MacMillan's Reading Books eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 344 pages of information about MacMillan's Reading Books.

The fourth division was composed of two brigades:  one of Portuguese under General Harvey; the other, under Sir William Myers, consisting of the seventh and twenty-third regiments, was called the Fusilier Brigade; Harvey’s Portuguese were immediately pushed in between Lumley’s dragoons and the hill, where they were charged by some French cavalry, whom they beat off, and meantime Cole led his fusiliers up the contested height.  At this time six guns were in the enemy’s possession, the whole of Werle’s reserves were coming forward to reinforce the front column of the French, the remnant of Houghton’s brigade could no longer maintain its ground, the field was heaped with carcasses, the lancers were riding furiously about the captured artillery on the upper parts of the hill, and behind all, Hamilton’s Portuguese and Alten’s Germans, now withdrawing from the bridge, seemed to be in full retreat.  Soon, however, Cole’s fusiliers, flanked by a battalion of the Lusitanian legion under Colonel Hawkshawe, mounted the hill, drove off the lancers, recovered five of the captured guns and one colour, and appeared on the right of Houghton’s brigade, precisely as Abercrombie passed it on the left.

Such a gallant line, issuing from the midst of the smoke, and rapidly separating itself from the confused and broken multitude, startled the enemy’s masses, which were increasing and pressing onwards as to an assured victory; they wavered, hesitated, and then vomiting forth a storm of fire, hastily endeavoured to enlarge their front, while a fearful discharge of grape from all their artillery whistled through the British ranks.  Myers was killed, Cole and the three colonels, Ellis, Blakeney, and Hawkshawe, fell wounded, and the fusilier battalions, struck by the iron tempest, reeled and staggered like sinking ships; but suddenly and sternly recovering, they closed on their terrible enemies, and then was seen with what a strength and majesty the British soldier fights.  In vain did Soult with voice and gesture animate his Frenchmen; in vain did the hardiest veterans break from the crowded columns and sacrifice their lives to gain time for the mass to open out on such a fair field; in vain did the mass itself bear up, and, fiercely striving, fire indiscriminately upon friends and foes, while the horsemen, hovering on the flank, threatened to charge the advancing line.  Nothing could stop that astonishing infantry.  No sudden burst of undisciplined valour, no nervous enthusiasm weakened the stability of their order, their flashing eyes were bent on the dark columns in their front, their measured tread shook the ground, their dreadful volleys swept away the head of every formation, their deafening shouts overpowered the dissonant cries that broke from all parts of the tumultuous crowd, as slowly and with a horrid carnage it was pushed by the incessant vigour of the attack to the farthest edge of the hill.  In vain did the French reserves mix with the struggling multitude to sustain the fight; their efforts only increased the irremediable confusion, and the mighty mass, breaking off like a loosened cliff, went headlong down the steep; the rain flowed after in streams discoloured with blood, and eighteen hundred unwounded men, the remnant of six thousand unconquerable British soldiers, stood triumphant on the fatal hill!

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MacMillan's Reading Books from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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