PENINSULAR WAR. Series of nearly thirty autograph letters signed by Lieutenant , subsequently Captain, James Girdlestone of the Second Battalion, 31st (Huntingdonshire) Regiment of Foot, 1808-1813
Lot 127
PENINSULAR WAR. Series of nearly thirty autograph letters signed by Lieutenant , subsequently Captain, James Girdlestone of the Second Battalion, 31st (Huntingdonshire) Regiment of Foot, 1808-1813
Sold for £4,375 (US$ 7,252) inc. premium
Lot Details
PENINSULAR WAR
Series of nearly thirty autograph letters signed by Lieutenant, subsequently Captain, James Girdlestone of the Second Battalion, 31st (Huntingdonshire) Regiment of Foot, to his father, the Rev. John Girdlestone, Curate and Incumbent of Thorney, near Wisbech, and other members of his family, kept throughout Wellington and Beresford's Peninsular campaign of 1808 to 1813, recording, inter alia, participation in the Battle of Talvera (two long letters): "from Daylight to three OClock in the Afternoon not a movement was made, but we lay down on the ground in Line and the French firing Shot and Shells at us from every Gun they had sometimes 8 or 9 poor fellows would be carried away with one Shell but not a Man Moved from his place the Scene I assure you was truly grand and beautiful notwithstanding the danger... Their Loss was immense... & according to their own Accounts the best troops Bonaparte has... The Ground was actually covered with their Bodies..."; the defence of the Lines of Torrres Vedras: "we marched the next Monday and arrived here after a very wet March yesterday Evening. I have only time now to let you know where we are, dinner is on the Table and the Officer who takes this to Lisbon is waiting on horseback at the Door. We are now going to stand... The French have kept close to our heels during the retreat and are at present only three leagues from us, a party of Dragoon are just brought in taken prisoners last night near this. The Enemy between sixty and seventy thousand Men are coming upon us in three different Columns... We may expect to be attacked in about three days and before you can receive this one of the hardest battles ever fought by the British will have taken place..."; the Battle of Albuera: "we were engaged the whole of the Action, almost every Officer of our Regt that was not wounded received Balls either through their Hats or some part of their Dress, my Sword was knocked out of my hand by a Cannon Shot, our Comm.g Officer had a horse shot under him; in fact all the old Officers say it was the hottest Action they ever were in... We are now laying on the field of Battle amongst the dead and dying, the Weather cold and dreadfully wet, and what is worse than all to a John Bull but little to eat... 6 OClock May 18th. The Enemy retired this Morng at three oClock & have left a great number of their Wounded and several of our Men on the ground. [Their] loss has been much greater than at first supposed..."; the Battle of Vitoria and its aftermath: "In my Wound I have been extremely fortunate, Musket Ball hit me in the front of my left thigh and passed through close by the Bone without touching it... The 21t has been a most glorious day, such as was never before gained by the British Army... I was unfortunate in getting another Wound after being with my Regiment for only a few hours... The Army has had very hard and terrible Work and has suffered much..."; and the prelude to the Battle of Nivelle, at which he received his final, incapacitating, wound: "Camp near the Pass of Maya Novr 7th We have just arrived here and have orders to be in readiness to march again at twelve O'Clock this night, a general Attack is going to be made upon the Enemy's position in front of which we are to be by day light in the Morning; they are very strongly entrenched but there can be no doubt of Success, Lord Wellington is gone to the front to reconnoitre their Works and on his return we may expect to receive our final Orders..."; however instead of an account of the battle there is a letter by the regimental surgeon, announcing his wound, and concluding the series; together with other correspondence including letters of commendation by his commanding officers, Major General John Byng ("...I cannot sufficiently express my admiration of your good conduct in action, the three severe wounds you received during the last Campaign entitle you to consideration, as to my knowledge you were exactly where your duty called on you to be, when you received them...") and Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Leith of the 31st ("...during the period I have had the pleasure of serving with you in the Peninsula, your gallantry in the field has only been equalled by your current conduct..."), a series of later letters by him written from the Continent, his passport, and other family correspondence; nearly all the Peninsular letters with address panels and postmarks, some 120 pages, dust-staining, small tears and other usual signs of wear, but overall in good and attractive condition, folio and 4to, Spain and Portugal, 1808-1813

Footnotes

  • 'WE ARE NOW LAYING ON THE FIELD OF BATTLE AMONGST THE DEAD AND DYING': a fine series of campaign letters from the Peninsular War. Included in the lot is a portrait miniature of Girdlestone, wearing the single right epaulette of a lieutenant; and his Peninsular Medal, with bars for Nivelle, Pyrenees, Vittoria, Albuhera, Busaco and Talavera.
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