Opinion of the French



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    The English respected their French enemy and, apart from some early problems, were generally very co-operative at picquets (outposts) including instances were the two enemy picquets would take turns at guarding to give their counterpart time to rest or eat. There was also much exchange and trade of food and clothing between the two armies.

    Wellington tried to prevent too much fraternisation by order in 1813, but it continued despite this.

    From Edward Costello (November 1810 ) At the Lines of Torres Vedras:

      At this time, and for a great part of that in which we were quartered here, a very friendly intercourse was carried on between the French and ourselves. We frequently met them bathing in the Rio Mayor, and would as often have swimming and even jumping matches. In these games, however, we mostly beat them, but that was attributed, perhaps, to their half-starved. distressed condition. This our stolen intercourses soon made us more awake to, until at length, touched with pity, our men went so far as to share with them the ration biscuits, which we were occasionally supplied with from England, by our shipping; indeed we buried all national hostility in our anxiety to assist and relieve them. Tobacco was in great request; we used to carry some of ours to them, while they in return would bring us a little brandy. Their 'reveille' was our summons as well as theirs, and although our old Captain seldom troubled us to fall in at the 'reveille', it was not unusual to find the rear of our army under arms, and, perhaps, expecting an attack. But the Captain knew his customers, for though playful as lambs, we were watchful as leopards.

    From Costello, they had just entered France in 1814 and were pushing towards Toulouse:

      After this we had a succession of fights or skirmishes with the enemy for the five or six days following, which is called the battle of Bayonne, but without eliciting any particular result. We still kept up an excellent private feeling on both sides at the outposts. As an an instance, although I must remark a general order had been promulgated prohibiting all intercourse with the enemy on pain of death, our company was on picquet near a dwelling called Garrett's house, when we clubbed half a dollar each, and sent a man into the French picquet-house to purchase brandy. It was, I recollect, Christmas-night.
      Grindle, the name of the man who was our messenger, staying longer than was usual, we became alarmed, and imagining something must have happened to him, sent two other men in quest of him. These learnt from the nearest French sentry that Grindle was lying drunk in their picquet-house. Fearful that the circumstances should come to the knowledge of Lieutenant Gardiner, the officer of our picquet, they went and brought Grindle back with them quite drunk; but just as they were emerging from the French lines, who should ride down to the front post but Sir James Kempt, who commanded our division at that time. He instantly ordered Grindle to be confined; he was so fortunate as to escape, however, with only a slight punishment.

    This warm feeling for the French from the British was continued when peace was declared - this from Edward Costello:

      A few days after we had to execute our old manoeuvre of allowing the French no time to rest, as we were put in motion after them. On the second day, as we halted on the Paris road, our men reposing from the fatigue of the morning's march, we heard several loud huzzas in our front. This was followed by the appearence of a carriage and four horses, which contained a French officer, who we afterwards understood was Marshal Soult. The carriage was attended by a detachment of English and French cavalry; the shouting arose from the tidings that were joyfully repeated, that peace was proclaimed, and that Bonaparte had retired to Elba.
      We were immediately on this intelligence ordered to the right-about, and marched back to Toulouse. Before we had proceeded many miles we were overtaken on the road by great numbers of French soldiers who had been disbanded, or had disbanded themselves, and who now were about retunaing to their homes, tired enough, no doubt, like ourselves, of the war they had been engaged so long in carrying on. The good feeling testified by many of these really fine-looking fellows to us was general, the Frenchmen in many instances sharing the fatigue in carrying our men's knapsacks, &C