Page images
PDF
EPUB

attacked, were led away to darkened rooms, and the surgeon began to operate on them : and whether it was their ignorance of the nature of the disorder, or their bungling manner of applying the lancet, they managed to deprive some men of the use of both eyes, and others of one. The inhabitants, themselves, were generally attacked in the same way, in the autumn. It was supposed to arise from the effluvium of the stagnant water, in the trench round the walls, which contained a vast deal of animal and vegetable putrid matter.

As soon as the men could be moved, we were placed in another part of the town. A portion of the Foot Guards were laying with us here; and some of their aristocratic officers, made the astounding discovery, that the uniform of our officers was exactly like theirs, with the exception of a slight difference in the colour of the facings—theirs being dark blue, and ours a dark green. Of course, such a circumstance, as that there should be no differ. ence in dress between the Guards and a fighting regiment, could not be tolerated. A consulta

tion was held by them, on the subject; and a communication forwarded to the commanderin-chief in England; who lost no time in taking a matter of so much importance into his most serious consideration. The next despatches contained an order for the officers of the 73rd to divest themselves of two slips of gold lace, from the skirt of their regimental jackets. to prevent, for the future, the possibility of their being mistaken for officers of the Guards!

In the month of October, we left Tourney, and proceeded to Courtray, or Cortrick, as it was formerly called. It was once a place of very considerable strength, being situated on the river Leys, and well defended, both by art and nature. When we were there, however, the defences were in such a state of dilapidation, that it was altogether untenable as a fortress : only our regiment was quartered there. The duty was not severe, having but three guards to find.

I believe the motive for quartering the British troops through the towns of Belgium, at this time, was to ensure the tranquillity of the

people, until the annexation of Belgium to Holland should be carried into effect, as agreed on by the Allied Powers, in their settlement of the boundaries of the different states.

Belgium, of right, belonged to Austria; but that power readily agreed to its being joined to Holland, on their receiving an equivalent for it. In another quarter, the proclamation of the (now) King of Holland, in reference to the incorporation of the two countries, was very unpopular; so much so, that where we were, they could not prevail on any of the inhabitants to assist in the reading of it; and that duty had to be performed under a guard of British bayonets. It was easy then to predict, that the union of two countries, different in religion, language, customs, and manners, would exist only as long as a foreign army should be there to enforce it.

During our residence in this town, in consequence of the prevalence of the small-pox, the men were all examined, and those who had not had the disorder, were inoculated for it.

An accident of a curious nature, befell one

н

of our sergeants here. He was out rather late at night, and running home, in turning sharply round the corner of the street, he came in contact with two of the gen-d'armes, or police, who were carrying their firelocks slung over their shoulders, with the bayonets pointing out in front, and the sergeant's thigh came in contact with one of the bayonets, which entered the front of the thigh, passed along obliquely for about four inches, and came out beneath. The poor fellow was regularly transfixed: they had not the courage, for some time, to pull the weapon out. There was no blame to the police, in the matter, as the sergeant came so unexpectedly on them. It was considered one of the worst bayonet-wounds that could be: the man never got the better of it. Other incidents, of a more disgraceful nature, here force themselves on my memory, and I feel bound to relate them.

The cheapness of ardent spirits, genuine hollands, direct from the distillery, was sold in the chandlers' shops, the same as small beer used to be in England; and the price of

the spirit (retail) was only eight-pence per quart. The consequence was, we had a great deal of drunkenness and crime; and, as a matter of course, a great many punishmentparades, which took place on the Esplanade, or piece of ground near the citadel, overlooked by a number of respectable houses; and the frequency of our disgraceful flogging exhibitions, created such horror and disgust, that at length a remonstrance was presented to our commanding officer, on the subject. I shall relate one of the cases which took place here, as being of rather an extraordinary nature.

Two prisoners were brought out, and the proceedings of the court-martial read, their crime having been the same-drunkenness and insubordination, under very aggravated circumstances, which certainly merited severe punishment; though nothing, in my opinion, can justify the use of the lash. The first prisoner was a young man belonging to the Grenadiers; his sentence was eight hundred lashes, out of which he received five hundred. The other prisoner was a drummer, young,

« PreviousContinue »