enemy fairly to the bayonet. Of course, our accommodations were none of the best; officers and men, indeed, laid themselves down indiscriminately upon the earthen floor, and heartily glad was he who obtained room enough to stretch himself at length, without being pushed or railed at by his neighbours. The night, however, passed over in quiet, and sound was the sleep which followed so many dangers and hardships, especially on the part of us, who had spent the whole of the preceding night in watchfulness.
Long before dawn on the morning of the 14th, we were, as a matter of
course, under arms. In this situation we remained till the sun arose, when, marching to the right, we halted not till we reached a rising ground in front of the village of Badarre, and immediately in rear of the church of Arcanques. When we set out the sky was cloudy, and the air cold, but no rain had fallen. We had hardly got to our station, however, when a heavy shower descended, which, but for the opportune arrival of our tents, would have speedily placed it out of our power to experience any degree of bodily comfort for the next twenty-four hours. Under these circumstances, the tents, which a few weeks ago we had regarded with horror, were now esteemed dwellings fit for princes to inhabit, whilst the opportunity which their shelter afforded, of disencumbering ourselves of our apparel, was hailed as a real blessing. No man who has not worn his garments for five or six days on end, can conceive the luxury of undressing; and above all, the feeling of absolute enjoyment which follows the pulling off of his boots.
As the rain continued during the whole of the day, little inducement was held out to wander abroad. On the contrary, I perfectly recollect, that, for the first time in our lives, we succeeded in lighting a fire in our tent, and escaped the inconvenience of smoke by lying flat upon the ground; and that the entire day was consumed in eating, drinking, smoking, conversing, and sleeping. No doubt, my unwarlike readers will exclaim that the hours thus spent, were spent unprofitably; but I cannot, even now, think so, inasmuch as they were hours of great enjoyment.
We were not without serious apprehension that circumstances had occurred which would compel Lord Wellington to keep us, during the remainder of the winter, under canvass, when the better half of the day following had passed over, and no order arrived for our return into quarters.
were these feelings of alarm diminish ed, by witnessing the march of the whole of the 5th division through our encampment, confessedly on their way to comfortable cantonments. As the event proved, however, our dread was perfectly groundless, for, about an hour and a half after noon, we too received orders; two o'clock saw our tents
struck, our baggage packed up on the mules, and ourselves in motion towards the high road. Of course, we flattered ourselves that we were destined to return to those rural billets, which, by dint of mechanical skill and manual labour, we had made so snug; but there we were disappointed. tec
We traversed, almost step by step, the same ground over which we had travelled in the course of the late military operations, till we reached the identical green fields in which it had been our lot to bivouac with so little comfort, on the 10th of the preceding November. I believe I have already mentioned, if not I may state here, that adjoining to these fields were several farm-houses; one of them, indeed, of very respectable size and appearance, but the rest hardly elevated above the rank of cottages. In a mansion of the latter description-in that same mansion, indeed, where I and a host of more active animals had formerly contended for the possession of a bed, were Graham, myself, and our men stationed; nor can I say, though the place was certainly in better plight than when last I beheld it, that we were particularly delighted with our abode.
The room allotted to us was an apartment on the ground-floor. It was furnished with a fire-pláce, which had been built by the corps that preceded us, and among the members of which it was very evident that there existed no one possessing an equal skill in masonry with ourselves. It smoked abominably. In the construction of their window, our predecessors had, however, been more fortunate; their oiled paper holding out against the wind and rain with much obstinacy: but the quarters were, on the whole, exceedingly comfortless, especially when contrasted, as it was impossible not to contrast them, with those which we had so lately fitted up. Nevertheless, we were too happy in finding ourselves once more under shelter of a roof, to waste many repining thoughts upon unavoidable evils; and we had the satisfaction to know that our abode here would be of no longer continuance than the duration of the winter; if, indeed, it continued so long.
It is an old and a just observation, that the term comfort is one of rela tive, rather than of direct signification.
To the truth of this saying we were speedily compelled estimony, when, about two o'cot burele afternoon of the 18th, wihad not urselves once more in line ore of M and advancing to the frog, than the purpose of relieving another advertised the outpost duty. Ev dare say, recollects the severoan the winter of 1813-14. Even in the south of France, the frost was at times so intense, as to cast a complete coat of ice over ponds and lakes of very considerable depth; whilst storms of cold wind and rain occurred at every interval, when the frost departed. The 18th of December chanced to be one of these wet and windy days, and hence we could not help acknowledging, when we found ourselves once more exposed to the pelting of the pitiless storm," that our chamber, on the disagreeables of which we had dilated with so much minuteness, was, after all, an abode by no means to be despised.
The corps employed in guarding the front of the left column, consisted of a brigade of three battalions, in other words, of about eighteen hundred men. Of these, six hundred were appointed to furnish the picquets, whilst the remaining twelve hundred acted as a support, in case of need, and busied themselves till the hour of need should arrive, in fortifying their post. The ground on which our tents stood, was the identical green field, where, during the late action, we had bivouacked for two successive nights; whilst our working parties were em ployed in felling the wood round the mayor's house, in throwing up breastworks contiguous to it, and in constructing a square redoubt, capable of holding an entire battalion in its immediate rear. The redoubt was named after a daughter of the worthy magistrate, who resided, for the present, in the little town of Biaritz, and had already declared himself a partizan of the Bourbons. It was called Fort Charlotte, and of course gave rise to as many puns, as are usually produced by the appearance of a tongue, or a dish of brains, at a Cockney's table; nor was any one more parturient of such puns, than the father of the young lady himself. Between this gentle man, and the officer commanding the out-posts, a constant intercourse was kept up. The town of Biaritz, where
he dwelt, lying upon the sea-shore, and out of the direct line of operations, was not occupied either by the French or allied troops. It constituted, on the contrary, a sort of neutral territory, which was visited, occasionally, by patroles for both armies'; but so far retained its independence, that its inhabitants were in the constant practice of carrying their commodities for sale, not only to our camp, but to the camp of the enemy. Though the mayor professed to keep up no such species of traffic, the state of his property, over-run by the invading force, furnished him also with a legitimate excuse for occasionally looking after its preservation; and hence he contrived, from time to time, to make his appearance amongst us, without becoming, as far as I could learn, an object of suspicion to his countrymen.
As the duty in which we were now employed was by no means agreeable, and as any very lengthened exposure to the inclemency of such a season must have proved detrimental to the health of those exposed, it was customary to relieve the advanced corps at the end of three days, by which means each brigade, at least in the left column of the army, found itself in the field, and under canvass, only once in three or four weeks. That to which I was attached, filled what may be termed the stationary outposts, only four times during the entire winter, nor have I any reason to believe that we were, in this respect, peculiarly favoured.
Of the events which took place during our present interval of more active service, it is needless to enter into any minute detail. They were such as generally occur on similar occasions; that is to say, our time was passed in alternate watching and labour; whilst an uninterrupted continuance of cold and stormy weather, rendered the arrival of the troops destined to succeed us highly acceptable. Nor was this temporary endurance of hardship and fatigue without its good effect. We learned from it to lay aside what yet remained to us of fastidiousness, and we returned to our quarters perfectly reconciled to those inconveniences and drawbacks, which existed more, perhaps, in our imagination, than in reality.
I should try, beyond all endurance, the patience of my reader, were I to
relate in regular detail, the occurrences of each day, from the 21st of December, 1813, when we returned to our cantonments, to the 2d of January, 1814, when we again quitted them. Enough is done, when I state in few words, that the ordinary resources against ennui, that is to say, shooting, coursing, and even fishing, were adopted; and that the evenings were spent, for the most part, in convivial parties, to the inordinate consumption of segars, wine, and sometimes of patience. Nor were other, and more rational employments wanting. On more than one occasion I visited St Jean de Luz, attended high mass, and the theatre; and once I rode as far to the rear as Irun. The effect of the latter ride upon myself, was vivid at the time; and may perhaps be worth conveying to others.
The distance from our present cantonments to the town of Irun might amount to sixteen or eighteen miles. Over the whole of that country, between the two extreme points, the tide of war, it will be recollected, had swept; not boisterously, but with comparative harmlessness,- -as when one army rapidly retreats, and another rapidly follows,-but slowly and ruinously; every foot of ground having been obstinately contested, and hence every fold, garden, and dwelling, having been exposed to the ravages inseparable from the progress of hostilities. The spectacle which presented itself on each side of the road, was accordingly distressing in the extreme; the houses and hovels were everywhere in ruins, the inclosures and cultivated fields were all laid waste and desolate, whilst the road itself was strewed with the carcases of oxen, mules, horses, and other animals, which had dropped down from fatigue, and died upon their march. I was particularly struck with the aspect of things in and about the town of Urogne. Of the works on the heights above it, so carefully and so skilfully erected by Marshal Soult, some had already begun to yield to the destructive operations of the elements, and others had been wantonly demolished by the followers of the camp; whilst, in the town itself, where so lately was heard the roar of cannon, and the rattle of musketry, the most perfect silence prevailed. It was wholly tenantless; not even a
sutler or muleteer had taken up his abode there; the cavalry were all withdrane gh of the original inhabitants ourselve had returned. The reader return to believe that I looked round, du dint of part of my journey, with pecubour, we list, for the fields across white were dmyself skirmished; more ed ally for a friendly hedge, the intervention of a stout stake in which had saved my better arm; and that I did not pass the churchyard, without dismounting to pay a visit to the grave of my former comrades. Neither was I unmindful of the chateau, in which, to my no small surprise, I had found a letter from my father; and the change wrought in it, since last I beheld it, gave me a more perfect idea of the disastrous effects of war, than any other object upon which I had yet looked.
When a man of peaceable habits, one, for example, who has spent his whole life in this favoured country, under the shelter of his own sacred roof,-reads of war, and the miseries attendant upon war, his thoughts invariably turn to scenes of outrage and rapine, in which soldiers are the actors, and to which the hurry and excitement of battle give rise. I mean not to say that a battle is ever fought without bringing havoc upon the face of that particular spot of earth, which chances to support it. But the mischief done by both contending armies, to the buildings and property of the inhabitants, is a mere nothing, when compared to that which the followers of a successful army work. These wretches tread in the steps of the armed force, with the fidelity and haste of kites and vultures. No sooner is a battle won, and the troops pushed forward, than they spread themselves over the entire territory gained; and all which had been spared by those, in whom an act of plunder, if excusable at all, might most readily be excused, is immediately laid waste. The chateau of which I am speaking, for example, and which I had left perfectly entire, fully furnished, and in good order, was now one heap of ruins. Not a chair or a table remained; not a volume of all the library so lately examined by me, existed; nay, it was evident from the blackened state of the walls, and the dilapidation of the ceilings, that fire had been wantonly
applied to complete the devastation which avarice had begun. To say the truth, I could not but regret at the moment, that I had not helped myself to a little more of Monsieur Briguette's property, than the Spanish Grammar already advertised for redemption.
Having cleared Urogne, and passed through the remains of the barricade which I had assisted in carrying on the tenth of the last month, I soon arrived at the site of the village of which I have formerly taken notice, as being peopled and furnished with shops and other places of accommodation, by sutlers and adventurers. The huts, or cottages, still stood, though they were all unroofed, and many of them otherwise in ruins; but the sign of the "Jolly Soldier" had disappeared. Like other incitements to folly, if not to absolute vice, it had followed the tract of the multitude. I marked, too, as I proceeded, the bleak hill-side on which our tents had so long contended with the winds of heaven; and I could not help thinking, how many of those who had found shelter beneath their canvass, were now sleeping upon the bosom of mother-earth; of course, I paid to their memories the
tribute of a regret as unavailing as, I fear, it was transitory.
By and by I reached the brow of the last height on the French border, and the Bidaossa once more lay beneath us. The day on which my present excursion was made, chanced to be one of the few lovely days with which, during that severe winter, we were favoured. The air was frosty, but not intensely so; the sky was blue and cloudless, and the sun shone out with a degree of warmth, which cheered, without producing languor or weariness. High up, the mountains which overhang the river were covered with snow, which sparkled in the sunbeams, and contrasted beautifully with the sombre hue of the leafless groves beneath, whilst the stream itself flowed on as brightly and as placidly as if it had never witnessed a more desperate struggle than that which the fisherman maintains with a trout of extraordinary agility and dimensions. Fain would I have persuaded myself that I was quietly travelling in a land of peace, but there were too many proofs of the contrary ever and anon presented, to permit the delusion to keep itself for one moment
in the mind.
THE stone bridge which was wont to connect the two banks of the Bidaossa, and which the French, after their evacuation of the Spanish territory, had destroyed, was not, I found, repaired, but a temporary bridge of pontoons rendered the stream passable, without subjecting the traveller to the necessity of fording. A party of artificers were, moreover, at work, renewing the arches which had been broken down, whilst a new tete-du-pont on the opposite side from the old one, was already erected, to be turned to account in case of any unlooked-for reverse of fortune, and consequent retreat beyond the frontier. I observed, too, that the whole front of the pass, beyond the river, was blocked up with redoubts, batteries, and breast-works, and that Lord Wellington, though pressing forward with Victory in his train, was not unmindful of the fickleness of the blind goddess.
As I was crossing the pontoon bridge, two objects, very different in kind, but
intimately connected the one with the other, attracted my attention almost at the same moment. A body of Spanish cavalry, which appeared to have passed the river at one of the fords a little higher up, presented themselves as they wound up a steep by-path which communicated with the high road just beside the old tete-du-pont. They were Guerillas, and were consequently clothed, armed, and mounted, in a manner the least uniform that can well be imagined. Of the men, some were arrayed in green jackets, with slouched hats, and long feathers; others in blue, helmeted like our yeomanry, or artillery-drivers, whilst not a few wore cuirasses and brazen head-pieces, such as they had probably plundered from their slaughtered enemies. But, notwithstanding this absence of uniformity in dress, the general appearance of these troopers was exceedingly imposing. They were, on the whole, well mounted, and they marched in that sort of loose and independent manner, which,