ページの画像
PDF
ePub

tained by the 1st battalion on the retreat to Corunna. In the last day's march of forty-five miles from Lugo, numbers of the men being without shoes, and all half famished and exhausted, orders were issued that " the rear guard cannot stop, and those who fall behind must take their fate." Upwards of 6000 men of the army had already, from disease and fatigue, dropped behind. The loss of the Royal Highland regiment, from the same causes, was also considerable. Including those killed and dead of wounds, and prisoners, the number amounted to 136 men. Of the prisoners who dropped behind on the march, and fell into the hands of the enemy, numbers were released and sent to England, and rejoined their regiment .

It was supposed that the soldiers of the 42d, 79th and 92d regiments suffered from the Highland dress. Others again said, that the garb was very commodious in marching over a mountainous country, and that experience had shown that those parts of the body exposed to the weather by this garb are not materially affected by the severest cold; thus, while instances are common of the fingers, toes, and face, being frost-bitten, we never hear of the knee being affected, and when men, in the Highland garb, have had their fingers destroyed by frost, their knees remained untouched, although bare and exposed to the same temperature which affected other parts of the body." The warmth which the

• An extraordinary instance of the degree of cold which the human bctlj can be brought to sustain, is exemplified in the instance of a man of the name of Cameron, now living on the estate of Strowan, in the county of Perth. This man showed an aversion to any covering from the time he was able to walk, always attempting to throw off his clothes. Being indulged by his mother in this, he went about at all times, even in the deepest snows, and during the hardest frosts, in a state of nudity, and continued the same practice without the smallest detriment to hit health, till increasing yean made it Decenary, for the take of decency, to give bin tone covering. His parents, wishing to send him to a neighbouring school, the loose kind of plaid robe descending to his knees was made, and thrown over his shoulders; but he was fifteen yean of age before he wore the usual dress. There is nothing remarkable in his character, disposition, or constitution, nor does he appear to be stronger than other men, but he is perfectly healthy.

numerous folds of the kilt preserved round the centre of the body was a great security against complaints in the bow elf. which were so prevalent on this occasion among the troops; and it may be supposed that men who are in t manner rendered hardy by being habituated, at least from the time they joined Highland corps, to a loose cool dress, would be less liable to be affected by violent and abrupt changes of temperature.

As the present was not a period of rest for soldiers, this regiment and the Cameron and Gordon Highlanders were again ordered to hold themselves in readiness for active service, and, in July 1809, marched to Ramsgate to join at armament collecting there for the purpose of effecting t landing on the islands in the mouth of the Scheldt, and of attempting the capture and destruction of the fleet and arsenal at Antwerp. For this purpose a body of troops were collected in Kent more numerous than any that had sailed from England at one time since the days of the Edwardand Henrys, who had so frequently invaded France with great and numerous armies.

In the month of July the whole were embarked, consist ing of 2320 cavalry, 31,409 infantry, 16 companies of mi tillery, a troop of horse artillery, 2 companies of the sui corps, and a detachment of the waggon train, in all, abo*-. 38,000 men, with a fleet of 39 sail of the line, and so negates, besides mortar vessels and gun-boats; the land force being under the command of Lieutenant General the Ear of Chatham, and the fleet under that of Vice-Admiral su Richard Strachan. This powerful armament sailed on tbc 28th of July 1809. The Royal Highlanders were in the brigade of Brigadier-General Moutresor, and the divan'os of Lieutenant-General the Marquis of Huutly. Of this disastrous enterprise 1 shall only state, that the princip* object having been found impracticable, and the sickly stntr of the army in this worst of climates having rendered it hrs possiblc to retain the inferior stations already captured part of the armament returned to England in September. and the rest in October. The 42d was included in the first division, and landing at Dover, marched to Canterbury on the Uth of September, having only 204 men fit for duty, of 758, who, six weeks before, had marched through the same town for embarkation.

The men recovered very slowly from the disease caught at Walcheren. This was the more deeply to be regretted, as the ranks of this regiment were not now to be filled up with the same facility and enthusiasm as in past times, for neither recruiting in the country, nor volunteering from the Scotch militia, was successful. This was so strongly felt when the 2d battalion embarked for Portugal, that the commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Blantyre, recruited from the Irish militia, who furnished 150 men to be transformed into Highlanders. If Highlanders will not enlist into their native regiments, it is, doubtless, necessary to complete those corps by other means; but, otherwise, it must appear inexpedient to introduce men into a corps where they must assume a garb so different from that to which they have been accustomed, and where they must be called Highlanders, although ignorant of the language and strangers to the habits of the country whose designation they bear, and whose military character they are supposed to support.

The regiment was removed to Scotland in July 1810, and quartered in Musselburgh; I number of the men still labouring under the influence of the Walcheren fever.

It might be interesting to observe, and trace through a succession of years, the changes in the moral conduct of this corps,—changes that did not indicate those improvements which, in an enlightened age, might have been expected, but which, on the contrary, betrayed a relaxation of that moral feeling and spirit which had distinguished the service of national corps in the reign of George II., and in the early part of that of his late Majesty.

With regard to the soldiers of this regiment, I know not whether it was this supposed relaxation of moral character in Highlanders, by which they were affected while in Musselburgh, but they certainly did indulge themselves in an excess of drinking not easily restrained, and altogether opposite to the temperate habits of this regiment during the American war, and at earlier periods: And as drinking to excess is the great source of vice in the British army, —in deed, I may say, almost the only cause of irregularity in quarters,—more severe restrictions and a stricter discipline than usual became necessary. However, like the other deviations already noticed, this was only temporary, and partly disappeared with a change of duty; at the same time, it may be observed, that in the earlier service of the regiment no change of station or of duty caused an alteration in conduct or character.

During the twelve months the regiment remained in Scotland, few recruits were added. In August 1811, it embarked and sailed for England, and was quartered in Lewis Barracks till marched to Portsmouth, and embarked for Portugal in April 1812. It joined the British army in May, after the capture of Cuidad Rodrigo and Badajoz. The capture of two such strongly fortified places, under all the circumstances of difficulty and trial to which the besieging army was exposed, and defended as they were by a brave and highly-disciplined enemy, presents us with most splendid instances of the power of talent and military genius a the Commander, and of invincible ardour, joined with finsness and perseverance, on the part of the troops ; and gave the British nation an earnest of that career of honour not. success of which these were the opening scenes. At tl<> auspicious period the 1st battalion joined the army, and meet- ing the 2d battalion, which had already been two years intne Peninsula, they were now consolidated. • The officers and

* The 2d battalion, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Buanrm served two years in the Peninsula, was actively engaged at Fucatcs; llonore in May 1811, and through its whole service sustained a roprc able character. This battalion, as has been already noticed, was faracrfrom the quotas ot men furnished by several Highland counties in ices staff of the 2d battalion were ordered to England, leaving the first upwards of 1160 rank and file fit for service, and included in Lieutenant-Genera) Sir Thomas Graham's division. The two brilliant enterprises above mentioned opened a road to Spain either to the north or south, and in a manner isolated the divisions of the French army, cutting off their communications, except by circuitous routes. Lord Wellington allowed his army a few weeks' rest, after a spring campaign of such brilliant success. The allied army now amounted to 58,000 men; a larger body than any single division of the enemy, although their whole force in Spain exceeded 160,000; but the increasing activity of the Spaniards, encouraged by the success and steady support of their allies, afforded full employment to numerous bodies of the French troops in different parts of the kingdom: for, although generally defeated, the Spaniards always rallied, and both occupied and consumed numbers of the common enemy.

While Lord Wellington was preparing for the principal operations of the campaign, he detached Lieutenant-General Mill, with 10,000 men, to attack and take possession of Almarez, a strong position commanding one of the principal passages over the Tagus, and of great importance to the enemy, who had erected formidable works for its defence on both sides of the river, while the difficulties of the enterprise were greatly increased by the redoubts and castle of Mirabole, situated at a short distance. This difficult duty the Lieutenant-Gcneral executed with the success which always attended his spirited and well-conducted enterprises. The surprise which had been intended was prevented by the extreme badness of the roads, in consequence of which

To these were added the 150 volunteers, also noticed, from the Irish militia, when the battalion embarked from Ireland for the Peninsula. The corps suffered exceedingly from sickness on the banks of the Guadiana; and when the lst battalion was completed, the few who were left with the tocond were ordered to Scotland, to be stationed there till the reduction at the peace in 1814.

« 前へ次へ »