Boys of the Light Brigade: A Story of Spain and the Peninsular War

Boys of the Light Brigade: A Story of Spain and the Peninsular War

Author:
Herbert Strang
Author:
Herbert Strang
Format:
epub
language:
English

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Author: Verner, William Willoughby Cole, 1852-1922
Peninsular War
1807-1814 — Juvenile fiction
Boys of the Light Brigade: A Story of Spain and the Peninsular War

Boys of the Light Brigade

A Story of

Spain and the Peninsular War

BY

HERBERT STRANG

AUTHOR OF “TOM BURNABY”

With a Preface by Colonel WILLOUGHBY VERNER

late Rifle Brigade

Illustrated by William Rainey, R.I.

BLACKIE AND SON LIMITED

LONDON GLASGOW AND BOMBAY

1905

To Spain they sent The Rifle Corps
To teach the French the Art of War!

Old Rifleman’s Song.

DEDICATED

BY PERMISSION

TO

FIELD-MARSHAL HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS

THE DUKE OF CONNAUGHT AND STRATHEARN

K.G., K.T., K.P., G.C.B., G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E, G.C.V.O.,

COLONEL-IN-CHIEF

AND TO THE OFFICERS OF

THE RIFLE BRIGADE

(Formerly 95th Rifles)

Preface

Mr. Herbert Strang has asked me to write a few
words explanatory of the title he has chosen for this
book.

“The Light Brigade” was the name given to the first
British Brigade of Light Infantry, consisting of the 43rd
Light Infantry, 52nd Light Infantry, and the 95th Rifles,
which were trained together as a war-brigade at Shorncliffe
Camp in the years 1803-1805, just a century ago,
by General Sir John Moore, the Hero of Corunna.

These regiments subsequently saw much service together
in various quarters of the globe; they were engaged
in the Expedition to Denmark in 1807, the Campaign in
Portugal in 1808 under Sir Arthur Wellesley, including
the Battle of Vimeiro, and the famous Corunna Campaign
under Sir John Moore.

In July, 1809, The Light Brigade, consisting of the same
three corps, was re-formed under the gallant Brigadier-General
Robert Craufurd (afterwards slain at their head
at the storming of Ciudad Rodrigo in 1812), at Vallada,
in Portugal, and it was in the same month that it made
the forced march, famous in all history as “the March
of the Light Division”, of some fifty miles in twenty-four
hours to the battle-field of Talavera. In June, 1810, when
at Almeida, in Spain, “The Light Brigade” was expanded
into “The Light Division” by the addition of Ross’s
“Chestnut Troop” of Horse Artillery,[#] the 14th Light
Dragoons,[#] the 1st King’s German Hussars, and two
regiments of Portuguese Caçadores.

[#] The present “A” Battery, R.H.A., which bears
its proud title of “The
Chestnut Troop” in the army lists to this day.

[#] The present 14th (King’s) Hussars.
Charles Lever, the novelist, recounts
some of their gallant deeds in
Charles O’Malley, the Irish Dragoon.

It was as “The Light Division”, throughout the long
and bloody struggle in the Peninsula, and up to the Battle
of Toulouse, fought in April, 1814, that the regiments
of the old “Light Brigade” maintained their proud
position, so well described by Sir John Kincaid (who
was adjutant of the 1st Battalion at the Battle of
Waterloo) in his delightful book,
Adventures in the Rifle
Brigade
. He writes of the 95th Rifles in the Peninsula as
follows:—

“We were the Light Regiment of the Light Division, and fired the
first and last shot in almost every battle, siege, and skirmish in which
the army was engaged during the war.

“In stating the foregoing, however, with regard to regiments,
I beg to be understood as identifying our old and gallant associates,
the Forty-third and Fifty-second, as a part of ourselves, for they bore
their share in everything, and I love them as I hope to do my better
half (when I come to be divided); wherever we were,
they were;
and although the nature of our arm[#] generally gave us more employment
in the way of skirmishing, yet, whenever it came to a pinch,
independent of a suitable mixture of them among us, we had only
to look behind to see a line, in which we might place a
degree of
confidence almost equal to our hopes in heaven
; nor were we ever
disappointed. There never was a corps of Riflemen in the hands
of such supporters!”

[#] The Baker rifle, a short weapon with
a flat-bladed sword-bayonet known
as a “sword”, very like the present so-called “bayonet”,
only longer. Hence
the Rifleman’s command, “Fix swords!” The
three battalions of the 95th
were (with the exception of the 5th battalion
of the 60th Regiment) the only
corps in the British army armed with rifles
at the period of the Peninsular
War, all others carrying long smooth-bore muskets,
known as “Brown Bess”,
with long three-sided bayonets.
The Baker rifle fired with precision up to 300
yards, whereas “Brown Bess” could not be depended
upon to hit a mark at
one-third that range.

Such was the “Light Brigade” which gives its title
to this book.

The story deals with a period full of interest to Englishmen.
Napoleon, having overrun Spain with some 250,000
men, swept away and defeated all the Spanish armies,
and occupied Madrid, had set his hosts in motion to
re-occupy Portugal and complete the subjugation of
Andalusia. At this critical moment in the history of Spain,
Sir John Moore, who had landed in the Peninsula with
a small British army only about 30,000 strong, conceived
the bold project of marching on Salamanca, and thus
threatening Napoleon’s “line of communications” with
France—whence he drew all his supplies and ammunition.
The effect was almost magical. Napoleon was compelled
instantly to stay the march of his immense armies, whilst
at the head of over 80,000 of his finest troops he hurled
himself on the intrepid Moore. The latter, thus assailed by
overwhelming numbers, was forced to order a retreat on
his base at Corunna, a movement which he conducted
successfully, despite the terrible privations of a rapid march in
mid-winter through a desolate and mountainous country,
with insufficient transport and inadequate staff arrangements.
Thrice he turned to bay and thrice did he severely
handle his pursuers. Finally, at Corunna, after embarking
his sick and wounded, he fought the memorable battle
of that name, and inflicted on the French such heavy losses
that his army was enabled to re-embark and sail for
England with but little further molestation. The gallant
Moore himself was mortally wounded, and died the same
night. The effects of the Corunna campaign were to
paralyse all the Emperor’s plans for nigh three months,
during which time the Spaniards rallied and regained
confidence, and the war took a wholly different turn,
although it was only after five years’ constant fighting
that the French invaders were finally driven out of the
country.

The Spaniards, on the other hand, animated by the
presence of their English allies, once again took up arms
in all directions and made a desperate resistance. No
struggle was of more appalling or sustained a nature
than was their second defence of Saragossa, which, in
the words of the French soldiers engaged in the siege,
was defended not by soldiers but by “an army of madmen”.

The following story has thus a double interest. In its
account of Moore’s great Retreat it illustrates what we
did for Spain in her dark days of 1808-1809; while in
the pages dealing with the heroic Defence of Saragossa
it illustrates what Spain did for herself.

Contents

Chapter I

CORPORAL WILKES WANTS TO KNOW

Chapter II

SOME INTRODUCTIONS

Chapter III

PALAFOX THE MAN, PALAFOX THE NAME

Chapter IV

A DELICATE MISSION

Chapter V

A ROADSIDE ADVENTURE

Chapter VI

MONSIEUR TABERNE

Chapter VII

PEPITO INTERVENES

Chapter VIII

DON MIGUEL PRIEGO

Chapter IX

SOME SURPRISES

Chapter X

THE EMPEROR’S DESPATCH

Chapter XI

NAPOLEON IN PURSUIT

Chapter XII

CORPORAL WILKES ON GUARD

Chapter XIII

DON MIGUEL’S MAN

Chapter XIV

AN INCIDENT AT CACABELLOS

Chapter XV

THE GREAT RETREAT

Chapter XVI

THE BATTLE OF CORUNNA

Chapter XVII

IN THE GUADALQUIVIR

Chapter XVIII

A SQUIRE OF DAMES

Chapter XIX

PALAFOX THE MAN

Chapter XX

A DAY WITH TIO JORGE

Chapter XXI

NIGHT ON THE RAMPARTS

Chapter XXII

JUANITA

Chapter XXIII

THE FIGHT IN THE RUINS

Chapter XXIV

“A BON CHAT, BON RAT”

Chapter XXV

PEPITO FINDS A CLUE

Chapter XXVI

WANTED: DON MIGUEL PRIEGO

Chapter XXVII

THE ELEVENTH HOUR

Chapter XXVIII

THE LAST FIGHT IN SARAGOSSA

Chapter XXIX

FRENCH LEAVE

Chapter XXX

THE WHIP HAND

Chapter XXXI

DOCTOR GRAMPUS AND A FRENCH COOK

Chapter XXXII

THE PRISONER AT BAYONNE

Chapter XXXIII

PALAFOX THE NAME

Chapter XXXIV

DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES

Chapter XXXV

DOOM

Chapter XXXVI

SERGEANT WILKES WANTS TO KNOW

*Glossary of Spanish Words*

List of Illustrations

Plate I

THE 95TH CHARGE HOME . . . . . . . . . Frontispiece

Plate II

A QUESTION OF SUPPLY

Plate III

JACK CAPTURES A DRAGOON

Plate IV

JACK MAKES AN OPPORTUNE APPEARANCE

Plate V

FRANCISCO FALLS FROM THE PLANK

Plate VI

JACK HAS A NARROW ESCAPE

Plate VII

JACK LEADS A FORLORN HOPE

Plate VIII

MIGUEL ESCAPES FROM THE GARDEN

Maps and Plans

1. Map of Spain and Portugal, showing the positions
of the French, Spanish, and British forces at the
commencement of Moore’s retreat from Sahagun

2. Plan of the Battle of Corunna

3. Plan of the City of Saragossa

4. Plan of the Plaza Alvarez District

The plans of Corunna and Saragossa are copied,
by kind permission of Professor Oman and the
Delegates of the Clarendon Press, from the former’s
“History of the Peninsular War”, Vols. I and II.

CHAPTER I

Corporal Wilkes wants to know

An International Question—Discipline—An Onlooker—Lumsden
of the 95th—Dogged—A Six Days’ Ride—Puzzlement

“What I want to know,” said Corporal Wilkes, banging
his fist on the table in front of him—”what I want to
know is, what you Dons are doing for all the coin we’ve
spent on you.”

He was seated with a few other stalwarts of the 95th
under the eastern colonnade of the Plaza Mayor, in
Salamanca; a nondescript group of Spaniards, stolidly curious,
blocked up the footway, and stood lounging against the
balustrade. Getting no answer to his question, and
probably expecting none, the corporal jerked his chin-strap
under his nose, glared comprehensively around, and
continued:

“I asked before, and I ask again, what has become
of the ship-loads of honest British guineas you Dons have
been pocketing for I don’t know how long? Tell me that!
What have you got to show for ’em, eh?—that’s what I
want to know. Here are we, without a stiver to our
name, no pay for weeks, and no chance of seeing any.
And look at this: here’s a boot for you; that’s what your
Spanish mud makes o’ good Bermondsey leather; and
rain—well, of all the rain I ever see, blest if it ain’t the
wettest!”

He paused; the knot of Riflemen grunted approval.
The Spaniards, who had by this time become aware that
his remarks were aimed directly at them, turned
enquiringly to one of their number, who shrugged, and gave
them in Spanish the heads of the speaker’s argument.
Perceiving that he had made some impression, the corporal
proceeded to follow up his advantage.

“What I want to know is, what ‘ave we come here for?
They did say as we were sent for to help you Dons fight
the French. That’s what they said. Well, the French
are all right; but what are you doing? We showed
you the way at Vimeiro; that’s a long time ago now—what
have you done since? Where are all the armies
and the generals you talked so much about? What’s
become of them? Tell me that! Here we’ve been in
Salamanky a matter of fourteen days, but we ain’t seen
none of them. There’s plenty of you Dons about, sure
enough, but you don’t look to me like fighting-men. Where
are you hiding ’em?—that’s what I want to know.”

There was no mistaking the glance of withering
contempt with which the speaker pointed his questions; a
movement of resentment was already visible among his
mixed audience. The interpreter, whose dress proclaimed
him a seaman from one of the Biscayan ports, was now
volubly rendering the gist of the Englishman’s taunts, to
an accompaniment of strange oaths and ominous murmurs
from

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