A Royal Engineer’s view of the war in the Iberian Peninsula—two volumes in one
Young Captain Charles Boothby of the Royal Engineers served in Spain as part of Wellington’s army fighting the invading French forces of Napoleon. Posterity is fortunate in that following his experiences he put his recollections in writing in the form of two separate books, ‘Under England’s Flag’ and its sequel, which covers the period up to his wounding, capture and imprisonment, ‘A Prisoner in France.’ Both of these books are rare and not often seen as modern reprints or on the antiquarian market. So Leonaur is delighted to present both volumes of Boothby’s engaging account in a single unique volume. Accounts by Royal Engineers are not commonplace among Napoleonic War first hand accounts which makes this book particularly exceptional. Present at the the little reported Battle of Maida in Italy, Boothby was also engaged in early Peninsular War Campaigns including Corunna, under Sir John Moore. Upon returning to the Iberian Peninsular he was wounded at the Battle of Talavera. This book is an essential addition to any library of the Peninsular War, but readers with a more casual interest can be assured that Boothby is an entertaining author who recounts his story in a personable style full of incident, anecdote and important campaign and battlefield detail. Recommended.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
December 24, Sunday.—March to headquarters at Mayorga. Make a sketch. A dragoon officer of the 10th begs to be let into our billet. I cannot say no. His horse kicks Lutgins’, who rows me like blazes for letting the dragoon in.<br>
December 27.—Ammunition waggons without number, and the tag, rag, and bobtail of all the other divisions here fall to the convoy of General Paget, a tremendous string, which makes the Reserve a baggage guard. He executes this with patience, mastery, and accomplishment. Guns being posted so as to rake the road.<br>
We get no billets at Benavente, but Lutgins perseveres and gets an excellent one, and Lord Paget and Colonel V. dine with us.<br>
December 28.—At ten o’clock Lutgins and I, sitting at breakfast, hear a row in the streets. Ask what is the matter. “Turn out, sir, directly! The French are in the town.” Oh what confusion, what screaming and hooting and running and shoving and splashing and dashing! My sword, spurs, and sash mislaid. Olla! Mount my horse and ride to General Paget’s quarters. Find him just sallying forth. He at once takes up his ground and gets his people under arms. False alarm. Nobody knows the cause of the row, but the people of the house had fled in despair. Unhappy people! Such are the miseries of war, that the unoffending inhabitants, despoiled of the sanctity of their homes, find every social tie jagged to the root, and then enters cold, desponding indifference.<br>
Ride to the bridge, where preparations are making to destroy the same. A very wet, cold night. I am sent with a message to Sir John Moore, and ride back again through devilish rain and numbing wind. A party of the enemy’s cavalry come to reconnoitre this operation, and exchange a few shots with our pickets. All the people having withdrawn, the houses on the other side the bridge and piles of timber are set on fire, and make a most superb and interesting appearance in spite of the inclemency of the night; the mounting blaze, bursting through the crackling roofs, glares sunlike upon the opposite promontories and sub-current waters. The teeth of the cursed saws refuse to do their duties, and hours are spent in sawing the woodwork. I leave the business at 5 a.m.<br>
December 29.—Get to bed at six o’clock, wet, cold, and shivered to death. The Reserve marches at eight. The bridge having blown up, the enemy’s cavalry in one part swim, and in another ford the river, and fall in with our pickets under General Stewart. The enemy 500, we 300. A great deal of sharp fighting ensues, in which the enemy are worsted, and seeing other bodies of cavalry coming on them, disperse and re-swim the river with loss both in drowned and killed; but the ground was so excessively heavy that our horses were blown, or their destruction would have been complete.<br>
I post myself on a hill with Captain Eveleigh’s troop of horse artillery, and see a large body of cavalry advance towards us from a neighbouring village. We make all dispositions to receive them well, and they appear to design to take our cavalry in flank, edging off towards the river. When they come within reach, and Captain E. is just going to give them a round shot, we find them to be the 15th Dragoons!<br>
Ride to the river, where the enemy attempt to form again on the other side and fire at our videttes with their carbines; but the horse artillery soon come up, and give them a few shrapnels, which disperse them and send them up the hill. Result (of the whole engagement) about twenty on each side killed and many badly wounded, about twenty French prisoners of the Imperial Guards, their General, Colonel of the 2nd Imperial Guards, and several officers.<br>
I go on the bridge to see the effect of the explosion, which was complete, then ride in again, and on towards Baneza. Overtake Captain Griffiths, and converse much with him. Get pretty well put up with Lutgins, but the Scotch make inroads upon us.<br>
December 30.—Cavalry arrive at Baneza. Start for Astorga (four leagues). The town excessively full and stinking.<br>
On the road talk with French officers. They say that the Spaniards never fought at all, and that Buonaparte must have been looking at the action yesterday from the heights on the other side the river.