CAMBRAY, 1816-1818 – SPORT AND GAIETY – THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON – HARRY SMITH RECEIVES A VISIT FROM HIS FATHER.
SOON after our establishment at Cambray, I received a note from one of His Grace’s Aides-deCamp. “The Duke desires you will come to him immediately, and bring with you the sheet of Cassini’s map of the environs of Cambray.” Fortunately I had this map. I asked myself what in the name of wonder the Duke could want. Off I cut. “Well, Smith, got the map?” I opened it. “Now, where is my chateau ?” “Here, my lord.” “Ah, the coverts are very well shown here. Are there foxes in all these?” “Yes, my lord, too many in every one. “Well, then, hounds must always know their own country ” – he drew his finger as a line across the map. “Now, your hounds hunt that side, mine this.”
On one occasion, when Lord Castlereagh was staying with His Grace, the former wanted to see some coursing in France, and about 2 o’clock in the afternoon the Duke sent for me to bring some greyhounds. We went out, and were lucky in finding, and killed a brace. I never saw a man in such spirits as the Duke. He rode like a whipper-in.
I once trained some greyhounds for the Duke, almost puppies, against some of the same age which that noble fellow, Sir Edward Barnes had bred. We were to meet near the Duke’s chateau, where there were plenty of hares. We had great sport to beat Sir Edward every match. My wife rode her “Brass” seventeen miles before we looked for a hare. The Duke made her one of his umpires. She rode every course, and back again at night.
Poor Felton Hervey was prejudiced against Spanish greyhounds, and he and the present Duke of Richmond got out some English hounds to the Peninsula to beat my celebrated “Moro,” which Harry Mellish, a gallant hero alike as soldier and sportsman, declared the best dog he ever saw in his life. Of course the English dogs had no chance.
While at Cambray I had two dogs, sons of the “Moro,” and we had a great coursing party ~ the Duke of Wellington, Lord Hill (who had beautiful English greyhounds), Sir Hussey Vivian, etc. We were near the Duke’s chateau, where there were plenty of right good hares. Hervey objected to my Spaniards running. We had been coursing all day and not a hare was killed, so I rode up to the Duke and said, “My lord, this won’t do. A hare must be killed to go to the chateau.” The Duke said, “Ah! but how?” ” My Spaniards should kill you a hare, my lord.” The sun was almost down. Felton Hervey says, “Lord Hill’s ‘Laura’ and ‘Rattler’ shall get a hare. We will put them in slips; Smith shall call ‘Loo,’ and if they don’t kill their hare, then let the Moro blood try, and I will halloo them out of their slips.” At it we went. A hare jumped up under the nose of Lord Hill’s dogs. I hallooed. The hare hadn’t twenty yards’ law. “Ah,” says the Duke, “you gave the hare no chance.” “Plenty, my lord. They won’t kill her.” After a terrific course she fairly beat them. Hervey was very angry. It was nearly dark, when hares run like devils. My dogs, two brothers, were in the slips. So late in the evening hares are sly. One jumped up sixty yards off; and Hervey hallooed. The honesty of the field went with me, and all sung out, “Shame, Hervey! your dogs were close to their hare.” ” Never mind,” I said. “My lord, you shall have the hare.” I was on that wonderful horse Lochinvar, and never did I so ask him to go along. My dogs soon closed with their hare, when I knew, if they once turned her with such a law, she was ours. We had a terrific course, and killed her in a bank, within three yards of a covert where she would have been safe. I galloped back in triumph with my hare, for not a horse could live with Lochinvar, and I threw the hare down at his Grace’s feet Hervey was furious, and insisted that I and Lochinvar acted third greyhound. I did not, and I gained accordingly. The Duke laughed, and turned round to go home, saying, “Thank you for the hare, Smith. We should have gone home without one but for your Spanish greyhounds.”
Coming home from riding one afternoon, I overtook the Duke on the bank of the canal, all alone. When I rode up I must either pass him, or saddle myself on him as companion, neither of which etiquette or delicacy tolerated. After my usual salutation, the Duke, with his brilliant imagination in trifles as well as things of moment, said, “If not in a hurry, ride home with me.” After a little talk about hounds, greyhounds, etc., he said, “What! no dogs with you?” I said, “On Sundays, my lord, I never take them out.” “Very proper,” he said, “although I fear in our late struggle we respected Sunday but little. All our great battles were fought on that holy day which ought to be.” “Yes,” said I, “my lord, so was Trafalgar, and so was that dire disaster, New Orleans” “Was it ?” he said. “You were there, were you not?” “Indeed was I, my lord.” His Grace never mentioned dear Sir Edward Pakenham, and of course I never did, although my heart was full of him. “Tell me all about it.” I did so. “What! the troops stood and fired in column, did they? What corps ?” I named them. “Ah,” he said, “they had not been accustomed to victory, but it was quite right to keep two such corps as the 7th Fusiliers and the 43rd in reserve.” “We ought not to have landed where we did, my lord.” ” Certainly not,” he said. “I was consulted about those lakes, and I immediately asked, “Is there navigation there for purposes of trade?’ When I was answered “No,” I said, “Then it is injudicious to use them to land an army, and craft of any size will never get up to land the troops.'”
I had received and carried many orders from his Grace, but of course never held a military conversation with him before. I was never so struck as by the pointed questions he asked and the more rapid questions my answers elicited. In half an hour’s ride he was perfectly acquainted with all I could tell him, and said, “I am glad I have had this conversation with you. It agrees as nearly as may be with the opinion I had previously formed. If you are not engaged, you and Juana come and dine with me today. Her friend Alava will be there.” I was as proud as may be, because I knew by this his Grace was satisfied with my explanation. How I longed to tell him how I loved and admired his brother-in-law, Sir Edward Pakenham! But although I talked of “the General,” I never made use of the magic word (to me at least) ” Pakenham.”
One night, at a great ball at the Duke’s, the Prince and Princess Narinska were present, and a lot of Russian and Cossack officers. The Princess was the only Russian lady, a very beautiful and accomplished woman. The Duke wished that the mazurka should be danced in compliment to her, but none of our ladies would stand up with the Princess. So the Duke came up to my wife, and took her hand: “Come, Juana, now for the Russian fandango; you will soon catch the step.” A young Russian came forward as her partner. The Princess danced elegantly, and the Duke was as anxious as I was that Juana should acquit herself well. She did, and he was as pleased as possible.
The Duke was in great spirits in those days, and whenever he was surrounded by Emperors and Kings he showed himself the great man that he was. His attention to them was most marked, but we ever observed that his Grace felt he was the representative of our King and country, and we could see the majesty and still the delicacy with which he conducted himself.
On one occasion the King of Prussia begged to see as many of the British Army by themselves as could be collected, and the majority were assembled not far from the pillar erected by the French in honour of the victory of [Denain 1], and which was equally in honour of the Duke of Marlborough. (The French never gained a battle until [Marlborough] was so madly taken away by the intrigues of the British Government.) The King arrived much before his time, and our troops were not formed to receive him. The Duke’s quick eye detected his approach in the distance, and he says, “Hallo, Fremantle, there he is! He will be upon us before we are ready, and we can’t keep him back with picquets. Ride up and make him take a long detour until you see we are ready, although a few minutes will suffice us. “Our troops were in position like lightning, and it was beautiful to see the Duke so animated, so cool, so proud of his Army and the rapidity with which we all moved to act up to his wishes. He was altogether very popular with his Army, but not so much so as after Toulouse. He felt that everything that occurred at his headquarters must be a precedent for the guidance of all the Armies he was in command of, and he was frequently rigid, as it seemed, to extremes, particularly in all cases of disputes between officers and the French inhabitants. At Cambray it was part of my duty to receive all complaints, and, generally speaking, our own people were the aggressors. When the French were, his Grace demanded that their authorities should make an equal example. This correct principle of action was as highly extolled by all thinking men as it deserved, especially as the French had degraded themselves all over the world (except in dear old England which we protected) by acts of cruelty, oppression, and tyranny towards the inhabitants. The Duke said, “We are Englishmen and pride ourselves on our deportment, and that pride shall not be injured in my keeping.” On parting with his Army, he thanked the British contingent after all the others. “He begs them to accept his best acknowledgments for the example they have given to others by their own good conduct, and for the support and assistance they have invariably afforded him to maintain the discipline of the Army.” This I thought at the time, and I do so more now, was the highest compliment his Grace could pay us. We had saved Europe, and now we were thanked for our conduct in quarters, when in occupation of the country of our enemy, who had been the oppressors of the world; although, as good does come out of evil, so has Europe been wonderfully improved owing to the liberal principles moderately derived from the madness of French democracy.
Our life in Cambray was one excess of gaiety. My dear old friend and commander, Sir Andrew Barnard, had been appointed Commandant, so that, surrounded by my old generals, friends, and comrades, I was at home at once. We were both young; my wife was beautiful. We were feted and petted by every one. I was the huntsman of a magnificent pack of hounds, steward of races, riding steeplechases, etc. My wife was taken the greatest -notice of by every one, especially by the Duke, -who, having known her as a child, always called her his Spanish heroine, Juana. She rode beautifully hunting, was the best of waltzers, and sang melodiously. We were surrounded by the best society. All England’s nobility poured forth to see the lion of the day, the Duke’s headquarters.
No wonder that in the midst of this gaiety and in this land of plenty, after the life of hardship and privation which we had led, we should have been somewhat intoxicated by the scene around us, and I spent a lot of money which, had I saved it prudently, would have now nearly accumulated to a fortune. I had prize-money for the Peninsula, for Washington, and for Waterloo paid at this period. I had money left me by my grandmother. All went as fast as I could get it.
In 1817, I and a friend went to look over the field of Waterloo. The wood of Hougoumont had been cut down, which very much altered the appearance of the ground, as did the want of troops, etc. To those unaccustomed to look at ground with and without troops, the difference cannot well be explained. I trod, however, upon this immortal field with a thrilling sensation of gratitude to Almighty God, first for personal safety and for the additional honour and glory my country’s Army had acquired there, and next for the beneficial results to Europe ensured by the achievement of that wonderful battle. The left of the position as well as the centre was as during the battle, with the exception of the many tombs and monuments erected to mark the spots where lay interred so many gallant spirits, and many is the burning tear I shed over the mounds of some of my dearest friends, many of England’s brightest sons and rising soldiers. No one can feel what a soldier does on such a spot, especially one who was in the midst of the strife. But nothing struck me so forcibly as the small extent of the field. It appeared impossible that so many thousands of troops could have contended on so constricted a space, the one spot on earth which decided the fate of Emperors and Kings, and the future destiny of nations.
Every year we had a grand review of the whole Army of the contingencies. One year the Duke of Kent was the Review-Marshal. The last year of occupation, viz. the third, we had an immense sham-fight, which ended on the heights of Fimare, where the Army passed in review [23 Oct.] the Emperor of Russia, King of Prussia, the Grand Duke Constantine, the Grand Duke Michael, etc. In the course of the day the Duke, riding with their Majesties, saw Juana. He called her up and presented her to the Emperor of Russia, “Voila’, Sire, ma petite guerrie’re espagnole qui a fait Ia guerre avec son man comme Ia heroine de Saragosse.” The Emperor shook her hands, and asked her to ride for some time with him as she spoke French fluently, when he put a variety of questions to her about the war in Spain, all of which she could answer as intelligently as most officers. At night she danced with the Grand Duke Michael, an excellent waltzer. When the Emperor’s courtiers observed the attention paid by the Emperor to my wife, they sought out the husband. I was in my Rifle uniform. One fellow said, “Are you aware to whom Madame has had the honour to be presented?” “To be sure,” I said, saucily, “and by whom – the greatest man in the world.”
That night, riding into Valenciennes on the pave, both sides of the road being covered with troops marching to their cantonments, it was very cold, and I was clapping my hands on my shoulders, a’ I’anglaise, when my wife says, “You have lost your Star of the Bath.” I had felt something catch in the lace of my sleeve, so I turned back. A column of Russian Cuirassiers were marching over the ground I had traversed, and the sides of the road being excessively dusty, I said to myself, “What nonsense ! I can never find it,” and was in the act of turning back to my wife, when a flatfooted dickey dragoon horse, having set his hollow foot upon it, tossed it under my horse’s nose out of the dust upon the pavé. It is a most ridiculous occurrence to record, but my astonishment at the time was excessive. The star was bruised by the horse’s foot, in which shape I wore it twenty~nine years.
The period of occupation was now reduced to three years, and the Army was prepared to withdraw – to our mortification, for we should have been delighted with two years more. It was now, on winding up my private accounts which had been miserably neglected, I discovered my money was far exceeded by my debts. I therefore, as one of my auxiliaries, put up to raffle, for 250 napoleons, a celebrated thoroughbred horse, the Young Lochinvar, by Grouse, out of Dab Chick, Vandyke’s dam. This horse I had bought for a large sum in my native town, just before the Battle of Waterloo, from a gentleman who had bought him at Newmarket for an immense price and whose circumstances compelled him to become a bankrupt. My father was aware of his pending situation, and just on the eve of it bought Lochinvar. I had ridden him hunting three years; he was the only horse in the Army that was never planted in the deep fields of France. As a horse he was as celebrated as His Grace was as a General, 16 hands high and equal to 14 stone. It went to my heart to part with him. My wife said, “Oh, I will have a ticket” “Oh, nonsense, it is only throwing five napoleons away.” However, she had her own way, as wives always have (especially Spanish wives), and, by another piece of my continued good luck, her ticket won the horse, and I had Lochinvar in my stable, while the 245 napoleons readily found claimants. It was a piece of fortune I was very grateful for. I loved the horse, and he carried me in that stiff county of Kent afterwards, as he had ever done elsewhere.
From the day on which I presented my billet to my landlord in Cambray, I was much struck with his manly bearing and open conduct. He was a man of a large family, a Monsieur Watin, and his brother, also with a family, resided with him. He showed me al1 his house and his stables (he had built a kitchen and servants’ rooms for any one who should be quartered on him). He said, “In this life, happiness is not to be attained, but it must not be impeded. I am aware of the way French officers behave in quarters. I hear you English are less exigeant. This part of the house I reserve for myself and my brother, the rest I give to you.” And I certainly had the best, for he only reserved to himself one sitting-room. I said, “I have more than enough.” “No, no,” he said, “when you give a soirée you shall have this too.” I was three years in his house, and I never had a word with either him or any member of his family. On the contrary, nothing could be more amicable. In the course of the second year my father came and paid me a visit for near three months. Never was man more happy and delighted. He was fond of field sports and of flowers. The Bishop of Cambray had a magnificent garden, and many an hour did my father spend there. When he arrived, of course I begged him to tell us what he liked best at table. “Oh, anything,” he says, “only take care your French cook does not make the pastry with oil, which I know they do, but with butter.” I had an excellent cook, and I told him to be careful about his pastry, which was, of course, made with oil. Every day my father praised the pastry. After some weeks I let him into the secret. “Ah,” says he, “such through life is prejudice.” He was far from disliking French wines. The day he left us-” Well, it is very true that you and the poor man of the house live very friendly, but you have the whole nearly. I shall go home now and pay my taxes with delight. Even were they double, readily would I pay rather than have such a fellow as you and your establishment quartered on me!” Poor dear father! I had been your pet son. Everything I practised that was manly, you taught me, and to my equestrian powers and activity, which first brought me into notice, did I owe my rapid rise in the service.
The day having at length arrived when we were to leave Cambray, [27 Oct.?] Sir Andrew Barnard and I were asked to at least twenty breakfasts. My first was with the family on whom we were billeted, and if they had been our nearest relations no greater feeling could have been evinced. Monsieur Watin was a great carpenter. To him I gave a capital chest of tools, to his brother, who was a sportsman (in his way), I gave one of Manton’s double-barrelled guns, and my wife made many presents to the female part of the family. Then came my nineteen breakfasts with Barnard. We positively sat down a few minutes with all our hosts and ate something; both of us laughing and saying, “We have been together in situations when the sight of such breakfasts would have been far from objectionable, but ‘enough is as good as a feast.”‘ I never was so tired of the sight of food. I felt as though I never could feel the sensation of hunger again. All this attention, however, was very gratifying, and upon parting with our worthy family, as our carnage drove through the streets, there was nothing but waving of handkerchiefs and adieus. The garrison had marched two days before. The most complimentary letter I ever read was addressed to the Commandant Barnard by the Mayor, a Monsieur Bethune, a Bonapartist too, to the purport that, although every Frenchman must rejoice at the cessation of the foreign occupation of his country, as individuals he and all the city would and must ever remember the English with gratitude for their generosity and liberality, and for the impartial justice ever shown by Barnard during his three years’ Commandantship. In a French fortress the Commandant has far more authority than the . Prime Minister in England. Thus we parted from Cambray, where we had had three years’ gaiety amidst the wealth and aristocracy of England, in the country of an enemy that had contended and struggled to subdue our own in a most sanguinary war by sea and land, lasting with but little intermission from 1798 to 1815. The garrison of Cambray was composed of a Brigade of Guards, the 1st Battalion Grenadiers under Colonel the Hon. William Stewart, and the Coldstreams under Colonel Woodford. I never before or since served with such correct soldiers, and they had the very best non-commissioned officers. There were peculiarities in the mode in which the officers performed their duties, but, according to their own rules, it was a lesson of rectitude, zeal, honour, and manliness. 1 quite agree with Johnny Kincaid that the officers in our Army who come from our aristocracy are ever most zealous as officers, and certainly most agreeable as companions, and I have now served with most corps of the Army, Hussars, Guards, Infantry, etc.
Footnote 1 – Battle of Denain, 24 July, 17I2. Denain is only about five miles from Cambray. Marlborough was removed ftom the command of the armies of the Grand Alliance by the intrigues of Oxford and St. John in order to force the allies into the peace of Utrecht. The withdrawal of the British troops in the field a little later was immediately followed by the first really serious defeat sustained by the allies in the central field of the war since Marlborough had assumed the command; Villars cutting up and annhilating an isolated force of 8000 men under the Earl of Albemarle, who were holding a bridge across the Scheldt at Denain to cover Eugene’s force besieging Landrecy. For the clearing up of this passage (left incomplete in the MS.) I am indebted to my colleague, Mr. H. W. Appleton, M.A.