West Wessel 15 March 1813
My dearest Aunt,
Berkeley having given you information of his own safety and of our late failure at Bergen op Zoom, nothing remains for my goose quill, save my sincere congratulations at his good fortune at having been present an assault of one of the strongest fortifications in Europe and escaping untouched.
The town would have been in our possession had reinforcements arrived in time. Only the Coldstream light infantry were engaged, the remainder of the regiments watched Fort Lillo during the assault, but we received orders during the night to march to Bergen op Zoom, where we arrived under the walls as the 3rd Regiment were retreating from the town, as the First Guards had suffered so severely, a second assault was not deemed prudent and we left the walls with the 3rd Guards. You may conceive my joy at seeing Berkeley, many unpleasant reports having been circulated of the fate of many officers. All those that knew poor James Macdonald107 must feel his irreparable loss. All the prisoners of war have their parole to return to England and are not to serve again during the war. General Cooke and Disbrowe108 intend touring to the allied armies. We have just got accounts of a victory over Bonaparte by Blucher and have in consequence fire a feu de joie. Some say we are to bombard Bergen op Zoom, if we do this, they must destroy the greatest part of that town, in our attempt to gain possession. Instead of finding a garrison of 1600 conscripts they had upwards of 3000 veterans. We are now doing outpost duty and are more crowded and uncomfortable than we have been since we landed. The French have entirely destroyed the house, all the inhabitants have fled. The 2nd Division take up our cantonments before Lillo, Bergen op Zoom &c. The weather continues severe, a man of 70 told me that this winter has been longer and more inclement than any he ever experienced before. Jack Talbot109 with the Steenbergen detachment are ordered to South Beveland, which of course cannot be pleasant, being so far from his regiment. I suppose they will invest or cut off the communication between Fort Batz and Antwerp. Berkeley is doing the duty of Adjutant, till the arrival of Colonel Hepburn110, it will not be determined if he is to keep that situation or not. I have got thus fat without thanking you (from my heart) for your undated letter [and?] the gratifying information it contained was most palatable, and I trust you [will?] never have cause to retract. I had a long letter from Fraser on his arrival from Scotland. I shall try and find out Bob Lock’s character, but at present know no one in his corps, which seldom comes in contact with ours. I wrote to his mother after the Antwerp trip, hearing his letters to her were scanty. I did it as a Nephew G duty and have had an answer. General Joe informs me occasionally of the plebians in the north. We are now a morning’s ride from Brussels and hope to take advantage of the distance some day. Do not expect quite a box full of love, 2 amateurs from the allies pass through this daily, by them we hear what is going on in that quarter. Lord Wellington they say has advanced. Adieu dearest aunt and with the beat of love to all. Believe me your most affectionate nephew Geo Percival.
Antwerp 11 June 1814
My dearest Aunt,
It is some time since I have written to you, the sameness of our present life affords little effusion for my epistolary brain. Our gaieties here have been nearly on a par with yours in England. The military gave the natives a ball on the 4th of June which was done in John Bull’s usual magnificence. Every delicacy of the season was put in requisition for our supper, a novel expense to them, as they have booths where refreshments are sold, however, they did not despise or spare ours. We have got much more reconciled to our present quarters and the inhabitants are much more civil than when we first arrived. But I believe it is from an idea that this town is to be under the protection of England and it would be impolitic not making friends with the military. I dine tomorrow with the son of my landlady who lives in the country, where there is to be a grand spectacle of archery and the prizes are well worth contending for. I have no doubt you must have enjoyed your week at Epsom, if you had the same weather we have been blessed with here. Charlotte is too much taken up with flirting with the divers foreigners that are now resident in your Metropolis, to think of another person, but it is my loss not hearing from her. It is very unfortunate that a royal correspondence should have taken place at this time, when it ought to have remained dormant. Various are the suppositions here in regard to the marriage of the Princess Charlotte and the odds are against it ever taking place, which I am sorry for, as I do not think she will find a better husband and whose character is so well known. The Sovereign Prince is expected here on his way from Paris, apropos John Drummond junior and Mr Hippesley have been staying here a few days. Berkeley, Talbot and myself accompanied them to Bergen op Zoom and after seeing the lions which were accurately described by Berkeley, with dined with John and returned here the following day. He seems to have enjoyed his [journey?] through France and has certainly collected a large budget of Langhaber stories, but we know he is gifted with the marvellous, they return by the Hague. Lord Lyndoch is gone to England for a fortnight which looks little like our leaving this country for the present. Every mail brings us sad news from our brigade in France, poor Collier111 and Vachell 112 both dead of their wounds.
I think that sortie has been more disastrous than anything that has happen [sic] during the war. I hear William Lockwood has resigned, his seat in the Petticoat Government and is only to be found at Gatton Park 113. You will be sorry to hear that Bob Lockwood is the head of the Eccentrics in this army and in his regiment he is doing the oddest things that ever were heard of. At the same time he is thought a gentleman, which is one great thing as his oddities may wear off. Adieu dearest aunt, with kindest love to all at the X. Believe me your most affectionate nephew, George Percival.
107 Brevet Colonel James the honourable James MacDonald 1st Foot Guards was killed at Bergen op Zoom
108 Captain George Disbrowe 1st Foot Guards.
109 Lieutenant and Captain John Talbot Coldstream Guards.
110 Captain & Lieutenant Colonel Francis Hepburn 3rd Foot Guards.
111 Captain and Lieutenant Colonel George Collier Coldstream Guards was severely wounded at Bayonne and had both legs amputated. He died on 10 May 1814.
112 Ensign Frederick Vachell Coldstream Guards, died 13 May 1814.
113 In Surrey.