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Campaigns with the Field Train

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Campaigns with the Field Train
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Author(s): Richard D. Henegan
Date Published: 2008/01
Page Count: 320
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-389-1
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-390-7

High adventure serving the 'Iron Duke'

The task of the Field Train was to support the Artillery-to which it was associated and shared uniform-with the supply of the essential materials of that particular branch of military service. Richard Henegan, the author of this book, was a senior officer of the Field Train and to him fell the responsibility of the procurement of huge quantities of ammunition and ordinance to the army at large and to units on the field of battle itself. Henegan spent seven years campaigning in Portugal, Spain and the South of France as an essential part of the Duke of Wellington's army. His time there provided a host of experiences-both on campaign and on the field of battle-together with thrilling interludes which he reports with detail, drama and often with wry humour which will remain with the reader of this substantial memoir for page after page. Henegan's account was originally published in two volumes, here combined by Leonaur -in their entirety-into a single edition. Henegan's adventures conclude on the bloody field of Waterloo as Napoleon's empire is finally brought to its knees.

The dark green jackets of Barnard’s rifles, as they fought their way in climbing up the steep and rugged hills, whose summits were crowned by the enemy; the bright red and white colours of the 43rd and 52nd, as they crossed, in close column, the valley which divided the heights they had quitted from those they sought to gain; and then, throwing off their kits, in single file, wound up the narrow broken paths that led them to the fierce expecting foe, whose peppering fire from above seemed only to infuse fresh vigour into those unrivalled “Light Bobs;” the aspect of the Spaniards, whose sombre hues made it difficult to distinguish them from the brown rocks, over which they clambered with the characteristic agility of the inhabitants of mountainous countries,—all these were brilliant lights and shades in the great picture of nature’s wilderness before us.<br>
The 52nd, led by Major William Mein, on reaching the brow of the mountain, formed rapidly into line, and without firing a single shot, advanced in double quick time against a column of the enemy, which had only a few minutes before driven a regiment of Portuguese Cacadores over the other side of the rugged declivity. The soul-inspiring cheer that rang from the ever foremost 52nd, struck terror into the ranks of the French, they wavered, as British steel advanced. Then turned and fled towards one of their great redoubts; they were so closely pursued, that some of the 52nd actually entered the redoubt, with their flying foes, upon which the latter again started forth from the opposite side, making, at the top of their speed towards a second line of redoubts and entrenchments.<br>
On the right of the first redoubt, was a deep and thickly wooded ravine, in which a body of three or four hundred of the enemy was concealed; but being discovered, some companies of our rifles advanced at a running pace, by a little footpath, parallel to the ravine, to intercept their sortie. The French within the ravine also ran to reach the opening first, and a regular race took place between them. The view holloa of the rifles, as they spied their enemies through the trees, rang through the air, and with renewed spirit they bounded over the narrow foot way, reaching the mouth of the ravine at the same moment as the French. The latter, panic-struck at so close a proximity with the green jackets, threw down their arms and surrendered as prisoners of war. Their commanding officer was a fine lively young fellow, and it was difficult to prevent him from jeering and laughing at the volley of “carrachos” that the Spaniards fired at him when within their power. Moreover, they were so disposed to handle him roughly, that we recommended him in kindness, to bridle his tongue, as no influence would have been available in protecting him from the carbines of the Spaniards. With ourselves, he was both courteous and gentle in return for some kindness that was shown to him. His arm had been broken by a musket ball, and I remember that one of our young officers converted his own pocket-handkerchief into a sling, while others tore up theirs for bandages, until surgical assistance could be had.<br>
The result of this day’s fighting, though the loss on both sides was severe, was the opening of the passage of the Bidassoa to the allied armies, and thus, a firmer footing was gained upon the frontiers of France.
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