Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Sketches of The Character, Manners, and Present State of the Highlanders of Scotland

Part III

Military Annals of the Highland Regiments

Section XI

England—Highland Society of London—42d reviewed by the King —Second battalion —Scotland—England—Gibraltar—Spain— Corunna—Advance of Sir John Moore.

When the destinations were finally arranged, the three Highland regiments were included among those ordered home. The 42d, all healthy except those affected with ophthalmia, landed at Southampton, and marched to Winchester.

The 42d regiment had now readied the conclusion of an active war, in the course of which its conduct, both individually and collectively, may, in many respects, bear a comparison with that for which the corps had, at an early period, been distinguished. At different times, however, during this war, a laxity of principle interfered with that general correctness and sobriety for which the men had been so remarkable. But however irregular they may have occasionally been, so far as regarded a love of liquor, unknown in those times when the soldiers had their spirits served out to them only twice a week, yet much moral principle remained, and there were but few instances of confirmed depravity. At the same time, it must be lamented that there were among them several poor creatures totally unfit for being soldiers, and with whom the ranks had been completed, from too great a desire to have numbers without paying a due regard to quality. It should have been recollected that such men are an incumbrance to an active and spirited corps, and that the conduct and appearance of a few individuals may affect the general character and estimation of a whole regiment. Instances of this must be familiar to military men, who will be aware how much more confidence a commanding officer in a campaign must feel, when at the head of 600 men of good principles, tried courage, and constitutional strength, than when commanding 800, of whom one-fourth, deficient in character and health, cannot be trusted when their services are most required.

The regiment had been only a short time at Winchester, when the men caught a contagious fever, supposed to have proceeded from the prisoners over whom they stood sentinels at the jail. Captain Lamont and several of the men died of the fever. [Captain Lamont was an excellent man; he had a considerable dash of eccentricity, combined with the warmest zeal for his profession, and affection for his brother officers and soldiers. Indeed, he fell a sacrifice to his kind attachment to his men; for when the fever was at its height, although he knew its contagious nature, he could not be kept away from the sick. He was always anxious, and always imagining that they were in want of some comfort or cordial. He caught the fever, which carried him off in a few days, lamented by all who knew his worth; and as none knew his value more than his regiment, his loss was proportionally regretted by every individual. His own hopes and happiness seemed to be centered in his corps, from whom he never wished to be absent. Although he had an estate in Argyleshire, and was often offered leave of absence, he would not quit the regiment; and in the year 1795 declined a step of promotion, to which he was appointed, in another corps, preferring an inferior commission among his old friends. He lamented, when dying, that he should go out of the world like a manufacturer, quietly in his bed, when he might so frequently have died a soldier's death. He had served in the 70th, or Macdonald's Highlanders in America, and was put on the full pay of the 42d in 1787.]

At this period a circumstance occurred which caused some conversation, and to which I have alluded in a note on the French standard taken at Alexandria. The Highland Society of London, much gratified with the accounts given of the conduct of their countrymen in Egypt, resolved to bestow on them some mark of their esteem and approbation. This Society being composed of men of the first rank and character in Scotland, and including several of the Royal Family as members, it was considered that such an act would be honourable to the corps and agreeable to all.

It was proposed to commence with the 42d as the oldest of the Highland regiments, and with the others in succession, as their service offered an opportunity of distinguishing themselves. Fifteen hundred pounds were immediately subscribed for this purpose. Medals were struck with a head of Sir Ralph Abercromby, and some emblematical figures on the obverse, A superb piece of plate was likewise ordered. While these were in preparation, the Society held a meeting, when Sir John Sinclair, with the warmth of a clansman, mentioned his namesake, Sergeant Sinclair, as having taken or having got possession of the French standard, which had been brought home. Sir John being at that time ignorant of the circumstances, made no mention of the loss of the ensign which the sergeant had gotten in charge. This called forth the claim of Lutz, a soldier of Stuart's regiment, accompanied with some strong remarks by Cob-bett, the editor of the work in which the claim appeared. The Society then asked an explanation from the officers of the 42d regiment. To this very proper request a reply was given by the officers who were then present with the regiment. The majority of these happened to be young men, who expressed, in warm terms, their surprise that the Society should imagine them capable of countenancing any statement implying that they had laid claim to a trophy to which they had no right. This misapprehension of the Society's meaning brought on a correspondence, which ended in an interruption of farther communication for many years. By this unfortunate misunderstanding, a check was given to the intention of the Society to present marks of their esteem to those of their countrymen who, either in collective bodies as regiments, or individually, had distinguished themselves, and contributed by their actions to support the military character of Scotland. The approbation of such a body as the Highland Society of London, composed of men of the first rank and talent, and every way competent to appreciate the character and actions of our national corps, would, unquestionably, have acted as an incitement to the youth of the North, to establish future claims to their notice. That a purpose so well intended should have suffered a temporary interruption, was therefore a matter of regret.

However, as a prelude to a fresh correspondence and intimacy between the Society and the Highland regiments, the communication with the 42d was again renewed in 1816. I was then one of the vice-presidents of the Society; and being in the full knowledge of the circumstances, although absent from the regiment when the first correspondence took place, and knowing that the whole originated in mistake and misapprehension, I was requested by the Society to open a communication with the regiment. This ended in a complete understanding; and, on the anniversary of the battle of Alexandria, the 21st of March 1817, his Royal Highness the Duke of York, then President of the Highland Society, in the chair, presented the Marquis of Hunt-ly, on behalf of the 42d regiment, with a superb piece of plate, in token of the respect of the Society for a corps which, for more than seventy years, had contributed to uphold the martial character of their country. This his Royal Highness accompanied with an impressive speech, in which he recapitulated the various services of the corps from the battle of Fontenoy, down to those of Quatre Bras and Waterloo.

The intention of granting medals was abandoned by the Society, as it was stated that military men could receive honorary medals from the Sovereign alone. When the Prince Regent became Chief of the Highland Society, one of the gold medals which had been prepared, was presented, with an address, to his Royal Highness, by Sir Archibald Macdonald, late Chief Baron, accompanied by a deputation, and most graciously received. As those medals commemorate the honourable death of Sir Ralph Abercromby, one was presented to each of his four sons.

The king having expressed a wish to see the 42d regiment, they marched to Ashford, and were reviewed there by his Majesty, in May 1802, accompanied by the Prince of Wales and the Duke of York. A great concourse of people collected from London and the adjacent country. His Majesty was graciously pleased to express himself satisfied with the appearance of the regiment, but I believe many of the spectators were disappointed. There is no reason to suppose that good-looking men, more than others, suffer from the dangers and fatigues of a soldier's life. In the instance of the 42d regiment, however, this was certainly the case; and although the men looked like soldiers, and wore their bonnets and every part of their dress, with a military air, and much in the manner of the ancient Highlanders, they bad a diminutive appearance, and complexions nowise improved by several years' service in hot climates. Some of their countrymen who were present participated in the general disappointment. They had formed their notions of what the 42d should be from what they had heard of the Black Watch.

It is a commonly received opinion, that the Highlanders have harsh features, high cheek bones, and, as we see in allegorical paintings and engravings of them, a fierce and melancholy aspect. It is not easy to define exactly the characteristic of the Highland features; but that which is generally given is by no means appropriate, either as to features or expression. In all parts of the country, men are seen with swarthy faces, and countenances more characteristic of a Spaniard or an Italian, than of men born in the cold climate of the Scottish mountains; and it is a singular circumstance worthy of investigation, that the women do not display the same difference of hue, till affected by much exposure to weather, or by age: they are generally fair and clear in the skin, few even being brunettes. People who are in the habit of seeing Highland regiments, at least those that are really such, must have observed the fresh complexion and regular features of a great proportion of the young men. In their own country, both sexes lose their juvenile looks at an early period of life. This is probably owing to their food. Vegetable diet seems healthy and nourishing to the youthful, enabling them to go through much hard labour. But judging from the Highlanders, a hard-working man of forty requires more than potatoes and milk, with the addition sometimes of a little bread, and very rarely animal food. While the gentry in the Highlands increase in size and weight agreeably to their constitutions, as well-fed men do in other countries; I never saw but one individual of the lower orders, in the Highlands, either fat or bulky, (he was rich, and could afford a portion of butcher meat daily;) and although the gentry of the Highlands are tormented with the gout, in the same manner as people in their stations in different climates, I have never seen, nor have I ever heard, of an instance of the common Highlander, of either pastoral or agricultural districts, being affected with that complaint. Is it from similar causes that I have never seen a fat or gouty soldier?

Soon after the review the regiment marched for Edinburgh, exciting on the road less curiosity and surprise at their garb and appearance than on former occasions, when the Highland dress was rarely seen. But although less curiosity was displayed, they experienced increased kindness and hospitality, and received such marked attention in every town through which they passed, that to repeat the particulars would be tiresome. But in the town of Peebles a circumstance occurred that deserves to be noticed. Here, as in many other places, the magistrates entertained the officers, at the same time not neglecting the soldiers. Colonel Dickson of Kilbucho, the commanding officer, was a native of the county, which had been represented in Parliament by his family for many years before and after the Union. In the course of the evening the hearts of the provost, bailies, and deacons, began to warm and expand. They seemed delighted to have their countryman back again among them in his then respectable situation, [Sir Ralph Abercromby, Lord Lynedoch, and such men, may enter on the active duties of a soldier at an advanced period of life, and rise to the highest honours of the profession. But these must be remarkable men, and their example is not for general adoption. Next to moral principles early infused into the minds of soldiers, nothing contributes more to render them perfect than a good comanding officer: and on the other hand, few things sooner subvert discipline, and ruin a soldier, than being commanded by one of a different character, however unexceptionable he may be as a man or a private individual. The Highlanders have, at different periods, been unfortunate in this respect.] and being jovial and good tempered, before they separated they made him an offer of their suffrages to represent their burgh at the next general election. Following up this ebullition of friendship, they canvassed the towns united with theirs in returning a member of parliament and three out of the five were secured for Colonel Dickson, who was accordingly returned in the month of August 1802, and sat in the ensuing parliament. The enthusiasm of his townsmen, however, was too warm to be lasting, and at the following election he lost his seat.

The regiment having been received with so much respect and attention in their march through England and the south of Scotland, a similar reception was to be expected in the capital of their native country. As it was previously known that they were to march into the Castle, thousands of the inhabitants met them at some distance from the town, and with acclamations congratulated them on their return to their native country.

Some men are unable to bear good fortune or applause, and forget the true end of the approbation of their countrymen; while others are excited and animated by it to persevere in those exertions which obtained the distinction. I know not how this matter stood with the majority of the regiment; but, from the kindness generally shown them, many did indulge themselves in a greater degree of latitude. Several fell under the notice of the police, and helped in no small degree to lower the corps in the esteem of the inhabitants, who expected to find them as quiet and regular in quarters as formerly. But however incompatible these deviations might be with the high notions entertained of this corps by their partial countrymen, and however derogatory from the character of good soldiers in quarters, there was no actual moral turpitude, no offence evincing unprincipled depravity, nothing, in short, which might not soon be remedied by discipline, and a removal from the scene in which the evil had originated. Fortunately for the reputation of the regiment, this change of quarters took place early. The peace was soon interrupted, and the regiment embarked at Leith in spring 1803, and landing at Harwich, marched to the camp at Weeley in Essex, where it was placed in Major-General the Honourable Sir John Hope's brigade. Under his command all the bad effects of the festivity and hospitality of Edinburgh disappeared.

The regiment was at this time low in numbers, not exceeding 400 men, which was, in a great measure, occasioned by the numerous discharges in 1802, amounting to 475 men. Many of those, though still fit for service, had got pensions; but this generosity, which was well intended, failed in its effect. They had hardly reached their homes, (where, as they expected, they were to end their days in the enjoyment of their country's reward,) when two-thirds of them were called out again to serve in the Veteran corps. This call they obeyed with considerable reluctance, complaining as if they had suffered from a breach of faith. In the close communication and confined societies of the Highlands, every circumstance spreads with great rapidity. These men complained that they were allowed no rest; and to be called to the field again after their minds had been turned to other objects, they considered as oppressive and unjust. Their complaints made an impression in the Highlands, and afforded an argument to those who wished to prevent the young men from enlisting, by representing to them that they needed never expect to be allowed to rest in their native country. The Highland people reason and calculate, and do not enter the army from a frolic or heedless and momentary impulse; consequently, the complaints of these veterans, who thus unwillingly resumed their arms, certainly destroyed, in a considerable degree, the facility of recruiting.—It is hardly necessary to notice another recent cause, which has made a great impression in the Highlands, as it will probably be forgotten before recruiting on any extensive scale is again required. I allude to the number of men discharged without the pension, after a service of fourteen or fifteen years, and sent to their homes without money, and, perhaps, from their late habits, unwilling and unable to work; or, if they attempt to return to their ancient homes in the improved and desolate districts, without a house or friend to receive them. But where old soldiers, after a long service, have retired on the liberal pensions granted by Mr Wyndham's bill, they live in great comfort, and their regular and well-paid incomes offer great encouragement to the youth of the country to enter the army.

[If one of these were in each district, they might exhibit an example like that of an old military friend of mine, who was many years a soldier in my company, and who is now living on a pension as the reward of twenty-eight years' service. I met this man two years ago, when riding through a glen, where, if the people are to be credited, the rents are higher than the produce of the lands can pay. After the first salutation, I asked him how he lived. "I am perfectly comfortable," said he, "and, if it was not for the complaints I hear about me in this poor country, I would be happy. I vow to God, I believe I am the richest man among them; and, instead of having thirty-four pounds a-year, as I have, I do not believe a man of them has thirty-four pence after the rents are paid. Times are sadly changed since I left this country to join the 42d. We had then no complaints of lords or lairds; indeed, nobody dared speak ill of them, as they were kind to us all; we had no banning and cursing of great folks, and were all merry and happy, and had plenty of piping, and dancing, and fiddling, at all the weddings. Many of the good folks say they are sorry they did not go with me to the army; and the young men say, that, if they were to be as well used as I have been, they would turn soldiers: so, Colonel, when you raise a regiment, come here, and I will be your recruiting sergeant."]

In 1803 the regiment was recruited in a new manner. An act had been passed to raise men by ballot, to be called "The Army of Reserve," on condition of their serving only in Great Britain and Ireland, with liberty to volunteer into the regular army on a certain bounty. In Scotland, those men were, in the first instance, formed into second battalions to regiments of the line. The quota of men to be furnished by the counties of Perth, Elgin, Nairn, Cromarty, Ross, Sutherland, Caithness, Argyle and Bute, were ordered to join a second battalion then to be formed for the Royal Highlanders; and the quotas for the counties of Inverness, Banff, Aberdeen, and Kincardine, to join the newly formed second battalion of the Gordon Highlanders; but with liberty to the men, so soon as the battalions were formed, to volunteer into the Royal Artillery, or any other regiment of the line which they might prefer.

I was ordered to Perth, to take charge of the quota of that county, which exceeded 400 men. The young men. from the Highland parts of Perthshire showed a marked dislike to the ballot. This feeling was increased by the insurance societies, established to protect men from that new mode of calling them out to serve. When young men saw these protecting establishments, they began to think that there must be something very terrible in the nature of the service; otherwise, why should they see advertisements for protection posted up in all parts of the country? Under this impression, many hundred youths in each district insured themselves, who would have readily entered in person, had it not been for these societies. In this manner, large sums of money were drawn out of the districts, and the nation lost the personal services of numbers of that part of the population best calculated for the purpose intended. However, this did not always happen; for many who had insured themselves voluntarily enlisted afterwards, when they understood properly the nature of the duty required of them. In the more distant districts of the North, where insurance was never heard of, the men came forward in person when the ballot fell upon them. Should men ever be raised by ballot on any future occasion, it would be well to make all insurance illegal. While so much dislike was shown to the ballot, although foreign service was excluded, I found many young men willing to serve the following year, when I recruited for men to go to any part of the world to which they might be ordered. A Highlander does not like to be forced into the service; at the same time, if attention be paid to his habits, and if his disposition be humoured, he will readily enter. [It must probably have been from some feeling of this kind, that, in the following year, (1804,) when I raised men for promotion in the 78th regiment, numbers engaged with me, as I have already observed, to serve abroad for a bounty of twelve guineas, while they could have got twenty-five guineas and upwards as substitutes for the militia.]

Fort George was the head quarters of the second battalion. I marched the men northward, and received from Colonel Andrew Hay (afterwards Major-General, and killed at Bayonne) the quota of those counties which had already furnished their men. The others soon followed, amounting in all to 1343 men, who composed the second battalion 42d regiment. Almost all the men furnished by the counties of Perth and Argyle were substitutes; they were too near the insuring societies of Perth and Glasgow, With the exception of gentlemen's sons, and some others who had situations which they could not leave, all from the northern counties were principals. Many of these were either married men, who had small farm, or tradesmen; all, except the young lads, had some occupations from which they were now taken on a short warning; consequently there were numberless applications for leave to return home to settle their affairs. As it would have been both impolitic and cruel to refuse an indulgence in such circumstances, I gave liberty to all who required it. I notice the circumstances as creditable to the men who obtained this indulgence, since in no one instance did they abuse the confidence reposed in them. The numbers who obtained leave of absence amounted to 235, yet every man returned at his appointed time, except when detained by boisterous weather at ferries, or by other unavoidable causes, which were certified by some neighbouring gentleman or clergyman. It afforded satisfaction to assist and oblige men who showed themselves so deserving and trust-worthy. Several of the gentlemen wrote me very feelingly on the state in which many of them had left their families, and on the struggle they had in parting from them. However, Government provided for these privations, as the families of men ballotted by the Army of Reserve Act were entitled to receive the same allowance as those of the militia. But while a humane provision was thus made for families left without a husband or father, it had a most mischievous effect in preventing men from extending their service; for while a man's family was to be maintained if he continued on the home service, whenever he engaged to go abroad and expose himself to the dangers of climate and war, the provision ceased. In such circumstances no well-principled man possessing any regard for his family would think of extending his service. However, as the principal object of the act was to raise men who would ultimately enter the regular army, a bounty was offered to all who would volunteer. On this occasion, great exertions were used to encourage the men to volunteer into the first battalions of the 42d, the 92d, and other regiments. So many had engaged to serve for life, that when I resigned the command to Colonel James Stewart, the men for limited service were reduced to 800. There were no desertions, nor had I occasion to bring a man to a court-martial. Some slight irregularities were committed by a few of the substitutes, who had been soldiers formerly; but a few days' confinement, and a regimen of good bread and fresh water, proved a sufficient check. No such restraint was required for the men who had now for the first time left their native country. During the time I commanded, and when the men were thus exemplary, there was much money in the garrison, from the bounty given to the volunteers for the line; consequently there was no want of liquor, the usual incitement to misconduct in our army.

In November the second battalion embarked at Fort George, to join the first in Weeley Barracks, Essex. Both battalions continued together throughout the year. [At this period a circumstance of an unpleasant nature occurred. A soldier of the name of Munro, irritated to a degree of madness by a supposed or real affront he had received from his officer, struck him in the ranks. A detail of the circumstances of this unfortunate case would tend to give strength to the opinions I have frequently presumed to give, on the propriety of selecting officers to regiments, composed of men of a turn of mind and disposition differing from what is commonly met with. In this instance, a man who had, in the course of several years' service, showed himself a good man and brave soldier, found his feelings so outraged and tormented by what he supposed indignities; trifling, perhaps, in themselves, but to a high-spirited soldier so extremely irritating, that his reason was overcome, and the loss of his officer's life and the forfeiture of his own had nearly been the consequence. Had this officer possessed a proper knowledge of, or penetration to discover the soldiers' true character, he would not have pursued a line of conduct so unsuitable to the men he commanded. It would appear that this was known at the proper place, and the circumstances understood; for his Majesty granted a pardon to the soldier from the sentence to be shot, to which he had been condemned by the court- martial by which he had been tried.] Several changes occurred among the officers this year. In April Captain David Stewart was appointed Major, and Lieutenants Robert Henry Dick and Charles M'Lean Captains, to the second battalion of the 78th regiment. In September Colonel Dickson was appointed Brigadier-General, and Lieutenant-Colonels James Stewart and Alexander Stewart retired. They were succeeded by Lieutenant-Colonels Stirling and Lord Blantyre; Captains M'Quarrie and James Grant became Majors; Lieutenants Stewart Campbell, Donald Williamson, John M'Diarmid, John Dick, and James Walker, were promoted to companies; and Captain Lord Saltoun was removed to the Foot Guards.

The two battalions remained together in Lieutenant-Ge-neral Hope's brigade till September 1805, when General Fox, Lieutenant-Governor of Gibraltar, requiring a reinforcement in consequence of the removal from that garrison of the Queen's, 13th, and 54th regiments, the 1st battalion of the Royal Highlanders from Weeley, and the 2d battalion of the 78th or Seaforth's Highlanders from Shorncliff, were marched to Portsmouth and embarked there early in October, whence they sailed for Gibraltar and, after being driven into Lisbon by stress of weather, reached that fortress in November.

A very considerable, and certainly a very gratifying alteration had taken place in the garrison since the 42d had been quartered there in 1797 and 1798. The moral habits of the troops had undergone a marked improvement; and although it is not easy to prevent soldiers from drinking, when wine may be had at threepence the quart, and they have money to pay for it, yet what was now consumed did not materially affect their discipline, and in no degree their health. This is evident from the number of deaths, which, in the three years of 1805, 1806, and 1807, amounted only to 31 men, in this regiment of 850 men. Judging from this and other circumstances, Gibraltar may be considered as one of the most salubrious stations in the British dominions abroad. As to the violent inflammatory fevers which have been so destructive since their first appearance in 1804, they were infectious diseases brought in from other places, and in no instance endemic, or attributable to the nature of the climate.

I know not whether it is from reliance on the goodness of the climate, or from a principle of economy, that in a garrison of such magnitude and importance, requiring so many men for its defence, and which has been upwards of 100 years in the possession of Britain, there is no general hospital, nor any receptacle for sick soldiers, except some small rooms attached to the barracks. In Minorca, which has for nearly 80 years been a British garrison, the case is the same; but in both places there are excellent and Complete naval hospitals.

Nothing worthy of notice occurred while the regiments were in Gibraltar. Great cordiality subsisted between the officers of the garrison and those of the Spanish troops at St Roque and Algesiras, and the asperities of war were softened by a frequent and friendly interchange of visits and civility. In the different attacks made by the Spanish gun-boats on our fleets and ships, sailing out of, or entering the bay, the opposing officers would afterwards meet at the tables of General Fox or General Castanos, the governor of Algesiras, fight their battles o'er again, and discuss their respective merits and manoeuvres. This amicable disposition was in a great measure to be ascribed to the character of the two commanders. Liberal, candid, and sincere, their mutual confidence descended to those under them; the gates of the hostile line of defence were opened to give a free passage to the officers of the garrison, on producing a few lines of a passport, and permission was even given them to form a race-ground on the Spanish territories. These indulgences contributed to the health of the officers, and rendered the garrison in every way more agreeable. They also seemed to influence the conduct of the soldiers, who appeared satisfied and contented with their confinement within the garrison. At least there were no desertions, nor any unruly conduct; and indeed, altogether, their behaviour was very different from, and much superior to what it had been in 1797 and 1798.

In the winter of 1805 and 1806, two flank battalions were formed in the garrison: the command of the Grenadier battalion was given to Major John Farquharson of the 42d regiment, and that of the Light infantry battalion to Major David Stewart of the 78th Highlanders. These battalions were broken up when the flank companies of the 78th embarked with the regiment for Sicily in the month of May 1806.

[The colonel, Sir Hector Munro, died this year. He was a brave officer, and possessed of a firm mind, of which he exhibited an instance before the battle of Buxar in 1764. (See the account of the 89th Highland regiment.) He did not interest himself much about his regiment, nor seemed to regard them with that feeling which might have been expected from a countryman of their own, who, with an affluent fortune, and the influence it commanded, might have materially contributed to the welfare and good name of his regiment. Although the first and second battalions were a considerable time quartered at Fort George, in the neighbourhood of his country-seat, he never came near them, except once, when he stopped to change horses in the garrison on his way to London. He was succeeded by Major- General the Marquis of Huntly. The son of the greatest chief of the North, the Marquis derives from his personal character an influence over men's minds and actions, which even his high rank and great fortune could never give; and, of all men in his Majesty's service, he combines in the greatest proportion the necessary qualifications to make him the most proper commander of a Highland corps. Although, as I have said, in speaking of Lord John Murray, the army is now under such happy auspices that a corps has less occasion for a zealous and friendly colonel to see that proper officers be appointed, and justice distributed, with less regard to political influence, and more regard to talent, zeal, and length of service; yet a regiment is most fortunate in having a man at their head who has their honour and welfare at heart, and is the friend of all who are deserving. He will at once do justice to the memory of the honourable and brave men who originally formed the character of this corps, and exert himself to fill the ranks with officers and soldiers likely to maintain this honourable character.

Since the above was written, the Marquis of Huntly has been removed to the Royal Scots, and the Earl of Hopetoun, who had frequently commanded the 42d in the field, appointed to the regiment.]

Having, in this manner, recorded the preceding services of the regiment, we have how arrived at the period when it was to be employed on a field such as had not for ages been presented to the British army, and to participate in the military operations which commenced in the Spanish peninsula in 1808, and continued till the conclusion of the war in 1814. Within these six years, a career was open for talent, courage, enterprise, and all the most eminent qualities necessary for a commander and an army, as splendid as that in the reign of Queen Anne, when the transcendent genius of the Duke of Marlborough, with the great force intrusted to his Command, raised the military character of the British nation to a pre-eminence which it has not since that period been able to uphold, on an equally extended scale of operations. Insulated examples of military talent and undaunted firmness were sufficiently numerous to prove that there was no deficiency in any respect, and that those opportunities and that experience were only wanting which are so indispensably necessary in the profession of a soldier.

For many years the strength and energy of the country had been so much directed to the conquest and defence of colonies, that little else had been attempted. The force supposed necessary was generally so strictly calculated, that little was left for contingencies; and frequently, after any successful enterprise had been accomplished, the force was so diminished by warfare, disease, and climate, as to be unequal to the defence of the conquest. The same troops were sometimes compelled to surrender on the spot where they had previously triumphed. This produced an unfavourable impression, which their former triumph could not always efface. Such results bore hard on the officers, to whose want of ability and professional ignorance they were not unfrequently, and often unjustly, ascribed. The preservation and protection of the island of St Lucia, in the year 1796 and 1797, occasioned the death of more than six times the number of men killed in the capture of it under Sir Ralph Abercromby; and there is little doubt that, if the duty had been intrusted to an officer of less unwearied zeal and persevering exertion than General Moore, it would not have been preserved.

But a new and noble field was now opened, and although, in many cases, there was a scarcity of troops, and a want of some very efficient arms, arising from the difficulty of transporting artillery and cavalry, still there was scope for the display of mental resources; and sometimes a skilful retreat proved as honourable to the talents of the commander as a victory. In colonial warfare, on the contrary, the theatre of action was so often circumscribed, as to afford no room for the display of military talent, and leave no hope of adequate and timely support.

When the usurpation of the crown of Spain by Bonaparte had roused the patriotism of the Spanish people, the British government, anxious to take advantage of this spirit, immediately ordered a large proportion of its disposable force to embark for the Peninsula.

In the month of July 1808, Major-General Sir Arthur Wellesley sailed from Cork with 10,000 men, with the intention of landing at Corunna; but the Spaniards rejecting his offered assistance, he proceeded to the coast of Portugal. At Oporto, as at Corunna, the offered assistance was declined, although nearly two-thirds of the Portuguese peasantry were calling for arms, and ready to rise against the French, who had invaded and taken possession of the country with a force of nearly 40,000 men. In these circumstances, he continued his voyage to Mondego Bay, where, after a farther delay, he landed on the 2d of August. Ma-jor-General Spencer, with 6000 men, then on board transports off Cadiz, but not permitted to land, was ordered to join General Wellesley, who was to be further reinforced with 5000 men, under Brigadier-General Robert Anstru-ther, from England, and 12,000 under Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore. To this concentrated force was added the Royal Highland regiment from Gibraltar,

[It has been already stated, that, in this national corps, the characteristic, so far as regarded the native country of the soldiers, had been well preserved. In 1776, the number embarked for America was 1160 men, all of whom, except 54 Lowlanders, and 2 Englishmen in the band, were Highlanders. In all former periods the proportions were similar. But when the men ordered from the London depot in 1780 were removed from the regiment, not more than one half of those received in exchange were native Highlanders, 81 being Lowlanders. At the commencement of the war in 1793, the strength of the regiment was low. The proportions were 480 Highlanders, 152 Lowland Scotch, 4 Irish, and 3 English. At the present period there embarked from Gibraltar, in 1808, 383 Highlanders, 231 Lowlanders, 7 English, and 5 Irish.]

and the Gordon and Cameron Highlanders from England. Previous to this period was fought, on the 21st of August, the battle of Vimiera, after which, an extraordinary collision of command occurred. General Wellesley, who had gained the battle, was on the same day superseded by two senior generals, (Sir Harry Burrard and Sir John Moore), and these again, on the following morning, by a third general, Sir Hew Dalrymple. The convention of Cintra which followed, causing the recall of Generals Dalrymple and Burrard, the command of the army devolved oh Sir John Moore.

An order to resume active operations was received on the 6th of October, accompanied with instructions to march, with all possible expedition, into the heart of Spain, to co-operate with the Spanish army. A body of troops from England, under Lieutenant-General Sir David Baird, was directed to land at Corunna, and proceed forthwith to form a junction with General Moore. The want of previous preparations retarded the advance of the army from Lisbon, and the Portuguese government and people affording but little assistance, the whole was left to the resources and talents of the commander, who, incredible as it may appear, could obtain no correct information of the state of the country, or even of the best road for the transport of artillery, Labouring under this deficiency of accurate intelligence, and from the best accounts he could procure, believing it impossible to convey artillery by the road through the mountains, it was judged necessary to form the army in di-visions, and to march by different routes.

The division of the Honourable Lieutenant-General Hope, consisting of the brigade of artillery, and four regiments of infantry, of which the 42d was one, marched upon Madrid and Espinar; General Paget's division moved by Elvas and Alcantara; General Beresford by Coimbra and Almeida; and General Mackenzie Fraser by Abrantes and Almeida. All these divisions were to form a junction at Salamanca, and when united would amount to 18,600 men, including 90Q cavalry. This force, it was believed, would animate or revive Spanish patriotism, and enable the natives to oppose an effectual resistance to the powerful force which the enemy was preparing to pour into Spain in support of that already in the country. As the army advanced, little enthusiasm was perceived; and nothing was experienced like the reception which might have been expected by men entering the country with the generous and disinterested purpose of aiding the people in throwing off a yoke which they were taught to believe, the Spanish nation to a man regarded as odious, galling, and disgraceful. General Moore soon found that little dependence was to be placed on the cooperation of the Spanish armies, or on the intelligence furnished by the inhabitants of either Spain or Portugal. Of the incorrectness of the latter he had a striking proof, when he subsequently discovered that the roads were practicable for artillery, that the circuitous route of General Hope was totally unnecessary, and that better information would have enabled him to bring his troops much sooner to the point of rendezvous. He arrived, however, in sufficient time for those allies with whom he was to act in concert; for, from the day he entered Spain, until the 13th of November, when he reached Salamanca, he did not see a Spanish soldier; and so far from having any communication with the Generals commanding the Spanish armies, or any immediate prospect of their concentrating their forces, and acting in concert for the further service of the common cause, it would seem as if he himself had been the only general and army they feared. All vanished at his approach. The army of Estremadura was dispersed; that under Castanos marched away in one direction, while Blake's division took another, increasing their distance from the British army, to whose line of march free access was thus left for the enemy. General Baird had arrived at Corunna, but he was not permitted to land : his troops were kept on board from the 13lh to the 31st of October, and when allowed to disembark, no exertion was made to forward their march. On the contrary, had he come with the most hostile intentions, he could not have met with a greater eagerness to extort the highest value for whatever was requisite to equip and forward the troops.

These untoward appearances too fatally confirmed an unfavourable opinion early entertained by Sir John Moore of the cause in which he was engaged. Of the people he always thought well. "The poor Spaniards," said he in a letter to his brother, "deserve a better fate, for they seem a fine people, but have fallen into bad hands, who have lost them by their apathy. I am in no correspondence with any of their Generals or armies. I know not their plans or those of the Spanish Government. No channels of information have been opened to me; and as yet a stranger, I have been able to establish no certain ones for myself."

Waiting the junction of Generals Baird and Hope, who were so situated, (the former marching from the north of Spain, and the latter from the south), that, if he attempted to move towards the one, he would leave the other at a greater distance, he received intelligence of—what might have been anticipated from the line of conduct pursued by the Spanish Generals dividing and weakening their forces—the defeat and total dispersion of General Blake's army on the 10th of November, at Espenora de los Monteros. This disastrous intelligence was soon followed by that of the total defeat and dispersion of the army under General Castanos at Tudela. By this dispersion of the two principal armies of Spain, all hope of farther support vanished from the British, who were now become principals in the war. The Spaniards allowing themselves to be thus beaten in detail, the British General had to make preparations against the concentrated force of the enemy, now about to move in the confident expectation of overwhelming him.

General Moore's difficulties began to be evident. It was the 1st of December; his army had not yet assembled; General Baird was at Astorga, and General Hope four days' march from Salamanca. " Indeed, few generals have been entangled with so many embarrassments as Sir John Moore was at this crisis, who not only had to contend with the Spanish Government, always exaggerating their resources, and concealing or glossing over their disasters, but also to guard against the secret plots of unsuspected traitors hid in the bosom of the Junta. And now he had to encounter the power and genius of Buonaparte."  [Moore's Narrative.]

Under such an accumulation of difficulties, it was to be decided how long a force, which, when united, would not amount to 30,000 effective men, including artillery and cavalry, ought to remain in the centre of Spain, opposed to 100,000 men, and these expecting additional reinforcements. The difficulty of the decision must have been increased by the opinion strongly and loudly expressed in the army with regard to its future movements; the prevalent opinion of officers of rank being against a retreat.

Men of common minds would have hesitated to decide in such cirumstances, but General Moore determined at once, and called a council of war, "not to request their counsel, or to make them commit themselves by giving any opinion on the subject; he took the responsibility entirely upon himself, and only required that they would immediately prepare to carry his orders into execution." Councils of war are sometimes considered as indications of weakness and indecision in a commander, who wishes, by this means, to procure a sanction for his own opinion, and to divide with others any share of censure that may be afterwards incurred. General Moore, on the contrary, acted from the suggestions of his own mind. He had now been a month in Spain, without being joined by a single soldier of the country; he had seen the Spanish armies dispersed in succession, except the corps under the Marquis of Romana, who, acting independently, served more to obstruct than expedite the plans of the British general, by crossing his line of march, intercepting his provisions, and occupying the carriages and means of conveyance. In this state of affairs, he determined to retire on Portugal, and ordered Sir David Baird to march to Corunna, and proceed thence by sea to Lisbon. But having received favourable accounts of a reviving spirit among the Spaniards, and of a successful resistance to the enemy at Madrid, he was induced to countermand the order for retreat. But later and better intelligence, obtained through the means of Colonel Graham of Balgowan, Mr (now Sir Charles) Stuart, and also an intercepted letter of Marshal Berthier to Marshal Soult, laid open to him the real posture of affairs. In consequence of this intelligence he resumed his original intention of retiring, not indeed to the south, but to the north of Spain, where he hoped to effect a junction with General Baird. Accordingly, the army moved in different divisions, and reaching Toro on the 21st of December, there formed a junction with General Baird's army, making altogether a force of 26,311 infantry, and 2450 cavalry, with a proportion of artillery.

On the 23d the army marched to Sahagun, which had been the preceding night occupied by the enemy. Lord Paget being ordered to the front, with a detachment of ca-valry, fell in with part of the French horse, when they were evacuating the town, and immediately attacked them. The French cavalry formed, and waited with great firmness to receive the charge, but they were quickly overpowered, and upwards of 150 wounded and taken, among which were 2 colonels, and 11 other officers.

The total want of assistance and co-operation from the Spaniards, their inhospitable conduct, and the time lost at Salamanca, had excited among the officers complaints and murmurs which had now extended to the men, who soon began to display their feelings in their usual manner by their actions, testifying their disappointment by acts of insubordination and plunder, and revenging the privations and fatigues they underwent on the inhabitants, whose apathy nothing could shake, and who seemed equally indifferent whether their country was occupied by a protecting or an invading army. Those instances of licentiousness in his. troops gave the General the more vexation, as they were so opposite to his own strict notions of military correctness, and of the proper duties of a soldier. From these unpleasant feelings he obtained a temporary relief, when the near approach of Marshal Soult, with a division of the French army, afforded a hope that he might be attacked with a prospect of success, before he was strengthened by the troops who were on their march to reinforce him.

It was determined to attack Soult at Saldanha. The order to move forward operated on the men like a charm; and in the animation and alacrity with which they flew to arms, all past privations and disappointments seemed for the moment forgotten. Fortunate is the General who commands troops that can thus be restored to order, and reanimated by the prospect of attacking the enemy. General Moore was sensible that all the mental and personal energies of his troops would now probably be called into action. "The movement I am making is of the most dangerous kind. I not only risk to be surrounded every moment by superior forces, but to have my communications intercepted with the Gallicias." [Dispatch to Mr Frere.]

His views of this risk were but too well founded; for, when all his preparations and dispositions were made, and the hopes and prospects of the army at the height, intelligence was received from various channels that the enemy were advancing in great force in several directions, all bearing down to one point. This was confirmed by subsequent information, which stated, that, besides the reinforcements received by Soult, Buonaparte had marched from Madrid with 40,000 cavalry and infantry, and that Marshals Junot, Mortier, and Lefebre, with their different divisions, were also directing their march towards the north of Spain. The forward march of the British was, therefore, countermanded, and an immediate retreat ordered. This commenced on the 24th of December, the same day on which the advanced guard of Buonaparte's division passed through Tordesillas, both armies marching on Benevente, at the distance of fifty miles from each other.

In proportion to the ardour of the troops when they expected to meet the enemy, was their depression and disappointment when again ordered to retreat, and their discontent soon broke out in acts of turbulence and depredation hitherto unheard of in a British army. Those only who know the inflexible honour and purity of principle, moral and military, which guided the correct mind of Sir John Moore, can judge how painful were his feelings, and how greatly his chagrin must have been aggravated, by the understanding that the tardiness of his former advance, and the rapidity of the present retreat, were disapproved by many in his army, and that much, if not all, the unmilitary misconduct of the men was ascribed to this retrograde movement.

That the retreat, to which the soldiers attached a degree of disgrace, irritated their minds, there can be no doubt; and what true soldier would not feel mortified on being obliged to retire before an enemy? That they were extremely enraged against the people of the country is also most true, and, all circumstances considered, not to be' wondered at; but that they should judge of the general policy of the measures of their commander beyond the immediate order of the day, is not common among British soldiers, and, indeed, forms no part of their character, of which a strong feature is to place perfect confidence in their General, till his conduct shows he does not deserve it. But seeing that the Spaniards, who, they were told, were to be their fellow soldiers in the field, and their friends and brothers in quarters, were cold and inhospitable, their first ebullitions of rage naturally broke out against the supposed authors of their disappointment and disgrace. Had it been possible that their wrath could have fallen on the heads of the Junta, and on those who had, in reality, reduced the cause of Spanish independence to its present calamitous state, and the British army to so perilous a situation, it would have occasioned little regret. But, in this case, the innocent suffered for the guilty; and the character of the British army was so changed and lowered, that "malditos ladrones," or cursed robbers, was a term too commonly applied to them by the unfortunate inhabitants. The extent of these disgraceful scenes, and the evil consequences that resulted from the inconsiderate reflections of officers, whose ignorance of facts must have rendered them very incompetent judges of the motives which directed the measures of the commander, may be seen from the following extract of general orders issued at Benevente on the 27th of December: "The Commander of the Forces has observed, with concern, the extreme bad conduct of the troops at a moment when they are about to come into contact with the enemy, and when the greatest regularity and the best conduct are most requisite. The misbehaviour of the troops in the column which marched from Valderas to this place, exceeds what he could have believed of British soldiers. It is disgraceful to the officers, as it strongly marks their negligence and inattention. The Commander of the Forces refers to the general orders of the 15th of October, and of the 11th of November. He desires that they may again be read at the head of every company in the army. He can add nothing but his determination to execute them to the fullest extent. He can feel no mercy towards officers who neglect, in times like these, essential duties, or towards soldiers who injure the country they are sent to protect. It is impossible for the General to explain to his army his motive for the movements he directs. When it is proper to fight a battle he will do it, and he will choose the time and place he thinks most fit. In the mean time, he begs the officers and soldiers of the army to attend diligently to discharge their part, and to leave to him and to the general officers the decision of measures which belong to them alone."

This melancholy view of the discipline of the army was occasionally relieved and brightened up by brilliant and successful rencounters with the advanced parties of the enemy, who now hung close on the rear and flanks. On the morning of the 29th of December, just as the army had quitted Benevente, a party of seven squadrons of the Imperial Guard was observed crossing a ford, a little above a bridge, which had the same morning been blown up (to very little purpose, it would appear, as the river was ford-able), when the picquets under Brigadier-General Charles Stewart, and the 10th Hussars, under Lieutenant-General Lord Paget, were ordered out. The enemy made a gallant resistance; but, after a short though well-contested action, in which much individual bravery, skill and horsemanship, were displayed on both sides, they were driven across the river. There they attempted again to form, but a fire from the field-pieces forced them to fly, leaving 60 killed and wounded, and 70 prisoners; among the latter was General Lefebre, son of the Field-Marshal.

As provisions had now become scarce, and as it was necessary to prevent the enemy from getting round on the flank, and occupying strong passes in front, General Crawford, with a lightly equipped corps of 3000 men, was detached by the Orense road. The rest of the army proceeded to Astorga, of which Romana's army was found in possession. The evils which ensue when generals command independently of each other, were here fully exemplified. The Spanish army consumed the resources of the country, crossed the British line of march, and in every way obstructed, rather than forwarded, General Moore's movements. At Astorga all superfluous baggage was destroyed; horses, mules, carriages, and every thing not absolutely necessary, were abandoned ; even the military treasure was sacrificed, and, to prevent its falling into the hands of the enemy, barrels full of dollars were rolled down the steepest precipices into the dens and ravines.

Now that the soldiers saw that the retrograde movement had become a real and absolute retreat, their former disappointments and consequent despondency rose to despair. Worn out with fatigue, and the want of necessaries, and frequently without food, they seemed totally reckless of life. Who could have believed this to be the same army which, a few weeks before, had marched from Portugal in high discipline, and full of hope and confidence? The orders of their officers then received a prompt obedience, but now discipline was gone, and the cry of plunder and vengeance was more attended to than the word of command. Villages and houses were seen burning in all directions. From the plunder of stores and cellars, the means of intoxication were procured, and the horror and confusion increased; and the sufferings of the troops from the snow and rain, which fell alternately as they crossed the mountains and valleys, were thus unspeakably aggravated. Yet, exposed to these hardships, and, in this wretched state of total disorganization, compelled to march two hundred and fifty miles over a mountainous country, followed by a greatly superior enemy, eager to take every advantage, the men displayed, on all occasions, their native courage and intrepidity. Wherever the enemy appeared, he was met with spirit, and never, in any one instance, obtained the most trifling advantage. At Lugo, where General Moore offered battle, which Soult thought proper to decline, the greatest alacrity and animation were exhibited. The lame, the sick, or the fatigued, who were lagging along, or lying on the ground seemingly unable to move, no sooner heard the firing, or were led to believe that an attack was to be made, than their misery and weakness appeared instantly to vanish. At the slightest indication of a brush with the enemy, they sprung up with renewed animation, and, seizing their arms, prepared to join their comrades.

When Buonaparte reached Astorga, his force amounted to 70,000 men, besides reinforcements on the march to join him. From thence he despatched three divisions, under three of his Marshals, Soult's being appointed to lead and keep up a constant skirmishing with the rear of the British, which was composed of the Reserve under General Paget. General Moore himself was always with the rear-guard, and never absent where a shot was fired, or the enemy in sight.

On the 11th of January 1809, the army completed a harassing march, and, taking post on the hills behind Corunna, were ready to embark. This might have been effected without loss, as the French general did not push forward with vigour from Lugo; but, unfortunately, the transports had not arrived from Vigo,—a circumstance the more extraordinary, as the approach of the army was some time known, and is only to be lamented, as the loss of those who fell in the subsequent battle is to be ascribed entirely to this delay. On the other hand, it afforded the British troops the much wished for opportunity of wiping off the imaginary disgrace of their retreat, and of achieving a memorable and glorious victory, while labouring under the greatest privations and sufferings.

Corunna is surrounded on the land side by a double range of hills, a higher and a lower; but, as the former were too extensive, the British were formed on the latter. On their arrival the French occupied the higher range.

Our troops had now enjoyed some rest, and had experienced the kindest reception from the inhabitants of Corunna, who displayed a patriotic spirit which had not been witnessed since their departure from Lisbon. Instead of apathy, sloth, and a seeming indifference to the departure of the British or the arrival of the French, all was activity and exertion for the defence of the place in conjunction with their allies. In addition to their present critical state, with the sea on one side, and so superior an army, hourly increasing, on the other, the British must have felt strongly for the situation of these poor people, so soon to be left to the unrestrained vengeance of a man who seldom forbore the gratification of his resentment.

Several transports arrived on the 14th, when the embarkation of the sick, cavalry, and part of the artillery, was effected. The whole of the 15th was passed in skirmishing, with little loss on either side, except Lieutenant-Colonel Mackenzie, of the 5th foot, who was killed in a bold effort to seize on two of the enemy's guns, the success of which was prevented by his death. On the forenoon of the 16th, the enemy considering himself sufficiently strong, was seen getting under arms soon after mid-day. This challenge was promptly answered by his opponents, who were soon drawn up in line of battle. Lieutenant-General Hope's division, consisting of Major-General Hill's brigade of the Queen's, 14th, and 32d, and Colonel Crawford's brigade of the 36th, 71st, and 92d or Gordon Highlanders, occupied the left. Lieutenant-General Baird's division, consisting of Lord William Bentinck's brigade of the 4th, Royal Highlanders, and 50th regiment, and Major-General Manningham's brigade of the 3d battalion of the Royals, 26th or Cameronians, and 2d battalion of the 81st, and Major-General Ward with the 1st and 3d battalions of the Foot Guards, were drawn up on the right of the line: the other battalions of Guards were in reserve in rear of Lord William Bentinck's brigade. The Rifle corps formed a chain across a valley on the right of Sir David Baird, communicating with Lieutenant-General Fra-ser's division, which was drawn up in the rear at a short distance from Corunna. General Paget's brigade of Reserve formed in rear of the left. At the beginning of the action General Fraser's division was ordered to advance, and the Reserve to move to the right to support the Guards and Lord William Bentinck's brigade. General Fraser's division consisted of the 6th, 9th, 23d or Welsh Fusileers, and 2d battalion of the 43d, under Major-General Beresford; and the 36th, 79th, or Cameron-Highlanders, and 82d regiment, under Brigadier-General Fane. The Reserve was composed of the 20th, 28th, 52d, 91st, and rifle corps; the whole amounting to nearly 16,000 men under arms.

The enemy commenced the attack by a discharge of artillery, while two columns advanced upon General Baird's wing, which was the weakest part of the position. A third directed its march towards the centre, and a fourth to the left, a fifth remaining as a reserve in the rear. The British did not wait to be attacked, but advanced under a heavy fire to meet their opponents. The post occupied by Lord William Bentinck' brigade, being considered most difficult to defend, General Moore was there directing every movement, and encouraging all by his language and example.

The 50th regiment, under Majors Napier and Stanhope, pushing over an inclosure in front, charged the enemy in he best manner, and drove them out of the village of Elvina with great loss. "Well done the 50th, well done my Majors !" exclaimed the General, who had trained these young men under his own eye, and recommended them for promotion. Then proceeding to the 42d, he called out, "Highlanders, remember Egypt!" They rushed forward, and drove back the enemy in all directions, the General accompanying them in the charge. He then ordered up a battalion of the Guards to the left flank of the Highlanders, upon which the light company conceiving, as their ammunition was expended, that they were to be relieved by the Guards, began to fall back, but Sir John, discovering the mistake, said to them, "My brave 42d, join your comrades, ammunition is coming, and you have your bayonets." They instantly obeyed, and all moved forward.

About this time Sir David Baird's arm was shattered by a musket ball, which forced him to quit the field, and immediately afterwards a cannon-ball struck Sir John Moore in the left shoulder, and beat him to the ground. "He raised himself, and gat up with an unaltered countenance looking intently at the Highlanders, who were warmly engaged. Captain Harding threw himself from his horse and took him by the hand; then observing his anxiety, he told him the 42d were advancing, upon which his countenance immediately brightened up."

Lieutenant- General Hope, who succeeded to the command after the death of Sir John Moore, and the wound of Sir David Baird, in an admirable account of the battle addressed to the latter, says, "The first effort of the enemy was met by the commander of the forces, and by yourself at the head of the 42d regiment, and the brigade under Lord William Bentinck. The village on your right became an object of obstinate contest. I lament to say, that, after the severe wound which deprived the army of your services, Lieutenant-General Sir John Moore, who had just directed the most able disposition, fell by a cannon-shot. The troops, though not unacquainted with the irreparable loss they had sustained, were not dismayed, but by the most determined bravery, not only repelled every attempt of the enemy to gain ground, but actually forced him to retire, although he had brought up fresh troops in support of those originally engaged. The enemy, finding himself foiled in every attempt to force the right of the position, endeavoured by numbers to turn it. A judicious and well-timed movement, which was made by Major-General Paget with the Reserve, which corps had moved out of its cantonments to support the right of the army, by a vigorous attack defeated this intention. The Major-General having pushed forward the 95th (Rifle corps), and the 1st battalion of the 52d regiment, drove the enemy before him, and in his rapid and judicious advance threatened the left of the enemy's position. This circumstance, with the position of Lieutenant-General Fraser's division, (calculated to give still farther security to the right of the line), induced the enemy to relax his efforts in that quarter. They were, however, more forcibly directed towards the centre, when they were again successfully resisted by the brigade under Major-General Manningham, forming the left of your division, and a part of that under Major-General Leith, forming the right of that under my orders. Upon the left, the enemy at first contented himself with an attack upon our picquets, which however in general maintained their ground. Finding, however, his efforts unavailing on the right and centre, he seemed determined to render the attack upon the left more serious, and had succeeded in obtaining possession of the village through which the great road to Madrid passes, and which was situated in front of that part of the line. From this post, however, he was soon expelled, with a considerable loss, by a gallant attack of some companies of the 2d battalion of the 14th regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Nicholls. Before five in the evening, we had not only successfully repelled every attack made upon the position, but had gained ground in almost all points, and occupied a more forward line, than at the commencement of the action; whilst the enemy confined his operations to a cannonade, and the fire of his light troops, with a view to draw off his other corps. At six the firing ceased."

This victory, complete in itself, was gained under manifold disadvantages. The enemy possessed a great superiority of numbers, and occupied a very favourable position on the elevated ground, from which his heavy cannon fired with great effect on the British line. The darkness of the night, and the strong position on the heights of which he had still the command, rendered it impossible to pursue the enemy. Besides, the great reinforcements which he had received on the march would have enabled him to renew his attacks, till the British would have been fairly borne down and overwhelmed by superior numbers; General Hope determined, therefore, to follow up General Moore's intentions, and issued orders for the immediate embarkation of the troops.

The boats were in all readiness. Admiral De Courcy had made such judicious arrangements, and the officers and seamen exerted themselves with such zeal and effect, that before morning the whole were on board except the rear guard, left under the command of Major-Generals Hill and Beresford, which, with the sick and wounded, were all embarked the following day.

And thus ended, with the loss of the gallant Commander of the Forces, and many valuable officers and brave soldiers, an expedition from which the happiest results had been anticipated, but which, from a combination of causes, failed in every essential point except one of great importance, that of drawing the combined force of the enemy to the north, and of leaving the south of Spain open to the efforts of the people.

The loss of the British was 800 men killed and wounded; that of the enemy was afterwards ascertained by Major Napier (who advancing with too great eagerness in the charge just noticed, was wounded and taken prisoner) to be upwards of 3000 men. This is a very remarkable disproportion, when we take into consideration the number and commanding position of the enemy, possessed of a powerful artillery, which, during the whole of the action, continued to plunge its shot into the British ranks from the heights, which our guns could not reach. It can only be ascribed to causes which cannot be too frequently brought under the notice of all soldiers,—the cool and steady aim of the men, and the spirit with which they met the enemy. They did not wait to receive the attack, but rushing forward with eagerness and force, quickly turned the attack of their opponents into self-defence, the result of which is always comparative safety to the successful assailants, and destruction to their antagonists.

But moderate as the loss of the army was in comparison with that of the enemy, the death of the Commander of the Forces increased it greatly in the estimation of all who appreciate high honour, devoted zeal for the service, and the most ardent love of his country. The kindest friend, and the most affectionate son, General Moore's last thoughts were divided between his country, his venerated parent, and his friends and companions in arms. His aide-de-camp, Captain Henry Harding, describing his fall, says:—"The violence of the stroke threw him off his horse on his back. Not a muscle of his face altered, nor did a sigh betray the least sensation of pain. I dismounted, and taking his hand, he pressed me forcibly, casting his eyes very anxiously towards the 42d regiment, which was hotly engaged, and his countenance expressed satisfaction when I informed him that the regiment was advancing. Assisted by a soldier of the 42d, he was removed a few yards behind the shelter of a wall. Colonel Graham of Balgowan, and Captain Woodford of the Guards, came up, and perceiving the state of Sir John's wound, instantly rode off for surgeons." "He consented to be carried to the rear, and was put in a blanket for that purpose." Captain Harding attempted to unbuckle his sword from his wounded side, when he said in his usual tone and manner, "It is as well as it is; I had rather that it should go out of the field with me." "He was borne," continues Captain Harding, "by six soldiers of the 42d and Guards, my sash supporting him in an easy posture. Observing the resolution and composure of his features, I caught at the hope that I might be mistaken in my fears of the wound being mortal, and remarked, that I trusted when the surgeons dressed the wound, that he would be spared to us and recover. He then turned his head round, and, looking stedfastly at the wound for a few seconds, said, "No, Harding; I feel that to be impossible." I wished to accompany him to the rear, when he said, "You need not go with me; report to General Hope, that I am wounded and carried to the rear. A sergeant of the 42d, and two spare files, in case of accident, were ordered to conduct their brave General to Corunna." As the soldiers were carrying him slowly along, he made them turn round frequently to view the field of battle, and to listen to the firing; and was well pleased when the sound grew fainter, judging that the enemy were retiring.

Colonel Wynch, being wounded, was passing in a spring waggon. When he understood that the General was in the blanket, he wished him to be removed to the waggon. Sir John asked one of the Highlanders, whether he thought the waggon or blanket best? when the soldier answered, that he thought the blanket best, "I think so too," said the General; "and the soldiers proceeded with him to Corunna, shedding tears all the way."

[It was not without cause that the Highland soldiers shed tears for the sufferings of the kind and partial friend whom they were now about to lose. He always reposed the most entire confidence in them; placing them in the post of danger and honour, and wherever it was expected that the greatest firmness and courage would be required; gazing at them with earnestness in his last moments, and in this extremity taking pleasure in their successful advance ; gratified at being carried by them, and talking familiarly to them when he had only a few hours to live; and, like a perfect soldier, as he was, dying with his sword by his side. Speaking to me, on one occasion, of the character of the Highland soldiers, "I consider," said he, "the Highlanders, under proper management, and under an officer who understands and values their character, and works on it, among the best of our military materials. Under such an officer, they will conquer or die on the spot, while their action, their hardihood, and abstinence, enable them to bear up against a severity of fatigue under which larger, and apparently stronger, men would sink. But it is the principles of integrity and moral correctness that I admire most in Highland soldiers, and this was the trait that first caught my attention. It is this that makes them trust-worthy, and makes their courage sure, and not that kind of flash in the pan, which would scale a bastion to-day, and to-morrow be alarmed at the fire of a picquet. You Highland officers may sleep sound at night, and rise in the morning with the assurance, that, with your men, your professional character and honour are safe, unless you yourselves destroy the willing and excellent material intrusted to your direction. " Such was the opinion particularly addressed to me, as a kind of farewell advice in 1805, when my regiment left his brigade to embark for the Mediterranean. It was accompanied by many excellent observations on the character of the Highland soldier, and the duties of Highland officers, especially what regards their management of, and behaviour towards their soldiers, and the necessity of paying attention to their feelings. The correctness of his views on this important subject I have seen fully confirmed by many years' experience.]

Colonel Anderson, his friend and aide-de-camp for twenty years, thus describes the General's last moments:—"After some time, he seemed very anxious to speak to me, and at intervals got out as follows:— 'Anderson, you know that I always wished to die in this way.' He then asked, were the French beaten?—and which he repeated to every one he knew as they came in. 'I hope the people of England will be satisfied; I hope my country will do me justice. Anderson, you will see my friends as soon as you can. Tell them every thing—Say to my mother'—Here his voice quite failed, and he was excessively agitated." At the thought of his mother, the firm heart of this brave and affectionate son gave way—a heart which no danger, not even his present situation, could shake, till the thoughts of his mother, and what she would suffer, came across his mind.

General Moore [After he was made Knight of the Bath, he preferred to be called General rather than Sir John Moore. "Sir," said he one day to an officer, who called him Sir John, Sir John, at the beginning of every sentence, "I am your General; I am General Moore." ] was a soldier of the best mould. He was endowed with a vigorous mind, improved by every ac-complishment which an anxious and intelligent parent could suggest or bestow. With a face and figure uncommonly handsome, he was active and capable of bearing great fatigue; but in his latter years he had a considerable stoop, and was much broken down by wounds and service in various climates, although only forty-seven years of age at the time of his death. He was the eldest of five sons of the late Dr Moore, and was born at Glasgow in 1762, where his father practised as a physician till he accompanied the late Duke of Hamilton on his travels. He took his son along with him, and thus he was early introduced into the first society of Europe. Having his education and pursuits guided by so able a director, and so accurate a judge of mankind, as his father, every improvement was to be expected. How completely these expectations were fulfilled, the military history of his country will show. "Sir John Moore, from his youth, embraced the profession with the sentiments and feelings of a soldier. He felt that a perfect knowledge and an exact performance of the humble but important duties of a subaltern officer are the best foundation for subsequent military fame. In the school of regimental duty he obtained that correct knowledge of his profession so essential to the proper direction of the gallant spirit of the soldier; and was enabled to establish a characteristic order and regularity of conduct, because the troops found in their leader a striking example of the discipline which he enforced on others. In a military character, obtained amidst the dangers of climate, the privations incident to service, and the sufferings of repeated wounds, it is difficult to select any point as a preferable subject for praise. The life of Sir John Moore was spent among his troops.

"During the season of repose, his time was devoted to the care and instruction of the officer and soldier; in war, he courted service in every quarter of the globe. Regardless of personal considerations, he esteemed that to which his country called him the post of honour; and by his undaunted spirit, and unconquerable perseverance, he pointed the way to victory." [General Orders, Horse Guards, 1st February 1809. ]

Every soldier's heart must warm when reading so just a tribute from a Commander-in-Chief to the memory of this gallant soldier. General Moore's keen feelings of honour, and enthusiastic zeal for the duties of his profession, often raised his indignation at any dereliction of conduct or duty. Hence, with the mildest and most amiable temper, he was considered by many who did not sufficiently know him, as fierce, intemperate, and unnecessarily severe; while, in truth, no man was more indulgent and easy, when strictness was unnecessary. At the same time, when severity was called for, as the correctness and propriety of his own mind led him to have "no mercy on officers who neglected their duty on any important occasion," no man could be more severe; and in this he greatly resembled the eminent men by whose example he was always anxious to form his habits and character—Sir Ralph Abercromby and Sir Charles Stuart.

It was under General Stuart in Corsica that General Moore, then lieutenant-colonel of the 51st regiment, was first distinguished. At the storming of Calvi he headed the Grenadiers; and in the face of an obstinate and gallant resistance, carried the place by assault. General Stuart, who witnessed the attack, rushed forward, and with an enthusiasm which only such minds can feel, threw himself into the arms of Colonel Moore, the surrounding soldiers shouting and throwing up their caps in the air for joy and exultation.

As Sir John Moore, according to the wish which he had uniformly expressed, died a soldier in battle, so he was buried like a soldier, in his full uniform, in a bastion in the garrison of Corunna, Colonel Graham of Balgowan, Colonel Anderson, and the officers of his family only attending. 

On the 18th and 19th of January, the army being all embarked, sailed for England, one division of which landed at Portsmouth, and another at Plymouth. The 42d regiment landed at Portsmouth.

The soldiers suffered more from the Want of shoes than from any other privation; and, marching over mountains deeply covered with snow, their feet were torn by the ice, and their toes frost-bitten. The shoes were supplied by contract, and, as is too common in such cases, became wholly unserviceable after a few days' march.

[Although the following observations may seem foreign to the present subject, I give them a place here, both on account of the number of men who suffered severely on this occasion, and, at the same time, in order to mention the great improvements that have been effected—improvements that must be gratifying to every friend of the good and faithful soldier. I have had frequent occasion to notice the high state of comfort, and the attention to the feelings and convenience of the soldiers, introduced into the army under the directions of the present Commander-in-Chief. The regulations with regard to the shoes of the troops form only one out of a numerous list of improvements, all tending to the same purpose,—to show the soldier that he is held in respect by the country which pays him, and by his immediate commanders. Such is the anxiety that justice be done to the soldiers, and so judicious and appropriate are the regulations, that much of the fault must rest with the regimental officers, if they receive, or permit their soldiers to be supplied with, improper clothing or provisions. But while this is the case in the army, it cannot well be denied, that the system of doing every thing by contract is quickly undermining the honesty of the people, and subverting all proper ideas of truth and justice in their dealings. In contracts, it is generally understood that the lowest will be accepted. When the cheapest offer has been preferred, the next object of the contractor is to fulfil it on terms as profitable as possible to himself; that is, to make the article as bad as he can, first saving the risk of its being returned on his hands. A contractor, seeing that his principal sets others in competition with him, will naturally retaliate. In this process he must give directions to his workmen, who thus become familiarized with fraud, bad materials, and hasty and careless workmanship, such as they do not see in the fair honest course of business. Observing this iniquitous proceeding carried on by their superiors, so far as they perceive, without shame, punishment, or prejudice to their characters, it cannot be a matter of surprise, that, in their own dealings, they should practise a little of the duplicity and deception so successfully employed by those to whom, from their education and rank in society, they might be expected to look up to as examples of honour and integrity. Where the great number of contracts is taken into consideration, and the proportion executed in this manner is so great as to render it proverbial that any work badly executed has been done by contract, and when we farther consider the thousands of the common and labouring people to whom, in the course of workmanship, the secret of these deceptions must be communicated, and a still greater number who must suffer, as the poor soldiers formerly did, from its effects, this system of itself may be viewed as a very fruitful source of dishonesty, and as one of the main causes of lessening that regard! for fair dealing and probity which has always been so honourable a feature in the character of the people of this kingdom.]

Return to Book Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus