25th July 1812
2nd Battalion, Nave de Avila
The Salamanca forts finally surrendered on the 25th June, whereupon the Army of Portugal, which Marmont was bringing to their relief, retreated northwards towards the Duero. Wellington brought his army in pursuit and the 5th division eventually found itself posted opposite the French with only a stream in between. During this period there was some fraternizing as the men of both armies bathed together. Inevitably, each side threatened the other with a comprehensive defeat in the near future.
A contemporary view of Salamanca
When the French began to manoeuvre, in expectation of reinforcements from the Army of the North, the fifth division were brought back to Nave del Rey. Here they experienced the full heat of summer on the central Spanish plain. As a result, the men tended to sleep during the day and take their exercise at night.
With the arrival of the expected reinforcements, Marmont made another advance on Salamanca, and the allies were now the pursued. The 5th division were nearly taken by surprise while filling their water bottles in a stream, but General Leith steadied them and they were able to effect a retreat to the safety of higher ground. There then followed the strange spectacle of a parallel march as both armies raced for Salamanca. Marmont was closer to the Tormes and was able to cross it while the allies took up position on the higher ground.
On the 22nd July the 5th division lay to the right of the lesser Arapil (the greater being in French possession). There had been a violent storm during the night, but the day was hot. Time dragged, however. Everyone was ready for a battle, but Wellington was waiting for Marmont to make a mistake. This came when Marmont allowed his divisions to become separated as they marched before the allied positions.
The battlefield; a view from the greater arapil to the lesser.
This was Wellington’s opportunity. He rode to the 3rd division, on the far right of the allied position at Aldea Tejada, and gave the order for an attack on the leading French division. He then rode back to give orders to General Leith.
The 5th division had been under artillery fire for some time, although this had ceased when the division’s light companies had successfully skirmished against the enemy tirailleurs. Wellington now ordered Leith to take the division forward against the second French division.
Leith ordered the division forward, Greville’s brigade leading in line, followed by Pringle’s brigade (4th, 30th and 44th) a hundred yards back, and Spry’s Portuguese a further hundred yards behind. Bradford’s Portuguese from the 4th Division marched in support. The whole division advanced in perfect order.
The French, on the crest of the hill, had formed square. As soon as the first line closed on them Leith gave the order to fire and charge. For a moment everything was lost in smoke and confusion. The 3rd division were driving in Thomière’s division, and the fugitives from this attack brought panic and disorder to Maucune’s defence against the attack of the 5th division. Then Le Marchant’s heavy cavalry arrived to deliver the coup de grace. The survivors of the two French divisions fell back on Brennier’s division, spread the chaos further.
Only Sarrut’s division at this stage of the action was able to make a stand, but this enabled the French to regain some kind of order as the remaining three French divisions came up. They also achieved some momentary success when Pack’s Portuguese failed to take the greater Arapil, followed by a counter-attack which left the 4th division in disorder and put Greville’s brigade under pressure. Pringle’s brigade in support was able to cover them, however, while order was restored. Matters were then settled by the timely advance of the 6th division, who attacked the newly arrived forces of Ferey’s division. The 5th division then changed position to deliver a telling flank attack.
Ferey was killed, but his division served manfully as a rear guard for the retreating French forces. Further cover was provided by Foy’s division, who had never got into the battle.
With the French streaming from the battlefield, the men of the 5th division collapsed from exhaustion, except for those who still had the energy to raid the knapsacks of the French dead for provisions (the French being well supplied in this respect).
By four in the morning, however, the division was on the march in pursuit of the French, a pursuit which is still continuing.
Casualties taken by the 30th were surprisingly light, two men killed and Lieutenant Garvey, a serjeant and 22 men wounded. Two men were also posted missing on the 19th and 21st. It assumed they have been taken by the French.
The battalion is rejoicing in the success of Lieutenant Pratt, who came into possession of an eagle during the battle.
The eagle taken by Lieutenant Pratt of the 30th Regiment, courtesy of the Queen’s Lancashire Regimental Museum, Preston
There have been six natural deaths during the past month. Three corporals have been reduced, although Corporal James Gearon was then appointed to his previous rank of drummer. Two corporals joined from England at the beginning of the month in a detachment of nineteen men, and a further five men have just joined under the command of Lieutenant Henry Beere. Lieutenant Beere arrived yesterday to learn that his brother had been killed during the battle.
Francis Tincombe, who has been serving as a volunteer, has been commissioned into the regiment. Ensign Freear has joined from command, and Captains Hitchen and Chambers, both seriously wounded at Badajoz, are on their way to join. Lieutenant Eagar has been sent, sick, to the rear.
1st Battalion, Cannanore
The battalion has been strengthened by the arrival of five officers (Captain Fox, Lieutenant Ross and Ensigns Parry, Wedge and Atkinson), two serjeants and 65 men from Europe.
San Angelo Fort, Cannanore
There have been seven natural deaths this month, including John Burns, who drowned. Daniel Hogan fatally shot himself, to the concern of the whole battalion. There is no doubt that life in India can have a detrimental effect on a man. A further example is Richard Hills, who is in the lunatic asylum in Madras.
Lieutenant Nicholson, who has suffered physically from the Indian climate, has been sent to the presidency for recovery of health.
Five men have been promoted to corporal, and two men to serjeant. One of the latter, Corporal John Swales, replaced the demoted Serjeant Ashfield.
There have officially been four losses, one man dead and three deserters. It is believed, however, that the three men returned as deserters, who are all volunteers from the West Yorkshire Militia, have overstayed their furlough. They are expected to rejoin.
New recruits drilling, by J A Atkinson, by kind permission of Philip Haythornthwaite
Twenty-nine rank and file have joined at the depot. A further nine have been received but have not yet been enlisted. Among the newcomers are four volunteers from the Carlow Militia. A further four men are with the recruiting parties.