Chapter IX. The Retreat

O'Grady asked no questions, but presently whispered to Terence: "Faith, ye did it well, me boy."

"Did what well, O'Grady?"

"You need not tell me about it, Terence. I was expecting it. Didn't I spake to ye the day before about it, and didn't I feel sure that something would come of it? When that row began last night, I looked at you hard and saw you wink at that young spalpeen, Dicky Ryan; and sure all the time that we were standing there, formed up, I well-nigh burst the buttons off me coatee in holding in me laughter, when everyone else was full of excitement.

"'Are you ill, O'Grady?' the colonel said, for I had to sit meself down on some steps and rock meself to and fro to aise meself. 'Is it sick ye are?' 'A sudden pain has saised me, Colonel,' says I, 'but I will be all right in a minute.' 'Take a dram out of me flask,' says he; something must have gone wrong wid ye.' I took a drink--"

"That I may be sure you did," Terence interrupted.

"--And thin told him that I felt better; but as we marched down through the crowd and saw the fright of the men, and the women screaming in their night-gowns at the windows, faith, I well-nigh choked."

"Have you spoken to Ryan about this absurd suspicion, O'Grady?"

"I spoke to him, but I might as well have spoke to a brick wall. Divil a thing could I get out of him. How did you manage it at all, lad?"

"How could I manage it?" Terence said, indignantly. "No, no, O'Grady; I know you did make some remark about that scare at Athlone, and said it would be fun to have one here. I was a little shocked at hearing such a thing from, as you often say, a superior officer, and it certainly appears to me that it was you who first broached the idea. So I have much more right to feel a suspicion that you had a hand in the carrying of it out than for you to suspect me."

"Well, Terence," O'Grady said, in an insinuating way, "I won't ask you any questions now, and maybe some day when you have marched away from this place, you will tell me the ins and outs of the business."

"Maybe, O'Grady, and perhaps you will also confess to me how you managed to bring the scare about."

"Go along wid you, Terence, it is yourself knows better than anyone else that I had nothing to do with it, and I will never forgive you until you make a clean breast of it to me."

"We shall see about it," Terence laughed. "Anyhow, if you allude to the subject again, I shall feel it my duty to inform the colonel of my reasons for suspecting that you were concerned in spreading those false reports last night."

"It was first-rate, wasn't it?" Dick Ryan said, as he joined Terence, when the latter left the mess-room.

"It was good fun, Dicky; but I tell you, for a time I was quite as much scared as anyone else. I never thought that it would have gone quite so far. When it came to all the troops turning out, and Sir John and everyone, I felt that there would be an awful row if we were ever found out."

"It was splendid, Terence. I knew that we could not be found out when we had not told a soul. Did you ever see such a funk as the Spaniards were all in, and after all their bragging and the airs that they had given themselves. Our men were so savage at their cowardice, that I believe they would have liked nothing better than an order to pitch into them. And didn't the women yell and howl? It is the best lark we have ever had."

"It is good fun to look back at, Dicky, but I shall be glad when we are out of this. The Spanish authorities are making all sorts of inquiries, and I have no doubt that they will get hold of some of the men in that wine-shop, and it will come out that two British officers started the alarm."

"What if it did?" Ryan said. "There were only two wretched candles burning in the place, and they could not have got a fair sight at us, and indeed they all jumped up and bolted the moment we spoke. I will bet that there is not one among them who would be able to swear to us though we were standing before him; and I have no doubt if they were questioned every man would give a different account of what we were like. I have no fear that they will ever find us out. Still, I shall be glad when we are out of this old place. Not because I am afraid about our share in that business being discovered, but we have been here nearly a fortnight now, and as we know there is a strong French force within ten miles of us, I think that it is about time that the fun began. You don't think that we are going to retreat, do you?"

"I don't know any more about it than you do, Dicky; but I feel absolutely sure that we shall retreat. I don't see anything else for us to do. Every day fresh news comes in about the strength of the French, and as the Spanish resistance is now pretty well over, and Madrid has fallen, they will all be free to march against us; and even when Hope has joined us we shall only be about 20,000 strong, and they have, at the least, ten times that force. I thing we shall be mighty lucky if we get back across the frontier into Portugal before they are all on us."

Sir John Moore, however, was not disposed to retire without doing something for the cause of Spain. The French armies had not yet penetrated into the southern provinces, and he nobly resolved to make a movement that would draw the whole strength of the French towards him, and give time for the Spaniards in the south to gather the remains of their armies together and organize a resistance to the French advance. In view of the number and strength of the enemy, no more heroic resolution was ever taken by a military commander, and it was all the more to be admired, inasmuch as he could hope to win no victory that would cover himself and his army with glory, no success that would satisfy the public at home, and at best he could but hope, after long, fatiguing, and dangerous marches, to effect his retreat from the overwhelming forces that would be hurled against him.

While remaining at Salamanca, Sir John, foreseeing that a retreat into Portugal must be finally carried out, took steps to have magazines established on two of the principal routes to the coast, that a choice might be left open to him by which to retire when he had accomplished his main object of diverting the great French wave of invasion from the south.

On the 11th of December the march began, and for the next ten days the army advanced farther and farther into the country. So far Moore had only Soult's army opposing his advance towards Burgos, and it might be possible to strike a heavy blow at that general before Napoleon, who was convinced that the British must fall back into Portugal if they had not already begun to do so, should come up. He had been solemnly assured that he should be joined by Romana with 14,000 picked men, but that general had with him but 5,000 peasants, who were in such a miserable condition that when the British reached the spot where the junction was to be effected, he was ashamed to show them, and marched away into Leon.

The British, in order to obtain forage, were obliged to move along several lines of route. Sir David Baird's division joined them as they advanced, and when they reached the Carrion their effective force amounted to 23,583 men, with sixty pieces of artillery. On the French side, Soult had--on hearing of the British advance to the north-east, by which, if successful, they would cut the French lines of communication between Madrid and the frontier--called up all his detached troops, and wrote to the governor of Burgos to divert to his assistance all troops coming along the road from France, whatever their destination might be.

On the 21st Lord Paget, with the 10th and 15th Hussars, surprised a French cavalry force at Sahagun, and ordered the 15th to turn their position and endeavour to cut them off. When with the 10th Hussars Lord Paget arrived in the rear of the village, he found six hundred French dragoons drawn up and ready to attack him. He at once charged and broke them and pursued them for some distance. Twenty were killed, thirteen officers and 154 men taken prisoners. On the 23d, Soult had concentrated his forces at the town of Carrion, and that night the British troops were got in motion to attack them, the two forces being about even in numbers; but scarcely had he moved forward when reports, both from Romana and his own spies, reached Sir John Moore to the effect that his march had achieved the object with which it was undertaken. Orders had been sent by Napoleon for the whole of the French armies to move at once against the British, while he himself, with the troops at Madrid, 70,000 strong, had started by forced marches to fall upon him.

The instant Moore received this information he arrested the forward movement of his troops. His object had been attained. The French invasion of the south was arrested, and time given to the Spaniards. There was nothing now but to fall back with all speed. It was well indeed that he did not carry out his intention of attacking Soult. The latter had that day received orders from the emperor not to give battle, but to fall back, and so tempt Moore to pursue, in which case his line of retreat would have been intercepted and his army irretrievably lost.

The order to retreat was an unwelcome one indeed to the troops. For twelve days they had marched through deep snow and suffered fatigues, privations, and hardships. That evening they had expected to be repaid for their exertions by a battle and a victory on the following morning, and the order to retreat, coming at such a moment, was a bitter disappointment indeed.

They were, of course, ignorant of the reasons for this sudden change, and the officers shared the discontent of the troops, a feeling that largely accounted for the disorders and losses that took place during the retreat.

Napoleon led his troops north with his usual impetuosity. The deep snow choked the passes through the mountains. The generals, after twelve hours of labour, reported the roads impracticable, but Napoleon placed himself at the head of the column, and, amidst a storm of snow and driving hail, led them over the mountain. With tremendous efforts he reached Desillas on the 26th; while Houssaye entered Valladolid on the same day, and Ney, with the 6th corps, arrived at Rio Seco.

Full of hope that he had caught the British, the emperor pushed on towards Barras, only to find that he was twelve hours too late. Moore had, the instant he received the news, sent back the heavy baggage with the main body of infantry, himself following more slowly with the light brigade and cavalry, the latter at times pushing parties up to the enemy's line and skirmishing with his outposts to prevent Soult from suspecting that the army had retreated. On the 26th the whole army, moving by different routes, approached the river Esla, which they crossed in a thick fog, which greatly hindered the operation. A brigade remained on the left bank to protect the passage, for the enemy's cavalry were already close at hand, and Soult was hotly pressing in pursuit.

A strong body of horse belonging to the emperor's army intercepted Lord Paget near Mayorga, but two squadrons of the 10th Hussars charged up the rising ground on which they had posted themselves, and, notwithstanding their disadvantage in numbers and position, killed twenty and took a hundred prisoners. Moore made but a short pause on the Esla, for that position could be turned by the forces advancing from the south. He waited, therefore, only until he could clear out his magazines, collect his stragglers, and send forward his baggage. He ordered the bridge by which the army had crossed to be broken down, and left Crawford to perform this duty.

Short as the retreat had been, it had already sufficed to damage most seriously the morale of the army. The splendid discipline and order that had been shown during the advance was now gone; many of the regimental officers altogether neglected their duties, and the troops were insubordinate. Great numbers straggled, plundered the villages, and committed excesses of all sorts, and already the general had been forced to issue an order reproaching the army for its conduct, and appealing to the honour of the soldiers to second his efforts. Valiant in battle, capable of the greatest efforts on the march, hardy in enduring fatigue and the inclemency of weather, the British soldier always deteriorates rapidly when his back is turned to the enemy. Confident in his bravery, regarding victory as assured, he is unable to understand the necessity for retreat, and considers himself degraded by being ordered to retire, and regards prudence on the part of his general as equivalent to cowardice.

The armies of Wellington deteriorated with the same rapidity as this force, when upon two occasions it was necessary to retreat when threatened by overwhelming forces; and yet, however disorganized, the British soldier recovers his discipline the instant he is attacked, and fiercely turns upon his pursuers. At the bridge across the Esla two privates of the 3d gave an example of splendid courage and determination. It was night. Some of the baggage was still on the farther bank, and the two men were posted as sentries beyond the bridge, their orders being that if an enemy appeared, one should fire and then run back to the bridge and shout to warn the guard whether the enemy were in force or not. The other was to maintain his post as long as possible.

During the night the light cavalry of the imperial guard rode down. Jackson, one of the sentries, fired and ran back to give the alarm. He was overtaken, and received over a dozen sabre cuts; nevertheless he staggered on until he reached the bridge, and gave the signal. Walton, the other sentry, with equal resolution stood his ground and wounded several of his assailants, who, as they drew off, left him unhurt, although his cap, knapsack, belt, and musket were cut in over twenty places, and his bayonet bent double.

Terence O'Connor's duties had been light enough during the advance, but during the three days of the retreat to the Esla he had been incessantly occupied. He and Trevor had both been directed to ride backwards and forwards along the line of the brigade to see that there was no straggling in the ranks, and that the baggage carts in the rear kept close up. The task was no easy one, and was unpleasant as well as hard. Many of the officers plodded sulkily along, paying no attention whatever to their men, allowing them to straggle as they chose; and they were obliged to report several of the worst cases to the brigadier. With the Mayo Fusiliers they had less trouble than with others. Terence had, when he joined them at their first halt after the retreat began, found them as angry and discontented as the rest at the unexpected order, and was at once assailed with questions and complaints.

He listened to them quietly, and then said:

"Of course, if you all prefer a French prison to a few days' hard marching, you have good reason to grumble at being baulked in your wishes; that is all I have to say about it."

"What do you mean, Terence?" O'Grady asked, angrily. "Soult's force was not stronger than ours, at least so we heard; and if it had been it would make no difference, we would have thrashed them out of their boots in no time."

"I dare say we should, O'Grady, and what then?"

"Well, I don't know what then," O'Grady said, after a moment's silence; "that would have been the general's business."

"Quite so; and so is this. There you would have been with perhaps a couple of thousand wounded and as many French prisoners, and Napoleon with 60,000 men or so, and Ney with as many more, and Houssaye with his cavalry division, all in your rear cutting you off from the sea. What would have been your course then?"

A general silence fell upon the officers.

"Is that so?" the colonel asked at last.

"That is so," Terence said, gravely. "All these and other troops are marching night and day to intercept us. It is no question of fighting now. Victory over Soult, so far from being of any use, would only have burdened us with wounded and prisoners, and even a day's delay would be absolutely fatal. As it is, it is a question whether we shall have time to get back to the coast before they are all posted in our front. Every hour is of the greatest importance. You all know that we have talked over lots of times how dangerous our position is. General Fane told us, when the orders to retreat were issued, that he believed the peril to be even more imminent than we thought. We all know when we marched north from Salamanca, that, without a single Spaniard to back us, all that could be hoped for was to aid Saragossa and Seville and Cadiz to gather the levies in the south and prepare for defence, and that erelong we should have any number of enemies upon us. That is what has precisely happened, and now there is grumbling because the object has been attained, and that you are not allowed to fight a battle that, whether won or lost, would equally ruin us."

"Sure ye are right," O'Grady said, warmly, "and we are a set of omadhouns. You have sense in your head, Terence, and there is no gainsaying you. I was grumbling more than the rest of them, but I won't grumble any more. Still, I suppose that there is no harm in hoping we shall have just a bit of fighting before we get back to Portugal."

"We shall be lucky if we don't have a good deal of fighting, O'Grady, and against odds that will satisfy even you. As to Portugal, there is no chance of our getting there. Ney will certainly cut that road, and the emperor will, most likely, also do so, as you can see for yourself on the map."

"Divil a map have I ever looked at since I was at school," O'Grady said. "Then if we can't get back to Portugal, where shall we get to?"

"To one of the northern seaports; of course, I don't know which has been decided upon; I don't suppose the general himself has settled that yet. It must depend upon the roads and the movements of the enemy, and whether there is a defensible position near the port that we can hold in case the fleet and transports cannot be got there by the time we arrive."

"Faith, Terence, ye're a walking encyclopeydia. You have got the matter at your finger ends."

"I don't pretend to know any more than anyone else," Terence said, with a laugh. "But of course I hear matters talked over at the brigade mess. I don't think that Fane knows more of the general's absolute plans than you do. I dare say the divisional generals know, but it would not go further. Still, as Fane and Errington and Dowdeswell know something about war besides the absolute fighting, they can form some idea as to the plans that will be adopted."

"Well, Terence," the colonel said, "I didn't think the time was coming so soon when I was going to be instructed by your father's son, but I will own that you have made me feel that I have begun campaigning too late in life, and that you have given me a lesson."

"I did not mean to do that, Colonel," Terence said, a good deal abashed. "It was O'Grady I was chiefly speaking to."

"Your supeyrior officer!" O'Grady murmured.

"My superior officer, certainly," Terence went on, with a smile; "but who, having, as he says, never looked at a map since he left school--while I have naturally studied one every evening since we started from Torres Vedras--can therefore know no more about the situation than does Tim Hoolan. But I certainly never intended my remarks to apply to you, Colonel."

"They hit the mark all the same, lad, and the shame is mine and not yours. I think you have done us all good. One doesn't care when one is retreating for a good reason, but when one marches for twelve days to meet an enemy, and then, when just close to him, one turns one's back and runs away, it is enough to disgust an Englishman, let alone an Irishman. Well, boys, now we see it is all right, we will do our duty as well on the retreat as we did on the advance, and divil a grumble shall there be in my hearing."

From that moment, therefore, the Mayo Fusiliers were an example to the brigade. Any grumble in the ranks was met with a cheerful "Whist, boys! do you think that you know the general's business better than he does himself? It is plenty of fighting you are likely to get before you have done, never fear. Now is the time, boys, to get the regiment a good name. The general knows that we can fight. Now let him see that we can wait patiently till we get another chance. Remember, the better temper you are in, the less you will feel the cold."

So, laughing and joking, and occasionally breaking into a song, the Mayo Fusiliers pushed steadily forward, and the colonel that evening congratulated the men that not one had fallen out.

"Keep that up, boys," he said. "It will be a proud day for me when we get to our journey's end, wherever that may be, to be able to say to the brigadier: 'Except those who have been killed by the enemy, here is my regiment just as it was when it started from the Carrion--not a man has fallen out, not a man has straggled away, not a man has made a baste of himself and was unfit to fall in the next morning.' I know them," he said to O'Driscol, as the regiment was dismissed from parade. "They will not fall out, they will not straggle, but if they come to a place where wine's in plenty, they will make bastes of themselves; and after all," he added, "after the work they have gone through, who is to blame them?"

At the halt the next evening at Bembibre the colonel's forebodings that the men could not be trusted where liquor was plentiful were happily not verified. There were immense wine-vaults in the town. These were broken open, and were speedily crowded by disbanded Spaniards, soldiers, camp-followers, muleteers, women and children--the latter taking refuge there from the terrible cold. The rear-guard, to which the Mayo regiment had been attached the evening before, found that Baird's division had gone on, but that vast numbers of drunken soldiers had been left behind. General Moore was himself with the rear-guard, and the utmost efforts were made to induce the drunkards to rejoin their regiments. He himself appealed to the troops, instructing the commanders of the different regiments to say that he relied implicitly upon the soldiers to do their duty. The French might at any moment be up, and every man must be in his ranks. No men were to fall out or to enter any wine-house or cellar, but each should have at once a pint of wine served out to him, and as much more before they marched in the morning.

After the colonel read out this order, he supplemented it by saying, "Now, boys, the credit of the regiment is at stake. It is a big honour that has been paid you in choosing you to join the rear-guard, and you have got to show that you deserve it. As soon as it can be drawn, you will have your pint of wine each, which will be enough to warm your fingers and toes. Wait here in the ranks till you have drunk your wine and eaten some of the bread in your haversacks, and by that time I will see what I can do for you. You will have another pint before starting; but mind, though I hope there isn't a mother's son who would bring discredit on the regiment, I warn you that I shall give the officers instructions to shoot down any man who wanders from the ranks in search of liquor. The French may be here in half an hour after we have started, and it is better to be shot than to be sabred by a French dragoon, which will happen surely enough to every baste who has drunk too much to go on with the troops."

Only a few murmurs were heard at the conclusion of the speech.

"Now, gentlemen," the colonel said, "will half a dozen of you see to the wine. Get hold of some of those fellows loafing about there and make them roll out as many barrels as will supply a pint to every man in the regiment, ourselves as well as the men. O'Grady, take Lieutenant Horton and Mr. Haldane and two sergeants with you. Here is my purse. Go through the town and get some bread and anything else in the way of food that you can lay your hands upon. And, if you can, above all things get some tobacco."

O'Grady's search was for a time unsuccessful, as the soldiers and camp-followers had already broken into the shops and stores. In an unfrequented street, however, they came across a large building. He knocked at the door with the hilt of his sword. It was opened after a time by an old man.

"What house is this?"

"It is a tobacco factory," he replied.

"Be jabers, we have come to the right place. I want about half a ton of it. We are not robbers, and I will pay for what we take." Then another idea struck him. "Wait a moment, I will be back again in no time. Horton, do you stay here and take charge of the men. I am going back to the colonel."

He found on reaching the regiment that the men were already drinking their wine and eating their bread.

"I am afraid I shall never keep them, O'Grady," the colonel said, mournfully. "It is scarcely in human nature to see men straggling about as full as they can hold, and know that there is liquor to be had for taking it and not to go for it."

"It is all right, Colonel. I know that we can never keep the men if we turn them into the houses to sleep; but I have found a big building that will hold the whole regiment, and the best of it is that it is a tobacco factory. I expect it is run by the authorities of the place, and as we are doing what we can for them, they need not grudge us what we take; and faith, the boys will be quiet and contented enough, so that they do but get enough to keep their pipes going, and know that they will march in the morning with a bit in their knapsacks."

"The very thing, O'Grady! Pass the word for the regiment to fall in the instant they have finished their meal."

It was not long before they were ready, and in a few minutes, guided by O'Grady, the head of the regiment reached the building.

"Who is the owner of this place?" the colonel asked the old man, who, with a lantern in his hand, was still standing at the door.

"The Central Junta of the Province has of late taken it, your Excellency."

"Good! Then we will be the guests of the Central Junta of the Province for the night." Then he raised his voice, "Boys, here is a warm lodging for you for the night, and tobacco galore for your pipes; and, for those who haven't got them, cigars. Just wait until I have got some lights, and then file inside in good order."

There was no difficulty about this, for the factory was in winter worked long after dark set in. In a very few minutes the place was lighted up from end to end. The troops were then marched in and divided amongst the various rooms.

"Now, boys, tell the men to smoke a couple of pipes, and then to lie down to sleep. In the morning each man can put as much tobacco into his knapsack and pockets as they will hold, and when we halt they can give some of it away to regiments that have not been as lucky as themselves."

The men sat down in the highest state of satisfaction. Boxes of cigars were broken open, and in a couple of minutes almost every man and officer in the regiment had one alight in his mouth. There were few, however, who got beyond one cigar; the warmth of the place after their long march in the snow speedily had its effect, and in half an hour silence reigned in the factory, save for a murmur of voices in one of the lower rooms where the officers were located.

"O'Grady, you are a broth of a boy," the colonel said. "The men have scarce had a smoke for the last week, and it will do them a world of good. We have got them all under one roof, and there is no fear that anyone will want to get out, and they will fall in in the morning as fresh as paint. Half an hour before bugle-call three or four of you had best turn out with a dozen men, and roll up enough barrels from the vaults to give them the drink promised to them, before starting. Who will volunteer?"

Half a dozen officers at once offered to go, and a captain and three lieutenants were told off for the work.

"They know how to make cigars, if they don't know anything else," Captain O'Driscol said; "this is a first-rate weed."

"So it ought to be by the brand," another officer said. "I took the two boxes from a cupboard that was locked up. There are a dozen more like them, and I thought it was as well to take them out; they are at present under the table. I have no doubt that they are real Havannas, and have probably been got for some grandee or other."

"He will have to do without them," O'Grady said, calmly, as he lighted his second cigar; "they are too good for any Spaniard under the sun. And, moreover, if we did not take them you may be sure that the French would have them to-morrow, and I should say that the Central Junta of the Province will be mighty pleased to know that the tobacco was smoked by their allies instead of by the French."

"I don't suppose that they will care much about it one way or another," O'Driscol remarked; "their pockets are so full of English gold that the loss of a few tons of tobacco won't affect them much. I enjoy my cigar immensely, and have the satisfaction of knowing that for once I have got something out of a Spaniard--it is the first thing since I landed."

"Well, boys, we had better be off to sleep," the colonel said. "I am so sleepy that I can hardly keep my eyes open, and you ought to be worse, for you have tramped well-nigh forty miles to-day. See that the sentry at the door keeps awake, Captain Humphrey; you are officer of the day; upon my word I am sorry for you. Tell him he can light up if he likes, but if he sees an officer coming round he must get rid of it. Mind the sentries are changed regularly, for I expect that we shall sleep so soundly that if all the bugles in the place were sounding an alarm we should not hear them."

"All right, Colonel! I have got Sergeant Jackson in charge of the reliefs in the passage outside, and I think that I can depend upon him, but I will tell him to wake me up whenever he changes the sentries. I don't say I shall turn out myself, but as long as he calls me I shall know that he is awake, and that it is all right. I had better tell him to call you half an hour before bugle-call, Sullivan, so that you can wake the others and get the wine here; he mustn't be a minute after the half-hour. Thank goodness, we don't have to furnish the outposts to-night."

In ten minutes all were asleep on the floor, wrapped in their greatcoats, the officer of the day taking his place next the door so that he could be roused easily. Every hour one or other of the two non-commissioned officers in charge of the guard in the passage opened the door a few inches and said softly, "I am relieving the sentries, sir;" and each time the officer murmured assent.

Sullivan was called at the appointed time, got up, and stretched himself, grumbling:

"I don't believe that I have been asleep ten minutes."

On going out into the passage, however, where a light was burning, his watch told him that it was indeed time to be moving. He woke the others, and with the men went down to the cellars. Here the scene of confusion was great; drunken men lay thickly about the floor, others sat, cup in hand, talking, or singing snatches of song, Spanish or English. Hastily picking out enough unbroken casks for the purpose, he set the men to carry them up to the street, and they were then rolled along to the factory. Just as they reached the door the bugle-call sounded; the men were soon on their feet, refreshed by a good night's sleep. The casks were broached, and the wine served out.

"It is awful, Colonel," Sullivan said. "There will be hundreds of men left behind. There must have been over that number in the cellar I went into, and there are a dozen others in the town. I never saw such a disgusting scene."

Scarcely had they finished when the assemble sounded, and the regiment at once fell-in outside the factory, every man with knapsack and haversack bulging out with tobacco. They then joined the rest of the troops in the main street. General Moore had made a vain attempt to rouse the besotted men. A few of those least overcome joined the rear-guard, but the greater number were too drunk to listen to orders, or even to the warning that the French would be into the town as soon as the troops marched out.