PREES: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1824.
"PREES, a parish in the Whitchurch division of the hundred of Bradford North, a peculiar, a vicarage remaining in charge, in the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, the deanery of Salop, and archdeaconry of Salop. 484 houses, 3,190 inhabitants. 4 miles north- east of Wem.
Rowland Lord Hill, whose brilliant military services have acquired such general approbation, was born at Prees; August 11, 1772, and is the second son of the late Sir John Hill, Bart. of Hawkstone, in the county of Salop, who married Mary, one of the daughters and coheiresses of John Chambre, Esq. of Petton, in the same county, by which lady he had sixteen children. His lordship entering the army in the sixteenth year of his age, his first commission was an Ensigncy in the 38th regiment. Having obtained leave of absence, with the view of improving his military knowledge, he was placed at an academy at Strasburg, where he remained one year, and then accompanied his elder brother, and his uncle, the late Sir Richard Hill, in a tour through Germany, France and Holland.
Lord Hill commenced his military duty at Edinburgh, where he had the advantage of the best society, and received particular notice from many of the nobility and principal families. His removal from Scotland took place in consequence of an offer he received of a Lieutenancy, in Captain Broughton's independent company, on his raising the usual quota of men; this he soon accomplished, and then removed as Lieutenant to the 27th. His friends being anxious for his early promotion, obtained permission for him to raise an independent company, which gave him the rank of Captain in the army, in the year 1792. In the interval of his being attached to any particular corps, he accompanied his friend, Francis Drake, Esq., who went out as minister on a diplomatic mission to Genoa, from whence Captain Hill, through the recommendation of his friend, proceeded to Toulon, and was employed as Aide-de-camp to the successive Generals commanding there, namely, Lord Mulgrave, General O'Hara, and Sir David Dundas. Lord Hill had not at this time attained his twenty first year, but had the honour of receiving from each of his commanders decisive proofs of their approbation. He was slightly wounded in his right hand, when General O'Hara was taken prisoner, and narrowly escaped with his life; it being undertermined for some minutes, between himself and another Aide-de-Camp, Captain Snow, which should ascend a tree, for the purpose of making observations respecting the enemy; the latter went up, and received a mortal wound whilst Lord Hill, standing immediately beneath, was preserved unhurt.
He was deputed by Sir David Dundas to be the bearer of the dispatches to England relating to the evacuation of Toulon by the British. His next appointment was to a company in the 23rd, with which regiment he was on duty in Scotland and Ireland. His conduct at Toulon recommended him to the notice and friendship of Lord Lyndoch, who made him the offer of purchasing a Majority in the 90th: this step was gladly acceded to, by himself and friends, and was soon followed by a promotion to a Lieutenant Colonelcy in the same regiment.
He went through a great deal of arduous duty with the 90th at Gibraltar, and other places, and had his full share in the memorable Egyptian campaign. In the action of the 13th of March, 1801, Major- General Craddock's brigade formed the front, with the 90th regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Hill, as its advanced-guard. Sir Robert Wilson states the conduct of the 90th, in this affair, to have been most honourable and praise-worthy, and that nothing could exceed the intrepidity and firmness with which they charged the enemy. On this occasion Lord Hill received a wound in the right temple, from a musket ball, the force of which was providentially averted, by a strong brass binding in front of his helmet; the blow was, however, severe, and he was removed from the field of battle in a state of insensibility. When his situation was made known to Lord Keith, he immediately sent for him on board the Foudroyant. The kindness and accommodation the invalid received from his noble friend, no doubt accelerated his recovery, and enabled to join his regiment, and continue on duty the whole of the campaign. The Captain Pacha frequently saw Colonel Hill whilst he was on board the Foudroyant, and with many good wishes and expressions for his welfare, presented him with a valuable gold box, sword, and shawl. Very soon after the return of the troops from Egypt, the 90th was ordered to proceed through Scotland to Ireland, and Lord Hill continued unremittingly to perform his regimental duty, till he was appointed Brigadier-general on the Irish Staff. His principal stations in that country were Cork, Galway, and Fermoy; the inhabitants of which places manifested their approbation of his conduct by publick addresses inserted in the Dublin papers. On leaving Cork he was presented with the freedom of that city. Early in the summer of 1808, he embarked with his brigade at Cove, to join the army of England destined to act in the Peninsula. In the battles of Roleia and Vimiera, Lord Hill was fully employed, and gained the approbation and thanks of his comrades for his own conduct and that of his brigade.
During the whole of Sir John Moore's advance and retreat, Lord Hill continued indefatigable in his exertions; and was established with a corps of reserve, guarding the embarkation of the army at Corunna. His humanity and attention to the suffering troops on their landing at Plymouth, earned him the admiration of the humane and benevolent inhabitants of that place; and he was presented by the mayor and corporation with an address, expressive of their cordial approbation of his conduct: and as a proof that his proceedings were not obliterated from their recollection, the body corporate convened a meeting in 1811, and unanimously voted him the freedom of the borough, in terms of glowing praise. On General Hill's arrival in England, in the beginning of the year 1809, he found himself appointed Colonel of the 3rd Garrison Battalion; and about the same period he became possessed of a handsome property, (Hardwicke Grange) left to him by his uncle the late Sir Richard Hill, Bart.
The General had not been many days in London, before he was directed by His Royal Highness the Commander-in-chief to hold himself in readiness for further service; and as soon as his instructions were completed he proceeded through England (passing five days with his friends in Shropshire) to take the command of the troops ordered from Ireland for the second expedition to the Peninsula.
In the passage of the Douro, May 12, 1809, when Lieutenant-General Sir E. Paget received a wound that unhappily deprived him of his arm, Lord Hill became first in command, and conducted that enterprise with complete success.
At the battle of Talavera, Lord Hill was slightly wounded on the head: his firmness and courage in repelling the successive attack of the French upon his position greatly contributed to the success of the day. When the thanks of both houses of parliament were voted to the British army for this victory, Mr. Percival, in noticing the exertions of Sir. Rowland Hill observed, ' that the manner in which General Hill had repulsed the enemy at the point of the bayonet was fresh in every one's memory.' For his services on this occasion, he had the colonelcy of the 94th regiment given to him; it having been conferred upon him without any solicitation, either on his own part or that of his friends.
The generalship and activity of Lord Hill, in surprising and capturing a French corps, under General Girard, in Spanish Estremadura, is deserving of commemoration. General Girard's corps consisted of a division of the 5th corps of the French army, with a considerable body of cavalry; which having crossed the Guadiana at Merida, and advanced upon Caceres, Lord Wellington ordered General Hill to move with the troops under his command into Estremadura. Lord Hill accordingly marched by Aldea del Cano, to Alcuesca; and, on the 27th of October, 1811, having information that the French were in motion, he proceeded through Aide, being a shorter route than that taken by the enemy, and affording a hope of being able to intercept or bring him to action. On his march, Lord Hill learned that Girard had halted his main body at Arroyo del Molinos, leaving a rear-guard at Albala, which was a satisfactory proof that be was ignorant of the movements of the allied detachment. Lord Hill, therefore, determined to surprise him; and accordingly, made a forced march to Alcuesca that evening, where the troops were so placed as to be out of sight of the enemy, and no fires were allowed to be made. On his arrival at this place, which is not more than a league from Arroyo, Lord Hill was more fully convinced that Girard was ignorant of his movements, and also extremely off his guard; he determined, therefore, upon attempting to surprise him, or at least to bring him to action, before he should march in the morning; and the necessary dispositions were made for that purpose.
The ground over which the troops were to manoeuvre being a plain, thinly scattered with oak and cork trees, Lord Hill's object was to place a body of troops so as to cut off retreat of the enemy either to Truxillo or Merida: he, therefore, moved the army from their bivouac (or resting-place without tent,) near Alcuesca, about two in the morning of the 28th, in one column right in front, direct on Arroyo del Molinos. On arriving within half a mile of the town, when under cover of a low ridge, the column closed, and divided into three columns; the infantry being on the right and left, and the cavalry occupying the centre. As the day dawned, a violent storm of rain and thick mist came on, under cover of which the columns advanced according to the concerted plan; the left column proceeding for the town, under Lieutenant-Colonel Stewart; the 71st, and part of the 60th and 92nd, at a greater distance; and the 50th in close column, somewhat in the rear, with the guns as a reserve. The right column, under Major-General Howard, having the 39th regiment in reserve, broke off to the right, so as to turn the enemy's left; and having gained about the distance of a cannon-shot to that flank, marched in a circular direction upon the further point of the crescent formed by the troops: whilst the cavalry, under Sir William Erskine, moved between the two columns of infantry, ready to act in front, or move round either of them, as occasion might require.
The advance of the British columns was unperceived by the enemy until they approached very near, at which moment they were filing out of the town upon the Merida road; the rear of the column, some of the cavalry, and part of the baggage, being still within.
At this moment the 71st and 92nd regiments charged into the town with cheers, and drove the enemy every where at the point of the bayonet, having only a few of their men cut down by the enemy's cavalry. The enemy's infantry, which had got out of the town, had, by the time these regiments arrived at the extremity of it, formed into two squares, with the cavalry on their left; the whole were posted between the Merida and Medellin roads, fronting Alcuesca. These squares were formed close to the town; but the garden walls were promptly lined by the 71st light infantry, whilst the 92nd filed out and formed a line on the enemies flank, the whole throwing in a hot and well-directed fire. In the mean time one wing of the 50th regiment occupied the town, and secured the prisoners; and the other wing, with the three six-pounders, skirted the outside of it, the artillery as soon as within range, firing with great effect upon the squares.
Whilst the enemy was thus occupied upon the right, General Howard's column continued moving upon their left; and the allied cavalry advancing, and crossing the head of the enemy's column, cut off the cavalry from the infantry, charging it repeatedly, and putting it to the rout. The 13th light dragoons at the same time took possession of the enemy's artillery.
In this part of the business, the Spanish cavalry, under the Count de Penna Villemur, behaved remarkably well; for the British cavalry having been somewhat delayed by the darkness of the night and badness of the road, the Spaniards were the first to form the plan, and gallantly engaged the enemy until the British came up.
The whole body of the French were now in full retreat: but General Howard's column having gained the point to which it was directed, and the left column coming fast upon them, they had no resource but to surrender, or to disperse and ascend the mountain, which forms one extremity of the sierra of Montanches, and is almost inaccessible.
The latter attempt they preferred; and, scrambling up the eastern extremity, were followed by the 28th and 34th regiments, whilst the 39th, and Colonel Ashworth's Portuguese infantry, followed round the foot of the mountain to take them in flank.
As may be imagined, the enemy's troops were by this time in the utmost panick; the cavalry were flying in every direction, the infantry throwing away their arms, and the only effort of both was to escape. The troops under General Howard's command as well as those he had sent around the point of the mountain, pursued them over the rocks, making prisoners at every step, until his own men became so exhausted, and few in number, that it was necessary for him to halt and secure the prisoners.
The force which Girard had with him at the commencement of the business, consisting of 2,500 infantry and 600 cavalry, was totally dispersed, or captured; amongst the latter of whom were General Brune, the Prince d'Aremberg, two lieutenant- colonels, an aide-de- camp, 30 captains and subalterns, and upwards of 1,000 soldiers, with the whole of their baggage, artillery, commissariat, and even the contributions which they had recently levied. The enemy's loss in killed was also very severe, whilst, from the activity and skilful manceuvres of Lord Hill, it was very trifling on the side of the British. Girard escaped himself; with two or three hundred men, but without arms; and even these were much harrassed in their retreat by the Spanish peasantry.
We cannot avoid particularly noticing the excellent conduct of Lieutenant-General Hill, during his detached command in Spain, when he was principally opposed to Soult, perhaps the most able General whom Buonaparte employed in that country. The acuteness in foreseeing, and the steady industry in contravening this Officer's intentions, which General Hill evinced at the period of the retreat of the British army to the lines of Torres Vedras, very materially contributed to the happy results of the action at Buzaco, and uniformly prevented Souk's acknowledged activity from operating to the disadvantage of the troops under General Hill's command.
The bravery, skills and intrepidity of this meritorious commander, were most conspicuously put to the test in his operations against the works and establishments at the passage of the Tagus at Almarez. The strength of this position was such as apparently to bid defiance to any coup-de-main; for the bridge was defended by strong works thrown up by the French on both sides of the river, and further covered on the southern side by the castle and redoubts of Mirabete, about a league off, commanding the pass of that name, through which runs the road to Madrid, being the only one passable for carriages of any description by which the bridge can be approached.
The works on the left bank of the river consisted of a tote du pont, strongly built of masonry, and well entrenched; and on the high ground above it there was a large and well constructed fort, called Napoleon, with an interior entrenchment, and a loop-holed tower in the centre. This fort contained nine pieces of cannon, with a garrison of between four and five hundred men; and there was also, on the opposite side of the river, on a height immediately above the bridge, a very complete fort recently constructed, which flanked and added much to its defence.
On the morning of the 16th of May, 1812, General Hill reached Jaraicejo, and the same evening the troops marched in three columns; the left commanded by Lieutenant-General Chowne, (28th and 34th regiments under Colonel Wilson, and the 6th Portuguese Cacadores) towards the castle of Mirabete; the right column under Major-General Howard (50th, 71st, and 92nd regiment,) and accompanied by Lord Hill himself, to a pass in the mountains, through which a most difficult and circuitous foot-path leads by the village of Romangordo to the bridge; the centre column under Major-General Long, (6th and 18th Portuguese infantry under Colonel Ashworth, and 13th light dragoons, with the artillery) advanced upon the high road to the pass of Mirabete.
The two flank columns were provided with ladders, and it was intended that both of them should proceed to escalade the forts against which they were directed, if circumstances proved favourable; the difficulties, however, which each had to encounter on its march were such that it was impossible for them to reach their respective points before day-break. General Hill, therefore, judged it best, as there was no longer a possibility of surprise, to defer the attack until he should be better acquainted with the nature and position of the works, and accordingly gave orders for the troops to bivouac on the Leina. [This term, so frequently in use, in consequence of the modern system of warfare; simply means, for an army or corps to rest on its march, either for sleep or refreshment, without pitching their tents, or forming any military defence.]
On a full consideration of circumstances, Lord Hill determined to penetrate to the bridge by the mountain path leading through the village of Romangordo, even though by that means be should be deprived of the use of artillery; a decision fully justified by subsequent events.
Accordingly, on the evening of the 18th he moved with Major-General Howard's brigade, and the 6th Portuguese regiment, for this operation, provided with ladders, &c. Though the distance to be marched did not exceed five or six miles, yet the difficulties of the road were such that, with the united exertions of both officers and men, the column could not be formed for the attack before day-light. Confiding, however, and justly, in the gallantry of his troops, Lord Hill ordered the immediate assault of Fort Napoleon.
The 1st battalion of the 50th, and one wing of the 71st regiment, regardless of the enemy's artillery and masquetry, immediately escaladed the work in three places, nearly at the sane time. The enemy seemed at first determined, and his fire was destructive; but the ardour of the assailants was irresistible, and the garrison was driven, at the point of the bayonet, through the several entrenchments of the fort and the tete du pont across the bridge, which having been cut by those on the opposite side of the river, many leaped into the water, and thus perished.
In fact, the impression made upon the enemy's troops was such, that the panick soon communicated itself to those on the opposite side, and Fort Ragusa was abandoned instantly, the garrison flying in the utmost confusion towards Naval Moral.
The conduct of the 50th and 71st regiments, to whom this brilliant assault fell, the cool and steady manner in which they formed and advanced, and the intrepidity with which they mounted the ladders, and carried the place, was worthy of those distinguished corps, and of the officers who led them.
If the attack could have been made before day, a greater number of British troops would have been engaged; for it was intended that the 92nd regiment under Lieut-Colonel Cameron, and the remainder of the 71st, under the Hon. Lieut.-Colonel Cadogan, should have escaladed the tete du pont, and effected the destruction of the bridge, at the same time that the attack was made on Fort Napoleon. The impossibility of advancing, however, unfortunately deprived them of this opportunity of distinguishing themselves, though it rendered the affair more brilliant for those actually engaged. One division of the force in this expedition, though not absolutely in action, had an arduous duty to perform, and contributed much to the success of the enterprise; for the diversion made by Lieutenant-General Chowne, with the troops under his command, against the castle of Mirabete, succeeded completely in making the enemy believe that the British would not attack the forts near the bridge, until they had forced that pass, and thus made way for the coming up of the artillery. It is likely, indeed, that his corps would have turned this diversion into a real and successful attack, had circumstances permitted General Hill to avail himself of their gallantry and resolution.- The assault throughout was directed by our gallant Hero himself.
From the great quantity of ordnance and stores in this position, it is evident that the enemy had considered it in a very important light; its destruction, so completely as it was performed, was therefore a material object. In this service the towers of masonry which were in the two forts were completely levelled; the ramparts of both in a great measure dismantled; and the whole apparatus of the bridge, together with the workshops, magazines, and every piece of timber which could be found, entirely destroyed.
The guns were principally 12-pounders and howitzers, and were eighteen in number; there was also a considerable preportion of powder in barrels and cartridges fixed to shot; but as the magazines were blown up immediately after the capture, and every thing destroyed, it was impossible to ascertain the exact quantity. There were also 120,000 musquet ball cartridges, 300 six-inch shells, 380 rounds of case shot, 400 musquets, 20 large pontoon boats composing the bridge, with timbers complete, sixty carriages for removing the same, a large portion of rope of various dimensions, with anchors, timbers, tools, and every thing complete on a large establishment for keeping the bridge and carriages in a state of repair.
The quantity of provisions too was considerable, including 30,000 rations of biscuit, 66,000 of rice, 20,000 of brandy, 17,000 live cattle, and 18,000 of salt meat, &c.
As an addition to this important success, it is pleasing to reflect, that the British loss was far from severe, considering the arduous service in which they were engaged: Captain Chandler of the 50th was the only officer killed in the assault; he was the first to mount the ladder, and fell upon the parapet, after giving a distinguished example to his men; but leaving a large family to deplore his loss. The total amounted to thirty three killed, and 144 wounded. The prisoners taken included a Lieut.-Colonel, a Major, and several other officers; in the whole 252.
In this expedition it must be noticed that the Spaniards were particularly serviceable. The Marquis de Almeida, a member of the Junta of Estremadura, accompanied Lord Hill; and from him, and from the people in the vicinity, he received the most ready and effectual assistance it was in their power to bestow.
In the ever memorable battle of Vittoria (June 21, 1813,) which decided the fate of the Usurper Joseph, and finally led to the overthrow of the Buonapartean dynasty, the centre of the allied army was commanded by the Duke of Wellington, the right wing by Lord Hill, and the left by Lord Lyndoch. The operations of the day commenced by Lord Hill obtaining possession of Puebla, on which the enemy's left rested.
He detached on this service one brigade of the Spanish division under General Murillo; the other brigade being employed in keeping the communications between his main bay, on the high road from Miranda to Vittoria, and the troops detached to the heights. The enemy, however, soon discovered the importance of the position, and reinforced their troops there to such an extent that General Hill was obliged to detach, first the 71st regiment and the light infantry battalion of Major-General Walker's brigade under the command of the Hon. Lieutenant-Colonel Cadogan, and successively other troops to the same point, after which the allies not only gained, but maintained possession of these important heights throughout their operations, notwithstanding all the efforts of the enemy to retake them. The contest here, however, was severe, and the loss sustained considerable: General Murillo was wounded, but remained in the field; and here also, Colonel Cadogan received the fatal wound which deprived the service, his king and country, of an officer of great zeal and tried gallantry, who had already acquired the respect of the whole profession, and of whom, as the Duke of Wellington observed, it might have been expected that if be had lived be would have rendered the most important services to his country. Under cover of the possession of these heights, General Hill successively passed the Zadora, at La Puebla, the defile formed by the heights, and the river, and attacked and gained possession of the village of Sabijana de Alava, in front of the hostile line, and which the enemy made many attempts to regain.
The difficult nature of the country prevented the communication between the different allied columns moving to the attack, from their stations on the river Bayas, at as early an hour as the Duke of Wellington had expected; and it was late before he knew that the column composed of the third and seventh divisions, under the command of the Earl of Dalhousie, had arrived at the station appointed for them.
The fourth and light divisions, however, passed the Zadora immediately after Lord Hill had possession of Sabijana de Alava; the former at the bridge of Nauclaus, and the latter at the bridge of Tres Puentes; and almost as soon as these had crossed, the column under the Earl of Dalhousie arrived at Mendoaxa, and the third division, under Sir Thomas Picton, crcssed at the bridge higher up, and was followed by the seventh division, under the Earl of Dalhousie.
The four divisions, forming the centre of the army, were destined to attack the heights on which the right of the enemy's centre was placed; whilst General Hill should move forward from Sabijina de Alava to attack the left. The enemy however having weakened his line to strengthen his detachment on the hills, abandoned his position in the valley, as soon as he saw the disposition ofthe allies to attack it, and commenced his retreat in good order towards Vittoria whilst the allied troops continued to advance in equally good order, notwithstanding the difficulty of the ground.
The general particulars of this important and decisive battle, have so often appeared before our readers, that we will not detain them with any, except such as we think it would be manifest injustice to omit.- In the conclusion of the contest, the whole of the enemy's ammunition and baggage, and in short, every thing they had, were taken close to Vittoria: so complete, indeed, was this part of the business, that they were able to carry off only one gun and one howitzer out of their formidable park of artillery. This grand army, so totally discomfitted, consisted of the whole of the armies of the south and of the centre, and of four divisions and all the cavalry of the army of Portugal.
With respect to the enemy's loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners, various statements have been made, which, from the nature, of the occurrences must be vague, and in a great measure incorrect. Their loss, however, must have been great; and even the success of the allies was not purchased, but with an immense sacrifice of blood.
The number of pieces of cannon taken in the battle, was proved by subsequent returns to be 180; and the officer who brought home the dispatches, declared that he never saw a finer sight than the disposition of these guns, all ranged in order in a plain before Vittoria, with the amunition, &c. taken in the battle.- The booty also, which was captured, was immense: besides the baggage, horses, and other articles taken in the field; the value of the specie, plate, and jewels, was estitnated at six millions of dollars. Of this sum only 100,000 dollars came to the military chest; the rest was divided by the troops on the spot.
In recounting the actions of this glorious day, we find the Duke of Wellington expressing himself particularly indebted to the gallant subject of our memoir, and to Sir Thomas Graham (now Lord Lyndoch,) for the manner in which they respectively conducted the services entrusted to them since the commencement of the operations which ended in the battle of the 21st, and for their conduct in that battle.
In contemplating results which were the consequence of the Battle of Vittoria, and reflecting how great a share our gallant countryman Lord Hill had in the achievements of that day; that the right wing of the army, led on and commanded by him, first commenced the attack; and that, had not his Lordship's division displayed the utmost gallantry, the battle might have had a very different termination,- we say, when we reflect on what might and what have been the consequences of this violent contest, we are lost in amazement; for it is now no secret, that the news of the battle of Vittoria decided the conduct of the Emperor of Austria, during the attempts of the Allies to make peace with Buonaparte, previously to the battle of Dresden; and his decision led to the final overthrow of Napoleon, and the establishment of the Bourbons on the throne of France.- Tracing events to their causes, we are induced to draw this conclusion, that the military skill, bravery, and intrepidity, displayed by General Lord Hill in the battle of Vittoria, was the PRINCIPAL cause of that military glory and pre-eminence among nations which Great Britain has subsequently acquired. Nevertheless we offer this opinion with due respect to the abilities, courage, and experience of the Duke of Wellington, and all those brave officers who acted, with Gen. Lord Hill; under his command, during the war in the Peninsula.- But we pass on to notice that, in the various engagements in Spain and in France, during this important campaign, we find General Hill actively and successfully employed.
While Lord Hill occupied the valley of Bastan, two divisions of the centre of the enemy's army attacked his position in the Puerto de Mayor, with a very superior force. His Lordship's position, which was about three miles in extent, was strong by nature, but not tenable against the overwhelming force which was brought against it, which was not less than fourteen thousand men, while the troops under Lord Hill did not exceed three thousand: but notwithstanding the superiority of number, the enemy acquired but little advantage over these brave troops, during the seven hours they were engaged. All the British charged with the bayonet, and the conduct of the 82nd was particularly distinguished.
The remarkably strong position in the pass of Donna Maria was carried in the most gallant stile, by Lord Hill and Major. Gen. Murray.- At this period, the troops under Lord Hill were engaged for seven days successively.
Pampluna having surrendered on the 31st of October, 1813, and the right of the Allied Army having been disengaged from covering the blockade of that place, General Hill moved on the 6th and 7th of November, into the Valley of Bastan; Lord Wellington intended to attack the enemy on the 8th but the rain having rendered the roads impassable, the attack was deferred till the 10th.- The enemy not satisfied with the natural strength of their position in the Valley, had the whole of it fortified; and their right in particular had been made so strong that the Commander in Chief did not think it prudent to attack it in front.- The attack was consequently made in columns of divisions. Gen. Hill directed the movement of the right, which attacked the positions of the enemy behind Anhone.- The skill of the General, and the bravery of the troops under his command, soon forced the enemy to retire towards the bridge of Cambo, on the Nive, with the exception of the division of Mordain, which, by the march of a part of the second division, under Lieutenant-General Stewart, was pushed into the mountains of Baggory.
On this memorable occasion, the allied army succeeded in driving the enemy from positions he had been fortifying with great labour and care for three months, and took from him fifty one pieces of cannon, six tumbrils, and 1,400 prisoners.
Lord Wellington speaks highly of the conduct of Marshal Beresford and Lord Hill, who directed the attack on the centre and right on this occasion, as he does of other gallant and distinguished officers: we hope the omission of their names will not be attributed to disrespect, as our object is to confine ourselves chiefly to what relates to our brave and noble countryman.
After the enemy's retreat from this strong position, they occupied another in front of Bayonne, which had been entrenched with great labour since the battle of Vittoria. The right of the work rested on the Adour, the front was covered by a morass, and the left was upon the river Nive.
The Duke of Wellington perceived it was impossible to attack the enemy in this position, as long as they remained in force in it, he therefore ordered the troops out of their cantonments on the 8th of December, and that the right of the army under Gen. Lord Hill, should pass on the 9th at and in the neighbourhood of Cambo, while Marshal Beresford supported his operations, by passing the 6th division under Lieut. General Clinton. Both operations succeeded completely. The enemy were immediately driven from the right bank of the river, and retired towards Bayonne by the great road of St. Jean Pied de Port.
On the night of the 12th, the enemy withdrew into their entrenchments, and passed a large force through Bayonne with which, in the morning, they made a most desperate attack on Lord Hill. The expected arrival of the 6th division, and two brigades of the third, gave the Lieut-General great facility in making his movements: but the troops under his own immediate command had defeated and repulsed the enemy with immense loss, before their arrival.
At the conclusion of this brilliant achievement, the noble Wellington rode up to Lord Hill, and in the true spirit of a great and candid mind, said,- ' HILL, THIS IS ALL YOUR OWN.'
In the publick despatch which he sent to England by General Hill's brother, Colonel Clement Hill, he manifested the same candour. In speaking of this affair, he adds,- ' IT GIVES ME THE GREATEST SATISFACTION TO HAVE ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY OF REPORTING MY SENSE OF THE MERITS AND SERVICES OF LIEUT-GENERAL SIR ROWLAND HILL. '
On the 14th of Feb. 1814, Gen. Hill drove in the enemy's picquets on the Joyeuse river, and attacked their position at Hiliege, from which he obliged General Haraspe to retire with loss towards St. Martin.- On the following day, the troops continued their pursuit of the enemy, who retired to a strong position in the front of the Garris.
On the 16th Lord Hill crossed the Bidoure river. On the 24th he crossed the Gave and Oleron, at Villenave. General Hill and Sir H. Clinton then moved towards Orthes, and the great road leading from Sauveterre to that town; and the enemy retired across the Gave de Pau; the British army following. After a short engagement, the enemy retired in admirable order, taking advantage of the numerous good positions the country afforded.
The losses, however, which at this time the enemy sustained, and the danger with which they were threatened by Lord Hill's movements, soon accelerated their motions, their retreat at length became a flight, and their troops were in the utmost confusion, Sir Stapleton Cotton (now Lord Combermere,) took advantage of the only opportunity which presented itself, to charge with Lord Somerset's cavalry brigade, in the neighbourhood of Sault de Navailles, where the enemy had been driven from the high road by General Hill.- Six pieces of cannon were taken from the enemy, and a great many prisoners, and the whole country was covered with their slain. Beauchamp says 14 or 16,000 were killed, wounded, and taken prisoners.
The result of these successful operations were that Bayonne, St. Jean Pied de Port, and Navarrens, were immediately invested. The army having passed the Adour, took possession of the enemy's magazines.- For these services and assistance, the Commander in Chief again eulogises General Hill, Lord Combermere, &c.
General Hill, in conformity to the orders of Lord Wellington, advanced with the right wing on the road which leads to Aires. He arrived within a league of this place on the 2nd of March; and his advanced guard discovered two French divisions; which occupied a strong chain of hills, having their right flank on the Adour, and thus covering, the road. In spite of their strong position, General Hill ordered an immediate attack; on which the tenth light division, under General Stewart, and a Portuguese brigade, belonging to the division of General Lacoste, put themselves in motion. The action took place in the woods of Clifas, between Grenade and Aires; and the allies immediately climbed the hills towards the right and centre. The Portuguese brigade actually attained the summit; but they met with a vigorous resistance, and the assaulted became the assailants. This brigade was repulsed with considerable loss, and thrown into such confusion, that the most serious consequences to the Allies would have ensued, but for the opportune support of General Stewart. He drove back the division immediately opposed to him by well directed fire; and seeing it return with a view to destroy the Portuguese brigade, caused fresh troops to advance, charged the French in his turn, and threw their columns into the greatest disorder. From this moment every attempt, on the part of Marshall Soult, to regain the ground, was abortive. Lieut.-General Hill dislodged him from all his positions, and the village of Aires, after having caused him great loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners. The English General had to lament the death of Lieut.-Colonel Hood, who fell in the action, as did about nine hundred Portuguese; whose bodies were thrown into the Adour, after the battle ceased.
This new check rendered the situation of Marshall Soult so desperate, that he left the roads of Agen, Bourdeaux, and Montauban, uncovered, hastily effecting his retreat by the two banks of the Adour towards Tarbes, in hopes of being shortly reinforced by detachments from the Army of Catalonia. One of his columns, however, having been separated from the Adour, by the rapid march of General Hill on Aires, retreated in the greatest disorder towards Pau, the fugitives throwing away their arms, the better to secure their escape.
While Lord Hill, with the right of the army, obtained such signal advantages, Lieut.-General Hope, who commanded the left wing, passed the Adour below Bayonne; and in concert with Vice-Admiral Penrose, rendered himself master of both banks of the river, at its mouth. The formidable state of the place made the French feel secure against the attempts of the enemy. Two hundred of the Rochefort marines had repaired to Bayonne, for the purpose of putting the cannon into the most effective state, protecting the navigation, and covering the town. It seemed impossible to force the bar of the Adour; and to construct a bridge appeared equally impracticable. General Hope had therefore, nothing to forward his views, except pontoons and rafts, with which, on the evening of the 23rd of February, he caused six hundred of the English Guards to pass, accompanied by a detachment of cavalry.
They immediately took possession of the right bank; and the garrison, consisting of 2,000 men, lost no time in attacking them; but this sortie was repulsed by Major-General. Stopford, supported by Congreve's rockets. These engines of destruction were hurled into the midst of the French troops, and burnt their very clothing; so that the men were completely alarmed at this novel species of wildfire, and gave way. The vessels too which had been destined to form a bridge, as well as the flotilla, experienced severe difficulties in passing the bar of the Adour, the breakers there being at all times dreadful.- Four sloops were swallowed up, and others dashed, to pieces on the rock; but at length, a vessel found the channel, and cast anchor in the midst of the agitated waves.
After this, the operation, which was of a most dangerous nature, especially in winter, was accomplished with a degree of skill and bravery seldom equalled. Boats crossed the bar in quick succession; and a French frigate, which was moored in the Adour, was assailed by a battery of eighteen guns, which materially damaged it, and caused it to seek a refuge under the artillery of the place. The bridge was now soon constructed, and the whole corps of Lieut.-General Hope passed, to the great astonishment of the stupified inhabitants, who ran from every quarter, to convince themselves, by ocular proof, that an event had actually occurred which they had deemed impossible,
On the 25th, the English troops approached the citadel of Bayonne, while Lieut.-General Don Manuel Freyre advanced, with the Fourth Spanish Army, by the road of St. Jean de Lua. On the 27th, the. bridge being completed, General Hope. more decidedly invested the citadel, which was commanded by General Thouvenot; and attacked the village of St. Etienne, which he carried. It was in vain that the armed sloops, which were charged with the defence of the Adour, manoeuvred to destroy the bridge constructed in so astonishing a manner. Three of them were sunk, and the communications of the Allies secured; after which the besieging army established its posts at the distance of nine hundred yards from the exterior works of the place.
While these successes crowned the efforts of the Allies, the Duke of Angouleme arrived at Lord Wellington's headquarters, at St. Sever.- The loyal inhabitants of Bourdeaux opened their gates to Lord Wellington, and hastened to lay at the feet of the Duke d'Angouleme the homage of the city. On the 12th, the friendly ensigns of England, Spain, and Portugal, united with the Royal Standard of the ancient French Kings, announced that the signal of the Restoration of the Bourbons was given.
While this city and La Vendee became the focus of the royal insurrection, Lord Wellington, pursuing his success, marched to the conquest of Languedoc. His different detachments, and the reserves of cavalry and artillery coming front Spain, did not join him until the 17th of March. In the mean time, the Marshal Duke of Dalmatia, not thinking his position very secure, had retired to Lambege, in the direction of Tarbes, leaving his advanced posts near Conches.
The army of Lord Wellington put itself in motion on the 18th, and Lieut-Genera1 Hill drove in the French posts, which, under cover of the night, fell back on Vic-Bigorre: Lieutenant-General Clinton manoeuvred on the rear of Marshall Soult; and drove it from the vineyards, as well as from Vic-Bigorre. The allied army immediately collected in the latter town, and at Rabastens. During the night the Duke of Dalmatia retreated towards Tarbes, taking a position on the heights, near the windmill at Oleac, with his centre and left on the hills near Angos.
Lord Wellington's army marched from Vic and Rabastens, in two columns of attack.- Lieut.-General Clinton was to turn the right wing of the French army, while Lieut.-General Hill was to attack Tarbes, by the road from Vic-Bigorre. This combined movement was completely successful. At the moment that the light division dislodged the troops of the advanced guard from the heights above Oleix, Lieut.-General Hill passed through the town of Tarbes, and arranged his columns, so as to surround the army of Marshall Soult, which only owed its safety to a hasty retreat by Pinasse, leaving the field of battle covered with the dead and wounded, and falling back in disorder towards Saint Gaudens.
In the mean time, Lord Wellington had surprised all the resources of Marshal Soult at Tarbes, and from that moment the French army was in want of every thing; so that its Commander, thinking himself no where secure, sought refuge with his troops under the walls of Toulouse.
While these great operations were taking place on the left of the combined army beyond the Garonne, Lieut.-General Hill, with the right wing, dislodged all the left of Marshal Soult from the exterior works of the St. Cyprien suburb. Lieut.- General Picton also renewed his attacks, and drove the French troops from the tete-de-pont at the canal, near the Garenne; but his division, in attempting to seize it; had been repulsed with loss. Major-General Brisbane was severely wounded upon the occasion.
The Duke of Wellington entered Thoulouse on the 12th of April. The same day Colonel Cooke arrived from Paris, to inform him of the capture of that city, and of the suspension of hostilities; which intelligence was immediately communicated to Marshals Suchet and Soult, who acknowledged the Provisional Government of France, and concluded a convention with the Duke of Wellington for a cessation of arms.
At this moment, when all was joy and gratulation, a dreadful sortie was made by the Garrison of Bayonne, Who Were unacquainted with the change which had taken place. In this unfortunate affair, Major-General Hay was killed, and Lieut.- Gen. Sir John Hope wounded and taken prisoner: the Hon. Captain Crofton, a brave and meritorious young Officer, also lost his life.
On the return of Lord Hill to his native country, after the peace of Paris, every token of honour, gratitude and affection, was manifested by his grateful countrymen. In Shrewsbury, Birmingham, Chester, Whitchurch, Drayton, Ellesmere - in every place visited or passed through by the gallant General, publick dinners, illuminations, or other tokens of the most grateful respect, announced the general joy.
London and Birmingham presented his lordship with elegant swords.- The inhabitants of Shropshire appeared as one joyful family, congratulating each other on the return of their common benefactor and deliverer. On his lordship's first visit to Shrewsbury, thousands went out to meet him; in many places the trees were adorned with flowers, and even the road was strewed with those blooming odoriferous emblems of the highest esteem.
Such was the desire of all descriptions of persons to shake hands with and congratulate Lord Hill, that it was found utterly impossible for him to appear in the Quarry, or to be a witness of the joy which manifested itself during this benevolent treat. At one time, with considerable difficulty, and with no small degree of personal danger, from the eager pressure of the crowd, his Lordship had proceeded nearly to the bottom of the Quarry walk, when he was under the necessity of making a precipitate retreat; on which occasion the gallant Hero, with great good nature, observed,- ' I have never fled from the fiery of my enemies, but in this instance I am compelled to fly from the kindness of my friends.'
His Lordship was presented with the Freedom of the Borough, in a gold box: and the ancient and respectable Company of Drapers presented him with the Freedom of their Company, in a Silver Tureen and Stand; when an address was delivered by the venerable and much esteemed Father of the Company, MR. PETER VAUGHAN.
But the most splendid and durable token of the gratitude and esteem of to countrymen, is the Column erected near Shrewsbury to his honour, which is said to be the largest Dorick column in the world.
Unfortunately for the peace of Europe, Buonaparte unexpectedly returned from Elba, and again assumed the government of the French people. An alarm was instantly created, and the allied Sovereigns immediately flew to arms; on which occasion Lord Hill again obeyed the voice of his Sovereign, and on the memorable 18th of June, 1815, at the Battle of Waterloo, his Lordship commanded the second Corps, composed of the 2nd, 4th, and 6th divisions, and there gave fresh proofs of his skill, bravery, and intrepidity. It is not perhaps generally known that, in the latter part of that arduous and dreadful contest, Lord Hill with a very small part of his force, consisting of only five thousand men, completely repulsed the French Imperial Guards, which were more than three times their number. In this conflict Lord Hill's favourite charger was shot under him, and whilst he was on foot, and completely exposed to the enemy, he was discovered by an officer of the Duke of Wellington's staff, who immediately procured him the horse of a dismounted French Dragoon. For a full hour the officers of his Lordship's staff were in a state of the greatest consternation, and twice met under the apprehension that their beloved General had fallen. It was on this occasion that Lord Hill's proved friend, and brave companion in every danger, Colonel Currie was numbered with the slain, and the Hon. Captain Bridgman, son of Lord Bradford (Aide-de-Camp to Lord Hill) received a wound which it was thought had deprived him of life. Lord Hill said to his brother, Sir Noel Hill (Assistant Adjutant-General,) ' Poor Bridgman's gone!' Happily, however, the wound proved slight, and the services of this valuable officer were suspended for a very short time only.
The following are the titles and dignities enjoyed by his Lordship:-
Lieutenant-General in the Army, Governor of Hull;
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath;
Knight of the Portuguese Order of the Tower and Sword;
Knight of the Austrian Order of Maria Theresa;
Knight of the Russian Order of St. George;
Knight of the Belgian Order of Wilhelm;
Baron Hill of Almarez, Hawkstone, and Hardwick Grange.
The following account of the family of Lord Hill, will not be thought inappropriate in this place.
JOHN, the eldest brother of Lord Hill, arrived at the rank of a Field Officer in the army. On his marriage and by the wish of his friends, he retired from that service, and raised a regiment of Volunteer Cavalry in the county of Salop, which he commanded.- This excellent man died in 1814, and left a widow with five sons and two daughters. Should Lord Hill die, leaving no son, the peerage and pension descend to the heirs of his deceased elder brother.
SIR ROBERT CHAMBRE HILL, is Knight Companion of the Bath, Knight of the Order of Maria Theresa, and Knight of the Order of St. George: late Colonel of the Royal Horse Guards Blue, which regiment he commanded whilst on service in the Peninsulas and at the battle of Waterloo, in which glorious conflict SIR Robert received a wound from a musket ball, which entered his right shoulder, and completely passing through the arm, grazed his breast: his removal from the field of battle did not take place till near the conclusion of the action.
SIR FRANCIS BRIAR HILL, an English knight, and Knight of the Portuguese Order of the Tower and Sword, was employed as Charge- d'affaires, and Secretary of Legation, at the Courts of Munich, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and the Brazils.- Sir Francis being appointed Receiver-General for the County of Salop, has of course relinquished every diplomatick engagement, for his present responsible situation.
Lieutenant-Colonel CLEMENT HILL, is a Captain in the Royal Horse Guards Blue. Colonel C. Hill accompanied his brother Lord Hill, as an Aide-de-Camp, during the whole of the long and sanguinary war in the Peninsula, was twice the bearer of the official dispatches to England, and received a slight wound at the time the British troops, under the command of Lord Hill, accomplished the passage of the Douro. Colonel Hill accompanied his brother in the spring of 1815, with the prospect of being placed on his Lordship's Staff in Belgium; but when the Blues arrived in that country, the Colonel considered it his duty to take his regimental post; and in the battle of Waterloo, was severely wounded, by having a sword thrust through his thigh, which literally pinioned him to the saddle.
SIR THOMAS NOEL HILL, Knight commander of the Bath, Knight of the Tower and Sword, Knight of St. George, and Knight of Maximilian Joseph; Captain in the First Regiment of Foot Guards. Sir Noel attended his brother, the General, as Aide-de- Camp, in Ireland, and the early part of the war in Spain and Portugal. When the Portuguese army was organized by Lord Beresford, Sir Noel was appointed to the command of the First Portuguese Infantry, with the local rank of Colonel, and received the repeated notice and thanks of Lord Wellington, and other General Officers, for his brave and able conduct at several sieges, as well as on the open field of battle. When the reduction of the Portuguese army took place, he was appointed to a Company in the First Guards, by his Royal Highness the Duke of York, and was on duty with that regiment at Brussels some months.- When Lord Hill arrived in Flanders, Sir Noel obtained leave to join his Lordship's Staff, and was immediately appointed an Assistant Adjutant General to the wing of the army under the command of Lord Hill. Sir Noel happily received no injury from the enemy in the battle of Waterloo, or on any former occasion, though it is probable no officer was ever more repeatedly exposed to danger."
" CALVERHALL (or CORVERHALL, or CLOVERLEY), a township in the parish of Prees, and in the Whitchurch division of the hundred of Bradford North. A chapel to Prees. Calverhall, with Willaston, and Millen-heath, contains 51 houses, 298 inhabitants.
" DARLASTON, a township in the parish of Prees, and in the Whitchurch division of the hundred of Bradford North. 5 miles north-east of Wem."
" FAULES GREEN, a township in the parish of Prees, and in the Whitchurch division of the hundred of Bradford North. 6 miles northeast of Wem."
" FAWES (and WHITLEY), a township in the parish of Prees, and in the Whitchurch division of the hundred of Bradford North."
" MICKLEY, a township in the parish of Prees, and in the Whitchurch division of the hundred of Bradford North."
" MILLEN HEATH, a township in the parish of Prees, and in the Whitchurch division of the hundred of Bradford North."
" SANDFORD, a township in the parish of Prees, and in the Whitchurch division of the hundred of Bradford North.
Sandford township, including Darlaston, Faules, and Mickley, contains 72 houses, 561 inhabitants. 5½ miles north-east of Wem."
" STEELE, a township in the parish of Prees, and in the Whitchurch division of the hundred of Bradford North. Prees and Steele townships contain 234 houses, 1,525 inhabitants."
" WHIXALL, a township in the parish of Prees, and in the Whitchurch division of the hundred of Bradford North. A chapel, in the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, the deanery of Salop, and archdeaconry of Salop, a peculiar. 127 houses, 811 inhabitants. 4 miles north of Wem."
" WILLASTON, a township in the parish of Prees, and in the Whitchurch division of the hundred of Bradford North."
[Transcribed information from A Gazetteer of Shropshire - T Gregory - 1824](unless otherwise stated)
[Description(s) transcribed by Mel Lockie ©2015]