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Letters of General William Wheatley 1812

On the 29th March, having received orders to sail to Lisbon and report at Wellington’s headquarters, General Wheatley took leave of his family and posted to Portsmouth to join his ship, from which place he sent the following hasty line to his wife :-

My Dearest Jane,

We arrived quite safe ½ after 3 and the post goes at 4, therefore it is impossible to give you any information.  The Latona waits for me and sails to-morrow should the wind prove fair. I will write tomorrow if possible. Yours affectionately, William Wheatley

This is supplemented by a longer letter dated the following day:

My dearest Jane,

The wind is now directly contrary, but I think it seems to incline a little to the eastward and Captain Southby[1] says he will make an attempt to get out to-morrow. He tells me I have a very comfortable cabin-comfortable for a sailor perhaps, but to a sick landsman everything on board ship is miserable. He has 14 passengers but only Colonel King[2] and myself and staff in the cabin. Poor Harry[3] is all kindness; he has insisted on my taking a brace of pistols he bought here this morning, he insists too on paying the post-chaise back to Brighton.

My baggage is all safe on board, I have nothing on shore but my little cloak case and sincerely hope I may be off to-morrow morning. The Latona does not convoy any ships, so it is hoped we may have a quick passage and I think it possible you may hear of our safe arrival at Lisbon in less than three weeks.  I will have a few lines ready to throw on board any vessel that may be going out of the Tagus as we go in. Ever your truly affectionately, William Wheatley.

On the 23rd of the month he reached Tomar at the foot of the Sierra d’Estrella, from his camp at this point he wrote:

My Dear Jane,

I am far on my road to join the army. The roads are horrible, almost impassable, and our baggage has occasionally been upset, but as yet we have not sustained any material damage. I was obliged to buy another mule and notwithstanding that assistance I have these last few days pressed some from the villages we have passed through to help in conveying not only my baggage but also every bit of forage both for ourselves and animals. We generally find bare walls and uninhabited houses and literally subsist upon the rations we take with us from one great town to another. This is a tolerably large town and a depot for stores, so I have determined to halt one day and recruit our nags and mules as well as lay in provisions for another week as we shall not be at Guarda much within that time.

My route here lay through Vila Franca [de Xira], Santarem and from thence to Abrantes, but the waters were so much out that I have to take this upper road through Torres-Novas and Tomar over the mountains; they told me the road was bad, and bad to be sure it is. However, I must now go on. My great object is to avoid the different columns of the army, the whole of which is moving to the north with the exception of Hill’s Division, and as the roads in the mountains are wholly impractical for the passage of artillery I hope there is no probability of my falling in with them.

My suite now consists of nearly thirty animals and a heterogeneous mixture of British, Portuguese and Spaniards to the number of about 22. Lambert[4] is dreadfully inactive and perfectly unknowing in every part of his duty. However, he may improve and is very quiet, civil and good-humoured. I shall brush him up a little when we join the army; it would be of no use now.

I was obliged to part with my batman the morning I left Lisbon, he had I believe never been sober since the day we sailed. I now believe the poor old man fell a sacrifice to his want of care and attention and is fortunate my other horses are alive. The general is the best, the other two both a little lame.

I have this moment been interrupted by the arrival of my friend Hornby of the 3rd Guards[5]; he left the Guards at Nisa on the 20th, all well. He tells me he saw Campbell who told him to say that Sir T[homas] Graham had applied to Lord Wellington to have me attached to his division (the First) in the place of Stopford[6]. This is a famous thing for me and exactly what I would have chosen. Believe me, ever affectionately yours, W.W.

Fuenteguinaldo, 4 May, 1812.

My Dearest Jane,

Behold me at length arrived at headquarters. Upon my arrival here an hour since I found Lord Wellington was gone out hunting and is not expected home until about 4 or 5 o’clock; an aide-de-camp is to let me know when I may have my audience. Lambert has brought me all my letters including three long letters from you. Many, many thanks for your punctuality and the delightfully good accounts they give of yourself and my dear children. I am glad you have resolved to take Puss to Oxford at her holidays. Her figure is of too great importance to be neglected. Poor little love, I hope she will grow up strong and healthy. I am glad the boys take so much to riding, it is a fine manly exercise, though somewhat ruinous to the pocket. It is my present intention to leave to join my brigade to-morrow; it is absolute starvation being unattached. The First Division is about seven days’ journey from here, at Nisa, and I hope then to have a little rest, for I assure you I am heartily sick of this constant moving, and am just now in a perfect fever. My cheeks would almost set fire to this paper, they are so hot owing perhaps partly to the sun, wind and rain (for they all come together) and a little portion of nervousness upon a first visit to my Commander-in-Chief. I got in here at 12 o’clock and Lord W[ellington] does not dine till seven p.m. while I breakfasted at the same hour a.m. and so wretchedly poor in this place that I cannot procure anything better than a small loaf of bread made of Indian corn, yet this is a Spanish village and far superior to anything on the confines of Portugal. God bless and preserve you and my children prays your very affectionate, W.W.

My Dearest Jane,

I feel very different from the date of my last from this place.  Then I was going up to Head Quarters to learn my destination, now I am comfortably attached and in two days hence hope to take complete possession of my honors. My brigade is at some little village in the neighbourhood of Nisa and I am very certain no quarters I can possibly have will be one half so bad as what I have lately been accustomed to.  The birds of the air and the beasts’ of the field have equally shared my apartments with me. The martens build their nests on the top round the roof and dogs (wild almost, at least perfectly unattached to any living soul) inhabit one corner with the whole of their numerous families.  Not being aware that one of these savage beasts had any further interest in the mansion than what personally belonged to him.  I endeavoured to persuade him to let me occupy it for one night alone, but the animal flew at me and very soon obliged me to retreat hastily; but upon a reinforcement coming up, we most gallantly attacked the enemy and then found out the lady had a large family hid in the rubbish and dirt, which is an invariable part of the furniture of these miserable habitations and of course now not much attended to.  After great difficulty we removed her and her pups, but it was well I discovered their situation before retiring to bed!

I could form no idea of the misery, wretchedness and poverty of the north of Portugal-the few inhabitants who remain there are literally starving.  They will absolutely pick up the corn from the leavings of the horses and will be thankful to you for that which a well fed dog in England would snarl at you for offering him.

I have now been nearly a month upon the road and both myself and my horses will be glad of a rest.  The grey keeps his flesh well, the little bay horse tolerably bur the General is a wretched miserable carcase.  I met Frank D’Oyley[7] on the road. He is rather sick of the Germans and is making interest to get posted to the 6th Division commanded by Clinton[8]. He says anything is better than smoking and spitting all day long, and honest dull John Bull is more to his taste.

I really believe I am very much indebted to Campbell for getting to this division; he immediately spoke to Sir T. Graham on the subject and it was only in consequence of the early application made to Lord Wellington that I can impute my success, as General Hope was exceedingly desirous of having the brigade and is likewise an old friend and fellow-countryman of General Graham’s. The latter has gone to Portugal where it is possible he may remain some time as Hill is advancing to Almaraz. Campbell in consequence commands this division.

What is this overture from Bonaparte, will it lead to a peace?  I dare not look forward to such a happy termination of my campaigns. Ever yours most affectionately, W.W.

P.S.-  Mr. Eyre tells me William[9] is gone on board the Bacchante but had not yet sailed. Campbell says Captain Taylor[10] is a most worthy man and has a very good set of youngsters on board.  I shall be very anxious to hear of his having joined the Apollo. Tom was a lucky dog in getting his extra one pound. I have no doubt it much lessened his sorrow at returning to school and your present to the poor quiz somewhat reconciled him to remaining at Beaconsfield.

May 19, 1812

My Dear Harry,

I wrote to you last week from Nisa. I am now firmly established in my brigade and a very pretty one it is. The 1st Battalion of the 42nd is just arrived from England and the second is to be drafted into it which will complete it to 1,200 men. The 79th is likewise a very smart regiment; you may remember them at Cadiz. The 24th is also very good, though weak. The 58th the less said about the better. The rest the men have lately had has completely recruited them, and we are now in as fine order as possible and fit for any service that can be required of us. I am likewise recovering from my fatigue, and the cattle begin to make a less display of their lean carcases, though the General was almost dead. I have a very good substitute for my drunken batman and two Scotch lads under him. My stud consists of three English horses, a Portuguese mare and five mules, and now that I am with my brigade I shall do very well as the commissary must assist me whenever I am overloaded. Living is very expensive and a new regulation has just come out to make general officers pay for whatever they draw upon the commissaries over their regular rations; this is very mean and dirty and will lessen the number of our feeds.

I got a cook from amongst the French deserters at Lisbon; he is no great catch, but is a willing dirty dog; today I have had an offer from a lady and tomorrow she is to be added to the establishment, so between the two cooks I hope to be pretty well served. Too many cooks they say spoil the broth, but it is anyhow a very miserable broth we get here as there are no vegetables to be had except now and then a stray lettuce and a few green herbs we sometimes pick up on the water’s edge.

We know nothing of Lord Wellington’s movements. When he comes down, it is supposed we will march into Spain, though much must depend upon circumstances. Ever affectionately yours, W.W.

Castello de Vide,20 May

We received a very sudden order this morning to march for Albuquerque. Drouet has advanced upon Hill and we are going to support him.

From near Matilla,

My Dear Harry,

The papers will inform you of Lord Wellington having moved the whole of his army into Spain. We are now about 5 leagues from Salamanca, so may expect to fall in with some of the enemy’s advanced picquets.

We are certainly superior to any force Marmont has had time to collect, and his position at Salamanca is not very strong and might with a superior force be easily turned. I really do not believe we shall have an opportunity of distinguishing ourselves this time. It is impossible to provision our troops in this country; our supplies must be all drawn from Ciudad Rodrigo, which is five days from Salamanca.

The army is formed into three columns, the right commanded by Sir Thos. Graham and composed of the 1st Division under Harry Campbell, the 6th under Clinton, the 7th under General Hope with three brigades of artillery and the 14th Light Dragoons, amounting in all to about 15,000 men. The centre is under General Leith, or more properly Lord Wellington himself, and consists of nearly the whole of the cavalry under Sir Stapleton Cotton, three divisions of infantry (the 4th, 5th and light) and heavy and light artillery. The left is under General Picton having his own division (the 3rd) with two strong brigades of Portuguese and the 11th Light Dragoons. We muster above 3,200 cavalry all in excellent condition and there is fine open country for the display of their superiority. The French have scarcely one third of that number. Should the enemy make a stand we may all come in for a share, but in my opinion the cavalry and light troops will divide the glory between them. I confess I shall not be very much vexed or disappointed if we are permitted to walk over the course. The salutations from the balconies of ‘Viva la Inglaterra’ from the mouths of pretty Spanish senoritas is certainly preferable to the sound of a d[amna]ble 24 pounder. Adieu, my dear Harry, yours very affectionately, W.W.

P.S.- June 18.  I received last night your letters, a Quarterly Review and a paper which Derby sent me from the Horse Guards containing the news of Mr. Percival’s assassination.

This is followed by another letter bearing the same date, the 18th June, written from Salamanca

My Dear Harry,

Lord Wellington has detained the courier until now. Clinton’s division led the column into the town yesterday; the enemy made no opposition. Marmont has left about 2,000 men in a convent in the town very strongly fortified. I should think our guns would be able to open them tomorrow morning, and unless they speedily capitulate the whole garrison must fall a sacrifice to such a wanton waste of his force. He (Marmont) has told them he will return with a large army in three days and relieve them, and some are inclined to think he may make an attempt of this sort. I think not. Yours very affectionately, W.W

My Dear Harry,

The ease with which we walked into Salamanca led us to suppose the enemy very weak in this part of the country. We were therefore somewhat surprised at his so sudden return. On the first three days Marmont reconnoitred our position, but I imagine conceived it too strong, as on the following morning he drew his whole army close to the river, which the same evening he crossed with part of his force. Our division made a corresponding movement and on the 24th the enemy re-crossed. However we are so apprehensive of a further visit on this side that we have begun to throw up some small field works.

The French garrison left in the fortified convent still holds out; our ammunition for the heavy artillery is all expended, but more is expected up this day. An attempt to storm has failed, we were driven back with considerable loss. General Bowes[11] put himself at the head of one of the parties and fell a victim to such unnecessary and indiscriminate valour. The engineers seem to have been most dreadfully deceived, from their report we were to have been in possession of the fort within six hours after our artillery had opened its fire; it is now ten days and we are as far off as ever. Lord Wellington is amazingly vexed and disappointed.

The Spaniards have not the smallest confidence in us, they tell us (and probably with great truth) that we shall very soon fall back again and that they have not the means, the power, or even the inclination to contend against such powerful enemies. About a month since we were authorised and required to enlist 100 of these heroes into my regiment. Not a man have we got though we held out a great bounty and treble the pay they would receive from their own government. I verily believe half the inhabitants of this ill-fated peninsula would prefer the despotic rule of the French to the detestable yoke placed upon them by their own government. Lord Wellington has been very liberal of his placards, etc., but as yet we are totally ignorant of their good effects. We see a few guerrillas, but no such thing as a regular army in the country.

Till within these last few days I have been obliged to bivouack with the men. Fortunately, I procured a small round tent from the commissary, but the heat was dreadful and the nights absolutely cold. His Lordship certainly never spares the soldiers. A campaign under his orders is no sinecure, but his pride and ambition are without bounds; death itself would hardly check them. Fortune has yet favoured him, but she is a slippery jade and, in the opinion of the army, has been too much courted.

Saturday evening, June 27th

I had scarcely finished my letter when news arrived in the camp that the fort [the convent] had capitulated. Our artillery were enabled to recommence their fire upon the works last night and with so much effect that a summons being sent in this morning, the garrison offered to surrender. Clinton has had a fatiguing and troublesome business, and I am heartily glad he has succeeded so well at last. God bless you, W.W.

Clinton remains at Cuella to watch Marmont’s movements, while we go further south. He has kept his own division (the 6th) and a regiment from each other division. I have in consequence lost my strongest battalion, the 42nd, and Colonel Stirling is to be placed on the staff and have a brigade when he will exert all his influence to take his own regiment with him; I must therefore, I fear, take leave of my highland friends.

We are very anxious for the next mail. Should Lords Grey and Grenville come in, it is to be hoped this d[amna]ble war will not be carried on in the same ruinous way it is now, though I much fear our chief’s brother. I fear England is in too unquiet a state to allow of ministers sending out more troops, and our king is too nervous a character to be willing just now to part with any more of his household troops; otherwise the addition we have got from the militia would almost enable us to send out the 1st Battalion [of the Guards].

I wish the Duke of Clarence would send out his son to me.[12]  My a.d.c. is a good tempered cheerful creature, but much too childish and entirely ignorant of his duties. The other, though equally young, has had much more attention paid to his education and is more of a companion. My Brigade Major is an excellent fellow and perfectly master of his duties; everything goes on very well, but in an active campaign it is always an advantage to have an extra mounted officer.

My Dear Harry,

I have but just finished my letter to Jane this morning when we received a sudden order to march from Medina del campo, where we had halted above a week, to this place, two short leagues in the rear.

Few are sanguine of this advance of ours into Spain and as yet we have experienced no good results from it.  The little bread we have been able to procure for our men is 15d. the pound, equal to 5 or 6 shillings the quarter loaf.  Meat is 13d and other things equally exorbitant. These are the sums paid by the Commissaries for the troops, you may therefore suppose individuals are obliged to purchase at a higher rate, and not one sixpence of pay have I received since I have been in this country. The army are paid up to the 24th of March only.[13] No soldier in this country costs government so little as two dollars a day. My opinion of this d[amned] war has never varied since my campaign with Sir John Moore; he saw the whole in its true light, ambition has blinded the eyes of the other.

I hope there is no chance of the First Battalion being ordered out. Should it however so happen, you should bring out a tent, a large portmanteau, bed and bedstead and hair cloth or bear skin.  Your baggage must consist of great things, no small packages; my breakfast canteens would be as good as any you can buy. They were made by Nickells in the Hay Market.

I most heartily and truly hope that all these directions will be unnecessary, for, great as the comfort would be to me, I have not the selfish ill-nature to wish you here. Yours very affectionately, W.W.

Should you come out, you must bring a couple of stiff hacknies (25 guineas each), they do better than a horse of higher price.  If there is any difficulty in putting them on board ship, let them be embarked in my name, many of the generals have horses coming out to them.

Carnizal, July 19

My Dearest Jane,

I believe the army was upon the move at the departure of my last letter. Since then we have had very little rest, continually on the alert. The French having crossed over a pretty strong force at Toro induced Lord Wellington to fall back upon this place. Yesterday there was pretty sharp skirmishing; our cavalry have, I fear, suffered rather severely. My friend Anson with his brigade behaved most gallantly, charged the enemy with the bayonet, completely repulsed him, killed many and took nearly 200 prisoners.

Our division was under arms at three in the morning, but received no orders to move until about nine, when we marched and countermarched until past ten at night, at which hour we were most excessively surprised to find ourselves within half a mile of our original ground.

It was one of the hottest days I have ever experienced and the dust of the column nearly suffocated the men. Our sick list has increased most dreadfully, so that even without an action we shall find our army terribly reduced since we left our strongholds in Portugal for the purpose of sky-larking over this country.[14] How all this will end God only knows. Today all is quiet, but we are much too close neighbours for it to remain so. It is a dashing game that His Lordship is playing; the courage, good-will and discipline of the Army will, I trust, ensure us success, but it may be purchased at vastly too dear a rate. Believe me, ever yours affectionately, William Wheatley

Camp: a few miles from Salamanca, July 24th

My Dear Harry,

Lord Clinton brings home the dispatches of a most glorious and complete victory over the enemy. He crossed the Douro on the 7th and had been manoeuvring upon our flanks ever since until yesterday, always obliging us to change our position. His Lordship, I imagine, grew heartily sick of this mode of proceeding, and at about 2 o’clock yesterday, just as Marmont was upon the point of turning our right, which would have obliged us to give up Salamanca and retire upon Ciudad Rodrigo. He ordered the whole army to advance and determined to force Marmont to a general action. A most tremendous fire was kept up on both sides for many hours but British valour was at last successful and we gained the most complete victory possible over the enemy who fled in every direction. We followed him close all night and again the whole of to-day and shall probably proceed to-morrow.  The road we are now upon leads both to Valladolid and to Madrid and it is not yet ascertained along which the French will retire. No returns have yet been made out, but our loss must, I fear, have been very severe; I should suppose it not less than 2,000, that of the enemy greatly exceeds ours. Report says we have taken nearly 5,000prisoners, 12 guns and three eagles.

Marmont has lost an arm and two other generals have been brought in mortally wounded. Marshal Beresford, Sir Stapleton Cotton and Generals Cole and Alten are among the wounded. I am sorry to add General Le Marchant is killed; his son, poor fellow, was out here with him as his a.d.c.

The 1st Division were very little engaged; only our light companies. I have not had an officer touched in my brigade and only 8 or 10 men. We were kept as a reserve, but all did their duty so well that we were not called upon till late in the day. We were in the advance the whole of the night and to-day and have, in conjunction with the cavalry, taken a great number of prisoners who were unable to keep up with the rapidity with which the enemy moved off. You will see all particulars in the Gazette. God bless you all, W.W.

Penoranda, July 25th

My Dear Harry,

We are still in pursuit of the enemy and prisoners, baggage, etc, are coming in every moment. We have been the whole time in the advance, consequently we do not gain quite such correct information of this brilliant affair as those more in the rear and nearer to Salamanca, but we are told that the prisoners already taken amount to nearly 7000, that they lost about 4000 in killed and wounded besides numbers destroyed by the peasants.  We may therefore compute their total to amount to between 12,000 and 15,000 men hors de combat.  This will prevent any offensive operations on the part of the enemy for some time to come.  We might now almost expect to drive the French beyond the Ebro.  We are now on the high road to Madrid, but His Lordship may perhaps bend his course towards Valladolid and thereby cut off all communications with the North of Spain.

A movement made by the First Division, but more immediately by my brigade, greatly tended to accelerate the defeat of the enemy, who was rapidly coming down in a strong column upon the centre of our line but suddenly halted and paused on seeing my brigade drawn up ready to receive them, and after examining for a minute the terrific appearance of my sans culottes, put about; an example which was very soon followed by their whole army. Therefore, though not much engaged, I take a little to myself in the affair.

The French have never had so complete a drubbing; the prisoners say all is confusion in their army, all their chiefs are either killed or wounded, few to give orders, none to obey them, dispirited, fagged and more than half starved. We heard this morning that our cavalry had come up with about 3,000 sick and wounded, amongst them two generals, Sonnet one of them. It is not improbable but that we may overtake Marmont; he is so badly wounded as to be unable to bear the jolting of a carriage and is obliged to be carried by his soldiers. Yours very affectionately, W.W.

Camp, near Portillo, August 2nd

My Dear Harry,

Lord Clinton is doubtless arrived before this with the news of our late victory. The whole of the enemy’s scattered forces crossed the Douro on the 30th July near Valladolid, which place we entered on the same afternoon. Some few heavy guns, some store ammunition and about 1000 sick were all the enemy left behind. We were in hopes to have found a more abundant supply of everything as that place had long been considered as the ground depot between Madrid and Burgos.

Our cavalry are now pursuing them on the right bank of the river.  It is generally supposed that they are proceeding to Aranda to form a junction with King Joseph’s army, which may consist of 12,000 men, the greater part Juramentados, which will not add much to their effective strength, unless the native changes his nature with loyalty.  Whither our Army will direct its course next is unknown to us little folks, but it is thought by most that we shall not pursue our beaten enemy much further, but rather turn our faces to Madrid, in which direction Suchet is marching from Valencia.  Soult we imagine must also break up from Andalusia, raise the siege of Cadiz and fall back likewise upon the Capital.  What a little thing turns the scale in human affairs!  Had Marmont allowed us quietly to withdraw our army on the 22nd, from Salamanca, we should most probably be now before Ciudad Rodrigo.

I rode into Valladolid with Campbell the same evening we arrived on the Douro to see that celebrated city.  It fell far short of our expectations, nine fine churches and convents, but all poverty, gloom and wretchedness. However, as many families had fled in consequence of the near approach of the two armies, a few days may give it a more cheerful and lively appearance.

Palacio de Rio Frio, two leagues from Segovia, August 9th

We are so far on our road to Madrid, or, as some say, to Toledo. Joseph is said to be still in Madrid, but as we are now within 14 leagues of that capital, he will probably quickly re-move and, it is generally supposed, attach himself to Soult’s army as being the strongest and safest for his royal person.[15]

I congratulate you upon mounting the Tilbury. I wish I could exchange horses with you; I have a capital one out here for that purpose and the piebald would drive you equally well.

Segovia is a fine city, the Cathedral magnificent. I went into the castle and was shown the identical room and bed where Gil Blas was confined; had I appeared at all incredulous, the person would in all probability have sworn to the fact, although I very much suspect this hero was a fictitious character of the author.  Head Quarters are at San Ildefonso, a magnificent palace. I am likewise close to a palace, but only bare walls though a most superb building.

My Dearest Jane,

We marched in here yesterday morning a few hours after the fort on the Retiro surrendered to us by capitulation, the garrison marched out prisoners of war the same evening. Everything thus so far goes on prosperously.  King Joe is gone towards Toledo.

I imagine we shall follow in a day or two. When we get to the Tagus we shall in all probability halt for a short time, as it will not be prudent to leave Marmont in the North. However, the game is all alive, and if I say so, you may easily imagine the language held by others more sanguine than myself.

I am lodged most magnificently here with 4 or 5 rooms to myself, a handsome suite of apartments for my aide-de-camp and similar accommodation for my Brigade Major. The troops are all bivouacked in a wood within a mile of the town, the general and staff only being quartered on the inhabitants.  Little did my mother imagine at the time I was born that on that very day 41 years later I should enter the Spanish capital in triumph, dine in the palace of His Catholic Majesty and accompany our Commander-in-Chief to the play in the evening! His Lordship and staff were drawn in carriages with six mules each, crimson velvet harness and gold bucklers. On the day before Campbell and myself thought ourselves highly fortunate in getting into a ruinous old chapel and putting our beds in a gallery with the rooks and crows; on the following day we are superbly lodged in the house of a Spanish grandee (the Don, however, is gone with all his family to Majorca). Such are the changes and chances of a military life.

However, as long as things go on well with any prospect of success, I dislike the business as little as others, though when all is gloom, cheerless and unprofitable, I confess it is then a sad, comfortless existence.

The Spaniards appear rejoiced at their deliverance from the French yoke and talk very big.  They are to have 100,000 men under arms immediately!  I met at Lord Wellington’s table yesterday all the guerilla chiefs and a very pretty collection they are!  The Palace is most superb; the whole of the furniture comes from Paris, no expense whatever has been spared, the whole damask, the chairs literally too handsome for use—indeed the whole far superior to anything a person can form an idea of.  I have never seen anything either in England or France equal to this magnificence.

Campbell and I are going to hire a fiacre and view the antiquities; the gallery of pictures and some of the palaces of the nobles, they tell us, are well worth seeing.

Write to Harry and give him an account of our entry into the capital.  The people absolutely kissed us most unmercifully, men, women and children.  I cannot say I was very much gratified with this mark of their favour-great deal too much garlic for me.

Adieu, my dear Janny; I had much rather be in the smallest cottage in England than in the grand room I am now writing in. God bless you all, yours very affectionately, W.W.

Camp near Burgos, 21 September, 1812

My Dear Harry,

I am this moment informed a messenger is going off to Corunna and I write a line in great haste for the chance of its meeting you on the road to acquaint you with the sad loss we have sustained.  Your poor brother is alas!  no more; he died at the Escurial on the night of the 1st instant of a fever after 14 days illness, and his friend and ours, poor Dick Hulse, only survived him a week. To lose two such friends in such a way is too sad and has cast a gloom over us all.  God bless you, my dear Harry, and enable you to support this severe affliction.  I have not time to say more now.  I hope we shall meet soon, ever most truly, and affectionately yours, H. Campbell.

If Colonel Wheatley is not met on the road or at Corunna, it is requested this letter may be destroyed. H.Campbell

We may conclude with a brief letter received a year later by Mrs. Wheatley from the Duke of York.

Horseguards, 27th February, 1813


I take the earliest opportunity in my power to assure you that I shall have great pleasure in complying with your request whenever your son is eligible for a Commission and that a vacancy occurs in the 1st Guards.

I am, Madam, your most obedient servant, Frederick

[1] Captain Charles Southeby commanded HMS Latona in early 1812.

[2] Lieutenant Colonel the honourable Henry King 5th Foot.

[3] General Wheatley’s brother, to whom many of the letters are addressed.  He became later Sir Henry Wheatley, Keeper of the Privy Purse to Queen Victoria.

[4] Ensign Sir John Henry Lambert, his aide de camp.

[5] Ensign Charles Hornby 3rd Foot Guards.

[6] Brevet Colonel the honourable Edward Stopford had commanded a brigade in the 1st Division.

[7] Brevet Major Francis D’Oyley adc to Major Dilkes.

[8] Major General Henry Clinton commanded the 6th Division.

[9] William Wheatley his eldest son.

[10] This comment is difficult to reconcile as the captain of Bacchante was Captain William Hoste.

[11] Major General Barnard Foord Bowes was killed at Salamanca on 24 June 1812.

[12] General Wheatley had long had a personal friendship with the Duke of York, Commander-in-Chief of the army, which probably explains the reason for this proposal.

[13] Wellington himself, writing to our Envoy to the Portuguese regency at about the same time, expresses himself in the following forcible terms on this subject: “I have never been in such distress as at present, and some serious misfortune must happen if the Government do not seriously attend to the matter and supply us regularly with money.  The arrears and distresses of the Portuguese are a joke to ours, and if our credit was not better than theirs, we should certainly starve. As it is, if we don’t find means to pay our bills for butcher’s meat. There will be an end to the war at once.” 9Gurwood’s despatches of the Duke of Wellington,’ 1X, 289)

[14] A return preserved in General Wheatley’s archives shows that at the Battle of Salamanca rather more than a quarter of his own Brigade were on the sick list.

[15] In the event the King joined Soult at Valencia, having recalled him from Andalusia.

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