They were now deserted by the gunners and had sunk deep in the mud.
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We had fallen upon a second column; they were also Fusiliers. Trumpeter Reeves of our troop, who rode by my side, sounded a 'Rally,' and our men came swarming up from all sides, some Enniskillens and Royals being amongst the number. We at once began a furious onslaught on this obstacle, and soon made an impression; the battalions seemed to open out for us to pass through, and so it happened that in five minutes we had cut our way through as many thousands of Frenchmen. There the ground was slippery with deep mud. Urging each other on, we dashed towards the batteries on the ridge above, which had worked such havoc on our ranks.
The ground was very difficult, and especially where we crossed the edge of a ploughed field, so that our horses sank to the knees as we struggled on. My brave Rattler was becoming quite exhausted, but we dashed ever onwards. It was the last we saw of our colonel, poor fellow!
His body was found with both arms cut off. His pockets had been rifled. I once heard Major Clarke tell how he saw him wounded among the guns of the great battery, going at full speed, and with the bridle-reins between his teeth, after he had lost his hands. Such slaughtering! We sabred the gunners, lamed the horses, and cut their traces and harness.
I can hear the Frenchmen yet crying 'Diable! Fifteen of their guns could not be fired again that day. The artillery drivers sat on their horses weeping aloud as we went among them; they were mere boys, we thought.
She seemed to have got new strength. I had lost the plume of my bearskin just as we went through the second infantry column; a shot had carried it away. The French infantry were rushing past us in disorder on their way to the rear, Armour shouted to me to dismount, for old Rattler was badly wounded.
I did so just in time, for she fell heavily the next second. I caught hold of a French officer's horse and sprang on her back and rode on.
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There was 'the Little Corporal' himself, as his veterans called Bonaparte. It was not till next night, when our men had captured his guide, the Belgian La Coste, that we learned what the Emperor thought of us. On seeing us clear the second column and commence to attack his eighty guns on the center, he cried out, 'These terrible Greys, how they fight! I never saw horses become so ferocious, and woe betide the blue coats that came in their way!
But the noble beasts were now exhausted and quite blown, so that I began to think it was time to get clear away to our own lines again. I shall never forget the sight. The Cuirassiers, in their sparkling steel breastplates and helmets, mounted on strong black horses, with great blue rugs across the croups, were galloping towards me, tearing up the earth as they went, the trumpets blowing wild notes in the midst of the discharges of grape and canister shot from the heights.
Around me there was one continuous noise of clashing arms, shouting of men, neighing and moaning of horses. What were we to do? Behind us we saw masses of French infantry with tall fur hats coming up at the double, and between us and our lines these cavalry. There being no officers about, we saw nothing for it but to go straight at them and trust to Providence to get through. There were half-a-dozen of us Greys and about a dozen of the Royals and Enniskillens on the ridge. We all shouted, 'Come on, lads; that's the road home!
But we had no chance. I saw the lances rise and fall for a moment, and Sam Tar, the leading man of ours, go down amid the flash of steel. I felt a sudden rage at this, for I knew the poor fellow well; he was a corporal in our troop. The crash as we met was terrible; the horses began to rear and bite and neigh loudly, and then some of our men got down among their feet, and I saw them trying to ward off the lances with their hands. Cornet Sturges of the Royals—he joined our regiment as lieutenant a few weeks after the battle—came up and was next to me on the left, and Armor on the right.
The ground around us was very soft, and our horses could hardly drag their feet out of the clay. Here again I came to the ground, for a Lancer finished my new mount, and I thought I was done for.
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We were returning past the edge of the ploughed field, and then I saw a spectacle I shall never forget. There lay brave old Ponsonby, the General of our Union Brigade, beside his little bay, both dead. His long, fur-lined coat had blown aside, and at his hand I noticed a miniature of a lady and his watch; beyond him, our Brigade-Major, Reignolds of the Greys. They had both been pierced by the lancers a few moments before we came up.
Near them was lying a lieutenant of ours, Carruthers of Annandale. My heart was filled with sorrow at this, but I dared not remain for a moment. It was just then I caught sight of a squadron of British Dragoons making straight for us. The Frenchmen at that instant seemed to give way, and in a minute more we were safe! The Dragoons gave us a cheer and rode on after the Lancers. They were the men of our 16th Light Dragoons, of Vandeleur's Brigade, who not only saved us but threw back the Lancers into the hollow.
I was told that a third horse that I caught was so wounded that she fell dead as I was mounting her. You can imagine my joy at seeing her as she nervously rubbed shoulders with her neighbors. II Title page, No.
Library catalogue record. To find similar items, select the checkboxes next to the characteristics you are interested in, then select the 'Find similar' button. Containing The flute player's pocket companion The physical item used to create this digital version is out of copyright. Sutherland, John, active [Publisher]. Replicating those held on the front line during World War I, when drums piled high and draped with colours were used in place of an altar, the ceremony was the first to be staged in Hawick since and the only one planned in the Borders this year.
Veterans and representatives from legions across the Borders gathered alongside standard bearers and a massed pipe and drums display for the hour-long open-air ceremony. In some ways silence is more eloquent. Silence is a respectful tribute to what we are remembering today. It was as calamitous as anything they could imagine.