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Collections - Letters

Letters of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Bevan, 1804-1811.

Letter Number 19

Dated: 14 November 1808 from CB at Salamanca Addressed to: Mrs C Bevan

In the course of a few days a mail is to be dispatched for England, I therefore have an opportunity to tell my beloved Mary that I am well, but sadly disappointed about letters not having received one; I do however imagine that mine are with Lord William Bentinck who is still at Madrid and if my imaginings they are likely to remain some time longer – I must therefore have recourse to the old fund of Patience.

Sir John Moore is here with about twelve thousand men – among the Generals are Paget, Beresford etc etc. We are now awaiting the arrival of the Artillery which has been considerably retarded by the badness of the roads; when they shall make their appearance we expect to advance to the Enemy – We have heard but we know not if the report be true that Buonaparte is in Spain and at Vittoria near Burgos, with an Army of 120,000 men, this is however possibly a trumped up story of Marshal Bessieres who a few days ago advanced to Valladolid with a strong Corps of Cavalry, he however retired or rather moved off in another direction.

The French Army has lately gained some advantages over that of the Spaniards under the command of Genl Blake – We hear not of any great importance although I have no doubt but that the opposition Chronicle will re-echo the exaggerated statements of the Moniteur. When the forces of Sir David Baird shall have joined this part of the Army the English force will consist of I believe 40,000 men.

Do you not think it will take some few Frenchmen to beat such an Army & Sir John Moore? We (the 28th) have been and are still hoping to be placed in Genl Paget’s Corps which is the advance of the Army and consequently the post of honour.

The weather here is now much that of England, cold, damp, and foggy – But we have not the advantages of fire, nothing but pans of charcoal which makes my head ache H to the degree that I can hardly see –

My billet is a most uncomfortable one – They give me nothing and I believe wish me at the Devil as often as they look on me – I am rather astonished that they do not at such a juncture as at the present treat us with a little more hospitality – I shall be most happy when we advance as I always think that as we proceed we are getting hearer home, which I shall rejoice to do after a glorious campaign. The country since we have entered Spain has been very fine and I think improves as we advance as do the roads – Salamanca is but a poor city, principally conspicuous and indeed famous for its Colleges and Universities – Here also is a very fine Cathedral esteemed the most so of any in Spain – the style of the Buildings is Gothick and certainly most beautiful – Amongst other things it contains a very fine painting by Titian (Descent from ye Cross) and two others said to be very excellent by an inferior painter (Spagnoletti) – After the Cathedral is the Irish College, a stupendous building originally raised by the Jesuits for their own residence but upon the expulsion of that order from Spain this college was presented by the King to the Irish of which nation there are now several students & I imagine that in the time of profound peace this is one of the chief seminaries for the Catholic Clergy of Ireland – There are no places of publick amusement – a company of Comedians are permitted to be here during the times of vacation in the colleges, but at present the studies are going on or we should have seen the best performers from Madrid - our troops are all quartered in the Convents and the Officers billeted in the Town. The people were sadly alarmed here the other day by a report that the French Army was in possession of Valladolid – This however turned out only to have been a Corps of Cavalry. I hope I shall soon have some accounts of my dearest Mary and of our little men. It is indeed very long since I have had a letter – I do not even know where you are! I conclude you have left Bognor as also that my Mother and sisters have left Rottingdean. I hope your Father is better than when you last wrote – Mrs Dacres I trust is also well, your sisters & Brother – Pray remember me most kindly to all of them – I shall write by the next mail to my Mother & if I have time to Mrs Shaw, who I sincerely hope is pretty well, for I fear she is never quite so.

I have now heard there are a great many letters just arrived – Pray Heaven there be one for me. How is Mrs Bevan? Does she go to India in the Spring? I hope I may come to England about that time – if I stay away much longer I am afraid you will forget me – I am sure little Charles will –

Farewell my most dear Mary, I pray God to bless you and our men & am always your most
affectionate and faithful C.B.

I have forgot to recommend your parting with Miss Heard – her Mother is in England – She is not fit to be near you – You can civilly get rid of her, It is unnecessary to say what I tell you


i) Bentinck – see notes to letter 18 – Brigade Commander
ii) Moore had taken Wellesley’s army from Portugal to assist Spain and expected reinforcement by a force under Baird landed at Corunna. Beresford was later put to assist Spain and expected reinforcement by a force under Baird landed at Corunna. Beresford was later put by Wellington in command of the Portuguese army in which he held the rank of Marshal.
iii) Buonaparte – this report recovered from a French officer was the first intimation of the size of Napoleon’s army and despite CB’s bold posturing Moore realised that he could not risk England’s only land force against these odds (which were about right)
iv) The French had indeed defeated Blake (Spanish of Irish extraction)
v) The 28th got their wish, though not with Paget’s vanguard, he did not fail to pick them for the Rearguard which he was to command to Corunna. Edward Paget had been probably the best Bn commander and under him 28th were clearly the cream of the Infantry – though some LI & Guards & 4th Ft might challenge this!
vi) Salamanca – CB’s judgement was no doubt clouded by his homesickness – The Buildings described fortunately survived those and later wars.
vii) Dacres family – The Vice Admiral was home and ill after Jamaica; brother Barrington RN had died of fever and brother James was at home on half pay before getting the command of Guerriere in 1810
viii) Mrs Shaw see notes on letter 18
ix) Miss Heard not identified

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