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FRAGMENTS OF LETTERS

FROM THE SEAT OF WAR IN SPAIN.

BY VISCOUNT RANELAGH.

LETTER I.

Tolosa, Dec. 1835. I HOPE you received my letter from Irun, giving an account of how I passed the Bidassoa, and having the good fortune to fall in with my countryman, Mr. Burke Honan.

Hernani was the first place at which I saw the Carlists in

any force. Here, one of our party met an officer of his acquaintance, who offered to introduce us to General Gomez, the commander of the 3rd division, and whose headquarters were in the centre of the town. The general received us most kindly, and begged us to partake of a soldier's dinner with him. I found him a gentleman-like, agreeable, intelligent man, and willing to afford me every information respecting the state of military affairs in the Provinces. Our party at dinner, consisted of twelve or thirteen officers, amongst whom were four generals. Of these, perhaps, the most remarkable was Montenegro, of the artillery ; a person small in stature, with a clear and intelligent eye, but a slyish, furtive look, which caused him to be called the Old Fox. When he quitted the queen's service, the Carlists thought it augured well for them ; knowing him to be a shrewd, calculating man, who would not have joined them, unless he was most sanguine as to the ultimate success of their cause.

R

Having expressed a wish, at dinner, to see the Fort of St. Sebastian, it was immediately granted, with an offer, on the part of the officers, to accompany us, which we readily accepted. On our way, we passed over the ground, where Evans and his men first came in contact with the Carlists. While we examined the positions, nothing could be more gentlemanlike and fair than the way in which GeneralGomez described that affair. He stated, that, in August last, the garrison of St. Sebastian, composed of the English, the regiments of Oviedo, Asturias, and Red Caps, in all not less than 6,000, having Generals Evans, Janugui, Alava, and Chichester, at their head, took their route towards Hernani ; when, after carrying the Venta di Oriomendi, they marched towards Santa Barbara, and were only repulsed under the walls of the Convent of the Nuns, which is the entrance to the town. After this success, the Carlists became the assailants; and, had it not been for the excessive good conduct of one of the English battalions, they would have destroyed the Spanish division under El Pastor. In speaking thus much in praise of the English soldiers, he laughed, and added,

“But I cannot compliment you on the military talent of General Evans; for, he must either have injudiciously despised my troops, or committed a great error in bringing out young soldiers, who certainly had not had arms in their hands more than six weeks, and in all probability never fired off a musket before. How could he expect these men to do much against one of the strongest positions in the provinces ? But, subsequently, not content with being fairly defeated, he publishes a bulletin, declaring his sortie o have been only a reconnoisance. It must have been a new way of making a reconnoisance, when he comes and attacks a strong position and looses some 300 men. The fact is, I believe, he first intended it as only a promenade, to exercise his young soldiers, but finding my out posts gave way, he was so elated, that he turned it into a regular attack, and sent back to St. Sebastian for four days' rations for his troops, as he asserted that he intended to sleep in Hernani, that night."

On nearing St. Sebastian, I was much astonished to find the Carlists had possession of some houses on the Height of Arambara, from which they could command the town. I could not help putting up my hands with astonishment, having no idea they held such a position; and accordingly, impressed most strongly on the general the great moral advantage the Carlist cause would derive from erecting a battery, and threatening the city; by which means the Christinos might, perhaps, be glad to ransom themselves, or concede to him the small fort of the bridge of Behobia. I added that I did not presume to offer this as military advice, but merely to point out the excellent effect such a proceeding would have in Europe ; for, owing to the decidcd part the press in most countries had taken against the Carlists, it was universally believed, that they only dared to show themselves at the tops of the mountains, in small bands, and that Don Carlos was so hard pressed he knew not where to lay his head at night. I concluded by stating that even myself, their well-wisher, came into the country, with some of these foolish impressions, believing the state of their king and army to be in a desperate situation.

These were really my opinions; but I now find Don Carlos is entire master of the provinces, except two large fortresses; one of which he has closely invested, and the other, that is now before us, they have the means of destroying, and this without any danger of Cordova coming to its relief. It seems, however, the general thought the hint a good one, as two days afterwards, he erected a battery against the town, which, when I first went with him, he had no intention of doing.

It was during my visit here I was first struck with the extraordinary apathy of the Spaniards; for, although they had had possession of this important position for more than ten days, and that there was a strong Christino garrison in the Convent of St. Bartelmeo, within sixty yards of them, who were keeping up a brisk fire of musketry upon them, and might at any moment have made a sortie, they had been too indolent to throw up a parapet or breast-work of any description, or even a loophole in the walls of the burnt houses. During the time, I was examining this post, the glasses of the Christino officers in the citadel were not idle ; for, owing, it appears, to my red sash, which in Spain is called a faja, and only worn by generals, they did me the honor of firing some of their long guns at me.

We were much amused while we remained in this place, at the polite conversation, which occurred between the Christinos and Carlists, the former calling the latter poca ropa faccioza, (ragged rebels; or literally, factious with little linen :) whilst the latter was shouting to the Christinos, to send them more bullets, and attack them if they dared, and abusing the queen by that epithet, which, according to Fielding, is least amiable in the female ear.

*

As you know one of my travelling companions, I ought

to say I can give him, and his friend, a good military certificate. Although both profess to be of the civil department, yet they rather like the smell of powder.

The further I go, the more I am astonished and surprised to find this country and people so different a condition to what a portion of our press endeavours to represent. Among us, it is constantly asserted that the country is drained and fatigued by the civil war ; that it is deserted; that Don Carlos is every day flying from place to place for safety; and many other such falsities. Now, so far from this being the case, I can assure you, I find the country perhaps better cultivated than in France: in fact, the greater part of the provinces is a beautiful picture of cultivation, and the land a perfect garden, the young wheat being two inches above the ground. Who, out of England, has seen large turnip fields in the month of December ready for winter provender, for cattle? Yet here, you will find field after field thus extended over the hills; and, where cultivation has not reached, numerous flocks of sheep, are to be seen, notwithstanding the drain of a civil war, for more than two years,

LETTER II.

Onate, Dec. 1835. I arrived here a few days ago. On entering, we advanced to a small square, in the centre of the town, on one side of which was the house occupied by Don Carlos. The square was crowded ; a military band was playing ; and in fact, all the town assembled for the evening promenade. One of our party dismounted and announced our arrival to Cruz Mayor, the minister of foreign affairs.

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