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Collections - Letters

Letters of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Bevan, 1804-1811.

Letter Number 57

Dated: 18th November 1810 from CB Ceuta
Addressed to Mrs C Bevan, Money Hill, Rickmansworth, Herts

We poor people in Ceuta, My dearest Mary, still remain cut off from all communication, except indeed from a small place in Spain whence we receive every now and then a cargo of Romances telling how the French are defeated and the Spaniards victorious – But it is seriously provoking that we are deprived of the only consolation we enjoyed namely that of knowing what was doing in our neighbourhood –

We have not one word from Lisbon, and although we know that our first Battalion is there and have orders to send some officers to join it, we have no opportunity – The fever at Gibraltar is by all accounts entirely got the better of; but we hear that at Cadiz it is and has been very fatal – I do think that my evil destiny pursues me in all directions - 150 of our best men are now in Gibraltar when we shall get them Heaven know! We have 84 in England and 83 prisoners of war, is not this too bad – I have some hopes that the officers may be exchanged as our Quarter Master if a most serious loss to us. I believe Mrs Mullins has gone to Tarifa where the 28th Regt is quartered, before this terrible fever made its appearance, but even there I fear they will be very ill off – cut off as they also are from any communication with the garrison – We are well off here for provisions – but the Spaniards in great want – I wish to God they would give us the place and have nothing more to say to it, but I believe their Government looks on Ceuta with a jealous eye, as the only place of retreat for the effeminate and lazy of which there are God knows a sufficient proportion already here. We have various reports in circulation today about Lord Wellington – one states that Massena has surrendered – the other that the English army was embarking – both I suppose equally true – If my fortune should carry me to Portugal, which sometimes I allow myself to hope it may, by Colonel Wynch being appointed a Brigadier. I daresay the spring will carry us to England; as if Bonaparte is resolved on conquering Portugal he will find numbers at present however his attention seems directed to the North of Europe – Humbugging us in this meanwhile at Lisbon – I hoped to have had a line from Paterson but I suppose he had so much writing upon his hands as he likes – and indeed the distance as well as the modes of conveyance are much against hearing from that quarter – I trust, my beloved Mary, that this letter will find you perfectly well and quite comfortable – though I fear you will suffer from the cold; having so lately recovered from the very severe attack on your chest; you will I know take care of yourself and if you were not inclined to do so, your Mother would make you; so I am easy, tolerably so, on that score we expect a Packet daily – God send it may contain good news of you and of our little men – Pray give my best love to your Mother and sisters and to Captain and Mrs Dacres – I envy your description of his comforts – Thus are what I never expect, nor indeed any other but that I always have in your affections – God Bless you & protect my best Mary – I am always your own C.B.

Ceuta 18th November


i) On the earlier typed and bound copy the Transcriber has incorrectly dated this letter as 12 Nov 1808 – the 18 is scrawled and might have been read as 12 but the year is not given but as Ceuta is there cannot be any doubt as to the year – the contexts fix this firmly between Letter 55 and Letter 57
ii) First Battalion – Cowper lists 1st 4th in Lisbon 5-7 November 1810 (& thereafter in the Lines of Torres Vedras)
iii) 150 men – 2nd 4th had a traumatic journey to Ceuta when storms led to shipwrecks in Biscay, thus the prisoners of war and the men of England who were now at last dribbling out to Ceuta
iv) Massena surrender: Massena had certainly been soundly trounced by Wellington at Busaco at the end of September – but thereafter followed up to the Lines outside which his troops were grubbing for food and would starve during that winter
v) Rumour of British Army embarking – this may have resulted from the intense Naval activity that must have occurred around Lisbon and the Tagus when many ship’s guns were landed with gunners for use in the Lines, as well as material and sailors for the Naval Telegraph system installed along the Lines, and the many gunboats with crews deployed in and up the Tagus to prevent landings to turn the flank of the Lines, and to stop Soult attempting to cross from the South/East
vi) Wynch – the saga went on of CB awaiting the promotion of Wynch to Brigadier before CB could move to 1st/4th in his place
vii) Paterson – CB’s old friend in 28th now married to Eleanor, Mary’s sister, but in Gibraltar or Tarifa with 1st/28th
viii) Mrs Mullins wife of CB’s friend in 28th (he had recently been B.M. on the failed expedition where Lord Blayney was captured – presumably he was not taken



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