Students of the Peninsular War will be familiar with 'The Subaltern' by Gleig (also published by Leonaur), but that fine work should not be confused with this book by another young officer, George Wood, which has found its way into print far less frequently since its original publication. This is one more vital account of the war in Spain told from the sharp end. It is particularly valuable for its insights into the privations and sufferings of campaign life particularly during retreats. We follow Wood through Vimiera, Corunna, Talavera, Vittoria over the Pyrenees and through the Southern France Campaign. Wood's regiment may not be familiar to many readers and so the Leonaur editors have appended an excellent concise history of the activities of the 82nd during the Napoleonic Age by Brevet-Major Jarvis which gives context to Wood's own story. Available in soft back and hard cover with dust jacket for collectors.
We now began to advance over those who had fallen: among them was my brother Sub, who had been out skirmishing; and we came under what I then thought a pretty hot fire, both of field-pieces and musketry, not having witnessed the like before: but this I found was a mere joke to what I was hereafter to experience. However, it gave me a seasoning—as I was soon after knocked down by a musket-ball striking me on the left groin; and I only attribute escaping a severe wound to having some papers in the pocket of my pantaloons, which prevented its penetrating the flesh; but it caused a great contusion: I was, however, in a few minutes able to proceed with the regiment, and soon had the pleasure of seeing the French flying before us. We followed them till the lateness of the evening compelled us to halt, when, this being the first field of glory I had the honour of sharing in, I could not help noticing immediately at my feet a fine youth who was shot through some vital part. This poor soldier, when I first observed him, was lying on his back, his head. supported by his knapsack: his visage appeared serene and calm, with a very healthy ruddy colour in his manly cheeks; but every time I looked at him, I perceived his countenance gradually becoming paler, and his fine blue eyes losing their lustre, which I observed soon became fixed in death, without his uttering a groan or a struggle. <br>
From reflecting on this mournful spectacle, I was soon diverted, by being ordered to go on the out-post of a Field-officer’s piquet, about two miles in advance. I went accordingly, and took my station behind a furze-hedge, from which I could hear the French videttes talk as plainly as I now hear the passengers under my window.<br>
I was now, for the first time, on an out-post before the enemy; no covering but my great coat—no pillow but my cocked hat. The fine ornaments which had shone so conspicuously on the parades on home service, began to lose their brilliancy: the glittering epaulette was crushed into a thousand forms, and the pretty tight boot cut with many a slit to ease the blistered foot. Most glad was I to feel the morning sun warm my dewy limbs; and, hardly had it made its appearance, when we were called in, and had but just time to get a little warm tea, so refreshing to the weary frame, when off we marched in pursuit of the enemy, whom we followed up for a few days, till we reached the field of Vimiera, where we halted some time.<br>
About nine o’clock on the morning of the third day, we perceived the French in great force on the heights of Torres-Vedras, coming down upon us, formed in strong divisions, and in the most regular array. We quickly stood to our arms, and marched to our alarm-posts, which soon brought the contending bodies in contact; when, forming line with the 71st Regiment, which had been engaged some time previously, we came in for our share of the conflict of that day, by being opposed to a strong French regiment, which advanced to within half pistol-shot of us, when a most tremendous point blank fire ensued. This not proving effectual, Charge! was the word now vociferated from flank to centre: but, on their seeing us come to this awful position of destruction in the art of war, they had not courage to withstand our impetuous movement; for, just as we were in the act of crossing bayonets, to the right-about they went, in the quickest time. We followed as rapidly, driving them from their artillery—I believe, about twelve field-pieces, passing it on the right flank at the same time the 71st Regiment did on the left, and I trust we had an equal share in the honour of capturing them.<br>
The French, however, having now gained possession of the village on the heights, which had been strongly barricaded, remained there for the present, and we received orders to halt in the ravine. Indeed, a little breathing-time had become very necessary, as we had for the last two hours been firing, shouting, running, swearing, sweating, and huzzaing.