As its commanding officer and as a noted Oxford University academic Colonel Henry Hamilton was well placed to write the history of the 14th (King’s) Hussars. His full regimental history covers from the origins of the regiment in 1715 to its service during the Boer War at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. While some military history students require a work of this depth, there are those who are primarily concerned with the periods when regiments were on active service. For the 14th (King’s) Hussars in the 19th century, this was during the Napoleonic Wars, principally during the Peninsular War in Spain and in the South of France, and later in India where as H. M 14th (King’s) Light Dragoons they served with distinction in the Second Sikh War and during the Indian Mutiny. By carefully editing Hamilton’s book, and adding illustrations and maps and supplementary material not originally present, the Leonaur editors have created two linked volumes that focus on these periods of the regiment’s history.
The Fighting 14th follows the campaigns under Wellington and will be an essential addition to the library of every student of the war in the Iberian peninsula. It benefits from the inclusion of a number of significant passages from the memoirs of one of the regiments most renowned and daring officers, Captain Thomas Brotherton, whose entertaining and compellingly recounted adventures bring the history of this cavalry regiment vibrantly to life.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
The French officer showed great cunning and skill, seeing the superiority of my horse, for he remained stationary to receive me, and allowed me to ride round and round him, whilst he remained on the defensive. He made several cuts at the head of my horse, and succeeded in cutting one of my reins and the forefinger of my bridle-hand, which was, however, saved by the thick glove I wore, though the finger was cut very deeply to the joint.
As my antagonist was making the last cut at me, I had the opportunity of making a thrust at his body which staggered him, and he made off. I thought I had but slightly wounded him, but I found, on inquiry the next day, when sent on a flag of truce, that the thrust had proved mortal, having entered the pit of his stomach. I felt deeply on this occasion and was much annoyed, as I had admired the chivalrous and noble bearing of this young officer. He was a mere youth, who, I suppose, thought it necessary to make this display as a first essay, as French officers usually do on their first appearance in the field, and indeed, I believe it is expected of them by their comrades. I shall never forget his good-humoured, fine countenance during the whole time we were engaged in this single combat, talking cheerfully and politely to me, as if we were exchanging civilities instead of sabre-cuts.
There was a singular coincidence this day. We, the 14th Light Dragoons, wore an orange facing, and the French regiment to which we were opposed proved to be the 14th French Chasseurs, and also wore an orange facing. The cut I received on the forefinger of my bridle-hand proved a great grievance for some time, as it prevented me from playing the violin for weeks a great deprivation, as I always played in bivouac at night.
Early in the morning we found ourselves (that is General Alten’s brigade, composed of the 14th Light Dragoons and 1st Hanoverian Hussars) in presence of a very superior force of the enemy’s cavalry, with whom we commenced skirmishing, and who drove us back across the Guarena stream, a small river with steep banks. When we had crossed this stream with the whole brigade, we formed and waited till the enemy had crossed also, and then attacked him in “succession of squadrons from the right.”
The two first squadrons that charged failed to make an impression on the enemy, and were repulsed. In leading the third squadron to the charge (which was mine), I was run through the body, from the right side to the navel, about six inches. When the point of the sword came out, and as I staggered and fell, my antagonist, instead of withdrawing his sword from my body altogether, drew it up a little and then made another thrust, which went into the cavity of my chest. I was then led off the field faint and sick, and I well remember one of my best old soldiers offering his assistance. He was wounded also, but said “it was nothing, only a little stab in the stomach.”
Such, however, is the mortal nature of wounds with the point (the regiment we had charged was a heavy cavalry one with straight swords), that the poor fellow, as he was leading me off the field, suddenly staggered, vomited blood, and fell down dead. I must mention that I received my wound in the act of uplifting my arm and making a cut at the head of my antagonist, on his near side. He wore a brass helmet, and the blade of my sabre broke in two on it, which left me quite at his mercy.
I forgot to mention that, in the early part of this eventful day to me, the enemy cannonaded us when we were formed in line, and the mare I rode, a most valuable one, a pure Arabian of the highest caste, and known to the whole army for her great beauty, had her thigh shattered by a shell which fell close to me and burst. I immediately dismounted one of the troop-sergeant-majors and took his horse, sending him to the rear. She was at first considered so desperately wounded that I was advised, and was on the point of shooting her, but she afterwards miraculously recovered, and I was taken prisoner on her on the 13th December 1813, when her head was cut open.
I was bled twice, profusely, during the night, as the effects of inflammation were apprehended, these sort of wounds never bleeding much of themselves. I was, of course, much weakened, but determined not to lose the glorious Battle of Salamanca, which took place on the 22nd instant. I got on my horse, having slept in the town of Salamanca on the previous night, and I joined my regiment (in the field), which I found on the point of being engaged. I remained with it only a short time, as Colonel Hervey threatened to put me under arrest if I did not quit the field immediately, conceiving I was not in a fit state to remain. I left the regiment. It was, however, impossible to quit such a field at such a moment, and I repaired to the Arapiles hill, of which we then had possession, the enemy occupying the other immediately in front of it.
General Packe’s brigade being ordered to attack the latter, and perceiving one of the Portuguese regiments giving way, I could not resist the temptation of attempting to rally them, and rode down to the valley for that purpose, but my horse was shot under me, and in the very weak state I was in, I felt very unequal to further exertion. Still, it was impossible to leave such a field at such a moment, and I remained to the last, having joined in the very last attack made by the 6th Division on the rocky heights to which the French had retired before they entirely gave way, and retreated.