Battle of Salamanca



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    Edward Costello on the night before Salamanca:

      The night previous to the morn that ushered in the day of battle, viz. the 22nd of July 1812, was the most stormy, I think, I ever witnessed. The thunder, lightning, and rain seemed striving which should excel, while their united effect was terrible. We lay, without covering, in an open field close to the River Tormes. It is needless to say, not a man that night had on a dry shred. It has, I believe, been previously remarked, by military and other writers, that rain has been the forerunner of almost all our general battles. From my own recollection, the truth of this assertion is singularly supported by facts.

    From Adventures in the Rifle Brigade by Captain Sir John Kincaid:

      A sharp fire of musketry commenced at daylight in the morning, but, as it did not immediately concern us, and was nothing unusual, we took no notice of it; but busied ourselves getting our arms and our bodies disengaged from the rust and wet , engendered by the storm of the past night.
      About ten O'clock our division was ordered to stand to their arms, and moved into position with our left resting on the tormes, and our right extending along a ridge of rising ground, thinly interspersed with trees.
    Kincaid's narrative continues:
      We were kept the whole of the forenoon in the most torturing state of suspense through contradictory reports. One passing officer telling us that he had just heard the order given to attack, and the next asserting, with equal confidence, that he had just heard the order to retreat; and it was not until about two o'clock in the afternoon , that affairs began to wear a more decided aspect.

    Letter from Lieut.Colonel Frederick Ponsonby to his mother, Lady Bessborough. It describes the days leading up to the Battle of Salamanca and the following days. Ponsonby was Colonel and commanded Major-General Le Marchant's brigade after of that officer in the battle of Salamanca, the 12th Light Dragoons:

      Dearest M - we have had so much to do for the last end days that I scarcely know when I wrote last, but I shall begin from the 16th, when the enemy made a demonstration upon Toro, and Lord Wellington retreated. On the 18th the enemy crossed the Bridge of Tordesillas (Over the Douro River) in force, and drove in our pickets near La Nava which they occupied; on the morning of the 19th they advanced a strong body of Cavalry and Artillery on Castrejon, where we had two hours sharp canonading and skirmishing. I lost 16 men and 17 horses. About nine they moved some strong columns of infantry upon our left, and the two armies moved parallel to one another to the Height above Canizal, which the British occupied. A brigade of the enemy, having advanced too far on our left, was attacked and driven back with considerable loss.

      The whole of the 19th, and till 4 the next day, the two armies remaining close to each other but perfectly quiet. At 4 in the afternoon of the 20th the enemy made a movement to our right; two brigades of Cavalry, and two of infantry made a corresponding movement, and we had a short cannonade, but did not suffer. On the morning of the 21st the whole of their Army was moving rapidly to our right, and we moved parallel to them all the way to Pitiagno. I had the rear guard, and very warm work for 15 hours. We lost a few men and horses by a cannonade, and skirmish, but we made a charge upon their tirailleurs, and knocked most of them over. On the 21st the enemy was seen to position over Huerta, and we retired to near Salamanca; in the evening we crossed the Tormes, in consequence of the enemy having made a movement to our right flank.

      On the morning of the 22nd the enemy shewed a considerable force on our side of the river; a good deal of skirmishing and cannonading took place in which we did not suffer. Our baggage was ordered a good way to the rear, and preparations were making for our retreat, when Marmont, forgetting his former prudence and presuming upon the idea that Lord W. would not fight, made a movement to turn our right, and extended his left so much that an order was immediately given for attack. The lines were formed and moved on, and in spite of tremendous fire and other difficulties, they carried all before them. The heavy Drag's made a very successful charge, and the enemy's left was completely beat; it was getting very dark when Lord W. advanced the light divisions and first against their Right. I covered them with a squadron of the 12th and one of the 5th; we charged twice and in last went thro. two battalions of infantry. I was unfortunate enough to lose Dickens in this charge; he was leading a Sqaudron, and received a ball in his left breast. Just as we came up to the enemy's columns the officer who commanded the other squadron was also shot in the breast but not killed. Lord Wellington pushed on to Huerta the same night with two divisions and my detachments of cavalry.

      On the morning of the 23rd we ascertained the direction of the flight of the enmy and pushed on them. The heavy German Brigade (KGL) and the rest of General Anson's coming up, Lord W. directed a Charge against the tail of the enemy's column which completely succeeded. The German's did wonders and an immense number of prisoners were taken. The same day we pursued them very close and attempted a charge upon their cavalry, but they were too strong for us. We did not however lose a man in the attempt. They have now got out of reach for the present but when the army is a little recovered from the fatigue, we shall push a little further.

      I have knocked up all my horses; I lamed two on the day of the battle, broke my sword and lost my pistol. The weather has been uncommonly hot; we are always bivouacked; the fatigue, you may guess, has been great, provision not plenty and I never was better in my life.

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