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Men of the Rifles

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Men of the Rifles
Leonaur Original
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Author(s): Thomas Knight, Henry Curling & Jonathan Leach
Date Published: 2008/01
Page Count: 148
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-397-6
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-398-3

This book--a Leonaur original--contains three rare works by members of Wellington's green sharpshooters. The first was written by Rifleman Knight-a personality who rarely appears in histories of the regiment-but who fought at Waterloo and took part in the pursuit of the French Army to Paris. He subsequently went to Portugal to fight as a mercenary and his account of his adventures on campaign and on the battlefield make riveting reading. Henry Curling wielded the pen that brought to the public the well known memoirs of Rifleman Benjamin Harris. This book contains more military anecdotes recorded by Curling from reports of other British soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars including several more by Harris himself. The final piece is a short history of the Rifles by Jonathan Leach who was an officer of the regiment and his history directly recounts events in which he was a personal and active participant.

Falling in again we advanced to within a quarter of a mile of where the cavalry were making charges against the squares, and lying down behind a bank, remained here for some time to prevent the French coming up the lane upon our rear.<br>
The wounded were now passing us in immense numbers; but neither they, nor the thunder of the guns, nor the rattling of the musketry, could prevent many of our men throwing themselves down and instantly falling asleep, so terribly were we knocked up by marching two days and nights with scarcely any rest.<br>
The 52nd regiment having been engaged the whole morning, we advanced to cover them, and had much difficulty to avoid treading on the wounded, whose cries for help were grievous. The French, observing us to move, played upon us with grape and round shot, killing and wounding many, till we received orders to oblique to the right.<br>
Getting into a rye-field on the right of the lines, we were immediately opened upon by the French columns, about 150 yards distant, and suffered severely.<br>
About one o’clock we were ordered to advance and cover the 52nd lines, in extended files four yards apart, receiving orders, in case of being driven in, to form on the right of the 52nd, and the left of the light sub-division guns, and to fire in line until again told to advance and extend. We were obliged to fall back; and about half-past four o’clock, observing a large body of Cuirassiers half a mile distant, coming down upon us in close column to cut off our division, General Adam gave orders to his own brigade and to the artillery, to reserve their fire until they were within 100 yards, when such a volley was sent in among them that they were obliged to wheel round, leaving half of their number behind.<br>
Word was now given to charge, and on we stepped, cheering and huzzaing, and, after a sharp struggle, we made the infantry retire, leaving many prisoners and guns in our hands. They took to the wood, but the 42nd driving them through, we ran along the sides, picking them up as they came out.<br>
The 42nd were now in their turn charged by cavalry, and got terribly mauled. We were ordered to fall back, in order to lead the French after us, and this succeeding, wheeled right about, and charging, drove back those that had followed us. About seven o’clock, seeing large, dark columns coming up on our rear, we were afraid they were French, and that we should be taken prisoners; they, however, proved to be Prussians, which put us in high spirits, and, bringing our right shoulder forward, we advanced on the enemy, who, after standing it bravely for a little, took to their heels as hard as they could run, and never halted till they got to the rear of Fleurus.