Duke Of Wellington
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, was born at Daugan Castle, May 1st, 1769. He was educated at Eaton and a military school of Angers, France. He was commissioned as ensign in 1787. In 1795 he became Lieutenant-Colonel, and commanded the brigade which covered the retreat of the British force from Flanders. In 1796 he went to India, where he was engaged in numerous battles until 1805. In that year he returned to England, and took his seat in Parliament, In 1807 he was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland. In 18o8 he assumed the title of Lieutenant-General, and was put in command of the force for the war in Spain. For a detailed history of the remarkable campaigns carried on in Spain, between 1805 and 1813, we must refer the reader to the military history of this great man. He succeeded at last in driving the enemies of England from Portugal and Spain, and setting the peninsula free from the dominion of France. The ground was stubbornly defended, from the line of entrenchments at Torres Vedras,, to the day that he drove Joseph Bonaparte across the Ebro. For brave conduct in Spain, he was made Earl of Wellington, honored with the thanks of Parliament, and made a Field-Marshal. In all his laborious marches and distinguished battles, in which he routed Massena, Soult Mormonte, and Joseph Bonaparte, he displayed the greatest military genius. During the next two years he was engaged in carying on the war in France, as an embassador in Paris and member of the congress in Vienna. In April, 1815, he took command of the English force in the Netherlands; with headquarters at Brussels. On June 18th he met the fiery Napoleon at Waterloo.
In this famous battle, where the greatest destinies of the civilization of Europe were at stake, the armies were nearly of equal size. The French numbered seventy-two thousand; the others, under command of Wellington, numbered seventy thousand. The French army was composed almost entirely of veterans, while nearly half of the army of the allies was composed of raw recruits. The army of Wellington was posted on a small semi-circular ridge in front of the town of Waterloo. The French army stood upon a ridge opposite, while a small valley lay between. The army of the allies was upon the defensive. Welling-ton's plan of battle was to hold his front unbroken till Blucher could arrive from Ligny to his support. Napoleon had left Marshal Gouchy, with thirty thousand men, to dog the steps of the Prussians and keep them from the field of battle. Never was greater courage, either of attack or defence, shown on the battle-field than by these two armies. The columns of D'Erlon, repulsed by the English front, were hustled back in disorder by a charge of the Scotch Greys. These, in turn, were crushed by the French cuirassiers. For four terrible hours the French cavalry, four thousand strong, flung itself in charge after charge on the English front. They carried the English guns, with desperate bravery they galloped around the unbroken square, where many a gallant horse and rider fell. With equal bravery the French columns advanced against the wings and that unyielding centre. At last they wrested the farm of La Hayesaint from their opponents, and pushed on vigorously and vainly to the rear. Many of the English regiments were reduced to a mere handful of men ; but Welling-ton stubbornly held his ground, waiting for the Prussians coming in over the wet and miry roads. The battle had now raged, with terrible slaughter, from eleven in the morning to half-past four in the evening. The Prussian front were seen deploying from the woods, coming to the aid of the stubborn English Duke. The Old Guards were now brought to the front, to do the duty they had so often done in the brilliant exploits of Napoleon. They were drawn up in two huge columns. The first, with Marshal Ney at its head, dashed down the rise against that impregnable centre. They had all but touched the English line, when, torn and mangled by the terrible fire with which they had been received, they were beaten back by a charge of the English guards. The other line, three thousand strong, advanced with the same courage, and were driven back in the same way. At the moment when those shattered masses fell slowly back down the incline, forty thousand Prussians marched against Napoleon's right, and their guns swept the road to Charleroi Roi. The hour of Wellington's triumph had come. Through the long hours of that afternoon the allied forces had stood their ground before the most merciless fire that ever swept the ranks of men. But the hour of victory was approaching. Wellington seized the moments when the shattered ranks of the imperial guard were with-drawing to their lines for a general advance all along the line. The defeat of the French army was sud-den, complete, terrible. The armies that had made Europe tremble ; that had conquered Italy ; overrun Germany, and carried terror to the capital of the Sclav, was beaten in a moment by the great man who led the English forces at Waterloo. The Old Guards made one fatal, fruitless charge, and fell almost to a man. The French army fell back in utter rout to Paris, and the glory of the First Empire had departed.
On the twenty-first of June, Wellington crossed the French frontier and marched upon Paris, where, upon his arrival, an armistice was concluded. His share of the prize money at Waterloo was £60,000. In 1817 the British nation rewarded him for heroic conduct by the gift of an estate worth half a million pounds. During the years from 1819 to 1827 he had a seat in the English cabinet as master of general ordinance. In January, 1828, he was made Prime Minister, which office he held for two years. In 1834 he was installed as Chancellor of the University of Oxford. Honors without number were heaped upon him. He became the idol of the English nation, and stands in history as one of her greatest men. He died of apoplexy in 1852, and it is said that no public funeral was ever at-tended with such magnificence and honors as that of the Duke of Wellington.
" But, My Lord, it is not the military glories of Wellington on which I wish to dwell. They have become as household words among us, and will thrill the British heart in every quarter of the globe as long as a drop of British blood remains in the world. It is the moral character of the conflict which I chiefly wish to illustrate, and it is that which I trust will secure the unanimous applause of even this varied assembly. He was assailed by numbers—he met them by skill ; he was assailed by rapine—he en-countered it by discipline ; he was assailed by cruelty—he vanquished it by humanity; he was assailed by the powers of wickedness—he conquered them by the constancy of virtue. Some of you, I perceive, deny the reality of these moral qualities; but have you forgot the contemporaneous testimony of those who had received his protection and experienced his hostility ? Have you forgot that hero who had driven Massena at the head of a hundred thousand men with disgrace out of the war-wasted and desolate realm of Portugal ; was hailed as a deliverer by millions whom he protected and saved when he led his triumphant army into the valleys of France? If his career was attended with bloodshed, it was only because such a calamity is inseparable from the path alike of the patriot hero as of the conqueror; the slaughter of the unresisting never stained his triumphs ; the pillage of the innocent never sullied his career. Prodigal of his own labor, careless of his own life, he was avaricious only of the blood of his soldiers. He wove the wealth of the empire with his own good sword, but he retained none but what he received from the gratitude of the king he had served and the nation he had saved. My Lord, the glory of the conqueror is nothing new. Other ages have been dazzled with the phantom of military renown ; other ages have been beneath the yoke of foreign oppression, and other ages have seen the energies of mankind wither before the march of victorious power. It has been reserved for courage alone to witness—it has been the high prerogative of Wellington alone to exhibit—a more animating spectacle : to behold power applied only to the purpose of benificence. Victory made the means of moral renovation. Conquest became the instrument of national resurrection. Before the march of his victorious powers we have seen the energies of the world revive; we have heard his triumph-ant voice awaken a fallen race to noble duties and recall the remembrance of their pristine glory; we have seen his banners waving over the infant armies of a renovated people, and the track of his chariot wheels followed, not by the sighs of a captive, but the blessings of a liberated world. My Lord, we may well say a liberated world, for it was his firmness which first opposed a barrier to the hitherto irresistible waves of Gallic ambition; it was his counsel which traced out the path of European deliver-ance and his victories, which reanimated the all but extinguished spirit of European resistance. My Lord, it was from the rocks of Torres Vedras that the French conquest permanently receded; it was from Wellington's example that Russia was taught the means of resisting when the day of her trial arose; it was from his counsels that there was traced out to the cabinet of St. Petersburg the design of the Moscow campaign, and it was the contemporaneous victories of the Duke of Wellington that sustained the struggle of freedom in that awful conflict when the French legions, in apparently invincible strength, were preparing for the fight of Borodino, they were startled by the salvos from the Russian lines, which announced the victory of Salamanca. And when the Rus-sian army was marching in mournful silence round their burning capital, and the midnight sky was illuminated by the flames of Moscow, a breathless messenger brought the news of the fall of Madrid, and the revived multitude beheld in the triumph of Wellington and the capture of the Spanish capital an omen of their own deliverance and the rescue of their own metropolis. Nor were the services of the Duke of Wellington of less vital consequence in later times. When the tide of victory had ebbed on' the plains of Saxony, and European freedom quivered in the balance at the congress of Prague, it was Wellington that threw his sword into the beam of victory at Vittoria; it was the shout of the world which terminated the indecision of the cabinet of Vienna. Vain would have been all the subsequent triumphs of the allies ; vain the thunder of Leipsic and the capture of Paris, if Wellington had not opposed an irrepressible barrier to the revived power of France on the plains of Flanders. For what said Napoleon when calmly revolving his eventful career in the solitude of Helena? ` If Wellington and the English army had been defeated at Waterloo, what would have availed all the myriads of Russians, Austrians, Germans and Spaniards who were crowding the Rhine, the Alps and the Pyrenees.' "—ALLISON.