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manhood in England
CHAP. he received extensive estates in the counties of Meath XLIX.
and Kildare. Wellington's elder brother, who succeeded 1787.
to the hereditary honours, was afterwards created MARQUESS WELLESLEY ; so that one family enjoyed the rare
felicity of giving birth to the statesman whose energetic 1 Scherer, i. 1. Gurw. i. councils established the empire of England in the Eastern, 1: Maxwell
, and the warrior whose immortal deeds proved the salvation of Europe in the Western hemisphere.
The young soldier was regularly educated for the proIllustrious fession of his choice, and received his first commission in
the rising into year 1787, being then in the eighteenth year of his
age. Napoleon had entered the artillery two years and France. before, at the age of sixteen, and was then musing in
lonely meditation on the heroes of Plutarch ; Sir Walter Scott, at the age of seventeen, was relieving the tedium of legal education by strolling over the mountains of his native land, and dreaming of Ariosto and Amadis in the grassy vale of St Leonard's, near Edinburgh ; Viscount Chateaubriand was inhaling the spirit of devotion and chivalry, and wandering, in anticipation, as a pilgrim to the Holy Land, amidst the solitude of La Vendée ; Goethe, profound and imaginative, was reflecting on the destiny of man on earth, and inhaling deep draughts of divine philosophy, destined to be wedded to immortal verse ; Schiller was casting on the deathless mirror of
the stage the shadows of history and the creations of a 2 Scherer, noble fancy ; and the ardent spirit of Nelson was chafing Wellington.
in inaction, and counting the weary hours of life, on a pacific West Indian station. Little did any of them
think of each other, or anticipate the heart-stirring scenes Southey’s which were so soon about to arise, in the course of which 73,77. Cha- their names were to shine forth like stars in the firma
ment, and their genius to acquire immortal renown. There were giants in the earth in those days.?
Arthur Wellesley, educated at Eton, studied for a short time at the military academy of Angers, in France, where Napoleon also for some time was placed ; but he
teaub. Mém. 72, 77,
was soon removed from that seminary to take a part in CHAP. the active duties of his profession. As subaltern and captain he served both in the cavalry and infantry : in
3. spring 1793 he was promoted to the majority of the 33d Welling
ton's educaregiment, and in autumn of the same year he became, tion and by purchase, its lieutenant-colonel. At the head of that first military
services. regiment he first entered upon active service, by sailing from Cork, in May 1794, and landing at Ostend in the beginning of June following, with orders to join Lord Moira's corps, which was assembling in that place, to reinforce the Duke of York, who was in the field near Tournay. That ill-fated prince, however, was then hard pressed by the vast army of the Republicans under Pichegru;* and as he was under the necessity of retreating, it was justly deemed unadvisable to attempt the retention of a fortress so far in advance as Ostend, and Lord Moira with great skill conducted his troops by:June 1794. Bruges and Ghent to the Scheldt, and, crossing that 1. Scherer, river at the Tête-de-Flandre, joined the English army well, i. 9-16. encamped around Antwerp.
The multiplied disasters of that unhappy campaign soon brought Colonel Wellesley into contact with the His talents enemy, and taught him the art of war in the best of guished all schools, that of great operations and adverse fortune. retreat from The English army, now entirely separated from that of the Austrians, who had marched off towards the Rhine, were in no sufficient strength to face the immense masses of the Republicans in any considerable combat ; but a number of detached actions took place on the part of the rearguard, in which the spirit and intelligence of Colonel Wellesley speedily became conspicuous. On the river Dec. 30, Neethe, in a warm affair near the village of Boxtel, and
Jan. 5,1795. in a hot skirmish on the shores of the Waal, the 33d did Jan. 15. good service; the ability with which they were conducted excited general remark, and Colonel Wellesley was in consequence promoted to the command of a brigade of
* Ante, Chap. xvi. & 54.
three regiments in the ulterior retreat from the Lech to the Yssel. They were no longer, indeed, pursued by the enemy, who had turned aside for the memorable invasion of Holland ; but the rudeness of the elements proved a more formidable adversary than the bayonets of the Republicans. The route of the army lay through the inhospitable provinces of Guelderland and Overyssel ; the country consisted of flat and desert heaths ; few houses were to be found on the road, and these scattered, singly, or in small hamlets, affording no shelter to any considerable body of men. Over this dreary tract the British troops marched during the dreadful winter of 1794-5, through an unbroken wilderness of snow, with the thermometer frequently down at 15° and 20° below zero of Fahrenheit; and, when it was somewhat milder, a fierce and biting north wind blowing direct in the faces of the
soldiers. In this trying crisis Colonel Wellesley comGurw. i.2, manded the rearguard; his activity and vigilance arrested 1.4, 5. Mar- in a great degree the disorders which prevailed; and during
his first essay in arms, he experienced severities equal to the far-famed horrors of the Moscow retreat.1*
Short as was the first campaign of the Duke of WellExcellent ington, it was the best school that had been presented for campaign on nearly a century for the formation of a great commander.
War was there exhibited on a grand scale : it was in an army of sixty-eight battalions and eighty squadrons that he had served. The indomitable courage and admirable spirit of the British soldiers had, amid its disasters, appeared in their full lustre ; but the natural results of these great qualities were completely checked by the defects, at that period, of their military organisation. Total ignorance of warlike measures in the cabinet which planned their movements; a destructive minuteness of direction, arising from too little confidence on the part of government in their generals in the field; a general want
well, i. 16
* “The cold in Russia, during 1812, never fell so low as in Holland during the winter of 1794-5.”—JOMINI, Vie de Napoleon, iv. 74.
of experience in officers of all ranks in the most ordinary CHAP. operations of a campaign ; and, above all, the ruinous
1797. parsimony which, in all states not essentially military, subject to a really popular government, breaks down, on the return of peace, the military force by which alone, on the next resumption of hostilities, early success can be secured—paralysed all the courage of the troops. These defects appeared in painful contrast to the brilliant and efficient state of the more experiencd German armies, which, with national resources nowise superior, and troops far inferior both in courage and energy, were able to keep the field with more perseverance, and, in the end, achieve successes which the British soldiers could hardly hope to accomplish. These considerations forcibly impressed themselves on the mind of the young officer; and he was early led to revolve in his mind those necessary changes in the direction and discipline of the army, which, matured by the diligence and vigour of the Duke of York, ultimately, led the British nation to an unparalleled pitch of strength i. 6, 10. and glory
It was not long before an opportunity presented itself for witnessing the capability of British soldiers when sub-Colonel jected to abler direction, and led by more experienced sent to
Wellesley officers. After the return of the troops from Flanders India,
and to England, the 33d Regiment was ordered to the West on com; Indies ; but contrary winds prevented the transports in which it was embarked from sailing, and their destination was soon after changed for the East. Colonel Wellesley arrived with his corps at Calcutta in January 1797. During the voyage out, it was observed that he spent most of his time in reading; and after he landed in India, he was indefatigable in acquiring information regarding the situation and resources of the country in which he was to serve. Such use did he make of these opportunities, that when he was called, as he early was, to high command, he was perfectly acquainted, as his correspondence from the first demonstrates, both with the peculiari
CHAP. ties of Indian warfare, and the intricacies of Indian politics. XLIX.
At his first interview with Sir John Shore after he landed, 1798.
that experienced observer showed his discernment of character by the remark, “ If Colonel Wellesley should ever have the opportunity of distinguishing himself, he will do it, and greatly.” And when his division of the army took the field in January 1799, against Tippoo Sultaun, the fine condition and perfect discipline of the men, as well as the skill and judgment of the arrangements made for their supplies, called forth the warm commendations of the commander-in-chief, who little thought of what a hero
he was then ushering the name into the world.* During i Gurw.i.2,
the campaign which followed, he had little time for study, 3. Scher. , and still fewer facilities for the transport of books ; his Desp. 1, 425. library consisted of only two volumes, but they were Life of Wel- eininently descriptive of his future character and prinlesley, i. 308. ciples—Paley's Natural Theology and Cæsar's Commen
The name of no commander in the long array of British His charac- greatness will occupy so large a space in the annals of the public man. world as that of Wellington; and yet there are few whose
public character possesses, with so many excellences, so simple and unblemished a complexion. It is to the purity and elevation of his principles, in every public situation, that this enviable distinction is to be ascribed. Intrusted early in life with high command, and subjected from the
* "I have much satisfaction in acquainting your Lordship, that the very handsome appearance and perfect discipline of the troops under the orders of the Hon. Col. Wellesley do honour to themselves and to him ; while the judicious and masterly arrangements as to supplies, which opened an abundant free market, and inspired confidence into dealers of every description, were no less creditable to Colonel Wellesley than advantageous to the public service, and deservedly entitle him to my marked approbation.” How early is the real character of great men shown, when once thrown into important situations ! This might have passed for a description of Wellington's arrangements for the supply of his army in the south of France in spring 1814.-GENERAL HARRIS to the Governor-general in Council, Feb. 2, 1799; WELLESLEY's Despatches, i. 425.
+ This interesting fact I learned from my highly esteemed friend Lord Ashley, who received it from the Duke himself,