William's Diary ~ Part 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 ~ diary month-by-month ~ January 1814 - April 1814
ONE morning we were surprised to see ten Trincadores drawn up in line of battle in front of the town, and immediately began a tremendous cannonade. Every person thought of shifting for himself, horses saddling, mules loading, all confusion, with cannon balls falling about us in all directions. We succeeded in getting on the hill above the town and formed, but they were completely out of musket shot, so they drove us clean out of the town, and we took up our quarters in straggling houses along the river. At night we sent strong picquets along the verge of the river lest the enemy should cross and surprise us. One night Lieutenant Lawe had the duty. It was pitch dark and pelting rain, when about ten o’clock we heard a volley and then another, then a continued firing. The bugle sounded ‘To arms,’ mules to be loaded and sent to the rear. At length when Lawe found none of his men falling, or a party landing, he ordered his men to cease firing and crept down to the water edge, and found an empty boat that had broken loose from her moorings on the other side and was drifted by the stream to our side. When daylight appeared we found her riddled with shot. She had painted on her stern ‘The Two Sisters.’
February 15th 1814 - We kept moving about for a few days, and came in front of Sauveterre. The enemy destroyed a wooden bridge, but we crossed over in spite of their resistance. Here General Hill’s fine black charger was shot under him, a six pounder going through his body. We drove the enemy out of Sauveterre and remained there for the night and two following days.

February 26th 1814 - Marched towards Orthez, a large town. The French were encamped on the hills on the other side of the river. Our Brigade was ordered to the extreme right, and the main body, under General Beresford, forded on the left of the bridge. A battery placed at a church (where Marshal Soult was stationed) played shot and shells on us as we were fording, and we were opposed by a strong force on the bank. We, however, made our landing good, and drove them up the hill in good style. Next day followed up our victory through a delightful country on the road to Pau. We did not enter the town, but encamped close to it.

March 2nd 1814 - The French retreated, skirting the Pyrenees; we followed close at their heels and came up with them at Ayre, and after a smart skirmish drove them out of the town. Here I joined from St. Jean de Luz. Lord Wellington established his headquarters here for a few days, and invited the Commanding Officers of the 50th, 92nd, and a captain of the 71st to dine with him, overlooking our Commanding Officer, Sir Nathaniel Levett Peacock, who was noticed fighting shy at the last battle and on former occasions. It was a prelude of what he had soon to expect. (61)
March 20th 1814 - We marched on to Tarbes, where the enemy occupied a strong position, and cannonaded us as we advanced along the road. A six pound shot took away both legs of Sergeant M’Laggan, who was reduced from Quarter-Master-Sergeant a few days before. We remained on the road till night and were then ordered into a wood. I was comfortably seated before a good fire when I received an order to attend General Barnes, who commanded our Brigade. He gave me orders to go to the outposts and call in Captain Gordon’s company of the 50th Regiment. The night was pitch dark, and how to find out the picquet I did not know. However, go I must. I proceeded as well as I could guess, in the line where the enemy were, not bestowing many blessings on the General for his selection of me for such a duty, when at a distance I heard the tramp of troops advancing. I stepped on one side to ascertain what language they spoke, when to my great relief I heard them converse in English in a low tone of voice. I challenged and found them to be the party I was sent for.

March 27th 1814 - We kept manoeuvring a few days and got into a village near the Garonne, when at twelve o’clock at night the Orderly Sergeant came round with orders to march in half an hour. We marched to the river, where the Engineers were employed in throwing over a pontoon bridge. We lay on the ground for about three hours, when it was discovered that three boats were found wanting, and they had to undo all they had done. We returned to our quarters at daylight. Next night we were better prepared, and crossed on the following morning, the cavalry leading their horses first, then some regiments of infantry, with the artillery. There was a thick mist, and the men actually appeared as walking on the water. We advanced into the country until nightfall, when we got a sudden order to retrace our steps. The French were strongly entrenched on the heights above Toulouse. When on April 10th, 1814, the British advanced towards the bridge, which was strongly fortified, with a few houses on our side of it, the passage of the canal below the town was warmly contested. The heights were taken and retaken several times. Our Regiment was but partially engaged on the plain towards the bridge. The French army kept possession of the town until the 12th, and then marched in the direction of Villa Franca. (62) Our Regiment, with Captain Maunsell’s troop of the 3rd Dragoon Guards, were in the advance, and were the first to enter the town. Only one gentleman hoisted the white cocade as we passed through Toulouse.

This battle was fought on Easter Sunday, in which there was killed:-
BRITISH - 2 lieutenant-colonels, 6 captains, 5 lieutenants, 3 ensigns, 17 sergeants, 1 drummer, 278 rank and file, 55 horses - killed; 2 general staff, 3 lieutenant-colonels, 4 majors, 31 captains, 69 lieutenants, 22 ensigns, 3 staff, 86 sergeants, 11 drummers, 1564 rank and file, 54 horses - wounded; 1 captain, 2 ensigns, 14 rank and file, 1 horse - missing.

PORTUGUESE - 3 officers, 75 privates - killed; 23 officers, 37 sergeants, 4 drummers, 465 rank and file - wounded.

SPANISH - 12 officers, 193 privates - killed; 2 general staff, 2 colonels, 4 majors, 18 captains, 22 lieutenants, 30 ensigns, 5 staff, 1631 privates - wounded.

Making a total of 31 officers, 1 drummer, 17 sergeants, 546 privates, and 55 horses, killed; and 4 general staff, 2 colonels, 11 lieutenant-colonels, 8 majors, 49 captains, 91 lieutenant’s, 52 ensigns, 8 staff, wounded; 35 subalterns (not included in above, rank not known); total, 260; 123 sergeants, 15 drummers, 3663 privates, 51 horses.

April 12th 1814 - We followed the enemy to Villefranche, on the high road to Montpellier, and encamped about two leagues from the town. Soult with his army a league in front. After some negotiations Soult came to Toulouse and had a guard of honour ordered to attend him.

In this camp the brave Sir. Nathaniel Peacock received the reward of his services. A rumour spread about that Lieutenant-Colonel Napier of the 52nd was appointed to the command of the 71st. Sir Natt dressed himself in his best and visited all his acquaintances, proclaiming that he, for his exertions during the war, was at last rewarded with the Commission of Major-General, when lo and behold you, Colonel Napier arrived, and, sent for the adjutant and myself, to announce to us that he that day took command of the Regiment, and that Sir Natt was dismissed the service, together with Colonel M’Donald, 57th Regiment, a worthy old soldier, whose regiment was one day late for the battle of Orthez, having been sent to St. Jean de Luz to receive their clothing. Like all low tyrants in prosperity, Sir Natt became the most abject suppliant to those over whom he a few days before was a merciless master. He reaped the reward that a coward in battle and tyrant in quarters, I hope, will meet with, during the just and honourable administration of the rulers of the present British army, and long may they continue to uphold it.

When Soult was satisfied that Bonaparte had abdicated, he dismissed his army, and we were ordered into the City of Toulouse, where after sojourning for some time we got the route for Bordeaux. I proceeded down the Garonne in a boat with sick officers, women, baggage, etc. The scenery is the most enchanting I ever beheld. The first day we came as far as Agen; so rapid was the stream that we accomplished in two days what requires fourteen to work against it, with twelve men towing with all their might. The second day we arrived at Bordeaux. I went to the theatre, one of the most beautiful in France. It required nine days’ march of the army from Toulouse to Bordeaux. Here I sold my Andalusian stallion (which bought in Lisbon from Quartermaster Smith, 14th Dragoons, for two hundred dollars) for twenty dollars, and gave a new English saddle and bridle with it.

From Bordeaux we were ordered to Blanchfort Camp, where after remaining some time we embarked in transports, and went down the Gironde and reimbarked on board His Majesty’s ship ‘Bellisle’ (74 guns). The whole of the Regiment was on board, and Captain Gordon’s Company of the 50th. All the officers were crowded together in the gun-room. We sailed with a favourable wind and arrived in Cork in eight days - in June, 1814.

From Cork we marched to Mallow, where we remained ten days, and from thence got the route to Limerick, and remained until January, 1815, when we received orders to proceed to Cork and embark for America. We were put on board four transports and sailed out of the Cove four times, but were obliged to put back each time by contrary winds. At length news arrived of peace being concluded with America, (63) and we were ordered round by water to Carlingford, and thence to Dublin. On our arrival at Carlingford, with every expectation that our troubles were at an end, an order waited for us to proceed direct to the Downs. Two of our transports were taken from us and ordered to bring troops from America, and the entire regiment crowded into the remaining two, with scarcely standing room. Here we first learned of Bonaparte’s escape from Elba.