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Charles O'Malley, the Irish dragon online

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sides went down almost to a man, and, all order being lost, the en-
counter became one of hand to hand.

The struggle was deadly ; neither party would give way ; and,
while fortune now inclined hither and thither, Sir Charles Stewart
singled out the French General Lamotte, and carried him off his
prisoner. Meanwhile, Montbrun's cavalry and the cuirassiers came
riding up, and, the retreat now sounding through our ranks, we
were obliged to fall back upon the infantry. The French pursued
us hotly ; and so rapid was their movement, that, before Ramsey's
brigade could limber up and away, their squadrons had surrounded
him and captured his guns.

" Where is Ramsey ?" cried Craufurd, as he galloped to the head
of our division. " Cut off— cut off ! Taken, by G — ! There he
goes !" said he, pointing with his finger, as a dense cloud of mingled
smoke and dust moved darkly across the plain. " Form into column
once more !"

As he spoke, the dense mass before us seemed agitated by some
mighty commotion ; the flashing of blades, and the rattling of small
arms, mingled with shouts of triumph or defiance, burst forth, and
the ominous cloud, lowering more darkly, seemed peopled by those
in deadly strife. An English cheer pealed high above all other
sounds ; a second followed ; the mass was rent asunder, and, like the


forked lightning from a thunder-cloud, Ramsey rode forth at the
head of his battery, the horses bounding madly, while the guns
sprang behind them like things of no weight ; the gunners leaped to
their places, and fighting hand to hand with the French cavalry,
they flew across the plain.

" Nobly done, gallant Ramsey !" said a voice behind me. I turned
at the sound ; it was Lord Wellington who spoke. My eye fixed
upon his stern features, I forgot all else ; when he suddenly recalled
me to my recollection by saying,

" Follow your brigade, sir. Charge !"

In an instant I was with my people, who, intervening betwixt
Ramsey and his pursuers, repulsed the enemy with loss, and carried
off several prisoners. The French, however, came up in greater
strength ; overwhelming masses of cayalry came sweeping upon us,
and we were obliged to retire behind the light division, which rapidly
formed into squares to resist the cavalry. The seventh division,
which was more advanced, were, however, too late for this movement,
and, before they could effect their formation, the French were upon
them. At this moment they owed their safety to the Chasseurs
Britanniques, who poured in a flanking fire, so close, and with so
deadly an aim, that their foes recoiled, beaten and bewildered.

Meanwhile, the French had become masters of P090 Velho ; the
formidable masses had nearly outflanked us on the right. The battle
was lost, if we could not fall back upon our original position, and
concentrate our force upon Fuentes d'Onoro. To effect this was a
work of great difficulty ; but no time was to be lost. The seventh
division were ordered to cross the Turones, while Craufurd, form-
ing the light division into squares, covered their retreat, and, sup-
ported by the cavalry, sustained the whole force of the enemy's

Then was the moment to witness the cool and steady bravery of
British infantry ; the squares dotted across the enormous plain
seemed as nothing amid that confused and flying multitude, com-
posed of commissariat baggage, camp-followers, peasants, and,
finally, broken pickets and videttes arriving from the wood. A
cloud of cavalry hovered and darkened around them ; the Polish
lancers shook their long spears, impatient of delay, and the wild
huzzas burst momentarily from their squadrons as they waited for
the word to attack. But the British stood firm and undaunted ; and
although the enemy rode round their squares, Montbrun himself
at their head, they never dared to charge them. Meanwhile, the
seventh division fell back, as if on a parade, and crossing the river,
took up their ground at Frenada, pivoting upon the first division ;
the remainder of the line also fell back, and assumed a position at


right angles with their former one, the cavalry forming in front, and
holding the French in check during the movement. This was a
splendid manoeuvre, and, when made in face of an overnumbering
enemy, one unmatched during the whole war.

At sight of this new front the French stopped short, and opened
a fire from their heavy guns. The British batteries replied with
vigor, and silenced the enemy's cannon. The cavalry drew out of
range, and the infantry gradually fell back to their former position.
While this was going on, the attack upon Fuentes d'Onoro was con-
tinued with unabated vigor. The three British regiments in the
lower town were pierced by the French tirailleurs, who poured upon
them in overwhelming numbers ; the 79th were broken, ten com-
panies taken, and Cameron, their colonel, mortally wounded. Thus
the lower village was in the hands of the enemy, while from the
upper town the incessant roll of musketry proclaimed the obstinate
resistance of the British.

At this period our reserves were called up from the right, in time
to resist the additional troops which Drouet continued to bring on.
The French, reinforced by the whole sixth corps, now came forward
at a quick step. Dashing through the ruined streets of the lower
town, they crossed the rivulet, fighting bravely, and charged against
the height. Already their leading files had gained the crag beside
the chapel. A French colonel, holding his cap upon his sword-point,
waved on his men.

The grizzly features of the grenadiers soon appeared, and the dark
column, half climbing, half running, were seen scaling the height.
A rifle-bullet sent the French leader tumbling from the precipice ;
and a cheer — mad and reckless as the war-cry of an Indian — rent
the sky, as the 71st and 79th Highlanders sprang upon the enemy.

Our part was a short one ; advancing in half-squadrons, we were
concealed from the observation of the enemy by the thick vineyards
which skirted the lower town, waiting with impatience the moment
when our gallant kifantry should succeed in turning the tide of
battle. We were ordered to dismount, and stood with our bridles
on our arms, anxious and expectant. The charge of the French
column was made close to where we were standing — th^ inspiriting
cheers of the officers, the loud vivas of the men, were plainly heard
by us as they rushed to the assault ; but the space between us was
intersected by walls and brushwood, which totally prevented the
movements of cavalry.

Fearlessly their dark column moved up the heights, fixing the

bayonets as they went. No tirailleurs preceded them, but the tall

shako of the Grenadier of the Guard was seen in the first rank.

Long before the end of the column had passed us, the leading files



were in action. A deafening peal of musketry — so loud, so dense, it
seemed like artillery — burst forth. A volume of black smoke rolled
heavily down from the heights and hid all from our view, except
when the vivid lightning of the platoon firing rent the veil asunder,
and showed us the troops almost in hand to hand conflict.

" It's Picton's division, I'm certain," cried Merivale ; " I hear the
bagpipes of the Highlanders."

" You are right, sir," said Hampden ; " the 71st are in the same
brigade, and I know their bugles well. There they go again 1"

" Fourteenth ! Fourteenth !" cried a voice from behind, and at the
same moment a staff officer, without his hat, and his horse bleeding
from a recent sabre-cut, came up. " You must move to the rear,
Colonel Merivale ; the French have gained the heights ! Move
round by the causeway — bring up your squadrons as quickly as you
can, and support the infantry !"

In a moment we were in our saddles ; but scarcely was the word
to fall in given, when a loud cheer rent the very air ; the musketry
seemed suddenly to cease, and the dark mass which continued to
struggle up the heights wavered, broke, and turned.

" What can that be ?" said Merivale. " What can it mean ?"

" I can tell you, sir," said I, proudly, while I felt my heart as
though it would bound from my bosom.

" And what is it, boy ? Speak !"

" There it goes again ! That was an Irish shout ! The 88th are
at them I"

"By Jove! here they come!" said Hampden. "God help the
Frenchmen now !"

The words were not well spoken, when the red coats of our gallant
fellows were seen dashing through the vineyard.

" The steel, boys — nothing but the steel !" shouted a loud voice
from the crag above our heads.

I looked up. It was the stern Picton himself who spoke.

The 88th now led the pursuit, and sprang from rock to rock in all
the mad impetuosity of battle; and like some mighty billow rolling
before the gale, the French went down the heights.

" Gallant 88th ! Gloriously done !" cried Picton, as he waved his

" Aren't we Connaught robbers, now ?" shouted a rich brogue, as
its owner, breathless and bleeding, pressed forward in the charge.

A hearty burst of laughter mingled with the din of the battle.

" Now for it, boys ! Now for our work !" said old Merivale, draw-
ing his sabre as he spoke. " Forward ! and charge !"

We waited not a second bidding, but bursting from our conceal-
ment, galloped down into the broken column. It was no regular


charge, but an indiscriminate rush. Scarcely offering resistance,
the enemy fell beneath our sabres, or the still more deadly bayonets
of the infantry, who were inextricably mixed up in the conflict.

The chase was followed up for above half a mile, when we fell
back, fortunately in good time ; for the French had opened a heavy
fire from their artillery, and, regardless" of their own retreating
column, poured a shower of grape among our squadrons. As we
retired, the struggling files of the Eangers joined us — their faces and
accoutrements blackened and begrimed with powder; many of them,
themselves wounded, had captured prisoners ; and one huge fellow
of the grenadier company was seen driving before him a no less
powerful Frenchman, and to whom, as he turned from time to time
reluctantly, and scowled upon his gaoler, the other vociferated some
Irish imprecation, whose harsh intentions were made most palpably
evident by a flourish of a drawn bayonet.

" Who is he V said Mike ; " who is he, ahagur?"

" Sorra one o' me knows," said the other ; " but it's the chap that
shot Lieutenant Mahony, and I never took my eye off him after ;
and if the Lieutenant's not dead, sure it'll be a satisfaction to him
that I cotch him."


The lower town was now evacuated by the French, who retired
beyond the range of our artillery ; the upper continued in the occu-
pation of our troops. Worn out and exhausted, surrounded by
dead and dying, both parties abandoned the contest — and the battle
was over.

Both sides laid claim to the victory ; the French, because, having
taken the village of P090 Velho, they had pierced the British line,
and compelled them to fall back and assume a new position ; the
British, because the attack upon Fuentes d'Onoro had been success-
fully resisted, and the blockade of Almeida — the real object of the
battle — maintained. The loss to each was tremendous : fifteen hun-
dred men and officers, of whom three hundred were prisoners, were
lost by the allies, and a far greater number fell among the forces of
the enemy.

After the action, a brigade of the light division released the troops
in the village, and the armies bivouacked once more in sight of each




THE day after the battle, as I awoke from a sound and heavy
slumber, the result of thirteen hours on horseback, the first
paragraph of a general order, dated Fuentes d'Onoro, arrested
my attention. " Lieutenant O'Malley, 14th Light Dragoons, to serve
as extra aide-de-camp to Major-General Craufurd, until the pleasure
of his Eoyal Highness the Prince Eegent is known."

A staff appointment was not exactly what I desired at the mo-
ment ; but I knew that with Craufurd, my duties were more likely
to be at the pickets and advanced posts of the army than in the
mere details of note-writing or despatch-bearing ; besides that, I felt,
whenever anything of importance was to be done, I should always
obtain his permission to do duty "with my regiment.

Taking a hurried breakfast, therefore, I mounted my horse, and
cantered over to Villa Formosa, where the General's quarters were,
to return thanks for my promotion, and take the necessary steps for
assuming my new functions.

Although the sun had risen about two hours, the fatigue of the
previous day had impressed itself upon all around. The cavalry,
men and horses, were still stretched upon the sward, sunk in sleep ;
the videttes, weary and tired, seemed anxiously watching for the
relief, and the disordered and confused appearance of everything
bespoke that discipline had relaxed its stern features, in compassion
for the bold exertions of the preceding day. The only contrast to
this general air of exhaustion and weariness on every side was a
corps of sappers, who were busily employed upon the high grounds
above the village. Early as it was, they seemed to have been at
work some hours — at least so their labors bespoke ; for already a
rampart of considerable extent had been thrown up, stockades im-
planted, and a breastwork was in a state of active preparation. The
officer of the party, wrapped up in a loose cloak, and mounted upon
a sharp-looking hackney, rode hither and thither, as the occasion
warranted, and seemed, as well as from the distance I could guess,
something of a tartar. At least I could not help remarking how at
his approach the several inferior officers seemed "suddenly so much
more on the alert, and the men worked with an additional vigor and
activity. I stopped for some minutes to watch him, and seeing an
engineer captain of my acquaintance among the party, couldn't re-
sist calling out :

" I say, Hachard, your friend on the chestnut mare must have had
an easier day yesterday than some of us, or I'll be hanged if he'd be


so active this morning." Hachard hung his head in some confu-
sion, and did not reply ; and, on my looking round, whom should I
see before me but the identical individual I had been so coolly criti-
cising, and who, to my utter horror and dismay, was no other than
Lord Wellington himself. I did not wait for a second peep. Hel-
ter-skelter, through water, thickets, and brambles, away I went,
clattering down the causeway like a madman. If a French squad-
ron had been behind me, I should have had a stouter heart, although
I did not fear pursuit. I felt his eye was upon me — his sharp and
piercing glance, that shot like an arrow into me; and his firm look
stared at me in every object around.

Onward I pressed, feeling in the very recklessness of my course
some relief to my sense of shame, and ardently hoping that some
accident— some smashed arm or broken collar-bone — might befall
me, and rescue me from any notice my conduct might otherwise call
for. I never drew rein till I reached the Villa Formosa, and pulled
up short at a small cottage, where a double sentry apprised me of
the General's quarters. As I came up, the low lattice sprang quickly
open, and a figure, half dressed and more than half asleep, protruded
his head.

"Well, what has happened? Anything wrong?" said he, whom
I now recognized to be General Craufurd.

"No; nothing wrong, sir," stammered I, with evident confusion.
" I'm merely come to thank you for your kindness in my behalf."

" You seemed in a devil of a hurry to do it, if I'm to judge by the
pace you came at. Come in and take your breakfast with us ; I
shall be dressed presently, and you'll meet some of your brother

Having given my horse to an orderly, I walked into a little room,
whose humble accommodations and unpretending appearance
seemed in perfect keeping with the simple and unostentatious char-
acter of the General. The preparations for a good and substantial
breakfast were, however, before me, and an English newspaper of a
late date spread its most ample pages to welcome me. I had not
been long absorbed in my reading, when the door opened, and the
General, whose toilet was not yet completed, made his appearance.

" Egad, O'Malley, you startled me this morning. I thought we
were in for it again."

I took this as the most seasonable opportunity to recount my mis-
hap of the morning, and accordingly, without more ado, detailed the
unlucky meeting with the Commander-in-Chief. When I came to
the end, Craufurd threw himself into a chair and laughed till the
very tears coursed down his bronzed features.

" You don't say so, boy ? You don't really tell me you said that?


By Jove ! I would rather have faced a whole platoon of musketry
than have stood in your shoes! You did not wait for a reply, I

" No, faith, sir, that I did not !"

" Do you suspect he knows you?"

" I trust not, sir ; the whole thing passed so rapidly."

" Well, it's most unlucky in more ways than one I" He paused
for a few moments as he said this, and then added, " Have you seen
the general order?" pushing towards me a written paper as he
spoke. It ran thus :

" G. O. Adjutant-General's Office, Villa Formosa,

" May 6, 1811. •

" Memorandum. — Commanding officers are requested to send in to
the Military Secretary, as soon as possible, the names of officers they
may wish to have promoted in succession to those who have fallen
in action."

" Now, look at this list. The Hon. Harvey Howard, Grenadier

Guards, to be First Lieutenant, vice . No, not that. Henry

Beauchamp — George Villiers. Ay, here it is ! Captain Lyttleton,
14th Light Dragoons, to be Major in the 3d Dragoon Guards, vice
Godwin, killed in action ; Lieutenant O'Malley to be Captain, vice
Lyttleton, promoted. You see, my boy, I did not forget you ; you
were to have had the vacant troop in your own regiment. Now, I
almost doubt the prudence of bringing your name under Lord Wel-
lington's notice. He may have recognized you, and if he did so, —
why, I rather think — that is, I suspect — I mean, the quieter you
keep the better."

While I poured forth my gratitude as warmly as I was able for
the General's great kindness to me, I expressed my perfect concur-
rence in his views.

" Believe me, sir," said I, " I should much rather wait any number
of years for my promotion than incur the risk of a reprimand ! — the
more so as it is not the first time I have blundered with his lord-
ship." I here narrated my former meeting with Sir Arthur, at which
Craufurd's mirth again burst forth, and he paced the room holding
his sides in an ecstasy of merriment.

" Come, come, lad, we'll hope for the best ; we'll give you the
chance that he has not seen your face, and send the list forward as
it is. But here come our fellows."

As he spoke, the door opened, and three officers of his staff
entered, to whom, being severally introduced, we chatted away
about the news of the morning until breakfast.

" I've frequently heard of you from my friend Hammersley," said


Captain Fitzroy, addressing me ; " you were intimately acquainted,
I believe ?"

" Oh, yes ! Pray, where is he now ? We have not met for a long

" The poor fellow's invalided ; that sabre-cut upon his head has
turned out a sad affair, and he's gone back to England on a sick
leave. Old Dashwood took him back with him as private secretary,
or something of that sort."

" Ah !" said another ; " Dashwood has daughters, hasn't he? No
bad notion of his, for Hammersley will be a baronet some of these
days, with a rent-roll of eight or nine thousand per annum."

" Sir George Dashwood," said I, " has but one daughter, and I
am quite sure that in his kindness to Hammersley no intentions of
the kind you mention were mixed up."

" Well, I don't know," said the third, a pale, sickly youth, with
handsome but delicate features. "I was on Dashwood's staff until
a few weeks ago, and certainly I thought there was something
going on between Hammersley and Miss Lucy, who, be it spoken,
is a devilish fine girl, though rather disposed to give herself airs."

I felt my cheek and my temples boiling like a furnace ; my hand
trembled as I lifted my coffee to my lips, and I would have given
my expected promotion twice over to have had any reasonable
ground of quarrel with the speaker.

" Egad, lads," said Craufurd, " that's the very best thing I know
about a command. As a bishop is always sure to portion off his
daughters with deaneries and rectories, so your knowing old general
always marries his among his staff."

This sally was met with the ready laughter of the subordinates,
in which, however little disposed, I was obliged to join.

"You are quite right, sir," rejoined the pale youth; "and Sir
George has no fortune to give his daughter."

" How came it, Horace, that you got off safe ?" said Fitzroy, with
a certain air of affected seriousness in his voice and manner ; "I
wonder they let such a prize escape them."

" Well, it was not exactly their fault, I do confess. Old Dash-
wood did the civil towards me ; and la betta Lucie herself was con-
descending enough to be less cruel than to the rest of the staff. Her
father threw us a good deal together ; and in fact I believe — I fear —
that is — that I didn't behave quite well."

" You may rest perfectly assured of it, sir," said I ; " whatever
your previous conduct may have been, you have completely relieved
your mind on this occasion, and behaved most shamefully !"

Had a shell fallen in the midst of us, the faces around me could
not have been more horror-struck than when, in a cool, determined


tone, I spoke those few words. Fitzroy pushed his chair slightly
back from the table, and fixed his eyes full upon me. Craufurd
grew dark purple over his whole face and forehead, and looked
from one to the other of us, without speaking, while the honorable
Horace Delawar, the individual addressed, never changed a muscle
of his wan and sickly features, but, lifting his eyes slowly from his
muffin, lisped softly out,

" You think so ? How very good I"

" General Craufurd," said I, the moment I could collect myself
sufficiently to speak, " I am deeply grieved that I should so far have
forgotten myself as to disturb the harmony of your table ; but when
I tell you that Sir George Dashwood is one of my warmest friends
on earth ; that from my intimate knowledge of him, I am certain
that gentleman's statements are either the mere outpouring of folly,
or worse "

" By Jove, O'Malley, you have a very singular mode of explaining
away the matter. Delawar, sit down again. Gentlemen, I have
only one word to say about this transaction — I'll have no squabbles
or broils here ; from this room to the guard-house is a five minutes'
walk. Promise me, upon your honors, that this altercation ends here,
or, as sure as my name's Craufurd, you shall both be placed under
arrest, and the man who refuses to obey me shall be sent back to

Before I well knew in what way to proceed, Mr. Delawar rose
and bowed formally to the General, while I imitated his example.
Silently we resumed our places, and after a pause of a few moments,
the current of conversation was renewed, and other topics discussed,
but with such evident awkwardness and constraint, that all parties
felt relieved when the General rose from the table.

" I say, O'Malley, have you forwarded the returns to the Adju-
tant-General's office ?"

" Yes, sir ; I despatched them this morning before leaving my

" I am glad of it ; the irregularities on this score have called forth
a heavy reprimand at head-quarters."

I was also glad of it, and it chanced that by mere accident I re-
membered to charge Mike with the papers, which, had they not
been lying unsealed upon the table before me, would in all likeli-
hood have escaped my attention. The post started to Lisbon that
same morning, to take advantage of which I had sat up writing for
half the night. Little was I aware at the moment what a mass of
trouble and annoyance was in store for me from the circumstance.




ON the morning of the 7th we perceived, from a movement in
the French camp, that the wounded were being sent to the
rear, and shortly afterwards the main body of the army com-

Online LibraryCharles James LeverCharles O'Malley, the Irish dragon → online text (page 55 of 80)