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so, after getting in a supply of fresh provisions, we left Yarmouth with a fair wind, and in a few hours made the coast of Holland.
On the 12th of December, we reached Helvoetsluys, which had just been evacuated by the French. We proceeded up the river to Williamstadt, which was also just abandoned by the enemy; and we had the opportunity of landing without any interruption. It was fortunate for us, that such was the case, as most of our men were so dreadfully weakened by the disorder, that it was with the utmost difficulty they were got on shore; and they were instantly sent into the hospital. However, a few days judicious treatment, with proper diet, and medicines, put them to rights, and we soon began again to assume an appearance of efficiency. The illness I have alluded to, was confined to our regiment, and was supposed to have been produced by our excessive fatigue, and bad living, throughout Germany. The other portion of the troops had remained all the time in quarters, at Stralsund ; where, after
we left, the duty was tolerable, as the works were completed ; and having correct information of the operations of the contending armies, they were no longer under any apprehensions of an attack.
Our regiment cut rather a miserable figure beside the other regiments in another respect. They having been in a state of comparative inactivity, had preserved their regimental dresses in good order; while ours, from our bivouacking in the woods, and marching a distance of upwards of 300 miles, were in such a shattered condition, that many of the men had their red coats mended with the grey trowser cloth, there being no possibility of obtaining any red cloth for the purpose. But though the other could boast of a superiority in appearance, all the honour rested with us.
In again alluding to the battle of Gorde, it will be perceived, that the enemy we defeated, had been detached on a most important duty; namely, to open the passage for the French troops to Magdeburg. The
consequence of our victory was, that the French General, Davoust, was not able to carry into effect his plan of reaching that place; and without arrogating too much to ourselves, I think our regiment may consider the panic caused by the appearance of their colours, was the means of rendering the victory more decisive than it would otherwise have been.
Should it be supposed that I have exaggerated the fears of the French, on the appearance of the English colours, I could adduce two more
more instances, in which the French have contended well with us, before they discovered that we were English, when they instantly fled. But the fact I have already alluded to, can be attested by respectable parties, now living. There are two officers, now resident in this metropolis, who were present; the one is Major Mead, who then belonged to us, and was aide-de-camp to General Gibbs; he exchanged from us into the 21st Fusileers, and very sorry we were to lose him, for he was, in every sense of the
word, an officer and a gentleman. He holds now, an appointment in the Adjutant-general's office, at the Horse Guards. Captain Dowling was present; and would, I have no doubt, bear testimony to the truth of my observations.
I believe, the reason why our presence in that engagement was not noticed at the time, was, that the general (Gibbs) had exceeded his instructions in carrying us so far. I am sorry he did not take us a little further, as I should much like to have witnessed the grand operations before Leipsic;—not that I am, by any means, fond of slaughter; but there was something so very interesting in the capture of Leipsic, that I have often wished I had been there. It will appear, from the subsequent chapters of this narrative, that I was afterwards called on to witness some scenes, quite as grand in their development, and quite as glorious in their results.
“Red Battle stamps his foot, And Nations feel the shock.”
The regiments composing our brigade, left Williamstadt on the 28th of December. There was a partial breaking of the frost; and our first day's march was the most miserable I have ever experienced. The roads were literally knee-deep in mud; many lost their shoes and boots. After toiling all day, we were only able to accomplish a distance of about ten miles, when we were quartered on the inhabitants of a village; and though the people were poor, they treated us kindly, and there appeared among them an apparently sincere desire to be released from French domination.