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Captain Peter Hawker was a young officer, full of enthusiasm, cultured and with a eye of an artist in his when he started out his service in the Peninsula with the 14th Light Dragoons. Although memoirs of the Peninsula abound, most were written some years after the events described in them, his short reminiscence was written immediately after his return in 1810 and retains the freshness of his memory aided by notes of his journal that he entered at the time.
Hawker entered into the fray in late 1808 and joined the Peninsular army just before Wellington took over command, the first part of his journal focuses on the sights and scenery in and around Lisbon as he takes the role of a tourist. He describes the beautiful yet un-healthy city, its churches and the destruction left by the occupying French before he moves with the army northward. He is none too pleased with the towns and villages that he enters filled as they are with vermin, fleas and lice. He and his squadron take part in the forcing passage of the Douro and engage in a successful but reckless charge against an entire brigade.
Having ejected Soult and his French divisions in some disarray from Portugal, Hawker and his comrades pass into Spain, he masterfully describes the magnificent scenery, and although the villages are less mean and better kept the civilians are only happy whilst the British army advances. He gives a good account of the battle of Talavera in which he took a full part and was seriously wounded, and is not backward in apportioning blame to some of the Spanish soldiers who ran away without being seriously attacked.
After the battle due to some serious miscommunication between Wellington and Cuesta, Hawker is left behind with the wounded and is forced to make his epic journey back to British lines with only his wits and his servant with him, his hip broken and a bullet lodged in his back.
Text taken, whole and complete, from the 1810 edition, published by R Johnston, London.
Original –137 pages
Maps – 1 – Not Included due to its size – A3
Author – Peter Hawker – (1786-1853)