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Collections - Letters

Letters of Lieutenant Colonel Charles Bevan, 1804-1811.

Letter Number 75

Dated: 9 May 1811. CB near Almeida Addressed to Mrs C Bevan, Money Hill, Rickmansworth, Herts. Stamped on address fold ‘MA 25 1811’

We have, my dearest Mary, now been seven days packed upon these hills opposite the French Army under Massena hourly expecting to engage on the 5th there took place a very ----- affair on the right: The Enemy was repulsed in his attempts to turn our right flank with considerable loss, that on our side was also severe, but I do not know really what: report says from 12 to 13000 killed & wounded. The attack on the front of the Enemy was chiefly made by Cavalry, all beastly drunk. Our Division is on the left where they only skirmished & wounded about 35 or 40 men. The Light Company only were engaged, that of the 4th fortunately did not lose a man. We are just now quite at a loss to guess what the Enemy are about, it was yesterday reported that they were on the retreat, but whether to make them attack on another part of the line or to fall back has not yet been properly ascertained. However do what they can, they must be beaten. This Army is in high Spirits & confident of success.

Patersons Army have been active on the other side of the Tagus. I have not lately heard from him. We are also yearning for a Mail from England. And as the wind is now come to the north (monstrous cold) I hope we shall soon have letters. Our situation is as comfortable as such a situation can be. All our baggage about twenty miles from us. The weather is fine and I hope it may continue so as long as the French choose to remain in their position.

I hope, my dearest Mary, you are quite well and all our dear little fellows; I hardly know when I may hope to see you, for there seems to be no end to this war. I trust the People will do Ld Wellington justice, and as he now sends home a Gazette united to the English taste perhaps they may.

Pray when you write to my Mother say everything for me as this is not a time for writing letters. I can hardly get will to write this.

I am not without hope that in a day or two I may be able to send you an account of the defeat of Massena’s Army; this however will wake (?) them if they had enough for our 5. They will not venture to attack again. The general (?) will not attack Ld W to do so against so superior a Cavalry. They have 4 or 5000 we have not 1500.

God Bless you my best friend

To all forget not Mrs Shaw – I am always yours


i) CB writes after the battle of Fuentes D‘Onoro in which Massena’s army was decisively beaten. CB in 5th Div was on the extreme left and out of the battle, which centred on the village of Fuentes D’Onoro in the centre of Wellington’s line. The French lost over 2000; the British 1500. The French cavalry were formidable but British squares stood up to it. At the start CB seems to reflect the high Morale of the victors but the somewhat obscure end of the letter hints at worry – possibly worse because since getting his command CB has had no action and the 4th was for him untried. The end of the letter must be due to sheer fatigue.
ii) This letter is remarkable for the speed of its passage – written on the field it is stamped on arrival in England only 16 days later.
iii) Gazette – the writing in this letter is mostly fairly clear – but the sense of this passage is difficult – probably CB is still echoing the fears that with the Regent there might appear a Whig government opposed to the French war, and of course there had been considerable unrest and street disturbances in England. Many middle-class people feared this might lead to Revolution on the French pattern.


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