A unique and exceptional account of the British Army on campaign against Napoleon
Most British military memoirs of the Napoleonic period focus, understandably, on the actions of Wellington's army as it fought through the Iberian peninsula during the bloody struggle to expel the French from Portugal and Spain. Morris's important memoir is somewhat different. He elected to join his elder brother in the second battalion of the 73rd regiment of foot and found himself on board ship bound for Sweden. Campaigning and battles against the French in close co-operation with the Northern European Allies followed as he marched with his regiment through Germany, taking part in the actions which led to the Emperor's great reverse at Leipzig. As the First Empire recoiled in its final days before the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy, Morris took part in the last actions as the French Army was pushed from the Low Countries after which they remained there in garrison. So it was that the 73rd were literally 'on the spot' when Napoleon slipped away from his exile on Elba and began his fateful march towards the apocalyptic battles of Quatre Bras and Waterloo in 1815. Morris's accounts of the famous events of --perhaps-the world's most famous battles have become classic and often quoted descriptions of these great conflicts. They are here in their entirety, together with Morris's complete military memoir making this book an essential addition to any Napoleonic history library.
We now united with the black Brunswickers under their brave Duke, and soon drove before us a vast body of the enemy, when the Germans and ourselves parted company. We were now considerably in advance, and as the shots were whistling thickly around us, we were ordered to lie down to avoid the favours intended for us.<br>
Two of our companies were ordered out skirmishing. The light company, and the one to which I belonged, was detached on this duty, but not exactly together; our company was unfortunately commanded by a captain sixty years of age, who, though he had been thirty years in the service, had never before been in battle. He was so little acquainted with his duty, that on an ordinary parade his sergeant was obliged to inform him as to what he was to say and do.<br>
He now led us forward; we exchanged a few shots with a portion of the enemy who were within reach, when we saw a body of cuirassiers making towards us, and our captain was then fairly at his wits’ end. He became obstinate, too, and would not listen to the suggestions of the sergeant and subalterns, and there is no doubt we should have been sacrificed, had we not been seen by our adjutant (Hay), a fine spirited fellow, who had been our surgeon, but at his own desire had exchanged for ensign and adjutant. He, seeing us in this perilous position, rode up, called the captain an old fool, and ordered us to retire in double quick time; so we reached the regiment just in time to form square, and beat off our powerful assailants.<br>
We were no more actively employed, but could see the French troops retiring to the wood in their rear. By degrees the fire slackened; about nine o’clock ceasing altogether, the field of battle being left in our possession.
The contest at the same time, between Napoleon and Blucher, had been raging with fearful violence and obstinacy; but eventually the Prussians were compelled to retire with the loss of 12,000 men; the French acknowledging a loss, on their part, of 8,000. The non-success of Ney at Quatre Bras, seems unaccountable, as he had not only superior numbers, but had also an efficient body of cavalry and artillery, in both of which important arms we were miserably deficient, as the English cavalry and artillery had not yet arrived when Napoleon had matured his plans, delegating to Marshal Ney the easy task of driving the allies from Quatre Bras.<br>
One division of French, under the Count D’Erlon, of 10,000, was stationed between Napoleon and Ney, with the understanding that either of them might (if necessary) avail himself of its services, but was to inform the other that he had done so; and it would seem that Marshal Ney, when he saw Picton’s and Alten’s divisions, as well as a portion of the foot guards, enter the field, and his own troops beginning to fail him, sent for those 10,000, and was much chagrined to find that the Emperor had withdrawn them without sending him the stipulated notice; so under the influence of this feeling of disappointment, he withdrew from the field of battle.<br>
We were glad of the opportunity, when the firing had ceased, to lie down with the dead and dying.