Page:A book of the Pyrenees.djvu/72

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50
THE PYRENEES

the express purpose of hampering the progress of the English, when he saw that the place must inevitably fall; and this, when Wellington would not suffer his batteries to play upon the town.

When finally San Sebastian was taken, all control over the soldiers, who were exasperated by the stubborn resistance, was for a while lost. A thunderstorm burst at the same time that the soldiers broke in, and a scene of riot and rapine ensued. In the midst of explosions of thunder and lightning the city was sacked. Fires broke out in various places, and flames waved over such houses as had been spared by Rey. At the same time the garrison of the castle ploughed the streets with their artillery, killing alike inhabitants flying from the English, Spanish and Portuguese soldiery, as well as the soldiers themselves. It was found impossible to extinguish the flames or to control the soldiers. The most was made of this. Napoleon wrote: "Les Anglais commettent des horreurs dont les annales de la guerre off rent peu d' examples, et dont cette nation barbare êtait seule capable dans un siècle de civilisation." But Napoleon never minced words. The sack of San Sebastian, though regrettable, was mild in comparison with the atrocities committed by the French elsewhere in Spain. In justice it must be said that it was not English alone who were guilty of these excesses, but the far more lawless Spaniards and Portuguese who formed our allies, and that the sack was stopped as soon as ever Wellington was able to gain control over the maddened soldiery.