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against us; but fresh troops coming up from their different cantonments, not only enabled us to keep our position, but, at last, to drive back the enemy from the ground they had occupied during a part of the day. Fatigue prevented the infantry from pursuing them, and the cavalry not arriving till night-fall, the action was brought to an end just as darkness fell around
“But what am I about ?” said Corporal Crump, drawing a hand quickly across his brow, as if dust or cobwebs had suddenly accumulated in the vicinity. “Here we are, in the field, instead of sticking to the nursery."
“Being in the field,” returned the little general shopkeeper, warming on the subject, like a steak on the gridiron, “let us keep there, warrior! I love," continued Jacob, with a convulsive snort and wild flourish of the arms, “to hearken to battles lost and won. It fires my spirit, and makes me feel that, once upon a time, I myself could have fired a gun.”
“In that case,” added his martial companion, “ we'll fight on, and finish what I've scarce begun. Fill my glass, comrade,” continued he, pushing the now empty vessel, with a jerk, across the table, “I can't croak with a dry thorax.
“After a wet and stormy night, the morning broke, finding but few of our eyes shut, I ween, and from where we were posted we could see the immense masses of the French, both cavalry and infantry, moving in every direction. Bonaparte had ordered all his columns from the rear, for an immediate attack, and the strongest occupied the two wings, and particularly the right.
“ About eleven o'clock the battle began in earnest, by Jerome's division advancing upon Hougoumont.
There had been some skirmishing during the morning; but I date the commencement from the attack on this post. The garrison did not number more than fifteen hundred men, against whom the enemy directed the whole second corps in successive attacks throughout the day. The light companies of the Coldstreams and third Guards were in the house and garden, and those of the first regiment in the wood to the left.
“ The French covered their approach by a tremendous cross-fire of artillery, which was well and quickly answered by our guns, and our men firing from loopholes bored in the garden wall, did immense execution, without suffering a corresponding loss. During the fight a French officer and some men got inside the gate of the farm-yard, and Colonel Macdonald, by sheer strength, closed it upon them, and joined hand to hand in cutting them down. Nothing could exceed the courage of the enemy, save that, perhaps, by which they were repulsed. In heaps they fell, and yet there was no hesitation to repeat the sallies, although they moved over hillocks of the dying and the dead.
“Finding it impossible to dislodge us in this way, shells were fired upon the post, and one striking a tower, set it in flames, and quickly spreading to other parts of the building, it soon became untenable, although the Guards remained in their entrenchment, while the fire raged fiercely above their heads. Whatever may have been said or written, Hougoumont was never taken nor abandoned throughout the day.
“This attack cost the French little short of ten thousand men, and, although our loss was small in comparison to theirs, two-thirds of our men fell.”
Corporal Crump again came to a check in his narrative, and seemed to derive considerable satisfaction from the deep sip which he took from his glass, and the knowledge of possessing a silent and interested listener.
“While this diversion was going on," continued the old soldier, with a smack of his lips which sounded not unlike the explosion of a percussion cap, “a cannonade from more than two hundred pieces of artillery was being poured upon our whole line, intended to support their repeated charges of cavalry and infantry. They
never let us alone; but sometimes with the infantry, and sometimes with both together, we were constantly employed with as much work as we well could manage, and now and then, perhaps, a little more.
“ To receive these, we were drawn up in nearly solid squares, each being several files deep. Enough space was given between the squares to deploy into line when occasion required; while a third square in the rear of those that were parallel, presented a front to the enemy's cavalry, as often as they pushed beyond them, being thus exposed to a triple fire. In this order, with the artillery playing upon the French columns as they advanced, and the cavalry in reserve, ready to sweep forward when opportunities occurred, our men stood like solid walls. Throughout the whole of that fight the attack and defence were the same. They continued to rush upon our front, we to receive and beat them back. Again and again did we throw ourselves flat on the ground, to let the storm of shot rattle over us; then, with scarcely time to rise, formed into square to receive cavalry. Up they came, sometimes firing their pistols close to our faces, and then wheeling round, would often go off, laughing, at a gentle trot. As soon as they were driven back, we deployed into line to await the approach of infantry; and these formed the principal, if not the whole manoeuvres of the day
“It was sorely trying to our men to await the charges of the enemy, hour after hour, each square standing on its appointed ground, and as the gaps were made in the front ranks, for others to step forward to supply their places, only to meet with the same fate. It was almost more than could be expected from any mortal troops ; for it is one thing to rush for'ard cheering and shouting in a charge, and quite another to receive it in cold blood, with your comrades dropping around ye like hail. As an instance of what British soldiers can take, as well as give, I may mention that the twenty-seventh regiment had four hundred men and every officer, except one subaltern, knocked over in square, neither moving an inch nor pulling a trigger. Many a chicken heart can be roused to do a bold act; but the true courage of a soldier shows itself in deeds such as these.
“Three great attacks—each of them a battle in itself-had now been made, when the advanced column of the Prussians, emerging from the wood of Frischermont, must have proved anything but a refreshing sight to Bonaparte. In the hope, however, of turning the fortunes of the day before these could come up, fresh bodies of infantry and cavalry were advanced, under cover of a heavy cannonade, against our centre, and upon our right, while our left was only so much engaged as to prevent it from detaching reinforcements. This effort to force the British position was the fiercest yet made. For a moment the cavalry were driven back, and the advanced artillery taken, but rallying again, they charged into the very centre of the enemy's columns, and cut several battalions to pieces.
“It was none o' your pull trigger, fire-away, now hit, now miss, kind of work; but close, hand to hand, man to man fighting, so as you might tell whether your enemy's breath was flavoured with garlic or parsley.
“For above an hour this struggle lasted, extending, as it did, along nearly the whole line; but after a slaughter of thousands the enemy found it impossible to make any impression upon us, and again fell back. Evening was now coming on, and just as the French were repulsed in this their fourth great attack, the operations of the Prussians began upon their right flank and rear.
“I need scarcely say with what joy we received this well-timed reinforcement; for although, as the Duke often declared, he never doubted for an instant the issue of the battle throughout the day, yet, depending upon this support, and its being delayed for hours beyond the time expected, he might well exclaim, as an aide-de-camp galloped up and told him that a particular division was reduced to one-third, 'Would to God that night or Blucher were come !'
“The left wing of the Prussians advanced separately, and commenced a furious attack with six battalions upon the village of Planchenoit, in the rear of the French. Here several bloody charges were made ; but the post was maintained in spite of every exertion to take it.
" It was now a critical moment for Bonaparte, and he saw that but one more chance remained on the die. A fourth column of attack was formed, almost entirely composed of his Guard, which he conducted in person. Upon reaching the middle of the slope, he ordered Ney to lead them on, and they were supported, as before, by heavy and well-served discharges of artillery.
“Our battalions of the Guards advanced in line nearly to the brow of the hill, and receiving orders to lie down and shelter themselves from the storm of shot, the Duke took his station behind them, to watch for the moment when they might spring up, and, in their turn, spring upon the enemy.
“ The Imperial Guard—those fine old veterans whom all Europe acknowledged to be worthy of the title of Invincible-marched towards the ridge without a waver or a flinch, although whole files were knocked over from a galling fire from our right, the guns being served with wonderful precision. Nothing, however, stopped, or even checked, their advance. On they came, and just as their heads tipped above the summit of the hill, that order was given, which still warms many an old soldier's breast-Up, Guards, and at 'em again!
“Then such a volley was poured into their ranks, into their very faces—with our muzzles almost crossing
—which made them stagger again. And then, moved as one man, our brave fellows rushed for'ard at the point o' the bayonet, with a hurrah which seemed to quail the enemy; and, without waiting to receive the charge, they turned and runned away. Ay, comrade,"