Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

flames raged and the falling ruins crashed, the soldiery, mad with intoxication, were plundering the houses, and the frequent explosions of fire-arms, showed that a fearful work was going on.

Several days elapsed before order was restored, during which the town presented an awful scene. The few remaining inhabitants seemed stupified with horror; they had suffered so much that they looked with apathy on all around them, and scarcely moved, even when the crash of a falling house made the captors run. The bodies of English, Portuguese, and French soldiers lay heaped on each other, so determined had the one side attacked, and the other maintained its ground. Many of the assailants lay dead on the roofs of the houses near the breach. The bodies were thrown into the mines and other excavations, and there covered over so as to be out of sight, but so hastily and slightly that the air far and near was tainted; fires were kindled in the breaches, to consume those that could not be otherwise disposed of. In the assault, 2,000 men and officers had fallen; Sir Richard Fletcher, commanding engineer, an officer of great ability, was killed. Generals Leith, Oswald, and Robinson, severely wounded.

Preparations were now made to reduce the castle, but the operations of the besiegers were retarded by the necessity of quenching the flames which had spread through the whole town. On the 9th September, 59 pieces of artillery opened on the castle with such terrible effect, that in a few hours the white flag was hoisted on the Murador battery; and the garrison, amounting to 1,800 effective men, and 500 sick and wounded, surrendered prisoners of

war.

Soult made an attempt to relieve St. Sebastian, on

the very day upon which the British carried it. The chief strength of the covering army consisted of 8,000 Spanish troops, under General Frere. Two French divisions forded the Bidassoa in front of their line, ascending confidently the strong heights; the Spaniards stood steady, and when their column had nearly gained the summit, made such a strong bayonet charge, that the French broke, fled down the hill, and crossed the Bidassoa with such precipitation, that many were drowned by missing the ford. But having laid down a pontoon bridge, with 15,000 men they made a general attack on the heights of San Marcial. As the enemy came on, Lord Wellington rode along the Spanish line, and was received with loud and repeated vivas. The French got a second bayonet charge, fled for their lives, and were again driven in panic across the river; the bridge sunk with the pressure, and many with it, to rise no more. Lord Wellington spoke in the highest terms of the conduct of the Spaniards on these occasions.

During the ineffectual attempt to reach St. Sebastian by the high road, strong columns of the enemy having forded the river, strived to turn the right flank, and gain the one which lay near it. As the heights there were not judged tenable, the Portuguese, and Inglis' brigades retired to a lofty and steep ridge near the convent of St. Antonia. No sooner did the French perceive this than they lost hope of gaining the position; but as the heavy rains during the day had rendered the fords impassable, they attacked Skerret's brigade on two points, in order to gain the bridge of Bera, and ultimately succeeded in effecting a passage by it, though exposed to a severe fire, which caused much loss. The defeats sustained in these attempts were

peculiarly mortifying to the French military pride as the Spanish troops mainly had been opposed to them,

After the fall of St. Sebastian, nearly a month elapsed before Lord Wellington could commence his movements on the frontier-for he could not assume the defensive till Pampeluna surrendered. But that he might do this with greater advantage when the proper season arrived, he resolved to deprive the enemy of an advanced position on the right of the Bidassoa, the key of which was the strong mountain of La Rhime, before the pass of Vera. Mont La Rhime had been already remarkable by having been the object of a severe contest in 1794, because its summit served as a watchtower which commanded the whole country between the Pyrenees and Bayonne. On its top was a hermitage which the French had converted into a military post; repeated attempts were made to storm it, but it was found impossible to scale the rock on which it stands. The enemy held it that night, together with a rock on the mountain-range to the right of the Spaniards. When the fog cleared up next morning, Lord Wellington reconnoitred it, and perceived that it was least difficult of access on the right, and that an advantageous attack might be made at the same time on the enemy's works before the camp of Sarre. The rock was accordingly attacked and taken by Don Pedro de Gison, who also gained an intrenchment upon a hill which protected the right of the camp; the French evacuated all their works, to protect the approaches to the latter; these were forthwith occupied, and a battery fixed on the rock of the hermitage. Night put a stop to further operations, and the French took advantage of the darkness to retire.

On the 31st October the garrison of Pampeluna, 4,000 in number, surrendered after a four months' blockade; and when Don Carlos de Espana took possession of it, he shewed a proper spirit, and refused to grant terms to the garrison till he ascertained that none of the inhabitants had been subjected to violence or ill-treatment during the blockade. In the autumn of this year, the British, exposed on the cold and cloudy summits of the Pyrenees, with only rude huts and tents to shelter them from the blasts, suffered many hardships; the piquet and night duties were rendered peculiarly harassing in consequence of the inclement weather. Their propinquity to France caused many desertions, which severe examples were required to check. But no sooner did operations commence for entering the French territory, than the spirits of the men arose, and every heart beat high with confident expectations of victory and triumph.

CHAPTER XIII.

Lord Wellington enters France-Crosses the Nivelle-Actions in the Pyrenees-Position of the French at Bayonne -Napoleon's Situation-Crossing of the Adour-Battle of Orthez-Soult retires to Toulouse-Battle of Tou. louse-Marquis Wellington's return to England-His reception-Receives the thanks of Parliament-Made a Duke-Proceeds as Ambassador to Paris.

BEFORE Commencing operations in the French territory, Lord Wellington issued to his army a proclamation, prescribing to them the conduct which they were to observe after passing the frontier. It is well worthy of preservation, as an impressive contrast to the conduct of the French Generals in Spain, who not only permitted, but themselves shared in excesses, the recital of which, shocks humanity.

"Officers and soldiers," he said, "must recollect that their nations are at war with France solely because the ruler of the French nation will not allow them to be at peace, and is desirous of forcing them to submit to his yoke; and they must not forget, that the worst of the evils suffered by the enemy, in his profligate invasion of Spain and Portugal, have been occasioned by the irregularities of his soldiers, and their cruelties, authorized and encouraged by their chiefs, towards the peaceable inhabitants of those countries. To avenge this conduct on the innocent French, would be unmanly and unworthy of the nations to which the commander of these forces now addresses himself."

To enforce this admirable advice, was however, no easy matter. The British troops indeed under the strict discipline and inspection of their officers,

« ForrigeFortsett »