Collected for the first time, classic short stories set during the clash of Wellington's British & Napoleon's French armies Join the experiences of common infantry men in war torn Spain. Here are tales of the siege of Badojoz, of retreating armies, guerrillas, spies and lost gold. This evocative collection concludes with a story of honour lost and found on the bloody fields of Quatre Bras & Waterloo.
The supporting columns, disordered by the scramble along the foreshore, arrived at the foot of the breach in straggling twos and threes; and here, while their officers tried to form them up, the young soldiers behind, left for the moment without commanders and exasperated by the fire from the flanking tower, halted to exchange useless shots with its defenders and with the enemy on the rampart. Such fighting was worse than idle: it delayed them full in the path of the 38th, which now overtook them on its way to the lesser breach, and in five minutes the two columns were inextricably mixed, blocking the narrow space between wall and river, and exposed in all this dark confusion to a murderous fire.
At length, and though less than a third of his men followed him, Captain Archimbeau led the supporters up the breach; but by this time the enemy had packed the ramparts on either side. No soldiery could stand the hail of musketry, grape, and hand-grenades that rained upon the head of the column. It hesitated, pushed forward again, and broke some fifteen feet from the summit, like a spent wave. Then, as the Royals came pouring back, Lieutenant Campbell of the 9th, with all that could be collected of his picked detachment, forced his way up through the sheer weight of them, won clear, and made a fling for the crest. In vain! His first rush carried him abreast of the masonry under which Sergeant Wilkes and the corporal clung for cover. They rushed out to join him; but they had scarcely gained his side before the whole detachment began to give ground. It was not that the men fell back; rather, the apex of the column withered down as man after man dropped beside its leader. He himself had taken a wound. Yet he waved his sword and carried them forward on a second charge, only to reach where he had reached before, and be laid there by a second bullet.
Meanwhile the Royals, driven to the foot of the slope, were flung as a fresh obstacle in the path of the 38th still striving to press on for the lesser breach. From his perch half-way up the ruins, Sergeant Wilkes descried Captain Archimbeau endeavouring to rally them, and climbed down to help him. The corporal followed, nursing his wounded hand. As they reached him a bugle sounded the recall. The assault had failed. At the foot of the breach a soldier of the 4th Regiment, mad with rage, foamed out a curse upon the Royals. Corporal Sam lifted his bleeding fist and struck him across the mouth. The sergeant dragged the two apart, slipped an arm under his comrade’s, and led him away as one leads a child. A moment later the surge of the retreating crowd had almost carried them off their feet. But the sergeant kept a tight hold, and steered his friend back every yard of the way along the bullet-swept foreshore.