It is now something more than eleven years ago since the regiment of infantry, in which I bore a commission,
began to muster one fine May morning, on the parade ground at Hythe. An order had reached us two days before, to
prepare for immediate service in the Peninsula; and on the
morning to which I allude, we were to commence our
march for that purpose. The port of embarkation was
Dover, a port only twelve miles distant from our cantonments, where a couple of transports, with a gun brig as
convoy, were waiting to receive us.
The spelling and punctuation in this account is very variable and left 'As Is' but long paragraphs have been separated into groups of smaller ones to make it easier to read.
Additionally, Ordinal Numbers (such as, 23rd and 2nd) which, in the original, have the letter before the "d" omitted have been treated in the modern manner - so 3d has become 3rd.
The short space of time which intervened between the
arrival of the rout, and the eventful day which saw its directions carried into effect, was spent by myself, and by my
brother officers, in making the best of preparations which
circumstances would permit for a campaign.
pieces of furniture, by the help of which we had contrived
to render our barrack-rooms somewhat habitable, were sold
for one tenth part of their value; a selection was made
from our respective wardrobes, of such articles of apparel,
as, being in a state of tolerable preservation, promised to
continue for the longest time serviceable; canteens were
hastily fitted up, and stored with tea, sugar, and other luxuries; cloaks were purchased by those who possessed
them not before, and put in a state of repair by those who
did; in a word, every thing was done which could be done
by men similarly situated, not even forgetting the payment
of debts, or the inditing of farewell letters in due form to
absent friends and relations.
Perhaps the reader may be
curious to know with what stock of necessaries the generality of British officers were wont, in the stirring times of
War, to be contented. I will tell him how much I myself
packed up in two small portmanteaus, so formed as to be
an equal balance to each other, when slung across the back
of a mule; and as my kit was not remarkable, either for its
bulk or its scantiness, he will not greatly err, if he esteem
it a sort of medium for those of my comrades.
In one of those portmanteaus, then, I deposited a regimental jacket, with all its appendages of wings, lace, &c.;
two pair of grey trowsers, sundry waistcoats, white-coloured flannel, do.
a few changes of flannel drawers; half a
dozen pairs of worsted stockings, and as many of cotton.
In the other were placed six shirts, two or three cravats, a
dressing-case competently filled, one undress pelisse, three
pairs of boots, two pairs of shoes, with night-caps, pocket-handkerchiefs, &c. &c. in proportion.
Thus, whilst I was
not encumbered by any useless quantity of apparel, I carried with me quite enough to load a mule, and to ensure
myself against the danger of falling short, for at least a
couple of years to come; and after providing these and all
other necessary articles, I retained five-and-twenty pounds
in my pocket.
This sum, indeed, when converted into bullion, dwindled down to L.17, 18s.; for in those days we
purchased dollars at the rate of six shillings a-piece, and
doubloons at five pounds; but even L.17, 18s. was no bad
reserve for a subaltern officer in a marching regiment;. at
least I was contented with it, and that was enough.
It will readily be imagined that I was a great deal too
busy, both in body and mind, to devote to sleep many of the
hours of the night which preceded the day of our intend
My bodily labours, indeed, which had consist
ed chiefly in packing my baggage, and bidding adieu to the
few civilians with whom I had formed an acquaintance,
came to a close two hours before midnight; but my body
was no sooner at rest, than my mind began to bestir itself.
" So," said I, "to-morrow I commence my military career
in real earnest.
Well, and has not this been my most ardent desire from the first moment that I saw my name in
the Gazette ! Had it not been the most prominent petition
in my daily prayers, for nearly a twelvemonth past, not to
be kept idling away my youth in the various country-towns
in England, but to be sent, as speedily as possible, where I
might have an opportunity of acquiring a practical knowledge of the profession which I had embraced! The case
is even so."
And without meaning to proclaim myself a
fire-eater, I will venture to say, that no individual in the
corps experienced greater satisfaction than I did at the
prospect before me. But there were other thoughts which
obtruded themselves upon me that night, and they savoured
a good deal of the melancholy.
I thought of home - of my father, my mother, and my
sisters. I thought of the glorious mountains, and the fertile plains, of my native country, and could not help asking
myself the question, whether it was probable that I should
ever behold them again.
The chances were, that I should
not; and as my home had always been to me a scene of the
purest and most perfect happiness, as I loved my relatives
tenderly, and knew that I was tenderly beloved by them in
return, it was impossible for me not to experience a pang of
extreme bitterness at the idea, that in all human probability
I should see their faces no more.
On the other hand, curiosity, if I may call it by so favourable
a term, was on full stretch respecting the future.
length I was about to learn what war really was; how hostile armies met, and battles were decided; and the resolutions which I consequently formed as to my own proceedings, the eagerness with which I longed for an opportunity
to distinguish myself, and the restlessness of my imagination, which persisted in drawing the most ridiculous pictures
of events which never were, and never could be realized,
created altogether such a fever in my brain, as rendered
abortive every attempt to sleep.
Researched & Compiled by Way-Mark.