Chapter 195861456

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Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article195861456
Full Date1842-01-05
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count1473
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Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Chronicle and South Australian Literary Record (SA : 1840 - 1842)
Trove TitleA Chapter from Charles O'Malley the Irish Dragoon
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Wbt Uitttatv l&ecor&.

A CHAPTER FROM CHARLES O'MALLEY, THE IRISH DRAGOON. NIGHT AFTER TALAVKBA-

The night which followed the battle was a sad one. Through the darkness, and under a fast-falling rain, the hours were spent in searching for our wounded comrades amid the heap of slain upon the field: and the glimmering of the lanterns, as they flickered far atid near across the wide plain, bespoke the track of the fatigue parties in their mournful round; while ,tbe groans of the.wounded rose amid the silence with an accent of heartrending anguish : so true was it, as our great commander said, " there is nothing more sad than a victory, except a defeat," Around our bivouac-fires, the feeling of sorrowful depression was also evident. We had gained a great victory, it was true; we bad beaten the f8r-fiimed legions of France upon a ground of their own choosing, led by the most celebrated of their marshal*, and under the eyes of the Emperor's own brother; but still we felt all thehaeardous daring of our position, and had no confidence whatever in the courage «r discipline of our allies;' and we saw that in the very melee of the battle the efforts of the «nemy were directed almost exclusively against otir line, so confidently did they undervalue tbe efforts of the Spanish troops. Morning broke at length, and scarcely was the heavy njut clearing before the red sunlight, when tlje sounds the fife and drum were heard from a distant part of the field. The notes swelled or sunk as the b|eftze rose or fell, and many a conjecture was'hazarded as to their meaning, for no object was well visible for «no*e than a few hundred yards off: gradually, however, they grew nearer aid nearer, and at

length, as the air cleared, and the hazy vapour evaporated, the bright scarlet uniform of a British regiment was seen advancing at a quick step. As they came nearer, the well known march of. the. gallant forty-third was recognised by some of our people, and immediately the rumour fled like lightning—it "is Crawford's brigade/' and so it was: the nobie fellow had marched bis division the unparalelled distance of sixty. English miles in twenty-seven hours. Over a burning sandy soil, exposed to a raging sun, without rationB, almost without water, these gallant troops pressed on in the unwearied hope of sharing the glory of the battlefield. One tremendous cheer welcomed the head of the column as it{marched past, and continued till the last file deployed before us: As these splendid regiments moved by, we could not help feeling what sigual service they might have rendered us but a few hour before;. their soldier-like bearing, their high and effective state of discipline, their well-known, reputation, were in every mouth; and I scarcely think that any corps who stood the brunt of : the mighty battle were the subject of more epcomium than the brave fellows who had'just joined us. The mournful duties of the night were soon forgotten in the gey and buoyant sounds on every side. Congratulations, shaking of hands,; kind inquiries went round ; and, as we looked to the hilly ground where so lately were drawn up in battle array the dark columns of our enemy, and where not one sentinel, now remained, the proud feeling of our victory came home to our hearts with the ever thrilling thought " What- will they say at home ?" I was standing amid a group of my brother officers, when I received an order from the colonel to ride down to Talavera for the return of our wounded, as the arrival of the Com - mander-in-Chief was momentarily looked for. t threw myself upon my horse, and setting oot at a brisk pace, soon reached tbe gates.

On entering tbe ; town, I was obliged to , dismount and proceed' on foot. The streets i were completely filled with "people, treading their way among waggons, forage, and sicklitters; here was a booth'filled with all imaginable wares for sale ; there, a temporary ginshop established beneath a broken baggage waggon'; here might be seen a merry party throwing dice for a turkey or a kid—there, a wounded man, with bloodless cheek and tottering step,inquiring the road to the hospital; the accents of agony mingled with the drunken chorus, and tbe sharp crack of the provostmarshal's whip was heard abave the boisterous revelling of the debauchee. All was confusion, bustle, and excitement. Thes aff-officer, with his flowing plume and glittering epualettev wended his way on foot ati.id the din and hustle unnoticed and uncared for; while the little drummer aroused an admiring audience of simple country folk by some wondrous tale of the great victory. . My passage through this dense mass was necessarily a slow one. No one made way for another : discipline for, the time was at an end, &nd with it all respect for rank or position. It was what nofhing of mere vicissitude in the fortune of war can equal—the wild orgies of an army the day after a battle. On turning the corner of a narrow street, my attention was attracted by a crowd which gathered round a small fountain, which seemed, as well as I could perceive, to witness some porceeding with a more than ordinary interest, Exclamations in Portuguese expressive of surprise and admiration, were mingled with English oaths and Irish ejaculations, while high above all rose other sounds—the cries of some one in pain and suffering; forcing my way through the dense grroup, I at length reached the interior of the crowd, when, to my astonishment, I perceived a short, fat, punchy looking man, stripped of his coat and waistcoat, and with his short sleevfes rolled up to his shoulders, busily employed in operating upon a wounded soldier. Amputation knives, tourniquets, bandages, and all other imaginable instruments fur giving and alleviating torture, were strewed about him, and, from the arrangement and preparation, it was cWr tha* he had pitched upon this spot as an hospital tor his patients. While he continued to per f >rm his functions with a singular speed and dexterity, he never for a moment ceased a run ning fire of small talk, now addressed to the patient In particular, now to the crowd at large —sometimes a soliloquy to himself, and not unfrequently abstractedly on things in general. These little specimens of oratory, delivered in such a place and in such a time, and not least of all, in the richest Cork accent, were sufficient to arrest my steps, and I stopped for some time too bserve him. The patient, who was a large powerfully built fellow, had, been wounded in both legs by the esplosion of a shell, but yet not so severely as to require amputation. " Does that plaze you, then?'* said the doctor, as heap plied some powerful caustic to a wounded vfessel, " there's no satisfying the like of you. Quite warm and comfortable ye'll be this morning after that I sa-w that same shell coming, and I called out to Maurice Blake, *by your leave, Maurice, let that fellow pass, he's in a hurry*; and, faitn, I said to myself, there's more where you came from; you're not in only child and I never liked the family—what &re ye grinning for, ye brown, thieves ?',—this was addressed to the Portuguese—" There, now, keep the limb quiet and easy. Upon mv conscience, if that shell fell into ould Londy Foot's shop this morning, there'd be plenty of sneezing in Sackvillestreet. Who's next ?" said he, looking round with an expression that seemed to threaten that if no wounded man was ready, that he was quite prepared to cat ve out a patient for himself." Not exactly relishing the invitation in the searching that accompanied it, I backed my way through the crowd, and continued my path towards the hospital Here the scene which: presented itself was shocking beyond belief—frightful and ghastly wounds from shells and cannon shot were seen on all sides; everjr imaginable species of suffering that man is capable of, was presented to view; while, amid the dead and dying, operations the most painful 'were proceeding with a haste aud bustle that plainly showed how many more waited their turn for similar offices. The stairs .were blocked up with fresh arrivals of wounded men. and^even upon the corridors and landing places, the sick' w,ere strewn on all sides. I burned to that part of the building where my own people were, and soon learned that our loss was confined to about fourteen wounded ; five of them were officers, bat fortunately we l«-.st not a man of our gallant fellows, and Talavera brought us no mourning of a comrade to damp the exultation we felt in our victory.