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It was decided to postpone the matter until the next day, and during the evening the young soldier received a visit from a pretty Irish girl with whom he was in love, and who disguised herself in order to see him. His fear that she would cease to care for him when she discovered his deformity, made him decide to submit to the terrible operation of bending his leg. It took a day and a half to bend the leg, and during that time the suffering of the patient was intense. He fainted several times, but so strong was his will that he submitted to the agony until the limb was bent straight.
His dread of having a crooked leg was caused by his vanity, a quality of which he had a considerable share, and without which, Marshal Marmont has said, no man can be a good soldier. But he kept this feeling under the most rigid control. Ilis self-control was remarkable. He was naturally timid, but his strong determination to do his duty caused him to dare any dlanger in the performance of it. His sense of honor was exalted and delicate. He passed through one of the most licentious eras the world has ever known, untainted by even a whisper of reproach. He was proud to the last that he had never fought a duel, gambled, or been drunk.”
In 1843, referring to himself and his brothers, he wrote:
“We are all a hot, violent crew · with the milk of human kiudness though. We were all fond of hunting, fishing and shooting; yet all gave
when young, because we had no pleasure in killing little animals. Lately in the camp, a hare yot up, the greyhounds pursued, and the men all shouted to aid the dogs: My sorrow was great, and I rode away ; yet at dinner I ate a poor fowl. It is not principle, therefore, on which we act, it is painful feeling. As to cat-hunting and dog-fighting, feeling and principle unite to condemn. A domestic animal confides in you, and is at your mercy ; a wild animal has some fair play, a domestic one none. Cat-hunters and dog-hunters are therefore not only cruel but traitors ; no polished gentleman does these things.”
Towards the close of the year 1800 Charles Napier became a lieutenant in the 95th or Rifle Corps, and was quartered at various places in England. This separated him from his family to whom he was devotedly attached. Ilis brother Sir William says of him, wwhile bearing arms in every quarter of the globe, he never ceased to sigh for home and a mother's tenderness." Again he says, “He set the strength of his brain against the softness of his heart, and bravely accepted a fate which doomed him to a life-long struggle.” He was very fond of female society and sought it frequently. His commanding officer, Colonel Stewart, whom he describes as an open hearted, honorable man, was also full of unnecessary zeal, and without much discretion, and contrived to render the position of his subordinates exceedingly disagreeable. To such an extent did Colonel Stewart carry his rigidness that Lieutenant Napier was glad to leave the regiment for a place on the staff of his cousin General Fox, who first was commander-in-chief, in Ireland, and next was given the London district.
In 1804 Colonel Napier, his father, died, at the age of fifty one. Not willing to remain in London while there was a chance for seeing active service, Charles Napier, having, through the influence of his cousin, Charles James Fox, obtained the rank of Major in the 50th regiment, had the good fortune to be attached to the command of Sir John Moore, and in the absence of his Colonel, commanded his regiment during the advance into Spain, and the retreat to Corunna. He had passed the intervening years in endeavoring to fit himself for his profession, and was fully equal to the task imposed upon him.
In the famous action at Corunna on the 16th of January, 1809, he behaved with conspicuous gallantry, was desperately wounded, and taken prisoner by the French.
His regiment was posted near the 42d, and during the early part of the action was exposed to a heavy fire from a French battery on a hill near by. Soon after the battle opened he was standing near Lord William Bentinck, and was sheltered from the enemy's fire by the general's mule. Remembering that Colonel Walker had been laughed at for sheltering himself in a similar manner behind General Fane's horse at Vimiera, he went to the exposed side, regardless of the deadly fire. The 42d was ordered to advance, and Major Napier, seeing that if the advance was properly supported the French battery on the hill above could be carried, led his men forward. During this
movement he displayed the greatest coolness and gallantry. His sword belt and scabbard were shot away, but he pushed on, and soon came to a place where a number of Frenchmen lay on the ground, apparently dead. The English troops cried out that they were only shamming death, and tried to bayonet them, but Major Napier prevented their doing so.
The regiment struggled on under a murderous fire, and reached a lane at the end of which was the enemy. Here Major Napier had a severe fall which injured him very much. Hurrying forward with a small party of men, he gained a breastwork of stones, which had been held by an English picket on the previous day. The fire was so heavy that the regiment was unable to advance to his support. When informed of this, he sprang upon a wall in full view of the enemy, and tried to urge his men Though they were not more than a few hundred yards behind they could not hear him as the firing was so heavy. Nothing but the heroism of the act saved his life, for the French officers, filled with admiration for his courage, instructed their men not to fire at him.
The regiment did not advance, however, and Major Napier became separated from it. It was General Moore's design to order the 50th to be supported, as he saw at once the advantage which Napier's movement had given him. Indeed he ordered General Bentinck to support him, but the latter sent the regiment back to its original position.
After becoming separated from his command, Major Napier endeavored to reconnoitre the French position, and in doing so was cut off from his friends. In trying to make his way back he stopped to help a wounded man, and while doing so received a severe wound in the ankle. It was with difficulty that he could walk, and his suffering was very great. He had not gone
far when he met four men who told him they were surrounded. At this moment he beheld two parties of the enemy closing upon them. Calling to the men to follow him he declared his intention to cut his way out. As he spoke he was felled to the earth by a stab in the back from the bayonet of one of the men whose lives he had saved in the morning. By a vigorous effort he succeeded in seizing the bayonet of the man as he was about to make a second thrust, and in the struggle regained his feet. Seeing that the French had no intention of sparing him, he seized the man who had stabbed him, and being the stronger, used the fellow's body to protect him from the bayonet thrusts that were aimed at him. He was struck repeatedly with the butts of muskets and bruised badly. He also received a sabre cut over the head, and would in all probability have been killed, had not he been rescued by a young drummer. Even after quarter was granted, he was plundered of his valuables and money, and his preserver had much difficulty in saving him. Upon being taken to the rear he was treated kindly by General Renaud, but upon being left in the hands of some privates he suffered considerable indignity. He refused to allow his boot to be cut off, and bore with fortitude the acute pain caused by the wound in his ankle, because he hoped to be able to escape, in which case the loss of his boot would have been fatal to him. For nearly two days he lay on the ground, scantily clothed, exposed to the cold, it was January, and suffering greatly without the assistance of a surgeon. At last, after considerable difficulty, he was conveyed to Marshal Soult's headquarters, where he was received and cared for with great kindness.
For several months he remained a prisoner in the hands of the French. His brother George spent several hours the night after the battle in going over the battle field with a lantern, searching for his body. His family believed him dead. During all this time he was tortured by the fear that Moore, of whose death he was ignorant, would think he had not done his duty.
At last his friends sent an English frigate to inquire after him, and Marshal Ney generously released him upon the condition that he would not serve again until regularly exchanged. The exchange was effected in January, 1810, and Major Napier at once rejoined his regiment which was then quartered in England. In May he obtained a leave of absence, and hastening to the Peninsula, joined the famous Light Division of General Crawfurd, as a volunteer.
A great change had now taken place in his appearance. His expression, previous to the battle of Corunna, had been noted for its calmness and gravity. After that terrible struggle it
VOL. VI.-NO. XXXII.
altered entirely. “His countenance,” says Sir William Napier, "assumed a peculiarly vehement, earnest expression, and his resemblance to a chained eagle was universally remarked.” He had hitherto been very particular in his dress, but now his profession engrossed his mind too thoroughly to allow him to pay much attention to such trifles.
Shortly after Charles Napier's arrival the English retreated towards the lines of Torres Vedras closely pursued by Massena. Wellington halted at Busaco and fought the French on the 29th of September.
The fire of the French was so heavy that all the staff and volunteer officers except Major Napier dismounted. One of his cousins urged him to leave his horse, or cover his uniform with a cloak. “No,” he replied, "this is the uniform of my regiment, and in it I will show or fall this day.” He had scarcely spoken when a musket ball passed through his nose, shattered his left jaw, and lodged near his ear. He fell from his horse, and was borne from the field. As they were taking him away, Lord Wellington came up, and asked “Who is that?” Napier pulled off his hat, waved it and cried faintly, “I could not die at a better moment.” His conviction that he was mortally wounded was strengthened by hearing some officers say as he passed them, “Poor Napier, after all his wounds, is gone at last.” He bore the painful operation of extracting the ball, without flinching, and he was placed in a chapel in the convent of Busaco. While there he overheard the conversation of a party of officers who were eating and drinking in an adjoining
It made him furious to think that men high in command should act in such a manner while the battle was still raging. Starting up from his pallet he hurried towards the door to look for his horse. He was met by a wounded friend who was returning to the field, and prevented from leaving the place. His wounds were bleeding so profusely at the time that he could not speak.
Owing to the improper surgical attention which he received, his wounds left permanent injuries behind them. His jaw set crooked, the broken gristle blocked up one of his nostrils, and his lip was disfigured. In 1846 he wrote, “No one who has not been hurt in some part which affects the sight, smell, hear