The Waterloo Association: Members Area

Staff Surgeon George Morse 4th Dragoons

He was actually attached to the Portuguese Army from 1809 to 1814

To Mrs Morse, No. 40 Bishop street, Portsea, Portsmouth

Salvaterra [de Magos] April [1810?]

You will perceive, my dearest love, from whence I date my letter that I have moved from Lisbon since I wrote to you last, which I sent by Major Williamson [1], which I trust you have safely received with the little trinkets I sent by him. I think we left Lisbon before he sailed & the treatment I met with on my march as being the companion of the officer commanding the Portuguese Brigade of Cavalry far exceeded my most sanguine expectations. Though the whole of the treatment did not consist of such sumptuous entertainments as England could afford, yet they were of such a magnificent nature as I was not aware the country could produce. It was you know, my most anxious wish, previous to my leaving England, to get on the English establishment as Staff Surgeon, but if I could have an additional 5s per day I would not exchange. I should be far less comfortable, less respected, more offensive, have a great deal more to do, not half so independent as I now am. My chief duty is to inspect the two Portuguese Hospitals, instruct the surgeons to keep the Hospital Accounts & to transact the whole business in the same way as that of an English Regimental Hospital, the duties of which you know I am well acquainted with. I have a little difficulty at first, because I cannot yet speak the language sufficiently correct as to enable me to hold a perfect conversation. I am now better acquainted with it & receive every assistance from Col. Campbell [2] who is an Englishman, commands the brigade & is well acquainted with the language. Colonel Campbell has allowed me to take a troop horse, whither is the most lively & beautiful creature I almost ever saw.

I have saddle hide, pistol cases, small portmanteau to carry behind, all perfectly new & never worn before, for which I pay – nothing! My mule which is allowed to carry my medicine pannions takes what baggage I have, most of which I pack in the panniers, especially my progg. I was allowed 90 dollars for this purpose, which I put into my pocket & which I expended mostly in my little present to you. I am rather afraid however there is a person at Lisbon who has played me a slippery trick, but from the respectability of the person I can scarcely believe it. Full a fortnight ago, I gave him about £25 to procure a bill on England, which I meant to have sent to Hopkinson some time ago on your account. He had not been able to procure the bill which I had left at Lisbon & indeed I did not see him, as he was gone into the country for a few days. I however left a note at his house, requesting he would get the bill as soon as possible & to send report of it to Hopkinson’s on my account & the counterpart he was to send to me here, for me to send by my next letter. Now that is 10 days ago & I have heard no account of him, money or bill. I shall go down to Lisbon however, in the course of a week & shall then ferret him out. He is an Englishman, merchant & a friend of Captain Morris’s [3] who introduced me to him. I would not have you however take the least notice of this circumstance to his brother if you should see him & I hope my next letter will enclose you the draft if I should not want it. I shall not be able to get any bat & forage money which I expected before July, but come when it will I shall probably receive it (£40). We were obliged to march up to Santarem [where we?] could cross the river on account of the late rains which had inundated the country. We then marched down here, which is [much?] nearer to Lisbon than where we crossed, and is not more than 40 miles [further?] down the river. How long we shall continue here I do not know, but suppose 5 or 6 weeks. I told you in my last about poor Rice’s [4] legacy of £50, which I dare say Hopkinson’s [5] have received before now, he will therefore have 90 or £100 at your disposal even if I should not send the £25 as is my intention, provided I am not ‘done’.

This place is situated on a gentle rising ground & surrounded with an immense plain, with well cultivated for corn or affording pasture for abundance of cattle, with which it is filled. In one direction however the soil is sandy & covered with furze in which an immense quantity of hares & rabbits abide & a person fond of shooting might have plenty of sport. This place is famous for a hunting palace of the Prince’s of Portugal, but from the length of time since it has been inhabited has fallen much into decay. The palace & its appertinances are now occupied by the officers & soldiers of the brigade & though the palace is robbed of its tapestry & damask hangings, yet the rooms are good and make an excellent barrack. I have got apartments in it which are good & could have as many more as I like, the place is very hot now & there are no trees nearby to afford any shade. In the summer I understand this place is intolerably hot & so indeed I should think from the sandy nature of the soil. However I could make everything I hope, comfortable for you. I am become a member of the mess of the Fourth Regiment & we have very excellent dinners with breakfasts & I pay only 1/6 a day besides my rations, which you will agree with me is cheap, I shall not now be at a loss for food to eat for go were we will, we shall be much better enabled to procure provisions than an English army would. In every respect, my love, I am very fortunate & I thank God for it. A troop of the 13 [Light] Dragoons is coming here in a few days, to teach our men the sword exercise. The officers will be a source of great satisfaction to me & I should be very happy if you was here, though I must again repeat, you would find a vast difference here & in England. You would make the sacrifice, but you should be as happy as I could make you. You know my love that it would constitute my greatest happiness was you with me. Your children is the only hindrance to you coming, without them I should not have come without you. If however you can so advantageously dispose of them as to be satisfactory in your own mind & you do not mind the unpleasantness of the voyage pray do come. But you must act according to circumstances & to your own feelings. Should you come without either of the children, you might do without a maid who would be an incumbrance, but if you bring one of them, you had better bring a servant & one who knows something of cooking, of course you must give good wages. I have some idea you may be set out before this reaches you & I have certainly any idea & that for your own sake, you had better not come till the fete [sic] of the ensuing campaign is known. But with you I shall in every respect be happy, if the nature of affairs will allow of full security to you. If you come to Lisbon as I said before, enquire for Mr Robinson at Colonel Arbuthnot’s [6], secretary to Marshal Beresford. I have no news. God Bless & protect you all, is the prayer of your affectionate husband G Morse

I have not yet received any letter from you.

Badajoz 21 September/ Elvas 23 September 1809


My beloved wife,

With the most poignant grief is my heart hurried in consequence of the information your letter of the 28th August conveyed to me. Little did I think that from the letter which I received a few days before wherein you mentioned having a cough & cold. I should have so early received a more favourable unfavourable account of your health. I trust in God that your apprehensions have made you imagine your case to be worse than it really is. But from the symptoms which you so fully & so feelingly enumerate, I fear I have too much reason to dread an unhappy result. I trust however that before this reaches you, by the kind care & skill of Dr Walker, you will have so far recovered as to be able to give me the fullest assurances of it. I abhor & detest that unfeeling brute Porter. Never could I have supposed he or any other man would have been as unfeeling & you was quite wrong not to have sent to

the Dr to say you could get no medicine from him & that he would prescribe & you send it to druggists. I will take one to reproach him most severely also if I ever see him again. My dearest love you will do well to follow the directions of our good friend Dr W[alker]’s & whatever he commands take. Your diet should consist chiefly of milk, vegetables & fruit with jellies &c & I would have you procure a flannel waistcoat to wear next the skin. Should you be in want of more money than you have you will not hesitate a moment in applying to my uncle & wish the Dr will assist you. I have heard a something of my promotion but understand it to be to the Portuguese service but I have received no official intelligence of it. I am still doing duty at Elvas. Should I be promoted of course Hopkinson’s will not be my agents, but I have directed them to let you have what money you want & for them to receive my pay from whatever agent I may have in consequence of my new appointment. Your letter of the 21st August I have not received & I suppose it is gone to the regiment. I am just come over from Elvas to Head Quarters to try if I can possibly have leave of absence to proceed to England as I have a most anxious wish by affectionate [sic] to save the life of you my beloved & to save my children from distress in everything relating to them. Should I not be able to obtain leave (of which I fear there is but little chance) I have the fullest confidence in the goodness of my uncle & the sincere friendship of the Dr. I understand that there is a packet going to England this evening I therefore I write this hast scrawl in the Post Master’s office. I am going to see Lord Edward Somerset [7] on the subject of leave & hope he will give me encouragement, I will finish my letter therefore after I have seen him. I think you must better have your [mother?] with you & she would much relieve you [and the?] temper of the family which you will not be able to do. God Almighty, I most fervently hope will restore you for all our sakes & that he will allow us to enjoy many many years of happiness. I have just seen Lord Edward who will lay my statement before Lord Wellington this evening, too late for me to mention it in this letter as the post is now going away. He gave me but slight hopes, but would do what he could to gain my object. If he should happily succeed I shall be in England I trust in a fortnight after you receive this, if not you shall hear further from me by the next post. I have now no further time to add more than that, my unceasing prayers are offered up to the throne of mercy for your speedy recovery & that I might soon be enabled to press you & my lovely babes to my affectionate bosom. God Almighty bless you my dearest love, take & give my children a thousand kisses & blessings & believe me to be, your most affectionate husband & sincere friend George Morse.


No. 11

Alanaemos [Estremoz?] 10 June 1810


My dearest Wife,

I wrote to you from this place on first of June & have since been reflecting which of my letters it could be that you say was without date & the more I think of it, the more I am persuaded that it must be the vey one I sent by Major Williamson at the time I sent your trinkets by him. I am therefore of opinion that after having landed at Portsmouth, he was in so much haste to get to London (or wherever else he was going) that he had not time to the Dr’s or on you with the letter & stuff. Therefore, left them with the proprietor of the inn where he stopt (the Crown most likely) desiring him to give them according to their direction as soon as he could. The little box, which was about the size of a good pill box, was wrapt up in white paper, sealed and directed for you at the Dr’s. The letter was directed to you in Bishop Street. Now, these people may have sent your letter by the post & not the box, therefore, if you have not yet received it, I would have you make enquiries at the principal inns to know whether, about the beginning of May, a gentleman did not leave a little box & a letter directed for you, the first at the Dr’s, the latter at no. 40 Bishop Street, desiring them to leave it the first opportunity. Now, as no doubt, he intimated to the person that the box was of considerable value, it might have been overheard by the servants & they (probably entrusted with it) might have been tempted to keep it. I would advise you to be particular in your enquiries as the things were really worth having, as they cost me nearly £20 & moreover they would appear much to advantage on your necks, which would give to them lustre far exceeding their own. He might have called at Dr Walker’s according to my desire & not finding him at home have left the letter & box with his servant, giving her

the same intimation respecting the contents of the box. She therefore may have been tempted to retain it, for we know not how far temptation will lead persons sometimes. Therefore, you may speak to the Dr on this subject, for him to question his servant, but you will be able to judge whether he came to Portsmouth by the Postmark of your letter. If it was not put into the office here, you may conclude that he did not land there, but at Plymouth or another port, but the ship which he was go into from Lisbon was the Venus frigate & was to go to Portsmouth. I trust you will have received it before you receive this letter & render your enquiries unnecessary, but however, if it is lost, it is the fortune of smuggling & I must endeavour to get you something else, when money is again cheap. I told you in my last letter not to bring a servant as I thought she would be an incumbrance, which she certainly would when moving about the country & moreover in justice we must contrive the means of sending her back to England if she should not like to remain in this country & which I think very few of them would like to do. She certainly would be very convenient to us in the way of cooking, which is the most we should want of her & it would be more agreeable for you to have an English servant to speak to when I should be away from the house on duty. But it might be very expensive, therefore my dear I think it would be better for us to do with what servants I can procure in the country & I will endeavour by affectionate attention & anticipating your wants, to make you during your stay with me as comfortable as possible. You should bring a jacket & trousers with you & be my boy sometimes in riding about the country. I wish I could remain here some months then we could be very happy & comfortable together as it is a pretty place & we can get whatever we want. There are two or three very pretty country houses with beautiful gardens & orange groves which I have looked out for you, to take your choice of living in, should you make me happy before we have this place the fruit is now getting ripe fast, so you must make haste. The weather has been & is now dreadfully wet or the corn & fruit would have been much forwarder. The gardens we can stroll about in & enjoy the luxury of shade, in each there are streams & ponds of fish water with immense quantities of gold coloured fish. I walk in them every day when the weather will permit & I will then [be] more particular for you to ramble about with me, than at other times. These fellows, the French will come amongst the rain to cloud my bright prospects, though the rascals went forward [with?] as much confidence, but they are now retiring about the neighbourhood of Ciudad Rodrigo to which place the British army under Lord Wellington is lately moved & I shall not wonder if we heard very soon of his having had an action with the French. It is supposed that Massena, (the French commander) will detach part of his force from Salamanca to endeavour to enter the north of Portugal by Braganza & something no doubt will be done. This movement might not be before July or August, it might be later. We are very quiet & comfortable on this side of Portugal. Had I been in the situation I was last year & even what I am now in the British army, I would not have had you here or my aunt because I could not then have accommodated you half so well as I can now & I should not then have half as much time to devote to your comfort. I have very little to do. I have a brigade hospital with 2 surgeons & their assistants & have but very few sick, they chiefly that Reid thinks what [the weather being?] so mild might do to the constitutions of their patients. In [their practise they?] have my confidence & I never interpose with my authority [unless I am asked on?] particular occasions & always in the arrangement of the [hospital?] which is conducted upon the same plan of English [hospitals, but?] they have not knowledge of medicines but this I [willingly perform, what?] they can understand they will do, not that known by [Hospital surgeons?] which is so much the fashion in English hospitals, [but they benefit from?] more the goodness of his advice in most disorders is to do your [best] ‘and to act boldly in the dark’. I have not lost a man since I [arrived here?] originally (going on for three months) a circumstance almost [unheard of?] but is with much owing to my moving those diseases as [may be infectious and?] prevent them by making them [practise] cleanliness in their [wards that was not?] existing & regularity of dist[tribution] (good & spacious) which was unknown to them before & they seem grateful for it. In regard to the opposition of your coming out my love, I would advise you to take that only of John Humphrey’s, speaking of which, Captain Patton [8] would easily let you know to get the documents and to enquire of the admiral’s departure. Coming out in a man of war, you can reach me without a berth on a transport ship, or one at Lisbon when there, therefore use you own instinct & pleasure about bringing one. You would hardly know me, I am grown such a fat chubby faced fellow with my moustachio, which I suspect you will make me cut off, for even I do not stand them improvement to that handsome face which is grown on your heart, but I have let them grow so impressive as to best Portuguese cavalry officers who wear them & even the boys in the regiment soap their upper lips with a mixture of black and lard. Watson minister Francis! he has much to do, he

wishes to have less, when he has little he wishes for more, just so with me. I wish for more to occupy my time to make it pass away more swiftly till it brings you to me. You know I am not over-fond of the society of men & that I love that of women & of you especially. My evenings are passed not so much in the enjoyment of the present as in the anticipation of the future time when I can have you to talk to & wander about the country in which; though I might have persons to accompany me, I prefer strolling alone that my thoughts of you, my dear & my little dears, should not be broken in upon. You will say I am childish!! I may be so but I cannot help it. Should you come you need bring but very few dollars with you as I shall have plenty, the end of this month of £26 or £27, more at the end of the next, making in all about £80, quite enough for us some time & I can send some home for plum rounders or sugar plums for the babies. I wish when you come that you would write to Hopkinson’s & order Louis to forward those newspapers here which I ordered for you – only in case you do come- but not if you do not for you can send them to me afterwards by some opportunity that may offer at the Admiral’s office. I was in hopes this letter will go by the packet that sails from Lisbon tomorrow, but if not in time it will not go from Lisbon before the 18th which you may judge of according to the time you receive it & if I have anything particular to see I shall write next week also but I expect to have a long letter from you before that. I have never heard from any of my family at Clifton since I left England. Have you? The French have left Placentia in a hurry & gone up towards Salamanca where Lord Wellington is I believe gone to attack them. The Spaniards who are a worthless set of cowardly vagabonds have taken a good deal of baggage & stores from them. I do think their army under Romana would hold out 2 days at Badajoz when the French choose to take it. He ought to move on towards that place & made to attack the French who have detached a considerable part of this force to quell a part insurrection in La Mancha. I think you will hear of a battle soon from Lord Wellington. This is for the Dr I must now bid you adieu my dearest love, with my best prayers & most affectionate regards to you & my friends. Believe me ever your most affectionate husband Geo. Morse.


I went to H Q’rs very dismal indeed, not hearing that my request was given.

If you do not come I shall send you £40 early in July if possible. Regards to Grandma GM

Hugs and kisses for you and children adieu.


Bavra? Near the Tagus & near the town of Montalvao


16 July 1810


My dearest Eliza,

I write this letter to you in great haste & without much prospect of its reaching you, at least for some considerable time as this is a most out of the way place, I direct this to a friend at Lisbon in case you are there, to be given to you. If not he will forward it to England. We have been marching about considerably for this last week, from Cabeco do Vide where we had been for some time, we march towards Elvas and Campo Maior, for the purpose it was said of our joining the Spaniards at Badajoz & entering Spain to attack the French. Instead of marching there, we were suddenly ordered to retreat upon Portalegre & the day before yesterday all the army came to Alpalhao & we expected to cross the Tagus yesterday at Vila Velha for the purpose of joining Lord Wellington or to prevent the French, who are on this side of the Tagus, from getting on his flank. Yesterday we came with all the cavalry, 5 regiments & we expect 2 more in a day or two. We are now in advance of the infantry & artillery who continue at Alpalhao in our rear. The French were a little distant from hence a day or two ago towards Alcantara where I believe they now are. Whether our marching and countermarching is to watch or elude them I do not know, but as Ciudad Rodrigo has fallen I suppose active operations will soon commence. We are rather out of the way of news & I really do not know anything but what immediately concerns us & not much of that. We are now in a camp under the shelter of chestnut trees & several of us mess together, have a number of servants & live very well indeed. I am now surrounded by mules, baggage horses, saddles & soldiers & am writing on my medicine chest in company with a young cadet whom I have given some paper to & the use of my ink to write to his mama. We are kept in a constant state of readiness to march & we have considerable detachments of cavalry in advance of us, so we are safe from alarm. Now my love, a

little to business & complaint. I am sorry that I have not heard from you since the 10 May, a distance now of 3 months. You may be well aware of the anxiety I feel of your account, but I know how apt letters are to miscarry though much I queried last year on the same account when there was no real occasion for it. I put my trust in providence that you continue well & happy. When you wrote last you talked of coming the first opportunity & I have been expecting you these 5 or 6 weeks, but have since written to countermand your coming on the impossibility of you travelling about with me & the unpleasantness of you being alone at Lisbon & it would be extremely mortifying to me to know you continued at Lisbon & that it would be impossible for me to get leave even for a day for me to see you there. I hope the time will soon come that I may clasp you to my heart in England, but I have my hopes & they form on that account of seeing you soon. But we must bear our separation for a time with patient resignation as we must, it will be for our [future?] good. Supposing you to be at Lisbon, whatever [that?] you want for Robinson? Will procure for you from Mr Bell, our agent there. I am happy to tell you I have I have succeeded in procuring [my?] Portuguese pay & have been paid three month’s worth & one more will be due the end of this month & also a month’s English pay. The Portuguese pay, about £120 a year is more than I shall want. All my English pay & allowances, amounting to about £400 a year I shall regularly remit for your use. I have just given orders to Mr Robinson to do me the favour of procuring a bill on England for the cash I have now got at Lisbon. Some will be retained for your service & about 60 sent home about once a quarter if we continue here. You shall have from a hundred to £120 which I beg my love you will make what use of you like & live well & comfortably. I would have you keep an account of what you receive from Hopkinson & do not mind if put in anything you may fancy or like to procure either for yourself or children, of whom you as well as myself are as proud as a hen with one chick. God bless & protect them, I heartily thank him for giving us such lovely children. I hope we shall ever find them equally good, I tell you again to purchase what you want. God knows that my greatest happiness consists in contributing towards yours. That you may ever enjoy it in this life with me I heartily pray. Adieu my dearest love with my best blessings & kisses to yourself & my babies & kind regards to Dr W & Mrs B. Believe me to remain ever your affectionate husband, George Morse. I wrote a few days ago to the Dr. I have written 7 or 8 letters to my father, mother & sisters but have never heard from them. God Bless you & adieu.


To Mrs Morse, 6 Hanbrook Street, Southsea Portsmouth.


Lisbon Wednesday night

10 April 1811


My dear Eliza,

As I do not think my friend Captain Collier [9] will sail before tomorrow I will scribble a few more lines to you & send it by him if I can. I was much delighted yesterday at receiving your letter & papers sent by Mr Gun, I met him at Captain Masson’s [10] where I dined yesterday & I enjoyed much satisfaction at the good account he gave of you all at Southsea & upon my word my love I do not know seriously what to say about your coming to Portugal. Could I continue at Lisbon it would be productive of much gratification & probably be less expensive for I do not find things by any means so dear in Lisbon as I expected: but if you was to come out I should no doubt be gone from Lisbon & if not, I shall go soon afterwards & it would be impossible to take you up to the army of Lord W[ellington] where my brigade now is. In fact, nothing there would be to be procured & you would suffer every hardship & privation besides the oppressive heat of the climate which you would not be able to bear particularly if the fruits of my late visit to you should not be blighted. I can only say my love, that if you should come with Mrs Masson & McD., whom I suppose will be eager now the French are gone. I will do everything in my power to make your situation comfortable & about the dear children, what is to be done for them? You would not like to leave them & it would be madness to bring them to this country. I am not quite so certain of the French staying away long, I suspect they are playing Lord W[ellington], the same trick they played him. That is drawing him away from his supplies & reinforcements. Our people however are driving them from every position which they take up & I believe they are panic struck for nothing I understand can withstand the bravery of our troops & the Portuguese, particularly their light infantry, whose conduct even our troops cannot excel. There was a report today that a telegraphic dispatch had been received announcing a general action having taken place near Almeida, which out troops victoriously entered, but I do not place much reliance on it, but something we may expect very soon. Probably by Sunday’s packet, I may be able to tell you something new. Now to a little business. In my letter, which I gave to Captain Collier yesterday, I enclosed £13 which I hope you will receive safe. He owes me between 8 & 9 more, which he will give you besides. He was going to give it to me, but I thought it would be more serviceable to you. It is what I won one night on board ship off some of the officers before I was taken ill & about £10 besides making altogether about £30, no bad thing you will say & thank God for it. I sent also a small box of dried plums which I hope you will receive safe & find good, as the tradespeople say. It was all of the sort I could get. I have not yet been able to procure my arrears of pay which has been so long due to me, but a representation is gone into the marshal about it & I expect to get it in 10 days or a fortnight. I have besides a good deal of other money due, which I shall not receive till I can get it all together & then send you home between 3 & £400 & shall have enough for myself besides. This seems a great sum, but you must recollect that the greater part has been ‘eaten up before’. I have not received your letter written by Mrs Collier’s friend, nor can I make out anything of the ham & cheese. I shall take pretty good care of those what I have got & the purser of the ship made me a present of 5 gallons of brandy. By the bye I must tell you, he owed me [ripped]. You see I nabbed them all. [Ripped] any notice to anyone. Today I dined at home for the first time. I have got a new servant who is an excellent cook, he made me a famous stew today of leaf green peas, pearl barley & onions, which was very good indeed & I relished it very much & drank half a bottle of wine. I have staid [sic] in doors the whole evening, reading over your letter & papers. I have written so much that I had almost forgot to tell you that I have had no ague today & that I feel myself quite hearty, I trust a very short time will set me perfectly to rights again though I do not care much about leaving Lisbon soon. I am rather dull sitting by myself in this great gaudy room, there is a great difference in your comfortable little room. This is in a busy part of the town too, but then I seem isolated & want society & that society is yours. I am not very fond of other society in general, but however my dullness will soon wear off. My old servant with my horses are gone to grass some ways from hence, but I must have them here as a little riding on horseback would be of service to me.

Pray did you send the cross & have you heard anything about it? Direct your letters to me thus ‘Staff Surgeon’ Morse, Portuguese cavalry, Lisbon. Don’t say anything about Marshal Beresford & spell it as I have. Now my love, don’t fret yourself about me, for I am, thank God, getting well rapidly & trust to have no more of it. Kiss my babies & dream of me yourself, God bless you my love & believe me ever sincerely thine. George Morse.

11th No particular news that I can learn & no ague today. Adieu


1 Major Thomas Williamson Assistant Adjutant General to the 1st Division.

2 Colonel Alexander Campbell, York Light Infantry commanded a brigade in the 4th Division.

3 Almost certainly Captain Redmond Morris 13th Light Dragoons.

4 Presumably Staff Surgeon John Rice.

5 The Army Agents, Hopkinson & Sons of 5 St Alban’s Street, Pall Mall, London.

6 Major Robert Arbuthnot 20th Light Dragoons, Military Secretary to Marshal Beresford.

7 Brevet Colonel Lord Robert Edward Somerset.

8 This would appear to be Captain Charles Patton RN.

9 Captain George Collier Coldstream Guards.

10 Captain William Masson 50th Foot.

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