The Military Adventures of Charles O'Neil Who was a Soldier in the Army of Lord Wellington during the Memorable Peninsular War and the Continental Campaigns from 1811 to 1815
WHO WAS A SOLDIER IN THE ARMY OF LORD WELLINGTON DURING THE
MEMORABLE PENINSULAR WAR AND THE CONTINENTAL
CAMPAIGNS FROM 1811 TO 1815;
INCLUDING FULL HISTORIES OF
THE BLOODY BATTLE OF BAROSSA,
THE MEMORABLE SIEGE OF BADAJOS;
TOGETHER WITH A GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION OF THE
BATTLE OF WATERLOO,
TERMINATING WITH THE OVERTHROW OF NAPOLEON;
IN ALL OF WHICH HE WAS AN ACTOR.
ILLUSTRATED BY SIX SPLENDID ENGRAVINGS.
PUBLISHED FOR THE AUTHOR BY EDWARD LIVERMORE.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1851,
By CHARLES O’NEIL,
In the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the District of Massachusetts.
HOBART & ROBBINS;
NEW ENGLAND TYPE AND STEREOTYPE FOUNDERY,
The history of times and events, of men and their characters,must ever be replete with interest and instruction.Chronicles of the great and wise, the noble and the learned,are often presented to the world; and the military hero andchieftain finds everywhere his biographer. We read of campaignsthat his mind has traced out, of battles which his planshave won; and we forget, in our admiration of his skill andpower, those by whom the heroic deeds were done, the victorygained. Generals, says one author, “often calculate uponmen as though they were blocks of wood, or movable machines.”Yet every one of these nameless soldiers has feelingsas acutely alive to suffering and to honor as those wholook upon them thus.
It is well sometimes to turn away from the glare and tinselof rank, from the glitter of arms and the pageantry of war, tofollow the common soldier in his partings and wanderings, tocast the glance of pity upon his sufferings, and allow theheart to be moved with compassion while regarding the temptationswhich must ever beset his path. It is only thus thata true knowledge of the evils and miseries of war can beobtained; and only when this knowledge is spread far and[IV]wide, that we may hope to see the banner of peace unfurled,and the olive-branch waving in quiet, where now the swordspreads its desolation, and the vulture feasts on the unburieddead.
Thoughts like these may, perhaps, lend interest to the unpretendingnarrative of one who now presents himself and thescenes of his times before an indulgent public, with none of theadvantages of rank, or birth, or fame, to recommend him toits notice. Simply one of the rank and file, he was an actorand participator in the scenes he has endeavored faithfully torepresent.
It is his ardent wish, by this little volume, to awaken moreinterest in this class of his fellow-beings, so often forgottenin the lustre of that halo which rarely fails to surround thevictor’s name.
The work, such as it is, he cheerfully commends tothe public, looking with unshaken trust to its kindnessand sympathy for the success and encouragement which hehopes it may be his lot to meet.
Worcester, July 4, 1851.
|Introductory Remarks.—The Author’s Birth.—Parentage.—Prevalenceof the Military Spirit.—Two of his Brothers enlist, and are killed in theService.—Author apprenticed to a Carpenter.—His Desire for a MilitaryLife.—Leaves Home without the Consent of his Parents.—ReachesBelfast, and enlists.—Dissatisfied with his new Position.—Deserts, andreturns to his Native Village.—Again enlists, at Navan.—Still dissatisfied,and again deserts.—Enlists a third Time.—Marches to Dublin,and thence to Cork.—Departs for England.—Incidents of the Voyage.—Sailsfor the Peninsula.—The Ship on Fire.—A Terrific Storm.—Arrivesin Spain.—Gibraltar.—A Flogging,||7|
|Origin of the War in the Peninsula.—Siege of Saragossa.—MurderousCharacter of the War.—Success of the French in Portugal.—Battle ofRolica.—Battle of Vimiero.—Convention of Cintra.—The Frenchevacuate Portugal.—Preparations of Napoleon for another Campaign.—Hesubdues the Country, and enters Madrid.—Address to the SpanishPeople.—Napoleon recalled by the War with Austria.—Soult andNey intrusted with the Command of the French Army in Spain.—Retreatof Sir John Moore.—Battle of Corunna.—Death of Sir JohnMoore.—The British Army sail for England,||50|
|Joseph Bonaparte again King of Spain.—His Difficulties with Soult.—SecondSiege of Saragossa.—Another English Army, under Sir ArthurWellesley, lands at Lisbon.—Battle of Talavera.—The English retireinto Portugal.—Siege of Gerona.—Principal Events of the Campaignof 1810.—The English Troops make a Stand at Torres Vedras.—Retreatof Massena.—Siege of Cadiz.—Escape of French Prisoners.—Openingof the Campaign of 1811,||99|
|The Author, with his Regiment, leaves Gibraltar, for Tarifa.—Dissensionsbetween the Spanish and English Officers.—Battle of Barossa.—Retreatof the French.—Suffering of the Pursuing Army.—Guerillas.—DonJulian Sanchez.—Juan Martin Diaz.—Xavier Mina.—Continued Privationsof the British Army.—Adventures of the Author in Search ofFood.—Arrival of the Commissariat with Provisions.—ExtravagantJoy of the Troops.—Departure of the British Army for Badajos,||123|
|Badajos.—Its Capture by the French.—Attempts to retake it by theEnglish.—Wellington invests it in Person.—Assault upon Fort Christoval.—Stormingof the Town.—Terrific Conflict—The place sackedby the Victors.—Disgraceful Drunkenness and Debauchery of theTroops.—The Main Body of the Army depart for Beira,||160|
|Romantic Adventures of Sir Colquhoun Grant.—The Author ordered,with a Convoy, to Brussels.—Description of the Route.—The Pass ofRoncesvalles.—Memorable Defeat of the Army of Charlemagne there.—Asudden Attack and Repulse.—The Author arrives at Brussels,and joins the Garrison of that Place,||199|
|Brief Summary of Events for Four Years preceding the Battle of Waterloo.—Author’sNarrative resumed at that Period.—Preparation of Troopsfor the Battle.—Skirmishing preceding its Commencement.—Receptionof the News at Brussels.—Departure of the English for the Fieldof Battle.—Disposition of the Forces.—Attack upon Hougomont.—Progressof the Battle.—Arrival of the Prussian Reinforcements.—Chargeof the Old Guard.—Flight of the French.—The Authorwounded, and left upon the Field.—Rescued by a Camp-follower.—Carriedto the Hospital, and thence taken to England.—He quits theService, and emigrates to America.—Conclusion,||217|
Introductory Remarks.—The Author’s Birth.—Parentage.—Prevalenceof the Military Spirit.—Two of his Brothers enlist, and are killed in theService.—Author apprenticed to a Carpenter.—His Desire for a MilitaryLife.—Leaves Home without the Consent of his Parents.—ReachesBelfast, and enlists.—Dissatisfied with his new Position.—Deserts, andreturns to his Native Village.—Again enlists, at Navan.—Still dissatisfied,and again deserts.—Enlists a third Time.—Marches to Dublin,and thence to Cork.—Departs for England.—Incidents of the Voyage.—Sailsfor the Peninsula.—The Ship on Fire.—A Terrific Storm.—Arrivesin Spain.—Gibraltar.—A Flogging.
People advanced somewhat in life, and surroundedby a family of children, often find great pleasure inretracing scenes of their own childhood,—in livingover, again and again, the hours which have been tothem so productive of happiness or misery; and theevents of those bygone days present to their mindsscenes of far deeper and more thrilling interest thanthe present can ever do. The thrice-told tale is asnew, and as glowing with interest, as though its occurrenceswere but of yesterday. This is true in thecase of most whose lives have been diversified by thechanges of varied condition and prospects. But howmuch more true is this of the old soldier,—one who,in early life, became inured to the hardships of warand the severe duties of camp life. Scenes in thecamp, and on the bloody field of martial combat,where death, in its most terrific forms, is met bymany,—the horrors of the siege, and the consequencesto the vanquished,—the sufferings, the writhingsand groans, of the distressed and the dying,—toodeeply impress the mind to be ever erased; and, inour times of peace, should serve to enhance the valueof the blessings we enjoy. It is, perhaps, with somethinglike these feelings, that the author of the followingsketch presents his narrative to the public.He can claim no titled ancestry, nor lordly birth, tothrow around him a fictitious glory. This tale drawsits interest from the wild scenes of war, and thewilder passions of men’s souls, which it has been hisfortune to encounter. It is his hope both to instructand amuse the young, that they may better prize theblessings of peace; and learn that war, with all itsglory, is to be dreaded, not sought for,—that it isproductive of far more evil than good, even to thesuccessful party, and that it should ever be, to allnations, only a last resort from the most flagrantoppression.
I was born in Dendolk, in the county of Lowth,Ireland, in June, 1793. I was the youngest ofeleven children, six of whom were sons, and fivedaughters. My father’s name was Charles O’Neil,and my mother’s maiden name was Alice McGee.My father was a carpenter by trade, and he supportedhis large family by daily toil. He was anindustrious and active laborer, and in other timeswould gladly have seen his family settle around him,pursuing the peaceful avocations of husbandry, orengaged in some of the useful mechanic arts. But itwas our fortune—or misfortune, I should say—tolive when all Europe resounded to the din of arms,and the glory of martial life, amid the confusion andcarnage of battle. Napoleon, the mightiest of heroesand conquerors, was then rapidly ascending to thezenith of his glory; and all the crowned heads ofEurope, terrified by his growing power, and anxiousto save themselves and their thrones, began to preparethemselves for resistance. Recruits were soughtfor in every village and hamlet. The honors of thesoldier’s life, and the glory of the military profession,were everywhere, and by all classes of people, thetopics of conversation. Fathers and mothers werecareful to instil into the minds of their children theglory and honor of a military life, and the fair youngdamsels of our own dear island—for Ireland hascharming and beautiful girls—were scarcely willingto regard any young man as honorable or brave,who did not enlist, and aim to deserve well of hiscountry. He is a soldier, he has fought in such abattle, he belongs to his majesty’s regiment, &c.,were a sure passport to society and respectability.All other occupations were considered tame and spiritless,fit only for the aged, infirm, and for cowards.My father caught the spirit of the times, and althoughtoo old to engage in such an enterprise himself, gavehis ready permission to Arthur, my oldest brother,who early sought to distinguish himself on the fieldof battle. My mother’s consent was not so readilygiven, but even she did by no means object to hisnew enterprise; and when he presented himselfbefore his parents, in his new uniform, for their partingblessing, she felt proud that her son was possessedof such a noble, courageous soul. She cheerfullygave him her hand, saying, “Go, my son;cover yourself with glory in the service of your country,and when you are old, you will be honored,respected, and provided for.” But, alas! how littledid my mother think that the first news she wouldhear from her first-born son, after this blessing, wouldfill her own heart with grief unutterable. He enlistedinto the navy, and was placed upon a seventy-fourgun-ship, named the “Terrible;” and terrible,indeed, it proved to him, for he was killed by a cannon-ball,a few months only after enlisting, in anengagement which took place in 1807, near the coastof Holland, between his majesty’s fleet and the Frenchnaval force. His death was a severe affliction to myparents, and completely damped my father’s desirefor military honor for his children. It was, therefore,with deep regret that they saw in my brotherJames’ mind a growing dislike to the quiet dutiesand occupations of home, and an earnest longing forthose warlike scenes which had been so fatal to Arthur.This desire soon grew so strong that entreatiesand persuasions were alike useless from my dearand aged parents; and in less than two years fromArthur’s death, he enlisted in the royal army ofGeorge IV., in the 96th regiment of foot. It wasa sorrowful day in our little home, when the newscame that his regiment was ordered abroad, into theforeign service. My father gave him much goodadvice, with many directions for the attainment ofthat honor he hoped to see him enjoy, at some distantday. But my poor mother could only weep, andexpress her deep regret that Jimmie would not becontented to live at home, at the same time reiteratingher confident prediction that she should seehis face no more. Since the melancholy death ofArthur, the glory and honor of military life all gaveplace to the carnage,