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REVIEW OF THE RETREAT.
apex of a triangle, of which the French lines formed the base, while the British kept them at bay in the centre. Had the transports arrived from Vigo, as was expected, on our men reaching this on the 13th, everything could have been gotten safely on board before the arrival of the main body of the enemy, as we were two days' march a-head, and so Soult been outwitted; his plan having evidently been to keep harassing us on the march, and deferring the attack until the moment of embarkation. As it was, the delay served to add lustre to the British arms, and to restore whatever of order and discipline might have been wanting among the troops, from the extreme hardships of so long a forced march. The French were completely repulsed at every point, and with considerable loss—but, alas ! the victory was purchased with the blood of its noble hero.
The question of the retreat has been ably and successfully discussed by many historians, but by none more so than by him from whose justly celebrated and accurately correct work, I make the following extract:
6. Thus ended the retreat of Corunna, a transaction which, up to this day, has called forth as much of falsehood and malignity as servile and interested writers could offer to the unprincipled leaders of a base faction, but which posterity will regard as a genuine example of ability and patriotism.
The spot where stood the magazine, blown up by our troops, is now a vineyard, with scarcely a stone
* Col. William Napier's History of the Peninsular War.
to mark its site. The explosion is described as having been terrific, almost all the windows in Corunna having been shattered, and occasioning a great swell in the harbour, so as to endanger the shipping, many of which dragged their anchors. A citizen told us, that Moore had sent them notice of the intended explosion, to apprise the invalids, and to desire they should open their windows; showing, in this slight instance, the coolness and forethought of the general, as well as the humanity and kindness of the man. Eulogium on such a man from an unprofessional pen like mine, would be superfluous, but just, supported as it is by the ablest of military opinions, those of Napoleon, Wellington, and Soult. I cannot help observing that with one of those whom the world has long since proclaimed immortal, his achievements place him in close parallel. The retreat of Xenophon bears the most singular resemblance in almost every particular, saving in duration, to that of Moore. Both were betrayed and deserted in a strange land, far from home, and by the very people they came to save. Both had an enemy to encounter, brave, vigilant, cautious, and far superior in numbers, who, while they incessantly hovered round and harassed them, cutting off their stagglers and supplies, never would accept the offered engagement. Both traversed countries barren and mountainous, in the depth of winter, and, to complete the resemblance, both, when in sight of that sea which to them was a
PARALLEL WITH XENOPHON.
haven of rest, were forced into a desperate struggle ere they were allowed by the flush of victory, to seek that safety her stormy bosom afforded.*
The field of battle, and the general face of the country are poor and barren, mostly of granite rock, with scarcely any soil, what little exists is clothed with that beautiful heath the erica ciliaris, and small scattered clumps of pine, like fox-covers, crown the summits of all the hills around.
It was a lovely day, 70° in the shade, but which the light sea breeze prevented from being oppressive. This is the harvest of Indian corn, the principal food of the lower classes, and all are engaged in bearing it home. You hear nothing around
* Note furnished to the author by Sir Charles Napier :
“ The following reminds one of the fact related by Xenophon. As in one column the army of Moore reached a height between Betanzas and Corunna, a view of the sea suddenly burst upon our sight, and
6 the sea! the sea !' was vociferated by the soldiers in front of the column, and repeated to the rere. I heard that Sir John Moore said to his aid-de-camp—" now for the first time, in this retreat, I think myself unlucky; for I see no ships, and I may be obliged to fight a battle.” He regretted the being forced to sacrifice his troops in a battle fought to secure his embarkation, and which promised no other important result but that of adding another proof of the courage possessed by British soldiers. His object had been to draw the French army, under Napoleon, to the north of Spain, and thus give the Spaniards an opportunity to rise and form their armies in the south. This masterly manæuvre was ably and successfully executed. His next object was to embark his small army without a battle—this was not possible-he fought, conquered, and fell, leaving his character recorded in the annals of his country, as one of her most consummate warriors, and greatest men.”
APPEARANCE OF THE COUNTRY.
you but the screeching of the bullock-carts, which, though so insupportable in your immediate vicinity, oses much of its discordance by distance. We passed on our way home, through a delightful valley, crowded with vineyards, figs, orange, and chesnut trees, the latter of which, hung over with ears of Indian corn spread out to dry, looked as if loaded with their own golden fruit; but the houses, and the peasantry themselves, were wretchedly dirty, and many of the wine-presses “contrived a double debt to pay,” and were conyerted into pig-troughs.
There is a tolerable fish-market at Corunna, but uncertain, owing to the severe gales which rush in here from the Bay of Biscay. The grey mullet is very plenty in this harbour, and, on a calm day, is easily shot by throwing a bit of bread on the water, at which several will jump together. I have frequently killed five at one shot. That most delicate of all sea-fish, the red mullet, is also got here in great abundance, but not large, as is the saury and sea pike, several varieties of sea bream, dories, red gurnet, and eels. But the principal fish, from its numbers and its commercial importance, is the sardinha, (clupea sardina.) The mode of taking them is peculiar, a large flat-bottomed boat, holding upwards of thirty people, is anchored where the shoal is expected, and a net of great length and excessively small meshes is shot out by a small boat, which, having enclosed the fish, is hauled into the large one, by an upright windlass, or capstan ;
the net is nearly half a mile long, and the multitude captured at a single haul is almost incredible. Immediately on being taken, they are cleansed, the heads cut off, and packed dry in tubs or baskets, with salt and bay leaves for exportation. The most accurate attention is paid to the packing and curing of these little fishes, which has insured for them a ready market in every part of the Mediterranean, whither they are sent in vast quantities, as well as to the interior of Europe. Our extensive sprat and herring fisheries on the Irish and British coasts might derive a profitable lesson from the Spaniards, both in their mode of catching and curing. There are occasionally other fish caught in these nets, as the beautiful Spanish bream, sauries, &c., and at the mouth of the Rio Burgo a few sea trout and salmon in the season, but not in sufficient numbers to warrant the statement, that it is a habitat of that river. It
It may be supposed, that a few stray down the coast, after the great migratory mass have ascended the British rivers. Turbot is a rarity, and of inferior quality, but there are several species of wrasse taken in the bay.
This part of Gallicia is considered a good vine country ; but though the grape is large and well flavoured, the wine is wretched stuff. The fruitmarket is generally cheap and good, but the hail and fogs in the early parts of this year have quite spoiled the melons; the peaches are very good, and the onions the finest I ever saw—they are of a