Part 2 out of 7
into slices, and by pointing to the wine-skins, managed to acquaint the
landlord with what was required. In this he was a good deal aided by the
man's two nieces, who acted as his assistants, and who were much quicker
in catching his meaning than was the landlord himself. Very soon the room
below was crowded with officers from other regiments, and Hoolan went up
"I think, Mr. O'Connor, that it would be a good job if you were to go down
and buy a dozen of them hams. A lot of them have been sold already, and it
won't be long before the last has gone, though I reckon that there are
three or four dozen of them still there."
"That is a very good idea, Tim. You come down with me and bring them
straight up here, and we will drive some nails into those rafters. I
expect before nightfall the place will be cleared out of everything that
The bargain was speedily concluded. The landlord was now in a better
temper. At first he had been very doubtful of the intentions of the
new-comers. Now that he saw that they were ready to pay for everything,
and that at prices much higher than he could before have obtained, his
face shone with good-humour. He and the two girls were already busy
drawing wine and selling it to the customers.
"I will get some wood, your honour, and light a fire here, or it is mighty
little dinner that you will be getting. The soldiers will soon be dropping
in, that is, if they don't keep this place for officers only, for there
are two other places where they sell wine in the village. When I came up
two officers had a slice of ham each on the points of their swords over
"That will be a very good plan, Tim; you had better set to work about it
at once, and at the same time I will try and get some bread."
By the time that O'Grady returned with seven or eight other officers the
fire was blazing. Terence had managed to get a sufficient number of knives
and forks; there was, however, no table-cloth in the house. He and Terence
were cooking slices of ham on a gridiron over the fire.
"This is first-rate, O'Grady," Major Harrison said; "the place is crowded
down below, and we should have fared very badly if you had not managed to
get hold of this room."
"If some of the boys will see to the cooking, Major, I will go down with
Hoolan and get a barrel of wine and bring it up here; then we shall do
"How about the rations, Major?" Terence asked.
"They have just been served out. I sent my man down to draw the rations
for the whole wing at once, and told him to bring them up here."
"And I have told mine," Captain O'Driscol said, "to go round the village
and buy up two or three dozen chickens, if he can find them, and as many
eggs as he can collect. I think that we had better tell off two of the men
as cooks. I don't think it is likely that they will be able to get much
done that way below. Hoolan and another will do."
"I should think it best to keep Hoolan as forager; he is rather a genius
in that capacity. I think he has got round those two girls, whether by his
red hair or his insinuating manners I cannot say, but they seem ready to
do anything for him, and we shall want lots of things in the way of pots
and pans and so on."
"Very well, Terence, then we will leave him free and put two others on."
In a short time O'Grady returned, followed by Hoolan, carrying a small
barrel of wine.
"It is good, I hope," the major said, as the barrel was set down in one
corner of the room.
"I think that it is the best they have; one of the girls went down with
Tim into the cellar and pointed it out to him. I told him to ask her for
_bueno vino__. I don't know whether it was right or not, but I think she
"How much does it hold, O'Grady?"
"I cannot say; five or six gallons, I should think; anyhow, I paid three
dollars for it."
"You must put down all the outgoings, O'Grady, and we will square up when
we leave here."
"I will put them down, Major. How long do you think we shall stop here?"
"That is more than anyone can say; we have to wait for Anstruther and
Spencer. It may be three or four days; it may be a fortnight."
Dick Ryan assisted Terence in the cooking, while Tim went down to get
something to drink out of. He returned with three mugs and two horns.
"Divil a thing else is there that can be found, yer honour," he said, as
he placed them on the table; "every mortial thing is in use."
"That will do to begin with," the major said; "we will get our own things
up this afternoon. We must manage as best we can for this meal; it is
better than I expected by a long way."
Tim now relieved the two young officers at the gridiron, and sitting down
at the benches along the table the meal was eaten with much laughter and
"After all, there is nothing like getting things straight from the
gridiron," the major said.
O'Grady had got the bung out of the barrel and filled the five drinking
vessels, and the wine was pronounced to be very fair. One by one the other
officers dropped in, and Hoolan was for an hour kept busy. The major, who
spoke a little Spanish, went down and returned with a dozen bottles of
spirits, two or three of which were opened and the contents consumed.
"It is poor stuff by the side of whisky," O'Grady said, as he swallowed a
stiff glass of it; "still, I will not be denying that it is warming and
comforting, and if we can get enough of it we can hold on till we get home
again. Here is success to the campaign. I will trouble you for that
"Here it is. I shall stick to wine; I don't care for that fiery stuff.
Here is success to the campaign, and may we meet the French before long!
"We are pretty sure to do that," he went on, as he set his horn down on
the table. "If Junot knows his business he won't lose a day before
marching against us directly he hears of our landing. He will know well
enough that unless he crushes us at once he will have all Portugal up in
arms. Here, Terence, you can have this horn."
The difficulty of drinking had to some extent been solved by Hoolan, who
had gone downstairs, and returned with a tin pot capable of holding about
a couple of quarts. This he had cleaned by rubbing it with sand and water,
and it went round as a loving-cup among those unprovided with mugs or
horns. When all had finished, the two soldier servants, who had now
arrived with the rations, were left in charge. O'Driscol's servant had
brought in a dozen fowls and a large basket full of eggs, and, ordering
supper to be ready at eight, the officers returned to their camp. They
found that their comrades had done fairly well. Several rooms had been
obtained in the village, and hams, black sausages, and other provisions
purchased, and cooked in a rough way on a gridiron.
"I am afraid that it is too good to last," the colonel said, as the
officers gathered around him as the bugle sounded for parade; "a week of
this and the last scrap of provisions here will have been eaten, and we
shall have nothing but our rations to fall back upon. There is one thing,
however, that is not likely to give out, that is wine. They grow it about
here, and I hear that the commissariat have bought up large quantities
without difficulty to serve out to the troops."
The regiment had a long afternoon's drill to get them out of the slackness
occasioned by their enforced idleness on the voyage. When it was over they
were formed up, and the colonel addressed a few words to the men.
"Men of the Mayo regiment," he said, "I trust that, now we are fairly
embarked upon the campaign, you will so behave as to do credit to
yourselves and to Ireland. Perhaps some of you think that, now that you
are on a campaign, you can do just as you like. Those who think so are
wrong; it is just the other way. When you were at home I did not think it
necessary that I should be severe with you; and as long as a man was able,
when he came into barracks, to walk to his quarters, I did not trouble
about him. But it is different here; any breach of duty will be most
severely punished, and any man who is found drunk will be flogged. Any man
plundering or ill-treating the people of the country will be handed over
to the provost-marshal, and, unless I am mistaken, he is likely to be
"Sir Arthur Wellesley is not the man to stand nonsense. There must be no
straggling; you must keep within the bounds of the camps, and no one must
go into the village without a permit from the captain of his company. As
to your fighting--well, I have no fear of that; we will say nothing about
it. Before the enemy I know that you will all do your duty, and it is just
as necessary that you should do your duty and be a credit to your regiment
at other times. There are blackguards in the regiment, as there are in
every other, but I tell them that a sharp eye will be kept upon them, and
that no mercy will be shown them if they misbehave while they are in
Portugal. That is all I have to say to you."
"That was the sort of thing, I think, Major," he said, as, after the men
were dismissed, he walked back to his tent with Major Harrison.
"Just the sort of thing, Colonel," the other said, smiling; "and said in
the sort of way that they will understand. I am afraid that we shall have
trouble with some of them. Wine and spirits are cheap, and it will be very
difficult to keep them from it altogether. Still, if we make an example of
the first fellow who is caught drunk it will be a useful lesson to the
whole. A few floggings at the start may save some hanging afterwards. I
know you are averse to flogging--there have only been four men flogged in
the last six months--but this is a case where punishment must be dealt out
sharply if discipline is to be maintained, and the credit of the regiment
be kept up."
O'Grady and one of the other officers called upon the priest to thank him
for his good offices in obtaining the room for them.
"I am afraid from what my man tells me that he did not state the case
quite fairly to you. Our regiment was, as he said, raised in Ireland, and
the greater portion of the men are naturally of your faith, Father, but we
really have no claim to your services whatever."
The priest smiled.
"I am, nevertheless, glad to have been of service to you, gentlemen," he
said, courteously; "at least you are Irishmen, and I have many good
friends countrymen of yours. And you have still another claim upon us all,
for are you not here to aid us to shake off this French domination? I hope
that you are comfortable, but judging from what I see and hear when
passing I fear that your lodging is a somewhat noisy one."
"You may well say that, Father; and we do our full share towards making it
so; but having the room makes all the difference to us. They have no time
to cook downstairs, and it is done by our own servants; but it is handy to
have the wine and other things within call, and if we always do as well,
we shall have good cause to feel mighty contented; for barring that we are
rather crowded, we are just as well off here as we were at home, saving
only in the quality of the spirits. Now, Father, we cannot ask you up
there, seeing that it is your own village, but if you would like to take a
walk through the camps we should be glad to show you what there is to be
seen, and can give you a little of the real cratur. It is not much of it
that we have been able to bring ashore, for the general is mighty stiff in
the matter of baggage, but I doubt whether there is one of us who did not
manage to smuggle a bottle or two of the real stuff hidden in his kit."
The priest accepted the invitation, and was taken through the brigade
camp, staying some time in that of the Mayos, and astonishing some of the
soldiers by chatting to them in English, and with a brogue almost as
strong as their own. He then spent half an hour in O'Grady's tent, and
sampled the whisky, which he pronounced excellent, and of which his
entertainer insisted upon his taking a bottle away with him.
Three days later it was known in camp that two French divisions had been
set in motion against them, the one from Abrantes to the east under
Loison, the other from the south under Laborde. Junot himself remained at
Lisbon. The rising in the south, and the news of the British landing
caused an intense feeling among the population, and the French general
feared that at any moment an insurrection might break out. The natural
point of junction of these two columns would be at Leirya. That night
orders were issued for the tents of the division to which the Mayo
regiment belonged to be struck before daylight, and the troops were to be
under arms and ready to march at six o'clock.
"Good news!" O'Grady said, as he entered the mess-room at four o'clock in
the afternoon, after having learned from the colonel the orders for the
next morning; "our brigade is to form the advanced guard, and we are to
march at six tomorrow."
A general exclamation of pleasure broke from the five or six officers
present. "We shall have the first of the fun, boys; hand me that horn,
Terence. Here is to Sir Arthur; good-luck to him, and bad cess to the
The toast was drunk with some laughter. "Now we are going to campaign in
earnest," he went on; "no more wine swilling, no more devilled ham----"
"No more spirits, O'Grady," one of the group cut in; "and as for the wine,
you have drunk your share, besides twice your share of the spirits."
"Whin there is nothing to do, Debenham, I can take me liquor in
"I have never remarked that, O'Grady," one of the others put in.
"In great moderation," O'Grady said, gravely, but he was again interrupted
by a shout of laughter.
"Ye had to be helped home last night, O'Grady, and it took Hoolan a
quarter of an hour to wake you this morning. I heard him say, 'Now, master
dear, the bugle will sound in a minute or two; it's wake you must, or
there will be a divil of botheration over it.' I looked in, and there you
were. Hoolan was standing by the side of you shaking his head gravely, as
if it was a hopeless job that he had in hand, and if I had not emptied a
water-bottle over you, you would never have been on parade in time."
"Oh! it was you, was it?" O'Grady said, wrathfully. "Hoolan swore by all
the saints that he had not seen who it was. Never mind, me boy, I will be
even wid ye yet; the O'Grady is not to be waked in that fashion; mind I
owe you one, though I am not saying that I should have been on parade in
time if you had not done it; I only just saved my bacon."
"And hardly that," Terence laughed, "for the adjutant was down upon you
pretty sharply; your coatee was all buttoned up wrong; your hair had not
been brushed, and stuck up all ways below your shako; your sword-belt was
all awry, and you looked worse than you did when I brought you home."
"Well, it is a poor heart that never rejoices, Terence. We must make a
night of it, boys; if the tents are to be struck before daylight it will
be mighty little use your turning in."
"You won't catch me sitting up all night," Terence said, "with perhaps a
twenty-mile march in the morning, and maybe a fight at the end of it. If
it is to Leirya we are going it will be nearer thirty miles than twenty,
and even you, seasoned vessel as you are, will find it a long walk after
being up all night, and having had pretty hard work to-day."
"I cannot hold wid the general there," O'Grady said, gravely; "he has been
kapeing us all at it from daybreak till night, ivery day since we landed,
and marching the men's feet off. It is all very well to march when we have
got to march, but to keep us tramping fifteen or twenty miles a day when
there is no occasion for it is out of all reason."
"We shall march all the better for it to-morrow, O'Grady. It has been hard
work, certainly, but not harder than it was marching down to Cork; and we
should have a good many stragglers to-morrow if it had not been for the
last week's work. We have got half a dozen footsore men in my company
alone, and you would have fifty to-morrow night if the men had not had all
this marching to get them fit."
"It is all very well for you, Terence, who have been tramping all over the
hills round Athlone since you were a gossoon; but I am sure that if I had
not had that day off duty when I showed the priest round the camp I should
have been kilt."
"Here is the general order of the day," the adjutant said, as he came in
with Captain O'Connor. "The general says that now the army is about to
take the field he shall expect the strictest discipline to be maintained,
and that all stragglers from the ranks will at once be handed over to the
provost-marshal, and all offences against the peasantry or their property
will be severely punished. Then there are two or three orders that do not
concern us particularly, and then there is one that concerns you, Terence.
The general has received a report from Colonel Corcoran of the Mayo
Fusiliers stating that 'the transport carrying the left wing of that
regiment was attacked by two French privateers, and would have been
compelled to surrender, she being practically unarmed, had it not been for
the coolness and quick wit of Ensign Terence O'Connor. Having read the
report the general commanding fully concurs, and expresses his high
satisfaction at the conduct of Ensign O'Connor, which undoubtedly saved
from capture the wing of the regiment.'
"There, Terence, that is a feather in your cap. Sir Arthur is not given to
praise unduly, and it is seldom that an ensign gets into general orders.
It will do you good some day, perhaps when you least expect it."
"I am heartily pleased, my lad," Captain O'Connor said, as he laid his
hand upon Terence's shoulder. "I am proud of you. I have never seen my own
name in general orders, but I am heartily glad to see yours. Bedad, when I
think that a couple of months ago you were running wild and getting into
all sorts of mischief, it seems hard to believe that you should not only
be one of us, but have got your name into general orders."
"And all for nothing, father," Terence said. "I call it a beastly shame
that just because I thought of using that lugger I should be cracked up
more than the others."
"It was not only that, though, Terence; those guns that crippled the
lugger could not have been fired if you had not thought of putting rope
round them, and that French frigate would never have left you alone had
not you suggested to the major how to throw dust into their eyes. No, my
lad, you thoroughly deserve the credit that you have got, and I am sure
that there is not a man in the regiment who would not say the same."
"Gintlemen," Captain O'Grady said, solemnly, "we will drink to the health
of Ensign Terence O'Connor; more power to his elbow!" And the toast was
"It is mighty good of me to propose it," O'Grady went on, after Terence
had said a few words of thanks, "because I have a strong idea that in
another two or three minutes I should have made just the same suggestion
that you did, me lad. I knew at the time that there was a plan I wanted to
propose, but sorra a word came to me lips. I was just brimful with it when
you came up and took the words out of me mouth. If I had spoken first it
is a brevet majority I had got, sure enough."
"You must be quicker next time, O'Grady," the adjutant said, when the
laughter had subsided; "as you say, you have missed a good thing by your
slowness. I am afraid your brain was still a little muddled by your
indulgence the night before."
"Just the contrary, me boy; I feel that if I had taken just one glass more
of the cratur me brain would have been clearer and I should have been to
the fore. But I bear you no malice, Terence. Maybe the ideas would not
have managed to straighten themselves out until after we had had to haul
down the flag, and then it would have been too late to have been any good.
It has happened to me more than once before that I have just thought of a
good thing when it was too late."
"It has occurred to most of us, O'Grady," Captain O'Connor said, laughing.
"Terence, you see, doesn't care for whisky, and perhaps that has something
to do with his ideas coming faster than ours. Well, so we are off
to-morrow; though, of course, no one knows which way we are going to
march, it must be either to Leirya or along the coast road. It is a good
thing Spencer has come up in time, for there is no saying how strong the
French may be; though I fancy they are all so scattered about that, after
leaving a garrison to keep Lisbon in order, and holding other points,
Junot will hardly be able at such short notice to gather a force much
superior to ours. But from what I hear there are some mighty strong
positions between this and Lisbon, and if he sticks himself up on the top
of a hill we shall have all our work to turn him off again."
"I fancy it will be to Leirya," the adjutant said; "the Portuguese report
that one French division is at Candieros and another coming from Abrantes,
and Sir Arthur is likely to endeavour to prevent them from uniting."
That evening there was a grand feast at the mess-room. The colonel had
been specially invited, and every effort was made to do honour to the
occasion. Tim Hoolan had been very successful in a foraging expedition,
and had brought in a goose and four ducks, and had persuaded the
landlord's nieces to let him and the cook have sole possession of the
kitchen. The banquet was a great success, but the majority of those
present did not sit very long afterwards. The colonel set the example of
"I should advise you, gentlemen, to turn in soon," he said. "I do not say
where we are to march to-morrow, but I can tell you at least that the
march is a very long one, and that it were best to get as much sleep as
possible, for I can assure you that it will be no child's play; and I
think that it is quite probable we shall smell powder before the day is
Accordingly, all the young officers and several of the seniors left with
him, but O'Grady and several of the hard drinkers kept it up until
midnight, observing, however, more moderation than usual in their
There was none of the grumbling common when men are turned out of their
beds before dawn; all were in high spirits that the time for action had
arrived; the men were as eager to meet the enemy as were their officers;
and the tents were all down and placed in the waggons before daylight. The
regimental cooks had already been at work, and the officers went round and
saw that all had had breakfast before they fell in. At six o'clock the
whole were under arms and in their place as the central regiment in the
brigade. They tramped on without a halt until eleven; then the bugle
sounded, and they fell out for half an hour.
The men made a meal from bread and the meat that had been cooked the night
before, each man carrying three days' rations in his haversack. There was
another halt, and a longer one, at two o'clock, when the brigade rested
for an hour in the shade of a grove.
"It is mighty pleasant to rest," O'Grady said, as the officers threw
themselves down on the grass, "but it is the starting that bates one. I
feel that my feet have swollen so that every step I take I expect my boots
to burst with an explosion. Faith, if it comes to fighting I shall take
them off altogether, and swing them at my belt. How can I run after the
French when I am a cripple?"
"You had better take your boots off now, O'Grady," one of the others
"It is not aisy to get them off, and how should I get them on again? No;
they have got there, and there they have got to stop, bad cess to them! I
told Hoolan to rub grease into them for an hour last night, but the rascal
was as drunk as an owl."
There was no more talking, for every man felt that an hour's sleep would
do wonders for him; soon absolute quiet reigned in the grove, and
continued until the bugle again called them to their feet. All knew now
that it was Leirya they were making for, and that another ten miles still
remained to be accomplished. A small body of cavalry which accompanied
them now pushed on ahead, and when half the distance had been traversed a
trooper brought back the news that the enemy had not yet reached the town.
It was just six o'clock when the brigade marched in amid the cheers and
wild excitement of the inhabitants. The waggons were not yet up, and the
troops were quartered in the town, tired, and many of them foot-sore, but
proud of the march they had accomplished, and that it had enabled them to
forestall the French.
Laborde, indeed, arrived the same night at Batalha, eight miles distant,
but on receiving the news in the morning that the British had already
occupied Leirya, he advanced no farther. His position was an exceedingly
difficult one; his orders were to cover the march of Loison from Abrantes,
and to form a junction with that general; but to do so now would be to
leave open the road through Alcobaca and Obidos to the commanding position
at Torres Vedras. Batalha offered no position that he could hope to defend
until the arrival of Loison; therefore, sending word to that general to
move from Torras Novas, as soon as he reached that town, to Santarem, and
then to march to join him at Rolica, he fell back to Alcobaca and then to
Obidos, a town with a Moorish castle, built on a gentle eminence in the
middle of a valley.
Leaving a detachment here, he retired to Rolica, six miles to the south of
it. At this point several roads met, and he at once covered all the
approaches to Torres Vedras, and the important port of Peniche, and could
be joined by Loison marching down from Santarem.
The advanced brigade of the British force remained in quiet possession of
Leirya during the next day, and on the following, the 11th of August, the
main body of the army arrived, having taken two days on the march. The
Portuguese force also came in under Friere. That general at once took
possession of the magazines there, and although he had promised the
English general that their contents should be entirely devoted to the
maintenance of the English army, he divided them among his own force.
Disgusted as the British commander was at this barefaced dishonesty, he
was not in a position to quarrel with the Portuguese. It was essential to
him that they should accompany him, not for the sake of the assistance
that they would give, for he knew that none was to be expected from them,
but from a political point of view. It was most important that the people
at large should feel that their own troops were acting with the British,
and that no feelings of jealousy or suspicion of the latter should arise.
Friere was acting under the orders of the Bishop and Junta of Oporto,
whose great object was to keep the Portuguese army together and not to
risk a defeat, as they desired to keep this body intact in order that, if
the British were defeated, they should be able to make favourable terms
for themselves. Consequently, even after appropriating the whole of the
stores and provisions found at Leirya, Friere continued to make exorbitant
demands, and to offer a vigorous opposition to any further advance.
So far did he carry this that the British general, finding that in no
other way could he get the Portuguese to advance with him, proposed that
they should follow behind him and wait the result of the battle, to which
Friere at last consented. The Portuguese, in fact, had no belief whatever
that the British troops would be able to withstand the onslaught of the
French, whom they regarded as invincible. Colonel Trant, however, one of
our military agents, succeeded in inducing Friere to place 1,400 infantry
and 250 cavalry under the command of Sir Arthur.
The addition of the cavalry was a very useful one, for the English had
with them only 180 mounted men; the country was entirely new to them,
scarcely an officer could speak the language, and there was no means,
therefore, of obtaining information as to the movements of the enemy.
Moving forward through Batalha, and regaining the coast road at Alcobaca,
the British forces arrived at Caldas on the 15th; and on the same day
Junot quitted Lisbon with a force of 2,000 infantry, 2,000 cavalry, and
ten pieces of artillery, leaving 7,000 to garrison the forts and keep down
the population of the city. His force was conveyed to Villa Franca by
water, and the general then pushed forward to Santarem, where he found
Loison, and took command of his division.
The British advanced guard, after arriving at Caldas, pushed forward,
drove the French pickets out of Brilos, and then from Obidos. Here,
however, a slight reverse took place. Some companies of the 95th and 60th
Rifles pressed forward three miles farther in pursuit, when they were
suddenly attacked in flank by a greatly superior force, and had it not
been that General Spencer, whose division was but a short distance behind,
pressed forward to their assistance, they would have suffered heavily; as
it was they escaped with the loss of two officers and twenty-seven men
killed and wounded. Their rashness, however, led to the discovery that
Laborde's force had taken up a strong position in front of the village of
Rolica, and that he apparently intended to give battle there.
The next day was spent in reconnoitring the French position. It was a very
strong one. Rolica stood on a table-land rising in a valley, affording a
view of the road as far as Obidos. The various points of defence there,
and on the flank, were held by strong parties of the enemy. A mile in the
rear was a steep and lofty ridge that afforded a strong second line of
defence. By the side of this ridge the road passed through a deep defile,
and then mounted over a pass through the range of hills extending from the
sea to the Tagus, and occupying the intermediate ground until close to
Lisbon. Laborde's position was an embarrassing one. If he retired upon
Torres Vedras his line of communication with Loison would be lost, if he
moved to meet Loison he would leave open the direct road to Lisbon, while
if he remained at Rolica he had to encounter a force almost three times
his own strength.
Trusting in the advantages of his position, and confident in the valour of
his troops, he chose the last alternative. Very anxiously, during the day,
the British officers watched the French line of defence, fearful lest the
enemy would again retreat. By sunset they came to the conclusion that
Laborde intended to stay where he was, and to meet them. The French,
indeed, had been so accustomed to beat the Spanish and Portuguese, that
they had not woke up to the fact that they had troops of a very different
material facing them.
"We ought to have easy work," Major Harrison said, as the officers
gathered round the fire that had been built in front of the colonel's
tent; "the people here all declare that Laborde has not above 5,000 troops
with him, while, counting Trant's Portuguese, we have nearly 14,000."
"There will be no credit in thrashing them with such odds as that," Dick
"I suppose, Ryan," Major Harrison said, "if you had been in Sir Arthur's
place you would have preferred remaining at Leirya until Junot could have
gathered all his forces, and obtained a reinforcement of some fifty
thousand or so from Spain, then you would have issued a general order
saying, that as the enemy had now a hundred thousand troops ready, the
army would advance and smite them."
"Not so bad as that, Major," the young ensign said, colouring, as there
was a general laugh from the rest; "but there does not seem much
satisfaction in thrashing an enemy when we are three to one against him."
"But that is just the art of war, Ryan. Of course, it is glorious to
defeat a greatly superior army and to lose half your own in doing so; that
may be heroic, but it is not modern war. The object of a general is, if
possible, to defeat an enemy in detail, and to so manoeuvre that he is
always superior in strength to the force that is immediately in front of
him, and so to ensure victory after victory until the enemy are destroyed.
That is what the general is doing by his skilful manoeuvring; he has
prevented Junot from massing the whole of the army of Portugal against us.
"To-morrow we shall defeat Laborde, and doubtless a day or two later we
shall fight Loison; then I suppose we shall advance against Lisbon, Junot
will collect his beaten troops and his garrison, there will be another
battle, and then we shall capture Lisbon, and the French will have to
evacuate Portugal. Whereas, if all the French were at Rolica they would
probably smash us into a cocked hat, in spite of any valour we might show;
and as we have no cavalry to cover a retreat, as the miserable horses can
scarcely drag the few guns that we have got, and the carriages are so
rickety that the artillery officers are afraid that as soon as they fire
them they will shake to pieces, it is not probable that a single man would
regain our ships."
"Please say no more, Major; I see I was a fool."
"Still," Captain O'Connor said, "you must own, Major, that one does like
to win against odds."
"Quite so, O'Connor; individuals who may survive such a battle no doubt
would be glad that it was a superior force that they had beaten, but then
you see battles are not fought for the satisfaction of individuals.
Moreover, you must remember that the proportion of loss is much heavier
when the numbers are pretty equally matched, for in that case they must
meet to a certain extent face to face. Skill on the part of the general
may do a great deal, but in the end it must come to sheer hard fighting.
Now, I expect that to-morrow, although there may be hard fighting, it is
not upon that that Sir Arthur will principally rely for turning the French
out of those strong positions.
"He will, no doubt, advance directly against them with perhaps half his
force, but the rest will move along on the top of the heights, and so
threaten to cut the French line of retreat altogether. Laborde is, they
say, a good general, and therefore won't wait until he is caught in a
trap, but will fall back as soon as he sees that the line of retreat is
seriously menaced. I fancy, too, that he must expect Loison up some time
tomorrow, or he would hardly make a stand, and if Loison does come up,
Ryan's wish will be gratified and we shall be having the odds against us.
"Then you must remember that our army is a very raw one. A large
proportion of it is newly raised, and though there may be a few men here
who fought in Egypt, the great bulk have never seen a shot fired in
earnest; while, on the other hand, the French have been fighting all over
Europe. They are accustomed to victory, and are confident in their own
valour and discipline. Our officers are as raw as our men, and we must
expect that all sorts of blunders will be made at first. I can tell you
that I am very well satisfied that our first battle is going to be fought
with the odds greatly on our side. In six months I should feel pretty
confident, even if the French had the same odds on their side."
"The major gave it you rather hotly, Dick," Terence said to his friend, as
they sauntered off together from the group. "I am glad that you spoke
first, for I had it on the tip of my tongue to say just what you did, and
I expect that a good many of the others felt just the same."
"Yes, I put my foot in it badly, Terence. I have no doubt the major was
right; anyhow, I have nothing to say against it. But for all that I wish
that either we were not so strong or that they were stronger. What credit
is there, I should like to know, in thrashing them when we are three to
one? Anyhow, I hope that we shall have some share in the scrimmage. We
shall get an idea when the orders are published to-night, and shall see
where Fane's brigade is to be put."
ROLICA AND VIMIERA
At nine o'clock in the evening it became known that the general plan of
attack predicted by Major Harrison was to be carried out. Some five
thousand men under General Ferguson were to ascend the hills on the left
of the valley, while Trant, with a thousand Portuguese infantry and some
Portuguese horse, were to move on the hills on the right; the centre, nine
thousand strong, and commanded by Sir Arthur himself, were to march
straight up the valley.
Early in the morning the British troops marched out from Obidos.
Ferguson's command at once turned to the left and ascended the hills,
while Trant's moved to the west.
After proceeding a short distance, Fane's brigade moved off from the road
and marched along the valley, equidistant from the main body and from
Ferguson, forming a connecting link between them; and on reaching the
village of St. Mamed, three-quarters of a mile from the French position,
Hill's brigade turned off to the right. From their elevated position the
French opened fire with their artillery, and this was answered by the
twelve guns in the valley and from Ferguson's six guns on the heights.
Fane's brigade, extended to its left, was the first in action, and drove
back the French skirmishers and connected Ferguson with the centre. They
then turned to attack the right of the French position; while Ferguson,
seeing no signs of Loison's force, descended from the high ground to the
rear of Fane, while the Portuguese pressed forward at the foot of the
hills on the other side of the valley and threatened the enemy's left
[Illustration: BATTLE OF ROLICA map.]
Seeing that his position was absolutely untenable, Laborde did not wait
the assault, but fell back, covered by his cavalry, to the far stronger
position in his rear. A momentary pause ensued before the British
continued their advance. The new position of the French was of great
natural strength, and could be approached only by narrow paths winding up
through deep ravines on its face. Ferguson and Fane received orders to
keep to the left, and so turn the enemy's right. Trant similarly was to
push forward and threaten his left flank, while Hill and Nightingale
advanced against the front.
The battle commenced by a storm of skirmishers from these brigades running
forward. These soon reached the foot of the precipitous hill and plunged
into the passes. Neither the fire of the enemy nor the difficulties of the
ascent checked them. Spreading right and left from the paths they made
their way up, and taking advantage of the shelter afforded by great
boulders, broken masses of rock, and the stumps of trees, climbed up
wherever they could find a foothold. The supporting columns experienced
much greater difficulty; the paths were too narrow, and the ground too
broken for them to retain their formation, and they made their way forward
as best they could in necessary disorder.
The din of battle was prodigious, for the rattle of musketry was echoed
and re-echoed from the rocks. The progress of the skirmishers could only
be noted by the light smoke rising through the foliage and by the shouts
of the soldiers, which were echoed by the still louder ones of the French,
gathered strongly on the hill above them. As the British made their way
up, Laborde, who was still anxiously looking for the expected coming of
Loison, withdrew a portion of his troops from the left and strengthened
his right, in order to hold on as long as possible on the side from which
aid was expected. The ardour of the British to get to close quarters
favoured this movement.
It had been intended that the 9th and 29th Regiments should take the
right-hand path where the track they were following up the pass forked,
and so join Trant's Portuguese at the top of the hill and fall upon the
French left. The left-hand path, however, was the one that would take them
direct to the enemy, and the 29th, which was leading, took this, and the
9th followed them. So rapidly did they press up the hill that they arrived
at the crest before Ferguson and Fane, on the left, and Trant on the
right, had got far enough to menace the line of retreat, and so shake the
enemy's position. The consequence was, that as the right wing of the 29th
arrived at the top of the path it was met by a very heavy fire before it
could form, and some companies of a French regiment, who had been cut off
from the main body by its sudden appearance, charged through the
disordered troops and carried with them a major and fifty or sixty other
The rest of the wing, thus exposed to the full fire of the French, fell
back over the crest, and there rallied on the left wing; and being joined
by the 9th, pushed forward again and obtained a footing on the plateau.
Laborde in vain endeavoured to hurl them back again. They maintained their
footing, but suffered heavily, both the colonels being killed, with many
officers and men. But the 5th Regiment were now up, and at other points
the British were gathering thickly at the edge of the plateau. Ferguson
and Trant were pushing on fast past the French flanks, and Laborde, seeing
that further resistance would lead to great disaster, gave the order to
retire to a third position, still farther in the rear. The movement was
conducted in splendid order. The French steadily fell back by alternate
masses, their guns thundering on their flanks, while their cavalry covered
the rear by repeated charges.
Gaining the third position, Laborde held it for a time, and so enabled
isolated bodies of his force to join him. Then, finding himself unable to
resist the impetuosity of the British attack, he retired, still disputing
every foot of ground, and took to the narrow pass of Runa. He then marched
all night to the strong position of Montechique, thereby securing his
junction with Loison, but leaving the road to Torres Vedras open to the
British. The loss of the French in this fight was 600 killed and wounded,
and three guns. Laborde himself was among the wounded. The British lost
nearly 500 killed, wounded, or taken prisoners. The number of the
combatants actually engaged on either side was about 4,000, and the loss
sustained showed the obstinacy of the fighting. Sir Arthur believed that
the French had, as they retreated, been joined by Loison, and therefore
prepared to march at once by the coast-line to seize the heights of Torres
Vedras before the French could throw themselves in his way.
Great was the disappointment among officers and men of the Mayo Fusiliers
that they had taken no part whatever in the actual fighting, beyond
driving in the French skirmishers at the beginning of the operations.
"Divil a man killed or wounded!" Captain O'Grady remarked, mournfully, as
the regiment halted at the conclusion of the fight. "Faith, it is too bad,
entirely; there we are left out in the cold, and scarce a shot has been
"There are plenty of others in the same case," Captain O'Driscol said.
"None of our three brigades on the left have had anything to do with the
matter, as far as fighting went. I don't think more than four thousand of
our troops were in action; but you see if it had not been for our advance,
Hill and Nightingale might not have succeeded in driving Laborde off the
hill. There is no doubt that the French fought well, but it's our advance
that forced him to retire, not the troops in front of him; so that, even
if we have not had any killed or wounded, O'Grady, we have at least the
satisfaction of having contributed to the victory."
"Oh, bother your tactics! We have come here to fight, and no fighting have
we had at all, at all. When we marched out this morning it looked as if we
were going to have our share in the divarshon, and we have been fairly
chated out of it."
"Well, O'Grady, you should not grumble," Terence said, "for we had some
fighting on the way out, which is more than any of the other troops had."
"That was a mere skirmish, Terence. First of all we were shot at, and
could not shoot back again; and thin we shot at the enemy, and they could
not shoot back at us. And as for the boarding affair, faith, it did not
last a minute. The others have had two hours of steady fighting,
clambering up the hill, and banging away at the enemy, and shouting and
cheering, and all sorts of fun; and there were we, tramping along among
those bastely stones and rocks, and no one as much as took the trouble to
fire a shot at us!"
"Well, if we had been there, O'Grady, we should have lost about a hundred
and twenty men and officers--if we had suffered in the same proportion as
the others--and we should now be mourning their loss--perhaps you among
them. We might have been saying: 'There is O'Grady gone; he was a beggar
to talk, but he meant well. Faith, the drink bill of the regiment will
"Well, it might have been so," O'Grady said, in a more contented voice;
"and if I had been killed going up the hill, without even as much as
catching a glimpse of the Frenchies, I would niver have forgiven
There was a roar of laughter at the bull.
"Phwat is it have I said?" he asked, in surprise.
"Nothing, O'Grady; but it would be an awful thing for the French to know
that after your death you would have gone on hating them for ever."
"Did I say that? But you know my maneing, and as long as you know that,
what does it matter which way I put it? Well, now, I suppose Sir Arthur is
going to take us tramping along again. Ah, it is a weary thing being a
"Why, you were saying yesterday, O'Grady, that your feet were getting all
right," Terence said.
"All right in a manner, Terence. And it is a bad habit that you have got
of picking up your supayrior officer's words and throwing them into his
teeth. You will come to a bad end if you don't break yourself of it; and
the worst of it is, you are corrupting the other lads, and the young
officers are losing all respect for their seniors. I am surprised, Major,
that you and the colonel don't take the matter in hand before the
discipline of the regiment is destroyed entirely."
"You draw it upon yourself, O'Grady, and it is good for us all to have a
laugh sometimes. We should all have missed you sorely had you gone down on
that hill over there--as many a good fellow has done. I hear that both the
9th and 29th have lost their colonels."
"The Lord presarve us from such a misfortune, Major! It would give us a
step all through the regiment; but then, you see--" And he stopped.
"You mean I should be colonel, O'Grady," the major said, with a laugh;
"and you know I should not take things as quietly as he does. Well, you
see, there are consolations all round."
The firing had ceased at four o'clock, and until late that night a large
portion of the force were occupied in searching the ground that had been
traversed, burying the dead, and carrying the wounded of both
nationalities down into the hospital that had been established at Rolica.
Sir Arthur determined to march at daybreak, so as to secure the passes
through Torres Vedras; but in the evening a messenger arrived with the
news that Anstruther and Acland's division, with a large fleet of
store-ships, were off the coast. The dangerous nature of the coast, and
the certainty that, should a gale spring up, a large proportion of the
ships would be wrecked, rendered it absolutely necessary to secure the
disembarkation of the troops at once. The next morning, therefore, he only
marched ten miles to Lourinha, and thence advanced to Vimiera, eight miles
farther, where he covered the disembarkation of the troops.
The next day Anstruther's brigade were with difficulty, and some loss,
landed on an open sandy beach, and on the night of the 20th Acland's
brigade were disembarked at Maciera Bay. The reinforcements were most
opportune, for already the British had proof that Junot was preparing a
heavy blow. That general had, indeed, lost no time in taking steps to
bring on a decisive battle. While the British were marching to Lourinha,
he had, with Loison's division, crossed the line of Laborde's retreat, and
on the same evening reached Torres Vedras, where the next day he was
joined by Laborde, and on the 20th by his reserve. In the meantime he sent
forward his cavalry, which scoured the country round the rear of the
British camp, and prevented the general from obtaining any information
whatever as to his position or intentions.
The arrival of Acland's brigade on the night of the 20th increased the
fighting strength of the army to 16,000 men, with eighteen guns, exclusive
of Trant's Portuguese, while Sir Arthur judged that Junot could not put
more than 14,000 in the field. Previous to leaving Mondego he had sent to
Sir Harry Burrard notice of his plan of campaign, advising him to let Sir
John Moore, on his arrival with 5,000 men, disembark there and march on
Santarem, where he would protect the left of the army in its advance,
block the line of the Tagus, and menace the French line of communication
between Lisbon and the important fortress of Elvas. The ground at Santarem
was suited for defence, and Moore could be joined with Friere, who was
still, with his 5,000 men, at Leirya.
The general intended to make a forced march, keeping by the sea-road. A
strong advance guard would press forward and occupy the formidable
position of Mathia in the rear of the hills. With the main body he
intended to seize some heights a few miles behind Torres Vedras, and to
cut the road between that place and Montechique, on the direct road to
Lisbon, and so interpose between Junot and the capital. At twelve o'clock
that night Sir Arthur was roused by a messenger, who reported that Junot,
with 20,000 men, was advancing to attack him, and was but an hour's march
distant. He disbelieved the account of the force of the enemy, and had no
doubt but that the messenger's fears had exaggerated the closeness of his
approach. He therefore contented himself with sending orders to the
pickets to use redoubled vigilance, and at daylight the whole British
force was, as usual, under arms.
Nothing could have suited the British commander better than that Junot
should attack him, for the position of Vimiera was strong. The town was
situated in a valley, through which the little river Maciera flows. In
this were placed the commissariat stores, while the cavalry and Portuguese
were on a small plain behind the village. In front of Vimiera was a steep
hill with a flat top, commanding the ground to the south and east for a
considerable distance. Fane's and Anstruther's infantry, with six guns,
were posted here. Fane's left rested on a churchyard, blocking a road
which led round the declivity of the hill to the town. Behind this
position, and separated by the river and road, was a hill extending in a
half-moon to the sea.
[Illustration: BATTLE OF VIMIERA. map]
Five brigades of infantry, forming the British right, occupied this
mountain. On the other side of the ravine formed by the river, just beyond
Vimiera, was another strong and narrow range of heights. There was no
water to be found on this ridge, and only the 40th Regiment and some
pickets were stationed here. It was vastly better to be attacked in such a
position than to be compelled to storm the heights of Torres Vedras, held
by a strong French army. The advance of the French was fortunate in
another respect. On the 20th Sir Harry Burrard arrived in the bay on board
a frigate, and Sir Arthur, thus superseded, went on board to report the
position of affairs, renewing his recommendation that Sir John Moore
should land at Mondego and march to Santarem. Sir Harry Burrard, however,
had already determined that his force should land at Maciera, and he
refused to permit Sir Arthur's plan of advance to be carried out, and
ordered that no offensive step should be undertaken until Sir John Moore
The advance of Junot, happily, left Wellesley at liberty to act; and
disposing his force in order of battle, he awaited the appearance of the
enemy. It was not until seven o'clock that a cloud of dust was seen rising
above the opposite ridge, and an hour later a body of cavalry crowned the
height and sent out a swarm of scouts in every direction. Almost
immediately afterwards a body of cavalry and infantry were seen marching
along the road from Torres Vedras to Lourinha, threatening to turn the
left of the British position. As the British right was not menaced, four
of the brigades on the hill on that flank were ordered to cross the valley
and to take post with the 40th Regiment for the defence of the ridge.
This movement, being covered by the Vimiera heights, was unseen by the
enemy; the 5th brigade and the Portuguese were on a second ridge behind
the other, and thus assisted to cover the English left and protect its
rear. The ground between the crest on which the French were first seen and
our position was so thickly covered with wood, that after the enemy had
descended into it no correct view of their movements could be obtained.
Junot had intended to fall upon the English army at daybreak, but the
defiles through which the force had to pass had delayed the march, as had
the fatigue of the troops, who had been marching all night. From the
height from which he obtained a view of the British position it seemed to
him that the British centre and right were held in great strength, and
that the left was almost unguarded. He therefore determined to attack upon
that flank, which, indeed, was in any case the most favourable, as, were
he successful there, he would cut the line of the British retreat and pen
them up on the sea-shore.
The march of the four brigades through Vimiera to take post on the British
left was hidden from him, and he divided his force into two heavy columns,
one of which was to attack the British left, and having, mounted the
height to sweep all before it into the town; the other was to attack
Vimiera Hill, held by Anstruther and Fane.
Brennier commanded the attack against the left, Laborde against the
centre, Loison followed at a short distance. Kellermann commanded the
reserve of Grenadiers. Unfortunately for the success of Junot's plan, he
was unaware of the fact that along the foot of the ridge on the British
left ran a deep ravine, that rendered it very difficult to attack except
at the extreme end of the position.
"We are going to have our share of the fun to-day," O'Grady said, as he
stood with a group of officers, watching the wooded plain and the head of
Laborde's column debouching from among the trees, and moving towards the
There was a general murmur of satisfaction from the officers, for although
they had all laughed at O'Grady's exaggerated regrets at their not being
engaged at Rolica, all were somewhat sore at the regiment having had no
opportunity of distinguishing itself on that occasion. No sooner had the
column cleared the wood than the six guns posted with Fane's and
Anstruther's brigade at once opened fire upon it. It had been intended
that Brennier's attack should begin at the same time as Laborde's, but
that advance had been stopped by the defile, which was so steep and so
encumbered with rocks, brushwood, and trees, that his troops had the most
extreme difficulty in making their way across. This enabled Acland, whose
brigade was in the act of mounting the heights from the town, to turn his
battery against Laborde's column, which was thus smitten with a shower of
grape both in front and flank, and to this was added a heavy musketry fire
from the three brigades.
"Take it easy, lads, take it easy," the colonel said, as he walked up and
down the ranks. "They are hardly in range yet, and you had better keep
your ammunition until they get to the foot of the hill, then you can blaze
away as hard as you like."
Junot, receiving news of the arrest of Brennier's column and the obstacles
that he had encountered, and seeing that the whole British fire was now
directed against Laborde, ordered Loison to support that general with one
brigade, and directed Solignac to turn the ravine in which Brennier was
entangled and to fall upon the left extremity of the enemy's line.
Fane had been given discretionary power to call up the reserve artillery
posted in the village behind him, and seeing so strong an attack against
his position about to be made called it up to the top of the hill.
Loison and Laborde now formed their troops into three columns of attack.
One advanced against that part of the hill held by Anstruther's brigade,
another endeavoured to penetrate by the road past the church on Fane's
extreme left, while the main column, represented by a large number of the
best troops, advanced against the centre of the position. The reserve
artillery, and the battery originally there, opened a terrible fire, which
was aided by the musketry of the infantry. But with loud shouts the French
pressed forward, and although already shaken by the terrible fire of the
artillery, and breathless from their exertions, they gained the crest of
the hill. Before they could re-form a tremendous volley was poured into
them, and with a wild yell the Mayo Fusiliers and the 50th charged them in
front and flank and hurled them down the hill.
In the meantime, Anstruther, having repulsed the less serious attack made
on him, detached the 43d to check the enemy's column moving through the
churchyard, and prevented their advance until Kellermann brought up a
force of Grenadiers, who, running forward with loud shouts, drove back the
advanced companies of the 43d. The guns on the heights were turned upon
them with great effect, and those of Acland's and Bowe's brigades on the
left of the ridge took them in flank and brought them almost to a
stand-still; then the 43d, in one mass, charged furiously down on the
column, and after a fierce struggle drove them back in confusion.
The French attacks on this side had now completely failed, and Colonel
Taylor, riding out with his little body of cavalry, dashed out into the
confused mass, slaying and scattering it. Margaron, who commanded a
superior force of French cavalry, led them down through their infantry,
and falling upon the British force killed Taylor and cut half his squadron
to pieces. Kellermann took post with his reserve of Grenadiers in a
pine-wood in advance of the wooded country through which they had
advanced, while Margaron's horsemen maintained a position covering the
retreat of the fugitives into the wood. At this moment Solignac reached
his assigned position and encountered Ferguson's brigade, which was on the
extreme left of the division, and was taken by surprise on finding a force
equal to his own where he had expected to find the hill untenanted.
Ferguson was drawn up in three lines on a steep declivity. A heavy
artillery fire opened upon the French as soon as they were seen, while the
5th brigade and the Portuguese marched along the next ridge and threatened
the enemy's rear.
Ferguson did not wait to be attacked, but marched his brigade against the
French, who, falling fast under the musketry and artillery fire which had
swept their lines, fell back fighting to the farthest edge of the ridge.
Solignac was carried off severely wounded, and his brigade was cut off
from its line of retreat and driven into a low valley, in which stood the
village of Peranza, leaving six guns behind them. Ferguson left two
regiments to guard these guns, and with the rest of his force pressed hard
upon the French; but at this moment Brennier, who had at last surmounted
the difficulties that had detained him, fell upon the two regiments
suddenly, and retook the guns.
The 82d and 71st, speedily recovered from their surprise, rallied on some
higher ground, and then, after pouring in a tremendous volley of musketry,
charged with a mighty shout and overthrew the French brigade and recovered
the guns. Brennier himself was wounded and taken prisoner, and Ferguson
having completely broken up the brigade opposed to him would have forced
the greater part of Solignac's troops to surrender, if he had not been
required to halt by an unexpected order. The French veterans speedily
rallied, and in admirable order, protected by their cavalry, marched off
to join their comrades who had been defeated in their attack upon the
It was now twelve o'clock; the victory was complete; thirteen guns had
been captured. Neither the 1st, 5th, nor Portuguese brigades had fired a
shot, and the 4th and 8th had suffered very little, therefore Sir Arthur
resolved with these five brigades to push Junot closely, while Hill,
Anstruther, and Fane were to march forward as far as Torres Vedras, and,
pushing on to Montechique, cut him off from Lisbon. Had this operation
been executed Junot would probably have lost all his artillery, and seven
thousand stragglers would have been driven to seek shelter under the guns
of Elvas, from which fortress, however, he would have been cut off had
Moore landed as Sir Arthur wished at Mondego. Unhappily, however, the
latter was no longer commander-in-chief. Sir Harry Burrard, who had been
present at the action, had not interfered with the arrangements, but as
soon as victory was won he assumed command, sent an order arresting
Ferguson's career of victory, and forbade all further offensive operations
until the arrival of Sir John Moore.
The adjutant-general and quartermaster supported his views, and Sir
Arthur's earnest representations were disregarded. Sir Arthur's plan would
probably have been crowned with success, but it was not without peril. The
French had rallied with extraordinary rapidity under the protection of
their cavalry. The British artillery-carriages were so shaken as to be
almost unfit for service, the horses insufficient in number and wretched
in quality, the commissariat waggons in the greatest confusion, and the
hired Portuguese vehicles had made off in every direction. The British
cavalry were totally destroyed, and two French regiments had just made
their appearance on the ridge behind the wood where Junot's troops were
Sir Harry Burrard, with a caution characteristic of age, refused to adopt
Wellesley's bold plan. A great success had been gained, and that would
have been imperilled by Junot's falling with all his force upon one or
other of the British columns. Sir Arthur himself, at a later period, when
a commission was appointed by Parliament to inquire into the
circumstances, admitted that, though he still believed that success would
have attended his own plan, he considered that Sir Harry Burrard's
decision was fully justified on military grounds.
Junot took full advantage of the unexpected cessation of hostilities. He
re-formed his broken army on the arrival of the two regiments, which
brought it up to its original strength; and then, covered by his cavalry,
marched in good order until darkness fell. He had regained the command of
the passes of Torres Vedras, and the two armies occupied precisely the
same positions that they had done on the previous evening.
One general, thirteen guns, and several hundred prisoners fell into the
hands of the British, and Junot's total loss far exceeded that of the
British, which was comparatively small. At the commencement of the fight
the British force was more than two thousand larger than that of the
French, but of these only a half had taken an active part in the battle,
while every man in Junot's army had been sent forward to the attack.
Sir Harry Burrard's command was a short one, for on the following morning
Sir Hew Dalrymple superseded him. Thus in twenty-four hours a battle had
been fought and the command of the army had been three times changed, a
striking proof of the abject folly and incapacity of the British ministry
of the day.
Two of these three commanders arrived fresh on the scene without any
previous knowledge of the situation, and all three differed from each
other in their views regarding the general plan of the campaign; the last
two were men without any previous experience in the handling of large
bodies of troops, and without any high military reputation; while the man
displaced had already shown the most brilliant capacity in India, and was
universally regarded as the best general in the British service. Dalrymple
adopted neither the energetic action advised by Sir Arthur nor the
inactivity supported by Burrard, but, taking a middle course, decided to
advance on the following morning, but not to go far until Sir John Moore
landed at Maciera.
Sir Arthur was strongly opposed to this policy. He pointed out that there
were at present on shore but seven or eight days' provisions for the force
at Vimiera. No further supplies could be obtained in the country, and at
any moment a gale might arise and scatter or destroy the fleet, from which
alone they could draw supplies during their advance. The debate on the
subject was continuing when the French general, Kellermann, bearing a flag
of truce and escorted by a strong body of cavalry, arrived at the outposts
and desired a conference. The news was surprising, indeed. Junot's force
was practically unshaken. He possessed all the strong places in Portugal,
and could have received support in a short time from the French forces in
Upon the other hand, the position of the British, even after winning a
victory, was by no means a satisfactory one; they had already learnt that
it was useless to rely in the slightest degree upon Portuguese promises or
Portuguese assistance, and that, even in the matter of provisions and
carriage, their commander-in-chief expected to be maintained by those who
had come to aid in freeing the country of the French, instead of these
receiving any help from him. In carriage the British army was wholly
deficient; of cavalry they had none. When Sir John Moore landed there
would be but four days' provisions on-shore for the army, and were the
fleet driven off by a gale, starvation would at once threaten them.
The gallantry with which the French had fought in both engagements, the
skill with which they had been handled, and above all, the quickness and
steadiness with which, after defeat, they had closed up their ranks and
drawn off in excellent order, showed that the task of expelling such
troops from the country would, even if all went well in other respects, be
a very formidable one, and the offer of a conference was therefore at once
embraced by Sir Hew Dalrymple.
Kellermann was admitted to the camp. His mission was to demand a cessation
of arms in order that Junot might, under certain conditions, evacuate
Portugal. The advantage of freeing the country from the French without
further fighting was so evident that Sir Hew at once agreed to discuss the
terms, and took Sir Arthur Wellesley into his counsels. The latter quite
agreed with the policy by which a strong French army would be quietly got
out of the country, in which it held all the military posts and strong
positions. A great moral effect would be produced, and the whole resources
of Portugal would then be available for operations in Spain.
By the afternoon the main points of the convention had been generally
agreed upon. The French were to evacuate Portugal, and were to be conveyed
in the English vessels to France with their property, public or private.
There was to be no persecution of persons who had been the adherents of
France during the occupation; the only serious difference that arose was
as to the Russian fleet in the Tagus. Kellermann proposed to have it
guaranteed from capture, with leave to return to the Baltic. This,
however, was refused, and the question was referred to Admiral Cotton,
who, as chief representative of England, would have to approve of the
treaty before it could be signed.
Kellermann returned to Lisbon with Colonel Murray, the
quartermaster-general, and after three days' negotiations the treaty was
finally concluded, the Russian difficulty being settled by their vessels
being handed over to the British, and the crew transported in English
ships to the Baltic. The convention was, under the circumstances,
unquestionably a most advantageous one. It would have cost long and severe
fighting and the siege of several very strong fortresses before the French
could have been turned out of Portugal. Heavy siege-guns would have been
necessary for these operations. At the very shortest calculation a year
would have been wasted, very heavy loss of life incurred, and an immense
expenditure of money before the result, now obtained so suddenly and
unexpectedly, had been arrived at.
Nevertheless, the news of the convention was received with a burst of
popular indignation in England, where the public, wholly ignorant of the
difficulty of the situation, had formed the most extravagant hopes,
founded on the two successes obtained by their troops. The result was that
a commission was appointed to investigate the whole matter. The three
English generals were summoned to England to attend before it, and so
gross were the misrepresentations and lies by which the public had been
deceived by the agents of the unscrupulous and ambitious Bishop of Oporto
and his confederates, that it was even proposed to bring the generals to
trial who had in so short a time and with such insufficient means freed
Portugal from the French. Sir John Moore remained in command of the troops
The Mayo Fusiliers had suffered their full proportion of losses at the
battle of Vimiera. Major Harrison had been killed, Captain O'Connor had
been severely wounded, as his company had been thrown forward as
skirmishers on the face of the hill, and a third of their number had
fallen when Laborde's great column had driven them in as it charged up the
ascent. Terence's father had been brought to the ground by a ball that
struck him near the hip; had been trampled on by the French as they passed
up over him, and again on their retreat; and he was insensible when, as
soon as the enemy retired, a party was sent down to bring up the wounded.
By the death of the major, O'Connor, as senior captain, now attained that
rank, but the doctor pronounced that it would be a long time before he
would be able to take up his duties. Another captain and three subalterns
had been killed, and several other officers had been wounded. Among these
was O'Grady, whose left arm had been carried away below the elbow by a
round shot. As Terence was in the other wing of the regiment he did not
hear of his father's wounds until after the battle was over, and on the
order being given that there was to be no pursuit the regiment fell out of
its ranks. As soon as the news reached him he obtained permission to go
down to Vimiera, where the church and other buildings had been turned into
temporary hospitals, to which the seriously wounded had been carried as
soon as the French retired. Hurrying down, he soon learned where the
wounded of General Fane's brigade had been taken. He found the two
regimental doctors hard at work. O'Flaherty came up to Terence as soon as
he saw him enter the barn that had been hastily converted into a hospital
by covering the floor deeply with straw.
[Illustration: 'I should not have minded being hit, Father, if you had
"I think your father will do, Terence, my boy," he said, cheeringly; "we
have just got the bullet out of his leg, and we hope that it has not
touched the bone, though we cannot be altogether sure. We shall know more
about that when we have got through the rough of our work. Still, we have
every hope that he will do well. He is next the door at the further end;
we put him there to let him get as much fresh air as possible, for, by the
powers, this place is like a furnace!"
Captain O'Connor was lying on his back, the straw having been arranged so
as to raise his shoulders and head. He smiled when Terence came up to him.
"Thank God you have got safely through it, lad!"
"I should not have minded being hit, father, if you had escaped," Terence
said, with difficulty suppressing a sob, while in spite of his efforts the
tears rolled down his cheeks.
"The doctors say I shall pull through all right. I hear poor Harrison is
killed; he was a good fellow. Though it has given me my step, I am
heartily sorry. So we have thrashed them, lad; that is a comfort. I was
afraid when they went up the hill that they might be too much for us, and
I was delighted when I heard them coming tearing down again, though I had
not much time to think about it. They had stepped over me pretty much as
they went up, but they had no time to pick their way as they came back
again, and after one or two had jumped on me, I remembered no more about
it until I found myself here with O'Flaherty probing the wound and hurting
me horribly. I am bruised all over, and I wonder some of my ribs are not
broken; at present they hurt me a good deal more than this wound in the
hip. Still, that is only an affair of a day or two. Who have been killed
besides the major?"
"Dorman, Phillips, and Henderson are killed. O'Grady is wounded, I hear,
and so are Saunders, Byrne, and Sullivan; there have been some others hit,
but not seriously; they did not have to fall out."
"O'Grady is over on the other side somewhere, Terence; I heard his voice
just now. Go and see where he is hurt."
O'Grady was sitting up with his back to the wall; the sleeves of his
jacket and shirt had been cut off, and a tourniquet was on his arm just
above the elbow.
"Well, Terence," he said, cheerfully, "I am in luck, you see."
"I can't see any luck about it, O'Grady."
"Why, man, it might have been my right arm, and where should I have been
then? As to the left arm, one can do without it very well. Then, again, it
is lucky that the ball hit me below the elbow and not above it. O'Flaherty
says they will be able to make a dacent job of it, and that after a bit
they will be able to fit a wooden arm on, so that I can screw a fork into
it. The worst of it at present is, that I have a terrible thirst on me,
and nothing but water have they given me, a thing that I have not drunk
for years. They have tied up the arteries, and they are going presently to
touch up the loose ends with hot pitch to stop the bleeding altogether. It
is not a pleasant job; they have done it to three or four of the men
already. One of them stood it well, but the others cried a thousand
murders. O'Flaherty has promised me a drink of whisky and water before
they do it, and just at present I feel as if I would let them burn all my
limbs at the same price. It is sorry I am, Terence, to hear that your
father is hit so hard, but O'Flaherty says he will get through it all
right. Well, he will get his majority, though I am mightily sorry that
Harrison is killed; he was a good boy, though he was an Englishman. Ah,
Terence, my heart's sore when I think what I said that evening after the
fight at Rolica! I did not mean it altogether, but the words come home to
me now. It is not for meself but for the poor boys that have gone. It was
just thoughtlessness, but I would give me other arm not to have said those
"I know that you did not mean it, O'Grady, and we were all feeling sorry
that the regiment had not had a chance to be in the thick of it."
"Here they are, coming this way with the pitch kettle. You had better get
away, lad, before they begin."
Terence was glad to follow the advice, and hurried out of the barn and
walked three or four hundred yards away. He was very fond of O'Grady, who
had always been very kind to him, and who was thoroughly warm-hearted and
a good fellow, in spite of his eccentricities. In a quarter of an hour he
returned. Just as he was entering, O'Flaherty came out of the door.
"I must have a breath of fresh air, Terence," he said. "The heat is
stifling in there, and though we are working in our shirt-sleeves we are
just as damp as if we had been thrown into a pond."
"Has O'Grady's arm been seared?"
"Yes, and he stood it well; not a word did he say until it was over. Then
he said, 'Give me another drink, O'Flaherty; it's wake-like I feel.'
Before I could get the cup to his lips he went off in a faint. He has come
round now and has had a drink of weak whisky and water, and is lying quiet
and composed. It is better that you should not go near him at present. I
hope that he will drop off to sleep presently. I have just given a glance
at your father, and he is nearly, if not quite, asleep too, so you had
better leave them now and look in again this evening. Now that the affair
is over, and there is time to go round, they will clear out some houses
and get things more comfortable. The principal medical officer was round
here half an hour ago. He said they would fit up rooms for the officers at
once, and I will have your father, O'Grady, and Saunders carried up on
stretchers and put into a room together. If they can bear the moving it
will be all in their favour, for it will be cooler there than in this oven
of a place. I hear the church has been requisitioned, and that the worst
cases among our men will be taken there."
In comparison with the loss of the French that of the British had been
very small. From their position on commanding heights they had suffered
but little from the fire of the French artillery, and the casualties were
almost confined to Fane's brigade, the 43d Regiment, Anstruther's, and the
two regiments of Ferguson's brigade that had been attacked by Brennier,
and before nightfall the whole of the wounded had been brought in and
attended to, the hospitals arranged, and the men far more comfortably
bestowed than in the temporary quarters taken up during the heat of the
conflict. As there was no prospect of an immediate movement, the soldier
servants of the wounded officers had been excused from military duty and
told off to attend to them, and when Terence went down in the evening he
found his father, O'Grady, and Saunders--the latter a young
lieutenant--comfortably lodged in a large room in which three hospital
beds had been placed. O'Grady had quite recovered his usual good spirits.
"Don't draw such along face, Terence," he said, as the lad entered; "we
are all going on well. Your father has been bandaged all over the chest
and body, and is able to breathe more comfortably; as for me, except that
I feel as if somebody were twisting a red-hot needle about in my arm, I am
as right as possible, and Saunders is doing first-rate. The doctors
thought at first that he had got a ball through his body; after they got
him here they had time to examine him carefully, and they find that it has
just run along the ribs and gone out behind, and that he will soon be
about again. If it wasn't that the doctors say I must drink nothing but
water with lemon-juice squeezed into it, I would have nothing to complain
of. We have got our servants. Hoolan came in blubbering like a calf, the
omadhoun, and I had to threaten to send him back to the regiment before he
would be sensible. He has sworn off spirits until I am well enough to take
to them, which is a comfort, for I am sorry to say he is one of those men
who never know when they have had enough."
"Like master, like man, O'Grady."
"Terence, when I get well you will repint of your impudence to your
supayrior officer, when he is not able to defend himself."
Terence went across to his father's bed.
"Do you really feel easier, father?"
"A great deal, lad. I was so bruised that every breath I took hurt me;
since I have been tightly bandaged I am better, ever so much. Daly says
that in a few days I shall be all right again as to that, but that the
other business will keep me on my back for a long time. He has examined my
wound again, and says he won't touch it for a few days; but I can see that
he is rather afraid that the bone has been grazed if not splintered. You
have not heard what is going to be done, have you?"
"No, father; the talk is that no move will be made anyhow until Sir John
Moore lands with his troops; after that I suppose we shall go forward."
"It is a pity we did not push forward to-day, lad, if, as I hear, half the
force were never engaged at all. Junot would not have carried off a gun if
our fellows had been launched against them while they were in disorder. As
it is, I hear they have marched away over that ridge in as good order as
they came, and so we shall have all the work of thrashing them to do over
"They say that is what Sir Arthur wanted to do, father, but Burrard
"Did any man ever hear of such nonsense as a general who knows nothing at
all about the matter coming and taking over the command from a general who
has just won a battle, and who has all the ins and outs of the matter at
"Now, my dear O'Connor," O'Grady broke in, "you know what Daly said, the
quieter you lie and the less you talk the better. He did not say so to
meself; in the first place, because he knew it would be of no use, and in
the second, because there is no raison on earth why, because a man has
lost a bit of his arm, his tongue should not wag. And what does the
colonel say, Terence; is he not delighted with the regiment?"
"He is that, and he has a right to be," Terence said. "The way they went
at the French, and tumbled them over the crest and down the hill was
splendid. The tears rolled down his cheeks when he heard that the major
and the others were killed, but he said that a man could not die more
gloriously. He shook hands with all the officers after it was over, and
sent a party down to the town to buy and bring up some barrels of wine,
and served out a good allowance to each man. As soon as the firing ceased
I heard him tell O'Driscol that he was proud to have commanded the
"That is good, Terence; and now, do you think that you could bring me up
just a taste of the cratur?"
"The divil a drop, O'Grady; if Daly and O'Flaherty both say that you are
not to have it, it is certain that it is bad for you. But I'll tell you
what I will do; I have one bottle of whisky left, and I will promise you
that it sha'n't be touched till you are well enough to drink it, and if we
are marched away, as I suppose we shall be, I will hand it over to
O'Flaherty to give you when you are fit to take it. He tells me that he
will be left to look after the wounded when we move."
"I could not trust him, Terence; I would hand over a bag of gold uncounted
to him, but as for whisky, the temptation would be too great for an
Irishman to resist. Look here, you put it into a wooden box and nail it up
securely, and write on it 'O'Grady's arm,' and hand it over to him
solemnly, and tell him that I have a fancy for burying the contents
myself, which will be true enough, though it is me throat I mean to bury
Knowing that it was best they should be left in quiet, Terence soon left
them and returned to the regiment.
"Well, Dick, what did you think of a battle?" he asked his chum.
"I don't quite know what I did think. It does not seem to me that I
thought much about it at all, what with the noise of the firing and the
shouting of the men, and the whistle overhead of the French round shot,
and the men cheering, the French shouting and the excitement, there was no
time for thinking at all. From the time the skirmishers came running up
the hill to the time when we rolled the French down it, I seem to have
been in a dream. It's lucky that I had no words of command to give, for I
am sure I should not have given them. I don't think I was frightened at
all; somehow I did not seem to think of the danger. It was just a horrible
"I felt very much like that, too. It was not a bit like what it was when
we took that brig; I felt cool enough when we jumped on to her deck. But
then there was no noise to speak of, while the row this morning was
tremendous. I tried to cheer when the men did, but I could not hear my own
voice, and I don't know whether I made any sound or not."
A delay of some weeks took place after the battle of Vimiera. The Mayo
Fusiliers were not among the troops who entered Lisbon in order to overawe
the populace and prevent attacks both upon French soldiers and officers,
and Portuguese suspected of leaning towards the French cause. Throughout
the country everything was in confusion. A strong party, at whose head
were the Bishop of Oporto and Friere, denounced the convention with the
French--against whom they themselves had done nothing--as gross treachery
on the part of the English to Portugal. They endeavoured in every way to
excite the feelings of the population, both in the country and the
capital, against the British; but in this they failed altogether, for the
people were too thankful to get rid of the oppression and exactions of the
invaders to feel aught but satisfaction at their being compelled to leave
The Junta at Oporto, at whose head was the bishop, desired to grasp the
entire power throughout the country, and were furious at being thwarted in
their endeavours to prevent a central Junta being established at Lisbon.
Throughout Spain also chaos reigned. Each provincial Junta refused
co-operation with others, and instead of concerting measures for
resistance against the great force that Napoleon was assembling on the
frontier, thought only of satisfying the ambitions and greed of its
members. The generals disregarded alike the orders from the central Junta
at Madrid and those of the provincial Juntas, quarrelled among themselves
to a point that sometimes approached open hostility, and each acted only
for his private ends. Arms had been sent in vast numbers from England;
yet, while the money so lavishly bestowed by British agents went into the
pockets of individuals, the arms were retained by the Juntas of Seville,
Cadiz, and the maritime ports, and the armies of Spain were left almost
The term army is indeed absurd, as applied to the gatherings of peasants
without, an idea of discipline, with scarcely any instruction in drill,
and in the majority of, cases, as the result proved, altogether deficient
in courage; and yet, while neglecting all military precautions and ready
to crumble to pieces at the first approach of the French, the arrogance
and insolence of the authorities, civil and military alike, were
absolutely unbounded. They disregarded wholly the advice of the British
officers and agents, and treated the men who alone could save them from
the consequences of their folly with open contempt.
After a fortnight's halt at Vimiera the Mayo Fusiliers were marched, with
four other regiments, to Torres Vedras, where they took up their quarters.
In the middle of October O'Grady and Saunders rejoined, and Terence
obtained a few days' leave to visit his father.
The latter's progress had been slow; the wound was unhealed, pieces of
bone working their way out, and the doctors had decided that he must be
invalided home, as it was desirable to clear out the hospitals altogether
before the army marched into Spain.
"They think the change of air will do me good," Major O'Connor said to
Terence, as they were chatting together after the latter arrived, "and I
think so myself. It is evident that I cannot take part in the next
campaign, but I hope to rejoin again in the spring. Of course it is hard,
but I must not grumble; if the bullet had been half an inch more to the
right it would have smashed the bone altogether, then I should have had
small chance indeed, for taking off the leg at the hip is an operation
that not one man in twenty survives. O'Flaherty says he thinks that all
the bits of bone have worked out now, and that I may not be permanently
lame; but if it is to be so, lad, it is of no use kicking against fate. I
have got my majority, and if permanently disabled by my wounds, can retire
on a pension on which I can live comfortably."
"So I hear that Sir John Moore is going to march into Spain. By the way,
you have got some cousins in Oporto or the neighbourhood, though I don't
suppose you are likely to run against them."
"I never heard you say anything about them before, father."
"No; I don't think that I ever did mention it. A first cousin of mine went
over, just about the time that I was married, to Oporto, and established
himself there as a wine merchant. He had been out there before for a firm
in Dublin, and when Clancy's father died, and he came into some money he
went out, as I said, and started for himself. He was a sharp fellow and
did well, and married the daughter of a big land-owner. We used to hear
from him occasionally. He died about a year ago, and left a girl behind
him; she had been brought up in her mother's religion. He never said much
about his wife, but I fancy she was a very strong Roman Catholic, and that
they did not quite agree about the girl, who, as I gathered, had a
hankering after her father's religion. However, after Clancy died we never
heard any more of them.
"There was a letter from their man of business announcing the death, and
stating that Clancy had left his own property, that is to say, the money
he had made in business, to the girl. What has become of her since I do
not know. It was no business of mine, though I believe that I was his
nearest relation--at least my uncle had no other children, and there were
neither brothers nor sisters except him and my father. Still, as he left a
widow who had a good big property on her own account, and was connected
with a lot of grandee families, there was no occasion for me to mix myself
up in the affair; and, indeed, it never entered my head to do so. Yet,
Clancy and I were great friends, and I should be glad to know what has
become of his girl. I fancy that she is about your age, and if Moore
should take you up north you might make some inquiries there. The mother's
family name was Montarlies, and I fancy, from what Clancy said, her
father's property was somewhere to the north of Oporto, so I expect that
at that town you would be likely to hear something of them."
"All right, father; if we go there I will be sure to make some inquiries."
On the fourth day after Terence's arrival the hospital was broken up, the
convalescents marched for Torres Vedras, and Major O'Connor, with four
other officers and forty men, were put on board a ship to be taken to
"Your visit has done your father good, Terence," O'Flaherty said, as,
after seeing the party safely on board ship, he returned to the town
whence they were to march with the convalescents, sixty in number, among
whom were five officers. "He has brightened up a deal the last four days,
and his wound looks distinctly more healthy. I have a strong hope that all
those splinters have worked out now, and your being here has given him a
fillip, so that he is altogether better and more cheerful. I hope by the
spring he will be able to rejoin us. I can tell you I am mighty glad to be
off again myself. It has been pretty hard work here, for I have had, for
the last fortnight, a hundred and twenty men on my hands. At first there
were three of us here, but two went off with the last batch of
convalescents, and I have been alone since. Luckily Major Peters has been
well enough to look after things in general, and help the commissariat
man; still, with forty bad cases, I have not had much time on my hands. Of
course I knew him and all the other officers, but they all belonged to
other regiments, and it was not like being among the Mayos. And when do
you think we will be starting again?"
"I have no idea. I have heard that Moore is doing everything he can to
hurry on things, but that he is awfully hampered for want of money. It is
scandalous. Here are our agents supplied with immense sums for the use of
these blackguard Spaniards, yet they keep their own army without funds."
"If the general has no funds, Terence, he had better be stopping where he
is. There is no getting anything in Portugal without paying ten times the
proper price for it, and from what I hear of the Spaniards they will
charge twenty times, put the money in their pockets, and then not even
give you what you paid for. As to their being any good to us as allies, it
is not to be hoped for; they will take our arms and our money, expect us
to feed their troops, and will then run away at the sight of a French
soldier; you will see if they don't."
"I hear that the Junta of Corunna says that all the north will rise as
soon as we enter their country."
"They may rise and flock round us until they have got arms and money, and
then they will go off to their homes again. That is the sort of assistance
that is to be had from them. We should do a deal better if there was not a
Spaniard in the country, and it was left to us to fight it out with the
"In that case, O'Flaherty, we should never cross the frontier at all. They
say that Napoleon is gathering a great army, and against such a force,
with the French troops already in Spain, our twenty or twenty-five
thousand men would fare very badly, especially as they say that the
emperor is coming himself."
"That is worse news than the other, Terence. It is only because the French
generals have always been quarrelling among themselves that the whole
Peninsula has not been conquered; but with Napoleon at the head of affairs
it would be a different matter altogether, and my humble opinion is that
we had better stay where we are until he has wiped out the Spaniards
"You don't take a sanguine view of things."
"You have been with the regiment, Terence, and have had very little to do
with the natives. I have not seen very much of them either, thank
goodness; but I have seen quite enough to know that though perhaps the
peasants would make good soldiers, if officered by Englishmen, there is
mighty little feeling of patriotism among the classes above them. Reading
and writing may be good for some countries, but as far as I see here,
reading and writing spoil them here, for every man one comes across who
can sign his name is intent either on filling his pocket, or on working
some scheme or other for his own advantage. If I were Sir John Moore I
would send up a division to Oporto, hang the bishop and every member of
the Junta, shoot Friere and a dozen of his principal officers, and if the
people of Oporto gave them the chance clear the streets with grape-shot.
Why, if it hadn't been for a small guard of our fellows with the French
garrisons that were marched down there to embark, the Portuguese would
have murdered every man-jack of them. They did murder a good many, and
robbed them all of their baggage; and if it had not been that our men
loaded and would have fired on them if they had gone further, not a
Frenchman would have got off alive. If this had been done in Lisbon, where
the French had been masters, there might have been some sort of excuse for
it; but they had never been near Oporto at all, and therefore the people
there had no scores to settle with them."
"I am afraid, O'Flaherty, that an army worked on your principles would
never get far from the coast, for we should have the whole country against
"So much the better if we never got far from the coast. How much help have
we had from them? There is not a single horse or waggon for transport
except those we have hired at exorbitant prices; not a single ounce of
food. They would not even divide with us the magazines at Leirya, which
they had no share in capturing. The rabble they call an army has never
fired a shot or marched a yard with us, except Trant's small command, and
they were kept so far out of it in both fights, that I doubt whether they
fired a shot; and yet they take upon themselves to throw every obstacle in
our way, to dictate to our generals, and to upset every plan as soon as it
"Well, I shall be glad to be back with the regiment again, Terence. There
is some fun going on there anyhow, and I have not had a hearty laugh since
O'Grady went off ten days ago."
"We were all heartily glad to see him back again," Terence said. "He does
not seem a bit the worse for having lost his hand."
"No, he has got through it a deal better than I had expected, considering
that he is not what might be called a very temperate man."
"Not by any means. It is not very often that he takes more liquor than he
can carry, but he generally goes very close to the mark."
"I kept him very short here," O'Flaherty laughed, "and told him that if he
did not obey orders I would have him invalided home; I have got him to
promise that he will draw in a bit in future, and have good hopes of his
keeping it, seeing that when the army starts again you won't get much
chance of indulging."
"It will be a good thing for others as well as O'Grady," Terence said,
quietly. "I suppose in Ireland the whisky does not do much harm, seeing
that it is a wet country; but here I notice that they cannot drink half as
much as they were accustomed to without feeling it."
"That is true for you, Terence. Half a bottle here goes as far as a bottle
in the old country; and I find with the wounded, spirits have a very bad
effect, even in very small quantities. There is one thing, when the troops
are on the march they not only get small chance of getting drink, but
mighty little time to think of it. When you have been doing your twenty
miles a day, with halts and stoppages on these beastly roads and defiles,
and are on your feet from daylight until late in the evening, and then,
perhaps, a turn at the outposts, a man hasn't got much time for divarshon;
and even if there is liquor to be had, he is glad enough when he has had a
glass or so to wrap himself in his cloak and lie down to sleep. I have
nearly sworn off myself, for I found that my head troubled me in the
morning after a glass or two, more than it did after an all-night's
sitting at Athlone. Ah, Terence, it is lucky for you that you have no
fancy for it!"
"I hope I never shall have, O'Flaherty. If one has got thoroughly wet
through in a long day's fishing, it may be that a glass of punch may keep
away a cold, though even that I doubt. But I am sure that I am better
without it at any other time; and I hope some day the fashion will change,
and instead of it being considered almost as a matter of course after a
dinner that half the men should be under the table, it will then be looked
upon as disgraceful for a man to get drunk, as it is now for a woman to do
O'Flaherty looked at his companion with amused surprise. "Faith, Terence,
that would be a change indeed, and you might as well say that you hope the
time will come when you can whip off a fellow's leg without his feeling
"Perhaps that may come too," Terence laughed; "there is no saying."
The next morning the detachment started at daybreak and marched to Torres
Vedras, where they heard that a general movement was expected to begin.
The regiment had now a comfortable mess, and the situation was freely
discussed as scraps of news arrived from Lisbon. Could the English
ministry have heard the comments on their imbecility passed by the
officers of the British army, even they might have doubted the perfect
wisdom of their plan. On the 6th of October, Moore had received a despatch
stating that 30,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry were to be employed in the
north of Spain. Ten thousand of these were to be sent out direct from
England, the remainder were to be composed of regiments from the army in
Portugal. Moore had the choice of taking the troops round in ships or of
marching them direct. He decided upon the latter course, for arrangements
had been made by Sir Hew Dalrymple to enter Spain by Almeida, and,
moreover, he thought that the resources of the sea-coast of Galicia would
not be more than sufficient to supply transport and food for the 10,000
men who were to land there under the command of Sir David Baird.
The English general's difficulties were indeed overwhelming. He had
soldiers who, although but recently raised, had shown themselves good
fighters; but he was altogether without even transport sufficient for the
officers. With an ample supply of money, an experienced staff, and a
well-organized commissariat, the difficulties might have been overcome,
but Sir John Moore was practically without money. His staff had no
experience whatever, and the commissariat and transport officers were
alike ignorant of the work they were called upon to perform. He was
unacquainted with the views of the Spanish government, and uninformed as
to the numbers, composition, and situation of the Spanish armies with whom
he was to act, or with those of the enemy. He had a winter march of 300
miles before he could join Sir David Baird, who would have 200 miles to
march from Corunna to join him, and there was then a. distance of another
300 miles to be traversed before he reached the Ebro, which was designated
as the centre of his operations.
And all this had to be done while a great French army was already pouring
in through the passes of the Pyrenees. No more tremendous, or, it may be
said, impossible, task was ever assigned to an English commander; and to
add to the absurdity of their scheme, the British government sent off Sir
David Baird without instructions, and even without money. The Duke of York
had vainly protested against the plan of the ministry, and had pointed out
that nothing short of an army of 60,000 men, fully equipped with all
necessaries for war--money, transport, and artillery--could achieve
success of any kind.
Upon the day Terence rejoined, news came from the engineers in advance
that the assurances Sir John Moore had received that the road by which the
army was to travel was perfectly practicable for artillery and
baggage-waggons, were wholly false, and it was probable that the artillery
and cavalry would have to make a long circuit to the south.
It was too late now to change the route for the rest of the army. Nearly
half the force had already started on the road to Almeida, and the
supplies for their subsistence had been collected at that town. Therefore
it was necessary that the main body of the infantry should travel by that
road, while three thousand were to act as a guard for the artillery and
cavalry on the other route.
"It is enough to drive Sir John out of his senses," the colonel said, as
the news was discussed after mess. "These people must be the champion
liars of the world. Not content with doing nothing themselves, they seem
to delight in inventing lies to prevent our doing anything for them. Who
ever heard of an army marching, without artillery and cavalry, one way,
while these arms travelled by a different road entirely, and that not for
a march of twenty miles, but for a march of three hundred? One battery is
to go with us. But what will be the use of six guns against an enemy with
sixty? Every day the baggage is being cut down owing to these blackguard
Portuguese breaking their engagements to furnish waggons, and we shall
have to march pretty nearly as we stand, and to take with us nothing
beyond one change of clothes."
Loud exclamations of discontent ran round the table. It was bad enough
that in the midst of a campaign waggons should break down and baggage be
left behind, but that troops should start upon a campaign with scarcely
the necessaries of life had caused general anger in the army; and no order
would have been more willingly obeyed than one to march upon Lisbon, shoot
every public official, establish a state of siege, and rule by martial
law, seizing for the use of the army every draught animal, waggon, and
carriage that could be found in the city, or swept in from the country
round. The colonel had not exaggerated matters. The number of tents to be
taken were altogether insufficient for the regiment, even with the utmost
crowding possible. The officers' baggage had been cut down to twenty
pounds a head--an amount scarcely sufficient for a single change of
clothes and boots. Even the amount of ammunition to be taken would be
insufficient to refill the soldiers' pouches after the supply they carried
The paucity of baggage would not have mattered so much had the march begun
at the commencement of summer, instead of just as winter was setting in.
In the former case, men could have slept in the open air, and a solitary
blanket and one change of clothes would have sufficed; but with the wet
season at hand, to be followed by winter cold, the grievance was a very
serious one. Terence had already learned that the brigade was to march in
two days, and that the great bulk of the baggage was to be stored at
Torres Vedras, which was to be occupied on their leaving by some of the
troops that would remain in Portugal.
"Faith, it is an evil look-out, Terence," O'Grady, who was sitting next to
him, said, pathetically. "Sorra a drop of whisky is there in the camp, and
now we sha'n't be able to have even a drink of their bastely spirits,
onless we can buy it at the towns; and as Anstruther's division has gone
on ahead of us, it is likely that every drop has been drunk up."
"It will be all the better for you, O'Grady. Daly tells me that your arm
is not fully healed yet. I know that you would not like to be left behind
when we have once started."
"That is true enough, but a drop of the cratur hurts no one."
"I beg your pardon, O'Grady, it is very bad for anything like a wound. The
doctor told me, when I was chatting with him before dinner, that he really
did not think that you could go, for you would not obey his orders to give
up spirits altogether."
"Well, I own that it has been smarting a good deal the last few days,"
O'Grady admitted, reluctantly, "though I have not said as much to the
doctor. I don't know that you are not about right, Terence; but faith,
after being kept upon bastely slops by O'Flaherty, it was not in human
nature to drink nothing but water when one gets a chance. At any rate, I
am not likely to find any great temptation after we have started."
"Well, you had better begin to-night, O'Grady. I am going to get away as
soon as I can, and if you will take my advice you will come too."
"What! and us to march in two days? It is not to be thought of. You mane
well, Terence, but a lad like you must not take to lecturing your
supayrior officer. Shure, and don't I know what to do for meself better
than any other?"
Terence saw that it was useless to endeavour to persuade him to move, and
presently went round to Dr. Daly and said, quietly:
"Doctor, O'Grady tells me that his arm has been hurting him a good deal
more during the last two days. I expect they will make a night of it this
evening, and again to-morrow, and if he once begins, nothing will stop him
until they break up. Could not you do anything?"
"I will talk to him like a father, Terence. You are a good boy to have
told me; I might have gone away without thinking of it."
"Don't mention my name, Doctor."
The doctor nodded, and Terence went away and took a vacant seat at some
distance from him. Presently the doctor got up and went round to O'Grady.
The supply of claret had just been finished, and bottles of spirits had
been placed upon the table. O'Grady stretched out his hand to one near
him, but the doctor quietly removed it.
"Not for you, O'Grady," he said; "you have had more than sufficient wine
already. I have been doubting whether you are fit to go on with the
regiment; and, by the powers, if you touch spirits to-night or to-morrow,
I will put your name down in the list of those who are to be left behind
as unfit for service!"
"Sure you are joking, Doctor?"
"Never was more earnest in my life, O'Grady. You don't want to be left
behind, I suppose, in some filthy Portuguese town, while we march on, and
that is what it will come to if your wound inflames. I told you this
morning that it was not doing as well as it ought to, and that you must
cut off liquor altogether. I have had my eye upon you, and you have taken
down more than a bottle of wine already. I don't think I ought to let you
go with us, even as it is; but, by the piper that played before Moses, if
you don't go off to your quarters, without touching a drop more, I will
have you left behind!"
"You are mighty hard on a poor fellow, and must have a heart of stone to
treat a man, who has lost his arm and wants a bit of comfort, in such
fashion. Faith, I would not do it to a dog."
"There would be no occasion, O'Grady; a dog has got sense."
"And I haven't? Thank ye for the compliment. I will appeal to the colonel.
Colonel, the doctor says if I drink a drop of spirits to-night or
to-morrow he will put me down in the black list. Now, I ask you, do the
regulations justify his using such a threat as that?"
"I think they do," the colonel said, with a laugh. "I think that his order
is good and sensible, and I endorse it. You know yourself that spirits are
bad for you, with an arm only just healed up. Now, behave like a
raisonable fellow, and go off to your quarters. You know well enough that
if you stop here you won't be able to keep from it."
"Faith, if the two of you are against me I have nothing more to say. It is
mighty hard that after having lost an arm in the service of my country I
should be treated like a child and sent off to bed."
"I am going, too, O'Grady," Terence, who had gone back to his original
place, now said. "There is no occasion to go to bed. I have a box of good
cigars in my tent, and we can sit there and chat as long as you like."
But O'Grady's dignity was ruffled.
"Thank you, Mr O'Connor," he said, stiffly; "but with your lave I will do
as I said"
"That is the best thing," the doctor said. "You have not had a long
night's rest since you rejoined. I am going myself, and I see that some of
the others are getting up, too, and it would be a good thing if all would
do so, for, with such work as we have got before us, the more sleep we
get, while we can, the better."
As nearly half the officers now rose from their seats, O'Grady was
mollified, and as we went out he said:
"I think, after all, Terence, I will try one of those cigars of yours."
On the 14th of October Fane's brigade left Torres Vedras.
[Illustration: 'I AM TOLD THAT YOU WISH TO SPEAK TO ME, GENERAL.']
A number of the troops had been stationed along the line of route to be
followed, and these had started simultaneously with the departure of
Fane's brigade from Torres Vedras. The discontent as to the reduction of
baggage ceased as soon as the troops were in motion. They were going to
invade Spain, and ignorant as the soldiers were of the real state of
affairs, none doubted but that success would attend them there. Among the
officers better acquainted with the state of things there was no such
feeling of confidence, but they hoped that they should at least give as
good an account of themselves as before, against any French force of
anything like equal strength they might encounter. O'Grady, influenced by
the doctor's threats, which he knew the latter would be firm enough to
carry out, had obeyed his orders, and had confided to Terence, when the
regiment formed up at daybreak for the march, that his arm felt much
"I don't say that the doctor may not have been right, Terence, but he need
not have threatened me in that way, at all, at all."
"I don't know," Terence replied. "I feel pretty sure that if he hadn't,
you would not have knocked off spirits. Well, it is a glorious morning for
starting, but I am afraid the fine weather won't last long. Everyone says
that the rains generally begin about this time."
As Terence fell in with his company the adjutant rode up.
"Mr. O'Connor, you are to report yourself to the brigadier."
Wondering much at the message, Terence hurried to the house occupied by
General Fane. He and several officers were standing in front of it.
"I am told that you wish to speak to me, General," he said, saluting.
"Oh, you are Mr. O'Connor! Can you ride?"
"Yes, sir," Terence replied; for he had often had a scamper across the
hills around Athlone on half-broken ponies, and occasionally on the horses
of some of his friends in the regiment.
"I have a vacancy on my staff. Lieutenant Andrews was thrown when riding
out from Lisbon with a despatch last night, and broke a leg. I was on
board the flag-ship when your colonel brought his report about the fight
between the transport and the two privateers. I read it, and was so much
struck with the quickness and intelligence you displayed, that I made a
note at the time that if I should have a vacancy on my staff I would
"I am very much obliged, General," Terence said, "but I have no horse."
"I have arranged that. Lieutenant Andrews will not be fit for service for
a long time. It is a compound fracture, and he will, the doctor says,
probably be sent back to England by the first ship that arrives after he
reaches Lisbon. His horse is therefore useless to him, and as it is only a
native animal and would not fetch a ten-pound note, he agreed at once to
hand it over to his successor, and in fact was rather glad to get it off
his hands. He has an English saddle, bridle, and holsters; he will take
five pounds for them. If you happen to be short of cash the paymaster will
settle it for you."