More engaging than a novel - a Cavalryman’s life in the Napoleonic Wars and battles for India. Trooper Farmer’s military career was packed with adventure and incident. Through his words the reader experiences life in the British Light Cavalry on campaign in Spain against the French. During one sharp action Farmer is taken prisoner and we follow him through captivity until his release at the First Restoration. Napoleon’s return puts him back in the saddle once again to go to war on the bloody field of Waterloo. Although he had already experienced enough action for a lifetime Farmer was then dispatched to India to play his part in the early days of the conquest of the sub-continent. A gripping military memoir!
It were idle in one filling the humble situation which I did to attempt any thing like the description of a great battle, especially such a battle as that of Waterloo. From the instant that the firing became general, all was to me dark and obscure beyond the distance of a few hundred yards from the spot on which I stood; indeed, it was only by the ceaseless roar, or the whistling of shot and shell around me, that I knew at times that I and those near me were playing a part in the grave game of life and death. For the cavalry, unlike the infantry, come into play only by fits and starts, and they have patiently to sustain the fury of a cannonade, to which they can offer no resistance, and out of the range of which they are not permitted to move. Neither was the brigade to which I belonged left long in ignorance touching both the peril and extreme discomfort of this species of inaction. For the French, perceiving us, opened upon our columns a battery of howitzers and light mortars, one shell from which falling into the very centre of the 16th, created terrible havock. But as if to hinder us from getting unsteady, an aide-de-camp rode up at this moment, and two squadrons, one from the 12th, another from our regiment, were ordered to drive back some lancers which had threatened certain of our guns. We went at them with good will, but not, perhaps, with perfect judgment. We did not consider that, when the ground is soft and heavy, a charge down hill is, of all operations to which cavalry can be put, the most unsafe; and the consequence was, that rushing over the ridge at speed, very many of our horses came down, and we lost all order. The result need hardly be stated. The squadron of the 12th, which led, was almost cut to pieces, and we, with difficulty and in great disorder, recovered the brigade.
This was not satisfactory, yet we believed that we could account for it, and finding ourselves again in our proper places, we desired nothing more than a repetition of the experiment. But, during the remainder of the day, little else fell to our share than to sustain, as we best might, the heavy fire of cannon which the enemy continued to direct against us. At each discharge, men and horses went down: yet we suffered less than a regiment of Nassau Hussars, which, keeping ground in our rear, served to catch every ball that passed over us. Nor was it the least disagreeable attendant on our position, that we stood exactly on such a spot as enabled us to behold the last struggles of the wounded, whose strength sufficed only to carry them a few yards to the rear. There was a long sort of ditch, or drain, some way behind us, towards which these poor fellows betook themselves by scores; and ere three hours had passed, it was absolutely choked up with the bodies of those who lay down there only that they might die. Then, again the wounded horses, of which multitudes wandered all over the field, troubled us. They would come back, some with broken legs, others trailing after them their entrails, which the round-shot had knocked out, and forcing themselves between our files, seemed to solicit the aid which no one had time to afford, and which, if afforded, would have been useless.
We were beginning to get tired of this state of things, when an order reached us to form line and move off to the left. “Now then,” thought we, “a charge is before us;” but it was not so. A square of Brunswick Infantry had, it appeared, begun to waver, and, as a failure on that point might have proved fatal, we were brought up to stop it if we could. We drew our swords, cheered, made our horses prance, and the desired end was gained. The Brunswickers perceiving that there was support at hand, took up their arms, which some of them had thrown away, and they throughout the remainder of the action behaved with all the gallantry for which their countrymen have in every age and country been remarkable.