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Collections - Letters

Letters of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Bevan, 1804-1811.

Letter Number 69

Dated: 16th March 1811. C.B. Torres Vedras Addressed to Mrs C Bevan, Money Hill, Rickmansworth, Herts
Stamped on address fold ‘AP 6 1811’

My dearest Mary,

I have just heard that an opportunity of sending letters to England offers itself and therefore I avail myself of a drum head to tell you that we are in close pursuit of Marshal Massena. Lord Wellington has been for close chase this last week; every day there is severe skirmishing with his rearguard as the country through which we are ever marching is remarkable thorny, consequently being favourable for his defence. I do not know the name of the place where we are at this moment, or I judge it has none as there is not a house in the vicinity. The French have been completely foiled in their attempt to cross the Mondego River; in one instance at the Bridge of Coimbra, in the second at the Bridge of Miranda (indistinct but likely) higher up. It has fallen almost literally to the lot of the Light Division to force the Enemy from his positions which has been always effected though with some loss; it is imagined there is more consideration than owes. The 4th Regt is in the 5th Division of the army and therefore we travel a general at a time(?), which does not seem to be the wish of our Foe, you may consider me as safe as if at Money Hill – We have however plenty of Fatigue and the weather has become wet which for Night Marches is not delightful – You will be glad to hear I am perfectly well. But very sk off for horses which in this incessant marching is very inconvenient. Lord W has certainly saved the Town of Coimbra from devastation. The French have entirely destroyed by fire every Town, Village and through which they have passed; the beautiful one of Leiria with its famous Cathedral is just in the same state as the Theatre of Drury Lane after the fire – The acts of barbarian atrocity they exercise above (sic) the unfortunate people would disgrace the annals of the Goths. They literally wanton in savage inhumanity. But if they will fight us they will be properly punished – I am afraid they are too clever to be compelled to do so. Having the advantage of a start.

We have marching something like that to Corunna – But we are now the chase. Pateron’s Brigade is on the other bank of the Tagus at which he perhaps is mortified; but very likely they will their (sic) share in that quarter. I have only time to say to you God Bless you and all yours – I am much hurried but you know always yours


I hope to get a bit of red ribbon for my button hole

16 March 1811

From front page 2 Postscripts:

You must not be surprised or alarmed at not hearing from me for God knows whither we are bound.

Pray say every thing for me to all my friends – Mrs Whitmore’s brother Col Williams has got Wynch’s Lt Colonelcy

On back flap a list:
Laces for Boots
Clothes Brush
Brown jug
?Dress Pelisse
Little shoes


i) Massena began his retreat before the end of 1810 but the general pursuit was not in full cry until early March. 5th Division remained the Reserve and followed up. By the time of this letter they were probably near the conjunction of the Mondego and the Alva, about 16th 5th Div were sent into hills behind Foz d’Arounce to try to outflank the French. Meanwhile the French failed to emulate the Corunna retreat and the British pushed across the small bridges with little delay.
ii) Coimbra, Miranda – there was little serious fighting at these and small engagements at Pombal, Retinha, Foz
iii) Travel .. general. The writing is comparatively clear but the sense is less so
iv) sk seems intended but the significance is obscure
v) CB was clearly pushed – as here verbs are omitted and other words
vi) Red Ribbon for his button hole – can this be connected with the custom in 4th Foot and King’s Own in wearing a Red Patch behind the Cap Badge
vii) Col Williams getting Wynch’s Lt Colonelcy – Cowper mentions Major F Brooke taking the 2nd Bn and shows him with a mention in 1812 and Badajoz medal in 1813. Also with the Badajoz medal were Majors Piper (CB’s 2i/c and successor) and David Williamson both of whom were made Bt Lt Cols in 1812. He has no mention of a Lt Col Williams
viii) The list of necessaries is optimistic if intended as a request to Mary – perhaps only on a piece of paper in his pocket. Bonomint – cannot find a word to fit



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