William's Diary ~ Part 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 ~ diary month-by-month ~ March 1813 - December 1813

Some background to the Battle of Vitoria from Wikipedia
Wellington's account of the battle
Images of re-enactors June 2013 at Vitoria

(46) Probably early in March 1813 - I WAITED next day on Colonel Cadogan, who took me to see his brother, Major The Honourable Edward Cadogan, in old Bond Street.

He was confined to his room by a severe fit of ague, and the Colonel requested that I should call on him daily and keep up his spirits, which I did during my stay in London. In a few days the Major took me to see General (S.G. Denis) Pack in Bury Street, who was confined to his room by a wound received in Portugal. The General received me in the most friendly manner, and expressed a wish to see me often. My worthy friend the Honourable Colonel Cadogan about this time got intimation that he would be arrested for a large sum that he had become security for the member for Dover*. He sent for me and communicated in confidence his situation, and that he would start for Suffolk next morning, and that should any person make enquiries about him to say he was still in town; but that on a certain day he would return to my lodgings to breakfast. He was punctual and arrived at the appointed time, and remained with me for four days, during the greater part of which he was closeted with the Honourable and Rev. Gerrard (S.G. Actually Gerald) Wellesly, brother to the Duke of Wellington. (47) On the fifth day I took a seat for himself and servant under the assumed name of Hamilton in the mail for Falmouth. Previous to his setting out we dined together at the White Horse Cellar, Pickadilly. The Colonel left me many commands to execute for him, and orders to proceed to Portsmouth with as little delay as possible and embark for Portugal.

*According to Gareth Glover in his edition of The Diary of William Gavin "There were two members of Parliament for Dover, Sir John Jackson and Sir Charles Jenkinson 10th Baronet"

In a few days took the coach for Portsmouth and embarked with several officers on their way to join their respective regiments. On landing at Lisbon I waited on Colonel Cadogan at the Ambassadors, Sir Chas. Stuart, * where I received orders to proceed to join the Regiment, who were in winter quarters at Bejar in Spain. We remained here till the month of May, the men messing with the inhabitants in the most friendly way, and living as if they belonged to the family. Potatoes were more plentiful here than anywhere I have seen, with the exception of Ireland. It is a walled town, with a great cloth manufactory, which was forced to supply clothing for a French regiment annually, gratis.

* S.G. I suggest this should read "the Ambassador's, Sir Chas. Stuart" i.e. Sir Charles Stuart, 1st Baron Stuart de Rothesay who was Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Portugal 1810-1814

1st Lord Stuart de Rothesay in 1830
artwork details

On the 6th May we marched to join the main army, which was concentrated in the neighbourhood. We commenced our march through Spain, passed the Ebro, (48) through a most delightful country in the direction of Vittoria, where King Joseph had his headquarters.

The Ebro River in Zaragoza


May 22nd 1813 - We marched a few miles and encamped in an olive wood. It rained for the whole of the day, and our baggage not having arrived we were in a dreadful state. During this night, stretched on the wet ground, I happened to have a boat cloak, which I shared with Colonel Cother*, who was severely wounded, and had now the command of the Regiment. He received during the action eight balls in his saddle and different parts of his clothing, and only one hurt him; it went through his wrist.

* Obituary of Colonel Cother from the Gentleman's Magazine and Historical Review, Volume 43 -1855

Obituary of Lieut Colonel Cother, C.B. Jan. 24. At Gloucester, Lieut.-Colonel Charles Cother, C.B. He entered the army in Feb. 1800, as Ensign in the 71 st Foot, became a Lieutenant in the following July, and Captain in March, 1803. In 1806 he covered the landing of the force under Sir David Baird at the Cape of Good Hope, and was present in the general action of Blue Berg, and in all the operations that took place until the surrender of the colony. He covered the advance of the forces under Gen. Beresford at the reduction of the River Plate, and was engaged in several affairs in the vicinity of Buenos Ayres. On the surrender of that place he was taken prisoner, together with his whole force, and was marched nearly a thousand miles into the interior. In 1808 he commanded in Portugal the light companies of the brigade under General Ferguson at the battles of Roleia and Vimiera, and was afterwards at Corunna. In 1811 he was again in Portugal, and was at Arroyo dc Molinos when General Guerard was captured. Having commanded the storming parties at the taking of the forts of Almarez, on the Tagus, he obtained the brevet of Lieut.-Colonel June 19, 1812. He led the 71st at the battle of Vittoria, and there received three musket balls through his clothes and in his saddle and was wounded by a fourth. He subsequently passed seventeen years in Ceylon, and commanded in the Eastern provinces in the Kandian country during the rebellion of 1818 : having been appointed to the Lieut.-Colonelcy of the 71st in Oct. 1814, and exchanged to the 83rd in Oct. 1816. He was placed on half-pay at the reduction of the 83rd Foot. Lieut.-Colonel Cother was nominated a Companion of the Bath Dec 8, 1815, and was decorated with a gold medal for Vittoria and the silver war medal.

May 23rd 1813 - Marched, in rain, thunder and lightning. - An English officer and his horse were killed by the latter. (54) This night my servant, John Lewis, joined. He was taken prisoner on the 21st with many more of our men, who made their escape.

May 24th 1813 - Arrived before Pampluna, a very strong fortified town, and invested it. We remained here a few days, and were relieved by a Spanish division, and marched towards the Pyrenees mountains. We again encountered our old friends the French at the village of Maya, and forced them into France.

June 19th 1813 - We heard firing in our front and were ordered to pile arms. An Aide-de-Camp sent forward to know from what it proceeded. On his return he informed us that an action had taken place between a division of the French army and ours, (49) in which the former was defeated with great loss. They were on the march to join their headquarters at Vittoria. We resumed our march. Our route lay close to the field of battle, which was covered with killed and wounded. The Colonel and myself rode to the spot to view the carnage, when he said, ‘Gavin, you know how badly off the men are for salt and tobacco; take a sergeant’s guard with you and go to Salta * (50) a town about three leagues off, and try and get a supply.’ I was setting off for the Regiment to get my guard, when he called me back and said ‘Now, you are well mounted, and as many French stragglers are about the woods, you may make your escape when the soldiers could not, therefore I think you had better go alone.’ This was pretty comfort for me to go three leagues through a wooded country where I could not see ten yards before me, and that thick with retreating armed Frenchmen. On parting with my good Colonel, he shook me by the hand and laughingly bid me ‘take care of the Frenchmen.’ The road I had to traverse was through a thick olive and cork wood, and ran zig-zag, that scarcely in any place was there a straight line of ten paces, and every minute there was pop-pop from musquetry to the right, left, and front, between the peasantry and the straggling French. I kept a good round pace until I came to an acute angle, when to my dismay I was within a few yards of a French soldier, armed and accoutred, with his bayonet fixed. To advance was death, and to retreat was disgraceful and dangerous, as many more might be in my rear. On hearing the noise of my horse’s hoofs he turned shortly round and came to the present, and asked in Spanish who I was. I replied, as well as fear allowed me, that I belonged to the English army, when he cried out ‘Amigo’ (friend). He turned out to be a Spanish peasant, who had been to the field of battle, and stripped a French soldier, and put on his clothes, knapsack, arms, and accoutrements, etc. I parted with my amigo? right glad he turned out to be so. He gave directions as to my road, and informed me that a short way further I would come to a village, where the Alcade would provide a guide for my further advance through the woods, I soon overtook another Spaniard, who told me he was just then after killing two Frenchmen. I asked him how he could perform that by himself. He said that they lay down under a rock and fell asleep, and he got to the top and rolled a large stone which crushed them to death. The Spaniards held them in such detestation that they exulted in the greatest barbarities.

*According to Gareth Glover in his edition of The Diary of William Gavin "Salinas de Anana is still a major salt works."

On my arrival in the village I was directed to the Alcade’s, and on enquiring for him, two mustachioed, whiskerified Hussars ran down from a left in the most menacing manner and enquired what I wanted. I took them for Frenchmen and thought it was all over with me, when to my great relief, on looking at their buttons, I found they belonged to the Catalonian Hussars. I got my guide to the next village, and by way of precaution sent him in to reconnoitre lest some of the enemy were in it, which proved not to be the case. On my way through the street two Spaniards seized the reins of my bridle on each side of my horse, and arrested me as a flying Frenchman. I protested that I was an Englishman (they never having seen one before), and that I was on my way to Salta for supplies for the British army, but all my protestations were vain. I opened my great coat and displayed my scarlet jacket as a proof, but no, it would not do. By this time the whole population were collected, and a council of war held whether I was to be hanged or shot. The former they preferred, as they considered a Frenchman unworthy of going out of the world by so honourable a death as shooting. I was in this hopeful pickle when a hoary-headed blacksmith made his way up to the crowd. His opinion seemed to have great weight with the populace, and a profound silence ensued while he was interrogating me as to my business in that remote part of the world, etc., etc. When I told him my story he shook his head, and turning to the people he said, ‘I believe the senor,’ and as a further proof, laying hold of my sash, said, ‘The French don’t wear things of this kind.’ On this avowal of the sage I was immediately liberated and a guide provided to the next village. As usual I sent him in before, and there found a lieutenant of Morillo’s Corps collecting provisions. I waited on him and told him I was going to Salta. He kindly sent a soldier with me, it being about two miles off, and invited me to dinner on my return. After loading two mules with tobacco and salt, I was preparing to return to my friendly lieutenant, when the church bells commenced ringing the alarm, and men, women and children all crowded to the square. Salta is built on a rock that was once fortified, the only remains of its former strength are the walls and an old gate. On the side next the great road leading to the City of Vittoria it is very steep. The cause of the alarm was the approach of about twenty French Dragoons who came round an angle of the rock, slowly moving on the road towards the town, which they supposed to be the advanced guard of a greater force. The old gate was barricaded with carts, etc., and I being the only military man in the town, and an Englishman to boot, they surrounded me begging for instructions how to defend the town. I was as much puzzled as themselves, and wished myself a thousand times in my camp among my friends; but as fortune still preserved me, the whole French force consisted in those we took for the advance guard of part of an army, and were some of the fugitives of the preceding battle making their way to a fort close by that the French still held possession of. Having loaded my mules I took leave of my Salta friends and returned to my Spanish officer, who waited dinner for me till five o’clock, though their usual hour is twelve. After making a hearty dinner on the kidneys of the sheep which he got killed for his men, he gave me a soldier as an escort, and night overtook us on the ground where the battle (51) was fought. There was only one solitary house, and it was filled with wounded French and English. This house was so full of wounded and attendants that I took up my quarters in the stable, across the door of which I stretched myself to guard the muleteer, in order that if he attempted to make his escape he should walk over my body. A thing very frequent among that class of people was decamping in the night, mules, baggage and all. On the return through the village of my worthy blacksmith, he exultingly proclaimed my return to the inhabitants as he had foretold, and took me to the priest’s, where I was very kindly entertained. Next day about two o’clock I joined my Regiment in camp, and related my adventures to the Colonel, who I thought would crack his sides laughing at my adventure with the blacksmith, etc., and called all the officers to make me repeat it again. My worthy friend, little did I think that next day he would be numbered with the dead!

Wellington's account of the battle - an overview of the events of the 21st June
June 20th (and 21st) 1813 - We bivouacked and marched early on the 21st towards Vittoria. I was riding with my brave Colonel when he turned round to his private servant and said, ‘John, did you ever see a battle?’ John replied in, the negative. ‘Well, my good fellow’ said he, ‘you will have a view of one directly.’ Being senior officer of the brigade, the command developed on him, this day, and he might have remained with the 50th and 92nd when the word was given ‘1st advance,’ but my brave commander, wherever danger was always foremost, preferred heading his own regiment, which was ordered to the heights to join Morillo’s Spanish corps in order to attack a strong French force drawn up in a very commanding situation. The men were ordered to advance in double quick time. I took the liberty of saying to the Colonel that I thought he ought to remain with the main body of the brigade as he had the command of the whole. His reply was, ‘We will have a dash at these rascals first.’ On our coming up near the enemy they opened a tremendous fire from the rocks above and killed a great number. The noble Colonel still urging his men forward, we had to make our way through trees and underwood, and, obliged to dismount off our horses. I was leading my white Andalusian horse in company with Paymaster M’Kenzie, who had a black one, tugging through the bushes, when my charger, being very conspicuous, attracted the notice of about ten French chasseurs who were placed on a rock immediately over us, and by way of amusement commenced a regular fire on us as at a target. Old M’Kenzie cried out, ‘Gavin, you are damned bad company,’ and scampered off as fast as the bushes would permit him. The French now began to retreat from rock to rock, still keeping up destructive fire on us, our men falling right and left. Our Colonel (who was mounted on a favourite chestnut English charger) whose eye was everywhere, perceived a French column trying to out-flank Captain Hall’s company, and turning round on his horse to give orders for another company to reinforce them, received a ball in the small of the back from a French chasseur of the 40th Regiment Legére. (52) I came up at this moment and he said, ‘Gavin, I’m wounded, remain with me, and try to get the Surgeon.’ I assisted him off his horse, laid him on the ground and put a dead soldier’s knapsack under his head, and went in search of the Surgeon Logan. He was employed in dressing Captain Richards, who received a musquet ball in the leg. As soon as he had bandaged it up we proceeded to the Colonel, who was bleeding profusely. He examined the wound, then took me aside and pronounced it mortal. The ball penetrated to the abdomen and lodged near the surface of the skin. Our band (not being fighting men) were employed in action to carry the wounded to the surgeon. At each corner of their blankets a hole was worked, through which two poles were run, which formed an easy litter and was borne by four of them. I detained four of the stoutest of them to carry my worthy friend to a spring waggon in the plain, but he refused to have himself moved, and when I represented to him that I feared he should go to England he said, ‘We settle these scoundrels first.’ The height where he received his wound commanded a full view of the plain where the two hostile armies were engaged. He wished to be brought nearer to the edge of the precipice that he might have a better view of the line. He asked where was Lord Wellington. I pointed him out surrounded by his staff; he then said, ‘Where is Sir Thomas Picton’s division, it ought to be the extreme left.’ I directed his attention to what I thought was the left, when he peevishly answered ‘No, he is not yet engaged.’ The wind from the plain was piercing cold, and I begged to allow me to remove him, but he said ‘Let me remain, I trust in God that this will be a glorious day for England.’ At this time French prisoners were coming in fast, and, among others a fierce-looking Colonel of the 40th Chasseurs. The arms of the killed and wounded were scattered over the field, and having only the four band men and myself, I was apprehensive they would arm themselves and make their escape, but luckily a few of the 92nd Grenadiers came up, whom I detained as a guard. The battle was raging all this time. A village in the plain was taken and retaken several times. (53) My brave Colonel was every moment getting weaker, and about four o’clock p.m. breathed his last, his faithful servant, John, and myself supporting him. I then got him placed in the band’s blanket to have him taken down to the disputed village that was now in our possession, but the precipice was so great that they could not keep their feet. We then put him across his second charger, and with great difficulty brought him to the village. I had him brought to the best looking house; but the owner refused to admit a dead man into his house. What with grief for my loss and hunger (not having tasted food since the day before) I set to work and gave the old Hildalgo such a thrashing as he will remember all the days of his life, and was glad to offer me the best room in the house. Here I left the remains of the bravest soldier and best man that ever wore a red coat, and my sincere friend.

I now followed the army who were pursuing the French, and came to Vittoria weary and hungry. The houses were all barricaded and scarcely a soul in the street. I met a priest and begged a little bread from him. He shrugged up his shoulders and replied that he had none to-day, but that if I called tomorrow he would supply me. I pitched him to the D----l, (Devil? S.G.) and a little further on I encountered a man with a more generous mind, who gave me a little bread and wine. On the outside of town was all Joseph’s private and the army’s baggage, scattered in the greatest confusion, hundreds of coaches and wagons loaded, with money only a few days arrived from France, and above two hundred pieces of cannon. The whole of the 18th Light Dragoons and some of the Guards remained to plunder, for which conduct the promotion of the 18th was stopped for three years. Cases of claret and brandy casks with their heads stove in were in every direction. I got an empty claret bottle filled with brandy, and rode on after the army late in the evening. The country for miles was covered with upset ammunition wagons, guns, etc., etc., abandoned by the French. On the way overtook a drummer and private of the 39th Regiment, who had remained behind to plunder, and mounted them on two immense artillery mules belonging to the French armies. Night was fast approaching, and the whole country as far as the eye could reach was covered with the fires of the army. I made a fruitless effort to find out our brigade, and about twelve o’clock at night got into a church - horse, mules, and the two 39th men. They immediately set to breaking up the pews, and in a short time made a blazing fire. They had by some chance got a quarter of mutton, which they promised to give me part of, provided I shared my brandy bottle with them, which I readily agreed to, and whilst they were cooking and dividing their plunder put the horse’s bridle over my arm and laid myself up against the altar and fell fast asleep, being weary and hungry, not having tasted food (with the exception of the little bread and wine in Vittoria) for upwards of thirty- six hours. Day soon broke, and I found Lord Hill’s lodging and reported Colonel Cadogan’s death to him. He sent Colonel Churchill with me to camp, and ordered Captain William Grant to the village I had left his corpse in, and had him buried in the garden of the Spaniard’s house in the village.

We had killed in officers: - The Hon. Lieutenant-Colonel Cadogan, Captain H. T. Hall, Lieutenant H. Fox, Lieutenant C. M’Kenzie, Lieutenant John Commeline, and Lieutenant C. T. Cox - killed; Lieutenant A. Duff, Lieutenant Loftus Richards, Lieutenant W. E. Lorrane, Colonel Cother, Captain Reed, Captain J. Pidgeon, Captain Wm. A. Grant, Lieutenant John M’Intyre, and Ensign Norman Campell - wounded.

Note. - The official list is as follows: - Killed - Lieutenant Colonel Hon. H. Cadogan, Captain Hall, Lieutenant C. M’Kenzie, Lieutenant Fox (wounded, since died), Lieutenant Cox (wounded and missing). Wounded - Brevet - Lieutenant-Colonel Cother, Captains Reed, Pidgeon, Grant, Lieutenants Duff, Richards, Torriano, M’Intyre, Campbell, Commeline; also 41 men killed and 260 wounded. The difference is that Commeline is given wounded not killed, and that the name Torriano appears instead of Lorrane. The army list shows that the former is the correct name, the error presumably comes from a slip in copying the name by Gavin or the scribe who worked after him.

July 25th, 1813 (55) - We were encamped for a few days in the Pyrenees, as we thought in perfect safety, when the alarm was given of the advance of the enemy in great force. We were immediately at our alarm post and commenced firing, but they were too strong for us and we were obliged to retreat. Unfortunately all the mules and horses were on a foraging party, so that we were obliged to leave all our tents and baggage in the hands of the enemy. The men were cooking at the time of the attack, and had to leave their provisions behind, which the French ate in our sight: We retreated from hill to hill until night, making a stand whenever we could. Lieutenant M’Craw, with a company got on the top of a hill which was surrounded by the enemy, who bivouacked at the bottom of it, having him, as they conceived, secure, but while they slept he contrived to pass through their lines, and brought his men safely off and joined us next morning. This act was reported to Lord Wellington, but M’Craw being a loose character, another lieutenant got a company, for his gallant exploit. We marched through the Black Forest and retreated fighting for eight days, losing many officers and men, until we arrived in front of Pampluna. The French were commanded by Marshall Soult, and had an immense quantity of provisions and stores for, the garrison of Pampluna, who were reduced to great want, living on horse and mule flesh for weeks.

July 28th 1813 - In front of Pampluna an engagement took place, (56) in which the French were routed with great loss and commenced their retreat towards France on the 5th August. We followed them close until we came to Maya, where we received orders to march to Roncesvalles, one of the passes between Spain and France. Here we commenced making block-houses and erecting batteries. The 3rd and 4th divisions were ordered to take the duty on the heights for a week alternately. The duty was very severe on the men. We relieved by regiments at night. The first night we took the duty I pitched my tent, as I thought, on good ground, but found an offensive smell, which I found in the morning to proceed from a dead Frenchman that was laid alongside me. We happened to encamp on the ground where the 20th English regiment had been engaged about ten days before with the French. It was strewn over with the dead of both sides. The French in their advance did not wait to bury them, but put a quantity of branches of trees on each body and set it on fire, which extinguished before the body was half consumed. It was a shocking sight. We ordered out a fatigue party and had them buried in two pits, one for each nation. We remained about six weeks doing this dreadful duty in frost and snow, fatigue parties every day erecting block-houses. They were made of upright trees stuck in the ground with loop-holes all round them at certain intervals, and strongly put together at the roof with wooden pegs. They were to contain a corporal and six men, with a fortnight’s provisions sunk in the floor, composed of biscuit, salt fish, and salt pork, and rum. There was a view of the beautiful plains of France, with continual sunshine, whilst we were enveloped in continual fog, rain or snow. At length there came on a dreadful storm of snow that lasted a day and a night, which cut off every trace between the outposts and the troops in the valley. Not a vestage of the winding road could be discerned. Our regiment were huddled in a barn where they had scarcely standing room. When the snow ceased, fatigue parties were sent to clear away the snow to try and extricate the poor fellows in the block-houses and batteries, and after the labour of hundreds of men for two days we got some of the men and guns down, but more than two sergeants’ guards were never heard of after. It is supposed that they were devoured by the wolves so very numerous in the Pyrenees.

October 30th 1813 - I was at this time ordered to St. Jean de Luz to receive stores and a detachment that had arrived from England I remained one night in Pampluna, the garrison having surrendered prisoners of war (October 24th). It is a beautiful city and the strongest fortifications I ever saw, with a Citadel equally strong. I here gave subsistance to about fifty men of our regiment that were taken by the French at Vittoria, and were kept during the investment. They were like skeletons, having not more than two ounces of bread per day and a little oil, for more than six weeks, though they declared to me that they fared as well as the French. During my excursion to the coast the army entered France and stormed an entrenched camp near Saint Jean Pied de Port. (57) The detachment for our regiment was commanded by Lieutenant James Henderson.

November 10th 1813 - We marched to Cambo, where the enemy blew up an arch of the bridge over the river Nive, after forcing the enemy across it. They had some strong works in front of this town. We remained here for a week or two, the French on one side and the English on the other, with a sentinel on each side of the broken arch. We were very badly off for salt, the roads being so bad that we had no communication with the coast, but the French occasionally sent us some, and their commanding officer would sometimes send General Hill a bundle of newspapers. Preparations being made for crossing the river, which is very wide and rapid. On the 10th December, two hours before day we were drawn up on the shore, covered by a battery of three guns. Our left wing, under Major Walker, were the first ordered to dash in, under a heavy fire from the enemy on the opposite shore, but they gained it and put the enemy to rout in double quick time, when the right wing, under Sir Nathaniel Peacock, crossed unmolested; Sir Nathaniel declaring it was, to serve the Major that he put him in the post of danger. We followed with the 13th Dragoons to the town of Hasparen, and got a supply of hams, wine, and brandy that the French had collected for their own use.

December 12th 1813 - We were ordered to move towards Bayonne, where we were cantoned along the road.

December 13th 1813 - We remained here till the 13th and were ordered to our right to the assistance of the Spanish corps, when we suddenly received an order to the right about and take the main road to Bayonne. We soon came in sight of the enemy drawn up in great force, and in a few minutes were engaged. (58) The 50th, 71st and 92nd were ordered to form line and oppose a brigade of French Grenadiers, and were advancing in prime style when the gallant Sir Nathaniel gave the word ‘71st, right about.’ On the order being obeyed a chasm was left in the line, the 71st being the centre regiment, but Major M’Kenzie, seeing the disgrace the regiment would get into by such a step, in defiance of his commanding officer halted them and brought the regiment into their proper place in the line, which he accomplished, but at the moment received a ball through the head that sent the brave fellow in a moment to eternity. He was a son of the late Captain John M’Kenzie of the 71st, and nephew to paymaster M’Kenzie of the 71st. His brother Colin was killed at Vittoria. We were sharply engaged until late in the afternoon and were then relieved by Sir Henry Clinton’s division.

A circumstance occurred this day that decided the fate of Sir Nathaniel Peacock. In the heat of the action he went about a mile to the rear in pretence of getting ammunition, which was getting scarce with the men. I was ordered by General Barnes to bring up a brigade of mules loaded with ball cartridge, when to my surprise I found Sir Natt licking away at the muleteers of another division, to bring them forward. On my informing him of his mistake, he replied he did not care a damn; he would take the first he met, when unluckily at that moment Lord Wellington and Lord Hill (59) came galloping up, and seeing a commander of a regiment that was engaged with the enemy, fighting with harmless muleteers, Lord Wellington asked him why he was not with his regiment, and pointed out where they were engaged. His excuse was that they wanted ammunition. He was ordered to join the conflict, which he did very reluctantly. By this time the 50th and 92nd were withdrawn to a hill out of range of shot, and General Barnes wounded, who commanded our brigade. As soon as the gallant Sir Natt heard it he set spurs to his horse and galloped off to the main body of the brigade and was soon out of danger. A bullet passed through part of his trousers without injuring him, but he made the surgeon return him among the wounded. It was a saying through the Regiment that it was not a mortal wound that a tailor could cure.

A strange presentiment of death occurred the day before the battle. Lieutenant James Henderson of our Regiment was within a few doors of my billet, and I called on him to take a walk to see Lieutenant Lawe, who was at some distance from us. I found him roasting a fowl and turning the spit himself. He seemed very low-spirited, but I got him out. We had to pass through a wood, and when we got about the middle of it he stopped of a sudden and said, ‘Gavin, I am not sick, yet I have a strange feel about me; I must go back to my billet.’ I endeavoured to laugh him out of it, but it would not do. He went back, and early next day he was no more. He was a fine young man, and the delight of the Regiment. He was shot through the heart.

When the action was nearly over and only straggling shots from both parties, Lieutenant William Campbell and myself were standing looking over a quickset hedge at some French soldiers firing random shots, when a ball hit him in the forehead, and he never spoke more.

December 15th 1813 - We returned to the quarters we occupied the night before. We lay two days here and received a supply of oats from Passages, which was sent for before we left Cambo. We next marched to Urt on the river Adour. It is built on the shore, one row of houses. Every night, boats with provisions passed up and down. They were escorted by boats called Trincadores, that have a traversing gun, a twelve pounder generally, and as they passed gave three or four salutes, perforating the walls of the houses and creating the greatest alarm. We could not return the compliment, as the roads were so deep we could get no cannon up. One night a large boat laden with clothing from Bayonne to Mont-de-Marsan* grounded on the French side of the river. We this day got a grasshopper gun (60) up, taken to pieces and carried up on mules. The engineer in a short time had a furnace erected and fired red-hot shot at the boat and set her on fire and killed a good many French soldiers who were trying to unload her. In front of Urt is a peninsular nearly surrounded by the river, and on it a gentleman’s house, in which there was a great quantity of Indian corn. Captain Barclay, with Lieutenants Fletcher and Richards were sent with a company to take possession and keep it, but they were surprised one morning by a party of the enemy, and Barclay, being a weak man, though not a coward; consulted Fletcher, who advised him to retreat without firing a shot, but they were arrested in their career by a company sent to their relief, and the consequence was the turning out of the army of Barclay and Fletcher. Richards made a stand with a few men.

* Printed as ‘Mont-de-Mars-an grounded’ in the 1921 printed version of William’s book.

The History of the Present War in Spain and Portugal: From Its Commencement ...