Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/266

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page needs to be proofread.


20th regiment, and a detachment of cavalry, to cover the town ; while parlies were sent to warn the stragglers, amounting to one thousand men, of their danger, and to drive them, if possible, out of the houses. Some few were per- suaded to move on, but the far greater number, in despite of threats, and re- gardless of the approaching enemy, persisted in remaining, and were therefore left to their fate. The cavalry, however, only quitted the town on the approach of the enemy, and then, from the sense of immediate danger, was the road filled with stragglers, armed and unarmed, mules, carts, women and children, in the utmost confusion. The patrol of hussars which had remained to protect them, was now closely pursued for several miles by five squadrons of French cavalry, who, as they galloped through the long line of stragglers, slashed them with their swords, right and left, without mercy, while, overcome with liquor, they could neither make resistance, nor get out of the way. At Villa Franca, the general heard, with deep regret, of the irregularities w : hich had been committed by the preceding divisions. Magazines had been plundered, stores of wine broken open, and large quantities of foraere and provisions destroyed. One man who had been detected in these atrocities, was immediately shot; and a number of the stragglers, who had been miserably wounded by the French cavalry, were car- ried through the ranks, to show the melancholy consequences of inebriety, and the imprudence of quitting their companions. Failing of his aim of intercept- ing the British at Astorga, Bonaparte did not proceed farther, but he ordered Soult, with an overwhelming force, to pursue, and drive them into the sea ; and on the 3d of January, they pressed so hard upon the rear of the retreating army, that Sir John Moore resolved upon a night march from Villa Franca to Herrerias. From the latter place he proceeded to Lugo, where he determined to offer the enemy battle ; and for this purpose he sent forward despatches to Sir David Baird, who was in front, to halt He also enclosed the same orders for generals Hope and Frazer, who commanded the advanced divisions. These he forwarded to Sir David Baird, by his aid-de-camp, captain Napier, accompanied by an orderly dragoon. Sir David again forwarded them to the respective officers ; but the orderly dragoon, having got intoxicated, lost them : in consequence of which general Frazer marched on a day's journey on the road to Vigo, which he had to countermarch next day, in dreadful weather, by which he lost a number of his men. It was now determined to march upon Corunna, as being nearer than Vigo; and an express was sent off to Sir Samuel Hood, to order the trans- ports round to that place. On the road to Nagles, the reserve fell in with forty waggons with stores, sent from England for the marquis of Romana's army. As there were no means of carrying them back, shoes, and such things as could be made use of, were distributed to the troops as they passed, and the rest destroy- ed. On the 5th, the rifle corps, which covered the reserve, was engaged with the enemy nearly the whole day, while everything that retarded the inarch was destroyed. Two carts of dollars, amounting to twenty-five thousand pounds, were rolled down a precipice on the side of jlhe road, which the advanced guard of the French passed in less than five minutes thereafter. It was afterwards ascertained that this money fell into the hands of the Spanish peasants. At Lugo, another severe general order was issued, and a position taken up for battle. The French made an attack on part of this position on the 7th, but were repulsed with ease. On the 8th, everything was disposed for a general engagement ; Soult, however, did not think fit to make the attack, and the British army not being now in a state to undergo a protracted warfare, it was resolved to continue the retreat The different brigades accordingly quitted the ground about ten o'clock at night, leaving their fires burning to deceive the enemy. Great disorders still reigned among the troops, who were suffering dreadfully