It was in the beginning of December, 1811, that the Scudamores again sailed up the Tagus to Lisbon, after an absence of just six months. When they had passed the medical board, they were transferred from the unattached list to the 52d Regiment, which was, fortunately for them, also in Spain. No events of great importance had taken place during their absence. Wellington, after the battles of Fuentes d'Onoro and Albuera, had been compelled to fall back again to the frontier in the face of greatly superior forces, and had maintained his old position on the Coa till the approach of winter compelled the French to retire into the interior, where they had their magazines and depots.
The Scudamores found that the 52d were encamped on the Agueda, and they at once prepared to go up country to join them. Their chargers--presents from their aunt on leaving--were fresh and vigorous, and they purchased a strong country horse for Sambo, who, thanks to some practice which he had had in England, was now able to cut a respectable figure on horseback. A few hours were sufficient to make their preparations, and at noon on the day after landing, they mounted, and, followed by Sam, accompanied by a muleteer and two mules carrying their baggage, they started from the hotel at which they had put up.
As they rode down the main street they saw several mounted officers approaching, and at once recognized in the leader the commander-in-chief, who had just arrived from the front to pay one of his flying visits, to endeavor to allay the jealousies in the Portuguese Council, and to insist upon the food which the British Government was actually paying for, being supplied to the starving Portuguese soldiers. Drawing their horses aside, they saluted Lord Wellington as he rode past. He glanced at them keenly, as was his custom, and evidently recognized them as he returned the salute.
When he had passed, they turned their horses and continued their way. They had not gone fifty yards, however, when an officer came up at a gallop. Lord Wellington wished them to call at his quarters in an hour's time.
There are few things more annoying than, after having got through all the trouble of packing and getting fairly on the road, to be stopped; but there was no help for it, and the boys rode back to their hotel again, where, putting up their horses, they told Sam not to let the muleteer leave, for they should probably be on the road again in an hour.
At the appointed time they called at the head-quarters, and giving their cards to two officers on duty, took their seats in the anteroom. It now became evident to them that their chance of an early interview was not great, and that they would in all probability be obliged to pass another night in Madrid. Portuguese grandees passed in and out, staff officers of rank entered and left, important business was being transacted, and the chance of two Line captains having an interview with the commander-in-chief appeared but slight. Two hours passed wearily, and then an orderly sergeant came into the room and read out from a slip of paper the names "Captain Thomas Scudamore; Captain Peter Scudamore. This way, if you please," he added, as the boys rose in answer to their names, and he led the way into a room where a colonel on the staff was seated before a table covered with papers.
"Gentlemen," he said, "I have news which I think will be pleasant to you both. Lord Wellington has not forgotten the services you rendered in carrying his communications to the guerilla chiefs. Your reports were clear and concise, and your knowledge of Spanish especially valuable. Lord Beresford, too, has reported most favorably of your conduct while with him. There happen to be two vacancies on his staff, and he has desired me to fill them up with your names."
Although the Scudamores would in some respects rather have remained with their regiment, yet they could not refuse an honor which was generally coveted as being a post in which an active officer had plenty of opportunities of distinguishing himself, and which was certain to lead to speedy promotion. They accordingly expressed their warm thanks for the honor which Lord Wellington had done them.
"Are you well mounted?" Colonel Somerset asked.
"We have one capital charger each," Tom said.
"You will want another," Colonel Somerset remarked. "There are a lot of remounts landed to-day. Here is an order to Captain Halket, the officer in charge. Choose any two you like. The amount can be stopped from your pay. How about servants; you are entitled to two each?"
"We have one man of the Norfolk Rangers--a very faithful fellow, who has returned with us from leave; if he could be transferred, he would do for us both if we had a cavalry man each for our horses."
The colonel at once wrote an order for Sam's transfer from his regiment on detached service, and also one to the officer commanding a cavalry regiment stationed in Madrid, to supply them with two troopers as orderlies.
"May I ask, sir, if we are likely to stay in Madrid long--as, if so, we will look out for quarters?" Tom asked.
"No; the general returns to-morrow, or next day at latest, to Almeida, and of course you will accompany him. Oh, by-the-by, Lord Wellington will be glad if you will dine with him to-day--sharp six. By-the-way, you will want to get staff uniform. There is the address of a Spanish tailor, who has fitted out most of the men who have been appointed here. He works fast, and will get most of the things you want ready by to-morrow night. Don't get more things than are absolutely necessary--merely undress suits. Excuse my asking how are you off for money? I will give you an order on the paymaster if you like."
Tom replied that they had plenty of money, which indeed they had, for their aunt had given them so handsome a present upon starting, that they had tried to persuade her to be less generous, urging that they really had no occasion for any money beyond their pay. She had insisted, however, upon their accepting two checks, saying that one never knew what was wanted, and it was always useful to have a sum to fall back on in case of need.
Two days later the Scudamores, in their new staff uniforms, were, with some six or eight other officers, riding in the suite of Lord Wellington on the road to the Coa. The lads thought they had never had a more pleasant time, the weather was fine and the temperature delightful, their companions, all older somewhat than themselves, were yet all young men in high health and spirits. The pace was good, for Lord Wellington was a hard rider, and time was always precious with him. At the halting-places the senior officers of the staff kept together, while the aides-de-camp made up a mess of their own, always choosing a place as far away as possible from that of the chief, so that they could laugh, joke, and even sing, without fear of disturbing his lordship.
Sam soon became a high favorite with the light-hearted young fellows, and his services as forager for the mess were in high esteem.
Three days of hard riding took them to Almeida, where the breaches caused by the great explosion had been repaired, and the place put into a defensible position. Tom and Peter had been afraid that there would be at least four months of enforced inactivity before the spring; but they soon found that the post of aide-de-camp to Wellington was no sinecure. For the next month they almost lived in the saddle. The greater portion of the English army was indeed lying on the Agueda, but there were detached bodies of British and large numbers of Portuguese troops at various points along the whole line of the Portuguese frontier, and with the commanders of these Lord Wellington was in constant communication.
Towards the end of December some large convoys of heavy artillery arrived at Almeida, but every one supposed that they were intended to fortify this place, and none, even of those most in the confidence of the commander-in-chief, had any idea that a winter campaign was about to commence. The French were equally unsuspicious of the truth. Twice as strong as the British, they dreamt not that the latter would take the offensive, and the French marshals had scattered their troops at considerable distances from the frontier in winter quarters.
Upon the last day of the year the Scudamores both happened to have returned to the front--Tom from Lisbon, and Peter from a long ride to a distant Portuguese division. There was a merry party gathered round a blazing fire in the yard of the house where they, with several other aides-de-camp, were quartered. Some fifty officers of all ranks were present, for a general invitation had been issued to all unattached officers in honor of the occasion. Each brought in what liquor he could get hold of, and any provisions which he had been able to procure, and the evening was one of boisterous fun and jollity. In the great kitchen blazed a fire, before which chickens and ducks were roasting, turkeys and geese cut up in pieces for greater rapidity of cooking, were grilling over the fire, and as they came off the gridiron they were taken round by the soldier-servants to their masters as they sat about on logs of wood, boxes, and other substitutes for chairs. Most of the officers present had already supped, and the late-comers were finishing their frugal meal, after which the soldiers would take their turn. There was a brewing of punch and an uncorking of many a bottle of generous wine; then the song and laugh went round, and all prepared to usher in the new year joyously, when a colonel of the staff, who had been dining with Lord Wellington, entered. "Here's a seat, colonel," was shouted in a dozen places, but he shook his head and held up his hand.
"Gentlemen, I am sorry to disturb you, but orders must be obeyed. Villiers, Hogan, Scudamores both, Esdaile, Cooper, and Johnson, here are despatches which have to be taken off at once. Gentlemen, I should recommend you all to look to your horses. All attached to the transport had better go to their head-quarters for orders."
"What is up, colonel?" was the general question.
"The army moves forward at daybreak. We are going to take Ciudad."
A cheer of surprise and delight burst from all. There was an emptying of glasses, a pouring out of one more bumper to success, and in five minutes the court was deserted save by some orderlies hastily devouring the interrupted supper, and ere long the tramp of horses could be heard, as the Scudamores and their comrades dashed off in different directions with their despatches.
The next morning a bridge was thrown over the Agueda at Marialva, six miles below Ciudad, but the investment was delayed, owing to the slowness and insufficiency of the transport. Ciudad Rodrigo was but a third-class fortress, and could have been captured by the process of a regular siege with comparatively slight loss to the besiegers. Wellington knew, however, that he could not afford the time for a regular siege. Long before the approaches could have been made, and the breaches effected according to rule, the French marshals would have been up with overwhelming forces.
Beginning the investment on the 7th, Wellington determined that it must be taken at all costs in twenty-four days, the last day of the month being the very earliest date at which, according to his calculations, any considerable body of French could come up to its relief.
Ciudad lies on rising ground on the bank of the Agueda. The fortifications were fairly strong, and being protected by a very high glacis, it was difficult to effect a breach in them. The glacis is the smooth ground outside the ditch. In well-constructed works the walls of the fortification rise but very little above the ground beyond, from which they are separated by a broad and deep ditch. Thus the ground beyond the ditch, that is, the glacis, covers the walls from the shot of a besieger, and renders it extremely difficult to reach them. In the case of Ciudad, however, there were outside the place two elevated plateaux, called the great and small Teson: Guns placed on these could look down upon Ciudad, and could therefore easily breach the walls. These, then, were the spots from which Wellington determined to make the attack. The French, however, were aware of the importance of the position, and had erected on the higher Teson an inclosed and palisadoed redoubt, mounting two guns and a howitzer. A great difficulty attending the operation was that there were neither fuel nor shelter to be obtained on the right bank of the river, and the weather set in very cold, with frost and snow, at the beginning of the siege. Hence the troops had to be encamped on the left bank, and each division, as its turn came, to occupy the trenches for twenty-four hours, took cooked provisions with it, and waded across the Agueda.
On the 8th, Pack's division of Portuguese and the light division waded the river three miles above the fortress, and, making a circuit took up a place near the great Teson. There they remained quiet all day. The French seeing that the place was not yet entirely invested paid but little heed to them. At nightfall, however, Colonel Colborne, with two companies from each of the regiments of the light division, attacked the redoubt of San Francisco with such a sudden rush that it was carried with the loss of only twenty-four men, the defenders, few and unprepared, being all taken prisoners. Scarcely, however, was the place captured than every gun of Ciudad which could be brought to bear upon it opened with fury. All night, under a hail of shot and shell, the troops labored steadily, and by daybreak the first parallel, that is to say, a trench protected by a bank of earth six hundred yards in length was sunk three feet deep. The next day the first division, relieved the light division.
Tom and Peter, now that the army was stationary, had an easier time of it, and obtained leave to cross the river to see the operations. The troops had again to wade through the bitter cold water, and at any other time would have grumbled rarely at the discomfort. When they really engage in the work of war, however, the British soldier cares for nothing, and holding up their rifles, pouches and haversacks, to keep dry, the men crossed the river laughing and joking. There was but little done all day, for the fire of the enemy was too fast and deadly for men to work under it in daylight. At night the Scudamores left their horses with those of the divisional officers, and accompanied the troops into the trenches, to learn the work which had there to be done. Directly it was dusk twelve hundred men fell to work to construct their batteries. The night was dark, and it was strange to the Scudamores to hear the thud of so many picks and shovels going, to hear now and then a low spoken order, but to see nothing save when the flash of the enemy's guns momentarily lit up the scene. Every half minute or so the shot, shell, and grape came tearing through the air, followed occasionally by a low cry or a deep moan. Exciting as it was for a time, the boys having no duty, found it difficult long to keep awake, and presently dozed off--at first to wake with a start whenever a shell fell close, but presently to sleep soundly until dawn. By that time the batteries, eighteen feet thick, were completed.
On the 10th the fourth division, and on the 11th the third, carried on the works, but were nightly disturbed, not only by the heavy fire from the bastions, but from some guns which the French had mounted on the convent of San Francisco in the suburb on the left. Little was effected in the next two days, for the frost hardened the ground and impeded the work. On the night of the 13th the Santa Cruz convent was carried and the trenches pushed forward, and on the next afternoon the breaching batteries opened fire with twenty-five guns upon the points of the wall at which it had been determined to make the breaches, while two cannons kept down the fire of the French guns at the convent of San Francisco. The French replied with more than fifty pieces, and all night the tremendous fire was kept up on both sides without intermission. Just at daybreak the sound of musketry mingled with the roar of cannon, as the 40th Regiment attacked and carried the convent of San Francisco. Through the 16th, 17th, and 18th the artillery duel continued, some times one side, sometimes the other obtaining the advantage; but during each night the trenches of the besiegers were pushed forward, and each day saw the breaches in the ramparts grow larger and larger. On the 19th the breaches were reported as practicable--that is, that it would be possible for men to scramble up the fallen rubbish to the top, and orders were therefore given for the assault for that night.
The attack was to be made at four points simultaneously; the 5th, 94th, and 77th were to attack from the convent of Santa Cruz, to make for the ditch, enter it, and work their way along to the great breach; Mackinnon's brigade of the third division was to attack the great breach from the front; the light division posted behind the convent of San Francisco were to attack from the left, and make their way to the small breach; while a false attack, to be converted into a real one if the resistance was slight, was to be made by Pack's Portuguese at the St. Jago gate at the opposite side of the town. As night fell the troops moved into their position, and Lord Wellington went to the convent of San Francisco, from whose roof he could survey the operations. The Scudamores, with the rest of the staff, took up their places behind him. Suddenly there was a shout on the far right, followed by a sound of confused cheering and firing, while flashes of flame leapt out along the walls, and the guns of the place opened fire with a crash. Now the 5th, 94th, and 77th rushed with great swiftness along the ditch, when, at the foot of the great breach, they were met by the third division. Together they poured up the breach, and the roar of musketry was tremendous. Once at the top of the breach, however, they made no progress. From a trench which had been cut beyond it, a ring of fire broke out, while muskets flashed from every window in the houses near. It was evident that some serious obstacle had been encountered, and that the main attack was arrested.
"This is terrible," Peter said, as almost breathless they watched the storm of fire on and around the breach. "This is a thousand times worse than a battle. It is awful to think how the shot must be telling on that dense mass. Can nothing be done?"
"Hurrah! There go the light division at the small breach," Tom exclaimed, as the French fire broke out along the ramparts in that quarter. A violent cheer came up even above the din from the great breach, but no answering fire lights the scene, for Major Napier, who commanded, had forbidden his men to load, telling them to trust entirely to the bayonet. There was no delay here; the firing of the French ceased almost immediately, as with a fierce rush the men of the light division bounded up the ruins and won the top of the breach. For a moment or two there was a pause, for the French opened so fierce a fire from either side, that the troops wavered. The officers sprang to the front, the soldiers followed with the bayonet, and the French, unable to stand the fierce onslaught, broke and fled into the town. Then the men of the light division, rushing along the walls, took the French who were defending the great breach in rear, and as these gave way, the attacking party swept across the obstacles which, had hitherto kept them, and the town was won. Pack's Portuguese had effected an entrance at the St. Jago gate, which they found almost deserted, for the garrison was weak, and every available man had been taken for the defence of the breaches.
Thus was Ciudad Rodrigo taken after twelve days' siege, with a loss of twelve hundred men and ninety officers, of which six hundred and fifty men and sixty officers fell in that short, bloody fight at the breaches. Among the killed was General Craufurd, who had commanded at the fight on the Coa.
Upon entering the town three days afterwards, at the termination of the disgraceful scene of riot and pillage with which the British soldier, there as at other places, tarnished the laurels won by his bravery in battle, the boys went to the scene of the struggle, and then understood the cause of the delay upon the part of the stormers. From the top of the breach there was a perpendicular fall of sixteen feet, and the bottom of this was planted with sharp spikes, and strewn with the fragments of shells which the French had rolled down into it. Had it not been for the light division coming up, and taking the defenders--who occupied the loopholed and fortified houses which commanded this breach--in rear, the attack here could never have succeeded.
The next few days were employed in repairing the breaches, and putting the place again in a state of defence, as it was probable that Marmont might come up and besiege it. The French marshal, however, when hurrying to the relief of the town, heard the news of its fall, and as the weather was very bad for campaigning, and provisions short, he fall back again to his winter quarters, believing that Wellington would, content with his success, make no fresh movement until the spring. The English general, however, was far too able a strategist not to profit by the supineness of his adversary, and, immediately Ciudad Rodrigo was taken, he began to make preparations for the siege of Badajos, a far stronger fortress than Ciudad, and defended by strong detached forts. Three days after the fall of Rodrigo General Hill came up with his division; to this the Norfolk Rangers now belonged, and the Scudamores had therefore the delight of meeting all their old friends again. They saw but little of them, however, for they were constantly on the road to Lisbon with despatches, every branch of the service being now strained to get the battering-train destined for the attack on Badajos to the front, while orders were sent to Silviera, Trant, Wilson, Lecca, and the other partisan leaders, to hold all the fords and defiles along the frontier, so as to prevent the French from making a counter-invasion of Portugal.
On the 11th of March the army arrived at Elvas, and on the 15th a pontoon bridge was thrown across the Guadiana. The following day the British troops crossed the river, and invested Badajos, with fifteen thousand men, while Hill and Graham, with thirty thousand more moved forward, so as to act as a covering army, in case the French should advance to raise the siege. Badajos was defended by five thousand men, under General Phillipson, a most able and energetic commander, who had in every way strengthened the defences, and put them in a position to offer an obstinate resistance.
Before attacking the fortress it was necessary to capture one of the outlying forts, and that known as the Picurina was selected, because the bastion of the Trinidad, which lay behind it, was the weakest portion of the fortress. The trenches were commenced against this on the night of the 17th, and, although the French made some vigorous sorties, the works progressed so rapidly that all was ready for an assault on the forts on the 25th, a delay of two days having been occasioned by the French taking guns across the river, which swept the trenches, and rendered work impossible, until a division was sent round to drive in the French guns and invest the fortress on that side. The Picurina was strong, and desperately defended, but it was captured after a furious assault, which lasted one hour, and cost nineteen officers and three hundred men. It was not, however, until next evening that the fort could be occupied, for the guns of the town poured such a hail of shot and shell into it, that a permanent footing could not be obtained in it. Gradually, day by day, the trenches were driven nearer to the doomed city, and the cannon of the batteries worked day and night to establish a breach. Soult was known to be approaching, but he wanted to gather up all his available forces, as he believed the town capable of holding out for another month, at least. Still he was approaching, and, although the three breaches were scarcely yet practicable, and the fire of the town by no means overpowered, Wellington determined upon an instant assault, and on the night of the 6th of April the troops prepared for what turned out to be the most terrible and bloody assault in the annals of the British army. There were no less than six columns of attack, comprising in all eighteen thousand men. Picton, on the right with the third division was to cross the Rivillas and storm the castle. Wilson, with the troops in the trenches, was to attack San Roque. In the center the fourth and light division, under Colville and Barnard, were to assault the breaches; and on the left Leith, with the fifth division, was to make a false attack upon the fort of Pardaleras, and a real attack upon the bastion of San Vincente by the river side. Across the river the Portugese division, under Power, was to attack the works at the head of the bridge. The night was dark and clouded, and all was as still as death outside the town, when a lighted carcass, that is a large iron canister filled with tar and combustibles, fell close to the third division, and, exposing their ranks, forced them to commence the attack before the hour appointed. Crossing the Rivillas by a narrow bridge, under a tremendous fire, the third division assaulted the castle, and, although their scaling-ladders were over and over again hurled down, the stormers at last obtained a footing, and the rest of the troops poured in and the castle was won. A similar and more rapid success attended the assault on San Roque, which was attacked so suddenly and violently, that it was taken with scarce any resistance. In the mean time the assaults upon the breaches had commenced, and it is best to give the account of this terrible scene in the words of its eloquent and graphic historian, as the picture is one of the most vivid that was ever drawn.
"All this time the tumult at the breaches was such as if the very earth had been rent asunder, and its central fires bursting upwards uncontrolled. The two divisions had reached the glacis just as the firing at the castle commenced, and the flash of a single musket, discharged from the covered-way as a signal, showed them that the French were ready; yet no stir was heard and darkness covered the breaches. Some hay-packs were thrown, some ladders placed, and the forlorn hopes and storming parties of the light division, five hundred in all, descended into the ditch without opposition; but then a bright flame shooting upwards displayed all the terrors of the scene. The ramparts, crowded with dark figures and glittering arms were on one side, on the other the red columns of the British, deep and broad, were coming on like streams of burning lava. It was the touch of the magician's wand, for a crash of thunder followed, and with incredible violence the storming parties were dashed to pieces by the explosion of hundreds of shells and powder-barrels. For an instant the light division stood on the brink of the ditch, amazed at the terrific sight; but then, with a shout that matched even the sound of the explosion, the men flew down the ladders, or, disdaining their aid, leaped, reckless of the depth, into the gulf below--and at the same moment, amidst a blaze of musketry that dazzled the eyes, the fourth division came running in, and descended with a like fury. There were only five ladders for the two columns, which were close together; and a deep cut, made in the bottom of the ditch as far as the counter-guard of the Trinidad, was filled with water from the inundation. Into that watery snare the head of the fourth division fell, and it is said above a hundred of the fusiliers, the men of Albuera, were there smothered. Those who followed checked not, but, as if such a disaster had been expected, turned to the left, and thus came upon the face of the unfinished ravelin, which, being rough and broken, was mistaken for the breach, and instantly covered with men; yet a wide and deep chasm was still between them and the ramparts, from whence came a deadly fire, wasting their ranks. Thus baffled, they also commenced a rapid discharge of musketry and disorder ensued; for the men of the light division, whose conducting engineer had been disabled early and whose flank was confined by an unfinished ditch intended to cut off the bastion of Santa Maria, rushed towards the breaches of the curtain and the Trinidad, which were, indeed, before them, but which the fourth division had been destined to storm. Great was the confusion, for the ravelin was quite crowded with men of both divisions; and while some continued to fire, others jumped down and ran towards the breach; many also passed between the ravelin and the counterguard of the Trinidad, the two divisions got mixed, the reserves, which should have remained at the quarries, also came pouring in, until the ditch was quite filled, the rear still crowding forward, and all cheering vehemently. The enemy's shouts also were loud and terrible, and the bursting of shells, and of grenades, and the roaring of guns from the flanks, answered by the iron howitzers from the battery of the parallel, the heavy roll, and horrid explosion of the powder-barrels, the whizzing flight of the blazing splinters, the loud exhortations of the officers, and the continual clatter of the muskets, made a maddening din. Now a multitude bounded up the great breach, as if driven by a whirlwind, but across the top glittered a range of sword-blades, sharp-pointed, keen-edged on both sides, and firmly fixed in ponderous beams chained together, and set deep in the ruins; and for ten feet in front the ascent was covered with loose planks, studded with sharp iron points, on which, feet being set, the planks moved, and the unhappy soldiers, falling forward on the spikes, rolled down upon the ranks behind. Then the Frenchmen, shouting at the success of their stratagem, and, leaping forward, plied their shot with terrible rapidity, for every man had several muskets, and each musket, in addition to its ordinary charge, contained a small cylinder of wood, stuck full of wooden slugs, which scattered like hail when they were discharged. Once and again the assailants rushed up the breaches, but always the sword-blades, immovable and impassable, stopped their charge, and the hissing shells and thundering powder-barrels exploded unceasingly. Hundreds of men had fallen, hundreds more were dropping, still, the heroic officers called aloud for new trials, and sometimes followed by many, sometimes by a few, ascended the ruins; and so furious were the men themselves, that, in one of these charges, the rear strove to push the foremost on to the sword-blades, willing even to make a bridge of their writhing bodies, but the others frustrated the attempt by dropping down; and men fell so fast from the shot, it was hard to know who went down voluntarily, who were stricken and many stooped unhurt that never rose again. Vain also would it have been to break through the sword-blades, for the trench and parapet behind the breach were finished, and the assailants, crowded into even a narrower space than the ditch was, would still have been separated from their enemies, and the slaughter would have continued. At the beginning of this dreadful conflict Andrew Barnard had, with prodigious efforts, separated his division from the other, and preserved some degree of military array; but now the tumult was such, no command would be heard distinctly except by those close at hand, and the mutilated carcasses heaped on each other, and the wounded struggling to avoid being trampled upon, broke the formations; order was impossible! Officers of all ranks, followed more or less numerously by the men, were seen to start out as if struck by sudden madness, and rash into the breach, which, yawning and glittering with steel, seemed like the mouth of a huge dragon belching forth smoke and flame. In one of these attempts, Colonel Macleod, of the 43rd, a young man whose feeble body would have been quite unfit for war if it had not been sustained by an unconquerable spirit, was killed; wherever his voice was heard his soldiers had gathered, and with such a strong resolution did he lead them up the fatal ruins that, when one behind him, in falling, plunged a bayonet into his back, he complained, not; but, continuing his course, was shot dead within a yard of the sword-blades. Yet there was no want of gallant leaders, or desperate followers, until two hours passed in these vain efforts had convinced the troops the breach of the Trinidad was impregnable; and, as the opening in the curtain, although less strong, was retired, and the approach to it impeded by deep holes and cuts made in the ditch, the soldiers did not much notice it after the partial failure of one attack which had been made early. Gathering in dark groups, and leaning on their muskets, they looked up with sullen desperation at the Trinidad, while the enemy, stepping out on the ramparts, and aiming their shots by the light of the fire-balls which they threw over, asked, as their victims fell, 'Why they did not come into Badajos?' In this dreadful situation, while the dead were lying in heaps, and others continually falling, the wounded crawling about to get some shelter from the merciless shower above, and withal a sickening stench from the burnt flesh of the slain, Captain Nicholas, of the engineers, was observed by Lieutenant Shaw, of the 43rd, making incredible efforts to force his way with a few men into the Santa Maria Bastion. Shaw immediately collected fifty soldiers, of all regiments, and joined him, and although there was a deep cut along the foot of that breach also, it was instantly passed, and these two young officers led their gallant band, with a rush, up the ruins; but when they had gained two-thirds of the ascent, a concentrated fire of musketry and grape dashed nearly the whole dead to the earth. Nicholas was mortally wounded, and the intrepid Shaw stood alone! With inexpressible coolness he looked at his watch, and saying it was too late to carry the reaches, rejoined the masses at the other attack. After this no further effort was made at any point, and the troops remained passive but unflinching beneath the enemy's shot, which streamed without intermission; for, of the riflemen on the glacis many leaped early into the ditch and joined in the assault, and the rest, raked by a cross-fire of grape from the distant bastions, baffled in their aim by the smoke and flames from the explosions, and too few in number, entirely failed to quell the French musketry. About midnight, when two thousand brave men had fallen, Wellington, who was on a height close to the quarries, ordered the remainder to retire and re-form for a second assault; he had heard the castle was taken, but thinking the enemy would still resist in the town, was resolved to assail the breaches again. This retreat from the ditch was not effected without further carnage and confusion. The French fire never slackened. A cry arose that the enemy was making a sally from the distant flanks, and there was a rush towards the ladders. Then the groans and lamentations of the wounded, who could not move and expected to be slain, increased, and many officers who had not heard of the order, endeavored to stop the soldiers from going back; some would even have removed the ladders but were unable to break the crowd."
While this terrible scene was passing, the victory had been decided elsewhere. The capture of the castle by Picton would, in itself, have caused the fall of the town upon the following day, but Leith, with the fifth division, after hard fighting, scaled the St. Vincente bastion, and came up through the town and took the defenders of the breaches in the rear. Then the French gave way, the British poured in, and the dreadful scenes which had marked the fall of Ciudad Rodrigo were repeated, and even surpassed. Up to the present day the name of an Englishman is coupled with a curse in the town of Badajos. At this siege, as at the last, the Scudamores acted the part of lookers on, and although they bitterly regretted it, it was well for them that it was so. The capture of Badajos cost the allied army five thousand men, of whom three thousand five hundred fell on the night of the assault. Each of the divisions which attacked the breaches lost over twelve hundred men, and the 52nd Regiment, who formed part of the light division, lost their full share. Among the ranks of the officers the slaughter was particularly great, and scarce one escaped without a wound. The Scudamores would fain have volunteered to join their regiment in the assault, but it was well known that Lord Wellington would not allow staff officers to go outside their own work. Therefore they had looked on with beating hearts and pale faces, and with tears in their eyes, at that terrible fight at the Triudad, and had determined that when morning came they would resign their staff appointments and ask leave to join their regiment. But when morning came, and the list of the killed and wounded was sent in, and they went down with a party to the breach to collect the wounded, they could not but feel that they had in all probability escaped death, or what a soldier fears more, mutilation. "After all, Tom," Peter said, "we have done some active service, and our promotion shows that we are not cowards; there can be no reason why we should not do our duty as the chief has marked it out for us, especially when it is quite as likely to lead to rapid promotion as is such a murderous business as this." After this no more was said about resigning the staff appointment, which gave them plenty of hard work, and constant change of scene, whereas had they remained with the regiment they would often have been stationed for months in one place without a move.
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