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OFFICERS PRISONERS OF WAR.
To the Editor of the Military Panorama. SIR, IT has always appeared to me peculiarly hard, that in the present war with France, wherein it has been found quite impossible to effect an exchange of prisoners, except on the most unjust and unequal terms, our officers who have the misfortune to fall into the hands of the enemy, should, during their captivity, which to some has continued for a period of ten years, be deprived of that promotion which their seniority in their regiment and in the service, as well as their past services, entitle them to. When it is considered, how many of these unfortunate officers were made prisoners, wounded and helpless, immediately after the battle of Talavera, wherein they had all bled at their honorable posts, and on other similar occasions wherein they were taken, certainly from no fault of their own, I think it cannot but appear cruel and unjust that men in their situation should be deprived, for such a length of time, of that promotion which their captivity alone forms a bar to, and to which their former services and wounds give them such a just claim. Surely it is deserving the consideration of a liberal and generous country to allow the promotion of officers (having the misfortune to be prisoners) to go on when their turn comes, or at least to give them the rank, even if additional pay should be withheld. Should this be done, there would no doubt be a necessity to promote two instead of one, as, during the captive's absence, his next in seniority must be also promoted to do the duty ; but this cannot be any object to the British nation, more particularly at a time when promotion has be. come so plentiful in the army. I observe with sincere pleasure that the present First Lord and Board of Admiralty have generously broke through the rule against granting promotion to prisoners, and have lately promoted several midshipmen, who have been long in captivity, to the rank of Lieutenants; they will, no doubt, in future continue the same liberal system, so well calculated to raise the drooping spirits of these unfortunate youths, the prime of whose lives are wasting away in a foreign country, devoid of any powerful spring of action, panting, yet deprived of opportunity—or almost hope of gaining a name in arms. I hope it will be extended to the army also; sure I am nothing could be more gratifying to the service, or gain the Royal Commander-in-Chief, who has done so much for the soldier's comfort, more deserved applause and gratitude. EDWIN.
OFFICERS' DRESS. Sir, The regulation which was issued last year to all Commandants of regiments respecting the dress of officers, is a highly commendable and useful improvement.-It will be a great saving of expense to officers, and prevent them becoming the easy victims of French riflemen. The nearer the dress approaches to that of the private, the more it will finally be approved.—Comfort is all that is required, for conduct will be the proper distinction between ranks in the army as well as society.
I must beg to submit an idea, that, in order to distinguisha Captains from Subalterns, one rank or the other should wear his epaulette on the left shoulder instead of the right, with a gold or silver loop to keep up the belt. I have the honour to be, &c. March 2, 1813.
CHARACTER OF THE RUSSIAN TROOPS.
BY CAPT. T. H. COOPER. WHEN the Russians attack they must either conquer or die. With skilful maneuvres or able retreats they are unacquainted. They know only to go forwards, but never backwards. A Russian soldier, in his flight, is the most helpless animal in the world. This state is to him so unnatural, that he does not know in what manner to help himself; and this is often a very great defect. The Russian soldiers are quicker than the Austrian, without having the activity of the French, or their composure in flight. Their impetuous desire to push forwards, combined with their inexhaustible strength, their esprit de corps, and belief in predestination, make the Russian troops of the line the best infantry in the world, when they have to fight on large plains. The Russian soldiers, distinguished from those of every other nation by religion, language, and habits, have a great deal of national honour. Formerly the idea of St. Nicholas was capable of performing wonders : at present the word Naschi, "Our Countrymen,” has succeeded it. The wonders that ean be effected by this word are astonishing. The Russian advances to battle with great indifference; but as soon as the first Russian falls, he is heard to exclaim, “ A countryman, General ! let us attack !” and on such occasions it is often difficult to restrain him. The Russian soldiers have a firm belief in predestination. When
danger is mentioned to them, their usual reply is, “We cannot obtain a victory unless God has so decreed;” and under this conviction they expose themselves with resignation to certain destruction. Their idea is, “We cannot avoid death at the time and place appointed for us; and if it be not appointed at present, no bullet will touch us.” What the Russians are in a particular manner distinguished by, is their inexhaustible strength. - They are without doubt the hardiest soldiers in the world. Suwaroff, who well knew this qualification of his troops, always fell upon the French with his whole force, without suffering them to rest. The French were in a great error when they believed that they could tire out the Russians by long-continued skirmishes. They gained nothing, therefore, by the strength of their troops of the line, which they wisely spared, nor had they any time to assemble and take rest. In the year 1799, the French soldiers under Scherer had lost a great deal of their courage. The Austrians had opened the campaign with success. Suwaroff then came up, and carried every thing before him, like a torrent. Moreau was unable to withstand his force, though his army had been much weakened by the garrison he was obliged to leave behind him. Suwaroff committed the care of the sieges to the Austrians, and advanced so rapidly forward with the Russians, that the French army, disheartened and weakened, could no longer make a stand. Thus the Russians swept every thing before them, till Moreau retired behind the Genoese mountains. Here he conceived a plan which was worthy of his genius, and which nothing could have defeated but the inexhaustible strength of the Russians. Macdonald drew all the troops from Naples, and collected his force at Bologna, hoping to place the Russians, who were posted at Turin, between two fires. But Suwaroffmarched from Turin at six in the evening, reached Alexandria next day by eleven ; moved again at six in the evening, and, on the third day, was twelve miles from Piacenza, near Castel S. Giovanno, where his advanced-guard attacked the French, whom Ott and Klenau, who had been between Bologna and Ferara, were driving before them. The Russians, who had marched every day forty-five miles, and who actually had the appearance of sans culottes, were immediately led into action. A most bloody contest began, which was renewed next day, and which terminated in the dispersion of Macdonald's army. This, however, was only half of the business: the Russians marched back with the same expedition, in order to meet Moreau, who was approaching Turin. Moreau then retreated back to the Genoese mountains, united with his troops the remains of Macdonald's army, and, in order to achieve something decisive, fought the battle of Novi, where the Russians, who formed the centre, penetrated three times to the bottom of the impassable mountains, which were planted with heavy cannon brought from Genoa. Such marches and exploits could be performed, in the warm climate of Italy, only by Russians.
The Russian soldier cooks his victuals when he can, and has no definite time for eating or sleeping. A Russian is always awake on duty, and always sleeps when he has leisure, and wherever he may be. This is seen daily in the case of coachmen and servants. He requires less than other nations, and is the least expense in the field.
The Russian soldiers, formerly, were not accustomed to give or to receive quarter; and this practice they followed in their wars with the Turks. The Turks are not Christians—and those who are not Christians, according to their idea, are not men. In this belief they cut down their prisoners, and even massacred the women. In the Turkish wars also, too many prisoners were a burden to the Russians. The case in Italy was different: the French were Christians, or at least better Christians than the Turks; the Russians, therefore, were desirous of preserving their prisoners, because they knew where they could send them, and because the number of them increased the courage of the soldiers. The Russian soldiers shewed no cruelty towards them : they took from the prisoner whatever he had, and suffered him to retire behind the front line.
Being accustomed to carry on war in desarts, and not in requisitionary countries, a Russian army is attended by a much greater number of waggons than any other; but they are so light, and there are so many workmen in the army, that these carriages can be easily repaired, and, in general, do not impede the rapid progress of the troops.
Correspondence from the Theatre of War in the Peninsula.
Mongaulde, 17 Jan. 1818-THE army are now snug in winter-quarters: every village is occupied by troops, and the business of clothing and drilling occupies most of our attention. In defiance, however, of the sterility of the country, the manners and customs of the natives, certainly one hundred years behind us, we make out a little festivity. A friend of mine now and then gives a ball, to which the ladies of the village are invited. The country mode of dancing among these people is indescribably heavy, stupid, and lascivious. The fandango is generally danced by two people, a male and female, or two females. It appears to detail a love story, which as it draws to a close, exhibits what delicacy turns away from with disgust. The ladies were persuaded by the young and elegant Hanoverian and Dutch officers to waltz, but the only part of the dance they seemed to understand was the hug, and that altogether totally foreign to grace or light movement: it was ridiculous to observe the officers with their hands under the ladies' arms, straining to raise them from their heels; but for our simple pleasant country-dance, they neither could comprehend it, or make any way: however, it appears with all this want of what is so delightful in the sex, the ladies are far from considering themselves deficient; they are in general vain and ill-bred. An English lady, the wife of an officer, as beautiful and graceful as her manners are engaging, was present at one of these balls, and was actually driven out of the room by two ladies, who with much formality danced the landos: however, to make up for their ignorance in the dance, they certainly exhibit much taste in music; they all sing, and for the most part charmingly: even the little miserable cottagers take different parts in the song, and which they execute in a very pleasing manner: the dress and ornaments of the village grandees are so truly extravagant and ridiculous, that it is impossible to resist a smile when they enter the town. Conceive a woman in appearance fifty, her head covered with artificial flowers, and her hair tied close up to her head in a twist; a large necklace of miserable beads, to which is suspended a silver or plated cross, and a circular piece of the same, with a crucifix on it; long drop ear-rings of the same description, and rings on her fingers; a coloured cotton gown, mantle, and worsted stockings. The young ladies wear white or coloured cotton gowns, with glaring coloured ribbons, and silk stockings. I have seen among them some pretty women, who if they were more cleanly, and did not eat garlic, might inspire a tender sentiment; but their want of due personal attention, and foetid breath, arising from their native habits, keep Englishmen at a respectful distance. Yet we are all merry, and have passed our Christmas jovially. The weather is cold, and we have all kinds of contrivances as substitutes for our exhilarating, friendly, and social English fire. A camp-kettle, filled with charcoal, affords heat, but smothers us with smoke; we therefore heartily wish for the spring, a wholesome tent, and the scent of the various shrubs, instead of an abominable “compound of villanous smells.” The Germans are clever at fitting up all sorts of places of amusement, so that there are public rooms for dancing, for whist, faro, and conversation, which serves to dispel ennui, and hours that otherwise might hang heavy upon our hands are passed in cheerful amusement. The English news-papers also entertain us ; of late we have received them with some degree of regularity; and frequently to maintain a topic of conversation, we are obliged, by the fertile invention of some of our military wits.-This day Buonaparte was killed, next day he is in Paris, a week since the French were leaving Spain, now they advance on this side of Salamanca, &c. Cobbet produces argument for some ; the Courier and other papers have their admirers. I certainly have observed how much private anxieties bias our sentiments. Those who are tired of this country, and look with eagerness for their recal home, are of Cobbett's opinion,-‘‘the cause is up, the Spaniards are not hearty therein; we shall exhaust Portugal; the French will drive us on board-ship in the spring; we have not sufficient cavalry:” in short, when I listen to their opinions, I read them simply thus, “I am tired of this country and I want to get home.” Others again rail at Cobbett as a presuming, ignorant coxcomb, who deals out abuse around him, well aware how dearly we all love to hear our neighbours ridiculed : these gentlemen cry up the Spaniards, the cavalry, the country, and the General 5–by the bye, there is some excuse for the chosen few; I mean those who have stumbled upon rank by past regulations, and which the Duke of York, to his *ternal credit, has annulled; and an officer may now expect promotion from merit,