BY CAPTAIN JOSEPH BARRALLIER, LATE 71ST REGIMENT
The 71st Highland Light Infantry, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Pack†, marched from Brabourn lees in June 1809 for Portsmouth, and remained encamped for some time near Portsea. On the 15th July, eight companies on board His Majesty’s ships Belleisle†, and two companies embarked in the frigate, commanded by Lord Cochrane. Ten days afterwards the fleet sailed for the Downs and came to anchor on the 28th. In the evening the first division of the army sailed for the Coast of Holland; the 2nd division proceeded on the 29th and anchored that evening off the Island of Walcheren. The signal was then flying for the troops to land the following morning, wind and weather permitting.
Accordingly, next morning at six o’clock, fleet got under weigh, and led on by Sir Home Popham made towards the shore in the direction of Ter Vere, but in a short time nearly all the line of battle ships run aground. At eleven the signal was made to land, and as soon as the boats were ready, the brigade composed of the 68th, 85th, and 71st, Regiments of light infantry, under command of Brigadier General Baron de Rottenburg†, got into them, with three days provisions and sixty rounds of ammunition. The boats silently proceeded for the shore; but owing to the shallowness of the water, soon grounded, and the men had to wade a quarter of a mile, in mud, and water, up to their middle. I was in the act of following my men, when one of the sailors leaped over the side of the boat, ‘By God, sir, you shall not get wet, you will have work enough before night,’ and absolutely placed me on his back. But he had not proceeded many paces before he got into a hole, and I was as well soused as if I had been wading all the time; I begged of him to let me proceed without his aid; but it was with great reluctance that he did so.
As the boats containing the 71st reached the shore the men formed on the beach, and at once moved over the sea dyke to some sand hills. No opposition was offered to our landing, nor up to the period of our reaching the sand hills had we seen a single Frenchman. Skirmishers were ordered out to a wood in front of us, and the enemy was soon fallen in with, dislodged, and driven back on Middleburgh. The skirmishing now became pretty sharp. Six companies of the 71st, commanded by Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Peacocke†, Major Jones†, and Captain Mackenzie†, had been at intervals sent to the support of the skirmishers; several prisoners were made, and we took two pieces of cannon.
Lieutenant Colonel Pack, with the reserve four companies of the 71st Regiment, had been standing at ease on the ground we had first occupied when he received orders to move to his left along the sea dyke leading to Ter Vere. On our march we took Fort Hock, just as the enemy was leaving it, and we found there were two pieces of cannon. An officer (Lieutenant Fox†) and twenty men were left to garrison the fort, and the remainder of the reserved marched forward.
We had made several prisoners, some of them Italians. The company to which I belonged was leading, Colonel Pack was marching beside me, and as I spoke Italian, he requested me to question the prisoners as to the strength and garrison of Ter Vere; I was informed in reply that the town was badly fortified, and that there was but a slender garrison of five hundred men, and very sickly. Having reported the conversation I had had with the prisoners to my colonel, he desired me to question them further. Our march had continued and we had now reached a road branching from the dyke, when the prisoners told me we were not far from the town of Ter Vere. The 71st halted, and Colonel Pack gave me one sergeant, two rank and file, one bugler, and one of the prisoners, and desired me to proceed and reconnoitre with a view of ascertaining if we possibly could get into the town. Having placed the prisoner between the file of men, I proceeded along the sea dyke. The night was intensely dark, but I had not marched many minutes when I was challenged with ‘Qui Vive.’ My Sergeant (Smith) had a little dog who had followed him, and the animal commenced barking. The French sentinel instantly fired, and by the flash of his musket, I found I was close under a cavalier battery. A guard of about twenty men had turned out, and commenced firing at me, but as I was close to the walls, the whole fire passed over my head; I now desired my men to cover their white belts with their great coats and to lay-down; but instead of this, the Sergeant commenced firing. The commanding officers’ bugler sounded the advance, and it was instantly repeated by all the bugles; but no one came to my aid. The enemy now directed his fire from every part of the ramparts, to the place from whence the bugles had sounded. My escort was making their way to the rear, and as I followed them I stumbled against a post on the sea dyke, and fell on some wooden pickets, which the Dutch use to prevent the sea from injuring their dykes. On rising I found I had sprained my right knee, and had to seat myself down again. I remained about a quarter of an hour in this position, while the enemy continued a heavy fire of cannon and musketry, along the dyke and from all parts of the ramparts. At length I again attempted to walk but was unable to proceed far, and was compelled from pain to give it up.
I had now reached the place where I had left the regiment; but found no one there. I might have been in that situation about a quarter of an hour, when I heard a party approaching in double quick time – I knew not if friend or foe – but I was soon relieved from my anxiety. It was a picket of the 71st returning, and endeavouring to join Colonel Pack, calling out to the men, where are you going to? A serjeant informed me that Lieutenant Lockwood† commanded the picket, and that officer being my senior, I said no more. They soon left me, as I was unable to keep up with them.
Having remained for some time longer in my lonesome position, and seeing no chance of my being able to find out my own colonel, I resolved to make the best of my way to the rear; I followed the road on the sea dyke, as the enemy had somewhat relaxed his firing. The night, as I have before observed, was extremely dark, and a small mizly rain was falling; I had not proceeded a quarter of a mile when I distinctly heard the well-known measured step of troops approaching. I was soon challenged, and found myself confronted by Captain Lewis Grant of the 71st. He had been out skirmishing with his company on our landing, and was now proceeding to join Colonel Pack. After a few words we parted, and I again made the best of my way to the rear. In about half an hour, I heard troops approaching once more, and they proved to be the brigade, under Major-General Picton. The general put a great number of questions to me, which having answered, he said, you will instantly proceed with all possible despatch, and report what has taken place to the Commander-in Chief. I told the general that I had fallen over some pickets on the dyke, and that I walked with difficulty, having injured my right knee; but he only reiterated his commands in a peremptory tone, Further reply was useless, and I was commencing my march for Fort Hock, when a field officer rode up to me, saying, ‘are you wounded?’‘No sir,’ was my reply, ‘I have fallen over some pickets on the dyke, and have injured one of my knees;’ he then put several questions to me, and dismounting from his horse, said, ‘71st mount my horse, and you will then be able to obey the order General Picton has given you.’ This was Colonel Burne of the 36thRegiment†; I could not help contrasting the mildness of the one, with the peremptory command of the other.
Mounted on Colonel Burne’s horse, I proceeded as fast as the darkness of the night would permit me, and on reaching Fort Hock, I was surrounded by a swarm of staff officers, all anxious to know what had taken place. The night was now far advanced, and I perceived considerable bustle all around. Amongst the staff officers who had questioned me was Lieutenant Colonel Sir Howard Douglas†. I was soon brought before the Commander-in-Chief, the Earl of Chatham†, who after having heard my report, ordered one of his aides-de-camp to see that refreshments were given me, which was most acceptable as my rations had been completely soaked on landing. I was then called again before his lordship, who said to me that there were more men of the 71st in the fort than was necessary, that I was to have them fallen in, keep what you require for the duty of the fort, and order the rest to proceed to join the regiment. On falling the men in, I found there were eighty and three officers. I happened to be senior, and reporting it to the Commander-in Chief, his lordship told me that as I required rest, I should remain in command, and that I was to keep what men I required. I gave the charge of the surplus men to Lieutenant Fox.
During the night I was busily employed by Sir Howard Douglas in placing the guns in such positions as might render them useful for the defence of the fort if necessary. This night a great portion of the army had disembarked, and a considerable movement of troops had taken place. In the morning I asked and obtained permission to join my regiment. I was about leaving the fort, when Brevet Lieutenant Colonel, Peacocke, our senior major, with two companies came in, and after a short halt, moved forward; shortly after Major Jones arrived with two companies of the 71st, rested the men for a short time, and when they moved to the front, I proceeded with them. About two o’clock in the afternoon we reached the head quarters of the 71st. They were encamped on the extreme right of Ter-Vere, and the town was now completely invested. The enemy at intervals kept firing shot and shells, but did little harm.
As soon as Colonel Pack saw me, he laughingly said, ‘Well Mr. Barrallier, what became of you last night?’ my reply was ‘Why colonel, when you sent me to reconnoitre, you promised to support me, but you never made your appearance.’ He then told me that when the enemy opened his fire at me, he had given the word for the advance guard to support me, that his bugle had sounded the advance, and that it had been repeated by all the other bugles, and that the regiment had rushed forward taking the road branching off from the dyke, and had actually reached one of the town gates before the drawbridge could be raised by the enemy. Our loss during the night was our Surgeon Quin†, who was shot dead in the act of dressing a wounded soldier, and forty rank and file killed and wounded. In reply to my question if he thought we might have got in, my colonel shook his head and said there are 1,500 men in the town, and the walls are defended by forty pieces of cannon.
The enemy during the day still fired a few shots and shells at us—our gun-boats had now surrounded the town by sea and had commenced cannonading the enemy. Proposals had been made to the French commandant to surrender, and he replied that he would, if allowed to march out with the honours of war and not considered as a prisoner, but this offer was of course rejected. During the night the French commandant asked for a cessation of arms until twelve the next day. This was conceded, and at the expiration of the time he surrendered. The 71st took possession of Ter-Vere, and soon after the 2nd battalion 63rd regiment relieved us. The 71st then moved to the left along the sea dyke to a village called Arnemuiden.
Night having come on, Colonel Pack halted the regiment in a small field, outside and in front of the village. At two in the morning, the men were ordered to stand to their arms, and a scene of confusion took place which baffles description. The inhabitants during the night had given our men gin, and when ordered to fall in, one half of them were unable. I never before saw Colonel Pack in such a rage, he actually foamed, and it was enough to make any man do so. The men were again ordered to lay down, and after an hour’s rest, Colonel Pack took the road leading to Fort Ramekins along the sea dyke, and soon restored order; Fort Ramekins was taken, and the regiment encamped near a windmill about three miles from Flushing [Vlissingen], forming the extreme left of the army. Colonel Pack had now under his command a company of rifles and a brigade of artillery.
On Colonel Pack quitting Arnemuiden, Lieutenant Lockwood was left in charge of the sick, and as I was unable to walk I was ordered to remain. The following day Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Peacocke, who had been seized with a fit of the gout, came and assumed the command. We could daily hear distant cannonading, but received no news from our regiment, and although we had no duty to perform, we found our time very tiresome.
The head quarters of the army was now at Middleburg, I had been sent by Colonel Peacocke with a letter to Colonel Lang, and a few days after, an orderly dragoon stopped at the colonel’s door when we were at dinner, and no sooner had Colonel Peacock glanced over the contents of the letter, then the pains he had been suffering from the gout left him. He jumped up from his chair, calling to his servant to have his horse saddled, and as soon as the horse was brought to the door, the colonel vaulted into the saddle far nimbler than I could have done, and galloped away. He had been appointed Superintendant of French prisoners, a post in the rear.
Lieutenant Lockwood and self having applied to Colonel Pack to have us relieved, a day or two afterwards a detachment of the 63rd relieved us, and on the 8th August we joined the head quarters of our regiment. Colonel Pack said to us, ‘You are quite in time, for nothing as yet has been done.’ We joined our respective companies, and at night I was ordered on an outlaying picket with thirty men; taking with them pickaxes and shovels. The picket marched about half a mile in front of our encampment, when they were ordered to halt, and a young officer of engineers then pointed out to me the line the picket was to take up, and entrench itself, but having attentively listened to him, I said, ‘Why, sir, it is customary for men at once to put themselves under cover by digging a hole, and then to proceed and communicate with each other.’ The night was extremely dark, and I was surprised at being tapped on the shoulder by an officer I had not before observed, and who said to Colonel Pack, ‘Who is this officer?’ Colonel Pack replied that I was one of his lieutenants. The officer who had tapped me on the shoulder was Lieutenant General Sir Eyre Coote, second in command, and again placing his hand on my shoulder said hastily, ‘you’re the lad for me.’ The engineer was dispensed with, and I acted in his absence. The following day I was in general orders to act as assistant engineer, and had the charge of the workmen in the construction of two batteries, one of three twenty-four pounders, and one of four mortars, under the direction of Captain Pasley, R.E.†
During the erection of these batteries the enemy kept a constant fire, and greatly annoyed us, we had several men killed and wounded, and Captain Browne of the 77th Regiment†, who commanded a working party, lost a leg by a cannon ball. On the 10th the two batteries were completed. I asked leave to go and see General Graham† who commended the extreme right of the army; and I was appointed to General Graham’s brigade. Captain Birch† commanded the Engineers.
On the 18th of August, having now joined Major-General Graham’s brigade, I was in my turn with the other officers of engineers, in charge of the working parties erecting several batteries; the enemy kept up a constant cannonade at us. Next day the batteries along the lines being completed, the bombardment of Flushing commenced at half-past one p.m. The fire was tremendous; but as the wind was not favourable, the line-of-battle ships could not come up. Several parts of Flushing were soon on fire, and a church was burnt to the ground. During the night we drove in the French pickets, and a battery for breaching was commenced; one field piece was taken, and some prisoners.
On the 14th the bombardment was still going on in all directions. At ten in the morning several line-of-battle ships passed the point, and poured in a tremendous broadside. The town was then on fire in several places and had been so all night. The Government House burnt to the ground. We had hard work of it all night erecting a battery at 100 yards from the walls of Flushing. In the course of the evening the enemy ceased firing. The 71st, with a detachment of the 86th regiment, was sharply engaged on the left, and took a two-gun battery from the enemy, which had been causing much annoyance. Next morning the town of Flushing surrendered, and the Royals [1st Foot] took possession of the right gate (or Middleburg).
On the 16th all the works were stopped. I obtained leave to go and see my regiment. The town gates were taken possession of by us. The loss of the inhabitants is said to have been upwards of 800 killed and wounded, men, women, and children. A great deal of this was caused by the French general refusing to allow any of the inhabitants to leave the town; and I am assured that there is scarcely a house that has not several shots through it. It was calculated that our batteries fired at the rate of one hundred rounds per gun daily. The enemy’s works on the N.W. side of Flushing are in a dilapidated state; and had he not surrendered, we should have entered it in a day or two. The town was bombarded by 50 pieces of cannon; the Seaman’s Battery was the most advanced one.
On the 17th, at six in the morning, a portion of our army marched to the suburbs of Flushing, ad formed into line. At seven the French garrison marched out and laid down their arms, and were instantly escorted by a strong guard to the sea side, to be shipped for England. They consisted of five thousand men. One fine regiment I observed as the French marched out, but it was a Prussian one.
The next day I visited Flushing, and walked round the ramparts, and the dock-yard. A canal runs nearly through the town, and has several bridges over it. The entrance is in the South face, and after a circuit of about three miles, it terminates near the dockyard. In the yard, there was a 50-gun ship, a 28, and a gun brig on the stocks.
On the 20th, I received orders to march to Middleburg and Ter-Vere, and on the 22nd embarked, with a party of workmen from different regiments, attached to the engineers under the command of Lieutenant Baird, 77thRegiment†; Lieutenant Martyn, 11th†; Lieutenant Archdeacon, 84th†; Lieutenant Barrallier, 71st; Lieutenant Seymour, 59th†; and Ensign Ford, 79th Regiment†. The following day we proceeded up the river for Flushing, whence, we sailed for Fort Batt, and reached on the 26th.
29th. A council of war having been held all the transports got under sail and returned to Flushing. I reached Flushing on the 30th, and found a portion of the army was proceeding to England. We were getting very sickly.Having reported myself to the commanding officer of the engineers at Middleburg, on the 31st August, I received orders to proceed to Ter-vere. Accompanied by Lieutenant Colonel D’Arcy, R.E.†, who surveyed the works of the town, which were put in a perfect state of defence, the 71stRegiment marched into Ter-Vere. Lieutenant Colonel Pack was appointed commandant, and Lieutenant Clements, 71stRegiment, town major.†
Brigadier-General Baron de Rottenburg again assumed the command of the light brigade, composed of the 68th, 71st, and 85thRegiments – the headquarters of the brigade were at Ter-vere.
On the 1st September, I accompanied Lieutenant Colonel D’Arcy, R.E., round the works, and he gave me the necessary instructions to proceed and put them in a fit state of defence. I made application to Brigadier General de Rottenburg for working parties; and having obtained them, the requisite repairs were commenced and continued up to the 8th, when the works were stopped for want of men, the garrison becoming very sickly. The 68thRegiment marched into Ter-vere and relieved the 64thRegiment. On the 9th, having again obtained working parties, the works proceeded with all possible despatch.
In walking round the town I came to the spot where I had parted from Colonel Pack on the night we landed. Nothing but the intense darkness of the night prevented the enemy from annihilating us. No less than ten pieces of cannon, and from 600 to 700 infantry, who lined the walls, kept up a constant fire at us.
The number of our sick in the island, now amounted to upwards of 8,000, and was daily increasing. It was reported that the French had a force of 1,500 men in South Beveland. All the corn in the island had been housed.
On the 10th, we commenced laying down platforms and erecting powder magazines, along the ramparts. Several of our gun boats, which had been at anchor near Ter-vere, were sunk by the boisterous weather we had on the previous night. I visited one, and was surprised at their having been able to live on the water. Though the one I boarded was of the largest class, there was barely room for one person to move in what is called the cabin. Some had a long 24 pounder on a traversing platform; some, two of these guns. They were forward into divisions, and stationed as far as Arnemuiden Point. We cannonaded the enemy, from Arnemuiden, all day, on the 10th. The garrison is now so reduced by sickness, that the working parties were withdrawn, and I received orders to employ the peasantry in future.
A cannonade is daily kept up on the enemy from Arnemuiden Point; orders were issued not to land the artillery and ammunition, which had been intended for Ter-vere. From this I inferred that we should soon evacuate the island. The works, however, were proceeded with, by aid of the peasantry, though our sick continued increasing fast, and daily leaving the island for England. The greater portion of the officers and men of the 71stRegiment, were on the sick list or gone home; and the two regiments, 68th and 71st, composing the garrison, had scarcely men enough left for the duty of the place. The weather setting in cold, we were in hopes that it would check the sickness. In consequence of the great deficiency of officers, I was re-called from the engineers; and, succeeded by Lieutenant Wells, R.E.†, joined the 71st. We had now 426 men of the 71st in the hospital, not including those who had gone home, and those at Middleburg; Major Jones commanded.
On the 27th, I marched the company I command, and going on, consisting of one corporal and five men, all that were off duty and going on, to parade. We presented a melancholy appearance; and it was really deplorable to see every morning, from 300 to 400 men of each regiment, in Ter-vere, creeping towards several hogsheads in the place, filled with port and wine and bark. Each man, in his turn, has to drink a pint of this nauseous stuff, and again crawl back to the hospital. Their aspect is dreadful. Our regimental mess is composed of fourteen officers only, though we landed 49 officers and 1,005 rank and file. Such has been the melancholy loss we have experienced in the short space of six weeks.
On the 28th, I mounted the Middleburg-gate guard. Several transports arrived from England to take home our sick; and it was currently reported, by the passage-boat people from North Beveland, that the enemy intended attacking us. We had a very severe thunder storm, with much rain and wind; and all the shipping near Ter-vere had to leave anchorage and seek shelter. A party of seamen, under the command of Lieutenant Collingwood, and a detachment of the 71st regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Park†, were sent to North Beveland for cattle.
On visiting the hospital, on the 3d October, as Orderly Officer, I found our sick number 402, and 100 gone home, since the 26th September. Another party of seamen, and of the 71st, under the same officer as before, went to North Beveland for cattle; and on the 8th the French sent a party of 200 men to intercept them; but they were too late. It was reported that the French had several thousand men on the island of South Beveland.
The army of occupation continued to die fast at Middleburg. We are somewhat healthier here; though I can safely say that, since our landing and the fall of Flushing, not a single soldier who was taken ill, returned to his duty for more than two or three days. Officers and men were now carried to their graves by six or eight men, without any order; and so numerous were the deaths, that it was found necessary to dispense altogether with firing parties. In the midst of these calamities, it was rumoured that the ratification of peace had been accomplished between Austria and France; and on the 4th of November, to my great satisfaction, I embarked in charge of sick for England, and landed at Deal on the 6th, when I obtained leave of absence for six weeks. On the expiration of my leave, I joined the sick depot of the 71st at Brabourn lees.
RECOLLECTIONS OF SERVICE IN SPAIN AND PORTUGAL
In February, 1812, an order for a draft of eighty men and four officers of the 2ndBattalion, 71st Regiment, were ordered to proceed from Ospringe to Portsmouth. The detachment was commanded by Captain Henderson†, and the officers were Lieutenant Fletcher†, Lieutenant Barrallier, Ensign Pack† and Assistant Surgeon Lightbody†. On reaching Portsmouth on March 4th, we embarked the same day; Captain Henderson returned to the 2nd Battalion, and the command fell to Lieutenant Fletcher. The other troops on board the transport consisted of drafts of the 45th Regiment, under the command of Captain Leslie†, and a draft of the 74th Regiment., commanded by Ensign Hamilton†.
We sailed in company with several other transports under convoy, and took our departure from the Land’s End on the 15th, blowing hard but fair. On the 18th, the wind suddenly changed and became foul. We had expected to reach Lisbon in a day or two more; but owing to the strong head wind we had experienced for several days, we parted from the convoy; every endeavour was made to round Cape Finisterre, but the gale continuing, we were unable to do so. On the 23rd, we made the Lighthouse of Corunna, the Agent of Transports, Lieutenant Lewis, R.N., as well as the master, deemed it useless to contend at sea any longer, and in the course of that day we dropped anchor in the harbour of Corunna. Shortly after the ship was anchored, I obtained leave to go on shore.
On the 24th, we reported ourselves to Lieutenant Colonel Sir Howard Douglas, who was at Corunna on a special mission, and from whom we experienced much civility. Sir Howard Douglas wishing to obtain some relief for our men, who were so closely packed, applied to the Spanish governor for leave to land the detachment of the 71st Regt., being the only detachment fully accoutred; but was refused. It was, however, arranged between Sir Howard and my old friend and school-fellow, Collingwood, whom I met here First Lieutenant of the Iris frigate†, that the boats of the Iris should land us, and also a party of seamen, and have what is called a sham fight. We were landed on the opposite side of the bay, and we had arranged that the 71st should crown the hill, and the men under Lieutenant Collingwood, with two field pieces, should attack us. The day passed off pleasantly; and during our stay at Corunna, we received the kindest treatment from Sir Howard Douglas, who took me to all the evening parties he used to attend.
I dined frequently at a posada, at which there was an ordinary frequented by Spanish officers. I have met two French officers, one of whom I observed kept constantly eyeing me, and endeavouring to attract my attention; but as it was a public room, I pretended not to observe him. On leaving the table and reaching the door, I looked round, and finding that the French officer had still his eye fixed on me, I returned his signal. He instantly rose and came to me, holding out his hand, which I took. He was soon aware that I was a brother [a fellow mason], and he informed me that he was one of Napoleon’s aides-de-camp, and had been Lieutenant Colonel commanding the 16th Light Dragoons; that he had been wounded at the battle of Albuera; taken prisoner, and placed in Marshal Beresford’s division. His name was Count Bourbon Bussett. Through the intercession of Marshal Beresford, he had been sent to Corunna, with a view of being exchanged; but the Spanish authorities, as soon as they knew who he was, had placed him on board an old hulk in the bay, and would not hear of him being exchanged. The other French officer was also a Lieutenant Colonel, and an aide-de-camp of Napoleon, and had been taken prisoner by Lieutenant Collingwood, R.N., in one of his numberless attacks on the various French fort’s along the Spanish coast. I introduced Count Bourbon Bussett to Lieutenant Collingwood, by whom, and the officers of the Orion frigate†, then in the bay, he was frequently asked to dinner. Had Colonel Wardle†ever had occasion to visit Corunna at that period, he might well have said that he could not look out of window without seeing a Lieutenant Colonel pass; the garrison contained more officers than men.
The stormy weather having somewhat abated, we sailed from Corunna on the 20th April, and reached Lisbon on the 26th, with an instruction that we were to march in a day or two to Badajoz. I purchased an animal to convey my baggage, and made all the necessary arrangements for the march. During my short stay at Lisbon, I visited some of the places worth seeing, and found the inhabitants by no means as indolent as in Spain. On leaving Lisbon, we proceeded in boats to Vila Franca [de Xira], a distance of twenty-four miles up the Tagus, and next day marched for Azambuja, five leagues, a small village which had much suffered from the French. Thence we marched to Santarem. We had very fine mornings for our march, but each afternoon was stormy, with heavy rain. When at Vila Franca [de Xira], in the act of superintending the serving out of the men’s rations, a thunder storm came on, and so loud was the thunder that I actually thought a cannon had been discharged at the door of the commissariat ; I soon after learnt that a poor woman who had been sitting at her door netting, had been struck dead by lightning.
We left Santarem at two in the morning, and having marched for two hours, I found we had lost our way, and got into a [marsh?] in places nearly up to our knees. My mule had stuck fast, and even after taking off his load, I had much trouble in extricating him. During this day’s march we had nothing but mishaps and did not arrive at our halting place until four in the afternoon. The road had been soaked from the heavy rains, so that it was with much difficulty the men could march. The following day we reached Penhunte†, a very neat little village on the borders of the Tagus and Zezere. There was a fine bridge of boats over the Zezere. I walked round the town, which stands on a rising ground, but did not observe anything very remarkable, except the delightful view of both the rivers. There are also the remains of a fine convent on the summit of the hill, which is a memento of the devastations committed by the French. In the centre of the town the walls of a church unroofed were filled with skulls, arms, legs, &c. I was surprised to see that a number of the inhabitants when passing removed their hats, others dropped on their knees and prayed, and on making inquiry, I learned that the French, on leaving Penhunte, had compelled all the old men, women, and children in the town to enter the church, and caused the roof to fall in on them; and such as had not been killed by the roof falling in, had been shot. Upwards of 1,000 individuals had thus perished. This fiendish atrocity has never been effaced from the minds of the people. I stood some time at the church door, and observed many cross themselves, offer a short prayer, and leave the place in tears.
The country I had hitherto marched through was very picturesque and well cultivated. From Penhunte we marched to Abrantes, a very strongly fortified town. During the whole time the French were in Portugal, they never had possession of Abrantes, although Napoleon created a Duke of Abrantes.
From Abrantes to Elvas we had to descend a very steep road, almost a precipice, and a bridge of boats had to be crossed; but we saw nothing very remarkable till Elvas presented itself. There certainly we had a very fine prospect, with Fort La Lippe over the valley, and Elvas in front. It is one of the strongest fortresses I have ever seen. I remained all day in the town, and in the evening walked to the valley, and took a sketch of the town and Fort La Lippe.
Next day we marched to Badajoz, but it rained so heavily during our halt, that I was unable to look round the fortress as I should have wished. It had been stormed only about a month before, and on my leaving the next morning, I saw a great number of dead bodies along the roadside to Talavera [La] Real, some only half covered over. A great number of birds of prey were hovering about this charnel field. I also observed a number of cannon balls, many of which were two miles from Badajoz.
Next day we marched to a small village called Solano [de los Barros], a miserable place, and finding that my regiment was only five miles from thence, I set off for head quarters, and reached Almendralejo by three in the afternoon, having marched twenty-five miles. The brigade to which my regiment belonged was comprised of the 50th, 92nd, and 71st Regiments†.
A few days after my arrival at Almendralejo, the division under the command of Lieutenant General Sir R[owland] Hill, broke up its cantonments and on the 12thMay we marched for Almaraz, and reached Trujillo in five days. The 71st was now commanded by Lieutenant Colonel the Honourable H. Cadogan†. On the 18th, the division moved to the front; and on the morning of the 19th the several forts at Almaraz were stormed and taken in full day. Our loss was about 300 killed and wounded in our brigade. We took 300 prisoners, and all their ammunition, stores, &c. &c.
The following day the 2ndDivision returned to Trujillo, and halted for three days. The house of Pizzaro’s ancestors was pointed out to me. It was a fine old building, but much dilapidated. After the alcade and other authorities of the town had given us the usual spectacle at rejoicings – a bull fight – the 2ndDivision left Trujillo, and marched for Merida, at which place we halted for three days. Amongst the prisoners taken at Almaraz, was the commandant of the fort, who had been severely wounded, and died at Merida. Sir R. Hill caused him to be interred with military honours, and with his staff attended the funeral. Two French officers had been left with the French commandant; one was his aide-de-camp, the other a surgeon; and both being ordered to Lisbon, under the safeguard of an officer, Colonel Cadogan sent for me, and said that I was to proceed with them to Lisbon; but should I fall in with Lieutenant Langstaff, of the 71st, on the road, who was proceeding to Lisbon on sick leave†, I was to hand them over to him. To leave one’s regiment, and proceed to the rear, escorting prisoners, is anything but a pleasant task. I was too proud to inform my colonel of the state of my finances; and as it is our custom, when escorting prisoners, to defray all expenses – and my pocket was very low at that time – it was very inconvenient to me.
In this order we set out. I mounted on my horse, my private servant walking beside me. The two French officers, mounted on commissariat mules, wore their swords. We had been on the road for about an hour. They had put various questions to me, and not being in the best of tempers, I only answered them with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ The French officer, who had been aide-de-camp, said to his comrade, – ‘If we wished, we could soon get rid of him; he has but his sword.’ This was spoken in the south of France language, supposing – and no doubt they felt sure – I could not understand what they said. ‘Cy vourian ā que soun sabre, n’en serian bon leau quite.’ I instantly drew the reins of my horse, and looking at the two French officers, I replied in their native tongue, ‘Messieurs, avan de parla un lengage, aurias dugu vous informa, ce la persounne émé que sias, vous conmpren pas.’‘ Gentlemen, before speaking a language, you ought to be certain that the person with whom you are, does not comprehend it.’ I further told them that I was with them solely to protect them from the peasantry of the country, and was sorry to observe such a bad feeling on their part, as I had only to hold my finger up, and they would soon feel that their position was not the most enviable. ‘It was true,’ I further said, ‘you might assassinate me, but what would become of you afterwards?’ I spoke the Provencal of the Var as well as French.
Had a thunderbolt fallen at their feet at that moment they could not have been more astonished than they were at hearing a highland officer speak Provencal. Our march was resumed in silence. At length the doctor said to me, ‘Might I make bold to ask you your name?’ I replied, ‘Barrallier.’ He instantly stopped his mule, leaped to the ground, and running up to me, said, ‘We are cousins;’ and at various intervals embraced me. His name was Arteau, of Toulon, and he was related to some of my father’s family by marriage. After this explanation, we continued our march for Talavera, which we reached in the evening. Having procured quarters for them and myself, we dined together, and were the best of friends. The doctor in the course of the evening asked me why I had been so cross during our march. I told him the real cause – that it was our custom not to allow prisoners to be at any expense while under our protection and that I had left my regiment not overburdened with cash. They both at once placed their hands in their pockets and offered me any sum I might stand in need of; but I politely declined, saying I had but a short time, in all probability, to be with them. After dinner, I made inquiry if Lieutenant Langstaff was in Talavera, and was informed he was; and having sent my servant to Lieutenant Langstaff, I handed the two French officers over to him to be escorted to Lisbon. Next morning, after they had expressed their regret at my leaving them, I started for Merida, to join my regiment, and reported myself to my colonel, and to Brigade Major Wemyss†, informing them of what I had done.
A few days after the 2ndDivision left Merida for their old cantonment, and our brigade halted at Almendralejo. On the following Sunday after our return to Almendralejo, the brigade formed outside of the town (50th, 92nd, and 71st Regiments). Lieutenant-General Sir R Hill was present, with all his staff. The regiments next formed into square for divine service, as is usual. The drums were collected in the centre, and everything was ready, when the clergyman made his appearance, and walking up to the drums and looking round him, placed both his hands on the rim of the bass drum, and nimbly leaped on the drumhead. The whole brigade was in a titter; it was such a sudden act that no one could refrain from laughing. We all expected to see him disappear, and Lieutenant General Hill sent one of his aides-de-camp (Captain Mackworth†) to the clergyman, to say that he would be more at his case on the ground. The clergyman sprang off the drum-head as nimbly as he had got on it and commenced the service. It was his first appearance on parade. The circumstance was the subject of many a joke afterwards.
(To be continued.) Missing??
I joined the 23rd Portuguese Regiment under the command of Colonel Stubbs†, who also commanded the Portuguese Brigade composed of the 11th, 23rd,and 7thCacadores, forming part of the 4thDivision, under the command of Lieutenant General, Sir Lowry Cole, on the 16th July, 1812. They were encamped in front of Nava del Rey. At night the army broke up their encampment and moved to the rear; the 4thDivision halted the whole of the 17th. The outposts were sharply engaged during the morning; on the 18th we again retired, and at midday took up a position, having been closely followed by the enemy, and frequently not a quarter of a mile from us. At four in the afternoon the French moved to the front and attacked us, and being repulsed by the 23rd and 40thRegiments, supported by the 11th and 23rd and 7thCacadores, was soon driven from the field. Our loss was trifling, but we suffered severely from the heat. We remained in position all the night and joined the main body of our army on the 19th.
The whole army was now concentrated. On the 20th at daylight the greatest silence reigned in the camp, and we laid by our arms at quarter distance of companies, everything ready and announcing a general action; but Marmont soon moved to his left with a view of out-flanking us. Our army now returned in three lines, taking the road for Salamanca, and during the whole day’s march the French cannonaded us. On the 21st the Portuguese Brigade under Colonel Stubbs halted within a quarter of a mile from Salamanca. In the evening, we crossed the river, and took up our position in front of the Arapiles, and we had a dreadful night of thunder, lightning, and rain. On the 22nd at dawn the light division commenced skirmishing, and continued doing so for some hours. At ten o’clock the 4thDivision received orders to move to the front and right, and the Portuguese Brigade was now ordered to lay down at quarter distance of companies. At twelve we were ordered to stand to our arms, and each man was told to place a running ball over his cartridge. The 7thCacadores were ordered to the front, and the 11th and 23rd to support them, which was done in a most gallant style. I now for the first saw an entire regiment fall on their knees, offer a short prayer, and with the greatest firmness continue their advance, and completely routing the enemy, who occupied a hill on which they had fifteen guns and which very soon became ours.
At this moment I received a gun-shot wound which passed through both my thighs and scrotum. I fell to the ground. A sergeant and some men of my company remained by me for a moment, and I handed my sword to the sergeant, requesting him to give it to Colonel Stubbs, in order that it might be forwarded to my father. Then I sank back, not giving the least sign of life. I was abandoned and plundered, and the men reported me to Colonel Stubbs as dead. It might have been about four o’clock in the afternoon, when I somewhat recovered my senses, and found myself lying exposed to the fire of the 23rd Welch Fusiliers and the French. I was struck while in that position by a musket ball, which pierced my cap and grazed my forehead. Placing my hand on the part struck, no blood appeared of any consequence. Perceiving a hollow near me, I attempted to remove to it, but was unable from loss of blood and the stiffness of my limbs, in this melancholy state I had to remain for nearly two hours, exposed to the fire of both friend and foe. A French cavalry regiment now passed me, and some of the horses actually leaped over me, but I received no injury. Soon after a French infantry in close column of companies passed: a French soldier placed his bayonet on my breast; I made the distress sign of a mason, and fortunately was instantly saved by a French officer, who pushed the bayonet away. Thus was my life most miraculously preserved. Half an hour after the French repassed, but in disorder, and I shortly saw the red coats approaching. I now felt sure of obtaining assistance. The regiment halted close by me, and I called out to the officers, that I was an officer of the 71st Highland Light Infantry and begged to be removed from the field. It was the 23rd Welsh Fusiliers, and several of the officers came up to me. They returned to the regiment, and a few minutes after a field officer and four or five other officers stood beside me. I told them who I was and entreated to be removed, but I had the mortification of seeing the field officer face about, and call out ‘Forward.’ The officers and men called out shame, but the regiment moved to the front. Thus was I, a captain in the same division as the Welsh Fusiliers, left as a dog to perish for want of aid, by a man who could have had no feelings for a fellow-creature. This was Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Offley†, who, I afterwards heard, very shortly met with his death. My feelings now overcame me, and I know not how long I remained insensible. When I rallied, the action was still raging, but at some distance. I now observed a straggler passing at a few paces from me, and I beckoned to him, and on his coming up, asked him to remain by me. But the fellow thought I was a dying man, and expected plunder. He cocked his musket, and was in the act of dispatching me, notwithstanding that I kept telling him I was a captain in his brigade (the straggler belonged to the 7thCacadores). Instant death was before me, but providence at that moment sent me aid. A British soldier of the 74th Regiment came up, and cried out, ‘Is it you Mr Barallier?’ My reply was, ‘Yes my lad, shoot that villain.’ He raised his musket, and I was instantly relieved from an assassin. The soldier of the 74th Regiment removed his knapsack, and placed it under my head, and covering me with his great coat and blanket, gave me water – all the poor fellow had. I begged of him to remain by me; his reply was, ‘Sir, my regiment is in action, and I must try and join.’ But having assured him that he would not be punished for remaining with me, and that I would take all the responsibility, he did remain. This soldier had left England for Portugal in the same transport as myself, and was servant to Ensign Hamilton of the 74th Regiment. I kept calling for water, and as there was none at hand, he left me, to go and procure some. Again I was left alone on a bloody field, and nothing but dead men around me. My reflections were anything but pleasant, but having already been providentially saved in two instances, I thought that if I was once removed from the field, I might survive. Little did I know the condition I was then in!
Night was now drawing in fast, and my late deliverer was not making his appearance. The time he had been absent seemed very long, and I began to fear he might have lost his way, when a sergeant of the 60th Regiment came near me, and I beckoned to him. He came up to me, gave me water and some wine, arranged my covering, and did all he could to aid me in my forlorn condition. I entreated him to remain by me, but his reply was ‘I would willingly do so, but my regiment is now in action, and I must join.’ All my solicitations were unavailing, and he was about to leave me, when despair caused me to hold out my hand to him. He took it, and at once he seemed electrified. After a few moments he exclaimed, ‘I will stay by you, and try and save you; I cannot leave you.’ My heart was now in my mouth, I was for some moments unable to speak. Again the German gave me water, and then said, ‘There is a regiment close at hand, and I will go and acquaint the commanding officer how you are situated.’ He left me, and my hopes now revived; and very shortly after I heard voices approaching, and a man cried out, ‘Who are you?’ My reply was 71st. ‘A lie, by God! What is your name?’‘Barallier’ ‘What are you doing here?’‘I am in the Portuguese service.’‘You must not remain here,’ and the officer turned away. Shortly after he returned, accompanied by several officers, and they had me placed in a blanket. Ensign Stopford† and eight men were ordered to take me to the first place they could obtain medical aid. Ensign Stopford of the 68th Regiment often stopped the men to see if I was still alive, and at one period he placed his hand on my forehead as I had not answered to his kind inquiries, and exclaimed, ‘he is dead.’ The pressure of his hand aroused me and I faintly said, ‘No, sir, I am not dead.’ The march was continued, and in the dead of the night Ensign Stopford had me laid on blankets in a peasant’s hut, at about three miles from Salamanca; he then left me, after he had procured me medical aid. Thus was I providentially saved, and removed from a gory field, by that brave and good-hearted soldier Lieutenant Colonel Johnston† commanding 68th Light Infantry. I was personally known to all the officers of that corps. Colonel Johnston had ordered the soldier of the 74th to remain by me and said that he would report it to his commanding officer.
After Ensign Stopford left me, an assistant-surgeon of the German Legion first dressed my wounds, I asked him if I could recover: after some hesitation, he said I might, if well attended to. In a miserable hut I was now left, surrounded on all sides by wounded and dying men of all nations, some calling out ‘water’; others, ‘agua’ and ‘de I’eau.’ In fact such was the incessant calling and noise made by the wounded of the several nations, that although I was suffering severely, I had to call out to them in their different languages, that if they did not desist I would have them removed – that I was a captain, and that as much care was taken of them as of me. This had the desired effect.
There was also in the same room, on a bed, a young officer of the 61stRegiment, who made as much noise as any of the soldiers. Having at last lost patience, I asked him if he was badly wounded. He told me he was wounded in the fleshy part of the thigh. ‘Well, sir,’ I replied, ‘I have six holes through my body, and you have not heard me complain.’ That silenced him.
Next day, Staff-Surgeon McGrigor† of my brigade came to see me, and was surprised to find me alive, telling me I had been returned dead, but as the despatches had not as yet left head-quarters, he would write and have it altered. Under the special care of Doctor McGrigor, who had me removed to Salamanca three days after, I ultimately partially recovered, and obtained leave of absence from Marshal Beresford to proceed to England. I never again saw my Portuguese regiment. As soon as I was able to stand, I was appointed to the command of the depót at Santander, and left the Portuguese service to rejoin my old regiment the 71st in 1814.
I owed my escape in the first instance to the French officer, who happened to be a freemason; and then to the fortunate appearance of the soldier of the 74thRegiment, as well as the assistance rendered me by the sergeant of the 60thRegiment, also a freemason, who was the means of my removal, by that brave old soldier, Lieutenant-Colonel Johnston of the 68th, late a general officer, and I believe now no more. When quartered in Quebec with the 68thRegiment, and at their table, the circumstance has been often alluded to, and as often I have risen to state that I owed my life to Colonel Johnston. To Doctor McGrigor’s assiduity and skill, I was also much indebted. His professional skill is well known; he is now a half-pay physician, and resides in Edinburgh. Major Winnett† and several other officers of the 68th regiment are still alive, and I know the circumstances; and as a mark of my gratitude, I have made this known.