The ground about that village was intersected by stone walls and hollow roads; a severe scrambling fight ensued, the French were forced back with great loss, and the fiftieth regiment entering the village with the retiring mass, drove it, after a second struggle in the street, quite beyond the houses. Seeing this, the general ordered up a battalion of the guards to fill the void in the line made by the advance of those regiments; whereupon, the forty-second, mistaking his intention, retired, with exception of the grenadiers; and at that moment, the enemy being reinforced, renewed the fight beyond the village. Major Napier, commanding the fiftieth, was wounded and taken prisoner, and Elvina then became the scene of another contest; which being observed by the Commander-in-Chief, he addressed a few animating words to the forty-second, and caused it to return to the attack. Paget had now descended into the valley, and the line of the skirmishers being thus supported, vigorously checked the advance of the enemy’s troops in that quarter, while the fourth regiment galled their flank; at the same time the centre and left of the army also became engaged, Baird was severely wounded, and a furious action ensued along the line, in the valley, and on the hills.
General Sir John Moore, while earnestly watching the result of the fight about the village of Elvina, was struck on the left breast by a cannon-shot; the shock threw him from his horse with violence; yet he rose again in a sitting posture, his countenance unchanged, and his steadfast eye still fixed upon the regiments engaged in his front, no sigh betraying a sensation of pain. In a few moments, when he saw the troops were gaining ground, his countenance brightened, and he suffered himself to be taken to the rear. Then was seen the dreadful nature of his hurt. As the soldiers placed him in a blanket, his sword got entangled, and the hilt entered the wound; Captain Hardinge, a staff officer, attempted to take it off, but the dying man stopped him, saying: “It is as well as it is. I had rather it should go out of the field with me;” and in that manner, so becoming to a soldier, Moore was borne from the fight.
Notwithstanding this great disaster, the troops gained ground. The reserve overthrowing everything in the valley, forced La Houssaye’s dismounted dragoons to retire, and thus turning the enemy, approached the eminence upon which the great battery was posted. In the centre, the obstinate dispute for Elvina terminated in favour of the British; and when the night set in, their line was considerably advanced beyond the original position of the morning, while the French were falling back in confusion. If Fraser’s division had been brought into action along with the reserve, the enemy could hardly have escaped a signal overthrow; for the little ammunition Soult had been able to bring up was nearly exhausted, the river Mero was in full tide behind him, and the difficult communication by