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Campaigns With Hill & Wellington

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Campaigns With Hill & Wellington
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Author(s): James Archibald Hope
Date Published: 2010/06
Page Count: 276
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-201-7
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-202-4

: Unusual views of the Peninsular—and the Waterloo campaign

Those readers for whom an eyewitness account by a British soldier of great struggle between Napoleon's Imperial France and the Allied powers is enough of an accolade and a guarantee of interesting reading will find nothing to disappoint them in the pages of Hope's excellent account. It is written in an easy going, companionable style that invites the reader into every aspect of life on campaign, in camp and on the battlefield in company with the author and the Scots of his famous highland regiment. Hope takes us through the Peninsular War and of course, momentously, to the muddy and bloody fields of Belgium as the Emperor played his last desperate card to retain power in 1815. Whilst all military first hand accounts are invaluable, Hope's peninsula experiences are particularly interesting. His regiment came under the command of Sir Rowland Hill, one of Wellington's most highly regarded generals and one of the few to whom he was prepared to entrust separate command, so the reader will be taken to fields of battle and locations within campaign often absent from many Peninsular War accounts. Available in soft cover and hard back with dust jacket.

The circumstances in which the detachment was thus again unfortunately placed, caused Sir Rowland Hill to abandon the original plan of attack, and substitute the following. The detachment was divided into three columns. The 50th, and one wing of the 71st, composed the column destined to attack Fort Napoleon, and was placed under the command of Major-General Howard. The 92nd Regiment, and the remaining wing of the 71st Regiment were ordered to support the former, and to be in readiness to move to the assistance of their friends, or to attack the tete-du-pont, and Fort Ragusa, and the 6th Portuguese, and 60th Rifle Company formed the third column, or reserve.<br>
Formed ready for the assault, behind a little height, one hundred and fifty yards from the fort, the 50th, on a given signal, moved from their hiding-place between six and seven o’clock, a.m. on the 19th, and, covered by the 71st Light Infantry, advanced with great firmness to the attack, the enemy all the while pouring on them grape, round-shot, and musketry, in quantities sufficient to gratify the appetite of the most determined fire-eater. On descending into the ditch, some of the ladders were discovered to be too short. This unfortunate obstacle was soon removed by the presence of mind of General Howard, who led the assault, and whose cool and intrepid conduct on the occasion, was the subject of general admiration.<br>
This little check, however, instead of blunting the courage of the assailants, tended rather to increase their ardour in the pursuit of victory. The first that ascended the ladders, met with a warm reception; and not a few of them tumbled from the top of the ladders into the ditch head foremost—some dead, others to die, and the rest to fight some other day. The bravery of the assailants was most conspicuous; and for a little time that of the assailed was not less deserving of praise. But the French officer in charge of the artillery having retired from the fort without leave from his commanding officer, the arms of the private soldiers became paralyzed, and after a sharp conflict of eleven minutes, the “Old Dirty Half-Hundred,” and their friends of the Seventy-First, fairly established themselves in Fort Napoleon.<br>
Pending these operations, the second column was moved forward in a zigzag manner round every little knoll which afforded them protection from the fire of Fort Ragusa, until they arrived at a point, nearly opposite to the left flank face of Fort Napoleon, when turning to the left, they advanced direct upon the tete-du-pont at a quick pace. Perceiving that our object was to cut off their retreat, the enemy, on retiring from Napoleon, rushed towards the bridge in order to escape. But some of their own people having previously cut the bridge, and drawn two or three of the pontoons to the right bank, a great many of them to preserve their liberty, threw themselves into the dark rolling current, where, instead of that inestimable blessing, not a few of them found a watery grave. All the others surrendered at discretion.<br>
The head of the second column had arrived within a few yards of the chasm, before it was discovered that the bridge had been cut. This was rather an awkward situation to be placed in, and one which, but for the panic which seized the governor of Fort Ragusa, might have produced disagreeable consequences. But fortunately the latter, instead of attempting to add a hundred more to our list of killed and wounded, very considerately retired towards Almarez, leaving us at liberty to get out of our dilemma in any manner most convenient for ourselves.<br>
As soon as the enemy had fairly taken to their heels, permission was given to our troops to help themselves to some of the good things which had fallen into our hands. In a few minutes, wine, brandy, and rum, flowed in abundance, while bacon hams, and pieces of pickled pork and beef decorated hundreds of bayonets, many of which were still tarnished with the blood of the enemy. Some of the knowing ones obtained valuable prizes from the officers mess-room, but by far the greater part of the men were amply satisfied with a haversack well stuffed with bread, or a canteen filled to an overflow with some of the heart-moving liquids just mentioned. At the close of this extraordinary scene, the troops were moved back about half-a-mile, and ordered to bivouac.<br>
The attention of the victors was now directed to the fallen brave, who in and around Fort Napoleon lay in considerable numbers. Our loss amounted to 177 killed and wounded, and that of the enemy to 450 killed, wounded, and prisoners. Parties from every regiment were employed during the remainder of the day in removing the wounded, destroying the forts, cannon, bridge, and such stores as we could not carry off. Everything being accomplished to the entire satisfaction of Sir Rowland, we quitted the bloodstained eminence at eight o’clock next morning, and retired, first to the Lina, and thence, the same afternoon, to our former bivouac behind Jaracejo.<br>
On the 21st we re-entered Truxillo, where we halted during the 22nd and 23rd. On the 24th we bivouacked at Villa Macia, and on the 25th retraced our steps to St Pedro. On the following day we retired to a ridge half-way between Medellin and Merida, and on the 27th re-entered the latter place amid the cheers of the populace, and the warm gratulations of those friends who were left to protect that part of the country in our absence.<br>
Soon after the British troops entered Fort Napoleon, a French soldier begged his life from one of the 50th, just as the fatal weapon was on the point of performing its office; the honest Briton at once, and with pleasure, granted the boon of the petitioner. But the gallant fellow had soon but too good cause to repent the generous deed, for on turning round to follow his comrades, his ungrateful and unworthy antagonist endeavoured to bury his bayonet in the breast of his preserver. On perceiving the danger to which he was exposed, the British youth wheeled about, and received the bayonet of the cowardly wretch in his arm. Irritated at such conduct, the former raised his musket, and instantly plunged his bayonet into the body of his dastardly opponent, who, on uttering a few inarticulate sounds, took leave of all earthly things.
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