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The Military Sketch-Book, Vol. 2 of 2 Reminiscences of seventeen years in the service abroad and at home

The Military Sketch-Book, Vol. 2 of 2
Reminiscences of seventeen years in the service abroad and at home
Title: The Military Sketch-Book, Vol. 2 of 2 Reminiscences of seventeen years in the service abroad and at home
Release Date: 2018-06-14
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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i

THE
MILITARY SKETCH-BOOK.
REMINISCENCES OF
SEVENTEEN YEARS IN THE SERVICE
ABROAD AND AT HOME.
BY AN OFFICER OF THE LINE.

“The wight can tell
A melancholy and a merry tale
Of field, and fight, and chief, and lady gay.”

IN TWO VOLUMES.
VOL. II.

LONDON:
HENRY COLBURN, NEW BURLINGTON STREET.
1827.

ii

LONDON:
PRINTED BY S. AND R. BENTLEY, DORSET STREET.
iii


CONTENTS
OF
THE SECOND VOLUME.

Page
NIGHTS IN THE GUARD-HOUSE, NO. IV. 1
ABSENT WITHOUT LEAVE 28
THE PUNISHMENT 36
ECCENTRICITIES OF THE LATE MORRIS QUILL 48
MESS-TABLE CHAT, NO. III. 63
RECOLLECTIONS OF THE LAST CAMPAIGN IN THE PENINSULA 83
NIGHTS IN THE GUARD-HOUSE, NO. V. 182
HOLY ORDERS 199
A LITTLE CONSEQUENCE 206
THE HUSSAR AND THE COMMISSARY 210iv
ALLEMAR AND ELLEN 217
THE COUP DE GRACE 235
A VOLUNTEER OF FORTY 242
THE HALF-PAY CAPTAIN 261
MESS-TABLE CHAT, NO. IV. (A SKETCH FOR THE “MEDICOS.”) 277
NIGHTS IN THE GUARD-HOUSE, NO. VI.:—THE BUSHRANGERS 293

1


THE
MILITARY SKETCH-BOOK.


NIGHTS IN THE GUARD-HOUSE.
No. IV.

“Come, you Jack Andrews, lave off your caperin’about there, and give us that song theCaptain made on the bowld Guerilla,” said privateMulligan to his comrade, who was taking alesson from Lance-Corporal Brogan on the Ballycraggen1pushing-step, to set his blood into circulation;2for he had been just relieved from a twohours’ stand upon the side of as bleak a mountainas ever sentry stood upon; where the keen windsof a cold frosty night had full play upon his patientand good-humoured countenance.

“Make room, then, and let me have the nextplace to the hob,” replied Jack. He was very soonaccommodated with the desired seat; for Andrewswas a good singer, and a still better story-teller:he had seen a great deal of service, althougha young man, and from his uncommonly retentivememory could detail the most minute circumstancesof his campaigns; he therefore was thevery life of the guard-room; and the men of theregiment used to say, that if Jack Andrews andCorporal Callaghan were but along with them,they would not refuse two extra guards in the week.

The fire was soon surrounded, and PeninsularBob, the sergeant of the guard, bestirred himselffrom his snooze in the old arm chair, right in frontof the hearth, to listen to the fine voice and admirethe musical taste of Jack Andrews.

“Why,” said Jack, “the song of ‘The Guerilla’is a very sweet thing, when sung by two voices;but without two it is not quite so good. Corporal3Callaghan knows it well, and has often sung it withme; so as soon as he returns from relieving thesentries, I’ll sing the song with him, if you canpersuade him to it. He knows the air better thanI do, for he learnt it from the Guerillas themselveswhen there was a troop of them at Tolosa,and I learnt it from him; but if you have no objection,lads, I’ll sing a song which the Captainwrote to a fine bold and romantic French air, whichI have heard the French soldiers singing many anight, close to my own post.”

Of course, the proposal was received unanimously;and when silence was perfectly restored, (forall spoke on the subject at once,) Jack Andrewssang the following song, first having taken the precautionof shutting the door, lest he might happento be heard outside although there was very littledanger of being surprised by any of the officers inhis melodious dereliction from strict military practice.

THE SENTINEL.

When o’er the camp the midnight moonlight beams,
And soldiers’ eyes are seal’d in happy slumber,
The wakeful sentinel his watch proclaims,
And silence sweetly swells the echoing number:
4Oh! then to Heaven his eyes he turns,
And murmurs with a glowing sigh,
“Angels bright that dwell above,
Tell my country, tell my love,
For them—for them I watch, for them I’ll die!”
And, as the foe’s night-fires before him play,
His bosom swells with flames still stronger burning;
He gazes on them—wishes for the day,
With glory and the fight once more returning!
Oh! then to Heaven his eyes he turns,
And murmurs with a glowing sigh,
“Angels bright that dwell above,
Tell my country, tell my love,
For them—for them I’ll fight, for them I’ll die!”
And should he, in the battle’s raging heat,
With valiant heart and arm the foe confounding;
Oh! should the hero then his death-wound meet,
And Victory his glorious knell be sounding,
Again to Heaven his eyes he turns,
And murmurs with his life’s last sigh,
“Angels bright that dwell above,
Tell my country, tell my love,
For them—for them I fought, for them I die!”

This, sung in admirable style by the manlyvoice of Jack Andrews, had a powerful effect uponthe listeners, for the air was of a romantically martialcharacter, composed during the best days ofNapoleon’s glory, when chivalric enthusiasm infuseditself into every shade of French imagination.5There was not a man of the guard who hadnot served in the Peninsula during the brightestperiod of England’s military grandeur, when shestood opposed to Napoleon’s greatest heroes; andfrom a recollection of the scenes of that time,awakened by the song, there arose a feeling inevery breast around the humble hearth of BallycraggenGuard-house, which commanders mighthave envied, and philosophers admired. Itbrought all back to the romance of war; it placedthem in situations familiar to their fancy; ittouched the most delightful chord of the soldier’sheart, and every tongue became eloquent upon thesource of its sensations. There is no sign in Nature’smnemonics like music: it is a talisman ofpower. Moore has beautifully expressed this inpoetry, but not so effectually as the followinglines, attributed to the unfortunate Ensign Dermody.

To him whose heart is dark with shades of care,
How sweet’s the melody it loved to hear
In days gone by! Yet bitter is the strain:
Oh! ’tis a mingling of delight with pain;
For, though the hand of Time well-nigh efface
Each blur and furrow—each deforming trace,
Which stern Adversity’s harsh hand design’d
To spoil the lively landscape of the mind,
6Some passing sound, some melancholy lay,
The favour’d pleasure of some former day,
Falls on his soul; and, as the listener hears,
Forth comes the magic stream of memory’s tears,
Which, dropping on the picture, bright again
Enlivens alike each beauty and each stain,
Casting a varnish of so mix’d a dye
That (by its gloss) ’twill please yet pain the eye!

Bob the sergeant spoke more than any one elseon the subject of the song;—“That’s a ’nationgood thing, Jack,” said he; “it puts me in mindof many a one of my night-guards when I was aprivate. D—me but it made me think I was on theside of a hill on the advanced-posts, stuck behinda tree, or the corner of a rock, watching the enemyin the moonshine of a fine summer’s night,just as I was immediately before the first battle SirArthur ever fought in Portugal. I think I’mthere now: it was at Roliça. I was on sentrythat night, on a hill, close to the enemy. It wasas fine and as calm a night as ever was seen.The French were posted thick upon the heights infront of us—infernal steep and craggy precipices,where it was almost impossible to come at them.There was I about three hundred yards in front of7them. On this advanced-post I was the sentry,and was just leaning against an old windmill,looking out at the French vidette, who was stuckon horseback, like the statue at Charing Cross,right out upon a high rock, at the top of a hill.The moon was rising behind him, and I could seethe figure of the fellow and his horse just like oneof those black shadows they cut out in card. Thewhole country round was one of the most beautifulpictures in the world. Down under my eyes wasa little wood of lightish-coloured trees, (cork, Ibelieve,) a small stream at the end of it: all along,to the distance of about two miles, I could seedifferent old convents, and houses beset withorange and olive-trees; and the moonlight threwsuch a beautiful colouring over them that I couldnot help feeling melancholy.—You may smile,lads, but I was a young man then, and only a fewdays in a foreign country: I could almost smellthe sea-air; for we were only three miles from thebeach, along which we had been so lately sailing:I had not been many weeks away from a comfortablehome—father, mother, sweetheart and all: Iwas then standing between two great armies, ready8to start upon each other: and I did not know butthe next day would see my first fight and my lasthour. I’ll leave it to any man here, who everwas in any thing like such a situation, to say,whether it is not calculated to make an impressionon the feelings.”

“Oh, by my sowl! and that it is, sargeant,” repliedprivate Mulligan; “particularly when youare not a long time at the work.”

“Well,” continued the sergeant, “it was atthat old windmill I heard the song of ‘The Sentinel’first, from one of the enemy, who was sittingwith four or five others on the top of one of theheights; and when he was done, a crowd of ourfellows, about two or three hundred yards fromme, gave him three rounds of applause. Thenight was so still, that you could hear the cockingof a musket half a mile off, and the song wentmost melodiously. God knows whether the poorfellow ever sang another song! for the next daythere was no singing, but plenty of dancing, tothe tune of ‘over the hills and far away,’ and Irather think we made the French pay the piper.”

“Bluranouns! tell us how it was, sargeant,”9exclaimed Mulligan, with an anxious smile, and achuckling twist of his hands. The sergeant wasnot sorry to have such a favour asked of him, andhe did not lose a moment in complying with therequest, which now became general.

“After I was relieved that night, I lay downin my guard-coat on some Indian-corn straw, behinda wall or sort of pent-house, where our advancedpiquet was, and I slept a couple of hours;after which Tom Singleton and I smoked a littlewhile, out of a short stump of a pipe, whichTom brought with him from England, and warmedour gobs with a drop out of the canteen.It was broad daylight, and we got up

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