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Lieutenant Simmons of the 95th (Rifles)

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Lieutenant Simmons of the 95th (Rifles)
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Author(s): George Simmons
Date Published: 2008/04
Page Count: 276
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-413-3
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-1-84677-414-0

A subalterns war in 'rifle green' against the French

George Simmons, one of a large family, came from a comparatively humble background. Like so many of his countrymen of his time, he chose a military career fighting Napoleon's French Army. He craved action and knew that the place to find it was as one of Wellington's green sharpshooters—the famous 95th—the Rifles. His experiences on campaign and on the battlefield are recounted in detail through his journal and letters to his family. Simmons, accompanied by his brother Joe, fought with the Rifles throughout the war in the Iberian peninsula and over the Pyrenees into the south of France. Another brother, Maud, fought as a red coated infantry officer. After Napoleon escaped from Elba, Simmons was once more called to the front—this time on the bloody and apocalyptic fields outside Waterloo where he was dangerously wounded. This is a story of war told by a junior officer at the sharp end of the action on many of the famous battles and assaults of the campaigns in which he took part. This Leonaur edition of Simmons’ story, with the text substantially re-presented for the modern reader, is an essential book for those interested in the Rifles and a vital addition to every library of Napoleonic history.

On the 11th we followed the enemy; two companies of ours drove them from the woods; the enemy halted at Pombal, and occupied the heights and castle. After some sharp fighting the enemy were driven from their position, on the 3rd Caçadores (pronounced Cassadores) coming up. One officer wounded and several men.<BR>
On the 12th we passed through several towns on fire; about eleven o’clock a.m. we came up with the French, and found them posted upon some heights in great force, both cavalry and infantry. On their right and left were woods filled with sharp-shooters. Our columns moved up and our regiment, the 43rd, 52nd, and Portuguese Light Infantry, amounting to 5000, extended to the distance of three miles. The order was given, and we filled the woods. The French threw numbers of shot and shells, which only killed a few men. The woods were of fir-trees and upon the sides of steep hills; as soon as we gained the top, the French gave us a volley. It was of no consequence; our Boys would not be stopped. The French, finding they could not stop us, retired in the greatest confusion through the town of Redinha, which was on fire. We kept at their heels, and the town was filled with our men in a moment. We plied the enemy so hard that numbers threw away their arms, and upwards of fifty fell over the bridge and were drowned. A party of my men were blazing away at the rascals; one espied an officer endeavouring to get through the water; he jumped in and brought him out by the neck. He gave the soldier thirty-six doubloons and a medal dedicated to the Legion of Honour. The soldier gave me the medal. I should have returned it to the officer, but having something of a more serious nature to mind, I afterwards had not an opportunity. Halted for the night in a wood.<BR>
No fighting of consequence on the 13th.<BR>
On the 14th we drove in the enemy’s piquets at daylight. Our whole Division was engaged. Lieutenant Strode of the same company was badly wounded in the thigh, and Major Stewart mortally wounded. We continued fighting until three o’clock p.m. Strode when he fell called to me to take his rifle, exclaiming, “This, Simmons, may be of service.” I had no time to stand on ceremony, but moved on. The French were driven back on all sides, and very glad to give over fighting.<BR>
A very good town near where we halted was on fire, and numbers of the inhabitants murdered.<BR>
At daybreak on the 15th found the enemy were gone. We immediately followed, and came up with them at half-past four o’clock p.m. occupying a very strong position and in great force. We began to build huts about a mile from them and cook our breakfast, dinner, and supper all at once; soldiers eat when they can. However, we were disappointed, an order coming from Lord Wellington for an immediate attack. Every man to his post, and in ten minutes exposed to a heavy fire of shot, shells, and musketry. In passing the plain to get at the enemy in the wood, I was for the moment startled; a musket ball struck my rifle (Strode’s), and shattered the butt to pieces, which luckily saved my right thigh. I laughed and pushed on.
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