Page:A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, vol 6.djvu/267

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


from the severity of the weather, and from long marches on bad roads ; yet, at Bitanzos, it was judged preferable to keep the troops exposed to the cold and rain, rather than to the irresistible temptations of the nine houses in the town. Here a new order was issued, and particular duties demanded to be performed by the officers. The last day's march, on the llth, was conducted with more propriety than any that had preceded it ; yet eight or nine stragglers were de- tected, who had preceded their column, and taken possession of a wine house, and all that was in it. They were seized, and brought before the general, who halted the army, and sent for the officers of the legiments to which they be- longed. The culprits' haversacks were then searched, when the general de- clared that, had he found any plunder in them, their owners would have been hanged ; but that he would have considered their guilt in a great measure attri- butable to the negligence of their officers. On finishing this inquiry, Sir John Moore rode on to Corunna, and examined every position in its neighbourhood. The troops were quartered, partly in the town, and partly in the suburbs ; General Paget, with the reserve, at El-Burgo, near the bridge of the Moro, and in the villages on the St Jago road. Adverse winds had detained the transports, otherwise the whole army would have been embarked before the enemy could have come up. Only a few ships lay in the harbour, in which some sick men, and some stragglers who had preceded the army, and represented themselves sick, had embarked. The army, though much fatigued, arrived at its destined position unbroken, and in good spirits. Bonaparte, with seventy thousand men, had in vain attempted to impede its progress; and its rear-guard, though often engaged, had never been thrown into confusion. But the greatest danger was still to be incurred. The situation of Corunna was found to be unfavourable; the trans- ports had not arrived ; the enemy was already appearing on the heights, and might soon be expected in overwhelming force. Several of his officers, recollect- ing, perhaps, the convention of Cintra, gave it as their advice, that Sir John Moore should apply to the Duke of Dalmatia for permission to embark his troops unmolested. This, however, he positively rejected. The officers, in the first place, were busied in attempting to restore some degree of discipline among the troops, and in providing such refreshments for them as the place would afford. The ground, in the mean time, was carefully examined, and the best dispositions that could be thought of made for defence. On the 13th, Sir John Moore was on horseback by the break of day, making arrangements for battle. He returned about eleven, worn out with fatigue; sent for brigadier-general Stuart, and desired him to proceed to England, to explain to ministers the situation of the army. He was, he said, so tired, that he was incapable of writing ; but that he (general Stuart) being a competent judge, did not require any letter. After taking some refreshment, however, and resting two hours, the ship not being quite ready, nor general Stuart gone, he called for paper, and wrote his last despatch. On the 14th, the French commenced a cannonade on the left, which the British returned with such effect, as to icake the enemy draw off. On a hill outside the British posts, were found this day five thousand barrels of gun* powder, which had been sent from England, and lay here neglected, though the Spanish armies were in a great measure ineffective for want of ammunition. As many barrels as conveyance could be found for, which was but very few, were carried bark to C:runna ; the remainder were blown up. The explosion shook the town of Corunna like an earthquake. This evening the transports from. Vigo hove in sight. On the 15th, the enemy advanced to the height where the magazine had been blown up : and colonel Mackenzie, of the 5th regiment, in at- tempting to seize upon two of the enemy's guns, was killed. The artillery was this day embarked, with the exception of seven six-pounders and one howitzer,