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Eddie

Preparing for the assault

I read this a little while ago and came across it again just now -  and again was impressed by this eyewitness narrative so I thought I would share it here.
From William Grattan's 'Adventures with the Connaught  Rangers' p 144 describing the march by the 43rd moving up to assault Cuidad Rodrigo :

"It was now five o'clock in the afternoon, and darkness
was approaching fast, yet no order had arrived intimating
that we were to take a part in the contest about to be
decided. We were in this state of suspense when our atten-
tion was attracted by the sound of music ; we all stood up,
and pressed forward to a ridge, a little in our front, and
which separated us from the cause of our movement, but it
would be impossible for me to convey an adequate idea of
our feelings when we beheld the 43rd Regiment, preceded
by their band, going to storm the left breach; they were in
the highest spirits, but without the slightest appearance of
levity in their demeanour — on the contrary, there was a cast
of determined severity thrown over their ountenances that
expressed in legible characters that they knew the sort of
service they were about to perform, and had made up their
minds to the issue. They had no knapsacks — their firelocks
were slung over their shoulders — their shirt -collars were
open, and there was an indescribable something about them
that at one and the same moment impressed the lookers-on
with admiration and awe. In passing us, each officer and
soldier stepped out of the ranks for an instant, as he recog-
nised a friend, to press his hand — many for the last time ;
yet, notwithstanding this animating scene, there was no
shouting or huzzaing, no boisterous bravadoing, no unbecom-
ing language ; in short, every one seemed to be impressed
with the seriousness of the affair entrusted to his charge, and
any interchange of words was to this effect: "Well, lads,
mind what you're about to-night " or, " We'll meet in the
town by and by " ; and other little familiar phrases, all ex-
pressive of confidence. The regiment at length passed us,
and we stood gazing after it as long as the rear platoon
continued in sight: the music grew fainter every moment,
until at last it died away altogether ; they had no drums,
and there was a melting sweetness in the sounds that touched
the heart.

The first syllable uttered after this scene was, " And are
we to be left behind ? " The interrogatory was scarcely put,
when the word " Stand to your arms ! " answered it. The
order was promptly obeyed, and a breathless silence prevailed
when our commanding officer, in a few words, announced to
us that Lord Wellington had directed our division to carry
the grand breach. The soldiers listened to the communica-
tion with silent earnestness, and immediately began to dis-
encumber themselves of their knapsacks, which were placed
in order by companies and a guard set over them. Each man
then began to arrange himself for the combat in such manner
as his fancy or the moment would admit of — some by lower-
ing their cartridge-boxes, others by turning theirs to the
front in order that they might the more conveniently make
use of them ; others unclasping their stocks or opening their
shirt-collars, and others oiling their bayonets; and more
taking leave of their wives and children."

Well written in my opinion - its just like standing there and watching them pass....
Obadiah

Stirring stuff indeed Bugler Edwards. But if you think for one moment that you can remove your stock before the next combat and have your shirt open like a savage, you having another thing coming.
Eddie

Sargint ye're a hard man and no mistakin'


On the subject of Knapsacks I found this in John Cooke's "Memoirs of the late War etc"   Vol 2 page 31 footnote   (Cooke was a 43rd officer)

"The troops always fought with their knapsacks on; except when storming breaches or escalading forts"


And re the Connaughts here's a nice little quote from "Ensign Bell" Leonaur  version  p 86     34th Foot Madrid

"The bugles sounded, I rolled my blanket, strapped it on to my back, and waited for the assembly call, when the 88th Regiment or Connaught Rangers, passed by as merry as larks, singing and cracking their Irish jokes. They were regular bronze fellows, hard as nails, and as ready for a fight as for a ration of rum. One fellow took a side glance at me and said, not in a very undertone 'I think that young gentleman would be better at home with his mother!' I was very indignant at this remark, and kept it to myself. I knew they were a crack regiment, and esteemed them for their remarkable bravery at all times."


(Both Grattan and Bell are excellent first hand accounts - Bell in particular is a fine expressive narrative full of humour)

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