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A MIRROR OF WAR.
A siege is war in miniature. History is full of them; but we can here quote only a few specimens to illustrate in part the atrocities and horrors inseparable from this custom.
Glance at the sufferings of its own agents in this work of blood and fire. Take the case of Civdad Rodrigo. “The toll of the cathedral bell for seven gave the signal; a low, murmuring whisper ran along the advanced files of the forlorn hope ; stocks were loosened, and each man pressed his cap more firmly down upon his brow, and, with lip compressed, waited for the word to move. Anon it passed in whispers from rank to rank, and the dark mass moved on towards the foot of the breach. What a moment! How many thoughts of home, of years long past, of last adieu to all we loved! Each heart was too full for words; and we marched noiselessly along to the ditch. All was still and silent as the grave, “Quietly, my men, quietly,” said our leader; “ don't press.” Scarcely had he spoken, when a musket accidentally went off, and suddenly a bright flarne burst forth from the ramparts, and, shooting up toward the sky, made the whole scene before us clear as noonday, disclosing on one side the dark ranks and glistening bayonets of the enemy, and on the other the red uniform of the British columns compressed like a solid wall, and stretched along the plain.
• There was no time to lose ; and the loud cry of our leader, as he sprang into the trench, summoned us to the charge. Those in the van, without waiting for the leaders, jumped after him, and others pressed rapidly behind them, when a loud rumbling thunder, a hissing, crackling noise followed, and from the dark ditch there burst forth a forked, livid lightning, like the flame from a volcano, and a mine exploded! Hundreds of shells and grenades, scattered along the ground, were ignited at the same moment; the air sparkled with the whizzing fusecs; the musketry plied incessantly froin the walls, and every man of the leading company of stormers was blown to pieces. At the same time, assaults were made on all sides; the whole fortress seemed girt around with fire; and from every part arose the shouts of assailants, and the yells of triumph. As for ourselves, we stood on the verge of the ditch breathless, hesitating and horror-struck. A sudden darkness had succeeded to the bright glare; but from the midst of the gloom the agonizing cries of our wounded and dying comrades rent our very hearts.
16 Make way there! make way! here comes Mackie's party," cried their leader; and, as he spoke, another forlorn hope came
forward at a run, leaped recklessly into the ditch, and made toward the breach. The supporting division of stormers gave a loud cheer, and sprang after them. The rush was tremendous ; for scarcely had we reached the crumbling ruins of the rampart, when the vast column, pressing on like a mighty torrent, bore down upon our rear. And now commenced a scene no pen can describe! The whole ground, covered with the most deadly and destructive combustibles, was rent open with a crash; the huge masses of masonry bounded into the air like things of no weight; and the ringing clangor of the iron howitzers, the crackling of the fusees, the blazing splinters, the shouts of defiance, and the more than savage yells of those in whose ranks alone the dead and the dying were numbered, all made up a mass of sights and sounds almost maddening with their excitement. Yet on we struggled over the mutilated bodies of the leading files which almost filled
* By this time the third division had joined us; and the crush of our thickening ranks was dreadful. Every moment some well known leader fell dead or mortally wounded, and his place was supplied by some bold fellow that would spring from the leading files, and scarcely utter his cheer before he himself was laid low. Many a voice familiar to me, would break upon my car in tones of reckless daring, and the next moment burst forth in a death-cry. For more than an hour the frightful carnage continued, fresh troops constantly advancing, but scarce a foot of ground gained ; the earth belched forth its volcanic fires, and that terrible barrier no man passed. The boldest would in turn leap into the whizzing flame; and the taunting cheers of the enemy triumphed in derision at the effort.
• "Stormers, to the front! Only the bayonet! trust to nothing but the bayonet,” cried a voice; and the leader of another forlorn hope bounded into the chasm. All the officers sprang simultaneously after them; the men pressed madly on; a roll of murderous musketry crashed upon them, and was answered by a furious shout. The British, springing over the dead and the dying, bounded like blood-hounds on their prey. Meanwhile the ramparts trembled beneath the tramp of the light division who had forced the lesser breach, and were now coming upon the flank of the French. Still the garrison thickened their numbers, and bravely held their ground. Man to man was now the combat. No cry for quarter; no supplicating look for mercy; it was the death-struggle of vengeance and despair! At this instant, an explosion louder than the loudest thunder, shook the air ; the rent and torn-up ramparts flew into the sky; the conquered and the conquering were alike the victims. One of the great magazines had been ignited by a shell; and the black smoke, streaked with a lurid flame, hung above the dead and the dying. The artillery and the musketry were stilled, paralyzed, as it were, by the ruin and devastation before them. Both sides stood leaning on their arms for a moment; it was only a moment; for the British, roused by the cries of their wounded comrades, uttered a fierce cry for vengeance, then closed upon the foe, and soon their bayonets gleamed in triumph on the ramparts of Civdad Rodrigo.'
So of other cities in Spain. • Thousands,' says an English reviewer, “rushed through the breaches, and trampled one another to death at the very mouth of the French guns, which cut them down by regiments; while the shrieks and cries of the wounded, the howls of the maddened, the roar of ordnance, the shouts of an army, the bewilderment of midnight, and the horrible stench of burnt human flesh, lit up by the flash of unnumbered guns and musketry, seemed like the wild burning waves of the bottomless pit rolling over the souls of the shrieking lost. Still on, on they rush. There is no madness like a maddened mob. Hundreds were impaled upon the sharp sword-blades fastened in rows across the breaches; yet hundreds more pressed on, and fell upon other tiers of the same horrible instruments. Over these, as they writhed and shrieked, mounted others, and trod and crushed them down, till an army passed over unharmed by the pointed steel beneath; and even horsemen rushed upon this causeway of living beings, and trampled and crushed it into a reeking jelly of human flesh and blood, and still plunged onward through the crimson river which flowed beyond!
• Thus was the city won; and then did the British soldiers who had crossed the seas to rescue Spaniards from French thraldom, rush upon the city, and slaughter, and pillage, and violate every house. There was no order, no restraint; officers were shot in the streets by drunken soldiers; old men and children they slaughtered promiscuously; there was scarce a woman whose person they did not violate ; whole families were burnt up in their own houses; and thus reigned horror and dreadful carnage for several days in succession. The after-scene was indeed “hell broke loose.” We cannot read it without a shudder; and yet no effort was made to restrain the fierce and brutal licentiousness of the soldiers !!
Let us now turn to the sufferings of the besieged. We can give only a few brief specimens. At the siege of Saragossa, in Spain, by the French, a convent and the general hospital were storined and set on fire. The sick and wounded threw themselves from the windows to escape the flames; and the horror of the scene was aggravated by the maniacs, whose voices, raving or singing in paroxysms of increased madness, were heard amidst the confusion of dreadful sounds. After forcing their way into the city, the French occupied one side of the street, and the Spaniards the other; and the intervening space was presently heaped with the dead, either slain upon the spot, or thrown from the windows. It was almost death to appear by day-light within reach of such houses as were occupied by the other party ; but, under cover of the night, the combatants frequently dashed across the street to attack each other's batteries; and the battles begun there, were often carried into the houses beyond, where they fought from room to room, and floor to floor.'
Ucles, a decayed town in Spain, was taken by the French in
1809. Plunder was their first object; and, in order to make the people discover where their valuables were secreted, they put them to the torture. Having obtained all the portable wealth of the place, they yoked the inhabitants like beasts, especially the clergy, loaded them with their own furniture, and made them carry it to the castle hill, and pile it in heaps, when they set fire to it, and consumed the whole. They then proceeded, in mere wantonness, to murder above threescore persons, dragging them to the shambles, that this butchery might be committed in its proper place. Among these sufferers were several women; and they might be regarded as happy in being delivered from the worse horrors that ensued; for the French laid hands on all the surviving women of the place for the gratification of their brutal lusts. They tore the nun from the altar, the widow from her husband's corpse, the virgin from her mother's arms; and these victims of the foulest brutality they abused till many of them actually expired on the spot !! Nor was even this all; but the further abominations, adds the historian, perpetrated by those monsters in open day, without the slightest attempt of their officers to restrain them, cannot even be hinted at without violating the decencies of language, and the reverence due to humanity.
But take a recent specimen from the British, the bombardment of St. Jean d'Acre, in Syria. English newspapers of the day called it “a most brilliant exploit;" but let us see what it was. • At half past four in the morning,' says an eye-witness, “all firing ceased, as if by one consent, when-heavens! what a sight!-the whole town seemed to be thrown into the air! We saw nothing but one dense cloud extending thousands of yards into the air on all sides; and then we felt an awful shock, which gave the lineof-battle ships a keel of two degrees. It was the explosion caused by one of our shells bursting in their main magazine of powder, by which, to speak within bounds, two thousand souls, besides beasts of burden of every description, were blown to atoms! The entire loss of the Egyptians is computed at three thousand. At daylight, what a sight was exposed to our view! The stupendous fortification, that only twelve hours before was among the strongest in the world, was so riddled that we could not find a square foot which had not a shot. I went ashore to witness the devastation; the sight beggared all description! The bastions were strewed with the dead, the guns dismounted, and all sorts of havoc. The spot of the explosion was far worse—a space of two acres laid quite bare, and hollowed out as if a quarry had been worked there for years ! Ileavens! what a sight was there before me! Mangled human bodies, of both sexes, strewed in all directions, women searching for their husbands and other relatives, tearing their hair, beating their breasts, and howling and crying most piteously!' All this by England herself in 1840!!
In 1800, Genoa, occupied by 24,000 French troops, was besieged at once by a British fleet, and a powerful Austrian army. We will not detail the horrors attendant on the sallies and assaults; but let us look at the condition of the soldiers and citizens
within. The former, worn down by fatigue, and wasted by famine, had consumed all the horses in the city, and were at length reduced to the necessity of feeding on dogs, cats and vermin which were eagerly hunted out in the cellars and common sewers. Soon, however, even these wretched resources failed; and they were brought to the pittance of four or five ounces a day of black bread made of cocoa, rye, and other substances ransacked from the shops of the city.
The inhabitants, also, were a prey to the most unparalleled sufferings. The price of provisions had from the first been extravagantly high, and at length no kind of grain could be had at any cost.
Even before the city was reduced to the last extremities, a pound of rice was sold for more than a dollar, and a pound of flour for nearly two dollars. Afterwards beans were sold for, two cents each, and a biscuit of three ounces weight, when procurable at all, for upwards of two dollars. A little cheese, and a few vegetables, were the only nourishment given even to the sick and wounded in the hospitals.
The horrors of this prolonged famine in a city containing above 100,000 souls, cannot be adequately described. All day the cries of the miserable victims were heard in the streets, while the neighboring rocks within the walls were covered with a famished crowd seeking in the vilest animals, and the smallest traces of vegetation, the means of assuaging the intolerable pangs of hunger. Men and women, in the last agonies of despair, filled the air with their groans and shrieks; and sometimes, while uttering these dreadful cries, they strove with furious hands to tear out their ravening entrails, and fell dead in the streets! At night the lamentations of the people were still more dreadful ; too agitated to sleep, and unable to endure the agonies around them, they prayed aloud for death to relieve them from their sufferings.
Dreadful was the effect of these protracted calamities in hardening the heart, and rendering men insensible to any thing but their own disasters. Children, left by the death of their parents in utter destitution, implored in vain the passing stranger with tears, with mournful gestures, and heart-broken accents, to give them succor and relief. Infants, deserted in the streets by their own parents, and women who had sunk down from exhaustion on the public thoroughfares, were abandoned to their fate; and, crawling to the sewers, and other receptacles of filth, they sought there, with dying hands, for the means of prolonging their miserable existence for a few hours. In the desperation produced by such long continued torments, the more ardent and impetuous rushed out of the gates, and threw themselves into the harbor, where they perished without assistance or commiseration. To such straits were they reduced, that not only leather and skins of every kind were devoured, but the horror at human flesh was so much abated, that numbers were supported on the dead bodies of their fellow-citizens !
Still more cruel, horrible beyond all description, was the spectacle presented by the Austrian prisoners of war confined on board