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Slashers

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Slashers
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Author(s): Charles Cadell
Date Published: 2008/11
Page Count: 172
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-537-6
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-538-3

A personal narrative of a fighting regiment

There were many famous regiments in Wellington's renowned 'Old Peninsular Army'. Perhaps the 28th Regiment of Foot was not exceptional, but it certainly could hold its head up among the very finest of them. This book begins after the regiment had returned from other outstanding service in Egypt and we shortly find it on campaign again in Portugal and Spain pitted against its perennial foe—the blue coated infantry of the Emperor Napoleon's French Army. The author of this book was a serving officer throughout the events recounted within in its pages so the text rings true with authenticity and valuable detail as well as with the obvious pride he felt for his own corps. ‘The Slashers'—so called from days gone by when the regiment carried swords—served with distinction throughout the Peninsular War and through the campaign in southern France until the abdication of Napoleon and the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy. However, Napoleon had not yet done with them nor they with him, for they were destined to meet again on the ever memorable fields of Waterloo where once again the regiment would perform true to its traditions and to the finest standards of the British Army.

About one o’clock, on the morning of the 13th, we were aroused by a dreadful explosion; but when day broke we were delighted to find that it was the destruction of the castle of Burgos, which had been blown up by the enemy, and before which so much British blood had been spilt the year before. Next morning we moved to the left, leaving Burgos on our right, and soon after passed the Ebro at Miranda. Nothing of any consequence occurred till the afternoon of the 20th. Sir Rowland’s corps took up its station on the right of the allied army, upon the Zadorra, we—the 28th—little suspecting that the French army was so near us in the position at Vittoria. Early on the morning of the memorable 21st, some of us were recommended by a staff officer “to get our breakfasts, and have our baggage packed as soon as possible.”<br>
There was an unusual scene of bustle in the bivouack; but what most convinced us that some work was to be done, was when we saw the favourite black charger, fully caparisoned, of our chief, Sir Rowland, (who was always as cool in action as on a field-day,) and the chestnut of Sir William Stewart, the brave leader of the British division of Hill’s corps1, whose soldier-like manner, when calmly, in the hottest fire, giving his orders, with his usual lisp, and gently switching the mane of his horse with a white cane, must be well remembered by all who served under him. About nine, a.m. we moved, and crossed the Zadorra at La Puebla, when the skirmishing of the Spaniards, under Morillo, and the 71st, under Colonel Cadogan, was heard on the heights on the left of the enemy’s position. We moved on at double quick for about a league, until we passed the defile formed by the heights and the river, which opened to our view the magnificent sight of the French army drawn up in battle array, with the spire of Vittoria behind them. Our brigade, under Colonel O’Callaghan, after being allowed a short breathing time, wheeled to the right, attacked, and drove the enemy from the village Sabijana de Alava, which we kept during the whole action against the many desperate attempts that they made to regain it. About four in the afternoon, the French army, being routed on their centre, and turned on their right, withdrew a large part of their force that was opposed to us, when we advanced, and drove what remained before us over the heights in our front. The sight was then beautiful—the enemy flying towards Vittoria, followed by the British and Portuguese. From the strong and difficult ground we had to cross, so intercepted by deep ravines caused by the mountain torrents, our brigade was much scattered. When we formed, we moved down along the hills to the right of the town, and bivouacked for the night on the height, about two miles beyond it.<br>
In the glorious battle of Vittoria (where a British army had been victorious centuries ago) we suffered much. One serjeant and eleven rank and file killed; one major, two captains, twelve lieutenants, two ensigns, six serjeants, and 165 rank and file, wounded. Four officers died of their wounds, viz. Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Paterson, (of the Castle Huntley family,) who was an excellent officer, and much regretted; and three fine young men, Lieutenants M’Donald, Mitchell, and Byrne. Soon after we had taken the village of Sabijana, the regiment formed in close column upon a gentle slope, and the men were ordered to go to the right about and sit down, resting their backs on their packs. We had remained but a few minutes in this situation when the enemy brought two guns to bear upon us. The second or third round struck a man of the name of M’Donell, of Captain Irving’s company, on the back of the head, which it shattered in pieces over the regiment, wounding two other men. The body of poor M’Donell, who was sitting close to Captain Irving, never moved; his firelock rested on his breast between his clasped hands; the fingers gently dropped, leaving the thumbs supporting it.
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