26

MARCH TO PARIS – HARRY SMITH QUARTERMASTER – GENERAL OF THE RESERVE – HE BECOMES LIEUT.COLONEL AND C.B. – THE 6TH DIVISION MOVED FROM NEUILLY TO ST. GERMAIN – THE DUC DE BERRI AS A SPORTSMAN – ON THE REDUCTION OF THE 6TH DIVISION HARRY SMITH REJOINS HIS REGIMENT AS CAPTAIN – MARCH TO CAMBRAY – HE IS MADE MAJOR DE PLACE OF THAT TOWN.

OUR march to Paris was unaccompanied by anything to relate except that I had a gallop round Mons and a good look on Malplaquet, but could picture to myself no position, while I felt as a soldier standing on the classic ground of the gallant achievements of my country and our former army of heroes (for I regard Marlborough and Wellington as the greatest men England or the world ever produced). But the latter days of Wellington are as conspicuous for ability and energy as the days of his youth. Poor Marlborough dwindled into imbecility, and became a miser. To Wellington his country has ever been enthusiastically grateful, while Marlborough, by ill-treatment, was driven into voluntary banishment. Although I love Wellington with a fervour which cannot be exceeded, I pray my God he may never outlive his mental faculties, but leave this world and the country and cause he has so eminently served while that world and country are still in admiration and wonder. Alava, the Spanish General, so attached and devoted to the Duke (by-the-bye, he was a Captain of a Spanish battleship or frigate, I forget which), told me and Juana two years after the Battle of Waterloo that the night after that eventful day, the Duke got back to his quarters at Waterloo about nine or ten at night. The table was laid for the usual number, while none appeared of the many of his staff but Alava and Fremantle.

The Duke said very little, ate hastily and heartily, but every time the door opened he gave a searching look, evidently in the hope of some of his valuable staff approaching. When he had finished eating, he held up both hands in an imploring attitude and said, “The hand of Almighty God has been upon me this day,” jumped up, went to his couch, and was asleep in a moment. At this period he was not aware of the extent of his wonderful victory.

When we approached the capital, we found the French army Strongly posted in a position near St. Denis and the previously shamefully abandoned post of Mont Martre. From this position we expected to have to drive them, but a day or two’s suspense relieved us. In a day or two we went see the entree of Louis into Paris – a humble spectacle indeed compared to the magnitude of the struggle that brought it about.

Lieut.-General Sir Lowry Cole had now arrived to take the command of the 6th Division, Previously under Lambert. The 5th, 6th, and Brunswickers composed the Reserve, about 17,000, Sir James Kempt, the senior General, commanding; whose Quartermaster~General, Sir William Gomm, gave all orders for marching, bivouac, etc. Now it became my province to do so, and I never felt more proud than in having the movement and arrangement of march of 17,000 soldiers.

Our army was in the environs of Paris, the 5th Division at Clichy, the 6th at Neuilly, the Brunswickers near Clichy. The house I and my wife occupied in the town of Neuilly we found was a sort of country residence belonging to a nice old lady in Paris. There was a beautiful and most productive garden, and an establishment of regular gardeners. When I sent for the head man and desired him to take to his mistress the vegetables he was accustomed to send her, and to obey her orders, whatever they were, he was thunderstruck. I said, “If the garden is not kept in real good order, then I will show you what an Englishman is.” The poor old lady, hearing this, came out to thank us, and we often dined with her in Paris. She lived in great style, and was of use to my wife in showing her milliners, etc., for a refit a’ la mode was necessary.

Our life was now one of continued pleasure and excitement ~ nothing but parties at night and races by day. At these I was steward. The crowd of foreign officers being very unruly in riding in after the race~horses, I put some proper fellows of soldiers at the distance-post (who, having resisted many a charge of French cavalry, cared little for an unarmed galloping man), with orders to run the rope across to stop this disorder. My orders were obeyed, as I expected, and that gallant hero, Marshal Blucher, not seeing the rope, rode his horse full speed against it and fell, and in the crash the noble old fellow broke his collar-bone, to my annoyance and distress.

While one day walking in my garden at Neuilly, my old friend Tom Fane, who had come to Paris as one of the sight-seers, came full gallop up to me and Juana, “Hurrah, Harry, the Gazette has arrived! You are Lieutenant-Colonel, and here is a case for you; it has some order in it, I think. I found it at the Military Secretary’s office, and, being to your address, brought it. Let me open it.” It was the Order of Companion of the Bath, which pleased poor Tom more than it did me. Thus again had I and Juana cause to be grateful to Almighty God, not only for perfect safety, but for worldly distinction and promotion. It was barely fourteen months since the Battle of Toulouse. I had crossed the Atlantic to and from America four times; fought a gallant action, and captured the metropolis of that world; brought home dispatches, and received £500; was in communication with ministers, and honoured by a long audience of His Royal Highness the Prince Regent; again went out; again was under fire for three weeks, and in the sanguinary disaster at New Orleans; was in the Battle of Waterloo, and had been promoted from Captain to Lieut.-Colonel and Companion of the Bath; without a wound; restored to my wife in health and contentment, and nothing to distress or annoy me beyond the loss and wounds of so many gallant and dear friends. Cold must that heart be which could not feel to its inmost core God Almighty’s providence.

While in our cantonments around Paris we had frequent reviews with Emperors, Kings, etc., as spectators, and nothing could exceed the style and bearing of our army. The conduct, too, was exemplary. The taking down of the horses from Venice, from the Place du Carrousel; the execution of poor Ney, that hero of reality, not romance; the desire of Blucher to destroy the bridge of Jena, which the Duke of Wellington prevented; the escape of La Vallette, etc., kept us all in a state of excitement, while the lions of Paris, then the entrepot of every article of value in the arts, afforded daily occupation. Not a valuable picture in Europe but was in the Place du Carrousel. It was my delight to stand, often an hour at a time, looking at Paul Potter’s small painting of the bull and the peasant behind the tree, and I have been so fascinated I have expected the bull to charge.

In the autumn [1815] it became necessary to move the army into more permanent quarters, and my Division, the 6th, was sent to St. Germain, that magnificent and ancient resort of former kings. The woods were in perfect order, and cut into beautiful foci and avenues like radii of circles, for hunting in the French style. The Duke de Berri had hounds, and was passionately fond of the sport. The stag was turned out, there were relays of hounds in couples, and huntsmen of various denominations with large French horns, all in a costume de chasse, with large cocked hats and a couteau de chasse by their sides. The carriages, full of ladies of the court and others, assembled in one of the foci, or centres, from which the avenues radiated. When the stag crossed into another part of the wood, the carriages galloped to the “focus” of that part of the forest where the hunt was now going on, and such a crash of horns as there was to denote that the stag had changed his direction! The Duke went galloping up and down the avenues, changing very frequently from one fat brute of a horse to another. My wife and I, who went out every day and galloped after the Duke, an ill-tempered fellow, up and down the avenues, were barely able to keep our real good hunters warm. It was, however, capital fun, although foreign to our ideas of hunting. I always fancied myself a figure in a tapestry, hunting being a favourite subject for that kind of delineation.

At the mort (or death), or when the stag was at bay, there was always a great row of horns and shouting, but no dog-Ianguage. On one occasion the Stag, a noble animal, was at bay, and fiercely contending with the hounds. The Duke de Berri jumped off his horse and drew his couteau de chasse, making great demonstration of going up to the Stag, while his courtiers were screeching, “Oh, monsieur, monsieur, prenez garde, pour l’amour de Dieu.” He reminded me of the Irish hero, “Hold me, Jim; you know my temper,” for the Duke had no real idea of doing anything of the sort, although, when the poor noble animal had been shot by some of the piqueurs, the Duke then ran in valorously and dipped his couteau in the beautiful animal’s chest. For this feat a lot of us were determined to play the Duke a trick, and the next hunting~day we contrived to break down the paling of the forest and to induce the stag to bolt. We succeeded to our hearts’ content, and away into the open went stag safe enough, the hounds in no wind after him. The Duke and all his equipage were soon planted, and he was in a furious passion. The couteau de chasse was not required that day.

The most ridiculous thing is that they do not let the hounds “tear him and eat him” while their blood is up. The stag is taken to the kennel and skinned, and all the meat cut into small pieces and put again into the hide, and the hounds then, in this cold-blooded way, rush at a mess, instead of the whole pack, in a state of excitement, falling on the hunted animal reeking with fatigue.

We were all amused one day at observing a man elegantly mounted on an English horse in the full costume of the French chasse (couteau, etc.), when who should this be but our own dear Duke! He looked so neat and smart, and we had such a laugh. He himself had a beautiful pack of hounds and some boxed stags, which gave runs sometimes, but he was not of the age for a sportsman.

About this time I and Will Havelock set on foot a pack of foxhounds. We sent to England for hounds. The numbers of our pack being thirteen couple, we sent to Brussels for [five couple more] from the Prince of Orange’s establishment. This pack afterwards became a capital one.

On the conclusion of the treaty between the Allied Powers and France, by which an Army of Occupation was designated to remain on the northern boundary of France for three or five years, the large armies (except their quota of the contingent) marched back to their respective countries. Of the British Army four Divisions alone were to remain. Mine was reduced, and being no longer on the staff, I joined my regiment Some of my old comrades said to Charlie Beckwith, who had also joined, “Now, how will Harry Smith, after a career of such extended authority, like to come back to the command of a Company?” Charlie says (for he loved me), “In the execution of his duty and care of his Company he will be an example to us all.”

My corps was moved again into the environs of Paris preparatory to its march to the north. I was now visited by the deepest distress and grief, for three days expecting the death of all I loved and cherished my dear wife. Nothing but vigour of mind and a good constitution saved her. I had encountered many previous difficulties, dangers, and disasters, but never aught like this. God in His continued mercy spared her to me. Praised be His Name.

She was scarcely fit to move when we marched from Paris to Louvres [16 Jan. 1816] and an adjacent village. My Company went to Vernais. We were again under Sir John Lambert, who had been moved from one Brigade to another. My wife drove herself in my tilbury; I marched with my men. We had a large cold chateau as a quarter, with a very civil landlord. I had with me the hounds – eighteen couple. He put them up most kindly, and appeared delighted-so much so that I had no delicacy in asking him to get me a dead horse or to buy a dying brute for a few shillings. To my astonishment, he regarded the request as a direct insult. It was all I could do to make him understand I had no idea of offending. He was with difficulty appeased, but I saw he never forgot the dead horse, any more than the Antiquary’s nephew the “phoca or seal.”

From hence we marched to Cambray, around which place and Valenciennes the greater part of the army was to be cantoned, Three fortresses were to be garrisoned by us. The Duke’s headquarters were to be at Cambray. One day Major Balvaird came to me. He was my commanding officer (I being only a Brevet Lieut. Colonel and Captain under his command). He was an excellent fellow, and as gallant a soldier as ever lived, a bosom friend, and a Scotchman with a beautiful accent. “Weel, Harry, mi mon, the deevil is in it. I have an order to send a Captain to the depot at Shorncliffe. You are the first for my duty, my lad. You canna be more hurt at being ordered than I am to order you. So be prepared. There is a just one chance for you, but you must be prepared.” My mortification was excessive, for with my habits, hounds, horses, and wife, etc., the income I should get in England was not at all to my desire. However, I said nothing to my wife, always hoping something might turn up.

On the march one night my Company was in a wretched little village, my quarters a miserable dirty little farmhouse. On any other occasion I should have cared more than my wife herself, but she was still very delicate, and I was awfully afraid of a relapse. It was February, and the cold very severe. In watching her, I did not go to sleep until just before it was time to jump up and march, when I had a curious dream that the Duke of Wellington sent for me and said, “Smith, I have two staffappointments to give away, you shall have one, and that as I went out, poor Felton Hervey, the Military Secretary, said, “You are a lucky fellow, Harry, for the one you are to have is the most preferable by far.” I told my wife this dream, and said, ” Mark my words if it does not turn out to be true.”

On reaching our cantonment at Bourlon, a little beyond Cambray, I had just put up my Company when General Lambert sent for me. “Smith,” he says, “I am ordered to send a field officer to Cambray, who, in conjunction with an officer of Engineers, is to take over Cambray, its guns, stores, etc., from the French Commander and Engineers. It may lead to something further. I therefore wish you to start at daylight; the duty is important.” His wish was my law. Off I started. I had scarcely completed the transfer when the General Orders were put into my hand in which I saw I was appointed Major de Place, or Town-Major of Cambray, and Charlie Beckwith Major de Place of Valenciennes, each with the pay or allowance of Assistant Quartermaster-General, to which department we were to report. Thus my dream was verified, for, as Cambray was headquarters, and I had none of that horrid duty, billeting on the inhabitants, which was attached to Valenciennes (the headquarters A.Q.M.G. being desired to do it), I was given the better place of the two, as Hervey said in my dream.

 

Introduction | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28

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