From 1799 to 1815,
BY THE LATE
VICE-ADML. WM. STANHOPE LOVELL, R.N., K.H.
WM. ALLEN & CO., 13, WATERLOO PLACE, W.
WITHERBY AND CO., PRINTERS,
74, CORNHILL; NEWMAN’S COURT, CORNHILL; AND 325A, HIGH HOLBORN, W.C.
To Rear-Admiral Sir Robert Barrie, C.B., K.C.H.
My dear Sir Robert,
In dedicating the following pages to you, under whose command I had the honour of serving in the Chesapeake, &c., I do it with the greatest respect, esteem, and admiration of your conduct.
I must ever consider you as one of those officers upon whom the country may safely rely in the hour of peril, and in whose hands it may entrust its honour in the day of battle. Like the celebrated Bayard of old, your career has obtained for you a character, “sans peur et sans reproche.”
Your faithful friend,
|First Trip to Sea—Shipmates—Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren, Bart, K.B.||1|
|Channel Cruising—Boat Expeditions—Anecdote of a Gallant Mid—Ditto of Two Dandy Guardsmen—Expedition to Ferrol—Sir James Pulteney, Sir Edward Pellew and the Donkey—The Unlucky Cruise||7|
|Cruise off Cadiz—Proceed up the Mediterranean to Egypt after a French Squadron under Rear-Admiral Ganteaume, 1801||16|
|From the Peace of Amiens (1802) until the Commencement of the Second Gallic War—Gambling||26|
|From the Commencement of Second Gallic War until the Battle of Trafalgar, 1805; with Anecdotes||30[Pg vi]|
|The Battle of Trafalgar, and Extracts from the Log of His Majesty’s Ship Neptune, on the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd October, 1805||43|
|Joined the Melpomene—Sent up the Mediterranean—Tremendous Weather, with Thunder, Lightning, and Water-spouts—Ship loses her Rudder and Main-topmast—Proceed to Malta||57|
|Siege of Gaeta by the French—Boat Affairs—My Capture—Leghorn||62|
|Malta—Dreadful Accident by the Explosion of a Magazine in the Town, on the Bermola side—Nearly get into a Scrape about Breaking Quarantine—Kind Answer of the gallant Admiral Sir Sidney Smith to the Complaint—Rejoin the Melpomene—Mutiny in Fribourg’s Regiment—Cruise in the Adriatic||73|
|North American Station, from 1808 to 1811—Bermuda—Anecdote—Death of Captain Conn||87|
|Lisbon—Trip to the Army of Lord Wellington—Montemor Novo, O’Rodondo, Villa Vicosa, Elvas, Fort le Lippe||101|
|Lisbon, Cintra, Mafra, etc., 1811, 1812—Second Trip to the Army—Taking of Badajoz||113[Pg vii]|
|Cadiz, Minorca, Majorca, Alicant, Carthagena, Algiers, Oran, Altea Bay—Drive a French Privateer on Shore near Denia||124|
|Siege of the Col de Balaguer—A Reconnoitering Party—Raising of the Siege of Tarragona—Lieutenant-General Sir John and Lady Murray—Rear-Admiral Benjamin Hallowell—Viscount and Viscountess Mahon—Palermo, Veniros; Upset in a Boat—Valencia—Holland||136|
|1814—Sent to Bermuda—Operations in the Chesapeake—The River Patuxent—Expedition to Washington—Town of Rappahannock—River Rappahannock—Commodore Robert Barrie, etc.||150|
|Operations in South Carolina—Capture of Cumberland Island and the Fort of Point-à-Petre—An Affair with the American Riflemen in the Woods—An Abattis—Anecdotes of the 2nd West India Regiment—A Rattlesnake—Capture of the Town of St. Mary’s—Destruction of the Forts and Barracks—Nassau, New Providence—Compliment to the Royal Marines—Return Home||173|
A Personal Narrative of Events.
First trip to sea—Shipmates—Admiral Sir John Borlase Warren, Bart, K.B.
My father[A] and uncle both served their king and country in the American war of independence; the former was with Lord Cornwallis’s army when it surrendered at York to the American forces under the command of General Washington (he was at that time an officer in the 6th Regiment of Foot); and the latter in the 4th Dragoons. Both were magistrates for the county of Buckinghamshire, and served the office of high sheriff for the same.
When scarcely ten years old, I joined H.M. ship Renown (74) in Torbay, bearing the flag (blue at the mizen) of one of the most amiable men in the service, Sir John Borlase Warren, Bt, K.B., who had commanded a squadron of dashing frigates during all the early part of the war, and had taken and destroyed several French ships, and finished his glorious flying squad career by capturing most of those, which, under the command of Monsieur Bompart, had been sent with troops to assist the Irish during the rebellion of 1798, thereby saving the blood of thousands in Ireland, if not Ireland itself. A better or braver officer than the late Admiral Sir J. B. Warren never lived; he was that perfect model of a gentleman that every one might take as a pattern. I had the melancholy honour of following him to his grave, and wept over it tears of unfeigned sorrow.
But to commence my peregrinations. I still recollect the delight that a letter from my father gave me when at school, informing me I was to leave Latin and Greek, which classical knowledge was all blown overboard and forgotten the first gale of wind at sea; and after spending a short time at Little[Pg 3] Missenden Abbey (which then belonged to my father) with my mother and two sisters,[B] I proceeded to Portsmouth, thence to find a passage to join the before-mentioned ship in Torbay.
I bore the parting with my kind, dear, excellent mother and sisters pretty well, because my father accompanied me to Portsmouth to see me safely launched into a new world; but when he took leave, I thought my heart would burst with grief. Time, however, reconciles us to everything, and the gaiety and thoughtlessness of youth, added to the cocked hat, dirk, spy-glass, etc., of a nautical fit out, assisted wonderfully to dry my tears, and, in a manner, reconciled me to a new scene of life.
Captain Pickmore, who at that period commanded the Royal William, at Spithead, very kindly sent me on board the Montague (74) with all my baggage, in the admiral’s tender, to join my ship to the westward. The first night on board was not the most pleasant; the noises unusual to a novice—sleeping in a hammock for the first time—its tarry smell—the wet cables for a bed carpet, and a somersault or two from my lubberly manner of getting into it, made me draw comparisons between sleeping on beds of down ashore,[Pg 4] and my new abode, by no means very favourable to the latter.
The second day after quitting Portsmouth brought us to Torbay, where the channel fleet of thirty-six sail of the line, under Lord Bridport, was lying at anchor. I was soon transferred to my own ship, and introduced to my new messmates.
We lived in the gun-room on the lower deck, and in fine weather had daylight, which was better in many respects than the old midshipmen’s berths in the cockpit. Amongst the youngsters were some within a year or two as young as myself; nice boys, full of fun and mischief, who soon initiated me in the sea pranks of “sawing your bed-posts,”—cutting you down head and foot; “reefing your bed-clothes,”—making them up into hard balls which, if properly done, will take one unpractised in the art a good half-hour or more to undo. It used to be a great annoyance to come off deck after a first or middle watch (from eight at night to twelve, or from twelve to four in the morning), perhaps quite wet through, thinking, on being relieved, what a nice sleep you would have, to find, on going to your hammock, all your sheets and blankets made up into hard balls, and a good half-hour’s work in the dark to undo them, particularly when tired and sleepy. During your labour to effect this, you had the pleasure of hearing the mischievous fellows that had a hand in doing it, laughing in their hammocks, and offering their condolences by saying what a shame it was to play such tricks when you were absent on deck, keeping your watch, and recom[Pg 5]mending you to lick them all round, if you were able, or at all events to retaliate the first opportunity.
Blowing the grampus (sluicing you with water), and many other tricks used to be resorted to occasionally. Taking it all in good part, from the persuasion that it was the customary initiation to a sea life, my torments were few, for when the art of tormenting ceases to irritate, it loses the effect intended, and it generally ends by your shipmates saying, “Well, you are a good-natured fellow, and shall not be annoyed any more.”
I must do my brother mids the justice to say that a more kind-hearted set was not to be met with. We had few or no real quarrels the four years we sailed together, and, whenever spare time permitted, our evenings were spent in the amusements afforded by the old games of cribbage, loo, draughts and able wackets, which is a kind of forfeit played with cards, where each player is subject, for every mistake, to one or more blows with a knotted handkerchief on the palm of the hand. Many of them have paid the debt of nature, but some have risen to high rank and honours, most deservedly, in the service. We were all kept tight at work, and had at least four hours of sky-parlour (being sent to the main-topmast-head), when our watch was over, for every delinquency. I recollect one of my messmates was a lazy fellow, and shocking bad relief (the Hon. Henry Dawson); he always kept the unfortunate mid he had to relieve at least half-an-hour beyond his time on deck, until his patience was exhausted, forcing him to the unwelcome alternative of making a complaint to the lieutenant of the[Pg 6] watch, who sent down to bring his relief on deck. It frequently happened that an old quarter-master, named Ned Cowen, was employed on this errand; he was a complete character, and as he had sailed round the world with the celebrated Captain Cook, and was a great favourite with us mids, we used to get him into our berth, give the old fellow a glass or two of grog, and make him relate his adventures.
Whenever old Ned presented himself at the Honble. H. Dawson’s hammock, he signified the purport of his visit with this summons—“Come, Mr. Dawson, past one bell (the half-hour after the watch has been called), turn out, show a leg, or I am ordered to bring you up on the quarter-deck, hammock and all; take my advice, bring a good, thick greatcoat with you; it is a wet night, and the masthead waiting for you—the old story, you know.” The delinquent’s tale of “overslept myself, sir,” was quite worn out—it occurred too often; therefore nothing was left but to mount up to the masthead, and there enjoy the refreshing breezes, fine showers, and exhilarating air of sky-parlour, to awaken him from his balmy slumbers.
The ship was in fine order and a perfect man-of-war, well manned and officered. The lieutenants were good seamen, knew and did their duty promptly, and managed the ship well.
Of the first lieutenants, two, after being promoted, found a watery grave—poor Hawes, in the Moucheron, brig of 16 guns, which foundered in a heavy gale with all his crew; and the gallant Burke shared a similar fate in the Seagull, of 18 guns.
Channel cruising—Boat expeditions—Anecdote of a gallant mid—Ditto of two dandy Guardsmen—Expedition to Ferrol—Sir James Pulteney, Sir Edward Pellew and the donkey—The unlucky cruise.
Our first cruise was with the channel fleet off Brest, and to me, a boy of ten years old, it appeared a great feat, blocking up a superior French one in their own harbour, and offering them battle daily, without their daring to come out of port.
The winter’s cruise of 1799 and spring of 1800 was very stormy; nothing but heavy gales from S.W. to N.W. to N.E. and E., which blew us nearly at one time within sight of Ireland.
We had various commanders-in-chief, to each of whom the sailors had given a peculiar nick-name. The Honble. Admiral William Cornwallis was styled “Billy Blue,” from his flag (blue at the main), and hoisting, the moment we dropped anchor from the S.W. gales in Torbay, a blue Peter—a hint for every person to remain on board, ready to sail again the moment the wind came round sufficiently to the northward to enable the fleet to proceed down channel to resume the blockade of Brest; Lord Bridport—“Lord Bread-bags” (Jack’s pun upon his lordship’s[Pg 8] name); Admiral Sir Allan Gardner—“Old Junk,” because he was a tough old fellow, and kept the ships so long at sea upon salt junk; and Lord St. Vincent—“Sour Crout,” from his stern deportment. The latter had no sooner joined than he detached us with the Defence (74), Fisgard, and Beaulieu frigates, under our orders, into the Bay of Biscay, to annoy the coast of France.
Our first attempt was at the Penmarks, where we succeeded in cutting out several French chasse-marées, and other craft, laden with brandy, wine, and provisions for the fleet in Brest harbour. The boats were commanded by the gallant Lieutenants Burke and John Thompson, of the Renown. This service was performed with little loss. Our next attempt was on some armed vessels in the river Quimper, coast of Brittany, but the boats did not succeed in finding the vessels: they, suspecting a visit, had moved higher up the river, whither it was not prudent to follow them. The crews were, therefore, landed, and having succeeded in destroying a fort at the entrance of the river, they returned on board without loss.
The third attempt was at Noirmoutier, near the mouth of the river Loire, in La Vendée—a tide harbour. Success at first crowned our exertions; the boats of the squadron, again under Lieutenants Burke, had already burnt three vessels, mounting from 12, 18, to 24 guns, with some small craft, and were thinking of returning, when the ebbing of the tide, which the gallant assailants, carried away by their ardour, had failed to perceive, left all the boats high and dry, exposed to[Pg 9] the fire of the French batteries. However, Lieutenants Burke and Thompson, with a part of the men, dragged a large fishing boat and our barge through the mud, and got safe back to the ships, leaving the remainder of the boats, with 76 of our best men and some officers prisoners, besides a few killed and wounded. A poor messmate of mine, a midshipman, named Jago, who was afterwards killed in the Mediterranean on another cutting-out affair, in remembrance of this transaction, called out on that occasion to some of his men who seemed disposed to hang back, “Come, my lads, stick by me now, as you stuck by me in the mud at Noirmoutier.”
In consequence of this untoward affair, we sailed for Portsmouth to refit. Previous to sailing, the ship was paid. I was stationed on the starboard gangway to keep off the boats, but leaning too far over the side, fell overboard, and got a good ducking, but fortunately escaped breaking my head against a boat that was alongside by falling between her and the ship. Luckily the people in the boat picked me up immediately, for at that time I could not swim.
After the ship had refitted, and obtained a draft of seamen and marines, and new boats in lieu of those we had lost on the coast of France, we joined the fleet again off Brest, under the command of Earl St. Vincent.
In August our admiral was detached with a strong squadron to take the naval command of the expedition, under General Sir James Pulteney, against Ferrol.
I recollect, on this expedition, two dandy young[Pg 10] guardsmen came on board for a passage, and, being too late for dinner in the ward-room, a nice beefsteak and bottle of port wine was given them at a side table. After contemplating it a little while, with a supercilious turn of the mouth and nose, one of them made the sage remark, that “he thought they might be able to rough it pretty well with such fare every day in a campaign; but, really, common port wine, beefsteaks, and potatoes, was not fit food for guardsmen.” I’ll answer for it long before their regiment returned from Egypt they were very glad to get much worse fare, and if either of them lived to serve with the noble Wellington in the Peninsula, their pride of stomach must have had many a fall.
The results of the unfortunate expedition to Ferrol are too well known to need further record; the gallant army, to a man, regretted that their evil genius placed them under the command of such a general, and we, of the navy, lamented our ill-luck that prevented us from taking the beautiful Spanish fleet that lay at anchor in the harbour.
It was reported—and, I believe, with truth—that at the very time our troops were being re-embarked, the Spanish governor had even sent out an officer with the keys of the fortress in his hands, and an offer of terms to surrender; but he, seeing how matters stood, returned back to his general, rejoicing, and informed him that the British army was in full retreat, and part were already on board. The Spaniards had laid a strong boom across the harbour, flanked by two very powerful batteries—one on each side of the entrance.
Sir James Pulteney promised to take the one on the left, or larboard hand, while the boats, filled with sailors and marines, were to storm the other at the same time.
Seven sail of the line were prepared for action, with springs on their cables, and a spare one out of the gun-room stern port, bent to the sheet anchor, ready for bringing up head and stern; in short, everything was in a forward state for the attack, and the London (98 guns) was to break the boom, and the rest of the ships to follow in line of battle.
All hearts beat with joyful expectation, when, to our utmost surprise and indignation, a signal was made from the shore that the commander-in-chief of the land forces had given up the idea of attack, and boats were to be sent immediately to embark the troops.
The gallant Sir Edward Pellew, who commanded the Impétueux (74), was ready to burst with rage when he found the object of the expedition given up, at a time when it was almost within our grasp, and without making one serious effort to obtain it. It was reported in the squadron that he embarked an ass, and used to go up to it, and take off his hat, and say, “How do you do, Sir James? I hope nothing troubled you in your sleep last night in the way of unpleasant dreams, or that the nightmare did not disturb your rest.”
After this sad affair we sailed for Vigo Bay, where our appearance with so large a force put the inhabitants in bodily fear. When we were standing into the bay a large French ship (privateer) was observed to haul[Pg 12] under the citadel. At night the boats of the squadron, commanded by the daring Lieutenant Burke, were sent to bring her out, which they most gallantly accomplished, after a severe and desperate struggle. She was called La Guêpe, of 18 long nine-pounders, with 244 men, sails bent, and perfectly ready for sea, and was going to look after our homeward-bound West Indiamen, and intended to have sailed the evening of the day of our arrival.
She had her boarding nettings up, and everything ready for a stout resistance. On the approach of the boats the privateer and the forts opened a heavy fire of round and grape, but they, nothing daunted, gave three hearty cheers, dashed on, and, after a most gallant defence, she was boarded and brought out. Lieutenant Burke was severely wounded by a pike through both thighs, and the French captain, who most heroically fought his ship to the last moment, died of his wounds an hour after she was taken. He asked (poor fellow!) if he had done all he could to defend his ship; being answered in the affirmative, and justly complimented on his gallant conduct, he gave a faint smile, and expired.
During the time we lay at anchor here we were in the habit of sending a boat to haul the seine on the Bayonne islands, and we were generally pretty successful. Amongst other fish, we frequently caught the torpedo[C], which gave me a practical lesson of its electric powers.
On the 6th of September a tremendous heavy gale came on from the southward and westward, in which several vessels belonging to our convoy drifted from their anchors, and went on shore. The Stag, frigate, of 32 guns, Captain Winthrop, was wrecked upon Point Subudo. However, we fortunately saved the crew; but the men of some transports and merchant vessels that went on shore in other parts of the bay fell into the hands of the Spaniards. Not being able to get the Stag off, she was burnt the same evening. The moment the wind and weather permitted we sailed with the expedition from Vigo Bay, and, having seen them safe off the coast, the admiral, according to orders, gave up his charge to Captain Sir Alexander Cochrane, and proceeded off the Western Islands in search of some Spanish galleons, said to be coming home in a Portuguese convoy.
We had with us four sail-of-the-line, and three frigates.
During our cruise we fell in thrice with a large French ship (privateer), but her legs were too nimble for us. One day, when we had all sail set, and were carrying every stitch of canvass we could crowd in chase, with a fine breeze, and nearing her fast, our unlucky genius, which had attended us all this cruise, from the sprite that said “Bo!” to old Pulteney at Ferrol, still haunted us up to the present time. We carried away our foretop-mast, and she again escaped.
The Renown being by far the best sailing ship of the squadron, the others stood no chance with the privateer, who very quietly hauled up her courses, and[Pg 14] no doubt enjoyed the fun of looking at us hors de combat.
Two days after we fell in with two Portuguese convoys from the Brazils, bound to Lisbon. One we spoke; the others were boarded by the frigates to windward. The Portuguese captains of the men-of-war pledged their word of honour that no Spanish ships were under their protection. We, like geese, trusted to it, or rather, the frigates did. Will it be believed that in the above convoy were the five Spanish treasure-ships we were looking for, which arrived a few days after safe at Lisbon! And when they passed under the stern of the Cynthia, British sloop-of-war that was lying there, they hauled down their Portuguese colours, hoisted the Spanish, and fired a royal—and, no doubt, joyful—salute; and well they might. They had in the five vessels ten millions of specie, besides valuable cargoes.
We afterwards heard that this business caused a very angry communication from our Government to that of Portugal; but they, like true diplomatists, threw the whole blame from themselves on the weakest party, by denying any knowledge of the transaction, dismissed and imprisoned the captains of their men-of-war for a short time, who on being released went to Spain, and were there promoted to rank and honours.
After this finale of our unlucky cruise, we returned to Plymouth to refit, and get provisions and water. While there orders came to complete our stores of all kinds for foreign service. Captain Thomas Eyles left the ship, and Captain John Chambers White took the[Pg 15] command—a strict, good, and excellent officer, who has filled a high situation at Woolwich Dockyard since the peace, and is now a Rear-Admiral of the White. We were all delighted with the idea of getting away from the heavy winter gales and monotonous cruising of the channel fleet.
A word upon channel cruising. I defy any person at the present day, except the old officers, to know the constant anxiety of the captains and officers of the channel fleet, sailing in two or three lines in heavy gales and thick weather. It required great attention in the lieutenants of the watch, a most strict and careful look-out to prevent accidents, and to have their wits always about them, ready to act at a minute’s warning. By the good discipline kept up, the look-out was perfect, and, to the very great credit of the officers of the watch, scarce an accident occurred during the long, tiresome, and harassing blockade of Brest, comprising a period of more than twenty years.
Cruise off Cadiz—Proceed up the Mediterranean to Egypt after a French squadron under Rear-Admiral Ganteaume, 1801.
In November, 1800, we sailed for Gibraltar. I was much pleased to see the celebrated rock, so well defended by the gallant Elliot in 1782, and to read, on the spot, Colonel Drinkwater’s most amusing history of that famous siege.
As late as the year 1801, the greater part of the garrison was still covered with shot and broken shells, thrown by the Spaniards at that period. They have since been collected, and sold to be melted down for various purposes, some probably to be again converted into missiles of destruction.
We cruised off Cadiz in company with the Dragon, Hector, and Gibraltar, of 74 guns each, until the spring of 1801, detaining the Danish and Swedish vessels, when a French squadron of eight sail of the line (some frigates, and a store ship), having made their escape from Brest, at a time the channel fleet was blown off, passed us in the night, and pushed up the Mediterranean for Toulon, to embark troops for Egypt, to strengthen their force there.
The Mercury (28), Captain Rogers, and the Incen[Pg 17]diary (fire-ship), joined us in the morning, and informed us they had been chased by them. Although we had only four sail of the line, no time was lost in proceeding after them; first touching at Gibraltar for provisions, then running over to Marjarine Bay, on the coast of Barbary, for water, and from thence to Port Mahon, to see if chance would send us a reinforcement. There we found the Alexander (74), Captain Sir Alexander Ball, the Généreux (80), not half-manned, and the Harlaem (64), en flute; however, they made a show of strength, and to sea we went in search of the French squadron, under Rear-Admiral Ganteaume, and steered for Toulon. Ill fortune attended us; for in a heavy gale, the Généreux rolled away all her top-masts, and sprung a leak, which caused us to put back to Minorca, with our crippled ships, from which place the above-named ship was never again in a state to accompany us.
The moment the rest of the squadron was ready for sea, our persevering admiral again sailed, and although with one ship less, he ventured to reconnoitre Toulon, where we found the French had also put back damaged, and were apparently employed in refitting. We, therefore, shaped our course for Minorca. On our way thither, to complete our water and provisions, we chased a Spanish convoy into Cadeque, a small port near the entrance of the Bay of Rosas; but the admiral did not think, under existing circumstances, it was worth while risking the loss of lives to attack them, having the prospect of an action with a superior French force in view; we, therefore, returned to Port Mahon[Pg 18] to get ready to proceed after the enemy’s fleet in Toulon.
During our stay, we heard that we were to be joined at Malta by His Majesty’s ship Athénienne (64), which was not even coppered, and had only half her complement of men. Having put the ships into as good a state as circumstances would admit, we proceeded to Malta, and there picked up the 64 gun-ship, which completed our ill-conditioned squadron, viz., five good ships of the line, one 64, en flute, and another 64, half-manned, and with no copper on her bottom.
With these ships we went to look for Admiral Ganteaume; and off the island of Maretimo, we fell in with the Salamine brig, of 16 guns, which gave us information that the day before she had been chased by the French squadron, and that by shaping our course to south-east, we should probably see them next morning. What joy ran through the different ships! but, alas! owing to the ill-sailing of our squadron, all our hopes were frustrated. We did, indeed, get sight of them the following day at dawn, far to windward, and by a shift of wind, shortly after brought them right a-head, so that although there were no light airs, by sun-set we could see more than halfway down their courses; yet most of our ships, with the exception of the Hector and Dragon, were very far astern, some hull down. Still, however, we hoped with three good ships of the line to bring their rear to action in the night, and so retard them, that the next day our bad sailing ships might pick up any birds we had winged, while we stood on after the others; but bad fortune attended us,[Pg 19] our only frigate, the old Mercury, of 28 guns, sailed so heavily as to be unable to keep them in view. At ten at night, foggy, hazy weather came on, we lost sight of our game, and the next morning the horizon was so obscured that the enemy was no longer to be seen.
What was to be done? We knew Alexandria, or some part of the coast of Egypt, was their destination, and thither we steered. Ganteaume guessed we should follow him thither, and, like a cunning old fox, taking advantage of the hazy night, soon after dark hauled his wind on the starboard tack, and doubled round us; therefore, at daylight, in consequence of the very thick state of the atmosphere preventing our seeing him, we preceded him to the coast of Egypt, while he shaped his course for Cape Derne Head, and tried to land his troops a little to the westward of Alexandria; but the few that attempted it were soon murdered by the Arabs, and he, not feeling himself quite at his ease for fear of our again meeting him, returned back to Toulon to refit. After taking in water and provisions, he once more proceeded to the coast of Egypt, and although he did not land his men, picked up His Majesty’s ship Swiftsure (74), Captain Ben. Hallowell, who was obliged to surrender, after a gallant defence, and took his prize safe into the harbour of Toulon.
In the meantime we kept on our course for Alexandria, and at the end of March arrived off there, and joined the fleet of Lord Keith. Here a sad and heavy affliction awaited our amiable admiral. The first news was, that our gallant army had landed on the 8th, and[Pg 20] that his brave, handsome, and only son, who belonged to the Coldstream Guards, had been killed on landing. He bore his loss with the resignation of a Christian, but with the feelings of a father.
Having remained off Alexandria for a few weeks, Lord Keith detached us in search of our old friend Ganteaume, but first of all taking away one of our best ships, the Hector (74), and giving us in lieu the Stately (64), en flute, a Turkish 64, and a corvette. During our stay the captain pacha, and other Turkish admirals, came on board on a visit of condolence to our admiral. I recollect he was a very fine-looking man, with a long black beard, and brought his pipe and coffee-cup bearers with him. The mouth of the pipe was set with diamonds, and so were his coffee-cups. Old Tombrook, the captain of the Turkish 64, that sailed with us, was introduced to the admiral, and the captain pacha said that if he did not behave well, Sir John had only to write a note to him, and his head should be taken off immediately on his return to the Turkish fleet; or if the admiral preferred it, he would send an executioner on purpose to decapitate Captain Tombrook, and lay his head at Sir John B. Warren’s feet.
We left Alexandria the beginning of May, and sailed for Coron, in the Morea, to procure wood, water, and fresh provisions, of which we stood very much in need, the scurvy having begun to make its appearance from our long continuance at sea upon bad salt and other food of the worst quality. The bread was full of maggots and weevils, the flour musty, and swarming with[Pg 21] insects, the water so putrid, thick and stinking, that often have I held my nose with my hand while I drank it strained through my pocket handkerchief; and we were so short of this necessary article, that our consumption was limited to two pints a day for all purposes. Provisions, at the time I am speaking of, were not like those supplied now-a-days from Her Majesty’s stores; everything then was done by an infamous job contract; government paid through thick and thin for everything, and we poor devils had to suffer in consequence of the neglect of those persons under government winking at the nefarious jobs of contractors, and no doubt they had weighty reasons for so doing.
I recollect, in a mid’s berth, we used to ask what such-and-such a county was famous for. Suffolk, in our black book, was put down as famous for supplying the navy with rotten and bad cheese. Burgoo was served out with treacle for breakfast, instead of nice wholesome cocoa and sugar; and will it be believed, that until the peace of 1802, French merchants had a contract for supplying the British Navy with French brandy, while our West Indian merchants knew not what to do with their rum and cocoa! At last John Bull awoke from his dream, and it struck him that soldiers and sailors liked rum just as well as brandy, and that by giving them cocoa for breakfast it would not only assist the West Indian merchants, but give general satisfaction throughout the fleet.
I take this opportunity of mentioning the night-blindness which seized several of our ship’s company[Pg 22] after dark. It came on immediately it began to grow dusk. First we thought it was sham, in order to skulk from their watches, but we soon found it was not the case. The men were first attacked off Egypt, and it was supposed it was occasioned by the heavy dews. I have since been informed that it frequently occurs in tropical climates.
We remained at Coron ten days, getting supplies; but gained no intelligence of the French squadron, though the Turkish corvette had been despatched for that purpose, to make enquiries at the different out-ports. On her return, we sailed for Malta, where the Christian slaves, on board the two Turkish men-of-war, were liberated on our arrival, to the great joy of the Maltese. Having refitted, we proceeded to Port Mahon, and from thence to cruise off Toulon. On our passage, we had most severe thunder and lightning, which struck the Dragon and ourselves, indeed, all the squadron more or less; the former’s main-mast was injured, and our mizen-top-gallant-mast was dashed to atoms, the top-mast shaken into laths, the mizen-mast set on fire, and the few tin and iron pots and pans, we mids had in the gun-room, were every one perforated in the same manner, as if a musket-ball had been fired through them. The lightning then providentially took a direction out of one of the gun-room ports, and escaped; several men on board both ships were much scorched, and one man in the Dragon killed. If the Renown had been one of the old 74’s, whose mizen-mast stepped in the after magazine, she must have been blown up; but, fortunately, her’s stepped in the gun-room. We[Pg 23] stood on for the Gulf of Lyons, and looked into Toulon, and there saw the French ships lying with their prize, the Swiftsure, some of the ships stripped, one with her main-mast out, and no chance of their putting to sea again for some time. We, therefore, proceeded to the Island of Elba, and on our way fell in with two French frigates, and chased them into Leghorn; the Stately (64), en flute, got pretty near them, but they slipped through her fingers. One named the Success, of 32 guns, formerly British, captured by the French squadron, under Rear-Admiral Ganteaume, on his passage from Brest to Toulon, a few months before, was afterwards taken by the Minerve (36), Captain Cockburn, and Phœnix (32), Captain Halstead, and they drove the Bravoure (44) on shore near Leghorn, and destroyed her. We then went to endeavour to relieve the garrison of Porto Ferajo, which was closely besieged by the French, and a sortie was agreed upon by the garrison. The intention was to turn the enemy’s works, and destroy his batteries, and a party of sailors and marines were landed to assist at the attack; but the troops from Porto Ferajo, being all foreigners, in our pay, composed of Swiss and Germans, did not know us nor we them. All parties met in the dark, and hearing these people talk French, our men fired upon them, and they upon us. The sortie never reached its destination—Johnny Crapaud was not to be caught napping—our expedition partly failed in its object; Captain Long, of His Majesty’s brig Vincego, was killed. “Sauve qui peut” was the order of the day, and a pell-mell retreat to the boats became necessary. Followed[Pg 24] by the French, several were killed, wounded, and taken prisoners, and some shot in the water, trying to swim off to the boats. A few days after, the following ludicrous song appeared on board, to the tune of “Vinegar Hill”:—
We then returned to Minorca to get more troops; but shortly after our arrival, a French man-of-war brig, from Toulon, came into the roads, with despatches, to inform us the preliminary treaty of peace had been signed at Amiens.
While we remained at Minorca, we lost our captain of marines (Burns), a very worthy man. His death was singular. A vessel, a few weeks after the arrival of the French brig, came from England, confirming the news from France, with an order to cease hostilities; also bringing letters and papers. It was one in the morning when the news came. Poor Burns got up quite well, and sat laughing and talking, and hearing the news from old England, and saying what he should do when he got upon half-pay; called for a glass of cold water, which he drank off, and laid down in his cot again; the cramp seized him in his stomach, and in five minutes he was a corpse. He was much beloved in[Pg 25] the ship, full of humour, and a kind-hearted pleasant man. He was buried with military honours at Port Mahon, all the officers of the ship, and many of the squadron, attending his funeral.
From the Peace of Amiens (1802) until the commencement of the second Gallic War—Gambling.
I fortunately remained in the Mediterranean during the whole of the short peace, which helped on my mid’s time, in the Renown (74), with Captain John C. White[E], a smart officer. Our worthy and amiable admiral struck his flag at Minorca, and returned to England, from whence he was shortly sent, at the request of the Emperor of Russia, to St. Petersburgh, as ambassador, and gave universal satisfaction. Indeed, he was fully capable of wielding the sword, using the pen, or managing the weighty matters of a court.
From Minorca we sailed for Malta—at which place we remained nine months, without ever going out of it.
The harbour was crowded with men-of-war, and the garrison with troops, returned from Egypt. I heard of a great deal of gambling taking place—some duels in consequence, and suicides. Of all vices, gambling is the worst, for you not only risk your own ruin, but that of your family also; and a man of honour and principle stands no chance with black-legs. A person[Pg 27] possessed of affluence ought not to gamble, because he cannot want another’s money, and a poor man that does so, and plays for a large amount, must be a swindler, knowing that if he loses he has not the means to pay; he generally, therefore, gives leg bail for the amount.
Our time passed rather heavily during this long sojourn in one place. We used, however, to go occasionally in a boat to St. Paul’s Bay, and have a ride to Florean to see the catacombs, and to Cività Vecchia to view the handsome church of St. Paul.
A malignant fever broke out in several of the ships, owing, probably, to the great heat of the weather, when many died: it was something like the yellow fever, and came on in August and September.
Shortly after this we embarked two companies of artillery, under a Captain McDonald, and Lieutenants Dougal, Campbell, and Carmichael, with orders to proceed to Gibraltar, and thence home. Owing to heavy westerly winds, we had a six weeks’ passage, and found on our arrival that a most serious disturbance had taken place amongst the troops in the garrison, which ended in one of the regiments being packed off to the West Indies. Various causes were assigned for the mutiny, and amongst others, a too sudden change from a very relaxed state of discipline to the opposite extreme.
After remaining here a few days, though we had expected to sail the moment the wind came to the eastward for England, the arrival of despatches from thence stopped our proceeding.
Napoleon’s plans, by the wisdom and foresight of the Ministry, were seen through, and orders arrived for the detention of all the ships of the line (at all serviceable) then in the Mediterranean, instead of sending them to England. This created a partial murmur amongst the different crews; but the firmness and strict discipline of our captain and officers kept our ship’s company perfectly quiet. The crew of the Gibraltar, however, broke out, and two of the unfortunate men were hanged afterwards in Orestana Bay, Sardinia.
We sailed from the Rock in September, 1802, for Orestana Bay, in company with the Dragon (74) and Gibraltar (80), and there joined Rear-Admiral Sir R. Bickerton’s squadron. On our way an accident occurred, which very nearly sent us back to the Rock a cripple. In the act of wearing, we ran on board of the old Gibraltar. Fortunately, it was fine weather, as we took her nearly amidships, carried away part of our cutwater and jib-boom, but did her no damage. It was our fault. The signal was made to wear together. We were to windward. The Renown answered her helm in a moment. Not so the old Gibraltar, she took longer time, and before she could get out of our way we were on board of her.
Our time (nearly nine weeks) passed dull enough at this anchorage. Occasionally we went shooting and fishing. Fish, however, were scarce—although, had we taken the right method, more perhaps might have been caught. Plenty of those beautiful large mussels, whose shells are nearly two feet long, were to be found quite at the head of the bay in the shallows; also mullet and[Pg 29] rock fish; and on the different shores various kinds of plover, and other wild fowl. But small shot was so scarce in the squadron, that the feathered tribe were not so much diminished as they might have been. I recollect one of the lieutenants, named Jane (now a captain), used to employ me to roll slugs between pieces of wood to convert them into a kind of round-shot, for which service he generally took me with him on his shooting excursions. The inhabitants of these parts are a wild race of beings, and mostly clothed in black sheep skins, the wool outside.
We left Sardinia in November, and proceeded to Malta for the winter, and on the 18th of May, 1803, put to sea with the squadron, under Sir R. Bickerton, Bart., to cruise off Naples, matters having assumed an hostile appearance at home.
After sailing through the Faro of Messina, when passing near the island of Stromboli, its volcano broke out in a most beautiful eruption, which lasted for several months. We had the good fortune to be becalmed pretty near it for a whole night, which gave us a magnificent illumination, and at intervals a cloud of fireworks, thrown from its crater into the air, sent forth a brilliant light. Having been off deck in my watch, and my quarter and station bills not being correct and kept in good order, I had four hours of sky-parlour on the main-royal-cross-trees, which enabled me to have a fine view of the burning mountain, and of its river of fire, which appeared to run from its crater into the sea.
From the commencement of second Gallic War until the Battle of Trafalgar, 1805; with Anecdotes.
Whilst off Naples official notice reached us of the declaration of war against France, and we proceeded immediately off Toulon, where, in the course of a short time, Lord Nelson arrived in a frigate, and took the command of the fleet in the Mediterranean. His lordship’s flagship (the Victory) joined us in a few weeks, having on her passage out captured a French frigate, and some merchant vessels. We continued to cruise in the Gulf of Lyons from June, 1803, until the 24th of July, 1804, without ever going into any port to refit. It is true that occasionally the whole fleet ran from the heavy gales of the Gulf of Lyons, and took shelter in various outlandish places in Sardinia, where we could get wood and water, such as at Agincourt Sound—amongst the Magdalen islands—in the Straits of Bonifacio (a most beautiful anchorage, sheltered from all winds); but the shores and country around are the picture of desolation—no town—no trees of any size—rocks upon rocks, and the stunted bushes of the wild myrtle and arbutus merely sufficient for the purposes of fuel. There was a small village seven or eight miles[Pg 31] off, at one of the Magdalen islands, where some few got their linen washed, but most of us in the fleet were put to our shifts to get that necessary comfort (clean linen) accomplished.
These long cruises used to put our wits sadly to the test for an appearance of a bit of white linen above our black cravats, particularly when we had to answer the signal for a midshipman on board the flagship.
Soap was almost—indeed, I might say, quite—as scarce an article as clean shirts and stockings. It was a common thing in those days of real hard service to turn shirts and stockings inside out, and make them do a little more duty. Sometimes we used to search the clothes-bag to see “if one good turn deserved another.” These expedients, added to reefed stockings, made us appear sufficiently dandified to go and answer the signal. Borrowing those articles that had been washed on shore—if such a thing was left amongst one of us—was quite out of the question, for we knew the day of repayment was very far off.
The island of Sardinia affords several good anchorages for fleets and squadrons in particular winds: Orestana Bay, St. Peter, St. Antonio, Cagliari, from the south-west to the south side, and Terra Nova Bay on the north-east; besides many others for single or few ships. Porto Conti, for instance, on the north-west part of the island, is a very safe one. Our noble and gallant chief used to manage to get us fresh beef twice a week—that is to say, so many live bullocks were embarked on board each ship, and we killed them as we wanted them—by which means, with the assistance of oranges[Pg 32] that were procured occasionally, few cases of scurvy occurred in the fleet, notwithstanding our long stay at sea. But as for articles of luxury—tea, potatoes, soap, and other sea stores for our messes—we had none.
The inhabitants of Sardinia were as wild as their country; the mountaineers and lowlanders generally were engaged in a kind of petty war with each other. Both parties always went armed, and murders frequently took place. At one of the anchorages in the straits, another mid and myself were attending a watering party—one of these fellows rode down with a bag of cheese, made of goat’s or sheep’s milk, for sale; he was armed with a long gun and pistols, and we had no firearms with us. Some dispute in the bargaining, for the want of understanding each other’s language, arose; the Sard, very coolly mounted his horse, and taking up his cheeses, rode off a short distance, and fired at us; the ball passed through the sleeve of the mate’s coat, and near my head; he then galloped off, reloaded his gun, rode up, and gave us another shot, but luckily without injury.
A midshipman of the Victory was killed by these fellows a short time afterwards in consequence of some dispute about the hiring of a horse that had been brought down by these wild folks to the beach. The poor mid, anxious for a ride, gave the rascal a dollar, mounted the horse, and rode backwards and forwards for an hour on or near the beach. The Sardinian wanted his horse, the other thought he had not had his dollar’s worth of riding, and a warm dispute ensuing, the Sard most deliberately shot at him with his gun,[Pg 33] and broke his arm, so close up that it was necessary to take it out of the socket. He bore the operation well, poor fellow, but a fever afterwards came on, which carried him off. Lord Nelson tried to get satisfaction, but in a wild country like this, without law or justice, it was found impossible. The offender made his escape to the mountains, and nothing further was heard of him.
Shooting parties occasionally took place, but, not having dogs, the sportsmen were seldom rewarded. Although some kinds of game were numerous, and flocks of blue pigeons, to the amount of thousands together, were seen, few were brought on board, for no person dared follow them far for fear of the wind changing, when we knew the fleet would sail immediately to regain our station. Previous to the Spanish war we were sent by his lordship, in the Renown, to the Bay of Rosas, in Catalonia, to procure bullocks and oranges for the fleet, where we remained long enough to have our clothes washed—a luxury we stood much in need of.
Our long cruise of near fourteen months off Toulon, amidst nothing but gales of wind, and heavy storms of most terrific thunder and lightning, met with no reward in the shape of prize-money.
One man-of-war schooner, of 12 guns, called the Renard, and half-a-dozen small French vessels, were the only captures made by the fleet during the above period; these, with the exception of the schooner, not being worth sending into port, were destroyed. A lieutenant of the Renown, and myself, went to Malta[Pg 34] in the Renard, and shortly after rejoined our ship off Toulon, in the Narcissus frigate.
One of the marine officers had a monkey on board, who used to amuse us with his gambols; but was rather fond of biting, for which he received occasionally a beating from us youngsters. This brought on a coolness between his master and us, and led at last to open war.
A cabal was formed to get Jacko a licking from his own master, by letting him loose from his chain in the marine officer’s cabin, that he might do some mischief; and the time chosen was when his best clothes were put out ready for him to dine with the captain.
We knew F. was invited that day, because we had seen the captain’s steward ask him, and his own servant go into the marine officer’s berth (he had one in the gun-room, on the lower-deck, where we messed), and lay out his best coat, epaulet, white trousers, etc.; and after making all other preparations necessary for the toilet, leave the cabin, lock the door, put the key in his pocket, and go away.
Now was the time for action. A mid of the name of O., the leader of all mischief, undertook to get into the cabin through the lower-deck port, by going on deck, then into the mizen chains, and from thence by a rope’s end made fast under his arms. We let him down through the port on the lower-deck into the cabin, and he untied the monkey. This being done, we returned into the gun-room, and peeped through the key-hole and cracks to see Jacko’s manœuvres.
After jumping about and chattering to himself for[Pg 35] some little time, he commenced operations. Unfortunately for his owner, he found a bottle of ink, which he let fall, and it broke in pieces, splashing the ink on the deck. The monkey was now in his glory; he seized upon the new red coat and epaulet, and began mopping up the wet, then chattering to himself, jumping about and appearing to feel quite delighted with his performance, particularly when he saw the marks of his hands and feet, stained with black, upon the red uniform. Not contented with his exploits on the coat, he lugged down the pair of smart inexpressibles, that looked so temptingly white, hanging over the chair, and finished the housemaid’s work by wiping up the remainder of the ink with them. This feat having been done, we thought we had seen enough, and went most innocently to give information to the lieutenant of Marines, and his servant, that Jacko was loose in the cabin, and, we were afraid, was after some mischief, for we heard something break, and by peeping through the key-hole, saw he had his master’s coat on the deck, and dragging it about.
Down ran the poor marine officer, calling his servant to bring the key. The moment the door was opened, the first glance showed the havoc committed on the dinner dress. Jacko, perceiving his frolic was over, retreated into his cage, from whence he was dragged to get a good beating. The poor servant was scolded because the monkey had got loose, who very truly said it was tied up safe when he left the cabin. The officer swore, stamped, and raved like a madman. His dress was so completely messed for the day, he could not[Pg 36] dine with the captain; and we innocent young rascals stood looking very demure, and condoling with him on his misfortune, all the time laughing in our sleeves at the trick we had played. We had paid off the master and monkey, who between the two had got us sent to the mast-head occasionally for being saucy to the marine officer, because we did not like being bitten, without licking Jacko for it.
A reward was offered to find out who let it loose, that F. might make the person or persons pay the damage; but it was never found out, and on the earliest opportunity the monkey was sent out of the ship, on board a merchant vessel we fell in with, bound to Malta, his master having had quite enough of monkey tricks.
A ship of the line, the Kent (74), Captain Pulteney Malcolm, having been kept in the Bay of Naples to attend the royal family there, in case of their being obliged to go to Palermo, to avoid falling into the hands of the French, the Renown was sent to relieve her. The Kent was ordered home in consequence of being leaky, and very much out of repair. Captain J. C. White wishing to return home, exchanged into the Kent with Captain Pulteney Malcolm; he took several of the midshipmen with him, and myself amongst the number. We remained ten days at Naples, which were employed by the captain in seeing everything worth observation, and he was so kind as to take another youngster and myself with him.
After the above period, we left Naples for the Bay of Salerno, at which place we embarked a large supply[Pg 37] of cattle and vegetables for our fleet off Toulon. On joining them, we found our ship very weak, and her timbers, from the looseness of several bolts, working very much, and causing her to make a good deal of water,—in fine weather from six to eight inches per hour, and in bad weather two feet, which kept increasing to nearly four,—until our arrival in England.
After having given the bullocks to the ships, we proceeded to Gibraltar, and from thence to Cadiz, where we took on board a million and sixty thousand dollars. We anchored near a handsome French seventy-four and frigate; the former, called L’Aigle, the name of the other I forget. Whenever we passed near them, some of their crew would abuse us; we told them to come outside, and see how soon we would take the change out of them; but they stood too much in awe of a British seventy-four, although we had such a tempting cargo to urge them to the risk.
At this period, four of our frigates, under Sir Graham Moore, were cruising off Cape St. Vincent to intercept the four Spanish frigates, loaded with treasure, expected home. We spoke our ships off there, and a few days afterwards they fell in with the Spaniards, took three, and the unfortunate fourth blew up in the action with all her crew.
I always did think, and my opinion has never changed, that it was a cruel thing to send only four frigates to detain four others, when by increasing the force by two or three line-of-battle ships, this might have been effected without loss of blood, or honour to the Spaniards. If it was necessary to detain these[Pg 38] vessels and treasure from political motives, in order to make the king of Spain declare his equivocal conduct, it would have been humane to have sent such a force as would have put resistance out of the question; for what man, who was not a traitor, could yield without fighting (and with such a valuable cargo on board), to a force, in all appearance, not greater than his own. It was an untoward event. After a long passage, we at length arrived at Spithead, the ship in a very leaky, weak state. Having landed the money, we left Portsmouth the end of October for Chatham, at which place the ship was paid off.
Our old parson was a “rum” subject; after trying all other mess places, he got old Pipes, the boatswain, to take him into his. They agreed very well for a little time; but one unfortunate day, the evil genius of poor old Fritz prevailed, for Pipes coming down rather unexpectedly to his cabin in the fore cock-pit to get a glass of grog, having got wet when the hands were turned up reefing topsails, he found the parson helping himself rather too freely out of his liquor-case. This was a crime Mr. Boatswain could not put up with. A breach immediately ensued, and an instant dismissal from his berth took place, with the exclamation of, “The parson is such a black; I cannot allow him to mess with me any longer.” After this occurrence, the captain interfered, and he again messed in his proper place with the officers in the wardroom. And I recollect one Sunday morning before church-time, the old fellow came into our berth, and with his hand to his stomach, began: “Oh! my dear fellow, I feel so poorly,[Pg 39] I do not know what to do, or how I shall get through the service.” “What is the matter, Mr. F.?” I enquired. “Oh! I feel such a pain.” I knew what he wanted, so I went to the locker, took out the rum bottle, and gave a good boatswain’s glass of grog (three parts spirits, and one water). He told me I had saved his life, and that now he could preach very well. “Come, sir,” said I, “take a north-wester to wash the other down,” which he did. The service commenced soon after, and he performed it admirably.
He was a clever, facetious, and kind-hearted person; and I believe it was money matters that drove him, poor man! to the bottle; he died sometime after on shore. He used to tell us boys: “My dear fellows, do as I say, and not as I do.”
Not having been in England for four years, and my brother being encamped on Coxheath, I got permission, previous to the ship being paid off, to go and see him. Nothing would serve me but a ride on horseback. I was dressed out very smart in white visibles—not invisibles, as the ladies call them—although it appears the fashion of the day to show they wear trousers, whose scientific, Oriental name, by-the-bye, is fatimas. To the young ladies I have a pretty little anecdote to relate. I knew a very gallant officer who fell deeply in love with a lady merely from handing her into a carriage. The moment she put her pretty feet upon the carriage steps he was pierced by Cupid’s arrows. He dreamed of them all night; thought of them when he awoke in the morning; he could not drive them from his imagination during the day. The pretty feet[Pg 40] again appeared before his fancy when asleep the next night, and the third day found him prostrate before them, acknowledging their beauty, and supplicating that he might call them his own. He was accepted. Were this not an “olla”—which means in Spanish something of all sorts—I should not have ventured to have written the above.
To return to my ride. As I said before, I was in full dress, with cocked hat, long coat, and side-arms, that I might appear in camp in a becoming manner. The landlord at the inn told me he knew sailors liked to ride fast, and promised to give me a quiet blood mare he had in his stables, who would show me the way. She was shortly equipped, and brought out. Upon her back I mounted; but scarcely were we out of the town of Chatham when off she started at full speed, and ran away with me along the turnpike road, to the amusement of some of his Majesty’s liege subjects, and to the terror and dismay of others—up hill, down dale, splashing myself, and every person I met, with mud, for the roads were wet, and it began to pour with rain. The ladies and gentlemen in their carriages as I passed them stared at me with astonishment. Having got to a place, called Kit’s Cot Hill, I ran on board of a man riding upon a donkey, with two sacks of flour, knocking him, donkey and cargo, head over heels; but my steed being pretty nearly blown, I at length stopped her.
The miller was, fortunately, not hurt, but came up in a great passion to attack me. Luckily just at the moment some soldiers, who belonged to the same[Pg 41] regiment as my brother, were passing by: they took my part, and, a parley ensuing, I explained how the untoward event had happened, and it ended in a laugh. Not far from this was a small inn, where I put up my flyaway, having had enough riding for one day, hired a gig, and at last got safe to the regiment without any broken bones.
Shortly after this the ship was paid off, and I joined the Barfleur (98), having had six weeks’ leave to see my friends and relate the wonders of my four years’ voyage in foreign parts.
Throughout the four months I passed in the Barfleur we were attached to the channel fleet.
In May, 1805, I removed to the Neptune (98 guns), Captain T. F. Fremantle, a clever, brave, and smart officer, who sent me home to pass my examination at Somerset House, in August, which I did, before old Captain Sir Alexander Snap Hammond, whose character for turning mids back frightened me not a little. The one examined before me not having been sent, as from Oxford or Cambridge, to rusticate in green fields and sylvan groves, but condemned to study six months longer in a mid’s berth on the briny element in order to finish his nautical education, and eat peas-pudding, burgoo and molasses, salt-junk, lobscouse, sea-pie, and study Hamilton Moore. However, the passing captains, seeing I was alarmed on first entering, civilly desired me to be seated a few minutes and take courage. Having waited a short time, and got rather better of some odd qualms and palpitations which the unfortunate candidate turned back before me had created,[Pg 42] I was ordered to find the time of high-water at Plymouth, work an azimuth amplitude, double altitude, bearings and distances, &c., which being performed, I was desired to stand up, and consider myself on the quarter-deck of a man-of-war at Spithead—“unmoor”—“get underway”—“stand out to sea”—“make and shorten sail”—“reef”—“return into port”—“unrig the foremast and bowsprit, and rig them again.” I got into a scrape after reefing for not overhauling the reef tackles when hoisting the sails. However, they passed me, and desired me to come again the next day to receive my passing certificate. I made the captains the best bow I could, and, without staying to look behind me, bolted out of the room, and was surrounded in a moment by other poor fellows, who were anxiously waiting their turn to be called in for examination, who asked what questions had been put to me, and the answers I made, &c.
This important event over, I spent a few days of September with my friends; then repaired to Plymouth, and was ordered a passage to join the Neptune (98), off Cadiz, in the Belleisle (74), one of the very last ships that sailed to join the fleet of Lord Nelson.
We had a very quick run out, and ten days before the ever-memorable and glorious 21st of October, 1805, I rejoined my ship.
The Battle of Trafalgar, and extracts from the log of His Majesty’s Ship Neptune, on the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd October, 1805.
FEELINGS OF A CREW GOING INTO ACTION. BY LIEUT. H. GASCOIGNE, R.M.
Extracted from a Poem called “Fame.”
I shall never forget the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st of October, 1805. Signs of a movement in the combined fleets of France and Spain in Cadiz were made[Pg 44] by signal on the 18th by the inshore squadron, and on the 19th the enemy came out of port. The wind was light and the day rather hazy, so that the body of our fleet never perceived them. Sunday we had a fresh breeze, when some of the headmost ships saw the enemy in shore, but they were too close under the land to be attacked. All hearts towards evening beat with joyful anxiety for the next day, which we hoped would crown our anxious blockade labours with a successful battle. When night closed in, the rockets and blue lights, with signal guns, informed us the inshore squadron still kept sight of our foes, and, like good and watchful dogs, our ships continued to send forth occasionally a growling cannon to keep us on the alert, and to cheer us with the hope of a glorious day on the morrow.
And the morrow came; and with it the sun rose, which, as it ascended from its bed of ocean, looked hazy and watery, as if it smiled in tears on many brave hearts which fate had decreed should never see it set. It was my morning watch; I was midshipman of the forecastle, and at the first dawn of day a forest of strange masts was seen to leeward. I ran aft and informed the officer of the watch. The captain was on deck in a moment, and ere it was well light, the signals were flying through the fleet to bear up and form the order of sailing in two columns.
The wind had moderated considerably in the night, but still our fleet, which consisted of twenty-seven sail of the line, four frigates, a schooner, and cutter, was much scattered. Our ship had been previously pre[Pg 45]pared for battle, so that with the exception of stowing hammocks, slinging the lower yards, stoppering the topsail-sheets, and other minor matters, little remained to be done. All sail was set, and the different ships tried to form the line in two divisions, but the lightness of the wind, and the distance of the sternmost from the van, prevented anything like speed in the manœuvre; in short, the line never was properly formed, for the brave and gallant chiefs of each division were too eager to get into battle to wait for this. The old Neptune, which never was a good sailer, took it into her head to sail better that morning than I ever remember to have seen her do before. About ten o’clock we got close to the Victory, and Captain Fremantle had intended to pass her and break the enemy’s line, but poor Lord Nelson himself hailed us from the stern-walk of the Victory, and said, “Neptune, take in your studding-sails and drop astern; I shall break the line myself.” A signal was then made for the Téméraire (98) to take her station between us and the Victory, which consequently made us the third ship in the van of his lordship’s column.
At this period the enemy were forming their double line in the shape of a crescent. It was a beautiful sight when their line was completed: their broadsides turned towards us, showing their iron teeth, and now and then trying the range of a shot to ascertain the distance, that they might, the moment we came within point blank (about six hundred yards), open their fire upon our van ships—no doubt with the hope of dismasting some of our leading vessels before they could[Pg 46] close and break their line. Some of them were painted like ourselves—with double yellow sides; some with a broad single red or yellow streak; others all black; and the noble Santissima Trinidada (138), with four distinct lines of red, with a white ribbon between them, made her seem to be a superb man-of-war, which indeed she was. Her appearance was imposing; her head splendidly ornamented with a colossal group of figures, painted white, representing the Holy Trinity, from which she took her name. This magnificent ship was destined to be our opponent. She was lying-to under topsails, top-gallant sails, royals, jib, and spanker; her courses were hauled up; and her lofty, towering sails looked beautiful, peering through the smoke, as she awaited the onset. The flags of France and Spain, both handsome, chequered the line, waving defiance to that of Britain.
Then, in our fleet, union-jacks and ensigns were made fast to the fore and fore-topmast-stays, as well as to the mizen-rigging, besides one at the peak, in order that we might not mistake each other in the smoke, and to show the enemy our determination to conquer. Towards eleven, our two lines were better formed, but still there existed long gaps in Vice-Admiral Collingwood’s division. Lord Nelson’s van was strong: three three-deckers (Victory, Téméraire, and Neptune), and four seventy-four’s, their jib-booms nearly over the others’ taffrails, the bands playing “God save the King,” “Rule Britannia,” and “Britons strike home;” the crews stationed on the forecastle of the different ships, cheering the ship ahead of them when the[Pg 47] enemy began to fire, sent those feelings to our hearts that ensured us victory. About ten minutes before twelve, our antagonists opened their fire upon the Royal Sovereign (110), Vice-Admiral Collingwood, who most nobly, and unsupported for at least ten minutes, led his division into action, steering for the Santa Anna (112), which was painted all black, bearing the flag of Admiral Gravina, during which time all the enemy’s line that could possibly bring a gun to bear were firing at her. She was the admiration of the whole fleet.
To show the great and master mind of Nelson, who was thinking of everything even in the momentous hour of battle, when most minds would have been totally absorbed in other matters, it was remarked by him that the enemy had the iron hoops round their masts painted black; orders were issued by signal to whitewash those of his fleet, that in the event of all the ensigns being shot away, his ships might be distinguished by their white masts and hoops.
In order to convey a more accurate notion of the commencement and of the ensuing events of this glorious day, I shall introduce an extract from the log-book of His Majesty’s Ship Neptune (98 guns):—
“a.m., moderate and fine weather; at daylight discovered 39 strange ships to leeward. At 6, answered the signal from the Victory, Lord Nelson’s flag-ship, No. 76, to form the order of sailing in two lines; bore up and made all sail, the fleet consisting of twenty-seven ships of the line, four frigates, a cutter, and schooner, in company; cleared ship for action. At 11, answered the general telegraph signal, ‘England expects every man will do his duty’; Captain Fremantle inspected the different decks, and made known the above signal, which was received[Pg 48] with cheers. At 11.30, the signal to break the enemy’s line, and engage to leeward.
“At 12, the Royal Sovereign (110), Vice-Admiral Collingwood, most nobly broke the enemy’s line, and engaged the Spanish Admiral Gravina, whose flag was flying in the Santa Anna (112), cutting off the 19th ship from their rear; the French and Spanish fleet, of 33 sail of the line, 4 frigates, and 2 brigs, lying-to for us to leeward, with their heads to the northward.
“At 12.15, the Victory (100), Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson, followed by the Téméraire (98), Captain Eliab Hervey, and Neptune (98), Captain Fremantle, broke the line of the enemy by the French Commander-in-Chief’s ship, Admiral Villeneuve, in the Bucentaure (84), and Santissima Trinidada (138), of four decks, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Don Cisneros Baltazar, the eleventh ship from the van.
“At 12.25, three of the enemy’s ships of the line opened their fire upon us, raking us fore and aft. At 12.35, we broke their line, passed between, and opened our broadside and raked them on both sides. At 12.47, we engaged a two-deck ship, with a flag at her mizen. At 1.30, entirely dismasted her, she struck her colours; but before that, the Leviathan (74), also opened her broadside upon her, we passed on (first giving her three hearty cheers), and bore down and attacked the Santissima Trinidada, a Spanish four-decker of 140 guns, with a flag at her mizen; raked her as we passed under her stern; and at 1.50 opened our fire on her starboard quarter. At 2.40, shot away her main and mizen masts; at 2.50, her foremast; at 3, she cried for quarter, and hailed us to say they had surrendered; she then stuck English colours to the stump of her mainmast; gave her three cheers. At this time the Leviathan and Conqueror (74’s), on our starboard quarter, firing on some of the enemy’s ships. Our standing and running rigging much cut; foretop-gallant and royal-yard shot away; the foremast and foretop-mast very badly wounded; three shot in the main-mast; one cheek of the mizen mast shot away, and wounded in other places; foreyard nearly shot in two, and ship pulled in several places; sent down men to get up more shot, having nearly fired away all that was on deck.
“When the smoke cleared away, observed the Victory, Royal Sovereign, and Téméraire warmly engaged, and the six van ships of the enemy who had not been engaged had tacked, and were bearing down to attack us. At 3.30, opened our fire on them, assisted by the Leviathan and Conqueror; observed one of them to have all her masts[Pg 49] shot away by our united fire; the rest then hauled their wind (we learned afterwards it was Rear-Admiral Dumanoir), and making off to the southward, and we not in a condition to follow them, our sails being nearly shot from the yards, and, in addition to other defects, not a brace or bowline left. Turned the hands up to knot and splice, and bend new sails. At 5, observed 18 sail of the enemy making off, viz., 13 sail of the line, 3 frigates, and 2 brigs, leaving to us 20 ships of the line, 2 of which were first-rates, viz., Santissima Trinidada and Santa Anna. At 5.15, a French ship of the line, L’Achille, blew up with nearly all her crew. Observed the Victory with her mizen-mast and all her topmasts shot away; the Royal Sovereign with only her foremast standing; unable to see the condition of the rest of the fleet. At 6, we hailed the Ajax (74), and told her to go and take possession of a French ship of the line dismasted; saw the Prince (98) take the Santissima Trinidada (138) in tow, which had struck to us. Found we had 10 men killed, and 35 wounded, 4 of whom shortly after died of their wounds.
“At midnight, having repaired what damages we could, made sail. At 4 in the morning of the 22nd, we were spoke by the Pickle schooner, who told us it was Admiral Collingwood’s orders. We took some ship in tow. At daylight, observed Admiral C.’s flag in the Euryalus frigate, with the Royal Sovereign in tow, who made our signal to take her in tow, which we did.
“At daylight, it blew a fresh gale from the S.S.W.; the ships very much scattered; all the prizes dismasted and drifting about, most of them having been cast off from the ships that had them in tow; and the French 84-gun ship, Rédoutable, while in tow of the British Swiftsure, foundered with nearly all her unfortunate crew. At daylight of the 23rd, we picked up four of her people floating upon a piece of her wreck. Came on board of us, as prisoner from the Mars (74), Admiral Villeneuve, the French commander-in-chief.
“In this battle we lost the brave Vice-Admiral Viscount Nelson, who was killed on board the Victory by a musket-ball from the maintop of the French 84-gun ship, Rédoutable. The news of the death of this lamented hero threw a damp over our victory, which we were not prepared for. At noon on the 23rd, the signal was made that the remnant of the enemy’s fleet was coming out of Cadiz to try and pick up some of the dismasted ships and prizes; cast off the Royal Sovereign, and bore up with the rest of the ships that were able, and[Pg 50] formed the line of battle to leeward of our dismasted ships and prizes for their protection; on seeing which, the enemy returned into port without accomplishing his object, but losing another ship, the El Rayo (100), for his pains!”
Thus ended this noble fight, the consequences of which were felt from one end of Europe to the other, indeed, I may say, in all parts of the world; and, surely, for such a day’s work, the country ought to have voted a medal, not only to the admirals and captains, but (as was the case at Waterloo) to every officer, seaman, and marine, in the fleet.
The loss of the Neptune in this action, considering what she did, was comparatively small; but the ship was admirably managed by her gallant captain, who was ably supported by a clever scientific first lieutenant (the present Captain George Acklom), who justly merited every praise for his coolness and abilities on that memorable day.
During the time we were going into action, and being raked by the enemy, the whole of the crew, with the exception of the officers, were made to lie flat on the deck, to secure them from the raking shots, some of which came in at the bows and went out at the stern. Had it not been for the above precaution, many lives must have been sacrificed. My quarters were the five midship-guns on each side of the main-deck. I was sent on board the Santissima Trinidada, a few days after the action, to assist in getting out the wounded men, previous to destroying her. She was a magnificent ship, and ought now to be in Portsmouth harbour. Her top-sides, it is true, were perfectly rid[Pg 51]dled by our beautiful firing, and she had, if I recollect right, 550 killed and wounded; but from the lower part of the sills of the lower-deck ports to the water’s edge, few shot of consequence had hurt her between wind and water, and those were all plugged up. She was built of cedar, and would have lasted for ages, a glorious trophy of the battle; but “sink, burn, and destroy,” was the order of the day, and after a great deal of trouble, scuttling her in many places, hauling up her lower-deck ports,—that when she rolled the heavy sea might fill her decks,—she did at last go unwillingly to the bottom.
I have now by me a gilt dirk that I brought away from her, it belonged to the Spanish admiral’s son, Don Baltazar Cisneros; I would not part with it for its weight in gold. Of all our hard-earned prizes, only four got safe to Gibraltar; viz., San Ildefonso (74), San Juan Nepomuceno (74), Bahama (74), and the old English Swiftsure (74), the rest were either sunk or burnt. Nothing being talked of now but horizontal firing, it is to be hoped we shall fire as well and with the same precision and effect next war, as the British fleet did on this memorable day.
The establishment of the school for naval gunnery on board the Excellent at Portsmouth, placed as it is under the superintendence of Sir Thomas Hastings, and other scientific officers, will, in my humble opinion however some persons may affect to despise teaching seamen the science of naval gunnery, be of general benefit to the service. One of the originators of it, the gallant Captain Sir John Pechell, Bart., C.B., K.C.B.,[Pg 52] deserves great credit, and the thanks of the service for the interest, zeal, and attention he has paid to it; as also does Captain George Smith, who invented the moveable target, now used on board our men-of-war, and several other ingenious and clever inventions of his have been before the public. He has lately invented paddle-box life boats for steam ships.
List of the English Fleet, under Lord Nelson, on the 21st October, 1805-27 sail of the line, 4 frigates, 1 cutter, 1 schooner.
|Euryalus||36||Hon. H. Blackwood.|
|Phœbe||36||Hon. T. B. Capel.|
|Pickle (schooner)||12||Lieut. J. R. Lapenotiere.|
|Entreprenant (cutter)||12||Lieut. R. B. Young.|
List of the French and Spanish combined fleets in action, off Cape Trafalgar, near Cadiz, 21st October, 1805—33 sail of the line, 3 frigates, 3 brigs.
(The four ships marked thus (*) were taken a few days after the action by Sir Richard Strachan’s squadron.)
Names and Rank of French and Spanish Flag Officers in the battle.
- Admiral Villeneuve, Commander-in-Chief—taken. (French.)
- Rear-Admiral Magon—killed. (French.)
- Rear-Admiral Dumanoir—escaped; taken afterwards by Sir Richard Strachan. (French.)
- Admiral Gravina—escaped. (Spanish.)
- Vice-Admiral Alava—taken in Santa Anna (112). (Spanish.)
- Rear-Admiral Cisneros—taken in Santissima Trinidada(140). (Spanish.)
The loss of the combined fleet was twenty ships of the line, one admiral killed, and three taken; the total killed, wounded, and taken prisoners, was near 16,000 men and officers. In concluding the account of the Battle of Trafalgar, I think I shall be excused for copying into this olla two beautiful extracts from unknown authors. The first lines on the particular circumstance of each of the different powers having a ship of the line, called the Neptune, in the battle:—
Lord Nelson’s Death and Triumph.
From the Sheffield Paper, 1805.
“Intelligence of a most glorious event, accompanied with tidings of an awful calamity (like the angels of mercy and affliction travelling together), has arrived on our shores, and awakened the public mind from the agony of despondence to a tumult of mingled emotions, sorrow and joy, mourning and triumph.
“On the 21st of October, 1805, while the cowardly and incapable Austrian, General Mack, was surrendering himself and army into the hands of Bonaparte, the noble and lamented Lord Nelson, once more, and for the last time, fought and conquered the united foes of his country; but he fell in the meridian of victory, and in one moment became immortal in both worlds.
“His career of services had been long; but it was only in the last war that he burst upon the eye of the public as a luminary of the first magnitude. At the battle of Aboukir, he rose like the sun in the east, and like the sun too, after a summer’s day of glory, he set in the west, at the battle of Trafalgar, leaving the ocean in a blaze as he went down,[G] and in darkness when he descended.
“In ages to come, when the stranger who visits our island shall enquire for the monument of Nelson, the answer will be, ‘Behold his country which he has saved.’”
Join the Melpomene (38)—Sent up the Mediterranean—Tremendous weather, with thunder, lightning, and water-spouts—Ship loses her rudder and main-topmast—Proceed to Malta.
Ten days after the action, I was appointed acting lieutenant of the Melpomene (38), Captain Peter Parker. The weather having moderated, we sailed in company with the Orion (74), Captain Codrington: Endymion (44), and Weazle brig, (18); to look into Toulon, and scour the Mediterranean, in search of a squadron of French frigates. We parted from the fleet on the 8th of November, 1805, with every prospect of a most delightful cruise, and the chance of picking up some prizes; but a few days after leaving Gibraltar, our golden hopes were dashed to nought, and we were sent a wreck, without a rudder, to Malta.
The weather continued moderate until the 11th, when we captured a small Spanish settee, laden with stores of little value, and took her in tow, for the purpose of conveying her to the commodore, but a heavy squall coming on, we destroyed her.
On the 12th, we saw the island of Majorca, and finding the main-yard sprung, we lowered it down, and fished it. On the 13th, owing to the violence of[Pg 58] the gale and heavy sea, we bore up, with the Weazle brig in company, to take shelter under Majorca; at this time the ship was labouring very hard, in consequence of a heavy cross swell. On the 14th, none of the squadron were in sight; the morning of the 15th, about nine o’clock, a most tremendous squall came on, accompanied with thunder, lightning, rain, and sleet, which obliged us to clew up all our sails; shortly afterwards the main-mast was struck by lightning, the fluid exploded by the pumps, and knocked myself and a seaman down; the sensation I felt was that of a severe electric shock, shaking every bone in my body, but, thank God! it did me no further injury; the seaman, poor fellow! was a good deal burnt, but he afterwards recovered. On examining the mainmast, we found it splintered in many places, particularly about the hoops, and in the wake of the trusses, where copper had been nailed on.
The next day we stood towards Barcelona, in the hopes of rejoining the Orion, but between nine and ten in the morning of the 17th, the sea rose all round us, angry, black, threatening clouds, accompanied with water-spouts, and heavy flashes of lightning, gave us warning that a tempest of no common kind was approaching; several land birds of various descriptions, blown from land not in sight, settled on the deck and rigging, in hopes of shelter from the pitiless storm; a woodcock tried to rest upon the capstern on the quarter-deck; a hoopoe, linnets, greenfinches, and other small birds, also endeavoured, poor things! to find shelter, but when the first burst of the tempest[Pg 59] came on, they were blown to leeward, and probably perished. In the midst of all this we had to fire guns at the water-spouts to break them, furl the sails, and prepare for another gale. At eleven a heavy sea pooped us, stove in the dead lights, and filled the captain’s cabin with water; the wind increased to a perfect hurricane, and at one, the lightning again struck the ship and hurt the main-topmast and the main-mast. At two the storm stay-sails were blown to atoms, and the ship became entirely unmanageable; whole seas, at times, rolled over her, one of which, breaking on the quarter, struck the rudder, and the rudder-head gave way, it was immediately chocked, and the ship was then steered by the rudder pennants. Between three and four, the main-topmast was blown over the side, the rudder-chains gave way, and we found the main-mast sprung a few feet above the quarter-deck. The whole of the night, the rudder, having nothing to confine it, thumped about a great deal, and made us fear it would shake the stern-post. In the morning of the 18th, the ship fortunately took a heavy plunge, and the rudder unshipped itself from the stern and sank. The sea at this period was most heavy and breaking; it stove the quarter boats, and caused the ship to strain so much that it was necessary to keep the pumps constantly going. Towards noon of the 18th we veered a cable astern with hawsers, etc., and struck the mizen-topmast to try and wear ship, but found it impossible, for the moment we got the ship four or five points from the wind, she flew to again. On the 19th, the weather began to moderate,[Pg 60] but still there was a heavy sea; yet, notwithstanding the ship laboured a great deal, we commenced making a Pakenham’s jury rudder out of a spare maintopmast-jibboom, and other spars.
Towards evening we saw the Columbretes, small rocky uninhabited islands, near Ivica, on the lee bow, distant four or five leagues; finding ourselves drifting bodily down on them, we made all sail on the foremast, in the hopes of getting the ship on the other tack, veered away a cable astern, and with hawsers bowsed it over to windward; but the heavy swell,—the moment we got way upon the ship, and she was a few points from the wind, striking her abaft the beam,—made her fly to the wind again. We therefore furled our sails, and let go an anchor in 60 fathoms, with a spring on the cable, which for a time brought us up; but soon after midnight, during my watch, there came on a heavy squall with thunder, lightning and rain, the ship drove, when we cut the cable and set new storm stay-sails and fore-sail; she evidently would not weather the rocks, but when pretty near them, it pleased Providence to send us a shift of wind in another severe squall, which enabled us to clear them. On the morning of the 20th the weather became moderate, and towards evening, having completed our jury-rudder, we succeeded in shipping it, and found to our great joy it answered with a little care very well. The 21st we had a steady breeze from the S.W., which enabled us to shape our course for Malta. It was necessary to keep a sharp look out upon our rudder guys and braces, for the constant friction[Pg 61] against the ship’s sides, soon chafed the woulding. On the 22nd, at night, it again blew very heavy, our starboard fore channel was very badly started, and we found the fore-yard sprung; however the ship steered very well, going before the gale at the rate of ten and eleven knots per hour. On the 26th we arrived at Malta, and moored safely from the gales in La Valette harbour. The defects of the ship were as follows: a rudder, main-mast, two top-masts, both lower yards, maintop-sail-yard, the starboard fore channel had to be secured, and general caulking was wanted. In short, the ship was strained all to pieces.
Siege of Gaeta by the French—Boat affairs—My capture—Leghorn.
After the repairs were made good, which took nearly two months, we sailed for Messina, and found there some transports waiting for a convoy to take a reinforcement of troops, with General Sherbrooke, to Egypt.
The service being most pressing, we took them under convoy, and after a passage of three weeks, made the low sandy coast to the westward of Alexandria, on which were growing a few date or palm trees, planted in a cluster. We got off the port on the following day, where we no sooner discovered the British squadron, under Capt. Benjamin Hallowell, in the Tigre (80), all snug, than we hove to; and putting the general and his staff on board one of the transports, started back to Messina. The Tigre fired guns and made the signal of recall, which the captain, much to our satisfaction, would not notice, for we had no particular relish to exchange the chance of a good cruise, for the burning sands of Egypt, to fire at Turks behind sand banks and stone walls.
This, however, very nearly got Captain Peter Parker into a serious scrape; for the gallant old Ben. was[Pg 63] most wroth, and nothing saved him from a court martial but his being a great friend of Lord Collingwood.
On our return to Sicily we went from Messina to Palermo, and from thence to succour the fortress of Gaeta, near Terracina, besieged by Marshal Massena, with 30,000 men. We ran in and engaged a battery and a French man-of-war brig near Mola. The battery was thrown up in Cicero’s Garden. Night, and a very heavy thunder storm coming on, which blew dead on shore, obliged us to haul off and get an offing; the brig taking advantage of the darkness, cut her cable, and got safe into Naples.
A few days afterwards, I went with some other officers on shore, to be introduced to the Prince of Hesse Philippsthal, who commanded the fortress, and to look round the works and observe the French lines. It appearing to our captain that we could flank the enemy’s works to the N.W. of the peninsula, with the ship, in the afternoon, we stood in and fired a few broadsides, which put them to confusion, however the wind failing obliged us to haul off. A day or two afterwards the wind changing and permitting us to do the same thing, again we stood in, but the French had got something prepared for us this time, in the shape of a good masked battery, which was so well directed that every shot hit us, and we were glad to get off with the loss of three men badly wounded; one poor fellow lost both his legs, another his right leg, and the third was severely wounded by a splinter. We took the hint and did not go there any more. Shortly after[Pg 64] this, Rear-Admiral Sir Sidney Smith came and assumed the command of the squadron, he used to send the launches, armed with a carronade, every dark night to flank the French camp on the Terracina side, with orders the moment the gun was fired to pull either to starboard or port, in order to avoid the enemy’s shot. Our being low on the water prevented them seeing us, so that they could only fire at the flashes of our guns. Some shot occasionally passed over us, but the greater part went either to the right or left. One of the Sicilian gun-boats was sunk one night, and some of the oars knocked out of the men’s hands, but by attending to the orders of the gallant admiral we generally escaped. Our other orders from him were not to go within musket shot, and directly the moon began to appear, to disperse and return on board. One night we killed a French general named Vaubois, who had come down to the beach with some field pieces to return our fire.
We went hence to Palermo and landed our wounded men, when we proceeded off Naples with a spy, dispatches, and proclamations, from King Ferdinand the VII., to his beloved subjects, calling upon them to rise and make a diversion to raise the siege of Gaeta; but they were too wise to follow his advice, having neither leaders, spirit, nor enterprise for such dangerous work. To get the above gentleman with his dispatches, proclamations, &c., on shore, being a service of danger, with the prospect at least of a dungeon for the remainder of the war, should they even escape hanging, volunteers were necessary; myself and a fine[Pg 65] gig’s crew and a sergeant of marines, offered our services, and engaged not to return without performing the service if it were possible.
We were all well armed and left the ship in the gig, with the spy, soon after dark, at the entrance of the Bay of Naples; the oars were well muffled and greased to prevent them from making a noise. We first rowed under the land towards Baia and Pansilippo; the night was favourable, being very dark, and rather inclined to be stormy, with an occasional flash of sheet lightning, which latter we could have dispensed with; however, on we pulled, taking care not to feather the oars, and to row as easy as possible, that we might make no splashing in the water. At last we got to what I thought a favourable place, and we pulled in, when just as the boat was touching the shore a whole host of fishermen bawled out and gave the alarm. The alarm fires were lit along the shore in a minute, and we were instantly challenged; off we shoved the boat and told the Italian to say we were fishermen looking for our companions. While he was talking the wind being off the land, soon blew us out of hearing and musket shot, when we again rowed along shore nearer Naples, and tried to land upon the rocks, not far from Castle del Ovo; here again, however, the fellows were upon the qui vive, and we again shoved off, when I determined to put a good face upon the matter, and after passing the castle to land right under the houses. They not expecting us there, we succeeded, and our friend the spy, with his dispatches and proclamations, went at once into the city, and I[Pg 66] then shoved off and got safe back to the ship by a little after midnight; the captain was quite happy to see us safe returned, having so well accomplished our object. Having seen the alarm fires and signals from the ship, he was very anxious on our account.
The spy being a clever fellow, managed his business well, and in a fortnight after returned safe to Palermo with answers. Nothing was done, for King Joe and his police kept too sharp a look out, to allow his Sicilian Majesty’s corps of lazzaroni to make, or attempt to make, any disturbance.
On our way off Cività Vecchia, near Mount Circello, in company with the Juno (32), we fell in with two French settees, who were steering along shore towards Mola; one we sunk with our two guns, and the other we took; both were laden with charcoal for the forges of the French army before Gaeta; the Juno went thither with our prize, and we continued off the above place in the hope of falling in with a French squadron, but in this we were anticipated by the Sirius (36), who fell in with them, took a corvette, and dispersed the rest. From thence we proceeded off Leghorn, and on the 18th of May, 1806, at noon, I was sent, with seven men, armed with merely four cutlasses, two muskets, and having only eight ball cartridges, after a French row-boat, with orders also to attack a convoy close in shore under the town of Leghorn. This adventure having nearly cost me my life, I shall enter more fully into it. All hands were upon deck, ready to carry any orders given into execution; a French row-boat passed close to the ship, armed with muske[Pg 67]toons and muskets, and having a crew of sixteen men. The ship had French colours flying at the time, trying to entice out the enemy’s convoy in shore, and therefore Captain Parker would not permit a musket to be fired to bring-to the small vessel passing near us. The wind was light, and the row-galley had no sooner got out of musket shot astern, than they out sweeps and began to pull away, suspecting, notwithstanding our French flag, that we were an English frigate. At this time our distance from Leghorn might be about seven or eight miles. A large polacre ship was seen to leeward, which was taken for an enemy; we bore up and made all sail after her, when I was called off the forecastle, and ordered to jump into the starboard cutter and go after the aforesaid galley; so much was I hurried that permission was not even allowed me to run below to my cabin, in the gun-room, to get my sword and pistols, but, obeying orders, let the consequences be what they might, having always been drilled into me, away I went, rather sulkily I confess, and when lowered down in the quarter-boat, I found that instead of the proper boat’s crew, any men that happened to be nearest, had been ordered into her; amongst others, an Italian, a native of Leghorn, who for some crime had been severely punished three days before. Just as we were shoving off I discovered there were neither muskets, pistols, nor swords in the boat; after some little delay, two muskets, and four cutlasses, with two cartouch boxes, were given us. With this equipment, I ordered the boat tackles to be unhooked, and away we pulled, but guess my astonishment, when[Pg 68] upon opening the cartouch boxes, I found the gunner’s mate had given me the wrong ones, for one contained five, and the other only three ball cartridges. In about ten minutes after leaving the ship, the gig was sent to join me, with orders to attack the convoy, and take as many as possible. I therefore ordered the gig to go and attack a merchant vessel, which I pointed out, while I went after the row-galley. A short time brought us within musket shot; at this period the ship was four or five miles off to leeward, and we about the same distance from the shore. The few musket balls I had, were soon expended; observing, however, that whenever I took up the musket and pointed it the Frenchmen bobbed down, we pulled alongside and boarded her, and for a few minutes we had the vessel in possession, when a gun fired from the shore unfortunately drew my attention. The Italian whom I brought with me thinking it a good opportunity for revenge, joined the Frenchmen, and excited them to rise, and they being more than double our numbers, soon overpowered us—stabbed one of my men, threw two overboard, laid me sprawling by a blow on the head and a cut in my right hand. In half-an-hour I was safely landed in the lazaretto at Leghorn. I must do the enemy the justice to say, that the moment they had recaptured their vessel, they picked up the two men thrown overboard.
We remained in the lazaretto three weeks, a surgeon coming occasionally to see the wounded man and myself, and give us some plasters. We not being touchable on account of our quarantine, old Sangrado[Pg 69] brought a long slender white stick, with which he used to feel the seaman’s wound,—a stab in the left side,—and my hand; however we did not trouble the old fellow long, for low diet and good constitutions soon healed flesh wounds.
At the expiration of three weeks, we were considered free from any possibility of our having the plague; a guard of French soldiers was therefore sent down to the door of the lazaretto, and we were committed to their charge and marched to the sound of an old brass drum to the fortress at Leghorn, where I had the option, either to sign a parole not to attempt to quit it, or be locked up in a prison. Of two evils always choose the least,—escape was impossible, for the castle or citadel was built upon a small islet joined to the town by a draw-bridge; a strong guard was constantly mounted there, and at sunset the bridge was hauled up, and the sea surrounded the place on all sides, while sentinels were posted at every angle. I therefore was glad to have permission from ten in the morning until six in the evening to walk round the fortress to breathe fresh air, with a young Russian mid who was taken with me. After that period we were locked up in the prison of the fortress until the next morning, when we were again let out to enjoy fresh air.
For prisoners, we were treated very well. I was allowed tenpence a day to live upon, which, with occasional presents received from kind, friendly people in the town, we managed very well. For the first few nights our beds were rather too full of light and[Pg 70] heavy cavalry; but by adopting the plan of lying down in them a good half-hour before going to sleep, and then throwing off the clothes, and setting to work with a good will, in the course of a week most of the bugs and fleas were got rid of, and we enjoyed tolerable rest.
At this period Leghorn was placed in a happy state of suspense, between being in actual possession of the French and under the government of the Queen of Etruria. The former held all the fortifications, as an army of observation, while the latter was acknowledged for a short time longer, because it suited the views of the French emperor, and we were permitted to have a kind of acting consul there, who was a most worthy, excellent man—the Rev. J. Hall—whose kindness I shall never forget. He had a very delightful family. What became of them after the French took the entire possession of the country I never knew. Some American merchants also (particularly a Mr. Purviance) showed me every attention when I was let out of prison. I tried, through the Rev. J. Hall, to get myself and boat’s crew liberated, claiming the protection of the Etrurian Government, they not being actually at war with England, and professing neutrality, but I soon found it was useless, for they dare do nothing to displease the French. However, most luckily for me, a friend of Joseph Bonaparte’s, who was at that time King of Naples, had been captured in a French corvette, La Bergère, and he sent out a flag of truce to Admiral Sir Sidney Smith, offering me in exchange for his friend, who was at Malta, which our admiral[Pg 71] agreed to. At the expiration of six weeks I was, to my great joy, liberated, and took up my quarters in the town, where I remained more than a fortnight, visited Pisa, and Monte Negro, and amused myself about the town, until an opportunity offered of my getting to Palermo.
Luckily, a Danish merchant brig was at this time ready for sailing, and I took my passage on board her, for, just when I was going to embark, an order came from King Joseph for me to be sent to him at Naples. My passport was signed and given me, and my bill of health from the quarantine office was likewise in my possession; the wind being fair, the brig was getting under. Had I been differently situated with regard to money and clothes, I would have risked placing myself in the hands of King Joseph, for the delight of travelling, even as a prisoner, by land to Naples, for the novelty of the thing; but my thread-bare coat, empty pockets, and tattered garments decided me to get on board the Dane as fast as possible, and run the risk of being taken out “vi et armis,” rather than go in such a shabby plight to Naples. Our acting consul hurried me off, telling me the police were after me. I was immediately put into a boat, and got safe on board, with two of my men, and the young Russian, who, by-the-bye, afterwards turned out to be a Frenchman, sent into our service by Bonaparte, through Russian influence, with some of their own youngsters, and passed off on our Government as a Russian. All that I can say is, that he was a clever, smart lad. I met him in Paris in[Pg 72] 1818 (Lieutenant de Vaisseau), when he laughed at the trick that had been played, and told me several more Russian midshipmen in our service were young Frenchmen. This was done by some of the Emperor Alexander’s official servants, when it was the policy of Russia after the fatal battle of Austerlitz, in December, 1805, to endeavour to please Napoleon. Very probably the Russian agent received a douceur for the transaction, and as for humbugging John Bull, and taking advantage of his good-nature, this, added to a breach of faith and confidence, was of little consequence when compared with other matters.[H]
I must confess that, until the time we were safe under sail, which was more than an hour after we got on board, my eye watched every boat with anxiety, expecting to see some French soldiers sent to take me out; nor was I quite satisfied of my safety until we had sailed through the Piombino Passage, which we did before dark, when I began to think I might whistle with safety, being well “out of the wood,” and in the probable track of some of our cruisers.
After a pleasant passage of five days, we arrived safe at Palermo, and from thence I proceeded in a transport for Malta to look for the Melpomene.
Malta—Dreadful accident by the Explosion of a Magazine in the town, on the Bermola side—Nearly get into a scrape about breaking quarantine—Kind answer of the gallant Admiral Sir Sidney Smith to the complaint—Rejoin the Melpomene—Mutiny in Fribourg’s regiment—Cruise in the Adriatic.
On my arrival at Malta I learnt that the ship was on a cruise, and that she had lost, a short time after I was taken, our gallant first lieutenant, Andrew Thompson, who was killed, with most of his boat’s crew, in boarding,—in the middle of the day, with the barge alone,—a French armed settee, with six long nine-pounders, off Leghorn; but the few survivors—Lieutenant Gascoigne, R.M.; Mr. W. Butler, mid; and a noble fellow, a sergeant of marines, named Milligan, with eight seamen, all that remained out of twenty-five men—gallantly hooked on the boat, and carried the vessel, driving some of her crew overboard, and causing the rest to beg for quarter.
At the prize agent’s I found my chest of clothes, which had been left behind to be forwarded to England, it not being expected I should rejoin the ship. This was a great and unexpected comfort. The delight of a nice new coat, linen, &c., after my poor[Pg 74] ragged dress was a treat, which, fully to enjoy, a person should be placed in a similar situation.
I was sent on board the Madras (guard-ship) to wait for a passage to join the Melpomene, when, in August, a dreadful accident happened. I was awakened out of sleep about six in the morning by a tremendous noise, and the bursting of shells. I jumped out of bed, and ran upon deck, thinking we were in action, when a shell fell upon the wharf to which the ship was secured, burst, and killed the gunner of the Madras. An immense cloud of black smoke and dust was hovering in the air, and cries, shrieks, and groans were heard in every direction: a magazine in the centre of the town of Bermola, nearly opposite the dockyard, in which many live shells had been placed by the French during the siege in 1800, had exploded. A party of artillerymen had been sent to take out the fuses, and by some unfortunate accident one shell had gone off, for one or two explosions were heard before the magazine blew up. How the event happened of course not a soul employed was left to tell, and, in addition to a sergeant’s party of artillerymen, nearly 300 of the inhabitants were killed or seriously injured; part of two streets were thrown down, and many more houses were severely shaken.
A short time after this shocking event, a transport was directed to sail for Palermo, and a passage thither was ordered for me to look for my ship. Outside of Malta harbour we were boarded by a boat, bringing a lieutenant and some men from a vessel in quarantine[Pg 75] to join their ship also at Palermo. The wind, which had been fair, suddenly changed, and the weather appearing unsettled, the master prudently bore up, and returned into harbour. I thought it very hard to be placed in quarantine, because we had taken the above officer and men out from the lazaretto, therefore the moment the ship dropt anchor, without waiting for the pratique boat to come alongside, I got into a shore boat, and landed in the town of Valette.
Fortunately, as soon as I had landed, the captain of the Madras met me, and instantly sent me back to the transport, saying, if the quarantine officer found me out, I should be sent to prison. The next morning the wind came fair, and we put to sea. Just when we had got clear of the harbour—the pratique office having gained intelligence of my visit to the shore—a boat was sent after the ship to take me out, and place me in the lazaretto; but the wind freshening, we left her astern, and proceeded on our voyage to Palermo, where I expected that nothing more would have been thought of the matter.
From thence I went on board the Thunderer (74), for a passage to Naples, where I was taken very ill with a kind of cholera morbus, which in a few hours reduced me very much, but a good constitution enabled me soon to recover from its attack, although it left me very weak for some time.
On our arrival off Naples we found cruising at the entrance of the bay the gallant Admiral Sir Sidney Smith, who sent for me on board the Pompée (80),[Pg 76] and said, “What is this you have been doing? You are a very pretty fellow! This morning a brig came from Malta, bringing a formal complaint against you from the governor for breaking quarantine, and requesting me to send you back there to be tried; but,” added he, in the kindest manner, “never mind, I have answered them, and told them they, not you, were to blame, for had they done their duty you could never have got on shore, and it was entirely owing to their neglect that you transgressed the quarantine laws.” That answer settled the matter, and I never heard anything more of the affair, although, after joining the Melpomene, which I did in the course of a few days, the ship was sent to Malta to refit.
I was quite delighted to get back to my old ship, and be under the command of her dashing gallant young captain, who, had he not been killed afterwards in America, would have now been one of the best officers in the service. Shortly after our arrival at Malta, in September, a most serious mutiny broke out in a foreign regiment in our service, quartered at Fort Recazzoli, called “Fribourg’s,” or the Greek Light Infantry. It was composed of Germans, Swiss, French, Greeks, Istrians, Dalmations, and Albanians. Most of the officers were Germans, and the discipline of the regiment did not suit the ideas of these mercenaries; added to which, some of the Albanians and Dalmatians had been most shamefully cajoled by emissaries, under false promises, into our service. In those countries a kind of clanship prevails, and some of the heads of those clans were told, that if they[Pg 77] would enter, with their followers, into this regiment, they would receive the rank of captain. These wild chiefs, thinking it a great thing to be made captain at once in the British service, embarked with their followers, and came to Malta, where, instead of being placed in the situation they expected, they were put into the ranks, and one or two of them made a sergeant or corporal. This, with other causes, created a general disgust, and a secret plan was formed by these wild tribes to rush into the officers’ mess-room, while at dinner, and murder every one of them indiscriminately. Suspecting, however, that their plan had been discovered, they did not wait for dinner time, but about two or three o’clock in the afternoon, rose upon the few officers that were in the fort at the time, killed a captain, the adjutant, and quarter-master, wounded the colonel and major, whose lives were saved by the Germans, and hauling up the drawbridge, demanded terms, which were that the regiment should be disbanded, and themselves sent back to their own country.
In the fort at this time was a gallant young officer of artillery, Lieutenant Fead, with a few of his men, one or two of whom refusing, like good soldiers, to quit their post without orders from their own officer, the mutineers killed them, making Lieutenant Fead prisoner, obliging him to point the guns and mortars towards the town of La Valette.
Fort Recazzoli is a strong isolated fortress on the left hand side of Malta harbour as you come in from the sea, and in which was a large magazine of gun[Pg 78]powder. The mutineers held out several days, and threatened to fire upon the town of La Valette if their terms were not immediately agreed to. One day indeed they did fire a few shells, but Lieutenant Fead purposely gave the mortars so much elevation, that the shells dropped quite clear of the town. Things had remained in this state for two or three days, with all the garrison at Malta and the seamen and marines of the few ships in harbour on the alert, boats rowing guard, the batteries manned, and a cordon of troops drawn round the fort; when, on the afternoon of the second day a grand tiraillade was heard within it, the Germans and Swiss, with the few artillerymen who had taken no part in the mutiny, and had been disarmed by the others, watching an opportunity, made a rush, destroyed the guard at the drawbridge, let it down, and sallied forth out of the fortress, bringing with them one or two wounded officers and forty-five of the principal malcontents; the remainder hauled up the drawbridge and held out for several days, again demanding terms, and threatening to blow up the magazine if they were not complied with.
The mutineers being now reduced to a few, early in the morning, we stormed the place with scaling ladders, when part of the 44th Regiment and some sailors got possession of most of the fort; but the mutineers had not been idle, they had built up a kind of high breast-work of large loose stones before the magazine, within which they retreated, and kept up a brisk fire of musketry—a ball from which grazed my hat and stuck in the wall near me. They used[Pg 79] occasionally, from behind this breast-work, to demand a parley and terms, always ending with the threat of blowing up the magazine, with themselves, in which were several hundred barrels of gunpowder. General Valette, who commanded the garrison, very properly refused to listen to any but an unconditional surrender—things having gone too far.
We stationed our men under the bomb proofs, it being the general opinion of the engineer officers that when the magazine did blow up the greatest explosion would be towards the sea, where the wall of the magazine was weakest, and that under the bomb proof the men would be comparatively safe; and as these desperate fellows had declared, that if when St. John’s clock should strike the hour of nine in the evening, their terms, free pardon and safe conduct back to their own country, were not complied with, they would set fire to the train and blow themselves and the fortress up, we awaited the event with much anxiety. A strong suspicion existing that they had undermined the garrison, and had made a passage out for themselves at the back of it, I was sent to row guard to intercept any attempt they might make to escape by water. At about nine, off went the train, and a most awful explosion took place; the whole sea wall was blown to atoms, and the shock like that of an earthquake was felt far and near, some fish in the harbour made a spring out of the water, which showed they also were sensible of the vibration. Three of the 44th Regiment who were posted sentinels were killed by the falling stones, and a few more were hurt. I[Pg 80] immediately pulled on shore and had communication with the fort, and then went and made my report to the senior naval officer. These desperate wretches, at first, were considered to have perished, but, about a week afterwards they were brought in, nearly starved to death, having been unable to make their escape from the island. They were immediately tried by a court martial and hanged.
To return to those forty-five mutineers dragged out of the fortress by the sortie. They were also brought before a military tribunal; fifteen of them were condemned to be hanged, and most of the remainder to be shot. The execution was most terribly mismanaged: it presented, indeed, a shocking spectacle. But I will say no more upon the subject, further than to the last moment these poor wretches continued to vent their abuse on the English, and the men sentenced to be hanged endeavoured to keep up the spirits of those that were about to be shot—even when the ropes were round their necks they called to them, saying, “What are you crying for? It is we that ought to bewail our fate of being hanged like dogs instead of being shot like men.”
I recollect seeing a Catholic priest very busy on the scaffold, wishing to persuade the criminals to kiss the crucifix before they were launched into eternity, but they kicked him off, and spat in his face, telling him he was no better than themselves.
In November we sailed on a cruise off Corfu, and from thence up the Adriatic, where we spent a very stormy winter, blockading Venice, anchoring occa[Pg 81]sionally at Trieste, and under Cape Salvatore, the islands of Lissa, Sansego, and various other places. The N.E. winds in winter blow most furiously from the Istrian and Dalmatian mountains, and, if caught by these winds on the Italian coast, a ship is placed in a most critical situation; a heavy, short sea rises with the wind, and you are obliged to carry a press of canvas to prevent being driven on a lee shore.
A Russian squadron of seven sail of the line, besides frigates and transports, with troops on board, arrived from Naples early in the spring of 1807, and anchored off Trieste, the Emperor of Russia having withdrawn his alliance from us, professing neutrality, in consequence of the great success of the French army under Napoleon in Austria, &c. The Russian admiral, Greig, very politely sent to Captain Pat. Campbell, of the Unité, the senior officer in the Adriatic, to say that he intended to send a ship of the line with the transports to land the troops they had on board at Venice, we being off the port blockading it, in company with the Unité. Captain P. Campbell replied that two British frigates would never suffer one Russian seventy-four, with her convoy, to break the blockade, and therefore requested, if that was the admiral’s intention, he would take his whole force, which would prevent any collision between us.
Admiral Greig very properly did so, and saw his convoy enter safely the port of Venice.
During the nine months we cruised in this sea we took and destroyed a great many of the enemy’s[Pg 82] small vessels; but our prize concerns were unfortunately entrusted to agents, who became insolvent, and our hard-earned money was in consequence lost. I shall in the sequel suggest a plan for the management of prize-money, in the event of our again being engaged in war, it having fallen to my lot to lose every penny by the breaking of four agents in different parts of the world, into whose hands we entrusted the management of our prize affairs.
These honest people have an easy way of getting rid of money committed to their charge. A ship brings captured vessels into harbour; on board comes Mr. A., B., C, or D., with a smirking face and soft tongue, making low bows, hoping he may have the honour,—being an accredited agent under a bond for £20,000,—to transact the affairs of H.M. ship! Officers generally being strangers in the port, and having orders frequently to proceed to sea again in forty-eight hours, after completing water and provisions, have no time to look after or make inquiries about stability of prize agents, and therefore trust the concerns to the first that comes. The moment a ship is fitted out she goes to sea on another cruise—probably for three or four months; the prizes in the meanwhile are sold by the agent. Now, what does he generally do with the money? Why! speculates with it on his own account. If the scheme answers, he puts the amount of his speculation into his own pocket—we, whose the money ought to be, never getting any part of it. If it fails, the prize agent breaks, and off he starts, paying perhaps not a shilling in the pound.[Pg 83] Oh! but then you have got his bond for £20,000! What matters this amongst a whole fleet, when he runs away with perhaps more than £100,000 of their money!
I am not putting an extreme case—this did happen more than once—and it would astonish the public if the whole system of prize-plundering agents that was carried on last war could be laid open. They would, indeed, wonder men could be so easily led to trust persons with large sums of money without knowing more about them. My reply is, necessity obliges them.
Now, the remedy I propose is this. Let the Government, in the event of another war, take the prize agency into their own hands, and deduct an eighth or a quarter to cover all expenses, and, whenever ships leave a station, let the money be sent to England. Government would have the use of it; the officers and ships’ companies would be sure to receive the remainder; and it would be much better to give up an eighth or a quarter to Government to make sure of the rest than to lose, as has happened in many cases, every sixpence of our hard-earned reward.
But to return to our cruise. One morning watch, during the time we were washing decks, and when the after-skylight gratings were off, a strange sail was seen from the topmast-head. Without thinking of such things as hatchways, back I ran from the fore part of the quarter-deck to hail the maintop-masthead, and to ask the man looking out what she looked like, when, just as I had placed my speaking-trumpet to my mouth, head over heels down the[Pg 84] after-hatchway I fell, bang into the gun-room. Fortunately, I came off with only a severe bruise, and the spraining of my right ankle, which laid me up for three weeks.
The vessel proved to be an enemy’s small coaster, called a “trabaculo,” the rig of which is merely two large lug-sails, with a boom at the foot of them, with a jib, and sometimes a stay-sail and top-sail, to be set flying when going before the wind. She was in ballast, from Chiozza, bound to Ancona for a cargo. On searching the prisoners for letters and papers, we found concealed in their waistbands and linings of their clothes seven hundred and sixty-eight gold Venetian zechins, besides some dollars, which we took the liberty of extracting. They belonged to a rich Venetian merchant, and he had sent the money on board, under the charge of the master of the vessel, to purchase her cargo. On our chasing him, seeing no means of escape, he distributed the money amongst the men to sew in their dresses.
When we first captured him, finding the vessel without anything in her, Captain Parker was on the eve of letting her go, when the prying eyes of a young mid made the discovery of the concealed money, which we took from them, and then allowed the vessel, with her crew, to return to her own port, she not being worth the trouble of sending to Malta.
Some prizes in a gale of wind having been driven on shore near Pesaro, on the coast of Italy, a flag of truce came off to offer an exchange of prisoners, to which we gladly acceded. I was sent thither, with[Pg 85] two boats, to bring back our seamen and petty officers. The French, seeing us coming, got the men down on the pier, to have them ready. Several officers of that nation, who were standing there, came bowing and scraping to the stairs of the landing-place, making a great number of fine speeches, and offering me refreshments of all kinds, if I would do them the honour to walk up into the town, which I gladly accepted, hoping to rest my boats’ crews and stretch my legs for half-an-hour on shore, after blockading their ports for six months.
Just when I was stepping out of the boat I observed they held a consultation. Afterwards one of the officers came up to me, and said that he was very sorry, but orders had just arrived for them on no account to suffer me to come out of my boat. Now this was utterly false, no one having come near them, for I kept my eye upon them the whole time. “It was very unfortunate—they were quite in despair about it,” holding up their hands, shrugging up their shoulders, and making wry faces all the time; “they wished so much to show me civility—refreshments were already laid out at their lodgings—but what could they do?—they were so sorry—but orders must be obeyed.” So, taking off their cocked hats, they wished me adieu. I returned the salute, thanked them for the trouble they had taken in getting a repast ready for me, which the authorities would not permit me to enjoy; then off we shoved the boats, and, after a long pull, got back to the ship with our exchanged shipmates, much amused with the French[Pg 86] offer of refreshments, which it was never intended I should partake of.
We continued in the Adriatic until the end of September, 1807, when we proceeded to Trieste to embark Lord Pembroke and suite, and carry them to England. They had come from Vienna. Amongst his lordship’s suite were Sir William A’Court, the present Lord Heytesbury, and a Mr. Hammond. They were all pleasant, gentlemanly men, and although bred in Courts, where little else than cold-heartedness and deceit are learned, they in a short time won the esteem of us unsophisticated sailors.
After a stormy passage of nearly six weeks, we anchored at Spithead, when I found myself appointed lieutenant of H.M. Ship Swiftsure (74), bearing the flag of my much-esteemed friend and admiral, Sir John Borlase Warren, who had been appointed commander-in-chief on the Halifax station.
After an absence from England of three years, the ship being on the point of sailing, I could only get one day’s sight of home, when I set off to join my new ship at Plymouth, and the end of November sailed for the North American station to relieve Admiral Berkeley, where we remained three years and a half.
North American station, from 1808 to 1811—Bermuda—Anecdote—Death of Captain Conn.
We had a long passage out, running far to the southward, and crossing the tropic of Cancer before we hauled to the westward for the islands of Bermuda. In a squall we carried away the fore-yard, which, being a bad stick, went in three pieces. However, we soon made another, which answered our purposes remarkably well, and at the end of six weeks we arrived in Murray’s anchorage.
These islands consist of a group of three hundred and sixty-five, which the Bermudians tell you is the reason there are three hundred and sixty-five days in the year. They are very picturesque, and covered chiefly with sweet-smelling cedar trees, of whose timber several fine 18-gun sloops-of-war and small schooners have been built.
Had the Bermudians been permitted to follow their own plan, no doubt these would have been very safe vessels: but our Navy Board took out a patent for making coffins, and sent them out plans and dimensions, from which they were by no means to deviate. The consequence was, such a tribe of little tubs, in[Pg 88] the shape of two and three-masted schooners, were built, that it was absolutely throwing money away to construct them. Several of them, indeed, did founder, with all their crews. The ship-sloops were certainly better—I may say, with truth, they were favourites—very good sea boats, and in every respect excellent vessels.
Besides cedar trees, these islands produce arrow-root of the best quality, tobacco, Indian corn, &c., but not in sufficient quantities for their own consumption: they, therefore, import flour and other articles of food from the United States, and other places. Abundance of fish is taken, such as grouper—which is a fine, firm fish of the rock species, frequently weighing several pounds—chub, porgay, and various other kinds; and in the spring of the year a spermaceti whale fishery is carried on, this species frequenting those seas at that period.
The scenery of these islands is very pretty. Everything here is in miniature—little hills, valleys, and lakes; whilst blue and red birds, flitting about under a brilliant sun, give the whole the appearance of fairy land. The heat in summer is very oppressive, and the heavy tempests of wind, or, to use the native expression, “the blow,” accompanied with frightful storms of thunder and lightning, are most terrific. In winter the gales generally commence from the S.S.W. to S.W., and then fly round to the N.W. at once in a most severe squall.
The approach to the Bermudas, amongst coral rocks and breakers, is attended with great danger, unless[Pg 89] you are quite sure of your reckoning. Before the great improvements in navigation, many an unfortunate vessel was wrecked on them.
The whole chain of these islands is formed like the coral banks in the south seas; there are no real springs of fresh water, and most of the inhabitants get this necessary article from tanks attached to their houses to catch the rain, and when these are dry they go to wells dug in different parts of the sea coast, through which the salt water filters, and becomes tolerably sweet. From these the men-of-war, too, generally get their supply, which has the effect of Cheltenham water, and saves the trouble of applying to the doctor.
With regard to society, much depends upon the military and naval commanders-in-chief, the regiments, and king’s ships. Some of the Bermudian families are highly respectable.
Much merriment was afforded one evening at a party, to which a naval captain, who is now dead, was invited. He had come in from a long cruise, and had been paying his addresses to a certain young lady living on one of the islands; but the tongue of slander had been busy against him during his absence, and on his making a proposal she refused him. This came to the ears of the lady of the house, who, wishing to quiz the poor man, and to be very facetious, forgetting that her husband had but one eye, and was not very handsome otherwise, began her attack thus: “So, Captain ——, I hear Miss —— has refused you,” and went on very cruelly to torment the poor man, in his[Pg 90] distress, as ladies can do sometimes when they wish to be mischievous. He bore it all for a long time with great patience and forbearance; being goaded at length beyond endurance, he rose from his chair and said, “Mrs. ——, when such an old, ugly fellow as your husband, with but one eye, can get a pretty young woman like yourself for a wife, I ought never to despair.” And out he walked, the tables fairly turned on the facetious dame. Having mentioned the word “slander” in the above anecdote, I am induced to add another story by way of advice to young ladies.
Whenever your friend—and many young ladies have a confidential one—abuses or throws out hints to the prejudice of your absent lover, listen to her with caution. The following little tale will point out the necessity of not relying entirely upon the recommendation of bosom friends in love affairs, for it is an old saying that all advantages in love, war, law, and elections are considered fair. Two young ladies from twenty-three to twenty-five years of age, who lived in a large town in the north, were first cousins, and dear confidential friends; the one, a widow, had soft, pretty, languishing, blue eyes, that said, “pray do love me;” the other, a spinster, had black, sparkling eyes, that said, “you shall love me.” The former had an offer of marriage from a widower, who had a son about fifteen years of age, whom he wished to put into a profession previous to his marriage, but wanted some ready money to do so. He, therefore, proposed that the fair widow should advance him the money necessary to enable him to do it. She, very properly, consulted[Pg 91] her friends; some gave one opinion, some another. She hesitated between love and money—she called in her cousin, Miss Black-eyes, who strongly advised her by no means to part with her cash. She still hesitated, asked other advice—sent for her cousin again—went so far as to purchase her wedding dress and make preparations for furnishing a house. In the meanwhile Miss Black-eyes had had frequent communications with the gentleman, and also with her cousin. At last, she got some friends to back her opinion, and, finally, the match was broken off. But the same day the spinster gave the money to the gentleman, who had a license ready—off they went to the next parish and were married. Therefore, I say, be very cautious in adopting any opinion where the least chance of a clash of interest is likely to exist, particularly in love affairs.
Our cruises in winter, during the time we were on this station, were generally to the southward. Sometimes we ran down to the island of Porto Rico, the Mona passage, and off Anegada, with the hope of picking up some of the French vessels from Martinique or Guadaloupe; but the whole time we remained here, nearly four years, only one ship letter-of-marque, a schooner, and brig, fell into our hands.
In our summer cruises, we, on one occasion, went to Madeira; another time to Fayal, one of the western isles, and when there, paid our respects to the nuns in the convents, and bought some of their pretty wreaths for ladies’ hair, beautifully made of parrots’ feathers, in imitation of myrtle. When first we went to the bars of the convent, the abbess sent some of the elder[Pg 92] sisters to offer flowers for sale, but these finding no market, she changed her set, and the next time some pretty, interesting young nuns offered their goods, which we immediately bought from such fair hands. If the old harpy of an abbess went away for a minute they used to smile, talk, and give us their hands to kiss through the grates; and their handsome dark eyes seemed to say, “Oh! that these bars were removed, that I might get out of this horrid prison, to which I am consigned by sordid parents to make way for some male branch of the family.” Several of these young ladies, we were informed, had been expatriated from Portugal, from that motive. A short time after we left Fayal, one young nun did make her escape with a captain in the navy, who very honourably married her; but her poor friend, who tried to accompany her, met with a serious accident, falling down and breaking her leg, when getting out of the convent window. She was taken back to her cell, where, it was said, she underwent purgatory upon earth.
When on the North American station I met with a severe hurt, while making sail in chase, which laid me up for a considerable period. A rope having got loose, struck me on the face, broke my jaw, and knocked out five of my teeth.
In winter, the ships used to rendezvous at Bermuda; during summer at Halifax, Nova Scotia. At the latter place we used to enjoy pleasant society, amongst very kind-hearted and friendly people, whose pretty daughters made sad havoc with the hearts of both the army and navy.
After one of our long summer cruises I got leave of absence for ten days, and travelled with a friend, an officer of the Royal Engineers, in his gig, across the country to Annapolis Royal; the scenery did not strike me as being particularly interesting. I saw a great deal of barren, dreary, uncultivated land, that wanted the hand of man to clear it, and make it “bring forth its fruit in due season.”
Driving along the road we frequently started coveys of spruce partridges. I used occasionally, when time permitted, to get a shot at them. These birds do not, like our partridges, take to the fields, but on rising from the ground always fly into fir trees; they are very stupid, and once in a tree will allow you to shoot them all, provided you begin with the lowest and proceed upwards.
I recollect at one place where we breakfasted after leaving Windsor, a large brown bear and two cubs had been caught during the night in a pit fall; the old one was shot in the pit, and the young ones kept alive, probably to be sent to England.
The native Mic Mac Indians are a poor race, those, at least, that I saw in Halifax and its neighbourhood. They are confined to a few families. They used to come to the town in their slight bark canoes, bringing game, and skins of the silver and black fox, and boxes made of the bark of the birch tree, ornamented with the small quills of the porcupine, dyed of various colours. I have often been in their wigwams, and always found the people civil. Some of the young squaws were passable, but the old women frightful. These wigwams are easily built: half a dozen poles[Pg 94] placed triangularly and covered with the bark of the birch tree, is the general plan; the fire is in the middle of the hut, the smoke finding its way out at the top, and by the door-way. These habitations appear warm, and the inmates healthy. When travelling, the women carry their babies in a kind of basket, strapped to their back, which resembles the lower part of a fiddle-case, peeping out of which their little smoked faces have a curious appearance. After disposing of their wares, these people generally get drunk and fight, the men beating the squaws, who, in their turn, belabour the men. It not unfrequently happens that those who return by water contrive to upset their canoes, when they lose all the articles they have bought; it is, however, very rare that any of the crew are drowned. Fish of various sorts are most abundant, and the market very good. The harbour of Halifax is safe, but sometimes difficult to make, on account of the thick fogs, which in particular winds,—those from south-east to south-west,—hang about the coast.
A very provoking circumstance occurred to one of the lieutenants, who was a Welchman, and a married man, during a cruise, caused by a nanny-goat eating his letters that he had just received from England, previous to his having read them.
A schooner joined us at sea from Bermuda, bringing the mail and letters from there and Halifax, Nova Scotia. We all felt very anxious about news, for it was nearly ten months since we had heard from “sweet home;” in consequence of our being out cruising, and going from place to place, they had missed us.
The weather was squally when the above vessel joined us with the letters, and by the time her boat had reached us, and they were delivered to their owners, it was necessary to turn the hands up to reef the topsails. Poor M——, for fear his letters should get wet in his pocket, for it began to rain as well as blow, left them for safety on the rudder-head in the wardroom, and went on deck to his station. No sooner was the evolution performed than down he ran below, thinking, poor fellow! to have a nice, quiet reading of his two letters from his wife, giving an account of a new bit of mischief that had been added to his establishment during his absence, for he had left his wife near her confinement, previous to his leaving England. Now, only imagine M——’s rage, vexation, and consternation, on beholding Mrs. Taffy, the Welch goat, mounted on the rudder-head, very quietly eating up the letters. One was quite gone, and a very small corner of the other sticking out of the goat’s mouth, which she was endeavouring to masticate with all possible dispatch. “Nanny” was seized by the throat in a moment, and measures adopted to make her disgorge the precious writing, but all in vain, for she had taken such good care to bite them in small pieces, in order that they might the more easily be swallowed, and readily digested, that not a fragment larger than a crown piece was recovered, and he had to wait eight long months more, before he got others to tell him the contents of those, and give him information about his family.
This was a trial of temper. We commiserated,[Pg 96] sympathised, and found fault with him for not putting them in his pocket, writing-desk, or any safer place than where he had left them; in short, he had all Job’s comforters, but was obliged to have recourse to Dame Patience, hoping that some other vessel might soon come from home and bring him others. Eight long months elapsed ere he received information from England—making in the whole nearly eighteen months—a vexatious period at any time, but still more so in his case. The goat had been used to run in and out of the ward-room, for she was a great pet, and generally after dinner had some biscuit and a little wine or grog given to her, which she was very fond of. After the unfortunate affair of the letters she was banished for a month. After that period it was forgotten, and she came in for her biscuit and grog as usual.
On one of our spring cruises, in May, 1810, we lost our captain (John Conn), who, in a fit of derangement, jumped overboard out of his stern cabin, and was drowned. He was a thorough seaman, and very much beloved by us all. He served in Lord Rodney’s fleet in the action of the 12th of April, 1782, and commanded the Dreadnought (98), at the battle of Trafalgar. He was mate of the Ramilies (74), Rear-Admiral Thomas Graves, when she was lost in that dreadful gale, which proved fatal to the Ville de Paris (110), Glorieux (74), Centaur (74), and various other men-of-war, transports, and merchant ships, in the gulf stream, not far from the latitude of Bermuda, when returning to England in August of that year with the prizes taken by Lord Rodney.
He gave me a piece of advice respecting the coast of America which I shall never forget, and as it is of that sort which all seamen liable to be sent on the North American station ought to be acquainted with, I shall mention it here. “Never lay your ship to at night in a gale of wind to the S.S.W. on the coast of America on the larboard tack, for the wind generally flies round at once to the N.W. with a heavy squall, and takes the ship flat back.” It was this, and lying-to under a main-sail, which caused the loss of the Ramilies at that period. He often gave me an account of that misfortune. It was as follows:—“We were on the larboard tack, with a reefed main-sail set. The gale commenced from S.E., and gradually came round to the S.S.W., blowing extremely hard. When in the middle watch of the night of the 16th of October, 1782, the wind flew round in a most tremendous squall to the N.W., taking the ship aback, and throwing her nearly on her beam ends. We tried to brace the main-yard round, but, finding it impossible, we cut the foot rope of the main-sail, which was quite a new one, with the hope of splitting it, but it was bound so tight against the mast and rigging that we could not effect this. The ship at this time had great stern-way upon her; the sea, breaking over her poop, stove in the dead-lights and windows, and filled the ward-room and admiral’s cabin with water, and before anything could be done the main-mast, mizen-mast, and foretop-mast went over the side; the stern-post was much shaken, and the ship, nearly a new one, sprung a dangerous leak.[Pg 98] At daylight the whole convoy was scattered; many of the vessels dismasted—some had foundered—and the sea was covered with wreck; the wind blowing a hurricane. By dint of perseverance, having thrown overboard most of her guns and heavy stores, we succeeded in keeping the ship afloat until the 22nd, when, finding she would not float much longer, we took advantage of a lull of wind, and saved the crew on board a few of the merchant ships that had continued by her.”
Captain J. Conn also mentioned that had the orders of Rear-Admiral Graves been attended to the ship would probably not have been lost. The admiral came out of his cabin in the middle watch, and, after looking about him and making his remarks to the officer on deck, said, “It looks black under the lee bow, and I see some flashes of lightning. Should the clouds appear to near you, immediately haul up the main-sail and wear ship.” Unfortunately the admiral went into his cabin without sending for the captain, who slept in the ward-room. The moment the admiral had gone in, the officer of the watch ran down to Captain S. M., and mentioned the directions he had received. The captain replied, “It is my positive order you do no such thing without first coming to acquaint me.” The lieutenant of the watch had scarcely got on deck when he saw that a most violent squall, with shift of wind, was about to take place. Down he ran to acquaint his captain, according to orders, but before he could get again upon the deck to give the necessary directions the mischief had been[Pg 99] done: she was taken aback, lost her masts, and was finally abandoned and burnt—all owing to adhering too closely to etiquette. The captain very properly was never employed afterwards.
From Bermuda we sailed to Halifax, where, one afternoon, a man fell from the main-top, and striking first against the main-rigging, then against the spare topsail-yard in the chains, dropped into the sea. Being on deck, I ran to the gangway, and, seeing no time was to be lost, jumped overboard, and, fortunately, getting hold of the man just as he was sinking, I kept him up until a boat was sent to our assistance. His fall having been broken by the main-rigging, previous to his striking the topsail-yard, was probably the cause of his life being saved.
After remaining in port some time, orders arrived from England for the 7th Fusiliers, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Blakeney, to proceed to join the army of Lord Wellington. We embarked the headquarters and four hundred men of this fine regiment. The remainder were sent out in other men-of-war, and, after a passage of three weeks, were landed at Lisbon. The officers were a most pleasant, gentlemanly set of men; but out of the whole of those whom we took thither only the gallant Sir Edward Blakeney (now a Major-General) and another are alive.
After returning to Halifax nothing of interest occurred on the station for the remainder of our time, except that Captain Charles Austen, a very amiable man and excellent officer, who had been placed in[Pg 100] command of the Swiftsure in lieu of Captain Conn, who was drowned, was appointed to the Cleopatra, Captain Lloyd joining the former ship in his stead.
We returned to England in the spring of the year 1811, and the ship was paid off at Chatham.
After a month at home, I took a passage in the Port Mahon, brig, of 18 guns, to Lisbon, and on the 11th of June arrived in the Tagus, and was placed on the Admiralty list for promotion.
Lisbon—Trip to the Army of Lord Wellington—Montemor Novo, O’Rodondo, Villa Vicosa, Elvas, Fort le Lippe.
I was appointed to a ship in the Tagus by the commander-in-chief, Admiral Sir G. Berkeley, whose amiable family treated me with great kindness and attention.
Having but little to do, I passed much time in examining the beautifully situated, but dirty town of Lisbon. If it were not for the scavenger dogs which prowl about and take “pot luck,” the streets would be impassable from filth. Having a brother[I] in the 14th[Pg 102] Dragoons, with the army of Lord Wellington, whom I had not seen for more than seven years, and a remount of horses arriving from England for the regiment, amongst which was one for my brother, I thought it a very good opportunity of going to see him.
The admiral having been so obliging as to grant me a month’s leave of absence, on the 19th of July, I accordingly left Lisbon, placing on the horse a pair of saddle bags, blanket, great coat, sword and pistols, together with some hams and brandy, which I was told would be very acceptable in camp.
After a short ride, I embarked in a Portuguese passage boat, with a motley group of persons. A sail of three hours brought me safe to Aldea Galega, a small town on the southern bank of the Tagus.
I was now about to travel in a strange country. Unable to speak the language, and having no servant to take care of my horse, the troops having gone forward the previous day, I began to fear I should be[Pg 103] placed in some difficulty. Before me was a march of five or six days,—during which my steed would require that care a groom only could bestow,—I determined, however, to push on and trust to fortune, and my Portuguese vocabulary. Looking about the miserable town of Aldea Galega for mules, I was lucky enough to meet with a dismounted dragoon, belonging to the 14th, going to Lisbon, who informed me that the detachment of his regiment, which I ought to have accompanied, had marched from Galega only the day before, and that by my making all haste, I most likely should overtake them in less than forty-eight hours. I pressed this man into my service, went to a commissary, got two mules, on one of which I put my baggage, mounting the soldier, with three days’ rations for myself and cattle, on the other. In the evening we left this town for a place called Pegoeus, twenty miles distant, and after a most disagreeable ride through a long stunted wood, with a heavy sandy soil, in which the horse and mules sank half-way up their knees at every step, a little before midnight reached Pegoeus, a most wretched place, consisting of three miserable dirty hovels, very much resembling cow-houses, into one of which we entered, in order to rest the horse and mules. Sitting down upon my baggage, I loaded my pistols, as the house was full of ill-looking Portuguese and Spanish muleteers and peasantry, nearly all armed, and half drunk, and making a great noise. Some people I was informed had been robbed a few hours before of everything, near this very place. Although very much tired, sleeping was out of the[Pg 104] question; I was therefore glad when daylight arrived. While my cattle were being saddled, I was fain to undress by the road-side, and shake off some score of fleas that were scampering over me in all directions: then mounting my horse, a cool ride of five hours brought me to a small village called Vendas Novas, where I remained a short time to get something to eat, and rest the animals. Here we were fortunate enough to get tea and eggs for breakfast, and I heard to my great joy, that the detachment was only three hours’ march ahead of me. At half-past nine we left this place, and after riding sixteen miles in the heat of the day, almost broiled, reached a tolerably good town called Montemor Novo, built on a hill. At this place are the remains of a Moorish castle.
I joined the troops going to the army under the Hon. Major Butler, with whom I took up my quarters, and the next day sent the dragoon back with the mules. On the following morning at five we marched for a town called Arryoles, where we arrived at ten.
Most of the Portuguese villages and towns in the Alemtejo are dull and uninteresting, at least they appeared so to me. The next morning early, we moved to a small clean town called Vemeiro, only eight miles distant, which, losing our way, we did not reach until noon. I found it very pleasant marching with the troops, not but that it was distressing to put the inhabitants to so much trouble and inconvenience turning them out of their rooms to quarter officers and soldiers in them. It is but justice however to say that the British officers and men generally conducted them[Pg 105]selves with so much propriety, forbearance, and good feeling towards the natives of the different towns where they were billeted, that mutual regrets frequently took place at parting. God forbid, old England ever should be the scene of warfare. Contending armies are one of the greatest scourges with which Divine providence can afflict a nation. Even your allies cannot avoid bringing with them desolation for a time, by destroying crops of all kinds, to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy. In short, ruin and devastation follow in the train of an army, whether friend or foe.
Being near the town of Usagree, in Estramadura, with a brigade of dragoons, I remember seeing whole fields of wheat, &c., cut down and given as green food to the horses of our army. The French being expected almost immediately to occupy the position we were then in, the commanding officer very properly thought it better to secure the grain for ourselves than leave it to fall into the hands of the enemy. A poor old Spaniard came up to the gallant colonel, the late Sir Felton Harvey, and, shaking his grey locks, implored him to spare his only field, which was to preserve himself and family from starving, and which he beheld our troops cutting to feed their horses. The reply was that we were his friends; that we were obliged to take the corn, since our horses must not starve; that, if they did not eat it, those of the French, his mortal enemies, would. The colonel concluded by giving the poor man an order on the commissary to pay him in dollars equal to what had[Pg 106] been taken away. I give this anecdote for the edification of such of my countrymen as are apt, through ignorance, let us hope, to malign the conduct of our soldiers in the Peninsula, and who grudge the officers and men of both army and navy their hard-earned half-pay or pension, a return surely not more than sufficient for averting the horrors of war from the hearths of their fellow subjects.
The constant state of alarm and anxiety that the whole of Spain and Portugal suffered while the contending armies were hovering about was extreme. As long as the British troops occupied their towns and villages, the poor inhabitants knew they had nothing to fear; but the moment the French came, plunder and destruction were the order of the day, and in very many cases, outrages were committed through mere wantonness: houses unroofed, the sides of others stove in, and the furniture destroyed. Our soldiers were the “lion and the lamb”; those of the French, to use Voltaire’s expression, the “tiger and the monkey.”
I was informed at Villa Vicosa, by a genteel Portuguese family, of the continual fear they lived in, and they related to me the following circumstance:—One night the alarm was given that the French were advancing into the town, nearly every person having gone to bed. Immediately all the church bells began tolling to give warning; everyone, even the sick, arose, these latter were put into cars, each person taking what things he could carry with him—one a bed, another articles of clothing, chairs, tables, or whatever else might be useful in their hiding places. After they[Pg 107] had gone a short distance, it was found to be only a false alarm. An enemy’s foraging party had been seen during the evening in the neighbourhood, but had, fortunately for them, taken another direction. At this period our troops were in the north of Portugal, and the French having a strong garrison in Badajoz, used to send out occasionally a marauding party, which caused the above consternation!
We left Vemiero on the 23rd July, and arrived at Estramoy the same day. It is rather a large inland town, and once had been a garrison, the works of the fortifications remained, but the guns had been removed, the city being commanded by an eminence at the back of it still higher than the hill on which it is built. Unlike most other towns in Portugal, it is tolerably clean. On the following morning we marched from hence to a pretty neat little village called O’Rodondo, where we arrived at ten, and I had the pleasure of once more meeting my brother, who had just recovered from a sabre cut in his face, received at the battles of Fuentes d’Onor, which knocked out two of his teeth and split his tongue.
Since we had parted in the year 1804 on the peaceful shores of England, what trials and scenes had we both gone through and witnessed. He had been on the expedition under Sir Samuel Achmuty, at the taking of Monte Video, in South America; in four general actions; the two bloody days of Talavera in 1809; the battle of the Coa, Busaco, Fuentes d’Onor, where he was wounded, besides several warm affairs and skirmishes; and since then he was in the battles[Pg 108] of Llerena, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Orthes, Toulouse, and numerous outpost affairs.
He has lately been sent with Lord William Russell as one of the Lieut.-Colonels employed by our Government as military reporters when Don Pedro returned to Portugal, the events of which period he has published in his “rough leaves.” He at present commands the 15th Hussars, and is with his regiment at Madras, having sailed from Gravesend, with the headquarters of his regiment, on board the Herefordshire, East Indiaman, on the 4th of June, 1839.
I, too, had been tried in fire at Trafalgar, and on various boat expeditions, etc., and had been wounded, and taken prisoner.
We remained at O’Rodondo three days, during which time I rode with my brother to various places in the neighbourhood. On the 28th of July, the regiment moved to Villa Vicosa, where we found some fine infantry regiments preparing for a march to the northward to invest Ciudad Rodrigo.
I liked Villa Vicosa much better than any other town I had yet seen in Portugal, the inhabitants were very civil, and I was introduced to several families, and did hope we should remain here for some days; the country round about it was pleasant, and a park full of deer, belonging to the Prince Regent, used to furnish us occasionally with venison. Those officers who had a regency certificate had permission to shoot in it.
Operations against Ciudad Rodrigo having been determined upon, we only remained here three days,[Pg 109] during which time I visited Elvas, Borba, Alandroal, and other places. From Elvas, I had a very good view of Badajoz, with the river Guadiana, and the surrounding flat country. The town and fortifications of Elvas are well worth seeing, they are on a large scale, and built on a high hill. This being one of the principal frontier towns of Portugal, great pains had been taken by Count Le Lippe[J] to render the works as strong as possible. After he had completed the fortifications, he found it necessary to erect a strong fortress or castle, on a high hill, which commanded the best part of them, and which is considered so strong, that it is supposed to be impregnable; it is named after himself. Report says that a garrison of 15,000 men in Elvas, and 1200 in Fort Le Lippe, with plenty of provisions, would keep those places in defiance of any numbers that might be brought against them.
There is at Elvas a very large, fine, and curious aqueduct, differing from any I had yet seen: it has three tiers of arches, raised one above the other, and of great height.
The French army having made a movement to the northward, orders arrived in the evening for the 14th Dragoons to march at daylight the next morning for Estramoy, where they halted for the night. Next day they moved forward to Frontiera, and from thence to O’Crato, where are the remains of an old Moorish castle. We left this town on the morning of the 5th of August, and on our arrival at the miserable village[Pg 110] of Gafete, my leave of absence having expired, I was obliged, to my great sorrow, to return to Lisbon. So, bidding my brother and friends of the regiment adieu, I struck off for Abrantes, thirty miles distant.
Colonel Hervey very kindly sent a dragoon to escort me thither, the road being rendered dangerous by marauding parties of the natives. I was now mounted upon a nice little French horse. He had belonged to the French 1st Hussars, and had been taken from the enemy in a charge by my brother’s troop. I reached Abrantes by five in the evening, and, having got a tolerable billet and something to eat, was glad to go to rest.
At ten the next morning I quitted Abrantes alone, the soldier having gone back to his regiment, which was ordered to cover the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo.
I had still eighty-four miles to ride to Lisbon, which was not very pleasant to do alone at that period, considering the excited state and wretched poverty of the country.
At sunset I arrived at Santarem, thirty-six miles from Abrantes. This latter is a large, dirty town, standing upon a hill that commands the country around it. The river Tagus runs at its foot, over which is a bridge of boats that can be removed at pleasure. The French marshal, Junot, derived his title from this city.
At Santarem I picked up an English soldier, who undertook the care of my horse. This is a large town. Part of it is built on a high hill: the remainder standing in a valley.
When here last year the French committed great devastation, unroofing some of the houses, and staving in the sides of others, besides plundering and destroying whatever they could lay their hands on.
My billet had been unroofed, and part of its sides were torn down. I found a mattrass spread on the floor, but without the necessary accompaniment of clothes. The fleas, as is usual in such places, were exceedingly troublesome; but, having ridden all day under a hot sun, sleep soon overcame this annoyance, and I remained unconscious of their attacks till seven the next morning, when I arose, and, after taking a refreshing swim in the Tagus in order to get rid of my lively bed-fellows, ate my breakfast, and then rode to Villa Franca, twenty-four miles. The heat of the weather being very great, and my horse loaded with my saddle bags, it was impossible for me to go faster than a walk, so that it was evening before I reached that place.
In the course of the day I passed through several small villages that the French had nearly destroyed. The inhabitants were beginning to return and put the remains of their houses in order.
At Villa Franca I got a tolerably good dinner, but was almost talked to death by the landlady, an Irishwoman, at whose house I had put up, and who inquired the news of the army—what they were about—whither going—where such a regiment was, &c., &c., forgetting that I was tired and wanted rest.
I had ridden, for the first time in my life, more than five hundred miles, and nearly the whole of it in the sun during the hottest part of the day, in the months of July and August, without its doing me the least harm, and never feeling over fatigued.
Lisbon, Cintra, Mafra, etc., 1811, 1812—Second trip to the Army—Taking of Badajoz.
I spent the remainder of the year in the Tagus, making, when duty permitted, excursions up that river to some of the small islands, near Alhandra, where we used to find snipe, quail, and other wild fowl. Sometimes we landed on the south side of the Tagus, to shoot red-legged partridges and woodcocks, which we occasionally met with near the Prince’s Quinta. But the most delightful place for snipe and wild fowl was Loares, on the road towards Torres Vedras: the swamps being there alive with various kinds of them, and amongst others, bittern, kites, hawks, and I have seen, now and then, an osprey.
In March, 1812, I made a very pleasant excursion to Cintra, Mafra, and Colares, with the present Lord By——, and some other officers of the Barfleur. On our road, we went to see the palace of Calous, where, in some of the rooms are, very well painted, the whole of the adventures of Don Quixote.
Cintra, fifteen miles distant from Lisbon, is situated on the north-east side of the rock. It is certainly one of the most romantic places I have seen, and commands[Pg 114] an extensive and beautiful view of the country and of the sea. The buildings most worthy of observation are: first, the Penia convent, rising from the rock of Lisbon; it is about three hundred and twenty years’ old, and is tenanted by three monks. From hence is a fine prospect, comprising Cape Espichel, Peniche, and the Burling islands. Another convent, called the Cork, from its being lined with that wood, built also on the rock, and having fifteen monks for its inmates, next attracts attention. This was founded about three hundred years ago. Beyond, on an extreme point of the rock, are the ruins of a Moorish castle, mosque, prison, and baths: the latter supposed by some to be of Roman origin. The Marquess of Marialva’s palace, where the convention was signed, is very fine, and pleasantly situated.
Rising amongst rocks, and embosomed in orange, lemon, and pomegranate trees, Penia Verde must not pass unnoticed. Its original possessor, Don Juan de Castro, who died a. d. 1723, and whose remains, at his request, were interred in a particular spot in the garden, discovered much of the interior of Brazil: besides being of great use to the Government in several important matters. On his return to Lisbon he petitioned for a pension, which being most ungratefully refused, he so willed his property and possessions as to prevent them in any way benefiting his country, which had turned a deaf ear to his claims for compensation for the services he had rendered her. This fact our guide adduced as a reason for the grounds being found in their wild and neglected condition.
The king’s palace, an old gloomy edifice, did not much take my fancy. What most struck me there was a shower-bath, lined with white marble, or, perhaps, pantiles, and which, on turning a pipe, throws the water in all directions. It not unfrequently happened that visitors were taught a practical lesson of its powers. It used to be a joke to get them to step into the bath room, the machinery was put in motion, and they underwent a good drenching as the reward of their curiosity.
The prince’s palace of Romalyan I thought pretty, and its situation, looking towards Lisbon and the sea, quite delightful. The Marquis of Marialva has other gardens than those adjoining his palace, which we went to see, on account of the figures they contain; amongst them are shoemakers, and an old woman spinning, all as large as life; by touching some wires they are set in motion and immediately begin their work.
We one day rode to the village of Colares, prettily situated near the sea, and famous for its wine, which is so excellent that I am surprised it is not more frequently met with in England; it is something in flavour between claret and burgundy.
In the garden of a Signor Tomazine, at the above place, is a mineral spring, but I am ignorant of its qualities. Would not this afford a capital speculation to an M.D. Let me advise one to analyse the spring, rent it—write a pamphlet upon its good qualities—recommend it strongly for the cure of all kinds of complaints, particularly consumptions and pulmonary[Pg 116] affections. The fine beautiful air of Cintra, and its romantic scenery he could always call in to his aid as a good and faithful ally in all extreme cases; and when he occasionally failed, he might say the case was desperate, and the patient’s time was come. With the assistance above mentioned, he would be sure to effect some cures, and make his fortune; steam vessels would bring him patients and friends to attend them, some of the latter would probably in time fall sick, and, therefore, he might justly calculate upon getting a few of them also on his books as patients. I hope, should any medical gentleman take this hint, he will remember me gratefully in his will, for depend upon it, the speculation will answer much better than many of the railroads.
Before leaving Cintra, on our return to Lisbon, we made an excursion to Mafra to see an eminent building, containing, besides a convent and church, a palace for the king, and another for the queen. I believe that, with the exception of the Escurial in Spain, this is the largest pile of building in Europe. I was told that in one quadrangle alone, the French, previous to the convention, had quartered 15,000 men. From the roof is a fine view of the country for many miles. There is also a topada, or park, of some extent, belonging to it. From the church rises a dome, something like that of St. Paul’s in London. There are likewise two steeples. The interior, which contains some good paintings, and several pieces of sculpture in alto-relief, on scriptural subjects, is well worth inspection. These were executed at Rome, and showed[Pg 117] the hand of a great master. There are also statues of all the saints, in white marble. Its six organs are considered very fine, and according to the padres, the Mafra ring of bells is the best in the world. This palace, at the time we saw it, was the depôt for the formation of the Portuguese army.
I have not dwelt much on Lisbon, a city so generally known, that to notice its public buildings, aqueduct, etc., would be superfluous in a narrative like the present. We had a few slight shocks of an earthquake during the time I was there, which created a little alarm, and caused all the church bells to be set ringing for the people to come to mass.
On the 16th of March I had permission to accompany my brother to his regiment, which was then at Olivença, in Spain, covering the siege of Badajoz. Our route to the army was the same as before, through the Alemtejo to Elvas; we crossed the river Guadiana by the ford of Xerumaha to Olivença, in Estramadura, where the regiment remained until the 4th of April.
Marshal Soult having advanced towards Badajoz to try and raise the siege, the cavalry, both heavy and light, were sent forward as far as Villaloa, Almandralajo, and Villa Franca, to oppose him; some brigades of infantry occupying Albuera on nearly the same spot where Lord Beresford fought the battle.
I remained behind to see the siege, and pay a visit to my old friends of the 7th Fusiliers, with a Captain Daniel Capel, of the 14th. On the 5th of April I went with them to look at the breaching batteries, and to visit an old acquaintance, who had been[Pg 118] wounded the day before by a musket-ball through the side, while doing duty as an engineer in the trenches. Poor fellow! he was afterwards killed on the Pyrenees by lightning; he belonged to the 37th Regiment. I spent a very pleasant day with the Fusiliers, but it was doomed alas! to be the last with several of my gallant friends, and amongst others, poor Saint Pol, who the next night was mortally wounded at the storming of the large breach.
On my return, late in the evening, to my quarters at Olivença, what with the haze in my head, occasioned by wine, the foggy state of the evening, the smoke from the fire of the different batteries, the captain of dragoons and myself lost each other, and our way. By mistake my horse, who had been taken from the enemy, took the wrong road, and instead of going to the left, towards a ford that we had to cross at some distance in rear of the camp, he chose to take me to the foot of the bridge leading to Badajoz, where the enemy had a cavalry picket; fortunately for me, we had a strong covering party of the 43rd Regiment lying down on the ground. Being unable to give the countersign, these were going to shoot me for a French officer. They seized my steed, and knocked me off his back with the butt end of a musket. I was dragged on the ground back to the camp, where I had to encounter the jokes of my friends, softened it is true by sincere congratulations on my escape. My horse, whose head had been turned from Badajoz, got loose, and managed to find his way back to Olivença, where I was lucky enough to find him the next day; for[Pg 119] sometimes lost horses were borrowed to carry baggage, commissary stores, or other articles, and they undergoing various metamorphoses, such as cropping the ears and tails, with other little changes in their appearances, the lawful owners could with great difficulty recognise their own steeds.
These slight-of-hand tricks used occasionally to be played; and with an army consisting of so many thousand troops, composed of various nations, and covering a vast extent of country, it was not a very easy matter to trace a lost animal, whether horse, mule, or donkey.
On the evening of the 6th, Badajoz was stormed and taken. No other troops in the world could have carried a citadel so strong, and so manfully defended; they behaved most nobly, in spite of death and destruction, which were dealt around with no sparing hand.
Our army was indeed a gallant band of warriors, such as we shall never see again; such as the world probably will never again produce.
Having rejoined the 14th Dragoons at Valverde, I proceeded with them to the several towns of Almendrab, Santa Martha, Villalva, Villa Franca, Fuente de Meastro, Rebeiro, and nearly to Usagre. Marshal Soult pushed forward his cavalry, and some outpost skirmishing took place. Near Villa Franca, the 12th, 14th, and 16th Light Dragoons, with six regiments of heavy horse, having joined and drawn up, we expected a general cavalry action. It passed over, however, with some skirmishing in front with a numerous body[Pg 120] of the enemy’s dragoons, who manœuvred to cover the retreat of their army.
I recollect one of Soult’s scouts, a Spaniard, being taken by a patrol of the 14th Dragoons. This fellow was observed stealing, under cover of night, in the direction of our pickets, when he was seized and brought in. Being threatened with instant death unless he gave up his despatch, he fell on his knees and implored for mercy, directing the officer to cut the third leather button from his coat, when he would find what he demanded. On taking off the button, a tiny slip of paper was discovered, on which was written these words, “Hold out: I am coming.” I saw this morceau; it was short and to the purpose. It had been sent by the marshal to the governor of Badajoz.
My leave of absence having expired, I was obliged to return towards Lisbon. I had been all day with my brother on the advanced picket, looking at our videttes and those of the French, near Usagre, when, having laid down in my clothes to get a little rest, orders arrived to again advance. No engagement, however, being expected, I was advised to remain where I was for the night, and to set out in the morning on my route for the Tagus.
Next day, whilst quietly retracing my steps thither, a brilliant cavalry affair took place near the above-named town and Llerena, when the French were completely routed, and many prisoners made. I was sorry I had not remained to witness the rencontre, but consoled myself with the reflection that I had pro[Pg 121]bably been saved a broken head, where I should have gained neither credit nor thanks.
The second day after leaving the army I reached Badajoz, and went over the defences of that city, which bore strongly the marks of recent strife. Not the least affecting evidence of mortal affray were the bodies of several of my gallant countrymen floating in the ditch, and which people were employed in removing in order to their being buried. The more I examined the works, the greater my astonishment at the bravery and perseverance of our troops. By one unacquainted with military tactics, time alone would have been pronounced capable of effecting the ruin before him. He could never have conceived it possible that walls so apparently impregnable would have yielded to the force of a besieging army. But for the escalade, indeed, failure had been inevitable where success was now complete, insured as it had been by immense sacrifice of life.
My road from Badajoz lay through Olivença, where I crossed the river Guadiana to Xerumaha, and proceeded thence to Villa Vicosa and San Miguel de Mechada, where I fell in with some French prisoners marching, under a strong escort, to Lisbon. They had formed part of a division, under General Girard, when he was surprised and routed by the gallant Sir Rowland Hill near Miranda.
The fifth day brought me to Evora, where, announcing to the inhabitants glad tidings of victory, I got an excellent billet at the house of a padre, who gave me the best dinner and bed I had had for some time.
Evora, the capital of the Alemtejo, is a fine old town, and has still visible the remains of a Roman wall. Here, too, is the aqueduct, built by the General Sertorius, which is in tolerable repair after the lapse of so many ages. This place is fortified, and contains an episcopal palace.
Time pressing, I set forward the next morning, my friend, the priest, having obtained an order from the Juis de Fori for a muleteer to attend me, and convey my baggage on a mule. The fellow turned rather sulky, so much so that I was obliged to drive him on with my pistol to Vendas Novas, where, after a hot ride of thirty-six miles, I had to sit up all night to guard my baggage and prevent the rascal running away, such I had been informed being his intention the moment I had gone to bed. The window of my room looking into the street, I told my friend that if he attempted to escape I would shoot him on the spot. This had the desired effect, and next morning I proceeded, still driving the Spaniard on before me, to that dirty place, Pegoeus, where, falling in with a party of English soldiers, I gave him in charge to them.
The following day I arrived, after a ride of five hours, at Aldea Galega, where, dismissing my muleteer, who made many humble apologies for his behaviour, I embarked in the ferry-boat, and crossed over to Lisbon. The fellow, it appeared, was fearful of being again pressed at Aldea Galega into the service of the commissaries to carry stores or provisions to the army.
Captain Hood Linze, of H.M.S. Ocean (98), being obliged to invalid on account of a severe wound from the stab of a madman, I was, on the 11th June, 1812, appointed acting commander of H.M.S. Brune.
Cadiz, Minorca, Majorca, Alicant, Carthagena, Algiers, Oran, Altea Bay—Drive a French Privateer on shore near Denia.
On the 13th of June I sailed in H.M. Ship Brune for Cadiz, at that time besieged by Marshal Soult. I waited on Admiral Legg, and our ambassador (Sir Henry Willesley), and delivered my despatches, and, after remaining there two days, proceeded to Gibraltar and Minorca, where I was placed under the orders of Rear-Admiral Benjamin Hallowell, who, on the 4th July, sent me to Palma Bay, Majorca, to collect Spanish troops, and embark them on board transports and the Brune. After making two or three trips between the two above-named islands, I embarked Major-General Whittingham’s brigade of Spanish troops, who were not a bad-looking body of men.
I dined occasionally with his Excellency the Governor-General of the Balearic islands, the Marquis de Coupigny, who was a very pleasant, gentlemanly person, and at whose table I met several of the Spanish noblesse, who had taken refuge at Palma during the troubles on the continent.
I observed that smoking was not uncommon with the Spanish ladies. Whence this custom originated[Pg 125] it is perhaps difficult to determine, unless, indeed, the habit of using tobacco—to which the other sex are immoderately addicted—has gradually, from social motives, been adopted by the fair; for we can hardly suppose that a practice so generally reprobated by them should at once be resorted to by ladies as a recreation, or even solace. The compliment, if such it be, ought to be duly appreciated by their husbands. But what will not woman do or suffer to conduce to the comfort or to mitigate the care of him she loves!
In Spain are to be seen beautiful women in every rank of life, with very fine eyes, pretty feet and hands. They generally carry a fan—a most useful auxiliary whilst conversing; indeed, they would be hardly able to talk without one. Their dress is calculated to set off a good figure and fine features to great advantage.
After embarking the brigade of General Whittingham, we proceeded to Alicant. The castle and fortress of this place make a figure in history, particularly during the war of succession, and bring to remembrance the brave and chivalric conduct of the Earl of Peterborough. The anchorage in the bay is good, and, with a long scope of cable, ships may ride out a heavy gale with the wind in, for the under-tow is so great that you ride with little strain on the cables.
After the battle of Salamanca, Soult, thinking his situation before Cadiz insecure, raised the siege, and retired into the interior; but it being doubtful whether he might not make a dash at Carthagena, Rear-Admiral Sir Sidney Smith proceeded thither from[Pg 126] Gibraltar in the Tremendous (74), to communicate with the general commanding our army at Alicant and Rear-Admiral Hallowell on the subject. I was, therefore, sent thither with two Spanish regiments, embarked on board transports, to be ready to act in case of necessity, but with orders on no account to land the troops, unless the place was threatened, as a bad periodical yellow fever was raging in the town with great violence. The gallant admiral (Sir Sidney Smith), however, would take me on shore to show me the best places to plant cannon and take up position in case of attack. After this, we must go to the hospital to inquire into the nature of the fever, &c. Every now and then he gave me a pinch of snuff, telling me not to swallow my saliva, and there would be no danger of catching the disease. In the course of a week I was attacked by fever, but, being in the outer roadstead, the fresh air probably prevented its attaining that malignancy it had reached in the town, but it was some weeks before I perfectly recovered.
The Tremendous (74), with the admiral, sailed the day after our visit to the city to join the fleet off Toulon. Several other men-of-war arrived in the course of a few days with more troops from headquarters. Whether Soult was deterred by the sickness prevailing in the place, or had heard of the reinforcements, he passed on his route, and we all returned to Alicant.
Shortly after, I was sent to Altea Bay, to lie there and protect any transports that might arrive to procure water.
During my stay there the French sent a detachment of three hundred infantry and a squadron of cavalry from Denia to forage and levy contributions. Having only my own ship’s company—which altogether, men and boys, amounted to only one hundred and forty—it was impossible for me to land and fight them, but by making a show with our boats, and firing a few shots, we dislodged them from the town, and prevented their plundering it or getting any contributions from the inhabitants. They succeeded, however, in our neighbourhood, and in the course of a couple of days collected a quantity of forage, &c., and retired upon Denia.
Within one day’s march of Altea was a Spanish division of troops, to whom I immediately sent the moment intelligence of the enemy’s intention of paying us a visit reached me.
The officer I dispatched got to them the same evening, and returned back the following morning, three hours before the arrival of the enemy. The Spaniards, with their usual alertness, sent two regiments—about twelve hundred men—exactly five days after the French had retired.
On the 8th of December, 1812, a convoy of transports were placed under my orders to proceed to Oran, on the coast of Barbary, to procure corn and bullocks for the army and navy, but heavy gales from the S.W. obliged us to run into the bay of Algiers, where we remained about a fortnight.
Our consul, Mr. MacDonald, was extremely civil, and occasionally I slept at his country house, a few[Pg 128] miles out of the town; but being unaccustomed to the noise of the jackals that came nightly to the very walls of his yard in search of food, I was frequently disturbed by them.
The Dey of Algiers ordered us a daily supply of fresh provisions and vegetables. On my departure I proffered my services to take whatever his Highness might have to send to his servant, the Bey of Oran. He thanked me, through our consul, and requested me to take a stone coffin for the Bey’s son, which I delivered safe. The Dey was so much indisposed during my stay that I was unable to obtain an audience. We had a great deal of saluting—twenty-one guns on anchoring—twenty-one guns on landing; three guns whenever he sent off his present of fresh meat and vegetables, which latter was considered in the light of three salaams.
After a passage of two days from Algiers, we reached the fine, safe bay of Marsalquiver, three miles from the town of Oran, where all ships anchor in winter, it being nearly land-locked.
No time was lost in having an interview with the Bey, who was civil; but I had a long discussion previously with his guards, who refused me admittance to his presence unless I took off my boots, and employed menaces to enforce their demands. However, finding me obstinate, and our vice-consul, who was a Spaniard, telling them I had come from Algiers with a present from his Highness the Dey, they permitted me to pass, and I never was troubled afterwards.
The Bey was a venerable-looking man, of about sixty-five years of age, thin, and of middle stature, with a fine, long, white beard, hard features, but a scowl upon his countenance that showed he could, when he thought proper, play the tiger.
He promised the supplies I requested in ten days, said he wished to be on the best terms with the English, and thanked me for bringing the stone coffin for his son’s tomb; gave me coffee without sugar, and a pipe to smoke, and appeared much amused with my awkward manner of sitting cross-legged like a Turk.
He was surrounded by his principal officers, in full dress, with silver-gilt swords and pistols in their girdles.
The admiral or captain of the port was a handsome, mild, gentlemanly person. The old Bey, the morning of my arrival, had been administering summary justice, for on my going into the market-place I saw three ill-looking Moors hanging by the neck. It is not the fashion in Barbary to place caps over the criminals’ faces before they are executed. Upon inquiring what those three wretches had been doing, the vice-consul gave me the following account:—“A Moorish merchant, with a special passport from the Bey, had permission to travel into the interior to traffic, when he and his party were waylaid on the mountains, robbed, and all, except one, murdered. The person who escaped immediately informed the proper authorities, who reported it to the Bey. A body of troops was instantly sent to the mountains, who[Pg 130] arrested all the chiefs of the tribes, and brought them before his Highness. He, looking at them sternly, said, ‘On such a day a merchant from my city, with my passport, was murdered and robbed on the mountains. If in three days from this time you do not bring before me the whole of the offenders, your own heads shall answer for it. Begone!’ In less than forty-eight hours eleven fellows were brought in, and led directly to the palace. The Bey demanded who committed the murder. Three men were pointed out. They did not deny it. ‘Very well,’ said the Bey, ‘take these men, and instantly hang them up in the market-place.’ Three others, who had been most active in plundering, had their right hands cut off, and the remaining five received each from three to five hundred bastinadoes on the soles of their feet.” The third evening, at sunset, the murderers were cut down and buried.
They have a very expeditious way of staunching the blood after amputation. The stumps of the arms are plunged into a kind of boiling pitch, which has the effect of searing the arteries. Over this is placed a dressing and bladder, when the sufferers are turned out.
I used to go occasionally, with our vice-consul and some of my own officers, out shooting. We always found the people tolerably civil—except the boys, who used to abuse and spit at us, calling us, amongst other names, Christian dogs. Now and then we got a shove and a sly stone.
Coming home one evening from an excursion to a small lake, about sixteen miles distant, where we had[Pg 131] been for the purpose of shooting flamingos, &c., we got into a serious scrape, owing to a young commissary having taken his servant, a Portuguese boy, with him, who did not understand managing a horse.
We had ridden fast across the country from the lake to get back before the gates of Oran were shut, which they always were at sunset, when, just as we were entering the town and trotting on, we met a party of Turkish and Moorish boys, who tried to frighten our horses by throwing up their loose garments in the animals’ faces, and making a great noise. All our horses stood this, except the one on which the servant boy was mounted, which reared up, and, dashing forward, knocked down with his fore feet one of the young Turks who had been most forward in the mischief. His head was a good deal cut, and bled profusely. We should have said he was very justly served. Not so the Moors and Kabiles. A hue and cry was instantly raised, and we were followed by a mob, demanding the life of the poor Portuguese for having, he being a Christian, drawn the blood of a true follower of the prophet. Pushing on to the vice-consul’s, we jumped off our horses, shoved in the young Portuguese, and locked and barricaded the doors. The Moors and Kabiles surrounded the house, making a great clamour, insisting that the servant should be immediately given up and put to death. Nothing but their fear of the English prevented them breaking into the place. We hoisted our colours on the flagstaff at the consul’s house, when it was considered a fortress, and respected accordingly.
In a city like Oran, where each man is a spy on his neighbour, the news was fortunately not long in reaching the ears of the Bey, who, on the first intimation of the danger that threatened the consul’s residence, sent down a party of troops, with the captain of the port, to restore order, and act as circumstances might require. Some management was necessary to get the captain of the port into the house, as also to keep out the Moors, who, had they laid hold of the boy, would certainly have murdered him.
We at length succeeded, and then explained that, returning from shooting, we had ridden full trot into the town in order to get home before the gates were closed at sunset, clearly showing that but for the boys frightening our horses no harm could possibly have happened. He said that he did not in the least doubt the truth of our story, but should the boy die,—accidents not being provided against in their code of laws,—nothing short of the death of the Portuguese lad would appease the populace, since blood, and Turkish blood, too, had been spilt.
I proposed putting on my uniform and attending the vice-consul and captain of the port to the palace, which was done. Passing through the crowd was not very agreeable, but, under the protection of a guard, we reached our destination in safety.
The old Bey laid down the Moorish law with great clearness, arguing the point calmly, and evidently with a friendly feeling towards us.
He had been making enquiries, he said, and had[Pg 133] found our account of the transaction to be quite correct; that he knew the Turkish boy was a great rascal, and though he had been rightly served, it would be difficult to pacify the Moors, especially since the offender was not an Englishman. “True,” I replied; “but he is a subject of our ally, and under my protection, and nothing but extreme necessity shall compel me to give him up.” “Keep him out of sight,” replied his Highness, “and never again let eyes be cast on him in this place, or I will not be answerable for his life. Come here to-morrow.”
We returned to the consul’s, and the captain of the port dispersed the mob, assuring them the Bey would take care that justice was done. With the morning’s dawn again came our clamorous foes; but having in the meantime had communication, through our friend the captain of the port, with the boy’s parents, we had learned there was no fear of the young Turk dying, who, though he had received a severe cut and some bruises, was doing well. A hint, too, was given us that a few dollars would assist to heal the wound and soften the rigour of justice. We went early next morning to the palace, when the Bey informed us of what we already knew, that the boy would not die from the injuries he had sustained. Then entering into conversation, “Consider,” said he, “if a like event had happened to you in a town in England? You knew it was wrong to ride fast near a populous town.” We pleaded our apprehensions of being locked out all night. “You ought to have come home sooner then; but to return to my first question. If in your own[Pg 134] country such an accident had happened, what would be the consequence?” I replied that we should have had to pay the doctor’s bill, and in the case of a poor person to give something extra to the parents for the loss of time in nursing him. “Very well, then, you shall do the same here; but, take my advice, never ride fast through a large town again, and smuggle your Portuguese off to the ships for fear of accident;” which I did the earliest opportunity. The Bey then said, “Who furnished you with horses?” The vice-consul informed him. “What! my slave? they were mine, and the fellow had let them to you without my leave; he has been the cause of the whole. Here,”—clapping his hands, that an officer might come,—“go directly and give my groom five hundred bastinadoes for letting out my horses without asking my permission.” Making our bows we retired, when just outside the door we met Achmet the groom in the hands of two fierce looking Moorish officers of justice, taking him to the market-place to undergo his punishment. He fell on his knees, and implored us to ask his master to pardon him. We stopped the officers of vengeance, and after a little solicitation, the Bey listened to our request, and the man was pardoned, who, when he met us, wanted to kiss our feet for saving him from being bastinadoed. I believe the fellow was a rogue, who intended to pocket the money, thinking his master would not find him out. Thus ended the affair, the commissary paying sixty Spanish dollars to the mother of the young vagabond.
Having embarked our supplies for the army, we[Pg 135] returned to Alicant with the convoy, and the 21st of January, 1813, proceeded to Gibraltar to refit, where we remained three weeks, and then rejoined Rear-Admiral Hallowell, who sent us to our old station in Altea Bay,[K] and from thence to cruize off Denia, near which place we drove a French felucca privateer on shore, mounting two brass nine-pounders and swivels, with small arms, and bilged her. Our next destination was another trip to Oran, on the coast of Barbary, with four transports, for cattle and corn. We had a capital run there and back with our live cargo.
Siege of the Col de Balaguer—A Reconnoitering Party—Raising of the Siege of Tarragona—Lieutenant-General Sir John and Lady Murray—Rear-Admiral Benjamin Hallowell—Viscount and Viscountess Mahon—Palermo, Veniros; upset in a boat—Valencia—Holland.
Towards the end of May, 1813, embarking 300 men of the 67th Regiment, under Colonel Prevost, an officer who had distinguished himself at the battle of Barrosa, we sailed with the expedition from Alicant to lay siege to the castle of the Col de Balaguer and the city of Tarragona. The land forces, under the command of Lieut.-General Sir John Murray, consisted of about 20,000 men, but, unfortunately, not more than 5000 were British and Germans, the rest being Spaniards and Sicilians. The naval part was under the orders of that intelligent and indefatigable officer, Rear-Admiral Benjamin Hallowell.
On the 3rd of June, when off the castle of the Col de Balaguer, the whole of the 67th Regiment, with Rolle’s and Dillon’s, and a company of artillery, making together about 900 men, were ordered to invest it. The navy was placed under the command of the gallant Captain Charles Adams, of the Invincible (74), by whose great exertions the troops, guns, and[Pg 137] stores were soon landed, and who personally superintended every difficult and dangerous undertaking during the siege. Captain Carroll, of the Volcano, was landed to assist troops, and a more intrepid and excellent officer could not have been selected.
The fortress was situated on a high hill, in a most difficult pass, through which winds the main road from Tortosa to Tarragona. It was armed with twelve heavy pieces, two ten-inch mortars, two howitzers, and had a garrison of more than a hundred men. Its elevated position, and surrounding heights, difficult of access, required the greatest labour to drag up the guns and mortars necessary to establish our batteries. No time, however, was to be lost; Marshal Suchet, with 10,000 men, being in full march from the neighbourhood of Valencia to relieve it, and succour Tarragona.
After a siege of five days the place surrendered. I had the pleasure of assisting, with a party of seamen, to form the mortar battery, which was no sooner opened than the shells were thrown with such precision by the artillery that an expense magazine was blown up in the castle, which, just as our breaching battery was about to open, capitulated. An artilleryman and myself had a most providential escape. Being very busy placing sand bags on the battery, on the morning of the 8th, just before day-break, down came three of the enemy’s shells. I ordered the working party to get behind the sand bags, and lie flat on their faces to avoid the splinters. One shell from an howitzer exploded behind us; two ten-inch followed, one fell about a couple of yards in front of me and the artilleryman,[Pg 138] which made us both jump to get out of its way, when down came the second on the other side of us. The man called out very coolly—“I’ll be d—— if we are not done now!” After falling on the ground both fuses went out, and, much to our satisfaction, the shells, of course, did not explode.
Captain Stodart, of the Strombolo, a brave officer, was employed to form the breaching battery, and Lieutenants Corbyn and P——, of H.M.S. Invincible, worked like slaves with their party to drag the heavy guns up hills, or what in England would be called mountains, by tackles and purchases.
The commander of the French fort was perfectly astonished to see the places the guns had been dragged up in so short a time; and Suchet, who calculated upon its holding out ten days, was in a great rage when he heard it had been taken in five. I have his address to his corps upon the subject by me now, in which he informs his army “that a military commission will sit upon the conduct of the commander of the fortress of Balaguer.”
We had done our part, and were looking for intelligence from our army before Tarragona with anxiety, as we could at night see the shells in the air, and hear the firing on both sides.
Colonel Prevost, and Captain Charles Adam, of the Invincible, thinking it advisable to make a reconnaissance towards Tortosa to gain intelligence of the advance of the French marshal (for the information we got from the Spaniards was so vague that we could place no dependence upon it), on the morning[Pg 139] of the 9th of June they, in company with Lieutenant-Colonel Hamilton, Captain Arabin (Royal Artillery), Captain Du Cane, of the 20th Light Dragoons, with four of his men and myself, started from the castle we had taken, at three in the morning, all well mounted, to try and get a peep into Tortosa, about twenty miles from Balaguer, and where it was reported Suchet was to arrive in the course of the day.
After a pleasant ride of about sixteen miles, and as we had just got a glimpse of Tortosa, on reaching the summit of a hill we all at once entered a serpentine road, surrounded by high banks and ravines, which completely prevented our seeing beyond a short distance. Jogging on quietly, we met an old Spanish woman thumping two mules past us as hard as she could, calling out, “Los Franceses, los Franceses,” but not a word more could we get out of the signora. We, therefore, rode on to the next turn of the road, when, just at the corner, plump we came upon the advance guard of the French army, a regiment of cuirassiers. They for a moment stopped their horses, being as much surprised to see us as we were to meet them. With one glance they saw who we were—out came their carbines and swords—pop, pop, and a charge, which knocked over one of our dragoons, and “sauve qui peut,” or the devil take the hindmost, became the order of the day. Away we scampered—they after us, with a regular view halloa, and a flourish of French fashionable words, but not of the most select phraseology. Reader, if you wish to know them, I refer you to the scene of Madame[Pg 140] Rambouillet and the Novice in Sterne’s “Sentimental Journey.” After a capital gallop of four miles, we regularly beat them, with the loss of only one of our party, who in the charge was knocked head over heels and taken prisoner. Luckily for us we had left a corporal’s guard of the 20th Light Dragoons about four miles in our rear upon a steep eminence, which commanded a good view of part of the road. The corporal, seeing how matters stood, and that we were coming back a deuced deal faster than we went, with a French regiment of cavalry after us, very cleverly came trotting up, and showed himself at the top of the hill with his men. The enemy, thinking we had a strong body of cavalry there, pulled up their horses and gave over the chase.
Our ride had not been for nothing—we had had a good gallop, and found out where our neighbours were, who towards evening drove in our picket of dragoons, and established themselves not far from us.
News was immediately sent to Lieutenant-General Sir John Murray, who was before Tarragona, of the arrival of the French army in our neighbourhood.
Our situation was strong, and having the castle, which commanded the road, neither cannon nor cavalry could pass from Tortosa. Marshal Suchet came the next day and had a peep at the fortress, sent some light troops across the mountains to feel us, and halted his army a few miles off.
Lieutenant-General Sir John Murray, as I said before, had nearly 20,000 men, but, unfortunately for him, only 5000 were British and Germans—the rest[Pg 141] Spaniards and Sicilians, on whom he could place no dependence in the hour of need—otherwise no general ever had a better opportunity of beating a divided army.
We had stopped Suchet, with his 10,000 men, from advancing on the Valencia side by the capture of the castle of Col de Balaguer: therefore he would only have had to cope with the Barcelona corps of 8000, and the Lerida of 2000 men, so that, after leaving a sufficient number of men to carry on the siege for a day or two, which the rear-admiral even offered to do with the sailors and marines alone, he might have beaten the enemy in detail. I am speaking, supposing he had had 16,000 or 20,000 British or German soldiers; but really with such a set, strong in point of numbers, but wanting the vigour and bottom of English troops, it certainly would have been running a great risk, and he had not the nerve to attempt it.
Great blame was attached to the general for embarking in such a hurry, and leaving his guns and stores behind. The gallant, clever naval chief felt it most severely, fearing lest any blame should be attached to him for not taking on board the stores and artillery: he, therefore, remonstrated very warmly upon the subject, but it was in vain.
The whole may be summed up in a few words. Marshal Suchet retired to Tortosa—the Lerida corps back to their old quarters—the Barcelona retrograded also—the Anglo-Spanish and Sicilian army embarked in a hurry—we blew up the castle of Balaguer that[Pg 142] had been taken—the French garrison of Tarragona sallied forth, took all our battering train and stores, which we had been collecting, at a great expense, for months before, into the town, and played checkmate with the guns that had taken Badajos, for it was the same train. In short, all the troops ran away from each other the same day.
No sooner was the army embarked than the commander of the forces, learning that the French corps had retired, requested they might be re-landed the next day, which was complied with, but it was then too late—we had lost our battering guns and stores, and nothing could be done.
Lieutenant-General Lord William Bentinck arrived shortly afterwards, the troops were again embarked, and I was ordered to proceed to Alicant and take on board Sir John and Lady Murray, and convey them to Palermo, he being appointed to the command of the forces there.
I found the Honourable Lady John Murray a most agreeable, clever, sensible, pleasant woman, and Lieutenant-General Sir John Murray a very amiable man in private life, and although much condemned at the time for not fighting Marshal Suchet and taking Tarragona, yet neither those who had the command of the army previous to him, nor General Lord William Bentinck, who took the command of the troops from Sir John Murray, gained more laurels or succeeded much better than he did.
Having landed my passengers at Palermo, I embarked three hundred of the 44th Regiment to join the army of Lord William Bentinck on the coast of Catalonia. I met at the above city Viscount and Viscountess Mahon, with their two children, fine boys of ten and eleven years’ old. His lordship wished to go to Minorca, and, as we had orders to touch there, I had much pleasure in giving them a passage.
On our arrival at Port Mahon we were placed under quarantine, which prevented my landing Lord and Lady Mahon and family. The accommodation being not suited to ladies at the lazaretto, I was delighted when my amiable passengers made up their minds to remain on board.
Having received orders to proceed to the coast of Catalonia with the troops, we sailed at the end of August for the mouth of the river Ebro, but, not finding the expedition there, we shaped our course for Tarragona, and on the 4th of September joined the admiral, who directed me to land the 44th Regiment at Villa Nova. The town of Villa Nova and the village of Veneros nearly join. There is an open roadstead for ships, and the winds from the S.E. to S.W. throw in a heavy swell upon the bar and beach. The holding ground is good, and numerous vessels during many parts of the year arrive for the purpose of shipping wine, which is either rafted off or taken on board in the country boats. The wine is most excellent, and of different kinds, both white and red.[Pg 144] The latter is so good, and so much resembles port, that when I was there ten ships and brigs were lying in the roads taking it in, to be landed at Oporto, and converted into port wine for the English market. I was informed that there were annually sent from this place to Portugal ten thousand pipes. Another very pleasant wine there was, “Alba Flora,” besides sweet wines of various kinds, one of which had the sparkling qualities of champagne.
It had been blowing strong from the southward previous to our arrival, and the swell had not gone down.
Between the ships and the landing-place was a bar, on which the sea broke with great violence, and which boats had to pass. Those belonging to the country being well calculated for going through the breakers, and whose crews were acquainted with the place, dashed through the surf extremely well.
I thought that by following them in my shell of a gig, and waiting for a smooth, after three successive waves had broken upon the bar, I might get safe also; but I was soon taught a different lesson—the sea was more nimble than the gig, and although the men pulled to the utmost to go faster than the breakers, yet they beat us hollow, and taking the boat up on one of their white tops, spun us over in a moment. Fortunately we had not far to swim, and as soon as the waves had beaten us over the bar we got into quite smooth water, when, sticking to the boat and oars, we soon reached the shore, though not without a precious good ducking. We had, unfortunately, the viscountess’s poor abigail[Pg 145] in the boat, who never before had had such a swim in salt water, so it was something new to her, and gave her an opportunity of adding a paragraph to her letter when she wrote home, describing her foreign travels by sea, land, and under the water. She was nearly drowned, poor thing! but keeping her on her back we swam with her ashore. She was carried to a Spanish house, wrapped up in blankets, where a few drops of comfort in the shape of brandy, and some hours’ repose, made her as lively as a lark again.
By the way of drying myself, and getting the salt water out of me, I mounted a mule, and rode to Villa Franca, the head-quarters of our army, distant about thirteen miles, to see some old military friends.
The country around was very pretty, and we had a fine view of the celebrated Mount Serrat, rising from a plain in numerous mountains and spires,[L] with convents upon them; but the whole of that part of the country was forbidden ground, being occupied by the French army. On my return in the evening I visited my water-nymph, and was happy to find her quite recovered from the severe morning’s ducking. I offered to take her off again with me in the gig, which she, like a wise woman, declined; being a novice in the art of swimming, and not liking the first lesson I gave her, she preferred returning to the ship next day in a country boat. The day having turned out fine, the swell towards evening had somewhat gone down, though it was still so great that I was nearly swamped going back to the ship.
On taking leave of the gallant Rear-Admiral Benjamin Hallowell next day, he gave me a letter of thanks, and did me the honour to say he was sorry to part with me; the regrets were mutual, for it was a pleasure to be under the command of an officer of his abilities and experience. He has not many months ago paid the debt of nature, full of years and honours, beloved and respected by all who knew him, and generally regretted by the service. He was one of those
Such men as Lords Howe, Duncan, St. Vincent, Nelson, Saumarez, Keats, Hallowell, &c., are not mushrooms of a day’s growth, but the experience of a long and hazardous service in all parts of the world had braced their nerves and trained their minds to the task, which they performed with such credit to themselves and honour and glory to their country.
On the 8th September we sailed from this anchorage for Tarragona, which place the French had evacuated, having first destroyed most of the guns and blown up part of the fortifications. Everything looked miserable and wretched in the extreme. Many of the houses were knocked to pieces, and the poor inhabitants, returning back to view the birthplaces of themselves and ancestors, found them reduced to a heap of ruins. I rode with my agreeable passengers to Reus, the second largest town in the province of Catalonia, where we dined after the Spanish fashion upon olla podrida, and other messes, stuffed full of garlic and[Pg 147] bad oil. After walking about the town, and looking at a handsome church, the windows of which were of stained glass, we returned on board and sailed for Valencia. The peasantry of this province and of Catalonia are as fine a race of men as I ever saw in any country—tall, strong, and well made.
On the 15th September we anchored off the Grao de Valencia, and the next morning communicated with our consul according to orders, and landed Viscount and Viscountess Mahon and family, who took up their abode with Mr. Tupper, our representative, who was very civil and polite, and showed us the lions of the city. The cathedral was very fine, from the top of which we had a most magnificent view of a very fertile valley, producing rice, maize, flax, and other grain, besides almond and vine trees, the latter covered with beautiful purple and white grapes.
A small river runs past Valencia, over which are two tolerably fine stone bridges. We had a view also of the lake of Albufera, from which the French marshal, Suchet, derives his dukedom.
Valencia is one of the best towns I have seen in Spain, and the road from the grao, or beach, is extremely pretty, having trees planted on each side, to afford shelter from the sun. Neat little thatched cottages, scattered here and there, put me for a short time in mind of England.
After dinner at the consul’s, which was served up in the Spanish style, we went to the opera, and sat in a box with some pretty Spanish ladies, friends of Mr. Tupper. The opera was in honour of the Marquis[Pg 148] of Wellington. It represented the Spaniards driving the Moors out of Spain; afterwards we had a fandango, and the whole concluded with a farce, the subject taken from Gil Blas, where he entertains at supper the sycophant.
Having re-embarked Viscount and Viscountess Mahon, I sailed for Altea Bay to complete our water. Altea has an export trade of almonds and raisins; several vessels during the summer and autumn months call there for a cargo. The anchorage is good, and sheltered from most winds, except those from south-east by east to south-south-west, which seldom blow direct on shore. I rode out several heavy gales there in the frigate I commanded, by giving her nearly two cables.
From this place we proceeded to Alicant, where we landed some stores for the garrison; and after showing the Viscount and his amiable lady the celebrated castle, we went to Gibraltar, where we unfortunately found the yellow fever raging to that degree amongst the inhabitants, that all intercourse was forbidden. The garrison was encamped on Europe Point, for the benefit of more air.
On the 5th October we sailed for England, touching at Lisbon on our way, and after a stormy passage of three weeks anchored in Plymouth Sound, from which place we were sent to the Motherbank to perform three weeks’ quarantine. On the 20th of November we moved to Spithead, where I landed my most agreeable and pleasant passengers with very great regret. I had had them on board for more than three months, so[Pg 149] that my cabin felt quite a desert without their society.
After being detained at Portsmouth a few days, we proceeded to the Downs, and on the 14th December between six and seven hundred of His Majesty’s 37th and 56th Regiments were sent on board, with orders from Admiral Foley for me to land them at Goree, or the Brill, or Helveot Sluys; but owing to the winds and tide we were unable to fetch either. I therefore anchored off Schevelling, and communicated with our ambassador, Lord Clancarty, at the Hague, who desired the troops to be landed at the village of Schevelling. His excellency wishing to see me at the Hague, I went there to wait upon his lordship.
The little I was enabled to see of Dutchland, gave me a favourable opinion of the cleanliness of its people; and the neat pretty cottages from the beach to the city struck me as being particularly picturesque. Schevelling itself is nothing but a fishing place amongst sand hills; but the town of the Hague was neat, and in summer must be a pleasant place. But as the severe winter of 1813 was just commencing, I was obliged to hurry off from the coast as fast as possible, for fear of being caught upon a lee shore.
On our passage back to the Downs, the two branch pilots very nearly ran the ship upon the Galloper Sands in a fog, which obliged us to anchor off the light for a tide. The next day, however, we arrived safely in the Downs, and from thence we were sent to Sheerness to be docked and refitted.
1814—Sent to Bermuda—Operations in the Chesapeake—The River Patuxent—Expedition to Washington—Town of Rappahannock—River Rappahannock—Wedding Party—Commodore Robert Barrie, &c., &c.
The ship having undergone the necessary repairs, which was very heavy work during the severe winter of 1813, towards the end of March we sailed for Spithead, where we embarked three hundred and fifty marines, and proceeded, in company with the Tonnant (80), Regulus (44), and Melpomene (38), en flute to Bermuda, at which place we arrived after a passage of eight weeks.
Nothing particular occurred on our voyage out, except my having the measles very badly, which, not knowing what ailed me, I had driven inwardly by cold bathing.
We remained at Bermuda until the 3rd of July, when, in company with the Asia (74), Regulus, and Melpomene, we proceeded to the Chesapeake, and made Cape Henry on the 11th, and anchored in Synhaven Bay. The following morning we proceeded up the Chesapeake, and on the 15th joined Rear-Admiral Cockburn in the Albion (74), who was lying[Pg 151] at anchor, with two frigates, at the entrance of the river Patuxent.
I was placed under the orders of Captain J. Nourse, of the Severn (44), and sent up the river Patuxent for the purpose of assisting to blockade the American flotilla, under Commodore Barney, whose broad pennant was flying in a sloop of eight guns, and who had under his command seventeen gun-boats, each carrying a long 32, 24, or 18-pounder in the bow, and a 32-pound carronade in the stern, and manned with a crew of from sixty to seventy men.
We ran thirty miles up the river, to the village of Benedict, in company with the Severn, Ætna, and Manly (brig).
Rear-Admiral Cockburn proceeded with the others into the river Potomac to annoy the enemy in that quarter. As we advanced, the gun-boats retreated up the river to a town called Nottingham, twenty-five miles above Benedict, where, from the shoalness of the water, we could not follow them with the ships. During the time we continued in the Chesapeake we had guard-boats rowing every night to prevent the Yankees from trying the effect of their torpedoes or fire ships.
From the 17th of July until the 17th of August our time was taken up in making incursions into different parts of the country, with 300 marines, attacking and, to use an American expression, “scaring the militia,” getting fresh provisions, destroying their store-houses and other public buildings, with the arms found there. Some of the Americans used to say, “What did King[Pg 152] George send you here from the old country to come and scare us for? We don’t go to yours to frighten you, I guess. Your confounded sarpents come and anchor in our waters; then send their barges, full of armed men, who are pulling about day and night, landing here and there, scaring us and our families very considerably—tarnation seize them.” Our reply used to be, “You must ask your President, Jim Madison: he invited us.”
A great many black slaves, with their families, used to take advantage of our visits to come away with us. Some of their first exclamations were, “Me free man; me go cut massa’s throat; give me musket,” which many of them did not know how to use when they had it.
Another favourite expression, when we wanted them to work, was, “No, me no work—me free man.” It was, therefore, necessary to explain to these new freemen—which explanation, I fear, will frequently have to be repeated in our West India colonies, with other arguments—that we must all work and gain our livelihood by the “sweat of our brow,” whether bond or free; but they considered work and slavery synonymous terms.[M]
Republicans are certainly the most cruel masters, and the greatest tyrants in the world towards their fellow men. They are urged by the most selfish motives to reduce every one to a level with, or even below themselves, and to grind and degrade those under them to the lowest stage of human wretchedness. But American liberty consists in oppressing the blacks beyond what other nations do, enacting laws to prevent their receiving instruction, and working them worse than donkeys. “But you call this a free country, when I can’t shoot my nigger when I like—eh?”
While on the coast of America we embarked from fifteen hundred to two thousand slaves—the young men we formed into a black corps, and, taking possession of the small islands of Tangiers, we drilled and endeavoured to make our recruits of some use. The aged men, with the women and children, were sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and from thence a free colony was formed at the island of Trinadada, in the West Indies.
Towards the middle of July and the month of August some parts of this coast are subject to tornadoes. We had one of them on the 25th of July, which obliged us, although lying at anchor in a river, to let go a second. The previous day and that morning had been extremely close and sultry. The storm came on from the north-west, with the greatest violence, accompanied by a few claps of thunder and vivid flashes of lightning: such was its force that, although in smooth water, the ship heeled so much over that our[Pg 154] main-deck guns nearly touched the water; and a fine schooner of seventy tons burthen, tender to the Severn, with a long 18-pounder on board, at anchor near us, without topmasts, her sails furled and gaffs on deck, was turned bottom upwards in a moment, and one poor fellow drowned. Its fury was spent in about ten minutes, but during its continuance we saw immense trees torn up by the roots, barns blown down like card houses of children, and where the strength of the current of wind passed scarcely anything could withstand its violence. Trees and other things continued to be swept by us for sometime, and when the tornado was over we observed, at a turn of the river, so much large timber, lumber, and other articles floating down the tide that my gallant senior officer, Captain Nourse, who is since dead, poor fellow! thought at first it was the American flotilla coming to attack us, and he was just on the point of returning to his ship to prepare for a fight, he having come on board to dine with me, when I discovered, by means of a spy-glass, the approaching flotilla was perfectly harmless.
This circumstance was mentioned a short time afterwards to that most gallant officer, Captain Napier, who commanded the Euryalus, but Charley would not believe that the force of wind could upset a schooner of seventy tons, lying at anchor with all her sails furled, with her gaffs on deck, and without even top-masts; however, on the dashing, brilliant expedition, under Sir James Gordon, up the Potomac to Alexandria, above Washington, he had an opportunity of judging for himself when (part of a tornado passing across the[Pg 155] bows of the frigate) he saw in a moment both his bowsprit and fore-topmast broken in two, like twigs.
Having heard that the enemy’s gun boats had moved down from Nottingham towards Benedict, on the 10th August I was ordered to proceed twenty miles up the river with five boats to reconnoitre. On landing I was informed they had been there two days before, but that they had returned to Upper Marlborough. On rowing up the river we fell in with a canoe, containing one white man, who was pulling from Leonard creek to the opposite shore; on seeing us he endeavoured to get to land, but not being able to do so, jumped overboard and was drowned. We had every reason to believe he was one of our deserters.
On the 13th I again went up the river to ascertain the movements of Commodore Barney, but gained little information further than that he was with the flotilla at Nottingham.
The next day we received an account of a party of American militia having arrived in the woods, at the back of our watering-place, with the intention of surprising some of our men; we therefore landed before daylight between three and four hundred marines and seamen, headed by Captain Nourse and myself, accompanied by Captain Coles, R.M., and separated into four parties, with the hope of being able to cut some of them off; but from the thickness of the woods and their knowledge of the country, the enemy succeeded in getting away from us.
On one of our foraging excursions we were beset by a being so well described by old Cobbet, in his[Pg 156] “Cottage Economy,” ycleped “Methodist parson,” who put on his canonicals, and began to whine and cant, and wished to preach a sermon on peace. Captain Nourse very properly told him to be off—that we must attend to our “calling” as well as he to “his,” that Jim Madison had “called us,” and, therefore, we must perform our duty.
About this time a private of the marines belonging to my ship did a very gallant thing: to use an Irishism he surrounded three American dragoons, and took them, horses and all, prisoners. His name was Pat Gallaghen, or Gahagen. He effected this extraordinary feat in the following manner:—whenever boats were sent for water a sergeant’s party of marines accompanied them, it being necessary to post videttes to watch for the approach of an enemy. The casks in the launch had been filled, and all the party, except this man, who was placed near a stack of hay, had withdrawn. While the picket, who had to descend a cliff towards their boats, were out of sight, Pat observed five dragoons ride down to the corner of a wood, near a gate; keeping his eye on the party, he concealed himself behind the hay-rick, two of the men remained inside the gate, a long musket-shot off, whilst the others, after ascertaining, as they thought, that no Britishers were near, came galloping up to see the boats go off, and without observing the sentry in his hiding place, halted. The marine, very bravely putting his musket to his shoulder, called out—“You three d—— rascals, if you do not immediately jump off your horses and deliver yourselves up prisoners I’ll shoot the whole of you at once,[Pg 157] for I have you all in a line.” Off they got, and the sergeant at that moment shewing his head above the cliff to recall the vidette, they were very quietly taken to the beach, and themselves and horses brought safely on board.
This brave man, from his immoderate fondness of liquor, was unfit to be promoted; therefore, all that could be done for him was to give him the money arising from the sale of the horses. Now, here was a proper subject for a medal or order of merit, which might have had the effect of rousing his pride, and curing him of the baneful evil of drinking to excess. But alas! it was the fashion to confer such distinctions on a very few.
Look at the brave fellows who gained the battles of the Peninsula! With the exception of Waterloo, no field was honoured with a medal.[N] Of the navy, not a man below the rank of captain obtained any badge of distinction, notwithstanding the many general engagements that took place, and the numerous most daring boat expeditions met with the same neglect. Since it was impossible to grant promotion in every[Pg 158] instance, this would have been an easy and gratifying mode of awarding the meed of praise to many deserving individuals.
I am not particularly fond of France or of any foreign country, but I must do the continental powers the justice to say they understand human nature, and know when to reward their officers and men better than we do. The practice of making their sentries carry arms to the veteran with his medal or order of merit works wonders on the morale of their soldiers; and I do most sincerely and conscientiously believe that, had this plan been adopted in our army and navy during the late war, not one half of the desertions or punishments would have taken place in either service.
It is revolting to honourable feeling to meet in society at home or abroad, foreigners from nearly all nations covered with insignias or medals; while we,—who have had the pleasure of beating them in every part of the world, and which, with God’s blessing, should our king and country need our services, we shall be too happy to do again,—have neither.
On the 17th of August, the Tonnant (80), Vice-Admiral Sir A. Cochrane; Royal Oak (74), Rear-Admiral P. Malcolm; several frigates and smaller men-of-war, with twenty sail of transports, having on board the 4th, 21st, 44th, and 85th Regiments of foot, and the marine battalion, under Lieut.-Colonel Malcolm, joined the squadron under the command of Rear-Admiral Cockburn, at the mouth of the river Patuxent. The land forces were commanded by the gallant Major-General Ross. We weighed on the[Pg 159] morning of the 20th, and sailed up the river to Benedict, where we landed the troops, which, including artillery, sailors, and marines, did not muster more than 4500 men.
On the evening of the above day all the boats of the fleet, manned and armed, divided into divisions and sub-divisions, of which I commanded one, left the ships, advanced up the river towards Lower Marlborough to attack the American gun-boats, under Commodore Barney, and likewise to act on the right flank of our army. As we advanced, the enemy’s flotilla retired sixty miles further up the river to a place called Pig Point, where, in a most favourable position for defence, surrounded by banks and narrow creeks, with a wooded country on one side, and hills on the other, which were to have been lined with riflemen and other troops, it was their intention to have awaited the attack.
Late in the evening of the 21st the boats reached Nottingham, when we fired on a few American dragoons, and drove them out of the town. Our army arrived a short time afterwards. The next day, at noon, we came up with the vessels of the enemy, who on our approach set them on fire, and blew them all up, except one, which, together with five merchant schooners, we brought away. This service was performed with little loss on our side, for the advance of our infantry had driven the Americans from the woods, who had fallen back upon the main road to Washington. One division of boats proceeded to Upper Marlborough to keep up a communication[Pg 160] with our army; the remainder occupied a position at Pig Point to cover a retreat.
No sooner was the flotilla destroyed than the brave and dashing Rear-Admiral Cockburn joined the troops, and marched with them to attack the city of Washington.
This most gallant and daring affair was accomplished by 4500 British infantry, after first beating an American army of more than four times their own number, with their President, “Jim Madison,” at their head, who appeared on the field of battle mounted upon a white horse, and wearing a huge cocked hat. He addressed the American army previous to the battle of Bladensburgh, and recommended them to do their duty and fight well for the honour of their country, kill and make prisoners of all the Britishers, and then, wishing them success, and saying fighting was not in his province—he left that to the gallant generals who understood the art of war—he put spurs to his horse, and rode off to Washington to order refreshments and a grand fête to be got ready at the capital for the victorious army of the United States.
General Ross, Rear-Admiral Cockburn, and all the field officers of the to-be-captured army, were to have been invited; but they forgot the advice of Mrs. Grundy in her cookery book, “Catch your hare first.” This is an absolute fact, for when our troops entered Washington the evening of the battle, tables were very elegantly laid out in the rooms of the President’s house, and wine placed in coolers ready iced, which the great politeness of the Americans left free for us to[Pg 161] drink, for fear their presence might prevent our people feeling quite at home and at their ease.
But to return to the advance of our troops. No sooner did the enemy see the steady and undaunted forward movement of part of the 4th, with the whole of the gallant 85th Regiment,—commanded by two fine, brave, dashing fellows, Colonel Thornton and Major Brown,—attempt to pass the bridge over the river Potomac, “which they had left to allow the Britishers to cross, that they might take them all prisoners” (the Americans having destroyed all the others), than they opened a most destructive fire from their heavy batteries of 24-pounders, which they had thrown up to enfilade it, and which were commanded by a brave old fellow of the United States’ Navy, Commodore Barney, who was wounded and taken prisoner, and whose flotilla of gun-boats we had previously destroyed at Pig Point, in the river Patuxent. He, however, made his escape with seven or eight hundred seamen, joined the American army, and was of great service in working and firing the guns in their field batteries, which were supported by a very heavy fusilade of musketry.
The round and grape shot from the heavy guns in battery made fearful gaps in the ranks of the advancing column, but, nothing daunted, they gave three cheers, and rushed on in the most daring manner, which the enemy observing, it created a panic amongst them, and they gave way, declaring, I was informed, “that it was of no use their staying there to be shot, for the Britishers did not mind being[Pg 162] killed at all.” So off they went, and never stopped until they got on the other side of Washington.
The whole of the narrative of the attack on Washington and Baltimore has been so ably and faithfully described by the gallant author of the “Subaltern,” that I shall confine myself to our naval affairs, but I thought the above anecdotes, which are not mentioned in his work, were worth preserving to show the character of the natives.
After having been twelve days and nights in an open boat, I was not sorry to return to my ship, but the moment the troops were re-embarked, a difficult navigation down the river precluded all idea of rest.
The fag to officers and men of every description, during the whole of the operations in the Patuxent, was very harassing, and the labour of getting up to Baltimore without pilots, feeling our way with the lead, whilst boats on each bow and one a-head were sounding also, gave little time for respite. The heat of the weather too was very great, the thermometer varying only from 79° to 82° in the shade, during most of our severest services, which added much to the exhaustion.
On the 8th of September we again landed the troops, now reduced to four thousand men, at a place called North Point, on the right hand side of the Patapsco river, leading to Baltimore. It was unfortunate that we ever attempted it, for most of the enemy’s army beaten at Washington had been sent to strengthen the works, and the whole population were in arms against us. The Americans seeing us approach, very[Pg 163] wisely brought out several large ships and sunk them in the channel, under the guns of Fort Mac-Henry, which prevented the naval part of the expedition from acting near enough to be of any use with their guns.
The only chance perhaps that might have given any hope of success was the offer of the gallant Rear-Admiral Cockburn to make a dash with all the boats of the fleet, and try and storm Fort Mac-Henry, keeping the troops on board until the issue of this measure was decided. Could we have once got possession of it, the little army might have been landed with ease, and the place been our own in a few hours. But the higher powers decided against his plan. Poor General Ross was killed, having been shot by a rifleman from a tree. He was brought down, wrapped up in a union jack, attended by his aide-de-camp; I placed the body in my boat, and sent it on board. He was beloved and universally respected by both the army and navy. By his untimely fall the little hope we had of succeeding vanished, and although the gallant Brook did all that a man could do, yet the strength of the enemy’s field-works that they had thrown up was so great,—and there being ten to one against us, intrenched as they were behind breast-works bristling with cannon,—caused the admiral to request the army to fall back, and we re-embarked them.
Just before Sir Alexander Cochrane left the Chesapeake some Americans came on board of Sir Pultney Malcolm’s ship to treat for the exchange of prisoners. Colonel Brook, and Captain Dix, who commanded[Pg 164] the Menalaus, frigate, were on board at the time. Boasting of their good marksmen, Jonathan thought to be very witty by telling Captain Dix, who was fat and broad made, “I guess, captain, you cover a deal of ground. You had better not come on shore, for our riflemen can shoot a duck through the head with a single ball at two hundred yards: therefore you will stand no chance.” “Very probably they are good shots,” replied Colonel Brook, “but you forget one thing—the poor duck was not a soldier with a red jacket on his back, and a musket, with a bayonet at the end of it, in his hand, ready to return the fire and use the steel. That makes a deal of difference with regard to steady shooting.”
I was placed under the orders of Captain Robert Barrie, of the Dragon (74), and left with him in the Chesapeake, having on board part of Colonel Malcolm’s battalion of marines, commanded by Captain Coles of that corps, a good and clever officer; the remainder were embarked in other ships, while the fleet and transports, under Sir Alexander Cochrane, proceeded out of the Chesapeake to the southward.
No sooner did our senior officer, Captain Robert Barrie, find himself free to act according to his own able judgment, than, with a mind capable of planning, and a heart as bold as a lion to execute, he undertook all kinds of expeditions, or, as our commodore used to call them, “shooting parties.” “Come,” he used to say, “we have not had a shooting party this some time: I have just had information that a body of Yankee militia, with a field-piece or two, are in such[Pg 165] a place—we must go and take it from them.” Boats were manned and armed—the marine battalion, under Lieutenant-Colonel Malcolm, about 400 strong, the commodore always at their head, were put into them, and away we used to go. Bang, bang from the field-pieces—a tiraillade from the American musketry—three cheers and a dash from us, and the guns were ours: the militia taking themselves off to the woods, and we dragging the guns to our boats, frequently five, six, and seven miles, with an enemy’s force, double and treble our numbers, looking at us. In short, during the time we continued in the Chesapeake the American militia had no sinecure, for they never knew where we intended to land, and we had too much sense to go twice to the same place without an object in view.
At this period provisions of all kinds began to run short; it was therefore necessary to put all hands on half allowance, and make frequent excursions to try and procure flour and cattle.
On one of these foraging parties, the late Captain Tom Alexander, at the head of 200 seamen and marines, did a very gallant thing: he was attacked by 1,100 American troops,—with two squadrons of cavalry and five field pieces,—while he was busy getting cattle; the enemy’s horse made a charge, but not knowing that a swamp was between them and Alexander’s party, the horses sank up to their chests in mud, and began floundering about; he immediately commenced his fire upon them, which put them to the right-about, leaving half-a-dozen dragoons, who had[Pg 166] been thrown from their horses, sticking with their heads in the mud; some of the sailors mounted these fellows in a moment, and shoving their heads deeper into the mire, there left them. After this, he embarked his men with the exception of three, who were made prisoners, and returned on board, leaving the cattle for a more convenient opportunity.
The commodore, on the 1st of November, gave the following order to his squadron in the Chesapeake:—
“H.M. Ship Dragon, Nov. 1st, 1814.
“The provisions of the squadron under my command getting extremely low, and it being very uncertain at this advanced season of the year when a supply can arrive, I find myself under the painful necessity of placing the ship’s company and marine battalion on short allowance.
“You are therefore to place the crew and marines on board your ship upon half allowance, so as to make your provisions last for two months from this date.
“You will signify to your crew that I trust it will not be necessary to continue this restriction long, and that I shall try by every means in my power to procure temporary supplies from the enemy. In the meantime, I am satisfied their zeal for their country’s cause will point out the absolute necessity of persevering in the blockade of the Chesapeake to the last extremity, and that the temporary privations they are reduced to will be borne with the utmost cheerfulness.”
“(Signed) Robert Barrie,
“Captain and Senior Officer.”
In November we proceeded up the river Rappahannock for the purpose of attacking the American militia, 600 strong, who had some fieldpieces posted at Farnham Church.
We first took the town of Rappahannock, driving the enemy out of it, who ran away so fast that they[Pg 167] dropped their colours, which we took. On one side of them, under the American eagle, was this motto, “Death or victory”; on the other, “Down with the tyrants.” However, they were “scared” from death, and ran away from victory. We then attacked the militia at Farnham Church, and captured two of their fieldpieces; afterwards returning to Rappahannock we embarked some flour and tobacco, and then retired down the river to our ships, without in the least injuring the town.
We had with us on this expedition Major Brown, of the 85th Regiment, who had been severely wounded at the battle of Bladensburgh, and on the falling back of our army from Washington, he, with several other officers and men, who were too ill to be removed, were left behind. He was a fine gallant fellow, and now commands the 2nd Battalion of Rifles.
I must take this opportunity of confirming two statements of my gallant friend Captain J. Scott, which he mentions in his memoirs. First, with regard to the unjust accusation of plundering: all I can say is, that I saw nothing of the kind, unless taking provisions when we were starving upon half allowance may be called so; but on every principle of war we were entitled to forage, and for which in many cases we paid. The orders of both Admiral Cockburn and Captain Barrie were positive against plundering.
With respect to the second, I can vouch for his account of the poisoning the spirits at Benedict being perfectly true. In consequence of what had taken place, if we wished to eat or drink anything that was[Pg 168] found in their houses placed out ready for us upon their tables, we used to force the natives to eat a part first, that, in the event of its being poisoned, they might die with the Britishers.
We used occasionally to purchase cattle from the Americans. The plan agreed on was this: they were to drive them down to a certain point, where we were to land and take possession; for the inhabitants being all militiamen, and having too much patriotism to sell food to “King George’s men,” they used to say, “put the money under such a stone or tree, pointing to it, and then we can pick it up, and say we found it.” More ways than one to cheat the old gentleman.
Having seen in some publications several comments upon our mode of warfare in America, and no person yet ever having taken the trouble to place the facts before the public in its different bearings, it is high time that our side of the question should appear. According to the old proverb, “there are always two sides to a story.” The truth of the matter was this:—
At the commencement of hostilities, America invaded Upper Canada, took York Town, and at the very beginning of a severe winter, having first sacked the place, and turned the inhabitants out into the snow to perish, burnt it to the ground. Had it been taken by storm, after a severe resistance, the laws of war would have sanctioned the proceedings; but the case was far different, little or no resistance being made.
General Sir George Prevost wrote a letter of re[Pg 169]monstrance, not only to the American officer commanding the division, but also to the Government, reprobating the mode of warfare they had just adopted, and calling upon both to disapprove of it by a public manifesto, and punish the parties concerned. An evasive answer was returned, and we got no redress. Sir George Prevost sent copies of the correspondence to the naval commander-in-chief, and retaliation was in consequence determined upon; and that their Government might feel we had the power to repay the favour they had conferred upon poor York Town, and other places, we had orders to destroy all public buildings, and such private houses also as had been fortified or fired from, inasmuch as they had been placed in the light of a fortress; and the blaze that burnt York, in Upper Canada, reached Washington.
This, and the endeavouring to destroy our men-of-war by torpedoes,—the blowing up of Lieut. Geddes, and the barge’s crew of H.M. Ship Ramilies (74), by means of gun locks fixed in barrels of powder, with lines made fast to casks of flour, biscuits, or other “notions,” as Jonathan used to call them,—were among the causes which led to our system of warfare.
Small vessels, called coasters, were laden in this manner:—the upper part of the hold consisted of an assortment of all kinds, and the under filled with casks of gunpowder; they were then placed directly in the way of our ships at anchor off their harbours, their crews taking to a boat and making their escape on shore when they observed our’s near them in chase.[Pg 170] A vessel of this kind was taken by the boat of the Ramilies (74), off New London, commanded by that most intelligent and excellent officer, Sir Thomas Hardy, who, suspecting from the manner she was thrown in his way that all was not right, had her anchored two good cables’ length from his ship, and kept her there two or three hours before he would allow any person to go on board, thinking that by that time any mechanism invented for so diabolical a purpose would explode. After the above period poor Lieut. Geddes, whom I knew well, volunteered to go with the barge’s crew to examine the cargo very carefully; Sir Thomas Hardy still felt doubtful, but was at length induced by the repeated solicitations of Geddes to allow him to go, but with particular injunctions to be careful. It is supposed that in hoisting up a cask of flour or biscuits they pulled the line that was made fast from it to the barrel of powder, the explosion immediately took place, when a lieutenant, midshipman, and barge’s crew, sixteen in number, some of the best men in the ship, were blown to atoms.
This fatal and melancholy catastrophe probably saved many of our gallant countrymen, as well as some of our men-of-war, by acting as a warning, and putting us on our guard against this most dastardly method of carrying on the war.
The Americans had observed that several of our ships, the moment they captured a coasting vessel, hauled her alongside to take out her cargo, which frequently consisted of flour, biscuits, or other useful[Pg 171] articles. They, therefore, fitted out several explosion vessels on the above plan, hoping thereby to blow up some of our seventy-four gun ships or frigates, and very probably they would have succeeded with any other except the Ramilies, but her wary captain, fortunately suspecting some trick would be attempted, never suffered them to come sufficiently near.
These circumstances combined brought about our visit to Washington. The above is the real state of the case: it requires no comments, and every just man must say they were rightly served.[O]
On the 10th November, I was ordered up to Sharp’s Islands, near Baltimore, to cover the Dragon’s tender and boats, that were sent to capture the steam packet that went occasionally from thence to French Town, but they arrived too late, she having crossed before they arrived. However, they took several schooners and sloops, and the packet from Baltimore to Elk Town.
On the 15th of December, Rear-Admiral Cockburn rejoined the squadron from Bermuda, and gave us orders to proceed in company with the Dragon (74), and Regulus (44), and a schooner, to the coast of South Carolina. Having completed our provisions[Pg 172] from a transport brought by the admiral, we left the Chesapeake on the 18th of December, which none of the squadron very much regretted, for the heavy north gales and cold weather made our boat operations in the Chesapeake anything but agreeable.
Operations in South Carolina—Capture of Cumberland Island and the Fort of Point-à-Petre—An Affair with the American Riflemen in the Woods—An Abattis—Anecdotes of the 2nd West India Regiment—A Rattlesnake—Capture of the Town of St. Mary’s—Destruction of the Forts and Barracks—Nassau, New Providence—Compliment to the Royal Marines—Return Home—Concluding Remarks.
On the 11th of January, 1815, we took possession of Cumberland Island without meeting any resistance. The marine battalions, commanded by Colonel Richard Williams and Colonel Malcolm, and the two flank companies of the 2nd West India Regiment, under Major Bradley, were disembarked, encamped, and works thrown up for protection—rumours being afloat that the enemy intended to attack us.
Having waited some days for the arrival of the rear-admiral, and the ships being greatly in want of water, Commodore Barrie determined on making an attack upon the fort of Point-à-Petre and the town of St. Mary’s, South Carolina. The boats of the squadron were ordered to attack the fort by water, under the command of two most excellent officers—Captain C. B. H. Ross[P] and Captain Samuel Jackson,[Pg 174] of the Albion and Lacedemonian—while the Royal Marine battalion, with the commodore, part of the 2nd West Indian Regiment, and a few seamen, with myself, landed, to march through the woods and assail it in the rear. After advancing about a couple of miles we saw a few riflemen, who immediately retired into the woods. We kept on a kind of footpath and soon came to an abattis, behind which the enemy was posted, who immediately opened a brisk fire, but by bugling, cheering, and blazing away right and left, we drove them out and arrived at the fort which they had abandoned, just as the boats landed. The battery mounted six 24-pounders, and two brass 6-pounder field pieces. During this bush-fight a tragic economical occurrence, worthy of Joey Hume, took place. While scrambling over the fallen timber of the abattis, after the American sharpshooters, two blacks of the 2nd West Indian Regiment stumbled upon one of them; the rifleman fired and missed, one of the blacks put his musket to his shoulder and was going to shoot him when the other called out “Ta’am, why for you poil king cartridge? tick him, Ta’am, tick him!” which between the two was immediately accomplished. Each party lost some killed and wounded, but the woods being very thick we made few prisoners.
During the time we were here, and at Cumberland Island, we had some sharp white frosts and a little ice, two things the West Indian blacks had never seen; they were puzzled not a little, particularly when they beheld their own breath. The keen morning air having rendered their faces of a sickly purple colour, their[Pg 175] major enquired what was the matter; their reply was: “Major, me no know—me no like it at all—me no see ’um, but he bity me toe a my finger.” When we laughed at their droll description, they said, breathing hard, “Eh! you no see smoke come out of my mouth, ah! massa major, he bity me toe a my finger!” shaking and rubbing their hands, and stamping with their feet, “Bad country this, no like em at all.” Several of these poor fellows were frost bitten, and lost their limbs.
After the capture of the fort and barracks we embarked, and proceeded up the river to the town of St. Mary’s, which surrendered without further opposition. We made the inhabitants pull down their own fort and stockade in the town, took possession of the shipping and stores, and destroyed the public buildings.
A curious thing occurred on board one of the ships: a rattlesnake versus grog or, finding a Tartar. During the time I was pulling about, taking possession of some of the vessels, and sending boats to others, I was startled by a tremendous noise on board one of the prizes, and saw the men running up the rigging in all directions, while others took to the boats. I went directly alongside to see what was the matter, thinking that some torpedo or clock-work, such as had blown up poor Lieut. Geddes, of the Ramilies, off New London, had been discovered. Upon inquiry I found that a rattlesnake had been the cause of all the row. Some of the boats’ crews on going on board very naturally went down below into the cabin, and other parts of the ship to see what she contained. Jack spied in the master’s cabin a large case, the wire-[Pg 176]work of which was placed against the ship’s side, and which in their hurry they had not observed. The vessel, I must remark, was bound to France. Seeing this case the thought instantly struck them that it must contain wine or spirits; they were determined, after all their toil, to have a good drink before any of the officers came below; an iron crowbar and cutlasses soon ripped open the top, when, instead of rum, wine, or brandy, out jumped a large rattlesnake, at least two yards’ long—away flew the sailors up the hatchways, some got into the boats, others in the rigging, the snake made one spring up the ladder, and was on deck after them in a moment—he soon jumped overboard, and, the vessel being pretty close to the shore, made his escape into the rushes and we saw no more of him.
After remaining here a few days, I accompanied Captain Ross and Captain Jackson forty miles up the river, to bring down the Countess of Harcourt Indiaman, that had been captured by a privateer some months before. In going up and down the river St. Mary’s we saw several large alligators sleeping on the banks, which at a little distance were taken for logs of timber, until they began to plunge into the water; we fired at several, and observed the balls strike the scales, but they bounded off, apparently without doing them any injury. I saw some of the Americans with the upper part of their shoes made of the skin, it had been tanned, and wore well, the knobs looked curious. I regretted afterwards I did not procure some of the shoes and tanned skins, and bring them home with me to England.
After returning with the Indiaman, which we loaded with cotton, etc., I was ordered to proceed to Nassau, New Providence, to bring 300 more of the 2nd West India Regiment, it being the intention of the rear-admiral to make some attack further to the northward.
We reached the Bahamas in ten days, first making the hole in the rock at the island of Abacco, which is a most excellent land-mark: it lies in lat. 25°, 56 N., long. 77°, 20 W. from London. Then, steering S. by E., 18 leagues, we arrived off the bar of New Providence, where we took a pilot to conduct us to the anchorage. An immense shark followed us over the bar, and remained by the ship during our stay, and proceeded with us again when we sailed. The water was so very clear that we saw him daily at the bottom. He was too cunning to take bait, though now and then he would come up to the top, eat the bones and bits of biscuit thrown overboard, and try and get the piece of beef off the hook, but never would swallow it.
On my return from New Providence with troops, we again took on board part of the marine battalion from the fort and barracks of Fort Washington at Point-à-Petre, the guns of which we embarked; then, blowing up the works and burning the barracks, we returned to Cumberland Island to plan further annoyances to the enemy.
While we were absent at the Bahamas, Captain Phillot, of the Primrose, brig, had been sent ninety miles up the river to attack some troops and destroy[Pg 178] their stores of provisions, but the river becoming narrow, and the Americans lining the banks with sharpshooters, besides felling trees to stop the boats, he failed in the object, having lost several men killed and wounded, amongst the latter Captain Phillot himself severely. Had the enemy not prematurely shown their intention, they would have blocked up the boats, and probably captured them all. As it was, nothing but the coolness and bravery of the commander, and officers and men under his orders, prevented it.
Just at this period we received the news of the total failure of our southern expedition to New Orleans, which event gave us deep and sincere regret, but we hoped by a gallant dash to wipe out our distressing feelings at such an unfortunate event; but while in the midst of preparations we received intelligence that the olive branch of peace was received, and the demon of war between parent and child had ceased. Had it arrived immediately after the taking of Washington, how great would have been our delight! As it was, although we could not help feeling a secret pleasure at the prospect of returning home to our families and friends, yet the throwing away so many valuable lives in the swamps of New Orleans cast a damp on our spirits, and a secret wish to try and blot it from our memories by some gallant achievement.
Previous to returning to Nassau, I had the honour to receive a public letter of thanks from my brave and worthy commodore, Barrie. To have his appro[Pg 179]bation was, indeed, a flattering testimonial, and I look back at this hour with pleasure when we served together on the other side of the Atlantic, and I hope, if ever England should be again plunged in war, that fortune may place me under his command.
On the 6th of March the ship I commanded was ordered to proceed to Nassau with the 2nd West India Regiment, and from thence to Bermuda, where we arrived the beginning of April with a re-captured English brig. After remaining there a fortnight, and receiving letters of thanks from Sir Alexander Cochrane and Rear-Admiral Cockburn, addressed to my officers and ship’s company, as well as two others to myself, we proceeded to Halifax, Nova Scotia, at which place we embarked the 98th Regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Douglass, and sailed, in a heavy snow-storm, on the 20th of May with a convoy of transports for England, and arrived at Spithead in June, after a passage of twenty-two days.
From the period of our sailing from Britain (April, 1814) until the same month, 1815, we had been constantly employed upon a variety of harassing services and desultory warfare, with the gallant Royal Marine battalions, under the present colonels, Sir R. Williams[Q] and Sir John Malcolm, and it would be the height of injustice not to bear witness to their most brave, able, and steady conduct on every occasion. But[Pg 180] where did they ever do otherwise? From the sun’s rising in the east to its setting in the west, in both hemispheres, it has witnessed the devoted bravery and loyalty of the whole corps of Royal Marines.
After remaining sometime at Spithead, orders came for us to embark part of the suite of the Duchess D’Angoulême. After making the necessary preparations, and expending some of my own money in the outfit, we received counter orders.
In August the ship was ordered to Sheerness to be paid off; on the 23rd I was promoted to the rank of captain, and on the 9th September the pennant was hauled down, and I parted from my old officers and ship’s company with very great regret. Thus ended my naval services for the present, after nearly seventeen of the best years of my life in active warfare; and I have now to thank God for His protection and providence on many trying occasions.
I shall conclude by making a few remarks before closing this narrative upon the unfortunate mistake this country committed with regard to our quarrel with the United States, and also upon the actions which took place between our frigates and theirs, and upon the subject of searching for English sailors on board their vessels.
The great error that England committed was her not having declared war against America two or three years earlier than she did. She ought to have done it on account of their having aided and assisted our mortal enemy, by carrying on the trade for France in vessels belonging to the United States, and not have[Pg 181] allowed them to become the aggressors, to choose their own time, and make the first attack. Had she done so in 1808-1809, or even in 1810, America would have been completely in our power, for the whole of her merchant vessels covered the seas, and her few men-of-war were not particularly well manned. The embargo had been on two years, by which time most of her trading vessels were safely returned from every part of the world; and her seamen being thrown out of employ, were glad to enter on board their men-of-war and privateers for the chance of prize money. But she being now ready, and having secured nearly all her merchant vessels safe in their own ports, first insulted the British flag by sending a 58-gun frigate, the Constitution, to attack the Little Belt corvette of 18 guns then cruizing on the American coast to intercept French vessels. This large frigate of 58 guns, and 487 men, very gallantly fired into the little sloop of war of 18 guns and 120 men, killed and wounded several of them; but she in a very spirited manner returned the fire of this greatly superior force, and killed some of her men. Commodore Rogers, of the American 58-gun ship, pretended to make an apology to Captain Bingham, of His Majesty’s ship Little Belt, by saying he took her for a frigate, or he should not have fired into her.
This was done with the hope of making England declare war, and thereby putting the onus upon her, and making the war in America more popular; but that failing, and they having an army ready to invade Canada, urged on by Bonaparte in 1812, threw down[Pg 182] the gauntlet, and commenced hostilities, uniting with France against the liberties of Europe.
Their few frigates being beautifully manned, and immensely superior to ours in size, guns, and number of men, took three of our 48-gun frigates after a severe action. But I do maintain the British navy lost no honour. The enemy’s ships mounted 58 guns, 24 and 42-pounders, with a complement of 487 picked seamen and marines; whereas our ships carried only 48 guns, 18 and 32-pounders, all badly manned, and one, the Guerrière, with only 187 men at quarters, the other two, the Java and Macedonian, had nearly their complement of 300 men such as they were. The strength, size, and number of guns of the American ships were too great for ours.
Persons not conversant with nautical affairs, imagine that one frigate is as good as another; but that is not the case, for it is very clear that a man of five feet four inches, weak in proportion, cannot stand against a man of six feet, with nearly double his strength, although both are called men.
Another circumstance must be mentioned, which is this. A ship capable of carrying 58 or 60 heavy guns, 30 of which are long 24-pounders on her main deck, must be a much stronger and larger ship, both in hull, masts, and yards, and her masts several inches in diameter bigger than the smaller ship, carrying only 28 18-pounders on the main deck; therefore three, indeed two, if in a fresh breeze of wind, 24-lb. shot striking the main-mast in the same place or nearly so, of the smaller vessel, would knock it away,[Pg 183] whereas it would require double the number of the 18-pound shot to cut away that of the larger ship, giving so many more advantages to the bigger ship against the smaller, by the latter being so much sooner crippled.
The ridiculous, silly, and mischievous hue and cry that was raised in this country, in consequence of the above action, by a malicious, envious party, to pluck from the navy some of her laurels, needs no comment. It gave a lustre to the above frigate actions of our enemy all over the world which they did not deserve, and made them think themselves much more superior than they were, until the fight between the English frigate, Shannon (48), Captain Philip Broke, and the Chesapeake (49), Captain Laurence, off Boston. The latter had fifty more men than the former, but was taken in fifteen minutes by the gallant Captain Broke, and the ship’s company of the Shannon. This brilliant affair, followed a short time afterwards by the action of the Endymion (50), Captain Henry Hope, that mounted 24-pounders on her main deck, and 32-pounders on the quarter-deck, against the President (60), 24-pounders and 42-pounders, which she also captured, proved to them that, when we were more evenly matched, the navy of England was still mistress of the seas.
It was long seen by those who chose to make use of their senses that the disputes between the two countries must end in a rupture; and that the American Government were determined to side with France, and pick a quarrel with us, and that a war[Pg 184] was inevitable. They knew that the whole attention of the British Government was taken up by the great struggle in Europe, and therefore few, if any, troops could be spared from the great theatre of war on the Peninsula; they considered this the time therefore to demand new maritime law.
The right of search (which for ages had been the acknowledged or assumed law of all European belligerent nations), for enemies’ merchandize carried in neutral vessels, America was determined to oppose. Instigated by intrigues, and offers of all kinds, made by French emissaries sent for that purpose, Bonaparte found his Milan decrees, declaring the whole coasts of Great Britain and her extensive colonies in the four quarters of the world in a state of blockade, to be of no use without a navy to support it, and not having one that dared show its face upon the ocean, had no means to carry his decrees into execution. His eagle eye at once saw that by making a tool of the United States, and embroiling them with England, he might make a great diversion in his favour. He, therefore, induced their cabinets to enter into his plans, backed, it was said, “by good, weighty, golden reasons, and insisted upon a new maritime law,” which would strike a death blow at our dominion of the sea, and at once evade all blockade. The law I allude to was, that the neutral flag or vessel should permit the ship wearing it to carry the cargo of an enemy free of capture from the other belligerent, who met it on the sea or elsewhere.
It was very extraordinary that America found little[Pg 185] fault with France, who first commenced the general blockade by the issue of her Milan decrees, and who confiscated all the United States’ vessels that were captured by her men-of-war or privateers with British colonial or other produce on board, coming directly or indirectly from any port of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and her colonies. Had they merely touched or been driven by stress of weather into an English port, or even boarded by a British cruiser, it was sufficient to condemn them as lawful prizes in a French Court of Admiralty, when met at sea by French armed vessels, and detained. England waited with great patience, thinking that all the neutral powers, but above all America, would protest against the measure, and join her who was fighting for the liberties of all the world against the iron grasp of Bonaparte, and his intended universal dominion. The United States, on the contrary, put up with the seizure of their vessels by France, and when Great Britain was obliged, after the greatest forbearance, to declare the whole coast of France and her allies in a state of blockade—which she had the means of doing, having more than one thousand men-of-war of different sizes at sea or in commission, ready effectually to carry this measure into operation—they grew outrageous because she would not permit them to be our secret enemy, and carry the trade of France in their ships, under the new maritime law they proposed, viz., that a neutral ship and flag were to make an enemy’s cargo neutral also. The above was one of the causes that led to the war.
Impressment of seamen or sailors out of their vessels is another source of complaint against this country. To this latter act England was driven by the conduct of citizens of the United States, decoying men to desert whenever any of our ships, whether men-of-war or merchant vessels, put into their harbours. The enticing our seamen away to man their vessels naturally made us search for British subjects whenever British men-of-war boarded any of our ships, whether at sea or in foreign parts, particularly when we knew the easy method by which English subjects were naturalised and gained American protections.
I recollect a very fine young seaman whom we took out of an American ship at Messina in Sicily, when I was a lieutenant of the Melpomene frigate. On being brought on board he produced his United States’ protection, and requested to be sent back to his ship. He wrote to the American consul to claim him, and the master of his ship came on board to demand him as an American citizen. Having strong suspicion that he was an English subject,—notwithstanding the clamour raised by the Yankee master and consul, and the production of his protection; yet, from his not having any nasal twang when he spoke, and not using the general slang words of that country, such as “I guess,” “I calculate,” etc.,—we kept him on board that night. The next morning he came on the quarter-deck of the frigate, and gave up his American protection and said, “I will not deny my country—I am a native of Swansea, in Wales, and I got that pro[Pg 187]tection when I sailed last voyage in a merchant ship from Liverpool to New York, in the following manner. On my arrival at New York I was told that by paying two dollars I could get a protection of citizenship, which would prevent my being pressed on board an English man-of-war. The way it was managed was this:—I was put into a large cradle made on purpose to hold men; I was then rocked by them for a minute or two, and afterwards taken before the proper authorities by the old couple, who made oath they had known me ever since I was in my cradle—no further questions were asked, the matter being quite understood between the parties,—I paid the fees, the protection was granted, and, having given the old folks two dollars for their trouble, I became a ‘registered American citizen,’ and that, sir,” he said, “is the way British seamen are kidnapped in the States—in short, it is a regular trade, and hundreds of seamen that have protections got them in the same manner.”
A knowledge of the various tricks played on the other side of the Atlantic to entice away our seamen, made the officers of the British navy more anxious to recover their sailors, which of course at times caused some irritating disputes with the masters and skippers of the American vessels. These magnified every trifle, and reported all the circumstances to people who were paid by that part of the press in the French interest to make the worst of everything, in order to inflame the public mind against this country, particularly after the affair of the Leopard (50), taking our deserters out of the American frigate Chesapeake (48), and the un[Pg 188]fortunate event of H.M.S. Leander, when a man was killed by accident by her firing to bring-to a vessel under the United States’ flag off New York for the purpose of examining her.
The Americans acted with great wisdom and foresight previous to their declaration of war, by putting on the embargo and passing the “Non-intercourse Bill” with England two years before. By that wise act they were enabled to get home their trade from all parts of the world, and having done this, they insulted our flag by sending a 58-gun ship, commanded by Commodore Rogers, to fire into the Little Belt corvette of 18-guns, commanded by Captain Bingham, cruising near their coast, and killing several of her men and wounding others. This affair had two meanings. First to revenge the death of their citizens slain in the Chesapeake frigate, and on board the merchant ship off New York; and secondly to induce us to declare war against them, to make it more popular with the generality of the people of the States, that the Government might be able to throw the blame upon England. Britain having her hands full in other places, fighting for the liberties of the world, making at the same time a desperate struggle for her own existence, and most nobly striving to liberate other powers from the grasp of Bonaparte, was not willing at this most critical period to have another foe; she therefore tried something in protocol fashion of the present day, but it failed as all half-measures generally do.
America laughed at it, and commenced biting our[Pg 189] heels, while John Bull was tossing the dogs in front. They had the wisdom to perceive the great error England had committed in not seeing that war was inevitable, and that she ought to have declared it two or three years before, and not have allowed her to get the whole of her vessels safe into port. Our politeness and good breeding enabled them to secure all or most of their shipping, in order to enable them to man their ships of war and privateers with picked sailors. Their seamen being thrown out of employ, were glad to enter on board their men-of-war and privateers for the almost certain chance of a rich harvest, by capturing our East and West Indiamen.
This was the great mistake England committed; for had we gone to war at an earlier period when the seas were covered with American merchant ships, they would have been swept into our harbours, and she would have been completely at our mercy, and twelve months at that time would have settled our disputes far more amicably than the unsatisfactory method adopted in the year 1815.
Natural affection, intimate connections with this country, a common language, and a wish to incline to a reasonable adjustment of claims, would probably have settled our quarrel, and not have left the boundary line as a further bone of contention. But we were unfortunately so delighted with the success of our allies and our own gallant army, by the capture of Paris, and other deeds in Europe, added to the abdication of Napoleon, that American matters were left nearly in the same state as before the war, although we had the[Pg 190] means at that period to have settled everything in a most satisfactory manner. The country was like,—or might be compared to,—soldiers and sailors who had received so much pay and prize-money that they got drunk. Great Britain was intoxicated with the honour and renown which their countrymen in the army and navy had gained for them, and never thought of the morrow. Indeed, up to the present time, 1839, they have been living upon the principal of credit, for we have put, I fear, very little by or out to interest which was then gained, and which has been most woefully frittered away ever since, until the country has at last almost run bankrupt: for we are spit upon in Spain, treated with contempt in Portugal, despised in France, laughed at in Russia, kicked in Canada, and in a fine olla podrida in India and China.
Note.—Vice-Admiral William Stanhope Lovell, R.N., K.H., was born September 15th, 1788. Married, 2nd January, 1822, Selina, youngest daughter of Sir Henry Crewe, Bart., of Calke Abbey, Derby, and by her, who died on the 30th March, 1838, had issue one son and three daughters, who survive him. Vice-Admiral Lovell died in 1859, “sans peur et sans reproche.” Was buried at Bexley, Kent.
Having, in the foregoing narrative, stated, in justification of our mode of warfare in America, some of the causes which led to our adoption of the system of retaliation, I beg to subjoin two extracts from the Annual Register of the year 1814, as well as copies of public documents, which a friend has most kindly favoured me with, which fully bear me out in saying that we were in a manner compelled to adopt the system we pursued, i.e., to teach the Americans that we had the power to return with interest the inhuman mode of warfare with which they began the campaign.
“From several causes it was not to be expected that the war between Britain and America would be carried on in the most humane and honourable mode, especially by the Americans; they had not yet forgotten the war of the revolution, and by our employment of the Indians, though they set us the example, the consequences were such as might be dreaded. In their different invasions of Canada, the greatest inhumanities were exercised; especially at Sandwich, at the settlements on the Thames, at York, and at Fort George. Finding that remonstrances against this mode of conducting the war produced no effect, General Sir George Prevost at length issued a proclamation announcing a severe retaliation on the Americans, while at the same time he earnestly deprecated this mode of warfare.”—Annual Register, p. 318, Principal Occurrences, 1814.
“A proclamation issued by General Sir George Prevost, Bart., announces, after long forbearance, a severe retaliation on the Americans for their inhuman mode of warfare in their different invasions of Canada,[Pg 192] especially for their having, in the midst of a severe Canadian winter, wantonly burnt the beautiful village of Newark, and turned out four hundred helpless women and children to perish in the snow, and through the severity of the season, without shelter, and without a remnant of property. This case is made out with the utmost distinctness against the Americans, not only in this, but in a number of other instances, at Sandwich, at the settlements on the Thames, at York, and at Fort George. General Sir George Prevost earnestly deprecates this mode of warfare; but he justly observes that ‘since it has been so long persevered in by the enemy, retaliation becomes an imperious duty.’ But he at the same time says, ‘that he will no longer pursue a system of warfare so revolting to his own feelings, and so uncongenial to the British character, unless forced to it by the future measures of the enemy.’”—Annual Register, p. 27; Principal Occurrences, 1814.
I trust that I have fully vindicated our mode of warfare in America, by showing that we were driven to it by the great inhumanities so frequently committed by the enemy, and when forbearance and remonstrance failed, nothing was left but to teach them that when goaded beyond endurance—four hundred helpless women and children turned out to perish in the frost and snow of a severe Canadian winter from the village of Newark, besides wanton barbarities committed in various other places—the British lion was at length aroused from his slumber, and that the fires which the Americans had lit in other places, reached the public works of their capital—Washington.
Copies of Correspondence.
“Head-quarters, British Troops,
“Bank of the St. Lawrence,
“14th Nov., 1813.
“The object of the present communication, which is made by desire of the officers in command of the British forces in this neighbourhood, is, in the first instance, to claim as prisoners two American officers who were taken on the morning of the 11th, previous to the action, and deserted to their own shore while on the way to Prescott.
“I enclose a copy of their paroles.
“William Gilkinson, Esq., of Prescott, is the bearer of this flag, and I am instructed to request that you will facilitate his passage to the Commanding General of the United States’ Army, to whom he is desirous of making a representation on the subject of the plunder and destruction of his property by the American troops in this neighbourhood. And on this subject I am instructed to protest in the most solemn manner against that system of rapine and plunder of the property of the peaceful and unoffending inhabitants which has marked the progress of the American army during its short continuance in this province; and I am further to entreat that his Excellency the Commander-in-Chief of the United States’ Army will allow no consideration arising out of the circumstances of the disparity of rank of the British officer by whom he is so called upon, to restrain his Excellency from immediately disavowing this system so disgraceful to a civilized army, and affording every fair indemnity to the individual sufferers; or that he will, by an open avowal that the system complained of is an authorized one, leave it in the option of the general officer (hourly expected to assume the command of the powerful and rapidly increasing British force in this neighbourhood), to employ it in such acts of just retaliation upon the persons and property of the inhabitants of the right bank of the St. Lawrence as he may think fit, as commensurate with the treatment of the inhabitants on this side.
“I have the honour to be, Sir, very respectfully,
“Your most obedient humble servant,
“(Signed) T. HARVEY, Lieut.-Col.,
“D.C.G. to the British Forces
“in the Canadas.”
“Head Quarters, Montreal,
“2nd June, 1814.
“I have the honour to transmit to you a copy of a letter which I have written to Lieut.-General Drummond, in consequence of the late disgraceful conduct of the American troops in the wanton destruction of private property on the north shores of Lake Erie, in order that if the war with the United States continues, you may, should[Pg 194] you judge it advisable, assist in inflicting that measure of retaliation which shall deter the enemy from a repetition of similar outrages.
“I have, &c.,
“(Signed) GEORGE PREVOST,
“Commander of the Forces.“To Vice-Admiral the Honourable“Sir A. Cochrane, K.B., &c., &c.”
“Head Quarters, Montreal,
“1st June, 1814.
“It is with sincere regret and disappointment that I perused the detail of illiberal and wanton devastation and unjustifiable outrage reported in your letter of the 27th ult., and Major-General Riall’s of the 19th, to have been committed in the vicinity of the village of Dover, and on its unoffending inhabitants, by the conflagration of their dwelling-houses and their mills.
“I cherished the hope that the severe, although just, retaliation inflicted for the destruction of the village of Newark would have deterred the enemy from similar acts of barbarity; under that impression, I issued a proclamation of the 4th January last, which has since been most scrupulously adhered to by the troops under my command, and it is with painful reluctance I now feel myself compelled to return to a system so abhorrent to those principles of humanity which have always animated and characterized Britons.
“But such horrors cannot be suffered to remain without notice or unrevenged; you must, therefore, transmit by a flag of truce to the officer commanding the American force nearest to you a statement of those atrocities, with information that you have my instructions to inflict a severe retribution for them; you may assure him that the same will be repeated for every act of such outrage committed on the defenceless and peaceable settlers of our frontier, and that the British fleet on the coast of America will be called upon to assist in the measure of just retaliation.
“I have, &c.,
“(Signed) GEORGE PREVOST,
“Commander of the Forces.“To Lieut.-Gen. Drummond, &c., &c.,“Com. Upper Canada.”
“5th Oct., 1814.
“I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Excellency’s letter of the 3rd August, acquainting me of the repetition on the part of the enemy of the disgraceful outrages committed by him on the north shores of Lake Erie.
“I have therefore reiterated my order of retaliation of the 18th July, of which a copy was sent to your Excellency, and given further directions for the distressing him south of the Delaware, to the utmost of our power; from that river northward I have restrained the squadron from acting in full execution of its purport until I see what change the late events may produce in that quarter.
“I have the honour to be,
“Your Excellency’s most obedient humble servant,
“Vice-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief.“To his Excellency“Lieut.-General Sir Geo. Prevost, Bt.,“Commander of the Forces, &c., &c.”
“Head Quarters, Montreal,
“August 6, 1814.
“I have the honour to transmit to your Lordship a copy of a letter I have addressed to Vice-Admiral the Hon. Sir A. Cochrane, respecting the late wanton and disgraceful conduct of the enemy in the burning of the villages of Queen Town and St. David’s, on the Erie frontier.
“To Earl Bathurst.”
“Head Quarters, Montreal,
“30th Sept., 1814.
“I have the honour to acknowledge your three letters of the 19th inst., which have been laid before the Commander of the[Pg 196] Forces, with regard to the miseries which the enemy have again made on Port Talbot; his Excellency is of opinion that it is the act of Westbrook, who is gratifying private animosities with a heartless band; he scarcely conceives it to have been authorized by the Government of the U.S., and requests to be informed who commanded the enemy’s force employed on this occasion. The Commander of the Forces hopes that precautionary measures have been taken to frustrate the design of the enemy upon Long Point, should the execution of it be attempted. If you consider it necessary to retaliate for the unjustifiable act of carrying off Colonel Burnell, you have his Excellency’s authority to do so, or else, if you prefer it, two respectable American citizens may be taken as hostages for him from Hamilton.
“To Lieut.-General Drummond.”
Witherby & Co., Printers, 325a, High Holborn, W.C.
[A]Colonel Thomas Stanhope Badcock, of Little Missenden Abbey, Bucks, and of Maplethorpe Hall, Lincolnshire, married Anne, daughter of William Buckle, Esq., of the Mythe House and Chasely, in Gloucestershire, by Anne, daughter of George Turberville, Esq. The family is descended from Sir Salathiel Lovell, of Harleston, co. Northampton, one of the Barons of the Exchequer, whose youngest daughter Jane married Richard Badcock, Esq. Of the two elder daughters, Maria married Joseph Townshend, Esq., and died without issue; Penelope married the Rev. Michael Stanhope, D.D., canon of Windsor, and died 1738, leaving with other issue Arthur Charles Stanhope, Esq., father of Philip Stanhope, who, succeeding to the honours of his family in 1773, became fifth Earl of Chesterfield. Sir Salathiel Lovell had two sons, Samuel, his heir, a Welsh judge, who married in 1692 Miss Sergeant, and left one son, Samuel, and one daughter, Rachel Jane, married in 1732 Richard Edgeworth, Esq., of Edgeworthstown, co. Longford, who died in 1764, leaving issue.
[B]The eldest, Anne Bethia, married 21st September, 1809, Lieut.-General Sir Jasper Nicholls, K.C.B. (Commander-in-Chief at Madras and afterwards Commander-in-Chief in India), and had eight daughters and one son. Lady Nicholls died at Rome in 1844. Sophia Lovell married 9th June, 1814, the Rev. James Duke Coleridge, D.C.L., eldest son of Colonel Coleridge, of Heath’s Court, Ottery St. Mary’s, Devon, and had two daughters. Mrs. Coleridge died at Torquay in 1874.
[D]It was near a vintage.
[E]Afterwards Sir John Chambers White.
[F]Taken and destroyed.
[G]The French ship of the line, L’Achille, on fire and blowing up.
[H]Being a man of plain common-sense, I never could to this day understand the policy of our training up foreign officers of all nations in our service to sting ourselves. Surely our rulers forget the sensible fable of Æsop, “The countryman and the viper.” We took the Russians from frost and snow, thawed them in our bosoms, and the time may yet come when they may sting us. “Tempus omnia monstrat.”
[I]Sir Lovell Benjamin Lovell, K.C.B., K.H., commenced in the Royal Bucks Militia in 1804, and entered as cornet (by purchase) the 14th Light Dragoons, November, 1805; served at the taking of Monte Video, under Sir Samuel Auchmuty, in 1807, and subsequently in the Peninsula, including the battles of Talavera, the Coa, Busaco, Fuentes d’Onor (wounded), Salamanca, Vittoria, the Pyrenees, Nive, Ortherg, and Toulouse; actions or skirmishes near Talavera, Sexmiro, Val de la Mula, La Meares, Freixeda, Guarda, Coimbra, Valle, Venda de Sierra, Pombal, Redinha, Miranda de Corvo, Coa, Galligos, Nave d’Aver, Espiga, near Fuentes d’Onor, Llerena, near Salamanca, St. Christova, Bueda, Castrillos, Foncastin, Matylla; at Burgos, Osma, Huarte, Pampeluna, Vale de Bastan, Pass of Maya, Lines of Ainho, Cambo, Hasparren, Helite, Garris, Sauveterre, St. Gladie, Buelho, Garlier, San Roman—total, 10 general actions, 40 minor actions or skirmishes, besides attending 7 sieges; was at the siege of Oporto, being one of the military reporters under Lord William Russell. Appointed to the Lieutenant-Colonelcy of the 15th Hussars, March 21st, 1834; appointed Brigadier-General of the cantonment of Bangalore, 1841, and Major-General in India, September, 1841; gazetted to the command of the Hyderabad subsidiary force, February 15th, 1847, and took command March 3rd, at Secunderabad; appointed Major-General in 1854, and Colonel of the 12th Lancers, 29th November, 1856. Sir Lovell Benjamin Lovell received the war medal, with eleven clasps, for Busaco, Fuentes d’Onor, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, the Pyrenees, Nive, Orthes, and Toulouse. He died at Brighton in 1861. Sir Lovell and his brother assumed by sign manual the surname and arms of Lovell in 1840.
[J]Prince Lippe Bückeburg.
[K]During our stay in Altea Bay, in 1812, I was invited by the Spanish authorities in the town to assist at the proclaiming of the new constitution, and accordingly landed my officers and marines to be present at the ceremony of reading them. A few of the Spaniards cheered, as well as ourselves, and called out, “Viva Fernando Septimo;” but it appeared to me they were not very enthusiastic about it at that period; indeed they did not seem to care two straws whether they had the old or new constitution—to get rid of the French was the first object.
[M]Amongst so many new black freemen in the West Indies, of course many cases of delinquency must occur. Why not transport all troublesome and bad characters to Africa? They originally came from thence, and it would be only returning them back to their own country. Just land them on the beach at Bonny, and leave them to find their own way amongst their countrymen, or send them to Fernando Po to clear the forests and make roads, which would ventilate the island and make it more healthy.
[N]Medals were given in 1848(?) for the Peninsula wars, and to the survivors of the Battle of Trafalgar also in 1848. An English merchant, whose name I cannot remember, gave to some of those who were present at the Battle of Trafalgar (among the fortunate recipients was my father) medals, having on one side the profile of Lord Nelson, and on the reverse side the representation of the ships going into action, with the date, October 1st, 1804, and round it the memorable words signalled to the fleet: “England expects every man will do his duty.” This medal is much prized by the family, as is also the dirk previously mentioned. (M.S.L.)
[O]The revilers of our American mode of warfare should bear in mind other circumstances, viz.: that America seized the opportunity of declaring war against us at a most critical period, when we were not only making a desperate struggle for our existence as a nation, but also to liberate other powers from the iron grasp of Bonaparte, and fighting in the cause of liberty itself. That must not be forgotten on our side of the question.
[P]The rear-admiral, in the Albion, arrived on the previous evening, when Captain Ross joined with the boats of that ship in the attack on the fort by water.
[Q]Lieutenant-Colonel Williams, of the Marines, was not at the capture of Washington. He was then in Canada, and joined us at Cumberland Island previous to the attack on Fort Washington, at Point-à-Petre.