Braddock’s Defeat on the Monongahela (Report)

Newcastle Courant/October 11, 1755

Arrived the Mails from France

Boston (New England), August 18

I cannot let slip this Opportunity of acquainting you of the Circumstances of Affairs in these Parts, as I suppose it affords much Discourse in Europe.

I scarce know how to begin to relate our most shameful Defeat on the Ohio, under General Braddock. The Account you have at Home, respecting the Numbers killed and wounded, must be uncertain, as we are not yet satisfied altogether in that Particular (but have added a List of the killed and wounded as near as we can guess).

We are informed, by Post which arrived two Days ago, that the Numbers which attacked General Braddock were 2000 Indians, and but a few French; this may be depended upon as certain. This Account was brought by one Stork, a Man taken by the Indians, being one of the Inhabitants of our Western Frontiers, and carried to Fort du Quesne, the principal Fort on the Ohio. He says, that when he left that Fort, the French were 3000 strong, besides Indians. After the Battle the Indians divided the Spoil, and brought a great many Scalps to Fort du Quesne, and then proposed marching towards Canada; but this Man made his Escape and got to Fort Cumberland, being about 75 Miles, and was almost starved when he got to the Fort. The Indians proposed carrying him to Canada.

As to the Particulars of the Attack, I have from the best Authority; and what I shall mention, I shall have a tender Regard to the Credit of my native country, and tread lightly on the Ashes of the Dead; but, at the same Time, would not deviate from the Truth.

General Braddock, with his Officers, has behaved well, and played the Man for their Country; but the Soldiers most scandalously. The General could not miss of being acquainted with the Nature of the Indians and French Bush-fighting, by Informations he received before he marched; but being a superior Field Officer, it is generally thought he would not take Advice from the Country People; but it has cost him his life and many more, besides the Loss of Artillery, and the disgrace accruing to the Nation.

He was (as everyone expected) attacked from the Woods by the Enemy, but could see Nobody to fire at; and so many of his People have fell a Sacrifice to his Obstinacy. He behaved with great Courage, having five Horses killed under him; and the Officers behaved equally well; but the Soldiers were struck with a Panick, and fled in the utmost Confusion; they were feared. At the first Fire, the Indians gave the War-whoop, which is accompanied with such hideous Yells, as I am confident were never heard in any European Campaigns. Major Washington was defeated in this Manner; and (being with General Braddock) he begged and prayed the General, when they were first attacked, to let him draw off about 300 in each Wing to scour the Woods, but he refused it, and obstinately persisted in the Form of a Field Battle, his Men standing Shoulder to Shoulder, the unhappy Consequence of which was what I have related. This is, and always will be the Consequence of Old England Officers and Soldiers being sent to America; they have neither Skill nor Courage for this Method of fighting, for the Indians will kill them as fast as Pigeons, and they stand no chance either offensive or defensive. It is judged that 300 New England Men would have routed this Party of Indians, which I seem to be very confident of myself. A few Days ago we had an Account from the country, about 150 Miles off, of 300 Indians attacking a Scouting Party of New England Men, being 80 in Number; the Indians fired first, and killed one Man; the New England Men took to the Woods and Swamps after them, and killed 40 of them, the Rest escaped. In the late Fight at Nova Scotia, the New England Men were commanded by Colonel Monckton, an Old England Officer. He wanted them to keep in Army Order; but when the Indians fired on them out of the Woods, they broke their Ranks and ran into the Woods a after them. The Colonel said, The Devil was in them, and asked what they meant by this Conduct, but they soon returned, and shewed him several Indians Heads and Scalps. This is our Country Fighting.

We want nothing but Money and a Liberty to act, and we will soon have all North America; and remember my Words, I do affirm that if they send over 20,000 Men from Britain, they will only fall a Sacrifice to the Enemy. We have now about 4000 New England Forces on their March to Crown-point (being about two Thirds of the Way between Boston and Canada) many of them Men of good Estates in the Country, who employ Men on their Farms at higher Wages than they themselves receive. We have about 2000 more with our Governor at Oswego, near Niagara, and 20,000 more in this Province, ready to start for Canada if Orders come from Home. In short, when we raise Men here by Beat of Drum, we have such Numbers offer that we are forced to turn many Home again (this I am an Eye-witness of), both on account of their Number and Youth; some Lads about 13, 15, and 15 Years old offer, who can shoot a bird flying with any Man in this Province. This is a right martial spirit, and seems to run through the whole of this Country People.

We have great Talk of another Expedition to the Ohio very quickly. I hope by this Time the State Officers in England begin to see the Consequence of North America; if the French get Matters here, depend upon it all the West Indies will fall into their Hands, then farewell to Britain itself.

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Braddock’s Defeat at the Monongahela (Report)

Caledonian Mercury/December 27, 1755

Copy of a Letter from New York to a Gentleman in this City, dated November 7th.

As the Continent of North America is like to prove the Bone of Contention and Seat of War betwixt the English and French, and is now become the chief Topic of Conversation over the whole of the British Dominions; you will expect no Doubt, as I happen to be placed in the middle of the Fray, to hear something from me on the Subject. You have heard I suppose long e’er this Time of General Braddock’s shameful Defeat in his March to the French Fort (Du Quesne) on the River Ohio; It will, I am very certain puzzle all the Politicians in Britain to find out a true and genuine Account of the Particulars of that Action; for we who are here almost upon the Spot cannot tell what to make of the various and contradictory Accounts given of it. I have myself conversed with many that were personally engaged in it, amongst whom were some of the principal Officers, and I scarcely ever met with two that exactly agreed in any two Particulars. Sir John St. Clair the Quartermaster-general, and Capt. Orme, General Braddock’s Aid de Camp were in this City about three Weeks ago, and tho’ they were commonly civil and complaisant to each other in Company, yet when they were talked with separately about the Affair, they told two as different Stories, as if they had been relating an Account of two different Battles. This much is certain, that the Army having been suffered to go through several narrow and dangerous Passes unmolested, where it is said they might have been all easily cut to Pieces; the General despised his Enemy, and was entirely off his Guard; so very secure was he, that the very Night before the fatal Day he called in all his Scouts, who had very carefully reconnoitered the Woods for several Miles round them every Day from their first setting out, and to that single Mistake was owing the dreadful Event; for as soon as they had passed a little Creek not quite six Miles from Fort Du Quesne, they were attacked by a covered and unseen Enemy (they never saw above five of them together, and their Number is not known to this Day) from behind Trees in the Woods, while our Army were so far from suspecting any Thing of the kind, that they were all moving carelessly and securely along in their Line of March when they received the first Fire. And tho’ the Aid de Camp in his public Account of this Matter talks of having tried every military Expedient to keep the Men in Order, and make them do their Duty, yet he may talk in that Strain as much as he pleases, but it evidently appears that such was their Surprise, and such the sudden Slaughter, (being knocked down like Partridges) that instant Confusion seized the whole, and no military Expedient ever was or indeed well could be put into execution. The only Things it is said could possibly have been of any Service, it is said General Braddock obstinately refused; which was either to order the Men to spread through the Woods and fight their covered and irregular enemy in their own Way, or, instead of pushing forward in a Column, amidst a surrounding and unseen Enemy who could easily shift their Ground as fast as they advanced, to make as quick a Retreat as possible behind their own Artillery and Waggons which were in their Rear, and endeavor to form and defend themselves. But neither of these Expedients were ever attempted, tho’ repeatedly pressed by some of the best Officers present. When the General fell, such was his Confusion and Surprise, (I had it from a Gentleman of Credit who was by and heard it) “G-d damn me,” says he, “I never thought of this.” The Consequences of this Defeat has proved very terrible to the Frontier Inhabitants of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, many of whom have been since murdered by the Indian Savages of these Parts, who are almost to a Man gone over to the Interest of the French since this Battle. These poor people are all flying (those of them that can get away with their Lives think themselves happy) from their Habitations leaving all their Effects behind them, into the Towns and thick settled Parts, and we are every Day at this Time hearing of fresh Massacres committed.

God only knows what may happen to Philadelphia itself this Winter, for there are certain Accounts brought here by the last Post that there are 1500 French and Indians now encamped within less than 100 Miles of that City; and tho’ it be one of the richest and best peopled Provinces in North America, it is in the most naked and defenseless State of any, and if the Parliament of Britain does not interpose, and disable the Quakers from being Members of the Legislature (as indeed their professed Principles are a Contradiction to the executive Powers of all Government) it is hard to say what the Consequences may be, not only to that Province of Pennsylvania, but as it is a central Province, to all North America. But to proceed.

As two Thirds of our Army under General Braddock were almost entirely routed, the General killed, and a very fine train of Artillery lost, all Hopes of succeeding against the French in that Western Part of the Continent, for this Season at least, were at an End. Indeed the Scheme was originally wrong, which I shall endeavor, as well as my present Hurry (for I hear the Vessel sails in an Hour or two at farthest) will permit to give you some Idea of. The French in Canada (their old Settlements) hold a Communication with their new Settlements upon the Ohio, by means of two large Lakes. The First called Lake Ontario runs almost due West, about 150 miles in Length, and 30 in Breadth. This Lake at its West End communicates with Lake Erie, which runs about South-West, near 300 Miles in Length, and 40 in Breadth. The Settlements of the French upon the Ohio are a little beyond the South-West End of this last Lake. You see then that to keep up a Communication betwixt these new and old Settlements, they must be Masters of these two Lakes in order to have a free Passage through them. In order to secure that, they have built a Fort upon a Place called Niagara, which is that narrow Pass where the Lakes communicate. Now could the English get Possession of that Pass, and make themselves Masters of Lake Ontario by keeping a small Fleet of armed Vessels upon it, the French Settlements upon the Ohio must drop of course, as their Communication betwixt the old French Settlements in Canada, where their whole Strength lies, and from whence they must be supplied with every Thing, must be entirely stopped, there being no other Way of preserving the Communication, but by going a Matter of 1500 Miles round by Land, through a wild uncultivated Desert, which would be absolutely impossible. This is the Method which everybody here is convinced should have been pursued from the Beginning; and instead of sending Forces, etc., from England to Virginia, to march through a horrid Wilderness, where besides being exposed to all the Dangers of skulking Savages, who know every Hole and Corner of the Country, and delight in Murder, it was extremely difficult to supply them with the common Necessaries of Life. Instead of this, I say, these Forces should have been sent immediately to New York, from thence to have proceeded up Hudson’s River, which is navigable as far up as within a few Miles of Oswego, the name of the English Fort upon the South and West End of the Lake Ontario. Had this been done, in all human Probability we should have been Masters of Fort Niagara and the Lakes long e’er this Time, and many brave Men alive that were starved and butchered in that unfortunate March. But after Braddock’s Defeat, tho’ General Shirley (who succeeded Braddock in Command) ordered the shattered Remains of the Army to proceed as fast as possible to join him at Oswego (for he was there with some new Levies, but not sufficient for the Enterprise) yet the poor Men had so far to march, where already so fatigued in in so miserable a Condition, that it was too late in the Season before this could be accomplished. Upon the whole all thoughts of doing anything here are laid aside for this Winter, but I hope a proper Plan will be concerted, and they will go on briskly in the Spring. By that Time 100 more Troops are expected from England. There is another Body of Troops not yet mentioned, raised by the Provinces of New York and New England, designed to attack Crown Point, one of the strongest Fortifications the French have in this Part of the World, which they have had the Impudence to erect on the East End of Lake Champlain, we say within the Limits of the Province of New York. It is however on the Frontiers of New York and New England Governments. These Forces to the Number of about 3000 Men were  put under the Command of General Johnson, a Man not bred a Soldier, but greatly esteemed here, and greatly beloved by the Indians of these Parts, among whom he has lived long with the utmost Amity and Friendship, a great many of which joined him on this Occasion. About six Weeks ago, 1800 French and Indians attacked a Party of 1200 of Johnson’s Army, which retreated to the main Body; a bloody Battle ensued, which ended in our Favour. The French were repulsed with a considerable Loss, their General wounded and taken Prisoner. Thus Matters seem to be nearly balanced as to Battles this Summer betwixt the French and English here. But my Time will not permit me to proceed any farther.

I am, Sir, etc.  

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Jumonville Glen (Report)

Pennsylvania Gazette/June 27, 1754

June 13. We have a certain Account from the Westward, of an engagement between a Party of English and French, on the 27th of May past, beyond the Allegheny Mountains, in a Place called The Flats, about 80 Miles from our back Settlements, about 240 Miles near N.W. of this Place, and some Miles to the eastward of the new Fort on the Ohio, which was surrendered to the French by Capt. Trent. Some of the Particulars are as follows: Major Washington had Intelligence, from our Friend the Half King, that a Party of French were encamped on this Side the Fork, on which he immediately marched at the Head of a Company of about 40 Men, but during their March the Rains fell so heavy that they could scarce keep their Ammunition dry; the French observed them before they came up, and speedily put themselves in Order of Battle, being under the Command of Monsieur Le Force. When the two Parties approached nigh, the French (who were about 36 in Number) gave the first Fire, by which one of Major Washington’s Men was killed, and another knock’d down. The English returned the Fire, and killed 7 or 8 of the French, on which the Rest took to their Heels; but the Half King, and his Indians, who lay in Ambush to cut them off in their Retreat, fell upon them, and soon killed and scalped Five of them. Monsieur Le Force, finding that they were all likely to lose their Lives under the Hands of the Savages, called to his Men, and advised them to surrender to the English; they immediately, with great Precipitation, ran towards the English, flung down their Arms, and begg’d for Quarter. Major Washington interposed between them and the Half King, and it was with great Difficulty that he prevented the Indians from doing them further Mischief, the Half King insisting on Scalping them all, as it was their Way of Fighting, and he alleged that those People had killed, boiled, and ate his Father, and that the Indians would not be satisfied without all their Scalps; however, Major Washington at Length persuaded him to be content with what Scalps he had already got. One of those Five which were killed and scalped by the Indians, was Monsieur Jumonville, an Ensign, whom the Half King himself dispatched with his Tomahawk. Monsieur Le Force, and Twenty more Frenchmen, who were taken prisoners, are carried down to Williamsburgh. One or Two, it is said, got away before the Rest surrendered, and it is not known what is become of them. Le Force has the Character of an expert Officer, and the Half King reckoned that the English had gained a great Advantage in taking him, telling Major Washington, that That Man (Le Force) was a Thousand.

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Lexington and Concord – Affidavits (British)

Dunlap and Claypoole’s Daily American Advertiser/May 15, 1775

Concord, April 23, 1775

I JAMES MARR, of lawful age, testify and say, that in the evening of the eighteenth instant I received orders from George Hutchinson, Adjutant of the fourth regiment of the regular troops stationed at Boston, to prepare and march. To which order I attended, and marched to Concord where I was ordered by an Officer with about one hundred men, to guard a certain bridge there; while attending that service, a number of people came along, in order, as I suppose, to cross said bridge, at which time a number of the regular troops first fired upon them.

JAMES MARR

I EDWARD THOROTON GOULD, of his Majesty’s own regiment of foot, being of lawful age, do testify and declare, that on the evening of the 18th instant, under the orders of Gen. Gage, I embarked with the light infantry and grenadiers of the line, commanded by Colonel Smith, and landed on the marshes of Cambridge, from whence we proceeded to Lexington; on our arrival at that place, we saw a body of provincial troops armed to the number of about sixty or seventy men, on our approach they dispersed and soon after firing began, but which party fired first I cannot exactly say, as our troops rushed on shouting, huzzaing, previous to the firing, which was continued by our troops so long as any of the provincials were to be seen. From thence we marched to Concord, on a hill near the entrance of the town, we saw another body of provincials assembled, the light infantry companies were ordered up the hill to disperse them, on our approach they retreated towards Concord. The grenadiers continued the road under the hill towards the town, six companies of light infantry were ordered down to take possession of the bridge which the provincials retreated over; the company I commanded was one, three companies of the above detachment went forward about two miles, in the meantime the provincial troops returned to the number of about three or four hundred, we drew up on the Concord side of the bridge, the provincials came down upon us, upon which we engaged and gave the first fire. This was the first engagement after the one at Lexington, a continued firing from both parties lasted thro’ the whole day; I myself was wounded at the attack of the bridge, and am now treated with the greatest humanity, and taken all possible care of by the provincials at Medford.

EDWARD THOROTON GOULD

Lieut., King’s own Regt.

All the above are sworn to before Justices of the Peace, and duly attested by Notaries Public

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Lexington (Affidavits – Colonials)

Dunlap and Claypoole’s American Advertiser/May 15, 1775

Affidavits and Depositions

Relative to the COMMENCEMENT of the LATE HOSTILITIES in the province of MASSACHUSETTS BAY; together with an ADDRESS from the PROVINCIAL CONVENTION of said province, to the INHABITANTS of GREAT BRITAIN, transmitted to the CONGRESS now sitting in this city, and published by their order.

Charles Thompson, Secretary

We, Solomon Brown, Jonathan Loring, and Elijah Sanderson, all of lawful age, and of Lexington, in the county of Middlesex, and Colony of the Massachusetts Bay, in New England, do testify and declare, that on the evening of the 18th of April instant, being on the road between Concord and Lexington, and all of us mounted on horses, we were about ten of the clock suddenly surprised by nine persons, whom we took to be Regular Officers, who rode up to us, mounted and armed, each having a pistol in his hand, and after putting pistols to our breasts, and seizing the bridles of our horses, they swore that if we stirred another step, we should be all dead men; upon which we surrendered ourselves. They detained us until two o’clock the next morning, in which time they searched about the magazine at Concord, whether any guards were posted there, and whether the bridges were up, and said four or five regiments of regulars would be in possession of the stores soon. They then brought us back to Lexington, cut the horses’ bridles and girts, turned them loose, and then left us.

SOLOMON BROWN

JONATHAN LORING

ELIJAH SANDERSON

Lexington, April 25, 1775

I, ELIJAH SANDERSON, above-named, do further testify and declare, that I was on Lexington Common the morning of the 19th of April aforesaid, having been dismissed by the Officers above mentioned, and saw a large body of regular troops advancing towards Lexington Company, many of whom were then dispersing. I heard one of the regulars, whom I took to be an Officer, say, “damn them, we will have them,” and immediately the regulars shouted aloud, run and fired on the Lexington Company, which did not fire a gun before the regulars discharged on them. Eight of the Lexington Company were killed, while they were dispersing, and at a considerable distance from each other, and many wounded, and although a spectator, I narrowly escaped with my life.

ELIJAH SANDERSON

Lexington, April 23rd, 1775

I THOMAS RICE WILLARD, of lawful age, do testify and declare, that being in the house of Daniel Livingston, of said Lexington, on the nineteenth instant in the morning, and half an hour before sunrise, looked out at the window of said house, and saw (as I suppose) about four hundred regulars in one body, coming up the road and marched toward the North part of the common back of the meeting-house of said Lexington, and as soon as said regulars were against the east end of the meeting-house, the commanding officer said something, what I know not, but upon that the regulars ran till they came within about eight or nine rods of about a hundred of the militia of Lexington, who were collected on said common, at which time the militia of Lexington dispersed, then the officers made a huzza, and the private soldiers succeeded them, directly after this an officer rode before the regulars, to the other side of the body, and hallooed after the militia of said Lexington and said “Lay down your arms,” and that there was not a gun fired till the militia of Lexington were dispersed, and further saith not.

THOMAS RICE WILLARD

Lexington, 25th of April, 1775

SIMON WINSHIP, of Lexington, in the County of Middlesex, and Province of Massachusetts Bay, New England, being of lawful age testifieth and saith, that on the nineteenth of April instant, about four o’clock in the morning, as he was passing the public road in said Lexington, peaceably and unarmed, about two miles and a half distant from the meeting-house in said Lexington, he was met by a body of the King’s regular troops, and being stopped by some officers of said troops, was commanded to dismount, upon asking why he must dismount, he was obliged by force to quit his horse and ordered to march in the midst of the body, and being examined whether he had been warning the minute men, he answered no, but had been out and was then returning to his father’s. Said Winship further testifies, that he marched with said troops till he came within about half a quarter of a mile of said meeting-house, where an officer commanded the troops to halt, and then to prime and load, this being done the said troops marched on till they came within a few rods of Capt. Parker’s company, who were partly collected on the place of parade, when said Winship observed an officer at the head of said troops, flourishing his sword, and with a loud voice giving the word fire, fire, which is instantly followed by a discharge of arms from said regular troops, and said Winship is positive and in the most solemn manner declares that there was no discharge of arms on either side till the word fire was given by said officer as above.

SIMON WINSHIP

Lexington, April 25, 1775

I JOHN PARKER, of lawful age, and Commander of the Militia in Lexington, do testify and declare, that on the 19th instant, in the morning, about one of the clock, being informed that there were a number of regular Officers riding up and down the road, stopping and insulting people as they passed the road; and also were on their march from Boston, in order to take the province stores at Concord, ordered our Militia to meet on the Common in said Lexington, to consult what to do, and concluded not to be discovered, nor meddle or make with said regular troops (if they should approach) unless they should insult or molest us; –and upon their sudden approach I immediately ordered our Militia to disperse and not to fire,–Immediately said troops made their appearance and rushed furiously, fired upon and killed eight of our party, without receiving any provocation therefor from us.

JOHN PARKER

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Boston Neck (Report)

Pennsylvania Gazette/July 26, 1775

Extract from a letter from the camp at Cambridge, July 9

“Two hundred volunteers, from the Rhode Island and Massachusetts forces, undertook to burn a guard-house of the regulars on the neck, within three hundred yards of the enemy’s principal works. They detached six men, about ten o’clock in the evening, with orders to cross on a marsh up to the rear of the guard-house, and there to watch an opportunity to fire it, the remainder of the volunteers secreted themselves in the marsh, on each side of the neck, about two hundred yards from the house; two pieces of brass artillery were drawn softly on the marsh within three hundred yards, and upon a signal from the advanced party of six men, two rounds of cannon shot were fired through the guard-house; immediately the regulars, who formed a guard of forty-five or fifty men, quitted the house, and were then fired on by the musketry, who drove them with precipitation into their lines. The six men posted near the house set fire to it, and burnt it to the ground. After this they burnt another house nearer the enemy, without losing a man. They took two muskets and accoutrements, a halbert, etc., all which were bloody, and shewed evident marks of loss on the part of the regulars. The houses had been a long while made use of by the regulars as an advanced post, and gave them an opportunity of discovering our operations at Roxbury. Yesterday afternoon some barges were sounding the river of Cambridge, near its mouth, but were soon obliged to row off by our Indians (fifty in number) who are encamped near that place.

“The enemy lost a great number of officers and soldiers in the affair of the 19th of June. From several persons, who are to be credited, it exceeds 900 killed and mortally wounded, besides a great number disabled from future service. It is said almost all the officers of the army, as well as sergeants and corporals, were in the engagement, leading and forming the soldiers to mount the hill.

“This may account for so many officers being killed as ninety-two. Some accounts mention a general destruction of sergeants and corporals. We have frequent interviews with regular officers in a valley between the two fortified hills. Our sentries are not more than a hundred yards off each other. Both sides are still busy in securing themselves. There is scarcely a house in the lower part of Roxbury that is not much injured by the shot and bombs. Our people have left only one man by them, which is very remarkable, as a hundred at least were fired into Roxbury last week.”

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Bunker Hill (Dispatches)

Derby Mercury/July 28, 1775

LONDON (Thursday) July 17, There are some Particulars to be remarked in the list of the killed and wounded of General Gage’s Army, that are very uncommon, such as one Drummer only, and fifteen Serjeants being killed, and seven Captains and only nine Lieutenants. But our surprise at those circumstances will cease, when it is considered that the men were to march through a town in the hands of the enemies, and consequently were exposed to the firing from houses, in by-lanes, and other Places on their March.

By Express from Bristol, brought by a Ship from Philadelphia, we have Advice that General Washington had marched from Virginia to Boston at the Head of a Thousand Volunteers, to take the supreme Command at Boston, where he was expected to arrive on the first or second of July. It is asserted with Confidence (says a Correspondent) that the Ministry are assured from Boston, that the Provincial Rebels will not be able to keep together a Month longer, being already in great Want of Bread as Well as other Necessaries. It is, therefore, proposed to throw away no more Lives on a Rabble that seem ready to melt away of themselves. In case this measure should be followed, some of the Regiments at Boston are to be transported to New York; and are to march from that Town along Hudson’s River, in Order to meet Governor Carleton, to take their Winter’s Quarters in Albany, and to fall upon the Back of New England the beginning of next Season, should not their internal Distress force the Rebels into Submission before that Period.

Extract of a Letter from Boston, June 22.

The Loss in the Action of the 17th, on each Side, is supposed to be nearly equal; nor can we wonder it should be so, when we consider that 1400 Men forced a Redoubt defended by 1600, who might have defended it against three Times their Number. Our Officers have suffered much, no less than 86 being killed and wounded. Among the killed of the Rebels is Dr. Warren, who commanded at the Redoubt; and 30 wounded Prisoners were taken, four of whom are since dead. The Troops are now busy in fortifying the Hill that commands Charlestown Neck; and the Rebels are fortifying a Hill about halfway between that and Cambridge, from which I expect to find them dislodged in a few Days. Had this Post not been taken, it was the Intention of the Rebels to have set Fire to Boston that Night; instead of which the whole Town of Charlestown is in Ruins; their Leader and Orator Warren is slain and they must now be convinced that British Troops are capable of driving them from their strongholds, tho opposed by vast superiority of Numbers.”

Part of a genuine letter from Boston, brought by the Cerborus Frigate, dated June 23.

“Before this reaches you, you’ll have learnt that Americans are not deficient in either Courage or Discipline, and are good Marksmen, as your Officers know very well. An Account of the late Action on Bunker’s-Hill, on the back of Charlestown, you will have in General Gage and General Howe’s Letters. I will only teil you that General Howe was sent out with two thousand five hundred Men, or better, to dislodge a Body of our Troops on Bunker’s Hill. When the troops began their march, the Ships threw Carcasses into Charlestown, and burnt it entirely. It was a pretty Town but now there is not one House standing. It is nothing but a Heap of Ruins. Let this Dispute end which Way it will, though you never can conquer us, this once fair and opulent Province is ruined. All America will revenge our Cause! On the first Attack your Troops gave Way. They did not expect so heavy a Fire. General Howe rallied them for near a Minute he was quite alone. His Aid de Camp was killed by his Side. The Officers brought up their Men and suffered for their Temerity. General Clinton with another Corps presently followed. General Putnam who had not quite 4000 Connecticut Men though the whole Army was coming, and without the least Disorder, or even being pursued a single Step, left Bunker’s Hill and went to another Hill, about half a Mile further, where he has remained ever since without the least Disturbance. If the Mercenaries had offered to march a Yard after him, General Ward, with his New England Men, was ready to give a good Account of them. General Howe is gone back to Boston, having had better than two-thirds of his Men killed and wounded. Believe me, you cannot succeed in this mad and wicked Attempt to conquer. Every Hill will be disputed with you, and every Inch of Ground. Two more such Actions will destroy your Army. We can afford to lose ten Men to your one; and have three Times your Number at last.

We are informed, you intend to bombard and burn our seaports. You may. But we will destroy the lighthouses and beacons: and in the first high wind all your men-of-war will be entirely wrecked on our coast. We shall get plunder in return for our towns being destroyed, and you will lose your navy. I wish your king may see his error before it is too late. We love and honor the English nation. But the ministry and parliament do not do justice to the people; who we know, do not approve of the American massacre.”

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Vittoria

Stephen Crane

Lippincott’s/July, 1900

The campaign of 1812, which included the storming of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz and the overwhelming victory of Salamanca, had apparently done so much towards destroying the Napoleonic sway in the Peninsula that the defeat of the Allies at Burgos, in October 181 2, came as an embittering disappointment to England; and when Wellington, after his disastrous retreat to Ciudad Rodrigo, re- ported his losses as amounting to nine thousand, the usual tempest of condemnation against him was raised, and the members of the Cabinet, who were always so free with their oracular advice and so close with the nation’s money, wagged their heads despairingly.

But as the whole aspect of affairs was revealed, and as Wellington coolly stated his plans for a new campaign, public opinion changed.

It was a critical juncture: Napoleon had arranged an armistice with Russia, Prussia, and Austria, which was to last until August 16, 1813, and it became known that this armistice might end in peace. Peace on the Continent would mean that Napoleon’s unemployed troops might be poured into Spain in such enormous numbers as to overwhelm the Allies. So, to ensure Wellington’s striking a decisive blow before this could happen, both the English Ministry and the Opposition united in supporting him, and for the first time during the war he felt sure of receiving the supplies for which he had asked.

The winter and spring were spent by Wellington in preparing for his campaign: his troops needed severe discipline after the disorder into which they had fallen during the retreat from Burgos, and the great chief entered into the matter of their equipment with most painstaking attention to detail, removing unnecessary weight from them, and supplying each infantry soldier with three extra pairs of shoes, besides heels and soles for repairs. He drew large reinforcements from England, and all were drilled to a high state of efficiency.

It is well to quote here from the letter published by Wellington on the 28th of December 1812. It was addressed to the commanders of divisions and brigades. It created a very pretty storm, as one may readily see. I quote at length, since surely no document could be more illuminative of Wellington’s character, and it seems certain that this fearless letter saved the army from the happy-go-lucky feeling, very common in British field forces, that a man is a thorough soldier so long as he is willing at all times to go into action and charge, if ordered, at even the brass gates of Inferno. But Wellington knew that this was not enough. He wrote as follows:

“Gentlemen—I have ordered the army into cantonments, in which I hope that circumstances will enable me to keep them for some time, during which the troops will receive their clothing, necessaries, etc., which are already in progress by different lines of communication to the several divisions and brigades.

“But besides these objects, I must draw your attention in a very particular manner to the state of discipline of the troops. The discipline of every army, after a long and active campaign, becomes in some degree relaxed, and requires the utmost attention on the part of general and other officers to bring it back to the state in which it ought to be for service; but I am concerned to have to observe that the army under my command has fallen off in this respect in the late campaign to a greater degree than any army with which I have ever served, or of which I have ever read.

“It must be obvious, however, to every officer, that from the moment the troops commenced their retreat from the neighbourhood of Burgos on the one hand, and from Madrid on the other, the officers lost all command over their men.

“I have no hesitation in attributing these evils to the habitual inattention of the officers of the regiments to their duty as prescribed by the standing regulations of the service and by the orders of this army.

“I am far from questioning the zeal, still less the gallantry and spirit, of the officers of the army; I am quite certain that if their minds can be convinced of the necessity of minute and constant attention to understand, recollect, and carry into execution the orders which have been issued for the performance of their duty, and that the strict performance of this duty is necessary to enable the army to serve the country as it ought to be served, they will in future give their attention to these points.

“Unfortunately, the experience of the officers of the army has induced many to consider that the period during which an army is on service is one of relaxation from all rule, instead of being, as it is, the period during which of all others every rule for the regulation and control of the conduct of the soldier, for the inspection and care of his arms, ammunition, accoutrements, necessaries, and field equipments, and his horse and horse appointments, for the receipt and issue and care of his provisions and the regulation of all that belongs to his food and the forage for his horse, must be most strictly attended to by the officer of his company or troop, if it is intended that an army—a British army in particular—shall be brought into the field of battle in a state of efficiency to meet the enemy on the day of trial.

“These are points, then, to which I most earnestly entreat you to turn your attention, and the attention of the officers of the regiments under your command, Portuguese as well as English, during the period in which it may be in my power to leave the troops in their cantonments.

“In regard to the food of the soldier, I have frequently observed and lamented in the late campaign the facility and celerity with which the French soldiers cooked in comparison with those of our army.

“The cause of this disadvantage is the same with that of every other description—the want of attention of the officers to the orders of the army and the conduct of their men, and the consequent want of authority over their conduct.

“But I repeat that the great object of the attention of the general and field officers must be to get the captains and subalterns of the regiments to understand and perform the duties required from them, as the only mode by which the discipline and efficiency of the army can be restored and maintained during the next campaign.”

The British general never refrained from speaking his mind, even if his ideas were certain to be contrary to the spirit of the army. I will quote from Victories of the British Armies as follows:

“Colborne marched with the infantry on the right; Head, with the Thirteenth Light Dragoons and two squadrons of Portuguese, on the left, and the heavy cavalry formed a reserve. Perceiving that their battering train was endangered, the French cavalry, as the ground over which they were retiring was favourable for the movement, charged the Thirteenth. But they were vigorously repulsed; and, failing in breaking the British, the whole, consisting of four regiments, drew up in front, forming an imposing line. The Thirteenth instantly formed and galloped forward—and nothing could have been more splendid than their charge. They rode fairly through the French, overtook and cut down many of the gunners, and at last entirely headed the line of march, keeping up a fierce and straggling encounter with the broken horsemen of the enemy, until some of the English dragoons actually reached the gates of Badajoz.”

And now I quote from Wellington’s comment to Colborne:

“I wish you would call together the officers of the dragoons and point out to them the mischiefs which must result from the disorder of the troops in action. The undisciplined ardour of the Thirteenth Dragoons and First Regiment of Portuguese cavalry is not of the description of the determined bravery and steadiness of soldiers confident in their discipline and in their officers. Their conduct was that of a rabble, galloping as fast as their horses could carry them over a plain, after an enemy to whom they could do no mischief when they were broken and the pursuit had continued for a limited distance, and sacrificing substantial advantages and all the objects of your operation by their want of discipline. To this description of their conduct I add my entire conviction, that if the enemy could have thrown out of Badajoz only one hundred men regularly formed, they would have driven back these two regiments in equal haste and disorder, and would probably have taken many whose horses would have been knocked up. If the Thirteenth Dragoons are again guilty of this conduct I shall take their horses from them, and send the officers and men to do duty at Lisbon.”

The incident of the dragoons’ charge happened early in 1811, but it shows how Wellington dealt with the firebrands in the army. However, imagine the feelings of the Thirteenth Dragoons!

As for the Allies, they were for a long time considered quite hopeless by British officers; the Portuguese were commonly known in the ranks as the “Vamosses,” from vamos, “let us be off”,” which they shouted before they ran away. (The American slang “vamoose” may have had its origin in the Mexican War.)

The Spanish and Portuguese hated each other so cordially that it was with the greatest difficulty that they could be induced to co-operate: they were continually plotting to betray each other, and, incidentally, the English. Wellington had a sufficiently hard task in keeping his English army in order and directing the civil administration of Portugal, which would otherwise have tumbled to pieces from the corruption of its government; but hardest of all was the military training of the Spanish and Portuguese. He was now in supreme command of the Spanish army, concerning which he had written:

“There is not in the whole Kingdom of Spain a depot of provisions for the support of a single battalion in operation for one day. Not a shilling of money in any military chest. To move them forward at any point now would be to ensure their certain destruction.”

After that was written, however, he had been able to equip them with some degree of effectiveness, and had worked them up to a certain standard of discipline: they were brave and patient, and susceptible to improvement under systematic training. Beresford had also accomplished wonders with the Portuguese, and Wellington’s army now numbered seventy thousand men, of whom forty thousand were British.

Wellington, with his lean, sharp-featured face, and dry, cold manner, was not the typical Englishman at all. He was more like the genuine Yankee of New England. He made his successes by his resourcefulness, his inability to be overpowered by circumstances. As he said: “The French plan their campaigns just as you might make a splendid set of harness. It answers very well until it gets broken, and then you are done for! Now I made my campaign of ropes; if anything went wrong I tied a knot and went on.”

He was always ready, when anything broke or failed him, to “tie a knot and go on.” That is the suppleness and adroitness of a great chieftain, whereas the typical English general was too magnificent for the little things; he liked to hurl his men boldly into the abyss—and then, if they perished, it had been magnificently done, at any rate. But Wellington was always practical and ready to take advantage of any opportunity that offered. He had no illusions about the grandeur of getting men killed for nothing.

There were still two hundred and thirty thousand French troops in Spain, but they were scattered across the Peninsula from Asturias to Valencia. To the extreme east was Marshal Suchet with sixty-five thousand men, and an expedition under General Murray was sent against him which kept him there. Clausel was prevented from leaving Biscay with his forty thousand men by the great guerilla warfare with which Wellington enveloped his forces. There remained, then, for Wellington to deal with the centre of the army under Joseph Bonaparte, whose jealous suspicions had been the means of driving from Spain Marshal Soult, a really fine and capable commander. The weak Joseph was now the head of an immense and magnificently equipped army of men and officers in the finest condition for fighting, but who were to prove of how little effect fine soldiers can be when they lack the right chief.

The army of Joseph lay in a curve from Toledo to Zamora, guarding the central valley of the Douro, and covering the great road from Madrid through Burgos and Vittoria to France. Wellington’s plan was to move the left wing of his army across the Douro within the Portuguese frontier, to march it up the right bank of the Douro as far as Zamora, and then, crossing the Elsa, to unite it to the Galician forces; while the centre and right, advancing from Agueda by Salamanca, were to force the passage of the Tormes and drive the French entirely from the line of the Douro towards the Carrion.

By constantly threatening them on the flank with the left wing, which was to be always kept in advance, he thus hoped to drive the French back by Burgos into Biscay. He himself expected to establish there a new basis for the war among the numerous and well-fortified seaports on the coast. In this way, forcing the enemy back to his frontier, he would at once better his own position and intercept the whole communication of the enemy. The plan had the obvious objection that in separating his army into two forces, with great mountain ranges and impassable rivers between them, each was exposed to the risk of an attack by the whole force of the enemy.

But Wellington had resolved to take this risk. Sir Thomas Graham, in spite of his sixty-eight years, had the vigour and clear-headedness of youth, and the very genius for the difficult command given him—that of leading the left wing through virgin forests, over rugged mountains, and across deep rivers.

The march of Wellington began May 22, and an exalted spirit of enthusiasm pervaded the entire army. Even Wellington became expressive, and as he passed the stream that marks the frontier of Spain he arose in his stirrups, and, waving his hand, exclaimed, “Farewell, Portugal! “

Meanwhile Graham, on May 16, with forty thousand men, had crossed the Douro and pushed ahead, turning the French right and striking at their communications. Within ten days forty thousand men were transported through two hundred miles of the most broken and rugged country in the Peninsula, with all their artillery and baggage. Soon they were in possession of the whole crest of mountains between the Ebro and the sea. On the 31st Graham reached the Elsa. The French were astounded when Graham appeared upon their flank; they abandoned their strong position on the Douro; then they abandoned Madrid; after that, they hurried out of Burgos and Valladolid.

Wellington had crossed the Douro at Miranda on May 25, in advance of his troops, by means of a basket slung on a rope from precipice to precipice, at an immense height above the foaming torrent. The rivers were all swollen by floods.

Graham, with the left wing of the Allies, kept up his eager march. Many men were lost while fording the Elsa on May 31. The water was almost chin-deep and the bottom was covered with shifting stones.

Graham hastened with fierce speed to the Ebro, eager to cross it before Joseph and break his communications with France. Joseph had wished to stop his retreat at Burgos and give battle there, but he had been told that incredible numbers of guerillas had joined the English forces, and so he pushed on, leaving the castle at Burgos heavily mined. It was calculated that the explosion would take place just as the English entered the town, but the fuses were too quick —three thousand French soldiers, the last to leave, were crushed by the falling ruins. The allied troops marched triumphantly through the scene of their earlier struggle and defeat.

On abandoning Burgos Joseph took the road to Vittoria and sent pressing orders to Clausel to join him there, but this junction of forces was not effected—Clausel was too late.

Wellington’s strategy of turning the French right has been called “the most masterly movement made during the Peninsular War.” Its chief merit was that it gave Wellington the advantage of victory with hardly any loss of life. It swept the French back to the Spanish frontier. And Joseph, whose train comprised an incredible number of chariots, carriages, and wagons, bearing a helpless multitude of people of both sexes from Madrid (including the civil functionaries and officers of his court), as well as enormous stores of spoil, began to perceive that this precipitate retreat was his ruin, and that he must risk the chance of a great battle to escape being driven in hopeless confusion through the passes of the Pyrenees.

The sweep of the Allies under Graham around the French right had taken them through the wildest and most enchantingly beautiful regions. At times a hundred men had been needed to drag up one piece of artillery. Again, the guns would be lowered down a precipice by ropes, or forced up the rugged goat-paths. At length, to quote Napier, “the scarlet uniforms were to be seen in every valley, and the stream of war, descending with impetuous force down all the clefts of the mountains, burst in a hundred foaming torrents into the basin of Vittoria.”

So accurately had Graham done his work in accordance with Wellington’s plans, that he reached the valley just as Joseph’s dejected troops were forming themselves in front of Vittoria.

The basin or valley of Vittoria, with the town in its eastern extremity, is a small plain about eight miles by six miles in extent, situated in an elevated plateau among the mountains and guarded on all sides by rugged hills.

The great road from Madrid enters the valley at the Puebla Pass, where too the river Zadora flows through a narrow mountain gorge. This road then runs up the left bank of the Zadora to Vittoria, and from there it goes on towards Bayonne and the Pyrenees. This road was Joseph’s line of retreat.

King Joseph, burdened by his treasure, which included the plunder of five years of French occupation in the Peninsula, and consisted largely of priceless works of art, selected with most excellent taste by himself and other French connoisseurs, had dispatched to France two great convoys, a small part of the whole treasure, along the Bayonne road. As these had to be heavily guarded against the Biscay guerillas, some thousands of troops had gone with them. Joseph’s remaining forces were estimated at from sixty thousand to sixty-five thousand men.

The French were anxious above all things to keep the road open—the road to Bayonne: there are several rough mountain roads intersecting each other at Vittoria, particularly those to Pampeluna, Bilboa, and Galicia; but the great Bayonne road was the only one capable of receiving the huge train of lumbering carriages without which the army was not to move.

On the afternoon of the 20th Wellington, whose effective force was now sixty-five thousand men, surveyed the place and the enemy from the hill ranges and saw that they were making a stand. He decided then on his tactics. Instead of pushing on his combined forces to a frontal attack, he made up his mind to divide his troops; he would send Graham with the left wing, consisting of eighteen thousand men and twenty guns, around by the northern hills to the rear of the French army, there to seize the road to Bayonne. Sir Rowland Hill with twenty thousand men, including General Murillo with his Spaniards, was to move with the right wing, break through the Puebla Pass, and attack the French left.

The right centre under Wellington himself was to cross the ridges forming the southern boundary of the basin and then move straight forward to the Zadora River and attack the bridges, while the left centre was to move across the bridge of Mendoza in the direction of the town.

The French right, which Graham was to attack, occupied the heights in front of the Zadora River above the village of Abechucho, and covered Vittoria from approach by the Bilboa road; the centre extended along the left bank of the Zadora, commanding the bridges in front of it, and blocking up the great road from Madrid. The left occupied the space from Ariniz to the ridges of Puebla de Arlauzon, and guarded the Pass of Puebla, by which Hill was to enter the valley.

The early morning of June 21 was, according to one historian, “rainy and heavy with vapour,” while an observer (Leith Hay) said: “The morning was extremely brilliant ; a clearer or more beautiful atmosphere never favoured the progress of a gigantic conflict.”

The valley, occupied by the French army, with the rich uniforms of its officers, was a superb spectacle. Marshal Jourdan, the commander, could be seen riding slowly along the line of his troops. The positions they occupied rose in steps from the centre of the valley, so that all could be seen by the English from the crest of the Morillas as they stood ready for battle. In his Events of Military Life Henry says:

“The dark and formidable masses of the French were prepared at all points to repel the meditated attack—the infantry in column with loaded arms, or ambushed thickly in the low woods at the base of their position, the cavalry in lines with drawn swords, and the artillery frowning from the eminences with lighted matches; while on our side all was yet quietness and repose. The chiefs were making their observations, and the men walking about in groups amidst the piled arms, chatting and laughing and gazing, and apparently not caring a pin for the fierce hostile array in their front.”

At ten o’clock Hill reached the Pass of Puebla and forced his way through with extraordinary swiftness. Murillo’s Spaniards went swarming up the steep ridges to dislodge the French, but the enemy made a furious resistance, and reinforcements kept coming to their aid. General Murillo was wounded, but would not be carried from the field. Hill then sent the Seventy-first to help the Spaniards, who were showing high courage, but being terribly mown down by the French musketry. Colonel Cadogan, who led the Seventy-first, had no sooner reached the summit of the height than he fell, mortally wounded. The French were driven from their position, but the loss of Cadogan was keenly felt. The story of his strange state of exaltation the night before the battle is well known—his rapture at the prospect of taking part in it. As he lay dying on the summit he would not be moved, although the dead lay thick about him, but watched the progress of his Highlanders until he could no longer see.

While this conflict was going on, Wellington, with the right centre, had commenced his attack on the bridges over the Zadora. A Spanish peasant brought word that the bridge of Tres Puentes was negligently guarded, and offered to guide the troops to it. Kempt’s Brigade soon reached it; the Fifteenth Hussars galloped over, but a shot from a French battery killed the brave peasant who had guided them.

The forces that crossed at Tres Puentes now formed under the shelter of a hill. One of the officers wrote of this position: ” Our post was most extraordinary, as we were isolated from the rest of the army and within one hundred yards of the enemy’s advance. As I looked over the bank, I could see El Rey Joseph, sur- rounded by at least five thousand men, within five hundred yards of us.”

It has always seemed an inconceivable thing that the French should not have destroyed the seven narrow bridges across the Zadora before the 21st had dawned. Whether it was from over-confidence or sheer mental confusion, it is impossible to know.

The Third and Seventh Divisions were now moving rapidly down to the bridge of Mendoza, but the enemy’s light troops and guns had opened a vigorous fire upon them, until the riflemen of the Light Division, who had crossed at Tres Puentes, charged the enemy’s fire, and the bridge was carried.

Sir Thomas Picton was a picturesque figure in this part of the operations. Through some oversight he and his men, the ” Fighting Third,” were neglected. Orders came to other troops, bridges were being carried, but no word was sent to Picton. “D– it!” he cried out to one of his officers, “Lord Wellington must have forgotten us!” He beat the mane of his horse with his stick in his impatience and anger. Finally, an aide-de-camp galloped up and inquired for Lord Dalhousie, who commanded the Seventh Division. In answer to Picton’s inquiries he stated that he brought orders for Dalhousie to carry the bridge to the left, while the Fourth and Sixth Divisions were to support the attack. Picton rose in his stirrups, and shouted angrily to the amazed aide-de-camp :

“You may tell Lord Wellington from me, sir, that the Third Division, under my command, shall in less than ten minutes attack the bridge and carry it, and the Fourth and Sixth may support if they choose.” Then, addressing his men with his customary blend of affection and profanity, he cried : “Come on, ye rascals! Come on, ye fighting villains!”

They carried the bridge with such fire and speed that the whole British line was animated by the sight.

Maxwell says: “The passage of the river, the movement of glittering masses from right to left as far as the eye could range, the deafening roar of cannon, the sustained fusillade of the artillery, made up a magnificent scene. The British cavalry, drawn up to support the columns, seemed a glittering line of golden helmets and sparkling swords in the keen sunshine which now shone upon the field of battle.”

L’ Estrange, who was with the Thirty-first, says that the men were marching through standing corn (I suppose some kind of grain that ripens early, certainly not maize) yellow for the sickle and between four and five feet high, and the hissing cannon-balls, as they rent their way through the sea of golden grain, made long furrows in it.

The hill in front of Ariniz was the key of the French line, and Wellington brought up several batteries and hurled Picton’s division in a solid mass against it, while the heavy cavalry of the British came up at a gallop from the river to sustain the attack.

This hill had been the scene of a great fight in the wars of the Black Prince, where Sir William Felton, with two hundred archers and swordsmen, had been surrounded by six thousand Spaniards, and all perished, resisting doggedly. It is still called “the Englishmen’s hill.”

An obstinate fight now raged, for a brief space, on this spot. A long wall was held by several battalions of French infantry, whose fire was so deadly as to check the British for a time. They reached the wall, however, and for a few moments on either side of it was a seething mass of furious soldiers. “Any person,” said Kincaid, who was present, “who chose to put his head over from either side, was sure of getting a sword or bayonet up his nostrils.”

As the British broke over the wall, the French fell back, abandoning Ariniz for the ridge in front of Gomecha, only to be forced back again.

It was the noise of Graham’s guns, booming since mid-day at their rear, that took the heart out of the French soldiery.

Graham had struck the great blow on the left; at eleven he had reached the heights above the village and bridge of Gamara Major, which were strongly occupied by the French under Reille. General Oswald commenced the attack and drove the enemy from the heights; then Major General Robinson, at the head of a brigade of the Fifth Division, formed his men and led them forward on the run to carry the bridge and village of Gamara. But the French fire was so strong that he was compelled to fall back. Again he rallied them and crossed the bridge, but the French drove them back once more. Fresh British troops came up and the bridge was carried again; and then, for the third time, it was lost under Reille’s murderous fire.

But now the panic from the centre had reached Reille. It was known that the French centre was retreating: the Frenchmen had no longer the moral strength to resist Robinson’s attacks, and so the bridge was won by the English and the Bayonne road was lost to the French.

In the centre the battle had become a sort of running fight for six miles; the French were at last all thrown back into the little plain in front of Vittoria, where from the crowded throng cries of despair could be heard.

“At six o’clock,” Maxwell says, “the sun was setting, and his last rays fell upon a dreadful spectacle: red masses of infantry were advancing steadily across the plain; the horse artillery came at a gallop to the front to open its fire upon the fugitives; the Hussar Brigade was charging by the Camino Real.”

Of the helpless encumbrances of the French army an eye-witness said: “Behind them was the plain in which the city stood, and beyond the city thousands of carriages and animals and non-combatants, men, women, and children, were crowding together in all the madness of terror; and as the English shot went booming overhead the vast crowd started and swerved with a convulsive movement, while a dull and horrid sound of distress arose.”

Joseph now ordered the retreat to be conducted by the only road left open—that to Pampeluna, but it was impossible to take away his train of carriages. He, the king, only escaped capture by jumping out of one door of his carriage as his pursuers reached the other: he left his sword of state in it, and the beautiful Correggio “Christ in the Garden,” now at Apsley House, in England.

Eighty pieces of cannon, jammed close together near Vittoria on the only remaining defensible ridge near the town, had kept up a desperate fire to the last, and Reille had held his ground near the Zadora heroically, but it was useless. The great road to Bayonne was lost, and finally that to Pampeluna was choked with broken-down carriages. The British dragoons were pursuing hotly, and the frantic French soldiers plunged into morasses, over fields and hills, in the wildest rout, leaving their artillery, ammunition wagons, and the spoil of a kingdom.

The outskirts of Vittoria were strewn with the wreckage. Never before in modern times had such a quantity of spoil fallen into the hands of a victorious army. There were objects of interest from museums, convents, and royal palaces; there were jewels of royal worth and masterpieces of Titian, Raphael, and Correggio.

The marshal’s baton belonging to Jourdan had been left, with one hundred and fifty-one brass guns, four hundred and fifteen caissons of ammunition, one million three hundred thousand ball cartridges, fourteen thousand rounds of artillery ammunition, and forty thousand pounds of gunpowder. Joseph’s power was gone: he was only a wretched fugitive. Six thousand of his men had been killed and wounded, and one thousand were prisoners.

It has not been possible to estimate the value of the private plunder, but five and a half millions of dollars in the military chest of the army were taken, and untold quantities of private wealth were also lost to their owners; it was all scattered shining heaps of gold and silver—over the road, and the British soldiers reaped it. Wellington refused to make any effort to induce his men to give up the enormous sums they had absorbed: “They have earned it,” he said. But he had reason to regret it. They fell into frightful orgies of intemperance that lasted for days. Wellington wrote Lord Bathurst, June 29:

“We started with the army in the highest order, and up to the day of the battle nothing could get on better. But that event has, as usual, totally annihilated all order and discipline. The soldiers of the army have got among them about a million sterling in money, with the exception of about one hundred thousand dollars which were got in the military chest. I am convinced that we have now out of our ranks double the amount of our loss in the battle, and have lost more men in the pursuit than the enemy have.” It was calculated that seven thousand five hundred men had straggled from the effects of the plunder.

The convoys sent ahead by Joseph had contained some of the choicest works of art; they reached France safely, and are displayed in the museums of Paris. In justice to the Duke of Wellington it must be said that he communicated with Ferdinand, offering to restore the paintings which had fallen into his hands, but Ferdinand desired him to keep them. The wives of the French officers were sent on to Pampeluna the next day by Wellington, who had treated them with great kindness.

As for the rest of the feminine army, the nuns, the actresses, and the superbly arrayed others, they made their escape with greater difficulties and hardships. Alison says: “Rich vestures of all sorts, velvet and silk brocades, gold and silver plate, noble pictures, jewels, laces, cases of claret and champagne, poodles, parrots, monkeys, and trinkets lay scattered about the fields in endless confusion, amidst weeping mothers, wailing infants, and all the unutterable miseries of warlike overthrow.”

Napoleon was filled with fury at his brother for the result of Vittoria, but he instructed his ministers to say that “a somewhat brisk engagement with the English took place at Vittoria in which both sides lost equally. The French armies, however, carried out the movements in which they were engaged, but the enemy seized about one hundred guns which were left without teams at Vittoria, and it is these that the English are trying to pass off as artillery captured on the battlefield!”

One of the most important captures of the battle was a mass of documents from the archives of Madrid, including a great part of Napoleon’s secret correspondence—an invaluable addition to history.

Napier’s summing up of the results of the battle reads:

“Joseph’s reign was over; the crown had fallen from his head. And, after years of toils and combats, which had been rather admired than understood, the English general, emerging from the chaos of the Peninsula struggle, stood on the summit of the Pyrenees a recognised conqueror. From these lofty pinnacles the clangour of his trumpets pealed clear and loud, and the splendour of his genius appeared as a flaming beacon to warring nations.”

However, Napier always was inclined to be eloquent. Perhaps it was lucky for Wellington that the worthless make-trouble, Joseph Bonaparte, had been in the place of his tremendous brother.

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The Talk of London

Stephen Crane

San Francisco Examiner/March 11, 1900

People who contended that neither France nor Russia would make a colonial move while the greatest colonist of them all was more busy in South Africa than ever she had been since the time of Napoleon, may study with interest the move of Russia on Persia and the Persian gulf. At present it is a financial move, rather than a military one, but nevertheless it has made Great Britain very uneasy; for no country knows better than she what kind of a move usually precedes a military occupation. 

In the meantime France has quietly sent to her possessions in the Barbary States four times as many men as were required to subjugate those savage countries in the first campaign. Where the posts on the frontier usually required a small garrison of a few companies, brigades are now stationed. In fact, France has in Northern Africa a large army ready to take advantage of a political opportunity. She must be rather certain that her opportunity is approaching, for ministries do not send brigades so far for nothing. The Emperor of Germany devotes himself at this time to declaring to his people that the plight of England is an object lesson which teaches that the German Empire should have a largely increased navy. This apparently is the only advantage he sees or is willing to take, although the excitement among his people against the English is greater even than it is in France. For some years his ambitions have been strongly colonial, and he required an efficient navy moderate in size to further his far-reaching plans. However, there was from the beginning a vehement opposition by many political parties of the empire. His Ministry now sees in the popular feeling against England and her war in the Transvaal a chance to get a large bill through the Reichstag. Italy lifts her lazy head and begins to feel that she should properly occupy Egypt in the place of England, but she is not yet prepared to make many remarks upon the subject. 

One can conclude with a statement of the belief that an early and brilliant British victory in the Transvaal would smite many political ambitions in Europe. 

Russia’s clever and sly agents, France’s waiting brigades in Algeria, would be very likely to stand in their tracks for some time to come.

A strong battleship division of the Toulon squadron of the French navy has been for some weeks in a Morocco harbor which has been famous in the diplomatic relations between England, France and Spain. 

Throughout the war debates in the last session of the House of Commons the Irish Nationalists have occupied themselves mainly in having fun with the opposition. All went well until one time some speech of an Irish member stirred Colonel Saunderson, member for Armagh, north. He lost his temper to such a degree that be allowed himself to make some of the most offensive observations that were ever made in the House. 

“So that was the plan of campaign?” said he. “Not only were the British soldiers to be attacked in front, they were liable to be attacked in the rear, for the Nationalists never attack in front.” 

Whereupon the Irish benches were in an uproar. Mr. T. M. Healy and Mr. Dillon and Mr. Redmond all pointed out the insult, and also the fact that they were in no humor to stand things of that sort. Through the din the Speaker’s voice could be heard giving Colonel Saunderson a rather feeble support, declaring that he had not been out of order in his remarks. 

Colonel Saunderson finally arose to make an explanation. This explanation was really a perfect bit of impudence. He said that he would withdraw the expression, as when it came to his lips he had not meant to insult the honorable gentlemen opposite. He continued: “I am as proud of Irish valor as they are, and when I used the expression I was simply thinking of the historical records of Ireland and thought I was justified in saying what I did. I wish to withdraw it.’

Again there was a great beating of tom-toms and hammering of war posts, among the Irish benches. Mr. Dillon shouted: “That is making the observation twice as bad. Withdraw it like a gentleman.”

Mr. A. J. Balfour then arose to cover the retreat of his party friend, who was suffering the heaviest kind of a fire. In his suavest manner the leader of the House begged the gentlemen on both sides to forget an expression which was not intended to be offensive. 

The clamor from the Irish benches arose. Mr. McNeill, looking at Colonel Saunderson, remarked: “Send him to the House of Peers. We’ve had enough of him.”

But Mr. Balfour persevered in his attempt to help Saunderson, and really got him out of a great deal of trouble. Ultimately Colonel Saunderson withdrew his expression without attaching to it any acrimonious phrases.

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San Francisco

H.L. Mencken

Chicago Tribune/November 20, 1927

A Washington bootlegger who knows everything tells me that it is now a moral certainty that one of the national conventions of next summer will be held at San Francisco. The news is too pleasant to be doubted for an instant. I accept it at once, giving humble thanks to God, and prepare myself to view once more the only genuinely civilized city in the United States. It is such occasional escapes from Moronia that make journalism an agreeable profession. The same bootlegger—who knows more United States senators than Dr. Dawes himself, and is vastly more respected by them—tells me that the other convention is to go to Detroit. I rejoice again, and flap my wings. 

I have been reporting national conventions for the great organs of patriotic opinion ever since the year 1900, but the only decent one that I have ever seen was the one held in San Francisco in 1920. I use the word decent in its narrowest sense. A national convention is usually not only grossly offensive to the higher cerebral centers; it is also immensely painful to the eye, the ear and the nose. Not to put too fine a point upon the matter, it stinks. But there was no stink in San Francisco. On the contrary, there were lovely zephyrs from the south seas, and on them came the scent of flowers. The eye was caressed by charming decorations. The ear was caressed by sound music. The esophagus was caressed by pre-war bourbon.  

The effect upon the delegates was almost miraculous. Whole platoons of them were converted from politicians into gentlemen. They refrained from bawling, fighting, and rolling in the gutter. They changed their collars daily, and their shirts twice a week. They learned how to drink without coughing, batting their eyes, and slapping their tummies. They gave up spitting on the floor. They abandoned hot dogs in favor of ripe figs, pomegranates, and the steaks of the abalone. Having descended upon the town with the dreadful snorts and bellows of sailors home from the Horn, they departed two weeks later in the delicate, pizzicato manner of ambassadors.  

I believe that that convention did more to foster true refinement in these states than anything since the launching of my friend Gerard Lambert’s historic war upon halitosis, the curse of great business executives. The thousand-odd delegates and the thousand-odd alternates [not to mention the five hundred newspaper correspondents] were exposed for two weeks to the mellowing influences of a really civilized town. They learned how to drink; they learned table manners; they learned how to love. Returning anon to such sinks as Boston, Cincinnati, Harrisburg, Pa.; Jackson, Miss., and La Crosse, Wis., they carried their new elegance with them, and spread it gently. All those places, save perhaps Boston, show the effects today. 

It was simple cleanliness, I believe, that moved them most profoundly. Most of them had been to national conventions before and knew what to expect, to wit, a barnlike, hideous and filthy hall, double prices at all the hotels, the incessant blare of bands, liquor fit only for southern congressmen, and food fit only for hogs. Above all, they expected dirt—dirty places to eat, dirty washrooms, dirt and smells everywhere. In San Francisco, to their astonishment, they found none of these things. The hall was beautiful and spotlessly clean. The food everywhere was appetizing and cheap. The hotels did no profiteering. The decorations were in good taste. There was good music. The wines of the country were superb.

For a day or two the delegates and alternates staggered around like men emerging from anesthetics. It seemed somehow fabulous. Drinking, they expected to fall to the ground and pass into fits. Eating, they expected to be doubled up by ptomaines. Attending at the hall, they expected to be deafened by noises and asphyxiated by stenches. Returning to their hotels, they expected to be blackjacked. When none of these things happened, they were as men in a dream. Then suddenly they began to rejoice. And then they began to leap and shout hosannas. 

I confess to a great weakness for San Francisco. It is my favorite American town, as it is of almost everyone else who has ever visited it. It looks out, not upon Europe, like New York, nor upon the Bible belt, like Chicago, but upon Asia, the ancient land, and the changeless. There is an Asiatic touch in its daily life, as there is a touch of Europe [and especially of the slums and bagnios of Europe] in the life of New York. No doubt, it has its go-getters; if so, they are humanely invisible. Its people take the time to live, and they are aided in that laudable enterprise by the best climate in the world. 

The earthquake of April 18, 1906 [To San Francisco editors: All right, call it a fire if you want to], gave San Francisco a dreadful wallop, and for a decade or more thereafter it seemed in peril of succumbing to the standardization that prevails everywhere else in America. Many of its most picturesque quarters were wiped out, and in the rebuilding there was little effort to reproduce them. Worse, the work of reconstruction attracted a great many strangers, and some of them came from the evangelical wilds of the middle west. 

The result was a long effort to convert San Francisco into a sort of Asbury Park. Wowsers arose with the demand that the town be made safe for Sunday school superintendents. Anon came prohibition, and a fresh effort to iron it out. But though its peril, for a while, was anything but inconsiderable, it managed to survive this onslaught, and today it seems to be out of danger. Most of the wowsers have moved to Los Angeles, where the populace welcomes and admires them. San Francisco has returned to its more spacious and urbane life. It is agreeably wet, sinful and happy. A civilized traveler may visit it today without running any risk of being thrown into jail or ducked in a baptismal tank.  

The rise of Los Angeles, indeed, has been a godsend to the whole San Francisco region, though the San Franciscans once viewed it with alarm. It has drawn off the middle western morons who flock to the coast, and concentrated them in the south. The weather down there is warmer–an important consideration to farmers who have been chilblained and petrified by the long, harsh winters of Iowa. And more attention is paid to the perils of the soul—always an important matter to agronomists. In San Francisco there seems to be very little active fear of hell. The unpleasantness of roasting forever is sometimes politely discussed, but no one seems to get into a lather about it. 

In Los Angeles the hell question is always to the fore, and so the yokels find the place more to their taste. There are more than 10,000 evangelists in the town, all of them in constant eruption. They preach every brand of theology ever heard of in the world, and many that are quite unknown elsewhere. When two eminent pastors engage in a slanging match, which is very frequently, the combat attracts as much attention as another set piece by Dempsey and Tunney. There are Iowans in Los Angeles who go to church three times a day, and to a different basilica every time. It is a paradise of Bible-searchers. 

No such frenzy to unearth and embrace the truth is visible in San Francisco. As I have said, the influence of Asia is upon the town, and Asia got through all the theological riddles that now engage Los Angeles a thousand years ago. San Francisco takes such things lightly. It consecrates its chief energies to the far more pleasant and important business of living comfortably on this earth. It is one of the most agreeable great cities in the world—mild and balmy in its climate, beautiful in its situation, and tolerant and civilized in its point of view. I sincerely hope that the Washington bootlegger is right, and that one of the conventions will be held there next year. The Democrats had the last; let the Republicans now take their turn. Their 1924 convention was held in Cleveland, and their 1920 convention in a huge hot-frame at Chicago. They, too, are God’s creatures, and deserve a little decent comfort. And something better than needle beer to wet their whistles.

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