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Spanish women, selling strings of onions, bread, wine and cider; their long plaited hair, reaching entirely down their backs, and their complexions of a sallow hue, impressing us with no very favourable idea of the vaunted Spanish dames. At a short distance from us, near the gate, a Spanish officer was marshalling his men, which, like Falstaff's soldiers, seemed excellent “food for powder.” Their dress was not remarkable for its uniformity. The French soldiers who had fallen in action, had been stripped to furnish this motley corps; and whereever the eagle appeared in their appointments, it had been reversed. The commander, who seemed well worthy of the high station which he filled, perceiving we were Englishmen, took pains to let us know that his warriors were “ Espagnoles,” (a fact of which very little doubt could be entertained,) by continually addressing them by the title of “ primiero regimento d'Araggon.” The appearance of every thing on the outside of the town was highly interesting and amusing; but the spectacle as we proceeded into the town became disgusting and terrific, to eyes which had not been accustomed to gaze upon the stern features of war. The houses were levelled with the ground, and amidst the ruins lay the dead bodies of English and French, in the last stage of putrefaction. Shocked as we were at this scene, the horrors which presented themselves on the breach were indescribable. The dead lay piled in heaps; and we were forced to step over the bodies of our brave fellow countrymen, which had lain parching beneath a fervent sun from the time of the storming of the town.
Sickening as the sight was to all of us, it did not seem to affect the stomachs of the Spanish soldiers, who sat, with the utmost composure, eating their meal, which consisted of a dried fish called baccalao, on the dead bodies, which supplied all the usual furniture of a salle à manger. We were fortunate enough, at the moment, to meet with an intelligent English officer of the First Regiment, who had been personally engaged in the storm. He pointed out to us the bodies of three sergeants who had formed part of the forlorn hope, and who seemed to have all fallen at the same instant. The officer who led the forlorn hope escaped the first onset, but was afterwards killed in the town by the enemy's fire. Our informant described very minutely the details of the attack. He pointed out to us the place where the French, by blowing up a mine too suddenly, had destroyed several hundreds of their own men.
We afterwards paid a visit to the castle, where we perceived the dreadful extremities to which the French had been reduced. Our perpetual firing had compelled them to excavate the ground, that they might obtain temporary repose and security. The castle presented nothing remarkable, except a clear spring of fresh water, which rose from the summit of the hill.
We returned to our vessel with no very favourable impression of the pleasures of a siege. The Baron frankly confessed that he by no means coveted the honourable fate of those heroes who had “filled the breach up with our English dead;" and shrewdly observed, that, considering the poverty of the land, he could not discover what honour there was in being engaged in a storming-party. During our dinner he appeared remarkably contemplative, but after a few hours smoking, and close application to the waters of life, his martial spirit seemed
miles up a
to brightep within him; and between the whiffs of his pipe, he called the storming of St. Sebastian's a mere volunteer day to some in which he had been no inconsiderable actor.
On rising the ensuing morning, I found our vessel just entering the harbour of Passages. The mouth of the harbour is not visible until you approach within a few yards of it, and you proceed nearly two
narrow creek, running between rocks of stupendous height. After disembarking our party, we marched with our detachment to a farm-house, or, rather, what would be called a hovel in England, about three miles from Passages, and in this miserable place, in which only two beds were to be found, which were already sufficiently tenanted by various insects, we were expected to find accommodation for two officers and fifty men. The fumes of brandy and tobacco generally lulled the Baron to sleep long before he retired to his couch; but, for my own part, during the whole time we were quartered in this wretched spot, I knew not what it was to enjoy an hour's slumber during the night.
The quality of our first day's dinner was pretty much upon a par with our logement. Our fare consisted of ration pork, so hard and so fat that no teeth or stomach of ordinary strength could away with it. Cabbage of a saffron hue supplied the place of other vegetables. To counterbalance these privations, we had the privilege, like Gil Blas at Sangrado's, of drinking water à discretion, and we certainly did find it un dissolvement universel. To one, who had been used to call a dinner at Long's or Stevens's a bore, and who had professed himself satisfied with Jacquieres cookery, such a banquet did not possess many attractions. The Baron, with a grin of singular expression, frequently exclaimed, during our feast, “ "Tish very goot!" "Towards the middle of the following day, I paid a visit to the town of Passages, in order to learn some intelligence from the army, and to purchase an animal to carry my baggage. On arriving in the town the novelty of the scene was extremely amusing. The head-quarters of Lord Wellington were then about eight miles from Passages, and the town at that time formed a sort of depôt for provisions. Parties of dragoons escorting provisions, Commissaries, French prisoners marching through, Generals departing for England, Portuguese and Spanish soldiers, servants buying provisions, passing and repassing before my eyes, gave the scene the appearance of a masquerade. Every one seemed regardless of the occupations of his neighbour. În one portion of the town, a party of German hussars had made a regular encampment, and were busily engaged dressing their horses, cooking their coarse viands, and smoking their long cum-de-mer pipes in the open air, quite as contented beneath the canopy of Heaven, as if they were housed under the most hospitable roof. Advancing a little farther, we saw several hundred French prisoners, guarded by a detachment of British infantry, headed by three officers, two of whom were mounted upon mules, and the other walking. In point of speed, these pedestrians seemed likely to outstrip their mounted leaders, as the miserable animals which carried them had many points in common with Yorick’s mare. The clothing of our brave soldiers, which, by conjecture rather than by its present appearance, we judged to have been of the scarlet hue, had, by its numer
ous patchings, at length assumed the semblance of an harlequin's coat, while the long coats of the officers, which, in their original state, had been of a grey colour, by the service they had seen, and long exposure to the sun, had become thread-bare and brown: the French prisoners were certainly horrid looking fellows; their unshorn beards, and their long moustaches, gave little encouragement to the unfledged valour of a stripling Cornet.
Cui frons turgida cornibus
Primis, et Venerem et prælia destinat. All the detachments which we saw, seemed well content with the accommodations which were provided for them al fresco, with the exception of some newly-arrived English hussars, who appeared to entertain too lively a remembrance of the comforts of Hyde Park Barracks to allow them to think of taking up their lodgings “on the cold ground ;” and after a vain struggle, for some hours, to procure the shelter of a roof, they were marched forward without having enjoyed even that repose which their less delicate companions had found on the cold pavement of the streets of Passages.' The accounts which we received from the army were strangely contradictory. Now we heard that there was no doubt that we should be forced to retreat into Portugal; and now we were told, that within a few days we should be feasting in Paris. Every one seemed competent to approve or censure the plans of Lord Wellington, while all were blessed with an equal degree of ignorance; indeed, the English newspapers were, at this time, the only means by which we could gain any intelligence of our own motions—so necessarily confined was the information of each individual. This state of things was precisely what is described by Walter Scott
When high events are on the gale,
Each hour brings a varying tale. After making a purchase of all the delicacies which Passages afforded—namely, mutton, bread, and vegetables, and cheapening a few baggage-animals, which were enormously dear, I returned to our quarters, were I found the Baron, with his three horses in his hand, allowing them to crop the heads of a field of fine maize at the back of the house, never once adverting to the exploded doctrine of meum and tuum. In short the Baron was an old campaigner, and knew how to provide victuals both for himself and his horses. This, however, is a knowledge which is very speedily acquired in war; of which I witnessed an instance on my return from Passages. I beheld-oh! tell it not in St. James's--publish it not in Bond Street-I beheld the Hon. Captain Counterscarp, the amiable the accomplished Captain Counterscarp of the Guards, who always held it to be highly derogatory even to speak to an acquaintance who carried an umbrella-I beheld him, Jost to all sense of shame, in his right hand bearing a leg of mutton, and in his left a haversack of cabbages!
Our detachment having received orders to remain a fortnight longer at this miserable station, for the purpose of refreshing the horses, and it occurring to ine that the delay would by no means be productive of the same effects to myself, so unceasingly was I tormented by the lively activity of my body-guard, I resolved, with the permission of
Vol. III. No. 16.-1822.
my friend the Baron, to spend a few of those days with my brother, a captain in a Light Infantry regiment, which was then encamped near the head-quarters of Lord Wellington. In fact I had grown anxious to taste the sweets of war. I commenced my journey about mid-day, thinking eight miles would be as easily accomplished as in England, and hoping to arrive at the camp in good time for a five-o'clock dinner. Soon after I had got into the main-road, I was surprised to find my advance a good deal impeded by the roads being broken up. Dead oxen, which had been fortunate enough to end their labours a little time before they reached the camp, where they were to have been slaughtered-wagons broken down, and other vehicles of military desolation, were scattered along the way, and impeded the progress of passengers. Nor was my advance much accelerated by the convoys of bullocks and provisions, the long strings of mules, the sick, wounded and prisoners, coming from the army, and the stragglers about to join it, which altogether formed as dense and motley a group, although of a very different character, as the annual procession of the worthy inhabitants of London, eastern and western, on their road to Epsom races. It was nearly dusk ere I arrived at Lord Wellington's headquarters, that were at a village through which the road passed. The names of the various general officers composing the staff of the army, chalked upon the doors of the meanest cottages, showed pretty plainly what must be the accommodations of the inferior officers. I soon learned that the light division, to which my brother's regiment belonged, was about five miles in advance; and I was particularly cautioned not to stumble upon the French instead of our own troops, as they were stationed close to one another. After leaving head-quarters, I found the road quite clear; yet, notwithstanding the expedition I made use of, it was quite dark before I arrived at the camp of the light division, which was situated upon the side of a hill. On reaching the summit of this hill, and looking around me, I paused, to observe one of the most striking and splendid spectacles which could possibly be imagined. For miles around me the country seemed to be one blaze of light, proceeding from the fires in the camps of both armies. There was almost a perfect stillness around me; and as I stood alone, in the silence of night, upon this foreign soil, I seemed to experience, for the first time, a strong and vivid feeling of mortality. The countless thousands which were stretched around me might, on this calm and beautiful night, be enjoying their last earthly repose. I could not help thinking how different these sensations were from those of an ordinary traveller, passing through the country in a time of peace and tranquil. lity. My brother's camp lay in a field to the right of the road : I found him, with his tent pitched to windward of a large fire, with one or two of his companions, anticipating the pleasure of devouring a couple of fine ducks, which they were roasting with considerable skill. After an absence of nearly two years, we enjoyed our meeting in this strange spot fully as much as we had ever done, in former times, beneath the peaceful shades of ***** Hall. I soon satisfied his inquiries; and, in return, begged to be informed, by what good fortune he had become possessed of the deux gros canards which promised so luxurious a feast. He informed me that an old campaigner, like himself, was generally a good forager. He had surprised a party of French that morning in taking a village, and had discovered these treasures attached to the personal staff of one of the French officers, who resigned the promised enjoyment with the utmost complaisance, and in presenting the ducks to my brother remarked, “C'est la fortune de la guerre. A small hamper formed our table, while a piece of oil-skin, on which we sate à la Turc, prevented us from feeling the ill effects of the damp ground. Our dinner consisted of soup and bouille, and the aforesaid ducks, accompanied with the best sauce-a ravenous appetite. The old campaigners corrected the badness of the wine, by converting it into very delicious mull, by the aid of nutmeg and ginger, cinnamon and cloves. By the time we had finished the second kettle of this nectar, which operated as a composing draught after the fatigues of the day, we retired to rest, and for the first time I stretched my limbs in a bonâ fide camp. I lay in my brother's tent, and rolled in my cloak, I slept as soundly as in the softest bed in England, with "all appliances and means to boot.” I was surprised on awakening the next morning to find it was already nine o'clock: we rose immediately, and enjoyed a cup of excellent tea. The regiment was ordered to stand to their arms, and waited to be supplied with provisions. A long string of mules, laden with bread, soon afterwards arrived, and a drove of bullocks were brought to be slaughtered in the camp. A certain number of men attended to assist in slaughtering the beasts, and receive their portion of the provisions. The whole affair is usually conducted with great despatch; insomuch that I have often since seen a bullock alive, slaughtered, dressed, and eaten, within a quarter of an hour. The bugles now sounded to arms, and the brigade was immediately formed. As over our mull, the preceding evening, I had expressed my determination to accompany the regiment, should it be called into action, I was now, by the contributions of several officers, fully equipped in the dress of my brother's corps. We marched forward, and soon deployed into an open field. Behind us towered the lofty chain of the Pyrenees, and before us lay the fertile plains of France. Some companies were sent forward to skirmish, and the firing soon became exceedingly warm. It was impossible to drive in the picquets, which kept up an incessant fire; but we gained ground by degrees. The French, perceiving the progress we made, brought a party of guns, supported by a detachment of cavalry, against us. A body of French infantry now moved upon our right, and opened a severe fire; and as I cast my eyes along the ranks I observed frequent chasms occasioned by the falling of the killed and wounded. Just before the enemy had formed upon the hill, I remarked a group of about six officers, in blue great-coats, with shabby cocked hats covered with oil-skin, ride past; and the leader of the party had scarcely passed the line of our column, when I heard Lord Wellington's name buzzed along the ranks, and saw a smile of exultation light up every countenance. The party halted upon a hillock close by us, and one of them, dismounting from his horse, reconnoitred the enemy through his spy-glass. I had an excellent view of our commander-in-chief: his features were perfectly unruffled, and his demeanour was that of a man engaged in the ordinary occupations of life. After taking a general view of the situation of the troops, he seemed to be communicating for a moment with one of his Aids, who iminediately galloped forward