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small, and weakly ; he had been punished before, and his back was scarcely healed from the last infliction. The first few strokes of the cat, laid the back bare to the bone. Some one, from mistaken motives of kindness, had given the poor wretch, before he came out, a copious draught of hollands, the effect of which was not perceptible until he was tied up; and then it maddened him. Instead of wincing from the stripes, he abused the commanding officer, and sung a variety of scraps of songs. The major who commanded that morning, was exasperated at the apparent levity of the prisoner, and abused the drummajor for not making the drummers do their duty more effectually; and for every stroke the drummer gave the poor wretch, he received one from the drum-major's cane, across his own shoulders.
At length, the major suspended the punishment; selected one of the drummers; and formed what is called a "Drumhead court-martial.” The drum-major swore the man could punish more effectually, if he chose, He was found guilty of refusing to
do his duty ; was tied up there and then, and received one hundred and fifty lashes. The other punishment was proceeded with : but the poor creature, the strength of the spirits having evaporated, was not able to bear any more; he fainted, and was carried to the hospital in a state of insensibility.*
After the protest of the inhabitants, other modes of punishment were adopted. Solitary confinement, for the more serious crimes, and extra-guards and punishment-drills for the common offences. Sometimes the man would have to mount guard, and stand sentry with a log of wood, fastened by a chain to his leg. Crime did certainly not prevail to the same extent afterwards, as it did before. Solitary confinement was more especially dreaded by
With these exceptions, we passed the winter very comfortably in this place. I was billeted with eight or nine others, at a public-house called the “Parrot;" in reference to the
* The regiment was at this time under the command of Major Kelly, the Colonel being absent.
landlord of which, strange tales were told, and believed too. Being of an extremely jealous nature, it was reported that he had poisoned three of his wives. He had been subjected to two examinations; but no conclusive evidence having been adduced, he was released. He was now about seventy years of age, and his former cruelties did not prevent his getting another wife, who was then about thirty years old. Nor did the reported fate of his former wives, prevent the present one from forming a connection with one of our sergeants; whose criminal intercourse with her was beyond a doubt.
In the early part of March, 1815, we left this place, and lay three or four days at a village, about three miles distant. From thence we were taken on an excursion across the country, for a distance of thirty miles, through cross country-roads, and over fields, hedges and ditches. At night, dreadfully fatigued, we lodged in some barns, and early in the morning fell in; the colonel having received orders to take the regiment back that night
to the village we had left the day before. On our return we encountered a very severe storm, of wind, hail and rain; the men were so completely knocked up, and some of them literally knocked down, by the hailstones, or more properly speaking, masses of ice, that they were almost in a state of mutiny, at being so harassed without any object. The colonel was requested to halt the men at some place short of their destination; but he replied, “ he must go the whole distance with the colours, even if he did not take thirty men with him.” Numbers of the men were actually unable to proceed; and only about one hundred of us went in with the colonel and colours; and it was several days afterwards before we could muster the men.
I never could learn the reason for this extraordinary march. In war time, we were frequently called on to make forced marches, but then we knew there was a necessity for it, and an object to be gained; but here there was no apparent motive, beyond the mere caprice of the general
While stopping here, for the first and last
time in my life, I had my fortune told me, not only unsolicited, but under circumstances of a rather extraordinary nature. I was billeted by myself, on a cottage, about a mile from the village; and the only inmates were an old man, his daughter, and her infant. The husband of the young woman was serving with the Belgian troops, and was then stationed at Ghent, The old man was dangerously ill, with the scarlet fever; and as they had no relatives near them, and the neighbours not liking to visit them under the circumstances, I occasionally assisted the young woman in ministering to her father's wants, for which she was extremely grateful. On one occasion, she hastily drew from the cupboard a pack of cards, and after turning them over in a variety of ways, she at length pronounced my fate; which was, that I should go in one more grand battle; that I should then go home to England, and marry a certain person, who was then waiting for me. I laughed at the prediction, at the time; but have often since
wondered at its accuracy.