Rough Living



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    Sir John Kincaid talks about his early days in the army:

      The difficulties we encountered were nothing out of the usual course of old campaigners.....I still looked back upon the twelve or fourteen days following the battle of Busaco as the most trying I have ever experienced, for we were on our legs from daylight until dark in daily conatct with the enemy; and , to satisfy the stomach of an ostrich, I had, as already dated, only a pound of beef, a pound of biscuit, and one glass of rum.A brother officer was kind enough to strap my boat cloak and portmanteau on the mule carrying his heavy baggage, which, on account of the proximity of the foe, was never permitted to be within a day's march of us, so that, in addtion to my simple uniform, my only covering every night was the canopy of heavan, from whence the dews descended so refreshingly , then I generally awoke, at the end of an hour, chilled, and wet to the skin.

    Kincaid also comments that there is rarely cover, and they are usually in an open and recently tilled field:

      "When a regiment arrives at its ground for the night it is formed in columns of companies , at full, half or quarter distance, according to the space which circumstances will permit it to occupy. After the officer commanding each company then receives his orders, and after communicating whatever may be necessary to the men, he desires them to 'pile arms, and make themselves comfortable for the night.' The soldiers of each company have a hereditary claim to the ground next to their arms, as have their officers to a wider range on the same line, limited to the end of a bugle sound, if not by a neighbouring corps, or one that is not neighbourly for the nearer a man is to his enemy, the nearer he likes to be to his friends." Sir John Kincaid pg 22 - Adventures in the Rifle Brigade.

    The first time tents were used by the army in general on the peninsula was at the seige of Badajoz to rest of the time the men for the most part wrapped themselves in a blanket.

    From Edward Costello:

      From Toulouse we marched, in a few days. to Castle Sarazin, situated on the right bank of the Garonne, between the previously mentioned town and Bordeaux. Here we came in for most delightful quarters, being billeted in the houses, where we all had excellent beds. But it was highly amusing to see our rough, hardy fellows spurn this latter luxury - which one would have thought would have been most welcome with contempt. From having atmost constantly been exposed for the previous five or six years to have 'the earth their rude bed, their canopy the sky', with generally a stone for a pillow, our men could obtain no sleep on beds of down; and it was actually a fact that they preferred wrapping a blanket round them, and the hard floor as a place of rest: so much for custom.

    From George Simmons, "A British Rifleman" in a letter to his parents 28 February 1810;

      The only thing I want at present is a supply of clothes. The lying out at night in the fields for months together soon puts your raiment in disorder, I am nearly in rags.
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