Page images

declared him unfit to serve, and desired him to go about his business. The circumstance became known to the shopmates of the man, who frequently indulged in a laugh at the expense of the magistrate; however, the man saved something like ten pounds by the mancuvre, as it would have taken that at least to provide a substitute.

As much as sixty pounds has been paid for a substitute in the militia, in war time; and, as I have before observed, to avoid those charges was the principal inducement to many persons in becoming volunteers ; but other motives influenced me. I was particularly fond of reading the heart-stirring accounts of sieges and battles; and the glorious achievements of the British troops in Spain, following each other in rapid succession, created in me an irrepressible desire for military service; 80, as the first step towards it, I became a Volunteer, and, oh! how proud did I feel when having gone through my course of drill, I was permitted to join the ranks. Even now I often think of the delightful sensation

I experienced on our forming on the regimental parade-ground, and marching from thence to the Tenter-ground, in Goodman's Fields—at that time a most convenient place for the exercise of troops, and where our evolutions and martial exercises excited the admiration and wonder of crowds of nurserymaids and children, who invariably attended on such occasions. Then, how delightful on our return home, to parade the streets in our splendid uniform, exhibiting ourselves as the brave defenders of our country, should the Corsican attempt to carry into effect his threatened invasion of England.

Never shall I forget the occasion, when we were ordered to proceed to the Forest, for the display of a grand sham fight between us and the Ratcliff Volunteers ! The ground selected for the event, was where Fairlop Fair is held, and on the day appointed, we left town at six A.M., in the midst of the greatest excitement, accompanied by a great number of our friends, as also by sundry wagons, for the conveyance of the sick or

wounded, together with some covered carts and a brewer's dray, containing abundance of ham, beef, and bread, as well as a plentiful supply of ale and porter, which good things, it was understood, were for distribution among us, if we should perform our duty manfully in the encounter. How exhilarating, on our road to the scene of action, to be saluted by the cheers of the crowd, the waving of handkerchiefs, the shouting of boys, the thrilling tones of the bugle, and the merry fife and drum. On our arrival at the ground, we found our antagonists had already taken up their position. We were allowed some halfhour's breathing-time, during which, the band of the Tower Hamlets' Militia-whose services had been specially retained—enlivened us by the performance of some martial airs, calculated to inflame our minds with that enthusiasm so necessary to constitute the character of the soldier.

At length the time for action arrived. We fell in and commenced the duties of the day; which consisted in marching and counter

marching, attacking and retreating, forming squares to repulse imaginary attacks of cavalry, and firing some thirty pounds of blank cartridges at each other. At last, the moment came which was to close our operations by a grand charge with fixed bayonets. The two regiments faced each other in line, and after each firing a volley, the men being directed to fire low, that their shots might be more effectual, the lines advanced, the word “Charge !” was given, “Forward, forward!” and on we went with the desperate determination of men resolved to conquer or die. When we had arrived within about twenty paces of each other, our commanding officers, fully satisfied of our cool. ness, and bravery, and unwilling to expose us to unnecessary danger, gave the word “Halt!" and thereby relieved the apprehension of those who thought a collision unavoidable, and who much admired the ability of our officers in preventing danger so suddenly by giving the word (halt). Not being able to recollect that little word, led a colonel of the Warwickshire Militia into an awkward predicament. He was

very unpopular with his men ; and was one day exercising them in a field that was bounded by a deep ditch of black muddy water. Occasionally, when excited, the colonel had an impediment in his speech, which unfortunately affected him at this time, when by his own order, the regiment was charging in line. He was on horseback, retiring as they advanced, and for the life of him he could not think of or ejaculate the word “Halt !” The men continued to advance, and the unfortunate commander still retiring from the bayonet's point, was at length driven with his horse into the black ditch.

But to return from this digression. Hav. ing performed our evolution to the satisfaction of our commanding officer, we were permitted to retire beneath the ample foliage of the Forest trees, there to enjoy ourselves with the good things provided for us; and there being no restriction in the serving out as to quantity, we were able to invite those of our friends, who had accompanied us from town: and after doing ample justice to the stock of provisions, we formed into parties,

« PreviousContinue »