Imágenes de páginas

pate them in their infamy; for here, as in all such disgraceful scenes, "might made right;" and the conduct of the soldiers, during the sacking of Badajoz, is a sufficient proof, if such proof be wanting, of the dangers attendant upon anything where the multitude are allowed to think and act for themselves.

Hundreds of those fellows took possession of the best warehouses, and for a time fulfilled the functions of merchants; those, in their turn, were ejected by a stronger party, who, after a fearful strife and loss of lives, displaced them, and occupied their stead, and those again were conquered by others, and others more powerful! and thus was Badajoz circumstanced on the morning of the 8th of April, 1812. It presented a fearful picture of the horrors that are inevitable upon a city carried by assault; and although it is painful to relate these disgraceful facts, it is essential nevertheless. All writers, no matter how insignificant they may be, -and I am willing to place myself at the bottom of the list of those persons,-should, in any detail which may lay claim to historical facts, be extremely cautious that they in no way mislead their readers ; and in anything that I have ever written, or may hereafter write, I shall not deviate from this principle. I feel as much pride as any man can feel in having taken a part in actions that must ever shed lustre upon my country; but no false feeling of delicacy shall ever prevent me from speaking the truth-no matter whether it touches the conduct of one man or ten thousand !

To put a stop to such a frightful scene, it was necessary to use some forbearance, as likewise a portion of severity. In the first instance, par. ties from those regiments that had least participated in the combat were ordered to the town to collect the hordes of stragglers that filled its streets with crimes too horrible to detail, but the evil had spread to such an extent that this measure was inadequate to the end proposed, and in many instances the parties so sent became infected by the contagion, and in place of remedying the disorder, increased it, by joining once more in revels they had for a time quitted. At length a brigade of troops was marched into the city, and were directed to stand by their

while any of the marauders remained ; the provost-marshals attached to each division were directed to use that authority with which they are of necessity invested. Gibbets and triangles were in consequence erected, and many men were flogged, but, although the contrary has been said, none were hanged-although hundreds deserved it.

A few hours, so employed, were sufficient to purge the town of the infamous gang of robbers that still lurked about its streets, and those ruffians-chiefly Spaniards or Portuguese, not in any way attached to the army-were infinitely more dangerous than our fellows, bad as they were. Murder-except indeed in a paroxysm of drunkenness, and in many cases, I regret to say, it did occur in this way, -never entered their thoughts, but the infamous miscreants here referred to would commit the foulest deed for less than a dollar. Towards evening tranquillity began to return, and, protected as they

were by a body of troops, untainted by the disease which had spread like a contagion, the unfortunate inhabitants took advantage of the quiet that reigned: yet it was a fearful quiet, and might be likened to a ship at sea, which after having been plundered and dismasted by pirates, was left floating on the ocean without a morsel of food to supply





(sept. the wants of its crew, or a stitch of canvass to cover its naked masts; by degrees, however, some clothing, such as decency required, was procured for the females, by the return of their friends to the town; and many a father and mother rejoiced to find their children, who were still dearer to them than ever from the dangers they had escaped alive, although it was impossible to hide from them the fact that they had been seriously and grossly injured. But there were also many who were denied even this sad consolation, for numbers of the towns-people had fallen in the confusion that prevailed, some of our officers also were killed in this way, and it has been said, I believe truly, that one or two, one a colonel commanding a regiment, lost their lives by the hands of their own men. These calamities are, however, the unavoidable attendants on war; and a great victory, gratifying as it unquestionably is to the General who achieves it, is not without its alloy, and brings forcibly to my recollection the fine reply of the Duke of Wellington after the battle of Waterloo, to a lady of great literary celebrity in Paris. This lady was amongst the many Frenc who were at a ball given at the time the allied armies occupied Paris in 1815. She was most pointed in her attentions to the Duke, and devoted almost her entire conversation to him in preference to the two Emperors, the King of Prussia, or the other distinguished allied generals. “My lord,” said shre, in the course of conversation, “ do you not think the gaining a great battle a delightful thing?” “Ne pensez vous pas, qu'une grande victoire est la plus agréable de toutes choses ?” “Madam," replied the Duke, with a degree of coldness bordering on austerity, " I look upon it as the greatest calamity-except losing one!” Je la regarde comme le plus grand malheur-ercepte une drfaite !" It was a fine saying and worthy of him that uttered it; yet this same man has been represented as one devoid of feeling!

The plunder with which our camp was now filled was so considerable, and of so varied a description, that numerous as were the purchasers, and different their wants, they all had, nevertheless, an opportunity of suiting themselves to their taste; still the sale had not commenced in form, although, like other markets, “ some private sales were effected.” From the door of my tent I had a partial view of what was taking place; but for the present, I shall leave the marché, and describe how I, myself, was circumstanced from the period I reached my tent, wounded, on the morning of the seventh.

The two faithful soldiers, Bray and Macgowan, that conducted me there, on entering, found my truss of straw, or bed, if the reader will so allow me to designate it, occupied by Mistress Nelly Carsons, the wife of my bât-man, who, I suppose, by the way of banishing care, had taken to drinking divers potations of rum to such an excess, that she lay down in my bed, thinking, perhaps, that I was not likely again to be its occupant; or, more probably, not giving it a thought at all. Macgowan attempted to awake her, but in vain ! a battery of a dozen guns might have been fired close to her ear without danger of disturbing her repose. " Why then, sir,” said he, “ sure the bed's big enough for yees both, and these are no times to stand on saramony with another man's wife,and she'll keep you nate and warm, for, be the powers, you're kilt with the cowld and the loss ov blood.” I was in no mood to stand on ceremony, or, indeed, to stand at all; and I will venture to say that no man



ever entered a bed occupied by the wife of another with a clearer conscience. I allowed myself to be placed beside my partner, without any further persuasion ; and the two soldiers left us to ourselves, and returned to the town. Weakness from loss of blood soon caused me to fall asleep, but it was a sleep of short duration. I awoke, and saw the awkward dilemma in which I was placed. I was unable to move, and was completely at the mercy of Mistress Carsons, or any freak or gambol she might think fit to play. I, in fact, lay like an infant. The fire of small-arms, the screams of the soldiers' wives, and the universal buzz throughout the camp, acted powerfully upon my nervous and worn-out frame; but having a clear conscience, and mine was certainly a clear one as far as regarded my bed-fellow at least, -Somnus conquered Mars,--at least he did so in my case, for I soon fell into another doze, in which I might have remained very comfortable had not my companion awoke sooner than I wished; discharging a huge grunt, and putting her hand upon my leg, she exclaimed, " Arrah! Dan, jewel, what makes you so stiff this morning ?" It required but few words from me to undeceive her—she saw at a glance how the thing stood, and soon rendered me all the service she was capable of; tea and chocolate were soon in readiness, and having tasted some of the former, I sat up in my bed waiting the arrival of the first surgeon to dress my wound. My bât-man, Dan Carsons, shortly afterwards made his appearance ; he led up to the door of my tent three sheep whose soft fleeces would not have disgraced the pen of Monsieur le Baron Torneaux, who sent to the mountains of Caucasus for a supply of rare sheep for the purpose improving the French shawl manufactory. He had, moreover, a pigskin of enormous size filled with right good wine which the Spaniards call la linta de la Mancha: “ And sure,” said he, “I hard of your being kilt

, and I brought you this (pointing to the pig-skin of wine), thinking what a nate bolster it i'd be for you while you slept at your aise;" and, without waiting for my reply, he thrust the pig-skin

head. " And look,” said he, shewing me a spigot at the mouth of my bolster, “ when you're thirsty at all at all, you see nothing is more pleasant or aisy than to clap this into your mouth, and sure won't it be mate and dhrink for you too?" • Oh! Jasus !" responded Nelly, “ he's kilt out and out; see, Dan, how the blood is in strames about the blankets."

“ A little learning is a dangerous thing," so—under certain circumstances—is a little laughing! Dan Carsons and his wife made me laugh so immoderately, that a violent discharge of blood from my wound nearly put an end to my career in this world ; and had it not been for the arrival of Dr. Grant, the staff-surgeon of the division, who just now made his appearance, I doubt much if any of my readers would ever have had the pleasure of reading these my reminiscences. But I must have done with myself, Dan Carsons, and his wife Nelly; and resume my narrative of the sale of the plunder with which our camp was, to use a mercantile phrase, glutted.

Early on the morning of the 9th of April, a great concourse of Spaniards had already thronged our lines; the neighbouring villages poured in their quota of persons seeking to be the purchasers of the

under my

booty captured by our men, and each succeeding hour increased the supply for their wants, numerous and varied as they were, and our camp presented the appearance of a vast market. The scene after the taking of Rodrigo was nothing in comparison to the present, because the resources of Badajoz might be said to be in the ratio of five to one as compared with her sister fortress, and, besides, our fellows were, in an equal proportion, more dexterous than they had been in their maiden effort to relieve Rodrigo of its valuables. It may, therefore, be well supposed, and the reader may safely take my word for it, that the transfer of property was, on the present occasion, considerable. Some men realized upwards of one thousand dollars, (about 2502.) others less, but all, or almost all

, gained handsomely by an enterprise in which they had displayed such unheard-of acts of devotion and bravery; and it is only to be lamented that they tarnished laurels so nobly won by traits of barbarity that it would be difficult to find a parallel for in the annals of any army. But such atrocities are ever the attendants upon anything where those, hitherto dependent upon their superiors—whose station in society enables them to be the most competent judges of what is proper—are allowed to think and act for themselves; and a licentious army, although not by the half so bad as a licentious mob, is nevertheless a terrible scourge. The sale of the different commodities went on rapidly, notwithstanding we had no auctioneers; there was no “ king's duty," but, most undeniably, if the Spaniards paid no “ king's duty," they paid the piper! While the divers articles were carried away by the purchasers, the wounded were carrying away to the hospitals and camp, and the lamentations of the women for their dead or wounded husbands was a striking contrast to the scene of gaiety which almost everywhere prevailed.

Mr. Richard Martin, now a member of parliament, whom I before mentioned as having been a volunteer with the 88th, and as badly wounded while gallantly mounting one of the ladders against the castle wall, had with him his own private servant: it was not possible to persuade this man that his master had not lost his senses, and his lamentations for the fate that had befallen him were of the most extravagant sort. He would sit on a rising ground, that overlooked the town, and wringing his hands in an agony of grief exclaim, " Och! Jasus, so I was once more back in sweet Connamara, sure the divil himself wouldn't tempt me to lave it, but sure it was he—and none other!—that tempted my poor dear masthur to quit his twinty thousand good acres, with no one to lay claim to them at all at all; and now see how he's kilt with the rest, sthriving to get the hoult ov a dirty spot that doesn't cover more ground than he'd give to a dacent boy for a potato-garden. Och ! murther, murther!" Martin's servant had decidedly good "ground" for his lamentations, because I believe, since the days of knight-errantry, never was there a parallel to his conduct. He came out as an amateur, but fulfilled the functions of a soldier, taking his tour of duty in the trenches, six hours out of the twenty-four; he was one of the foremost in the assault, and declined receiving a commission, which was offered him by the Duke of Wellington for his gallant conduct;—but he was unnoticed by General Picton, and what I now write of him is, I believe, the first intimation the public, or perhaps many of his acquaintances, have of his conduct at Badajoz. In any other army except the British, a

thing of the sort would be blazoned forth, and the man who had so distinguished himself lauded, and deservedly so, by the general in command of the troops to which such a hero was attached; but it was not so, shamefully not so, with us : it was, however, only in keeping with the treatment--the chilling treatment-the 88th experienced for nearly four years of their services in the peninsula. These observations, which I regret being obliged to make, lead me on to others, touching the gallant behaviour of some who fell unnoticed, and others who survive unrewarded.

Lieutenant Whitelaw, of the 88th, led the advance of the ladders; he lost his life in so doing, but his name nowhere appears, except in the list of killed! Lieutenant William Mackie, the neglected and discountenanced leader of the forlorn-hope at Rodrigo-was most conspicuous during the assault of the castle of Badajoz, and was one of the first-if not the very first, to enter it; yet no mention is made of him. Captain Seton, commanding the regiment, and commanding such a fine fighting regiment as the 88th, on such an occasion too, got no rank-except in his turn. Lieutenant Macpherson, of the 45th, was the first to mount the round tower, upon the top of which floated the tri-coloured flag ; he got a company, but the rest I have mentioned-all 88th men, were never even noticed ; and although it would not be possible to reward every act of bravery in an army like the British, or in a regiment like the Connaught Rangers, it is, nevertheless, chilling to those who have deserved it, and enough to damp any ardour in those who may follow in their footsteps, to know that such facts as I write have taken place.

In the space of three short months, the following officers of the 88th were passed over,—their services unrewarded, -and they were not even noticed by their general. The first of these was Major Thomson, commanding the battalion at the storming of Rodrigo; the second, Lieutenant William Mackie, leading the forlorn hope; the third, Lieutenant Whitelaw, leading the advance of the ladders at Badajoz; the fourth, Captain Oates, in the attack of La Picurina ; and the fifth, Captain Seton, commanding the regiment on the night of the storming of Badajoz. Surely a change should be made in the system, or how can a regiment, much less an army, be supposed to work with good-will? When, in after-times, the details of these eventful epochs shall be read, if any person was bold enough to state that such a series of slights had been put upon the brave men who bore so conspicuous a share in their accomplishment, would he not be looked upon as a fool or madman ? Undoubtedly he would ; but as the writer of these “ Reminiscences " conceives himself to be neither the one nor the other, he gives them to the army and the world, and he challenges any person to disprove one scintilla of what he says. There are many still alive who have taken a part in those memorable combats ; and the writer feels confident that they will bear him out in what he asserts.

Towards the evening of the 9th, our camp was nearly emptied of all its saleable commodities, and the following morning was occupied in getting rid of the many Spaniards who still hovered about us, endeavouring to get a bargain of some of the unsold articles. By noon, all traffic had ceased, and the men began to arrange themselves for a fresh combat with Marshal Soult, who was advancing towards Badajoz. The appearance and demeanour of the soldiery in no way warranted the idea

« AnteriorContinuar »