The matter did not altogether rest here, however, for the colonel suspecting that we were implicated, next day we were ordered as if for marching, just as if we were going to leave the place that very day, but the men being quite up to that trick, knowing that the French were still in front, concealed their shares of the money in and around the cellar. She did not fail to ask enough, for she said sixteen dollars, which he paid at once, saying he would deduct it from our pay. Finding, however, that we were too strong for him, and seeing nothing of the missing pig, he went off and reported the circumstance to our colonel. I'm a keen history reader and I very much enjoy these first hand memoirs of centuries past. On Lord Wellington finding that the French intended to alter their route, and so escape this formidable height, he retreated towards Lisbon himself, passing Coimbra, at which place the Portuguese took some thousands of the French sick and wounded, together with some few effective troops, who had been left to protect the hospital.
However, after we had refreshed ourselves with the cyder, at which our officer helped us, he ordered us to be getting on, or rather led us on himself to a small village about half a mile off, which we knew was occupied by some French. They soon began to complain of hunger, but when I asked them if they had got any money, they said they had only one shilling and a farthing, with a hundred miles to travel before they reached their home again; so I took out my bread and cheese and divided it amongst us. Next month commenced by Sir Arthur Wellesley leaving the Spanish general Cuesta in charge of Talavera and the wounded, while on the 3rd he proceeded to Oropesa, where he expected to come up with and engage Soult's army. The enemy then fell back on the River Adour, the allied army soon following and engaging them in slight attacks in various parts of the line, till at last the French again took up a position on the heights near the town of Tarbes, on the said river; but they did not stay long there, being soon driven away by the Allies and retreating towards St. I 3- Battle of Talavera, 28th July 1809- Vol. We followed up the retreating French to a village situated in a valley of the Pyrenees, where they were delayed owing to having to cross a river. Luckily it was nearly spent, but as it was it knocked me down, and it was some time before I could recover my breath, and that not until my comrades had poured some rum and water down my throat.
Lord Wellington accordingly sent our division to a particular pass of the mountains in search of the said supplies, and after marching over hills, mountains, and valleys for at least thirty miles, we at length fell in with about three hundred carts laden with provisions and ammunition. During the interval our men were particularly silent: but at length the deadly signal was given, and we rushed on towards the breach. Two or three officers had been killed in the act of keeping order, and I have been given to understand that some of the fifth division, having arrived after most places had been ransacked, plundered their drunken fellow-comrades, and it was likewise reported that a few were even murdered. I was then lashed to the halberds, and the colonel gave the order for the drummers to commence, each one having to give me twenty-five lashes in turn. So in this case we would have been much better without his services altogether.
Finding next morning that they apparently did not mean to renew their retreat without being made to do so, we tried the experiment; but that day we were defeated in our object, for again, like the fatal fox and grapes, we could very well look at them but could not get them down. We found nearly thirty of the enemy lying there killed and wounded, while we only lost about fifteen in all. We remained, however, in the breach until we were quite weary with our efforts to pass it. I think scarcely a drop of blood was wasted, for even that was caught in our kettles and boiled and eaten, and was found to be very good. This was a great glory to the natives; they stuck the corporal's head on a pole and carried it in front of their little band when on the march. I then volunteered with a few men to march on up to the tower where the guns were situated, a priest being made to show us the way, as the path which we had to tread was so winding. The Frenchman, as soon as he had spent his shot, bolted; I had my own musket loaded at the time, but I did not think of firing, but proceeded after him with all my speed till I came up with him.
I will give some details of the coincidences of that night, which was dark but starlight, so that I could just catch a dim glimpse of the enemy's before mentioned fort, and, owing to the heights, was able to see the town very well. But as soon as Sir Arthur Wellesley returned as commander-in-chief, we were ordered into Spain, in company with five thousand Spaniards, to join Sir John Moore's army. As we had effected all that was wanted at San Pedro, which was the name of the place where we had been carrying on these operations, we returned to Colonia, dragging back the guns laden with our wounded, and taking with us the prisoners, who had to walk along barefooted, as we had availed ourselves of their boots. Then we breathed a little more freely at last, for if we had been found out, we most likely should have had our grog stopped for some time, and that goes in such times very much against the heart of a soldier. Here we likewise received a good supply of bread and rum, which seemed to us like a new and even a luxurious diet.
But though I cannot say that I was yet at all repentant, it must not be thought that I felt altogether comfortable on leaving my country with all my friends and relations in it, so young as I was at the time: more especially when I considered the errand we were on, and thought that I might never return to see them again, knowing that they had not the slightest idea of where I was. The beginning of 1812 opened with the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo, where we arrived and began to break ground on the 8th of February. Some difficulty was met with in our march, owing to the chief of the bridges being destroyed and having to be replaced by pontoons, and those that were not destroyed being strongly fortified. I had not been many days at Salamanca before a fever broke out, which I caught very badly, and so was ordered back into hospital at Ciudad Rodrigo, along with a number of fellow troops who were troubled with a like malady with myself. On my arrival at the hospital, my hair was cut off by order of the doctor, and my head blistered; and I had not been there many hours before I became quite insensible, in which state I remained more or less for three months, which brought on great weakness. This same morning the garrison surrendered.
He said he knew where he could enlist me, and took me straight to the rendezvous, which was in a public-house, where we met a sergeant of artillery, who gave him two guineas for bringing me and myself five for coming, and when my measurement had been taken, a proceeding which was accompanied with no small amount of joking, I was put into an old soldier's coat, and with three or four yards of ribbon hanging from my cap, paraded the town with other recruits, entering and treating some one or other in almost every public-house. Six British guns and some colours were then already in the enemy's possession, but Cole's troops soon dispersed the lancers, and, recapturing the guns and colours, drove the French down again in confusion. Some difficulty was experienced by my fellow-lodgers in cooking their portion, as the landlady had generally before got their food ready; but this was at length accomplished in our own private room, with a kettle that we had borrowed from the old lady herself. Nor, it is to be hoped, will any one be too severe in his comments on the fact that to the mind of a man in Lawrence's position the obtaining of a pair of boots was apparently quite as important an event as the storming of Badajoz, or the finding of a sack with a ham and a couple of fowls in it as the winning of the battle of Waterloo. His name was William Marsh, and he was a native of Bath in Somerset. Here, take the pipe, for I feel precious queer; but my tooth is much better, and after all you are not such a bad doctor.
The loss of the French at this place could not have been much less than two thousand, though some have reported it less and some more; but it is very hard to arrive at a just calculation. But then there must be considered the advantageous ground they fought on, and the fearful havoc they made in our ranks before we were able to return a shot. Lawrence, though he never betrayed the fact to the authorities during his whole military career, being possessed of a wonderful aptitude for mental calculation, and always contriving to get some assistance in concealing his deficiency when his official duties necessitated his doing so, and though he has carefully avoided all direct allusion to it in this work itself, never learnt to write, and the first form in which his history was committed to paper was from dictation. As I said, the poor man was sick of war, and before entering this very action had been wishing he could have both his legs shot off, so that he might be out of the affair altogether; little expecting that it might really be the case, or nearly as bad, for he had not been in action long before his wish was accomplished, as he was shot through the calves of both his legs by a musket-ball which took him sideways and pierced right through. I began to drill twice a day directly I joined, and soon learnt the foot drill, after which I was put on to musketry drill.