The Young Buglers
Part 6 out of 6
have brought against him.
Tom and Peter Scudamore had rejoined the army at the hottest part
of the siege of Burgos, and had taken up their work at once. Lord
Wellington heard from Tom a brief account of what had taken place,
and said a few kind words expressive of his pleasure at their both
having escaped from so great a peril, and, grave and preoccupied as
he was with the position of his army, he yet laughed at the account
of the scare Sam had given the guerillas. Among their friends nothing
was talked of for a day or two but their adventure. The times were
stirring, however, and one event rapidly drove out another. Sam
became a greater favorite than ever among the officers of the staff,
while the orderlies were never tired of hearing how he pretty nearly
frightened a band of guerillas to death by pretending to be the evil
one in person.
The next four months were passed in preparations for the grand attack
with which Wellington confidently hoped to drive the French out of
Spain. The news of the defeat of Napoleon in Russia had cheered the
hearts of the enemies of France, and excited them to make a great
effort to strike a decisive blow. The French army was weakened by the
withdrawal of several corps to strengthen the armies which Napoleon
was raising for his campaign in Germany, and British gold had been so
freely spent, that the Portuguese army was now in a really efficient
state; a portion of the Spanish army had been handed over to
Wellington, and were now in a far more trustworthy condition than
they had been heretofore, while the whole of the north of Spain was
in a state of insurrection, which the French, in spite of all their
efforts, were unable to repress.
The invasion was delayed until the end of May, in order that the crops
might be in a fit state for the subsistence of the cavalry and baggage
animals; but in the last week in that month all was ready, and, in
several columns, the allied army poured into Spain nearly a hundred
thousand strong. The French, ignorant alike of Wellington's intentions
and preparations, were in no position to stem effectually this mighty
wave of war, and were driven headlong before it, with many fierce
skirmishes, until their scattered forces were, for the most part,
united on the Ebro.
Here Joseph occupied a strong position, which he thought to hold until
the whole of his troops could come up; but Wellington made a detour,
swept round his right, and the French fell back in haste, and took
up their position in the basin of Vittoria, where all the stores and
baggage which had been carried off as the army retreated from Madrid,
Valladolid, Burgos, and other towns, were collected. At Vittoria were
gathered the Court, and an enormous mass of fugitives, as all the
Spaniards who had adhered to the cause of Joseph had, with their
wives and families, accompanied the French in their retreat. Hence
the accumulation of baggage animals, and carts, of stores of all
descriptions, of magazines, of food and artillery, of helpless,
frightened people, was enormous, and, for the retreat of the army in
case of defeat, there was but one good road, already encumbered with
baggage and fugitives!
This terrible accumulation arose partly from the fault of Joseph, who
was wholly unequal to the supreme command in an emergency like the
present. Confused and bewildered by the urgency of the danger, he had
hesitated, wavered, and lost precious time. By resistance at any of
the rivers, which Wellington had passed unopposed, he might easily
have gained a few days, and thus have allowed time for the great mass
of fugitives to reach the French frontier, and for Foy and Clausel,
each of whom were within a day's march upon the day of the battle, to
have arrived with a reinforcement of 20,000 good fighting men. Instead
of this, he had suffered himself to be outflanked day after day, and
his army forced into retreat, without an effort at resistance--a
course of action irritating and disheartening to all troops, but
especially to the French, who, admirable in attack, are easily
dispirited, and are ill suited to defensive warfare.
The position which he had now chosen for the battle, on which his
kingdom was to be staked, was badly selected for the action. The front
was, indeed, covered by the river Zadora, but this was crossed by
seven available bridges, none of which had been broken down, while
there was but the one good line of retreat, and this, besides being
already encumbered with baggage-wagons, could be easily turned by the
allies. The French army, weakened by 5000 men, who had marched upon
the preceding days, in charge of convoys for France, were still about
70,000 strong, the allies--British, Portuguese, and Spanish--about
80,000. The French were the strongest in artillery.
Wellington, seeing that Joseph had determined to stand at bay, made
his arrangements for the battle. On the left, Graham, with 20,000 men,
was to attempt to cross the Zadora at Gamara Mayor, when he would
find himself on the main road, behind Vittoria, and so cut the French
line of retreat. Hill, with a like force, was to attack on the right,
through the defile of Puebla, and so, entering the basin of Vittoria,
to threaten the French right, and obtain possession of the bridge of
Nanclares. In the center, Wellington himself, with 30,000 troops,
would force the four bridges in front of the French center, and attack
their main position.
At daybreak on the 21st of June, 1813, the weather being rainy with
some mist, the troops moved from their quarters on the Bayas, passed
in columns over the bridges in front, and slowly approached the
Zadora. About ten o'clock, Hill seized the village of Puebla, and
commenced the passage of the defile, while one of the Portuguese
battalions scaled the heights above. Here the French met them, and a
fierce fight ensued; the French were reinforced on their side, while
the 71st Regiment and a battalion of light infantry joined the
Villette's division was sent from the French center to join the fray,
while Hill sent up reinforcements. While the fight on the heights
still raged, the troops in the defile made their way through, and,
driving the French back, won the village of Subijano de Alava, in
front of the French main position.
Meanwhile, far to the left, Graham came into action with Reille's
division at Gamara Mayor. The French here, knowing the vital
importance of the position, fought desperately, and the village of
Gamara was taken and retaken several times, but no effort upon the
part of the allies sufficed to carry either the bridge at this place
or that by which the main road crossed the river higher up. A force,
however, was pushed still farther to the left, and there took up a
position on the road at Durana, drove back a Franco-Spanish force
which occupied it, and thus effectively cut the main line of retreat
to France for Joseph's army. The main force under Wellington himself
was later in coming into action, the various columns being delayed by
the difficulties of making their way through the defiles.
While waiting, however, for the third and seventh divisions, which
were the last to arrive, a peasant informed Wellington that the bridge
of Tres Puentes was unbroken and unguarded. Kempt's brigade of the
light division were immediately ordered to cross, and, being concealed
by the inequalities of the ground, they reached it and passed over
unobserved, taking their place under shelter of a crest within a few
hundred yards of the French main line of battle, and actually in rear
of his advanced posts.
Some French cavalry now advanced, but no attack was made upon this
isolated body of British troops, for the French were virtually without
Joseph, finding his flank menaced by the movements of Graham and Hill,
now ordered the army to fall back to a crest two miles in the rear,
but at this moment the third and seventh divisions advanced at a run
towards the bridge of Mendoza, the French artillery opened upon them,
the British guns replied, a heavy musketry fire broke out on both
sides, and the battle commenced in earnest. Now the advantage gained
by the passage of Kempt's brigade became manifest, for the riflemen
of his division advanced and took the French advanced cavalry and
artillery in flank. These, thus unexpectedly attacked, fell back
hastily, and a brigade of the third division took advantage of the
moment and crossed the bridge of Mendoza. The other brigade forded the
river a little higher up, the seventh division and Vandeleur's brigade
of the light division followed, Hill pushed the enemy farther back,
and the fourth division crossed by the bridge of Nanclares; other
troops forded the river, and the battle became general all along the
Seeing that the hill in front of Arinez was nearly denuded of troops
by the withdrawal of Villette's division earlier in the day to oppose
Hill, Wellington launched Picton with the third division and Kempt's
brigade against it, and the French, thus attacked with great strength
and fury, and dispirited by the order to retreat, began to fall back.
Fifty pieces of artillery and a cloud of skirmishers covered the
movement, and the British guns answering, the whole basin became
filled with a heavy smoke, under cover of which the French retired
to the heights in front of Gomecha, upon which their reserves were
posted. Picton and Kempt carried the village of Arinez with the
bayonet, Vandeleur captured the village of Margarita, and the 87th
Regiment won that of Hermandad.
This advance turned the flank of the French troops near Subijana de
Alava, and of those on the Puebla mountain, and both fell back in
disorder for two miles, until they made a junction with the main body
of their army. Still the British troops pressed forward, the French
again fell back, and for six miles a running fight of musketry and
artillery was kept up, the ground being very broken, and preventing
the concerted action of large bodies of troops. At six o'clock in the
afternoon the French stood at bay on the last heights before Vittoria,
upon which stood the villages of Ali and Armentia. Behind them was
the plain upon which the city stood, and beyond the city thousands
of carriages, animals, and non-combatants, women, and children, were
crowded together in the extremity of terror as the British shots rang
menacingly over their heads.
The French here defended themselves desperately, and for a while the
allied advance was checked by the terrible fire of shot and shell.
Then the fourth division with a rush carried a hill on the left, and
the French again commenced their retreat. Joseph, finding the great
road absolutely blocked up, gave orders for a retreat by the road to
Salvatierra, and the army, leaving the town of Vittoria on its left,
moved off in a compact mass towards the indicated road. This, however,
like the other, was choked with carriages. It led through a swamp,
and had deep ditches on each side; the artillery, therefore, had to
cut their traces and leave their guns behind them, the infantry and
cavalry thrust aside the encumbrances and continued their march.
Reille, who had defended the upper bridges nobly until the last
moment, now came up, and his division acting as a rear guard, covered
the retreat, and the French retired with little further loss.
They had lost the battle solely and entirely from the utter incapacity
of their general, for their loss had been but little greater than
that of the allies, and they fell back in perfect order and full of
fighting. The French loss, including prisoners, was not more than
6000, and that of the allies exceeded 5000. The French loss, however,
in material was enormous. They carried off two guns only, and 143
fell into the hands of the British. They lost all their parks of
ammunition, all their baggage, all their stores, all their treasures,
all their booty. Last of all, they lost Spain.
The British pursued the French army for some days, and then invested
the two fortresses of San Sebastian and Pampeluna.
Ten days after the battle of Vittoria, Napoleon despatched Soult, one
of the best of his generals, to displace Joseph and assume the supreme
command of the French troops. Traveling with great speed, he reached
the frontier upon the 11th of July and took command. He soon collected
together the divisions which had retired beaten but not routed from
Vittoria, drew together the troops from Bayonne and the surrounding
towns, and in a few days found himself at the head of an army,
including the garrisons, of 114,000 men. Besides these there were the
armies of Aragon and Catalonia, numbering 60,000 men.
After spending a few days in organizing the army, Soult moved forward
to relieve Pampeluna, and then in the heart of the Pyrenees were
fought those desperate combats at Maya, Roncevalles, Buenza, Sauroren,
and Dona Maria, which are known in history as the battles of the
Pyrenees. In these terrible nine days' fighting there were ten serious
combats, in which the allies lost 7300 men, the French, including
prisoners, over 15,000, and Soult fell back baffled and beaten across
Throughout this account of the short and sanguinary campaign by which
in two short months Wellington shattered the power of the French and
drove them headlong from the Peninsula, but little has been said
respecting the doings of the Scudamores. Their duties had been heavy,
but devoid of any personal achievements or events. Wellington, the
incarnation of activity himself, spared no one around him, and from
early dawn until late at night they were on horseback, carrying orders
and bringing back reports. At night their quarters were sometimes
in a village hut, sometimes in a straggling château, which afforded
accommodation to the commander-in-chief and his whole staff.
Sam, a good horseman now, was in the highest of spirits at being able
to accompany his masters, and, although the Spanish women crossed
themselves in horror when they first saw his black face, the boys
would hear shouts of laughter arising before they had been a quarter
of an hour in fresh quarters. He was a capital cook, and a wonderful
hand at hunting up provisions.
There might not be a sign of a feathered creature in a village when
the staff came in, but in half an hour Sam would be sure to return
from foraging with a couple of fowls and his handkerchief full of
eggs. These were, of course, paid for, as the orders against pillaging
were of the strictest character, and the army paid, and paid
handsomely for everything it ate.
It was, however, difficult to persuade the peasants that payment was
intended, and they would hide everything away with vigilant care at
the approach of the troops. When by the display of money they were
really persuaded that payment was intended, they would produce all
that they had willingly enough, but the number of officers wanting
to purchase was so great and the amount of live stock so small in
the war-ravaged country, that few indeed could obtain even for money
anything beside the tough rations of freshly-killed beef issued by the
Let the supply be ever so short, however, Sam never returned
empty-handed, and the fowls were quickly plucked and on the fire
before any one else had succeeded in discovering that there was a bird
in the village.
Sam's foraging powers passed into a joke with the staff, and the
Scudamores became so curious to discover the reason of his success,
that after repeated questioning they persuaded him to tell them.
"Well, massa, de matter berry simple--just easy as fallin' off log.
Sam go along, look into yard ob de cottages, presently see feather
here, feather there. Dat sign ob fowl. Den knock at door. Woman open
always, gib little squeak when she see dis gentleman's colored face.
Den she say, 'What you want? Dis house full. Quarter-master take him
up for three, four officer.' Den Sam say, 'Illustrious madam, me want
to buy two fowls and eggs for master,' and Sam show money in hand. Den
she hesitate a little, and not believe Sam mean to pay. Den she say,
'No fowls here.' Den Sam point to de feathers. Den she get in rage and
tell lie and say, 'Dem birds all stole yesterday.' Den Sam see it time
to talk to de birds--he know dem shut up somewhere in de dark, and Sam
he begin to crow berry loud; Sam berry good at dat. He crow for all
de world like de cock. Dis wake dem up, and a minute one, two, three,
half a dozen cock begin to answer eider from a loft ober house, or
from shed, or from somewhere. Den de woman in terrible fright, she
say, 'Me sell you two quick, if you will go away and swear you tell no
one.' Den Sam swear. Den she run away, come back wid de fowls and some
eggs, and always berry much astonished when Sam pay for dem. After dat
she lose her fear, she see me pay, and she sells de chickens to oders
when they come till all gone. Dat how dis chile manage de affairs,
The Scudamores had a hearty laugh, and were well pleased to find that
Sam's method was one to which not even the strictest disciplinarian
could object, a matter concerning which they had previously had grave
While the battles of the Pyrenees were being fought, the siege of
St. Sebastian had continued, and once again the British troops had
suffered a terrible loss, from the attempt to carry a fortress with
an insufficient siege-train, and without the time necessary to drive
the trenches forward in regular form. St. Sebastian stood upon a
peninsula. In front of the neck of this peninsula was the hill of San
Bartholomeo, on which stood the convent of that name. At the narrowest
part of the neck stood a redoubt, which was called the Cask Redoubt,
because it was constructed of casks filled with stand. Behind this
came the horn-work and other fortifications. Then came the town, while
at the end of the peninsula rose a steep rock, called Mount Orgullo,
on which stood the citadel. Upon its left side this neck of land was
separated from the mainland by the River Urumea; and upon the heights
of Mount Olia and the Chofres, across the Urumea, were placed the
British batteries, which breached the fortifications facing the river.
General Graham commanded the allied forces, which were detached to
undertake the siege, and on the 10th of July batteries were commenced
against the convent of San Bartholomeo, which had been fortified by
the French. On the 17th the convent was in ruins, and an assault was
made upon the position. The 9th Regiment took the place in gallant
style, but an attempt being made to carry the cask redoubt, with a
rush, the assault was repulsed, the British remaining possessors of
On the 24th the batteries on Mount Olia, having effected what was
believed to be a practicable breach, 2000 men of the fifth division,
consisting of the 3d battalion of the Royals, the 38th, and the 9th,
made an assault at night. To arrive at the breach they had to make
their way along the slippery rocks on the bed of the Urumea, exposed
to a flank-fire from the river-wall of the town. The breachers had
been isolated from the town, and guns placed to take the stormers in
flank. The confusion and slaughter were terrible, and at daybreak the
survivors fell back, with a loss of forty-nine officers and 520 men.
The whole arrangement of the siege was bad. The plan of Major Smith,
of the engineers, a most excellent officer, which had been approved
by Wellington, was not followed, and the assault, contrary to
Wellington's explicit order, took place at night, instead of by day,
the consequence being confusion, delay, and defeat. The total loss to
the allies of this first siege of St. Sebastian was 1300 men.
Neither of the Scudamores were present at the first siege, but both
witnessed the second assault, of the 31st of August, as Wellington
himself was present on the 30th, to see to the execution of the
preparation for attack, and they obtained leave to remain for the next
day to witness the assault. The siege had been resumed on the 5th of
that month, and on the 23d the batteries had opened fire in earnest,
and immense damage was done to the defenses and garrison. But upon
this occasion, as upon the former one, the proper precautions were not
taken; no lodgment had been effected in the horn-work, and, worst of
all, the blockade had been so negligently conducted by the fleet, that
large bodies of fresh troops, guns, and ammunition had been passed
in, and the defense was even stronger than it had been when the first
assault was delivered.
General Graham took up his position on the heights of the Chofres to
view the assault, and the Scudamores stationed themselves near him.
A dense mist hid the fortress from view, and it was not until eight
o'clock that the batteries were able to open. Then for three hours
they poured a storm of shot and shell upon the defences. The
Scudamores sat down in one of the trenches, where they were a little
sheltered from the blazing heat of the sun, and Sam took his place at
a short distance from them.
As the clock struck eleven the fire slackened, and at that moment Sam
exclaimed, "Grolly, Massa Tom, dere dey go." As he spoke Robinson's
brigade poured out from the trenches, and, passing through the
openings in the sea-wall, began to form on the beach.
It was known that the French had mined the angle of the wall
overhanging the beach, and a sergeant, followed by twelve men, dashed
gallantly forward to try to cut the train leading to the mine. He was
unsuccessful, but the suddenness of the rush startled the French, who
at once fired the mine, which exploded, destroying the brave sergeant
and his party, and thirty of the leading men of the column, but not
doing a tithe of the damage which it would have inflicted had the
column been fairly under it.
"Hurrah! dere dey go," Sam exclaimed as the column clambered over
the ruins and pursued its way unchecked along the beach. They had,
however, to make their way under a storm of fire.
The French, as before, lined the wall, and poured a tremendous
musketry fire into their flank, and the batteries of Mount Orgullo and
St. Elmo plied them with shot and shell, while two pieces of cannon on
the cavalier and one on the horn-work raked them with grape.
Still the column neither halted nor faltered, but dashed, like a wave,
up the breach. When, however, they reached the top they could go no
farther. A deep gulf separated them from the town, while from every
loop-hole and wall behind, the French musketry swept the breach. The
troops could not advance and would not retreat, but sullenly stood
their ground, heaping the breach with their dead. Fresh bodies of men
came up, and each time a crowd of brave men mounted the breach, only
to sink down beneath the storm of fire.
"This is awful, horrible, Tom!" Peter said in a choked voice. "Come
away, I can't look at this slaughter, it is a thousand times worse
than any battle."
Tom made no reply, his own eyes were dim with tears, and he rose to
go, taking one more look at the deadly breach, at whose foot the
survivors of the last attempt had sunk down, and whence the mass of
soldiers were keeping up a musketry fire against the guns and unseen
foes who were sweeping them away, when an officer ran up from General
Graham's side, and in a minute fifty guns from the Chofres batteries
opened a storm of fire upon the curtain and the traverses behind the
It was a terrible trial to the nerves of the assaulting columns when
this terrific fire was poured upon a spot only twenty feet above them;
but they were not men to shrink, and the men of the light division
seized the opportunity to pull up the broken masonry and make a
breastwork, known in military terms as a lodgment.
For half an hour the iron storm poured overhead unchecked, smashing
the traverse, knocking down the loop-holed walls, and killing numbers
of the defenders. Then it ceased, and the troops leapt to their feet,
and again rushed up the breach, while the 13th Portuguese Regiment,
followed by a detachment of the 24th, waded across the Urumea under a
heavy fire from the castle, and attacked the third breach.
But still no entry could be effected. The French fire was as heavy as
ever, and the stormers again sank baffled to the foot of the great
breach. The assault seemed hopeless, the tide was rising, the reserves
were all engaged, and the men had done all that the most desperate
courage could do. For five hours the battle had raged, when, just as
all appeared lost, one of those circumstances occurred which upset all
calculations and decide the fate of battles.
Behind the traverses the French had accumulated a great store of
powder barrels, shells, and other combustibles. Just at this moment
these caught fire. A bright flame wrapped the whole wall, followed by
a succession of loud explosions; hundreds of French grenadiers were
destroyed, and before the smoke had cleared away, the British burst
like a flood through the first traverse.
Although bewildered by this sudden disaster, the French rallied, and
fought desperately; but the British, desperate with the long agony
of the last five hours, would not be denied; the light division
penetrated on the left, the Portuguese on the right. The French, still
resisting obstinately, were driven through the town to the line of
defense at the foot of Mount Orgullo, and the town of St. Sebastian
"Will you go across, Peter, and enter the town?"
"No, no, Tom; the sight of that horrible breach is enough for me.
Let us mount, and ride off at once. I am quite sick after this awful
It was as well that the Scudamores did not enter the town, as, had
they done so, they might have shared the fate of several other
officers, who were shot down while trying to stop the troops in their
wild excesses. No more disgraceful atrocities were ever committed by
the most barbarous nations of antiquity than those which disgraced the
British name at the storming of St. Sebastian. Shameful, monstrous as
had been the conduct of the troops at the storming of Ciudad Rodrigo
and at Badajos, it was infinitely worse at St. Sebastian. As Rapin
says, hell seemed to have broken loose.
The castle held out until the 9th, when it surrendered, and the
governor and his heroic garrison marched out with the honors of war.
The British loss in the second siege exceeded 2500 men and officers.
There was a pause of two months after the fall of St. Sebastian,
and it was not until the 10th of November that Wellington hurled
his forces against the lines which, in imitation of those of Torres
Vedras, Soult had formed and fortified on the river Nivelle to
withstand the invasion of France. After a few hours' desperate
fighting the French were turned out of their position with a loss of
killed, wounded, and prisoners, of 4265 men and officers, the loss of
the allies being 2694.
Now the army of invasion poured into France. The French people,
disheartened by Napoleon's misfortunes in Germany, and by the long and
mighty sacrifices which they had for years been compelled to make, in
order to enable Napoleon to carry out his gigantic wars, showed but
slight hostility to the invaders.
Wellington enforced the severest discipline, paid for everything
required for the troops, hanging marauders without mercy, and, finding
that it was impossible to keep the Spanish troops in order, he sent
the whole Spanish contingent, 20,000 strong, back across the Pyrenees.
He then with the Anglo-Portuguese army moved on towards Bayonne, and
took up a position on both sides of the river Nive, driving the French
from their position on the right bank on December 9th. On the 13th,
however, Soult attacked that portion of the army on the right of the
river, and one of the most desperate conflicts of the war took place,
known as the battle of St. Pierre. General Hill commanded at this
battle, and with 14,000 Anglo-Portuguese, with 14 guns, repulsed the
furious and repeated attacks of 16,000 French, with 22 guns.
In five days' fighting on the river the French lost more than as many
The weather now for a time interrupted operations, but Wellington was
preparing for the passage of the Adour. Soult guarded the passages
of the river above Bayonne, and never dreamed that an attempt would
be made to bridge so wide and rough a river as is the Adour below
the town. With the assistance of the sailors of the fleet the great
enterprise was accomplished on the 13th of February, and leaving
General Hope to contain the force in the entrenched camp at Bayonne,
Wellington marched the rest of the army to the Gave.
Behind this river Soult had massed his army. The British crossed by
pontoon bridges, and before the operation was concluded, and the
troops united, Soult fell upon them near Orthes.
At first the French had the best of the fight, driving back both
wings of the allied forces, but Wellington threw the third and sixth
divisions upon the left flank of the attacking column and sent the
52nd Regiment to make a detour through a marsh and fall upon their
other flank. Taken suddenly between two fires the French wavered,
the British pressed forward again, and the French fell back fighting
obstinately, and in good order. The allies lost 2300 men, and the
French 4000. Soult fell back towards Toulouse, laying Bordeaux open to
Promotion for those who have the good fortune to have a post upon the
commander-in-chief's staff is rapid. They run far less risk than do
the regimental officers, and they have a tenfold better chance of
having their names mentioned in despatches. The Scudamores were so
mentioned for their conduct at Vittoria, the Pyrenees, and Orthes,
and shortly after the last-named battle the _Gazette_ from England
announced their promotion to majorities. This put an end to
their service as aides-de-camp, and they were attached to the
quarter-master's branch of the staff of Lord Beresford, who was upon
the point of starting with a small force to Bordeaux, where the
authorities, thinking more of party than of patriotism, had invited
the English to enter and take possession, intending to proclaim their
adhesion to the Bourbon dynasty.
The boys were sorry at the exchange, as they feared that they should
lose the crowning battle of the campaign. It was evident that the
resistance of France was nearly at an end, the allies were approaching
Paris in spite of the almost superhuman efforts of Napoleon; the
people, sick of the war, refused all assistance to the military
authorities, and were longing for peace, and the end of the struggle
was rapidly approaching.
Lord Beresford, however, divining their thoughts, assured them that
his stay at Bordeaux would be but short, and that they might rely
upon being present at the great battle which would probably be fought
somewhere near Toulouse, towards which town Soult had retreated after
the battle of Orthes.
Upon the 8th of March, Beresford marched with 12,000 men for Bordeaux,
and meeting with no opposition by the way, entered that city on the
12th. The mayor, a royalist, came out to meet them, and by the upper
classes of the town they were received as friends rather than foes.
Handsome quarters were assigned to Lord Beresford and his staff, and
the Scudamores for a day or two enjoyed the luxury of comfortable
apartments and of good food after their hard fare for nine months.
The day after they entered Bordeaux Tom had occasion to call at
the office of a banker in order to get a government draft cashed,
to pay for a number of wagons which had been purchased for the
quarter-master's department. The banker's name was Weale, an American,
said to be the richest man in Bordeaux. His fortune had been made, it
was said, by large government contracts.
When Tom returned, Peter was surprised to see him looking pale and
"What is the matter, Tom?"
"Do you know, Peter, I am convinced that that American banker I have
been to see to-day is neither more nor less than that scoundrel,
Walsh, who bolted with all the bank funds, and was the cause of our
"You don't say so, Tom."
"It is a fact, Peter, I could swear to him."
"What shall we do, Tom?"
"I only cashed one of the two drafts I had with me this morning;
Peter, you go this afternoon with the other, and, if you are as
certain as I feel about it, we will speak to Beresford at dinner."
Peter returned in the afternoon satisfied that his brother's surmises
were correct, and that in the supposed American Weale they had really
discovered the English swindler Walsh.
After dinner they asked Lord Beresford to speak to them for a few
The general was greatly surprised and interested at their
"Of how much did this fellow rob your father's bank?" he asked.
"The total defalcation, including money borrowed on title-deeds
deposited in the bank, which had to be made good, was, I heard, from
75,000_l._ to 80,000_l._," Tom said.
"Very well," said Lord Beresford, "we will make the scoundrel pay up
with interest. Order out thirty men of the 13th."
While the men were mustering, the general returned to the dining-room
and begged the officers who were dining with him to excuse him for
half an hour, as he had some unexpected business to perform. Then he
walked across with the Scudamores to the banker's house, which was
only in the next street.
Twenty of the men were then ordered to form a cordon round the house
and to watch the various entrances. The other ten, together with the
officer in command, the general told to follow him into the house. The
arrangements completed, he rang at the bell, and the porter at once
opened the gate.
He started and would have tried to shut it again, on seeing the armed
party. But Lord Beresford said, "I am the general commanding the
British troops here. Make no noise, but show me directly to your
The man hesitated, but seeing that the force was too great to be
resisted, led the way through the courtyard into the house itself.
Some servants in the hall started up with amazement, and would have
run off, but Lord Beresford cried, "Stay quiet for your lives. No one
will be hurt; but if any one moves from the hall, he will be shot."
Then, followed by Tom and Peter only, he opened the door which the
porter pointed out to him as that of the room where the banker was
He was alone, and started to his feet upon beholding three British
officers enter unannounced. "What means this?" he demanded angrily.
"I am a citizen of the United States, and for any outrage upon me
satisfaction will be demanded by my Government."
"I am Lord Beresford," the general said quietly, "and quite know what
I am doing. I do not quite agree with you that the Government of the
United States will make any demand for satisfaction for any outrage
upon your person, nor, if they do so, will it benefit you greatly;
for I am about, in five minutes' time, to order you to be shot, Mr.
As the name was uttered the banker, who had listened with increasing
pallor to the stern words of the general, started violently, and
turned ghastly white. For a minute or so he was too surprised and
confounded to speak. Then he said, in a husky tone, "It is false; I am
an American citizen. I know nothing whatever about James Walsh."
"James Walsh!" the general said; "I said nothing about James. It is
you who have told us his Christian name, which is, I have no doubt,
the correct one."
He looked to Tom, who nodded assent.
"I know nothing about any Walsh," the banker said doggedly. "Who says
"We do, James Walsh," Tom said, stepping forward. "Tom and Peter
Scudamore, the sons of the man you robbed and ruined."
The banker stared at them wildly, and then, with a hoarse cry, dropped
into his chair.
"James Walsh," the general said sternly, "your life is doubly forfeit.
As a thief and a swindler, the courts of law will punish you with
death;" for in those days death was the penalty of a crime of this
kind. "In the second place, as a traitor. As a man who has given aid
and assistance to the enemies of your country, your life is forfeit,
and I, as the general in command here, doom you to death. In five
minutes you will be shot in your courtyard as a thief and a traitor."
"Spare me!" the wretched man said, slipping off his chair on to his
knees. "Spare my life, and take all that I have. I am rich, and can
restore much of that which I took. I will pay 50,000_l._"
"Fifty thousand pounds!" the general said; "you stole 80,000_l._,
which, with interest, comes up to 100,000_l._, besides which you must
pay for acting as a traitor. The military chest is empty, and we want
money. I will value your wretched life at 25,000_l._ If you make that
sum a present to our military chest, and pay Major Scudamore the
100,000_l._ of which you swindled his father, I will spare you."
"One hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds!" the banker said
fiercely. "Never, I will die first."
"Very well," Lord Beresford said quietly. "Major Scudamore, please
call in the officer and four men." Tom did as requested, and Lord
Beresford then addressed the officer. "You will take this man, who is
an Englishman, who has been acting as a traitor, and giving assistance
to the French army, you will take a firing party, place him against
the wall of the yard, give him five minutes to make his peace with
God, and when the five minutes are up, unless he tells you before that
that he wishes to see me, shoot him."
Pale and desperate, the banker was led out.
"He will give way, I hope," Tom said, as the door closed behind him.
"He will give way before the time is up," Lord Beresford said. "He is
a coward; I saw it in his face."
Four minutes passed on, the door opened again, and the officer
returned with his prisoner. "He says he agrees to your terms, sir"
"Very well" Lord Beresford answered; "remain outside with your men;
they may be wanted yet."
The prisoner, without a word, led the way into an adjoining room,
which communicated with the public office. This was his private
parlor, and in a corner stood a safe. He unlocked it, and, taking out
some books and papers, sat down to the table.
His mood had evidently changed. "I was a fool to hold out," he said,
"for I had my name for wealth against me, and might have known you
would not give way. After all, I do not know that I am altogether
sorry, for I have always had an idea that some day or other the thing
would come out, and now I can go back and be comfortable for the rest
of my life. How will you have the money, gentlemen? I have 50,000_l._
in cash, and can give you a draft on the Bank of England for the rest.
You look surprised, but I have always been prepared to cut and run
from this country at the shortest notice, and every penny I have
beyond the cash absolutely required is in England or America."
"I will take 25,000_l._ in cash for the use of the army," Lord
Beresford said. "I will send an officer of the commissariat to-morrow
for it. The 100,000_l._ you may pay these gentlemen in drafts on
England. Until I hear that these drafts are honored, I shall keep you
under surveillance, and you will not be suffered to leave your house."
"It will be all right," Walsh said. "There--is my Bank of England
pass-book; you will see that I have 120,000_l._ standing to the credit
of J. Weale there. I have as much in America. I should not tell you
this did I not know that you are a gentleman, and therefore will not
raise terms now that you see I can pay higher. There, Mr. Scudamore,
is the draft, and, believe me or not, I am glad to repay it, and to
feel, for the first time for many years, a free man. Please to give
me a receipt for the 80,000_l._ due by me to the Bank, and for
20,000_l._, five years' interest on the same."
Tom did as he was desired without speaking. There was a tone of
effrontery mingled with the half-earnestness of this successful
swindler that disgusted him.
"There," the general said, as the receipts were handed over; "come
along, lads, the business is over, and I do not think that we have any
more to say to Mr. Weale."
So saying, without further word, the three went out.
Upon rejoining the officer without, Lord Beresford directed that a
sergeant and ten men were to be quartered in the house, and that a
sentry was to be placed at each entrance night and day, and that the
banker was not to be permitted to stir out under any pretence whatever
until further orders.
"There, lads, I congratulate you heartily," he said as they issued
from the gate, in answer to the warm thanks in which the boys
expressed their gratitude to him; "it is a stroke of luck indeed that
you came with me to Bordeaux. It was rough-and-ready justice, and I
don't suppose a court of law in England would approve of it; but we
are under martial law, so even were that fellow disposed to question
the matter, which you may be very sure he will not, we are safe
enough. They say 'ill-gotten gains fly fast' but the scamp has
prospered on the money he stole. He owned to having another hundred
thousand safe in the States, and no doubt he has at least as much more
in securities of one sort or other here. I daresay he was in earnest
when he said that he did not mind paying the money to get rid of the
chance of detection and punishment, which must have been ever in his
mind. The best thing you can do, Scudamore, is to write to James
Pearson--he's my solicitor in London--and give him authority to
present this draft, and invest the sum in your joint names in good
securities. Inclose the draft. I shall be sending off an orderly with
despatches and letters at daybreak, and if you give me your letter
to-night, I will inclose it in a note of my own to Pearson."
Five days later an order arrived for Lord Beresford to leave the
seventh division under Lord Dalhousie, in Bordeaux, and to march with
the fourth division to join the Commander-in-Chief, who was gradually
drawing near to Toulouse, beneath whose walls Soult was reorganizing
his army. The position was a very strong one, and had been rendered
almost impregnable by fortifications thrown upon the heights.
Wellington had, too, the disadvantage of having to separate his army,
as the town lay upon both sides of the Garonne.
On the 10th of April the allied army attacked. Hill attacked the
defences of the town on the left bank, while Freyre's Spaniards,
Picton, with the third and light divisions, and Beresford with the
fourth and the sixth divisions, assaulted a French position. The
entrenchments in front of Picton were too strong to be more than
menaced. Freyre's Spaniards were repulsed with great loss, and the
brunt of the battle fell upon Beresford's division, which nobly
sustained the character of the British soldier for stubborn valor
in this the last battle of the war. The French fought stubbornly
and well, but fort by fort the British drove them from their strong
positions, and at five in the afternoon Soult withdrew the last of his
troops in good order across the canal which separated the position
they had defended from the town itself. The French lost five generals
and 3000 killed and wounded; the allies four generals and 4659 killed
and wounded, of which 2000 were Spaniards, for they upon this occasion
fought bravely, though unsuccessfully.
On the 11th all was quiet, Wellington preparing for an attack upon the
city on the following day. Soult, however, finding that the British
cavalry had been sent off so as to menace his line of retreat,
evacuated the city in the night, drew off his army with great order
and ability, and by a march of twenty-two miles placed it in safety.
Upon the morning of the 12th Wellington entered Toulouse, and the
same afternoon two officers, one British, the other French, arrived
together from Paris, with the news of the abdication of Napoleon, and
the termination of the war.
These officers had been detained for two days at Blois by the
officials there, and this delay had cost the blood of 8000 men, among
whom was Tom Scudamore, who had his left arm carried away by a cannon
ball. Sam, in the act of carrying his master from the field, was also
severely wounded in the head with a musket ball.
Before the battle was fought they had received news from England that
the draft had been paid at the Bank of England, and that their future
was in consequence secure. The war being over, officers unattached to
regiments had little difficulty in getting leave of absence, as the
troops were to be embarked for England as soon as possible. Peter's
application, therefore, to accompany his brother was acceded to
without hesitation, and ten days after the battle of Toulouse he was
on board ship with Tom and Sam, both of whom were doing well. Three
days afterwards they landed in England.
Rhoda met them, with Miss Scudamore, at Portsmith, having received a
letter telling them of Tom's wound, and of their being upon the point
of sailing. There was a great reduction of the army at the end of the
war, and the Scudamores were both placed upon half pay. This was a
matter of delight to Rhoda, and of satisfaction to themselves. They
had had enough of adventure to last for a life-time; and with the
prospect of a long peace the army no longer offered them any strong
When they returned to Miss Scudamore's their old friend Dr. Jarvis
came to visit them, and a happier party could not have been found in
England. The will of Mr. Scudamore, made before he was aware of his
ruin, was now acted upon. He had left 20,000_l._ to Rhoda, and the
rest of his fortune in equal parts between his boys. Both Tom and
Peter were fond of a country life, and they bought two adjoining
estates near Oxford, Rhoda agreeing to stop with them and Miss
For a brief time there was a break in their happiness, Napoleon
escaped from Elba, and Europe was in a flame again. All the officers
on half pay were ordered to present themselves for duty, and the
Scudamores crossed with the army to Belgium, and fought at Waterloo.
Neither were hurt, nor was Sam, who had of course accompanied them.
Waterloo gave them another step in rank, and the Scudamores returned
as colonels to England.
It was their last war. A few years afterwards they married sisters,
and Rhoda having the year previous married a gentleman whose estate
was in the same county, they remained as united as ever. Sambo held
for many a year the important position of butler to Tom, then he found
that one of the housemaids did not regard his color as any insuperable
obstacle, and they were accordingly married. It was difficult to say
after this exactly the position which Sam held. He lived at a cottage
on the edge of the estate, where it joined that of Peter, and his time
was spent in generally looking after things at both houses, and as
years went on his great delight was, above all things, to relate to
numerous young Scudamores the adventures of their father and uncle
when he first knew them as the Young Buglers.
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