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January 18 , 2010

The Recollections Of Rifleman Harris


This ebook is purpose built and is proof-read and re-type set from the original to provide an outstanding experience of reflowing text for an ebook reader. In an era devoid of modern communication methods, letters and diaries from the literate officer classes of the Napoleonic wars abound ,in all of the languages of the combatant nations. Much less often heard is the voice of the enlisted man, particularly in the British armed forces, an invaluable insight is provided by the recollections of Rifleman Harris late of the 95th Rifles. The often brutal realities of the era were collated by an officer whom he knew, Captain Curling, and published in 1848, and although not well known at the time has become one of the most famous recorded by any rank. One of Harris’ first memoires of his time in the army is the devastating spectacle of a firing squad for a court-martial of one of the rank and file and of the court-martial of the bungling General Whitelock whose mishandled expedition to Buenos Ayres. The man from the rank and file was shot, but General Whitelock was merely cashiered, a difference of class and the times unintentionally brought to light. Whitelock’s court-martial provides the first appearance of General (at the time Colonel) Craufurd, who went on the expedition with Whitelock and want to have his former commander shot for his ineptitude!, and under whom Harris would spend a great deal of his soldiering career. Harris takes a small part in another expedition to Denmark, but the only sort of action he is involved in is defending a Danish family from the depredations of fellow soldiers. It is however with his entrance into Portugal in 1808, that his adventures really begin to take shape; as his fellow soldiers fall around him at the battles of Roliça and Vimiero he describes the horrific injuries sustained, the plundering of the dead that took place (which he was not above joining in) and the task of the surgeons to try and stitch up the wounded. A large part of the narrative is taken by the retreat of Sir John Moore’s army to Coruña, and the Light Brigade’s to Vigo. His tales of the retreat are vividly described; from the capture of the French general Lefebvre-Desnouettes at Benavente, the privation, the wifes of the soldiers and their struggle to stay with the column, to the iron resolve of General Craufurd to keep going. Eventually and in a pitiable state Harris reaches Vigo and embarks for England. It was not enemy action that ended Harris’ career in the army but diseases contracted during the pestilent 1809 Walcheren campaign, the lingering sickness forced Harris to leave the army and take up trade as a cobbler. A valuable and excellent read. Text taken, whole and complete, from the 1848 edition, published in London by H Hurst. Original – 298 pages. Author- Benjamin Harris (1781-????) Editor – Captain Henry Curling (????-????) Linked TOC.
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